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star ratings systems suck.

I don’t normally write about things I don’t like, but I just need to share my hatred of star rating systems, today. Everyone has those little things that bother them more than they should, and this is one of my things.

The reason why things connect with you, and why they don’t, is vastly complex. There is often no way to know if you didn’t like a movie, book, etc., because it was poorly and unimaginatively made, or if it was because it just didn’t happen to connect with you. It’s even possible it just didn’t connect with you on that particular day, and that if you watched it on some other day you would have loved it. Even if we truly did hate something, the arrogance it takes to believe that we are the sole arbiter of whether or not something is worthwhile is amazing to me.

The idea that with a few seconds of thought, we can sum up someone else’s passion, sweat, and work with a number stars, and that this is somehow adequate, pisses me off. It’s the height of arrogance to presume that we can judge someone else’s work that flippantly anyway, especially because the vast majority of us have never created anything, much less submitted it to the world for appraisal. It’s stupid, plain and simple.

More and more, I think that at the center of a well-lived life works curiosity. Yet, more and more, we live in a world that shuts off that curiosity, that tells us that we should be pure consumers who judge everything on a spectrum ranging from Boo! to Meh. to Yay! Really? That’s the best we can do as we engage with art and beauty, or at least the attempt at the creation of art and beauty? I think we can do much better than that. I mean to.

You’re not merely a consumer, programmed to respond to things purely through a lens which helps others sell you things you might like. Your experience of art shouldn’t be belittled to the over-simplicity of how many stars you’d rate something on a scale of 1-5. It should be nuanced, complex, and should teach you as much, or more, about yourself as it does about whatever art you are engaging with. Even terrible work, when interacted with well, can teach you something wonderful in spite of itself. Yet, a consumeristic world can’t work that way, there is no room for genuine awe, wonder, and the ability to learn how to appreciate something you normally wouldn’t. Instead, it requires that you move from shiny object to shiny object, endlessly entertained but never truly engaged, quickly growing bored with your newest obsession so that you can move on to the next one.

You deserve more than that from life. More than summing up the beauty of life’s experiences based on how many stars you’d give it. And heaven forbid, maybe how much you enjoyed something isn’t the most important issue anyway, but that’s better saved for another post.

Ask better questions! You’ll be glad you did.



win win, and more generally, thomas mccarthy. [things i’m thankful for #26]

I loved this movie. Everyone should watch it.

I fell in love with all of the characters early on, and delighted in them for 106 minutes. I want to write like Thomas McCarthy does. All three of the films he’s written and directed are perfect (The Station Agent, Win Win, The Visitor. He also wrote the story for Up.)

He’s a master at writing these small, intimate stories that restore my hope in the beauty of interpersonal relationships and the power we have to love each other, and heal each other, and just how much we all need one another. It was exactly the movie I needed, at exactly the right moment. Right down the The National playing over the closing credits.

Seriously. Watch this movie.



awesome bartenders and baristas. [things i’m thankful for #25]

Well, it’s been a rough few days. Or, as I like to call it, my worst month ever. I’ve had my meds bottom out, leaving me mired in overwhelming despair. I’ve been fired for the first time in my life. And I had an interview yesterday that was one of the weirdest, and worst, interactions I’ve ever had with a person I wasn’t related to.

The bad experience was an “interview” at a cafe here in Seattle. The meeting was with the owner of the shop I was applying to work for, and the first interview I had was fantastic. Said first interview had been with the manager of the particular location I would have been working, and it was clear quickly that we got along swimmingly. The way we understood coffee, people, and the place of the cafe in Ballard fit together so well. I was excited about the opportunity to pour my energy into working alongside her in making this cafe an indispensable part of the Ballard neighborhood.

Then, I had a second interview with the owner. It wasn’t an interview. It was an ambush. He literally spent the entire interview berating me for having the audacity to apply to work for him when in my heart I really wanted to be a writer. He said he wasn’t going to “finance [my] writing by paying [me] to be a barista” for him. He said there was no place for me at the cafe unless I could make my first and only priority coffee. He complained about a friend of mine who works at the cafe, saying, “We’ve had problems with [him] putting [his wife] and school ahead of the cafe.” He really fucking said that to me! First, he talked negatively about one of his employees to a random person who was interviewing at his cafe. Second, he complained that someone was putting his wife ahead of his hourly barista job. WTF?!?

The guy also used Million Dollar Baby as his example of how much I would need to care about coffee to work at the coffee shop. He said everyone who works for him would be able to say they had no regrets about working in the cafe, even if the job somehow paralyzed them for life. I’m not exaggerating, there is no hyperbole there, he really said that to me. It was the most wearying experience I’ve had in some time, just trying to keep from freaking out and walking out on him. In hindsight, I guess I probably should have just freaked out on him and left, instead of listening to him go on about how I wasn’t a good fit for over an hour! 

I left pretty heavy, and since I forgot my phone at home I was stranded in downtown Seattle with no way to contact my ride. It wasn’t a big deal, just one of those insult to injury things.

Anyway, things have been pretty heavy lately. However, there has been so much support from friends, family, and, oddly enough, local baristas and bartenders. I prefer to frequent places where I can get to know the people behind the bar. And those people I’ve gotten to know have been kind to me when I’ve really needed it over the last few days. I’ve been given two and a half free cocktails, three shots of whiskey, a beer, and two free coffee drinks, just because. One bartender friend bought me a shot and a beer out of her own pocket because she wasn’t even working when she heard about my terrible interview, she just asked the bartender to give us each a shot, and said “his beer is on me, too.”

I can’t wait until I have an income of some kind so I can return all this wonderful kindness that I’ve received.



caffe fiore, ballard. [things i’m thankful for #24]

Well friends, much has happened in my short absence. For those who don’t already know, I got fired the other day. My meds (Cymbalta for the curious) bottomed out, and I was leveled. That being the case, I missed a few days of work, and without warning they fired me. It was my boss’s boss who did the firing, and the deciding. He didn’t care why I was out, or what the story was, he just fired me. “Released” is the word he used, I guess that sounds nicer than “Fired.”

I knew I was in for some trouble. Earlier in the day my boss told me that I had a meeting with her boss at 4. They only schedule meetings that late in the day for bad reasons. She also made an odd comment when she told me about the meeting, she said “I tried to advocate for you.” When I asked if I was being fired or warned, she said she didn’t know, but I did, deep down I knew she was trying to hide the fact that I was fired.

I was hoping to get an ultimatum. Some sort of, “Look, your attendance has been unacceptable, if you miss another day of work, you’re fired.” Alas, that wasn’t forthcoming. My coworker, the woman who has been training me, was shocked. At first she thought I was joking, just because it seems so absurd.

There are upsides though. For one, as long as I have a few bucks lying around, I can come to Fiore again! Something that was sorely missed when I was working from 8-5 every day. This little caffe is like my second home. It’s one of the few places I can spend a whole day and not feel awkward, as long as I am making purchases and not just taking up space.

I’m so happy to be back!! Hopefully the writing will be coming with greater frequency for a while.



movies. [things i’m thankful for #23]

I love movies so much. Even lately, when I don’t have much energy for consuming stories and such, I still find myself pulled into film when I force myself to sit down and watch something. I hope that soon I can find the energy to interact with film on a deeper level, so that I can write about it here on RtM and share it with my friends.

Has anyone seen anything great lately? Or even just good?


the guardian.

354 years. That’s how long Rowan had been watching and waiting for the next guardian to appear.

He’d become the guardian quite by accident.

He was wandering through the woods, as he always did. He was prone to rambling about, with no destination to speak of. His mind was lost in daydreams about the most recent pretty girl in the region to have caught his eye. His face was turned up to enjoy the tops of the trees, and thus he nearly tripped over the figure lying prostrate before him. At first he took it to be a corpse, but upon turning it over to check for loot he was surprised by a wheezing release of breath from the poor fellow.

He squatted beside the figure for a moment, pondering what to do next. The man, as he saw it was a man by this point, was wearing what appeared to be a collection of thick old rags quilted together into a cloak. It was large and billowing, and the hood was pulled down low over the man’s face so that it almost functioned as a cowl.

The man wheezed again, this time slowing moving his lips. It appeared he was trying to speak, so Rowan leaned down and placed his ear as close to the man’s lips as he could. There was another indiscernible wheeze from the man, with the faint whisper of mumbled words that Rowan couldn’t quite make out.

The man shuddered once, then twice, and then was very still. Rowan thought perhaps he was dead, but regardless there was nothing he could do for the poor chap. They were miles and miles from the nearest village, days journey even if Rowan could build a litter to drag the man. He decided the most sensible thing to do would be to take the man’s cloak.

He reached down to roll the man onto his side when, with a terrible suddenness, the man’s hand grabbed Rowan’s wrist. The old man’s eyes shot open and stared at Rowan with startling intensity. Rowan pulled backwards to make a run for it, but the old man’s grip was surprisingly strong.

“Hark! It must be kept safe until the appointed time!” The old man had suddenly found his voice, breathless and weary thing that it was.

The old man’s gaze burned into Rowan with an intensity that made his ears feel warm and his palms sweat.

“You must heed the ancient words. ‘Without the Token, all will be lost.’ It must be kept safe until the appointed time!”

The old man’s grip tightened for a moment, and then he was gone. The man’s body remained, but whatever spirit had animated him had fled.

Rowan pulled the man’s hand from his wrist and jumped backward behind a tree, trying to get distance between the body and himself in case there were more surprises in store.

He watched and waited, peering from around a tree to be sure the old man was truly dead this time. It would be foolish to allow what had just happened to keep him from taking the cloak, the cold season was coming on, and the cloak looked warm.

Finally, Rowan steeled his nerves enough to approach the body. He pulled the cloak from the corpse, which was already stiffening, and threw it over his own shoulders. It was even warmer than he’d hoped.

He began checking about his person for pockets of hidden treasures and perhaps even money. He found the cloak was filled with pockets, and odd objects the likes of which he’d never seen before: a tiny mug, smaller than any Rowan had ever come across; a marble in the likeness of a human eye, hard and smooth; a feather, of a brighter orange than Rowan thought possible; and a string of beads, each bead the rich color of freshly spilled blood.

Rowan thought that was all the pockets, but then, nearly by accident, as he was adjusting his collar, he found one more pocket over his heart, but on the inside of the cloak. He reached his arm inside and found a single coin. It was a deep, striking black. Blacker than anything Rowan could even imagine. It seemed as if the light around it was sucked into the coin.

Rowan examined the coin in awe. It was unnatural. He found it impossible to look away. He placed it in the palm of his left hand, closed his hand tightly around the coin, and closed his eyes. A surge, fast as a bolt lightning, shook his entire body, and he found himself lying on his side, hours later, but with new memories in his head. He knew that no matter what befell him, it was of the utmost importance that he kept this coin safe until another guardian came to replace him. He didn’t know how he would identify the next guardian, or what the coin might need protecting from. He just knew that he would keep it with him, and continue his wandering as he always had, but with a new purpose.

Since then, he had not slept. Not a nap, or a doze, or a nodding off. He’d spent the last 354 years waiting. He was old in his bones, even though the coin slowed the aging process considerably, 354 years was still such a very long time. He was tired, and weary, and ready to make up for 354 years without rest.