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The Sweet Sound of Spam

May 28, 2002 

Spam radio doesn't offer up love songs to that mysterious canned lunch meat. But it does set e-mail to music.

I swear to the Almighty, all my supervisors at the venerable Disney organization — and my dear mother — I wasn't asking for free membership in the nude volleyball league.

I don't know why all these perverted Web sites bombard my e-mail address, assuming that I want kinky cyber pleasure at work. Who do these people think I am? How did they get my name?

Delete, delete, delete. All day long, I'm discarding propositions before breakfast that would keep Larry Flynt retching all the way through lunch.

And when the e-mail lords see that I don't want tawdry sex, they make certain assumptions. A wave of Viagra ads follows offers for hair replacement and plastic surgery discounts. Then comes my daily pitch from a kindly stranger in Nigeria, who offers me $50,000 if only I'll open a $5,000 letter of credit in his name.

If spam — unsolicited e-mail — is getting you down, you have to check out, a Web site that sets junk e-mail to music. Thanks to computer automation, every day there's a new play list. You might hear a robotic reading of a New Age funeral home's offer set to techno-funk.

Then, sit tight for a rollicking, disco version of that e-mail offer to become a "real, ordained minister in just 48 hours."

And remember that prospective business partner from Nigeria? His dubious deal is also set to music, as is the constant e-mail promise that "you'll never have to touch a toilet seat again."

You can dance your junk e-mail blues away, thanks to two young British computer programmers. "The site is really self-explanatory," said co-founder Ian Morrison, 25. "We just want to let people know what a waste of bandwidth this junk mail can be."

Morrison, who sets up computer networks, says has an e-mail account that receives all the junk mail that's turned into each day's playlist.

With a revolving resource of 20 songs — some of which he helped to record with a local band — and a computer program that reads e-mail, Spam Radio earned a nomination for a Webby Award, in the Weird Web Site category.

You can log onto the Webby site to vote for Spam Radio or one of the other nominees in the People's Voice category. (Links to the awards site and all the nominees are on the right. Online voting ends June 7 and winners will be announced June 18).

What's the criteria for weirdness? According to the Webby folks: "Sites so forward thinking they seem strange when viewed without the future in mind."

This category includes sites that reflect a fresh perspective in thought and action strong enough to start a revolution, change a behavior pattern, or advance old thinking lodged in bad habits. Sites that just seem strange or abnormal.

Here are the other nominees:

Nominee: Cut Off My Feet

In a time when it's getting harder and harder to earn your full 15 minutes of fame, Paul "Frek" Morgan caused quite a stir when he tried to sell $20 tickets to watch via Webcam as he cut his own feet off with a guillotine.

The 33-year-old Mississippi native says he suffered an accident coming home from a boat trip. He fell off the back of a truck and was run over by a boat trailer, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down and in constant pain. He said that Medicare and Medicaid wouldn't pay for the surgery he needed and he responded by organizing a public amputation to underwrite his health costs.

For a mere $20 subscription, he was promising that you could watch the grisly action. He reportedly hoped to raise $150,000 to cover the cost of prosthetics, follow-up surgery and rehabilitation.

The live event — think of it as a reality TV version of Footloose — was supposed to be held last fall. But not enough people signed up to underwrite the cost of lighting, camera crews, a director, live band, the video and DVD production — not to mention EMT services and the homemade guillotine. Morgan says that legal troubles have also slowed him down.

But he's still signing up members and looking for investors. And if you can't stomach the show, you can always buy a "Cut Off My Feet" souvenir T-shirt.

Nominee: Mind Control Forum

Are you hearing little voices in your head? Did you ever tell the judge, "The devil made me do it"? Maybe you're not crazy. The folks at the Mind Control Forum are dedicated to "exposing and stopping involuntary neuro-electromagnetic human experimentation (in homes and communities)." They say the CIA and other cloak-and-dagger groups are actively using thought-controlling gizmos.

The founder of the site, Ed Light, even offers what he claims are MRI scans of his own skull, which supporters say show he's been the victim of a sinister implant that might be controlling him via satellite. Just because The X-Files was canceled doesn't mean the truth is no longer out there, at least for the true believers. You can learn to check your own body for scars that may suggest you, too, are under control.

Nominee: All Your Base Are Belong To Us

Fans of the Zero Wing video-game phenomena have helped make "All Your Base Are Belong To Us" an Internet phenomena. Why the bad grammar? It's apparently because evil space aliens didn't score high on the verbal section of the SATs. Look closely at the images of cigarette adds, street signs and news headlines on this Flash-driven site. You'll see photographic "proof" that we're already under control of illiterate guys from outer space.

Nominee: Devices of Wonder

Just because you're an esteemed museum doesn't mean you can't match your weird Web site against those run by dorm-room freshmen with too much time and not enough adult supervision. The Getty Research Institute offers an extraordinary collection of objects, from the 17th century to the present, that demonstrate how old and new technologies converge. Starting with simple flip-card animations, the Flash-driven show examines how computer-driven special effects and optical illusions are creating the enthralling, albeit sometimes terrifying, images of tomorrow.

By Buck Wolf. Copyright © 2002 ABC News Internet Ventures.

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