Monday, October 25, 2004

Pizza Pronto, Sandton

Monday, October 25, 2004

Service: *
Food: *
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * *

Tonight I'm doing battle against the mighty Tony Lelliot.

"What are you doing for coffee now that your Ethiopian supply has dried up?" I ask. Tony's a coffee aficionado, and a buddy of his was based in Ethiopia for a while.

"Oh, I just buy stuff at ridiculously high prices," he says.

We set up the backgammon board, and I start pounding him with heavy artillery. I take a convincing lead early on, and it looks like tonight's gonna be a cinch for me. I spot an opportunity to shed some blood. Tony's blood. I offer him the cube. He takes. A few quick blows later and he's got five blots on the bar! That's FIVE! Count 'em!!! Viva! I smash him down, and beat him not with a gammon (which is a double game), but by a backgammon -- a triple game. That's six points.

This is Adeline, my buddy Charl's girlfriend. They've actually agreed to get married to each other after several years of blissful cohabitation."Hey, Peter!" I shout. "Do you want my ten bucks now?" Anyone who beats someone by a backgammon in our club has to pay ten rand into a kitty. At the end of the year, all of the winners in the kitty draw to win the full amount. Winning a triple game is non-trivial. It takes balls of steel and a certain amount of foolish play to pull it off.

I'm gloating deluxe when suddenly Tony sits back in his chair, concentrates, then rubs his fingers up and down his moustache. "Right," he says, and starts flinging dice across the board. Suddenly my 14--4 lead starts narrowing. Suddenly we're at 16--15 to me. I stay just ahead, but Tony's playing fearsome backgammon.

My phone rings. It's an international call. "Tony, do you mind if I take this?"

"No problem," he says, and rubs his moustache again.

"Hi," I say to the phone, "this is Roy."

"Hi, Roy," says an American voice on the other end of the line. It's one of the people we're interviewing for Go_Open, the tv show I'm co-directing. He chuckles, "Are you deposing me?"

I'm a bit baffled, but I assume he's being playful, so I laugh with him and ask him what he means.

"Well," he says, "the video link-up centre you're asking me to go to? Well, it's a deposition centre, and I can't go to a deposition centre. It's just not possible for me."

I have no idea what he's talking about. A deposition centre??? This is so weird. "Uh..." I say, "I'm not sure why that's a bad thing."

"Well, how do I know you guys aren't working for S.C.O.?"

The way I hear him, over a muffled international cellphone connection, I hear some weird US government agency acronym. What he's ACTUALLY referring to is a company that's systematically suing huge corporations who use Linux, claiming that Linux has a piece of code in its kernel that they own, and that they want royalties from. So because I mis-hear him, I make a complete fool of myself by saying, "Working for S.C.O.? I don't even know what that IS?"

"You don't know what S.C.O. is???" he says. "You're doing a show on open source! I think you'd better do your research."

Oh man. This conversation is tanking fast.

He says, "Well, whatever, how do I know you're not working for them?"

I've twigged by this point what he's talking about, but there's no graceful way out.

I tell him that we've done a video link-up with Richard Stallman.

"Did Richard Stallman go down to a deposition centre for his link?" he asks. "I don't think so."

I explain how this video conferencing thing works. "There's a South African video conferencing company we outsource to," I say, "and they find a venue closest to the person we're interviewing. We have no idea what type of facility it is. I has no idea that we were sending you to a deposition centre." (And frankly, even if I'd known, I wouldn't have guessed in a million years that it would be quite such a hectic place to go to.)

"Yeah, yeah," he says. "Anything can be explained away."

This guy genuinely thinks that some two-bit television production company in South Africa is trying to trap him into saying something on camera that could ruin his career. I dunno. If I WERE working for some major conspiracy, I'm sure I would know my mark a bit better, and I'm absolutely certain I wouldn't have attempted to get him to do his video conference link-up in a place that would scare him. If I were a conspiracy dude, I'd probably try and lull him somehow. Sheesh. I dunno.

"Well," I say, "how do we get around this?"

"Well," he says, "why don't we just use the video link-up system at my office?"

WHAT??? This is just not believable. Who has a video link-up facility in their own goddamn office??? If we'd known this from the beginning, there'd have been no problems at all.

I end the conversation by letting him know that he won't be forced to do the link-up at the deposition centre, that our researcher will send him the list of questions we intend asking, and that our production manager will sort out how to do the link-up at his office.

I go back to the backgammon board.

My supper has finally arrived. I ordered the tuna salad. This is simply one of the worst salads I've encountered. It's basically dollops of mayo with about a third of a tin of tuna splayed over it, on a bed of lettuce, with some cherry tomatoes and onion. Ugh!

Tony plays like an S.C.O. agent... aggressively, mercilessly, and with vast amounts of money backing him. He beats me 21--20.

I guess I'd better wake up and smell his Ethiopian coffee.

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