Ted Gioia on the Birth and Death of the Cool

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The end of "cool"?
The end of "cool"?

Has coolness runs its course?  Are we living in a post-“cool” culture?

Musician and writer Ted Gioia talks about his new book, The Birth and Death of the Cool in episode 102 of The New Modern podcast.  You can listen using the embedded player above or via iTunes.  Please consider leaving a review and subscribing (for free) to future New Modern podcasts in the iTunes store.

Renowned for his important books about music, especially his History of Jazz, Ted Gioia is a prolific culture writer and literary critic.

Scott Timberg, the Los Angeles writer (and a pretty cool guy), recently posted a Q&A with Gioia on his new book.  Though many will find much to disagree with in Gioia’s arguments, there’s a unquestionably a new fashion for authenticity and sincerity.

Whether that spirit marks the death of “cool” in the sense that Ted Gioia means it, remains to be seen.  Listen to our interview, read the book, and decide for yourself.

[Watch this space for additional links and a full transcript.]

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  • This guy has got it completely wrong. He mistakes 'cool' as 'trying to be cool' whilst in fact cool is what *others* try to be. The genuinely cool simply don't give too much of a fuck. Think Miles Davis: was he cool because he acted in a way for the validation of others or because he didn't ? Also has there ever been a politician as cool the current POTUS?

  • Dan, I agree that Ted's definition of “cool” is very contestable, or at least not all-inclusive. However, he might argue it's naive to think someone like Miles Davis wasn't very conscious about his image.

    My own view is that there's a social-herding, conformist version of “cool” but there's also another kind of “cool” that's very admirable… calm under fire, self-confidence, not giving a damn what others think of you… in short, everything I see in (or project onto) the people profiled at the blog Impossible Cool.

    On the Obama front: John Hodgman's White House Correspondents Dinner roast of “the first nerd president” aside, I agree that by most conventional measures, Barack Obama is cool. As I mentioned in the interview, I think these photos in particular show he's always had a certain charisma.

  • This guy has got it completely wrong. He mistakes 'cool' as 'trying to be cool' whilst in fact cool is what *others* try to be. The genuinely cool simply don't give too much of a fuck. Think Miles Davis: was he cool because he acted in a way for the validation of others or because he didn't ? Also has there ever been a politician as cool the current POTUS?

  • Dan, I agree that Ted's definition of “cool” is very contestable, or at least not all-inclusive. However, he might argue it's naive to think someone like Miles Davis wasn't very conscious about his image.

    My own view is that there's a social-herding, conformist version of “cool” but there's also another kind of “cool” that's very admirable… calm under fire, self-confidence, not giving a damn what others think of you… in short, everything I see in (or project onto) the people profiled at the blog Impossible Cool.

    On the Obama front: John Hodgman's White House Correspondents Dinner roast of “the first nerd president” aside, I agree that by most conventional measures, Barack Obama is cool. As I mentioned in the interview, I think these photos in particular show he's always had a certain charisma.