Sunday, June 3, 2018

Devo – "Through Being Cool" (1981)

We're through being cool
We're through being cool
Eliminate the ninnies and the twits

Your Nation’s Capital is now a cool city, according to a recent Washington Post opinion piece by law professor David Fontana.  He thinks that is “terrible news for American democracy”:

Like all hip cities, contemporary Washington combines cool with a distinctive local flavor.  New York is where cool meets money, Los Angeles is where cool meets beauty, San Francisco is where cool meets technology — and Washington is where cool meets government.  

That combination has created a class of people unique in American history.  If the late 1990s and 2000s produced the hipster as a new type of cool in some of America’s more stylish cities, the more recent past has produced Washington’s version of it: the “govster” — a person who is able to enjoy the benefits of living in a cool city while also working for the federal government or somehow exercising influence over the direction of national politics.

David Fontana is anti-cool
Fontana says that one of the things that makes Washington cool is its chi-chi restaurant scene:

[T]he new Washington was rated by Zagat as the nation’s hottest dining city in 2016.  The capital received its first stars from Michelin that same year.  José Andrés, one of the world’s most prominent chefs, started in Washington before branching out elsewhere.

This represented a major change, according to Fontana:

For a long time, Washington was more like Atlanta or Buffalo or Kansas City.  It had . . . restaurant scenes just like these cities did, but [DC-area] restaurants couldn’t be compared to those in Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco.  Today, that’s no longer true.  

Why does Fontana think that’s “terrible news for American democracy”?

The fear is not just that cool Washington will increasingly struggle to relate to America, but also that America will struggle to relate to it.  Can people who live in Atlanta or Buffalo or Kansas City fully connect with a metropolitan area where the median home value is half a million dollars? 

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Observer writer Davis Richardson says Washington isn’t a cool city, and never will be one (world without end, amen): 

The Washington Post ran an uninformed piece on Monday claiming that Washington, D.C. is cool.

Although the town is rapidly gentrifying . . . it is a mistake to conflate unaffordable housing with trendiness. 

(True dat.)

Pundit Davis Richardson
While the author of the Post‘s suspicious report recognizes the city’s elitism and disconnect from everyday Americans . . . he fails to recognize how miserable of a place D.C. actually is to live, even for those who can afford to gallivant from pastel Georgetown townhouses to sprawling Maryland country clubs.

Having grown up in the city’s surrounding suburbs, I will be the first to tell you that D.C. is a beautiful town filled with hideous people, all slogging their resentments across grueling beltway commutes.

That doesn’t really have anything to do with the city’s foodie culture, but no matter – I love snotty rants like Richardson’s piece.

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To go back to Fontana’s thesis, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in his triumvirate of American cool, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco.

As for the three burgs he chooses to represent uncool America, I know Kansas City well, but am generally ignorant of Atlanta and Buffalo.

I’m guessing that Washington is more like Atlanta than any of the other cities named by Fontana, although it does have some things in common with New York City.  Of course, you could say a minor-league baseball player has some things in common with Aaron Judge.

Aaron Judge and Jose Altuve
Washington may have a thriving restaurant scene, but that hardly makes it cool.  If you ask me, musicians and artists and writers and other creative types do much more to determine how cool a place is than its restaurants.  

That’s not to say that you have to be a musician or an artist or a writer or other creative type to be cool.  Not all creative types are cool, and not all cool people are creative types.  But I think cool creative types and cool non-creative types are both in relatively short supply here.

What qualifies me to say that?  God knows I’m not cool at all, but I do think I know cool when I see it.  Of course, I could be sadly mistaken about that. 

In the next 2 or 3 lines, I’ll tell you about one of the restaurants that makes Washington so cool.

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“Through Being Cool’ was the first track on Dev’s fourth studio album, New Traditionalists, which was released in 1981.  

Click here to watch the music video for “Through Being Cool.”

And click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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