Ah yes, spam.
I'm not sure how they do it. For some reason, my wife (for example) doesn't get ten messages per day promising to increase the size of her penis. So why do I? Is it because "dave" is part of my e-mail address? Is there some computer program that recognizes names as being male or female, and filters them accordingly? Or is it all done at random? I do, occasionally, get spam messages seemingly aimed at women -- "Stop menstrual cramps forever!" or some such -- but the overwhelming number have to do with either 1) buying fake Rolexes, 2) seizing investment opportunities that simply can't be missed, or, yes, 3) increasing the size of my reproductive mechanism to provide me further satisfaction and enjoyment. And I didn't even realize that I needed this.
The titles of these messages are all I read, but they can be entertaining: "She was shocked when she saw it!" which may or may not be a good thing, or the admirably direct "Size does matter" or the celebrity endorsement of "Ron Jeremy recommends this." (A quick google search reveals that Ron J. is a porn star.) Then there's "Wouldn't you feel better with a little more?" Well, yeah, sure, who wouldn't? Of course, it took me a while to figure out that these messages were all concerned with the same thing. "A little more" could refer to money, or press freedom, or eggplant, or whatever. (If I could increase the size of my eggplant by two inches, now that would be something.)
The thing is, of course, that inevitably I start to wonder if maybe I should have a little more. After all, if size does matter than maybe I would shock her and then I'd feel better with 2+ inches since after all, if Ron Jeremy recommends it... This is the nature of advertising: it introduces anxiety that you never felt before in order to make you pay money for stuff you don't need in order to assuage the anxiety you didn't have before you saw the ad.
Recently I got in touch with a former student from my high school teaching days here in sunny Lahore. This woman graduated in 2000 and was one of my two favorite students, ever. She's now working for an ad agency in Karachi. Among other things, she has worked on the Mountain Dew soda campaign here in Pakistan. It's got me thinking about advertisers and advertising and what a strange form of mind control it really is. I will confess to some attraction to it. The fact that you are, essentially, manipulating people into buying shit they don't need (soda, lipstick, yet another car, TV, novel about Noah's ark, whatever) poses a sort of "Can I actually make them do it?" challenge that is, in its way, hard to resist. The question, "Does the world really need to consume more fookin' Mountain Dew?" is quickly replaced with, "Let's see how much of this repulsive shit we can get the idiots to suck down!" Cigarettes are the most blatant example of this--cigarette TV ads are alive and well in Pakistan, and play throughout things like cricket matches, which is criminal, if you ask me. "Life is too long! Smoke these things and make it shorter, because, um, you'll look cool, and otherwise people will think you're a loser." But all advertising is based on the same principle.
So I told my student I was intrigued and repelled by advertising in equal measure, and that if she ever wanted to pick my brain for ideas, she could do so. And she said she would. There may be a new career here; stay tuned for further developments. And speaking of development, man, I know a way for you to get six more inches, guaranteed...