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Journal mcgrew's Journal: November 3, 2005 5

The following was originally posted at Missing here is the illustration, the planet sticking its tongue out, and slashdot's lack of a <strike> tag, which I'll remedy by simply sticking the tag in as if it actually did anything.

<book, film, and TV show review>

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Life, The Universe, and Everything

Far Out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy spins a medium sized unregarded yellow star. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety eight million miles is a small blue planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think that hacking and slicing a perfectly hilarious movie to rid it of its funny parts so it can be shown on television without young impressionable minds being subject to the horrors of laughter is a good idea.

On this planet is a book written by an ape-decended life form named Douglas Adams.

This is not a story about Douglas Adams. He's dead, Jim.

This is the story of his book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Legend has it that one night this ape-decended life form was stoned out of his mind from smoking the dried buds of a strange type of plant and drinking Irish Car Bombs and noticed a book in his rucksack called The Hitchhiker's Guide to Europe. In his discombobulated state of mind he thought it was hilarious, and wrote a radio play parodying this book and indeed, science fiction in general.

I never got to hear the play, despite the fact that it was broadcast on the BBC, who has (not "have" you stupid Limeys) claimed that they were displaying all their works on the internet. This was obviouusly some strange useage of the words "all" and "display" that I have not been aware of, as I haven't seen any BBC works on their website at "all".

Perhaps the plays are on display in a locked cabinet in a dark, disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "beware of the ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal" in a basement with broken stairs.

In 1979, the US Copyright Office granted a world wide copyright to the late Mr. Adams, who thought he still had plenty of time left. The copyright will not expire until you, too, are long late. The copyright was on a wholly remarkable book based on that radio play.

I never heard of the book. Indeed, nobody outside Islington (at least, nobody important) heard of it, either.

Also unheard of by anybody that matters is another book, called "Whackapedia". In many of the nerdier civilizations in the outer eastern rim of the internet, Whackapedia has already displaced the great Encyclopedia Britannica as the standard repository of all knowlege and wisdom, for though it has many ommissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.

First, it's free, and second, it has the words "FOO BAR" in large, friendly letters on its cover.

The Whackapedia has this to say about Douglas Adams:

Adams included a direct reference to Pink Floyd in the original radio version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Landing on an alien planet, the main characters survey the landscape whilst an atmospheric section of Pink Floyd's Shine on you Crazy Diamond plays in the background; it is immediately revealed that, rather than being non-diegetic background music, the excerpt is being hummed by Marvin, an android helper. See also Pink Floyd trivia or Hitchhiker's radio series trivia.

Adams's official biography shares its name with the song "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd. Adams was friendly with their guitarist David Gilmour and, as his 42nd birthday gift, was invited to make a guest appearance at one of their 1994 concerts in London, playing rhythm guitar on the songs "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse". Adams chose the name for Pink Floyd's 1994 album, The Division Bell by picking the words from the lyrics to one of its tracks. David also performed at Douglas's Memorial Service.

Pink Floyd, and their reputation for lavish stage shows, were also the inspiration for the Adams-created fictional rock band "Disaster Area", renowned as the loudest band (and, in fact, the loudest noise) in the universe. One element of Disaster Area's stage show was to send a space ship hurtling into a sun, probably inspired by the airplane which would crash into the stage during some of Pink Floyd's live shows, usually at the end of "On The Run". Part of the ideas behind Disaster Area may also have been influenced by the 1968 Pink Floyd song "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun."

One night in the early 1980s while perusing another book, a wholly unremarkable book called The Hitchhiker's Guide To TV (usually called by its abreviated name "TV Guide") I noticed an entry called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was the first episode of a BBC television re-run of what was known back in those unenlightened days as a "miniseries."

Alas, although people still thought digital watches were a pretty good idea, the VCR was far too expensive at the time for me to own one of. Pity, as it was the sort of thing I had been looking for all this time, being a science fiction loving geek. Nonetheless, I watched it. The show, not the VCR. And laughed my ass off, despite my utter lack of any dried buds of any strange types of plants.

The next day saw me off to a bookstore in search of a book, as TV miniseries are often shamelessly stolen from books. I bought a paperback copy.

I was nearly arrested while reading this book in a public park, as the President of the <strike>galaxy</strike> US, Zaphod Reagan and his wife "Nanny" wanted everyone to "just say no" and the police thought I must have been smoking the dried buds of an illegal type of plant, as I was laughing my ass off while reading this book.

The policeman was not amused when he failed to find any plants at all, much less illegal ones. He was even less amused when he discovered that the bag he had intended to plant on me contained not illegal contraband, but lunch. "Whatever did I give to the Missus?" he said to himself before beating up a black man from New Orleans for walking down the street in search of fags (that's "cigarettes" to my American countrymen, who have no idea what a "fag" is to a Limey).

This book was dangerously addictive. Oddly, Nanny's husband's government never realized how subversively dangerous this book was and failed miserably in its duty to protect its citizens from themselves. As the government had failed so miserably to protect me from this book, I squandered my <strike>vast fortune</strike> drinking money on more of these so-called "books."

I bought them all, and read them several times. This thoroughly angers publishers, who are trying to pass legislation outlawing the use of any book or other type of record by more than one person and more than once by any one person. Once they get this legislation <strike>purchased</strike> passed they intend to sue anyone who has the utter gall to read a book more than once, or who has the temerity to visit a library.

The music recording and movie making industries have actually had far more luck getting this type of noble legislation passed, at least for their wares. Xerox machines are still not copy protected, although it can be assumed it won't be long before they are.

The BBC miniseries was done "on the cheap" as they say on this small blue planet. For instance, one of its characters had two heads, and unlike the character in the book, one of the two heads on this fellow looked as if it was made of paper mache'.

Like the books Lord Of the Rings and Foundation I wished longingly for a multimillion dollar production of these wholly remarkable books, but since Lord Of the Rings wasn't to be filmed for another decade or so, I had little hope that if this movie was ever made it would actually be anything at all like the book.

I mean, look what they did to Asimov's I, Robot. Global Warming is caused by the heat of the friction of Asimov spinning in his grave.

When this movie was filmed, I of course saw it on opening night. It listed Douglas Adams as Executive Producer because he had written the screenplay (or at least, the parts they didn't change) despite the fact that he was very late.

The movie, of course, could not contain everything in the book. Movies are like that by their very nature. It did contain much that wasn't in the book, such as the visit to Vogsphere (one of the movie's funniest parts).

I was disappointed that the scene with the Galactic Police had been excised. I was very disappointed that the Police cruiser that wasn't in the movie didn't commit suicide after talking to Marvin. I was disappointed that Marvin never complained about the pain down the diodes in his left leg, and that he didn't look anything like the book described him. I was, however, pleased that the real Marvin from the miniseries that looked and sounded as the book described him had a cameo in the movie. He was in a repair shop, possibly having his leg diodes replaced.

I was also very disappointed that unlike the book and miniseries, it didn't start with the words "Far out".

It wasn't as funny as the TV miniseries, which wasn't as funny as the book. Nevertheless it was still very well done and I bought the DVD and am eagerly looking forward to the sequels. I just hope the Golgafrinchans are included, and I fervently hope the funniest scene in the whole series (where Marvin faces down the Battle Robot at the Hitchhiker's Guide editorial offices) is included.

If you haven't seen the movie, don't bother renting it.

Buy it instead. And the book. And if you ever get a chance to see the BBC's miniseries, do so.

And if you ever hear the radio play, please record it and send me a copy.

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November 3, 2005

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  • Started with the BBC radio original, too.

  • I have purchased the CD (audio) copies of the BBC renditions, though I don't believe they are the originals. I believe they are the remakes from about 5 years ago.

    I think I ripped them all. I'll have to look.

    • by chill ( 34294 )

      Yup. Ripped as MP3. H2G2 Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, Quandary and Quintessential Phases along with Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. I even have Eoin Colfer's And Another Thing...

      I'll see if I can find a suitable home for them online.

  •'s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy_(radio_series) []
    "Episodes of the first series were specially re-recorded for release on LP records and audio cassettes and Adams adapted the first series into a best-selling novel in 1979. After the 1980 transmissions of the second radio series, a second novel was published and the first series was adapted for television. This was followed in turn by three further novels, a computer game, and various other media formats."
    heard some of it via ra

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      I had all 5 HHGTG volumes in paperback, then my daughter bought me a leather bound volume containing all five volumes, plus IIRC a couple of previously unpublished chapters as a Christmas present.

      I have a couple of the Dirk books, but I didn't like them nearly as much.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller