History: The Art of Complicating a Conversation Using the Internet

This has probably happened to you: you are trying to look up the date or location of some famous-but-ordinary event, only to find yourself still online, many hours later, learning about the knot-based recording system of ancient people of the Andes. The links of the Internet are catnip for the curious, and this can lead not only to unintended hours of indirect research online, but also some conversational derailments.

Curiosity can cause social problems, trust me on this. My Cousin forgave me immediately, however.

I will now briefly map how a conversation with my Cousin went from (a) focusing on the charm of some family photos relating to an ancestry research project to (b) the Japanese internment in the USA in just five topical steps due to interconnected links in the wonderful site known as Wikipedia.

MAP: My grandfather’s appearance as a light-skinned black man > his nickname Red > other Black people with the nickname Red, such as Malcom X ,who was a dishwasher with shared nickname holder Redd Foxx > Redd Foxx > Red Foxx’s friend (Noriyuki) Pat Morita (yes, Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid), who appeared on Redd’s popular show Sanford and Son with a TERRIBLE joke name > Pat Morita’s internment with his family at Gila River Internment Camp after his release from the hospital where he was recovering from surgeries for spinal TB.

(Yes, I would have continued if I hadn’t then realized I’d sucked all the charm out of the topic of my grandfather’s photo. OOOPS.)

Seriously, though, Pat Morita had a rough childhood. Imagine being paralyzed most of your youth, and when you finally get out of the hospital after years of painful surgeries and recovery, you are sent to join your family… in an internment camp.

Aside: Wikipedia is a great project, and you should consider sending some money to the Wikimedia Foundation (donate.wikimedia.org).

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