Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hurricane Carla

France is so awesome! First, its freshly divorced president is going out with a supermodel-turned-singer and the first photos of them together were taken during a trip to Eurodisney. The news of Sarkozy's affair with singer Carla Bruni came out just before my arrival in Paris and were the talk of the town. Sarkozy could not have found a better mate than Bruni, a bona fide "caviar left" bourgie known for ruthless maneating tendencies (that she was caught at Eurodisney is the icing on the cake). Indeed a few years ago Justine Levy, daughter of "public intellectual" Bernard-Henry Levy, wrote a roman à clef titled Nothing Serious about a love triangle revolving around a destructive supermodel-turned-singer named Paula. In real life, Bruni was dating editor Jean-Paul Enthoven then left him for his own son, philosopher Raphaël Enthoven, at the time with Levy.

I find this soap opera completely enthralling—after all, there aren't many heads of state out there dating someone with a MySpace page. Or, for that matter, someone who's also consorted with both Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, come out in favor of polyandry and set Yeats to music—check out Carla's version of "Those Dancing Days Are Gone" (from No Promises, 2007).

Another thing that struck me during the trip is that while café owners are putting all their resources in finding ways to get around the smoking ban that's effective January 1, TV commercials for candy, cheese or snacks now come with health advice at the bottom of the screen, such as "For your health, avoid snacking between meals" and "For your health, avoid eating too fatty, too sweet or too salty," along with the address of a state-sponsored nutrition/health site. Somehow the contradiction between the two embodies a certain aspect of French society to me: the state puts a lot of effort into health campaigns but at the same time it's non-smokers who are perceived as being pests.

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