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This is Layer 8 by Sam Potts      Tools:

Ben Greenman's Layer 8 Commentary

The Machine Makes Men of Us All

Remember the riddle of the Sphinx? Well, he had two.

The first one was “What did the zero say to the eight?” We’ll get back to that. The other one was “What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?”

The answer, of course, was man: he crawls as a baby, walks upright as an adult, and gets along with a cane in old age. But the Sphinx could just as easily have been talking about Layer Tennis. The first layers find the designers feeling their way into a newly created world, even as they are creating it. In the middle layers, they stride confidently ahead. In the final phase, though, they move more carefully. They are trying to take a measure of what they have beheld, what they have become.

That brings us to Sam's Layer #8. Now, as Sam's office mate, I happen to know that he has a mortal fear of the number 8. You'd think this wouldn't matter to a professional, but designers are sensitive and talented people. This fear has plagued him throughout his life: during the entirety of his four-legged morning and his two-legged afternoon. When we asked him the Sphinx's first riddle, which is reprinted for you above ("What did the zero say to the eight?" if you are too lazy to look up there), his eyes widened and he ran out of the room. But Sam is still young, and he told us in a tearful moment last week that he hopes to overcome the fear by the time he steps into that shadow that will eventually overtake us all.

This layer proves that he is trying. Last time out, Sam outlined a number of possibilities for our intrepid deformed hero, Discus. That was marvelous and liberating, but it was also, frankly, fearful: the failure to commit to a single possible future is a classic sign of what professionals like to call "nerve deficit disorder." Armin took up one of those possibilities in his chilling, futuristic Layer #7. Now, Sam has seized upon Armin's interpretation of Discus and pushed bravely forward. Here, Discus is no longer a Photoshop abuser, but rather an innocent bystander. As the result of his contact with a mysterious device -- is it a crystal radio? an a-little-less-than-better mousetrap—he becomes his younger self, still emboldened by possibility, so much so that he is eating a spoon of Jell-O. It is red like the background behind Discus, but now the red signifies excitement rather than hellishness. How does that happen, you ask? Sam doesn't want you to know. He doesn't care for you to know. He doesn't care if you know. "Don't Ask Questions," he says. Those are not the words of a frightened man.

Nice belt. That's what the zero said to the eight. Sam, I think that you're ready to hear that punch line. Nice belt.

Play by play commentary for this match is provided, as it happens, by Ben Greenman.

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