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Marissa Lingen

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All the stars [Nov. 12th, 2015|10:56 am]
Marissa Lingen
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Gather round, kids of all ages and genders. I’m going to tell you a secret.

The world does not come with a five-star rating system.

Several times lately I have seen people impose the five stars into systems that did not helpfully provide one. As if this is universal. As if this is the natural and right way to interact with the universe. No. No.

Yesterday it rained while I was out running errands, sheets of rain rolling into the river valley off the prairies. It was warm rain for Minnesota in November, though not in absolute terms, when what we deserve was snow, but we’ll take it. We’ll take it. My jeans were plastered to my thighs in less than a minute, my hair soaked through. I almost had to pull over, driving home, because there was so much rain that I couldn’t see two cars in front of me. I crept along through the wet white world.

It was not a five-star rain. It was a glorious rain, a drenching rain, a pounding rain.

Last weekend we heard the Minnesota Orchestra play short Sibelius pieces. The humoresques danced and romped. The Oceanides drew us in with woodwinds. For awhile I did not think of my loved ones who had been hospitalized that day. I thought of the music, of the woods of Finland and the sea and the music. At the end we clapped, and we went home, and there was no button to click for stars.  How many stars?  Five?  Why not more?  Seven, nine?  Ten stars?  Seventeen?

I know, I know–the things that do have the five-star rating system attached are trying to get feedback. Many times they’re trying to get past automated gatekeepers, and that can be a worthy goal. But the things that don’t have that don’t need you to impose it.

Sometimes things are so amazing as to leave you wordless. I know. I spend a lot of time there despite all my chattering. But “five stars” does not convey that. Any time you create a shorthand to try to convey that, it stops working the minute it’s established. For most of the things that matter, you have to get out there and say: this moved me. Or, I have mixed feelings about this.  Or, I was not so sure and then the tarragon flavor really hit me and I was a convert. Or you have to be willing to let people see the stars in your eyes.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux


[User Picture]From: reveritas
2015-11-12 05:05 pm (UTC)
I use "A++" a lot.

I wonder if that trips the same thing for you (I don't think I've used it around you much; more of a shorthand on Twitter and all)

Anyway, this is a gorgeous post. I give it five -- nah ... never mind ;)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-11-12 05:51 pm (UTC)
It depends on the context. I don't even mind "five stars" so much if the person is clearly being flippant. It's when they're being serious that I mind.
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From: swan_tower
2015-11-12 06:48 pm (UTC)
"Five stars" would fall so profoundly short of describing the effect La Sagrada Familia had on me, I think saying that, even as a joke, might qualify as blasphemy.

Some things deserve better than that kind of reductionist shorthand.
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2015-11-12 10:31 pm (UTC)
I dislike that as much as I dislike "like". When a friend surfaces to report their daughter discovering stage four cancer at the young age of 33, I am not, NOT, NOOOTTT going to press "like."
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-11-12 10:39 pm (UTC)
Good heavens, I should think not.
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[User Picture]From: mechaieh
2015-11-13 04:35 am (UTC)
The BYM and I passed an eatery in Brooklyn earlier today called 7 Star Deli. I theorized that maybe it was a reference to constellations. The BYM side-eyed me something fierce and continued making fun of the name.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2015-11-13 04:51 am (UTC)
It is the Pleiades Deli, dammit. I will hear no other explanation.
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[User Picture]From: p_j_cleary
2015-11-13 09:38 pm (UTC)
I give this entry 11 stars.
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[User Picture]From: fritzkat
2015-11-14 01:41 am (UTC)
This entry goes to 11?
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2015-11-14 06:47 am (UTC)

If you want to play that game ...

I'll give it 24 - for the hours in the day! (And yes, that gives you - and an abacus - an almost instant way or two to one up me in turn.)
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[User Picture]From: anef
2015-11-14 07:48 am (UTC)
Yes, some things are immeasurable, and some are ineffable.
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