During my many stays in the Middle East, I also visited Doha, capital of Qatar.
Some background: Qatar is tremendously rich from the abundance of natural gas. As a result, it’s capital Doha has developed into a business and conferencing hub. It is a very strict islamic state, leaving little space for fun and games. To everybody’s surprise they will host the 2022 World Cup (I always wonder about the things money can buy). Soccer fans best bring a book.
The movie below I made on my way from the airport to the hotel. The links direct to photos I took and more details about country and capital.
Doha has been hailed as one of the most boring towns in the world, and there is considerable truth to this rumor. The town has very little history left, it is new and fully focused on business. There is no extensive historic center. The town is very car-centric (many, many SUVs) and as a pedestrian you quickly feel very lonely on the broad boulevards; you do not meet many other people on foot, and windowshopping is severely hampered by the absence of, yes, shopwindows (there are many malls, if you go for that sort of thing). The Souk is a tiny market, completely new and unwelcoming, with stores that sell tortured exotic animals and mini-dogs. The climate is hot and humid: a stroll is only possible after sunset. As an Islamic country, there is no (or little) alcohol for sale – but even I as a teetotaler can only say that the town is absolutely underwhelming; I can’t blame the absence of alcohol for that deep feeling of loneliness and despair. I was visiting on business with a calendar full of appointments and I was preoccupied enough, yet during my quick tours through the city I was, well: disappointed. Perhaps some of you readers have different experiences to share. Perhaps an interesting museum or cinema that I missed? Pole dancing? A hidden bar? Table tennis tournaments?
The boycott by Saudi Arabia was in full swing, but it didn’t seem to have affected the Qatari much. They even imported 4000 Friesian cows from Australia and put them in an air-conditioned hall, to make sure enough milk could be produced, which they got from Arabia up to that point.
Women stay mostly at home (probably playing with the mini dogs), and the men tend to take their SUVs out for a spin at night; driving endless circles through the town. I got bored just watching them occupied with this non-activity.
An atheist (let’s say her name is Daphne) buys an ancient Roman Catholic lamp at an auction, takes it home, and polishes it. Suddenly, a genie appears, and says, “My name is John. I’ll grant you three wishes, My Mistress.” The atheist says, “Oh well, interesting… let’s say: I wish I could believe in you.” The genie snaps his fingers, and suddenly the atheist believes in him. The atheist says, “Wow. I wish all atheists would believe in genies.” The genie snaps his fingers again, and suddenly atheists all over the world begin to believe in genies.
“What about your third wish?” asks the genie. “Well,” says the atheist, “I wish for a billion dollars.” The genie snaps his fingers a third time, but nothing happens. “What’s wrong?” asks the atheist.
The genie shrugs and says, “Just because you believe in me doesn’t mean that I exist.”
More humor? Find it all blogposts tagged with HUMOR:
Read about the young man who finds a mysterious tunnel beneath his garden; strange goings-on in a French forest; a robot reporting home about its visit to Earth, or the tale of the watermonster of Hockenheim, which steals and murders innocent children: these stories will keep you on the edge of your seat. Clemens P. Suter, established author of visionary SciFi predicting (back in 2010) the corona pandemic, lets his imagination run wild with stories full of suspense, humor and action!
This humorous, and slightly scary christmas story is available as ebook (only $0.99) for all devices (Apple iPhone or iPad; smartphone, Kindle or Kobe reader). You can easily find a copy in your favorite eBook-store (simply search for “Clemens P. Suter”) or directly in Kindle or at Smashwords.
“Grandfather, grandfather, can you tell us a story?”
The old man woke up with a start. His pipe had gone cold in his hand. He noticed that the ash had burned a small hole in the white tablecloth. The man stole a guilty glance at his daughter Annie, who was preparing some soup in the kitchen. He pulled the ashtray forward to hide the damage.
“Well, let me see, ugh ugh,” he coughed. The two boys sat down next to him, one on either side, their faces red both from the outside cold and from anticipation.
“The festive season is getting closer. Perhaps I should tell a Christmas story, humm?”
Many, many years ago, but several years after the Corona pandemics, I was earning my living in Hockenheim. Life was quiet if compared to the times of “The Great Upheaval.” Mind, people weren’t rich, and most of the stores in the Karlsruher Street had gone out of business… with the exception of a large number of bakeries and hairdressers. For some obscure reason, these had always managed to survive.
One day in early November, as I walked down Karlsruher Street, I noticed a mover’s truck parked in front of a small empty shop. Obviously, work persons were busy setting up a new store. They carried heavy wooden furniture into the building, and even the rain, which occasionally turned into sleet, didn’t distract them. It was too cold to stop and watch the scene, so I pulled up the collar of my coat to protect myself from the wind and moved on.
A new store indeed opened a few days later. It had a large sign above the shop window that read “Marie.” I found that intriguing, as it didn’t explain what type of products Marie was offering. And the shop window didn’t provide many clues about the articles either. Generally, it only had a few objects on display: a box of candles, a pen on a red velvet cushion, or a hairbrush. Sometimes an umbrella was the only piece, or a single book, a dress, or some vegetable. The objects were exchanged every day. No price tags were visible. I smiled sadly, as it was to be expected that this store might also soon go bankrupt. Like so many similar attempts in this lonely Rhine Valley town.
Now, I am not a person for idle gossip, but even I picked up some rumors about Marie’s. One Saturday morning, as I collected my bread at my favorite bakery, the owner, Frau Zeh, also mentioned that Marie’s store was surprisingly empty. She shook her head and the corners of her mouth dropped even further than usual. Herr Gelb, who had just walked in to get some fresh Bretzels, wasn’t happy either. He mentioned that he had entered Maries and had only found some clothing: a pair of trousers, a coat, and a single sweater. His gray goatee twitched from excitement, and he bit his mustache with obvious annoyance. An overweight woman piped in. “I bought some vegetables at Marie, but indeed only five different types were on offer. Can you imagine?” “Well,” I tried to pacify, “It may not be bad to just offer potatoes, pees or carrots… if they have the right quality?”
“Yes, but just ONE of each? One potato, One carrot, ONE pea?” Herr Gelb shook his head disapprovingly. We all fell silent. This was indeed surprising. Frau Zeh shook her head again and continued to look irritated. Herr Gelb inspected our astonished faces and chuckled triumphantly.
My curiosity was piqued, but I didn’t feel inclined to visit the new store. First, I had very little money, and second, as a bachelor, I tried to steer clear of the intricacies of village life.
The days and weeks went by. With the collapse of the Gulfstream (one of the first victims of climate warming) the winters had started to hit the Rheinvalley with great force. Heavy snow arrived from the east, and the villagers withdrew into their houses. I did so too. I could consider myself lucky, as I had a room with a tiny kitchen in the cellar of a half-timbered building, which had once been a restaurant. My dwelling was neither very cold nor very warm, yet by wearing a few woolen sweaters on top of one other, I could survive the coldest weather. In a small oven, I burned wood that I scavenged in the neighboring Schwetzinger Forest.
One evening, about a week before Christmas, there was a knock on my door. I glanced at the clock: it was nine; an unusual time for visitors. Yet, after some hesitation, I removed the latch, pulled the door open, and saw a dark shape on the stairway. Behind this form, an angry wind blew snowflakes through the air. I recognized an acquaintance, a man named Richard. He wore a heavy coat. His breath crystallized in the cold air.
“May I come in?” he asked. I heard his teeth clattering. Frozen snow covered his shoulders.
“Sure, sure,” I said and held the door open. He pushed past me through the narrow hallway and entered my room. I took his coat and we sat down at my small table. I poured him some hot tea from the samovar.
“Damned cold outside,” he said, “damned cold.” Richard was tall with broad shoulders and a rugged face. Dark curly hair crowned his head. He didn’t talk and held the cup with both his hands, obviously to chase the cold from his red hands and fingers.
“What’s up?” I asked. I was surprised by his visit, as we didn’t know each other very well. Why had he decided to turn up way at my place? After dark, with the streets deserted and the snow knee-deep?
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Here’s a cinematic experience I’ll never forget. During my time in Basel as a PhD student, I spent much of my free time in the cinema. My wife was living a few hundred miles away, the evenings were long and the winters cold.
My chum John and I went to see David Lynch‘s Wild at Heart, with Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage. As this was a Tuesday night, the cinema was almost empty.
The movie starts. A young man in a snakeskin jacket (Cage) enters a theatre. He chats with his girlfriend (Dern). A hired killer (Gregg Dandridge) approaches the couple, a fight ensues, the young man throws the assassin to the floor, grabs him by the ears and bangs his head on the marble steps, until blood and gore explode all over the place. The young guy is arrested and sent to jail. His stepmother (Diane Ladd) drinks a martini from a large glass, her face filled with glee.
The weird thing we notice is that David Lynch had decided to film these initial scenes by compressing the picture horizontally. Cage, Dern and Ladd were barely recognizable; bodies and faces stretched out into much thinner versions. But OK, we thought, this probably had some special meaning, perhaps some “vintage-thing.”
Suddenly the movie stops. We sit in the dark and wait. The operator has apparently reversed the movie, as it soon starts from the beginning.
The (elongated) young man enters the theatre. He chats with his (elongated) girlfriend. The killer approaches the couple, a fight ensues, the young man throws the man to the floor, grabs him by the ears and bangs his (elongated) head on the marble steps, blood and gore explode all over the place. The body liquid runs down the stairs. Bang. Bang. Bang. The young guy is sent to jail. His stepmother drinks a martini from a large glass, her (elongated) face filled with glee.
The movies stops again, for the obvious reason that there was no sound. “Damn,” whispers John.
The movie restarts. Cage (the elongated version) enters a theatre, chats with his girlfriend. Dandridge approaches the couple, a fight ensues, the young man throws the man to the floor, grabs him by the ears and bangs his (elongated) head on the marble steps, blood and gore all over the place. Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! The man’s skull audibly cracks. Body liquid runs down the stairs. It’s a bloody mess, Cage’s face, jacket and hands are full of blood. He is sent to jail. His stepmother drinks a martini from a large glass, her (elongated) face filled with glee.
The movie stops and the lights are turned on. John, who’s suffering from bladder issues, hurries to the loo. He returns and we wait.
The movie starts again. By now we agree that the picture shouldn’t be elongated, this isn’t some artistic element, but an error with the projector. And the good news is: it has been fixed!
Cage enters the theatre, chats with his girlfriend. We in the audience applaud, as these are the normal, fat versions of Cage and Dern. Gregg Dandridge approaches the couple, the young man throws him to the floor, grabs him by the ears and bangs his head on the marble steps. Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! And again: Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! The man’s skull audibly cracks wide open. Disgusting amounts of blood, bone and gore spray all over the place. Red blood runs down the stairs. Cage is soaked with blood. He is sent to jail and his stepmother drinks a martini from a large glass, her hands shaking and her face filled with glee.
Alas, the sound was missing. The lights go on again, then after five minutes out again. Some members of the audience get up and leave.
Cage enters the theatre, chats with his girlfriend. We can hear what they’re saying, but why are they so strangely elongated? Dandridge approaches the couple, the young man bangs his head on the marble steps. Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! We can see the pain in his face up to the moment of this horrible, agonizing death. Disgusting amounts of blood and gore spray all over the place. Red blood runs down the stairs.
The movie stops. We wait in the dark. The lights go on, then off again. The door opens and a woman appears. “There is a problem with the projector. We are fixing it.” Without a word of apology she bangs the door shut behind her.
Cage enters the theatre. He throws the black man to the floor, and bangs his head on the marble steps. Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! It is unbearable to watch the final seconds of the man’s life. The man’s skull audibly cracks open, his eyes are filled with fear, then stare into the void as his spirit is erased forever. Cage looks like a war criminal, a disgusting grin on his bloody and yes, elongated visage. Not a word is said, not a sound can be heard. In silence, the stepmother pours a martini from an elongated glass into her elongated mouth.
The movie stops. John and I, and the final remnants of the audience, stare at the dark screen. Soon the carnage starts again. And again. And again.
Cage enters the theatre. The label in his neck shows that his snakeskin jacket originates from a company named “Feeblebert”. He throws the assassin to the floor and bangs his head on the marble steps. Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Bang!! Dern lets go of an inaudible scream, her third molar on the left needs dental work. It is unbearable to watch the final seconds of the assassin’s life, especially since he put his t-shirt on the wrong way. He stares into the void as his spirit is erased forever. Cage looks like a mass murderer, a disgusting grin on his bloody visage. The reflection of a camera is clearly visible in his left eye. Not a word is said, not a sound can be heard. In silence, Diane Ladd pours a martini from an elongated glass into her elongated mouth.
We see that same scene fourteen times. Never before, and probably never again, has a movie managed to convey the truth about death in such a powerful way. An absolute masterpiece. That is what cinema is about.
Practically everyone seems to dislike Greta Thunberg. Obscurely so, as she is ‘only’ a girl from a remote, partially forgotten and ex-socialist Nordic country. People seem to forget that humor is still the best weapon to deal with serious political issues… so here a joke featuring the Climate-Change Angel.
It is conference time in Saudi Arabia and dignitaries meet to discuss the climate crisis. International guests have been invited by his Royal Highness, Freelance Hacker, and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (known to friends as “MbS“).
The Prince invites Greta Thunberg, Donald Trump and Jordan Peterson to a very special evening event. In the Palace in Riyadh, between the harem and prison, a magic pool has been installed. The sign at the entrance reads: “Fantastic news! Jump into the empty pool, wish for your favorite drink and swim in it!” (below that the sign says: “No dogs allowed. No refunds. Skinny dippers will be whipped in traditional fashion“).
As the true gentleman that he is, MbS suggests that Greta should be allowed to jump first. Greta thinks for a few seconds and says in her cute Swedish accent: “I wish that the pool fills itself with soy milk, since ordinary cow milk production is associated with high levels of the gas methane; a gas that is 32-times as potent as the gas carbon dioxide in accelerating the global warming!” The three men smirk, and the Prince pats her on the head belligerently: “Now jump in, little one!” Greta climbs the ladder to the board, jumps into the pool and shouts “soy milk!”… and indeed the pool instantly fills up with the nutritious milk substitute. Greta lands in the white liquid, swims about, and takes big sips of the delicious non-alcoholic potable.
A pool-attendant steps forward and switches on a pump, so that the pool is emptied and the next person can jump in. A slight shuffle takes place, which Jordan (champion debater) wins with one of his typical kill-all arguments (in this case a quick knee to the groin). Jordan climbs the ladder, shouts “orange juice !”, the pool fills up, and Jordan can start swimming and drinking.
Finally, it is Donald’s turn. He climbs the ladder and starts out on one of his rambling speeches, during which he somehow seems to suggest that he is the greatest swimmer since Johnny Weissmuller; and most people leave. Then Donald takes a deep breath, jumps and shouts: “Soda !”
Thud! Donald hits the bare tiles at the bottom of the pool. The pool did not fill with any liquid. He manages to crawl to a ladder, climbs up, and staggers to the pool attendant. “What the hell happened,” says the Donald, “The sign said fantastic news and the pool didn’t fill?! Sad!”
The pool attendant looks at the sky quizzically and says: “…fake news?”
John stuck his heavy spade into the ground and started digging. The pile of dirt rapidly increased in height. It was hard work, the sun beating down on his dreadlocks, and every now and then John stopped his work to wipe away the sweat and to drink from his jug of water.
Deeper and deeper went the spade. John checked the map to exclude any mistake. No, this was the right spot.
Suddenly the spade hit an object, and John dropped on his belly to remove the dirt with his hands. The lid of a chest became visible. Hurriedly he cleaned away more sand, and finally his hands found a handle, and with considerable effort he managed to pull the heavy chest from the ground. He pulled his pistol and shot the lock to pieces.
He threw back the lid and the insides of the chest became visible: coins, coins coins! Ecstatically, John threw his hands in the air and did a weird dance around the treasure.
„Hullo dear, I’ve brought you a cup of tea,“ said Daphne, still in her nightgown, She handed him the mug and looked at the hole skeptically. “Are you sure this is better than a bank account? Seems like an awful lot of work…”
Mr. Wanamaker, their neighbor, smirked. “It’s pretty ridiculous, if you ask me. Look at your goddamn lawn! It’s a disgrace. You’re the laughing stock of the neighborhood.” Exasperated, he turned away from the fence and continued watering his plants.
Lately, I have suffered from nightmares, which ended in murder and blood. Sometimes my imagination is too vivid, or the movies I watch on Mubi are too violent.
Anyway, last night was different, as I dreamed I was watching a talk show, and the experience was even quite enlightening. Imagine a studio, with a host, a virologist, a politician, and… the Corona Virus! A dapper gent, dressed in a three-piece suite, with oily hair. The discussion went something like this.
Host: “So what do you propose should be done to stop the increase of infected people?”
Virologist: “We only have one possibility! We need a lockdown for those that are not vaccinated. Otherwise, the numbers will explode over winter.”
Politician: “A lockdown is out of the question. The incidence rates may be up, the mortality exploding, but we need freedom, for all citizens.”
The host to the virus: “And what do you think about that, Mr. Corona?”
Corina (looking slightly confused). “Well, I… I have no preference.”
Host: “But don’t the masks help? And the social distancing?”
Researcher: “Definitely! We will need to reimplement these! If people stick to those simple rules and wear masks, the problems are solvable. And the vaccine… people must get vaccinated! It also depends on how we calculate the R-value. And let’s not forget the incidence.”
Corona (managing to look bored and satisfied at the same time): “Sounds like a plan.”
Host: “You do not seem to be overwhelmed…?”
Corona: “Look at it this way. at the moment the infection rate is, without a doubt, satisfactory. Sure, I could have infected hundreds of millions of people, but I have already bypassed HIV and the Spanish Flu in mortality rate. I am pleased with the outcome.”
Host: “But aren’t you afraid that you will be eradicated? Haven’t you read about the vaccines, the safety measures, the vaccines, the new medications?”
Corona: “I’m a virus. I do not read newspapers.”
Politician (snorts): “That is absolutely irresponsible! I bet you do not vote either!”
Corona: “I do not watch the news, I do not listen to researchers or politicians, nor do I listen to people who object to wearing masks or those who refuse to get vaccinated. I am indifferent to public opinion… to any opinion. Certainly, for us viruses, plants, and animals are easier prey as they cannot plan ahead at all, yet humans… they are still sufficiently primitive. Take your scientists… on the one hand, their salaries are paid through taxes, collected from the public, yet when the rubber hits the road, nobody listens to them! It’s a contradiction… hilarious and sad at the same time.”
Virologist: “Now listen…”
Corona (hanging back in his chair, suddenly with a whisky in his hand): “For a virus, the job is easy. Multiply, multiply, make the most of the stupidity of our hosts. It’s a slam dunk! No kidding, it’s as easy as drinking water and, after that, as much fun as peeing in the snow.”
Politician (red-faced): “So what you are saying is that we haven’t made any difference? May I perhaps remind you of the billions we have invested with our anti-pandemic plan?”
Corona: “Yes, you did. And it slowed me down a bit. But… I am still here. And I will be here for many years to come. I have already branched out into a dozen other species.”
Virologist (looking clever): “So what do you suggest we do then?”
Corona (looking more clever): “I will gladly tell you, as you won’t be able to implement this within a reasonable timeframe. By the time you will finish discussing and planning I will have mutated into something new and much more exciting. Anyway, the key is education. At the start of the pandemic, people didn’t understand an exponential growth curve. By now most have at least an inkling of what it encompasses. But, now, humans do not understand the benefit of vaccinations… so in most countries, more than 30% are not getting vaccinated. I love it! It’s a gas! Without proper education… without proper information, I’m on a roll! Ooooh yes… Somebody Stop Me!”
Host (looking sweaty, with a slight cough): “Ahh… urghuurghu. With that our time is, alas, up. I thank our panel for the discussion and valuable input… urghuurghu… and I wish all our viewers a perfect night. Urhurghuuu and please stay healthy.” (Thinking he is off-camera, he whispers) “Is it too late to get the vaccine, once you start coughing?” (The virologist covers her face with both hands and shakes her head violently).
Donald Trump, Erdogan, the Dalai Lama and a backpacking student are the four sole passengers on a plane crossing the ocean. Suddenly the pilot appears and says: “Sorry guys, both our wings fell off, engines gone, tail on fire: the plane is going to crash. Only four parachutes on board, I’m taking one, so goodbye and good luck.”
And he pulls open the door and jumps out.
The four passengers are stunned. Erdogan is the first to move, grabs one of the three remaining parachutes, straps it on and says: “Guys, as the leader of the great Osman empire I have a responsibility for all Turks, and you will understand that it would be a terrible loss if I would die.” And out he jumps.
Donald Trump quickly grabs one of the two remaining parachutes, and shouts: “I am one of the greatest presidents and businessmen of the world, so true, I had the largest audience ever at my inauguration, I have big hands, the Democrats are to blame and I leave you with one parachute. So SAD !” And out he jumps.
Says the student: “Well, it seems only one of us can survive. Why don’t you take the last parachute?”
Says the Dalai Lama, with a twinkle in his eyes: “Don’t worry, son. Mr. Trump took your backpack.”