"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 2 February 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Extra Value Meal



Free lunch? There is such a thing.

Well, in a calculatedly

backwards kind of way. It's

still in development - partners

as yet determined, logistics a

bit shaky, and interest still

exploratory - but the concept is

worthy of the Media Lab. Just

because your next side order of

KFC Popcorn Chicken is unlikely

to be delivered free of charge

doesn't mean it has to be free

of added-value. The high-concept

that's got us drooling all over

our McDonald's courtesy bibs is

the mirror construct of the free

lunch theory, freeride.com.



Don't get us wrong, like so many

other harebrained schemes,

we're not holding our breaths

for this one to catch air, but

dreaming's still a free luxury.

It's hard not to applaud an idea

that gives already-chummy

bedfellows an opportunity to

waste more time together. In

simplest terms, FreeRide is a

plan wherein one's common

product-purchasing decisions

afford not only the joy of

unbridled consumer frenzy, but

free time on AOL as well. Pinch

a loaf, squeeze the Charmin, and

flush those online charges down

the drain. Isn't the connection



[Fast Food]

We used to suffer the adolescent

delusion that the war against

aggressive corporate panhandling

was a battle worth fighting, but

once we mustered the courage to

put military matters into the

hands of Colonel Sanders, our

lives became that much less

complicated. But as we resolve

weighty issues such as how Fruit

Roll-Ups will figure into the

information economy, new aspects

of our identity step up to

command our attention. For

instance, we know there's a deep

link between fast-food

franchises and the value of the

dollar - the Economist even

devised a Big Mac index, built

on the theory that the prices of

its constituent ingredients are

disparate enough to provide

reliable indicators of key

agriculture industries. It's

true - we read it on a placemat

at McDonald's.



But beyond pondering the

difference in online frequent

dryer miles offered by Snuggle

vs. Bounce, deeper issues

confront us as we merge our

identities as shoppers, chat

addicts, and Web surfers.


[Vast Mounds]

Almost as a rule, the heroes in

the age of advertising are the

icons gracing non-recyclable

packaging in skyscraper trash

heaps around the globe. Is there

any disputing the efficiency

with which Ronald McDonald made

obsolete the amateur buffoonery

of Marcel Marceau, who in turn

out-bozoed all clowns before

him? If you factor in untimely

deaths as a result of heart

disease and colon cancer, Ronald

even outdoes John Wayne Gacy in

terms of body count, if not

murderous panache.

Alternatively, one could

consider the Burger King, with

his benevolent granting of

french fry and onion ring

privileges, as the royal

embodiment of the perfect

21st-century enlightened despot.



Given our high-risk sedentary

lifestyles, is it such a shame

that all our heroes are

sandwiches? When the only

decision left to distinguish

one's self is the grave choice

between Infoseek and Alta Vista,

it's not surprising that we so

often turn to flaunting our

appetites for Hostess products to

prove our mettle as carefree

rebels. Recklessly sluicing Big

Macs down our filth-holes

becomes downright iconoclastic

after spending 40-hour stretches

nestled deep in our ergonomic

chairs, gasping for a taste of

pollution in a relentlessly

smoke-free environment. We can't

help but feel proud when we find

the odd cockroach feasting on a

half-eaten bear claw left

unrequited behind the scanner.

Just because we might still find

ourselves a few years short of

being on the verge of a coronary

bypass, it doesn't mean we're

not "on the edge."



Considering that, if our memories

serve us well, the drive-thru at

our local Jack-In-The-Box offers

a far more compelling

interactive experience than

Palace ever could (not to

mention the degree of intestinal

fortitude braving their cow

patties demands - unrivaled by

any Doom session) we're hardly

shocked to find ourselves

leaping at an excuse to save our

way silly through prudent

shopping. And so what if the

idea of clipping UPCs off

Tylenol boxes and sending them

via (god forbid!) the USPS gives

us an Excedrin headache? Even if

the dirty details are a bit

murky right now, the sugar-rush

we get just from pulling for our

favorites inspires a faith in

FreeRide's ability to eventually

market a single global

swipe-card solution.



We deserve a break today. And



We're paying for it.

courtesy of the Duke of URL