Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Time Capsule of Cool

As you might all be aware, I have a strong aversion to trendiness and cliquishness. I have discovered a particular disdain for the latest trendoid group: so-called 'hipsters'. I think it stems mainly from the importance placed by these guys on being clever and cool rather than kind and compassionate, as well as the insistence of pointing out how lame the things they don't like are (and they're working from a MASSIVE list). I gotta admit: I hate haters.

Except Player Haters of course, because they're freaking awesome. Especially Buc Nasty.

Point is: I'd rather be thought of as 'cool' because I'm Nick rather than because I'm a hipster, punk, hippie, headbanger, gino, preppie and so on... And I really don't understand why I'm in the minority with this perspective.

Aren't we supposed to be snowflakes rather than sheep? Why would any one of you beautiful, original, creative people EVER identify more with being part a group than being yourself? I leave you to ponder that question.

My examinations have led to me to ask something else, though, because I want to speak to universal truths on here as best as possible. So, with that in mind, I have decided to write about things which are unequivocally cool, timelessly so.

June 12 2010

What is cool? If we took the 'coolest' things that are around right now (I dunno, like a pair of those ridiculous Osiris shoes all the kids seem to wear, or Pabst Blue Ribbon), put it in a time capsule and opened it in 50 years, what would we think of the 'coolness' within? So, let's see what's in my version of the Time Capsule of Cool, but in this case, it's a 'timeless' time capsule. These are things that I believe are cool to everyone, regardless of age or style, and would certainly like to see arguments to the contrary.

1 - Johnny Cash

Yeah, it's Johnny Cash. Whoever you are, whatever 'group' you identify with, the Man in Black is God. He's like Lemmy, but for everyone.

2 - black suits

No matter what decade you're in, what your background is, or your penchant for neon clothing, there's no denying a black suit makes you look cool and feel cool. Reservoir Dogs, Blues Brothers, the Mafia, the Rat Pack. 'nuff said.

3 - questioning authority

Rebels are cool, but in a very specific context. I'm sorry, but self-professed anarchists who try to get organized are somewhat laughable (or at least oxymoronic), as are the Black Bloc jerks who throw garbage cans through store windows as a form of protest.

But not being obedient to the whims of the powers-that-be will always be cool. Even when you don't explain (or even know) why you're rebelling. Watch Cool Hand Luke some day, you'll see what I mean. Chuck D, Robin Hood, Jesus, Madonna - cool, and rebels all.

4 - sunglasses

Sunglasses are cool because they're so functional and fashionable at the same time. They add an air of nonchalance and they keep you from being blinded on bright summer days.

Picture this: Some rock star tumbles out of a limo shades akimbo with two unidentified peices of arm candy, his bloodshot eyes hidden from the world, his thoughts a delicious mystery. Yeah, don't tell me part of you doesn't want to be him.

Sunglasses are one of those rare fashion accessories that have songs sung about them. Heck, they even make careers; just ask Corey Hart. Honorable mentions to wayfarers and aviators as extra-cool.

5 - Keith Richards

I was going to say the Stones as a band, but that's a hard argument to make, especially when looking at Ron Wood's hair.


But Keith Richards has that untouchable mystique of cool for one main reason: he can't be killed. Keith will be getting high with the cockroaches long after the bombs fall. And, as an added bonus, if there was no Keith Richards, there would be no Captain Jack Sparrow, who is pretty much the coolest pirate in movie history. Mind you I haven't seen those old Errol Flynn movies.

6 - Leather jackets (pleather for you Vegans out there)

I mean really, who amongst us, when first trying on a leather jacket, didn't automatically feel cool (and yet warmer, I'd imagine)? The weight, the smell, the feel, all evoke the spirit of badassedness if only a little.

7 - Batman/Wonder Woman

This is something of a coolness-by-gender dealie. Superman might be the most famous and powerful super-hero, but anyone think he was cool?


Meanwhile, all darkness and angst and really cool gadgets, Batman is James Bond, a prototypical "Goth", a mad scientist and (somewhat) the most realistic comic character in existence all wrapped up in one pointy-cowled package. No wonder the Superman film reboot went pfffffft, while Dark Knight kicked a whole lotta rear end. We will ignore any Robin references. All this to say is that young boys often preferred to play Batman more than Superman, although pretending to fly while wearing towel-capes was a lot of fun...

On the other end, you have Wonder Woman. Now, I'm sure there's possibly some flak going to come from some camps that she's so grossly overcharacterized in her... assets and that she wears, essentially, a red blue and gold corset to fight the bad guys. Alright, point conceded. But her coolness stems from this: She was the only DC super-hero who, if it came down to it, could give Supes a run for his money. Basically, even in the male-dominated 40s when she was created, she was the second most powerful hero in DC. And she's human (or demi-god, or whatever; point is that she at least comes from this planet!). And then, in addition to all that, Lynda Carter's portrayal in the late 70s/early 80s. I think that says it all. I vaguely remember discussions of Wonder Woman vs. the Hulk as the two shows were back to back on Friday nights. I had no doubts Lynda would OWN Lou Ferrigno's behind. And in recent years, I've discovered that, just as I was skulking through Gotham in my dreams as a lad, many of my female peers were dreaming of deflecting bullets with their magic bracelets and generally taking names. Who knew?

8 - Converse

Ubiquitous and imitated everywhere (including my feet), Cons are the baseline casual shoe for pretty much everyone. I don't even know why that makes them cool, it just does.

9 - Rosie the Riveter

World War II produced some pretty iconic and cool figures in culture and propaganda. But none seems to have had as much influence in the past 60 years as Rosie the Riveter. She represented the women who worked in the factories to help fuel the war effort while the men were overseas fighting. And while a generation lose touch with the impact of the War on the male psyche as the "Greatest Generation" passes into history, the image of Rosie keeps on as an original icon of feminism and 'girl power'. Not to mention the hairstyle is not too shabby looking!

10 - The Breakfast Club

I've only seen this film twice and I'm not the biggest John Hughes fan. But what makes this film unquestioningly cool to me is the fact that it shows all the different 'cliques' we were herded into in high school and turns them on their ear and shows something I firmly believe: we're all ourselves under the categorization and our commonality is far greater than our differences.

High school cliques still exist today which makes me wonder if mandatory showings of this movie might not be a good orientation technique for new students.

11 - Darth Vader

Original trilogy version, David Prowse in the suit, James Earl Jones on vocals. Baddest mofo in the galaxy. Still wish he'd thrown Luke down the same hole as the Emperor...

12 - Calvin and Hobbes

Maybe this is a "child of the 80s" thing. Well, I'd believe that if it wasn't for the fact that everyone, from 8 to 80, thinks Bill Watterson's magical comic strip about a 6-year old and his stuffed tiger that may or may not come to life is probably the greatest comic strip of all time. And I want a transmogrifier...

13 - Ella Fitzgerald/Miles Davis

I almost put Jazz in general as timelessly cool, but there are variations of it that one can barely listen to, so better to include two of the genre's most recognizable and cool icons. I mean how can you not include the First Lady of Song and the guy who basically made 'cool' part of the lingo, not to mentioning blowing a trumpet like no one else? If unfamilar with these two, listen to Lady Ella's version of 'Mack the Knife', and the song 'So What?' by Miles Davis (and not Ministry, they're different).

That's about all I can think of right now. I'd love to see what suggestions you might have for additions or removals.

Monday, June 7, 2010

"Grass is Greener" Syndrome

It's the goddamn bubonic plague of the soul of my generation. Growing up, we were all mostly taught that we could have anything we wanted. Our parents did, for the most part, and we were expected, as with previous generations, to exceed our parents' success. Problem with that is this: How the eff are you supposed to exceed a Superior Court Justice or one of the country's most accomplished vascular surgeons? Who knows, but I grew up, like so many others with some minor sense of destiny for my life. For me, that came into focus at 16 when I decided I wanted to be a high school English teacher. And I dedicated myself to that pursuit for ten years, culminating with a Bachelor of Education at 26.

And then I changed my mind. I realized that I might not have the patience, the diligence or the simple get-up-and-go to work in such a frustrating line of work. There were extenuating psychological factors, but mostly I wimped out. And I think that was the first manifestation of GIG Syndrome: Grass is Greener Syndrome. I started thinking that anything was better than where I was, I had no sense of satisfaction from the here and now. I had a lovely, if mismatched, fiancée; I had a fairly challenging (if routine and underappreciated) writing job for the feds. But I wasn't happy because it wasn't new.

I was also too afraid to change drastically. So, I stagnated and drank. The fiancée left, the job stayed for 10 years until last year when I finally moved into a Public Servant gig that will lead to better things (although the professional grass is still pretty green on this end).

But I've come to realize it isn't just me. GIGS is everywhere, because we're still thinking that there's a perfect life out there somehow. I know at least one Houdini of self-reinvention, because trusting happiness at face value just isn't in their psyche (just my opinion, of course). I know others who book it as soon as there's stress of any kind in their job, relationships, whatever.

And Lord knows, GIGS isn't always a bad thing, because sometimes that grass really is greener... At least until winter comes...

June 7 2010

Bill was your average suburban shlub. He worked in tech support for a local company, helping morons figure out that there isn't a coffee cup holder in their PC. He didn't like it much, and dreamed of a better life out there. Beer rep always seemed like a perfect job. One of the guys he played poker with, Jeff, was a rep for Mill Street and was so cool, always cheerful, and appeared to have the greatest life for himself.

Maybe it was because Jeff didn't have a wife and kids, he was a free man. Free to date any hot girl he saw (and he always talked about them), free to stay up till dawn on a weeknight, free from changing diapers, heating bottles, picking pre-schools, driving to soccer practice.

Bill often wished he could trade places with Jeff.

It wasn't that he didn't love Angie, his wife, nor his son Mitchell. He loved them fiercely, with a true sense of honour at being there for them and living like a man should. It was just that he never really dreamed of this life. He thought he'd have worked his way up to corporate ladder young, that his talent for programming and administration would dazzle the powers-that-be. As it turns out, there were a lot of 'dazzlers' out there.

There's not much more defeating a feeling than seeing what you thought was your special talent, YOUR niche taken and handled so much better my someone else. It killed his ambition and he settled in to a lesser job. He had to pay the bills after all.

As time went by, he married Angie, they had Mitch and he convinced himself that this was a good life.

But doubt would creep in every day, some days worse than others, but it was growing. There were more and more late nights spent at bars drunkenly flirting with women, stumbling home at 2 am to an increasingly resigned Angie. Resigned to what, he didn't know, and feared.

There'd been fights, but she mostly kept quiet. She knew what was going on. She'd seen her father go down that road and he'd only been satisfied after finding a mistress. She didn't relish having to put up with that from Bill, but it was better than a divorce.

And Bill knew she knew he was starting to think of other women, he knew that she'd do nothing to stop him. he was wracked with guilt over it, but the impulse that his happiness lay outside this life couldn't be shaken.

So it came that one night, after a few beers, Bill decided to really make a go of picking up a girl to go to a hotel with. He'd told Angie (lied) that he was staying at a buddy's place. He couldn't look at her nor Mitch as he said it. Once in the bar, he drank quickly, getting his liquid courage on. After a few hours, she walked in. Kristy. He'd known her for a bit. Cute, saucy, and obviously libidinous. She'd flirted with him before, knowing he was married. She'd purred in his ear once that she didn't care that he was married. She was perfect.

He sidled over to her, determined to finally get the free man sex he'd been missing for years.

Jeff's hand grasped his shoulder hard.

"Bill, what the fuck are you doing?"

"Seems pretty clear to me buddy, I'm trying to get me some tail!"

"Alright, let's go..." Jeff gripped Bill's shoulder and led him out to the patio, where he lit a cigarette for himself and then Bill.

"What is it Jeff? You don't like a 'normal' guy getting some action. You want all the girls for yourself, that it?"

"Not even close buddy. I just wanted to tell you not to do what you're thinking of doing. I know your family, I know Angie. Buddy, not a day goes by where I don't wish I could trade my life with yours..." He exhaled a huge billow of smoke. "I'm fucking miserable. I'm 35 and no prospect of a wife, family, or job that would allow me to be stable enough to get those things. You have everything a decent guy could ask for. You going to ruin because you're a little bored?"

"Give it a couple of years and being in my shoes wouldn't be so admirable."

"Maybe, but who's ever content for that long?"

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Yeah, we all get it. Weird nights when despite being exhausted, we just can't sleep.

I have a particularly weird insomnia course. It never lasts more than a few days and it really doesn't feel that bad. It's just hard to do anything that requires a brain. Which begs the quetion why I'm writing a post right now... Anyhoo...

Thing is about my insomnia is that I still dream, but my mind gets caught up in these loops of thought and conscious thought and unconscious thought get all jumbled. Toss my penchant for panic attacks on top of that, it makes for a rather unique set of sensations. So, I'm going to try my best to recreate a snippet of that brain loop.

June 5 2010

As soon as your head hits the pillow, almost begging for sweet slumber's embrace, that the onslaught of paradoxical thoughts comes.

You have to give form 45-E to the High Committee watcher, yet there's a cat mewling outside the bedroom window. Your eyes won't open. Your mother is telling you to get your socks on before you miss the bus, but don't forget to bring form 45-E to the foreman. But wait, Form 45-E is an envelope and somehow your mind won't let you see the top of it. And your hand semi-consciously flits to your nose to scratch it. Wow, I'm really tired. Could you shut the hell up brain? Not until you get out of the forest with From 45-E signed by the representatives of the Extradimensional Research Committee. And maybe if you can somehow open that envelppe. OK, let's MAKE me able to open that envelope. Oh wait, there's some sort of danger, that oppressive feeling has gripped my heart. My God, if I fall asleep, I'll die! WAKE UP!

Eyes flick open, you rest your head back on the pillow and exhale in frustration. Yup, only 6 more hours of pretending I can sleep, and I can get up and live in a fog. Hooray...