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

Desperately seeking Rostam

It’s 3:00 am Los Angeles time and I can’t go to sleep—I am worried about the possible bloodbath of this latest showdown between the Iranian regime and people; looking for a favorite verse takes me to Ferdowsi who’s poetry has been super-relevant during the past week.

rostam killing the white Demon (Dive) micheleroohani

The following is when people are asking Rostam, the most celebrated mythical hero of Iran, to save Iran—From the book of Kings, Shahnameh (composed by Ferdowsi between 980-1010 AD)

“You are our refuge, our last hope, our one
Protection now that King Kavous has gone;
Alas, Iran will be destroyed, a lair
For leopards and wild lions will flourish there,
Our land will be a wasted battleground
Where evil kings will triumph and be crowned…”

سپاه اندرایران پراکنده شد
زن و مرد و کودک همه بنده شد
دو بهره سوی زاولستان شدند
به خواهش بر پور دستان شدند
که مارا زبدها تو باشی پناه
چو گم شد سرتاج کاوس شاه

دریغ است ایران که ویران شود
کنام پلنگان و شیران شود

getty images iran june 20th

Read Roger Cohen’s great eyewitness account in NY Times (June 20th 2009); he shares with us what CNN and Youtube can’t: amazing journalism.

Cohen’s view about Iran’s youth must be devastating to the regime.

زنـانـشـان چـنـیـنـنـد ز ایـرانیــــان

چگـونه انـد گـردان و جنگ آوران


Iran, better days will come—though not yet

These are startling moments in recent Iranian history. Breathtaking is the word that comes to mind with every new image out of Iran’s protests. A new tale of Zahhak and Kaveh. “It is as if someone had opened a door and an entire country had spilled out.”

perisan miniature mahmoud mosavvar 1530 smithsonian michele roohani

The difference between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad is one of degree and not of kind but it’s obvious that the islamic republic has been constrained to deny its own convictions—if Rafsanjani is not the regime’s legitimate overlord, who is? Mousavi seems to be running along after the crowd, not leading it…

isfahan protests

The crackdown on the protesters has been way harsher in cities like Isfahan (above) where there are less foreign journalists to report it.

I would love to believe that Iranians are showing the same spirit of resistance they’ve had towards the invaders throughout their long history against the Arabs, the Mongols and Turks.

persian miniature Nezami five poems khamseh michele roohani

The Islamic Republic  has believed its own myth of invincibility and now its legitimate children are fighting each other in front of the whole world. If they had simply arranged for Ahmadinejad to win by an at least believable slim margin! What we are witnessing is the clash of the Titans in a perfect storm.

Rostam 1604 british library persian miniature michele roohani

If the Bazaar turns against Ahmadinejad, it would be the end of him. It is a matter of time before the regime rolls in the tanks. I highly recommend Muhammad Sahimi’s great article on the power struggle in Iran. It is a must read for anyone interested in understanding Iran’s recent history, and how it has led us to the present situation.

Abbas Milani discusses Khamenei’s amazing miscalculation in this article.

Count our votes: the modesty of this demand is particularly moving, set against the majesty of the demonstrations.”

It’s hard to make any deeply intelligent prediction about Iran’s political future right now but I would like to hope that better days will come—though not yet…

1979 all over again? First flickers of Resistance in Iran

1979 all over again? I doubt it. Call me a pessimist but I never thought I will live to see these scenes in Iran again:

Olivier Laban-Mattei AFP tehran

The mullahs are fighting each other (don’t mistake Mousavi for a secular iranian please—scratch any Mousavi and you will find the true face of a muslim revolutionist underneath) and the youth’s hope and badly bruised courage is being sacrificed.

Olivier Laban-Mattei/Agence France-Presse

I’ve been glued to my computer and the TV to follow what is happening—I am amazed by the Iranian government’s  audacity (read stupidity) of forging the election results. Read a great analysis here.

tehran unrest fires

Could this be that wishful thinking got the better of credible reporting?

green wave iran

In spite of being a cynic, I am hopeful that a new era is starting in Iran—I just can’t deny the enormity of what is happening in Iran; I have a worried enthusiasm of maybe being able to join the rest of the world after 30 years of being punished and sent to the corner of the classroom.

iranian thugs and police

The big difference between now and 1979 is that Iran doesn’t have a powerful leader (like Khomeini of 30 years ago); the effectiveness of these protests has yet to be put to the acid test of fighting the black-clad police.

Roger Cohen summarizes these events in this clip from a rooftop in Tehran.

tehran unrest revolutionary guards

Read Reza Aslan’s article here to know a bit more about the real power behind Ahmadinejad.

Now events are rushing ahead and the ayatollahs are blinking…

The Iranian presidential election will decide the future of the Middle East

Who knew that Hossein will be such a popular name in the world? Everywhere I turn, there is a Hossein (Hussain) waiting for me: Hussein Obama, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Hussain (Usain) Bolt, etc…

persian calligraphy thorns have roses micheleroohani michele roohani

The Iranian presidential elections will be held on June 12th and the future of the Middle East is depending on the outcome. The reformist, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is the only serious contender against Ahmadinejad; It’s funny that an architect/painter can be a threat to the incumbent president of the islamic republic of Iran. In my native country, thorns have roses…

appollinare calligraphy iran micheleroohani michele roohani

I made the above images on a bout of “latent nationalism” while reading about how these elections can alter the future of the region—from Morocco to Lahore. I had time to appreciate Obama’s eloquent (and super pragmatic) speech in Cairo but Iranians didn’t—they were too busy with their own explosive presidential debates!

It’s hard to get excited about any of the four candidates (the two other candidates are basically collecting votes for Mousavi) who are all deeply connected to the islamic republic. Ready for an American embassy opening in Tehran by next year?

mousavi rahnavard president iran

How strange that we, Persian women, have to be happy about Mousavi pulling a Michelle Obama by bringing his wife, Zahra Rahnavard (an artist and political scientist) to his side on political rallies! Just shoot me but I have to be content that this lady is wearing a “liberal” scarf under her chador…

This reminds me of this image of Iran in a chador (the face of this woman is the map of Iran) and the beautiful poem by Parvin Etesami:

parvin etesami iran poet woman michele roohani

She wrote it in 1935 lamenting the life of Iranian women before Reza Shah did away (sometimes by force) with their chadors (1928) and opened the schools’ doors to them. Etesami and the Shah must be spinning in their graves…

New York Times has some cool pictures like this one from my favorite Iranian photographer, Newsha Tavakolian.

iranian elections women newsha tavakolian michele roohani

I just found out that this dude, Mousavi,  has “Khameneh” at the end of his last name—yet another unfortunate KH for all of you non-persians. To see the funny side of it click here.

iranian woman ann curry nbc news micheleroohani

NBC’s Ann Curry took these pictures to show the divide:

iranian woman chador isfahan ann curry nbc news micheleroohani

Yesterday, I attended a lecture by Mohsen Kadivar (aka the critical cleric) at UCLA that didn’t alter my view about religion; even the progressive mullahs (the picture is Dr. Kadivar in his full mojtahed regalia and “sans”) can only whitewash the problems of mixing religion with the state.

mohsen kadivar progressive cleric

Hezbollah just lost the Lebanese parliamentary elections—the West is breathing a sigh of relief.

Related and Suggested Posts and Resources:

a short CNN clip about the Iranian Michelle Obama here.
the New York Times article here.
Parvin Etesami here.
to read her poem in Persian in its entirety here.
Iranian Elections  here.
Zahra Rahnavard  here.
Mir-Hossein Mousavi go here.
Struggles of Iranian women, check out Rakhshan Bani Etemad’s clips here.
Parviz Tanavoli’s (the great Iranian sculptor who taught Ms. Rahnavard) interview with Ann Curry here.

p.s. I did the calligraphy on the first image using one of my favorite poems by Hamid Mosadegh.

iranian women voting in presidential elections michele roohani

updated on 6/13/09:

There’s been unrest since yesterday in Iran after the results of the presidential elections were made public: Ahmadinejad won with over 62% of the votes. I am amazed at the arrogance of this regime; the images seen on BBC, CNN and NY Times remind me of Iran i left in 1978/79.

Churchill in a red Kimono

Churchill in a red Kimono…

winston churchill red kimono michele roohani

I just can’t get this image out of my mind since I read about it so I had to make it!

Looking for Churchill in a red kimono, I found the following on the TIME archives:

“Two French officers were breakfasting quietly in a French conference room when they suddenly “beheld an astonishing sight.” The double doors burst open and “an apparition which they said resembled an angry Japanese genie, in long, flowing red silk kimono . . . girdled with a white belt . . . stood there, sparse hair on end, and said with every sign of anger: ‘Uh ay ma bain?'”(where is my bath?)

I first read about it in these wonderful books that give an insight into the minds of Churchill, Hitler and Stalin during the crucial years of 1940 and 1941.

the duel john lukacs churchill hitler micheleroohani

Another great little gem by John Lukacs is “June 1941” where he describes Hitler and Stalin’s relationship before the German invasion of Russia.

john lukacs june 1941 stalin hitler

The D Day or the 65th anniversary of the 1944 Allied invasion at Normandy is almost here (and the French government snubbed Queen Elizabeth by not inviting her to the big celebrations on June 6th). Churchill is spinning in his grave.

Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation poster michele roohani

In my last trip to New York, I went to this great exhibition in NY Public Library called: “Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation”. Reading Lukacs’ books about the same period, made the exhibition particularly interesting to me—I am a history buff and the two world wars have always fascinated me.

Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation aragon paulhan carte postal michele roohani

It was interesting to see my favorite poets’ letters and postcards during the Nazi occupation of France—the above postcard was sent by Louis Aragon to Paulhan’s wife on a pre-printed postcard (easier to censure!)

Nazi Occupation poeme paris paulhan michele roohani

Poems sent from prison camps and manuscripts smuggled out written on the back of wallpapers…

I loved Eluard’s poem, Liberté (freedom), illustrated by Fernand Leger:

liberte paul eluard frenand leger resistance michele roohani

65 years after the second world war, the world is not a safer place and human beings have forgotten the hard learned/earned lessons; the middle east is as volatile as always, Sri Lanka just ended a bloody civil war, Pakistan is agonizing under the threat of the Talibans, Africa is struggling with its different identities and abortion doctors are being assassinated in America…

It’s harder today to make blanket predictions about the direction history is taking—fast computing and the internet have changed the old orders that were in place since our written history began.

Here are a couple of Churchill’s quotes to finish this post:

“Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed.”
“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

Other things you might not have seen: 

A weekend in New York city

A NY weekend —short and sweet just the way I like it.

chrysler building dusk michele roohani

The Chrysler building is still magnificent—I like the upper east side best.

manhattan subway lexington and 51st street michele roohani

sometimes photographers have to take some risks,

yellow cab madison avenue manhattan michele roohani

New York is a walking city and the shop windows are fabulous—I have dedicated an entire future post to it—Bergdorf Goodman’s window displays are so sophisticated, they are like mini-exhibitions.

window shopping manhatan marie antoinette michele roohani

India is big on Fifth Avenue:

manhattan fifthe avenue store display michele roohani

so is the cathedral

saint patrick cathedral manhattan michele roohani

Manhattan is a “hall of mirrors” with a maze of old and new architecture to dazzle you:

manhattan skyline michele roohani

Brownstones are beautiful in springtime,

ochre brownstone new york michele roohani

so are bluestones!

brownstone manhattan NY blue michele roohani

Prepare yourself to eat half a cow at Carnegie Deli,

carnegie deli pastrami michele roohani

and then the other half:

carnegie deli cheescake michele roohani

Jim Dine’s Venus on the 6th avenue,

jm dine venus manhattan michele roohani

The upper west side is younger and hipper—Amsterdam avenue leads you to a little gem of a café,  good enough to eat.

amsterdam avenue ny traffic light michele roohani

A hole in the wall, Zibetto espresso bar, is an ideal place to get you going again,

zibetto espresso bar manhattan ny michele roohani

to see some more of this beautiful city:

audrey hepburn marilyn monroe NY michele roohani

its buildings,

manhattan skyline grisaille michele roohani

and its skyline.

manhattan skyline traffic light michele roohani

I visited the Metropolitan museum and the Frick Collection as my usual pilgrimage but the most exciting show was at the New York Public Library. I have two great exhibitions to tell you about but that’s got to be in the next post.

Related and Suggested Posts and Resources

Babooshka dolls and Franz Kafka in Prague

Is somebody flattering me?

Is somebody flattering me by copying me? It sure looks like it! To all the people who want to know how the mysterious woman’s face in the official Cannes film festival poster looks like, take a look at my post here.

My friend Mitra called me this morning, super excited about the Cannes Film Festival’s official poster which looks so much like the stills I have in this post:

avventura cannes poster michele roohani

This poster looks a lot like the images I made by taking pictures of my tv screen last february:

“I got to watch L’Avventura (The Adventure) last night and Antonioni’s poetic compositions were arresting:

avventura monica vitti terrace cannes film festival

Monica Vitti is divine in these shots from 50 years ago…

l’avventura monica vitti stairs michele roohani

Today’s generations think they have invented these styles/fashions; our arrogance fades after watching a couple of these films.”

I just can’t resist adding a couple of  more pictures from that film:

avventura monica vitti  polka dot michele roohani

It seems that I wasn’t the only one interested in still shots from Avventura—Annick Durban did a great poster for Cannes festival (and flattered me!)

avventura monica vitti  blond chignon michele roohani

To see the beauty of this now famous scene, go here.

To see my original post go here.

Let’s boldly go to the movies

Should I be jealous of Uhura kissing Spock? After all, he is my first love and I’ve known him since he was speaking Persian to the good old James Tiberius Kirk and they were called Pishtaazaane Fazaa…

spock uhura michele roohani

I have grown up like millions of Iranians with Star Trek—my cousin, Anousheh Ansari, was inspired by them (she even made the vulcan salute before going to space!)

I still have his picture in my bedroom to prove my unchanging love for Spock:

mood board michele roohani spock

I went to see the movie yesterday and I liked it a lot—I am a hopeless Trekkie and all the holes in the plot didn’t bother me a bit. I was relieved to see the first Enterprise where the shield wasn’t leaking energy every few minutes; maybe as Roger Ebert suggested, they did get new batteries…

spock uhura music michele roohani

On a more serious note, I saw a couple of great movies this week: Il Divo, an Italian film about Gulio Andreotti—I loved it in spite of my ignorance about the politicians involved (and the Mafia),

il divo andreotti michele roohani

Somebody called the new Star Trek movie operatic—they have to see Il Divo to see how a governement can be operatic! That clown Berlusconi is not helping the Byzantine image of Italian politics…

gulio andreotti michele roohani

Another very interesting film I saw was Examined Life; I only knew a couple of the Philosophers but it didn’t diminish the pleasure of watching some intelligent thoughts on screen:

examined life michele roohani

It reminded me of Saul Bellow’s funny quote: Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ My revision is, ‘But the examined life makes you wish you were dead.’

The next film was Goodbye Solo, by the hottest young director—according to Ebert—Ramin Bahrani:

goodbye solo ramin bahrani michele roohani

not bad for a young Persian dude

You can watch him with Charlie Rose here.

ramin bahrani Matthew Monteith michele roohani

A good movie to me is the one that stays in your mind for a little more than the two hours that you are spending in the theatre and these films will stay with me for a while like my last year’s favorite, Starting out in the evening or Michael Apted‘s unforgettable Up Series about the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old,  up to now (the next episode will be in 2012).

7 and up apted michele roohani

Imagine seeing the same people grow old in front of your eyes every seven years—it took 42 years to make it—now that’s a documentary!

I do watch entertaining films like the Batman series/Iron Man/Duplicity but from time to time it is refreshing to watch something that makes you stop and think.

Last but not least, today is Mother’s Day in America so please don’t forget to love your mother.

mother’s day calligrapahy micheleroohani rose

Visit my best movie post here; these films are really worth watching again.

The lost and found Art of Bookbinding, a second anniversary issue

It’s been two years since I started this blog and I just have to make this post fabulous…I’ve been wanting to write about the new Kindle for a while but I have felt guilty towards books!

duby feodalite figurine michele roohani

As many of you know I am a shameless bibliophile but  even though I am a rather “early adapter” of new technologies, buying a Kindle has not been a priority (you can carry a big chunk of your library—1500 books— and the neighborhood’s news stand in one Kindle).

lionheart coeur de lion book michele roohani

I am tactile and love touching books and feeling the pages, the type, smelling the paper, the ink, etc…this little soldier guards my books valiantly!

knight books chevalier michele roohani

This one—Herman Hess’ Narcissus and Goldmund— was one of my favorites and I have read it in three languages during the past 30 years (talking about obsession!) and I can’t imagine getting the same pleasure from reading it on Kindle…

herman hesse Narcissus and Goldmund michele roohani

Could I have appreciated Jean Michel Maulpoix‘s poetry without his signature blue covers? No paper?

jean michel maulpoix michele roohani l’instinct du ciel

Would he have wanted to be read on a gadget? Knowing him, I would say non!

“Blue makes no noise. It is a timid color, without ulterior motives, forewarning or plan; it does not leap out at the eye like yellow or red do, but rather draws it in, taming it little by little, letting it come unhurriedly, so that it sinks in and drowns in it, unaware.”

maulpoix books livre une histoire de bleu michele roohani

I can read Lukacs or Gopnick on a Kindle but not the Shahnameh (even writing about it is sacrilegious). One of my favorite blog posts is the one I wrote about this passion of mine.

napoleon john lukacs borges michele roohani

I audited a bookbinding course on my last trip to europe and was pleasantly surprised to see that this beautiful art is not dead.

bookbinding press leliure michele roohani

people in the atelier were restoring old books—resewing the pages, making new covers, etc—with a lot of love, attention and reverence. These fonts were for leather book jackets:

font bookbinding police reliure michele roohani

Is Amazon.com cannibalizing its own industry? They are the makers of Kindle.

bookbinding jargons michele roohani

I have to admit that  even I would love to have all the newspapers I read daily, on one gadget. The gadget that carries most of my books to choose from on a trip; I guess all I am saying is that it’s very hard to read poetry on a machine—wouldn’t these beautiful poems feel/sound better on paper?

i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

e.e. cummings

fernando pessoa book of disquiet livre de l’intranquillité michele roohani

“Parfois je me fais presque honte
De croire autant ce que je ne crois pas.
C’est une variété de rêve
Avec le réel au milieu.” Fernando Pessoa


Thank you all for the kind comments and support through these past two years.

michele roohani narcissus thank you card

Revisit my post on books here.

A book is a present we keep opening—again and again…

The Art of Jazz

These are the most interesting jazz images i’ve seen! The exhibition in Quai Branly museum in Paris was amazingly rich with visual complements to my favorite genre of music. Catch it if you can but if you don’t, here’s my report:

Birth of the cool Miles Davis 1949 michele roohani

Miles Davis remains one of my favorites—the following are mostly LP covers from the mid 20th century:

Bud Freeman,

Bud Freeman michele roohani

To go through all of my images and get inspired to prepare them for this post, I’ve been  listening to Mingus’ “better get it in your soul”.

Just look at this super cool Count Basie cover by Andy Warhol:

Count Basie michele roohani

Benny Carter plays pretty:

benny carter michele roohani

Sidney Bechet in Paris in 1952:

Sidney Bechet paris 1952 michele roohani

Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet,

Dizzy Gillespie michele roohani

Daddy plays the horn,

daddy plays the horn michele roohani

The beautiful music of Charlie (the Bird) Parker,

Charlie Parker michele roohani Bird

I like these very 50’s percussion disc covers,

persuasive percussion michele roohani

I am listening to Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane’s “Nutty”,

Thelonious Monk San francisco michele roohani

Now some posters from the 1920’s forward—Cary Hauser’s Jonny Mene La Danse from 1928:

Jonny Mene 1928 michele roohani

Look at the musicians here:

victoria attraction poster michele roohani

Grand Bal de Nuit,

Grand Bal de Nuit poster michele roohani

Jan Mara’s Mezze Mezzrow is soooo not “Kenny (my middle name is boring) G”!

Jan Mara Mezz Mezzrow michele roohani

A relatively more recent poster from the Lincoln Center:

jazz Lincoln center poster michele roohani

Now some paintings—Harlem Jazz by Winold Reiss, 1925:

harlem Jazz Winold Reiss 1925 michele roohani

The Lindy Hop by Miguel Covarrubias, 1936:

the Lindy hop Miguel Covarrubias 1936 michele roohani

James WeeksTwo Musicians;

two musicians james weeks 1960 michele roohani

Nicolas de Stael‘s Musicians:

musicians Nicolas de Stael michele roohani

Blues by Archibald J. Motley Jr, 1929

Blues Archibald J. Motley Jr 1929 michele roohani

Bernard Buffet‘s light drawings:

Buffet jazz drawings michele roohani

This Coltrane image is haunting:

sound of Coltrane michele roohani

and a very politically incorrect piece here called “cake-walk”—can’t imagine an American museum showing this:

le cake walk michele roohani

Last but not least was this fabulous Fred Astair’s homage to Mr Bojangles on a huge screen that I manipulated of course!

fred astair shadow  Bojangles michele roohani

to see him dance watch this absolutely great clip here.

century of jazz quai branly michele roohani

It was very hard to take these pictures (some were on very fast slide shows!) and to clean and edit them later but it was a labor of love; I’ve been wanting to do a post about Jazz for the longest time but where to start? Where to end? Who to cover? This was the shortest way I could record my visit to the Land of Jazz. Thank you Daniel Soutif!

jazz exhitbition quai branly ticket michele roohani

Voilà! Now you know…I have not even started talking about some of my other favorites: Louis Armstrong, Bill Evans, Fats Waller, Keith Jarrett, Ahmad Jamal, Lionel Hampton, etc…

To see some cool clips from the coolest of them all, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, go here

for a taste of the great Monk, go here

to hear the Bird,  click here

to see the genius of Fred Astaire here.