The incredible devotion of Douglas Kanai
What would you do to open your own temple? Ask a religious leader for permission? Go it on your own? How about enduring a 100 day trial to prove your fortitude and devotion to your faith?
Buddhist Douglas Kanai, seen above, is the first American to pass the 700-year old, and sometimes lethal, Nichiren test, and now has his own temple in Las Vegas.
His days began at 2:30 a.m., ended at 11:45 p.m. and consisted largely of kneeling and chanting for hours upon hours, with just rice gruel keeping him going.
From Kathie Quinn, who drove to L.A. to watch him recreate the ceremony:
“Only he knows the torture he endured, but it seems worse than any military boot camp. From what I understand, you need that kind of trauma to see what he saw — the good and the bad of his soul.”
Photo: John M. Glionna / Los Angeles Times
Mapping out the trajectory of a possible NBA star
How do you make a basketball legend? Ron Holmes, who played at UCLA but never made it to the professional leagues, has been wondering for years, spending his life trying to turn his son, highly-touted UCLA star Shabazz Muhammad, into NBA royalty.
From Ken Bensinger’s report:
As a student, Holmes said, he found himself fascinated by the careful breeding of thoroughbreds, the way that two fast, powerful horses could be crossed to create an even faster, more powerful colt.
Around that time he met Faye Paige, a point guard, sprinter and hurdler at Cal State Long Beach. Spotting her at a summer league game, Holmes recalled saying to a friend: “See that No. 10? She’s going to be my wife, and we’re going to make some All-Americans.”
Read the entire story, complete with a birth certificate discrepancy and the fate of Shabazz’s siblings, here.
Photos: Luis Sinco, Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times
Open hearts, and an open home to a child in need
Arefa, a six-year-old Afghan girl severely burned during the war in Afghanistan, was in desperate need of surgery - surgery only available outside of her home country. So she, with the aid of the humanitarian group Solace for the Children for medical treatment.
So two Los Angeles sisters opened their home to take care of Arefa, nursing her back to health prior to the complex procedure ahead of her, helping her adjust to life in the U.S., and forging an indelible bond.
From Times reporter Kurt Streeter’s powerful story:
Under the bright lights of a hospital room, the sisters sat next to a frightened little girl who barely acknowledged them. She kept her head down, eyes fixed to the floor. Arefa was 6. Much of her face and hands had been singed, and a cloth hid a head wound that had not healed since a fire raged through her family’s tent. She’d flown in the day before from Kabul without her parents.
Read the full story on Arefa’s struggle here, or watch Streeter as he talks about the heartwarming story, and Arefa’s courage.
Photos: Carolyn Cole, Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times
A kinder, gentler Perez Hilton
The man who built up a reputation for mocking Hollywood stars, and pushing the boundaries of what a gossip blog could get away with (often at the expense of good taste), seems to have turned over a new leaf.
In Perez Hilton’s own words:
“I don’t have to give people nasty nicknames anymore. I don’t have to say people are stupid, or people are fat, or people are ugly. I don’t need to draw inappropriate things on photos or out people. I can still be sassy and fun and do my job.”
Here’s to hoping he keeps it up. For the full story, check out columnist Robin Abcarian’s profile here.
Photos: Kirk McKoy/ Los Angeles Times
From high-school equivalency to undercover spy
Fernando Jara changed the course of his life with a single email. Post-9/11, he told the CIA that perhaps he, with a recent conversion to Islam and knowledge of Arabic, could get closer to extremists that they could.
And now, years later, he’s changed his life again - working to aid drug addicts and felons in California.
From humble beginnings, Jara founded a program to rehabilitate drug addicts and felons on a five-acre farm. He is completing a master’s degree at Claremont School of Theology and will soon begin work on a doctorate and a law degree…
It’s an impressive resume for a junior high school dropout — with one exception. Five years are unaccounted for, and few people here know why.
In 2001, Jara disappeared from public view. He went on a journey that took him across the Middle East into the undercover world of Islamic extremism.
Photos: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
One man runs marathons in marriage, combating illness and on his own two feet
The Los Angeles Marathon, set for Sunday, will have a participant running for two: John Creel, 77, will be taking part not just for himself, but for his wife Ingrid as well. After she was bound to a wheelchair by multiple sclerosis in 1995, John became her primary caretaker, and began running as a means of relief. Sunday’s marathon will be Creel’s 60th since then.
From columnist Bill Plaschke’s time with the Creels:
They still laugh about how they met in 1958 on a snowy night in a small town in Germany. She didn’t speak English, he barely spoke German, yet a year later they were married. At the time he was a member of the U.S. Army’s Green Berets. Today he runs his marathons with the actual green beret atop his balding head. It reeks of sweat and has been tattered by moths, but, like his devotion, it is unmoving.
Photos: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times
What’s it like to be a one-hit wonder?
It’s a long journey to success in baseball, an even longer journey to the minors, even longer for the majors and even then, some careers just appear as blips on the MLB radar.
Nearly 1,000 players have appeared for just a single at-bat in the majors since 1871, a stunning number considering the amount of work taken to gain even that singular chance, and the number of players who never even made it that far.
From former MLB player Jeff Banister, current bench coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates:
“The events in my life allowed me to just really, truly kind of hold on to that one at-bat, that one game, and just how precious they really are. And how fragile professional sports and athletes really are,” Banister says. “It can be there one day and gone the next. I didn’t dwell on it. I don’t dwell on it.”
Scenes from Russia’s revolutionary past
More than 500 antiquated plates, sitting in a shoe box left over from the travels of San Jose resident Barbara Hoffmann’s grandfather, chronicle Russia’s turbulent civil war.
From reporter Thomas Curwen:
Anton Orlov held one of the glass plates to the light. The hand-colored image seemed to glow.
Two soldiers in long brown coats, rifles over their shoulders, stood with their backs to the camera. A trolley rushed out of the frame. A small patch of sky held a delicate blue wash, and red banners with yellow letters hung from the sides of a building.
Orlov swore he recognized the building. It had granite garlands above the windows and carved figures supporting the corbels beneath the balcony. He knew it from when he lived in Moscow.
Read more on Orlov’s discovery, and take a trip through Russia’s past, here.
Photos: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times
Aaron Swartz’s memory lives on
This week, the New Yorker joined up with a number of outlets who have tried to understand the now-famous Internet activist and pioneer, a group that includes, Slate, New York magazine, Rolling Stone, the Atlantic and your very own L.A. Times.
From journalist Matt Pearce, who has been covering Swartz since his death:
Swartz was, put simply, a lot of things to very many people, and his death amid the federal criminal prosecution accusing him of improperly downloading millions of academic articles has inspired a flourishing of stories, blog posts, memorials and profiles erected in tribute — or condemnation — for the hacktivist’s most controversial exploit.
What do you think Swartz’s lasting legacy will be?
Photo: Mary Altaffer / Associated Press
Ninety-four and still writing: Think you’ll still be working at your job by the time you’re approaching retirement age? How about by the time you’re 94? For one journalist, age is just a number - nothing gets between him and his beat.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s David Perlman churned out 111 stories last year and is still going strong. Not bad for someone born before the discovery of penicillin and Pluto.
In an office in a sleepy town in southern New Jersey, Harry Glemser’s phone rang. With no buxom secretary to take a message, he answered it himself.
It was a dame, looking to hire a private eye.
So begins Times writer Alana Semuels’ look into New Jersey, where cutbacks in police and law enforcement officials have forced towns to turn to private eyes, not the boys in blue, to solve crimes.
And it’s not just limited to cash-strapped New Jersey cities. Californians too have been impacted, with Oakland residents, for example, going as far as to turn to social networks to help solve crimes.
Read more about the growth of the private security industry, and the implications for towns increasingly lacking in police.
We’re back! What better way to return from President’s Day weekend than with an in-depth look at the changing attitude of President Obama’s second term?
No longer facing voter polls, the president can show some emotion, go off-script, take the first lady to a lavish Valentine’s Day dinner, even go golfing with Tiger Woods. Historians warn against overconfidence.
Read more on White House correspondent Kathleen Hennessey’s look at the opportunities, and dangers, created by the White House’s newfound confidence here.
The Angels’ Hail Mary: The hope is that signing Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125-million contract will put the Angels on top of the AL West again, ending their playoff drought and validating their recent series of expensive contracts.
The fear? That Hamilton could stumble in his fight against addiction, and regress toward the low he hit in 2005.
It was 2 a.m. when Josh Hamilton, strung out on crack cocaine, his once-robust 6-foot-4, 230-pound body withered to 180 pounds, most of his $3.96-million signing bonus squandered on booze and drugs, staggered up the steps to his grandmother’s house in Raleigh, N.C.
Read the rest of Mike DiGiovanna’s revealing interview with Hamilton here.
Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times