4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

What separates Schoenberg from a toddler bashing on a piano

The pointless “uniqueness” you’re talking about is pure randomness

Not actually a doctor.
Not actually a doctor.

Dear Hipster:

I get how it’s cool and hipster to have obscure, preferably one-of-a-kind aesthetic sensibilities, but I don’t get why it’s important. This is kind of abstract, but how is there any value in being different purely for the sake of being different? I suppose you could make a random series of movements and noises, set in a random location, and the odds are good that it would qualify as a unique gesture that had never before been attempted by any human being. Although it would arguably entitle the person doing it to claim he or she invented something new and unique, all I can say to that is, “S.F.W.”? That doesn’t seem to move the proverbial needle of humanity in any particular direction, because it’s ultimately nothing more than an empty gesture. Isn’t it better to be the best at something familiar because at least there’s some way to measure that?

— Anthony, Normal Heights

Can a human being ever truly hold a unique thought, speak a one-of-a-kind phrase, or accomplish a singular act? Or is it the case any individual human’s thoughts, words, and deeds can never be truly sui generis because they can only be understood in terms of what has already been done, and so they are, therefore, definitively not unique? I bet legitimate philosophers have wrestled mightily with these questions; and I further suspect these twin mysteries have gotten the better of one or two Ivy League Ph.D. candidates over the years. Comparing an actual philosopher to me is like comparing an actual doctor to somebody who has watched every episode of Doogie Howser, M.D. and House, M.D. But rather than be intimidated by my poor qualifications, I’m encouraged by the fact that, like a teenager permitted to drive Mom’s minivan aimlessly around an empty parking lot, there’s little chance I can do serious damage to the topic.

Some might say the greatest of all the hipster put-downs is to call something derivative. For example, you might say a band sounds “like early Pixies.” That appears to be a compliment, at least if you like Pixies. In reality, it’s a veiled putdown for the same reason you don’t want to draw attention to the obvious fakeness of that Louis Vuitton backpack you bought from the back of a van when you were on vacation in that small Eastern European country that one time.

The pointless “uniqueness” you’re talking about is pure randomness, and randomness isn’t the same as originality. There’s a line somewhere between the deliberately unique and the equally deliberate yet pointlessly random. It’s a super important line. It’s what separates Schoenberg from a toddler bashing on a piano; and it’s the difference between a Rothko and a wall where city workers have indiscriminately covered up graffiti with differently colored blocks of paint. The closer you get to that line, the harder it becomes to convince people you’re not just some goober standing in a field in Siberia shouting nonsense words into the wind because you can. It’s ultimately worth the difficulty to creep out on that particular ideological precipice, because the further you get from the mainstream, the less competition you face in the race to be yourself, and the less likely you are to accidentally end up being somebody else, which is among the least hipster, and therefore most boring, of the many fates a person might suffer.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Tijuana journalists accuse Facebook page operator after Margarito Martinez death

Tijuana en Guerra vs. La Noticia con Angel
Not actually a doctor.
Not actually a doctor.

Dear Hipster:

I get how it’s cool and hipster to have obscure, preferably one-of-a-kind aesthetic sensibilities, but I don’t get why it’s important. This is kind of abstract, but how is there any value in being different purely for the sake of being different? I suppose you could make a random series of movements and noises, set in a random location, and the odds are good that it would qualify as a unique gesture that had never before been attempted by any human being. Although it would arguably entitle the person doing it to claim he or she invented something new and unique, all I can say to that is, “S.F.W.”? That doesn’t seem to move the proverbial needle of humanity in any particular direction, because it’s ultimately nothing more than an empty gesture. Isn’t it better to be the best at something familiar because at least there’s some way to measure that?

— Anthony, Normal Heights

Can a human being ever truly hold a unique thought, speak a one-of-a-kind phrase, or accomplish a singular act? Or is it the case any individual human’s thoughts, words, and deeds can never be truly sui generis because they can only be understood in terms of what has already been done, and so they are, therefore, definitively not unique? I bet legitimate philosophers have wrestled mightily with these questions; and I further suspect these twin mysteries have gotten the better of one or two Ivy League Ph.D. candidates over the years. Comparing an actual philosopher to me is like comparing an actual doctor to somebody who has watched every episode of Doogie Howser, M.D. and House, M.D. But rather than be intimidated by my poor qualifications, I’m encouraged by the fact that, like a teenager permitted to drive Mom’s minivan aimlessly around an empty parking lot, there’s little chance I can do serious damage to the topic.

Some might say the greatest of all the hipster put-downs is to call something derivative. For example, you might say a band sounds “like early Pixies.” That appears to be a compliment, at least if you like Pixies. In reality, it’s a veiled putdown for the same reason you don’t want to draw attention to the obvious fakeness of that Louis Vuitton backpack you bought from the back of a van when you were on vacation in that small Eastern European country that one time.

The pointless “uniqueness” you’re talking about is pure randomness, and randomness isn’t the same as originality. There’s a line somewhere between the deliberately unique and the equally deliberate yet pointlessly random. It’s a super important line. It’s what separates Schoenberg from a toddler bashing on a piano; and it’s the difference between a Rothko and a wall where city workers have indiscriminately covered up graffiti with differently colored blocks of paint. The closer you get to that line, the harder it becomes to convince people you’re not just some goober standing in a field in Siberia shouting nonsense words into the wind because you can. It’s ultimately worth the difficulty to creep out on that particular ideological precipice, because the further you get from the mainstream, the less competition you face in the race to be yourself, and the less likely you are to accidentally end up being somebody else, which is among the least hipster, and therefore most boring, of the many fates a person might suffer.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Where is San Diego's local news going now?

Times of San Diego, Voice of San Diego, Union-Tribune, San Diego Community Newspaper Group, O.B. Rag
Next Article

Series of crimes already by 23 years old

Judge James Simmons: "Don’t let anybody else dictate how the rest of your story will go."
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close