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Assmunch agonistes 

Q. I’ve heard that you’ve gone to calling yourself The Columnist Formerly Known as Assmunch, with some sort of symbol, probably Satanic, as your signature. What gives with that?

A. It’s a base canard, being maliciously spread by my enemies — or by the same people who are saying Mike Huckabee, in an act of desperation, will insist on being listed on Republican primary ballots next year as “String Bean.” (Personally, I don’t think that listing, charming as it is, would win him enough votes to put him over the top.)

As for the symbol, it’s merely a magnified asterisk, with a wholly appropriate resemblance to what you would expect a symbol for somebody named Assmunch to resemble. I suspect the confusion came about when I inserted the symbol into the text of a column recently to indicate a footnote at the bottom of the page. Some editor with nothing better to do deleted it — with a curt follow-up memo that Arkansas Times columnists are expected to get along without such hoity typographical or compositional aids as footnotes, to stagger along without them if it comes to that — but word of the deletion somehow got out, and thus the legend began that the aggrieved symbol had thereupon stolen the ol’ moi identity, like one of the Body Snatchers.

I signed a few e-mails with it, that’s all. I’m not thereby comparing myself to Prince, or whatever that ankh is calling itself these days. Not at all. This isn’t The Artist’s symbol, and I’m not The Artist. If you want to call me The Columnist, as a compact way of saying The Columnist Formerly Known as Assmunch — well, I’m still wiggling toes, trying to decide if that shoe fits.

Q. I know what most of the chat-room and blog abbreviations stand for, but WTF does WTF mean? You see it on there all the time.

A. DIIK.

Q. I just saw a commercial promoting “television’s most prestigious fishing tournament.” How do they measure prestige in a TV fishing tournament, and can they measure it with sufficient accuracy to justify making this claim?

A. It’s a complicated formula, but it uses the same standards that are used to measure classiness in mobile-home parks, and also the aesthetic criteria that Paula Jones once used in her daily selection of designer chewing-gum brands. It hurts your tournament prestige rating if your fishermen are the type that emit loud, rude bodily noises, who chugalug beers and then toss the bottles, and who have been disqualified in tournaments past for pouring lead shot down the gullets of their fish just prior to the weigh-in.

Tournament fishing is on my merde list anyway because it took a reputable therapeutic pastime and turned it into something competitive and stressful. I’ve always thought that when the Bro.-ex-Gov. someday finds his true calling, after all of these awkward delusional fizzles, it’ll be as a tournament fisherman. From fisher of men to snagging largemouths.

Q. Our Sunday School is getting up a bus trip to the new creationism museum near Cincinnati. This is the one with the triceratops wearing the saddle, suggesting it was Cain or Abel’s pet. Now I’m a Christian, Assmunch, but I think these yahoos are kidding themselves. I think it might be a case of what we used to call whistling past the graveyard. What do you think?

A. My guess is that what scares people about evolution isn’t that they might have baboon cousins but that evolution might be an ongoing process. That’s exactly what it is, of course. It didn’t stop, or reach some sort of pinnacle, when human beings appeared. We were whirled up out of old forms, and this form, ever in transition, will morph into another and on into many others before the experiment mercifully concludes. Our descendants in a million years might be as different from us as birds are from tyrannosaurs, and their descendants a million years after might be that much different from them. Evolution dethrones us from atop the Creation and inserts us into the democratic middle of it, where a vast number of critter types come and go and constantly reconfigure. Just the thought of that can shake the foundations of a mythology that’s a right smart shaky to begin with, and it can discourage or diminish afterlife fantasies by its utter indifference to them. Denial of the obvious apparently makes life easier for some people, for whom also wishing for a thing seems for them to make it so.

The helpmeet here, Mrs. Assmunch if you will, notes the museum reference above and remarks on the late abundance of museum news, including the excellent report in these pages on progress at Crystal Bridges, and, her favorite, the opening of the Billy Graham Library museum in Charlotte, N.C. You enter the Billy facility through a faux barn in which a mechanical talking cow recounts Billy’s godly childhood, and then instructs visitors to kindly mooooove along. Perfectly in keeping with the Billy Graham summary contribution to American discourse over the last 50 years. In the amended South Park musical rendition, “Billy G. was a righteous man, dum dum dum dum dum.”

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