Fierce Anticipation: March 6-8


a blogumn by Ryan Dixon


The Shamrock Shake

In the pantheon of fast food items McDonald’s Shamrock Shake stands at the pinnacle. Like the chirping of a robin, its annual appearance heralds a sure and glorious sign of spring’s imminent arrival.

Originally released in 1970 to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, over the years the Shamrock Shake has become a cult sensation, developing a rabid fan base that eventually created a robust online community of forums and discussion groups to share their love with the world. In the 1980’s, it even inspired a new McDonald’s character, Uncle O’Grimacey, who, as the verdant uncle of that beloved purple foam blob Grimace, was featured in one of most infamous (and surreal) McDonald’s commercials ever made:

It is an example of the magic inherent within the souls of McDonald’s Culineers that they took a standard vanilla shake, flavored it with mint extract, dyed it green and created a product that not only satisfies the cravings of any sweet tooth, but also leaves you as refreshed as you would be taking a drink from the springs of Évian-les-Bains.

Unfortunately, even a product with a taste and intentions as pure as the Shamrock Shake has taken some hits to its reputation during its 39-year history. While they’ve been few and far between, its legacy will always be besmirched by three dark marks:

1. The Shrek Shake. In 2007, McDonald’s attempted to mess with perfection and created the “Minty Mudbath” shake to celebrate the release of Shrek the Third (as if any form of celebration for that film was at all necessary). The heretical act of mixing the original formula with chocolate was met with howls of criticism by S.S. devotees and instantly took its ignominious place in history with the McLean Burger, Arch Deluxe and McPizza as rare product misfire for the Golden Arches.

2. The inexplicable and indefensible decision of the regional stores in and around New York City not to sell the Shamrock Shake. This great city has endured many hardships and tragedies during its 385 years of existence, but aside from the horrors of 9/11, I cannot think of any event so terrible as the inability of its populace to partake in March’s annual rite of culinary apotheosis.  However, over the course of my research, I did uncover a host of unsubstantiated rumors and innuendo regarding various NYC locations that were supposedly serving the Shamrock Shake. For my New York area readers who are hankering for some frosty green goodness, from what I can gather it seems that your best chance of getting a shake is at the Bronx-based McDonald’s next to Cletus’ Waffle and Fried Chicken shack.

3. And the darkest of the dark marks? The missing McRib. For many glorious years the appearance of the Shamrock Shake would also hearken the arrival of the McRib, a sandwich that was, is, and forever shall be, quite simply, the greatest “limited time” fast food item of all time. When these two delicious rapidly prepared delicacies were placed on the menu together, multiple weekly trips to McDonald’s became a mandatory event. Unfortunately, for whatever cryptic reasons –and conspiracy theories abound — the decision makers at McDonald’s decided to replace the McRib’s annual late winter/early spring appearance with an arrival schedule that rivals only the cicada in length and complexity. Thus one of the most perfect pairings in history were torn violently apart and the world is worse for the wear.

Yet, it is not the time to mourn the McRib, but celebrate the Shamrock Shake, for it has returned, giving us all a pot of green gold at the end of the rainbow.

At McDonald’s Everywhere (except, of course, in New York City)


The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War by James Mann

Over the last several years, a reconsideration of Ronald Reagan’s position in the ranks of presidents has taken place. Not from the Right, where his hagiography was written the moment he left office, but from the Left. In large part, this is due to a fascinating bit of political quid pro quo. Like the concessions given during an all-night drunken sports debate with a friend who has different team loyalties, (“Okay, Terrell Owens is a good player, but you have to admit that Jerome Bettis is one of the greatest running backs of all time.”) the mainstream Left now seems to have accepted Ronald Reagan as a great president, just as the Right accepts F.D.R. without much of a fight, even though they fundamentally oppose many of his New Deal policies.

Of course, the Left does have a fairly shallow field of recent Republican presidents to pick from. W. and Nixon are out of the question, 41 served only one term (and celebrating him too much would undercut Clinton’s legacy), Ford barely got to unpack before moving out again and the only ones who still remember Eisenhower are too busy shopping for Depends to care. So, due in part to simple historical osmosis, the Left has given Ronald Reagan the Fast Past to greatness.

ronaldreaganThe question then becomes exactly how much did Ronald Reagan really have to do with his supposed greatest accomplishment: ending the Cold War? That’s at the heart of James Mann’s newly released book, The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan. Mann, author of Rise of the Vulcans, a wonderful history of W.’s first term war cabinet, had access to previously classified US and Soviet documents during the course of writing the book and, as this excerpt from Vanity Fair shows, he gets to the political heart of Ronald Reagan like no other. Not only do we get to see the “The Great Communicator” telling Gorbachev one bad joke after another and spending a good deal of time during one of their most important meeting trying to convince him in the existence of God, but there’s also the Gipper who, just when everyone least expected it, surpassed all expectations (and the wishes of much of the Right) to blaze his own trail to end the Cold War.

Need another reason to purchase the book? It is blessed with one of the best covers in recent memory (designed by Michael Deas and Joseph Perez), putting the unimaginative dreck that usually passes for non-fiction cover art to shame. It’s a whimsical, richly-colored portrait that perfectly highlights the two major contradictory opinions that society has of our 40th President. Staring back at us on the cover one can find both the bold and eloquent Cold Warrior who gave his greatest performance on the world’s biggest stage and the real-life Chauncey Gardner whose perfectly performed and coiffed persona hid a tenebrous internal void that kept even his closet friends and family from every really knowing him.

In Bookstores Now



Nash Bridges and My Two Dads on DVD

mytwodads_s1I really don’t begrudge my fellow Homo Sapiens who will, for at least an hour or so, forget the deepening economic crisis, trek out to Wal-Mart or surf onto Amazon and purchase the complete first season of My Two Dads or the second season of Nash Bridges, both of which are now available on DVD.

No, I do not begrudge them. I begrudge a world that makes it so easy to purchase the complete seasons of those mediocre shows while movies like Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight, Sleuth, Song of the South and [insert your favorite unreleased DVD here] remain out of reach from everyone except those wishing to enter the Byzantine world of bootlegs and PAL imports. Maybe I’m being a snob about this (although as my mentor, friend and Ibsen expert Brian Johnston once said, “Snobbery is underrated.”), but the titles listed above are movies that people have genuinely deep passions for and each holds a place upon many “favorites” lists. Since I can’t imagine anyone having been profoundly influenced or affected by Nash Bridges or My Two Dads, it seems just a bit cosmically unfair that at least 1072 minutes of Don Johnson patrolling the streets (and bridges) of San Francisco will live on for all eternity while what is perhaps Orson Welles’ greatest film is as accessible to us in the U.S. as universal health care.

Now Available on DVD