Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cafe Society: Randomness Part I

If you spend a lot of time socializing in cafés like I do, you've probably experienced the wonderful chaos of well-caffeinated conversation. There's something about the coffee buzzed mind, when it gets to whirring, that spins out some pretty interestingly random trains of thought.

As evidence, I offer up three different examples of the divergent branches of digressive discourse that I navigated with friends across two different local chattering holes (with a stop at the police station in between). I'll divide the wide-ranging topics into 3 posts: anagrams, acronyms and the PATRIOT Act; linguistics, gourmets and gourmands; theater, gay rights, and George Grosz. Yes, I have way too much time on my hands.

I. Packaging ideas for mass consumption: Mmm, taste the misinformation

Our conversations at the cafés always start out innocently enough — a piece of witty banter, a joke, or an off-handed obsevation — but we soon find ourselves inevitably winding our way into the political realm, wonkishly impaired as we are. So it began once more today: the chance observation of an anagram used in the same sentence with a friend's name (take and kate).

From anagram to acronym is a pretty easy mental jump, and trying to determine if the initials of organizational and legislative names configure themselves into any interesting combinations is a personal pastime (derived from years of listening to Chicago play-by-play great Harry Caray's old habit of pronouncing batters' names backwards). My friend George had to fill out a police report for a stolen license plate sticker (one of the incidental joys of living in the 'hood), and the name of the form that the helpful officer handed him spelled MIER, which sounded close enough to "mire" to amuse me.

Ah, but my mind-game amusement didn't end there, as the discussion of acronyms led me to cite the PATRIOT Act as one unshining example of their pernicious use by our dear leader. As hated as that little piece of unconstitutional shennanigans is in my circles of activity, few realize or recall that the name of the legislative trickery is actually an acronym. It's such a long and convoluted series of words, I haven't ever been able to commit them to memory. A few incorrect but more accurate possibilities did come to mind:
  • Perpetrating Atrocities That Really Increase Our Terror

  • Persuading Americans to Trample Rights Indiscriminately Over Terror

  • Politicians Acting Tough and Realizing Income from Official Terror
Upon later investigation, I learned the preposterously extended true full name of the Act, which includes a USA in front (brace yourselves): Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act.

Once you get past the name to take a much closer look at what's in it, you'll see the degree to which this piece of political perversion opened up a pandora's box of domestic snooping; giving license to here-to-fore illegal searches and seizures, as well as general violations of your rights to free speech and privacy. The American Library Association is a good resource for understanding the implicaitons of the Act. See, USA PATRIOT Act and Intellectual Freedom.

It's amazing how well George W. Bush masked the absurdly nefarious details of the Act with his catchy little play on post 9/11 patriotic fervor. As they say, a spoonful of sugar helps the poison go down — not to mention the coffee.

Ah, but my java fueled musings have just begun ... stay tuned.
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