Archive for November, 2008

Woman Master by Mehrnaz Stars

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Thoughts from Mehrnaz Stars following the election of US President-Elect Barack Obama and introducing her debut novel WOMAN MASTER. 

As a teenager, Mehrnaz was involved in the Iranian Revolution.  She now   lives in Europe.

The ‘Ayerahnians’


All the men have beards, women wear black and risqué girls show ten millimeters of hairline.


They’re brown, they’re angry, and they want to blow us up.


Every day they get up, have their breakfast, then they go on political marches and burn effigies and flags. And it’s pretty much certain they are on the verge of possessing a nuclear capability. They make nice carpets and if you’ve tasted their pistachios you know you can never go back.


Alexander kicked their derrieres back when their beards were curly and they once took some nice Americans hostage. Their holy men have hats too but they’re not as shiny as the ones the Italians favour.


They don’t wear ties and they have all of our oil. They are a real danger to world peace and, as Hillary (Obama’s new ‘stick’) Clinton said recently, “They should know that we can obliterate them.”


But you should see what they think of us. I can tell you, they’ve got us all wrong. They think we’re arrogant bullies who don’t wash. Imagine? They’d better watch themselves, that’s all I can say.


But they’re nice people really and as long as they do as they’re told there doesn’t have to be any trouble.


And yes; I’m one of them.


What’s more, I’ve written a book about them… us?


I was interested reading Mr. Schmidt’s post and I have to say I agree with every sentiment. But what I need to know is this; is Barack Obama’s mother-in-law really going to live in the White House and if so, should he be allowed to talk back?


Obama has already said that talks ‘without precondition’ are possible between the US and Iran, and the same absence of preconditions at the White House dinner table might help steer him from that dark cocoon where decent people and absolute power meet.


It is indeed time we met the Iranians, or time we met the Amerikahns, and the signs are good that, as we slide deeper and deeper into the economic inferno carved by rich people (who wear suits and ties) our relations with Iran can exist. Simple existence would be a great leap for America, and the rest of us, who have tired of all the bombs and the righteousness. If Obama achieves this alone he will have done something good for all the evil that has been done in our name.


But, cynic I may be, and much as I am spellbound by Obama’s potential, the rest of us have to break down the door if Barack can get a foot in without someone else trying to jam it down his throat.


International relations is Obama’s chance at true greatness. On the economy he is, like the rest of them, a flea on a dog’s back arguing about who owns the dog. But he can make a difference where a difference needs to be made. He can create a context within which the rest of us get to actually see each other, and perhaps even ourselves. Obama has demonstrated the power of the internet for all to see (all that is, who have internet connections; for the traditional media is a bit like the aforementioned fleas; their ideas, and their method of delivery, are as obsolete as capitalism).


But we do know something about Iran. Like shadows on Plato’s wall, images of revolution and chaos have been offered to us by the those who had the means to flee during the Iranian revolution. There are even ‘alternate’ parliaments based around the world where boys play at being in power in a free Iran. This already happened to Iraq and the ‘leader’ turned out to be the sole ‘mole’ and he was turfed in a jiffy; soon after Mission Accomplished.


Ain’t happenin’ man; an American friend might venture. Those guys will have to stick to the carpet business or hope their kids become film directors; for that particular ship sailed up the Euphrates a while back.


After the Iranian revolution a lot of Iranians ended up in Los Angeles (Tehrangeles) and other major capitals. They went into many different walks of life. Artists and writers started to ply their trade and we got to find out about how awful it is to have to move to Beverly Hills when you’d rather stay put in Farmauniye.


But there are other Irans just as there are many Englands.


In England the culture changes dramatically by the time you get to the end of the road. There are people living in England for whom actual aliens from outer space would seem more familiar than the man who runs the chippy, or the yacht club, or the local council committee on rubbish bin management.

There are Englands beyond Shakespeare and Dickens and Ken Loach and, as Iran was producing great art and science and literature when the English thought not painting their bums blue, like the Scots, was something of an historic milestone; Iran has even more stories to tell.

After all, Iran has Persia to turn to if they ever tire of allowing people marginally more bonkers than the leaders we elect, to lead them.

So, you can see how I’m thinking that Obama had better come up with the goods as soon as they evict the incumbent monkey.

But we also have people such as the meltingly handsome George Clooney making a film set in Iran, ‘based on’ an idea he ‘found’ on the internet.

(Please Mr. Clooney, please, bear with me, I do have an idea, really.)

This is good and this is how it has to happen. The people who don’t want to commit murder and mayhem and global theft get to have a say after all?

The writer who penned the movie “Clueless” said in an interview that publishers were begging her to Iranify her work. She’s next generation ‘let’s get our asses out of this dreadful nightmare and go to America’.

Well, my work isn’t Iranified, it’s Westled (pronounced like ‘wrestled’). I wanted to write about the brothels in present-day Iran, where a man can have a ‘temporary marriage’ but I found it too depressing. I like serious stories but I don’t want to sit on a plane and read that life is pointless.

I wanted to write about Persians and I wanted to write about women.

I wanted to write about the kind of lives any of us might have had.

I wanted to write a story about a woman who married for love. A woman who married a man already married at a time when, and in a society where, marrying for love was anathema; and virgins would never become a second wife to a man with a wife waiting at home.

I wanted to write about the strangest place in the universe where love could be found. Could a woman find love in the man who consumed her earthly dignity?

But I didn’t want to write a romance or a pot-boiler. I wanted something deeper.

I wanted to write about the kind of wisdom that can only be forged in pain.

I wanted to write a story I could read on a plane.

So I did.

I wrote a novel called Woman Master and I’m currently trying to get it read at publishers. I’m hoping that some publishers may have noticed who reads novels and why they read them.

Modern Persia is about to become visible. Not for any lofty acts or ideals, no matter how far Obama can take us, but because Gorgeous George is doing a film and others will follow, to hammer at the walls of ignorance.


best wishes











Black President by Rick Schmidt

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Black PresidentWE MADE HISTORY!

What can I say in a BLOG for Nov. 5th 2008 . . .

but . . .

Barack Obama, an African-American, is the first Black President of the United States!!! 


Can’t believe the excitement last night, as the news was delivered from TV that he had the Presidential victory in hand.  Impossible to keep back tears for me, my wife and kids, family members who were all solidly behind OBAMA.  I remember voting in the primary for Obama, months back against the challengers, and wondering just how far this could all go.  It seemed like an impossible dream . . . until the second it was announced last night that he had actually won. 

Now I can better understand the energy of something like the end of WWII, the dancing and kissing in the street.  That’s how it felt last night.  And all my family’s hopes that FINALLY people in other countries will understand that BUSH ISN’T US…far from it.  If McCain/Palin had won we would have been so . . . SO emotionally sunk!  The very idea of that was something unimaginable.  A Republican victory would have been horrible, and yet the daily TV reporting leading up to last night showed masses of McCain supporters.  A lot of people I know were actively considering the idea of moving out of these borders if he won.  BUT…BUT…WE WON!  Still pinching myself, fighting to really believe it!

Obama — first African-American President of the United States. Obama…on-message the entire time.  Seismic shift.  Acknowledgment of multicultural country. 

Race transcendant, but not post-racial country yet (said a black commentator on the Today show)!~

Maya Angelou talks about healing race relations in US:

CNN: What does it say about the country that Barack Obama is a candidate to be president?

Angelou: The country is growing up and confessing to something we’ve known all along. What prevented us from admitting that we knew that? And I was taken back to slavery.

If you will have a person enslaved, the first thing you must do is convince yourself that the person is subhuman. The second thing you have to do is convince your allies so you’ll have some help, and the third and probably unkindest cut of all, is to convince that person that he or she is subhuman and deserves it.

Well, such a job has been done on all of us that people found it very difficult to admit that human beings are more alike than we are unalike. We’ve known it. But to admit it, you have to stop saying because this guy speaks another language, because their eyes are shaped differently from mine, because they’re first-generation Americans from Eastern Europe, then they don’t count, I don’t have to consider them. With this, the country is finally able to see through complexion and see community.

(for full interview see:

In Kenya they’re creating a new national holiday in honor of Barack Obama’s win.

In Beirut, Lebanon, the headline was, ‘Black Kennedy in White House.’

(Pardon me as I break into a smile – reading the press release of my Black President novel should explain this reaction :>)

Obama says:  ‘We won’t solve all of this even in first term.’  But if he runs the country half as well as he did the campaign . . .

President-Elect Obama’s national security briefings begin Thursday.  What national/international secrets will he learn?  What is going on secretly in the US and elsewhere that only the CIA knows?

In any case, there will be a Black President in the White House in 2009!  As my college-age son said in last night’s e-mail:

HIP! HIP!!  HOOORRRAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY!!!! ! ! ! !     !          !

Note from Picnic Publishing:  For the record and with great pride, we publish below the lovely letter President-Elect Barack Obama sent Rick and all Obama donors/supporters prior to the President-Elect leaving for Grant Park.  The subject line was:  ‘How this happened’.  The email was sent to Rick by Obama campaign, <>.  We are delighted he has shared it with us. 
—–Original Message—–
From: Barack Obama <

Sent: Tue, 4 Nov 2008 9:18 pm
Subject: How this happened
Richard R –
I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.
We just made history.
And I don’t want you to forget how we did it.
You made history every single day during this campaign — every day you knocked on doors, made a
donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it’s time for change.I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.
We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I’ll be in touch soon about what comes next.
But I want to be very clear about one thing…

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,


Black PresidentPaid for by Obama for America
To unsubscribe, go to:


Black President by Rick Schmidt

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

In view of momentous events in the USA, Iain Bailey who is currently blogging on ÉMIGRÉ LONDON, kindly asked to be stood down for a couple of days so the Picnic community could welcome back RICK SCHMIDT of whom we are so proud.  As you will know, he is the author of BLACK PRESIDENT.
Welcome, Rick . . .

11/4/08:  POLLING DAY, USA



Ten years after I started work on a fictional work about a Black man becoming President of the United States, I’m literally hours away from seeing that fantasy possibly become a reality.  The big day of selecting a Black President has finally arrived! 


It’s still dark outside my California coastal windows as my wife prepares to walk about a half mile to a local church where our neighborhood residents can cast their vote.  She’s trying to get there early enough that when the polls open at 7AM she’ll be near the front of the line. (I’ll hear later about details such as length of line and how the voting process went for her!)  I decided to take time yesterday to vote early in Downtown Oakland, at the courthouse where a friend had gone days before (he happily reported that the entire process took him only about fifteen minutes!).  Fortunately I had our car, so I drove the five or so miles and started looking for a parking place reasonably close to the location.  As I was circling the block I got lucky, being right behind a spot that was opening up.  When the woman driver saw my car hovering behind she jumped out and handed me her parking stub, saying, ‘It’s good until 10!’  Nice to have a little gift from a stranger who had just voted!  At any rate, this was a good sign that I was doing the correct thing by voting a day early to avoid some kind of last-minute clog in the works. 


It was already 9AM and I hoped I could get through by 10, to allow time for breakfast before work at noon.  I wasn’t sure I could hold up to a ten hour wait like some have had to endure. And I’d heard that in some states there were already ‘dirty tricks’ taking place.  It was reported that in some Southern states, fliers were distributed with what looked like an official state seal, announcing that the Republicans’ voting day was Tuesday, while Democrats day at the polls was WEDNESDAY ( a day AFTER the votes would be counted!).   What else was/is going on is anybody’s guess!


At any rate I parked, grabbed my umbrella and walked the two blocks in the rain, finding a fairly short 150-foot-long line extending out from the top of a ramp at the side of the courthouse.  The rain was fairly light, and the people in line were friendly.  I discovered that the people in line were a mixture of voters and people present for court appearances.  We all had to follow the line into the building for examination by metal detectors.  Within twenty minutes I was emptying my pockets and pulling off my belt with its metal buckle.  When my watch made the machine beep the policeman told me to hold my arm up chest-high.  Walking through again, the machine was silent.  Following a few small hand-written signs I found myself in the basement with a small and eager crowd of voters.  I printed out my name, address and signed a form, then handed my data in at an available window.  The young woman clerk said she’d be back in a minute and was, presenting me with the official ballot, my name and address clearly printed out on the envelope that accompanied it. (The computers seemed to be doing what they should do, finding a name in a database to create a valid document that could not be disputed later!)


I quickly connected the arrow next to Obama/Biden (filled in the center of an arrow that had a blank center), marked in various other propositions, measures and political offerings, exited the building past my fellow East Bay early-birds and drove home in twenty minutes. (Total voting excursion = 1 hour).


Watching TV today, I see the long lines at various poling locations around the States, and hope people can withstand the weather and physical strain to get the votes in!


In honor of the historic implications of today’s US VOTE, please allow me to add this picture from a book I bought at a rare bookstore, entitled ‘UNREASONABLE RHYMES, told by Anne Idyott’. (Get it?!) It was drawn and water-colored in the late 1890s, and, to my shock, was an ORIGINAL artwork: 

original watercolour - Black President post


(click on image to enlarge)

 looking closely you can see little pinholes in the corners, along with penciled corrections to the text.  The book, with 80 original plates like this one, had been bound and sold as just another published edition – and luckily it was affordable!  At any rate, the image and limericks reflect on the PAST problems of racism in America.  Hopefully it will remind us of just how far we’ve come TODAY, as the votes roll in!


best wishes



Émigré London photographed by Iain Bailey

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Emigre London - Vintage DressesHere are some of the dresses I photographed for Émigré London. It was interesting to follow the evolution of fashion as well as the rules at the time: for instance it would not have been suitable for a married woman or a woman of a certain age to wear something too joyful or to revealing (today this rule has somewhat shifted . . .). As a consolation, a range of colourful scarves could be used to customise and brighten up an every day plain black dress.  During the photo shoots, I couldn’t help noticing how some of the dresses and accessories clearly looked vintage while others could almost have been in today’s high street.

My girlfriend Caroline, the illustrator of Picnic’s THE SLEEPY LADYBIRD, pointed out how fashion keeps coming back in strange waves.  I’m usually blind to these trends as, like many guys, I can’t stand clothes-shopping.  But after paying attention to the crowds, I realised there was something really odd going on with people’s clothing, a mix of 80’s come back with leggings, skinny jeans, belts over stripy tops (making some girls look like bees!), and, at the same time, some really ancient styles (only formerly seen in black and white photography – 1920) are also making a comeback in women’s jackets, shirts and shoes.

Here are some photographs of the 1920’s coming back this year:–1920s-flapper-fashion-2008-trend-954.html

Man fashion 1823This mix goes even further back with the newly popular ‘empire waistline’ until recently only found in maternity shops!

Luckily these trends are not so drastic for us guys. I am grateful for this or I would have to walk around in a period outfit looking like this! tell me, can this guy breathe?


Émigré London photographed by Iain Bailey

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

British Garden Birds photographed by Iain BaileyDo you have a bird feeder in your garden? I have a couple and one thing leading to another, my interest in photography grew. From close ups of insects on flowers, to British garden birds, observing their behaviour and catching a good shot is always a great experience. Once you take an interest, there are plenty of details to discover which are invisible to most. For instance, try to guess the social order of a group of sparrows by watching in which order they are feeding: spot the ones on watch and witness the panic when a sparrow hawk is at bay.

I once took a nice picture of a blue tit hanging upside down from the peanut feeder. They are so swift one has to be quick before they disappear with their prize - a single peanut. Similarly, I once observed the dunnock, also known as the ‘hedge sparrow’ courting his reflection in a mirror. This lasted for several weeks . . .  Have you ever watched a starling having his bath and shining his feathers in the sun? This can all be quite fascinating and with a pocket identification book you can start to identify the juveniles, males and females, as well as rank from visual features – for tits the bigger the bib the older the male. But as I said, photographing birds, and planes (!), fed my keen interest in photography.

However, little did I know I was about to photograph dresses and haute-coutures frocks . . . and 100s of them!!!



Emigre London - Photographs of Vintage Hats

It all started when a friend’s house in SW London, full of memories, original features and decor, was being packed up, ready for sale. Everything had been left untouched as if time had frozen in the early 60’s, from the old vinyl record player to the matching bathroom fittings. But it did not stop there: hidden away and meticulously wrapped in paper and cardboard boxes were 100s of outfits, dresses and accessories.

The next thing I know, my friend is writing a book about it all - and Caroline and I are buying a headless mannequin off Ebay, as well as a polistirene head, and setting up photo-shoots of the whole wardrobe, from frilly knickers to smoking jacket and collapsible hats. This is how /Émigré London/ all started: friends getting together and, not realising the amount of time everything would take, nor where all was heading, we ended up with a book about a house, a London suburb & some old clothes.

Its nearly done and is about amour, 1960’s fashion, escape from conflict and the world in a neighbourhood . . .