Independent News Sources & Websites

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I have been wanting to do this for quite a while. In the last year, I have become more and more frustrated with the bias in our mainstream media, [and frankly, too much drivel] and I wanted to find alternative voices. I have asked friends and colleagues to contribute ideas and websites. I have purposely not added any write ups to each website as I want people to investigate them in their own time. Some have questioned Al Jazeera being on the list – due to Qatar’s financial involvement  [although I do think they produce fairly balanced articles.]  And some have questioned RT [Russia Today] due to their bias. However they do have an American and UK page I have discovered.

Not every website will be to people’s pleasing, I am aware of this. I wanted to give a varied list, that is all.

And please, if you think I have left any off the list, let me know. But they must be independent. They are in no particular order. There is no preference.

Mother Jones – http://www.motherjones.com/

The Nation – http://www.thenation.com/

Think Progress – http://thinkprogress.org/

RT [Russia, America, UK] – http://rt.com/uk/

Left Foot Forward – http://leftfootforward.org/

France 24 [English and French] – http://www.france24.com/en/

Addicting Info – http://www.addictinginfo.org/

Another Angry Voice – http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/

Middle East Eye [Middle East & North Africa] – http://www.middleeasteye.net/

Media Lens – http://www.medialens.org/

Truth Out – http://www.truth-out.org/

Media Diversified – http://mediadiversified.org/

Asian Correspondent [Asia] – http://asiancorrespondent.com/

Rappler [Philippines & Indonesia] – http://www.rappler.com/

The Big Eye – http://www.bigeye.com/

Alter Net – http://www.alternet.org/

Global Voices – http://globalvoicesonline.org/

All Africa [Africa] – http://allafrica.com/

Sleuth Journal – http://www.thesleuthjournal.com/

Democracy Now – http://www.democracynow.org/

Exaro News – http://www.exaronews.com/

Al Jazeera English [Middle East] – http://www.aljazeera.com/

Real News Network – http://therealnews.com/t2/

El Plural [Spain] – http://therealnews.com/t2/

Publico [Portugal] – http://therealnews.com/t2/

KPFK News – http://www.kpfknews.org/

IMEMC [Middle East] – http://www.imemc.org/

Narco News [Latin America] – http://www.narconews.com/

Rabble [Canada] – http://rabble.ca/

The Intercept [global] – https://firstlook.org/theintercept/

End The Lie – http://endthelie.com/

Notizie Radicali [Italy] – http://notizie.radicali.it/

Equal Times – http://www.equaltimes.org/

Al Monitor [Middle East] – http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/home.html

The Atlantic – http://www.theatlantic.com/

NPR – http://www.npr.org/

Media Matters – http://mediamatters.org/

Positive News – http://positivenews.org.uk/

AMTV – http://www.amtvmedia.com/

Photo Courtesy of Media Studies Resources – http://media.edusites.co.uk/

Disabled Dating: I am not a freak, I am not a fetish [Feminist Times piece 15th April]

 

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I was five when I had my first boyfriend. Being only five, I liked him for the following reasons: he had floppy hair, big brown eyes, and wore a denim jacket to class – it was 1978. He was a bit different from the other boys, and being a bit different myself, this seemed like the perfect match.

We would hold hands at break time and I invited him to my birthday party. Naively I thought this is the way it would always be. I would ask a boy out, he would say yes, and we would be happy until I found the next love of my life.

I remember the first time I heard, in hushed tones, “such a pretty girl, such a shame about the ‘handicap’.” I wondered why on earth a limp and a bit of a clenched hand was considered ‘a shame’; I had lived in a family home where I was considered perfect, just the way I was. As I got older I started to notice there were no girls or women who resembled me on TV, in the magazines, or in school, and I began to realise just how different I was. There still aren’t; disabled women remain hugely unrepresented in the media.

The teenage years hit, and with them came the loss of non-judgemental behaviour from my peers. I was told no one dates “spazzy girls”. I was a freak, unattractive, undesirable, and no one would ever want me.

We can all agree that objectification is wrong, however, to have sexuality entirely stripped away from your identity can damage your development just as much as society’s constant bombardment of over sexualised images. What infuriated me then, and still does, is that the choice to express myself sexually – in a relationship or out of one – was laughed at… or worse, fetishised.

A few years ago, on the advice of a friend who had once been a high class escort, I joined a disabled dating website. Actually, their first suggestion was to buy myself a male escort, but as I could not afford the £1,000 for a night of passion (yes, £1,000 – I spat my drink out at the cost; give me £50 and send me to the nearest sex shop please!) I opted for the dating agency. I was in between boyfriends, and not that fussed, but realised that I had never ventured into the world of disabled dating before, despite having cerebral palsy myself.

I dutifully put myself online and waited for the messages to arrive. 48 hours later the first message popped up, from a good looking man describing himself as “able bodied” but saying he had “no problem” having a disabled girlfriend. “How very gracious of you!” I snorted, but I gave him a chance.

Over the course of the next two days things got very interesting. He assumed I was in a wheelchair (I’m not). He assumed I did not work (I worked 2 jobs, and still do). He assumed I had very little sexual experience (HA!) and he was also under the assumption that I could not care for myself. All of these things added up to making him very horny indeed; I am not a naive woman, but I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or be suitably shocked at the erect penis that popped up on my screen. When I calmly responded that none of those things applied to me, the response was droopingly swift. At that point I laughed… and laughed hard.

So, I find myself in two categories: desexualised or fetishised. Neither represents me. All adults have a right to a healthy sexuality and a choice in how they express it, disabled or not. A disability should not make me feel like less of a woman, or ashamed and embarrassed about my sexual desires. They do not define me, but they are an integral part of me, just as my disability is.

We need to stop seeing disabled women as odd or unrealistic when they express their desires, or in TV shows where they are still treated as side show freaks. They are human and those feelings are real. If we are working towards a more inclusive society, disabled women need to be seen as  whole individuals. I fear though, we still have a long way to go.

Lisa Jenkins is Arts Editor for God Is In The TV Zine and contributor to The Quietus. She also happens to have cerebral palsy. Follow her @lisaannejenkins

– See more at: http://www.feministtimes.com/disabled-dating-freaks-fetish

Tiny Buddha Article – Getting Back Your Belief in Yourself

 

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ORIGINAL ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN TINY BUDDHA – September 2012

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/getting-back-your-belief-in-yourself/

 

“When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find ways to do it.” ~Dr. David Schwartz

 

Fifteen months ago I was in a rut. A rather large rut actually. The recession was well and truly in full swing and I was up to my eyeballs in credit card and loan debt.

I could barely afford to live, let alone pay my mortgage, and there was the threat of losing my home hanging over my head every day.

I had spent most of my twenties and thirties working to pay the bills and the rent as most of us do, and frankly, considering the economic climate, I was just grateful to have a job. However, every day I would wake up in a fog and go through the motions of living.

Most of the time I felt stressed and exhausted with nothing to focus on or look forward to, and I felt as if I couldn’t do a thing about it—which made me feel worse.

I’m used to challenges in my life, as I have cerebral palsy. My mum passed away when I was nine, my father left the UK when I was eighteen, and I have been living independently ever since.

This is not a “pity” plea. When faced with difficulties, as long as there is some kind of solution, or a door I can try, that keeps me motivated to keep looking for a solution.

Fifteen months ago, I was faced with brick wall after brick wall. I wasn’t happy about it, but I couldn’t see a way out. I’m emotionally tough but my situation was making me question my whole being. I didn’t realize that I was functioning in a depressed state.

I certainly never thought I’d be a single 37-year-old woman on the hamster-wheel of life doing the same job day in and day out, with nothing really to look forward to.

I kept asking myself “Really? Is this it? Is this my purpose?” Something just didn’t feel right about the way I was living my life.

I went to see a friend who specializes in reiki and yoga. She took one look at me and said, “You are at the end of your tether aren’t you?” at which point I burst into floods of tears. It felt so good to let it all out.

After a few moments she said “You can change your life, and you will,” and handed me a small book.

She told me the book would confirm everything I already knew deep down. The book was called The SecretEven if I didn’t believe everything it in, it helped me switch my negative thinking and gave me a much more positive outlook.

Just being told I could change my life made a huge difference in my mood.

In my second reiki session with my friend, she asked me what my passions were. I said music and literature. She then told me to start writing—not tomorrow, not next week, but now!

I realized that I had not written anything in years and had not listened to music—properly—for months. There was nothing in my life I could think of that made me feel excited or joyful, and that just wasn’t me.

In fact, I hadn’t been “me” for years! It was a daunting prospect, and I started comparing myself to my favorite authors and music journalist, so I procrastinated—something I’m rather good at. But once I started to get a few responses from online magazines that were looking for contributors, the ball started slowly, but surely rolling.

I now often ask people who are unhappy with their current situation what their passion is. Most say “I don’t know.” They do, really; they just don’t know how to articulate it.

I ask what they think of first thing in the morning; when they feel happiest; what makes them tick; what they love; and what sends shivers up their spine. Most importantly, I ask when they last felt excited by something.

There is often an underlying passion which can be turned into a job, a hobby, or a lifetime pursuit. I really believe that.

So, a year-and-a-half later I am writing about music, the passion that used to make me as happy as a teenager.

Years ago, I was willing to try and climb out of our house—on the second floor—to get to a concert my father had banned me from. Not easy with cerebral palsy. It was somewhat amusing to watch at the time, but I remember the passion I felt for that band and how good their music made me feel. I was willing to try anything!

Finally after twenty years and doing what people “thought” I should do, I have my passion and belief back.

Don’t get me wrong; life is not a field of sunny daffodils. I don’t get paid for my writing. There are thousands of wannabe music writers out there and hundreds of music magazines. They don’t need to pay you. I write for the privilege of writing about music as a fan more than anything else.

I am still in debt, but I have managed to keep a roof over my head. Something, or someone, gets me through. I am also very lucky to have wonderful friends and family. They would never allow me to go homeless.

I have also stopped fearing loss. Ask yourself what the worst-case scenario would be, and think about the steps you would take if that happened. You would, no doubt, survive somehow.

No matter how bad you think it might be, could you get a roof over your head and food in your stomach for you and your family? If the answer is yes, then you would still be better off than some.

If your fear is losing a person, just know that after they go, through choice or death, your heart will eventually heal, no matter how long it takes, and that it is okay to feel awful about it. You never stop missing the person; you just stop grieving for them, eventually.

My life is so much better than it was fifteen months ago. I am a different person and I feel as if I’m back in the driver’s seat. Through my writing and the contacts I’ve made I have many exciting prospects.

And most importantly of all, the Lisa who existed—the one who thought she could do amazing things with her life—is back.

I still have a day job and I still pay the bills, but my music writing is beginning to be the main focus in my life—money or no money. And this makes me so happy on a daily basis I can’t tell you!

I’m not waiting for someone to “discover me” and I have no intention of becoming famous, but with every new idea I have, interview I do, new contact I make, or new prospect that is offered to me, I get such a buzz.

So, if you find yourself feeling as I did last year, don’t just quit your job, go on the dole, and hope for the best.

Think about a dream you’ve always had and a passion that makes the adrenalin in your body start pumping, and forge a path towards it—for no other reason than you have to.

Expect nothing in return, and everything that comes as a result of you following your passion will bring you untold happiness.

After all, life is far too short to be miserable, don’t you think?

Photo by Dee ❤

 

 

About Lisa Jenkins

Writer, Arts Editor for God Is In The TV Zine. Contributor -The Quietus. Body Gossip Ambassador. Shareholder of This Festival Feeling

Born in Hong Kong, to itinerant parents from New Zealand, ensured that my life would be global. My early years included both Amsterdam & New York before the family settled in London. Growing up around the advertising business in the early eighties exposed me to some great creative influences, many of which continued to provide mentorship and inspiration as my own career started to develop.

My family bequeathed me with an unquenchable desire to travel, and over past 20 years I have been able to explore some pretty obscure corners of Europe, USA, Asia, New Zealand and Australia. This enviable combination of interests and experiences is at the very core of my professional life.

Literature, art & music have continued to be an important part of my life. I have been able to incorporate them into my entrepreneurial life since becoming a shareholder and contributor of This Festival Feeling 5 years ago.
The opportunity to write about the subjects I enjoy such as music, provides inspiration and has helped to refine my journalist skills for other websites such as Bearded Magazine, God Is In The TV, Lady Adventurer, The Quietus , The 405 and most recently Slink Magazine

I have  been interviewed for the BBC Ouch Website and appeared on the BBC Radio 1 documentary ‘Let Me Into The Music’ presented by DJ Nihal. I am in the process of writing my first children’s book and am happy to spread my wings and write about any topic that interests me.

For more examples of my work and contact details, please visit – http://www.lisaannejenkins.com

St Trinians..This ain’t!

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“This is the court of hops….and hops must be obeyed”

It’s funny, I had forgotten that phrase until a friend reminded me of it recently, and then slowly, but surely, my blood started to turn cold….

A couple of days ago I joined an old school group; I was resistant at first, as I thought it would bring back some pretty bad memories. I was right in some ways, and wrong in others.

It’s amazing the way the mind filters our memories. Some of the girls loved the school, and remembered it with rose tinted glasses, others felt more like me. Memories that we find traumatic, we either file them away somewhere, or we use them to shape the people we become as adults.

When I was eleven I was sent to an all girl’s boarding school in Garboldisham for 2 years,  then Felixstowe College for five  years. Felixstowe closed it’s doors for good in 1994.

Before the stereotype of ‘rich girl’ is thrown about, there were alot of international students, a few on scholarships and others who had been funded by extended family members or other educational funds. There were also those of us, who’s parents were breaking their backs to afford the fees as they thought we were getting an excellent education. I can tell you, for the record, we were not. The school was actually not too bad if you were academic or sporty. If you were creative, or different in any way, they threw you to the wolves. So I basically had the pick of the lot. Disabled, single parent family [at the start] AND I was creative. Well, just shoot me now I say!

You spent 3 weeks away from your parents at a time. Phone calls weren’t permitted until you were older, as the teachers thought contact would make us more upset. Sleepless nights, in a strange place, homesickness crashing over you like waves. You were only allowed to wash your hair once a week, and bath twice a week [to save water] we had to strip wash at sinks in a mouldy bathroom between our much cherished baths. It is no doubt why I love my baths today. Being not particularly sporty [surprise surprise] my hell was a double hockey lesson, in winter, and being told to run around 2 hockey pitches just to ‘warm up’ Oh and by the way, all we were wearing was aertex shirts and PE skirts…that’s it.  Then there was the lovely initiation ceremony that we had in our house for the younger girls. It was a riddle that had to be solved. We were told to stand on a table facing the girls in the year above us. Every time we got the riddle wrong, we had to remove a piece of clothing. This was to humble…and humiliate us. And it worked. At my prep boarding school, if we were naughty, we had to stand outside our dorm rooms with just a night dress and slippers on, facing the wall, for much longer than was actually necessary. If we were REALLY naughty you were hit with a slipper or hairbrush. Then, there were the bullies. Oh how they loved me. “Come on Lisa, chase us, did we upset you, poor diddums….come on spazzy, chase us, because you can’t hop along, can you? RETARD!” Lucky for me, over the years, I learnt to fight back with my brain. Not my fists. [Although every now and then, they would come in useful]

Enid Blyton…..Oh how she lied.

Before this begins to sound like a case for child abuse, I do have good memories. I still have friends today from that time. One of the definitions of friendship I hold most dear, is the memory of my friend Emma picking me up after one of my ‘falls’ which happened quite often. [You also had to be virtually dying before they sent you to the school nurse, when I used to faint with period pains, they told me to ‘go for a run’ Painkillers were not allowed] In fact when I started my period in maths class at 14 [ironic as Maths was also my idea of hell on earth] my house matron at the time, literally threw a pack of sanitary pads at me, and told me ‘to get on with it’ A tearful phone call to my father that evening managed to make me feel more human. I got a hug over the phone, which was the best I could hope for.

I had one of my predictable falls walking from the dining room to school one morning. Every girl either walked past me, or over me, or ON me. Except Emma. She was the only one to stop, pick me, brush me off, and walk with me the rest of the way, walking on the outside to catch me in case I fell again. In fact 26 years later, she often still does it by default when we walk down the street. If you want a definition of friendship. You have it. Right there.

Or the patience of my friends Caroline and Vicky when I insisted covering my walls with Skid Row, Aerosmith, Guns n’ Roses, Pantera, Iron Maiden, LA Guns and Alice Cooper posters. They endured my ….as they put it ‘terrible taste in music’. To be fair, they had a point. The acceptance of certain girls, despite my difference. The care and compassion of some of the older girls, who hugged me for hours while I was sobbing with homesickness. The younger girls who thought I was ‘cool’ for being different, and who I looked after in turn when they were having hard times. The sense of loyalty we felt towards each other when one of the teachers turned on us. To be a snitch, was never an option. The lovely feeling of having your own personal space when you were sick, and sent to bed early. The whole dormitory to yourself. It was bliss.  Boys [who we were told were ALL undesirables] smoking, and drinking were all a part of our later years. Although I had been ‘asked to leave’ by then [ahem] I was invited back for the official leavers ball. There were boys. Lots of them. Army boys, boys from the local schools, friends brothers. It was like Sodom and Gomorrah. By the end of the night, girls had put all the common room tables together, and what can only be described as an orgy was taking place. Meanwhile, I was busy in a cupboard somewhere snogging my friend Rachel’s brother, wearing knee high suede boots, and a tight red short velvet dress. I looked like a hooker. How I got out of the house looking like that, I will never know. This is still problem with single sex boarding schools I feel. Too many heightened hormones, and no real understanding of sex or relationships. I’m surprised not more of us got pregnant. It wasn’t until my 6th form college that I learnt to be friends with boys. Their advice and perspective on things educated me greatly, and I still value it today.

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And then there was my English teacher Miss Bullock. Possibly the most terrifying teacher in the school. Hard as nails. Smoked 2 packs a day, thin as a rake and with eyes that could pierce your very soul. You either loved her…or hated her. She didn’t suffer fools, and would quite happily chuck things at you if you were being idiotic. Her lessons were approached with dread, but inspiration, for me at least. Most of the other teachers [bar my drama teacher] saw me as a stupid girl. So stupid in fact that they didn’t allow me to do Maths GCSE [I no doubt would have lowered their overall scoring as a school, and they couldn’t possible have that] I sat in the library learning reams and reams of Shakespeare for a local drama competition, whilst my fellow classmates were writing about algebra and very long division. And quite rightly, my father kicked up merry hell when he found out. Truly terrible educating when you think about it. Not Miss Bullock. She would trawl the lines of girls, throwing the exercise books down on the desks and poking them with a tar stained finger saying ‘this Lisa….THIS was good. Well Done’ it was the best and only compliment that passed her lips, and it was like gold dust. One afternoon, she called me back after class. I assumed I was about to get a bollocking, and I was frankly, shitting bricks. I still remember her words

‘Lisa, you are not stupid. At all. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are. You are articulate, you can use words well. You have a great future ahead of you. Don’t waste it”

To this day, she is still the most important teacher I have ever had.

Or my drama teacher, Mrs Dann, who for some reason, thought I was quite good and made me do all my L.A.M.D.A exams, which were the preliminaries to get into RADA in those days. Regardless it gave me confidence to speak in public [a skill I have completely lost these days unfortunately] and allowed me to express myself when I felt silenced by everything around me. It transpired that RADA would have never cast a ‘Juliette with a limp’ so my future as a world famous actress playing Kate in Taming of The Shrew was cut short after A Levels.

If I had children now, would I send them to boarding school? Absolutely not. To start with, the fees have quadrupled.  Even if my child requested to go, I would ask myself why they didn’t want to be at home in the first place. However, a couple of my boarding school friends have sent their children and they are thriving. It really depends on the child and the personality. Of course boarding schools have changed immensely now too. What did boarding school teach me? To emotionally survive. Also to make my bed, 3 layers deep with perfect hospital corners so you could bounce a 10p coin on them. To shine my shoes, the old fashioned way.  To cope on my own. To be independent. To know, understand and respect people from all four corners of this earth. To live with pain, both emotional and physical. To understand that your parents can’t always be there. To realise just how strong you can be.

There is much more to write here, and perhaps I will at a later date, these are just the memories that have been swimming around my head in the last few days.

As my friend Emma said – ‘It was a rotten school, but it built character’

I have mixed feelings about that, and I always will.

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London – A Poem

This has been rolling around in my head for some time! Inspired by many things. Lady Adventurer’s #LovingLondon series – http://ladyadventurer.co.uk/page/1?c=48  – The Olympics, The Paralympics, Occupy Movement, our shite government, The Pussy Riot Case. And most of all my love of London and the freedom of speech that we all have living in it.

[Photo courtesy of Paines Plough website]

London

I hold you all to me

The fat cats with their bankers bonuses

The disenfranchised youths with their eyes on a nonexistent future.

The sick, disabled, frail and elderly

The unemployed. The entrepreneurs

The inspirational and the inspired

I hold you all to me

I let you vote for ridiculous politicians that are making the rich richer, and the poor bereft

I let you vote for those who think they are rocks stars and still believe in a united Britain.

I let you Occupy me

My streets, my parks, my cathedral

I let you say what you want about our monarchy and government, without fear of imprisonment or death.

I let you riot in my streets, and then watch as you pick each other up again

You have come from all four corners of the globe

To fill my streets with your cultures and beliefs.

You make me what I am

My wall has no boundaries.

I breathe you all in.

I hold you all to me

In our differences we are united

Because I am unlike anywhere else in the world

I am London

And you are all mine.

50 Shades of Grey – An alternative list.

Much has been spoken and written about 50 Shades of Grey. How it is saving marriages all over the world and liberating women everywhere. What worries me is that people actually believe this twaddle.

I am writing this after only one hour’s sleep and after seeing the Ch 4 mock doc on it last night. They only had one journalist on it that disliked it, and the rest of them failed to see that this book had patronised  the intelligence of a whole generation of women. It is not the S & M acts themselves that are a problem, it’s the way they are presented and written about in the book. i.e. very very badly. There is fantasy, and then there is complete delusion wrapped up in possibly one of the worst story lines ever written.

I must watch what I say on here for fear of my MD walking past my desk and seeing the words, ‘His length’ ‘Down there’ [Wherever THAT is!] and just in case ‘my inner goddess does the merengue’ with just the mere thought of Mr. Grey. The language used is laughable at best.  I’m actually surprised words like ‘his thingy’ ‘front bottom’ and ‘woo woo’ weren’t used.  At least it might have been vaguely amusing then….And to be honest, Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins have always done this genre of the ‘sex romp’ far better. 50 Shades of Grey has put women’s sexual liberation back about 100 years. And I’m fuming. This is not a story of consensual sexual eroticism, but the dominating possession of a 21 year old virgin. Can’t you relate? Nope. Either can I.

So here we go ladies. An alternative list of erotic literature, which is not only extremely well written, it spans the four corners of the globe. Some of it written by women….for women. Some written by men. They all however have the common themes of intelligence, beautifully written words, true eroticism and the sexual empowerment of women. Enjoy!

NB – Most quotes /reviews are from Amazon. Apologies, I am just too damn tired to write original copy right now.

 

The Almond by Nedjma

L’Amande, written under a pseudonym by a North African woman living in France, reads like an erotic manifesto for modern women who want to break free from the bonds of cultural tradition and unashamedly demand their right to pleasure. [Note from Lisa – this is probably my favourite]

‘My ambition is to give back to the women of my blood the power of speech confiscated by their men.’

Silk-  Alessandro Baricco

“Although they are unable to exchange so much as a word, love blossoms between them, a love that is conveyed in a number of recondite messages. How their secret affair develops is told in this remarkable love story” [Note from Lisa – One of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. Stunning]

100 Strokes of The Brush Before Bed – Melissa P

“As the summer unfolds, she follows her desires wherever they lead her, often into the arms of men who set her world on fire. She is thrilled to discover the sexual power she wields. An instant blockbuster in Italy where it has sold over 850,000 copies and scandalized the nation, and it has gone onto become an international literary phenomenon. Told with disarming candor, Melissa P.’s bittersweet tour of extreme desires is as poignant as it is titillating”

The Story of the Eye by George Bataille

“The Story of the Eye is not so much an erotic text, as an exploration on what it is that drives every human- desire. Desire to live, breath eat, make love, our lives revolve around it, and if there was no desire we would not be alive. It is a mistake to have Batailles novella down as an erotic fiction- it is so much more than that.”

 Nadja – Andre Breton

“NADJA is a Surrealist romance, and has come to be known as a book which defined that movement’s attitude towards life. With its blend of intimate confession and sense of the marvellous, NADJA weaves a mysterious and compelling tapestry of daily life as seen through a magical perspective. Combining autobiographical fact with memory and imagination, Breton spins one of the most unusual love stories in modern literature.”

The Story of O – Pauline Reage

‘A highly literary and imaginative work, the brilliance of whose style leaves one in no doubt whatever of the author’s genius … a profoundly disturbing book, as well as a black tour-de-force’ –Spectator [Note from Lisa – subject is extreme but it is very well written, and a classic.]

The Lover – Marguerite Duras

“A sensational international bestseller, and winner of Frances’ coveted Prix Goncour. Saigon, 1930s: a poor young French girl meets the elegant son of a wealthy Chinese family. Soon they are lovers, locked into a private world of passion and intensity that defies all the conventions of their society. ‘The Lover’ is disturbing, erotic, masterly. Here is an unforgettable portrayal of the incandescent relationship between the lovers, and of the hate that slowly tears the girl’s family apart.” [Note from Lisa – Ignore the dire film that was made of it in the 90’s – the book is quite different!]

Full Blood – John Siddique

‘Bold as love… Each word is to be savoured like a sip of forbidden
wine.’

Bina Shah – Author of Slum Child

Intelligent, sensual, highly erotic, manly and beautifully mortal – Full Blood is the result of a fifteen-year labour of love. This is literature in its most empowered state, and poetry at its most radical, lyrical and affecting. Full Blood invites you in easily, and then turns into one of those books that you can’t put down because it has become your close friend.

John Amaechi OBE – Interview with Lisa Jenkins – 15th November 2011

John Amaechi OBE is a retired American-born British basketball player who currently works as a psychologist, educator and political activist in Europe and the United States.

Amaechi now has a portfolio career as a broadcaster, consultant and academic, working on coverage of a weekly NBA basketball game on UK television channel Five and providing co-commentary for the BBC at the 2008 Olympic Games in addition. .Amaechi owns Amaechi Performance Systems, which is a consultancy working with numerous bluechip brands to improve leadership and communication skills and organisational diversity. John is a member of the American Psychological Association, the British Psychological Society (BPS), the BPS Division of Organisational Psychology and the BPS Psychological Testing Centre. Most recently, John became a Senior Fellow at the centre for Emotional Literacy and Personal Development at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) in the United Kingdom.

Where are you now and what are you working on, at the moment?

Amaechi: Physically, I’m all over the place. I’m in Manchester today, but I’m in Southampton tomorrow. Next week, I’m in Monaco. I’m a psychologist who works within organisations; helping them deal with performance, morale issues, issues of recruitment, retention, on the business side. [I’m also] working with schools and some universities on their student and pupil engagement. So it’s pretty wide-ranging stuff. We also have a speech writing element; we write speeches for a number of large corporations and individuals who are heads of large corporations and also some politicians.

 Because your work is so far-reaching, could you tell me what some of your favourite areas of work are?

Amaechi: I think the work I’m doing in schools, in terms of student engagement. In terms of making secondary schools and some universities, [they] have an atmosphere which is more conducive to lots of different types of people coming together and having a successful experience. I suppose that’s something that always feels really powerful.
 Do you consider yourself a role model, on a day-to-day basis? Or do people say that you are?

Amaechi: You don’t have a choice about being a role model. The moment you are visible and behave a way in public, people will look at that and some people will emulate it. If one person follows you, you’re a role model. Every parent is a role model and not just for their kids, but for their friends’ kids, as well. And I just know that because I’ve been on Oprah, I’m on television in Britain probably every week, because I’m outspoken, I blog and write for The Times and such and such, that people listen. So I’m a role model by default. I’ve got to admit, I love it. To be in a position where very little effort, on your part – the way you look at somebody, a few carefully-chosen words, a hug and a handshake – make a difference. That’s like being magic.
 Which brings me nicely into my next question. The piece you did for Sunday Morning Rise – where you spoke about sports role models, particularly how someone can be a footballer or golfer and do what you like, some sleep around etc. – and how many of our young people are taking notice of that. Obviously, you do think it’s a problem, but could you expand on that?

Amaechi: I know that there are good role models out there, but what I also know is that the vast majority of household names don’t live up to the billing. So the problem is, I know there are some young Premiership players, for example, who aren’t superstars yet. Perhaps they’re reserves who come off the bench and also ran on the first team, but these guys are out in their communities doing stuff. They’re saying the right things, they’re treating people the right way, but the column inches goes to the superstars. And I’ll add this too, there are superstars in others sport who are great too, but unfortunately, Lacrosse doesn’t get on the back pages. Neither does netball and neither does basketball, when there are a couple of good role models in basketball.

So there are always sports that have to be more vigilant – Rugby, I’ve always seen what they’ve been doing; and football – and I think when you have this much power, you are bound to a contract and part of that contract is that people will look to you as inspiration – whether in a positive way or a negative. They’ll look at how, if you’re a straight man, how you treat women in relationships. They’ll look to how you treat the people around you. Are you arrogant or benevolent? They will look to these things to know how to behave, if they ever receive a measure of success.

 So based on the current climate, how do you think it will effect the next generation? Will it be a decade of people that don’t treat anyone around them with respect ?

Amaechi: I would say, if we’re not very careful at looking at the beginnings – the academies in football, the Rugby clubs that have promising juniors coming through, the national team programmes for lots of different sports. If we don’t start looking at the holistic education of the young people there, I don’t just mean in terms of classes and schools, we’re going to end up with increasingly-poor role models and examples. Let’s not forget in football and rugby, these people aren’t role models just for kids, there are grown men and women in the stands watching them.
 About you OBE in June, was it a great honour? Has anything changed since, if at all?

Amaechi: It’s still weird. It’s a very unusual thing, I’m somewhat controversial and prickly and I don’t make any apologies for it, but because of that, I never expect to get any public recognition and so when I did, it was very lovely. I’m actually going to receive my medal next week; I’m going to the palace, so it’s all moving. It’s odd. But because of the type of person I am, it makes me want to do more now.

 And because you haven’t gone down the traditional route, in terms of your life, I think it’s good that you don’t fit into any particular box.

Amaechi: I think that is important. It’s good that people see lots of different types of people that are a mish-mash of lots of different things.

Talking about your OBE and going to the palace, do you think certain elements of society and government really have a clue about what’s going on in the UK today?

Amaechi: No is the short answer. I think that it’s very cliché at the moment to say the Lib-Con Coalition is out-of-touch, but I don’t necessarily think it’s that they’re out-of-touch, it’s that they’re unaware of the fact that they bring a lot of baggage to the equation, when they start thinking about young people, poor people, black people and whatever else. So experience in life gives you the lens, through which you see the world.

When you have a Conservative cabinet where the majority of people came from just one college of Oxford, then the way they see the world is uniform – they all see things in the same way and they all slap each other on the back – and they don’t have enough people telling them, “I know you that’s how you see things through your glasses, but try on my glasses. Try to see it the way I see it, from a different background” I think that changes it. Then all of a sudden, you stop seeing this ever so prevalent talk of people who have a great sense of entitlement and don’t want to work for it and just want to go on Big Brother. This is the rolling rhetoric, right now, that I think is nonsense. We all know there’s a minority of people like that, but anyone who’s been to Hackney in London and Moss Side in Manchester and deprived wards across the country know that there are families that graft. And they’re far more prevalent than these two families who skive.

 So for the next 10 years or so, what do you think we need to improve the self-worth in our next generation of people? What can be done to help them?

Amaechi: I think there are a number of things. I, personally, would like us to focus a lot on speech and communication in schools. I think that our ability to personally connect with each is vital. I’m not one of these people that thinks because of Facebook or Twitter, that we can’t communicate anymore. That’s just an alternative form of communication, but the inter-personal stuff is more important. Helping young people, not only top communicate with their peers, but with people that have authority is one of the skills that – if you work with the Institute of Directors or the Chamber of Commerce – they think are missing. Not specific skills in their industry, the inter-personal skills to communicate with each other and to deal with conflict is missing, so we need to introduce that.

I’m part of a centre for emotional literacy learning and research in the UK and the other fellows and myself are keen to introduce the idea of emotional literacy into schools, because it works on a lot of these levels – both with communication and with reducing conflict and helping people to manage their own emotions and understand those of others. This is a vital step for young people and the future.

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Just another Amy Winehouse post…..

It’s been one hell of a weekend. First Norway, then Amy Winehouse, then the train crash in China. So much sadness and death in 72 hours.

Looking at the media Amy’s death seems to be front page news, with actually very little being covered about the train crash, near Wenzhou in Zhejiang province of China. 35 people died and 200 people were hurt. People are up in arms that Amy, an alcoholic and drug addict is taking front page news, when the bombing and shootings in Norway should be seen as far more tragic. What I will say, is that the 3 events are not in any way comparable. Please do not try to compare them. They are all entirely different, and all truly tragic in their own individual way. I have my theories about why Amy has had what seems to be,  the most coverage, and I want to share them with you.

I said this yesterday to people, and I will say it again, no one chooses to be an alcoholic, or drug addict. It is not that simple. It is a sickness, and a very destructive one at that. When you know and love people that have struggled with addiction for years, you would do anything to help make them better. You think maybe you can, and then you learn that it really is up to them to stop. It is not that black and white though. Sometimes, that person is just not strong enough. Unfortunately Amy wasn’t. People can comment that the addict chose to do that drug, or drink that entire bottle of vodka, so it is their fault, and the consequences are their own. Some people even shockingly suggested Amy deserved to die because of her life style. I can’t tell you how upset this makes me. The ‘system’ still has a long way to go before they fully understand why a person is an addict. We can send a person to rehab and detox them 20 times, but until it is understood why they have the addiction in the first place, it will not work. What makes a person pick up that drink, or do that drug instead of dealing with life in the way most of us do, is still very much a mystery. What is known is that many people self medicate, and are in a lot of pain. Sometimes that pain is so deep that no one can touch it. Yes, there are many people that have had immense trauma and pain in their lives, that are NOT alcoholics or drug addicts, so why are they different? That is the million dollar question.

The reason Amy has struck such a chord with people is because, yes, she was famous, but also alcoholism and drug addiction is not going to go away any time soon and it has touched hundreds, if not thousands of people’s lives. 1420 people on average die every year from drug addiction, and anything from 5,000 to 40,000 people die every year from alcohol abuse [Source – Drugscope.co.uk] EVERY YEAR! We can hope against hope that the bombing and shootings in Norway were a one off, nothing like that will happen again let us pray, and we can hope the same for the train crash in China. Of course nothing is definite, and the non provoked violence that occurred in Norway, and the fact that they were innocent teenagers is what has shocked people the most. And it is, truly, truly awful. No question. However people being affected by drug and alcohol abuse will continue, until addicts, and the people that love them, are given better help.

Unlike the shootings, and the train crash, there is no one to ‘blame’ when it comes to Amy’s death, least of all her. I try and take on a somewhat Buddhist attitude when it comes to death [and I mean..TRY] Amy is no longer suffering, and this in itself is a blessing in some ways. It is the people that are left behind that suffer the most, her family & her friends. They will grieve for many years to come. I myself have lost people that I have loved in my life, and I so feel for them. This is actually, sadly what brings the 3 events together, the pain of the people that have lost their loved ones. So to anyone, that lost people they loved last weekend, in whatever way, my heart goes out to you.

Happy Valley

I spent 3 months in a humicrib and it was 1 month before my parents could actually hold me. People were telling my father that mum had post natal depression; my father quite rightly said to them, “Wouldn’t you be depressed if you couldn’t hold your baby, or take her home? In fact we are both feeling pretty rotten.”

In those days there was no ‘paternity leave’ so my father continued working 12-14 hour days at Ogilvy & Mather and my mum had many friends come over to keep her company, support her, and keep her going until dad got home and they went to the hospital. After 6 weeks I was still so small that a new born nappy was too big for me, but I was growing and eating, and that was the main thing! I was born both premature and immature [certain organs had not developed totally quite yet] but considering it was 1973, the Matilda Hospital were doing a great job of keeping me alive. That, and my own stubborn will, was pulling me through.

I finally got to go home on 29th July 1973, and everyone, frankly, was just relieved! Many people came to visit, and I was quite happy to be passed around from person to person as long as I was getting a cuddle from someone! I was quite content. My father would sometimes get up in the middle of the night and give me a gentle prod to make sure I was breathing. It drove my mother nuts because it would wake me from a very peaceful sleep and get me squawking until I was cuddled back to sleep again.

After 3 months of stress and drama, the last thing anyone needed was more drama but tha wasn’t to be – this time it was on a much larger scale!

When my parents first moved to Hong Kong they lived in a cheap, low-rise apartment building in a street called Village Terrace, tucked away up a blind lane on the side of Happy Valley. After I was 6 months old they would occasionally ask the teenage daughter of their Chinese neighbours, across the hallway, to babysit for short periods. Usually when I was asleep. The girl was slightly mentally disabled but easy to talk to, very nice, kind and she enjoyed looking after me.

One weekend she came to our door, very upset, saying that she had killed her father. My dad went into their apartment with her and found the father lying across a couch with a stab wound in his chest and a kitchen knife beside him on the floor. He appeared to my father to be alive but he was at a loss as what to do next but call an ambulance, which he did. Unfortunately, the girl’s father was dead by the time the ambulance arrived. In the meantime, the daughter locked herself in the kitchen and was threatening to kill herself. The police duly arrived and my father tried to persuade the girl to come out of the kitchen. He was afraid that she would either try to kill herself with a knife or jump out of the kitchen window – 4 storeys up.

She eventually came out and was taken away by the police who had to fight their way through the clutch or frenzied tabloid reporters and photographers who were jamming the apartment and lift lobby.

One of the headlines the next day proclaimed, “Daughter murders father after massage”

One of the most incriminating headlines ever!

The facts were: The murder victim was the girl’s step father. They frequently argued and he would threaten to send her back to some kind of institution is she didn’t do as she was told. The step father was unable to walk very well due to severe arthritis in his legs. One of the girl’s tasks was to massage his legs from time to time to help the blood circulation and relieve the pain. On the day of his death the mother was out and it seems the two of them argued and the step father once again threatened the girl with being institutionalised. She panicked, got a kitchen knife and stabbed him once in the chest. Unfortunately for both of them the knife hit a vital spot.

The girl was tried and found guilty of manslaughter but with diminished responsibility. She was not jailed but placed in the care of her mother and professional advisors.

My father still remembers the details very clearly to this day because he was a key defence witness at the trial and was very concerned that justice was being done on the girl’s behalf, despite the clearly exaggerated reports in the notoriously bad HK tabloids.

My parents moved to the Mid Levels neighbourhood shortly thereafter but the memory stayed with them always.