Smart Talk, Dec. 10 

What a difference a tax break makes


A tax credit for first-time home buyers set the housing market in Arkansas on fire in October, with total housing sales up 24 percent over the same month in 2008.

Pulaski County's numbers were strong. Units sold: 425, up 30.8 percent; total value, $67.3 million, up 30.3 percent. Prices didn't rise, however. The average house sold in October in Pulaski County cost $158,441, off slightly from $159,061 a year earlier.


Stocking stuffers – not!


You'd think nobody would think of such a thing if for no other reason than the poor value. But the Arkansas lottery is encouraging parents not to buy their children lottery tickets as Christmas gifts. A recent study showed that almost 1 in 5 high school students reported receiving lottery tickets as gifts, generally from a family member.

“This year, give children the gift of responsibility,” said Ernie Passailaigue, the lottery executive director, in a prepared statement. “It is important to reiterate two things; that no one under the age of 18 can buy our tickets and that parents shouldn't give lottery tickets to kids as presents.”

It's also worth reiterating that the odds are that a lottery ticket will be worthless. A pair of socks you can wear. Or exchange.


Wanted: Gal with true grit


The famed Coen brothers' latest film project is a remake of “True Grit,” the movie based on Arkansan Charles Portis' best-selling novel. The book was set in Arkansas, of course, and we've been hoping the state might reap some benefits from the new version, though it isn't likely to be filmed here.

There's this, however: Casting is underway to find somebody with local flavor, perhaps an unknown, to play Mattie Ross, the gritty Arkansas girl who joins marshals in the search for the killer of her father. An open casting call was held in Memphis last Saturday. A future casting call will be held in Little Rock, along with some other Southern cities. The filmmakers have said in a news release distributed in Memphis that they are looking for  “a 12- 16-year-old Caucasian girl who is tough, strong and tells it like it is. They are open to all looks, so come give it a try. No acting experience is necessary.”




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