Dear Bob … Our Spam Anti-Hero

This is one of an occasional email that I write to an author after reading their books. I have no idea what possesses me, but that non-reflective stance has never stopped me before. Today, I am writing an email to Bob Servant (or is it Neil Forsythe?) who wrote a wonderful tome entitled: Delete This At Your Peril! that centers on Servant’s email exchanges with spammers who clog our inboxes with harrowing tales of royal riches, Russian brides and other adventures.

Bob, of Scotland, decides to join in the fracas with wit and humor, and I was laughing so hard my children were worried about me.

Here is a blurb from his website:

Delete This At Your Peril features the anarchic exchanges between Bob and the hapless spam merchants. As they offer Bob lost African millions, Russian brides and get-rich-quick scams he responds by generously offering some outlandish schemes of his own. The spammers may have breached his firewall, but they have met their match as Bob Servant rises heroically to the challenge, and sows confusion in his wake.

Also at Bob’s website, I found his email address and wrote him a letter.

Dear Bob,

I am a little reluctant to send you an email, knowing as I now do the possibilities of your replies. I don’t have the time or energy for that kind of relationship. So let me just start out by saying that I do not have a load of cash sitting in a vault in Africa, nor am I the long lost heir to some royal seat in Zambia. I will never be considered a Russian beauty with a well-endowed chest (although my wife thinks I am cute enough for her) who seeks a hubby for love and life, nor will I give you 15 percent profits if my “friends” wire you some cash that the government shouldn’t know about. In addition, Bob, let me make it clear that I have no interest whatsoever in Chinese rubber belts or plastic planter pots of any sort. Neither do I intend to fall for your “Bobby” babe routine.
And, just so we all understand and are on the up and up, I never took your window-washing ladders that day that will clearly live in infamy in your mind, Bob.
That said, Bob, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book, which I read yesterday afternoon in one long stretch. My kids were running amok, the chores were not being done, and in general, I let the world go to hell as I laughed my butt off about your exploits with email. I may never look at one of those spam emails again without thinking of you, Bob. Come to think of it, though, I had finally found myself not even noticing the spam anymore. Kind of like the kids screaming and you just tune them out completely? You know how that works. It just falls outside your field of vision. Now I will notice the spam again. I’ll see it in my inbox and think, should I forward this to Bob or has he already seen it?
So I am now wondering if I should be thanking you or be getting pissed off about spam coming back into my sight.
Let’s leave it at thanks, Bob. I bought the book, after all. You only wrote it. Staying positive about this whole spam situation keep us on some good footing, don’t you think?
Bob, I want to say that it’s not often that you run across someone who has the intellect to parry with the unknowns of this world, but you, Bob, have done it, with grace and humor and just enough vulgarity to make your adventure fun for the rest of us. I pictured you, with all of your Jazz magazines piled like rocks around you, punching keys in Scotland and meanwhile, somewhere in the world, some other fool was trying to string you along with only one goal: to gain your Cheeseburger Van fortune.
The real question is: are there really people who send along their bank numbers? Is this world littered with such imbeciles? Are we all such fools?
No need to answer, Bob. I think we both know the answer is, sadly, yes.

I come, then, to another sticky matter: Are you real, Bob? Or are you just some imaginary device from your pal, Neil? I guess it doesn’t matter. In the wired world, an imaginary fellow has as much chance to do damage as the real one.

Keep up the good work!

A pal from across the seas,

Kevin

The book can be ordered via Amazon. (Bob promises to ship me two talking lions for promoting his book, so tell them I sent ya)

Peace (in humor),
Kevin

Just One More Book: My Review, part 4

The wonderful children’s book blog — Just One More Book — published another of my reviews of favorite picture books. This one is called The Three Pigs and it is written by David Weisner. What I like about the book is how he takes the traditional story and completely breaks down all of the narrative walls.

The folks at Just One More Book are always looking for listener feedback (you can do it on the phone, even) and for guest reviewers. This is my fourth review so far in the past year. Take a look at Just One More Book.

Here is my review of The Three Pigs

Peace (in pictures and stories),
Kevin

Just One More Book: My Review, part 3

Justonebook

I got a podcast book review published over at Just One More Book again (this is number three!) and you can do it, too. They make it so easy for anyone who loves books to give your own insights. They even have a phone number you can call and leave your review as a message. Does it get any easier than that? (no)

I reviewed Mole Music by David McPhail this time.

Take a listen

My previous reviews were:

Peace (in books),
Kevin

Ultimate Blogs: a review

I just finished the book Ultimate Blogs, edited and collected by Sarah Boxer. She readily admits that a book about blogs seems, well, strange because, let’s face it, the peculiarities of blogging don’t always translate so well into a book format. And this book, while nice, is surely already outdated. That said, Boxer does a nice job of culling out some interesting writers from the Blogosphere and highlights their ability to create a very lively writing persona via their blogs. I didn’t like all of them but I did find myself enjoying quite a few of the bloggers in the book.

Masterworks from the Wild Web (Vintage Original)

Here are a few that struck my fancy:

  • Under Odysseus — a blog about the Trojan war, with a modern bent, from a soldier serving under Odysseus. Sounds lame but it isn’t. The writer injects humor and tradition into a modern retelling of the story. The best in the book, for me.
  • Midnight in Iraq — this blog was featured in the New York Times and the writer is no longer a soldier or in Iraq, but the posts are illuminating and intriguing and humanizing. He now blogs about being home.
  • Julia {let there be hippogriffs} is a blog about a mom and her views on fertility and being a mom and wife. Insightful in so many ways into the human experience.
  • Ironic Sans — Offbeat ideas, slight rants and just an incredible creative mind is at work here. Not much more to say.
  • Eurotrash — talk about a writer finding their voice. This blog is it. She entered the blogosphere with a scathing review of a reviewer of restaurants for the Times (I was on the floor, laughing so hard) and continued into other areas.
  • El Guapo in DC — Remember Hunter Thompson? El Guapo reminds me a bit of that. The blog is about his adventures with friends. Strange adventures. Strange friends. I don’t think the blog is active anymore. Too bad.

Peace (in blogging),
Kevin

PS — Just for kicks, I did a video review of the book on Amazon. Wondered what it would look like.

Just One More Book: My Review, part 2

I submitted another picture book podcast review to the Just One More Book blog/podcast site and it was published this morning. I love the site for its rich content and interest in the world of children’s books.

Anyway, I reviewed the book called Madlenka by Peter Sis. It’s an interesting book in which a little girl travels around her city block and sees the world. When you think of the concept of the Flat World in which everything is connected through human experience and connection, it seems that this book is a representation of that (although it clearly was not written to do that).

Here is by review of Madlenka by Peter Sis and be sure to visit Just One More Book often and get it into your RSS feed.

Peace (in picture books),

Kevin

Books in the Bare Minimum

I hope this site is tongue-in-cheek (it seems to be). But if you want to read all of the Classics and then some in, well, about an hour, then you might want to head tot the Book-A-Minute Classics site. They explain it this way:

We’ve taken all kinds of great works of literature and boiled them down to their essence, extracting all the filler (and believe me, there’s a lot of it sometimes). In just one minute, you can read entire books and learn everything your teachers will expect you to know.”

Book-A-Minute Classics

Here are a few that popped out at me and reminded me of how much I loved these books when I first experienced them:

Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms

Frederic Henry

I’m separated from my true love in World War I Italy.

Catherine Barkley

Here I am. Let’s hide in Switzerland, whoops, (dies).

Frederic Henry

War has made me cynical.

— the end

The Collected Works of Virginia Woolf

Life is beautiful and tragic. Let’s put flowers in a vase.

— the end

One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Nurse Ratched

I destroy my patients psychologically so I can have power and control.

Randall P. McMurphy

But freedom and happiness are good things.

Nurse Ratched

Lobotomy time for you, buster.

(McMurphy DIES but inspires HOPE so OTHERS may LIVE.)

— the end

Peace (in concise words),
Kevin

PS — I see a companion site, too, called Movie in a Minute.

Hugo Gets Award

Some of you may remember how much I loved the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. In particular, I thought its use of mixed media made it an unusual book that told a very powerful and intriguing story. The audio book is also pretty amazing and it comes with a DVD interview in which Selznick talks about writing the book, which I show to my sixth graders.

Well, Hugo netted the esteemed Caldecott Medal for 2008.

What? Never heard of Hugo? Maybe this award will serve notice on this great book. (See the Hugo Cabret website too.)

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Peace (in picture books that are not quite picture books),

Kevin

Just One More Book: My Review

Thanks to a tip and inspiration from Susan, I submitted a podcast review of a Chris Van Allsburg picture book to a site called Just One More Book that you just have to add into your RSS feeds if you enjoy the world of picture books.

Justonebook

Susan had done a review of a book called The Goats in the Rug and her efforts showed me the way to the site, and I figured that I should share this book, too.

The picture book that I chose is called The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and it is a great resource for writing prompts with my sixth graders. You will have to listen to my podcast review to understand why I like it so much as a source for reading and writing.

Peace (in pictures and podcasts),
Kevin

PS — Oh, here is my podcast review from Just One More Book.

Book – the word

Charles Hodgson, over the Podictionary, has uncovered and made visible the origins of the word “book” in a recent podcast and it is fascinating (as his information almost always is).

For example:

When the word book first appears in the written record the dates are pretty early in Old English. This means that book itself was a book. What I mean by that is that although you think of a book as something with pages bound between covers, the earliest Old English meaning of book was anything at all written down, so the act of writing down the word book itself created a book.

Go to Podictionary and listen for yourself. Or listen here.

Peace (with words),
Kevin