Long time visual biographer Ken Burns has produced yet another in-depth profile of an icon to share with viewers.
In his latest, Muhammad Ali, Burns and his creative team look deep into the life of one of the most consequential figures of the 20th century, exploring the true nature of the man who called himself “The Greatest” and proved it with his athletic power in the ring and his charm, wit and outspokenness outside of it.
The four‑part, eight‑hour documentary series shows how at the height of his fame in the 20th century, Ali challenged Americans’ racial prejudices, religious biases, and notions about what roles celebrities and athletes play in our culture. He inspired people all over the world with his message of pride and self‑affirmation, eventually becoming a symbol for peace and pacifism as we moved into the 21st century.
Burns says that some have asked of him, “So why Muhammad Ali now?” To which he responds, “We just kind of laugh because we made the decision to go ahead with this in 2013, started working in 2014, and we have been working ever since on it. There was no sense it would arrive at precisely this moment or we could possibly know what’s happening in this moment.”
Examining not only Ali’s prowess in the ring, Burns says one of the most important moments in the documentary features another type of victory for the boxer.
When Ali refused to report for mandatory military service due to religious principles, he was convicted of the criminal offense of violating Selective Service laws by refusing to be drafted.
Burns explains that he was facing five years in jail and a fine, and had had his boxing career interrupted for three and a half years as the Supreme Court reviewed his case.
“When he learns that he’s been exonerated and he can go back to boxing, some reporter sticks a microphone in his face and says, ‘What do you think about the system?’ And he goes, ‘Well, I don’t know. I don’t know who is going to be assassinated tonight. I don’t know whose inequality or injustice is going to take place.’”
The significance of this is that, as Burns says, “a very, very young man, in a moment of victory when he could gloat and be Muhammed Ali, the braggart, [instead] he’s remembering Emmett Till, who was murdered and tortured was his age, more or less.”
Tying this to present day, Burns says, “And though [Ali] didn’t know it was coming, he was also talking about Rodney King and Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in that moment. He could have just said, ‘Yup, this was good for me,’ but he didn’t. He knew where he stood in relationship to everything.”
There are many instances of this caliber throughout Ali’s life that are portrayed in the series, says Burns. “[It’s] just mind‑blowing, that somebody this young or somebody this poised or somebody in a sport so brutal could have that kind of heart, this capacious, large heart that makes you realize at the end of the day that he’s a prophet of love.”
Asked if he feels it’s contradictory for a white filmmaker to helm a project featuring a prominent Black man, Burns responded with, “I am in the business of history, and that includes everyone. I have throughout my professional life tried to tell the story of this country in an inclusive way, and that means talking about race and trying to tell stories from multiple perspectives.”
He adds, “That’s what my films have been trying since the very beginning to not do, to not exclude, to not put African American history in February, the coldest and shortest month, but to put it in the burning center of American history, as it is, as it should be, born on the idea that all people were created equal.”
In the case of this project, Burns says that, “40 percent of the nucleus of our crew, producers, editors, assistant editors, directors, writers, 40 percent are people of color. 53 percent are women.”
As a whole on this topic, Burns says clearly, “I do not accept that only people of a particular background can tell certain stories about our past, particularly in the United States of America.”
Having seen the finished product, Rasheda Ali, Muhammad’s daughter, says, “I told Ken this after I watched [it, that] it is beautiful to watch this film show how this man [was] changing the world at 18, 19, 20, how he’s constantly evolving with trials and tribulations in his life, how he’s using his core principles in his life to overcome major challenges.”
Reflecting on Ali’s life versus his own work, Burns says, “It’s really tough to make a good film, but it is not brain surgery. It is not giving up your entire professional career and refusing induction into the draft and, not the literal charge of five years in jail and $10,000 fine.”
The piece, says Burns, “Certainly it intersects with all the major issues of the late 20th century, of race and politics and faith and religion and sports and all that sort of stuff.”
But he’s quick to add that it above all else, the documentary is really about Ali the man, saying, “there’s something more to him that makes him so compelling.”
‘Muhammad Ali’ airs Sunday, September 19th through Thursday, September 22nd. Check your local PBS station for exact air times.
Destination Crenshaw Moves Ahead With a First Round of Public Sculptures
LOS ANGELES — A new, bronze sculpture by Kehinde Wiley of a 21st-century African woman on horseback, part of his popular series that radically updates Confederate war monuments, is heading to South Los Angeles. The city’s cultural affairs department voted on Wednesday to approve the placement of Wiley’s artwork, along with six others, in a 1.3-mile-long, $100-million cultural corridor under development. Called Destination Crenshaw, the stretch is devoted to bringing Black art and design to new, outdoor community spaces.
These artworks, by Wiley, Charles Dickson, Melvin Edwards, Maren Hassinger, Artis Lane, Alison Saar and Brenna Youngblood, are expected to be installed by the end of next year. The plan is to commission at least 100 sculptures, murals and other artworks by 2027, creating “the largest public art exhibition by Black artists in this country,” Jason Foster, president and chief operating officer of Destination Crenshaw, said.
Destination Crenshaw, a nonprofit organization, has received a mix of public and private funding. So far it has raised $61.5 million of a projected $100 million, including a $3 million grant announced this week from the Getty Foundation. The Getty has also pledged conservation support for the public art.
Foster, on the project’s website, declared, “Destination Crenshaw is Black design for Black LA.” The idea of an economic development project rooted in Black culture grew from concerns that a pending Metro light rail line, built at ground level for this section of Crenshaw Boulevard, would disrupt small businesses. The initiative has facilitated grants for local businesses and will bring greenery as well as art to the area to draw pedestrians, with the planting of 822 trees and the creation of 10 new pocket parks designed by the firm Perkins & Will.
Wiley’s monument, for example, will appear in the newly created Sankofa Park at the corridor’s northern edge. An earlier bronze from the same series, “Rumors of War,” showing a young Black man in a hoodie on horseback, was unveiled with great fanfare in Times Square in 2019 before it was moved to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In a twist this time, the heroic equestrian will be female.
For the same park, Hassinger is creating a pink fiberglass sphere and planting motion-sensor LED lights around it to make the sculpture seem alive or alert. Nearby will be Dickson’s large stainless-steel sculpture of three Senufo ritual figures under a canopy of cars, celebrating the dealerships that used to line Crenshaw and the lowrider culture still alive today. The artist’s plan is to hire local auto body shops to paint the cars different colors.
Further south, Saar is creating a pair of 13-foot-tall bronze sculptures, male and female, with enormous hairdos or “conks” that rise several feet. She is fashioning the hair from a mix of found objects that speak to local creativity, such as a trumpet and frying pan.
Participating artists live or work in Los Angeles or did so for at least five years, said Joy Simmons, the project’s lead art adviser. She said 30 other artists have been “shortlisted” for future commissions and will be invited to submit proposals.
Why Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback Tom Brady Could Play Long Past 45 Years Old
It was assumed that once you reached your late 30’s as a quarterback in the NFL, you were at your expiration date.
Fast forward to 2021 and we have several quarterbacks in their late 30’s who continue to play at a high level, with the most notable one being the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady.
It’s no secret that at the age of 44, Brady seems to have found the fountain of youth. The 22-year NFL veteran entered Week 6 ranking first in the league in touchdown passes and second in passing yards.
Through six weeks, the Buccaneers are 5-1 despite their banged-up and lackluster defensive backfield. At the very least, Tampa Bay will make it to the postseason and likely go deep into the playoffs. In fact, the Buccaneers are the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl, according to sports books.
Brady had previously indicated that his objective was to play until the age of 45. The contract that he signed with the Buccaneers reflects that, as he has one year left on his deal that runs through the 2022 season.
But due to his scorching play as of late, the topic of Brady playing past the age of 45 has become a popular one.
In fact, the veteran quarterback has responded to this topic with overwhelming confidence that he can not only play past the age of 45, but that he can also play until age 50 or 55 if he wanted to.
“I really think I can play as long as I want,” Brady, 44, said. “I could literally play until I’m 50 or 55 if I wanted to.”
Brady — who is a father of three — says, “I don’t think I will obviously.”
“… My physical body won’t be the problem,” Brady continued. “I think it’ll just be, I’m just missing too much of life with my family.”
While Brady makes sure to clarify that playing until the age of 50 or 55 is unlikely considering he doesn’t want to, the fact that he responds with such confidence that he can play from a physical standpoint is everything you need to know.
It’s worth adding that Brady’s oldest child is 14 years, while the other two will turn 12 and nine years old by the end of the year.
During a conversation with Rob Gronkowski last month, Brady remarked that playing until the age of 50 didn’t seem to be too difficult.
“Can Tom Brady play ’til 50? Like, 50 years old? … I don’t find it so difficult,” Brady said.
“Plus, in Florida, it’s kind of a retiree state, so I feel like I can play and then just glide into retirement. I think I can. I think it’s a yes,” Brady shared.
Even his former head coach Bill Belichick — who likely passed on re-signing Brady due to the idea that he couldn’t play until the age of 45 — admitted that his former quarterback could play until the age of 50.
“Nothing Tom does surprises me. He’s a great player, works hard, takes care of himself. He’s talked about playing until 50. If anybody can do it, he probably can,” Belichick said.
Even Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht had previously said he’d let Brady play until the age of 50.
When one considers that quarterbacks can’t be hit below the knees, driven into the ground or hit above the neck, Brady doesn’t have to worry about hits — because physical hits are simply not allowed in the NFL anymore.
It’s no coincidence that Brady hasn’t missed a start due to injury since the 2008 season. Heck, Brady even showed off his right thumb injury following a Week 5 victory over the Miami Dolphins, admitting he wasn’t too concerned in showing off the injury.
Furthermore, this Buccaneers team is absolutely stacked. This is in stark contrast to Brady’s last season with the New England Patriots back in 2019, when a lackluster offensive line and receiving corps led to Brady frequently throwing passes away just to avoid being hit.
The 2021 Buccaneers are allowing just 1.5 sacks per game, which ranks in the top five in the NFL.
While Brady hasn’t definitively stated when he will retire, it’s clear that his retirement is something that he holds full control over. It won’t be injuries or the Buccaneers deciding Brady’s fate — it’ll be the quarterback himself deciding when he’s done with football.
More than anything, age and having a banged-up body won’t end Brady’s career — it’ll either be the desire to spend more time with his family or the fact that he’s simply done it all.
In a Blue Origin Rocket, William Shatner Finally Goes to Space
Mr. Bezos, who has said he was inspired by “Star Trek” as a boy, listened, still as a statue. He may have been giving Mr. Shatner some space, but it was a sharp contrast to his appearance after his own brief spaceflight in July, when he was aboard the same spacecraft. Then, Mr. Bezos held forth from a stage, rousing condemnation from critics of the vast company he founded as he thanked Amazon’s employees and customers for making it possible for him to finance his private space venture.
Mr. Shatner shared the capsule on Wednesday with three other passengers: Audrey Powers, a Blue Origin vice president who oversees New Shepard operations, and two paying customers: Chris Boshuizen, a co-founder of the Earth-observation company Planet Labs, and Glen de Vries, a co-founder of a company that builds software for clinical researchers.
The launch Wednesday morning was pushed back by roughly an hour by two pauses to the launch countdown — caused in part by extra checks to the spacecraft and winds near its launchpad. The quartet was driven in electric pickup trucks to Blue Origin’s launchpad, roughly an hour before liftoff, flanked by Mr. Bezos and company employees.
For a moment, it appeared Mr. Bezos, dressed in a flight suit like the one he wore in July, would join them in flying to space. But he closed the hatch door before leaving the pad, sending the crew on their journey.
The rocket lifted off at 9:49 a.m. Central time, ascending nearly as fast as a speeding bullet at 2,235 miles per hour and sending the crew some 65.8 miles high. The whole trip lasted 10 minutes, 17 seconds, and gave the four passengers about four minutes of weightlessness.
Mr. Boshuizen, talking to reporters after the flight, likened the crew’s entry into space to a stone hitting the surface of a lake. “I was trying to smile but my jaw was pushed back in my head,” he said.
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