The Fiction of Owen Thomas

OTF Social Media Polling

OTF Social Media Polling

At OTF Social Media Polling we are interested in your opinion. Yes, we are. Not your opinion on anything that actually matters, mind you, but your opinion on the most inconsequential, hypothetical, ridiculously picayune issues you could possibly imagine. Each week a new question. Answers will be compiled from Facebook and Twitter. Contributors will be immortalized here at OwenThomasFiction. We don’t need an essay. A sentence or two. Sentence fragments. Random vowels. Whatever works.

What’s in it for you? Free coffee. Yeah, you read it right: FREE… COFFEE. Leave your answer to any of the posted questions in the comments section below and we’ll randomly select one contributor a week for a Starbucks gift card. All because we want to know what you think about completely irrelevant nonsense. Imagine that. So, from most recent to oldest, here are the questions…


You have been locked away in medium security federal penitentiary somewhere in the middle of Nebraska for the past three years, unjustly I’m sure. You have three more years left on your sentence to serve. The Department of Corrections has just randomly selected you for a 48-hour furlough. You are not permitted to return to your home, but you can have a family member or a friend accompany you anywhere on American soil. You can do anything you want as long as it is legal and does not involve drugs or weapons. So… where would you go and what would you do for those 48 glorious hours?

• Vegas, baby!

• I’d want wide open spaces. I would rent a large yacht and float around on the Pacific.

• Camping and hunting but I probably would not be able to have a firearm, so I guess camping.

• Hike the Grand Canyon.

• I would probably spend every minute windsurfing Oahu’s North Shore. They’d have to come and get me.

• A trip to the International Space Station.

• Las Vegas, Nevada. Hit the casinos. Take in some shows.

• I would probably want to find a good triathlon somewhere and just completely exhaust myself.

• Climb Denali.

• Probably lie on the top of a cliff overlooking an ocean.

• Gardening. No flowers in prison.

• Anyplace that serves good food.


Unless you have been living under a rock, you are no doubt well aware that Kim and Kanye recently tied the knot in an elaborate wedding set, of course, in a 16th Century Italian fortress. You and several hundred million of your fellow humans are aware of this news because Kim and Kanye are famous. That unavoidable fact has us at OTF wondering this week about celebrity. We are a celebrity-obsessed culture. We bathe in celebrity news. We eat it for breakfast. We seem to care endlessly what these people are up to every minute of the day. Madonna or Brittany spit out their gum and someone picks it up off the sidewalk and puts it on Ebay for people to bid on. Seriously. Not kidding. But what is it that makes a celebrity a celebrity? Is it enough to have a sex tape and a reality TV show? Is it important that your dad was OJ Simpson’s lawyer? Or that you have a lot of money? Is it really that easy to endlessly command our attention? Perhaps the more interesting question is what SHOULD make a celebrity a celebrity? Wouldn’t it be great if we could thin the celebrity ranks by disqualifying some of them – okay,  A LOT of them – so that those who don’t meet the requirements are forbidden to pollute our public media spaces?

So, then, here is THE CELEBRITY QUESTION: If you could impose a single requirement on celebrity status, what would it be? We will also accept answers that identify some trait or characteristic for which you would disqualify someone from celebrity status.

• At the least they should do something that is productive and artistic. Just being a name is not enough.

• I think you should have to be at least 21. Younger than that and you are almost by definition too immature to handle celebrity. Fame is usually a really bad idea for people still trying to figure out who they really are.

• You must have a talent , one that hopefully brings people joy , sing, dance , act , paint , write ... Something that moves people . Sparks the imagination , that is what a celebrity should be.

• Three strikes and you’re out. Get caught boosting jewelry. Try to take away someone else’s award on stage. Beat up your girl friend. Act like a punk ass with a can of spray paint.Tee-off on a police officer with a drunken, racist rant. Leverage your rehab for attention. Three strikes, and you’re out. No one knows your name. Make that two strikes.

• They have to give something back. Clooney, Pitt, Damon, all of these guys are really active on the world stage. I think if you want to get paid millions of dollars just for being an actor or singer or whatever, or just for being a big personality, then you have to give something back. And not necessarily money, either. Just use your celebrity to be part of a solution. Channel the adulation, baby. Do good.

• Would anybody remember Michael Vick’s name if he hadn’t run a dog fighting ring? Abuse one animal and you’re done. Give me the mic and turn off the camera. For that matter, any felony.


You have magical powers, once again. If you had the ability to eliminate one and only one of the following global threats for the duration of one century, which would you choose: global warming, over-population, starvation and disease, war, terrorism, deforestation or nuclear proliferation?

• Global warming , because if we don’t ,we have more lost crops and super storms and if you do that then we would have to be less dependent on Petroleum based products and we would have less war ect. That’s my vote.

• Global warming.

• Global warming. It’s changing everything. It’s truly global. Everything else is difficult to fix but it is fixable. At this point, the global warming problem is going to take some magic or the entire planet is toast. If you are giving me magic, then I’m going to fix global warming.

• Terrorism.

• Global warming.

• Terrorism.

• Fix the population problem and you make a huge dent in most of the other problems: resource extraction, global warming, starvation, disease. Use condoms, people.

• Over-populaiton.

• global warming.

• Terrorism

• Over-population. Way too many people on this spinning marble. We can’t keep this up. That will fix other issues.

• Starvation.

• No nukes please! One wrong move by one jack-ass and it’s all over.

• Global warming. Here in NC turning on the A/C means closing the windows and not getting the smells of wisteria, camellias, and other wonderful aromas from blooming roses.

• Over population seems to have a been a root cause for most of these problems. Not a total solution, but perhaps as partial reason?


Bearing in mind the disconcerting facts of history, in which a person of public note whose life is tragically cut short by the work of an assassin is made far MORE influential as a martyr in death than he or she would likely have ever been had they been allowed to live the rest of a natural life, here is the question: if you could go back in time and prevent a single assassination, which person would you save?

• Wow. Heavy question. So many amazing people cut down in the prime of their lives. How can you save just one. MLK? Kennedy? John Lennon? I can’t choose. Sorry.

• Everyone deserves to live out their natural lives. That’s not the issue. I think the twist to this question is that if you go back in time and save the person, whoever it is, are you actually setting back the cause? You should have called it the Jesus question. What happens to Christianity if someone gets in their time machine and saves Jesus? There’s a science fiction book for you!

• Tupac. “Dear mama, don’t cry, your baby boy’s doin’ good/ Tell the homies I’m in heaven and they ain’t got hoods”

• Martin Luther King

• Abraham Lincoln

• Ghandi.

• Mohandas Ghandi.

• Ghandi.

• I guess John Kennedy. Although I kind of would like to go back and save Lee Harvey Oswald so we could know for certain what really happened.

• Julius Caesar

• Harvey Milk


• Jesus Christ

• I would disagree with the characterization of Jesus’s death as an assassination. It was an execution by the state (Roman Empire) following a judicial proceeding. A politically-motivated judicial proceeding, yes, but still sanctioned by the laws of the state at the time.

• John Kennedy

• Martin Luther King Jr.

• Lincoln

• I don’t see Bobby Kennedy. No one wants to save Bobby? I’d save Bobby. He was just getting started.

• Whitney Houston

• Joan of Arc

• Bambi’s mother

• I think I will agree with Abraham Lincoln. I think he was just getting started and his leadership would have made the efforts of Reconstruction more effective. I don’t think his impact on history would have been diminished by living a longer life. Whereas many of those other historical figures had impact because of their death. Would we have passed a Civil Rights Act in 1964 if Kennedy were still alive? I would argue that passing it to honor him is what made it go through so quickly.



One day while you are out for a walk, a guy in a gray hoody carrying a box comes up next to you and asks if you have the time. You tell him it’s three o’clock. He thanks you and then asks if you are interested in saving the human race. You stop. You look at the guy and start to ask him what in the heck he’s talking about. But before you can say anything, you peer into the dark recesses of his hoodie and realize that this is no man. This… is an alien. Greenish. Hairless, eggish head. Big almond eyes that flash and glitter. No mouth. Gripping the box is a cluster of tentacles instead of hands. “What did you just say?” you ask. The alien’s eyes flash and glitter and he answers you telepathically.  “I’m from another galaxy. I’m conducting a census of inhabited planets. I’m supposed to bring back to my supervisors something – an offering – that accurately represents the dominant species, in this case, humanity.  If my supervisors are pleased with the offering, they will defer their current plans to use the Earth for cosmic weapons testing. But, if they’re not pleased… Well, it won’t be pretty.” You look at the alien, dumbfounded, and he looks patiently back at you. His eyes flash. You look down at the box. He notices. “Oh yeah,” the alien thinks at you, “I forgot. Whatever you give me has to fit inside this standard flat-rate Express Mail box or I’ll get charged extra.”

So what do you give him?

• A photo/video of my children out on the playground playing soccer with all of their kindergarten classmates.

• A hard drive packed with the entirety of the Library of Congress.

• Season 3 of Seinfeld.

• A recording of Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World. The Bruddah Iz version would work too.

• The first season of Duck Dynasty. Let’s just get it over with.

• Sarah Palin soundbites. The aliens will either go crazy or kill themselves trying to make sense of us.

• A link to Pinterest. They’ll lose all track of time and never get around to destroying us.


For the next twelve months, you must completely give up one of the following technologies…

Personal Video Entertainment—

Television and all wireless devices that bring video content (broadcast, cable, streaming)

Wireless Communication—

cellphones and all other wireless devises (including texting and email, but Internet access still allowed)


cell phones, wireless devices, and computers of all sorts (but telephone, text and email communication still allowed)

Audio Entertainment—

audio broadcast (stereos, digital players, radio, Internet streaming), or


personal motorized transportation (cars, motorcycles, ATV’s, boats and private airplanes).

Here’s the kicker: after doing without it for one year, the technology you have selected will then be yours for absolutely no cost for the next two years. So, for example, you sacrifice your car for a year and for the following two years all gas, maintenance and other automotive expenses would be free.

So, what technology do you cut loose and why?

• The television. I don’t even care about the savings. Anything to stop the television.

• Audio Entertainment. I play guitar (acoustic) so I make my own music.

• The car if I am allowed to carpool. I’m not taking the bus to work. Don’t care how much I will save. If I can’t carpool then I will give up the phone. I’m tired of always being in touch anyways. Back to the good old days when the phone was on the kitchen wall.

• Can I make my whole family do this? If so, then I’m getting rid of those $%&# cell phones! I haven’t seen my daughter’s face in a year and a half. All I ever see of her is the top of her head. My husband is almost as bad. Get rid of the phones.

• You don’t mention gaming technology. Can we eliminate Playstation and Xbox?

• Television.

• Video entertainment. Read people! Read!

• I already take the bus, so I vote to give up the car for a year and then get a free car after that! Ha!


For ten minutes you have the ability to be perfectly fluent in the animal language of your choice. Conveniently, for those ten minutes, you will have exclusive and safe access to any non-human creature. Want to speak to the ants? Giraffe? Reptiles? Sure. Dung beetle? What the heck. Want to know what the hell your cat is thinking with the whole toilet paper roll thing? Just ask him.

So… how do you spend those ten minutes? What is it you most want to know?

• I’d want ten minutes to talk to my lab. Seriously, a bowl of water RIGHT THERE and he goes for the toilet. WTF?

• Dolphins. I want to know what they think of us. I’m convinced they know things.

• Honeybees. We’ve got to help those bees! Maybe we can work together.

• If I can speak “ant” then I could speak to thousands of them at the same time for those ten minutes. They could spread the word to other ants. Then we’d take over the world and they could bring me booty. Not booty-booty. Loot-booty.

• I’d go horseback riding. I love horses. Not sure what we’d talk about. I’d think of something. I’d want to know if I’m too heavy and if he hates carrying people around on his back. What if he hates people asking him questions? Maybe I should talk to my cat instead. I’d want to know why he hates me and my brother.

• A really smart parrot. I’d give him a ten-minute crash course on the fundamentals of the English language. Then he’d know the basics and after the ten minutes expired we could still keep working on it. Eventually he could answer my phone when I’m too lazy to get up.


You can go back and re-live any age you wish – sweet sixteen, or maybe something in your roaring twenties, maybe thirty-two was your happiest age ever or your wealthiest or your most confident – pick whatever age you want. But here’s the deal: for every day, every hour, every minute that you spend living in yesteryear, your natural life will shorten by an equivalent duration. Is ten minutes worth it? A week? A year? Five years? So… the question: What age and for how long?

• Hmmm…..when I was 7yrs old I could hold my breath and float in mid air, I still slept in a crib I shared with my brother bc we were very poor but I didn’t know it and my favorite dolls name was Alicita, It was also the same year my family and I came to the Land of the Free , BUT, I do not wish to take the deal, instead I will just relish the yesteryears in the form of a memory and keep my natural life clicking. To live, to love, to be loved is the ultimate journey, wouldn’t want to miss a thing!

• Nope. Never trade away the life you have not yet lived.

• Age 25.

• I’d go back to my childhood. Ten or eleven. Everything was so new and exciting. Everything was still possible. It’s hard not to be cynical as you get older. I’d want to see the world through innocent eyes again.

• Okay, so you’re saying I can essentially trade time from the very end of my life – the physical infirmity, the dementia, the incontinence, all of my family and friends gone (I’ve got the longevity gene) – all of that glorious stuff, for some time in my twenties and thirties when I looked like a rock star, could eat anything I wanted, had regular sex, and felt like I had the world by the tail? Gee. That’s a tough one. I’d reset the clock to age thirty-one and run it forward for five years.

• I had a boyfriend in my early twenties who dumped me because he thought I’d never amount to anything. He hooked up with a woman who he thought was everything I wasn’t. I now own my own company with locations in two states. Happily married. I have a great daughter. And guess who’s now in prison for embezzling from her employer? I’d so like to go back to the night of that break-up and this time not cry like a wounded baby and instead make a few uncanny predictions. Just that one night. Totally worth it.


A fat, slightly bluish guy appears out of nowhere, pulls up a chair and sits down next to you one day while you’re eating your lunch. You ask him what he wants. He picks up your cup of coffee. Drinks. Swallows. Makes a face. You snatch your cup back. “What,” you say with a little irritation, “do you…want?” He tells you that he is a genie. “Okay,” you say, thinking this explains the turban on his head and the Persian rug rolled up under his arm. “So?”

He tells you that he has been commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts and that he is prepared to bestow upon you sublime talent in the artistic expression of your choice. Not just talented, he explains, but freakishly talented. Genius talented. Talented enough to make entire nations weep. You will inspire artists of all stripes for generations to come. Painter, poet, dancer, musician, actor… juggler; you name it and savant can be your middle name. All you have to do is tell him what kind of artistic expression you want to claim as your own, and with a nod of his tightly wrapped head, it’s done.

But here’s the thing: he explains that in exchange for this incredible gift, you must sacrifice your appreciation for every form of artistic expression except your own. Want to be the best blues guitarist that ever lived? Done; but you will no longer enjoy listening to the piano. Or reading books. Or the theater. Or dance. Human song will leave you uninspired. Michelangelo? Renoir? Yo Yo Ma? Meryl Streep? Yaaawwwwnnn.  You will inspire millions. But you will be all but emotionally unreachable by the art of others.

So, do you accept the deal? If not, why not? If so, what form of artistic expression do you claim and how will you bear the loss?

• What a question! That’s not a deal I can take. Is that bad? Is it selfish of me to deprive the world of inspiration so that I can be inspired? I think maybe it is. Still can’t do it.

• Hmm. Your question leaves open the possibility that I could still inspire myself along with the rest of the world. So it’s not like I’d not be unable to appreciate ANY art. So I’d take the deal and sing my ass off. That or cooking.

• I’d do it. My art would be acting and I’d dazzle everyone at how convincing I am at acting like a brilliant musician-dancer-painter-poet-sculptor-synchronized swimmer.

• I was done with this guy the minute he took my coffee and drank some of it! NO DEAL!......besides, I am perfectly happy with my own talents and would never give up the gift of enjoying the magic of what others so graciously share, Art is history, present and future, who would want to miss that?

• Wow. The “art of sacrifice.” That would be like a kind of death for me. Self-annihilation for the sake of humanity. The Superpower question was so much easier. Okay, I’d do it. Banjo. No, blues harmonica. No, bongos.

• I believe it’s customary for Genies to grant THREE wishes. Before we settle the artistic genius wish, I want to know what he’s offering for two and three. I would also like a point of clarification: if I choose to trade general appreciation for personal genius, does that mean I would no longer take pleasure in ANY creative expression (e.g., music, writing, painting), or merely that I would no longer be able to appreciate the BEST in each format? It seems to me that there might be a loop-hole in here for people with bad taste. Give the Indigo Hunk my number. I have questions. Better yet, have him call my lawyer.


Congratulations. You are to be endowed with one of two superpowers. You can either turn invisible at will, or you can fly. Which do you choose and why?

• Flying. So long as it’s effortless (not a bunch of cardiovascular exercise like running). It would be lovely to pop down to the store at 6am when I’ve run out of half & half. And that Paris on a whim thing, too, of course!

• Invisible. Ultimate backstage pass to every major concert anywhere. Not just a backstage pass. A backstage-backstage pass.

• If you’re invisible, you can fly anywhere you need to go. Pick the lear jet of your choice and go. Who needs to fly as a superpower? Invisibility gets you both.

• No one’s thinking big enough. Invisibility. I’d infiltrate the defense departments of every nuclear power on the planet and neutralize their weapons programs. No nukes!

• I’d so totally pick flying.

• Flying. Easy.

• Always wanted to fly. Plus, Paris on whim. Africa. Sydney for lunch. No customs. No TSA. I get to use my cell phone. I am a little concerned I’d die of hypothermia.

• Invisible. I’m not telling you why.

• I choose to fly bc then I could fly high enough to disappear into the clouds , I could travel the world, I could hang out with Tinkerbell and all her fairy friends, now how cool is that?!

• Flying, of course. Exhilaration. Transcendence. Convenience. Fewer boundaries and a better view. What could possibly compare?

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