Let’s boldly go to the movies

Should I be jealous of Uhura kissing Spock? After all, he is my first love and I’ve known him since he was speaking Persian to the good old James Tiberius Kirk and they were called Pishtaazaane Fazaa…

spock uhura michele roohani

I have grown up like millions of Iranians with Star Trek—my cousin, Anousheh Ansari, was inspired by them (she even made the vulcan salute before going to space!)

I still have his picture in my bedroom to prove my unchanging love for Spock:

mood board michele roohani spock

I went to see the movie yesterday and I liked it a lot—I am a hopeless Trekkie and all the holes in the plot didn’t bother me a bit. I was relieved to see the first Enterprise where the shield wasn’t leaking energy every few minutes; maybe as Roger Ebert suggested, they did get new batteries…

spock uhura music michele roohani

On a more serious note, I saw a couple of great movies this week: Il Divo, an Italian film about Gulio Andreotti—I loved it in spite of my ignorance about the politicians involved (and the Mafia),

il divo andreotti michele roohani

Somebody called the new Star Trek movie operatic—they have to see Il Divo to see how a governement can be operatic! That clown Berlusconi is not helping the Byzantine image of Italian politics…

gulio andreotti michele roohani

Another very interesting film I saw was Examined Life; I only knew a couple of the Philosophers but it didn’t diminish the pleasure of watching some intelligent thoughts on screen:

examined life michele roohani

It reminded me of Saul Bellow’s funny quote: Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ My revision is, ‘But the examined life makes you wish you were dead.’

The next film was Goodbye Solo, by the hottest young director—according to Ebert—Ramin Bahrani:

goodbye solo ramin bahrani michele roohani

not bad for a young Persian dude

You can watch him with Charlie Rose here.

ramin bahrani Matthew Monteith michele roohani

A good movie to me is the one that stays in your mind for a little more than the two hours that you are spending in the theatre and these films will stay with me for a while like my last year’s favorite, Starting out in the evening or Michael Apted‘s unforgettable Up Series about the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old,  up to now (the next episode will be in 2012).

7 and up apted michele roohani

Imagine seeing the same people grow old in front of your eyes every seven years—it took 42 years to make it—now that’s a documentary!

I do watch entertaining films like the Batman series/Iron Man/Duplicity but from time to time it is refreshing to watch something that makes you stop and think.

Last but not least, today is Mother’s Day in America so please don’t forget to love your mother.

mother’s day calligrapahy micheleroohani rose

Visit my best movie post here; these films are really worth watching again.

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.

Giacometti – a post from Montparnasse

Ok people, brace yourselves – this is going to be an image heavy post! I will take you through a couple of days in Paris – the way I like it: hitting the streets early in the morning to catch the blue hour of this great city; Montparnasse is a very busy neighborhood at 8:30 am.

montparnasse early morning 1

This was my first time witnessing the changing of the ads:

montparnasse advertising

I walked to a favorite café that reminds me of my twenties, La Rotonde.

la rotonde

I don’t like them anymore (remember the whipped cream out of a can?) but nostalgia and Balzac take me to them every year.

balzac rodin rotonde

the cafés are changing in Paris – here is the old generation Select and the trendy Lotus.

select montparnasse

cafe lotus montparnasse

Of course anything that remotely reminds me of Los Angeles while I am in Europe is not welcome so this kind of restaurant/café just makes me wince but the worst offender is Starbucks and its paper cups.

starbucks in paris

I bought a pariscope from this news stand,

news stand montparnasse

and had a coffee while looking for the hottest exhibition in Paris.

pariscope montparnasse

I decided to see Giacometti in Centre Pompidou .It was never my intention to paint only with gray. But in the course of my work I have eliminated one color after another, and what has remained is gray, gray, gray!

giacometti man

What a great show it was – complete with the artist being filmed while painting and sculpting.

giacometti hands

His drawings (included some fabulous small notebooks), paintings and sculptures made a large window into the soul of this great creature…

giacometti square man

giacometti woman

Even though I am not a big fan of the Centre Pompidou, I have to admit that the view is breathtaking…

paris roof eiffel

I visited the Maillol museum a couple of days before this and liked its architecture as much as the collections:

maillol stairs

Maillol is very different in his style from Rodin – they were good friends.

maillol bronze

The picture bellow shows the plaster versions of the bronze sculptures above.

maillol plaster

On a more colorful note, living in Los Angeles, I am deprived of pretty store windows – abundant in New York, Paris and London.

fornasertti paris

I am ending this post with two images of my loyal laptop that’s getting very old but gets the job done.

mac cafe paris

tulips mac shokoufeh

Café crème or Petite Arvine, a good post I hope.

I met Arcimboldo and some Germans in Paris

I am sitting in this cute café which happens to have wifi! The world is changing and Paris with it.

cafe du metro michele roohani paris

I’ve been very busy since I am here; three interesting exhibitions in 2 days: Arcimboldo has never been so complete as in this exhibition in the Luxembourg museum.

michele roohani arcimboldo luxembourg

A way more somber show was Germany, the black years at the Maillol museum. Otto Dix, Beckmann and Grosz were the most impressing but i have to admit that the German propaganda posters with Hitler’s name on them were the most striking/chilling to me.

michele roohani german war poster 11

This one can give you nightmares:

michele roohani war poster german

this next one takes me back to all of my dear Professor Ungvari’s battlefields (Somme, etc…)

michele roohani somme

of course Paris can erase these nightmares with a winter sunshine after the rain.

michele roohani pont des arts

A few shiites, a few jews and some Carthusian monks

I just saw this wonderful film, Starting out in the evening, about an old writer who has outlasted the social order in which his life made sense. How can you go wrong with New York in the fall and tons of books? I can’t believe that the lead actor is the same guy who played in Superman returns.

starting out in the evening movie

I am a movie junkie but so much of what’s being produced now is blissfully forgettable; I know I like a film if I keep thinking about it the next day and when I start talking about it to others. These are a couple of them: The lives of others which got an oscar is about the constant question of how a good man acts in circumstances that seem to rule out the very possibility of decent behavior. The actor, Ulrich Muhe, was amazing – unfortunately he passed away in July.

lives of others ulrich muhe

The one movie I will always remember is Into great silence. The film is an eloquent achievement in capturing the slow and delicate rhythm of the Carthusian monks’s daily lives in silence – a great meditation if you are stressed out. “Silence. Repitition. Rhythm. The film is an austere, next to silent meditation on monastic life in a very pure form. No music except the chants in the monastery, no interviews, no commentaries, no extra material.”

into great silence

I enjoyed Children of Men, a superbly directed political thriller – London has never looked this scary…

owen in cildrenofmen movie

My favorite of all action movies was The Bourne Ultimatum. An unusually smart work of industrial entertainment with the great Matt Damon – as good here as he was in the two previous Bourne films. The music is so interesting I had to shell out a buck for Moby’s “Extreme Ways”.

bourne ultimatum matt damon

All and all it’s been a good year for the low budget films and this makes me very happy. I am planning to see The diving bell and the butterfly, American gangster, and Persepolis.

satrapi persepolis

I also hope to be able to find Primo Levi’s journey. (I am insisting that he didn’t commit suicide!)

primo levi

I am trying to get a copy of the documentary, Out of place: Memories of Edward Said . He remains controversial even after his death.

edward said

and…maybe Beowulf for fun.

My eucalyptus tree attempted suicide

My eucalyptus tree attempted partial suicide (non-fatal self-destructive act, self-mutilation) a couple of days ago.

eucaliptus partial suicide 1

The California Eucalyptus are transplanted trees from Australia (ca 1850) – they were brought here in the hopes that they would provide a renewable source of timber for construction and furniture making.

eucaliptus partial suicide 2

I heard a big swooshing noise and a loud thump; what seemed to be my whole eucalyptus tree landed ten inches from my parked car at my doorsteps killing some poinsettias. I thought I’ve lost the tree but I found out later that “some species of Eucalyptus have a habit of dropping entire branches off as they grow. Eucalyptus forests are littered with dead branches. Many people have been killed as they camped underneath the trees. It is thought that the trees shed very large branches to conserve water during periods of drought.” Mine’s “accident” may have been caused by the wind or the heaviness of the branch.

eucalyptus partial suicide 3

The whole yard smelled wonderful though – by its very essence, eucalyptus has the scent of freshness and purification. I love trees especially the ones I grew up with – sycamores and poplars. “Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.” Bill Vaughan

eucalyptus partial suicide 4

One whole day of yard work reduced the giant branch to these. Maybe my wood sculptor friend would be interested.

I can’t translate this poem without stripping it of its original beauty:

Dans la forêt sans heures
On abat un grand arbre
Un vide vertical
Tremble en forme de fût
Près du tronc étendu.

Cherchez, cherchez, oiseaux,
La place de vos nids
Dans ce haut souvenir
Tant qu’il murmure encore.

Jules Supervielle

Here is my favorite T-shirt:

michel roohani be green t-shirt

I haven’t seen two poplars to be enemies
I haven’t seen a willow selling its shade to the ground
The elm tree freely bestows its branch to the crow
Wherever there is a leaf my passion blossoms
من نديدم دو صنوبر را با هم دشمن
من نديدم بيدي، سايه اش را بفروشد به زمين.
رايگان مي بخشد، نارون شاخه خود را به كلاغ.
هر كجا برگي هست ، شور من مي شكفد

Je n’ai jamais vu la haine de deux peupliers.
Je n’ai jamais vu un saule vendre son ombre à la terre.
Et gratuitement l’orme offre sa branche aux corbeaux.
Partout où frémit une feuille,
S’épanouit aussi le bourgeon de l’ardeur.

Sohrab Sepehri

Hello?… that was just a joke!

Ok people I was just joking when I said I was going to have plastic surgery! I talked about the United States’ dire economic situation (true), having a kid in law school (true) and needing cosmetic surgery (maybe true but won’t do it) to make you guys buy my stuff.

These are my 2007/2008 holiday cards:

holioday 2007 2008 season’s greetings michele roohani

michele roohani happy holidays

I hope that you had a good thanksgiving – 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 wasn’t an exception – great persian stuffing camouflaged as the usual stove top

turkeys thanksgiving 2007

“Thanksgiving is when gluttony becomes a patriotic duty.” To me, this is one holiday that is not tinted with religion or acute nationality.

thanksgiving 2007

The real turkey this week will be president Bush going to Annapolis when thousands are protesting in Jerusalem and Gaza against the talks.

Mike Luckovich annapolis

Mike Luckovich sums it up in the above cartoon; I like Bob Gorrell’s too:

bob gorrell annapolis

Southern California is burning – sudden and intense changes…

Wildfires, burning out of control, are continuing to threaten thousands of homes in California. A lot of people are going to lose theirs today. You can’t help but to have this incredible sense of the fragility of everything. As human beings we are wired to think that everything will stay the way it is, safe from sudden and intense changes…

fire, wildfires, california, global warming, tragedy

We’ve had a very dry summer and the global warming is not helping. It is pretty scary to watch (even on TV) a fire that “jumps the freeway”. In my last post, I said that we have only one season here but I have to correct that because we have four: the earthquake season, the mudslide season, the fire season and the last but not least the Oscars season – each as unpredictable as the others in its outcome.

fire, pooya monajemi, california, wildfires, hell

Just found these images (above) by Pooya Monajemi on BBC. Like Dante, we may all need our guide getting us out of Hell. “What region of the earth is not full of our calamities?”Virgil

horse, fire, california

swiming pool, wildfires, california

The arbitrariness, the randomness of it all is astounding…”You did or did not escape the fires?” That could be the current definition of a Californian. The two images (above) from yahoo say more about these devastating fires.

fire engines, wildfires, california, los angeles, evacuation

I took the picture above from my car, trapped on the closed down freeway 14 near Sand Canyon, a couple of hours ago – I still have the smoke on my hair.