Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Don't Panic

I have no idea why, but May 25 is Towel Day, a celebration of the life of Douglas Adams. The first commemoration of the event was held two weeks after his death on May 25, 2001. It is a tribute to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in which he writes:

"A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with."

Adams was an environmentalist and a champion for gorillas and black rhinos. His "trilogy" of Hitchhiker works comprises, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, the Universe and Everything; and So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish. Yes, it's not three books.

His greatest contribution to sci-fi freaks is "42," the answer to the "ultimate question of life, the universe and everything." The question remains unknown. The mice, who were the intelligent beings, were about to answer the question when the Earth was destroyed by psychiatrists who feared for their livelihoods should the answer become known.

The mice, however, decide to just pick a question out of thin air, rather than wait for another millennium's worth of pondering. The question was: "How many roads must a man walk down?" appropriate since May 24 (yesterday) was Bob Dylan's birthday.

Adams was friends with Gary Booker, lead singer and songwriter for Procol Harum; dedicated The Restaurant at the End of the Universe to the Paul Simon album "One Trick Pony;" was friends with the Monkees' Michael Nesmith and quoted Beatles lyrics extensively in a number of works.

Here is a link to find what people worldwide are doing to celebrate Towel Day.