Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for July 2008

You love your iPhone, but can you love it too much?

My iPhone will only accept movies made by Wes Anderson.

This sounds like the setup for a joke, but it’s the literal truth. I had a dozen movies ready for transfer when my darling arrived last week. I gave it 12; it accepted three. I wanted to upload four gigs of scifi action, quirky coming of age drama and obscure British comedy, but iPhone decided that these movies were not good enough and refused to accept them.

My iPhone is demanding and high-maintenance, but this probably my fault for giving it a girl’s name. I named her Pandora, not after the music service, but after the Greek equivalent of Eve — the woman who opened a box of trouble and released evil into the world.

And if you don’t think of iPhone as the mythical root of all evil, you probably don’t know what I use it for.

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Written by Michael B. Duff

July 31, 2008 at 14:07

Posted in Apple, Columns

A Hacker's Guide to Women

Mystery (Provided by VH1)What if I told you there was a secret formula that could get you any woman you want? What if I told you all the things you’re scared of — dating, flirting, courtship and the club scene — what if I told you those were all just games? Games you can learn, the same way you learn programming, mathematics, guitar and chess?

The magic is real, and it’s sweeping through the Internet like wildfire, turning geek boys into pick up artists like a virus that rewrites DNA.

It’s called The Mystery Method, and it’s the latest evolution of the “How to Pick Up Girls” books that have been around since the ’50s. The Pick Up Artist subculture has been a driving force on the Internet since its inception, when the Usenet group alt.seduction.fast launched the careers and fattened the wallets of men like Ross Jeffries.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

July 28, 2008 at 19:23

Posted in Columns, Culture

Tagged with

Duff and the Hacker

Back in the 80s I ran a bulletin board — a kind of primitive web site that you had to call and connect to over the phone. These systems had message boards, file downloads and live chat, but mine could only support one person at a time.

I come home from class one day and find my board gone — not just down, but gone. Deleted. Destroyed. Wiped off my hard drive like it never existed. I called my friends and connected to every board in town, initiating a city-wide manhunt for the jerk who took me down.

I had no proof, but I found a suspect — a small-time hacker who liked to brag about all the ways he could destroy a bulletin board. I don’t remember his handle, so I’ll just call him “RaZor.” RaZor talked big, and my friends said he was smart enough to kill a bulletin board, so I called in some favors and learned his real name.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

July 22, 2008 at 19:54

Posted in Best Of, Culture

Four minutes that will make you love Billy Joel

“The Springsteen model, only tweaked, turned up, and transformed into a fairy tale of post-apocalyptic New York.”

From this awesome article by Maura Johnston

Written by Michael B. Duff

July 18, 2008 at 20:29

Posted in Music, Video

I need bloggers

Lubbock Online is about to expand its blogging roster and I need some good candidates. I’m open to pitches of any kind but here’s what I really need:

Political blogs: Not just right and left, but if you’re passionate about environmentalism or privacy rights, we could build a blog around that issue. Note that we already have a strong pair of political bloggers and that our standards for this one will be pretty high. The blogger who tries to take this on needs to be smart and prolific, willing to link to good sources and handle commenters with some level of grace.

Tech students: We really need to engage the Tech community and start writing about things that students care about. I’d love to see a blog about the daily life of an art student or med student — someone involved in Greek life or involved in student government.

Photo blogs: We have a great platform to host photos and I want to make the most of it. I’d love to showcase the work of a young artist specializing in the visual arts. Show us the progression of your own work and highlight great pieces from your friends. Show us your process and let us learn with you as you go.

Entertainment blogs: We need to find someone who’s plugged in to Lubbock’s live music scene; clubs and nightlife, concerts and special events. I’d also consider a TV or soap opera blog, or even a short-term blog devoted to Top Model or American Idol. If you know how to write snark without being vulgar or abusive, I’d like to talk with you.

Sports blogs: Not just the typical football, basketball and baseball — we want to cover the sports that don’t normally get noticed. Teach me about volleyball, soccer, flag football and intramurals.

Educators: We’d love to see a blog from a Tech TA or a first-year teacher at LISD.

Science blogs: Got an obsession with chemistry, physics or pop science? Want to be the next Carl Sagan? We need a blogger who can share the latest discoveries and translate them into a form that ordinary people can understand.

Guidelines: Lubbock Online is not responsible for the content of its volunteer blogs, but we do maintain a minimum set of editorial standards. That means no vulgarity or profanity and no adult themes beyond the content of a documentary or PG movie. We will not edit your content, but we reserve the right to remove posts and comments if they violate our standards.

Multimedia: Our blog platform can handle audio, photos and video. We encourage bloggers to spice things up with pics and video and I’m open to the idea of a podcast if you can think of a good one.

What you get: An audience! The Lubbock Online blogs are a critical part of our site. Relevant blogs get promotion on our section fronts and prominent placement on our front page. This is great exposure for artists and writers and it looks great on a resume.

What you don’t get: Paid. Lubbock Online bloggers are volunteers. Sorry.

How to apply: Write up a sample post and a short description of your blog concept. Send it by email to michael.duff@lubbockonline.com. Please include your full name, accurate return email, and a contact number. Please help me keep organized by putting your name in the subject line. Something clever like: “John Doe Blog Application” would help. Email submissions only, please.

Got a great blog concept that’s not covered in the list above? Send me an email and talk me into it. Multimedia helps, and good writing can redeem anything.

Annoyed that I missed something obvious? Burning to share something that you’ve always wanted to see us blog about? Please comment on this post.

P.S. We all know that good bloggers need to be a little crazy, but if you push it too far I’ll have to throw you back. You have been warned.

Written by Michael B. Duff

July 15, 2008 at 17:26

Posted in Admin

A Beginner's Guide to Hating Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson in Lost in TranslationMost geeks cannot imagine hating Scarlett Johansson. At first, the concept is absurd, unthinkable — like making a Star Wars movie without CGI or eating a pizza with vegetables on it.

But geeks are quirky, contrary creatures. They love hating things that everybody else loves, and there is no hatred quite like the hatred of a film geek. To back up this assertion, I direct you to a brilliant piece of digital brutality written by Alex Carnevale.

At first, I couldn’t believe it. I was so bewildered by Alex’s post, I misreported his gender in my first draft, assuming that any writer who hated Scarlett Johansson (affectionately abbreviated “ScarJo”) had to be female.

Hating Scarlett Johansson, it’s like hating sunshine, or rainbows, or ponies. But here he was, Alex Carnevale, drinking the blood of unicorns and enjoying a big fat pony sandwich.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

July 10, 2008 at 15:19

Posted in Movies

Geek Snack Update

So the A-J has these vending machines — not just your typical modern snack apartment building, but the older, glass-topped manual models with a crank — sponsored by some charitable organization.

These machines have been here for decades and to my knowledge, no one has ever actually tried to eat anything from them.


I’m on a diet these days, and I needed something more substantial than a stick of gum but not quite as sinful as a candy bar. Those 25-cent blobs of dubious candy seemed like a perfect compromise.

I put my money in, turned the crank back and forth and came back to my chair with a generous handful of sweet red pebbles. I put one carefully in my mouth, judged it to be unique but edible, and dug in to the rest. As I was eating, one of the reporters came in and caught me mid-scarf.

She looked at me with a mixture of horror and admiration, like I was one of those guys on Fear Factor. “You’re eating candy from that machine? Do you know what it is?”

*munch* *munch* “No idea.”

“Are you sure it’s safe?”

*chew* *chew* “Nope.”

This was last week. Today the same reporter catches me headed to the break room and says, “Oh! Those things you were eating? They were Boston Baked Beans.”

This is why I love reporters. They can’t walk away from an unanswered question.

But she went on, “And that thing you thought was an FDA inspection sticker? It says ‘Go Cowboys, 1974.'”

P.S. Before anyone freaks out and calls the health department I should add that although our reporters maintain the highest standards of integrity in print, some of them have been known to exaggerate things here in the office, if only to make the online guy jump.

Written by Michael B. Duff

July 7, 2008 at 16:48

Posted in Food, Humor

A touching tale of geek romance

I have to share this great story I just heard on Fear the Boot.

FTB is a podcast about roleplaying games. With a great cast and a wonderful tongue-in-cheek presentation of the subject, these guys veer effortlessly from serious philosophical discussion of the genre to childish junior high-style hazing of cast members.

This story occurs somewhere in-between.

Somewhere around 1996, Chris Hussey got heavy into the community and wrote a Battletech sourcebook

On their latest podcast, Chris tells the story of how he romanced his wife with a series of in-character emails, written as if they were both characters in this game.

(Warning: This episode will be very confusing to non-geeks in the audience and it contains some adult language.)

Battletech is a game of the far future, where soldiers in a (fairly) realistic military simulation fight tactical battles while driving tanks shaped like giant robots. It is much cooler, and much more complicated, than I make it sound.

Chris wrote letters to his wife as if he were a soldier in this world and she wrote back as if she was waiting for him back home. The other guys on the podcast tease Chris as if this were some kind of sex thing but ultimately the hottest thing they did was have an in-character dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

This is all the more remarkable because Chris’s wife is not a gamer.

The tone of this story is very sweet, very romantic and very very geeky.

As they said on the show: “This woman is not a dork, but she loved her geek so much she was willing to get in with his perverse LARPing fantasies.”

Non-geeks probably think this kind of thing is common, but as one host said, “Honestly Chris, I’m a gamer and you couldn’t ask me to do this. His wife went above and beyond the call of duty. That’s a good woman right there.”

Which led to the question, “Isn’t that what every gamer out there wants?”



Written by Michael B. Duff

July 6, 2008 at 00:52

Posted in Games

The Overshare War

I loved the word “overshare” the first time I heard it. Now, six weeks later, I’ll be happy if I never hear it again.

Emily Gould popularized the word in a May 25 article in the New York Times Magazine. That column sparked a massive public debate, with a small army of bloggers trying to judge the value of intimate personal blogging. Call it “The Overshare War” — the battle between fans of artistic personal disclosure and the people who hate it.

The emergent champion of the overshare “movement” is a writer named Rex Sorgatz. There is no movement, of course, but I think this debate is important and I want to link it with big important words.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

July 5, 2008 at 01:36

Posted in Columns, Culture, Gawker