We get dozens of e-mails in our boxes every day from friends - little cutesy pictures, stories, scary warnings about rat urine on coke cans and phoney virus alerts that say your computer will blow up if you don't delete some system files. The irritating ones demand that you forward them to 10 of your friends in 10 minutes or your bank will collapse, your plants will die and your dog will get mange!
I usually debunk the hoaxes if the person meant well and I know them. But, most people don't appreciate being told they sent you a steaming load of horse poop and they don't forward any more junk mail to you. Which is good in some ways, but tends to dampen your relationship a little too, so I usually don't debunk the harmless ones, preferring to respond only when the e-mail is a dangerous or potentially damaging hoax like the one about deleting system files.
I got an e-mail the other day entitled "Children". Curious I started reading and recognized the text. I had written it back in July last year on this blog. It wasn't entirely original. Part of it was a takeoff on a Bill Cosby routine I'd heard, but the original parts that I'd added were included word for word. You can read the original post at:
It's really weird when you become part of folk tradition. I'm sure that others have had the disconcerting experience of being told a joke or story that they have actually made up themselves (I mean somebody has to make jokes and stories up after all). A lot of artists lately have taken umbrage at their working becoming part of folk lore. Many have gotten very protective of their work, hiring lawyers and stuff to "protect" their work. In the process, how many are insuring that their work will fade into obscurity.
For instance, the folks who wrote the "Happy Birthday Song" (or at least their heirs) have sued for royalties from everyone who used their "intellectual property" in films, restaurants and on television. As a result the perfect birthday song, which was well on its way to becoming a part of our culture, is disappearing from use as we search for a replacement whose author won't sue. Waiters in restaurants sing "generic" birthday songs that sound like a bad knockoff of the William Tell Overture or something that somebody in marketing made up after too many lunch martinis.
Sad really. Did anyone actually make enough money off royalties for that song to make it worth giving up the song's place as a cultural icon? Money versus a place in history..... even an uncredited place; that's the choice they really made. Greed is one of the most underappreciated sins in the ten commandments (it's #10 if you need the reference).
I think the nicest thing about heaven is that we will have all the best in music, art and great jokes and nobody will sue you for humming along and will be flattered if you make a copy for yourself. How lovely that will be.
For me, I'm a little flattered that me and Bill Cosby contributed a little bit to the new folk tradition that is represented by the gentler sort of spam - the kind that makes you smile and doesn't cause you harm. It was nice that they ended the post with this little note:
Quick, send this on to ten people within the next five minutes. Nothing will happen if you don't, but if you do, ten people will be laughing
That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoe-making and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse. -Mark Twain