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A Bullet Called Gonzo (1937-2005)

Hunter S Thompson'When I finish,' Hunter S. Thompson wrote in 1979, 'the only fitting exit will be right straight off this ... terrace and into the Fountain, 28 storeys below.' Crazy talk, but his preface to The Great Shark Hunt prophesied his suicide 26 years later.

 

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Archetypal Architects

revel foxThree legendary South African architects define what shapes their creative vision: Revel Fox speaks about ‘making space’, Stefan Antoni says his name can invite typecasting but still holds secrets, and for Gawie Fagan, the thing is always to carry a knife.

 

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Bartenders and Barbarians

BartenderImagine yourself a few grand shy of the sum required to settle your tab and being conscripted behind the bar to discharge your debt. What was once oasis becomes bear-pit: your back to the fridge, you're an open target in an asylum.

 

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Bullet Club

Image courtesy of David SouthwoodIn a society torn apart by crime, the Bullet Club fills a special need and comes with exacting entry requirements. New members must have suffered a near-death experience from gunshot wounds – and be driven by an unslakable love of life. Not to mention booze.

 

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Collision Course

collision courseHow do you kill a stuntman? Drop him from his ego to his IQ. This is the gag doing the rounds on set, and it conveys the gist of the stereotype unjustly bedevilling stunt workers: brawny dullards too arrogant to realise they’re expendable camera-fodder.

 

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Coming to Terms

dartsSports agents Mike Makaab and Craig Livingstone represent the cream of the nation's athletes, who command jaw-dropping fees from clubs and sponsors. Our author rolls up his sleeves, takes aim for glory, and auditions for the A-list.

 

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Cruising the TV Love Machine

dating showsThe women’s dressing-room is as hot as an armpit, and everywhere you look it’s a prom-night orgy of bosoms and thighs. We’re behind the scenes at a TV dating game show where the media machine will churn out lovematches faster than a Wild West bordello.

 

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Dark Arts of the Silver Screen

Ross GarlandWe're steeped in the lives of actors, and we've thrilled to documentaries about film-making. But with a gun to your head, could you explain what a producer actually does? Ross Garland and Brad Logan, the producers of Spud: The Movie, tell all.

 

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Debora Patta, Avenging Angel and Zulu Princess

Debora Patta Third DegreeAn email interview with Debora Patta, the journalist who heads up e.tv’s 3rd Degree. ‘After a show on racism at a whites-only resort, I received the most vitriolic hate-mail I have ever seen, including somebody saying, “You deserve to be raped.”’

 

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Dekaffirnating the Global Ghetto

Pieter Dirk UysPieter Dirk Uys is a legendary satirist, but who are his targets? ‘Me. My main target is me. Who the hell am I to talk about you? But if I show you ten of my fears, you’ll recognise two you share.’ Uys reflects on those terrors, the K-word and N-word.

 

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Diamond Fever

diamond diggersNear Kimberley, scores of wretchedly poor miners dig by hand in search of miracles. In the great journo tradition I’m deathly hungover, and when I lurch towards the guide he takes two guarded steps backwards. Am I too in the grip, unawares, of diamond fever?

 

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Dr Eve, Adamantly Sexual

dr eve sex therapistAt parties women hold their men closer when they see her approach; men either shy off or go huge to impress her. But in her consulting room, couples air their most intimate secrets with her. She is Dr Eve, South Africa’s leading sex therapist.

 

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Executive Jets: No More High-Jinx

executive jetsForget those Eighties fantasies about cavorting on cocaine and Campari in your own bimbo-packed Lear; wave goodbye to the Sodom and Gomorrah of the skies, alas. Today’s private jet industry wants to rid itself of the playboy image and sell tools, not toys.

 

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Eye in the Sky

HexacopterWhat strange bird is this thing, the hexacopter? It's a drone you can own, marking a new stage in the consumerisation of military technology. Apart from its industrial uses, it has phallic-symbol appeal, retooling the middle-aged hobbyist dad into James Bond.

 

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Gentlemen of the Press

olivesAlthough South Africans win gold the world over for their extra virgin olive oil, back at the ranch it's a different story. The oil might be extra virgin, but the industrial farmers and artisanal types who chase after it can be in for a rude – and rough – deflowering.

 

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Hitting Full Contact

rickon gracieIts critics slate it as crude barabarism. Its defenders call it progressive innovation. Name of the game? Reality-based, freestyle full contact fighting. Our fancy-pants author gets nicotined-up and ready to rumble with South Africa’s new martial artists.

 

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Holiday in Hell: Surviving the Abu Sayyaf

abu_sayyafIn 2000, Monique Strydom and husband Callie were among 21 holidaymakers taken hostage in the Philippines by militant Islamic separatists. ‘We started every day not knowing if we’d be alive that evening. It’s a feeling so terrifying you cannot imagine it.’

 

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Hollywood in my Head, or Why I Hate FX

hollywood in my headThe Matrix is a satire of the very technology that made the film possible. Isn't there a similarity between the technology it depicts and the special effects industry that brings the story’s pacifying, subjugating virtual reality to life on screen?

 

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Holocaust Denial and Free Speech

Holocaust denialA Muslim radio station calls it freedom of expression; members of the Jewish community say it's Holocaust denial and antisemitism. In a key legal case, the court will have to decide which is more important to protect: critical speech or social harmony.

 

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Holy Herbs and Righteous Rastas

holy herbsMarijuana, cannabis, dagga, dope, pot, weed, herb, bane, doob, zol, ‘aap twak’ ... legalisation hits the headlines. A Rastafarian lawyer wants the Constitutional Court to legalise the good green, but think through the haze before saying ‘Rock on, dude’.

 

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In the Country of Last Things

Ashraf Jamal introThe writer Ashraf Jamal has the voice of an angel but speaks of things demonic and desolate. Take his play Severance, for instance. A woman contracts AIDS and her brother has sex with her so he can die with her – but AIDS itself isn’t the real horror.

 

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In/glorious Battle

Jacob ZumaJacob Zuma courted controversy with his fondness for singing the Struggle-era song 'Bring Me My Machine-Gun'. Perhaps it's just a song, and just a metaphor, but in the logic of that metaphor politics is simplified as a winner-take-all battle royale.

 

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Jackhammer Heartbeat

jackhammer heartbeatOut there a bad moon’s a’rising: a look into three high-pressure occupations – emergency medical services, private security contracting, and off-shore oil-rigging. ‘Asbestos feet, it’s called. You’re always stamping out fires. Stress: that’s part of me.’

 

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Jaundiced Eye: Man behind the Mugshot

jaundiced eyeFamous for his Jaundiced Eye newspaper column, William Saunderson-Meyer is revered and reviled for the withering gaze he turns on South African politics. But how does Jaundiced Eye see himself? ‘Opinionated, boisterous, and frightens little children.’

 

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Max du Preez, Hard-Nosed African

Max du PreezWimps don't make good journalists, says Max du Preez, one of South Africa's toughest reporters, but he admits he's not macho in private. When he's not going on about holier-than-thou liberals and corrupt politicians, he likes reading up on spirituality.

 

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Mixing It Up

mixing it upWhite-boy Chris, coloured-dude Adam: their pub-toilet episode is a parable about post-apartheid male bonding. As the lads get acquainted outside the office, they violate Verwoerdian ideas of racial purity – and liberal ones about polite colour-blindness.

 

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Nothing Clean-Cut about Zim's Murky Rough

Marange diamondsZimbabwe’s Marange fields have been called ‘the biggest find of alluvial diamonds in history’. But they are also the hottest flashpoint on the world diamond-map today, putting into a crisis a global system for telling the good stones apart from the bloody.

 

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Plot, Counter-Plot

media plot to overthrow south africaTrust no one. South Africa’s bursting at the seams with conspiracies, and you'll never guess who's behind it all: the vile media. According to a group of intellectuals, the media are abusing free speech in ‘a campaign of apartheid-style disinformation’.

 

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Private: Whites Only

members only mateA public outcry followed after a coloured family were turned away from a whites-only church, but this incident is only but one example of wider trend in South Africa: institutions that adopt ‘members-only’ policies to protect an all-white clientele.

 

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Psychoanalysing the Dreaded White Seff Efrican

dreaded white south africanBritish busybody Peter Hain slated white South Africans as ‘whingers’, but maybe the Uitlander has a point. ‘Whingeing’ is a social pastime that offers perverse, kinky pleasure … otherwise why do it 24/7 despite its ostensibly irksome subject-matter?

 

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Ramming It Home

Anton KannemeyerHard on Tintin's heels, and making a beeline for his shorts, is a monstrosity from the core of white angst: an African super-phallus, cock squared and dick cubed. This is Fear of a Black Planet, an exhibition by the Bitterkomix legend, Anton Kannemeyer.

 

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Running into Heat

Ross TuckerOscar Pistorius, Caster Semenya, doping … name a crisis in sports and the good doctor Tucker has been there to step up and speak his mind. Hailed as the new Tim Noakes and unafraid of taking flack, he's the rising public intellectual of the sports world.

 

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Secret World of the Desert River

cunene riverThe boy was anxious for a parachute. He had been told our safari to the Cunene River between Namibia and Angola would be no sedate affair for tourists but a mission into crocodile-infested creeks, raging maelstroms and a plunging abyss – into The Border.

 

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Sex, Media and the President's Holy Body

presidential holy bodyMouths are frothing, eyeballs bulging and embolisms erupting as South Africa reels from its latest assault by the forces of evil: Max Du Preez's remark that President Mbeki is a ‘womaniser’. Once again the news is not in the news: the news is the news.

 

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Skirting the Psycho Abyss

psycho killerMicki Pistorius, author and serial-killer profiler, talks about hunting human predators. ‘I have held the mothers of murdered boys in my arms. I’ve been showered by maggots, and I’ve delved into the darkest side of the psyche.’

 

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Spirit of the Phantom City

oraniaOn paper Orania looks cut-and-dried – it’s an apartheid town for aging white Afrikaners, and that’s that. On inspection, it’s given to shades of surreal diversity and home to young intellectuals seeing themselves as post-colonialists and nation-builders.

 

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Taking Charge of the Tax Nightmare

tax nightmareThe taxman has become a whole lot leaner and meaner, and while there are some breaks for small businesses, the admin burden on them alone could be crippling. A tax practitioner tells you in plain English how to survive the night of the undead tax return.

 

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Talking Garbage on the Trail of Trash

trail of trashOn average everyone in the Cape Metropole produces 1kg of waste a day, and today I’m reporting live from the driver’s cabin of a Cape Town City Council rubbish truck as I lift the lid on an age-old question: Where does all that muck go?

 

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Ten Reasons Why Mugabe's Critics Should Belt Up

ten reasons why mugabe critics should belt upYou're a meddling foreigner. You're an outsider to the cause. You didn't fight in the war. You're a racist bastard. You've been duped by the Western media (you twit). You're a British imperialist. You're a terrorist. You're a pawn of the Antichrist …

 

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The Amazing Mugabe Man

amazing mugabe man introFaster than the speeding bullets of international opinion, mighty enough to lob a nation into the sewer, he is the Amazing Mugabe Man, champion of the landless. But his most unsung power is his ability to paralyse other superhero presidents into silence.

 

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The Body on Fire

Body on fire‘It felt like you were on the edge of something and nobody was near you. We were radical, on fire, eating and sleeping religion.’ Cult survivors break their silence about a charismatic church that became severe, all-controlling and sexually predatory.

 

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The Class War Carnival

class war carnival intro‘So, what have you done with your life?’ It’s the essential question at high school reunions, and opens a Pandora’s Box of insecurities and rivalries. This class test is a class war between the haves and have-nots where material success alone is prized.

 

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The Dead Beat

Image courtesy of Kim LubrookThe work of a private mortuary is soothing: it soothes the nerves of the bereaved, it soothes the violence suffered by the deceased. Police mortuaries are the cutting-edge. There the dead wash up still soaking from brutal passions and sudden calamities.

 

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The Joy of Vandalism

Bamiyan BuddhaThe Western as well as Islamic world condemned the Taliban's destruction of two Buddhist icons. Of course they would – they just don’t get it. What people overlook is that religious extremism has its uses. It passes the time and it's a helluva lot of fun.

 

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The Karoo Star Shrine

Image courtesy of Adam WelzNuclear explosions, ice-cold kisses, fish fossils, James Bond, eight thousand new galaxies, white guys getting up to mischief in township shebeens … the Karoo town of Sutherland, home to the Southern African Large Telescope, ain’t as sleepy as it looks.

 

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The Media: Scum of the Earth

media the scum of the earthAlways drunk and thumb-sucking facts, the media wage a daily war of neo-liberal, capitalist, imperalistic reaction, etc. against South African democracy. OMG: Their latest target for take-down is nothing less than the KwaZulu-Natal provincial cabinet.

 

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The Million-Dollar Meat Hook

million-dollar meat hookYour twenties are for dicking about; when the clock strikes 30 you have to make your move in the 9-to-5 world. A way out: this is what Terence wanted when he was drawn into the realm of fraud, 419 stings, pyramid schemes and Black Dollar scams.

 

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The Presidential Silence on Parks

Parks MankahlanaThe death of the Parks Mankahlana, suspected to have been caused by AIDS, rates as one of the cruelest ironies of the Mbeki presidency – a presidency that questioned the link between the HI virus and AIDS and earned itself the epithet ‘denialist’.

 

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The Shadow Knows

shadow knowsGordon was an outlaw on the run from justice, marriage and a steady job. Yet he is Everyman at heart, and every man has a friend who’s like him: the troublemaker, agent provocateur and shit-stirring demon-seed who bedevils plans for a better, cleaner life.

 

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The Unthinkable

the unthinkableOn September 11 2001 the myth of American invincibility was toppled with inconceivable speed. Stirring in the after-shock is another myth: the end-times notion that history is heading for catastrophe. Time to think about unthinkability.

 

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The Zen Cool of Yobspeak

zen cool of swearingSwear words are fascinating. Just look at the king of the cusses: Fuck is unfuckingbelievable. Fuck will get down to business (‘what the fuck’). Fuck won’t care (‘who gives a fuck?’), and fuck will dare to dream the impossible dream (‘fuck everything’).

 

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Tony Leon, Speaker Extraordinaire

Tony LeonAn email interview with Tony Leon, leader of the official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA). Random quote: ‘I do not collect much. In fact, I am the opposite – I am great at throwing out and destroying redundant paper.’

 

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Top Gun for a Day

strikemasterThere it waits in a fury of impatience, the Strikemaster: midnight black, all glossy steel skin, and straining to stay tethered to the ground. Being invited to fly in an RAF jet with a top speed of 834 kph is the pinnacle of the journalistic free lunch.

 

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Trashing the Alliance

trashing the allianceCape Town’s folksy, wisecracking mayor defied the Democratic Alliance and refused to resign for his alleged fat-cat antics. The ensuing game of brinkmanship flushed the DP-NNP tryst down the tubes but another, more important alliance took a worse beating.

 

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Union Jack Bohemia

drinking contest kznWe’re sitting on bales of hay on an open ten-ton truck, murdering the drinks. Guys in jesters’ caps totter arm in arm, beers raised in salute to the blazing blue skies of KwaZulu-Natal’s Midlands. It’s like The Canterbury Tales with a brewery sponsorship.

 

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V6 Fury of the Road Vulture

Fury of the road vultureTow-truck drivers are commonly thought of as fast-driving, fast-talking opportunists vulturing off the misfortunes of others – but vultures play an important role in any ecosystem, and trade veterans will proudly declare, ‘Breakdowns are in our blood’.

 

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Warning: Killer on the Road

killer on the roadHer face is blank, almost babyish in its featurelessness; in her eyes there is no tomorrow. Like thousands of other young rural women, she moves from hand to hand in the dangerous intersection between two industries: sex work and road freight-trucking.

 

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World Inside the Beacon’s Eye

Image courtesy of Kim LudbrookTechnology and cost-cutting are putting the lights out on the old men of the sea – and closing the book on their stories of far-flung places. Lighthouses and their keepers may be isolated, but the histories they accumulate speak tellingly of wider events.

 

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Your Perfect Yield

Lesotho Promise diamondFinding one diamond big enough to rank in the world’s Top Twenty is sweet; finding two in a single lifetime is beyond belief. But something is uncanny when the finds come from the same pit almost back to back: the Lesotho Promise and Letseng Lecacy.

 

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Zackie Achmat, Citizen Superhero

zackie achmat‘I often call myself The Incredible Sulk,’ says Zackie Achmat, South Africa’s most famous AIDS activist. ‘I have chronic depression, and I’ve had it since I was ten. My personal struggle to overcome it has been more difficult than my struggle with HIV.’

 

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