A look back at the Brights

The Brights was a movement in the 00s to rebrand atheists as “brights”. It immediately fizzled, as everyone laughed it out of the room. Can you imagine calling yourself a bright?

I first heard about brights in 2007, but apparently it was coined some years earlier, by Paul Geisert in 2003. He and his wife Mynga Futrell founded The Brights organization, whose website still stands today. The word was initially supported by Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, but was immediately mocked by both conservative columnists and skeptical authors (not all articles are publicly available). Nowadays, nobody ever bothers to remember it except as a hilarious object lesson in how constructed labels can go wrong.

“Bright” is a funny word, but I will discuss it earnestly. I will deconstruct its motivations, analyze the arguments for and against it, and investigate where it ended up.

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Link Roundup: May 2021

Pie That’ll Kill Ya: The Problem with Fandom Statistics | Franzeska Dickson (video, 5 min) – On the subject of fandoms, a lot of our intuition is informed by the AO3 community, which features a great deal of slash, and m/m slash in particular.  Franzeska argues that this is not representative of fanfiction in general.  AO3’s detailed tagging system for pairings tends to draw more people who are interested in m/m slash, go figure.

An “Ex-Detransitioner” Disavows the Anti-Trans Movement She Helped Spark | Slate – This article highlights stories from a few people who detransitioned but also reject the way that detransition narratives are used to attack trans people.  Detransitioners are a fairly small group with very complicated and personal journeys, and their stories get amplified and simplified in the name of attacking trans people.  I don’t want to amplify these narratives beyond reason, but I think it’s important to establish a route by which people can detransition without being transphobic–in the same way that we’ve established that individuals can stop identifying as bisexual without having to believe that everyone‘s bisexuality is just a phase.

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Reblogging, the root of evil

A straw on the camel’s back

“Cancel culture” is a bad and incoherent concept, run into the ground by conservatives who use it to attack any sort of cultural criticism from the left, while excusing any analogous criticism from the right. At the same time, I do see people on the left also use “cancel culture” as a way to discuss legitimately worrying problems, such as Twitter pileons. Such leftists do not necessarily accept the “cancel culture” framing uncritically, but you can’t not talk about it. You can’t talk about Twitter pileons without talking about cancel culture, because it’s burrowed into all our brains, and we’ll recognize it even if you don’t say it. And I don’t know what to do about that.

I have wondered if it might help if we just rename the problem. We’ve changed the name before; we used to call it callout culture, and now we call it cancel culture for some reason.  Although, that didn’t seem to help things at all.

Another approach is to shatter the “cancel culture” framework to pieces, and talk about the pieces individually. So, in the spirit of being the change I want to see, I will discuss just one piece: the reblog. Not really the root of evil–the title is hyperbole–but nonetheless an important structural element of the social media platforms that have it the worst.

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Origami: Doxie pair

Two attached dashchunds

Dachshund, designed by Yara Yagi

I made these dachshunds as part of the local origami club, and I love them.  I made two, and they immediately reminded me of the two dachshunds that my aunt owned, one light-haired the other dark-haired.  Those dogs always seemed attached at the hip, and were rather codependent.  So, I decided to attach these two at the hip.  I don’t remember how I did it, something to do with pulling out excess paper hidden inside the models.

My mother has owned dachshunds all her life, so I gave these to her as a gift.  Happy Mother’s Day this month!

(For those who didn’t know, “dachshund” is the spelling, but it’s pronounced like “doxin”.  They may also be called doxies or just weiner dogs.  I grew up with these dogs but it took me forever to learn how to spell their name.)

Against the top/bottom dichotomy

cn: it’s about sex positions, but it is not graphic

I hate the top vs bottom dichotomy as it is used by gay/bi/queer (GBQ) men. If this is something that you like to use for yourself and to understand others, that’s well and good, and I will not deny it to you. But there’s a lot of stereotyping and politics that goes into it, and it’s obnoxious from the perspective of a person who prefers to opt out.

First, at the risk of overexplanation, I should make sure everyone is on the same page. “Top” and “bottom” refer to sex positions, with top being the penetrative position, and bottom being the penetrated position. They can also be used as verbs, or to people. A top is someone who prefers the top position or takes the top position, and a bottom is someone who prefers the bottom position or takes the bottom position. If someone swaps positions, or doesn’t have a preference, that’s called “versatile”, or “vers” for short.

The top/bottom dichotomy is primarily used in the context of men who have sex with men. However, it is occasionally used in other contexts, and the fandom context is of particular note. I mention this because I’ve found that some readers were only familiar with the fan context, and did not realize that I was talking about a real world concept. So, for the fandom folks, at the end I’ll include a discussion of the top/bottom dichotomy in a fan context.

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Good communication

What is the shape of a raindrop? Going by the common raindrop symbol, you might think it’s round on the bottom and pointy on the top. In actuality, they are spherical when small, and become more pancake-shaped at larger sizes. The biggest raindrops make parachute shapes before breaking up into smaller drops (see video). So that’s an interesting, if not particularly useful, scientific fact.

So the next question is, do you feel misled by the raindrop symbol? Are you incensed by the misinformation?

So this is another one of those posts where I look back at the atheoskeptical movement, and talk about things that have bugged me for a long time. I’m thinking back to an old skepticism website, which used this as its symbol:

alt: raindrop symbol with a circle and slash symbol.

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Game Diary: April 2021

I’m doing one last game diary, and I’ve already decided that next month I’ll move it back to my other blog.  Or maybe I’ll stop entirely, and invest more time in my other hobbies, like blogging.  In any case, please enjoy this commentary on several games all across the spectrum.

Salad Fields

So I was browsing the LGBT tag on Steam, which isn’t exactly a cohesive category, but an interesting way to get a random selection of games. You get a few big budget games like Life is Strange, and a whole lot of dating simulators and visual novels. And I was thinking, “Where are all the LGBT puzzle games?” I’m being facetious, but I also have in the back of my mind that one game about fitting a poly triad onto a bed (Triad, if you want to look it up). But then I saw this game.

Salad Fields is a queer furry game that combines difficult sokoban puzzles with a surreal setting and story. Visually, it juxtaposes pixel graphics with 3D art that resembles abstract sculpture. Narratively, it’s mostly a bunch of disconnected stream-of-consciousness dialogues. The dialogues are not usually directly related to queerness, but they reflect the cultural values of (I presume) the authors’ personal experiences as queer furries–most every character is a weirdo and knows it, and there’s also an open and relaxed attitude towards sex.

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