The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Deirdre Macken macken.deirdre@

Ial­ways wanted to be cool but read­ing The Ori­gins of Cool in Post­war Amer­ica, I have to con­cede I never was; worse, I never will be and, if I may say so, nei­ther will most of you. You don’t have to read too far into this sem­i­nal book to dis­cover that cool is over. It may have de­fined the coun­ter­cul­ture for decades af­ter World War II but it’s as dead as a butt in a non-smok­ing bar.

The au­thor, Joel Din­er­stein, puts its death knell at the mo­ment Gor­don Gekko de­clared “Greed, for lack of a bet­ter word, is good” in 1987 movie Wall Street. Af­ter that, we were work­ing for the man; we were sup­ping the Kool Aid of con­sump­tion and no one as­pired for the in­sou­ciance of Casablanca, Clint East­wood, Al­bert Ca­mus, Patti Smith, James Dean and the gen­er­a­tion of teenagers who tried to mimic them.

If you doubt the death of cool or if you think your rolled-up skinny jeans qual­ify you, let’s look at mod­ern cul­ture through the op­tics of cool and see how we’re far­ing.

Cool peo­ple don’t do self­ies and they don’t like oth­ers tak­ing their pho­to­graph. They have never photo-bombed any­one. If a cool per­son is cap­tured in a photo, they will be just vis­i­ble in the back­ground, a beret slouched across their face. They’re wear­ing shades — couldn’t tell you what brand.

Cool doesn’t re­quest friends. Or count them. Or com­ment on their daily lives. They pre­fer not to have too many friends, un­less you count the artist they share a stu­dio with or the barista they nod to as they walk in around noon for a dou­ble shot, short black with too much sugar that dou­bles as break­fast fare.

Cool peo­ple don’t have ca­reers. As the au­thor put it, “you don’t own me, you’ll never own me”. They have gigs and that mostly means mu­sic ses­sions or read­ings but it can be sup­ple­mented by writ­ing for a cap­i­tal­ist out­fit that pays too much for con­tent pep­pered with oblique put-downs only ob­vi­ous to those au fait with the semi­ol­ogy of dis­sent. They wouldn’t use the term “au fait”.

Cool peo­ple don’t ex­er­cise. The last time they ran any­where was to es­cape the spouse who ar­rived home early. They walk — a lot. Mostly they am­ble be­cause they never feel the need to rush. They are fla­neurs, al­though they wouldn’t use that word ei­ther. If you tell them about Fit­bits, they’ll won­der why you’re mak­ing it so easy for au­thor­i­ties to track you, and if they spot some­one with bar­bells, they’ll fear it’s the spouse bent on re­venge.

Cool does not need cos­met­ics, or cos­metic surgery — even the day-clinic sort. They wear their life on their face, and if they glance at you from be­neath their bushy brows, you will feel the need to ex­plain your­self. And those lips.

Cool is a doer, not a sayer. They speak with their art, their soft­ware, writ­ing, per­for­mance or with their ab­sence. You won’t find a re­view from them, a link, a like or even an un­re­quested com­ment. Not that they al­ways dis­ap­prove. They’re just not that into you.

Cool doesn’t get riled by pol­i­tics. They’re in­ter­ested enough but their ideas are drawn from sources few have heard of and de­mand so­lu­tions few are brave enough for. They might vote for Jeremy Cor­byn or for Don­ald Trump, but not for the rea­sons you think.

Bar­ring the beret, you never re­mem­ber what a cool per­son wore. This is be­cause they wear the clothes, the clothes don’t wear them. You’ll try to re­mem­ber what they wore so you can buy into their sig­na­ture style. You won’t re­mem­ber and, frankly, nor will they.

Cool wouldn’t have a clue about a Kar­dashian, or Brad or An­gelina, or a break­fast TV host, or a mu­si­cian whose name sounds like a tickle. Jay-Z and P Diddy are not on their radar.

Cool is not hot and to­day ev­ery­thing is hot. Women are smok­ing hot, win­ners are on fire, we love the burn of a witty aside, and we haven’t even got to the Twit­ter of Trump. Cool is quiet and to­day ev­ery­thing comes in CAPS.

If there is cool to­day, it’s out the back, sneak­ing a smoke. It’s mak­ing mu­sic that will never make it to Spotify. And, frankly, it doesn’t give a damn. Nor, it seems, do we be­cause no­body wants to be cool now.

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