How do you define COOL?

Anyone trying to come up with cool places in the US might not initially consider Indiana for the top of their list. Yet the Indiana State Museum is sponsoring an effort to have visitors (both on-line and in-person) help define what cool means to them.

What’s up with this?

Definitions of cool (both words and images can be submitted) will be part of the museum’s effort to recognize a native Indianan who has helped define cool to the world for nearly 60 years. Hollywood actor James Dean died in a car crash in California on Sept. 30, 1955, but he grew up in central Indiana farm country.

Dean was only 24 years old, and only one of the Hollywood film performances that would forever define his image had even been released into theaters (it was East of Eden). He died on the cusp of his impending fame, so when his roles in Rebel Without a Cause and Giant splashed onto the widescreen audiences knew that his talent had already been swept away.

Maybe that added to the allure that he projected on screen, a sort of vulnerable toughness mixed with a brooding sense of you’ll-never-understand-all-there-is-inside-of-me. Was the real James Dean cool? Or was it just the characters he played?

There is a famous comment on jazz music–“Man, if you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.”–and that from Louis Armstrong himself.

Maybe that’s how cool is, too.


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