thumping the tub
Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. (from This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
I have always been a huge fan of Douglas Adams. Anyone capable of writing lines like "He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it" grabs your interest. Whilst I haven't always agreed with him in all that he says, he continually managed to be both flippant and profound at the same time - which is no easy habit to get into. He had an extraordinary amount of ability in the not-so simple art of putting one word after another.

Some examples...

"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."

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."

"Don't believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose."

"He hoped and prayed that there wasn't an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn't an afterlife."

It just makes me laugh. It is not really science-fiction (he described himself as a comedy writer). Most science fiction is poorly written. Adams' work most certainly isn't.

I heard Hollywood was going to make a film of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and at first was pleased that the work would get to a wider audience. Then I panicked. I realised that even if it was done with the best intentions it was not going to translate to the screen. How do you translate "The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't" or those I mentioned above into a visual image. It just won't work.

Then I noticed the Hollywood spin machine get into action. Several fake fan sites were set up to promote the film. Unsurprisingly, their reviews were always glowing. The repository for all things Hitchhikers - the 'Planet Magrathea' website - reviewed the film and said it was fairly poor. The man who wrote the review, after years of maintaining a brilliant website for fans chucked it in because of... "unwarranted, ill-informed personal abuse and libel which has been directed towards me on the IMDB, livejournal and many other websites in the wake of my review of the film."

Films cannot and should not replicate books exactly, it is a different medium and things have to be explained in a different way but despite this it often seems that things are not 'specially adapted' for the screen but instead are 'specially ruined' for Hollywood audiences.

Adams himself was asked about the differences between UK and US audiences and whether or not things had to be 'dumbed down' for the US. He replied that there was no great differences between the two and that the 'dumbing down' was not something that US audiences demanded or needed. The decision to do it is made on behalf of the US audiences by TV and film executives.

Happy endings tend to get stuck on as well. The US version of the dutch film 'The Vanishing' is a classic example. The Dutch version is chilling and not a little superb. The US version is the most appalling nonsense. US audiences did not demand this. US executives decided that they should see a version with a preposterous happy-ending and not a straight remake of the Dutch film (better still, why not just watch the Dutch film - there are such things as subtitles). In changing the end they entirely changed the point.

Spielberg's attempt at War of the Worlds is another case. H.G. Wells' book is about the arrogance of the human race in assuming that they are the sum of all things. Spielberg's version is about a few flashy special effects and Tom Cruise 'growing up and accepting his responsibilities.'

This is not to say that remakes cannot be done well. Most often they aren't, but occasionally they can be. Try the Orson Welles version of 'War of the Worlds' here.

Anyway, back to Adams. I still haven't seen the film but I have seen probably 10 minutes worth of clips and it is clear that a book that manages to take the finer points of philosophy (an academic friend of mine informs me that one section is 'inverse Kantian philosophy'), physics, metaphysics, astro-physics[i] and making sandwiches, has been transformed into a piss-poor slapstick with a couple of witty jokes.

I'll adapt an Adams quote to end..."In the beginning Hollywood was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move. "

An excellent talk Adams did at the University of California just before he died entitled "Parrots, the universe and everything" is available here

He also wrote the funniest short story I have ever read, which is available here

[i] I don't know of any other writer who could have came up with a line like "in the end he got lynched by a rampaging mob of respectable physicists who had finally realized that the one thing they really couldn't stand was a smartarse."

posted by michael the tubthumper @ 2:33 pm  
  • At 7:58 pm, Blogger Newsguy said…

    Glad I got a link to this site. Your observations are interesting and the shot of Orwell's hideaway is inspirational.

  • At 8:12 pm, Blogger michael the tubthumper said…


    its an inspirational spot

  • At 10:39 am, Blogger Brewski said…

    Michael is correct. Douglas Adams was a wonderful writer. Must read 'Hitchiker's..' again, haven't done so in years. Seen the movie yet? I have. I'd say most of your concerns were justified.

  • At 10:46 am, Blogger michael the tubthumper said…

    haven't seen it all. dreading it too much.

    if you need an antidote then watch the talk i linked to at the bottom of the post. its hilarious.

  • At 6:11 pm, Blogger pfblack said…

    hollywood... I don't think there's much more one has to say; all else related is understood.

    and thank you for not being blog-spam...I've been getting far too much of it lately...kind of why I've stopped posting...that and school...

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What is Tubthumping and who is doing it?

Name: michael the tubthumper
Home: Glasgow, Scotland
About Me: Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant. 28 years old, I write and research for a couple of websites and also do my own stuff.
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Thumping The Tub Video

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I have made a few short movies. Here are links to free downloads for them all in the order that I made them (as far as I can remember). Please feel free to use, distribute, disagree with, shout at etc etc

  • Praise The Lord and Pass The Ammunition
  • This was a REAL song from World War 2. I was so stunned by it I had to make a movie

  • How Far Is It From Here to Nuremberg
  • This is my attempt at a video for the excellent, if worrying, David Rovics (see links) song

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  • Imperial Measures
  • What is going on in Iraq? Some things you knew, some you didn't. A couple of bits of info are out of date now.

  • Wish You Were Here
  • Wish You Were Here is a 6 minute film about the unprecendted rate of animal extinction we are currently experiencing

  • Gorillas and us
  • I don't like creationism, neither did Douglas Adams

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