Friday, June 30, 2006

2006-06-30 S at Amper Bo Guesthouse Pretoria

A few weeks ago, I did the unbearably romantic thing. I invited S to a quick one-night getaway at a luxury guesthouse.

I chose to book at a place called AMPER BO in Pretoria.

Why Pretoria, you might ask? Well... simply put... S finished performing in the second show on that Sunday at around 9pm, and I wanted our getaway to be less than an hour's drive away.

Why AMPER BO, you might ask, particularly if you translate that from the Afrikaans and get the ambiguous, 'Almost There' or 'Almost at the Top'?

Well, cos I fell for the online marketing. It mentioned the fact that AMPER BO is a Herbert Baker mansion. And so on. Hype. Phrases like, built on a 'hill that is still a restricted nature reserve'.

So I phoned the place. Asked for some info. Got the hype verified.

'But,' I said, before sealing the deal, 'I'd just like to know... does the room have a fireplace?' It's mid-winter in South Africa.

'No,' said the manageress. 'But the living room has a fireplace, and you're welcome to spend time there.'

So. Off to Pretoria in the middle of the night on a cold Sunday.

And we reach the Herbert Baker mansion. And it looks kinda alluring in the dark. But the manageress meets us at the gate.

'You're in the other house,' she says. 'Please follow me in your car.'

So we get to a normal suburban house three-minutes away. And she shows us the living room. It DOES have a fireplace. But there's no fire. And it looks like the chimney isn't connected to the fireplace. And she's not offering to light it.

Our room is okay. It's got a bad art reproduction of some lions on the wall.

The clincher is when Susan says, 'Have a lovely night. You're the only guests in this part of the guesthouse tonight. But, uhm, uh, my bedroom is this one here.'

She shows us a door. Her bedroom is right next to ours. She asks us about breakfast times and preferences, and goes to sleep. Leaving us to cavort rather mutedly. (I take a few naked pics of S so that I can draw her later. This pic is the result of one of those pics.)

We're pretty darned hungry, and it's around eleven o'clock. So we look under Susan's door, and the light is out. And we sneak into the kitchen with my torch. We open all the cupboards and the two fridges. And they're completely empty.

Then my torch beam falls on a sign against the wall.

'Do not open cupboards & fridges in the kitchen.'

We go to sleep.

The phone rings for breakfast. 'Please come to the main guesthouse for breakfast,' says Susan.

'Can't you bring it here?' says S.

'Uhm, no.'

So, on the way to breakfast, we pay a visit to the kitchen first, and steal the sign. Which is now in MY kitchen. And woe betide anyone who disobeys.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Vodacom customer service gets it very badly wrong -- what will they do to rectify this?

Wow. What appalling service from Vodacom. I'm so angry I can hardly type.

Here's the chain of events that started this...

I'm sick in bed with flu right now. An incoming sms beep woke me up. 'Cool,' I thought, 'my girlfriend.'

It wasn't my girlfriend. It was Bogart Rosebank, a clothing store, with the following message:

'Our Winter Sale has started at Bogart Rosebank and Woodlands Pretoria,
All shoes up to 25% and selected clothing items, offers at Eli,
selected items up to 25%.'

Now this is not the first Bogart sms I've received. I've probably
gotten at least 20 of them in the past months. Now I've phoned Bogart
before to ask them to remove my cellphone number from their spam list.
Aside from the fact that I didn't ASK to receive their spam in the
first place, I'm not in their target market, and I despise their

So today when this sms came, I tried replying to the sms. But for some reason, that option wasn't available. 'Odd,' I thought.

I checked message details. Instead of a number in the number field, a company name appears. It's a company called Logic SMS.

I phoned Vodacom's directory listings service, and asked for Logic
SMS's telephone number. It doesn't exist. I phoned Telkom and asked the
same thing. Logic SMS doesn't exist in their books.

So I decided to do the next best thing. To cut this off at the source.
Vodacom is the company ALLOWING these spam smss to get through, so
they're obliged to make them stop.

I was on hold for 17 minutes before a pleasant lady called Rowy spoke to me.

'Hi Rowy,' I said. And I explained that I wanted Vodacom to stop this spam from being allowed to get to my phone.

She couldn't help me. At first she suggested that I should phone
Autopage Cellular, my service provider. I explained that this has
nothing to do with me or my service provider, and has to do with the
company allowing sms spam to get through the lines, namely Vodacom. She
saw it differently. 'You need to phone Bogart themselves,' she

'May I speak to your supervisor?' I said.

And I got through to Charlton. He was also very pleasant. But he was
toeing the party line. 'Vodacom isn't responsible for the sms. Bogart
is. You need to speak to them to get you off the list.'

'Nope. You guys are the people who let the spam through, so you guys
are the ones who need to stop it. I do not have any opt-out options,
which you guys are obliged to provide. So I'm holding you responsible.
May I speak to your supervisor please?'

So I got through to [EDIT: The Supervisor. REASON: No need to name her]. I said, 'I am receiving spam
smss from a company, and I'd like Vodacom to make this stop.'

'Impossible,' she said. 'You have to phone the company that's sending the smss.'

'May I speak with your supervisor, please?'

'Can you explain WHY you want to speak to my supervisor?'

'Yes. I'd like your supervisor to take action and make the spam smss stop.'

'I've already exlpained to you that it's not Vodacom's responsibility to do this...'

'May I speak to your supervisor please?'

'Only if you explain why you want to speak to my supervisor.'

'I've already explained, and I've now been on the phone for
thirty-seven minutes, and I want to speak to your supervisor please.
What is your supervisor's name?'


'May I speak with Xavier, please?'

'Only when you've explained what you want to talk to Xavier about.'

This continued, on and on and on. At a certain point, I said, 'Are you familiar with a technique called 'broken record'? That's where
I repeat my request over and over until you put me through to Xavier?'

'Yes, I'm familiar with the technique and I can also use it,' she said. And proceeded to use it.

I got her name. And asked for her email address. 'I'm not going to give
you my email address,' she said. 'I'll give you the email address of
customer care.'

'I don't need customer care's email address, I need yours,
because I want to cc you into the correspondence I have with your

'Well you can't have my email address. You can have my employee number. It's 9177.'

'Is this call being recorded?' I asked. 'Cos I hope your superiors listen to it.

And then I put the phone down.

And composed this blog post, which I'm emailing to She's Group Executive -- Corporate
Communications at the company, and I'm sure she'll be saddened by the
poor training her staff are receiving at dealing with customers such as

Dot... here are my requests:

1. Please stop Bogart/LogicSMS spam from entering my phone. The number is 082 659 3165.

2. Make it possible for all South Africans to opt out of spam.

3. Train your staff to handle queries like this.

4. Please listen to the phone recording of my chat with Nita, and note how awfully she treated me.

5. Please ask [EDIT: The Supervisor] to email me an apology for the way she spoke to me.

6. Please get back to me with news about what's being done.

Thanks very much.

Blue skies

UPDATE: Friday 30 June 2006, around 3pm: I get a phone call from a service technician at Vodacom. He asks me for all of the details that were on the spam sms. I get the message up on my phone, and give him what he needs. I still haven't received any official communications from Vodacom besides this one. I'll update as and when.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

2006-06-24 Emily Martin -- Black Apple

Emily Martin is an artist/crafter with a blog called 'Inside a Black Apple'. I came across her work on Seth Godin's blog.

Go take a look at her online store, and get some inspiration on how you might make a living as an artist. I'm inspired by her.

Yesterday she posted a self portrait on her blog, and I just couldn't resist having a go at it.

This drawing was made using Alias Sketchbook Pro 2.0 on my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc.

2006-06-23 Illustration Friday -- Rain

This week's Illustration Friday topic is 'Rain'. I'm drawing really fast at the moment, cos I've only got about an hour and a half before I need to get into my car and whizz off to the theatre.

S, my girlfriend, is the understudy for the role of Scaramouche in WE WILL ROCK YOU, and she's going on in the lead tonight. She was on last night too, but I wasn't able to get a ticket.

If I draw fast, I'll get there on time. And I really want this pic finished and up before I drive off into the cold winter night in Johannesburg.

This time I used two source photos as the basis for my drawing.

The street scene is a pic titled 'Restaurant in Venice' by a photographer called maxbog. The dude comes from a pic called 'model g09' by girinath. I found both pics on stock.xchng, a free online stock-photo library.

I cobbled the two pics together in CorelDraw 10, then copied the pic into Alias Sketchbook Pro 2.0, where I did the drawing directly on the screen of my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

2006-06-18 iMomus (Nick Currie)

This is the full-colour version of iMomus (Nick Currie), the dude who writes Click opera, an art-fiend's must-read.

According to his blog, he wears ear-muffs to give himself quiet-time.

I recently ran a performance-poetry workshop for schoolkids at St John's College (I'm also a performance poet, amongst other things), and asked Nick for permission to play a video of one of his songs to the group. He said, 'Yeah.' The song makes use of nonsense words to convey emotion. Went down well with the kids.

This drawing was made using Alias Sketchbook Pro 2.0 on a Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc with me listening to U2's ALL THAT YOU CAN'T LEAVE BEHIND loud, on a Sunday morning, disregarding my neighbours just a tad

Saturday, June 17, 2006

2006-06-17 Drawing by Roy based on Lindy Hop by Sauerkraut

This week's Illustration Friday topic is 'Dance'.

So I headed over to stock.xchng, my favourite free-photo site, and did a search for pics to do with dancing. Funnily enough, the keyword I used in the search was, 'dance'. Strange, that, hmmm? (Thanks to Seth Godin for alerting me to the photo site.)

The pic I based this drawing on is called 'Lindy Hop', by Sauerkraut.

This drawing was made in the first sixteen minutes of the match between Ghana and The Czech Republic in the soccer world cup, with the score sitting at 1--0 to Ghana, using Alias Sketchbook Pro 2.0 on my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc on a nifty portable easel attached to a camera tripod. Say that ten times fast.

Friday, June 16, 2006

2006-06-16 Robert Scoble Exits Microsoft

Just six days ago the blogging world went mad when Robert Scoble confirmed the rumours that he was no longer 'The Microsoft Blogger'.

He's one of the bloggers I read every day. I simply like the guy's ethics, openness, humility, and thought-hygiene.

He published a photo of himself on his blog revealing how he was feeling. This drawing is based on that photo, and, of course, I exaggerated things a little.

This drawing was made using Alias Sketchbook Pro 2.0, on a Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc (which I bought cos Robert Scoble has blogged quite a bit about tablet pcs), mounted on an easel attached to a tripod, in front of a digital projector screen on which I see that The Netherlands have just scored their second goal against The Ivory Coast in the World Cup Soccer.

2006-06-16 Based on 'A Day In The Life' by maryanne_b

Hmmmmmm. A very satisfying experiment for me. When I first caught a glimpse of maryanne_b's pic, 'A Day in the Life', I KNEW I had to see if I could tackle smoke successfully.

I asked for her permission to do a drawing based on the pic, and she said yes. Thanks, maryanne_b!

I had real fun doing this.

As I type this description, it's half-time during the ARGENTINA vs MONTENEGRO SERBIA match in the Soccer World Cup. Argentina's leading 3--0. That's quite a score.

I've been drawing a bit, watching soccer a bit.

Quite a neat bit of multitasking.

This drawing was made using Alias Sketchbook Pro 2.0 on my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc, on a specially modified portable easel mounted on a camera tripod base.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

2006-06-11 Bathroom

2006-06-11 Bathroom
Originally uploaded by royblumenthal.
I've been having a restful day today, lying in bed with my tablet pc, surfing the web and drawing. S is performing in two shows today... the matinee and an evening show.

I've booked us a one-night getaway in a bed & breakfast spot in Pretoria. (That's quite close to Joburg, which means we only have about an hour's drive tonight, and we can get back tomorrow at a reasonable time.)

I'm taking a minute amount of downtime right now cos I'm about to go into some intense activity. I've written a piece of industrial theatre for a pharmaceutical giant on behalf of Hecate. I'm also directing the piece, and rehearsals start in about a week. I'm also designing all of the backdrops for the show, which I'll start doing in the second half of this week.

I came across an amazingly evocative photo of a bathroom by hvhurricane on Flickr, and just had to draw it, with some of my own stuff added in for good measure.

I've pumped it into a weird, surreal, murder/suicide/debauchery scene, just cos I'm in a strange mood right now.

This drawing was made using Alias Sketchbook Pro 2.0 on my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc.

Illustration Friday: Jungle

The topic for this week's Illustration Friday is 'Jungle'. I did five pics some time ago featuring wild animals. So...

Here's my buffalo:

And here's a chimp:

This is a hippopotamus:

Followed by an elephant:

Crowned by a lion:

All of these drawings were made on my iPAQ 2210 palmtop computer, using a piece of shareware called Mobile Atelier.

Creating South Africa's first open source industrial theatre company

I'm in the process of co-creating South Africa's first open source industrial theatre company.

Every Saturday, my compatriots meet at the Hillbrow Commuinity Theatre to workshop two things... the creation of our company, and the stuff we're offering to corporates. (I've previously written up an intervention we did for a group of ex-prostitutes in Berea, near Hillbrow. We're doing another intervention this Wednesday, focussing on improving communication between the ladies and the management of the New Life Centre, the not-for-profit that provides training for them.)

I've drafted a very rough outline of how we want to structure our company. I've posted it to a site devoted to the open-sourcing of business. The site is called Open Business. And my draft is at

I'd really love it if you could visit the article, grapple with it, and offer suggestions.

The idea here is that we want our business model to work for other industrial theatre companies that want to do something similar. And we want to get input from companies and people who've gone the open source route, so that we don't have to make the same mistakes they've made.

Please visit the draft I've written and add your comments. Thanks!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

2006-06-08 Hazel Feldman

2006-06-08 Hazel Feldman
Originally uploaded by royblumenthal.
Hazel is the brains behind WE WILL ROCK YOU. An inspiring producer and impressario. And when S went on as Scaramouche, Hazel gave me and S's mom the best seats in the house. What a generous thing to do.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

2006-06-04 Jessie by RickPawl

I asked rickpawl on Flickr for permission to draw Jessie from his awesome photo of her. He said yes.

Which put me in a very difficult position. After all... 'naked woman with cello' HAS TO rank as one of my all time favourite fantasies. (Maybe I'll have to encourage S to take up this fine instrument?)

When the Illustration Friday topic of 'Portrait' came up, I thought I need to do something different to my usual subject matter. Portraiture is what I do normally. So Jessie immediately leapt into my consciousness, and I thought I'd try tackling something I've not tried before.

I'm hoping I succeeded somewhat.

This drawing was made using Alias Sketchbook Pro 2.0 on my Toshiba Tecra M4 in the privacy of my study, with the curtains closed.

It uses rickpawl's original pic of Jessie as reference:

Jessie by rickpawl

Thursday, June 01, 2006

'25 Words or Less' -- Damon Berry and I are on the shortlist for the horror movie we're co-writing

Damon Berry and I meet in the parking lot of the National Film and Video Foundation. He's carrying a bunch of papers. I open my car boot.

He says, 'Did you print out the synopsis?'

I pull it out of my bag.

The synopsis is a one-page treatment of the horror screenplay we're co-writing. We've entered it into the NFVF and UK Film Council pitching contest, '25 Words or Less'. And I got a phone call last week to say, 'Please attend a meeting with Ryan Haidarian on Thursday the first of June.'

It turns out we're on the shortlist. Our film idea has made it past the gatekeepers, and has a chance of getting made!

When I got the phone call, Damon was in New York. So I sent him a text message on his phone. And got one back from him a few hours later. Over the moon.

'Let's read this thing before we go in,' I say. And we go over our outline.

We get inside. And Ryan is waiting for us. 'We're going to be doing a conference call to London,' he says. 'We wanted to do a video conference, but the tech in London isn't working. So it'll have to be by phone, I'm afraid.'

Oh-oh. We weren't expecting this. I say, 'So who are we conferencing with in London?'

He says, 'Head of UIP in London, and someone from the UK Film Council. You know what UIP is, yeah?'

Holy cow. UIP. United International Pictures.

Ryan says, 'The world's biggest film distribution company.'

The conference call begins with the UIP representative in London saying, 'Hi! Of all the synopses we've received, yours is our favourite.'

Damon says, 'I bet you say that to all the guys.'

A slight time-lag through the phone lines, and we get two international laughs. A good start to a fifty-minute grilling.

When we leave Ryan's office, it's with the knowledge that the shortlist consists of 13 story ideas across three genres, culled from 340 submissions, and that they'll be choosing one idea from each genre. Each of those projects will be funded to the tune of £10k, and will be produced, with the aim of releasing the film internationally.

Damon and I head for La Concorde, a bakery/deli in Norwood. We're both trembling. Adrenaline is gushing through us. And he's just back from New York, so he's severely jet-lagged.

We get to our seat upstairs, and Damon orders an espresso. I stick with decaff cappuccino. And some spaghetti bolognaise, which turns out to be quite good, if a bit soggy.

We high five each other. 'Who would have thought,' says Damon, 'that when we started writing this sucker we'd stand a chance of getting it made?'

We started it in 2003. And now we've got a crack at turning it into a produced film.

We'll know on Monday or Tuesday, according to the London people. Wow.

Damon says, 'It's as if we've crossed all geographical boundaries and had a meeting in a Hollywood office. We just pitched to the head of UIP!'