Insert Mood Music Here

Another gauntlet has been hurled by the staff at The Broke and the Bookish! I decided to pick it up and answer the challenge. Therefore, I give you my list of “The Top Ten Books I’d Give A Theme Song To and Why…”

1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby—“My Body is a Cage” (Peter Gabriel’s Cover). It is a heartbreaking book, but one that is rich and rewarding all the same. It forces you to sit down and truly contemplate not only what is said but how arduous the saying was. Gabriel’s version of Arcade Fire’s hit song is a perfect match.

2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare—“Weapon of Choice” by Fatboy Slim. Hamlet’s always waffling between options in this play, and his indecision leads to his downfall and that of several of the other characters. For a protagonist who ponders the choice between “To be, or not to be,” the greatest weapon is choice. Plus, I love this song and awesome video!

3. Anthem by Ayn Rand—“That’s Not My Name” by The Ting Tings. Granted, it’s a little too peppy for the content of the novel, but the main characters are named “Equality 7-2521” and “Liberty 5-3000” but choose new monikers for themselves–“Prometheus” and “Gaea” respectively. Since they search for identities not defined by a collectivist society, this little ditty just seemed to fit.

4. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James—“Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies. Ah, the delightful madness that is The Turn of the Screw. Specters that may or may not be there, an empty house, and a half-cracked governess who’s convinced her pupils are more than they seem.

5. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas—“Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. What better song for a man who’s so broken and controlled by a burning need for revenge? “I see a red door, and I want to paint it black” is the perfect summation of how Edmond Dantés feels about his love for Mercédès Mondego.

6. Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier—“Cold” by Annie Lennox. For some reason, I adored this book. Perhaps it’s the bristling sexual tension caused the forbidden love between people who share the same vision of the world but not the same social rank in it…or perhaps it’s because Colin Firth played the male lead in the movie version. Maybe both. 🙂 The same tension is in Annie Lennox’s ballad, and it includes many references to color and sensations.

7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding—“Goodbye Blue Skies” by Pink Floyd. Whether it is war or two tribes of boys on a desert island, we’re always far too willing and ready to tear one another apart, aren’t we? I thought something from The Wall was a fitting choice considering the schoolboy elements of the movie, “Another Brick in the Wall” being the most obvious musical connection.

8. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer—“I Honestly Love You” by Olivia Newton-John. I can think of no better song for this piece of literary tripe than this vapid little ballad. And to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

9. Cane by Jean Toomer—“Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday. There’s a lot to this book for sure. Half of the stories are set in the South, half in the North. The final story, “Kabnis,” combines the two by bringing a black northerner face to face with his Southern heritage in, of all things, a root cellar. Beautifully structured and far ahead of its time–we’re just now beginning to understand this short but powerful work. It pairs well with Holliday’s pained voice singing of lynchings and the “Strange Fruit” that Southern trees grew at the time.

10. The Collector by John Fowles—“To Wish Impossible Things” by The Cure. For those of you expecting something like The French Lieutenant’s Woman, look elsewhere. This book is a far departure from this author’s more well-known work. A young college student is kidnapped by an obsessive would-be lover and kept much like a butterfly pinned to a board–forever on display in a prison she can neither see out of nor escape. It’s a amazingly tense read, one it’s easy to put yourself in the middle of and experience what it would be like to be completely at the mercy of another. I think this song from The Cure would work well—for what she could have been had he never “collected” her and what he could have been had he never given into his darker urges.

Bug Out Books

I’m married to a nature boy, and I’m not talking about Ric Flair. Nope, my great white hunter is into all things outdoors. Hunting (including field dressing), horticulture, marksmanship, carpentry, beekeeping, raising livestock—you name it, he’s into it. Recently, he’s been watching shows like Best DefenseThe Colony, and this new gem from the National Geographic Channel–Doomsday Preppers. Have you seen this show!? The camera crew goes out to visit different groups, families, and individuals who are preparing for the end of the world by stockpiling weapons and food, creating impregnable fortresses for themselves, learning to live off of weeds and sticks, and coming up with creative ways of generating power using pig poop and recycling their own pee for drinking water. Honestly, I’m not kidding. The couple in Texas they featured in the first episode have built their retirement home using eight steel cargo containers and have packed away 55,000+ pounds of food in it to date!

These people all go above and beyond and are totally prepared for, as REM put it, “the end of the world as we know it.” When the time comes, they can either bug out (which is a military slang term that means “leave a position because it has been compromised by the enemy”) or dig in deeply and ride out the wave of chaos until it ebbs. Then they creep out like roaches covered in Twinkie filling to rule over the smoldering remains of the planet.

So what does all this gloom and doom have to do with a book list? Well, the creative and amazing staff of The Broke and the Bookish have asked bloggers to list “Top Ten Books I’d Quickly Save In the Event of a Natural Disaster.” Hence, I give you my list of what I call “Bug Out Books.”

For a bibliophile, choosing one’s favorite books is a bit like being asked to choose between your children. Do you go for the ones you’ve read countless times, the old standbys, or do you select a wider range of texts to cover all your bases? If you can only have these books for the foreseeable future, are they going to be enough to keep you entertained and stop you from throwing yourself off a cliff into the abyss of despair!? That’s a lot to ask of some paper and typeset letters. However, I have endeavored to select ten for your reading entertainment.

Book number one would have to be my copy of The Holy Bible. I received it as a gift from my grandparents in 2004, and I have been adding my own notes and spiritual observations to it ever since. It is a record of my Christian walk, but–more importantly–it would be the best bulwark against despair I know of.

Are you all tired of me mentioning Jane Eyre yet? I feel like I talk about this novel every other book list. However, when the world doesn’t make sense or seems cruelly unfair, this book helps. Evil is punished, good is rewarded, wrongs are set right, and realistic happy endings are managed. It’s part feminist criticism, part love story, and part fairy tale with a down-to-earth protagonist who is a true “everywoman.”

Technically, Lord of the Rings is a single book, and it’s one that I could read time and again because of the great narrative as well as the good memories I have associated with it. Yes, that is a leather bound copy of it and The Hobbit you see there beside the hardback copy of The Simarillion. And, yes, the bookends holding them up are miniature versions of the Argonath. I also have a Gandalf/Frodo bookend set on another shelf. I’m that huge a Tolkien geek.

Oh, a bonus reason for taking Lord of the Rings? It has a fully sized, pull out map!!! How freaking awesome is that!?

I’d have to have at least one of my literary anthologies. The Norton is the obvious choice, but I gave my copy of it away to a friend whose apartment burned down—destroying her entire library. It was a fate too hideous to imagine, so I was happy to give her a few of my babies, even my precious Norton. I’d likely go with the Bedford as an acceptable substitute if I couldn’t somehow fit both the first volume of British lit and the volume of American lit in my bag.

Not only is Alas, Babylon the one book Wayne has read in his adult life, it is also a book about…you guessed it…a nuclear war! The characters in it are trying to survive in a small town in Florida after bombs drop. There is a ton of practical advice in this one about smoking meat, canning food, making necessary items, and proper bartering techniques. It’s a fantastic fictional field guide. What could be better?

I’d need something to remind me of how beautiful nature was before the end of the world. Who better than Mr. Frost? This is a collection of all eleven of his published books of poetry–everything from “A Boundless Moment” to “Wind and Window Flower.”

The Greater Journey made the list for two reasons. One, I have yet to read it. And, two, it’s autographed. I also have books autographed by Ernest Gaines, Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Rich, and Randall Kenan as well as autographed book jackets from Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

I won a copy of each of Mr. McCullough’s books from the publisher last year, and this one came with his signature in it. (At the risk of sounding like Rex from Toy Story, “In permanent ink, too!”

Once again, a need for order is resolved in Pride and Prejudice, so it would be one of the few books that could calm me down. When you’re bugging out or digging in, it would be nice to read about characters in a world where their biggest problems are their marriageability and what dress to wear to a ball. I am fully aware that I’m oversimplifying Mrs. Austen’s great novel, but you know what I mean, right?

If a pack of marauding Vikings couldn’t totally eradicate this Beowulf, I see no reason why a little nuclear fall out or complete meltdown of the power grid and/or financial system should either…at least not while I’m around to stop it. Otherwise, how else would the world remember Grendel, his mother, or the great epic hero himself?

I know I’ve mentioned this book before, but it fits in this list as well. For some reason, I like to read themed books. If I’m going to the beach, I want to read a book that has something to do with water while I’m either there or travelling to and fro. Heading to France? I simply must read The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A train trip means Murder on the Orient Express. Roland is a man on a quest, a pilgrim without a goal other than the Dark Tower, so with a long, uncertain journey in front of me, this would be the perfect themed read.

For an Unnecessary E, You Get an F

There’s a scene in The Birdcage where the son is trying, for lack of a better term, to “de-gayify” the house. Why? Because his fiance’s conservative parents are coming for a visit and (though he doesn’t know it) to discuss wedding plans. He is being assisted in this endeavor by drag queens from his father’s club, and while he’s busy hiding things in closets and cupboards, they keep putting out objects they think straight people would have in their homes. The chaos finally reaches its zenith when two helpers hang a moose head on the wall and ask, “Too butch?”

Val’s reply is terse utterance I’ve come to use when making editing decisions…

“Don’t add. Just subtract.”

More often than not, this little maxim has served me well. I’m often tempted to alter a document to a way I think sounds better, and while I can say I’m not batting .1000 in the “less is more” department, I do hit more than I strike out.

I wish the same could be said of then Sharpie-wielding clodpate who decided he had an ironclad grasp of English grammar and spelling rules and should “correct” one of the signs on the very nice walking trail in my neighborhood. Granted, this sign is the closest one to a bridge where several resident artists have chosen to make the world a brighter place one shaken can of Krylon at a time. For the record, many them espouse the merits of cannabis…the ones I could read at least. There was, however, one in thin black letters that simply said “Genuine Vandalism” I actually chuckled at.

Okay, the editor in me sees two problems right away.

1. The obvious kerning issue in “HABITAT.” Why in the world did they print a sign with that much space between two letters? Honestly, it’s so far apart, it looks like “HABIT AT.”

2. There are two periods missing. Both the sentences at the bottom are obviously complete and need end punctuation. I would have gone with periods for both, but a case could have been made for an exclamation point in the first one.

There’s also a clarity problem with the phrase “native creatures.” There was a veritable passel of dogs in the park today–all of them walking, playing ball and frisbee, and smelling and being smelled. Seriously, it looked like the party at the end of Go, Dog, Go!

But I digress. My point is that, according to that bossy sign, I could harm the dogs if I wished (and their owners weren’t looking). They aren’t covered by the decree because they are, in fact, not “native creatures.” Something like “Don’t harm the animals” would have been much more inclusive to any critter, creature, or varmint in the general area.

I know. I know….We all assume the prohibition on animal cruelty applies to all of them whether they be “native” or “foreign.” But some uncouth ne’er-do-well could take advantage of a loophole in the signage. I’m just saying.

And then there’s that “E.” Crooked. Awkward. Banal. And somehow comically obscene. It leans on the “M” like a truant child might against a convenience store wall, a pilfered Virginia Slim from his mother’s unguarded pack between his lips.

I have no clue why it’s there or who in the name of Strunk and White thought it would be wise to add an utterly superfluous vowel at the end of a word—one that your average second grader can spell correctly, even under pressure. (Okay, in a completely irrelevant aside, I was looking at the word “Harm” just now and started saying it like Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride. You know, Inigo Montoya, helping Fezzik with his rhymes? “Probably he means no..haaaarrrmmmm….” Now you’re doing it, too, aren’t you?)

I looked up “harme” in the dictionary, hoping for some reason that it would be a word that could serve as an acceptable synonym, but alas and alack! It isn’t a word at all. Nope, this is just another example of needless human error—like the haphazard use of apostrophes when forming plurals or the casual flinging about of commas—the grammatical equivalent of negligent homicide. Epic fail, good sir or madam. Epic fail indeed. 🙂

“Here am I. Send me!”

Working at In Touch means that I am afforded the privilege of meeting many awesome servants of Christ who serve on missions both here and abroad. I’ve been both encouraged and intimidated by their testimonies because while I might like the idea of a living a life of complete reliance on Jesus, part of me still wants to curl up in the fetal position under the couch when I think about it.

Dr. Dan Kim, the gentleman who spoke at chapel this Wednesday, was one of those. He is a pediatric surgeon, and he and his wife, Julie, recently served on a short term mission trip to Mali where he helped doctors treat a number of children suffering from disease and malnutrition while she worked as a literacy advocate and teacher. What he shared with us was shocking:

  • Mali is the third poorest country in the world according to Oxford University and the U.N.’s Multidimensional poverty index (MPI).
  • It has the fourth highest infant mortality rate in the world (one in nine babies will die in their first year).
  • Two out of five children suffer from moderate to severe growth stunting due to malnutrition.
  • Only one in four adults can read or write their own language (26% adult literacy rate).

They have put a great deal of information on their website. For instance,”Mali is almost twice the size of Texas with a population of 15.8 million people. Almost half the population is less than fifteen years of age because, on average, a woman will give birth to 6.5 children. Only 23% of boys and 17% of girls will attend secondary school. 90% of the population is Muslim, 9% is animist, and less than 1% is Christian”

Obviously, there are great needs–physical, emotional, and spiritual–and these folks were so moved by what they saw that they chose to take the next step and become full-time missionaries. They are currently speaking to groups like ours to raise awareness for the need and gather the funds they’ll need to live abroad. Beginning in September of 2012, they will be leaving the United States and travelling to Albertville, France to enter into an intensive French language study program. (Mali was once called French Sudan and was part of the Federation of French West Africa. It is still one of the official languages of the nation.) In July of 2013, they plan to move to Koutiala, Mali to work full time at the clinic there. Their three children will be joining them in this effort, so they need all the prayers and financial assistance we can provide!

If you are interested in giving a one-time or ongoing donation, you can do so by visiting this site. And, more importantly, you can pray for them and let them know you’re lifting them up by following them on Facebook and leaving them a note of encouragement!

Perhaps being a long-term missionary is not in my future, but I’m not willing to rule anything out just yet. However, one thing I do know is that stories like these show me that God does indeed have a purpose for each of us, ones for which He has uniquely made and prepared His children to carry out so that His name might be glorified in all the earth. I am humbled by what these people are willing to take on because they, like Isaiah, are answering the Lord’s call.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!'”–Isaiah 6:8

 
 
This little guy was being prepped for surgery at the clinic. How can you resist that sweet face!?
This beautiful girl has juvenile diabetes, which has a one hundred percent mortality rate without the treatment she received at the clinic.
The OR Team
The village church

In a Manner Worthy of the Saints

I have had a lot of conversations with the ceiling this year. Most of them begin with, “Are You sure, Lord? I mean really sure?” Most of the time, this question pops out of my mouth when He’s asking me to do something for which I feel woefully unprepared. I know He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent—that everything that happens does because He has the perfect knowledge and power to make it so. However, I sometimes look at where I was eight or nine years ago and compare it to now, I am speechless.

At In Touch Ministries, I serve as an editor and a writer for the magazine, which is something I never imagined myself doing a decade ago. But, in all that time, He was preparing me spiritually to do the things He has ordained. I am humbled beyond measure that the Creator of the universe not only knows me and calls me His child, but also loves me enough give me a talent with which to serve Him. In short, this article is proof that God is truly in control.

I taught a wonderful young woman named Catie Carter who passed away in June of 2010, but before she left, she managed to touch thousands of people in the Jacksonville area. God wasn’t content to let it stop there though. Because of His perfect plan, I was in a position to share her testimony with millions of readers around the world. I have no idea how many people the Lord will touch as a result of this connection. But He does….and always has. I simply cannot wait to see what happens!

I would like to thank Catie’s family–her parents, Jimmy and Kerri, and her siblings, Emily, Jimmy, Lindsay, and Ellie–for being willing to share their precious girl’s story with me. Because of your courage, faith, and strength, people you and I will never know will have a chance to meet her and will be changed as a result.

**In Touch Magazine is a free monthly publication. If you are interested in subscribing, please visit this website.**

Literary Letdowns

I’ve had a mixed relationship with Valentine’s Day. When I was dating someone and had plans, I loved it. When I was single, not so much. However, having been married for a dozen years, I’ve learned that love isn’t about one day out of the year; it’s about expressing how you feel about the person you adore the other 364 in addition to the one day popular culture tells us we should. I doubt I’ll get flowers today, but I never, ever doubt that my husband loves me. He tells me in other, more tangible ways that won’t wither in a vase.

The folks at The Broke and the Bookish, however, have decided to go the nontraditional route as well with their book list this week. They’ve asked us to share “the top ten books that broke my heart a little.” They all did for different reasons and at different times in my life. Here are the first ten I could think of in no particular order…

1. Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling—I got on the Hogwarts Express a little late, I’m sad to say. In fact, I didn’t start reading Harry Potter until the fourth book came out, and I whipped through books one, two, and three in order to catch up. Needless to say, I fell head over heels for Sirius Black. Rowling gave readers just enough of Black at the end of book three and sprinkled throughout book four to make us think, Maybe, just maybe, Harry can have a relatively normal home life with a kind of father figure. But NO! Rowling killed him off without a moment’s hesitation, and every death in this series after his (except for Dobby’s perhaps) didn’t faze me. If she could create a character only to bump him off less than two books later, I knew no one was safe.

2. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton—Poor Ethan! Trapped in a marriage and on a farm on which he can barely scrape out a living, his one chance at happiness is utterly ruined, leaving him even more trapped than before. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read this book yet because it is a marvelous novel–stark and brutally beautiful. Just don’t expect a fairly tale ending; you’ll get the opposite.

3. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer—This one broke my heart for two reasons. 1.) I realized that was a cranky old adult rather than a young whipper snapper after reading this book. I loathed Christopher Johnson McCandless, a true rebel without a clue, and saw nothing worth writing about in his life. Others claim he was a “rugged individual” who was truly a “non-conformist.” I, however, thought him myopic, heartless, and egomaniacal. 2.) I thought about how his parents felt when they heard what had happened to him, and a little piece of me died. Too sad…and so unnecessary!

4. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys—This one, I knew, would give me trouble. It’s the prequel to Jane Eyre, the story of Bertha Antoinetta Mason, and it’s a very unflattering depiction of my beloved Rochester. It makes you think about what the marriage might have been like for Bertha, how (like him) she wasn’t interested in getting hitched either. I don’t want to feel sorry for her. Why? I grew up thinking of her as an impediment to Jane’s happiness, but Bertha was pretty miserable, too, in her way.

5. Animal Farm by George Orwell—One word: Boxer. His repeated cries of “I will work harder!” and his eventual death and final journey in the glue factory cart literally broke my pre-teen-going-through-a-horse-phase heart. Never mind the overall negative view of human nature.

6. Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville—This one was a commentary on the dangers of being a little guy in a corporate machine before we even knew how big the machine was going to get. Bartleby, who has no last name beyond his job title, is a human being reduced to the role of a Xerox machine, left without free will or opinion beyond “I would prefer not to.” Such a sad tale, for both him and the lawyer who ends it all with, “Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!”

7. Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy—This book kills me every time I read it. True love totally broken up by stupid, sexist rules that are the epitome of hypocrisy. Angel isn’t worth Tess, and he only realizes it after it’s too late. She quite literally is sacrificed on the altar—for love and for the satisfaction of dictatorial propriety.

8. Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya—I don’t even to know where to start with this one. This slim little book is a picture of a woman’s life, such as it is, in abject poverty. Reading it truly made me feel helpless. Her strength is beautiful and noble, but just heartbreaking.

9. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller—A sad story of ruined potential, a family broken by years of misunderstanding and the lack of a father figure. Every man in the Loman family is still a boy who longs to become a man but needs someone to show him how. Only Biff survives, but at what cost…and for how long? Such a great play.

10. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins—It was a letdown after books one and two. Highly unsatisfying letdown. The end.


Standards, People! Standards!!!

I saw this image making the rounds on Facebook this week, and while I chuckled about it upon first viewing, it got me to thinking about something that is more than a little disturbing. Our standards for entertainment have certainly gone downhill over the last century. To use a food metaphor, it’s like we’ve gone from dining at 21 and sipping a ’47 Cheval Blanc to grazing at Golden Corral and chugging box wine. Yeah, I think it’s that bad.

Don’t get me wrong—every decade has horrible music, wretched movies, and positively terrible books. Whether it’s Ishtar, Twilight, “Achy Breaky Heart,” BJ and the Bear, or Sam the Sham, every decade has a veritable cornucopia of artistic endeavors that it wishes had never seen the light of day. Also, each generation also has a few genuine stars whose talent is obvious, even to the least discerning connoisseur of popular culture. I’m not saying that there were no bad actors in the early decades of the twentieth century or that a talented singer can’t be found today, but when you look at the facts, it’s hard to argue that our standards have descended from top shelf to well status. (I know it’s another food metaphor. I can’t help it.)

Since the picture compared Old Blue Eyes and The Bieb (even the former entertainer’s nickname is better!), I thought I’d start with music to see what I could learn from record sales and data. I decided to go with four decades (the 1940s, 1960s, 1980s, and the 2000s) for purposes of comparison. I chose an arbitrary year (the third) from each decade, and took at look at the songs that were number one on the week of my birthday. Here’s what I found.

Number one song on April 21:

1943–“I’ve Heard That Song Before” by Harry James & Helen Forrest

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1963–“I Will Follow Him” by Little Peggy March

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1983–“Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners

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2003–“In Da Club” by 50 Cent

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Listen to the first and the fourth and tell me there isn’t a marked difference between them, both in subject matter and style. Actual instruments and the skill it took to play them were required for the former, and the lyrics are delightful.

It seems to me I’ve heard that song before.
It’s from an old familiar score.
I know it well, that melody.

It’s funny how a theme
recalls a favorite dream,
a dream that brought you so close to me.

I know each word because I’ve heard that song before.
The lyrics said, “Forevermore.”
Forevermore’s a memory.

Please have them play it again,
and then I’ll remember just when
I heard that lovely song before.

It’s slightly melancholy, reminiscent of “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca (which also happens to be the film that won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1943.) It’s nothing fancy, but there is a message to the song, a bit of symbolism and lovely language. Compare that to the first few verses of “In Da Club.”

Go, go, go, go, go, go.

Go shawty, it’s your birthday.
We gonna party like it’s your birthday.
We gonna sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday.
And you know we don’t give a f*** it’s not your birthday.

You can find me in the club, bottle full of bub.
Look mami, I got the ex if you into takin’ drugs.
I’m into havin’ sex; I ain’t into makin’ love.
So come gimme a hug if you’re into gettin’ rubbed.

When I pull up out front, you see the Benz on dubs.
When I roll 20 deep, it’s 20 knives in the club.
N****** heard I f*** with Dre, now they wanna show me love.
When you sell like Eminem, the hos they wanna f***.

So, in sixty years we went from love songs to ones filled with references to sex and drugs as well as foul language. I can say, without hesitation, that 50 Cent’s masterpiece has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, yet he sold 872,000 albums in five days when the album it was on was released.

I have to wonder if music like this sells because we’ve actually fallen so far or because people simply don’t know that something better is out there. Perhaps I’m the anomaly–the freak of nature nowadays–because I was raised by parents who introduced me to classical music, television shows that were funny without relying on anything raunchy, and movies that actually had plots and clever dialogue. Who knows.

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Since both Sinatra and Bieber have both tried their hands at acting, I thought about comparing the ranks of thespians from the same four eras to see if the same slow decay was working its way through Hollywood. Based on the number of films each made as well as the awards and paychecks they garnered, According to a website called Top Ten Reviews, the following ten actors rank as the top tier in each decade. Their ranking was determined by fan feedback as well as the number of films each made and the awards and paychecks they garnered as a result. They are listed in rank from first to tenth:

1940s–Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Jean Arthur, Irene Dunn, Cary Grant, Teresa Wright, Myrna Loy, Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart, and James Stewart

1960s–Julie Andrews, Audrey Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Peter O’Toole, Shani Wallace, Natalie Wood, Vincent Price, Sean Connery, Burt Lancaster, and John Wayne

1980s–Harrison Ford, Barbara Hershey, Eddie Murphy, Mia Farrow, Shelly Duvall, Robert De Niro, Kathleen Turner, Woody Allen, Geena Davis, and Kim Griest.

2000s–Kate Blanchette, Emma Watson, George Clooney, Katherine Zeta-Jones, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johanson, Daniel Radcliff, and Renee Zellwegger

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There are some oddballs on there. I know Michael Caine made the list this decade for the Batman movies alone (notice he’s right under Christian Bale). And I cannot even begin to explain how Vincent Price ranked above Sean Connery and John Wayne in the 60s. However, by and large, I’ll say that these lists are fairly accurate cross sections of who was hot in a given ten-year period.

People always want to compare George Clooney to Cary Grant, and while I admit that they do look rather similar, I can’t imagine living in a world where I would choose the former over the latter.

Grant was the more versatile leading man. Compare the role of reporter each man played in His Girl Friday and Good Night and Good Luck if you don’t believe me. Grant was also the one with better comedic timing and style, which a quick comparison of Father Goose and O Brother, Where Art Thou? will reveal.

The same is true for leading ladies. Katherine Zeta-Jones (one of the more well-rounded actors in the list) can’t hold a candle to Ingrid Bergman for beauty and style, and if you want sultry, look no further than Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not with Humphrey Bogart (her future hubby) instead of Scarlett Johanson in The Black Dahlia.

Just fast forward to about five minutes in and watch the “whistle” section if you don’t believe me. Then compare it to this brief clip. To me, Johanson is like a little girl playing dress up, and her sex appeal feels so forced compared to Bacall’s.

Name me one actor working today who is a legitimate triple threat. (Don’t count Broadway stars. I’ve always felt that theater audiences, for the most part, have more exacting standards.) Honestly, can anyone in Hollywood today hold a candle to Gene Kelly?

How about Julie Andrews?

I don’t go to the movies as much as I used to for a couple of reasons. The cost of an average ticket is $11.00, and I’m not willing to pay that much for sub-par entertainment. Sure, while I do prefer more cerebral fare, I’ll admit that I’m as excited about the upcoming Avengers movie as your average fan girl and truly enjoyed the silliness of The Muppet Movie. However, anyone who tells me One for the Money or Underworld: Awakening are actually worth the cost of admission, I’d have to say, “Baby, baby, baby noooooooo.”

Am I way off base with this? I’d love to hear your thoughts on music, movies, and anything else pop culture!