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

René Burri, one degree of separation between me and Che Guevara

I met one of my favorite photographers, René Burri, last week! A few years ago, I fell in love with this beautiful image of Brazil I discovered on Burri’s great photography book:

In 1963 while working in Cuba, he made portraits of a young Che Guevara:

I went to see Burri exposing his Vintage elegant shots of the polymath architect/urbanist, Le Corbusier:

The photographer has managed to catch the architect in his creative modes/moods:

I found out that often times, Le Corbusier didn’t even notice Burri taking his picture:

I particularly like this one:

Burri was present at La Tourette monastery with Le Corbusier and he recorded some very interesting images of the monks surrounding the architect in 1959:

I love this monk (with the hat) listening in the conversation below:

Artist and photo-reporter in one, Burri, started to shadow Le Corbusier while still a student—he became the visual chronicler and personal photographer of the architect:

The whole exhibition was a glimpse into the creative life of Le Corbusier (not being among my favorite architects, I was never particularly curious about him); I learned much about his work thanks to Burri.

The master was present to kindly sign books,

and learning that I am Iranian, he tried to add another word to his autograph: cheilechoub (ch in Swiss German sounds like kh) or “very good” in Persian:

Check out some of Burri’s work here.

To see the breadth of his work (eye) visit Magnum’s site here.

To see an interesting view about Che Guevara go here.

Marcello Mastroianni’s sweet life

I just watched Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (the sweet life) again and couldn’t help taking pictures of the iconic scene I like most; the film has lost much of its ability to shock but it remains a visual delight:

Anita Ekberg is beautiful in a midnight splash in the Trevi fountain basin and Marcello Mastroianni plays one of his best roles as the quintessential Latin Lover, a gossip columnist torn between the sweet life and his more intellectual aspirations.

The Trevi Fountain scene is amazing when you find out that because of the cold, Mastroianni is wearing a wetsuit under his clothes and she has gulped down a bottle of cognac; Ekberg stood in the water for hours with no problem:

The handsome Mastroianni remains one of the icons of Italian cinema. It was his role as a womanizing tabloid reporter in this 1960 film that won him worldwide acclaim. I love watching old movies with 21st century eyes.

So what happens when the self-deprecating charmer of Italian films,

meets the most beautiful French woman, Catherine Deneuve?

Chiara Mastroianni!

Paper, Paper, Paper: a sartorial tour de force

I saw this fascinating exhibition the other day in Bellerive Museum, Paper Fashion:

I love paper and have worked with it for years so it was very interesting to see clothes made entirely of paper by young virtuosos and well known designers:

Stephen Hann recycles couture in his “comic fan” creation below:

This jacket took newspapers to another dimension:

This is PAPER people!

In an ad from 1960s, the International Paper Company is asking how long will the paper bikinis last…

Fancypants anyone?

Paper clothes were used for PR purposes, to spread news, or to promote politicians and their campaign. Here you see Nixon’s and  Eugene McCarthy:

Robert Kennedy and Romney (the father of the 2009 presidential candidate, Mitt Romney):

“In 1966, Scott Paper Company invented the paper dress, intended as a marketing and publicity tool. For one dollar, women could buy the dress and also receive coupons for Scott paper products.”

A brief fad for paper dresses swept through America from 1966 to 1969. The ultimate gift to the lazy, adventurous youth!

There is a 40 year difference between the dress on the left (in blue) and the one made for the exhibition (in orange):

I was blown away by these intricately cut and folded hairpieces for Chanel by Japanese hair stylist Katsuya Kamo. He used 2 packs of plain white 11×17 copier paper!

Another creative genius of the show was Jum Nakao, the Brazilian Japanese designer. His “Sewing the Invisible” show was on the display and I couldn’t take my eyes off the monitor! I spent a long time on his great site. It is a spellbinding collection of paper Haute Couture:

Just noticed that both above wizards are Japanese: Master Origami makers!

Here is a little explanation for the word sartorial; let’s see if you can guess who is the sartorial queen of all times to me from the picture below:

That’s all folks!  See Isabelle de Borchgrave’s magnificent creations here.

Take a look at Jum Nakao’s defilé here.

Chanel’s fabulous whites here.


To see a way better alternative to paper go here.

Marbella, the beautiful woman by the sea

I just got back from Marbella, Spain, where the weather is hot, the sun’s always shining and the colors are intense (at least in July).

For me, the South of Spain—Andalusia—conjures up my beloved Velasquez, García Lorca and of course the native son of Malaga, Picasso. It was my first time in this part of the country so I did the usual tourist things. The great hotels of Marbella looked empty under the sizzling sun; I loved all the local decors like Plaza Romano in Hotel Puente Romao:

Andalusia is the land of Flamenco (not to be confused with the pink bird flamingo) and these paintings by Fabian Perez, translate the passion of this dance into beautiful images:

But the real ladies of Spain were painted by my beloved Velasquez: the Infantas (daughters of a king of Spain, in this case Philip IV)— infanta Margarita who stared at me for years from a poster in my kitchen and infanta Maria Theresa who became the wife of Louis XIV and lived way longer than her poor sister, Margarita.

I will make a post about Velasquez and one about Goya, once I visit the Prado in Madrid, but for now this post should do. These ladies with these extremely wide panniers inspired me to do a little Velasquez of my own:

I even drew one on the walls of the majestic Villa Padierna…

Las Meninas are everywhere in Spain even on a couple of Spanish fans I bought!

I wrote this post listening for the nth time to the superb Miles Davies’ Sketches of Spain, one of his best works.

Now let me take you to old town Marbella. It is a maze of narrow streets with white houses, restaurants and Bougainvillea galore! For good food check out Da Bruno.

Lots of small shops offering completely unnecessary but fun stuff:

The blue hour (the sun sets at 10 pm in summer) is accompanied by a dizzying fragrance of flowers.

I especially liked the  300-year-old statue of the Virgin—Virgen de los dolores— surrounded by dazzling plants:

A fun thing to do was to go to the open air market, bustling with life and colors; my mother (below in the middle) and my cousins were busy making good deals:

Southern Spain is a polka dotted country and they start dancing flamenco early:

Seeing all the beautiful vegetables, the Southern Californian (read Mexican) in me couldn’t resist treating everybody to a homemade quesadilla:

I went south of the border in every detail even the beer:

The trick is lots of green onions!

A good meal with family and friends is one of the blessings we usually take for granted.

Now back in Spain again, I shouldn’t be impressed with flowers but these hibiscuses were a red that only Goya would have understood…

The Villa had a swimming pool, a shallow spanish tile pool, a lion head fountain and Sepideh, my cousin, did her best to model for me by all three!

She looks so authentically Spanish that she’s had gotten into fights with some people in Malaga who accused her of lying when she claims to be Persian; the fact that she speaks Spanish well has not helped!

Can’t resist a poem of Garcia Lorca (english first and then spanish):

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain.
With the shade around her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
Green, how I want you green.
Under the gypsy moon,
all things are watching her
and she cannot see them.

Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montaña.
Con la sombra en la cintura
ella sueña en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fría plata.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Bajo la luna gitana,
las cosas la están mirando
y ella no puede mirarlas.

Spain is a beautiful woman…

Check out this clip for a passionate and seductive flamenco dance by Belen Maya and its vocal version, Cante Jondo or deep song.

Watch the legendary Antonio Gades dancing it to perfection here.

Listen to Miles’ Sketches of Spain here.

Watch Carlos Saura’s Iberia trailer here.

For the beautiful poem (in Spanish and English) I used in my infanta image, read Dave Bonta’s post here.

Meeting Edward Hopper, the quiet American in Lausanne

I knew Hopper before I met him again in Lausanne a couple of weeks ago and I was delighted to say hello to him again. He had some new things to show me.

I’ve known his beautiful but quiet women:

Silence is ubiquitous in his paintings even when there are many people present—it’s almost as if you have surprised these two ladies having dinner at “Chop Suey” restaurant (1927).  You always feel that Hopper is on the verge of saying something, but he hardly does.

As John Updike observes, “we are always eavesdropping on that wonderful Hopper silence.”

Just twenty years before the above paintings, Hopper painted his women like this (I had fun playing with these little water paintings):

After visiting Paris in 1906, “protected from the slow ravages of compromise—either with public taste or with his own immaturity—he developed his style invisibly along with his character”. Look at his men—I love the look of the dandy:

People at the theater, listening intently:

Hopper was fascinated by the city at night, solitude, and silence; this is where he shines the most: a scene of a roman noir of the 1930’s…

I loved the studies for his most famous painting, the Nighthawks; you are almost waiting for Humphrey Bogart to turn around and say something to you:

Voilà! The quintessential Hopper: “he stares with sober passion at the most ordinary things about the U.S.”

I have great memories of  New York diners of the 1980’s (when I used to take English classes in Manhattan); they conjure up my first impressions of United States. The NY Times article Ajay is pointing to in his comment is an amusing end to the puzzle of Hopper’s DINER. Hopper, famous for his reticence (“If you could say it in words,” he says, “there’d be no reason to paint”) created the Diner in his imagination!

Let’s just go back to his women again. They bathe in liquid light: this movie usher below (1939), waits in her own little world, oblivious to the sound of the film being played next door in the theater.

He painted nudes too—he always used his wife, Josephine as the model;  I like this one best where you can’t see her face:

His paintings are not overloaded with details and information but the essential message is well expressed. The painting below is one of my favorites; Mitra and I stopped in front of it for a few minutes wondering about the simple elegance of this image:

Say hello to Edward Hopper, a silent witness to an American century—he painted during 60 years of his 84 years on earth!

To me, Hopper excels when depicting women—look at this beautiful woman in south Carolina. You can almost hear Duke Ellington’s Chloé…

I waited that morning for Hopper in Lausanne’s Hotel Beau Rivage where you can only afford to have a coffee.

I went to Fondation de l’Hermitage to see Monsieur Hopper and the rest is History…

After the exhibition a stop at l’Esquisse, the little café of the museum, rich with climbing roses.

Hopper’s quiet canvases are well appreciated in these times of constant chatter and chaos; I wonder how he would have painted a rose…

I may see Mister Hopper again in Paris in the near future in Grand Palais from June 10th 2012 through January 28th 2013.

World Cup 2010, here we come

The biggest party on earth is starting amid all the problems that are plaguing the world! The World Cup, worshipped by billions, halts wars and brings humanity together for a short time. Soccer is indeed the big democratizer, the best equalizer and I am rooting for Africa this time.

Maybe for a short month we can have fun (with most people on the globe) without forgetting the general calamities that burden the planet. Call it Football, Futbol, Fussball or Soccer madness…Its accessibility makes it the most popular sport in the world.

I have found the best World Cup calendar online! It’s easy to use and gives you the schedules, national teams, groups and stages and the cities and stadiums where the games will take place.

I will repeat my predictions for the first round and I would love to hear from you as well (especially all the people who challenged me after my Group of Death post on December 6th!)

Ever since I remember I have rooted, like most Persians,  first for Brazil and then Germany. My favorite game of all time remains Italy 4-3 West Germany in 1970—I am keeping a grudge against Italy ever since.

I found out from Roger Cohen: ” the game is written in the blood of only a few nations, who have stamped their genius on it, and then there are the also-rans. Of the 18 World Cups played, half have been won by just two teams — Brazil and Italy. Another three went to Germany.”

Cohen cites Jean Paul Sartre also: “In football everything is complicated by the presence of the other team.”

My favorite soccer players of all time here

Check out the coolest world cup calendar here

Watch a couple of minutes of my favorite game Italy 4-3 West Germany in 1970

Shostakovich: Iron Man 5, 8, 10

Dmitri Shostakovich, the great Russian composer, is the ultimate Iron Man! He defeated, with his amazing music, Stalin’s Iron Fist in spite of the Iron Curtain.

Pushkin, Tolstoy and Shostakovich have helped Russia’s spirit endure the darkest moments of its history: the triumph of intense culture over politics.

Shostakovich, this fragile, shy, nervous, unassuming, fidgety little person, had a difficult and complicated relationship with the Soviet government. He lived in constant fear of persecution by a government that needed him for its propaganda machine.

I have been consumed by his music in the past several days; his symphony #8 (3rd movement) and symphony #10 (second movement), his string quartet #8 in C minor (II) are haunting to say the least.

He was influenced first by Prokofiev and Stravinsky (needs a post all to himself) and later by Mussorgsky and Mahler;  I can’t get his music (or his life story) out of my mind: the only way to put it to rest is to write about him.

What I’ve learned from my hero, Isaiah Berlin, is that people (in this case Shostakovich, this tragic figure), can not and should not be judged, from the safety of the 21st century western world, for having failed to stand up against Stalin’s terror machine. It’s just too easy to send others to their death…

“Shostakovich produced a wide range of music. In addition to the 15 symphonies for which he is best known, he wrote operas, film scores, ballets and compositions for theater. He also maintained ties with the literary community by setting the works of prominent Soviet writers (Babi Yar is one of them) to music.”

His symphonies number 5, 8 and 10 are my favorites—music notes are mightier than swords…

I hope you will find a little time to listen to this achingly beautiful music that celebrates life in all its glory and… gore.

Shostakovich : Symphony N° 8, III

Shostakovich: Gustavo Dudamel  Symphony 10 II

Shostakovic: String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, II

Lilacs for my mother

I wished I were with both my mother and my son today but I am alone, somewhere in Europe between Los Angeles and Tehran…

I would have offered my mother some lilacs and a fabulous view,

and walked with her under the ubiquitous wisterias and admired all the pansies.

We love our mothers for all the stories they told us when we were children,

all the books they read to us,

food (tahdig) they’ve made us:

let’s not forget the clothes,

and things they kept from the time we were babies,

I would have loved to share a meal with my mother and my son today,

or at least a cup of tea.

I would have offered her a perfume with the scent of spring flowers,

and bought her a hat,

because mothers have to wear different hats in bringing up their children!

We love them and should let them know;  as I am sitting in front of my computer, I dedicate this post to my mother and yours,

because they have loved us with all their might…

Happy mother’s day.

Paul Erdos, the wandering dervish

It’s 1999 and I am reading in a special issue of Time magazine about the geniuses of the second millennium: Einstein, Einstein, Einstein and finally a short article about this “mad looking” guy and W O W…I discovered a wandering dervish, a nomadic mathematician: Paul Erdos!

Both his parents were high school mathematics teachers. Erdos (pronounced AIR-dosh) was as generous as he was brilliant with his ideas—never hoarding them and always sharing them with whoever was ready to give him a place to stay and work with him on the joyous and collaborative activity of mathematics: he would show up at their doorstep and say:” My Mind is Open!”

And this is how the myth of the Erdos Number or the “collaborative distance” between an author and Erdos was created: Erdos himself is assigned Erdos number 0. Mathematicians who have written papers with Erdos (511 by 2007) receive Erdos number 1. Writing a paper with someone having Erdos Number 1 earns the author Erdos Number 2, etc…
I made this image of the name of the 8,162 people with the Erdos Number of 2:

Addicted to coffee and amphetamines he was most of the time, super alert, achingly lucid. He wrote papers with more than 500 people, the optimum” intellectual promiscuity”…

Finding  that “property is nuisance,” Erdos had no home, no car, no checks to write and no income taxes to pay; a mathematical pilgrim with no home and no job: the real wandering dervish who founded the field of discrete mathematics, which is the foundation of computer science. “In the years before the Internet, there was Paul Erdos.”

To check out the funny side of the ‘collaborative distance” visit xkcd.com:

Here are some funny quotes by Erdos:

“Finally I’m becoming stupider no more…”

“God may not play dice with the universe, but something strange is going on with the prime numbers.”

“There are three signs of senility. The first sign is that a man forgets his theorems. The second sign is that he forgets to zip up. The third sign is that he forgets to zip down.”

To see Erdos tell a funny joke go here

To see parts of N is a number, a documentary about him by George Paul Csicsery, go here

Today is my blog’s third anniversary!

Ms. Foodie goes to Hollywood

After living for a few months in Switzerland, I couldn’t wait to get to my favorite Cuban restaurant in Los Angeles, Versailles; everything tastes more delicious and was way cheaper in the good old U.S. of A.

The most famous item in the menu is the garlic chicken and even for somebody who is not a “beer person”, this Corona was just too good to miss:

I tried to go back and rediscover all the inexpensive great restaurant of my hometown like the King and I where they still serve the best Thai food since the first glass noodles I had there 25 years ago.

To have the best restaurant cheeseburger in Los Angeles (Tommy’s is still great), I went back to the Westside Tavern—they have a gorgeous bar,

and they serve a rare cheeseburger to die for:

I love old diners (my first impression of America remains diners with bad coffee in New Jersey and New York) and I miss Bob’s Big Boy in Santa Monica; Coogie’s who replaced it has a super fresh simple chopped salad:

Nothing says more southern California than a killer burrito like this world famous border burrito from Eduardo’s Border Grill in Westwood (surviving the attack of Persian restaurants in the area):

The dudes are preparing them with tender loving care,

worth every cent of its 8 dollar price!

So I am not very beer, or burrito or hamburger but Switzerland does this to the poor Californian foodie who comes back: I wanted to eat everything in every menu of every restaurant!

Lemons and limes are always fresh at Eduardo’s,

so are different kinds of salsas:

It takes mediocre expensive food to change Ms. life is too short for bad food and cheap wine‘s  opinion about inexpensive modest restaurants of L.A.

All of the above places were great and gave me a lot of pleasure (and poundage!) but the tea at André’s was as usual priceless…