Answer the Question, Mr A. Rorschach

typed for your pleasure on 26 October 2009, at 6.11 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Tell her no’ by the Zombies

Don’t know what really put this into my head, but I thought of a really fab outfit to wear for any Hallowe’en parties I might attend. Wait, I don’t go to parties. Okay, perhaps for cosplaying. Wait, I don’t do that, either. Right; here’s an idea for a costume for use in a general Hallowe’en context. Stop interrupting.
All I’d need is
+ a white pair of dress shoes
+ a white pair of casual dress trousers
+ a white belt
+ a white shirt
+ white gloves
+ a white tie
+ a white single-breasted blazer
+ a white fedora
+ and a white facemask
and voila, I could go out as Steve Ditko’s Objectivist anti-hero, Mr. A!


Yes, he talks like that all the time

Even though I’m not rabidly into comics, I love Mr. A, cos he’s such an extremely polarising character — you either love him or you hate him. Which is just how Mr. A himself would’ve liked it.

Back in 1966, comic book auteur and recluse Steve Ditko had left Marvel Comics, where he had brought the world Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, and was working for Charlton, a comic book publisher that has since vanished into history. One of the characters he originated during his tenure there was a gentleman called The Question, who was the alias of investigative journalist Vic Sage. When Vic went into vigilante crime-fightin’ mode, he would use a gas that would not only change the colour of his hair and clothes, but also adhere a rather creepy blank mask to his face.


The Question, crooning sweet nothings to his fans, as usual

Now, despite the blank face separating him from being a watered-down Batman, The Question was the first true comic book embodiment of Ditko’s Objectivist viewpoint. Ditko was an enormous fan of Ayn Rand, the Russian-born writer-slash-philosopher, who, in her own long-winded fashion, espoused the drive towards people being individuals that must shun not only the State, but any and all ideas of Collectivism. The original version of Vic Sage was a solitary crusader, often found righting wrongs in a corrupt society through a lot of punching.

In 1967, feeling that The Question wasn’t hewing close enough to the Randian ideal, Ditko wrote and illustrated a short story for a magazine called witzend, where he debuted Rex Graine, a newspaper reporter with the unforgettable alias of Mr. A. Whereas The Question might (note the word, ‘might’) let evildoers live when he caught them, Mr. A simply did not fuck around. He saw people in society as either being virtuous and harming no-one as they follow the path of Good, or immoral beings only intent on furthering their own corrupt goals; there was only black and white, with absolutely no shades of moralistic grey in between.
I’m just going to shamelessly rip a few paragraphs out of the Wikipedia entry on him, an act which would probably make me a criminal in the eyes of Mr. A:

Typical stories will have one character convince him or herself that doing just a few illegal acts to get ahead in life will not make him or her a bad person. This character’s crimes escalate when they must either take action to cover their previous misdeeds or are now too closely tied to more dangerous criminals to simply walk away. The stories invariably end with Mr. A confronting the criminals and telling them that they are all guilty, including the character who had wished to remain good. A staple for most stories involves this character trying to justify his or her immoral actions to both others and him or herself, blaming things such as environment and society rather than taking responsibility.

Almost every character speaks about the ideological reasoning behind their actions on every panel, thus showing that the adventure story is not meant to be just entertainment, but is to show an ideological dialogue and hopefully sway readers over to Objectivism.

Not all of Mr. A’s stories are crime adventures. Some are allegorical representations of the guilty trying to explain why they compromised their values. Mr. A, on a white platform, denounces their explanations. These stories typically end with the guilty falling into an abyss off of their black platform. This representation often occurs at the end of the adventure stories as well.

Critics have said that Mr. A is an unfeeling character who offers no remorse or mercy to criminals. In the stories themselves Mr. A says that he feels only for the innocent and victimized. His brand of justice might seem harsh to some, but on the other hand his punishments for criminals arguably fit the crimes they committed. People who commit “just one crime”, such as accepting dirty money are turned over to authorities to stand trial for what they have done. Mr. A refuses to overlook their transgressions, even if they profess they will be good from then on. Killers and would-be-killers generally find themselves in situations where they need Mr. A’s assistance to save them, but since they had no respect for innocent lives then he offers no aid for their guilty ones. It is only when an innocent life is directly threatened that Mr. A will kill, and when he does so it is without remorse.

In Ditko’s own way, a lot of the Mr. A stories remind me somewhat of Chick tracts, those kitschy Judaeo-christian fusions of morality and flat-out propaganda that you find in finer bus stations everywhere. You know — ‘you must do absolute good at all times, otherwise you’re going to Hell’. Mr. A’s just more immediate about it.
Incidentally, the character’s name stems from one of Aristotle’s statements, which is expanded upon by one of the characters in Rand’s ‘Atlas shrugged’: A is A. Meaning that a thing is a thing, and it can never be anything else. A doorknob will always be a doorknob; it will never be a sonic screwdriver, or a Bundt cake, or etc. Also, as the prototype for Mr. A was called The Question, Mr. A is the Answer, as in Q and A. Very clever, Steve Ditko.
Later in the Nineties, Ditko would be co-creator on his most important character to date, Squirrel Girl. But that’s a story for another time.

You’re at this point asking yourself, where does Rorschach fit into all of this? Simple! As I’d mentioned, Charlton Comics had dissolved around 1986; in 1983, DC Comics had bought the rights to a lot of the characters, one of them being The Question. Wild-eyed scary godlike genius writer Alan Moore was going to use some of those characters in a story he was developing at the time entitled Watchmen, but he ended up creating original characters based upon the Charlton heroes. Can you guess which one Rorschach was based off of? Go on, have a guess.


O Rorschach, you so crazy

So yeah! You have to love Mr. A and his overbearing monomania. Incidentally, as Mr. A’s appearances are desperately out of print, ‘Dial B for Blog’ wrote a fantastic three-part article on him, which features excerpts from his first appearance. Utterly compelling.
Now as obscurely fantastic as dressing up as Mr. A would be, to make the whole effect really come together, I’d have to recite a lot of boilerplate Randian-type talk for whenever I spoke in character, which could either be hilarious or ugly.

HOST: Hey there… ah, Good Humor Man? Have you tried the punch? It’s my special recipe!
‘MR. A’: Sorry, I’m not drinking.
HOST: Oh come on, loosen up a little! It’s ju *gets decked*
‘MR. A’: NO MAN HAS THE RIGHT TO DICTATE TO OTHERS HOW TO LIVE OR WHAT TO CHOOSE! IT’S EITHER ONE SIDE OR THE OTHER! IF YOU SUPPORT EVIL THEN etc etc

Which leads me to ask which would be scarier / more effective: dressing as and being in character as Mr. A, or dressing as and being in character as Rorschach?

Technorati tags: Steve Ditko, Objectivism, Mr. A, Marvel Comics, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Charlton Comics, The Question, Ayn Rand, Jack T. Chick, Atlas Shrugged, Aristotle, Rorschach, DC Comics, Alan Moore, Watchmen, Squirrel Girl

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You just can’t spell-check a truck

typed for your pleasure on 22 October 2009, at 4.05 am

Sdtrk: ‘Kinetic harvest’ by Module

In urban areas, it’s not unusual to encounter hand-lettered adverts that turn their nose up so much at the conventions of normal spelling, that they border on folk art. This ice cream truck, which I’d photographed while driving home one day, would fall under that category.
As an aside, I’d like to point out that I shot this pic with my cellphone whilst driving alongside the truck, which is a fact that I’m needlessly impressed with…

Nothing wrong with the Cones, Sundaes, and Banana Boats that they have on offer, but Nacho? And Shackes?? ‘No no, we can only sell you a single nacho; any more than that would spoil you’. And a Shacke is a new invention; it’s a wee bit like a shake, a wee bit like a shack, a wee bit like a shackle, and a wee bit like Shaq. They have many in their truck, but by law they can only sell you one; any more would spoil you


Bunthorne or Postlewaite?

typed for your pleasure on 16 October 2009, at 6.48 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Shoplifters of the world unite’ by the Smiths

Today marks the 155th birthday of a man whose rapier turn of phrase deserves to be an even greater inspiration to not just those who write, but anyone who uses language, Oscar Wilde.

‘Now art should never try to be popular.
The public should try to make itself artistic’

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Surrogates; or, Bruce Willis’ hair has never looked so good

typed for your pleasure on 16 October 2009, at 12.27 pm

Sdtrk: ‘A beginning word’ by Roj

Whilst at work one day last week, I was thinking about all the films I wanted to see on the big screen this year that I unfortunately missed. It was a lengthy list — Moon, District 9, Let the right one in, Tony Manero, 9, Flame and Citron, Inglourious basterds, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I think I’ve forgotten one or two — which is odd, as it’s well-documented that I loathe Hollywood. However, the one film that I really wanted to catch, which I thankfully did last Friday, was ‘Surrogates‘, directed by Jonathan Mostow. Furthermore, I was able to bring Mari along with me, partially as revenge for her making me stare at that sloshing bucket of vomitus known as ‘Transformers 2’ some months ago. You counteract Bad with Good, as far as I’m concerned.

So what’d we think? It was a brisk 88 minutes in length: Mari enjoyed it, as did I, but for differing reasons. She liked the special effects and the explosions, whereas I dug the whole idea of the Surrogates’ technology. Insert ‘DURR HEY’ here. I’ll definitely buy the DVD when it’s available, but I do have to say two words that I regrettably end up using whenever reviewing any big-budget film that covers the topic of Synthetiks: Hollywood ending. Although, as the film is based on a graphic novel that I’ve never read, I’ve no idea how close the film’s ending, or the story overall, hews to the original comic. Funnily enough, Mari and I stopped round to a Borders after the film, so I could pick up the first volume of Karakuri Odette (as mentioned here), and at one point, I was idly glancing through a copy of the Surrogates trade paperback, and it didn’t occur to me to flip to the end. Tch!
Overall, ‘Surrogates’ was inoffensive to my technosexual sensibilities, Hollywood ending notwithstanding. The opening credits, which consist of a montage sequence which serves to fill the audience in about the world in which the film takes place, had a few nods and winks to iDollators and technosexuals, such as a couple of seconds of RealDoll faces from ‘Guys and Dolls’, as well as footage of Hiroshi Ishiguro and his Android twin, Geminoid. Naturally I’m gonna point this out: as it was rated PG-13, sadly there wasn’t a single topless Gynoid to be seen, as the film’s distributor was Walt Disney Pictures. Thanks for that, Disney, you wankers.


It’s okay…

But this isn’t a review of ‘Surrogates’! What I’d like to do instead is touch upon the sociological aspects of that kind of technology existing. The Suris, as they’re often referred to in the story, are incredibly detailed and slightly enhanced human representations that are 100% artificial; however, they have no AI of their own, as they are controlled by Organik operators. To use one, you sit in your special control seat, strap on a neurovisual headband thing, and control your Suri with your mind. Obviously, the whole point of a Surrogate is not just to be able to experience life without leaving the comfort of your chair, but to do so looking your best. Your Surrogate can be made to resemble a flawless version of yourself, of course, or you can purchase generic-looking models, or you can even use one with practically any look or gender that you may desire. (There’s actually a plot point with that in the film.) As far as I gathered in the film, whatever sensations that your Suri would feel would be ones that your meat body would also feel, with the exception of pain. They kinda didn’t get into that in detail, but from certain scenes, I figured that was the case.
Therefore, as they lack AI, Surrogates are not actually true Androids and Gynoids; instead, this would be an example of what’s known as telepresence, with teledildonics being its sexier cousin. I’d mentioned Hiroshi Ishiguro and Geminoid earlier; telepresence is what’s involved when Ishiguro-san uses Geminoid to teach his classes or make appearances whilst staying at home — Geminoid is Ishiguro-san’s proxy. In fact, if you’ve ever seen the anime series ‘Ghost in the shell’, or read the manga it’s based on, telepresence is everywhere in it, particularly in the ‘Man-machine Interface’ manga. And as you’d suspect, teledildonics operates essentially the same way, only centred round sexy time. VERY NICE I LIKE
Now, the thing that struck me about Surrogate use is they are, in essence, simply highly sophisticated telephones. Think about it: when you use a phone, you are speaking to another Organik through the use of a device, as they are with you. Instead on just hearing a voice through a phone, or even a voice and an image through a videophone, there is a physical presence before you that you’re interacting with. Well, that your Suri is interacting with, but you get the picture.


…she’s affictitious

One of the plot points of the film is that Surrogates are in incredibly prolific use by most of the globe’s population — they’re ubiquitous, you can’t get away from them. But, much like in real-life, there are some segments of society that are against technological advancements, and have established human-only ‘dread zones’. Naturally, there’s a plot point dealing with that as well. The people inhabiting the dread zones live wilfully-technology-free lifestyles, like pockets of Amish living in self-imposed cultural isolation in the cities, and have banned Surrogates from even passing through the zones’ gates.
The inhabitants there follow the tenets of a man calling himself the Prophet, a cult leader who exhorts his followers to reject Surrogates, based on the premise that continued use of that sort of technology will further dehumanise society. I mean, it’s all well and good if that’s the lifestyle you wish to lead, but that sort of blinkered anti-technological mindset shouldn’t be inflicted upon others. Should a person want to utilise Surrogate technology, they should be free to do so. Considering further, the dread reservations are rather like enclaves of bigotry. If instead of hand-painted signs reading HUMANS ONLY, what if that sign said WHITES ONLY? With the continuing advancement of real-life artificial human development, there’s a genuine fear, as JM of the blog Synthetically Yours and I have discussed, of Organik humans losing their precious monopoly on humanity, which is why a person such as The Prophet existed. Naturally, there’s a deeper plot point that explains him too, but ZOMG SPOILERS

Would I use a Surrogate? As I spend a great deal of time living in my stately manor located in the so-called Uncanny Valley, the answer should be as obvious as if you’d asked me ‘do you like money?’ or ‘do you like bunnies?’, really. To be able to use a better-looking, more physically enhanced Synthetik kagemusha of myself would obviously be ideal. Detractors would say that Suri use, or an artificial human such as an Android or Gynoid isn’t ‘real’, but I’ve always defined real as ‘anything that can be perceived with any of the senses’. Therefore, a Surrogate or a Synthetik is real, they’re just not Organik.* Of course, due to the nature of Surrogate usage, i.e, reclining in a seat for hours on end, there’d be a need to exercise my meat body periodically, so muscle atrophy wouldn’t take hold, which I’d personally say would be the only disadvantage I could see to the use of a Suri. Couldn’t I simply scoop my brain out of my skull and pop it into the Suri’s head? That’d be so much easier.
If that particular technology was made available tomorrow, for example, I’d say there’d be three schools of thought concerning them. You’d have people like me grinning from ear to ear — not necessarily technosexuals per se, but people who are enthralled with technology and gadgets, people who could see the aesthetic value in a Surrogate, lazy tossers, etc; there’d be those who would be initially apprehensive, but then grow accustomed to the concept and either eventually adopt it, or realise it’s not a threat to their lifestyle; which leaves those who would be gathering up cement blocks and rusty bits of corrugated metal to use as gates for their dread zones.

‘Would humans stand in line at the grocery store behind a robot? Would I let my children play outside if I knew there were robots outside walking dogs?’ asks writer and robotics expert Daniel Wilson in this article for CNN.com. They’re valid points, as they detail the mindset of the second and third schools of thought I’d mentioned. Humans naturally have a fear of the unknown, but when enough people see how beneficial and even fun a development such as Surrogates (in the fictional world) or Synthetiks (in the real world) can be, not only will they cease to be a mystery, but in time, people will wonder how they managed to get on without them.


Yum! Time to check online auction houses for ‘Surrogates’ props

So here’s a question to you, the stunned reader of ‘Shouting etc etc’: would you use a Surrogate if such a thing existed? Or would you prefer to remain with your current fleshy self? How do you think you’d react if you discovered someone you knew was using one? Answers to be turned in before the end of class, please

ta very much to both Wolfgang and Pat!, for sending me links for additional research

*Can you tell I’m trying to reclaim the word ‘real’? It’s a bit like how the word ‘love’ is wildly misused. You can say that you love someone, and you can also say that you love bacon sandwiches — the usage can get vague. Though one would hope to “Bob” that it’s not the same type of love for those particular examples (‘Th… that’s not mayonnaise!!’ Yes, I went there)

Technorati tags: Surrogates, Jonathan Mostow, Android, Gynoid, robot, Karakuri Odette, technosexual, iDollators, RealDolls, Hiroshi Ishiguro, Geminoid, telepresence, teledildonics, Ghost in the Shell, Daniel Wilson, bacon

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Why would we even leave the apartment?

typed for your pleasure on 10 October 2009, at 3.06 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Holvikirkko’ by Shogun Kunitoki

Last month, when Euchre and I got round to visit fellow iDollator Mahtek in order to meet his new Lover Girl Nina from KnightHorse — a fine lass, wouldn’t hear a word against her — at one point during the proceedings, I had to make a visit to the Little Astronauts Room. I could just overhear a conversation topic still going on in the livingroom; one which I’d considered many many times ever since becoming a Doll husband myself.
Unfortunately, by the time I emerged from the bog, the conversation had turned. In fact, it was several months later! Mahtek’s bathroom had flung me into the near-future with but the flush of a handle. It is a Magickal Bathroom.

What was the topic in question, you axe? ‘If your Doll was a Gynoid, what sort of qualities / abilities would you like her to have?’ My mind turned to an email I’d fired off to another iDollator colleague years ago, where I’d tackled that very idea:

A Gynoid version of Sidore-chan would be an efficient but somewhat renegade driver, a dab hand at Japanese cuisine, able to play every bass line from every Joy division and New order song in existence (well, New order up to their ‘Republic’ album, at any rate), good — but not TOO good — when playing Armored core head-to-head, be able to identify a Brummie, Scouse, or Geordie accent whilst being able to retain her own Manc speech pattern, be able to rattle off the name and model number of most of the Mobile suits that appeared in the Universal Century timeline of Gundam, be able to suppress the urge to change the Cd whenever I play any of my obscure yé-yé songs from the Sixties, recite Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’ or Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Jabberwock’ from start to finish, and provide a deep and satisfying barefoot back massage. And then there’s the sex. 🙂

Also, and this is very important; her speaking voice must sound like that of actress Shirley Henderson playing Tony Wilson’s first wife, Lindsay, in the film ’24 hour party people’ (you’ll see her in this video, at the 1.46 mark). Really, I don’t ask for much

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This was the Future, Vol.41

typed for your pleasure on 5 October 2009, at 7.05 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Si vous connaissez quelque chose de pire qu’un vampire, parlez m’en toujours, ça pourra peut-être me faire sourire’ by Stella

Although it’s painfully obvious that I loves me some 20th Century Modern design, I do have to go on record here as saying that most of the Seventies was rubbish, as it was as if the worst parts of the Sixties were magnified. Disco, for example. Southern rock. Unnecessary pornstar sideburns and impossibly wide Starscream lapels. Avocado and goldenrod as legitimate colour choices. The list of atrocities goes on. Thankfully, though, the decade wasn’t a complete stylistic cesspit; personally, I’ve always believed that a decade’s overall zeitgeist never starts immediately upon the first year — the Sixties didn’t really end until about 1973, for instance. Plus, the Seventies thankfully brought us Punk and dystopian scifi films, so it wasn’t a complete loss. Overall, stylistically speaking, I’m more ‘Ashes to ashes‘ than I am ‘Life on Mars‘.
Where am I going with this, you may be asking in an annoyed tone? Well, 1971 managed to spawn another lost architectural gem — the Venturo prefab house, designed by Matti Suuronen.

The walls were double-skinned fibreglass with 2″ of polyurethane foam, and the floors were an insulated composite beam of marine grade plywood. The whole thing weighed just four tons and sat on 16 small piers. One module contained the bathroom, kitchen and sauna; the other shipped with the filler pieces.

Much like Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House, the entire assemblage was built for easy on-site construction and breaking-down, should the owner wish to relocate, and much like “Bulle“ à 6 coques, the Venturo units were made for a variety of swinging Seventies recreational uses, such as a holiday home, a bungalow, a ski lodge, etc. Unfortunately, much like the Dymaxion House and the “Bulle“ à 6 coques, the idea just didn’t take off amongst the general public. Although, oddly enough, quite a few of the finished units were utilised in Finland as service stations for BP; one still stands, in desperate need of renovation.

Matti Suuronen was also the architectural mind behind another mod prefab structure, the Futuro House, which fellow iDollator Everard had once suggested I write about. Perhaps I shall! Perhaps I shall.

From the comments section on the site the article comes from:

Krissie says: I WANT ONE! But, I only have one question: Where is the bedroom?
dru says: Where ISN’T the bedroom?

This, then, is Seventies

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