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Your friends at Happytown™ are a patriotic bunch, that's for sure. If you cut us, we bleed red. Most of us are white. And sometimes, when we're cold, our lips turn blue. How's that for bona fides?

So you can well imagine that we spent the July 4 holiday in a celebratory mood. Between the parades, the fireworks and the consuming of America's favorite adult beverage (American-made, natch) we managed to find time to attend the Bring Home Our Troops rally at the intersection of Colonial Drive and Bumby Avenue. Nothing, and we mean nothing, is more patriotic than a good dose of dissent. A quote from Dwight Eisenhower to add credence to the point: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

We've been to these rallies before; a few people show up and wave signs, a few people driving by honk in approval or shout their disapproval. Then everyone leaves. That's pretty much what happened July 4, with one critical difference: the number of people who showed up. At least 75 patriotic dissenters weathered a sidewalk-melting afternoon to make their thoughts on the Iraq war public. That's about the biggest crowd we've ever seen at one of these intersection rallies. Is Orlando becoming the next hotbed of activism? Not exactly. But as of July 4, it's a shade less apathetic.

While we're on the topic of free speech, a regular contributor to this column asked to have a bit of space to wax poetic on the topic "Why I Hate America." We loved the idea immediately. Plus we're short on copy this week. Here's the abbreviated version:

Sandra Day O'Connor: The one ever-so-slightly moderate voice on the right-leaning Supreme Court had to retire on Shrub's watch, ensuring that her replacement will be one of those fire-breathers who just loves telling gay people they can't marry and telling women what to do with their bodies. Bitch just couldn't hold out three more years (or at least one more year, when a little more sense might find its way onto the Senate floor)?
Dick Cheney: Iraq's going just fine. We'll be there for a dozen more years. Never you mind those silly facts. Have a heart attack already, you old bastard.
Ed Klein: The fact that his error-filled, sleazy Hillary bio made it to No. 2 on the New York Times best-seller list its first week out is simply indicative of the lacking intelligence quotient of the American public.
Tom DeLay: So many jokes, so little time.
Bill Frist: The doc-turned-senator who misdiagnosed Terri Schiavo via a TV set wants to be president. Fine, whatever, so long as he never comes near us with a scalpel.
• Kansas: The state that just can't accept evolution. Stupid science. Worthless state. And the band sucked too.
NBC: For moving The West Wing to Sunday nights, which means it will compete against our other favorite show, The Simpsons. Damn.
Reality shows: We wish them all a slow, painful death.
Bill O'Reilly: In all our years, we've never seen a man more pompous, arrogant and dense all at once. And we never imagined there were enough imbeciles in this country to make his show as popular as it is.
Geraldo Rivera: God, is he annoying.
Michael Jackson: Stop touching little boys, dickhead.

We weren't sure what to expect atop the Centroplex II parking garage July 1. But then again, we weren't supposed to be in the know. Draped across the visible facade of the gargantuan new LYNX headquarters was a giant question mark, while on the other side of I-4, local media, business and government representatives baked in the hot sun anticipating some sort of announcement involving Disney and LYNX.

The secret was temporarily spoiled by an unexpected breeze blowing the enormous question mark away the night before, but no one was around to see it. No one important, anyway.

Ultimately, there was no mystery at all: Disney has partnered with LYNX for some time, largely as a means of busing workers to their magical days as Disney employees. The "unusual unveiling" was more about a large advertisement on the side of a large building and promoting the new "Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" at MGM Studios for those inclined to mass transit. Hey, don't they crash buses?

Still, the event was all that you could hope for in an Orlando unveiling. LYNX director Linda Watson spoke about the "good and long relationship" shared between the two Central Florida behemoths, a pert Disney rep alliterated about being "extremely excited" about the "Disney difference," county commissioner Mildred Fernandez wore giant sunglasses and spoke in Spanglish, and Buddy Dyer feigned ignorance about the unveiling, saying that he was usually "one of the first people to know what's going on downtown." A countdown was flubbed. Then a red stunt car peeled out across the lot, leaving skid marks all over the parking garage. Hooray for Disney magic.


Q: Ian, please describe the biological process whereby cow poo becomes a hallucinogen.

click to enlarge ian-headjpg
A: To answer your question, I must first correct you on one point. The poo never actually become psychotropic – rather, it serves as biomass for the growth of various fungi that contain psilocybin, most often of the Psilocybe cubensis variety in Florida. Since I personally have no experience with this kind of guerrilla mycology, I spoke with a friend of a friend who had expert knowledge of the growth and cultivation of exotic fungi.

I learned that all mushrooms grow in the same general way – that is, spores germinate upon a medium that contains nutrients. In the case of coprophilic mushrooms, that medium is dung, or soil that at one time had dung on it. If everything is right, the spores sprout into hyphae, which look like small, silky hairs. These grow throughout the medium and become mycelium. The mycelium is the fungus – as it matures and prepares to reproduce, it grows outward into the fruit of the organism – what we call mushrooms.

Of course, the psychedelic properties of these mushrooms are well-known around the world. Because of the mushroom's close relationship to cattle, some scientists have postulated that human evolution is closely tied to the mushroom. Terence McKenna hypothesized that after learning how to domesticate cattle, humans quickly learned about the potent effects of the mushrooms, and that this in turn led to the development of higher brain function, language use, and ultimately, societies as we know them.

While that may or may not be true, one thing is for sure – mushrooms of all kinds are fantastically adaptable. The largest organism on earth is thought to be a 2,200-acre spread of Armillaria ostoyae in Oregon. And mushroom spores can survive in the most extreme of environments. Some people even believe that mushrooms are extraterrestrial in origin, owing to the fact that the spores can survive in the vacuum of space – perhaps lending credence to the notion of panspermia as the origin of life on earth.


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