Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Sound of One Hand Tweeting

Okay, this made me laugh.

I have mentioned before that I have a Twitter account. The majority of the people I follow write jokes.  I do not follow people who use it to discuss the mundane day-to-day of their lives (Oh, boy, I just love milk) or who use it to push an agenda (You must send money today to protect the planet against the ever increasing scourge of people wearing plaids and checks at the same time) or people who simply use it as a way to self-promote (I will be selling my hand woven raffia iPhone covers at the supermarket parking lot this Saturday). Recently I clicked on the follow button for the Dalai Lama.  He doesn’t talk about the tasty mustard seed dressing he had at dinner last night, ask for money to buy more robes for disadvantaged monks or peddle his mountain top tours.  He says things that promote kindness and reinforce the ideas that we need to be nice to each other.  I like that.

Here’s the part that made me laugh.  Twitter sends me e-mails suggesting people I might want to follow based on who I already follow.  The e-mail I got after choosing to follow the Dalai Lama said “Here are accounts similar to who you followed.  Similar to the Dalai Lama… The Onion.”  The Onion is an organization dedicated to silly.  It creates fake news for the purpose of entertainment and has very little concern about offending people.  So, on the one hand we have a man who has dedicated his life to spiritual enlightenment for himself and as many others as he can possibly reach and on the other hand we have a group of people who like writing stories with as many double entendres as humanly possible.  Yeah, that connection makes total sense. 

Now let’s examine the idea that the Dalai Lama has a Twitter account.  The Dalai Lama is thought to be the reincarnation of a series of spiritual leaders who have chosen to be reborn in order to enlighten others. The Dalai Lama is the highest lama of Tibetan Buddhism and the highest goal of Tibetan Buddhism is to achieve Buddhahood, or a state of perfect enlightenment.  This perfect enlightenment means one is freed from all mental obstructions, one attains a state of continuous bliss attached simultaneously with the knowledge of emptiness, and all limitations to help other living things are removed.  That is perfect for Twitter.

Let’s look at the perfect enlightenment one component at a time.  One is freed from all mental obstructions.  Have you spent much time on Twitter?  Or any part of the internet?  Mental is not what it excels at so mental obstructions would not be present. One attains a state of continuous bliss attached to the knowledge of emptiness.  Happiness brought about by emptiness may be a better definition of the internet than a global system of interconnected computer networks.  Finally, all limitations to help other living things are removed.  The internet is pretty magic. 

Sounds to me like Twitter was created to facilitate the Dalai Lama’s mission statement:  end suffering in 140 characters or less.

The e-mail from the Twitter minions brought to mind something else about the internet world.  Just how many people know stuff about me?  The Twitter guys know who I follow.  The iTunes guys know what music I buy.  The Google guys know what I don’t know.  The Wikipedia guys know I am gullible enough to believe the Wikipedia guys (see the previous paragraph comprised of Dalai Lama facts). 

Now I lead a preternaturally uneventful life and my deepest darkest secrets include the guilty pleasure of eating food designed for eight-year-olds.  (Froot Loops, they’re not just for breakfast anymore.)  Also, the fact I listen to entirely too many showtunes for a fifty-year-old, happily married, father of three in western Kansas.  (Yes, I even have stuff from Glee on my iPod.  Is there a support group for this?) So the fact chunks of my life are open to those living in the cyber-world doesn’t scare me all the much.  Really, anyone who hacks into my internet browser history would be asleep in the first ten minutes.  After the third story about Jeff Withey’s prowess blocking shots and the fifth blog entry from a guy who wrote for television comedies back in the 80s they might not just doze off, they might start contemplating a fork in their own eye to spice things up a bit.  

Christopher Pyle truly does believe that spreading kindness is important and hopes to end prejudice especially against grown men who listen to Julie Andrews and Brian Stokes Mitchell, on purpose.  He can be mocked at

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Good and the Bad of Fooling Yourself

I have spent entirely too much time recently being annoyed with life.  Truth be told, I have absolutely no good reason to be grumpy.  The Thanksgiving holiday is supposed to be a time of reflection and taking the time to be grateful for the things which enhance our lives. 

The A #1 things I have to be thankful for are my two fabulous families.  The family I grew up with and the family I am now spending my time with as a father and a husband.  It is truly amazing how important it is to choose wisely when getting married and both my parents and I hit that one out of the park, on the first try I might add. 

For the next few paragraphs I am going to focus on something my lucky-enough-to-be-born-into family gave me.  This something has proven to be one of the greatest gifts ever given to me and it wasn’t even purposefully given.  It was an organic construct which grew slowly and was not-so-intentionally cultivated by my father, mother, siblings and some of my most influential friends.  What is this mighty treasure, this psychological boon, this windfall of nature and nurture combined?  Well, I’ll tell you.  It is a wholly unrealistic world view (sound of phonograph needle being scratched all the way across an album).
Wait, a second, did I just say I am grateful for an UNrealistic world view?  You bet. 

Before I describe this unrealistic worldview let me place one caveat in the mind of you, gentle reader.  I do not wish to say that everything in my world view is fantasy.  It is not.  The reason I call it unrealistic is it tends to ignore a lot of what is real in the world.  The things which are counter to the worldview I wish to subscribe to are frequently not given the importance of the things which support it.  That being said.  Here we go…

My family was fully comprised of readers.  Every flat surface in the house was home to a book, a magazine or a newspaper.  This means knowledge and intellectual awareness are components of my worldview.  I think this is important and then I project that sense of importance onto other people in my life.  This, like most every aspect of my consciousness, is a double edged sword.  It means I approach people believing they are thinking, curious people which helps us meet on a plane that cultivates respect and equality.  The problem is I do, from time to time, come across people for whom thinking is, shall we say, not listed on their personal Billboard Top Forty of daily activities. When that happens it is seldom the other guy who is left with a sense of disappointment and disillusionment.
My family also valued creativity.  My father was a weekend painter.  He mostly did landscapes and he did them nearly every Saturday and Sunday for the majority of my youth and young adulthood.  (This was proven without a doubt as we cleaned out our ancestral home and every time we moved something we found yet more paintings.  Most of them currently reside in my basement and whenever anyone visits they are not allowed to leave without a painting in hand and a promise to display it somewhere in their home.)  My mother was a writer.  She wrote letters, not e-mails, letters which were informative, interesting and displayed wit.  She also wrote poetry.  The most common poems were to friends and family on their birthdays.
The good side of being raised by creative minded people is I get true enjoyment out of the creativity of others and feel most engaged with life when I am being creative myself.  That feeling of high engagement is valued and cultivated but it does not reap benefits of the more material nature (the bad side).  I have been writing for this illustrious publication since June of 2007 and recently broke $2,000 of income reaped from that five and a half year tenure and that amount is Warren Buffet meets Exxon/Mobil money compared to what I have earned from every other writing product I ever created.   I do not do it for the money but I would really like to do much more writing and less of what I really do every day but living on $363 a year would not make my children very happy.
Still after examining the negatives I get much more positive from my unrealistic worldview.  I’m keeping it.

Christopher Pyle is thankful for many things.  Not the least of which is he will be snug in his bed during all the Black Friday door buster sales.  You can contact him at  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bad Guys and Thank You

I spend a lot of time around people.  Because some of what I see is downright depressing I often try to distance myself from the actions of others by dispassionately observing and attempting to draw logical conclusions from the evidence and data.  This may make me seem to be a rather aloof person who sees himself as being better than other people.  After spending a couple of minutes examining that description of me I decided I can live with that. 

The first observation was something I had been kicking around in one form or another for some time and then I heard a guy on a podcast (Marc Maron) put it pretty succinctly.  His basic message was people’s brains are hardwired to “find the bad guy”.
This doesn’t just mean it is easy to spot Darth Vader is the bad guy because he is dressed like Johnny Cash’s closet exploded quite near him.  It means in run of the mill life people look for who they will cast as the bad guy in their own personal life story.  Like the guy at work who has no problem shirking his duties so other people’s lives become more difficult.  It is not unreasonable to cast him as your own personal Snidely Whiplash while you Dudley Do-Right through your day.  The inept boss who constantly makes the lives of his underlings downright crummy is another example.  That guy, on some level, deserves being mocked by his employees as they call him Voldedork a.k.a. He Who Must Not Be Able to Pour Water Out of a Boot Even with the Instructions Written on the Heel.

There is another motivation behind people finding the bad guy in their lives.  This motivation could be called “blame displacement” (also swiped from Mr. Maron).  This is when people have screwed up all by themselves but look for a bad guy to blame.  We have probably all done this at one time or another.
Like that time you were backing up out of the garage and due to your own inattentiveness you got too close to the wall and broke the rearview side mirror.  Most of us just start using all the words our mothers told us never to say and then go looking for the duct tape.  The people who choose to go the blame displacement route will start looking for the bad guy. 

Oh, it wasn’t my fault I broke the mirror on my car.  It was because of those darned politicians.  If Congress hadn’t passed the Smoot- Hawley Tariff of 1930 which raised tariffs to the highest levels in U.S. history since the Tariff of 1828 than the economy might have rebounded faster during the Great Depression and World War II might have never happened which means Japan would not have been forced to become a country who only made electronics and cheap dependable cars which eventually caused American homebuilders to shrink the size of garages built post 1979 to sizes not conducive for parking anything larger than a Datsun 240Z and I wouldn’t have ripped the rearview mirror from the door of my man sized Chevrolet Pangaea.  Curse you Reed Smoot and Willis Hawley!

Now to the second observation.  People do not say thank you often enough.  Oh, sure people say “thanks” all the time but that has become as meaningless as the word “fine” when said in response to “how are you?”  It is simply pro forma.
Before we go on I feel I must say I still want people to say “fine” when I ask them how they are.  I do not have the time or the stores of sympathy required to listen to a litany of maladies, both major and minor, that people are actually experiencing at every given moment of their lives. 

How are you?  Oh, my sacroiliac is acting up, the Eustachian tube in my left ear filled with fluid last Thursday and is really causing me some discomfort and I think I may be developing a case of scurvy because you just can’t find good citrus fruit around here.  (Don’t care, sorry.)

Back to thank you.  This week I worked on a project which wasn’t all that fun with a group of co-workers.  After it was all said and done I sent them a heartfelt thank you note.  The responses I got made it look like I had volunteered to give them a kidney.  If thank yous had been more common in their lives mine would not have elicited such a response.

Christopher Pyle is certain there are times he deserves being called Voldedork, but he is particularly pleased with that joke so he won’t mind.  You can contact him at

Saturday, September 01, 2012

A Writer and his Needy Tweets

In previous columns I have admitted to being a very flawed individual.  I am lazy.  I lack the will power required to abstain from snack foods.  My avoidance of confrontation reaches pathological levels.  I’ll stop there because this column is limited to eight hundred words and if I am going to get to the point I really want to make I need to limit the list of my character limitations.  Which brings to mind another flaw, I am horribly long-winded. 

Now to the latest flaw I am trying to work through.  I am too needy of positive attention.  Everybody craves and appreciates compliments and accolades.  Where I may be different is I want it for too many things and in an unrealistic timeframe. 

Case in point is my existence on Twitter.  Twitter is a social network that allows people to share all sorts of information in bursts of 140 characters or less.  Some people use this internet contrivance to share important stuff like what they had for breakfast.  Others use it for promotion of their money making endeavors.  The people I choose to follow mostly write jokes, which is all I try to do.  This is where my neediness comes into play.  I will create a wonderfully crafted Tweet (that is what one calls the individual units distributed on Twitter).  Then I spend the rest of the day looking for validation, frequently, no, really a lot. 

There are two different ways to show approval for things written on Twitter.  If you particularly like one, you can click an icon which labels it a “favorite”.  A higher form of acknowledgement is when a person “re-tweets” something.  This means they liked it so much they then send it out to all of their followers.  Whenever anybody does one of these actions the individual Tweet is tagged with the number of favorites and re-tweets it has received. 

That is my problem.  I am constantly going to my Twitter page clicking on my Tweets hoping for favorites and re-tweets like a love starved puppy jumping up and down at his master’s feet demanding attention and belly rubbings.  No really, I am that pathetic, just not nearly as cute.  One problem is it doesn’t happen all that often, the favoriting and re-tweeting, that is, the neediness happens all the time. 

At the moment my Twitter account has 74 followers.  Last week I had 75 and went through an inordinate amount of grief when I lost one.  The defector was not one of my actual friends, meaning someone I have seen with my own eyes in real reality.  So the fact that I was emotionally jarred by the fact a person (a person I have never met, would probably never meet and may not have even liked if I did meet) took less than five seconds to intentionally “unfollow” my sporadically attended to and even more sporadically entertaining 140 character attempts at humor is not the healthiest of reactions. 

I have one follower who is a real life comedy writer and has over thirteen thousand followers of his own.  When he favorites one of my Tweets I have to squelch the desire to contact all the girls from high school who would not give me the time of day and inform them that I am officially a funny person and they sure missed out.  I am able to resist that urge for two reasons.  First, it would accomplish absolutely nothing and second, because contacting all the girls from high school who showed zero interest in me would require a very large amount of time and effort…days, probably weeks. 

A few months ago this cyber-buddy wrote a Tweet in which he suggested that people follow me and then said “He is a funny guy, a nice guy and he teaches kids and cares about them…We need more like him.”  I was thrilled beyond words and as I stated earlier in this column I am by nature long-winded.  I never would have thought I’d get my tombstone epitaph from Twitter especially one written by a guy who has also written words spoken by Homer Simpson.  It also doubled my follower total in less than twelve hours. 

Writers are often very needy people and comedy writers are the worst.  I want to take a moment to thank those of you who have reached out to me because of this column:  Janet, Dick, Joe, Letty, Sandy, Ann, Linda, Jennifer, Kim, John, Jim, and most especially, Doris and Larry.  Your kind words mean more than you know…and maybe more than they ought to because I am not a well man.

Christopher Pyle greatly appreciates everyone who reads his columns.  He can be contacted at  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Book of Booking Broadway Tickets

For those of you who remember our last installment in this running history of my life and thoughts my daughter and I were in New York City.

I have to say I am always surprised when people remember things I say in this column or say outside this column for that matter.  I am the father of three children who are currently teenagers and I am an administrator of an elementary school.  Those things conspire to make me one of the least listened to people walking the Earth.  Flight attendants giving the safety speech before take-off at least have the paranoid sure-we-are-all-going-to-die-a-fiery-death passengers listening to them which is probably more of an audience than I have on any given day.

Anyway, I mentioned last time that my daughter and I are both big fans of theater.  A big part of why we went was to see real honest-to-goodness Broadway shows.  The impossible to get tickets at this time are for “The Book of Mormon”.  I tried to get tickets more than a month ahead of our visit and availability was nil.  My daughter is a lover of old-fashioned musicals so we salved our “can’t get the hot ticket” sense of disappointment by getting tickets to “Anything Goes,” the big Cole Porter revival. 

That didn’t go so well.  First, the big star (Sutton Foster, one of Emilyjane’s heroes as well as being one of her “best friends” on Twitter) left the show before we were going to be there.  Okay, we can live with that, the show is still going to be fun.  Then we hear the show is going to close eight days before the night we have already purchased tickets for rolls around.  Eight days, really?

I call the ticket agency to see about getting a refund on the tickets.  The lady is very nice and asks if there is anything she can do for me.  I ask if she could talk them into doing the show until we can get there.  She says that is a bit above her pay grade.  She asks if there is another show we would like to get tickets for.  I say how about “The Book of Mormon”.  She laughs, politely and all, but it was a genuine laugh.  You can’t blame a guy for trying. 

So, flash forward to when we are actually in New York.  We decide to take a chance and just go directly to the box office of the theater where The Book of Mormon is playing.  We get there just a few minutes after it opens in the morning, which is 10 AM, those theater folk don’t get up with the chickens.  The guy in front of us in line is in the middle of making a purchase.  His transaction is not making it look good for us.  He is buying tickets for a performance five months in the future and he is paying a premium price and when I say premium I mean Bill Gates and Paul McCartney would even split the cost with their dates.  So that guy finishes his purchase leaving behind his credit card number and a pound of flesh and I step up to the window.

My opening line was “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t start laughing until I actually leave the building.”  I then said we were looking for tickets for anytime that week.  He started to mention the premium tickets and I said thanks but I’d prefer not so sell my kidney for the money to see a show.  I didn’t really say that, but I did say thanks but no thanks. 

Then he said just a minute.  He looked at the sheet of paper on his desk.  (Digression alert)  Okay, this theater pulls in thousands of dollars each and every night.  This theater is in the heart of the biggest theater district in the world.  This theater has been in existence since the 1920’s.  This is no nickel and dime outfit.  Well, the sheet of paper he is looking at is a run of the mill computer printout list with dozens of scribbles done by hand in red ink.  There isn’t a more efficient system, really?  (Digression over) He then excuses himself and steps to the back of his tiny office and asks somebody we can’t see a question.  He then returns and asks what we are doing Friday afternoon.  Since I am known for my witty repartee I say “I hope I am sitting in this theater watching your show.”  

And that is just what happened.

Christopher Pyle loved the show and was surprised by the uplifting message they snuck in under all the humor, much of it a little, um, off color.  You can reach him at  

Friday, August 03, 2012

Traveling Beyond the Comfort Zone

I like being at my house.  Several of my all-time favorite people live there.  Wanderlust is not part of my DNA and I find I get more and more curmudgeon-like as I get older and assiduously avoid being with large groups of people (large being anything over six).  I put all that aside a couple of weeks ago and got on a plane which took me over 1,500 miles away from my comfy house to a place populated by way more than six people, New York City. 

This was a trip taken by just me and my oldest daughter, Emilyjane.  We had been planning it for weeks and weeks and I have to say it turned out pretty darned good, even if there are entirely too many people everywhere you turn there. 

Our hotel was just a couple blocks from Times Square so after we got safely checked in and our gear stashed we walked over to be wide-eyed Kansas tourists.  Do you remember the game Red Rover from your grade school days?  That is the game where two groups of people face each other and call out to send over a person to see if he or she can break through the line.  Well, standing at the corner of 45th Street and 7th Avenue waiting for the light to change felt like a weapons grade plutonium version of Red Rover.  “Red Rover, Red Rover, send the entire population of Inman right over.”

Actually, the pedestrian traffic lights on New York streets are more suggestions than actual rules of the road.  It surprised me how quickly Emilyjane and I, law-abiding Midwestern salt of the earth people, started brazenly crossing against the light.  At first I joked that New Yorkers can smell fear but really it is not a matter of fear.  New Yorkers are not sharks looking for weak and scared tourists to bite in half.  The crux of the matter is they simply respect decisiveness.  If you are willing to make a choice in a timely manner and stick to it you will be fine (but you still need to be fully aware that a taxi cab driver will run you over without spending any time at all trifling with the brake pedal or a sense of remorse). 

I very much enjoyed seeing the big city through the eyes of my daughter.  When we were first riding into town from the airport her head was on a swivel trying to see as much as possible.  She actually said, “I need more eyes.”  We are both big fans of theater but I missed occasional parts of the shows we attended because I was watching her watch the show.  Definitely one of the best perks of being a dad.

It was also fun to experience parts of New York through the eyes of smaller children, especially smaller children who I was not in the least bit responsible for because traveling with toddlers in this environment would be exhausting.  We were in the Disney store.  The lower level was mostly stuffed animals, clothes and princess dolls.  We were standing on the second level a few feet from a display of super hero toys when a little boy reached the crest of the escalator and the various Avengers came into view.  He immediately made a beeline for the nearest Iron Man toy saying, “This is more like it.” 

I have to say the sheer volume of smiling and good will was a bit of surprise to me, the unseasoned traveler.  I still had a prejudice that big city folk would be, not so much rude as entirely too driven and harried to be fun to interact with, wrongo.  Truly, except for the one food service guy who was moving at his own sweet time causing Emilyjane to contemplate jumping over the counter and deep fat frying his fingers because he didn’t seem at all concerned that she had ordered a drink and her current state of thirst was making her just a tad irritable, everyone we deal t with was pleasant, helpful and laughed and joked right along with us. 

Frequently in life I have found the ability to freely admit ignorance and ineptitude followed by the willingness to put myself in someone else’s hands makes that person not only smile but they work really hard to help.  Everyone likes feeling valuable and I have no trouble doing my best Blanche DuBois (sans southern accent, flowing frock and alcoholic tendencies) and relying on the kindness of strangers.
Christopher Pyle will probably do more columns about the New York trip, maybe allowing him to write it off as a business expense.  You can contact him, unless you work for the IRS, at  

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Some Things are More Important than Others

What is important to you?  Would you rather watch The Bachelorette or Community?  Would you rather go to a fancy restaurant or a baseball game?  Would you rather spend time with the cast of Jersey Shore or take a ball peen hammer and crush three of your own toes?  It all boils down to priorities.

The disconnect between one person’s priorities and the priorities of the other person is the place where animosity lives.  The problem is sometimes people put too much importance on some disagreements that just aren’t that big a deal. 

When my wife and I were first married there were minor differences in priorities which caused points of friction (since those points of friction were nearly 22 years ago we obviously got over it).  She had a priority of cleanliness that I did not.  To me putting something away meant it was simply out of the way.  To her it had to be inside something else.  She wanted things in cabinets, drawers and the like whereas I was fully content if things were in places that were not likely to trip me as I walked to the bathroom. 

The secret to getting along with others is being able to distinguish between the priorities that are most important and require a certain level of agreement and the priorities that can be allowed to be different. 

Priority that can be different:  Mac versus PC.  This is like the old Chevy versus Ford debate.  Sure there are differences but is it really worth hating one another.  “My laptop cost more than orthodontia, is thinner than a fine crepe served in a Parisian restaurant and came with an official Steve Jobs mock turtleneck so I am cooler and better than you” is just not a reasonable mindset. 

Priority that can be different:  Celine Dion is the best singer ever versus Celine Dion is just Barry Manilow with slightly higher levels of estrogen.  With the invention of headphones people do not have to listen to each other’s musical choices so this doesn’t have to be a line drawn in the sand. 

Priority that can be different (Kansas edition):  KU versus K-State.  I have to say I have been very much taken aback by some of the animosity displayed in this rivalry.  Really?  They are two institutions of higher learning where individuals learn thinking skills and abilities which prepare them for success in the world and create fully rounded human beings.  So, why do some people approach the relationship more in the manner of Protestants and Catholics in 1972 Belfast? 

Priority that can be different but lately has become entirely too contentious:  Republican versus Democrat.  I am not so old that I can remember the Whigs or anything but this animosity and severe level of vitriol just isn’t like it used to be and can’t be of benefit to anyone.  If you listen to the characterizations created by the opposition advertisers we have a choice for president between a man who thinks only the rich deserve to be taken care of, that both American jobs and his own personal money should be sent overseas, and who flip-flops faster than an X-games skateboarder after drinking two dozen cans of Red Bull and the other guy who wants government to decide whether grandma gets her insulin, wants the country to become a socialist reflection of European elitism and is a closet Muslim.  Neither description is all that accurate but accuracy is not the goal, fear and hatred is. 

Other priorities that can be different:  James T. Kirk versus Jean-Luc Picard (also see William Shatner versus Chris Pine), Bugs Bunny versus Woody Woodpecker, tastes great versus less filling, Buster Keaton versus Charlie Chaplin, the first Darrin in Bewitched versus the second Darrin in Bewitched, Gene Wilder Willy Wonka versus Johnny Depp Willy Wonka, designated hitter versus no designated hitter, Coke versus Pepsi, Burger King versus McDonald’s, boxers versus briefs, kindle versus nook, any of the eleven actors who played Dr. Who versus any of the eleven actors who played Dr. Who, paper versus plastic, Superman versus Batman, and, finally, Star Wars before George Lucas monkeyed with it versus Star Wars after George Lucas monkeyed with it.  All of these basic choices will be made due to basic priorities held dear within the very DNA of a person but none of them should cause an inability to get along with people who chose the other side of the issue.
Christopher Pyle thinks the only nonnegotiable choice is Christmas presents must be opened Christmas Day not Christmas Eve.  You can argue with him at  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Odds and...well, just more odds

As we go through our day-to-day activities we come across bunches and bunches of stuff.  Much of it is quite inconsequential.  However, if you stop and make just a little bit of effort even the most normal, run-of-the-mill thing can be most entertaining.

For example, the other day my wife was giving the family dog (let’s be honest, he is her dog and he tolerates the rest of us as long as we are not in his preferred napping locations) his flea treatment.  One direction proved ironic if not downright ridiculous.  It read as follows “To the User:  If you cannot speak English, do not use this product until the label has been fully explained to you.”  If you can’t speak English it is a safe bet you cannot read the sentence telling what to do if you cannot speak English.  This is like the signs saying Braille menus are available upon request, especially such signs at a drive through.  Then I looked a bit closer.  The flea medicine instruction guys did include the same statement in Spanish.  You have to ask yourself why bother putting that warning instruction in English at all.  If you can read English you don’t need the warning and if you can only read Spanish the warning in that language gets the job done.  My guess is they put it in English so people prone to paranoia wouldn’t go down a rabbit hole of worry. 

Interior dialogue of paranoid dog owner: I see there is a single sentence of Spanish in the instructions for giving my dog his flea treatment.  Why is this and only this sentence in Spanish?  Why aren’t they telling me what it says?  Maybe it is only for Spanish language dogs.  Wait just a dog gone minute.  My dog is a Chihuahua.  I might need to know what this is saying.  Maybe these instructions aren’t the original instructions.  Maybe these instructions were substituted by some evil doer and they changed one of the most important steps from English to Spanish just to wreck havoc on monolingual dog owners. Maybe this one instruction is the difference between being safe from fleas and actually attracting fleas from a five county radius straight to poor little Sparky.  Somebody call the FDA.  Somebody call the SPCA.  Somebody call somebody who speaks Spanish.  Somebody call for a pizza.  All this panicking is making me hungry.
See what I mean?  Just one odd little quirk in flea treatment instructions and you can spin it into an entertaining scenario of a dog owner with severe trust issues freaking out.  This idea of taking something small and extrapolating it into a full entertainment is one of the things my family will do for fun as we sit around the living room. This is either a positive sign of togetherness or a pathetic sign of what happens when a family has no television. 

The other afternoon my daughter, Alice, was very focused on the screen of her phone.  This is not unusual in most households which contain a high school aged child.  I made a joke about how if Lewis Carroll were writing today his Alice wouldn’t go through the looking glass to Wonderland but would by sucked through her smart phone.  And we were off…

The White Rabbit would not be running around saying “I’m late!  I’m late!”  He would be scurrying about lamenting “They can’t hear me now!  They can’t hear me now!”  The Cheshire Cat wouldn’t vanish to the point where Alice could only see his teeth.  He would slowly disappear until all she could see was his Bluetooth device.  The Mad Hatter’s tea party would have them all communicating via Skype.  The Queen of Hearts would not scream “Off with their heads!”  She would threaten others with “Cut off their web access!”  Tweedledum and Tweedledee would become Tweedletext and Tweedletweet. 

This kind of one-upmanship story and joke making is fairly common when two or more of us congregate and it is one of the reasons I would gladly spend nearly all of my time in my house.  I am truly blessed to find myself in a family I actually like, not just love because that is what you are supposed to do, but genuinely enjoy as human beings.  

Remember how with many game shows there was a home version?  Well, here is a starter for you and your family taking the mundane and creating fun riffs.  Hanging with a group of festive family friendly piñatas is one made to look like a bottle of beer.  Have at it…

Christopher Pyle invites you to share any Alice in Cell Phone Land or piñata jokes with him at  

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Not What it Used to Be

People are constantly pointing to different happenings, crying out they are signs of the end of the world.  Everything from the Mayan calendar’s indication that 2012 is as far as we go to zombie apocalypse hysteria, which, admittedly, has gotten more believable with the recent face eating episode in Florida and the announcement that Kevin Bacon will have a new television show in the fall.  Have you seen Mr. Bacon recently?  He no longer resembles the fresh-faced high school kid from Footloose (actually he was 25 when he made that movie so even then he didn’t look that fresh-faced high schoolish) but rather looks more like another iconic character from the 80’s, the Crypt Keeper. 

A different, and much less discussed, sign of the changing world was pointed out to me by my wife.  This sign is not a marker of anything as apocalyptic as the fall of civilization and the rise of Kevin Bacon led zombie anarchy.  It does, however, point out that things really aren’t as they used to be and probably not as they ought to be.  The most insidious thing about this sign is it effects the most susceptible of the population, our children.  “What is this sign?”  you ask.  Well, I’ll tell you.  It is the lack of skinned knees.
Don’t get me wrong.  I am not wishing pain and bloodshed on the youth of America.  It just seems to me that skinned knees can easily be pointed to as indicators of good things.  Kids with skinned knees are active children, children who spend time outdoors, children unafraid of rough and tumble behaviors.  Kids with skinned knees are living their own lives.

Think about it.  It is very difficult to get a skinned knee while shooting dozens of virtual-guns at hundreds of virtual-people, and ripping virtual-spleens from virtual-enemies in virtual-worlds of virtual-conflict.  Oh, sure, there is virtual-blood galore for little Malcolm as he sits on his genuine-sofa, manipulating his genuine-controller, as he eats genuine-junk food, creating a genuine-backside large enough to blot out the genuine-sun because he hasn’t worked any genuine-muscles beyond his genuine-thumbs for a genuine-long-time.
In addition kids do not get skinned knees as they sit at the computer surfing the internet, downloading video, illegally sharing music, e-mailing friends, instant messaging predators and generally watching their lives flicker by at broadband speed.

Another thing to ponder is, when was the last time you saw an ad for Bactine?  Remember that spray bottle which was kept handy for those little scrapes and scratches you would get as you went about your daily life.  A life which included running, riding your bike (sometimes using a discarded plank and a big rock to construct a ramp with the stability of the Euro), playing football in vacant lots with stickers and big brothers who thought they were Dick Butkus, and occasionally chasing a friend with the intensity of a lioness looking for dinner for no other reason than you were “it”.  The sedentary lifestyle of today’s youth doesn’t require a mixture of Benzalkonium chloride (antiseptic) and lidocaine (anesthetic) for the times when you have all the sata menu items in your bios enabled yet you still cannot get your drive recognized.  (I understood none of that.  I lifted it from a computer troubleshooting website.) 

The dearth of skinned knees is also a sign fewer children are willing to take even minimal risks.  I am willing to bet this trend can be attributed to something which started out as reasonable and then just got out of hand.  The world as a whole started pushing safety.  I agree we should look out for our children.  I make my kids wear a helmet when they ride their bikes.  I purchased the knee, elbow, wrist, and self-esteem pads when I got my kids roller blades.  I believe in safety.

I fear we spun such horrible stories to convince our kids to wear all the protective gear (face it you do look like Class A Geek wearing it) we created an aversion to taking risks.  My wife is excellent at pulling out a “I knew a kid who rode his bike barefoot and got both his feet caught in the spokes cutting off all his toes” story whenever needed. 

The concern is the American public may have done too good a job cautioning all of American kiddom about the bad things which can happen.  This doesn’t just make them use common sense precautions.  It means they look at their bicycle as an imminent danger to be avoided like anthrax powder or educational television.

Christopher Pyle in his youth was a true daredevil and broke his collarbone jumping off a tricycle.  He can be reached at

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Matriculate, Graduate, Sorry I'm Late

I apologize for my tardiness. Most everyone in our neck of the woods has already done the graduation thing. But if you will allow, I would like to give a commencement speech. I am aware nobody invited me to do so (a person of my stature not being invited to give the commencement speech at an institution of higher learning – go figure) but I submit the following anyway.

 Greetings and salutations to all, to the staff of the school, to parents, families and guests and most of all to the graduating class of (insert your school name here). We are gathered here to say inspiring things to a large gathering of people wearing silly robes and hats of irretrievable goofiness. As I look out before me at this sea of young faces eager to meet new challenges, keen on exploring an infinite number of opportunities and enthusiastic about getting out of here so they can eat cake and open presents there is only one thought in my head…will the movie “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” be as good as the book.

This ceremony is called a “commencement” because it is the beginning. It is the beginning of the rest of your life. It is the beginning of the real world looking to crush your spirit and make you long for the carefree days of high school when your worst problems were math homework, carrying a backpack the weight of an NFL offensive lineman and being mocked by classmates for doing anything remotely individualistic. Ahhh, memories…

It is at times like these people tell you your possibilities are endless. That is true, but you must remember one of those possibilities is being the carry out boy at Dillon’s for the rest of your natural life. Another possibility is you will invent the newest technological gadget everyone in the free world simply must have making you rich beyond your wildest imagination. It is most likely you will land somewhere in the middle of that continuum of chance.

Common advice for young people is to follow their dreams. This is good advice unless your persistent recurring dream involves flying like Superman through the sky while wearing a Viking outfit reciting the lyrics of the complete Barry Manilow catalogue (maybe that’s just me).

Actually, I do believe in following your dreams or more accurately I believe in a phrase made famous by Joseph Campbell – follow your bliss. Here is my interpretation. If a person is to be fully actualized, reach their top potential, that person should be doing for a living something they genuinely enjoy. If you genuinely enjoy it you will probably be very good at it plus getting out of bed each day is easier because you look forward to the day’s endeavors.

Getting to that “follow your bliss” point in life is not easy. When I graduated from Hutchinson High School I was not an excited, driven individual. My brother actually filled out my application to go to college. I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life. The plan was I would be a filmmaker. Now, if I was a driven person I would have screwed my courage to the sticking point and made the sacrifice to go to USC or NYU film school to get genuine training in the writing, directing and actual creating of movies. Instead I went to KU where their film department was almost exclusively watching movies, not making any. Heck, I could have done that with the Betamax in my room. (Yes, that is how old I am. I had a Betamax.) It was this lack of courage which meant I made choice after choice which boiled down to the easier path, the path that “made sense”, not the path that used my best abilities and most fed my psyche. Now that I am older I can make better decisions.

I have a great life in so many ways I do not regret anything I did which got me where I am (wonderful wife, great kids and a job which pays all the bills). There are still times I look back and think of some shoulda, coulda moments. So my advice to graduates is: please have the courage to do things which are difficult and maybe even downright scary in order to follow your bliss. That way you can truly enjoy your life as you hurtle through the sky wearing reindeer pelts reciting those immortal words “her name was Lola, she was a show girl…”

Christopher Pyle hopes every graduate will be a success and if you are truly happy being a carry out boy at Dillon’s more power to you. You may contact him at

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Your Brain Can Get in the Way

So, how is your dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, or the DLPFC, as it is known to its friends, doing these days? What? You do not know what the DLPFC is? To be honest I didn’t either until about four days ago. I am reading the book Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. It runs through different models of how and why individuals and groups come up with new stuff, sometimes discussing the different areas of the brain integral to the process. That is where the DLPFC first came to my attention. Mr. Lehrer describes it as “a neural restraint system, a set of handcuffs the mind uses on itself.” If your DLPFC is fully functioning you will be less likely to swipe that candy bar from the convenience store or admit to your boss you haven’t actually accomplished anything of value since the Reagan administration or answer truthfully when your wife asks if her new dress makes her look fat. I bet if you wanted to you could spend a pretty entertaining day hanging out at Wal-Mart playing “Spot the person with a fully developed DLPFC” – hint there may be fewer than you expect. This part of the brain is one of the last sections to fully develop. This helps explain why kindergarten students are perfectly willing to invoke the death penalty if someone cuts in front of them in line. Even if it was a line leading to a lunch comprised entirely of cauliflower, lima beans and sawdust a kindergarten kid would scream bloody murder if another one budged in front of him. If the DLPFC is a mechanism of restraint why is it being discussed in a book about creativity? Isn’t creativity about pushing past restrictions to find the new and unusual? You are correct ma petite neurotransmitter. Mr. Lehrer cites a study where a scientist type person hooks a musician type person up to one of those brain camera thingees (he used different words but I’m not a scientist type person) and observes what happens when the musician is asked to do different tasks with his talent. If the music person is asked to play a memorized piece of music one set of brain structures becomes active, including the DLPFC, but if he is asked to improvise the DLPFC is actually deactivated. If you are going to be truly creative you have to take off the handcuffs. This is shown to be true of people improvising in different modes. Second City is an organization which, among other things, trains people to improvise. It is in Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles and has produced dozens of world famous comedians from Alan Arkin to John Belushi to Tina Fey. One of the chief skills taught by the folks at Second City is the ability to not care what others think, not only to turn off the restraint mechanism of the brain but to beat it into a fine paste and serve it on a Triscuit to your mother-in-law. Okay, that analogy was a tad gross, but I am trying to push to new levels of creativity. Most often the natural state of adults is worrying, worrying about saying the wrong thing, worrying about being embarrassed, worrying about offending someone, worrying about that time in seventh grade when you had your first slow dance with a girl and the only words she said to you were “Boy, this is a long song.” Maybe that last one is just me (the song was How Deep is Your Love by the Bee Gees and it was a whole four minutes and five seconds – not that I ever really think about it). Once a Second City student has passed the worrying and embarrassed stage and become practiced at shutting down his DLPFC the next thing is to become automatic with the “yes, and” way of thinking. Improvisational comedy is most often a group exercise. In order to truly build a scene that works and makes people laugh things have to build on each other and DLPFC interference can kill the whole thing. So the students are taught the “yes, and” method. Everything that is proposed is instantly agreed to, the “yes” part, followed by something new the “and” part. Often in real life it would be great if people would agree and build upon rather than negate and tear down. I propose every politician go to improv classes. It might not actually fix the nation but it would be a stitch to see Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell pretend they were two girl scouts lost in a forest. Christopher Pyle would like to point out the difference between improv and improve is simply one letter. You can contact him at

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

I Love Jokes

The old fashioned premise, set-up, punch line format is one of the most tried and true formulas for making people laugh, been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. (Julius Caesar, Cassius and Brutus walk into a bar. The bartender asks if they want to see a menu. Cassius says he already had dinner. Brutus says he already had dinner. Caesar answers but it is hard to hear him because he mumbles a lot. Brutus asks him if he wants to order any food. Caesar answers but again he is hard to hear because he mumbles. Brutus is frustrated and yells at Caesar, “Do you want to order some food?!” Caesar is angered by Brutus’s bad manners and yells back, “I ate too, Brute!” That joke killed at open mic night at the Flavian Amphitheatre.) I venture to bet the format will be around for centuries to come. (A starship captain, a synthetic human and the thawed out, re-vitalized head of Walt Disney walk into a bar. The hostess asks if they want a booth or a table. They say they would prefer a booth. The hostess says, “Walk this way.” The thawed out, re-vitalized head of Walt Disney says, “If I could walk that way I wouldn’t need the XP 38 anti-grav pulsar locomotivator.”). Like many people in my age group I was first introduced to funny by Bugs Bunny. Saturday mornings were for giggling on the floor and spitting Pop Tart crumbs at the television screen. Later comedy became more of a late night thing. Johnny Carson was my hero. He was born in Nebraska. I was born in Nebraska. He started his Tonight Show career in 1962. I started breathing in 1962. He grew up to be an icon of American humor. I grew up to become a grade school principal. (We now drop in the sound effect of a phonograph needle being scratched all the way across a record album as an auditory signal saying: Well, that didn’t quite work out for you, did it?) My best friend growing up (the inimitable Rob) and I spent hours trying to make each other laugh. We got cassette tapes of old radio shows like the Shadow from the public library and then would make parody versions on our own cassette tapes. I don’t think the public library was missing much by not making our tapes available to their clientele. We took Lamont Cranston from the story “The Werewolf of Hamilton Mansion” and created Lamont Pantsdown in the story “The Werewolf of Smith’s Outhouse.” We made a two minute animated version of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” with troll dolls calling it “Trollius Caesar”. We listened to Monty Python albums, watched Mel Brooks movies and genuinely enjoyed laughing with and at each other. To this day the funniest thing I have ever seen was when Rob walked directly into one of the pillars in building A at the high school – Buster Keaton couldn’t have done it better. Rob didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. I didn’t really fully discover The Dick Van Dyke Show until I was in college. I made sure when I enrolled in my second semester at KU I would have a break long enough to run from campus to my apartment, which was roughly the size of a Honda Civic, and watch Rob Petrie and his pals on channel 41 every weekday. It turns out I am just one of many who watched Carl Reiner’s show about a young comedy writer living in New Rochelle who thought that would be a great way to make a living. I have corresponded with an honest to goodness television comedy writer and he also confessed he first thought of becoming a comedy writer watching that show. When I found that out I asked him if his wife looked as good as Laura did in Capri pants. He said yes. I don’t get to write comedy for a living but I do get to take my hacks in this column. I did write a short comedic movie, a comedy play (with the inimitable Rob) and I have joined the ranks of Twitter. Really good twitter joke writing is hard. It is like writing a sonnet (sorry Mr. Knauer, but this is the best analogy I could think of). You have to get everything accomplished in a very restricted format. Here is one of my favorite’s: There’s a new line of toys for the very literate child. Oddly enough the batteries needed for the Hester Prynne doll are double A. Christopher Pyle can be “followed” in the Twitterverse @ChrisPyleisOK. You can also contact him at

Friday, March 16, 2012

More or Less for Your Money

I have never been genuinely poor. There has always been enough money for me and my family to have everything we need (food, shelter, clothing) and many of the things we simply want (books, electronics, and in my case, hats). On the other hand, I have never been genuinely rich. I have always had to watch how money is spent and only in the last few years have I been able to buy things like furniture at a store which only sold furniture and didn’t also offer t-shirts, shampoo and car batteries (all too often I was forced to go to the store which shall not be named, Volde-Mart).

Because of this fact of life I pay attention to the value I get when I spend money. I know full well buying the cheapest often means I get the least. The dirt cheap breakfast cereal may mean eating the box would be more pleasurable. The cheapest generic brand of tissue may be akin to using those brown paper towels from schools (one abrasion level below sandpaper) on your poor allergy-ridden nose. The cheapest bath towel may only be pleasant to touch in the store and then oddly share more characteristics with plywood than with cottony goodness after it absorbs the first bit of moisture from your just-out-of-the-shower body. Those are choices which make the occasionally splurge moments (breakfast cereal with the picture of an anthropomorphic tiger, tissue with moisturizer added and a bath towel with enough fluffy to make a chinchilla jealous) all that much more hedonistic.

Then there are the times spending less money gets your more. Case in point: hotels. There have been a couple times I stayed in a high dollar fancy hotel and I have to say I prefer the middle of the road ones. (Full disclosure: I have also stayed in motels where the sidewalks are intentionally angled to make it easier to hose off the unfortunate bodily fluids left behind by certain “guests”.) The chain motels offer extra stuff with no extra charge. I want to stay at a place which has breakfast in the lobby, wi-fi in the room and a mini-fridge with nothing in it. The last time I stayed at a true hotel I was forced to walk down the street to the fast food joint for breakfast rather than spend the price of airfare to Orlando for a glass of orange juice. I had to use my debit card in the business center to pay the per minute charge for internet access in order to transfer money from my savings account to the debit account to pay for the weak moment of having a soda from the mini-bar which, judging from the price, must have both powdered diamonds and essence of unicorn as ingredients.

The two entities currently sucking up the most money in my life are also the two entities that could not care less about me.

I spend, what to me is, an obscene amount of money each month for health insurance. Does this corporation (which according to the Supreme Court is a person and therefore must have empathy and concern for its fellow man) promptly pay each expense submitted to it by the health care professionals and cover each and every health concern we might come across? Not so much. I have to fill out new forms over and over swearing on a stack of holy books in addition to my original pinkie swear that I do not have any supplementary insurance each time a family member sees a doctor. The only time I could meet my deductible would be if I had a baby and I do mean if I, not my wife, physically birthed a child.

The other money sucking, debt producing entity in my financial life is the university my eldest daughter is attending. Ah, college life. Where else can one explore the mysteries of the world, gain the wisdom of the ages and be shoehorned into a residence which makes your average sardine in a can living arrangements seem downright palatial? Also, where else can you give somebody thousands of dollars and they get to tell you what to do and how to do it? The “I pay you so you work for me” dynamic is all screwed up here. If some Goldman Sachs guy gave me that much money he’d think he could make me get his dry cleaning (from Bangladesh on foot), wash his car (with my tongue) and make his coffee (growing the beans in my living room). He might be right.

Christopher Pyle simply wants to be rich enough to “call the guy” anytime something breaks. He can be contacted at

Thursday, March 01, 2012

A Stroll Down the Primrose Pathology

We all have our own little pathologies, those character flaws which define us as much as our talents do. If I were to name one of mine (and trust me, I am well aware I possess more than one) I would have to say I care an inordinate amount about having people like me. Not just the people in my family or circle of close friends or co-workers I also mean the guy who rolled up to the four way stop just a hair after I did but I still wave on ahead of me because it is very important that a person I have never laid eyes on in my life and very well may never see again and all I know about him is he, for reasons passing understanding, decided it was a good idea to buy a car which is roughly the size of a small apartment building and a color not found in nature, unless you count a Las Vegas casino as nature, thinks I am truly swell. Yep, that makes my life better.

I don’t really have any idea why I am compelled this way. It could be a birth order problem, a nurture (I was raised that way) problem, a nature (I was born that way, in reference to DNA hard-wiring not in reference to a Lady Gaga song) problem, or a none of the above problem.

Kindness is one of the things I value most in others and I strive to be kind in all of my interactions, even when a phone sales person calls and will not take the first “no, thank you” as a definitive answer but quickly chimes in saying there is another payment plan that might better fit my budget and simply looks upon the second “no, thank you” as a very pale “yes” and continues to explain how important it is that my money becomes their money. It is possible the “thank you” part of the “no, thank you” is perceived as a sign of weakness marking me as the sick gazelle ripe for the marketing lion to catch and empty its checking account. The metaphor got muddled at the end there, but you get what I mean. Even though it is commendable to be kind it is possible I take it a tad further than is necessary.

I think it was Plato who said, “Be kind and rewind”, no, wait, that was something I learned from my days working at Popingo Video (remember Popingo Video before it became Popinwent Out of Business). Plato said “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” That is a philosophy I take to heart. It is important to me that I do what I can to avoid making other people’s lives harder. I am not always successful, just ask people I work with, but I try. At least I try when it doesn’t come into direct conflict with another of my chief pathologies, a weapons grade level of procrastina
tion. See, I even put off typing the end of the word itself. That is pretty horrible.

A lot of my personal heroes are people from the world of comedy. I have read lots of interviews with comedians and comedy writers, listened to dozens and dozens of talk shows on television and via podcasts with people who make their living doing funny things and one thing shared by a vast majority of them is a insatiable need to be liked. Some of them come from homes where there was heartache and pain making them reach out to strangers for positive emotion. That is not me. But others are like me in that they cannot really tell you why they crave acceptance from everyone. Laughter at something I do is ambrosia for my psyche if I meant it to be funny.

This brings me to my next personal pathology. I have an intense, irrational, incontinent (whoops, one “i” word too far, sometimes assonance can make an, oh nevermind) aversion to embarrassment. This is another trait shared by many comics. I may be misattributing this quote (darn, another opportunity for embarrassment) but I think it was Harry Shearer who said comedians do funny things in order to control how and why they are laughed at. If I can do something or say something funny on purpose that gets you to laugh I can avoid having you laugh at me for reasons I do not control. That sounds perfectly reasonable to me while at the same time sounding perfectly sad with just a soupcon of pathetic thrown in.

Christopher Pyle appreciates this opportunity to work through some issues. It is much cheaper than real therapy. You can diagnose him via

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stop and Smell the Tiptoed Tulips

The more careful readers of this publication may have noticed I’ve been absent for several weeks. Real life often gets in the way of desired life. Writing this column is one of my favorite things to do. Much of what kept me away from my writing was unavoidable and unpleasant. This got me thinking. Why can’t the desired life and the real life be the same thing more often?

I envy the people whose everyday job is tailored to their best skills and their favorite things to do. As part of my regular job I have been assigned to read books about leadership (leadership is one of the skills I am supposed to have in my everyday job which makes me downright positive I was born to be a comedy writer). One of the books I read postulated it was a fallacy that the most important thing to do for success was to work on areas of weakness.

Isn’t that what we all grew up hearing? You have to work,work, work on the things you aren’t good at in order to get to the top. Stop and think about it. Think back to high school and the thing you did over and over, trying to get it, trying to master it, trying not to roll up into the fetal position on the floor, clutch a small piece of velvet, rub it against your cheek with OCD repetition and cry softly to yourself (a.k.a. geometry). Did you become a geometry whiz? Probably not. Did it make you a high school graduate so you didn’t bounce from one low-paying-zero-prestige job to another eventually finding yourself sleeping on your best friend’s couch stealing the Fig Newtons from his secret cookie stash for mere sustenance. Those hours killing yourself over the Pythagorean theorem did pay off if the Fig Newton scenario was the only alternative. Other than that, what good did it do for you?

The book I referred to says people are better served by practicing the things they are already good at. The margin of improvement working on a skill set you have a facility with is much greater than the margin of improvement on a skill set you can’t do well. This makes sense. It is better to go from talented to fantastic at something (reciting the album and song titles recorded by Dean Martin) than to go from stinking up the joint to barely passable at something else (singing like Dean Martin).

This finally brings me to the point of this column. I am going to try to spend more time doing the things I am good at and much less time doing the geometry-type things in my grown up life.

I am one of those extremely lucky men who has a home life which far surpasses anything else he has. I genuinely like everyone who lives in my house and all the ancillary folk who frequent my living room. I like sitting in my recliner writing and listening to the others go about their business and occasionally calling out a comment or a question. I have to ask a lot of questions because it is very hard to keep up with all the stuff going on with the teenage people surrounding me as well as understanding some of the terminology they use. My wife translates and explains very well.

Here is an example of how my life will change due to my it-is-only-the-second-month-of-the-new-year-resolution. I bought everyone in my family a ukulele. (There will now be a slight pause as everyone takes a moment to re-read that last sentence.) Yesirree, every single person living in my house is the proud owner of a tiny guitar looking instrument made most famous by a seriously unattractive looking man singing about wandering aimlessly through a Dutchman’s flower bed. (If you weren’t alive when Laugh-In was on the air google Tiny Tim – you’re in for a treat.)

We are going to learn to play together. We are going to laugh at each other. We are going to truly stink at something and then get better at it together. We are going to be the coolest family in town. We are going to be the only family in town who thinks we are the coolest family in town.

We dedicate our ukulele folly to my mother. Who inspired us in so many ways. Who showed us that family is the joy that lives with you wherever you are. Who showed us home is the most important thing there is. Thank you…

Christopher Pyle will report the musical progress of the band (hey, Ukulele Folly would be a great band name) at a later date. You can request updates by writing to him at

Friday, January 06, 2012

Taking Another Trek around the Sun

Well, it happened again. The Earth has made a complete revolution around the Sun. “Wahoo, the Earth did not come free of its orbit and fly into a great gaseous nuclear mass obliterating everything we understand!” After all, even Bruce Willis and a crack team of rugged scientists couldn’t stop that from happening, at least not without a lot of help from J.J. Abrams.

The upcoming year is so momentous and full of unremitting action the powers that be decided it needs to be 366 days long (long enough for Kim Kardashian to get married and file for divorce 5.1 times), one full day longer than each of the previous three years.

A quick scan of Wikipedia shows the United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All which proves how important this year is. Just think, the UN is going to send every man, woman and child on the planet a wind turbine. How cool is that? I’m going to put mine on my car so I don’t have to buy gas anymore. (I live in western Kansas. The likelihood of getting stranded on some lonely dirt road in the middle of nowhere because I ran out of wind is infinitesimal.)

2012 is the year for the Summer Olympics. Also known as the only time anyone can be bothered to care about events like the 400 meter hurdles. This time around the Olympics will be hosted by England. I know nothing brings to mind high athletic achievement like the pasty, rain-soaked, dentally challenged British. If there was an event requiring people to carry umbrellas while eating crumpets and reciting Shakespeare the gold medal is in the bag. Alright, before I get any hate mail from the Anti-Defamation League of Queen Loving Tea Drinkers I would like to say I am a card carrying Anglophile and fully realize at least three of the Spice Girls are very fit.

2012 is the anniversary of two very important happenings in the world of international espionage. One hundred years ago Alan Turing was born. Turing was an Englishman (see I do like the British) who is often credited with being the father of modern computing and artificial intelligence. He played a major role in breaking Nazi codes during World War II (which, oddly enough, was the most useful time to break Nazi codes). He did a lot of work with something called the Enigma machine which truly sounds like something a bald man living in a hidden lair deep inside a dormant volcano would be using. This leads us to the other major event in global intelligence. It was fifty years ago that Sean Connery first played James Bond.

Perhaps the most important event scheduled to occur during 2012 is yet another triumph in the process of mankind carefully, intelligently, and nonviolently setting in place a government designed to best serve the needs and wants of its people. I am of course talking about the election of Burkina Faso’s Parliament. The election season in the United States is not remotely careful or intelligent and the violence against reason, logic and grammar in an American political debate is a veritable bloodbath.

It is more than a little depressing to think the actual election is more than 300 days away. We have months and months of sitting through political discussion, political arguing, political advertisements, political fear-mongering, political name-calling, political sleight-of-hand, and political dog-grooming (Huh? I think I went one too far.) Especially, when you take into account the Republicans have been doing a Presidential shell game for the past few months already.

It seems to change every time I turn around. Bachmann wins the straw poll and is the front runner and now Bachmann has dropped out of the race. Herman Cain is the front runner and now he is back to being a guy who used to run a pizza chain. Rick Santorum is a guy with severe issues just because of some quirk with Google (I have yet to google his name because everyone seems to think it takes you places you’d rather not go) and now he is considered a viable candidate again. Next thing you know Ronald Reagan’s ghost will appear and endorse Anthony Weiner for President and every news organization from Fox to MSNBC will vibrate with excitement, realize the massive cognitive disconnect inherent in such an event then simply explode. The resultant silence will make it possible for the American people to make a much better decision.