Don’t get too hip

Politics and other mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  March 8, 2006

Officials at the Maine Department of Agriculture and Assorted Other Kultures (MDA&AOK) are still reeling (the reel being the coolest dance they know, except for the hucklebuck and the hokey-pokey) from the news that TV celebrity Homer Simpson has endorsed Maine potatoes. “That’s the bee’s knees,” said department spokesman C. Montgomery Burns. “Twenty-three skidoo and oh, you kid.”

Burns’s excitement was tempered by being somewhat unclear as to who Simpson is. “He isn’t that awful football fellow who didn’t kill his wife, is he?” he said. “Or perhaps he’s related to the late Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. Endorsements from royalty really help reach today’s youth.”

At the Maine Potato Board (motto: “President William Howard Taft Enjoys Our Spuds Every Day”), officials seemed at a loss in assessing their new-found fame by association. As one bureaucratic hepster noted: “This Simpson, he on the wireless or somethin’?”

Like much of Maine government, the board and the department are mired somewhere in the past century (or the one before). Otherwise, they’d have just stirred up the coals in their wood-fired computers and given the hamsters that power their modems a extra food pellet. Then, they’d have gone online and learned that during an episode of “The Simpsons” on February 26, the aforementioned Homer Simpson appeared on national television with the words “Eat Maine Potatoes” tattooed on his arm and was seen lying in bed chomping on the state’s trademark tubers.

Within minutes of the show airing, supermarket shelves nationwide were stripped bare of anything resembling a Maine spud, including bags of small, dirty rocks and, in at least one instance, a package of freeze-dried goat testicles.

Governor John Baldacci’s office immediately issued a press release proclaiming “Homer Simpson Day” and announcing the governor planned to contact Simpson to arrange joint appearances at venues where Maine potatoes are served, including the Old Orchard Beach Pier (motto: “Gulls Love ‘Em”), the State House cafeteria (motto: “Legislators and Bureaucrats Love ‘Em”) and homeless shelters (motto: “Maybe What Was In The Dumpster Wasn’t So Bad, After All”).

State budget officials also decided to boost revenue estimates for the next fiscal year by “several gazillion dollars,” due to a projected increase in receipts from the potato tax. (Informed by a member of the news media that there was no such thing as the potato tax, a spokesman for the Maine Revenue Service suggested the reporter, “Plug your pie hole, unless you’d like there to be a smart-mouth muckraker tax.”) Legislative budget committee leaders promptly announced they’d honor Simpson’s contribution to Maine’s economy by spending the new revenue on beer.

Which seems appropriate, because as everybody outside state government knows, Maine potatoes have just won the seal of approval of a drunkard, glutton, ne’er-do-well and buffoon. Having Homer Simpson as your front man for quality is like having Bode Miller endorse your youth aspirations program. (“Dudes, it doesn’t, like, matter if you win or, like, lose. What matters is ... uh ... like, whatever.”)

It’s inevitable that state government, having been exposed to modern cultural icons, will be seeking other glamorous celebs to promote its endeavors (“Hey, let’s call up Rudy Vallee”) and distract the public from its inherent ineptness (“Maybe they’ll make ‘Deuce Bigalow III’ in Maine”).

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