John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Also, L.A. outlaws plastic bags; Lady Gaga ponders violent threats in Jakarta; and much more.
Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (last week's edition here):
FLIES IN BATHROOMS, IN BEIJING
Faced with 12,000 public toilets that often reek worse than a rotting bison, China's capital has rolled out a hygiene initiative meant to make answering nature's call a more agreeable event. Among the improved standards is an oddly specific prohibition against more than two flies per restroom, a stipulation that whips into existence the world's newest most-offensive job: toilet-fly inspector. The move comes after Beijing spent nearly $57 million to get its bathrooms up to par for the 2008 Olympic Games. Said one commentator on the insectoid quota: "The cleanliness of public toilets reflects the level of civilization and management skills of a city."
PLASTIC BAGS, IN LOS ANGELES
L.A. has become the largest city in America to ban plastic bags in grocery stores, beginning in about four months. The city council voted 13-1 this week to approve the planet-pleasing measure, with the lone dissenter, Councilman Bernard Parks, saying that uncleaned reusable bags could promote the cross contamination of raw meats. Also, in a year the city will force markets to charge 10 cents for paper bags, spurring this waaaahhhing from an L.A. Times chat participant called Maurice: "We (Angelenos) will be shopping in neighboring cities if/when the ban goes into force." Good luck finding your El Dorado of Plastic Bags, Maurice, as 48 other cities in California have also banished them.
LADY GAGA, IN JAKARTA
The leader of Jakarta's Islamic Defender Front has vowed to meet Lady Gaga at the airport before her June concert in the city, saying he'll put her back in the air before she has a chance to set her heathen feet in the country. "She's a vulgar singer who wears only panties and a bra when she sings and she stated she is the envoy of the devil's child and that she will spread satanic teaching," said Salim Alatas, adding, "This is dangerous." Another religious leader has threatened that “if you want chaos in Jakarta, just go on with the concert,” and the Jakarta police refused to even issue a permit for Gaga to perform, a historic first for the city. The problem seems to be the singer's presumed stances on promiscuity and homosexuality. Indonesia, home of the largest Muslim population on earth, hasn't seen this level of anti-Western-music sentiment since it drove out Rihanna, Akon, N*E*R*D, 50 Cent and Avenged Sevenfold, all since 2008.
THOSE "ANONYMOUS" MASKS, IN MONTREAL
It's a sad day for Guy Fawkes... well, slightly less sad than the one when he got tortured and hung. Authorities in Montreal have banned protesters from wearing hoods or masks, including every geek's favorite, in an effort to quell the widespread student marching/rioting that's been afflicting Quebec since February. Why so suddenly serious, Canada? Well, Quebec's government wants to raise college-tuition rates by 82 percent (about $1,700) over the next five years, spurring nightly acts of civil disobedience that culminated with the arrest of 518 protesters on Wednesday. (With the hoosegows overstuffed, it's uncertain how many people will be able to turn out for the impending 2012 hockey riot, but we'll see.) The Canadian government also passed an emergency measure last week, Bill 78, forbidding unapproved protests of the sort that are going on constantly now. Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay said he would defend his fashion police handing out $1,000 tickets, arguing, "When a cause is just, why is it necessary to hide behind a mask?"
*** BONUS STATE BAN *** NAUGHTY LICENSE PLATES IN MARYLAND
The Baltimore Sun has put together a delightful quiz regarding what Maryland's department of motor vehicles considers an unacceptable personalized license plate. Which of the following plate is allowed to grace your ride in Maryland: TOILET, SAFESEX, FATPIMP, ALLAH, BUNS? Plus more! Cruise on over to the Sun to play.
Top photo of "very public toilets" by Robert Ennals, who writes on Flickr: "Note the use of squat toilets, and the lack of a door. What you can't see is that the door to the outside would is right behind where I'm standing, meaning that anyone passing by outside can see people doing their business."