An unprecedented exercise in nasal parallelism

Maybe it's just me, but this odd sketch of the Russian spies took me right back to Treasure Island- "But what sort of a way is that for bones to lie? 'Tain't in natur'." Right you are, Cap'n Silver, and that's no sort of a way for noses to point, neither.

Ladies, please feed the driver...

Shaikh Abdul Mohsin Bin Nasser Al Obaikan, member of Saudi Council of Senior Scholars and adviser to the king, (don't you just love that 'adviser to the king' bit?) has solved one of Saudi's most pressing problems - how to allow women to travel by car. Some countries solved this one some time ago. It's called driving. But in countries where women are not allowed to drive or share a vehicle with an unrelated male (read Saudi) a more elegant solution within the law has eluded even the greatest minds- until now. In a flash of genius, Shaikh Abdul recognised that if a woman breast-feeds a man, he becomes her son, under the law, after which he need no longer be segregated from herself and her daughters (to whom he is now a brother).

This seems entirely reasonable. Even taxis are now accessible to the ladies, provided they first feed the driver.

However, there remains one tiny flaw in Shaikh Abdul's solution. It seems to have escaped his notice that most women cannot lactate at will. In fact, recent childbirth is almost a prerequisite. Still, it's a great leap forward for the rights of women.

I wonder if I can get a job advising a king...

Plukes on the Face of the Beautiful Game?

So far, in this World Cup, in how many games has the lead changed sides? Hint- a small round number less than one. All games have either been drawn or won by the first team to score. This is the tedious norm in modern football. The game is fundamentally flawed. And the main reason is its refusal to evolve. Rugby Union continually amends its code to make the game better for player and spectator alike. International Cricket reinvented itself completely, first with the ODI, then with T20. T20 isn't particularly to my taste, but I'd never deny its huge success.
Meanwhile, Association Football limps along, sometimes literally, through a morass of dull games, bad decisions, injuries and fouls. Especially fouls. It's in the nature of the game that it is always played on the brink of the foul. This makes it an unsavoury spectacle for the most part, albeit punctuated with flashes of brilliance, like Brazil's two goals against North Korea. These were exceptional. But thirty seconds of joy in ninety minutes play is a bad deal by any standards.
It's incumbent on any critic not just to carp but to suggest improvements, so here are mine:
Goals in the run of play should count for more than penalties. One point for a penalty, two for a real goal. This would allow the lead to change sides, e.g. from 1:2 to 3:2 with a single score.
Substitutions, except when a player is injured by a foul, should entail a five minute delay between taking a man off and fielding his replacement. The risk of having to play with ten men for five minutes would encourage managers to field teams of eleven guys fit enough to last the whole game.
2014, anyone?

Sounding Dire but Feeling Lucky

If you are familiar with Google's Picasa image management software, you'll have met the rather amazing "I'm Feeling Lucky" one-touch button that attempts to optimise exposure, brightness, contrast, black and white balance, colour balance and a few more image parameters all in a single pass. The results are often quite impressive, as witness this before and after aerial shot of Muntazah Park.

With time, and a little knowledge, the same or possibly better results could be achieved by individual manipulation of the variables, but time and knowledge are the operative words. Which brings me to what I'm really writing about:
It is a great shame to hear an otherwise enjoyable live performance ruined by a badly set up sound system. Sadly, it is also the norm, except for top professionals who can afford to pay for a decent sound guy. The fact is, even the simplest sound desk is too complex for most folk to drive properly without training. There are too many inter-related controls, too many ways to mess up.
What we need (are you listening, Yamaha?) is a big red "I'm Feeling Lucky" button in the middle of the desk. And here's what it would do, for starters:
1. Reset all Equalisation settings to flat
2. Adjust all input presets for normal fader positions
3. Wind out all reverb (echo) on all channels
4. Perform a basic balance on vocal mic channels
5. Apply judicious bass cut and presence to vocals
6. Re-apply minimal reverb to vocals
And I'd guarantee that it would vastly improve the listening pleasure of night club audiences the World over, but nowhere more than Doha Oasis!

(Muntazah Park, for any followers of the saga, is still closed and shows no sign of reopening in the near future).

Balls and the Burning Log

I noticed (on Saturday afternoon) that the Paranormal has at least made a token gesture to the forthcoming World Cup, by stretching some nets across the ceiling and placing a few odd-looking footballs on top of them. I couldn't hep thinking that if they replaced the footballs with green glass floats they'd achieve standard seaside pub decor, type one. (For type 2, add one upside down rowing boat).
Decor aside, we'd a guy smoking a log of a cigar which attracted some interest from the girls, not least for providing an obvious opening line. Unfortunately, he was unfailingly graceless in his replies: I'm just here for a quiet beer so don't start annoying me! Hmm, if annoying behaviour is off the agenda, how about putting out the smouldering turd? Or choosing a bar where grumpiness is the norm. I could suggest a couple.
Anyway, it was good to be back.

Methought I heard a voice cry, 'Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep!'

The Paranormal Hotel is not a political blog and it is rare for me to comment here on major events. But I think, occasionally, to say nothing is almost akin to complicity, or at least acquiescence, in the face of an outrage. Still, one should take care not to make assumptions and should distinguish fact from opinion. So here are some facts:
The amount of aid routinely allowed through to the Gaza Strip, by Israel, is reckoned, by independent humanitarian agencies, to be about one quarter of what is required. Wholly preventable malnutrition and disease are rife in Gaza.
When intercepted, the flotilla was in International waters. Its intended destination was Gaza, not Israel. Even where a naval blockade is legal, a ship may only be boarded in International waters if there is reason to suspect it is carrying weapons, and particularly WMDs. In all other cases, the ship's flag country (in this case Turkey) must be approached for consent to board. The flotilla was carrying humanitarian aid. The contents of all ships had been verified by the Turkish authorities before setting off. Turkey was (at that time) an ally of Israel. The boarding was therefore illegal.
Lethal force was used against people some of whom appear to have been wielding makeshift non-lethal 'weapons' - chairs and slinghsots have been mentioned. Some commentators have cited the chairs and slingshots in an attempt to justify the use of live ammunition.

Fair warning - what follows is opinion, mine.

What kind of trained commandos were these, who could not control a protest, even a violent protest, without shooting to kill? And not once. Repeatedly. This was murder on the high seas. This was an act of State terrorism.

this week's favourites

this week's pageviews