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Friday, September 18, 2009

Being Cool

So, what is cool? Seriously, what is the definition of cool these days? As I have slipped further into my 30’s I’m sure I have fallen way off the cool radar. My wife seems to think I may have never been on it. I think I have cool tastes. I like cool things. Does that inherently make me cool? Probably not. But that still doesn’t answer the question.

Growing up I knew I wasn’t cool. No matter how hard I tried to think I could ever be, I knew I wasn’t. In sixth grade, I ditched the Sears brand shoes with the Velcro laces and started wearing Nike high tops. Now, I have no proof of this, but there was a trend in the late 80s where you never tied your high tops. I think I started that. I say that because I never saw anyone do it, previously. I was really just lazy, not cool or trendy. In Junior High, I ditched the hand me downs for Bugle Boys and Ocean Pacific labels but I still did that pegged thing with my pants which negated the whole cool factor if I had one. By high school I had gotten rid of my Coke bottle glasses and braces and started paying attention to how I looked. I began wearing button down shirts, that weren’t tucked in, and I did the whole jeans with a white shirt and flashy tie as if I was working at the Olive Garden or an alternate for Boyz II Men. After all, it was the Alex Vanderpool era, am I right? But then there was the awful phase of cardigans and turtle necks along with the gold chain. That was the dreaded Cosby Sweater era. Seriously, I looked as if I was dressed like Seth Rogen in Observe and Report, only 20 years early.

Now, as an adult I look back on the kids growing up today and I see my worst fears being realized. I am turning out to be one of those adults that doesn’t “Get it.” I am that grumpy middle aged man who thinks the music sucks, the movies suck, and the clothes suck. This was something I promised myself I would never become, but perhaps, it was inevitable. Maybe we can’t stop the natural progression into becoming cantankerous. As cool as we think we are, we are not cool to those that come after us. Coolness is an idea that does not transcend into younger generations without changing its parameters.

But my opinion is just that and I guess I am a hypocrite in some ways because I find certain things cool and not others in the same grouping. I am a bit of a music snob when it comes to what I feel is good and bad. I cannot stand popular music today. It all sounds like the same crap. Frankly, most of the people I find cool are not making music anymore. There are some exceptions. I won’t list them because it’s a bit much. However, I say I might be a hypocrite because I like a lot of different music but I don’t buy into the artist’s complete catalog. I find what I like, usually download or copy a few songs and then disregard the rest. I didn’t go buy the complete discography of Jay-Z just because I liked "Encore" mashed up with Linkin Park’s "Numb. "

Now, when I look at kids today wearing Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd shirts I have to wonder, “Are they a huge fan of those groups or do they merely think being a fan of them gives them coolness?” Here’s a little test Ask your average 13 to 15 year old if they like Led Zeppelin. If they say yes, ask them if they like the songs "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Ramble On." If they again say “Yes,” then ask them if they think J.R.R. Tolkien is cool. If they say, ”No” or have no idea who that is, then I suggest you smack them. Then tell them to relinquish all their downloaded Led Zeppelin songs from iTunes and the Internet and tell them to go listen to All American Rejects or Fall Out Boy. Oh, and then ask them where Fall Out Boy got their name from and if they can’t answer that correctly, tell them to give up all together and listen to the Jonas Brothers, instead.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I said myself that I like only certain songs from an artist and don’t buy into the whole background and complete discography, but then again, I listen to them and enjoy them. I don’t go out and buy a brand new shirt for the band or go to a so-called “Thrift” or “Vintage” store and buy a shirt of the band that is made to look like it is old. Of course, if those same kids come to my shop and buy a faux vintage shirt based on a pop culture idea from before they were born, is different. They are giving me money for it. That’s cool. *snort* Hell, in 1984 I was wearing my brother's Hall & Oates: H2O concert tour shirt and I was in fourth grade. How uncool was that?

So, do we have a better definition of cool, yet? No. Maybe it’s not up to us. Perhaps it’s the observer who needs to determine what is cool. Maybe those kids with the Led Zeppelin shirts are cool because their friends perceive them as such. Maybe there shouldn’t be a standard for what is cool. I don’t think you can make “cool” happen. Being cool is a state of mind. If you think you are cool, then you probably aren’t.

Here is a short list of what I think is cool. Again, you may disagree. Your determination on what is “cool” will be different.

My daughter… Even though she can be a hand full, at times, I think she’s cool. She says the funniest things. My dad said something about a “dumbass” the other day and this two year old kid said, “That’s not nice to say. Ladies don’t say that.” This, of course, is because my wife and I have been trying to reinforce to her that when she called me a dumbass one night, while it was hysterical, it was not a good thing. She is starting to get better, but still thinks it is funny to say Douchebag. We’re still working on that one.

Robot Chicken… Actually, I used to think it was really cool. It’s still an awesome show but they are starting to run out of cool ideas. I am a big fan of Family Guy, too. While it is a little formulaic and referential to pop culture in an effort to try and be cool, some of the stuff they have been able to reference is awesome. For example: In the 100th episode entitled “Movin' Out (Brian's Song)" Stewie attempts to cheer Brian up by presenting him with two different robots. Just showing the robots would have been cool enough but the fact that he has to reference them being the robots from SpaceCamp and Rocky IV totally negates the coolness.

Patrick Swayze… he’s cool. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. He got picked on a lot as a kid because he was a dancer. That was until one kid pushed him too far and took a swing at him. That kid ended up in the hospital. “I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice.” That is cool. His career didn’t hold up well into the new millennium but his overall body of work including Red Dawn, Dirty Dancing, Road House, North and South, The Outsiders, and Ghost is cool. He fought Pancreatic cancer and lived longer than predicted. Like Randy Pausch, that makes him really cool.

Stephen King… King will always be cool because he doesn’t give a crap what you think and he doesn’t pander to the pop culture masses, unlike other EW columnists who wrote one cool movie and is now ramming her pop culturisms down your throat. Go read King’s columns over at He extols the virtues of many different aspects of entertainment, whether it is music, movies, or books. Half of them I’ve never heard of before which is probably why they are cool.

The Office… The US Version... Sorry, as a purist I am trained to loathe American shows based on British ones but I've never really seen the original, yet. I am hoping to catch up on it, though. However, having missed the last couple of seasons of the American Office due to DVR overload on Thursday nights I’ve been forced to watch them in reruns or online and the show is still as funny as it is uncomfortable to watch. I say that with crumpled up lips and big eyes as I look into the camera.

J.S. … I won’t spell this one out in order to protect his identity. He’s a former piano student of my wife. Besides being cool, he’s hysterical. Some of the stuff he’s pulled throughout his 18 years on this Earth is nuts. To give you an idea of how extremely funny and borderline obscene he is, chew on this. One Halloween, he went and bought a kid’s costume that was way too small for him. I’m talking midriff and knees showing among other things. When asked what he was supposed to be, his answer was simple. A Pedophile. I’m sorry but that was funny. Wrong, but funny. I hope he can make the transition to college and just remember the following. Agility is crucial. Being able to not let the system get you down is a huge key to success.

My friend Jer... Once again, full name not given. He and I have been friends for the last 13 years. We worked together during the summers at Cedar Point. He was also in my wedding. Quite frankly he’s hysterical. It’s a different kind of funny, though. We both loved Chappelle’s Show and classic 80s movies. In fact, he’s given me a few very good ideas for the shop and some are actually selling. I might have to figure out a way to cut him in on the profits.

My Mother In Law… Besides being a gadget head and lover of cool toys, she’s been kicking cancer in the ass for the past 12 years. She was diagnosed as Stage IV Renal Cell Cancer in 96. She had a football sized tumor, a kidney, and an ovary removed in 1997, her spleen and part of her pancreas in 2006 along with another tumor, and in 2009 add a brain tumor, a full hysterectomy to get another tumor and is now undergoing chemo. It has taken its toll, though. She has diabetes, hypertension, blood clots, OSA, and other normal maladies of a 65 year old woman, but she is still kicking it her way.

Hatchbacks… I bought a Malibu Maxx in 2005 and regardless of the usual GM issues I have with it, I cannot fault the car because the hatchback is the biggest pro on this vehicle. I love being able to fit a lot of things in this car and put the seats down for more storage space. I am one child shy of needing a minivan and that probably will be my replacement for the Maxx but that is a couple years away. However, I still have a Sunfire POS that I am going to have to replace in the next three to four months. I’ve bounced between the Chevy HHR, Kia Soul, Scion XB, and a couple of others yet I still see no clear front runner for the money. Yes, I could get a Chevy Aveo or Toyota Yaris cheaper but I want to be able to be safe in my car. I do a lot of driving in wooded areas and somehow I think if a deer challenges a Yaris or Aveo, I will lose. So, if there are any dealers or auto industry giants out there that follow the blog, make me an offer. I’d be willing to be an advocate for your car and your service if I like them. I ain’t cheap but I can be bought.

Johnny Cash… Hell yeah, he’s cool. Cash featured prominently in my upbringing and I used to play guitar with a group of older guys, including my Father in Law, and we would do some of his standards like “Walk the Line” and “Boy Named Sue.” So, I think I get to take a pass on the finding him cool though he’s from a previous generation. And it’s not even that he was strictly a big influence on music or Nashville as a singer and songwriter and then ended back in the 60s. He was able to update himself in such a cool way, sticking to his guns and his black threads. Go back and listen to his collaboration with U2 on “The Wanderer.” Go listen to his cover of “Hurt.” Go listen to “The Man Comes Around.” Actually, go back and listen to all of the American Series. Now that is cool.

That’s all I got. I had planned on going through my list of things I find “not cool” but felt it was a bit preachy and anyone who knows the blog, knows what I find “not cool.” In fact, the last few weeks have been filled with events that I consider “not cool.”

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