Coolness in Uncoolness

Imagine that from one moment to another your boss starts wearing orange-tinted glasses to work every single day after previously never ever having worn colored-glasses the preceding 20-something years of being in business. There may even have been some business-related good reason to do so – yet, even when that reason is gone, your boss continues this unusual habit. Would you be amused, would you be worried? In any case, it wouldn’t be quite normal – and definitely not cool.

A secret of the Irish band U2 is that since 1976, they are able to discover coolness where others only see uncoolness. Take the ice sport curling – All players have brooms in their hands with which they either balance themselves while gliding on one shoe (without skates attached) in order to shove a huge heavy granite stone onto a sheet of ice, or they vigorously sweep the ice of the path lying ahead of the stone.

Curling is the secret inspiration for U2’s video to Vertigo. The goal of curling is to get the stones of your own team as close as possible to the middle of a target (thereby preferably kicking out the stones of the other team that are too close to the target). The target is called the “curling house” and it consists of a red bulls eye centre circle surrounded by one small white circular line and one larger blue circlular line painted flatly on the ground beneath the ice. U2 transfer this curling house from the ice to the desert and only retain the cool white from the original three colors, so that there is a white centre surrounded by a circle of desert sand, enclosed by a larger white circular line. The band members of U2 themselves represent curling stones strewn across the target.

U2 – Vertigo (2004):

In order to make explicit the coolness captured in curling even for the least initiated, at the count of “un, dos, tres, catorce!” (“1,2,3,14!”), a single, endlessly long straight line of black smoke bursts out of each of the band members black clothing (bono of course wearing a black leather jacket). The shape of the smoke stream symbolizes the path that each curling stone had to take in order to reach its destination, whereas the use of smoke itself symbolizes the combined energy of both the curler who delivered the stone and of his or her team mates who put all their energy into sweeping in order to fine-tune the motion of each stone.

All the other elements of the video, all the turbulennt transformations that occur to the desert landscape surrounding the target represent the excitement experienced by the spectators and players. In curling, each shot can completely change the relative position of each team, so it is not uncommon to rapidly switch back and forth between emotional ups and downs – just like the desert goes up and down around U2 playing on their curling house.

Finally, the Spanish outcries in the lyrics in combination with the desert at first distract from the Nordic icy inspirational roots for the video – however, in combination with the English outcries, it identifies the teams playing against each other: Spain vs. Ireland.

The fact that U2 are well aware of their rendering cool of elements typically considered as uncool is also reflected in their lyrics: “I’m at a place called vertigo – It’s everything I wish I didn’t know!”. Clearly, U2 are wishing that they didn’t know about the uncoolness of any of the things that they engage with.

And yet, Bono is perhaps most famous for wearing orange or blue-tinted glasses while explaining to politicians and fans all of the uncoolness that he detects resulting especially from the business and governmental actions undertaken in support of corporate capitalism.

Thus, the day your boss really shows up with tinted colored glasses may indeed signify upcoming positive changes. However, don’t be too quick with that verdict: After all, well before U2, a whole generation of San Franciscans already tried to make the world a better place simply by wearing flowers in their hair. (If that would have worked out, then South India, where an estimated 100% of the female population wear flowers in their hair, would have to be like the place with the lowest incidences of uncoolness – unfortunately, that is not the case):

Scott McKenzie – San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair), 1967:

So, before you can be sure about the nature of the change induced by your bosses choice of spectacles, you somehow have to involve your boss into a conversation on uncoolness. If the topic of conversation is chiefly concerned with eye glasses, you know you rejoiced too early. If however, for without any reason your boss suddenly is eager about discussing your company’s contributions to reducing injustices of the world, your prospects are more rosy. If you don’t believe that, just buy yourself some rose-colored glasses. Or join a winning curling team!

Have a rosy week,

Eric

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