Sunday, December 7, 2008

Memorybot Part 4: THE REVENGE

Here's the last page.

I'm proud of the visual communication here of the mindwipe, it's not exactly the easiest thing to convey without a stupid-ass panel reading "and this is how the robot got the relevant part of his brain erased". This isn't the golden age anymore, thankfully, we can trust the viewer to understand the action just by showing it, right? Right?

I guess it would have been easier if the screen read something silly like 'R U SURE U WATN FULL MEMORY WIPE Y / N ?' but nerds will be nerds and I had my nerd friend Ghormak write me some c64-like BASIC code that would theoretically clear some memory. Well... all the memory, really. Let's pretend ZX is running on 20 internal c64 chips in parallel and has different memories stored on different ones. Also the irony of a robot named ZX64 running on c64 processors. I will have none of it on the ongoing vendetta between Spectrum and Commodore users, both machines have their strengths. It's just a shame the c64 has many, many more of them. That's the final word on this, now, you hear?

I think this page works and I wouldn't really change much about it. This is also a byproduct of this art being closer to today than some of the other stuff I've posted so it's not that I've changed radically as an artist since.

Here's some more Ptoing slave comments on the coloring:

Page four was frustrating as I accidentally saved the resized .jpg into the photoshop file when I was almost done, and that would have been of course totally useless for print, so I had to start over. Still I am happy with the outcome especially the psychedelic colours in the middle panel as well as the three last ones, which in a way echo the colours of page three.

The only rationalization going on here is how I colored the last panel as well as the background in the last three panels, which I did in a way to guide the eyes as well as focus on where important stuff was. If you look at how ZX is shaded in the last panel and think a bit about it, it makes no sense whatsoever as far as realism goes, but at this point Helm has indoctrinated me with his "Screw Realism" credo, that my compulsions never stood a chance.

On a side note, the text of the pseudo code in the first panel is made with the C64 charset. I actually fired up WINVice (a C64 emulator) and typed the stuff in there and then printscreened it and adjusted it for the comic as needed. So many interesting facts, no?

Very notable is that Helm did not do any adjustments to the last two pages, he saw them and was happy. (The last 3 panels are a very good example of his inconsistencies. Note the eye positions of ZX)

In closing I have to say I really enjoyed colouring this comic and I am looking forward to colour more of Helm's comics in the future. Tho one thing I learned is that I never want to colour comics professionally unless I really have to.
Thank you for bearing with me and my ramblings. You are released now.

Hehe, c64 charset... nerds will be nerds.

An interesting point to note is that the comic has some internal symmetry. Page 1 ends with a 'hello' and an embrace, page 4 ends with a 'hello' and a handshake :(

Oh about handshakes, I guess I should say that whereas most people think them old-fashioned I am a firm believer in a firm handshake upon meeting someone. ZX takes from his artist in this amongst other superficial character traits (like being AWESOME ALL THE TIME).

Page 2 is all words words words and panels panels panels and page 3 is all about silence and few panels, that's a contrast bookended by symmetrical pages more or less (for instance page 1 and 4 all end on three vertical panels of close action, so on). I like playing up the forms of comics, I hope I don't constrict the actual happenings inside them with my such concerns.

Closing thoughts on the comic's abstract: "Man, imagine how harsh digital, perfect memory would be if you were a heartachey robot" was the initial thought that came to me while I was taking a shower/touching myself. I stepped out and kept a single doodle note of ZX running a big cartoon magnet all over his forehead and saying "fuck you, bitch" and the idea stewed from there to something a bit more human, heh.

Whereas I don't think it mirrors anything real very completely, what with none of us being robots, it does have something to it if you ever have been in love and you acutely remember parts of that relationship. For a long time you think you'll never forget, that there won't pass a single day that you won't think about that person and nothing anybody else tells you makes you change your mind. Eventually you forget, but this comic is about tough choices and the very blurry line between bravery and cowardice in interpersonal relationships. There is also the sad suggestion of the deterministic repeat, of something having happened just to happen again and again, ourselves looking at ourselves making the very same mistakes, kicking and screaming and crying but still saying 'yes' at the right times and 'no' hardly if ever. I mean, who knows what happens after the last panel, here? Perhaps she never explains what just happened, perhaps she pretends she was 'fixing him' and they meet all over again all the time she's secretly hoping, yearning that things won't play out as they did last time. For all we know... this has happened many times before. Always the same pseudocode, always the same last words

I love you so much.



fifi said...

Great comic, Helm!

The nerd in my handsome body orders me to rant, though, that C64 had "return", not "enter".
Also, the true enemy was Atari 130, not ZX Spectrum, who has already admitted that its end has come, and like a sad, clumsy giant, carrying so many memories of happy things it gave its users (tic tac toe! pacman!) walked into the dusk, ashamed of two golden suns of Atari and C=.


fifi said...

The panel before last. Amazing.
He's stupidly cheerful and naive, she's burdened with the knowledge.

Helm said...

Return! Not enter! My nerd cred! Destroyed!

Crazy russians will stand up and try to explain how the ZX was better than the c64. I've heard scary stuff like 'it's more colorful!' meaning they prefer the 8 + 8 halfbrite EYEDETH contrast colors of the ZX to the pleasant, hand-picked 16 color palette of the commodore. But it did seem to run games faster, the ZX did!

haha, tic tac toe! pacman! Such condescension!

Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate the communication, as always.

Solar said...

Damn, more questions. I should have figured that.

Poor memory bot, is forgetting really the best medicine? I think there is an argument somewhere that emotions and rational thinking are incompatible, that emotions need some lack of control, a feeling rather that a thought such that logic cancels emotion. If that was the case it wasn't memorybot's infallible memory that was the problem but the way he was thinking about them. Perhaps. That said I think Spinoza mentions the feeling of pleasure coming from intellectual thought, like solving a puzzle or completing a maths proof (this is a blog about nerds right?) Anyway he called that emotion hilaritas, the pleasure born of rational thinking. Think I just argued myself in circles. Still whatever the reason it was clearly important to memorybot, and very much a last resort for both of them.

I also feel sorry for the heroine, as fifi mentions. She is the one who cannot make herself forget even if she wants to. Our memory is a curious thing. The times in our life that really affect us rarely leave us, but still the memory ebbs, surfacing for air occasionally like a leviathan of the depths, only further away each time. You know it's there but it bothers you less. Well the painful ones anyway. The resetting is so final it almost seems like euthenasia, memorybot's whole character is wiped out, he is a tabla rasa, newborn. The lady has to live with what she's done, only to be greeted by memorybot's cheery and formal handshake. Sadness of loss and hope anew; the cruellest of oxymorons.

Overall, what I enjoyed about this comic was the rollercoaster of pace and emotion. I think the choice of panel sizes, artwork and colour all contribute to this and make the story very effective. Each panel is valuable and loaded with a new set of information, emotional as well as literal. I do think that without the colour the idea would have been realised but the level of emotion would have been lost. It was as it the experience was heightened for the work Ptoing did here (what do you mean you don't want to do it professionally?)

Great work Helm and Ptoing. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Helm said...

Hi, Solar.

If you're asking for my opinion, I do not think there is such a thing as rational thinking that is really at odds with something else that is 'emotion'. There are logic systems that are used to computate results, and the human does indeed have an instinct for them too as he has for language (which is a logical system too in a way) but they are not perfect, square, complete, as we are not. They are instincts we have that help our survival. The human being has a big problem with precision, we like words that imply a precision of calculation that we can't really actually fathom.

'never', 'forever', 'all', 'nothing', 'certainty', 'impossibility', 'perfection', 'objectivtiy'.

These are words fishermen -initially- made up in order to communicate menial realities, in order to exchange fish for cattle. We have created such a 'square', constricting way of communication that shoots for perfect precision but we are imperfect, imprecise and our view of the world is decidedly subjective. Yet we dream of an objective reality which we would all share where all words mean the exact same thing because such a reality is SAFER. Nothing scarier than nobody understanding anything. Here's your Plato and here's your ideaspace.

From the dissonance between the tools we use to communicate (which we'd like to be perfect) and how things actually are filtered through us (imperfrectly) we arrive through this to a peculiar circumstance: things aren't as we'd like them but according to our rationalizations, they SHOULD be. Logic and reason betray us, and we suffer for it. Through logic quietly but very successfully start to hate ourselves for not being perfect. Our own instincts that give us self-awareness and the capacity for abstract communication deliver this setback to us once again.

Emotions work just fine, they're here to guide us through survival and dominance, feedback loops for animals. Pain and anxiety when you are not doing your natural tasks, joy and orgasms when you are. Simpler machines though still filtered through self-awareness create awkward existential traps (the times when you are doing all you should to be happy but there's some bug in your system that stops you from actually being so). But that's a problem of smaller magnitude, I suspect than the logical dissonance neurosis.

When you think logic and emotion are fighting, what's really fighting are two emotions. The one emotion has been rationalized so that you think it's some sort of subjective truth about what you should be doing, usually higher and loftier than your base drives, for which you have a flimsy reasoning that extends not more than two or three moves further in the chess-game yet you think brilliant and perfect and complete. The other emotion is the inherent, atavist one that you don't want to own up to for various reasons (the clothed animal and his constant shame). It's not a battle between brain and heart. It's all heart.

It was for me a great release to finally experience this as truth because then I could strop trying to attribute my 'logic' to something 'perfect' and beyond human and just own up and humble myself and see that it's just a rationalization for something more that I want, a want instinctual, deep and emotional, like any other.

Here in this story, ZX wants something and she wants something. He wants out, she wants to stay in. She gives herself to him, but he cannot have her because they are ultimately, incompatible. In the comic this incompatibility is symbolised as the difference between flesh and machine, yet we are all, in our lives, cyborgs. Right now sitting here, plugged into the neuralspace grid we are half man half machine. Surely it's not such a big problem to fuck a machine, is it? For whatever reason, ZX is convinced himself that they cannot be together.

ZX sees himself as incompatible, he rationalizes his incompatibility, perhaps deep down inside he doesn't love her as much as she loves him. Perhaps he's looking for a way out. In any case, here's a 'logical' reason they can never be completely together that is fueled wholly by emotion. Instead of breaking up by saying 'I feel compelled to break up' he feels he owes her a rationalization that is more enduring and final, perfect, than that.

Spinoza's hilarites is just the joy of an animal overcoming an obstacle, applying reason to the world, making it safe, as far as I'm concerned.

Also the heroine, she'll forget. We all forget. It'll stop being unbearable at some point. After more time it'll be a nostalgic memory. Life goes on, we're here to survive life.

I do agree that the colors convey emotions more than the literal story and that is good. Thank you very much for your detailed impressions, once again I feel compelled to tell you that it means a lot to me.

[dick] said...

I would never have finished this page.

If I had written it just as you had done, I would then have got hung up on how people wouldn't understand what had happened easily.

Then I'd curse the paucity and crudity of more clear options.

and then the page would languish in a drawer.
Yet of course, the page is instantly comprehendable.


Helm said...

yet when this was originally published I did get a number of people telling me they didn't understand the ending so there you go. You have to let that desire for clear options go when you're telling a story, it seems. A bit of creative ambiguity (at best) and signal loss (at worst) are a given.

Solar said...

Hi Helm,

Thanks for your involved reply. I especially enjoyed your discussion of the characters motivations.

For humans I completely agree that we can reconcile our rational and emotional conflicts but for a machine, made by man, I think your following point is important:

From the dissonance between the tools we use to communicate (which we'd like to be perfect) and how things actually are filtered through us (imperfrectly) we arrive through this to a peculiar circumstance: things aren't as we'd like them but according to our rationalizations, they SHOULD be. Logic and reason betray us, and we suffer for it.

In this sense, a machine designed to use logic and then filter 'perfectly' would suffer some fundamental hang-ups that humans deal with through imperfection, be it accepting the inaccuracy of concepts used in communication or the fallible nature of our memory. I wonder if a machine designed to experience emotion would indeed also need to have imperfections (in relation to our human ideals) built into the program.

It seems to me that being emotional, being rational, and being logical (for humans at least) are points on a scale of our thought process, each requiring further degrees of abstract thought, but none being restricted by what I'll call hard logic. Hard logic requires binary input and output and deals badly with ambiguity. For an robot, built on hard logic I can see experiencing emotions or dealing with memory as a serious problem.

Applying this to Memorybot he clearly has emotions and so to some extent must have had 'uncertainty' programmed into his code, even something simple like 'work to avoid the unknown'. If memorybot can experience emotion then I think to some extent he would be able to deal with some of his memory issues, simply by interpreting his memory banks with 'uncertainty'.

This follows on to my other thoughts on dealing with infallible memory. Rather than deleting his entire memory banks, wouldn't it have been smarter to build in a natural decay to the memory files. If I was in the process of wiping my partners memory I reckon I'd find all the ways I could to retain some of that.

It's perhaps this reaction that makes me feel sorry for memorybot, that surely there must be some other way. But the narrative you've given us works better this way, with the finality of the gesture the love gains more meaning. What could have possibly gone on before that mean a memory wipe was the only option. So tragic.

Well enough thoughts from me.

Thanks again Helm

Helm said...

I wonder if a machine designed to experience emotion would indeed also need to have imperfections (in relation to our human ideals) built into the program.

Well I'm sure this is the domain of far more knowledgeable men than us but I would think that if it were to experience actual emotions then yes, the imperfection is required otherwise you go insane very fast!

The loophole you find for memorybot dealing with emotion is a good one!

However making digital memory files decay probably wouldn't work because this in humans means we reshape our memories and take out the pointy stuff. For binary, you just get data corruption that means nothing!

ptoing said...

I am very happy about people liking this comic. It is very dear to me and as I wrote I really enjoyed colouring it. Thank you all who replied on this. :)

Solar: I could not imagine colouring comics professionally under a harsh deadline. I enjoyed this, had a deadline as well, which I took quite lax. But having to colour a whatever stuff someone might throw at me (superhero comics, ugh) and having to do it fast, no thanks. I like colouring comics for friends. That's where I think it would end for me tho.