Special Snowflakes


Wandering into a hipster-type boutique in the East Village to buy a present for an Evil Santa/White Elephant type thing during a brief stop in NYC, I heard this song playing:

I really liked this album when it first came out, still do I guess.  From the wiki page for the album:

In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Pecknold admitted that his girlfriend of five years found the stress this album placed on their relationship too much, and ended things. Upon hearing the completed album, she realized that Pecknold’s efforts were worth it, and they tried to work it out. The couple has since split up.


Added to this, he stated they wanted to record very quickly, saying he wanted to do the “vocal takes in one go, so even if there are fuck-ups, I want them to be on there. I want there to be guitar mistakes. I want there to be not totally flawless vocals. I want to record it and have that kind of cohesive sound. Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, to me, is the best-sounding album because it sounds like there were only six hours in the universe for that album to be recorded in. So I want it to have that feeling.

(Remember now that after reading this for the first time when the album first came out, I went back and gave a good hard listen to Astral Weeks, which I found totally boring even though I’m obsessed with the Van Morrison song “And it Stoned Me”:

Morrison, in 1985, related the song to a quasi-mystical experience he had as a child:

I suppose I was about twelve years old. We used to go to a place called Ballystockart to fish. We stopped in the village on the way up to this place and I went to this little stone house, and there was an old man there with dark weather-beaten skin, and we asked him if he had any water. He gave us some water which he said he’d got from the stream. We drank some and everything seemed to stop for me. Time stood still. For five minutes everything was really quiet and I was in this ‘other dimension’. That’s what the song is about.)

Anyway, we’re talking about snowflakes.  Here are the opening lyrics of the song Helplessness Blues:

I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me
But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be
I’ll get back to you someday soon you will see
What a striking and succinct summation of what we might call “the hipster dilemma.”  The same album starts out with these words:
So now I am older than my mother and father
when they had their daughter
now what does that say about me
Now, ain’t that exactly an anxiety that drives sensitive youngish people of “my generation,” what I will crudely call hipsters, crazy?

A snowflake, from the wikipedia page “snowflake,” which I am free to use and remix provided I attribute the photographer, Dakota Lynch.

The snowflake is a powerful image.  At what point did the idea that “every snowflake is unique” get taught to every schoolchild in America (or at least snowy America)?  Here is George Will turning the idea of “special snowflakes” on its head, in a piece about the recent fusses at Yale and elsewhere:
On campuses so saturated with progressivism that they celebrate diversity in everything but thought, every day is a snow day: There are perishable snowflakes everywhere. The institutions have brought this on themselves. So, regarding the campuses’ current agonies, schadenfreude is not a guilty pleasure, it is obligatory.
It’s possible Peggy Noonan beat him to it.  Addressing (more or less) young people in a May column about “trigger warnings”:
I notice lately that some members of your generation are being called, derisively, Snowflakes. Are you really a frail, special and delicate little thing that might melt when the heat is on?
Forget the point they’re making about kids today, let’s stick with the metaphor.  There’s something interesting in the fact that snowflakes are wondrous and individual, our symbol for special uniqueness, but also that snowflakes are weak and useless unless heaped in an enormous pile of other snowflakes, completely subsumed as individuals and lost forever into a mass of snow.

Snow and ice: how are they different?

The song could equally be “I was raised up believing I was somehow unique, a snowflake distinct among snowflakes” etc “but now after some thinking, I’d rather be a snowflake in a huge snow pile melting into individual nothingness but perhaps collective somethingness among other snowflakes.”
Snowflakes: worth thinking about!  More from wiki:
In 1988, Nancy Knight was documenting snowflakes for the National Center for Atmospheric Research and found two identical snowflakes of the hollow column type.
Was all set to have a laugh at whether this was the best use of Nancy’s time but then found this wonderful obituary of her.  No one who took part in the National Hail Research Experiment will be mocked on this page.
Nancy’s colleagues recall her spirited approach to hunting for hail and other items of interest. “Some of my most hilarious memories of Nancy on field campaigns were driving,” says Karyn Sawyer, the former director of UCP/JOSS. “We’d be rocketing along a dirt road somewhere, and she’d insist that we stop because she had spotted an interesting bird.”

Nancy Knight w/hail

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