5 Terrible Things That Are So Great They Can't Be Improved


This is not an article about guilty pleasures. This is also not an article about things that are so bad that we love them for how awful they are. Lastly, this is not an article about penguins, but now I'm just being confusing.

5 Terrible Things That Are So Great They Can't Be Improved
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What are we talking about again?

This article is about things that really are perfect. They may be maligned or fail certain tests of objective beauty, quality, or greatness, but you know they're perfect because any attempt to "fix" them leads to failure. These things are just as they should be, warts and all. Join me as I choose my candidates from the worlds of film, music, literature, food, and drink. ("Join me" means keep reading. I don't want you to come with me, you weird Internet person.)

David Lee Roth

If you're still a little shaky on the premise of this article, just let ol' Diamond Dave clear it all up for you. David Lee Roth was the original singer of Van Halen and the only one that ever mattered. Want to get a taste of what David could do? Sure, listen to his shticky faux blues greatness on "Ice Cream Man," or perhaps the song he's most known for, "Jump." I used to sing in bands, and "Jump" is the hardest song I ever had to perform. And it had nothing to do with the phrasing or note selection or any of the things that typically make songs demanding. Singing Rush, Led Zeppelin, and Soundgarden were all easier than "Jump." Why? Because it's virtually impossible to sing "Jump" without looking like a douchebag cheeseball loser. But the great David Lee Roth somehow found a way to make being a douchebag cheeseball loser look like the coolest thing you could ever hope to be.

Look, we all know Dave's vocal flaws. For the most part, his voice comes in two flavors: cocky baritone swagger and throat-cracking screech that sounds really hilarious when you isolate it.

But if You Tried to Fix It ...

You'd get this:

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Or this:

5 Terrible Things That Are So Great They Can't Be Improved

Let's be clear -- Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone are both technically better singers than David Lee Roth. They have better range and tonality, and most of all, they took Van Halen's music a little more seriously, instead of using it as an excuse for their frontman antics. And you know what? They were wrong. Van Halen's music doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. Not like that. Great Van Halen is an amalgam of power and smiles. It kicks ass while it makes you happy, and no one can touch David Lee Roth at that.

Chicken McNuggets

I'm old enough to remember a time when the Chicken McNugget didn't exist.

5 Terrible Things That Are So Great They Can't Be Improved
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"Me just have Big Mac."

When the Chicken McNugget came to town, we all rode up to the local McDonald's in our crank-powered cars and top hats to stare at this wonder. What was a McNugget? This was a time before the "What part of a chicken does the McNugget come from?" jokes were even made. Dipping sauces other than ketchup? What is this magic? It was an exciting time, and every little boy and girl I knew lost their damn minds over how good it was.

But then the backlash. It's not real meat. It's totally processed and filled with lard. And, of course, if you eat too many, it will literally fucking kill you. OH, BOO HOO! We know. We know.

But if You Tried to Fix It ...

You'd get a chicken nugget. You know chicken nuggets. You can get them at Burger King. You can get them at the diner. You can get them in bags at your grocer's freezer. They brag that they use only real choice white meat. They mock McDonald's processed, Frankenstein production. Oh, and something else: They don't taste nearly as good. When I want a McNugget, I don't want quality chicken. If I wanted that, I'd buy some nice organic chicken breasts and make my patented chicken Parmesan that would make your dick grow six inches and your balls fall off. (Let's pretend that's a good thing.) Anyway, when I want a McNugget, I want tasty shit. Tasty. Shit. And you can't polish a turd.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Now, hold on. If you think I'm criticizing this book or the late, great Douglas Adams, you are sadly mistaken. I love The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and it was definitely an influence on my novel, Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. For those who don't know the book, it tells the story of mild-mannered Englishman Arthur Dent, who is saved from death by his friend and secret alien Ford Prefect moments before the Earth is blown up to make room for an intergalactic highway. If you've not read it, read it. Or better yet, get your hands on the BBC miniseries.

So where's the problem? There is none, but the thing is, for all its greatness, it's not a great novel -- mostly because it's not a novel. The project started as a radio play. Then it became a novel. Then a series of novels. A trilogy, in fact. Except that Adams wrote five of them and then called it a trilogy in five parts. The point is, Hitchhiker's is not concerned with a conventional arc or dramatic structure. It's a series of loosely connected stuff that happens. People with masters and doctorates refer to this genre as picaresque, but you can have that word for the price of reading the Internet. So basically, even though it's hilarious, this story has very little arc, character development, or emotional growth of any kind.

But if You Tried to Fix It ...

You'd ruin it. Case in point: the 2005 movie version. This movie was lovingly made. Martin Freeman is the perfect Arthur Dent. Mos Def is a shockingly good choice for Ford Prefect, and Sam Rockwell is as great as he always is as Zaphod Beeblebrox. Everyone in this movie is good. But here's the thing -- in order to make it a movie, a real thing, they had to build up Arthur's character a bit and add more of the relationship between him and love interest Trillian. And while they were at it, they toned down the number of passages from the book that give random, hilarious information but do not usually move the plot forward.


And even though the movie was made eight years ago, Zooey Deschanel has apparently always been 26.

Here's the problem: Arthur Dent isn't exactly the main character of the book. As the clip above states, it's the story of a book. The Guide itself is the main character, and without question the encyclopedic passages are the most entertaining parts. No, Hitchhiker's might not achieve wonderful things in dramatic structure or generate great empathy for its characters, but it is what it is, and it's a perfect comedy classic. If you're illiterate, just get the miniseries, which doesn't try to tell a conventional story and puts the Guide itself as the star of the show where it belongs.


Nicolas Cage's Performance in Vampire's Kiss

It's fun to talk about how much Nicolas Cage sucks, isn't it? And why not? He's reduced himself to an Internet meme at this point. Look at him go in movies like Ghost Rider and The Wicker Man. He's clearly lost some part of his mind. But you cannot and should not call Nicolas Cage a bad actor. That's just flat out wrong. He doesn't always play big. Look at Kick-Ass, a very grand movie that he played very straight and small. Look as his range, from Birdy to Moonstruck to The Rock. Yes, The Rock, which is a fun movie where he comfortably decided to play "action hero" for the first time.

And then look at films that combine his acting chops with his brass balls to make big choices. In Peggy Sue Got Married, he spent most of the movie portraying a shallow, fame-hungry popular high school kid, and he played it big and silly, generating an audience's contempt and sympathies in equal measure.

And then of course he won the Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, portraying an alcoholic in a way no one had ever seen on screen before. Not just some physical addiction of a self-destructive person -- a much more intense use of alcohol as the poison it is for the purposes of suicide.

Which brings us to one of Cage's hammiest, most maligned performances. In 1989, Cage played a literary agent who gets bitten by a woman after a one-night stand and then has a mental breakdown, believing he is turning into a vampire. Here is some of his scenery chewing.


But if You Tried to Fix It ...

What the hell would you have? Do you think Daniel Day-Lewis would do a more compelling job of portraying a mentally ill literary agent who thinks he's a vampire in a dark comedy? Does Nicolas Cage suck, or is he doing the only thing you could do in a movie like this? Do you want him to play it smaller? Less insane? A more realistic portrayal of an unstable rageaholic with fantastic delusions? The problem is when Cage injects insanity into something that doesn't require it, but this seems perfectly fine. It's supposed to be a comedy, but y'know, it's only a comedy conceptually. It's not like the script is filled with witty zingers, so watching his over-the-top antics is what drives the comedy.

Pabst Blue Ribbon

Ah, the old PBR. Pabst Blue Ribbon. A beer so shitty that its name, conveying its award-winning nature, is considered ironic.


Just like a certain news station's logo.

And although PBR never actually won a blue ribbon, it did win "America's Best" at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Yeah, 1893. I'm guessing that in 1893 one of the qualities in winning best beer was if the judges didn't go blind and piss blood after drinking it. In any event, I didn't come here to beat up PBR. Just the opposite, because sometimes, in the right time and the right place, PBR is just the best beer there is. Let me set the scene. You're in a stressful job, taking a little respite from the drudgery with a burger and a beer at lunch. Now, you're not a Philistine, so it's a quality beer. Maybe it's a Radeberger or a Sixpoint Sweet Action. Maybe you're going balls out and having yourself a Guinness. Who's to say? How do I know every little thing you do? What am I, the NSA?

5 Terrible Things That Are So Great They Can't Be Improved
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"The NSA can neither confirm nor deny that Gladstone is in the NSA."

OK. Now your meal and quality beverage are over. You still have 10 minutes. You're not quite ready to go back. What do you do? Another good beer? Of course not. Too much alcohol. Too filling. Bad idea. At this point, you thank those miserable hipster d-bags for making PBR ironically cool again, because now real bars that serve real beer keep cans of PBR in their fridge. You crack one open, and it's just the barest hint of a beer. Watery, weak, and bland, like Costner's performance in Waterworld.

But if You Tried to Fix It ...

If you ordered a real beer, or even a better bad beer, like a Bud, it would be too much. Too heavy. Too filling. Face it: PBR is the perfect beer for when you just want that innocuous plus one. Would you want to drink PBR all day? No. Would you want it with your fine steak dinner? No. Would you want it while you're giving your dog Lester a tick bath after he contracted the critters during your hiking trip to Lake George from August 27 to August 31? (OK, fine, I admit it. I'm in the NSA.) No. There are only limited times when PBR is a good thing. But when you need something quick and weak and light but still beer (technically), it's just about perfect.



After experiencing the joy of pre-ordering Book 1 of the trilogy, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter.

Also, you can get all your Internet Apocalypse news here as we count down to release.

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