Word Cloud: Sky News

By John Branston 

A good friend called me a curmudgeon when I opined to him that the dregs of the Burning Man crowd stuck in the mud were a “buncha dorks.”

We were both right. 

America and Memphis need a huge shot of curmudgeonism for so many reasons.Curmudgeons have gotten a bad rap. Some of America’s greatest heroes were curmudgeons – Mark Twain, Harry Truman (cussing out a smarty who made fun of his daughter), Miles Davis (turning his back on the audience), Ted Williams (refusing to tip his cap to fans and aiming line drives at hecklers).

Comics are often curmudgeons, albeit too blue for some tastes: Redd Foxx, Kathy Griffin, Larry David, Richard Pryor. The pleasing grumpiness of singers and blues musicians in their work and personal lives is strangely overlooked. “I don’t like you,” Furry Lewis famously told Joni Mitchell on old Beale Street.

Curmudgeonly journalism, once a staple of H. L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker, Mike Royko and Jimmy Breslin, is sadly dying if not dead on both the liberal side (Molly Ivins) and conservative side (P.J. O’Rourke). Maureen Dowd at The New York Times is a glorious exception. The Wall Street Journal would be vastly improved by a renewal of Dorothy Rabinowitz who famously opined in 2016 that for all her faults, Hillary Clinton was at least “demonstrably sane.”           

The old lions of print journalism now seem to pick their “voices” with attention to diversity first and boosterism second and talent third.

Popular movies give us Ken and Barbee and foul-mouthed sluts instead of the dames and dicks of film noir, sheriffs like Rooster Cogburn, P.I.s like Jake Gittes, cowboys like Woodrow Call, and dangerous ladies like Mildred Pierce.

Even foodie superstar Julie Child could play the role of batty old grump with a wink and a nod when the mood struck her.

Cities like Memphis would be much better served by curmudgeonly straight talk than boosterism. First, second, third, fourth and fifth, there is crime: violent crime, gun crime, don’t-give-a-damn crime, not-their-fault crime, property crime by bored teenagers, blame-someone-else crime. If you were once three or four degrees of separation from violence, you are now probably one degree of separation away if not a victim.

In October we will see if voting continues to decline or makes a comeback. In a field of largely untested wannabes, Willie Herenton, for so long the man in the arena, is well suited to play the role of truth-telling curmudgeon but has chosen to be a candidate instead.
Our best and brightest CEOs and legal lions are in retirement or gone. On the national front, Biden and Trump are badly flawed in different ways but a third-party curmudgeon would not have a chance, say the experts.

Then throw in Covid, AI, social media, anonymous trolls, phony optimists, open carry, open container, open NCAA transfer portal…

Good gracious. And get off my lawn.