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British Expat Newsletter:
31 May 2006

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Towel Day
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

How many of you celebrated Towel Day by carrying a towel last Thursday? What? You’ve never heard of Towel Day? Me neither until this week.

Douglas Adams, creator of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” – radio series, books, TV series, adventure games, and most recently film – died just over five years ago on 11 May 2001. Almost immediately after his death a few of his fans suggested that a day be chosen to mark his passing. They settled on 25 May, two weeks after his death, and decided that it would be a suitable tribute if those who wanted to mark the day were to carry a towel around with them in public all day.

Why towels? Those of you who’ve read (seen, listened to, played etc) “The Guide” will be aware that the Guide has a few things to say on the subject of towels. For those who haven’t, it’s about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have, both for its practical uses (wrapping up in it, hiding behind it, soaking up nutrients in it for later consumption) and its psychological value (impressing non-hitchhikers). After all, a person who’s made it halfway across the galaxy against the odds and still knows where his towel is, is clearly someone to be reckoned with.

Daft though the idea may sound, it caught on, and now hundreds of people – maybe even thousands – are getting into the spirit of the thing. There’s even a number of webpages dedicated to the Day, including numerous bizarre photos from participants all over the world. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of them are taken while the participants are sat in front of computers; Adams himself was a big computing fan, and the books have a certain geekish appeal – though there are plenty of non-geeks who enjoy them too. More surprisingly, perhaps, there seems to be a disproportionately large representation of Germans, Austrians, Swedes and, for some reason, Hungarians… Perhaps the translations into their languages were particularly good.

So what was the appeal? Well, the science, for one thing. Much of Adams’s humour and imagination went into creating an absurd yet plausible universe for his characters to live in – from hollow planets which formed construction yards for other planets, to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, to that most famed of cocktails, the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster. The real beauty, perhaps, is the plausibility. Even if many of the things described by Adams “could never happen”, we’d like them to be able to. Wouldn’t it be great if you could understand everything that was said to you, just by sticking a small fish into your ear? Or fly, simply by forgetting to hit the ground when falling? So even if you’re not necessarily big on science, you won’t miss out on many of the jokes.

But the absurdity of Arthur Dent’s situation is perhaps the biggest attraction of the story. Arthur’s an ordinary guy, whose home is about to be destroyed so that the council can build a bypass – then, by a curious coincidence, the same thing happens to the Earth. From the outset Arthur’s pushed about from pillar to post, usually in a state of bewilderment at surroundings which are too alien and too new for him to be able to grasp. Occasionally, he’s able to fight back and to come to terms with his surroundings. It’s no accident, though, that the only time and place where he’s truly happy is in a low-tech, primitive society where he’s revered as the Sandwich Maker, providing a small but valued service to his community and passing on his skills to his apprentices. Then, of course, he gets whisked away on another high-paced, befuddling adventure.

Five years after his death, Douglas Adams is still a beloved figure for many. And it wasn’t just for his writing (though he did plenty of other things besides the Hitchhikers “trilogy”, of which there were six books altogether – he wrote a number of other books and TV scripts, including several “Dr Who” stories and contributing to an episode of “Monty Python”). He was also, as I’ve said, a computer enthusiast and general science buff (although he studied English Literature at university, he was emphatic on the need for stronger linkages between the Sciences and the Arts); and a passionate environmentalist. One of his projects was a radio series (and, later, book) called “Last Chance To See…” where he travelled around the world with a professional zoologist in pursuit of six of the world’s most threatened species. He was also responsible for h2g2, a part of the BBC’s website devoted to an unconventional view of life, the Universe and everything – in a way, a real-world version of the original Hitchhiker’s Guide.

I think I should’ve liked to carry a towel on the 25th of May. Maybe next year – how about you?

Do you have anything to say about this topic, or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us about it?

Virtual Snacks

As you might expect given Douglas Adams’s long-standing association with the BBC, there’s plenty on their website about him and his work. Check out their pages devoted to the “Hitchhiker’s Guide” cult – you’ll find links to biographical info about Adams and to h2g2 as well:
BBC: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

And you can read more about Douglas Adams’s film and television work on IMDb too:
Douglas Adams on IMDb

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • side effects to scalibor collars
  • getting rid of brambles
  • da vinci code was filmed in countries [And there was me thinking it was all filmed in outer space…]
  • advertorial example for people person
  • godzilla thumbs
  • websites are expats in monaco
  • heineken expatriation
  • implement a cyclic buffer
  • what do you do with lemon curd?
  • malcolm glazer effigies
  • information on peenys
  • there s a mouse a chewing at the pantry door

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay
Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”

– Douglas Adams (1952-2001), “Last Chance to See”

Joke

Not the conventional joke this week; instead, another link:

Many of you will have used Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. The dangers of allowing anyone to edit are clear; you’ll get a lot of dross posted by people who think they’re being funny. However, a page has been created for some of the more bizarre stuff – and a lot of stuff that, while genuinely funny, can’t be allowed to remain on the serious pages:

[Obsolete link removed]

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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