Thursday 30 December 2010


Screen writing is fascinating! I don’t think I that good at it, but I am learning all the time, and I love the process. I certainly believe I have improved since I started exploring film making 10 years ago.

What makes a film, and its script, memorable, are the characters. Plots are secondary - characters are what it is all about.

There are two fundamental lessons I learned from my film making friends, and these are:

- avoid exposition ALWAYS - ie, anything that is on the nose, remove it

- characters only speak when they want something - ie, characters need to be motivated

Now, looking at the second point, this is a reflection of reality. When do we speak to other people? When we want something.

If life really does imitates art/movies, then we only ever speak to another person/character when we want something, on screen or off. And what a character says is never as important or interesting as to why they said it. What motivates a character (motive) is what makes us invest in a person and follow them. And non-exposition is what makes what they say interestingit leaves things to the imagination.

Yeah, next year is film making time!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Friday 24 December 2010

Love thy neighbour

I read the funniest thing the other day - I had to share it:

I just took a leaflet out of my mailbox, informing me that I can have sex at 82! I am sooooo happy, because I live at 73 ... so it's not far to walk home afterwards.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Monday 20 December 2010

X factor

Making a movie is such a risky proposition. Like a blind date!

Think about this: you have to put a whole bunch of actors together, under pressure, for long hours, in unnatural surroundings. This is one long blind date indeed, and that is what a movie shoot is all about. Yes, and you are hoping that there will be chemistry between all these strangers. That is the X factor - that is the unknown - the luck.

Of course, without a good script, you will only have bad luck, but if the script is good, you still need a lot of luck. If the chemistry is good, then luck is on your side.

I am excited about "Material" - please God we have plenty of chemisty for next year's blind date!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Opening weekend

The arts business is cruel - it is not for the feint hearted. And in the arts domain, movies are the toughest.

Books and CDs, for example, don't have an opening weekend, where the box office numbers are scrutinized with a magnifying glass.

Like a Web site, a book can grow, as the word of mouth spreads, if the right notes are hit. But, a feature film is an all or nothing kind of thing. It is hell on the nerves! Talk about suffering for one's art. When a movie opens you just pace up and down all night long.

I guess life really is about the numbers, no matter which way you look at it.

Next year we are going ahead with the Material movie and I am already pacing up and down, and we have not even made the film yet. A big journey awaits!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Thursday 9 December 2010

Funny Business eBook

We got some exciting news this week! The Funny Business book is now also available on in eBook format. Yes, you can get it for your Kindle or your iPad.

Check this out :

On you can also send the eBook as a gift - you gotta love this new world!

Thank you to everyone who has supported this cool book - we have had so much encouraging feedback. In fact, I heard that the publisher is going to have a second print run soon.

Funny business indeed!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Tuesday 7 December 2010

In decent

A friend of mine sent this to me - it was too good not to share :

An elderly couple, who were both widowed, had been going out with each other for a long time. Urged on by their friends, they decided it was finally time to get married. Before the wedding, they went out to dinner & had a long conversation regarding how their marriage might work... They discussed finances, living arrangements, and so on.

Finally, the old gentleman decided it was time to broach the subject of their physical relationship. 'So, How do you feel about sex?' he asked, rather tentatively.

'I would like it infrequently,' she replied.

The old gentleman sat quietly for a moment, adjusted his glasses, then leaned over towards her and whispered, 'Is that one word or two?'

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Saturday 4 December 2010

Bed time story

So, I was in Hyde Park the other day. I met with Nick, our man main from the Coliseum - now that is one soulful dude!

Nick tells me that his wife works in this fancy shop in the mall there that sells duvet covers for 60 grand a pop. Holy cow!?

Nick then says to me that anyone who works hard for their money doesn't spend it on crap like molto expensive bed spreads. The folk who have made money by working hard may by a property offshore, but they don't waste it on crap like expensive luggage etc. This is generally for the nouveau riche and those tenderpreneurers that we keep reading about in the newspaper. Spot on Nick!

People who come in to money quickly, without taking any risks, or busting a sweat, think, in my view, that by spending money on ridiculous priced things that it gives them class, but as my mother and father remind me, class comes from character, and characters comes from hard work - you can't buy it !

It has been a long year, and some much needed rest is just what the doctor ordered. Rest that does not involved million buck bedding. I have heard of stashing money in the mattress, but splashing out money on a mattress, well, that is whole other story.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday 28 November 2010

Sexual adviser

A friend of mine sent this to me. It is about "the Jewish" board of directors. It was too good not to share:

Schwartz, Cohen and Ginsburg were all close friends since childhood.

They decided they wanted to go into business together.

Schwartz says, "OK! I'll invest $100,000."

Cohen says, "I will go for $200,000".

Ginsburg says, "All right, I'll put in $1,000."

Cohen says, "If I'm putting in $200,000, I'll be the President and CEO of the corporation. You, Schwartz, for your $100,000, you can be Vice President and CFO, and Ginsburg, for your $1,000, you will be our Sexual Adviser."

Puzzled, Ginsburg asks Cohen, "What is a Sexual Adviser?"

Cohen replies, "When we want your f*cking advice, we'll ask for it."

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Chopped liver

So, I am not 100%. I have some medical problems. But the specialist doctor I am seeing assures me that it is nothing fatal. But still, it is serious, and I need to spend time on my health (we all do for that matter). We take better care of our cars than we do of our bodies.

I have been to so many doctors in the past 18 months and it is starting to drive me a bit crazy. But, I need to listen, and they are the best in the land.

I am currently busy with a very nice doctor, a hematologist, who is trying to figure out what is going on with my iron levels and my liver.

I go and see this new doctor a few months ago, and when I get there, I am told that the doctor is running late, and I tell them I have to be at the airport in a few hours to fly to London, so, by some small stroke of luck, they manage to "squeeze" me in. Phew!

But then, a month or so goes by, and I need to go back to the doctor. And this is where this short story begins. I am told the doctor is running late, because of an emergency she had to attend at the hospital earlier that morning, and that all the appointments are now running late. But it is 4 pm, and I have a 6 pm meeting which I could not miss, and the traffic after 5 pm is going to be intense. So, I ask the lady behind the counter how long she thinks it will be. She tells me, with a very uninterested vibe, that she can't say. I ask her to take a guess. And she looks at me and says "Could be an hour, could be more." Now I have a dilemma. Do I wait and cancel my 6 pm meeting, or, do I leave and make another appointment? My health is in need of attention, and I had to wait for weeks to get this appointment - this is not cool. So, I ask this lady again why she didn't call me to tell me that the doctor was running an hour or so late, and she looks at me and goes "I am too busy to call everyone." I was not impressed, to say the least!

What am I? Chopped liver?!

I ask her, "Oh, so I am not busy. Only you are busy." She is not happy with my defiance and says to me "What is the matter?" I tell her that this is going to hurt me a lot if I miss my meeting later. And she goes "The doctor had an emergency this morning. Please understand." I tell her that if I don't make my meeting later I am also going to have emergency on my hands. But she is not interested. I tell her that it is not fair, and she says to me with some kind of smirk "No one else seems to have a problem waiting." Well, perhaps they are all unemployed or something. I tell her this, and she goes on and on about the emergency again and says to me "If it was you in the hospital and you needed the doctor for an emergency then what?!" Now, hang on, I am as sympathetic as the next person, and an emergency is an emergency, but why couldn't this arrogant gate keeper simply phone me and tell me that there is a delay. You know, a bit of professional courtesy, just in case I happen to have a job, or something. Are the only people seeing doctors unemployed, with nothing better to do? What a crock of shit!

I remember the wisdom I have learnt from business. About the genius of the AND verses the tyranny of the OR. Yes, the doctor can look after emergencies and they could let me know. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

So, I finally saw the doctor, and I asked for a doctor's note, so that I could explain why I was late at my meeting later. The doctor laughed and said that they should have called me. Ah, some justice prevails.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Thursday 18 November 2010

Huge police bust in Hillbrow

A friend sent this to me - it made me laugh, and it also made me nervous.

Gauteng Police just announced the discovery of an arms cache of 200 semi automatic rifles with 250,000 rounds of ammunition, 10 anti-tank missiles, 4 grenade launchers, 2 tonnes of heroin, R80 million in forged South African banknotes and 25 trafficked Nigerian prostitutes all in a block of flats behind the Hillbrow Public Library.

Local residents were stunned.

A community spokesman said: "We're shocked. We never knew we had a library!"

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday 14 November 2010

Short message service - please take note

Yes, the progress paradox continues to haunt each and every one of us. The cellphone is the master, and we are all a bunch of dumb Venter trailers.

You know, it is called the short message service for a reason. So, what is with these 30 line SMS's that people send out ... WTF !?

Do I now have to sit and reply to this long short message. Guys, come on!!! And actually, worse than the long SMS is the short one that goes, "Long time no speak - what's happening on your side?" Or, the one that goes, "How are you doing these days?" Which, if to be taken seriously, requires a long reply. Has the world completely lost the plot ?!

It is like those sincere emails, that you get on the BCC - seriously, come on!! You knows those ones, that go from Joe, To Joe, with some heart-felt message how a few close friends are getting together blah , blah , blah ... if they are such close friends then why not a personal invite ?

Yeah, the short message service ... if it is meant to be so short, then surely we can actually do without it!

A short VLOG with a very short message.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Monday 8 November 2010

Obscure Engineering Conversion Factors

A friend sent this to me - it was too good not to share.

1. Ratio of an igloo's circumference to its diameter = Eskimo Pi

2. 2000 pounds of Chinese Soup = Won ton

3. 1 millionth of a mouthwash = 1 microscope

4. Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement = 1bananosecond

5. Weight an evangelist carries with God = 1 billigram

6. Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour = Knotfurlong

7. 365.25 days of drinking low calorie beer = 1 Lite year

8. 16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Serling

9. Half a large intestine = 1 semicolon

10. 1,000,000 aches = 1 megahurtz

11. Basic unit of laryngitis - 1 hoarsepower

12. Shortest distance between two jokes - a straight line

13. 453.6 graham crackers = 1 pound cake

14. 1 million microphones = 1 megaphone

15. 1 million bicycles = 1 megacycle

16. 365 bicycles = 1 unicycle

17. 2000 mockingbirds = two kilomockingbirds

18. 10 cards = 1 decacard

19. 52 cards = 1 deckacard

20. 1 kilogram of falling figs = 1 Fig Newton

21. 1000 ccs of wet socks = 1 literhosen

22. 1 millionth of a fish = 1 microfiche

23. 1 trillion pins = 1 terrapin

24. 10 rations = 1 decaration

25. 100 rations = 1 C-Ration

26. 2 monograms = 1 diagram

27. 8 nickels = 2 paradigms

28. 5 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital = One I.V. League

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Wednesday 3 November 2010

A good teacher can teach under the shade of a tree ...

I just watched this on the Web, and I was blown away!

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity - creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types…

Here is the transcript of his poweful talk:

Good morning. How are you? It's been great, hasn't it? I've been blown away by the whole thing. In fact, I'm leaving. (Laughter) There have been three themes, haven't there, running through the conference, which are relevant to what I want to talk about. One is the extraordinary evidence of human creativity in all of the presentations that we've had and in all of the people here. Just the variety of it and the range of it. The second is that it's put us in a place where we have no idea what's going to happen, in terms of the future. No idea how this may play out.

I have an interest in education -- actually, what I find is everybody has an interest in education. Don't you? I find this very interesting. If you're at a dinner party, and you say you work in education -- actually, you're not often at dinner parties, frankly, if you work in education. (Laughter) You're not asked. And you're never asked back, curiously. That's strange to me. But if you are, and you say to somebody, you know, they say, "What do you do?" and you say you work in education, you can see the blood run from their face. They're like, "Oh my God," you know, "Why me? My one night out all week." (Laughter) But if you ask about their education, they pin you to the wall. Because it's one of those things that goes deep with people, am I right? Like religion, and money and other things. I have a big interest in education, and I think we all do. We have a huge vested interest in it, partly because it's education that's meant to take us into this future that we can't grasp. If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue -- despite all the expertise that's been on parade for the past four days -- what the world will look like in five years' time. And yet we're meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary.

And the third part of this is that we've all agreed, nonetheless, on the really extraordinary capacities that children have -- their capacities for innovation. I mean, Sirena last night was a marvel, wasn't she? Just seeing what she could do. And she's exceptional, but I think she's not, so to speak, exceptional in the whole of childhood. What you have there is a person of extraordinary dedication who found a talent. And my contention is, all kids have tremendous talents. And we squander them, pretty ruthlessly. So I want to talk about education and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status. (Applause) Thank you. That was it, by the way. Thank you very much. (Laughter) So, 15 minutes left. Well, I was born ... no. (Laughter)

I heard a great story recently -- I love telling it -- of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson. She was six and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, "What are you drawing?" And the girl said, "I'm drawing a picture of God." And the teacher said, "But nobody knows what God looks like." And the girl said, "They will in a minute." (Laughter)

When my son was four in England -- actually he was four everywhere, to be honest. (Laughter) If we're being strict about it, wherever he went, he was four that year. He was in the Nativity play. Do you remember the story? No, it was big. It was a big story. Mel Gibson did the sequel. You may have seen it: "Nativity II." But James got the part of Joseph, which we were thrilled about. We considered this to be one of the lead parts. We had the place crammed full of agents in T-shirts: "James Robinson IS Joseph!" (Laughter) He didn't have to speak, but you know the bit where the three kings come in. They come in bearing gifts, and they bring gold, frankincense and myrhh. This really happened. We were sitting there and I think they just went out of sequence, because we talked to the little boy afterward and we said, "You OK with that?" And he said, "Yeah, why? Was that wrong?" They just switched, that was it. Anyway, the three boys came in -- four-year-olds with tea towels on their heads -- and they put these boxes down, and the first boy said, "I bring you gold." And the second boy said, "I bring you myrhh." And the third boy said, "Frank sent this." (Laughter)

What these things have in common is that kids will take a chance. If they don't know, they'll have a go. Am I right? They're not frightened of being wrong. Now, I don't mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original. If you're not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way. We stigmatize mistakes. And we're now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities. Picasso once said this. He said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it. So why is this?

I lived in Stratford-on-Avon until about five years ago. In fact, we moved from Stratford to Los Angeles. So you can imagine what a seamless transition that was. (Laughter) Actually, we lived in a place called Snitterfield, just outside Stratford, which is where Shakespeare's father was born. Are you struck by a new thought? I was. You don't think of Shakespeare having a father, do you? Do you? Because you don't think of Shakespeare being a child, do you? Shakespeare being seven? I never thought of it. I mean, he was seven at some point. He was in somebody's English class, wasn't he? How annoying would that be? (Laughter) "Must try harder." Being sent to bed by his dad, you know, to Shakespeare, "Go to bed, now," to William Shakespeare, "and put the pencil down. And stop speaking like that. It's confusing everybody." (Laughter)

Anyway, we moved from Stratford to Los Angeles, and I just want to say a word about the transition, actually. My son didn't want to come. I've got two kids. He's 21 now; my daughter's 16. He didn't want to come to Los Angeles. He loved it, but he had a girlfriend in England. This was the love of his life, Sarah. He'd known her for a month. Mind you, they'd had their fourth anniversary, because it's a long time when you're 16. Anyway, he was really upset on the plane, and he said, "I'll never find another girl like Sarah." And we were rather pleased about that, frankly, because she was the main reason we were leaving the country. (Laughter)

But something strikes you when you move to America and when you travel around the world: Every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one. Doesn't matter where you go. You'd think it would be otherwise, but it isn't. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on Earth. And in pretty much every system too, there's a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are normally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn't an education system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think math is very important, but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they're allowed to, we all do. We all have bodies, don't we? Did I miss a meeting? (Laughter) Truthfully, what happens is, as children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side.

If you were to visit education, as an alien, and say "What's it for, public education?" I think you'd have to conclude -- if you look at the output, who really succeeds by this, who does everything that they should, who gets all the brownie points, who are the winners -- I think you'd have to conclude the whole purpose of public education throughout the world is to produce university professors. Isn't it? They're the people who come out the top. And I used to be one, so there. (Laughter) And I like university professors, but you know, we shouldn't hold them up as the high-water mark of all human achievement. They're just a form of life, another form of life. But they're rather curious, and I say this out of affection for them. There's something curious about professors in my experience -- not all of them, but typically -- they live in their heads. They live up there, and slightly to one side. They're disembodied, you know, in a kind of literal way. They look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads, don't they? (Laughter) It's a way of getting their head to meetings. If you want real evidence of out-of-body experiences, by the way, get yourself along to a residential conference of senior academics, and pop into the discotheque on the final night. (Laughter) And there you will see it -- grown men and women writhing uncontrollably, off the beat, waiting until it ends so they can go home and write a paper about it.

Now our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. And there's a reason. The whole system was invented -- around the world, there were no public systems of education, really, before the 19th century. They all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism. So the hierarchy is rooted on two ideas. Number one, that the most useful subjects for work are at the top. So you were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don't do music, you're not going to be a musician; don't do art, you won't be an artist. Benign advice -- now, profoundly mistaken. The whole world is engulfed in a revolution. And the second is academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence, because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they're not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn't valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can't afford to go on that way.

In the next 30 years, according to UNESCO, more people worldwide will be graduating through education than since the beginning of history. More people, and it's the combination of all the things we've talked about -- technology and its transformation effect on work, and demography and the huge explosion in population. Suddenly, degrees aren't worth anything. Isn't that true? When I was a student, if you had a degree, you had a job. If you didn't have a job it's because you didn't want one. And I didn't want one, frankly. (Laughter) But now kids with degrees are often heading home to carry on playing video games, because you need an MA where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a PhD for the other. It's a process of academic inflation. And it indicates the whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence.

We know three things about intelligence. One, it's diverse. We think about the world in all the ways that we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement. Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions of a human brain, as we heard yesterday from a number of presentations, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn't divided into compartments. In fact, creativity -- which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value -- more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.

The brain is intentionally -- by the way, there's a shaft of nerves that joins the two halves of the brain called the corpus callosum. It's thicker in women. Following off from Helen yesterday, I think this is probably why women are better at multi-tasking. Because you are, aren't you? There's a raft of research, but I know it from my personal life. If my wife is cooking a meal at home -- which is not often, thankfully. (Laughter) But you know, she's doing -- no, she's good at some things -- but if she's cooking, you know, she's dealing with people on the phone, she's talking to the kids, she's painting the ceiling, she's doing open-heart surgery over here. If I'm cooking, the door is shut, the kids are out, the phone's on the hook, if she comes in I get annoyed. I say, "Terry, please, I'm trying to fry an egg in here. Give me a break." (Laughter) Actually, you know that old philosophical thing, if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it happen? Remember that old chestnut? I saw a great t-shirt really recently which said, "If a man speaks his mind in a forest, and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?" (Laughter)

And the third thing about intelligence is, it's distinct. I'm doing a new book at the moment called "Epiphany," which is based on a series of interviews with people about how they discovered their talent. I'm fascinated by how people got to be there. It's really prompted by a conversation I had with a wonderful woman who maybe most people have never heard of, she's called Gillian Lynne, have you heard of her? Some have. She's a choreographer and everybody knows her work. She did "Cats," and "Phantom of the Opera." She's wonderful. I used to be on the board of the Royal Ballet, in England, as you can see. Anyway, Gillian and I had lunch one day and I said, "Gillian, how'd you get to be a dancer?" And she said it was interesting, when she was at school, she was really hopeless. And the school, in the '30s, wrote to her parents and said, "We think Gillian has a learning disorder." She couldn't concentrate, she was fidgeting. I think now they'd say she had ADHD. Wouldn't you? But this was the 1930s, and ADHD hadn't been invented at this point. It wasn't an available condition. (Laughter) People weren't aware they could have that.

Anyway, she went to see this specialist. So, this oak-paneled room, and she was there with her mother, and she was led and sat on a chair at the end, and she sat on her hands for 20 minutes while this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school. And at the end of it -- because she was disturbing people, her homework was always late, and so on, little kid of eight -- in the end, the doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, "Gillian, I've listened to all these things that your mother's told me, and I need to speak to her privately." He said, "Wait here, we'll be back, we won't be very long." and they went and left her. But as they went out the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out the room, he said to her mother, "Just stand and watch her." And the minute they left the room, she said, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother and said, "Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick, she's a dancer. Take her to a dance school."

I said, "What happened?" She said, "She did. I can't tell you how wonderful it was. We walked in this room and it was full of people like me. People who couldn't sit still. People who had to move to think." Who had to move to think. They did ballet, they did tap, they did jazz, they did modern, they did contemporary. She was eventually auditioned for the Royal Ballet School, she became a soloist, she had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet. She eventually graduated from the Royal Ballet School and founded her own company -- the Gillian Lynne Dance Company -- met Andrew Lloyd Weber. She's been responsible for some of the most successful musical theater productions in history, she's given pleasure to millions, and she's a multi-millionaire. Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.

Now, I think ... (Applause) What I think it comes to is this: Al Gore spoke the other night about ecology, and the revolution that was triggered by Rachel Carson. I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won't serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we're educating our children. There was a wonderful quote by Jonas Salk, who said, "If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish." And he's right.

What TED celebrates is the gift of the human imagination. We have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely, and that we avert some of the scenarios scenarios that we've talked about. And the only way we'll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are, and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future. By the way -- we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it. Thank you very much.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Friday 29 October 2010

Funny Business: the book

We’ve always been taught that the world is made up of atoms. It’s not. It’s made up of stories. Think about it. Someone had to make up that story about the atoms, right? I’m not saying atoms aren’t real, but come on, when did you last see one?

Stories, on the other hand, are a real, tangible part of our everyday lives. We connect over stories, we swap and share stories, we bond over stories. Business, too, is all about the stories we tell and the stories we are told. Just look in any Annual Report, and you’ll see what I mean!

A good story, like a funny joke, is something we will always remember. We never forget a compelling punchline, and we love to hear people's reactions when we tell them our colourful tales. Inspiring people with stories is a big part of what make life magical.

In our country, we are surrounded by stories, many of them uplifting and unforgettable. The World Cup story, from earlier this year - although it seems like a decade ago now - united the nation, and captured the world's imagination. That kind of story is one in a billion.

So when Gus Silber approached me with an idea for a book that captures the lighter side of business, I got excited. Gus is a fantastic writer (he agrees) and has a sharp sense of humour and a great insight into life in general.

What started out as two bagel-eating guys talking crap about the spirit of entrepreneurship, resulted in what I believe is a very cool book of stories about business and life. It’s called Funny Business. It’s a book that explores the way the world works, how to get things done, and why stuff happens.

It’s about why people sometimes succeed against their expectations, and why people sometimes fail despite their best efforts and intentions. Talent and competence are two very different things. While many people in the world have talent and enthusiasm, a lot of them don't win, and vice versa.

Yes, a lot of people win without much talent, and with sloppy work ethics. What is the connection between being smart and winning in business? Is there a connection at all?

Universities are full of very clever Professors with no money, and the world is full of crazy characters who are loaded with money. Of course, there are also a lot of smart people who have built big businesses. But the bottom line, whether you are smart or not, is that there is one that everyone needs to succeed - luck!

Without good luck, all bets are off. The American industrialist J. Paul Getty once said the secret to success was: "You wake up early, you work hard, and you find oil."

Tomorrow you could get up in the morning, and find gold in your back yard, and the rest will be history. Of course, the more you dig, the more you have a chance to find the glory at the end of the rainbow. But one thing is for sure, if you dig for oil in the Karoo you are not going to find it.

You need the ability to recognise luck, good or bad, when it comes your way. You don't need to be a genius to build a business, but you do need luck on your side, and the good news is that luck is something you can influence. Being nice to people helps. And keeping your promises is the secret.

People who say what they mean and mean what they say always tend to be luckier than those who don't. And of course, as the saying goes, the more you practice the luckier you get. Yes, luck does favour the persistent.

Woody Allen once said that 80% of success is just showing up. You would be surprised how many people don't know how the world works. Being punctual, for example, is fundamental. Delivering and keeping your word is paramount. Being good is just good for business.

In today's world of high-tech and fast communications, so many people don't know how to get things done, especially the youth.

The youngsters of today, to a large degree, confuse Facebook with a real network, and they send SMS's rather than talking to someone over the phone. They have tons of experience behind a keyboard and have clocked up thousands of hours of screen time, but put them in a room with a bunch of non tech-savvy folk, and nothing happens.

All business is about winning and losing. An entrepreneur who has never had a setback or a loss is simply just a lucky sun of a gun. All of life's journeys are about climbing mountains, and more often than not, falling down.

Those who get back up and keep climbing often get to the summit. The key to all of this is to remember to laugh. Taking your work seriously is one thing, but taking yourself too seriously is not good for your health!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Saturday 23 October 2010

Slam dunkin'

If I brought you a property deal (or any deal for that matter) that was a slam dunk you would invest - of course you would - it is a no brainer! Finding a good opportunity, with a good idea, an idea that is already in motion, is the hardest thing in the world. Finding someone to invest, to write out a cheque, is the easy part.

Good opportunities are very few and far between. These youngsters today think they are just lying around - investors are the ones lying around - the good opportunities are not!

Remember, everyone wants to attend a party, but few will conceptualize, arrange and stage them!

Boy, am I tired - I need some rest. Soon soon ...

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Monday 18 October 2010

Who wants to be a billionaire?!

You know the world is uninspired, and short of role models, when they say things all the time in the newspaper like "Billionaire Joe Soap bought a stake in Acme Inc." Can't they qualify the person with what he/she has done for the world, like hotel entrepreneur Joe Soap, or technology pioneer Jane Doe, or restaurateur Bill Jones ... Everything is millionaire this and billionaire that. Ask these clowns how they became a billionaire and you won't get a straight answer.

But that's not where it ends, because all we ever hear about is the stakes they buy - not what they have created. How boring!

Where are the role models these days?

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Thursday 14 October 2010

Wrapping up

Not too long ago, I put something in this blog that I read in a Global Wrapps newsletter. And, again, something in their media message got my attention, well, a couple of things actually. Perhaps it is also because I know the driver here, the man behind the mission, and he is top draw. A more enlightened and inspired person is hard to find. This is what they had to share with us this week :

As I am writing this the Chile Mine rescue drama is coming to a successful end. This human drama has been a case study in disaster management, leadership and co-operation. The entire rescue was expertly managed, above and below ground.

Why was this so successful? Why did the human spirit triumph under such adversity when daily it collapses when confronted by trivial issues?

The first and obvious reasons that come to mind is that the situation was never politicised. No one used this to gain political points, although many points were earned. There was no monetary motive and exerts gave their time and knowledge freely, as was equipment given. No energy was wasted in trying to apportion blame or to avoid responsibility. And of course the bravery shown, by the miners their families and the rescuers. It was triumph of engineering and a triumph of the human spirit. Humanity at its best, a lesson for the entire world.

And then the Wrappers go on to another story, something which I follow with great interest:

Stats SA have finally lifted the embargo on the OFFICIAL June and July 2010 Tourist Reports. Consequently, the TRUE figures (well, as true as they get at Stats SA anyway) are there for all to see.

Overseas arrivals for the period June and July 2009 totaled 283 703. Overseas arrivals for the same period in 2010 amounted to 460 387.

That's an increase of 176 684 overseas visitors in total for the two months June and July 2010.

And they've probably inflated those figures as much as they possibly could - like they've included 36 053 "overseas arrivals" BY ROAD! - which I must presume to be re-entries from Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho, Zim etc., that they have cheerfully double counted.

Nevertheless, there you have the OFFICIAL WORD on the HUGE WINDFALL South Africa experienced because of the 2010 world Cup: at best, a paltry total of just 176 684 additional overseas visitors.

Given that the expenditure incurred to host the 2010 World Cup was about R31 billion, the "acquisition cost" was R176 684 for each one of the 176 684 additional tourists that visited during that period.

Fascinating, eh!

And with that, I am off to the Global Wrapps up the road from us, to get a quick bite!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Monday 11 October 2010

Sleep glorious sleep

I asked my friend Dave in Boston about the current mood there in America. And this is what he said to me, "Everyone always asks me that. The answer though is simple. When the sun is out the mood is good, and when it rains the mood is not as good."

Yup, life is really quite simple. If I get a good night's sleep, then the next day I feel good, and if I get a bad night's sleep then the next day I don't feel so good. So, are you going let me sleep peacefully tonight, or not ?!

There I go again - talking to myself ... and as my Rabbi recently said, "It takes rain and sunshine to make a rainbow."

Ah, I need a good night's sleep!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Funny Business

So, over a year ago, the author, Gus Silber, approached me about writing a book: Funny Business. And guess what: it is coming out next week!

It turned out great (even if I say so myself). Gus, thank you - what a fantastic journey!

Here is some of the back cover for you - I hope this intrigues you enough to get a copy - I promise it will entertain you.

Funny Business: The Secrets of an Accidental Entrepreneur

Why does an entrepreneur, like a comedian, need to close a deal every 15 seconds?

• Why it helps, as an entrepreneur, to have a nice Jewish mother

• Why being a waiter is the best training for an entrepreneur, especially if you’re serving steak tartare
• Why you sometimes need to slow down to move fast in a world where progress is a paradox
• Why some mistakes are too good to make only once

Much more than a business book, this book is everyone’s business. It’s about the way the world works; it’s about living your life with grace and purpose; it’s about learning to love what you do for a living. And it might help you to make it as an entrepreneur … not to mention a stand-up comic.

Sales points (the pitch from the publisher):

• A business book for people who never want to read a business book: offers pithy, witty, yet serious business insights and wisdom in an accessible and entertaining way.
• Contains fascinating inside stories on the movie industry, a world unfamiliar, yet fascinating, to many.
• Will appeal to businesspeople or those who want to be in business for themselves.

It will be out in stores from next week or get it online already from Kalahari or Exclusives, etc.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Friday 1 October 2010

Who enjoys more?

A friend of mine sent this to me - it made me laugh - I had to share it.

A man and a woman were having drinks, getting to know one another and started bantering back and forth about male / female issues. They talked about who was better in certain sports, who were the better entertainers, etc. The flirting continued for more than an hour when the topic of sex came up. So they got into an argument about who enjoyed sex more. The man said, "Men obviously enjoy sex more than women. Why do you think we're so obsessed with getting laid?" He then went on for several hours arguing his point, even going so far as to ask other men in the bar for their opinions. The woman listened quietly until the man was finished making his point. Confident in the strength of his argument, the man awaited her response.

"That doesn't prove anything," the woman countered.

"Think about this - when your ear itches and you put your little finger in it and wiggle it around, then pull it out, which feels better - your ear or your finger?"

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday 26 September 2010

Comical points

I used to read (I think that is the word) Richie Rich comics when I was growing up. I am still growing up (I am told) but I have not read a Richie Rich comic since I was a teenager.

I remember those adverts that often appeared in the middle or on the back cover page. You know those compelling sales pitches where you were seduced into selling and delivering newspapers, and whereby you could earn points in doing so, and then you could trade in those hard earned points for something from the colourful catalogue, which basically made up the bulk of the pitch. I am sure you will remember those cool things - there was the air hockey table, the slot car racing kit, the Spalding baseball glove (obviously for Americans this one), the rocket, and more ... and my all-time favourite, the X-ray specs.

Didn't you used to stare at this page and just wonder. Ah man, the X-ray specs - I actually believed, for years, that I could look through things - you gotta love those Americans - they sure do know a few tricks when it comes to marketing.

Are there still Richie Riche comics in the world today? Maybe I just haven’t looked for one ... one thing is for sure, the all seducing points system thing back then is still alive and well - check this :

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Leave it to the English

A friend of mine sent this to me - it was too good not to share.

Extracts from letters written to local councils:

1. It's the dog mess that I find hard to swallow.

2. I want some repairs done to my cooker as it has backfired and burnt my knob off.

3. I wish to complain that my father twisted his ankle very badly when he put his foot in the hole in his back passage.

4. Their 18 year old son is continually banging his balls against my fence.

5. I wish to report that tiles are missing from the outside toilet roof. I think it was bad wind the other day that blew them off.

6. My lavatory seat is cracked, where do I stand?

7. I am writing on behalf of my sink, which is coming away from the wall.

8. Will you please send someone to mend the garden path. My wife tripped and fell on it yesterday and now she is pregnant.

9. I request permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen.

10. 50% of the walls are damp, 50% have crumbling plaster, and 50% are just plain filthy.

11. I am still having problems with smoke in my new drawers.

12. The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is cleared.

13. Will you please send a man to look at my water, it is a funny colour and not fit to drink.

14. Our lavatory seat is broken in half and now is in three pieces.

15. I want to complain about the farmer across the road. Every morning at 6am his cock wakes me up and it's now getting too much for me.

16. The man next door has a large erection in the back garden, which is unsightly and dangerous.

17. Our kitchen floor is damp. We have two children and would like a third, so please send someone round to do something about it.

18. I am a single woman living in a downstairs flat and would you please do something about the noise made by the man on top of me every night.

19. Please send a man with the right tool to finish the job and satisfy my wife.

20. I have had the clerk of works down on the floor six times but I still have no satisfaction.

21. This is to let you know that our lavatory seat is broke and we can't get BBC2.

22. My bush is really overgrown round the front and my back passage has fungus growing in it.

23. He's got this huge tool that vibrates the whole house and I just can't take it anymore.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Saturday 18 September 2010

The fast

Today was the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, and most Jewish folk fast, even if they are not religious. Some do it for tradition, some do it for spiritual reasons, and some do it to fit into their jeans (well, just for a day or so, and then the few kilos seem to appear again, just like that).

I have fasted every year, as long as I can remember. I normally spend the day at home, just thinking and reflecting, which is what I tried to do again today.

But there is one thing I don't quite understand. Why do people ask you how the fast was, like it is major achievement. Fasting for 24 hours is a walk in the park. What isn't so easy is being good to others. And I guess this is just how the world is today: selfish. People ask you how the fast went because it is something easy, simple and contained. But ask someone if they have been good to others around them and that is not such an easy question to answer.

And yet, people will get judged by their piers if they didn't fast. But whether they do good in the world or not, no one seems to question that.

Interesting world we live in ...

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Monday 13 September 2010

Talk talk

What is with those private number calls that you get on your cell where they go, "Hello sir, how are you?"

And you say "What is this about?", which generally comes back with another "Hello, how are you?"


I respect anyone who works for a living, and telesales can't be the easiest gig in town, but lighten up a bit for fuck sakes.

The other day I tried the following. I was in my car, and a private call through early in the morning, and this is what went down "Hello, sir, how are you today?"

So, I reply with, "Not so good - I just lost my job today, and, my mother told me she is not my mother." (Just kidding mom ... I wonder if she knows about this blog thing?!)

See how long they keep up their robot stance. Seriously, try it too; it makes the whole thing much more fun. It was a very short conversation to say the least.

But this is nothing compared to the clown who leaves a message on your cell and doesn't say what it is about. Like this young alleged film maker who left a bunch of messages on my phone that went like this "Hi Ronnie, this is Bobby, please call me ..."

Why would I call someone I don't know, on a number I have not seen before, when I have no idea what it is about. There is only one thing worse than a telesales robot calling you, and this is when you call some guy who know nothing about, for something you know is only going to upset you. Why would be do it?! And then, our man Bobby, catches me one day, early in the morning, and asks me if he can come and see me about a movie he wants to make. Proper clown - all he wants is a few million. Sure thing Bobby.

Maybe I am just old fashioned. Yeah, I am old school alright.

I was mentoring a bunch of young guys the other day (well, I was trying too) and I was asked an intriguing question, "If there are so many monkeys out there... incompetent, unprofessional folk, in big jobs, with big responsibilities, then how did the IT director of that big firm we are talking about ever get the job if he is such a clown?"

I had to think about this and this is was my response, "You should see the guy he replaced!"

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Wednesday 8 September 2010

New words for 2010

A friend of mine sent this to me - it made me laugh - I had to share it.

Waving your arms around and talking bollocks.

Sitting round in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed and who was responsible.

A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything and then leaves.

The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed and die.

An office filled with cubicles.

When someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube farm and people's heads pop up over the walls to see what's going on. (This also applies to applause for a promotion because there may be cake.)

An excellent phrase for an overweight person.

A deeply unattractive person.

One who has bleached/dyed her hair but still has a 'black box'.

The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.

That minuscule fraction of time in which you realize that you've just made a BIG mistake. (e.g. You've hit 'reply all').

A very short skirt, only an inch from the hare.

The contents of a Wonderbra, i.e. Extremely impressive when viewed from the outside but there's actually naught in there worth seeing.

A bath so hot, that when lowering yourself in, you go: 'Oo! Oo! Oo! Aa! Aa! Aa!'.

The bus that arrives at the pub on Friday night while you're in the toilet after your 10th pint and whisks away all the unattractive people so the pub is suddenly packed with stunners when you come back in.

Bottled premixed spirits, regularly consumed by young women.

Tattoo on a female.

A woman whose knickers are too small for her, so she looks like she's got 4 buttocks.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Friday 3 September 2010

Please don't tell my mom

I have had this cool motorbike in my garage for years and years. And it was starting to hate me! I have not ridden that monster for about 5 years, and then something inspired and I called Linex Yamaha and they came to collect my XT600 and they got her up and running. I got the bike over 10 years ago and I have hardly riden it. But still, it is great machine and they got her firing away in no time.

This past weekend I took the bike for a spin. I felt like I was back in school, on my old nifty fifty. And then it hit me - bikes are proper old school - no car phones, no built-in GPS, no CD player. If you have to find an address you gotta to look for it the old fashioned way. If you want to call someone, you gotta pull over, stop, and switch off the engine. Yeah, I like it!

I went to visit my mate Kevin, who I have not seen in ages. I have not been to his place before, so I had to pull over, call him, get directions, and follow my nose. And it felt good.

But please don't tell my mom - she does not like the thought of me on a two wheeler. I know that riding a bike is dangerous, especially in Johannesburg, with all those crazy drivers on the road. But it did make me feel alive.

I am gonna ride her again this weekend - I can't wait!


Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Sunday 29 August 2010

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

A friend of mine sent this to me - I am still laughing - I had to share it:

I recently came back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Having not seen my wife for several months, I was looking forward to a night of hot passionate sex with her. Unfortunately she came out of the shower with a towel wrapped round her head, so I shot her.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Friday 27 August 2010

Virtual toy

I was in London recently, doing some work, with Craig, my film making partner, on the Riaad Moosa journey.

We stayed a night in a cool high-tech hotel, and they told us that we had to go and see the new Apple store that just opened up in Covent Gardens. Like everyone else, Apple has captured my imagination, but I have never owned a Apple computer. So, off we went on Saturday early evening to explore this new geek haven. The placed was huge, and packed, and buzzing - I don't think the work "geek" here is entirely fair - this was one happening spot!

And then, I did it - I purchased an iPad, and as I sit here writing this blog (still on my trusty Sony Vaio) the Apple iPad is next to me, doing its thing. I frikken love it! Hey, I also love my Sony laptop, but this new tablet looking device from Apple is fascinating!

Also, I can't stop thinking about how the hotel made a point to send us to this shop. I am glad they did though. But, if the world biggest McDonald's opened up, who would care. When it comes to Apple, they have got under our skins. Amazing!

Remember those executive toys, that all of us over-grown business children, er, people, buy for our offices and our homes etc., well, that is what the iPad is all about - the ultimate executive toy - virtual executive toy! And more! You can download some really cool applications and before you know it you can be editing photographs, reading a PDF book, or playing some 3D game. But it also is a business tool - I mean, I have installed Skype on it, and I now have my email on the iPad too, and I can look at spreadsheets, read WORD DOCs, check out PowerPoint presentations, and more. And here is the best part: the battery seems to last all day (the battery is the killer app. in my view)!

At first I thought it was just a big iPhone, which is a fun phone. But this is a whole new level of magic!

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Friday 20 August 2010

When insults had class

A friend of mine sent this to me - this was too good not to share:

These glorious insults are from an era before the English language changed to 4-letter words.

A member of Parliament to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease." "That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

"He had delusions of adequacy." Walter Kerr

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." Moses Hadas

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." Oscar Wilde

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." John Bright

I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others." Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." Paul Keating

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts ... for support rather than illumination." Andrew Lang

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music." Billy Wilder

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." Groucho Marx

Posted by Ronnie Apteker

Saturday 14 August 2010

2010 Leadership Summit

I was at the Discovery leadership conference this week, and I heard the talk from Johann Rupert. What he said really stood out for me.

I may have missed a few of his words here and there, but I got the gist. Here is what he shared with us:

After the first World War it was called it The Great War. It took another World War for it to be referred to as World War I and World War II.

We are now going through a serious global recession, and if the bankers and Wall Street fat cats continue to take their massive bonuses we will soon be calling this period the Great Depression II. The fat cat and banking bonuses of the past 10 years equals more than the amount of money the governments have had to put in for the recent bail outs that we keep hearing about in the world press. If all the bankers gave their bonuses back, we would not need the bail outs. And the problem at present is that the world's bankers and fat cats are not stopping with their greed.

In short, the Great Depression may be soon be called the Great Depression I and just now we will be entering the start of the Great Depression II.

I could not agree more Mr. Rupert, and I too am anxious about this.

Get life insurance quotes today.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Worker’s Prayer

A friend of mine sent me this - I had to share it:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I cannot accept, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those people I had to kill today because they pissed me off.

And also, help me to be careful of the toes I step on today as they be connected to the ass that I may have to kiss tomorrow.

Help me to always give 100% at work...

12% on Monday.

23% on Tuesday.

40% on Wednesday.

20% on Thursday.

5% on Friday.

And help me to remember that when I'm having a really bad day, and it seems that people are trying to piss me off, that it takes 42 muscles to frown and only 4 to extend my middle finger! Amen.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker