It's hippie versus hippie in free-spirited Bolinas, California. Attorney Tony Serra, who has defended members of the Black Panthers and the Symbionese Liberation Army, is now defending private property and his son Shelter's right to use a skateboard ramp he built. Robert Scott, who lives next door to the Serras in a tumble-down shack surrounded by flower beds and assorted junk, doesn't like the noise. "It's like being Ansel Adams in the Yosemite Valley with the Blue Angels practicing overhead," he complains. "Or Thoreau on Walden Pond with a Budweiser commercial." A 15-year-old who uses the ramp shoots back, "He equates himself with a great writer and he's a do-nothing. If he had a job, he wouldn't sit around and complain all the time." The County Planning Commission says the ramp is illegal, but Serra is appealing. Among other arguments, he claims the plywood contraption is "sport-art," protected by the First Amendment.
The cab driver may own the cab, but in New York City passengers can tell him what to play on his tape deck or order him to turn the thing off. Under Rule 107 of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, if the driver is listening to a Mets game on the radio, a passenger has the right to make him switch to the Yankees. Howard Fogel, president of the Independent Taxi Owners Council, says the issue is so petty it's ridiculous. "What are they going to do to us next? We're in the business of providing taxi rides, not entertainment. " Besides, isn't a Mets game sport-art?
A real brickbat for the school district in Nacagdoches, Texas. Grammar school students who forgot their pencils and books were required to wear bricks around their necks as a reminder. "It was not a punishment. It was a gimmick—an attempt to get students to bring the proper supplies to school," says school superintendent James Bogue. "I would say it was unusual, but it wasn't unsafe. It wasn't used to intimidate the children." The brick trick worked so well, he claims, that school officials decided to drop it. On their feet, we hope.
Don't touch that dial: The Board of Governors of State Colleges and Universities of Illinois committed the unthinkable by banning the old television program "The Untouchables" from a campus public TV station. The series, opined board member Dominick Bufalino, is too violent and creates a negative sterotype of Italian-Americans. Meanwhile actor Robert Stack, who portrayed Untouchable G-man Eliot Ness, is off for Italy to accept an award for the show—that country's number-one hit.
To conquer the steep hills of Bristol, England, Bernadette Burton had an electric motor fitted to her baby's carriage. The machine, which travels at a constant walking pace, is "driven" by the mother. Her eight-month-old son Sebastian is the sole passenger. Not so fast, said Department of Transport officials—that thing's a motorized vehicle and motorized vehicles are our business, our only business. "Normally, if someone has a contraption of this sort they would submit it to us and we would give them a decision on it," offered an officious official, miffed at the slight. Transport czars might deem the pram a motorcycle, he said, helpfully recommending that Sebastian and Mum don crash helmets and outfit the speed racer with side mirrors.
The durian fruit may be a delicacy to some, but don't take one on the Singapore subway. Riders face a $250 fine for transporting the dreaded fruit. The durian is a rather, uh, pungent local specialty and its odor lingers for weeks, especially in air-conditioned areas. It's been banned from most hotels, hospitals, and commercial airliners in Southeast Asia for years. What does the fruit smell like? Most descriptions are unprintable. But one critic says it smells like "rich brimstone musk, whispering of depravity and month-old eggs."