IF: botanical

beautiful downtown Burbank

In his fifty-plus year career as a pioneer in agricultural science, Luther Burbank invented and developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants, including fruits, fruits, flowers, grains, grasses and vegetables. Among his creations are the Shasta daisy, the freestone peach, the fire poppy, the July Elberta peach, the Santa Rosa plum, the Flaming Gold nectarine, the Wickson plum, the white blackberry and a variety of russet potato that bears his name. The “Burbank Russet” was developed as a result of the potato famine that devastated Ireland in the late 1800s.

Although Burbank is recognized for his extensive work and eventual achievements in cross-breeding and botanical experimentation, he has been criticized by contemporaries for his lack of records and documentation of his research.  In 2004, Purdue University professor Jules Janick wrote: “Burbank cannot be considered a scientist in the academic sense.” In a time when there was little legal protection for inventors, Burbank was more interested in doing and getting results than writing down all of his trial-and-error processes.

Just prior to his death in 1926, Burbank instructed his wife to allow Missouri horticulturalists Stark Bros. Nursery to carry on with his inventions. After much success, Burbank’s widow and Stark Bros. came to a mutual agreement to end the partnership. Burbank’s creations were dispersed to various other companies including the Burpee Seed Company and Santa Rosa Junior College, where their gardens were filled with some of Luther Burbank’s uncompleted experiments like a thornless rose, a spineless cactus, rainbow-colored corn and a hybrid mulberry tree that Burbank had hoped would create an American silk industry.

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IF: hero

Alice, the world is full of ugly things that you can't change/Pretend it's not that way/It's my idea of faith

After her parents’ divorce, nine-year-old Alice Childress moved to Harlem to live with her grandmother. Despite her own lack of formal education, Alice’s grandmother encouraged young Alice to pursue her natural love for reading and writing. However, Alice had to drop out of school after her grandmother’s death. While working several low-paying jobs, Alice became active in local theater.

She joined the fledgling American Negro Theater in 1939 and stayed with the troupe for over a decade. She multi-tasked, displaying her talents as a set and costume designer as well as an actress. Alice made the jump to Broadway in the 1944 drama Anna Lucasta, for which she received critical acclaim and a Tony nomination. The play became the longest-running, all-African American cast show in Broadway history.

In the late 1940s, Alice tried her hand writing plays herself. She proved very prolific and garnered awards for several of her productions. She became the first African-American woman to win an Obie Award. Along the way, she also stirred controversy with her 1962 drama Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White. The story, set in the American South during World War I told of an interracial relationship. No theater in New York would present it. The play had its premiere in Ann Arbor, Michigan and was later performed in Chicago. A production starring actress Ruby Dee was filmed for television, but many stations refused to broadcast it. Many of Alice’s plays presented themes of empowerment of African-American women, equal rights and racial tensions, subjects close to her heart for which she spent much time and effort advocating. In addition, she is acknowledged as the only African-American woman to have written, produced, and published plays for four decades.

In the 70s, Alice turned to young adult novels, including her most famous work A Hero Ain’t Nothing But a Sandwich, published in 1973. It was made into a film starring Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson five years after its initial release. Her 1979 short story A Short Walk was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Alice passed away in 1994 at the age of 77. At the time of her death, she was working on telling the story of her inspirational great-grandmother, a former slave.

In 1995, Ben Folds Five included a song on their debut album called “Alice Childress.” It was not about the actress-playwright.

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DCS: honey lantree

have I the right

In the gimmicky early days of rock and roll and the British Invasion, Honey Lantree stood out. Not because she was a woman in a field dominated by men. It was because she refused to be a “gimmick.” Honey wasn’t sitting behind a drum kit for The Honeycombs as a novelty.

She was a very good drummer.

Honey passed away as 2018 drew to a close. She was 75 and performed with several incarnations of The Honeycombs into the 1990s.

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DCS: abner doubleday

nope. not him.

Abner Doubleday was a career officer in the Union Army during the Civil War, achieving the rank of  2-star General. In the early days of the war, Doubleday fired the first shot at the Battle of Fort Sumter. He also played a pivotal role in the Battle of Gettysburg. He was, however, relieved of his duty by Major General George Meade, causing a long enmity between the two officers.

After the war ended, Doubleday headed for San Francisco where he obtained a patent on the cable car railway system that still runs in the city to this day. He spent the last years of his life in New Jersey as a member, and later president, of the Theosophical Society, a spiritual organization. He passed away in 1893 at the age of 73. He was buried under a 7-foot tall obelisk in Arlington National Cemetery.

Do you know what Abner Doubleday didn’t do? Invent baseball.

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IF: game

games people play

In 1859, Milton Bradley set up the first color lithography company in Springfield, Massachusetts. He began selling printed copies of a portrait of then-unknown, up-and-coming presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln. Soon, complaints from customers poured in, claiming that Bradley’s production  was not an accurate representation of Lincoln. It seems that the candidate had grown a beard and Bradley’s picture was from the pre-facial hair portion of Lincoln’s life. Angered, Bradley burned the surplus of his printed product. To salvage his failing business, he began printing a board game which he called “The Checkered Game of Life.”  During a two-day visit to New York City, Bradley sold several hundred copies of the game. By 1861, he had produced and sold 45,000 copies. He added more games to his roster, thus founding The Milton Bradley Company. The company enjoyed worldwide success well into the 20th century. In addition to games, Bradley’s company produced the first standardized watercolor sets for educational use and the first boxed set of crayons, years before Binney & Smith’s Crayola brand.

In 1984, after 124 years of family ownership, the Milton Bradley Company was purchased outright by Hasbro.

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DCS: nancy wilson

I love the vignette

In a career that spanned six decades, Nancy Wilson made a name for herself singing jazz, rhythm & blues and pop hits in her own inimitable style. She won three Grammy Awards, her first two coming forty years apart. She was honored by numerous groups and organizations as a “song stylist,” a moniker that she preferred.

Nancy also tried her hand at acting with a certain amount of success. She had roles in several TV dramas and comedies. She enjoyed guest appearances on variety shows including The Carol Burnett Show, on which she appreciated the lack of racial stereotyping that was so prevalent on television.

In addition to singing and acting, Nancy was an vocal advocate for civil rights, participating in a march in Selma, Alabama in 1965.

After a lifetime of accolades, Nancy passed away in early December at the age of 81.

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IF: winter

winter's tale

“Well, the most terrible fear that anybody should have is not war, is not a disease, not cancer or heart problems or food poisoning – it’s a man or a woman without a sense of humor.”
— Jonathan Winters

we wish you a happy something or other

My annual Christmas music compilation is available as a FREE DOWNLOAD at ge.tt for a limited time.

This year, it’s a whopping 82 minutes of pure Christmas wonderment that’ll have you wondering why you downloaded it in the first place. But, as long as you did, why not share it with your family and friends. It’s guaranteed to make sure they don’t overstay their welcome.

You get twenty-eight eclectic Christmas selections featuring a mix of obscure artists giving up on their dreams of stardom and popular artists committing career suicide. These holiday tunes run the gamut from weird to really weird plus a custom full-color cover with track listings – all for you and all for FREE! (That’s right! FREE!)

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