Friday, October 2, 2009

around and around

Pretty soon it's going to be this time of year again, at least in inaka-cho. That's right, we celebrate Halloween and we do our celebrating nice and early before the clingy, warm humidity is all gone. Actually, the reason is that last year, the international association had a windfall of large, orange pumpkins in early September and had to use them before they rotted into putrid orange puddles. (A couple of them did anyway.)

Using the same reasoning, I planned the party date this year nice and early, but, due to the flat tire we got on our way to picking up the pumpkins, we were only able to claim four. Therefore, the bulk of our pumpkins this year are going to be native Japanese kabocha, which you can buy any old time all autumn. Ah well. Live and learn.

Speaking of which, in my recent offline endeavors, I've started Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, since it seems to be one of those books you just HAVE to read before you choke. It influenced a lot of educated men in Europe and North America when Smith published it in 1776 (followed by four new versions in rapid succession). It's most often linked with the "invisible hand" theory of economics; that is, markets produce the most wealth for a nation when they are least regulated, because a benevolent "invisible hand" can then guide the process. Smith only wrote the phrase in his ponderous tome once, actually.

It's slow going. I've learned about the division of labor and the efficiency and progress it brings to society; about prices being based on rent, wages, and profits; about the development of metal money and how sovereigns manipulate it; that the true price of a commodity is based on the amount of labor used to produce it; about how corn is a better indicator of a society's affluence than silver; and a lot of things that Smith just seems to speculate on in a rambling, ambling, don't-care-if-I-get-anywhere fashion. So I started to supplement my book-reading with Wikipedia and an online collection of notes.

I laughed out loud when the author of those notes wrote something to this effect: "I'm not really sure what Smith is trying to say here, but I hope my notes are at least less incomprehensible than his."

All this, and Amazon touts the book as being "highly readable."
(By the way, I once tried to read Tristram Shandy, for much the same reasons as this book, but gave up because of its labyrinthine sentences. I'm determined to plough through Smith, though.)

In other news,
Why is it that it's just when you get a mad itch to leave everything behind and start exploring, perhaps holding your magnifying glass to a fascinating object on the ground near a burbling stream in a sunny meadow on a gorgeous day, that something, let's say a pterodactyl, comes rushing at you and lifts you high up into the atmosphere before letting you hurtle back down to earth with stars in your eyes while it goes on its merry way? You can't get it out of your head, and you can't go back to your single-minded exploration, even though you know pterodactyls don't exist and the chances that the one that grabbed you will come back are nonexistent. In other words, well, no, I can't explain it. You either know what I'm talking about or you don't.

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