Sprose: Romantic Vacuum Cleaners & Chainsaws
Click controller to play. Scroll down for the written text

John Cage, that famous composer of chance music, 4' 33" and so much more, once said something like this: to detoxify an irritating message or sound you should somehow find a way to strip out the intentions of the original sender. (Cage said he was not interested in listening to other people's intentions.) I guess your annoyingly optimistic Uncle Ralph may have said, "If you get a lemon, make lemonade". Iv'e been exploring this notion with regard to spam emails. In other words, looking for ways to make lemonade out of spam.

A while ago I receive one of those spam emails that has a bunch of text right in the main body of the "message". You know the ones, the text is usually from some cheesy novel, the Bible, etc. Of course the intent of the text was to fool my spam filter, which was quite easy since I had disabled it anyway, as explained on my home page (see Spamville). This spam seemed different however. It appeared to be nonsense, but even so it had a rhythm and "flowed" if you bothered to read it. At first I thought it might be some Richard Brautigan poetry. But it wasn't. After Googling around for a while I discovered it was in fact the output of a particularly intriguing random sentence generator credited to Don Cross. Quite apropos of spam, I never was able to track down Don Cross.

Above is a computer voice (Cepstral Diane) reciting that original message. Below is the text. The repeated passage is in the original. I've generated others messages using Don's JavaScript, but this one still sounds the best to me. Like a first kiss I guess. And I still like it even though I've listened to it dozens of times.

Just as in the sonified digits of Pi,  the pauses cause recognizable patterning that helps to induce some meaning that otherwise might be absent. Our brain looks for these patterns to make sense of things. To help get across that point (that we both "see" and "hear" with our brains, not simply with our ears and eyes), I used the announcement card on the right for a recent exhibit and talk on sound art. The main image is an actual MRI of my brain. The organ I mainly see and hear with. The image on the left was the set-up for gallery visitors so they could also experience the joy of hearing what I've come to call, "sprose" or the combination of spam and prose. I derived "sprose" from the existing term, "spoety" (spam poetry). I'm not sure if sprose has been used before or not.

The spam text as received:

A roller coaster from another light bulb

Any vacuum cleaner can non-chalantly make love to a chain saw around an eggplant, but it takes a real mastadon to teach a temporal roller coaster. A bowling ball inside the tape recorder hesitates, and a smelly apartment building feels nagging remorse; however, the feverishly cosmopolitan avocado pit brainwashes the fashionable bowling ball. A blithe spirit over the blithe spirit is hairy. Furthermore, the plaintiff living with a demon earns frequent flier miles, and a tripod of the defendant inexorably brainwashes the bowling ball over an oil filter. If the senator gives a pink slip to a Eurasian fundraiser, then a rattlesnake from a carpet tack hesitates. Any vacuum cleaner can non-chalantly make love to a chain saw around an eggplant, but it takes a real mastadon to teach a temporal roller coaster. A bowling ball inside the tape recorder hesitates, and a smelly apartment building feels nagging remorse; however, the feverishly cosmopolitan avocado pit brainwashes the fashionable bowling ball. A blithe spirit over the blithe spirit is hairy. Furthermore, the plaintiff living with a demon earns frequent flier miles, and a tripod of the defendant inexorably brainwashes the bowling ball over an oil filter. If the senator gives a pink slip to a Eurasian fundraiser, then a rattlesnake from a carpet tack hesitates.

An unstable nation

Most people believe that the cheese wheel satiates an abstraction living with a senator, but they need to remember how carelessly the fat scythe returns home. If the carpet tack living with an earring negotiates a prenuptial agreement with the bowling ball, then a tripod for a tape recorder ceases to exist. A parking lot avoids contact with a flabby girl scout. When a submarine for the fighter pilot is knowingly Alaskan, a vacuum cleaner pees on a football team for some mating ritual. If a statesmanlike briar patch underhandedly avoids contact with the dolphin, then the proverbial dolphin reads a magazine.