Burned on the Fourth of July

Oh, the M80s' red glare

We've all heard the horror stories: Barbie, stripped naked and forced to straddle a cherry bomb. GI Joe sent into orbit with a roman candle. The backyard birdhouse packed with bottle rockets and lit up like an Afghan village.

Our sweaty flashbacks take us to a morning raid on Ant Hill, where, thanks to an overprotective, paternal arms dealer, there was nothing but a few packages of firecrackers to get the job done. It was hands-on and messy, but the carnage was addictive -- using a sparkler for smoke cover, the assault began. THUMP! The first bunker-buster sent a shock wave that had those little bastards scurrying in a pheromonal frenzy. Poof. The second round was a dud but packed enough punch to take the wings off one of their fly boys. Pu-pop, pop, pop, pop! A cluster assault blew open a crater, exposing their dietary death chamber, where the sight of moth-, butterfly- and other insect fragments had us convinced that this pyrotechnic snicker-and-eww! campaign was more than playful -- it was just. No picnic lunch, no barbecue, no unsealed box of crackers would be safe unless every one of those sons of bitches was wiped off the face of the lawn.

Airplane glue, roadside flares and birthday candles had their charms, but only fireworks would get the job done. The plan would have to be covert and include a weapon of mass destruction: the dreaded M-80, acquired from the neighborhood pyromaniac through a complex arms-for-Häagen-Dazs deal.

Before you send your kids out solo with explosives, ask yourself: Is this how Donnie "D-Day" Rumsfeld got started? -- Tom R. Arterburn

Barbecue This!

FRI 7/4

Perhaps you feel there's nothing wrong with eating meat. Humans have eaten animals for thousands of years, right? Yes, but hunting healthy game in the forest is vastly different from driving SUVs to the supermarket to buy factory-farmed beef, chicken, and pork loaded with hormones and antibiotics. The smallest dietary choice can have enormous consequences. This Fourth of July, change the menu of your barbeque -- try a veggie-cue! You'll be helping the environment, your health and the animals. So douse some tofu or tempeh in barbeque sauce, throw it on the grill along with some potatoes and corn, and enjoy a delicious meal that effects positive change. -- Guy Gray

Thank You, No

Noted punk-rock musician and exemplary American Mike Watt once remarked that "this country was built by complainers." Indeed. Since its inception, America's relentless pursuit of, well, everything has been tempered and shaped by our equally potent "NO." No tax on tea; no more slavery; no more drafts. The unique birthright of every American is the power to say "no" at anytime, to anyone. This gift of negation is one of the best ways to celebrate America. You don't have to be rude or brusque about it; civil disobedience (emphasis on "civil") is a fantastic, patriotic display of American pride. So tell someone you disagree with that you disagree with them. America is proof that if you get enough "no's" together, you'll change the world. -- Paul Friswold

Drinks Are on Us

Now that Martha Stewart is heading for the clink, you'll need to come up with your own fancy ideas for backyard parties. But that's okay; ingenuity is an American trait. However, if you're unsure about which charming drink to serve at your 'cue, try this: Simply dip a "bomb pop" in a glass of chilled vodka and have at 'er. It's red, white, and alcoholic, which makes it the perfect Independence Day elixir. If your in-laws are coming down from the Hamptons, use orange popsicles and lemon-flavored vodka. It's simultaneously classy and trashy. The vodka gives it a continental flair, and the melting popsicles give everyone sticky hands and happy childhood memories. We call it the Great American Melting Pop, but you can call it whatever you want. It's a free country, so drink up. -- Paul Friswold

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