The Best of the Best
the dangerous business of calling something “the best”
What is the best thing about the Chippewa Valley? The people? The landscape? The hot beef sandwiches at Ray’s Place on Water Street? Even in a small-ish place like the Chippewa Valley, the concept of “best” is so relative it’s basically meaningless.
There are so many different variables. There is so much overlap. There are so many great things here that were never meant to be compared to something else. How can you really compare our bands to each other? How can you compare our painters to our sculptors? How can you compare our many fabulous happy hour spots? Impossible.
Theoretically, adding awesome to awesome equals more awesome. But in general, over-comparisons muddle things up and the essence of what makes one particular thing great is easily lost.
You must be careful when comparing two awesome, but very different things. They might start mashing into each other in strange and unexpected ways. Before you know it, the stuff you like starts to meld together, forming a giant blob.
Your favorite foods meld into a culinary freak show. How about a tasty spaghetti burger? You want some Pad Thai donut holes? Chicken fried yogurt, anyone? Try the dark chocolate egg salad!
The activities in which you love to partake become a dangerous jumble. You might do the Sunday morning crossword puzzle while cross-country skiing. You might have to do your nature photography while your speed metal band rehearses. You might home brew a ship in a bottle. You could snorkel-quilt.
Cinematic champions do battle for your approval, leaving a slew of collateral damage. Batman fights with Indiana Jones. The Goonies tussle with the A-Team. Doc Brown arm wrestles Ferris Bueller. Rambo slap-fights with Luke Skywalker. Daniel LaRusso ends up crane kicking Teen Wolf during a high school basketball game!*
Total, soul-shattering anarchy.
Maybe it’s not that bad. Theoretically, adding awesome to awesome equals more awesome. But in general, over-comparisons muddle things up and the essence of what makes one particular thing great is easily lost.
Cross genre comparisons are tricky enough. But what about cross-media comparisons?
It baffles, annoys, and disheartens me that people still take the time to utter the phrase, “The book was better than the movie.” Really? Ya think? Of course the book was better than the movie. The book is always better than the movie. You can cram about about 30,000% more mind-blowing detail into a book. Comparing a book to a movie is like saying you liked Black Beauty better than a painting of a black horse.
I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I also love the Lord of the Rings movies. Which is “better?” Dumb question.
Well, it’s kind of like that.
Sure, books and movies are more closely related than books and paintings, but they are still different enough that comparing the two isn’t really fair. You can certainly compare your experiences with two different mediums – if you use pretty basic rating scales.
I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I also love the Lord of the Rings movies. Which is “better?” Dumb question. They are both awesome for different reasons, and there’s no real need to rate them against each other. And while it may be fun to pick apart the movies for their diversions from the original text – people, a Balrog does not have wings – who cares? Since it’s impossible to cram everything in those books onto film, you might as well have some good ol’ cinematic fun. Just enjoy the films for what they are.
Better, best, worst, blah, blah, blah. I think the word “favorite” is a lot more meaningful when comparing things. A certain power comes from knowing what you like – and I mean you.
When you stop caring about other people’s judgment meters, you’re free to enjoy some genuine experiences. It’s not about having, or being the best. It’s about spending time on what you honestly love.
All that said, the best thing about the Chippewa Valley is most definitely the hot beef sandwiches at Ray’s Place on Water Street.