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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for January 2006

Mishaps old and new

Scott the Reader (Alligators in a Helicopter) asked me during an online chat if I ever defeated the invading mice. I do owe all you fans of conflict an update on that.

We left a trap behind the TV cabinet, and it was untriggered when I returned from my ten or so days in California. I’ve moved it to a small built-in cupboard on the stairway landing where we’d also found a sprinkling of droppings. Two weeks later, it also remains untouched. If I had to jump to conclusions, I’d say we’ve defeated the invaders.

Oh, and my toenail has just about grown entirely back.

Sorry for the interruption. My mom just called to wish me a happy birthday.

Elvi and I went out last night to celebrate. All the kids went off on sleepovers, so we didn’t even have to spring for a babysitter. We went out for decent sushi at Sho-Dan. The standard sushi fare was good, but the dish we really enjoyed was the one specialty dish. I forget which one we ordered, but it was tuna, shrimp, something tempura, and more, wrapped in soy leaf, served with a spicy thick sauce. It was delicious, worth the $15 a plate.

We went out on the town after the meal to a club with a clientele that was entirely younger than us, but we’re so hip, we didn’t feel that out of place. I’m about 5’3″ and Elvi is about 5’9″ and she was in heels, so that accentuates the difference. As we were leaving, a girl in an oversized-houndstooth-pattern dress named Sophia came over to introduce herself. She said that “we” all loved the cute munchkin. I don’t know if the “we” referred to a small group of friends or the entire club.

We came home to an oddly smelling house – odder than usual. Elvi found that the dog had thrown up on the mat by the patio door, but I knew that wasn’t what I smelled. The dog had had diarrhea upstairs. The hall carpet was covered in it. Since it was my birthday, Elvi cleaned it up. What a gal.

Bonus “Time and Space” update:

“Time and Space” continues apace. Marior has bought props, put casting ads on Craigslist, and has contacted a composer about a score.

Nearmiss and I wrote one small additional scene, just a visual, really, with no dialogue, although we prelapped some existing dialogue into the scene. Marior wanted the scene, so we wrote it.

PepsiCo seems favourably disposed to letting us use Mountain Dew as a prop (the lead is a geek who drinks it) and may even shovel a few dollars at us. We’ll also be asking DC to let us use “The Dark Knight Returns” as a prop (the lead works in a comic-book store). If DC says no, we’ll make something up. The story benefits from all the authentic touches we put in, but we can always mock up a fictional collectible comic.

Quick “Time and Space” update

“Time and Space” is zipping along. The producer has hired Marior to direct. Marior’s first step is to turn our script into a shooting script, but beyond that he is already scouting locations.

Cool. Who’d have thunk?

I found a gargoyle shop in the San Jose area, Campbell actually. A mock-up might be a better solution than finding gargoyles on a flat-topped San Francisco building. Technically, I speak of grotesques. Gargoyles are waterspouts. Grotesques are statues of beasts, which most people mistakenly call gargoyles.

Bonus quote:

I stuck with movie quotes for Fun Joel’s meme, below, but my all-time favourite entertainment quote comes from TV, from “Northern Exposure”:

“All we are, basically, are monkeys with car keys.”

Grandma Woody tells this to Ed as she explains film. It’s been in my sig file forever.

Pyramid memes

As a writer/editor who has kept his ink-stained fingers on the pulse of the Net since 1994, I’ve seen the word “meme” grow from Richard Dawkins’s original coinage to online phenomenon to a toy.

Dawkins considers gene to be self-replicating units of information. Genes use living creatures to live on – we’re all just fancy bags that ensure the genes’ survival. Many thinkers have extended this philosophy to cultural ideas, but Dawkins coined “meme” to represent these ideas. The memes also pass through us, but through our culture rather than our bodies. Strong ones live on and mutate, weak ones die off.

With the advent of near-instantaneous global communication came relatively instantaneous transmission of memes. In the online world, netsurfers came to use “memes” to refer to online fads, often particular files. Perhaps the most famous of these is the “All Your Base” video and its driving techno beat. Here’s what I wrote in Netsurfer Digest 7.05 (Feb. 23, 2001):

All Your Base Are Belong to Us!

Every so often, some insubstantial piece of online fluff catches on and spreads through bulletin boards and e-mail lists like nerdy wildfire. Usually, the best we can do is tell you, “Hey, there’s this nifty insubstantial piece of online fluff that has caught on and spread like nerdy wildfire.” Such items are rarely understandable yet contagious – the perfect example is Mahir Cagri’s “I kiss you” page. One of the latest such contagions is “All Your Base”, a Flash movie based on an old arcade game called Zero Wing, famed for its Japlish subtitles. Take those subtitles, insert them into everyday situations like some kind of conspiracy, and add a techno beat so catchy it could easily get you dancing at your local club, and you get this. But that’s not all. “All Your Base” has a history that we’ve rooted out. The concept started last summer with a Wayne Newtony parody of the game’s intro screens and developed in a thread (which we can’t reach) at Tribal War Forums that inspired still photos. These stills were then incorporated in a non-Wayne Newtony “All Your Base” techno version. There’s also a FAQ on the game. Somebody’s got to release that song as a dance mix….
All Your Base:
Game FAQ:

(Not all of those links still work.)

Anyway…. Usage of “meme” has expanded to include the concept of a pyramid-scheme-like game of tag. One blogger will set up a suite of questions, dares others – “tags them” is the jargon – to answer the same questions, and this so-called meme is afoot.

Fun Joel (see blogroll) started one of these a few days ago. Shawn at Agents Are Evil (look for it in a blogroll near me soon) was in the fourth generation of this chain, which at three tags per person is – let’s see, 1 + 3 + 9 + 27… – oh, let’s say about 50 possible participants already. Who am I to buck the trend?

ONE (1) earliest film-related memory:
Seeing “Fantasia” in the theatre during what must have been the 1969 re-release. I hid under the seat during the terrifying sequence set to Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain”. I was three years old.

TWO (2) favorite lines from movies:
Two that I can recall without having to look them up:
“Her insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase.” – “Raising Arizona”
“You’re a funny man, Solly. I like you. That’s why I’m going to kill you last.” – “Commando”
I have no idea why I like that Schwarzenegger line, but I love the movie. Maybe because of this later exchange:
Matrix : Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last?
Sully : That’s right, Matrix. You did.
Matrix : I lied.

THREE (3) jobs you’d do if you could not work in the “biz”:
Freelance journalist (duh)
House dad

FOUR (4) jobs you actually have held outside the industry:
University lecturer

THREE (3) book authors I like:
Kurt Vonnegut
Stephen Jay Gould
Jared Diamond

TWO (2) movies you’d like to remake or properties you’d like to adapt:
Vonnegut’s “Bluebeard
I always thought “Fatherland” by Robert Harris would make a great movie, and then I learned it was one.

ONE (1) screenwriter you think is underrated:
M. Night Shyamalan. People drag his name through the mud for the dumb stuff like “Signs” and “The Village”, but “The Sixth Sense” is the best screenplay I’ve ever read.

THREE (3) people I’m tagging to answer this meme next:
With sincere apologies, I will tag Alex, Konrad, and Josh, because he could use a reason to make teh funny.

“Time and Space” and film or video

Long-time readers will undoubtedly remember my discussion of “Time and Space”, a short I wrote with fellow TriggerStreeter Nearmiss for a cooperative project at TriggerStreet run by a producer who goes by the nickname Liquid Monkey.

Over the holiday break, a director type who goes by Marior found the logline: Comic-book-store employee Sheldon is the boy who cried alien, and is in for a surprise when he’s left to meet the visitors by himself.

He liked it so much, he asked for the script, and liked that so much that he’s asking Liquid Monkey for details and a contract. As Nearmiss wrote me, “looks like we’re in business.” We’ll need to find a flat-topped building with gargoyles/grotesques in San Francisco, where Marior wants to shoot.


Look what came in the mail Friday. Who says blogging and/or begging doesn’t pay? May I coin the phrase “blegging”?

Thank you, Alex.

Here’s a photo of the real thing:

Coincidentally, this past week, I found video footage of Israeli Spitfires in action (click the link for the MPEG). These are 101 Squadron Spitfires in 1949. The bare-metal Spitfire you see taxiing in the clip is not Black 10. I think the airfield is Ramat David, but I’m not sure of that.

Gears grind

People at TriggerStreet have asked to read my “By the Book” outline. Outside of TriggerStreet, a local producer wants me to rewrite his script for a co-writer credit. I’m not sure I’ll do it just for credit, but if he plans to shoot it…. I’ll look at his synopsis and decide.

Looks like 2006 might be a fruitful year.

Bonus update on the near miss:

The FAA replied to my query about the possible near miss I saw. As a result of my e-mail, the organization has opened an investigation and they promise to keep me in touch.


It’s been a whirlwind day. I was up at 7:30 to teach and spent the rest of the afternoon working through the e-mail backlog, which included several tasks Alex asked for Monday. I got nearly all done except one: does anyone out there know who Tricia Fish’s agent is?

Alex asked to find out about the Bloggies, so I did. He’s pimping, so I might as well. If all three of you 101 readers work extra hard, maybe you can make me a finalist. I kid. I actually have about two or three times as many regular readers, and not all of them are related to me.

Here’s how to secure for me fleeting fame. Go to the Bloggies page that I just linked for your ease of use. Scroll down, and fill in the blanks. Feel free to nominate for any category – cut and paste can work wonders – but I’ll feel funny winning anything but:

Best Canadian Weblog (Come to think of it, I’ll feel funny winning that, too.)
Best Tagline of a Weblog (“Wherein your host holds forth on the fancy of the moment,” which I think is pretty damned clever.)
Most Humorous Weblog (Less commentary on me than on the sad state of public humour.)
Best Writing of a Weblog (‘Cuz I can write complex thoughts with not using big words.)
Best-Kept-Secret Weblog (The winner of this one is called Miss Congeniality.)
Best New Weblog (Comes with a toy bandwagon to hop on.)

Go forth and nominate.

Speaking of blogs, Alex also pointed out a new one by the writers responsible for Grey’s Anatomy. Grey Matter joins the blogroll and pushes out Josh Friedman, who hasn’t posted since December 5, alas. I also added another celebrity: Sir Tim Berners-Lee. It was either him or Joe Rogan.

Back home

The dog and I are back home. The guinea pig, rabbit, wife, and children will only return Sunday.

I came home early because I teach tomorrow morning to kick off the winter semester. The ticket agent at the American desk at SJC decided to charge me $130 to take the monitor as baggage, so Elvi and I decided to ship it more cheaply. My flight was delayed an hour and we had plenty of time, so I checked in and Elvi and I took the monitor to nearby downtown San Jose.

We circled a little bit before realizing that S. Almaden Blvd. was not S. Almaden Ave., but we found the Greyhound bus depot. My Web research had revealed that shipping the beast by bus would cost only $66.

The plan was in mid-spring when the Greyhound guy told us you could only ship electronics a maximum of 1,500 miles. I, of course, complained that I hadn’t seen that on the Web site. Elvi shushed me while the guy consulted the computer.

You know how you can tell that someone is plain dumb? This guy wasn’t that. Sure, he was working the dawn shift in bus cargo, but he seemed smarter than that. Young guy, too – maybe mid 20s. I hope he has a better future ahead of him. Nevertheless, he only found the true state of matters after we prodded him.

Greyhound would ship the box, but couldn’t guarantee the standard three or four days in delivery time. He said it would take five to seven days. We were shipping the box to Burlington, Vt. because Greyhound won’t take it across the border, but that is not a problem. Elvi and the kids flew out of and will return to Burlington, with drives from and to Montreal. If the box gets to Vermont by Sunday morning, she can pick it up and bring it home. Otherwise, I’ll have to fetch it myself.

The flights home were far more interesting to me. At one point over the western US, the clouds, aircraft, and sun aligned to produce a rainbow effect that skinned the clouds. They looked like cotton oil slicks floating in a puddle of blue sky.

As I was turning away from the window, I caught a flash of white. I turned back and saw a white twin-engine passenger jet, possibly a 737, flying away to our 7 o’clock. It surprised me so much, I let out an actual verbal gasp. We either flew directly beneath it or its flightpath passed just in front of us above. It was westbound, so I’m guessing it was only 1,000 feet higher than us (no way was it 3,000 feet above, which is the other likely option, I think). I believe FAA regulations call for three miles of horizontal separation and that was not maintained. The white jet was essentially directly above us.

Was this a real near miss or is my brain making this appear worse than it was? I’m not sure. But I will look into whether or not the public has access to near-miss reports.

Waiting for the flight to Montreal in O’Hare, I happened to sit next to an animated man who was talking to a much quiter man. They were talking acting and movies. The animated man had all the drive and charisma of an agent with the knowledge of a pretentious director. In five minutes, he dropped quotes from Jacques Derrida, Walt Whitman, and Quentin Tarantino. Animated man was a director, it turns out.

The quiet man was from France and is pursuing an acting career. Animated guy was full of horror stories and was at the same time enthusiastic and discouraging. The conversation was a blast to listen to. I probably ought to have introduced myself with “Hello, I’m a stupid writer monkey type,” or something, but the conversation was just too deliciously entertaining as it was.

Why were they flying to Montreal, do you suppose?

Not Bill but Webs’s excellent adventure

I’m no Josh Friedman, but the frequency of my posts slowed this weekend. I finished the beat-sheet/outline of “By the Book” Friday and spent Saturday helping my friend Stuart set up his home for his New Year’s Eve wedding. The crowd was a good one, as was the food (Stuart is a foodie), but the bride’s choice of music could have used a good dose of Webs.

Just about the only dance-able songs on her iTunes playlist – remember, this was a Silicon Valley wedding – were “Like a Virgin” and the typical wedding crap like Kool & the Gang.

Webs DJ’d college parties in the ’80s and clubbed the ’90s into oblivion, so he knows his music. (No, my New Year’s resolution is not to talk about myself in the third person; this post is just turning out that way.) Once most everybody left, the hired babysitters came out to party and we managed to bop by switching back and forth between some live streams of ’80s music. God bless Dead or Alive.

I spent intermittent moments of the weekend talking to Bill’s phone service. I never did reach him, so I decided to hunt down Arthur on my own. A Google search revealed his home address, the place where he interviewed me for Netsurfer’s beginnnings. I had remembered the street, but not his address – but Arthur put that address in early NSDs, some of which are still on the Web.

Arthur wasn’t home, and his full mailbox indicated that he hasn’t been home for weeks. He’s probably away for the holidays.

Other than a tour of the Sunnyvale/Santa Clara area, my trip only revealed that he’s living in the same place. Oh, and I got a nifty “sueded microfiber” olive-green shirt at T.J. Maxx.

Over e-mail Bill has pledged to continue to support Netsurfer with hardware and bandwidth only, same as before.

Questions remain, however. Could use the NSD name and other business aspects of, well, the business without Arthur’s consent? What is the status of copyright on the NSD archives? Then there’s the question of access to the mailing list.

And that’s square one. We can’t proceed until we get Arthur to respond.

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