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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Eric Schlosser
Fast Food Nation
Houghton Mifflin

Rating: 9/10 ?

April 26, 2001
I used to be a total McDonalds addict, hitting the drive-thru for a couple of cheeseburgers as I headed out on trips to visit friends, or just whenever I happened to be in the car. It wasn't about hunger, I think I was just compelled stop by the Mickey Dees because they were there and I had money and a car. I always had the feeling that there was something wrong with the place, the zombie-like eyes of those plastic statues of Ronald and his friends, the horrifying genetic mutation between a milk shake and a human that must have produced Grimace. In this book, journalist Eric Schlosser lets us all know the dirty little secrets that McDonalds and the other fast food giants have been sweeping behind the counters of their brightly lit dens of fatty convenience.

I heard Schlosser on NPR saying that when he was originally planning this piece (it started as a two-part story for Rolling Stone) he wanted to take a light, ironic tone, something like David Foster Wallace or Dave Eggers, I imagine. Pop culture. Americans eating shitty food. We all know how that story goes. As he continued his research, though, he began to find too much horrible information and the seriousness of the project became apparent. The book is structured in such a way that the layers of the story of fast food in the last fifty years reveals itself in thick, flavorful onion layers, not those freeze-dried onions that sit beneath the beef patties on the McDonald's hamburgers.

Schlosser begins with a history of the industry and the giants, Ray Crock, specifically. You think this is going to be about fast food. Then he introduces the ties between the fast food industry and the government, how franchised companies exploit the Small Business Administration, sucking up and often defaulting on loans that were intended for mom & pop independent businesses. Then Schlosser begins to tell you about how McDonalds cracks down on all attempts at labor organizing at their restaurants, pitting corporate lawyers against well-meaning teens. And you think this is a book about labor. And then he tells of how the meat and potatoes agribusinesses have been negatively affected by the fast food industry's insistence on regularity and cheap expenses, how this has led to widespread dissemination of E. Coli and other diseases. I'm not even going to start about the "flavor factories" except to say that the smells of the foods at fast food restaurants are probably formed through chemical processes rather than by cooking. And then Schlosser shows how the industry is spreading oversees more quickly than hoof and mouth disease. He keeps refocusing the view of the book until a full 360-degree picture of the nastiness involved in the fast food industry.

With his masterful use of suspense in the revelations about the corporate badniks, Schlosser ends up with a journalistic book that I read through with the committed interest of a mystery fanatic looking for the final clue. This book made me want to go out and get a tractor and level a couple of those McDonalds, just like that French farmer. Actually I'd had that desire before I read the book, Fast Food Nation simply confirmed my belief that the fast food industry deserves to be knocked down.

Oh, and for you vegetarians out on tour or cruising around the burbs, apparently McDonalds' fries do contain some animal products, but the company ain't saying what or how much. Icky.

Reviewed by Mathias Svalina
Living in Lincoln, Nebraska, Mathias Svalina is pursuing a PhD in creative writing at the University of Nebraska and also co-curates The Clean Part Reading Series and co-edits Octopus Magazine.

See other reviews by Mathias Svalina



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