Happy Birthday Spam

On May third, 1978, Gary Thuerk, working for the Digital Equipment Corporation Marketing Department, sent 393 unsolicited emails to users of Arpanet (arpanet would eventually become The Internet).

Thuerk and Digitial Equipment Corporation were both chastised for this, and the official Arpanet administrators reprimanded DEC. Nobody liked the fact that Gary Thuerk had done this, and it was all round considered to be a bad idea, an abuse of the system, and something that should never happen again.

Check out this page at New Scientist, on Spam.

Also on this day, in 1491 Kongo leader Nkuwu Nzinga accepted Christianity from the Portuguese, thus rapidly accelerating the rate of development of the African Slave Trade; 160 were killed and nearly 300 injured in a freakish freight/passenger train wreck in Tokyo, in 1962; And 42 people were killed by a Tornado in Oklahoma City, in 1999.


  1. #1 Jonathan Vos Post
    May 3, 2008

    Happy Spam-Day! Here’s another of my pastiches from a modern American classic that has hitherto only appeared on a blog. I have several others based on the
    same spam, pastiching other classics, but this one gives you a flavor
    of the set.

    It has genre elements, being based on a standard e-mail spam, and
    using genre vocabulary (mask, spirit, inquisitor, enchanting,

    Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2005,
    09:01 PM: [Making Light blog]

    The Idea of Order in Nigeria
    by Jonathan Vos Post
    [with apologies to Wallace Stevens’
    “The Idea of Order in Key West”]

    Miriam Abacha sang beyond the genius of the sea.
    The water never formed to mind or voice,
    Like a body wholly body, fluttering
    Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
    Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
    That was not ours although we understood,
    Inhuman E-mails, of the veritable ocean.

    The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
    Saluted in the name of the most high God.
    The song and water were not medleyed sound
    Even if what she sang was what she heard,
    Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
    What commission? As much as a third,
    For bank account expenses, once transferred.
    It may be that in all her phrases stirred
    The grinding water and the gasping wind;
    But it was she and not the sea we heard.

    For she was the maker of the song she sang.
    Former first lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
    Inquisitor-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
    Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
    Her daughter had free movement, and could bring
    All details to you, unmonitored by
    Nigerian Government Agents of Security.
    Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
    It was the spirit that we sought and knew
    That we should ask this often as she sang.
    To save the family from bankruptcy.
    If it was only the dark voice of the sea
    That rose, or even colored by many waves;
    If it was only the outer voice of sky
    And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
    However clear, it would have been deep air,
    The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
    Repeated in a summer without end
    And sound alone. But it was more than that,
    More even than her voice, and ours, among
    The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
    Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped,
    Like the sum of thirty million U.S. Dollars,
    Of cash removed through covert means
    From family safe at Kano State.
    On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
    Of sky and sea.

    It was her voice that made
    The sky acutest at its vanishing.
    As vanished General Sani Abacha,
    Late Nigerian military Head of State,
    Leaving the widow, the son Mohammed,
    Undergoing trial in Oputa, Lagos,
    Abuja, by the present civilian regime.

    She measured to the hour its solitude.
    She was the single artificer of the world
    In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
    Whatever self it had, became the self
    That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
    As we beheld her striding there alone,
    In distress and under house arrest,
    Knew that there never was a world for her
    Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

    Miriam Abacha, tell me, if you know,
    When I e-mail you my bank account data,
    Why, when the singing ended and we turned
    Towards Nigeria, tell why the glassy lights,
    The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
    As the night descended, tilting in the air,
    Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
    Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
    Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

    Oh! Blessed rage for order, dark Miriam,
    The maker’s rage to order words of the sea,
    Words of the Web, fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
    And of ourselves and of our origins,
    In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.