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Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Resolution In The Air

The news that smoking has been banned in the cafes of Berlin and Paris (even if the laws will not be strictly enforced for months to come) is as good as it is unlikely. I, myself, was once a smoker, and spent several years in Paris, reading, writing, and daydreaming in my local cafe (Le Nemrod) accompanied by the plumes of tobacco that are the silky blue angels of seedy leisure and lazy desire. Cigarette smoke was once the airborne cinematic dada of the 20th century, as modern as death, chaos and machines in tandem. But, as we know from Mann's stylish The Insider, it is possible to have a mise-en-scene contra the cancer-giver extraordinaire. Smoking kills people, and is addictive (so is life, sneer cynics). Other cynics carp about the "nanny state" - as if laws against speeding, or putting rat poison in sandwiches, were also horrifying intrusions into the personal sphere. Art, and cosmopolitan, even bohemian, locations, should survive the cafe culture meeting the cult of health. So long as there is coffee, conversation, and newspapers, and passers-by to ogle or compare, cafes can, and will, thrive.
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