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Thug Worship in Iran and in America

Looters took over downtown Los Angeles the other night following a professional basketball victory.

A news radio reporter and several policemen were attacked, stores were looted, and, as far as I can tell, police stood down and allowed the looters to do the damage. After the Los Angeles Lakers won the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) championship in Orlando, Florida, a mob formed near the Staples Center, burning, vandalizing and destroying property everywhere in sight. Eight officers were injured, and 12 police cars, a sheriff’s vehicle, and six buses were damaged, according to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). One officer was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. Police said 25 arrests were made. One businessman, shoe store owner Richard Torres, told the Associated Press (AP) that he lost $100,000 when looters broke in and destroyed vintage sportswear and sneakers and the shop’s computers. “They were literally lighting stuff on fire,” Torres said. His store manager, Liz Sanchez, said LAPD did nothing.

In fact, LAPD Chief William Bratton, an ineffectual bureaucrat who routinely lectures the public on how the LAPD is underfunded, downplayed the looting and used the term “knuckleheads” to describe the criminals. The police clearly failed to protect the public and downtown L.A. will suffer and lose business.

But this mob mentality is rampant in the subculture of men’s professional sports, especially basketball, particularly the Lakers. Men of ability competing in athletic contests offers the sight of heroic action but thug worship replaced hero worship and engulfed sports long ago. Today, we are left with the spectacle of unkempt, baggy-clothed dog-killers, murderers and rapists spiking balls and sneering at the notion of civility. When Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, whom I personally believe is guilty of rape, was arrested in 2003 for felony sexual assault in Colorado, Lakers fans rushed, not to defend him based on facts (though some did) but to praise him.

Dads bought their sons jerseys with his number. I heard comments on talk radio and at parties, from educated men and women, that Kobe Bryant was like an animal that couldn’t be controlled when his sexual urges came upon him and that his accuser, a hotel worker and college student, probably deserved to be raped. Far from damaging his reputation among L.A. Lakers’ fans, the rape arrest (which did not result in conviction) elevated his stature. Thug worship is part of what fuels pro sports and it played out in downtown Los Angeles. With the dereliction of duties by the LAPD, and the consent of sports fans who sanction thug worship, the lawlessness, in the City of Angels and elsewhere, will get worse.

In Teheran, we have another example of civil unrest and I am reading the news from Islamic dictatorship Iran. I doubt that the protests against the current Islamic fascist dictator, who is controlled by the religious collective that runs Iran, will lead to fundamental change in that slave state. I support resistance to theocracy, in Iran as in America, where the Obama administration, defending the Clinton administration’s anti-homosexual Defense of Marriage Act, recently compared being gay to incest (as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pointed out in a recent broadcast). But jihadist Iran, like Nazi Germany, did not become a theocracy overnight. Predominantly Moslem Iran is infected with anti-Western ideals that are widely accepted by the people. Protest over which Islamic thug is in charge is neither a cry for man’s rights nor a demand for the only political system which supports individual rights: capitalism.

Book Reviews: Boys, Quakes and Cooking

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend Michael Gurian’s The Purpose of Boys (Jossey-Bass, $ 26.95), because the author completely endorses the view that the purpose of boys—and presumably girls—is, of course, service to others. Self-denial runs throughout this thoughtful book, which appealed to me because the author, a family therapist, focuses on the development of boys in an often anti-boy culture. Dr. Gurian encourages parents and boys to embrace heroism—a rare advocacy these days. Here, too, Dr. Gurian’s definition falls short of man as a rational and selfish human being. He writes that he advises patients to think of the term HEROIC as an acronym for Honorable, Enterprising, Responsible, Original, Intimate, and Creative. Excellent ideals but check out what he means by being responsible: “a boy who cares about others’ needs, and becomes a man of service.” That means the boy must put others first—and himself last—in service of … whom? What? Why? Dr. Gurian’s right that boys are being seriously neglected. Sacrifice of boys (or girls) is not the cure.

A good beginner’s book for kids who want to understand earthquakes—which we’ve been experiencing here in southern California lately—is Earthquake! ($ 3.99, Aladdin Paperbacks) which is part of Simon & Schuster’s Natural Disasters series. The large print, 32-page edition by Marion Dane Bauer, with color illustrations by John Wallace, is scientific about how the earth moves, with facts about the earth’s movement presented in sequence with the three major types of fault movements. A few pages cover various myths about quakes, correctly described as “made up” stories, and the book includes a note to parents and teachers and sound advice on what to do during a quake. Earthquake! is Level One of the four levels in the publisher’s Ready-to-Read series, which means longer sentences and increased vocabulary for the beginning reader.

The Family Chef ($ 27.95, Celebra) by sisters Jill and Jewels Elmore contains very healthy soup, salad and family meal recipes for adults, babies and kids and it’s a well-organized cookbook for those who seek to replicate the food consumed by shapely actress Jennifer Aniston, who hired them and wrote the Foreword. Short notes are personal, fun, and sometimes educational, though the print is too small so use eyeglasses or contacts while cooking if you wear them. With a table of contents with chapter titles such as “Go, Fish!”, lots of white space and color photographs for each recipe, this is a handy kitchen reference for making relatively simple, light meals (assuming the reader is already familiar with different types of lettuce such as mache, Grenoble, and Parella) in international styles. I like the resources section, which provides addresses, Web sites and telephone numbers for the Elmore ladies’ favorite grocers, utensils and ingredients. Also included in The Family Chef: an index and a listing of their favorite food and cooking books—and movies (No Reservations, Ratatouille, and Lasse Hallstrom’s Chocolat, all highly recommended by me, too, especially Chocolat!)

Susan Boyle, YouTube Sensation

When a friend sat me down to watch the now-famous clip of Susan Boyle on YouTube (appearing on a British television talent show), I didn’t know what to expect. Of course, most people have heard about it by now because the clip went ‘viral’ and has become among the most watched video clips in the world. Another friend later sent a clip of Boyle’s heroine, Elaine Paige, singing the same song, “I Dreamed a Dream,” from the 1980s’ Broadway musical, Les Miserables, based on the novel by Victor Hugo. I hesitate to venture my thoughts on the video hit as a cultural barometer, however, it has spread so far and wide that it’s hard to deny it suggests a common bond among Westerners. I think the clip succeeds due to the contrast of an admittedly ordinary woman who possesses a lovely voice, the reactions of the judges and audience, which heightened the sense that Susan Boyle overcame their prejudices, and the particular selection of music, a melodic elegy for what might have been, which resonated from a person who seemed matched to the material.

But I think that the clip caught on fundamentally because people want to see a talented person in action. The culture’s not completely jaded. Not everyone is infected with nihilism. People may laugh at cynical shows such as South Park, The Simpsons, and sniveling nightly diatribes by Stephen Colbert, Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart and Bill Maher (who can be funny, though not much anymore), but they don’t rush to spread sneers. People, judging by the overwhelming response to what was a memorable moment on television, apparently still seek to spread the sight of something good.