Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Smoke, Gardens and the Effect of Higher Prices

Smoke —written by Paul Auster, directed by Wayne Wang and starring Harvey Keitel—is a movie that leaves you musing. One of things that link the various stories told in the flick is the series of photos that the Keitel character, who runs a smoke shop, takes of his corner. I can’t even remember if we see any of the pictures, but we know they’re important because they trace the everyday events and changes that add up to life.

Gardening is life, too, and since I never remember from one year to the next what works and what doesn’t (not a very good life strategy, is it?) I’ve decided to take pictures of my garden at regular intervals. Not every day—that’s a bit much—but once a week. That way maybe I’ll remember next spring that the I need a red day lily for the right side of the back yard and a yellow lily for the left, and I’ll notice just what week has the best flowers, and what week has the least.

Maybe photography is an antidote to the impermanence of life, the opposite of smoke, which disappears whenever the air moves.

And as for smoking, well, I just remembeered that I’m coming up on the anniversary of the day I puffed my last Marlboro. Must have been the first of August when the price of cigarettes in California wentup from 25 cents to 27 cents because of a new tax. That was many, many years ago, but it is perhaps an example of how raising prices can encourage you to modify behavior. It helped me then, and studies show that percentage of the population who smoke falls when the price of cigarettes goes up.

The price of gasoline has gone up lately and there's some evidence that people are turning away from gas guzzlers and toward alternate forms of transportation. Maybe we should really hike the price at the pump to discourage gasoline use too. And then we can use the extra tax revenue to finance public transport.

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