Blog Stars

Ten local sites that rock our world

Kuffner, who works in the IT industry, does the kind of in-depth analysis you won't find elsewhere. "The analogy I use is, we're like the Golf Channel on TV. I provide in-depth coverage on a topic that only so many people have an interest in — people who want more than what they get out of newspaper and TV, who's writing for a broader, more general audience. I can do what I do — I can drill down into numbers, I can interview all these candidates — because that's the sort of thing that the people who come to my site are looking for."

It's hard to believe that when Kuffner started Off the Kuff back in 2002, he envisioned it as a sports blog. He'd had a sports column back when he attended Trinity University, and after he stumbled across a friend's blog, he thought, "This is cool; this is what I want to do." But he quickly found that what he was most interested in — and had a lot to say about — was politics. He got his first big interview, in December 2003, with Richard Morrison, who was starting his campaign against Tom DeLay in the 22nd Congressional District.

That was a big deal. In the early days, it wasn't always easy for Kuffner to get interviews with the candidates (today the interviews are a big draw for the blog). He'd try to track down their contact information, and if he got them on the phone, he'd often first have to explain to them just what a blog was. "Nowadays," he says, "people do tend to know who I am, and as often as not, they approach me."

Robert Boyd hits the Houston art scene and blogs about it on The Great God Pan Is Dead.
Jing Gao
Robert Boyd hits the Houston art scene and blogs about it on The Great God Pan Is Dead.
Stephanie Stradley, Texans Chick, isn't just a fan — she's a student of the game.
Courtesy of Stephanie Stradley
Stephanie Stradley, Texans Chick, isn't just a fan — she's a student of the game.

Robert Boyd

Robert Boyd started blogging about art so he would stop being a couch potato. "I wasn't getting out and seeing shows, so I deliberately forced myself to get out and start seeing what was happening around town," he says. "My thinking was purely to have a reason to get out of the house."

At first Boyd, who studied art and art history at Rice University and works at an energy company, began posting about art on his other blog, Wha' Happen, which he started in 2006. But he eventually created a separate art blog, The Great God Pan Is Dead, last August, incorporating his previous art writing into the new site.

He describes Pan as "a blog that deals mostly with art in Houston and comics anywhere, but is not exclusively about either one of those two subjects." It's a readable, photo-rich blog that's a good primer for anyone curious about what's happening in Houston art.

Boyd, who collects work from local artists as well as original art from comic strips, has a broad scope. "I like a lot of things that are conceptual," he says, "but am wowed by people who have great realistic painting chops. There's not a particular style that I like." Elaine Bradford, Kathy Kelley, Dario Robleto, and Dan Havel and Dean Ruck are a few of his local favorites.

Of course, Houston provides endless opportunity to discover more. "I think Houston's got an amazing art scene," he says. "I think there's some fantastic artists here. The University of Houston turns out some really great students...The CORE program brings people to Houston who end up staying, which is pretty amazing. There's a ridiculous number of institutions that are promulgating interesting art."

And Boyd's getting off the couch to visit them. Asked how much art he sees each week, he mentions what he's seen in the past couple of days: shows at ­Koelsch Gallery, Rice's new Matchbox Gallery, Kingwood Lone Star College, the Blaffer Gallery and Hello Lucky. "That was pretty typical," he says. "I try to see everything."

Gus Allen

In other hands, the evacuation plan for the Turnberry Tower Penthouse might not have been a source for such hilarity. But Houston real estate blog Swamplot, ever attuned to the absurd, gleefully noted that the 11,860-square-foot behemoth had nine and a half bathrooms — including one with its very own terrace! Swamplot's conclusion: "People at the top aren't so different from the rest of us. They just need to pee more often."

Swamplot has been lovingly tapping into Houston's ridiculousness since 2007. "The punch lines do pretty much write themselves, don't they?" Gus Allen, Swamplot's founder, wrote the Houston Press in an e-mail. "What other city tries so hard to be like so many other, better places, and yet fails so spectacularly? Houston is such a dork...and yet it's our little dork."

That's not to downplay the serious reporting found on Swamplot. For example, the site has done a spectacular job covering the implosion of Houston construction company Royce Builders. "We weren't the first to report that Royce Builders was going under — I think it was Isiah Carey from Fox 26 who smelled something going on there first," says Allen. "But after we linked to and added to his report, we began to get tips from former employees and homebuyers about what was really going on behind the scenes. The more we posted, the more tips we got...So we were able to get deep into a story other media outlets never really got into."

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