August 30, 2010

More Spam than you ever Spam wanted to know about Spam

While clearing out my files in preparation for a new Sunday School year, I came across my Spam notes. A couple of years ago, I taught a lesson about prayer in which one of the talking points was that insincere prayer is like sending spam to God. So along with the lesson handouts, just for fun, I included one with the same title as this post. Just for fun, here it is:

Hormel Foods is not fond of the fact that people call electronic junk mail “spam.”

The term, of course, is not meant to disparage the famous tinned meat.

Spam (the meat product) was one of the few meats excluded from British food rationing during World War II. As a result, many Britons grew heartily sick of it.

This disaffection with Spam led to a 1970 sketch on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, in which a couple dine at a restaurant at which every dish contains Spam. When a patron asks for something without Spam, the waitress recommends “Spam egg sausage and Spam, that's not got much Spam in it.”

Near the end of the sketch, a group of characters start singing the praises of Spam — “Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam — lovely spam, wonderful spam —” ad nauseum. They soon drown out the dialog between the diners and the waitress.

In olden days, before the World Wide Web, geeks used an Internet predecessor, Usenet, to communicate. Messages were sent to a central address and distributed to all participants.

Sometimes, topic threads would be drowned out by marketers sending advertising messages to the Usenet server and, therefore, to each individual participant.

The geeks naturally termed this noise, which drowned out the topic of discussion, “spam.”

Obviously, a disproportionate number of geeks are Monty Python fans.

My research about Spam at the Hormel Foods Web site uncovered a recipe for Spam Cupcakes, along with many other dishes that might have been served at that Pythonesque restaurant.

Hormel Foods loves the Monty Python sketch, probably because Eric Idle's character says “I love Spam!” Video screeens showing the sketch in a mock cafe are a key feature of the Spam Museum.

You can find photos and a descriptive walkthru of the museum here. An exhibit professional reviews the Spam museum here, and over here, on a site that features tourist reviews of roadside attractions, one woman calls the Spam Museum "...fabulous! It's like a really great children's museum, except with potted meat products."

The museum gift shop sells the Spamalot commemorative tin of Spam. And Hormel's website includes a link to a Spamalot game. Catapults and cows. Just for fun.

August 19, 2010

The accidental rhythm section

I have previously mentioned Perri Klass's "Knitting Fantasies" column, which originally appeared in the Winter 2003 issue of Knitter's Magazine. An excerpt:
Duane Ellison Photography | iStockphoto
I have felt for years that classical music would be enhanced by knitting. I know, I know, the needles might click, even the whisper of yarn against yarn would be enough to upset some music lovers. I have no intention of pulling out my knitting at the symphony. I just know that if only I could, I might have a chance of reliably achieving that state of mixed concentration and relaxation which so often eludes me…"
I was not bold enough to attempt this stunt at the symphony, either. But when our church hosted a free piano concert by Sergei Kossenko, I figured it was worth a try.
It was nearly a successful attempt. No one complained. In fact, one of the ladies, a new knitter, changed seats to sit next to me so she could watch how I do it.
I had already pulled out my knitting when Mr. Kossenko made his introductory remarks, and when I spoke to him for a few minutes after the concert, he said nothing about the knitting.*
But the clicking of the needles did indeed prove too distracting -- for me. I found myself alternately trying to knit in time with the music or to knit quietly. Both were difficult, so I wound up hardly knitting at all. Although this was an interesting exercise, it's one I won't repeat. Except maybe, as Klass suggested, at an outdoor concert, where airplanes and sirens provide a greater source of distraction.

* He generously spent some time explaining to me the meaning of "Navazhdeniye," the title of a piece by Prokofiev. Mr. Kossenko listed it in the program this way, although English sources usually use the French title "Suggestion Diabolique," which is not accurate. He said diabolical is the wrong word, because it implies evil intent. Based on the conversation I had with Mr. Kossenko, I would describe "navazhdeniye" as a surreal delusion with overtones of doom, but free of malicious intent. I think he's right to give the title in Russian. It's good to learn new words.