I’ve been to two different showings of holiday movies in the past week at old community theaters. Both of which employ organs and have audience participations sing-alongs scheduled into the pre-screening festivities.  The first movie The Wife and I attended had a young high school aged girl trying her best to get the attendees engaged and to put it politely, her efforts were for naught.  The second movie was held at the more renowned Music Box Theatre and their Christmas carols went off with near full audience participation.  What interests me is in the difference in the two.  They both had organs that rose from the floor, were appropriately decorated, and essentially sang the same songs – if pressed I’d say the Music Box kind of pushed that envelope further by working in a ditty about a “Christmas Smile” that I’m pretty sure they made up fifteen minutes before opening the doors, and then topped themselves by changing the lyrics the second time through to make it a tribute to Maggie Daley – very strange.  But you know what?  It worked.  At the Music Box the crowd was into it, they sang, they swayed, they participated; and Thursday night in a similar setting with the same bells and whistles, a teenaged girl stood in front of crickets. 

There are hundreds if not thousands of factors that probably weigh in on the success of one event versus the other, and while I’m not here to dig into exactly what each of those factors may be I think that it’s important to recognize that those factors do in fact exist.  It actually may even be worth creating a college course, or for that matter a science unto itself to dig into the concept and creation of cool.  Factors aside, the 10,000 foot difference in the two movies was that at the first show no one was singing and thus no one wanted to be the first to sing and “play along.”  At the Music Box however it was expected and thus was cool to sing along with Santa and the crowd.  Much like cigarettes and huffing glue, if everyone’s doing it, it must be cool. 

Cool is a strange thing in that we all know it when we see it (except for those who are really into science fiction) but no one can really describe what it exactly is (without using the word in the definition that is).  As superficial as it may sound let’s admit it, cool is currency in today’s world and I don’t think we give it enough credit.

As an example I own a Quebec Nordiques toque.  I assume that 90% of you are wondering what a Nordique is and another 7% are still trying to get your mind around why someone would call a winter hat a toque.  You’re not wrong if you find yourself in either of the categories (just ignorant), but what I’m looking for in wearing this baby (aside from warmth) is that last 3% who see the logo, perform a double take, and then give an appreciative nod or a simple, “sweet ‘Diques hat.”  When I hear this I know that I have found a kindred soul and someone who, without knowing anything else about them, is cool in my book.

There’s something cool about being cool and I think that is the way to our salvation as a nation.  Somewhere along the line in our evolution as a society our definition of cool has changed, and for the worse I would argue.  Instead of it being cool to work hard and reap what you sew, cool has now become who can get the most from doing the least.  It’s not cool in America to learn, to try, or to care any more.  For whatever reason now people take pride in being dumb, being lazy, and not giving a shit, and I’m not sure exactly where that came from.  It’s unfortunate but it is what it is at this point and it’s important that we recognize it and do something about it. 

If I were a political candidate, regardless of party, I’d make it my platform to bring hard work back in style.  Make it so that kids can’t text on their phone without being able to program in the functionality.  It will be like the kids who had to download games onto your calculator back in high school.  Remember, those were the coolest kids going right?  Ok, bad example.  But you see where I’m going with this.  Facebook should make people design their own page and make it harder to setup, not easier.  Google should ask you questions, not the other way around.  There should be TV shows named “Are You Less Intelligent Than a Fifth Grader” and if the answer is “yes” you should be bludgeoned with rubber hoses.  Our idols and heroes should be business men, scientists, and astronauts once again, they need to become our ambassadors of cool, not reality stars and illiterate gladiators.  The key to making all of this happen is to re-define what cool means to our culture.

How that comes to pass is beyond me.  I would guess that it needs to start with the youth and we need “Saved By The Bell”-esque shows where Bill Nye The Science Guy plays the father figure and helps the kids beat Valley in a science fair or rig a practical joke by using and explaining the laws of physics before the bucket of water drops. 

Maxim and other adult magazine need to do whole series on “sexy librarians” and drug dealers should have their fines reduced if they grew, cultivated, or cooked their own product.  I’m looking for people who want to take the initiative, not those who want to play Initiatives of War on their XBox for 7 hours a day.  It’s cool to do, not to do less.

There are others out there like me and we can smell our own.  A quick nod and a knowing glace, or a simple “cool hat” is all we need to communication for now, but know that a revolution is on the horizon, and it’s coming like a wave.  When it crashes you better be swimming or you’re going to drown.  Now we just need to convince everyone that speedos and nose plugs are cool.