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Throwing a spammer in the works

Spam's Cranking up. You know, spam. Electronic junk mail. Maybe they think we're turning into suckers, Christmas on the way. It's importunate, it's ugly, it's of no interest, the people who perpetrate it are, without exception, swine ... they're talking about Harsh New Laws, but it doesn't bother me.

It should. Floods of spam pour down the line into my computer every time I collect my e-mail. You can picture the spammers: weaselly little losers, the sort who tell lies in their advertisements about how, just a year ago, they were on the verge of losing everything but now - now - they drive a this-sort-of-car, and live in a this-big-house and got to movie premieres with girls with tits-absolutely-this-big ... and part of it all is true.

The true part is the bit that, just a year ago, they were on the verge of losing everything. The untrue part is everything else, because they don't mention the fact that, just under a year ago, they did lose everything ... The lurking functionaries knocked on the door ... the gathering forces of retribution finally materialised in the form of sheriffs and bailiffs and court orders ... Fat men with emphysema and Bulgarian suits turned up on the doorstep accompanied by pale, jittery locksmiths in anoraks and puffy boots ... and everything went. Everything was taken away.

Now the spammers live in caravan parks. The caravan park is in the Death Belt on the backside of town, the telephone is in their girlfriend's name, their girlfriend is in the family way, the caravan smells of convenience food, cheap beer and desperate sex, and out goes the spam. Out goes the spam. You wait, honey. The money'll come rolling in. Yeah. Everything you always wanted, hummingbird. I sent out six million today - six million! Touch of a button, monkey! Going to be the best Christmas ever. I love you, baby. I love you, hummingbird. The money ... the money ...

The money doesn't roll in. It doesn't even trickle, because the spammers have nothing to sell except their own lies or other people's lies. It whacks on to my computer like an eggy fart and, like everyone else, I zap it. Never even read it. You can tell what it's going to be: trailer-park stuff. Make Money Now!!!! !!!Free Atrocity Pix Sent To Your Mailbox!!!! !!!!Dirty Susan Will Bring You Off On The Phone!!!! !!!E-mail 10 MILLION households with YOUR business opportunities!!!

It's a cheap trick, a cut-rate pathogen, a wet-Kleenex bully, disposable at the click of a mouse ... no, never mind spam; what we really have to watch is the catalogues.

Spammers use computer technology, but the catalogue swine are well ahead of that. They print their stuff on special space-age Martian paper or something, so when you throw the catalogues away, they get out of the bin again, and out of their wrappers and on to the table, and the Martian paper somehow opens itself up at a picture of a grinning shitweasel in hideous clothes, pointing at some fatuous artefact while a frigid toothy blonde gazes at him as though he's a combination of the Marquis de Sade and Einstein. For pointing at something. Is that all it takes? Pointing? I mean ... suppose I went down to Argos (a strange chain-store modelled, not on normal retailing techniques, but on some kind of horrible gameshow-prize line-up) and just stood around pointing at things ... would frigid blondes line up to smirk at me, wreathing me in horrible smells from Boots, crackling with easy-care static?

God knows ... and I have no intention of going down to Argos anyway, there being nothing I could imagine wanting enough to go to Argos to get. So we'll just have to guess.

Which isn't always easy. What sort of mess does your life have to be in for you to find the catalogue "lifestyle" attractive? I mean ... there's Graeme in his snowflake-patterned cotton-rich cable-knit leisure sweater and his permanent-press chino- style new! flexible! trousers, pointing at the glowing screen of his cheap, under-specified computer ... and there's Sue, neat as hell, blonde-ish bob, A-line pleated skirt in grey flecked wool/poly mix, gazing at Graeme with wild admiration. Her hero! Her he-man! Not only did he have the vision, the daring to send off for the computer, but he even switched it on. Whoo! Big night for Graeme tonight ... except, in Catalogue World, there are no big nights.

Night is for snuggling up in the orthopaedic bed with the crease-resist fitted sheets, thinking to yourself "I would have paid pounds pounds pounds more for these in the shops", then going blamelessly to sleep to dream of waking up warm, and slipping into your comfy slippers before re-painting the radiator shelf with your new non-drip paint tray. In Catalogue Land everything is clean and safe; the old monks used to pray to be kept sub umbra alarum tuarum, in the shadow of Thy wings, but in Catalogue Land safety comes in easy instalments and nothing can threaten that peace which is like the peace of the grave except for the Envy of All Your Friends. "Graeme and Sue?" they say to each other; "Why, the place is spotless."

But - and this is a good time of year to remember this - it doesn't work. Catalogue Land is a fake and a fraud. The seams unravel, the selvedge frays; the computer packs up, the self-adhesive Handy Hooks fall off the wall, the Country-Style waxed jacket is as rigid as a pair of non-flexible trousers, and the poses, the backgrounds, are unattainable. Sue may save a few quid on the Catalogue Gumboots, but they'll spend a fortune on the Range Rover, the dogs and the trips to the country to show them off in their proper setting - Graeme pointing at some distant filthy rural "feature", Sue - guess what - gazing at him with the wind in her neat blonde bob. Soon they will hate each other. The debts will overwhelm them ... and by this time next year, they'll be in a trailer park, the telephone in her name and Graeme hunched over the cheap computer, cranking out yards of seasonal spam. And Merry Christmas to them both.