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Hammer nation

BY BEAU ELLIOT | JUNE 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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I generally don’t give out advice. I leave that practice to such experts as Michele Bachmann and Ann Landers (if they are, indeed, persons and not computer programs that William Gibson invented in an idle moment that he later regretted), who are much more qualified than I am. (Well, OK, I’m just hoping here. Pretty audacious, I realize.)

But I do have this bit of advice: If your landlord cheerily informs you that construction workers are going to install new siding on your house and it should only take two to four days — move somewhere far away.

Immediately.

WHAM WHAM WHAM. It’s amazing how the repetitive sound of hammers whanging away against the sides of your house, from early morning to early evening, can get inside your head.

WHAM WHAM WHAM. I think that’s an A-sharp below middle C, my former musician self says. Nah, I’m pretty sure it’s a B-flat, my current hammered self says.

Move to Maine, for instance. It has the advantage of not only being far away, it’s beautiful. And the lobster is cheap, relatively. (If you’re a member of PETA, my sympathies.) True, Maine does have two Republican senators, but they’re not your typical Republicans. (For one thing, they know that John Quincy Adams was not one of the Founding Fathers, as one of the above-mentioned experts, who is the poster woman for home-schooling, apparently does not; he was 9 in 1776. You go, home-schooling.)

WHAM WHAM WHAM.

Meanwhile, 25 percent of American college freshmen don’t know why Abraham Lincoln is important, NPR tells us, referring to an article in the New York Times. Well, that’s no surprise, you say — don’t American college freshmen rank 400th in the world in just about everything except Facebook friends?

Well, that’s being a tad cruel. And besides, there aren’t 400 countries on the planet, so American college freshmen can’t rank 400th.

WHAM, WHAM, WHAM. Who knew hammers could be implements of insanity?

Well, me, actually.

Meanwhile, back at American college freshmen (speaking of implements of insanity), it turns out that the New York Times article in question did not come out last week, or the week before that, or even last month.

The article was published in 1943. Yeah, I know. Greatest Generation and all that.

The good news in this is, contrary to popular belief, American college freshmen aren’t getting any dumber.

The bad news is — well, I’m a good-news kind of guy. I’m just going to let the bad news lie out there in the backyard with the scraps of vinyl siding and Jimmy Hoffa’s body (eat your heart out, Meadowlands).

It does raise the question (not beg the question — beg the question is a philosophical thing, invented by Aristotle in a idle moment that he later regretted, and you have to be a philosophy grad student to understand it): How could those 1943 college freshmen not know who Abraham Lincoln was. He’s on the penny. And, unlike today, in 1943, people still used pennies.

WHAM WHAM WHAM. It’s about as annoying as those interminable Charity Nebbe promo bits on Iowa Public Radio. I have nothing against Charity Nebbe; she has a fine radio voice and sometimes an interesting show. However, her Friday morning shows about horticulture, generally with two dry-as-tumbleweed Iowa State professors (is there any other kind?), puts me in a vegetative state.

(That’s pretty normal for you, isn’t it? I can hear some ex-girlfriends say. It’s ESP or something. Or maybe ESPN.)

WHAM WHAM WHAM. Spain produces as much energy as all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa put together, BBC tells me. I try to get my brain around what that might mean, but all I can think about is hammers.

You know, I always hated that song “If I Had a Hammer.”


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