So I've watched your hour long rant and I'd like to write an essay as a response. Ok, kidding about "essay" but it may be a little lengthy.
To start off with, I am basically the kind of guy who just accepts what is presented to them. My earliest GUI.... Was CLI. Yeah, when I was a kid the first computer my dad showed me was something like a terminal. A smooth grey box holding both the screen and keyboard and I'd type green text everywhere. The next computer was sort of also CLI, but it was a spectrum. Hit the shortcut keys of RUN or LOAD and play a game. Next was actually a more proper GUI, the Atari STe. Then the Atari Falcon. Then Windows 3.1, 95, 2000, Ubuntu, XP....
Ok, so when Microsoft introduced its Mouse & Windows, it was the thing that everyone wanted to copy like Steve Jobs and Digital Research. This was The Thing for a while, and because most people can't always handle changes like some autistic kid the GUI stayed that way. Well, sure, the GUI stayed, but over the years the designs changed (see evolution of word).
Now, like I said, I most of the time accept what I get. My dad gave me computers for a while, and the last desktop he gave was made for WinXP, but he had 2000 installed on it with Ubuntu somewhere in there (he wasn't a fan of windows). When I bought my own laptop it came with Vista and I practically broke it the moment I touched it. I felt it was too new for 2000 so I reluctantly installed WinXP, and changed the layout to classic. However, I started using Linux more and more. I have gone through Mint, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu and MX. Right now Ubuntu is my main platform (with a side order of Win10).
When it comes to customization of the GUI in Linux, it has felt as if the Ubuntu or Gnome branch has removed most of the customization. As of Ubuntu 16.04 the desktop has this Unity theme with all the icons folded neatly to the left of the screen. I just quickly installed a classic shell (so called flashback) to get back the menu system I was used to. It was starting to feel too much like some Windows App Tab. When I've wanted to do a little more customization, there was a Tweak tool, but it did not seem to explain much. It was basically like the regedit where one opens a branch and then click values to change. It did not feel much better than opening the config file in the terminal and editing these values by hand. The reason for doing this was to try and get back the scrollbars that had been hidden (or became very small slivers). With a lot of trial and error I think I got most of them back. Why am I still on Ubuntu if it sucks so? I fear the reinstalling and reconfiguring of all the programs I have.
Now, my father, he had done something to his laptop, and I can't remember which Linux it is, but he had barely any icons on any of his 6 desktops, and he had done pretty much what you had done: Launch menus by clicking the desktop. But also other menus depending on which button he clicked. Launch menu, Settings menu, Running Programs menu... Ok, the laptop had 2 buttons, but he'd use an external mouse most often. Heh, imagine using a 7-button-mouse and using various combinations to edit a video.
As for that wheel idea, while someone has created such a thing and that the next level is so big is most probably customizable. Like a launch menu. Just organize your files in many, Many sub-circles. And maybe they don't need to be opened with a quick mouse-over. What if they were numbered? Blender has some of its menus as circle menus as of 2.7, and now 2.8 numbers each option, so if you have a favorite program you use many times you know by instinct that all you need to do is hit this key or mouse button and type 2, 4, 3 and there's your favorite program!
As for the ideal GUI... Well, I think the best would be a holodeck. Although not shouting at the computer for all the commands needed to make a video, but a little closer to Tony Stark's GUI. Step into the room, touch some icons on the wall, space out the various windows, and then with your own two hands grab and drop files between them all, karate-chop videos, and build a level like lego.
Or one could do away with most of the GUI and just jack your brain into the computer. Much Faster! ... if you can keep your concentration on the job and not wonder into porn...
Well, that has been my... 1, 2, 3... 7 cents.