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review 2017-05-21 17:33
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1) - Douglas Adams,Stephen Fry

This was on my to-read list for a long time and I probably wouldn’t have gotten to it anytime soon if I hadn’t landed on Tomorrow Land 36: Ride space mountain! Read a book with either an image of or from space or where the authors full name contains the letters SPACE

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of reads like this, preferring speculative fiction if I’m going to delve into something in the sci-fi genre, so I wasn’t that hopeful I’d enjoy it. Somewhere along the way, though, I got sucked in to this crazy book and started to enjoy it a lot. It’s all about a mad journey Arthur Dent (a man from earth) makes with his friend, Ford Prefect, (an alien who has been posing as a human for fifteen years) through space.

 

I’m not going to say much about this because honestly, I don’t know where to start. It doesn’t make a huge lot of sense but then, neither does life and this is precisely the point I believe it was trying to make. I'll just leave you with this, my favourite quote. I think it epitomises the book quite well:

 

"Look," said Arthur, "would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?"

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text 2017-05-15 18:54
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1) - Douglas Adams,Stephen Fry

So wierd, but so much fun. C'mon the dice rolling!

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review 2017-02-25 05:30
Is That It?
Mostly Harmless (Hitchhiker's Guide, #5) - Douglas Adams

I’m not really sure about this book. At first I was going to suggest that it didn’t have any point but then again this is a part of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, which basically means that the books aren’t going to have a plot, or a point. Well, I guess the lack of a plot, and a point, is a point in and of itself because it simply goes to demonstrate the absurdity of existance, and that is that there really seems to be no point to this whole thing we call reality and in the end we should probably all just go and jump in the sea and go for a swim.

 

The thing is that this particular book didn’t seem to even explore the absurdity of reality, which, in a way, was the whole purpose of the series anyway – it seemed as if Adams had simply reached a point where he was writing a Hitchhiker’s Guide novel simply for the sake of such a novel, and when he finished it sent it to his publisher and then went around the corner and had a pint at the local pub (most likely English Ale, but then he could have had a Stella, but from my visits to England my impression was that respectable people don’t drink Stella).

 

So, what can I say about the book – well, it is about Arthur, and Ford, and Trillian, but that is about it. Arthur has lost his one true love due to a freak hyperspace accident, and the one thing that gave him meaning in life – a partner – was suddenly gone. So, he basically travels the universe bored out of his brains, and then settles on a planet to become a sandwich maker, which is basically the only thing he is good at. As for Ford, well, he uncovers a conspiracy at the Hitchhiker’s Guide headquarters, but then heads off to find Arthur only to have his ship stolen by a daughter that Arthur never knew he had, and can’t for the life of him ever remember making her, at least with the mother that is (who happens to be Trillian).

 

Trillian is the odd thing with the book – is she a journalist or is she an astrophysicist? At first I was a little confused because it seemed as if Adams had completely forgotten what her original profession was, but then it turns out that she got a lucky break, or a not so lucky break as the case may be. Apparently an alternate version of Trillian gave up astrophysics because she missed out on the ride of a life time when she rushed off to get her bag and Zaphod left without her. Then she missed out on another job of a lifetime when she left her bag in her room only to discover that she wasn’t wearing her contact lenses. However, as it comes to light, even if one does get the scoop of a lifetime it doesn’t mean that the newscasters will run with it, especially if they some something much more interesting – we’ve been visited by aliens, well, that’s going to clash with the royal wedding, and the royal wedding is so much more important than aliens that we might as well leave the aliens for another time, maybe a slow news week.

 

Then again when does news cease to be news – well quite quickly so it happens. If one alien spacecraft lands that is a scoop, but when the next, and the next, and then the next, it ceases to be news and simply becomes part and parcel of everyday life – a politician is corrupt! Hey, all politicians are corrupt so why are we going to run with that story when a baby hippo has just been born in the London Zoo (why is it that, having only spent less than a month out of my entire life in London that I am starting to treat London as if it is my home town? ).

 

What about the absurdity of life? I find it interesting that this whole concept of absurdity came about when people decided that religion just wasn’t for them – it is as if religion actually gives people a sense of worth and purpose and when you throw that away that sense of worth and purpose suddenly vanishes. Well, not really, because we begin to define ourselves by our possessions, which includes our jobs, our families, and of course our stuff. Yet what happens when all of these things cease to give us pleasure, or even purpose. No wonder the divorce rate is so high because we are measuring our worth by our happiness and when our relationships cease to make us happy we simply discard them. Mind you, the media doesn’t help because they help us define our purpose through the constant bombardment of their propoganda. What if our job doesn’t satisfy, and we aren’t agile enough to get ourselves another job – I guess we are a failure them.

 

Yet defining ourselves, and defining life and purpose, are huge money spinners. Self help books, universities, and even religious institutions, make bucket loads of money off of people seeking purpose, and sometimes I wonder if they all sit down at their weekly meetings and laugh about our stupidity. Mind you, our purpose could actually be sitting there staring us right in our face yet we would pretty much ignore it because, well, it is too simple and finding out the meaning of our existance couldn’t actually be that easy (or even simply that), so we all wander off back into the misty streets, find the local bar, and return to our beer.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1916966581
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review 2016-09-13 10:33
Parking Cars - what else does one do in a car park
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams

Well, this is annoying. Having just arrived back from Europe, and having travelled half way around a world you could say that I now have the holiday hangover – Jet Lag. Basically I have had about 10 hours sleep in total over the past four days, namely because I go to sleep and suddenly an hour later I am wide awake, laying in bed, wondering whether I should get up and do something, or simply lie there and attempt to get some more sleep, which generally doesn't occur until around 5:00 am (which means that I am not up until around 10:00, when I am able to sleep in that late). Also, having had my first full day of work (in an office) for seven weeks, you could say that I am a bit zonked. However I have just finished the second instalment of Adam's rather bizarre, and quite absurd, space adventure, and if I don't start writing the review now I probably never well (not that I can easily write at the moment, even on a laptop – maybe I should get up and go for a walk before hand, or even better go down to the pub and get a beer – yes, maybe I'll do just that).

 

 

Okay, I'm now down at the pub with a beer in front of me, but I will do my best to resist the temptation to talk about how Belgium has turned me into a beer and coffee snob, particularly due to the fact that in Belgium you get beer that has been brewed in Monasteries for hundreds of years, where as in Australia you simply get beer that is pretty substandard (though nowhere near as bad as English beer – which as I have said previously is little more than coloured water). Anyway, enough of that because I really want to get this review completed before I move onto my next book.

 

 

So, the book starts of where the previous one ends, and sort of follows the television series (though the television series ends at the end of this book). However I didn't feel that this part of the series was anywhere near as good as the first book (or even the series). I would sort of suggest that it was tying up a few loose ends, but in fact the first book didn't have any lose ends that needed tying up (but then again any lose ends that exist in absurdist literature generally are not ment to be tied up – otherwise it would cease to be absurd). Further, it seems that the story has been padded out a bit and as such it feels a little forced, especially since the original really didn't need a plot – they land up at the Restaurant that exists at the end of time, namely because they are looking for some place to have a meal and people go there for a humongous light show. Our heroes then steal a stunt ship belonging to a galactic rockstar, but it turns out that this ship is going to be flown into a star. Fortunately they find a teleport and escape, but Zaphod and Trillian disappear to who knows where, while Arthur and Ford land up back on Earth (or at least on a ship heading in that general direction).

 

 

While that is the basic plot of the second half of the television series, this book gives a bit more of a meaning behind plot – the Vogons realise that since Arthur and Trillian managed to escape Earth their job of destroying the Earth was left half finished so they decide to go after them to finish it off (and you will see more of that in future books). Also, Zaphod decides to go and find out who the actual ruler of the universe is, namely because even though he is president of the galaxy he really has no power (though he ends up getting board and heads of to have some dinner instead). In a way it felt a little forced and sort of detracted a lot from the original premise, which was understandably quite absurd. Even though Zaphod does eventually find the ruler of the universe, as it turns out the guy is pretty absent minded, and in a way one wonders whether he actually rules anything, and why it is that he is supposed to be the ruler of the universe.

 

 

Maybe it has something to with this idea that there really isn't any order, or sense, in the universe, and if there is any deity, the lack of sense, or purpose, suggests that the ruler really has no idea what is going on, or maybe has been around for so long that he (or she) has simply become senile. In a way it does seem to be like this, but I really don't want to get into anything too theological to attempt to disprove Adam's theory because in a way it is your typical Deist view of existence – sure there is a God who created the world, but he is either long gone, or simply set it in motion and let it go about on its own devices. I guess that is why the theory of Thermodynamics works – creation moves from order to disorder in the same way that a mechanical device slowly, but surely, winds down to a halt. However the way that the world seems to go about suggests that maybe he have been forgotten about it. However, it is quite interesting that whenever somebody comes along and suggests that maybe if people learnt to get along a bit better they either end up shot, forced to drink poison, or hung on a cross.

 

 

One group I do need to mention are the Gulgafrinchans – they are a rather amusing, and quite interesting, race of people. The deal with them is that there were three classes of people – the ruling class, the working class, and the middle class. The thing with the ruling class is that they were the rulers (and controlled the means of production), so they considered themselves particularly important. The working class actually had useful skills that the ruling class could use to produce stuff, while the middle class simply leached off the capital of the ruling class and the hard work of the working class. The middle class consisted of people such as advertising executives, sales managers, film directors, and telephone sanitisers – people that if they were removed from society then society would pretty much continue to function, but at a more efficient rate.

 

In a way I am inclined to agree – there is actually a whole class of people that simply exist to make things more complicated, and more expensive. Lawyers (and politicians) create reams and reams of laws to make life so complex that one cannot navigate the environment without spending lots of money to actually understand what these mystical words actually mean. As for advertisers, market analysts, and sales managers – they simply exist to make things more expensive. For instance they take what is effectively a t-shirt and with a wave of their hands transform it into a lifestyle – a brand if you will – which means that one can jack up the price to no end. In a way the middle class really only exists to take money from the working class, give it to the ruling class, and take a significant cut for themselves. The fact that they come across as a bunch of bumbling idiots who haven't managed to get anything done because everything has been referred to a discussion group is no accident. In  away, as some suggest, totalitarian dictatorships are so much more effective because they do away with all these pesky politicians who exist only for the election cycle, and simply get things done. The problem is that it is actually very rare for there to be a totalitarian dictator that wants to make the country great as opposed to simply using his position as a chick magnet (otherwise Africa would be one of the most powerful continents on the planet).

 

 

I can't finish off this review without making mention of Marvin the Paranoid Android. No matter how disappointing the book ended up being for me, he still ends up stealing the show. Even though he is an incredibly intelligent robot (who has existed, by the end of the book, for millions of years) it is impossible to actually get anything out of him – namely because he acts like your typical self absorbed depressive – 'here I am, a brain the size of a planet and you want me to …'. Mind you, he really has his moments, especially when he is talking to a robot tank, and simply by being himself, ends up getting the tank to literally destroy itself (by shooting away the floor underneath it). In the end, it is the classic line that he gives when he is at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe (which is have quoted in the title, so I won't repeat it here) which is probably my favourite line of the entire series. Oh, and prophet that rocks up at the restaurant just before the universe ends, and doesn't get a chance to finish his apology for being late.

 

Maybe, just maybe, I'm being a little harsh on this book.

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1753755670
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text 2016-04-25 07:17
How to forget about DNA? Impossible...

I started writing this post just two days after or last meeting and then... work and life happened and I never had the chance to finish. I truly apologize for that. Posting it just a few days before our next meeting (and such a great one with Jordi Fibla, Philip Roth's Spanish translator as a guest!) is way too late. I hope you can forgive me for that... Back to subject. Douglas Adams.

 

There are so many stories to tell about Douglas Noel Adams, or as he often referred to himself, DNA. For example DNA: where did it come from, apart from, quite obviously, his initials?

 

He was born on March, 11th, 1952 in Cambridge and, as DNA was discovered also in Cambridge one year later, he used to present himself as DNA from Cambridge. HE found it funny, for sure, but it was mostly catchy. How to forget a man who says he's DNA? People also called him "Bop Ad" for his illegible signature. 

 

 

He attended Brentwood School, a boarding school famous for some of its pupils: Robin Day, Jack Straw, Noel Edmonds, and David Irving, Griff Rhys Jones, a Stuckist artist Charles Thomson. He attended the prep school from 1959 to 1964, then the main school until December 1970. One of his former teachers, Frank Halford, said of him: "Hundreds of boys have passed through the school but Douglas Adams really stood out from the crowd—literally. He was unnaturally tall and in his short trousers he looked a trifle self-conscious. Yet it was his ability to write first-class stories that really made him shine." The truth is, it was difficult to miss him in a crowd: Adams was 1.83 m by age 12 and stopped growing only when he reached 1.96 m. Adams became the only student ever to be awarded a ten out of ten by Halford for creative writing, something he remembered for the rest of his life, particularly when facing writer's block.

 

 

 

Some of his writings were published at the school (for example a report on its photography club in The Brentwoodian in 1962, or reviews in the school magazine Broadsheet, edited by Paul Neil Milne Johnstone, who later became a character in The Hitchhiker's Guide).However, his first published work was a short story in Eagle comic, at the age of 12, in 1965. He applied to Cambridge, mostly to join the Footlights, an invitation-only student comedy club that acted as a hothouse for some of the most notable comic talent in England. He was not chosen immediately and started to write and perform forming a group called "Adams-Smith-Adams". He managed to become a member of the Footlights by 1973. He graduated in 1974 with a B.A. in English literature.

 

 

Some of his early work appeared on BBC2 television in 1974, in an edited version of the Footlights Revue that year. Over the next few years Douglas worked with many comedy stars. He got Griff Rhys Jones into comedy and directed A Kick In The Stalls, which got the attention of Graham Chapman. That led to a collaboration on a TV comedy show called Out Of The Trees. He also worked on several other projects, and among other things he submitted sketches for The Burkiss Way, Weekending and Monty Python´s Flying Circus, where Adams earned a writing credit in one episode (episode 45: "Party Political Broadcast on Behalf of the Liberal Party in 1982") for a sketch called "Patient Abuse"; he was one of only two people, outside the original Python members to get a writing credit (the other being Neil Innes). He also contributed to a sketch on the album for Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

 

 

But not only he wrote for Monty Python, he also appeared in it. His first Monty Python appearance, in full surgeon's garb, was in episode 42 and the second, at the beginning of episode 44, "Mr. Neutron", where Adams is dressed in a "pepperpot" outfit and loads a missile on to a cart driven by Terry Jones, who is calling for scrap metal ("Any old iron..."). The two episodes were broadcast in November 1974.

 

 

But mostly, at that time he was writing for radio. Sketches for The Burkiss Way in 1977 and The News Huddlines. He also wrote, again with Graham Chapman, the 20 February 1977 episode of Doctor on the Go, a sequel to the Doctor in the House television comedy series.

 

 

His uncompromising character led to some difficulty selling jokes and stories, and he had to take a series of odd jobs, including that of  a hospital porter, barn builder, and chicken shed cleaner. He was employed as a bodyguard by a Qatar family, who had made their fortune in oil. 

 

 

Finally he moved from writing for radio to become script editor of Doctor Who. During this time he co-wrote City of Death, widely considered to be the best Doctor Who story ever, as well as The Pirate Planet and the ultimately unfinished Shada. In 1990 he worked on the documentary Hyperland.

 

 

It was while Douglas was writing for Doctor Who that the radio series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, was commissioned. It appeared on BBC Radio 4 in March 1978 and was repeated in 2004. After the first radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide became successful, Adams was made a BBC radio producer, worked on Week Ending and a pantomime called Black Cinderella Two Goes East. He left the position after only six months. But the truth is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was his true inspiration and work for the rest of his life. It has first been transformed into a series of best-selling novels, then a television series, records, cassettes and CDs, a computer game, several stage adaptations and a major film.

 

 

  

The last part of this post, comes way to fast: Douglas Adams died at the age of 49. I have read a really touching description of what happened on h2g2.com, a site he had created. H2G2 was originally launched in 1999 but found a new home at bbc.co.uk in 2001 with Douglas himself a member. With the launch of PDA and mobile phone versions in April 2005, the site has achieved Douglas's aim of a handheld, ever-expanding guide to Life, the Universe and Everything, written by its users. And I believe the best will be to quote this description here:

 

On the morning of 11 May, 2001, Douglas went to the local gym to work out. He had been walking the treadmill and went on for some aerobics. After aerobics it was time for some gym workout. First up was stomach crunches, and Douglas lay down on the bench. The trainer turned to get Douglas's towel, and when he turned back to hand it over, Douglas rolled off the bench, suffering a massive heart attack. All attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Douglas left his six-year-old daughter Polly, his wife Jane, his mother Jan Thrift and countless other family members and friends, not to mention thousands and thousands of fans all over the world, in shock and mourning. It was later learned that he had a narrowing of the arteries in the heart, a condition which is hard to detect, as well as an arrhythmic heartbeat, which is usually benign. These two factors contributed to Douglas's untimely death at the tender age of 49.

He was cremated, along with his towel, at 7.30pm British time, on 16 May, 2001 in Santa Barbara, CA, USA and hundreds of fans worldwide saluted him with a drink around that time, either with a cup of tea or the nearest they could get to a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster. Wife Jane and daughter Polly moved back to Islington, London, together with their cats. In May 2002 Douglas' ashes were interred in a private ceremony at Highgate Cemetery (East), Highgate, London, England, plot: Square 74, Plot 52377, where a memorial stands.

 

 

There are million other things to add here, but the words are not enough to express all. He was an atheist, not afraid to prove his reasoning and to talk about it publicly. He was an enthusiastic ecological activist. He loved nature and animals and believed we are destroying the planet that we are not worth of. He had many talents we know of, but without any doubt, many that he never had an opportunity to discover. 

 

 

Sources:

 

http://h2g2.com/approved_entry/A3790659

 

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/dna/biog2.shtml

 

 

http://www.litlovers.com/reading-guides/13-fiction/432-hitchhikers-guide-to-the-galaxy-adams?start=1

 

Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

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