Link Roundup: July 2024

In the past month, I wrote an article for The Asexual Agenda discussing causality.  And on a more personal front, I composed a couple short songs for music box.  (Did you know, I made an EP back in 2022?)  Anyways, onwards with the roundup.

Seeing Beyond the Veil | Bullet Points Monthly – This article discusses the association of psychosis and spiritualism, through the lens of Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II (a game I have little familiarity with).  In the first game, the protagonist’s psychosis is a source of suffering; in the second game, it’s a source of spiritual power.  This serves a narrative of empowerment–but it takes place in a world where giants and fairies exist.  In the real world, people may have more complicated feelings about attempts to turn their suffering into something mystically useful.

‘Cis by Default’, ‘Cis-genderless’, and ‘Gender detachment’: Three Terms You’ll Hopefully Be Hearing More Of | Ace Film Reviews – Blue Ice-Tea discusses three independently created concepts, each describing experiences of people who are not necessarily trans or non-binary, but lack a strong sense of identity.  I think by the nature of the thing, people with these experiences may not be very vocal about it, and may not even think much about it.  Creating labels for the experience has the disadvantage of drawing unwanted attention to the question of who is or isn’t.  But I do think it’s worth being aware of this side of gender experience, and at least some people may find the words useful.

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Link Roundup: June 2024

Orientalism: Desert Level Music vs Actual Middle-Eastern Music | Fayra Faraji (video, 1:36 hours) – This video explains how orientalist music has virtually nothing to do with actual music from the Middle East.  The music uses a hodgepodge of different instruments and musical styles that come from vastly different contexts.  They nearly exclusively use the double-harmonic and phrygian mode, not because those are particularly common in Middle-Eastern music, but rather because it’s uncommon in other western music and yet fits within the 12TET system.

As a fan of xenharmonic/microtonal music, I know that many non-western music traditions use different tuning systems–the Maqam traditions are particularly notable.  I appreciate such music as it comes into my awareness, and definitely wish it were more widely distributed.  That said, I’m very aware that I come from a western musical tradition, and the very first thing I hear in microtonal music is a sense of uniqueness relative to my musical context and training.  When I think about non-Western musical traditions, I imagine a whole history and culture where these musical characteristics are just normal, just a medium used to express something else entirely.  That just isn’t my perspective, I cannot hear it that way.

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Link Roundup: May 2024

This month, the Ace Community Survey published a report on sexual violence.

The real story of Gamergate 2 (conspiracy theories, crybullying, and a consumer revolt) | NeverKnowsBest (video, 1:38 hours) – I’ve been loosely following the story of antiwoke backlash currently going on in the gaming community, but it’s pretty hard to take seriously when it’s founded on something so ridiculous and petty.  NeverKnowsBest clearly explains the sequence of events and issues of concern, and persuaded me to take it more seriously.  After all, the Gamergate of a decade ago also started with something silly and petty, but it snowballed into something bigger by galvanizing the alt-right presence within gaming communities.  Also, the media environment is very different from how it was a decade ago, with traditional games journalism being far less influential.

What these neo-gamergaters want is games that cater more to their political tastes, i.e. centering straight white men, dropping black & queer characters, making women sex objects again, etc.  That’s already hard enough to sympathize with, but then they add all these conspiratorial claims involving a tiny consulting company, and ESG investment.  When it comes to progressive politics in games, they can’t accept the more basic explanation that some game devs are pretty progressive, so instead they believe that investors of all people, are the ones pushing the progressive agenda.  This is so obviously wrong, just look at all the indie games, which are less beholden to investors and publishers than ever.

How Does Fiction Affect Reality? | Thing of Things – Ozy discusses the evidence regarding the real world impact of fiction.  There’s surprisingly little, although fiction can impact social norms such as norms around family size.  As a critic, when I criticize a work of fiction, the purpose is rarely to say “this work of fiction is causing harm and should not exist”.  Often, criticism is just an intrinsically fun and valuable activity, in the same way that fiction itself is just an intrinsically fun and valuable activity, independent of whether it has an impact on society.  Yes, there is criticism, such as feminist criticism, that wants to push towards positive social change.  But I think it’s more important for people to engage with criticism than to avoid engaging in the material being criticized.

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Link roundup: April 2024

Lots of articles to share this month.

Health in the Ace Community (2021 Survey) | Ace Community Survey – Full disclosure: I’m sharing this because I’m a director of the survey.  However, I do not personally perform analysis or write the articles anymore.  This month, the Ace Community Survey published an article discussing health statistics (drug usage, disabilities, suicide, and more) in the ace community.

The Great Sex Rescue: Marital Rape | Tell me why the world is weird (cw for anecdotes of rape) – This article is part of a series (that I’ve plugged before) going through The Great Sex Rescue, a book that aims to correct sexual attitudes in (Evangelical) Christian culture.  In the chapter covering marital rape, it’s not making any moral statements that aren’t obvious.  It’s still rather horrifying how prevalent these Christian attitudes are, and how women and men are deprived of the hermeneutical tools to really understand it.

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Link Roundup: March 2024

All the links today are videos.  So, if you don’t like videos, you’re welcome to skip.

AI Slop World | Jack Saint (video, 28 min) – Jack Saint discusses the sort of AI trash that we love to mock, such as the recent incident where someone made a terrible Wonka-themed event, and advertised it with AI art.  I appreciate Jack’s more nuanced take here, because I think “haha AI bad” really misses a lot.  I mean, it is funny.  But this is basically some guy desperate for money doing something incompetent and scammy to make money.  This is a phenomenon that predates generative AI, and arguably could have been done better with stock art and plagiarism.  We should be asking if this is truly representative of what we fear to come out of AI, or if it’s just the easy target.

I’d like to talk about this more in the future, but something I’ve noticed, is that a lot of anti-AI discussion specifically targets generative AI as it is used in a creative mode, such as generating articles or visual art.  It’s also said that the big problem with AI is that it’s going to take our jobs.  I think people are missing that there’s a mismatch between these two points.  If generative AI does indeed replace a bunch of jobs across industries, you gotta realize that many of those jobs are not creative.  So you can mock AI art for being soulless and bad at drawing hands, but none of that is going to mean anything when LLMs are used to perform non-creative tasks with objectively measurable outcomes–and still replace jobs in the process.  So the mockery of AI art feels like uselessly grabbing at the ankles of a machine that actually runs on treads.

Our Car Was Stolen!? A video essay | The Leftist Cooks (video, 1:31 hours) – A kafkaesque anecdote interspersed with a discussion of the psychology of poverty.  For instance, people in poverty have stronger time discounting functions, meaning they’re more likely to prefer a marshmallow now than two marshmallows later.  But this is arguably entirely rational.

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Link Roundup: February 2024

Bloodless Board Games, Covert Colonialisms | Strange Matters – Kyle Flannery analyzes colonialism in a variety of euro-style board games, from Settlers of Catan to Spirit Island and Root.  Really great article.

We are huge fans of Spirit Island, which is not just a thoughtful response to the colonialism extant in its genre, but is also a top tier strategy game purely on merit.  That said, the game should hardly be the final word on anticolonialism in board games, and has its share of thematic issues.  My husband remarked that because the game is focused on the narrative of an indigenous group fighting back against colonists and winning, it needs to give them tools that they did not have in real life.  In this case, the tool they have is aid from magical spirits (aka, the players).  The natives themselves are left with relatively little agency.  (I do think the article exaggerates how much the spirits actually kill the natives though.  By design, you never want to kill them.)

Was I Rejected from Jury Duty for being too smart? | Rebecca Watson – Rebecca Watson looks into the common contention that critical thinkers often get booted from jury selection.  It seems that lawyers might sometimes block jurors for being “smart”, but rather than being a systematic thing, it’s a strategy they might use for certain cases.  For what it is worth, I’ve served on a jury before, and was surprised by the high level of education among the other jurors.

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Link Roundup: December 2023

Just a short link roundup this month, a few days late.

Plagiarism and You(Tube) | H. Bomberguy (video, 3:51 hours) – It’s alright if you don’t watch this one, I’ll give a quick summary.  Harris demonstrates the extensive plagiarism of a few specific YouTubers: Illuminaughtii, Internet Historian, and James Somerton.  Somerton is the big one because he was an established gay youtuber.

This drama has been all over the internet and back again at this point, but I thought I’d highlight a few other responses I’ve seen.  Todd in the Shadows (normally a music critic) had another long video about Somerton’s made up lies.  Verity Ritchie talked about Somerton ripping off their video without quite copying it.  The Ace Couple talked about donating to Somerton’s bogus film production, and dealing with his ignorance on asexuality.  I also recommend this (text) article on Plagiarism Today, which provides further expertise on plagiarism.

Harm and Justice | Leftist Cooks (video, 2:04 hours) – It’s a video about restorative justice, basically consisting of a series of shorter video essays about each step in the process.  I particularly like the part about unrecognized rape (“Naming the harm”).  I guess most people wouldn’t remember me talking about it, but that happened to me a long time ago, and it’s very much on point.  I also love the part about apologies, and then later about how forgiveness isn’t an obligation.