Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012



Last Friday's horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut left everyone at the DUNER BLOG stunned and saddened.  After the shock, grief sets in, then a strong bout of remorse.  Then, a week later, Americans and renew the debate on Gun Control for a couple of days...and then we all go back to watching sports and reality TV.  However, the young ages of the victims in this latest mass shooting has really grabbed the nation's attention.  So...before you go back to watching ICE LOVES COCO...please spend a minute or two thinking about the SECOND AMENDMENT!

If Thomas Jefferson could see a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, he would never had signed the Bill of Rights.  
Let's take a look at weaponry in 1788...the year when the Second Amendment was being drafted in Philadelphia.  In the 18th century, the mighty cannon was still king of all armed forces.  The coveted...yet horribly heavy...cannon were the staple.  They were mounted on ships and dragged onto muddy battlefields.  The whole concept of a hand-held, miniature, gunpowder-exploding device in warfare was strange.  In fact, the American Revolution was the first major war to use a musket..and it was not a favorite of artillerymen.  They were heavy (twenty pounds)...gunpowder was often unreliable...and it fired only one lead ball, three-quarters of an inch in diameter.  Then, it took two minutes to reload.  In short, the most important thing on any musket was the sharp, silver bayonet on the tip of the weapon.  For every one soldier killed by a musket's bullet, ten more were killed by the sharp spear at the end of the gun.

If the SECOND Amendment is so important...why isn't the the THIRD Amendment also important?
Americans love the Bill of Rights...even more than the Constitution itself.  See, while the original document took care of the big, important stuff...like congress, courts, elections and stuff...it did little for the common man.  That's when our founding fathers sat down and came up with the Bill of Rights.  These ten amendments made sure everyday folk couldn't be picked on by King George Washington.  In addition to freedom of speech, they covered other important civil liberties as well.  For example, people can't be tried twice for the same crime...(5th)...or subject to whips, chains, cruel and unusual punishment (8th)...nor could an American army enter your house and search and seize everything (4th amendment).  We all agree these laws are just as important in 2012 as they were in 1788.  However, other things in the Bill of Rights aren't as important today.  Point in case: The THIRD Amendment.   It provided protection against the quartering of troops in your home.  Back in 1790, there was a high probability French troops might force their way into your home and demand lodging and chickens for a month.  But this doesn't happen anymore.  The Third Amendment has never been the subject of a Supreme Court case.  Times change and civil rights change too.

In Colonial Times, every house was armed with a gun for protection.
American movies and novels set in Colonial times incorrectly have citizens with firearms.  For example, when there's a stranger at the door, the man grabs a gun and points it at his visitor.  Wrong!  We already covered how few muskets and rifles there were in Colonial America, so let's now discuss handguns.  The pistol is a Czech invention from the 1500's.  While used in warfare, it was mostly used by the upper class game hunters and for the occasional duel.  These guns...like muskets...could only fire one shell at a time and had a range of 15 feet.  (The Smith & Wesson wouldn't be invented until 1858).   Historical records show only a few gunsmiths in the whole of North America in the 1700's and very few handguns were imported from Europe at the time.       

In summary, we here at the DUNER BLOG hope we can learn from the Newtown Massacre and move forward with serious Gun Control Legislation like civilized people.  Any American who has traveled overseas lately knows the rest of the world sees us as the most violent nation on earth.  Let's change!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012



It's been a couple years since every one's favorite Chinese Basketball star YAO MING laced up his sneakers.  You see, Yao retired last year.  But don't worry...he is not spending his days on a rocking chair in Shanghai.  No way!  Today, YAO is busy promoting the C.B.A. (Chinese Basketball Association).  Currently in its twentieth season, the league has seventeen teams in two divisions.  Recently, YAO (a co-owner of the Shanghai franchise) sat down with some journalists in hopes of raising international awareness about the CBA.  While the DUNER BLOG wasn't specifically invited to Beijing...we will help our hero spread the message.

During YAO's playing days, he put up some BIG numbers is the N.B.A.  In nine All-Star seasons, he averaged nearly twenty points and ten rebounds a game for the Houston Rockets.  However, as an athlete, YAO is most proud of his achievements with the Chinese National Basketball teams.  The 7 foot 6 inch (2.3 meter) center anchored the Olympic squad three times, in 2000, 2004 and...his favorite accomplishment...in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Under his leadership, China reached the quarterfinals each time...China's highest finishes ever.  However, with Yao's retirement, the Chinese team sputtered.  At this year's London Olympics they did not win a single game.

It's clear: YAO MING is worried basketball's popularity in China will also continue to decline.  He believes the C.B.A. is the answer to keep interest up.  This season, he persuaded former Houston teammate TRACY McGRADY to come to China and play ball.  Since joining, the Quingdao Eagles have been unstoppable...even against other former NBA stars like STEPHON MARBURY (Beijing Ducks) and GILBERT ARENAS (Shanghai Sharks).  However, YAO understands this is only a temporary solution.  "You can’t always rely on the foreign basketball players to come and help with your marketing," he recently told the WSJ-Asia edition.

Simply put, YAO MING wants China to produce its own basketball stars.  It already has a billion kids ready to learn.  It already has lots of gyms and practice facilities.  The main problem, according to Yao, is: "convincing the country’s schools and parents to give students a break from their relentless study schedules" He stresses the need for a better balance for China's youth.  Yao feels "education is not only about homework and examinations. Physical education is important, too."

Yao is right.  And it's not just kids in China.  Studies show that children of Asian descent in the USA also exercise less than other ethnicities.  (In fact, only Pacific Islanders work out less).  For the time being, Yao is putting his energies into the C.B.A. in hopes of finding inspiring stars for Chinese kids to emulate.  He's also found a new role model in current Houston Rockets star JEREMY LIN.  Although from Taiwan (Boo!), Yao is cautiously optimistic that JEREMY LIN can influence kids in the PRC.  In praise of Lin...a Harvard graduate...Yao quipped: "He proved that it’s not necessary to give up education to become a great athlete.”


Friday, December 7, 2012



This week's blog comes to us from the steppes of Central Asia.  Why is DUNER'S BLOG taking our readers to Kazakhstan?  Why visit the Land of Borat?  Well...since the deaths of North Korea's KIM JONG ILL and Libya's goofy GADDAFI...we've been searching the globe for replacements.  We want a new world leader to ridicule!   Someone self-absorbed.  Someone who actually thinks he is a Roman Emperor.  Someone who erects 50-feet-high statues of himself.  Well, last Saturday we found our man   Ladies and Gentleman, we are proud to introduce...The Most Egocentric Man in the World:  NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV!

Oops...once again we got a little ahead of ourselves at the DUNER BLOG.  What happened last Saturday in Kazakhstan?  Well, it was a new holiday!  FIRST PRESIDENT'S DAY commemorates that wondrous December First...way back in 1991...when our "glorious leader" was first elected to serve.  To celebrate the most important date on the Kazakh Calendar, an immense outdoor stadium was erected in the capital's massive Bayterek Square.  Hundreds of thousands filled the stands to watch 30,000 performers (more than in London Olympic Opening Ceremony) performing carefully choreographed routines.  Then everyone joined in mass singing a banner waving...all hailing NURSULTAN THE GREAT!

See, Kazakhs are raised to love Nursultan.  Since more than half the population is under the age of 31, the Dear Leader is the only "President" most people have ever known.  In Kazakh schools, teachers read fairy tale books about the boyhood of our hero.  They feature beautiful illustrations by Roza Akbolatova who feels they "make politics more accessible to children." Kazakh teens flock to the cinemas to see his riveting movie "Deep Roots." The thriller cost $3 million to make and has some pretty impressive C.G.I.  Finally, Kazakh adults read his lengthy biography. It topped the nation bestsellers list for three whole years.

You're asking yourself: How does Nursultan manage to keep power amid such audacious acts?  C'mon!  You know the answer: Money.  Since independence, over $40 billion dollars has been invested to develop Kazakhstan's lucrative natural resources.  The nation is swimming in petroleum, natural gas and uranium deposits.  Currently, a massive pipeline is being constructed under the Caspian Sea to bring these to an energy-thirsty Europe.  And we all know where these funds go.  They are spent insuring our Dear Leader is kept in power and that any opposition is swiftly dealt with.

The Kazakh Capital looks like Disney Land!
Don't expect things to change in Kazakhstan any time soon...and maybe that's a good thing.  Nursultan may have a egotistical approach to leadership, but his nation is anything but unified.  Kazakhstan is the ninth largest nation on earth but has only a few highways and railways.  Its population is half Kazakh, a quarter Russian and a serious mix of Uzbek, nomadic Tartars, Uyghurs and 250,000 ridiculously misplaced Germans.  Simply put...this republic could fall apart any second.  Nursultan's autocratic rule keeps together a bunch of crazy folks who have a lot more in common with Genghis Khan than with Chaka Khan.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012



Things are getting downright desperate for Syrian President BASHAR AL-BASHIR.  For the last year, he's watched his once-unified nation fall to opposition armies...piece by piece...province by province.  First, his armies were defeated in the Idlib Region.  Then, the strategic city of Aleppo fell to rebel hands.  Today, AL-BASHIR still controls the capital Damascus and the cities Homs and Hama...but even that is being threatened.  Recently, rebel troops established a foothold in the sprawling Eastern Damascus suburbs.  In retaliation, cowardly AL-BASHIR used Syrian fighter planes to drop bombs on his own people.

You might not know that the World's Largest Restaurant is located in the same Eastern Damascus suburbs...just off the airport highway.  Thanks to Bashir's bombs, the doors are closed.  But what an amazing restaurant The Damascus Gate (بوابة دمشق) was!  It opened four years ago to great fanfare.  The owner Muhannad Samman spent $50 million dollars to bring a slice of Las Vegas to the Middle East.  To insure greatness, it was officially awarded the title of "World's Largest Restaurant" by the Guinness Book.  (The Royal Dragon in Bangkok is now in second place: 6,014 to 5,023 seats.)

And...up until a year ago...the Damascus Gate Restaurant was an amazing success.  With a staff of 1,800 Mr. Samman assured there would be "absolutely no compromise on the standard of food or service" despite the eatery's enormous size.  See, the crafty restaurateur has actually six separate cuisines served in different sections in the sprawling 54,000 square meters of floor space.  In addition to Syrian dishes, you can order Arab, Chinese, Indian and Iranian food as well.  (What...no Mexican Burritos?)  To soothe your nerves while dining, Samman has built an indoor waterfall (twenty feet high!) as well as ten fountains and replicas of the plentiful Roman ruins which are found nearby. 

However...since the aerial bombardment began last week...the kitchen is closed.  No more Syrian Lamb Stew with "thick coconut milk, kissed with ginger roots, fine onion and garlic." This must be particularly aggravating for Mr. Samman.  See, he's paid billions of Syrian Pounds to Al-Bashir's government in tax revenue.  And...as everyone knows...a hefty percentage of the sales tax goes directly to the military.  Simply put, this means Mr. Samman is paying to have his own restaurant destroyed by the Syrian army's fighter planes.  That makes no sense!

However...as we all know...BASHAR AL-BASHIR and the Syrian Government stopped making sense years ago.  While other dictators in the region...like Egypt's Mubarak and Tunisia's Ben Ali...peacefully seeded their absolute power during last year's Arab Spring, others leaders are not so nice.  Just like Libya's Gaddafi, Syria's AL-BASHIR would rather have his "motherland" scorched and his people killed before he would ever relinquish power.   The only question now is how far the mad tyrant will continue to destroy his own nation before he has to bomb the Presidential Palace itself.

NOTE: The Free Syria Army has a new flag that will soon be hoisted in world's most beautiful city!!  (The Prophet Mohammed said that about Damascus...not us!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012



Over the weekend, the DUNER'S BLOG staff went to San Francisco.  At the center of town is Union Square...a drab slab of concrete punctuated with an equally boring monument to Admiral Dewey.  However..for two festive months...the dull urban space is transformed into a festive Ice Skating Rink, packed with happy people, young and old.  Although none of us at DUNER'S BLOG can actually skate on frozen water, we all enjoyed watching other people fall on their butts!

We wanted our readers from around the globe to know that they too can go downtown for a slice of holiday heaven,  so here's our list of the TOP TEN HOLIDAY ICE SKATING RINKS: 

#10. Tjörnin Lake, Reykjavik.   Of course, Ice-land is going to have great Ice-Skating.  Everything downtown borders on Tjørnin Lake (Direct translation: The Pond) which is solid ice until April.  In winter months, it's the scene of hockey games, figure skaters and crazy curlers.  Afterwards, you can warm up in Vesturbæjarlaug Thermal Hot Springs next door. 

#9.  Red Square, Moscow.  While Europe's largest ice skating rink in located in nearby Gorky Park, we prefer the smaller, more intimate setting at Red Square.  Wedged in between the Kremlin and the GUM Department store, the rink must be carefully constructed so it doesn't damage the thousand year old cobblestones below.  It's only been open for seven years, and symbolizes the current, fun-loving climate in Moscow.  This year, it opens December First.

#8.  Zocalo, Mexico City. Also on a main square once only used for by military parades, for the last seven years, the heart of Mexico City is transformed into a Winter Wonderland.  You're asking yourself...Doesn't ice melt in Mexico?  While located in the tropics, D.F. has a high altitude (7,500 feet or 2,250 meters), so it rarely gets very hot in December.

#7.  Fuji-Q Highlands, Japan. While there are numerous outdoor rinks in Tokyo this time of year, we are intrigued by this massive skate complex.  It is scenically located at the base of Mt. Fuji.  With over four acres of skating, it's the largest in the country.

#6.  Millennium Park, Chicago.  Now in it's eighth year, the massive rink occupies prime park land between Lake Michigan and city skyscrapers.  It so popular, it stays open to mid-March.  Last year, over 100,000 people twirled and whirled here...making it the most visited ice rink in the nation.

#5.  Rideau Canal, Ottawa. Back in 1832, a canal opened connecting the Canadian capital to Kingston on the St. Lawrence River.  The final five miles of the canal slice through the heart of Ottawa's old town.  As we all know, Canada is freezing cold, so the waterway becomes solid ice in winter.  The ships and freighters are replaced with Zambonis and skaters.  It's huge: In total area, it's equal to 90 Olympic-sized rinks.

#4.  Somerset House, London.  Located on the hoity-toity Strand near Waterloo Bridge, Somerset is actually a palace, not a house.   For the last 150 years, the cavernous interior courtyard is converted into a rink.  It's fun to skate at night, when the ice is lit by flaming torches(!).  If you do go, be sure to bring your VISA CARD...at £35 each, it's the most expensive site on our list.

#3.  Vienna Ice Dream, Austria.  Alpine nations have an distinct advantage on this list...they just scream Christmas.  And...with the exception of Nürenburg...no one decks the halls quite like Vienna.  At the heart of it all is the Ice Dream.  Here, you'll find a kilometer of skating trails, ice sculptures, six curling rings...all culminating at the foot of the Rathaus (City Hall).

#2.  Canal Skating, Amsterdam.  Unlike the Venice of the South, the canals of Amsterdam freeze in winter.  This makes for some of the most fantastic skating on earth.  You glide past Renaissance buildings, skim under historic bridges and spin around to the coolest dance beats.  

#1.  Rockefeller Center, New York City. Duh!  Let's face it: Every holiday ice skating rink secretly aspires to be Rockefeller Center.  The quintessential spot in front of the golden statue of Prometheus has seen many famous people over the years.  It's hosted royalty (Princess Grace of Monaco), movie stars (Goldie Hawn), socialites (Paris Hilton) and aliens (Donald Trump).


Wednesday, November 14, 2012



For the last two months, DUNER'S BLOG has been bombarded with questions about the Hip-Hop Star PSY.  He's the Korean sensation that's sweeping the nation!  Let's get started...

Just what is 'Gangnam Style' anyhow? (Giles, France)
'Gangnam' is a Korean proper noun which translates directly as "South of the Han River."  Over the years, this area has become an upscale neighborhood in the booming capital Seoul.  It's also where our hero PARK JAE SANG grew up.  To pay homage to his roots, the video for 'Gangnam Style' was filmed here.  The Asem Building and the Trade Tower are clearly visible in the background.  The second word...Style...is much more difficult to define.  Here the term involves a suggestive dance that simulates sex on horseback.

Why is PSY in the Guinness Book of World Records? (Kenneth, Kenya)
We aren't the only ones in the world who is plum-crazy about PSY.  (He insists on spelling his name with three capital letters...not us!).  Don't believe us?   Well, his video recently became the 'Most Liked' item in the lengthy, seven-year, history of You Tube.  WOW! Currently in second place is LMFAO's equally raunchy video with 1.5 million.  JUSTIN BIEBER is third with 1.3 million likes.  Anyhow, this accomplishment warranted a place in the 2013 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

Why was PSY honored at the United Nations? (Brigit, Belgium)
While PSY was indeed at the United Nation...it was actually just a meeting. See, the Secretary-General of the U.N., BAN KI-MOON, is a fellow South Korean.  So while PSY was in New York City, he managed to squeeze him into his busy schedule between the ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW and THE X-FACTOR.  "I'm a bit jealous," quipped Mr. Moon,  "until two days ago I was the most famous Korean in the world. Now I have to relinquish. I have no regrets.

How many weeks has 'Gangnam Sytle' been #1 on the charts? (Rani, India)
Believe it nor not...Zero!  Although PSY has topped the pop charts in the U.K., Canada, Australia, and across Europe and Asia...the poor guy has been stuck at #2 on the Billboard Singles charts for seven aggravating weeks.  Despite his online popularity, he just can't knock the most popular band in the USA off the top spot. "One More Night" by the group Maroon 5 has been #1 for eight weeks.  In response, PSY promised fans if Gangnam Style hit #1 he'd perform the song topless.  (Let's hope something got lost in the translation!)

When will a real musician top the charts again? (Helen, Australia)
Uh-oh, Helen!  Do not disrepect PSY.  Just because a song has Auto-Tune and silly lyrics in two languages doesn't mean it is not serious music.  As a youth, PSY attended Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music where he studied contemporary musical synthesis.  There, he met his wife who is a professional celloist.  PSY has a ten year musical career and had topped the charts in Korea six times prior to becoming "The Undisputed King of Pop." (Heidi Klum's quote...not ours!)


Wednesday, November 7, 2012



Wow!  There sure has been a lot of news coverage of Super-Storm Sandy.  We love watching Anderson Cooper desperately clutching his microphone in a horrendous deluge of wind and rain.  "What? I can't hear you? The rain is too loud."  Go inside, Anderson!  At any rate, we here at the DUNER BLOG noticed that, despite the 24/7 coverage of the storm, many important stories are missing.  For example, we saw tons of coverage of Manhattan's flooded subways, Staten Island's power outages and the Ivy League schools cancelling classes.  But we haven't heard anyone answering the real question on every one's mind during this crisis: What happened to all of the places in Seaside Heights featured on MTV's hit TV show The Jersey Shore?

Well, for starters, don't panic.  The actual home where the cast lived, screwed and cursed together...is still intact!  Owner DANNY MERK confirmed the house was okay but "the basement is flooded." (It has a basement?)  Unfortunately, the rest of the resort town didn't fare as well.  In fact, a whopping 90% of all structures in Seaside Heights were damaged or destroyed by Super-Storm Sandy.  Today, the town is abandoned and residents are not allowed to return home.  The National Guard and Ocean County Sheriff's Office patrol the flooded streets and washed-out roads...without a hottie in sight.

In their jeeps, the rangers drive past Seaside Heights' many fallen favorites.  The iconic roller coaster remains submerged under ten feet of water as shifting sand dunes erased the previous shoreline.  Likewise, the Seaside Heights Boardwalk and Casino Pier have been reduced to an enormous pile of rotting wooden planks.  Where will the Jersey Shore Cast would hang out and insult each other now?  And here's the worst news: All of the nightclubs have been hit.  Club Karma lost a roof and the Beachcomber Bar...which featured Snooki's famous punch...is flooded.  Also sad: The Aztec Bar, where J-Woww and Ronnie first met, is closed until further notice.  All we have left of these wonderful places are hazy memories and reruns.

In reality, most residents of Seaside Heights, New Jersey, hope these memories from the profanity-laced MTV show get washed away with the jetsam of the SuperStorm.   Don't believe us? Well, the Seaside Heights city website clearly states: "Our town is not a haven for intellectually challenged, morally bankrupt youths" like those celebrated on the cable TV show.  However, it's not that easy to get rid of a money-maker.  While the original show has been officially cancelled, spin-offs are in the works.  A number of bars in town turned down MTV execs and rejected contracts to film in their establishments, so stay tuned.

However, we here at the DUNER BLOG would like to remind you that the booze-swilling and booty-slapping kids aren't all bad.  In fact, the crew has planned a reunion special on MTV to raise funds to rebuild their beloved coastline.  Together with Architecture for Humanity, Restore The Shore will air live November 15th at 8:00 PST.  You can buy some totally awesome hoodies will all profits going to the Red Cross.  Or you can phone in a pledge.  The Situation has promised to shot-gun one can of beer for every $100 dollars raised.  Tune in, donate cash and party on! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012



Over the weekend, many Americans were glued to their televisions, watching the World Series.  A California team, the San Francisco Giants, clobbered the hapless Detroit Tigers...four games to none.  This resulted in many fans making astronomical claims about their squad, claiming they were the 'most winning-est team of all time.'  As expected, we here at the DUNER BLOG conducted research.  We found that there is no actual English word for 'Winning-est" but there is a mathematical formula for determining the true answer to the hypothetical question.

Sports Beat Writer ROB BOUDREAU attempted to answer this difficult question using simple math.  His formula divides the number of championships by the number of seasons played to determine a "Winning-est" percentage.  Using this formula, here are our findings by sport.

According to Boudreau's Equation, the San Francisco Giants are the fifth winning-est baseball team ever.  In first place...surprise!...is the New York Yankees.  With 27 World Series Championships over 112 seasons, their mark of 24% easily surpasses the St. Louis Cardinals.  Using this formula, the Miami Marlins are in third place.  While they've only won twice, they've only been around for sixteen seasons.  Also: The Yomiuri Giants of Tokyo have a 27% score in the Nippon League.

FOOTBALL (American)
Don't worry soccer fans...we cover your sport later.  American Football proposes a tough question for the equation.  Do we use all football leagues or just the NFL?  If we use all leagues...dating back to 1919...the Green Bay Packers have the highest percentage at 16%.  If we use only Super Bowls, the San Francisco 49ers are the best team, with a perfect 5-for-5, 100% score.

People really love the Stanley Cup!
This sport has a clear-cut, all-time winning-est champion: The Boston Celtics.  With 21 titles in 62 years, they have a 33% score.  This bests the Los Angeles Lakers.  Although the Lakers have played many more championship games, they have also lost many more championship games.  Losses don't count for anything in Boudreau's Equation.

Like Basketball, Hockey also has an easy answer to the 'winning-est' question: The Montreal Canadiens.  In this sport, you play for the coveted 'Lord Stanley's Cup'...the coolest trophy in all sport.  Although it is currently living in Southern California, the 16 kilogram, solid-silver trophy has gone to Quebec a whopping 24 times...good for a 33% score.

Although Mr. Boudreau's only used his theory for American sports, we found they work for European soccer teams as well.  After many calculations, we are proud to announce Real Madrid is our choice for winningest soccer team ever.  They've hoisted the Copa del Rey 38% of the time.  Although Manchester United has won 19 times, they've been playing since 1888 and this brought their score down.  Hitler's ban on soccer teams hurt Bayern Munich's numbers and we simply can't make enough sense of the Argentine Leagues to give Boca Juniors a score.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012



Here's an important news item you might have missed.  Tempers flared in the South China Sea last week when the USS George Washington sailed into the hotly disputed waters.  You're likely asking yourself: Why is the US Navy sending a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to the Far East?  According to a Pentagon spokesman, the Navy is merely conducting "joint military actions with a regional ally" and there is no cause for alarm.  It just feels alarming when the USA calls Communist Vietnam an ally.  But... hey...that's just another example of how strange world politics have become in the South China Sea. 

Unfamiliar with the South China Sea?  You shouldn't be!  Economically, it is the most important body of water in the world.  Over one third of the earth's total commerce floats on its busy shipping lines.  (Sorry...Persian Gulf...you need to diversify!)   Let's check out the stats: Every day, ten million barrels of crude oil enter the South China Sea through the Straits of Malacca.  Every day, eleven million i-Pods are shipped down the Pearl River.  So it comes as no surprise, that every nation that borders on the South China Sea has a major economic interest in controlling the important body of water.

The odd part about the enormous, 1.5 million-square-mile Sea, is its lack of islands.   Aside from Taiwan and Hainan there are only a few, tiny island chains.  How tiny?  The largest of the Sparatly Islands (an island chain in the sea) is less than a mile long, with a highest point of ten feet.  This means at high tide, half of the isle's land mass disappears!  None of  which matters to any of the six nations claiming them as sovereign territory. The Sparatly Islands are so important (geo-politically) that sixty-four Vietnamese soldiers died defending it from Chinese troops in 1988.  NOTE: China still controls them today.

Another reason why the South China Sea is so important is the potential, untapped oil and gas reserves lying under the surface waters.  In this part of the world, environmental groups aren't listened to...so massive plans are already underway to cover the sea with massive oil rigs...as soon as tomorrow.  Everyone knows that China is thirsty for gasoline, so it comes as no surprise that the PRC has the most audacious claims of the six-nation dispute.  They are demanding some 80% of the sea.  This claim is in obvious violation of International Maritime laws...which apparently don't translate well into Cantonese!

Back to the USS Washington.  Although married economically, China and the USA still jostle and joust over global superiority and sometimes this involves bizarre behavior with meaningless desert isles, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and sharply worded statements.  At least there is one bright light in the heated dispute.  While tensions continue to mount...there is one thing all six nations in the dispute can agree upon: JAPAN has absolutely, positively, without doubt, no say in anything in the South China Sea...so don't even ask! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Eddie Murphy as Doctor Doolittle

Didja ever read the children's book Doctor Doolittle?  Remember, the magic man who could speak to animals?  It's also been made into movies as well.  Anyhow, not only could Dr. Doolittle speak with animals...he also lived with them.  Lions lounged in his living room.  Parrots perched in the parlor.  Snakes slithered on the sofa.  Kids loved the concept of a zoo and house rolled into one...what fun!

Well...guess what?  Every one's favorite children's book came to life in Central Nigeria last week.  The rainy season is from April to October, and it smashed records this year, surpassing the previous high set in 1948.  This resulted in the Benue River spilling its banks and flooding dozens of cities and hundreds of towns built near the important waterway.  While it's true...floods occur everywhere...however, in Central Africa they are particularly dangerous.  Because along with the dirty water comes hippos and gators!

The mighty Benue River has burst its banks.
"There is now a hippopotamus in my house!" cried Makurdi resident Wuese Jirake. "My house is still inundated with the flood waters above my waist."  It isn't just hippos.  State media reports that "crocodiles, snakes as well as other dangerous animals" have been reported.  They simply swim into peoples' homes, stores, offices...even libraries.  (Who knew hippos could read?).  It looks like the dangerous animals are gonna stay awhile too...unfortunately, local weathermen have more rain in the forecast.

All toll, some 140,000 people have been displaced in Nigeria.  The death toll currently stands at 148...but it will undoubtedly rise.  See, along with the dangerous animals, torrential waters carry deadly diseases as well...all of which  are difficult to clean up afterwards.  The dire situation is putting pressure on the government in the capital, Lagos.  President GOODLUCK JONATHAN (his real name) and his CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) coalition government want to help... but they have been cautious allocating funds to agencies wrought with corruption and graft.

While it's fun to remember the crazy world of Doctor Doolittle, the real issue here is the unique ecological problems Africa faces.  Simply put, the other five continents have it easy.  The are located within favorable latitudes.   This means they are blessed with large swaths of profitable forests and fertile grasslands.  They have long, navigable rivers and coastlines suitable for harbors.  They don't have to deal with things like the Sahara: The world's largest desert which continues to grow at an alarming rate.  Nor do the other continents have to deal with crazy hippos who swim into your kitchen.

Here's the DUNER BLOG'S solution: Have Nollywood TV producers in Lagos make a reality TV show about the disaster.  We'll call it SNAKES ON A SOFA, and then everyone could see firsthand the differences between Africa and the rest of the world.  Are you listening RYAN SEACREST?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012



If you've been to any shopping mall, high school parking lot or Jamba Juice lately, you've probably seen someone wearing a T-shirt or hoodie with the words 'HOLLISTER' on it.  And, if you're from Northern California, you might be wondering if the teenagers wearing these latest, coolest threads are from the city of HOLLISTER, which lies about thirty miles inland from beautiful Monterey and scenic Carmel.  To answer this question, our staff spent hours conducting copious amounts of research. Finally, we here at the DUNER BLOG have an answer:  NO!  The two HOLLISTERS are not related.

Let's start with Hollister the city.  The quaint town of 35,000 residents live in a pleasant valley surrounded by rolling hills.  Prior to the launch of the clothing line, the tiny town's only claim to fame was earthquakes.  See, it was built directly on top on the San Andreas Fault line, so Hollister has had more quake epicenters than any other city on earth.  It's named after WILLIAM WELLES HOLLISTER, a famed rancher.  In 1852, this entrepreneur drove 10,000 sheep from Ohio to California.  Although less than a thousand sheep actually made it to Monterey County, Hollister made a fortune as the state's only producer of wool...that is, until the railroads arrived twenty years later...bringing a more efficient way to transport livestock.

Rush Hour in Hollister, California.
Next up: Hollister the clothing line.  Oops, it's not a clothing line...it's a lifestyle brand. It was created by retailer giant ABERCROMBIE & FITCH to compete with such other pseudo-labels like AÉROPOSTAL (not really from France).   To help promote a cool, new image for a clothing line, Manhattan marketing gurus invented a character named John M. Hollister.  Here's his fictional life: Born in Laguna Beach in 1922, he traveled the South Pacific as a youth before returning and "discovering California and himself." To celebrate this epiphany, John M. Hollister began designing surfer-inspired clothing in his small, seaside shack.  Over the years, it has quietly mushroomed into the global brand it is today.  Like...Whoa...Dude!

Although this fantasy marketing scenario seems silly, it is actually incredibly lucrative.  Since the initial launch of the first HOLLISTER CO store in Ohio in 2000, it has multiplied to 578 stores today.  (Not bad for just twelve short years.)  The company boasted $1.5 billion in revenue last year...which was a much better profit than parent company ABERCROMBIE & FITCH.  However, everyone knows that teens are fickle.  In a few short years, HOLLISTER CO will no longer be "cool" and giant retailers will launch a newer...better...lifestyle brand that every teen will like totally need!

All of which brings us back to the original question: How do people in the city of Hollister feel about the clothing line?  Apparently, there is a grass-roots movement brewing to sue the clothing giant.  We tried calling a few residents but instantly ran into problems.  See, today, two-thirds of the population of Hollister, California is Latino.  We had trouble asking complex questions about their feelings en Español.  Which is ironic, because the only reason the city is named after HOLLISTER in the first place was because the white ranchers who settled there were tired of everything else in the area "being named after Saints in Spanish!"   

So...the next time you see someone wearing a HOLLISTER hoodie...just smile and know that they are likely a sheep rancher from Central California who speaks Spanish.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012



OMG!! It's almost here!! JAMES BOND DAY is this Friday.  That's just 48 hours away.  What? You've never heard of JAMES BOND DAY?  Well, that might be because this is the first ever JAMES BOND DAY.  See, it was exactly fifty years ago on October Fifth, 1962 that the first Bond movie, Dr. No, had its London premiere.  And it just so happens that the latest installment, SkyFall, opens in theaters on October 26th.  To celebrate this made-up holiday, we here at the DUNER BLOG want to answer some common questions about everyone's favorite international spy.

Hasn't Hollywood ran out of Ian Fleming novels by now?
Yes.  Let's check the math.  The Londoner wrote fourteen Bond novels.  Skyfall is the twenty-third film.  The last book adapted for film was Octopussy.  After they ran out of books, United Artists started using short story titles instead.  For example, Quantum of Solace appeared only in Modern Woman Magazine.  The Living Daylights was a colour pull-out in the Sunday London Times.

Are the movies anything like the books?
Kinda.  Ian Fleming was a Naval Intelligence Officer during World War II.  These experiences provided inspiration for his spy novels.  The first five movies followed the books quite accurately.  However, as times changed, United Artists sought to update plot lines to reflect current times.  For example, in the book Moonraker, James stops a rocket from being fired on London.  When the film Moonraker,  was released thirty years later, Bond actually flies in outer space!  NOTE: Ian Fleming was a diverse author...he also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Who is the Best James Bond actor?
Debate will always rage on this sensitive subject, so here goes.  Basically, there are two types of Bond flicks.  Type A Bond Movies are gritty, violent and follow the books much closer.  Here, 007 fights with his fists and drowns bad guys in public toilets.  In these films, Sean Connery and Daniel Craig flourish.  Type B Bond Movies are more light-hearted and fun.  After a villain is killed and is dangling from a telephone pole, Bond quips: "Thanks for hangin' around."  In these films, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan shine.  (Notice how we didn't answer the question?)

Which is the best Bond song?
For many, the best part of a Bond movie is the opening credits and musical score, sung by the hottest stars of the day.  In the 1960's, it was Tom Jones belting out "Thunderball."  Paul McCartney & Wings told us to "Live and Let Die" in the 1970's.  But the best?  Well, the only Bond Title Song to top the US Billboard charts is Duran Duran's "View To A Kill" in 1985.  In the end...however...the best Bond song of all time is "Nobody Does It Better" by Carly Simon.  Good luck topping that, ADELE!
What is the best Bond movie?
We saved the best question for last.  According to ROTTEN TOMATOES, the most respected film critics on the Internet, the first film, Dr. No, is the best ever, receiving an aggregate score of 98%.  The Bond movie that made the most money (adjusted for inflation, of course) is The Spy Who Loved Me which almost beat out Star Wars as the top grossing film of 1977.  However, the best Bond movie of all time must be From Russia With Love.  It has a believable plot, great locations (Istanbul and Italy) and DANIELA BIANCHI is the best bond babe ever!

Thursday, September 27, 2012



Every one's favorite insane World Leader MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD stepped up to the podium in New York City for the last time today.  Thankfully, the Islamic Republic of Iran does have term limits for their president.   This means the "Glorious Leader" is at the end of his two-term, eight-year cycle.  The US, UK and Israel were absent and the poorly attended diatribe was brief...a mere twenty minutes.  And, since today is Yom Kippur Ahmadinejad only used the word Zionist a dozen times. 

In a tribute to the 'Terror from Tehran' here are his TOP FIVE ABSURD QUOTES of all time:

#5. "Israel is a cesspool." March 2008.  Having never visited the nation, we turned to Noah Webster for help.  It's hard to believe the entire country is an "underground reservoir for liquid waste," but maybe it was a metaphor (?).  Mahmoud went on to say Israel is "nearing collapse."   Which, taken literally, means all eight million square miles of Israeli territory will soon vanish and become the world's largest exposed toilet.

#4. "The era of Capitalist thinking is over." Sept. 2008.   Four years ago, Ahmadinejad used the U.S. Housing crisis as a opportunity to remind the West of their flawed economic system.  In a rambling, 3,500-word address to the U.N. he offered a better plan.  In Tehran, they are simply waiting for the Shi'ite messiah to arrive.  When he does appear, with one wave of his holy hand, all global financial woes will instantly disappear.

#3.  "In Iran there are no homosexuals." Sept. 2007.  Today's U.N. address began with Mahmoud praising his nation's morality and compassion.  Such lofty goals are much easier to achieve in Iran than in other nations.  Why?  Because everyone who lives in the Islamic Republic is heterosexual, Shi'ite and eternally devoted to the state.

#2. "The Holocaust is a myth to support the Jews." June 2009.  Of all Ahmadinejad's incredulous statements, this one is the most inflammatory.  In response, human rights groups in Germany has extended numerous invitations to the Iranian President, requesting he come to visit Auschwitz and other concentration camps.  He has declined.  When asked to elaborate, he said he is "not anti-Semitic."

#1. "The fatwa issued by Supreme Guide forbids the wearing of ties." July 2010.  Have you ever wondered why Mahmoud always has his shirt unbuttoned?  It's not just to show off his large tuft of chest hair.  Nope, the Ayatollah doesn't like neckties.  And that means that no one else on earth should ever wear one.

From all of us bloggers, pundits and late-night talk show hosts: Thanks for the memories, Ahmadinejad! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012



It may not be an important date on your calendar, but September 11th is a very important date in Barcelona.  See, it was on this day...way back in the year 1714...when independent Catalonia was officially annexed by the Spanish crown.  Nowadays, the Diada Nacional de Catalunya has become a lightning rod for tensions between Barcelona and Madrid, with rallies being held in both cities.  However, last week's protests in Catalonia were the largest ever.  Police estimated half a million people took to the streets in mostly peaceful marches.

Just what is the anger all about?  As mentioned in an earlier blog,  four nations are causing major problems in the European Union.  The so-called P.I.G.S. (Portugal, Italy, Greece & Spain) simply cannot meet the economic requirements for participation in the single currency Euro-Zone.  Despite threats, sanctions and bailouts, the situation remains tense and the entire economic region is in peril.  Recently, the Spanish Government announced it was raising taxes nationwide to help solve the crisis. The people of Catalonia are refusing to pay.

Why won't they help out?  Well, it seems Spain faces the same problem that cripples many other nations: Industrious, wealthier areas end up subsidizing the slower, less-productive regions.  In the US, Californians receive only sixty cents back in services for every dollar of Federal taxes they pay.  However, lazy Mississippians receive $2.16 in spending from Uncle Sam for each dollar they pay.  The same cycle affects Spain.  Catalonia pays Madrid $15 billion annually, but it only gets two-thirds of it back in Federal spending.  Simply put, Catalonia wants to manage their own financial affairs and stop funding slacker farmers in far-off Galicia.

The leader of the independence movement in Barcelona is ARTUR MAS.  His coalition of political parties now holds a majority in the regional parliament.  Under the terms set down by the U.N. in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a legislative body...like the one in Barcelona...does have the right to declare independence from a larger state.  The precedent was set in Kosovo four years ago when it left Serbia and became Europe's youngest nation.  It looks like Catalonia will soon be the next.

"¡No! Not so fast!" says Spanish Prime Minister MARIANO RAJOY.  In a recent statement, he cited Article II of the Spanish Constitution.  The 'indissoluble union under the crown' can only be divided by a two-thirds vote by all states in Madrid...which is virtually impossible to achieve.  Also the Supreme Court recently overturned legal challenges to Catalan being the second national language.  Stay tuned...P.M. Rajoy and Artur Mas are meeting today to discuss matters.  First Question: If secession occurs, will F.C. Barcelona still be allowed to stay in the Spanish Soccer League?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012




Not surprisingly, the DUNER BLOG headquarters has been swamped by letters, faxes, tweets and pokes...all asking for more information about LANCE ARMSTRONG.  Let's get started....

How many times did Lance win the Tour de France?  Is this a record?
The American cyclist has won the race seven times!  Yes...this is the record.  Three men have won the Tour five times. The most recent was Spaniard Miguel Indurain in 1995.  In fact, the only cyclist in history who can even come close to Lance is Belgian Eddie Merckx (Not misspelled!).  He was won more Tour de France stages than Armstrong and has won more Grand Tour victories.  NOTE: This includes the other two events, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.

Are Lance's Tour de France medals given to second-place finishers?
Indeed they are!  Poor Lance must pack up his seven 1.4 kilogram medals and FedEx them to the cycling headquarters in Switzerland.  They will be sent to the following riders, who are no longer second fiddle but legitimate Tour de France champs:
  • 1999: Alex Zülle (Switz.)
  • 2000: Jan Ullrich (Ger.)
  • 2001: Jan Ullrich (Ger.)
  • 2002: Joseba Beloki (Spain)
  • 2003: Jan Ullrich (Ger.)
  • 2004: Andreas Klöden (Ger.)
  • 2005: Ivan Basso (Italy)
Perhaps the happiest people are those who finished in fourth place.  Just like in the Olympics, they now get bronze medals!  NOTE: Jan Ullrich is still under investigation himself, so fifth place finishers might get lucky too!

Who decided to take them away? 
This is the disturbing aspect of the scandal.  Surprise! It's not a bunch of jealous Europeans who dug up seven-year-old test results to tarnish a legend.  The largest cycling organization is the U.C.I. (Union Cycliste Internationale).  Founded in the year 1900, and based in hoity-toity Aigle, Switzerland, they oversee not just the Grand Tour events but other wheeled competitions in Mountain Biking, BMX and Para-biking as well.  They looked at the same tests and dismissed the case.  Believe it or not, it's actually the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) who has waged this disgusting "witch hunt" against our hero.  For shame!

Do we have to give back our yellow Lance Armstrong Livestrong bracelets?
What makes Lance Armstrong such an superhero isn't his wins on the track.  Nope, we love Lance for his courage off the track.  See, in 1996 he was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer.  The cruel disease had spread to his lungs and brain.  Doctors only gave him a 40% chance of surviving.  However, always the competitor, he beat cancer...just like he beat everyone on the Tour.  After retiring, he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation.  Through the sale of yellow bracelets for $1 each, he raised over $500 million for cancer research.  Wear them with pride today!

Is Lance Armstrong still a hero?
You bet your butt he is!  Monsieur Armstrong has managed to match his amazing accomplishments on the bike in real life as well  We told you that he survived chemotherapy and raised half a billion dollars for cancer research.  But did you know he was engaged to marry pop star Sheryl Crow?  And didja know he has 4,000,000 Tweeter followers?  However, the most important evidence than Lance is still a hero is the simple fact that despite the scandal, not even one advertising agency has dropped him as a endorsement pitchman.  If corporate America still loves you, than you are still THE MAN! NOTE: Duner's blog is on vacation the next two weeks.  ¡Adios! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The Old and New Bay Bridges.

History was made 500 feet above the cold waters of the San Francisco Bay last week.  Workers constructing the new Bay Bridge lifted a whopping 77-million pound block of steel...a new world record.  Speaking of records, when the new span opens on Labor Day next year, it will be the "largest, self-anchored, single-tower suspension bridge" ever!  The new bridge will replace the old one damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. (We do things slowly in California).  Anyhow, this bridging accomplishment set off a torrent of debate at the DUNER BLOG headquarters.  We wanted to know: What really is the longest bridge in the world?  Here's our findings...

Longest Bridge (Any type): Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, China.
Unlike the Californians, the Chinese build things quickly.  It took them only three years to build the bullet train from Peking to Shanghai.  The once arduous 800-mile journey can now be done in under four hours.  Along the way, you'll pass over not only the world's longest bridge (164,000 meters) but the second, third and fifth longest bridges in the world as well.

Longest Bridge (Over Water): Pontchartrain Causeway, Louisiana.
Sure...anyone can build a bridge over land.  That's easy!  What takes real American ingenuity is to build a 23-mile bridge over water.  When opened in 1956, it was hailed as engineering marvel.  Exactly 9,500 concrete pilings were submerged in the Mississippi Delta to support the bridge and protect it from gator attacks. 

Longest Bridge (Suspension): Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, Japan.
The problem with the Danyang Bridge and the Pontchartrain Causeway is that they are horribly boring!  (You'll notice: No photos. Yawn!).  Nope, true bridge enthusiasts need more than a flat line two yards high.  People love suspension bridges, with their powerful towers and the graceful, gentle arching of the cables.  The longest suspension bridge in the world is currently in Japan. NOTE: Past champions: The Golden Gate is #10 and the Brooklyn Bridge has dropped to #79.

Everyone loves the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Longest Bridge (Arch): Chaotianmen Bridge, China.
Once again, a famous landmark has been bested by a random structure in Asia.  This time, it's the Sydney Harbour Bridge's turn to drop in the rankings.  Having held the top spot for four decades, the iconic span is now the fifth longest, but first in terms of awesomeness.  It supports train, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic.  It has hosted the Olympic Games, the world's first New Year's firework display and even a Formula One race.

Longest Bridge (Cantilever): Pont de Québec, Canada.
While not as loved as suspension bridges, Cantilever bridges are equally impressive engineering feats.  With only one anchorage, they are stronger than standard spans and have proven this durability over time.  Such is the case for the Pont de Québec, which opened to great fanfare in 1917.  It remains the last span over the mighty Saint Lawrence river before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.   NOTE: Tappan Zee in New York is #10.

Proposed Longest Bridges:
John Lennon was right: Humans are dreamers. Here are four ambitious bridge projects that might someday be built in your lifetime:

Gibraltar Crossing. It's only 24 miles!  We can connect Europe and Africa!  It existed in Arthur C. Clarke science fiction novel...why not in real life?  The most serious proposal came from architect T.Y. Lin which features 3,000 foot towers strong enough to withstand some of the world's swiftest ocean currents.

Bridge of the Horns. A mere 18 miles separates the tip of the Arabian Peninsula to the African mainland.  A proposal headed by Saudi billionaire TAREK BIN LADEN (Osama's half-brother) is raising $20 billion to build it.  It would provide direct access for 300 million African pilgrims to Mecca.

You could DRIVE to Russia, Sarah Palin!
Bering Strait Crossing. Recently, interest in connecting the hemispheres has been waning.  It reached its zenith in 1907 when the Russian Czar began constructing trains to reach Alaska.  The Revolution ended his plan.   The freeway crazy 1950's saw American interest grow, but no serious proposals have been put forward. 

Sunda Strait Bridge. Of all these wacky proposals, the Indonesian one seems the most plausible.  It proposes a series of spans to connect the islands of Sumatra and Java.  Combined with a bridge over the Malacca Strait, this would mean one could drive a car from London to Bali.