Adieu Christopher Hitchens, my favorite Mister Opinion

“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends” wrote Hitchens last June and I am heartbroken to know he passed away yesterday…

I didn’t agree with everything he said (but who would? who could?) yet I learned a lot of very interesting things from him especially his relentless atheism that provoked the wrath of the faithful!

He sold his soul to the devil of alcohol and booze who helped him write but killed him prematurely. Keeping his great wit until the end he said: “In whatever kind of a ‘race’ life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist”.

Here are some quotes from him that I like:

“There are all kinds of stupid people that annoy me but what annoys me most is a lazy argument.”

“People are being too easily pleased. I’m amazed they settle for so little.”

“A gentleman is someone who is never rude by accident.”

“A lot of friendships absolutely depend upon a sort of shared language.”

“I hate stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”

His friend Richard Dawkins said: “I think he was one of the greatest orators of all time. He was a polymath, a wit, immensely knowledgeable, and a valiant fighter against all tyrants including imaginary supernatural ones.”  

I got to know his work via his excellent articles and book reviews and then I read his great book, “God is not great, how religion poisons everything”. I laughed all the way through the book! I liked his succinct biography of Thomas Jefferson  and his latest book, Arguably, is patiently waiting in my Kindle.

Graydon Carter says: “There will never be another like Christopher. A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar.”

I read in Time that When Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, believers of all faiths prayed for his health — and his salvation. The staunch atheist responded that he was grateful for the good wishes and hoped that praying for him made the faithful feel better. “Hitchens was never far below boiling point. He was an evangelical secularist, an atheist warlord.”

His friend, the novelist Ian McEwan, once said of Hitchens: “It all seems instantly neurologically available: everything he’s ever read, everyone he’s ever met, every story he’s ever heard. I’ve seldom met anyone who speaks in such fluid, elegant, nuanced sentences, dizzying in their breadth of reference.”

I loved the fact that he didn’t like Kissinger, Lady Diana, Jerry Falwell or Jacqueline Kennedy (he called her widow of opportunity!)

I strongly disagreed with him on his stand on the Iraq war or his view on abortion but he bought me back when I read what he had said of George Bush, when he was governor of Texas: ‘He is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things’.

Another quote: “Marx says criticism of religion is the beginning of all criticism. Philosophy starts where religion ends, just as chemistry starts where alchemy breaks off or astronomy starts where astrology runs out. It is the necessary argument. Not believing in the supernatural is the critical thing.”

These past few months, It was heart wrenching to read his articles about the cancer killing him but he never lost his grace. His memoir, Hitch-22, was a good (if not great) read because I was curious about what made this man who he is. I would like to see his friends, Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis, write about his death, his life…

Read about his last days here.

Read Hitchens’ article about his own imminent death here.

A good article about him is on today’s NYTimes here. 

The truth is multiple

The truth is multiple but a is not bigger than b…

illusion truth is multiple michele roohani

“A good society must recognize that reasonable human beings will always hold irreconcilable views.” Isaiah Berlin

Maybe the Truth is plural (I am not talking about scientific truth); what would it be like, if, freed from the pressure to be right, we were able to listen to each other ?

“What would it be like if we had enough confidence in the truth we possess to actually hear the truth of another human being?” Robin Ressler

The lost art of Conversation in the 21st century

Sadly many new technologies have contributed to increasing our isolation (TV, iPods, etc.) but it doesn’t have to be that way.

connect email internet micheleroohani

As children, we start the conversation by playing together, as young adults our conversations become intense but something strange happens in midlife: all those ideals sediment in our heads and we get comfortable in our somehow more quiet and prosaic lives – we sink gradually to the bottom of our minds.

children playing micheleroohani

Unfortunately for many of us, by the time we get to old age, the conversation has died down completely or has diminished to a competition about who’s more sick and who’s children are more ungrateful – Man dies in solitude and silence…

ocean alone micheleroohani

To fight the loneliness of it all, we compromise our standards/principles and settle with a wide array of less than par exchange of ideas.

pacific beach micheleroohani

Sharing opinions, ideas and images is my motivation for blogging. Ideally a post can be the start of a conversation; the Internet equivalent of sitting down in front of a cup of coffee (make it tea) to relax and shoot the breeze. The conversation is at the root of creativity and it can help change our mindsets.

To make the conversation flow easier, it’s now possible to be notified by e-mail when someone makes a comment on the same post you have. All you have to do is check the little box labeled “Notify me of follow up comments via e-mail”, which appears below your comment.

There have been so many great comments and I can’t mention them all, but here are some of my favorites:

One of my favorite thinkers, Theodore Zeldin believes that “conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits – it doesn’t just reshuffle the cards it creates new cards.” I agree with him when he says “we are increasingly leading bubble lives in which we insulate ourselves from everyone apart from an ever diminishing circle of friends and acquaintances.”

A good conversation starter would be this very funny NY Times article about the books that end love stories.

All these unworthy opinions…

Check your facts people! Until a few years ago, being judgmental was politically incorrect (a very tired notion today) but as I am growing older, I am realizing that Life is too short not to judge. My good friends André Démir and Tamas Ungvari are “Messrs Opinion” both; in these times of “chilling apathy”, it’s refreshing to see somebody take a stand on something (in their case, on everything). This post is an homage to these two gentlemen, both hungry observers of the life around them and armed by an uncanny fluidity of intelligence.

tamas ungvari micheleroohani

I get frustrated when I hear all these unworthy opinions rolling out of everybody’s mouth; it’s good to check our facts before sharing them with everybody. Trust but verify. I am ready to listen then but I can’t even count the number of times that somebody has recited an article from a major newspaper or repeated a pundit’s interpretation of the news as an absolute fact to me. I am not completely innocent myself.

André is a mean Tango dancer (here with his angelic wife, Carol Kelly):

andre demir carol kelly micheleroohani

My hero, Isaiah Berlin, believed in “the power of the wisely directed intellect to illuminate, without undue solemnity or needless obscurity, the ultimate moral questions that face mankind”.


isaiah berlin micheleroohani

You just have to watch TV a bit to see how this power is misused by the kinds of the anchormen at the Fox News (or CNN for that matter). Beside making me sick, Ann Coulter makes me doubt Berlin’s philosophy:

‘Life can be seen through
many windows,
none of them necessarily
clear or opaque,
less or more distorting
than any of the others.’

I would have loved to listen in to Berlin and Akhmatova‘s conversation in a fateful night in 1945.


anna akhmatova micheleroohani

There is so much going on in the world with the renegade Kosovo, the two-headed Russia and Ahmadinejad in Iraq but those should wait another post to exploit your patience – I’ll try to make the next one all about flowers and butterflies.

Coming to life with an iPod

I love my iPod! It’s ancient but I don’t want to get a new one yet; I have to admit that having a portable music library has not been my primary concern but the podcasts…oh the podcasts…

ipod tahlia music podcast books eyes

Many of my friends have asked about subscribing to podcasts with an iPod (or any other MP3) – this is how I listen to my news from around the world – it’s like TiVo-ing your favorite radio shows; you have to install itunes and take it from there:

1) if you don’t already have itunes download it for free at
2) install it
3) go to itune store/podcast
4)search for shows you like halfway through the screen:

podcast, ipod, searching teaching

And the rest is pretty easy. Here are some of the things I listen to: NPR morning news, scientific american , slate magazine, 2000 ans d’histoire, in our time with melvyn bragg, Radio Lab, NYT’s Frank Rich/Maureen Dowd , etc… I do download a “medley” of different stuff and I hardly listen to music on my ipod but that’s just me – the beauty of it all is that I can listen to what I want when I want and with a little gadget (iTrip), it even plays on my car radio.

ipod classical music itunes podcast jazz

Five minutes in the morning to download the podcasts from my computer and this can carry me through Life‘s rush-hour…Happiness is a lot of small/little things.

I am in favor of kindness and you prefer concentration camps

Isaiah Berlin was a political philosopher and historian of ideas. He remains a hero to me.

isaiah berlin, books, reading, writing, philosophy, coffee, fountain pen

one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, he remained true to his humanity. “I came to the conclusion that there is a plurality of ideals, as there is a plurality of cultures and of temperaments. I am not a relativist; I do not say “I like my coffee with milk and you like it without; I am in favor of kindness and you prefer concentration camps” — each of us with his own values, which cannot be overcome or integrated. This I believe to be false. But I do believe that there is a plurality of values which men can and do seek, and that these values differ.”

Suicide, a fundamental human right

We had no say in how/when/where we were born but i think we should definitely have a say in our death. Nietzsche was right when he wrote, “there is a certain right by which we may deprive a man of life, but none by which we may deprive him of death.” I have never contemplated suicide but the very freedom to do so seems liberating. This doesn’t mean that i don’t believe in suicide prevention in most cases, but I am convinced that Life’s quality is way more important than a few miserable extra years. The final exit remained a NY Times best seller for a long time in spite of the U.S. being a fundamentally religious country. I find this glossary very interesting and i suppose clarifying the terms may help us not to consider the subject as taboo. Imprisoning Dr. Kevorkian (for eight years) just because he helped people with long histories of suffering was unjust even absurd. Life is beautiful but it is sublime if you have some control over it.


i decided to add something to this post after i read all the comments -i must admit that the issue of insanity in relation to suicide didn’t cross my mind before Yves mentioned it; the case of a young life ended because of depression is very different to me than the one ended based on insanity – and insanity is so subjective that i am not sure if i want anybody but the fairest of the judges to decide who’s sane and who isn’t. who would be the “guardian”? would a “philosopher king” do? is the society to decide or the government? who is to judge if i am sane enough to end my life when/how/where i decide to do it? is old age a necessary condition? is is sufficient though? who has the right to prolong someone else’s suffering/misery?

Et in Arcadia ego, Memento Mori, fragile cargo

Glass has always fascinated me – they call Antoine Leperlier, an unclassifiable artist, a glass sculptor.I  was transfixed by the unusual works of art by Leperlier in Musée nationale de ceramique.


He’s using old text and adages like “et in Arcadia ego” to emphasize his take on time and human history. interrupted movements in glass like pictures taken on high speed film. frozen poetry.


“chaos” has a special place in Leperlier’s work; “continual struggle between permanence and flux, cosmos and chaos, being and nothingness”…



the only other artist that i know in this caliber would be the great Dale Chihuly.

Never Explain…

“Never explain – your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.”

i thought for a long time that this quote is from Abraham Lincoln but i just found out that Elbert Hubbard is the author; the version i knew was a bit more modern than the above mentioned original:

“Never explain – you’ll bore your friends and your enemies will not believe you anyway.”