lower the curtain down on Memphis

First off a question: did Charles Dickens name Amy Winehouse? No? Are we sure? So it’s just serendipity, then?

Now, an anecdote with a moral: a few months ago, a friend told me about a trip she took to Italy with her mother. In a dense part of Rome one morning, a pack of gypsies surrounded the two of them. One of them thrust a baby into her mother’s arms, proceeded to strip her mother of purse and watch, and then reclaimed the baby. “What do you do in that sort of situation?” she asked me, rhetorically.

“Drop the baby,” I answered.

She stared at me in horror. “You can’t just drop a baby!”

“No, you can’t force a baby on a stranger and rob them. What obligates me to show more concern for this child’s life than his own mother did?”

Of course, I have no problem saying this in my armchair – or, as when I heard the anecdote, the evening streets of Harvard Square – but I don’t know if I’d react as coldly in the actual situation. For one thing, the sheer bizarreness of it all (“who are these people? what’s this baby doing here? hey, my wallet!”) would probably stun me for the few seconds a pro needed. For another, I’m a notorious softy when you get past my cynical exterior; I don’t know that I’d actually drop a baby on the filthy cobblestones of Rome just to prove a point. And finally, the gypsies have been doing this for centuries – I’m sure they have a contingency plan for finding a hardass like me (scream in suddenly fluent Italian for the cops, press charges, etc).

Another bit about language: no one can agree on the proper nomenclature for the satisfied humming noise people make when they see tasty food. Either “mmmm” or “ummmm”. I always use the former, as I associate the latter with the awkward mouth sound people make when they struggle for the right word. Are you hungry or confused, sir? Please indicate in a follow-up letter.

Normally this doesn’t matter, except when someone goes overboard and writes in all-caps. Consider the following e-mails:

And then we can stop in at J.P. Lick’s for some … cake batter ice cream! MMMMMM!


And then we can stop in at J.P. Lick’s for some … cake batter ice cream! UMMMMM!

The latter, to me, looks like oddly loud indecision. “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT. UMMMM … SHOULD I GET ICE CREAM OR COOKIES? UMMMM …” An autistic child, instead of a dessert connoisseur.

Finally, has anyone seen this ad on YouTube over the past two weeks? The Republicans want people to submit videos for their convention. I just want you to look at the elephant silhouette in the lower left:

Republican Cthulhu Ad

For those of you not as steeped in nerd culture as I am, take a look at this image of iconic Lovecraftian horror, the mad alien god Cthulhu:


Do you see it? Am I the only one who sees it? At the very least, making the trunk and the tusks the same color fails as a design choice.

19 Responses

  1. no no no, STEAL the baby

  2. Damn straight you ain’t gonna drop a baby!

  3. It ‘s funny, because dropping the baby didn’t even occur to me as an option. Perhaps gently placing the baby down would. Although, you’re totally right. If they’re willing to hand their baby to a stranger just to steal a few bucks, they can’t care that much about the baby’s well being.

  4. Kate – Says you! I drop who I WANT!

  5. I have this hanging up in my cube at work.

  6. Also, “yum”

  7. Also, interpretations of the elephant’s trunk could range anywhere from reptilian to phallic. Either way seems fitting.

  8. Bob – We must coordinate our symbology!

  9. For me it’s always been “mmmm!” for yummy, but then again I’m pretty sure I only make those noises b/c I’ve read them somewhere.

    Also, Campbell’s soup thinks it’s “mmm” as in “mmm mmm good”

  10. Actually, in Italy, just yell “Ladro!” As rampant as the thieves are, they hate them.

  11. MM – Really? That works? Holy hell. I’m going to start yelling “Ladro” everywhere just to see what reaction I get.

  12. You’d drop (and quite possibly, consequently, kill) a baby just to save your own wallet?

    that is fucked up.

  13. Like I said, I probably wouldn’t.

    And flip it: you’d thrust your baby into a stranger’s arms just to steal their wallet?

  14. I’m somewhat in agreement with Dave L. Steal the baby. Or, rather, refuse to give it up until you have your own possessions back. A baby is worth more than a wallet/watch, so hang on to the baby.

  15. There’s the secret fear they’d call my bluff. “Fine, keep the baby.” Then I’m worse off than if I were just out one wallet.

  16. Clearly we should start spelling “um” the way the British do (erm, because they don’t pronounce the “r” in that position), so we can convert “um” and “mmm” to the same meaning.

  17. For future reference, nothing gets me to stop paying attention faster than the phrase “now, an anecdote with a moral”. The anecdote (and moral) might be about “how to bed porn stars”, but my brain will have already turned off.

  18. When did I get you back – at the words “drop the baby”?

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