Link Roundup: October 2021

In case you missed it, I published a couple articles on The Asexual Agenda this month: The search for an Asian ace masculinity, and I hate “A is not for Ally”.

On Doing Your Own Research | The Weekly Sift – Doug Muder talks about how experts can be wrong, but doing your own research can be even worse, depending on your own knowledge base.  In agreement with Doug, I think having a PhD certainly helps, because you understand what it’s like to understand something that only a few people in the world understand, and you also understand the kind of biases and mistakes experts make.  But what strategy could I recommend to most people who don’t have PhDs?  Are you just epistemically SOL?

I know what scientists are like, and that makes scientific conspiracy theories extremely unbelievable to me.  On the other hand, scientific frauds, persistent errors, and plain miscommunications are far more believable.  I’m reminded of an article in Wired that traced the 6-feet rule about COVID to old irrelevant arguments about the transmission of measles.  I can’t vouch that this story is 100% accurate, but it’s very true to my understanding of scientist behavior.  While the scientific ideal is to update your theories with the evidence, in practice scientists are financially incentivized to expound upon the value of their previously published work, even if that means perpetuating error.  And this causes a whole bunch of problems, most of which are far too mundane to ever make it into the news.

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Link roundup: September 2021

Fixing Led Zeppelin with Autotune | Adam Neely (video, 17 min) – It’s common to hate on autotune, but at least some of the people who hate it are just thinking of that robotic voice effect, which is not really what autotune is.  This video applies autotuning to some classic songs, so that you can hear what it really sounds like.  The effect is fairly subtle, but you would be justified in complaining that it flattens out some of the expressiveness of the voice.  At the same time, I’m sure some listeners won’t be able to hear the difference at all, and they would be justified in being completely apathetic about it.

There are 48 regular polyhedra | Jan Misali (video, 29 min) – I’m interested in geometric oddities like this, because they’re artistic inspirations.  That said, I feel like he plays pretty fast and loose with the definitions and assumptions here.  Once he starts talking about regular apeirogons (which have infinite number of edges), it’s unclear what exactly distinguishes a regular apeirogon from a non-regular apeirogon.  (Wikipedia’s definition, “a partition of the hyperbolic line H1 (instead of the Euclidean line) into segments of length 2λ” is not too helpful either.)

I’m also wondering what’s to stop you from constructing a “regular polyhedron” consisting of an infinite number of heptagons densely packed into a sphere.  Well, you can’t make origami of it, so there’s that.

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Link Roundup: August 2021

Microtonal reharmonizations of “Red Dress”: mostly a capella version by Stephen Weigel, and synthwave version by FAST-fast – In case you were wondering what this song would sound like if all the backing were in tune with Sarah.  I’m just going to say that this is what I was hearing a glimmer of from the beginning.

Reflections on Jason Voorhees, Virginity in Horror, and the Specter of the Anti-Sex Killer | Ace Theist – A deep examination of how slasher films–especially Friday the 13th–are said to kill off characters who have sex, and leave virgins as survivors.  These supposed tropes are not entirely supported by the text, and it seems that characters who show sex or nudity on screen always die, but the survivors are rarely described as virgins.  Nonetheless, the reading of Jason Voorhees as anti-sexual has some weight to it, and is particularly interesting in light of how popular Jason is as a character.  Jason as an asexual icon is… fairly problematic to say the least.  But I’m reminded of the discourse on queer-coded villains–on the one hand, it’s kind of terrible that there’s an association between queerness and villainy, but on the other hand, villains are actually awesome.

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Link Roundup: July 2021

Boys Don’t Cry (Except When They Do) | Pop Culture Detective (video, 27:25 min) – A detailed examination of movie tropes surrounding men crying.  Have I ever told the anecdote about how I used to cry when I was in elementary school?  The other kids would make fun of me, and I actually went to counseling because of it.  My counselor was a wonderful person who taught me a lot of important life skills, so I can’t say I regret how it turned out.  Telling boys they can’t cry is bad though, and hits really young.

Queer Games Criticism in 2021 (so far) | Critical Distance – It’s a link roundup of queer games criticism.  Yes, I’m plugging this partly because I’m in it.

If I were to highlight one piece, it would be Speedrunning Undertale helped me understand my gender better.  I’ve been reading queer games criticism for many years, so I’m very aware of the idea that speedrunning is “queer” in the sense of subverting the normative goals of playing a game–much like how queer people subvert the normative goal of forming a heteronormative family.  If that sounds weird, well that’s what academic queer theory is always like.  I think I’m not alone in having a hard time actually buying the theory that speedrunning is queer.  But this essay uses personal narrative to make it much more compelling, so I really appreciated it.

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Link Roundup: June 2021

This month, I’m doing a little mini-series where I journal about Google Alerts that I get on asexuality.  Not sure that interests anyone, but for me it’s some harmless fun.

Just a few links this month.

Happy humans and the atheist ‘A’s; the symbolism of AHS+ | AHS+ Blog – I rather appreciate this tour through the many symbols adopted by atheists, humanists, and associated groups.  I think most of these are quite good, honestly, although that may just be because we selectively forget the bad ones.  For example, does anyone remember the symbol of the Rational Response Squad?  The less said about them, the better.

Why Scientists Know More About Sexy Plants | Rebecca Watson (text/video, 10 min) – I’m fascinated by the time lapse video of Watson’s moving houseplant.  There’s also discussion of scientists’ bias towards plants and animals that look more interesting.

Vaccines: A Measured response | H Bomberguy (video, 1:44 hours) – The video walks through the story of how the modern anti-vaccine movement began.  It starts out with a single low-quality study by (former) doctor Andrew Wakefield, making a connection between autism and the MMR vaccine.  But what initially just looks like bad science turns out to be way more fraudulent and malicious.  I remember hearing about Andrew Wakefield back when the story broke, but I never had the full story spelled out for me.  The interesting thing is, since news of Andrew Wakefield’s fraud was primarily covered in the UK, vaccine hesitancy in the UK is lower than in other countries.  I suppose here in the US we’ve absorbed vaccine hesitancy through osmosis, with few people understanding its origins in a fraudulent doctor.

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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Link Roundup: April 2021

How Facebook got addicted to spreading misinformation | MIT Technology Review – Since Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has made efforts to make their algorithms more responsible.  However, it seems they ended up focusing on AI bias, which is surely a worthy problem, but distinct from the problem of Facebook feeding polarization and extremism.  The problem is that fighting polarization and extremism is anti-engagement and anti-growth, and simply not in Facebook’s interests.

There’s also an interesting bit discussing different kinds of fairness, such as equality in moderation standards, vs equality in moderation outcomes (the latter favoring conservative viewpoints more).  That just puts in mind a twisted version of one of those equality vs equity memes (which TBH I do not care for).

Transsexual, Transgender, Trans… and that damn asterisk | Pervert Justice – Last month, I had some tangential discussion of “trans*”, which had briefly become popular in the early 2010s, and suffered backlash after a few years.   Crip Dyke explains how its history goes much further back to the 1990s.  And indeed, the term did make more sense at the time, when transsexual and transgender were more distinct categories, and more care was needed to navigate trans* politics.

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