Two theses on queer readings

This was crossposted to my other blog, The Asexual Agenda, under the title “The essentiality of ace readings“.

As part of my usual youtube browsing, I was checking out a games criticism channel, Transparency, and I watched a video titled “Queering Animal Crossing | A Helpful Guide to Queer Readings” (29 minutes). I don’t think it says anything truly unusual, it’s just an entertaining and accessible introduction to the topic.

Videos like this are useful for me to reflect on my own views, and crystallize disagreements. So here I present two theses about queer readings. First, I assert that queer readings are not always political, but also form an ordinary part of how queer people consume media. Second, I argue that asexual readings are an essential concept that should be introduced as part of basic education about queer readings.

Queer readings as ordinary

The Transparency video does a good job of establishing the point that queer readings are not “alternative” interpretations of texts. Rather, they show how queerness–which exists all over the place in the real world–has also slipped into our fiction, as much as heteronormativity may try to stop it or ignore it. Queer readings do not require any “proof” of queerness, after all this is fiction and there is no underlying truth of the matter. Nor do queer readings require any knowledge or theorizing about the intentions of the creators. Queer readings are just about recognizing hints and potentialities that exist in our fiction. Straight audiences regularly interpret knowing glances between m/f pairs as a code for romance, we can very well do the same for queer pairings.

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A Guide to Xenharmonic Artists

Microtonal music is music that uses pitches that fall between the standard 12 notes used in western music. Xenharmonic is a synonym of “microtonal”, but it often connotes a deliberate effort to incorporate microtonality in a noticeable and essential way.

Xenharmonic isn’t a musical genre exactly, but a characteristic that can apply to music of any genre, from hip hop to pop to rock to metal. However, it is a genre, in the sense that there are people who are especially interested in producing or consuming xenharmonic music. And xenharmonic music does have a predilection towards instruments for which microtonality is easiest to achieve–namely electronic synthesis, guitar, and voice.

Besides its musical characteristics, the most notable thing about xenharmonic music, is that it is outsider music. If you look for xenharmonic music, most of it is not commercially produced, and is instead very roughly produced by enthusiastic individuals still finding their footing (that’s the nice way of saying it’s bad, but FWIW it’s also me). Xenharmonic communities such as the Xenharmonic Alliance are more geared towards creators rather than listeners. If you’re a listener, it takes some dedication to find the stuff that resonates with you most. But that also means you can find some truly unique creative visions.

To help the would-be listener of xenharmonic music, I’m providing a list of “stars” in the xenharmonic scene, artists who are fairly popular within this space.

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Link Roundup: December 2020

For this month’s link roundup… I got two videos.  Did I even read anything this month?  Well, I also published a couple articles over on the other blog, one about my work on the Ace Community Survey, and some journal club discussion notes on asexuality and BDSM.

That Time Geocentrists Tricked a Bunch of Physicists | Folding Ideas (video, 45 min) – Dan talks about an old documentary promoting geocentrism.  This video has me imagining an alternate timeline where the skeptical movement welcomed the humanities, and in addition to a bunch of hard science geeks poking at inaccuracies, we had cinematography geeks breaking down misleading editing techniques.  What could have been.

Queering Animal Crossing | A Helpful Guide to Queer Readings | Transparency (video, 29 min) – It’s a basic introduction to queer readings.  I wrote a reaction to this on social media, partially disagreeing with it.  I think I’ll adapt it into a blog post of sorts.  For now, you’re welcome to watch it and form your own opinion.

I read popular physics: Explosions at the edge

This is part of my series where I read physics articles in Scientific American, and rant about barely related tangents in order to provide “context”.

After the November issue, which didn’t really have any physics articles at all, the December issue has two major articles! One is astronomy, the other one is about the fusion reactor, ITER. But, after complaining about how all the physics articles are about astronomy, it looks like I’m still choosing the astronomy article. The ITER article is just a bunch of photos of the engineering, and I don’t have much to say about that.

So, the astronomy article is “Explosions at the Edge” (or that’s how it’s titled in print). It’s about the surprisingly diverse ways that massive stars can go supernova. For example, rather than simply exploding, a star may first shed a layer of gas, and then the subsequent explosion will collide with that gas, producing a prodigious burst of light.

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Practice and sight-reading in video games

Earlier this year, I played Celeste and Hollow Knight, two critically acclaimed platformers released in 2018 and 2017 respectively. Games critics basically talk about these games all the time, so I knew what they were and I knew they were quote-unquote “good” games. But they’re outside my wheelhouse, in that they are not puzzle or story games. So I only played them recently, and only because my husband bought them for himself.

In both games, I noticed a difference in how my husband and I played. Initially, my husband would play, and then I got interested. I would skip ahead of my husband in leaps and bounds. But eventually, towards the end, my husband got better than me. He would start consistently beating challenges that I could only beat after many tries, and would reach further through the post-game content. What gives?

box art for celeste and hollow knight

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (1) (2)

Both of these games present very difficult technical challenges, where you have to input a precise series of moves or react quickly to what you see on screen. They both promote the feeling of mastery once the challenges are complete. They are both very good at what they’re trying to do. Celeste in particular was a favorite for both of us, because instant respawns greatly reduce the friction to achieve that feeling of mastery. But my husband definitely enjoyed them more than I did, and I think it has to do with our different learning curves and learning styles. It may also explain why I don’t care for games that emphasize technical mastery, and go more for those puzzle and story games.

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Origami: Leaf


Leaf, designed by Ekaterina Lukasheva, from Floral Origami

Today’s origami design is a relatively simple one, but I love simple stuff like this!  You just pleat a square back and forth diagonally across the paper, and then pinch it in the middle.

For this model, I used paper with diagonal stripes, so that the stripes approximately align with the folds.  This creates an iridescent effect, as the colors subtly change depending on your viewing angle.  Now, the stripes don’t align exactly with the folds, so there’s a bit of a subtle interference pattern as well.  I love the idea of making these subtle interactions between the paper patterns and the origami design, but I think it rarely aesthetically succeeds.  This is my favorite example.