4th of July

4 ideas 4 relaxing this Independence Day

July 4 is the midway point of the year: 185 days in, 180 to go and only two weeks after the longest day of the year. Given that this is Minnesota, though, there’s still a 10 percent chance of snow.

Few things bring the United States together like patriotism, and no day is more patriotic than this Monday. It stands as the one summer holiday in which most of us get to take a vacation and enjoy a three or four-day siesta from our day-to-day bustle.

Considering we’re all students – overstressed, overextended and underpaid – it could also be called our biggest summer vacation of the season.

Here are four ways to enjoy the break:

1. Sleep!
While we concluded that sleep was the first, and best, way to use the extra 24 to 48 hours, it’s also the perfect time to catch up on all the music, reading and movies you’ve been meaning to listen to, read or watch.

So if you use only half the day to catch some winks, here are some additional suggestions for how to spend the other dozen hours – A&E style.

2. Magazines
Nothing says “summer” like lazy afternoons spent reading that ever-growing stack of magazines.

The problem, though, for any magazine lover is that there is no shortage of periodicals available. The sheer sensory overload of a trip to the magazine section at a Barnes & Noble or Shinders can be overwhelming.

Add the fact that new publications are constantly popping up – the American Society of Magazine Editors counted 480 new titles in 2004 alone – and that most people stick to only a few tried-and-true titles. This means there are literally thousands of publications out there that most people haven’t read – in fact, they probably haven’t even heard of them.

Summer, in theory, is a season of leisure – more time for fun and less time for work. If you are one of the college students who actually has more time this summer, here’s a guide to the newest titles on the racks:

Radar
Yet another pop-culture magazine, Radar aims for edgier stories and a mix of the high- and low-brow.

While not as clever as it thinks it is, Radar’s suggestions for a new Democratic logo and an article on the preponderance of new British bands are interesting story ideas.

Soak
Who knew the metrosexual trend that spawned such magazines as Maxim and Men’s Health still had life in it?

Soak is the latest of the “laddie” publications and, so far, it’s more of the same in terms of content (cars, pin-ups) and quality. Kudos, though, for featuring a minority on its debut cover.

Eve
This British women’s magazine covers the usual celebrity and fashion stories but aims to be more “useful” and “real.”

Rather expensive ($5.95), it does seem to feature some unique content, like “10 Things You Never Knew About Plastic Surgery,” and its British focus offers a new spin if you’re used to U.S. magazines.

Justice
If you’ve been reading Us Weekly and hoping it would cover more celebrity legal trouble, this magazine is custom-tailored for you.

Justice also details the real-life legal dramas of ordinary folks, but let’s face it – you’re aching to see the mug shot taken when Keanu Reeves was caught speeding.

Pink
Are you a female college student who wants to prepare for the working world?

Career-oriented women will appreciate Pink’s interviews with female chief financial officers and a piece on how the professional world might change if women were in charge. That said, however, the magazine seems aimed at older women.

FIVE LESSER-KNOWN MAGS WORTH CHECKING OUT:
Glimpse
For college students interested in preparing for and reflecting on living abroad, Glimpse publishes student writing about international experiences. It’s also a nice way to read up on issues confronting different regions of the world while still keeping things interesting.

Make
This magazine combines the “do-it-yourself” mentality with an emphasis on electronics. This results in instructions for creating creative and quirky items such as Podcast Robots.

Paste
A popular alternative rock ‘n’ roll music mag, with an emphasis on indie-rock, Paste wanders into the worlds of other media too. Appropriately, this magazine is independently published and features great layouts and design.

Readymade
Broke college students will appreciate the “you-can-do-anything” philosophy of this magazine. It features detailed instructions for making everything from furniture to food and clothing. It will fuel your creative side.

SKIP IT!
CoEd
This college-oriented magazine poses as a mag for both men and women, but it would be hard to find anyone who likes cheesy, poorly photographed pin-ups of Miss Northwestern or cliche listings of the best and worst pick-up lines. This magazine reads like some sort of insipid insert you picked up at the grocery store or orientation.

No, thank you.

– Erin Adler

3. Music
Ever since Woody Guthrie penned “This Land Is Your Land,” America’s national anthem (“The Star-Spangled Banner” Ö duh) has been called into question. Do we really want a song that celebrates blowing up people (“bombs bursting in air”)?

Sure, we’re proud of our liberation from the ol’ hag – you know, the Queen – but really, “The Star-Spangled Banner” serves to define our independence from Europe more than define the modern American experience.

While there’s not a chance in hell our precious national anthem will be changed, consider the following a list of songs that more accurately describe the country we live in now versus an idealistic ode to a bygone era. A century ago.

The only qualifications are that the songs are recent, recorded after 2000 and the artists have to be American, just like the president.

Mary J. Blige
“Family Affair”
From “No More Drama,” 2001
First of all, any song specifically designed to get booties on the dance floor that includes the line, “Let’s get it percolatin,’ ” clearly deserves to be heard at every sporting event.

Mary J. says there’s no time for “hateration” when there’s dancing to be done. How true! (WORD).

Cat Power
“Maybe Not”
From “You Are Free,” 2003
“Maybe Not” contains just a simple piano riff repeated during four minutes, but because Chan Marshall’s (aka Cat Power) haunting vocals are so captivating, the song feels quite brief.

“We can all be free,” Marshall coos, “Maybe not with words, maybe not with a look, but with your mind.” It’s certainly a more personal and spiritual sense of freedom than the rally-’round-the-flag attitude of our current anthem.

Outkast
“Hey Ya”
From “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” 2003
Yeah, I know you’re probably tired of this song. But try and remember the first time you heard it Ö it was awesome!

Jocks loved it, indie kids loved it, pro-lifers, pro-choicers, troop supporters, anti-war activists; everyone loved this song.

Until the radio and MTV played “Hey Ya” to death, this song united us all with addictive hand-clapping and Polaroid shaking. If you don’t like this song you’re either dumb, lying or can’t handle the fact that the best rock ‘n’ roll song of the new millennium was written by a rapper.

Jay-Z
“Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”
From “The Blueprint,” 2001
“H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A/ That’s the anthem get ‘cha damn hands up.”

‘Nuff said.

Stnnng
“New National Anthem”
From “Dignified Sissy,” 2005
Because of the title, this song might seem like an obvious choice, but the Stnnng’s “New National Anthem” perfectly captures the ever-increasing paranoia felt by Americans who see an apocalypse on the horizon.

Dizzying guitars turn to anarchy as singer Chris Besinger screams “Aren’t you glad to be an American? We’re all Ö crazy Ö ahhh!”

Plus there are shout-outs to everyone from Francis Scott Key to bloggers.

– Keri Carlson

4. Movies
It happens to the best of us: We get busy, miss that popular film on the big screen and then have to suffer the humiliation of responding time and again, “I actually haven’t seen that yet.”

The replies are almost always the same, starting with a gasp, a dropped jaw and finishing with: “You haven’t?”

So here are five quick picks for the weekend – longer, older and lesser-known titles – that might help you avoid the scorn of your peers.

Comedy

One of the more recent additions to the exclusive list of comedy cult classics is “Wet Hot American Summer,” which performed dismally in theaters and with critics alike.

Starring Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce as two dysfunctional summer camp counselors, thrown into an array of absurd personalities and camp cliches that stretch stereotypes to the limit, it’s so perfectly out-of-whack that one can’t help but chuckle at the sheer gall of it all.

Three favorites to watch for: the perverted chef, the guest cameo by the infamous Skylab and the local library’s section on “camp counseling,” located right next to – what else – astrophysics.

Epic

For this critic, “2001: A Space Odyssey” not only redefined what science fiction could be, but set the standard for film as fine art.

But given its length and complexity, not many people have the time to give it a serious look.

It is one of the boldest films ever made, the sci-fi collaboration between filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and author Arthur C. Clarke that attempts to chronicle both the birth of the human species and the futuristic dawn of a new evolution.

This isn’t “Star Wars,” mind you. It’s quiet, with fewer than 50 minutes of dialogue in a 150-minute affair. But within its depths are messages about technology, bureaucracy and evolution that make it a bold statement about where we’re going as a species – told with a style and a confidence that stands unparalleled in the medium.

If “War of the Worlds” is a silly summer snack, “2001” is a five-course meal.

Obscure

It’s truly tragic that some works, which have come to be known in some circles as the best movies ever made, fall into the “obscure” categories for others.

The incomparable 1972 Werner Herzog epic, “Aguirre, the Wrath of God,” chronicles the journey of a band of 16th century conquistadors down the Amazon River in search of the rumored City of Gold. Led by an obsessed, power-hungry leader, it rivals the likes of “Apocalypse Now,” “The Godfather” and “Citizen Kane” as a vision of a man in search of ultimate power who is ultimately done in by his greed.

Classic

Routinely, when critics are polled for the 10 best films ever made, this title appears.

It’s called “The Decalogue,” was made for Polish television in 1988 as 10 one-hour segments, and was directed by the acclaimed Krzysztof Kieslowski. And in its 10 parts, it explores the complexities and ambiguities that surround the Ten Commandments in everyday life.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled about the Commandments’ appropriateness in this country’s public space, and this Kieslowski collection serves as a poignant counterpoint – showing that things aren’t always as black-and-white as some would have us believe.

In Theaters

Or, if your air conditioning is broken and you need a movie theater to escape the holiday’s heat, consider these two stories that confront struggles with identity.

On campus, “Call Me Malcolm” calmly listens as one man details the difficulties he experienced in being a transgender person in 2005 America, and the brave journey he took in becoming a man and a reverend.

In Uptown, “My Summer of Love” deals with two issues: the struggles of a working-class young woman who discovers love with an upper-class woman and also her brother’s struggles in remaining committed to religion upon his release from prison.

These are the kind of intimate, impassioned movies that will linger in your mind for some time.

– Steven Snyder