Friday, June 8, 2012

A Few Reflections on Ray Bradbury -OR- Thoughts of Dandelion Wine and Summertime

Ray Bradbury has died.

He died on June 5, 2012 at the age of 91 at his home in Los Angeles.

Bradbury was the last of the greatest sci-fi writers of the 20th Century, one of towering figures of that now-concluded era and genre that also included Issac Asimov, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, and Philip K. Dick. But like them, his body of work will endure for centuries, even millennia (assuminmg the human race does).

As I can't do justice to Bradbury so instead I recommend the following articles about his life, his works, and his legacy.

The New York Times: Brought Mars to Earth With a Lyrical Mastery

The Washington Post: Ray Bradbury dies: Science-fiction author of 'Fahrenheit 451' and 'Martian Chronicles' was 91

AP article (as carried by USA Today): Author Ray Bradbury has died in California.

And here is a Salon piece that is worth a read: Ray Bradbury: The man who made sci-fi respectable.

A few other items: Bradbury was rather on the conservative side (at least in his old age) -- and apparently didn't like that Michael Moore sort of co-opted the title of his book Fahrenheit 451 for the purposes of the movie Fahrenheit 911. Oh, and he also apparently never learned to drive a car.

All that aside, I can add my own minor historical footnote: I met Ray Bradbury at the University of Maryland, College Park in the spring of 1993, to be exact, April 28, 1993, to give a talk and sign his books. I was an undergraduate in my second semester (after having transferred there out of -- what else? -- a bad situation) and he came to give a talk in the old Adele H. Stamp Union.

I got Bradbury to sign my copy of Dandelion Wine -- which I actually borrowed from Aaron (who sometimes reads this blog) circa 1987 and never gave back to him -- and Fahrenheit 451. The copy of Dandelion Wine I have is from the 23rd printing of the Bantham Pathfinder edition from about 1978. This is the cover of that version, although I found this picture online.

The Fahrenheit 451 version is the Del Rey / Ballantine Books version from 1982.

Today I scanned the autographed pages of both books -- even drawing a dandelion for me in Dandelion Wine. Unfortunately, for any future/would-be Antiques Roadshow-like occurrences (for me or whoever may eventually come into possession of the books), I ruined the autograph page of Dandelion Wine by signing my own name and writing down when / where Bradbury signed it.

Here is that scanned image of the autographed page of my copy of Dandelion Wine. As you can see, what Bradbury created, I sort of ruined by writing all that other stuff, including noting the date that I noted it (Aug 9, 2003 -- just over 10 years later). And, yes, that's frickin' white-out. God, I was an idiot.

Bradbury drew the dandelion because I told him how much I loved that book.

DD said to me today that the only way it could become valuable -- "the sum greater than the parts" -- if if I become a famous author. As silly as that sounds, that really represents the ONLY possibility for me to become rich and/or famous, although I would live as an obscure rich and famous person ... Probably just as an old, alcoholic, dyspeptic author in a seaside location (back at the Jersey shore?).

Here is that scanned image of the autographed page of my copy of Fahrenheit 451.

In this case, I did not "re-sign" -- but the scanned image is actually a merging of two images since I couldn't figure out how to use the scanner to scan something the dimensions of the book, and the PDFs that resulted were enormous.

As an aside, I also got him to autograph a book for another guy also named Ray whom I never met but who was the friend of the guy I EVER-SO-BRIEFLY "dated" at the time, Kurt (Curt?) S., who asked me to do that. Kurt was a sort of blond version of Mr. Sirius with same body type (back then I managed to attract rather attractive blond guys, not sure why). My would-be relationship with Kurt did not last too long and soon thereafter he moved to the Fort Lauderdale area.

A close-up of the 2012 Transit of Venus as seen through a telescope with an H-alpha filter from Georgia, as posted on the June 7, 2012 APOD.

By the way, I note that Bradbury, among whose most famous works was The Martian Chronicles, died this past Tuesday literally during the 2012 Transit of Venus.


My favorite Bradbury short story is All Summer In A Day, which I recently wrote about here.

As for Dandelion Wine, here is the opening paragraph (it's so worth a read at the start of summer) of 12-year old Douglas Spaulding's life in Green Town, Illinois:

"It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer ..."

Poster from the (Burbank, Calif.) Colony Theatre's Dandelion Wine production.

Bradbury is survived by his four daughters. And a world better because of his life and works.


The view from my 5th floor apartment overlooking the intersection of 16th and U Streets and New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 9:41AM, June 6, 2012.

The sky was so blue and the clouds, as they have been of late in the current weather pattern, so fluffy and puffy in a maritime tropical air mass. That large building is the Balfour. And, yes, I was leaving for work around quarter to ten AM.


I was going to write a longer entry complete with political commentary and vitriol, but I've decided not to because there really is no point. GOP / American religio-fundamentalist, libertarian, and kooky billionaire insanity is driving me (even more) insane.

Same view -- slightly more to the southwest looking way in the distance toward Rosslyn (Arlington), 9:42AM, June 6, 2012.


The part that sucks the most is that evil is daily rewarded and the God we were taught -- not an Unknowable Gnostic-type one but the one supposedly actively involved in micromanaging this shitty reality -- is as shitty as the humans who represent and/or speak for Him.

Morning blue sky with towering cumulus cloud as seen through the boughs of what I believe is a locust tree growing in the postage stamp yard of a block of Section 8 housing that remains between U and V Streets just off 15th Street, Washington, D.C., 9:45AM, June 6, 2012. I was walking to the U Street / Cardozo Metro.


Now I realize other times and other places have been / are far, far worse in terms of daily survival but this is the reality I know. I just find America to be ideologically and operationally antithetical to everything that I think is moral and right in terms of how society should be organized, and it is only getting wackier. And my life here in Washington, D.C., is just life-draining.

Ominous-looking clouds backdropped on the Washington Monument as seen almost 9 hours later while I walking across the National Mall -- I walked home from work -- at 6:36PM, June 6, 2012. There was a heavy rain shower a few miles south of D.C. but bypassed the District.


Here is a picture of a crow -- actually, Oooza the Unloved Crow Creature all alone  -- on the grass near the National Mall-side entrance to the Smithsonian Metro, 6:35PM, June 6, 2012.


I was able to do my laundry tonight, although initially there were no washing machines available because two people -- some annoying weird-looking young woman with her hair up in an elaborate sweep and some doughy, roundish, young Korean guy -- were using all the machines. I hate that. I mind it less when it is the 4'10" Hispanic woman with 6 kids using all the machines than when it is the D.C. female yuppie type (that Russian woman didn't quite count as one).

As it is, I called the building maintenance man and he agreed to keep the laundry room open until 10PM (in theory he locks it for the night at 9PM).

The sky with more puffy clouds as seen at the noon hour -- 12:37PM to be exact, or rather, 11:37AM standard time -- above the spire of St. Dominic Catholic Church in Southwest Washington, D.C., June 7, 2012.


OK, that's all for now. I'm supposed to go to a happy hour with DD and Jeremy at Larry's Lounge tomorrow after work. Indeed, it is for this reason that I did my laundry on Thursday rather than Friday evening (when the laundry room is usually empty, except last week when we had a deluge and that prompted a rush to do laundry, not sure why).

My next planned update will be over the weekend re. Wall-P's wedding.


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