These photos were taken at the "How Berkeley Can You Be?" parade in Berkeley on Sunday, September 19, 2004.
Berkeley's homegrown parade is a celebration of everything that makes Berkeley so proud of itself. Even the very title of the parade -- "How Berkeley Can You Be?" -- turns the name of the city into an adjective. To be "Berkeley" is, well -- see for yourself:
But wait! Sarcastic interlopers have taken up a prime spot near the beginning of the parade! And it's not satire. Because their banner is true. Truer than you can imagine.
A group of clothing-challenged persons followed closely behind.
"Daddy? Why is my face just a few feet from those penises?"
"Don't worry, son -- nudity is perfectly natural. Especially in front of 50,000 children."
Mommy -- do I have to "get" that man's "Ashcroft"?
For additional information, see smug and microphallus.
Berkeley's mayor, Tom Bates, strolled along and shook hands with his constituents.
Much more famous than the mayor is Berkeley's own Pink Man, who rides around the city daily on his unicycle, wearing nothing but a pink unitard.
Out-of-towners may wonder: Why does he do that? Is the Pink Man some kind of joker? Or is he serious? Or crazy? It's very important that everyone understands: in Berkeley, it is not possible to distinguish between reality and satire. Even the residents themselves have lost the ability to sort out when they're being serious and when they're joking. The "How Berkeley Can You Be?" Parade is a perfect illustration of this: ...
For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses Against Soliciting. Satire -- or real? Their retro clothes suggested satire, but they never once stepped out of character. I carefully read all the literature they were handing out and it certainly seemed sincere. But they appeared too young and too pseudo-intellectual to be authentic, so in this case I'd cast my vote for "satire."
Next case. Hmmm. The sign does make a good point. Car accidents are 60 times more dangerous than the fighting in the Iraq War. But shouldn't we thus conclude that the Iraq War is not the disaster it's being portrayed as, if more Americans are killed in car wrecks at home in a single day than are killed in all of Iraq in two months? Yet I suspect the sign-bearer was trying to say that both the war and cars are bad. Bad. Bad bad. We'll have to file this one under "unintentional self-parody."
Real? Street theater? I never was able to figure it out. There are a few Republicans in Berkeley, though they're not easy to find. I wouldn't be surprised if there really was a Berkeley Republican Club. But was this really one of them -- or just an actor pretending to be one of those mythical creatures called "Republicans"? The jury's still out on this one.
OK, now we're on solid ground here. This is satire.
It's almost comforting on those rare occasions in Berkeley when you can tell if someone's joking or not.
The irony only becomes apparent when you realize that while the protestors may themselves not be exactly billionaires, they are quite well-off (over $70,000 median income city-wide) compared to the average American.
Time to get serious. Here come the Communists! No satire here. Not one molecule of humor.
Notice the t-shirt: Marx, Lenin and Mao.
If you ever thought the phrase "wild-eyed Communist" was some kind of exaggeration, take a look at this picture -- and then click on it to see a film of this wild-eyed Communist in action! (QuickTime, 2.8mb)
Ah, satire. Relief. But is misspelling "prostiutes" part of the joke?
The message of this pro-anti-"prostiution" group turned out to be so muddled that suddenly I was unsure of my footing again. Exactly why did you dress up your eight-year-old child as a pimp?
And carry around a sign that says this?
Must...understand. ... Head...in...pain...
Alrighty! I get it! (Or do I...?...)
"Mommy, do I have to stand next to the creepy metallic snow bunny with the huge red vulva?"
OK, enough of that satire stuff. The no-nonsense polyamorists are in town and it's time to get down!
The main difficulty with the polyamorists is sorting out who's which gender. If you have to ask, you don't want to know.
A sign for those who are unfamiliar with this not-a-joke lifestyle category -- helpfully printed in three languages.
The Kerry campaign offered me $10,000 to destroy all copies of this photograph. I turned them down.
Continuing along with our "humiliate and traumatize your children" theme...
This little girl had to hand out anti-circumcision literature, with fairly graphic descriptions of the procedure...
...while another little boy was put on display at the anti-circumcision booth, to ensure that every molester in northern California could accurately visualize his private parts. Great parenting, Mom!
The "legalize marijuana" truck...
...hired young kids to hand out pro-marijuana literature.
Not sure how old they were, but they sure didn't look like adults to me.
Meanwhile, at the marijuana booth, children learned of the benefits of this wonder drug.
Yay Tibet! Not satire, not political, not confusing. Just Berkeley's beloved Tibetan community on parade.
Unpretentious smiles! I'm going to faint!
Oof! Like a punch in the stomach, the Trekkies and cosplayers show up and immediately obliterate all traces of unpretentiousness.
Oh dear, we're back at that blurry intersection between seriousness and satire. My tummy hurts... .
Too...fat...to walk...in parade. Must show off...Klingon outfit. Idea! Ride in...Earthling golf cart.
The theme of this year's parade was "alternative transportation," which was about as apolitical as Berkeley gets. But there was plenty of Berkeley-style politics on display nonetheless...
Here's a new take on the whole election mess.
Catwoman was giving George Bush a beating he wouldn't soon forget.
Pow! Even Robin is getting in on the action.
A simple equation to solve the world's problems: Gas + Oil = War. It's all so clear to me now! Oh wait -- it's a joke? I knew that! Ha ha! Oh -- it's not a joke? Yes, of, course, you see the geopolitical... .
Ah, now we're in Berkeley. This is a middle-of-the-road political sentiment around here.
"Bush is responsible for more civilian deaths than Osama Bin Laden."
This same van was covered top to bottom with similar messages.
At the festival at the end of the parade, someone set up a Bush punching bag.
It was quite popular with the kids.
After a good workout punching Bush, they could refuel themselves with Swasti-Sweets: "Fast Food for Fascists."
Remember: you can't get your city permit for a public gathering in Berkeley unless you promise to have swastikas on display! A well-known city ordinance.
Bushosama, the two-headed dragon.
There was no shortage of Bush/pubic hair jokes.
A visually impressive float, but I never could quite decipher the message.
Mark your calendars!
All-purpose anti-American button -- useful for years to come!
Stating the obvious -- at least in Berkeley.
The parade also had a beauty pageant and a concourse of unusual automobiles. Check 'em out:
The Miss "How Berkeley Can You Be?" Beauty Pageant.
"Art cars" on parade.