Monday, June 06, 2005


This morning is still rather a blur. Due to studying for finals and the resulting insomnia prompted by unsolicited algebraic expressions invading my brain followed by oversleeping due to Dramamine ingestion to cure the aforementioned insomnia and arriving at work minutes late with make-up artfully applied over severe mattress face, I open my e mail this morning to find that I had been


by a few of my fellow bloggers.

Some strange non-English speaking tongue was used and the word “MEME” kept creeping into the content. I don’t know what MEME is and it is more than likely yet another word invented by some poor kid with broken glasses who has yet to lose his (or her) virginity that will no doubt find its way into the lexicon of the English speaking world thereby managing to force its way into the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. . .if “BLING” can make it in, one can be reasonably sure MEME is soon to follow.

I detest all things that smack of Chain Letter, because I see them all as a low-fi form of marketing designed to frighten, a.k.a. bilk me of my nonexistent millions or get me to sign my life insurance policy over to someone who needs to know how many books or DVD’s I own and if I don't send that same inquiry to five other people within X number of hours I am surely to keel over from some horrible thing that makes me die instantly while still leaving me attractive. . .like Joaquin Phoenix in LADDER 49...isn’t he just the cutest?

I got a little interested in the history of this locust plague on the serenity of millions who trustingly open their mail and or email each day only to be threatened with DEATH.

Turns out, it has a religious beginning.

Religious: The first form near the beginning of the 1900’s were Letters from Heaven which claimed to have been written by God or some divine agent, commanding observance of the Sabbath to ward off “various misfortunes.”

Luck: These were also called “prayer chains” because many would start with either a Prayer or Bible verse, and appealed to superstition to encourage their copying or circulation. Beginning around 1900, copy quotas and deadlines were added, and claims of divine authorship and magical protection were removed.

Charity. This letter requests money or some item be sent to a particular address, ostensibly for charitable, political or memorial purposes.

Petition. I think we saw a lot of these during the last election. Chain petitions request their own reproduction, circulation and delivery of signatures. A early example was an attempt to draft Calvin Coolidge as the Republican nominee for President [1927], but their use in political campaigns goes back at least to 1912 (NYT).

Money. Money chain letters urge the recipient to send money to one or more prior senders, claiming that one can likewise benefit in the future. Money chain letters originated in the United States in the spring of 1935.

Exchange. The exchange chain letters ask that an item small value, such as a recipe or postcard, be sent to one or more prior senders, promising that if the chain is not broken the sender will in turn receive many such items. They first appeared in 1935, modeling the infamous Send-a-Dime money chain letter [1936].

"World Record". In the 1980's (as if the 1980’s didn’t have enough on it’s plate what with the president, the hair, the hyper pigment shirts, ya da ya da) a certain postcard exchange chain letter specialized to circulate among children and falsely claimed that its faithful continuation would soon result in a Guinness world record for chain letters [1985]. By the new millennium the request for postcards had been deleted and the letter is now motivated solely by its promise of a world record (crediting each sender!) and the threat that anyone who breaks the chain will spoil this effort and be identified [2000].

Parody. Very soon after the first publicity (April 19, 1935) of the Send-a-Dime craze, parodies appeared that mocked both the language and the geometrical progression of Send-a-Dime. Examples mentioned in the press include "Send-a-Pint" and the "Drop Dead Club" (shoot the first person on the list).

Chain E-mail. For "chain e-mail" (frequently forwarded e-mail) there are a large and growing number of motives for replication. Hoaxes, humor and expressions of friendship are prominent. The following is an alphabetic list of some of the many topics observed since 1993: admonitions (duty to friends, sobriety, safe sex), anti chain letters, aphorisms, ASCII art and scrollers, communication experiments and demonstrations, consumer warnings, friendship, hoaxes (virus warnings, charity, giveaways, false quotations), human rights alerts, humor (single jokes and lists, office humor items, stories), inspiration, Internet protection (modem tax, phone charges, anti-censorship), good luck (often in sex or romance), missing children, money chains, number guessing tricks, parodies, patriotism, personality tests, petitions, poems, political commentary, practical jokes (especially April Fools Day), prayer requests, protests, rumors, school & exams, seasonal (Christmas, St. Valentine's Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving Day), speeches, surveys, tag (snowball fight, mooning), urban legends (warnings, humor), Web page suggestions and voting recommendations. Many of these topics appear in combination, such as a humor item with a short luck chain attached.

Okay, so now with that little history lesson – I feel safely confident that I can, with all the sincerity that one finds within the contents of a chain letter or e mail, let the next person who sends one know, and I deliver this message with the utmost of respect and love, that their genitalia will disappear and never return. I promise.

Feel free to pass this along to five of your closest friends.

source: Chain Letter Evolution, Daniel W. VanArsdale ©1998, 2002


Blogger Catharine said...

I got a little interested in the history of this locust plague on the serenity of millions who trustingly open their mail and or email each day only to be threatened with DEATH.

Turns out, it has a religious beginning.

Something about these two sentences just made me fall on the floor laughing. As if that would come as a surprise! I was tagged, too, but I pretended not to notice.

My favorite chain mail (ie., the one that made me laugh the loudest) was the one about the $5K "Disney giveaway." I work in entertainment, folks. The words "Disney" and "giveaway" don't even belong in the same dictionary, let alone the same sentence. bookmark it, use it and learn to love it. Otherwise, some misfortune is likely to befall you. Like me. :)


06 June, 2005 12:41  
Blogger Catharine said...

P.S. Oh, yeah, and... tell me again why we're going to school at this advanced stage of our lives? Because, between the 300-400 pages per week of reading I've had to do, lo, these past 10 weeks, and the 18 pages of academic writing I have to get done this week, I've totally forgotten the "upside."

And I know you know what I'm talkin' 'bout.


06 June, 2005 13:50  
Blogger I.M. Dedd said...

I think you are my new idol.

Bra - friggin' - vo!

06 June, 2005 13:57  
Blogger R said...

Well I'm glad you guys had more guts than I did. I went through with it! And then tagged three people who did not. Lets do a Karma watch and case study this situation. Or not. I'm not doing anymore. As for my genetalia falling off...well..they always got me in trouble anyway.

06 June, 2005 16:26  
Blogger Jet said...

Genetalia? What genetalia? Oh, THAT. It's gotta be around here someplace. Crap. I'll get back to you...

08 June, 2005 10:55  
Anonymous pia said...

Loved your definitions. Will use the next time I am tagged as I was by somebody who commented just above me, not that I would name names but in Meme's everything's allowed.

Think they all end up somehow linked back to the person who began the meme and their ranking goes up.

Once got tagged by a prefectly nice person. Later I found out that the meme was originated by a radical right religious person--see everything strange goes back to religion.

08 June, 2005 12:59  
Blogger Laura said...

Whoever forwarded you the meme was unclear on the concept. See, meme's are not supposed to be an aggressive art form foisted upon you by someone else. Rather, if someone happens to post a meme on their blog, and you happen to read it, and then go, "My god! this is so brilliant, original, and enlightening that I feel compelled to copy and paste it to my own blog and answer all 120 of the questions for my readers' entertainment pleasure!"...then you should do so. But a meme should never, under any circumstances, be forwarded to someone in an e-mail. That's just wrong. I checked with Emily Post and she agrees with me on this one.

10 June, 2005 06:12  
Blogger PATCAM2005 said...


I wasn't going to do it, but you have left me no choice. If you don't tag at least three of your buddies, you will get filthy freaking rich. Such unhealthy amounts of money that would cause you unlimited happiness (yes, you can buy it, I don't care what they say).

Hope that works out for you, lol.

p.s. hyper-color was THEE coolest!

11 June, 2005 08:44  
Blogger Jet said...

Found em!

Oh boy, red hair. Crap. I'll get back to you.

12 June, 2005 17:17  
Blogger frstlymil said...

Jet - I'm very frightened to think what you might be referring to.

12 June, 2005 21:09  
Blogger R said...

Are yall having meetings of the "club" and not inviting me?!! What the hell is Jet and Pat talking about? Anyway, just checking in Chica to make sure you didn't fall into a crack in the earth's crust after that earthquake. Be safe.

12 June, 2005 21:36  
Blogger frstlymil said...

What earthquake? Did we have an earthquake? Unless it's a 5 pointer or bigger, it's not an earthquake - it's a truck going by.

13 June, 2005 11:53  
Blogger Jet said...

It's continuity, kids. My second comment related to my first one. Can't even float a little off-color humor...jeez, I am having a freakin' DAY here!

13 June, 2005 13:27  
Blogger Sar said...

Nice post and kudos on your originality.

I'll be sure to recommend my worst enemies tag you so you can do us all the favor of "belittling them" (going for a genetalia removal pun there, but that was just plain bad).

14 June, 2005 09:36  
Blogger R said...

Sorry Jet, I get it now!! ha ha I was having a blond moment.

14 June, 2005 15:30  
Blogger R said...

7.0 in Northern Cali! That is a little more than a truck going by now!!! When your state falls into the ocean milli..paddle your raft toward Colorado. We will put you, manpants and your doggies up. My dog is a registered sex offender though. So warn your pooch. He does not have a preference either..male, female, dead, alive, animate, inanimate. He'll hump it.

14 June, 2005 22:29  
Blogger Laura said...

How I miss the days of 7.0 earthquakes. Yes, I always rather enjoyed earthquakes. Tornados, on the other hand, give me nightmares. Earthquakes RULE, tornados drool.

P.S. This is the best comment thread EVER.

15 June, 2005 06:00  
Blogger PATCAM2005 said...

My dogs related to your dog...

15 June, 2005 22:41  
Blogger Chris said...

I always enjoy reading this site.

You do a very good job of keeping my attention.

20 June, 2005 08:36  
Blogger R said...

We are turning Milli's site into a chat room. She needs to give us another fix. She acts like she has a damned life or something. Irritating.

22 June, 2005 17:48  
Anonymous pia said...

Hey Mil
Know that you're a bit busy but are you planning on posting again soon.

Get me hooked and then take a blogging vacation. I know your type ;)

23 June, 2005 06:30  

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