Spam: the cultural life of buzzards



















 A while ago I noticed that an old email account had been overrun by spam since I stopped using it. The messages claimed to be from all sorts of interesting-sounding individuals such as Tawny Carrol and Anatalius Mcgeehan, and many shared similar subject lines ("Re: PHoAgRMA," "Re: PHyvARMA") that seemed to be part of an ongoing series.  The usual spam topics were involved -- Viagra, phony stock tips, hot girls seeking random hook-ups -- but these emails also included bizarre strings of words that seemed like stream-of-consciousness poetry, as well as snatches of narratives.  It turned out that works such as The Count of Monte Cristo and Stephen King’s Misery were serialized in these spam emails. 


One explanation is that the spammers include these literary touches to fool bulk mail filters.  Often enough, though, the endless promises for penis enlargement seemed more like a vehicle for the poems and stories, rather than the other way around.  The "poems" may be generated by a computer program that puts words together, but they result in messages that are not unlike the experiments in "automatic writing" advocated by movements like Surrealism. Possibly, spammers imagine names for themselves and their recipients like writers come up the names of characters in their books.  You see that my email addresses appear numerous times under many different names -- Titus Porter, Zach Nolana.  Why do they pick one novel and not another to include in the messages?  Why do they propose investing in one sort of made-up company, or claim to be from a certain fake domain name --,


I wanted to document this ephemera, which seemed likely to pass into oblivion without leaving much of a trace.  So I made this directory of the spam messages I received during the Summer and Fall of 2006.