Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams – Live In Göttingen

I’m very happy someone put this on youtube, and you will be too if you give yourself 45 minutes and just listen.

This is fantastic. I think there are a couple of bits missing from the whole presentation (which I suggest you try to get a hold of)  but I’ve put them on here in what I think is the correct order.

The first one is below, the others are also below, if you click the continuation page.

I say with complete confidence,  this will be moving, informative and utterly hilarious…


Who Buys Richard Clayderman Records?

One of the worlds great mysteries solved. This is an excerpt from the incomparable Douglas Adams book Last Chance to See. He was writing about visiting China in the 80s. I imagine it is somewhat different now…

The world-famous Peace Hotel Jazz Band was out for the evening but a deputy band was playing in their place. The promise is that this is one of the only places in the world where you will still hear the music of the 30s played as it was played, where it was played. maybe the world famous combo keeps the promise but their deputies did not. They banged their way through endless repetitions of Edelweiss, Greensleeves and Auld Lang Syne, interspersed with the occasional bash at New York, New York, Chicago and I Left My Heart in San Francisco.

There are two odd things about this. First of all, this wasn’t just for the tourists. This was the music we heard everywhere in China, particularly the first three titles. On the radio, in shops, in taxis, in trains, on the great ferries that steam continually up and down the Yangtse. It was usually played by Richard Clayderman. For anyone who has ever wondered who in the world buys Richard Clayderman records – it’s the Chinese, and there are a billion of them.

The other odd thing was that the music was clearly completely foreign to them. Well, obviously it was foreign music so that’s not altogether surprising but it was as if they were playing from a phrasebook. Every extemporary flourish the trumpeter added, every extra fill on the drums were all crashingly and horribly wrong. I suppose the Indians must have felt this hearing George Harrison playing the sitar in the 60s, but then, after a brief indulgence, so did everybody else.



How many of you have had a similar experience to this when dealing with computer stuff? I just did… again.

Douglas Adams – Dongly Things

Time to declare war, I think, on little dongly things. More of them turned up in the post this morning. I’d ordered a new optical disk drive from an American mail order company and, because I live in that strange and remote place called ‘Foreign’, and also because I travel like a pigeon, I was keen to know, when ordering it, if it had an international power supply.

An international power supply is the device which means it doesn’t matter what country you’re in, or even if you know what country you’re in (more of a problem than you might suspect) – you just plug your Mac in and it figures it out for itself. We call this principle Plug and Play. Or at least, Microsoft calls it that because it hasn’t got it yet. In the Mac world we’ve had it for so long we didn’t even think of giving it a name. Nowadays a lot of peripherals come with international power supplies as well – but not all. Which is why I asked.

‘Yes, it does,’ said Scott, the sales assistant.

‘You’re sure it has an international power supply?’

‘Yes,’ repeated Scott. ‘It has an international power supply.’

‘Absolutely sure?’


This morning it arrived. The first thing I noticed was that it didn’t have an international power supply. Instead it had a little dongly thing. I have rooms full of little dongly things and don’t want any more. Half the little dongly things I’ve got, I don’t even know what gizmo they’re for. More importantly, half the gizmos I’ve got, I don’t know where their little dongly thing is.

You can read the full article here. If you do go that site then I recommend you take a look at the The Private Life of Genghis Khan while you are there.


Two subjects that I feel strongly about are internet freedom and the current extinction crisis.

So there was a bit of an internal clash when I saw the headline…

Internet threatens rare species, conservationists warn

Conservationists say the internet has emerged as one of the biggest threats to endangered species.

Campaigners say it is easier than ever before to buy and sell anything from live baby lions to polar bear pelts on online auction sites and chatrooms.

What the person (Paul Todd) is quoted as saying on the BBC report is that “The internet is becoming the dominant factor overall in the global trade in protected species”. However, the internet is becoming the dominant factor in most other things too. Also the Toronto Sun newspaper carried some rather different quotes from the same conference… such as …

John Sellar, CITES’ chief law enforcement officer, argued the impact of the Web was overblown and that many species that appear illegal may in fact may be legal. He also said many big traders were reluctant to use the Internet, since payments can be traced and they can be ensnared in undercover operations.

“There seems to be little evidence that there are commercial operations using the Internet,” Sellar said. “Although the risks may be small depending on which country you are living in, you can be identified when using the Internet. So there are clearly risks there.”


“The Internet itself isn’t the threat, but it’s another way to market the product,” said Ernie Cooper, who spearhead the investigation into the newt for TRAFFIC Canada. “Most people are not willing to pay $300 for a salamander. But through the power of the Internet, tapping into the global market, you can find buyers.”

Taking this into account, the problem does not seem to be simply the (semi) new-fangled internet (boo hiss boo hiss) but rather the age-old predilection among some people for boneheaded brutality. The internet has neither enhanced nor diminished this.

I obviously don’t deny that the internet may facilitate easier transactions for some things but the problem at root remains the same – us.

The BBC story however  read very like the old style articles from mainstream media 10 years ago denouncing the internet and hoping it was a passing fad. In that spirit then I would like to print an excerpt from an old article defending the internet.

I don’t think anybody would argue now that the Internet isn’t becoming a major factor in our lives. However, it’s very new to us. Newsreaders still feel it is worth a special and rather worrying mention if, for instance, a crime was planned by people ‘over the Internet.’ They don’t bother to mention when criminals use the telephone or the M4, or discuss their dastardly plans ‘over a cup of tea,’ though each of these was new and controversial in their day.


I am a music snob, always have been. It is a common enough affliction (or blessing) in Glasgow which is a fantastically musical city.

I don’t watch TV (although I do watch certain programmes). In fact, I do not have a television in my house. I have my 17,000 tunes on my itunes of which 2000 songs are audio books and I usually just amuse myself with that.

I have an interest in many types of music obviously but tonight it was on random and Bach came on and I just want to relay possibly the best, most ringing endorsement of anything that I have heard.

I like Bach a lot, in fact, before I get to that..there is a little story…

I was in England at a garden party with some fairly artistocratic type people. I had been thoroughly patronised for the major part of the evening…”Oh you’re from Glasgoooooooow arrrrre you? Isn’t it awwwwwfullly rough?”.

Several hours of this kind of thing will eventually get to you so after hours of just saying “No, it is a reputation, it is not in fact exactly like that et f +cking cetera” I just got annoyed enough with it that when the next “chinless wonder” came up to me and asked the same question I just said “Yeah, I am from Glasgow and what of it?” or something of that nature. He jumped about 20 feet back.

Anyway, at this party there was a string quartet affair…and one of these aristocratic types was telling me “I love LoCK Lomond but I just can’t say it the way you Scottish people can.”

I played dumb and said…”This music…composer…17th/18th century  wasn’t he? German/Austrian type fellow. I can’ t remember his name.”

She said…”Yes…it is Bachhhhh”

I replied…”If you can say Bachhhh, you can say ‘Loch’. Get it right.”

I thought that that was quite clever but as far as quick ostracisions go then what followed was a very quick ostracision.

However, all of this has been a very roundabout way of reaching the point…which is this…

Douglas Adams, who regular readers will know I like very much, said this about Bach…

“I believe that Bach was the greatest genius that ever walked among us and that the Brandenburg Concertos are what he wrote when he was happy.”

Now, I don’t necessarily agree with what he said there. But if you want to talk something up I have never seen a more beautiful quote.


This is the first part of an only tangentially related two-part post.

There is a famous song by French anarchist George De Brassens that will be part two, but in this first part I just want to post a little film I made to show that the term “Brother Gorilla” is not actually that far from the truth.

The audio is Douglas Adams and comes from probably his best book which is Last Chance to See. I haven’t actually seen any of the more recent TV series with Stephen Fry but I am sure I will get around to watching it soon enough.

Speaking of Stephen Fry, I recently watched a debate on youtube featuring him that you could watch and some of the things in that debate I wrote about a while ago in a slightly different way and got a little bit of abuse for.

Anyway, the film…


I decided a while ago that I would like to try putting together a few podcasts just to see how it went.

So I bought the equipment and last month I went to London to speak to one of the funniest bloggers and writers you could come across.

I met with Philip Challinor, otherwise known as ‘The Curmudgeon‘, who is a writer as well as a blogger.

As I am very much learning this podcasting thing on the job I wasn’t able to add an introduction before the conversation starts on the mp3 file but in failing to do it this time I have learned how to do it for the next one.

This podcast was very much a conversation in the pub [with added rat]. There are a couple of conversations put together as we were variously interrupted by having to go to the bar or the rain.

Some of the subsequent ones might be conversations and some might be more formal. I am going to try to make them all different.

In this one we discuss the Scotland/England thing, Douglas Adams, Gordon Brown, Science-Fiction and a few other things too.


If you go to THIS LINK HERE then you can listen to it online or download it as an mp3. You want the VBR MP3 link where it says ‘Audio Files’.


Hope you like it.

Finally, if you have any complaints about what we said you can write an email. But don’t send it to me.


Hotblack Desiato

Hotblack Desiato

I was in London at the weekend for a few different reasons.

One of them is that I was recording the first interview for the next development of this site…a podcast. As soon as I have figured out the editing and how to put introductions on it and so on, it will be on here for download.

Also, we did the interview across the road from where the shop in the picture is, in Camden. Douglas Adams fans will know that Hotblack Desiato was the character from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that was in the band Disaster Area but was spending a year dead for tax reasons.

Adams got the idea for the name when walking past this estate agent. However, apparently people go in quite often and abuse them for stealing Douglas Adams’ idea.


I made a new year resolution a few years ago never to make one again and have kept to it rigidly. I just realised if I want to do or not do something then I should try to do it without excusing my failure because it was cold, it was January, everyone was depressed and no one had any money. I now therefore have been forced to come up with much more creative excuses for not stopping doing or continuing doing certain things.

New year resolutions are simply the annual equivalent of looking at the alarm clock in the morning and waiting until it goes to 7.25 and then 7.30 and then 7.35*.

*Consult Douglas Adams The Salmon of Doubt for further information as to why you shouldn’t bother.