V.S. Naipaul, a monster I love?

December 23rd, 2008

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…

December 20th, 2008

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.”

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…

Kertész and me: “on reading”

September 8th, 2008

I am a bibliophile and not ashamed to admit it! I love good books, and as much as I read online, paper and ink remain sacred to me. My love for books is thanks to my father’s great library of classics.

burnt old books los angeles library michele roohani

I went to the Los Angeles Central Library looking for some books and I couldn’t resist taking these pictures and sharing them with you. This library burnt in 1986—something about burning books fills me up with utter sadness and an enormous sense of loss (remember Fahrenheit 451?)

To see the most beautiful libraries of the world visit this site. We need these in a world where “print” increasingly resembles an endangered species.

burnt old books los angeles library michele roohani ribboned box

The books that were somewhat burnt yet still salvageable are so fragile that they have to be kept in special boxes. You can still see the black soot on them:

burnt old books los angeles library michele roohani black soot triolet

You can’t check out the more damaged ones because of their fragility like this one:

burnt old books los angeles library michele roohani ziska

The good news is that there are thousands of wonderful and “healthy” books in this library and the reading rooms are very pleasant.

reading room books los angeles library michele roohani

This is one book I have promised myself to read one day:

gibbon roman empire los angeles library michele roohani

But who has the courage to even contemplate these ones:

zola los angeles library michele roohani

André Kertész‘s newly reissued photo essay On Reading,  features 66 images, taken between 1915 and 1970, of people enraptured by print.

kertesz michele roohani man reading with a cat

“Kertész’s images celebrate the power and pleasure of this solitary activity and capture the deeply personal, yet universal moment of reading. This poetic book that has long been out of print is even more compelling today in a world where “print” increasingly resembles an endangered species.”

kertesz michele roohani woman reading

Even if Jeff Gomez argues that we are at a Gutenbergian moment, in which writers, publishers and readers must make the jump from paper to the more fluid territory of the screen, I can’t imagine being without the smell and the feel of paper.

kertesz michele roohani child reading

I still print everything serious that I want to read because staring at my screen bothers my eyes.

kertesz michele roohani woman reading in subway

“Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.” Alfred Whitney

Kertész and me: “on reading”

Speaking of great photographers, I went to Melvin Sokolsky’s opening night last thursday at Fahey/Klein Gallery. I’ve had the privilege of  taking a “Master Class” at UCLA with him some years ago. His pictures have remained as fresh as the day he took them and unbruised by time.

melvin sokolsky michele roohani


I woke up this morning with the news of Sarah Palin’s 17 year old unwed daughter being 5 months pregnant! I must be dreaming – this is the stuff bad Hollywood movies are made of: an evangelical, (almost) beauty queen of a small Alaskan town, with five children, a four year college degree in journalism, and  an anti-choice/anti-evolution/pro oil drilling agenda is going to be a heartbeat away from the presidency of the the United States of America! Only in Hollywood my friends…

sarah palin michele roohani

Do I look stupid to you people? Do we, as women, look so clueless to you republicans that you imagine us all  voting for a woman only because of her gender? This is as valid as me voting for Ahmadinejad for the sole reason that he’s born persian!

Palin went through with her fifth pregnancy knowing that her child will have Down Syndrome. I have a nephew with this problem and I know how heartbreaking it is for the parents and the siblings…To insist in bringing a child like this to the world is selfish and insane.

palin mccain michele roohani cartoon

Palin is an avid member of the NRA—Natonal Rifle Association—  which makes her the dream candidate for the republican ticket. She’s too damned young and inexperienced to be the vice president of this country. Read this article and this one to have some fun with this issue. Here are some interesting opinions about this whole affair.

palin thumbs up

Unless Obama (aka the Dark Knight) messes up really bad from here to November, I don’t see how he can lose…

obama mc cain polls

“At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.” Aldous Huxley

jim borgman palin

The Desert Garden at the Huntington’s was in full bloom and I couldn’t resist sharing these beautiful images with you. First some gorgeous Echeveria succulents:

Succulent Echeveria michele roohani huntington desert garden

They have fleshy leaves with small delicate flowers like these:

Succulent Echeveria flowers michele roohani huntington desert garden

These are called black succulents and are truly magnificent:

black succulent michele roohani huntington desert garden

Agave (of the tequila fame) , Aloe and Cactus are all members of the succulent family—the cactus having more prickles than others. They are water-retaining plants. Just look at this gorgeous queen victoria agave:

Succulent queen victoria agave michele roohani huntington desert garden

and this pretty pink flower of another agave plant.

Succulent agave pink flower michele roohani huntington desert garden

This one had small blue and red blossoms.

Succulent agave blue and red flower michele roohani huntington desert garden

You all know this more common succulent: the creeping ice plant.

Succulent pink ice plant michele roohani huntington desert garden

This desert garden is nearly 100 years old and has more than 3,000 species of desert plants. Let’s go to the thorny cacti now; you don’t want to get lost on this road on a dark night!

golden barrel cactus michele roohani huntington desert garden

I loved these peach hued blossoms on this prickly pear cactus,

cactus peach blossoms huntington desert garden michele roohani

they turn yellow when they open.

cactus yellow blossoms huntington desert garden michele roohani

This is a more dramatic version of the same plant—it almost looked like under water coral…

wavy prickly pear cactii huntington desert garden michele roohani

Cactus is an oxymoron to me. How can a plant with fleshy leaves and prickles that repel you have such brilliant and intensely colored flowers? It rejects you and invites you at the same time…

prickly pear cactus yellow flower huntington desert garden michele roohani

A closer look,

prickly pear cactus yellow blossom huntington desert garden michele roohani

and the piece de resistance: the red flower cactus.

red cactus flower huntington desert garden michele roohani

This young gardener was busy the whole time that I was visiting the gardens.

straw hat huntington gardner michele roohani

Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.”  Lou Erickson

huntington library gardener michele roohani

I saw the new Batman movie yesterday and I liked it a lot. Heath Ledger was great and knowing he’s passed away makes the role even more frightening…

joker

The fact that this latest batman is not cracking jokes like George Clooney’s gay version—with Robin—makes it easier to imagine a darker villain for the story. Christopher Nolan (of the Memento fame) has done a great job in these two last movies about the comic book franchise.

keaton kilmer clooney bale batman michele roohani

Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer were good as the dark prince but Christian Bale remains the best of the crop and Clooney the absolute worst. He should really stick to his Cary Grant roles. Take a look at the different batmen here.

What I have always liked about Batman is that he’s not a super-hero with funny super powers like the Spiderman, the creepy  Superman or that idiot Hulk! I liked the Iron man for the same reason. The engineer in me cringes every time I have to watch a scientifically impossible film. Even though I am a serious Trekkie, I have never been a fan of the Star Wars. The whole mythology and mentor/princess/father/son bit turns me off. Dune has the same effect on me…

spock and kirk michele roohani

You don’t want to hear about my childhood crush on Mister Spock so I am going back to my ratman.  Last week I had to ask a rat-man to secure my house from an epidemic of rats in Brentwood/Bel Air area…Bats are not rodents by the way and are genetically closer to us humans.

“Fascinating is a word I use for the unexpected. In this case, I should think interesting would suffice.” Spock

Live long and prosper.

vulcan salute michele roohani

You would think Prague is all about Kafka, Mucha and Dvorak but it’s really about these dolls – the Babooshka dolls are everywhere in Praha:

michele roohani babooshka dolls Matryoshka prague

I would like to share my last trip to this beautiful city with you. I stayed in this fabulous hotel where everything but the view to the river was red (my favorite color)

michele roohani prague red steps

these exquisite chandeliers are the pride and joy of the Czech Republic.

michele roohani prague crystal chandelier bohemia

 

this is the view from my room:

michele roohani prague room with a view

and this one

michele roohani prague room with a view sunny

Just look at Frank Gehry‘s edifice in the middle of these gorgeous buildings set on the shore of a shallow branch of the Vltava river – these tiny pictures are really not doing it justice.

First the sun was shining,

michele roohani prague gehry building Vltava river

 then it was raining like hell,

michele roohani prague under rain Vltava river

and then this amazing double rainbow; talking about a room with a view…

double rainbow michele roohani prague

Prague is a city of posters,

michele roohani prague posters communism museum

and the capital of caryatids! Paris will never get close to these gorgeous men and women.

michele roohani caryatides prague honey colored

these two weren’t talking to each other:

michele roohani caryatids prague bank

but these two were – for an eternity.

michele roohani caryatids prague balcony

I woke up at 6 in the morning and took the tramway to Charles bridge – the only time in the day that it’s a bit quiet. Cities are majestic in the morning blue hour.

michele roohani charles bridge prague early morning

The astronomical  clock is the main tourist attraction.

astronomical clock prague michele roohani early morning sun

Speaking of Kafka, he’s omnipresent:

michele roohani prague cafe franz kafka moody

and here and everywhere…

michele roohani prague franz kafka mucha

Beautiful  city/people/pastries/absinthe (I brought some mean ones back to L.A.)

All and all, the Czech republic has shown gargantuan progress in a few years since the fall of communism – if only it stayed as inexpensive as the first time I visited…

“A book must be the ax for the frozen sea inside us” Franz Kafka

Claude Verlinde and Jacques Poirier are two underrepresented French painters. They are both master illusionists/image makers/mirage makers.

invitation aux jeux du theatre verlinde micheleroohani

I fell in love with the above painting when I first got introduced to Verlinde’s work in Paris. We all know hollow people, lacking in real value, sincerity, or substance – we have all met shallow people lacking in depth of thought, or feeling. In Persian we call them “hollow drums”: noisy but empty.

the witness jacques poirier micheleroohani

Thanks to the internet we can know of something without really knowing about it. We used to have to read, to see, to hear something in order to be able to talk about it but not anymore folks! everybody’s an expert.

I’ve been wanting to talk about V.S. Naipaul for the longest time. Every time that somebody tries to eat up my life/time, I remember the writer’s fabulous statement reported on BBC: “my life is too short, I can’t listen to banality”.

naipaul young and old micheleroohani

Staying with the trompe l’oeil of Verlinde and Poirier, take a look at this very clever ad:

jobsintown.de micheleroohani

You can see the rest of these very funny ads here.

Today is my blog’s first anniversary! If you like what you see, please subscribe.

Happy New Year to all of you hamvatans! These are some pictures of the ghost of Nowruz past and present. I remember new shoes, the intoxicating scent of hyacinths, the goldfish and the mint bills – and of course the sound of naghareh when the year changes.

norooz 1387 micheleroohani 2008

No Ruz is the day when life’s glory is celebrated; it usually occurs on March 21st or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. It’s a feast of renewal and freshness – No (new) Ruz (day).

norooz hyacinth micheleroohani

It has often been suggested that the famous Persepolis Complex, or at least the palace of Apadana and Hundred Columns Hall, were built for the specific purpose of celebrating Noruz by Darius the Great (522 -485 BC). It is celebrated in other countries as well as Iran. Tajikistan is one of them.

norooz sofreh micheleroohani

In spite of trying hard, the islamic republic of Iran has not been able to erase this semi-pagan spring festival; they have tried to replace Zarathustra‘s spring equinox celebration with the muslim eyds to no avail.

norooz goldfish micheleroohani

The original haft sheen or seven sh‘s were: Sharab (wine), Shekar (sugar), Sham (Candle), Shir (milk), Sharbat (Sherbet), Shaneh (comb), Shahd (nectar) but they were replaced by seven S’s to eliminate sharab (wine) after the arab conquest.

norooz sweets micheleroohani

The haft seen is made of:
Sabzeh – wheat or lentil sprouts growing in a dish symbolizing rebirth
Samanu – pudding made of wheat symbolizing wealth
Senjed – dried fruit of Jujube tree symbolizing love
Seer – garlic symbolizing medicine
Seeb – apples symbolizing beauty and health
Somaq – sumac berries symbolizing the sun
Serkeh – vinegar symbolizing age
Sonbol – hyacinth flower symbolizing the arrival of spring
Sekkeh – gold coins symbolizing prosperity and wealth

norooz coins micheleroohani

Too much information, wouldn’t you say?

norooz sabzeh micheleroohani

“Pourquoi les hommes ne savent-ils pas
Que la capucine n’est pas un hasard…” Sepehri

norooz ayneh micheleroohani

 

آمد بهار ای دوستان منزل سوی بستان کنیم
گرد غریبان چمن خیزید تا جولان کنیم

امروز چون زنبورها پران شویم از گل به گل
تا در عسل خان جهان شش گوشه آبادان کنیم

آمد رسولی از چمن کاین طبل را پنهان مزن
ما طبل خان عشق را از نعره ها ویران کنیم

بشنو سماع آسمان خیزید ای دیوانگان
جانم فدای عاشقان امروز جان افشان کنیم

آتش در این عالم زنیم وین چرخ را برهم زنیم
وین عقل پابرجای را چون خویش سرگردان کنیم

کوبیم ما بی پا و سر گه پای میدان گاه سر
ما کی به فرمان خودیم تا این کنیم و آن کنیم

نی نی چو چوگانیم ما در دست شه گردان شده
تا صد هزاران گوی را در پای شه غلطان کنیم

خامش کنیم و خامشی هم مایه دیوانگیست
این عقل باشد کآتشی در پنبه پنهان کنیم

Rumi

To hear my good friend (Houri)’s voice accompanying the preparation of haft-seen, click on the view here.

Postscript:
About the seven sh’s, somebody mentioned the omnipresent SHAHNAMEH on the Norouz spread and I have to agree – the Great Book‘s almost always been on mine even now that it’s become the tame haft-seen. For some comic book version (for the heavy readers) check this site out.

My Nowruz 1390 (2011) here

For Nowruz 1389 (2010) go here

for Nowruz 1388 (2009)  go here