The Joy Of Spam: Making The Most Out Of Something Annoying

Since I have been online for over a decade (actually much longer), it comes as no surprise that I get SPAM. About 100 a day on average, most of which spam filters hide from me, and more on weekends when the spammers really get going. I get spam in all languages. I get spam from the “President of the United States” and “Billz E. Gates”! I get spam that looks like a team of drunken monkeys typed it with their balls, and what is being sold and why is often completely undecipherable.

It’s time to celebrate the benefits of spam!

1. If you are a writer, fake names harvested from Spam make great character names. Then again, there are the unintentionally hilarious computer-generated monikers: “Schmuck G. Deriding, Iroquoian L. Biscuit, Zirconium H. Coquetted,Vealed C. Certitude, Abusiveness O. Solitude, Cursoring U. Bayonet, Disabling Condom, Kangaroo D. Castanet, Withering A. Footstool, Bombay Dyslexic, Disallows H. Bootstrap, Epidermis V. Manhunt, Frescoes S. Congo, Vegetated H. Febrile, Vacillating K. But,” just to name a few that another blogger (Phillip LaPlante) noted.

2. You can learn new 1337speak variations, especially how to spell VIAGRA and CIALIS with symbols and numbers…or, as LaPlante commented, appreciate that “subject lines can contain similar kinds of whimsy, or rely on the human brain to “i n t rp rit the c rr ct meening.”

3. You can play “Punk’d” with Nigerian scammers. There are actually entire websites that do nothing but share Nigerian 411 scammer punkings. Total strangers do not offer large sums of money, in general, to people via e-mail. I mean, would YOU do it? The only legitimate response is to string them along and ask for naked or embarrassing pictures with them wearing a shoe on their head and holding signs saying “I like tiny cupcakes” or something equally lame written on them.

4. You can keep up with the latest Urban Legends without going to snopes.com. I’m still waiting for Bill Gates to send me on an all-expenses-paid trip to Disneyland for filling out his way awesome survey, or for an animated Tweety Bird to walk across my screen because I responded to a total stranger’s e-mail that swore it would happen. Except I’m not. I don’t even like Disneyland or Tweety Bird.

5. You can participate in slacktivism by not signing petitions or reading chain mail. You have achieved the same result, but have expended no valuable time or attention to the problem at all! Conservation of resources is good.

6. Speaking of chain mail, you can bring 40 people bad luck by refusing to forward on their lame chain letter.

7. If you have penis envy, all the mail targeted to penis owners will cure you of that. Apparently penises are never long enough, wide enough, hard enough or functional enough, and you need all manner of pills and herbs to keep them operational. I think I’ll just stick to borrowing one once in a while from very close friends.

8. Speaking of friends, now you can meet lots of new naked friends! I get sent at least twelve porn links a day from naked people. I can’t go a day without a spammer intent upon infesting my computer with pop-ups and malware from an awesome porn site. Hold me back!

9. You can correct bad grammar, and keep your skills up to date. This is like shooting large fish in a small barrel. It is often more challenging to find a sentence in spam that is not a grammatical nightmare.

10. Word salad spam is particularly amusing, as it can often resemble William S. Burroughs-style “cut and paste” beat poetry. Enigmatic technicolour doorknob! Restless meerkat harbls! Antiquated velveteen renal foyer macadamias! Pickled milkshake Siberian antimacassar doughnuts! Constipated mongeese Cousteau sunshine wounded! Baffled fruit cocktail Batman fungoid cylinders! Rumpled nanosecond terrycloth pantaloons! Sensitized furniture millennium dentifrices!What does it all mean? I feel more wise and intellectual and artsy already.

11. You can stay informed about politics that were last relevant in 2004, or read 12 messages a day from people claiming to be Barack Obama. I still get pro-John Kerry spam. Dudes, I was really pissed off a few years ago, too, but it is time to let it go. I’m pretty sure Kerry has.

12. If you have too much money, you can buy stocks from spammers. I always trust unsolicited financial advice I get from total strangers who can’t spell!

13. If you still have too much money, you can refinance your mortgage, even if you don’t actually have a mortgage. Is that awesome or what?

14. Still looking for ways to get rid of all those pesky dollars clogging your wallet? There’s always Internet Gambling! You are guaranteed to win! Those gambling sites aren’t in it to take your money at all. Awesome!

15. I am particularly impressed by phishing attempts to scam me out of, for example, my eBay data when I haven’t used eBay in years and am no longer an account holder at the site (as far as I know). ZOMG, my non-existent account has been compromised! Maybe “I” will win some cool auctions and have interesting packages arrive at my door. Dumbasses.

16. The celebrity gossip spam is also pretty cool, especially since I rarely pay attention to celebrities and have no idea who half of these supposedly famous people are. By spamming me with celebrity gossip, I stay “in the know” without even having to glance at the tabloids when I check out at the grocery store. However, since I don’t know who most of these people are, or simply don’t give a crap, why should I click those enticing links? I don’t care who “Shia LeBoeuf” is dating. (I’d swear that was a made-up name, but it rings a bell. I don’t know if it is a he or she, though. It has no relevance to my life.)

17. The pseudo-intellectual spam is also pretty nifty. LaPlante quoted one of his favourites:”To ensure the equality of the diagonals, we make use of a little testing-rod. Thus the body has the same energy as a body of mass on a Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Continuum. The surface of a marble table is spread out in front of me.” This text is then followed by instructions to get low prices on little blue pills.

18. MySpace had its own special spam, remember? I got spam for free gift cards, fugly designer crap, and more naked people. (These people now spam pictures of awful athletic shoes and overpriced heels and try to get people to fall for ‘free gift cards’ on Facebook.) Anyway, there sure are a lot of naked people out there. I see a naked person for free every day, man.

19. Learn Spamlish! I get ten spam-mails a day that say strange crap like “Buadtzy your mmpnllhdjmreds hyhsjijtnfonline.” (An actual quote.) Say what? I think that translates to “Click on me and verify your e-mail address is legitimate! Send me all your money!”

20. Learn what not to search for via GoogHoo, and you won’t get as much cool spam. Spam works like Darwin Awards to week out the weak and gullible! If you don’t have enough spam, here’s how to get some: search for free crap online.

The 8 Most Dangerous Search Terms:

  • Free screensavers
  • Bearshare
  • Screensavers
  • Winmx
  • Limewire
  • Download Yahoo Messenger
  • Lime wire
  • Free ringtones

Across all searches, up to 6 percent of the sites were flagged as dangerous, notes the BBC. “Even a single visit to a dangerous site can have serious and lasting implications for the average internet user,” Edelman and Rosenbaum wrote in their report.

(While we’re at it, don’t be stupid and use an easily-guessed password anywhere.

The top 10 most common passwords:

  • Your user name
  • Your user name followed by 123
  • 123456
  • password
  • 1234
  • 12345
  • passwd
  • 123
  • test
  • 1

Yes, people do this. Argh! I had to keep my mother from choosing one of the variations on this list.)

21. If you have spam, you have a guaranteed hot topic to bitch about and most people will happily bitch right along with you. Spam creates unity and agreement!

22. No free lunches! You could probably rid yourself of 99% of your spam by adding a mail filter that scans for the word “free” and immediately zorches with extreme prejudice any email you get that includes that word. Of course, there would be some false positives. Train your friends to never use the word “free,” then. Or “viagra.” Or “teens.” Easy! Or you can be like me and never check your email until all your buddies get mad at you and stop emailing you. Then all you ever have in your INBOX is spam, and can just “delete all” without reading anything. What a time saver!

23. Spammers NEVER get my name right. This is an easy way to zorch the tardburgers who try to sell me pills for my non-existent penis. As a bonus, I get to collect new and improved misspellings of my real name and a bunch of wacky new aliases. Do you think I can be “Kangaroo D. Castanet”? I kind of like that one.

24. Wow, free legal software! I believe that I can get the entire Macromedia suite, or all Adobe products or MicroSmurf Vista X, on dialup, no less, just by clicking a link! Rock on! I’ll be sure to trust this unsolicited spam mail from a total stranger who wants to send me to “http://totallylegalforrealio.xxxpornware.org.” They are only thinking of my well-being and such, of course.

25. Free empty flattery and friendships! I get told via spam every day that I am someone’s friend, or a smart shopper, or clever investor, or super sexy. Wow! They really know me!

So, hey, spam is great! Love your spam.

Since all spammers are going to be poked in the eye with lemon-and-tabasco-dipped spikes and roasted over flaming pits of brimstone while boy bands serenade them for all eternity, at least once they die, you can rest assured that ignoring spam is your mission from God. Put on your sunglasses, grab your smokes, and brush up on the Blues.

The flaw with ignoring spam, alas, is that it doesn’t give up and go away. If I ignore the Jehovah’s Witnesses who traipse through my ‘hood every other week or so, and refuse to stop whatever far more interesting activity I am engaged in to get up and answer the door, they eventually stop knocking and ringing the bell and wander off to bug someone else. If only spam was as accommodating.

The Cross-Generational Appeal Of Monty Python

I introduced my mother to the joys of Monty Python a while back. She knows who, say, George Carlin is, but had never seen anything but Monty Python’s (IMVHO) least-accessible film (Meaning of Life). Should have seen Holy Grail or Life of Brian instead, I think.

Anyway, she was treated to dead parrots, homicidal barbers who pine to be lumberjacks, Mr. Gumby, the Spanish Inquisition, Arthur Name (by name but not reputation) and Mr. Equator, Hell’s Grannies, saucy barristers, and silly walks, all of which met with mixed approval.

Next time, we will explore The Larch, dead vicars, SPAM, buying an argument, word aversion sketches, and much more.


The Fine Art of Professional Argument.

It led to an interesting discussion concerning “Why British Comedy Is, Generally Speaking, Much Funnier Than American Comedy,” wherein it was determined that British humor is verbally more dry and subtle, and assumes the audience is moderately well-educated and aware of other countries’ cultures and habits and languages, while visually it is broad, relying on cross-dressing, deadpan facial expressions, surreal settings and physical comedy. American comics tend to try and reach common ground with an audience, going for the easy reference and observational “didja ever wonder” commentary and assumes the audience is barely literate but pop culture-obsessed, while visually the comedians tend to be restrained (with a few notable exceptions like Steve Martin, Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams), and even then, their exaggerated expressions tend to be facial. Carlin was mostly restrained, Emo Phillips and Steven Wright were practically comatose, and so on. Compare to Brit comic Benny Hill: big on slapstick.

It’s a very broad and somewhat flawed generalization, to be sure. One could easily cite the Marx Brothers or Stooges as being big on slapstick.

The debate will continue.

The main difference seems to be in choice of references, and willingness to be absurd and surreal. Brits apparently have longer attention spans, are more aware of historical references, are long-accustomed to men in drag as a comedy/panto staple, and are more willing to wait for the payoff in a skit.

On a personal note, I used to try to watch Monty Python on PBS long before we had cable…long before anyone had cable, possibly. PBS typically was piped in from a neighboring county, and sometimes I could get audio but no video (or I’d get staticky spaghetti, sort of like that seen on the possessed television set in Poltergeist, where you think you might have seen something recognizable there, but perhaps not). This resulted in me knowing what many of the MP shows SOUNDED like, but the visuals were lost, so when viewing them on DVD, the sketches were simultaneously very familiar and new.

Some sketches suddenly made much more sense, as they relied solely on the visual clash of costume / location and dialogue (example: “Wuthering Heights in semaphore” is funny as an idea, but much, much funnier when you can SEE it).

I had to explain this to my mother multiple times, as she has some weird objection to viewing something with me that I have already seen before. I could also have told her that merely being friends with geeks and nerdy types will expose you to every single MP skit known to mankind, recounted word for word endlessly, but it would take too long to explain the phenomenon to her, so I refrained. 🙂

Here’s my version of The Dead Parrot sketch, done with Strip Generator.

To see the whole strip, click this link. It’s not that exciting.

I mentioned the “American comedy v. British comedy” discussion elsewhere, and my friend Kimberly D. had some interesting and insightful comments:

I’ve always understood the difference to be British comedy takes outrageous situations and normalizes them; American comedy takes normal situations and makes them outrageous.

Hence, Monty Python gets laughs for silly walks being a regular department of government, and george Carlin gets laughs for business being turned into “servicing the customer” with all its dirty innuendo in tact.

And then there’s Canadian comedy, which blends the best of both worlds. Hence, you get Bob and Doug MacKenzie (“take off to the great white north!”) and the Head Crusher from Kids in the Hall.

Of course, none of that explains Brit-coms v. American sit-coms…which is another short thesis….and one I’ve not analyzed well yet. I know there is some correlation between all the ‘family’ comedies – whether the pedestrian As Time Goes By or the sticky sweet Full House. I’m certain there is something unique about Blackadder/Chef/Father Ted…something not found in American comedies. And except for The Office, the shows don’t translate well (see the disastrous American version of Coupling, which was supposedly the UK’s answer to Friends).

Can you tell I’m a student of comedy? I actually worked professionally as an improvisational comedian for a few years, and as a director, have done my fair share of comedies.

Clearly, she knows her stuff. Me? I’ve only ever taken an elective in college that explored the anatomy of Comedy, and what makes something funny (e.g., absurdity, surprise, juxtaposition of unexpected elements, and so on). Didn’t make anything funnier, mind you. 🙂 Something about dissecting a comedy routine into component parts is very like watching sausages getting made. 

Attack Of The Glurgemonster

Everyone has received some weird e-mail spam at least once. The worst of the lot are so-called “inspirational” or “heart-warming” tales. If I want inspirational, I’ll read a biography about Gandhi or Helen Keller. If I want heart-warming, I’ll get take-out from Taco Bell and add lots of hot sauce.

My cousin S. is one of the worst offenders, frequently sending me Jesus-related spam. Jesus apparently doesn’t mind being misquoted and used to back the Conservative Christian political agenda. Who knew? I thought he was a long-haired, bearded Jewish hippie carpenter who liked feeding people, supporting being kind to your neighbors and offering free healthcare, and who wasn’t keen on money-changers, the rich, or government.

A cute little rant called “If I Were The Devil” (often falsely attributed to Paul Harvey) started circulating the Internet in 1999. Eventually a new rant from an opposing viewpoint was penned and circulated in response. So what would happen if we put both rants side by side, line by line? We’d have a SPAM FIGHT!

And it begins….now. (Remember, each point of view is saying what he or she would do IF The Devil actually existed, and IF s/he was The Devil. If you forget that part, the following makes little sense.)

CONSERVATIVE and LIBERAL, in unison: If I were the devil, I would gain control of the most powerful nation in the world;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would delude their minds into thinking that they had come from man’s effort, instead of God’s blessings;
LIBERAL: …I would delude their minds into thinking that a 3000-year-old collection of superstition and mythology called the ‘Bible’ was a more valid guide to the modern world than reason and science;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would promote an attitude of loving things and using people, instead of the other way around;
LIBERAL: …I would promote an attitude of valuing economic expansion and personal wealth over people and the environment, instead of the other way around;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would dupe entire states into relying on gambling for their state revenue;
LIBERAL: …I would dupe an entire population into placing the greatest tax burden on their poorest citizens;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would convince people that character is not an issue when it comes to leadership;
LIBERAL: …I would convince people that image rather than achievement was the most important issue when it comes to leadership;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would make it legal to take the life of unborn babies;
LIBERAL: …I would ensure that men maintained control over women’s bodies and sexuality;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would make it socially acceptable to take one’s own life, and invent machines to make it convenient;
LIBERAL: …I would make it socially acceptable to deny terminally ill patients the right to end their own lives with dignity, and instead force them to spend their final days in continual pain and suffering;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would cheapen human life as much as possible so that the life of animals are valued more than human beings;
LIBERAL: …I would promote the exploitation and suffering of animals as much as possible, so that business profits would be valued more than treating living things humanely;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would take God out of the schools, where even the mention of His name was grounds for a lawsuit;
LIBERAL: …I would coerce schoolchildren into worshiping my god and call it “freedom of religion”;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would come up with drugs that sedate the mind and target the young, and I would get sports heroes to advertise them;
LIBERAL: …I would come up with drugs that sedate the mind and target the old, and I would get B-list celebrities to advertise them and I would criminalize marijuana;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would get control of the media, so that every night I could pollute the mind of every family member for my agenda;
LIBERAL: …I would get control of the government by stealing elections and leading the country into unnecessary wars, so that I could twist the laws of the nation to suit my agenda;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would attack the family, the backbone of any nation.
LIBERAL: …I would attack minorities, foreigners, women, homosexuals, and every other powerless group, the backbone of any nation;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would make divorce acceptable and easy, even fashionable. If the family crumbles, so does the nation;
LIBERAL: …I would force couples to remain in unworkable marriages. Unhappy people are easier to control;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would compel people to express their most depraved fantasies on canvas and movie screens, and I would call it art;
LIBERAL: …I would suppress freedom of speech and expression, and I would call it protecting society;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would convince the world that people are born homosexuals, and that their lifestyles should be accepted and marveled;
LIBERAL: …I would convince the world that people choose to be homosexuals, and that their lifestyles should be reviled and demonized;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would convince the people that right and wrong are determined by a few who call themselves authorities and refer to their agenda as politically correct;
LIBERAL: …I would convince the people that right and wrong are determined by a few bigoted religious zealots who refer to their agenda as Christian;

CONSERVATIVE: …I would persuade people that the church is irrelevant and out of date, and the Bible is for the naive and I would dull the minds of Christians, and make them believe that prayer is not important, and that faithfulness and obedience are optional;
LIBERAL: …I would persuade people that the Bible, a book that condones xenophobia, slavery, subordination of women, and stoning people to death, is a relevant guide to modern life;

CONSERVATIVE and LIBERAL, in unison: I guess I would leave things pretty much the way they are.