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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for September 2005

You’re a fun guy, Saul

A bit of research uncovered the identity of the site I found. It’s a front for a filmmaker named Saul. I called him during the day – no answer. I got him at home at night.

Right away, I identified myself, mentioned that I was a freelance journalist, and told him that it appeared that his Web site had used the article I wrote for 101squadron.com. I could tell immediately that he knew what I was talking about.

I think I surprised him when I suggested that he could buy it instead of removing it.

I might have surprised myself. I had found the word count of the article to be 2,338 words. You’d think a guy who did that would do so to sell the words, and then price those words, but I didn’t. I know what a good per-word rate is and I know what isn’t, but I hadn’t evaluated just what I wanted as payment.

So Saul surprised me by asking how much I would sell for.

I thought quickly. I knew that a decent rate of $1 per word was out of the question, and I figured even half that was exorbitant in this situation. So I decided on 25 cents per word, and then dropped to a $400 flat fee. I didn’t want to cross the mental barrier of $500.

He agreed that $400 was a fair price, but said he would have to discuss it with his partner. He told me I had done a good job on the biography, and he sounded sincere. He seemed like a really nice guy.

We spent a good 20 minutes after that just chatting. We talked about flying, about Lenart, about the squadron in general. He is still looking for funding for the Lenart documentary. I told him that if he gets it and needs a researcher to give me a call. He thought that was a great idea.

He also mentioned that David Mamet had written a feature script based on the Operations Velveta, and was waiting for cash to do that. Good thing I don’t care if it’s my version of the story that gets made. Maybe I should have chosen a tight focus like that Mamet guy did….

Saul promised to call me back tomorrow with the decision to pay me or not for the bio.

Me ‘n’ a producer

I worked on “101” a bit last night, motivated in part by meeting a fellow writer who also knows former 101 Squadron co-commander Lou Lenart (more on that meeting later, possibly). We talked a bit about Lou’s drive to get a movie made, which led me to Google him last night.

I found a site belonging to a producer named Saul that seems to indicate that Lou and he are trying to get a documentary made rather than a feature. I knew about Lou’s efforts to get a movie made, but I don’t view it as competition. The more such projects the better, as that means more chance for the story to make it on screen, which motivates me more than the personal glory.

I found that the producer had, however, borrowed my 101 Squadron biography for use on their site, renaming the HTML document “101saquadron.html”. They must have been typing in a hurry.

I’m normally quite liberal in sharing my material, but I do like to be asked or credited. Yet, I smelled opportunity here.

The situation resolved happily. See tomorrow’s post.

Textbook$

I was out of my cheap pens of choice, Uni-ball roller pens, so I stopped by the bookstore to pick two up, one blue and one green. An editor needs a selection of colours, don’t you know.

I couldn’t help cruising the textbooks – that’s just the kind of guy I am. On the shelves, I found one book on screenwriting, for a Communications Studies course, William Miller’s “Screenwriting for Film and Television“. It was a paperback and my brief thumb-through made it seem potentially useful for a know-nothing wannabe like myself. I snagged it and got in line for the cash.

I got to the cashier and she rung up the pens first at $3 apiece, in Canadian dollars. Then she rang up the book. Bloody fucking hell! It was $68. Twenty-five cents a page! I was so stunned, I didn’t summon the courage to say “Bloody fucking hell! That’s 25 cents a page!” right there in the store.

Fortunately, the bookstore has a five-day return policy. Can I read it by Friday?

Bonus toenail update:

Still hanging in there.

Expected delays

Last year, when the Journalism Department faculty learned that our new building would be ready August 31, 2005, I figured that any delay would be disastrous.

Well, at least I wasn’t surprised.

I’m on the second week of teaching two courses in computer-assisted reporting, and I don’t have Internet access in the computer labs. I have one lab whose iMacs at least have software, and a second lab that has a projector, but whose eMacs have never been turned on.

It’s not a terrible situation, and I am working around it with hand-outs, and lots of boring lecturing, but still….

Very tiny contributions to society

Amid all the aggravation that the “101” screenplay is causing me, small achievements make the hobby worthwhile.

Last week, I received a notification from Genealogy.com. A poster had replied to my two-year-old post, which sought relatives of Bill Schroeder.

Bill Schroeder flew with 101 Squadron. He was an American volunteer, who some sources had identified as an aviator in the US Navy. No more was known, and even the US Navy connection was dubious.

Schroeder made it to Israel in September/October 1948. He may have spent a week or two in training in Czechoslovakia before that. He may have ferried a Spitfire from Yugoslavia to Israel in December 1948 as part of Operation Velveta 2.

Schroeder was involved in the dogfight on the last day of the war between 101 Squadron Spitfires and RAF Tempests and Spitfires.  He shot down a Tempest whose pilot, David Tattersfield, died.  The action earned him a nickname, maybe two: “Sure Shot” or “Sudden Death”.

Schroeder was deeply affected by the fact that he had killed a British pilot.  David Tattersfield’s father received an anonymous letter of regret that it is believed Schroeder wrote. Schroeder went home soon after, and essentially hid from the past.  He never attended reunions or contacted any fellow volunteers.  All anybody knows these days is his name.

My personal research turned up few leads, mostly because there are so many Bill Schroeders out there. There’s a football player, the victim of the Kent State shooting, the baseball player, and the second recipient of a Jarvik-7 artificial heart. There have been a few men named Bill Schroeder even within the restricted field of aviation – the Lockheed mathematician, for example.

I had turned up nothing on this man, so I posted in a Schroeder genealogy message board. And that drew a response from a man named Casey, who suspected that his late grandfather was the pilot I was looking for.

Casey wrote that his grandfather “did have one mission he refused to discuss and our grandmother respected his wishes until her death.” That was heartening, but the biographical sketch casey offered me has his Bill Schroeder in staff college between August 1948 and February 1949.

Fortunately, Casey was able to provide three photos of Schroeder in US Navy service. I sent them on to Chalmers “Slick” Goodlin and Syd Cohen, two 101 Squadron vets who flew with Bill Schroeder. I also sent them to Jeff Weiss, author of “I Am My Brother’s Keeper” for him to forward to Israeli historical sources.

I got this note from Goodlin earlier today:

I have reviewed the photos, and they certainly appear to represent the Bill Schroeder I knew in IAF 101 Squadron during my combat service there over Sinai in 1948-49.

I knew Bill as a fine fellow.  I am sure that many of us who had close relationships with RCAF and RAF fellows during WW II were extremely disappointed that we were forced to defend ourselves when flying under foreign colors and being attacked by our British allies and friends. It was a most unsatisfactory experience.

With best regards,
Chalmers H. Goodlin

I won’t debate on this blog exactly who was attacking whom, but I will let this rest with one observation: it sure feels good to solve a 50-year-old mystery. Look for a bio of Schroeder to go up on 101squadron.com in the next week or two. That’s him cutting the cake in the photo above.

In a separate tidbit of vindication, Jeff Weiss sent me a photo of a service log that confirms my strong suspicion that Bob Vickman perished in S-199 number D-110 on July 9, 1948. Most previous researchers assumed that D-110’s last pilot was Eddie Cohen, who had died May 29.

This time, I promise

I got 60 pages in to the “101” rewrite before I realized that all I’m really accomplishing is a deep polish. I need to start a treatment, because I thought this script needed major surgery. I started from scratch. I outlined a new Act I. The rest is easier, since the two stories coincide after that in all drafts. I even got five pages of script down. But I’m not happy with it.

This story is bifurcate. There’s no way around it. I have the squadron, which saved the country on its first mission. After that came the volunteers, who kept the squadron going and eventually ran it themselves. In my first drafts, I’ve run two parallel stories. I follow the volunteers’ journey on one hand and the squadron’s activities on the other.

Some readers criticize the lack of focus because the first act splits time between the main volunteer character and the squadron. In the new treatment, I tried to exclusively focus on the volunteer, make him the only main character – but that drops crucial action scenes that set the tone for the evolving history. How can I not show the squadron saving the country at the cost of lives, or driving enemy bombers out of the skies? Those are crucial developments. Yet by staying wit hte volunteer story, these are sidetracks, expository action scenes that just don’t fit.

If I focus on the squadron, then volunteers show up haphazardly. They are placeholders, with no background or meaning. Furthermore, I don’t have that volunteer character, grounded in dull normalcy, through which I’m trying to connect with the audience. He goes from sales to reborn fighter pilot in a week, and takes the audience with him. Plus, he’s the draw for an American movie-watcher.

Americans didn’t watch “Dark Blue World” because there were no Americans in it. Hollywood’s take on the Battle of Britain focuses on an American, fictionalized it may be. On the other hand, I don’t want to make a mess like “Pearl Harbor“.

I’m really starting to hate this, which isn’t the goal of the exercise at all.

Invasion of the dog-food snatchers

Stuart and Barbara are gone, but a few nights before their departure, Stuart saw what he said was a small rodent peeking out from behind the TV cabinet. The wife – who I will henceforth call Elvi because she does not mind blowing her cover in this blog’s comments – pooh-poohed him.

Two night ago, I was up late watching the History Channel, and I heard what sounded like someone playing with the power cords and cables behind the TV cabinet.

Ordinarily, I’m a big wussy, and this was an ordinary night. So I just kinda shook the TV cabinet while guarding my legs with a throw pillow. The creepy noise stopped. My duty done, I went to bed.

Yesterday, in daylight, I moved the TV cabinet, which is less impressive than it sounds because its on casters on a hardwood floor.

Apparently, we do have at least one mouse. I saw no animal, but the floor behind and previously below the TV cabinet was littered with mouse droppings. There were also two huge piles of dog food, maybe five cups worth in total. I guess the mice sneak over to the dog’s dish, steal a nugget of dry dog food, and bring it behind the TV cabinet. And they do that a lot. I would love to know if it’s a clan of thieves or just one very industrious mouse. I wish I’d snapped a picture, but Elvi (the wife, remember?) cleaned the mess up after coming home from the ballet.

Beside the dog food and mouse feces, the floor behind the cabinet was covered dust and dirt, pounds of samoyed hair, and many lost toys. The latter included misplaced plastic missiles, pieces of a Thomas the Tank Engine train set, and cards from the Blue’s Clues board game.

Elvi was wary of setting out mousetraps and suggested Child Two (still anonymous) might have a hard time dealing with dead fuzzy things, having recently lost a guinea pig as well as two hamsters a year ago. She suggested live traps.

I asked Child Two. She had no problem with it, and displayed an unusual interest in finding out exactly how the mousetrap works.

I’m off to the hardware store tonight.

Bonus toe update:

The toenail refuses to let go on the right side. I had to give in and cut it in half lengthwise becuse the loose left side of the toenail had bent and the point had been digging into my toe when I wore socks.

Bonus spite update:

I would have linked the dog food store and brand in my post, but the company provides nothing in English online. C’est la vie.

The circle of life

One of my students in JOUR 202 is the son of the woman who taught me English in grades 7 and 8.

The unfriendly skies

This 155-MB video from Juice is the WWII Online equivalent of guncam film. Every aircraft and vehicle you see is virtually piloted by a human at his or her computer.

It either explains it all, or it doesn’t.

Semester starts

This morning, I taught my first class of the semester, JOUR 202, Introduction to Computer Applications. The class has 24 students, and they seemed bright-eyed for a morning session. Let’s see if they sustain that through the semester.

Because the new building is still being finished around us, we had to use the older iMac lab and not the newer eMacs. None of the machines in either lab is hooked up to the Net or even to a printer yet. I’m supposed to have Net access in time for JOUR 319 on Monday, but then I was supposed to have that today.

University here in Quebec is only three years long, so the 200-level courses are the first ones the students take. Mine was the first class for nearly all of the students in 202, and I hope the facilities haven’t soured them on the department. Or maybe I don’t – they should go study something that offers jobs when they graduate.

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