January 28th, 2004


Thoughts on Hitchhiker's

It's been about 15 years since I last read a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book, and even then it  was just Mostly Harmless I read, trying to puzzle out how the whimsical light humour of the earlier books turned into this grimly depressing read.

It was late last year that I went looking for free ebooks for my Palm reader and found a ripped copy of the first book sitting on some random server.  My curiosity piqued, I read it over the following week, delighted both by the backlighting of the PDA and the discovery that the series had been horribly depressing right from the start.

Two weeks ago I discovered that the local FOPP was selling off boxed sets of all 5 paperbacks for £7, a price which would be fairly unbelievable for mediocre books, let alone for ones which I remembered as staggering genius.

I just finished reading "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe"(the second book, for those of you who don't recall or are mad enough not to have read them) and it's now obvious that Douglas Adams was horribly, horribly disillusioned and lonely a lot of the time.  That he felt the world was largely populated by pointless people that never created or discovered or built or in any way sought to be anything more than the least they could be.

Or as he named the race in the book - Golgafrinchans.  The telephone sanitisers, documentary makers, hairdressers, PR people, management consultants and other "useless bloody loonies" who crashland on a primeval earth and wipe out the quiet, noble creatures who should have been mankind.

Of course, the book also has a light, whimsical air about it, but it's clear that Douglas Adams saw the world as a huge cosmic joke, one with no intrinsic meaning or point, that was constantly messed up by people fighting over fripperies and building huge bureaucracies rather than working towards making the world a decent place to live in.

All of this, needless to say, was wasted on me when I was 15 (I didn't really have any idea of _anything_ when I was 15, a subject I keep meaning to write about).

I'm now very much looking forward to reading the other 3 books, in between the Earthdawn sourcebook I need to read through, The Amazing adventures of Kavalier and Klay and An Instance of the Fingerpost (which  I need to reread before the book club meets on the 20th).

Oh, and a brief bit of spoileriness if you haven't read the second book.
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Falling out

A long time ago, I had a minor falling out with Rob, which now seems fairly surprising, considering how laid back we both are.

I don't remember the exact situation, save that I said something, he took it the wrong way and became upset at me, I explained that I hadn't meant that at all and we returned to getting on well.  It wasn't something I said in person, and text being the multiply interperatable medium it is, it was very easy for him to take whatever it was the wrong way.

What, I seem to recall, surprised and outraged me at the time was the fact that someone who was apparently my friend, on discovering something upsetting that I'd said about him, didn't come to me for clarification before becoming upset at me.

I mean, surely, if I'm your friend, I have at least _some_ presumption of innocence?  Surely you should at least say "Oi! Andy!  Why did you say X?" before you decide I'm Satan?

It reminds me somewhat of the overused plot in superhero comics where Spiderman encounters The Thing in a suspicious situation and rather than asking him what's going on, assumes the worst and launches into an attack.  15 pages later it's all resolved, except that half of Manhattan's been levelled because neither of them thought to presume innocence.

There's also an old quote concerning how we should always assume stupidity over conspiracy.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the moral is: if someone does or says something that's hurtful to you, and that person is a friend, your first reaction should be to say "You did X and this hurt me.  Were you  trying to hurt me, or is there a mistake?"  

This will neatly short-circuit the 3 months of snubbing each other and social panic before you realise that you are, after all, friends and resume relations.

For God's sake, people, is it so hard to assume that your friends aren't deliberately out to hurt you?