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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for April 2006

“Sheep’s End” 2.0

I finished the next draft of “Sheep’s End”. It’s 108 pages, 16 pages longer than the previous.

The new scenes that start off this draft are more active than the last revision. There’s also an extra battle scene at the end.

Most of the additional pages are character development. I find Hawthorn an difficult character to communicate in words. He’s terse, stoic, subtle. His dialogue and actions remain guarded, so I tried to get his emotions across in motif. I hope this draft makes that more apparent. I also tried to etch the jeopardy more starkly.

Here’s the first scene, one page long.

INT. MANOR HALLWAY – DAY

In the hallway of a medieval manor house, HAWTHORN races out of a sumptuous, feminine bedchamber. He pulls the door closed after him, holds it shut.

He’s a man whose strength grows more from a hard, wiry frame and experience than sheer bulk. His hair is cut short in a practical military style. This is not a man who spends time in front of mirrors.

He wears simple linen and wool, out of place in a luxurious nobleman’s home like this one. Fine tapestries line the hall.

Hawthorn winces as he hears something porcelain smash to bits against the other side of the door.

He braces to keep the door tightly shut.

Muffled by the stone wall and thick wood, an angry young woman shrieks incomprehensibly.

The yelling stops. Hawthorn relaxes… until another delicate object breaks against the far side of the door.

HAWTHORN

You asked me to be honest!

His comment ignites another angry feminine rant.

As the yelling continues, Hawthorn cautiously withdraws. He knows how to retreat.

He tiptoes backward, while facing the door. He periodically glances back at the stairway he’s moving toward.

Just before he makes the stairway, the bedchamber door opens. Out steps ISABEL, a smoldering girl in her late teens. She’s disheveled, and angry. She wears an unflattering high-waisted dress, and she holds a small ceramic pitcher.

ISABEL

Hawthorn? Hawthorn!

Hawthorn backs to the first step down.

HAWTHORN

Tomorrow?

Isabel shrieks, heaves the pitcher at him. He ducks down the stairs. The pitcher explodes right where he stood.

Isabel storms back into her room.

I admit it’s a bit cliche, but it works in the context of what follows.

Bad news comes in fives

Nearmiss and I received an update from Marior, who is directing the short we wrote, “Time and Space”. He’s not pleased with his work. For technical reasons, he wasn’t able to watch the dailies until recently and he doesn’t like what he sees. He doesn’t think the product should be submitted to film festivals. He won’t reshoot, but he will finish.

The news disturbed Nearmiss. I’m disappointed, but I did my job well and what happened after it passed out of my hands doesn’t bother me. It’s a resume stuffer at worst. Like I told Nearmiss, maybe the next director will have access to a roof.

What does bother me is that I won’t be teaching JOUR 428 next year. I’m part-time faculty in the Journalism Department (at Concordia University, for you latecomers to the blog), and full-timers get to teach what they choose before the department calls for part-time applications.

Before the department released its list of courses this week, a kind insider had already tipped me off that a full-timer had snatched up JOUR 428, Online Publication.

That pisses me off. From a technical standpoint, nobody in the department knows HTML/XHTML or CSS as well as I do. From a practical standpoint, nobody has run an e-zine for a dozen years, like I did. I’ve had students come up to me this year to tell me they had registered for next year’s course because I was teaching it. Now they’ll be stuck with a less qualified instructor.

Although students provided me with mostly positive feedback, I’d have graded my work on 428 this year as a B. It was my first year with it, and I only had the syllabi of past teachers on which to base my lesson plans. I learned a lot, and next year’s course was going to be better.

This isn’t a demotion or a critique of my work in the course. It’s simply a case of greed or ego or both by whoever took over the course, and worst of all it’s not in the best interests of the students.

Yesterday, while I was pecking away at “Sheep’s End” (good news interlude: I’m up to page 98 and will finish tomorrow), a Videotron rep called me to tell me that we had exceeded our allotted bandwidth over the last two months and racked up extra fees.

We pay an annual bill, so I wouldn’t see these charges unless I looked up the usage – but I was downstairs on the laptop and my links were upstairs on my desktop. We have exceeded our allotment in the past, when we’d leave aMule/eMule running. It’s possible that a malware infection could have turned a Windows box or two into a zombie, which is what I assumed when the rep said we spilled over our cap.

The rep offered to covert us from Videotron’s High-Speed plan to the unlimited Extreme High-Speed for a reduced price for two months. I agreed.

Upstairs, I checked our usage. We’ve been nowhere near our bandwidth limit.

I got in touch with Videotron customer support through the online chat function (it didn’t work in Safari, so I fired up Firefox). The support rep reverted our plan and left a complaint for the first rep’s manager. I gotta say, every time I’ve had to deal with Videotron’s tech or customer support, I’ve been pleased with the outcome. Sales reps, on the other hand….

Another bit of bad news is that Elvi wasn’t selected for a two-week intensive course in transmission electron microscopy this summer – er, winter, since the course was in Chile. The course had 200 applications for 48 places, so it’s not a kick in the teeth, but Elvi was hoping to go.

Lastly, I am mildly perturbed that my Irrational League fantasy team has fallen out of first place. Thanks, Odalis Perez. Worse, it’s Frank Cavallaro who’s now in first. My rankings:

.305 batting average (1st, and a phenomenal number, 2nd place is .282)
42 HR (2nd)
146 RBI (3rd)
13 SB (tied 9th)
3.65 ERA (2nd)
1.18 WHIP (1st)
13 wins (tied 2nd)
10 saves (3rd)

My team is 4 HR, 2 RBI, 0.12 ERA, and 0.5 total points behind Frank’s. His pitching can’t sustain what it’s done so far, but I’m still looking for stolen bases.

I have 25 free minutes

And I can’t do anything productive in 25 minutes, so I might as well blog while I wait for people to return my calls.

I spent the morning at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony in which Child One took part. The ceremony took place in the synagogue to which my grandfather belonged. His name is on a donors plaque on the wall. I didn’t lose any close family in the Holocaust. All my grandparents were born in North America except my father’s father, and he moved to Montreal with his father, mother, and brother in the 1920s.

Trace back along my brother’s family tree, and you can see the Holocaust fatalities among the family that stayed in Europe.

I didn’t mean to blog about this when I started. I was going to ask for help finding a shirt. It occurs to me that I could title this post “Hey Jude”, but that’s tacky, even for me.

On to business….

In Houston, I bought a beautiful new black suit and a beautiful new tie. I know which beautiful new shirt would go with them, but the store (K&G;) didn’t have my size. Neither K&G; nor Geoffrey Beene sell any selection at all online, so I have to look in the retail channel.

Specifically, I need a Geoffrey Beene Wrinkle Free Solid Dress Shirt – Point Collar (style A30B0862) in kiwi (colour 329), in a size 17.5 collar/32-33 sleeve. That kiwi is the perfect shade of green. I looked for other green shirts but they all lacked this shirt’s subtle brightness.

If you happen to see one like that, let me know, please.

Oh, and I’m up to page 89 of the draft. I only really have one more battle sequence to write – the rest is polish.

Bonus shout-out:

Happy birthday, Child Three!

Recursive blogging

I submitted all grades for my courses and I’m spending the day on Alex. He asked me to look into a problem with Technorati. It was not updating his blog all that promptly. I discovered that Technorati wasn’t updating this one regularly either.

Technorati works on a ping system. Every time a blogger posts, the blog will automatically notify Technorati – if the notification has been embedded or turned on. With Blogger, that’s a simple setting.

But Technorati’s Ping Us page indicated that 101 had last been updated 16 days ago. Something is broken.

Alex and I are not the only ones having a problem. Not many people have discussed this, but Technorati has had such problems for months. Here’s a sophisticated complaint from ProBlogger. A Consuming Experience received a reply from Technorati head honcho Dave Sifry in March. Technorati is working on it. Yippee.

Neither Alex nor I use Technorati tags, but that shouldn’t make a difference. We’ve both claimed our blogs with Technorati accounts.

I question how important this is for me. Of traffic that search engines deliver to 101, nearly all comes from Google. Technorati just isn’t bringing in the visitors. That’s why I don’t bother tagging. Del.icio.us isn’t much help either. On my next template update, I’ll probably remove the Del.icio.us facility from my posts.

How about y’all out there in the scribosphere? Is Technorati a help or does it just lay there like lox? Do you even bother with it?

Bonus shoulder update:

Something’s working. The pain is reduced, although I’m not leaping to block soccer balls or anything. I’ve moved to the stronger tension band for my exercises already.

The Celebrex is toying with my GI system a bit, but it’s nothing major. I also notice that it seems to suppress my appetite. I could lose 10 pounds, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Speaking of anatomy…

We all went to see the Body Worlds exhibition Wednesday night. That was cool.

I’m up to page 82 of the “Sheep’s End” draft, with 20 to 25 pages to go. That’s also cool.

I fly home tomorrow to an extremely busy week: taxes; “Sheep’s End”; starting some Reader’s Digest (Canada) work; grading; and lotsa work for Alex. I also want to get in touch with Philippe to see if he wants to read a sample and offer me work.

Don’t worry. I’ll keep in touch.

Everything ties in at the shoulder

I’ve never been the most flexible person. I strained the MCL in my left knee a few years ago. The first time I met Dev, my physiotherapist for that injury, he took a look at me on the table and asked, twice, if I had ever injured my right knee. I can’t straighten my leg so that the back of my knee lies flat. Heck, I can’t sit cross-legged without toppling over.

My right shoulder has been slightly painful in certain motions for a long time, but over the last six months, the pain has been worsening, and lingering. My mom runs an orthopedics office, so I figured I’d get it looked at while I was visiting.

The doc diagnosed an impingement, which is a common cause of shoulder pain. The problem tends to enter a cycle of reinforcement if not corrected to the point where the shoulder locks up. The cure is shoulder exercise to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, along with treatment for the inflammation, so the exercise isn’t painful.

If I had to guess, I’d say my years of softball did my shoulder in. I’ve never been the most mechanically sound thrower, and even playing second base I bet I did my shoulder in. It’s not hockey – there’s not much overhand motion in hockey.

The doctor offered me a shot for the inflammation, which is standard for worse cases. Since the shot won’t solve the underlying problem and is only a panacea for the pain, and my shoulder stills moves pretty well, he was ambivalent. I declined the shot. My mom, who was in the examination room, called me a chicken shit.

I’m on Celebrex and exercise and we’ll see how that goes. That’s my shoulder in that X-ray.

To tie in softball/baseball, my brother treated my family to the Astros game last night. Even the outs the Astros made on Doug Davis’s pitches were hit hard. The game went long, so we had to leave after the seventh. I didn’t mind. Lance Berkman was out of the game by that point and the Astros had a 12-6 lead.

(I set a personal record at the Juicebox: closest I’ve ever been to a President. We sat inside of 100 yards up and left of George H.W. and Barbara Bush, in section 116.)

Child Three received a ball from Carlos Lee after batting practice, who would go on to homer twice after we left the ball park to help the Brewers make it a 13-12 final score. Shades of the last baseball game I left early.

We left before the end of the game to go meet Target and Bombshell (a.k.a. Mrs Target). My brother took the kids back to my mom’s and Elvi and I went out for drinks with them. Target is the project manager of WarBirds; I’ve met him before. We talked surprisingly little about airplanes – much, I’m sure, to Elvi’s dismay – but during what little airplane talk did fly across the table, Bombshell and I had to remind Target that the name for the complicated aeronautical concept he was discussing is “thrust”.

I put in my obligate request for the Avia S-199 in the game and described how the Israelis and the RAF came to blows. Target also asked me what Sheep’s End was – he’s a friend of the blog, apparently. For all those wondering, Sheep’s End is the village in which “Sheep’s End” the story takes place. And the rewrite has leapt a stumbling block and is moving forward, thank you very much.

How does Target tie in to my shoulder? Do you have any idea how much my shoulder aches when I push my Thrustmaster Cougar around? The springs in that thing are robust.

Bonus Irrational League update:

.299 batting average (1st)
32 HR (2nd)
113 RBI (1st)
8 SB (tied 8th)
4.30 ERA (4th)
1.17 WHIP (1st)
10 wins (tied 2nd)
7 saves (tied 3rd)

That gives me first place with 64.5 points and an 8 point lead over two teams tied in second. I could use some stolen bases, but I don’t think I need them if I can stay in the middle of that category.

Met with Brett

Brett and I sat for close to two hours in Starbucks this morning, swapping war stories from the trenches, and the airfields.

Last night, I got to page 60 or so in the “Sheep’s End” rewrite. I’ve been thinking of adding a battle, and that’s next on that particular plate.

Elvi, the kids, and I spent the afternoon in the traveling dinosaur exhibit currently parked at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I still feel a little funny when I see Mark Norell and Kirk Johnson in the video presentations, in the “I got naked and went polar-bear swimming with that guy” kind of way.

I hope a get a chance to work more this evening, but it has been a good day so far. I also owe Alex some deeper thinking on storyboards. He liked some of the ones I’ve come up with so far.

Tap, tap, tap

Well, I didn’t expect to get much done Wednesday or yesterday, but I had planned to work most of today. But it’s past noon here in Texas, and no luck so far.

My wife and kids and mom were supposed to leave the house to go horseback riding, and I was going to have the house to myself. I want to try to get “Sheep’s End” ready for the Nicholl Fellowships, and I have some thinking to do for Alex. Oh, and I need to call Brett to arrange a meeting.

So far, this house has been too busy. My wife and kids are here, eating lunch. My mom is home. Her husband is home. Two of my mom’s friends are over, with a grandchild in tow. My brother just walked in.

Why can’t everyone be anti-social like me? I could get a lot more done.

Happy Passover

The image comes from my dad. I can’t vouch for its authenticity, but no matter.

I’m grading and packing and folding laundry and working on “Sheep’s End”, all of which is progressing nicely.

Don’t expect a new post from me until later in the week.

Let me leave you with a Passover recipe tip: add some fresh lemon zest to your charoset. It really brightens the flavour.

Bonus Irrational League update:

I end the first week in first place with 57.5 points. Frank is second, three points back. Surprisingly, I’m tied for second place in saves. That won’t last, but neither will my seventh-place ranking in ERA or even my fifth place in WHIP.

The roster is looking good, if a bit short on stolen bases.

Ten verbs, an ensemble, and a hello to Brett

Brett, who writes the A Bucket of Love screenwriting blog, decided to list the first ten verbs of his script to test it for action. It’s a WWII airplane drama. Interesting….

To get this meme underway, Brett tagged Scott the Reader, but instead of propagating through the scribosphere, it seems to have rooted in the comments to his blog.

Having just written a new beginning to “Sheep’s End”, I thought I would compare the two versions. You know, there just might be something to this. Some readers had commented that the older version started too slowly. Here’s the list for it:

travel
cuts
strides
wears
is
is
travel
packs
come
climbs

And the rewrite:

races
pulls
holds
is
grows
is
is
spends
wears
is

I anticipated criticism about all those uses of “is”, but I’m OK with it. Here’s the paragraph that contains them:

“He’s a strong man, whose strength grows more from his hard wiry frame and experience than sheer bulk. His hair is cut short in a practical military style. This is not a man who spends time in front of mirrors.”

It’s not too passive, merely economical. One intentionally funny commenter said I should have written “Quarter-inch hairs explode from his shorn scalp.” That makes me giggle.

Back to the point…. The first verbs in the rewrite are certainly more exciting. It’s a good sign.

I ‘m taping “Canada Russia ’72“. If you don’t know what that’s about, you’re not Canadian – click the link.

I’m taping it because I want to dissect it. It is a dramatic interpretation of a real event that involved an ensemble. It will hold lessons for me in my attempts to grasp and mold the story of 101 Squadron. Both stories have natural dramatic paths, with different individuals playing the “lead” as the stories progress. If I could only get my hands on the script….

Speaking of airplane dramas, Brett lives in Katy, Texas, which is about five minutes from my mom’s place in western Houston. I’m going to be spending most of the next two weeks at my mom’s. Brett, if you read this and you want to get together to compare airplane stories and talk screenwriting, please e-mail me (my e-mail address is on my profile page). My mom is off the Barker-Cypress exit on I-10.

Anybody else in Houston? (Besides you, Mitch.)

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