Just like 2001: A Space Odyssey, the sleek black shiny bauble sits on my desk like a musical question. I put it off as long as I could: I waited for the next update, the next price drop. Finally, I could hold out no longer: my 60-gig iPod rocks like bobby socks. I have the entire catalog of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who. Wilco, They Might Be Giants, etc. at my fingertips. (Now all I have to do is figure out what the heck is with the video thingy. What the heck can this thing download??)
I tend to find creative ways to waste time, and for a while I had a lot of fun writing back to all the spammers in my email box. My replies usually took on the tone mastered by Don Novello (nobody ever did it better), and here are a few exchanges from several years ago. Please note that despite “Livingston’s” blatant shows of racist ignorance, I always got replies!
Scam Letter: 10/5/2002
From: “Pedro savimbi” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: assistance urgently needed
Date: Thu, 5 Sep 2002 13:58:28 +0200
From: Pedro Savimbi
This letter may come to you as a surprise due to the fact that we have not yet met. The message could be strange but real if you pay some attention to it. I could have notified you about it at least for the sake of your integrity. Please accept my sincere apologies.
In bringing this message of goodwill to you, I have to say that I have no intentions of causing you any pains. I am Mr. T. Savimbi, son of the late rebel leader Jonas Savimbi of Angola who was killed on the 22nd of February 2002 . I managed to get your contact details through the internet myself Time is of the importance and I was desperately looking for a person to assist me in this confidential business.
My late father, Jonas Savimbi was able to deposit a large sum of money in different security firms in Europe and Ghana. My father is presently death and the movement of his family members (including me) is restricted. We are forbidden to either travel abroad or out of our localities. Presently our movement are monitored. Right now there is a rush for all my Father’s wealth but home and Abroad by the Government who are claiming that most of the wealth was got by Arms smuggling and therefore illegal and by my father’s extended family and relations.
You can know more about my father by checking his profile at URL below: www.kwacha.com/edoc2.htm . His wealth has been estimated to be $500 million to over $1 billion and being close to my father I happen to be in possession of documents and information of some of the wealth. Approx. $250 million and only my trusted mother knows that I have this information.
Presently, the US$100,000,000.00 (One Hundred Million Dollars) cash and precious materials my father moved to Ghana before his death is deposited with some security firm. Before you can get access to it I have to give you the some hits. I am therefore soliciting your help to travel to Ghana in west Africa to receive this money and transfer into your account before my government get wind of this fund. You know my father was a rebel leader in Angola before his death. My reason for doing this is because it will be difficult for the Angolan government to trace my father’s money to an individual’s account, especially when such an individual has no relationship, I decided to keep that money for my family use. At present the money is kept with some Security Companies in Ghana I am currently and temporarily living in Angola and as refugee status, I intend to communication with you as regards this transaction on a satellite phone to avoid intervention by anybody.
Moreover, the political climate in Angola at the moment being so sensitive and unstable. With this password and information and I will send you a power of attorney to the security firm, When you are ready I will give you the information needed before you can get access to 7,000kg of AU gold dust, 8500kg of pure Diamond and raw cash of USD100 million America dollars. You will then proceed to Ghana for collection.
PLEASE YOUR CONFIDENTIALITY IN THIS TRANSACTION IS HIGHLY REQUIRED.
My Reply: 10/5/2002
Dear Mr. T Savimbi,
Thank you so much for your message of goodwill. I see that you have notified me for the sake of my integrity, so you must have talked to a few people about me already. Smart! When I first read that this letter was from a “Mr. T,” I didn’t read it. When I came back to it later, I realized that you were not the Mr. T that I was thinking of, which is a good thing because I hate all those fancypants gold chains around his neck.
I am sorry to hear about your father Jonas who died on February 22nd. That is also the date of my niece’s birthday, so I had a crappy day, too: I had to drive all the way up to Granbury just to see her open presents. I’m glad to hear that your daddy at least rose to the rank of rebel leader before he died. My great-great-grandfather was a colonel in the Rebel Army in the War of Northern Aggression here in the States, and he’d roll over in his grave if he found out that they took the Bars ‘n’ Stars off the state capitols. If Angola is anything like South Carolina, you’ll probably have African Americans bitching about flags there before too soon. Rumor has it that you have a lot of them over there, although I figure that’s just more nonsense from the Jew-run media. Let me know—I’ll dress appropriately!
I tried to learn more about your father by clicking the helpful link you provided in your email (your society must be very advanced), but it kept coming to a blank page. Your Government has obviously caught on to this, so you MUST be careful. It is a good thing that you found me. (By the way, was it Major Gana Abacha that tipped you off about me? Do you know what that RTD thing stands for?)
I see that only your trusted mother and I know that you have information concerning your late father’s wealth: let’s keep it that way. Too many cooks spoil the dinner, as my mother used to say. She is also dead, so I feel a connection to your loss even if she died in an accidental diet pill overdose rather than getting her head blown off like your father. As a result of my bad experiences with drugs and my mom, you can understand why I am leery of your offer to “give me some hits.” However, the rest of the plan seems just fine to me.
Travelling to Ghana sounds like fun, although I realize that it will not really be a vacation because I am there to get the money that your dad put there before they dusted him. Am I allowed to bring a camera, or will the locals think that I am “stealing their souls?” I will let you make the call on that one since you’re a local. Also, I don’t have a satellite phone but I do have a cell phone. The reception is crap once you get away from the main highways, so we’ll just have to see what happens when we hit Africa.
Lastly, I learned a valuable lesson when I was last at Disney World: make sure to put the $100 million dollars in traveler’s checks rather than regular checks, because that way you have to show ID to cash them! A robber wouldn’t be able to steal anything. I know it sounds like just “one more detail to take care of that would probably never happen anyway,” but what were the odds that your father would get blown away like this? I think a little forward-thinking is in order here.
Speaking of which, I don’t think it’s safe to use our real names. Refer to me as “Mr. Tiggles.” It’s my neighbor’s name who lives down the street. He is missing a hand and he’s older than Moses, so no one will suspect anything if the name gets leaked out. Make sure to tell me your code name in your next communication.
You can go ahead and give me the password and information as soon as you get this. I’ll start working on renewing my passport and having my neighbor watch my cats when I’m in Ghana. Let’s get moving, because we need to strike quickly before those bastards bleed your father’s bank account dry!
Viva La Revolucion!
Livingston Pablum III
Is Savimbi an Italian name?
(NO FURTHER COMMUNICATION OTHER THAN RE-SENDING THE SAME EMAIL TO ME SEVERAL TIMES)
I received the following from my “friends” at “Visa:”
Scam Email: 1/12/2006
We have noticed some unusual activity related to your service that indicates that other parties may have access and or control of your VISA Credit Card.
We recently noticed one or more attempts to log in to your VISA Credit Card service from a foreign IP address. If you recently accessed your service while traveling, the unusual log in attempts may have been initiated by you. However, if you did not initiate the logins, please visit VISA homepage as soon as possible to restore your account status.
The log in attempt was made from:
ISP host : c-64-154-34-134.hsfgd1.il.comcast.net
To restore your Credit Card status click the link below:
VISA Security Team
Homepage : www.visa.com
My Reply: 1/15/2006
Well, I guess there was no doubt that this would happen eventually. As Section 9 of the User Agreement clearly states, you can suspend or even terminate my card if you believe my actions might cause losses for you, other Visa holders, or even myself! In this case, I have only myself to blame for failing to update my account. How could I have been so stupid? My brother-in-law says it’s all the electrical lines outside my house. He thinks those towers are frying my brain like breaded sausage.
Still, you have reminded me that I agreed that my service must always be under my control at all times, and I can’t go blaming New England Light & Power for every problem I have. As for the unusual activity, please let me explain: I don’t normally go to those sites. My wife was away at her mother’s, and the TV was on the fritz all week. I hope that we can keep that “unusual” web site between us: I promise it will never happen again.
What really steams my beans is that foreigners are trying to log in to my account! Whatever happened to common decency? I can assure you that I have not traveled anywhere in 52 years, unless you count funerals. And I only did those because our miles were going to expire. I looked at that address, and the only word I can make out is Comcast. Can we sue?
Between you and me, I’m beginning to lose faith in the Belgians. Could it be them? I stopped eating their waffles as soon as I heard they didn’t support the troops.
Anyway, we need to get on this right away. I tried to use the web site, but no luck. I think they’re on to us if they’ve hacked your site this soon. What should I do next?
Thankfully Yours (and not Belgian),
Livingston Pablum III
Loyal Card Holder Since 1979
(NO FURTHER COMMUNICATION OTHER THAN RE-SENDING THE SAME EMAIL TO ME SEVERAL TIMES)
Five Weird Things
Okay, I was “tagged” by two people for doing something called a “meme.” I don’t know what that means. I did, however, go back and get an idea that I was supposed to write 5 weird things about myself. That seems criminally short, considering I could write hundreds. I settled on these:
1. I can’t stand sitting with my back to people. At happy hours or parties I’ll arrive and grab a chair and shoe-horn it into a corner just so I can get my back to the wall. I think I was an outlaw in a previous life.
2. I develop ridiculous and unhealthy attachments to stupid things. I end up buying the ugliest Christmas tree on the lot every year because I worry it won’t get bought (and because of A Charlie Brown Christmas). Kristen puts up with it like a champ, but we have to spend the rest of the season apologizing for it. I also have a tiny smiley face that fell off one of my student’s papers that I put on my dashboard; now I press it back on firmly every time I get in the car. I’m rooting for it to hang on.
3. I’d be a vegetarian if not for the meat of the pig and hamburger. I hate every other type of meat, fish, and poultry. I really suck at restaurants (one more reason Kristen should be canonized).
4. I have a Go Go’s “Beauty and the Beat” concert t-shirt that my brother got me when I was young. If there’s a fire in my house, I’m going back in for it.
5. I go to movies to see the previews of the other movies. After those are over and the real movie begins, I feel a profound sense of disappointment. Previews never have slow parts of plot flaws, and I like the pretty music. I’m one, small step away from going Rainman…
That’s right: not one, but TWO videos today! What better way to showcase my innate ability to put off that which is important than by making a two-part video about the books on my bookshelf?
Part One of the video resides here:
Part Two of the video resides here:
Trust me: NO ONE can waste your time like I can waste your time…
I don’t have the time nor the energy to go into why the Olympics have lost their relevance. Why will more people watch Simon piss and bitch his way through American Idol than watch the celebration of the human spirit that the Olympics represent? Probably for the same reason more people watched Simon piss and bitch his way through American Idol than watched the Presidential Sate of the Union Address: none of them ever live up to expectations, but only Idol has someone calling them on it.
Be that as it may, I TiVo-ed the season finale of Arrested Development so that I could watch the entire two hours the next day, then fell asleep to the weirdness that is the Olympic opening ceremony. At first I was livid that Fox would sentence Development to wither on the vine like this, sending the last show out on a night traditionally dominated by the opening ceremonies. This passed quickly, however, as those same ceremonies lulled me effortlessly to sleep.
You’d think we’d be more interested in a show that required 6,100 volunteers and 10,000 hours of practice at an estimated cost of $34 million bucks. Instead, market analysts are projecting an average Neilsen rating of 12-14 a night. Hell, even Hee Haw or Temptation Island did better than that. Putting the Olympics up against Idol is like sending Bambi into the lion’s den: it’s hard to envision a happy ending.
Still, I’m a sucker for tradition. I grew up watching the Olympics because my dad was too cheap to spring for cable and Fox was nothing but an ugly gleam in Rupert Murdoch’s all-seeing eye. So I had a few drinks with some friends after work, ate a nice meal, and plopped down in front of the tube to watch the “Rhythm, Passion and Speed” that the producers promised.
What I saw was jarring, as if Frederico Fellini himself had risen from the grave to take one more stab at absurdism: skaters with rocket packs blasting fire whipping around the rink, grown men in little boy outfits playing the Alpen horn (those long “Reeeeeee-cooo-laaaaaaa” thingies) with little flag poles on them, dancing cow couples circled by models of cows on skates, Yoko Ono making a speech about peace before Peter Gabriel performed John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Susan Sarandon (huh?) carrying in the Olympic flag, dancers with bubbles stuck to their heads, dancing trees… It was the perfect dorm-room-with-a-bong video accompaniment.
I started going in and out of sleep as the long procession of around 80 countries we brought into the stadium. Americans entered to “Think” by Aretha Franklin, an interesting choice considering the political climate. The choice for host Italy’s delegation was (and I checked this to make sure it wasn’t a dream) “YMCA” by the Village People. I dare you to try to piece together that decision-making process. Tenor Luciano Pavarotti slathered the shoe polish on his hair and eyebrows for one last time to close out the ceremony with a rousing rendition of… something operatic with weird words and lots of drawn-out vowels.
It ended with a protracted series of explosions that seemed to make some of the athletes awfully nervous: do we really need fireworks at this month’s #1 on the terrorist wishlist? The only thing missing: snow. Temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s this week melted everything, reducing Torino to man-made snow and passing out white parkas so it look “wintery” on camera.
Oh well, there’s always Arrested Development waiting for me in my TiVo.
I saw in the paper the other day that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently revealed a readiness program for terrorist attacks and other catastrophes that’s aimed at the kids. It’s called Ready Kids (http://www.ready.gov/kids/home.html), and it features the Mountain Lion Family (Rex, Purrcilla, Rory, and Hector- “a real smarty-pants… Rex’s best friend and right-hand bird!”) as they prepare for doomsday.
What better way to prepare our young for the dangers of runaway nukes, terrorist cells, or tomorrow’s next flood than by … having them study mountain lions?
They even give us a little info on each character to help us survive the coming nuclear winter: Rex “loves making friends! He talks to everyone he meets and loves to learn all about them. Rex knows that everyone has a special story and something great to share.” Wow- maybe we should walk up to the next mountain lion we see in our back yard and share a tale!
Purrcilla “loves drawing! She has passed on her love of drawing to her daughter. Purrcilla enjoys taking her box of pencils and paper outdoors to sketch scenes from nature. She loves the peace and quiet.” Lucky for her, because they might be the only survivors- she’ll finally get that peace and quiet she’s been hoping for!
Rory “loves animals and drawing! She has been known to spend all day climbing trees and rocks, swimming, or hiking in the forest looking for unusual insects to draw! She has lots of pets, including an owl and fish!” Those pets who survive with her will make a great meal.
Last, but not least, is Hector: “When not exploring with Rex, Hector can usually be found on a limb trying to catch the attention of a pretty love bird.” Hector’s going to be plenty lonely in the coming months until the radiation levels die down enough to go back above-ground.
The best part about these survivalists? Despite the lack of opposable thumbs, they’re a mammalian Partridge Family: Rex plays the axe (“Rex made his own guitar from a hollow tree!”), Purrcilla sings (“With a voice that ‘purrs,’ melting the hearts of all who hear”), and Rory plays the drums (“she always jumps at the chance to play with her mom, dad, and friends”). Hector is too busy getting’ busy with the love birds to joint the band, evidently.
And to think that in the Fifties they put out that ridiculous literature about hiding under your desk if an atomic bomb was dropped in the neighborhood. We’ve come a long way, baby!
All snideness aside, I do realize the importance of getting children to understand the basic tenets of emergency training, and the site does have some helpful information on the more mundane catastrophes (tornadoes, earthquake, flood, etc.). It’s the little things that torpedo this campaign: the unfortunate choice of the “Mountain Lion Family” for starters. I guess the prospect of rallying survivors is easier to swallow when presented with sugar-coated animals rather than screaming babies. However, did anyone check to see that most mountain lion species are endangered, and some on the bridge of extinction due to habitat loss? If I want to learn how to survive disaster I’m going to follow the cockroaches: their plan works! I don’t see them wasting time in rock bands.
I guess the most disturbing thing about the site is this tidbit: I am a graduate of Readiness U. I took the test after I read through the material on the site, and I made sure to get every answer wrong. I clicked on each of the three wrong choices for every question before finally settling on the right one (you had to do so in order to move on). For instance, I answered “My bug collection” when asked the most important thing to include in my emergency kit. My certificate (yes, I printed it out) says, “If there is an emergency, you will be ready! Excellent job!”
I could have saved them a lot of money. My brochure would have said, “Hi, kids! I’m Randy the Radiology Sickness Ranger! My time is short, so let’s make this brief: keep bugging mommy and daddy about creating an emergency kit until you actually see the damn thing. Make sure they have developed a plan for you in case of an emergency. After that, live your life; no sense fearing what MIGHT happen at your age (that’s mommy and daddy’s job)! If, heaven forbid, something DOES happen, crawl under the desk and you’ll be fine. Stay in school and stay off the drugs, kids!”
Even Rex can see the sense in that!