Going to the park or downtown to watch the big professional fireworks show is always an enjoyable spectacle; no patriotic or sporting event is complete without them. When synchronized with music they can be even more dramatic.
However, I’ve always enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the fireworks you can buy and shoot off yourself. The sulfurous smell, the shredded paper, and even the burnt fingers bring back memories of family gatherings and idle summer days. Where I grew up, in Kansas, fireworks were legal for about a week around July 4, although a window has now opened for New Year’s Eve as well; I was both awestruck and jealous when I visited my cousins in Tennessee as a kid and learned that they could buy and shoot off fireworks all year round.
I also enjoyed the packaging and was intrigued by the Chinese script and traditional designs, a vintage commercial style that inspired Salvador Dali to paint his Board of Demented Associations (Fireworks) in the early 1930s.
Fireworks with traditional packaging can still be found, but in recent years I’ve noticed a more trend-driven approach to packaging, with the larger fireworks especially trying to stand out in a crowded marketplace with photoshopped labels that look like movie posters or glossy magazine ads, and names that reflect their Chinese manufacturers’ idea of American pop culture. (They’re even rated, with the “Wizard’s Wrath,” for example, rated “A for Action.”) Considering how difficult it can be to distinguish between numerous models that all promise to “emit showers of sparks with loud report,” they need any advantage they can get.
Sometimes the result is zany dada poetry, like fireworks named “One Dumb Cousin” and “Massive American.” Others are obvious appeals to things that are current, like the laptop-shaped “iPyro;” a few years ago there were numerous fireworks with “cyber” in their name, but other than the “iPyro” all I saw this year was “Twitter Glitter.”
There are also the unauthorized “Captain Americas” (an obvious choice) and illustrations that look sort of like Darth Vader or other characters. There was a Britney Spears firework for a while but I haven’t seen it recently.
To all my American readers: have a happy and safe Independence Day!