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DEPECHE MODE live at 6 music festival 2017


Highlights of the band's headlining performance in Glasgow, playing the iconic Barrowland Ballroom on the last Sunday in March. The band's first live UK show in four years saw them perform tracks from their new album Spirit, along with some classic hits. The last time Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher performed at the 2,000 capacity venue was in 1984 for their Some Great Reward tour.


Sandra Bernhard: Comedian always speaks her mind

The last time Sandra Bernhard performed in San Francisco, she had laryngitis. Barely able to speak, Bernhard defiantly took the stage at Bimbo’s and managed to rework her performance into one of those legendary, had-to-be-there moments. Somehow, laryngitis made the show grittier, funnier and more real.

One never knows what might happen when seeing Sandra Bernhard live.

“I never really got to do the show, last time,” Bernhard explains as we discuss her upcoming Regency Ballroom show, “Sandra Bernhard Is #Blessed.” This time, come hell or high water, the comedian/actress/singer intends to bring it.

“San Francisco is one of my biggest markets!”

Speaking with Bernhard is all at once intimidating and thrilling. She speaks with the hustle of a lifelong, old-school entertainer. Bernhard is happy to give an interview, happy to answer questions and happy to tell you exactly what she thinks. Beautifully, this is exactly how Bernhard built a career. It turns out, being consistently authentic, working really hard and self-promoting can propel one to stardom.

After beginning her career as a stand-up comedian in Los Angeles in the 1970s, Bernhard was cast in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy” at age 26. She appeared on “Roseanne” in the mid-1990s as the gay character Nancy and can now be seen as a wildly popular guest star on the CBS comedy “2 Broke Girls.”

Bernhard is a three-time published author, has released several albums and appeared more than 30 times as a favorite guest of David Letterman. It should be noted that in addition to this abbreviated resume, Bernhard is constantly on tour with her live stand-up, storytelling and musical performances. This is not a lady who lets laryngitis stop anything.

When asked about the title of her upcoming show, she corrects me. “It’s HASHTAG blessed, honey. It’s funny. It’s taken from social media. People are always saying, 'I’m hashtag happy’ or 'I’m hashtag bedraggled.’ Well, I’m hashtag fed-up.”

Happily in year 16 of a relationship with her girlfriend, writer Sara Switzer, and the mother of a 17-year-old high school junior, Bernhard draws inspiration for her live performances from everywhere and everything.

“So much is happening. I see something on the street, a passing vignette or tableau. I draw from all these places,” Bernhard says. “Musically, these are songs I’ve always wanted to sing.”

Does her teenage daughter attend her shows? “If she wants to,” Bernhard says. “At this age, she’s a comedy aficionado. She chooses to laugh elsewhere.”

Bernhard first visited San Francisco at age 10 and has always felt a connection to the city. But she doesn’t mince words when discussing San Francisco’s oft-maligned income disparity and tech takeover.

“The city that I knew … I don’t really ever connect to the city the way I did,” Bernhard sighs. “The big pieces of the fun, the celebration, the great funky aspect of it has been gutted. In general, San Francisco is not the city that I remember it being, and when I come back, I’m always looking for the touchstones. I don’t really find them anymore in San Francisco.”

That tough love can be hard to hear, but in our heart of hearts, we know she might be right. After all, if Sandra Bernhard didn’t keep things real, she wouldn’t be Sandra Bernhard. Perhaps a salty, soulful Sandra Bernhard live performance is exactly the kind of hashtag #realtalk that San Francisco could use these days.

If you go

Sandra Bernhard Is #Blessed: 8 p.m. Friday, May 1. $49.50-$62.50. The Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave., S.F. (415) 673-5716.


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Sandi Toksvig to launch new political party

Sandi Toksvig has announced her plans to form a new political party to contest elections in 2020, following her departure from BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz. Speaking on Women’s Hour, Toksvig said she is involved in setting up the Women’s Equality Party.


“I have made jokes over and over again about politics and, do you know, this election I’ve had enough,” she said. “And I have decided that instead of making jokes about it, I need to participate. So I am involved in the founding of a new political party.”

“It’s called the Women’s Equality Party. It is a fantastic group of women – and indeed men – who have decided that enough is enough and we need to make some changes.”

The role of women in politics has received a substantial boost in the current election, with politicians like Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood being well received by audiences around the country in the televised debates. However, many equality issues remain unsettled, mainly the gender pay gap – a global issue, which Pope Benedict described yesterday as “pure scandal”.

Toksvig leaves the News Quiz after hosting for 9 years, and Sue Perkins has already been touted as a replacement.


The Many Faces of Billie Holiday 1990

- Billie Holiday, 1915 ∞ 1959

Morgenavond op de reguliere nederlandse televisie Cultura 20:30 uur.

The Many Faces Of Billie Holiday invites viewers to see the many faces of this "dark lady of sonnets", as one poet called her, and to appreciate her undying art more deeply. Most presentations feature Lady Day as the sad victim of hard times and drugs. The single fact of her life that matters above all others is that she was a great artist who, with Louis Armstrong, invented modern jazz singing. Mining a treasure trove of completely new information, the producers set the record straight -- and beautifully. In a voice that is Billie-like in its rasping wiseness and its ring, stage and screen star Ruby Dee reads from Holiday's autobiography Lady Sings The Blues.

Documentaire over de legendarische Amerikaanse zangeres Billie Holiday die deze maand 100 zou zijn geworden. Aan de hand van film- en video-opnames van haar optredens, interviews en haar autobiografie (Lady Sings the Blues, 1956) wordt een beeld geschetst van Holiday als een van de grootste vernieuwers in de vocale jazz. Deze documentaire laat veel van de inktzwarte aspecten van haar leven (met name haar heroineverslaving in haar latere carrière) buiten beeld om ruimte te geven aan de muziek die, bij Holiday als bij geen ander, voor zich spreekt.

ANOUK- 'New tunes are making my day'

new tunes are making my day :-) #rightontime

Posted by Anouk on Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Agnes Of God 1985

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Toni Morrison and Angela Davis on friendship and creativity

Angela Davis, UC Santa Cruz professor emerita, introduces author Toni Morrison before her lecture at the 2014 Founders Celebration. (Photos by Steve Kurtz)UC Santa Cruz Review writer Dan White had separate in-depth conversations this summer with Toni Morrison and Angela Davis about their past collaboration, their longstanding friendship, and their bedrock belief in the power of literature. Davis introduced Morrison while she was in Santa Cruz to deliver the Peggy Downes Baskin Ethics Lecture at the Rio Theater on October 25. The subject: "Literature and the Silence of Goodness." Angela Davis was interviewed by phone from Massachusetts, and Toni Morrison from upstate New York.

Dan White: I would guess that even some of your most ardent fans don't realize that you were an influential editor at Random House for 20 years. At the time, you were bringing out African American voices, including some strong feminist voices, to a wider audience.

Toni Morrison: Well, I was determined to do that when I came there. There was a lot of activity going on, a lot of activism, and I thought, 'I will publish these voices instead of marching.' I thought it was my responsibility to publish African American and African writers who would otherwise not be published or not be published well, or edited well, and so I brought out works by (Muhammad) Ali and Toni Cade (Bambara) and Gayl (Jones), and I did a whole collection of African short stories and then I did The Black Book, and I thought that was important because I was good at it, because I had read some books by black writers about black things, and they were so badly edited, it made you want to weep. Like Roots (by Alex Haley). Have you ever read that?

DW: I was a kid when it came out. I did see most of the mini-series.

TM: Oh, they just threw (the book) together. It was backward anyway, and they threw in the ending. He says 'that child was me.' We knew that in the beginning!

To Angela Davis: During her time at Random House, Toni Morrison edited your biography, which was published in 1974. How did that initial connection come about?

AD: She contacted me. I wasn't so much interested in writing an autobiography. I was very young. I think I was 26 years old. Who writes an autobiography at that age? Also, I wasn't that interested in writing a book that was focused on a personal trajectory. Of 

Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prizer winner Toni Morrison speaks at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz

course, at that time, the paradigm for the autobiography, as far as I was concerned, was the heroic individual, and I certainly did not want to represent myself in that way. But Toni Morrison persuaded me that I could write it the way I wanted to; it could be the story not only of my life but of the movement in which I had become involved, and she was successful.

To Angela Davis: Your autobiography is very cinematic. I've read a lot of your more academic work, but this one is constructed like a novel. In the very beginning, you're trying to get away from the FBI, and there is this palpable sense of fear. The reader is right in the middle of a manhunt. I was wondering how much of that comes from the influence of your mentor, Toni Morrison.

AD: The decision to begin the story at the moment when I went underground and then would be arrested was an interesting way of drawing people into a story, the outlines of which they already knew because, of course, my being placed on the FBI 10 most wanted list was publicized all around the country, all around the world. So yes, there was the use of the kind of cinematic strategy of flashback, and this was thanks to input from my editor, Toni Morrison. She did not rewrite things for me, but she asked me questions. She would say, 'what did the space look like? What was in the room, and how would you describe it?' It was quite an amazing experience for me to have her as a mentor. My experience with writing was primarily writing about philosophical issues. I really had to learn about how to write something that would produce images in people's minds that would draw them into a story.

TM: Working with Angela was sui generis, and I didn't just edit her book. I went on her book tour with her; I was her handler! All over. This was before I was Toni Morrison (Morrison's real name is Chloe Wofford. Toni is her nickname, and 'Morrison' is the last name of her ex-husband.) We were in Scandinavia at one point, and I was a good handler. People would come up to her you, know: 'My brother is in prison, and I was wondering, could we have a cocktail party (to raise money for him)?' and the thing was, (Davis) would stop and listen, and say, 'where is he?', and I would say, 'Angela, come on!'

DW: You seem to be someone who is good at setting boundaries with other people.

TM: Yes. that's true. I've learned three things. I tell everybody that I never used these words much but now I am happy to use them pretty much all the time. One is 'no.' The other one is 'shut up.' And the last one is 'get out!' Now that I have that arsenal, I could go forth. (laughs.)

DW: This is a bit of an aside, but it relates to what you just said about creating firm boundaries with people. Once, I saw you reading at Columbia University, and a woman stood up and said, "Toni Morrison, I would love to read you this poem I wrote," and you said, "No."

TM: I said that? (laughs.)

DW: To AD: When you were working with Toni Morrison, she was bringing new books to life of her own. The Bluest Eye was written while she was still at Random House. Did you ever have a chance to see her in action, working on a book?

AD: Absolutely. I had the opportunity to read The Bluest Eye before most people I know were exposed to it, and I can remember that she would write during every spare moment. This is something that really impressed me about her: her discipline, her focus. One time, I was sitting in her house in Rockland County, (New York), and she had to drive in to (Manhattan) every day to work at Random House. I would see her when we were driving in. When there was traffic, she would pull out a little pad and write something or pull out a scrap of paper here or there, and I realized she was living the life of the next novel in her mind, regardless of whatever else was happening. I have always been impressed by her ability to be so focused and to inhabit the universe of her writing while not neglecting the universe that involves the rest of us.

DW: And she did all this while raising two boys on her own, dealing with the commute, and holding down a high-powered job.

AD: And she was not a hermit so she also had a very active social life as well. To be able to maintain that focus – this is something she continues to do today. I am impressed by the regularity with which her novels are published. She is always working on a project. She always inhabits that other world.

DW to TM: Angela Davis has gone into detail about your relentless drive, about how often you bring out new books. I wanted to know what continues to spur you on in your career at this point. (Morrison is now 83.) Is there some other form you haven't tried yet, some goal you feel you haven't met?

TM: No, I've pretty much run the gamut, but writing novels is the world to me, literally. The outside world can be OK or not OK, beautiful or not beautiful, but I am in control here. When I'm writing, nobody's telling me what to do. The expectations are high because they are mine, and that is a kind of freedom I don't have anywhere else. Nowhere. I'm not very happy when I don't have a project. I don't have to actually be developing a manuscript but if I don't have an idea about the beginning of it, wondering about it...

DW: This one is for Angela Davis. You've been friends with Toni Morrison for 40 years now, and you've had a chance to see her work develop and her influence grow. I was hoping you could comment on the way Toni Morrison's work has influenced the literary world, and the world in general.

AD: As a result of her work and the work of some others, it became possible to imagine slavery very differently, to humanize slavery, to remember the system of slavery did not destroy the humanity of those whom it enslaved; oftentimes, the assumption is that slavery was all bad, and of course, if you portray slaves as experiencing joy or making music, you somehow violate the ethics of recognizing slavery as evil, but of course, if slaves were not able to reach down and find some humanity within themselves, they would have ceased to be human beings, literally. That is why the focus on reimagining slave subjectivities is so important. Beloved, of course, allows us to do this, and it renders a very different approach, not only to literature but also to history and to popular narratives about slave histories. A film like Twelve Years a Slave is very important, but at the same time, there was a dimension that was lacking.

DW to TM: Perhaps you could reflect on how slavery was portrayed when you first took it on as a subject.

TM: The way slavery was portrayed was different. It changes when you take away 'the white gaze.' All those wonderful writers who wrote after they were freed were writing for abolitionists. They didn't think I was going to read it, and so they had to please or not disturb white abolitionists with their stories, so you read Frederick Douglass, and I can feel the anger that he erases. That's not there. If he knew I was reading it, it might be a very different book. Even Ralph Ellison. I tell people he called the book Invisible Man. As good as the book is, my initial response is, 'Invisible to whom?'

DW for Toni Morrison: While you've dealt with some truly horrific subject matter in your books, including slavery, you've also placed a lot of emphasis on narrativizing good in your work. Why is that so important to you as a value in your work?

TM: Goodness—there really isn't anything else that humans ought to be cultivating and living for. The rest of it is petty and selfish, cartoonish almost. I always think of evil with a top hat and a big band and a cape, a cane, maybe some shiny jewelry, so you are very, very attracted by the glitter. I thought the most impressive thing that the Nazis did for their cause was their designer, their uniforms, the length of their boots.

DW: That, and the power of the loudspeaker.

TM: Yes. Crowds, loudspeakers, a big drama, and people were seduced: those who were not repelled and those who were not slaughtered.

DW: You've mentioned that evil has gotten an enormous promotion in literature while good has been dragged off center stage. You've mentioned that goodness often comes across as weak or muffled or silent.

TM: It wasn't true in literature in the early days. There was always a hero who prevailed. As awful as things could happen in a Dickens novel, it ended up with the survival and triumph of high morality, of people who deserved to triumph. But something happened. Now, I'm not entirely sure about this, but I think it is after World War I with novelists at any rate, and certainly some of the war poets. Perhaps they understood themselves as attacking evil but they ended up theatricalizing it and the good people were fairly stupid or unlucky or what have you. There are references in literature to the silencing of goodness... I am interested in pulling from the modern canon what I know and what I believe about this adoration and fascination, this compulsion to display evil. Even if there is a mild attempt to say that it is evil, nevertheless, it's hogging the stage in many novels. I think goodness is weak in literature almost like it is in the culture. This is just a general observation.

DW: In light of this, how do you dramatize good in your own stories?

TM: For me, there is always an ending in which somebody knows something extremely important that they didn't know before so the acquisition of knowledge is a gesture of mine toward goodness. The accumulation of events, theories, changes of mind, encounters, whatever is going on at the end of the book, it tends to move toward some kind of epiphany that is a revelation of a better self. Now, there is a lot of sadness and melancholy among the people in my books but strategically, structurally, that is what I think is going on. I might not be the best example of what I am describing in the lecture (in Santa Cruz) but I don't want to leave a text with the reader hopeless or even helpless, and certainly somebody in there has to survive in the atmosphere of goodness or love, and Love is the best example of my books of that.

DW: In a lecture at the Harvard Divinity School in 2012, you also delved into different interpretations – different theories – about the reasons for altruism. According to one interpretation you mentioned in the lecture, altruism is not an innate value. It has to be taught, learned. With this in mind, do you think novels can, or should, bear an ethical responsibility, a moral weight?

TM: I would hate to say they bear that weight but it would be more interesting to me if they would examine that (issue) more carefully, not in black and white terms, you know, villains and heroes, but in some other way. I've read some interesting definitions of altruism, none of them very helpful or positive. One said it was narcissism, and another said it was kind of a mental illness. The notion of its being taught is the question you put to me. And I thought about that that when I went, as I one often does when the human answers aren't (satisfying), to the animal world. There is so much sacrifice of the one for the community, whether it is ants who are always trailing back to find the body of another ant, or bats that sacrifice themselves when they hear something to save the cave, or birds that will call attention to themselves to warn the rest of the flock. It's all over the natural world. Of course, there are lots of instance of sacrifice (in the human realm), parental sacrifices that are well known, and lovers in the history of narrative, but I was just particularly interested in what was happening currently, you know, in the last 40 years. Many writers believe that evil is just more interesting than goodness.

DW: And you've found ways to push the good back to center stage, at least in your own works. One example that comes to mind is your most recent novel, Home, where you have forces of good that not are polite, the 'country women who loved mean.' And when someone complains, they say, 'Hush up, hush.'

TM: That's right. 'Shut up!'

DW: These women will nurse a dying person back to life but they don't coddle at all. So, clearly, you are making a distinction between these forces of goodness and a kind of sentimentality...

TM: Yes, exactly. When their maker said, 'What did you do?', they didn't want to say, 'Um...' They had to answer. That is so familiar to me from my family. I am glad you brought up the word sentimentality. It is not that. It is something else that works.

DW: Their desire to help Cee (an ailing character in the novel Home) seems like an innate value and a shared value in their community. But you've also had good people going against the collective, like the priest in your novel A Mercy. He takes such a risk when he teaches slaves to read.

TM: Yes. He could be thrown in prison and fined. He had to sneak off and teach them to read. Who knows why he did that? The point is he thought it was a valuable thing to do. And I remember that kid in Love who was with a bunch of friends at a party who were raping a girl, and he couldn't or wouldn't.

DM: And he gets so much grief for that...

TM: Yes, he does. That gesture of 'I will not participate' – in doing this, he sacrifices his reputation, and therefore, he could be the one at the end of the book who could salvage this woman. I am much more interested in the movement from evil and selfishness to something else.

DM: And you have works that complicate the idea of good and evil. For me, as a reader, one of the most emotionally difficult aspects of Beloved is the withholding of judgment of Sethe, the main character, for killing her child. You didn't seem to be condemning her. The moral weighing is left up to the reader.

TM: That was the big deal in the writing of Beloved, this story of this woman, Margaret Garner (the real life escaped slave who inspired Toni Morrison's character, Sethe). And I realized early on precisely what you said: that I couldn't judge her. Suppose I knew definitely that my boys, my children, were going to be kidnapped, taken off, molested, what would I do? And I couldn't answer. I answered differently depending on what I thought the danger to them was then. I realized there was only one person who was in the position to make that judgment, and that was the dead child.

DW: And we do get her perspective in the book.

TM: Yes, this is what she thinks.

DW: And that moment in Beloved in the barn, when Sethe is killing her child, made me think of other mothers and daughters in your novels and these extreme demonstrations of love: the scene where the character Eva, in Sula, sets fire to Plum, but she also jumps out the window to save Hannah, and a scene in A Mercy when a mother gives her child away.

TM: Yes, extreme forms of love. And the thing is, we think of it in romantic way, but I was reminded recently of somebody in a book one of mine, in Sula, when (Hannah) said, 'Did you ever love me?' And her mother said, 'I kept you alive.'

DW: It's love, and it's a form of goodness, but there's something kind of fierce about it.

TM: In that community they didn't have anything. They had no water. They were separate from the town. They didn't have anything except for themselves, and how they handle one another is the way they live in the world. I always think these are the people who don't necessarily like you but they wont hurt you. They will save your life whether they want to save you or not.

DW: The good has a kind of bruising quality.

TM: Yes. That is my way of doing it.

DW: You've also pointed out narratives that privilege evil, including media narratives, tend to relegate the forces of good to 'freak' status. At Harvard, in your lecture there in 2012, you talked about the Amish community, which refused to condemn a man for shooting a group of Amish girls, and even reached out to console his widow.

TM: Yes, and the media twisted it as freakish.

DW: I think the way you portray good without irony in your books, without that freakishness you just mentioned, would not be at all possible if you wrote from a position of cynicism and despair.

TM: Many writers do write from that position. And, you know, think of the suicide rate and the alcoholism. It is high among the writers we adore. Terrible things happen, and the world is sort of chaotic, and there is nothing anyone can do about it except to acknowledge it. Goodness, or some reach for moral clarity, is either (portrayed as) weak or is confined to the sort of scholastic confining world of religious people, you know, very religious people, evangelical people. I am a Catholic so even there it is very strong, and this an aside, but I guess we are seeing the consequences of religion in Syria. (ISIS) just chopped off some kid's head – children! – and why? Because they didn't agree with their system of belief. I know we've had this before, back during the Crusades, but there is something about the merging of evil and its theatrics that troubles me, not just in the world. I look for it in the place where I've always found wisdom and art, and that is in literature.

DW: But surely there are times when world events have driven you to despair.

TM: Let tell you a little anecdote. You'll enjoy this. I wrote about this for a magazine. (In 2004) I was writing something and I couldn't (write), and I was feeling very sad, disturbed, I think. Anyway, whatever it was, it was paralyzing, and a friend, Peter Sellars (the opera and theater director who has collaborated with Morrison), called up, as he often does on Christmas Day or something during the holidays, and he is always up and working. He said, 'How are you?', and I said that I didn't feel very good. It was sort of a sad time. I said. 'You know, Peter, I can't write,' and I told him why I thought I couldn't, and he started shouting, "No, no, no, no!' He said this is precisely the time when artists go to work, not when everything is fine but when things were difficult. Dire. This is when we're needed... God, think of all the writers who wrote in prisons, in gulags, you know. I mean, it is just amazing, so I felt a little ashamed but very happy that he said that. I've never had a problem since.

DW: You were a humanities professor for many years at Princeton. Considering these students are high powered, and many are going on to positions of great influence and power, is it the particular responsibility of the humanities professor to use history and literature to teach ethics and moral responsibility?

TM: I prefer to think of it as moving (students) toward wisdom.

DW: How?

TM: By being wise!

DW: I'm going to end with a broad question for both writers: Is it possible for a book to change the world?

AD: Absolutely. I think we would be living in a very different world had we not experienced the impact of Toni Morrison's writing. There is no doubt about the extent to which she has influenced the literary world, not only in this country but all over. She has actually changed the face of the planet. And I see her as a person who made a conscious decision to use her literary talent to bring new ideas into the world, to change the world, absolutely. And often that happens more fundamentally, more profoundly, than the change that those of us who work at the political level envision. I don't think that our notion of freedom would be what it is without the impact of Toni Morrison. She said that one cannot be free without freeing someone. Freedom is to free someone else. And of course, those of us who do political work, radical political work, always insist on the importance of transcending the single individual and to think about collective processes, and Toni Morrison has done this in her writing.

DW to TM: Is it possible for books to change the world?

TM: Some do. They just do. And it's sometimes very difficult to get such books published. Think about James Joyce. You can't think the same way after you read a certain voice.

DW: Angela Davis believes this is the case with your books.

TM: Well, I hope she's right. And I've never known Angela to be wrong.


Roaring to go: the female motorbike rider who wants to race for Iran

Iranian female motorcyclist Behnaz Shafiei.

In the dusty hills of Hashtgerd, some 40 miles west of Tehran, a rider on a souped-up bike comes roaring along a rough-and-ready race track, braving steep jumps and dangerous turns.

With a bright orange and black biker suit and helmet, the motorcyclist looks just like any other, until the helmet comes off. The rider is a woman.

“When people find that out, they stop and say damet-garm [Persian for ‘right on’],” Behnaz Shafiei told the Guardian. She feels welcome in an otherwise all-male motorcycling club, where she practises three times a week: “They offer help when I tow my bike with the car or when I run into a technical problem.”

The 26-year-old is among the first group of female motorcyclists in Iran to have recently obtained official permission to practise on off-road circuits, and the one and only Iranian female rider to have done professional road racing.

Although Shafiei and a handful of other existing female motocross riders can operate in clubs, they are not allowed to enter competitions or ride on official race tracks, including one at Tehran’s magnificent Azadi sport complex, currently exclusive to men.

In fact, women in Iran are still banned from riding a motorbike in public, and are not issued licences, although they are allowed to take part in other sports, from martial arts to car rallies.

But things are beginning to change. Shafiei’s story has attracted a great deal of interest at home. A leading national newspaper recently photographed her at play and state-run television has broadcast an interview with her. Shafiei is hopeful that soon she will also be allowed to compete.

Men and women alike rub their eyes in disbelief when they see her on a motorbike, Shafiei said, but she added that reactions were always positive.

“I’ve never seen a bad reaction to what I do. People here are fascinated when they see a woman doing such a physically demanding sport,” she said. “Everyone has something affirmative to say. Women wave hands and say well done, you are brave. There are people who can’t believe a woman can ride a motorbike but they’re generally thrilled and feel very proud.”

Shafiei, who was born and raised in Karaj, near Tehran, found her passion for motorcycling at the age of 15 while on holiday with her family in Zanjan province.

“There was this young woman in a village there who rode a 125cc urban motorbike to travel between houses, like one used by the postman,” she recalled. “I like that a lot and told myself that I want to ride a motorbike too and in fact I learned how to ride a motorcycle for the first time during my stay there.”

With support from her family, especially her mother, Shafiei dabbled in motorcycling for a few years before pursuing the sport professionally. “I used to borrow my brother’s bike and ride in the city stealthily. It was such fun,” she said.

She saved money from her work as an accountant and bought her first bike, an Apache 180cc, four years ago. A couple of years later she went to a track race in northern Karaj to have a look. Male riders there, she said, encouraged her to come along regularly and offered to teach her what they knew.

These days, Shafiei has changed her bike to a 2012 Suzuki 250cc, focusing all her attention on motocross, but a ban on women riding in official race tracks means she can only practise in rudimentary clubs such as the one in Hashtgerd, where medical facilities are not available.

“We don’t have a single ambulance in the track. It’s an expensive sport and we have no sponsors. If someone has an injury, it might get even worse by the time the rider is taken to the hospital,” she said.

Shafiei has practised abroad, including in the UAE, where women can compete in track races without restrictions, but says she has no intention of joining a foreign team. “I want to be part of my own country’s team, I don’t want to go abroad. I want to bring pride to Iran and show that Iranian women can do this sport too.”

She added: “Outside, Iran is depicted differently. We want to change that view. People ask if women are allowed to drive in Iran. Of course they are.”

Shafiei says she looks up to Laleh Seddigh, Iran’s most famous female car race driver, nicknamed “little Schumacher”, whose struggle to become the country’s first woman champion was the subject of a BBC documentary. “Laleh Seddigh is my idol, I hope that one day we will be allowed to race like her,” Shafiei said.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has called for gender equality since taking power and hopes are high, although he has yet to deliver on his promises. In 2013, he tweeted in support of Shirin Gerami, the first Iranian female triathlete to take part in a world championship.

Fariba Javanmardi, the deputy head of Iran’s motorcycle and automobile federation, speaking to the country’s SNN student news agency this month, said: “Culture has not been promoted in this field and many are opposed to women riding on motorbikes. At the moment, you can’t imagine a women riding on a motorbike in the streets. But we hope that the issue of their licences would be resolved. We are working on it.”

Shafiei was confident Javanmardi and her colleagues were doing all they could to help. She said: “The restrictions in Iran are problematic for us. My wish is that this sport becomes free for women.”

“My motorbike is my love,” she said. “Motorcycling has changed my life for good, my entire life is tied to motorbikes. If I don’t ride, I’d fall ill. It’s a way for me to empty my mind and free myself.”


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Sex, Art and American Culture, Sexual Personae - Camille Paglia Interview (2003)

Camille Anna Paglia (/ˈpɑːliə/; born April 2, 1947) is an American academic and social critic. Paglia, a self-described dissident feminist, has been a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, since 1984. The New York Times has described her as "first and foremost an educator".

She is the author of Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990) and a collection of essays, Sex, Art, and American Culture (1992). Her other books and essays include an analysis of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, and Break, Blow, Burn (2005) on poetry. Her most recent book is 2012's Glittering Images. She is a critic of American feminism and of post-structuralist theory as well as a commentator on multiple aspects of U.S. social culture such as its visual art, music, and film history.

Paglia is known for her critical views of many aspects of modern culture, including feminism and liberalism. She has been characterized variously as a "contrarian academic" and a feminist "bête noire," a "witty controversialist," and a maverick,[9] Margaret Wente has called Paglia "a writer in a category of her own... a feminist who hates affirmative action; an atheist who respects religion" and "a Democrat who thinks her party doesn't get it." Martha Duffy writes that Paglia "advocates a core curriculum based mostly on the classics" and rails against "chic French theorists Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan," and "has a strong libertarian streak — on subjects like pornography — that go straight to her '60s coming-of-age." Elaine Showalter has called Paglia a "radical libertarian," noting her socially liberal stands on abortion, sodomy, prostitution, drug use, and suicide. Paglia has denounced feminist academics and women's studies, celebrated popular culture and Madonna, and become a media celebrity, writing op-eds and gossip columns, appearing on television and telling her story to journalists.

Paglia has said that she is willing to have her entire career judged on the basis of her composition of what she considers to be "probably the most important sentence that she has ever written": "God is man's greatest idea."

Paglia's Sexual Personae was rejected by no fewer than seven different publishers (not unusual, in and of itself), but when finally published by Yale University Press, became a best seller, reaching seventh place on the paperback best-seller list, a rare accomplishment for a scholarly book. 'Paglia called it her "prison book", commenting, "I felt like Cervantes, Genet. It took all the resources of being Catholic to cut myself off and sit in my cell." Sexual Personae has been called an "energetic, Freud-friendly reading of Western art", one that seemed "heretical and perverse", at the height of political correctness; according to Daniel Nester, its characterization of "William Blake as the British Marquis de Sade or Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson as 'self-ruling hermaphrodites who cannot mate' still pricks up many an English major's ears".

Paglia is a devotee of Oscar Wilde and Walter Pater, cherishing "performance, artifice and play rather than earnestness." She has expressed admiration for Dorothy Parker and Mary McCarthy, as well as for models, singers and movie stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, and Barbra Streisand.

In 2005, Paglia was named as one of the top 100 public intellectuals by the journals Foreign Policy and Prospect. In 2012, an article in The New York Times remarked that "[a]nyone who has been following the body count of the culture wars over the past decades knows Paglia".

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