Who is an American Cool. From Madonna to Shakur. The meaning of ‘J’

#AmericanCool #Cookednews

Defining who’s ‘cool’ is a slippery enterprise, but that’s never stopped anyone from trying. Bogart? Hendrix? Anita O’Day? Of course. Madonna? Hmmm.

‘Bogart was cool: no one used the word then, but it’s the term everyone reaches for now,’ writes the literary scholar Joel Dinerstein in American Cool, which he co-authored with photographic scholar and curator Frank H. Goodyear

Besides Bogie, the reach of those who make cut in this sleek book of photographs interspersed with essays includes Johnny Depp, civil rights protestors, Miles Davis as he appeared on the cover of Ebony, Elvis, Robert Mitchum, Jack Kerouac, Amiri Baraka, Bob Dylan, Anita O’Day, Madonna, Tupac Shakur, Susan Sontag, Selena, and sundry others.

For years, cool fell into the gray zone of semantics like that on which a Supreme Court justice meditated in consideration of pornography: he admitted that he could not define it, but he knew it when he saw it.

We should hope that the Supremes will attend the American Cool exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (American Cool is the catalog for that exhibition.) This show is an impressive exercise in semantics and a grand slice of national history; the photographs are thoughtfully orchestrated, the ideas behind the concept argued with intelligence and flash.

We can picture the quickening pulse of political and news celebrities in the pagan city on the Potomac, milling about the gallery, wondering why the photographs show none of them. (The Obamas are only mentioned in the text.) But in a city where politics has degenerated into a tawdry suburb of celebrity, the edgy outsider nature of cool doesn’t sync with democracy as reduced to a muddy floor show on the nightly news.

‘Cool figures are the successful rebels of American culture,’ writes Dinerstein, the James H. Clark Endowed Chair in American Civilization at Tulane University. ‘To be cool is to have an original aesthetic approach or artistic vision—as an actor, musician, athlete, writer, activist or designer—that either becomes a permanent legacy or stands as a singular achievement.’

That explains Brando, Duke Ellington, Greta Garbo, Muhammad Ali and of course James Dean. Obama seems to have edged into the text by virtue of being dubbed ‘Mr. Cool’ in a magazine article. The president’s charisma lands him, at least in passing prose, on the same page with an image of Walt Whitman and the front page of Leaves of Grass.

Men far outnumber women in American Cool. ‘It is rare to find an article, website, or blog post declaring anyone ‘Ms. Cool,’” writes Dinerstein, “despite the plethora of cool women in this book, from Georgia O’Keefe, Bessie Smith, and Dorothy Parker to Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, and Missy Elliot.’

Walt Whitman ‘first carved out a space for cool by valuing personal experience and bearing over education and experience.’

The gender tilt lies in “the presumed association between cool and American masculinity,” he notes, and “the persistence of a double standard where independent, sexually confident women are concerned.”

Double standards, of course, are made to be exposed.

American Cool does have curious omissions. Bill Clinton, who played saxophone with sunglasses in 1992 while campaigning on the talk show hosted by Arsenio Hall (who is absolutely cool) and went on to an impeachment drama for his sexual rebellion, did not make the cut. The book does not explain Clinton’s absence, which seems, like, un-cool.

John Wayne had a macho, bravura image that sizzled hot, but he’s in this parade as ‘the stoic tough guy’ who once said, ‘Mine is a rebellion against the monotony of life.’ Cool enough.

But the scandal of this book and exhibition is that Marilyn Monroe is nowhere depicted. One of the sexiest movie stars of all time, the woman who married Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller, is not cool? Says who? And Audrey Hepburn is? And Susan Sarandon, too. No offense to them, but stiff-arming Marilyn Monroe is grounds for—well, not a congressional investigation, we don’t want to get them near this. Let’s settle on a televised debate at NEH.

Hemingway is shown on p. 89, pensive with rifle at a pheasant shoot in Idaho. ‘He wrote in a terse, clipped style that featured stripped-down dialogue and characters unanchored from society. While he portrayed man as essentially alone, he admired ‘grace under pressure,’ a phrase often considered synonymous withcool,’ writes Frank H. Goodyear III, co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, who shows a wise hand and keen eye in arrangement of the images in book and exhibit.

Cool as persona and trait arose in the movies and music of the early and middle decades of the last century; it had a strong African-American stamp. Jazz was outsider music that moved mainstream, and then with bebop moved back on the edges. Musicians such as Charlie Parker, Count Basie, and Lester Young exuded the aura of outsider-as-insider. Zora Neale Hurston occupies a page in a photograph as threshold-breaker, justly so. But Wynton Marsalis is nowhere in American Cool. Maybe he’s too inside to go back outside. He’s still a study in cool.

As sports photographers gave an icon like Ali his heft in the popular culture, the oceanic coverage of rock and roll put stars like Jimi Hendrix on the cover ofRolling Stone, which is always cool.

But there are no pictures here of Scarlett Johansson or Halle Berry. The editors chose ‘a certain triangulation of factors aligned in mysterious balance’ on the selection process, which includes a ten-year period of probation or candidacy consideration for a potential Coolite, a time in which status can crash in scandal or somnolently diminish.

 ‘In the next generation it is likely that women will outnumber men for lasting iconic effect and innovative artistic impact,’ Dinerstein writes. Those who make the potential list include Esperanza Spalding, Janelle Monáe, Pink, Jennifer Lawrence, Tina Fey, Ani DiFranco, Connie Britton—and (drum roll) Michelle Obama and Rachel Maddow. The First Lady will presumably achieve a plateau of cool once she is out of the White House, no longer bound by media expectations of decorum, and free to speak her piece. Michelle and Barack may be the ultimate cool in politics.

But Rachel Maddow is already cool, many times over, by treating political hypocrisy as a form of farce with intellectual agility you don’t find among other anchorpersons. If anyone in the media stands in the front line of cool, it’s Rachel.

Jon Stewart is in American Cool because he is Jon Stewart. But there is no presence for Steven Colbert. Another mystery. Was it something he said?

‘Of the actresses who emerged in the early 1990s with the moxie to walk the line of regular gal and badness,’ continues Dinerstein, ‘there was a cohort including Winona Ryder, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore, Halle Berry, and Uma Thurman. Each of these actresses let the industry shape their careers or cuddled up with the media, became cover girls, or self-destructed.’

There you have it. Media-cuddling can be a kiss-of-anomie for women on the cusp of cool. Men who are cool, or wanna be, can’t be seen as cuddling with the media though they need all the media they can get to stay in the magazines. Goodyear writes learnedly of the role magazines played in capturing those who became cool. Influential photographers who covered jazz, sports, rock, and the movie world were pivotal to this cultural process. Magazine exposure makes a difference, even today as ‘the paparazzi continue to provide largely unscripted images’ that put the cool person in a moment of drama, off-script, in the life s/he enacts.

‘Those who convey this magnetic attraction often feel as though they are living in two bodies—one that belongs to the world and another that is their own and often hides in plain sight,’ writes Goodyear. His analysis also applies to any number of garden-variety celebrities, even Chris Christie, at least the part about two bodies, or let us say “selves,” one hiding in plain sight.

With smaller photographs arranged through the text, more than half of the book is given over to full or half-page pictures of the anointed cool, with short biographical commentary. You might call this the Hot 100 but Top 100 is probably more appropriate. The range of choices is intriguing.

Number 1 is Walt Whitman, ‘who first carved out a space for cool by valuing personal experience and bearing over education and experience.’ The author of the classic Leaves of Grass was also ‘a proto-hippie and sensualist who celebrated the dignity of work, a gay man who wrote lyrically of the male body.’ Cool then, cool now, cool forever, Mighty Walt.

Fredrick Douglass the great abolitionist, heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson, Georgia O’Keefe, H.L. Mencken, Michael Jordan, Joan Didion, Bill Murray, Angela Davis, Hunter Thompson, Johnny Cash, and Billie Holliday, among others in this sweet romp all stood or stand for life, liberty, and the pursuit of rebellion in American Cool.

Jason Berry’s books include a novelLast of the Red Hot Poppas.

 #cookednews #Cookednews 

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A dark day in Europe Statement of Foreign Policy 2014, on Ukraine

#Kiev #Sochi2014 #Ukraine

It is a dark day in Europe. On the streets of one of our capitals, people are being killed. Their demands were simple and natural: democracy, reforms and European cooperation. Their desire was, for a long time, the desire expressed by the entire Ukrainian nation. And this was why we in the European Union, through the Eastern Partnership, opened the door to cooperation, trade, reforms and integration.

We did so because we too were convinced that this was in the interests not only of Ukraine, but of the whole of Europe. But let us be clear about what happened. Last summer, Russia launched a single-minded pressure offensive to make Ukraine deviate from its chosen course. Brutal trade barriers were combined with open threats. And a wavering leadership in Ukraine gave in.

But when they gave in, it was seen as a betrayal by all those people who had hoped for a better future. The European flag flew in Maidan Square as a symbol of the desire for a better future. People wanted to move forwards alongside the rest of Europe – not backwards towards the all too well-known. Without those threats from Moscow and the wavering in Kiev, Ukraine could today have been clearly on its way to a better future.

The International Monetary Fund, with support from us all, was prepared to offer an economic assistance and reform programme. And the door to European political cooperation, and the political solidarity that goes along with it, had been opened.

Not all of the problems had been resolved. But Ukraine was, with broad European and international support, clearly on a path to a better future. But this future of European cooperation was a future that powerful forces did not want to see. And that is where the responsibility for the killings on the streets of Kiev clearly and ultimately lies.

Today, President Yanukovych has blood on his hands. And I am afraid that the path he has now taken will lead to even more suffering and violence. He was the only one who could have prevented the killing – by extending a hand of genuine cooperation to the democratic opposition.

Instead they were shown a fist. People have been shot dead with live ammunition. Peaceful demonstrators. But police officers and others have also been harmed in the violence that broke out. I am afraid that Ukraine is now heading for dark times. The crisis in the country will become deeper and longer. I am deeply concerned.

But the outcome of the violence will be precarious and short-lived. It will die away like a storm on the steppes. What has happened, and is happening, in Ukraine also demonstrates the power of the European dream. A Europe of peace and freedom and cooperation.

And sooner or later, it will triumph in Ukraine too.

Statement
Ministry for Foreign Affairs 19 February 2014
Carl Bildt, Minister for Foreign Affairs Sweden

Contact
Erik Zsiga
Press Secretary to Carl Bildt
+46 72 573 91 30
email to Erik Zsiga

#Ukraine #euromaidan#Kiev,  #CookedNews

The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance

thedaywefightback.org

TODAY, FEBRUARY 11TH, 2014 IS THE DAY WE FIGHT BACK AGAINST MASS SURVEILLANCE

The NSA ‘has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world.’ (The New York Times)

The NSA is collecting the content and metadata of emails, web activity, chats, social networks, and everything else as part of what it calls ‘upstream’ collection. (The Washington Post)

The NSA collected ‘almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks’ in one month in 2013. (The Guardian)

Governments worldwide need to know that mass surveillance, like that conducted by the NSA, is always a violation of our inalienable human rights.

Over the past year, more than 360 organizations in over 70 countries have come together to support the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.

These thirteen Principles establish the human rights obligations of any government conducting surveillance. They are the core of an international movement to compel all states to stop the mass spying of the innocent. The Principles are already being used in national campaigns and international pressure to reign in spies including the NSA.

On Anniversary of Aaron Swartz’s Tragic Passing, Leading Internet Groups and Online Platforms Announce Day of Activism Against NSA Surveillance

Mobilization, dubbed “The Day We Fight Back” to Honor Swartz & Celebrate Anniversary of SOPA Blackout

A broad coalition of activist groups, companies, and online platforms will hold a worldwide day of activism in opposition to the NSA’s mass spying regime on February 11th. Dubbed ‘The Day We Fight Back‘, the day of activism was announced on the eve of the anniversary of the tragic passing of activist and technologist Aaron Swartz. The protest is both in his honor and in celebration of the victory over the Stop Online Piracy Act two years ago this month, which he helped spur.

Participants including Access, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, BoingBoing, Reddit, Mozilla, ThoughtWorks, and more to come, will join potentially millions of Internet users to pressure lawmakers to end mass surveillance — of both Americans and the citizens of the whole world.

On January 11, 2013, Aaron Swartz took his own life. Aaron had a brilliant, inquisitive mind that he employed towards the ends of technology, writing, research, art, and so much more. Near the end of his life, his focus was political activism, in support of civil liberties, democracy, and economic justice.

Aaron sparked and helped guide the movement that would eventually defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act in January 2012. That bill would have destroyed the Internet as we know it, by blocking access to sites that allowed for user-generated content — the very thing that makes the Internet so dynamic.

David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, which he co-founded with Swartz, said: ‘Today the greatest threat to a free Internet, and broader free society, is the National Security Agency’s mass spying regime. If Aaron were alive he’d be on the front lines, fighting back against these practices that undermine our ability to engage with each other as genuinely free human beings.’ According to Roy Singham, Chairman of the global technology company ThoughtWorks, where Aaron was working up until the time of his passing:

‘Aaron showed us that being a technologist in the 21st century means taking action to prevent technology from being turned against the public interest. The time is now for the global tribe of technologists to rise up together and defeat mass surveillance.’

According to Josh Levy of Free Press:

‘Since the first revelations last summer, hundreds of thousands of Internet users have come together online and offline to protest the NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance programs. These programs attack our basic rights to connect and communicate in private, and strike at the foundations of democracy itself. Only a broad movement of activists, organizations and companies can convince Washington to restore these rights.’

Brett Solomon, Executive Director, Access, added:

‘Aaron thought in systems. He knew that a free and open internet is a critical prerequisite to preserving our free and open societies. His spirit lives in our belief that where there are threats to this freedom, we will rise to overcome them. On February 11th, we’ll rise against mass surveillance.’

On the day of action, the coalition and the activists it represents make calls and drive emails to lawmakers. Owners of websites will install banners to encourage their visitors to fight back against surveillance, and employees of technology companies will demand that their organizations do the same. Internet users are being asked to develop memes and change their social media avatars to reflect their demands.

Websites and Internet users who want to talk part can visit TheDayWeFightBack.org to sign up for email updates and to register websites to participate. Regular updates will be posted to the site between now and the February 11th day of action.

WHO: Access, Demand Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, The Other 98%, BoingBoing, Mozilla, Reddit, ThoughtWorks — and many more to come

WHAT: Day of Action in Opposition to Mass Spying, Honoring Aaron Swartz and SOPA Blackout Anniversary

WHEN: February 11, 2014

HOW INTERNET USERS CAN HELP:

  1. Visit TheDayWeFightBack.org
  2. Sign up to indicate that you’ll participate and receive updates.
  3. Sign up to install widgets on websites encouraging its visitors to fight back against surveillance. (These are being finalized in coming days.)
  4. Use the social media tools on the site to announce your participation.
  5. Develop memes, tools, websites, and do whatever else you can to participate — and encourage others to do the same.

    TAKE ACTION NOW, #CookedNews,#stopspying, #stopspying

    https://thedaywefightback.org/

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