Is queerness wholesome now?

A couple weeks ago, I was following the Summer Games Fest and other video game presentations. And because I’m so interested in queer media, I asked myself, of all these different presentations, which is the queerest of them all? It’s hardly a question, because the answer is so obviously the Wholesome Games Direct.

The next day, I read a story about proud boys creating a disturbance at a Drag Queen Story Hour, and I thought, of course. Of course the queers would be doing something so wholesome as reading stories to children, and of course the edgy fascists would hate that.

Is this a thing? Is queer wholesomeness a thing?

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ywibaysfb and webcomic criticism

Your Webcomic Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad (YWIBaYSFB) was a blog active in the years 2007-2008. The title, based on a dated Futurama meme, is an accurate reflection of its content: insulting, mocking, and booing webcomics that the author, John Solomon, deemed bad.

I did not actively read YWIBaYSFB at the time, but one did not need to read the blog to be aware of it. It made a lot of waves in webcomic circles, and everyone came to watch the train wreck. Whether the train wreck was the blog itself or the webcomics it mocked was, I suppose, the subject of some disagreement.

For context, 2007 is the year I started blogging. I was feebly trying to attract readers, and making barely any headway at all. In contrast, YWISaYSFB instantly got huge amounts of attention, thousands of comments, and even a parody blog it inspired acquired some renown. Within a year it stopped, and its legacy is now inherited by the Bad Webcomics Wiki. I think this flash in the pan says something about the challenges of criticism.

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Xenharmonic music theory part 3: Tuning theory

This is the final part of a series introducing xenharmonic music theory. In the first part, I talked about musical perception, especially the perception of microtones. In the second part, I explained roughness theory, which is an empirical theory of dissonance independent of musical tradition. The first two parts overlap with conventional music theory, but in this third part, I finally reach the music theory that is more particular to the xenharmonic tradition.

I’m just going to scratch the surface here, with an eye towards how you would actually use it in practice, if you were a composer. Most readers, I imagine, are not composers. It’s okay if it’s just a hypothetical for you, as long as you learn something.

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Xenharmonic music theory part 2: Dissonance Theory

See part 1

Dissonance in music is analogous to conflict in a story. Dissonance sounds “unpleasant” in the same way that conflict is unpleasant to the characters within the story, but then it would be an odd to have a story without any conflict. The opposite of dissonance is called consonance. Music commonly alternates between dissonance and consonance–creating tension, and then resolving it.

Conventional musical theory comes with a bunch of ideas about what’s consonant or dissonant. 400 cents, the major third, is considered consonant; 300 cents, the minor third, is considered dissonant. There’s some physical basis for these ideas, but arguably a lot of it has to do with tradition. 300 cents is more dissonant than 400 cents because that’s the meaning we’ve absorbed from our musical culture.

When you go outside the usual tuning system, musical tradition offers less guidance on what’s more or less dissonant. So this is the part of my intro to xenharmonic theory where I discuss a theory of dissonance that is independent of musical tradition.

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Link Roundup: June 2022

Brain-O: The Incident | stderr – Marcus Ranum recently had a not-quite-a-stroke, and wrote about his experience.  A scary and fascinating story.  Wish for his full recovery.

Sympathy for Anton Ego: An Antifan Manifesto | osteophage – Coyote aims to persuade readers of the positive possibilities of negative fandoms.  Of course, I didn’t need to be persuaded, I was already on board.  I’m of the belief that the best way to enhance appreciation of a thing is to read (or write) a scathing criticism of one or more of its aspects.  It’s true that antifandoms and hatedoms have a poor reputation, and well-deserved in many specific examples.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Making Sense of VRChat, the “Metaverse” People Actually Like | People Make Games (video, 38 min) – Some good journalism exploring VRChat, a space where people can inhabit avatars in a virtual space.  They interview lots of people to understand how they use it, talk about why everyone’s an anime girl, and the threat (and potential) of corporate colonization of virtual space.

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Xenharmonic music theory part 1: Perception of microtones

Microtonal music is music that goes outside of the standard western 12-tone tuning system. There are many microtonal traditions throughout history and the world, but xenharmonic music refers to a specific modern musical tradition that makes a point of being microtonal.  If you’d like to listen to examples, I have a list of popular xenharmonic artists. Xenharmonic music is associated with music theories that might be considered heterodox. Heterodoxy is good though because conventional music theory is too narrowly focused on a certain European classical music tradition, and we could use an alternate perspective.

This is part of a short series introducing xenharmonic theory. Part 1 is about the perception of sound, with a particular focus on small differences in pitch. Part 2 is about dissonance theory. Part 3 is about tuning theory. The first two parts overlap with conventional music theory, but focus on aspects that are independent of tuning. Part 3 is where we get into theory that’s more specific to the xenharmonic tradition.

I freely admit that I don’t know everything, I just know enough to point in some interesting directions. The idea here is not to write an authoritative intro to xenharmonic music theory (which might be better found in the Xenharmonic Wiki), but to write an accessible intro with a bit of a slant towards what I personally think is most important.

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