Happy Towel Day 2010

Happy Towel Day, everyone! May 25th became a day to remember and celebrate the life of Douglas Adams, author of the ever increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, which became a foundation stone of modern geek culture, thanks its eminent quotability and chaotic sense of humor. In particular, the adulation of the towel as the ultimate utility item for a hitchhiker to carry — “A towel, [the guide] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have“; the full quote is under the jump became so iconic of the series and Adams that it became the namesake of this day of remembrance.

Along with translating to a number of media: radio, novels, television and film, the Hitchhiker’s Guide also inspired a number of games over the years, both computer and otherwise:

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is possibly one of the most mind-bending, torturous text adventures ever devised. Thus it comes as no surprise that Adams co-created the thing.
  • …in Spaaace! isn’t an outright Hitchhiker’s Guide RPG, but it certainly draws a lot of influence from the source material, albeit sometimes by way of Futurama. It’s a free download from Greg Stolze’s site, so check it out.
  • Gamer’s Guide to the Galaxy is a free print-to-play board game that has a listing on Boardgamegeek.com and . . . that’s it. It doesn’t seem to be available for download any more.

Does anyone else have some Hitchhiker-esque games to suggest? Tonight is Tuesday night board games, as it often is, and I’m trying to think of something suitable for the occasion. I could bring Space Alert again, but that will make three weeks in a row and I don’t know if it’s really catching on with the group. After that, I’m kinda stumped for science fiction-y and humorous games, except maybe Chrononauts.

From The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase which has passed into hitch hiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)

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