Keeping the Beat

“The hipster world that Kerouac and Ginsberg drifted in and out of from the mid-forties to the early-fifties was an amorphous movement without ideology, more a pose than an attitude; a way of ‘being’ without attempting to explain why. Hipsters themselves were not about to supply explanations. Their language, limited as it was, was sufficiently obscure to defy translation into everyday speech. Their rejection of the commonplace was so complete that they could barely acknowledge reality. The measure of their withdrawal was their distrust of language. A word like ‘cool’ could mean any of a number of contradictory things—its definition came not from the meaning of the word but from the emotion behind it and the accompanying non-verbal facial or body expressions. When hipsters did put together a coherent sentence, it was always prefaced with the word ‘like’ as if to state at the onset that what would follow was probably an illusion. There was neither a future nor a past, only a present that existed on the existential wings of sound. A Charlie Parker bebop solo—that was the truth.”

Marty Jezer, in The Dark Ages: Life in the United States 1945–1960

The Empty Boat


If a man is crossing a river
And an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
Even though he be a bad-tempered man
He will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
He will shout at him to steer clear.
If the shout is not heard, he will shout again,
And yet again, and begin cursing.
And all because there is somebody in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty,
He would not be shouting, and not angry.

If you can empty your own boat
Crossing the river of the world,
No one will oppose you,
No one will seek to harm you.

Chuang Tzu

Happy Birthday Kerouac

I’m a week late here, but this past March 12 would have been Jack Kerouac’s 90th birthday. Arguably the most influential writer of the 20th century, his lyrical prose made music of mere words. It’s tragic that he got so sad as he aged, but the truths he imparted upon the world before he left will echo for years to come.

My Five Favorite Beardos

beardo, n. a weirdo with a beard

“I wear a lot of Axe body spray, but I live in a black neighborhood. Over there, they call it Ask body spray. If you don’t get that joke, then you’re not racist.”
— Zach Galifianakis

Love is a tired symphony
you hum when you’re awake
— Sam Beam (Iron & Wine)

Tennis Announcer 1: That’s 72 unforced errors for Richie Tenenbaum. He’s playing the worst tennis of his life. What’s he feeling right now?
Tennis Announcer 2: I don’t know, Jim. There’s obviously something wrong with him. He’s taken off his shoes and one of his socks and… actually, I think he’s crying.

Don’t let your mind get weary and confused
Your will be still, don’t try
— Ray LaMontagne

“The most sophisticated people I know – inside they are all children.”
— Jim Henson

The History of Cool

I’m going to say that our modern sense of cool began in the 1940s with Frank Sinatra, a midnight crooner who drank in classy bars with a pack of rats. Then Miles Davis showed up and perfected the art of jazz, which was the art of improvisation, the art of making it up as you go along, and people like Kerouac started living to this beat. Teaheads began getting high together and ushered in the age of hippies – Bob Dylan turning on the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix tripping on stage.

The 70s were weird and gave way to the even weirder early 80s. Blame cocaine for making everyone less cool. Things stopped making sense when David Byrne appeared on the scene. While the mainstream kids got swallowed up in a ridiculous sea of hair bands, the counterculture started digging the Talking Heads. It was at this moment, I believe, when your stereotypical, modern-day hipster was born. Now eccentricity became desirable. You could wear goofy glasses and clothes that didn’t fit, as long as you threw around the word ironic (regardless of whether you understood its definition).

With the 90s came Kurt Cobain and flannel. For whatever reason, he detested mainstream success and offed himself for selling out. Because cool implies exclusivity, once too many people like you, you’re no longer hip. While this may be common knowledge, it’s a stupid mindset. Snoop Dogg sold out but is still super suave.

And now, in the 21st century, we are left with a fragmented society in which Johnny Depp is admired for wearing crazy hats and leather flair. The kids in Brooklyn and Wicker Park grow beards and ride bikes and don’t eat meat because beef isn’t green, but cool remains a subjective abstraction. Pinning it down is impossible.

In conclusion, I leave you with this exchange from America’s most culturally relevant family:

Homer: So, I realized that being with my family is more important than being cool.
Bart: Dad, what you just said was powerfully uncool.
Homer: You know what the song says: “It’s hip to be square.”
Lisa: That song is so lame.
Homer: So lame that it’s… cool?
Bart+Lisa: No.
Marge: Am I cool, kids?
Bart+Lisa: No.
Marge: Good. I’m glad. And that’s what makes me cool, not caring, right?
Bart+Lisa: No.
Marge: Well, how the hell do you be cool? I feel like we’ve tried everything here.
Homer: Wait, Marge. Maybe if you’re truly cool, you don’t need to be told you’re cool.
Bart: Well, sure you do.
Lisa: How else would you know?

 

Google A to Z

Out of morbid inquisitiveness, I decided to see what the top Google search terms were for each letter of the alphabet (i.e. what is the first suggested result if you only type in one letter). An intriguing snapshot of the current internet zeitgeist emerged…

A – amazon
B – best buy
C – craigslist
D – dictionary
E – ebay
F – facebook
G – google
H – hotmail
I – irs
J – jet blue
K – kohls
L – lowes
M – mapquest
N – netflix
O – old navy
P – pandora
Q – quotes
R – rebecca black
S – skype
T – target
U – usps
V – verizon
W – weather
X – xbox
Y – youtube
Z – zillow