The Gods Require Blood!
September 16, 2005 3:03 PM   Subscribe

Help my students design a parade float based on the theme of Aztec human sacrifice.

I am the faculty advisor for a student club at my university. For the Homecoming Parade in two weeks, they are designing a float based on the theme of human sacrifice. They want to dress up like Aztec priests, build an Aztec temple on the back of a pickup truck, and then ritually sacrifice the mascot of the opposing team, the Bulldogs. We need advice!

1. The priestly costumes. Any ideas how to make costumes like these? 1, 2, 3.

2. Buckets of Blood. The students want lots of gore. How do we make a fake human heart? There are plenty of recipes for fake blood on the internet, does anyone have a personal recommendation?

3. Spurting Blood: In a proper Aztec sacrifice, the chest is cut open and still-beating heart yanked out in two perfect motions. Of course, they want blood to spurt all the hell over. Do we use some kind of pumps? Pressurized balloons of blood?

4. Music. Is there some spooky Latin/Indian sounding music we should use?

5. Stealth and Misdirection. The powers that be might not like this plan, so the float needs to appear fairly innocuous until it is underway. I am thinking we have a banner across the truck that reads "Aztec Culture" with the "Culture" changing to "Sacrifice" after the parade officials are past. Any other ideas?

All other advice or observations welcome. We will be working on this for a couple weeks and will develop other questions that I will post in this thread. If they pull it off I will post pictures.
posted by LarryC to Grab Bag (12 answers total)
Don't any of the club members know some mechanical engineering students or art majors?
posted by mischief at 3:13 PM on September 16, 2005

The major factor here is how far away the audience will be. If it is like a regular parade then you don't need to make too much effort with the heart, gore etc. Arming the "corpse" with a few squeezy bottles of blood which can be randomly fired off should work, and anything will do for the heart - a decorated sponge might be best so whoever holds it up can squeeze it and turn their arm red for effect. While it's fun to do a lot of research etc, don't get bogged down in detail and just go for the big effect - it's unlikely people will be looking out for inaccuracies of bloodflow etc...
posted by fire&wings at 4:06 PM on September 16, 2005

My favorite recipe for stage blood:

Karo Syrup
2 drops blue food dye to every 3 drops of red food dye
Chunky peanut butter (just a little for texture)

The smell is a little overwhelming if you have to wear it all day, but all-in-all...
posted by FYKshun at 4:17 PM on September 16, 2005

There is always rooom for Jello.
posted by Drastic at 4:44 PM on September 16, 2005

Wow. That's, um, potentially really offensive. No wonder I kind of like the idea. A couple of things to keep in mind:

1. For costuming, contact your Theatre Dept. Make sure you indicate that "blood" stains are likely if things are to be borrowed.

2. Volume of blood needed. If this is a long parade, and you are going to want to keep the show going the whole time (as opposed to a single big climax at the end, or the judging station, or whatever), you are going to need A LOT of blood. Take a gallon jug of water and splash it around outside, and you'll see it really doesn't go as far as you think it would. I'd guess you are going to want at least several dozen gallons for a medium-length parade. At that point cost, manufacturing time, and storage may become concerns.

3. fire&wings (mmm... hot wings) is exactly right - don't sweat the details. Go for spectacle, not authenticity. A sponge soaked in "blood" is a great idea for the heart. Might be worth getting the Theatre Dept involved in the "stagecraft" aspect of the float as well.

4. For music, all I can think of off hand would be the chanty/droney stuff from "Eyes Wide Shut" or the Carmina Burana -- not exactly authentic, but thematically I think this is what you are going for.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:42 PM on September 16, 2005

Best answer: This is a terrible idea which is going to get you in a lot of trouble. I love it. You're going to piss off pretty much everyone, so forgo accuracy for theatre.

1. Costumes. According to your pictures, Aztecs were big into feathers, gold and white face paint. You can buy big feathers at Michaels Crafts, or any other large cheesy craft store. Buy foam at the local fabric store - or get camping pads from the army surplus if you have one. Cut head dress shapes out of foam (make sure it's big enough to fit around someone's head,) stick the feathers into it & spray paint the whole shebang. Tie the headdresses on with strips of cloth. Big headdress things take the eye away from the rest of the costume and on a parade float nobody expects total details. White face paint is easy and everywhere this time of year. Gold spray paint is cheap at Lowes or Home Depot. Make tunic/toga things out of sheets from the thrift store & spray paint them gold. Comb the thrift stores for big hideous belts to hold the whole thing on. Wear a lot of freaky makeup: white face paint, blue dots, swishes, all that stuff. The sacrifice, obviously, should be dressed all in white.

2. Blood: I would just use red food coloring & water. Maybe Karo syrup to make it stick. Or a little strawberry jello, seriously diluted and left overnight. I'd be worried about people getting upset about being squirted by anything other than water & food coloring, though.

3. Squirting mechanism: the simplest is squeezable plastic squirt bottles from the local beauty supply outlet, the kind you use for hair dye. They're cheap and surprisingly effective. If your students want to get fancy, cool. But squirt bottles are pretty damn good. The more, the merrier. The sacrifice can hold two and squirt them both at the appropriate moment, the attendants can start squirting then too. Ribbons of flying blood!

4. Music: Carmina Burana. It worked for Conan, it will work for you.

5. Stealth: Nobody will care what you're doing (they're much too busy to worry about the content of floats that aren't full of nekkid girls) until the blood starts flying, so just sort of jog around the float, or sit and wave mystically, you're home free.

Have fun & post pictures!!!
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:26 PM on September 16, 2005

For the music, the obvious choice is Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, don't you think? It's not Latin/Indian, but it sounds very violent and primitive.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:58 AM on September 17, 2005

Best answer: Is your college nicknamed the Aztecs, or is this just a random Aztec connection? If the former, stealth will be no problem -- just call the float Aztec Pride, and reveal the sacrifice theme at the appropriate time. Otherwise, I'd have to think the whole Aztec Culture scam is going to be seen right through pretty quickly. You may have to develop a complete "camoflage theme" -- "Go Wildcats" or whatever -- that includes enough tarps/sheets/hiding places to secrete the Aztecs & Victim until after the inspection or whatever.

Also important, from a professional standpoint, is what your position in regards to this stunt. You need to decide if Plausible Deniability is best -- "Dean Wormer, I had no idea what these kids were going to do" -- or if you are willing to stand up for them should heat come down upon them.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:26 AM on September 17, 2005

Re: the blood, if it's a long parade and you want to pull the whole sacrifice scene more than once, you don't want the whole goddamn float to be dyed red the first time. So you should use controled amounts of blood, and think of some sort of washable surface, probably plastic or something that you can wipe down for the next performance.
And I for one was mildly offended by the idea, so I say go for it.
posted by signal at 8:02 AM on September 17, 2005

Best answer: For the record, the Kappa Alpha Order -- a group not generally known for tolerating progressive attitudes about anything, especially issues of racial tolerance -- shut down one of their D/FW chapters for doing something substantially less dumb and offensive than this.

If you're advising them, you should be telling them to nix the Aztec, especially if you're at MSSU, who advertise their Mexico semester with a big graphic smack on the front page.

You wanna do human sacrifice? Make them nondescript, unidentifiable cavemen. Making them Aztec is on the same planet as having them put on blackface and wear giant fake lips as they dance around the pot cooking a player from Opponent University and shouting "Ooga booga." This is doubly true if you're going to be stealthing it as a tribute to Aztec (which is to say Mexican) culture to start with.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:45 AM on September 17, 2005

Response by poster: Promised Update: Well, the club had their own civil war over the issue, with a peace faction disliking the human blood theme, a war faction wanting to actually squirt blood on the viewers along the parade route, and a Mariachi faction coming in with an entirely different idea for the float. They are working out some kind of nondescript compromise which will not involve blood or sacrifice, or very much of anything really. Ah well, given ROU's perhaps very wise concerns, it may be just as well...

Thanks for the advice all!
posted by LarryC at 4:14 PM on September 26, 2005

Response by poster: Late update: After the club decided not to do the sacrifice, and a few days before the parade, our head football coach dropped dead of a heart attack. So it is a damn good thing they didn't do the bloody heart idea!
posted by LarryC at 2:57 PM on December 1, 2005

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