Monday, April 30, 2007

Planning a vacation with your children? is a great resource

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Michele Zavatsky, co-author with her husband George of Kids Love Illinois and several other travel guides for families.

Michele and George also operate the very helpful website, Their promise? Never hear, "Mom, I'm bored!" again!

In this 1 min. 25 sec. soundclip from our interview, I talk with Michele about how "Kids Love Travel" came about:

The books are extremely reader-friendly, well-laid-out, and totally geared toward helping you plan a fun, educational, and cost-effective vacation. The website is also full of helpful tips and resources.


The Bible-Reading Marathon is underway...

They're reading God's Word at the nation's capitol today. The 18th annual U-S Capitol Bible-Reading Marathon started Sunday evening and will continue day and night until late on Thursday, the National Day of Prayer. More here.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

An Evie Update

Evie Fans Going Strong

Evie with Rebecca St. James

It always amazes me how tenacious and loyal are the fans of one petite blonde Norwegian songbird whose major popularity came in the late 70's. But Evie fans, loyal you certainly are. I found that out when I first blogged about interviewing Evie Tornquist Karlsson in late 2004. One of the top searches that bring people to my blog is people looking for info on Evie.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Evie again last December, and you can go here for a link to actually listen to that interview if you like.

Anyhoo (isn't "anyhoo" a funny word?)...I got this e-mail the other day from Jeremy Garrett (no relation to me that I know of, although Garrett is my maiden name!) in Knoxville, TN: "I just found your interview with Evie that you did last December and enjoyed it very much.

"I wanted to share with you that I found a website that has two new CDs by Evie for sale including the 'Come On, Ring Those Bells' collection that she talked about.
You can find them at this website:

"I just placed an order for both CDs and paid $33.24 and I've seen people paying twice that for just one of these on eBay. This website is a great place for Evie fans to get their hands on BOTH of these collections for an affordable price."

Jeremy, THANK YOU so much! I get so many requests for info about how to get ahold of Evie's music. People seem to think that because I've interviewed her, I am the go-to girl for all things Evie. Unfortunately, that's not true. Hopefully this site will help people who are trying to locate her music.

Grace Bailey...she's only 4-feet-eleven and she's going to heaven...

Also just this week, I got a comment from 14-year-old singer Grace Bailey: "My name is Grace,I'm 14 years old ,4'11'' and I sing Southern Gospel Music. I just released my 1st album and it is titled 4'11" after the same song EVIE made famous!!!!!
I have been trying to find an adress on her so I can send her a copy but I haven't had any luck!!! If anyone has it please email me!! my website is( )and you can listen to a clip from my 4'11" there too!!!!!"

I went to Grace's website and listened to a few clips, and Grace really does have a nice voice, and a vivacious and energetic attitude.

My adorable grandson is growing...

Last but not least, the latest pic of my beautiful, adorable grandson Payton (born January 31st). Isn't he just the cutest thing you've ever seen? It's hard to believe he's almost three months old!

Everyone go out and have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

13 Hottest Urban Legends from

One of the best sites to confirm or disprove urban legends and dubious e-mails is Here, from their site, are the top 12 Hottest Urban Legends (NOTE--not all of the legends are completely false):

1) Hercules--Photo shows Hercules, the "world's biggest dog."

2) Life is Beautiful--Warning about a Power Point-based computer virus.

3) Holocaust Teaching in UK Schools--E-mail claims students in the UK are not taught about the Holocaust.

4) Hits the Nail on the Head--Essay falsely attributed to Jay Leno urges Americans to focus on the positive.

5) 809 Area Code Scam--
E-mail warns about scammers sending pages from the 809 area code.

6) Invitation Virus--E-mail warns about invitation (or Olympic Torch) computer virus.

7) #-9-0 Phone Scam
Warning about scammers running up long distance charges by asking victims to press #-9-0 on their phones.

8) Social Security Petition--E-mail advocates denying U.S. social services to non-citizens.

9) Citgo Boycott/Buycott--E-mail urges Americans to buy/not buy gasoline from Citgo or Petro Express stations.

10)--Bee Sting Treatment--E-mail advises easing the pain of a bee sting by taping a copper penny to it.

11) Where Have All the Leaders Gone?--E-mail reproducs excerpts from Lee Iacocca's Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

12) Glade Plug-Ins Fire Hazard--E-mail claims Glade PlugIns air fresheners are a major fire hazard.

13) Cell phone tips--E-mail lists five little know but useful functions of cell phones.

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Way-back Wednesday

What I was blogging about a year ago

Continuing my tradition of delving into the archives of Notes in the Key of Life, here's a taste of what I was blogging about a year ago...


Actually, I didn't get tagged for this meme...I saw it at Carol's She Lives, and decided to take part.

Here are ten of my simple pleasures, in no particular order:

1) Hearing my kids laugh
2) Reading the Life section of USA Today
3) Getting a pedicure
4) Black Cherry Vanilla Coke--or the diet version, it's almost as good
5) Seeing the first daffodils
6) A phone call from one of my sisters
7) My husband giving me a compliment
8) Getting the Estee Lauder gift-with-purchase
9) Eating out with friends
10) Hearing a favorite old song on the radio

How about you?


4/25/07--P.S. A year later, all those simple pleasures still hold true, with the possible exception of the Black Cherry Vanilla Coke. I was going through a Black Cherry Vanilla Coke phase last year, but I would have to say my guilty pleasure now is just good old Coca-Cola.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

News McNuggets

My friend and former co-worker Joel Griffith is going to laugh out loud at the title of this post. (It's an inside joke...sorry.) But I thought "News McNuggets" would be a good title for a post that's just going to throw several tidbits of info your way.

By the way, pardon me for trotting out the only picture I have online that proves that I've met and sat next to Michael W. Smith, and it's a tiny one at that. But hey--it proves that I've met and sat next to Michael W. Smith, who is the subject of one of my News McNuggets. I have met Smitty a couple of times, and interviewed him a couple of times at the 101QFL broadcasting booth at the Gospel Music Association convention. He proved to be a wonderful man. Like Steven Curtis Chapman, he is the real deal; his life and career all about honoring God.

Anyway, on to the McNuggets:

--Michael W. Smith has been honored with a star on the Music City Walk of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. I like what Smitty said on receiving the honor:
"Other than my relationship with the Lord, which is the most important thing, my family's always been right behind that...and hopefully my family's always known if my career ever got in the way of my family, I would've quit a long time ago. So here I am working on my twentieth album, I'm pinching myself, I'm blessed beyond measure, I'm a grateful man, I don't deserve it, so I just thank the Lord for what he's done for me."
--Casting Crowns performed last week at a festival in North Korea.

--A professor at a Catholic college in Boston has been fired after leading his class in a discussion about the Virginia Tech shootings.

--Motorcycle daredevil Evel Kneivel has become a born-again Christian.

--Sheryl Crow is now saying her toilet paper idea was just a joke. But Town Hall writer Dean Barnett thinks the damage has been done:
"..She is now officially a national punch line. The problem with her purported joke was that it was all too believable that an entertainment community member would preach such rubbish. Even if the word gets out that Crow was just jesting, the damage to her brand is irrevocable.

"There’s even the chance that the taint will spread to the entire universe of entertaining do-gooders. The next time a Tim Robbins and Sean Penn scream at a rally for Donald Rumsfeld to be prosecuted as a war criminal, their audience won’t know if the actors are playing some sort of gag and will ultimately burble, 'Hah! Had you going there, didn’t we?' In short, the entertainment community will no longer enjoy the credibility it once had as a home for sophisticated and mature analysis of global affairs. (Personal not to Sheryl Crow – See? That’s satire.)

--Perky Paris Bennett, the American Idol finalist from last year with the Rockford connection, is now a spokesperson for McDonald's Happy Meals.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

What's your biggest pet peeve?

Do you have pet peeves--things that really annoy you, but that you're pretty much powerless over?

You're not alone. A guy named Jon Williamson has come up with a website aimed at letting people vent about those annoyances--it's

The number one pet peeve, according to the website? People who yak on their cell phones in public. Other offenders: rude people, telemarketers, tailgaters and bad drivers, and people who are always late.

I guess I don't have just one thing that drives me crazy...there are quite a few things that I find mildly to severely annoying.

But I do have a pet peeve when it comes to air travel. When I posted recently about the fact that flying isn't fun anymore, I wrote:

And when the plane finally does land, here's one of my biggest pet peeves. Why don't they let people exit the plane FIRST who DON'T have luggage in the overhead bins? Doesn't that just make sense? Inevitably, I'm paralyzed in my seat or in the aisle while everyone hauls their stuff out of those bins...and seemingly take forever to do so. Would it kill anyone to make a simple announcement: "Passengers without luggage in the overhead bins may now exit the plane"????

So tell me...what's your pet peeve?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

13 Random but Interesting Things

1) Prompted by his college-age daughter, Dennis Rainey of Family Life Today has issued a Call to Prayer for Virginia Tech. Read all about it here.

Here is a Campus Crusade for Christ website devoted to the matter. The site also has this page where you can respond to a call to prayer.

In its profiles of some of the victims, USA Today includes those of Rachael Elizabeth Hill ("committed to her faith"). Campus Crusade for Christ member Lauren McCain ("she was a young lady who loved the Lord Jesus Christ with all her heart"), as well as Brian Bluhm ("devoted to his faith and his friends.")

4) Re: the affirmation of the ban on partial-birth abortion: La Shawn Barber is a woman of rare courage.

5) Why are some of the media trying to portray Don Imus as a conservative? He is not.

6) Another amazing Lost episode. They just keep getting better! For reactions and theories (some of them wacky), go here.

7) Sherry at Semicolon is also blogging about Lost. Check it out not only for the content, but to see the terrific pic of Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond.)

8) Mercifully (in my opinion), Sanjaya is gone from American Idol. Linda of 2nd Cup of Coffee blogs about it wittily here.

9) I am just now emerging from one of the worst sinus infections ever. I have determined that I'm going to do some research on sinus infections and find out how, if it's possible, to prevent them.

10) BooMama is heading up an effort to raise money for the medical expenses of a young woman named Heather. Read all about it, and help if you can, here.

11) I've been following, with admiration and envy, the weight-loss journey of The Amazing Shrinking Mom. Her blog is a source of real encouragement and practical info for anyone trying to lose weight. And now, she has Before and After pics. She has really becoming a different woman! Wonderful.

12) Among my favorite writers coming out with new books: Angela Hunt (The Elevator) and BJ Hoff (The Song Weaver). Must read! Must read!


My comments are in a book! Maybe I'm a dork for being so excited about this, but my endorsement comments are on the first page of Jane Kirkpatrick's A Tendering in the Storm. I had the privilege of reading this book before it was printed so that I could submit my comments. It was a labor of love, as Jane Kirkpatrick is an amazing writer, and I absolutely loved the book. Go buy it if you can! (Actually, first you'll want to read the first book in the series, A Clearing in the Wild.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Prayer needs for Virginia Tech

Campus ministries respond to the tragedy

Many thanks to Donna-Jean of Liberty and Lily for providing some direction for people who want to pray for those affected by the Virginia Tech tragedy.

Donna-Jean commented: "Praying with you, Cindy. On my blog is a letter from campus missionaries to student officers at VT for Campus Bible Fellowship, along with a list of prayer requests. CBF's website is also there - if you go on it, there is a phone number for the campus missionaries. Perhaps you could interview them. It's so vital that God's people pray for this situation!"

The post Donna refers to is here. Do check it out.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship also has a presence at Virginia Tech. Robert Howe of InterVarsity is quoted in this article:

"As far as helping students, Howe says they're going to 'point them to the Lord and His sovereignty; He's in control of the situation. We know that God is at work in this town, and we don't understand what has happened today. But we know that God is in control, and that's what we're going to keep pointing our students back to.'

And interestingly, a Korean chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ at Virginia Tech had tried to reach out to gunman Cho Seung-Hui, according to this article:

"Young-Hwan Kim, the president of the Korean Campus Crusade for Christ on campus, said his group had tried repeatedly to get Cho involved in its activities. Cho rebuffed the invitations and declined to provide contact information, said Kim, 24, a graduate student in civil engineering.

"'No one knew him,' Kim said. 'We had no contact throughout four years. It's amazing. We could not reach out to him.'"

I'm glad these campus ministries are striving to be salt and light, not just at Virginia Tech, but at colleges and universities around the world. They are truly on the front lines of a battle that most of us couldn't begin to fight, and they are uniquely placed to minister where most of us would be ineffective--but where the darkness is rife and the need is enormous. They deserve our prayers.

Tragedy in Virginia

I am shocked and saddened by the deaths of 33 people at Virginia Tech. My heart and prayers go out to everyone involved.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monday Melange

I've been battling some sort of ickiness for the past few days (I'm finally breaking down and going to the doctor later today), but truth be told, I'm having trouble corraling my thoughts for blogging. So today will be a hodge-podge of unrelated but, I hope, interesting things.

Mark Schultz to bike across America

Christian singer Mark Schultz--who has been known to wring a tear or two from my eye with his very touching ballads--is doing something really cool.

On his upcoming concert tour, Mark will bike across America to raise money for orphans. The fund-raising trek is to support The James Fund, a charity founded by Family Christian Stores.

Mark himself is adopted, and he's concerned about the plight of children who don't get adopted. He hopes to wrap up the 35-hundred mile trek in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on July 9th.

You can find out more about Mark's bike tour and The James Fund here.

And below, a beautiful song about adoption:

Little girls growing up too fast?

This USA Today story troubled me. A little girl selling off her American Girl dolls at the age of 9, so she can buy a Juicy Couture sweatsuit? Can't children stay children for a while? Eeesh...

The wrong tomb after all?

Apparently more scholars are backing down on their belief that the tomb of Jesus has been found. Very interesting article.

Depressed about global warming?
Maybe you should read this article.

Friday, April 13, 2007

What's the deal with the literary spam?

And, scroll down for a must-read Sanjaya parody!

Have you been getting spam e-mails lately that read like a literary classic on LSD? You're not the only one. There's even a name for it: "literary spam."

My 101QFL co-worker, Darren Marlar, and I were discussing such strange e-mails the other day, and wondering what could possibly be the reason for them. Here's an example of what I'm talking about--from an e-mail I actually received:

"beat No, to-morrow; boot I shall slain addition not have time today.fax On crept bake thing the first floor. God's shaken justice! liquid Speak not more of it, drip reverend sir. Ifscary eat Very stocking good, father-in-law, subtract said Cavalcanti, yield
The cheese drove shelter past--that obscurity arrange on the past.put Yes, if hungrily you tie will fruit not consent to retract that infa Sketch bat song me the plan of that spoken floor, nerve as you have don Well, throat summer to-morrow I will leave soap them when I go to Au anxious curve That georgic is very flower simple. Andrea took the pen. On th mountain But, string said Danglars,-who, on his part, seriously hook did not harmony..."

Ooh-kay. And so on, in a similar nonsensical vein, for several paragraphs.

From what I've been able to dig up on the internet, literary spam is basically an attempt by spammers to get past spam filters by trying to make the e-mail look more like something someone would actually write (although I don't know anyone who would actually write like that!)

Apparently, the spammers get their content from websites that post the full text of books, like Project Gutenberg.

This from an article on

These spammers mine Web sites that post the full text of books, like Project Gutenberg, which, along with its affiliates, has more than 250,000 books online.

Spammers also need each e-mail to look different so the filters can't pick up on particular passages. Sometimes the spam-making programs do this by rearranging sentences. Other times they compose fake sentences out of pairs of words that tend to occur together.

This is called "Markov Chaining," after the Russian mathematician Andrey Markov. Graham [spam filter creator Paul Graham] says it explains the word salads you may see in spam.

Sometimes the e-mails contain imbedded images that can't be seen by some e-mail programs. Or, they'll include an image or link they want you to click on; or they'll include a sales pitch at the beginning or end of the e-mail.

Whatever the purpose, spam is spam, literary or not...and the best way to deal with it is to flush it down your "delete" drain as soon as possible.

Interesting note, though: this literary spam has spawned the word "spoem" or "spoetry" to describe free-verse poems created from literary spam. Kinda funny. A lot of this stuff you can actually imagine a beatnik performing in a smoke-filled 60's coffee house, to the accompaniment of a bongo...

In other news...

Darren applied to be on the reality show Big Brother, and blogs about it wittily here.

And in the my-two-cents department: What Don Imus said was reprehensible, heinous, outrageous, and totally inexcusable. But where's the outrage over rap and hip-hop artists saying much the same thing and much worse, repeatedly and freely, in their horribly demeaning "music"? I've heard Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton don't plan to let the rappers off the hook either. We can only hope.

And finally...a not-to-be-missed parody about Sanjaya:

If you're an American Idol fan, you HAVE to read this.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thursday Thirteen! 13 Famous People from Rockford, IL

Jodi Benson, actress and voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid

Paris Bennett, American Idol Season 5 finalist (well, she lived here for awhile and her grandfather is well-known pastor here)

James Henry Breasted, scholar, first American teacher of Egyptology

Susan Saint James, actress, "McMillan and Wife"

Sarah Kelly, Christian singer

Joe Mantello, Tony Award winning actor and director

John Ortberg, best-selling author and pastor

Aidan Quinn, actor

Gordon Tullock, economist

Janice Voss, astronaut

Michelle Williams,
member of Destiny's Child

The Rockford Peaches, charter members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and subject of the film, A League of Their Own

Cheap Trick,
internationally-acclaimed rock band

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

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Monday, April 09, 2007

I think...therefore I blog...

I've been tagged as a "thinking blogger"

Thanks so much to Barbara of Tidbits and Treasures for giving me a "Thinking Blogger Award." Barbara wrote: "I often find Cindy blogs about things in the past, and she makes me think about things in my past, people I’ve known and lost contact with – things I’ve always meant to and never got around to it. I just find myself giving myself a once over, when I visit her refreshing blog. She’s one of us!"

What an honor! So, as part of this meme, now it's my turn to pass the award along to five other bloggers.

By the way, if I give you the award and you don't want to "play" by tagging other people, that's fine. I totally understand. But like me, you may want to use the opportunity to give some exposure and recognition to some deserving bloggers.

Here we go:

--Joel Griffith's The Seventh Sola--I worked with Joel for several years, and have always loved his writing ability and admired his grasp of many different issues. It doesn't hurt that he has a great sense of humor as well. His blog really does make me think about theological and other issues.

--My former co-worker Randy's Reflections in Life--Randy's posts are always well-written and thought-provoking. He's relatively new to the blogosphere, and I would love it if you'd check out his blog and give him an encouraging comment.

--BJ Hoff's Grace Notes--BJ happens to be one of my favorite fiction writers, but her blog contains a wealth of knowledge and insights that always get my brain cells humming.

--Debra's As I See It Now--I wouldn't be surprised if Debra's already been tagged for this, because I'm not alone in my admiration for her blog. An eloquent writer with genuine spirituality, Debra often gets me thinking about the things of the Lord. Visiting her blog is like sharing a devotional with a dear friend in her gracious home.

--Robin Lee Hatcher's Write Thinking--Another terrific fiction writer who blogs, Robin's blog is always fresh and relevant, and prompts me to think about all kinds of things--cultural, faith-related, fiction-related or otherwise.
Guidelines for the Thinking Blogger Award:

--If you wish to participate in this Meme, after, and only after being tagged, link to 5 blogs that make you really think.
--Link to the Thinking Blog so everyone will know the origin of this award
--Optional: Display the award, which can be found at Thinking Blog

Monday, Monday...

Back from my trip to Chicago

The view from our hotel window

Our trip to Chicago was kind of a mixed bag, as they say.

On the one hand, we had a wonderful room on the 21st floor of the Hyatt Regency. (We got a really good deal on Hotwire.) I took the picture above at twilight on the first night we were there. We truly enjoyed our hotel room, and just getting to spend time together, relax, re-connect, and be lazy. That part was awesome.

On the other hand, the weather just refused to cooperate. The temperature never got above the 30's while we were there, and not only was it cold, but very windy. Walking around in the freezing cold isn't my idea of a fabulous time. Yet, we did do a lot of walking anyway. So I did get some good exercise.

My poor husband was also suffering from back pain.

So everything wasn't perfect. It rarely is, though, right? We still managed to have a good time, and it was a much-needed getaway. And we were in one of my favorite cities in the world. We learned a lot that we can use in future overnight stays...ways to cut costs, etc.

I've already decided that our next such visit will take place...


P. S. Below is another picture I took while in Chicago. Can anyone guess what it is?

Hope everyone had a blessed Easter!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Way-back Wednesday

What I was blogging about a year ago

I'm heading out to Chicago for a few days with my wonderful hubby, so Lord willing and if the proverbial creek don't rise, I'll be back next Monday.

I hope all of you have a very blessed Easter. It's going to be a cold one for us here in Northern Illinois!

For today, in keeping with my on-again, off-again tradition, I give you something from the archives of Notes in the Key of Life. This was what I was blogging about a year ago. Again, happy Easter to all, and may the resurrection of our Lord be real in your life!

Whatever happened to really good movies?
...and do we really need all the bad language?

Oh, I know there are still some good movies being made...even perhaps some great ones. But they seem to be fewer and farther between, and even the good ones seem to contain a surplus of words that in the words of the old Kim Carnes song, would make a crow blush.

My friend Joel Griffith's post about an old movie he saw recently is what got me thinking along these lines. The movie--Remember Last Night? (1935) propelled his thoughts in a number of different directions, but one of them was the fact that such a movie could be made in a "clean" manner. Joel writes: "The dialogue is witty, sardonic and subtle. No swear words, no sex scenes. Not even really any blood. However, this film could not be made today in the same way partially because of political correctness and partially because the present generation doesn't find dialogue funny unless it would make The Happy Hooker blush."

How true! Now, over the weekend I watched The Godfather for the first time. (I had seen bits and pieces before.) Understand, I'm not saying there aren't very disturbing elements to this movie. But here's the amazing thing: There is not an F-word in this movie. Not one. In a movie about the Mafia. How on earth was this possible? (I'm told the sequels made up for lost profanity.)

A recent AP-Ipsos Poll found that most of us...even people who do swear occasionally...are tired of all the profanity: "Nearly 74 percent in an A-P-Ipsos poll last week said they come across swearing in public frequently or occasionally. Almost half say they swear a few times a week or more.

"...And the poll shows many people who swear themselves don't like to hear it come from other mouths. Two-thirds say it bothers them when others use profanity."

When it comes to entertainment, what's the solution? I have friends who have special programs that delete the swearwords, but the results are clunky and sometimes laughable.

I'm not willing to give up entertainment completely. I am a movie buff and I enjoy a good story, well-acted and well-produced. I also love to laugh. I suppose it's too much to ask of Hollywood to clean up its act (there's my cynicism coming through.)

There is the occasional news story that offers a glimmer of hope. Like the fact that Sharon Stone's erotic thriller, "Basic Instinct II" is bombing abysmally at the box office. Then again, "Brokeback Mountain" was waaaaay behind "The Chronicles of Narnia" in box-office sales, and that didn't seem to matter.

If you have suggestions for some really good movies that have minimal or no profanity, by all means, let me know!
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