Did you hear that the Orpheum has scheduled a special Memphis production of Les Miserables? True. In this version, "Jean Valjean de Memphis" is a freed convict, known by his prison number of 38103. As in the original story, he tries to become a force for good in the world but has difficulty overcoming his troubled past. And as in the original musical, the Memphis version features the song "I Dreamed a Dream," only it's a duet featuring Al Kapone and Alexis Grace.
Okay, I made all that up, but in light of all the fuss hereabouts concerning yet another stupid, meaningless "ranking" created by Forbes, a floundering business magazine, it doesn't seem that unlikely a scenario.
Let me point out something about the publication that has everyone from Mayor Wharton (see p. 10) to Memphis Facebookers ("I Bet Memphis Can Get 1,000,000 Fans Faster Than Any Other City") so wigged out: Forbes magazine is in deep doo. In 2009, the magazine laid off more than 70 people. The net worth of the parent company was set by an analyst recently at "less than half" what investors paid for it in 2006. That deal was called "one of the worst of the decade" by The Wall Street Journal. Advertising revenues at Forbes fell more than 33 percent from 2007 to 2009. When it comes to being miserable, Forbes has earned its cred.
I understand having pride in one's hometown, and Wharton's letter citing the many charms of Memphis was well-done, even if slightly predictable. I can't imagine his predecessor doing such a thing with such graciousness — or doing it at all, for that matter. So, good for you, A C.
But let's not forget that the most miserable ranking is just a meaningless label pasted on us by an increasingly inconsequential publication. I'm reminded of ex-Memphian John Calipari, who loved to disparage critics of his program by labeling them "the miserables." The miserables, he said, were always miserable and nothing would ever make them happy. Calipari was utilizing one of the great weapons of persuasion, favored by politicians and media shysters alike: Marginalize your detractors by lumping them all into a single, easily dismissed category.
I suggest we use the same tactic against Forbes, whose rather outdated motto is "The Capitalist Tool." I think we can all agree, capitalist tools is exactly what they are.
I'm writing this from the restroom facility at Big Hill Pond State Park in southern McNairy County. On Monday, I commandeered the building, which contains the men's and women's restrooms, some racks of pamphlets, and two vending machines. There's no one here right now, but I plan to stay as long as necessary to protest the fact that the state of Tennessee is run by oppressive know-nothings who wouldn't know small government — or freedom, for that matter — if it bit them on their considerable backsides ...
The lady doth protest too much, methinks. — William Shakespeare
Is there such a thing as "bad activism"? I'm asking because I'm seeing a lot of criticism of the folks who are protesting the Memphis Zoo's encroachment onto the Greensward at Overton Park.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."