I remember being a teenager and spending hours looking at myself in the mirror, obsessing over how I looked, obsessing over my hair and skin and nose and how I looked from the side and behind, constantly comparing myself to others. It's all part of being a self-conscious adolescent in a culture obsessed with image. As I've grown older, my interest in how I look has waned a bit, but recently, there has seen a slight resurgence, I think, primarily due to the fact that I am getting older and I fear that I will lose touch with what is cool and trendy.
When I say "cool and trendy" I don't mean the stupid shit that teenagers care about today - I couldn't care less about most of that shit. I mean having a sense of coolness in the aesthetic and intellectual sense. I mean "cool" like my literary hero Christopher Hitchens, who'd sip a cocktail at all hours of the day with a cigarette in the other hand, quoting writers and philosophers from memory and telling anecdotes about humorous encounters with various public figures. The "trendy" aspect means taking care of my appearance in the sense that it will be apparent from someone looking at me that I've taken some consideration into how I look. It's not that I have to be the most stylish trend-setter in the room, but I don't want to be seen as some loser douche-bag who looks like he stepped right out of the 90s.
There's a different kind of cool that I like. It's the kind of cool that requires intellectual discourse with like minded people, over drinks at a dinner party or lounge. It's the kind of cool Sinatra had. What I want to help grow is a public understanding of the important issues in politics, and to let people know that it is cool to be well informed and have an opinion about things. There aren't enough "cool" youngish people in the media deeply concerned with politics, although it seems to be increasing. Since Barack Obama, there has been an uptick in interest in politics, but the American people are largely ignorant of the issues at stake today and are even more ignorant of the history behind them.
As I get older I care less and less about the pop culture world and what goes on in it and I care more and more about the realm of politics and science. These two areas have long been associated by those in the pop culture world as being lame, boring or generally uncool. And sure you have popular comedians like Bill Maher, John Stewart, and Steven Colbert making politics and the issues fun, but their fans fill a small niche that is not exactly by mainstream standards, "cool". There are high profile scientists that have become in a way, niche celebrities in a sense, but their message rarely penetrates the bubble they live in.
Maybe I'm getting in over my head here. Perhaps the number of people into politics and science will always be limited, just like the number of people into Death Metal or Swing Dancing will be. Perhaps that's just the way it is, or perhaps it should be that way. Because if stupid, ill-informed, pop culture drones start "engaging" in civil debate about politics, we might be awash with Sarah Palins and Herman Cain types.
..And that wouldn't be too good.