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Editor, The Konformist
The Cult of the McRib
In search of the legendary bone-free porky treat that inspired a
By Adam Winer
Chicago is shivering beneath the first snowflakes of winter as my
rental car skirts the area that was once the meat packing capital of
the country. The sky is gray, the trees are bare, the air is raw. But
as I make one final turn I find myself basking in the celestial glow
of the Golden Arches, beneath which are the three magic words I've
flown some 800 miles to see: MCRIBS ARE BACK!
McDonald's McRib is a sandwich of legend. The heavenly blend of pork
patty, barbecue sauce, and bun is, to devotees, so addictive that
songs have been written about it, Internet shrines erected to it, and
TV shows dedicated to it. Yet McDonald's has made the McRib a limited
edition, available only in certain areas of the country for part of
the year. It is rarely seen, yet frequently sought and cultishly
worshiped. It is the Holy Grail on a bun.
Because I live in New York, where the sandwich is nearly impossible
to come by, it has been 15 years since I've eaten a McRib. So what to
do when McDonald's offers not only to divulge where it can be found
but also to provide access to the men behind the McRib?
It's time for a McRoadtrip.
I begin my pork-a-thon in Oak Brook, Illinois, where the McDonald's
corporate headquarters is based and where the local franchise sits a
mere 100 yards from Ronald's corner office. My McRib arrives dressed
with pickle slices, an even sprinkling of onion arcs, and a healthy
dose of barbecue sauce. Literally shaking with anticipation, I take a
bite. It's delicious. The precise appropriation of barbecue sauce per
fectly complements the light saltiness of the rib-shaped meat patty,
bringing out its porky grace notes. The pickles burst forth with a
sourness that contrasts with the sauce's sweetness. And the onions
rush in to leave the palate with a robust kick. "The more taste sen
sations you can have in a product, the more interesting it is to your
tongue," says Dan Coudreau, head chef for McDonald's in the United
States. "All those savory, salty, sweet, and sour flavors work
together. It's a classic taste combination with barbecue."
Initially test-marketed in 1981, the McRib was the brainchild of
McDonald's first executive chef, Rene Arend, who'd been plucked from
the kitchen of a local luxury hotel and tasked with increasing the
franchise's menu options. Arend's most industry-altering achievement
would prove to be the creation of the Chicken McNugget in 1979. And
it was the success of the nugget that necessitated the immediate
invention of the McRib. "The McNuggets were so well received that
every franchise wanted them," says Arend, now an 80-year-old retiree
living in Chicago. "There wasn't a system to supply enough chicken.
We had to come up with something to give the other franchises as a
new product. So the McRib came about because of the shortage of
The McRib's direct inspiration was Southern BBQ. "I had just come
back from Charleston, South Carolina, where I ate sandwiches made
from pulled pork," Arend remembers. "I said to myself, Something with
that flavor should really go over."
But instead of pulling his pork, Arend decided to give the meat its
legendarily absurd shape: Even though it contains no bones, the patty
is molded to resemble a miniature rack of ribs. "Some thought, Why
not just make it round?" recalls Arend. "It would've been easier. But
I wanted it to look like a slab of ribs."
About sixty miles southwest of Chicago, at a Mickey D's in Kankakee,
Illinois, the booths are packed with sauce-stained customers. "I
don't normally go to McDonald's, but when I saw McRibs were back on
the menu, I was like, `I gotta get me one,'" says Oliver Corpuz, a 36-
year-old attorney. "I'm not even sure if it's all really pork in
there. It's some sort of extruded meat product."
Contrary to what its name implies, there is very little actual rib
meat in a McRib. "Primarily, it's shoulder meat," explains Rob
Cannell, director of McDonald's U.S. supply chain. "The McRib is made
in large processing plantslots of stainless steel, a number of
production lines, and these long cryogenic freezers. The pork meat is
chopped up, then seasoned, then formed into that shape that looks
like a rib back. Then we flash-freeze it. The whole process from
fresh pork to frozen McRib takes about 45 minutes."
Since the McRib is a promotional sandwich, as opposed to a full-time
menu item, each individual restaurant gets to decide whether or not
to stock it. Hence the scarcity that has made it the Halley's Comet
of fast-food entrees. McDonald's has alerted me which Illinois lo
cations are currently carrying the McRib, so I make a number of stops
as night falls. But for the average fan there is the McRib Locator
Map at mcrib.kleincast.com, a tracking Web site created by
Minneapolis-area meteorologist and hardcore pork enthusiast Alan
"My inspiration came a year ago when some friends of mine were having
a hard time finding McRibs," explains Klein. On his map visitors can
report locations where they've found a McRib, allowing rib-heads
everywhere to benefit from the shared tracking info. As I stop for
the night in Urbana-Champaign, I plug all my finds into the site's
mapthe better to help others on pork pilgrimages.
The McRib's place in the pop culture firmament was solidly
established with the 12th episode of the 14th season of The Simpsons.
In it Homer becomes addicted to Krusty Burger's new "Ribwich," which
is made from a mysterious animal Krusty refuses to identify.
Obviously, Homer has no choice but to abandon his family to tour the
country with other rib addicts. The gorging stops only after Krusty
announces that the've eaten the mysterious animal into
extinction. "Homer would follow it around like people followed the
Grateful Dead around," says Simpsons executive producer Al Jean. "We
asked Bob Seger to sing the commercial for the Ribwich, but he
declined." The McRib has repeatedly popped up in Letterman's Top 10
Lists (Top 10 Surprises in Clinton's State of the Union Address: 2.
If reelected, would bring back the McRib Sandwich) and was in an
episode of Adult Swim's The Boondocks in which the Rev. Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. returns to the modern day and discovers the wonders
of processed pork patties. "Oh, snap! No they didn't!" exclaims
King. "A boneless rib sandwich. What will they think of next?"
"The McRib has all the trappings of a true cultural phenomenon," says
Chris Sivori, a former video game tester in Austin, Texas who chron
icled his coworkers' annual McRib eating challenge on his Web site,
letterneversent.com. "It's so mysterious. A bone-shaped thing that
has no bones in it? That's out of control."
After the McRib rolled out nationwide in 1982, McDonald's learned the
sandwich worked best as a limited-time offering. Its restricted
availability has become a marketing tool. A few years back McDonald's
even launched a highly publicized Farewell Tour, announcing that the
McRib was about to disappear forever, only to bring it back the
following year for another Farewell Tour. "The McRib was like the
Who," chef Coudreaut admits. McDonald's still sold 30 million of them
in 2007, totaling more than seven million pounds of pig meat.
Driving through St. Louis, a billboard over the horizon announces
mcrib: makes moist towelettes feel wanted, and indeed the city's
franchises have a predilection for heavy saucing. As I down one last
sandwich before heading home, I leave a glob of sauce in the box and
a mound of soiled napkins on the tray. The experience leaves me
feeling oddly content.
On my way to the St. Louis airport to fly back to New York, I buy
four final McRibs and shove them into my carry-on bag. Somewhere over
Ohio, I reach for my bag to sneak out a midflight snack. As I open
the McRib container, its aroma of pork and lukewarm sauce pervades
the cabin. The middle-aged woman stuck sitting next to me looks
visibly horrified. But her husband one seat over? I'm going to
categorize him as envious. Yes, you can smell it in the air: The
McRib is back.
For every McRib, a ton of items end up in that big drive-through in
A container that separated the warm patty from the cool veggies.
Genius! The jaunty ad starring Jason Alexander was just a bonus.
The sky began to fall when KFC introduced these mini-sandwiches.
Seems fans don't want to be reminded of White Castle's Slyders.
Taco Bell (c. 1970)
There are two lessons to be learned from this monstrosity: 1. Taco
Bell should stick to tacos. 2. Pick a name that's at least vaguely
Burger King (2004)
This edible oxymoron included a "specially designed pouch" with hot
chicken to be poured over the chilled greens.
Jordan, Stockton, Robinson lead 16 hall finalists
By ANDREW BAGNATO
PHOENIX (AP) Michael Jordan, John Stockton and David Robinson were
among the 16 finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of
Fame announced on Friday.
NBA coaches Don Nelson and Jerry Sloan and Rutgers women's coach C.
Vivian Stringer also made the cut from a field of 164 nominees, as
did former NBA stars Dennis Johnson, Chris Mullin and Bernard King,
and two-time WNBA MVP Cynthia Cooper.
"I'll step out on a limb and speak for all of them and say thank
you," said Robinson, the former San Antonio stalwart and lone
finalist who attended the announcement during NBA All-Star Game
festivities. "We understand the honor that goes along with being
nominated. We know everyone doesn't get in."
The election announcement will be made on April 6 at the NCAA Final
Four in Detroit, with enshrinement in September at the Hall of Fame
in Springfield, Mass. All 16 finalists may be elected, according to
Jordan, regarded by many as the greatest player in history, led the
Bulls to six NBA titles and won an NCAA championship at North
Carolina. He was a five-time NBA MVP and a six-time NBA Finals MVP.
He also won two Olympic gold medals.
Jordan and Stockton dueled in two memorable NBA Finals, with Jordan's
Chicago Bulls defeating Stockton's Utah Jazz in 1997 and 1998.
Stockton retired as the NBA's career leader in assists and steals,
and he also won a pair of Olympic gold medals.
Jordan and Stockton were teammates on the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream
Team, and now they're poised to enter the Hall together.
"I mean, those two are a lock," Robinson said. "But think about the
rest of these guys. Who's not going to get in?"
Other finalists include former Golden State coach Al Attles, who was
nominated as a contributor; Bob Hurley Sr., who has more than 900
wins at St. Anthony's High School in New Jersey; Vladimir Kondrashin,
who coached the Soviet Union to the 1972 Olympic gold medal,
defeating the U.S. in a controversial final; Pereira "Ubiratan"
Maciel, a player known as "The King" in his native Brazil; Richie
Guerin, a six-time NBA All-Star with the New York Knicks and a former
player-coach with the St. Louis and Atlanta Hawks; and Johnny "Red"
Kerr, a longtime Chicago Bulls commentator who was named NBA Coach of
the Year in 1967 after leading the expansion Bulls into the playoffs
in their first season.
Clive Owen takes on bank in 'International'
Delfin Vigil, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, February 13, 2009
A true action film will get only as much respect as its lead actor's
skills and reputation can give it. Even then, it's only a matter of
time before that good action film will be reclassified as a suspense
"The International" could be a case in point. Directed by Tom Tykwer
("Run, Lola, Run") it stars Clive Owen as an Interpol agent taking on
a Goliath-size global bank and exposing its corrupt practices via
lots of action, suspense and thrills. True to its title, "The
International" was filmed in five countries and two continents and co-
stars Naomi Watts. We checked in with Owen, the film's unconventional
action hero with extra passport stamps, who spoke to us by phone from
Q: What made you want to take on the lead role in "The International"?
A: It was a combination of reading the script and speaking with the
director, Tom Tykwer. It reminded me of one of those '70s paranoid
thrillers. It was well researched and still a great, sweeping and
Q: What excited you about playing agent Louis Salinger?
A: He's somebody who is obviously angry, passionate, obsessive and
hotheaded. He's also morally outraged. I was attracted to a character
who was like a dog with a bone - refusing to let go. He's also very
fallible. He's not an obvious heroic character. He's a bit of a mess
in his own life. His obsession with justice is at all cost of
everything else in his life. There's something to admire about the
commitment of a man willing to go to any lengths.
Q: The villain in "The International" isn't a person, but rather the
institution of a bank. Did the timeliness of this occur to you at the
time of filming?
A: No. It certainly felt like a relevant story. But there was no way
we could have realized that we'd be in this position with all that's
happened since. The big questions of the movie are: "Is this huge
corporation behaving appropriately? It is it handling our money
properly? Is it an institution we can trust?" These are all questions
everybody is suddenly asking now about these huge global banks and
the like. It's incredibly timely.
Q: It's not quite in the "Syriana" territory, but "The International"
has a slightly complex story line. Did it take a few readings before
you completely understood the subject matter?
A: Certainly, some of the intricacies of the way a bank works had to
be read carefully. But the story was quite clear and full of well-
written ideas. It doesn't get bogged down in factual stuff.
Q: Were you at all surprised in learning how villainous a bank can be?
A: Banks are involved in conflicts around the world, because where
there's money involved, so will be the banks. There is a ridiculous
amount of guns across the world, and every one of them is bought and
sold. Banks somehow have to be a part of that. It's money. One of the
most telling things is how keen banks are to control debt. With debt
comes power and control.
Q: Is the energy of a film influenced when the set moves around as
much as "The International" does?
A: Definitely. With a whole new country comes a whole new crew and a
totally different environment. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the
Guggenheim in New York, taking over the main square of Milan for two
weeks. Environment is a big part of this movie, not only in terms of
the countries we visit, but also the architecture. There are lots of
great images of small human beings set against epic modern
architecture, which embodies this faceless corporation that you can't
Q: Action films are like guitar solos. If they go on too long and go
over the top, it can leave people rolling their eyes. As the lead
actor, how do you keep the tone in check?
A: Ha, ha! That's very true. Ultimately, it's the director's job.
He's directing, choreographing and setting the tone. When suddenly
we've gone to this epic shootout in the Guggenheim, I'm trying to put
people in that situation for real. I could run around posing and
trying to look cool with a gun in my hand, or I can do what I think
Salinger, an Interpol agent, would do. He'd be absolutely terrified.
So you're witnessing it on that level and not watching me as an actor
in a movie. It's no different from doing a dialogue scene.
The International (R) opened this weekend at Bay Area theaters.
To see a trailer for "The International," go to links.sfgate.com/ZGAW.
E-mail Delfin Vigil at dvigil@...
This article appeared on page R - 20 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Clive Owen's 'International' Appeal
Friday, February 13, 2009; WE31
If "The International" were an article of clothing, it would be a
steel-gray cashmere sweater. If it were a place, it would be the
first-class lounge of a major metropolitan airport. If it were
weather, it would be a wintry mix of drizzle with the occasional
And if this sleek, stylish thriller were a person, well, it would be
Clive Owen, who happens to carry "The International" on his strong
and handsome shoulders with the unflappable cool that still makes
some of us rue the day he wasn't cast as James Bond. Owen plays
Interpol agent Lou Salinger, a gruff, obsessed loner who for years
has been on the trail of a corrupt bank (based on the real-life Bank
of Credit and Commerce International). Now he's working with the
Manhattan district attorney's office, specifically a comely assistant
D.A. named Ella Whitman, played in an unobjectionable if
undistinguished performance by Naomi Watts.
Directed by Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") with sober
forthrightness, "The International" is in many ways a throwback to
the monochrome urban thrillers of the 1970s, with the added and
topical twist of having a diabolical financial institution at its
center. Garbled at times (I'm still confused by a scene at a flower
stand in Milan), the movie still hums along with attractive, smooth
efficiency. The compulsively watchable Owen makes for an ideal
leading man of both action and angst. The film's eye-popping set
piece, a shootout at the Guggenheim Museum, is an extravagantly
choreographed valentine to philistines everywhere.
-- Ann Hornaday
The International R, 116 minutes Contains violence and profanity.
Wikipedia Threatens to Delete List of Bilderberg Attendees
February 13, 2008
The lords of Wikipedia have announced they will delete the Bilderberg
attendees list entry on the site because it is allegedly a "totally
un-reliably-sourced list [and] possibly defamatory towards living
persons." The announced deletion will occur five days from 2009-02-18
Wikipedia offers people concerned about this possible deletion the
ability to edit the page. "You may remove this message if you improve
the article or otherwise object to deletion for any reason. To avoid
confusion, it helps to explain why you object to the deletion, either
in the edit summary or on the talk page. If this template is removed,
it should not be replaced."
In response, an editor interested in retaining the page added
references. Soon after the references were added, however, somebody
went on the page and removed them, according to a comment.
Obviously, certain Wikipedia editors are determined to have the page
removed and will engage in vandalism in order to have this happen
within the five day period announced. Considering the history and
allegations leveled at Wikipedia, this should not come as a surprise.
In 2007, Cal Tech computation and neural-systems graduate student
Virgil Griffith developed a software tool that revealed the
identities of organizations that edit Wikipedia entries (see
Wikipedia 'shows CIA page edits,' BBC, August 15, 2007). The software
revealed editorial changes made by the CIA, the FBI, Diebold, the
Democratic Party and the Vatican.
"The Democratic and Republican parties, the Environmental Protection
Agency, and the National Institute of Health have also made their
fair share of edits. As far as corporations go, Diebold, Amgen,
Pfizer, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Apple, and Exxon Mobil have all made
changes. Not to be outdone, the news agencies of Fox News, the New
York Times, and Al-Jazeera have also participated," writes Manila
"According to clues accumulated by ordinary citizens around the
world, it could be that the CIA and other intelligence agencies are
riding the information wave and planting disinformation on
Wikipedia," explains Ludwig De Braeckeleer. "The fact that most
Internet search engines, such as Google, give Wikipedia articles top
ranking only raises the stakes to a higher level."
After independent UK journalist and columnist Neil Clark claimed his
Wikipedia entry was "consistently maliciously edited" after he
critically reviewed a pro-war book penned by Oliver Kamm writing for
the Daily Telegraph, the Byzantine Blog wrote that "most internet
users who consider Wikipedia a reliable source of information on a
whole range of issues, including history and politics, are entirely
unaware of" the claim "that Wikipedia is infiltrated by the Western
secret services which use it to manipulate truth and prevent the
inconvenient facts reaching the wider public, by planting their
governments' official versions of events through Wiki articles."
And, while the official mainstream media is still filled with praises
for the highly dubious Wikiality, independent sources have confirmed
Wikipedia is neither "open", nor "egalitarian", and certainly
not "free". Unless one thinks CIA and MI5 are veritable fountains of
unvarnished, solid-as-gold truths, generously shared with the rest of
world for no other purpose but to inform, educate and enlighten the
Before deciding to rely on Wikipedia as a source of information for
serious research on any political subject and most other issues
(except for, say, tapeworms and sessile leaves), one would be well
advised to heed the warning of founder Jimmy Wales, who personally
instructed users not to cite Wikipedia as a source.
Uri Dowbenko is a little more to the point: "Claiming to be a `free
online encyclopedia,' Wikipedia is actually a shill for corporate and
other internet disinformation, just as AP, also known as Associated
Propaganda (or Press), is the Media Cartel's syndicator of choice,
spreading false `nooz' in hometown papers throughout America," writes
Dowbenko. "Wikipedia is the undisputed kudzu weed of the Internet.
Just wait till it's revealed that Jimmy Wales' Wikipedia is an NSA-
CIA-Pentagon PsyOps scam."
As of this writing, there is no definitive evidence Wikipedia is
associated with the CIA or other intelligence agencies. However,
other prominent internet information corporations have a well-defined
association with the spook world. For instance, Robert David Steele,
a 20-year Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer and a former
clandestine services case officer with the CIA, told Alex Jones in
2006 that "Google took money from the CIA when it was poor and it was
starting up" and the search engine company is "in bed" with the
CIA. "Let me say very explicitly - their contact at the CIA is named
Dr. Rick Steinheiser, he's in the Office of Research and
Development," said Steele.
In 2008, Steve Watson wrote that Google is in the business of
providing the search features for a private Wikipedia-style site,
called Intellipedia. "Google is selling storage and data searching
equipment to the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency, and
other intelligence agencies, who have come together to build a huge
internal government intranet," Watson reported.
Like Wikipedia, the CIA's platform is based on the open-source
Wikipedia's Bilderberg entry may be of interest to the CIA
considering former CIA director John M. Deutch is a member, according
to the entry now up Wikipedia's chopping block. Walter Bedell Smith,
a former CIA director, and Cord Meyer, a former CIA official, are
also listed as members.
Again, there is no definitive evidence the CIA is complicit in the
recent vandalism of the Bilderberg entry on Wikipedia, however the
fact Virgil Griffith's software caught the agency in the act of
editing entries is highly suspicious, to say the least.
Finally, if Wikipedia does indeed delete the entry in question, we
have replicated it here for the sake of posterity.