Opinion

Emanuel Derman

More from Prost, a fictional work in progress

Emanuel Derman
Sep 25, 2012 01:11 UTC

Late in life, when his roots should have held him steady, he became unmoored, and it seemed inappropriate. But who determined what was appropriate?

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In the summer of 1956 when he was an eleven-year old boy, the hot items were fluorescent socks in lime green or neon pink that glowed in the dark as they strolled up and down the beachfront at night. Those strolls were a local version of what his parents called shpatzieren, the pre-WWII Mitteleuropean slow promenading up and down main street on a Saturday or Sunday summer afternoon, men in white suits walking arm-in-arm with their parasol-carrying wives, the men doffing their hats to the opposing women on someone else’s arm, the women smiling back in response.

Here in southern Cape Town (or Cup-Eh-To-Ven, as his mother first pronounced it, she told him, when she heard she was to emigrate to there from Poland) no one wore white suits. Here, teenagers and parents shpatziered in casual clothes on the elevated Promenade in Muizenberg, or on the winding pavement beside the lawns of Beach Road, Sea Point.

Muizenberg was a Southern African Brighton or Blackpool, a colonial English-style summer resort, the preferred vacationland of Jewish immigrants who lived in the lower part of the continent.

Every summer for several years his family spent two weeks at The Queens Hotel, a shabby dark three-story establishment owned by some relatives of his father, open only in the summer. All the hotels in Muizenberg were colonial. Every meal from breakfast to dinner seemed to involve baked haddock, and every room had a chamber pot in case you had to urinate in the night, since the shared bathroom was at the end of the corridor or even half way up another flight of stairs. Parents requested on a form to have coffee or tea with biscuits delivered on a tray to their room each morning at 6 or 7 a.m., a supposed holiday luxury whose nature eluded him: Why would you want to have coffee served to you in bed long before breakfast and then go back to sleep?

An eagerness to impart unnecessary information

Emanuel Derman
Sep 14, 2012 15:04 UTC

I find myself increasingly in irritated disagreement with the many neuroscientists and evangelically professional atheists who think that science is everything, that matter is all we have, and that photographic images of chemicals glowing in the brain are equivalent to thoughts and feelings. (I have no problem with their simply disbelieving in God.)

I grew up a rationalist. My introduction to the supposedly spiritual was in synagogue and school, but it was a pro forma introduction, tales and laws and recitations but no discussion of the perception of God. Nothing about the sort of experience Aldous Huxley wrote about in The Perennial Philosophy.

While in Oxford as a postdoc, some several-years-old advice to read Rudolf Steiner, given to me in a time of trouble, popped into my head again when I passed a poky little anthroposophical bookstore. I purchased an English-language copy of Knowledge of the Higher Worlds.

A parable on quantitative easing

Emanuel Derman
Sep 11, 2012 14:18 UTC

When my son was a little less than two years old, I used to play a game he liked, bouncing him up and down on my knee while chanting a nursery rhyme:

Half a pound of tuppeny rice
Half a pound of treacle
Mix them up and make them nice
Pop goes the weasel!

On “Pop goes the weasel!” I would sharply drop my knee all the way down and let him bump to the floor. He always chortled. He liked the game so much that one day he asked me to repeat it over and over again, perhaps fifteen times, laughing at each bump except the last one, when he turned to me in surprise and asked: Why it’s not funny anymore?

German models

Emanuel Derman
Sep 3, 2012 23:38 UTC

I have begun to write what will be a regular column for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), and the first one just appeared this Saturday Sep 1 2012, translated into German. Here is the introduction to the column written by Frank Schirrmacher.

And here below is the original text of the column in English, from which the German was translated.

The good days are here once again for models of the physical world: after a drought of almost fifty years, physicists at CERN have discovered what seems to be the long-awaited Higgs boson. But we are living through a period of bad days for models of the social world, where I am using the word ‘model’ in the sense of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Major-General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance, who sang: “I am the very model of a modern Major-General.”

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