july 2009

Dunce's Corner

Governor Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina)

thumbnail'I love the curves of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of night's light...' -email from Gov. Mark Sanford to his girlfriend in Buenos Aires, dated 10 July 2008

In one fell swoop South Carolina's Republican Governor Mark Sanford has wrested the Dunce's Cap crown from John Rich—the dunce who keeps on giving—with his antics in South America. The Gov, a fount of pious moralizing when President Clinton was found to be canoodling with an intern, gave new meaning to the expression "hiking the Appalachian trail" when he admitted his five-day disappearance in June was for purposes of hiking an entirely different trail in Buenos Aires, Argentina, one that ran through the married Gov's girlfriend's apartment. From now on when we hear couples talk about "hiking the Appalachian trail," we'll thank the Gov for clueing us in on the new code for sexual congress—timeless euphemisms are an art unto themselves.

It was indeed rich stuff—even beyond schadenfreude—to watch the sanctimonious Gov sweating like Nixon as he stumbled and bumbled his way through an explanation of his whereabouts and his malfeasance; even better was his followup press conference the next day when he had the cojones to compare himself to King David of Biblical times. In his Huffington Post blog of June 27 (titled "Vanity Affairs"), Michael Sigman, former publisher of L.A. Weekly (and son of one of America's great pop songwriters, Carl Sigman), bested all other commentators in his analysis of L'affair Sanford.

For one, Sigman offers, "Sanford's melodramatic, sweeping apology could serve as the video dictionary definition of 'How to make things worse when you get entangled in a web of lies.' Dripping with operatic self-pity—'I spent the past five days of my life crying in Argentina,' he said, 'so I could come back and cry here'—he apologized to his wife, kids, assorted friends and colleagues, constituents and, unless I misunderstood, every sentient being in this and all parallel universes. (Note to the Governor: when you say 'of my life,' it's a narcissistic tell. They were the past five days of our lives too.)." To this Sigman adds an elegant coup de grace: "Any doubt that this was an affair of the ego was laid to rest when Sanford used the word 'self' three times in one brief, nonsensical sentence: 'The biggest self of self is indeed self.' Indeed." 'Governer Sanford is joining the growing army of social conservatives who have decided to get a jump on destroying their own marriages before same-sex couples could do it for them.'

Taking note of Sanford comparing his plight to that of King David, whom the Gov said, "fell mightily...but was able to pick up the pieces," Sigman offers this reality check: "But King David really did repent, deeply and for years, and wrote a bunch of hit songs in the process. I'm afraid the kindest thing that can be said about Sanford's analogy would be to paraphrase Bill Clinton, another philanderer who lied through his teeth until he got caught: It depends on what your definition of 'picking up the pieces' is."

Peter Sagal (who, by the way, was once an extra in a Michael Jackson video), the insanely quick-witted host of NPR's essential Sunday morning news quiz program, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!," neatly summarized the whole sordid mess and related misdeeds on his show's June 28 broadcast. Governor Sanford, he observed, is "joining the growing army of social conservatives who have decided to get a jump on destroying their own marriages before same-sex couples could do it for them."

Governor, your free (our dime, not South Carolina's), one-way ticket to Buenos Aires is waiting. For once, do the right thing: take a hike.

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'Hello, boys, have a good night's rest? I missed you!'

Joseph Pujol, aka Le Pétomane, circa 1890
Note: Mel Brook's Governor William J. Le Petomane in Blazing Saddles is named in homage to one Joseph Pujol, who is described thusly in Wikipedia: "Le Pétomane was the stage name of the French professional farter and entertainer Joseph Pujol (June 1, 1857-1945). He was famous for his remarkable control of the abdominal muscles, which enabled him to fart at will. His stage name combines the French verb péter, 'to fart' with the -mane, '-maniac' suffix, which translates to 'the fart maniac.' The profession is also referred to as 'flatulist,' 'farteur' or 'fartiste.' The big finish of his stage act was him farting his impression of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He could also emulate the sound effects of cannon fire and thunderstorms, as well as playing "O Sole Mio" and "La Marseillaise" on an ocarina through a rubber tube in his anus.


Chuck D being his usual articulate self

Chuck D

non compos mentis

Now we have the entirely predictable spectacle of Chuck D opining ignorantly about another superstar artist, blaming American hypocrisy and corporate skullduggery for Micheal Jackson dying of "a broken heart and a broken soul," as if this most controlling of artists did not attain all the power and glory he sought for himself. On WYNC's "The Takeaway," Mr. D bloviated, "I think you've got to talk about Michael Jackson without talking about all those '90s nightmarish cases that everybody seems to think of him as. I think of Michael Jackson as a brilliant artist and entertainer, and all those other issues about the plastic surgery or the child molestation, they're irrelevant to me."

Irrelevant, huh, Chuck? Well, you've never been one to let facts get in the way of your preconceived notions. As when you famously, and more than once, declared Elvis Presley to be a racist, with no supporting evidence whatsoever, and indeed, substantial evidence to the contrary. Michael Jackson's plastic surgery irrelevant? Consider then that Scott L. Spear, chairman of the plastic surgery division at Georgetown University, studied Jackson's case and concluded the artist suffered from acute body dysmorphic disorder (from the Greek dys, meaning bad or ugly, and morphas, meaning shape for form)—self-loathing on an Olympian scale. As the Washington Post's Courtland Milloy noted, "For Jackson, this meant a world of pain." Still think it's irrelevant, Chuck? Child molestation irrelevant? A reported $20 million payoff to the first family of the youngster he was accused of molesting is hardly irrelevant. Dismiss this if you want, "all those '90s nightmarish cases," but it's evidence of a supremely damaged man who was both a danger to himself and to others. And no one, least of all Chuck D, could reign him in. Now look where we're at.

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