Who Am I?

Jonathan Lowe

When I graduated from college, I was very confused person, even for a split personality. See, they told me that since I was educated in the Humanities, I had ‘the broad picture of life.’ Their theory was that, among all those jocks stuck in shop class, I alone possessed ‘sufficient vision’ to define the true parameters of man’s social, moral, and ecological condition. And I can still recall vividly the commencement ceremonies when the dean waxed eloquent on the great challenges which faced us as we went out into the world with our parchments and our purple cardboard hats. It was the same night they found Edgar Fishbein, a credit-laden history major, curled up in his dorm closet with one thumb in his mouth and a blue Bullwinkle blanket wrapped tightly around his neck.

      Understandably even more distressed by the prospect of the competitive unknown, I soon became sullen, morose, and saddened to learn that my Alma Mater had betrayed me by not telling us about the injustice which allowed someone who could recite Shakespeare, Byron, and Yeats to lose out to some knucklehead who happened to know his way around certain bathroom plumbing fixtures. Here was I, able to grasp the really juicy essentials of stellar fusion, transactional analysis, and the original Terminator movie, reduced to trudging the city in search of beer cans, taking in laundry, and investing my hard-earned assets in a diversified portfolio of bookie bets and food coupons. Would I make it? I wondered anxiously. Would I be forced to take up residence in a dumpster and start eating refried beans? Would the student loan officers from my Alma Mater attend my funeral and hold a pocket mirror to my nose? In the throes of my disillusionment, it all seemed highly probable.

      Luckily, that was when I got lost while searching for a restroom at the US Tennis Open. Evoking some bizarre set of circumstances, then, I was immediately mistaken for a tennis player due to my resemblance to a man ranked 97th on the ATP computer. Evidently the man hadn’t shown and was presumed withdrawn. The official I addressed in the hallway as “Bud–hey Bud!” responded before I could complete my question by laughing and wringing my hand. The upshot is that he ushered me into this room where the pros were sitting around sipping Gatorade and discussing their investments. Now, not only did I have a job, but one or two friends as well.

      I wouldn’t say it was sheer LUCK which enabled me to reach the second round. Even though my opponent made more unforced errors than Coke has commercials, I was pretty high on adrenalin. For instance, we were already three games into the match before I realized the warmups were over. And then some of my service returns had this knack for hitting the tape and rolling over on his side like a prophetic yo-yo too. Toward the end there’d be sparks spurting up all over the forecourt as he tried to scoop the dead balls back. The topper, though, was when I mis-hit match point into a lob which caught the back of the baseline and placed my luckless opponent within slapping radius of our resigning chair umpire.

Back in the locker room afterward, I was accosted by several autograph-seekers of the racket-manufacturing ilk. They wanted to know why I’d changed playing hands in mid-career, and if this meant I’d be changing rackets too. Muttering something under my breath about a new go-for-broke strategy, I managed to con several commentators into spouting one-liners about my revolutionary style eventually “doing to Sampras what McEnroe’s serve-and-volley had done to Borg.” This was particularly satisfying in that before then I wouldn’t have been able to get a passing shot past a ball machine.

      Here was poetic justice at last, I reasoned. Too bad the outcome of my second round established the record as being the only love match in history when I was ousted by the 98th seed-–a defrocked ex-priest who nonetheless prayed for forgiveness before serving four consecutive aces.

    I think it was at the 6–0, 5–0 point that I also began to suspect that my opponent had the psychological edge, much like Freud had over Skinner. When the linesmen and ball girls began heckling me, I was sure of it. Regretfully, there’d been little time for me to brush up on the paperback I’d found in my locker room, INTERMEDIATE TENNIS: RELIEF FOR THE FRUSTRATED BEGINNER. Now I’d either have to fill out an application as a bagboy at the nearest Piggly Wiggly, or try entering the Papua New Guinea Open, hoping I’d get into the finals because no one else knew how to get there. Since I had no money for plane fare, I decided on the former.

      It wasn’t long before I began to realize that although being a jack-of-all-trades has its perks (one can always brag about being a ‘master-of-none’), I was somehow missing out on obtaining fulfilling employment and its subsequent burnout, and that if only I’d majored in Stadium Construction or International Sports Marketing & Endorsement Science, I wouldn’t be sitting around evenings watching reruns of America’s Got Fewer Marketable Skills with Pan Pizza on my breath, but I’d be decorating private condos in Big Sur, and maybe going on monthly junkets to the Out Islands with Mr. Wonderful to launder my petty cash.

      To make a long story short, I eventually began attending night school, taking Shark Tank’s Entrepreneurial Feeding Frenzies, and before long I was feeling much better about my future. That is, until several dishwashers told me about another course at the school titled Poetic Devices And Their Application In Government And Industry. The course instructor was Dr. Percy Snodgrass, former curriculum director at my Alma Mater. Plus he’s a part time window washer on Wall Street, and Cash Cab contestant.

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Tower Review

 

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In Storytelling All Things Are Possible

Science Fiction

This is particularly true of science fiction, or speculative fiction. While the franchises have largely repeated themselves, it is up to science fiction writers to push the envelope. Literally. They must ignore the “trends,” or the “box office gross” which consumes the media and the public’s attention. Spinoffs, sequels and prequels exist because people become enamored of things they already like. “They are conditioned to ignore things that are different or new,” says both the authors of Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction, and Riveted: The Science of Why Jokes Make Us Laugh, Movies Make Us Cry, and Religion Makes Us Feel One With the Universe. People do not like to change anything, and this leads to pseudo-scifi blaster battles with one-liners. Or first person shooters, including the killing of cops and innocents in games like the Grand Theft Auto series. Billions of dollars are generated, but the net effect on society (and imagination) is negative. As Ray Bradbury said. People end up reading less, and killing more time. Says Derek Thompson, “only a microscopic few achieve fantastic wealth in a winner take all culture.” While Jim Davies advises, “You must force yourself to resist the irresistible, marketed to you everywhere you turn.” A great analogy here is junk food: the taste rewards for sugar, fat, and salt are like crack cocaine, and just as difficult to quit. The result is disease, physical or mental, while drug costs to treat these diseases are “going viral.” Meaning sky high.

Avatar 2, 3, and 4 are said to revive dead characters somehow (prequel or supernatural or science?) Game of Thrones is nearing the end due to George RR Martin moving on to Nightflyer, with the post-George episodes “becoming more chaotic,” as one reviewer put it, “spinning out of control…both glorious and maddening.” Consider the series LOST, which got lost because the writers wrote themselves into a corner, and were not pro science fiction book authors to begin with, but rather fans. (Like JJ Abrams, the geek director of Star Trek Beyond, who also wrote Super 8, a visually stunning but inexplicable mess. He once introduced vampires to a Bourne-like spy series.) Writers are not respected in Hollywood, much. Producers with a calculator decide. “How many more stunts should we add here, instead of characters interacting?” Characters mainly interact (as in 300) by bludgeoning one another, and in slow motion blood splatter, no less. It tends to diminish viewer trust in diplomacy or compromise. The lure of money is the same as junk food, too. They can’t stop making what people buy. You buy it, they will make more. It’s really that simple. To discover new things actually future-positive instead of apocalypse “walking brain dead” negative, viewers often must get up off the couch and go outside…which means turning off the TV altogether, and listening to an audiobook—a way to extend your reading time while stuck in traffic, hiking, doing chores, cooking, cleaning, or exercising. Or as they say on ESPN, “Just Do It.”  Your mother, whether in her grave like mine or not, will thank you.

The Lowe Files

Do You Have a Trump Connection?

Julie Andrews

Everyone has a 6 Degrees of Separation “Kevin Bacon” kind of connection to the rich, famous, and powerful. Mine with Trump goes like this: I interviewed pianist Lola Astanova, pictured here. She has played at Trump’s Mara Lago. Julie Andrews was once in a movie with James Garner called “The Americanization of Emily,” about as anti-war a film as Avatar. When I reviewed Garner’s biography, I got an email from his daughter, who liked the review. (Garner is one of my fav actors, see a previous post.) As for Trump himself, he once visited Palm Island in the Grenadines, as told to me when I interviewed the owner of Palm (but not Dubai’s Palm island, as researched for my novel “The Miraculous Plot of Leiter & Lott.”) John Caldwell sailed around the world to acquire and develop the place, which he purchased for $1 a year for 99 years, with a 12% interest in future profits going to St. Vincent. He then spent twenty years with a wheelbarrow, turning the place from a swamp into a paradise. His tale of fending off renegades (who took neighboring Union Island) by firing over their heads with rifles as they approached inspired my novel “Fame Island,” which was narrated by an Emmy winner and directed by a Grammy winner on audio, and is also an ebook “The Instant Celebrity.” Caldwell also allowed the Marines to park their helicopters there during the Grenada invasion. My fake game show scout protagonist was hired by a Powerball lotto winner to stage a Survivor type show in order to fool the corrupt governor of Union (who had fooled the citizens to get elected.) Howard Rosen, the lottery winner, had disappeared the moment of picking up his check because he intended to be famous for more than just 15 minutes by re-emerging a hero. Quotes by both Mark Burnett (Survivor and the Apprentice) plus Trump himself appear at the novel’s opening, Trump’s being: “People are impressed by fame. Think big, and live large.”  (This was all pre-Trump entering politics.) 

James Garner  

Palm Island

Finally, my first novel, “Postmarked for Death,” was endorsed by Clive Cussler (who owns the largest private antique car collection) and John Lutz (Single White Female movie), inspired by the Unabomber, with a postal clerk protagonist that listens to Rush Limbaugh while making letter bombs, and targets illegal immigrants and government offices providing ATM cards for them in Tucson. When I did a book signing for the hardcover (now an ebook at iTunes), the bookstore owner in Phoenix refused to mention it on the loudspeaker, and put me at the back of the store. He never read the whole thing. Neither did the Booklist reviewer, who later retracted his review when called on it (in an ending that no one could guess.) In the end of the “Why Done It” Calvin gets his just desserts in “a spectacular fashion.” So all’s well that ends well, and there you have it. Any questions?   

Grenadines