A weekly look at the things that get banned in towns and cities around the world.
FOIE GRAS, IN LOS ANGELES
The fat lady is singing loudly for foie gras in California, as a statewide embargo against the fattiest of liverfoods goes into effect July 1. Not surprisingly, restaurants have prepared intricate tasting menus so diners can cram every last gram of the controversial food into their bodies before it becomes illegal. In Los Angeles, the chic Petrossian is offering a $100 five-course meal featuring a berry gazpacho with poached goose liver and pickled beets, a flat-iron steak with foie "meat butter" and an ice cream infused with the unctuous organ. Japanese joint N/NAKA is serving foie sushi in a $180 tasting, with kanpachi covered in a dried-liver snow. Over in San Francisco, Mélisse has a $185 "Foie for All" menu with truffled foie-gras agnolotti, foie-gras flan with hazelnut foam and blood orange gelee and "of Course, Something Sweet with Foie." The chef behind these delicacies told USA Today that "30 percent of our guests are ordering foie gras."
GAY PARADES, IN MOSCOW
The city court in Russia's capital has upheld a law banning gay-pride parades for the coming century. For years, LGBT supporters have been barred by Moscow's government from holding such events; when they do participate, they often face violence or arrest or both. But activists thought they found a loophole in the law last year, and flooded the mayor's office with more than a hundred requests to march. They got form letters instead quoting the law, and thus a civil case was born. Nikolay Alekseyev, an organizer of the annually banned Moscow Pride parade and a "famous gay in Moscow," at least according to Wikipedia, vowed to appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights. The Moscow ruling, which follows a new ordinance in St. Petersburg forbidding the promotion of "gay lifestyles," expires in May 2112.
RATCHET-AZZ SATELLITE DISHES, IN BOSTON
Addressing a "serious quality-of-life issue," on Wednesday Boston councilman Matt O'Malley helped pass a ban on satellite dishes that have become eyesores. The new regulation forbids residents from mounting the dishes on the fronts of buildings or near fire escapes, ending the era when Bostonites could just load up a lone wall with seven of the things. People who already have dishes in front are grandfathered in, but everybody else will have to remove them from public sight by 2015. If that means suffering a poor signal, the customer can petition the city for the right to display a dish in a better location. City councilman Salvatore LaMattina had earlier compared the devices to litter, saying, “Certainly landlords should be held accountable for letting their property become covered in something that makes the neighborhood look terrible."
COSPLAYING, IN ORLANDO
Want to dress up like Tinker Bell and go to Disney World? Too bad! Disney security will eject you from the park faster than the bullet that killed Frau Bambi. The amusement destination has a rule against adults dressing up like Disney characters, as 15-year-old April Spielman found out recently when officials ordered her to change her clothes immediately. Metro.us reports that Spielman was happily exploring the park in full-fairy regalia with her boyfriend – who was dressed up like Peter Pan, for what it's worth – when "the happiest place on Earth took a dark, dark, turn":
Security guards asked Spielman and her boyfriend to change before entering the Animal Kingdom, telling them Disney World has a policy against "adult costumes or clothing that can be viewed as representative of an actual Disney character," so as not to confuse children hoping to meet real Disney characters, as stated on its website....
"They were talking about little girls, how it ruins their dreams," April said as she choked back tears. "But it ruined my dream, because I just wanted to be Tinker Bell."
HAHAHAHA! Oh, sorry. What a sad story. Everybody wish upon a star that Disney changes this unfair policy soon.
AND IN UNBANNING NEWS.... A TOWN WELCOMES BACK ITS PARKING ENFORCERS
Last May, the southwest-U.K. town of Aberystwyth (gesundheit) fired all its traffic cops due to budget cuts, effectively banning parking enforcement. The hamlet's elders planned to find a cheaper contractor, but it turned out to be harder than they thought. In the year that passed since the layoffs, Aberystwyth has seen a level of traffic hell rarely seen outside of a surprise blizzard in the peak of rush hour. The town's descent into madness was chronicled by the local Cambrian News, which regularly ran stories with headlines like "At least another year of chaos," "8 more months of parking chaos ahead," "Parking chaos for quite some time to come," and "Chaos on the streets must not continue a year." A survey by NCP found it to be the worst place in the U.K. to find parking spaces, and a study in 2006 unvealed that about a third of the drivers on the road at any given time were simply looking for a spot to park.
But the massive headache for drivers has finally abated, with the town hiring back a parking-enforcement team that is twice as big as the original. The eulogy on the mess was penned by the Cambrian News, which opined:
The last year has been an interesting “experiment”, if only because it has shown the majority of residents that [parking] wardens are in fact a “necessary evil”. Without people to enforce laws, it has become clear that anarchy will rule.
BEING CHARITABLE, IN CORONA, CALIFORNIA
Businesses in Corona have 90 days to remove boxes for used-clothing donations, or else the city will rip them out on the business owners' dime. The NIMBYish city council of Corona recently outlawed the wooden receptacles because, as Mayor Eugene Montanez has complained, "I’ve seen mattresses laying to the side, clothes, toys, all kinds of things that you’ll see propped up to the side of these, and they’re really an eyesore.” Another sore point considered by the council: that the boxes could be hampering the efforts of local charities in Corona, located an hour's drive east of Los Angeles, because the organizations that manage them send the clothing out of the country to places like Africa. According to the CEO of Planet Aid, a nonprofit that's no longer welcome in the city, 85 percent of California's used clothing winds up in garbage dumps.
BEING FAT, IN NEW YORK CITY
Mayor Mike Bloomberg thinks that if you drink any kind of large soda, you're a huge, disgusting sweat-hog. And maybe he has a point, with more than half of the city's population being overweight or obese. So his administration has rolled out a plan to ban sweetened drinks larger than 16 ounces. Fruit juices, dairy drinks and artificially sweetened drinks are still allowed, as are (loophole!) free refills. The new regulation, which is expected to take effect next March, targets movie theaters, restaurants, grocery stores and ball parks. One solution to soda-deprivation? Just drink beer!
Meanwhile, even New York's prisoners can't escape the long, toned arm of Bloomberg. He has asked City Hall to consider banning junk food from jail commissaries, meaning approximately 13,000 inmates may no longer get to nosh on instant ramen, candy bars, potato chips, soda and Honey Buns. For prisoners whose lives revolve around a daily Honey Bun, being as it's one of the rare joys of penal institutions and also is used as currency, this is most unsatisfactory news. “They are not going to be happy,” a corrections supervisor told the Daily News. New York has already outlawed trans fats and fried foods from jail commissaries, and needless to say smoking is not allowed.
DRUNK BUREAUCRATS, IN FUKUOKA, JAPAN
The mayor of this Kyushu city has asked his municipal employees, 20,000 in all, to refrain from imbibing alcohol "anywhere outside their own homes" for a full month. Chiding his shameful underlings, Soichiro Takashima said, "I hope each of you takes this abnormal situation seriously because this matter involves everyone." The government-mandated drying out arrives after several employees staged boozy shenanigans that would make W.C. Fields proud. City workers have been caught driving while intoxicated, beating up a taxi driver while intoxicated, beating up each other while intoxicated and stealing a car while utterly trashed (that last guy was a fireman). Fukuoka's bureaucrats are allowed to drink alcohol at their own weddings, but every other guest must suffice with soda or water.
JOHN FOLEY, IN LONDON
The British court system has issued its first human-specific ban for the upcoming 2012 London Olympics. The ultimate consumer advocate, John Foley, now faces arrest if he protests anywhere near the games. Foley's been on a bit of a tear recently over budget airliner Ryanair, which he believes unfairly fired his daughter, and has proved quite “ingenious in his disruptions," according to the police. As part of his "Ryanair Don't Care" campaign, he forced authorities to fetch the boltcutters after handcuffing himself to a goalpost during a January Manchester City soccer match. Cops found a plastic mask resembling Ryanair's CEO in his pocket. In 2011, he jumped out into the middle of a horse race holding a protest sign above his head, provoking an irate racing fan to later punch him in the face. He climbed on top of a hotel at Liverpool John Lennon Airport the year before that with a banner reading "STOP RECRUITMENT SCAMMING CABIN CREW." Foley's daughter must be the most proud, or embarrassed, kid in the world.