Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Theatre on the Square, Sandton

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Service: * * * *
Food: * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * * *

It's the launch of the television series I'm directing. Go_Open, on SABC2 every Saturday from 5:30pm. It's only a half hour, and it'll open your eyes and soul to the open source movement.

Ok. So maybe I'm overselling it a bit. But I'm in a hype frame of mind. Cos this is a baby of mine, and it's being revealed to journalists and geeks for the first time.

A waiter bearing a tray of delectables comes round. I take one. "Are there things with chocolate?" I ask.

"They'll be coming later, after the show," he says. I'll have to be patient.

Mark Shuttleworth's hairstyle isn't in the immediate vicinity. Where the heck is he? Ah... must be on a space station somewhere. (He ought to be making an appearance, seeing as he's one of the major sponsors of the show, and he's the most vocal proponent of open source in South Africa.)

The foyer is crowded with people. Only half of them are geeks. The rest are press people. They're probably here because they think they're gonna get a piece of Mr Shuttleworth. He's like Nelson Mandela... everyone wants to touch his hand.

The public address system asks us to take our seats. We've hired the Theatre on the Square cos it's a lovely venue for doing a screening.

All of the beautiful people sidle in. I sit next to Elaine. She's doing research for us, but that's not what she's famous for. She's THE Elaine from the legendary restaurant, "Risky Business" in Melville (long departed, I'm afraid). Rumour has it that she MAY be CONSIDERING opening another restaurant at some point soon. But that's just hearsay. And you heard it first on Coffee-Shop Schmuck, okay?

Next to Elaine is a friend of hers. A delectable 24-year old innocent called Silke. Hmmmmm. I wonder how corruptible she is???

Now that Karen and I are only seeing each other on a contingency basis, I'm back on the dating scene. So my eyes are spread wide at all of the extremely talented looking women in the room.

But all that stops when John Vlismas, South Africa's funniest man, trots onto the stage. He's our anchor-person on the show, and he's into open source, and he's intent on making this audience hip to the fact that open source is the business. "Take me to your server!" he says. Then, "Wan, lan, thank you ma'am!" (Okay... so to find it funny, you've actually gotta BE here.)

He gets us rolling around on the floor for a while, and then the lights dim, and Shuttleworth makes his appearance. We've recorded him, cos he can't actually be here, what with his various commitments to being in space craft here and outta this world. So he wishes us all a good journey. Then our virgin show unfolds on the screen. I'm entranced. It's captivating. Amazing television. This is the best tv I've ever seen. Well... the bits I directed, I mean.

And then it's over, and we're all out in the foyer, schmoozing.

"Excuse me," I say to the waiter. "Uhm... can we have those chocolate things now?"

"Uh, after the savouries," he says, and whips the tray away from my ungrateful fingers.

Several tries later, the room is starting to enter. "Please," I say, "I'm begging you!"

The open source movement is about sharing information. It's about freedom. It's about getting ideas out into the world without killing intellectual property.

He looks around. "Okay," he says, and disappears, only to reappear seconds later with a tray filled with chocolate coated nuts. "Handmade," he says.

Suddenly a whole bunch of people wearing suits come down the stairs carrying computers. They stick out like thumbs that have been slammed repeatedly under a laptop lid. One of those old laptops. With the heavy plastic. Serious damage. They start setting things up. And they're wearing name tags.

"George," I say to one of them, the one with the double-breasted pinstripe, the one whose swagger suggests seniority.

He looks up at me, startled. "George," I say, "wouldn't you guys like to have some sweets?"

He breaks eye contact immediately. We're from the open source movement. He's probably been given instructions by his superiors. "Uh, no, no thanks. Thanks very much, no," he says.

I call the waiter. "Please offer these new people some sweets," I say.

The sweets are all refused. I can see the cogs whirring in their heads. They're looking at the sweets saying, "These CAN'T be free! There's gotta be a catch! We probably get the first one free, and then we've gotta pay a licence fee every year for upgrades and support!"

The guys and girls in the suits are here for a function straight after ours. They are the guys from the main opponent the open source movement has. They are employed by Microsoft.

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