Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, January 27, 2017



There’s a new killer out there…and we here at the DUNER BLOG are here to warn you. This menacing condition strikes people of all ages, but preys on the young and stupid. It kills in a variety of ways: Drowning, electrocution and dismemberment. Worse yet, there is no antidote, no known cure for this worldwide epidemic. Yep, we’re talking about SELFIE DEATHS, which happen when people lose their lives in search of the ultimate photo.
Let’s look at the numbers. Last year, 127 people died while taking dangerous photos. A quarter of these occurred in the quest for the ‘Group selfie,’ and multiple people lost their lives. Three quarters of the victims are men and 68% are 24 years old or younger. But here is the scariest statistic: The first reported selfie death EVER was in March of 2014. That’s not even three years ago!
Here’s a curious item as well: More than half (76 total) occur in the nation of India. The United States tallied the second-most deaths (nine), tied with Pakistan. Next up is Russia, China and the Philippines, with seven, six and five fatalities. Why such disparity? Well, first of all, Indians have the most cell phones—nearly a billion. Next, add in the two worst Group Incidents happened here: One on the Ganges River and another on Lake Nagpur. These two alone accounted for 14 deaths. But it’s not just the Indians themselves. The last death was a Japanese tourist who fell at the Taj Mahal.

What would Alexander Graham Bell think? It would be difficult to describe to him the inexplicable and overpowering lure of that perfect selfie. See, it’s not just enough to go to Pamploma, Spain to see the Running of the Bulls. So a man was gored while posing next to an angry bull. You can’t just visit Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone. So a Belgian woman died after 85% of her body was scalded. So remember, if you make it to Machu Picchu or Niagara Falls, try to keep your balance and wits and don’t focus on your social media fantasy shot.

Saturday, January 21, 2017



The circus will NOT be coming to town! After 146 years, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey announced their final performance will be May 21 at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. Although sentimentalists will cry, attendance has been in a gradual decline since peaking in the 1950's. The last straw came courtesy of the Humane Society and their $25 million dollar lawsuit over elephant mistreatment. However, we here at the DUNER BLOG take a different view: How did the circus last so long? To answer this question, we went back 100 years and examined how Americans spent their entertainment dollars in the 1910's.

The undisputed king of the era was Vaudeville. In 1910 there were four thousand theaters scattered across the USA. Unlike Broadway plays, there is no need for a plot in this genre. Just a series of separate, unrelated acts all grouped together on a single bill. At its height, over 25,000 Americans were employed in the Vaudeville industry. That's a lot of musicians, magicians, acrobats and actors performing every day from Portland to Peoria. These folks strived to reach the pinnacle: Playing at New York City's Palace Theater. Sadly, Vaudeville declined in the 1920's when talking pictures debuted. By 1940, almost all theaters had been converted to cinemas. NOTE: Buster Keaton, WC Fields and Judy Garland all got their start in Vaudeville.

Also immensely popular in the 1910's were Wild West Shows. Stopping at many of the same venues as the circus, these traveling spectacles often outsold their rival. Basically, folks on the East Coast have always been fascinated by the tales and legends of the Western states. Ensembles like Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show simply brought the images of Tombstone, Arizona to Trenton, New Jersey. Rail cars loaded with live horses, donkeys and buffalo rambled into town. On stage, they reenacted things like Custard's Last Stand and the Shootout at the OK Corral. Navajos and Mexicans joined the cast as did the West's Wild Women: Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley. Modern historians dismiss these shows as 'over glorification of events.' Yet...in their day...they were amazingly popular, with 10,000,000 people attending shows in 1910. That's one in nine Americans!

Thankfully last on the list are the horrid Freak Shows. Have you ever seen The Elephant Man? It portrays a man with major facial deformities who is forced the join the Whitechapel Freak Show in Victorian London. Well, the same story unfolded across the USA as well. Dreaded 'Dime Museums' were found in every major city. For ten cents, guests viewed not only deformed people, but also midgets, pinheads and the hideously ugly. A more educated American audience began rejecting the industry and the last Dime Museum closed in New York City in 1935.

Friday, January 13, 2017


With Trumps inauguration just a mere six days away, we here the DUNER BLOG have some advice for The Donald: Learn how to take a joke. Here's an example: Since the 1970's, the TV show Saturday Night Live has parodied presidents. And… for the last 42 years…Commader In Chiefs have accepted it as part of the job. However, thin-skinned Trump simply cannot handle being teased. “Can’t get any worse” he tweeted after the last episode. Sigh. This is an American tradition! To recap, here is a chronological list of their famous parodies:
GERALD FORD (Chevy Chase). SNL’s first season was edgy and had a less-rehearsed feel than today. Case in point: The impersonations of the president involved no make-up or costumes. Instead, Chevy Chase just acted like a buffoon, pouring water on his face instead of answering the phone. GRADE: C+
JIMMY CARTER (Dan Aykroyd) A more accurate portrayal, Aykroyd not only had Carter’s famous hair, but he also mastered his stutter and mannerisms as well. The main joke involved exaggerating Jimmy’s intelligence. One sketch had Carter as a guest on a radio talk show. He was talking a caller down from a bad LSD trip. “Sounds like you took some Orange Sunshine, Jimmy..” GRADE: A+
RONALD REAGAN. (Joe Piscopo). For Reagan’s first term in the Oval Office, SNL didn’t involve him in any shows. In his second term, producers tried to overcome a huge age difference (Joe was in his twenties; Reagan was in his seventies) to lampoon the Gipper. Piscopo pulled off many silly gags where Ronny gets lost and can’t find his way home. GRADE: C-
GEORGE BUSH SR. (Dana Carvey). A master of impersonations, Canadian Carvey was ecstatic when Lorne Michaels gave him the opportunity to play G.W. Bush. Concentrating on George’s many catch-phrases (“1,000 points of Light,” “Read My Lips: No New Taxes”), Dana was the only SNL cast-member to receive an Emmy award AND to have the actual president visit on stage. GRADE: A+
BILL CLINTON (Phil Hartman). Another Canadian (!?) was selected to impersonate the President when Clinton assumed the office in the 1990’s. This time, the jokes were mostly related to Bill’s appetite for food and women. Our favorite sketch poked fun at Clinton’s jogging routine: He stops at the McDonald’s every day midway through his run. GRADE: A-
GEROGE BUSH JR. (Will Ferrell). Elation filled the halls of 30 Rockefeller Plaza when bumbling Bush was elected president. Comedians nationwide found him an easy target, constantly providing material to chide. When asked about portraying Bush, Ferrell replied: “Just focus on the ceiling and intentionally flub your lines. Easiest impersonation ever!” GRADE: B+
BARACK OBAMA (Jay Pharoah). Initially portrayed by Armenian Fred Armisen, some speculated that Pharoah joined the SNL cast based solely on his Obama impression. He succeeded in bringing life to a relaxed personality and even received a written compliment from the Prez himself. Unfortunately, Barack outlasted Jay, who was cut from the cast last summer. GRADE: B
DONALD TRUMP (Alec Baldwin). For the first time, an outsider was brought into the SNL cast to specifically to play one role. Although not known for impersonations, Baldwin clearly has the gravitas needed to mimic the outlandish Trump. Here’s his secret: “Trump takes long pauses to search for the perfect word…But never seems to find it.” Sounds about right, Alec! GRADE: A-

Friday, January 6, 2017



Happy New Year from the DUNER BLOG! Over the holidays, our staff was on assignment in Colombia. Sadly, we were unable to interview Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos. Sigh. Afterward, daunted by the horrendous traffic, we chose to take the bus back from the Presidential Palace. See, Bogota has invested heavily in Bus Rapid Transit, which features dedicated lanes used only by buses. Separated from automobile traffic and congested intersections, they are essentially subways in disguise. This prompted us to conduct research into this new Public Transport phenomenon.

The original system in Curitiba
The idea began in 1974 in the Brazilian city of Curitiba. Unable to secure funding for a subway system like neighboring São Paulo, a creative mayor came up with a solution. Instead of digging below the streets, the city instead grabbed two lanes of traffic above ground. These were for buses only. Next, stations, not stops, are ten blocks apart. At the entrance, passengers pass through turnstiles to pay. This lets dozens of people board the bus simultaneously, thus eliminating the tedious routine for drivers to collect fares in addition to driving. Today, 80% of Curitiba residents take the bus and the city has the lowest per-capita spending on transport in the entire nation of Brazil.

Twenty years later, Bogotans found themselves in a similar situation. Unable to fund the subway system the 8,000,000 residents demanded, the mayor instead turned to the Curitiba Model. After years of skepticism, in the year 2000, the (aptly named) Trans-Mileneo opened. Since then, it has mushroomed into the largest BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system in the world, carrying over two million people every day. Having proven that the system can work in a major metropolis, cities worldwide have begun investing heavily in buses and not subways.

Los Angeles has one too!
Take Mexico City for example. It now has five Metrobús lines with no plans to build any new subway lines. In Los Angeles, the Orange Line crosses San Fernando Valley in minutes, not hours. LA Metro calls it ‘the bus that thinks it’s a subway.” However, the largest BRT system in the world is in Jakarta, Indonesia. It has a whopping 210 kilometers of dedicated roads. In fact, there is a system on every continent. In Tehran, two million Iranians take the bus as do hundreds of thousands of folks in Johannesburg and Dublin, Ireland.

Jakarta has the largest RTB
Like everything in life, BRT systems does have its critics...mostly environments. Subway lines are electric and don’t pollute. A fleet of 1,000 enormous buses makes a lot of smog. However, as the bus systems grow, so do the profits. Slowly but surely, hybrid vehicles, made by Mercedes and Van Hool, are replacing the gas guzzlers. While none of these fancy coaches can ever replace the glamour of a Paris subway station, we here at the DUNER BLOG applaud the cities for looking outside the box for transit solutions.