Weekly insights into our crazy world.

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!