How to hear FM Synthesis

A big reason why I enjoy dabbling in electronic music production is that it’s a way of directly transforming math into physical sensation. It’s math you can literally hear. One of the most incredible examples is FM synthesis.

FM stands for frequency modulation. That means that you change the frequency of a note over time, generally in a cyclical pattern. Our ears interpret frequency as pitch, so this may sound like a pitch that fluctuates over time. However, if the fluctuation occurs fast enough, our ears can no longer track it, and it begins to sound completely different.

Try listening to these demos:

Demo 1

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It bugs me about Nimona

cn: Lots of spoilers.  Also a suicide mention.

Nimona is a recent animated film taking place in a futuristic medieval setting. Lord Ballister was a commoner who was plucked by the queen to become a knight. Knights are sworn to defend the city from monsters beyond its walls, but they basically function as cops. However, during the knighting ceremony, Ballister is framed for killing the queen, and becomes a fugitive.

He gets adopted by Nimona, who at first appears as a young girl, but is a powerful shapeshifter. She calls him a villain, and insists on being his sidekick.  Although Ballister is initially reluctant, they work together to prove his innocence. But Ballister learns that he needs to go much further, striking at the heart of the city’s corrupt institutions and entire mythos.

Nimona is celebrated as a queer and trans movie, and for good reason. It has a trans creator, overt representation (Ballister having a male love interest and Nimona being fluid in both species and gender), and subversive themes about overthrowing the social and institutional structures that oppress people.

And so, I am very sorry to play the role of media curmudgeon, yet again. I found the themes of the movie to be in conflict with what was being literally portrayed. This gave the impression of a movie that had a point to make, but was ineffective at actually arguing the point.

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Heartstopper season 2

Last year, I gave a lukewarm review of Heartstopper, including the first season of the TV series, and the webcomic up to that point. Today, I will offer a few comments on season 2. Because despite me being fairly critical, you know that I’m into it.

Coming out

If season 2 has any central focus, it’s on coming out. Nick has committed to coming out to people at school at the beginning of the season, and he only gets around to it near the end of the season.

On the one hand, I appreciate the portrayal of coming out as a long and arduous process. In many stories, coming out is portrayed as a single confrontation, usually with parents. But in real life, there are so many people to come out to, way more than you can reasonably fit in a story. When an LGBTQ person is committed to coming out, it really is a long-term commitment, and you never stop.

On the other hand, a huge benefit of coming out for gay/bi men is that you can actually have a relationship in public. There are just so many things you cannot do in a same-sex relationship while closeted because people would find out. But this does not seem to present much of a benefit to Nick and Charlie, because they’re pretty much already doing the things that you can’t actually do while closeted.  They somehow find an endless supply of private spaces.  Quite a number of these private spaces are actually in public, they’re just treated as private for no real reason.  The low-stakes story seems to remove some of the major issues that motivate people to come out.

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Link Roundup: August 2023

Last month, I published an article in The Asexual Agenda about initiation in mixed relationships.

Workplaces Without Borders And Sexual Harassment | Thing of Things – Ozy writes about how sexual harassment laws work best in a stable workplace environment.  In an “borderless” workplace, such as actors who work gig to gig, there’s a lot less protection, and little to prevent quid pro quo.  I think this is a consequence of the weird way that sexual harassment is constructed in US law.  If someone catcalls you in the street, we would colloquially think of that as sexual harassment, but in the eyes of the law it isn’t.  Sexual harassment laws are built upon employment discrimination.  So if it doesn’t affect your job, or if it’s targeted equally at men and women, then it’s legally defensible.

It’s okay to be bad at games | Clayton Purdom – An interview with Bennett Foddy about difficult games.  He talks about the game as a dialogue between the player and designer, rather than the designer just giving players everything they want.  He also says he wants players to admit they like the friction, that failure is a big part of the attraction.  I think that’s true of a lot of games and gamers, although personally I’ve found it useful to recognize that I actually don’t like much friction in games.  That’s why I like walking sims, which have so little friction that they’re often accused of not being games at all (though they totally are).

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Firewatch was too hard

cn: moderate spoilers for Firewatch.

Firewatch is a 2016 walking simulator about a man named Henry, whose wife is suffering from early onset dementia. He joins the firewatch as a way of running away from his problems. Gameplay consists of hiking through a naturalistic forest, while Henry chats frequently with his boss, Delilah, over the radio. At some point they learn that someone has been listening in on their conversations, which ignites in both of them a paranoid fantasy.

Firewatch has a linear narrative, with no major branching points and no fail states. Nonetheless, I found it too difficult. I had already been spoiled as to its general plot and themes before I even started. And yet, I still felt like I didn’t “get it” in my own playthrough. I felt like I had watched a walkthrough but was still unable to perform the actions that I had seen others do.

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Origami: Lucky Star

Lucky star origami

Lucky Star, designed by Ekaterina Lukasheva

This origami model was part of a pair that I folded at the same time.  I posted a photo of the other one in 2018.  Like the other model, this one also has four distinct colors.  Three of the colors have 5 units each, and the fourth has 10 units.