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PROUD TO BE AN AMERIKAN. Of all the Fourth of July events--and there are plenty of them, announced in smarmy press releases that border on religiosity and xenophobia--there are a handful of celebrations that seem truly worthy of attendance. Our selection criteria was based on their quirkiness. Some even seemed to take a decidedly unconventional, even patriotic nose-thumbing approach to the holiday.

Here's how you can show your stars and stripes.

Down in Patagonia, on Friday, July 4, beginning at noon, relax to the classical strains of The Silverwood Duo--that's Renee Bond and Paige Jackson performing with flute and guitar. Catch the duo before they wow audiences at Carnegie Hall in the Big Apple next year. From 1:30 to 2 p.m. , learn about the Chinese exercise and breathing technique with a master Qi Gong practitioner, David McDonald. At 2:30 p.m. , Windpipe and Guests perform jazz--the classical kind on sax, analog synthesizers and cello, and also some eclectic transcendental forms on space guitar and djembe. At 4 p.m., Tucson's famed Stefan George performs the blues, singing and sliding (on his guitar, that is) in the tradition of David Lindley and Ry Cooder. George is an Arizona Blues and Tucson Musicians Hall of Famer and a featured performer at the Telluride Blues Festival, plus a frequent TAMMIES winner.

All afternoon, you can wash away your stress about the USA Patriot Act and crumbling constitutional rights with a chair massage by Sunshine Applebee. The activities take place at 277 McKeown Ave. For details, call (520) 394-0165.

Another out-of-town holiday celebration kicks off south of Tucson. The Bisbee Arts and Crafts Fair takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 4-6, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At Grassy Park, located across from the Bisbee Convention Center, vendors hawk their handmade and imported items. Mini massages are also available all day long and there's live music throughout the weekend.

And how can you pass up the annual coaster races on July 4? They begin at 8:30 a.m. on upper Tombstone Canyon and end at the Convention Center in the downtown historic district.

For more information on the Arts and Crafts Fair, call (520) 432-3726. For details on July 4 activities, call the Bisbee Chamber of Commerce at (520) 432-5421 or toll-free at (866) 2BISBEE.

SKY ISLANDS, BEFORE THE FIRE. The ongoing devastation of Mount Lemmon's forests and communities is on our minds and in the air. (And don't forget all the wildlife that succumbs in the fireball's path.)

Suzanne Hensel has just published a timely book--Look to the Mountains. It's a comprehensive investigation of the Catalinas to date, packed with historical photographs and a peek into the lives and times of the people who shaped the history of the Catalina Mountains. Hensel covers the entire history of the region. She examines the lives of the Desert Archaic People, the first to settle in the Catalinas, as well as today's Summerhaven community--the residents, the merchants and the thriving ski-resort industry. How have people and nature intertwined over many generations to create what is often referred to as the Sky Islands?

"The Catalinas have a story to tell," writes Hensel. "Not about rock formations, but one about the people of yesterday who came here and called it home."

Hensel has put these stories into a book in order to remember. She should know first-hand what the mountains are about. A Tucson native and mountain resident, she first experienced the Catalina Mountains as a child on camping trips. Her husband now works for the U.S. Forest Service and has been involved in the firefighting effort. Hensel works as a teacher for the one-room schoolhouse located on the mountain and as a researcher of local history. Since the fires started, she's been staying with friends in Tucson. Ironically, she was supposed to give a reading in one of the Summerhaven shops, but will do so in a safer environment.

Come hear Suzanne Hensel's tales of the mountain as she reads from her new work on Saturday, July 5, at 2 p.m., at Reader's Oasis, located at 3400 E. Speedway Blvd. The reading and discussion are free.

Questions? Call 319-7887.

REAL-LIFE MONSOONS OR BIRDS ON SCREEN. There are two tribes of folks in this town: those who like to experience their natural surrounding out in the ruggedness (and heat) of the desert and those who prefer to watch--even birds flying overhead--from the comfort of a chilly air-conditioned movie theater.

This week, there are activities to suit both predilections.

On Saturday, July 5, from 8 to 10 a.m., spend the cooler morning temperatures at the Tucson Audubon Society's Mason Audubon Center. The MAC is a 22-acre nature preserve where naturalists offer a history of the property, a tour of the grounds, a walk through the one-mile trails and--this week--a guest speaker to talk about monsoons.

The monsoon season, marking the beginning of the year by many native peoples, is the main time of growth for desert trees and shrubs. Summer wildflowers--like devil's claw, morning glories and desert sennas--spring forth. Barrel cactus, jumping cholla and prickly pear bloom and fruit. Saguaros expand their pleats as they efficiently absorb soil moisture. Butterflies flit about, ants swarm and those high-strung hummingbirds fatten up for migration.

Thirty participants get to explore everything monsoon-related and move about the Mason Audubon Center located at 8751 N. Thornydale Road. The cost is $5 general admission or $3 for members. It's free to kids 10 and younger. Call 744-0004 to register. Bring plenty of water, a sun hat and sunscreen.

For those who prefer to bird watch indoors, there's Jacques Perrin's documentary, Winged Migration. For four years, the French filmmaker explored birds in flight in 40 countries and on seven continents. He captured them every which way: He used cameras mounted on helicopters, planes, remote-controlled gliders and balloons. Crews of more than 450 people, including pilots and cinematographers, captured the spectacle, the beauty and dangers of the long migratory journeys.

Get pulled into the sky to join the flights above and across the planet as Perrin wonders, "What if we embarked on the most fabulous of journeys, abandoning our towns and countryside, off on a tour of the planet? What if we learned to be as free as birds?"

His answers to these questions and others are morphed into an Oscar-nominated documentary. There's a reception that starts at 5:30 p.m. and the screening beings at 6:30 p.m., on Wednesday, July 9, at the Catalina Cinema (Loews Cineplex), located at 2320 N. Campbell Ave.

It's a benefit for the Tucson Audubon Society. Tickets cost $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers. They can be purchased at the Audubon Nature Shop, 300 E. University Blvd., or by calling 629-0510.

DON'T FORGET BOSNIA. All eyes are fixed on Iraq and Israel and pretty much every country in the Middle East.

War and rampant militarism have a way of focusing our ADD better than a dose of Ritalin. But remember, it wasn't long ago--just a decade--that the Bosnian War raged.

The film, No Man's Land, released in 2001, follows the story of a war-weary group of Bosnian soldiers advancing on Serb territory under the cover of a foggy night. At daybreak, the fog lifts and the Serbs open fire. Soon, there is just one Bosnian survivor--a guy who was able to dive into a trench in no man's land. It is there that he witnesses two Serbian soldiers using the body of a fallen Bosnian to bait a land mine. He fires on them, killing one and taking the second hostage. These two soldiers from opposing camps, equally armed, are now forced to share a wary trust as they try to attract help from either side.

These chilling scenes are ripe for discussion. Join the regular meeting of the Tucson Balkan Peace Support Group on Tuesday, July 8, at 7 p.m., for the screening and post-film dialog. It takes place at the Unitarian Church, located at 4831 E. 22nd St. All meetings are free and open to the public. Refreshments are served before the program.

For details, call 623-8905.

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