Everyone will be wearing leather aprons this Spring...
I like to think that a blog is the modern day salon, only far less selective. This is probably because modern day society does not like to gather a lot of smart people in one place, since they are hard to find. You don’t want to blow your whole wad in one shot, after all. (If you’re reading this you are probably smart. I am pretty much referring to dumb Americans in general, of the Fox news watching variety.)
But, back in the day smart people were more common and one of the most famous smart persons of all, Ben Franklin, decided to create what is perhaps the OG version of TED talks today; a little thing called a junto, or also The Leather Apron Society. The point of the LAS was to provide a forum for discussing “mutual improvement” in Philadelphia in 1727 using collective knowledge of politics, business, morality and natural sciences. The original group had 12 members, all people who were members of an industry–from bar-tending to shoemaking to investing.
The rules were that each member had to bring a question for discussion and once every three months write and read an essay to the club on a topic of choice. Each member also had to satisfactorily answer oath questions. And they would beat each other up and not tell anyone about it. Oh wait, wrong Club.
I'd do him.
Just in case things got stale, Franklin wrote up his own 24 question stimulus, a la Actor’s Studio, to keep conversations going. My favorites:
#7: What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately observed or heard? of imprudence? of passion? or of any other vice or folly?–This sounds like man-gossip to me.
#11: Do you think of any thing at present, in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind? to their country, to their friends, or to themselves?–What a nice question. How thoughtful!
#19: Hath any man injured you, from whom it is in the power of the Junto to procure redress? –Mafia style. I dig.
There are of course modern day juntos in intellectual capitals (Silicon Valley and the like) as well as colleges across the U.S., and the locale of the original in Philly still hosts a monthly meeting. The junto eventually morphed into what is now known as the American Philosophical Society, which is still quite active today, though not in the same vein of do-gooders and curious cats as much as it is a self-indulgent academic ego-stroking orgy.