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A Typical Day in Berkeley

I spotted this unusual sign on the outside of a local Berkeley middle school: "Metal Shop Theater." Later, I researched it online, and discovered some interesting history that painfully illustrated the direction of modern American education. For most of the 20th century, Willard school had a metal shop where students were taught metalworking and industrial manufacturing skills. Then about 30 years ago the metal shop was permanently closed and all shop classes deleted from the curriculum (due to budget cuts they claimed, but I have little doubt that shop classes were cut partly for ideological reasons as well). Eventually, the room that formerly held the metal shop was turned into a student theater, where the kids are taught drama and perform plays about coming out of the closet as gay and various other predictably PC themes.

Now, in a perfect world, I'm not against having arts education, including drama education, in schools. But if there are budgetary constraints and tough choices to be made, why did Willard (and countless other schools across America) cut instruction in hands-on technical skills, in favor of touchy-feely classes that convey little or no employment aptitude?

If you ever wondered why America is no longer a manufacturing nation, and why we have a massive trade deficit with China: The Metal Shop Theater is why.

They apparently stopped teaching people how to spell as well, if the city's manhole covers are any indication: "City of Bekrley."

My camera never found a moment's rest as the day progressed. Next I encountered this glorious anti-Monsanto truck.

The back side of the truck revealed that it was likely owned by Code Pink, or at least by a supporter.

Perhaps this Vagina Warrior standing nearby?

I was a little disturbed by this Berkeley sticker with an AK-47 and Arabic-looking script, but once again subsequent online research came to the rescue and revealed it was an ad for Arab-American anti-capitalist rapper "Opium." Actually, after reading about Opium's politics, I remain disturbed.

Back on BART, having finished my errands, and whaddya know? Once again I found myself sitting near some typical Berkeley types; the Lenin-style cap was a giveaway. They even seemed to be on the way to some kind of protest. But I thought to myself: "Don't be prejudicial. Just because they look like washed-up Berkeley radicals doesn't mean they are washed-up Berkeley radicals." Still, I needed to know: Was my first impression accurate? So I pressed the zoom button on my camera lens and tried to snap a picture of the paper they were holding, to see what it said. ...

"The democratic revolution and the socialist revolution (in brief)." Sigh. Don't you just hate it when stereotypes prove true?


The following six pictures were also all taken in Berkeley, but on previous visits. I had saved them aside in a random-photos folder, since they didn't fit into any previous reports. Their moment has now arrived. Here are six bonus images taken in Berkeley on earlier excursions:

"Come celebrate a Communist themed Shabbat with the Berkeley Bayit!" One wonders: Was this shabbat some sort of satirical costume party in which people dressed up as Marx and Trotsky? Or was it a serious Communist event?

Most likely, the answer is: Both. For this generation's kids, there is no difference between ironic mockery of something and sincere affection for it. I'm reminded of a line from an old Simpsons episode, when a hipster kid points at Homer being a buffoon, and says to his friend, "That old guy's cool!" The friend replies, "Are you being serious?" The first hipster looks distressed and says, "I don't even know any more!"

But this is how it begins. You defuse a taboo and become comfortable with it by joking around with it. That paves the way for possibly later embracing the taboo. All one needs to do is see the proliferation of Che shirts to understand the principle.

Meanwhile, the Muslim students are not joking around. This sign advertised a conference sponsored by the MSA, teaching Muslim students how to become sophisticated in their political activism. Note that one of the speakers at the conference was Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, infamous for his anti-Semitic tirades at events on U.C. Irvine, U.C. Berkeley, and other campuses. I would have filmed his undoubtedly hair-raising rant, but I didn't see the flyer until after the conference was already over. (Ah, heck, who am I kidding? I wouldn't have had the nerve to attend an Abdul Malik speech.)

U.C. Berkeley's Bancroft Library houses the world's largest collection of books, maps and documents about the American West. It is a researcher's paradise. But one day recently I went there to look something up, and noticed an exhibit in the lobby. Here's the sign explaining it.

And then I moved along to the exhibit itself, which turned out to be mostly composed of gay porn magazines and sex books.

This is what counts as scholarship in one of America's greatest libraries.

A typical neighborhood bulletin board. Right? But this is Berkeley...

..where typical neighborhood bulletin boards have notices about Orgone Generators and Chemtrails.

You gotta love this town. If Berkeley didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent it.