April 21st, 2007


"Charles Manson kills people. I talk. Everyone has a talent."

Just saw Thank You For Smoking. I loved it! Funniest movie I've seen since Little Miss Sunshine. Aaron Eckhart plays Nick Naylor, a lobbyist for the Academy of Tobacco Studies. Nick's a "natural" lobbyist, so skilled at his job that reporters call him the "Sultan of Spin". The movie depicts Nick's life as he enthusiastically defends Big Tobacco in the media, and the troubles his job causes him in his personal life.

You'd expect Eckhart to play him as a total sleazeball. And yet, while Nick definitely does some "morally flexible" things, for the most part Eckhart plays him as a mostly decent, mostly honorable man. You can't help but cheer for him. The rest of the cast is similarly top-notch. For example, William H. Macy plays Sen. Ortolan Finistirre, an anti-tobacco crusading senator from Vermont (and Nick's bete noire), Mario Bello plays a fellow lobbyist for Big Alcohol, and Sam Elliot is an ex-Marlboro Man who's dying of cancer.

All of the characters are smart and plausible. Unlike many movies, at no point did I think "Argh! His character wouldn't do that!" Everything the actors do is in keeping with their characters.

Fans of Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day will be interested to learn that it's directed by Jason Reitman, Ivan Reitman's son. Judging from Thank You For Smoking, the younger Reitman inherited his father's gift for intelligent humor. I look forward to more movies directed by him.

Is One Kid Enough?

Is One Kid Enough?
By: Marina Krakovsky

Conventional wisdom dictates that people become parents because children bring joy. But do they really? For scientists studying the subject, simply correlating parenthood and happiness can't answer this question, since happy people might be more likely to have kids to begin with. But a recent study that compared happiness levels in adult identical twins—some of whom are parents and some who aren't—may be getting to the bottom of the issue.

The study, headed by sociology professor Hans-Peter Kohler of the University of Pennsylvania, found that people with children are, in fact, happier than those without children. But such happiness gains differ for mothers and fathers.

In comparing identical twins, Kohler found that mothers with one child are about 20 percent happier than their childless counterparts; and while fathers' happiness gains are smaller, men enjoy an almost 75 percent larger happiness boost from a firstborn son than from a firstborn daughter. The first child's sex doesn't matter to mothers, perhaps because women are better than men at enjoying the company of both girls and boys, Kohler speculates.

Interestingly, second and third children don't add to parents' happiness at all. In fact, these additional children seem to make mothers less happy than mothers with only one child—though still happier than women with no children.

"If you want to maximize your subjective well-being, you should stop at one child," concludes Kohler, adding that people probably have additional children either for the benefit of the firstborn or because they reason that if the first child made them happy, the second one will, too.

I'm surprised that a firstborn son makes the father so much happier than a firstborn daughter. Personally, if I ever have a child, I would prefer to have a daughter.