Friday, October 16, 2009

Cool Rules: Anatomy Of An Attitude

The chart above is from a book called Cool Rules: Anatomy of An Attitude by David Robbins and Dick Pountain. To read the above chart Cool, click on the image.

What do Humphrey Bogart with a cigarette, Bertholt Brecht, Marlene Dietrich's cheekbones, Billie Holiday, James Dean, Lenny Bruce's irony, Eldridge Cleaver, Chrissie Hynde, heroin and gangsta rap all have in common? They are, for lack of a more precise word, cool.
Cool is by no means solely an American phenomenon, although its modern manifestation was incubated among black American jazz musicians during the 1930s and 1940s and finally injected into white youth culture during the 1950s by Elvis Presley and rock 'n' roll.

Whichever way you spell it, it's as well to remember that the word cool is not merely another way of saying 'good'. It comes with baggage - an alternative set of values which are often profoundly in conflict with official values. For example it is not very smart for a political party to carelessly promote Cool Britannia when it is also committed to a policy of reducing drug abuse. Creative directors in advertising have by now an almost perfect understanding of the power of Cool to sell products to young people, profound enough that they seldom need to brandish the raw word itself (which could be construed as rather Uncool). Indeed they have become so expert at suggesting the attitude through surrealistic imagery and veiled drug references that many television advertisements are now all but incomprehensible to anyone over 30. The agencies understand that to be perceived as Cool demands precisely such a conspiratorial pact with their target viewers, and it is highly significant that Levi Strauss has regained its lost ground with the cryptic but hugely popular 'Flat Eric' advertising campaign, featuring a battered old car (take that Jeremy Clarkson), no words and a stuffed toy with attitude. From What is Cool? NYTs

Related Links:

1) Cool Aesthetic, Wiki page
2) Obituary for one of the authors,David Robbins of Anatomy of Cool
3) Read Cool Rules online
4) Italian Sprezzatura
5) Flâneur


Bloggerboy FFM said...

This is so strange. Believe it or not I recently tried to post Castiglione's definition of sprezzatura at a web forum but kept getting blocked. The book is still on my desk. It is one of the most fundamental truths behind just about everything that I admire. What a tribute to the incredible energy of the renaissance (the re-birth of antiquity) that this central tenet continues to burn brightly today.

Bloggerboy FFM said...

To elaborate, after checking out your link, the people I admire most display the ease and naturalness that Castiglione describes without succumbing to the deceit of their own ability to make things seem easy. (Frankly, I think the people I'm thinking of have the ability "from the stars", as Castiglione wrote.) But, even if not, it takes an incredible amount of self-control to maintain composure that way while at the same time not becoming fully self-enamored.

Candy Minx said...

"The Book of the Courtier" is one of my favourite books, Bloggerboy. I always though it would be a wonderful source for a movie.

Oh, you bring up a fantastic concept about the source of "ease and naturalness" being" from the stars". This is a huge huge fascinating concept and relates to "as above so below". And many kabalah and hermetic practices. It also relates to Buddhism tenets about the "false ego" versus the "true self".

I remember the first time I read "The Book of The Courtier" in a Renassance class...and I couldn't believe...I mean I was it related to Buddhism in so many ways. The experience hotwired my interest in comparative cultures, belief systems and agricultural economies versus hunter-gatherer economies.

It's all connected...ooohhh insert scary music...


Señor Steve said...

Yep. Humphrey Bogart with a cigarette for sure. That rascal taught me how to smoke cigarettes, and it took me 40 years to kick them.

Thee Mike Brown said...

i await the age of genuine effortlessness. that is when my people will rise.

without trying.