Calling Dante from the burning California

Every summer, we somehow expect to see Red looking out our windows in Southern California…Only Dante can describe this Inferno…

painting by gronk la tormenta michele roohani

The world witnesses Angelinos running away from wildfires one more time with the very similar images being (again) broadcast all over the world; my friends call me from everywhere to make sure that I am not one of the “evacuees”.

Karen Fratkin los angeles wild fire century city mcihele roohani

Every year’s fire seems more dangerous and more capricious; the picture above is taken from west Los Angeles with the fire mushrooming in the background (the red building on the right is the Die Hard building).

L.A. fire downtown latimes

Just look at the downtown above…

wayne smith ny times los angeles fires 2009

You somehow never get used to the fire’s anger and unpredictability; after 30 summers in california, they still scare the hell out of me!

L.A. fire  latimes

My eyes have been burning from the ashes and smoke all day and I am not even near the fires but my green mood is turning into red because of the wild fires.

Are we ever going to learn how to prepare for inevitable disasters and calamities?…

edouard manet berthe morisot a l’eventail michele roohani

And of course we blissfully close our eyes to the fire dangers for another year and act surprised the following summer when it comes back; if you don’t believe me, read my posts on the subject for the last two years:

This is my post from two years ago.

This one is from last year. I still believe on what I wrote then: Southern California fires are pretty democratic, they hit the mansions and trailer parks and everything in between with the same cruelty… The current definition of a Californian is still “did or did not escape the fires?”

My green movement

Abundant in nature, the color Green is Life and it represents peace, growth, renewal, health and serenity to me.

Thomas Wilmer Dewing the lute freer museum michele roohani

Dewing’s women are sublime in this chartreuse mist…

I like all shades of green:  lime, emerald, mint, sage, etc…Here are some fresh strawberry leaves in my backyard,

strawberry flowers michele roohani

the elegant magnolia tree in my street,

white majestic magnolia michele roohani san vicente boulevard

the green shadow of this fuschia flower,

fuschia flower shadow michele roohani

tired shoes on a shawl,

shoes and purse on green shawl micheleroohani

my green room,

my green room brentwood michele roohani

two fish on this 11th century Persian ceramic,

persian ceramic musee dsevres 11th century two fish micheleroohani

and two naughty fish hiding under the water lilies:

water lilies carps huntington pond michele roohani

and one fish on this green door,

green door with brass carp handle michele roohani

a mean tequila shot with some limes:

lime green tequila glass michele roohani

a way gentler one,

green martini michele roohani

I like the green man thinking,

rodin thinker penseur michele roohani paris

and these beautiful women holding lights:

torchere lucinda opera michele roohani

Shakespeare smiling behind a green fountain,

shakespear and co paris michele roohani wallace fountain

the lonely bike waiting,

green bike dusseldorf michele roohani

my favorite tree (sycamore) leaves,

sycamore tree leaves michele roohani

and least favorite, succulent plants.

succulent plants michele roohani

How about these smart water plants who lure the beetles with food inside at 8 pm and eat them at 12 am?

beetle trapping water plants huntington garden michele roohani

Even coffee tastes better in a green atmosphere as Starbucks understood long ago:

four coffee cups michele roohani

A green bottle with a red soul:

green bottle red wine graves camembert michele roohani

I have more pictures of trees than anything else in my archives; there is a quiet majesty about a tree that has always stopped me in my daily hustle; this one is looking in the mirror:

tree reflection chantilly garden michele roohani

a green Buddha,

green buddha beads michele roohani

an exquisite Delahaye ,

green delahaye antic car michele roohani

Green luck,

craps game michele roohani

green food,

green vegetables michele roohani

beautiful narcissus,

paperwhite narcissus michele roohani

last but not least, green hope…

iran green movement sheikhi

“من چه سبزم امروز و چه اندازه تنم هشیار است…”

“How green am I today
And how alert is my body”

“Que je suis verdoyant,
Et qu’il est alerte mon corps”

Sohrab Sepehri

p.s. all pictures but the last one are from my personal archives.

This is a small clip I made of these images with the beautiful “THIS” song of Brian Eno:

From Mies to Kahn, I love my architects

I still remember the outrage in the voice of my friend, Lino Bottaro, trying to defend his native city, Venice, against the Las Vegas Venetian hotel: “how dare you suggest that they did an ok job in Vegas? Haven’t you heard of great architects like Palladio or Brunelleschi?”

mies van der rohe cigar barcelona chair seagram building michele roohani

Of course I have heard of those two great Italians but I have a weakness for the 20th century STARchitects like the great Mies van der Rohe above, who’s more known for his Barcelona chair than his great buildings! Mies’ visionary architecture has ushered in the glass-and-steel skyscraper era.

I fell in love with Louis Kahn’s work after watching the movie, My Architect.

louis kahn bangladesh Margaret Esherick House michele roohani

A density of purpose, a phenomenal sense of place and an intense spirituality define his works. There is a silence about his buildings, they have a sense of quiet…

Knowing Oscar Niemeyer was a beautiful surprise from an article in NY Times; he’s 101 years old and still working!

oscar niemeyer Museum of Contemporary Art rio staircase michele roohani

Just look at this enchanting blue staircase in Brasilia…

Cutting-edge buildings designed by globe-trotting architects have changed the face of today’s cities and there is no monopoly of architecture, a sensuous and intellectual art, like in the time of Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies:

frank lloyd wright falling water guggenheim michele roohani design

Of all of today’s self-indulgent “star architects”, I still have a soft spot for Frank Gehry’s curves; you have to be in one of his buildings to see the frozen poetry in Bilbao, Prague, Los Angeles, etc…

frank gehry michele roohani bilbao spain prague tiffany

His Bilbao museum is the 20th century’s iconic architecture according to the architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable.

Last but not least, Rem Koolhaas’ unconventional designs are a force to reckon with:

rem koolhaas michele roohani seattle public library

I shouldn’t even get into the Diva, Zaha Hadid or Jean Nouvel, Herzog and de Meuron or Tadao Ando (the great light and water architect)…Those will be for another post, another day. Richard Meier, Taniguchi and the phenomenal Charles Gwathmey have to wait their turn too.  As you can see I am passionate about architecture…

Saint Mark’s Basilica venice michele roohani

“Less is more.” Mies van der Rohe

“The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.” Frank Lloyd Wright

p.s. Renzo Piano is missing from my list because I have not forgiven him for his wild Pompidou Center design and his Broad Contemporary Art Museum in Los Angeles has not helped his case!

the photos of Prague, Bilbao, Venice and Seattle are from my own archives.

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 most beautiful Persian woman

I always thought that a woman out of a Persian Miniature will be known as the Iranian Marianne—maybe something like this dreamy painting by Farah Ossouli:

farah ossouli adam and eve painting three angels watching michele roohani

or the ageless super model, Yasmin Parvaneh (picture on the left) or her daughter Amber Le Bon (on the right):

yasmin parvaneh amber le bon michele roohani persian

It could have been one of the young beautiful movie stars or myriads of miscellaneous beauty queens or even one of these two who represent the separate worlds of today’s Iranian women:

iranian women worlds apart

Little did we know that an unknown young woman, Neda Agha Soltan, killed ruthlessly in the Iranian election protests last month would be the face of the Persian woman to the world…

jacques brinon AP neda iranian protests

Neda was a “casualty” of the conflict; she gave a face to the faceless victims. May she not have been killed in vain…

melvin sokolsky twiggy masks michele roohani

I am sure Melvin Sokolsky doesn’t mind the great Reza being inspired by him in making the Neda masks.

How Enrico Fermi killed all the Aliens

An expression that can mean anything means nothing; when you want to please everybody, you please nobody.

fermi paradox aliens michele roohani extraterrestrial ET

Enrico Fermi, the great Italian physicist, killed all the aliens in 1950 by asking this simple/innocent question: “if extra-terrestrials exist, where are they?” This question has become the Fermi Paradox.

Even though I am a science fiction fan I do agree with the skeptics that, Houston, we have a problem:

a) the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) program to detect radio transmissions from other civilizations has been a failure.

b) the question of the Great Silence remains unsolved; if life is common, why don’t we detect their radio transmissions?

Today is the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing (July 20, 1969).

25th anniversary of first moon landing stamps michele roohani stamp collection

I remember the thrill of hearing about it on a hot summer day in Iran; the moon has not looked the same since!

Unlike my father, I am a lousy philatelist (postage stamp collector) but I was able to find the above page I bought in 1994—on the 25th anniversary of “the big step”—among my loose leaves.

andre demir stamps michele roohani

The Drake Equation—an attempt to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way with which we might come into contact— is still fascinating to me but I see its light getting dimmer with every “silent year”…

N = R* × fp × nE × fl × fi × fc × L

This once serious equation looks more and more like this cartoon from this very funny site:

the drake equation cartoon michele roohani

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the moon, Google is offering Internet users a virtual trip to the moon.

I empathize with Fermi’s passion for clarity. I am simply unable to let things be foggy. The Drake equation is literally meaningless because “an expression that can mean anything means nothing.”

Related and Suggested Posts and Resources:

Carl Sagan explaining the Drake Equation.

Google earth lands on the moon.

Other Life not likely to be intelligent.

The new Drake Equation by Susan Blackmore.

The SETI Institute.

Scarlet, crimson, red

Red—no matter what other name you call it by— is the color of  passion, anger, courage, sacrifice, warning, fire, sin, revolution, love, power, etc…

red cards michele roohani joker playing cards

red is my favorite color and these are some samples of my reds; let’s start with a red heart or a scarlet letter:

red heart giacometti michele roohani

red tomatoes,

red cherry tomatoes basque ham michele roohani

red fish,

red caper fish swan michele roohani

red Persian rug,

red persian rug micheleroohani

red literature,

red fernando pessoa michele roohani book of disquiet

a red fountain pen,

red fountain pen michele roohani

and a red pencil,

coloring pencils argentina mcihele roohani

red lips,

red lips marylin monroe michele roohani

a hot red car,

red hot car michele roohani

another hot red car,

red smart car merecedes michele roohani

an aspiring red rose,

red white rose michele roohani

and a real red rose,

red rose in a black cup micheleroohani

lovelorn poppies,

red poppies michele roohani loire france

red peppers,

red peppers michele roohani

high calorie red,

red ribbon bran muffin michele roohani

a small red door,

red door amsterdam michele roohani

and a slightly bigger one!

strasbourg cathedral red door michele roohani

the fabulous Miss Wendy:

red miss pink michele roohani guitar musician

Los Angeles’ red light district,

red traffic lights los angeles michele roohani

red beads,

red beads michele roohani

wine is one of my favorite reds,

 red wine michele roohani bottles painting

red steps in Prague,

red steps stairs michele roohani prague

and red steps in Buenos Aires,

red tango dancers michele roohani buenos aires

a disobedient red strawberry shortcake,

red strawberry shortcake michele roohani argentina

and a red blog…

red blog michele roohani

and this is the end of my Red post.

Tea from the Land of the Morning Calm

The worst thing for a tea drinker is having to dip a teabag into tepid water! The number of times that I have been served some warm water with a sachet of Earl Grey; that’s not what you do to a cup of humanity


persian tea estekan micheleroohani

For me, Stakan Chai (a glass of tea in Russian—and Persian) is how tea (or chai) should be served: in a small transparent glass, no milk and definitely no lemon. Tea is, after water, the second most widely-consumed beverage in the world.

I was invited by Yoon Hee Kim to a Korean tea ceremony and here are some of the pictures:


korean tea ceremony micheleroohani yoon hee kim

“The chief element of the Korean tea ceremony is the ease and elegance of enjoying tea within an easy formal setting.” Here, Yoon Hee is preparing a green tea with amazing grace:


yoon hee kim preparing tea michele roohani

The ceremony was slow and tasteful (so unlike the rushed teas I prepare for myself) and the tea masters had beautiful fairies to help them,


korean tea ceremony yoon hee kim micheleroohani

and plenty of people to serve:


korean tea ceremony micheleroohani

As interesting as the actual ceremony was the parade of beautiful traditional Korean gowns or Hanboks:

jeogori michele roohani korean tea ceremony

My friend, Ock Ju explained that the different colors and styles indicated the wearer’s social status; some of the embroideries were breathtakingly beautiful.


jeogori korean embroideries micheler roohani

I love this 19th century painting I found in “The Book of Tea” about Persian women gathering around a samovar (samaavar):


19th century painting perisan women around a samovar michele roohani

To see some fabulous pictures of tea in different cultures, visit Yoon Hee’s site.

Michael Jackson’s untimely death

Michael Jackson dies five minutes away from me at UCLA medical center. He was fifty and his death may be a godsend gift to the Iranian government.

michel jackson dies green michele roohani

The world would be focusing on his death and in spite of him flashing the V sign and wearing a surgical mask (like the Iranian protesters do), his death may be the hardest blow to the people’s revolt in Iran. The media circus will continue to take the attention away from Iran and that would be the real tragedy.

michel jackson dies v sign michele roohani

Not knowing the cause of it, I’ve been annoyed by helicopters hovering over my house all afternoon; I am saddened by his death.

In spite of all his recent problems, after the Beatles and Elvis, Michael Jackson defined the popular music of the 20th century. Monumentally talented but fragile and …weird.

I will never forget his most amazing performance of Billy Jean in 1983 (Motown 25 celebration). It’s like Fred Astaire’s dance: you never get tired of watching it.

Michael Jackson dies young michele roohani

“He was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene”…May he now rest in peace.

Fatherhood in an Age of Insanity—by guest blogger Dr. Ali Nasseh

A wise man once said: Father’s Day should be nine months before Mothers’ Day and in some crazy way, this statement makes sense! For men, fatherhood is a byproduct of sex. At least, that’s what evolutionary psychologists tell us. Through the millennia, Children of men have been caused by our sexual instincts as a species and not through rational analysis of the concept of fatherhood. The same goes for other animals. Whether an organism has a one day lifespan like the mayfly or if it lives for a couple of centuries like the bowhead whale , the life of all organisms appears focused on survival, finding a mate, and producing offspring.

samll and big

And quite frankly, if I were a mayfly with a single day to live, I’d also put mating at the very top of my list!  Once that first item is checked off, we humans preoccupy ourselves with the arts, culture, and entertainment in order to fill the remaining hours of the day. Voila! But let’s not get off the subject. Father’s Day is the day we celebrate Fathers. And since I just became a father a month ago and am still a freshman on the subject, I would like to salute those fathers who came before me.

ali nasseh baby micheleroohani

But what are the merits of fatherhood? Other than our biological instinct for sex that results into children, do we have any rational reasons for this act? The project involves so much work and sacrifice that one may wonder what’s the utility of the whole thing. It starts with dirty diapers and ends with a lifetime of anxiety over safety, health, and happiness of our child. An old, Persian expression says, “Children are hard, only for the first one hundred years!”

ali nasseh baby feet micheleroohani

Yet, when a child smiles, learns, and grows, and especially when she pays her parents back with emotional pride, all those sleepless nights and anxieties melt away and the entire ordeal appears worthwhile. Or does it?

father’s day micheleroohani kid in museum

I want to pose these questions to the fathers and others out there, and to those who consciously or unconsciously chose this path. I’d like to ask you to make your case for or against fatherhood in today’s world of dynamic change and uncertain future. Are we leaving a better place for our children, or has our greed and recklessness destroyed our economy and environment irreparably? Is it still a responsible act to bring children into this world given the future challenges?

Dr. Ali Allen Nasseh