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 Evidently the man hadn’t shown and was presumed withdrawn.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.

Amazon

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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

Manhunt: Unabomber

Manhunt Unabomber

Sam Worthington of Avatar fame (as FBI profiler Jim Fitzgerald) heads a Discovery TV cast that includes Paul Bettany (as Ted Kaczynski), Jane Lynch, and Katja Herbers. The notorious Unabomber inspired my first novel Postmarked for Death, set in the Tucson post office, where I once worked (and listened to audiobooks while sorting mail.) In the novel I blew up the post office, something many imagine doing in monotonous jobs (LOL.) Postal inspectors grilled me when the hardcover was released, but I’d given the postmaster a copy prior to release for a “heads up” on it, and he loved it. So I simply told the inspectors, “see the boss.” The novel was endorsed by Clive Cussler and John Lutz, and won an award on audio, narrated by the late great Frank Muller. It is now an ebook at iTunes, BN.com, and Smashwords.com (for Kindle, Nook, and iPad, plus PDF format.) I explored an abandoned Titan missile base in the desert to get the ending scene right. There have been a number of postal shootings over the years, as well. My suspense is a “why-dunnit” more than a “who-dunnit,” because you know from page one who the killer is…a postal clerk who kidnaps a female inspector and sets up another co-worker to take the fall. Police are looking for the wrong man, while he continues to work and mail letter bombs, with extreme political views. Calvin taunts Victor Kazy, the inspector looking for him…and whose boss he has taken (as in Taken.) John Lutz (Single White Female) paid me the best compliment, because his next book after endorsing mine featured a bomber in NYC. Look forward to the TV series. Given our divided and extreme culture, it is important to understand all points of view instead of reverting to guns and bombs to “make a point” to those who refuse to listen.

Unabomber