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