CSotD: What do we know and how do we know it?

If Ionesco or Becket were writing “The Comic Strip That Has A Finale Every Day,”  this Frazz (AMS) would be the one to endlessly cycle, it being more absurd than dadaesque.

Or, at least, it would become absurd if you simply kept cycling it. As it is, it speaks for the prevailing mood, which is that there’s no reason to expect a monumental shift when the year changes.

First of all, there never was. Few of us stayed up until midnight this year, though mostly because there weren’t any parties to go to, at least among relatively intelligent people.


Hence this commentary from Non Sequitur (AMS), which isn’t ha-ha funny but isn’t intended to be.


You don’t have to be quite as cynical as Dave Grandlund (Ind), because there really is light at the end of the tunnel.

Incidentally, that expression became popular during the Vietnam War, when we were promised that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but, as various Saigon governments quarreled and fell and body counts increased and one disappointment heaped upon another, the response was that the light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train.

So Wiley Miller is right — we still need to mask up and keep a distance — but it could be worse.

The other day, Steve Inskeep interviewed Jen Psaki, Biden’s pick for White House Press Secretary, and my response was not elation or the declaration of a new millennium but rather one of relief, of a sense that we were headed back to normalcy.

“Normalcy” should not be a cause for excitement, but I’ll take what I can get. After four years of abby-normalcy, it indeed felt new and comforting, an almost-forgotten sensation like sleeping in your childhood bed.

To which the cynic says, “Well, we’re not there yet,” but (A) that was my point from the start and (B) it’s a hint that maybe we can get there.

We have a frighteningly high level of gullible people who can’t tell fact from fiction or shepherd from wolf, and here’s an analysis that should at least depress if not terrify you.

But here’s my comforting response: If the article is right and 46% of us — the most gullible of the conspiracy buffs — are going to refuse the vaccine, it won’t end the pandemic.

However, if the vaccine really is 95% effective, the vast majority of people who believe in science and logic should make it through, though we oughten’t to use a word like “culling.”

And please don’t list all the reasons I’m probably wrong about that.


It would only make you sound smart, and, as Pros and Cons (KFS) suggests, sounding smart is overrated, mostly by people who like to sound smart.

It’s called the Cunning-Loser Effect.

Have I mentioned that I hated metaphysics in college? And while Samuel Johnson was an objectionable old curmudgeon in many respects, he was right about George Berkeley, as Boswell reports it:

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it, ‘I refute it THUS.’

Though, of course, Berkeley would have said he only thought he’d injured what he thought was his foot on what he thought was a stone.

(In Googling for that quote, I found this, which is great for people
who only think they’ve found a place to rent in the Bay Area.)


On a related note, a high school friend posted this on Facebook the other day, and it occurred to me that almost everyone I knew in high school would get it and almost nobody I knew in college would.

Point being that intelligence is innate, and real, and shaped by experience.

Also that, while we sometimes feature inside jokes, this is an outside joke.


Alex (Telegraph) often consists of humor based on having spent way too much time cooped up in offices instead of out experiencing the real world. The year-end Best-Of volume is out, though you have to get it from over in the UK.

That cover really sums up the year, however, as does this brilliant video …

… which doesn’t require any knowledge of banking or stock trading to appreciate.


For those who enjoy intelligent humor based on life experience, Rabbits Against Magic (AMS) offers this commentary on the decline of the Olympics, the required life experience being that of having watched old people try to be hip.

Or hep.

Either one.


And I could have run it as a Juxtaposition of the Day along with this Between Friends (KFS) strip, because she’s much too generous in suggesting that it’s a momentary lapse in judgment.

Few journalists are popular in high school, but some dream of exploring the Antarctic, some dream of inventing jetpacks and some dream of meeting Justin Bieber.

Guess who writes those how-to articles?

Like the old farts sitting around at the IOC saying “How about breakdancing? Kids love that!” it is more a case of somebody who never got it having nonetheless found a niche among the trendmakers.

I’ve always counseled young would-be journalists to major in something else so they’ll have something to write about, and only get their journalism degree as a masters, which I say because you have to have a sheepskin to be considered, unless you build your resume by serving a few internships at newspapers.

Which you can’t get unless you’re working on a journalism degree.

I know it sounds cynical, but journalism isn’t the only career where you can no longer impress a prospective boss with your intelligence and life experience.

Hiring decisions today are made by people in HR who have a checklist which must be satisfied before anyone interviews anybody.

Okay, that was cynical.

Doesn’t mean it was wrong.



13 thoughts on “CSotD: What do we know and how do we know it?

  1. When I was in college, majoring in Journalism and English – I was told to add some education courses “so you’ll have something to fall back on.”

    So I did, though I thought then and still feel now (after 31 years of teaching) that it was, as James Thurber said “Like falling backwards full length on a kit of carpenter’s tools.”

  2. William — yes, that’s what I liked. We’ve had four years of WH press secretaries who said things. That’s not their job.

  3. I dropped into a Borders Books when the chain was in its final throes, and there was some exhibit set up that indicated that they had tried doing a kiddie club, with pogs.

    Pogs. Sweet Jesus. They thought pogs would save them.

    I just wanted to cry for them. Borders had come to this.It was like seeing a cast of a Pompeiian holding a little umbrella over their head. Futile, stupid, sad.

  4. I was fortunate. I worked for my father for a couple of years programming (this was 1976), then went to college, majoring in computer science. I am still eating off that experience and education. Very few nonsense courses.

    I think a viable sequence is the equivalent of a GI bill. After high school, do 2 years in the equivalent of peace corps or americorp then have free college. Kids would gain valuable experience in the real world, gain experience and maturity, then be ready for college.

    There are some who don’t need this sequence. Most would be serious nerds who are ready for college. They need to be identified and put on the right path. Summer internships would give them real world experience. Have them do their internships after graduation for two years for the free college.

    Since I have one name, my first name is “mr” to satisfy the requirement.

  5. I remember (when local newspapers still existed) the transition from writers who had knowledge of the subject to journalism majors. The errors of fact in their writing was hilarious. I was especially aware of this in writing for and about the agriculture industry in which I worked.

  6. I totally disagree with #2. I heard the interview on the radio, and she was a breath of fresh air, after having each professional liar be even worse than the predecessor over the past four years. We will, of course, have to wait and see what the reality will be.

    OTOH, #6 has a fine idea — swap some national service for college tuition, similar to the old GI bill.

  7. As you say, breakdancing in the Olympics probably was the idea of a bunch of out of touch old farts. That being said, I don’t know that it’s any less of a sport than rhythmic gymnastics.

  8. I’m all in favor of national service, though not as a full requirement. Making it a bargain to pay for post-grade-12 education makes a lot of sense.

    Given the variety of opportunities — military, VISTA, Peace Corps — it wouldn’t be hard to put high school grads to good use. And, as with ROTC, those who wanted to get a degree first could sign up and line up.

    My son’s in-laws met in Africa when he was doing Dutch national service and she was in the Peace Corps. They’re two of the most interesting people I know, but I’m not sure whether it is because of their experience, or if their experience is the result of them being such interesting people.

    Either way, setting up a program of national service would create a more interesting citizenry.

  9. The trouble with getting a job today is, as I understand it, HR wants you to have 8 years experience in a technology that’s only four years old. I’m glad I’m old and retired.

    National service would be a good thing. One thing I noticed after the end of the military draft is that young people got more insular, they no longer were compelled to travel to other places and mix with people they otherwise wouldn’t have met. I’m in favor of some CCC and WPA type programs, as well as paying people to build and repair our infrastructure.

  10. Are they adding breakdancing to the Olympics because the officials are out of touch, or because the people who loved breakdancing are finally the old farts who are in a position to add breakdancing to the Olympics?

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