28 November 2005

All For Love

Professor Dan Jacobson was born in 1929 in Johannesburg of a Lithuanian mother and a Latvian father. He attended Kimberley Boys' High School and the University of the Witwatersrand. He has worked on a kibbutz in Israel, as a teacher in London, as a journalist in Johannesburg and, after returning to Kimberley, in the family milling business. He moved to England in 1958 where he first taught in a Jewish school, and later became Professor of English literature at University College, a post he had held for 10 years.
After the publication of his first two novels, The Trap (1955) and A Dance in the Sun (1956), he was awarded a one-year Creative Writing Fellowship at Stanford University. A Long Way from London, a collection of short stories published in 1958, won the Mail on Sunday / John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and his collection Time of Arrival and Other Essays (1963) won a Somerset Maugham Award. His volume of autobiography, Time and Time Again: Autobiographies (1985), won the J. R. Ackerley Prize. His most recent book is All For Love made it to the Man Booker Prize long list. All for love is the story of the stormy relationship between Princess Louise, daughter of Leopold II of Belgium, and her extra-marital lover Lt. Géza Mattachich.

A shining star in Hollywood

Benoni-born Oscar winner Charlize Theron (30) is a strong contender for another Oscar, thanks to her lead role in North Country. The film is based on the true story of a 1989 class-action lawsuit in the USA. Charlize plays Josey Aimes who returns to Minnesota to rebuild her life after fleeing from an abusive husband.Josey takes a job at a local iron mine and then rallies female workers against the abuse they face from male staff.
Charlize recently received her own star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. She received star number 2291. She first appeared in the 1996 film Two Days in the Valley.

R25,000 tears

Sometimes crying helps. Robyn Jason, previously of East London, burst into tears as the South African national anthem played before the beginning of the Tri-Nations Test between the Springboks and Aussies in Perth. Robyn, her husband, Olivier, and their two young children moved to Perth in February. Across the globe, a South African doctor in Canada watching the match on TV, was so moved by her tears that he offered her R25 000 to return home for a visit. Dr Sieg Heydenrych likes to help people if it was for a "good cause". His gift will enable Robyn's parents, Dave and Liz Law, to travel overseas next year.

Young performers

Pianist Misha Meyer (15) took part in the annual Sanlam competition for young musicians from the age of 7 until she was 13. She recently performed as a soloist with the Randburg City Orchestra and also returned from a summer school in Bulgaria with a bursary for a month of master classes and private lessons in the USA next year. Prof. Tamas Unger, founder of the prestigious Van Cliburn Piano Institute in Fort Worth, Texas, gave her the bursary after seeing her perform in Bulgaria.
The Afrikaanse Hoër Meisieskool Grade 10 pupil is trained by Prof. Joseph Stanford at the University of Pretoria. After Matric, Misha hopes to study for a B.Mus. and then go to Italy for further studies.

Emile de Roubaix (24), from Stellenbosch, is a violinist. He recently started a 2-year post-graduate diploma in chamber music at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

Liezel's Cause

Hurricane Katrina survivors have been getting some help from South African tennis player and Wimbledon doubles champion, Liezel Huber (29). Liezel has been living in Houston, Txas, since 1997 and is married to an American, Tony. The couple used their local church as a shelter for survivors and soon Liezel started a charity organisation, Liezel's Cause. Martina Navratilova has donated towards this fund-raising effort. Liezel, born in Durban, initially helped a family of 8, but after calling on friends for help, they soon had enough to look after 10 families. Liezel injured her knee after her Wimbledon win with Cara Black, and had to have surgery. She will only return to tennis in March 2006.

Discovering new markets

Discovery Holdings’ operating profit from South African businesses has gone through the R1-billion barrier, but their US operation, Destiny Health, is not in the same league yet. Destiny has grown from its base in Illinois into other states beyond Wisconsin, Massachusetts and the mid-Atlantic seaboard. Texas and California are the next targets.

Tsotsi at the Oscars

Gavin Hood's third feature film, Tsotsi, has been submitted for the Foreign Film Category of the 78th Academy Awards. Tsotsi has already received rave reviews from international media after being screened at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the People’s Choice Award. Based on Athol Fugard’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of a township gangster, Tsotsi, who learns to take care of an infant whose mother he shot during a car hijacking. Caring for the child gradually repairs Tsotsi's broken spirit.

South Africa's next space pioneer

Elon Musk (34) owns and pilots three jets, including a Russian fighter plane, and has produced a movie starring Katie Holmes. He sold two Internet companies made him a rand billionaire 10 times over. The former Pretoria Boys and Bryanston High School pupil has spent more than R600-million in making space travel cheaper. Still a South African citizen, Elon has lived in Canada and Bel Air, California for 17 years. He left South Africa in 1989, to avoid conscription, and landed in Canada. He later moved to the US where he studied economics and physics at the University of Pennsylvania.
He is set to become the first person in history to send his own rocket into orbit when he launches his brainchild Falcon rocket from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands any day now. His Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), based in El Segundo, Texas, was set up 3 years ago and has a staff of 150. The United States Defence Department was his first customer, with the US Air Force signing a $100-million contract until 2010. His company also beamed up the ashes of Star Trek’s legendary engineer Scotty, actor James Doohan, into space.
In 1999 Elon and his co-founders sold Zip2, a Web software business, for more than $300-million to Compaq. From there, he founded the online payment service company Paypal. Three years ago he sold it to eBay, keeping $1,5-billion in stocks.
Elon was the executive producer of the movie, Thank you for smoking, which recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and stars Robert Duvall, Rob Lowe and Katie Holmes. The married father of twin babies has a Porsche Turbo, a MacLaren F1, and an e-Type Jaguar. For his 30th birthday, he flew friends and family from South Africa to Ashby Castle in England, the medieval fortress where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned.
His uncle, Midrand medical doctor Michael Musk, said that Elon had a life-changing experience when he almost died from malaria after a holiday to Londolozi Game Reserve in 2000. His first-born child died soon afterwards.

Cot death device in tests

Hans Pietersen (46), a Pretoria IT engineer, has invented a device that targets Cot Death Syndrome. The Respisense Buzz was made to protect babies against cot death by triggering a cellphone vibrator motor inside their nappies when sensors detect that breathing has stopped for 15 seconds. Testing took place at the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town. The device won a South African Bureau of Standards Prototype Award for design, but has yet to receive an SABS safety certificate. Currently breathing monitors available for home use make use of a sensor pad beneath the baby’s mattress to trigger an alarm, but do not feature a stimulation device. Hans thought of the device when his wife had triplets in 2002 and they felt the twins were vulnerable to cot death because they were 6 weeks premature.
The device uses the same tiny vibration motor found in cellphones, which, with the sensors and alarm system, is contained in a matchbox-sized device that attaches to a nappy waistband. If the baby’s breathing stops for 15 seconds, it is programmed to vibrate against the tummy. If no breathing movement is recorded for 5 seconds after that, a 90 decibel alarm is triggered.
Professor Gert Kirsten, head of the newborn unit at Tygerberg, said cot death was a failed respiration syndrome among infants not yet fully understood by medical science. It was responsible for the deaths of “perhaps one infant in every 500 to 1000 live births” in South Africa. He said apnoea was the cessation of breathing, often suffered by premature babies whose brains “forget to inhale”.

Condé Nast likes SA

The Condé Nast 2005 travel awards voted South Africa the 9th best country in the world, and South African Airways the 10th best international carrier. The winners are selected from a survey of the international magazine's readers, who are asked to score various categories on a set of criteria which include food, value for money, services and friendliness of staff. New Zealand was the overall favourite holiday destination. Several South African hotels and spas also made it into the top lists, including Singita Private Game Reserve, which was 2nd in the Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean Islands leisure hotels category. In first place was the Ngorogoro Crater Lodge in Tanzania. Cape Town's Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa came in 6th, the Ngala Private Game Reserve in the Kruger Park took 7th place, Cape Town's Ellerman House 8th, the Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town was 12th, the Table Bay Hotel 16th and Londolozi Lodge 13th. The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa also took 8th position in the world's best spas outside of the UK.

27 November 2005

For the Green, and winning Gold

A few years ago, Alistair Cragg was a rising star in South African athletics, but Athletics South Africa had no place for him in their developing group. He left the country and went to study at the University of Arkansas in the USA. Not too long ago, Alistair won the gold medal in the mens' 3,000 meters - for Ireland at the European Indoor Championships in Madrid. Alistair (24), a former Greenside High School student, was the only European athlete in the 5,000 m finals at the Athens Olympics.

The South African Dream?

One out of 12 people in the UK were born overseas - about 5 million out of the 60 million population. It is said that at least 1 million of the 5 million are South Africans. Wherever you go, in London especially, you hear South African accents.
London has 2 South African newspapers. Casper de Vries sold 2 298 seats for a show at the London Palladium, two years running. Pieter-Dirk Uys, Karen Zoid, Johnny Clegg, Arno Carstens and Dozi are regular visitors. The South African Business Club has a few hundred members. SABMiller, Old Mutual and Dimension Data have headquarters in London. When Richard Branson sold Virgin Records to EMI, one of the major shareholders was Simon Draper, his nephew from Pietermaritzburg. Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have homes in the UK, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss represent English cricket, and the former junior Springbok Matt Stevens and SA under-23 player Stuart Abbott play English rugby.

War photographer's latest book

War photographer Joao Silva's latest book, In The Company Of God, looks at the war in Iraq. The veteran photographer has spent 15 years in war zones and was a member of the Bang-Bang Club, along with Greg Marinovich, Kevin Carter and Ken Oosterbroek. Joao is the only one still dodging bullets, even though he is now married to Vivian and they have a baby girl, Isabel.
In The Company of God, a joint effort between STE Publishers and PictureNet Africa (the Johanneaburg photographic agency in which he is a partner), is a collection photographs taken in Iraq for the New York Times between July 2003 and March 2005. The hardcover book is divided into four sections. The first section, Blood of Pilgrims, starts with a broad history of Iraq.

Kepler's son going for England cap

Quietly, but determinedly, Riki Wessels (19) is well on his way to achieving his dream of earning an England cricket cap. The son of former South African cricket captain, Kepler Wessels, has emerged as Northamptonshire’s first-choice wicketkeeper. He is currently playing under the Kolpak agreement, which entitles citizens of European Union associate countries to employment rights.
Riki was born in Australia and is a South African citizen. He matriculated at Woodridge College, near Port Elizabeth, and played for Eastern Province in the 2002 and 2003 Khaya Majola Weeks. To qualify for England in 2008, he must spend a minimum of 210 days a year in England. When not playing cricket, Riki studies for a higher diploma in information technology.
He got his chance of a regular place in the team when fellow South African Gerard Brophy broke a finger at the start of the season. Almost like his father, who made a century on his Test debut for Australia while South Africa was excluded from international cricket, Riki hit a century with Somerset in his second first-class appearance. His maiden century was made off 116 balls with 17 fours and a six. His second century was against Worcestershire. As a wicketkeeper, he models himself on former England player Alec Stewart.
Other players who have taken the Kolpak option in recent years include Martin van Jaarsveld, Dale Benkenstein, HD Ackerman, Claude Henderson, Charl Pietersen and Johann Louw.

South African expertise everywhere

Dr. Ivor van Heerden's voice became familiar to hurricane waters during Hurricane Katrina. The geologist who grew up in Pietermaritzburg and studied geology at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, is deputy director of the Louisiana State University’s Hurricane Centre. Using sophisticated computer software, he was able to pinpoint how bad the storm would be and warned authorities days before it struck New Orleans. He was also able to plot where the flood water would go. Dr. van Heerden first left South Africa to study in the US, as no South African university was carrying out coastal research at the time. He returned to South Africa in 1983 but left permanently in 1989, after being offered a job by Louisiana State University where along with engineer Marc Levitan, he set up the university’s hurricane centre.

South African fashions

Stoned Cherrie, Black Coffee, Sun Goddess - South African fashion labels aiming to make their mark on the world fashion stage. The distinctively African designs proved to be winners when they featured at a Spanish retailer's recent South African promotional month. Within an hour of the opening in Madrid's Paseo de la Castellana, only one skirt was left on the rails. T-shirts featuring the covers of Drum magazine also proved popular. Stoned Cherrie sold T-shirts displaying the image of activist Steve Biko. Nkhesani Nkosi, who started Stoned Cherrie, wants to build a global super-brand that is South African.

Honour for fisherman

Vereeniging’s Gerry Leach has become the first African in the International Game Fishing Association’s Hall of Fame. The keen fisherman was honoured for his conservation and administration of bass angling in Southern African countries. Bass angling is the world’s fastest growing fishing sport. It involves fishermen catching the big-mouth black bass, then releasing it once it has been recorded for size. Gerry's biggest catch is a fish weighing 3.86kg. He was presented with the award during the Bassmaster Classic World Championships in Pennsylvania.

Another East Rand star in the making

Nicole Pedro (15) from Primrose, Germiston, recently signed a 5-year modelling contract worth $1-million with New Model Today. One of Mark and Sylvia's daughter's first photographic shoots under the contract was shot in Italy for Chanel lip gloss. The former Hoërskool Vryburger student started modelling at 13 and was spotted by an agent while shopping at the East Rand Mall. Nicole was taken to Italy where she spent 3 months at a modelling school. She was offered the recent contract, despite being 1,6 m in height. The dark-haired beauty wants to be a supermodel and has Hollywood in her plans.

Award-winning classical guitarist

Classical guitarist Michal George moved from Johannesburg to the USA in 1997. He enrolled at the Cleveland Institute of Music in Ohio where he obtained his Masters in 1999. Michal also won the Rosilia Ablan memorial prize for guitar studies. He was the winner of the 2002 International Web Concert Hall Competition, where he performed exclusively South African music. His CD - He who walks freely, taking big steps - for Daminus Records in Germany followed his successful debut Umzwangedwa. The CD features mostly his own compositions, with a few from fellow South Africans Stanley Glasser, Abri Jordaan, Peter Klatzow and Timothy Walker. His African roots shine through. The CD's title comes from one of Michal's poems.
Michal's musical education started at the University of Cape Town's College of Music. This was followed by Wits Music School where he studied under David Hewitt, the most famous South African guitarist, teacher and guitar composer. David died in 2001 at the age of 54 from Alzheimer's. Another teacher at Wits was the father of South African classical guitar, Fritz Buss. Michal did not come from a musical family. He is married to Romy, a modern dancer. When not practisinmg or performing, he plays tennis, reads and teaches group exercise classes at health clubs in Cleveland.

South African world champion

A South African horse was recently crowned Reserve Five Gaited World's Grand Champion - ridden by a Free Stater, Lionell Ferreira, in Louisville, Kentucky. Prince's Domino was trained by Dirk Claassens of Buckridge in Bloemfontein. The horse won the South African Five Gait title in 2004. Lionell, from Virginia in the Free State, is a horse trainer for the horse's current owner, Lord John Buhlmer of Mornington Estate in Hereford, England. Prince's Domino was bred by T.J. Lochner of Pretoria and was originally owned by Dries du Preez of Jeffrey's Bay.

Memorial Web site becomes a gathering place

Aloshan Dookie (17), from Chatsworth, immigrated to Sydney, Australia two years ago. Last year, he set up a Web site in memory of a friend who died from an Ecstasy overdose. The site quickly became a gathering place for homesick South African Indians. Aloshan hope sto return to Chatsworth for good one day.

Mom goes to the West End

South African actress, dancer and singer Amra-Faye Wright (44) is the lead role in the hit musical Chicago at the Adelphi Theatre in London's West End. She was offered the role after the Broadway producers of Chicago, Barry and Fran Weissler, saw her in the lead role in the South African production of Chicago. Only three other South Africans have played starring roles on West End stages: Craig Urbani as Buddy in Buddy Holly, Edward Baker Duly as Riff in West Side Story and Kate Normington as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.
The Eastern Cape-born actress plays the merry murderess Velma Kelly, the role played by Catherine Zeta-Jones in the movie version of Chicago. Amra-Faye, named for a ship, is the mother of two teenage daughters. In her late 20s, after her marriage to an East London tomato farmer collapsed, she became a dancer at Sun City, headlining the extravaganza Viva Sun City. This was followed by the female lead in the Starburst extravaganza in Korea and roles in South African hits such as the Elvis Las Vegas extravaganza and Grease.

Home-grown language CDs

Learning Setswana and isiZulu has benn made easier, thanks to CTexT (Centre for Text Technology) at the North-West University in Potchefstroom. The two programmes, Tsenang! and Ngenani!, are in Afrikaans. CDs for Setswana/English and isiZulu/English are also available. Each CD consists of 8 chapters, with each chapter containing 6 to 8 lessons. CTexT has also made 5 spellcheckers - Afrikaans, Setswana, Sesotho, isiZulu and isiXhosa, which work with Microsoft programmes.

26 November 2005

South African-born producer

Robbie Stamp was born in South Africa in 1960 and left when he was 9 months old. His parents had immigrated to South Africa after WW2. His father, Colin, set up American Express in South Africa but is better known for presenting Abroad on Sunday Morning, on Springbok Radio. Robbie was the executive producer on the film Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. He started a multimedia company, The Digital Village, with the late Douglas Adams (author of Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy) in 1992.

Jody's gift to East London

East London's Jody Scheckter won the Formula 1 World Championship for Ferrari in 1979 and went on to build a high-tech business in Atlanta, USA, before starting an organic farm, Laverstoke Park, in Hampshire, England. Jody recently made the largest personal donation to date to the Berea Gardens Retirement Foundation in East London. He requested that most of this donation be used to contribute towards the construction costs of a new wing at the Lily Kirchmann Home - the frail care facility in Berea Gardens where his mother lives. Part of the donation will go towards the Xhasanani Project, a community-run organisation mentored by Berea Gardens that cares for elderly folk in the nearby squatter community. The funding will go towards establishing a community-based home care support group for AIDS sufferers.

Greenside's spaceman

Mike Melvill (64) became the first man to pilot a privately-financed craft into space on June 21, 2004. He was born in Greenside, Johannesburg, and attended Highbury School in Hillcrest before going to Hilton College from 1954 to 1958 but didn't get his Matric. He married Sally, a St Anne's girl, in Gretna Green, England, as her father didn't approve of Mike. A few years later the couple and their children moved to the US where Mike took flying lessons and got together with aviation engineer Burt Rutan. Over the years they have created several experimental planes including the Global Flyer that Steve Fossett flew in the first solo, non-stop round-the-world flight in 67 hours. Mike returned to his alma mater earlier this year to give them a $2 note which he took with him into space. It was signed by Mike and Paul Benny, who took the craft up a second time.

Former policeman is Mr World

André van der Mescht (36), a former policeman in the Brixton Murder and Robbery Unit, took the Mr World title for bodybuilding last year. The Meyersdal, Alberton, resident turned pro in 1999 when he won the Police bodybuilding competition. In 2003 he won Mr Universe. André is married to Vanessa and they have a son, Matthew.

Extreme swimmer

Lewis Gordon Pugh (35) has swam in the Arctic Ocean wearing nothing but a Speedo and swimming cap. In December 2005, he takes on the Antarctic.
The maritime lawyer is based in London, having studied law at the universities of Cape Town and Cambridge. Nicknamed Ice Bear, Lewis' father was a Royal Navy surgeon and historian. The family moved from Plymouth to South Africa when he was 10 years old. Cape Town was his introduction to the sea. At the age of 17, Lewis swam from Robben Island to Cape Town. Afterwards, he planned bigger and colder swims. Lewis was the first person to swim around Cape Agulhas. In 2003 he completed the first swim in the Barents Sea when he swam around North Cape, Europe's most northern point. Last year he swam the entire length of the 204km long Sognefjord, Norway's longest fjord, in an epic feat that took him 21 days to complete. National Geographic filmed the swim for a documentary entitled The Legend of the Fjord. Last year he swam around the Cape Peninsula, a distance of some 100km, to raise funds for HIV/AIDS orphans in South Africa.In August 2005 he broke his own world record for the most northern swim when he completed the first swim in the Artic Ocean. Lewis swam 1km at the most northern point of the island of Spitsbergen, just 1,100 kilometers from the North Pole. The swim, in water of 3C, took 20 minutes and 30 seconds. A team of armed Norwegians on an accompanying boat kept him safe from polar bears and walruses, while UCT Sports Science Institutes Professor Tim Noakes monitored his heart rate as part of a research project.