Tuesday, May 31, 2005


I took a picture of my fiancée, Laura, over the weekend. She hates it and I understand why. The wide-angle lens enlarges her nose and shrinks her ears. In other words, wide-angles are not good for portraiture. But I look at it not as a portrait, but rather a dynamic picture. In that light, it’s actually a good picture. In any case she asked me not to post it so you’ll have to use your imagination.

This picture was taken during a lightning storm. There were no visible bolts of lightning from my vantage point, but they lit up the clouds. I used 800-speed film and held the shutter open for anywhere between 8 and 30 seconds, and I have no idea how long it was open for this picture, but it is rather interesting. The effect is eerie and looks like I used some kind of weird filter in Photoshop. It’s surprising that it turned out at all because it was extremely windy and I had to hold it open manually for a long time.

This is a skyscape picture I took near Waco, Nebraska, along Interstate 80, about an hour or more before sunset. I wish I could have stayed there until sunset because it would have been a beautiful one. At sunset I was in Grand Island, and there wasn’t a cloud in the west.

Below are some rejected pictures that I took for the cover of my book, which I hope to finish and publish some time in the next year or two. The title of the book is Feathers. There were better pictures, but I choose not to publish them anywhere. Next time I’ll know I need to over-expose the pictures to get more detail in the feathers, which are actually turkey feathers that I bought from a Ben Franklin store.

All images © 2005 Kelly Hoffart

Friday, May 27, 2005

Staind: "We used to be good"

Staind is coming out with a new CD. Excuse me for not rushing to Best Buy to reserve a copy.
I have a big problem with them ever since Break the Cycle. I've heard that album described as "dark." Perhaps it may be considered "dark" after listening to Brittney Spears or Outkast, or whatever it is that the kids are listening to these days, but in the grand spectrum of music it's much closer to the vicinity of "gray," not dark. Which makes their follow-up album, 14 Shades of Grey, appropriately titled. Although one can only imagine why they used the British spelling of the chromatic word.
It's not that Break was a bad album, it just wasn't any good. But Grey, on the other hand, is a big pile of crap. The album cover should be next to the dictionary definition of sell-out. The riffs are completely lackluster, solos are bland, and he does way too much vocal showboating--which gets really old after about one minute. All in all, it is entirely gray, as in neither warm nor hot, not offensive to anyone yet not pleasing to anyone.
What happened to the heyday of Dysfunction? There was a dark album. If you have access to illegally downloaded music (God forbid) then you should also look up Tormented, a release prior to their record deal which makes Grey appear to be white. The song "4 Walls," in particular, (which ends with the sounds of suicide) even manages to make your average Alice in Chains song sound like a song by Zebrahead.
I have no idea what happened to this once-dark, now-light band. Perhaps family softened them up, or perhaps Washington, Jackson, Franklin and friends had a hand in it. In any case, stay the hell away from Staind's new album if you have any dignity.

Top 100 Metal Songs, 100-91

UPDATE 1/5/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade

In case you missed it . . .

#100: “B.Y.O.B.” by System of a Down
Mezmerize (2005)

I put this at the bottom of the list because it’s new, and I’m not sure how it will stand the test of time. I am sure that it would stay on the list were no songs to come out in the future. The chorus is what makes the song: “Everybody’s going to the party, have a real good time.” The harmony of Daron’s and Serj’s voices helps a great deal (although they should have turned Daron’s down in the mix), and the fact that they don’t harmonize on every chorus adds some variety. This one’s an instant classic.

#99: “Get Inside” by Stone Sour
Stone Sour (2002)

From the side effort of two Slipknot members comes this excellent thrash-fest. It has a high adrenaline factor, especially in the chorus (“Get inside, get inside, motherfucker get inside, get inside”). Corey also uses his melodic voice to give the song a bit of balance.

#98: “The Noose” by A Perfect Circle
The Thirteenth Step (2003)

Maynard James Keenan’s other band succeeded admirably on this one. Highly melodic and eerie, with a thoughtful chorus and excellent drumbeat.

#97: “Fixxxer” by Metallica
Reload (1997)

At times this one sounds like the blues, at other times it sounds unlike anything else. The lyrics and vocals are very good, and the song changes mood for a moment after the solo, and James uses rare special effects for his voice until the climax.

#96: “Living Dead Girl” by Rob Zombie
Hellbilly Deluxe (1998)

What can I say about this one? It has an excellent syncopated beat and memorable lyrics.

#95: “Avoid the Light” by Pantera
The Dracula 2000 soundtrack (2000)

It begins with a soft chorus, moves into a bottom-heavy but slow part, then middle-paced heaviness reminiscent of “Cemetery Gates,” and then an almost-heartfelt, soft, chorus about how to stay safe when you’re dead. The balance makes it great.

#94: “Bleeding Me” by Metallica
Load (1996)

Not unlike “Fixxxer,” this one is mellow, bluesy, and haunting. This time, however, the solo comes right after the crescendo. Very good.

#93: “Counting” by Korn
Issues (1999)

This one makes you nod your head with its unusual but heavy riff emphasizing Fieldy’s bass. It goes into a high-pitched and low-key monologue by Jonathan as he says “you keep the money and the girls and the fame, I only do it for the fun, that’s my game.” Then it moves right back into the heavy beat.

#92: “Whatever” by Godsmack
Godsmack (1997)

The first time I heard this was on Conan. At that time the heavy, syncopated rhythm interspersed with high, counter-intuitive chords was very unusual, but has been copied often since. The famous crescendo of “better fucking go away” will never be forgotten.

#91: “Jumpdafuckup” by Soulfly featuring Corey Taylor
Primitive (2000)

The beginning can do nothing to prepare you for Max yelling “Jumpdafuckup!” This one has an extremely high adrenaline factor. Corey’s low verses are full of pent-up aggression, partially released by Max’s parts. “If you’re gonna fight, watcha gonna do? Jumpdafuckup!” The middle of the song only gets heavier and more aggressive as Corey starts to let his anger out. “Beat to death with a shovel” sounds like something a very, very angry person would say. At the end, the song gives you time to recover from the sonic pummeling. You better use that time; next week I return a final time to the Dracula 2000 soundtrack, and it will smash your face in. Also appearing are two more Metallica songs and a couple by the godfather himself.

Jump to . . .
90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41, 40-31, 30-21, 20-11, and the Top Ten

UPDATE 1/5/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Odd Thoughts

This was on my desk calendar on the 19th under the heading “Under Oath:”
Δ: I remember when I was in your courtroom in 1956 when you was a municipal judge.
Judge: I don’t think we should go into that.
Δ: Not guilty too.
Judge: Well, we all make mistakes, sir, but you didn’t make one.
Δ: Well, you made one. I was guilty.

An odd thought occurred to me this morning. We should change the terminology for right-handed and left-handed. Instead, we should call them pick-handed and fret-handed.
It would sound something like this:
1: “Why do you wear your watch on your pick wrist?”
2: “Oh, I’m fret-handed.”
1: “So, how do you play guitar?”
2: “I pick with my fret hand, and fret with my pick hand.”
1: “Weird.”
2: “Yeah.”
1: “So, um . . . which hand do you use to . . . you know?”
2: “No, I don’t know. You’re going to have to be much more explicit.”
1: “I don’t feel comfortable with this conversation anymore.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

More Music News

Disturbed plans to release a new album in September this year. As yet it is untitled.

Corrosion of Conformity released In the Arms of God on April 5 . . . nobody ever tells me these things. UBL has no audio on it, so I'm not sure what it sounds like.

In more exciting news, Motörhead will release Inferno on June 22. Here's the cover art:

Static-X: Start a War

Static-X is coming out with a new album called Start a War. It sounds great so far, and their sound continues to evolve, always changing yet staying true to the evil disco ideal. Here are some samples:

I'm the One
The Enemy
Start a War

Also check out static-x.com. The release date is scheduled for June 14.

Top 100 Metal Songs

UPDATE 1/5/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade

Starting Friday I will be posting the top 100 metal songs (as I see it, obviously). Ten will be posted each week, probably on late Friday afternoon. I judged them based on the following criteria, in order of importance:
1. Overall sound
2. Composition
3. Production
4. Emotional impact
5. Lyrics
Note that judging based on production causes a large number of older songs to fall of the list, because the other factors have to be very good to bring it up. Note also that the list will be lopsided toward recent songs because there have been a far larger number of metal releases in recent years than in the past, but several decades are represented. Also note that several musicians are represented many times on the list. This is because they belong there several times.

There are some surprises in store, things that you would not expect, including the number one song.

Note also that I don’t expect anyone to look at this list and say, “Oh, well now that’s my #74 too.” I hope to spark discussion (if anyone actually reads it) and, primarily, I do this for myself because VH1 doesn’t know what they’re talking about (read: Mötley Crüe does not belong here—party metal is not true metal).
And yes, you may ask “Did you forget _____?” I may have, but probably not. You may also ask, “Are you crazy? That doesn’t belong at #81, it should be #1!” Like I said, discussion is the goal, but I already anticipate that people will ask this precise question, right down to the numbers.
But, with the exception of the top ten, don’t get hung up on whether number 92 is better than number 89.

Tune in Friday for numbers 100 through 91.

Links to other posts in this series:
100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41, 40-31, 30-21, 20-11, and the Top Ten

UPDATE 1/5/2010: Check out my new list, The Top 50 Metal Albums of The Last Decade

Monday, May 23, 2005

Business Card

Here's a rough draft of the business cards that my dad will print for me, front and back.

I just took Raider for a long walk, and then he went to lie down, panting, on the ceramic tile in the kitchen with his legs sticking out to the sides so that he can cool down the area where his testicles once proudly hung.

To quote Bob Barker, "Have your pets spayed or neutered." It really is better for everyone. They're happier afterward, believe it or not, because they don't worry about the stress of the opposite sex. They also live longer and behave better, and we don't have to worry about euthanizing unwanted animals. I recently heard someone ask why anyone would fix their pet. I think that they thought it was cruel. I found it hard to believe that anyone thinks that way, but I assume they're probably not the only ones, and so this post seems necessary.

So unless you're a professional breeder, please, please, please fix your pet.


I just realized that Friday was Raider's birthday, as close as we can figure. He's either 12 or 13 now, I'm not really sure. You can only really see it when he stands up and stretches, because now it takes a little longer to do those things, and he gets tired more easily. We got him from the pound about a year after we put my first dog (Bernie, part rat terrier part pomeranian and God knows what else) to sleep. She had epilepsy ever since a cat pushed her down the stairs as a puppy (before I was born) so she wasn't getting along too well in her old age. We got Raider (half schnauzer, half black lab) when he was on his last day at the pound. If we didn't get him, he would have been dead the next day.

When we first got him, he was scared of everybody. He warmed up to me first, after I did nothing but pay attention to him for two full days. He then slowly warmed up to everyone else.

He's a creature of habit. I'm at home right now, so this morning he barked at me a little bit until I made some coffee and drank it with him out on the deck. He likes to be outside, but his favorite thing of all is to be outside with somebody. If my dad doesn't take him for his nightly walk by 7:30, we won't hear the end of it unless he gets a walk. I got in the habit of taking him for walks at night, and now whenever I'm home it's expected.
When he goes outside in the morning Dad has to hide five treats, and when he comes back he sniffs and finds all of them. He knows when he's found all of them. I think he can count at least that high.
He likes to get scratched on the chest, and if you try to scratch him on the chin he will use his foreleg to push your arm down to his chest.

Once, Dad shot a possum (I assume with a 20-guage, maybe 12). It wasn't dead, only hissing mad. Raider jumped in after the shot and crushed its shoulderblades (he said you could hear the bones crunching) with a single bite. The possum was done.
He also likes to catch adolescent birds that don't know how to fly away.
Once, I was taking him out for a nighttime walk. We stumbled into something, and whatever it was he killed it. We came back out with a flashlight and everyone was telling him what a good boy he was and scratching him on the head: he had killed a mole. I never knew how damn ugly those things are.
One time he attacked a rooster, but didn't know what to do with it, so all he did was rip out some feathers.

One time my friend's sister had an unfortunate fall and Raider thought she had a pretty face. I'm not willing to talk any more about that, but let's just say I was rolling on the ground laughing.

He loves to dig. Under the shed out back he's been digging the same hole for years, and he's proud to show it to everyone.

One time I dropped a plate with six Oreos on it. He had eaten them all by the time I could say his name. Needless to say he was as hyper as I've ever seen a dog, squirming around on the carpet and making wookie noises. Luckily he survived the ordeal.

There's a little black dog in town we call "Archie," because he's Raider's arch enemy. This little guy used to get off his leash and harass Raider, and attack him. This never really bothered Raider. One day, however, Archie bit my dad when he tried to separate them. Raider then proceeded to put Archie's entire head in his mouth, and held it there. My dad separated them and brought Archie to his owners' house, and told them that next time he won't stop him. Archie has never gotten loose since.

So, this is a birthday tribute to the best dog ever to grace the earth. I will add more on him another day. I love you, Raider.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

I just saw Episode III with my parents (the last time I saw a Star Wars movie with them outside of the home was Return of the Jedi, and then I was in a car seat at the drive-in). I was disappointed. Now, to indulge my dorkitude by expounding upon my complaints about another installment of George Lucas's thorough mediocrity.

Sure, the story as a whole was solid, and the special effects were top-notch. The problem is that George Lucas is a total jackass.

Some might say the acting, but I'm not inclined to believe that all of those actors are really that bad. I think it's likely Lucas's poor directing abilities.

On top of that, he felt it necessary to give cameos. There is no logical reason why one of the wookies had to be Chewbacca. That's just silly. Going even deeper in this vein: why did C-3PO have to be in the prequels? He plays no relevant part--they don't need a translator, and his comic relief in the new movies is substandard. In addition, why did the clones have to be clones of Boba Fett's father? Boba Fett was originally intended to be a minor character.

And at the end, they give the droids to Captain Antillies. True, in the original movies they did belong to Captain Antillies, but this can't be the same person. In the original movies, Wedge Antillies (the only surviving pilot of the attack on the first Death Star besides Luke/the X-Wing pilot that made it to the center of the second Death Star) was not nearly 40 years old, as he must be if he's the same person. And I highly doubt that someone would have the exact same rank after 20 years, only in a different organization (because there was no "rebellion" at the end of Revenge).

Episode II was clearly the best of the prequels, but even in that movie the over-emphasis on cameos, using familiar characters, and special effects make the movie fall far short of anything that could be considered "good."

I hope that someone has gotten something out of this foray into my youth.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


I found this over at UBL.
Adjectives like "ambitious," "jagged," and "startling" have always defined System of a Down, and their third official full-length is no different. Prerelease, the band described Mezmerize as being the first part -- the first side -- of what's essentially a double album. The records' packaging would even slot together, making the eventual Mezmerize/Hypnotize whole.

Appropriately then, there's an intro to System's first new material since 2001's brilliant Toxicity. On "Soldier Side," Daron Malakian and Serj Tankian harmonize as they do throughout the record, and Malakian's guitar has a mournful, Eastern air. But it's just a lull before "B.Y.O.B.," a thrash assault pierced with rabid and incredulous screams. "Why do they always send the poor?" Suddenly the gears switch, and the song stomps in crunchy half-time as its lyrics riff with a sick grin on cultural ignorance. The government's lying, System's saying, but "Blast off!/It's party time." The vocal exploration between Tankian and Malakian on Mezmerize is a thrill -- they spur each other on like a two-headed hardcore hero. Their intermingling voices make "Cigaro" more aggressive, frantic, operatic, and totally bananas; they'd be triumphant over the break in "Violent Pornography" if they weren't spitting out lines like "Choking chicks and sodomy." The fantastic "Pornography" is a rusty shiv of absurdity, another example of System's ability to effectively skewer society with little more than hyper guitar, blistering percussion, and weird turns of phrase.

Their volatile mix of righteousness, wordiness, odd meters, and thrash has balanced System's activism since their self-titled debut, making them "unique heavy music" over the much more problematic "unique, heavily political music." And Mezmerize doesn't fail to be unique. "Old School Hollywood" essays the bizarre experience of a celebrity baseball game ("Tony Danza cuts in line!") over keyboard effects from "Beat It" and a brutally simplistic rhythm, "This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on This Song" is more twisted-tongue histrionics and explosive playing, and Tankian and Malakian's harmonies are the catalyst (again!) for making "Revenga" a truly feral epic. System of a Down -- what's another adjective for "awesome"? - Johnny Loftus, All Music Guide

I have to agree completely. They truly are an entirely different animal from any other heavy band. The lyrics are silly at times, at least on the surface. Their meaning may be lost on most of us. The one thing I'm not sure about is the increased use of Daron Malakian's voice. I understand that he does nearly all of the writing, and it's not that his voice is bad or that he can't harmonize with Serj, but Serj's voice is just that much better; and they make Daron's voice louder in the mix. Can't they just focus on his face more in the videos?


This was originally posted over at The Considerations as a response to a post on A Plain View.

TV is not the devil. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, but something happened to it. As a kid, I watched "Full House" on a regular basis. Thinking back on it, it's kind of creepy that three young girls lived with their dad and two uncles, but the show was wholesome: there was always a lesson to be learned.
From Looney Toons I became acquainted with classical music (particularly Grieg), opera, and fine literature (including Steinbeck and Shakespeare).
Even G.I. Joe taught us that knowing is half the battle.
But now what does TV have to offer? Reality television, which has largely replaced the sitcom, does not conform to either "reality" or normal conventions of "television." It blurs the line between truth and fiction and toes the line of the legal "obscene." The producers want you to think that Paris spilled the ashes of a human being and gathered them up with a vacuum cleaner. In reality, it's just ashes that they told her to spill.
The same goes for current childrens' programming. The infamous Pokemon and the more recent Yu-Gi-Oh have no valuable life lesson at the end, only blatant marketing. In Pokemon you "gotta catch 'em all," and in Yu-Gi-Oh the characters actually play the game for which they sell cards.
What happened to books?
The point is this: in the end, the only television worth watching should make you laugh for 15 minutes to a half hour, and not force you to watch the next episode for fear of missing something important.
Either that, or it should be hosted by Alex Trebek (all other game shows will rot your brain).


I've hijacked my first post to use as an index of my best posts, arranged by category. Those marked with a * are ones you should definitely see. Posts will open in a new window (by default) so you can come right back here when you're done.

Society and Law

Hot Coffee
2004 abortion paper
Potentially offensive question
Rebuilding NOLA
Fourth Amendment rant of frustration
NOLA and the 2nd Amendment
The 6-Year-Old Butter Knife Terrorist, Part 1, Part 2, and Conclusion
Dogs as shark bait
* Abortion and argument theory
More on abortion
Analysis of Roe v. Wade
Journalistic integrity, the story and the commentary.
Supreme Court hypocrisy
* Intelligent Design
Solution to the ID debate
Judicial philosophy
Is gay marriage more worthy of judicial protection than gambling?
* Tort reform
Reply to the Language Guy's post on sexism
* (Just?) War
The Machiavellian view
Substantive Due Process is inherently contradictory
Literature review on jury decision making
The effects of video games on aggression
Smoking Bans
"Too much?" video games
How much control should your employer have over your life?
The Mohammed cartoons
Capital punishment, part 1: morals and justice
Capital punishment, part 2: implementation
* How can gummy bears teach us how better to argue?
Euthanasia, part 1
Euthanasia, part 2
The right (not) to associate
FBI checking license plates
SAT errors
Attorney's fees
Certiorari for a Nebraska school segregation case?
Is the word "reasonable" meaningless?
Ignoring Copyrights
Portrait of a Douchebag: Pete Ricketts
What Is Terrorism?
Is terrorism always bad?
A Response to the Language Guy, on the Death Penalty


Pictures of feathers
Storm pictures
Sunken Gardens and Russell swimming
Pictures from the farm
Cool pictures of crops
More of the farm
The dogs
Finals Week
* Sioux Falls
* Lime
Bell Peppers
Keeping the doctor away . . .
* Minimalist B&W
* One more minimalist shot
Valentine's Bouquet
I've stopped posting my photography here and started posting it at Full Metal Photographer

Humor and Miscellaneous

Movies I'd like to see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
Dog Condoms
* Sex appeal sells the strangest things
* Restroom Etiquette
* Remembering Eternal Twilight
Hot or Not
* American parking habits
The return of Eternal Twilight
Constitutional Amendment
New tax law system
The Multiple Jesus Phenomenon
Giant robots
* "I wish I could do that."
* The Top 21 Inventions of All Time, Introduction, 20-16, 15-11, 10-6, and the top five.
You might need a different lawyer if . . .
Damn you Greenland!
The Duck
Referential humor tips
Cheesy bites
Good advertising vs. bad
So you want to be a blogger?
More blog ideas
A final blog idea
Wheel of Fortune theme weeks
"Men are still cavemen in the pleasures of the bed."
Aruna Soso's Sad Sad Story
Ninjas vs. Pirates
Myth vs. Fact: Nebraska
* I Declare War on Babies
29,000,000. Million Dollars
Laddman's Message
Trolling: a Tutorial

Heavy Metal

Top 100 Metal Songs, Introduction, 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41, 40-31, 30-21, 20-11, and the Top Ten.
Review of System of a Down's Mezmerize
Rant about how bad Staind has become
Commentary on old Motörhead vidos
Review of Disturbed's Ten Thousand Fists
Review of System of a Down's Hypnotize
Review of Korn's See You on the Other Side
Omitted from the Top 100 Metal Songs
Songs that remind me of things
* Ten essential metal albums
Grunge vs. Metal
Review of Rob Zombie's Educated Horses
Review of Godsmack's IV
Top 100 Metal Songs: Redux
Review of Stone Sour's Come What(ever) May

Movies and Books

Revenge of the Sith
Kurt Russell
I finally got the wife to watch a Star Wars movie
Happy 55th birthday to Kurt Russell!
Asimov was a terrible novel writer, but I still like him

My Life

My long-time friend, Raider
My new friend, Russell and more on him
Weird dream, featuring Admiral Ackbar
* I got stung in the mouth by a wasp
F*ck you
Talking about myself for a change
Why can't I understand women? An example
Our new dog, Lily
Wedding pictures
* Depressing true story
Puppies on doggie beds! (Aaaaaawwwwww!!!)
Jumping the fence
* Restraint
Roscoe Pound and Jim Beam
Tractor Pull
If I Had a Metal Band