I’m published in Paste

The The Glienicke Bridge between West and East Berlin, the “Bridge of Spies” from the film. | David Stanley, 1987, labeled for reuse by Google Image Search, 21 Nov. 2015

Paste Magazine – 20 Nov. 2015
Article link | http://bit.ly/1N0nObW

It’s been a while, but I’m back in the freelance game with an essay/review/article for Paste Magazine, one of my favorite places for entertainment news. There are a lot of great writers on Paste and I’m happy to be among them for the first time. I’ve got other things in the works for them coming up, which should hopefully be on before too long. Check out the article. It’s nice to finally be able to write (semi-)professionally about my family’s experiences. It’s too bad that I do so at a time when another terrorized and misunderstood population is trying so desperately to do the same thing my own family did 50 years ago: Get the hell out of an awful situation and into a safe, free country.

Autumn descends on me

Autumn is my favorite time of year, and it finally got a little cooler out so it actually feels like it. At some point, the leaves will turn if the temperature keeps dipping the way it does at night.

Right now I want to finish Long September, but I also want to maintain the focus necessary to finish a damn rpg in RPG Maker. Ideas compete in my head for dominance. I want to do something interesting, but I don’t want it to take forever. And sadly, that just isn’t how it works.

I have also been chipping away at two hopeless battles. One is Diablo III. The other is my student loans.


Chaos, Honor and Metal Gears: On the unique failure of video game narratives

Snake, maybe

Solid Snake. Or maybe Big Boss. | Labeled for noncommercial reuse by Google Image Search, 11 July 2015.

As I continue with Long September, my novel, and continue to await word from my employment of whether the fiscal cliff we have found ourselves plunging over will mean I won’t be paid until we un-plunge ourselves, I blow off steam by playing old video games and listening to the Wu Tang Clan. Last night’s success was the defeat of a truly ancient foe of mine: Metal Gear Solid. As in 1, as in ©1998 by Konami Computer Entertainment Japan for the PlayStation. Yes, I am OG (original genome).

Whenever I boot up a truly old game, something of the original experience is lost, and I don’t just mean because I’m playing it on a backwards-compatible PlayStation 2 hooked up to a high-def television that doesn’t give any fucks about its aspect ratio and anti-aliasing. This time, what was lost was any sense of awe I had about the story. Come with me on this sad journey as I talk about how a tale that once held me enraptured has become something I mash the “X” button to skip. (more…)

We need to talk about Max


Mad Max: Fury Road promotional poster. Displayed under Fair Use.

You’ve already read reviews of Mad Max: Fury Road. I’ve seen it twice now and the repeat viewing was actually better. Simply put, it’s one of the best action movies I’ve seen in so long that I had to actually think about how long it’s been.

Everything about that action has already been said, but from a writing standpoint, it’s also a brilliantly solid film, executed with style and reasoned choices, yet totally unique.

Action movies these days have no weight. Superhero films have taken over and, since we know nobody is going to die, we don’t care. Max challenges the sterile CGI of today’s films, but it also takes writers to task. Here are a few spoilery things Fury Road did way better than other films.

Speak of the Bronson


Charles Bronson in “Death Wish.” Promotional poster image. | Courtesy of Wikipedia.org. This image is displayed under Fair Use.


The AV Club must have heard of my recent squawking about Death Wish, because they just hit the full series with the sledgehammer of a close reading. And of course, they did better than I did. Check it out.

Ken Plays Outlaws, Part Two

I’m still yakking about Outlaws, which still stands the test of time as #2 in the Top Two Western Video Games That Have Ever Been Made. Seriously, game industry, I’m pretty sure people would buy more of these. This video does a quick tour of Levels 1 and 2 and sums up Level 3 with the words “Ah, fuck, a train level.”

“Problematic,” and The Ignorance Of It

Funeral car

A train coach based on Abraham Lincoln’s funeral car is restored in Springfield, Ill. for the sesquicentennial of his death. | May 2015, Kenneth Lowe


So, I had originally meant to post about why Westerns are generally a funny thing for a guy like me to like. I’d also like to tie it in a bit to some of the distressing stuff I hear from the modern fandom these days, and by that I mean the white guys who I grew up identifying with.

You’ve read about Gamergate and you possibly also heard about how some misogynists hijacked the Hugo Awards because they didn’t like that some women justifiably won a bunch of them last year. The controversy has become way too politicized for bizarre reasons. If you go read Breitbart’s site, you’ll find conservative guys claiming that feminists hate games and if you go to Gawker, you’ll be convinced all Gamergaters are not-so-secret rapists. Even one of the online comics I read at The Escapist Magazine treats the subject lightly, while the site itself, if you look, advertises the works of Vox Day, the fellow who is in a sense behind the great Hugo heist, and who blogs about how gay marriage is bad and insists that a bakery taking backlash for refusing a gay couple a cake is an attack on religious liberty.

How is all this tied in to Outlaws and Westerns? Bear with me. (more…)

I don’t know why this didn’t post before…

I distinctly remember composing and publishing an entire goddamn blog post about the video below, talking about how my love for Westerns is a perfect example of how you can legitimately use the word “problematic,” because I know plenty of people who insist that art doesn’t ever have subtext Ken, why do you need to take this away from me?!!?!!!?! But it does, but I still love Spaghetti Westerns anyway, so have a video about one of the only two mainstream games that were “Westerns” and were worth a damn.

But it didn’t post, is my point, and I have no idea why (and neither does WordPress, infuriatingly). Oh well.

Forgotten Autumn – Chapter 2

I truly have no idea why the footnote links below only work in reverse. Maybe I’ll leave that method behind as I code this going forward. It was a long struggle with no reward. – K


ChicagoFORTY-FIVE DAYS UNTIL END OF WORLD. I wasn’t to be exiled just yet. They hadn’t even gotten the phones in at the new office in LeBlanc, so I would have at least a few more days of work in civilization.

A statewide campaign is not something you do if you are any less than 255% invested. (I did just let the % slip in there. I did it willfully, and I’m not sorry about it.) What I mean is, campaigning in general is hard and thankless and any grizzled old vet will tell you that it’s different now than it used to be, which is to say it is worse than it used to be. You can work your hands to the bone, go without sleep and eat shitty road food or awful warmed-over slop at Rotary Clubs and fundraisers while you hear this person who you admire spout the same focus-tested talking points they’ve been hammering on for months, all in utter futility when some rich asshole who owns a casino or an oil rig decides to fund your opponent or your candidate gets it in his head to put out a stupid tweet about rape. In a state the size of Illinois, it feels as if most of your time is spent trying to morph into the shape of a car seat while you grip a steering wheel and stare out at cornfields that stretch to the edge of the spiral arm of the galaxy.

I had respect for those who did it even back when I was essentially their sworn enemy, which is to say I was a reporter. That is to say: I was a good reporter, and a good reporter is the sworn enemy of somebody who is running a campaign, because he will wreck that campaign if he is given even a passing chance. By this point, though, I had come away from those petty little concerns about democratic governance. It was us or them, and they wanted to put women in kitchens and gays in camps, if they were honest with themselves. It’s easy to be the one who sits back and criticizes and snarks, but try running things. Try being somebody who makes a thing that works.


Forgotten Autumn – The Full Text

Forgotten Autumn

by Kenneth Lowe


It got so desperate, and the polls so close (and so nasty) that Rick took me aside and in that slick and smooth and totally insincere way he had, told me that I was getting an important job: LeBlanc.

“This could make or break her, Johnny,” he lied, and would lie to Marcy and Diana, who were waiting outside after me to be given DeKalb and Oswego respectively, two other places that would neither make nor break anybody, least of all Wendy. “That’s why I need you.”

Rick was – Rick is – a guy whose dick is in your face day and night, figuratively and in my case very nearly literally, as he is 6′ 5″ and I barely clear 5′ 7″. If that is not a great image, well, try working for him. But, and I observe this as an expatriate, he fit right in to the country at that time.

I was too young to remember too much about Clinton (42, not 45), but I remember being eight and suddenly having his goddamn dick in my fucking face, everywhere, such that even Animaniacs had to change its opener. And it’s never the fault of the dick’s owner, you’ll notice. He shrugs and shakes his head, all like “What can you even do?” We’re all just along for the ride. We can try for a dick forecast, but you really never know.

“What’s the ground game like there?” I asked. Whenever you want to convince somebody you have been listening, you should highlight portions of what they have said and devise three follow-up questions. If I ever do this to you, you will know the sheer degree of effort I am putting forth not to fall asleep out of disgust.

“We’re opening it up, it’s a new front,” he said. “We just got a great donation from the Party and it’s going to get us all set up for a real grudge match. I think you’re just the guy for it, Johnny.”

I go by “Jack,” but not to a guy like Rick. Rick makes his own names for people. He respects no sovereignty but his own.

“Well,” I said. “I guess I better get started.”

Out in the hall, Diana was making a pointed effort at ignoring me, and I her. Marcy might not have been able to talk for Rick’s door being open, but then the Batphone rang and she leaned in close. Her face is about 75% eye socket, as if campaigning has well and truly sucked the marrow out of her bones. Back then, she had dyed-purple-black bangs and wore two sweaters in the late September heat and still managed to look as if she were barely able to keep from shivering.

“What fuck-pit is he sending you to?” she asked.

“LeBlanc,” I said. “Guess it’ll be DeKalb or maybe Taylorville for you. Maybe flip a coin.”

I was half-right. That’s about my percentage on all political prognostication, and yet they keep hiring me.

Marcy was never one to sugarcoat her views, but Rick hung up the phone and called her in and it was the last time we would see one another for a number of years. In she went, and the door closed behind her. As I walked by Diana’s chair I had the unmistakable impression that I had seen her stir in the corner of my vision, but when I looked back over my shoulder she was just poking at her smartphone. I hurried to the stairs down the hall and headed back out to the L, the city closing about me like a whale’s maw made of noise and light and the jackhammering heat.

© 2015 by Kenneth Lowe. Reprint with credit. Contact the author at nixonhacker at gmail dot com.