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Happy Towel Day, everyone!

Back during the A to Z Challenge, my “D” topic was Douglas Adams, in which I mentioned the importance of towels in his books. (Never leave home without one!) Well, today is officially Towel Day. This day has been celebrated annually as a tribute since 2001, the year in which Douglas Adams passed away.

So this is just a quick shout out to everyone who knows what Towel Day is about, and an encouragement to anyone who may not to finally take the time to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

So long, and thanks for all the fish, Douglas Adams.

And remember…

Don’t Panic!

Marvin the Paranoid Android – A to Z: M

M is for Marvin, the Paranoid Android. If you remember my post on Douglas Adams for the A to Z Challenge on “D”, I mentioned that Marvin was worth a separate blog entry. Marvin is one of the (if not the) best characters created by Douglas Adams. Whether he’s complaining of “this terrible pain” in the diodes down his left-hand side, explaining his view of the universe to a computer (which then goes off to commit suicide), or solving all the major mathematical, physical, chemical, biological, sociological, philosophical, etymological, meteorological and psychological problems of the universe (three times), he’s always ready with a cheerful comment.

Marvin the Paranoid Android

Marvin the Paranoid Android, from the 2005 film, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Based on a fellow comedy writer, Andrew Marshall, whom Adams met at Cambridge, as well as on himself, Marvin appears in various places throughout the Hitchhiker’s Guide books. In the 2005 film, Alan Rickman voiced the character to perfection.

Here are just a few wonderful comments and snippets of Marvin’s joyful existence:

“It gives me a headache just trying to think down to your level.”

“Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to take you down to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction?”

Marvin calculated to ten significant decimal places the precise length of pause most likely to convey a general contempt for all things mattressy.

[After being left in a parking lot for 500 million years due to time travel] “The first ten million years were the worst. And the second ten million years, they were the worst, too. The third ten million years I didn’t enjoy at all. After that, I went into sort of a decline.”

“You watch this door. It’s about to open again. I can tell by the intolerable air of smugness it suddenly generates.”

“Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust, or just fall apart where I’m standing?”

“Wearily I sit here, pain and misery my only companions. Why stop now just when I’m hating it?”

“I am at a rough estimate thirty billion times more intelligent than you. Let me give you an example. Think of a number, any number.” [Zem replies, “Er, five.”] “Wrong. You see?”

In a fit of boredom (after solving the universe’s problems several times over), he decides to compose a lullaby:

Now the world has gone to bed,
Darkness won’t engulf my head,
I can see in infrared,
How I hate the night.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
Try to count electric sheep,
Sweet dream wishes you can keep,
How I hate the night.

Another one of my favourites is from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, where Marvin is left behind (while the humans escape a tall building) to stop a “gigantic black tank”, heavily armoured and with weapons of enormous destructive power. When told that Marvin is there to stop it, the tank becomes suspicious and tries to figure out what mighty weapon Marvin is equipped with to make humans think he could stop the tank. After several wrong guesses, Marvin finally decides to tell the tank.

“You’re thinking along the wrong lines,” said Marvin. “You’re failing to take into account something fairly basic in the relationship between men and robots. […] Just think,” urged Marvin, “they left me, an ordinary, menial robot, to stop you, a gigantic heavy-duty battle machine, whilst they ran off to save themselves. What do you think they would leave me with? […] I’ll tell you what they gave me to protect myself with, shall I?”
“Yes, all right,” said the battle machine, bracing itself.
“Nothing,” said Marvin.
Nothing?” roared the battle machine.
“Nothing at all,” intoned Marvin dismally, “not an electronic sausage.”
The machine heaved about with fury.”
“Well, doesn’t that just take the biscuit!” it roared. “Nothing, eh? Just don’t think, do they?”
“And me,” said Marvin in a soft low voice, “with this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side.”
“Hell that makes me angry,” bellowed the machine, “think I’ll smash that wall down!”
The electron ram stabbed out another searing blaze of light and took out the wall next to the machine.
“How do you think I feel?” said Marvin bitterly.
“Just ran off and left you, did they?” the machine thundered.
“Yes,” said Marvin.
“I think I’ll shoot down their bloody ceiling as well!” raged the tank.
It took out the ceiling of the bridge.
“That’s very impressive,” murmured Marvin.
“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” promised the machine, “I can take out this floor too, no trouble!”
It took out the floor, too.
“Hell’s bells!” the machine roared as it plummeted fifteen storeys and smashed itself to bits on the ground below.
“What a depressingly stupid machine,” said Marvin and trudged away.

😀

Due to several cases of time travel, Marvin finally dies in So Long and Thanks for all the Fish at approximately 37 times the age of the universe. His last words are, “I think I feel good about it.”

R.I.P. (Rust In Pieces) Marvin.

In the original radio series, the character was meant to be a “minor joke”, but since they’d hired a voice actor for it, he “had to” write some occasional script for him. Another wonderful case of a writer’s characters taking on a life of their own.

Douglas Adams – A to Z: D

D is for Douglas Adams, the author who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Dirk Gently series, and a number of other books, TV series scripts (including Doctor Who and Monty Python’s Flying Circus), and many scripts for BBC radio broadcasts. He was born in 1952 and passed away in 2001, depriving the world of one of the greatest comedic writers.

Apart from being a writer of some of the funniest books I’ve ever read, he was also actively engaged in raising awareness of endangered species and environmental issues.

Some of the things that still make me smile years after last reading the HHGG books (I really should make the time to re-read them, shouldn’t I?) and the things that are running “insider jokes” among many people I know who have read them as well, are listed below. If I really stopped to think about it, I’d probably write half a novel’s worth, so here goes, just off the top of my head:

  • Towels – never go anywhere without them.
  • 42 – the answer to the ultimate question about Life, the Universe, and Everything. Seeking an answer to this ultimate question, some hyper-intelligent beings build a supercomputer, which, after several million years of calculations, announces that the ultimate answer is… 42. They then figure out that they may need to find the actual ultimate question, and end up building an even more powerful computer, which is so huge that it is commonly mistaken for a planet (sorry, slight spoiler: that computer is… Earth). The number of cultural references to this number is staggering.
  • Don’t Panic” – one of the reasons the HHGG has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica is that it has these words written on the cover in large, friendly letters. (The other being that it is slightly cheaper.)
  • Mostly Harmless – the two-word entry in the HHGG on the topic “Earth”. The entry used to be “Harmless”, but Ford Prefect, after spending years stuck on earth, submitted a lengthy article to the HHGG, which was then edited down to these two words.
  • An SEP – anything not your problem, or something you don’t want to deal with just now, is considered to be “an SEP” (Someone Else’s Problem).
  • The Rain God – a truck driver who doesn’t know he’s actually the God of Rain and absolutely hates any form of rain. Of course, since rain loves its god, it always rains wherever he drives, and he is constantly miserable. He’s read that eskimos have 217 (I could well be remembering that incorrectly, but you get the point) types of snow (including the yellow kind on which the sled dogs have peed), and he has names for over 300 types of rain. To confirm his theory that the one currently happening is the one he thinks is a particularly nasty type where it doesn’t matter whether he has the windscreen wipers on or off, he switches them off. It gets worse, and one of the wiper blades starts to get loose. In the book, there follows a one-sentence paragraph that, despite being made up entirely of onomatopoetic words, describes what follows to such perfection that I start giggling stupidly just thinking about it (sorry if I don’t get this entirely right, I don’t have the book in front of me): “Swish swish swish flop swish swish flop swish flop swish flop flop flap scrape.”
  • This is not her story” – after the prologue introduces a character who finally figures out how everyone in the world can live together in harmony, and has the reader wanting to know what this wonderful solution is, it ends with the sentence, “This is not her story.” (I think it was the fourth book that has almost the exact same prologue, except that it ends with, “This is her story.”)
  • Pain – there is a section in one of the HHGG books where Arthur Dent tries to figure out where he is hurt, and every body part he touches causes a jolt of pain. After a while, he finally figures out that it is in fact his hand that is injured….
  • Marvin the paranoid android – worth a separate blog entry in the A to Z Challenge.
  • I’m sure there are countless more… but I’ll stop here 🙂
Don't Panic - Towel Day

“Don’t Panic” – the famous words written on the fictional “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in the (real) novel of the same name are shown here on a towel on Towel Day… if that doesn’t make sense, read at least the first HHGG book.

Thank you, Douglas Adams, wherever you may be (he was a self-declared “radical atheist”) for many, many laughs.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.