Columns » Bob Lancaster




It's time for another installment of the occasional question-and-answer feature Ask Ol' Assmunch.

This is the summertime installment, and will be limited to questions about summertime topics submitted by recent high school and college graduates. As you probably know, Assmunch has been banned by the Arkansas Commencement Activities Association from speaking at graduation ceremonies, so he's reduced to treating in this forum the many questions that graduates are eager to ask a man of his great experience and erudition.

In case you didn't know, he was banned because he persisted, after repeated formal warnings, in making anti-inspirational graduation speeches, even at high-class educational institutions. His message to Arkansas youth was one of unrelieved hopelessness. He told graduates that most of them would wind up living in trailer-park squalor, with snotty unambitious children who themselves would face an even bleaker future, and then they'd have to raise the children's children while the worthless children were out gallivanting irresponsibly around. The highest calling any of them would aspire to would be assistant manager at one of the squat-and-gobbles.

    When the 2008 graduates got old, they wouldn't be able to draw any Social Security, not ever having paid any in, but Social Security would be long-nonextant anyway, and, unable to afford being sent to rot in a nursing home, the class-of-'08 grads would most likely be put out beside the road, like Helena does stray dogs, where, if they wanted to form oldtimer hobo camps with zombie-looking invalids fighting over roadkill scraps, then their degenerate no-teeth descendants to the fourth generation still hunkered in the foul ruins of the old original homestead singlewides surely wouldn't care.

A heart-breaking situation all around.

The Arkansas Commencement Activities Association's position was that this drear Assmunch vision of the future was unrealistic, or maybe overrealistic. In any event, it was uncalled for. It would depress and demoralize Arkansas youth for no good reason. It would turn them into a generation of scoffers, unappreciative of traditions such as the Hope Watermelon Festival, and of heroes such as David O. Dodd, the Developmentally Challenged Boy Martyr of the Confederacy.

Today's graduates don't need such discouragement; they need uplift. They need motivation to hurry out into the workaday world where they might win a place on the yanking-poultry-innards line if one comes available, then home evenings to the tin mansion to numb out on idiot TV in order to anesthetize tomorrow and the next 30 years. If there's not a graduation speaker to buff a rosy hue onto that very likely likelihood, how can we expect enthusiasm in the graduate going out to meet this glorious destiny?

On another career track, even if it's true that, should they exceed all expectations and claw their way upward to, say, a coveted associate's position at, say, Wal-Mart, then some company sleaze like Tom Coughlin will slither in and screw them out of any benefits their hard work might have earned them, and for a few more months than expected  send them scuttling back to the vittle bins with the bent cans long expired if they want to go on eating, or to the poor house if they've given up on such an extravagance as affordable nourishment, why should they have to hear about that now?

The world will disabuse them soon enough. Let them be young and carefree for a little while yet.

That in short was, and is, the Arkansas Commencement Activities Association's view. It could hardly be more different from Assmunch's, which advocates brutal honesty up front with the little bastards so that they   won't be coming back later with a lot of 20-something and 30-something whining about what a crappy legacy we left them. In this matter, at this juncture, Assmunch and the association are at what is called loggerheads, meaning in this instance not a kind of turtle, or a kind of shrike, or a lumberjacks' portable toilet , but rather a kind of standoff – the Mexican kind.

I don't see how the thing can be resolved, both sides being mighty stiff-necked, as the Lord was always calling the Israelites, but in the event that either neck limbers noticeably in the foreseeable, I'll try to remember to let you know.

    OK, now, if you'll pardon that lengthy digression — pretty numbing in its own right I see looking back — we can move on to those summertime questions from those budding supersizers and nuggeteers

Q. I was wondering about the old summertime baseball rule that you're out if you hit 99 fouls in one turn at bat. Is it really a rule? Who made it up, Bowie Kuhn? Ford Frick? It's not on Google.

A. Let me get this straight: You're going into the definitive part of your life and this sort of foolishness is what rouses your curiosity?  Do me a favor. Read some Shakespeare, some Joseph Conrad, some Wally Hall. Expand those horizons.

My space has run out but the others are comparable. Civilization teeters, but when has it not?

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