Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for August 2009

Creative, complex web comics reach for audience beyond the funny pages

For most readers, comics come in two flavors: the venerable, kid-friendly stuff on the funny pages and the intermittently hilarious panels on the editorial page.

But the web has created a new kind of comic — a thousand new kinds of comics, as varied and eccentric as the people who read them. Just as blog publishing has turned everybody with an Internet connection into a political commentator, anyone who can draw stick figures can start a comic and build an audience online.

In fact, my favorite comic is nothing but stick figures. It’s called The Order of the Stick, available at www.giantitp.com. Creator Rich Burlew started OotS in 2003 as a kind of parody of/tribute to the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game. Early strips were full of story tropes and gamer in-jokes, but Rich has matured as an artist and a storyteller — crafting a brisk, engaging story full of nuanced characters and deeply satisfying plot twists.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

August 20, 2009 at 15:08

Posted in Columns, Games

What Mark Twain can teach us about Bob Dylan

The wildly varying reactions to Bob Dylan among people of different cities, different temperaments and different age groups reminded me of a passage from my favorite book, Mark Twain’s “A Tramp Abroad.”

The English-speaking German gentleman who went with me to the opera there was brimming with enthusiasm over that tenor.

He said: “ACH GOTT! a great man! You shall see him. He is so celebrate in all Germany–and he has a pension, yes, from the government. He not obliged to sing now, only twice every year; but if he not sing twice each year they take him his pension away.”

Very well, we went. When the renowned old tenor appeared, I got a nudge and an excited whisper:

“Now you see him!”

But the “celebrate” was an astonishing disappointment to me. If he had been behind a screen I should have supposed they were performing a surgical operation on him. I looked at my friend–to my great surprise he seemed intoxicated with pleasure, his eyes were dancing with eager delight. When the curtain at last fell, he burst into the stormiest applause, and kept it up–as did the whole house–until the afflictive tenor had come three times before the curtain to make his bow. While the glowing enthusiast was swabbing the perspiration from his face, I said:

“I don’t mean the least harm, but really, now, do you think he can sing?”

“Him? NO! GOTT IM HIMMEL, ABER, how he has been able to sing twenty-five years ago?” [Then pensively.] “ACH, no, NOW he not sing any more, he only cry. When he think he sing, now, he not sing at all, no, he only make like a cat which is unwell.”

Where and how did we get the idea that the Germans are a stolid, phlegmatic race?

Written by Michael B. Duff

August 11, 2009 at 20:45

Posted in Music

The Red State Purple Team Blues

If this column was a song I’d call it “The Red State Purple Team Blues.”

The two biggest obsessions on the web are sex and politics. If you can’t fill your web site with pictures of celebrities in bathing suits, the best way to drum up traffic is to post about politics. Pick a side and join the eternal war of Red vs. Blue.

Post for a few weeks and you’ll notice a pattern. The closer you get to the party line (either of them) the more you’ll attract comments and site traffic. The meaner you are to the other side, the more the faithful will flock to you. You’ll get consistent hits from people “on your team” and your opponents will waste more of their time defending themselves against you.

This works as long as you stick to the talking points. Comment on the hot issues of the day and parrot whatever you see on Fox News or MSNBC. But don’t go too far off message. Don’t let your team catch you sounding too moderate or too radical. Stay in that sweet spot of mainstream Republican or Democratic thought and don’t let yourself lean too far right or left.

I know this strategy works because I’ve benefited from it myself. In 1994 I was a rabid Newt Gingrich supporter, caught up in the promises of the 104th Congress. I listened to Rush Limbaugh every day and cheerfully drank the kool-aid. I sat in the front row and pestered my political science professor with quotes from The Heritage Foundation.
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Written by Michael B. Duff

August 6, 2009 at 15:49

Posted in Politics