From the urban legends about celebrities category: When Life, the Universe, and Everything came out, my cousin went to get his girlfriend an autographed copy from a book store in Oregon.

When he got to the table he saw Douglas Adams seated next to a pyramid of beer cans about 2 feet high. Apparently Adams had cut a deal with the store. His appearance fee wasn't money, it was all the beer he could drink.

Adams signed the book below the inscription "This book has just been defaced by the author."

(This is what I wrote the week after Douglas Adams died. I feel some need to document how I felt when this happened; it seems appropriate and right that he should be honored this way)

In a more perfect world, today would be a day of mourning. Traffic would stop, stores would close, and the whole world would be crying into their towels, mourning the loss of the hoopiest frood ever to walk this Earth.

Douglas Adams died Saturday morning. He was 49. He died of a heart attack, a singularly common way to die. I suppose there's something ironic about that. Douglas Adams should have died when his cryopod failed, perhaps. Or maybe an extremely disreputable cocktail party would fall on his head. Vogon poetry. Pan-galactic gargle blasters. Getting turned into a whale at a height of 50 feet. All fitting ways for his life to end.

I suppose it doesn"t matter, really. The world has lost one of its geniuses, one of its greatest cult figures, one of its best eccentric Brit writers. He left behind some of the funniest books ever written, at least according to many. His 'Hitchhiker"s Guide to the Galaxy' trilogy (5 books, actually) made him a cult figure and spawned a zillion obscure references (see first two paragraphs).

To those who care, Saturday, May 12th, 2001 is a sad day. There may not be tons of tributes or Barbara Walters or a cover on Life magazine or any of that other crap we got with Princess Di and the last two dead Kennedys. It's a shame, really- somehow writing seven of the funniest books ever seems a bigger achievement than starting George magazine and playing football on skis. It actually seems better this way, though. Despite their popularity, the Hitchhiker"s series has always felt like a secret pleasure. It"s about rereading the books and scattering references everyone and writing 42 everywhere and laughing at the word 'towel.' It"s about not taking life seriously and appreciating randomness and not reading long-winded stuff like this.

I have a feeling that the only reason the mainstream press reported Adam's death was because every newspaper and TV station has at least one diehard fan, and that"s the way it should be. The only people who will probably make sense of this are those who wanted to kill me for my anime and RPG articles, and for them I have one message: this is a week of mourning. Bring a towel to school. Write 42 on your arm somewhere.

Or don't. It doesn"t matter. Remember him by not reading this crap. Remember him by writing on your own. Or remember him by doing what you"ll do anyway: rereading the Hitchhiker's Trilogy. Check out "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" and "The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul", too. Great stuff. And for all the rest who"ve never read the books and never intend to, use Babel Fish to cheat on your foreign language homework. Even if you don"t get the reference, it's something.

Other Douglas Adams tributes:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,490295,00.html {
This is not an obituary; there'll be time enough for them. It is not a tribute, not a considered assessment of a brilliant life, not a eulogy. It is a keening lament, written too soon to be balanced, too soon to be carefully thought through. Douglas, you cannot be dead.
Arthur Dent's Eulogy for Douglas Adams

Was Douglas Adams Channeling Shakespeare's Muse?

There are a number of websites containing - some dedicated to - compilations of sightings of 42 in literature and pop culture. To date, I've not seen this oddity posted anywhere. More than simple numerology, or equations with numbers in base 10 and base 13, the following seems to reverberate on several levels.

In the 1970's Douglas Adams wrote the radio-play series "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in which the answer to "Life, the Universe, Everything" was revealed by a computer to be '42', or, perhaps forty-two. This less-than-satisfactory answer led to the need for better definition of 'The Question' that was revealed at the end of the series through Scrabble tiles spelling out "What do you get if you multiply six by nine?"

The radio-play, the BBC television series, the books and the movie version of H2G2 tend toward diminishing the significance of forty-two. Douglas Adams showed his disdain for those wishing to read significance into "42" and "6x9". "It's a joke! Move on!", he was quoted as saying.

Well, perhaps there is more here than meets the eye ... even the eye of the author...

Another English playwright has alluded to 42 in a pop culture literary work, albeit in an obscure fashion. Ask the average person to name the first English playwright that pops into their head. The answer is likely to be William Shakespeare. Next, ask that person to name a popular work by Shakespeare. The 'popular' aspect is important as individuals may have personal associations with particular works by Shakespeare. When the question is, "Which do you think is the most well known Shakespearian play?", the answer is almost always, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Finally, ask for a (popular) quotation from Hamlet. Again, the most likely answer will be, "To be, or not to be".

Before leaping ahead to consider the next statement in Hamlet's soliloquy, a necessary digression into hexadecimal and boolean logic. (Recognising, of course, that Shakespeare probably didn't know much about base 16 and had shuffled off his own mortal coil long before George Boole gave his insights to the world. Prior to Newton had no-one ever been hit on the head by a falling apple?!)

The statement "To be, or not to be" is homophonic with the boolean statement "0x2B | !0x2B". Converting 0x2B to base10 yields '43', which is close to '42', but disappointingly not the same. However, when one examines the entire boolean expression one finds a bit pattern (0x2B = 01000010) OR'd with its ones complement. Regardless of the width of the register (i.e. number of bits), OR'ing any bit pattern with its ones complement results in a register full of 'set' bits (0x...FF = ...11111111). Interpreting this result as an unsigned integer would be vague (how wide is the register?), but as a signed integer value and regardless of the number of bits, it is a single increment away from 'clocking over' to a register of 'unset' bits plus an overflow. Thus, this register represents a value that could be interpreted as the integer that is one less than zero ('-1'). "To be, or not to be" can be seen as a computerese representation of the value 42 (i.e. 43 + -1). Consider, now, the full couplet: Hamlet states, in an obscure fashion:

Forty-two. That is the question.

Thus, the observation that 2 English playwrights, living about 400 years apart, listening to their muses, have both expressed the value 42 in association with existential questions of "Why are we here and what is the relation of our life to the universe?" Shakespeare connects this seemingly mystical number with the question of existence while Adams associates it with the answer to metaphysical quandries. When one considers the infinite possibilities that Shakespeare or Adams could have selected to express their plot/point, this is a striking coincidence. And, the public has resonated and 'taken up' these works as 'popular' or 'cult'. Ask the average person about Twelfth Night or Dirk Gently and note the vacant look of non-recognition on their face.

Curious that the original versions of H2G2 also recognised another popular Shakespearian allusion wherein an infinite number of monkeys had worked out a script for Hamlet. How blatant can this obfuscation be?

The 'duality' of (my interpretation of) Hamlet's reference to 42 as THE question and Deep Thought's revelation of 42 as THEanswer is appealing in a yin yang sort of way. Was Douglas Adams hiding something?

There is more existentialism to be extracted from H2G2 in consideration of Scrabble tiles, homophonic interpretation and the ASCII code table, too.

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