Thursday, January 29, 2009

Illustrated Cool


Global Awareness

Yes, we can

finding our common



Liberation theology


Taking Action

Laughter Self-Deprecating humor Sarcasm Obscure pop culture references


Success INTELLIGENCE Being well read new ideas perspective Open-mindedness

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Echoing the Past

After the class discussion on the early history of film on Wednesday night, I looked up several examples through our own generation’s revolutionary film medium, YouTube. While I watched a collection of films by the Lumiere brothers, I couldn’t help but think about how amazing it would have been to participate in these early experiments with moving pictures. Now, we think nothing of picking up a camera and goofing off with friends, haphazardly recording and deleting footage right and left. Even though I do have a digital camera, I don’t like the idea of deleting pictures or video; every time I do, I feel as if I’m erasing a moment of history, and perhaps that is why I felt a sort of connection to these early films. There was something very cool about watching regular people make history by doing something as mundane as eating breakfast.

What struck me the most after watching Edison's recording of a sneeze and Melies's slightly more high-tech films Le Monstre and Le Diable Noir is how little the kinds of things we film have changed. If you type "the sneeze" into the YouTube search bar, approximently six thousand eight hundred and ninety videos come up, including the ever popular Sneezing Panda. I find it completely remarkable that a video of something sneezing has gotten over thirty million hits. The films made by magician Georges Melies are also still highly entertaining. Melies's four minute long short Le Diable Noir is the epitome of the timelessly funny genre of physical comedy. It doesn't matter if it is was fifty years ago, a hundred years ago, or just last week, there is something inherently funny about watching someone be duped over. From fans of Tom and Jerry cartoons to the Home Alone movies, there will alwyas be an audience for this type of humor.

The other thing that I found facinating about the Melies films was that the special effects used to animate the skeleton in Le Monstre and to make people disappear and reappear in Le Diable Noir are still put into practice today. The methods may be simple, but that does not mean that they are not as entertaining and valuable as those used in bigger, more elaborate productions. There is definitely a certain timelessness to Melies's work, if only because of the consistency of human nature. Though film has evolved in several ways, in some aspects it is still the same as in the early years.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I have to admit that before Wednesday night, I never bothered to think about my perception of what "cool" is. I simply used it as a word akin to "good" or "interesting", used it to describe things such as a fun locale, an intriguing class, or the latest bizarre diagnosis on House. However, since our class discussion on the endless array of coolness that fills vast outer reaches of pop culture, I haven't been able to stop thinking about what "cool" means. What is it about someone or something that makes us reach into our collective lexicon and pull out the most honored label of "cool"?

Though personally I don't necessarily subscribe to postmodernism, I believe that we can all easily assume that "cool" is relative as well as surprisingly complex. In modern society, it is not uncommon for things as diverse as the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act and Beyonce's new music video to be referred to using the same word: cool. Cool can be anything, and anything can be cool.

For example, Barack Obama (as F. John mentioned) has most definitely been deemed cool by American popular culture. But what is it that makes Obama so cool? Is it his youth, his straightforwardness, his celebrity support? I believe that all of these things contribute to Obama’s coolness, but that a large part of being cool is one’s self-perception. No matter what cool really is, it is both socially and individually defined. This is why not only our president can be called cool, but so can punk rockers, comic book collectors, your local school’s star quarterback, and even aspiring museum curators who like to knit.

I think the cool thing about “cool” is that it is essentially indefinable. However indefinable it may be, though, the concept of cool is still worth exploring. I have never had an Honors class that has not somehow changed my perception of the world in some way, and I am positive that this one will not be the exception. Cool is a complicated topic, but I look forward to seeking out all of the different facets of “cool” experienced throughout the last century of film. In the words of Margo Channing—in my opinion, one of the coolest characters to ever grace the Silver Screen--, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”