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Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Hairballs are to creativity as ringtones are to Ghana: huhudious

Among companies that automatically serve ads on blogs, the principal of false relevance prevails. A few months after we started this blog, we greedily decided to go with Amazon.com and Google Adsense. Since then, citizens of Catymology Central have been bemused by the strange things that our partners in capitalism throw up there at the tops of our pages.

Catymology is about cats--cat folklore, cat mythology, cat stories, and, of course, cat behavior. Yes, that means that once in a while, we do get hairballs. So it probably makes sense that today, Amazon was featuring a book called Orbiting the Giant Hairball on our banner. It turns out, though, that the giant hairball in question has little to do with cats. It's a metaphor for the corporate bureaucracy as seen by an artist who toiled for thirty years at Hallmark. He wrote this book to tell other creative types how to survive "the giant hairball."

As writers, we're always interested in how to foster creativity, but this metaphor doesn't make a lot of sense. A hairball is not something you get tangled up in--not unless you're an insect or it's a REALLY BIG hairball. A hairball--and we know what we're talking about here--is something you cough up and leave for other people to deal with.

At least it's a book--and we do like books. We might even like this one, if we weren't in the middle of that novel by Orhan Pamuk, My Name Is Red (Vintage International), and a new book on the labor struggles of orchestral musicians: More than Meets the Ear: How Symphony Musicians Made Labor History.

If Amazon can be loose, Adsense transcends the principal of false relevance, descending to false advertising. A few days ago, our human half posted an item about a particularly amusing blog by a guy who emigrated from Ghana. Today, you could find on our blog banner not one but two ads for "Ghana ringtone: Send this ringtone to your phone right now, at no charge!"

But clicking on the link took us to a site that offers ringtones specific to one's astrological sign. We were disappointed to find "Ghana" not among our choices as an astrological sign, and we surmised that disclosing a cell phone number to this fishy promoter would lead to our receiving a planet-sized hairball's worth of spam. (Please don't call us to confirm our suspicions: Catymology does not have a cell phone.)

Having learned the meaning of huhudious from Koranteng's blog--it derives from a Ga expression for behavior so outrageous that it beggars belief--we now understand that the principal of false relevance is simply not adequate to describe how automatic ad placement can betray the meaning of what we write. When we viewed the permanent link for the post on the guy from Ghana, Google presented ads for self-cleaning litter boxes and for hotels in Ghana. One of us does use a litter box; the other cleans it. But Ghana's never been a place we wanted to visit, especially after having read Koranteng's blog. Thanks to Google, anyway, for the chance to use the word huhudious.


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