Thursday, November 28, 2013

On creators and builders and being cool

Yesterday, a child came out to wander
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star - Joni Mitchell, "The Circle Game", 1968

Well let me tell you 'bout the way she looked
The way she'd act and the colour of her hair
Her voice was soft and cool
Her eyes were clear and bright
But she's not there - The Zombies, "She's Not There", 1964
The Cool Factor
Do you know what a creator is? A creator is someone who makes an idea. And then there are builders. A builder is someone who builds the idea. When I grow up, I want to be a creator AND a builder."

This from a child who looked to be about eight, on the M15 bus, sitting next to a little girl who looked to be slightly younger.

Perhaps the child was just parroting a teacher, but I think not. He was just being cool. Manhattan-eight-year-old-cool.

I have thought a lot about "being cool" lately. I used to think it was merely used as an affirmation. As in, "Let's meet around seven?" "Cool." " I just bought another pair of reading glasses." "Cool!".

People around my age used to use the word "cool", meaning hip, and it was applied to people who had read books like Kerouac's "On the Road" and who went to Igmar Berman movies which were called "films" by the seriously cool.

It was sort of easy to be cool back then, especially if you were a girl. You just had to hang around with the cool crowd and you sort of became cool by association. You didn't atually have had to read "On the Road", you just had to know it was a book.

Eventually I grew up and forgot about "cool". Until I had kids and they went from babies to children and started using "cool" as an affirmation when they were very young.  Saying cool" as in "Yes" or "OK". "Do you want an icecream?" "Cool". "It is time to go to kindergarten." "Cool".

I only just found out about the recycled meaning when a young Australian friend visited me in Manhattan last month, and explained contemporary cool to me.

It can now be used in its old meaning - of  " hip"  -  not necessarily meaing  "OK" or "I agree".  It can mean something more like 1960s "cool". Both meanings are now in use. "Those shoes are so cool!" "Cool!"

I could have missed its recycled meaning altogether. I could have remained an unenlightened old person wearing Sarah Palin type reading glasses. Scary!

It  was a little sad to learn that  people of my generation - people  who were definitely "cool"  in the sixties - are now mostly "uncool".

Yes, during my friend's visit I discovered what I have secretly suspected for some years - that I am definitely NOT "cool".

For a start I watch CNN for the news. Uncool. I knew that.  But it is easy - "news candy" for the unlenlightened old people.

And then there was the matter of my reading glasses. I already knew mine were "uncool" so I snuck off and bought new ones from the West Village cool reading glasses place, "Moscot".

I was pretty pleased with myself and I was suitably rewarded with a "They are so cool!" from my young friend. She even iMessaged me (see above) a cool person face that she photographed on my  very own TV which was now tuned into MSNBC instead of the uncool CNN.

The iMessaged face was no other than that of  Malcolm Gladwell, though at the time I had no idea who he was. But my young friend explained that the face was cool because it was wearing cool  glasses like my new ones, and it was not to be inferred that the person himself was cool.

I threw my old uncool glasses away. No bad thing - they were starting to look like Sarah Palin's glasses. Heaven forbid.

Though one never knows - I am so sick of Obama and his Obamacare fiasco that maybe ... no no no. Never in a thousand years. But one can never tell. Maybe voting Republican will become the new cool.

My young Australian friend left but I  stayed true to my new cool self  -  tuned in to MSBN -  being cool.

Then a few days ago I cheated and turned on CNN. I felt like an ex-alcoholic falling off the wagon. I poured a wine and tuned in to Anderson Cooper on CNN. And sat, my eyes transfixed.

There on the TV was  the not-neccessarily-cool person, complete with my glasses,  being interviewed by Anderson Cooper. It was then that I found out his name. Malcolm Gladwell. I double-checked the messages on my iPhone. Yep the same chap.

I'd never even heard of him. Apparently he lives not so very far from me in Manhattan. He doesn't have a doorbell and writes all his novels and articles in caf├ęs. At least one of his books is on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Not only had I found the out whose face my young friend had messaged, but there he was actually talking about being "cool". "People assume when my hair is long that I am a lot cooler than I actually am," he said with a laugh. "I am not opposed to this misconception, by the way, but it is a misconception."


So there you go - I had never even heard of the guy. So cool he is un-cool. Or is it the opposite?  So un-cool that he is cool?

I'm not sure, but I have sneaking suspicion that NOT writing  books that have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List is even cooler.

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