Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013



Didja watch last night's ACADEMY AWARDS ceremony?  We always do here at the DUNER BLOG.  Didja see how they awarded the top prize for BEST PICTURE?  It was announced via satellite link from the White House.  First Lady Michelle Obama ripped open that goofy, over sized, golden envelope.  She smiled and announced: "And the winner for BEST PICTURE is ARGO!"  Back in California, the audience erupted into applause as Director and Producer BEN AFFLECK hoisted the golden statue high in the air.  Even GEORGE CLOONEY was involved!

However, in Tehran, no one was celebrating.  The movie about the Embassy Occupation is not popular there.  Iranian state media called the film an "unflattering portrayal of the Islamic Revolution."  The culture minister, Mohammad Hosseini, dismissed the picture as "an advertisement for the C.I.A." Likewise, Tehran City Council Member Masoomeh Ebtekar...who was a young college student back in 1979 and took part in the Embassy occupation...claims Hollywood terribly exaggerated the violence that happened that day.  The final-climax-airport-chase-scene never occurred in real life either.   

Let's face it: All over the Islamic Republic of Iran today, people are talking about the movie ARGO.  You're asking yourself: Do average Iranians really watch Ben Affleck flicks? Here the story: State ministries control which films local theatres are allowed to screen.  They carefully insure what the general public officially sees.  Not surprisingly, ARGO...like all other Western films...was formally banned.  However, most Iranians have seen the film, thanks to the thriving Bootleg DVD market.  The current going price for pirated movies is 30,000 Rials or US $1.   According to MSN.com, ARGO is the current bestseller on the streets of Tehran.

Reaction from the average folk who illegally bought the movie and watched it is impossible to gauge.  But we did find a quote from Shieda, a Tehran University student who wouldn't give her last name.  She found it fascinating to see "what the outside world thinks" about the 444-day hostage crisis.  See, Iranian History books state that only students took place in the operation...not the militias shown in the movie.  Since over half of Iran's population was born after the 1979 Revolution, it must be confusing.  Who to should they believe?  Both Hollywood and the Ayatollahs have major credibility issues!

Believe it or not, we here at the DUNER BLOG side with Islamic clerics. Specifically, we question the Academy's motivation.  Sometimes, Hollywood gets too big for its britches.  People like George Clooney often use our cherished art form as a vehicle for their personal political messages.  Which is fine...if your film is a documentary. This way, you can back up all claims with factual evidence.  However, when Hollywood releases movies that are "inspired by true events" they go down a slippery slope.  Their message becomes clouded by embellishment, re-fabrication and...worse of all..."scenes enhanced for dramatic purposes."  Enough, already!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013



A major victory was won last week in the war against the deforestation of our planet.  Paper giant Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) announced it was halting all logging within the national borders of Indonesia.  The sudden statement was greeted with cheers at GreenPeace World Headquarters in Amsterdam.  They earned it...it was a festive culmination after years of hard work.  This included intense lobbying, peaceful protest and...of course...blogging!  But they weren't the only ones celebrating.  Deep in the Sumatran jungle, the tigers, bears and orangutans all began singing together...just like in the animated Disney movie The Jungle Book!

Oops!  Sorry.  We do get a bit carried away here at the DUNER BLOG.  Jokes aside, this is a major victory for our world's rain forests.  Let's look at the stats:  Asia Pulp and Paper is the third largest producer of paper products in the world and is worth billions of US dollars (and quintillions of Indonesian Rupiah!).  Their products are everywhere.  In fact, there's a high chance you've used an APP item today.  For example, AAP made the Danon Yogurt packaging at breakfast.  They also make the boxes that hold the Kentucky Fried Chicken Strips you ate for lunch.  In addition, they make they color Xerox paper you used at work this afternoon.  And don't try to hide from guilt by saying you don't live on the Asian Continent.  APP's paper products are sold on all six continents!

To win the battle against the corporate giant APP, GreenPeace focused on their customers as the centerpiece of their grass-roots campaign.  Specifically, they focused on the cardboard used in boxes for ever-popular Barbie dolls.  See, APP sells tons of paper pulp to the Mattel Corporation.  Rather than face onslaught of negative press generated by Green Peace, the toy corporation announced last year they would be terminating their contract with APP.  Likewise, a GreenPeace program aimed at Disney books netted similar results. Sensing more and more corporations would follow suit, Asia Pulp and Paper changed course and stopped its evil ways.  Today they are an Environmental Super Hero!        

Let's address the cynics who ask: "What corporation would ever willingly bow to a bunch of yahoo environmentalists?  What's the catch?"  We at the DUNER BLOG agree.  We conducted research into APP's past.  It's not pretty.  In Indonesia alone, they've cleared five million acres of old growth rain forest.  The company also buys illegal timber from Cambodia and China's semi-autonomous Yunan Province.  All toll, they produce 7 million tons of paper annually with massive profit margins.  But those days are over.  From now on, they will rely solely on "tree farms" which are already growing all over Indonesia.  In response, GreenPeace has formally ended its campaign against the corporate giant.

In summary, APP made a business decision based on market projections and speculations.  It is...after all...still a heartless multi-national corporation.  But that doesn't mean it's not above flaunting it's new environmentally-friendly wardrobe, regardless of the motivation for the action. The C.E.O. of Asia Pulp and Paper, TEGUH WIJAY, issued a clear statement.  The new policy of using paper products only from tree farms is"mandatory" and all customers who "don't comply with the new policies will have their accounts terminated."  Ouch! We here at the DUNER BLOG salute any corporation that bows to the endangered Sumatran Tiger, no matter what the motivation is!

And remember: If you print out your e-mails, you can no longer call them e-mails.  You have taken the electronic aspect away. They're just mail.  Save Paper Now!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013



Wow!  Response to the sudden abdication of Pope Benedict XVI has been HUGE!  Our inbox here at the DUNER BLOG has been flooded with questions regarding Papal Resignations.  It hasn't happened in awhile (598 years!) so let's get started!!

Why did the last pope resign in 1415? Was it scandalous?  Kelvin, Berkeley.  Sorry to burst your bubble, K-dog, but Pope Gregory XII resigned solely for politcal purposes.    Back in the 1400's the main issue facing the Papacy was the dreaded Western Schism between Italy and France.  Believe it or not, for a brief time in Europe, there were actually two popes!  There was one in Rome and another in Avignon.  The latter was called the antipope (Now there's a word you don't see everyday!)  Our peaceful pope Gregory XII stepped down, thus allowing a new French / Italian cardinal coalition elect a new pope.

The Pope and the Antipope.
How many popes have resigned in total?  Ravi, Dacca.  Including Benedict XVI, seven popes have resigned their posts.   The first Pope to resign was St. Pontian in AD 235.  He had a dispute with the Roman Emperor Severus Alexander and was forced to serve a horrible exile at a posh villa in Sardinia.  Eight hundred years would pass until another resignation occurred.  In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, horrendous bouts of plague plunged Rome into Civil War.  An upheaval of popes and antipopes forced four more resignations.  These include John XVIII, Benedict IX, Gregory VI and Celestine V. 

Are there Papal Laws concerning proper procedure for resignation? Greg, San Jose.  Of course, Greg!  Fortunately, everyone who works at the DUNER BLOG is fluent in Latin and we were able to translate Canon Law #332.  It states: " If a Roman Pontiff resigns his office (munus), it is required for validity that he make the resignation freely and that it be duly manifested."  (Unfortunately, no one at the DUNER BLOG can speak Lawyer, so we don't know what that means.)  In addition, we found two cases of conditional terms of resignation.  Before Pope Pius VII went to Paris to crown Napoleon in 1804, he signed a resignation notice...just in case he ended up imprisoned.  Likewise for Pope Pius XII during World War II.  If the Nazis killed him, the Papacy was to continue in neutral Portugal.

What percentage of Popes have resigned? Nigel, Manchester. To determine the exact percentage, we must first determine how many total popes there has been.  The first Papal List was published by historian Hermannus Contractus in the year AD 1049.  It ends with Pope Leo IX at #154.  From there, we consult the Catholic Encyclopedia, which adds another 110.  This brings the total to 264 Total Popes.  (Excluding all antipopes).  This means only 2.5% of all popes resign.  NOTES: The longest serving Pope is Pius IX at 31 years.  The shortest was Urban VI who lasted only 13 days in AD 1590.

Will the Vatican start sending 'smoke signs' like in Da Vinci Code movies? Rhonda, Los Angeles.  You must be referring to the Papal Conclave, dear!  This comes from the Latin term Cum Clave (With Key).  In short, to determine who will be the next pope, high ranking cardinals lock themselves into the Sistine Chapel for secluded discussions and a complicated voting procedure.  At the end of each day, the ballets are burned in a large fireplace.  'No' ballots generate black smoke while 'Yes' ballots give off white smoke.  On March First, crowds will  gather in St. Peter's Square in anxious anticipation.  They'll cheer when the see white smoke with cries of "Habemus Papam!!"  (We have a Pope!!)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013



Over the weekend, a number of DUNER BLOG staff members got together at the Sports Bar to watch some College Basketball games.  One of our favorite teams, top-ranked MICHIGAN played at #3 INDIANA.  During halftime, we talked about the Michigan mascot, the Wolverine.  Since the largest member of the weasel family is endangered and exists only in captivity in Michigan (at the Detroit Zoo!), we wondered if it was time for a change.  This proposal set off a tidal wave of discussion and debate.  Here are our findings on endangered state animals...in a top five format, of course.

#5 Michigan.  Wolverine. (Mustelidae Gulo)
After conducting research, we here at the DUNER BLOG have determined Wolverines never lived in the territory or state of Michigan.  The name comes from the 1835 Toledo War, when Ohio and Michigan took up arms against each over a land dispute.  In the end, no one died, a few Ohioans were injured, and Michigan ceded the disputed area to Ohio.  In exchange, President Jackson awarded Michigan the Upper Peninsula.  Anyhow, the Ohioan Armed Forces thought the backwoods Michigan Militia looked like "ornery Wolverines" and the moniker stuck.  Today, Wolverines (the animal) are found from Montana to Alaska and aren't endangered.

#4 Hawaii.  Nene or Hawaiian Goose. (Branta sandwicensis) 
 The poor Nene!  It used to be head honcho on the remote island chain.  Then, a bunch of dumb colonists introduced mongooses and feral cats to the island.  These critters love to eat Nene eggs.  By the time the island chain became a state, Nene Goose were close to being wiped out altogether.  Conservation efforts have resulted in colonies in protected areas.  Today, about 800 Nene can be found on the islands of Hawaii, Maui and Kauai.  However, the Nene remains on the Endangered Species List and is the 4th most threatened waterfowl on Earth...according to the Audubon Society.

#3 Connecticut. Sperm Whale. (Physeter macrocephalus) 
Waaaay back, when the Chestnut State was still a colony, the whaling industry was king.  In 1740, it is estimated there were over a million Sperm Whales in earth's oceans.  Hunting of the 60-ton mammals is well documented in famous son Herman Mellville's leviathan 'Moby Dick.'   Although Americans no long need whale guts, other nations still desire Sperm Whale blubber.  Their estimated worldwide population is slowly growing, but it is still on the Endangered Species List.

#2. California. Grizzly Bears  (Ursus californicus) 
Before the 1849 Gold Rush, Grizzly Bears owned the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  When the yahoo miners came flooding into the foothills, they refused to cede any territory to the newcomers.  The cunning bears raided 49er camps taking their livestock, supplies and women.  As always, Americans responded with guns.  Mark Twain mentions the "stench of the rotting grizzly corpses" in his short story 'The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. According to the State Library the last Grizzly was "killed in Tulare in 1922." Today, the endangered species is found in the British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska...but not in the Golden State.

#1. United States. Bald Eagle.  (Haliaeetus Leucocephalus)
Back in 1782, it made sense to have this proud raptor on our Great Shield and National Emblem.  Biologists estimate there were over 100,000 of them in the region known today as the "Lower 48."  However, as the nation expanded Westward, the proud birds were seen as vermin.  It's true...the eagles hunted for the same fish and waterfowl as the humans.  Settlers shot them on sight.  The Bald Eagle Act in 1890 stopped Americans from shooting their national animal, but another killer waited around the corner: D.D.T.  Use of the pesticide was widespread without proper testing.   Before anyone knew it... the harmful chemicals had indirectly decimated the population of our National Treasure!

All in all, our conclusion at the DUNER BLOG is: It's a tough life being a State Animal.  The smart states are Massachusetts and Maryland who have pets as their state animals.  Boston Terriers and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers could never go extinct!