Finished classic Western True Grit by Charles Portis. Mattie Ross recounts how as a 14 year girl her father was murdered, and she asks around to find a marshal to help track him down:
The sheriff thought on it a minute. He said: "I would have to weigh that proposition. There is near about two hundred of them. I reckon William Waters is the best tracker. The meanest one is Rooster Cogburn. He is a pitiless man, double-tough, and fear don't enter into his thinking. He loves to pull a cork. Now L.T. Quinn, he brings his prisoners in alive. He may let one get by now and then but he believes even the worst of men is entitled to a fair shake. Also the court does not pay any fees for dead men. Quinn is a good peace officer and a lay preacher to boot. He will not plant evidence or abuse a prisoner. He is straight as a string. Yes, I will say that Quinn is about the best they have."
I said, "Where can I find this Rooster?"
Written in 1968, it's a gritty book full of authentic-sounding period language: I had to look up things like "middlebuster" (a shallow plough, apparently). There's not much romanticism here: the characters are tough and suspicious, generally out for their own interests.
It's a brisk book, not much more than 200 pages, which keeps the pace and tension high. Portis also inhabits the character of Mattie Ross astonishingly well, with a layered portrayal of her impetuous teenage self recalled from a querulous old age. She's hugely impressive, but just vulnerable enough to remain believable, very occasionally falling prey to weakness.
Overall, this book deserves its reputation as a classic. Fast, realistic and with believable yet larger-than-life characters: well worth reading.
Latest TTC course was Legacies of Great Economists by Timothy Taylor. Ten 45-minute lectures covering Adam Smith, Thomas Robert Malthus, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Alfred Marshall, Joseph Schumpeter, John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman.
Another interesting course. Timothy Taylor seems almost unique in being passionate about economics. He gives biographical sketches of what the economists were like as individuals, but concentrates on their work and their interactions.
He's particularly good on Marshall and marginalism: explains how he helped work out the modern notion of value as the interaction of supply and demand. I found that also pretty useful in the analysis of one of the problems of Marx: his reliance on a labour theory of value, where only labour counts towards the value of something.
Thought he also made a good point about Marx: that while some regard him as valuable for his polemics against the evils of unrestrained capitalism, Marx regarded himself as a rigorous scientist, so should perhaps be judged rigorously and scientifically.
Taylor's also good on the interactions between the market socialists like Oscar Lange and Enrico Barone, and the Austrian school in the mid-twentieth century. I didn't realise that it was the Austrians who basically invented the notion of prices as signals, so my estimation of them has gone up slightly. Signaling seems to have been firmly incorporated in modern neoclassical economics though, so no need to take things to extremes.
Also found Joseph Schumpeter's ideas on the doom of capitalism interesting. Unlike Marx he like capitalism, but felt that increasing prosperity would inevitably create a class of intellectuals who would tear down the system that created them.
Overall a good course, worthwhile if you're interested in the history of economics.
Just started TTC course Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality.
I think this transsexual flamewar is missing the really big issue. "Trans" means basically "beyond". So a "trans-man" is obviously someone who has gone beyond man, that is a man who has become a woman. Instead they use it to mean a woman who has become a man.
|< I've hated April Fool's Day since I was six | The Lamp is Off >|