Douglas Adams

Here Comes the Rain Again

pexels-photo

It’s raining.

South London, reset to factory settings.

In the fourth Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novel, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, there’s a character called Rob Mckenna, a Rain God.

He’s a lorry driver and it rains on him every day.

As he drove on, the rainclouds dragged down the sky after him, for, though he did not know it, Rob McKenna was a Rain God.

All he knew was that his working days were miserable and he had a succession of lousy holidays.

All the clouds knew was that they loved him and wanted to be near him, to cherish him, and to water him.”

Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Rob Mckenna ends up making good money being paid by a tour operator “not to go to Malaga this year”.

Here are some types of rain listed in the book:

33 (light pricking drizzle which made the roads slippery), 39 (heavy spotting), 47 to 51 (vertical light drizzle through to sharply slanting light to moderate drizzle freshening), 87 and 88 (two finely distinguished varieties of vertical torrential downpour), 100 (post-downpour squalling, cold), all the seastorm types between 192 and 213 at once, 123, 124, 126, 127 (mild and intermediate cold gusting, regular and syncopated cab-drumming), 11 (breezy droplets) and now his least favourite of all, 17.

Rain type 17 was a dirty blatter battering against his windscreen so hard that it didn’t make much odds whether he had his wipers on or off.”

Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

My favourite is characterised by huge droplets, or ‘froglets’ of water, which you cannot stand in for more than 5 minutes without getting soaked to the skin. I’m going to call that number 42.

Is it raining with you?

The Interconnectedness of All Things

Puddle
Photo by Matt Hoffman on Unsplash

In the course of creative endeavours, artists and scientists join fragments of knowledge into a new unity of understanding.”

– Vera John-Steiner

Ideas are ‘just’ connections between existing elements.

Sherlock Holmes is the product of 19th-century detective fiction and medical investigation.

Holmes’s deductive powers were inspired by some of Arthur Conan Doyle’s medical lecturers, including Dr. Joseph Bell.

In a rare piece of film from 1930, Conan Doyle depicted Bell’s extraordinary ability to diagnose patients on sight:

He would look at the patient, he would hardly allow the patient to open his mouth, but he would make his diagnosis of the disease, also, very often, of the patient’s nationality and occupation and other points, entirely by his power of observation.

So naturally, I thought to myself, well, if a scientific man like Bell was to come into the detective business, he wouldn’t do these things by chance, he’d get the thing by building it up, scientifically.”

– Arthur Conan Doyle

Doyle became obsessed with Spiritualism as he got older, travelling the world to visit mediums and psychics, searching for ‘positive proof.’

The conclusion, then, of my long search after truth, is that in spite of occasional fraud… there remains a great solid core in this movement which is infinitely nearer to positive proof than any other religious development with which I am acquainted.”

– Arthur Conan Doyle, The New Revelation, 1918

Connecting Sherlock Holmes and spiritualism gives us Dirk Gently, Douglas Adams’ ‘holistic’ detective.

Gently is a creative extrapolation of Holmes’s technique of eliminating the impossible to reveal the truth.

What if the famous detective had embraced the impossible?

Sherlock Holmes observed that once you have eliminated the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.”

– Dirk Gently, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

The Gently stories feature ghosts, time travel and ‘interconnectedness.’

Despite continually probing his own belief systems, Adams described himself as a ‘radical atheist,’ (adding ‘radical’ to show he really meant it.)

In a thought experiment designed to falsify the finely tuned universe argument for God (and typical of a man obsessed with baths and rain) Adams describes the thoughts of a sentient puddle:

This is an interesting world I find myself in – an interesting hole I find myself in – fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!”

– Douglas Adams

Adams looked at the universe from other perspectives and what he found permeated his work. If you enjoyed this, you might like this article about keeping an open mind.

Douglas Adams and Artificial Intelligence

Deep_Thought

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it is revealed that the Earth is a supercomputer designed by Deep Thought, the supercomputer that came before it.

“DEEP THOUGHT: I speak of none but the computer that is to come after me. A computer whose merest operational parameters I am not worthy to calculate – and yet I will design it for you. A computer which can calculate the question to the Ultimate answer, a computer of such infinite and subtle complexity that organic life itself will form part of its operational matrix. And it shall be called The Earth.”

I wonder whether Douglas Adams was influenced by a 1965 paper by British mathematician, Irving John Good, Speculations Concerning the First Ultra-Intelligent Machine.

Good is responding to the commonly held view that a machine could never be as intelligent as a human.

He argues that humans have limitations in intelligence. Ultimately, a machine could be constructed that would match or even exceed a human’s capability.

Good fundamentally believed that computers and their ultra-intelligent machine successors would deliver a benefit to humanity. The opening line of this seminal paper reads:

“The survival of man depends on the early construction of an ultra-intelligent machine.”

In it, he also originated the idea of an “intelligence explosion”:

“Let an ultra-intelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man, however clever.

Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultra-intelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind.

Thus the first ultra-intelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.”

So is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy supercomputer Earth docile? According to Ford Prefect it is, “Mostly Harmless.”

If you enjoyed this article, and know where your towel is, you might like this episode of The End of the World by Josh Clark:

And you also might like to join my Hitchhikers appreciation group, Stand Up for Towel Day.

Remembering Towel Day 2018

On May 25th, 2018, the second Towel Day was held at the Star of Kings in Kings Cross.

Photos by Mike Conterio.

If you’d like to attend Stay In for Towel Day, which will be on May 25th online, due to lockdowns around the world, you can RSVP to Save the Rhino here:

https://www.savetherhino.org/get-involved/events/stay-in-for-towel-day-2020/

Remembering Towel Day 2017

If you’ve RSVP’d to the Save the Rhino event on Towel Day 2020, you might like to know what #Team42 got up to at previous Towel Days*.

The very first Stand Up for Towel Day was in 2017 in the basement of Waterstones in Tottenham Court Road.

My sister, Helen Puddefoot, very kindly made me a towel jacket.

The towel jacket, by Helen Puddefoot

Trystan Mitchell of the Big Foot Studio made us our beautiful logo.

Steve Cross interrogated the original Hitchhiker book to find out which day the world ended for Arthur Dent and the rest of the population of Earth in the book.

You can watch the set in full, here.

Steve Cross. Photo credit: I think possibly I took this with Steve’s camera.

There were Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters courtesy of the Waterstones bar, and Andy Mil of the Cocktail Trading Company, who very kindly gave me the recipe.

Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters. Photo Credit: Stuart Green

Paul Duncan McGarrity materialised as a sperm whale at a probability of 8,767,128 to 1 against.

Paul Duncan McGarrity. Photo credit: Steve Cross

Nell Thomas and Katie Overstall won our costume competition.

Kimberley Freeman, Nell Thomas, Katie Overstall and me. Photo credit: Steve Cross

And John Lloyd joined us to read some extracts from the book he wrote with Douglas in 1983, The Meaning of Liff.

John Lloyd. Photo credit: Steve Cross

And everybody had a generally hoopy time.

Stand Up for Towel Day attendees. Photo credit: Steve Cross

This year’s Towel Day is going to be online and you can sign up to attend here.

And if you’d like to be first in the know about the event on May 25th, you can join our Facebook group.

I’ll be back with a review of 2018’s Towel Day events soon.

* Towel Day is an annual celebration on the 25th of May, as a tribute to the late author Douglas Adams (1952-2001). On that day, fans around the universe carry a towel in his honour.

Stay In for Towel Day 2020

Stay In for Towel Day logo by Trystan Mitchell of The Big Foot Studio

Delighted to announce that Towel Day this year will be performed online in collaboration with Save the Rhino.

Towel Day is an annual celebration on the 25th of May, as a tribute to the late author Douglas Adams (1952-2001).

On that day, fans around the universe carry a towel in his honour.

Due to the UK’s COVID-19 lock down, grab your towel and join us for ‘Stay in for Towel Day’ from the warmth and comfort of your own sofa.

Join me, Save the Rhino and some comedy pals for an evening of stand-up comedy, slam poetry, sketches, improv and more in homage to H2G2.

For more information, go to https://www.savetherhino.org/get-involved/events/stay-in-for-towel-day-2020/

Stand Up for Towel Day at the British Library

The cast of the original Hitchhiker series, with Douglas Adams

To celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the original radio broadcasts of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the British Library are hosting a whole day of events.

Stand Up for Towel Day will be there, with Steve Cross, Cerys Bradley, The Underground Clown Club, Declan Kennedy, Jonathan Hearn and The Story Beast all performing homages to the late, great Douglas Adams’ work.

https://www.bl.uk/events/the-hitchhikers-guide-to-the-galaxy-at-42

This event is sold out but Stand Up for Towel Day will be back on international towel day, May 25th, in collaboration with Save the Rhino International.

Watch this space or join the Stand Up for Towel Day Facebook group for more information.

Stand Up for Towel Day – we’re Belgium well doing it again!

Douglas&suitMarch 8th marks the 40th anniversary of the very first broadcast of a radio series called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Douglas Adams was inspired to write a guide to the galaxy while lying drunk in a field near Innsbruck with a copy of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to Europe and looking up at the stars. Obviously it didn’t start exactly there. It must have come back to him later.

It is an absolutely extraordinary series, brought to life by the series producer, Geoffrey Perkins, with a little help from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

When Adams died in 2001, Hitchhiker fans across the world celebrated his life by carrying a towel with them for the day, after one of the show’s central tenets, “always know where your towel is.”

Since then, #towelday has been an annual celebration. In 2016, I looked around for a comedy gig to do on that night with a H2G2 theme, only to find that there wasn’t one. So in 2017, I organised one, complete with poetry, towels, copious amounts of #tea or alternatively, Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, if you’re that way inclined.

That night was a whole bunch of fun, so we’re doing it again. Do come and join us if you’d like to.

The gig is in aid of Save the Rhino International.

Adams became interested in conservation in 1985 after the Observer Magazine sent him to investigate Madagascar’s endangered Aye-aye, accompanied by zoologist Mark Carwardine.

This resulted in a radio series for the BBC and a book, both entitled Last Chance to See, in which he and Mark visited rare species including the northern white rhinos of Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Douglas Adams became a founder patron of Save the Rhino in 1994 and was a dedicated spokesperson for SRI right up until his death in 2001 at the age of 49.

At his virtual 60th birthday party there were 8 tap dancing rhinos on stage at the Hammersmith Apollo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsLYBF09VFA

Save the Rhino International’s top priority is to protect and increase rhino numbers and population distribution in Africa and Asia. The charity currently supports field programmes in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa and Indonesia.

Stand Up for Towel Day is proud to donate all our proceeds to SRI. There will be donation boxes at the gig if you would like to make an additional donation (think of it as buying your favourite rhino a gargle blaster.)

The photo is of Douglas climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in a rhino suit in aid of the charity.

See you on #towelday!