Sharpen Up!

Read this and be the smartest person in the room--or the Zoom--for the month of July.

By J.C. Bruce

Fun Facts to Help Celebrate July 4th

In addition to fireworks and hotdogs, here are a few tidbits you can share with your friends while celebrating Independence Day.

While July 4, 1776 is the date the Declaration of Independence was published, the vote to approve the document actually took place two days before. So, technically, July 2 is the day independence from England was officially declared.

New Jersey lawyer Richard Stockton was the only signer of the Declaration of Independence to recant his support of the American Revolution. This happened after the British captured him, imprisoned him, and abused him. He was finally released to find his property destroyed by the Redcoats, and his library -- touted as among the finest in the New World -- burned to the ground. Karma.

The two youngest signers of the Declaration of Independence were Thomas Lynch Jr. and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina. They were both 26. The eldest was Ben Franklin at 70 years old.

Americans spend more than $1 billion on pyrotechnics each year. If trends hold, dozens of people will be killed by fireworks this Independence Day (18 died in 2020) and thousands will be injured. Be careful out there.

More than 325 million people live in America today. But at the start of the Revolutionary War, the population was a meager 2.5 million.

Perhaps the best known bit of trivia about July 4th is that political frenemies Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1825 within five hours of one another. It was the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was 82. Adams was 90.

Historic July Moments and Events You'll want to Put on Your Calendar

Abraham Lincoln signed legislation creating the Internal Revenue Service on July 1, 1862. Honest Abe paid $61 a month out of his own paycheck during the Civil War even though Congress had specifically exempted the president from the income tax.

Strange Fact: Adjusted for inflation, Lincoln actually paid more income taxes in one month than Donald Trump did in all of his first two years in office.

July 3 is National Stay Out of the Sun Day and marks the official beginning of the Dog Days of Summer, which last until Aug. 11. It is believed by some to be an evil time, because, well, it's hot as the devil.

On July 19-20, 1848, a group of women gathered in Seneca Falls, New York, marking the beginning of the women's rights movement. In 1920, women won the right to vote. But in 2022 they lost the right to control their own reproductive health. The struggle continues.

An historic flub. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong become the first human to step onto the Moon. Before a worldwide TV audience, he was supposed to announce: "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." But he left off the "a" changing the entire meaning. But, hey, he wasn't hired as an orator.

Bank robber John Dillinger was shot and killed by G-men on July 22, 1934, while leaving the Biograph Theatre in Chicago. He'd been watching Manhattan Melodrama starring Clark Gable and Myrna Loy. Dillinger will go down in history as the first criminal labeled "Public Enemy No. 1." Years later, Donald Trump would bestow a similar sobriquet on the press.

July 26, 1953 marked the beginning of Fidel Castro's rebellion to oust Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, declaring that Cuba would never again be ruled by a dictator. Castro took over and become a dictator.

Union Leader Jimmy Hoffa disappeared after leaving a restaurant near Detroit on July 30, 1975. His body has never been found, although The Third Eye detective agency has vowed to solve the mystery (as recounted in The Strange Files series).

July is, among other things, National Doghouse Repairs Month

No, it's not about actual physical doghouses, but idiomatic doghouses. According to organizers, July is the month to repair relationships to "get out of the doghouse." Or some such.

In July we also celebrate National Horseradish Month, National Grilling Month, National Hotdog Month, National Ice Cream Month, National Watermelon Month, and Women's Motorcycle Month.

July 4-10 is Nude Recreation Week. Fittingly, in the midst of this celebration we mark the invention of the bikini, which debuted at a Paris fashion show on July 5, 1946. Fourteen yeas later, almost to the date, Brian Hyland released the single hit record Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini. It sold a million copies in the U.S. and was a worldwide hit.

The much ballyhooed return of Serena Williams to Wimbledon didn't last long, but there will be other tennis matches worth watching through July 10.

Were you born with different colored eyes? Then July 12th is your day. Yes, it is Different Colored Eyes Day, a holiday celebrated since 1986.

Look skyward on July 13 to see the Thunder Moon. It's just a full moon, really, but it has a couple of nicknames: Thunder Moon for the summer thunderstorms and Buck Moon because it appears during the time when new antlers of buck deer begin to appear.

July 14-17 the golf world's eyes will turn from Saudi Arabia to Fife, Scotland for the annual British Open at St. Andrews, an event that traces its origins to the 1860s.

July 16, 1995. On this day in history, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon where some of the very best mysteries are published.

Baseball's All-Star Game is scheduled for July 19 in Dodger Stadium. The first all-star game was played in 1933 at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

Head to Key West July 21-23 for the annual Sloppy Joe's Ernest Hemingway lookalike contest. Look for me there. I'll be the guy with the fake beard and a six-toed cat.

Rat-Catcher's Day is celebrated on July 22. Originally designated to honor those who exterminate vermin, it has now been expanded to honor the efforts of the Congressional Select Committee investigating the January 6 coup attempt. You read it here first.

July 21-31 is National Moth Week. Feel free to also celebrate Mothman, popularized in John Keel's book The Mothman Prophecies.

You can close out July with National Take Your Houseplants for a Walk Day. The idea, according to organizers, is to enable them to "become familiar with their environment with a sense of knowing, bringing on wellness." Might do your wellness some good, too.

July is also Putin Pick-Up Month

Look familiar? Of course it does. Every Month is Putin Pick-Up Month. Why? Because a world free of Putins is a safer, cleaner, healthier planet. So don't forget your plastic Putin bags when you take Fido for a stroll. Let's make Earth a Putin-free planet.

Elvis in History--July Report

On July 1, 1956, Elvis appeared on The Steve Allen Show, which was broadcast nationally from New York City. Elvis showed up in a tuxedo and sang to a hound dog. The next day, Elvis recorded Don't Be Cruel and Hound Dog at RCA's New York studios.

What I'm Reading

and Watching 

A few weeks ago I was watching Jeopardy when a contestant was introduced as a novelist from Sarasota. I was curious about this fellow Florida writer and looked up Bonnie Kistler on Amazon and discovered her latest book, The Cage, and ordered it.

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, The Cage is the finest mystery I have read in years. Move over Gillian Flynn, there's a new unreliable narrator in town.

The reviews on Amazon call it "a firecracker of a novel" and "an absolutely spellbinding thriller" and "a delicious thrill-ride." It's all that and more. Bonnie Kistler has with this book refined the concept of the unreliable narrator. She plays with her readers, but never actually lies to us. It's a masterful study on how to weave a mystery.

Just to whet your appetite, here's how it starts: Two women enter an elevator. By the time the elevator reaches the ground floor, one woman has been shot to death, the other is hysterical. Suicide? Murder? What's behind all this? Can we believe anyone? I rarely have been this enthusiastic about a story I've read. Highly recommended.

The January 6 Hearings. I was riveted to the TV during the Johnny Depp - Amber Heard trial and was beginning to have withdrawals when the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol launched its hearings.

Honestly, my expectations were low, so much having already been reported. But I was wrong. The revelations coming out of these brilliantly stage-managed hearings have been nothing less than breathtaking.

One quick takeaway: We all know there are a few things you should never do in life, tugging on Superman's cape or sword fighting with Zorro among them. Add to the list this: Never, ever piss off Liz Cheney. Regardless of how you may feel about her politics, this woman is a force of nature as Donald Trump and his gang of pardon-seekers are discovering.

The hearings continue in July after Congress takes its Independence Day recess.

They Said It

"The Trump campaign legal team knew there was no legitimate argument ... to overturn the election, and yet President Trump went forward with his plan for January 6 anyway."

-- Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney

"I told him that the stuff his people were shoveling out to the public was bullshit."

-- Former GOP Attorney General Bill Barr

News of the Strange

Tasty Tumble

It sounds like a dream come true: Swimming in a tub of liquid chocolate.

But it was a nightmare for a pair of workers at a candy factory when they fell into a partially filled vat and had to be rescued by emergency responders.

The mishap occurred in Elizabethtown, Pa., at the Mars Wrigley plant.

It's unclear how the workers tumbled into the vat. But in order to retrieve them, rescuers had to cut a hole in the bottom of the container.

The pair was taken to a local hospital to get checked out, but the tragedy of it all is the lost chocolate streaming out of the hole in the vat. All that goodness gone forever. Oh, the horror.

Say Out of the Water and the Swamp...

The world's largest freshwater fish was captured in the Mekong River in Cambodia, recently and it's not one you would want to go swimming with.

It was a stingray measuring a whopping 13 feet from head to tail.

Meanwhile in Florida, a record-breaking Burmese python was captured just a few miles from my house. The enormous snake measured 18 feet in length and weighed in at 215 pounds.

It was a female that was discovered by using a male "scout" snake equipped with a radio transmitter that allowed scientists to follow it as it sought out a mate. Researchers for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida extracted more than 200 eggs from the gigantic python.

You Cockroach, You

Court was adjourned -- rapidly -- when a woman released hundreds of cockroaches during an arraignment proceeding.

The melee took place at Albany City Court in upstate New York. One of four defendants being arraigned was caught trying to film the proceeding, which attracted the judge's ire. An altercation erupted, and a 34-year-old woman in the audience opened containers releasing hundreds of cockroaches that rapidly skittered throughout the courtroom.

Why? That's a mystery. What is clear is that court was quickly adjourned. The room was fumigated. And the bug-releaser was arrested and will be returning to the same courtroom for her own arraignment. No doubt after being patted down for any hidden insects.

More strange news at The Strange Files on the Tropic Press website.

Strange Science

The Nose Knows

Best headline of the month, this from The New York Times:

"Does Your Nose Help Pick Your Friends?"

It's about a study published in the journal Science Advances that shows humans are drawn to other humans who smell like them.

Not talking about locker room odors or bodies drenched in cologne. Just our natural scents. It's a take on birds of a feather flocking together, only based on smell.

People are always smelling one another whether they realize it or not, the study says, adding:

"There are many factors that shape whom people become friends with, including how, when or where we meet a new person. But perhaps one thing we pick up on, the researchers suggest, is how they smell."

More on that story here.

Peeing on Your Plants Can Be Good ...

Human urine packs all the essential nutrients plants need -- phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. Can it be used as a fertilizer substitute?

That's what scientists at Niger's National Institute of Agricultural Research decided to study. And they discovered that purified urine works wonders on plants.

And why would anyone go pee on their tomatoes? Because fertilizer manufacturing is harmful to the environment and artificial fertilizers are costly and not readily available in some parts of the world.

By using recycled urine, the scientists found that crop yields increased a whopping 30 percent.

Balancing Act. Scientists have observed in a series of tests that people with better balance live longer -- and not necessarily just because they are less likely to injure themselves in falls.

You can test yourself. Stand on one leg with your other foot tucked behind your knee. If you can remain upright for 10 seconds, statistically, you'll live longer.

Pro tip: It's easier wearing shoes, in my experience.


From Our Mailbag

Dear J.C.

You write admiringly of Liz Cheney. I thought you were a card-carrying member of the elite liberal lamestream media.

K. Conway

Cheney was among 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. While I may disagree with her on many issues, I can't challenge her on the courage she's shown standing up to members of her own party who put their political careers ahead of their country. So, yeah, I do admire her for that.

Dear J.C.

What's this Third Eye detective agency of which you speak? And are they really trying to find Hoffa's body?

S. Spade

Its official name is Third Eye Investigators and it is headquartered in Florida and Idaho. Lester Rivers, a Third Eye op, is best friends with Alexander Strange, the weird-news reporter whose adventures I chronicle in my books. And, yes, as a side gig, they do devote time to cold cases, including the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. Keeps their agents sharp.

Dear J.C.

That plug you dropped for Amazon. I tried the link and it takes me to your Amazon author page. Isn't that called Product Placement Advertising and don't journalists frown upon that sort of thing?

D. Draper

You could not be more correct. And for More Shameless Commercial Messages check out the next item, which I've cleverly entitled...

More Shameless Commercial Messages...

Join me and my colleague Ron Rollins as we pontificate about the vital issues of the day on our SHARPEN UP podcast. Is the Skunk Ape real? (Yes.) Who makes the best cheeseburger? (Jucys.) And are Woodward and Bernstein national heroes? (Duh.) All this and more.

You Tube
Apple Podcasts
Amazon Music
Podcast Index

Award Winners!

Strange Currents has been named the best mystery of the year in the annual Royal Palm Literary Awards. Mister Manners captured second place. Get your copies here:

The Strange Files, Florida Man, Get Strange, Strange Currents, and Mister Manners.

You can read more about these books on my website at

Enjoy this Newsletter?

Because you subscribe to this free newsletter, you are better informed about the coming month than all your friends. Cool. But don't just lord it over them. That's rude. Be generous. Let them in on the secret and forward this to everyone on your contacts list. They'll worship you for it.


Got a Question or a Weird News Item For the Next Newsletter?

Send me a note by clicking this link.

Parting Shot