August 12, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

I love irony, even when it's directed at me. Thanks to the reader who made me aware of the following amusing little bit of information.

Yesterday's ReelThoughts entry, "Interviewing False Deities," was designed primarily to be a commentary about the superficiality of print and TV interviews. It turned into a bit of a rant but, since this is a blog, ranting is allowed. (Ranting is discouraged in reviews unless the movie is so bad it is impossible to write coherently about it.) However, there was an unintended consequence to yesterday's post.

As background, it is necessary to understand that Google provides what are referred to as "contextual ads." That means they try, with varying degrees of success, to match their ads to the content of a page. So, for the upcoming review of The Clone Wars, I expect to see a lot of Star Wars-related ads. For The Dark Knight, there are Batman ads. And so on. Google scans the page, isolates key words and phrases in the text and uses those as hooks to provide the ads.

Yesterday, I bemoaned the popularity of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and others like them. When Google scanned the page, it picked up these two names. The result? Some of the contextual ads for yesterday's ReelThoughts referenced Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and so forth. Clicking on those ads will presumably take one to sites that celebrate the Culture of Celebrity I was bemoaning. (I say "presumably" because I'm not allowed to click on my own Google ads - that's a violation of the terms of service.)

The irony is obvious. To add to it, I have now mentioned Ms. Spears and Ms. Hilton multiple times in this column, so you may not have to refer to yesterday's ReelThoughts to see those ads (or those like them).

One other note about what I wrote yesterday… A couple of e-mailers asked if my joke about lawyers represents my real opinion. I'm sorry to say, yes it does. Over the course of my life, I have had about eight dealings with lawyers and several of them have been strongly negative. My purchase of the house I currently live in was almost torpedoed by a lawyer overstepping his boundaries (I had to fire him). I agree that there are many dedicated, honest, professional lawyers in practice but more than one with whom I have had dealings were arrogant, self-absorbed SOBs. I blame lawyers in part for the insanity of American's litigiousness. For me, they're only a small step below politicians on the ignobility scale. (Many politicians, it should be noted, are lawyers.) I'm sorry if you're offended by this sentiment but, as I indicated, it's a result of personal experiences that have not been positive. If you're reading this and are an ethical attorney with high standards and are doing your job principally to help people, then you are exempted from any anti-lawyers statements I have made in the past or may make in the future. :)