Spam, Poetry, Aphasiology and Machines

They show up in your email, opportunities for investment that suddenly become the strangely beautiful, often amusing, nonsense of email-filter avoidance. Most of the time they are entirely inscrutible; you'd get more sense firing a dictionary out of a shotgun. Sometimes, however, an underlying theme appears to develop, as if, perhaps, in code.

And while I know these snippets of surreal poetry are nothing more than tiny Racter robots attempting to sneak their HOT YUNG NUNZ FCK messages past Gmail's Bayesian systems, part of me nevertheless dreams of insane, but sentient, computers, drunk on Carrol and telling their own versions of the Walrus and the Carpenter.

Or perhaps karma stepped in and the spammer suffered a severe stroke just before hitting "SEND". Perhaps the resultant debilitating schizophrenia or Wernicke's aphasia caused him to spew out this bizarre word salad in a vain attempt to ask for immediate medical help.

Sometimes the gobbledygook seems to have been drawn from a single, identifiable source (as with the constant prescription emails I receive that contain conversations between a Mr. Fogg and John). Other times the spam tries to lend itself credibility with unscrambled sections of books, most commonly The Bible or a Harry Potter book.

In any case, it has become somewhat an obsession of mine, this wonderfully strange convergence of several of my passions (however ineptly indulged): aphasiology, poetry, prose and AI.

I am not the first to notice this, but I am going to do something not many have yet-done: read the emails aloud as performance pieces. The only editing I will do is to refrain from saying the urls and email addresses contained in each, and I will only be reading words that appear as text within the email (most of the spam poetry is sent with an image file of the actual wording of the ads, to further confuse the filters).


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