Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mika also fights the Man

I have nothing against Paris Hilton. Nor do I have any positive feelings. She's just... there.

Allow me to to bring your attention to newscaster Mika Brzezinski.

Recognize her last name? He's her father.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I'm making my grad students write pitches. It gets them to draw on research skills they have acquired, and it prepares them for the lucrative freelance lifestyle.

At the same time, I just finished a pitch of my own. Michael, Mark, and I have built a proposal for the Jewish vet memorial. We kicked ass, and we'll submit it Friday in the hope of taking names later. We have a good mix of talent. Michael handles the business, Mark handles the film, and I impressed them both with my writing.

I was brought on board to handle research primarily. Neither Michael nor Mark had seen anything I've written, but I may have carved out a new niche.

Bonus booty:

My fascinating sister-in-law found a woman on the Mountain View, Calif. Freecycle who was giving away three "gorgeous" colour photos of a B-24 and a B-17 in flight, "Warplanes" (WW I to 1989) and "Ghosts of the Sky" (WW II) videotapes, and a U.S. Army Air Force Flying Goggle Kit with eight lenses.

She asked me if she should pick them up for me, and I told her to HURRY!

I should have them next week, when she comes to visit. We'll have to convince her and her friend to come out dancing. It's be awesome walking into a place with three women towering over me.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Fallen through the cracks

I received word today that the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) has denied me a travel grant to attend our book launch for "Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service" in Anaheim in August. My work was judged insufficiently literary.

I expected this, although the CCA agent who would present my grant application told me it was worth a shot.

The problem is that our book is straight history. All grant programs in history work at the academic level and are meant for students and full-time faculty. The CCA is the only agency that would consider funding a work of non-fiction outside universities. There's no workaround - my efforts fall through the cracks of nearly overlapping sources of funding. And I can't afford the $1,000 or so it would cost to fly down and stay a couple of days.

I will look into holding an event at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal, perhaps as part of Jewish Book Month (November). And I want to find out what I could do at Toronto's Jewish Book Fair that same month.

At the very least, I hope this book will qualify as a first book for funding requests for further work. Pyrrhic, yes, but that would be a victory nonetheless.

Back to working on the template for our documentary....

Bonus searches:

Three particularly noteworthy Google searches brought surfers to my pages recently.

1) "dilaudid in ass": That one's self-explanatory, and might depend on the individual's pronunciation of "analgesic". I think "Scrubs" used that joke.

2) "cell phone got wet in tent camping": Thanks to the past tense, what springs to mind is that a camper's cell phone got wet and the searcher wants to know if the phone can be saved, but that doesn't explain why the location is important. This search is only a teaser for the next, though.

3) "how to unlock a minivan with the keys in side": Marvelous! There's three kinds of foolish there. The simplest is the unnecessary space that divides the word "inside". The next grade of foolishness is the inciting event: locking your keys inside your van. Yeah, we've all done it, and, yeah, we've all felt silly about it, but commonality is not a mitigating factor. The foolishness teased by the previous comment is the specification of the location of the keys. Would this search turn up more useful results than "how to unlock a minivan with the keys in sewer" or "how to unlock a minivan after neighbour's okapi ate keys"?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fighting the Man

During a Sunday evening of filming of "Twelve Ways to Say 'I'm Sorry'", I parked at the corner of de la Commune and St. Laurent, between the curb and the fire hydrant in the photo below.

Upon returning to my car, I discovered a parking ticket for parking within five meters of the corner.

Did you know you can't park within five meters of a corner? I don't think anybody does. That's 15 feet, give or take. Give 15 feet of parking space in this city, and it will be taken by somebody parking a car.

I was doubly upset because I followed the signage on the road, labelled Sign 1 and Sign 2 in the photo above.

Sign 1:

Sign 2:

I've decided to fight this ticket rather than pay the $57.

I sent an e-mail to the City of Montreal to ask whether the parking regulations stipulate: a) that there's no parking allowed at any time, except that delivery vehicles may park there 9h-17h Monday to Friday; or b) that any vehicle may park there any time except 9h-17h Monday to Friday when only delivery vehicles may park there?

The commonly accepted interpretation is b), and the city's answer confirmed that. That is the keystone of my defence.

The signage clearly indicates that the spot I was in is reserved for deliveries 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., but it implies through the parking regulations - and confirmed by the city - that parking is legal there at all other times. If parking were not legal there, the sign would indicate no parking at any time.

I sent in my explanation and photographic evidence.

There is a tangential issue as well: who the heck gets or gives tickets for parking within five meters of a corner? I wondered that, too, for five days - until the Gazette published a small article that informed its readers that the Green Onions (Montreal's parking ticket agents) would be cracking down on this offence.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I'm here

Sorry for the delay in posting. I try not to go more than three days without throwing something out here.

I have no memory of what I did Saturday, so it was either very good or very dull. Sunday I spent with the family and Stuart and a new house guest, Janet, at the St. Laurent street sale and the Eureka science exhibition at the Old Port. I was the only person able to keep the RC aircraft sim in the air for more than 30 seconds at that booth. Still, the activity reaffirmed my desire not to watch hundreds of dollars worth of flying parts disassemble on impact. I'll keep my flying to things I can sit in or in front of.

Oh, wait - I remember Saturday now. We went to a dinner/pool party and made sushi. I had taken some allergy pills that made me drowsy. I was relaxing on a sofa-swing when the boy jumped on me and spilled my apple-tini on my shirt. I washed it off and had a nap. The mosquitoes woke me and I was grumpy, then Elvi accidentally dumped a chocolate-tini on my again dry shirt. I threw my (plastic) glass down and stomped off to the car to get more sleep. Good times.

Yesterday, I taught (sort of; it was an in-class assignment) then helped Alex with credits for the short. I saw a rough cut - it's funny and it works, but it feels a bit squeezed into the six minutes we have to work with.

Alex also asked me to check out a script he submitted to iScript, which takes your script and assembles a cast of readers to perform it. It's like out TriggerStreet gang, but with more talent and for $175 (US). I haven't listened to it yet, but my initial suspicion is that you could record (and feed) a local gang of hungry actors for less, much less if you can borrow a microphone and recorder.

Bonus on Child One:

Child One achieved the highest score in her school for this year's Gauss Contest (math).

Bonus fantasy baseball trade:

I sent away Bob Wickman (and a warm body in Tony Graffanino) for Chris Sampson and Marcus Giles.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Twenty-four hours in Toronto

I took the train Wednesday night and despite my time bonus (q.v.) I didn't stock up on food for the trip. I ate a $4.75 VIA Rail egg sandwich for supper. The train was 40 minutes late because it had to slow down to pass work crews.

At Union Station, I took the subway two stops to Queen St. The exit dumped me on the north side of Queen, which temporarily disoriented me because I'd been traveling north on the subway. I walked west thinking it was east, but I figured it out when I hit Yonge St. I grabbed the streetcar to my sister's place. The ride was surprisingly quick.

My sister let me in and I checked my e-mail and had cole slaw and chocolate-chip cookies for supper. I tried to engage my little brother in a Google chat but could only pry six words out of him. My sister's guest room was hot, the ceiling fan went "clicka clicka clicka" and buses and streetcars passed outside the open window throughout the night. I've had more restful nights.

Our meeting with the JWVC went well. After Lou spent some time telling us stories, we got down to business. We are not the first group to propose a film, but we may wind up the first successful project. Lou took the three of us out for lunch afterward.

I didn't say much in the meeting, but I listened. On the surface, it might not have seemed worth the trip but, as I told Mike, I gained much more out of the conversation than I would have hearing about it second-hand.

For the trip home, I stashed a burger from Harvey's in my bag, along with a copy of Air Enthusiast ($20!), which I want to pitch later this summer. Oh, and while VIA Rail trumpets its WiFi service, it doesn't tell you it costs $9 an hour, not that I have a laptop battery that will last that long. I did break down and buy another power cord/adapter for my Dell because Dell is glacially slow in filling its recall replacements, but the train has no outlets to plug into.

I'm also left wondering who approved the bullets-through-glass upholstery pattern on the train seats....

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why I have time to write this

I'm taking the train to Toronto today and sleeping at my sister's home before our meeting on the Jewish war vet memorial tomorrow.

My train is at 5:20, not 3:45 as I had gathered from looking at my ticket. I am, however, seated in car 3, seat 45 once I do leave in two and a half hours.

Last night, I attended another Montreal Film Group soiree. I ran into Robert the Director and we chatted about his film (premiered a few weeks ago) and his latest work. I also saw polyglot ex-student and sometime blog-reader Iuliana. I chatted a bit with a writer I'd met at a presentation at the NFB a month ago and brainstormed marketing of my book with Sandy. Sandy's an awesome, possessed journalist/adventurer type, though not quite as adventurous or possessed as Kenny Hechtman, whom we also discussed. Kenny and I were on the same Reach for the Top team. Damn you for being so good, Jerry Moshopoulos (I don't remember the spelling, only the name) from Malcom Campbell. Sandy's brother was our team coach.

I also made a new friend, Josh, who's eerily like me in several ways and has some of the same story problems. We had a fruitful discussion.

Over the course of the evening, three people commented on how nice I look and none of them were my wife, who was supposed to come to represent her band at this evening whose purpose was to bring filmmakers and music makers together. One of these compliments came from Robert, who took care to point out the heterosexuality of his opinion. Odd. The only thing difference beyond my standard appearance was that I wore dress pants instead of chinos because all my daily-wear pants were either dirty or too short. Maybe I need more dress pants.

I'll post about our meeting within a few days. In the meantime, here's some funny. I stole found this map of anagrams of Montreal Metro stations out on the wild, wild Web.

Bonus baseball update because I have an hour to kill:

Remember how I said on June 2 that I could get back in the race with a decent month? Here's my last 14 days:

.278 batting average
25 HR
93 RBI
11 SB
3.17 ERA
1.18 WHIP
3 wins
3 saves

The only flaw is that my starters find themselves in tough losses. Last week, only one starter gave up more than three runs yet I had no wins.

I've moved up from ninth to sixth, with bursts to fifth:

.262 batting average (8th, .002 out of 5th)
86 HR (6th, one HR out of 5th)
375 RBI (5th, five RBI out of 4th)
45 SB (tied 5th)
3.69 ERA (3rd)
1.30 WHIP (3rd)
28 wins (tied 10th)
23 saves (7th)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Skypecast file

Here's a bit of our reading of "Sheep's End". During the process, the voices are a bit clearer, but this is a generally decent representation of our (lack of) acting talent. I'm the action narrator.

You can see a printed copy of a portion of this here.

One of the surprises is the way the reader played Bren as a character out of the 1930s. I can picture him with a pencil mustache in a tuxedo and scarf.

Bonus lolcat of mine:

I wonder if Cheezburger will select it for inclusion.

This second take is better, I think.

Which do you like better?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Fix that release valve

Several things have been stressing me lately. I'm not going to get into what because it doesn't matter. It serves the purpose of this post to note that these are long-standing issues that I can usually keep under control. In the past dozen years, there have been two times I can recall (that means probably four or five times in total) that I've verbally abused someone - and at least one, a Canadian customs employee, really deserved it. (Good thing that confrontation happened before 9/11.)

On top of those, today I came home from class and drove Child One to swimming. Elvi had forgotten to tell the children that One and Two had a swimming lesson today. The standard plan is for Children Two and Three to meet Child One and me at the pool because their school is a block away.

Elvi also did not inform the carpool that Children Two and Three would not come home with them, but she left a message for the carpool driver in the afternoon.

Child One and I waited 20 minutes for the missing younger children and then I called home with the only change I had. (I can't afford a cell phone; see the above paragraph and read between one set of lines. I wouldn't get much use out of one anyway, as I'm nearly always at home.)

Stuart, our house guest of the week, had received Child Three at home by that time. The driver had apparently not received the message. Child Two stayed at school because she assumed there was swimming, but she couldn't find Child Three. She called Stuart and Stuart had told her to stay at school.

So I drove to the school to fetch Child Three, dropped her off at the pool, and went home - where I learned that there was no swimming lesson today. Off I went to bring the girls home.

I was in an air-conditioned vehicle, so it wasn't that bad. I didn't think at the time that the nearly two hours of driving had stressed me further.

What did stress me was one of the parents at T-ball, but not in the way parents usually stress coaches. He'd overheard that the league was holding try-outs for an all-star team - which it is, by invitation only, and his son was rated the worst player in the league in pre-season evaluations. I can handle kids without skills, but this kid is either in a permanent sulk or he has attention-deficit spectrum issues. He's not neutral, he's an active negative. He's the only kid who still runs to get the ball no matter where he or it is. Today he tripped our third baseman as he tried to field a ground ball after he ran in from left field.

That stresses me. At tomorrow's practice, I need to tell this kid's father that the kid needs to stay far away from try-outs. I would let him fail, but this kid will disrupt the try-out for others.

Oh, yes. My stress.

After T-ball tonight, Elvi asks me what's wrong. And I exploded. I'm sometimes moody, but I'm pretty easy-going practically all the time. Tonight, I yelled. Worse, I yelled in front of the children.

I only yelled three sentences, words to the effect of "this is what's bothering me, isn't it obvious?"

Child One ran to hide - I think. She runs to hide often. Child Two is sensitive, and crawled into a bathtub to lie down. The boy, Child Three, seems least affected.

I'm not sure what set me off. I think I've earned the right to be in a bad mood over these issues - it's not nothing. But I shouldn't have lost it there in the kitchen in front of the kids, and the house guest (who is not a source of stress, I like having him around).

Don't yell in front of your kids. It does no good. I can't imagine the harm done by parents who yell all the time. Well, that's not entirely true. I can imagine it.

Friday, June 08, 2007

"Sheep's End" Skypecast

For the last few months, several TriggerStreet members have gotten together Thursday nights to hold readings of our screenplays. We do this with the Skypecast feature of Skype - holding the VoIP version of a conference call. It works fairly well and one of us records the proceedings.

Last night, I threw "Sheep's End" to the gang. I would have liked to listen only, bu we were short of participants, so I read the black.

This was the first time I'd heard someone read my script (besides myself). Often, our readings will painfully highlights flaws in plot and execution. I gotta say, I was pleased with how "Sheep's End" survived. In fact, it reads much better aurally than it does on the page as the character nuances come to life. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing for a spec amateur.

For example, Hawthorn, the strong protagonist of few words, has a subtle transformation that's much more obvious as the tone of the words changes. That's a credit to the guy who read him, but I think it also helps the writer (me) in suggesting ways to make this pop on the page.

We conclude each reading with a discussion of the screenplay and last night, one reader mentioned a parallel I'd never considered: Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

It's a great process, and it has prompted several thoughts to consider.

Bonus career update:

I'm going to be in Toronto next Thursday for a meeting. Mike, Mark, and I will meet with the Jewish War Veterans of Canada to talk about getting our Jewish War Veterans International Memorial film project going. This is getting good.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Look away, children

On our last night of filming, round about 1 a.m., we started telling jokes as we shifted lights and cameras for a new scene. This was the best of them:

Two Canadians are playing 20 Questions. The first one ponders a moment, and comes up with "moose cock".

The second one asks the first question, "Is it edible?"

The first one thinks, and thinks again, finally answering, "Well, I guess so. Maybe. Could be."

The second one asks, "Is it moose cock?"

That cracked the room up. It's a good joke, made funnier by the hour of telling.

Saturday night, the wife and I went out with another couple to celebrate the wife's birthday. The husband of the other couple brought along a cousin from Austria. I told this joke in the car, and all the native English speakers laughed. Poor Ingo the Austrian was left in the dark so Roger, his cousin, translated the joke into German. It started something like this:

Zwei Kanadier, die 20 Fragen spielen. Das erste man denkt einen Moment und kommt oben mit (Here, Roger paused as he sought the right word.) "Elchenschwanz".

"Elchenschwanz". We fell apart when we heard that. It's just so perfect. "Ist es Elchenschwanz?"

OK, kids. You can pay attention again.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

DJing again!

I DJed college parties in the mid to late '80s. I still have a taste for that music, as you know if you've read my blog for a few months - any few months, I suppose. You'd also know that my tastes avoid pop in favour of the alternative music of the period, and similar music of the decades following. now lets you embed your own radio station on a blog page. Scroll down to see mine and enjoy. I will.

Decades? Cripes....

Just a small test is dead again. Blogger had a little problem with template changes on pages with Google Ads. All should be resolved now.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

What I did last week

Last week was a week of preparation.

I built and uploaded the bare bones of the course I start teaching next week, JOUR 519. I modified the old standard Web page I'd been using, which you can see here. I simplified the table-based layout and went to coloured cells instead of images. It's more elegant, I think - it's basic, yes, but I have no reason to get fancy.

Alex has decided to hold the official launch of our book - "Avia S-199 in Israeli AIr Force Service" in case you forgot - at the 2007 IPMS/USA convention in Anaheim toward the end of August. All our sales will be person to person or online, and this is a great opportunity to sell dozens or hundreds of copies. We've invited Lou Lenart to attend and make a speech. I've applied for a travel grant from the Canada Council for the Arts (link broken this weekend, it seems), which would barely cover air fare and hotel fees. I can't afford the $1,300 or so to get down and stay there on my own and we won't sell enough books on my presence to make it worthwhile for Alex to fly me down himself.

I got two job offers this week. One is a review of Quebec City tourist info, much like the Montreal piece I finished in January. Quebec City would be a lot more work, as I don't know that city as well or at all, and the pay would be the same so I declined. The second offer is vague about pay and work, but is essentially a Web site revamp.

Earlier in the week, I had a good, long chat with Michael Solomon (Alex's producer) and it looks like I'm on board a potential project based on the Jewish War Veterans International Memorial in Toronto. That will be fun.

Speaking of Alex, he has some good news concerning his "Medieval" screenplay. I wonder if/how I'll be involved. I've read several drafts over the last year.

And speaking of movies, I drove by a set on Sherbrooke in Westmount at about 4:30 p.m. yesterday. That's not so unusual, but what was was seeing former local Caroline Rhea putting change into a parking meter beside the equipment truck. I suppose she was involved in that shoot, but it's weird that she had to pay the meter.

Bonus fantasy baseball update:

I've been bouncing between eighth and ninth place. My pitchers have improved in terms of raw stats, but my closers have been injured (Wickman) or replaced (Torres). My hitters either don't have jobs (Murton, Montero), have been hurt (Preston Wilson, Taveras, Beltran), or have been sub-par (Berkman, Andruw Jones, De Rosa, Kouzmanoff, Bard, etc., etc.). I have a knack for picking up hitters who lose their spots almost immediately (Pie, and now Lamb). A really good month could get me into striking position, but it's not looking good.

Fortunately, Frank is solidly in tenth.

.259 batting average (10th)
64 HR (6th)
299 RBI (7th)
35 SB (7th)
3.76 ERA (4th)
1.30 WHIP (5th)
28 wins (7th)
20 saves (7th)