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What is cool , really?


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I've always been fascinated by what people deem "cool" , and probably tend towards the unfashionable myself.

When everyone jumps on a "cool" bandwagon , it shifts across the Top Gear cool wall somewhat.

Imagine if 911s were as common as Camrys? You'd be looking hard at a Maserati or something, if you were cool.

Why is a beige , unmolested early 911 deemed "daggy" , when drilling holes in the handles and changing out the louvre is "cool"?

Trendsetter vs  trendfollower? Innovator or copycat? Outlaw or serf?

I have an engineer's mindset and thus functional efficiency appeals more than cosmesis. But that's just me.

What defines "cool" for you? Would you be seen dead in a monastic,  beige Porsche, and if not - why not?

 

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I rekon you are on the money OZ, Back to being Cool,

© Dr Thorsten Botz-BorNstein 2010 Full story here;

The Human Condition

Thorsten Botz-Bornstein links Stoicism and Hip Hop.

In principle, to be cool means to remain calm even under stress. But this doesn’t explain why there is now a global culture of cool. What is cool, and why is it so cool to be cool?

The aesthetics of cool developed mainly as a behavioral attitude practiced by black men in the United States at the time of slavery. Slavery made necessary the cultivation of special defense mechanisms which employed emotional detachment and irony. A cool attitude helped slaves and former slaves to cope with exploitation or simply made it possible to walk the streets at night. During slavery, and long afterwards, overt aggression by blacks was punishable by death. Provocation had to remain relatively inoffensive, and any level of serious intent had to be disguised or suppressed. So cool represents a paradoxical fusion of submission and subversion. It’s a classic case of resistance to authority through creativity and innovation.

Modern Cool

Today the aesthetics of cool represents the most important phenomenon in youth culture. The aesthetic is spread by Hip Hop culture for example, which has become “the center of a mega music and fashion industry around the world” (montevideo.usembassy.gov). Black aesthetics, whose stylistic, cognitive, and behavioural tropes are largely based on cool-mindedness, has arguably become “the only distinctive American artistic creation” (White & Cones, Black Man Emerging: Facing the Past and Seizing the Future, 1999, p.60). The African American philosopher Cornel West sees the “black-based Hip Hop culture of youth around the world” as a grand example of the “shattering of male, WASP cultural homogeneity” (Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race in America, 1993, p.15). While several recent studies have shown that American brand names have dramatically slipped in their cool quotients worldwide, symbols of black coolness such as Hip Hop remain exportable.

However, ‘cool’ does not only refer to a respected aspect of masculine display, it’s also a symptom ofanomie, confusion, anxiety, self-gratification and escapism, since being cool can push individuals towards passivity more than towards an active fulfillment of life’s potential. Often “it is more important to be ‘cool and down’ with the peer group than to demonstrate academic achievement,” write White & Cones (p.87). On the one hand, the message produced by a cool pose fascinates the world because of its inherent mysteriousness. The stylized way of offering resistance that insists more on appearance than on substance can turn cool people into untouchable objects of desire. On the other hand, to be cool can be seen as a decadent attitude leading to individual passivity and social decay. The ambiguity residing in this constellation lends the cool scheme its dynamics, but it also makes its evaluation very difficult.

What is Cool?

In spite of the ambiguity, it seems that we remain capable of distinguishing cool attitudes from uncool ones. So what is cool? Let me say that cool resists linear structures. Thus a straightforward, linear search for power is not cool. Constant loss of power is not cool either. Winning is cool; but being ready to do anything to win is not. Both moralists and totally immoral people are uncool, while people who maintain moral standards in straightforwardly immoral environments are most likely to be cool. A CEO is not cool, unless he is a reasonable risk-taker and refrains from pursuing success in a predictable fashion. Coolness is a nonconformist balance that manages to square circles and to personify paradoxes. This has been well known since at least the time of cool jazz. This paradoxical nature has much to do with cool’s origins being the fusion of submission and subversion.

A president is uncool if he clings to absolute power, but becomes cooler as soon as he voluntarily concedes power in order to maintain democratic values. This does not mean that the cool person needs to be an idealist. On the contrary, very few of the coolest rappers are idealists. Idealism can be extremely uncool, as shown by the self-righteous examples of both neoDarwinists and creationists. Cool is a balance created by the cool person’s style, not through straightforward rules or imposed standards. Coolness implies the power of abstraction without becoming overly abstract. Similarly, the cool person stays close to real life without getting absorbed by it. Going with the masses is as uncool as being overly eccentric. It is not cool to take everything, nor is it cool to give everything away: it seems rather that the master of cool handles the give and take of life as if it were a game. The notion of ‘play’ is important to cool, because in games power gets fractured and becomes less serious, which enables the player to develop a certain detached style while playing. For the cool, this detached style matters more than the pursuit of money, power and ideals.

Classic Greek Cool

In ancient Greece, the Stoic philosophers supported a vision of coolness in a turbulent world. The Stoic indifference to fate can be interpreted as the supreme principle of coolness, and has even been been viewed as such in the context of African American culture. The style of the jazz musician Lester Young, for example, was credible mostly because Young was neither proud nor ashamed. This is a Stoic attitude. Also, in ‘Rap as Art and Philosophy’ (in Lott & Pittman (eds), A Companion to African American Philosophy), Richard Shusterman likens Hip Hop culture to a philosophical spirit which is also implicit in Stoicism.

Epictetus the Stoic posited a strict difference between those things that depend on us and those things that do not depend on us, and advocated developing an attitude of regarding the things we can’t influence as unimportant. What depends upon us are our impulses, passions, attitudes, opinions, desires, beliefs and judgments. These things we must improve. Everything that cannot be controlled by us – death, the actions of others, or the past, for examples – should leave us indifferent. Through this insight that all the things upon which we have no influence are best neglected, a ‘cool’ attitude is nurtured.

Stoics have been criticized for being deterministic and fatalistic. As a matter of fact, we find in this materialist and rationalist philosophy the same spectrum of problems that are linked with coolness, because the Stoic, just like the Cool, has to continually decide what is up to him and what is not. In as far as his indifference extends to areas of life that are within his power because he wrongly believes them to be outside his power, the result will be fatalism, decadence and alienation. Yet should he decide to care about things he believes to be within his power although they are not he loses his coolness. Once again, coolness is a matter of balance; or more precisely, of negotiating a way to survive in a paradoxical condition. It’s about maintaining control while never looking as though you might have lost control. All this is why losing and still keeping a straight face is probably the coolest behavior one can imagine.

Living With the Paradox of Cool

Coolness is control; but the dictator who controls everything is not cool because he does not balance a paradox. The self-control of cool black behavior in and before the 1960s, on the other hand, is immediately linked to the African American inability to control political and cultural oppression. This paradox of the need for self-control in the face of a lack of control nurtured a cool attitude. Thus, instead of revelling in either total control or total detachment, the aesthetics and ethics of cool fractures and alienates in order to bring forward unusual constellations of ideas and actions. In a phrase: the cool person lives in a constant state of alienation.

© Dr Thorsten Botz-BorNstein 2010

Thorsten Botz-Bornstein is staying cool as assistant professor of philosophy at the Gulf University for Science and Technology, Kuwait.

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Funny how the coolest kids at school always turn out to be the world's biggest bellends.

So Hugh , it's about exhibitionism , becoming the albino pig amongst the paddock of porkers?

If it's self expression , once the second guy decides to drill his door handles...

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There's a fine line between something that's stylish and perhaps classy, and cool.  Cool, I think borders on fashionable, which we  all know ebbs and flows.  

 

I'm with you in in that I prefer function over form, but, and it's a very big but, for me design has to follow a very close second.  And that doesn't leave a lot to choose from or you pay top dollar, and I don't have top dollars! 

 

Drilling door or handles and altering Fuchs wheels is tacky.  911's, 928's, 250 SWB or a Lotus 79 all have form and function. 

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Funny how the coolest kids at school always turn out to be the world's biggest bellends.

So Hugh , it's about exhibitionism , becoming the albino pig amongst the paddock of porkers?

If it's self expression , once the second guy decides to drill his door handles...

If only it was as easy as just drilling holes in your door handles..................Ironically, unpacking the notion of cool isn't cool so I wouldn't waste time worrying about what others think - I'm sure the bell-ends don't have sleepless nights worrying about what you think of them. ;)

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"Cool" is a brief moment in time between the emergence of an odd idea and the mainstream acceptance of such.  We inner city Hipster types effectively believe it's the pre-fashion moment, before anyone living more than 4.2km from the Melbourne GPO catches on.  Once you guys get it it's deader than Elvis.

928s are waaay cool!

 

 

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I live in Byron Bay with my wife, kids and Porsches. I get to swim.most days (if the sharks allow me)  and I drive a LHD car.

All of that is cool.

I, on the other hand, dress like a Dad and behave responsibly . I am.not cool (so say wife and daughters). 

What to do now except go for a long drive. . 

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I live in Byron Bay with my wife, kids and Porsches. I get to swim.most days (if the sharks allow me)  and I drive a LHD car.

All of that is cool.

I, on the other hand, dress like a Dad and behave responsibly . I am.not cool (so say wife and daughters). 

What to do now except go for a long drive. . 

So you are cool on paper then eh?

I'm like sooo ho hum about this whole conversation... 

 

 

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Interesting....

"In principle, to be cool means to remain calm even under stress. But this doesn’t explain why there is now a global culture of cool. What is cool, and why is it so cool to be cool?

The aesthetics of cool developed mainly as a behavioral attitude practiced by black men in the United States at the time of slavery. Slavery made necessary the cultivation of special defense mechanisms which employed emotional detachment and irony. A cool attitude helped slaves and former slaves to cope with exploitation or simply made it possible to walk the streets at night. During slavery, and long afterwards, overt aggression by blacks was punishable by death. Provocation had to remain relatively inoffensive, and any level of serious intent had to be disguised or suppressed. So cool represents a paradoxical fusion of submission and subversion. It’s a classic case of resistance to authority through creativity and innovation.

Modern cool is somewhat different.....

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We're all uncool for being on the internet and talking about being cool. 

 

Everyone is going to have different opinions on cars. Porsches so be it is either you get it or don't. The people who don't get it will never understand the porsche and the coolness of the name and history..

By the people who dont care for cars or bmw ect people or something look at us when we do club/group things as a bunch of porsche tossers. 

When i talk about the drives we do to my mates who are my age (20-25) who drive jap buzz boxes, they all assume no one drives their Porsche hard like they should be driven. because mostly bankers drive them they say. 

But i'd own any nice example Porsche with 2 doors and never feel that it's uncool or the car is uncool in anyway. :)

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I’m Cool. I know I am ‘cause my hot water service pilot light went out sometime yesterday and I had a really cold (quick) shower this morning. On top of that my office is always bloody cool/cold so I haven’t warmed up yet.

Looking forward to going home soon so I can get warm in front of the heater. Might read a Porsche magazine to see if that helps.

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The topic is deliberately open , being in the everything else-not Porsche section.

Cool can be an attitude or a tangible or intangible something that elicits a certain positive emotion in some people.

Style , well that's also a broad concept. It's in the venn diagram with fashion , but as they say some styles never go out of fashion.

And culturally there are major differences , let alone the generational disagreements.

Funnily enough , I have never seen a 911 described as "stylish". Why is that? Do I not read enough or get out enough?

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What a very interesting question, with a lot of different answers.

Asking "What is cool" is similar to asking "What is beauty" Its a totally personal thing. What I think is cool or beautiful someone else could think nerdy & ugly.

Style & design has a lot to do with the cool question & done well, never go out of fashion or desirability. You only have to look around to identify this, Sydney Opera House, Eames chair, Egg chair, The Aubergine Building & LLoyds building in London, Rolex Submariner, Rayban Wayfairer, Swedish furniture, AC Cobra & dare I say it & the Porsche 911.

Are they cool? Yep, but thats just me.

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