Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, May 20, 2010



(NOTE: Sorry about the tabloid headline. Just trying to boost readership.)

As we all know, Japan boast the highest life expectancy of any nation on earth. It's clear: The fish/rice/sake diet is the healthiest diet on earth. In fact, in the land of the rising sun, the average person lives to be a ripe-old 82.6 years. (On the same list, the USA is #38, right behind #37 CUBA!) Anyhow, this means Japan has a lot of old people. A whopping one quarter of the current population is over the age of sixty-five. And, as we all know, older people need a lot of medical attention. Not surprisingly, Japan's hospitals are having trouble finding enough staff to take care of its growing elderly population.

So where do you go...if you're Japan...to hire a nurse? The first option is the younger generation. There's got to be a lot of people who want a career in medicine! Unfortunately, Japan has a negative population growth rate. There just ain't enough kids. Next idea: OUT-SOURCE! And where do nations in the Far East go for cheap labor? THE PHILIPPINES! True, many Filipinos have come to Tokyo in hopes of landing a great job. Only one problem: In order to work in a Japanese hospital, you must first demonstrate your fluency in Japanese. All applicants must first past a rigorous language exam. According to a BBC report, 98% fail the test. Strike Two!

Not wanting Japan to 'strike out,' a professor from Osaka has come forward with a plan. Meet HIROSHI ISHIGURO. He's a leader in the field of robotics. He is known worldwide for his advancements in the subject. Recently, Ishiguro unveiled an ACTROID, a very lifelike robot that really resembles a person. It's wired it to have facial emotions, like surprise and joy. It can speak perfect Japanese. Ishiguro feels his robots could fill the employment vacuum...not only in hospitals but in other service industries as well.

While this plan may seem outlandish to us, it is gaining an amazing amount of support in Japan. After all, the nation has always been on the cutting edge of technology and this does seem like a logical step. However, it does expose a rather unsettling aspect of Japanese culture: Xenophobia. There's a reason why that language exam is so tough...Japan has never liked immigration. Throughout its long history, the islands have banned foreigners, eschewing the outside world. Simply put, many Japanese would prefer a robot to immigrant labor.

Which brings us back to our tabloid title. Well, perhaps robots aren't INVADING hospitals, but don't be surprised when your local Emergency Room is staffed by ACTIODS!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010



Did you hear the BIG news on Tuesday out of London? Well, lemme tell you! There's a brand new PRIME MINISTER on No. 10 DOWNING STREET! Ladies and Gentleman, let me proudly introduce DAVID CAMERON and his gorgeous young wife SAMANTHA. His family has been in English politics for centuries. His Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather was William the fourth. He the Queen's fifth cousin, twice removed. Anyhow, recent elections tilted Parliament from Labour to Conservative. Lame Duck PM GORDON BROWN resigned after a turbulent three years. Mr. Cameron, head of the Conservative Party was appointed to the post. Got it?

Don't feel bad: Many Americans don't understand the Parliamentary system of government. The main differences between ours and theirs is how leaders are elected and the length of time one serves. Prime Minsters are not directly elected by the people. Rather, a governing body (Congress...Parliament...Supreme Soviet, etc.) decides who will lead. They also decide how long. In fact, anytime an MP (Member of Parliament) desires, he or she, can motion to remove a PM. Hence, some PMs serve decades and others months. The longest serving PM was SIR ROBERT WALPOLE who held the office for a whopping 21 years. The shortest term was the (not so) HONOURABLE GEORGE CANNING you lasted a mere three months. Think about it: In the US, we are stuck with our leader until they die or resign. (sorry, Dick Nixon!)

However, there is concern in the UK that the old system dying out. Globally, it is currently in fashion to have ONE person representing a nation. That way, at the press conference for the G-8 summit or the group photo at the NATO convention, you can easily spot your man or woman.(ANGELA MERKEL). In the UK, there seems to be a need for a more presidential Prime Minister. Prior to these Parliamentary elections...for the first time ever...a televised debate was held between Brown, Cameron and third party candidate Nick Clegg. Even though British citizens still don't directly vote an individual, the lines between candidate and political party are becoming less apparent. (But don't expect any two-year-three-ringed-circuses like the US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS any time soon.)

Finally, there is one advantage of being a PRIME MINISTER over being a PRESIDENT: You can stay in office as long as Parliament thinks you are doing a good job. So it's not surprising that the most successful PMs also held office the longest. WILLIAM PITT THE YOUNGER (Yes..the namesake of Pittsburgh) held sway for 19 years. Also in the 'Top Ten of Tenure' are Prime Ministers MARGARET THATCHER and TONY BLAIR. Poor GORDON BROWN is ranked 34th. Anyhow, the question for today is: How will DAVID CAMERON end up ranked? Only time will tell.

But...good luck...mate! It's a jolly good time to be a WORLD LEADER!

Monday, May 3, 2010



One very important news item went unnoticed last week...even under my watchful eye. Last Friday, the Televison Academy announced it was removing an award from next year's EMMY BROADCAST: Main Title Songs. Yep, only a handful of TV shows have opening themes any more, so the entire category has been scrapped. Michael Schneider of VARIETY calls it: "The final nail in the TV theme song coffin." How can this be? When I was a kid, we memorized every theme song. I can still sing every line to THREE'S COMPANY or LAVERNE & SHIRLEY...can't you?

Unfortunately, we really can't blame the Academy. The real culprit here is today's amazing TV remote controls. They have thirty different buttons and can do everything from finding a channel to purchasing a car. The networks know you'll start flipping around the minute that theme music starts. So instead of an intro, stations move the viewer from one show to another as quickly as possible, WITHOUT A COMMERCIAL. In addition, many shows now start at :28 or :58 after the hour to get a two minute-jump on the other channels. They just want to slow down your trigger finger on that remote.

However, I feel the networks are making a terrible mistake. A theme song sets the tone for a show. The viewer starts singing and humming, and gets taken away to a magical place only TV can create. It could be a bar in Boston where "everybody knows your name" or a cruise ship in Mexico where "love is always exciting and new." Like Pavlov's dog, before the show starts we are already excited (and drooling) about upcoming events. BUT, the networks think we have SHORT ATTENTION SPANS and will abandon their shows unless we get murder or sex in the first thirty seconds!

Okay, in honor of theme songs, see if you can guess the following classics from one line each:

"It' s the story, of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls."
"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful ship."
"We're moving on up...to a deluxe apartment in the sky."
"Who can turn the world on with her smile?"
"Just some good ol' boys, never meaning no harm."

The Brady Bunch
Gilligan's Island
The Jeffersons
Mary Tyler Moore Show
Dukes of Hazard.

You made it this far in the blog? Great! Be one of the first two people to post your name, and Duner Corp will send you the 'TV Theme Songs CD' free of charge.