“The Family”, projection, and power

“The Family” is best understood as a black comedy. In a comedy, it’s traditional to have a straight man – the character who doesn’t realize he’s in a comedy, and interprets things through the lens of “normalcy” – not quite an audience stand-in, because he doesn’t break frame even when any sane person would be…

“The Favourite” and women in power

The “Bechdel test” is a baseline of feminist media analysis: does the work contain two women talking to each other about something other than a man? The idea is to ascertain whether women are treated as actors in their own right, with agency and independent desires, rather than second-order NPCs that exist only as set…

American Shitshow: Emergent power centers

In past installments of this ongoing series, I have examined existing actors’ response to an unspecified breakdown of civil order (due to political conflict, economic malaise, natural disaster, war, etc).  With the caveat that predictions are hard when they’re about the future, but even harder when they’re about things that don’t exist yet, it’s important…

Book review: The Mandibles

Collapse fiction is its own micro-genre, drawing usually from some mix of narrative-wrapped prepper how-to manuals, science fiction, military fiction, and ideological screed. Some of it is quite good, some of it is not. In most of them, there is some token prologue to establish Normal; halfway through Act I there is a MacGuffin, and…

The Quadrennial American Sun Red-Flag Sale Begins Now

It’s not news to anyone that the American political system is unstable. One of the symptoms of this is that whenever it reaches a critical point (eg, every Presidential election), there’s a whiff of danger in the air. No one is quite certain if the guy who promised to disarm the kulaks by nuking Montana…

American Shitshow: Pity the poor rando

In previous articles I have described various factions likely to have more or less prominence in an environment of increased civil conflict in the US.  In this one, I will discuss something more familiar in fiction, but less important in reality – the “rando”.  Individuals and small groups acting as part of a domestic insurgency…

The YangGang and You

Wake up, wake up, it’s the first of the month and your YangBucks just flashed into your EBT. A thousand bucks. Two grand for a household with two adults, and so on. We all know it’s not going to work like that, if Chairman Yang was capable of being elected in a Democratic primary despite…

Weaponizing generated content

A couple of weeks ago, to much fanfare, the researchers at OpenAI published a “language model”, GPT-2.  “Published” is actually too strong a word – they published the fact that they had created an AI “too dangerous to release!”, along with a description of the algorithm and data (rather than runnable code), and a fully…

Eulogy for the bumpstock

Who remembers Vegas?  You know, the deadliest attack on American soil since 9/11, where that guy Stephen Paddock, of no particular background, with no particular history or photos, for no particular reason, shot 420 people and then managed to off himself?  Additionally, for no particular reason, having in the room no less than twenty four…

Alexa, Play “Every Breath You Take”

It’s Black Friday.  You are looking for gifts for your boomer parents.  All they really want to be able to do is hear the Stones at will.  So maybe get an Echo, or one of those Google Home things.  Phil and Sharon love theirs, you just say “Alexa, order the Eagles remaster” and it shows…