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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for May 2007




I’s in mah blog, leavin’ a lists….

1. Geoffrey Chaucer can hath a cheezburgyr:

2. Lolcode, with a sample from elsewhere:

        YA RLY
                BTW this is true
                VISIBLE “BIG NUMBER!”
        NO WAI
                BTW this is false
                VISIBLE “LITTLE NUMBER!”

Academic discussion of Lolcat dialect found heres.

3. Finally, 101 can has anonymouse confirmashunz of our Conger line. Look at the comment.

Oh cod

Jenny (Lina) and Buster (Omari) had a beautiful decorative platter on the coffee table in front of them. (That’s my coffee table, by the way.) I said that what they really should have is a bucket of Grand Banks Cod Pieces… and Alex zipped off to fetch some fish sticks to place on the table instead of the platter.

Obviously, we’re going to have to market the aphrodisiac properties of Cod Pieces:

Alex mentioned this about last night:

It also turned out to be much more complex to play back in one scene video that you just shot in a previous scene. Part of the cost of dealing with new digital video cameras is that no one is completely familiar with all their idiosyncrasies, particularly how they interface with computers. The mere fact that you can throw footage from your first scene up on a TV in your second scene is pretty cool. But you have to work all the bugs out before you get to set.

That was one of “the dozens of tasks we flung at (me) on short notice” and I can go into a bit of detail, because folks who look for this info online might find it valuable.

We wanted to record a scene early in the evening, then replay it on a TV in another scene. We used a Panasonic HVX200 camera with many extra bells and whistles. The camera spits out MXF files. That’s a proprietary format, and we needed proprietary software to convert it to something we could play on the TV. Final Cut Pro could have done it – but we didn’t have it.

In addition to the HVX200, we had a fancy camcorder, and software that could play the MXF files, but not export them to another format. We also had a Mac with iMovie HD.

Our first try was to use the HVX200 to film in DV format – a waste, really – then use that output in iMovie HD. That worked, except that some gadget on the camera inverted the image and iMovie couldn’t rotate the frame. I looked online and found a free plug-in that could rotate the frame back to right-side-up, but by that time, the crew had decided that DV quality wasn’t up to snuff.

We ended up using the camcorder to film the laptop screen as the MXF clips played.

I’m pretty sure that the takes we did with greenscreen on the TV will prove more useful.

I wanna get creative

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours ago, I got to be creative. In the one of the scenes we filmed yesterday morning, Buster asks Tilda for help with a sales presentation. Alex ask me to create the presentation as a prop, with a cover page.

Alex is styling the film as Canadian propaganda – you saw the photo of him petting the giant beaver, right? I knew I wanted a Canadian theme for the presentation, and I nailed it on the second try. Then I drew a cartoon logo:

It cracked up Omari and Johanna. While the camera was off, they came up with an entire business plan and advertising strategy. It was a blast.

The shoots went long yesterday. I learned that it’s extremely difficult to film action going around a corner when the crew has little room to maneuver. We left our office set on St. Catherine to shoot at La Table Ronde (a medieval store) in Old Montreal, on a beautiful Saturday night in May during an American holiday weekend. It took me an hour and twenty minutes to find a place to park. Even the lots were full. Three times, a car ahead of me took a spot that had just opened up.

I eventually found parking not too far away, and jogged in with the costumes I’d been transporting. My tardiness did not slow the shoot, fortunately. The scene was a dolly shot (the camera, on a cart, is pushed along a track made of a thick vinyl tube) with characters moving as well, which complicates the maintenance of focus. The store was hot, and sound was polluted with scraping chairs and thumping from the diners in the restaurant upstairs. It was tense, and I think I had the best job of the night, standing outside the store, shushing passers-by.

Tonight we film at Alex’s apartment from 5:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. or so.

Second day on set

As Alex points out, Al Goulem has been fantastic, as have all the actors.

Al was not originally on Alex’s radar for casting, but I think he’s great, so I brought him to Alex’s attention with a few clips from “The Tournament”. Alex was still reluctant. I don’t think Alex could see through the Barry McConnell character to the talent that brought him to life, but agreed to give it a go. At most, the loss was a ten minutes of audition time, and the upside was – well, the upside was what we saw today.

Also, my surgically altered cell phones performed more or less as advertised. Beyond resetting the cell phones, I did have a lot more to do today, which felt rewarding. And the crew are all decent people and the unit has meshed well.

A surprise visitor to the set today was Geoff Uloth, whose girlfriend lives in one of the houses we filmed in front of today. He and I run into each other all the time: I used to borrow projectors from him at Concordia; we both attend MFG meetings; and DUBB contributed songs to one of his brother’s films. But today was the first time we chatted.

Bonus book news:

The print shop in Korea had some problems with colour, so our book is delayed. If all goes well, it will begin the print run late next week.

Raanan Weiss and Shlomo Aloni have a book on 101 Squadron coming out this summer as well, but their book covers decades of history. Alex wants to officially launch our book at the Los Angeles IPMS meeting in August but I doubt I’ll have the cash to get down there. I may try to do something here in Montreal or at Toronto’s Jewish Book Fair in Toronto in the fall.

First day of shooting

Once the set for Alex’s film was dressed, I did a whole lot of sitting around. The small room in which today’s shoot took place could not hold all of us and I didn’t have one of the golden tickets.

I did, however, pull bubble wrap off an enormous beaver.

Mark and I spent two hours after everyone else left shooting the breeze and talking more Beurling.

Set call tomorrow is 5:00 a.m. I ought to be asleep.

Open letter to Flight Journal

(I e-mailed this to the editor of Flight Journal magazine.)

As a researcher who has studied archives and interviewed participants in the air war of Israel’s War of Independence for nearly two decades, “Strange Bedfellows” (June 2007) naturally drew my attention on the magazine stand.

What a disappointment.

Bob Haus’s article is riddled with errors and discredited information. Furthermore, it appears that he did no original work to create this article, but produced a compilation of information that he skimmed from other sources.

On the first page, the article claims that shortages of fuel, parts, and mechanics kept the aircraft grounded. Fuel was not a concern, nor was parts, and the squadron functioned with imported Czechoslovakian mechanics as well as many native and volunteer ground crew. The reason the S-199s flew so little was because they kept crashing.

The caption on p. 70 says that the (Israeli Air Force) museum S-199 carries the D.112 serial number. The S-199 at the museum is currently painted as D.120. The caption also says D.112 was the aircraft Modi Alon flew June 3, 1948. It was not, as D.112 had not yet entered service on that date. Alon probably flew D.105 or D.106. Similarly, the caption on the next page states that Baron Wiseberg crashed D.120 on June 4, but again, D.120 was not yet in service on that date. That statement is an error repeated from Cull/Aloni/Nicolle’s “Spitfires Over Israel”.

It is true that the Jumo 211F could not produce as much power as the DB 605 series of the Bf 109G, but the two engines weighed about the same. The Jumo drove the massive VS 11 propeller that produced much more torque and P-factor (airflow twisting force) than the standard fighter propeller married to the DB 605.

On p.73, Haus writes that the Israelis called the fighter the “Sakeen”. This is not so. No one called the the S-199 a “Sakeen” until decades later. The air force and its crews called it a Messerschmitt or Messer.

Also on that page is a photo of Rudy Augarten with “an Egyptian Spitfire he downed.” This is another error taken from other sources. A simple examination of the photograph shows that Augarten is leaning against the massive propeller of a S-199 with its wingtip behind him. You can see the 20mm cannon under Rudy’s right armpit.

At the bottom of the page, the cutline shows 101 Squadron Spitfires “prior to battle”, but this photo was taken after hostilities ceased. Spitfire 31 did not reach Israel until after the war.

On p.74, Haus contends that Alon’s victories over the Egyptian Dakotas ended bombing of Tel Aviv. That is only partially true. The REAF stopped sending bombers over Tel Aviv, but REAF Spitfires continued to bomb the city.

Haus has an American bias when he calls the squadron that flew the S-199s the 101st Fighter Squadron. Israel used the squadron-naming conventions of the RAF and called the unit officially “No. 101 Squadron (Fighter)”. In use, this was shortened to 101 Squadron, pronounced “one-oh-one” – although some of the American volunteers did call it the “Hundred-First”.

Also on p.74, Haus says only 24 of 25 S-199s were delivered. In fact, Israel took delivery of all 25 S-199s, but one was destroyed when the transport carrying the fuselage crashed in Israel.

I could go on, but that should suffice to register my complaint. I have more accurate information at, and in my forthcoming book with Alex Yofe, “Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service” (now in press). It is a shame that such misinformation continues to propagate.

Bonus comedy:

Is Timothy Cullen for real? Either this is exquisite comedy or it’s no wonder spec writers have to work so hard to be taken seriously.

Film work

I haven’t been doing much exciting, but I have been doing much.

For the short film, I’ve been calling local merchants and asking them to donate merchandise for use as props. We’re willing to put their goods on screen, pretty much front and center if they give them to us for free. For example, we want some cool maple syrup bottles from an Old Montreal store. The bottles contribute to the story, as the film’s all about Canadianness, but I still can’t help thinking of last fall’s brouhaha hiccup over NBC’s product placement. I’ve never had too big a problem with product placement.

The short is based on a chapter of a book, which by coincidence has a second edition coming out in June. We want to feature the book in the short, but the new edition is not yet available, so I’m creating mock copies of the second edition by using covers to cover a third book. The first and second edition are different sizes, so I can’t just re-cover the first edition with the second cover. The publisher doesn’t want me to disfigure the book inside, which made it a difficult technological problem. I decided on tabs of two-sided tape, which can be removed without damaging the paper.

Monday, I have to drive around town setting up meals for crew and printing out posters to be used on camera. Interesting fact: no matter what time of day it is, the meal served during shooting is called lunch.

My most interesting task is rigging a cell phone to fall apart upon a smash. The inside is held together with Allen screws of a size between 1/64″ and 0.05″, and I don’t have the proper size Allen key. It might be metric. I have to drill out the screws, then reassemble the phone so that it’s held together with dots of white glue. That should retain the phone’s integrity when handle normally yet release when smashed.

We film this week, Thursday through Sunday.

Wow and two more ows

It’s been a whirlwind three days.

Tuesday and Wednesday I spent wearing my consultant hat. I scrounge occasional work as a Mac consultant for small business, and a few weeks ago my friend Joy decided it was time to upgrade. She runs a small graphic design shop and has hired a second artist. Since she’d have to buy a new workstation for him, she decided to upgrade herself and to add a drawing tablet.

Joy (and I) love CRT monitors, but they are on the way out, replaced by LCD flat screens. I looked at La Cie and that company no longer even makes CRT displays. The nice thing about Joy is that money is not much of a factor, so I get to go crazy vicariously. I mentioned the Wacom Cintiq 21UX tiltable monitor with built-in drawing tablet, which has received phenomenal reviews across the Web. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single product so universally celebrated. Joy wanted to to buy all Tuesday, though, and wasn’t crazy about buying that without trying one out.

We drove to the Apple Store in Carrefour Laval, where Dave. the drummer in DUBB (Elvi’s band), works as a genius. Two hours later, we walked out with a 3.0 GHz Mac Pro with 30″ Cinema display, a 2.66 GHz Mac with 23″ display, and a Wacom Intous 3 tablet. Joy also sprung for wireless keyboards and mice. She spent more than $12,000 (Canadian). (I don’t charge by equipment cost, but hourly.)

While we waited for the techs to install the wireless cards and extra RAM, I indulged my inner metrosexual and went clothes shopping with Joy. We girls picked out some clothes at Old Navy for her boy and were not surprised when Visa turned down the card after the $12,000 spending spree.

We took the equipment back to her office and I set up the two machines. This was the first time I had the opportunity to use target mode to transfer files between an old Mac and a new one, and I hadn’t realized I’d need a Firewire cable to do that. I popped downstairs to pick one up at the nearby Microbytes and spotted ClĂ©ment, DUBB’s band leader and trombonist, on the sidewalk. He works in the same building as Joy.

The files transferred like… – well, like they should. It is so easy and it just works. Joy’s IT guy is a big Windows fan and insisted that he could build a similar PC for a sixth the cost. Once we went through what the Macs offer, he changed his tune. He wasn’t aware that the Macs use Xeon chips, for example. He’s now willing to admit that the Mac is at most a few hundred dollars overpriced. I don’t necessarily agree, but even if so, it’s a small price to pay for the ease of use – like transfer mode. We left the office with the transfer underway.

I suffered my first new injury the next morning, being yesterday. One foot slipped on our vestibule floor and my other shin came down hard on the door jamb. I don’t bruise easily, but I felt every second step I took yesterday.

Joy had a few small problems that I fixed with new software installations and one problem that I can’t solve. The fonts used by her widgets are an outline font and impossible to read. It’s almost certainly a font management problem. She uses FontAgent Pro to manage fonts instead of Font Book, but I don’t know the widgets (and the Apple widget Web page) would fail to display properly with all fonts active. I could troubleshoot this, probably solve it by getting rid of FontAgent Pro, but she likes that software. Maybe it needs an upgrade. Everything went smoothly.

Back home, I got a second new ow, a headache – not a migraine, but a doozy. It took the painkillers a while to dull the pain and once they did, I only managed a fitful sleep, again. This has become a common disturbance. It never used to happen. I’d been hoping for a good night’s sleep because today I joined the tech scout to all the locations for Alex’s film.

I met the rest of the major crew and we traveled from location to location setting up shots and establish lists of gear and props. At times, I felt useless, but I learned a lot just listening. Our first location was at the office of Richard, an old camp acquaintance of mine. He’s real big on history, and we had a nice chat about the Avia S-199 book, which should be in my hands soon.

Richard was not the only person to chat airplanes with me. Among locations, Mark and I had a running conversation about George Beurling, who coincidentally died 59 years ago this coming weekend. We discussed what a story about him would be like. We plan to talk more in the future. Who knows? Maybe this could grow into something. I haven’t brought up my mechanima/3-D/music video idea with him yet, but that might be a place to start.

Bonus hunting update:

I’ve caught no more mice since the first two. They are either becoming rarer or smarter….


I helped the wife move some couches onto the front lawn for an impromptu garage sale yesterday and I strained the forearm muscles that move your fingers.

Wait a sec. Need a little lesson in cool anatomy? Ever notice how you can’t flex a muscle in your fingers? That’s because there are nearly no muscles in your fingers. Open and close your fingers as you look at your forearm. See the muscles working? The muscles that move your fingers are in your forearm and act through long tendons that pass through your hand.

So I strained those muscles and today whenever I push, pull, or (ow) type, it hurts not surprisingly like a pulled muscle does.

Other than pushing, pulling, and typing, what am I up to? I just returned from another meeting, this one with Peter Downie to discuss the summer course I’ll be teaching.

I’m also quite proud that I managed to find four identical cell phones for free this weekend, for use as props in Alex’s short. I picked those up this morning. It wasn’t as easy as you’d think. My next task for the shoot is to find restaurants willing to barter food for advertising, and then to re-cover some books, also meant as props. (Ow.)

My l33t ranger skill with wilderness traps has dispatched two mice so far behind the TV cabinet. I feel a bit odd about that. The mice hang around inside our walls and maybe eat pet food. They do not get into our people food and if it weren’t for their tiny feces, we wouldn’t notice them at all. I wonder if I even need to slay them. You don’t get many experience points. On the other hand, I’m curious how many there are.

(Have I written that take on it before? I vaguely recall it, but it could be my mind playing tricks.)

Life is not all unpaid work and death-bringing. The wife and I headed out to la Tulipe to experience its Pop 80 Saturday night ’80s room.

I liked the selection of music, which generally shied away from the American pop you’d hear at Electric Avenue. Unlike the latter, la Tulipe lacks that Crescent Street vibe – for me, that’s another positive. And the drinks are stronger. The room is a converted concert hall/theatre which though full still lets you move around easily. If you go, print out the coupon at the Web site for $2 off admission.

La Tulipe has an intriguing new Friday night event starting this week: a night of new wave.

Bonus link:

I know I’ve posted a lot of material from other writers recently, even though that’s something I try to avoid. (Ow.) Here’s more advice, which I’ll only link to. Mark Lewis wrote “Top 10 Lies told to Naive Artists and Designers“. His advice applies to all creative types, not just graphic artists.

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