Tragedy versus Irony, Peeling Kohlrabi, And Be Careful With Your Retirement Funds

Hi folks,

A recent comment on this blog by my brother, Trevor, reminded me of an event that occurred about 20 years ago. I was spending a pleasant afternoon with an artist friend of mine, Andy Fleishman. We were enjoying a glass of beer whilst sitting on one of Andy’s concrete creations next to the pond at the home studio of Andy and Kate, along with a number of goats, horses, geese, dogs, and cats scattered around the property.

The Pond at Andy and Kate's Garden Studio in Durham, NC. From:

During our conversation, Andy made a strong comment in response to something that I said. I found his statement to be initially painful, but upon reflection I discovered that it was both interesting and informative, and it has helped to guide me through my subsequent life due to the deep truth of his observation. We were discussing events that occurred in the USA in the 1960s, and this is what Andy said: “You don’t know sh*t, man!” It is a fact that I have very little understanding of the impression made on the American psyche by some of the dramatic events that occurred in the 1960s . The problem for me lay in the fact that I was still a young man in England at the time. I was too busy trying to ignore the Beatles and their incomprehensible noises (I didn’t know sh*t about that either, but I am finally addressing that issue somewhat effectively through the application of Continuum), learning how to date those scary creatures, girls, who seemed to like the Beatles a lot (that I could not fathom!), making ends meet, and finishing my veterinary training. The USA was just ‘some place else’ to me and, unfortunately, like many English kids, I was raised with the mistaken idea that Americans weren’t so great. I am now an American citizen by adoption, and very pleased about it, this being no pejorative reflection on my homeland, the history of which I am equally proud and ashamed.

My thoughts later moved on to consider what I know, and what people in general know. When it comes to the big picture, it is clear that of the vast amount of knowledge available for development in a human mind (from information and experience), the proportion actually developed by any such mind is vanishingly small. We each tend to know quite a bit about that in which we are interested, a smaller amount of that which we are forced to know for our survival, and almost nothing about anything else. That made my level of knowledge of the USA in the 60s and of Greek historians and philosophers at any time essentially zero.

Well, he looks a little happier than Aeschylus. From:

Then my brother, who seems to have an uncanny ability to find me on the Internet, wrote his interesting (for me, at least!) comment, whilst on my Facebook page he stated with reference to my posted reference to Aeschylus “I like Herodotus myself…” I thought, (philistine me),  “Boy! I don’t know sh*t about these guys, any more than I know about the 60s in the USA, and why is one of them any more interesting than the other? They’re both dead, so who cares?” My brother, I guess! So of course I researched the question and the only enlightenment I found (though Trevor is likely to send more, I hope) indicated that one of these guys was more into tragedy and the other was into irony.

Herodotus versus Aeschylus = Irony versus Tragedy? From:


I know what tragedy is, we all do, or will at least, but what was irony, again? I’m no English major, so I sought the aid of a lesser god than Debt or Bankruptcy. I entreated Google for assistance! The more I googled irony, however, the more confused I became! In fact, the most encouraging discussion of irony that I could find was as follows.

“To say one thing but to mean something else”–that may be the simplest definition of irony. But in truth there’s nothing at all simple about the rhetorical concept of irony. As J.A. Cuddon says in A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (Basil Blackwell, 1979), irony “eludes definition,” and “this elusiveness is one of the main reasons why it is a source of so much fascinated inquiry and speculation.”

We return yet again to the importance of words and semantics, as one always does when trying to make sense of the world. Come to think of it, I wonder what the origin of ‘don’t know sh*t’ might be. OK! Google, what do you have to say (please!)?’ Response: a truncation, related to shoe polish.’ Of course, I forgot! Google truly is the great equalizer when it comes to information. For instance, I was looking at a large kohlrabi this morning trying to decide if I should peel it, as at the ripe old age of 67 I had never cooked one before. Did I appeal to my mother? No! Did I appeal to a local chef? No! I appealed to Google, and this is what Google dispensed:

How to peel kohlrabi. From:



Not only was I informed that I should peel, but I was told how to peel, and was presented with a lovely picture showing the process applied to a kohlrabi almost exactly the same size as mine. What a gift, and now it is cooking! Smells good!



I then wondered about other examples of irony, where things don’t turn out the way you expect, such as my quad cramps during the 2011 Eagleman race. It was irritating, but not a tragedy, and it didn’t feel ironic. How about the stock market crash of 1929-1931? Here it is! Boy, that was something, don’t you think? I guess Aeschylus would say “Bummer!” whilst Herodotus would come out with something much more pithy!

Dow Jones Industrial Average. From:

It was ironic, as they surely were expecting something different at the time. Situational irony, perhaps? Though for many it was clearly a tragedy. If you want to avoid financial tragedy, whilst enjoying the positive aspects of fiscal irony, please note two important pieces of information, (a) that this average, if I am not mistaken, comprises different companies over the years, so it compares ‘apples with oranges’ to some degree, and (b) it took 20 years to recover from the 1929-1931 ‘correction,’ so be very careful with your retirement funds. I sure am, as my guide for many years has been ‘The Intelligent Investor‘ by Benjamin Graham, which has always served me well except on the rare occasions that I ignored his advice.

I wonder how Herodotus and Aeschylus handled retirement savings?

Thanks for introducing me to a couple of interesting chaps, Trevor, and especially for this having led me to a deeper understanding of the level of my ignorance of the concept of irony.


Kevin (Old Dog!)


  1. Ah, the scientific mind! When it analyses a joke it has got to be joking.
    Analysing irony is even funnier.
    My impression of Heroditus is he is no modern po-faced humourless academic historian.
    He writes down the ripping yarns he heard down at the taberna.
    He write what the king of Sparta said before his force were finally annhilated at Thermopoly. Was it found written on the cape of one of the stiffs?
    Heroditus could write a good ripping yarn. Some of the content is real history but you have to guess which part.
    As for investments! We are approaching another 1929. See Kondratief and his long swings in economic affairs and Schumpeter and his concept of “creative destruction”.
    Afghanistan is where old empires go to die. The British and the Soviets have been there and lost their emperium as did many before them. The American Empire is now to follow them into its very own decline.
    The crash to come will be horrible. My approach is commodities, gold, silver, possibly indium and canned food, etc. Stay away from financial service products, “funds” of any sort. The whole world of “derivatives” and “credit default swaps” and Blyth Rivers is now rotten to the core as banks steal form the haves to give to the have yachts.
    My I do love economics. It is even more dismal than me…

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.