Monday, March 11, 2013

Don't Forget to Take a Towel!

Today's Google Doodle was a poignant reminder that today would have been author Douglas Adams' 61st birthday. In addition to writing the five books in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy 'trilogy', Adams, who passed away at the age of 49, wrote Last Chance to See, a nonfiction account of his travels to see endangered animals. I have to admit that, despite my interest in animals and travel, it took me years to finally read that book even after I bought it; having loved the first three hysterical and whimsical Hitchhikers books, I was nervous that I might somehow be let down by it.

Stupid, stupid, me. I think the book is easily as funny, entertaining, and clever as any of his fiction and may be more important, at least in terms of content. Written in 1990, the book is still all-too-relevant today. Sadly if Adams were still around he could easily record  (the book was based on a BBC radio series he did) yearly installments visiting imperiled animals. Indeed, in 2009 Stephen Fry filmed a follow-up with Adams' original collaborator Mark Carwardine.

The book is well-worth tracking down, but thanks to iTunes U, you can bring Adams and his hysterical descriptions of his journeys along on your next trip. Shortly before his death, Adams recorded a talk at University of California, Santa Barbara about his travels and observations. Parrots, the Universe, and Everything is easily found by searching for his name in the iTunes store and then looking for the video under the iTunes U tab. The segment on New Zealand's hapless Kakapo bird would alone be worth the price of admission if there were any - the download is free. Adams is a  charming and informative speaker; his enthusiasm and sense of wonder are obvious throughout his talk. He's a perfect travel companion, but if you don't want to wait, the lecture is also available on YouTube. I've embedded it here:

If you're a fan of Adams' fiction but haven't read Last Chance to See yet - give it a try. Even if you have no interest in animals or the places he visits, you're sure to enjoy the familiar humor you enjoy in his other books. And if you've never read any of his work, DON'T PANIC, just head to a library to remedy the situation. But if you have the chance to detour to admire some wildlife, go ahead and take the long way. I think Adams would have appreciated that.

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Gotta Gettaway by Josh Lewis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.