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In Defense Of Tiny

By Elrod, Tiny's younger half-brother    June 3, 1997

Loyal readers of the e-mail section of the print magazine know that Tiny, our regular mailguy, is currently on a paid psychiatric leave. Tiny recently suffered a slight breakdown after receiving a scathing letter from a reader, who suggested Tiny might want to start combing the want ads.

With Tiny resting comfortably at home, we've decided to leave his fate in the hands of the readers. Tiny supporters should e-mail their comments to with the subject line "Tiny Rules." Detractors should also e-mail their comments to with the subject line "Tiny Sucks."

But don't make up your mind just yet. We've asked Tiny's half brother Elrod to pen this week's IMHO, so you could see what kind of man Tiny was, is and, with your help, someday will be.

It's not often that a kid brother gets to come to the rescue of his older brother, but by God, that's what I'm forced to do. Ever since a certain someone suggested Tiny start "combing through the Chicago Tribune's Jobs section," my brother's fragile ego has all but shattered. He's a big man (six-feet, nine-inches in thongs), and while most of the facial growths have been surgically removed, he can't be described as terribly alluring (only one cousin on our father's side of the family has a face more than a mother could love). Tiny's life up until his engagement in the IU mailroom could charitably be described as ruinously perverse. That is to say, he ran afoul of nearly every major taboo known to human society. He did not seek depravity for its own sake, but for his.

Naturally, the human resources department at IU didn't notice, and Tiny was hired on the spot. From that point forward, he changed. He turned over a new leaf. A new haircut (parted rigidly down the middle), a new wardrobe (meticulously modeled after Schneider, the gum-chewing maintenance man from One Day at a Time), a new attitude (never again would he use his bicycle for evil). Tiny smiled when he talked, and talked when he smiled, and unlike before, did so without frightening the elderly.

Today, that Tiny is a memory. And all because some Internet user found it impossible to resist defaming my brother's essence. What lies behind the urge to, as you people put it, flame? I suppose I should tell you that I devoutly ignore this Internet thing. I am a man partial to butterflies and peaches and homemade mittens, to the genteel things of life. I don't share this cultivated cynicism and adolescent irreverence you people on the Internet seem to prize so much. People tell me the Internet is the biggest revolution to hit communications technology since the invention of Federal Express. But let me ask you: What greater bandwidth is there than an open mind out in the open?

I didn't always hold the Internet in such low regard. Granted, I train pigeons for a specialized vaudeville circuit, so you can imagine how little time I have for contemplating the world of modems and telephone lines. But I always made time for Tiny. I can remember my brother after his first week with IU. He'd rush home from the Lombard office, his face bright red with metabolic exertion, and breathlessly exclaim, "Elrod! Elrod! Look what I found online!" Sure enough, he'd empty a full bushel of documents he'd printed from the Internet that day: ravioli recipes, order forms for a Peter Lorre piñata, various tracts speculating on the prolonged popularity of disc cameras in Belgium. And then, as often as not, terror would seize his features and he'd apologize for leaving so soon but he had to go back to Lombard because in his excitement he had forgotten to push the CD-ROM carriage back into its slot. As he puffed and wheezed and giggled his unwieldy form onto his bike, as he pedaled away and pleaded from a distance "Don't start the pizza without me!" I couldn't help but regret, just for a moment, having stomped on my free AOL disk with a pair of soccer cleats. Perhaps my half-brother fell in love with the Internet with the half I wasn't a brother of. But in those days, when merely saying "28.8" put a grin on my brother's face, when saying "ISDN" put chuckles in my brother's throat, when saying "PPP account" put my brother into restraints, I could summon a level of tolerance for that colossus of vapidity known as cyberspace.

But no more. When the editors at IU asked me to comment on my brother's recent turn for the worse, I nearly ordered a protest subscription to Wired. How can I comment on the shambles of a man my brother has become? Just today, in fact, I caught Tiny on all fours crouched on the linoleum floor, pushing a single cube of ice around and around with a grapefruit spoon. When I questioned this, he shot up and stated flatly, "Charlton Heston is gay." What makes matters even more poignant is that I think Tiny knew his collapse was imminent.

On the very morning he received that nefarious missive, Tiny had been poring over other reader mail and rhapsodizing about--what else?--the Internet. I had stopped by IU's offices to return the giraffe sketches Tiny had requested I take a look at. I told him the drawings were primitive and clearly revealed a disturbed psyche, to which Tiny informed me that they were actually the work of a nun in Toledo. She had been born without arms and had painstakingly created the giraffe likeness by assembling bits of ASCII text culled from several years' e-mail. "She pecks out URLs with her nose!" Tiny raved, clearly in awe. He then went on to praise the World Wide Web in almost religious terms: "Nothing separates geeks from would-be geeks like logging on and staying on. No one's going to log me off just for being 'idle' for 10 minutes. I'll show those tyrants what 'idle' means." Tiny then slipped into his best-loved impression of indolence: taking off his snug T-shirt and belly dancing in front of the receptionist. A circle of applauding co-workers quickly formed around him.

Five minutes later, the letter arrived.

Will Tiny be back? Apparently, the thick-skulled editors have left that in your hands. As if you'd take time away from Space Pirate long enough to e-mail IU a "Tiny Rules" support message. Me, I'm going back to my cooing pretties, the pigeons, and work on our Eddie Cantor production number. But I know in my heart that Tiny, even in his current deranged state, still adores the Internet. Let's just hope you people, in your current deranged state, still adore him.

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March  4, 11, 18, 25
April  2, 8, 15, 23, 29
May  6, 13, 27