(still from West Side Story)
It seems that four years ago, USC history professor Steven J. Ross and LA Times Book Review editor Steve Wasserman attended a book awards reception in Los Angeles.
As Wasserman looked around the room, he said to Ross: “Wouldn’t it be great to bring these kinds of people together for conversations? All of these people are intellectuals who have interesting things to say but never get together because they have been Balkanized by geography.”
Discussions of Los Angeles’ intellectual community always seem to beg comparisons to New York’s scene: the Algonquin, the Bohemian bookstores, the Dorothy Parkers. But where is Los Angeles’ intelligentsia?
That day, they decided to do something about it.
Ross and Wasserman formed the idea of launching bimonthly discussions with people from a diverse background to create an intellectual center for the Los Angeles area.
The group was called the Institute for the Humanities, and nicknamed the Geniuses. Apparently, according to LA Observed, not everyone was happy about the formation of this group. Several intellectuals were upset that they weren’t invited to join the Geniuses. So another intellectual group was formed, calling themselves the Morons.
What is this… high school?
They have potluck gatherings every five or six weeks in members’ homes to chat with guest speakers about "ideas, events, politics and books that have recently been in the news." Members named in the story include Kenneth Turan, Michael Kinsley, Eugene Volokh, Helen Mirren, Christopher Hitchens, Rob Long, Kim Masters, Taylor Hackford and Joe Morgenstern, but there are about forty others. What matters, says Bardach, is that you are a critical thinker.
Of course, I consider myself a critical thinker. I am college educated. I read James Joyce’s Ulysses from first page to last. It took me three years, but I did it! I am pissed as hell that I wasn’t invited to join either the Geniuses or the Morons.
Today, I am officially announcing the formation of a new intellectual salon in Los Angeles. I call it the Hopelessly Brain Dead.