Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, December 18, 2014



For American adventure travelers, yesterday's announcement that the US and Cuba would be resuming relations came as GREAT NEWS! We instantly began plotting our next vacation to the tropical isle of splendor. Not surprisingly, numerous readers also began plotting their next vacation, and sent us a slew of questions. So let's get started..

What happened yesterday in Washington? Pete, Pittsburgh. For the last year, Obama, Raul Castro and the Pope have been conducting secret meetings in Canada.  Yesterday's announcement that Cuba / USA relations were being restored was a culmination of these talks. When first elected, we here at the DUNER BLOG had high hopes for the Obama Administration's foreign policy with regards to the Third World. It took six years, but he is finally delivering on campaign promises.

Can I leave for Cuba tomorrow? Biff, New York. Don't pack those bag just yet, Biff! Since losing control of Congress, Obama has since relied heavily on executive orders to get things done. This is no exception. However, in order to lift the actual travel ban, we need Congressional approval. Sigh! Some Republicans, like Jeb Bush, have recently called for strengthening of the ban. Stay tuned..

Is Cuba ready for American tourists? Jim, Buffalo. Ready and willing, Jim! Since the fall of the USSR in 1991, financial aid to Cuba disappeared and the nation opened its doors to European and Canadian tourists. After getting the obligatory tourist card at the airport, visitors are free to explore the entire island. Except...of course...Guantanamo Bay. Last year, about two million tourists visited Cuba, which is slightly more than the totals for neighboring Jamaica.

How is the Travel Industry responding? Paul, Oakland. They are showing cautious optimism. "We look forward to the day...hopefully soon...when all Americans have the opportunity to travel to Cuba," said Orbitz CEO Barney Harford. Currently, JetBlue and American Airlines offer charter services for those industrious enough to fight through the paperwork. We see many more carriers joining soon. We are also hopeful that the famed Miami - Havana Ferry Service will resume after 55 years!

When will I be able to buy Cuban cigars and Havana Club Rum? Greg, San Jose. Finally...the most important question! Unfortunately, it will not be any time soon. Like the travel ban, resolutions involving trade will also require Congressional approval. We here at the DUNER BLOG encourage our readers to write to their representatives and demand the Cuba Ban be lifted now. Si se puede!

Thursday, December 11, 2014



At first, it seemed like any other photo op for LeBron James. Over the past decade, he has posed for thousands of pictures...and not just with basketball fans. He's been snapped with admiring politicians, famous movie stars, hip-hop heroes...even President Obama. However, this time, Big #23 was taking a photo with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. LeBron made a huge faux pas when he put his arm around Kate Middleton. Instantly, British tabloids erupted. The Independent called it a "blatant disregard for protocol." The Guardian called it "gauche."

To help our readers avoid the same embarrassment suffered by LeBron, we here at the DUNER BLOG have some handy tips for meeting Royalty for the first time.

The Invitation.  First of all, the Queen doesn't invite people to events. She commands them to attend. Here's how the process works: You'll receive written correspondence from the proper staff member. The Lord Stewart of the Household oversees banquets. The Master of the Household handles funeral and memorial services, while the Lost Chamberlain organizes Garden Parties and Weddings. It will arrive via ROYAL MAIL.

Your Reply.   Don't send a text saying: C U then. According to Debrett's in London, your reply should be in this written form: "Sir Duner and Lady Godiva present their compliments to the Lord Chamberlain, and have the honour to obey her Majesty's command to the luncheon on April Second." NOTE: Do not refuse any command from the Queen. If you absolutely must decline, illness is the only acceptable excuse.

The Greeting.  When you approach royalty, men should bow and ladies should curtsy. Just make sure you do them correctly. A bow shall be "an inclination of the head, not from the waist." Likewise, the curtsy should be a "discreet but dignified bob." Both gestures should never be "prolonged or exaggerated." Needless to say, High Fives and Fist Pumps are not allowed.

Your Language.  When in the company of royalty, be sure to alter your vernacular. See, before you say anything to the Queen of England, you must always first employ her title: Your Majesty. Subsequent references use 'Ma'am' (rhymes with Pam). If you have to introduce your friend to a monarch, you say: "May I present Lord Disick, Your Majesty." You should always refer from shaking hands, kissing cheeks or touching any member of a Royal House.

Your Toast.  If your engagement with the Queen is going swimmingly, you might feel the need to raise a glass and toast her. Don't embarrass yourself with your usual toast: 'Over the lips; past the gums. Watch out stomach, here it comes! Chug!.' Nope, you'll impress her by first praying for silence, then announcing your intent to propose a Loyalty Toast. Be sure to name all royalty present by rank. Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duke & Duchess of Cambridge all require notice. If you're in Lancaster or the Channel Islands, different rules apply.

Your Departure.  Don't be like LeBron and run to the locker room. Have dignity and request permission to withdraw from the Duke. Then, thank them for allowing you in their presence. Finally, you must bow or curtsy appropriately, then leave.

See? You're all set. Next time royalty comes knocking, you'll be prepared!

Thursday, December 4, 2014



It's still six days before the blockbuster EXODUS: GODS & KINGS hits theaters, but the film is already gaining a ton of publicity. Unfortunately for Twenty-First Century Fox, it's not the good type of hype. Specifically, many people are questioning the casting of an all white cast for the Biblical film. Here are the main characters: Christian Bale (born in Wales) is Moses. Joel Edgerton (an Aussie) is Ramses. Native New Yorker Sigourney Weaver is Tuya.

Things got worse for the promoters when 21st Century Fox owner RUPERT MURDOCH took to Twitter to defend his film. "Since when are Egyptians not white? All I know are." Within minutes, tens of thousands took to social media to lambaste the 83-year-old media mogul. ("He's so old, he probably knew the ancient Egyptians!" quipped one person.) For historians, this debate has been going on for centuries, without much resolution. We know for sure that Jesus did not have blond hair and blue eyes. Aside from that, however, there is little conclusion about the skin color of the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews.

To add to the debate, Hollywood cinematographers have a long history of having white people portray other ethnicities. From Al Jolson's black face to Mickey Rooney's horrendous Mr. Yunioshi, Hollywood has a chequered past when it comes to casting non-white roles. While TODAY it's rare to see white actors cast as Latinos, Blacks or Asians...for some reason...when it comes to the Middle East, things are different. For example: No one cared when Chicago-born Charleton Heston played Moses the first time around.

It seems times are changing. The current backlash against Murdoch is reminiscent of the rousting encountered when Californian Jake Gyllenhaal starred in the Disney film Prince of Persia. While both actors defended their roles, at least these two are positive images of the Middle Easterners. For the most part, Arab terrorists have replaced Nazi generals and Soviet spies as the top villains in today's blockbusters. This part of the world has a long road ahead in terms of pop culture acceptance.

The final say in the debate comes to us from the pragmatic director Ridley Scott. When asked his opinion, he brought up the point that the only famous actor from Egypt is Omar Sharif. "I can't mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so. I'm just not going to get it financed." Ridley is right. At the end of the day, some movies are just about entertainment...not social statements. So head to the IMAX next weekend for fun!