The Last Question

big bang universeThe following short story, written by the famous science fiction author Isaac Asimov, is a gripping tale of Man and Machine’s evolution of consciousness, and their place in the infinite yet impermanent universe. The story was first published in the November 1956 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly, and is to this day considered by many to be his best work. The author himself even thought so, and in 1973 he said of it:

“Why is it my favorite? For one thing I got the idea all at once and didn’t have to fiddle with it; and I wrote it in white-heat and scarcely had to change a word. This sort of thing endears any story to any writer. Then, too, it has had the strangest effect on my readers…”

The short story is split into seven story arcs, with the first one beginning in 2061, and each one after progressing further and further into the future. Despite the changes in time, space, and characters, each of the stories share in common humanity’s relationship with a supercomputer called Multivac and its successors – every sub plot revolves around certain characters discussing the life span of the universe and then asking the Multivac computer whether entropy (destruction) of the universe can be reversed, which is a question it has insufficient data to answer until the very end. This is a great read from start to finish – I give it a 5 out of 5; it is WAY ahead of it’s time!

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William Burroughs Interviews Jimmy Page [1975]

pageburroughs

In 1975 a legendary encounter occurred; Jimmy Page, the lead guitarist of the blues rock band Led Zeppelin, was interviewed by William Burroughs – counter-cultural icon of the 60s beat generation, and deservedly famous author of Junky and Naked Lunch. William S. Burroughs was a fantastically able writer who has won the literary recognition of many; he was also a journalist, and a long time user of heroin – even coining the term junky. Heroin was something Page and Burroughs shared in common during the time of this interview in 1975, as Page’s experimentation with heroin had slipped into an addiction at this point in his life and career. Musically, critics believed his playing ability fell sharply as a result of his heroin use, while those obsessed with the occult insisted that his poor playing was a result of a black magic curse put on him by Kenneth Anger, an acolyte of the infamous Aleister Crowley.

zepburroughsBurroughs was not interested in critiquing or evaluating Page’s music, and instead relied on his highly charged imagination to create a unique and somewhat strange interview with the rock and roll legend; an interview that can never be replicated, and perhaps, never fully understood. “I felt that these considerations could form the basis of my talk with Jimmy Page, which I hoped would not take the form of an interview. There is something just basically WRONG about the whole interview format. Someone sticks a mike in your face and says, “Mr. Page, would you care to talk about your interest in occult practices? Would you describe yourself as a believer in this sort of thing?” Even an intelligent mike-in-the-face question tends to evoke a guarded mike-in-the-face answer. As soon as Jimmy Page walked into my loft downtown, I saw that it wasn’t going to be that way.”

What follows is an interesting take on the standard music interview format, and a surreal exploration into the subconscious elements of music, such as vibrations, transferring of energy, magic, the arts and the similarities between rock and roll riffs and Buddhist mantras.

Read on for the full article that Burroughs published in Crawdaddy magazine in their June 1975 issue, and also the transcript of the interview that took place.

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A Short Story About the Buddha

BuddhaThe following very short story about the Buddha’s journey is written by the great author Paulo Coelho, author of the classic pilgrimage story: The Alchemist. If you have never read The Alchemist then I would highly recommend it, and if you want to read a longer story about the Buddha, which goes into much better detail, then read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. I found this story on Paulo Coelho’s blog, which you should definitely check out if you like to read, or are a fan of the man, because he writes short stories very frequently!

The following story is divided into 3 parts, each part only about 400-500 words. It makes for a quick read, and definitely contains some of Paulo Coelho’s writing flair. But it is still very short, and leaves a lot to be desired. But I suppose this is fitting considering it is a story about the Buddha; he would say to us: Desire = Suffering. Meditate on this. At least I think he would say this. Anyway, here’s the story!

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Steve Jobs’ Batteries Ran Out Today; Couldn’t Find His Wall Charger – Confirmed Dead

Laughs were shared by all at the newsroom today when word had been received about Steve Jobs’ humorously ironic death. Steve Jobs, co founder of the mega corporation Apple – who were responsible for the widely used gadgets the iPod, iPhone and iPad – was found dead this morning, curled up next to his wall socket. Forensic psychologists on the scene say that Steve Jobs had run out of batteries in the middle of the night, woke up in a cold sweat after realising he was on his last bar and desperately searched the house for his wall charger, which was presumably missing… or stolen.

Several people knocked on Steve’s door in the morning, to discuss their iPods with him, and received no answer. Sources say these people just went on with their day, despite the looming possibility that Steve Jobs was in danger. This is another sad glimpse at the bystander effect in all its terrible shame. At roughly 11:30am the milk delivery man, who had been delivering milk to Steve’s home every day for the past 15 years, thought that something was up and forced open Steve Jobs’ back door, which will never look the same again. “Steve is always home, he never leaves the house, so when I knocked on his door and he didn’t answer, I knew something was up” said the milk delivery man when we interviewed him just now. The delivery man, who shall remain nameless because his role in society is not considered to be important, immediately dropped his milk, broke down the door and rushed to Steve Job’s body, who was described by the anonymous milk man as having “a blank white screen, as white as milk… his eyes, which used to be milky white, were now big black crosses”. The milk delivery man attempted to ‘reset’ Stevens’ battery by holding his lock button and home button at the same time; to no success. Steve was confirmed dead at 11:40am, and his wall charger was later found under his bed.

Rest in peace Steve Jobs, you silly man!

iPhone

Police Photograph of Steve Jobs Remains (06/10/11) WARNING: graphic content (too late).

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The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved.

Hunter S Thompson

This is the article that propelled Hunter S Thompson’s writing skills to new heights and established his style known as ‘Gonzo’ journalism. Written in 1970, after publishing both The Rum Diaries and Hell’s Angels, Thompson was required to write a sports article covering the Kentucky Derby. However, he didn’t actually get to see the race, and instead wrote a manic first person account of his observations of the people attending the event. Faced with a deadline, and not having written anything resembling an article, Hunter tore out pages from his notebooks, and scrambled together this exciting narrative which was published in Scanlan’s Monthly. The writing of this article was later worked into his most famous novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, two years later, which has the protagonist Raoul Duke (Hunter’s alter ego) attempt to write a story on the Mint 400 motorcycle race in Las Vegas; unsuccessfully of course. If you’re a fan of Hunter S Thompson’s writing then you owe it to yourself to read this article if you haven’t already, and if you’ve never read any of his work, then this might just turn you onto him!
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The Egg

by Andy Weir:

womb

You were on your way home when you died.
It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.
And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”
“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.
“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”
“Yup,” I said.
“I… I died?”
“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.
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Ted the Caver

Click here to read one of the scariest things you will ever read. It is a long short story (heh) about a caver called Ted and his experiences in a cave that he was exploring with a friend. Technically it’s not a short story, as it’s his first hand experience in the ‘mystery cave’, and is actually a chronological collection of his journal entries complete with photos he took. Ted was looking for a new cave to explore that no man or woman had explored before him, caving was the last frontier for explorers like him. However, what Ted finds in this cave is not what he expected at all, and will change him (and you!) for the rest of his life. It is a fairly long read and will take you about 30 minutes to an hour depending on how fast you read, but this is not a problem as the writing sucks you in and doesn’t let go for a second. It is a very engaging and chilling read!

Heavy Metal Kills!

Heavy Metal

By Michael Cunningham

Heavy metal sensation Metallica have had to end their highly talked about world tour due to a tragically ironic event that occurred last night at their concert in Melbourne, Australia. 14 year old boy Andrew Cobb was crushed to death by a very heavy piece of metal that fell from the top of the stadium Metallica was performing in. The object that killed the young boy was supposedly a piece of metal from the scaffolding which rowdy Metallica fans were climbing on and shaking violently. The unfortunate death has caused much outcry, especially from the heavy metal fans who won’t get to see Metallica play in their country. The parents of Andrew Cobb stress that “Heavy metal concerts are unsafe and should be banned,” a comment which has brought about considerable press attention.

“Only at a Metallica concert would fans climb onto a very unstable scaffold in the middle of the performance!” local police deputy, Andy Dufraine tells the Daily Word Newspaper. There is currently a worldwide petition to ban heavy metal music from ever making it to a live stage again; “While I’m not familiar with the music, I think banning it is a good idea” says local official, Ben Wong. “After all, the fans of heavy metal music are clearly all drunken hoodlums and Satanists, hell bent on killing innocent children!” Metallica fans who attended the concert say that it was all just an unfortunate accident, and in relation to all heavy metal fans being violent Satanists, Metallica fan Chris Blueberry speaks up, “We’re all really good people once you get to know us, the whole rowdy scaffolding incident was just because the band didn’t play Enter Sandman, and we were all a little bit upset as you can imagine!” Enter the Sandman, Metallica’s most acclaimed single has reached gold for selling over 500,000 copies in the US and has been a live staple of the band since its release.

Riot

Week 10: Networking

Interview

This week’s (technically last week’s) reading, titled ‘Rereading Fandom: MySpace Character personas and Narrative Identification’ by Paul Booth (2008) reads like an article carefully constructed by an android trying to dissect the nuances of human identity, due to its own lack of and longing for one. The article explores, or rather examines in excruciatingly painful detail, how ‘fans’ of television characters create an online identity which is not their own, but rather an extension of the object of their fandom. My conclusion after reading the article was that if Booth (2008) is not an android, then he would most likely be a closet MySpace fan, creating profiles in secret for numerous TV characters that he adores. This can be witnessed by his extraordinary wealth of knowledge on the subject, such as his suspicious knowledge of MySpace fan abbreviation: ‘”gg” is a common fan abbreviated for Gilmore Girls’ (Booth, 2008, p. 521-522.) Perhaps he is both android and secret MySpace fan… to lend support to this theory I will point towards his contrasting use of language, where he shifts from using robot-esque vocabulary to explain human identity – ‘The space of this post says a lot about one’s identity. For example, posting a comment to a fan’s persona can indicate similarities and differences upon which to build identity. We can observe this in Figure 1, the comments section of a characters persona of Gilmore Girls’ (Booth, 2008, p. 521) – to using MySpace fan lingo – ‘the poster… writes “DUDE I love gg its my fav show ever!!!!!! I love ur space its so kute!!!!’  Booth (2008, p. 521) then reverts back to his mechanical prose to make it known that the above poster in writing that comment ‘establishes her identity as a fan of Gilmore Girls’. Booth (2008, p. 522) even goes the extra step to ensure that the reader understands the hidden content of the message, ‘”it’s so kute”’ expresses her opinion about the site.’ I didn’t pick up on this when I read it, so I was very thankful that it was pointed out to me, in a way that was easy enough for me to understand. Thanx Booth!

While the writer does make an attempt to explain complex ideas in human friendly ways, he also gets a bit carried away and uses words and phrases that left me scratching my head, for example he states that ‘identity is negotiated by examining what one is not’, is this supposed to be a riddle? He then states that identification ‘thus functions “first by inducing the auditor to participate” and “next by trying to include a partisan statement” between interlocutors’ (Booth, 2008, p. 522), don’t worry, I don’t know what an interlocutor is either. One can understand why Booth (2008, p. 515) would want to be a MySpace fan, as he says ‘a MySpace fan can use narrative to help create identity online’, it is this online identity that clearly resonates within the writers circuitry and it shows in his writing, it is apparent that he is enticed by the notion of using ‘digital technology… to become alive with the fan’s community’ (Booth, 2008, p. 516), something which can only be achieved through constructing a ‘simulated reality’. The article’s main contention is that fans of television shows create MySpace personas of their favourite characters, and in doing so ‘insert themselves into, the narrative of that show’, as a result of this the fans create a space ‘where profiles of offline people and profiles of characters mingle’ (Booth, 2008, p. 517). This character mingling is exampled many times throughout the article, as is the ‘fictionalization of an already fictional narrative’ (Booth, 2008, p. 529). This fictionalisation is the process of branching off from the original story arc of a television show by a fan on MySpace. This concept is difficult to explain in simple terms so instead I will include an excerpt of one of Booth’s many examples which explain this phenomenon better than I ever could: ‘The Gilmore Girls fan profile zachandstaceforever (2007) has hypothesized a text in which protagonist Rory did not break up with her lover Dean during her college years, and instead stayed with him throughout the rest of the series. This contradicts the continuity of the series, which saw Rory later falling for different men, including rebel Jessie and heartthrob Logan.’ (Booth, 2008, p. 527)

All kidding aside, this is one those rare articles that penetrate deeply into the soul of the reader, and is one that needs to be read again and again to really absorb the depth of information and insight. I am going to have to end this blog entry here, as I am afraid there is no way to really articulate the essence of Booth’s (2008) article, as no amount of human words could really do it justice. End Transmission.