Notes away from home

Knowing I'd be flying BA, I actually went as far as not packing anything to read! Passing Steimatzky's in the airport, I was nearly tempted to buy a Cosmo, just in case. But didn't. And did not regret it.

I actually enjoy flying BA. I swear I'm not being paid to say so. Aside from the friendly crew and the half-decent food (as airline food goes) and the choice of free red or white wine with the meal, I enjoy the in-flight entertainment program. There's a huge choice of music of every type, and a terrific choice of movies, both old and new, as well as TV shows & series. And more stuff that I can't say much about because I've never bothered trying.

But once we're comfortably settled in our New Eltham home, it's a different story. I can't possibly fall asleep at night without reading. A newspaper doesn't qualify – too unwieldy.

I packed in my suitcase a book I received by special delivery the very day of our flight: How My Mother Accidentally Tossed Out my Entire Baseball-Card Collection (and Other Sports Stories) by the writer and self-proclaimed sports fanatic Bob Mitchell. Bob is the gifted guy who is editing the book I recently translated – Vered Mosenzon's The Yellow Toolbox. Actually, he has just finished editing it. I'm dying to see what he's done with it, but have had to concentrate on more urgent things. I've just started the book; not sure how much sports-related stories I can take per day.

Bob suggested that I start with an essay called How Do I Hate Thee? which describes his love-hate, or admiration-hate relationship with the winning teams and sports stars who beat his home-team. My lack of familiarity with American sports put a damper on this one. The only names I recognized were Jackie Robinson, King Lear and Oedipus. (You wanna know how they fit in? Read the book.)

The second essay Bob recommended, with good reason, was The King of Ibn Gvirol, describing Bob's rollerblading days in Tel Aviv of 1994. That was actually a very colorful and spirited description. And, knowing Tel Aviv, I could actually see the scene in my mind's eye. For example:
"On top of it all, Israeli drivers are pretty possessive about their own space. They see pedestrians as obstacles; so when they see a crazy, cockamamey blader, in full regalia (funky wraparound sunglasses, neon-green kneepads, purple handguards, purple shorts and matching Williams College T-shirt), well, they see red."

Yesterday, among other errands, we stopped at our fave bookstore, Waterstones. If you don't know exactly what you're looking for, it's hopeless. You strain your neck looking sideways at book spines, you read name after name, catchy or kooky title after title, each trying to be more unique, titillating and witty than the other, and you end up too confused to make a decision. And so it happened that my husband chose a couple of fantasy books by a writer he likes, Raymond E. Feist; and I played it safe and bought a Graham GreeneStamboul Train. And for a lark we also bought The QI Book of General Ignorance, with a foreword by Stephen Fry and four words by Alan Davies.

With this happy thought I leave you guys for now.

The Secret of Trivia Questions

Writing trivia questions (and answers) may sound like fun, and it can be fun, but it's far from easy. A while back, my daughter Daria wrote questions and answers for a certain popular TV quiz show, and later for a newspaper. The whole family pitched in with ideas and suggestions. We had a ball.

Last night I actually dreamt I was being interviewed (for some obscure reason) by a panel of learned men, who were shooting obscure "general knowledge" questions at me. I was at a loss and felt quite discombobulated. That's what comes of watching too much Weakest Link, and from trying to translate a poorly thought-out trivia quiz for a large skincare company.

Now, why Mineral Skin Wonder decided to create a trivia quiz is beyond me. I couldn't even figure out, nor was I told, who the target audience was. If it's for company employees, then old-timers might know most of the answers, while newcomers wouldn't, unless they were forced to study the Company History upon being hired. If it's for potential clients, perhaps with the incentive of winning a kit with free Mineral Skin Wonder samples, then, what can I say, the quiz is a total wash-out.

You could say that, when it comes to a TV show, the nature of the presenter (Anne Robinson, Stephen Fry) and the atmosphere of the show (The Weakest Link, QI) are as important, if not more important than, the actual questions. Obviously, some questions cause you to raise an eyebrow and mutter "who the … cares!" Other questions, to which you know the answer, make you feel quite smug. In case you didn't know the answer, are not a contestant, but you've learnt something new, you may be pleased. But the bottom line is, stupid questions, totally uninteresting questions, remain so in whatever medium.

Below are a few questions of the "who gives a …" variety. So as not to leave you in suspense, the correct answer appears in italics.

What were the first three products created by Mineral Skin Wonder?
1. Body lotion, cleansing cream, moisturizing cream
2. Hand cream, foot cream, body lotion
3. Moisturizer, mineral mud, bath salts
4. Body lotion, mineral mud, bath salts
5. Shampoo, conditioner and body lotion

Actress Dropdead Gorgeous' visit in Israel in the summer of 2008 received wide media coverage. How many separate mentions of this event appeared in all media outlets at that time?

1. 61
2. 64
3. 67
4. 69
5. 120

The production plant contains about [sic!] 4 huge pots used for cooking. What's the difference between the four?
[What's the matter – can't anyone at the company count to four without getting confused?]

1. The only difference is in their capacity. (up to 1,200 kg; up to 800 kg; up to 500 kg; up to 20 kg.)
2. Usage: 2 large pots for various uses; the medium size is for butters / masks, and the small one for experimentation.
3. There are 2 large pots and 2 medium sized pots, according to the quantity of materials used.
4. Each pot is made of a different type of metal, according to its resistance to the various temperature required in cooking.
5. Answers 1 & 2 are correct.

I'm not sure I have chosen the worst questions; there were quite a few vying for the title.

Oh well. I think I'll watch a couple of episodes of QI now to take the taste away.

Wishing you all a happy, entertaining and illuminating 2010!