Thursday, February 27, 2003

The Many Moods of Mark Dayton

Great picture of Mark Dayton in the Elder’s post below, wearing a variation of his customary pop-eyed, disconnected, goofy grin. Mysterious, bizarre facial contortions like this haven’t been seen since Dennis Quaid’s performance in “Great Balls of Fire.” Quaid’s comically inept attempts at portraying the down home country charm and brass of Jerry Lee Lewis resulted in him conjuring up a face not associated with any previously identified human emotion. I can best describe it as the look of a not particularly bright chimpanzee attempting to complete the Sunday New York Times Crossword, while sitting downwind from a cattle rendering plant operating in a manure lagoon.

But at least Quaid has the excuse he was acting. Yes, an acting performance that should permanently eliminate him from ever taking up a chair next to James Lipton Sunday nights on Bravo. In fact, an acting performance that should permanently eliminate him from appearing on the Humane Society’s Sunday night Pet of the Week segment on St. Paul Community Access Cable. But he was acting nonetheless. So what is Mark Dayton’s excuse?

His facial patterns evoke surprise, confusion, nervous excitement, and profound existential angst. Perhaps an understandable mix when you’re an elitist millionaire engaged in class warfare rhetoric while condemning the President over his position on national defense. But to use the same face when calling bingo at an old folks home!? What was he thinking? I suspect one or more of the following conditions applied:

* The good Senator was thinking to himself “yes, this is what the middle class does with their spare time, this is how the middle class behaves, I’m really getting in touch with the middle class here” and getting excited about how confident he’ll feel next time he’s up giving a speech on how he needs to raise their taxes.

* Not being intimately familiar with bingo, he was genuinely shocked by the number he was calling out. When the photo was taken he’d just finished exclaiming, “B-11! My God, what are the odds!” (Note to Senator Dayton, the odds of any individual number being called start at 75 to 1 and decline from there as the game goes on. In other words, not shocking, so you can relax).

* Not understanding what it meant for someone to shout out “Bingo!” during a game, Senator Dayton thought someone spotted Ringo Starr in the room and he was involuntarily letting forth an excited shriek.

* Just as the photo was taken, Senator Dayton was transitioning from being startled and confused to being mildly shocked and titillated, after an aide explained why the crowd shouted back “Oooooh 69” after the Senator called the number 0-69.

As he's quickly established himself as the smile on the Mona Lisa of Minnesota politics, I can't say which of the above motivations were behind that photo. But if there's ever a biographical film made of Senator Dayton's life, Dennis Quaid has to be the star, as he'll have found yet another use for that crossword puzzling, stench averse chimpanzee face. (Now THAT'S method acting.)

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