Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011



We here at the DUNER BLOG wish to extend a big "Thank You" to everyone (especially you, MOM!!) who suggested we blog about the priest/prankster HAROLD CAMPING and his failed DOOMSDAY PROPHESY.  So here we go.  For those of you lucky enough NOT to hear about these shenanigans, here's a brief recap:  It had been predicted by an Oakland-based preacher that May 21st, 2011 would be JUDGMENT DAY.  For the last five months, everyone in the San Francisco Bay Area has seen his multiple billboards on our freeways, dramatically counting down the days to the end of the world. Then we watched in horror as the rest of the nation slowly began paying attention to our local lunatic.  Alas, Saturday finally came! What happened? Oakland was struck by an earthquake! (3.5 on the Richter Scale!)   It knocked an item or two off the grocery store shelves, but nothing compared with the doom and gloom Camping had predicted.

In response your inquiries, we conducted copious amounts of research on Camping and discovered he is little more than another slimy con-artist.  Since the hoax, it seems our omniscient man-of-the-hour is keeping a rather low profile.  The once-prominent signs outside his World Radio Headquarters on International Boulevard in Oakland were abruptly removed.  His 'spokes-people' are not returning messages from inquiring bloggers.  Meanwhile, the lawsuits are piling up.  So...rather than bore our readers with another re-telling of this rather sad tale...we shall instead focus on the next upcoming imminent disaster: THE END OF THE MAYAN CALENDAR!  (Hope this is okay, Mom!)

There's actually a fancy name for the study of the End of the World.  It's called ESCHATOLOGY and it has been terrorizing the under-educated since the dawn of man.  Anyhow, now the Eschatologists want you to learn about Mayan Theology. (Which is a much more plausible vehicle for the fatalistic message than the silly 'fire and brimstone' of Mr. Camping.) This time, our holy book is the POPOL VUH, the most respected written account of Mayan mythology.  According to this text, there have been three previous realms on earth prior to the one we currently live in.  These worlds were filled with fearsome lightning gods and cool cosmic crocodile goddesses, but no humans.  Mayans don't believe people appearred on earth until August 11th, 3114 BC (they are very precise), the exact date when our current world began.

While we here at the DUNER BLOG aren't too worried about apocalyptic crocodiles, we are concerned about the amazing accuracy of the ancient Mayan scientists, who accomplished amazing calculations without elaborate machinery.  For example, we have to add a  "leap day" to every fourth February so our old Julian calendars will be accurate.  There are no silly things like Leap Years in Mayan calendars.  While the ancient Roman mathematicians were trying to compute using a non-decimal system (XIV + LVIII = LXXII), Mayan mathematicians were doing advanced calculus...They are the only ancient civilization to employ the concept of a zero.   So maybe...just maybe...these ancient Mayans are on to something? Here's the math: Each year is called a tun.  Each century (actually 394 years) is called a Baktun.  There are 13 Baktuns in a world.  The end date of the 4th world ( in Mayan script) will correspond to Wednesday, December 21st, 2012.  Ka-blooey!

The main problem with the Mayan Doomsday Theory is that the Mayans themselves don't believe it.  Scholars don't agree that the end of the calendar necessarily corresponds to the end of life on earth.   In fact, some people in the Guatemalan Highlands are planning on partying next December, not dying in some horrible, cataclysmic fire.  Sandra Noble, the director of a Mesoamerican research organization, clarifies: "For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle." She goes on to warn us that horrible movies starring JOHN CUSAK are: "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in."  Speaking of cashing in, guess how much Mr. Camping made?  $73 million dollars.  Wow!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011



Wait a second!  Don't click "NEXT"!  Despite the title of this week's post, we are not getting preachy here at the DUNER BLOG.  Nope, we are simply 'sticking to our slogan' and bringing you a news story you might have missed! And here it is: Earlier this month (May 2nd to be exact) was the 400th anniversary of the first printing of the King James Version of the HOLY BIBLE.  Since then, it has become the most published...the most read...the most quoted... simply put...the most important book in the English language of all time!

But it didn't start out that way.  It all began with every one's favorite turkey-leg-totting monarch, KING HENRY THE EIGHTH.  Contrary to his current cartoonish image, Henry was a devout Christian and a biblical scholar.  He wanted the Bible translated into English so that "even a boy who drives the plow" could learn about the scripture.  To accomplish this, a spirited and learned colleague WILLIAM TYNDALE was dispatched to Germany to pen an English version of the great book.  He met with clergy members and spent years translating a new edition from old Greek manuscripts.   Unfortunately, poor William's timing was bad.  Europe was awash in the horribly illogical WARS OF THE REFORMATION.  In 1536, a confused bishop had Tyndale burned at the stake for translating our 'most holy words' into the "vulgar English tongue."  Ouch!

Nonetheless, some 50,000 copies of Tyndale's work were still smuggled into Britain and dispersed all over the islands.  Often called the GENEVA BIBLE, this was the version read by Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth.  Over the next fifty years, many new Christian sects began popping up all over England.  Each had a new interpretation of the faith and a different translation of the Bible.  By the time KING JAMES VI became ruler in 1603, the situation had became mess.  In addition to the Geneva Bible, Puritans and Presbyterians had their own versions while the 'Bishops Bible' was the accepted Anglican edition.  Eager to bring peace to all in his warring lands, James convened a conference where it was decided a new translation was needed so that all of Britain could be on the same page.

After years of work, on the morning of May 2nd, 1611, this esteemed committee graced the world with their accomplishment: The first edition of the KING JAMES VERSION of the HOLY BIBLE.  It succeeded in its initial task of unifying the many religious sects of Britain.  All could finally agree at least on the basic principles of the faith...Never again would a war of religion occur on British soil.  But the book went on to accomplish so much more than just that.  The work is also a major milestone in the field of English grammar. The rules for things like verb conjugations, prepositional phrases and dangling modifiers were all clarified.  The KJV also standardized the spelling rules that we all must memorize today!

However, the most important accomplishment of the KING JAMES VERSION was the simple idea launched by Henry the Eighth: Everyone should have access to a book.  In the 1500's, books were both voluminous and valuable (big and expensive).  Imagine if every book was like the one carried in on Sunday Mass by two choirboys...not exactly something you can read on the train home.  The KJV changed all of this.  For centuries after 1611, most households in England had a copy of the KJV Bible at home.  Simply put: It was how you taught your children to read.   So the next time you say "An eye for an eye" or "My cup runneth over" take a minute and thank the man: King James! (Sorry...LeBron...but you can't compare!)

And finally, here are some FUN FACTS about the King James Bible:

Number of books in the Bible: 66 
Chapters: 1,189 
Verses: 31,102 
Words: 783,137 
Letters: 3,116,480 
Number of promises given in the Bible: 1,260 
Commands: 6,468 
Predictions: over 8,000 
Fulfilled prophecy: 3,268 verses 
Unfulfilled prophecy: 3,140 
Number of questions: 3,294 
Longest name: Mahershalalhashbaz (Isaiah 8:1) 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011



Last Saturday at the MGM GRAND in Las Vegas, Welterwieight Champion MANNY PACQUIAO demolished challenger "SUGAR" SHANE MOSELY.  No one was surprised.  After all, the "Pac-Man" has amassed an astounding record over the last fifteen years. He's won 53 bouts (38 by knockout) and has lost only three times (with none since 2005).  Sure...you say...this sort of thing happens all the time in Vegas...what's so surprising about a successful boxer?  Even having PARIS HILTON appear at the post-fight press conference isn't very surprising. Well, what did surprise people is what Manny did after the two-hour, twelve-round fight. He showered, changed into a fancy suit, and proceeded to perform a concert at the MANDALAY BAY ballroom.  His encore was "La Bamba." The crowd went wild!

Okay, so Manny is a boxer who sings.  George Foreman is a boxer who sells grills.  The point is, lots of athletes have a 'side-gig.'  But Manny is different.  He has he sold over a million albums in both English and Tagalog.  His top hit, PAC-MAN PUNCH (Knockout Re-mix) was #1 for four weeks.  But that's not all this boxer can do.  No way! Manny is also an actor having starred in numerous movies and TV shows.  His sit-com SHOW ME DA MANNY is a top rated show on the Filipino ABS-CBN network.  His last superhero/comedy film, SON OF A COMMANDER was also a hit.  Unfortunately, the critics weren't very impressed, panning both at the last METRO MANILA FILM FESTIVAL.  But...as every A-list actor knows...it's not the critics that count, it's the box-office receipts that matter.  Manny is now in talks with reps from SYLVESTER STALLONE.  They're planning on doing a 'cop-buddy' movie together.  Cha-ching!

Okay, so Manny is a boxer who sings and acts.  KRISTI YAMAGUCHI is a figure skater who sings and acts.  But MANNY PACQUIAO is different.  We forgot to mention: Manny is also a politician!  Specifically, he represents the Sarangari Province in the Filipino House of Representatives.  Last year, he pummeled the incumbent, Roy Chiongbian, winning 67% of the popular vote.  As one of the youngest members of Congress, his political future is looking bright.  So is his bank account.  FORBES MAGAZINE listed Pacquaio as the SIXTH highest paid athlete in the world, grossing $40 million last year.  (That's TWO BILLION Filipino Pesos!)  Our favorite boxer is insanely popular back home which has resulted in many lucrative endorsement deals.  He pitches everything from dish washing detergent to cell phones to SAN MIGUEL BEER.  Double Cha-ching!

However, despite these many successes, Manny still wants to be known as a boxer first.  As the saying goes, Pound-for-Pound he may just be the best boxer in the history of the sport.  He is the only boxer in the history of the sport to win titles in eight different weight divisions.  This means he either gains or loses weight to be eligible to compete in different divisions.  For example, his lightest weight was 112 pounds, when he won the Flyweight division.  He then gained 42 pounds to claim the Super Welterweight title a year later.  It's true, right now, no one in any division wants to get in the ring with the Fighting Pride of the Philippines.   Don't believe me?  Just ask "SUGAR" SHANE MOSELY.  (Who was too beat up Saturday night to headline a concert anywhere!) After the fight, he said; "To knock out Manny Pacquiao, you'd need a stick or a hammer!"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011



On your last trip to your local supermarket, you might have noticed an extraordinary amount of red, white and green banners, bunting and posters...all reminding you that May's Most Important Day is fast approaching!  Yes, America, CINCO DE MAYO is just around the corner!  So...what are you doing reading this?  Go back to the market and start buying lots of chips & salsa!  Start rolling up bunches of burritos with gobs of guacamole! Why?  Because Mexico's Independence Day is coming!  And...just think...if we're going bonkers, one can only imagine the crazy parties on the other side of the border...right?

Wrong!  In fact, CINCO DE MAYO isn't even a Mexican National holiday.  Nor does it have anything to do with Mexican Independence at all.  Confused?  Well, let's straighten things out. (That's what the DUNER BLOG is for!)  We'll start on September 16th, 1810.  This was the date when Father Miguel Hidalgo read his famed 'Grito de Delores' speech which declared Mexico's independence from Spain.  Hence, this date is their biggest National Holiday. Everyone from Tijuana to Tampico celebrates triumphantly.  However, the other holiday, the Fifth of May, denotes the day when the BATTLE OF PUEBLA occurred back in 1862.  It was a fierce encounter: 2,000 Mexican soldiers soundly defeated 4,000 invading (and much better armed) French troops outside the strategic city of Puebla. 

So why is this one battle so important to Mexico?  Well, it really isn't.  In fact, CINCO DE MAYO has more to do with AMERICAN CIVIL WAR than any Mexican war.  In the 1860's, the French emperor NAPOLEON III (Bonaparte's nephew) was interested in rejuvenating his crumbling North American empire.  When the Civil War erupted in the USA, he saw his chance.  Although the first invasion failed after the Battle of Puebla (France's first military defeat in 50 years), the following year he sent a much larger army and got the job done: France conquered Mexico.  A proxy government under the rule of MAXIMILIAN was created.   Next up in Napoleon's 'grand scheme' was to move the army North...across the Rio Grande...aid the Confederacy...reclaim the LOUISIANA PURCHASE...and have everyone speaking French again!!

Well, few people parlez Francais in the Western Hemisphere today....so what happened?  First of all, the Union armies annihilated the Confederacy in four short years. So that part fizzled out.  Meanwhile, back in Europe, Prussia was preparing to invade France.  Napoleon III changed his mind and ordered troops to return home to protect the motherland.  An abandoned Maximilian fled in exile and Mexico regained her sovereignty. Shortly afterward, in 1871, the nation elected a new president named PORFIRIO DIAZ.  He was wildly popular as the 'Hero of the Battle of Puebla.'  During the conflict, his troops not only defeated the French but also chased them back across the Atlantic.  (Never mind that they returned a year later and proceeded to defeat, capture and imprison Diaz for years!)  Anyhow, eager to have a national holiday to celebrate his greatness, Diaz turned CINCO DE MAYO into a day of new national pride.  OlĂ©!

Amazingly, Diaz went on to win six more presidential elections (!) and remained in power for almost 40 years.  As expected, fraud and embezzlement were rampant during his reign and Diaz was finally toppled in 1910 when the Mexican Civil War began.  These days, most Mexicans look back at this era (called the Porfiriato) with disdain.  Diaz built lots of ornate, wrought iron bandstands and opulent marble opera houses but not many schools or hospitals.  It's true, his dream of turning Mexico into a European style monarchy is pretty silly.  Hence, Mexicans don't care for his pretend holiday, CINCO DE MAYO, either.  However, across the border, Americans have adopted this day as a way to celebrate the Inner-Mexican inside all of us.  So...join in...crack open an ice-cold CORONA and shout: "Odio a Francia!" (I hate France!)