Link Roundup: May 2019


Skepchick is back! – That is, to say, they’ve collected a lot of their former writers, and relaunched the site.  (Although, even when Skepchick was “inactive”, Rebecca Watson was still there with some good vlogging.)

Terrible Graphs of Orientation – I collected a bunch of graphs, primarily made by ace people.  And I tried to “outdo” the graphs by drawing hypercubes labeled with comic sans.

“No romo”: An overanalysis – I wrote in great depth about “no romo”, which is an occasional meme among aromantic people.  Mostly I end up talking about the history of “no homo”, and all the different ways it has been used.

A commenter pointed out that you can hear the beating frequency between two notes, even if each note is played in a separate ear.  If you have headphones/earbuds, you can hear it for yourself.  This is fascinating, because there is no real beating frequency in the air, so the beating frequency you perceive is somehow created in your brain.


Graysexuality – I’ve identified as graysexual (aka gray-asexual, gray-A) for almost a decade, so I’m quite pleased to see Ozy write about it.  Ozy even takes a unique angle, saying that we’re witnessing the construction of a new sexual orientation.

People always complain that the problem with labels is that they box you in, and graysexuality is a sort of response to that, being a deliberately nebulous identity with no single narrative.  The closest thing to a single narrative, is that you relate to asexual experiences a lot, but not enough to consider yourself asexual.  And then people go and complain that graysexuality isn’t coherent enough–well you can’t have it both ways.

Overused Statistic #738: Mental Illness and Violent Victimization – It’s commonly said that mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, but as Crip Dyke points out, this is a trivial fact, and does not actually contradict people’s belief that most perpetrators are mentally ill.  Yeah, this kind of annoys me too.

The argument that I would make, is that the number of perpetrators of violence is just so small.  Therefore, if you want to try a preventative measure, you either have to target a very specific minority, OR your preventative measure has to be humane and fair enough that it’s acceptable to apply mostly to people who never would have become violent.  Mental illness is so common that it is not a reasonable target–you might as well just target the whole population, and use some measure like “make guns illegal”.

We Prosecute Murder Without the Victim’s Help.  Why Not Domestic Violence? – The short answer is that in 2004, there was a Supreme Court case that made a lot of evidence of domestic violence inadmissible.  If the victim makes statements to the police, and then later recants (possibly due to threat of violence or financial dependency), those statements made to the police cannot be admitted as evidence without the victim’s cooperation.  Prosecutors have to be creative in finding admissible evidence.

Michael Sam’s pursuit of happiness – Michael Sam was the first openly gay player in the NFL.  But it seems that after he came out his football career was short-lived.  He also broke off an engagement, and was dealing with hard drug problems. So, I don’t care about football and therefore don’t care about whether he was good at it, nor do I think anyone is entitled to a lucrative football career.  But still, he seems in need of a supportive community, instead of the community he got, who seems to think his problems are best solved with more substances.  At one point he says he feels abandoned by LGBT groups, who brought a lot of support when he came out, but would not help him at his low points.  I’m sure this story must be very discouraging to other closeted gay athletes.

Sekiro and Difficulty: Why Cheese is Far Worse than an Easy Mode – Since the release of Sekiro (by the creators of Dark Souls), games critics have once again started talking about difficulty in video games.  There’s a sense of fatigue among critics, but I don’t care, I still find it interesting (despite having no interest in playing Sekiro).  Anyway, the author points out that Sekiro fan communities reject idea of an “easy mode”, but approve of “cheese”–tricks you can perform to negate the challenge, such as finding a way to completely skip a boss.  There is no justification for this double standard, and in fact it should be the other way around.

Why a Traffic Flow Suddenly Turns into a Traffic Jam – As a former condensed matter physicist and former Los Angeles resident, I find the phenomenon of spontaneous traffic jams to be fascinating.  Sadly I only ever get to read about it in these popular news articles, which seem to be forbidden from including any real math.  Seems like ideal blogging fodder for the future.


The Political Implications of Talking Dog Movies (video) – Jack Saint discusses at length how talking dog movies take for granted that there is a race of intelligent beings who are completely subservient to us, and that their subservience is just and good.  Of course, it’s just a genre convention, and most movies avoid dwelling on it.

It’s kind of silly to think about, but I think it serves as a useful point of comparison for talking about other genre conventions.  For example, there are many genre conventions in romance that, in real life, would be giant red flags.  But we usually don’t think of them that way, because in the language of the genre, it’s just there to generate conflict, or to be “romantic”.

The Politics of Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog (video) – Sarah discusses an old Joss Whedon short film, observing that the protagonist follows what we now recognize as the incel narrative arc.  Whether the film is sufficiently critical of the incel narrative is up for interpretation.

I particularly like Sarah’s discussion of toxic masculinity.  The antagonist, Captain Hammer, represents a certain kind of toxic masculinity, the stereotypical kind that is all strength and crudeness.  But we can see that Dr. Horrible himself is an example of a different kind of toxic masculinity, a nerdier and more vulnerable kind.  I’ve been saying for years that the problem with discussion around “toxic masculinity” is that there’s a lot of focus put on, essentially, machismo, which is a form of masculinity I have never felt pressured to perform.  We’re missing a much-needed discussion of “nerdy” masculinity which often contrasts itself from jock masculinity, but can still be toxic nonetheless.



  1. says

    I did see that, actually, but I felt it missed the mark enough that I declined to plug it. The issue with using Big Bang Theory as a case study is that the characters may be geeks, but the target audience is not (and I suspect that the writers are not either). So there’s a question of whether the show represents a comedic exaggeration of toxic geek masculinity, or if it just represents non-geeks projecting their own variety of toxic masculinity onto geeks. As a former physicist, I tend to think it’s mostly the latter. I feel like Dr. Horrible is a so much better example.

  2. says

    To clarify, I think some geeks might express the particular kinds of toxic masculinity and misogyny that appear in The Big Bang Theory. It has not been my personal experience among professional physicists, but other people may have different views on the matter. Even so, the kind of toxic masculinity on display in the show is pretty much just “jock” masculinity performed (poorly) by geeks, and therefore does not serve as a good tool to investigate what exactly is *distinct* about geek toxic masculinity.

  3. milu says

    OK i’ve now actually watched both Dr Horrible and Sarah Z’s take on it, so… sorry for my Pop Culture Detective recommendation seeing as it was prominently featured in the very video you linked to. oops.
    fwiw, i was kind of mystified by the depth of analysis Sarah Z goes into about this miniseries, but on 2nd thoughts i think that’s because i didn’t really like it personally. i felt about zero sympathy for either male characters, and i thought at first that they were intentionally despicable?? and i tend to be turned off by narratives where everyone just obviously sucks. But based on my own mixed feelings about other works, say the Buffy series, i can see how this actually is a cringey fave for lots of folks, and i tried to follow Sarah’s argument as though i did care about the lead character. moving on!
    so i get your point that the Big Bang Theory variant of toxic masculinity as discussed by PCD is not very relevant to actual geek communities, and also i love your point on how it would be nice to see more of Sarah Z’s kind of focus on how masculinity and (fear of) vulnerability intersect and pave the way for oppressive behaviour, as opposed to obsessively watching out for only some specific manifestations of that underlying insecurity — those that just happen to be more prevalent in marginalised groups interestingly.
    in fact, if all oppressive masculinity is produced by basically the same combination of entitlement, misogyny, and gendering of vulnerability, maybe… it’s not just popular representations of nerd masculinity that are off the mark, but those attempting to criticize hegemonic masculinity as well?
    i feel that equating oppressive masculinity with archetypes (however refined the taxonomy) just ends up leaving many (tendencially, all) boys and men off the hook, because we figure, “hey look, i’m not a stereotype! therefore my masculinity is harmless.” as long as only the antagonists’ masculinity is condemned, we’re not getting anywhere. i think we need to identify/bond with the guy who behaves like a jerk, and then have the narrative call that attitude out, preferably by emphasizing how it impacts their community; then maybe (even better???) show them improving themselves. shockingly, do i conclude that we as yet sorely lack helpful, feminist mainstream narratives about toxic masculinity, generally???
    one positive example i did come across lately: i’m watching Gilmore Girls these days and was unexpectedly moved to tears by a subplot involving two mostly likeable, but very manly characters (Luke and Jess) listening to and sharing a self-help tape when they realise they suck at relationships (admittedly, it’s a self-serving goal but i like that they deal with it by trying to challenge and improve themselves) the few bits we hear of the tape are mostly about accepting and expressing one’s vulnerability, and they actually begin to open up a wee bit after that, without experiencing some unlikely transformative epiphany. and despite the show’s tendency to enforce heteronormativity with biting sarcasm, this development was conspicuously not played for laughs.
    it felt like a really rare moment in western pop culture?? then again it’s possible i was moved mostly because the show is otherwise so reactionary on gender roles that the payoff for that little twist was super loaded. i mean, it did take almost four 22-eps seasons.
    anyway! thank you for that link!!

  4. says

    @milu, #4,
    You weren’t wrong to recommend Pop Culture Detective’s video. I was just sharing my thoughts on it.

    The Dr. Horrible commentary resonated with me, because I remember seeing it when it came out in 2008. I didn’t see it as a cringey fave, I liked it sincerely, and so did a lot of people. Dr. Horrible was a sympathetic character, although with tragic flaws. This also would have been before I realized I was queer, and I would have had different political views. So it was interesting to see it with new eyes.

    I agree a lot with what you’re saying. I feel like geek/nerd masculinity often contrasts itself to jock masculinity. So to the extent that feminist critiques of toxic masculinity mostly focus on jock masculinity, it feels like it misses the mark and lets geeks off the hook too easily. At the same time, I’m not sure I could do much better on hitting the mark. I’ve tried writing about it several times, here’s an article from 2016.

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