Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, January 30, 2014



We here at the DUNER BLOG pride ourselves on searching the globe for stories you might have missed.  This week, we're off to South Africa.  Here the Rhino War has engulfed Krueger National Park.  Since the start of the year, the number of deaths is staggering: Eleven people and forty rhinos. Yikes!  What the hell is going on down there?  After further investigation, we have determined there are actually two wars going on in the famed park...

Let's start with the Human death toll.  In this theater of the Rhino War, we have: The Rangers vs. The Poachers.  Specifically, they army is called South African National Defense Force.  This elite crew of crime-fighting superstars scours the savanna in search of evil poachers.  The Poachers roam the park on dirt bikes at night with machine guns, hunting in the mud for sleeping Rhinos.  Problems arise when the two meet on the open safari plains.  It quickly develops to a shoot out, and dumb poachers usually lose.  All eleven people shot have been scumbag poachers.

Next up: The Rhino death toll.  In this theater of the Rhino War, we have: The Poachers vs. The Rhinos.  See, the horns of a White Rhino fetch 200,000 Rand per kilogram on the black market.  (Roughly speaking, this is $9,000 per pound of Rhino horn.  Anyhow, this ungodly sum is more than cocaine!)  It's clearly more than enough to lure impoverished men out of the township to risk their lives for that one big haul.  Anyhow, while the South African government tries to work it all out, the Rhino murder rate continues to rise. 

Just how bad is it?  Well, there are only 4,240 Black Rhinos and 20,150 White Rhinos left in Africa, with the vast majority living in the once safe National Parks and Reserves of South Africa.  And in the Rhinos vs. Poachers theater of war, the Rhinos always lose.  We couldn't find any statistics on the number of Poachers the Rhinos have managed to kill, but we doubt they are very high.  See, a Rhino's brain is small.  In fact, no other animal that size has a smaller-sized brain!

Well, just when everything seemed helpless for our endangered Rhinos...here comes a hero!  Prince William of Wales has joined the fight.  Unfortunately, he will not be flying a Royal Air Force Tornado GRF Fighter Plane.  Wills won't be dropping any Storm Shadow Cruise Missiles on the Poacher Headquarters.  Nope, all we'll get is a strongly-worded statement of disapproval...but!...at least Prince William is trying!  End the RHINO WAR now!!! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014



Move over, Posh & Becks!  Step aside, Kim & Kanye!  There's a new Power-Couple on the planet...and they are taking over.  Let's meet Masahiro Tanaka & Mai Sadota.  He is a talented baseball pitcher who just led the Rukuten Golden Eagles to the Nippon League title.  She is a top-notch Japanese pop star turned TV celebrity.  Together they make up one helluva team!

Why the sudden change in the Power-Couple rankings?  Yesterday, Masahiro Tanaka signed an outrageous, $155 million dollar contract with the New York Yankees.  This will make him one of the top baseball players on the planet.  Since he is playing with the Yanks, he will get tons of exposure that will likely result in lots of lucrative endorsement deals. 

Next question: How can Mai Sadota compare with the likes of BeyoncĂ© and the Kardashians?  Well...first and foremost with women in the year 2014...is beauty.  While she may be lacking the curves of Mariah or Rihanna, this Hokkaido hottie is no slouch.  Next up is talent.  While she may only be five feet tall, she can certainly sing.  Her top song, "Oyaji No Kokoro Tomotto Chiisa Na Hi" was #1 in Japan for ten weeks. (Translation: A Small Flame Is Ignited In An Old Man).   She's blossoming into a TV star as well. Her show "Quiz! Hexagon!" is also a smash hit.

While this is all fine and well in Japan... You're asking yourself: Can Tanaka & Sadota really make it in the USA?  Let's look at Tanaka's stats first.  Last season, his record was 24-0.  Not too shabby.   In addition to an amazing fastball, he shows great range with a wicked slider and a nasty curveball.  MLB scouts are impressed. 

Things might be a little tougher for Mai Sadota.  For the most part, Americans fear foreign languages.  Only a handful of songs in languages other than English have been hits on the Billboard Pop Charts.  However... One of those few hits is 'Gangnam Style' sung in Korean by PSY.  So there is hope! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014



The Winter Olympics in Russia are only a month away.  Guess what?  An Olympic record has already been broken.  Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with athletics.  Nope, this statistic involves spending.  Russian officials recently confirmed that the Sochi Games have become the most expensive games ever.  Estimates for the total price tag run around $50 billion.  That bests the previous record of the 2008 Beijing games by $10 billion!

Why so expensive?  It's because Putin had to start from scratch.  Five years ago, Sochi was hardly a world-class resort.  In reality, it was a couple of chair lifts and a run down skating rink.  In short, Putin had to build a resort-themed city as big as Aspen, Colorado in a couple short years.   First up was the Sochi Olympic Park.  This Disneyland-sized park stretches from the Black Sea Coast to the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains.  It houses the main 40,000 seat stadium, an Ice-Dome, three other arenas and a 3,000 seat Curling Center. 

Next up was the Krasnaya Polyana.  (Beautiful Glade).  This is where the downhill events are held.  The elevation at the top peak is 1600 meters (5,200 feet).  Three luxury gondolas called the 'Caucasus Express' will whisk you up there at 40 km/hour!  However, the real expense wasn't constructing the venues themselves, but building the road / rail access to the site.  The tiny, twisty mountain roads between the Olympic Park and the Beautiful Glade have been replaced with a 15 km tunnel.  It was so expensive to construct, Russian Esquire reported: "It would have been less expensive to line the walls with one centimeter of Beluga Caviar."

You're asking yourself: If it costs so much to reach Krasnaya Polyana, why are the Olympics being held there?  Aren't their other places in Russia with mountains and snow?  It's true: Back in 2007, when Russia barely beat out South Korea to host the games, many just assumed they would be held in Siberia or the other Arctic areas.  But Putin is thinking long term.  After the games are over, no one will go to Irkutsk to ski.  BUT...there is plenty to gain with a permanent metropolis in the turmoil prone Caucasus Region.  The Sochi Olympic Village is a mere four kilometers from the Georgian border.

Sorry, gents, Lindsay Vonn is not competing in Sochi...
All in all, we here at the DUNER BLOG salute President Putin for his Olympic over achievement.  Let's face it:  The guy had two choices: He could have stayed with the original $14 billion dollar budget and used the old infrastructure.  Then...for twelve long weeks...the world would hear about how bad the facilities are and how long it takes to get between the two main venues.  So Putin played it smart by spending a bundle of Rubles.  We say: "Vashe Zdorovie!" In fact, we are already planning our DUNER BLOG retreat to the Black Sea for a ski holiday next winter... 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014



HAPPY NEW YEAR from everyone here at the DUNER BLOG!

The weekend box-office numbers from India are in!  Including international revenue, DHOOM 3 became the first Bollywood movie ever to cross the elusive Five-Billion-Rupee (US$800 million) mark.  The action-comedy, staring heartthrob sensation Aamir Khan, completes the Dhoom Trilogy about a Mumbai cop (and his hilarious sidekick) who solve crimes around the world. 

We here at the DUNER BLOG are big-time Bollywood fans and saw the thriller at a local Cineplex. Afterward, we though we'd answer some of the many Bollywood questions in our mailbox..

Why do all Bollywood movies have so much singing and dancingMohammed H., Cairo Egypt.
Two reasons:  First, Bollywood movies...like much Hindi theater...are based on Sanskrit drama.  These ancient performances placed heavy emphasis on the spectacle of song and dance.  Another reason involves the 'Golden Age' of Indian cinema during the 1950's and '60's.  As with the genre's cousin in Hollywood, this was the age of the musical.  It was so popular in India, it never really left movies.

Does Bollywood have an Academy Award show like in the US?  Hector M., Santiago Chile.
Of course they do!  It's called the FILMFARE AWARDS.  It dates back to 1954 and every year it becomes more and more like the Oscars in California.  The Red Carpet is packed with paparazzi.  The ladies wear glamorous gowns; the gentlemen don tuxedos.  The ceremony is filled with long-winded speeches.  Even the FANFARE AWARD statue looks a bit like Oscar! 

Who are the most famous Bollywood actors and actresses?  Simon L., Saskatoon, Canada.
Difficult question, Simon!  The first names that come to mind are Raj Kapoor and Meena Kumari, from the fore-mentioned Golden Age.  However, a more accurate answer would come from the FILMARE AWARDS.  Thankfully, someone in India came up with a formula.  It gives 3 points for Best Actor, two for Supporting Roles and one for 'Best Villain."  Under this format, Shahrukh Khan leads the pack with 10 points.  On the ladies side, actress Rani Mukriji tops the list.

I read that Bollywood produces ten times as many movies as Hollywood.  Is this true?  Zachary O., Perth, Australia.
While some 800 films were made in India last year, only a small percentage can be considered actual Bollywood movies.  Only a handful of studios can produce the budgets, stars and production costs to be called a true Bollywood film.  How can you tell?  Make sure they are from Yash Raj Films, or Dharma Productions.

Aren't all Bollywood movies just plagiarized from US films?  Giovanni I., Salerno Italy.
Pretty much, Giovanni!  For the first fifty years of their existence, Bollywood movies were almost completely unknown outside of the subcontinent.  This meant that many screenwriters were able to borrow rampantly from other sources, without notice.  However...in the last ten years...international interest in the genre has multiplied.  This means lawsuits for Bollywood in the future.  Even the movie Dhoom 3 seems a lot like Fast & the Furious movies.  Hmm...