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THE STAR SYSTEM
3 June 2013
When I started writing theater reviews back in 2000, not only did I have to write a review, but I also had to give the production one to five stars. Lots of papers do that. I think the Sacramento Bee still does. The San Francisco Chronicle doesn't use stars, but they have their little man in a chair, reacting.
I always hated the star system. It was fine to write my reactions to the play and review specific performances, but I hated that people might be going (or not going) to a performance based on just looking at stars. If I really liked a show, but thought two people in it weren't very good, did I give it 5 stars, or 4 stars? I went through the tortures of the damned with each review, trying to get the stars right.
I was delighted when they decided not to use stars any more.
But what if everything in life that you encountered had to be rated with stars? Imagine going through your daily life and deciding how many stars to give the items that you're using.
I just put a new roll of toilet paper, for example, in the downstairs bathroom. It's a soft, 2 ply, "kind to your butt" brand, which might rate it 5 stars, but its an oversized roll and until I've used about 1/4 of it, it hangs up in the holder and you have to extract tissue two sheets at a time. That might knock it down to 4 stars (no half stars allowed).
Our new car? Now that I've been driving it for a couple of weeks, definitely five stars. It's all relative. We now have my mother's car too, a nice Lexus which she is giving to Jeri, which is living at our house until Jeri can come and drive it home. A month ago, the Lexus would probably have rated 5 stars for all of its luxury, but compared to our new Honda, I'm sorry, Lexus, but you've been downgraded to 4 stars.
I was feeding the dogs this morning. They get kibble mixed with cottage cheese. The current carton is a 4 star brand. I always get non-fat and this has a nice blend of "creamy-ness" and curd individuality. Another non-fat brand, which is 5 stars for me, is more creamy than curdy and when I decide to share the dogs' food (minus the kibble), I enjoy it. The stuff from Trader Joe's gets only 3 stars for lack of creamy-ness and emphasis on chewy curds. To each his or her own.
Being a connoisseur of candy, milk chocolate gets 5 stars and dark gets 3 just because I don't really like dark chocolate, but within the milk chocolate category, Lindt truffles get 5 stars, Hershey bars get 4 and Ghirardelli gets 3. I grew up in San Francisco where Ghirardelli was made and I never really liked its taste all that much.
I know there are Miracle Whip people, but I am not one of them. Miracle whip gets 1 star, while Best Foods mayonnaise (or Hellman's east of the Rockies) gets 5 stars. I have not had much experience with other brands, but they would definitely fall below five stars. Mustard, now, there's also an interesting category. I give 5 stars to Mendocino mustard, with its distinctive sweet flavor, and would rank your regular yellow mustard for ballpark hot dogs at 4, though my mother's favorite is Colman's mustard, which I can only find at Safeway and I have to admit that for a non-sweet mustard, it's pretty tasty. 5 stars.
Fluffy socks in wild colors always get 5 stars. I love wearing them around here like light-weight slippers. Any socks with loose tops that don't cut into my fat calves get 5 stars and those that are hard to pull on and fit tightly rank 3 or 4 stars, 4 if they have a nice pattern. I remember as a kid trying to pull on white anklets that went with my uniform shoes and having crying fits when they wouldn't fit over my heel and if they did fit over my heel, they were so stretched out that they looked floppy and I hated the way they felt. I was very particular about socks as a kid.
It's more difficult to award stars to TV talking heads. There are so many of them! Rachel Maddow always gets 5 stars, with Chris Hays just a shade behind her. But Chris Matthews, who once might have been a 4 is now a 1. He has the chops, he knows his stuff, but his overbearing insistence that everyone agree with him or just shut up (he won't give them a chance to speak) knocked him down several pegs (and every time he sneers "Cheenie...that's the way it's pronounced" for Dick Cheney, he drops off the radar). Jim Lehrer gets 2 stars just because I can't stand his voice and all the arguing he does. Washington Week's Charles Krauthammer rates 2 stars just for general snarkiness. As for the more obnoxious FOX talking heads, I'd like to give them minus stars. No way am I going to give a star to Ann Coulter.
Of course, Jon Stewart gets five stars. Every time.
Walking around the house today, with stars in mind, I realize how
fortunate we are that we don't have to rate ordinary things in our daily life with stars.
It was bad enough having to do it to stage shows, and I'm just as glad that I don't
have to rate stage shows or brands of cottage cheese!
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