Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016



Summertime is fast approaching, and folks are busy booking their holidays. To assist them, Reddit issued a list of the most overrated tourist attractions worldwide. We here at the DUNER BLOG sorted through the all 27 entries. Some are silly...but necessary...tourist 'traps' like Times Square or Fisherman's Wharf. Others are objectionable because they are too crazy, like Bourbon Street or Oktoberfest. To simplify, we trimmed the list down to eight truly overrated tourist attractions:

The Alamo, San Antonio. Whenever you watch the Spurs play on TV, they always show the famed structure from deep in the heart of Texas, just before and after commercials. TNT must be using a wide-angle lens shot on ground level...because it is just not that tall in real life. Here are the specs: The Alamo is a mere 28' tall and a tiny 48' feet wide. Not to belittle: It's absolutely the most historical building in the state. Just be prepared to be a bit under-whelmed when you go.

Little Mermaid, Copenhagen. People love the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. People adore the Disney movie. Lost in between the two is the slimy bronze statue on a rock in Copenhagen Harbor. In fact, when you walk along the waterfront, you wouldn't even notice it. But then you get curious why so many tourist taking photos of moss covered boulders..

Hollywood Walk of Fame. Although the Los Angeles neighborhood has gone through an amazing tourist-friendly revival recently, some aspects remain blah. Enter the Stars of 'famous' celebs on the sidewalk. There are currently 2,578 individual stars on the ground. Unfortunely, 98% of these are unheard-of screenwriters and unregocnizable vaudeville stars. The marble stars are also very dirty. See, they are always being stepped on!

Mannekin Pis, Brussels. Even the Belgians cannot figure out why this 61-centimeter tall bronze statue of a boy peeing is so outrageously popular. It honors Julianske, the legendary boy who urinated on a lit fuse...thus saving the city from being blown up...way back in 1386. If you go today, you'll find the boy often dressed in silly costumes. Try to visit on a holiday, when keg beer flows out of his wee-wee.

Rocky Statue, Philadelphia. This is another statue whose popularity puzzles locals. It honors Rocky Balboa, the boxing character and was initially commissioned by the actor who played him, Slyvester Stallone. In a city with some many 'real' sights, like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, it's funny that one honoring a fictional character gets the most selfies.

Harry Potter 9 3/4 Platform, London. This odd sculpture depicts a baggage cart disappearing into the mythical train queue featured in the beloved books and movies. Apparently, it was much more impressive when it was actually on the train platform. But since this meant tourists had to buy a ticket to see it, so authorities moved it to the public area of King's Cross Station. Expect a 30 minute wait for that funny picture.

Blarney Stone, Ireland. An enduring Irish legend states: Anyone who journeys to distant Cork to kiss this block of carboniferous limestone will be blessed forever with the gift of eloquence. However, in order to accomplish this task, you must scale the castle walls, then lean over a crevice to smooch. We here at the DUNER BLOG suggest arriving first thing in the morning, so you don't interact with other people's eloquent saliva.

Plymouth Rock. We here at the DUNER BLOG couldn't agree more: "It's just a rock...and not even a big one at that." noted subie110. "Worst field trip ever!" shouts Vmoney1331. It's odd: For the first 100 years, no one even knew about the unshapely boulder. Then, in 1741, construction began on a new wharf. This caught the ire of 94-year old Thomas Faunce, who wouldn't allow pilings placed on the exact spot of the famed landing. Since then, the rest of the world has believed him and come to this disappointing stone.

Friday, April 22, 2016



The US Treasury Department made worldwide headlines on Wednesday when they announced HARRIET TUBMAN would be replacing ANDREW JACKSON on the $20 bill. Readers outside of the USA are likely wondering why this is such a BIG DEAL. Well...It's not so much that Miss Tubman is the first woman on an American currency note...but more about which currency note. No one knows why, but the TWENTY is the most important bill for Americans. For example, if you withdraw $100 from the ATM, you don't receive a hundred dollar bill. Nope, it's five twenties. Statistics show we only use disgustingly worn $1 bills more.

To celebrate this achievement, and to welcome the USA into the Currency Note Gender Equity Club, here are ten nations who already have portraits of women on their dollar bills:

ARGENTINA A couple of years ago, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner unveiled the new 100 Peso banknote. It featured...you guessed it... EVITA! She was supposed to have been on this bill fifty years ago, but regime change delayed the printing until 2012.

AUSTRALIA. The folks Down Under have the most gender neutral currency notes in the world. In addition to Queen Elizabeth II (more on her later...) there are ladies on every single Aussie banknote. The $10 has social reformer Dame Mary Gilmore, $20 is philanthropist Mary Reibly. The $50 shows the first woman MP, Edith Cowen while the $100 is Opera Singer Dame Nellie Melba.

MEXICO. A colorful self portrait of overly worshipped Frida Kahlo adorns the 500 peso note, but we here at the DUNER BLOG love Mexico's 200 Peso note more. It depicts Sor Juana, a 17th century poet. As a teen, she taught herself Greek, Latin and Nahuatl. She then dressed like a man to attend college.

PHILIPPINES. Catholic countries are easier places for women to succeed, so they appear more often on their corresponding banknotes. The island nation of the Philippines features two women on their money. Josefa Llanes Escoda was a lot like Harriet Tubman: She smuggled medicine, food and messages to POWs in Japanese occupation camps. Corozan Aquino appears with her husband on a rare two person obverse.

SOUTH KOREA. Asian countries are difficult places for women to succeed, so they rarely appear on their corresponding banknotes. An exception is Korea, where Shin Saimdang adorns the 50,000 Won. The 19th century poet was an astounding calligraphist...still a big deal in this part of the world!

SWEDEN. A couple of Scandinavian nations feature ladies on their bills, but Sweden's Selma LagerlÅ“f takes the cake. She is the first woman EVER to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Side Note: Sweden is atop the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Report again this year. Congrats to the men there for allowing this to happen!

UKRAINE. Let's face it: Many of the women on this list are accomplished...but not exactly gorgeous. (This is highly important today's Kardashian World, but decades ago, it was not a prerequisite to a lady's success.) Enter Larysa Petrivna Kvitka from the Ukraine. This beautiful woman was also a writer, poet and women's rights activist.

U.K. & COMMONWEALTH. All Hail Queen Elizabeth II! No other person...male or female...has been one more currency notes ever. More than Washington, Lenin and Mao combined. She first appeared on a Canadian bill in 1935 at age eight. Nowadays, twenty nations around the world show her face at different ages. The superlatives just don't end. Antarctica is only continent NOT to have QE2 on their money...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016



Protesters filled Cairo's famed Tahir Square again this week. Only this time, they were NOT celebrating an Arab Spring. Nope...THIS April...Egyptians are furious about the recent actions of their "President" Abdel el-Sisi. For the last four days, he hosted a summit with newly crowned King Salman from Saudi Arabia. Both heads of state are relative newcomers and wanted to show their collective constituencies they are competent leaders. At the end of the day, Egypt got what it wanted (Money & oil) and The Kingdom got what it wanted (Two tiny islands in the Red Sea).

When the average Cairene (the fancy word for a resident of Cairo) read about this incident, their first reaction was anger: "Sisi is selling our land for Saudi Riyals! For shame!" See, Egyptians are very sensitive about every square inch of their national territory. And for good reason! Neighboring nations are always stealing land! Former President Anwar Sadat worked hard to restore the Sinai Penninsula after decades of Israeli annexation. Likewise, Mubarak forced Sudan out of the Halaib Triangle, another region militarily occupied by a bordering nation. Hence, no two Egyptian islands are insignificant...even if they are uninhabited.

But are the isles of Tiran and Sanafir even Egyptian to begin with? Further historical examination reveals a long list of previous owners. Ottoman Turks held sway for 500 years, followed by an English Queen and a Saudi King. However, from 1918 to the present, they have been clearly in Egypt's borders...apart from the Israeli occupation 1967 - 1982. So...in reality...any of five states could make a solid case for ownership. Unfortunately, the average Egyptian knows he/she will never see any of the $22 billion in oil deals. For Cairenes, the summit proves what they already know: Saudi Arabia has taken their crown as the leader of the Sunni Arab world.

Finally, we need to touch on another reason why protesters filled Tahir Square this week: Horrific Traffic Jams. Just like when President Obama visits your metropolis, Saudi Royalty also have the power to shut-down major thoroughfares. Gridlock then snarls the remaining streets still open to traffic. Many of the Cairenes at the demonstration were taxi drivers. We here at the DUNER BLOG agree: If Presidents, Kings and Prime Ministers really cared about the people, they would take the subway for official visits. (Cairo's subway is even air-conditioned!)

Sadly, lost in all the hubbub over shady oil deals and land transfers, was the one lasting outcome from the summit: THE KING SALMAN BRIDGE. See, when you drive between the two nations, you have to drive through 2 miles of Israeli territory and 3 miles of Jordan. A simple, 12 mile bridge over the Gulf of Aqaba solves the problem. Both sides agreed and construction will soon be underway. While the Arab world should be celebrating this development, they instead flood the square in anger over a small, petty aspect of the overall deal. Imagine what could be accomplished if Arab nations forgot about all of their silly fifty year old borders and instead worked together to share their ample natural resources..

Thursday, April 7, 2016



Big news from Madrid the week! Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy unveiled a highly controversial plan to legally eliminate the beloved SIESTA. To do so, he proposes trimming the work day by two hours. For those of us who stay awake all day, here are some key points to clarifying this confusing tradition:

ORIGIN OF THE SIESTA. Not surprisingly, folks in sunny Spain have taken a midday snooze since antiquity. Back in the day, the Roman province of Lusitania was always a hubbub of activity. After a long morning of constructing aqueducts, slaves were allowed a break at the 'Sexta hora' and everyone slept. (Roman clocks start at sunrise, so the sixth hour is noon.) Over time, the term evolved into 'Siesta.'

LOCATION OF THE SIESTA. Generally, people in the Mediterranean regions are the most devout followers of the siesta ritual. See, it gets really hot in Sicily during the afternoon...especially outside. (Believe it or not, humankind only recently started working solely in air-conditioned cubicles!) It is simply not efficient to pick olives and grapes in 100° degree heat. Instead, folks take a rest.

IMPACT OF THE SIESTA. OK.. Let's fast forward to present times. To formally include a siesta in a modern society, you need a standardized schedule. In Spain, work begins at 9:00 and stops at 1:30. Banks, stores and businesses then re-open at 4:00 and stay open until 8:00. Things like La Liga matches and Prime-time novellas generally start at 9:00 or 10:00 and often run until 2:00 am! Siestas also impact the cuisine of Spain. Lunch is the largest meal, while dinner consists of tiny tapas.

BENEFITS OF THE SIESTA. Prime Minister Rajoy is quick to point out that Spanish workers are among the less productive in Europe; even behind the Dejeuner-loving French. Establishing a standardized, nine-to-five workday is seen as a major step towards correcting this discrepancy. However, a recent study by a group of physicians called SEMERGEN found that siestas are beneficial. They charge your batteries and lower your blood pressure. NASA agrees. Astronauts take a 26 minute nap while in space.

FUTURE OF THE SIESTA. It looks bleak in Madrid or Barcelona. PM Rajoy needs to show voters he's serious about the change. The Siesta Ban will be passed by Parliament soon and become law. This means no banks or mini-markets will close at midday. It's also likely that Spain will rejoin the UK on Greenwich Mean Time. (Gen. Franco wanted Spain to be on the same time as Nazi Germany and they never changed back). But in the open fields of Andalusia, it's unlikely to change any olive-picker's schedule. After all: "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun!"