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Author's words of wisdom Susan Walter | Sat, Mar 23 2013 12:00 PM

This column's subject is a result of my flat out hero worship for the legendary Ray Bradbury, who died last year.

I began reading him at age 12, and was captivated by his skills as a wordsmith. His remarkable authorship of more than 80 books, stories, poems, screenplays and essays began in 1938.

Have you read them?

I saw his imaginings on shows like “Star Trek,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “Twilight Zone.”

Movies based on Bradbury’s stories include “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” “It Came from Outer Space,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Illustrated Man,” “The Picasso Summer,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” “The Halloween Tree,” “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” and “A Sound of Thunder.”

Have you seen them?

Do you know on the moon, Dandelion Wine Crater was named by the Apollo 15 astronauts after Bradbury’s novel “Dandelion Wine”?

So, what has this got to do with South Bay history? I’ll tell you.

Ray Bradbury was right here!  In early 1970 he was a guest lecturer at Southwestern College.

Bradbury literally believed in walking the walk: He never drove a car, believing it was unethical. When I saw him the year before in Los Angeles, he challenged his audience to do the same, reminding them of lives saved, that they would help alleviate pollution and save resources, and recommending they use public transit like he did.  (He arrived late to the conference I attended due to a bus breakdown.)

At Southwestern, Coleen Scott said he was “a very good speaker” and remembered he predicted we would become a cashless society, using cards only. Maybe we are moving that way; witness our use of debit cards.

Bradbury had decided views on a great many subjects. Here is one about education:

People are getting into high school who can’t read. It’s stupid, isn’t it? …without the ability to read, write and think, we’re sunk.
With computers, kids can connect and search … but if you don’t teach them to read in the first place, they’re not going to [log on], are they?

Bradbury was a visionary.  He was an optimist. He wanted our future to be better and he believed it could be. His stories about space travel are filled with hope for the betterment of humankind and alienkind.

During his lecture, he mentioned, “when I was a boy, the idea of man ever setting foot on the moon was foolishness.”
I know what Bradbury would have thought of the distressful situation recounted by Richard Louv on his website richardlouv.com.

“A teacher at Chula Vista High School told his class about how … baby-boomers grew up enthralled with the idea of space travel … were hypnotized by the beauty of man’s first step on the moon, and how the dream of space travel seems to have inexplicably faded.”
“Someone in the class spoke up, “Ah, but it was all made up anyway.”
Shocked, the teacher asked how many of his class believed the moon landing was faked.  “About half the students raised their hands.”
Sadly the instructor realized this “is a generation growing up in a world where everything … can be digitally rearranged.”

This unscientific attitude was foreseen by Bradbury. In the Southwestern College newspaper The Athapascan, noting the increased interest in mystical studies during that time, Bradbury predicted a return of the “dark days of superstition.”

In April of this year, we have a chance to participate in celebrating Ray Bradbury’s idealism by participating in a nationwide program promoting literacy and science education. Write Out Loud, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, will be managing San Diego County’s The Big Read event.

This year’s book is Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” The title is a reference to the temperature at which paper burns. The story relates a dismal future in which the job of the fireman was to burn books.

Write Out Loud will offer community reads and panel discussions. They encourage students (ages 14 to 24) to read the book now and create a response. Visit www.neabigread.org to find local events.

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