Some years ago a person told me to stop trying to be cool. He had just mentioned some band, Coldplay, Kings of Leon or something reasonably generic. I scoffed, and he said that I needed to stop trying to be so cool all the time – enjoy stuff, it didn’t have to be obscure and unorthodox to be worthy of my time and no one was going to laugh at me for it.
Now lets be clear on one thing, I don’t wish to give a nod to this person. He was an imbecile. Used to say things he thought were shocking and then put his hand to his mouth in that “oh my god I can’t believe I said that” way at least twenty times a day. Eventually, he was sacked for theft that valued to an amount so high, it led to people being made redundant to recoup the costs he caused. He left thinking he was a sort of Robin Hood character when really he was a selfish and despicable fool that caused men with families to be out of a job.
However, to paraphrase a common epigram, even a thieving little toerag with no conscience tells the right time twice a day.
He was right, I was applying a credibility algorithm to my incoming tastes and opinions in media, and if they failed, I was damning them. I would grade things with the meat and potatoes level snort and rolled eyeballs of the garden-variety douchebag hipster. I was horrified at the monster my late twenties had produced. I needed a lot of work done.
At the time, I was into post punk guitar bands and I tended to watch either gritty English urban movies or seventies style artistic east coast stream of consciousness ones. Books would be anything, but I most certainly now realise I used to only pick up books that I felt would make me look brooding and worldly on the tube. As I write this I realise I was a total caricature in my own skinny jeans.
A very important question to ask my ludicrous self here was: did I know I was being this way? I would answer in a predictably contrived way by saying that yes, I probably did but only in a “I had a checklist in my head but didn’t know or wonder what caused me to ” kind of way. Good thing is I am being honest here. I have at least got that to hold on to. Unless that makes it worse, does it?
I think maybe I made my choices based, in part, on vanity and likely future condescension opportunities . Choosing not to unravel and disseminate whatever malign synaptic demon was stoking such repulsive insecurity. I suppose if I was openly buying to look smug and admitted it there might be some kudos to my lack of pretension….or maybe not. However, just to throw a lifeboat (is that a phrase?) a large part of why I selected anything was my own taste. In no way would I just buy a book because it looked smart, I had to want to read it, be interested in it, and (oh god its getting worse) it would be better if it were above my genuine level of ability, understanding, and comfort…..although I am going to forgive that as if we didn’t all do that to at least some level, admittedly maybe not the self damaging and joyrobbing level I did, but to some level, we would all still be reading 'Twilight' or the 'BFG' aged 60, right?
That at least explains why coolness is an issue in me and I bet many of the Rough Trade/Camden Town set. I admit I overdo the self-deprecation here somewhat but this stuff all happened and I feel I was wrong to be such a way and its easier to be wrong with a tongue in my cheek .
Now I am not writing a journal here, I am going to skip forward ten years or so. I have a child now so of course for her sake I am exposed to mainstream fodder and any parent that would not do so for any reason is ridiculous. No child deserves…….whatever, you know what I am saying, not going to make this an “I had a child and it was just like that bit when Delboy was at the window and…….” blog, I just think its a relevant (the only one aside from maybe time) factor.
So ten years on I would say I am more universal. At the same time I retain my genuine opinions : Example: I deplored the US show Friends. I still do. Yet I quite like The Big Bang Theory, maybe like is a strong word, maybe "comparatively" would justify it . Friends was to me idiotic, beyond justification. It was formulaic, preposterously predictable, and vulgar - in the sense of the earnings involved for acting like a tit (and another thing you find me six young people in New York City where none is an alcoholic/drug addict/criminal/dealer/closet case/out case) every week. I do not accept that it is me being a purist/hipster/di*k because I now admit freely my tastes. I can always use that little caveat bon motte, the hipsters fifth amendment: “its my guilty pleasure”.
Sorry to spend so long on a simple comparison, its a solid equilibrium though.
So what I am saying is I will keep some of my cynics vitriol until I am in the grave. I do not care what I watch or imbibe if I like it now. I have enjoyed listening to Taylor Swift sometimes, I really liked The Avengers series (although try it without RDJ and you have no chance with me, sailor) and a few years ago I read The Twilight series…boy did that suck! After watching the movies, yeah, I watched Twilight and I will justify that with another hipster get out clause using millennial hyperbole, R-Patz is my mancrush.
Last night my family and I watched the collection of Pixar shorts . They were great.
That is exactly my point! I have an even more discerning eye now if you think about it. Nothing gets in because its smoky and obscure and references William S Burroughs, and nothing is excluded because it has Adam Sandler. If something entertains, like the Disney Shorts, (that Night and Day one is one of the best things I have ever seen) then it gets a thumbs up from me. If it is awful, it gets turned off.
So what does this teach us. For me I have learned that it is pointless to be a purist. When you buy a book don’t insist on first editions by writers that take at least three attempts to pronounce correctly and in stream of conscious, written upside down and with an English to Hieroglyphic glossary in the middle. You may miss out on a great Wilbur Smith.
If to listen to hip hop you will only consider it if it is someone who has been to jail, is not on a record label, can only be heard by invitation, and is rapping ONLY about negative things he has experienced, then you lose a world of hilarious, clever, joyous sounds. I for one would have an empty life if I had never listened to 3 Feet High and Rising.
If you will only watch Belgian films on reel to reel directed by a hermaphrodite Amish Jew with an illegible narrative and ONLY about subjects that have no vowels in the word which must be portrayed through the eyes of a Horsefly then you would miss out on happy stuff like The Internship that wouldn’t stand up to logic, but makes you smile at the end of the movie.
After all, in this day and age, who needs that?