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Roses and Circuses January 9, 2012

Posted by homolog88 in Travel Dispatches.


Bread and circuses, as the Roman satirist Juvenal famously remarked, were the favorite ways in which the plutocracy kept the people’s minds off the misbehavior of the ruling classes. The Pasadena Rose Parade, now in its 123rd year, certainly fits into that tradition. I grew up in Pasadena, and I have seen many Rose Parades. The form is unvarying: magnificent floats interspersed with fabulously costumed equestrian teams and marching bands. The floats themselves rank amongst the greatest floral creations on the planet, and they provide a fine metaphor of consumer capitalism: processed nature completely subordinated to human design, eye-popping color, mechanical gimcrackery, and rapid obsolescence. Once done with the parade, the floats are on display for only two days. But seen close up, they are wonders of color and design.

float close-up

I love the Rose Parade. It is pure Americana —sunny, gorgeous, sprinkled with athletes and beauty queens, marching bands and floral representations of the American dream and the exotic beauty of the foreign cultures to which our manufacturing jobs have been shipped. All of this costs money, of course, but local municipalities have a tradition of entering floats based on much volunteer efforts, and, in a twist of late capitalism, corporations, such as Wells Fargo and Discover have discovered the happiness of participating with prominently displayed logos. It *really* is a small world, after all. This year’s “theme” was “Just Imagine . . .” and yet there was no mention of the John Lennon classic.

Still, for those who might unfairly tax me with a jaundiced view, I do admit to being dazzled by the artistry of the floats. The Animal Balance float featured surfing dogs propelled on boards powered by a wave machine.

Surfing dogs

Now really, that’s impressive. Though I didn’t see the floats in action this year, I did view them the day after the parade. Many of them were parked alongside Pasadena High School where I went to school, adding an extra layer of nostalgia. Not that I’d ever want to be in high school again. But . . . go Bulldogs!

Auditorium of Pasadena High School



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