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13 January, 2003

Hypnotism road chaos

If drivers in Dubai didn't have enough distractions with dangling CDs and worrybeads and boxes of tissues cluttering up their windscreens, now there's a new menace: spinning hypnotic optical illusions whirling on every lamppost from Little Bombay to Jumeirah and beyond. Seemingly part of the signage for this year's Shopping Festival, which begins Wednesday with the usual array of million-dirham lotteries, shining Lexuses (Lexi?) and kilo-of-gold giveaways.

Shiny Happy Arab Channel II went live to air today, along with its first ever news bulletin. Setting a world record for the latest completed studio set ever - approx eight minutes before going to air. All thanks to Shiny Happy Sheikh calling for a "brand new look" late Thursday night, after a month of pilots inspired no earlier such whim. Ashen faces, shock, horror, depair.

Set designers are recalled from Beirut, monitors, stools and strip lights are magicked up from some vast cupboard, a team of turbans is rushed in, and the grand plan begins.

Noon Sunday around ten design people are rushing around installing lights, cameras and a huge metal railing. Mometary panic as a dispute causes workers to down tools: "whatever you pay, I won't work one more hour." By early afternoon a crack team of turbans is rushed in for last minute welding and grinding. One hour later production head threatens public floggings for the lack of progress. Thirty minutes later the turbans have tripled in number. Drilling and grinding and hammering is quelled intermittently by live bulletins going out from the current studio.

Fifteen minutes to air and the panels are yet to be stuck on the metal rail. Ten minutes to air and the presenter is in situ Shiny (with stress) if not Happy trying to fix an earpiece through the final strains of desperate drilling and banging. Five minutes to air the final panel is in place, the turbans melt magically away, 5-4-3-2-1 cue headlines.

Moral: if it's not moving, give it a good sheikh.

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