Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016



The Opening Ceremonies for South America's FIRST Olympic Games are a mere nine days away! No, we are not worried about Brazil being ready. (Remember, two years ago we reassured the world that Sochi would be ready for the Winter Games...and they went fine.) Rather, we here at the DUNER BLOG are here to give you some basic factoids about the wondrous city of Rio de Janeiro. Impress your pals at the sports bar!

THE NAME. When a ship under the command of Portuguese explorer Pedro Cabral first sailed into the massive bay, the date was January First, 1502. Believing he had discovered the mouth of an enormous river, he named the body of water "River of January." In actuality, there are no big rivers, just a huge bay. Rio Pavuna is the largest at only 10 miles long. Nonetheless, this was the name written on maps and charts. By 1565 it had a couple hundred residents, who officially declared 'Rio de Janeiro' as name of their city. Guanabara Bay is the body of water.

THE PEAKS. Rio lies on a strip of land the juts into the Atlantic Ocean from mainland Brazil. When entering by sea, the first mountain you'll see is Sugarloaf. It looks like a 1,300 foot high thumb. Next, you'll pass by two smaller peaks, Urca and Cara de Cão. Finally, there is the massive, 2,329 foot high Corcovado Mountain. Standing high atop the peak is the iconic Christ the Redeemer Statue, which was named to the NEW Seven Wonders of the World List.

THE BEACHES. The combination of these sudden peaks with the swift currents of the Atlantic results in some amazing deposits of sand. Native Tupi names for the beaches are still in use today. Impanema translates to "Bad Lake." Constant swells and nine-foot high waves are bad. Neighboring Copacabana Beach once was covered with colorful Soco birds. This word evolved into the current name. Both beaches  are subjects of famous songs: The Girl From Impanema (Astrud Gilberto) and Copacabana (Barry Manilow).

THE PEOPLE. Residents of Rio de Janeiro are called 'Cariocas.' It too is derived from the Tupi language, meaning 'White Man's House.' The first Portuguese settlers built quaint stucco homes along these two strips of sand. Since then, the city has grown. Today, the seven million residents comprise one of the most diverse cities on earth. 50% of Carioacas are white, 15% are black and 30% are a mix of the two. The remaining 5% are a mix of Asian and Arabs.

THE EVENTS. We are confident that Brazil will be ready next Friday, simply because they have done this before. In fact, Rio is in the Guinness Book of Records for holding the largest public event ever. The City of January is THE PLACE for New Year's Eve. On December 31, 1994, a Rod Stewart concert on Copacabana Beach had three million attendees. Then there's Carnaval...when even more millions of people flood into Rio for the largest FAT TUESDAY party ever.

Congratulations, Rio de Janeiro, it's your time to shine!

Friday, July 22, 2016



City officials in Lagos, Nigeria are trying to accomplish the impossible. Their goal is the have the metropolis to be Noise Pollution Free by the year 2020. Specifically, they limit neighborhoods to 55 decibels by day and 45 at night. "It's a great menace." explains Adebola Shabi, the Lagos State EPA spokesperson. "Exceed the limits and we shut you down." He's not kidding. This year, 70 hymn-hollering churches, 20 salat-shouting mosques and over 100 beat-thumping nightclubs have been shuttered. Is your town next? Here's the top ten noisiest cities:

#10. Lagos. With 20 million residents packed into 1,000 square kilometers, the Nigerian capital is Africa's largest and most densely populated city. The 24/7 noise is perhaps a result of the city's diversity. Every evening, packed churches sing chorus after chorus. This gives way to booming nightclubs who cater to Lagos' teeming youths. At dawn, mosques fill the streets with loud calls to morning prayers.

#9. Madrid. Europe's entry on the list is surprising. While other capitals are noisier during the day, no one celebrates nighttime as much as the Madrilenians. The average adult bedtime is midnight. When others sleep, Castilians dance. City officials are currently cracking down on clubs, but it's difficult to corral a hundred partygoers.

#8. Buenos Aires. The sambas and soccer of Rio are boisterous, but South America's loudest city is Argentina's capital. The main difference is when not doing the tango and watching football, Porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) are working. They man the continent's largest port, construct cars and work in plentiful factories.

#7. Tokyo. With 36 million people, the world's largest metropolitan area faces a unique challenge: Earthquakes. To minimize damage, there are height restrictions for buildings. Up until 1963, it was only 100 feet. With better technology, it is 700 feet today. However, the result is the same. Rather than a dozen tall apartments, there are a hundred smaller ones. This means constant, noisy construction day and night.

#6. Karachi. While transport accounts for a mere 10% of Tokyo's noise pollution, it dominates matters in Pakistan's largest city. 90% to be exact. There are no subways in Karachi. Just five million vehicles on the road every day. Minibuses, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, water tankers, taxis...you name it. And every single one of them honks the horn constantly.

#5. Shanghai. If you just consider people within in the city limits, Shanghai is the biggest city on earth, clocking in at 24 million. While the usual culprits...transport, construction and nightclubs...are evident here, the coastal metropolis suffers from a unique problem: Firecrackers. In Shanghai, they are not just for New Years' celebrations. Folks light off thousands of them for good luck at a wedding, or the opening of a new restaurant, or when a child is born, or moving to a new house...or...BAM! BAM!

#4. New York City. They don't call it "The City That Never Sleeps" for nothing. With no restrictions on operating hours, bars and nightclubs never have to close! In addition to 8 million outspoken residents, 14 million tourists come here annually. They fly in on loud planes, hail taxis and shout at street vendors. Also unique in NYC: 8% of the noise pollution comes from CAR ALARMS.

#3, #2, #1. Calcutta, Delhi and Mumbai. Here's one list where India comes out on top. Unregulated growth has problems. It means the gigantic cranes never leave. Instead, they continually build apartments, factories and office buildings. Add in constant Hindu festivals, Bollywood music pumped through loudspeakers, screaming sidewalk vendors and the clank-clank of rickshaws...and you have the loudest nation on earth!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016



It's hard to believe. The #1 bestselling app is POKEMON GO! Sigh. Just like Hello Kitty, there are some things that just won't go away. It's been 21 years since Pikachu and Charmander first dared you to "catch 'em all." But they're back and more popular than ever. Over 12 million apps have been sold, and it's been only one week since it was released. Wow!

Why all the excitement? Pokémon Go combines your smart-phone's GPS features with the back-facing camera, thus creating a virtual scavenger hunt for cartoon characters hidden in the real world. This new realm, created in Palo Alto, is known as "Augmented Reality." Around 250 different characters are waiting to be captured for points. You'll know when you're close; your cellphone will vibrate. But be careful: They can run away before you can nab them.

As always, those creative folks at Pokémon Company have dreamed up complex categories for their many characters. Each one has a specific species: Air, Ground, Grass and Water. (Pokémon creator Satosh Tajiri is an avid insect collector, so it all somehow relates back to Entomology). Here's an example: A water creature like Squirtle would be found in Chicago's Buckminster Fountain. A grass species like Bulbasaur would be located somewhere in NYC's Central Park. These are called 'Poke-stops' or "interesting places such as public art installations, historical markers and monuments." Wow! This game is bringing people back to parks and gardens.

Yet it's not all good news. See, Americans are not accustomed to leaving their internet-connected homes and venturing out into the real world. Hence, numerous mishaps have occurred. Shayla Wiggins of Riverton, WY was trying to find Kotaku (a water Pokémon) in a natural resource. Instead, she found a dead body in the river. Mark Schultz of Long Island was chasing Zobats in a meadow and fell and broke his arm.

While these are unfortunate incidents, the vast majority of Pokémon Go players are boldly going where no gamer has gone before: Outside! We here at the DUNER BLOG salute this amazing new app. It combines many of our favorite things: Walking outside, visiting important sites, and playing video games.

Friday, July 8, 2016



The totals are in from Hollywood and it doesn't look good. A record 162 TV shows were cancelled after the 2015 - 16 season. Granted: Twenty years ago, there were only four networks...compared to the 34 today...but it is still a staggering number nonetheless. Also surprising was the number of sitcoms on the cancelled shows list. Even shows with big names like Rob Lowe got the axe. While the sitcom genre seems simple, the truth is it takes a complicated mix of writing, celebrity and silliness to create the perfect situation comedy. But when you succeed, you've captured the nation's heart. Here are the top ten of all time:

#10 Big Bang Theory. 9 seasons. 2007 - present.  Once the butt of many a sitcom joke, Nerds today are on top. The Fonz would be amazed! One of the geeks on the show (Leonard Hofstadter) even has a gorgeous blonde girlfriend. As expected, much of the humor is found when the socially-challenged dudes try to interact with the real world.

#9. Mary Tyler Moore Show. 7 seasons. 1970 - 77.  For a sitcom to succeed, it's a good idea to pick a completely new situation to base the plot around. Featuring a single career woman as the central character was truly ground-breaking back in 1970. Unlike the working girls in the Big Bang Theory (who never cook or clean), Mary tries to balance gender stereotypes. The best episodes are her disastrously funny dinner parties.

#8. Gilligan's Island. 3 seasons. 1964 - 67.  While it's rare to pick super-silly situations for today's shows, this was the norm back in the sixties. Talking horses, magical jeanies and shipwrecked castaways dominated prime time lineups. Gilligan stood above the others. Balancing outstanding physical comedy, high speed camera tricks and jokes galore, it is seared in every American's memory forever.

#7. Cheers. 11 seasons. 1982 - 1993.  A Boston tavern served as the place "where everybody knows your name." A parade of local patrons confided in Sam Malone, the handsome bartender with a colorful past. Wildly popular, it was nominated for 'Best Comedy' every single year it aired.

#6. Friends. 10 seasons. 1994 - 2004. Here, we follow the trials and tribulations of six buddies in Manhattan. For ten years, they dated each other, two got married and two broke up. For ten years, America dutifully tuned in every Thursday to find out what's next. The final episode in 2004 was the most watched TV event of the decade.

#5. All In The Family. 8 seasons. 1971 - 79. In this program, the situation is social change. Archie Bunker's role in the healing the wounds of this turbulent era cannot be understated. As the ultimate anti-hero for bigotry, his actions helped many understand the complex, new society created by the Civil Rights movements of the 1960's.

#4.  Seinfeld. 9 seasons. 1998 - 98. Billed as a "show about nothing" this program instead focused on the minutiae of daily life. Plots revolved around a series of coincidences that miraculously get solved in under thirty minutes. While many sitcoms use the formula of inserting a successful stand-up comedian as the lead, Seinfeld succeeded by surrounding him with an amazing supporting cast. Who doesn't instantly laugh at Cosmo Kramer?

#3. The Brady Bunch. 5 seasons. 1969 - 74.  Another sitcom formula is the tired-and-true 'Family with a Twist.' Meet the Brady's: Three boys from one parent, three girls from the other. But this "group would somehow form a family," and win over millions of viewers. The episodes are the most aired reruns ever. While Archie Bunker delved head-first into tense issues, the Brady's stayed in the simple world of prom dates, sibling rivalry and roller skates.

#2. I Love Lucy. 6 seasons. 1951 - 57.  When TV first began in 1950, it was horribly boring: Dull newscasts, the Texaco Star Theater and slow Westerns. Yawn. Then along came the world's first situation-comedy. I Love Lucy wrote the book on how the genre is to be done: Take Lucille Ball and place her in outrageous plots. In a way, all future sitcoms are just a re-hash of Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel.

#1. Three's Company. 8 seasons. 1977 - 84. In 1980, Lucille Ball was asked what her favorite TV show was. Yep, she loved Three's Company the most. She called Jack Tripper the "most gifted physical comedian since Charlie Chaplin." She also loved the writing: A simple misunderstanding resulting in uproarious hijinks. We agree. Great comedy goes just over the line of good taste, and that's exactly where you'll find this show.

Friday, July 1, 2016



As everyone knows, Europe is engulfed in a rage of BREXIT panic. Folks on the continent are clamoring: How could the UK do this to us? Anti-England anger has reached unprecedented levels, rekindling centuries-old hate between nations. Which leaves many in Britain asking themselves: Did we make a mistake? Well, we here at the DUNER BLOG have come up with three ways Brits can, in fact, reverse the unpopular BREXIT vote:

#1. Ignore the outcome. Merriam-Webster defines 'Referendum' as a "public vote on a particular issue." Nowhere does it say a referendum is legally binding...it is merely a barometer of public opinion on a specific matter. While Britain prides itself on its democratic backbone...in reality...it is a unitary parliamentary system. Figure in the fact that most members of Parliament opposed leaving, particularly those in the House of Commons. So what if 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU? At the end of the day, elected officials make the final decision.  

#2. Scotland Veto. Back in April...months before the public vote...the House of Lords passed a resolution. It stated that any exit from the EU could only occur if it were approved by the legislatures of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. While the Welsh and Northern Irish supported leaving, the Scots were overwhelmingly in favor of staying. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister, has hinted her government could withhold consent. This would spark a nationwide constitutional crisis...and most importantly...delay any EU exit.

#3. Another Referendum. It's not unheard of to have another vote to reverse the actions of a previous one. Decades ago, Danish voters originally voted not to join the EU. A tidal-wave of anguish and regret swallowed the tiny state. Fearful of a financial collapse, eleven months later, a new vote was held nationwide. Danes overwhelmingly sided on joining the EU. Could British voters do the same? Online petitions demanding such action have garnered 4.2 million signatures...and counting! However, pollsters show that...overall...there is little change in attitude. A new vote would likely result in the same: But who knows for sure?

What we do know for sure is that Europe is a mess right now. As daily readers of British and German tabloids, it is obvious that some serious fearmongering is taking place. (The Migrants are coming for your job and your wife!) We think it is time for some deeper thought and a change of heart. Are you reading, David Cameron??