Hot Air: Stockpiling


We all, presumably, think we’re going to live for a good many more years. That is, unless you’ve been informed recently by your medical professional that you have, say, six months to live. If so, what the hell are you doing wasting your precious few remaining hours reading this blog?

BTW: I went to to find another word for nonsense (I decided, instead, simply to write blog) and one of the synonyms for it was hot air. Another was big talk. So I’d say I’ve chosen identifiers for my online and radio presences quite well, no?

Anyway, let’s say you’re my age or thereabouts. You can reasonably expect a good 20 or so more years on this planet — whether you want to remain here or not and see if we can do worse than President Gag is another discussion entirely. How many books would you expect to read in 20 years? How about we set a range: if you’re a voracious, speedy reader, you can, conceivably, knock off some 50-plus books a year. Me? I’m an especially slow reader. I like to savor and re-read. I want to make sure I grasp as many meanings, references, innuendos, allusions, wrinkles, and adumbrations as possible (toldya I was cruising, didn’t I?). So I consume some 20 books a years. Sometimes fewer.

If I were to stock my home library with enough books to last me through the year 2038, my shelves’d be crammed w/ some 400 tomes. Those speed-demons I mentioned above? They ought to invest in well more than a thousand tomes, just to be on the safe side.

Eco: Crazy? No, Smart.


Along comes Cypress-based freelance writer Jessica Stillman to say, essentially, a thousand books is hardly enough. Rather, she posits in Inc. mag., if you aspire to be truly intelligent and curious, you ought to own more books than you can read in a lifetime or three. She cites the personal library of Italian author Umberto Eco which stood at a healthy +30,000 titles. That is, that’s the number of books he had (he’s dead) on the shelves in his home. Did I say healthy? I’d bet there are a few skull jockeys out there who’d have diagnosed him as rather un-healthy, at least under the definition of compulsive buying disorder in the Journal of the World Psychiatry Association.

Stillman, though, thinks old Bertie had the right idea. Writes she:

So stop beating yourself up for buying too many books or for having a to-read list that you could never get through in three lifetimes. All those books you haven’t read are indeed a sign of your ignorance. But if you know how ignorant you are, you’re way ahead of the vast majority of other people.

Having scads of books — many, many more than you could ever read — is an indication you’re smart. Well, sure. But Stillman advances a non-intuitive reason for this. All those books staring down at you, accusingly, from their lofty, jam-packed shelves convey to you all the things you don’t know. Every uncracked book in your personal library is a repository of knowledge that’s not yet in your head. And the smartest among us are those who know for a fact they’re not smart enough. The most ignorant of your neighbors and countryfolk are the ones who think they know it all.

Stillman argues:

…[I]t is a well-known psychological fact that it’s the most incompetent who are the most confident of their abilities and the most intelligent who are full of doubt. (Really. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect.)

Here’s some basic dope on the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Stillman quotes the scholar-essayist Nassim Nicholas Taleb (his five-volume philosophical opus includes the books Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, and Skin in the Game). “Read books,” he says, “are far less valuable than unread books.”

So, don’t hate yourself for not getting to all the books you have piled up around the house. It means you’re smart.


I’ll admit it: I’m the absolutely worst audio engineer I’ve ever heard on the radio. I doubt if you’ve ever heard a worse one

My Big Talk featuring a two-year old interview with preservation architect Cindy Brubaker yesterday no doubt made even casual audiophiles cringe. Both the general manager and the news director at my radio home, WFHB, nearly popped forehead veins as they endured the echo-fest that was my voice track in Thursday’s show. Although I have to say Cindy sounded awfully good — but half a loaf is still not good enough in this radio biz.

To that end I have to start looking around for an audio engineer. I need someone who can sit with me and my weekly guest and make sure both of us sound great. It’s an unpaid gig but, honestly, it’s a great way to get some valuable experience in media. It’s a foot in the door. Hell, working at ‘FHB is as good as a college course in terms of hands-on experience, contacts made, and résumé filler. Just ask local radio stars like David Brent Johnson, Brother William Morris, or emeritus pro voice Yael Ksander. They all started out at WFHB and now are awash in fame and riches.

In any case, if you know of any punk kids itching to get into media and can spare about an hour and a half a week, send them my way. Think of the public service you’ll be providing — helping to make Big Talk even better than it is now!


BTW: Here’s the podcast of yesterday’s show with Cindy Brubaker. Try not to cringe when you hear my non-dulcet tones, okay?

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