Friday, April 13, 2007

What's the deal with the literary spam?

And, scroll down for a must-read Sanjaya parody!

Have you been getting spam e-mails lately that read like a literary classic on LSD? You're not the only one. There's even a name for it: "literary spam."

My 101QFL co-worker, Darren Marlar, and I were discussing such strange e-mails the other day, and wondering what could possibly be the reason for them. Here's an example of what I'm talking about--from an e-mail I actually received:

"beat No, to-morrow; boot I shall slain addition not have time today.fax On crept bake thing the first floor. God's shaken justice! liquid Speak not more of it, drip reverend sir. Ifscary eat Very stocking good, father-in-law, subtract said Cavalcanti, yield
The cheese drove shelter past--that obscurity arrange on the past.put Yes, if hungrily you tie will fruit not consent to retract that infa Sketch bat song me the plan of that spoken floor, nerve as you have don Well, throat summer to-morrow I will leave soap them when I go to Au anxious curve That georgic is very flower simple. Andrea took the pen. On th mountain But, string said Danglars,-who, on his part, seriously hook did not harmony..."

Ooh-kay. And so on, in a similar nonsensical vein, for several paragraphs.

From what I've been able to dig up on the internet, literary spam is basically an attempt by spammers to get past spam filters by trying to make the e-mail look more like something someone would actually write (although I don't know anyone who would actually write like that!)

Apparently, the spammers get their content from websites that post the full text of books, like Project Gutenberg.

This from an article on

These spammers mine Web sites that post the full text of books, like Project Gutenberg, which, along with its affiliates, has more than 250,000 books online.

Spammers also need each e-mail to look different so the filters can't pick up on particular passages. Sometimes the spam-making programs do this by rearranging sentences. Other times they compose fake sentences out of pairs of words that tend to occur together.

This is called "Markov Chaining," after the Russian mathematician Andrey Markov. Graham [spam filter creator Paul Graham] says it explains the word salads you may see in spam.

Sometimes the e-mails contain imbedded images that can't be seen by some e-mail programs. Or, they'll include an image or link they want you to click on; or they'll include a sales pitch at the beginning or end of the e-mail.

Whatever the purpose, spam is spam, literary or not...and the best way to deal with it is to flush it down your "delete" drain as soon as possible.

Interesting note, though: this literary spam has spawned the word "spoem" or "spoetry" to describe free-verse poems created from literary spam. Kinda funny. A lot of this stuff you can actually imagine a beatnik performing in a smoke-filled 60's coffee house, to the accompaniment of a bongo...

In other news...

Darren applied to be on the reality show Big Brother, and blogs about it wittily here.

And in the my-two-cents department: What Don Imus said was reprehensible, heinous, outrageous, and totally inexcusable. But where's the outrage over rap and hip-hop artists saying much the same thing and much worse, repeatedly and freely, in their horribly demeaning "music"? I've heard Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton don't plan to let the rappers off the hook either. We can only hope.

And finally...a not-to-be-missed parody about Sanjaya:

If you're an American Idol fan, you HAVE to read this.

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