Craig Duff: Why “All Hope is Not Lost”

The editorial in this past Thursday’s edition of The Jambar, the student newspaper of Youngstown State University, began this way:

Even out of the most depressed of cities, there are examples of why all hope is not lost.

Youngstown State University alum Craig Duff is one of these examples.

YSU students have long had an inferiority complex. It was true when I was there and it still hangs like the gray clouds of March over the finely landscaped campus, in the middle of a town that is the shell of a former industrial powerhouse.

I often joked with my Ive League students at Princeton that my undergrad school was in the Poison Ivy League.

But I wanted to strike a much more positive tone this week in a visit to the campus, speaking to students and the public about the state of the news media, and conducting workshops with local journalists on multimedia skills. After all, I have much to be grateful for.

I began my public talk with a notion one of my favorite professors used to say at the end of every class: “Keep the faith.”

That teacher was Richard James, whose powerful baritone was the voice of local radio news and ads for the Home Savings and Loan company. He was in radio for so long that when you walked under a bridge with him, you couldn’t hear him talk.*

Dick James saw potential in me I didn’t see in myself until much later. He encouraged me to go to graduate school, and nudged me out of the rust belt. I landed in the Bible Belt, and grew confidence in the Masters in Film program at the University of Texas, where I found other significant mentors and was recruited for a bottom-rung job at CNN Headline News (long ago, when it was a half-hour news service, not a platform for Nancy Grace’s outrage).

The rest is history, or at least the tiny slice of history that is my bio.

Now I am at the mid-point in my career, where I’m reminded of Graham Greene’s line about reaching a level where you’re judged by what you produce, no longer by your promise. Continue reading “Craig Duff: Why “All Hope is Not Lost””

SXSW: How Many Band Names Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

Here’s a prediction.

In the future, there will be a crisis in the music world when all the clever band names have been used up.

Looking at the list of bands competing for some spotlight photons at the music industry’s spring break phenom known as South By Southwest, it’s clear some are straining for a catchy moniker that’ll convince myspace browsers to hang out and get hooked on their grooves. Pocahaunted. AIDS Wolf. Mugu Guymen. Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head (a fairly well-known group that’s been here at SXSW before). Casiotone for the Beautifully Alone.

But what happens when all the clever names are gone? Will bands, like popes, choose predecessors’ names and add a roman numeral (Metallica XVI anyone?)?

Or, perhaps, like some at this festival, they may pun and spell words differently or riff on names: Rakhsan. NID & SANCY. Ringo Deathstarr. Hesta Prynn in Civil Shepherd (that ones causing me some cognitive dissonance). Edie Sedgwick.

Even singer/songwriter John Wesley Harding got his name from a Dylan album (which was named for Texas outlaw John Wesley Hardin, not the Methodist leader John Wesley).

Austin, the world’s live music capital, has long had a tradition of birthing bands with snappy names. Back when I lived here, some of my favorites were called Poi Dog Pondering (whuh?), Shoulders and Glass Eye.

One of my long-time Austin favorites (musically and moniker-ly) is Hot Club of Cowtown. They still tour and played a day-long set the other day.

And here are some of my favorite new band names from the Texas capital:

And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

more_cowbell_music_awards3More Cowbell (riffing on a hilarious SNL skit with Christopher Walken as a record producer at a Blue Oyster Cult session; pictured left).

We Were Promised Jetpacks

And, one that I am tempted to use some time as the subject line to a significant other: I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness. (Their music is quite good)

So far, in my work here, I’ve chatted with quite a few bands, some of whose names you may hear more of soon: Grizzly Bear; BLK JKS (pronounced Black Jacks); Dirty Projectors; and The Pains of Being Pure of Heart.

I’ll let you know when you can see and hear them on

I woke up to Affliction


It was written on the pillow case.

Last night on the hotel bed, in the neatly arranged array of pillows the housekeeper had crafted after she turned down the linens, there was one black pillowcase. It was soft and felt good under my head. I noticed it had writing on it, but didn’t bother reading it. I was exhausted after another long day of covering the SXSW event in Austin.

This morning, after I got up (too early) and started another long day, I noticed the skulls.

They were printed on the pillowcase, along with the word “Affliction.”

Then I noticed the words along the side of it. It was an Affliction T-shirt, re-tailored and softened to be a pillowcase.

I’m glad I didn’t notice the skulls until this morning. My dreams are weird enough.

And I’ll probably bring the pillowcase home (they say I can’t keep the pillow), even though it’s very unlikely I’ll attend the parties the clothier is hosting at SXSW this week.

Turns out schwag isn’t always in a bag.

Turning 50 With Barbie

Last week, Barbie turned 50 years old. You can insert your own joke here about: “had some work done” “plastic surgery” “a painting in the attic of the Barbie Dream House that ages but she never does.”

My friend Katherine Lanpher is also turning 50 this year, and when she saw the essay Brian did about Darwin and Lincoln, she started to brainstorm something she could do for TIME. Katherine does a weekly podcast for us at — the TIME financial toolkit — which I hosted this week while she has been away looking for jaguars in Belize (and yes, I’m jealous I couldn’t go with her). Here’s the essay she wrote and we produced.

To do the essay, Katherine called her elderly parents in Moline, Illinois and asked them to go to the attic and box up and Fedex her childhood Barbies to my office in midtown Manhattan. Then we spent an afternoon shooting at Bloomingdale’s and around New York.