45 minutes | Oct 2, 2018
The Gory Details Of Corruption And Death
I taste-tested two wonderful films from the abundance of The Hamptons International Film Festival’s 2018 roster. Don’t miss the world premiere of the new documentary, “The Panama Papers”, directed by veteran documentarian Alex Winter, (“Trust Machine”, “Deep Web”), and co-produced by Laura Poitras, (“Risk”, “Citizen Four”), which is a start-to-finish thriller about global money laundering, in an age that one journalist in the film dubbed “near French Revolution levels of economic inequality;” and “To Dust" a darkly comic first feature directed by Shawn Snyder and produced by husband and wife team Alessandro Nivola, (“Disobedience”, “Laurel Canyon”), and Emily Mortimer (“The Newsroom”, “Doll & Em”), long-time Amagansett locals and actors, starring Geza Rohrig and Matthew Broderick. The film "The Panama Papers," starts when a person calling themselves John Doe offers access to documents from the Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca to two relatively unknown journalists at the paper Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich, Germany. The digital documents reveal the identities of key players in the secret world of the law firm’s wealthy clients. By setting up offshore companies, or shell companies, or “special purpose vehicles,” a term Mossack Fonseca liked to use, they shielded the super rich from paying tax on income. Like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden before him, The Panama Papers’ leaker, John Doe, is a whistleblower who aims to be our global conscience. In his Panama Papers Manifesto, written after the publication of the documents, he refers to the information contained in the papers as “…a complete erosion of ethical standards, ultimately leading to a novel system we still call Capitalism, but which is tantamount to economic slavery,” and says, “So now is the time for real action, and that starts with asking questions.” Director Alex Winter’s idea was to construct the film “…like a political thriller, which is really what the story was. I wanted people to feel what it was like for these two journalists at Süddeutsche Zeitung, respected, but relatively unknown, underdog journalists who were handed the scoop of a lifetime. What do they do with it? How do they make sure it’s protected and gets out into the world properly?” When the story was initially published in 2015, Mr. Winter told me, it didn’t stick. “Those in power in politics on both sides of the aisle, corporations, media outlets, and some celebrities, just wanted this story to go away, and the story was very quickly buried. That’s why I wanted to give it a big, broad documentary examination,” he told me. There’s a reason why The New York Times and The Washington Post and other big papers rejected the Panama Papers leak when it came to them, he said. It was much too big a story for one news outlet to handle, so the editors of the Süddeutsche Zeitung made the difficult decision to share the leak with the ICIJ, The International Consortium Of Independent Journalists, who spearheaded the huge project, ultimately gathering over four hundred journalists, who took part in the collective effort to secretly investigate and release 11.5 million leaked documents simultaneously across the world in 2015. The global story eventually incriminated 12 world leaders, 128 politicians and public officials, celebrities and other public figures. The collaboration on a story this big could also offer safety, some thought, from retaliation by people in power. U.S. President Donald Trump’s corporations alone were named over three thousand times in the leaked documents. “It’s very rare to have a businessman turned president who is so blatantly and heavily involved in Offshore,” said Mr. Winter. “On the left you have Justin Trudeau and major players in his administration. It’s everywhere. It’s Nike, it’s Apple. It’s every major corporation for the most part, and most major government players.” “The systemic corruption we’re talking about in this film is really perpetrated by everybody, entire structures of government are implicated,” said Mr. Winter. “Banks, lobbyists, politicians, media outlets are funded by huge organisms of this very corrupt system. A lot of the information we get from news organizations and politicians can be skewed in their favor. It was really important for me to show this as a systemic problem. If you’re thinking it doesn’t matter that the lion’s share of public money that we need for public services around the world is being stolen, then you’ve been propagandized.” “My epiphany in working on this film, “ Winter told me, “was that it became jaw-droppingly clear that this wasn’t a case of just thousands of of acts of criminality. It was revealing an entire system, essentially of how our economy really works. Income inequality is systemic by design, not happenstance — that was really staggering to me. When you have systems run by very wealthy people who have the ability to change laws, then over time you can construct a system that is essentially a kleptocracy, that steals money from the poor and the middle class and hands it to the wealthy.” In the feature film "To Dust" Geza Rohrig plays a Hasidic cantor having trouble coping with the death of his wife. Searching for relief from gruesome nightmares about his wife’s decaying body, he finds a community biology professor, Matthew Broderick, somehow willing to teach him more about the process. According to the HIFF press release “the two form an unlikely bond via clandestine biological experiments, despite the blasphemous consequences.” “The tone of the film is so unique and unusual. There were people who were skeptical that you could marry a comedy with subject matter about death and rotting corpses. It’s hard to pitch that!” Alessandro Nivola told me, laughing. Ms. Mortimer found the script for “To Dust” while she was on a panel of judges for the Tribeca Film Institute Sloan Screenwriting Competition. “We both loved the script, which won the competition, and we thought we could do it on a modest scale…of course, we hadn’t taken into account what it would be like to get a pig to do what you wanted it to do…” Nivola told me. “It took us two years to raise the money, and every person who worked on it did it as a labor of love.” said Mr. Nivola. “They all really responded to the script. We loved the director, Shawn Snyder, when we met him and he had a really strong idea of how he wanted to make the film. Emily had worked with the cinematographer, Xavi Gimenez, when he shot Transsiberian, which Emily was in. It’s really high class. We had a dream cast that came together easily and naturally. We were so lucky to get Geza Rohrig, who starred in the Oscar-winning best foreign language film, Son Of Saul. Geza loved it the minute he read it.” Matthew Broderick loved it too, said Mr. Nivola. During the two-year process of producing “To Dust,” Mr. Nivola was offered a role playing a Hasidic Rabbi in the film “Disobedience” with Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. “I couldn’t believe it. I would come into our office every week as I was growing the the beard for the rabbi in “Disobedience,” and I was slowly starting to look more and more like Shmuel, the cantor in the film we were producing. It was an ongoing joke,” he said. Because of his work in “Disobedience,” Mr. Nivola became close to many of the Orthodox Lubavitch people in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, especially the family of Zalman Raksin, who took him under their wing, helping him with the pronunciation and physicality that he needed to play the character. Mr. Zalman ended up becoming the Hasidic advisor for their production of “To Dust,” and he and his son ended up playing characters in the film. “He really helped us bridge the divide. It allowed us to be accurate and respectful of the Orthodox community,” said Mr. Nivola. “Those two movies were a great coincidence.” The film went on to win the audience award and Shawn Snyder won as best first-time feature director at The Tribeca Film Festival. Gorgeously unembellished by its cinematographer and director, the film is as spare as the plain pine box that Shmuel’s wife is buried in. But the two main characters are full of surprises and deviations from what could have become caricatures. We see the biology professor at home rolling a joint and wearing an ex-girlfriend’s frilly robe, Shmuel emptying a jar of Gefilte fish into the toilet so that he can collect some of the earth from his wife’s grave, his sons with a flashlight trying to dispel a demon through his toe while he sleeps. Offering insight into worlds usually closed to us, there is a beautiful balance struck by the subtle performances from actors who know how to portray complex characters who are anything but living on one note. It’s difficult to walk the line between irreverence and mockery, but there is never a doubt that no one is being ridiculed here. These characters are so like us that we can actually go with them into shocking and far fetched situations, and by the middle of the film we ride the line deftly between the comedy and tragedy into deeper and stranger truths.
29 minutes | Jan 27, 2018
Dell Cullums Wild Life
Who can you call at 2:00 am if you need a raccoon driven across the Shinnecock Canal? Is your family of foxes mangy? Is a hedgehog eating you out of your zinnias? Do you have bats in your basement, swifts in your chimney, or have you seen an Osprey who has forgotten how to fly? If you can’t resort to killing your cousins, there is only one man for the job. Dell Cullum is amazingly well, considering he was flat on his broken back only a couple of months ago; while trying to get a raccoon off a roof in the rain, his ladder slid out beneath him. “It’s only when I got up on my hands and knees to get my phone that I knew I wasn’t paralyzed.” Dell tells me that the last time he got hurt was when he fell out of a tree as a boy, but it didn’t have anything to do with rescuing wildlife, he laughs. When alot of boys were busy killing small creatures, he found a bird’s nest on the ground with tiny hatched birds that he figured out how to feed, nuture, and keep alive. After a successful Gofundme campaign and a community fundraiser Dell is actually up and running his business again, but he is a man who is hard to catch. He is available for wildlife rescue calls at any hour, and for the past week has been waking at 5am to beat the summer traffic to Bridgehampton in order to trap a hedgehog that has obviously had some experience with traps and will not be tempted into Dell’s cage, even with a great delicacy like melon. “Why would he get in?” Dell asks, “He’s an herbivore — he has all the food he needs around him!” The lady of the house doesn’t want him feeding off her cutting garden, but Dell doesn’t kill anything — and I mean anything — so if his humane trap won’t entice the hegdehog, she will have to call another pest control company that will “probably use other methods,” according to Dell After a series of mis-timed rendevous with bats and osprey, we meet finally at his house in East Hampton Village, and Dell unhitchs the back of his pickup truck, which is covered with animal decals and his advertising slogans for his animal rescue service, and we hear the faint howling and growling of a trapped fox that sits crouching in one of the cages. “That’s alright, sweetie. We’re going to get you taken care of. No-one’s going to hurt you,” Dell soothes the frightened animal. “This one has mange — see how bad it is?” The fox gets up, as if on command, and we see his raw hind legs, bald underbelly and ravaged tail. This is the last of three siblings on their way to Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, where Dell takes most of his trapped and injured mammals, birds and reptiles. One of their legends is that Paul Macartney brought them a butterfly that he found injured by the side of the road. “I wouldn’t put anything past this place,” Dell says. In his pick up truck he tells me the story of his Jackson Hole hat that sits on the dash with his other straw cowboy hats. A few years ago when Dell and his wife Dee lived at the foot of the Teeton mountains they met an old Mormon cattle rancher and fur trapper who took a liking to him and taught him everything he knows about trapping. “I’m proud to say that I’ve trapped in 7 states. Raccoons, for instance, are very different in every state.” The raccoon is the only animal that NY State demands that trappers kill. It’s illeagal to release a raccoon from a trap, and must be killed within 5 feet of where it is captured. “The state knows that if the trappers even drive out of the driveway with these animals alive, they are likely to let them go,” Dell tells me. “So, they drown them in large plastic garbage cans, even the babies.” He’s seen guys tie ropes around the cages and throw them into the bay until the animals inside have drowned. “Overpopulation,” Dell smirks sarcastically. Dell usually drives the raccoons he’s trapped at least across the Shinnecock Canal in the hopes they will head toward the pine barrens. But the call of Hamptons lobster and steak is great. The beach at night is a “wildlife superhighway” he says, and raccoons and other wildlife use it to go form hamlet to hamlet, bonfire to bonfire, in search of delicacies. The state has called him to task for refusing to kill any of the creatures he traps, but he stands firm. He doesn’t need the state license to run his business. He is run off his feet, literally, by repeat business from customers who care about what happens to their animal fellows. When he runs across humans with absolutely no compassion or respect for the animals who interfere with “their way of life,” it obviously upsets him deeply. He tells me the story of an irate man who demanded that Dell bring him the head of the raccoon so he could verify that it was dead, and of a man who accused him of trying to charge him twice for trapping the same raccoon, so he spraypainted it’s fur blue to identify him. I am fascinated by Dell and others who are called on to be the intermediaries in the ongoing struggle for space on an ever more populated Long Island, people who stand in between and do the translating from one species to another. My question is why humans specifically resist entering the realms of other consciousnesses, or resist even the idea that other species have consciousness, let alone souls? Why does it always seem to be those of us who are most afraid of ourselves, or perhaps most afraid of being animals ourselves, are the people who sit and make distinctions about what and who has value, and what to eradicate? So I ask Dell about the mindset of those humans who can’t percieve the personhod of animals — what is the deal? I suggest they might be called sociopaths, but he is as forgiving of his fellow humans as he is of animals. Dell believes that they are simply mis-informed about the way nature works, and how smart the animals are. It is his calling to educate humans about their cousins. We pull up to the site the fox family Dell is trapping has chosen, a sublime location on a huge Georgica estate that has a view across acres of rolling lawn to Georgica Pond, and a perfect spot for their den behind a crop of boulders. They have been photographed sunning themselves on the rocks, or lying amongst the deep perennial flower beds beside the pool, waiting for moles and voles and drinking from the pool cover. Dell has already caught the three teen-aged siblings who are all together at the wildlife rescue center, but when we round the corner we can see that the trap he set for the mother is empty. “But she’s been here!” Dell shows me that she has taken his offering of a raw chicken foot left the night before at the entrance to the trap. At the far end of the cage is a pile sitting and rotting nicely — fox love rotting meat and usually bury it until it gets tasty. “The only thing that can go wrong, is if a raccoon finds it before she does.” Our next stop today is a friend of Dell’s, “A beautiful, beautiful, beautiful lady.” An elderly woman and local painter he has known most of his life. She has been sleepless for a couple of nights because of a squirrel in her attic, at least that’s what the pest removal company told her who gladly offered to remove the squirrel for $750. Dell has stepped in as a favor. “My wife will have my head if she finds out I’m going into an attic, let alone climbing a ladder!” he tells me as we navigate his ladder and his flashlight and net and my recording equipment into the tiny old house and up the stairs to the attic passage in the ceiling. It is over 100 degrees inside and Dell has to walk on the rafters in order to get a closer look at whatever has made a bed in the attic vent screen. When he gets his flashlight focused, he yells out to me “It’s babies — lots of them!” They are only a few days old and are not just squirrels, they are flying squirrels, which Dell tells me is an entirely different matter. He will have to change traps and tactics. But first he will have to convince his friend to wait until the little ones get old enough to be moved, until they have some fur on them at least. The rescue business is a job and a passion for Dell, as is all of his work, his books, his photographs, his television show, his classes, his films, and his litter campaign. You can see all of his projects at his Imagination Nature website. His documentary film Isabela, shot in the Galapagos is now available on Amazon. When we pull back into his driveway we see the three-legged deer who has been with the Cullums for four and half years, has just calved her second set of twins, and resides happily in a clearing made for them behind the high brush in their backyard. Her fourth leg is perennially bent after an injury that dislocated her shoulder. He says it is painful to see her run on her knuckle, but she keeps up with other deer, resists bullying, mates, and has children, so he doesn’t see the point of interrupting her busy life with an operation that may not even work after all these years. Dell and his wife have a menagerie of free-roaming wildlife on their property: rabbits, deer, songbirds, and four raccoons they raised in order to study their habits. To me it is a life of dreams. Dell is on The East Hampton Town Deer Management Committee only because he thought there should be someone there who offered an opposing point of view to culling, sterilizing, tagging, and simply eradicating the deer. He now shares that honor with one other deer advocate from East Hampton Group For wildlife. “They’ve only invited us on to make a show of evening things out. The town simply has no respect for the people in this community who value and love the deer. They’ve made a grave tactical error and they keep compounding it,” he tells me. Dell tells me with shame about the huge numbered tags the deer wear on their ears, their only function to alert hunters of their tranquilization and sterilization dates for the safety of the meat. But since the chemicals leave their bodies after thirty days they are obsolete. The Deer also wear giant collars that abrade their necks, in which the batteries have died years ago. He is visibly upset that there wasn’t respect for the animals or foresight to use collars or tags that could disintergrate
32 minutes | Jan 3, 2018
Four Stationary Walls
How does a person with a modest income survive living year-round in The Hamptons? I wanted to do a story about women falling through the cracks because I had been falling through the cracks and I couldn’t figure out whether it was me or the system I was attmepting to live in. I know this is a story about home, making a home, the changing views women have about what a home means. So, this is a story about all of these things and also about our worst fears. I’ve nailed down what my worst fear is: being that lady pushing the shopping cart with all of her stuff… In 1994 I had my first real full time job. The pay was $25 an hour. Aside from two weekly teaching gigs, I am still being paid $25 an hour today — and that is considered a good wage in The Hamptons— 23 years later without a raise. You can extrapolate the juggling that has to go on and the things that fall by the wayside, like health and dental care, housing, food, transportation. I grew up thinking I was Middle Class, my parents were certainly Upper Middle Class. It has taken me a long time to see that I was mistaken. I have been surviving on a poverty level income and a poverty mentality for a great portion of my life.The Middle Class were able to thrive. We are only surviving. To call us elites because of our education and cultural savy is laughable. Here are some stories you might never hear from the Hamptons, about the new nomads, women with oodles of education that are so close to falling between the cracks that their lives are lived in a state of near emergency. No-one seems to be talking much about this issue, except Neil Gabler in his piece for The Atlantic, The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans, in which he details the agonies of trying to keep all the trappings of his former life from vanishing. I thought someone should say something, about women specifically, trying to keep up this false front and falling $100,000 dollars short of their middle-class parents’ household earning. This story is about four educated women who are managing to live with less than their parents had and who are not whining about it! We really love our lives out here…We are a new kind of nomad.
37 minutes | Jan 3, 2018
Pilgrim To Greece
Hampton's journalist Joanne Pilgrim from The East Hampton Star travels to Greece to help the mostly Syrian refugees arriving on a small Greek island. What makes Joanne take the leap from compassion into action? “He said ‘If you have 100 friends — for me 98 of them are gone.’ It was hard not to cry, but how dare I cry? I haven’t been through this!” When I heard that my friend and colleage was travelling to Greece to help the boatloads of mostly Syrian refugees that had been arriving, I was jealous — and impressed. Why wasn’t I going over to Greece to help the refugees? I gave myself all the usual excuses — I’m way too busy, I can’t just leave my life! Watching the world go by on our computers and televison sets every minute there’s something worthy to give to, and after a while I feel like you just have to start shutting some of it out or else you cannot tend to your own life. As I saw her posts on Facebook, and some of the photos that were coming back, I wanted to know what made her shut off her computer, get up off the couch in The Hamptons, and fly across the world to help people she didn’t know. Why does one person take the leap? In her case, she told me she jumped because it was time for a re-calibration of herself. She needed to feel gratitude for all that she has, and what better way. Joanne told me that she feels “like it wasn’t a completely selfless act. I will admit that I had my own parallel thought process going into this that has to do with me as a human being.” We both live in East Hampton and it has a reputation for being only for the wealthy. But she and I are both writers and we both struggle to make ends meet out here. Joanne says, “Living in The Hamptons, there’s a big divide between the haves and the have-nots and I’m probably more on the have-not side. Part of the motivation for putting myself in that situation, giving to people who have lost everything, was a way of working through things in my own mind. It says ‘How dare I aspire to have any more than I have!’ What I have is incredible by any standards, and I am grateful. She wondered how she could possibly help, but she learned to say “Welcome to Greece” in Arabic, and to smile as women handed their children to her across the water. “You can’t even conceive of what these people are facing, where they’re coming from, and what happened to them. These are people like you and me.” She told me she realized that although she didn’t have financial resources to help, she had other resources. “It was a recalibration in some ways. I’m not getting any younger. At this point in my life — its time. I do have the opportunity to go give something — what little it was. Its a nice feeling to be that person who says ‘I’m here because you’re a human being and I care about you.’” Photo by Doug Koontz.
26 minutes | Jan 3, 2018
Sovereignty Of Seeds
Seed exchanges vs. Monsanto is the topic as we visit The Hampton's Seed Exchange's first event and talk with seed sharers about organic growing and organic farming on Long Island. Long Island and especially The Hamptons has many organic farms and now new seed exchanges are popping up in libraries and community gatherings.
35 minutes | Jan 3, 2018
Bobby Wonderful is a memoir by author Bob Morris about coping with dying parents with humor and grace. This is my interview with the author. "Bob Morris was always the entertainer in his family, but not always a perfect son. How does an adult child with flaws and limitations figure out how to do his best for his ailing parents while still carrying on and enjoying his own life? And when their final days on earth come, how can he give them the best possible end? In the tradition of bestselling memoirs by Christopher Buckley, Joan Didion, and with a dash of David Sedaris, BOBBY WONDERFUL recounts two poignant deaths and one family's struggle to find the silver lining in them. As accessible as he is insightful, Bob Morris infuses each moment of his profound emotional journey with dark comedy, spiritual inquiry and brutally honest self-examination. This is a little book. But it captures a big and universal experience." Amazon
19 minutes | Jan 3, 2018
We Baptize Not Lobotomize!
Reverend Katrina Foster's Twitter handle is: wife, Pastor, mama, lesbian, recovering redneck, activist, troublemaker. Listen to LGBTQ pastor's story of overcoming addiction, finding her true vocation as a Lutheran Pastor, and finding true love with another woman and a daughter.
31 minutes | Jan 3, 2018
Amagansett The Un-Hampton
Italian and Sicilian heritage stories from anonymous descendants of Amagansett settlers on Long Island, New York. Photo by Lily Landes.
37 minutes | Sep 16, 2017
Ted Rall's Marxism In The Hamptons
"Ideology is stupid for those of us who have no power. It doesn’t matter what we would do if we did. We don’t. Seizing power, taking out the idiotic, incompetent, greedy, evil and stupid people who are ruining our lives is what matters.” The Anti-American Manifesto. Ted Rall is a political cartoonist, graphic novelist, journalist, proud Marxist, intellectual, and all around agitator, it is his mission to teeter on every edge, pushing the boundaries of what this culture, and other cultures, can bear to hear about themselves. He’s radicalized. Sometimes it gets him into trouble with the Alt-Right, the regular right, the soft Left, and of course Isis. Few people, besides The Pope, dare to say the word revolution these days. Rall doesn’t mince words when he says that revolution is the quest for happiness and that it is worth throwing out the whole political system and starting from scratch. “A revolutionary war against exploitation is the only way we can begin to directly adress and solve most of our problems.” We need to define evil and then point to those doing it, “the politicians, beaureacrats, corporate executives, media power brokers and environmental exploiters who spend every waking minute thinking of new ways to fuck us over and rape the world we live in to make an extra buck.” Ted is an amazingly astute political voice, and after his string of successful graphic biographies he longs to get back to his meatier books, like: The Anti-American Manifesto, which asks the question “Why is there the absence of a full-fledged revolution in America for over two centuries? What’s the explanation for the failure of Americans to revolt, even when they have a chance?” The main feedback was his advocating the use of force to seize power. His position is that we are already living in a system with a huge amount of violence. “We might not always be aware of it being ‘privileged white folks.’ Every time someone is evicted from their home — making people homeless is violence, depriving people of healthcare is violence — drones, bombings, police shootings — there’s violence throughout the system! I’m advocating an end to violence that may require some violence in order to effect.” When I ask him how he moved this far left and became a Marxist, he told me that he’s been paying attention and that he cares about people, that it is “simply illogical and irrational to advocate an ideology that starts from the point of view that we are all created un-equal.” He explains that the metrics that capitalism uses to justify paying some people more than others don’t even make sense. “Some kids are just born smarter than others. Are the ones not lucky enough to be born smart — should they be condemned to a life of poverty and misery and cancer because of this accident of birth?” When I remind him that not everyone agrees that we are entitled, just by being alive, to basic rights — shelter, health care, education — he fires back: “If you don’t believe that — THEN YOU’RE AN ASSHOLE!” "People who want revolutionary change and are totally against violence should think — how is that ever going to happen?! The rich and powerful are never going to give up power voluntarily!” My favorite part of The Anti-American Manisfesto is Rall’s advice for those of us in the bourgoisie and the petit bourgoisie who want to know what we should do to begin to bring about radical change. Rall advises “taking posession of oneself.” He tells me its a mental shift - you just decide — I’m done with this system. I’m no longer vested in it.” “You’re waiting for the day you see people out on the streets with red flags so that you can go join them — yeah! These are my people! I’m dropping everything — let’s go!”
26 minutes | Jun 2, 2017
Jules Feiffer The Man In The Ceiling
The Man In The Ceiling, book by Jules Feiffer, Music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, and directed by Jeffrey Seller, producer of Hamilton, will run May 30-June 25, 2017 at The Bay Street Theater. In his new theatrical adaptation of his graphic novel “The Man in the Ceiling,” opening the 2017 Main Stage season at Bay Street Theatre May 30, he wants the audience “to feel they’ve been dragged up onstage” and are part of the action. “Yes! I want you to experience what I am doing in the present tense! That’s the way it’s always been in whatever medium I’m using,” he says. “It took over 50 years for me to learn to leave my work alone, and not to try and control everything. To be a lack of control freak. Or a loss of control freak.” “The Man In The Ceiling” was first published as a graphic novel in 1993. Both the book and the play, directed by Jeffrey Seller, deal with failure, mostly creative failure, centered around two characters — Jimmy, a boy who only wants to draw cartoons whose father is displeased by his ambition, and his Uncle Lester who lives upstairs and writes “flop musicals.” “ ‘As Jimmy saw it, he had no other choice but to grow up to be a great cartoonist. Only that would make up for the awful burden he bore in the present. Because, in every way that counted, Jimmy was a flop as a boy.’ ” “This passage is completely autobiographical,” he tells me, “completely true of me as a kid! My eyes had different mis-matched sighting, so I couldn’t catch or throw a ball. All the skills you need as a kid growing up during the depression without any money are athletic.” “The Man In The Ceiling” in its new form has been a long time in the works. Seventeen years ago, Andrew Lippa contacted Mr. Feiffer about writing music and lyrics and hopefully collaborating on turning the book into a musical. They had a brief encounter with Disney, who sponsored a reading of the first iteration of the play, but a film was never made. A few years ago Mr. Lippa brought Jeffrey Seller on board to direct. Mr. Feiffer says the chemistry has been magical. “This is a play about how you deal with yourself as a human and your self as an artist when the results aren’t what they’re supposed to be in the world you live in — where if it’s not a commercial success then it’s no good,” he says. “It’s putting together a life that is going to make your adult life livable, despite the fact that you’re not doing it by the rules of the people that seem to count, namely everyone else but you!” After a career of more than 70 years, Jules Feiffer is busier than ever. “As I’m getting older, I’m doing more work,” he says, “but it’s not because I feel time is running out — I mean time is obviously running out — but I’m just having more fun! One of the nice things about age is that you come to terms with how stupid you are. In your 20s and 30s and 40s, there’s the pride of hopefully being smarter than anyone else. But after a while, that stops being important and you gravitate toward the things that really count, or you should be able to. Not everyone can do that. I’m doing more because I’m having a better time!”