When will they ever learn?

On Friday, June 19, a full page ad in Haaretz weekly supplement caught my eye. Okay, maybe it didn't exactly "catch my eye" – I've already made it clear that I'm a compulsive ad-and-label reader.

The ad was for Pitaro office furniture, and showed a young man languidly relaxing (what's the matter? Doesn't he have any work to do??) in the latest model office chair, referred to in Israel often as "kisseh menahalim" – literally, a manager's chair. (What's the matter – don't other employees deserve a good chair that will protect their backs??)

Forget the fact that the fellow in the picture is entertaining himself with paper airplanes, his office and desk suspiciously bare, bereft of any "work" aside from a token laptop. The ad was visually "clean", no clutter, no blah-blah-yadda-yadda.
Good idea. Keep it simple. One or two punchy sentences, that's all you need.
And the punchy title goes:
Loose your body, free your mind


Is that New English that I am not aware of, or is it yet another example of the incompetence of client and advertising agency combined?
I wrote to the client, Pitaro, and to the advertising agency – Almog Dvir. (Beware - their website is one of the most annoying ever.)

A friendly guy from Pitaro hastened to thank me profusely for my comment, and explained that they meant something along the lines of hang loose, relax your body, loosen up. They'd speak to the advertising agency, he wrote, and would take care of it.
The agency in question replied very curtly: Got it. Thanks for your comment. Will fix as needed.

A week went by.
A second ad in the same vein appeared on the following Friday, June 26. This time, the guy was blowing bubbles; his office and desk, too, are unnervingly clean and tidy, with only hints of any "work".

Had the text been corrected? You're kidding.

What books to bring back from vacation

Or, better, what books I brought back from this trip. Whether the choice was wise, or what I, or anyone else, should or should not bring, is a totally different issue.

1. New copy (of the fourth edition) of Strunk & White, The Elements of Style
Because this classic lives on in spirit but not in substance. The copy I had fell to pieces, and I can't even find those. Bought at the University of Waterloo bookstore.

2. A Dictionary of Catch Phrases from the 16th century to the present day, by Eric Partridge
Because it sounded interesting… The tiny print does make perusing it a bit difficult, but it can supply endless hours of enjoyable browsing for language freaks, and can perhaps settle disputes between language aficionados about the origin and meaning of various phrases. The amount of research that went into that tome is mind-boggling. I didn't know, for example, that "I didn't know that" is a c.p. (catch phrase) originating in 1974, having to do with "a series of radio and TV commercials in which their 'salesman' extolled some of the superior points of the new Ford car…. His prospective customer then said: 'I didn't know that!'…" etc etc.

3.Quick study sheet on technical and business writing, published by Barcharts.
These concise reference sources are actually called Laminated Reference Guides.
Ridiculously cheap, a huge selection of topics, and probably very helpful. see list.
The one I bought includes sections such as: Reports, Proposals, Using Visual Aids, Word Choice & style, Persuasion Techniques, Collaborative Writing, and plenty more.
Bought at the University of Waterloo bookstore.

4. Edwardian England 1901 -15, Society and Politics, by Donald Read. Reader in modern English history, University of Kent. Published by Harrap, London. 2nd hand copy, reject of the University of Waterloo library.
My daughter Shira thought her brother Daniel, who's interested in history, would like it. All I did was say "thanks" and add it to my suitcase.

5. Teacher Man, Frank McCourt
My daughter-in-law Nurit, a McCourt fan, asked for it. She enjoyed his previous books immensely. I shall ask her if it was all she hoped for.

6. How We Know What Isn't So, by Thomas Gilovich (borrowed, not bought)
- Saw it among Shira's textbooks (required reading for a U of W psychology course) and was immediately drawn to it. The subject – "the fallibility of human reason in everyday life", appealed to me. Reading it now, and am amazed and dismayed by the ways in which my reasoning fails me. Hope to be more aware of my illogical assumptions and conclusions in the future. Daniel glanced at it and commented, "Sounds like Tversky & Kahneman"* . Indeed, Gilovich does quote these awesome guys often.

7 + 8. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote, and The Complete Stories of Truman Capote
I recently read an interesting article about Capote, don't remember where and by whom, (possibly the NY Times? Perhaps in connection with the movie Capote, which I enjoyed?) calling him one of the most important American writers of the 20th century. If I've ever read anything by him, (most likely Breakfast at Tiffany's,) I certainly do not remember. So I wanted to read and judge for myself. Raymond Carver has also been called great and important, and I can't stand most of his stories.

9. Survival of the Sickest, by Dr. Sharon Moalem
Because of my colleague Yael Sela-Shapiro's rave review on her blog.
Seems that Nurit – always interested in issues of sickness and health – has already read the book in Hebrew, and thought Moalem's conclusions a bit far-fetched. Will let you know what I think when I get around to reading it.

10. Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963, by Susan Sontag
Because my daughter Daria asked for it. Since it's a fairly recently published book, Amazon.uk does not yet have any review. The NY Times book review is not very reassuring.

11. Writers' Forum (magazine), June 2009 issue. Bought at Heathrow airport Terminal 5, during a 5 hour layover.
Because I'm tired of reading glossies telling me why my [nonexistent] makeup and [casual] clothes are all wrong for me, and how a jar of ridiculously priced cream will make me look 20 years younger. And because I still hope to be a [published] writer and still think that there may be some secrets that I don't know. (There' aren't. The secret is write, write, write, edit edit edit, and submit, submit, submit ad infinitum.)

Add to the above list the 2 books I took with me from home and never touched (except to pack and repack) – see posts from May 26th and May 31st); my husband's six very-thick novels (by C.J. Sansom – historical novel / thriller, Ian Irvine - fantasy) plus the one he brought with from home; figure in the Michelin guide and loads of maps and brochures such as The Parks Canada Mountain Guide; and you'll see how we ended up with 18 books plus miscellaneous printed matter. Very heavy stuff.

* Israeli scholars famous for their studies in the field of judgment and decision making, and more.
- Except where otherwise stated, books were ordered online from www.amazon.uk , and most are 2nd hand in good condition. As I've noted in the past, a very good deal if you can have them delivered to the UK and pick them up when you happen to be in the neighborhood.