Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, August 27, 2015



The whole planet is in love with Disney/Pixar's cinematographic masterpiece INSIDE/OUT. Compelling, thought-provoking...but still really funny...it has raked in $700 million in worldwide box office receipts. Rotten Tomatoes critics gave the flick a 98/100 rating. However, the audience score on the same site was only 90. Why the dispartity? People cannot stand BING BONG. He's a goofy pink elephant made of cotton candy. In addition to plot development, he is also intended to provide comic relief. The only problem? BING BONG is not funny. In fact, many good movies are torpedoed by including such obviously unfunny characters. Here's our TOP TEN:

#10. BING BONG. While it's easy to single out this pink elephant (made of cotton candy) the concept of a comic sidekick isn't exactly new to the year 2015. One of the first botched unfunny comedic characters comes to us from Shakespeare. Lancelot the Clown managed to ruin just about every scene of The Merchant of Venice that he appears in.

#9.BUBO. In the 1981 film The Clash of the Titans, producers wanted to add a character that would appeal to kids. They worried the story of Perseus and Medusa might bore them. Enter Bubo, a futuristic, mechanical owl. As Athena's trusted companion, he was featured in many scenes, flying around and making noise. Bubo failed miserably.

#8. EWOKS. Like Bubo, the executive producers of the Star Wars franchise also wanted to add something to their films for kids. They dreamed up the Ewoks. Half Winnie-the-Pooh and half-Ninja warrior, these adorably tough muppets did a spectacular job ruining Return of the Jedi for everyone. Even today...when watching the movie on DVD...children and adults turn off the TV the instant the Ewoks appear.

#7 MR. FREEZE. In the 1990's, Batman ruled the Box Office. By the time the fourth installation of the series rolled around in 1997, the caped crusader began to appear a bit stale to audiences. Producers decided to inject a healthy dose of super talent into the movie Batman & Robin. Instead, they settled for Arnold Schwarzenegger. He proceeded to turn a once cool villian into a goofy, hard-to-understand bodybuilder in a bad costume.

#6. RUBY RHOD. Perhaps Bruce Willis' coolest role was Korben Dallas, the flying taxi-cab driver in the Science Fiction epic The Fifth Element. Everything clicked in this movie until Ruby Rhod, the fast-talking space talk show host, joined the crew. Instead of an intriguing, futuristic hunt for moon rocks, audiences were subjected to Chris Tucker going on seemingly endless rants about nothing. Not funny.

#5. GUS GORMAN. If Batman ruled the Nineties, then Superman owned the Eighties. Christoper Reeve remains the best cast superhero ever. On the third installment of the series, Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) declined to join the cast. It was decided another superstar was needed to compliment Clark Kent. Good idea...but Richard Pryor? We love the late comedian's shtick, but the chemistry was horrible and the movie tanked.

#4. SHORT ROUND. Everyone was excited for the sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unfortunately, Steven Spielberg was given control of the casting and ruined the movie. First, he cast his wife, Kate Capshaw, as the female lead. All she did was scream. But the real mistake was the introduction of an 11-year old boy, Short Round. No one could figure out why Indiana Jones was hanging out with an obnoixous kid.

#3. GLEEK. Back in the day, the staple of Saturday Morning Cartoons was the SuperFriends. See, Hanna-Barbera took some of the DC Comic superheroes and put them all together to fight crime. At first, there were five, then twelve main characters. Before Season Five, the decision to ramp up these numbers even more resulted in chaos: The Wonder Twins, (Zan & Jayna) and their annoying blue space monkey, Gleek. Who thought of this nonsense?

#2. SCRAPPY-DOO.  After a dismal Season Four, the birth of Little Ricky sent the ratings for I Love Lucy soaring through the roof. Since then, Hollywood often inserts children into movie and TV series to bring life to the show. Meet Scrappy-Doo. He is Scooby-Doo's long lost nephew who magically appeared in 1979 and destroyed a beloved cartoon. Just because he shouts "Puppy Power" and taunts much larger foes with "Lemme at 'em!" doesn't mean we will instantly love him.

#1 JAR JAR BINKS. Where do we start? First, there's the racism angle. Jar Jar has a Jamaican accent and his character is often shown as lazy and clumsy. Secondly, George Lucas desperately wanted another beloved, made-up space character like Chewbacca the Wookie and hastily drew up an orange amphibian Gungun. When crew chief Rob Coleman informed Lucas of his opinion of Jar Jar, he refused to budge. Even the other actors complained. Nonetheless, Jar Jar has remained in the triology and looks set to foil the upcoming movie this Christmas.

Thursday, August 20, 2015



October 9th, 1952 was a glorious day for World Peace. The grand opening of the United Nations complex occurred on the East River in New York City. Colorful flags, alphabetically representing each of the 165 member-states gave way to the beautiful Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza. Here, proud fountains greeted visitors to the Grand Assembly Room and the massive 39-story Secretariat Tower. Diplomats, Royalty, Presidents and Prime Ministers alike crowded into the square for the Ribbon Cutting.

A lot has changed in the 63 years since. The once proud square is now filled with different type of people: The Homeless. Dozens of displaced folks now occupy the park benches. They bathe in the same fountain. "It's very shocking to see." noted Dogu Gnahore, the Ivory Coast UN ambassador. This from a nation whose GNP ranks 182nd out of 194 members. "We have homelessness in the Gambia" Alieu Samba noted. "But at least the social network is strong there and people are not as desperate."

You're asking: Why doesn't NYPD just go in there and kick the bums out? Well, it's not that simple. Back in the 1940's billionaire/philanthropist Nelson Rockefeller donated the land and shelled out the $9 million to build the UN. Therefore, the land doesn't belong him, nor to the City of New York...or even the USA. It belongs to the UN. This makes the United Nations technically responsible for the upkeep of the plaza and neighboring Robert Moses Playground. Unfortunately, both have fallen into gross neglect. Simply put, no legal body truly oversees the area.

Perhaps it's time to look outside the box. We here at the DUNER BLOG propose closing the ugly concrete rectangle and moving the United Nations to a new location. The UN already owns three other 'extraterritorial areas' in other countries: Geneva, Switzerland (Very Neutral), Vienna, Austria (Very Formal) and Nairobi, Kenya (Two out of three ain't bad!). We think the best option is Montreal. They made an offer in 2007 that included a fantastic, futuristic building on some docklands on the Saint Laurence River.

Let's face it. The once Grand Plaza in front of the Headquarters of the United World Nations is now teeming with homeless folks. This is a clear sign that New York really doesn't care anymore. It never made sense to have the governing body in the same nation that has the world's most powerful military. Hostile countries like Iran and North Korea don't even go to the meetings as a result. This means the most dangerous nations are not even present at the most important discussions. It's time for a change!

Thursday, August 13, 2015



Finally, some good new from the Middle East! While ISIS may continue to ravage parts of Northern Iraq, Syria and Tunisian beach resorts, the remaining 95% of Arab-speaking lands are actually enjoying fairly robust economic times. And nowhere was this more apparent than in Egypt. In fact, last Thursday was declared a National Holiday to celebrate an event 146 years in the making: The Grand Opening of the Second Suez Canal.

Never heard of the First Suez Canal? The famed waterway opened to similar grand fanfare back in 1869. It was hailed as "Mankind's Greatest Engineering Achievement" and still impresses today. See...back then...trucks had not been invented and railways were still in their infancy. Although centuries had passed since Columbus' voyage, Europe was still desperate for Asian goods, delivered by ship. The Suez Canal, (also known as the world's largest ditch) cut 6,000 miles off the ocean voyage around Africa. It saved everyone time and money.

The old adage "The More Things Change.. The More They Stay The Same" is true. Even today, 93% of the world's trade is carried over oceans and seas, and the majority still goes from Asia to Europe. Only the cargo has changed. iPads and Smart-Phones have replaced spices and tea. Yet the routes are exactly the same and the Suez has been crowded for 150 years. Ships still queue up on both ends of the Suez Canal, waiting to pass through. Since the French canal isn't very wide, only one craft can travel in one direction. Once in, it's also slow going. Speeds average 7 KMP, as it takes 21 hours to sail 160 kilometers.

All that changed last week! The New Suez Canal. Instead of waiting twelve hours to enter, it will only be three. The new canal is wider, so ships can sail in both directions at the same time. The capacity has also doubled...from and average of 49 to 97 ships daily. Transport around Suez has also been improved. There are now six tunnels underneath the canal to replace the horribly overused Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel. Sinai and Suez can now be sister cities!

So today, the DUNER BLOG asks you to join in celebrating this engineering marvel. Mosques across Egypt compared it to the Battle of the Trench in 627. During this medieval encounter, the Prophet / General Mohammad ordered his troops to dig an enormous trench around the city of Medina, thus rendering the cavalry of the Pagan Army useless. We're not quite sure of the connection, but will party anyhow!

Thursday, August 6, 2015



Tragedy occurred in a South Philadelphia neighborhood earlier this week. HitchBOT, the Hitch-hiking Robot was found decapitated in a grungy alleyway. Social Media is outraged. (But then again...when isn't Social Media outraged!?) At any rate, we here at the DUNER BLOG did some research and can now answer your FAQ's:

What is HitchBOT? Two Canadian college students dreamed up the concept of a robotic traveling companion. With a brain based on Wikipedia knowledge, it would be able to carry on conversations with bored drivers. (A real problem on Canada's long, dull highways.) Equipped with basic machine vision, a microphone, GPS tracker and a 3G connection, HitchBOT's parents can easily monitor wherever it goes.

Does HitchBOT have a goal? One of the creators, David Harris, called it "both an artwork and social robotics experiment." His original goal was to see if humans would be kind enough to take HitchBOT on rides across Canada. With no means of movement, the robot would be entirely dependent on the kindness of stangers. It took months, but he made it safely from Halifax to Victoria...over 10,000 kilometers in all!

What is the power source? Once you decide to pick the robot up (HitchBOT is gender neutral) it will ask you to plug him into the cigarette lighter in your car. This replenishes the battery. Fortunately, it doesn't need a lot of power. Since it can't move, it only needs electricity to light up the heart-shaped eyes and to search Wikipedia.

What happened in Philly? After the Canadian trip, HitchBOT toured Germany. Again, he met friendly strangers and shared all online. His American journey began in Boston on July 17th, with a sign reading; "San Francisco or Bust." Twelve days later, after getting a ride from a New Jersey couple, his electronic feed died. Authorities discovered his remains the next morning.

What's next for HitchBOT? As expected, many Philadelphians are shamed that their city doesn't have the "Brotherly Love" anymore. The city that booed Santa Claus is piecing together a grassroots movement to repair and restore HitchBOT and send him back on his way West. It is spearheaded by the Hacktory, a small business that offers classes on how to use tech creatively. Director Georgia Guthrie explained: "Philly has a really bad reputation, but there's enough people who want to help and do something positive."

The creators in Canada have yet to comment...