"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  --William Shakespeare

Entries in parades (5)


Bonne AnnĂ©e du Serpent, tout le monde!


Paris ushered in the Year of the Serpent Sunday, which was fine with us, because it was the occasion for a parade. As we keep saying, we love a parade. We probably go to six a year here, even if we don't report on all of our outings.





Things are looking up; the Year of the Serpent should be a far better year for the worldwide economy. Our favorite savant, Dr. Maoshing Ni of the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, a 36th generation acupuncturist, offers his take on the new year on his website.





Parisians from all different communities love their parades. It gives them an excuse to get out, in any weather, and watch their neighbors perform, and to watch their neighbors watch each other. This is a prime people-watching city.






Ethnic parades here are not at all exclusive. There's always at least one Brazilian drumming and dancing contingent in every défilé, and the Colombians are party animals, too.



Brazilian drummer


Colombian dancer






And, of course parades bring out the best children's faces.






Young dancer surprised by the monkey trickster god, Hanuman


If you've come this far and are disappointed that we covered a parade in black and white, here's last year's Dragon parade, in color. Kansas, meet Oz.





The Face of Tomorrow's Army?

Though we love parades, we didn't attend last Saturday's Bastille Day number, which is much more regimented than most in Paris. A crowd of up to a half-million on the Champs Elysses, lots of barricades, heavy crowd control, screaming fighter jets overhead, and no access for interesting photos. Ares triumphant. In sharp contrast to, say, the Dionysian revelry of the Paris Gay Pride parade.

But we did wander, post-parade, over to the Esplanade des Invalides, the huge greensward in front of the gold-domed Les Invalides, which houses the military museum of France, and Napoleon's Tomb. This entire swath of the seventh arrondissement is devoted to France's past and present military glory, and the post-parade exhibits are like a trade show for the public; each branch of the service displays and recruits, from the French Foreign Legion, to the regular army, navy, and marines, to the gendarmerie.

As long-time peace activists who wear our hearts on our sleeves, we won't get into a long anti-war riff.  We just want to note that this was a marketing event, and War has lots of toys and tools on its side that make it look a lot more fun than Peace. There was nothing at Saturday's trade show that would make one think about the consequences of war. The world's literature is replete with heart-choking, compelling anti-war novels, films, articles, etc.--like our friend Chris Abani's horrifying novella of child soldiers, Song for Night. But somehow the message still isn't getting across.

We are Parisians, but we remain Americans.  Our country of origin is the largest arms supplier in the world, our adopted country is fourth.

The U.S.A. spends around twenty percent of its yearly budget on defense, up to half if you figure spending the way the War Resisters League does.

Given the vast sums of money at stake, it's no wonder that War spends a lot of energy looking attractive. Would that Peace had as effective a marketing machine.




Say It Loud: I'm Gay and I'm Proud!


As we've said before, Paris Play loves a parade, a parade, a parade.

One of the loudest and most exuberant we've been to so far was today's Gay Pride celebration, which just happens to have passed our corner for hours this afternoon, a block from the Seine.  It's one of the loudest thanks to the never-ending convoy of flatbed trucks with full DJ rigs, playing continuous disco, or tech, or dance music at levels you can hear four blocks away.

And it's one of the most exuberant because, well, just look.  We saw new folks of all types--you provide the label, they were there, many in platform shoes--and some old favorite friends including the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, with whom we used to party in San Francisco (they have a French convent over here), and even, floating above the revelers, an animated hero.  It's safe to say that France's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community was boisterous and proud and fully represented.

No gays on the scaffold

Of course, exuberance was also tempered by the fact that being gay can be a death sentence in many intolerant countries around the world, and that pride is also a matter of asserting ones' rights.

No crowd estimate, but, according to reliable news sources, past parades have drawn as many as 650,000 revelers and spectators.  Since Paris weather turned summery and beautiful only within the last week, any costume was possible, from full drag, to square pants, to no pants.


Homo or hetero my children I love them as they are

Human rights are my pride

And why is the princess never a prince?



Is This Germany in the Thirties?

Faux Mexican wrestling poster; street art mocking the French presidential runoff


As we wait for Sunday's second round of voting in the French presidential election, when the center-right incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the Socialist challenger, François Hollande, face off, mano-a-mano, the big story is still the fact that Marine Le Pen, the 43-year-old, far-right, anti-immigration challenger, picked up almost eighteen percent of the first-round vote April 22. This was a tad more than her father, Jean-Marie, received in the first and second rounds, respectively, as the National Front's presidential candidate in 2002.



Will she, or will she not endorse either remaining candidate by Sunday? some commentators still breathlessly ask.



No, she won't. She dislikes both parties, and positioned herself in a triumphal speech on election night (“We have exploded the monopoly of the two parties...”) as the successor to the failed policies of Sarkozy's UMP party, and the perceived "ultra-liberalism" of Hollande and the left in general. Imagine, for example, if U.S. Republican Sarah Palin had been a third-party candidate, and, having lost in the hypothetical first round, had taken a whack at both McCain and Obama. (Just for fun, further imagine the U.S. with viable third parties, instead of parties that are two sides of a coin residing in a lobbyist's pocket.)



While Ms. Le Pen may not be a kingmaker, there will also be the question of legislative representation in France's multi-party Assembly and Senate further down the line, and perhaps even pressure on Sarkozy (if re-elected) to consider National Front politicians as cabinet members. That's not bloody likely either, according to most pundits, but there are some talking heads who say, "Hey, why not give her a shot? She's got no program other than anti-immigration, trade protectionism, anti-NATO, and ultra-nationalism; give her party some responsibility in a cabinet and watch them tank." Ms. Le Pen has served as a member of the European Parliament, representing north-west France.





Meanwhile, the 'tween elections period was marked by a bit of political theater here in town yesterday (May Day), a ritual that Le Pen's National Front party performs every year, but since this was an election year, their event--a parade and wreath-laying--was bigger and better, and quite well-organized. While the trains didn't run on time (the parade was late), there were dozens of contingents of National Front supporters bussed in from all over France, and the number of blue, white and red national flags made it look like a Nixon rally (had Dick been French).



The ritual political theater, started by Ms. Le Pen's father, who founded the Catholic-based party in 1972, involves placing a floral wreath at a truly gaudy gold-painted statue of Jeanne D'Arc, the national heroine of France, across from the Louvre on Paris' Right Bank.




We at Paris Play found this odd, since we know May Day as an international left-wing celebration, and since May first is known here as Fete du Travail (Labor Day, which is akin to the holiday in the U.S. in September), to honor the labor movement and its successes. Labor is a powerful force here in France, and the 35-hour week and an early retirement age are practically sacrosanct. In late 2010, during his first term, Sarkozy successfully pushed the legislature to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, but a Socialist president with a heavy political debt to labor may work to drop it back down.




Anyway, this is the 600th anniversary year of Jeanne D'Arc's birth, and the fortuitous coincidence of it being an election year in which the National Front did well, made the party's ritual tweaking of left-wing noses even more of an event this year. Marine Le Pen AND Jean-Marie showed up for the wreath-laying, and Paris Play estimates that ten thousand National Front members attended the event, and the party rally in front of the Garnier Opera House.

(Our crowd estimate: We counted 300 people passing a single point during one minute, and the crowd kept passing for one half-hour. Later on Tuesday, we attended the annual left-wing, Left Bank May Day celebration, which coincidentally happened to meander by our block. As we write this post, the crowd is still passing, after some hours. Hundreds of thousands. However, none of the photographs in this post are from that parade. We found the right more fascinating.)



Are we in Germany in the 1930s, as some would have it, and are these the faces of fascism? Or is this just a bunch of scared and angry (and happy to have made a political tremor) French nationalists enjoying the first really sunny Paris day we've had in weeks, since the false spring of late March? We hate stories that end "only time will tell," so we won't say that.

We will note (our friend Mort Rosenblum of Reporting Unlimited tipped us to this excellent New York Times analysis) that there is a rising tide of extreme right sentiment all over Europe, but it appears to us that the National Front is still more of a Le Pen family personality cult (witness the generational hand-off) than a political party (think of a far-poorer populist Ross Perot), and that Marine is just a more attractively packaged and more muted version of her father.

4 May Update:  Perhaps Nicolas Sarkozy read Paris Play's assessment of the Le Pen family party and found himself in agreement with our conclusion, when he called it the Le Pen family business







Here are four short, uncut, high-definition videos of marching, singing, chanting, etc., that will give you even more of the sense of being there. Think of them as uncut newsreel footage. They are Flash, so you might not be able to view them on Apple mobile devices:





Happy Dragon New Year!


As we've mentioned before, Paris Play loves a parade.

So does Paris.



This week's parade, on a bone-chilling zero degree Sunday, was in honor of Chinese New Year, in one of Paris' two Chinatowns, the one in the thirteenth arrondissement. (The other is in the tenth, in Belleville.)

It had the requisite din of firecrackers and drums, brightly colored lions (one on a cell phone--look close) and dragons, precision kung fu squadrons, fragrant incense, and hundreds of thousands of cheering spectators, including a Dali aficionado. Most of THEM had cameras, ranging from cell phones to huge video rigs, which makes an attempted parade more like a slow costumed crawl through a rugby scrum.



While police kept order accompanying the first few contingents, and polite Parisians stayed behind the barricades, the rest of us moved in after the police disappeared for close-ups of anything that was painted yellow or red. By day's end, the yellowest part of the parade was our bruises from battling for the best camera angles.



But we LOVE parades, particularly one heralding a new year that promises positive change. Here's a forecast for the Year of the Dragon from our favorite living Chinese sage and medical practitioner, Dr. Maoshing Ni of Santa Monica's Tao of Wellness.