guilty as charged, your hipness

Posted: October 26, 2011 in Humorous Bits
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

You can point to the post-war prosperity and social changes wrought more than a half a century ago, when the future glistened with optimism unlike any we’d ever experienced. Industry and invention streamlined everyday tasks allowing people to concern themselves with more conceptual matters, matters not tied to the business of daily survival. New attitudes were born, attitudes whose values were deeply rooted in perception and individuality. The cultural shift was on, man. Living a good life was still noble, but a growing segment of folks felt living a cool life held equal validity. The concept of cool, of being considered cool, matured and exploded into the societal commons.

Soon people from all walks of life strove to be cool. They wanted others to think, “Man, that is one hip cat. I want to be that awesome!” Many would argue coolness is innate; it’s not something you can manufacture. There’s some truth to that, but the fact remains many people carefully cultivate their image to highlight specific cool attributes. Maybe it’s through wardrobe, how they dress. Maybe it’s by the car they drive. Some project it through the books they read and the music they listen to. Perhaps it’s via a professed love of cinema. (The artsy stuff with subtitles and abstract imagery and soundtracks by Mahler, not low-brow trifles starring Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler. These film people are serious about it, dammit.)

We promote personal coolness through behaviors, both overt and subtle. Through the way we walk, the tone of our voice, the vocabulary we use. It can be reflected by our scope of knowledge or worldly understanding of the human condition. We don’t specifically label these things as “cool”, but let’s be honest, they’re partly intended to add to our mystique. Whether you’re a cool cat or hipster, rad or groovy, wicked or bitchin’, fly or hip, it all comes down to the same thing: A desire to accurately tout our unique brand of coolitude.

Cool is also constantly morphing and very fragile. It doesn’t take much to torpedo it. Quite often shifts in society mean the cool of yesterday becomes the dorkdum of today. Certain people make it a point to dismantle the coolness of others as a way to demonstrate their own coolness, a pretty ironic approach. If you are one of those folks I’m going to save you the effort of hijacking whatever cool currency I’ve banked by confessing a few guilty pleasures which, by their very nature, blast my cool armada out of the water.

Abba – I like Abba. There, I said it. For someone who falls decidedly into the rock and roll camp with all its pounding beats, scorching guitars, and attitude requirements, admitting even a slight fondness for this Swedish foursome could get my R&R club membership revoked. I don’t care. I thoroughly dig S.O.S. and Take a Chance on Me. I sing along to Fernando. I’ve seen and enjoyed both the Broadway production and film version of Mamma Mia. And I believe Dancing Queen is about as perfect a pop hit as has been recorded in the past 50 years.

SpongeBob Squarepants – The main character has the word “square” imbedded in his name, fer chrissakes. That alone kills the any chance of coolness as surely as authentic English cuisine kills any chance of satisfying hunger. Now I realize in some circles there’s a certain cache attached to liking SpongeBob. To these folks it demonstrates your willingness to buck convention, to be your own person. It says you get it. If getting it means you derive tremendous pleasure from a cartoon aimed at five year olds then I guess I “get it.” I’m quite certain if asked during a job interview how you spend your free time and you answered, “Watching 22 uncut episodes of SpongeBob without taking a break,” your chances of getting the job would be seriously hampered. Unless that job was as a fry cook at The Krusty Krab.

Reading the Encyclopedia – This long-standing personal pastime may seem fine, but it damages my coolness quotient in a few ways. First it’s important to understand I’m not talking about Britannica. Britannica might earn me a pass. No, I’m talking about the World Book Encyclopedia. Additionally, I’m not talking about a recent edition of World Book, I’m talking about the 1972 one. This might also be fine, and even something to encourage, if it were 1973 and I were 11 years old. But it’s not 1973 and I’m not 11. Yet I love to pull out these dusty volumes and leaf through abbreviated articles aimed at grade schoolers, articles so out dated that the Oregon section describes current homesteading opportunities available for those with a covered wagon, a few tin pots and pans, and a crazy dream. I can’t even say this multi-volume set was passed down over the decades like a sacred family heirloom. It was actually sought out and purchased on eBay seven or eight years ago. So while the cool folks fill their reading time with hip, intelligent magazines, novels and works of scholarly non-fiction, I sit marveling at faded photos of old men picking oranges in a Florida grove and scanning articles about fancy new computers which fill rooms as large as any college field house. Excuse me while I get my pocket protector.

Of course we all know real coolness comes from being true to oneself. You create your own cool aura. Always remember nothing and no one can diminish this power. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go catch up on The Lawrence Welk Show marathon I taped over the weekend. And a one and a two…

  1. Abba – like fashion – was in, then out, and back in again. I however, never stopped loving the group with hair similar to mine. And when I saw Mama Mia, I knew every word to every song, which I happily sung only slightly aloud. You’re cool John – just don’t keep talking about Lawrence Welk – okey dokey?


  2. whiteladyinthehood says:

    hhhmmm…when I was growing up my best friend was beautiful – really, guys would flock to her like a magnet – I got deemed the funny, cool one. We took coolitude – very serious in those days..(and were still best friends and she is still beautiful – the hag) I still have our set of encyclopedia books around here somewhere (from I kid you not – some time in the 70’s)…and I keep hearing this song..”I’m all outta love – I’m so lost without you..something..something to know that I was so wrong…” is that Abba?


  3. sparklebumps says:

    I agree with lifeinthefarcelane. 🙂
    I believe I used to read the World Book, when I still lived at home with my parents, but I prefer now to just page through my thesaurus, though it has no pictures.


  4. You are so very correct . . . remember when computer geeks were laughed at, now they are giants of industry and their passing is mourned by the world. Personally, cool bugs me. People being themselves, that’s interesting. I’ve never been cool, so maybe its some form of envy to have this attitude, but I’d still rather hang out with the geeks and the nerds and even the dweebs.

    One thing I did find really “cool” in your post . . . coolitude. Can I use it, please?

    Excellent post. I liked it very much.


  5. I loved the World Book Encylopedia. We had them when I as a kid. I used them to research many school papers – yeah, I am that old. I still have the two volume World Book Dictionary which I love to take off the shelf and read – over 2000 pages of cool words. Great post!


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