My favorite authors (in no particular order, as their genres are completely divergent) are J. R. R. Tolkien, Stephen Jay Gould, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, with honorable mention going to Carl Sagan, Douglas Hofstadter, John Irving (with exceptions), Annie Dillard, Garrison Keillor, Kitty Ferguson, and Immanuel Velikovsky. Tolkien, to me, is incomparable in his masterful prose. Built on a bedrock of scholarship, endless creative inspiration, and painstaking perfectionism, his epic tales are at once beautiful, entertaining, and deeply involving. Many are familiar with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Ringsmasterpieces to be surebut I am most profoundly moved by the nobility and drama of the tales of The Silmarillion. The late Stephen Jay Gould was a brilliant scientist who with his breadth of knowledge and deep understanding of the natural world was able to communicate his thoughts with poignancy, great wit, and an admirable combination of scientific sophistication and accessibility. Although many of Gould's books, such as his several wonderful collections of essays on nature, elicit in their pages frequent smiles and occasional guffaws, an exception, which is truly "exceptional," is The Mismeasure of Man, a scathing account of the far-reaching disastrous effects perpetrated on society by arrogant academics who (often unconsciously) have lost objectivity in the name of self-interest and preservation of the status quo. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, with awe-inspiring power, questions the very foundations of humanity and morality, yet ultimately offers hope; I found his novel Cancer Ward particularly touching. Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach and Irving's The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany are other top favorites.
I am a Woody Allen fan from way back. Annie Hall may be my favorite all-time movie, with Love and Death contending for "funniest film" in my estimation. Among other films, I was deeply affected by Contact (based on the Carl Sagan novel) and Schindler's List. Other greats, in my view: The Paper Chase, Sophie's Choice, Serpico, Peter Jackson's trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Cinema Paradiso, To Kill a Mockingbird, and ...And Justice for All. In a lighter vein, there's What's Up, Doc?, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (the whale one), The Producers (the original one with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder), The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe, The Return of the Pink Panther, Trading Places, Young Frankenstein, and Splash!.
Actors and Comics: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Victoria Jackson, Gilda Radner, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Grodin, Mary Steenburgen, Rita Rudner, Marlee Matlin, Jodie Foster, Wayne Brady, Nancy Pimental, Cynthia Stevenson, Tracy Nelson (the actress, not the blues singer), Lori Singer (who [her surname notwithstanding] is also not a singer but achieves the remarkable superfecta of supermodel, award-winning actress, concert cellist, and native Texan!)
Classical Musicians: Gil Shaham (violin), Orli Shaham (piano), Corey Cerovsek (violin), Leila Josefowicz (violin), Salvatore Accardo (violin), Sylvia McNair (soprano), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano), Gigi Mitchell-Velasco (mezzo-soprano), Gwen Hoebig (violin), Nancy Zhou (violin)
Sanibel Island FL, Killington VT, Banff AB, Lake Louise AB, Big Sur CA, Pebble Beach CA, Blue Mountain Lake NY, Hamilton Pool Preserve (near Austin) TX
Favorite big city (to visit): Toronto
Restaurants: Hill Top Cafe (north of Fredericksburg TX), Stagecoach Inn (Salado TX), Adelante (San Antonio TX), JP Seafood Cafe (Boston MA), 360° Restaurant and Lounge (Keene TX)
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