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

Pharaohs are trembling

Egypt is awakening…Pharoahs are trembling…Pyramids are cracking…and I am hoping for more Cleopatras than the Muslim Brotherhood…

From Maureen Dowd (a few days after my blog got published):

Egyptians rose up at the greatest irony of all: “Cleopatra’s Egypt was modern in ancient times and Mubarak’s was ancient in modern times. The cradle of civilization yearned for some civilization.”

Belle Mellor, mi Amor

Belle Mellor is my favorite illustrator; I discovered her work through the Economist some years ago and I am hooked!

Her images are clever, funny and subtle.

The above images are from one of my best Economist articles, A survey of mobility, Nomads at last.

How can you get more witty than these?

Here her man is walking over everybody,

but here the dude is addicted to love…

a cell phone with Chinese alphabet?

Mellor calls this Three piece suite for people who are homebound,

and people who can’t wait to get away from their office desks:

She has illustrated a lot of great articles about pollution (air, noise, etc…),

and she can be seriously sad:

but she really gets me when she goes softer like in this one below:

This is her tragedy,

and her bliss:

Rescue your emails?

‘Ask What I Want’ | How Magazine | For an article, about how designers need to listen to their clients:

I wished everybody,

to see her work, go to her website.

and read about her here.

Hellooooooo Paris!

I am finally in Paris—to stay. Looking for a job and an apartment and so happy that even the gray rainy days don’t make me homesick for my sunny California (yet)!

Everything looks kind of rosy in the Luxembourg Garden:

I am going to take you on a short promenade in Paris: in the morning you have a quick coffee in your hotel room,

If you are lucky you can see the Etoile with almost no traffic:

but if you are really lucky you will catch some new version of the Beatles crossing the streets:

and then you buy your metro ticket (and maybe cigarettes if you are one of my girlfriends),

from here:

and head down to your favorite café in Saint Germain,

or any other nondescript one like this one,

and watch people (something I am not very good at—coming from the U.S. where staring at others is considered a major faux pas):

and more people,

or watch them watch you!

Of course in Paris, everyone is a philosopher and you better get used to it:

and most waiters are annoying!

I personally prefer watching the iconic Parisian rooftops than people:

and temporary exhibitions like the one below:

Next, I will drag you to see the eternal Bonaparte (or Malaparte according to the rest of Europe!)

After lunch, you feed the little sparrows in Place des Vosges,

or see Quasimodo feed them in front of the majestic Notre Dame cathedral:

You may want to see the stage makers in the old Paris Opera house:

and hear me curse Chagall for the nth time for having defaced the original ceiling!

we can go see Dali and ask him why his Venus has open drawers…

From the Montparnasse tower you can see most of the landmarks:

I love this view with the Luxembourg garden as a blob of green in the middle of my photo:

And when you are dead tired you go back home but not before admiring the beautiful bridges of the city of light:

you buy some bread (low carb dieters beware) because that’s all you can afford if you buy anything else in Paris!

A glass of wine and a piece of cheese will be all you need,

you may admire the blue hour from your window:

you may  read a little bit,

then you go to sleep and dream about great stuff…

and wake up to an early deserted Trocadéro:

and watch the rainy morning start in front of a bitter espresso in a very small cup:

and wonder about what the hell you are doing away from the sunny California and your friends and Cyrus,

and the good old  Santa Monica…

but then you remember that you wanted to do that all your life and you better do your best to be happy in the land of Molière!


I started 2010 in  Los Angeles, spent it in  Switzerland and I am finishing it in Paris where I moved to since yesterday. I wish everybody a great new year!

“A new year is beginning to peak through
softly beautiful and different like new falling snow,
each day unique and shaped just for you.
Your life adding something as each day does grow.
My wish for your new year is beauty
and softness with surprises thrown in for delight.
Love for each day bringing happiness to you,
making your life a scene of sparkle and shining sunlight.”

Madonna, Madonna, Madonna

I love the statues of Madonna and Child and I have a great collection of pictures from the Catalan National Art Museum (MNAC):

They range from around 1250 through 1600 AD and are made of polychrome wood.

This one is by Jeronimo Hernandez de Estrada from 1600:

Even non-Christians can’t pass these beautiful Madonnas without feeling the warmth of a mother’s tender embrace…

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Giant Barbie Dolls and fetish boots

I loved the LACMA exhibition, Fashioning Fashion, which tells the story of fashion’s aesthetic and technical development from the Age of Enlightenment to World War I in Europe. I had the feeling of being in a toy store that sells giant Barbies!

I couldn’t help adding the masks (above) or the Barbie to the boxes! The mannequins are life size.

The show’s byline is European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915, and they go to great length to show that you had to wear this underneath:

to be able to wear this on top! By 1750’s, the hoop petticoat or Panier (french for basket) measured up to 6 feet to display wide skirts made of expensive textiles like this one with this fabulous chinoiserie:

A hundred years later, the skirt is bell shaped and crinoline supported; Scarlett O’Hara, here I come!

“This exhibition examines sweeping changes in fashionable dress spanning a period of over two hundred years, and evolutions in luxurious textiles, exacting tailoring techniques, and lush trimmings.” The LACMA show highlights how each era emphasized a different part of the anatomy.

You had to endure these auxiliary bustles (the hinged-wire one in the middle is collapsible):

to be able to go around in these:

How far would you endure to please? Things kept getting more complicated (skirts with folds upon folds and trims galore) with the invention of the sewing machine and the evolution of corset and bustle:

The variety of textile was a feast for the eye—warp-resist dyed silk, taffetas of infinite plaid patterns, embroideries, moirés, etc…

Just look at the tassels on the “horizontal shelf” bustle on this baby!

I was surprised to see the a pair of fetish boots (Belgium 1900) that would take forever to tie and untie and open drawers! Judging from his paintings of the brothels, Toulouse Lautrec must have known these with details…

Even the non-X rated ones are super sexy; the corset on the left is made of whale bones or baleen and the one on the right is decorated with gorgeous metallic-tread embroideries:

In mid 18th century Europe, a great collaboration among the weavers, the braid makers and the fabric dealers produced these dazzling masterpieces of fly fringes and tassels:

The french revolution brought the neoclassical style of ancient Greece and Rome—Napoleon changed it to the Empire Style: thin white muslin dresses with short sleeves, high waistline and low neckline. Shawls from India were the perfect match to add color and warmth:

Bling Bling Bling! The gold and silver embroidery was omnipresent in European courts—the more the merrier…

By the end of the 19th century, women liberated themselves from all this hassle; this riding habit from 1890 is made by a tailor (for men) instead of a dressmaker, the Tea Gown being inspired by traditional Asian garments is free flowing—their makers, Liberty & Co., are still in existence in London.

Look at these cute bonnets;  the beadwork makes you dizzy!

If I had to chose one item from the entire collection, it would be this beautiful silk jacket (and maybe not the skirt!)

That’s all folks; next time we’ll visit Ken’s wardrobe!

Visit LACMA’s FASHIONING fashion exhibition here

London’s Design Museum’s Drawing Fashion here

On Thanksgiving, is Turkey part of Europe?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I always cook two turkeys no matter how many people are coming to my house (one in the oven and one in a pot) and this year will not be different even though it will be in Geneva and not Los Angeles.

Some pictures from the ghost of thanksgivings past—brushing the turkeys with butter and saffron),

prepared in front of the Macy’s Parade on TV!

with great persian stuffing camouflaged as the usual stove top…(it has pomegranate seeds people!)

My son has always been very thankful for the turkeys and I miss cooking for him this year…

In a few hours, this below:

undergoes metamorphosis to become this:

Last year I was shocked to know the turkeys were 120 dollars each! Switzerland is not this bird’s natural habitat but I desperatly wanted to make Turkey a part of Europe!

We made the usual two birds with my friends and they turned out great – below, they are taking a nap:

No thanksgiving preparation should be without the company of some Petite Arvine (the best Swiss White Wine)…

and again after hours of fun work, they are ready to be consumed!


1994 all over again

I remember how depressed I was on that November morning of 1994 after Newt Gingrich dashed all my hopes of a better “democratic” America… Clinton got re-elected in 1996 and so will Obama if people start remembering what the poor dude inherited from 8 years of  Bush…The complicated Health plan was a big factor in both democratic losses in 1994 and 2010 but these two presidents at least tried to do something about the shameful health care disaster of United States.

This time around it is easier for me (blame my age) and I think that even though the tea baggers took over the House, the fact that the twin evil sisters of Meg Whitman (in spite of her pro choice views and mild progressive agenda) and Carly Fiorina lost in California keeps my hope alive! Meg Whitman‘s loss is particularly sweet to me: no one has the right to buy an election with 140 million dollars of their own money!!

There still are some things left that rich people just can’t “buy”— intelligence, culture and compassion are among them.

Two Queens, one King and the holy Trinity College by the river Cam

University of Cambridge, England, is one of the oldest universities in the world (800 years old) and is made up of 31 colleges. A college is where students live, eat and socialize. It is also the place where students receive small group teaching sessions, known as supervisions. This post will be about the grandest and most magnificent of these colleges: Trinity College.

I had the best guide to take me around several of these colleges but for this post, Trinity it is. It was founded by Henry VIII in 1546 as part of the University of Cambridge, combining two older colleges that existed since 1317 and 1324:

This is the clock gate with a statue of one of the older colleges founders, Edward III (and yes it did take me 20 minutes to walk 20 feet!)

“Pugne pro patria” or fight for your country he’s preaching with a beer belly and three crowns in his hand.  Edward III quartered the Royal Arms of England (the three lions) with the ancient arms of France, the fleurs-de-lis on a blue field, to signal his claim to the French throne.

The iron-work of the gates in the Nevile’s court leading to the “backs” is very impressive (I found a funny criticism of the gates in an old book—they were built for a total sum of 4 pounds in 1691):

I love this little feather stuck on these ornaments:

Trinity has many notable alumni but for me its most distinguished is Isaac Newton; this is where he measured the speed of sound (you can still clap your hands and hear the echo):

He is now standing in the college’s chapel:

For the ones who don’t want to decipher the words above, here is William Wordsworth’ poem (1850):

“Near me hung Trinity’s loquacious clock,
Who never let the quarters, night or day,
Slip by him unproclaimed, and told the hours
Twice over with a male and female voice.
Her pealing organ was my neighbour too;
And from my pillow, looking forth by light
Of moon or favouring stars, I could behold
The antechapel where the statue stood
Of Newton with his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind for ever
Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.”

Newton is surrounded by bright minds in the chapel and even A Man for all Seasons. I am almost sure that the second gentleman from the left is Sir Thomas More:

Of course you should first get in the chapel to see all of that!

The most beautiful sight is the Wren library—off limit to cameras—which has exquisite classical proportions and maximizes space and light having bookcases below window level. It has Newton’s own copy of the first edition of Principia Mathematica, with hand written notes for the second edition.

Trinity College undergraduate gowns are dark blue, as opposed to the black favored by most other Cambridge colleges:

Unlike any other Cambridge college the porters—aka grass police—always wear black bowler hats; they make sure that as with many other Cambridge colleges, the grassed courtyards are generally out of bounds for everyone except the Fellows or me who was accompanied by a Fellow.

And this is their headquarter:

If you get lucky to be invited to a High Table in the Great Hall, you will have a formal dinner with very interesting Fellows but if you are very lucky, like me, you will sit between the most senior Fellows, Anil Seal and Béla Bollobás!

This is what  you are going to eat and drink (we were lucky enough to inherit a great Sauternes left over from the previous night’s big dinner); I was warned not to pass the serving platters to the person sitting by me and always wait for the waiter to do it!

And of course row after row of tea cups…

The great court is even more breathtaking at night where the college bathes in soft lights and the sound of the central fountain:

Just imagine going to sleep (like the other students of the college) with the sound of this old spring:

If you are a visiting scholar, you may stay in the college,

right beside the Master’s Lodge—in this case Sir Martin Rees:

I so wanted to peek through Sir Rees’ house but the best I could do was to take a furtive picture and be happy with his TED talks...

One place I could visit was the neighboring guest house in this blue hour,

and delight at the “green teas” you could have in the morning by the window…

Last but not least on my list is the river Cam and its romantic bridges made even more beautiful by the Punts (flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow):

It couldn’t get greener, wetter, fresher than this hazy beautiful morning spent visiting the Cambridge colleges:

And this punter, oblivious to the fine rain, enjoys the shallow and gravelly river, from one Cam bridge to the next:

After the first couple of colleges you either need a coffee at Caffé Nero accompanied by great fudge from fudge kitchen,

or something stronger: a carajillo just like Mitra D. likes it!

To be continued…