Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash: Mandela and me – a love story, mandatory college homework, and keying Michael Vick and Dallas

Matt Labash Columnist
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Editor’s Note: Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here

Dear Matt, When your Tony Award winning book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen and Jewish Cowboys”  was published last year  — a book that caused Oprah, our generation’s Christ, to say, “I want him to be my best friend if Gayle dies” —  I was too cheap to buy it. Any idea how I can get it at a discount?  —  Matt Labash

Be honest — are you reading my mail? It’s so weird that you asked me this question on the very day that Simon and Schuster is releasing the paperback edition. Now, for the rock-bottom Amazon price of $10.80, it can be yours. You could probably order it used even more cheaply. But you don’t want to buy a used “Fly Fishing with Darth Vader.” It could be germy. Especially if the original owner read the porn convention chapter. (If you do buy it used, please boil the book before handling it.)

But $10.80 – how much is that? Not much, it turns out. It’s about the price of two Starbucks lattes. Except that unlike at Starbucks, you don’t have to listen to Michael Bublé while waiting for your order to arrive. Put another way, it’s approximately half the price of Nelson Mandela’s “Conversations with Myself.” In fact, sources close to Mandela tell me that one conversation he had with himself was that “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader” was the only thing that got him through prison. Yes, he was released in 1990, some twenty years before it was published. But that’s what made Mandela, Mandela: prescience.

To sweeten the deal, I’m prepared to make an offer. If you order the book, and it doesn’t change your life, as it did Mandela’s, I’ll personally refund your money. If you can find me. And make me take out my wallet. And are strong enough to wrest a sawbuck from my clutches. I guess what I’m trying to say is if you want a refund, I’ll fight you. So don’t try to give the book back to me. You bought it. It’s your problem now.

Dear Matt, There is a new U.S. Department of Education regulation, set to take effect on July 1, which says that for each credit hour carried per week, a federal student aid recipient must spend at least two hours doing homework. Did you do that when in college? —  Glenn Bogart

Did I take government blood money to further my education? No, I’m a self-sufficient bootstrap conservative. In other words, I let my dad pay for it. Or perhaps you’re asking whether I studied two hours per week for every credit taken? Not on your life. To be sure, I probably did study more than the average college student does today. I went to college in the early nineties — the pre-Google era — meaning it took me much longer to find pre-written term papers to steal.

But let’s do the math: if a student took a robust 20 credits per semester, that would mean an unfathomable 40 hours of study per week, in addition to classroom time. Not only is it ridiculous to think that your average student requires that much homework to master their “Science of Harry Potter” class (an actual course at Frostburg State University). But that is positively un-American, and is against all the things our higher education system has come to stand for: sleeping till noon, smoking weed, partying until you pass out in a puddle of your own vomit.

If we want to stay competitive with China and India, which now crank out engineering graduates at four to seven times the rate of U.S. universities, we need to play to our strengths. What is our strength? We like to express ourselves and text each other a lot, i.e., social media. And nothing is less social than being stuck in your dorm room, doing 40 hours per week of homework.

Did you see this {story about Michael Vick getting a key to the city of Dallas}? I demand invective against Dallas. I mean first off, why is the Dallas mayor giving an Eagles player a key to the city?  Second of all, why is he giving a felon on probation the key to the city? Third of all, you know, the dogfighting.  – Packers Fan

No need to pile on. I grew up in Tom Landry’s Texas. So you had me at “Dallas mayor giving an Eagles player a key to the city.” As regular readers of this column know, I’ve taken care to hold my tongue on the subject of Michael Vick.  Just kidding. I beat the living snot out of him every chance I get, as I did here and here. In fact, I deliberated over running this question, since I figured savaging  the convicted dog-murderer twice in one month could be interpreted as gratuitously mean. That’s why I’m doing it a third time, so that no interpretation is necessary.

Like Michael Vick, Dallas mayor pro tem Dwaine Caraway clearly thinks the rules don’t apply to him, or else he’d spell his first name correctly. Though only an acting mayor, Caraway decided that the best way to monumentally disgrace his city while the eyes of the world were upon it for Super Bowl week was to entrust its key to Michael Vick, because apparently, splatting JFK’s brains all over Dealey Plaza had already been tried.

When he caught flack for it, Caraway defended his decision by saying that KISS’s Gene Simmons had recently been given the keys to the city for supporting the troops, while he gave it to Vick not for torturing dogs, but for “supporting the children.” Whatever that means, the comparison doesn’t really hold. Gene Simmons wears gaudy make-up and plays bad music. Michael Vick drowned, hung and electrocuted dogs.  Advantage: Gene Simmons.

For all the blowback, Caraway has stuck to his guns, while admitting to the Dallas Morning News , “I will be open and more respectful and careful in how I move futuristically.” But his logic is about as solid as his command of the English language. I don’t know of any children that need supported by Michael Vick, other than the ones he’s sired out of wedlock. I have two dog-loving children of my own, and they can’t stand Michael Vick. They’d like a key to the city, too, so they could scratch Vick’s car door with it.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is now out in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.