Lists of Favorites

Jan Dejnožka

updated June 16, 2020

Everything here is a favorite of mine, or was at some point, sometimes many years ago, and I could not think of a better replacement.

Top Ten Favorite Philosophy Works

1. Gottlob Frege, The Foundations of Arithmetic , trans. by J. L. Austin. (original German 1884). This book is too brief and too limited in topic (philosophy of mathematics, and really just philosophy of arithmetic) to be the greatest philosophical work ever written, pace Michael Dummett. But page for page, it might be the best-- which is not to say it has the truth. And I can hardly think of a better introduction to philosophy of mathematics, not to mention philosophy of arithmetic. In this regard, it would pair nicely with Bertrand Russell's Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919), which is best read second, both in order of time and of increasing technical difficulty, though not of philosophical depth, subtlety, or originality.

2. Panayot Butchvarov, The Concept of Knowledge (1970). This may be the best epistemology since Descartes. Among other things, Butchvarov argues that we have no concept of evidence, though it might be possible to develop one. He was my graduate advisor for six years at the University of Iowa. Here is his university page.

3. Lucian of Samosata, Hermotimus, or The Rival Philosophies (ca. 170 A.D., my guess). This popular essay is better written than most professional philosophy. The question is whether truth is knowable.

4. Aristotle, Metaphysics, trans. by W. D. Ross. For an excellent introduction to Aristotle, see Ross, Aristotle: A Complete Exposition of His Works and Thought.

5. Plato, Parmenides, trans. by Benjamin Jowett.

6. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. by Norman Kemp Smith. Our sole assignment in Kant I in graduate school was to outline this book. I made an 81 page outline of the first 550 pages or so, which got me an A. That must have been around 1975. I resumed reading the book and finished it around 2010, some 35 years later, though I did not resume the outline. I also liked Kant’s Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics very much.

7. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. This is a “side-by-side” edition prepared by Kevin C. Klement, comparing the original German with the translation by C. K. Ogden, and also with the translation by David Francis Pears and Brian McGuinness.

8. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. text to § 100.

9. Bertrand Russell, “The Philosophy of Logical Atomism.” Reprinted in Logic and Knowledge, ed. by Robert C. Marsh.

10. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Preface to the Phenomenology of the Spirit, trans. and ed. by Walter Kaufmann. For an excellent introduction to Hegel, see J. N. Findlay, Hegel: A Re-examination.

Favorite Music

1. Johann Sebastian Bach, The Art of the Fugue (in Latin, Ars Fuga; in German, Die Kunst der Fuge). The specific performance I have loved since the 1960s is Art of the Fugue, Part Two: Contrapuncti Twelve through Fifteen by The Fine Arts Quartet and The New York Woodwind Quintet. Concert-Disc Connoisseur Series M-1250. The album also has "Vor deinem Thron (Steh' Ich) (Before thy Throne Stand I)." I prefer strings or woodwinds to harpsichord because there is more variety of sound, and because the interplay of voices is easier to follow. (Bach does not specify the instrumentation.) The music is not technically very difficult. I played some of it in high school in the 1960s with some high school orchestra friends, and we were average players at best. Difficult technique is not what the music is about, but spiritual depth. The fugue or flight of the music, meaning the dialogue among its voices, reminds me of philosophical dialectic. I think of it as the musical equivalent of Plato's Parmenides, sometimes called the greatest masterpiece of ancient dialectic.

Favorite Music Performances

1. Bach's Chaconne from Partita No. 2 for violin solo, transcribed for piano by Ferruccio Busoni. Commonly credited as Bach-Busoni. Ferruccio Busoni, piano. Piano roll recording first released November 1925. By a piano roll recording, I mean a paper roll that was (1) cut on a special piano with mercury vials in or under the keys and pedals, electrically sensitive to the slightest motion, while Busoni was playing the piano, then (2) played by a Welte Vorsetzer, a machine designed by the engineer Welte that sits (setz) before (vor) a regular piano and presses the piano's keys and pedals. I imagine a player piano could also be used, probably with inferior results. On Nimbus NI 8810 compact disk. Here it is, divided into part 1 and part 2.

2. Frédéric François Chopin, Prelude, Op. 28 No. 15, "The Raindrop," Ferruccio Busoni, piano, 1906 piano roll recording on Legendary Masters of the Piano, The Classics Record Library, SWV 6633 (stereo record); and piano roll recording first released by September 1923, Nimbus NI 8810 compact disk. Busoni also plays "The Raindrop" on Fone 9013 compact disk, but the Fone sounds inferior to the Nimbus. Here is a clip of Busoni playing “The Raindrop.”

Johannes Brahms, Piano Quintet, Clifford Curzon, piano, and the Budapest String Quartet, Odyssey 32 16 0173 (monaural record). Here is the first movement converted from a fairly good LP. Here is the entire performance from a damaged LP. My favorite album for eight years, 1970-1978, and perhaps still my favorite.

4. Claudio Monteverdi, Vespro della Beata Vergine, Sir Philip Ledger, cond., Choir of King's College, Cambridge University and the Early Music Consort of London, EMI Classics 7243 5 68631 2 5 (compact disk).

5. Julian Bream plays Hans Neusiedler (1508-1563), "Old Airs and Dances," on the lute in 1968.

Favorite Pianists

1. Ferruccio Busoni. Busoni might be still best known as a minor composer, notably of his Faust opera. But he is the greatest pianist I have heard. Nyiregyházi called him "the best." The Legendary Masters three-record album has only two short Busoni performances and has been available only through the Book of the Month Club. The Nimbus NI 8810 compact disk is the single best production, and includes the Bach-Busoni Chaconne, Liszt, and Chopin. Here again is the clip of Busoni playing Chopin, “The Raindrop” (piano roll cut), which is my favorite performance of his. Here is Busoni playing the Bach-Busoni Chaconne in two parts: 1 and 2. (piano roll cut). Bach wrote the original Chaconne for violin, and Busoni transcribed it for piano. The Fone 9013 compact disk has all 24 Chopin Preludes, but is audibly inferior in quality to the Nimbus, which has the same works as the Fone except for substituting an extra Liszt work for some of the Chopin Preludes. Besides the Nimbus, the other major collection is Ferruccio Busoni: His Complete Disc Recordings, February 27, 1922, recorded in the London studios of British Columbia Records (International Piano Archives IPA 104). The IPA disk has typically poor 1920s recordings of brief but live Busoni performances on side 1. On side 2, Busoni’s students play some Busoni compositions and transcriptions.

2. Ervin Nyiregyházi, especially Liszt, "March of the Three Kings" and "Miserere after Palestrina" on Nyiregyházi plays Liszt, Columbia M2 34598. Compare Liszt's original orchestral composition, also called March of the Three Magi. It’s part 1, movement 5 in Liszt’s Christmas Oratorio, Nyiregyházi’s albums include Nyiregyházi plays Tchaikovsky / Grieg / Bortkiewicz / Blanchet, Columbia MT 35125, the latter no longer available, and Nyiregyházi Plays Liszt, International Piano Archives IPA 111. His main concert career ended in 1925, but here he is live in Takasaki, Japan on May 31, 1980.

Favorite Singers

1. Karlinda Dejnožka. I love these recordings of my sister from her sound cassette, Happy Birthday, Jan. Harp and vocals by Karlinda Dejnožka (Caldicott is her married name). It was recorded at home by our father, Ladislav Dejnožka, on my 30th birthday, December 20, 1981. She was 21 and in the middle of her senior year. She was conservatory trained in voice for two years and on harp for four years at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Her harp teacher was Alice Chalifoux, principal harpist of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra and principal exponent of the Carlos Salzedo school of harp training. It was the best birthday gift I have ever received. Her senior recital on harp was on May 7, 1982, almost five months later. She played harp and sang professionally for a few years after graduating, but has devoted herself to harp for the last thirty years or so of her performance career.

I confess I’m partisan, since I’m her brother; but I love her voice more than any I have ever heard. It’s a beautiful and very sweet soprano.

Karlinda Dejnožka sings: 1. I Gave My Love A Cherry. 2. O Come, Little Children. 3. Tumbalalaika. 4. I Wonder As I Wander. They should show up in your download tray, and you can open them from there. All are from Happy Birthday, Jan. Recorded by Ladislav Dejnožka in Niskayuna NY on December 20, 1981. Digitized by Jan Dejnožka on December 28, 2012. Appearing with the kind permission of Karlinda Dejnožka Caldicott. Again, these were student performances recorded at home. They were never intended for the public, or really, for anyone but me. Here you can see videos of her playing harp with Jan Vinci on flute in 2017 on Youtube, and with the Antioch Chamber Ensemble in 2009, also on Youtube.

2. Hans Hotter. I love his Seraphim 60025 album of Schubert, Schumann, and Strauss songs, above all, the Schubert. Gerald Moore, piano. I believe this performance of Schubert's An die Musik is from that album, and also this performance of Schubert's Im Abendrot. Here is a live performance of Schumann's Die Beiden Grenadiere. That song is on the album too, but it's a studio album. He is the most mature, intelligent, and sensitive singer I have ever heard.

3. Fritz Wünderlich. I normally don't like opera or operatic voices, but I love his Seraphim 60043 album of selections from various operas, including Mozart's The Magic Flute. Here is a live performance of a famous aria from The Magic Flute). His singing is so pure. In fact, I love his doing everything I usually hate about opera because his belief in it and love for it shine through. Here he sings Schubert's An Die Musik in studio, and also live. You can hear him talking in English at the start.

4. Kathleen Battle. I loved her in a televised Carl Orff, Carmina Burana. Seiji Ozawa conducted the fine performance. The other main singers were fine, too. The entire performance is here, but without the English subtitles of the original showing.

I recommend these particular performances even for people who don't like voices, because I often don't like classical vocal music either.

Favorite Czech Folk Songs

Sirotek Valčík (Orphan Waltz). I sing this one myself. It will appear in your download tray, and you can play it from there. It’s a childhood favorite. I’m singing on July 2, 2008 in a restaurant in Providence RI for our cousins visiting from Slovakia. They understood it easily because Czech and Slovak are almost the same language. Julie and Marina were there, and Julie camcorded the song. Then Marina sang a song. Then our cousins sang a Slovak song for us. Then Marina sang another song.

Song from Moravian Wallachia. This is a Moravian love song. It’s over 200 years old, judging from the quaint dialect per a Prague friend. The photos are merely meant to show the cultural background. They have no specific relation to the song, But if you are curious about the mountaineer with the mountain axe in one of the photos, here is the story. Klemens Bachleda was a Polish orphan and living on his own at age 12. He eventually became a mountain guide and mountain rescuer in the Tatra Mountains, the highest range in the Carpathian Mountains. He was said to have great courage, great kindness, vast experience, and a phenomenal ability to orient himself in the mountains. He died at the age of 59 in a heroic rescue attempt on the northern wall of Little Jaworowy Summit in 1910. A mountaineer had notified Bachleda’s rescue ambulance that his fellow climber had been badly injured. The rescue group started up the northern wall, but soon turned back due to the storm and lightning striking the wall. Only Bachleda kept going. He would not stop. He was swept off the wall by a rock avalanche. The climber they were trying to rescue was dead when a rescuer reached him two days later. Bachleda’s body was found a week later in the gully below.

Když jsem koval koníčky. Rozmarýnek.

Dobrú noc, má milá. Lullaby. Nora Naščaková.

Dobrú noc, má milá. Piarissimo. Slovak school choir.

1, Dobrú noc, má milá. 2. A Pair of Black Horses. 3. I Saw My Country Die. Jarmila Novotná, voice. Jan Masaryk, piano. Songs (1) and (3) have been favorites of mine for about fifty years. Novotná sings them with deep emotion and great lyrical beauty. Song (2) is just a cheerful little ditty sandwiched in between as dramatic relief.

1. Ej, padá, padá rosenka. 2. Za tú horú. Jožka Černý. Note the cymbalom, which is much like a zither or a hammered dulcimer.

Jožka Černy - Šohaju, šohaju.

Beautiful Songs of Moravia. The green of the meadows is almost exactly the same as in the paintings from memory by my Moravian grandmother Anastazie, and the elaborate floral embroidery on the blouses in the black and white photo is almost exactly the same as the embroidery she sewed on blouses when I was young, except that hers was in bright color.

Favorite Korean Singer

바라지축원Baraji Chugwon / The Baraji’s Wishes for You All. Soloist: Kim Yul-Hee. Ensemble: Baraji (means care for, compassion). English subtitles. Sinawi (shaman) music is the origin of pansori (operatic) music. In fact, the singing style is basically identical. The shaman priestess (mudang) intercedes between humanity and the gods. The Baraji ensemble focuses on “trying to help the weary and discouraged.”

Favorite Poets

1. Percy Bysshe Shelley. Favorite poem: "Epipsychidion" (book includes poem).

2. John Keats.

3. Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

4. George Gordon, Lord Byron.

5. John G. Neihardt. Favorite American epic poetry: A Cycle of the West. Best known for his popular book Black Elk Speaks.

Favorite Author (since age 15)

Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Favorite Books

1. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment. Trans. by Constance Garnett. I think that’s the translation Julie and Marina read too.

2. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov. Trans. by Constance Garnett. The newer translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky looks excellent, and that’s what I got for Julie and Marina.

3. Ivan Turgenev. 1862. Fathers and Sons. Trans. by Bernard Guilbert Guerney. New York: Random House. The Modern Library.

4. Maxim Gorky. 1907. Mother. Trans. by Margaret Wettlin. Moscow: Progress Publishers. Soviet Novels Series.

Igor Stravinsky once asked, “Why is it that whenever I hear a piece of music I don’t like, it’s always by Villa-Lobos?” I might ask, “If there is a novel that immediately becomes a favorite of mine, why is it always by a Russian author?” In my case, the answer is easy. Everyone knows these are very great writers, and that they have great things to write about. Beyond that, it is just individual chemistry. I read the first three books while in high school in the 1960s, starting with Crime and Punishment in the 10th grade. In contrast, I finished the fourth book, Mother, some fifty years after high school, on August 2, 2018, about half a year after I retired from work. Mother differs from the other books in several ways. The other books offer religion as the answer and were written in the 19th century. Mother offers socialism as the answer and was written in the early 20th century. The book is a beautiful window into the ideals that eventually motivated the Russian Revolution. It is a window into how the Socialists (not: Communists) saw and understood things. Granted, the Revolution went wrong, and the Communists who eventually took power were even worse than the Tsarists they replaced. But the ideals, which millions of downtrodden muzhiks (“muzhik” is literally ‘little man’, the diminutive of “muzh,” meaning ‘man’), that is, peasants, who for many centuries were serfs, a form of slaves legally bound to the estates of the nobility) and others came to believe in, were wonderful. Wettlin’s English prose is truly excellent and truly beautiful. It is plain and simple, and very well done. It is the feather in the arrow, not the feather in the hat. The story and the message are what count, and the writing style is in the background. Many contemporary writers would do well to emulate it, instead of being flashy show-offs with feathers in their hats. There are a few clerical errors, and surprisingly many sentences are missing periods at the end, but to me it only makes the edition more charming and authentic. I felt I understood the pre-Revolutionary situation in early 20th century Russia much better because of this book. The book is mild in tone and has little physical action. I read it much more slowly than the other books. I don’t know to what extent that is because I was about fifty years older when I read it, or because the book is so thoughtfully written it has to be read slowly, nor to what extent it is because I was older and had to read more slowly due to lack of energy, or because I was older and read the book in a deeper and more experienced way. I suppose I could go back and read the other three books again, and see if they read more slowly now too, but I won’t. They are great works and very much worth reading again, but my plate is full of other projects.

If you are wondering why Tolstoy is not on the list, all I can say is that I read the first thirty pages of War and Peace and I didn’t like it. It was taking forever to go anywhere. (Yes, I know, the action is stately and later, but it was still too slow for me.) And there were so many long and complicated names, I was already lost on who was who only thirty pages in! Beyond that, there was no individual chemistry for me. In fact, I found War and Peace (or at least the first thirty pages) really boring. But I do greatly admire a religious essay by Tolstoy in which he disavows the miracles but upholds the ethical and spiritual ideals of the Christian Gospels. As an agnostic and skeptic about the miracles myself (they violate the basic laws of physics), I was very sympathetic to the essay. And it was really well done. Beyond that, they say there are those who prefer Tolstoy and those who prefer Dostoyevsky.

Turgenev is a beautiful and sensitive writer. I fell in love with his book easily. He is milder than Dostoyevsky and has great clarity.

If you want a short, quick, exciting action book, try Taras Bulba by Nikolai Golgol, translated by Peter Constantine. Wow! I gave this one to Julie and Marina too, and Marina lists it as one of her favorites on Goodreads.

Favorite Painter

Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Favorite Painting: "Two Sisters," popularly called "On the Terrace."

Favorite Pen and Ink Artist

Mikoláš Aleš.

Favorite Movies

1. The King of Hearts / Le Roi du Coeur (1966). A romantic comedy and both literal and allegorical anti-war story. The French version subtitled in English is earthier, but the version dubbed in English is funnier. After I recommended it to my sister, she said it was her favorite movie too. Trailer.

2. Ugetsu / Ugetsu monogatari (1953) (black and white). A heartfelt morality story from feudal Japan. Moments of stunning beauty. The larger the screen, the better, and a movie theater screen is better than any TV. Slow but beautiful story, beautiful casting, beautiful directing. You have to be patient through the first twenty minutes or so. Here is the full movie in Japanese without English subtitles.

3. Svengali (1931) (black and white). Does the hypnotist find redemption in the love of his hypnotized subject? John Barrymore, Jr.'s best acting I know of. The century of hypnotic exploitation behind the story is terrible. Beautiful story, beautiful casting.

4. Ivan the Terrible Part 1 (1944) (black and white). Sergei Eisenstein, writer and director. Sergei Prokofieff, music. Iconic in approach, appearance, and result. Here is Part 2, possibly without sound. Stalin didn’t like Part 2 for political reasons and basically cancelled it. I think it’s not as great as Part 1. Here is the ballet performed by the Bolshoi Ballet of the USSR. Here is the other main Eisenstein-Prokofieff collaboration, Alexander Nevsky (1938) with English subtitles.

Favorite Romantic Comedies

1. The King of Hearts -- Alan Bates, Geneviève Bujold. Whimsical story, perfect casting. My favorite movie, and my sister’s too. Trailer.

2. Howl’s Moving Castle -- Studio Ghibli. Beautiful anime. Disney did a beautiful job dubbing it into English. I would not have seen such a beautiful story in the book. Trailer.

3. Bell, Book, and Candle -- James Stewart, Kim Novak. Romantic comedy. Fun story, zany. Perfect casting and pretty much perfect acting. Trailer.

4. Whisper of the Heart -- Studio Ghibli. Officially for the teen set, but rewarding even for adults. Beautifully done. Trailer.

5. Windstruck -- Korean with English subtitles. The first half hour is priceless. The rest of it is good but too long.

6. Baby Boom -- Diane Keaton. Slow and dated, but amiable fun. Trailer.

Favorite Science Fiction Movies

1. Doctor Who. A series of many movies done over a period of over fifty years. Not all are favorites, nor are all the actors who play the lives of Doctor Who my favorites. At first I hated it and thought it was stupid. The actors were ridiculous and the sets almost as cheesy as those of Plan 9 from Outer Space. But about six months later, I tuned in again and this time I loved the show. I loved Tom Baker, and he came to be my favorite Doctor Who. I learned to play along with the cheesy sets and corny humor. I guess my mind needed time to adjust. While I like Tom Baker the best, my favorite single Doctor Who movie is Enlightenment, starring Peter Davison, whom I like very much as well (trailer). Baker and Davison play older regenerations of Doctor Who from the 1970s and 1980s. I like them, and the two Doctor Whos that came after them, the best. In the decades after them, the movies had better production values, became too complicated and busy. Today the most recent movies are too contrived, and the older movies seem too slow.

In a parallel development, I loved the original Star Trek TV series, which attracted a large crowd in the TV lounge in my dormitory at Syracuse University in the early 1970s. The first time I saw the second series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, I thought it was beyond ridiculous: I thought it was a travesty. The actors and their costumes looked weird and repellant. They looked weirder than the aliens. Everything about the show was incredibly bad. But about six months later, I tuned in again, and this time I really liked the show. I watched every episode I could. It’s a great show. The actors are perfectly cast, and the story plots are excellent. I would call it family entertainment at its best, for families with high school or perhaps middle school children. I guess my mind needed time to adjust from the original series. However, I never did like the third Star Trek TV series. The mental adjustment never came. The best description I can find for the show is annoying. Some of the Star Trek movies are not bad if you are in an indulgent mood. They have their moments.

2. Dune (1984). A long, slow three hour movie. It’s undeniably tacky or cheesy, especially at times; but it has good, classical dramatic pacing with a good, classical, almost iconic, even biblical (perhaps the best word is epic) style. It's a cult movie based on the fine and famous first Dune novel by Frank Herbert. (The sequel novels are worse.) My daughter Julie watched it with me in 2012, and she complained about how slow it was, but she couldn’t stop watching.

3. Serenity (2005). Fresh and fun. The trailer doesn’t begin to do it justice. I’ve found it watchable many times. It’s based on a very creative and inventive TV series called Firefly, which was eventually shut down for being too risqué; the main actors are the same. This is the main actor Nathan Fillion’s best work that I’ve seen. He’s unfortunately worse in the TV murder mystery series Castle, but it’s not his fault. It’s not because he’s older, either. It’s because has to play a much more constricted role for a mainstream audience. Perhaps that is due in part to the Firefly shutdown, but it is simply a more mainstream show. The humor is still there, but it’s subdued for this reason.

Favorite Fairy Tales of my Youth

1. Thor's Visit to Jotunheim. In Thomas Bulfinch, The Age of Fable Or Stories of Gods and Heroes (1855). English and Korean link.

2. Childe Rowland. In Joseph Jacobs, English Folk and Fairy Tales (1897). The Oxford English Dictionary says of "child," B. I. †5, "A youth of gentle birth: used in ballads, and the like, as a kind of title. arch. When used by modern writers, commonly archaically spelt chylde or childe, for distinction's sake;" and says of "burd," "A poetic word for 'woman, lady'...."

3. The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh. In Joseph Jacobs, English Folk and Fairy Tales (1897).

4. Vasilisa the Beautiful

Favorite Fairy Tale Novel

James Stephens, The Crock of Gold (1912).

Favorite Book on Mythology

Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God (vol. 1, 1959, 1969 rev. ed.; vol. 2, 1962; vol. 3, 1964; vol. 4, 1968).

Favorite Short Stories of my Youth

1. Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

2. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Rappaccini's Daughter

3. Kurt Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron

4. Saki (H. H. Munro), The Storyteller

5. Théophile Gautier, The Mummy’s Foot

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