Korea's cool. You didn't know? It must be, I saw a book in the Oxfam shop this morning called The Birth of Korean Cool. I suspect that the author's notion of 'cool' and mine differ, slightly. Well, anything can be 'cool' these days, can't it? Even in the office...
"I'll email her right away."
In years to come, not so many years at that, people in old folks' homes will be saying things like...
"Playing bingo this afternoon?"
Except, one assumes, that bingo won't be what's on offer for that generation. Which generation? Let's say the baby boomers, those born just after the Second World War. Oh, they'll remember bingo's popularity well, but those I know from that generation wouldn't be seen half-dead playing it in a few years time. Not even the women. I say that not because I'm sexist but because I only remember women playing bingo in the village hall when I was a kid. Perhaps I was the only boy there, with my mum. It was a night out! The alternative was staying in and watching The High Chaparral with my dad, which I didn't mind doing because I had a crush on Linda Cristal (pronounced "Cree-stal", Wikipedia informs me, thus evoking images of Mexicans in spaghetti Westerns saying " 'Ey, Gringo (pronounced "Gree-ngo").
My dad, along with every other man watching, probably had a crush on her too. Also, he didn't put up with Top Of The Pops all those years out of generosity towards his children. The producers weren't stupid. They knew that in Pan's People they had dancers that would entrap men from the pre-teen Pop years as well as the kids.
My dad wasn't into music. Any music. I don't think my love of music bothered him much until Punk which, as you know, had to be played loud. It demanded volume in direct relation to the shouty vocals. Then I got told to turn it down. Music to him was like a Caretaker track, some faraway memory of dancehall days. I'd moved out by the time I started listening to Albert Ayler otherwise the sound of his ghostly sax might have tipped my poor dad over the edge of anger into a form of insanity. Ayler probably does that to people now who are much younger than he was at the time.
'Cool' wasn't a word my post-Hippy generation used, as far as I recall. Being working class we had a different culture. None of us considered each other 'cool'. Other teens were either into the same types of clothes and music or nowhere, nobodies; worse still, Greasers. When did the rebirth of 'cool' happen? Did it creep in around the time, say, when clubbing was deemed 'cool' by everyone under 25? The time of superclub domination and the rise of Glastonbury to its current status as Place To Go for absolutely anyone, regardless of their musical taste or general cultural interest? I don't know.
So the word became meaningless through over-usage, a mere substitute for 'good'. In that sense it's similar to most cult-tural currency of old. Punk is a nostalgic gesture and 'hipster' is whatever hipster is today (I think beards are involved). It's a Cool World and Koreans are playing their part, so it would seem. Why not? Since the word is virtually meaningless, anyone can claim it as their own.