Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cool from A to Z

Altruistic BRAVE Cynical DynAmic Explorer Family
Green Humane
Joker KNOWING Loveable Mysterious
New Outsider Practical

Rough Selfless Truthful

Vigor Witty
Yin and Yang

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts about the "Cool Continuum"

In class last week we were introduced to the many faces of “cool” and its history. I’d never once though of slaves as cool, but I changed my mind after our discussion. Keeping up the cool fa├žade in the midst of pain and humiliation was probably all that kept some of them alive. And that idea of detachment certainly still holds as cool today. Growing up, some of the coolest kids in school are those who goof off, get in trouble, talk back to the teacher, etc. and then shrug it off when they’re called down for their actions. Another classic example would be The Fonz from the family classic Happy Days. In the first few episodes Fonzie is a true rebel outcast who is far too cool to care what people say and think of him, and even after he becomes the hero of all the young teens in town, he remains the cool, untouchable guy he once was. Words and attitudes couldn’t touch him.
The “cool continuum” we discussed in class was also rather thought-provoking. The spectrum went from Dissident Cool on one side to Transcendent Cool on the other. In class this was compared to a PacMan screen where you could travel all the way across and then just disappear off the screen and maybe later pop up on the other side of the spectrum. What the cool continuum reminded me of in that respect was the political arena. You have your two main parties, Democrat and Republican, on the left and right sides of the spectrum respectively. Those who fall into one of the two categories are mostly respected for having an opinion about politics, so in some way they are cool. In fact, while the two parties are different, if you look at it from the view of the average American, you probably couldn’t name all the platform differences between them. In much that same way, most people never look at cool as a spectrum; they just see it as cool or uncool, with no variation in the type. To further my political comparison here, much like a cool icon, you can go too far with your opinion and become the opposite of cool. When politicians get too radical and out of control for the mainstream, they are considered nuts and no longer respected, listened to, or considered as viable candidates. Ralph Nadar and his Green Party pals are pretty good examples of this, or perhaps the radical film maker Michael Moore. They become “uncool” and fall off the cool continuum, as well as loosing their political footing and respect in many people’s eyes.
Along that same line, yet in a completely different direction is another idea I had about the cool continuum. Within each type of cool there are the subcultures such as geek and punk that have their own ideas of cool. While each group has their own opinions and versions of cool, each also has its own group of uncool outcasts. This proves that even the overly devout transcendent cool guys such as Bruce Lee can take it too far and fall off the cool continuum. An example I thought of was within the “geek cool” subculture. Geeks were some of the original transcendents because they defied societal norms and focused their lives on technology and all of that “uncool” stuff. Now with society as technologically focused as it is, their services are needed constantly so they are cool and respected in most people’s opinions it seems. However, there are those who even take that too far. If you’ve ever watched Monday night comedy on CBS, you’ve probably seen the Big Bang Theory. The nerds on that show redefine nerd, and hardly fit in with their own kind. They’re too geeky for the geeks they work with, thus being too far off the charts for normal people to even understand. They’re like the hot new song that gets played one time too many and becomes hated rather than loved. Sheldon, Leonard and his their other geeky comrades are misunderstood and rejected by most rather than looked upon as cool for their nostalgic love of comics and high IQ scores. So I guess they prove that even the coolest and most useful of traits can be taken too far for the mainstream.

Films of Old

In class we discussed the concepts behind pre-1920s films and the metaphors that would have been used to make people understand such a revolutionary concept. Since we didn’t see any in class, I got on YouTube and looked up some old films from the Lumiere brothers and the magician Melies. The short films were nothing exceptional by today’s standards (I’m pretty sure even my high school’s student-produced TV channel had better quality), but the purity and simplicity of them were striking. I was slightly overwhelmed by it actually. There I was sitting at my laptop, hacking into a wireless internet signal from my neighbor’s house, watching one of the first films ever made. To the people watching that 50 second film when it first debuted, it was like magic. And there I was watching it over a hundred years later in a completely different format, thinking “Why would anyone pay to watch such common activities? People getting on a train is hardly entertaining.” It was truly flabbergasting to imagine never having seen a moving picture before, but when theater is the closest thing you’ve ever seen, I guess the mystery of film is understandable.
I actually found the magic of Melies quite funny, even though the “magic” of it is a basic film technique that my brother and I used in home videos as kids. Stopping the film is such an easy way to edit footage out and make things disappear, but at the time viewers probably thought he really was making women disappear and teleport around the set. The Conjuror video I watched was entertaining even to me and my family, so people then must have truly been floored by it. I was amazed that a film that advanced was even around at the turn of the 20th century. Melies must have been both the David Copperfield and Steven Spielberg of his time. His works were probably the epitome of cool for that time, because while seeing real-life actions on film was a rush for everyone, seeing a woman disappear on film would have been truly jaw-dropping, heart-stopping family entertainment. The amazement some people must have felt would probably have been comparable to how Harry Potter felt when he found out he was a wizard, or how Frodo felt in The Lord of the Rings when Gandalf explained the quest he had to take. The sheer wonder of having a whole new world open before your eyes is unfathomable, so while early films didn’t exactly transport you to a magical, fictional land as it seems some movies do today, for the people seeing pictures move for the first time it had to seem that way. In retrospect, the originators of film did open up a new world though, because look how far the technology has advanced in just over a hundred years.