The Pursuit Of Cool

The world is built on “cool.”  And, deny it if you want to, we all have an uncontrollable urge to pursue it.  It’s like hungry, horny and getting enough to drink – hydration: we need it to live.  That’s why everybody’s teenage years were so godawful.  Not only were we being pistol-whipped by our hormones, but every time we turned around, Susan and Dave, the “cool” kids, were standing there.  They had bodies by Mattel and clothes by Yves St. Laurent.  They knew exactly what to say on every occasion, never had an unfortunate zit and certainly never felt the need to fart.  In a word, they were cool.  Of course, we knew we would be way cooler if only we had the opportunity, but mostly we cursed our fate for being born incurable nerds.

As adults, we pursue “cool” in more subtle and sophisticated ways — what we eat, what we sit on, how we get around, what we watch on TV, even the way we speak.  (Slang is a very refined bit of “cool.”)  Plus, we convince ourselves that “cool” doesn’t matter (we’ve outgrown it) because one of the essential elements of being “cool” is … you don’t care about it.  And there’s a whole it’s-hip-to-be-square industry that’s grown up around that.  But regardless of how we chase it, “cool” is always out there.  It’s the way we define ourselves in relation to every other person on the planet.  And like it or not, some people are better at it than the rest of us.  It even extends beyond the grave.

For example, Hunter S. Thompson, the King of Gonzo Journalism had his ashes shot out of a cannon.  His buddy, Johnny Depp, did the shooting (this was back when Johnny was still “cool”) and Jack Nicholson, John Cusack, Bill Murray, John Kerry, Ed Bradley, etc., etc. all showed up to wish Hunter S. well on his final journey.  Personally, I think with that much “cool” standing around the cannon, they probably didn’t even have to light the fuse – it just spontaneously burst into flame.

Meanwhile, Gene Roddenberry, the guy who created Star Trek, had his ashes taken into space on the Space Shuttle – kind of a “There and Back” posthumous adventure.  He also had some of his ashes (along with Timothy Leary’s and a bunch of other guys’) shot into orbit aboard a Pegasus XL rocket.  Unfortunately, after several years, the orbit deteriorated and the capsule disintegrated when it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere.  But talk about totally cool — especially since the whole Star Trek phenom — from Jim Kirk to the latest Picard — is the ultimate sci-fi travelogue for nerds.  Star Trek has never been “cool” beyond its geek niche, but clearly Roddenberry is.

However, the best nerd-to-“cool” tale ever told is that of Eugene Shoemaker.  Here was a guy with a Thomas Dewey moustache and a personality to match.  He loved rocks — and not just any rocks: he was an astrogeologist.  (I don’t even know what those people do.)  Anyway, he was so good at it that, when he died, his colleagues convinced NASA to put his ashes on the Lunar Prospector, a capsule designed to crash on the Moon.  On July 31, 1999, it did just that — with a special polycarbonate “urn” containing Shoemaker.  So Eugene is the first human being buried on the Moon.  How “cool” is that?  Too “cool!”  (Eat your heart out, Clooney!)

So when all those people are putting on the brag about their “cool” walking tour of Greenland, or their “cool” new Nespresso machine, or their eco-friendly bicycle with heated seat and handlebars – remember: they might think they’re “cool” (just like Susan and Dave did in high school) but they’re never going to be buried-on-the-Moon “cool.”  That’s reserved for nerds like us.

5 Types Of People (Plus 1)

peopleIdiots and the Internet are always yipping about how every person on the planet is different and we’re all unique in our own way. What a load of trash!  There are only six types of people in this world.  There might be a lot of combinations and some subtle variations, but in the end, there are really only six.  And they are:

I’m a lover — You never know where you stand with these people.  They love everything!  If you invited them to dinner and serve mud, they say “OMG!  This is the best mud I’ve ever had.  Can you please, please, please give me your recipe?”  These folks are so cheerful you just want to swat them.  And you know — YOU KNOW — they go home at night, wipe that painted smile off their face and throw things at the cat.

I’m a fighter — These are people who are never actually pissed off, but they’re never actually happy, either.  They exist in a kind of twilight zone of irritation.  They’re always pointing out things that bother them — from the guy in the elevator who smelled like fish to the size of Kylie Minogue’s teeth.  They get a lot of traffic tickets — “for no reason” and constantly talk about what they’re going to do to their boss, their neighbours or their in-laws the next time they step out of line.  These people who are always looking for a fight, but they never quite get there.

I have a problem — These are the people who walk the Earth in a state of perpetual difficulty.  They’re constantly being set upon by unusual circumstances and have only one coping mechanism — “I just got screwed!”  When they file their income tax, the paperwork always gets lost.  When they go to the doctor, she can never figure out what’s wrong with them.  There’s usually a vague legal situation looming in the background and some kind of financial problem that never gets fixed.  These folks spend their entire lives “running a little late” because they can’t find their keys, a cab, their phone, their kids, the TV remote or … God, the list just goes on and on and on!

You have a problem — These are the folks who think personal responsibility is something other people need to understand.  They play the Blame Game like it’s an Olympic event — and they’re goin’ for the Gold!  It’s not that they’re never wrong; it’s just that there is always somebody, somewhere, who’s wronger than they are.

I’m smarter than you — There are two kinds of “I’m smarter than you” people.  There are the obvious ones who let you know right away, and then there are the other assholes.  They’re the ones who wait in the weeds until you make a mistake and then leap up and tell you exactly what you should have done and, more importantly, what they would have done if only they’d been in charge.

And finally:

I’m a selfish bastard — Ironically, these are the best people to have as friends, colleagues and romantic partners.  First of all, they hang around because they want to.  Secondly, they have no hidden agenda (selfish bastards!)  Thirdly, by definition you’re never going to be disappointed in them and finally, the biggie: when they do something nice — they actually mean it.

Don’t Go To Spain

personalityWow!  Who knew?  Apparently, the entire human population of this planet, 7 billion plus, can be boiled down to just 4 different personalities.  (Five, actually, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)  It seems a couple of researchers in Spain developed a series of totally complicated, reward- and- punishment personality tests. Then they brought in 541 volunteers and tested the hell out of them.  They analyzed the results and came up with 4 distinct personalities — only four.  Actually, they found that 10% of the group didn’t really fit anywhere, so, in fact, there were five (but, I’m getting ahead of myself, again.)  Now, you’re probably thinking, “Hey!  Wait a minute!  Don’t we have a bunch of personality tests already, like Myers-Briggs and Minnesota Multiphasic?” and you’d be right.  However, like our BFFs, the dog, humans are pack animals and we all have a burning need to find out where we fit in the pack, so any personality research gets a lot of Internet ink.  As you can probably tell from my tone, I think personality tests are very similar to The Sorting Hat at Hogwarts, and I’ve drawn my own conclusions.  However, here are the results of the Spanish study.  The labels and explanations are real (I’m not making this up) but I’ve played a little fast and loose with the analysis.

1 — Trusting — always cooperates with the group regardless of the result.
These are people who lost their virginity at a Ted Talk.  They invested heavily in Greek Municipal Bonds and now spend their days answering emails from Nigerian princes.

2 — Optimists — believe the group will always come up with the best result.
These are the people who love breakfast business meetings and Team- Building events.  They’re always networking.  They talk at the movies and during television shows.  They never shut up.  God! Stick a sock in it!

3 — Pessimists — always choose the lesser of two evils, regardless of what the group does or the result.
These people are assholes.

4 — Envious — don’t care about the group or the result– as long it’s better than everyone else’s result.
The largest group of the study but since when did enlightened self-interest become an inherent personality trait?

What do you think?  Did you recognize yourself anywhere?  I didn’t either.  However, the study isn’t a total loss.  Remember that this research was conducted in Spain with 541 volunteers.  And remember that 10% (54) volunteers were so strange they didn’t fit into any personality model.  So, in conclusion, if you’re planning a vacation this winter — Don’t Go To Spain!  We now have documented proof that there are at least 54 weirdos — sitting there, waiting for you.