November 20, 2009

WHEN THOSE WHO DON'T BELIEVE TRY TO BE WASPs:

The Death of the Cool: Cool was once associated with reticence, savoir-faire, and irony, none of which is much practiced or regarded these days. (Robert McHenry, November 20, 2009, American)

Who and what was cool? Cary Grant was cool, and of course Steve McQueen. Thelonious S. Monk (anybody remember when Time captioned a picture of him “Melodious Thunk”?) and Horace Silver, Fairfield Porter, E.E. Cummings (bear in mind that that “e.e.” business was the bright idea of his publisher), Bob Cousy, P.G. Wodehouse, Philip Marlowe, Gus Grissom … a list is pointless except to suggest the breadth of the concept. For contrast, here are some more or less parallel non-cool types: James Dean, Chet Baker, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Kobe Bryant, Norman Mailer, Howard Roark, Frank Borman.

Cool is not dependent on achievement, or vice versa. Cool is how you get there. Cool is just doing the job; not-cool is making sure, while you’re at it, that everyone sees just how tough the job is and thus how cool you are to be doing it. Cool is self-direction, self-possession, self-sufficiency, capability, discretion, and a bit of wit. Not-cool is angst, conspicuous display, disdain, tropisms toward bright lights, crowds, and media—in short, all those adolescent traits that so many people fail to grow out of.


One need only consider the copious pathologies associated with these men to recognize that the cool was just a pose put on by guys utterly estranged from their true selves and from the morality of the culture. No one was ever less cool than "the cool."



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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 20, 2009 6:58 AM
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