If you’re like me (distinguished-looking, a wonderful rifle shot, and a person of taste and culture) you love reading the ratings that customers send in to just about every website that sells anything. Along with these comments come a certain number of stars that vary from one to four, or five, one being “I wouldn’t hit a dog in the ass with this,” to the max “So wonderful it’s too good for this planet.” And all points in between.

Midway USA, seeing that I spend enough with them each year to reconstruct the Titanic (the cost of a first-class ticket on the Titanic was $4,350 1912 dollars, which is about $100,000 in today’s money, and I have no idea why I included this) sends me solicitations asking for my opinions on the stuff I buy, but since I have no idea how to send the comments in, I don’t do it. Midway claims that the product ratings are hugely popular, and I believe them.

However, all is not wine and roses. By reading ratings, I’ve been able to determine the following:

1. English, in the United States, is a dying language. Many of the comments read like letters from Civil War soldiers who were pulled out of the first grade to help work the farm.

2. Some raters are clearly misinformed. Last winter I was thinking about buying a winter coat made by a Canadian company called Canada Goose, eh? and I read the ratings. One Canada Goose owner said that it was a fine coat, but that they were cut small, so get it one size large. When I called the local store that sells them, I was told no, they’re cut big, come in and try one on first. I did, and ended up with a Large, whereas I usually take XL or XXL. Eh?

3. Some raters are obviously deranged. I came across the user of one old and highly respected brand of bullet who could not get the projectiles to seat in his case necks, and had the cores actually blow out of the jackets while traveling up the barrel. Of course, it was the manufacturer’s fault, but it sounds to me like he has the wrong-diameter bullets. Why he has not been killed is a mystery, or maybe he has. I think he should be hit very hard on the head with a blunt instrument and taken away to some place where he can’t load his own ammunition.

4. A great many raters give incomplete information about why something failed, which leads you to conclude that they were misusing whatever it was, and that the product would have held up fine under normal, or even sane, use.

5. Sometimes, the number of stars has no relation to the rating. “This [fill in the product name] is the worst piece of junk I have ever used, and I would not hit a dog in the ass with it.” Five stars. Or: “This is the finest [fill in the product name] I have ever used; its wonderfulness is almost beyond price.” One star.

Or, if you’d like a more profound interpretation, we seem to be living at a time when reality has no relevance. As proof of this I offer our two presidential candidates. They inhabit alternative universes of their own manufacture. And people buy into it. Maybe Justice Ginsberg is right: It’s time to move to New Zealand.