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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, May 16, 2005

Pop culture gives business a new 'cool'

By Larry Ballard
Des Moines (Iowa) Register

Business is becoming cool again.

That's right, business is becoming hip. More edgy. Or, as today's hip and edgy people like to say: "More in line with my personal preferences. Yo."

For too long now, business news has been considered boring, drab and dry enough to spontaneously burst into flames. That's why the business section is always back with the classified ads, which are fire-retardant for your protection.

Luckily, my new friend Aleah Sato at Ricksticks.com predicts big changes ahead. Cool changes.

Ricksticks is a forward-thinking graphic design and marketing communications firm in Toronto. Aleah (a cool name to begin with) co-owns the company and maintains its blog.

She says business is poised on the cusp of a new wave in coolness. Aleah says the trend is evident in the way business has been embraced by popular culture, particularly reality TV. It probably started with "The Apprentice," although I would argue that while "cool" comes in many forms, none of them include a guy whose hair looks like meringue.

But the show's undeniable success has spawned other hip-business-as-reality shows. In Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's upcoming "American Start-up," for example, eight young business people will get seed money and compete for market dominance. (No word on whether they will be forced to eat larvae as one of the "challenges.")

"The backlash against the anti-corporate attitude of the '90s is giving way to a new wave of youth-looking-for-their big break," Aleah told me. "The 'no pain, no gain' creed of the '80s is back."

She says the trend is driven by "a nation of Republican rule" that has "ushered in a breed of youth with dollar signs in their eyes and credit cards to pay off."

I say it's about time.

(I'm not sure, however, about the Republican angle. After all, I work in the news media, where politics run the gamut from ultra liberal to very extremely ultra liberal.)

But if Aleah is right, we can say goodbye to some of the bad publicity the business world has endured over the past few years, what with Enron and Martha (and the grocery clerk who decided that my fresh tomatoes would fit in the bag so much nicer if they were under the canned goods).

I look forward to a return of the good ol' days, when Big Business was king and anyone connected to it — say, a biweekly columnist, for example — was automatically cool.

In those high-flying days, Hollywood made movies like "Wall Street" (1987) that highlighted business heavyweights. Even Canadian rock bands sang the praises of corporate America. Let's see, there was Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend," and before that, Bachman Turner Overdrive did "Taking Care of Business." (Technically, it was released in the '70s, but it has been stuck in my head since the summer of '83).

Back then, business was, for lack of a better phrase: like, totally awesome.

"With new heroes now being found on Wall Street and in the self-made-man arena, I wonder what this newfound entrepreneurial trend will bring?" Aleah asked rhetorically.

If I'm lucky, the movement will bring a measure of carte blanche, a modicum of panache — and a big ol' helping of whatever the French word is for "cool."

No longer will business people have to deal with the stereotypes and stigmas. No longer will their section be relegated to the bowels of the newspaper.

Biz chic is back, baby.

"It's cyclical, I believe," Aleah says. "We'll go through this for about eight to 10 years, then do the liberal agenda for a while, and business schools will see a small decline in enrollment."

In other words, let's enjoy it while we can.