Does the name Ken Burns sound familiar to you? Well, if you enjoy historical documentaries you probably know that Ken Burns has produced and directed some of the most acclaimed ones ever made. I became aware about the impressive film-maker because my friend Betty’s husband helped with his public relations. She spoke about the film-maker frequently and, through her, I learned more about the awards-winner. He was born on July 29, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York (me, too, although our years are far apart). His mother was a biotechnician and his dad a graduate student in cultural anthropology at Columbia University (my alma mater). Burns’ academic family moved frequently. Among places they called home were France, Newark, Delaware, and Ann Arbor where his father taught at the University of Michigan (another connection: that’s my granddaughter, Melissa’s, alma mater). Burns’ mother died when he was eleven. He credited that circumstance with helping his career since his father-in-law, a psychologist, told him that his whole work was an attempt to make people long gone come back alive. Well-read as a child he absorbed the family encyclopedia preferring history to fiction. Upon receiving an 8mm film movie camera for his seventeenth birthday he shot a documentary about an Ann Arbor factory. Burns attended Hanpshire College, an alternative school, in Amherst, Mass. Here’s another aside: When my son, Jim, was deciding on a college to attend, he looked at Hampshire College, but I was more excited than he was. Students there are graded through narrative evaluation — no letter grades. Burns has gone on to a long successful career directing and producing well-received television documentaries on subjects as far apart as Arts and Letters, the Roosevelts, the Viet Nam War, Mass Media, Baseball, Politicians, Music (Jazz), and Literature (Mark Twain) — the last two are favorites of mine among many others. Burns and his company have selected topics for documentaries slated for release by 2030. For more than 30 years his acclaimed historical documentaries have been impressive. They help one discover things you never knew about the people and events that molded our history. We have a lot to look forward to.
She’s an accomplished, opinionated woman who is living proof that one’s later years are what one makes them. Currently Jane Fonda s enjoying a successful Netflix odd-couple series, “Grace and Frankie.” In it she portrays a Type A, late-in-life divorcée who opens her home to her free-spirited friend (played by Fonda’s real-life pal, Lily Tomlin). It comes as a shock when their husbands reveal they’re in love with each other. It’s worth tuning in if only to see Fonda wearing figure-hugging trousers usually with an attached top also fitted. W-o-o-o-o! The actress, writer, activist shows the happy result of her numerous exercise videos. She was famously and controversially involved as a visible political activist during the Viet Nam War and later became involved in advocacy for women. Jane Fonda was born in New York City in 1937 (you do the math!). Her parents were Frances Ford and actor Henry Fonda. In 1950, when Jane was twelve, her mother committed suicide. At 15 the actress taught dance at Fire Island Pines, N.Y. Before her acting career she was a model, appearing twice on the cover of “Vogue.” Finally she established herself as an actress. Her performances were critically acclaimed.Hoping that it would help her strained relationship with her dad she purchased the screen rights to “On Golden Pond.” It brought Henry Fonda his only Academy Award for Best Actor which Jane accepted on his behalf because he was ill. He died five months later. The multi-talented gal has been involved in the feminist movement since the 1970s. Truly a screen icon, Jane Fonda is beating Hollywood’s ruthless ageism. And I repeat that she is living proof that one’s later years are what you make them!
My grandson, David, was given a guitar at an early age. At that time he spoke constantly about his idol, Eric Clapton. That’s when I became aware of the guitarist, songwriter, singer. Clapton was born in England. His mother was only 16 years old at the time of his birth. His father was a 24-year-old Canadian soldier stationed in the United Kingdom during World War 2. He was already married to another woman before Clapton’s birth. As a single mother, Patricia Clapton was unprepared to raise a child of her own so her mother and step-father raised him. He grew up under the impression that his grandparents were his parents and that his mother was his older sister. Finally the boy got lucky. He grew up in a very musical household. His grandmother was a skilled pianist and his absent father was also a talented pianist. For his 13th birthday the boy asked for a guitar. Fast forward to hard times. That’s when a depressed and lonely Clapton became a heroin addict. He finally kicked the drug habit and re-emerged onto the music scene. His personal life was in woeful disarray because he simply replaced his heroin with booze. In 1987 he finally quit drinking and has remained sober. Eric Clapton is considered one of the greatest rock-and-roll guitarists of all time. He is known for such classic songs as “Layla,” “Crossroads,” and “Wonderful Tonight.” As for my grandson, David, it became obvious early on that he would grow up simply appreciating Eric Clapton’s musical contributions. His “Life in Twelve Bars” has been shown on television’s Showtime. The major part of his career has been in sobriety. That’s really the message that he is happy to share.
A kitten also known as a kitty or kitty-cat is a juvenile cat. My comments are based on an overnight visit to my daughter Jolie. Her family, Michael, Rachel, and Melissa, thoroughly loved their old cat who started out as a stray parking herself in front of the Marcus house. The family happily fed her and invited her to come inside. Some months ago “Simon” began to age — unable to hear and even trouble walking and other indignities. On the vet’s advice they had to put her to sleep. My daughter set about after much shopping to find and adopt “Sam” who turned out to be a highly sociable animal. The Marcus family watched her as she quickly developed into an enjoyable companion. When it comes to raising a cat the philosophy is pretty similar to that of bringing up children. Both Jolie and Michael have done a fine job with their twin girls. “Sam” knows now that she has found a wonderful home. When they have friends over they are delighted to play with the happy kitten. “Sam” has learned tricks and even how to get treats. The dream of a good home is central and “Sam” is one lucky kitty-cat.
You can e-mail June Sturz at email@example.com.