Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What is Cool?

Talent Intelligence Caring Exciting Beautiful Calm Untouched Peaceful Focused Determined Confident Unique Innovative Athletic New Removed from society Soccer Creative Medicine Connections Going beyond the normal Spontaneous Passion Faith or belief in something so strong it never waivers Love Food Sense of responsibility to others Being who you are no matter what others think The Human Body

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cool Then and Now

After watching movies like 300, The Dark Knight, and the Matrix on the big-screen in theaters, it becomes more difficult finding cool in films from before 1900. There are no big explosions, fast car chases, or long, intricate plots; for that matter, there is limited sound, little or no talking, and they only last several minutes. Besides the nostalgia cool of these early films, there are more complicated versions of cool portrayed in these early films that are still apparent in today’s films.

Watching people live their daily lives has always had appeal to general audiences. Now instead of a train leaving a station or people leaving a factory being a feature film, as was in the Lumiere Brothers’ time, it’s more likely a clip we would see on the news. However, after turning the TV on and flipping the channels on any given night, it’s obvious that reality is still cool. You would likely encounter, if not the news detailing important occurrences around the world, shows like the Real World, The Bachelor, or Extreme Makeover Home Edition. We as a society are fascinated with people around us and how they live their lives. The Real World’s cool appeal is in taking people who wouldn’t normally live together or interact and putting them together to live and work in a house for a year; it’s cool seeing life under a microscope or being able to stop and investigate life from an outsider’s perspective. It’s cool to be able to suspend reality and delve into the lives of others. It’s cool to think about being Dr. House instead of a pre-med student whose Organic II homework is due tomorrow. So, while the reality is there, it has to be better than actual reality because a show about a pre-med student doing her Organic homework just wouldn’t sell. Every subgroup, no matter how small has their own “reality show” that depicts their lifestyle as cool. Moms have Desperate Housewives, single, straight women have Sex and The City, gay women have The L Word, medical professionals have Grey’s Anatomy, the list goes on and on for every subgroup. Television and movies are able to cast a light of cool on every group and glamorize their lifestyles. Using reality in film and entertainment started with the invention of film. Being able to look at life from the comfort of a chair, popcorn in hand, has amazed people since pre-1900.

The old films also are cool for the mere fact that you can see people living their lives during that time. It’s an artifact that shows so much more than a painting or a photograph. Being able to witness the different trials and errors during the invention of flight, is extraordinary; a picture would not have had the same effect. A video depicting the ruin after the Hurricane in Galveston, Texas is much more impactful than just pictures. So, old videos have a cool because they’re a window into the past. I wouldn’t say it’s a nostalgic cool because it’s not that people long to be back there; it’s just nice to be able to see that time from their perspective. It’s cool to see wars, speeches, and other famous events that we read about in history books from a primary, generally unbiased source.

Early film obviously has an air of cool unique to other kinds of film while still sharing some common links with contemporary media.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dissecting Cool

Walking out of class Wednesday night, I was having trouble wrapping my head around all the concepts that had just been presented to me. For one, how could there be a class that teaches about cool? No one would respond with “cool” after you tell them you are going to class; so, to learn about the cool in something so apparently ‘uncool’ seemed a bit of an oxymoron. However, after accepting that I could study cool, I decided to delve into the search for it.

During lecture, there were times when I would find myself nodding my head in agreement and others I’d wonder if I were the only one thinking the ideas sounded crazy. I had never been asked to think so critically about what it takes to be considered cool, in any of its many forms. Of course, people like James Dean and Bruce Lee are inarguably cool. However, I would have to say the nerds living in the video game and comic stores or the guy who can play the Star Wars Theme on his ukulele would not be considered cool. Even though at first glance they aren’t what I would say is cool, I decided to take Elbow’s advice and play the believing game. What if these people really could fit the mold of what cool is in general society?

After opening my eyes and dropping the cultural filter, I decided that cool, in general, is the unimaginable or unique, something that lets us step out of the boring routine of life and take an imaginative leap. That’s what first attracted people to the theater and movies. It was something they had never seen before, things that seemed to be impossible. Melies was able to do the unimaginable through film. The progress film has made is unbelievable; I can’t even imagine how cool film would seem when it first was invented. A movie in itself was so amazing that even watching a train pull into a station was entertaining. Today, the allure of movies is the extraordinary, the scenarios and images that suspend reality for even a moment.

Cool lies in the seemingly impossible, as soon as cool is marketed, it loses the original creative, unique, and untouchable qualities. Marketing cool is tricking the general public into believing they can have a piece of cool; unbeknownst to them, cool is ever-changing, and as soon as anyone can have or do something, it’s no longer cool. Cell phones in the beginning were cool, but now that everyone has one, only those that offer new technology are considered cool. As we continue advancing and transforming as a society, cool also transforms.

Fans, people who have extensive knowledge of useless facts like sports trivia or Star Wars, are not themselves cool; instead, they devote their lives to studying other people’s coolness. The sub groups lose the cool appeal that the creators had. Athletes and George Lucas are in their own right cool, unlike their fans. They have come up with something so spectacular that others will devote their lives to it. People who can test the limits of the human body or mind are cool. Athletes who are dedicated to their sports and push their bodies to allow them to perform at the top level are cool. Abby Wambach busting her head open during a game then going to the side line and getting twelve stitches before going back into the same game is cool. Since I’m sure everyone does not share my same attitude on what is and is not cool, I’m excited to expand my view as we debate the concept of cool.