martes, 31 de julio de 2012

M&M's World

New York, NY

The enormous M&M's World in Times Square is one of the most colorful, vibrant, lively stores I've ever visited. M&M's were literally everywhere. Everywhere except my mouth, that is. But despite the dearth of free samples, M&M's were good enough to provide a water fountain on the third floor. Good thing too, because the more I think about M&M's, the more I want to eat M&M's. And the more I think about eating M&M's, the more I think about how thirsty I would be afterwards. So essentially I was able to cut out the tedious middle step of gorging on M&M's while still enjoying the final step where it would have led anyway: delicious, delicious water.

As you can see, it's a stainless steel Elkay fountain, conveniently provided in two heights, most likely to cater to the youthful visitors the shop primarily attracts. Unfortunately even the taller fountain required some unseemly bending on my part to take a sip. The fountain itself had a fine contour, in contrast with previously reviewed Elkays. Unfortunately upon first try it tasted a little metallic, and suboptimal in temperature, so I recommend that the water is left to run for at least ten seconds before drinking. It had a fine arc, and the button on the front made a satisfying click every time it was engaged. I was a little disappointed at first that the fountains weren't somehow decorated with M&M designs, seeing as almost every other square inch of this place covered. But then I realized that it was almost certainly the manager's intention to keep the dispensers of the world's purest thirst quencher refreshingly free of corporate labels. And for that I applaud you, M&M's World!

Taste: 7
Comfort: 5
Temperature: 6
Trajectory: 8
Pressure: 6
User Interface: 8

martes, 3 de abril de 2012

The King David Report

by Stefan Heym

At the beginning of February I asked someone with a large book collection what German author he would recommend. He handed me The King David Report, by Stefan Heym. He had actually purchased a copy of the book in English for the sole purpose of encouraging more non-Germans to read it. I am delighted he did. Named after an actual document found in the Old Testament, the novel is narrated by the author of said document, beginning with a seemingly harmless request from the titular king's son Solomon that his father's history be recorded. On the surface, the book can be thought of as a speculatively fictional behind-the-scenes bonus feature of the Bible. Heym takes the source text to illustrate, in a very plausible way, how might an ancient king's court deal with the making of history. In one hilarious scene, the committee discusses the cicumstances of David's meeting with Saul, his predecessor (and eventual usurpee). Everybody knows that David first met Saul when he was called to play music for the ailing king. But everybody also knows that Saul met David after demanding to see the boy who smote the phearsome Philistine Goliath. In the end it is decided that both should be included as historical record (as it is in the actual Bible). Finding the truth(s) about David's life is the task of Ethan, the narrator. But as he learns more about the real David, he finds himself torn between conveying the accurate and unflattering or the glorifying. It makes for a gripping tale of mystery, lust, and murder, all told with refreshingly dry biblical prose. You'd never guess that the book is also hilarious (it is!).

But it's not until one takes Heym's context into consideration that the value of the novel really comes to light. Any book written by an East German in 1973 is likely to be infused with criticism of the regime, and The King David Report is no exception. Themes in the novel – David's utopian kingdom, the editing of the past, the shiny surface of Solomon's temple-in-progress – all reflect Heym's times. As he says himself in the Author's Note, "Opinions might also differ on the question of whether The King David Report is to be considered a historical novel or a biblical one, or a story of today, charged with political meaning. To me, it is all three." Read this book!