As it happens, I like Spam, that mysterious canned product of unknown Ė and probably blessedly so Ė meat products packed in some sort of gelatin. Itís oh, so salty goodness!

I do prefer Treet, to tell you the truth, though. It seems to have more real ham in it, by the taste, and less four-bit chemical names. But both are great fried to a crispy crunch for breakfast and served with eggs and toast.

But thatís Spam. What I donít like is "spam" with a little "s." That incredulous stuff that comes through the email every day.

It used to be a lot worse, and it seems like every time the programmers get a system worked out to block spam, the spammers work around it.

Thereís a neat word, spammers. One who eats Spam? One who makes Spam? One who suffers a nutritional breakdown by eating Spam? Brings to mind the notion, how do words get started? At what point does it begin? People fuss at me all the time for not using the so-called "correct" form of a word in speech, or creating words to fit a given circumstance. I scoff at their narrow-mindedness and lack of vision. All words began somewhere, didnít they? All forms of existing words began somewhere, didnít they? Why, then, should I not be able to create words if I so choose? Is there a "college of word creators" out there somewhere that, somewhat like the electoral college of presidential primaries, is empowered to create words no matter if the public agrees or not?

But I digress. My Internet providers at work and home are pretty good about blocking spam. Oh, now and then we all get the occasional sneak-through: Some product guaranteed to enhance your predatory reproductive nature, as if you have one, or grow tomato plants tall as a two-story house (donít get the two mixed up!) Then thereís the guy in Nigeria offering you an investment of a lifetime, just give him your bank account number and itís a done deal.

Whatís amusing is the stuff I get from people I know. Now, I am proud to be an equal opportunity friend and acquaintance. I know and associate with folks from the tea-sipping-with-pinky-held-out variety to your basic good olí boys, and all levels in between. So it never ceases to amaze me that I receive from some of the brightest, most creative and industrious people I know, forwarded emails with the most outlandish claims, unbelievable stories and downright fantastic photographs.

A whole herd of said persons just abruptly leaned forward in their chairs, spilling their soft drinks and flattening the catís tail with their rockers and went, "What theĖ? He is NOT talking about ME in the newspaper!" Donít act surprised. I wonít name names. You know who you are!

Most recently: "Bosses of a publishing firm are trying to work out why no one noticed that one of their employees had been sitting dead at his desk for FIVE DAYS before anyone asked if he was feeling okay Ö he quietly passed away on Monday, but nobody noticed until Saturday morning when an office cleaner asked why he was still working during the weekend Ö he was always the first guy in each morning and the last to leave at night, so no one found it unusual that he was in the same position all that time and didnít say anything."

The funny thing is, when I did a quick and easy 15-second check with the great urban-legend verification web site, snopes.com, and reported back to the original sender that this tale of amazing circumstance was a bunch of hogwash, I got a short, curt reply of: "Fine."

You could feel the venom oozing from that one word: Fine. Plants withered for a block around me, the air sizzled with vitriol and I believe one of my back teeth fractured.

Itís happened before, and I can see it in my mindís eye: People get an email from somebody they know Ė their beloved auntie, best friend, second-cousin whoís a zoologist in Baltimore, whoever Ė that shows the remarkable photograph of a mouse that has taken up residence in an elephantís ear. Everybody in the chain of emails goes, "Awwww!" and hits that "forward" button to everybody else they know, and the thing generates a whole new chorus of "Awww!" and keeps going.

Somewhere among the hundreds and hundreds of people who receive this email is the one little guy like me that raises his hand in class and says, "This is so obviously not real." He sends an email using the "reply to all" feature to everyone who has ever received that silly photo to that point.

A sort of hush falls over the entire realm of email cyberspace. Itís like he did something forbidden in an elevator or something. Finally, out of that bleak, dark and desolate silence comes one god-like voice that throws him completely across the room in his wheeled computer chair, crashing into a wall with such force it nearly knocks him unconscious:

FINE!

Because, you see, people would rather live with their delusions than be presented with facts. In this through-the-looking-glass world of email mythology, a man was discovered five days after he died in an open office as people milled around him all week; reusing plastic water bottles gives you cancer; a shark fell in love with its rescuer; kittens born with four heads, and drinking bleach will keep you from getting AIDS (that one might just be true, since youíd die of the bleach anyway.)

People are not interested in truth! They want gossip! They want to go, "Awwwww"; they want to cover their mouths in shock at the "fact" that a woman over 40 has a better chance of getting killed by a terrorist than getting married, and while it would be wise not to get out of your car in the middle of the night if you are bumped from behind at an intersection, no one has really ever been killed this way as part of a gang initiation rite.

Meanwhile, the postal service is raising the price of a stamp to 42-cents. Receiving spam and forwarded emails from the physician down the street about a pregnant girl who delivered an octopus in Bangladesh is free! The post office delivers bills and IRS audit notices for 42-cents. Go figure.

Hey! Did you hear that legendary silent film actor Charlie Chaplin once lost in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest?

Absolutely true. Go figure.