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Sunday, May 1, 2016

From my Front Porch

Thursday, July 17, 2003

The SPAM scam

When a well-traveled, sophisticated friend once explained that for his birthday his mama makes his favorite dish, SPAM casserole, I was taken aback. It is probably snobbish of me, but I have always considered canned meat something to be consumed only during an extreme emergency, such as a nuclear disaster, and then only if every morsel of other food has been consumed.

I have never in my life deliberately eaten SPAM, though I will admit to succumbing to the delights of potted meat during my first pregnancy after running short on sweet pickles and chocolate ice cream, a serious emergency given the circumstances. Over the years, I have come to appreciate that there are many folks who wouldn't consider a kitchen pantry well stocked without a few cans of the popular all-American meat product, though many are reticent to admit as much. But, then again, they also hesitate to admit they are quite adept at sneaking peeks at trashy tabloid headlines while waiting their turn in the checkout line.

I am reasonably certain that back in 1891, when George A. Hormel founded the Hormel food company, he had no idea that a little over 100 years later his company would be faced with a cultural dilemma courtesy of a Monty Python skit featuring Hormel SPAM. According to the official SPAM Web site, it seems that at some point during the skit, a group of Vikings dance around the room singing, "SPAM, SPAM, SPAM." It's a bit of a stretch, but the analogy has been made between the skit's disruptive singing of SPAM and the disruptive nature of dealing with an Internet mailbox full of unauthorized commercial e-mail resulting in the word SPAM becoming synonymous with such e-mail.

For the past several months, unauthorized commercial e-mail has become an intense point of interest in the cyber world and in real life, to the degree that legislation has been considered to regulate the e-mail.

Unfortunately, there are individuals and businesses out there with nothing better to do than fill e-mail inboxes around the world with unauthorized messages. Because this business practice is also known as spamming, the Hormel company is becoming increasingly concerned with the unfortunate defamation of a product as American as barbecue ribs and apple pie. The company has expressed a preference for the use of lower case letters with the word for unsolicited commercial e-mails. In other words, SPAM is edible and spam is not.

If you think about it, spam is just an updated version of an age-old problem -- junk mail. Not a working day goes by that the postal service doesn't deliver stacks upon stacks of junk mail. But the difference is, the mailman has yet to deliver anything to my home I wouldn't let my mama read. Not so with spam.

Of all things, there are folks out there in the cyber world who have the nerve to suggest I should consider enlarging or enhancing certain appendages, which I may or may not possess. They are also way too concerned with my home mortgage rate, weight loss progress and personal finances, or lack there of.

I recently received an e-mail written in all caps, a sure sign something isn't quite right, from someone claiming to be the son of a deposed king of a war-torn country. He insisted that his only chance of survival is if I send him a bank account number. In doing so, I am guaranteed 25 percent of his fortune.

In closing, he wrote, "PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE THE RECEIPT OF THIS PROPOSAL VIA MY E-MAIL ADDRESS TO ENABLE ME KNOW IF YOU ARE INTERESTING OR NOT."

Well, my friends and family assure me that I am indeed interesting, even though, and with all due respect to Mr. Hormel, I have no immediate plans to make, let alone sample, a SPAM casserole.

Barbara Madden is a freelance writer who lives in Willow Springs. She may reached via her Website at www.barbaramadden.com.