Archive - Jul 30, 2007

The Cleansing Power of Nerd

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Memo to pyromaniac nerds: BE A BETTER NERD.

I have to say, I really thought, for the most part, I'd hit the high points of nerd behavioral disorders when I polished off the Be A Better Nerd series last year. But nerds are inventive. Nerds will find new and exciting ways to violate social norms. Nerds will, apparently, BURN SHIT.Startlingly, this has nothing to do with the just-completed San Diego Comic Con, where every nerd in the country with ready access to plane fare and too much (or not nearly enough) spandex makes their annual pilgrimage. I have heard no tales of exceptionally outre nerditry from the Con, and thus must assume that it was just the garden variety awkward silences, overloud condemnations of George Lucas, and frottage.

No, this time I'm talking about the strange case of Russell "PyroDice" Tavares, who I'm not even going to call a nerd, because he really, really doesn't like that and Google will probably still work seven years from now when he gets out of prison. Nope. Not a nerd. Just an ex-military guy who hangs around on a photo-sharing community site, uses the handle "PyroDice", and drove all the way from Virginia to Texas to confront a guy who said mean things about him on the Internet. And when I say "confront", I mean soak a piece of foam in gasoline, throw it in the guy's mobile home, and toss a flare after it.

I cannot stress this enough to all you nerds out there: THIS IS NOT APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR. And I'm not just saying this as someone who says mean things about people on the Internet five days a week. Even in some parallel universe where I run a daily affirmations site at "", I'm sure the version of me without the goatee and gold vest would ALSO feel that arson was an inappropriate response to someone photoshopping your head onto a skinny body holding a gun and a laptop and sitting under a "Revenge Of The Nerds" sign.

Which, I have to admit, is actually pretty funny. In a crude, juvenile kind of way, it gets right to the heart of most Internet squabbles - where people talk a lot of shit and would never even think about setting a mobile home on fire. And I give a certain amount of credit to victim John G. Anderson, even though he managed to apply the principle in the one situation where it was completely incorrect. Ninety nine times out of a hundred, the guy you call a wimpy little man-child living in his mom's basement will not, in fact, leave that basement, drive 1,300 miles, and burn down your home. And PyroDice notwithstanding, I still like those odds.

A wise sage once said, "It's not funny... when you're burning." And he was right. The Internet's a huge place. If you're getting grief on one photo-sharing community site, there are dozens of others you can make the jump to and probably fit right in, unless, you know, you're a complete and utter dick or something. The cleansing power of fire is not a tool to be wielded thoughtlessly.

If someone says mean things about you on the Internet, in my experience, the best thing to do is to send them a poorly worded and spelled e-mail in which you have convinced yourself that you've logically refuted all the mean things they said, even though in actuality you've just rambled on for a few paragraphs and reinforced everything I... I mean, er, THEY, said about you. That's how to be a better nerd. Or at least a better-than-a-convicted-arsonist nerd.