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

2009 better be better…

And what a year 2008 has been…The fresh 2009 better be better! I don’t remember people looking forward to retire a year (and their president) so eagerly.

2009 polaroids michele roohani multicolors

The optimist in me hopes for:

Another fresh new year is here . . .
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!

This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!
   William Arthur Ward

new year 2009 michele roohani purse green

The realist in me screams back:

New Year’s Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.James Agate

mike luckovich shoe bush michele roohani cartoon

V.S. Naipaul, a monster I love?

I’ve been reading this extremely entertaining book about V.S. Naipaul—The world is what it is—and realizing more and more how his anger towards banality, mediocrity and simple pettiness of people makes sense (of course he is obviously not a nice man). I have written about him before and my interest in him was sharpened after I read in the BBC about this biography of his being published without him changing a word of it. Now, that’s courage…

naipaul nybooks michele roohani divided

A  good article about the book and the five years it took Patrick French  to write it was published in The Nation ; a fascinating glimpse of the mind of the “supreme egotist”.

naipaul young and old michele roohani

I find Naipaul’s banter with Derek Walcott amusing; read about it in The Telegraph.

naipaul walcott

Two Nobel Laureates from the West Indies fighting like children—cute!

Ian Buruma describes him well: “Naipaul’s voice, which some younger writers are tempted to mimic, cannot be defined by citing his opinions on race, the colonial experience, India, literature, or anything else. His views are frequently designed to shock and outrage.”

Cynicism (at its best) jumps at you from every page of French’s book and Sir Vidia’s lucid prose has kept me awake all last week. I empathize when he says: “my life is too short, I can’t listen to banality”.

naipaul telegraph

Like Naipaul, I have refused to engage in wishful thinking all my life and if this makes me a cynic, be it! “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.

added on 12/23/08—I keep looking for him—just read James Wood’s article, Wonder and Wounded: He is socially successful but deliberately friendless, an empire of one: “At school I had only admirers; I had no friends.”

added on 12/27/08—”Artists cannot claim immunity from decency.” Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

I agree to a certain point with her but I don’t believe that artists should be judged by their personality (ies)—Picasso must have been an impossible man with his lovers but I can’t deny his art…

Is Naipaul “mad, bad and dangerous to know” like Lord Byron was? Read this very good article in Times by Magnus Linklater.

Santa Baby…

Guess what we all got from Santa Claus this year?

santa claus obama michele roohani

It’s been a horrendous holiday season and my images below illustrate the Christmas mood of Rodeo Drive:

via rodeo sign christmas 2009 michele roohani

The real estate market is so bad, they are giving away whole buildings!

via rodeo christmas 2008/2009 michele roohani palm trees

The haute couture has a small “sale” sign but no buyers…

via rodeo christmas 2008/2009 michele roohani ferre red

The Christmas decorations are as gorgeous as ever but with no money to spend, people are just not in the mood,

via rodeo christmas ornament 2008/2009 michele roohani reflection

and the  Cinderella slipper has to wait for a better (non-bankrupt) prince.

rene caovilla gold shoe michele roohani beverly hills cinderella

The doormen at Prada are waiting in vain too— the headless/moneyless client is entrapped in Koolhaas’ quirky cell:

michele roohani prada christmas 2008-2009 headless man

Last year’s night version of this was way more cheerful…

michele roohani reflection christmas 2008-2009 vuitton

Africa’s still bleeding in spite of De Beers pretty windows:

michele roohani reflection christmas 2008-2009 de beers

An exercise in futility if you ask me but Harry Winston is still showing off its ridiculous necklaces.

michele roohani reflection christmas 2008-2009 harry winston

The poinsettias are effortlessly beautiful and everywhere—they keep bringing a smile to my face without costing an arm and a leg.

michele roohani christmas 2008-2009 poinsettias

poinsettia michele roohani christmas

An espresso and the man of the year to wrap up the day.

michele roohani patisserie nahid christmas 2008-2009 obama man of the year

It looks like we’re going to have to take Einstein’s advice, whether we like it or not: “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

The Ayatollah begs to differ

I took Hooman Majd’s book, The Ayatollah begs to differ, to bed and before I knew it, it was five in the morning! I was moved to tears and laughter by this affectionate account of his trips to Iran.

The Ayatollah begs to differ hooman majd

I recommend it to Iranians especially if they have been living outside their country for a long time like me (30 years) . It will be interesting to non-Persians as well to glimpse the enigma of today’s Iran. Majd surprised me page after page with his acute observations and sharp insights into Shiite Iran’s psyche.

hooman majd the ayatollah begs to differ

I learned about him first thanks to Jon Stewart’s interview on the Daily ShowI was happy to see his book make the best book list of 2008 on the Economist and L.A. Times.

Newsha Tavakolian cell phone mosque

I am wondering how this American Iranian grandson of an Ayatollah, who’s served as the interpreter to two Iranian presidents (Ahmadinejad and Khatami), can go back and forth between his two countries after writing such a naked account of his visits to Iran.

It would have been good to see some of Newsha Tavakolian’s amazing pictures accompany his book—they epitomize the “Iranian Paradox”.

Newsha Tavakolian driver mom

What I really appreciated about this book is Majd’s quest to explain, in a simple way, the notion of Shiite Islam to the uninitiated (self flagellation et al…). Vali Nasr has already talked at length about the subject in The Shia Revival, as well as the super hip Reza Aslan, the writer of  No God but God but Majd’s book is an easier read and peppered with funny stories.

Newsha Tavakolian rozeh

After Shirin Neshat‘s images of Rozeh (Majd calls it a passion play—as in St. Matthew’s Passion—about the martyrdom of Imam Hossein), Tavakolian’s pictures are the most haunting to me. It’s interesting to see the similarities between the Iranian/Shiite religious processions and the catholic/Italian version below:

eduard de pazzi italian procession black

Check out Eduard de Pazzi’s beautiful images here.

eduard de pazzi italian procession catholic

The Ta’zieh is universal and this comes from the great grand daughter of an Ayatollah!

The author describes the book in his own words

Visit Hooman Majd’s website to learn more about his book.

Visit tavakolian’s website’s to see more of her rich collection.

Read Aslan’s review of The Ayatollah begs to differ in the LA Times.

Mumbai Carnage

It’s 3:30 am Mumbai time on November 27th and I am wondering if it’s a bad time to call my friend Ajay in India; I am watching Mumbai burning on CNN and my heart’s sinking—can’t have even one satisfying answer to why people decide to go on a rampage like this.

Taj hotel mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani

It’s interesting how knowing even one person makes a difference in our relative desensitization towards systematic acts of violence. What causes this rage and brutal frustration?

press mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani gateway of india

I asked my friend, Nimesh Didia, to just go out and take some random pictures of the area and people; I was grateful to receive all of these images from him yesterday.

press mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani

Regular Mumbaikars are replaced by soldiers and the world press; it’s an exercise in futility to try to make some sense of the incomprehensible…

soldiers mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani

The Taj Mahal hotel survived the fire but at least 170 people didn’t. To see excellent pictures click here.

Taj hotel mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani soldiers

Maybe great solidarity and large-heartedness in times of peril will save the city. India and Pakistan have a bloody history since the partition in 1947 and these incidents are not helping.

mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani blue sea

Even James Bond couldn’t keep the Regal movie theater open on the first days of attack:

mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani regal theatre closed

but the clean up work has started:

Taj hotel mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani clean up

The best article I read is Suketu Mehta’s in NY Times— he eloquently describes the feelings of many of the 18 million people pf Mumbai. Read it here.

As you can see, life continues (it always does) in spite of the recent calamity:

mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani fast food

May it be sweeter from now on for India.

mumbai attacks nimesh dadia michele roohani sweet vendor taj hotel

“Partition’s people stitched
Shrouds from a flag, gentlemen scissored Sind.
An opened people, fraying across the cut
country reknotted themselves on this island.”

Adil Jussawalla

Pretty girl in Paris

Pretty girls who wish to model for you are not rare in Paris and I found a great one, Lisa Tahmassi, to walk with me in La Butte aux Cailles neighborhood . You are never sure whether it will rain or not—an umbrella is usually a must in almost any season.

lisa tahmassi paris rain umbrella michele roohani butte aux cailles

These two old gentlemen were so out of place in this very chic neighborhood (ok, the café was pretty beat-up)—they couldn’t take their eyes off of her!

lisa tahmassi paris men beret michele roohani butte aux cailles

Ah…the never-retiring beret…

lisa tahmassi paris men beret michele roohani butte aux cailles beer

It was too early to start drinking anything but an espresso at the counter:

lisa tahmassi paris waiting café michele roohani butte aux cailles france

I love these no-fuss cafés of Paris where you can have the best “petit noir” for 1.5 euros.

lisa tahmassi paris cafe coffee france michele roohani butte aux cailles

A world in turmoil screams for our attention,

lisa tahmassi paris presse tabac france michele roohani butte aux cailles

the financial meltdown was starting to hit the front pages.

lisa tahmassi paris figaro france michele roohani butte aux cailles

I have more pictures of Lisa but they have to wait for another post, another day.

lisa tahmassi paris cell phone france michele roohani butte aux cailles

Putting these images together, I am reminded of this terrific, light-hearted song about being young and in love in Paris by Jacques Brel,”Les Prenoms De Paris” (Names For Paris); listen to it here.

eiffel tower with rain drops michele roohani

“Le soleil qui se lève
Et caresse les toits
Et c’est Paris le jour
La Seine qui se promène
Et me guide du doigt
Et c’est Paris toujours
Et mon cœur qui s’arrête
Sur ton cœur qui sourit
Et c’est Paris bonjour
Et ta main dans ma main
Qui me dit déjà oui
Et c’est Paris l’amour
Le premier rendez-vous
A l’île Saint-Louis
C’est Paris qui commence
Et le premier baiser
Volé aux Tuileries
Et c’est Paris la chance
Et le premier baiser
Reçu sous un portail
Et c’est Paris romance
Et deux têtes qui tournent
En regardant Versailles
Et c’est Paris la France

Des jours que l’on oublie
Qui oublient de nous voir
Et c’est Paris l’espoir
Des heures où nos regards
Ne sont qu’un seul regard
Et c’est Paris miroir
Rien que des nuits encore
Qui séparent nos chansons
Et c’est Paris bonsoir
Et ce jour-là enfin
Où tu ne dis plus non
Et c’est Paris ce soir
Une chambre un peu triste
Où s’arrête la ronde
Et c’est Paris nous deux
Un regard qui reçoit
La tendresse du monde
Et c’est Paris tes yeux
Ce serment que je pleure
Plutôt que ne le dis
C’est Paris si tu veux
Et savoir que demain
Sera comme aujourd’hui
C’est Paris merveilleux

Mais la fin du voyage
La fin de la chanson
Et c’est Paris tout gris
Dernier jour, dernière heure
Première larme aussi
Et c’est Paris la pluie
Ces jardins remontés
Qui n’ont plus leur parure
Et c’est Paris l’ennui
La gare où s’accomplit
La dernière déchirure
Et c’est Paris fini
Loin des yeux loin du cœur
Chassé du paradis
Et c’est Paris chagrin
Mais une lettre de toi
Une lettre qui dit oui
Et c’est Paris demain
Des villes et des villages
Les roues tremblent de chance
C’est Paris en chemin
Et toi qui m’attends là
Et tout qui recommence
Et c’est Paris je reviens.” Jacques Brel

Apocalypse in Paradise

Southern California fires are pretty democratic, they hit the mansions and trailer parks and everything in between with the same cruelty… The current definition of a Californian is still “did or did not escape the fires?”

Brea fires 2008 michele roohani

“Devil winds, hill-hopping infernos, smoked mansions, torched trailers, barren freeways, and brilliant sunsets lingering in low-hanging canopies of burnt dreams.” That’s how Steve Lopez  describes all hell breaking loose in California.

staying cool in california fires

Last year in october I wrote:”wildfires, burning out of control, are continuing to threaten thousands of homes in California. You can’t help but to have this incredible sense of the fragility of everything. As human beings we are wired to think that everything will stay the way it is, safe from sudden and intense changes…” My childhood home burnt down in 1970—my barbie collection got charred along with the rest of the house…

palm trees on fire in california michele roohani

Palm trees help spread fire—I’ve never liked them much—to see an amazing photo essay click here.

yorba linda mansions on fire

It’s amazing how fire spares a house or two in the middle of a whole burnt neighborhood—my friend’s  house in Anaheim hills stayed intact when his neighbor’s got completely destroyed; his daughter, Kimiya, has sent me these pictures of their street:


kimiya khosrovani fires michele roohani 4

kimiya khosrovani fires michele roohani 1

and this one:

kimiya khosrovani fires michele roohani 2

The chimneys are the only things standing in most burnt houses.

sean khosrovani anaheim hills fires 2008 night

To watch a powerful clip from BBC, click here.

diamond bar fires 2008

“Often it takes some calamity to make us live in the present.” Bill Watterson

A Prince finishing what a King began? I sure hope so…

Yes he did it! What a collective sigh of relief, what a huge smile on the face of the earth and how very scary to be President Obama in today’s world…

sky gilbar obama michele roohani

I had fun with Sky Gilbar’s beautiful photos of Obama (above and below).

sky gilbar obama grisaille michele roohani

These are some of the pictures of Obama that I like best.

obama corn field timesonline

I teared up reading Nancy Gibbs’ article: “Some Princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope. Barack Obama never talks about how people see him: I’m not the one making history, he said every chance he got. You are. Yet as he looked out Tuesday night through the bulletproof glass, in a park named for a Civil War general, he had to see the truth on people’s faces. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, he liked to say, but people were waiting for him, waiting for someone to finish what a King began.”

Chris Carlson Associated Press obama president

Writers say it so much better than us mere mortals; take a look at Judith Warner’s piece here and Frank Rich’s here. Come on people, don’t be lazy! These are exciting times—good and bad—and history doesn’t forgive apathy…

johna adams ben franklin HBO

I took this picture of my TV while watching the biography of my favorite American President, John Adams who said: “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”

Obama’s election made me forget my agreement with Plato‘s view on Democracy…

President Obama, the world is smiling…

This is a collective smile, thousands of miles long…

Rainer Jensen_European Pressphoto Agency michele roohani

Take a look at these pictures of the big smile here and read about it from Christiane Amanpour here.

President Obama the world is smiling michele roohani

A paradigm shift my friends, a paradigm shift of biblical proportions…Read Thomas Friedman’s excellent article here and Judith Warner’s amazing piece here.

“We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.” Barack Obama

“Guess who’s coming to dinner”—at the white house?

Wow…It looks like I wasn’t the only one thinking about this movie when thinking about an Obama presidency—I even beat Frank Rich to this one! A U.S. President with a white mother and black father who met in Hawaii? New idea? Over the top? think again guys: Guess who’s coming to dinner was already talking about this in 1967:

And my favorite Star Trek episode—Let that be your last battlefield—has been the precursor of a more tolerant America in 1966:

Obama will most likely be the next  U.S. President and not a minute too soon.