Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014



Sunday marked the end of baseball's regular season. One of the game's greats, DEREK JETER, lined a solid single to left field for his last and final at-bat. See, the beloved Yankee shortstop is retiring after 20 seasons and 3,465 hits. A fan favorite nationwide, the Minnesota Twins thought it would be nice to honor Derek with a parting gift. So, back in July, they gave him the actual second base used in the stadium. It got TONS of media coverage, so every other team Jeter played against for the rest of the season also gave him parting presents. Here is the complete list:

BALTIMORE ORIOLES: The home of fried seafood, the folks in Maryland proudly presented Derek with an enormous basket of crabs. He ate one, put on a US Navy Captains' hat and waved to the cheering crowd.

BOSTON RED SOX: As the Yankee's hated rival, Boston only gave Derek something to avoid bad press for not following suit. While LL Bean boots are nice, he did much better in other cities.

CHICAGO CUBS: As a National League team that never makes the playoffs, Jeter only played a handful of games in Wrigley Field. Nonetheless, he received the #2 board from the famed scoreboard.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX: While most teams gave a gift that represents their city, the White Sox gave the famed Shortstop a bench made entirely from Major League bats. Different!

CINCINNATI REDS: Since the Reds have two Gold Glove shortstops as well, they gave Derek jerseys from legends Dave Concepcion and Barry Larkin.

CLEVELAND INDIANS: The home of the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame presented Mr. Jeter with a Yankee pinstriped Gibson Les Paul electric guitar.

DETROIT TIGERS: Derek loved Tiger Stadium; he grew up in Michigan. He was particularly pleased to receive two of the folding chairs from the original park.

HOUSTON ASTROS: Jeter loves to golf, so he was all smiles when the General Manager handed him a new set of clubs.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS: This gift was the silliest. A twelve foot-high Hobie Surfboard with the Yankee Pinstripes and logo on the top. Derek doesn't even like to swim!

MILWAUKEE BREWERS: Again, golf. The Brewers gave Derek an over-sized check good for a round at the famed Whistling Straits Golf Course.

NEW YORK METS: The Yankees opponent in the cross-town Subway series, the Mets gave Derek a mosaic using the iconic New York subway tiles.

OAKLAND A'S: Of all the gifts, Derek likely enjoyed the bottle of 2009 Abreu Madrona Ranch Cabernet the most.  He drank it right after the game.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: This gift is the most classy. Gold cuff links embossed with Stan "The Man" Musial's number six.

SEATTLE MARINERS: As the site of Jeter's first ever Major League game, the ceremony was a bit more emotional. They gave him the Second Base pad he reached on his first hit.

TEXAS RANGERS: Former President George W. Bush handed him Pinstriped boots and a Cowboys hat to match. He looks much better in a baseball cap.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS: This winter, Derek will be hitting the slopes in the Canadian Rockies. The Blue Jays gave him lift tickets to Banff and a top-notch condo as well.

AND FINALLY: The Duner Blog wishes to thank the KANSAS CITY ROYALS, MILWAUKEE BREWERS and the PITTSBURGH PIRATES for just making donation to Derek Jeter's charity instead of giving him a basket of fried clams...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014



This just in from Caracas: Venezuela has an acute shortage of brand-name breast implants! Recent sanctions means that US-produced, FDA approved silicone gel bags are no longer available. A panic has spread amongst image conscious CaraqueƱas.  “The women are complaining,” said Ramon Zapata, president of the Society of Plastic Surgeons. “Venezuelan women are very concerned with their self-esteem.”

We conducted research and Venezuela is only Tenth on the list of plastic surgeries/per capita...

10. Venezuela.  So common are breast augmentations in Venezuela, they have become a favorite gift for a girl's QuinceaƱera. (15th birthday celebration). A popular telenovela (soap opera) is called “Sin Tetas, No Hay Paraiso” (No boobs, no paradise). It's based in a plastic surgeon's office. Even the late Hugo Chavez called the nation's obsession "monstrous."

9. France.  No one is surprised to see this nation on the list. These days, France is the place for high end operations. The plastic surgeons here are legendary. Just ask Carla Bruni, Madonna and Cindy Crawford. They all swear by the work of Parisian Doctor Jean-Louis Sebagh.

8. USA.  On the list of total cosmetic operations are performed, America is #1. But, this list is per capita, so it drops to #8. Don't worry, the Yanks will climb up. See...the old notion that plastic surgery is shameful and vain is...like so...yesterday. It's impossible to find a Reality TV star that hasn't had something done!

7. Dominican Republic.  This island getaway has a most liberal policy toward regulation of cosmetic surgeons: None! Hence, numerous unregulated clinics have sprung up, with doctors who freely negotiate prices. What will cost $6000 in New York can be had for as little as $800.

6. Taiwan.  Another island destination for quickie operations, Taiwan also feeds off mainland demand. Lots of wealthy Chinese flock to Taipei for cheap and indiscreet procedures. Mostly, they want Rhinoplasties, or nose-jobs.

5. Italy. The birthplace of plastic surgery! Centuries ago, Gasparo Tagliacozzi first transplanted tissue and performed the first nose job. These days, Italians are more concerned with hiding signs of aging. It's estimated Italian women have the highest Botox rates in the world!

4. Colombia.  South Americans are obsessed with body image. Colombia is the place to go for cheap liposuction. Main cities like Bogota, Medellin and Cartegena all have neighborhoods cluttered with surgeons. People simply shop for the best deals, as there is a plan for every budget!

3. Greece. Despite a floundering economy, demand for cosmetic surgeries continues to rise in Greece. Even in ancient times, human anatomy has had a coveted place in the national psyche, and modern Greeks are no different. NOTE: Greece leads the world in penis enlargements per capita.

2.  Brazil. No nation loves plastic surgery as much as the bikini-worshiping Brazilians. How acceptable is the practice in mainstream society? Well, the government recently made plastic surgeries deductible on your income tax. They feel the additional income will outweigh the losses in tax. NOTE: Brazil leads the world in butt implants per capita.

1. South Korea. Surprise! The largest center for plastic surgery in the world is Seoul. In fact, one in five women here have had work done. The most popular procedure is Blepharoplasty, or double eyelid surgery. People in Japan and Northern China also come here for more Western-looking eyes...thus inflating their per capita stats over #2 Brazil.

Post Script:  We here at the DUNER BLOG love Emma Watson's United Nations speech on feminism. If Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony and Betty Friedan were alive today, we could only imagine their opinion on boob jobs. This is not what they had in mind a century ago...

Thursday, September 18, 2014



This week's blog begins way back in the year 1846. That's when the final voyage of Sir John Franklin took place. Never heard of Sir John Franklin? He was an illustrious Brit who first rose to prominence during the Battle of New Orleans and the famed Battle of Trafalgar. After the Napoleonic Wars, he headed two very successful explorations. His crew mapped Canada's Arctic, charting the coastline of enormous Hudson Bay. In 1829, he was knighted by King George IV, but did not retire. Instead, Sir John's third voyage ended in disaster, with both ships disappearing.

For the last 160 years, the two ships have sat at the bottom of the sea, hidden below the ice off Queen Maud Land. This desolate island sustains no animal or plant life. You'll only find shale rocks, gravel and ice here. So how was the wreck discovered? It was actually a helicopter pilot, who was ferrying researchers for the joint Canadian Coast Guard / Royal Geographic project. He saw something shiny in the water. It turned out to be the exact thing all the researchers were looking for in the first place: The HMS Erebus.

Further investigation has revealed a plethora of artifacts. State of the art SONAR technology combined with imagery from robotic undersea crafts are studying the wreckage. They show a remarkably well preserved galleon teeming with clues as to what happened on board 160 years ago. It's a treasure-trove for historians, anthropologists and people who love adventure. So far, two bronze cannons, some iron muskets, even an old boot...all are waiting to be taken ashore.  

It's not just the explorers who are excited. Let's face it: This is the most interesting thing to happen in Canada in decades! So, naturally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper wanted in on the action too. He proudly posed with Coast Guard Officers next to a piece of the hull. Next, the artifact went across the Atlantic to 10 Downing Street, where Prime Minister David Cameron did a similar photo op. Since it is a Royal Navy vessel, the next of kin were also notified. Alexandra Shackleton, the great-granddaughter of Sir John, was intently following the expedition.

For the time being, the HMS Erebus will remain untouched. While the Northwest Passage is getting wider every year, it still completely unnavigable six months a year, starting in October. So everyone will have to wait until Spring 2015 to see what else is on board. Expect some pretty gruesome tales. After the canned food ran out, sailors ate anything. During the first Franklin Expedition, their ship was locked in the ice for months and Sir John got his nickname: The Man Who Ate His Boots!  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014



Prost! It's September, so that means Oktoberfest. Yep, the Beer-based festival is so much fun, Germans simply cannot wait until the actual month to celebrate. In just ten short days, Munich will come alive with fabulous frauleins wearing baby-blue dirndls serving up frothy lager by the liter. However...beneath the festivities...lies the truth: Germans are drinking and selling less beer!

Let's look at the statistics.  In 1990, when Germany reunified, annual per-capita consumption of beer was 148 liters. In 2014, that figure has dropped 28% to 107 liters / year.  During this same period, wine quaffing went up 42%, making Deutschland the fourth largest wine consuming nation in the world. Yikes! The decline has been evidenced in exports as well. Popular brands like Becks, St. Pauli and Spaten all posted losses, while neighboring nations like Holland and Denmark saw spikes in beer sales.

What is wrong with German beer? Some feel the problem is the Reinheitsgebot or 'Purity Law.' Passed in 1516, it stipulated that beer can only be made from four ingredients: Barley, Hops, Water and Yeast. Historians feel the move was to better regulate taxes, but German beer enthusiasts see the law as matter of national pride. In fact, even today, any product that does not meat these standards cannot be called 'Beer,' but rather Alcoholic Malt Drink. Yuck!

The irony is that the law designed to protect beer in Germany is in fact hurting the industry today. The American Craft Brew Craze has hit Europe, thus changing the notions of what is acceptable to put in beer. Pumpkins, nutmeg, grapefruit...even bacon are being added to beer. How crazy has it gotten? Americans make a Coconut Curry Hefeweizen. However, with the Reinheitsgebot in place, German beers are simply not allowed to compete in the craft brew global marketplace. It so bad, 11,000 jobs have been lost over the last five years!

We here at the DUNER BLOG call on Angela Merkel to review policy towards this important German industry. A new strategy needs to be formulated that includes better marketing, target audiences and government subsidies. Finally, we need to re-think the logic of the 1516 Purity Laws. Surely we can have traditional lagers coexist with crazy modern trends. Finally, we must note: Mexico and China will soon pass Germany in annual beer exports. Their top brands, Modello, Dos Equis and Tsingtao were all founded by German immigrants...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014



Barack Obama's Air Force One jet touched down in Tallinn today. Thus, he becomes the first US President ever to visit one of the three Baltic Nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Why bestow such an honor on such a tiny region? Barack wants to reward them for joining NATO ten years ago. At the time, many questioned the logic of the move. Surely it wasn't smart to anger Russia, their powerful and petroleum-rich Eastern neighbor? But after Putin's bold invasion of the Ukraine...suddenly joining a rival military alliance is a brilliant plan!

To help our readers better understand these three small and often forgotten countries, here are Ten Fun Facts about the Baltics:

BALTIC STATES LOVE THE USA. Prior to World War II, Hitler and Stalin secretly met. It was agreed that the USSR could take Finland and the Baltic States if Germany was allowed to take Poland and Czechoslovakia. After the war, Russia never gave the Baltics back. While Western Europe ignored their pleas, the US steadfastly never recognized Soviet occupation and was the first nation to establish relations after (re) independence in 1990. Hence, most in the region see the US as their top ally.

PLENTY OF RUSSIANS STILL LIVE THERE. During the fifty years of Soviet occupation, many Russians moved to the Baltic States for their superior climate. After independence, they stayed. Today 26% of Latvians and 23% of Estonians list Russian as their first language. However, in Lithuania only 5% of their population is of Russian origin. These nations are historical enemies and simply do not get along.

NONE OF THE BALTIC STATES ARE ORTHODOX. While most nations in the region are Eastern Orthodox, the Baltic States are different.  Influenced by Scandinavia, Estonia and Latvia are solidly Lutheran. To the South, Lithuania is Roman Catholic.

NONE OF THE BALTIC STATES USE THE CYRILLIC ALPHABET. Linguistically, the three nations are also linked to the West. The Baltic Branch of the Indo-European language family is small. It contains Latvian, Lithuanian and now extinct Old Prussian. Estonian is in the Finno-Ugric group and is completely incomprehensible to the rest of the world.

LITHUANIA WAS ONCE A MAJOR POWER. In the year 1392, the Great Grand Duke Vytautus expanded his kingdom's borders. From the capital Riga, Lithuania stretched as far as the Black Sea. The legendary Battle of Grunwald in 1410 saw the defeat of the Teutonic Knights. Historians see this as the consummate medieval battle. It is reenacted every year on July 15th.

LATVIA'S FLAG HAS A GRUESOME PAST. Way back in the year 1279, Latvians in the city of Cesis were under siege. When an arrow struck and killed the chief, angry soldiers took their white shirts and dipped them in the dead leader's blood. They waved them in the air as they rose to victory. Since then, various uses of a red stripes on a white background have been used. NOTE: Latvians claim to have the oldest flag on earth.

ESTONIA IS A POP MUSIC PARADISE. Although Estonia's population is only 1.3 million, they have created their own unique brand of Popular Music, complete with a Pop Chart and numerous radio stations. The peak came in 2001, when Tanel Padar won the Eurovision Song Contest.

LITHUANIA IS A BASKETBALL PARADISE. With a population of only 3 million, there are more people in a large US city than in Lithuania. Nonetheless, this nation puts together one helluva Olympic Basketball Team. They won the bronze medal three times (Sydney, Atlanta & Barcelona). Currently, there are four Lithuanians playing in the NBA.

ESTONIA OWNS A THOUSAND ISLANDS. The Baltic is home to as many islands as the Mediterranean Sea, and 1,521 of them are in Estonian territory. Heavily forested and mostly uninhabited, the largest island is Saarema. It is a favorite for tourists as it offers unspoiled beauty and peaceful resorts.

LITHUANIA WAS THE FIRST SOVIET STATE TO SECEDE. Of the fourteen nations to break free from Soviet rule, little Lithuania was the first. March 11, 1990 was truly the beginning of the end for the mighty USSR.