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Whenever new technology comes along and makes our world nearly unrecognizable, there are always people who make art and explain it all to the rest of us. Charles Dickens explained it all after new technology – the guillotine – changed the world, mostly in France. Joe McKay, who appears to live in California, is just such a person for our “cyber” times.

A first glance gives the impression that he’s just an imaginative schlep with a cat, Ico, and a home page on If you read further, however, it turns out he’s a cyber artist with a list of gallery shows going back nine years. He’s also a college professor who teaches at UC Berkeley and Stanford (MFA UC Berkeley, ’07 and BFA Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, ’93).

In addition to making gallery art and musical instruments with cell phones, McKay has been working on the problem of how to stop the advertising that gets sent to your Gmail recipients along with your emails.

His techniques include putting a reference to a major catastrophe in your email. Gmail’s “good taste” filter prevents the ads from appearing.

He also did some serious experimenting by using George Carlin’s famous “seven dirty words” in email text and subject lines to stop the ads. The mixed results, and his spread sheet, are just hilarious, and very practical.

See McKay’s “How to avoid Gmail’s Sponsored Links” here.

Tom Kelchner