Emanuel Derman

Anti-Semites in the Anti-Melting Pot

March 9, 2012

It’s spring break, and to revive my flagging mind I just took a short slow run on a beach near the edge of the water, and to revive my flagging body I have been rereading (and enjoying, for the third time in my life) the book Memoirs of an Anti-Semite by Gregor von Rezzori.

My life as a pseud and other stories

March 1, 2012

In the early ’60s when Jules Feiffer drew black-turtlenecked Village people dancing odes to the seasons and Mad Magazine mocked beatniks, my South African high-school and college friends and I  called anyone who claimed to have read anything about existentialism a pseud.  At that time a friend of mine used to mention Merleau-Ponty, and that damned my friend in perpetuity.

The A word

February 20, 2012

I recently ran into someone who I had always regarded as more or less compos mentis, but they told me quite seriously that the Rothschilds ran the world because they owned countries rather than corporations. Now, I’m not immune to the charms of conspiracy theories; some things in the world are so messed up that I can see how only a conspiracy could explain them. If a small cabal of invisible people ruled the world for their own profit and pleasure it very likely would turn out just the way it has, only probably a little more organized. Unless they are fiendishly clever and add the noise to make it look unplanned.

Very small, very transitory pleasures

February 17, 2012

My carefully concealed always positive outlook on life is taking a beating these days, and the only pleasures are (i) attacking inconsistencies in other people’s positions and (ii) defending my own right to the same.

My own private I dunno

February 15, 2012

I have been reading The Connectome: How The Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are, by Sebastian Seung, a Professor of Computational Neuroscience and Physics at MIT, and formerly a theoretical physicist.

Aggression vs triumphalism

February 8, 2012

I watched two recent finals — The Australian Tennis Open (Djokovic vs. Nadal) and the Super Bowl (Giants vs. Patriots) and their endings were very different in spirit. I liked the Super Bowl ending better, surprisingly for me.

Love and money

February 3, 2012

Some interesting stuff I’m reading:

Schopenhauer, in The World as Will and Representation, has a chapter on The Metaphysics of Sexual Love, and remarks how strange it is that love ceaselessly occupies people’s thoughts, interests and readings, and yet has gone relatively unexamined from a philosophical point of view. He brands as naive Spinoza’s view that love is merely pleasure associated with an external object, and I’m inclined to agree. For Schopenhauer, it’s all about matter propagating itself, the temporary unity of lovers’ feeling reflecting the unity of the yet unborn child. Strong mutual attraction, he says, is related to the suitability of the characteristics of the future child from the point of view of the species, and has nothing to do with personal lifelong compatibility. Not a cheerful guy.

Havel on the need for the transcendent

January 29, 2012

Something about naive liberal humanitarianism often bugs and irritates me more than correspondingly naive reactionary beliefs, and I (probably wrongly) end up judging more severely than I should otherwise good people who espouse it naively.

Mysteries of macro

January 27, 2012

1. Consider two countries, America and China. Suppose (only suppose) China manipulates its currency to keep it low, thereby making exports cheaper and imports expensive, benefiting its balance of payments and mercantile ambitions, harming America’s.

Grading agencies (This is an A+ post)

January 23, 2012

We’ve been in a bull market for Treasury Bonds since the late 1970s, and, as a student pointed out to me recently, and I think I can confirm, we’ve been in a bull market for academic grades too.