Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for February 2009

Life without cable

It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you don’t want cable and you can’t get good reception with your new digital rabbit ears, there is another option.

I haven’t used my television in six months, but I’ve been able to keep up with my favorite shows on the Internet, free of charge, through a variety of Internet services.

Most networks offer on-demand streaming of their current programs now, available on the Web 24 hours a day.

You can’t see every episode from every season, but most popular shows are available, even from smaller networks like Adult Swim and the CW.

Just go to the network’s home page and look for “Full Episodes.” Some sites claim to offer aggregation services and TV on demand, but for most programs, the network sites are more reliable.

Some of these pages will require flash upgrades and the installation of special plug-ins, but you only have to install them once, and the quality can be quite good.

You’ll need a fast Internet connection and a large monitor to enjoy them, but there are a surprising number of shows available, if you’re willing to watch them on your computer.

The standout service is called Hulu, a joint venture from NBC and Fox, available at http://www.hulu.com. Hulu requires a fast connection and the latest version of flash, but it offers the best selection and the best user experience of any network.

I can go on Hulu right now and watch the last five episodes of “Heroes,” the last five episodes of “30 Rock,” the last 10 episodes of “24,” or the last five episodes of “The Office,” full screen, with limited commercial breaks.

I can also go back in time and watch old favorites like “Buffy,” “The A-Team” or “The Facts of Life.” I don’t know anyone who would need 74 complete episodes of “ALF,” but if you want them – if you think puppet-driven sitcoms reached their peak in 1989 – Hulu can hook you up.

The show “ALF” is written in all-caps because “ALF” is, in fact, an acronym for “Alien Life Form.”

I want to be sure and mention this because the correction would just be too sad:

“The name of the ’80s television show ‘ALF’ was misspelled in Michael Duff’s column on Friday’s B-1. ‘ALF’ stands for Alien Life Form and should have been capitalized. The A-J regrets the error.

“Also, in our reference to the 1986 program ‘Small Wonder’ the character known as ‘Vicki’ was actually named V.I.C.I. – an acronym for Voice Input Child Indenticant. The Avalanche-Journal is aware that ‘Indenticant’ is not a word and was never used in real science, even in 1986.”

There is a danger when you go back to watch television programs from the distant past. Not a physical danger or a technological danger, but a kind of spiritual danger that I need to warn you about.

Let’s take, for example, “Knight Rider.” I remember being astonished and offended at age 14 when a teacher at school told me that Knight Rider was a children’s program.

Nonsense, I argued. The drama, the nuance – the subtle statements on identity, memory and man’s notion of self – how could a mere child appreciate these things?

I wish I’d been smart enough to say that, but the truth is, at age 14, the sight of David Hasselhoff in a goatee, driving an indestructible talking TRUCK was pretty much the coolest thing in the world.

I never cared much for KITT (the Knight Industries Two Thousand) but was enthralled by the notion of KARR (the Knight Automated Roving Robot) and Goliath (the giant indestructible truck.)

Hulu doesn’t have the original “Knight Rider,” but I was able to find the new show and see that KARR had returned for the 2009 remake.

And this is where it gets ugly. The shows that we love in childhood are loved in a very specific context, glazed with novelty and fairy dust, with their rough edges smoothed out by memory and time.

The opening credits of “The A-Team” may stir your heart and transport you back to junior high, but after the third time you see the guys escape from a fully equipped tool shed, the nostalgia starts to wear thin.

You can still find standout episodes of “Time Tunnel” and “Hill Street Blues,” but few shows can survive the passage of time.

Obviously, watching TV on the Internet is not for everybody. A few companies have taken stabs at it, but we haven’t found an elegant way to move the computer into the family room yet. The “sofa factor” is a big deal, and until we find a way to browse the Web comfortably with a remote control, TV on the Internet will be an option for videophiles and people wasting time at work.

Still, we have to give these companies credit for making a legal viewing option that is faster, easier and more convenient than piracy.

I hope Big Radio is taking notes.

Written by Michael B. Duff

February 20, 2009 at 18:34

Posted in Columns, TV

Twitter stars break new ground, take center stage at Shorty Awards

How much can you say with 140 characters?

More than you might think, after watching the first Shorty Awards. The Shorties were established to honor the smartest, funniest – or maybe just the most popular – people on Twitter.

Twitter is the current big thing in social media. Users can post short messages from computers or cell phones and broadcast to their friends in real time.

“Friends” might mean 50 local buddies, 8,000 people who enjoy your home-grown comedy skits, or the 144,000 people who follow Barack Obama.

The awards honored winners in 26 content categories, covering politics, news, science, travel, video games and the just plain weird.

The ceremony was Wednesday night at the Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Shorty Awards brought Twitter users to the edge of mainstream acceptance but didn’t quite push them over. Big media spent their time fawning over MC Hammer, who did his best to energize the crowd. CNN’s Rick Sanchez did an admirable job as host, providing an island of professionalism and class, even when he was interrupting people with sponsorship plugs.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

February 13, 2009 at 12:00

Posted in Twitter

Post-award interview with Peggy Olson and Carri Bugbee

michaelduff: @peggyolson is crouched in a stairwell at the #shorty awards, so we’re gonna get started. Peggy, feel free to use more than one tweet.

peggyolson: Will do. Unfortunately, the music is so loud here at the hall where they held the Shorty Awards, I can’t hear myself think.

michaelduff: First off, congratulations, on your big night. How does it feel to be getting an award?

peggyolson: It feels amazing. There were so many people here at the awards show that wanted to meet me, I was surprised.

michaelduff: Were you nervous on stage?

peggyolson: No, I wasn’t nervous at all. But was surprised that the crowd hushed when I walked on stage. Didn’t expect that.

michaelduff: I have to ask, what did Peggy Olson think of MC Hammer?

michaelduff: (Ha, that one made her think!)

peggyolson: A reporter asked to take my picture with that musician and later said that I was more popular tonight than the musician was.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

February 12, 2009 at 01:59

Posted in Best Of, Culture, Journalism, TV

Transcript of Live Tweets from The Shorty Awards

Live video from Shorty Awards starts in 40 minutes, according to my rudimentary grasp of time zones and basic math. http://shortyawards.com/

Wacky Internet fun time starts now! http://blogs.lubbockonline….

The most prolific Tweeters in the world will be in one room tonight, trying to route their collective genius through one cell tower. #shorty

Got called, “the Joan Rivers of the Shorty awards” yesterday. I have heels and a wig, just need gold lame dress and old lady pearls. #shorty

Apparently the venue is floating on water? Did they remember the giant Styrofoam whale? #shorty

Join me for live interview with @peggyolson after the show. #shorty

Wonder who picked the music here. Last time I heard music like this, Orson Wells broke in for an alien invasion. #shorty

As pre-shows go, I think I prefer the HuffPo inauguration chaos. Geeks in black t-shirts running around with AV equipment. #shorty

Muzak is Frank Sinatra’s My Way. Is this really the tone we’re going for? #shorty

My Way summarized in 140 char: Life rocked. Dead now. Have you married Ava Gardener yet? Get busy! #shorty

So, the revolution won’t be televised, but there will be a band. #shorty

Just think, in 5 years this’ll be the Honda/Snapple Shorty Awards and the video will be obscured by a giant Chili’s banner. #shorty

I wonder if the Mad Men will get in a fight with Tweeters from other shows? Betty could totally take that tramp from @gossipgirl #shorty

@EHolmesWSJ “@PeggyOlson wearing fishnets and red pumps” I probably owe WSJ a royalty for quoting that. #shorty

Song topics include: death, murder, Sinatra and SATAN. For a finale, the Devil will challenge @charlestrippy for a gold guitar. #shorty

Massive props to band for using phrase “corral of glory” I think I have that on VHS. #shorty

Tonight’s “Music to sell your soul by” provided by @tinpanband #shorty

@socialmediagods have quote of the show so far, “Do you want us to make a benediction to kick off your little show?”

I just heard that @peggyolson has 10 people helping with her “big reveal.” What is she revealing that takes 10 people to lift? #shorty

That’s what I came to see. Young men in ties gesturing frantically to the band. #shorty

I think Greg taught me Political Science in 8th Grade. #shorty

“The 10 Commandments are ten Tweets.” Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s follower count. #shorty

Shorty Awards sponsored by Pepsi and the Knight Foundation. #shorty

@ricksanchezcnn is on screen now, so if he tweets in the next two minutes, it’s his assistant. #shorty

“The idea that you can mix old media with new media is pretty crazy.” Reference to “old suits” at CNN. Cough. #shorty

“You are my assignment editors, you are my focus group, you are my friends.”

Nice touch with the failwhale in the skit. #shorty

@ricksanchezcnn is adding class and professionalism to the proceedings. #shorty

He loves to remind people “he’s a Miami guy.” Did it 5 times during each Imus appearance. #shorty

The phrase, “Journalist who gets it” makes my eyes narrow. #shorty

Let’s get ready to Twumble! #shorty

Quick, how many of these people will be drunk? #shorty

Oh lord, first acceptance speech with a URL in it. #shorty

And here’s Peggy! @peggyolson #shorty With AMC Director of Online Media presenting

That’s Carrie Bugbee, the “real person” behind @peggyolson. I’ll be chatting with Carrie after the awards. #shorty

MC Hammer joins the party. Lot of energy in the room. Could perhaps use a bit more on stage. #shorty

Using Twitter for marketing? After these awards, you’ll wonder if it’s used for anything else. #shorty

#shorty And now the @charlestrippy moment, quoting Rick Astley. I think the biggest problem here is that we can’t hear the audience well.

Reading your 140 char speech VERY SLOWLY may be considered cheating. #shorty

Kudos to the Mars Rovers! Nice to see the inanimate objects represented tonight. #shorty

@actionwipes winning out over bitter rival @papertowels #shorty

Maybe not the most polished presentation in history, but there’s a sincerity here that makes it kind of sweet. #shorty

Wow, Twitter, inc. is really phoning this in. “The power of constraints?” Biz Stone #shorty

The Knight Foundation, they do JOURNALISM, or something. Kudos to the Shorty people for providing an open bar during a recession. #shorty

Working out interview details with @peggyolson Cell and Internet traffic must be crazy over there. #shorty

AFAIK, this will be the first real interview done via Twitter. Maybe because it’s a new idea or maybe because it’s a BAD idea. #shorty

Written by Michael B. Duff

February 11, 2009 at 20:59

Live Shorty Award coverage starts now!

Everybody jump on Twitter and add me @michaelduff to see my live interview with @peggyolson after the show.

Video stream starts at 6:30 p.m Central.

Join the fun and submit questions as I flounder aimlessly and struggle to fill time before the main event.

Watch as I tell lame jokes and struggle to fill space with empty snark! Watch as I poke fun at celebrities and attempt to mock my betters. Sign up for our riveting “What the hell does Rick Sanchez use on his hair?” game!

Thrill as I think up questions for a fan pretending to be a fictional character who is actually another fictional character!

Submit suggestions for my new project, “100 Ways to Explain Twitter to Newspaper People.”

“You know when you’re at a really bad dinner party and a dozen people are talking at once and you can’t really follow what’s going on, but you have to nod your head and smile and make small talk anyway?”

It’s like that, only it’s on THE INTERNET!

For extra credit, submit entries for my second project, “How the hell are we supposed to make money off this?’

Wacky Internet Twitter fun time starts now.

Oh, and if you see this? It means you broke Twitter and need to put your thimble back on GO!

Written by Michael B. Duff

February 11, 2009 at 18:22

Posted in Journalism

Live interview with @peggyolson after the Shorty Awards

The winner of this year’s Shorty Award for
did her best work in 1962.

Her name is Peggy Olson, and she is not entirely real.

The “real” Peggy Olson is a character on AMC’s Mad Men, played by Elisabeth Moss.

@peggyolson is a Twitter account run by a fan of the show, one of a group of fans who decided to impersonate characters from Mad Men and post in character on Twitter — a kind of grass-roots promotion that galvanized AMC’s audience and took the Internet by storm.

Unfortunately, not everyone was comfortable with the idea of fans taking on the roles of copyrighted characters. Concerned about liability issues and the protection of their intellectual property, AMC shut the project down, only to recant a few days later, after an ugly fan backlash.

On the show, Peggy Olson is a rising star at Sterling Cooper — an innocent learning to swim with ad-industry sharks, a cautionary tale for women in business, and an unlikely pioneer for women’s rights.

So does a fan pretending to be a fictional character deserve to win an award for advertising?

@peggyolson has never sold an ad, but her Twitter campaign is one of the most innovative promotions ever devised for a TV show.

Mix these things together and you get a figure who can represent the past, present, and future of advertising, all at once.

But who is @peggyolson? Where did the campaign start? Why did she choose Peggy? Where do the fan and the character overlap? And what has she learned from the experience?

Find out Wednesday night after the awards, when I chat live with @peggyolson and her real-life counterpart.

Peggy has agreed to step out from behind the curtain and answer anything we can throw at her.

Send your questions to michael.duff@lubbockonline.com or Twitter them to @michaelduff. Be sure to follow @peggyolson and @michaelduff after the awards so you can see both sides of the interview. Peggy will be switching to another Twitter ID after she reveals her real name.

The award ceremony will start at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Peggy will be joining me after things wrap up, probably after 10 p.m. in New York. That’s 9 p.m. here in Texas.

I’ll be tweeting live about the awards until she arrives.

Written by Michael B. Duff

February 10, 2009 at 08:18

Posted in TV

How to get banned from Lubbock Online

A few months ago, I took over moderation of the Lubbock Online forums.

I’d like to say I was mature about it; that I accepted my duty like a responsible adult and applied myself with stoic professionalism.

In reality, I whined like a little girl and threw a tantrum that lasted three days.

When I realized I couldn’t shirk my duty outright, I started finding passive-aggressive excuses not to do it. Every time the subject came up, I was ready with a new one.

“I forgot my password.”

“What was that link again?”

“I’m a Unitarian; censoring people is against my religion.”

And my personal favorite, “The link didn’t work; I think it’s the firewall.”

The excuse “I think it’s the firewall,” is good for three to six days of delay time at any business in corporate America – six to 12 in government or the Fortune 500.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

February 6, 2009 at 07:59

Posted in Columns