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NINETY PERCENT

By Ruth Minshull

 

            After giving a speech some years ago, Theodore Sturgeon was asked if he agreed that 90% of all science fiction was crud.  He replied, “Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud.  That’s because 90% of everything is crud.”  This became know as Sturgeon’s Law, and (for some unknown reason) is usually cited as “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

            I’ve never forgotten this law and, although I don’t actually do a count, I have applied it to many different subjects.  Although my conclusions are obviously subjective, the ratio seems to hold up.

            How many books do we pass up as unworthy of our time?  Of the remaining ones we actually read, how many leave us with a lasting impression?  I find that at least 90% are forgettable.

            The percentages also hold true for paintings, music, movies, poetry, sculptures, jewelry, homes, decorations, furnishings, gismos, widgets, dohickeys, dinguses, whatchamacallits cell phone conversations and yard ornaments.

            And, of course, food.

Restaurants?  Oh, yes.  Of all the potential eating places in our region, how many do we try out?  How many become favorites? 

There are also an abundance of godawful recipes.  Over many years, I’ve examined recipes in books, magazines and newspapers.  I’ve eliminated most of them with a glance, although I try a new one now and then.  Quite often I say, “Not bad,” but I know I’ll never make it again.  Of course, occasionally I find a keeper and that goes into the permanent file.

Sometimes I study the ghastly recipes that appear in the newspaper’s weekly food column and wonder how this food editor got the job.  Is she related to the owner?  Does she pay him to print her stuff?  Does she have incriminating pictures?

            And clothes!  Often I see an article of clothing so ugly that I ask:  why would anyone design this?  Having designed it, why would someone else choose to make it?  Finally, after it has wormed its way into a retail store, why would anyone buy it and wear it?  Eventually it ends up as a tacky offering in a garage sale where the current owner optimistically hopes that still another misguided soul will agree to pay the asking price of $2.00 for it.

            I remember reading a magazine several years ago which featured their picks for the best and worst-dressed celebrities.  On the last page of the best-dressed section there was a photo of Jackie Onassis, looking stunningly elegant in a white suit, wearing a single strand of pearls.  On the next page (the beginning of the worst dressed) appeared a very wealthy, well-known woman who looked like a glittering, gaudy, over-decorated Christmas tree.  I’m certain the juxtaposition of the photographs was no accident.  Clearly, the magazine was making the point that riches alone do not beget good taste.

            When I miss—that is, I go to a restaurant I don’t like, see a totally bum movie or try a recipe that turns out to be unfit for hog slop—I shrug my shoulders and say, “Well, that’s in the 90%.”

Amazingly, the 90% stuff continues to be designed, created, manufactured, marketed, bought and sold.  Does this mean that 90% of the population prefer crap?

            Of course, I haven’t even touched on the disconcerting fact that each of us would select different thingamanannies to drop into one side or the other of our own 90% line.  This suggests that one man’s crap is another man’s treasure.

            There may be something important to learn here, but I’m not sure what it is.

 

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© 2009 by Ruth Minshull

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