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  • mistermuse 1:25 am on July 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , choices, , Jules Feiffer, , ,   

    PIED FEIFFER 

    pied, adj.  of two or more colors in blotches — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

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    Another post, another autobiography (or memoir, going by the book) to review — this one titled BACKING INTO FORWARD, by Jules Feiffer. But I am not so much going to review this 2010 book as pass along some thoughts from it, which, I think, are worth thinking about — relevant, at least in part, to current backward, black and white, regressive times.

    First, a brief introduction: FEIFFER (born Jan. 26, 1929), is a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and writer who was born and grew up ‘between a blotch (of angsts) and a hard place’ in the Bronx. Having a controlling mother, little interest in school and no athletic ability whatsoever, “Fear was the principal emotion of my childhood. I hid in my sleep. I hid in my dreams. I revealed myself only in comics, which were the embodiment of my dreams.”

    In his teens, he was influenced by his older sister, whose “crowd was fast-talking, fast-quipping, mischievous, left, meaning far left in their politics, their taste in books, art, movies, and just about everything else.” Marry this influence with his passion for cartoons, and you have the seeds of the man and cartoonist he was to become (the engrossing details of which you will have to read in the book).

    Now for some of those thoughts I previously mentioned and now quote:

    Over the years I have been asked how I came to make certain choices. How did I know? This choice as opposed to that, this direction or that? Much of my life as a young man was spent ignoring or delaying choices. The choices I made were due to running out of time. Backed into a corner, a choice was made because I no longer had a choice not to. Having nowhere to go, I spot the one open window and jump through. Choice to me is much like Butch Cassidy and Sundance escaping a posse by jumping off a cliff. They jumped. And survived. It was the right choice. But when it’s not, you’re dead.

    Up until I was drafted, I had found that I could survive under any circumstance, no matter how unnerving, degrading, humiliating, or demoralizing, if I could understand the unwritten rules, i.e., the culture that was beating up on me. Whether it was family, school, sports, work, sex, I was accustomed to getting knocked down, picking myself up, and starting all over again. But in the army I was on unknown ground. After five months something went terribly wrong. They transferred me to train me to operate and repair radios on the [Korean] front line–in other words, to be killed. Radio repair was indecipherable to me. I saw no good reason [for] this assignment. As Vice President Dick Cheney explained when asked by the press why he hadn’t fought in the Vietnam War, “I had other priorities.” Yes! Yes! Me too!

    It was heartbreaking to watch [Jerome] Robbins go into his HUAC dance. The acting chair of the House Un-American Activites Committee, a somber, ministerial-looking fake, asked Robbins at the start of his sworn testimony what he did for a living. Robbins stated that he was a choreographer. The chair did not understand the unfamiliar word. “A chori–chori–chori–what exactly is that, Mr. Robbins.?” Robbins explained that it was something like a dance director and named shows he had choreographed, from On The Town, his first musical, to The King And I. The members of the committee seemed delighted to have this fancy new word to play with. As each one took his turn questioning Robbins, he took a crack at pronouncing “choreographer.” The point, made to the cameras for the heartland, was that loyal American don’t need highfalutinn words. No! Loyal Americans needed but one thing, fealty to God and country. Loyal Americans wrapped themselves in the flag.

    Called soft on Communism, liberals quieted down about witch hunts and loyalty oaths. Called eggheads, they dumbed themselves down. Displays of wit were repressed as too highbrow. Accused of cowardice in the Cold War, liberals began appraising countries to invade. Vietnam was a liberal war. The Republican Dwight Eisenhower refused to be sucked in. But Eisenhower was a general, a war hero, he didn’t have to prove his manhood. John F. Kennedy, although a war hero, was a liberal Democrat. He had to prove his manhood. Kennedy couldn’t afford to let the Russians think he was incompetent and inconsequential, which they might well have concluded after the Bay of Pigs. The Soviets might move on Berlin because of Kennedy’s perceived weakness. Before they could make such a move, Kennedy moved on Vietnam. As much of a disaster as the war proved itself to be, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, after him, could not get out. To cut and run was not an option for Democrats because it would make them open to attacks from Republicans.

    Enough. Or was/is it? Politics being politics and the American electorate being the American electorate, we now have the grotesquely cartoonish Donald Trump….so let us close with this (for what it’s worth):

     
    • masercot 4:45 am on July 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      He had a monthly multi-panel cartoon in Playboy. It was almost worth buying the magazine just for that…

      Liked by 2 people

    • calmkate 5:21 am on July 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      lol I can see why you’d be attracted to this character, thanks for sharing him!

      Liked by 2 people

    • magickmermaid 1:31 pm on July 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      I’m tired of being a grown-up! I could use one of those. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rosaliene Bacchus 3:08 pm on July 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      I loved your post! Thanks for the introduction to Jules Feiffer. The cartoon video clip about “the grown-up” is priceless 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 4:05 pm on July 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Rosaliene. That same set of “grown-up” cartoons is in his book (page 319). I would like to have included more in this post from the book (a chapter titled CLOSET AMERICA is worth a post in itself), but I don’t want to try my readers’ patience, so I try to keep to a reasonable length (an arbitrary judgment, I admit).

        Liked by 1 person

    • Elizabeth 5:50 pm on July 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      And at the moment the culture police are starting to remind me of the HUAC hearings. No one can be pure enough for some of them. I am not talking about confederate statues, but rather trying to find any earlier American who didn’t have failings. Good luck folks.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 7:11 pm on July 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        I am not a fan of extremists of either the far left or (especially) the far right. I cut ideologues of the far left some slack because they may have their hearts in the right place, but far right ideologues have nothing in the right place, as far I can see. Unfortunately, with both, it’s “My way or the highway” — that’s simply not going to work in a pluralistic, multi-cultural democracy.

        Liked by 1 person

    • JosieHolford 9:37 pm on July 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      • mistermuse 10:54 pm on July 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Thank you, Josie, for sharing that interesting memory and link, which I notice is from 2008 (two years before the publication of his book BACKING INTO FORWARD). I enjoyed your post and gave it a like because….well, I liked it!

        Like

    • waywardsparkles 11:37 am on July 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Life often does feel like I’m backing into forward…with a lot of resistance. Ha! Enjoyed this. What an engaging artist! BTW, my grownup eventually shows up when all else fails. She leaves as quickly as possible so I can enjoy life without dealing with too many rules and fuss. Mona

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 12:44 pm on July 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        I sometimes feel the same, Mona — but, at least, “backing into forward” beats backing into backward, which it appears the whole country is doing under our retrograde President Trump.

        Liked by 1 person

    • arekhill1 12:44 pm on July 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for reminding us the Trumpsters have always been with us, Sr. Muse. They just weren’t always called that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mistermuse 1:59 pm on July 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        To paraphrase what Jesus said 2,000 years ago, “The Trumpsters [by whatever name] we will always have with us.”

        Like

    • Don Ostertag 9:55 pm on July 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      I have always liked Fieffer, but he’s totally wrong about Eisenhower and Nam. I was in the 82nd when Ike the prez asked for volunteers to go to Nam as advisors. Our involvement started with Ike and would have ended with JFK who was going to end our involvement as soon s he got back from Dallas.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 11:57 pm on July 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks, Don. One of the things I like (and respect) about Feiffer is his objectivity despite being very liberal — as shown by the quoted paragraph in which he castigates JFK, Johnson, and the Democrats for how he views their handling of the Vietnam War. By contrast, few, if any, very conservative Republicans have had the courage and/or character to call out Donald Trump for his handling of the war against the Corona virus (or any other of his myriad failings and corrupt acts, for that matter).

        Liked by 1 person

  • mistermuse 12:01 am on December 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: chance, choices, , , , , social issues, ,   

    WINTERDREAM 

    Suppose a homeless man found
    what survived of a tattered old jacket,
    abandoned, like himself, to the elements
    ….and, in that tattered garment,
    crumpled inside a pocket, a winning
    lottery ticket could transform his life.

    But, first he must find it, and then,
    having found it, not toss it aside to be
    blown wherever discarded debris blows.
    Let us further suppose
    the deadline to claim its prize
    came at midnight of that very day.

    Late that night, in winter’s turn,
    he dreamed a new-day dream
    that he could live his life over again,
    knowing as much in his youth as
    he knew now, so that all the choices
    and hidden chances of wasted
    turning points lay exhumed ahead.

    But the thought made him cringe; regret
    was a fire that gave pain without heat.
    He awoke in cold sweat to the taste
    of snow on the cracks of his lips
    and pulled tight around his neck
    the collar of yesterday’s fortune.
    What luck to have found
    a buffer against fate.

     

     

     

     
    • mistermuse 12:04 am on December 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      In the spirit of the not-merry-for-everyone season, I have given this previously published poem a new life here, almost 25 years after I first wrote it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • RMW 12:20 pm on December 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      This started me thinking, would I rather find that lottery ticket (I do buy them from time to time) or be able to start over again with today’s knowledge (something I have to admit appeals to me). But in the end, rather than sitting around wondering about either, I am grateful to be where I am with what I have compared to so many other people. Thank you for sharing this lovely poem.

      Liked by 2 people

    • mistermuse 2:54 pm on December 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I can’t think of a better attitude to have, RMW. What’s done is done – still, I can’t help but question the depth of people of middle age & older who say they have no regrets in life. I find it hard to believe that anyone goes through life without having hurt someone, either by words or deed. This tells me that the “no regret-er” is either a surface person or an “it’s all about me” person to whom others are mere bit players in the movie of his/her life. Lacking such regret, it seems to me, the “no-regret-er” hasn’t earned the right to say “What’s done is done.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Don Frankel 6:21 pm on December 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Ah Muse a lot of money only gets me in trouble. And, regrets… “I’ve had a few but then again too few to mention.” Do it all over again? Wouldn’t that be Deja Vu all over again?

      “regret was a fire that gave pain without heat” Great line.

      Like

    • mistermuse 9:03 pm on December 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Don, there IS one thing (love) about which one need have no regrets:

      Liked by 2 people

    • Resa 4:52 pm on December 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Pretty great!

      Liked by 1 person

    • arekhill1 3:17 pm on December 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Having regrets does come with the territory. Not dwelling on them has to as well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse 9:31 pm on December 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Robert Frost pretty much said as much: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

      Like

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