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First Posted: 9:02 am - July 3rd, 2015

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The Fourth of July is not just a celebration of the our nation’s independence and a reassertion of our utter superiority to those tea-swilling, monarchy-loving fops across the pond. It is also an opportunity for teenage boys, and those of similarly stunted faculties, to narrowly avoid permanent disfigurement.

Maiming ones self as an adolescent is a patriotic tradition as old as Johnny Tremain, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I was once a teenage boy, and as such, I made some incredibly irresponsible fireworks-related decisions, and I had friends who made my ill-advised experiments seem positively smart.

This is a handy guideline of do’s and don’t’s to help make self-immolation more avoidable than ever before.

Don’t: Integrate animals and fireworks in anyway. Most animals are terrified of fireworks. This is because animals, unlike adolescent males, are wise enough to have a sense of self-preservation. Make sure your pets are in a safe place, wearing a thunder jacket, or doing whatever helps them cope with loud noises before engaging in firework-related fun. Also, don’t be the cruel jerk who sticks firecrackers in the orifices of amphibians.

Do: Follow the instructions on fireworks. It seems silly that a colorful, controlled explosion comes with instructions, but they can be helpful and share insights such as fuse length, number of charges and advice in choosing an appropriate environment for the detonation of the firework. I learned the importance of firework instructions when I couldn’t figure out why my waterproof fuse was failing to ignite a string of interconnected firecrackers we had submerged in a pond.

This actually leads me into the second don’t.

Don’t: Attempt to create your own improved fireworks. It turns out most adolescent males have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to designing explosives. Generally, mixing a variety of unknown quantities of explosive powders together is a great way to permanently limit your choices in a game of rock-paper-scissors.

While the waterproof fuse failed to ignite our firecracker string, we had a lot more success getting a floating barge toting a canister of gasoline to ignite. Of course, creating a floating island of burning petroleum was only momentarily rewarding, because we soon realized we had no way of extinguishing the flames. Luckily, the fire just eventually burned the last of its fuel and went out.

Do: Use Roman Candles as guns, but only aim at inanimate objects. Look, this is probably a don’t, but it’s unavoidable. All I can say is be careful to only aim at inanimate objects. It is absolutely not a good idea to use metal trash can lids as shields and have duels, no matter how cool you know it will look. Flaming orbs shot out of Roman Candles can leave some nasty scars.

Don’t: Aim your Roman Candle at an inanimate object that you do not own. The mailboxes and homes of others are never acceptable targets. This would seem to be commonsense, but it is surprisingly hard for some people to grasp. I wasn’t present for this, but while being careless with their Roman Candles, some friends of mine accidentally shot out a neighbor’s window.

Apparently, they blamed the entire incident on some slightly older kids, who were wearing black T-shirts and studded collars while generally skulking around the neighborhood. However, mildly threatening goth kids are not omnipresent, so refrain from taking similar actions.

Do: Buy some really big fireworks. The larger the firework, the larger the explosion, and large explosions are inherently awesome. Michael Bay has a career for this very reason. Usually, large fireworks come with promotional items, such as free bottle rockets or complimentary sparklers. You are losing money not buying low grade artillery. Stay just shy of inebriated, follow instructions, and you should be just fine.

Don’t: Do not under any circumstances aim a firework at your eye. This should go without saying, but if you suspect there is something preventing a firework from detonating, bringing it toward your face for a thorough examination is a bad idea. Cases of firework-improved vision are few and far between.

Follow these guidelines, and you should continue to celebrate the birth of the U.S.A. by blowing up small parts of it for years to come.

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