Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Alito Confirmed

News flash!
Senate confirms nominee 58-42 after filibuster fails

Ten Essential Metal Albums

UPDATE 1/8/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade

After giving it some thought, here are ten albums every self-respecting metalhead should own. This list is by no means all-inclusive, but it does contain discs without which a person is not metal-literate.

Paranoid (1971) by Black Sabbath
Maybe it all started with Black Sabbath (1970), but metal solidified its position with this album. “War Pigs,” “Paranoid,” “Electric Funeral,” “Hand of Doom,” and the iconic “Iron Man” are all standby songs for decent God-[fearing/hating] metal bands to cover, and will continue to occupy their position of reverence.

Ace of Spades (1980) by Motörhead
You can’t really appreciate Metallica (or probably even White Zombie) unless you know where they came from. And this is the place. “Ace of Spades” is one of the iconic early metal songs. In metal there is a spectrum spanning from the most raw to the most refined, and Ace of Spades is the epitome of raw metal music.

Melissa (1983) by Mercyful Fate
Without Melissa, the heavy metal world would be only half as big as it is now. Without “Black Funeral” there would be no Cradle of Filth. Without “Into the Coven” there would be no Cannibal Corpse. Without “Satan’s Fall” there would be no Dimmu Borgir. Without “Melissa” there would be no Nightwish. Enough said.

Master of Puppets (1986) by Metallica
This is the most obvious inclusion on the list. This is, without a doubt in my mind, the quintessential metal album. It combines where metal has been with where it should go. It’s written and performed superbly. The first four tracks read almost like the top half of a top ten list: “Battery,” “Master of Puppets,” “The Thing That Should Not Be,” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).” Of course the greatest album by the greatest metal band of all time should be the number one metal album of all time. If you call yourself metal, and you don’t have this album, you can just crawl in your (pick one: [1] nu-metal sissy boy corner, or [2] elitist death/euro metal tower) and die. Next.

Vulgar Display of Power (1992) by Pantera
This is the purest distillation of the virtues of thrash metal. There is a melodic riff or two here, but the purest rage and heavy, high-speed riffs make you forget all about them. And Dimebag Darrell (RIP) revitalized the guitar solo as we know it. No metal fan should be without “Walk,” “This Love,” “By Demons Be Driven,” or “Hollow.”

Korn (1994) by Korn
Many people dismiss Korn as nu-metal (a term that has lost its meaning in a world of bands that clearly are not influenced by Korn). But being “nu” does not make it bad. Korn drew on the darkness of Alice in Chains, made it angrier, and added a D-tuned lower string to both guitars and the bass. How can any metal fan be well-rounded without a good dose of “Blind” and “Divine”? They brought metal to an entirely new generation and, despite their flirt with TRL in the late 90’s, they continue to deliver new and different heavy metal music to keep the world on its toes.

Dirt (1995) by Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains, with their serious sound and lyrics, heralded the death of the crappy metal bands of the 1980’s: Mötley Crüe, Firehouse, Slaughter, Van Halen, and the list goes on; they even mortally wounded Guns ‘N Roses. Let’s just hope another band will come along to do the same to Trapt, Nickelback, Staind, and their ilk. And this album is the perfect example of their dark, experimental sound.

Astro Creep 2000 (1995) by White Zombie
Without White Zombie, you don’t have Godsmack. Without White Zombie, you don’t have Disturbed. And without White Zombie, you don’t have countless other metal bands. “More Human Than Human” stands right next to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” on any list of the best 90’s metal songs. No, without White Zombie you can’t understand the better metal bands of today, and you will never understand the metal of the 90’s.

The Sickness (2000) by Disturbed
Though they came to fame through a cover of a crappy Tears for Fears song, they clearly draw on Korn and White Zombie as powerful influences. They took the heaviness of those two bands and built on the use of rhythm found in Korn to make something entirely new and beautifully staccato. The Sickness is clearly the best metal album of 2000, and one of the best ever.

Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses (2004) by Slipknot
For the 70’s we have Black Sabbath. For the 80’s and 90’s we have Metallica. And for the 00’s, Slipknot will be the premier heavy metal band. Slipknot (1999) put the ore on the anvil. Iowa (2001) heated the ore and hammered away, continuing the forging process for a new breed of metal gods. The Subliminal Verses captures the moment when the hot steel was tempered in oil. “Duality” is our generation’s “Paranoid.” “Before I Forget” is our generation’s “This Love.” And “The Nameless” is our generation’s answer to “Master of Puppets.” Watch for Slipknot to become the iconic, the next group to pummel the mainstream so hard with such powerfully well-written music that they can’t be ignored, the next group with its own music festival to match Ozzfest. If anyone can kill the current kings of crap in heavy metal, it is this nine-member monstrosity.

Is there anything I forgot? Did I make you mad by letting you know where Van Halen belongs? Or your current top 40 favorite that gets their songs on the Now CDs? Let me know.

UPDATE 1/8/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade

Bell Peppers

Images © 2006 Kelly Hoffart

Monday, January 30, 2006



Now, you can finally view and order some of my photos on art.com! I don't hardly get any of the profits, but now you can own some of my work without worrying that I'm a crooked lawyer-type who might just keep your money and not send you anything.

New Stuff

I've added a link to a blog called , or Infinitely Pie if you can't see the picture. Don't let the huge girly graphic at the right fool you, it's actually very good.

I've also added a smaller link button in my sidebar in case anyone wants to use it.

It was inspired by many, many, many link buttons that I've seen on blogs.

Tagged . . .

I've been tagged with a meme by trusty getto. I've never done a meme before, but I guess we'll see how this one goes.
1. Tell us of some songs in your life that remind you of a person, place or a specific event in your life. The kind of song that everytime you hear it, it will always, no matter what, make that person, place or "thing" pop into your head instantly. You can write as few or as many "songs" as you want. And it can be a song or two songs or a whole album.

2. Give a brief description of the person, place or thing it reminds you of.

3. You can choose to tag people or not. Whatever you want to do. And you can tag as few or as many people as you want.

4. You don't have to link the songs or the lyrics unless you want to.

5. If you play, you have to leave me a comment so that I can come and read yours.
OK, the thing for me is, I listen to music for music's sake. I don't associate them with a particular point in time or person or anything like that. It's not an emotional attachment for me, but rather an appreciation for the music. But here are a few, anyway, that do remind me of things.

1. "Enter Sandman" by Metallica: Sometimes I think about this song because it is what introduced me to music. I never liked or cared about music until my friend played his dad's tape of this song, my first experience with heavy metal. After that day in 8th grade, I had to save money for a CD player, and music has been a big deal to me ever since.

2. "No Scrubs" by TLC: This reminds me of a bitch ex-girlfriend who made me listen to it repeatedly for about an hour. Not the album. The song. She hated me even while we were dating, so I think she was trying to tell me something. (She's the only person I ever dated that I would now call a bitch. Don't ask me to explain why I dated her and continued to date her . . . I've been trying to figure that out myself.)

3. "Twist of Cain" by Danzig: I recall, now and then, when my (first) crappy band and I were going to play this song in the high school talent show. I had made mix tapes that weren't so much mix tapes but this song over and over and over and over, so that each of the members of the band could know it by heart. We practiced it. We could play it really well. But then, five minutes before we were to go on stage, the band member who was supposed to be on vocals for this one said he couldn't remember how it went. I played a few bars and he had the lyrics right but the rhythm all wrong. So I had to play bass and sing at the same time . . . two things I was not very good at and together I was even worse.

4. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana: this was a song that I did with my (second) crappy band. I was a late-comer to the band and was supposed to be vocals-only, but the bass player they already had still insisted on doing much of the vocal work, leaving me to stand around on stage like a fool. And he was an even worse vocalist than I.

5. "Bother" by Stone Sour: eh, this song was big when my wife and I started dating, and we both liked it. That's everything about it, but it's also rather unusual that we like the same song. Turns out, for some reason, she didn't like any of the other songs on the album.

6. Anything by Bon Jovi: reminds me of another ex-girlfriend who was always nice, but not at all exciting or intellectually stimulating.

7. Anything from Zebrahead's Waste of Mind: my friends and I listened to this album a lot in high school and shortly thereafter. It particularly reminds me of the trip back from the Metallica concert in Denver '00 in my friend's 96 Grand Prix, when all of us (including the driver) would take turns standing out of the sunroof on I-80.

8. Anything from Kid Rock's Devil Without a Cause: (embarassing, I know) reminds me of cruising around in high school in my '88 Towncar, wearing my fedora and smoking cigars with a friend.

9. "Black Funeral" by Mercyful Fate: reminds me of a good friend from college, when we would sit around and listen to a bunch of MF stuff and alternate between growls and falsettos in order to alienate everyone else on the dorm floor.

That's it. I tag no one.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


In honor of the Chinese New Year, today January 29, the Year of the Dog (the year I was born in):

Images © 2006 Kelly Hoffart

Friday, January 27, 2006

Second-Hand Smoke

Khorbin has recently raised the issue of second-hand smoke. He asserts, inter alia, that the science behind the claimed harms of second-hand smoke is bad science. So, since science is his area, I’ll move on to the more practical questions in relation to second-hand smoke.

First, I don’t think that there is any reason, under the Constitution, that local governments can’t outlaw smoking in public places or anywhere. Of course, the right to privacy may be another concern, but I don’t think that’s a very good constitutional doctrine anyway. And regardless, it wouldn’t affect businesses that cater to the public. This wouldn’t be any different even if there was irrefutable proof that second-hand smoke does not kill.

Lincoln, Nebraska, where I live, has a city-wide ban on smoking in public buildings. This includes bars. This went into effect about a year ago. In the next three months, bars reported something like a 50% decline in revenues, and waiters reported even worse drops in tips. People were all over the map on the issue (many approved, many didn’t), but I suspect that the people it actually affects were the people unhappy about it. In other words, most people who are happy about the ban are people that don’t go to bars anyway because, let’s face it, most people who consider themselves non-smokers will become smokers when they’re drinking.

Is there any way to allow voting on this issue only at the bars, so that only those affected have a say? By way of analogy, should we let people who were born blind regulate optometrists, or people who drive everywhere decide the path of the city’s bike trail?

I’m a little more familiar with Norfolk, Nebraska, a town close to where I grew up. It has the only Burger King and McDonald’s of which I am aware that allow smoking. You read that right: smoking in Burger King and McDonald’s. There are quite a few bars there too, and almost all of them allow smoking. One that doesn’t is the Sports Den (I think there may be one other non-smoking bar in Norfolk). I went to the Sports Den a little over a month ago, and, you know what? It was packed. The other bars weren’t even close to having that kind of business.

So, in effect, the market is how people vote on the issue in Norfolk. And it makes everyone happy, because smokers can go to smoking bars and non-smokers can go to non-smoking bars. The market should regulate itself, because if there is more demand for (non)smoking space, then the bars will respond. And it caters to the views of only the people who use the service.

Is there any reason we can’t allow the market to regulate smoking in bars?

Would a better solution be to put businesses to a forced choice? By that I mean this: you can either be a smoking establishment or a non-smoking establishment. You can’t have a smoking and a non-smoking section. This way, people can’t complain about the smoke entering the non-smoking section (we’ve all heard of peeing and non-peeing sections in a swimming pool), and the market should effectively regulate it.
Of course, the expected argument against this goes like this: “I’m a non-smoker, and I want to go eat the food at restaurant X. I shouldn’t be forced out because of the smoke.” My response? It’s part of the atmosphere. If a restaurant has a poor atmosphere, then you won’t go there, whether it’s because of smoke or loud, annoying music.
And of course, you could limit smoking establishments to bars only. The problem with that is assessing whether a restaurant is indeed a “bar” or a “restaurant.” This involves complicated monitoring of income from various sources in the bar, and it’s easily manipulated (e.g. they can give you a cheaper meal if you order X# drinks).

Is there any moral reason we should (or shouldn’t) allow the bar owner to decide whether he/she wants to allow smoking? Isn’t individual freedom and choice a core American value?

Are there other, more palatable, alternatives? Such as taxing smoking bars at a higher rate than non-smoking bars, in order to sway the market in one direction? “Sin” taxes have long been accepted in society, and it seems to make sense to tax one “sin” because of another related one.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I think the lime pictures turned out the best out of all this series. Enjoy!

Images © 2006 Kelly Hoffart

Hey, It’s Australia Day

Happy Australia Day, everyone, whatever that is. (One would assume it’s an Australian holiday, as opposed to, say, a holiday recognized only in Alabama.)

It must be hot down under. Incidentally, has anyone else ever eaten vegemite? If you haven’t, I recommend it about as highly as I recommend chewing on tin foil. It’s not going to hurt you, but it’s not any fun either.

This site gives a completely useless answer to the perrenial mystery:
Australia Day is celebrated on the 26th January each year. It is a great time to learn about Australia, and find some related activities for your kids to try!
Oh yes, it's a day about Australia. I figured that much out by myself, thank you very much. They also have some jokes, like the following gem:
What do you call a boomerang that won’t come back?
A stick!
Oh . . . hahahahahahaha! They should do stand-up!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I've started renting my blog. Click the link if you want to know what that means.

Murder Victim Died 600 Years Ago

French police who spent two years trying to identify a woman who was murdered by a blow to the head were relieved to discover the reason their efforts were failing: the woman died half a millennium ago.
And I bet the guy who killed her thought he got away with it . . . .


An elderly man collapsed from cardiac arrest in a ballroom packed with cardiologists and other doctors attending an
American Heart Association fundraiser.


Images © 2006 Kelly Hoffart

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Strange search results . . .

It turns out that if you search for suck my pussy on MSN, the third (3rd!!) result is Human Wreckage, a blogger who is currently sitting next to me in wild anticipation of Copyright class.
I wish I could get that kind of exposure.

The Duck

Hi, I’m the duck. What’s that? You think I look like crap? Well, you would too if you’ve been through all the things that I have.
I’ll tell you my story. And when I do, you won’t be surprised that I look this way.
You see, I used to belong to the girl who lived upstairs. But her pit bull (those nasty creatures!) stole me and took me outside. And she abandoned me to the fiend and the elements!

Then she moved out. I sat out in the cold and the rain and the dirt. Only Russell, who I once thought was the noblest of beasts, would come out to play with me. He would pick me up and carry me around the yard, and fling me up in the air only to catch me before I came crashing down. Oh, what fun we had!
Then, she came along.

Look at that detestable thing! Well, the loathsome canine’s mother brought me in and washed me. I endured the soapy whirlpool and the spinning desert in hopes of a better life. In fact, I felt like the Israelites as they wandered for 40 years in the desert, seeking the promised land.
It was then that I found out Russell didn’t care about me.
The two of them, Russell and she, worked together to halfway-decapitate me, spreading my insides across the floor in blatant disregard of the Geneva convention.
Nobody cares about me. They just abuse me, tearing me apart for their own sadistic amusement. I was once a beloved Easter present. But Easter was a long time ago, now, wasn’t it? Now that it’s over, no one cares. No one cares about a duck whose had an eye ripped out by feral things!
Now are you still so cavalier about mocking me for my looks? Have pity on such a poor soul as I!

[Images © 2006 Kelly Hoffart]

Monday, January 23, 2006


I wasn't too happy with the way the lemon shots turned out, and I think it was my lighting, but here they are anyway.

Images © 2006 Kelly Hoffart

Friday Night

Something crashes to the floor above you, forcing you to drift to the surface of your ocean of sleep. You look at the alarm clock: the giant red numbers speak their language of right angles. One : zero two. Bang, bang, bang, bang. A headboard directly above you slams repeatedly into the wall, a rhythmic drum beat for a tribal dance. Two voices drift to your ears like a bad porno, moaning in exaggerated ecstasy. You know the guy who lives up there. He moved in about a month ago, and you could read the emptiness left in his thirty-year-old eyes as plain as your digital clock. You didn’t need the landlord to tell you he’s getting a divorce. On the weekend he’s in and out of his apartment, his two young boys bearing the marks of the damage and loss of their parents’ schism like crimson letters branded in their foreheads. He leaves during the week for his work. But right now, up there, he’s trying to fill something inside him by filling up another person, one he’s probably never met before and he’ll soon hope he never has to see again. They feign life, playing charades, communicating the most intimate act of love. If they ever see each other again, her with friends in the bar acting tought and orating her hatred of men, him alone with a bottle, they won’t even be able to make eye contact.

A half hour passes of this bad porno and worse drama, heard only but not seen. Your wife finally goes out into the living room with a blanket to sleep on the couch, hoping that she can’t hear this desperately empty act. But she can. The dogs look to the ceiling, watching an audio shadow puppet show. You turn over in bed, bring the covers over your head and hope that the waves of dreams will drown out the late night softcore pornography. The drum keeps beating, the hollow instrument pounding the beat to an empty ritual.

You see him and his sons the next morning, but you can’t say anything. You pretend you didn’t hear anything as he pretends there was nothing to hear. He’s wearing sunglasses. His sons are there, eyes watching where they step.

[© 2006 Kelly Hoffart
Don't re-post this without permission.]

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Friday, January 20, 2006

Force de Frappe

President Jacques Chirac has dropped a political bombshell by threatening to retaliate with nuclear strikes against any state found to be responsible for a large-scale terrorist attack on France.
Wow! At first glance, that's kind of scary. But is it, really? During the Cold War the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) kept the powers in a nerve-wracking, but steady, balance. Do we want to return to that? Or do we want to live in fear that a terrorist attack could happen at any time? Can we hold a nation responsible for terrorist actions? We have been doing just that. But you can't always be sure that the nation is responsible. Of course, Chirac stated that the number of warheads on each missile has been reduced, so these are intended for smaller, tactical nuclear strikes. Is this a good thing?

The most interesting part of the article is this:
In the biggest shift in French nuclear doctrine for 40 years, M. Chirac revealed that the force de frappe - the French nuclear deterrent - had already been reconfigured to allow it to destroy the "power centres" of any state which sponsored a terrorist assault.
The French nuclear deterrent is apparently named after a blender setting . . . .


Yesterday was Poe's birthday. If I'd have known, I would have gotten some cognac.

The Effects of Video Games on Aggression

With Jack Thompson waving his penis around as of late, and with the continuing discussion of the "dangers" of video games (and my not having a new post ready yet) I thought I'd post a research paper I did in undergrad on the subject.

The Effects of Video Games on Aggression
by Kelly Hoffart
Concordia University, Nebraska
December 9, 2002

Video games are everywhere in our society today. They constitute a $6 billion dollars per year market (Olson, Godfrey, Allen, 2000), or even in excess of $10 billion per year (Vessey & Lee, 2000) depending on whom you ask. "One out of every ten U.S. households owns a Sony Playstation, and children spend an average of ten hours per week playing video games" (Olson, et al.). And “among 8- to 13-year-old boys, the average [time spent playing video games] is more than 7.5 hours per week” (Anderson & Bushman, 2001). For years, video games have been accused of causing aggressiveness and aggressive behavior in those who play them. Many studies have been done on the subject, some focusing only on violent video games, others on video games in general. Some state that it is irrefutable that video games increase aggression, and others state that there is no solid evidence to back up those claims. Similar studies have been done for decades focusing on television rather than video games, and some of these studies overlap. Video games, however, are of greater concern to some because of the more active role taken in participating in video games rather than just watching television, forcing the player “to identify with the aggressor” (News Potpourri, 2000).

In 1992 a study by Carl Sneed and Mark A. Runco attempted to assess opinions about the effects of television and video games. Sneed and Runco "asked 23 parents between the ages of 30 and 52 years and 26 children between the ages of 10 and 19 years to list effects of television and video games on children." They then developed a questionnaire based on these responses, and "administered [the questionnaire] to different groups of parents and children and a control group of adults without offspring." The parents "held more positive beliefs about the influence of video games than the other adults,” and the parents tended to agree with the children on this influence.

The Sneed and Runco (1992) study seems that it may have a gender and socioeconomic bias. The subjects used to formulate the questionnaire were overwhelmingly female, with "17 women, 2 men, and 4 subjects who took the option of not reporting gender" among the adults and "14 girls and 6 boys, and 6 subjects not reporting gender" among the children. Also, "the adults were drawn from classes at California State University, Fullerton," and 20 of the children were "children of the adult participants; the other 6 were approached at a winter church camp." They acknowledge this weakness in their study, and attempt to guess at the effects of this weakness, but I will ignore their conjectures in that regard.

Sneed and Runco (1992) divided the responses relating to video games into a desirable effects cluster, for example hand-eye coordination, and an undesirable effects cluster, for example aggressive behavior. Some of the adults were given the questionnaire with direct reference to children and others without any reference to children. They "gave lower ratings to the effects of video games when they thought they were judging the effects on children." They found that "men were more likely to believe the positive influence of video games than women."

Interestingly enough, "subjects were more critical of television than video games" (Sneed & Runco, 1992). There were still more negative responses to video games than positive ones, but "subjects had more favorable opinions of video games when they rated aggression and confusing reality with fantasy" when compared with television. The researchers went on to guess "they may have rated television less favorably on these two items because television is often associated with violence, but video games have received little attention in this regard." I find this interesting, but I attribute it to the release of this study being in 1992, possibly prior to the controversy over the extremely violent and bloody video game "Mortal Kombat" released that same year.

“Fueled by the media, the controversy over whether playing popular arcade/computer games increases aggressiveness has only been compounded by inconsistencies within empirical research” (Scott, 1995). Scott’s “experiment…was designed to explore some of these inconsistencies.”

Scott (1995) regards the previous studies’ failures as including the study of “feelings of aggressiveness” as opposed to “overt [aggressive] behavior.” Scott points out the differing results in even the same types of studies, including a 1985 questionnaire study by Kestenbaum and Weinstein that “reported that aggressive games had a calming effect” in opposition to a 1984 questionnaire study by Dominick that “reported a significant relationship between video game playing and aggressive delinquency in adolescents.” He also cites studies that find that free play by boys does not change significantly based on video game playing, whereas free play by girls is affected by video games.

Scott (1995) also points out that many of the previous studies on the subject were flawed, even as admitted by those involved in the study.

Scott’s study uses the Buss-Durkee inventory (1957), which “groups items into subscales representing various aspects of aggression and hostility” (Scott, 1995). The aspects used in Scott’s study are assault, indirect hostility, irritability, negativism, resentment, suspicion, and verbal hostility, and are all clearly defined within the study. The study also uses the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975) to determine any difference that personality type would have upon the research findings. And “to avoid confounding effects of age, educational level, and so forth, [he] used a homogeneous group of university students.” This may, however, have caused the findings to be biased in this regard. This study, as in Sneed and Runco’s (1992) study, seems to be biased towards having more women (75) than men (42).

The Scott (1995) study used three games, designated as non-aggressive, moderately aggressive, and highly aggressive. The participants were told that the study “concerned a hand-eye coordination task in relation to personality,” and after playing a game they “were asked to rate the game in terms of aggressive content on a 0-10 scale.”

Scott’s (1995) study found no “significant difference…between total aggressiveness change and game aggression level.” He found no “linear increase in aggressive affect after playing non-aggressive, moderately aggressive, and highly aggressive games,” although he had expected one. He found that “the overall pattern was that the moderately aggressive game substantially decreased feelings of aggression” and that the other two games also decreased feelings of aggression, although not as much as the moderately aggressive game. Scott concludes that “the interactions between the variables are obviously complex, and glib statements relating aggression to game playing, whether appearing in the mass media or in scientific journals, seem totally unwarranted.” This discrepancy may be due to his focus on university students whereas most people are concerned more about the effect of video games on children.

Although Scott’s (1995) study found no direct correlation between playing violent video games and aggression, Schroeder’s (1996) article still shows concern. Schroeder believes that the only way to remain competitive in the video game market is to “increase the frequency and intensity of the violence.” This appears to be true even six years later, with games such as Grand Theft Auto 3 and Metal Gear Solid 2 dominating the market (although these newer games, with added realism, have added risks to using violence, and have alternative methods for dealing with many situations).

Schroeder (1996) agrees that video games are not the only place where violence is the choice way to sell a product, pointing also at television, movies, and even books, but he points to the ever-increasing realism of video games paired with the active role that the player takes in committing video game violence.

Schroeder (1996) cites several studies that discount or minimize the relationship between video games and aggression and also a few sources that claim a relationship between the two but no studies to directly connect them. Yet he goes on to theorize that “virtual reality takes the issue beyond depiction vs. interaction: if postmodernist cultural critique is accurate, immersive media increasingly collapse distinctions between different kinds of space, indeed, collapse the real into the hyperreal.” He points to the way that gamers refer to what they do in the games as reality-one does not simply win the game, he kills his opponent.

Although Schroeder’s (1996) concerns seem realistic, he gives no evidence to suggest a link between video games and real-life aggression, and cites no such evidence, only theory.

Judith A. Vessey and Joanne E. Lee (2000) echo Schroeder’s (1996) concerns. They point out that “80% of today’s most popular video games contain violence.” They also show concern that along with the increased realism of video games there comes an increase in violence. They cite evidence of violence in video games, whether it is realistic or “cartoonish and slapstick.” Although they contend that there should be concern, they point out that studies that have linked video games and aggression have often been flawed. They cite Anderson and Dill’s (2000) study that “postulate[s] that the effect of violent video games is ‘cognitive in nature.’ Learning and repeatedly practicing aggressive situations may alter children’s basic personality structures, leading to more hostile thoughts.”

In spite of their rejections to violent video games, Vessey and Lee (2000) do not recommend a “total ban of video games.” They contend that video games could have just as much positive effect as negative, depending on content, and have other side benefits, including increased hand-eye coordination and attention to detail. They recommend that parents refer to the game’s packaging, which usually includes a description of the game and screen shots, and always includes a rating and content label. Still, they recommend that “regardless of the type of game, daily playing time should be limited,” mostly due to couch potato-like side effects of video games including obesity.

Vessey and Lee (2000) recommend that parents should refer to the Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB) label on video games before purchasing them for their children. Walsh and Gentile (2001) performed a study to determine the validity of ratings systems in movies, television, and video games, and attempted to compare the three systems.

First, I should go over the ratings system. The ESRB rates video games as EC for “Early Childhood,” E for “Everyone,” T for “Teen,” M for “Mature,” and AO for “Adults Only” (Vessey & Lee, 2000). Although a recent game has raised controversy due to inclusion of topless women on BMX bikes (and consequently causing many retailers not to carry the title), to date no game has received the “Adults Only” label. The ESRB also includes content descriptors to help parents understand why a game deserves a particular rating.

Walsh and Gentile (2001) found that “when an entertainment industry rates a product as inappropriate for children, parent raters agree that it is inappropriate for children.” But parents and the industry do not necessarily agree on content that is appropriate for certain age groups. They recommend that parents should still personally oversee content available to their children, but that the ratings are tool to help decide what is appropriate.

Walsh and Gentile (2001) express concern that only 25% of parents use industry ratings to help select appropriate video games, compared with 69% of parents who use the ratings to select appropriate movies. They suggest that this may be because the movie ratings system has been in place since 1968 while video games have been rated since 1994 (and this ratings system has changed since then). And even though they say they use the industry ratings, only 1% of them have ever prevented a purchase based on the ratings (Anderson & Bushman, 2001).

Walsh and Gentile’s (2001) study is once again gender-biased, with 13 men and 42 women. They recognize that their newspaper-advertised study is not random, but they did a random sample of 600 parents to test the validity of their findings. This proved to be accurate, but asked for agreement or disagreement and may have led on the participants, although only 1% believed that they did a poor job. They tested 166 computer games sold between 1997 and 1999, along with over 200 movies and television shows from the same time period.

Walsh and Gentile (2001) found that in general parents agreed with the industry ratings, but there tended to be disagreements “when comparing the parent and industry ratings for different age groups.” Fewer than half of the T-rated games were considered completely appropriate for 13- to 17-year olds.

Walsh and Gentile (2001) conclude that “ratings of media products can play a critical role in preserving artistic and economic freedom, while simultaneously protecting public health.” However, they believe that “the ratings systems for...games do not adequately fill this role.” They advise that “ratings are not intended to be an industry seal of approval, and individual parents are not relieved of the duty to monitor their children’s use of media products.” They recommend that a universal ratings system be introduced for all media products; a ratings system that will be systematically applied and easily understood. Until this happens, they suggest that parents educate themselves and become involved in the media selection process for their children.

But why check the ratings at all? The president of the Interactive Digital Software Association, Doug Lowenstein, said, “I think the issue has been vastly overblown and overstated, often by politicians and others who don’t fully understand, frankly, this industry. There is absolutely no evidence, none, that playing a violent video game leads to aggressive behavior” (as cited in Anderson & Bushman, 2001). Is there a basis, beyond the case studies like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, for people to assume that video games can contribute to aggression?

Anderson and Bushman (2001) contend that “many of the underlying psychological processes identified in the TV-movie literature also apply to video games” and that since there has been much more research done on TV and movies, that we can apply the same findings to video games. They cite evidence that shows that TV and movies can contribute to aggression, even in the long term.

Anderson and Bushman (2001) discuss the problems with sorting out the difference in effects between violent and nonviolent games, since “even nonviolent games can increase aggressive affect” and “exciting nonviolent games can increase arousal,” but what they want to find is what they call the “unique ability of violent video games to directly increase aggressive cognitions.”

To put things in perspective, Anderson and Bushman (2001) “conducted a meta-analysis of the existing video game literature.” They compiled the results of 35 research reports, including the use of 4,262 participants, almost half of which were under 18.

They found that violent video games are more likely to increase aggression and aggressive affect, but can decrease it (Anderson & Busman, 2001). But they found that playing violent video games always increases arousal. Dividing the results of the experimental studies into two categories “based on whether the aggression target was another person,” they found that the “average effect was larger if the target was an inanimate object,” so people still maintain a respect for other human beings.

More importantly, Anderson and Bushman (2001) found that playing violent video games always increases aggressive cognition in all age groups and genders. The setting for most of this research was experimental, so it demonstrates “a causal link between exposure to violent video games and aggressive cognition.”

Anderson and Bushman admit that they have a lack of longitudinal research to show the long-term effects of exposure to violent video games, but they contend that the research that does exist is very convincing. I would point to Vessey and Lee’s (2000) statement that much of this research, likely the same used by Anderson and Bushman, is flawed, and since Anderson and Bushman did not really perform a study themselves, it can largely be ignored.

Karl E. Miller (2001) refers to a study done by T.N. Robinson, et al. of 2001 in which “two sociodemographically matched public elementary schools” were used, one as a control and the other implementing a six month curriculum designed to reduce exposure to television, videos, and video games. They encouraged the children and the parents to go without any of these media for ten days and to implement a 7 hours per week budget for these media. The children reported on “their peers’ aggressive behavior and reported their own perception of the world.” Some of the children, randomly selected, were observed in the playground. Parents were also interviewed.

The school into which the curriculum was introduced showed an improvement in reported behavior and perception of the world, but the playground observation difference, although improved, “was not statistically significant” (Miller, 2001). Perhaps reducing the media exposure simply changed their perceptions of aggression, but the actual observation does not back up the assumption that it actually reduced aggression.

Anne D. Walling (2002) refers to a study by L. Bensley and J. van Eenwyk of 2001. She contends that violent video games are linked to aggression, although she admits that “some authors suggest that video games may provide a safe outlet for aggression and frustration.” Apparently, Bensley and Eenwyk note that “rates of adolescent violence, homicide, weapon-carrying, and other markers of antisocial behavior fell consistently during the period when violent video games became ubiquitous, more graphic, and more realistic.” Bensley and Eenwyk’s study is also apparently a review of literature, this one with 29 studies reviewed. They found that “in children of middle school age and younger, no association was found between video games and aggression in girls” but that “in boys, studies report both increased and decreased aggression.” They also found that there was no consistent relationship between video games and aggression among high school age or college age students either, but “calming effects were more common.” They state that although the subject is complex and difficult to truly study, they find “little evidence [that] supports concerns that violent video games are linked to aggressive or antisocial behavior.” I find it interesting that even in a review of a study that discounts the link between video games and aggression, the author still shows a great deal of concern.

I conclude that even among all the hype and fear that people have about the possible link between video games and aggressive or violent behavior, there is no solid evidence showing a causal relationship. I contend that it is more likely that a personality trait can cause the same individual to be aggressive and to play violent games, much in the same way that a good Christian may prefer to listen to Christian music. I would still recommend that parents monitor their children’s use of all media products, including video games. I agree with Walsh and Gentile’s (2001) position that the media industries should implement a universal ratings system, and that they should be held accountable. Even with industry ratings systems, parents are still ultimately responsible for their children, and all adults are ultimately responsible for their own actions, and should judge for themselves whether they can handle violent video games and other media.

I contend that with increased realism in video games, there is actually decreased violence. Gone are the hordes of enemies that were slaughtered in late 80’s and early 90’s games, such as Contra and Streets of Rage. Now players are more likely to avoid detection by their enemies rather than engage them in combat. The tournament fighting type games, epitomized by Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat (franchises over ten years old), have been losing popularity for years. Game developers are learning that atmosphere and storyline are impossible with constant action, and that constant fighting is not necessarily the only way to create solid gameplay.

Regardless of the game’s content, the evidence linking video games and violence is weak, and Columbine is the exception rather than the rule.


Anderson, Craig A., & Bushman, Brad J. (2001). Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: a meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science, vol. 12, no. 5, 353-359.
Miller, Karl E.(2001). Video games, TV and aggressive behavior in kids. American Family Physician, vol. 64, issue 5, 863.
News Potpourri (2000). Southern Medical Journal, vol. 93, issue 8, 838-839.
Olson, Beth, Godfrey, Donald, & Allen, Craig (2000). Electronic media reviews. Journalism History, vol. 26, issue 3, 133.
Schroeder, Randy (1996). Playspace Invaders: Huizinga, Baudrillard and Video Game Violence. Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 30, issue 3, 143-153.
Scott, Derek (1995). The effect of video games on feelings of aggression. Journal of Psychology, vol. 129, issue 2, 121-132.
Sneed, Carl, & Runco, Mark A. (1992). The beliefs adults and children hold about television and video games. Journal of Psychology, vol. 126, issue 3, 273-284.
Vessey, Judith A, & Lee, Joanne E. (2000). Violent Video Games Affecting Our Children. Pediatric Nursing, vol. 26, issue 6, 607-610.
Walling, Anne D. (2002). Do video games lead to violent behavior in children? American Family Physician, vol. 65, issue 7, 1436-1437.
Walsh, David A., & Gentile, Douglas A. (2001). A validity test of movie, television, and video game ratings. Pediatrics, vol. 107, issue 6, 1302-1308.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

World Map

I want you to look at this map. It shows my recent visitors.

. . .

I have a couple questions. What's wrong with Greenland? Come on, people! Greenland! I've been writing this blog specifically with the Greenlandian demographic in mind! And yet, nobody from Greenland comes to the site. It's sad, really.

Also, forget Zimbabwe. I've given up on you people. You never come here. Well, you're not welcome. I'll go for other Z-countries from now on, like Zaire.

. . .

Incidentally, I can't point to either of those countries on the map.


I've made three entries in the latest Farktography contest. If you've got a Fark ID, please vote for them. The entries were kind of late, though, so I don't expect high scores.

Justice White’s Dissent in Wade and Bolton

“The Court apparently values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life which she carries. Whether or not I might agree with that marshalling of values, I can in no event join the Court’s judgment because I find no constitutional warrant for imposing such an order of priorities on the people and legislatures of the States. In a sensitive area such as this, involving as it does issues over which reasonable men may easily and heatedly differ, I cannot accept the Court’s exercise of its clear power of choice by interposing a constitutional barrier to state efforts to protect human life and by investing mothers and doctors with the constitutionally protected right to exterminate it. This issue, for the most part, should be left with the people and to the political processes the people have devised to govern their affairs.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I added a digital page to my photography page. As of now I'm not selling them, but I will let you know when I do.

Wills & Trusts class starts today . . .

“Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.”
--Ambrose Bierce

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Literature Review on Jury Decision Making

You can check out this paper I wrote in undergrad on jury decision making, if you're interested.

Wedding Pictures

Well, in case anyone's interested, here are some pictures from the wedding.
First, this is part of the head table. We had two maids of honor, and one is on the left here. In the middle is my mom, and on the right is my dad, whose birthday is today.

The next one is the other maid of honor, Laura's sister, with one of our honorary groomsmen.

Here's a great one of Laura in her dress.

And finally, one that shows off Laura's personality a bit.
Happy birthday to my dad!

Sunday, January 15, 2006


I'm sorry I didn't spend more time on the Logic vs. Idealism post. I was in a hurry to get it up before I left school on Friday, and I've been pretty busy lately, so I haven't had time to refine things.

At any rate, I should have limited my little world a little more. I meant to say that there is someone in the world who has no physically attractive traits, and this assumed that there are traits that everyone could agree are unattractive. I suppose "positive" and "negative" are too vague in that regard.


Well, we adopted another dog on Friday. Her name is Lily, she's 6-8 months old, and a real sweetheart. And Russell is taking it pretty well, and being a great big brother, sharing everything and not snapping at her at all. They played for several hours on Saturday and have been pretty tired today. She has kennel cough, and we got some meds for her, but now he'll probably get it and we'll have to get meds for him too. Oh well. Here's to family!