January 11, 2013

"…Seigniorage was The Kinks. The 14th Amendment was The Beatles…"

These sentences occur in a post about the strange origin of that strange trillion dollar platinum coin idea, and I'm highlighting them because the meaning of the analogy eludes me. A commenter describes them as "the greatest sentence I've read in a long, long time," but does not say why (and also muddies the waters even further by referring to the Rolling Stones, the Who, and Ravi Shankar -- thanks for that, Eris Kallisti.)

Here's the paragraph in full:

But in the summer of 2011 as the debt limit fight raged and liberals searched desperately for an escape hatch, the platinum coin was overshadowed by the idea that the Constitution rendered the national debt inviolable — another clever, though more legally dubious, debt limit workaround. Seigniorage was The Kinks. The 14th Amendment was The Beatles.
Does he mean, simply, that the Beatles are more important than the comparatively insignificant Kinks? i.e., that the Beatlesy 14th Amendment is the big deal here, while the "jumbo coin" of the Kinks is merely an obscure sideshow? Or is there some deeper relevance to the debt issue that my tiny mind can't quite grasp?

If that is all he means, there are certainly clearer rock and roll analogies to be made, e.g., Beatles : Monkees (though I'm on record as disagreeing with the thrust of that one); Beatles : Bay City Rollers (though the Rollers are under-rated, too); Stones : Aerosmith, maybe; Led Zeppelin : Foghat, or Quiet Riot, or, like, anyone; Clash : Rancid; etc. I've never seen the Kinks as merely an also-ran, the poor man's Beatles, in that way, though I suppose there are those who do. There's not quite so much distance there, by my lights, and certainly not so much distance that I'd imagine the analogy would be self-explanatory, as the author of this post evidently does.

Now, I've always been the kind of guy who says Kinks / Who when asked to supply the name of a rock and roll band most emblematic of the way I'd like to be judged as a person in a general way. By that I never mean that I dislike Elvis, Beatles, or the Rolling Stones. It's more a statement about temperament and sensibility, a preference for being slightly off the beaten path (but no more than slightly, and certainly a good deal more slightly than the pretense pretends); a preference for staring off wistfully and sensitively into the distance while the rest of the crowd is "mixing" and whooping and hollering and agreeing enthusiastically with one another about every single thing, and possibly as well an admission that there are all sorts of things I can't explain. That's probably why the analogy in the cited article confused me so much initially, because that is my immediate, instinctive reaction to the trope of Kinks vs. Beatles when I see it, dubious as it is as a concept. What is it, I wondered, about the idea of President Obama doing an end run around the Congress by minting a one trillion dollar platinum coin that suggests a preference for needing no friends and finding paradise in gazing at the sunset?

I still don't get it, and I don't care very much anyway, but if the logic behind the analogy is simply "the Beatles were more popular, hence better, than the Kinks were," well, rather than waste time disagreeing, I'd prefer just to say fine, let me gaze at the sunset in peace then.

People often do take this British-invasion-artists-as-personal-emblem thing quite as literally and seriously though. I once managed to ostracize myself, just a bit, from the entire entourage on a tour my band did with the Dickies by answering "Kinks" to the question "Stones or Beatles?" In the world of the Dickies, and, I think maybe my bandmates as well possibly, being a Stones person meant you were wrong about everything there was to be wrong about, but your preference for evil rather than good was comprehensible. A Stones person is wrong, but at least potentially a lovable rogue nonetheless. But being a Kinks person… well, Stan Lee looked at me with pity and contempt, as though I were morally and intellectually lost, a kind of subhuman non-person. He would pass me back stage, pause, look up to make eye contact, and shake his head sadly, muttering "Kinks…" And my relationship with Leonard Graves Philips suffered a blow as well: there were, thereafter, fewer of those awkward, arm-around-the-shoulder avuncular advice moments that we used to share from time to time (for the lack of which I was just about equally relieved and chagrined.)

Or then there was the time I said "the Who" when I was asked what bands I liked by one of a gaggle of drunk girls at this pub in Derby.

"The 'oo?" she shrieked. "The 'oo? Me bruver likes the 'oo. And he's guy in it."

By which she meant "he's gay, isn't it?" -- "guy" being the British pronunciation of the English word "homosexual." I probably should have said Oasis (which is the British pronunciation of the English word "Beatles.") You have to learn the code over there. Anyway, her clear implication was that there was something not quite right about the 'oo, and people that admit to preferring them. But that is an implication I can live with, even if I can't explain it, as long as you let me gaze into the sunset in peace.

As for the trillion dollar coin, good luck with that.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:24 PM

January 10, 2013

Will You Still Love Me When I Don't Love You?

She's quite a something:

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:27 PM