Saturday, January 31, 2009

In the Beginning

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…


Ok, so maybe the setting isn’t “in a galaxy far far away” and the year wasn’t that long ago, but the introduction would probably fit the story of our time very well to a person from the late nineteenth century. In Star Wars, they use lasers to fight with, had robots to do their bidding, spaceships to get them across the galaxy, futuristic medicine, and the list goes on and on. Could you possibly imagine having any of that technology right now? A spaceship that could take you across the galaxy in just a few moments would be revolutionary, the start of a new age, and yet, to the characters of this series, it is normal. Thus is the way with motion pictures, or film. We have videos everywhere: on the TV at home, on the internet, in Wal-Mart, in our cars, on our cell phones, on our iPods or mp3 players, on airplanes, even on the side of the road like the new UCA sign. To us, films are normal, but to that person in the late nineteenth century, the idea is revolutionary.

As I watch a few of the first films made, I’ll admit that I got bored at a few parts; such as when the crowds are walking out of the building at the beginning of the Lumiere Brothers' First Films. The film just seemed to be the same thing over and over again. And then, I thought about when my family watched The Pink Panther. We got to the part where Steven Martin is trying to say “hamburger” in his hyperbolic French accent, a hilarious part. Well, my brother liked it so much that he stopped the movie, went back to the beginning of that scene, and watched it again and again and again. It was after about the sixth time that we finally pounced on him to let the movie continue. If it is unexpected and enjoyable, I would want to see it over and over again. It was the same way with early films; they may have been about simple, repetitive, everyday things, but the audience was seeing these things without even being there! Motion pictures were like technology from Star Wars to them. The Lumiere Brothers’ films, Edison’s films, Melies' films, they were the coolest thing around. And even now after watching several early films, they hold a nostalgic cool to me because of their simplicity and life.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Way I See It


Ok, the question has been asked: what is cool? This inquiry has proved to be incredibly complex, but let's face it; cool IS complex. It will never remain the same thing; it is constantly morphing, evolving, or even regressing. At some point in time, cool is this; however, come back later, and it will be that. Although, time isn’t the only factor influencing cool’s fickle form; the people who define it are the ultimate enforcers of what cool is. There in lies the complexity. The number shown above is the population of the earth today. Do all of those people like the same thing? Know the same things? Believe the same things? Do the same things (and I mean this to be outside the basic eating and sleeping activities)? Absolutely not! Everyone is different, feeding their individual streams into the churning river of cool.

So let’s get very basic. Let’s zoom our microscope in to observe one little part of cool: my version of cool.

What do I find cool?

When you think about this question, the answer is difficult to explain. My version of cool is influenced by so many others. For instance, the other day I was talking with some friends about what we used to play when we were kids. Do you remember Giga Pets? My Little Ponies? Beanie Babies? Skip-it? Scooters? Pokemon? Furbbies? Game Boys? Christmas was so much fun when you would run into the living room and find THE toy of the season under the tree, and it wasn’t so much fun when you didn’t get that toy like all of your friends. But did I really want the toy, or did I want it because of my friends?

In light of that train of childhood thought, I can give a first example of what I find cool: fairytale medieval times. The reason I add the “Fairytale” part is because I exclude a lot of negative aspects of the time like disease, lack of some good technology like indoor plumbing and climate control, tyrants, and the horrific condition of the poor, which made up a vast majority of the people alive then. What I think is so cool from those times is the idea of chivalry, of earning your way, of honesty and honor, and of being a village, a place where people looked out for each other. I think swords and sword fights are totally cool. The idea of raising animals, growing gardens, and making things is awesome. I love the lack of skyscrapers, traffic, and pollution and the abundance of nature, time, and available company. The final thing that I find cool from the medieval times is something I actually plan to learn: falconry.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

To Start With...

What is cool? Is it standing alone or being one in the crowd? I definitely think that this class is the way to try and find those answers. I mean, what better places to find cool than at the movies? It is at the movies that we see what seems cool and what is cool, what seems a reject, but is really an idea to embrace. Also, we can determine what the mainstream deems cool through the movies that are successful. What made the movie a blockbuster or just a bust? What determines cool?
While going through class on Wednesday, my mind just started going in circles. Through F John’s descriptions, I was concluding that the “cool” are those society doesn’t understand at first. They are the ones that are shadowy and dedicated to something we can’t grasp, whether it is the idea itself or the idea of being dedicated to it. So, is “cool” first rejected?
Then again, we all aspire to be “cool” at some point in time. We don’t want to be rejects. Think about school; how many movies and shows are made about the hierarchy of high school? Let’s see: Mean Girls (and I highly recommend watching the trailer for inflamed examples of High School classes), any series dealing with kids, High School Musical(s)…ok, let’s just say anything with a school and produced by Disney. Is cool simply fitting in with the crowd, doing what is accepted? And yet, all of these movies and shows seem to be telling us to be ourselves and accept others for who they are.
I think there is a very fine line between “cool” and “uncool” in terms of the mainstream. First of all, “cool” needs to be new, or at least different from what the mainstream is used to. It also needs to be a statement, something that will tell the world what and who you want to be. It needs to have a “power” over others, such as pulling a look off better than others, knowing more facts than everyone else, being stronger than everyone else, challenging and not caring about everyone else, being more involved than everyone else, being yourself more than everyone else…However, it is possible to meet all of these qualities and still be deemed “uncool”. To me, it seems that most parts of cool are decided in a fickle fashion; you never know what to expect.
Then comes the question that I still can’t answer or understand: is cool individualistic or social? All of F John’s examples seemed about those not of society. They were individual, but as this “coolness” caught on, it became a society or was integrated into society, commercially. I am still confused; is being cool in mainstream terms good or bad or just another type of cool? Hopefully this class will clarify that.