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Adams' Dirk Gently Serialized on BBC Radio 144

happy monday writes "Douglas Adams' 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency' is being serialised by BBC Radio, starring Harry Enfield. The first episode can be listened to on Radio 4's website now." The Times has a fairly glowing review of the program, and (for US folks like myself) some incomprehensible British-isms to boot.
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Adams' Dirk Gently Serialized on BBC Radio

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  • Britishisms? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by toby ( 759 ) * on Saturday October 06, 2007 @09:08PM (#20884133) Homepage Journal

    Being British myself, and having modified my own communications to fit North American cultural scopes, I decided to scan the review for these claimed "Britishisms". A North American may be forgiven for not knowing who Kenny Everett [] is - although he certainly was broadcast as far afield as the former British colony Australia (now a military and cultural outpost of the USA) - but apart from that, what are the other impenetrable Britishisms?

    Can't be bidet - a strictly Continental idea; "serendipitous" is surely common usage by now, though coined of course by a Brit; Chris Moyles - well who cares - one can assume he's the UK's Michael Richards - ditto; Boswell and Dr Johnson are simply subjects of general knowledge; Ravel [] is no Pom and his Boléro no English hymn; ah, Jeremy Clarkson, [] there you may have a point, laddie. Cholmondeley-Warner [] is just a television character, innit. Anything else?

    • What the hell did you just say? "Ravel is no Pom and his Bolero no English hymn" I can't even type that little fancy e.
    • I think it might have been the word 'answerphone' that threw Zonk off. I can't seem to find any mentions of 'rogering the loo' or 'fanny full of spotted dick' or anything else that could easily have confused him...
    • Frankly I stopped reading the article after the first few sentences. It hardly made any sense at all.
      • by vondo ( 303621 )
        Yeah, not exactly Britishisms, but the Inquirer, a British tech journal, is written the same way. All tongue in cheek, inside jokes and puns to the point where it can be really difficult to figure out what the heck they are talking about if you don't read it regularly. They must think this style of writing is clever.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
      Car boot near the start, maybe? Lorry is another one. Mind you, any American who can't manage that kind of translation is incredibly ignorant.
      • maybe? Lorry is another one. Mind you, any American who can't manage that kind of translation is incredibly ignorant.

        When I read the book, it took me ages to figure out what the hell a lorry is. Ok, I could have researched the word to find out it's a damn truck, but man, a truck sounds right, it's a macho word full of consonants. Perfect to describe a big dangerous thing that does heavy lifting. "Lorry" sounds like a girl's name, I kept trying to picture something girly. I think the narration had to describe normal truck operations (delivering heavy things, endangering the lives of pedestrians, changing gears and making

    • I think Jeremy Clarkson may be more recognized in the US than you think, at least amongst netheads, especially with the popularity of Top Gear. Even if they don't know him by name, they'll know the face.

      And Chris Moyles as the British Michael Richards? Nah, he's more Howard Stern :)
    • Can't be bidet - a strictly Continental idea
      Actually, it might be. In the context it is used, it is a pun playing on the fact the word is pronounced in the same way as an abbreviation for birthday. This only really works in English, where the French pronunciation of the word is used; in American English (an oxymoron if ever one was), the pronunciation is quite different and the joke does not work.
    • This site [] provides a pretty good list of colloquialisms present in British English that are absent in America. If you take a visit to the UK, I'd advise skimming through it as to not seem completely ignorant, and to avoid a certain degree of confusion. If you're visiting Edinburgh, and don't want to stick out like a sore thumb, I'd also recommend learning how to pronounce the name of the city -- I'm always amazed by how many people get that one wrong....

      On the other hand, if they start using cockney rhymi
    • I suspect someone's brain probably struggled attempting to parse "Archers Omnibus". As a Brit and a professional writer, I have to say I found the opening few paragraphs needlessly circumlocutory and irksome to read too.
  • by svunt ( 916464 ) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @09:22PM (#20884199) Homepage Journal
    National broadcasters using these formats..tsk tsk - I'm an Aussie, and hate having wmv or mp4 only for video download from the ABC, but RealPlayer? Yuk! Poor Brits.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by resequenced ( 656161 )
      VLC plays the stream just fine. There's even a handy "Listen using stand-alone Real Player" link; you don't have to muck through HTML or anything. Real Audio wouldn't be my first choice, but the quality is pretty good, all things considered.
      • by johnw ( 3725 )

        VLC plays the stream just fine.

        How? I've been searching for ages for an alternative to Real's crappy and bug-ridden Linux client and I keep seeing references to alternatives but I've never got any of them to work. (At least Real's client does work sometimes with the wind behind it.)

        As an example, how exactly do you get VLC to play the Dirk Gently stream? The best I can manage ends up with:

        [00000330] live555 demuxer: real codec detected, using real-RTSP instead
        [00000330] live555 demuxer error: Nothing to play for rtsp://

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          MPlayer works fine for me. It doesn't seem to understand the .ram file, so I had to do "mplayer `cat dirkgently.ram`" instead. You can save the stream to disk using e.g. "mplayer -dumpstram `cat dirkgently.ram` -dumpfile dg1.rm".
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I use Real Alternative. I also re-record it analog-style, save it as an mp3 and play it in the car to and from work once all the episodes of a radio program are out. I'm odd like that.
    • MP4? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Valdrax ( 32670 )
      Wait. What's your problem with MP4? Isn't it pretty much universally supported at this point?
    • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:31AM (#20885099)
      The Realplayer format is actually pretty decent compression wise. Of course, you should never use the standard realplayer viewing software for this. The best method I know uses MPlayer:

      1) Open a terminal and type the following:
      mplayer -dumpstream -dumpfile dirk.ra rtsp://

      2) Wait about 30 seconds, then open another terminal and play the file dirk.ra from disk while it's still downloading:
      mplayer dirk.ra

      This has two benefits: you can put the stream in your collection (maybe convert to ogg later etc), and you won't get the annoying buffering pauses.

      This method also works with realvideo files, and wmv urls (mms://) if you want to save those types of movies. Finally, note that MPlayer lets you skip around an audio or video file, even if the file says you can't fast forward in other GUI oriented video players.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Peet42 ( 904274 )
        If you're on Windows, and using the BBC site, follow their "Get Realplayer" links.

        Before the BBC standardised on RealPlayer for their video and audio streams (which may not continue much longer as the new DRM-encumbered BBCiPlayer rolls out) they got an agreement from RealNetworks to provide an ad-free version of RealPlayer. It's freely available to all, but only if you go through the BBC site to get it and, crucially, do not install the "full" RealPlayer first.

        The BBC version has been effectively neutered
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Ma8thew ( 861741 )
      Using RealPlayer is totally fair. It's terrible on every platform.
  • Poor guy!!! (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I misread: Adams' Dirk Gently Sterilized on BBC Radio. I wouldn't like to have my dirk sterilized anytime soon, not even "gently"!
    • If you're going to stab someone it's best to have your dirk sterilized.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Its blade length and style varied, but it was generally 7-14 inches. However, the blades of Irish versions often were as much as 21 inches in length.
      From Wiki. Emphasis mine :)
  • Sigh I can only find it in RealAudio.. Can't they just use flash mp3 players or something similar..
    • Ha! I installed RealPlayer and it actually seems to behave nicely. Best quote of the day (from the show): "It's like trying to doing calculus with someone kicking your head"
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by SnoopJeDi ( 859765 )

        "It's like trying to doing calculus with someone kicking your head"

        Sounds like trying to keep up with my calc professor.
  • Excellent book (Score:3, Interesting)

    by amaupin ( 721551 ) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @09:34PM (#20884255) Homepage
    This was an excellent book, and based on a Doctor Who script or not, I always thought it was much better than any of the Hitchhiker's novels. (However I still put the original Hitchhiker's radio series at the top of Adams' oeuvre, mostly due to the brilliance of Mark Wing-Davey.)

    Can't wait to listen to this new show.
    • Elements of it were taken from "Shada", a Dr Who series which was never made for the TV due to industrial action, but many years later an audio version was made, available from Big Finish, and often broadcast on BBC7 - my page at [] gives the dates when it was last on.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Spacejock ( 727523 )
      I read the Dirk Gently books for the first time this year, and they reminded me of Tom Holt's 'Expecting Someone Taller' - probably the Norse Gods and suburban England. Now I'm curious .. wonder which was written first?

      (Preferred Hitchhikers Guide to the Gently books, BTW.)
    • by Grey_14 ( 570901 )
      Just so you know you're not alone, I preferred the Dirk Gently books to HHG2G as well,
    • For whatever reason, I simply couldn't latch onto anything in the book, even though I read through the first four books of the H2G2 trilogy in one weekend. It took me six tries to get through the book, and I was frustrated at the end that I'd spent the time to read it, especially after all the adulation poured on it by my friends. (Then again, some of them think Red Dwarf is the pinnacle of comedy, and one of them even thinks AbFab is a great show, too.)

      I sometimes think I should give it another try, sinc
    • by itsdapead ( 734413 )

      I always thought it was much better than any of the Hitchhiker's novels.

      Well, Hitchhiker's - at least the original radio show and the first two books based on it - was basically a series of sketches with a rather loose linking plot (which varied considerably between the Radio, book and TV show). As such it worked well on radio.

      The two Dirk Gently books, however, have really, really clever plots in which lots of bizarre, random events get pulled together at the end using some wonderful fantasy logic. I'm n

      • by VJ42 ( 860241 ) *

        (Basically, "Impossible" could just mean that there is something in the universe that you don't understand, and there are plenty of those, "Improbable" suggests something that you do understand and know to be very, very unlikely. It makes sense in the context of the book, although I hope the creationists don't latch on to it :-) )

        It'd funnier if the creationists managed to convince themselves that they had proved the existence of god, as you could then prove he doesn't a la the babel fish []...;-)

  • by tajmorton ( 806296 ) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @09:50PM (#20884313) Homepage

    Use mplayer to decode it and lame to encode it:

    $ mkfifo inandout
    $ lame inandout --tt "Episode 1" --ta "BBC Radio 4" --tl "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" --ty 2007 --tn 1 --tg "Speech" Episode1.mp3 &
    $ mplayer -prefer-ipv4 rtsp:// -ao pcm:file=inandout pcm:fast -vc dummy -vo null

    Or, if you want a script that cron can run: []

  • I called up my girlfriend to tell her about this. I hope she's having better luck listening to it on her Mac than I am on Vista -- the free Realplayer seems to think it's being installed as a restricted user even when it's not. Good testing, Real.

    Maybe I'll download all the gray codecs and listen to this on one of my Linux boxes. Or I'll look around for Real Alternative, if it's still being hacked on.
  • Real player (Score:5, Informative)

    by Neon Aardvark ( 967388 ) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @09:55PM (#20884355) Homepage

    I hate real player too, but installed it a while ago to listen to BBC radio programs (some of which are worth it).

    In case anyone cares, this is apparently why they persist in using this abomination: []

    • by fsmunoz ( 267297 )
      Thanks for the link, this part I found interesting:

      We have ensured that versions of RealPlayer are available as free downloads for virtually all types of hardware and operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux and more), so that everyone can have access to our content regardless of the equipment that they choose to use.

      Like or dislike RP it is at least available on multiple platforms, and many others aren't (copying Windows DLLs doesn't count as supporting). Their reasoning does make sense in terms of universal availability of their content.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      I assume someone has told them that if they just make it available as mp3 or mp4 they don't have to support ANY applications..and this includes real player?
  • by Smerity ( 714804 ) <> on Saturday October 06, 2007 @10:13PM (#20884447) Homepage
    I'm glad that this is being serialized, Douglas Adams' work lives well in an audio form, and I'm sure the BBC will do it justice as they have his works in the past. I read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency some time ago and it held up to all the expectations I had from Douglas Adams. If you've enjoyed any of his past works, or enjoy the kind of humour found in Terry Pratchett you'd find this fun.

    This is honestly quite tailored to the scientific individual - the story focuses around a computer programmer (Richard MacDuff), an ongoing dilemma of Dirk Gently's great difficulty trying to track down a missing cat (Schrödinger's cat []), an issue with the moving sofa problem [] (and how it was impossible for the sofa to actually become stuck in the first place) and for those who know of Coleridge's poetry (specifically The Rime of the Ancient Mariner [] and Kubla Khan []) you'll be in for quite a few twisting and entertaining surprises. There's also a time machine in there for kicks =]

    Honestly, if the concept of a "thumping good detective-ghost-horror-whodunnit-time-travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic" interests you in any way, do yourself a favour and either listen in or buy the book - you won't be disappointed =] PS. I'm Australian (but with a strong grounding in American culture) and I didn't find too many 'Britishisms' in Dirk Gently... Maybe you're looking too hard? ^_^
    • The Gently books certainly mixed a few genres ;-) And as for Aussies, we've seen enough Goodies, Doctor Who, Minder and other UK shows to pick up the gist of things. Maybe it's because we don't remake shows like Fawlty Towers to suit 'our' market, and have learnt to appreciate and enjoy the originals.
    • There's also a time machine in there for kicks =]

      Any other spoilers you want to chuck in there while you're at it? Muppet.

    • and I'm sure the BBC will do it justice as they have his works in the past

      The BBC didn't do this series, neither did they do the tertiary, quandry, or quintessential phases of H2G2 - it was Above the Title Productions who did it for BBC4.

      That said, yes, it is well done. :-)
  • by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @10:22PM (#20884481) Homepage
    ...make sure you at least read Wikipedia's entry for Samuel Coleridge's poem "Kubla Khan". There are art, science etc references throught, but knowing a specific detail on the writting of that poem will help you appreciate more the conclusion of the amazing book.
  • I think Radio4 uses some sort of random algorithm for choosing what they will podcast. I've listened to many of their programs both on iTunes and streaming, and I can honestly say the programs they choose to podcast have just as much value (monetarily) as the programs they choose not to. Also I've found that it is fairly arbitrary whether I'll be able to find the program that I'm looking for on iTunes. Going through the steps of capturing it to MP3 to play on the iPod doesn't have enough value for the ti
    • The problem is that the BBC doesn't own most of the 'entertainment' programmes and have to negotiate which can be podcasted or sold on CD.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Actually he major problem is incidental music. It's easy to license someone else's copyright work for broadcast, (read: streaming) but a downloadable file that you can save and play back many times counts as distribution. (Yes, the law in the UK has not caught up to the fact that broadcasts can be recorded. My Dad has some old reel-to-reel tapes of 1950s Goon Shows he made at the time, so it's not terribly new idea...)
    • by pla ( 258480 )
      Going through the steps of capturing it to MP3 to play on the iPod doesn't have enough value for the time spent doing it in my opinion.

      For most things, I would agree. A new DNA radio show, though?

      Most Slashdotters, I think, if we had to hold a microphone in front of the speaker to capture this one - We would spend the time. Fortunately, we have MPlayer (though it annoyingly appears to only capture BBC streams in realtime), so we can fire it off and go make coffee.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is why the BBC rules.
    And you don't have to pay the license fee if you don't have a television.

    Radio 1,2,3,4 and the internet is enough for me.
    • Re:good stuff! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wizzdude ( 755000 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @04:27AM (#20886173)
      To be honest, I think the licence fee is worth every penny for Radio 2, 4, 5 Live, 6 Music and the website alone. I'm very happy to pay it for everything.
    • Agreed.

      I gave up on television some 16 months ago as all that was on when I was home was those crappy con^H^H^Hgame shows.

      BBC Radio is worth the cost of a license fee, but (as they abolished the radio license decades ago), I'm not going to pay for a TV license just for radio.

      All I have to put up with is the regular "Your are watching TV illegally" letters that TV Licensing keep sending me.
      • I gave up on broadcast television a while ago, but felt I got value for the license fee from the news RSS feeds. I stopped paying it last month, however, in protest over the iPlayer debacle. I don't want any of my money going to help Microsoft get a monopoly in the media format market.
  • Did anyone else read Dirk gently sterilized on the BBC?
  • I still recommend the original readings by Douglas Adams himself. They are hilarious.
  • There were 42 comments to this story
  • I read this book about 18 years ago (in between loading people onto a stagecoach in Tucson...long story) and loved it; as a pre-teen and teenager, reading Adams was a mind-expanding experience, for which I am very grateful...too bad he kicked it so young (and too bad the HHGTTG movie sucked).

    I have never gotten around to reading Long Dark Teatime of the it any good, in relation to Holistic Detective Agency?
  • Lay off you lot! Here I am trying to listen to the last week of BBC7 and their server's been slashdotted.

    I wonder whether they've thought of using bitstream to avoid this sort of thing.
    • Not /.ed, there's been problems with the Listen Again streams and the process for creating them over the past few months. Currently a lot of programmes are in mono, or a very whooshy 22kHZ sample rate rather than their usual 44kHz.
  • The biggest literary disappointment of my life was that the 3rd book in this series was never finished. I hope there is a Heaven just so I can ask Mr. Adams for a copy.
  • TMI! TMI! I don't want to know who gently serialized Adams' Dirk! Not from Slashdot, anyway!
  • On CD November 8th (Score:3, Informative)

    by Larry Lightbulb ( 781175 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @09:06PM (#20892487)
    The full series of 6x30 minute episodes will be released on CD November 8th. Many of the recent BBC releases have had additional material, or slightly longer scenes, so still worth getting if you enjoyed the broadcast. My page about the programme - [] will soon have better cast lists, and links on it.
  • Stream 'Ripping' (Score:3, Informative)

    by MMHere ( 145618 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @09:09PM (#20892507)
    One could use "Audio Hijack Pro" (OS X) to capture this
    stream-only programme to a file, then write to CD, or move
    to iPod for portable listening... []
  • by koafc ( 718334 ) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @09:50PM (#20892785)
    And why is he being gently serialized?
  • []

    Enjoyed this adaptation as well. Wouldn't exactly call it animated but loved it anyway.

  • ...who had difficulty in parsing this headline at first? Despite my familiarity with the character and series in question, I spent several passes trying to puzzle out what "Gently Serialized" might possibly mean, and deciding there was a good likelihood I didn't really want to know...

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"