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STEEPSTER BOOK CLUB: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (H2G2), Week Two Discussion HERE!

Here is the place where we can start discussing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (H2G2), Chapters 5-12.

Week 2 – June 7-13
Chapters 5-12

reading schedule: http://steepster.com/discuss/676-steepster-book-club-reading-schedule-h2g2

Here are a few questions to get you started thinking and discussing the book. I am hoping you all will also post more questions as we start discussing!

1. What do you think of the Vogans? Have you ever had to sit through poetry like that?

2. What do you think Adams feelings on poets / poetry are?

3. Hitchhiking is made much easier by the babelfish, do you agree or disagree such a useful thing would disprove the existence of a god. Have you ever needed one?

4. Have you ever had a similar moment to Arthur getting a babel fish inserted into his ear, dawning understanding / horror / comprehension / conection. Were you able to grasp the feeling easily based on Adams description?

5. Do you share Arthur’s feelings about the updated earth entry?

6. I am not sure if I would like my brain suspended in tea, or a brain suspended in my tea, were you surprised that tea was a key ingredient in getting the heart of gold? What kind of tea do you think it was.

Again, I encourage you to submit your questions and can’t wait to read your comments!

17 Replies
gmathis said

1. What do you think of the Vogans? Have you ever had to sit through poetry like that?
Mercifully, no, but it does remind me of some high school and college lit pieces I absolutely hated!

2. What do you think Adams feelings on poets / poetry are?
I don’t think he has a high opinion of writers who are impressed by the “importance” of their words … which is pretty generally clear in his playfulness with words.

3. Hitchhiking is made much easier by the babelfish, do you agree or disagree such a useful thing would disprove the existence of a god.
One of my favorite verses is this (a little mangled and paraphrased): “Lord, how marvelous are your works! In wisdom you made them all. The earth is full of Your creatures!” (Every time I visit the zoo this plays and plays in my head.) My God, if you’ll allow me to briefly share my beliefs, is creative and wonderful and the things He made—okapis, for instance—prove His existence, his phenomenal engineering, and even His sense of humor! I think a Babelfish would fit right in to this mindset.

Have you ever needed one?
Frequently, when speaking to co-workers who are from a completely different planet!

5. Do you share Arthur’s feelings about the updated earth entry?

Poor Arthur! None of us wants to see what’s near and dear to us simplified or ridiculed or reduced to a formula.

6. I am not sure if I would like my brain suspended in tea, or a brain suspended in my tea, were you surprised that tea was a key ingredient in getting the heart of gold? What kind of tea do you think it was.

Tea as the ultimate secret ingredient for a reality-bending, marvel of creativity? You betcha! What variety? Hmmm….I’ll get back to you on that one, but it had to be something black and hot and strong.

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1. What do you think of the Vogans? Have you ever had to sit through poetry like that?

I loved the fact that the Vogons were so hideously stuck in an arrested state of evolution, and the contrast between them and the rest of the planet they inhabited. This was a great paragraph, I thought (p. 47):

Meanwhile, the natural forces on the planet Vogsphere had been working overtime to make up for their earlier blunder. They brought forth scintillating jeweled scuttling crabs, which the Vogons ate, smashing their shells with iron mallets [this made me think of Gallagher]; tall aspiring trees of breathtaking slenderness and color which the Vogons cut down and burned the crabmeat with; elegant gazellelike creatures with silken coats and dewy eyes which the Vogons would catch and sit on. They were no use as transport because their backs would snap instantly, but the Vogons sat on them anyway.

That about sums them up, I think.

I took a poetry writing workshop in college and there was some pretty inartfully written poetry in that class :-) but none quite as incredibly bizarre as the Vogan poetry. It reminds me of a cross between the Scottish-isms of Robert Burns’ poetry and Lewis Carroll’s nonsense words stuff like Jabberwocky. I didn’t really find it bad so much as weird and nonsensical. I do like the idea of torture by bad poetry that can create actual physical pain in its listener, though. It’s… poetic.

2. What do you think Adams feelings on poets / poetry are?

I don’t know that I got much sense of his feelings about poets and poetry per se. I thought it was telling that his Vogon torturer seemed to know his poetry wasn’t worth what appeared to be the compliments Ford and Arthur tried to lavish on him. I did get the sense that he believes poetry critics and scholars to be a rather pretentious lot that talks largely in meaningless jargon (p. 68): “…©ounterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor… ’Death’s too good for them,’ he said.’”

3. Hitchhiking is made much easier by the babelfish, do you agree or disagree such a useful thing would disprove the existence of a god. Have you ever needed one?

I don’t know that it proves anything one way or the other. Basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that one either believes in a supreme being or doesn’t and that it’s a matter of belief rather than proof. Some were raised to believe, others come to it through their own experience, some start out believing and lose their faith at some point, it’s all very individual.

A babelfish would definitely be useful while travelling in a country where you don’t understand the language. I’d like it even better if it enabled people to get each others’ meaning no matter whether the language spoken was known to them or not.

4. Have you ever had a similar moment to Arthur getting a babel fish inserted into his ear, dawning understanding / horror / comprehension / conection. Were you able to grasp the feeling easily based on Adams description?

Yeah, I have had a-ha moments before. I distinctly remember that happening when I learned to read. It all came together incredibly suddenly. Which is interesting having just watched my son learn to read during the last year. It seemed a lot more gradual for him.

5. Do you share Arthur’s feelings about the updated earth entry?

Yeah. Not to offend any alien beings on Steepster by being Earth-centric, but it is rather sad to have one’s home planet reduced to a couple of words.

6. I am not sure if I would like my brain suspended in tea, or a brain suspended in my tea, were you surprised that tea was a key ingredient in getting the heart of gold? What kind of tea do you think it was.

Not very English of me, but I’ll go with sencha because it’s supposed to be a “Brownian Motion producer” and sencha has a lot of particles suspended in it….

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1. What do you think of the Vogans? Have you ever had to sit through poetry like that?

I find the Vogans the hardest headed creatures ever! I think my fiance maybe somehow related :) I was the editor for the high school poetry book, there is some painful stuff out there. I am not surprised the worst poetry came from earth.

2. What do you think Adams feelings on poets / poetry are?

I think he finds some of them full of themselves, reviewers included. Also I think he finds it to be not particularly valuable in of itself (quality of quality preferable), the way it is a “mark of being civilized” which forced the Vogans to learn it.

3. Hitchhiking is made much easier by the babelfish, do you agree or disagree such a useful thing would disprove the existence of a god. Have you ever needed one?

I have to say, per the following logic it proves god did exist in adam’s galaxy and now POOF

_"Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindboggingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God. "The argument goes something like this: ‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.’ "’But,’ says Man, ‘The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.’ "’Oh dear,’ says God, ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly vanished in a puff of logic. "’Oh, that was easy,’ says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing. "Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo’s kidneys, but that didn’t stop Oolon Colluphid making a small fortune when he used it as the central theme of his best- selling book Well That About Wraps It Up For God. “Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.” _
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0371724/quotes?qt0351094

Oh my i would love to have one, I all too often can’t understand accents, and would certainly travel more if i didn’t need to concern myself with translation barriers.

4. Have you ever had a similar moment to Arthur getting a babel fish inserted into his ear, dawning understanding / horror / comprehension / connection. Were you able to grasp the feeling easily based on Adams description?

I have had those moments where suddenly a conundrum makes sense, and you wonder why you didn’t get it before, it’s kind of fun.

5. Do you share Arthur’s feelings about the updated earth entry?

Why yes, I mean we have tea, and dolphins, and all sorts of things, and we’re merely mostly harmless! i want at least a sentence!

6. I am not sure if I would like my brain suspended in tea, or a brain suspended in my tea, were you surprised that tea was a key ingredient in getting the heart of gold? What kind of tea do you think it was.

Oh my, well there was a lot of thinking involved, so I’d have to say a nice strong pick my up, perhaps some My Morning Mate

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/tea.shtml

gmathis said

Regarding your #5 … “I want at least a sentence!” What would your sentence be?
(I’ll have to think on that myself.)

(added later)
A nicer place than one would expect; worth saving.

Mostly harmless, populated by ape descendants that grow wonderful tea, recently destroyed.

make them wish they still had our tea!

gmathis said

Good point…especially since we have yet to find another spot in the galaxy that can steep a decent cup!

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Janefan said

I’m enjoying re-reading this book so much!

1. What do you think of the Vogans? Have you ever had to sit through poetry like that?
Ugh, I had to recently, but only briefly. It was some sort of introduction/invocation at a folk music performance. We thought it was just going to be a brief “blessing” type of thing, but it spun out into a long rambling poetry-slam performance type of thing. The audience was squirming in their seats and exchanging glances and trying to keep straight faces…

2. What do you think Adams feelings on poets / poetry are?
He would probably prefer that they be talented, or at the very least, humble.

3. Hitchhiking is made much easier by the babelfish, do you agree or disagree such a useful thing would disprove the existence of a god. Have you ever needed one?
No idea what it says about God, but it would be SO useful in traveling. Not sure I’d be willing to let someone drop a slimy fishlike thing in my ear though. I imagine it feels really gross.

4. Have you ever had a similar moment to Arthur getting a babel fish inserted into his ear, dawning understanding / horror / comprehension / conection. Were you able to grasp the feeling easily based on Adams description?
I kinda get what he’s saying, but I don’t think I’ve ever quite had that sort of epiphany.

5. Do you share Arthur’s feelings about the updated earth entry?
The Earth may be “mostly harmless” to other planets and galaxies, but humans are so not “mostly harmless” towards our own planet these days. It is painful to think about how we’ve essentially taken one step forward and two steps back on environmental issues, just in my short lifetime. This oil spill is really frustrating and depressing, not the mention the climate change issue…

6. I am not sure if I would like my brain suspended in tea, or a brain suspended in my tea, were you surprised that tea was a key ingredient in getting the heart of gold? What kind of tea do you think it was.
Hmm, since Adams was British, I’m not too surprised. Tea is that essential. I certainly would hope that it is a good quality tea, very nuanced… something like Dawn from Simple Leaf (which I haven’t tried, but love reading the eloquent tasting notes about). It would have to be a tea like that to fuel the improbability drive…

PS – I love Marvin! – he’s like the robotic version of Eeyore, which was always my favorite Pooh character…

Janefan said

sorry, used the wrong code and bolded my answers! should be fixed now…

gmathis said

I definitely second the sentiments on Marvin. Eeyore’s a great comparison. Life has been a little not-so-good-to-me-lately and I believe I’ve caught some of the same complaints running through my circuit board!

Oh that is a wonderful comparative, i never thought of marvin as eeyore, but now it shall be a perfect fit in my brain forever!

Rabs said

I also love Marvin and the Eeyore comparison :) In my mind he sounds like Holly from Red Dwarf — the holographic head that says “Everybody’s dead Dave” from the first part of this clip (I couldn’t find a shorter one):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiRS0h4nSE0

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I think perhaps the Heart of Gold was Yorkshire Gold tea!

http://www.amazon.com/Taylors-Harrogate-Yorkshire-Gold-160-Count/dp/B000XEV9YE/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=grocery&qid=1275841401&sr=8-3

…and I have babel fish moments all the time when I am trying to figure out knitting and crochet patterns!

…and Janefan – I love Marvin too! He reminds me of many gloomy, smart, dramatic doomcookies I’ve met in the goth scene!

…and the recent oil spill has put the icing on the cake so to speak – I only wish we were mostly harmless!

…and I was an English major in college. I’ve had to sit through even worse poetry than the Vogans. I’ve WROTE worse poetry than the Vogans! cringe.

Janefan said

Ah, Yorkshire Gold would make sense!

Wow, I forgot about the bad poetry I wrote in highschool and even college… I think I even submitted a few poems to the college lit mag. ::cringe:: My apologies to the galaxy!

gmathis said

Recently encountered some of my high school writings—-both published or graded and private and oh, my, cringe indeed! Couldn’t bear to pitch it, but I have secured it in a Rubbermaid tub which my husband and I have nicknamed the Giant Vat of Sentimentality, which we have instructed our teenager to burn immediately in the event of our untimely demise.

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Rabs said

1. Vogans? Similar Poetry?

The Vogans amuse the pookers outta me — especially the Guide’s entry about them and their grandmothers. I visualize a much larger/mushier/simpler version of the Sontarans from Dr. Who http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sontarans

Oh yes. I too have written some hideous teenage poetry. I still enjoy occassionally writing obviously bad haiku. I’ll have to see if I can find some of my more amusing ones (at least in my eyes) and foist them upon y’all. Mwahahahaaaa!

I own a book called Very Bad Poetry and it truly cracks me up:
http://tinyurl.com/2fzvbym
(if you click on the link to Amazon, then be sure to read some of the comments that include selections from the book)

I also enjoy GetMortified.com’s Woe and Tell:
http://www.getmortified.com/woe/viewlist.php?type=text

2. Adams & poets / poetry?

Hmmm…I don’t think that I could say exactly what he thinks based on just what I’ve read here. I think that Adams has a great way of taking the vaingloriousness of humanity and delights in thumbing his nose at it all (from us “being the center of the universe,” to religion/theologans, and poetry).

3. Tower of Babel fish / I can has Babelz?

The Babelfish always has really bothered me. I’m reminded of the Ceti Eels (a.k.a. the icky brain worms) from The Wrath of Khan. I still haven’t watched that film since those disgusting things Kindertraumatized me.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed that paragraph about God vs. Man using the babel fish argument. It was like reading a very boiled-down version of Terry Pratchett’s The Hogfather or Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Religion and faith can be a touchy subject, but I’ll just say that if there’s a great being out there that cares about the human race, then I have faith that he/she has a wonderful sense of humor (or I’m screwed) ;)

As a yankee having lived in New Orleans for a few years — yes, a babel fish would’ve come in handy quite a few times.

4. Babel fish a la Arthur?

I’ve experienced similar dawning realizations several times throughout life. The first was when I was a young child and for Christmas I really wanted a Barbie Dream House. My parents tried to tell me that I would not be getting a Barbie Dream House. I asked if I wasn’t good enough, and my Dad broke down and explained * *Spoilers ** that Santa Claus didn’t exist. After I ran to my room and cried a minute I had one of those moments of dawning horror. I returned to my father and asked “The Tooth Fairy?” He confirmed. “The Easter Bunny?” Yep. “Jesus?”

The other is when I realized that I understood Shakespeare, but that story isn’t as funny :)

5. Mostly Harmless?

I think that one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes conveys most of my feelings: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street_. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monsters_Are_Due_on_MapleStreet
There’s a reason that I don’t want children, and it’s because of the Mostly addition to the Guide.

6. Tea is the Key and what Kind?

I don’t know that I would’ve given the thought of tea being the most important component to running the most advanced spaceship in the universe. I would’ve just smiled and thought “those zany Brits and their tea!” But now it really makes more sense ;)

And I think that JacquelineM’s suggestion of it being Yorkshire Gold is brilliant!

i love your question summaries :)
ya know, that is pretty close to what i pictured them as…

Rabs said

Thank you! It both amuses me, refreshes my memory, and since I’m a slow reader I feel that it keeps others from having to wade through the same Q’s again by the time they read my post ;)

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