Lately, I have been between spam filters and found that deleting junk e-mail one item at a time can sometimes be instructive. “You can get the watches you’ve dreamed about,” reads the subject line of one of them, prompting the thought: Who the hell dreams about watches? I know that the amount of advertising brainpower that goes into these things is not great. The economics of spam depends entirely upon the assumption of a tiny response rate, which means that the appeals must be frequent, broadcast, and blatant. But you’d think that anyone aware enough of the world around him to know what Breitling or Tag Heuer was would also be aware enough of himself to laugh at a come-on so crude. Or take the one for something called “Hydroderm” whose subject line reads: “Because you deserve to look ten years younger.” Philosophically, that one is a mind-bender. How, exactly, do you get the notion of desert and looking ten...


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