Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 6
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
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Coming to Camillo’s and Channel 30, Planet Café Invites Diverse Points of View

Ellen Gilbert

“Planet Café,” described by facilitator Ann Gazzard as “a philosophical community café,” is coming to Princeton. Beginning February 23, and following on the last Monday of each month, the group will meet at Camillo’s Café in the Princeton Shopping Center from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

An added dimension will be coverage of the meetings by Princeton Community Television (TV 30). Discussion topics will be chosen each month by participants, and this, said TV 30 Director George McCollough, “fits in with the mission of the public television station. It’s a dialogue, where everyone’s point of view is valid.” A TV 30 crew will videotape Planet Café sessions and then edit them to half hour programs, bringing the discussion to those who are unable to attend. Online participation is also a possibility.

Ms. Gazzard, a professor of education at Wagner College, described the group, which is open to anyone, as “sharing and discussing ideas, concerns, thoughts, and questions on issues that pertain to them as a group or as individuals in today’s world. Being philosophically oriented, the discussion seeks to be guided by reason, inquiry and good sense, encouraging the habit of exploring ideas using reason and reasonableness as the tools of arbitration, in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for diverse points of view.” While the format may be similar, Planet Café has no connection to the Socrates Café that has been meeting for some time at the Princeton Public Library.

“The Planet Café concept is growing around the country,” noted Mr. McCollough. A quick Google search reveals outposts in Tucson, Kansas City, St. Paul, and Sarawak (Malaysia). An earlier attempt to run a Planet Café in the Princeton area at the Rocky Hill Inn ended when the Inn changed hands. Planners believe that Camillo’s offers a central location with plenty of parking. Discussions will be held in a separate room from the main dining area, and while they may come early to have dinner, participants are under no obligation to purchase anything.

Upcoming Planet Café dates after February 23 are March 30, April 27, May 25, June 29, and July 27.

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