Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Works Cited

Adams, Douglas. "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Primary Phase." Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. BBC Radio 4. 4 Mar. 1978.

"Apollo 13 Splashdown Photo." Hubble Space Images - Buy Quality NASA Pictures Photos Slides Duratrans. 04 Mar. 2009 .

"BBC Radiophonic Workshop." The White Files. 04 Mar. 2009 .

Bell, Alan J. "Episode 1." Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. BBC Two. 5 Jan. 1981.

"BFI | Features | Britain's Most Watched TV | 1970s." BFI | Home. 04 Mar. 2009 .

Cambridge Footlights || home. 04 Mar. 2009 .

Douglas Adams. 04 Mar. 2009 .

Hayward, Jennifer Poole. Consuming pleasures active audiences and serial fictions from Dickens to soap opera. Lexington: University P of Kentucky, 1997.

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: NYU P, 2006.

Marr, Andrew. "BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | Chaos, rubbish and revolution." BBC NEWS | News Front Page. 04 Mar. 2009 .

Marshall, McLuhan,, and Quentin Fiore. The Medium is the Massage. New York: Gingko P, 2005.

Simpson, M. J. The Unofficial Guide to the Hitch-Hiker's Guide. New York: Trafalgar Square, 2001.

Webb, Nick. Wish you were here the official biography of Douglas Adams. New York: Ballantine Books, 2005.

ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha -- the official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy appreciation society. 04 Mar. 2009 .

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

1970s: Britain's 'Dark Years'


Winter of Discontent (1978-9): Strikes put England at a standstill. Clip.

Apollo 13 Splashdown

Vogon Poetry (the Books)

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) Douglas Adams

"Oh freddled gruntbuggly..." he began. Spasms wracked Ford's body--this was worse than even he'd been prepared for.

"?...thy micturations are to me/As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee."

Aaaaaaarggggghhhhhh!" went Ford Prefect, wrenching his head back as lumps of pain thumped through it. He could dimly see beside him Arthur lolling and rolling in his seat. He clenched his teeth.

"Groop I implore thee,"
continued the merciless Vogon, "my foonting turlingdromes."

His voice was rising to a horrible pitch of impassioned stridency. "And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,/ Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don't!" (Adams, pg. 59)

Other Versions of Hitchhiker's Guide

The Comic Book: Adaptation of first novel by John Carnell with artwork by Steve Leialoha. (1992) (Simpson, pg. 61)

The Movie: Directed by Garth Jennings (2005) ( after Douglas Adams' death. See a clip of the Vogon Poetry scene here.

Interactive Computer Game: Infocom (1984) Text version. Text with Images version.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Recap of themes

1. McLuhan's argument that the visual is fragmentized while the audible is all-encompassing, is flawed.

2. The serial form lends itself to Henry Jenkins' convergence culture theory, specifically participatory culture.

Hitchhiker's Guide as a Serial

A strong fanbase.
-Continued interest for almost 30 years, multiple adaptations.
-Translated in over 30 different languages.

Fan Communities:

ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha is the official online fan community, with an international membership, a fanzine, and multiple social gatherings.

Emphasis on community and discussion:
Quote from Membership page on the site:
ZZ9 is a social experience. Originally formed as an excuse to get together and reappreciate the works of one Douglas Adams, it continues the grand tradition of bringing people together.

Mostly Harmless
110th issue
October 2008
A sample of the fanzine.

Active fanbase:
Interaction with Douglas Adams: The forum on his personal website.
Douglas Adams asking his fans for help.

Use of suspense and cliffhangers:
Will our heroes survive this terrible ordeal? Can they win through with their integrity unscathed? Can they escape without completely compromising their honor and artistic judgment? (end of Fit the First, original radio series)

The Serial and Participatory Culture

What is a serial? definition: Belonging to, forming part of, or consisting of a series; taking place or occurring in a regular succession.

What is a participatory culture?

"Culture in which fans and other consumers are invited to actively participate in the creation and circulation of new content," (Henry Jenkins, pg. 331).

Early example?
Charles Dickens' the Pickwick Papers.

Cover of original serial. (1836-7)

Letter to Dickens from a fan regarding the character Sam Weller, "Counsel him [Dickens] to develop the character largely--to the utmost" (Jennifer Hayward, pg. 24)

One reviewer of Dickens' serial wrote, "It throws us into a state of unreal excitement, a trace, a dream, which we should be allowed to dream out, and then be sent back to the atmosphere of reality again" (Hayward, pg. 26).

Examples of nonliterary serials:

Comics, Soap Operas, Movie series, any television series.

What do successful serials have in common?

Modern Examples?
Harry Potter
-active fanbase community
-many people grew up with the series and are familiar with it

Douglas Adams, Not a Visual Thinker?

"Douglas would have heard it spoken in his mind before committing it to paper" (Webb, pg. 121).
Douglas Adams, 1965 (Footlights)
In the 1960s, Douglas Adams was a member of Cambridge's Footlight comedy troupe.

Example spoof of a love song:

Sheer Romance
Well, babe, it often seems, I've always known you in my dreams,
You came to me beneath the moon,
That starry night in early June.
Well, babe, I think I love you,
You make my heart go pitterpat,
Feeling so romantic,
Think I'll go and shave the cat. (Webb, pg. 72)

Influence of Monty Python.
John Cleese's "Airplane Sketch."

Douglas Adams: Views on Technology and the Media

Before he died, Douglas Adams worked on a radio series which discusses how media industries (publishing, music, broadcasting, etc.) will be affected by new (specifically computer) technology.

What the radio series reveals is that Adams believed in a convergence of media, but a convergence in which previous media are absorbed by the new media.

In response to music, publishing, broadcast reps asking how the computer would affect them, Douglas said:

"It would be as if a bunch of rivers [the separate media industries], the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Congo were asking how the Atlantic would affect them. The answer being that there won't be rivers anymore, merely currents in the [digital] ocean."

Construction of the Soundscape

What is a 'soundscape'?

Douglas Adams:
"I wanted Hitchhiker's to sound like a rock album. I wanted the voices and the effects and the music to be so seamlessly orchestrated as to create a coherent picture of another world."
(Wish You Were Here, pg. 156)

How the original radio series was constructed:
-Peter Jones
-Voice Actors in cubboards. 
-Radiophonics, sound effects.
-Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy theme: Adams was strongly influenced by music from that time period, which is reflected in the Guide's theme song Eagles' "Journey of the Sorcerer" from their album One of These Nights.

For further information:
Check out Pink Floyd's website. Douglas Adams was influenced by how they produced and used sound in their albums.

The Medium: Recorded Sound

The question: How does the medium affect the message?

Sound, The Spoken Word:
(McLuhan, pg. 110)
Marshall McLuhan says:
The ear favors no particular "point of view." We are enveloped by sound. It forms a seamless web around us... Where a visual space is an organized continuum of a uniformed connected kind, the ear world is a world of simultaneous relationships.
[Sound is all-encompassing and cannot be separated into fragments.] (McLuhan, pg. 111)
Most people find it difficult to understand purely verbal concepts. They suspect the ear; they don't trust it. (pg. 117)
Do you suspect what you hear? Do you doubt its accuracy?

McLuhan's claims about the visual:

The alphabet is a construct of fragmented bits and parts which have no semantic meaning in themselves, and which must be strung together...Its use fostered and encouraged the habit of perceiving all environment in visual and spatial terms. (pg. 44)
Unlike sound, the visual is all fragments and limited perspectives.
Everything was dominated by the eye of the beholder. (pg. 57)
Artists only painted what they saw, not what they imagined. Visual thinking is limited because it ignores everything someone knows to be true or thinks to be true.

Vogon Poetry (TV series)

McLuhan's Tetrad.

What is most remembered about the television series version is the animation. Rumored to be an early example of computer technology, the animation was actually created frame by frame, like a cartoon. (pg. 198, Webb)

Another example:
Babble Fish

For more examples, visit

Criticism of cost of TV series:
[For the original radio series] There were no imaginative or budgetary constraints...such freedom does not apply to a visual medium. So Douglas couldn't just adapt the radio scripts; he had to re-imagine the whole adventure visually. (Webb, pg. 191)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Vogon Poetry (BBC version)

Here the cast of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) record a scene for the original radio series.

Vogon Poetry is the third worst poetry in the universe. Here the Book (played by Peter Jones) details the top three worst poetry and narrates the predicament that the heroes of the tale, Ford Prefect (Geoffrey McGivern) and Arthur Dent (Simon Jones) have found themselves in: either get shot out the airlock into space or tell the Vogon what they thought of his poetry.