It’s the first day of spring and the Persian new Year of 1392 starts with Noruz (No: new, Ruz: day):

Norouz 2013 michele roohani

We are celebrating in Paris with a newly converted Venus,

Noruz 1392 haft seen michele roohani

I have extensively written about the Noruz (or Nowruz, Norooz) before in my blog, so if you’ve been with me in the past 4/5 years, you must know all about the items that go on the Noruz spread.

haft seen persian norooz michele roohani

The famous “haft seen” of 7 S’s:

Nowruz goldfish samad michele roohani

My fish, Samad (his name has nothing to do with the S’s… ;) ), has been with us since two Noruz’s ago and he is happy to play his role this year with the famous Haji Firouz , the politically incorrect Persian messenger of the New Year:

haji firouz nowruz 1392 michele roohani

Haji Firouz’s face is covered in soot and he is wearing bright red clothes and hat. People consider it only as a face paint and there is no racial implication.

Nowruz-fish-michele-roohani1

Do you remember  Samad on my previous year’s Noruz card?

One of the S’s is Sekkeh or coin; the last Shah of Iran is overthrown even in my Haft Seen…

coins sekkeh nowruz michele roohani

It was raining in Paris on the first day of spring:

paris roofs michele harper

but I didn’t care because a bunch of hyacinths can bring the spring to your room.

hyacinths michele harper

Happy Noruz and,

Norouz paris venus michele roohani harper

happy 1392 to all of my Persian friends!

michele dordaneh roohani1392 persian new year

Some links to my previous Nowruz posts worth your time (I promise):

Nowruz 1390 here

Nowruz 1389 here

Nowruz 1388 here

My most visited blog post (and most used images without my permission) Haft seen here

Just decided to add this photo of myself (3 months old) on my mom’s lap having my first Noruz and not terribly impressed…

dordaneh first haft seen michele roohani

It’s been snowing in Paris and amazingly the snow is staying so the whole city is white white white!

paris snow eiffel tower michele roohani

I had to meet a friend for lunch in Montparnasse; no bus was running in Paris yesterday so I had to take the metro which was deserted:

paris metro deserted michele roohani

it was me and the live statue of a king…

living statue michele roohani

The famous cafés of Montparnasse, like Le Select (once the haunt of Hemingway, Picasso and Henry Miller) were kind of empty,

cafe select in snow michele roohani

La Coupole was not much better,

coupole sous la neige michele harper

so we settled on some mean steak and frites and Entrecôte:

entrecote michele roohani

Who can say no to that?

2009-06-16-Le-Relais-De-Venise-L'Entrecote-steak

I said goodbye to my friend and decided to go and take some pictures of the city under snow.

saint michel sous neige michele roohani

It snowed on bikes,

bikes snow paris michele roohani

and on flowers,

primrose snow paris michele roohani

and the café tables:

café tables paris snow michele roohani

The bouquinistes (booksellers of used and antiquarian books) had stayed home but the Notre Dame cathedral was open to me and others.

bouquiniste neige snow michele roohani

Still majestic after 800 winters!

notre dame under snow paris michele roohani

It was glorious inside; I particularly love its three large rosettes. These examples of technical and artistic genius were constructed in the 13th century. The largest two measure 13 metres in diameter:

notre dame de paris michele roohani

I was giddy by the time I left – snow makes most people like that. It reminds me of my childhood in Tehran and cancelled school days! I took a picture of myself with the Saint Michel bridge behind me.

michele roohani pont saint michele snow

I would have been happier if it wasn’t for the stupid love padlocks! They have invaded the Pont des Arts (Art Bridge)  and now it’s all the other bridges’ turn…

padlocks cadenas pont paris michele harper

The Conciergerie (where the notorious Marie Antoinette was held before being decapitated in 1793) looked beautiful in spite of the recent Disneyesque cleaning of its façade. I liked it better when it had some of its original grime…

conciergerie snow paris michele roohani

I took the metro again to go to Trocadero:

metro paris snow michele roohani

You see many things when taking the Parisian metro – some are very nice like this poster advertising an exhibition about Shahrzad and her ” Thousand and One Nights” at the World Arabe Institute:

shahrzad institut arabe paris michele roohani

and some more realistic ones like these homeless men sleeping…

homeless paris metro michele roohani

By the time I got out it had stopped snowing,

metro sign paris michele roohani

and the beautiful Eiffel tower was on time for her rendez-vous with me:

palais chaillot eiffel michele roohani

These gilded statues each had a live bird on them:

guilded statues chaillot paris eiffel michele harper

but the only one close enough for me to take a picture of was this little sparrow:

sparrow moineau snow paris michele roohani

And of course everybody could take their own tower home:

eiffel souvenirs michele roohani

I didn’t buy any but I started writing this blog to share it with you looking out from time to time to the melting snow.

home michele roohani snow

It’s a rainy afternoon in Paris, just the way I like it, but I am in bed 3 weeks after a foot surgery and lots of time to read.

Some time ago I was nudged by my friend, Ajay, (happy birthday Ajay) to read Paris: a love story. I thought maybe it’s about the one among millions of little/big romances in the city of lights so I didn’t rush to it. I was surprised to find a very interesting book by Kati Marton:

She was the wife of Peter Jennings and Richard Holbrooke and she has been in love with Paris all her life. I liked both these gentlemen and her story starting in Hungary and continuing all over Europe and United States kept me reading through the night (pain is also responsible for keeping you awake).

I knew Holbrooke from his days in Bosnia and Afghanistan and Jennings was coming to all our homes for years via ABC News. After that book and no brighter future in pain reduction, I started reading The unquiet American, a very interesting book published by Holbrooke’s friends after his death in 2011.

It is an amazing book if you like history and/or are interested in high diplomacy; Richard Holbrooke shines with his whole package of qualities and imperfections. I am considering to read (finally) a book by John le Carré, being nudged this time by Holebrooke himself!

I rarely read fiction so it would be hard to choose which of these two to read and which just watch as a film. The free first chapters from Kindle will help me make up my mind. I am as they say a “promiscuous” but loyal reader – I read many books at the same time but I do finish them all!

“History keeps her secrets longer than most of us. But she has one secret that I will reveal to you tonight in the greatest confidence. Sometimes there are no winners at all. And sometimes nobody needs to lose.”  John le Carré

 

Today is the second and final round of the French presidential elections and the “Sun King” will be chosen! France is hoping for a miracle from the new president.

This will be a referendum on Europe’s austerity measures (Sarkozy for and Holland against  them). Paul Krugman must be happy that there has been a definite shift in opinion in the past month.

I went to the first round to observe and learn how it works in France where you actually have to pick up a piece of paper with the name of the candidate printed on it and take it to the booth and put it in the envelope and then to the voting urn.

The fate of France and Europe is decided in a sea of blue envelopes today. Nicolas Sarkozy’s Socialist challenger Francois Hollande beat him in the first round of elections and is the front runner in all opinion polls that have predicted he will win tonight but it’s not over till it’s over…

In the first round on April 22nd, Hollande came out on top making Sarkozy the first ever President to lose the number 1 position in the first round of votes. These are chaotic times and the global financial crisis couldn’t help any incumbent in the shadow of austerity and looming recession.

After the closing of the urns, the volunteers can help count the votes—something I have never seen in the U.S.—and everybody can ask to be a part of the “dépouillement” (tally in english). They just let me take pictures but I couldn’t count because I don’t vote in France.

I should be in L.A. to vote in November because this has made me nostalgic about home.

It’s the time of sweet smelling wisterias (glycine in french) in Paris:

and it must be the time of jacarandas in L.A. where it rains purple in the month of May:

But in France, people who vote don’t get a sticker!

See some amazing jacarandas here

See me get angry about politics here

If Sarkozy goes to the guillotine today it will be because of this woman

Yesterday, I was walking home through a quaint neighborhood of Paris, la Butte aux cailles, when I noticed these posters of Hollande on the wall of this little street, rue de l’Esperance (street of hope in French):

I can’t vote in France but I have been following the elections and if you want to know a bit about it, I recommend reading these two short articles from today’s New York Times. The first one’s called: “Victor Hugo on the ballot” by Robert Zaretsky.

The other one is “Voting for Yesterday in France” by Oliver Guez:

Take a few minutes to read them—they are quite interesting…

On a more cheerful note, there is always hope as long as there is spring and lilacs that remind me of my childhood in Iran…

To read one of my favorite posts about lilacs in Paris go here.

What is more emblematic of Valentine than a good old love story played by Audrey Hepburn in Paris?

The story of a mousy looking bookshop clerk who got discovered by a hot shot fashion photographer (Fred Astaire). He convinces her to go to paris for a major fashion event.

She’s nagging in the following scene to the 1950′s top model, Dovima who looks stupid and pretty at the same time! Audrey doesn’t care about how she looks and has a brain…

Something in Hepburn’s face is so different form others…She looks fresh, innocent and intelligent.

She looks adorable as a child:


Let’s go back to our Valentine story. She takes the plane and they all get to Paris:

Between the photo shoots, they all sing and dance and discover Paris. She has Pont des Arts behind her in this picture and there is even a small boat on the river!

Of course Paris of 1957 looked a little different than today – for one thing it wasn’t exploding with people.

The story is full of clichés:  she’s crazy about Parisian philosophers (that’s why she agrees to come to France) and she goes to Montmartre where the artists are:

She’s being photographed in front of the Arc de Carrousel,

and in the Louvre:

She plays with doves in front of the fountains of Place de la Concorde,

and she goes to the Opéra:

They even make her wear a Burqa!

Isn’t she prettier with it around her shoulders instead of her hair?

Now she can have any man she wants…

But she’s only dreaming about one man,

the one who doesn’t want her – the photographer:

He’s played by the dorky  Fred Astaire. He was a great dancer but so pathetic playing the leading man with the prettiest of them all, Hepburn!

They fight and she cries and cries…

But they finally make up and the rest is history! Richard Avedon and the rest of the gang made sure that it becomes part of the cinema history.
So to have a happy ending to your Valentine day, you have to be as beautiful as Audrey Hepburn or as lucky as Fred Astaire and go to Paris where everything is a zillion times more expensive than when the “Funny Face” was made (1957) and 8 million more people live in the metropolitan Parisien region!

My favorite Valentine post of 2010 here
Valentine 2009 with nice poems here
I am soooo romantic in the Valentine of  2008 here
To see a great clip from Audrey’s son go here
Audrey Hepburn’s site here

A spatial odyssey in Paris

July 31st, 2011

I absolutely adore the work of Tapio Wirkkala, the Finnish glass designer I discovered a couple of weeks ago. Glass may be great as a medium but in the hands of this artist, it becomes magical…

We’ve all seen  some of his designs like the Finlandia vodka bottles but he’s a poet when his work comes done to a less commercial level. I had a great time in the Decoratif Arts museum of Paris.

I had the advantage of a great view to Paris — check the Eiffel tower’s reflection in Wirkkala’s five Murano glass bottles’ window:

There were some funny glass (and wood) sculptures like Richard Meitner’s fish:

I was pleasantly surprised by the Czech artist, Libuše Niklová (1934–1981), a famous toy designer. From the 1950s to the 1980s, Niklová created toys like the inflatable animals and dolls (I had one clone of it in Tehran with a little bell in it!)

“She had the brilliant idea of using flexible pleated piping that squeals when pressed. The result was her “accordion” toys: a cat, dog, goat and lion that can be taken apart and reassembled like a construction game.”

Check out her toys links at the end of the post; you’ll have fun.

As long as I was with the funny stuff, Snoopy always makes me smile:

His creator, Charles Schulz, famously said:

“Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There’s so little hope for advancement.”

I saw one of the first huge ad posters for The laughing cow or “La Vache Qui Rit” cheese:

The permanent collection of this museum has a rich array of chairs:

from Mies van der Rohe‘s Barcelona chair to Ron Arad’s folding one:

Olivier Mourgue designed his well-known classic Djinn chairs (1965) made famous by ’2001: A Space Odyssey’ by Stanley Kubrick. Stanley Kubrick created a futuristic rotating Hilton hotel in Space. In it, the Djinn chairs received their lasting moment of fame. Olivier Mourgue named the chairs ‘Djinn” which in Muslim legend, is a spirit often capable of assuming human or animal form and exercising supernatural influence over people (Genie in English):

Do you remember the beautiful scene of the Hilton Lobby in Space Odyssey?

I should stop before I make this post about Kubrick!

I also liked this statue of wood and nails by Janine Janet, made for a window of Balenciaga in Paris in 1959; It’s called the queen:

One of the best things about this underrated museum is its breathtaking views of Paris; I kept running from one window to the next!

I took all of these pictures with my android phone and this is the proof:

Last but not least, my favorite view from the building is this one looking down at Place des Pyamides:

the museum’s site here.

the cute toys here.

 

Tapio Wirkkala here. 

 

 

Muguet of the Valley

May 2nd, 2011

Yesterday was the universal Labor Day, May first, and the day that France celebrate with “Muguet”, tons of it!

This is a flower I love and it’s hard to find in the U.S.

Not only all the flower shops are offering them but there are literally one Lily of the Valley stand at every corner of every street!

“Je porte Bonheur” means “I bring happiness” and this is what this flower is supposed to do for the recipient.

I have a preference for fragrant flowers and Lily of the valley is a tiny flower that perfumes the whole room! The flower is also known as Our Lady’s tears, since, according to Christian legend, the lily of the valley came into being from Eve’s tears after she was driven with Adam from the Garden of Eden,although this seems unlikely, since in Catholic parlance, “Our Lady” refers to the Virgin Mary. Another Christian legend states that Mary’s tears turned to lily of the valley when she cried at the crucifixion of Jesus, and because of this it is also known as Mary’s tears.

Some of the florists are mixing them with roses (above and below):

but I love them by themselves, pure, white, fragrant and unassuming…

Other names include May lily, May bells, lily constancy, ladder-to-heaven, male lily, and muguet (French).

“Sweetest of the flowers a-blooming
In the fragrant vernal days
Is the Lily of the Valley
With its soft, retiring ways.”

“Like the Lily of the Valley
In her honesty and worth,
Ah, she blooms in truth and virtue
In the quiet nooks of earth.”   Paul Laurence Dunbar

I love this picture, the talented Marie Ancolie Romanet, sent me yesterday…exquisite!

Art Paris, a major event in the international Art scene took place last month in Paris and was everything from sublime…

…to sordid:

The following are the works that caught and kept my attention so let’s just start from the beginning; if you are lucky you get in the Grand Palais from the VIP entrance and not the main one (below) where you have to wait with the unwashed masses:

The huge glass dome is stunning on its own so imagine how spectacular it was over these amazing galleries.

The first booth had these curious works by Devorah Sperber:

Spools of tread stand for dabs of paint and the images that were hung upside down are only recognized when you see them through an optical device.

The colored thread spools make an abstract pattern that comes to focus when viewed through—in this case— a crystal ball; Cezanne’s still life (below) is recognizable when viewed through this clear acrylic sphere (above).

Without the optical device, you are just looking at thousands of colored tread spools—1470 of them in this case!

The most surprising to me was Van Eyck’s masterpiece, The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin:

The whole image below is recognizable in the little ball above. Magic made of 5272 spools of thread.

On the lighter side of the spectrum, Mister Spock was patiently waiting for me in this work called “Mirror Universe”; like the artist herself, I too remember the 1967 Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror” in which a transporter mishap switches the crew of the Enterprise with their evil counterparts, trapping them in a “savage parallel universe.”

That image could be seen through a hemispherical mirror:

I loved the work of the super talented Dutch Artist, Pieke Bergmans:

Liquid light bulbs or “Light Blubs” as she calls them are hand blown bulbs presented attached to pendant and desk lamps or resting on old office furniture.

I met the artist, Aurore Vermue, posing with the spectacular pin and button artwork of Ran Hwang,

in front of the fabulous Kashya Hildebrand gallery:

A nice discovery for me was the work of Katayoun Rouhi; she uses Persian calligraphy in her perspectives; I particularly liked this painting with the little girl in a forest of poetry:

I was the only one bending to be able to read the writings that were all upside down:

Nick Gentry’s portraits made of floppy disks were interesting in their own way:

I had forgotten these disks, superseded by other storage media in only a few years…

These beautiful objects by Winus Lee Yee Mei were called “a group of boobs”:

it was hard not to touch!

The show took a turn for the whimsical with Mauro Perucchetti: from the three little pigs to giant pills and all in Swarovski crystal, resin and arylic,

I liked his “gay” superheroes:

These little child-figures covered with brightly dyed hanji-made scales in yellow and silver are the work of Sun Rae Kim who created these bodiless suits after her daughter, Tscho-Young; they were so cute:

The mind blowing opposite was Jan Fabre’s insect covered sculptures; the Belgian Fabre is a multidisciplinary artist, designer, sculptor, playwright and stage designer. I Just found out that he likes these jewel scarabs because of his great grandfather who’s been a famous entomologist. Yeap, these are beetles people!

The other Belgian great was Wim Delvoye and his persian carpet clad real stuffed pig. This sold for 180,000 euros and I am sure the buyer wasn’t an Iranian!

On a more serene note, Gonkar Gyatso, the Tibetan artist, had “Buddha in modern Times”. You could spend an hour exploring little stories embedded in the image:

I liked the straightforward “Paris Block” by Ralph Fleck; I discovered his site and loved his “figures”.

Persian artists being a hot commodity, Kambiz Sabri was the other Iranian artist showing his sculptures like this funny “pillow”:

So to recap, I went from Philippe Pasqua‘s gory skulls (which by the way I love),

to the sublime Kim Kyung Soo’s “the full moon story”:

Her photos were truly arresting; pure poetry…

And in all this, Albert Watson’s David Bowie was sleeping:

I am very happy I got to know some of these artists’ works; take the time to discover them for yourself. The post has all their links.

Hellooooooo Paris!

January 11th, 2011

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!