Hyper[text] Reading

I have always been interested in trivia. As a consequence, as a reader, one notion I read on a page can trigger questions about completely unrelated matters. Before the Web, it was unlikely I would pursue the questioning very far, but with the Web making everything just one click away, I do. Hence I can start reading about Topic A, and 5 hours later I can find myself reading about Topic R which not only has nothing to do with Topic A but also has brought me to forget what Topic A was, although the fact I’m a big-time users of tabs in Firefox can help me jog my memory.

While eating supper last night, I happened to catch another little bit of that impossibly bad, stretched out, multipart interview with Anna Nicole Smith on Entertainment Tonight. Truth is, Anna Nicole Smith is someone about whom I have never before given a second’s thought. But something about how she comes across in this interview intrigued me: she looks like a plastic doll whose perfection renders her extremely unattractive (in my eyes), plus she strikes me as incredibly strung out and sedated if not simply a spectacularly stunned effort.

I turned off the TV and began wondering what’s all the fuss about Anna Nicole Smith since, as I mentioned, I never before gave the woman a second thought …so I went online and looked her up to satisfy my new curiosity about what all the fuss is about and if or why I should give a heck. Within minutes, I found myself on Wikipedia. For me, though, that’s an invitation to get off topic really quickly.

  • While married to her second husband who was more than 60 years her senior, she had numerous love interests including Scott Baio, whom I didn’t know is a staunch conservative Republican.
  • During her modelling career, she capitalized on her strong resemblance to Jayne Mansfield.
  • Jayne Mansfield was killed in a car crash in June 1967 on U.S. Highway 90.
  • United States numbered highways, the precursor of the American interstate, were conceived in the 1920s and follow a relatively logical pattern in terms of how they’re numbered.
  • The fabled U.S. Highway 66 has long ago been decommissioned and largely replaced by Interstate 40, although many of the states through which 66 went through keep its memory alive as State Highways bearing the same number.
  • The idea of the U.S. interstate system was brought forth exactly 50 years ago this year by President Eisenhower. The system was supposed to take 12 years to complete but in the end took 35 years, and some roads, like I-95 that spans the entire east coast, remain technically unfinished.
  • Eisenhower appreciated what Germany was doing with its autobahn system, now known world-wide as a freeway system on which there’s no speed limit.
  • Speed limits…

Okay, you get the picture.

No, I didn’t just “discover” how one can get lost reading on the Web. And you didn’t just “discover” that I’m ecclectic and nerdy, as manifested, for instance, by my nearly obsessive number-crunching propensities with regard to proportional representation. However, what I find fascinating is that when I least expect it, little bits of what I read last night will come back to me in context during some discussion or another. Sometimes we can mistakenly believe that some notion or event is a “first-of” or has been around forever (due largely to the fact it already existed when we were born). Often, when we look beyond the current-day artifice, we can often trace parallels that remind us of the extent to which humans do seem fated to repeating their own history. Yet at the same time, in other instances, we can see more clearly where significant shifts have occurred over a relatively short period of time.

Some things seem to change a lot on the surface but don’t really change that much. Other things don’t change a lot but that minute change has a far great impact. Hence, in my mind, what might seem like trivia on the surface might not be so trivial after all.