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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for May 2006

58 years ago today

May 29, 1948, 101 Squadron flew its first mission with four Avia S-199s. These four pages from “101” describe that action. Do they work for you?


Four gray-green S-199s taxi. Each carries a pair of small 70-kg bombs. The low sun glistens on their new Israeli insignia.

SUPER: “May 29; Aqir Airfield”


Lou sits in S-199 #102 on the runway. The aircraft on the taxiway are numbered 104 (Modi), 101 (Eddie), and 103 (Ezer).

Lou looks at the fighters with stars of David, at each pilot. He looks at the countryside, the country they represent. He recites the Sh’mah, the affirmation prayer of Judaism.


Sh’mah yisra’el, adonai eluheynu, adonai echad.

He carefully throttles up. 102 begins to swing left, but Lou controls it, adds more power. 102 thunders down the runway and climbs slowly into the sky.

Behind, 104 advances onto the runway.


The S-199s fly low in echelon. 102 leads 104, 101 leads 103.

Lou peers at the terrain. He looks back at Modi and raises his hands in a gesture of “I have no idea where we are.”

Modi gives a thumb-up. 104 noses forward to take the lead.


Over the sea, Modi spots the inland target: Isdud. He points it out to Lou.

102 reclaims flight lead.


EGYPTIAN SOLDIERS and a dozen vehicles occupy this Arab village’s town square. The EGYPTIAN COMMANDER and AIDE consult a map on the hood of their armored car.

A stork flies from Isdud over the road northeast. Below the bird, more Egyptian soldiers and vehicles line the road, concentrated at a bend in the road a mile out of town. The stork flies over a steep-walled wadi and a destroyed bridge whose ancient stone pillars still stand defiantly.

Across the wadi, ISRAELI SOLDIERS hunker down in trenches and foxholes. Some fidget in jeeps and half-tracks.

At the growl of piston engines, the stork veers off. The sound grows louder.


Israeli machine-gunners swivel north, prepare to fire.

Out of the north, two S-199s fly in on the deck. The ISRAELI COMMANDER discerns the stars of David under their wings.


Hold your fire!

102 and 104 pass over low. 104 banks away to the left.

After a moment of disbelief, the Israeli infantry cheer.


Lou spots the mass of Egyptians at the bend in the highway.



He stays to the right of the road, heads for central Isdud.


The Egyptian soldiers ignore the sound of distant aircraft. The commander scans the sky, sights an inbound fighter to the north, points it out to his aide.

The aircraft flies directly at him. Two small bombs fall from its belly.

The commander yells a warning in Arabic, scrambles under his armored car.


Lou passes low over Isdud. His two bombs explode in the square behind him.

Two more bombs hit the road farther north. Secondary explosions tear through the Egyptian column.


Egyptians run to man AA guns. Their trucks burn and explode.

104 flies south along the highway, then turns east.


A sweaty Modi pulls 104 to the left. He looks back at the burning column.

He enters a gradual climbing turn until he points into the setting sun. In front of him, greasy smoke rises from burning trucks. The air is thick with disorganized AA tracers.

Modi pitches forward to strafe the Egyptian vehicles. Recoil shakes his S-199 as his wing cannons boom.

Eddie’s 101 also strafes the highway, south to north. Light AA fire peppers it.

Modi pulls up to avoid a collision with 101.


Ezer zips in low from the coast. He aims for the mass of vehicles at the bend in the road. His wing cannons boom once, then stop. His cowl machine guns tick on anemically.

He pounds the dashboard.


God fucking damn it bastard fucking Nazi fucking aeroplane!

He mashes the cannon trigger. He’s unsteady on the stick. His machine-gun fire stitches the ground haphazardly.

Streams of AA tracer reach out for him. He gives up on the trigger. He weaves through the AA storm, escapes unscathed.


Modi and ground crew surround 104. Its left tire is blown, its prop blades and left wingtip bend at odd angles. Skid marks and ruts in the dirt mark its path off the runway.


Ezer cranks down the flaps, aggravates a blister. He lowers the landing gear. He sees the men and the wrecked 104 ahead.

He lands a shallow approach, rolls past the wreck.


The control tower is equipped with a few radios and little else. Milt works a radio, chews an unlit cigar. Modi and Ezer, still in flight gear, and Milt watch Lou’s 102 taxi.


Red Leader to Oklahoma tower.


Oklahoma tower to Red Leader. Go ahead.


I have a spot of damage here, chaps, but I have Oklahoma in sight. Request clearance.

The three pilots in the tower scan the sky but see nothing.


Oklahoma tower to Red Leader. You’re cleared to land, but we don’t see you.


Roger, Oklahoma. Red Leader on final.


Red Leader, we don’t see you.


Red Leader to Oklahoma. I’m landing runway sixteen. Look south.

The pilots look south. There’s nothing there.


Red Leader? Cohen? Eddie?

An ugly plume of black smoke sprouts on the southwestern horizon, two miles away.


Well, shit.

Webs 1, dryer 1, chicken salad 0

I tore the dryer apart yesterday. I took off the back plate, lifted the top, and removed the vent the lint trap slides into.

The drum was a bit stiff, but I pushed it with some force and it started to rotate more freely. The blower fan didn’t turn either. I pushed that, then it too spun freely.

I plugged the dryer back in and it worked.

I guess the water filtered down through the lint trap to the blower fan on the bottom and brought some lint down with it, like sediment. The water evaporated, and the lint build-up seized the blower fan’s axle. That’s my assumption, anyway.

But give the dryer a point toward a draw. As I reassembled it this morning, I dropped a screw down the vent. It fell below the fan, I was sure – there was nowhere else for it to go – but I couldn’t see it behind the fan blades. I figured that if the fan were moving, I could see through it enough to spot the screw. As I sped the fan by hand, my finger slipped off and the sharp edge of a steel panel sliced it open. I didn’t need stitches, but it is my right index finger, so I offer the dryer its due. I found the screw, though.

I shudder to think what a service call might have resulted in. A new motor? A new blower? Would a repairman come in, wiggle the fan and drum and leave? I suspect not.

Today, Child Three and I visited a film set in St. Henri. Robert the director was filming the script I helped him with earlier this year. Patrick, the assistant who drove the children and me to the “Dr. Bethune” set last summer, was on Robert’s crew. I think I recognized another face as well. We arrived during lunch break and stayed on set a total of two hours, long enough to see two shots. Robert asked Child Three to come up with an idea for his next film. It looks like it’ll be a war movie, with ten people and two catapults on each side. No horses, though – the siege engines will be towed by donkeys.

On set, I ate a dubious chicken salad wrap that today’s warm sun had been heating for who knows how long. So far, I’ve kept it down.

Bonus WarBirds video:

WarBirds has a new beta version out that establishes that state of the art of flight modelling. This video shows a low-level dance among flak bursts between a Bf 109E and a Spitfire Mk I.


For the past month, I’ve been searching for an external story on which I could hang the internal story of “By the Book”. I had been toying with a court case, but it felt so bolted on, inorganic to the spine of the story.

This morning, I discovered how to sew them together. Sort of. I have the first few sutures in place, but I’m sure that as I write, the rest will tie things together. The result should be more healthy patient than Frankenstein monster.

I am raring to get at this. Unfortunately, Elvi’s recording DUBB‘s second album in studio this weekend and I have the kids. This week will be filled with visiting family and events: Child One is having her bat mitzvah next Sunday.

As long as this temporary delay sharpens my hunger to get this idea and subsequent thoughts onto the page, it’s not a problem.

Bonus money pit update:

The van sucked up $1,500 for repairs. Our plumber thinks the dryer just needs a new belt, and maybe a new fuse. Let’s hope. I’m about to tackle it.

Inside the “House” (spoilers)

I’ll leave more complex analysis of this week’s “House” to other people, like Diane. I just want to point out that House’s nemesis in the episode is named Moriarty. I hope I don’t have to point out that that is the name of Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis, but I just did anyway.

Thing is, the shooter is called Moriarty only in House’s hallucination. So House himself gives this man, this internal opponent/consultant/other half, that name.

I can’t help wondering whether Sherlock Holmes exists as fiction in the world of “House”. If the detective books exist, then Greg House has to know about them, and the amazing coincidence that he also lives at 221B. If the books do not exist, then House thought up the name Moriarty on his own, seemingly without reason.

I think I prefer the second reason, but next season, some character will mention Holmes, and it will ruin the series for me.

The pipe to the back hose is fixed. Small steps, small steps….

Bonus Irrational League update:

I had something else to put in a Bonus, but I’ve forgotten what it was, so I might as well post baseball stats. I’m in first, one point ahead of Frank. Although I’ve spent most of the time since the last update in second place, I was up by six or so points a couple of days ago.

.290 batting average (1st)
82 HR (2nd)
319 RBI (2nd)
38 SB (7th)
4.11 ERA (4th)
1.33 WHIP (4th)
26 wins (tied 2nd)
17 saves (6th)


I received two lovely packages today (Wednesday).

Ismo Santala hangs out at the Artful Writer forums where one lazy Sunday evening (Finland time) he decided to give away his copy of Robert McKee’s “Story” to the first person who’s reply.

One lazy Sunday afternoon (Canada time), I found Ismo’s post and was the first to reply. His generous gift arrived today.

I’ve twice mentioned that David Mamet wrote a script about the ferrying of aircraft to Israel. The second package was that screenplay. A bit of research led to Mamet’s stage agent in New York, who then gave me the name of his screenplay agent in California. I called up and explained that I’d like to read it. The assistant I spoke with told me to put it in an e-mail and they’d get the message to Mamet.

Today, “Russian Poland” dropped through my mail slot – with a small handwritten note from the author thanking me for my interest.

Either I misunderstood Soly (see the first 101 link up there) or Soly has his information wrong. Regardless, this script has nothing to do with 101 Squadron (phew!). It involves the ferrying of an anonymous twin-engine fighter-bomber (in my mind, a Beaufighter) from Italy to Israel in 1948, but most of this mystical script takes place in shtetls. It was a quick read, and intellectual, too. You can read about a reading of the script Mamet gave at the Jerusalem Film Festival in Forward.

Bonus minivan update:

Looks like the van needs a new engine. Again. And the place that put in our last one, and guaranteed it for a year? Out of business.

Sorry for the disruption is undergoing a server migration. I went ahead and registered with new DNS servers before I had the new IP address I’m still waiting for. Anyone who tried to visit for a good chunk of Tuesday saw a page with ads.

I reverted to the original IP address while I continue to wait. Were I really clever, I would have done that from the start.

From now on, the changeover should be practically seamless.

Rainy and downcast

Montrealers have been living under the edge of the system that has flooded Boston and soaked New England. It’s been raining off and on here since Tuesday, but it’s more depressing than threatening to property.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk, but it’s not the rain. Usually, I feel down when I don’t do anything. This week, I finished up a research job, did a bit for Alex, and wrapped up the first draft of “72 Virgins”. But I still feel blah.

Fans of my vehicle trouble will be delighted to hear that the van stalled on Elvi early this morning as she returned from a DUBB show. It’s a holiday weekend in Canada, so we don’t have to scramble to get the kids to school tomorrow. Then again, nobody will work on the van tomorrow either, so the Monday holiday just delays the inconvenience.

Part of the problem is cash flow, which is tight with Elvi in grad school. She has decided to take her master’s rather than fast-tracking into a Ph.D., program. She’ll apply for jobs and doctorate programs. In the meantime, we’re essentially living on a credit line bought with the house’s increased property value. It has more than doubled since we bought it in 1999. Thankfully.

I talked a bit about things with Elvi, and coincidentally with Alex when I saw him yesterday. He boiled the problem down into a demi-glace of disappointment. Basically, I’m doing a bunch of little things. I’m writing a successful short or two. I’m doing research jobs. I’m teaching part-time. But there’s no grand plan. As Alex put it, “a bunch of little things don’t add up to much.” That’s it. Damn those writers and their keen, delicious insight.

I have no grand plan. I roll forward, picking things up things like a Katamari Damacy, but also leaving a trail behind me so I never get bigger. And lately, I’m picking up broken pipes, broken dryers, a need for new glasses and contact lenses that I can’t afford, and now a broken van.

Alex suggested I look into writing for animation, which is a big market in Montreal. If you see a “Cailliou” in which he frets over his eyesight and makes stupid cooking references, you’ll know I succeeded.

Bonus birthday wishes:

Amid all this, I forgot my brother’s birthday yesterday. Happy birthday!

My sister’s birthday is today. I doubt she reads 101, but just in case: happy birthday!

What I do to actually make money

Reader’s Digest is the most keenly fact-checked magazine on Earth. I may have alluded to this previously, but one of my freelance gigs is research for its Canadian edition (affectionately known as CRD).

What usually happens is that the magazine assigns me an article to fact-check, and I have to attribute every phrase of it to multiple sources. Even if it’s a quote, I need to find a second source to back that up.

I used to write CRD’s “It’s a Fact” feature, in which the magazine answers reader mail with questions like “Why do men have nipples?”, “Who invented the Tooth Fairy?”, and “Why does a stop sign have six sides?” (That’s a trick question – stop signs have eight sides. Why? Because the first stop signs were shaped like coffins, which also have eight sides. That one took a lot of digging to unravel.) If you go to the site and click on the sample questions, you’ll see an abridged version of one of mine – the sumo wrestler question.

I loved doing those questions, but the editor I work with prefers that I handle more complicated articles, so he took me off that beat. I tend to get the more technical stories, which is fine. I worked on this one, about a trucker in mortal peril. A lot of the stories involve mortal peril. I don’t get too many of the fluffy pieces.

I’m finishing up work on another assignment, one on road safety. The article mentions a man whose wife was killed by road debris. Starting with nothing more than a name on a RCMP press release, I had to track this man down. I went through Canada411, two newspapers, two TV stations, two crown counsels, and one church looking for him. He was not an easy man to find. He called me this afternoon – one of the lawyers had left a message for him at an old phone number and word got through.

I’m professional about it, but it’s difficult to talk to these people, especially at first. You never know how they are dealing with the tragedy, psychologically. Physically, even the non-fatal incidents often leave injuries that take years to heal. And I’m never one of the first to talk with them. By the time I get to them, they recounted the incident countless times. Until I can gauge where they’re at, it’s like driving on wet ice – which is literally what they may have done.

So this man – let’s call him Joe – calls me today. Joe’s wife was killed in a terrible, random accident right in front of him and their three kids three years ago. And I have to talk to him about it. And ask him about the man who drove the other vehicle involved in the accident.

Joe made it easy on me, by being an extraordinarily decent human being. He had nothing but empathy for the other driver, who was equally innocent but blamed himself for Joe’s wife’s death. It was inspiring.

There is one thing that many of the victims I speak with have in common. They do love to talk. That makes my job easier at first, but it’s hard to hang up the phone. I get paid by the hour, so no big deal.

Bonus good (and bad) newslets:

“Sheep’s End” is back in the TriggerStreet top ten.

Miguel Ojeda just grounded into a double play to keep Brad Penny on track for a win in Colorado.

We figured out why our dryer was getting wet. The pipe leading to the backyard faucet is split, so when Elvi used the hose outside, water would spurt out and land on and only on the dryer. The bad news is that we have to pay to fix that pipe and that the dryer no longer operates. The problem is not something simple, like the fuses.

Sunday night, our house was egged. We’re not sure why. My family is inoffensive, and I haven’t provoked anybody in years. It was a concerted effort, with four raw eggs launched at once. Three hit windows, which were easy to clean. One hit the siding on our second floor. We can’t clean that off until the pipe in the basement is fixed. The big question is: am I old enough to grouse about neighbourhood hooligans yet?


“Sheep’s End” has dropped out of TriggerStreet’s top ten and languishes in the 600s, a victim of a less than stellar review. It continues to sport a blue star, which indicates that it once was a top ten script. It’s no big deal. Nobody rushes to TriggerStreet to buy scripts.

On the bright side, my Irrational League team is back in first after a seemingly endless period in third place. I wonder how long I’ll stay at the top. I lost three starters last week: Woody Williams is out for two months with a torn calf muscle; Ben Sheets is out for an indeterminate time with a sore shoulder; and Odalis Perez was sent to the bullpen. Thank goodness Brad Penny’s MRI was clear.

.295 batting average (1st)
64 HR (2nd)
247 RBI (3rd)
33 SB (tied 6th)
4.22 ERA (5th)
1.33 WHIP (4th)
23 wins (1st)
15 saves (5th)

I’m in first by two points over the dreaded Frank.

This morning, I submitted my application for part-time teaching next year. JOUR 428 was not on it, but I did check the box to let the department know that I’m available for any courses that may open up. You know, just in case somebody changes their mind. Because the kids don’t need 13 weeks on blogging. Just saying….

I also received my teaching evaluations. I can’t share those with you online, but you can find me at Apparently, I’m good and hot.

Now, back to Filemaker Pro work for Alex and research work for Reader’s Digest. I’m gonna get cracking again on “72 Virgins” this week.

TriggerStreet top ten!

I put up that 2.0 version of “Sheep’s End” I finished a couple of weeks ago on TriggerStreet to see what the folks there thought.

The first version had settled in at about #930 out of the 2,500 or so scripts TriggerStreet has online.

The newer version has garnered seven randomly assigned reviews so far, and I’ve been waiting for it to hit double digits before mentioning the gist of any critiques here. After seven reviews, yesterday this version ranked around #400. Top 20% is nothing to sneeze at.

Today, “Sheep’s End” found its way into TriggerStreet’s top ten screenplays. The top ten on TriggerStreet are selected outside the standard ranking system, and generally come from the top 400 scripts. They stay in the top ten until knocked out by a competitor or a lack of credits (earned by the author’s reviews). The top ten placing sounds more impressive than it is, but it’s still an honour, and it’s rare to get into that elite class after only seven reviews.

Reviewer #1 was the most enthusiastic, calling my screenplay “postively delightful” and expressing hope that it would get made. He liked how I kept Hawthorn a down-to-earth protagonist with continuous obstacles.

Reviewer #2 mostly tried to teach me how to write the English. You get those reviews on TriggerStreet every once in a while.

Reviewer #3 enjoyed my “subversive comedy”, but felt my heroes’ goals were not ambitious enough. He said I aimed “for a three star movie and hit the mark but there are five stars for the taking.” Worth thinking about.

Reviewer #4 thought I “really brought these people to life… by mere moments that contained pages worth of information about them.” He appreciated my “fantastic” dialogue and its “juicy subtext”, but had a few questions about motivation. That was a big problem in the earlier draft, so I’ll look at that again, if I take another whack at this. I may move on.

Reviewer #5 also really liked it, but questioned the stakes. He also questioned the fantasy elements. Fantasy is derivative by nature, and I tried to break that with a less fantastic plot. Still, it’s more to chew on.

Reviewer #6 echoed the first: he wants to sees this on a screen one day.

Reviewer #7 didn’t like my jokes, but still enjoyed the read.

There we go (and, yeah, as far as I can tell, all seven reviewers are male). I’ll probably get two or three more reviews, but not from anybody who has $20 million to blow on a fantasy adventure. I’ll keep you posted.

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