IF: heart

I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside

Anne Frank received a journal as a present for her thirteenth birthday. Nearly a month later, she was hiding from the Nazis in a secret annex with her family. She remained in seclusion for a little over two years until someone, who still remains officially unidentified, exposed the family to Nazi officials. Three days after she penned what would be the final entry in her journal, she was captured and transported to Auchwitz, then Bergen-Belsen where she died of typhus just a few months before the concentration camp was liberated.

During her hiding, she stayed hopeful that one day she and her family would go back to their normal life. She looked forward to returning to school and one day achieve her prophetic aspirations of becoming a writer.

After World War II and the eventual posthumous publication of her famed diary, speculations and criticism arose. There were accusations that her father, a survivor of the Holocaust, had fabricated the entire thing. Other skeptics went so far as to claim that “Anne” never existed. Later, it was the subject of proposed bans, labeling some passages as pornographic.

It is difficult to believe that the young girl who endured two years of fearful seclusion, day after day of turmoil, isolated soul-searching and the daily tedium and mounting frustrations of her family was still able to maintain such a bright and optimistic vision of the human race.

Anne Frank was truly remarkable.

IF: pointy

Some call me 'Tim'

Follow! But! Follow only if ye be men of valor! For the entrance to this cave is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel, that no man yet has fought with it… and lived! Bones of full fifty men lie strewn about its lair! So! Brave knights! If you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth…


IF: grow

Let it grow, let it grow, Let it blossom, let it flow

“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” — Andrew Carnegie

In 1889, self-made millionaire Andrew Carnegie wrote an article called “The Gospel of Wealth,” in which he described the responsibility of the country’s wealthy upper class to share and distribute their surplus funds to those less fortunate and in need . He inspired a new wave of nation-wide philanthropy. He made a case against extravagant and wasteful, self-indulgent spending. Instead, he explained, society would benefit most from distribution of wealth in a thoughtful manner and not in a way that encourages “the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy.”

Carnegie was a member of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, an exclusive club whose beautifully-appointed headquarters was located on the Conemaugh River near the South Fork Dam in Western Pennsylvania. The fifty-plus members of the club purchased the dam from the state of Pennsylvania and provided maintenance of the dam in exchange for turning the area into a secretive retreat for its members.  On May 31, 1889, the dam gave way after several days of heavy rainfall. The town of Johnstown was flooded under 20 million tons of water rushing at a rate equal to that of the Mississippi River. Over 2200 people died and Johnstown suffered over 17 million dollars in damage. The town of Johnstown unsuccessfully sued the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. Andrew Carnegie, however, built the town a new library.

IF: nature

Sit beside a mountain stream, see her waters rise

If you are around my age, you remember the catch phrase: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

That was the punchline to a ubiquitous commercial for Chiffon Margarine that ran in the late 70s and into the early 80s. The announcer (character actor Mason Adams) informs a cheerful Mother Nature that the butter she is enjoying is actually the laboratory-created Chiffon. He explains “That’s Chiffon margarine, not butter…Chiffon’s so delicious it fooled even you, Mother Nature.”  Mother Nature, now thoroughly pissed off, extends her arms defiantly and, with a sinister tone, announces that “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” A clap of thunder and flash of lightning split the air, as the frightened woodland creatures hide their faces.

Anderson, Clayton and Company, the world’s largest cotton-trading enterprise, started a food division in 1952 — 36 years after its inception.  Chiffon Margarine was developed from research into the uses of cottonseed oil. In 1985, the company sold the Chiffon brand to Kraft Foods. Ten years later, Chiffon was purchased by another food conglomerate, Con-Agra Foods. Con-Agra discontinued manufacture of Chiffon in the United States in 2002, although it is still available in some Caribbean countries under a licensing agreement with Seprod Ltd.

Dena Dietrich, the actress who portrayed the iconic “Mother Nature, ” was a prolific character actress, appearing in comedies, dramas and soap operas, as well as Broadway. At 86. the Pittsburgh native retired to New England, where she most likely starts her day with buttered toast.

No foolin’.


from my sketchbook: james baskett

my oh my what a wonderful day

A one-time pharmacology student, James Baskett headed to New York City to become an actor. He joined Bill “Bojanges” Robinson and Louis Armstrong on Broadway in the all-black revue Hot Chocolates in 1929. When the musical Hummin’ Sam failed to open, James turned to motion pictures, with bit parts in comedies and horror films. He joined the cast of the popular radio show Amos ‘n’ Andy, playing the role of attorney Gabby Gibson.

In 1945, James auditioned for a voice-over role in an ambitious new film that would combine live action and animation called Song of the South. The studio’s head Walt Disney was so impressed with James’ reading that he hired him on the spot for the film’s lead role and narrator Uncle Remus. James also voiced the animated antagonist Brer Fox. Although he was later criticized for the demeaning role, James’ portrayal of “Uncle Remus” was one of Hollywood’s first non-comedic black characters. Due to strict segregation in the South, James was prohibited from attending the film’s Atlanta premiere. However, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rewarded James with an honorary Oscar.

James battled diabetes and general poor health during the filming of Song of the South. After the film wrapped, he suffered a heart attack. He missed many episodes of Amos ‘n’ Andy, ultimately passing away during the show’s summer hiatus. Despite his appearance, he was only 44 years old.

IF: sharp

and I think it's gonna be a long, long time

In 1980, Saturday Night Live cleaned house. The remaining members of the original “The Not Ready For Prime-Time Players” were let go when creator/producer Lorne Michaels parted ways with the late-night series, and a new crop of sharp, young talent was signed on. Among the new cast members was Charles Rocket.

Charles, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, was part of a budding cultural underground movement that included avant-garde director Gus Van Sant and Talking Heads front man David Byrne. He served as news anchor for several local stations across the country before making his debut on Saturday Night Live. New show producer Jean Doumanian touted Charles as a comedic cross between Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, singling out the lanky performer as the show’s break-out star. He was given the coveted “Weekend Update” anchor spot and appeared in more sketches than any other cast member besides Joe Piscopo. (Even more than young co-star Eddie Murphy.)

During a 1981 sketch parodying the famous “Who Shot J.R.” episode of the popular nighttime soap opera Dallas, Charles, as J.R., blurted out — on live television — “Oh man, it’s the first time I’ve ever been shot in my life. I’d like to know who the fuck did it.” NBC executives were furious, as were the network censors. Shortly after the incident, Charles and Jean Doumanian were fired, along with most of the new cast. The only ones spared were Piscopo and Murphy.

Unruffled, Charles pursued other acting roles. He landed small parts in Dances with Wolves, Earth Girls are Easy, Hocus Pocus and Dumb and Dumber. On television, he starred in multiple episodes of Moonlighting, Max Headroom and Touched by an Angel, as well as single guest appearances on dozens of dramas and comedies. He also contributed some accordion playing to the B-52’s Mesopotamia album that was produced by his pal David Byrne.

In October 2005. Charles slit his own throat in a field in Connecticut. He was 56 years old.