DC at Night

DC at Night

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Smithsonian Sunday: Beyonce Bounced from Cool Category

DC's Smithsonian museums (there are 17 of them here in the city) are among America's most treasured and visited places. But the Smithsonian also publishes a series of some of the most interesting, fact-filled blogs appearing anywhere on the internet. Each Sunday, The Prices Do DC re-posts an entry that initially appeared in one of those highly-readable blogs. Hope you enjoy and maybe we'll see you soon at the Smithsonian.

Beyonce: Cool or not?
Everyone knows what "cool" looks like. It’s a pair of legs encased in worn jeans, slung over the sides of a Harley. A cigarette rimmed with red lipstick. The dark tint of a jazz musician’s sunglasses, which he wears onstage–at night–as his saxophone cuts through the din of a smoky club.
The term, which was first coined in the 1940s by Lester Young, the lead saxophonist in Count Basie's orchestra, has become ubiquitous in today’s slang. It’s also grown nebulous, conveying everything from a sign of explicit approval–“Cool!”–to an object’s cultural cache. But what makes a person... cool? 
Together, Frank Goodyear, a curator of photography and co-director of the Bowdoin Museum of Art, and Joel Dinerstein, a professor at Tulane University, have tried to answer that question. “American Cool,” an exhibition that the two co-curated at the National Portrait Gallery, is a collection of 100 photographs of men and women who’ve exemplified “cool” throughout history.
“When we use the word cool today, especially as an adjective, we’re tending to refer to something rather than someone,” says Goodyear. “What do we mean when we say someone is cool?’”
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