About Michele

I am a certified user experience designer and I am passionate about the role of design in creating flexible structures in our connected environment. Contact me: michele.roohani@gmail.com

Tis the season…

To be jolly…in Zurich?

grossmunster christmas 2009 michele roohani

It snowed last week here and I was giddy like all the snow-starved Californians until the -13 C (10 F) hit me…

grossmunster zurich sunset michele roohani

The above image is Zurich’s Grossmunster, a beautiful church that I went to last night, on Christmas eve, to see how the Swiss celebrate Jesus’ birthday:

grossmunster christmas 2009 night michele roohani

Before I got there I stopped at Lindenhof and I was surprised by this lovely bird (or a winged rat as some people call it) who was not afraid of me and kept drinking from the fountain in spite of me and my big camera…

pigeon lindenhof fountain zurich michele roohani

I am so close here,

pigeon lindenhof  drinking fountain zurich michele roohani

Frohe Weihnachten!

merry christmas 2009 mcihele roohani snow flakes funky typography

2010 World Cup Draw and the Group of Death

The 2010 World Cup draw was two days ago and I watched it for the first time live on Swiss TV; I am a big soccer fan and it was exciting to see the world gasp waiting for the final draw in Cape Town.

world cup draw 2010 groups michele roohani

There is as usual a group of death:

Group G
North Korea
Ivory Coast

where 3 of the 4 teams are known to have formidable soccer players.

These are my picks for the first round and yes I am brave enough to put my name on it!

world cup 2010 draw and michele roohani picks

The five time champion, Brazil, faces Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea in this very strong group G.

One of my most popular blog posts has been  “Gerd Muller, where are you?” and I labored over these images of my favorite childhood soccer players like Muller himself:

gerd muller michele roohani world cup 2010 draw

and the prince, Beckenbauer, then and now:

franz beckenbauer michele roohani 2010 world cup

“I don’t understand/like baseball and I tolerate American football only when my alma mater, USC, is playing but soccer stays close to my heart…There is a hierarchy of course like in any sport: we have princes and kings, Brazilian Gods and black pearls and panthers,  even a black spider (the Russian Yashin)!

There is  hand of God (Maradona) and real God (Pele):”

pele 2010 world cup michele roohani


jairzinho micheleroohani 1020 world cup

George Best,

george best micheleroohani 2010 world cup

the Charlton brothers,

the charlton brothers world cup 2010 michele roohani


eusebio world cup 2010 soccer mcihele roohani

and last but not least, Michel Platini,

michel platini world cup 2010 micheleroohani

who would certainly give a red card to Thierry Henry after his handball disqualified the stunned Irish team at the qualifier match for the World cup  which would be from June 11th through July 11th in South Africa.

Thierry Henry handball world cup 2010 mcihele roohani

To see my favorite post, “Gerd Muller, where are you?”, go here.

To see the full schedule on FIFA’s site go here.

Between Hope and Chaos, 165 years of Iranian Photography

The Quai Branly Museum presents the second PhotoQuai, the trendsetter biennial event dedicated to non-Western photography until November 22, 2009. Catch it if you can.

I was inspired to create this poster here and the clip at the end of the post:

ahmad ali photoquai iranian green poster paris michele roohani

Some of the images were breathtaking and I would like to share them with you.

abbas kowsari photoquai iranian photography

The above image is from Abbas Kowsari; I call the next one by Gohar Dashti, “tea and tank”!

gohar dashti tea and tank michele roohani photoquai

The Artistic Director of the Photoquai biennial is my friend, Anahita Ghabaian Etehadieh, Iranian founder and owner of the Silk Road Gallery, the only establishment in Iran dedicated exclusively to photography.

anahita ghabaian photoquai 2009 artistic director michele roohani

These two women were photgraphed by Bahman Jalali, one of the two curators of the exhibition:

bahman jalali musician women photoquai michele roohani

More ambitious than the biennial itself, is the homage given to a sample of 165 years of Iranian photography, in the museum. It gives an overview of Iranian photography from the end of the 19th century, with the portraits from the Qajar era, up until the most contemporary works by major Iranian photographers. An uneven, discontinuous road full of great surprises…

qajar women naser el din shah michele roohani photoquai iranian women 19th century

The above photos were taken by Naser Al Din Shah himself, a photography enthusiast, and the following ones are by Armenian-Iranian photographer Antoine-Khan Sevruguin:

photoquai iranian qajar women Antoni Sevruguin michele roohani

I love this shy Tar player:

photoquai iranian photography Antoni Sevruguin tar player michele roohani

The exhibition was especially interesting to me in its depth if not breadth of the older photos. I love these cute children photographed with their father in early 20th century peeking out of their hejab:

photoquai iranian photography family Antoni Sevruguin michele roohani

The  exhibit spills into 20th century with masterpieces like Kaveh Golestan’s images of Iran Iraq war:

kaveh golestan iran iraq war soldier with quran photoquai michele roohani

This visual storytelling will continue in the Musée de la Monnaie, museum of the French Mint and Treasury until December 20th. The exhibition is called “between Hope and Chaos” dedicated to 30 years of Iranian photojournalism, the three most recent generations of Iranian photographers between the 1979 Islamic Revolution and 2009.

I would look for my favorite works exhibited by Newsha Tavakolian:

newsha tavakolian photoquai naghsh rostam snow michele roohani

I prefer this one that I got from her site—there is something otherworldly about Persepolis under snow…

newsha tavakolian persepolis under snow michele roohani

and Jamshid Bayrami’s:

iranian women parying jamshid bayrami michele roohani photoquai

Photoquai tries to highlight and promote artists unknown or little known in Europe encouraging cross-cultural dialogue across the globe.

reza deghati photoquai biennale commissaire de l’exposition pour l’asie micheleroohani

A promenade along the Seine at quai Branly had been transformed into an open-air exhibition of photography where 50 photographers, chosen by the likes of Reza Deghati, the phenomenal Iranian photographer, exhibit their work.

Watch a great clip in TV5 here (even if you don’t speak french!)

165 years of Iranian photography here

PhotoQuai, Quai Branly Museum here

Iran, between Hope and Chaos here

Iran, United States’ best ally in the Tribal Belt Wars in Afghanistan

Iran may be United States’ best/only ally in the hellish war of the tribal belt region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

tribal belt iran afghanistan pakistan micheleroohani

An ignorant approach to the Afghan realities and the “benevolent negligence” regarding Pakistan will have more dire consequences for the U.S. and the schizophrenic government of Iran (saddled by Iraq and Afghanistan’s unrest on both sides) may be a necessary ally in the necessary war…The Islamic Republic will do anything  to avoid facing up to the “enemy within” (aka millions of unhappy/angry Iranians)

pakistan afghanistan tribal belt map micheleroohani

Look at the map of the world’s most dangerous place; most of the 4,000,000 Pashtuns who live in the tribal belt between Afghanistan and Pakistan refuse to recognize the British-drawn Durand Line, which divides the two nations and splits families. Afghanistan, the fifth poorest country in the world with a life expectancy of 44 is deservedly called the “graveyard of empires”. It has been in a civil war in the past three decades.

exodus from afghanistan 1990 reza deghati michele roohani

The above picture, Exodus from Afghanistan,  from the formidable photojournalist Reza Deghati has haunted me for years—the silence of this cold journey moves me deeply. I almost forget the picture was taken just twenty years ago; “Time” has indeed suspended its flight in this  godforsaken country…

the old wise man reza deghati afghanistan 1983 michele roohani

I met Reza in Paris last month at the opening of the exquisite exhibition (organized by my friend Anahita Ghabaian) of 165 year of Iranian Photography at the Quai Branly Museum. Stay tuned for next week’s post about PhotoQuai.

I was once again impressed by Reza,  the great master photographer. We talked about his humanitarian work at Aina, a media & Culture center in Afghanistan. His extraordinary talent deserves a post all to itself—I became a fan years ago thanks to his National geographic’s photos like this one:

reza deghati national geographic dervish 1993 turkey micheleroohani

Only a few months ago, the Pakistani military was still inclined to view the Taliban as agents of influence able to provide their government with help to contain the Afghanistan in the west as it confronted India to the east. As Roger Cohen puts it: “the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing—the result is self-amputation. Even Pakistan’s competent General Kayani, noted for his patience, diligence, intelligence and sheer determination, may be doing the wrong move in the right direction, too little too late.

Today’s news that Abdullah Abdullah has pulled out of the Afghanistan’s runoff election exasperated me even more; I can’t believe his official explanation for doing so but as Churchill says:

“in wartime, Truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of Lies”

and Afghanistan is deeply at war…

Take a look at Reza’s Webistan here.

Visit Aina here.

Visit the PhotQuai here. (click on “honoring Iranian Photography” to see some great photos)

Noble Rot, the liquid gold of Sauternes

Drive forty minutes from Bordeaux, and you will get to the most amazing wine country of the region, Sauternais, or the only area around Bordeaux where the noble rot grows.sauterne rows noble rot michele roohani

A most peculiar wine is produced here that has not much to do with the red Bordeaux wines that we all know (red or white). Sauternes is made from grapes that have been affected by a gray fungus, Botrytis Cinerea,  which causes the grapes to shrivel, leaving a sugary fruit with concentrated flavors resulting in distinctively flavored wines. sauternes pourriture noble rot Château de Rayne Vigneau michele roohani

I had heard about the Noble Rot (an oxymoron of a name) but I was still amazed to see these grapes on the vine stocks:sauternais pourriture noble rot michle roohaniThe grapes are definitely getting ripe here, all semi rotten! The best Sauternes come from vines that have been hand-picked—up to 12 separate times—to ensure that the grapes are not removed from the vines before reaching the perfect degree of ripeness required for these wines.Botrytis cinerea sauternes noble rot michele roohani.jpgThe eminent Château d’Yqem, the most expensive Sauternes wine, is the only estate in France who has received a class of its own, one step above Premier Crus. Each grape is picked individually, and only when it is rotten enough. Thanks to the noble rot and a lot of hard work, the result is an exquisitely flavored wine that is acidic enough to avoid falling into the trap of being a mere dessert wine.sauternes micheleroohani chateau de fargues golden bottles

The Sauternes region is located 40 km (25 miles) southeast of the city of Bordeaux along the Garonne river and its tributary, the Ciron, which demarcates Barsac (Orange on the map) and Sauternes (yellow on the map). Barsac lies within Sauternes, and is entitled to use either name. Somewhat similar but less expensive and typically less-distinguished wines are produced in the neighboring regions of Monbazillac (which I tasted  a couple of years ago when visiting Bergerac) , Cérons, Loupiac and Cadillac (not the car)!

sauternes barsac ciron michele roohani

The moisture the Ciron brings, and the morning mists it causes, are favorable to the development of the fungus Botrytis cinereangus. This contributes to the high quality and renown of Sauternes wines.My guide explained that vines produce one to two bottles of wine everywhere else, but in Sauternes, you can only get one to two glasses per year! No wonder this wine is so revered (and expensive)…sauternes association de producteurs michele roohani france barsac

Not having money to burn, I only bought some of the more modest bottles after the tasting:

sauternes tasting bottles glasses michele roohani

Of course, there are myriads of labels to choose from:Botrytis cinerea sauternes labels michele roohanilike these bottles with ample and intense golden liquid inside…Cru d’Arche-pugneau Sauternes michele roohani bottlesYou wonder how on earth with amazing wines like these in the region,golden Botrytis cinerea sauternes barsac micheleroohanisome of the locals drink coffee…gentleman drinking espresso bordeaux michele roohani

My other post about wine:

A night with some dry drunk Persians here

Irving Penn and his women: from absurd to sublime

Irving Penn, a master of American portraiture and fashion photography has always intrigued me by using the same sober backgrounds to photograph most of his subjects—beautiful Vogue models (like his wife of 42 years, Lisa Fonssagrives, below) or these seriously covered Moroccan women.

Lisa Fonssagrives irving penn michele roohani long roses

This 1971 image of these three Rissani women buried in their hejab (body bag) is haunting; just looking at them oppresses me…

1971 irving penn rissani women micheleroohani oppression body bag

But it seems that Penn had an affinity for all sorts of veiled women like the spellbinding Jean Patchett in this picture from 1949:

jean pachett irving penn 1949 michele roohani blue veil

He’s been able to capture the absurdity of covering women from head to toe,

irving penn two guedras women get weary michele roohani

even though he’s known for photographing the most fashionable women in the world :

irving penn checkered dress michele roohani Lisa Fonssagrives black hat

His fashion images are iconic in their elegant simplicity:

Lisa Fonssagrives irving penn michele roohani black hat

and so are these other pictures of his:

cretan women 1964 irving penn michele roohani

He remains a keen observer of his subject, a quiet painter of his model, an attentive chronicler of his time—this is probably the most accurate picture of Colette at that age:

irving penn colette sido michele roohani

and the most natural portrait that I know of Simone de Beauvoir:

irving penn simone de beauvoir michele roohani

Sometimes they chose to cover their hair like Georgia O’Keeffe:

georgia o’keeffe poppies irving penn micheleroohani

Penn kept taking less serious pictures of yet other covered woman:

irving penn veiled women michleroohani ruffled hat

Throughout centuries, women have survived  ridiculous hats and oppressive veils and Irving Penn has been present to capture them all.

pink wine irving penn michele roohani

I finish with a quote from my favorite aesthete, Oscar Wilde : “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china”.

In Los Angeles, there is an exhibition of Irving Penn’s photographs at the Getty Museum.

A great article about Penn here.

A very scary Veiling dictionary (including Abaya—the one that looks like Belphégor) here.

Budapest, the neglected beauty on the Danube

Budapest, the neglected beauty on the Danube, is a city of friendly people, opulent buildings, golden domes, thermal baths and opera.

Budapest became a single city occupying both banks of the river with a unification on 1873 of right-bank Buda and with left-bank Pest.

new york palace cafe budapest michele roohani

A foreign city robs you of your prejudices about different neighborhoods—you look at everything with fresh virgin eyes.

Let’s start by my posh, but relatively inexpensive, hotel room and its great view:

new york palace hotel room budapest michele roohani

grand cafés everywhere,

budapest cafe callas michele roohani terrace

like the Callas :

callas budapest michele roohani brasserie

The Hungarians are Opera-crazy and they have their elegant Opera Houses to show it:

opera budapest michele roohani

There are plenty of beautiful Hungarian girls,

pretty hungarian girl budapest michele roohani

and boys:

budapest hungarian waiter michele roohani

and very proud ones at that: The Heroes’ Square welcomes you with seven Magyar chieftains (Magyar: Hungary) who led the Hungarian people in their proud history; I highlighted a couple that I liked best:

michele roohani hungarian chieftains hero’s square Hősök tere budapest

Now we’ll take the Budapest metro—super efficient and easy to use— to go places.

budapest metro michele roohani

Like a good muslim, I first went to visit the great Saint Stephen Basilica:

saint stephen basilica budapest michele roohani

the madonna looks friendlier in orthodox churches—somehow less aloof, more human…

madonna saint stephen basilica budapest michele roohani

In spite of all the gold in the public places, Budapest has its share of run-down buildings,

budapest run down building michele roohani

this huge metropolis is not as pretty as her smaller sister city, Prague,

budapest telamones statues michele roohani

but is as rich in history and as breathtaking in sights:

budapest danube panorama michele roohani

the sunset on the Danube is majestic:

buda castle sunset budapest michele roohani

Again as a good Shiite who does believe in Holocaust,  I went to visit the Dohany street Synagogue of Budapest, the world’s second largest that caters to a mix of Orthodox and Reformed Judaism unique to Hungary:

Budapest Great Synagogue exterior michele roohani

in spite of its Byzantine Moorish style, the similarities between this synagogue and a grand church are striking: there is an organ (Franz Liszt played on it once),

Budapest Great Synagogue interior chandelier michele roohani

and even pulpits!

dohany synagogue budapest pulpit michele roohani

In the Jewish quarter,  you are constantly reminded of the Nazis’ atrocities:

Budapest Great Synagogue michele roohani 1944 nazis

Budapest is known for its 80 geothermal springs but I didn’t have the courage to accompany my friends to these pools in Szechenyi bath:

Szechenyi bath budapest michele roohani

the Fine Art Museum was more pressing but that should wait for another post; the Hungarian parliament deserves a post all to itself as well.

If you want to stay in great affordable hotels in a great cosmopolitan European city, go to Budapest (or ask my friend, Reyhaneh, who is a champion in finding great deals!)

hotel bolosco new york palace budapest lobby michele roohani

I leave you with this quote: “The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget” and “Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence” by Thomas Szasz.

hotel bolosco new york palace budapest room michele roohani

p.s.  I am not writing about food because the only good meal I had worth writing home about was with my favorite Hungarian,  Professor Ungvari, at Remiz.

September morning in paris, an early stroll

It’s one of those great (and gray) September mornings in Paris and I take my poor jet lagged body out to take pictures of a city that looks more majestic without its occupants or tourists like me!

I would like to take you with me; first we take the bus:

bus line 67 paris michele roohani

the streets are all empty—one of the oldest surviving buildings in Paris from the 16th century:

francois miron street paris michele roohani

even the marché is not open yet,

morning marché produce market rue glaciere michele roohani

Saint Michel is unrecognizable at 7 am:

saint michel deserted street michele roohani

the cafés are just opening,

chez julien paris michele roohani

walking along the river bank in Isle Saint Louis,

isle saint louis quai michele roohani

Notre Dame is majestically melancholic,

morning notre dame paris michele roohani

but pretty soon, life starts in the city:

notre dame paris michele roohani morning

I decide to go towards the Marais; I am surprised to see a Pain Quotidien on my way—so far from Brentwood and Westwood but exactly the same menu:

pain quotidien paris michele roohani rue des archives

rushing towards Place des Vosges, the street signs stop me:

francs bourgeois rue vieille du temple paris marais michele roohani

its’ too early in the morning for gooseberries,

fruit stand groseilles gooseberry marais michele roohani fruits rouges

I really need a strong coffee,

empty coffee cups marias cafe michele roohani

but of course the waitress cleans up the street and not the table left from the previous clients,

place des vosges sweeper michele roohani paris

the galleries around the square are too commercial but I am glad to discover a painter from Rafsandjan, Reza Sarrafi, in one of the windows:

reza sarrafi still life pear place des vosges michele roohani

the wine paintings are from another painter, Annekov:

dmitri annekov archange paris wine painting michele roohani place des vosges

Voilà! Now you know.

self portrait michele roohani notre dame reflection in camera lens paris

I am not kidding when I say I love this city—here are my other posts about Paris:

Alone in Paris

Paris and Paul Newman

Pretty girl in Paris

Giacometti, a post from Montparnasse

I met Arcimboldo and some Germans in Paris

Opera Garnier in Paris

Paris was a woman

Paris at 6 am

Bread and Music

The breathless Jean Seberg

The emotionally fragile Jean Seberg died 30 years ago but her pictures are still as fresh and beautiful as the day they were made.

jean seberg breathless blue michele roohani a bout de souffle

Born in Iowa, she gained fame in France—selling the International Herald tribune to Jean Paul Belemondo in Godard’s “Breathless” (à bout de souffle), a major work of the French New Wave:

jean seberg breathless blue michele roohani a bout de souffle paris apartment

Married to Romain Gary, she supported the black panthers as well as native Indians’s rights. In retaliation, the FBI fabricated rumors about her. Unable to defend herself, she fell into depression and commited suicide in August 1979.”Death is: a punishment to some, to some a gift, and to many a favor.”  Seneca

jean seberg godard cigarette breathless godard michele roohani

Her other major movie was “bonjour tristesse” (hello sadness) of Sagan; her real life was turbulent and tragic…

jean seberg belmondo breathless godard michele roohani

In Breathless, Godard shoots the entire movie on a handheld camera and even though his film is a bit on the slow side for today’s attention deficient viewer, the images he’s created are visually bold and pretty modern (the film was made in 1960).

Seberg remains the quintessential “gamine” in this movie; one of the most beautiful scenes of this film is when the street lamps start to  light up one after another on the Champs Elysées,

champs elysees mcihele roohani a bout de souffle

It’s Paris making a big entrance…Watch her in this short clip of Breathless here.To see my other post about a classic Alain Delon movie go here.And for l’Avventura check this link.