Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Portia addresses a rally in Jamaica.

We've discovered another important event that you might have missed in this most glorious of years, 2012.  For the first time ever, Jamaica has a female prime minister!  PORTIA SIMPSON-MILLER joins a small, but growing, elite club of women who have become global leaders...and role models as well.  To celebrate, we here at the DUNER BLOG would like to countdown the TOP SEVEN MOST IMPRESSIVE WOMEN LEADERS.  Note: This list only includes current elected* leaders.  (Sorry, Margaret Thatcher!)

#7. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.  Even though Iceland's GNP is tiny (it ranks #114), its current prime minister makes our list because not only is Johanna a woman but she's also openly gay!  In her four years in office, she's championed equal rights and even managed to officially legalize gay marriage.  In fact, she and her partner participated in one of the first ever legal ceremonies on the island nation...when they got hitched!

#6. Yingluck Shinawatra.  At 44 years old, Yingluck is the youngest person on our list.  At first, her rapid rise to the top of politics was largely attributed to her older brother, THAKSIN.  A former PM, he is serving an unpopular exile after being thrown out by a military coup.  Last year, she officially stepped out from his shadow and gained the respect of her people with her strong and capable response to the worst floods in Thailand in 50 years.  

#5. Sheikh Hasina.  Although Bangladesh doesn't have a large economy, it does have a huge population.  The South Asian nation is now the world's ninth largest, with more people than Japan or Mexico.  With so many other Islamic nations in a constant state of war, Ms. Hasina has helped peaceful Bangladesh become one of the few places where the faith and a secular government can actually coexist.

Cristina: The glamorous president.
#4. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.  The wife of former Prime Minister Nestor Kirchner succeeded him as party chair and prime minister.  Like Shinawatra, she was initially branded a poor substitute by the media and opposition parties, but proved to be a strong leader...she even got re-elected!  We here at the DUNER BLOG love her taste in fashion...Cristina is by far the most stylish lady on our list.

#3. Julia Gilliard.  Julia is so bad ass that she doesn't just rule over a large nation...she rules over an entire continent: Australia!  In a land known for such tough guys as Paul "Crocodile Dundee" Hogan and Steve "Shark Wrestler" Irwin, its amazing Aussies would have a tall, skinny redhead as Prime Minister.  But don't be fooled by her feminine demeanor...she's a huge fan of Australian Rules Football.

#2. Dilma Rouseff.  The Senhora Presidente of Brazil is not only the first woman to hold this title, but...more importantly...the first economist as well.  The enormous, resource-rich nation is struggling to find a balance between industry and the environment.  So far, Dilma has proved to be the right woman to guide the world's seventh-largest economy and fifth-largest population to new heights.

Don't mess with Merkel.
#1. Angela Merkel.  It's not just the DUNER BLOG that thinks the German Chancellor is impressive: Forbes Magazine ranked her as the fourth most powerful person in the world...regardless of gender.  As the head of Europe's largest economy, the Hamburg native as emerged as a calm, stable, reassuring leader who has accomplished the unthinkable: She's managed to get neighboring nations to trust Germany again.
*There are no female dictators. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012



The year 2012 is now a couple weeks old.  As always, with a NEW YEAR comes lots of new things for us to figure out.  There are new laws, (You cannot buy liquor in the 'self check' aisle in the supermarket),  new rates (Thanks for the 3.5% increase, UPS!) and new TV shows (Napoleon Dynamite...the Cartoon?).  Anyhow, since it's the job of the DUNER BLOG to 'keep you informed on news items you might have missed,' we felt it was our duty to tell you about LEGO FRIENDS.  It's a new line of Lego Toys that debuted January First with the stated goal of getting girls to build with Legos.  Not surprisingly, it has unleashed a wave of debate about gender roles and children.

Not familiar with LEGO FRIENDS?  Well, let's take a quick tour of 'Heartlake City,' the newest Lego Community.  Construction is booming...there's a café, a bakery, veterinarian's office, a beauty shop and a puppy house.  Now let's meet the friends.  Mia and Andrea are white, Emma is Asian, Olivia's a Latina and Stephanie is black.  (Sorry, no Arabs or Hindus in Heartlake City yet!)  Anyhow, the girls all dress quite smartly in shades of pink, lavender, light purples and baby blue.  In fact, just about everything in town from the Vet's roof to Olivia's tree-house to Stephanie's Cool Convertible is some frilly pastel shade. In short, LEGO FRIENDS is one big, fat gender stereotype packed in a box.

All of which goes completely against the original concept for Lego.  When first introduced in Denmark back in 1949, the toys were decidedly gender neutral.  Although preferred by boys, girls also enjoyed constructing massive creations as well...as evidenced by a now-famous magazine ad from 1981. (See photo).  All that changed eight years ago.  Unable to compete with newer, technologically driven toys and games, in 2004 the company was on the verge of bankruptcy.  To save Lego, corporate executives decided upon a risky strategy:  They would focus completely on theme-based sets for boys.  The result was stunning.  Lads worldwide began swapping up expensive sets and started building Harry Potter castles, Indiana Jones airplanes and Pirates of the Caribbean ships.  It worked: Lego earned more than $1 billion in profits last year.

As of the moment, representatives from the company are being coy about the situation.  In response to the numerous online petitions demanding "Princess-Free Zones," a spokesperson acknowledged they "expected backlash."  Before releasing LEGO FRIENDS to the general public, the corporation hired an army of anthropologists to conduct copious amounts of research.  They wanted to find out how boys and girls play differently.  Four years and millions of dollars later, they concluded that boys prefer fantasy themes...science fiction, ninjas warriors and mad sorcerers...things that don't exist on earth.  Girls, on the other hand, associate more with reality based concepts...they prefer role-playing with actual characters, doing meaningful activities.  Hence, LEGO FRIENDS lets girls build a city that operates on a more functional level.  It's a world completely without spaceships, nun-chucks or wizards.

So...before you sign a petition calling for the destruction of the Lego Factory in Copenhagen...take a deep breath and remember: Lego is constantly changing and developing their toys to make them better.  JOHN BAICHTAL, author of the book "The Cult of Lego" reminds us that "there is still time for Lego to improve" this new, controversial product.  "We're trying to get more girls into sciences and technological pursuits," he said. "Having a really cool toy that encourages that would be a societal good." Let's face it: Even though everything in Heartlake City is a shade of aquamarine, it's still much more practical than the current top selling toy for girls...the Pretty Party Outfit from the American Girl Doll Collection. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012



Let's just start off with an apology.  We here at the DUNER BLOG had a long debate as to whether or not BEYONCÉ'S baby name qualified as "News" or not.  We decided it doesn't count as news...but it was just too darn funny to pass up!  Anyhow, for folks in places like BURKINA FASO or NEW CALEDONIA (homes of actual DUNER BLOG readers) who have not heard...here's a quick summary: Recently, celebrities have had a peculiar habit of naming their children after the first thing that pops into their minds.  They then proceed to have said name put on the child's Birth Certificate, Baptism Records, High School Transcripts, Driver's License, College Applications...and so on...for the rest of their lives!  

Without any further ado, here are the TOP TWENTY RIDICULOUS CELEBRITY BABY NAMES along with the best possible explanations we could find!

#1.  BLUE IVY.  We still don't know what actually inspired this horrible name.  Online fans speculate that Blue is Jay-Z's favorite color...in Empire State of Mind he raps: "I bleed Yankee blue."  Beyoncé's favorite number is 4.  And I-V is Roman Numerals for the number 4. 

#2.  PEACHES HONEYBLOSSOM & FIFI TRIXIEBELL.  Just when we thought Sir Bob Geldof and wife Paula Yates had gone crazy with the first name...they named their second daughter something even more puzzling.

#3.  KAL-EL.  It's pretty clear that Nicolas Cage has some odd obsession with misplaced royalty.  First, he thought marrying Elvis' daughter would make him a prince, now he thinks naming his son after Superman's father would make him a superhero.

 #4.  JERMAJESTY.  We thought Michael Jackson was pretty odd, but his older brother Jermaine is on this list and MJ isn't. 

#5  BANJO.  TV star Rachael Griffiths loves music and wanted her son's name to reflect this devotion.  It could have been worse...What if Rachael's favorite instrument was the tuba or the oboe?

#6.  PIRATE.  The lead singer for the rock band KORN has a normal name: Jonathan Davis.  But his son is destined to a life filled with jokes with an "Aarrgh" punchline.

Bronx Mowgli: A normal kid with a strange name.
#7.  BRONX MOWGLI.  Singer Pete Wentz loves New York and Disney.  Unfortunately, his son is named after the worst borough (Sorry, it's the poorest) and an annoying character in the Jungle Book (Disney's lamest animated movie)

#8.  BUDDY BEAR, PETAL BLOSSOM, DAISY BOO, POPPY HONEY. We here at the DUNER BLOG have a lot of respect for celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.  We salute his selfless work to improve food in public school cafeterias.  That said...he is an complete idiot for naming his daughter Daisy Boo.

#9.  MOROCCAN. Apparently, this child was conceived in the Moroccan-themed room in Mariah Carey's Manhattan penthouse.  Got it?

#10.  SPECK WILDHORSE.  Okay...it kinda follows that John Cougar Mellencamp would want his son to also have the name of a fast animal.  But Speck?  It's the German word for bacon...maybe that's why?

#11  CAMERA.  This name makes complete sense.  See, tennis great Arthur Ashe's wife was a photographer.  Sure...that makes sense.

#12.  ZUMA NESTA ROCK.  Two weird names weren't enough for rock star Gwen Stefani!  Zuma is the Malibu beach were a young Gwen had an epiphany that she grow up to be a legend.  Nesta is Bob Marley's middle name.  Rock is for Rock 'n' Roll!

#13.  PRINCESS TIÁAMII.  British pop sensation Katie Price explained the odd spelling of her daughter's middle name: "We put an accent over the first A to make it more exotic and two Is at the end just to make it look a bit different."  Mission accomplished, Katie!

#14.  APPLE.   Seven years ago, Gwyneth Paltrow got a lot of flap when she named her kid after a common fruit.  Nowadays, it doesn't seem so weird.

Diesel is the one with the mohawk.
#15.  DEMIN & DIESEL.  R&B Singer Toni Braxton believes children "need strong names to be confident."  She's right...that's one tough fabric and one toxic chemical compound.

#16.  PILOT INSPEKTOR.  Actor Jason Lee said the idea for this name came from a lyric in a song by his favorite indie rock band 'Granddaddy.' 

#17.  KYD.  X-Files star David Duchovny's son is now eleven and plays on the Rangers Little League team.  Just like Billy the Kid!

#18.  REBEL, RACER, ROGUE, ROCKET.  Director Robert Rodriguez clearly loves the letter 'R.' That's (W)Rong!

#19. TU  MORROW.  Actor Rob Morrow loves the song from the musical 'Annie.'

#20.  FREE.  Barbara Hershey's son makes the list at spot #20.  No, not because of the name.  When Free turned 18 years old, the first thing he did was change his name to Tim.

Monday, January 2, 2012



HAPPY NEW YEAR from your friends at the DUNER BLOG.  We look forward to sharing fifty-two new, insightful blogs on "Important News Stories You Might Have Missed!" with YOU...our wonderful readers.

To be honest, there is a lot of staff confusion today at the DUNER BLOG World Headquarters.  See, it's Monday, January Second.  This is important because the first day of the year fell on a Sunday.  Hence, many of our staff thought today was a holiday...and didn't come in to work!  And for many people, it is a holiday.  In California, federal employees have the day off but state university employees do not.  The confusion continues.  See, the Rose Bowl and Parade are being held today and not on January First this year.  Why?  Because the city of Pasadena has a strict "Never on a Sunday" policy.   The last time this calendar anomaly occurred was 2006.  Got it?

No! We don't get it! That's why no one showed up for work!  That's why we're not on Colorado Avenue enjoying the sights and sounds of the Rose Parade!  Let's face it: the GREGORIAN CALENDAR sucks!  A lot has changed since 1582 and our antiquated calendars can't keep up with it.  Although the world missed its perfect moment to change our errant system back on January 1, 2000...let's not give up hope!  Global calendar reform needs to happen.  Everyone knows that our current calendar system results in a lot of unnecessary confusion, just like today.  This, in turn, results in huge financial losses worldwide.

Richard Henry holds the new calendar.
Don't believe us?  Then ask Johns Hopkins economics professor RICHARD HENRY.  In a recent study, he concluded the world loses: "roughly $130 billion annually."  And this amount is only due "to interest-calculation errors resulting from incorrectly counting the number of days in a given month."  The figure doesn't include the other errors committed by schools, businesses, sports franchises, farmers markets, and so on.  To solve this problem, RICHARD, along with astrophysicist STEVE HANKE, have proposed a NEW CALENDAR.  They hope they can finally solve the problem of how to divide 365.2422 days into something practical and easy to understand.  C'mon...if the world can agree on something as asinine as DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME...surely we can all can agree on a new calendar.

Of course, the Hanke / Henry permanent calendar does come with some negative consequences.  With the introduction of more uniform months, comes the elimination of some days (Jan. 31, May 31, Aug 31) and the creation of others (Feb. 30, June 31, Sept. 31).  Also, October 31st will be removed and Halloween will be permanently moved to Monday, October 30th.  Under the HANKE / HENRY calendar, some people will be styled to have their birthday parties on a Saturday every year while others will be bummed to have a permanent Monday birthday celebration.  But RICHARD and STEVE hope you will understand: These little bumps are for the greater good of having a normal calendar where Christmas Day is always on a Sunday.

Okay...so maybe the HANKE / HENRY Calendar is a little rough on the edges, but at least it's putting the issue of Calendar Reform in the minds of world citizens.  Everyone would benefit from a more simple system.  The number of human errors would be greatly reduced, thus saving everyone large sums money.  And while many will be angered...the integrity of the months would be forever damaged...ask yourself this question: Do you even know what your birth month is named after?  HINT: If you said anything other than a Latin word or a Roman deity, you're wrong!

Here's the list:

JANUARY: Named after Janus, two-headed god of doors and windows
FEBRUARY: Februalia was a Roman festival that involves purification
MARCH: Named after Mars, the God of War
APRIL: From the verb Aperire meaning "to open" as in a flower bud
MAY: Named after Maia, the goddess of growth and plants
JUNE: Named after Juno, the wife of Jupiter.
JULY*: Named after Julius Caesar in the year 44 BC
AUGUST*: Named after Caesar Augustus in the year 8 BC
SEPTEMBER: Latin, from Septem (the number Seven)
OCTOBER: Latin, from Octo (the number Eight)
NOVEMBER: Latin, from Novem (the number Nine)
DECEMBER: Latin, from Decem (the number Ten)

*NOTE: The reason why there last four are numbers out of order is due to the fact that the Roman Empire never 're-calculated' when they added these two months for their favorite emperors.