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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for September 2007

What the *!@#?

My DirecTV dish/cable/receiver is not behaving as a gray-market TV service should. It’s not a constant level of service, either. Channels come in, then they don’t, seemingly at random – except for Comedy Central, which never comes in. It’s not that the picture is pixelated – it’s a binary on/off condition.

Sunday night, I was flicking through channels to see if there was a pattern and I landed on Fuse, and what I saw astonished me.

When people say TV is a wasteland, this is what they mean. I’m not sure what’s usually on the show I caught, “Rad Girls”, but this episode had three girls riding in the back of a van (A cargo van, not a minivan). Each girl had a bucket and they were having a contest to see who could pee the most while the van drove around corners and up and down hills. The girls drank from large jugs of water to help fill up.

Yes, a bucket of pee did spill. Two girls also got carsick and they decided to count the vomit. The audience was treated to shots of girls throwing up, and the pee going into bottles. Eventually, one girl even crapped in her bucket, but we didn’t get to see that.

While that sort of show is not to my taste, I can see that other viewers might appreciate it. That’s not really why I was astonished. What flabbergasted me was that while this was going on, the girls were talking, and sprinkled their language with appropriate and inappropriate bad words – and these words were bleeped out!

What is the deal? How, or why can you show this, but not be able to use the most common words for it? It’s an astounding window onto – well, onto something. American culture? Maybe.

The next show on Fuse was the cleverly titled “Pants Off Dance Off”, in which people and dancers off the street strip to their favourite videos and compete for a prize. Great idea, but not if you cover up all the naughty bits with censoring logos.

I have more to write, but it’s time to teach. Au revoir….

When did the ’80s start?

I’m talking classic ’80s-style music here. Set aside metal, set aside rock, set aside disco.

I was listening to some music this morning. Most of my stuff is ’80s, in style if not in actual date. On a whim, I sorted my iTunes list by year because I’ve always maintained that the ’80s, as a musical genre, started in the late 1970s and I wanted to examine that more closely.

But I surprised myself, because my memory of what came out when was fuzzy.

A lot of music lovers, ’80s music lovers, consider the ’80s to have started musically 13 seconds into Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (1979).

But looking at my collection, it has to have started earlier. I own four choices that might be the first ’80s music, and all of them are somewhat surprising.

First, I have to eliminate a fourth choice: the Ramones. There’s no doubt that this superb band influenced the ’80s, but the band’s music is still too punk to be considered classic ’80s style.

So, who are the four? Elvis Costello, Blondie, the Cars, and a surprise pick I’ll reveal later.

Elvis Costello is the earliest of these artists, with the release of My Aim Is True in 1976, but I think his style is too generic to be considered ’80s. It’s good stuff and the earliest of all four options, but is it ’80s? I don’t think so. (I similarly dismiss Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who released an eponymous first album in 1976.)

The first album by the Cars came out in 1978, and there’s no doubt it is an album in the coming ’80s style. But Blondie was already around. Granted, Blondie started out punk, but by 1978 Blondie had evolved a more typical sound with “One Way or Another”. Call it a tie between those two bands.

My fourth choice, the surprise, is Plastic Bertrand and “Ca plane pour moi” in 1977.

It’s an interesting choice because that song is a remake of a British song titled “Jet Boy, Jet Girl” by Elton Motello that is more punk, primarily due to the dress and style of the vocals. The original song’s lyrics were too risque so the record company hired Plastic Bertrand to do a version in French. It is almost exactly the same song; it used the same musicians.

Why is this more ’80s than the Ramones? Most notably, I think, in the use of a horn section and on the emphasis on production values that you can hear in the Plastic Bertrand single (less obvious in the video below). I think these herald the start of the classic ’80s music style, and may be the first songs to do so as far as I can tell. I could be wrong. Do you have a better choice as the start?

Here’s the punk “Jet Boy, Jet Girl” (try to ignore the stupid German skits):

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Here’s Plastic Bertrand:

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So, you guys have any earlier candidates?

This might work out

Once in a while, I have moments of doubt about this whole screenwriting thing, and then a week like this comes along.

Alex E. told the scribosphere that he’s working on a series. As his man Friday, I get his treatments and scripts and send notes back. That’s not so unusual; I’ve been doing that for several projects over the last two years. The difference this time is that I’m a line in the development budget.

I’ve done editing and reading of scripts before, sometimes even for change, but we’re talking income so significant it’s declarable for taxes. It’s a sweet pat on the back. Let’s hope the show gets picked up. I won’t say much about it here, but it is something I’d watch, which is saying something because I’m picky.

In a similar vein, I spoke on the phone with a real Hollywood producer yesterday – and he has been trying to reach me rather than the other way around. He’s familiar with my 101 Squadron work and he wants me to work on a documentary about the squadron. He’d love to do a feature, but he thinks the documentary would have to come first. It doesn’t matter to me. I want this fascinating story out there. It deserves to be told. He thinks so too, and we had a fruitful discussion.

That project is separate from Lou Lenart’s, in personnel and in focus. The Lenart project also wants my input, although in a research capacity rather than as screenwriter. After all these years of failures, it’s possible that two documentaries on the early Israeli Air Force may get made.

The Miami PBS affiliate aired a talking-head documentary in 1999 titled “Israel’s Forgotten Heroes“. The film covered American volunteers in all branches of the Israeli armed forces in 1948 and had some air force members in it. While it was a fascinating show, it just didn’t aspire to the level of elaboration that the current documentary projects do.

So screw those moments of doubt. Things are happening. I have always assumed that I’d have to work my way up with other scripts before I would be in a position to get this story told, but maybe I was wrong.

Bonus fantasy baseball update:

I’m still in first – tied for first – but I occasionally bounce down as low as third for a day or two. We two in first have 54 points while third place has 50, and candidates for money finishes lie as far back as sixth (46.5 points). All the contenders are competing head to head in at least one category. I’m one home run ahead of my co-leader, two wins back (I’ll pass him there), and two saves ahead (he’ll catch me). This will go down to the wire.

My team continues to rake the ball, with a .315 batting average over the last four weeks (and that includes Miguel Cabrera’s .220 over that span).

My pick-up for September was Jason Bergmann. I was on a plane at the alloted time and so my pick was determined by a dumb list. Looking at the picks of other teams, I might have been better served by taking Rajai Davis for his steals, but I can’t complain about Bergmann’s two starts so far: a win, 0.92 WHIP, and 2.77 ERA.

.274 batting average (4th)
224 HR (3rd)
877 RBI (2nd)
101 SB (tied 8th, 2 SB out of 7th)
3.95 ERA (2nd, 0.06 out of first)
1.27 WHIP (1st)
67 wins (tied 6th, 2 wins out of fifth)
25 saves (7th)

…And we’re back!

Thanks to Dave, my Web host, for getting me up and running despite consternation and chronic pain. We had a nice chat about Percocet.

The blog is back. The Web site is back. School is back – I taught my first class today. I hope I do better than I did in summer. My assessments were mediocre, and I’m usually well to the positive side of mediocre. Professors at Concordia get additional comments as well as numeric ratings, and my comments from the summer seemed to focus on the computers in the classroom and how they are too distracting. I wonder if the students’ lack of self-discipline is in any way responsible for my poor ratings.

Other stuff I’ve done in the past week includes creating and posting the Web site for Alex’s short (there’s no elegant way to get that left-hand green column to extend to the bottom of all pages, but I am proud of my m4d CSS sk1llz ) and laughing at the origin of the lolcat meme, the pre-World War I Laugh-Out-Loud Cats.

Thank you for staying tuned.

Last days of the launch

Saturday was more of the same. Sit, wait, sign, sit, wait, wait, wait. I took a few more tours of the model room. There’s some serious talent on display, and patience. One guy showed up with a display of 43 varieties of Sherman tank.

My business cards came in Friday and I’m pleased. I used Overnight Prints. That company used to have a great reputation and then expanded its business, with shooting growing pains. A little research turns up a few mightily displeased customers. I used Overnight Prints because they were in the Anaheim area, offered great prices, and had some customers who were as satisfied as others were disgruntled. The problems seemed to stem from sketchy printing at some printing plants – I figured that if I had the delivery sent to next city over from headquarters that my cards would come from the original high-quality printer.

My cards came from Kansas.

Nevertheless, they are gorgeous. Count me as satisfied. I got 500 full-colour glossy cards for about $40. My local business office wanted more than twice that for one colour of ink – embossed mind you, but still….

Saturday was stressful. Saturday morning, I learned that Lou Lenart had arrived the night before, and it was left to me to arrange a meeting for Sunday. In short, I did it.

The photo that will someday accompany accompanies this post is Lou signing my replica 101 Squadron hat. This link takes you to a photo of me handing the book to Lou (courtesy of our host, Lorin Roche) and other photos. My co-author Alex is the bearded guy in the powder blue check shirt. (Modellers who build Israeli Air Force models should note that the guy in the burgundy double-knit is Raanan Weiss.)

Monday morning, while waiting for my lift to the airport, I received an e-mail from the son of another 101 Squadron pilot who was also in LA. He wants to talk business, and we plan to chat soon.

I’m writing this a week later than I should, and my site is still down. Several concerned people – they’re not all related to me so maybe I can call them fans – have written to ask where my blog and/or my site has gone. While the lack of my Web presence grates on me, that feels kinda good.

Bonus injury:

Seven months on, Dell still hasn’t replaced its recalled power adapter. My replacements keep dying. I found an old one for free, and I strengthened it with glue-gun ooze, but burned two fingers in the process. That stuff gets hot. I hate you, Dell.

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