Wednesday, June 6, 2012 / 1:17 pm

Fahrenheit Crazy

Tuesday night was a humdinger.

by Gary Phillips

Tags: Ray Bradbury | Orly Taitz | The Martian Chronicles | The October Country

The Birther Queen

Among the topics of conversation I was having with my learned friend Harry this morning, ranging from the second season finale of Game of Thrones to the son of a departed ex-Black Panther friend of ours completing law school, he and I got to chatting about Ray Bradbury’s passing on Tuesday night.  I mentioned that despite his success in portraying worlds beyond ours, he’d remained a pretty down-to-earth guy.  It wasn’t too long ago, after a stroke, the non-car driving sci-fi master getting around in a wheelchair, that he would still go over to the Rancho-Palms library on Overland, near his home in the Cheviot Hills, and give a talk.

I was happy that he’d signed a 50th anniversary copy of his classic tale of books and ideas Fahrenheit 451 to my daughter and my paperback Tomorrow Midnight, a collection of eight of the EC adaptations of his short stories in comics form from the ‘50s.  Wally Wood’s art on  “There Will Come Soft Rains,” in the book knocked me out then and still does now.  In the story an automated house continues putting on the stove, the climate control in various rooms and on and on after a nuclear strike; the family is just a shaped charred shadow on one of the walls.  

My buddy mentioned that while Bradbury, who not unlike fellow visionary writer Robert A. Heinlein was a conservative (I was mildly shocked years ago when Bradbury was on the first incarnation of Bill Mahr’s show on ABC that the writer who penned The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit film set in East L.A., and he railed about shutting down the borders to the undocumented), would be remembered for the aforementioned Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man or Something Wicked This Way Comes, for him it was his October County collection of short stories.  That “The Emissary” and “The Small Assassin,” wherein a new mother becomes convinced her baby is out to kill her, were, like the Rains one for me, were stories that had stayed with him all these years later.

About 15 years ago, Harry who is an industrial air conditioning technician, was entering a large mall on a service call.  He sees Bradbury coming out of some store in his shorts and stops him to say hello and tell him the stories in October County scared the shit out of him.  Bradbury smiled and thanked him.

As this past Tuesday marked Bradbury’s passing, and that’s a sad thing, this past Tuesday the low numbers of voters who turned out at the polls in California rejected the batshit crazy, paranoid, dentist-lawyer, Queen of the Birthers, Orly Taitz for senate.  And that’s a good thing.  Talking about something wicked, I didn’t realize Taitz had thrown her tin foil hat in the ring until I looked though my sample ballot to mark it up as few days ago. I guess she figured that among all the 23 others seeking to unseat incumbent senator Diane Feinstein, she had name recognition, for good and mostly ill to my way of thinking, and that might carry her to a runoff.

It didn’t and apparently she’d already posted how the corrupt California Republican party board members had been part of a sham endorsement process in favor of Elizabeth Emkin, who got the nod.  I almost voted for her just to have her on the stump going on about Obama’s birth certificate, taxes and the loss of our precious body fluids.

As Ray Bradbury said, apropos of the limited mind of Taitz, “There are worse crimes than burning books.  One of them in not reading them.”

Gary Phillips' latest is Treacherous: Grifters, Ruffians and Killers, a collection of his short stories.

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