Tuesday, December 02, 2008

High Wire Act

Canadian communications mogul* Ted Rogers died Tuesday at the age of 75. His father died at 38 and Ted was never the healthiest of men, so he did manage to outperform expectations, just as he did in his business life. Rogers' own biography is entitled Relentless - an accurate description of a hard-driving, risk-taking entrepreneur, infamous for phoning his senior execs at 4 am. (photo below: Tibor Kolley/The Globe & Mail)
Rogers had a knack in forecasting where the technology was headed and getting his company there first. He started in Toronto radio, getting into FM radio when less than 3% of radio receivers could pick up FM. He got into cable in suburban Toronto in 1967 when no one thought this was a good idea. He lived on the edge, with a staggering level of debt, but he always managed to keep all the balls in the air.
There are two recent biographies out: High Wire Act: Ted Rogers and the Empire that Debt Built (2007) is by journalist Caroline Van Hasselt. It is unauthorized, although Rogers did cooperate with her. At 530 pages it may be more than enough detail for most readers, but it is an interesting story for folks who enjoy tales of the inner machinations of empire-building. Relentless: the True Story of the Man Behind Rogers Communications (2008) is Rogers' autobiography, ghostwritten by Robert Brehl.
Also just out is the life story of another recently deceased Canadian media giant: Izzy: the Passionate Life and Turbulent Times of Izzy Asper, Canada's Media Mogul, by veteran business writer Peter C. Newman.

(*are they still called moguls? and what's the relation to the moguls you ski through?)

Monday, December 01, 2008

28: Stories of AIDS in Africa

Today is World AIDS Day. Sadly, the West couldn't get it together to really help millions of people with AIDS in Africa during the good times. And now with tough times upon the wealthy nations you can bet that help will get shunted to the back of the line. But it shouldn't. Canadians like Stephen Lewis and Globe & Mail Africa correspondent Stephanie Nolen continue to raise the alarm and tell us the things we can and should be doing.
Nolen made a huge impact with her Globe stories about Stephen Lewis, then the United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. She told of the heartbreaking stories of the people Lewis was meeting every day in Africa and his heroic attempt to bring attention to their plight. Lewis spoke about his experiences and AIDS in the 2005 Massey Lectures, which were published as his book, Race Against Time: Searching for Hope in AIDS-Ravaged Africa. Lewis now runs the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which funds local, small-scale AIDS projects in Africa.

Nolen has moved permanently to Africa, living now in Johannesburg, South Africa with her husband and child. 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa (2007) is her Governor General's Award-nominated book about AIDS, with 28 stories from 28 people, each representing a million people with AIDS in Africa.

The Race of My Life

When Austrian skiing legend Hermann "The Herminator" Maier wins a World Cup ski race, you know the ski season is ON! The wily veteran won the men's Super G race at the Bombardier Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup, pushing young Canadian hotshot John Kucera into second place. Maier is an ancient in ski racing's speed events, turning 36 next week. Canada's Thomas Grandi, who has un-retired recently in order to try and compete at Vancouver-Whistler 2010 is also 36, but competes in the technical events (slalom and giant slalom).
Folks were starting to write Maier off as he hadn't won a World Cup race in three years before this victory. Lake Louise is good to him - this is his third Super G victory there. Anyone should be wary of writing Maier off as he accomplished one of sports' great comebacks in 2004. In the summer of 2001 Maier almost died when he crashed his motorcycle. Doctors considered amputating his leg as it was so injured. There were thoughts that Maier might never walk again, never mind ski and certainly not ski competitively. But Maier worked his way back, first to walking, then to running, then to skiing. And in 2004 Maier not only made it back to the winner's podium, he won his fourth World Cup overall title.

I hope I haven't spoiled the story in his book, The Race of My Life. It is an interesting, even inspiring, read, including a foreword from that other comeback kid, Lance Armstrong (It's Not About the Bike).
Photo below of John Kucera courtesy www.winterstartworldcup.com