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The case in favour of spam

Funny names, free stuff, battle of wits


David Rider


Saturday Post

Saturday, July 26, 2003

In the prevailing political climate, spam e-mail is considered only slightly less sinister than kiddy porn. But I like it. Spam, that is.

It may seem heretical given the tsunami of outrage crashing down on bulk e-mailers from consumers, corporations and lawmakers, but I've had worse uninvited guests than spam, and at least a few amuse me.

The gatecrashers vying to lengthen my genitals, shrink my debt and inflame my loins arrive in various guises. Some go by boringly obvious names, like Porn King. But I've had one from Osama Suddam. Isn't he in my hockey pool? And Dylan Bobby, who has offered to refinance my home, also sounds strangely familiar.

But I enjoy the ones with bizarre monikers most. Recently arrivals have included Santiago Pickett, Babington Bayola and Alba Crooks. I'm convinced the ghost of Charles Dickens is floating around in Spamland. Guess from which mind -- novelist or spammer -- these handles sprang: Chauncey Edmonds, Esther Summerson, Thomas Gradgrind, Lotoya Crepeau, Caddy Jellyby, Wallace Crawley, Tamara Santiago, William Guppy, Fatima Hovis, Ulysses Bermudez, Monsieur Heretofore and Alexa Clutterbucks. Answer: Edmonds, Crepeau, Crawley, Santiago, Hovis, Bermudez and Clutterbucks are all spam.

There's a Web site called notbbc.com with a "Great Made-Up Spam Names Of Our Time" forum. A typical posting: "Vintage day for names today -- in the last hour I've had the following: Dorice Kilgore, Gwendolyn Harrington, Omar Lugo, Hans Hopkins, Vito Gomez." Another, obviously savouring the sound of Oralia Wisinski, simply concluded: "God bless spam."

Amen, sister.

Spam is also useful because it requires you to distinguish it from the real meat -- the e-mails you want to read. Even Canadian Internet expert Rick Broadhead doesn't always get it right: "I don't have a spam filter," says Broadhead, who has written 32 Internet-related books. "I highlight them all -- usually they're all together -- and hit delete. But sometimes I have to open one or two of them." He pauses, then adds, "Here's one: 'I found it.' I wasn't sure. Found what? What the heck's that about?" So he opened it. "A kind of grin crosses my face whenever I get caught because anytime I open an e-mail and it's spam, I feel, 'They got me.' It's an art form."

Here's another good thing about spam: People get a lot of stuff for free, so what's a little inconvenience? Plus, the spam backlash is a witchhunt in which politicians scramble to condemn the wrongdoers with penalties more suited to the war on terror. And why don't we squirt the same venom at companies bombarding our real mailboxes with unsolicited paper ads?

Karl Mamer, a Canadian who used to write a newspaper column called CyberSpace, proves you can hate spam yet enjoy it. He is one of many who have scammed the spammers. The results are on the Web site www.yrad.com/

"Conversations with a Nigerian Bank Scammer" is the title of his hilarious exchange with Marco, a perpetrator of the now-familiar dodge that starts by requesting help moving a fortune out of an African country in exchange for a cut.

Mamer responds that the offer to make 10% of $23.7-million is fortuitous, since he just happens to need seed money for a "free-range pitbull farm." Then follow a series of rambling missives full of nonsense from Mamer in response to Marco's error-ridden e-mails apparently originating in South Africa. Marco finally abandons his correspondence after Mamer accuses Marco of being part of a religious conspiracy involving a universal language "like Espresseronto."

Just think --all that fun borne of a single e-mail. Unsolicited, under attack, undervalued. Spam.

 Copyright  2003 National Post




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