Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for June 2008

Duff reviews Grand Theft Auto 4

Most of you will have heard of Grand Theft Auto 4 by now, the quintessential “urban sandbox” game where players can steal cars, shoot cops, perform ridiculous stunts and generally live out violent fantasies with no consequence.

Many journalists have condemned this game, but I was determined to keep an open mind. Sure, the drones at NBC and CNN might be stuck in their suburban middle class paradigm, but I am an educated, enlightened member of the digerati.

They might look on the GTA release as an excuse to drum up parental outrage, but I was going to look past the stereotypes and judge this game on its artistic merit.

I fired up the game, grasped the controller and cleared my mind of all prejudice. Five minutes later, I was ready to march on Washington.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

June 30, 2008 at 15:13

Posted in Games

The serious business of humor on the Web

Jennifer Ordonez doesn’t think the Internet is very funny, or at least, not funny enough to make money.

Writing in Newsweek June 9, in the spectacularly well-named Technologist column, she said, “as a revenue driver, comedy on the Web has thus far been a joke.”
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Written by Michael B. Duff

June 27, 2008 at 03:18

Posted in Columns, Humor, Video

Julia Nunes does God Only Knows on ukulele

Written by Michael B. Duff

June 26, 2008 at 23:39

Posted in Music, Video

Bill Gates tries to use his own product

Todd Bishop of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is featuring a 2003 email from Bill Gates, lambasting his staff over the poor design and usability hassles he faced while trying to download Windows Movie Maker. Gates captured this experience exactly, asking all the questions that a normal user would ask.

“Why can’t I find MovieMaker in the search results?”

“Why do I have to download 7 things from Windows Update before I can get one program?”

“Why do software installs take so long?”

“Why does Add/Remove programs list a hundred hotfixes with no description?”

And the list goes on.

Dave Ross of KIRO-AM/710 in Seattle did a dramatic reading of the message on air Wednesday morning. Don’t miss it.

Written by Michael B. Duff

June 26, 2008 at 14:57

Posted in Humor, Microsoft

To geek or not to geek?

At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to use “geek” in the name of this blog. To some people geek is still a pejorative term, an insult used by people who think they’re still in high school.

The Urban Dictionary defines “geek” as: The people you pick on in high school and wind up working for as an adult.

All this really proves is that the Urban Dictionary is written by geeks.

A somewhat more reputable dictionary defines “geek” as:

1. a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp. one who is perceived to be overly intellectual.
2. a computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used by outsiders.)
3. a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, as biting off the head of a live chicken.

Ouch. With definitions like this, the Random House Dictionary company must have a kick ass softball team.

The 90s Internet boom gave geeks an air of wealth and power — and maybe even some credibility, if you think money can buy such things. In 2008 I would say we are well on our way to reclaiming the word geek and turning it into a status symbol, maybe even a compliment, if it’s used in the right context.

I used geek in the name of this blog because I don’t think it’s a dirty word. I wear the label reluctantly but with a little pride. I don’t like the image of the pale, flabby geek stereotype, but I do like being an opinionated, computer-savvy intellectual.

Ultimately, this is a blog about stuff that geeks like. I’ll cover the usual stuff like blogs, toys and video games; but I’ll also cover music, movies and pop culture. We know Battlestar Galactica is a geek show, but what about Boston Legal, CSI and Weeds?

I know geeks who watch all these shows and dissect them with as much passion as any conventioneer in a Star Trek uniform.

The truth is, there’s more than one kind of geek, and everybody’s a geek for something. The Internet has created a thousand tiny subcultures, each with its fair share of passion and prejudice. Like it or not, we’re living in a world of geeks — music geeks, sports geeks, political geeks and more.

So before you turn your nose up at the kid with the pocket protector, take a good look in the mirror, and recognize the geek in yourself.

Written by Michael B. Duff

June 23, 2008 at 23:48

Posted in Culture

Poll: Are you a music snob?

[poll id=”2″]

Written by Michael B. Duff

June 23, 2008 at 19:59

Posted in Music, Polls

This blog has moved

Welcome everybody from michaelduff.net

I’ve got my redirect in now and everything should be pointed to my “official” Lubbock Online blog. Thanks for your patience as I get this worked out.

Old RSS feed will NOT work, so please grab the new one at: http://blogs.lubbockonline.com/geek/feed/

Written by Michael B. Duff

June 22, 2008 at 17:02

Posted in Admin

Gakwer survivors form microfame posse

Everybody who knows me knows that I love the concept of online cliques. I’ve wasted a ridiculous amount of time trying to follow the blogrolls of people in the Gawker network, convinced that whatever flaws Nick Denton may have, no one can match his eye for talent.

Denton finds the best young writers on the Internet, “turns them out” in a matter of days, wrings out their youthful energy like an old man trying to squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of a tube, and eventually leaves them as cynical burned-out shells of their former selves,

The pattern repeats, over and over, as the victims emerge from obscurity, fumble through their charming awkward phase, reach an apex of creativity and snark, and then, right on schedule, they develop a conscience and leave for greener pastures.

Then, after they leave, the Redemption Phase. They struggle for a while, move on to other jobs, and slowly come into their own as writers and editors.

Call me naive, but I believe in the ultimate triumph of talent over greed, and the ultimate superiority of substance over flash.

Whatever you may think of Denton and his recent missteps, no one can fault his eye for talent, and Gawker is the ultimate boot camp for Journalism 2.0.

I don’t have all the pieces yet, but I think the revolution starts with this list:

Microfame is an ecosystem, a collection of fans who contribute and invest themselves in the brand called you. The best current example of this esprit de corps in action is the diaspora of former Gawker editors who have picked up microblogging. Alex, Doree, Choire, Jess, Elizabeth, Emily, and Josh each have their own sites, but their cross-references and incestuous linking have created a blogger’s version of Entourage. The posse—or as media theoreticians call it, the network—creates influence that grows exponentially with its size. If fame is an investment, the members of your posse are the stockbrokers keeping your wealth properly distributed.

So, the Gawker Rat Pack is:

Alex Balk
Choire Sicha
Doree Shafrir
Elizabeth Spiers
Emily Gould
Josh Stein

To this I would add:

Alex Pareene
Ana Marie Cox
Lindsay Robertson
Maggie Shnayerson

and a dozen others that I haven’t identified yet.

Collect the whole set!

UPDATE: Unbelievable. I spent 20 minutes rounding up links to supplement Balk’s quote of this, then I locate the original source and find that Rex Sorgatz had already done it for me. Epic Stalker Fail.

Written by Michael B. Duff

June 21, 2008 at 00:09

Posted in Gawker

Duff: AP starts copyright fight but can't handle blogger backlash

Duff: AP starts copyright fight but can’t handle blogger backlash

The Associated Press stirred up some trouble in the blogosphere this week by dropping the hammer on a site called the Drudge Retort.

The Retort started as a parody of the Drudge Report and has now turned into a news aggregation service. Visitors post excerpts from news stories and invite others to comment. A poster to the Drudge Retort posted 18 words from an AP story and a 32-word quote from Hillary Clinton.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

June 20, 2008 at 16:10

Posted in Columns

Jessica Coen doesn't really love you

I need to take a moment and cackle over Jessica Coen’s Myspace profile.You will never see this tongue again.

Her regular blog is here, but the real masterpiece is on Myspace. This profile is the most succinct commentary on male desire and female enabling that I’ve ever seen.


Result? The most artfully-crafted NO TRESSPASSING sign on the Internet.

Written by Michael B. Duff

June 19, 2008 at 12:46

Posted in Gawker, Humor