The Ulmer Scale

You hear it bandied about all the time -- such-and-such celebrity is an "A-lister," or an actor you recognize from a minor role or two might reside on the "D-list." But did you know that there actually are such lists -- official ones -- and how celebrities are ranked on them is calculated according to a formula? It's called the Ulmer Scale, and was devised by longtime entertainment journalist James Ulmer as a tool to calculate the "bankability" of a given star.

What's bankability? When it comes to putting together financing for a movie, it's incredibly important: the skyrocketing salaries of the top 20 or so movie stars these days is a direct result of how movie moguls perceive their bankability; can they open the movie? IE, will their name alone get butts in theater seats? There are other factors, too, which Ulmer rates on a 1-100 point scale:

Willingness to travel/promote. It may sound ridiculous that going on Letterman and giving interviews is considered work, but when you do weeks of this kind of thing at a stretch, I've no doubt that it is (though I can't speak from experience). If the star of your movie is too lazy/busy/agoraphobic to fly to New York and go on some talk shows, you're going to have a problem getting a return on the investment which is his or her salary. Thus, they are less bankable -- thus, their Ulmer Scale rating sinks.

Professionalism. Is your star going to wind up in the tabloid pages for drunk driving or cavorting with hookers in Vegas? Is he going to fuss and cry when his trailer isn't stocked with the right brand of bottled water, or scream at the crew like a madman? In the 90s Robert Downey, Jr. was considered one of Hollywood's most talented actors -- he was nominated for an Oscar for 1992's Chaplin -- but his reputation as an insane, drug-addled bad boy kept him off the A-list.

Career management. What other kinds of roles in what other kinds of films is the star accepting? It's hard to remain bankable as an A-list action star if you decide to start taking roles on daytime soaps, just as it's hard to land roles in high-profile Oscar-bait movies if you have a reputation for taking any role in any schlocky movie that comes along (I'm looking at you, Sam Jackson).

Talent. Yep, talent is actually a factor. Surprised? A lot of stars are great at playing one kind of role: Kate Winslet in dramas, for instance. But would you ever consider replacing Kate Beckinsale in the Resident Evil movies with Kate Winslet? Not likely. Just the same, one-time A-lister Arnold Schwarzenegger saw his star power sink not because he dropped out of movies to pursue politics, but because as he approached late-middle-age, it became clear that he couldn't keep toplining action movies, but there wasn't a whole lot else he could do, either. Range is important. That's why an actor like Tom Hanks -- who started out in comedy, but won an Oscar for drama Philadelphia and is now appearing in action-thriller Angels and Demons -- is solidly A-list.

B-list celebrities are people whose names everyone knows, like Mark Wahlberg and Kate Hudson, but who can't quite "open" a movie on their name alone. The C-list is pretty much everyone else who could be considered famous, and the D-list -- contrary to popular belief -- isn't part of the Ulmer Scale, and doesn't actually exist.

There are other factors, too, which Ulmer uses to compile his massive Hot List, which he's issued as a book and is available through Amazon.

5 Subtle Cues That Can Tell You About Your Date's Financial Personality

Being financially compatible with your partner is important, especially as a relationship grows. Fortunately, there are ways you can learn about your partner’s financial personality in a relationship’s early stages without seeing their bank statement or sitting them down for “the money talk.”

Are they a spender or a saver? Are they cautious with money? These habits can be learned through basic observations or casual questions that don’t feel intrusive. Here are some subtle things that can tell you about your date’s financial personality.


Casual conversations about finance-related topics can be very revealing. Does your date know if their employer matches their 401(k) plan contributions? Do you find their answers to any financial questions a bit vague—even the straightforward ones like “What are the rewards like on your credit card?” This could mean that your partner is a little fuzzy on some of the details of their financial situation.

As your connection grows, money talks are only natural. If your date expresses uncertainty about their monthly budget, it may be an indicator that they are still working on the best way to manage their finances or don’t keep close tabs on their spending habits.


If you notice your partner is always watching business news channels, thumbing through newspapers, or checking share prices on their phone, they are clearly keeping abreast of what’s going on in the financial world. Ideally, this would lead to a well-informed financial personality that gives way to smart investments and overall monetary responsibility.

If you see that your date has an interest in national and global finances, ask them questions about what they’ve learned. The answers will tell you what type of financial mindset to expect from you partner moving forward. You might also learn something new about the world of finance and business!


You may be able to learn a lot about someone’s financial personality just by asking what they usually do for dinner. If your date dines out a lot, it could be an indication that they are willing to spend money on experiences. On the other hand, if they’re eating most of their meals at home or prepping meals for the entire week to cut their food budget, they might be more of a saver.


Money is a source of stress for most people, so it’s important to observe if financial anxiety plays a prominent role in your date’s day-to-day life. There are a number of common financial worries we all share—rising insurance rates, unexpected car repairs, rent increases—but there are also more specific and individualized concerns. Listen to how your date talks about money and pick up on whether their stress is grounded in worries we all have or if they have a more specific reason for concern.

In both instances, it’s important to be supportive and helpful where you can. If your partner is feeling nervous about money, they’ll likely be much more cautious about what they’re spending, which can be a good thing. But it can also stop them from making necessary purchases or looking into investments that might actually benefit them in the future. As a partner, you can help out by minimizing their expenses for things like nights out and gifts in favor of less expensive outings or homemade gifts to leave more of their budget available for necessities.


Does your date actually look at how much they’re spending before handing their credit card to the waiter or bartender at the end of the night? It’s a subtle sign, but someone who looks over a bill is likely much more observant about what they spend than someone who just blindly hands cards or cash over once they get the tab.

Knowing what you spend every month—even on smaller purchases like drinks or dinner—is key when you’re staying on a budget. It’s that awareness that allows people to adjust their monthly budget and calculate what their new balance will be once the waiter hands over the check. Someone who knows exactly what they’re spending on the small purchases is probably keeping a close eye on the bigger picture as well.


While these subtle cues can be helpful signposts when you’re trying to get an idea of your date’s financial personality, none are perfect indicators that will be accurate every time. Our financial personalities are rarely cut and dry—most of us probably display some behaviors that would paint us as savers while also showing habits that exclaim “spender!” By relying too heavily on any one indicator, we might not get an accurate impression of our date.

Instead, as you get to know a new partner, the best way to learn about their financial personality is by having a straightforward and honest talk with them. You’ll learn more by listening and asking questions than you ever could by observing small behaviors.

Whatever your financial personality is, it pays to keep an eye on your credit score. Discover offers a Free Credit Scorecard, and checking it won't impact your score. It's totally free, even if you aren't a Discover customer. Check yours in seconds. Terms apply. Visit Discover to learn more.

Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?

Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]


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