Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A YouTube Experiment

Okay, I decided to try making my own little video. I grabbed some images I like - though so many are still hidden on my old hard-drive - and went looking for a software program I could use. And it had to be free! (yeah, I'm a tad cheap!)

I found Microsoft's Photo Story 3 for Windows. Looked perfect, so I downloaded it. And went through the obligatory validation process. I also had to update the Windows Media Player to make it work, but the Photo Story won't install without the Media Player update, so it isn't like you get fooled! LOL It tells you!

Still with me?

I installed and opened the Photo Story and got to work. It's fairly easy to do! Wow! By the time I got all the images set up the way I wanted them, I began to worry about the music. See, I tried SlideShow online last evening - two hours of uploading images and setting them in the right order, only to discover that you can only add the music they have on the site. Sheesh!

No way! Not what I wanted!

Well, Photo Story 3 lets you add whichever music you wish. You just browse for it and add it. Previews are offered at each step. Now the biggest question ... will YouTube be able to display it? Huh? Huh?

Whew! Yeah, they let me upload it, and after a few minutes of looking for it, there it was! My own amateurish video attempt! So let's see if it was worth all that time, eh?

The music is by Ferd Grofe`. From the Grand Canyon Suite, I used the Sunrise movement. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know if you don't, too!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Weekend Continues

I remember reading a story many years ago, that may have been apocryphal, yet remained with me all these years. It seems that during World War Two, while the Soviets were trying to defeat tiny Finland, and bring it back into the Russian fold - it had been a Grand Duchy in Czarist times, gaining its Independence in 1917 - (this is the 'Winter War', which the Soviets essentially lost, by the way!), an aged, semi-retired composer by the name of Jean Sibelius, would trudge out of his house, into the snow, taking his hunting rifle with him, and fire at the Soviet planes as they flew overhead. He was in his late 70s by then. And that struck me!

What a spunky old man!

Sibelius is best known outside Finland for a few works, among them Valse Triste, the Karelia Suite, and The Swan of Tuonela. But he is best remembered for "Finlandia", a nationalistic piece that was composed in 1899, then rewritten shortly thereafter as the final movement became something of a Nationalist Anthem for the Finns. I have a nice version of it below, from YouTube, with images and video of Finland.

conductor:Paavo Berglund

orchestra:the Philharmonia Orchestra

The piece was composed for a patriotic pageant performed to mobilise popular opposition to the revocation of Finnish independence from the government of the Russian Empire.

Most of the piece is taken up with rousing and turbulent music, evoking the national struggle of the Finnish people. But towards the end, a calm comes over the orchestra, and the serenely melodic Finlandia Hymn is heard. Often incorrectly cited as a traditional folk melody, the Hymn section is of Sibelius' own creation.

Sibelius later reworked the Finlandia Hymn into a stand-alone piece. This hymn, with words written in 1941 by Veikko Antero Koskenniemi, is one of the most important national songs of Finland.

Incidentally, the 1990 film Die Hard 2 ends with Finlandia (the director, Renny Harlin is Finnish). Fans of the Die Hard films will probably recognize the music.

This is one of my Classical favorites! I hope you enjoy it, too. And enjoy the scenery during this hot summer.

And just to make sure you enjoy some nice music, here's Edvard Grieg's "Morning Mood" from the Peer Gynt Suite. I know you'll recognize it. As Wikipedia says:
"Morning Mood" (Norwegian: Morgenstemning) is a composition belonging to Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt suite. Used often in television commercials and motion pictures, the piece depicts the rising of the sun. Next to In the Hall of the Mountain King, Morning Mood is Grieg's most known work.

Contrary to popular belief, it was not meant to depict a sunrise over the Norwegian fjords. It was actually meant to depict a sunrise over the Sahara Desert.

Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway, on 15 June 1843. His ancestors were Scottish; the original family name was spelled "Greig". After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, his great-grandfather travelled widely, settling in Norway around 1770, and establishing business interests in Bergen. Grieg was raised in a musical home. His mother, Gesine, became his first piano teacher.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Nice Music: The Weekend Is Here, So Enjoy

A long time ago, at the birth of the British Invasion, a small group in Birmingham, England attempted to create some kind of R&B/Rock 'N Roll fusion and failed. They managed a single hit song, "Go Now", and pretty well disbanded. They called themselves the Moody Blues. Over time new members were added and they revamped their sound completely. The three remainng original members, Ray Thomas, John Lodge, and Michael Pinder recruited others, among them, Justin Hayward and Grame Edge. Those five musicians became the group that gained fame. In 1967 they produced the album, "Days Of Future Passed" which was an enormous hit, both in merry Olde England, but around the world as well. Two of the songs on that album are among the most easily recognizable Rock hits in history, namely, "Nights In White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon".

Here's a live recording of the Moody Blues playing "Tuesday Afternoon" for a small crowd. For me it's a very lovely song, one I could never quite sing - not enough breath to hold Justin's long notes - but which I still enjoy. Recognize it?

The first Moody Blues album I heard, and bought, was "On The Threshold Of A Dream". My friend, Jimmy Oswald, played it at his house one afternoon, and I was hooked. And the songs on it are the ones I like most of all by the Moody Blues. Maybe because it was the first MB album I owned? Dunno, but it's how I feel.

One of the songs on that album is called, "Never Comes The Day". I like how it moves from ballad to rock and roll and back. It's pretty. And it's here for you, as well! LOL

It seemed forever from "Seventh Sojourn" to "Octave". In fact, by the time "Octave" was released I had thought the Moody Blues had disbanded. And in fact in 1973 they announced that they were disbanding, after "Seventh Sojourn" went to Number 1 in 1972. Only Justin Hayward wanted to continue. They all went their own ways and worked solo.

In 1977, with Mike Pinder now living in California and raising a family, they got together there to begin work on an album. They produced "Octave" which I eagerly snapped up. Although it wasn't their best work, it has its moments and some nice songs. One of the prettiest is "Driftwood". This is a studio production of the song. The keyboardist is no longer Mike Pinder who didn't want to tour any longer. Patrick Moraz, who had been asked to leave the band Yes, was hired to take Pinder's place. But it is Pinder's work you hear on this version. Moraz would be asked to leave the Moody Blues later on, after they heard him bad-mouthing them in an article in Keyboard magazine. Nice career, eh? Anyway, here's "Driftwood". Enjoy.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Things I See!

From Patricks blog, "Born Again Redneck Yogi", came this odd quiz. And odd results. *shrug*
How to Win a Fight With a Liberal is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Conservative Identity:

You are a Freedom Crusader, also known as a neoconservative. You believe in taking the fight directly to the enemy, whether it’s terrorists abroad or the liberal terrorist appeasers at home who give them aid and comfort.

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

Sherwood "Sherry" Magee - 105 Years Ago

When I was growing up in the 1960s, I was a baseball fan. I followed the Philadelphia Phillies, though they had fallen a long way from the heady fame of 1950 when they were dubbed "The Whiz Kids". I grew familiar with such names as Clay Dalrymple and Ruben Amaro, Johnny Callison and Bobby Wine, names that are less known today. And of course I cheered for Jim Bunning, Chris Short - the pudgy pitcher whose odd delivery resulted in him falling off the mound - and the aging Robin Roberts, one of the finest pitchers in Phillies history.

By 1964 the Phillies fortunes seemed to be on the rise and that ellusive pennant was well within the team's grasp for the first time in 14 years. Ahead by 6 1/2 games with only 12 to play, they were on their way to the World Series. Phillies fans could feel it, taste it! And what a team! Outfielder Johnny Callison narrowly missed being the National League MVP, and was awarded the MVP for the All-Star game that year. Third baseman Richie Allen was Rookie of the Year.

Gene Mauch was the Manager that year, and regarded as one of the finest managers of the bench. But he faltered that season: starting a 7-game home stand, Mauch decided to start his two pitching aces, Jim Bunning and Chris Short, in 7 of the last 10 games, 6 of those starts on 2 days rest (all of which they lost). The Phillies faded, losing 10 games in a row before winning their last 2 games) to finish one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals in a collapse infamously known as the "Phold." So certain were they of their sucess, that they even printed up World Series tickets.

The St. Louis Cardinals ended up winning the World Series vs. the Yankees. It was the greatest collapse in baseball history. And the Phillies would not come close again until they finally took it all in 1980. We came to know them as the "Sillies" during high school. I turned my attention to Football (Philadelphia Eagles) and Ice Hockey (Philadelphia Flyers who were born in the 1967 NHL expansion). At least they were fun to watch on TV!

What I didn't realize, as my interest in baseball waned, was the exciting history of the Philies and their players. Some of baseball's greatest names were Phillies at one time or another. And one of them performed a rather tough feat. Sherry Magee stole Home Plate not once, but two times in a single game! As David Andriesen of the Seattle P-I put it,
"Stealing home is a runner putting 270 feet worth of progress at risk, betting he can beat a 90 mph pitch to the plate. It's all or nothing, a stolen run or a painful out. No other play takes more sheer guts.
It has never been a common offensive weapon, but there was a time stealing home wasn't such a rarity. Ty Cobb pulled it off 54 times in his career. Jackie Robinson famously, and controversially, did it in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series, maybe or maybe not beating the tag by the Yankees' Yogi Berra. Rod Carew had a field day in 1969, stealing home seven times."
Sherry Magee would end his career having stole Home 23 times.

Sherwood "Sherry" Magee was one of the great players of the dead-ball era, 1900-1919. He could hit, run, field, and throw with the best, and played intelligently and aggressively. He was critical of sloppy play and unimaginative management, and occasionally his temper got the best of him. On July 10, 1911 his one-punch knockout of umpire Bill Finneran, who had ejected Magee for arguing a called third strike, led to his suspension for the rest of the season; however, he was reinstated after five weeks.

Magee was Philadelphia's left fielder for a decade. In his second year, 1905, he played 155 games. His 85 RBI in 1907 were the league high. In 1910 he led the NL in batting (.331), slugging average (.507), runs scored (110), and RBI (123), and stole 49 bases. Over his career he had 441 stolen bases, including 23 steals of home. On July 12, 1906, he stole second, third, and home in the ninth inning against St. Louis. During a July 20, 1912 game with the Cubs, he stole home twice. In 1914 he led the NL in hits (171), doubles (39), RBI (103), and slugging average (.509).

When Magee was not named Philadelphia's player-manager for 1915, he asked to be traded. He was sold to the Braves, who finished second while the Phillies won their first pennant. He played center in Boston until he was waived to Cincinnati in August 1917. He led the NL in RBI a final time in the war-shortened 1918 season, and concluded his ML career by pinch hitting twice in the 1919 World Series.

Magee played in the minors from 1920 to 1926, then took up umpiring. In light of his misbehavior in 1911, he was watched closely while officiating in the NL in 1928, and he performed very well. But he contracted pneumonia and died the following March. He was 44-years old.

But on July 12, 1906 Magee pulled off that rare stunt - stealing Home - in the ninth inning of a game against the St.Louis Cardinals by reaching base, then stealing second base, then third, and then streaking home to steal that, too. But on July 20, 1912 Magee outdid himself. Playing against the Chicago Cubs, Sherry Magee stole home twice in a single game. Twice! Amazing. Only eleven ballplayers have done that. Honus Wagner, fabled Pittsburgh Pirate, did it in 1901, Vic Powers, of the Cleveland Indians did it in 1958. Ain't been done since. Two steals of home plate by a single player in a game.

And one of those players in the record book was a Philadelphia Phillie! *sigh* Phillies fans rarely have much to cheer about. Consider this: The Phillies were created in 1883, and promptly won 17 of 98 games. Things didn't improve much. In 1915 , their 33rd season, the Phillies finally won their first pennant. The win was due in large part to a pitching staff led by the great Grover Cleveland Alexander, who won an impressive 31 games while pitching four one-hit games. Offensively, Gavvy Cravath (who set a modern major-league single-season record with 24 home runs, which would stand for five seasons until Babe Ruth bettered it), topped the league in RBI and runs scored. This would not prove enough, however, as the Phillies ultimately lost the Series in five games to the Boston Red Sox on a Harry Hooper home run in the top of the ninth.

Between 1918 and 1948 the Phillies managed one winning season - in 1932 - and never were serious contenders beyond June. So dismal were the Phillies financially that they were bought back by the National League in 1942. In short, they sucked. By the time the Carpenter family bought the struggling team, they were so lousy that, trying to change the name to "Blue Jays", Carpenter was villified by the students of Johns Hopkins University whose team held the Blue Jays name. They claimed that the Phillies' attempt to use the name was an insult to their school, given the team's reputation as a chronic loser. The experiment was dropped after only two seasons.

Phillies fans were suffering. In 1950 the "Whiz Kids" made it fun to be a Phillies fan again. But no Championship came thier way, as they lost the 1950 Series to the Yankees. Not until the glory days of the late 70s led to the World Series Championship of 1980, could Phillies Phans hold thier heads up.

Sad as their history has been, though, the Phillies have had thier share of amazing talent and wonderful players. Grover Cleveland Alexander, famous pitcher, Chuck Klein - the 'Hoosier Hammer' - the greatest power hitter in their history until Mike Schmidt came along; Steve Carlton, the pitcher I most remember. Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Jim Bunning, amd many more. And Sherry Magee, one of the finest all-around baseball players of his time.

The name is mostly forgotten, as the years pass, but he was one of the bright lights in the Philadelphia baseball world of the early 20th Century. And 105-years ago he did something not seen in the last 50.

He stole Home twice. In one game! Go, Phillies!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Deft Touch

I trust you are enjoying the Fourth of July! Stay safe!

I've taken to surfing through the YouTube files doing searches for my favorite performers, looking for old songs I can remember, and some I can’t. Naturally I’ve played a lot of the Beatles’s videos there, grabbing a bit of nostalgia with the performances. And at times I do a search for the individual Beatle, curious to see what’s there.

Here’s a song from twenty years ago, one that I’d fairly well forgotten, though it was a bit of a hit in 1987. It’s a George Harrison tune, from the Cloud 9 album – remember albums? – and highlights George’s deft touch at light songs. Given his slight voice, when compared to his bandmates, it’s refreshing to hear him sing this. It’s also a pretty song with all the trademark Harrison slide guitar touches.

We’ve always rather forgotten George Harrison, over-shadowed as he’s been by such talents as Paul McCartney and John Lennon, not to mention the popularity of Ringo Starr. But George could display a deft touch with a song, especially with a love song, or a mood song. This is one of his mood songs, I think, but the melody is easy to remember, something not every song reaches. And it’s nice, also something not every song attains.

It’s called “This Is Love”

This Is Love
~ by George Harrison

Precious words drift away from their meanings
and the sun melts the chill from our lives
helping us all to remember what we came here for
this is love
this is la la la la love
this is love
this is la la la la love

Little things that will change you forever
may appear from way out of the blue
Making fools of everybody who don't understand
This is love
this is la la la la love
this is love
this is la la la la love

This is love, this is love
this is love, this is la la la la love

Since our problems have been our own creation
they also can be overcome
When we use the power provided free to everyone
this is love
this is la la la la love
this is love
this is la la la la love

This is love
this is la la la la love
this is love
this is la la la la love

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Flag Tale

This is something I cobbled together a few years back. Just an exercise, it got kind of interesting for me and so I kept it. I hope you enjoy it.

"A Flag Tale"
by benning 2002

The warm summer breeze felt good on my face, the fragrance of wildflowers tickled my nose, and the thrum of the Cicadas rose and fell in the air. Out of the corner of my eye I could see PopPop swaying along toward the flagpole carrying his old flag. I sighed and sank a bit deeper into the glider cushions, pretending to ignore the old man.

Every year it was the same thing: finish the morning’s chores, help PopPop get out his old tattered flag, watch him put it up, and listen to his boring war stories. Something about Independence Day seemed to get him nostalgic, and I hated it. Who wouldn’t have? Here I’d be, wasting a perfectly good summer day sitting there hearing his wispy, faltering voice recount the glory of his war years. I’d much rather have been playing ball with the fellers down at the field, or swimming at the lake, and waiting for the Fireworks at the Town Square in the evening.

But, no, that wasn’t allowed. Nope! Mom and Dad made us all stay here until PopPop was through with his remembrances for another year.

I sighed again, turning my head to watch him struggle with the lanyard and hoist that ratty old banner. Jeepers, it was ugly! Faded so badly the red stripes were pink, and the blue field was practically little more than a memory!

I heard the screen door creak open and bang closed again. Mom came by and handed me a tall glass of iced tea.

“Why don’t you take this to PopPop, Jack?”

I sighed again, and unwound from my soft place on the glider. Summer vacation, and here I was being treated like a slave or a maid or something.

“Why do we have'ta do this, Mom?” I stood and took the wet, cold glass. “Every stupid year. Shoot, I can prolly recite PopPop’s stories by heart.”

Mom smiled wryly. ”Jack, it’s important to him. It’s important to your Dad and me, too.”

“But it’s so boring, Mom,” I whined.

“Try putting yourself in his place, Jack. When he begins to talk about the war, just imagine that it’s you he’s talking about, and see what happens.”

I gave her one of my patented “Are-you-out-of-your-mind” looks, and trudged heavily off the porch.

PopPop had that silly flag up to the top of the pole by that time, and was standing back, shading his eyes and watching it flutter in the breeze.

I held the glass of iced tea out to him.

“Mom sent ya some iced tea, PopPop.”

He turned his head and smiled up at me, taking the glass and gesturing at the flag.
“Mighty proud old flag, ain’t she?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” I replied.

He squinted at me, sipping the cold liquid. “Bored with me already, boy?”

“I just don’t see why I can’t be playing ball with the other guys, PopPop,” I mumbled.
“Summer vacation is short enough as it is.”

He put a thin arm around my shoulders and patted my neck.

“Always in such a hurry to be at something, Jack. Don’t think I don’t remember how that feels. But some things are more important than baseball, or swimming at the lake,” he winked at me, “or even doing your chores.”

He looked up at the flapping banner and sighed deeply.

“Help me up to the porch, will ya, boy?”

We turned and he held my arm as we walked slowly back across the lawn, and up the steps of the front porch. He made his way to the glider and eased himself down onto it with a soft grunt, and inched himself back into the seat. The glass shook momentarily in his hand but he didn’t spill a drop. PopPop caught me watching that glass and chuckled.

“It wouldn’t be the first time I spilled a drink, Jack.”

All I could do was smile.

He sipped his tea and watched the leaves moving on the trees.
“So you think what I have to say is boring, eh?”

I couldn’t answer him. I didn’t want to be disrespectful. But he went on as if I had answered.

“I used to cringe when my Great-granddad would tell his war stories, Jack,” he said. ”Did I ever tell you that?”

“No, PopPop.”

“He fought in the Civil War. Some Regiment or other out of Pennsylvania. And, LORD, did I hate listening to him go on about it. You’d’ve thought the old man had been in every battle, and had won them all, single-handed!”

He chuckled, and I did, too.

PopPop smiled at me and asked me “Do you know why I’m so danged proud of that flag, Jack?”

“’Cause you carried it in the war?”

“Well, that’s part of it, I guess, and maybe that’s what it was at first for me. But as time went on and the war kind of faded away in folks’ memory, it started to become more important.”

“More important? Than carrying it in battle?”

He sipped his iced tea and sighed contentedly. “I swear your mother makes the coldest, sweetest tea in the whole country!”

He gazed up at that old flag and said “That old, worn out piece of cloth stands for something, boy, something bigger than any war, or any battle.

"No matter how frayed the edges get, no matter how faded those colors, as long as that flag, and others like it still wave, there’s Freedom in this old world.”

He looked at me as I stood by the porch rail, watching him.

“That flag is just a symbol, boy, but it’s a symbol of the finest experiment in the history of the world. Self-government. Government by consent of the governed. This is the only place in the world where it works. And we forget that. All too often. Wars end, we come home, and we take up as if all’s right in the world. We get back to business, as we ought to do. And we forget that in most of the world, folks don’t have the right to just get back to business. We forget that so many men and women have shed their blood, given up their possessions, and even died to protect the Liberty that old flag symbolizes.”

I turned and craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the faded banner of PopPop’s. It was probably my imagination, but the red stripes seemed a little deeper, the blue a bit darker.

“Jack, when we crossed the Rhine against the Nazis, and I tied that flag to a lamppost in the very first town we entered, I wasn’t so much taking possession, as I was planting a little piece of Liberty, right there in Nazi Germany.

“When those grunts raised the flag on Iwo Jima it was the same thing, though they might not’ve realized it just then.”

I heard him grunt a little and I turned to see him struggling to get out of the glider. I stepped over and took his hand and pulled him up. He rubbed his thigh - the one where the leg ends just below the knee - and helped him to the railing. He closed his eyes and breathed in the summer air.

I could just hear him whisper, “The sweet smell of Liberty,” before he smiled up at me and said, “It’s an old flag, Jack; old and ratty, faded and tattered. But that flag is the symbol of this country of ours. There isn’t a finer flag in the whole wide world. Nor is there a finer Nation on the face of the earth.”

This time it was me who put an arm around his shoulders. “I guess you’re right, PopPop,” I said. “I didn’t think about what it meant.”

His thin arm tightened around my waist. “We rarely, do, Jack; we rarely do.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My sister, Emily, and her husband, Frank, came by a little while later and we all gathered for our traditional Independence Day meal, and listened to PopPop tell his favorite war stories. This time I put myself in his place and saw those stories a whole different way. They meant something to me, even if they hadn’t been my stories at all.

PopPop passed away a little after the New Year, and he left me that ugly old flag, along with the two medals he'd won in the war. They were the only things of any value that I think he had - those and his memories, and his family, and his country.

I still have that flag. It’s gently folded in a display box that sits on a shelf above my desk. I look at it every day, and remember PopPop. And I thank the LORD for this great country.

Independence Day, July 4, 2007

On July 4th of each year, most Americans celebrate Independence Day, that day in our history when we declared to the world our independence from the British Empire. Most of us don't call it Independence Day. We simply call it the Fourth of July. And that's fine. Cinco de Mayo for Mexicans is a similar celebration. And the name they give it means, simply, Fifth of May. So what you call the day is less important than what it stands for, and how you remember it.

When the Declaration of Independence was written, Americans were already fighting the forces of the British Empire. Our Liberty was by no means certain, the future was in doubt, and would remain so for many years to come. As the Continental Congress debated the Declaration Americans were dying in their attempt to free themselves from the benevolent tyranny of Great Britain. When Congress voted on the Declaration German troops were already on their way across the Atlantic, sent to fight American rebels by their Rulers, among them George III of Britain, the nominal ruler of Hesse-Kassel.

Not a nation on earth expected the British Colonies in America to survive, much less win, their revolution against the might of the British Empire. Few Americans believed they could win. Yet, the men of the Second Continental Congress passed the Declaration and signed it, knowing full well that once it was printed and dispersed to the people of the 13 colonies, their lives would be in danger. Captured, the British would likely hang them as traitors.

But they went ahead. Despite their own doubts, their own fears, their own self-interest in many ways, they signed that revolutionary document, continued to act together as a Congress, and put the best interests of their fellow Americans above their own.

Claims have been made in the past that these men suffered unduly because their signatures were on the Declaration. Most are false. The fact is that they, like their countrymen, suffered the privations that the War brought to their home and lands. No more, no less. They became a part of the Revolution and its hardships just as did their neighbors.

These days it's fashionable to complain that we don't show enough respect for our forefathers on the 4th of July, that rather than solemn services and patriotic parades, we Americans use that day to annoy our neighbors with loud fireworks, have picnics, watch sporting events, and generally simply enjoy Independence Day as another official Day Off.

Well? Why the hell not? That's Freedom! That's Liberty! To do what we wish, when we wish, as long as we respect our fellow Americans - setting off fireworks at 4 in the morning is not respectful! If you do things like that I trust a large bird will shit on your head! - without fear of Government forces or agents, penalizing us. We are free to go to church and worship GOD for our hard-fought Freedom, or pop a few brews and watch NASCAR. And in this, the greatest nation on the face of GOD's green earth, it's nobody's business but our own.

Would I prefer some real remembrance of what we celebrate? Of course! Men and women died so that we, their descendants, would be free. That's a heavy price to pay. But pay it they did. And we should remember and be thankful. And if we don't? Well, shame on us. But we have the Freedom to be shallow, if we wish.

Me? This year I am actually off on Independence Day. Perhaps my Folks will invite me up for the day. If not, I will relax at home. I'll have a few beers, maybe make a steak, and read, watch TV, and do some writing. I don't have to make a show of my patriotism, or a show of my solemnity. I know what happened after 4 July, 1776, and I remember it in my heart. I hope you do, too!

Be safe! And GOD Bless America! Happy Birthday, USA!