TIME person of the year

The Coolest Person of the Year

Joel Stein writes a weekly column for TIME magazine. His book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest For Masculinity, changes people’s lives.

For the first time in this column’s five-year history, we actually consult an expert

It is a great embarrassment that we here at TIME’s Coolest Person of the Year committee had never heard of Tulane associate professor Joel Dinerstein, who says he has taught a course for 17 years called the History of Cool and curated an exhibit of the 100 coolest Americans in history at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery this year. Considering how often the committee Googles itself and how similar the committee’s name is to Dinerstein’s, we really should have noticed.

But we are far more concerned that Dinerstein has never heard of TIME’s Coolest Person of the Year. Which means that while CPOY has become the definitive award of its kind–cited by Perez Hilton, the Huffington Post, Teen Vogue and the Google+ account we completely forgot we had–it hasn’t penetrated academia, which could be a pretty good gig for the committee when this journalism thing totally dries up.

So this year, we spent a lot of time kissing up to Dinerstein. We pretended to take notes when he told us that a cool person has to have at least three of four qualities: a signature artistic vision, rebellion, far-reaching fame and a cultural legacy. For 2014, Dinerstein suggested Jennifer Lawrence. In addition to starring in The Hunger Games, Lawrence gave an impressive response to the hack of her nude photos, placing the blame solely on those who looked at them. The committee wanted to ask Dinerstein if perhaps guilt was fueling his suggestion because he was one of those people, but it decided that was not the kind of question that lands a gig with summers off.

The committee ultimately decided that Lawrence has a bit too much enthusiasm to be the Coolest Person of the Year. We also considered the Pope and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. We were impressed by the Pope, who likes exorcisms (cool), Patti Smith (one of the 100 coolest Americans of all time), talking about his days as a bar bouncer (crazy-cool), the Big Bang theory (cool until the CBS show) and living like a pauper (cool, we guess). And at a time when nerdiness is very cool, Tyson wears his effortlessly, sporting celestial-patterned vests. But there were no Popes or scientists on Dinerstein’s 100 coolest Americans list, so we vetoed them. It was only later that we discovered that no Americans have ever been Pope. The committee looks forward to getting tenure and having grad students do its research in the future.

So the 2014 Coolest Person of the Year is a man who went from uncool to cool simply by deciding to. A Texan who is both a football-loving frat boy and hippie-dippie spaceman. A man with a clothing line who doesn’t seem to own any shirts. A man with a brother named Rooster and a nephew named Miller Lyte. A man who wouldn’t stop talking even if he were talking about religion with the Pope or celestial-patterned vests with Tyson.

Yes, as Dinerstein pointed out, “he loses a lot of points for his Lincoln car ads,” in which he pontificates deeply about nothing. Sure, it’s dorky to quote yourself in your own movies, and O.K., he tries harder than a 1980s sitcom character to create catchphrases out of “All right all right all right” and “Just keep livin’.” And yes, that is kind of a windblown mullet.

But that’s also what makes Matthew McConaughey so cool. Whereas others turn on their old uncool selves, mocking their dumb hair, dumb movies and dumb getting-arrested-for-playing-naked-bongos-too-loud-while-they’re-stoned, McConaughey defends his work as Kate Hudson’s rom-com co-star and says he still bongos pantless. The only thing that has changed is his transition from actor to ack-tor. This amalgam of mystic nihilist genius, self-help idiot, sensitive artist and cocky bro is authentic–and apparently makes the elderly want to buy crossover SUVs.

I verified our decision with a hardcore theater geek who sees cool actors saunter through her singing-and-dancing world all the time. “Matthew is a top-quality human being–exactly who you’d want to be lost in space with,” says his extremely talented Interstellar co-star Anne Hathaway. “He is as down to duke it out in a tough scene as he is to mix the margaritas for the after-party. And you know he is going to do both brilliantly.” Nevertheless, I suspect that Hathaway would be pleased if McConaughey did some more enunciation exercises.

Dinerstein approved of our decision, even though the real coolest person, he decided, was tuxedo-wearing psychedelic soul singer Janelle Monáe. At the risk of jeopardizing our future, the committee thinks Dinerstein is trying way too hard to be cool. He could take a lesson from McConaughey.

This appears in the December 22, 2014 issue of TIME.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME The Awesome Column

Here’s What Happened When I Outsourced My Entire Life

One of the two new Awesome Column logos I got for just $5.

It turned out pretty well actually

Recently, I decided to contract out the only thing I still do myself: write this column. You probably know about services like Uber, Amazon Fresh, and TaskRabbit that let you get Downtown Abbey-style service at budget prices. Now, through the magic of income inequality, web site Fiverr.com offers millions of services people will do for just $5.

Things went slowly at first—to read about my experience click here. But, eventually, like a robber baron eyeing a boat full of laborers, I really started making it rain $5 bills: I got a logo, a press release, a ukulele jingle, 500 copies posted around the University of Chicago, a translation into Chinese and a rap song by J.P. from L.A.

Here’s just a sample of what you can do in the new new economy:

Not one, but TWO Awesome Column songs

The Awesome Column Rap, Released: 2014.

The Awesome Column Jingle, Released: 2014.

Some Awesome Column in Chinese




An Awesome Column press release




Joel Stein Hires Fiverr Writer to Help Pen Column on Subject of Gig Economy

New York — Sept. 15, 2014 — Time Magazine humor writer Joel Stein wanted to tackle the subject of the “gig economy” in his weekly piece “The Awesome Column.” The gig economy is a term used to describe the increasing number of professionals opting to pursue freelance work rather than 9-to-5 jobs in the wake of the Great Recession.

Stein decided it would be fitting, in a column about the gig economy, to outsource the job of writing the column to a freelancer. So he turned to Fiverr, an online marketplace through which freelancers of all stripes offer various services for $5 a job.

But because finding a worthy writer on Fiverr was work in and of itself, Stein outsourced the job of finding a writer to another freelancer via the website TaskRabbit. That task was outsourced to actor, writer and jack-of-all-trades MacLeish Day, who helped Stein locate the Fiverr content writer Jeff Butts.

Stein didn’t just stop at one Fiverr gig. After hiring Butts to write the first paragraph of his column, he decided to order other Fiverr gigs and “make it rain $5 bills” on Fiverr freelancers.

In the column, Stein details his misadventures purchasing a variety of additional Fiverr gigs, from editing of the column to pictures of Serbian model Ivona Vračević holding a sign that says, “The Awesome Column by Joel Stein,” an original Awesome Column jingle by Orange County-based ukelele player and songwriter Ryan Heenan, and more.

Even this press release was a product of Fiverr.

“I believe, per amount of work I put in, this is my best column ever,” Stein said.

Stein’s Awesome Column on the gig economy will appear in print edition of Time Magazine on DATE. All of the outsourced work can be viewed at LINK.

Read Joel Stein’s Awesome Column at http://time.com/tag/the-awesome-column/. Follow Stein on Facebook and Twitter.

And, of course, an entirely outsourced Awesome Column

Outsourcing used to be something you only heard about big companies doing. “We just outsourced our help desk,” you might hear, or “We need to talk about outsourcing our design work.”

Recently, though, it’s become almost common for individuals to outsource their own work. Got some shopping you want to do, but just don’t have the time? A site like TaskRabbit can help you find someone else to handle it for you at rock-bottom prices. Need to find someone to fix that leaky toilet? Once again, TaskRabbit to the rescue.

If your needs are more design or technical oriented, that’s not a problem, either. Freelancers hire themselves out on sites like Fiverr, where you can get a 500-word blog article written or a graphic drawn for just five bucks, less than you might spend on lunch at McDonald’s.

What does it mean when you can outsource your own work for much less than you get paid to do it? It becomes pretty lucrative to have someone else write that report for you, freeing you up to do other things. However, how fair is this for the freelancer who is doing that work for what seems like pennies?

I could even hire someone from Fiverr to write this column for me, if I really wanted to. Would that be fair to the Fiverr seller, though, since I’m getting a salary here and that seller only makes 4 bucks off the article (Fiverr takes 20% of the price for their own pockets, leaving sellers with 4 out of 5 bucks.)

Fiverr freelancer clefmeister says that it isn’t all that bad. “Most of the things I do for $5 only take me ten or fifteen minutes to do, so I’m really making 20 bucks an hour,” he said. He also said that it can be interesting, the kind of things people ask him to write about.

“I’ve got one gig right now asking me to write about premature ejaculation. I don’t know what it’s for, though. It’s too early to tell,” he quipped. Too early, indeed.

While a site like Fiverr advertises that you can get anything for a five-spot, sellers can earn the right to charge more. “I have gigs that net me as much as a hundred bucks, with Gig Extras,” clefmeister told me. He pointed out that it takes time to build up to being able to charge that much, but there are ways to turn selling on Fiverr profitable.

This ability to outsource our work to others is a different twist for the economy. Many of the sellers on places like TaskRabbit and Fiverr are 100% freelancing, either because they prefer it or because they can’t get a job in today’s economy. Some, though, just do it for extra cash.

Also, there are the freelancers signing onto the site from other countries, where $5 American is actually a hefty salary. Whether it’s a fair price or not really depends on how you look at it. If the freelancers are willing to do the work for so cheap, why not take advantage of the opportunity?

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