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


    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!


    • 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.”


    • 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 12:00 am on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ghosts of the past, Jean Negulesco, knowing yourself, memoir, , , , , , The Way We Were   


    The trouble with turning memories into memoirs is that when one is finished, a sneaky feeling comes along: “Things never were that way, anyway.” –Jean Negulesco (1900-93), Academy Award-winning movie director

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    I’ve just finished reading Jean Negulesco’s memoir (coincidentally, he died 25 years ago today) titled THINGS I DID AND THINGS I THINK I DID. The above quote is from that book–as is his reflection on having raised, with his wife, two adopted daughters from war-torn, post-WWII Germany:

    And so it starts, and so it ends. And we see ourselves in them. There is no sense in telling them, “When I was your age….” We never were their age. 

    “We never were their age.” And so it is with us. We’ve never been ‘inside’ them–even our own children. When all is said and done, we’re lucky if we know ourselves–now, then or in-between–which is not to say that, along the way, we were not open to wanting whatever knowledge romance promised….

    They say “You can’t go home again”–even if your old haunts still exist, your past and its ghosts stay with you, not with where you were….not so? So, where do we go?

    Now, I’m as nostalgic as the next old geezer, but as my past recedes further into the past, I look at old photos, see the images of faces and places I knew, and there’s no avoiding the sense that the road between THINGS I DID AND THINGS I WISH I DID leads to a place where the sun sets before we get there.

    Sooner or later, it’s all over but the doubting. It’s the place where (to paraphrase a phrase) OLD GHOSTS NEVER DIE, they….just….fade….a w a y


    • Lisa R. Palmer 1:05 am on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Profound thoughts and deep reflection – a wellspring for the humor that is your trademark here at WordPress. For it is only that level of understanding and the wisdom that grows from it that can fuel a true sense of irony laced with compassion…

      Oh, and I’m taking this quote with me, as it moves me to ponder my own deep thoughts: “and there’s no avoiding the sense that the road between THINGS I DID AND THINGS I WISH I DID leads to a place where the sun sets before we get there.”

      Great stuff here, mistermuse!

      Liked by 7 people

      • mistermuse 1:33 am on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Thank you, Lisa, for taking time to comment in such a thoughtful way. I wrote this post not expecting it to appeal to all tastes, but a man does not live by humor alone–if I did, my wife would kill me (just kidding–I brought home enough bacon before I retired to keep her fat and happily recumbent most of the time).

        Liked by 2 people

        • Lisa R. Palmer 2:45 am on July 18, 2018 Permalink

          The “happy” part is the only one that truly matters, so whatever you did, or do, to achieve and maintain that state is goodness in itself. Lol!

          Liked by 2 people

    • calmkate 3:51 am on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Agree with Lisa’s comment but fortunately I have few regrets, I tended to do what I wanted when I wanted 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

    • Carmen 6:06 am on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      That Annabelle – what a charmer! And only ten! Wow! Can definitely detect a great personality. Apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree, eh? 😉

      Speaking of such things, my husband was at a gathering one time to discuss the passing of a friend. Some comment was made about this guy having ‘climbed the ladder to a better place’. . . Or some such thing. Hubby said, “I figure where I’m going, the only thing I’ll need is a hand sled!” Ha, ha!

      Wherever it is, I’ll worry about it after I get there (although I don’t think there’ll be any ‘think’ left). 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

      • mistermuse 9:42 am on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Well, Carmen, at least your hubby thinks he’s going SOMEPLACE! 🙂

        As for me: I think–therefore I don’t know what to think. 😦

        As for Annabelle, talent like that needs and deserves to soar. Destination Broadway (I hope)….speaking of which, The Unsinkable Molly Brown was a Broadway show which was made into a movie starring Debbie Reynolds. Here is her “I Ain’t Down Yet” from the film:


    • Don Frankel 8:13 am on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      “The past is always with us.” Or as I like to say we are the things we did. No getting around it.

      But I do think we experience life in the past, the present and with a slight anticipation of the future. It’s just the way our minds work.

      Liked by 4 people

      • mistermuse 5:09 pm on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Perhaps that’s generally true, Don–but I think with politicians, there’s more than a slight anticipation of the future. No sooner is one election over than they start calculating for the next one, even if it’s as much as six years away (in the case of U.S. senators).


        • Don Frankel 7:11 am on July 19, 2018 Permalink

          Muse, at the end of the rainbow is a pot of gold.

          Liked by 2 people

        • mistermuse 8:36 am on July 19, 2018 Permalink

          Don, I’ve already got the pot, and even if I get the gold at the end of the rainbow, I can’t take it with me where I’m going.

          On second thought, I’d better mend my ways so I can go to the other place — who wants to spend eternity roasting with the boasting Orange Man?

          Liked by 1 person

    • America On Coffee 8:18 am on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Always there are two sides to every story. Sometimes there is no glory!! You shared it so well!!

      Liked by 3 people

    • scifihammy 11:05 am on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      A very thoughtful post – thank you. 🙂
      It doesn’t bother me if I’m not remembering something ‘correctly’ because the memory is what I have now. And I never go back to old places, preferring my memory of them as they were. 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

    • arekhill1 12:00 pm on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      I always thought Hardy’s words meant your home has changed from the way you remember it, so it is never the home you left, but your interpretation works as well, Sr. Muse.

      Liked by 4 people

      • mistermuse 12:51 pm on July 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        I take “You can’t go home again” to mean that, though your old home may still be there, what you left of yourself there is gone forever….and one goes “home again” hoping in some amorphous way to recapture a piece of it. That may be ‘a bit much,’ but I prefer to think (without knowing) that it’s close(r) to what Hardy had in mind. In any case, I’m at home with your interpretation as well, Ricardo.

        Liked by 1 person

    • restlessjo 3:40 am on July 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      I like that quote too., and I like you being thoughtful. Often when I write posts such as yesterdays I wonder if I’m being really truthful, if I’m giving the ‘right’ impression, and if indeed, I know what the ‘right’ impression is. This can go on and on, can’t it? I’ve often thought of writing Dad’s story but reporting it accurately worries me. And no, we can’t go back but I loved that film… 🙂 🙂
      Mam was a wise old bird and she used to say ‘can’t put an old head on young shoulders’.

      Liked by 4 people

      • mistermuse 9:42 am on July 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Jo, your post yesterday rang true to me and, I’m sure, to everyone who read it. I hope anyone who reads this will go to it and see for themselves.

        Thanks for quoting your mam’s wise words. It’s been a long time since I heard that quote, and it was good to hear it again.


    • katsobservations 1:54 pm on July 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Very powerful post. For me though, nostalgia represents not appreciating the past instead of wishing I did something differently. I guess nostalgia has a different meaning for each person.

      Liked by 3 people

      • mistermuse 7:11 pm on July 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Well put, Kat. Perhaps one reason for a ‘different take’ on the past by another person would be if that person had one or more bitter experiences as a child that would make revisiting his or her childhood haunts a return to mixed memories. As you say, different meanings for different persons.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel McAlpine 5:58 pm on July 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      When those moments arise the best I can do is to tell myself I did the best I could with the me I was at the time. And don’t worry, your memoirs will be “corrected” by those who disagree. My friends write their own memoirs in revenge,

      Liked by 3 people

      • mistermuse 12:35 am on July 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Rachel, there is much wisdom in your first sentence. No one is the same person they were when they were young–or if they are the same, they haven’t matured–and therefore, you have to let go of the regret you feel that you would do something differently if you had it to do over again.

        Regarding memoirs, I don’t plan on writing any, so there won’t be any to correct….and as for my friends, I plan on outliving them. Good luck with that, right? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • moorezart 1:26 pm on July 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      Reblogged this on From 1 Blogger 2 Another.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mistermuse 5:14 pm on July 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        Once again I am in your debt, sir. I shall REMEMBER you in my prayers (in lieu of in my will). 😦


        • moorezart 5:17 pm on July 24, 2018 Permalink

          Wonderful post sir, consider all debts cancelled in payment for being gifted by your lofty thoughts.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Silver Screenings 11:11 am on August 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      That girl, from the video you posted, is a true entertainer!

      Liked by 3 people

      • mistermuse 11:42 am on August 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        I just watched the video again, and she’s just as good as the last time I watched her! 🙂
        But seriously, that is one talented girl, and I hope she grows up to reach her full potential.

        Liked by 1 person

    • etiliyle 11:31 am on September 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply


      Liked by 2 people

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