There are a lot of things I don’t like about McDonald’s, but the fast-food chain is great for one thing: Inspiring strange and fascinating projects.

First are the famous films and books it’s inspired — "Super Size Me," "Fast Food Nation," and "McLibel" being just a few top ones that come to mind. Logorama is also a new favorite of mine (the film isn’t new, just newish to me), in which the baddie Ronald McDonald frightens all other logo characters before they all go down in an oil-slicked swirl.

Then there are the photo projects, one example being Sally Davies’ McDonald’s Happy Meal Project, documenting the forever young nature of those childhood meals.

And of course, there are the funny eco-gags and jokes about McDonald’s that make their way through the blogosphere. My favorite was RonaldMcHummer (no longer online) that let people put anti-Hummer slogans on a McDonald’s sign — a website created when McDonald’s decided to give out mini Hummers in their Happy Meals. Also hilarious was Grist’s April Fool’s joke: “McDonald’s scraps composting program because food won’t decompose.”

I also think McDonald’s was a subliminal inspiration for Brooks’ green racing flats — but Brooks may disagree with me on that one….

But I write this post because of a new strange McDonald’s project I read about today: A visit to the McFarthest spot. A scientist, Stephen Von Worley, basically mapped out the U.S. location farthest from any McDonald’s — and went there! (via Utne)

The McFarthest spot was in South Dakota back when Stephen first crunched the numbers — but when a McDonald’s closed in northeastern California, Nevada became home to the McFarthest spot. Since the new spot was in reasonable travel distance for Stephen, he decided to make the trek, camping out for a night in Catnip Reservoir in northwestern Nevada — and blogged about it in grand, funny detail:

“You here to hunt?” a passing camper asked. “Well, not exactly.” Turns out she was a Burning Man regular, so I told her the truth: this was “an elaborate piece of performance art,” and in an hour from now, I’d be riding my bike out to the McFarthest Spot. She belly-laughed, we had a nice chit-chat, and she wished me a heart-felt “best of luck” as we parted. Same to you, kindly Burner woman!
Lest you get excited that Stephen’s “performance art” is a sort of protest piece against McDonald’s, I’ll disappoint you right now by revealing Stephen fueled pretty much his entire journey with McDonald’s fare — chomping down on a desiccated burger and fries at the end of his journey and creating an X with the dry fries on the McFarthest spot.

On the other hand, Stephen seems well aware that he was eating a rich mix of high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified ingredients, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil….

By the way, a McDonald’s in Riverside has greened its arches. Rest assured that the food is still made with high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified ingredients, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil — The restaurant simply installed some green building elements, like drought-resistant landscaping and water-wise plumbing.

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