Douglas Adams quotations

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spiros

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Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.
As quoted in Richard Dawkins' Eulogy for Douglas Adams

•   If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat. Life is a level of complexity that almost lies outside our vision; it is so far beyond anything we have any means of understanding that we just think of it as a different class of object, a different class of matter; 'life', something that had a mysterious essence about it, was God given, and that's the only explanation we had. The bombshell comes in 1859 when Darwin publishes 'On the Origin of Species'. It takes a long time before we really get to grips with this and begin to understand it, because not only does it seem incredible and thoroughly demeaning to us, but it's yet another shock to our system to discover that not only are we not the centre of the Universe and we're not made of anything, but we started out as some kind of slime and got to where we are via being a monkey. It just doesn't read well.
As quoted in Richard Dawkins' Eulogy for Douglas Adams

•   The world is a thing of utter inordinate complexity and richness and strangeness that is absolutely awesome. I mean the idea that such complexity can arise not only out of such simplicity, but probably absolutely out of nothing, is the most fabulous extraordinary idea. And once you get some kind of inkling of how that might have happened, it's just wonderful. And . . . the opportunity to spend 70 or 80 years of your life in such a universe is time well spent as far as I am concerned.
Answering Richard Dawkins' question 'What is it about science that really gets your blood running?'. as quoted in Richard Dawkins' Eulogy for Douglas Adams

•   The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.  
Speech at Digital Biota 2, Cambridge, UK, 1998

•   You are disoriented. Blackness swims toward you like a school of eels who have just seen something that eels like a lot.
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy text adventure, published by Infocom.

•   I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.
Interview with American Atheists


Last Chance to See

•   Mark Carwardine's role, essentially, was to be the one who knew what he was talking about. My role, and one for which I was entirely qualified, was to be an extremely ignorant non-zoologist to whom everything that happened would come as a complete surprise.
•   The aye-aye looks a little like a large cat with a bat's ears, a beaver's teeth, a tail like a large ostrich feather, a middle finger like a long dead twig and enormous eyes that seem to peer past you into a totally different world which exists just over your left shoulder.
•   Here the man in blue crimplene accosted us once more but we patiently explained to him that he could fuck off.
•   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.
•   I've heard an idea proposed, I've no idea how seriously, to account for the sensation of vertigo. It's an idea that I instictively like and it goes like this. The dizzy sensation we experience when standing in high places is not simply a fear of falling. It's often the case that the only thing likely to make us fall is the actual dizziness itself, so it is, at best, an extremely irrational, even self-fulfilling fear. However, in the distant past of our evolutionary journey toward our current state, we lived in trees. We leapt from tree to tree. There are even those who speculate that we may have something birdlike in our ancestral line. In which case, there may be some part of our mind that, when confronted with a void, expects to be able to leap out into it and even urges us to do so. So what you end up with is a conflict between a primitive, atavistic part of your mind which is saying "Jump!" and the more modern, rational part of your mind which is saying, "For Christ's sake, don't!" In fact, vertigo is explained by some not as the fear of falling, but as the temptation to jump!

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
•   Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable, let's prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.
•   If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.
•   "What really is the point of trying to teach anything to anybody?"
This question seemed to provoke a murmur of sympathetic approval from up and down the table. Richard continued, "What I mean is that if you really want to understand something, the best way is to try and explain it to someone else. That forces you to sort it out in your mind. And the more slow and dim-witted your pupil, the more you have to break things down into more and more simple ideas. And that's really the essence of programming. By the time you've sorted out a complicated idea into little steps that even a stupid machine can deal with, you've learned something about it yourself.
•   The teacher usually learns more than the pupils. Isn't that true?
"It would be hard to learn much less than my pupils," came a low growl from somewhere on the table, "without undergoing a pre-frontal lobotomy."
•   The door was the way to... to... The Door was The Way. Good. Capital letters were always the best way of dealing with things you didn't have a good answer to.
•   And that, apart from a flurry of sensational newspaper reports which exposed him as a fraud, then trumpeted him as the real thing so that they could have another round of exposing him as a fraud again and then trumpeting him as the real thing again, until they got bored and found a nice juicy snooker player to harass instead, was that.
•   This was the evening of the last day of Gordon Way's life (...) The weather forecast hadn't mentioned that, of course, that wasn't the job of the weather forecast, but then his horoscope had been pretty misleading as well. It had mentioned an unusual amount of planetary activity in his sign and had urged him to differentiate between what he thought he wanted and what he actually needed, and suggested that he should tackle emotional or work problems with determination and complete honesty, but had inexplicably failed to mention that he would be dead before the day was out.
•   WFT-II was the only British software company that could be mentioned in the same sentence as such major U.S. companies as Microsoft or Lotus. The sentence would probably run along the lines of "WFT-II, unlike such major U.S. companies as Microsoft or Lotus ..." but it was a start.
•   The seat received him in a loose and distant kind of way, like an aunt who disapproves of the last fifteen years of your life and will therefore furnish you with a basic sherry, but refuses to catch your eye.
•   "(..) Sir Isaac Newton, renowed inventor of the milled-edge coin and the catflap!"
"The what?" said Richard. "That catflap! A device of the utmost cunning, perspicuity and invention. It is a door within a door, you see, a ..." "Yes," said Richard, "there was also the small matter of gravity." "Gravity," said Dirk with a slightly dismisse shrug, "yes, there was that as well, I suppose. Though that, of course, was merely a discovery. It was there to be discovered." (...) "You see?" he said, "They even keep it on at weekends. Someone was bound to notice sooner of latter. But the catflap ... ah, there is a very different matter. Invention, pure creative invention.

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
•   It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the phrase, 'as pretty as an airport.' Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort.
•   It was a battered yellow Citroen 2CV which had had one careful owner but also three suicidally reckless ones.
•   I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
•   Dennis Hutch had stepped up into the top seat when its founder had died of a lethal overdose of brick wall, taken while under the influence of a Ferrari and a bottle of tequila.
•   Thor was the God of Thunder and, frankly, acted like it.
•   The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it which the merely improbable lacks.
•   It was his subconscious which told him this - that infuriating part of a person's brain which never responds to interrogation, merely gives little meaningful nudges and then sits humming quietly to itself, saying nothing.
•   Dirk was unused to making quite such a minuscule impact on anybody. He checked to be sure that he did have his huge leather coat and his absurd red hat on and that he was properly and dramatically silhouetted by the light of the doorway. He felt momentarily deflated and said, "Er..." by way of self-introduction, but it didn't get the boy's attention. He didn't like this. The kid was deliberately and maliciously watching television at him."

The Meaning of Liff (Co-written with John Lloyd)
•   AALST (n.) One who changes his name to be further to the front
•   ABOYNE (vb.) To beat an expert at a game of skill by playing so appallingly that none of his clever tactics or strategies are of any use to him.
•   CLIXBY (adj.) Politely rude. Briskly vague. Firmly uninformative.
•   FAIRYMOUNT (vb. n.) Polite word for buggery.
•   LAXOBIGGING (ptcpl.vb.) Struggling to extrude an extremely large turd.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Future
A BBC Radio 4 produced radio programme on how new media and technology will change our lives
•   It'd be like a bunch of rivers, the Amazon and the Mississippi and the Congo asking how the Atlantic Ocean might affect them… and the answer is of course is that they won't be rivers anymore, just currents in the ocean.
o   On his response to representatives of the music, publishing and broadcasting industries who asked Douglas at a conference how he thought technological changes will affect them, and hoped his response would be something to the effect of, "not very much"
•   It's important to remember that the relationship between different media tends to be complementary. When new media arrive they don't necessarily replace or eradicate previous types. Though we should perhaps observe a half second silence for the eight-track. - There that's done. What usually happens is that older media have to shuffle about a bit to make space for the new one and its particular advantages. Radio did not kill books and television did not kill radio or movies - what television did kill was cinema newsreel. TV does it much better because it can deliver it instantly. Who wants last week's news?
•   Generally, old media don't die. They just have to grow old gracefully. Guess what, we still have stone masons. They haven't been the primary purveyors of the written word for a while now of course, but they still have a role because you wouldn't want a TV screen on your headstone.

The Salmon of Doubt
•   'Stotting' is jumping upward with all four legs simultaneously. My advice: do not die until you've seen a large black poodle stotting in the snow.
•   For Children: You will need to know the difference between Friday and a fried egg. It's quite a simple difference, but an important one. Friday comes at the end of the week, whereas a fried egg comes out of a chicken. Like most things, of course, it isn't quite that simple. The fried egg isn't properly a fried egg until it's been put in a frying pan and fried. This is something you wouldn't do to a Friday, of course, though you might do it on a Friday. You can also fry eggs on a Thursday, if you like, or on a cooker. It's all rather complicated, but it makes a kind of sense if you think about it for a while.
•   All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.
•   Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that's invented between when you're fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
•   There is no problem so complicated that you can't find a very simple answer to it if you look at it the right ... Or put it another way, "The future of computer power is pure simplicity.
•   I am fascinated by religion. (That's a completely different thing from believing in it!) It has had such an incalculably huge effect on human affairs. What is it? What does it represent? Why have we invented it? How does it keep going? What will become of it? I love to keep poking and prodding at it. I've thought about it so much over the years that that fascination is bound to spill over into my writing.
•   I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.
•   The hotel shop only had two decent books, and I'd written both of them.
•   Anything that happens happens, anything that in happening causes something else to happen causes something else to happen, and anything that in happening causes itself to happen again, happens again.
Although not necessarily in chronological order.

Attributed
•   Driving a Porsche in London is like bringing a Ming vase to a football game.
o   From Don't Panic: The Official Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Companion
•   I may be a pretty sad case, but I don't write jokes in base 13!
o   Douglas Adams, referring to the theory that the disparity between the question and answer of life, the universe and everything is an obscure math joke on his part.
•   Mozart tells us what it's like to be human, Beethoven tells us what it's like to be Beethoven and Bach tells us what it's like to be the universe.

Computers
•   I wrote an ad for Apple Computer: 'Macintosh - We might not get everything right, but at least we knew the century was going to end.'
•   The Macintosh may only have 10% of the market, but it is clearly the top 10%.
•   First we thought the PC was a calculator. Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII — and we thought it was a typewriter. Then we discovered graphics, and we thought it was a television. With the World Wide Web, we've realized it's a brochure.
•   [The World Wide Web is] the only thing I know of whose shortened form — www — takes three times longer to say than what it's short for.
•   A nerd is someone who uses a telephone to talk to other people about telephones.
•   Technology is a word that describes something that doesn't work yet.
o   JavaOne keynote, 1999
•   The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place.
•   I first saw this program in the same week that evidence was discovered of life on Mars. This is more exciting.
o   On the subject of Creatures

Learning
•   You live and learn. At any rate, you live.
o   (Marvin)
•   A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.'
•   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.
•   I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer.

Profession
•   In fact, I wanted to be John Cleese and it took some time to realize the job was in fact taken.
•   Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until your forehead bleeds.

Time
•   It takes an awful long time to not write a book.
•   Time is the worst place, so to speak, to get lost in...
•   I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
•   Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so.

Travel
•   If you've never visited or spent time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, then let me say this: you're a complete idiot. I was myself a complete idiot till about a year ago....

Hollywood
•   [Getting a movie made in Hollywood is like] trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it.
o   MIT (1999)

Life

•   Life... is like a grapefruit. It's orange and squishy, and has a few pips in it, and some folks have half a one for breakfast.
The Universe
•   In the beginning the Universe was created. This made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.
« Last Edit: 27 Mar, 2010, 10:38:09 by spiros »


 

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