Mind you- I was never able to hang with 'Hitchhikers' across the whole series. Relentless snarkiness is fine... but without a certain narrative weight I tend to snooze. Terry Pratchett has the same effect on me.
Last Chance to See, however, is a beast of a different stripe.
The book is written in a weird, gonzo journalist voice, but there's an deep moral outrage and empathy beneath the zaniness. Apparently, it's hard to maintain a cynical edge when faced with one of the last Mountain Gorillas, guarded ceaselessly by AK-47 toting Congolese, or when imagining the life of a blind Yangtze River dolphin trying to navigate one of the most noisome, polluted waterways on earth… using sonar.
The most effective crusaders for conservation leaven the pathos with black comedy (think of Carl Hiassen or Edward Abbey) and Adams is one of the best. Want to learn how to use Chinese condoms to study the critically endangered (now extinct) Baiji? Look no further. Interested in viewing a Mauritian kestrel's unseemly love affair with a rubber hat? Come on in.
- The Mountain Gorilla in Zaire (Ngoma Drum)
- The Northern White Rhinoceros (Conga Drum)
- The Yangtze River Dolphin in China (Xun)
- The Rodrigues Flying Fox on the island of Rodrigues, Mauritius (Ravanne Drum)
- The Amazonian Manatee in Brazil (Gourd Rattle)
- The Juan Fernández Fur Seal on the Juan Fernández Islands, Chile (Kultrun Drum)
Kakapos are terrestrial parrots from New Zealand, described as resembling ‘Victorian Gentleman in sideburns’. As with most of the endemic birds and reptiles from Kiwi land, they're remarkably gentle creature, evolving in the absence of any significant pressure from predators or scavengers.
As a consequence, the Kakapo displays a number of endearing but counter-adaptive traits, like building ground nests on ridgelines out in the open, with large, juicy eggs that an invasive rat can spot from miles away. Their mating and courtship rites are indiscrete and clamorous, a beacon for every feral pig, cat, rat, or dog on the islands. As a consequence, the few remaining Kakapo were airlifted to Codfish Island, where a merciless war against rats and all other interlopers has created one of the few Kakapo-safe zones on Earth. There are 131 in the wild as of 2011, and every single one is named.
(Somehow, I think that the social climate in the U.S. could be improved if we had a randy parrot as our mascot. Heck- I don't even care what group it represents...)
Traditionally, the gourd used to construct these devices was called a ‘Hue’ and was associated with an entity named ‘Hine Pū te Hue’, the daughter of the god of forests and birds. She was a calming spirit… the instruments would facilitate the calming of storms.
I’ll post updates as I finalized my designs, and as I throw, fire, and carve the vessel.