Douglas Adams lives!

Once at a cocktail party in Columbia, I met an editor from a British publication (The Times, I want to say) and I asked him: “Why is it that British newspapers are so much better written than American ones?” He said he rather thought it was because in the UK, they write with readers in mind, rather than for other journalists.

I think he was right. It sort of speaks to that thing that John Parish was on about, when he explained to me his disdain for journalism prizes back in 1978.

Anyway, I’m very much enjoying the great wealth of British newspapers while I’m here. My favorite bit today, from a magazine included in The Times:


The big ideas, with a little twist


In the distant past there were lumbering, old-fashioned beasts who survived for an unaccountably long time before departing the stage, like a dinosaurian Ann Widdecombe. Then they all died because they were stupid and a smart monkey came down from the trees in Africa, moved to Surrey, put on a frock coat and invented the British Empire, which was clearly the pinnacle of existence and pretty much the point of having life begin at all.


Watson and  Crick discovered CSI in a London pub, beating Rosalind Franklin, who had two X chromosomes and therefore was ineligible to be clever. A scientist patented his own DNA and sued his offspring for breach of copyright. Gay men had a gay gene that responded under ultraviolet light to musicals, women had one that caused them to swoon in the presence of unsuitable men with two-tone shoes, and the rich had a gene that meant their children were rich, although that was later attributed to tax avoidance. A whole new series of medical treatments was predicted by those with three copies of the optimism gene.


Sex was invented because cells got sick o talking to exact copies of themselves at parties, like accountant. It split the world into halves: women are from Venus and men are from some planet where bowel movements are considered a leisure activity. Sex is not essential (qv Widdecombe, above) but does give a chance for unsuitable men with two-tone shoes to wee in the shallow end of the gene pool. It’s energy-intensive, distracting, dangerous and so humiliating that evolution has  to give humans jolts of pleasure on the level of a three-rock crack hit to make them do it….

You get the idea. If Douglas Adams were still alive, he could sue for theft of style. In fact, that “got sick of talking to exact copies of themselves at parties, like accountants” is VERY like a gag of Adams’ to the effect of “Many respectable physicists said that they weren’t going to stand for that sort of thing, partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn’t get invited to those sorts of parties” — or at least it reminded ME of it.

9 thoughts on “Douglas Adams lives!

  1. DIanne Chinnes


    I’m embarrassed I didn’t send info. below before you left for your trip to England. Not even sure you will check e-mail now. However, I just had to share two names and contact info. I know your trip will be perfect but I will feel better just knowing you know two wonderful people not far from you.

    Howard & Barbara Chinner

    7 Cranmer Road, Riverhead

    Sevenoaks, Kent

    TN13 2AT


    Jack & Sue Hynds

    55 Green Meadow Road

    Selly Oak,


    B29 4DD

    Not sure if you are anywhere near these super wonderful people but I am sure if you need anything that they are two people that can walk on water. Howard is retired banker. Howard has forgotten more about family tree than I will ever know.

    Jack had the good fortune to marry into Chinner family. (Yep, Chinnes was once Chinner…) Jack is chief engineer Jaguar. He’s the person that you will see quoted in stories about jaguars. Yes, he drives a gorgeous car.)

    The most important thing you need to know about these two families—they welcomed Bob Pierce with open arms and lifted a glass or two with him in a pub on our trip across the pond. In other words, they are nice to newspaper people.

    Glad you and your family are enjoying trip. Take it from me—make every minute count.

    I’m following you on your blog. Keep having fun.


    Dianne Chinnes

    10 Lavington Court

    Columbia, SC 29209

    (803) 776-8145

  2. Brad

    Yes, Mike, absolutely! That Mike’s a frood who knows where his towel is…

    And thanks so much, Diane — but I doubt I’ll be able to look them up. Just one full day left, and we expect to spend it in and around Oxford. Next time, we need to stay 10 times as long…

  3. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    I believe that the British papers which are good (The Times and The Guardian) are good because they are THE national papers. The Daily Fail, as they call the Daily Mail, The Sun,–not so much. All of our papers except the WSJ and USA Today are really local papers plus. USA Today has no pretensions of excellence. WSJ does not purport to be a paper of record, I think. The New York Times is very NYC-centric, as is WashPo. Chicago’s papers are tres local. Los Angeles Times, Philly Ink? Local papers plus.

  4. jfx

    “…he rather thought…”

    “…that John Parish was on about…”

    “…I’m very much enjoying…”

    It’s rubbing off! Thought I’d stumbled onto the Orwell internet archive for a moment. Stay any longer and you’ll be channeling the old chap.

  5. Joanne

    I don’t know…then there’s this, as Jack/John/Ernest says in the Importance of Being Earnest,”I am sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever nowadays. You can’t go anywhere without meeting clever people. The thing has become an absolute public nuisance. I wish to goodness we had a few fools left.”

    Maybe this is the American mantra.

  6. Eng4ever

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog entries from my homeland. Your perspective on England has been quite refreshing – arriving with a desire to enjoy Englishness and not expect home away from home, as so many visitors do.

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