The Dusty Den Book Club

Discussing Literature and Anything Else We Want

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Ep 12 – The War of Currents and “Empires of Light,” Pt.2


This is the second and final part of the discussion on Jill Jonnes’s, Empires of Light.  Part 1 (episode 10) dealt with an introduction to the historical figures, Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse, taken from Jonnes’s book and other sources.  In this part 2, I focus more specifically on the narrative she creates in her book, and take you through the journey of these three titans of the electric industry.  I have a few qualms with the author’s point of view on economics, but I barely touch on them.  Instead I focus on all the aspects of the book I like.  It really is a great read.  You feel like your reading a novel, and she paints a robust picture of this epic and dense time in American history.

The next episode will be on the new, timely, and incredibly important Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, by the awesome Scott Horton.  The title is self explanatory, but Horton gives you an education on the matter you will appreciate.

Next episode – Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, by the awesome Scott Horton.

On deck – The Myth of the Rational Voter by Bryan Caplan (With Dave!)

In the hole – Back to fiction!  I’ll announce this after Dave and I select a book…

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter and please give me a rating and review on iTunes!  Thank you for listening!

You can donate via Patreon and get a personal “Thank you,” on the show, or you can give a 1 time PayPal donation.

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Thank you for all your support!

Ep 11 – Talking “Blade Runner,” and Why Deckard Is a Replicant!


This is a simple episode, nothing too crazy.  I had a plan to debate the topic with Kristaps over at The Eastern Border Podcast, but we couldn’t get it done due to scheduling conflicts, so I just pushed through solo.

A while back I had a debate on a common topic regarding Ridley Scott’s 1982 science-fiction film Blade Runner.  Is Deckard a replicant?  That is the question.  I believe so.  No matter where they come down on the issue,  fans of science-fiction film admire Blade Runner as a beautiful classic.  This was a fun episode, and I’m glad I took a break from podcasting about literature.  This is light hearted and I hope you enjoy it, as it’s a bit different from my usual fare.

A special thanks to Jim Cunagin for becoming a Patreon supporter.  Thanks Jim!  You can hear Jim on The Dangerous History Podcast Episode 129 – The Phycology of Power & Obedience with Prof CJ.  It’s a great episode!

This is a free episode to my Patreon supporters!


Next episode – The War of Currents and “Empires of Light,” Part.2

On Deck – The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies by Bryan Caplan (With Dave!)

In The Hole – Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan by Scott Horton

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter and please give me a rating and review on iTunes!  Thank you for listening!

You can donate via Patreon and get a “Thank you,” on the show, or you can give a 1 time PayPal donation.

Spread the show and join the club!


Ep 10 – The War of Currents and “Empires of Light,” Pt.1


This episode of the Dusty Den Podcast is an overview of the historical figures covered in Jill Jonnes’s book Empires of Light.  I discuss the lives of Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse, and also touch on some terms the book deals with like direct current, alternating current, arc lighting, and the induction motor.  This episode is really just a setup for the next show which will be more dedicated to the book’s historical narrative.

These men were pioneers of electrical power, and their story is fascinating.  Jonnes’s book is captivating, and brings the stories of all three men to life and reveals things you never would have known about them.  Her work is well sourced and reads like a novel, but make no mistake, this is pure history.  It’s the history of “the race to electrify the world.”

Next episode – The War of Currents and “Empires of Light,” Part.2

On deck – Blade Runner film discussion (Deckard is a replicant)

In the hole – The Myth of the Rational Voter by Bryan Caplan (With Dave!)

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter and please give me a rating and review on iTunes!  Thank you for listening!

You can donate via Patreon and get a “Thank you,” on the show, or you can give a 1 time PayPal donation.

Spread the show and join the club!

Ep 9 – A Great Discussion With Dave!

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Here is something different and fun!  I sit down and talk with my dear friend Dave in his den.  We talk about current books we are reading, books which are important to us personally, libertarianism and anarchism, Ayn Rand, free speech, family, if college is right for our children, the future of education, and other great stuff.  Dave is a very smart individual.  He graduated from VMI, has lived and traveled to many places from Oregon to Iraq, and gave me my first Rand book.  Like myself, he has worked in the public service field for over 13 years.

Dave tells us about reading Gulag Archipelago, Dreamland, and how I misjudged him as a fan of only non-fiction books.  He is truly an interesting individual and one of the best men I know.  I’m glad we got to sit down and talk literature, and I look forward to more podcasts with him in the future.

Coming next is my multi-part series on the fascinating Empires Of Light, by Jill Jonnes.  You’re not going to want to miss that one.  After that I’m thinking about another film episode, maybe Blade Runner, but I’m not sure yet.

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter and subscribe on iTunes or any other platform.  You can also now follow me on facebook and Instagram, although I am not too active on those yet.  The show is growing!  Help it out with a donation via PayPal, or a $1 per episode Patreon donation.  More than anything, I ask you share the show and give me a rating and review on iTunes.  Thank you so very much.

Do Cigars Help The Exchange Of Ideas?

We have all heard it. “The world’s problems could be fixed if people would just sit down with a good cigar and a strong drink.” It’s aggrandized and oversimplified, but we all know there is a germ of truth there. I can’t recall a time when I’ve devolved into a belligerent simply trying to win an argument while exchanging ideas over a great smoke. I can, however, recall countless times were simple debates or disagreements in the absence of cigar smoking has turned into intense gridlock with each party getting deeper entrenched into their own hyperbole. So whats the difference? Why do we seem to have a deeper level of communication when enjoying a cigar? Why were so many great and persuasive men in history cigar smokers? The answer is somewhere in the throes of phycology and physiology, with data ranging from scientific to anecdotal.

Debate and the exchange of ideas is something unavoidable in human interaction. You will never outrun the conversations on politics or religion, nor should you! Today’s men are far too timid in discussing their own beliefs. Many suggest you should keep conversations centered on safe topics like sports and work, but that’s boring. Isn’t it much more satisfying to explore your own ideas and learn more from others? Many of the strong and persuasive personalities of the past likely spent the majority of their interactions debating the more important questions of the day. Winston Churchill, Fidel Castro, Mark Twain, John F. Kennedy, Sigmund Frued, and Thomas Eddison, whether you like them or not, were all influential and powerful figures who smoked cigars, and they are just a few. So were they on to something? Does smoking a cigar open you mind, and can it open someone else’s in a debate?

First lets examine the science of arguing. In a traditional argument people have a tendency to double down when challenged or provided proof in the contrary. It’s partly because of the “sunk cost fallacy,” by which our minds refuse to change based on the amount of time and other investment we have at stake. Many of our beliefs hinge on other beliefs and so on. In psychologist Drew Weston’s book,*The Political Brain,*He discusses experiments which show brain activity when an individual is presented with an argument they disagree with. Basically, the fight or flight area of the brain gets very active while the area involving logic doesn’t. When this happens, the mentality of all parties debating narrows, focusing solely on the quest of winning. Processing ideas and rational thought ceases and you simply dig in. Why? Because like it or not, there are certain physiological effects that take place when you win or lose and your body already knows this. Winning, or persuading, released dopamine and makes you feel good. Losing threatens your public and personal image of intelligence. No Dopamine.

So what changes when you when you sit down for a smoke and a difference of opinion perks up the ears of conversation? A few things. First, you have a controlled environment conducive to conversation. This is very important. Because cigar smoking is entrenched in ritual, and the setting is soothing and familiar, your mindset is already primed for better conversation. According to a*Scientific American*article by Francesca Gino and Micheal I. Norton, research shows that rituals “Reduce anxiety and increase peoples confidence.” With anxiety levels low, and confidence high, a conversation is far less likely to turn into what philosopher Daniel Cohen calls the “Argument-as-War metaphor.” In his TED talk lecture he claims “Argument-as-War,” elevates tactics over substance, magnifies the Us vs. Them paradigm, and results in only victory or defeat. Cohen also projects his belief that answering the question, “cui bono?” has an inverse answer. The “loser” is the one who gains by learning a new battle tested thought. He believes falling victim to the war metaphor prohibits collaboration and critical thinking which can produce a win-win outcome.

Remember when we were in the argument before and our fight or flight activated? Cortisol and norepinephrine started pumping up causing anxiety. It’s all related. But in our controlled environment with our ritual we have already combatted the elements of rising anxiety. We are more relaxed and confident. Confident, our mind’s fears of status loss or intellectual inferiority decrease. An important step has been achieved in transforming the conversation from war, to an exchange of ideas.

When your sitting down with your cigar, your doing something you enjoy, which automatically triggers your mind to be more open, and conversation to be more interactive, but thats not where it ends. Dr. William Douglass asserts in his book, *The Health Benefits of Tobacco: A Smoker’s Paradox*, that nicotine improves memory and concentration. Concentration and active listening go hand in hand, and can only benefit conversation. Nicotine itself has also been proven increase neurotransmitter activity responsible for dopamine and serotonin. Remember, this is what also happens when your perceive winning an argument, so if you are already getting it from nicotine, it may be fair to say your brain will not try so hard to win and be more open to exchanging ideas in a more beneficial manner. Dan Hurley’s book, *Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power, reports nicotine being a powerful chemical in dealing with ADHD and enhancing cognitive ability. His book quotes professor of experimental psychology, Dr. Jennifer Rusted’s assertion that nicotine is a superior brain booster which yields better results than popular smart drugs.
The claims made by many of these professionals aren’t endorsements of smoking, but we are talking about the art of conversation, and why there seems to be a palatable difference between a standard argument and one involving the ritual of cigar smoking. The tone seems completely different. There are, absolutely, arguments among friends having cigars which get heated. This is undeniable. They are far less however, than the amount of constructive debates which reach reasonable conclusions.

Virtually any article you read on arguing lays out similar principles. The most important, LISTEN. Being a good listener is proven to be effective in becoming a better persuader. When you listen completely, especially in the start of a debate, you help the other person to feel comfortable and less likely to fall into the “war metaphor.” This just seems to happen naturally when puffing on a cigar. Walls get lowered. Another recommendation of the experts is to ask questions. Asking questions gets the brain functioning in different ways. It tells your opponent you are actively listening. I have paid close attention to this and notice a significant increase in debate through questioning among groups of cigar smokers.

So what’s the takeaway? In argument A you are usually thrust into it by chance in an environment you don’t control. You are taken off guard, and often enter the debate due to an annoying comment of which you have taken offense. Your goal is to prove your point and win. If you fail, your brain knows dopamine production will suffer and status may be at risk. Everything you are experiencing, the other person is too. Lines are drawn and battle commences. It usually becomes a circular process that compounds these problems and ends with no resolution, and nothin learned by anyone. In argument B you are in an environment controlled by ritual. Your anxiety is lower and your confidence is higher. You are most likely not surprised by a comment, but already engaged in conversation by someone enjoying the same ritual as you. There is a built-in kinship. The disagreement is less likely to offend you, and more likely to spark your curiosity and invite you to investigate further and interject your opinion and reason. You are both stimulated and relaxed, and your cognitive and concentration abilities are enhanced. You listen, gain trust, ask questions, and respond accordingly and, most likely, much more amicably. In the end, everyone get up, says they enjoyed the conversation, and has most likely learned something about their debater, themselves, and maybe even life in general.

When a serious topic comes up, don’t run away. Grab some stogies. Delay the conversation until you light up in a comfortable setting. Give it a few minutes. Ask some questions. listen. Then enjoy a debate of discovery rather than draw down into a war of words.

Coming This Month…

Coming up this month I have a sit down with my good pal Dave!  We will talk books, current events, and more!  Then I’ll be back at the end of July with the first installment in a multi-part series discussing Empires of Light, by Jill Jonnes.  Stay tuned on twitter for updates on coming podcasts and more!

Ep 8 – “Animal Farm” vs “Anatomy of the State”

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Animal Farm is George Orwell’s iconic and quotable Novella, published in 1945, which is the allegorical tale of the rise of communism and the Stalinist, Soviet Union.  It is the tale of a farm taken over by the animals who represent the workers of the soviet era.  They are led by a group of pigs who become the authoritarian master-class.  The book explores the way propaganda is used to control the masses, like when all the animals learn the song, “Beasts of England,” a direct parallel to, “The Internationale.”  There is plenty of direct symbolism in story, including Snowball the pig representing Trotsky, and Napoleon the pig representing Stalin.  You must listen to Kristaps Andrejson’s fantastic podcast, The Eastern Boarder to get a good understanding of the rise and rule of Stalin and the communist regime.  He has two fantastic series in particular relating to the topics discussed, the Red Dawn series, and the Man of Steel series (which just started).  I talk about a lot of this in the episode and do my best to relate it to Murray Rothbard’s essay, Anatomy of the State.  This essay, along with a ton of other material by Rothbard, is available for free at the Mises Institute website, which I highly recommend.  There is a mountain of information available there for anyone interested in libertarianism, anarcho-capitalism, and economics.  Don’t forget to follow me on twitter and subscribe to the show!  Here are also some links if you wish to donate to the show via Patreon or PayPal.  More than anything, thanks for listening!  Please share the show and give me a rating and review on iTunes.

**Also, check out this YouTube series on George Orwell.  It’s very interesting.**

Ep 7 – Getting Your Ideas Through

Here is the episode I promised a while back about arguing and debating when you are in hostile territory, which for an anarchist, is most of the time.  This episode discusses the psychology of conformity and arguing.  I talk about the physiology going on in your brain when you engage in debate under different circumstances and using different strategies.  This topic is close to me because most people I know and interact with definitely do not share my world view.  Why argue?  How should we argue?  What happens when  we argue?  All are questions explored in this episode.  I assert my belief that people have become far too fragile and afraid of debate.  Important topics should be debated, but the exchange of ideas works best under particular conditions.  I reference several sources in this podcast, including The Dangerous History Podcast, episodes 0129, 0109, and 0110 which I highly recommend.  The episode with Jim Cunagin is outstanding.  I also mention a great episode of The Tom Woods Show, episode 913, where he has a conversation with renowned hostage negotiator Chris Voss.  Works from Robert Cialdini, Eric Barker, and philosopher/professor Daniel Cohen are also referenced.

I hope you enjoy this one.  I will be back later this month with something on Animal Farm.  Thank you for your patience and please don’t forget to follow me on twitter.  You can always donate on Patreon or PayPal. Thanks for checking out The Dusty Den, and please subscribe on your favorite platform and leave me a rating and review in iTunes.

The Next Book Is…….

Animal Farm!

Due to some family issues, the scope of the previously selected book, and a severe 2 week sickness, I decided to go with something quick.  I may combine this with Anatomy Of The State by Rothbard.  The next episode is still going ahead.  Look for the podcast on Animal Farm early next month!

Topic Change

While I still plan on going ahead with the podcast on, “Talking to others,” I am changing the next book we are going to cover.  Propaganda: The Formation Of Men’s Minds, is fantastic work, but I don’t think it will lend itself well to the podcast.  It’s almost too academic.  It would be several episodes long and I just can’t commit that amount of time to one book.  It is worth a read but I warn that it is very technical.  I may use it as a resource for another podcast, but not as a stand alone piece to discuss.  I will keep you posted via twitter and the blog as to what the next work will be.  Thanks!

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