Patt Morrison is a longtime Times writer and columnist who has a share of two Pulitzer Prizes. Her broadcasting work has won six Emmys and ...

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Patt Morrison

Patt Morrison

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Patt Morrison asks Janice Min: Power-lister

December 9, 2015

Every year since 1992, the Hollywood Reporter has opened its own version of the Oscars envelope: a ranked “power” list of the top 100 women in entertainment. It happens again today, at a gala breakfast at Milk Studios, but with a difference: no 1-to-100 rankings. Janice Min, the Hollywood Reporter's president and chief creative officer, says she made the change because the list wasn't doing what it was meant to — advance women in Hollywood. It's already been a big year for the cause: Patricia Arquette, Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain have inveighed against the film industry's gender-tilted playing field. Min hopes the new list will add to the leveling effort.

  • Patt Morrison asks Veerabhadran Ramanathan: Climate dealer

    December 2, 2015

    If the United Nations' climate change conferences — like the one going on in Paris now — were a person, that person would now be old enough to drink. For 21 years, the world has met, conferred and come away knowing it has to do better. That's about half the time Veerabhadran Ramanathan has been studying human effects on global climate. A professor of oceanography at the Scripps Institution at UC San Diego, and a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican, Ramanathan is one of the pope's delegates to the Paris conference. He is a Hindu, not a Roman Catholic, but he has consulted with the last three pontiffs on climate matters and last year made a consequential, Hollywood-style hurry-up climate-action pitch to Pope Francis in a parking lot at the Vatican. It's been almost 400 years since the Inquisition hounded Galileo for speaking a scientific truth. It's time, Ramanathan figures, for science and religion to join forces on climate change.

  • The Rev. Andy Bales on skid row and the myths about homelessness

    November 25, 2015

    The Rev. Andy Bales doesn't need to read the studies to know what's what on L.A.'s skid row. It's flat-out bad — the worst he's seen in nearly 20 years as the CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, which was founded in 1891 and is skid row's oldest shelter. More than a third of the nation's chronically homeless live in California, and Los Angeles County now has the nation's largest homeless population: 44,000. If the homeless were their own city, it would rank in size somewhere between Bell Gardens and Azusa. The week before Thanksgiving — a big event on skid row — the L.A. City Council voted to make some public buildings and parking lots available to the homeless this winter. It did not, though, declare an official homelessness emergency. Bales — who gets around in a wheelchair because a staph infection contracted on the streets ravaged the bones in a foot and ankle — doesn't understand how it can be anything but.

  • Prostitution — it isn't 'Pretty Woman'

    November 18, 2015

    It stands to reason that if someone under 18 can't legally consent to sex, then that same someone also can't be arrested for prostitution, right? Oh so wrong. The paradox of such prosecutions has engendered the "No such thing as a child prostitute" national campaign, which has taken hold in Los Angeles. L.A. County is now considering how to punish "johns" caught paying children for sex. But San Francisco psychologist and researcher Melissa Farley has for more than two decades been more concerned about the prostitutes themselves: Rescuing them, rehabilitating them and getting politicians and prosecutors to agree that even when it comes to adults, they aren't criminals but victims.

  • Dayna Bochco, the orca protector

    November 11, 2015

    SeaWorld's attendance has been nose-diving like an orca since a 2013 documentary, "Blackfish," generated waves of criticism about the park's treatment of killer whales. Now SeaWorld says it will remake its orca show by 2017 — fewer theatrics, more nature. No matter, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is still planning to introduce a bill that would put an end to orcas living in captivity in the U.S. It may have been the California Coastal Commission that precipitated these moves. The commission voted in October to let SeaWorld build a new, improved orca tank for its shows in San Diego, on the condition that it end breeding killer whales in California and importing them. Dayna Bochco, an attorney, Heal the Bay board member, TV producer and Coastal Commission member, says she never saw "Blackfish." But it was her amendment that ultimately could phase out captive orcas in San Diego.

  • How 'helicopter parenting' is ruining America's children

    October 28, 2015

    College freshmen will soon head home for the holidays, ready to fill in their parents on all the fresh experiences in their new lives. Or not. For today's younger generation, there may be nothing to tell the folks, who are already in touch with their kids all day, every day. Julie Lythcott-Haims thinks that is not a good thing. She spent 10 years as the first dean of freshmen at Stanford University (her alma mater), and she has mined those years for her book, "How to Raise an Adult," published in June. "Helicopter parenting" is a term from the 1990s; now Mom and Dad aren't swooping in physically, they're hovering via smartphone, literally taking their offspring in hand. Worse, the kids are happy to go along with it — maybe they can't do without it.

  • Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney on 'Going Clear,' Steve Jobs and the stories behind the stories

    October 21, 2015

    The late journalist Christopher Hitchens would probably use more forceful language to describe the prize that bears his name; it honors "free expression and inquiry" and "civil, passionate" debate. Hitchens was a rare public intellectual who could, and did, offend both the left and the right. And the first Hitchens Prize, from the Dennis and Victoria Ross Foundation, goes to Hitchens' friend, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney. He'll accept the award in New York next month, for a career's worth of documentaries such as "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," and two of his most recent films, "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief" and "Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine" — films about a sometimes morally flexible world that Hitchens scourged and Gibney limns.

  • The man who stopped a Target

    October 14, 2015

    Angelenos know that real estate is a war-to-the-knife affair, especially at the meta-level of planning, zoning and development. Pasadena attorney Robert P. Silverstein cuts and thrusts in the fray. His winning legal maneuvers on behalf of neighborhood groups and a precise reading of urban planning rules — in particular, his shutting down of an oversize Target on Sunset, the Sunset-Gordon residential tower and the massive Hollywood Millennium mixed-used project — have earned him the moniker "activist attorney" from those who regard him as an obstacle to a new, 21st century Los Angeles. Silverstein cherishes a remark made nearly 50 years ago by a judge when he sentenced a city councilman to prison for taking a bribe for a zoning change. "In this county, the power to rezone property involves the power to create great wealth, and the effect of corrupt action by a public official in these matters, in my opinion, is just as reprehensible as taking money from the public treasury."

  • Steve Martin wants L.A. to know, and love, Canadian painter Lawren Harris

    October 7, 2015

    Lawren Harris is a painter who is very famous above the 49th Parallel. Steve Martin is a writer, musician and actor who's very famous at just about every latitude. Martin, a longtime admirer of the Canadian artist and owner of three of his works, wants Harris to become better known everywhere, including Los Angeles. A Harris exhibition, co-curated by Martin, opens Sunday at the Hammer Museum. Martin is nothing but serious about the artist and his work.

  • California's fire problem: Is it mostly a people problem?

    September 23, 2015

    The portmanteau word "firenado" is racing through social media the way mega-fires are racing across Western landscapes. Char Miller thinks it's a great term. He's a professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College, and this year's brutal fire season is giving him plenty of material. The changing nature of fire, and its consequences, is Topic A at meetings of the Society of American Foresters, of which Miller is a member, and it's also a fundamental part of his forthcoming book, "America's Great National Forests, Wildernesses and Grasslands." His conclusion after studying fire phenomena is that managing fire requires managing people. Good luck with that.

  • Kelly Carlin writes about her dad George, but it's not 'Daddy Dearest'

    September 9, 2015

    Sure, he was funny, and your friends probably thought he was cool, but George Carlin was your dad, after all, and well, that can get complicated. In Kelly Carlin's new book, "A Carlin Home Companion," the comedian's daughter untangles the paradoxes of her life among "the Three Musketeers," her father's nickname for their family. Her master's degree in psychology comes in handy — along with a saving sense of humor. The memoir about the family her father didn't talk about in his performances follows a solo stage performance the onetime TV writer built around her life then and now — the afflictions and affection of a daughter who found herself sometimes having to be the parent. In it, George Carlin emerges not only as a beloved and seminal figure in comedy but as a husband and the father of a loving yet discerning-eyed daughter.

  • Beyond $15 an hour: The new generation of labor leaders

    September 2, 2015

    In the 121 years since Labor Day became a national holiday, millions have taken it as a day of rest. For labor leaders, though, it's a day about work: working the politicians, working the issues of pay and benefits in a country where wages for many of those millions have hit the skids. Laphonza Butler is one of a new generation of labor leaders. She's provisional president of Service Employees International Union Local 2015, a recently formed statewide local that combines home-care and nursing home workers. It now represents 315,000 California long-term care workers. Caregiver ranks are growing as more older Americans need strangers' help, and earlier this summer, a federal appeals court restored overtime and minimum wage protections to about 2 million of them, including Butler's members. That, she says, is a good step, but a long way from the finish line.

  • Meet the man who wants to make California a sovereign entity

    August 26, 2015

    Louis J. Marinelli is putting his money where his Golden State heart is, by way of the initiative process. The candidate for Assembly (from San Diego) has paid $200 a pop to try to get nine initiatives on a statewide ballot, all of them about making California not an entirely separate country but a "first among equals" sovereign entity distinct from those 49 also-rans. He already has the green light to collect the nearly 400,000 required signatures on six of his measures, with three still awaiting the go-ahead.

  • What the LAPD is doing to make traffic stops safer

    August 19, 2015

    We've seen the videos: A cop stops someone on a minor beef and the stop escalates. The only answer is training, training and more training, says William A. Murphy, LAPD deputy chief of the Police Sciences and Training Bureau. The Los Angeles Police Academy requires hundreds more hours than the California minimum, and, Murphy says, the department spends millions on tech and on the time to educate and sometimes reeducate its cops — so much money the department has made some officers pay the city back if they don't fulfill a five-year contract. (Last week, a state court ruled against that practice.) The investment in specific training is more than worthwhile, according to Murphy. What happened in the Rodney King video, precursor of today's video horrors, is something no one in LAPD blue wants to see again.

  • We couldn't save Cecil the lion, but can we save the planet?

    August 12, 2015

    For someone bent on keeping the planet as a going concern, the Nature Conservancy is a formidable place to be. But its renowned chief scientist, Peter Kareiva, is leaving that job to come to UCLA. The potent stew of students, research and the urban laboratory of L.A. enticed him to become director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, where he can address all the topics that engage him, from fisheries to insect biology to the capricious human factor. He's now a Bruin, a mascot that represents the — extinct — California grizzly.

  • Before Watts '65: A black cop's view of the LAPD

    August 5, 2015

    Fifty years ago, five days after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act to guarantee black Americans a voice at the ballot box, other black voices made themselves heard in Los Angeles. By the time the Watts riots were over, 34 people were dead. Watts was Norman E. Edelen's neighborhood too; he had lived there, and for several of his seven years in the LAPD, he patrolled it and encountered some of the same police racism Watts residents had complained of for years. Edelen later became a writer, and in his first novel, a retired black cop asks, "After a while you wonder if anything will change." Edelen is still wondering.

  • California is falling apart; here's why

    July 29, 2015

    On July 19 the collapse of a "functionally obsolete" bridge shut down nearly 50 miles of Interstate 10. What was the problem? Too much rain, too little infrastructure. Infrastructure? Don't stop reading: Your life, literally, depends on infrastructure. Steven P. Erie, a political science professor at UC San Diego, says that if California infrastructure were a student in his class, he'd give it an "F." His many books — the latest is "Paradise Plundered," about San Diego's civic failings — detail the scale of California's governance mess and the massive task of remedying our la-de-da attitude that freeways and airports and levees built 60, 80, 100 years ago will last forever.

  • Alice Callaghan: Pushing out the homeless isn't a solution

    July 15, 2015

    The mantra in the real estate biz is location, location, location. It's pretty much the same thing in Alice Callaghan's line of work — housing, housing, housing ... on skid row. The former Roman Catholic nun turned Episcopal priest has spent nearly 35 years single-mindedly working to bring to the homeless some of the same advantages — starting with a roof over their heads — that other Angelenos enjoy. Callaghan, who also runs skid row's Las Familias del Pueblo, a service center for immigrant families and children, was, in her teen years, a Newport Beach surfer girl; now she navigates the tricky waters of public policy and the politics of homelessness.

  • George Zimmer, a millionaire with a plan to help the middle class

    July 8, 2015

    In 2010, not long after the tea party was making its presence felt, a group with a different makeup and mission was created: the Patriotic Millionaires. Its membership requirements are an annual income over $1 million and/or assets of $5 million, and it wants policy changes that will open more opportunities for the little guy. Patriotic Millionaires like George Zimmer thinks America's income gap is dangerous for democracy. In 1973, Zimmer founded Men's Wearhouse, the "you're going to like the way you look" clothing chain. After he was dumped by the board as executive chairman in 2013, he launched an Oakland-based app-driven custom suit business, one that he says practices the "servant leadership" and employee empowerment he's been preaching all along.

  • Privilege makes them do it — what a study of Internet trolls reveals

    July 1, 2015

    The British government just put up a website with advice on how to fight back against Internet trolls. Popular Science magazine decided "trolls and spambots" were shouting down scientific debate; Christianity Today also ended online comments on its news and features, and the news service Reuters pulled the plug on its comment page for news stories. Humans have said and written nasty things about each other ever since there were humans; has the Internet changed anything? Whitney Phillips is a lecturer in communications at Humboldt State University and a media studies scholar. Her troll research, in a new book, "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things," asks the same thing. Her conclusion? "N2M" — not too much.

  • Tom LaBonge: 40 years of memories from L.A.'s biggest fan

    June 24, 2015

    Man and boy, Tom LaBonge has been a fixture in Los Angeles' City Hall for more than 40 years: a teenager on Mayor Tom Bradley's youth council, community relations director at the Department of Water and Power, right-hand man to council powerhouse John Ferraro, aide to Mayor Richard Riordan and, to his enduring delight, elected in 2001 as councilman for the "great 4th" District. For LaBonge, everything about L.A. is "great." Well, maybe not that Tuesday is his last day in office. LaBonge — who is loved for his puppy-dog enthusiasm and his Wiki-memory of all things L.A. but who also gets an eye-roll from some quarters for his leadership style — is termed out. L.A.'s biggest fan sits in one place long enough to size it all up.

  • Rick Cole, city hall guru, on what's right and wrong about L.A.

    June 17, 2015

    The quotation appended to Rick Cole's emails is from St. Francis of Assisi: "Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible." It's practically a manual for the man who became Mayor Eric Garcetti's deputy mayor for budget and innovation two years ago. For 30 years, Cole has been trying to graft the impossible to the necessary as council member and mayor in Pasadena, and city manager in Azusa and Ventura. Now he's about to resume the city manager role, this time in Santa Monica. How does Los Angeles look in his rear-view mirror?

  • P-22, P-41, and the future of L.A.'s mountain lions

    June 10, 2015

    They started life as city boys. In Washington, Seth Riley (at right in the photo) grew up interested in snakes (not the political kind), and in Chicago, Jeff Sikich sometimes went fishing with his grandfather. How things change. Both are now hands-on wildlife specialists in the long-running mountain lion project at the National Park Service in the Santa Monica Mountains, where they monitor the region's biggest surviving carnivore — about 10 or 15 cats, as far as they know. In all, the project has tracked about 40 over 13 years. Sikich, who has also put tracking collars on jaguars in the Amazon and tigers in Sumatra, has collared 11 mountain lions here, among them stars like Griffith Park's P-22, and P-41, recently discovered prowling the Verdugo Mountains. Like the mountain lions, Riley and Sikich know the urban-wildland interface face to face.

  • Can Bruce Bartlett save the GOP by bursting its 'bubble'?

    June 3, 2015

    Bruce Bartlett has 24-karat conservative credentials. He worked in the Reagan White House, the George H.W. Bush Treasury Department, for former Texas Rep. Ron Paul and the Heritage Foundation. So when he saw Republicans doing things he believed damaged the brand, he said so, and was surprised to find himself first ignored, then struck from the rolls of the GOP talk-ocracy, and even fired from his think tank job. And that, he says, is the problem. Bartlett, who is now an independent, made headlines recently with a scholarly paper about Fox News. In it, he describes a media "bubble" that imperils the GOP by screening out ideas that challenge Republican orthodoxy — in other words, those inconvenient truths.

  • Vietnam through the eyes of Latino soldiers

    May 27, 2015

    The monument to all Mexican American veterans in Boyle Heights was dedicated in 1947 — the same year that a new generation of Latino soldiers, the Vietnam generation, was being born. The war in Southeast Asia ended 40 years ago; it would be another five years before the U.S. began counting Latinos separately in the national census. That sort of invisibility has made researching Latino veterans and Vietnam all the harder. Now Tomás Summers Sandoval, a Pomona College history professor, is amassing all the information he can, especially oral histories, before the soldiers — and their stories — begin to disappear.

  • Sean Woods, the man who's helping make L.A. a park place

    May 20, 2015

    The city of Los Angeles devotes a sorry 10% of its space to parks, and if it weren't for honking-big Griffith Park, that figure would be 25% worse. Happily for Angelenos, the state of California nearly doubles the city's figures with its $150-million investment in three historically and culturally significant sites: Rio de Los Angeles, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook and the L.A. State Historic Park (a.ka. the Cornfield), which is being renovated. Sean Woods, superintendent of the L.A. sector of the state parks, is the man in charge of carrying the parks' Urban Strategic Initiative to L.A.'s nearly 4 million park-starved people.

  • John Perry, San Juan Capistrano's water watcher

    May 12, 2015

    It started with a few ticked-off residents of the Orange County town of San Juan Capistrano. The city was charging them too much for water, they argued, in violation of the California Constitution, courtesy of Proposition 218, a taxpayer-revolt law passed in 1996. A state court of appeal agreed last month. Now San Juan Capistrano — and by extension other cities — may have to stop conserving water through tiered pricing that's based on the principle of "the more you use, the more you pay." One of those residents is John Perry, who also finds himself a San Juan Capistrano city councilman, a member of the body that runs the city he sued, the same body that now has to find its way through the rigors of drought.

  • Stanford's Jon Krosnick: On climate change, most Americans want action

    May 5, 2015

    Another presidential election, another chance for Republican candidates to step out of the denial zone and deal with climate change. That would put them on the same side as a large majority of Americans, if you ask Jon A. Krosnick. He's a Stanford University professor who directs the Political Psychology Research Group there, and his two decades of asking Americans about climate change has turned up consistent support for action to rein in global warming. Yet somehow, whatever the temperature of the planet, the debate on this topic manages to stay hot.

  • 'How Doctors Die' author isn't sold on California's End of Life Option Act

    April 28, 2015

    For decades, Californians have resisted making assisted suicide legal for the terminally ill. Now another try, the End of Life Option Act, is making its way through the Legislature. It has passed one committee, been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and was buoyed by the attention paid to Brittany Maynard, who last year left her California home for Oregon to carry out her own legal assisted suicide. Dr. Ken Murray is a retired clinical assistant professor of family medicine at USC, whose touchstone essay on death, "How Doctors Die," has ricocheted around the Internet since it was published in 2011 on the Zocalo Public Square website. I asked him to assess the law's ethics and options.

  • Richard Hovannisian on Armenians and genocide's burden

    April 21, 2015

    As a boy in the Central Valley, Richard Hovannisian was discouraged from learning to read, write or even speak his parents' native language, Armenian. He made up for lost time, becoming a preeminent Armenian scholar, founding the Armenian studies program at UCLA (where he is professor emeritus) and, across town, advising the USC Shoah Foundation on the Armenian genocide, whose 100th anniversary will be marked this week. It's a family affair: His son Raffi became a politician in the nation of Armenia and its first foreign minister, and his grandson Garin is a filmmaker and writer on Armenian themes. There's plenty of material at hand; Los Angeles is home to the biggest Armenian population outside Yerevan — including, Hovannisian says, a small number of Armenian Chinese.

  • The MWD's boss tells it like it is on California's water woes

    April 14, 2015

    The Metropolitan Water District was formed in 1928, when the Roaring '20s in Southern California meant a roaring abundance of water too. Today the nonprofit wholesaler provides water to half of the people in California, through cities and water agencies. Water is getting harder to find, the price is going up — truths brought home by this week's 15% cut in how much water the MWD will sell to its members. One of them is Los Angeles' Department of Water and Power, whose own independent water sources are being stretched, forcing the DWP to get more of its water from the MWD. Jeffrey Kightlinger has run the MWD for more than nine years, a job that's now about doing much more with a lot less.

  • Dave Isay on StoryCorps' DIY oral history project

    April 7, 2015

    It's a big check for a big idea: $1 million, the annual TED prize awarded to a proposal that could change the world. The idea that won Dave Isay the TED grant was a phone app that puts his original big idea, StoryCorps, in the hands of anyone with a smartphone. Since 2003, the oral history project has paired up thousands of Americans for 40-minute face-to-face exchanges in audio booths set up in cities and towns around the country. Excerpts of a few hundred of the these have aired on National Public Radio, and almost all of them have been stored at the Library of Congress. Thanks to the TED money, StoryCorps just launched its app in a beta version, making Isay an audio impresario for 21st century America.

  • Joan Waugh on Grant's and Lee's 'gentlemen's agreement' ending the Civil War

    March 31, 2015

    A century and a half ago, a brief encounter between two men, a Northerner and Southerner, altered the course of American history. I don't mean what you probably have in mind; the Lincoln assassination happened five days later. It was the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. For modern Americans, President Lincoln's assassination has eclipsed the surrender that signaled the end of a savage war. But at the time, souvenir hunters emptied the farmhouse in the village of Appomattox Court House, Va., where the surrender was signed; in later years, the victorious Grant would be twice elected president. Joan Waugh is a history professor at UCLA (where Grant's grandson once chaired the geology department), and her award-winning book “U.S. Grant, American Hero, American Myth” puts the spotlight back on an event that helped to knit a riven nation back together.

  • Tobias Capwell, the man who escorted Richard III's coffin

    March 24, 2015

    England's King Richard III was killed twice: first by his challenger, Henry Tudor, at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, and again, in posthumous reputation, by Tudor historians and by Shakespeare, who portrayed the last English king to die in battle as a "bunch-backed toad" and accused him of murdering his young nephews in the Tower of London to become king. Richard's skeleton was, astonishingly, discovered in 2012 and identified through DNA. It is being reburied in Leicester, England, this week with far more pomp than 530 years ago, when it was dumped into a soon-forgotten grave that was eventually covered with a parking lot. One of the two knights escorting the king on his last journey is Tobias Capwell, born in Petaluma and now a top British medieval military historian — a California Yankee in King Richard's court.

  • Darnell Hunt: Hollywood's dismal diversity data explained

    March 17, 2015

    One hundred years ago "The Clansman" premiered in a downtown L.A. theater. Later retitled "The Birth of a Nation," it featured portrayals of black Americans that were so outrageous and so outlandish that the fledgling NAACP tried to have the film banned. Fast forward to now, to the UCLA office of Darnell Hunt, where a copy of the film's poster hangs on the wall. Hunt heads the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies and co-writes an annual report on Hollywood diversity. This year — the report's second — it surveys 2013 films and the 2012-13 television season. The dismal findings were released three days after the Oscars, which included no minorities among the acting nominees. But, as always in Hollywood, there's hope in the last reel.

  • Developer Wayne Ratkovich on revitalizing L.A.'s historic buildings

    March 10, 2015

    One of the symbols on Los Angeles' official city seal is a stylized castle. Maybe it should appear with a wrecking ball hanging over it. Raze first, ask questions later has often been the drill with historic buildings. But the city, working with the Getty Conservation Institute, has crafted a website of historical resources,, to inventory sites of "rich social significance" and alert public and private interests to their existence. One man who's been tracking them all along is Wayne Ratkovich, an advisor to the project. His development firm has been one step ahead of the wrecking ball in some cases, polishing tarnished architectural jewels into landmark status. Instead of resisting historic designation, he's made a specialty, and his reputation, out of it.

  • Elena Shateni on going to Mars -- and never coming back

    March 3, 2015

    In a decade or so, when most people her age will be retiring from their working lives, Elena Shateni, now 58, plans to be starting a new life planting the human flag on Mars. Or so she hopes. The Santa Monica holistic medicine specialist is one of 100 semifinalists vying to become the first humans to live on Mars, as part of the Mars One project. That's "one" as in something never done before, and as in a one-way trip (no return flight is possible). The project is the dream of a Dutch entrepreneur and engineer, and critics doubt that the project is financially or technically plausible. Shateni is no doubter. Her yoga group showed up in Mars One T-shirts to demonstrate solidarity, and she speaks of the adventure in the future tense, not the conditional, and of "we," not "they." If the project were powered by enthusiasm, she would already be there.

  • Democratic icon Barney Frank on Congress, gay rights and partisan echo chambers

    February 24, 2015

    If C-SPAN were Nielsen rated, the quick-draw wit and rhetoric of Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) might have been boffo. The highest profile gay member of Congress retired in 2013 after 32 years, leaving a legacy of legislation on financial reform as well as changes in perceptions and laws about homosexuality. Frank has launched into his "civilian" life with a memoir, "Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage." And as always, he is what his name says.

  • Stand-up Maz Jobrani on the culture of comedy

    February 17, 2015

    When you grow up as Maz Jobrani did, as one of the few Iranian American kids in the rich Bay Area town of Tiburon, a kid embarrassed when his dad drove him to school in a Rolls-Royce instead of a Volvo like the other parents — comedy might come naturally. His family moved here from Tehran when he was 6. Out of a culture not known for stand-up, he found his calling, as he details in his book, "I'm Not a Terrorist but I've Played One on TV: Memoirs of a Middle Eastern Funny Man," a career conflation of the personal and the political. He's playing it for laughs, and against the stereotypes.

  • The FBI's man in L.A. on how to find the bad guys among us

    February 11, 2015

    David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI's L.A. office, oversees the most populous beat in law enforcement — seven Southern California counties, some 44,000 square miles, and nearly 19 million people. He joined the bureau in 1995, and most recently headed the office's joint counter-terrorism task force, with its myriad local police agencies and a reach as far as terrorist investigations in Southeast Asia. Apart from the daily challenges of terrorism, crime and corruption, Bowdich hopes to create a staff that looks and sounds more like the population around it. To keep an ear to the ground in a place as diverse as this, you have to be able to understand what's being said.

  • Robotics-law expert Ryan Calo weighs in on drone regulations -- and 'drunk droning'

    February 3, 2015

    Hard cases, said a long-ago Supreme Court justice, make bad law. The startling outliers shouldn't be the yardstick for crafting routine criminal law. When a tipsy off-duty employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency lost control of his friend's drone last month and smashed it onto the White House lawn, the cry went up for more drone regulation. But the incident was an oddity; the real legal questions about drone regulation have to do with privacy, policing, commerce and other uses. Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, specializes in robotics. The White House drone flew right onto his radar.

  • Historian Elena Conis takes a look at decades of vaccination skepticism

    January 27, 2015

    Last year saw more U.S. measles cases than in any other year in nearly the last quarter century, and 2015 isn't looking a whole lot better, after someone at Disneyland infected people who infected other people in what has become a seven-state outbreak. Measles vaccines have been around for 50 years, but a vaccine is usually only as good as the percentage of the population that gets it. So how do some people in a country that rejoiced in vaccines for killers like polio wind up wary of them? Emory University historian Elena Conis goes sleuthing in her book, “Vaccine Nation: America's Changing Relationship with Immunization,” finding answers in science, politics and shifting cultural standards about how we vaccinate and what our doubts are. At a moment when, as Conis says, children's participation in public life depends on their immunization status, she favors a nuanced view of our complicated relationship with “the jab.”

  • Tom Steyer's green ambitions

    January 20, 2015

    Gov. Jerry Brown's inauguration speech this month was as green as the decor in the ornate Assembly chamber where he gave it. And it left Tom Steyer tickled pink. The philanthropist put millions into the 2014 elections, primarily through his NextGen Climate Action super PAC. His candidates mostly lost, but he has no regrets. Steyer has worked on political campaigns since the 1970s, including Democrat Walter Mondale's 1984 presidential bid, but his formidable political voice comes from the billions he made as a hedge fund manager. He's long invested in greener California politics, and making climate disaster a politically crucial national issue is his Cause One — like the TV spot NextGen ran during coverage of Tuesday's State of the Union speech.

  • 'Not an Islam I can recognize'; a Muslim scholar discusses the Paris attacks

    January 13, 2015

    As I spoke with Khaled M. Abou El Fadl, I could hear his dogs barking in the background. Being a dog lover — some Muslims believe dogs are impure — is one of the least of the supposed offenses that has made the UCLA professor the subject of denunciation and threats. He is an American lawyer and an Islamic jurist, a professor of Islamic law at UCLA, and the head of its Islamic studies program. His latest book, "Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari'ah in the Modern Age," explains what sharia, or Islamic law, is and isn't, and what it means for contemporary Islam. His scholarly critique of Islamist terrorism and Wahhabi extremism make him an important guide in understanding last week's violent events in France.

  • 'Broken windows' policing isn't broken, says criminologist George L. Kelling

    January 6, 2015

    It was a simple, potent idea: a broken window, left unrepaired, invites disorder. Criminologist George L. Kelling and the late James Q. Wilson published their “broken windows” theory 33 years ago. It was taken up by major police departments, including the LAPD, as part of community policing. It called for police and community engagement to prevent local crime, down to petty offenses, and to create order as an end in itself. The mechanism was interrupting minor offenses before they could snowball and open the door to serious, perhaps violent crime. Now, since fatal police encounters with black men in Missouri and New York began with small offenses — walking in the street, selling untaxed cigarettes — there have been calls to end “broken windows” policing. But Kelling, an emeritus professor at Rutgers University and a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, says “broken windows” still works.

  • Internet expert Douglas Thomas on the hacking of Sony Pictures

    December 23, 2014

    There are myriad ramifications to the hacking of Sony's computers and the domino effect of its yanking "The Interview," in the wake of a murky threat from the North Korean cyber underground. Putting it in perspective is Douglas Thomas' turf. The USC associate communications professor has testified in Congress about cybercrime and security, and a lot of what he detailed in his book "Hacker Culture" is now playing out on the world stage. He sees it shaping law, politics and, yes, Hollywood — unsettlingly —- for decades to come.

  • Mr. Waxman leaves Washington

    December 16, 2014

    It was a Republican who once paid Democrat Henry Waxman the rough compliment of being "tougher than a boiled owl." Many of the big things Waxman helped to make into law in his four decades in Congress took bipartisan work, the kind that has all but disappeared in Washington: tobacco regulation, easier access to generic drugs, increased food labeling and safety, cleaner air and water, AIDS healthcare and Obamacare. But that's not why Waxman — a vastly influential legislator and among the last of Congress' 1974 "Watergate baby" generation — is retiring. He figures he has a lot of tread left on his tires, but he wants to drive down roads other than the ones leading to Capitol Hill.

  • UC's Muslim student regent tackles Bill Maher, tuition and more

    December 10, 2014

    There are 26 people on the UC Board of Regents, the august body that sits atop the University of California system. Of those, 18 are appointed to 12-year terms by a governor. One is the governor. And only one is a student. Right now that's Sadia Saifuddin, a California-born senior majoring in social welfare and the first Muslim student regent. Her selection generated thousands of protest emails, virtually none of them, she says, from the students she represents. And Saifuddin has contributed to some protests of her own. She signed on to the petition to disinvite comedian Bill Maher to be Berkeley's commencement speaker Dec. 20 after Maher, discussing Muslim illiberality on TV, called Islam "the only religion that acts like the Mafia." His Berkeley invitation stands, and Saifuddin stands her ground.

  • Zev Yaroslavsky looks back on 20 years as an L.A. County supervisor

    December 2, 2014

    Not many politicians have pop-star first-name recognition, but for four decades, there has been only one "Zev" in Los Angeles. Zev Yaroslavsky, elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 1975 and this week departing elected office for good, is leaving the chair he occupied for 20 years, half his political life, on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. In his 40 years in politics, he has morphed from a standard-issue liberal firebrand into a self-assured contrarian policy wonk disinclined to open the county checkbook too often. He's seen enough of governance to have some ideas about what works and what doesn't, and he's saying so here.

  • Why do people cross the border illegally? It's not what you think

    November 25, 2014

    President Obama's executive order on immigration will affect the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants — perhaps as profoundly as their illegal crossing into the U.S. did in the first place. It's been a divisive action about people some Americans regard as criminals. Yet what neither lawmakers nor law enforcers may know much about is this: What do the border-crossers think of themselves and their decisions? And how could that information shape U.S. thinking about immigration? Sociologist Emily Ryo, an assistant professor at USC's law school, has asked those questions — using interviews and a random sample survey of prospective migrants in Mexico, and interviews with undocumented immigrants in the U.S. — supplying missing pieces of data in the enormous puzzle of the nation's immigration quandary.

  • Frank Gehry, inventing the future

    November 18, 2014

    He's an architect, not a psychic, but Frank Gehry can see into the future in part because he's the one creating it. Fresh off the opening of his floating glass ship of a museum in Paris, the indefatigable Gehry is at work on the Grand Avenue project across from his signature Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A., an arts education program for California schoolchildren, cooperating on an authorized biography, and — well, just look at the floor of his vast West Los Angeles studio. There are enough models of projects to keep him adding to the world's architecture for years to come. Gehry hit 85 this year, spectacularly, with a birthday party in Bilbao, Spain, a city whose fortunes were reinvigorated by his 1997 Guggenheim Museum. Bilbao named a bridge after Gehry. An even better gift might have been letting him design it.

  • Lester Snow is the answer man on the water bond

    November 11, 2014

    Californians, you just voted yourselves a $7-billion-plus water bond measure. What happens now? Lester Snow can draw you the map of water needs and detail the money being spent. He's navigated state waters for years in a multitude of jobs, among them head of the state's Department of Water Resources and other agencies. He's spent more time on water than Duke Kahanamoku. Today he heads the private California Water Foundation, which supported the bond measure that California now has to spend wisely.

  • Matt Bai takes on the tabloidization of the political news

    November 5, 2014

    The year was 1987, and Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, aiming for the White House, got sidelined when the Miami Herald caught him in the company of a woman other than his wife. In Matt Bai's analysis, Hart was done in by a conjunction of sexual politics and a new media romance with “gotcha” reportage. Bai, once with the New York Times Magazine and now chief political columnist for Yahoo News, has revisited that year and that candidate in “All the Truth Is Out, the Week Politics Went Tabloid.” The title comes from a Yeats poem, a favorite of Hart's. In the book, Bai argues that while Hart lost his shot at the White House in 1987, American politics and journalism lost a great deal more.

  • MapLight's Daniel Newman wants to help Californians 'follow the money'

    October 28, 2014

    We all know the Watergate prescription for uncovering political influence: "Follow the money." It's why organizations like MapLight were created — to track donations from source to spending to legislative outcomes. Daniel G. Newman is a co-founder and president of the Bay Area-based MapLight, itself funded chiefly by major foundations. MapLight's database looks at big industries and big interests, their elected beneficiaries and their votes. "There's a river of money that affects everything in politics, and candidates and donors don't talk about it, so it's left to MapLight and other groups to expose it," Newman says.

  • Why Pitzer College decided to quit carbon

    October 21, 2014

    Last month, the philanthropic Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced it would sell off the fossil fuel stocks that helped to enrich it. Pitzer College, one of the Claremont Colleges, had beaten the Rockefellers to the punch. Its decision to divest, in April, made it an early adopter in the movement to shift endowment money for the sake of the planet. Donald Gould was at the center of the process — a Pomona College graduate who heads an asset management firm and also heads the Pitzer board of trustees' investment committee. As colleges and universities once shed their South Africa investments — something Nelson Mandela credited with helping to end apartheid — so might fossil fuel holdings become campuses' morality-and-money issue for the 21st century. Here is how it happened at Pitzer.

  • No more Mr. News Guy -- L.A. anchor Kent Shocknek signs off

    September 30, 2014

    Notice something missing from your TV news this week? It's Kent Shocknek, who spoke to The Times two days before signing off Friday, after 31 years in the anchor chair on two stations, KNBC and KCBS/KCAL. He so fits the role, he got anchor cameos in the movies. His tenure, one of the longest of any L.A. anchor, spanned immense changes in the news, from a local early-morning show he pioneered to the age of online video. Although viewers will miss him, here's something the man himself won't miss: his watch alarm sounding 11 times a day to summon him to a broadcast.

  • No God? No problem, says god-free thinker Sam Harris

    September 23, 2014

    Sam Harris isn't quite the atheist provocateur that Christopher Hitchens was nor the militant that Richard Dawkins is. But he is building his place in the pantheon of god-free thinkers book by book. His latest is "Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion." As a California native, he grew up with the Golden State's alternative ideas. His own ideas — among them, that morality and spirituality can have a secular, scientific foundation rather than a religious one — are rooted in his UCLA neuroscience degree and his years'-long studies of meditation in places such as Tibet and India, including a brief gig on the security team for the Dalai Lama.

  • A persuasive case for saving the Salton Sea, California's biggest lake

    September 17, 2014

    Even in its reduced and unlovely circumstances, the Salton Sea is the biggest lake in California. It may also pose the biggest quandary for the Southern California ecosystem. Its champions declare that California needs to spend several billion dollars now to save the saltwater sea, or pay dozens of billions — $29 billion to $70 billion — down the road in lost economic values, lost environmental values and lost lives. Tim Krantz is the University of Redlands environmental studies professor who's been keeping the data on Salton as its database program manager, and keeping the flame burning for maintaining that quirky body of water as a viable and vital link to California's wetter past and to its drier future.

  • Should L.A. schools be run like businesses? Here's what new UTLA chief Alex Caputo-Pearl says

    September 9, 2014

    It's a funny world, and a small one. Alex Caputo-Pearl, the new head of United Teachers Los Angeles, went to school in the same Maryland school district where John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, was once superintendent. They missed each other there, but now they're in the same place, at the same time, on opposite sides of the table and sometimes on the issues. Caputo-Pearl, who was elected with 80% of the vote, was an ardent labor activist at Crenshaw High School, which he says got him ousted from the school after 13 years there. It was Deasy who decided the poorly performing school needed a clean sweep of faculty. Watch for big headlines as contract negotiations unfold.

  • Chief Charlie Beck talks about perfecting the LAPD

    September 2, 2014

    That TV-friendly phrase "top cop"? It doesn't begin to describe Charlie Beck's job as the chief of the LAPD. Just how much the job entails became clear during the application process for his second five-year term. He's a lawman, yes, but also a diplomat, civic preacher, technologist, budgeter, psychologist, disciplinarian, politician — you get the idea. A department that's spent 20 years trying to remake itself still must prove itself on the streets every day, and headlines from Ferguson, Mo., are a reminder to Beck and the whole city of how bad it once was here in Los Angeles.

  • Voting for dollars: It's not nutty, it's the latest idea to boost turnout in L.A. elections

    August 26, 2014

    Here's Nathan Hochman's get-out-the-vote message: Fill in a ballot and you could win thousands! In a city where nearly 80% of the electorate chose not to vote in the last mayoral election, does he have your attention? Hochman, the head of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, made a national splash when he floated the idea that L.A. could improve its dismal voter turnout in municipal elections by offering a cash prize lottery to voters. Appointed to the commission in 2011, Hochman is a former Justice Department prosecutor now in private practice who hopes the City Council and the voters will take L.A.'s poor voter turnout seriously, and here he seriously considers and defends the ramifications of awarding Angelenos a cash prize for casting a ballot.

  • L.A.'s water ruler, DWP chief Marcie Edwards, on keeping the city hydrated

    August 19, 2014

    The Department of Water and Power began 107 years ago, after Los Angeles bought back the civic water system from a group of privateers. Like its top man, William Mulholland, who began as a ditch-digger, the new DWP chief, Marcie Edwards, also started at the bottom, as a clerk. Now she's running the nation's largest city-owned water and power agency. Despite an epochal drought, and an aging water system, Edwards insists the DWP performs better than most utilities when it comes to policy and services. The agency, and its customers, she says, can do what's necessary to keep the city hydrated.

  • Mia Lehrer on what makes a successful park, and how L.A. can build them

    August 12, 2014

    Landscape architect Mia Lehrer has designed some lavish private gardens in Los Angeles, but she has also made her mark with "guerrilla planning," creating and blue-skying plans for parks and public spaces, from the harbor to Silver Lake. She's Salvadoran by birth, and alert to analyzing how open-space needs and use by newcomers may teach L.A. how to enhance its footprint. Now that the drought is dictating terms, it's also making new ones possible, and Lehrer doesn't intend to miss the opportunity that scarce water provides to get Angelenos to regard the natural world in a way that makes sense here and now.

  • What is being an American? Immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas has some ideas

    August 5, 2014

    In July, Jose Antonio Vargas was arrested trying to board a plane for L.A. for a screening of his film "Documented," about his life before and after he "outed" himself as an undocumented immigrant living in the U.S. for decades. For the first time since he began living openly without papers in 2011, he will have to appear before an immigration judge. In the meantime, he continues his Define American campaign, challenging this country to acknowledge him and those like him as Americans. And he's moving back to California from the East Coast, to the state where he grew up and one of 11 in the country that will issue him an honest-to-goodness driver's license.

  • Judge Alex Kozinski on bringing back firing squads: No, I wasn't kidding

    July 30, 2014

    Google "Alex Kozinski firing squad" and nearly 20,000 mentions turn up. But those are just a few words plucked from a detailed dissent by the chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing, in essence, that Americans are hypocrites about the death penalty: We support it but don't deal with its reality. Kozinski's dissent came as part of the last-minute flurry of appeals by an Arizona death row prisoner who, two days later, would die after a protracted and messy lethal injection. Kozinski can't say more about the specifics of that case, but after 30 years on the appellate bench, he's confronted capital punishment again and again. From his chambers overlooking Pasadena's Arroyo Seco, he gave voice to what he has learned.

  • Can Laura's Law help the mentally ill? Researcher Tom Burns' surprising conclusion.

    July 22, 2014

    Laura's Law has been an option for counties in California since 2003, but only in recent weeks have three of the most populous ones — Los Angeles, Orange and San Francisco — voted to implement it. The law — like another one in New York, Kendra's Law — allows families or officials to ask the courts to order outpatient treatment for the seriously mentally ill.

  • Worried about the Big One, L.A.? So's Lucy Jones, but she's doing something about it

    July 15, 2014

    We're told to keep enough supplies for three days, a week, two weeks after an earthquake — to last us until help arrives. But that advice doesn't account for a fractured infrastructure that could leave Los Angeles dry, dark and devastated for months after a big quake. Lucy Jones is the U.S. Geological Survey seismologist seconded by Mayor Eric Garcetti's office to spend a year creating the city's first seismic resilience plan. Her grandfather worked for William Mulholland's DWP, and her great-great and great grandparents are buried in a cemetery on the San Andreas fault. She foresees her future grandkids thriving here, and her recommendations to the city could help all of us do just that.

  • UCLA's John Villasenor takes you inside the world of cryptocurrencies (think bitcoin)

    July 8, 2014

    You can donate to a PAC, buy a Tesla or order a Domino's pizza using bitcoin. California just repealed a ban on such cryptocurrencies, so the question is not only "Now what?" but "What?," period. Any currency that's not tied to something like gold is essentially faith-based, but faith may be harder to come by for something like bitcoin, which took a PR hit in the Mt. Gox failure in February and has no physical existence anyway. You may want to try it out just because it's neat, says John Villasenor, a UCLA professor of electrical engineering and public policy and a Brookings Institution fellow, but it's the "decentralized trust" that underpins bitcoin transactions that is the real innovation.

  • Donald Shoup, UCLA's parking guru, on how L.A. should manage its meters

    July 1, 2014

    The parking meter doesn't get a lot of purchase in pop culture. There's the meter-decapitation scene in "Cool Hand Luke," Calvin Trillin's novel of parking stubbornness, "Tepper Isn't Going Out," and Donald Shoup's favorite, a Canadian movie called "The Delicate Art of Parking." Shoup's own work, and his book "The High Cost of Free Parking," have made the UCLA urban planning professor a very big voice at a moment when Mayor Eric Garcetti is asking a working group of residents, business folk, planners and city officials for advice on improving the way the city manages the curbside rental spaces that bedevil us all, about nine concrete feet at a time.

  • Historian Jay Winter: The five things Americans should know about the Great War

    June 24, 2014

    A chauffeur's happenstance wrong turn down a back street in Sarajevo 100 years ago this week ended in the assassination of the heir to the throne of the Habsburg empire. Archduke Franz Ferdinand's murder was the catalyst for the Great War that haunts the cultural memory of Europe a century later but has made a less visible mark on American society — just count the World War I films versus World War II movies. Jay Winter, a Yale historian, has spent his adult life trying to figure out the war that didn't end all wars but opened the bloody gates of 20th century industrial slaughter.

  • Barry Scheck on the O.J. trial, DNA evidence and the Innocence Project

    June 17, 2014

    The O.J. Simpson case, which began to unfold 20 years ago this month, was a blip — a significant one, but a blip — in Barry Scheck's legal career. Scheck is now better known as co-founder of the Innocence Project, the not-for-profit dedicated to using DNA evidence to free the innocent from prison, sometimes even from death row. Its work, and that of related efforts in 40 states, have resulted in 316 post-conviction exonerations. Two years after Scheck and Peter Neufeld started the Innocence Project in 1992, they were called upon to deploy their expertise in DNA evidence and its collection by the Simpson defense team. The trial, inlcuding Scheck's cross-examination of LAPD criminalists, riveted the world and wrought changes in the justice system.

  • Is the World Cup worth it? What about the Olympics? Andrew Zimbalist on the money side of sports

    June 10, 2014

    The World Cup trophy is a shade over a foot tall and made of 11 pounds of 18-karat gold. But its hefty dollar value is nothing compared to what's been spent on soccer's quadrennial championships, which begin in Brazil this week. In spite of billions that have been poured in to Brazil's infrastructure, it's not ready. Similarly, the Sochi Olympics' price tag would have funded a small country; and $2 billion is on offer to buy the Los Angeles Clippers. Are teams and sports frenzies worth the cost? Andrew Zimbalist analyzes sports economics (at Smith College and in his new book, "The Sabermetric Revolution") to see whether all the dollars make sense.

  • Dr. George Woods on what went wrong in Isla Vista, and what we can do to curb such shootings

    June 3, 2014

    To most of us, the mind of someone like Elliot Rodger is an opaque mystery. And there are those like Dr. George Woods, who has made it his life's work to clear away such mysteries. The Bay Area forensic and neuropsychiatrist consults in courts of law across the nation about his understanding of mental illness and crime. At UC Berkeley's law school, he team teaches a class in law and mental health, and he teaches too at Morehouse College's medical school in Atlanta. Next year he becomes president of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health. So when you ask what's on his mind, you ask no light question.

  • Nancy Silverton, taste maker

    May 27, 2014

    The last time an Angeleno won the James Beard Foundation's outstanding chef award — a very big deal — it was 1998, smoking had just been banned in the state's restaurants, and Wolfgang Puck was the awardee. This year, a woman who once was Spago's pastry chef took home the honors: Nancy Silverton, a founder of seminal fooderies Campanile, La Brea Bakery, Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza. Silverton has bounced back from Bernie Madoff's takedown of her nest egg, with more Mozzas, including one in Singapore. L.A. eats on its own terms, set in part by Silverton herself.

  • Is public shaming fair punishment?

    May 24, 2014

    You play the judge: How would you sentence a man who spent 15 years picking on his neighbor and her handicapped children?

  • The Broad Foundation's Bruce Reed on education reform, teachers and charters

    May 13, 2014

    The Broad Foundation's education initiatives began 15 years ago, but the organization is just now getting its first president, and his surname isn't Broad. Bruce Reed is tasked with minding the foundation's investments and its work on K-12 reform, which has shaken the educational apple tree. The foundation spends about $60 million a year on things like training school superintendents and supporting charter schools. Reed, an Idahoan, changed coasts after three decades deeply entrenched in D.C., working on campaigns and/or policy for Al Gore, the Clintons, Barack Obama and, most recently, Vice President Joe Biden. He switched reform teams but didn't leave the playing field.

  • Angela Y. Davis on what's radical in the 21st century

    May 6, 2014

    Forty-five years after her first UCLA teaching gig attracted the wrath of Gov. Ronald Reagan, Angela Y. Davis is back on campus this semester, as regents' lecturer in the gender studies department. Her Thursday address in Royce Hall, about feminism and prison abolition, sums up some but not all of her work — a long academic career paralleled by radical activism. President Nixon called her a "dangerous terrorist" when she was charged with murder and conspiracy after a deadly 1970 courthouse shootout. She was acquitted, and since then, the woman born in the Jim Crow minefield of Birmingham, Ala., has written, taught and lectured around the world. Her iconic Afro has morphed from its 1970s silhouette; her intensity has not.

  • How not to pick a hero: The Cliven Bundy story

    May 3, 2014

    Every few months, some ordinary person arises from the undifferentiated swarm of Americans and is turned into the poster boy or the poster girl of some political battle du jour.

  • Janet Napolitano, UC's flak catcher, on admissions policy, tuition hikes and more

    April 29, 2014

    Which is the frying pan and which is the fire? Janet Napolitano resigned as head of Homeland Security to head the University of California. At DHS, keeping the U.S. safe meant she was sometimes under attack. UC, of course, is its own kind of minefield. Napolitano delivers her first presidential commencement speech at UC Hastings College of Law next week: She'll remind the fledgling lawyers it's not about making money but making a difference — the very reason she took on UC's challenges in the first place.

  • Fracking expert Mark Zoback: We need good science, good engineering, good regulations and good enforcement

    April 22, 2014

    "Fracking" — now there's a word that just begs for a bumper sticker. Short for "hydraulic fracturing" — the process of breaking open rock with high-pressure liquids to get at otherwise untappable oil and natural gas — fracking conjures up a welcome energy boom for some, ecological disaster for others. Mark Zoback — Stanford geophysicist since 1984, member of the National Academy of Engineering's Deepwater Horizon investigation committee, personal "decarbonizer," fracking expert — sees the problems and the potential for California. Zoback's bumper sticker might read something like this: "Fracking — Do it, but do it right."

  • The principled lobbyist: George Steffes explains why real people think the government's for rent

    April 15, 2014

    George Steffes was a boy standing on Wilshire Boulevard when Dwight D. Eisenhower rolled by in a motorcade, and he was mightily impressed. But that's not what got him into politics. He went to 5 o'clock Mass one day in 1966 and ran into an acquaintance who was working on Ronald Reagan's gubernatorial campaign. Steffes volunteered. He went to Sacramento as Reagan's legislative aide and has been there ever since. He helped to found the first multi-person lobbying firm in Sacramento, Capitol Partners, where he's now “senior advisor,” no longer running the firm day to day. Almost 50 years in Sacramento have given him a long view of its roller-coaster politicking, including low points like the recent indictment of state Sen. Leland Yee. The ride has left him a bit queasy.

  • Jeanie Buss talks about all things Lakers

    April 8, 2014

    "Born to the purple" means someone who comes into the world privileged and royal. That doesn't exactly describe Jeanie Buss. She was teenager when her father, Jerry Buss, bought the Los Angeles Lakers. After he died, Jeanie stepped into the job of president, overseeing the business side (her brother Jim handles the team). The purple-and-gold glamour of the Lakers draws more Web traffic and international fans than any other team in the NBA, as does its impressive list of wins and records. The terrible season this year is just a blip on that record, she promises; for the Lakers, it'll always be Showtime.

  • Michael McFaul — an eye on Russia

    March 26, 2014

    Michael McFaul was a scholar from Montana when he made his first trip to the West's Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union. Thirty years later, he was President Obama's chief Russia expert, then the United States ambassador in Moscow. He left the ambassadorship last month, after two years in the job, to return to teaching at Stanford University, his alma mater. In 1994, after a neo-fascist Russian figure denounced him, someone shot a bullet through his Palo Alto office window. Now the architect of Obama's 2009 "reset" watches from a virtual window as Russia is once again on the outs with the West.

  • Trial by fire for L.A.'s 'interim' fire chief

    March 18, 2014

    His first day on his new job was the day of the LAX shooting, and it's been lights and sirens ever since. James G. Featherstone, Los Angeles' interim fire chief, hasn't unpacked his books or hung framed inspirational works like a Frederic Remington print accompanied by a quote from retired Gen. David H. Petraeus about being "comfortable with semi-chaotic situations." Featherstone, who retired after 22 years as a city firefighter, was heading the city's Emergency Management Department when Mayor Eric Garcetti summoned him back to manage his old team. He'll need all the inspiration he can get to lead a department that a city commissioned study says is in need of a total makeover.

  • Andre Birotte Jr., driven by justice

    March 12, 2014

    At the top of the big whiteboard in his office, Andre Birotte Jr. has written "BHAGS," by which he means his aspirations as U.S. attorney for seven Southern California counties: "big hairy audacious goals." He's already hit some audacious personal goals, this son of Haitian immigrants. He's made his way from the L.A. public defender's office to inspector general of the Los Angeles Police Department to private practice, and, since 2010, to chief of the most populous U.S. attorney's district in the nation. Among those BHAGS? Outreach, and a justice-driven department. Maybe the federal indictments of 20 L.A. County sheriff's deputies on civil rights charges are a sample.

  • Toni Atkins, the Assembly's speaker to be

    March 5, 2014

    It's not like the days when a Willie Brown or a Jesse Unruh could all but take out a lease on the Assembly speaker's offices in Sacramento. Term limits mean Toni Atkins will have to vacate the premises not much more than two years after she takes over the gavel in June as the Assembly's next speaker. But she's nothing if not prepared. Starting in 2000, she served eight years as a popular San Diego City Council member, and in 2005, became the city's acting mayor after the incumbent resigned. Atkins was elected to the Assembly in 2010 and reelected in 2012. Now she'll fill one slot in the state's "Big Five" leadership conclaves in the state Capitol.

  • Ron Unz, a mo' money man on the minimum wage

    February 26, 2014

    Ron Unz knows his way around the California ballot. He ran for governor against Pete Wilson in the GOP primary 20 years ago. He lost big, but four years later he won with his Proposition 227, which altered California schools by effectively ending bilingual education and mainstreaming Spanish-speaking students. The sometimes conservative, sometimes libertarian Republican entrepreneur-turned-activist is going back to the ballot, collecting signatures for an initiative to raise the state's minimum wage to $12. It may seem counterintuitive but Unz contends it's an idea that's as conservative as they come.

  • Jay Famiglietti's mission: to rescue us from our bad water habits

    February 19, 2014

    If there are stars among the state's water experts, Jay Famiglietti is one, with titles too long for a marquee: a UC Irvine professor of earth system science and head of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling, and a new member of the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board among them. He'd like to rescue us from our bad H2O habits before the last reel, which is why he's laying out our thirsty realities in places like the 2011 documentary, "Last Call at the Oasis," and right here.

  • John L. Scott, L.A. County's new sheriff, and his to-do list

    February 12, 2014

    I overheard this outside the L.A. County sheriff's headquarters in Monterey Park. "So, how's he doing?"

  • Alyssa Milano, media actorvist

    February 5, 2014

    When you've been working since you were 8, as Alyssa Milano has, it takes a special kind of role to get you really excited. Using your birthday to raise money for clean water in Ethiopia, for instance. Or hunkering down with the beleaguered in Kosovo and Angola, as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. Or getting help for African women and children with AIDS. Or her latest — creating "Hacktivist," a four-issue graphic novel/comic book whose heroes run a world-beating social media company by day and practice world-beating social activism by night. The star of TV's "Charmed" and "Who's the Boss?" has a lot to say, in 140 characters or more.

  • California Rep. George Miller, a D.C. insider who's bowing out

    January 29, 2014

    The month that a TV game show called "Wheel of Fortune" made its debut, a 29-year-old Californian named George Miller was taking his new seat in Congress. Both the show and the congressman are still around, but Miller has decided that he's taken his final spin in electoral politics and will be retiring this year from his seat in the 11th Congressional District in Northern California. He is among Congress' remaining handful of "Watergate babies," Democrats elected in the wake of the Nixon political scandal. Miller's father was a Democratic state senator, and Miller ran to succeed him but lost. It was the only time he lost. After Miller won a congressional seat in 1974, he was reelected 18 times. He's familiar to C-SPAN viewers as a ferocious advocate of better education. Over the years, the most visible change has been his hair and famous mustache morphing from dark to white.

  • Anita L. DeFrantz, America's powerful Olympic presence

    January 14, 2014

    Anita L. DeFrantz has her bags packed for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia — but heck, she's had her bags packed for athletic events around the world for the last 40 years, as a competitor and as a member of the International Olympic Committee (currently on the executive board) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (board member). DeFrantz was a bronze medalist in the first Olympics that allowed female rowers, in 1976. In her "free" time, she heads the LA84 Foundation, a legacy of L.A.'s 1984 Olympic Games that has brought sports opportunities to more than 2 million children. The executive who's been called the most powerful woman in sports has a few thoughts before dashing off to Sochi.

  • Gina Marie Lindsey: She's piloting LAX into the 21st century

    December 25, 2013

    Don't think that Gina Marie Lindsey is up in an ivory control tower. This week, the executive director of Los Angeles World Airports will be joining an estimated 2.6 million passengers in the Christmas/New Year's scrum at LAX, on her own holiday travels. In 2007, the woman who once ran Seattle's airport was appointed to run L.A.'s by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. In October, Mayor Eric Garcetti decided to keep Lindsey on to, in her words, "continue to push this" — Los Angeles International Airport — forward."

  • Michelle Mowery: She's mapping out L.A.'s cycling plan

    December 17, 2013

    If you're expecting a new bicycle alongside the Christmas tree, or just rolling out your old one, Michelle Mowery is on your side of the street. The city of four wheels is turning a corner on two wheels. Nearly 350 miles of new bike lanes, out of a planned 1,684, have opened to bicyclists. Mowery has spent two decades in the city's Department of Transportation as senior bicycle coordinator, and she's finally finding critical mass and critical money for L.A.'s bike plan. She knows there's an information gap about the laws, and a culture clash, but a bike-culture shift, she believes, will be the saving of L.A., from the obesity epidemic to the daily commute — including hers, from Long Beach to downtown.

  • Benedikt Taschen -- how to sell books in L.A.

    December 11, 2013

    It's not just a brand name on a big fancy book. "Taschen" is a man, Benedikt Taschen, who started his publishing empire with a comic-book shop leveraged with a stock of remaindered art books. The firm is headquartered in Germany, but when he's in Los Angeles, his landing pad is the Chemosphere, the John Lautner flying-saucer-on-a-hillside. Taschen just released a three-volume collaboration with National Geographic ("Around the World in 125 Years"), and it's clear from the myriad images at his desk that Taschen cast his eye, and his approval, over what's in those books and so many others.

  • Mark Kleiman, pot's go-to guy

    December 4, 2013

    Come New Year's Day, in Washington state and Colorado, marijuana will be legit, courtesy of two ballot initiatives. How do you create a legal business out of an illegal one? After 13 years of Prohibition, the country at least had an earlier legal liquor market to refer to. That's where Mark Kleiman comes in, the go-to expert on these matters. A UCLA professor of public policy and author and coauthor of books like "Marijuana Legalization," he's heard all the jokes about "hemperor" and "your serene high-ness." He was consulted by Washington state's liquor control board, which has to come up with the nuts and bolts for the new law and which asked him for, well, the straight dope.

  • Peter V. Lee, Obamacare's California savior?

    November 27, 2013

    By the numbers, Peter V. Lee has some reason to crow while the feds are eating crow. The executive director of Covered California can be pleased that, as of mid-November, nearly a third of all Americans who signed up under the new healthcare law were Californians. But it's not over yet: The state's success with the young and with Latinos is not a slam dunk. As California goes, so goes this national experiment, most experts say. But Lee, whose last job was working for Medicare and Medicaid in D.C., doesn't seem to be feeling the pressure.

  • Drew Altman, Obamacare's ref

    November 19, 2013

    He might have become a doctor like his father, but a grad school (Harvard) summer job researching health policy changed all that. Now as the head of the Kaiser Family Foundation, Drew Altman deals not with lab numbers for a few patients but with healthcare data for millions. For years he headed up state and federal programs on welfare reform, homelessness and Medicaid. Since 1991, he's shaped the Menlo Park-based foundation as "a trusted source of information in a healthcare world dominated by vested interests." With Obamacare stumbling out of the gate, the foundation has been marshaling its data on behalf of consumers and providers to clear the fog of policy.

  • Paul Rusesabagina, Rwanda's hotel hero

    November 13, 2013

    Most bio-pics are made about somebodies — warriors, kings, artists. This was a bio-pic about a nobody who became a somebody during the Rwandan genocide, a bloody crossroads for a country with deep-seated ethnic frictions. In April 1994, Paul Rusesabagina was brevetted as general manager of the luxury hotel where he worked, and where more than 1,000 people had fled from the killing rampage. For more than two months, he managed to protect them from being slaughtered. Ten years later, the world saw "Hotel Rwanda." Today, there is no love lost between Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Rusesabagina, who lives in San Antonio and travels to lecture about human rights, as he did in Los Angeles not long ago.

  • Carol Schatz, a force for downtown L.A.

    November 6, 2013

    Downtown L.A. — it's not a punchline anymore; it's a destination. It's vital in a way it hasn't been since the 1940s, and hip in a way it never was to begin with. Carol Schatz, president and CEO of the Central City Assn. of Los Angeles, has pushed and prodded the makeover, wielding what the CCA calls L.A.'s most powerful Rolodex. It hasn't been friction-free. Now, in the conflict over homeless people living on downtown streets, Schatz is the voice of the CCA's business leaders, and the face of the enemy for some homeless advocacy groups.

  • Ann Ravel, California's -- and now D.C.'s -- pol monitor

    October 29, 2013

    When the sky became the limit for most political spending after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, the skywatchers like Ann Ravel had to readjust their telescopes. As head of California's Fair Political Practices Commission, she policed the money spent on candidates and initiatives, like a last-minute $11 million that showed up late in the game in 2012 from a shadowy Arizona nonprofit. Last week, the FPPC levied $16 million in penalties on "dark money" players — including that Arizona group — that circumvented state reporting rules. Ravel will no doubt be meeting their like again as the newest member of the Federal Election Commission, which is evenly divided, by design, between Republicans and Democrats. She doesn't intend for that to mean stalemate.

  • A. Scott Berg defines Woodrow Wilson

    October 23, 2013

    A. Scott Berg didn't enroll at Princeton until almost 100 years after Woodrow Wilson did. But by now, Berg is well acquainted with the man who led the nation into World War I and promoted (but couldn't get the U.S. to join) a League of Nations to help end all wars. "Wilson" is the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer's most ambitious book. From his Hollywood Hills home, Berg (holding a tiger-handled umbrella in honor of the Princeton mascot) is a one-man band of research and writing, and never more intensely than in unveiling the game-changing 28th president of the United States.

  • Derek Ouyang, home improver with a green goal

    October 16, 2013

    Welcome to the really, really green 'hood — 20 demonstration houses in Irvine's Great Park. Irvine is the cradle of the designed neighborhood, but not like this. These homes were designed and built to compete in the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon, which ended Sunday. The 20 teams came from universities around the world. Stanford's, which placed a respectable fifth, was led by Derek Ouyang, who grew up in Arcadia and is now a newly minted graduate with a double major in architectural design and civil and environmental engineering. The team's idea was an accessible, technologically alert house that puts the power to save power in the hands of the people who live in it.

  • Jon Christensen, the man behind Boom: A Journal of California

    October 8, 2013

    A hundred years ago, California yanked a water-engineering wonder out of a desert, so why can't we conjure a thoughtful ink-and-paper magazine out of the era of digital publishing? The watery miracle worker was William Mulholland, whose spectacular and politically divisive Los Angeles Aqueduct opened Nov. 5, 1913, and the magazine is the redesigned Boom: A Journal of California, a UC Press quarterly that takes the aqueduct centenary as the theme for its relaunch issue. Its editor is a veteran science journalist named Jon Christensen, who also teaches history at UCLA, and he hopes that Boom's Oct. 24 reboot party in downtown Los Angeles will set the pace for taking conversations beyond the page and to the California people who are its subjects.

  • L.A.'s new coroner to the people

    October 2, 2013

    Mark Fajardo's first weeks in the very public job of Los Angeles County coroner coincided with the deaths of two TV actors — one from "That '70s Show" and another from "Rizzoli & Isles" — and the toxicology report from the car-crash death of journalist Michael Hastings. Even without such high-profile passings, the coroner's office would be in the spotlight. It investigates more than 10,000 cases a year — homicides, unexplained deaths, traumatic deaths, suicides — and performs 5,500 autopsies. Since August, Fajardo has been the doctor responsible to L.A.'s living for L.A.'s dead.

  • Steve Soboroff, citizens' voice on the LAPD

    September 25, 2013

    Steve Soboroff has rounded the bases in L.A. government, from the Harbor Commission to rec and parks, even a run for mayor. He's "Uncle Steve," the booster who practically drove the Endeavour space shuttle to its new home, a businessman who drove the Playa Vista development, chairman of the Weingart Foundation, a Big Brother. Now he's the top man at the L.A. Police Commission, perhaps the most scrutinized of city panels, "the citizens' voice" on policing matters, as its website pledges, tasked to work with and sometimes stand up to the LAPD. Apart from the LAPD wristbands he's handing out far and wide, his first project is lapel video cameras for cops because, in police work, as in so many things, seeing is believing.

  • For 'Buck' McKeon, it's Syria or the sequester

    September 18, 2013

    To strike Syria or not — for Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), that wasn't exactly the question. In the Wall Street Journal, he said he couldn't even consider U.S. military intervention unless the military budget was liberated from the sequester. McKeon has represented his rock-ribbed GOP district, in north L.A. County and Ventura County, since 1993. His campaigns have benefited from the district's aerospace and defense industries. He chairs the Armed Services Committee. And the nascent diplomatic deal to "sequester" Bashar Assad's chemical weapons? It doesn't change his point: More bucks for U.S. bang.

  • Gloria Allred, Bob Filner's nemesis

    September 3, 2013

    She sent San Diego's departing Mayor Bob Filner some resignation "gifts" last week, among them a mirror, so he could see who was to blame for his downfall. This sort of made-for-TV event has been S.O.P. for lawyer Gloria Allred for more than 30 years. She's battled the Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Donald Trump and California's same-sex marriage ban. She's extended her brand with radio and TV shows and a book. She's lionized in the LGBT world for her intensity and ferocity, the same qualities that have made her name an eye-roller among those who aren't admirers. Ask her if she cares.

  • Jesse Lee Peterson, tea'd off in South L.A.

    August 14, 2013

    It's not a typo: The South Central L.A. Tea Party exists, and Jesse Lee Peterson takes a bow for founding it. He's also president and founder of the 23-year-old black bootstraps group Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, or BOND, and serves as pastor for a nondenominational congregation at its headquarters. As his public pronouncements make clear, he detests Planned Parenthood and legal abortion, welfare and the California-born black holiday Kwanzaa. He used to hold a "national day of repudiation" against Jesse Jackson; he has his doubts about women in high places. He is in demand as a black voice in conservative media, and his voice was still a little scratchy back home in L.A. after yet another speaking gig in the East.

  • The Exploratorium's STEM seller

    August 7, 2013

    Americans love the fruits of science, but the rigors it takes to grow them — that's another matter. A full-court press for more STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — students and teachers is still coming up short. Since 1969, the groundbreaking Exploratorium in San Francisco has made a highly successful case for hands-on science learning. Its new $300-million bayside quarters opened a few months ago, and its executive director (and resident STEM education expert), Dennis Bartels, is experimenter-in-chief, charged with making science teachable, visible, accessible and gee-whiz fun.

  • Brenda E. Stevenson, writer of wrongs

    July 31, 2013

    Historian Brenda E. Stevenson (pictured in her UCLA office, with an African sculpture) mostly writes about the long-gone — 18th and 19th century African Americans, and the lives of enslaved women. Then came the case that made history while L.A. watched: Korean-born shopkeeper Soon Ja Du killed black teenager Latasha Harlins over a bottle of orange juice. A jury convicted Du of voluntary manslaughter, but she was sentenced only to probation and community service.

  • Mike Feuer, L.A. lawman

    July 24, 2013

    A dozen years after he left the Los Angeles City Council, Mike Feuer is back in L.A.'s civic life, this time in City Hall East, as the newly elected city attorney. His several careers are all of a piece: running the low-income legal service group Bet Tzedek; half a dozen years in the Assembly, where he made his mark as a forceful and adroit legislator. His wife is a judge, his two kids are Yalies — he's a Harvard Law grad — and his politics are personal.

  • 'Fruitvale Station's' Ryan Coogler, the message maker

    July 17, 2013

    The California kid whose first full-length feature film wowed the judges at Sundance and Cannes this year is now showing it off to the world. "Fruitvale Station," about Oscar Grant, the young black man shot and killed by a transit police officer in Oakland on New Year's Day 2009, opens nationwide a week from Friday. Ryan Coogler has been moonlighting as a youth counselor at San Francisco's Juvenile Justice Center (where his dad works), but now his time is at a premium. Coogler's path from football star to filmmaker has people not only talking about his Oscar Grant film but about Oscar, period.

  • Joel Wachs -- L.A. roots but a New Yorker now

    July 9, 2013

    Joel Wachs hasn't been an Angeleno for a dozen years, but he still has his key to the city. And he feels its political tremors. L.A., where he made his political bones on the City Council, has just sworn in a new mayor — a brass ring he tried three times to grab. Only three other men served longer on the City Council than Wachs, but after 30 years as that rare political creature — a social liberal and fiscal conservative — he moved east in 2001, to head the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The man who once set aside a third of his city salary for art now dispenses millions in grants — some of them to the city he once served.

  • Chad Griffin and the fight against Prop. 8

    July 3, 2013

    He cut his teeth in the Clinton White House and on California issues: the campaign to save Ahmanson Ranch, the fight for an oil extraction tax and funding for stem cell research. He raised money to elect Barack Obama. And then came Proposition 8. Chad Griffin, political consultant, PR sachem and, lately, head of the Human Rights Campaign, orchestrated the legal battle to get it tossed out. A week ago his side — and, to his mind, the American principle of equality — won in the Supreme Court. As the language has morphed from "gay marriage" to "same-sex marriage" to "marriage equality," so has the public sensibility — and Griffin's skill at anticipating and tapping into it.

  • Evgeny Morozov, Internet Cassandra

    June 19, 2013

    In less than a human lifetime, we've come to regard the Internet as an end unto itself, bigger than any of us, even its creators. This makes Evgeny Morozov uneasy, worried that we've opened the gates to a techno-Trojan horse. The Belarus-born cage-rattler just wrapped up two years as a visiting scholar at Stanford, in the belly of the beast, and his new book, "To Save Everything, Click Here," asks us to question the Internet's authority to challenge authority, and our willingness to endow it with virtues and powers beyond our own.

  • Floyd Abrams, America's free speaker

    June 12, 2013

    Where there's smoke arising from a free-speech matter, you're likely to find the fiery attorney Floyd Abrams. He's blazed a trail for freedom of the press from the Pentagon Papers case to protecting reporters' sources. He's just as incendiary when he's fighting forced warning labels on cigarettes and championing the Citizens United court decision. Abrams' memoir, "Friend of the Court," arrives as news media and government are again at loggerheads over reporters' phone records and revelations-by-leak of widespread domestic surveillance — all burning issues for him.

  • Brian D'Arcy, DWP union's power guy

    June 5, 2013

    Sometimes L.A. politics seem like patty-cake, but when Brian D'Arcy gets in the game, the game gets serious. He's a third-generation union man, and the union he heads, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, is the DWP's biggest and a huge player at City Hall. In some quarters, the IBEW's DWP contracts — worth as much as six figures — are a symbol of overweening union power. The political action committee he co-chairs and the IBEW supports, Working Californians, cobbled together the largest amount spent on behalf of Wendy Greuel's mayoral bid, about $4 million. The IBEW isn't crying "uncle." D'Arcy has zest for the fray and one gear: forward.

  • Alan Trounson, California's Dr. Stem Cell

    May 29, 2013

    In 2004, with President George W. Bush dead set against stem cell research, California just went ahead and did it. Voters made stem cell research a state constitutional right, and endorsed $3 billion in bond sales for 10 years to cement the deal. CIRM, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine created under Proposition 71, has become a world center for stem cell research, and its president is Australian Alan Trounson, a pioneer in in vitro fertilization. As Proposition 71 approaches its 10-year anniversary, Trounson offers a prognosis.

  • Jonathan Fielding, the public's MD

    May 15, 2013

    If you've got your health, the cliche goes, you've got just about everything. If you've got public health duties, you're responsible for just about everything from mosquitoes (West Nile carriers) to hygiene (wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice). Dr. Jonathan Fielding heads L.A. County's Department of Public Health, which is bigger than some states' health departments. A pediatrician by training and the head of the county's health programs since 1998, Fielding is such a believer that he and his wife, Karin, turned savvy investments into a $50-million gift last year to UCLA's School of Public Health. Here he takes the temperature of the medical and political aspects of his work.

  • Ruben Barrales, party guy

    May 8, 2013

    When President Obama told students in Mexico that without the support of U.S. Latinos he would not be president, he wasn't talking about the GOP's Ruben Barrales. But Barrales gets the message. He is the son of immigrants, and San Mateo County's first Latino supervisor. Mexico gave him its Ohtli medal, for his work on behalf of Mexican Americans. Once a Democrat, he went to work in the George W. Bush White House and ran San Diego's regional chamber of commerce. His principal task now, as head of GROW Elect, is cultivating Latino Republican elected officials in California, not exactly fertile soil for the GOP of late. He has his ideas why, and what to do about it.

  • Isabel Allende, a life of letters

    May 1, 2013

    Somewhere between her Chilean family's life-or-death political realities and its intuitive, fantastical imagination is where Isabel Allende writes. Where she lives is the Bay Area, arriving in California about 25 years ago with a famous surname she's gone on to burnish, novel by novel. As perhaps befits an emigre author, Allende's books are routinely translated into two dozen languages. Here she muses in English about what the future of the written word holds for authors like her, and for the readers who love them.

  • Elie Wiesel, history's witness

    April 23, 2013

    It was a fine April day last week that found Elie Wiesel at Chapman University; it was a fine April day too, 58 years earlier, when the gaunt, teenage Wiesel found himself alive and suddenly free to walk out of the Buchenwald concentration camp. In the decades since, Wiesel's impassioned writing and speaking have won him a Nobel Peace Prize, and a large place in the public intellectual discourse about the Holocaust and the human condition. They have also brought him to Chapman each spring for the last three years as a distinguished presidential fellow, meeting with students and faculty to keep the significance of the Holocaust green in their minds.

  • Quentin Kopp, no longer on board this bullet train

    April 16, 2013

    There's a short piece of Bay Area freeway, Interstate 380, named for Quentin Kopp, which is ironic considering that he's beaten the drum for public transit — specifically bullet trains — for years. But then again, he's always been a contrarian, as a Superior Court judge, a San Francisco supervisor and a state senator. He also headed the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The man nicknamed the "Great Dissenter" is dissenting now over the course of his beloved bullet train, created on paper in 2008 with a bond measure, Proposition 1A. Its prospects have been slowed considerably by lawsuits, the latest from the state itself, a preemptive bring-it-on legal action called High-Speed Rail Authority vs. All Persons Interested. Kopp is among the very interested, and the not very happy.

  • Dodger great Carl Erskine: Pitching equality

    April 9, 2013

    Jackie Robinson changed baseball and the nation that loves it on April 15, 1947, when he became the first black player to walk onto a major league ball field. He changed Carl Erskine's life in March 1948, when Robinson, by then a Brooklyn Dodgers star, sought out the minor leaguer after watching him pitch and told him, "You're going to be with us real soon!" And so he was — they were teammates through much of he Dodgers' legendary 1950s. The Robinson biopic "42" is mostly about matters that happened before they met, but Erskine knows what happened afterward: He pitched and won the first Dodger game in L.A., retired in 1959 to his hometown in Indiana, and watched the nation gradually understand the life lessons he later wrote about in "What I Learned from Jackie Robinson."

  • The new head of the county's troubled jail system discusses reform.

    April 3, 2013

    The Los Angeles County jail system is, in a way, two systems. There's the one Sheriff Lee Baca says he yearns for, a place where you do your time but also get help, a place enriched with educational and mental health programs. And there's the one under scrutiny by the FBI, a federal grand jury and others over allegations of brutality and mismanagement. Terri McDonald is now in charge of them both. After a quarter-century in the state prisons, from prison guard to manager of the massive "realignment" of prisoners, McDonald will be opening the investigatory and disciplinary books on the jail, with an eye to realigning it.

  • Megan P. Tatu, a good soldier

    March 27, 2013

    Soldier, Megan P. Tatu has your back. And just about anything else you might need. The two-star Army Reserve general has just taken charge of the 79th Sustainment Support Command, the modern iteration of an Army logistics branch that is a year older than the Declaration of Independence. The 79th is headquartered in Los Alamitos, not far from Tatu's Laguna Niguel home. Reservists are part-timers who, as Tatu says, give taxpayers 19% of the Army's strength for 4% of its budget. She's the highest-ranking woman commander in the reserves on the West Coast, at a moment when women in the military is a trending topic.

  • The Magic Castle's Milt Larsen: Why humans need magic

    March 20, 2013

    Milt Larsen is a master of two kinds of magic. There's the abracadabra kind that his magician parents brought him up on, and the sort he began practicing with his late brother, Bill — the magic of preserving buildings, including the Variety Arts Theater downtown and the Mayfair Music Hall in Santa Monica. The capper is the Magic Castle. Here, 50 years ago, the Larsens — presto-changeo — turned a banker's home into a members-only clubhouse for grown-up magicians and their fans. Larsen has three cable radio shows (old comedy and even older music), but his passion for magic has made his Castle his home.

  • Bill Rosendahl, happy warrior

    March 6, 2013

    Robert Kennedy was a young Bill Rosendahl's hope for the White House, but Kennedy's rival, Hubert Humphrey, practiced the "happy warrior" style of politics that represents the principles Rosendahl has embraced. As he leaves the Los Angeles City Council after two terms, his eight years in office (and a diagnosis of cancer, now in remission) have not extinguished Rosendahl's cheerfulness, but they have given his warrior side an instruction booklet.

  • L.A.'s mayors: A cast of characters

    March 3, 2013

    One was nicknamed "Pinky," for rather obscure reasons. Another, for lamentably obvious ones, was known as "Horse Face," and the military buddies of a third called him "Old Chubby Cheeks."

  • LAPD Chief Charlie Beck's side

    February 27, 2013

    In the three-plus years since Charlie Beck put on the chief's badge at the LAPD, his goal has been to consolidate a modern, multiethnic, publicly responsible 10,000-officer department, as envisioned in the rattling reforms of 15 and 20 years ago. The chief's recent trial by fire was about one ex-probationary cop named Christopher Dorner and the manhunt that ended in Dorner's death, consumed millions in law enforcement dollars and ate up, for the moment at least, some fraction of the goodwill the LAPD has been working to bank. With investigations launched into Dorner's claims and the LAPD's use of force, Beck sizes up the fallout so far.

  • Dan Goods, JPL's science seer

    February 20, 2013

    When artist Dan Goods arrived at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, they gave him a six-month shot. In May, he'll have been there 10 years as JPL's "visual strategist." He glued soda bottles to the roof of his Taurus to create music on an m.p.h. pipe organ. At JPL, his "Out There" sign (recycled computer-box parts) conjures the infinite in a meeting space and plaster hands he installed in the library hold curious objects. He once drilled a hole through a grain of sand to demonstrate the size of our galaxy, and then put that grain of sand in six rooms of sand that represent the universe. Anything to make abstract science into something you can see.

  • Susan Love, doctor/patient

    February 13, 2013

    And now, she is the patient. For decades, as a surgeon, researcher, professor and medical celebrity of sorts, Susan Love has led the charge against breast cancer and for women's health. She served on President Clinton's cancer advisory board. She set up a research foundation. Her book on breast cancer is on the short shelf for clinicians and counselors. And last June, when, like so many women, she was feeling and doing fine, the diagnosis came. Except it wasn't breast cancer but leukemia. The woman who has battled one kind of cancer on behalf of millions of women finds herself fighting another kind, on her own

  • Al Gore, still energized

    February 6, 2013

    Al Gore hails from Tennessee, but when he comes to California next week, he'll be coming back to his spiritual home. In 2000, Californians gave him a double-digit lead — 1.3 million votes — over George W. Bush for president. His documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," won an Oscar. California's GOP governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed the nation's most groundbreaking greenhouse-gases law. Californians buy the Prius; the rest of the country buys Ford trucks. Gore arrives amid the hoo-hah over the half-billion-dollar sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera, and touting a hefty new book magisterially titled "The Future." He must think that California, of all places, is ready for it.

  • Richard M. Walden, Operation USA's charity buccaneer

    January 30, 2013

    Almost on impulse, almost 35 years ago, Richard M. Walden and a friend rounded up six tons of relief supplies and a jet to ferry them to Vietnamese boat people in Malaysia. Thus was Operation California — now Operation USA — born. A Times headline soon called him the "charity buccaneer," a red-tape-slashing contrarian who fretted about the "international web of neglect," and who still has sharp words for relief efforts unmet and relief agencies that don't measure up. He has steadfast celebrity supporters, like Julie Andrews, but the advent of social media that let anyone text a few bucks to Lady Gaga's favorite charity in the middle of a concert has made things harder for brick-and-mortar charities like Operation USA. Walden soldiers on, boldly going where too many charity-come-latelies can only try to go.

  • Rep. Raul Ruiz, an Rx for D.C.

    January 23, 2013

    You'd almost think that someone had stapled several

  • Jackie Lacey, for the prosecution

    January 16, 2013

    It's a tidy coincidence that Jackie Lacey, newly elected as Los Angeles County's first female and first African American district attorney, is a graduate of the city's Susan Miller Dorsey High School, named for L.A.'s first female schools superintendent. Lacey was sworn in in December, and she's now ensconced in the D.A.'s offices on the criminal courthouse's 18th floor, where her picture will join those of 160 years' worth of white men who've held the title, among them Gen. George S. Patton's father. Her predecessor, Steve Cooley, stocked the bookcases with volumes by his friend, crime novelist James Ellroy. Lacey's books run to leadership, like one she's assigned to her new team, "Death by Meeting." She wears a black-and-white beaded bracelet spelling out WWJD. Tweaked a little, it's what L.A. wants to know about its new D.A.: What will Jackie do?

  • The Rose Parade grows up

    January 1, 2013

    It's just a parade, after all, a once-a-year parade, so in the grand scheme of things, the Tournament of Roses Parade doesn't matter — until it does. And it does.

  • Johnathan Franklin, UCLA's running man

    December 26, 2012

    Johnathan Franklin has gone through a lot of nicknames. There's "Jet Ski" for his speed in his Pop Warner football days, and "Hollywood" for his season-two gig on the reality show "Baldwin Hills." The latest handle for the UCLA star is "Mayor," because that's what he wants to be one day — the mayor of Los Angeles. The running back who's broken rushing records when he's on the field has cajoled his teammates into registering to vote when he's in the locker room. He plans to get to his personal goals the way he gets to the goal line: with focus. His last chance to apply that in a Bruins uniform comes Thursday in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

  • Eloise Klein Healy, L.A.'s first poet laureate

    December 12, 2012

    It's a match made in heaven — or heav'n, as a poet might write. Eloise Klein Healy and the city of Los Angeles share a birthday, Sept. 4, and now, for a couple of years, they'll officially share a future. Healy has been named the city's first poet laureate, tasked with writing for big occasions and with making poetry a public matter. She's a Valley gal, to wit, Sherman Oaks, with her partner, Colleen Rooney, and their Portuguese water dog, Nikita. The founder of the MFA program at Antioch University, she has foraged deeply for poetic material in the city's weave of cultures and freeways. Her next collection, "A Wild Surmise," comes out in March.

  • Tara Kolla, L.A's down-to-earth urban farmer

    November 21, 2012

    Tara Kolla was born in Inglewood but grew up in Europe. She came back to Los Angeles, to a half-acre Silver Lake plot, where she decided to try her hand at "urban farming." Her neighbors objected, so now she mostly works other people's land, and works to further the cause. We met in Hidden Canyon, the aptly named acres in Glassell Park whose owners invited Kolla to cultivate and grow market flowers. Here are rows and beds of hyssop, black-eyed Susans, honeywort, zinnias, mums and ornamental cotton flowers. I plucked a boll of what I'll call "Glassell Park long staple." Because of people like Kolla, laws have changed to permit farming, of a sort, all around town. What was once the single most profitable agricultural county in the nation may just be coming back, one urban plot at a time.

  • Alvin Roth, Nobel matchmaker

    November 13, 2012

    Alvin Roth earned his 2012 Nobel Prize in economics for market design and matching theory — creating ways to pair "buyers" and "sellers" happily and fairly when price isn't a primary consideration. For instance? Kidney exchanges, in which cost can't legally play a role but donors and recipients with just the right assets and needs still must find each other. Roth's algorithms can be used to make good matches in even the thorniest situations: bringing the lovelorn together with potential mates, and bringing together the right charter and public schools with the right students.

  • Sheila Krumholz -- she follows the money

    November 6, 2012

    It was a California politico, Jesse Unruh, who nailed the relationship between dough and democracy: "Money is the mother's milk of politics." Where does it come from, and where does it go? Sheila Krumholz makes it her business to tell us. As executive director of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, she monitors the witches' brew of federal lobbying and loot at which names donors and tracks categories like earmarks, interest groups, even contributions by ZIP Code. Just before election day, she talked about this year's political cash cows, and the 20-plus years she's spent following the Watergate admonition to follow the money.

  • Mac Taylor, California's prop master

    October 31, 2012

    Whoever it was who coined "Lies, damn lies and statistics" didn't trust numbers. You won't find Mac Taylor subscribing to that. He's the state legislative analyst; his name is there in your ballot pamphlet as the source of independent information about ballot measures and their potential cost to taxpayers. He's had the top job in that office for four years, but the California native joined the effort, fresh from Princeton with a master's degree in public affairs, the same year Jerry Brown was elected governor — the first time. He presides over the fiscal Google of Sacramento, a calm think tank in the shark tank of the Legislature's partisan passions.

  • Douglas Kmiec on keeping the faith

    October 24, 2012

    Talk about tests of faith. Douglas Kmiec is an influential Roman Catholic scholar, a veteran of Ronald Reagan's Justice Department and a Pepperdine University constitutional law professor. What he's gone through in the last handful of years, he sums up pretty well with the title of his latest book, "Lift Up Your Hearts: A true story of loving your enemies, tragically killing your friends, and the life that remains.'' His interfaith work earned him President Obama's appointment as ambassador to Malta. During his tour, he engineered the seagoing escape from Libya of Americans in February 2011 as civil war erupted, but he was criticized over his interfaith advocacy — and eventually resigned. Last month's killings in Benghazi have made Kmiec think more deeply about religion, politics and his own mission.

  • Linda Dishman -- preserving L.A., a building at a time

    October 17, 2012

    Been to a concert at the Wiltern? Toured downtown's movie palaces? Love the Central Library? You can thank the Los Angeles Conservancy that they're still here. And for 20 of the conservancy's 34 years, Linda Dishman has been its executive director, fighting the wrecking ball and trying to keep historic buildings from being threatened in the first place. The organization's nearly 7,000 members make it the biggest local preservation group in the country, and proof that Angelenos see plenty worth preserving in what people too often think of as a tear-down city.

  • An exit interview with Rep. David Dreier

    October 10, 2012

    David Dreier was 26, still living in a dorm at Claremont McKenna College and working as a college administrator, when he ran for Congress the first time, in 1978. He lost then but never thereafter. Sixteen times, Dreier was elected to the House of Representatives from a San Gabriel Valley/San Bernardino County district. He became the youngest-ever chairman of the Rules Committee, mastering the machinery of the House. But in February, he announced he would not seek reelection. He leaves behind a sharply redrawn district, and a Congress he insists is not so awfully different from the one he entered more than half his life ago.

  • Salman Rushdie, freedom writer

    October 3, 2012

    In the 1990s, he was the world-famous novelist few people officially laid eyes on. Of Salman Rushdie's dozen-plus novels, it was "The Satanic Verses" (1988) that raised a hue and cry and sent him undercover: Its supposedly sacrilegious portrayal of the prophet Muhammad brought Rushdie a fatwa, a death sentence, from Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (it was lifted in 1998). The writer came to L.A. to accept the Library Foundation of Los Angeles' literary award and to talk about his new memoir of his underground years, "Joseph Anton." He and the book have arrived just as the blowback from "Innocence of Muslims" has caused us all to confront the questions that commandeered a decade of his life.

  • Abderrahim Foukara, Al Jazeera's U.S. translator

    September 26, 2012

    How do you convey to the world the American ideal of free speech or curious turns of phrase like "stump speech" and "gerrymandering"? Abderrahim Foukara does it daily, as Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Washington. I first met the Moroccan-born journalist at the 2008 Republican convention, where he told me that he had explained John McCain as "maverick" to his Arab-language audiences as a bird that flies a distance from the flock. Now, at a parlous moment in the relationship between there and here, I asked the man who reports U.S. thinking to the Arab world to do some illuminating in the other direction.

  • E.O. Wilson -- much more than 'the ant guy'

    September 19, 2012

    Myrmecologist E.O. Wilson had been out "anting" before we talked during the Sun Valley Writers Conference. He found some specimens to send back to Harvard, where he made his reputation researching insect colonies and a lot more, including sociobiology, the study of social organization as an aspect of evolution. One of sociobiology's pillars, "kin selection," explains why organisms sacrifice themselves: to ensure that their family genetic legacy endures. But now Wilson is relishing upsetting the kin selection apple cart with work he says proves that it's not just relatives but groups with other common goals that inspire self-sacrifice, an insight that provides an evolutionary basis for all kinds of human collaboration.

  • The long hike from an Iranian prison to home

    September 12, 2012

    Two years ago, Californian and citizen of the world Sarah Shourd was released from prison in Iran after an intense international campaign to free her. A bit more than a year later, that effort, including pressure from the State Department, Oman (the "Switzerland of the Middle East") and even Iraq and Venezuela, also won the release of Shourd's then-fiance, Shane Bauer, and their friend, Josh Fattal. The three Americans had been hiking in 2009 in Iraqi Kurdistan when they were snatched at the Iranian border and accused of spying. Ever since, in jail and out, they've been in the world's spotlight. They'll tell their story in a book next year — and here, as Shourd marks her second anniversary of freedom.

  • Marcus Allen: An insider's view of football

    September 5, 2012

    The college football season just kicked off, and L.A. still has to cheer for any pro team but its own. Running back Marcus Allen was a standout in college and the pros: a Heisman Trophy winner at USC, then a record-setter with the Kansas City Chiefs after a contentious but stellar stint with the L.A. Raiders, where his clash with team owner Al Davis was as epic as anything on the field. Now he figures large in a new "The Pro Football Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Book," and as a CBS analyst, as well as a man with a lot to say about the state of the game.

  • Antonio Villaraigosa's goals for L.A. and beyond

    August 29, 2012

    In a corny old movie, they'd illustrate this bit with pages flying off a calendar: Antonio Villaraigosa has about 10 months left as mayor of Los Angeles, and although his name is bruited about for higher office, City Hall is where he says wants to be. Not that that will keep him from presiding as chairman of the Democratic convention next week in North Carolina, checking out the competition in Florida this week and campaigning for President Obama. But then it's back to pushing toward the goal line in L.A., on transit, trees, parks, education and now the city's unsettling pension crisis. Tick, tick …

  • Elon Musk of SpaceX: The goal is Mars

    August 1, 2012

    As shipments go, it was routine — about half a ton of supplies — except it was delivered by the first commercial flight to the International Space Station. SpaceX partnered with NASA in this new model, the brainchild of Elon Musk, who's behind Tesla electric cars as well. He left South Africa at 17, earned two U.S. undergraduate degrees and then made serial piles of dough pioneering online payment systems, including the one that became PayPal. Musk's persona inspired aspects of Tony Stark in the"Iron Man," but Musk's aspirations seem more like Buzz Lightyear's — to infinity, and beyond.

  • London calling for Olympian Angela Ruggiero

    July 18, 2012

    Valley native and four-time ice hockey Olympic medalist Angela Ruggiero — one gold, two silvers, one bronze — was elected in 2010 by her fellow Olympians to the Athletes Commission of the International Olympic Committee. She's one of 12 athletes designated to speak for the wrestlers, runners, swimmers, skaters and all the other competitors in the hierarchy that governs the Games. Next week's London Olympics are her first as a member of the IOC, but she's already working far ahead: on the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, on the 2016 youth Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and on her MBA at Harvard, her alma mater. The proponent of women's sports is off the competitive ice but on the larger Olympic team.

  • Vin Scully, pitch perfect for the Dodgers

    July 11, 2012

    Oh, that voice! It comes out of the TV, it comes out of the radio, it comes out of the man sitting across from me in the cafe behind the press box at Dodger Stadium. Courtly and indefatigable, Vin Scully has been calling Dodger games since Harry Truman was president and the Dodgers were suiting up in Brooklyn; he's in his 63rd season of sounding every shade of Dodger Blue. As the team passes midseason, it's time for the voice of Dodger baseball, the man who actually does talk a very good game.

  • Post & Beam's well-seasoned restaurateur, Brad Johnson

    July 4, 2012

    Foodies tend to move like flocks of birds, swarming a chic eatery, and then — swoop — off to the next. One of their newer perches in Los Angeles is in a part of town that hasn't had much of the food spotlight. Post & Beam opened on New Year's Evein Baldwin Hills, an area with as many economic ups and downs as the hills and canyons that give the neighborhood its name. Restaurateur Brad Johnson has cut the ribbon on some flashy restaurants in his native New York and in Los Angeles; now his foray into L.A.'s best-known black middle-class neighborhood gives him food for thought.

  • Walter Mosley, L.A.'s easy writer

    June 27, 2012

    You can take Walter Mosley out of Los Angeles — in fact, Mosley did so himself, moving to New York decades ago — but you can't take L.A. out of Walter Mosley. The master of several genres keeps the city present, from his Easy Rawlins detective novels set in black postwar Los Angeles to the Greek-myths-in-South-Central elements in one of the two novellas in his latest volume. Mosley appeared to wrap it up with Rawlins in "Blonde Faith" in 2007, but five years later, he's found more for his most famous detective to do, just as Mosley has for himself. He has a fledgling production company, B.O.B. (for "Best of Brooklyn") Filmhouse, and still writes with one foot in 212 and another here in 213.

  • Jessica Yu's 'Last Call at the Oasis' made her a water activist

    June 13, 2012

    If you want to say that Jessica Yu burst onto the film scene in 1993 with her short "Sour Death Balls," you'd be almost literally right. The film is almost 10 minutes of people trying to handle the disgusting confection. Yu's work wins accolades, including a short-documentary Oscar for "Breathing Lessons," about a writer who spent most of his life in an iron lung. Now she's brought her California chops to bear on"Last Call at the Oasis," a feature-length documentary on water waste, water quality and water manipulation not just here — where more than half of our drinkable public water goes to water lawns and plants outside our homes — but the whole, not-so-wet world over.

  • Anne Gust Brown: Much more than California's first lady

    June 6, 2012

    Compared to the glamour and swagger of the Schwarzenegger/Shriver years, California's present governor and his wife are a couple of homebodies with a touch of the workaholic. Indeed, some Californians may be surprised to know that Jerry Brown has been married for the last seven years — to a woman he'd dated for 15 more. Anne Gust Brown is a Stanford grad and Bay Area lawyer who spent years as an executive at the Gap before she joined her husband's campaigns and his staff as an unpaid aide, first when he ran for attorney general and now, in his return to the governorship after nearly 30 years. She is often joined at the Capitol offices by the first dog, Sutter the corgi.

  • Michael Dukakis, Prof. Politics

    May 30, 2012

    The man who made his political bones handling Boston's blizzard of 1978 has spent the last 17 winters in the sunshine glow of UCLA. Michael Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor and the 1988 Democratic presidential candidate for president, is a visiting professor at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs, launching young people into the public service careers he endorses so passionately. UCLA is where he staged his last fervent campaign rally the day before he lost toGeorge H.W. Bush; the day after the election, he was back at his governor's desk. As California votes in its primary, Dukakis puts his mind to the Golden State's political workings, and the nature of a presidential campaign.

  • The National Teacher of the Year on what makes a great teacher

    May 16, 2012

    The class clown from Mr. Gadberry's high school art class has made good — and how. Rebecca Mieliwocki teaches seventh-grade English at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank — but not next year. Instead, she'll be on the road as the National Teacher of the Year. It took her a long time to get to the classroom — she once worked as a floral designer, doing the flowers for Elizabeth Taylor's private jet — and eventually to the White House, where a fellow teacher, President Obama, crowned her as a national teaching treasure. Before she takes off, Mieliwocki is speaking at commencement at her teaching alma mater, Cal State Northridge — and right here.

  • Nathan Fletcher, San Diego's renegade ex-Republican

    April 28, 2012

    A computer programmed to design a promising young Republican politician would probably spit out Nathan Fletcher. Marine; Iraq combat veteran in Iraq; smart; athletic; married to a well-situated Republican; two little boys, adopted; two dogs, ditto. Perfect — except now there's no "R" after his name. Fletcher was elected to the state Assembly from San Diego County in 2008, and he is running for San Diego mayor in a nonpartisan race that is nonetheless drawing partisan lightning. Since Fletcher changed his party registration to "decline to state," which got national coverage, polls have him second in the June 5 primary, just behind openly gay Republican council member Carl DeMaio, who won the GOP endorsement over Fletcher. His critics say his party switch is politically calculated; Fletcher says it's just about getting the job done.

  • Reading, no batteries required

    April 22, 2012

    Tenderly, the lover caressed his beloved. So pale, so smooth. He tilted his head forward, the better to inhale that scent — rich and enticing. Fingertip to spine, feeling every contour, he pressed his face closer — and turned a page.

  • Rodney King, 20 years after L.A.'s riots

    April 21, 2012

    In 21 years, his name has appeared in the Los Angeles Times on more than 7,000 occasions. Sometimes it's as himself, Rodney King, the victim of now-fabled LAPD abuse the world got to see, the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit, the hapless guy getting stopped yet again on some speeding or DUI beef, the man on the celebrity rehab show. And sometimes it's as "Rodney King," the accidental symbol and the rallying cry on police abuse issues. Some of the biggest institutions in Southern California — the Los Angeles Police Department, the city itself — were changed because of the beating King took in 1991 and the beating the city took in 1992 in the riots that followed the acquittal of the officers charged in his beating. Has the man himself changed? On the 20th anniversary of the riots, his book, "The Riot Within,"' written with Lawrence J. Spagnola, is letting us, and King himself, find out.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: James Cameron, a man overboard

    April 14, 2012

    The Challenger Deep, a fissure in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, lies farther below the Earth's surface than Mt. Everest reaches above it. And James Cameron, the science-enthralled director and underwater explorer, made it his Lindbergh moment, soloing humankind's deepest-ever plunge last month in a purpose-made submarine fitted out — natch — with 3D cameras. One hundred years ago today, the world's most famous accidental deep dive took the ocean liner Titanic to the bottom of the Atlantic. Cameron made that story into the film "Titanic." I spoke with him just before his epic descent, and asked him to ruminate on the ship that disappeared in 1912 and his own disappearing act into the ocean depths. You know what they say — whatever floats your boat.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Blue blood, Peter O'Malley

    April 7, 2012

    In 1938, after voters recalled L.A.'s crooked mayor, Frank Shaw, it's said that someone planted a sign on the City Hall lawn: "Under new management." The new ownership of the Dodgers needs no sign. The purchase, by a Chicago financial service company at a record price, has been heralded in every way but skywriting.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Jonah Lehrer, brain teaser

    April 1, 2012

    Zombies in movie theaters, zombies on television — a whole lot of us have brains on the brain. And so, in a substantially different way, does Jonah Lehrer. He's put himself at the crossroads of neuroscience and the humanities with books like his first, "Proust Was a Neuroscientist," and other volumes delving into the neuro-mysteries of the way the brain makes decisions and the way creativity works. Here in his native Los Angeles, the second-largest neural mass in the nation, Lehrer applies himself to sorting out the hard-wiring and the software that make up the stuff between our ears.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- still hooked

    March 24, 2012

    Only his number is retired — 33, in the Lakers' purple and gold that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wore to glory on the basketball court. The rest of him is still working away, most recently on his latest book. At UCLA, in blue and gold, Abdul-Jabbar was a standout, an All American and player of the year — and a history major, which has served him well in his literary career. Some of his books have made it to the bestseller list, and this one, "What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors," is a children's volume with adult appeal. But in the midst of March Madness, he's still watching the game he mastered, though two of his favorites are already out: Lehigh and Long Beach.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Carl Guardino, Silicon Valley's big wheel

    March 10, 2012

    The last time I saw Carl Guardino, the head of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, he was in a wheelchair after a biking accident encounter with some skateboarders. The wheelchair is probably the only form of transportation Guardino doesn't like. He was appointed to the state transportation commission by a Republican governor and reappointed by a Democratic one. That pretty much sums up the way SVLG works: It's about policy, not politics, and the issues are broad: from math education to affordable housing to opening a patent office in Santa Clara County. He commutes 32 miles a day by bike — good training for the marathon work of making life more livable for everyone, from waiters to millionaires, in what was once called "the Valley of Heart's Delight."

  • The head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America talks piracy, politics and box office as the Oscars draw near.

    February 25, 2012

    Hollywood loves comeback stories. Will SOPA/PIPA be one of them? The anti-piracy bills that were working their way through Congress with Hollywood's blessing got tanked by a massive online campaign — petitions, website blackouts, even T-shirts. From 1981 until 2010, Christopher J. Dodd was a Democratic senator from Connecticut. A year later, as head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, he was dealing with SOPA/PIPA fallout. Showing up at the Oscars — which he will do — is just the tip of the MPAA job. Dodd has arranged matinees for veterans at MPAA's theater in D.C., worked on film trade matters, and postelection, he'll try out an anti-piracy law sequel. Will it be boffo for all sides?

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Dodgers dugout doc Sue Falsone

    February 18, 2012

    The Dodgers' pitchers and catchers will show up at Camelback Ranch in Arizona in a few days for spring training. And so will Sue Falsone. She won't be in the stands; she'll be in the dugout and the clubhouse, with the guys. She's the Dodgers' new head athletic trainer and physical therapist — and she is the first woman to become head trainer in any of the four major professional sports.

  • Westminster: Malibu's wire fox terrier Eira goes for the double-crown

    February 13, 2012

    I’m a mutt fancier myself -- or "multicultural canines," as my dogs prefer -- but like millions of other lovers of canines of all kinds, I’ll be tuning in Monday to watch the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, the 136th.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Hard lessons with Michelle Rhee

    February 11, 2012

    No one, it seems, is lukewarm about Michelle Rhee; she's a pass-fail figure, inspiring or polarizing.

  • Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee, and all that

    February 5, 2012

    The first Queen Elizabeth was standing under an English oak tree when she learned that she had become queen.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Pocho pundit Lalo Alcaraz

    February 4, 2012

    Every presidential campaign turns out to be a quadrennial godsend for editorial cartoonists, but for Lalo Alcaraz, 2012 is a jubilee year. Herman Cain, chowing down at a Miami restaurant, asks, “How do you say ‘delicious' in Cuban?” Newt Gingrich uses “bilingual education” and “language of living in a ghetto” in the same sentence. And then there's Mitt Romney, son of a Mexican-born Mormon who also ran for president of the United States. Or the “United Estates,” according to Romney's mysterious alter-Tweeter, @MexicanMitt, who's muy simpatico with his staunch “supporter” Alcaraz.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: The Internet Archive's Brewster Kahle

    January 28, 2012

    Brewster Kahle has the gleeful air of a man who has just found something wonderful and wants to tell his friends all about it. And his friends are the 2 billion people, and counting, who are on the Internet every day.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Alice Waters

    January 21, 2012

    Little bistro, huge impact. Like a different sort of miracle of the five loaves and two fishes, Chez Panisse, the landmark Berkeley restaurant, and its founder and guiding spirit, Alice Waters, have leveraged a small temple of slow, local and organic food into a massive force in the culinary world. Now that appetite for a new/old food culture has begun to register on the public's consciousness, if not always on its plate. Waters is clearing her table of most everything but the Edible Schoolyard Project: If we are what we eat, she wants children in class, on the playground and in the cafeteria kitchen to change their identities by the forkful.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Diane Keaton

    January 14, 2012

    If you're lazily inclined to define Diane Keaton by the crossword-puzzle-sized word "actor," you need to get out more. Add to that her work as director and producer, photographer, restorer of venerable houses, board member of the Los Angeles Conservancy and, perhaps above all, as a daughter -- as revealed by her daughter-mother memoir "Then Again." Little Diane once sat in a neighborhood theater on North Figueroa and watched her mother being crowned Mrs. Highland Park, and wished it were her up on stage instead. In time, she stood on the world stage as a winner of an Academy Award. Her strong connections to her late mother -- like her mother's dreams of art and beauty -- inform Keaton's own identity in the here and now.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Doris Day

    January 7, 2012

    Add it all up, and Doris Day's singular singing voice has spent more than 11 years on the Billboard charts. Her three dozen-plus films made millions of fans and dollars. And now, after nearly two decades of living below the radar in Carmel, Doris Day is back on the charts. "My Heart" is a baker's dozen of songs from the vaults, many produced by her late son, Terry Melcher, who worked with the Byrds and who co-wrote and sang "Happy Endings" on the CD, and sang a second song on it with his mother. The proceeds from "My Heart" go to the Doris Day Animal Foundation, which supports her work protecting animals (that's a rescue dog in the 1993 photo). For that, she's broken a long silence, with a little catch in her voice when she speaks of her departed loved ones -- and, now and again, with that unmistakable throaty Doris Day laugh.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Two from the 'typosphere'

    December 31, 2011

    There'll be a pair of Pasadena institutions along Colorado Boulevard for New Year's -- the Rose Parade, and a company marking 100 years in business. Anderson Business Technology, nee Anderson Typewriter Co., has bucked two trends: It's been a one-family operation all along, and it's managed to leap from the age of slammed return levers and carbon paper to ctrl.alt.delete. Don Anderson and his son, David, are chairman and president, the second and third generations in the firm. Change has been crucial to their century of success, and yet a romantic roll call of anachronistic mechanical brands -- Royal, Underwood, Smith Corona, Olivetti, Sholes and Glidden, Hermes -- still connects the Andersons to the "typosphere," where poet Charles Bukowski's manual Olympia stars on a mouse pad, and composer Leroy Anderson's whimsical "The Typewriter" stars on YouTube.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Connie Rice

    December 24, 2011

    Connie Rice was 13 and her father was a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base when the family drove from the high desert to church at First AME in L.A. She saw the city's ghastly gray air and said to herself, "Well, I'll never live here." Not only has she lived here for more than two decades, her work is about making "here" livable -- survivable -- for those in what she calls L.A.'s "kill zones." Her efforts at healing the wounded heart of L.A.'s civic life, mending the broken ties among police and power structure and the public, as well as her long journey here -- Harvard, death row cases, a passion for tae kwon do -- are laid out in her book, "Power Concedes Nothing." The title, from a Frederick Douglass quote, is an insight into her role in the story of the city where she never thought she'd be.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Robert Reich, Pre-Occupied

    December 17, 2011

    Robert Reich has worked in a lot of big white buildings -- in the Senate, as an intern to Robert F. Kennedy; in the office of then-Solicitor General Robert Bork; in the Ford and Carter administrations; and as labor secretary to President Clinton. Now the political economist works in another set of big white buildings, teaching at UC Berkeley, where his "Wealth and Poverty" class is as overbooked as a bargain flight to Paris, and where he dotes on his 3-year-old granddaughter, to whom he dedicated his latest book, "Aftershock": "To Ella Reich-Sharpe, and her generation."

  • Patt Morrison Asks: James Cuno, guiding Getty

    December 3, 2011

    Along the 405 is L.A.'s version of a shining city on the hill -- a castle of culture in all its incarnations. The Getty Trust is more than its collections and museums; it's about worldwide research, preservation and philanthropy. Its new chief, James Cuno, blew in four months ago from the Windy City, where he headed the Art Institute of Chicago and, before that, Harvard's art museums. Cuno regards himself as something of a California kid, spending his teen years at Travis Air Force Base and later heading the Grunwald Center at UCLA. Now he's got a world-class arts complex, the world's biggest arts budget and big hangovers from the Getty's time of troubles.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Tiffany Shlain, wired in

    November 26, 2011

    Like one of those faster-than-light particles that's gone before you can see it, filmmaker and tech innovator Tiffany Shlain zips from the virtual to the real and back again. The Bay Area native whom Newsweek named one of the women shaping the 21st century has been into technology since she and Silicon Valley were both kids. Fifteen years ago, she founded the Webby Awards; well before Twitter, no acceptance speech could be longer than five words. She delivered more than that last year in a commencement speech at her alma mater UC Berkeley, exhorting students to embrace the quality that she claims as her own guiding light: "moxie" -- a long-ago patent medicine turned soft drink whose name has become synonymous with the human recipe for being "bold ... and a little outrageous."

  • Patt Morrison Asks: 1st prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo

    November 19, 2011

    Luis Moreno-Ocampo has more than a billion clients. He is the first prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, whose authority to prosecute those who commit crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide is acknowledged by more than 110 nations. (But not the United States -- the U.S. signed the treaty, and then "unsigned" it.) Before he joined the ICC, he was famous for prosecuting politicians and generals for mass murder in his native Argentina. With his nine-year ICC term nearly finished, the first of the international cases he's filed -- against Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga -- still awaits a verdict. In Argentina, he had his own reality show; now, he's the subject of a new Canadian documentary, and his role is the subject of worldwide interest.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Well versed, Dana Gioia

    November 5, 2011

    In 2003, Dana Gioia walked onto the battlefield that was the National Endowment for the Arts and brokered a peace. He chaired the NEA for six years, longer than the Civil War. The George W. Bush appointee increased the agency's budget and worked to broaden its mission and demographic reach. Gioia is a widely published poet and essayist, a Stanford MBA and a Southern Californian who's come home, as professor of poetry and public culture at USC, whence all of California is a stage.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Canon lawyer, Bert Fields

    October 29, 2011

    Who wrote Shakespeare? Sounds like "Who's buried in Grant's tomb?" Yet about 150 years ago, people on both sides of the Atlantic began asking how an otherwise obscure William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon could have crafted the most brilliant works in the English language. Most scholars regard this as an annoying sideshow; and only more annoying now that the film "Anonymous" has been released, purporting that Shakespeare was just a front for the pen and brain of the Earl of Oxford.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: George Regas, keeping faith

    October 22, 2011

    Yep, that was George Regas in that photo — the man in the purple ecclesiastical robe and handcuffs. The rector emeritus of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena chose to get busted this month outside the downtown federal building protesting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few days earlier, scores of mostly conservative ministers across the country had deliberately defied the IRS ban on candidate endorsements by tax-exempt churches. Regas had tripped that wire inadvertently seven years ago, with a sermon that caught the IRS' ear and could have cost All Saints its tax exemption. He's retired from the pulpit, but time has not staled nor circumstance withered Regas' appetite for engagement.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Benefit buster Lanny Ebenstein

    October 15, 2011

    Lanny Ebenstein wants you to vote to kneecap the state's public workers unions by banning their right to collective bargaining. Other measures scrambling to qualify for the November 2012 ballot would drop the hammer specifically on public employees' pensions or increase their retirement age, but Ebenstein's may be the most uncompromising. Ebenstein, a lecturer in economics at UC Santa Barbara, believes that it's too cozy for unions to be bargaining with bosses they've likely campaigned to elect -- and the state's economic doldrums are one result. An eight-year veteran of the Santa Barbara school board and the author of volumes about conservative economists Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, he's now got a metaphorical book he wants to throw at public employee unions.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: The brain, Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa

    October 1, 2011

    Here's a Hollywood pitch for you: Leading U.S. neurosurgeon started life as a struggling Mexican boy who made it from illegal-immigrant California farmworker to Harvard Med. Not buying it? You should. Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa was that kid and is that man -- associate prof, surgeon and head of the brain tumor stem cell lab at Johns Hopkins. His work puts him, passionately, on the cutting-edge of brain cancer research, and his life wedges him, reluctantly, into the immigration quarrel. He tells his story -- his traumas and triumphs, and his patients' -- in an autobiography, "Becoming Dr. Q," and here, now.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: New master Ed Ruscha

    September 24, 2011

    Most of the dozens of art spaces now showing off Southern California art history weren't even around when Ed Ruscha set up his easel and his style in Los Angeles in the 1950s. Ruscha's classic, defining works are keystones in Pacific Standard Time, a series of exhibitions whose 1945-to-1980 range takes a stab at framing two of the biggest and most elusive concepts around: "art" and "Los Angeles." Ruscha's vision has had a defining hand in both.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Balloteer Kim Alexander

    September 17, 2011

    The first California election that Kim Alexander cast a ballot in was a pip; voters decided 16 state propositions -- on creating a state lottery, capping welfare, limiting campaign contributions -- and gave their former governor, Ronald Reagan, a second term in the White House.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Memorial man Peter Walker

    September 10, 2011

    Berkeley landscape architect Peter Walker has designed bigger projects than the 9/11 memorial in New York, but probably none has carried more weight. The opening of the eight-acre plaza Sunday marks 10 years since the terrorist attacks, and almost as many years since Walker joined with architect Michael Arad to finalize a monument for ground zero. The design -- down to plaza lights like the model Walker is holding -- demanded as much attention to emotion as to aesthetics and engineering. With work on One World Trade Center and the museum still in progress, it is the memorial that will first meet the public eye and, if it succeeds, affix in the public heart the harrowing sorrow and transcendent memory of 9/11 for as long as such monuments endure.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis

    September 3, 2011

    Ahigh school counselor in La Puente once told Hilda Solis' mother that the girl really ought to forget about college and become a secretary. Well, so she has. Hilda Solis is the U.S. secretary of Labor. The daughter of factory workers and ardent union members became the first in her family to get a college education. She brought to D.C. a no-bones-about-it track record from the California Legislature, where she raised the minimum wage, raised the bar for worker protections and raised some hell for environmental laws.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: The poet, W.S. Merwin

    August 27, 2011

    An Idaho resort hotel's verdure is not the wild tumble around W.S. Merwin's beloved Hawaiian home, but disciplined grass and orderly stands of trees. Not, perhaps, the sort of trees Merwin had in mind when he wrote, "On the last day of the world I would want to plant a tree." But the Sun Valley Writers' Conference bears an annual crop of words and ideas, and Merwin is here as a master gardener of that. He just ended a year's term as the nation's poet laureate. He has to his name two Pulitzer Prizes and more than 30 books of poetry and prose, and a hand-planted forest at home of rare and endangered palms. The Merwin Conservancy is dedicated to keeping his works green -- the ones he created with words, and the natural ones that exist before and beyond them.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: The Possibilian, Kevin Kelly

    August 13, 2011

    This is a Klein bottle, a kind of Mobius strip rendered in glass. The man holding it has a brain not unlike these confounding items, possessed of unusual twists and multidimensional turns that can be challenging for lesser mortals to get their own heads around. Kevin Kelly began reflecting on the techno-Internet world before most people even knew it existed. A co-founder of Wired magazine, and still its "senior maverick," his brainstorming writings influenced the films "Minority Report" and "The Matrix," but that's the stuff he has already done. It's the stuff Kelly still wants to do -- and to take the world along him -- that boots him up.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Inside guy, Buck Henry

    August 6, 2011

    Buck Henry arguably made his showbiz debut at the age of 2, when his mother, the silent film star Ruth Taylor, took him to the Paramount lot to show him off. She denied then that she wanted him to go into movies. Sorry, Mom. Henry has become a polymath of directing, acting, and for my money, especially writing -- "The Graduate"; "Catch-22"; that fine dark comedy of manners, "To Die For"; TV's "Get Smart," with Mel Brooks; and a generation later, the seminal "Saturday Night Live" -- which he hosted for a then-record-setting 10 times. He beavers away on screenplays, plays and sundry prose; I pestered him into a lunch interview in West Hollywood. It was engagingly packed, with talk of the pleasures of "Hamlet" in German and a Hollywood/not Hollywood commentary on passing paraders, delivered with spare humor as dry as the natron used to stuff mummies. Hey -- isn't there a script in there somewhere?

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Breakup artist Laura Wasser

    July 30, 2011

    Seriously? Someone in L.A. who doesn't want to show up on TV?

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Janice Hahn, born to run

    July 23, 2011

    The last time there was nobody by the name of Hahn in L.A. politics, there was a man by the name of Truman in the White House. Now Janice Hahn moves her political game from the Los Angeles City Council to a place down the road from the executive mansion: Congress. Daughter of legendary county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, sister of former Mayor James Hahn, the Democrat won the special election to replace Jane Harman in the coastal/South Bay 36th Congressional District. I talked to her en route from the airport into Washington, less than 48 hours before her swearing-in. She's been to Washington before, but she was seeing it with different eyes: "Mr. Smith" eyes. At one point, she exclaimed, "I'm looking at the Washington Monument right this second; oh, there's the White House! Oh very cool!" Can she keep her cool in the overheated climate of Capitol Hill -- and keep her seat next year?

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Donald Heller, death-penalty advocate no more

    July 16, 2011

    'Remanded" -- taken into custody. In his career as a New York prosecutor and a federal prosecutor in California, Donald Heller has asked the court to remand guilty defendants countless times. He helped put away Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford, and a big-time heroin dealer, a man Heller believed destroyed many lives. At the dealer's sentencing hearing, the prosecutor remarked that were the death penalty an option, he would volunteer to "throw the switch." After that, a law clerk called him "Mad Dog," and the nickname stuck. Heller left the U.S. attorney's office in 1977 -- the "remanded'' sign was a farewell gift -- but he didn't give up his law-and-order cred. He's the author of the Briggs initiative, a 1978 ballot measure (named for its sponsor, state Sen. John Briggs) that broadly expanded the kinds of murders eligible for capital punishment. It helped make California's the most populous and expensive death row in the nation. But for more than a decade, Heller has been saying it's time to stop. Now a defense attorney with a mostly white-collar clientele, he testified recently at the state Capitol about the need to undo his legal handiwork, which has changed so many lives -- and ended some.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Spirit guide Kenny Kingston

    July 9, 2011

    Everybody knows that newlyweds William and Kate are in town this weekend. But Kenny Kingston says he knows how that royal marriage will work out. The self-styled Psychic to the Stars who has hosted lucrative infomercials, TV shows and hotlines says he consulted with the likes of Lucille Ball and John Wayne on this side of life, heard from Elvis and James Dean on the other side, and knows Marilyn Monroe from both sides -- she gave him the table and chairs where we sat and talked in his Studio City home. He learned his craft from his grandmother, his mother and his mother's friend, psychic devotee Mae West. And Los Angeles' wide embrace of every branch of spiritual endeavor made Kingston his own kind of celebrity. With collaborator Valerie Porter, he's still writing books and is about to launch an Internet radio show into a world, seen and unseen, that has changed substantially since he first offered it his psychic insights. I'll quote the usual fine print: It's for entertainment purposes.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Albert Carnesale, Professor Nuclear

    July 2, 2011

    As a matter of fact, he is a nuclear engineer. And through all of the titles Albert Carnesale has taken on in the upper reaches of academia -- professor and provost of Harvard and dean of its Kennedy School, chancellor of UCLA, where he is still a professor -- one thread has been a constant: his work on the science and the political science of matters nuclear, both peaceable and belligerent. He now serves on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, which presents its draft report to President Obama at the end of this month. Its task is to make recommendations on just about everything touching nuclear power and fuel in this country. And he recently wrapped up work on the Committee on America's Climate Choices, analyzing the options in a climate-changing world. His joke bomb clock freaked out more than one Secret Service agent scoping out his Harvard office in advance of visits from various dignitaries. It's also a reminder of how our clock -- the nation's clock, humanity's clock -- is ticking away.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Rosetta man Ahmed Zewail

    June 25, 2011

    It's as if he has a superhero secret identity: On the Caltech campus, Ahmed Zewail is a mild-mannered Egyptian American professor of chemistry and physics who won the Nobel Prize for cracking the secrets of molecules with femtosecond spectroscopy (a femtosecond is to a second what one second is to 32 million years). In his other identity, he is Egypt's only Nobel laureate in science, a national hero and the inspiration for Egypt's new technical and academic complex, the Zewail City of Science and Technology. And he is one of a council of elders guiding the transition to democracy in his native Egypt -- a novel experience in a nation with millenniums of history.

  • Patt Morrison Asks: Comics genius Stan Lee

    June 11, 2011

    My comic book tastes ran to Classics Illustrated. Seriously, what's scarier than the graphic images of "Crime and Punishment" and Raskolnikov -- the existential "superman," not the caped one -- whacking the pawnbroker with an ax? Can I, then, hold my own with Spider-Man's spiritual father, Stan Lee, a genius of comics for 70 years? The progenitor of scores of graphic heroes and villains, "starred" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this year, he's huge at the summer box office, with "Thor," then "X-Men: First Class" and, due out in July, "Captain America: The First Avenger." Twentysomethings may be kings of entertainment, but Lee is the emperor. He's chairman emeritus of Marvel, the venerable comics company that's grown multimedia and merchandising wings; he works with Disney through his POW (Purveyors of Wonder) Entertainment company. He's crafting a Chinese feature-film superhero, and he searches for real people with superhero powers on the History Channel. Biff! Bam! Boom! "I don't want anyone to think I'm retired," Lee says.

  • Writing home: Brando Skyhorse

    June 4, 2011

    Bookshelves real and virtual are stocked with volumes about Los Angeles and Southern California written by people who parachute into a Westside guest house for a few weeks, hit the hot spots and high spots, then write with voice-of-God authority for audiences who wouldn't know the Grapevine from grape juice.

  • The go-to guy: Peter Ueberroth

    May 21, 2011

    So here's Peter Ueberroth, L.A.'s Olympic champion, chairman of the Newport Beach investor company the Contrarian Group, sharing his office with someone else -- his border collie, Koot, for Kootenai, the Idaho county where Ueberroth found him abandoned. Koot can be regarded as a small-scale version of the rescues that Ueberroth has been called on to make in his career. Besides formidably managing the 1984 Games, he has ridden to the help of South Los Angeles after the 1992 riots, run Major League Baseball and arranged the buyback of the Pebble Beach golf course from the Japanese. Ueberroth's a Californian by choice, not by birth, like another eminent Californian, John Wooden, whose name is on an award Ueberroth receives next week, one he regards more as encouragement than reward.

  • Lender 2.0: Kiva's Premal Shah

    May 14, 2011

    I could just see the eyebrows rising around the room. I was moderating a panel on philanthropy not long ago, and on my left, Premal Shah, the president of, was talking animatedly about how much fun Kiva donors had, competing with each other, in teams, to see who could do the most good. Fun? This is not your father's philanthropy. Shah"s online matchmaking philanthro-banking site lets people in the donor door for as little as $25. Kiva posts loan appeals from thousands of worldwide "entrepreneurs" on the site -- Shah doesn't call them "the needy" or any other such term. Prospective lenders log on, pick their favorites and a match, in the form of a loan, is made. Shah himself is among Silicon Valley's "PayPal mafia," young men and women who took know-how from working at PayPal to their own pursuits. In his case it was Kiva, a Swahili word meaning "unity" or "agreement" -- $25 at a time.

  • Joe's Joe: Joe Coulombe

    May 7, 2011

    I was traveling to Washington early in the George W. Bush administration and asked a friend who was working in the White House whether I could bring her something from L.A. Was there anything she really, really missed? Yes, she said: Trader Joe's Mt. Baldy trail mix.

  • The survivor: Oscar winner Branko Lustig

    April 30, 2011

    Mazel tov to the bar mitzvah boy -- 65 years late. Branko Lustig has two Oscars and a slew of film and television production credits, among them "Schindler's List" and "Gladiator" and "Black Hawk Down" and the TV miniseries "War and Remembrance." He also has a number, A3317, from his years as a young Croatian Jew imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps.

  • Book smart: Ken Brecher

    April 23, 2011

    For Ken Brecher to say that being the president of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles is the best job he's ever had -- well, that speaks volumes. Consider that he's run the Sundance Institute, the Boston Children's Museum and a major Philadelphia philanthropy; that he's an anthropologist with a Rhodes scholarship and two research tours in the Amazon on his resume. The British playwright Christopher Hampton used Brecher's field notes for his play "Savages." He landed in Los Angeles as a theatrical "anthropologist in residence" -- a.k.a. associate artistic director -- at the Mark Taper Forum, exploring the then-uncharted territory of local subjects and underserved audiences.

  • Rodarte's Kate and Laura Mulleavy: Fabricators

    April 16, 2011

    Their story is like a "once upon a time," but envision Cinderella in a lace gown that's been painted on by Caravaggio and then run through a paper shredder. There are actually two Cinderellas, Kate (with bangs) and Laura Mulleavy, sisters who don't yet have 60 birthdays between them. They famously still live with their parents in Pasadena, and in half a dozen years, the exquisite, subversive couture of their Rodarte label, created and produced in their downtown L.A. studios, has taxed the style cliches of critics and fashion lovers alike (see the fashions at This year, they've been invited to Florence for the women's branch of the influential Pitti Uomo trade show in June. A forthcoming book, "Rodarte, Catherine Opie, Alec Soth," displays some of the California images that have inspired them. And almost anything, from a lapidary dessert display in a downtown bakery to the menacing light of a Tornado Alley wheat field, can fire the imaginations of the young ladies from Pasadena.

  • Jane Harman: Out of the fray

    April 9, 2011

    Jane Harman has a new address -- on Pennsylvania Avenue. No, not that address. She's the new honcho at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Starting in 1992, she won nine elections in Southern California's coastal 36th Congressional District -- some of them squeakers, the last one a blowout -- before she quit. In those years, the moderate Democrat carved her way through the clashing waves of the political surf: pro-choice, pro-gun restrictions for her Venice constituents, pro "smart" defense programs and a flag-burning ban for more conservative voters in towns like Torrance. She's been quoted as saying she was the best Republican in the Democratic Party. Harman has left a pretty safe Democratic district for the candidates running in the May 17 primary to replace her. In spite of that D.C. office, she'll be voting in the 36th -- but she won't say for whom.

  • Timothy Naftali: Nixon's checker

    April 2, 2011

    Timothy Naftali is the kind of learned guy you'd want on your team when you play "Trivial Pursuit" -- a game that, like Naftali, originated in Canada. But for years, his home and his career have been in and about the United States -- books and studies on espionage, counter-terrorism, the Cuban missile crisis, U.S. intelligence. And now he is director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library. That would be the new Nixon library, the one operated under the auspices of the National Archives. The old, private Nixon library's spin on the president, especially about the Watergate episode, prompted the feds to refuse to transfer control of tapes and documents -- until Naftali and the National Archives took over to make the library a nonpartisan scholarly and educational resource. The post he accepted five years ago requires some of the same diplomatic and historical skills he's studied, and others. The exhibit that must demonstrate all of this transparency opened this week -- the Watergate gallery, symbolized by what Naftali's holding, one of the Watergate wiretapping "bugs."

  • Jeff Gordon: Big wheel

    March 26, 2011

    Any sport is ultimately all about the numbers, right? Here's Jeff Gordon -- four-time winner of what's now called the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, three-time Daytona 500 winner, first driver to reach $100 million in series winnings -- and all I really want to say to him is, ''Wow! 190 miles an hour! Wow!''

  • Henry Segerstrom: Arts centric

    March 19, 2011

    That guy Jack, of beanstalk fame? He was small potatoes. If you want real magic from beans, look no further than what has become of the lima bean and dairy empire of Orange County's Segerstrom family. It morphed into the gold of commercial real estate, and at its 24-karat center is South Coast Plaza. In an age when people list shopping as a pastime, the high-end mall attracts almost as many people a year as the non-shopping National Mall in Washington.

  • Jamie Oliver: Food fighter

    February 26, 2011

    Jamie Oliver presses a "happy cow" veggie burger on me with the fervor of a believer handing out religious pamphlets. He asks me whether I love it, but his smile is pure certainty that I will -- and even love him for making it. He's stepped out from the kitchen at Patra's, a Glassell Park drive-through where his crew is taping footage for "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," a TV show that's not just about healthy food but also about converting skeptics and unbelievers. The chef who's been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire has an empire of his own -- TV shows in several dozen countries, foundations and charities, restaurants and books. His crusade for quality food in schools and homes has changed British food-itudes and menus. He's brought himself, his cameras and his good-food ardor to L.A., with an emphasis on kids. But the LAUSD has closed its cafeteria doors to him, so far. Characteristically, he's found other projects and causes, like his offerings at Patra's; as the man from Essex asks anxiously, "How's that slaw salad with your burger, luv?"

  • University of California President Mark Yudof: The BMOC

    January 15, 2011

    Mark Yudof became president of the University of California in 2008. Some timing. Since then, the university has seen its state funding, which accounts for about 13% of its operating budget, cut again and again.

  • Salam Al-Marayati: The translator

    May 22, 2010

    Salam Al-Marayati began working at the Muslim Public Affairs Council more than 20 years ago, and his is a job that only seems to get more demanding

  • Richard Riordan, unleashed

    May 8, 2010

    Richard Riordan spent eight years as mayor of Los Angeles, but he didn't start his civic engagement with L.A. when he was sworn in, and he didn't end it after he was termed out. Since then, he's become part tribal elder, part fun uncle, but just now the City Council isn't sending any love his way. It's pretty irked by Riordan's warnings that the city may have to resort to bankruptcy to save itself.

  • Landon Donovan: Goal oriented

    April 17, 2010

    I've read that some people call Landon Donovan the Kobe Bryant of soccer; I wonder if the day will come when people call Bryant the Landon Donovan of basketball?

  • Father Gregory Boyle: Life among the homies

    April 10, 2010

    I should have known better than to try to interview Father Gregory Boyle on his home turf, at the Homegirl Café in the Homeboy Industries building on the edge of Chinatown. It was like trying to interview Elvis in the lobby of the Flamingo Hotel.

  • Stewart Brand: Earth man

    April 3, 2010

    I almost started this conversation by asking Stewart Brand, "So . . . what's on your mind?" But who's got that kind of time?

  • Ralph Fertig: Cog of justice

    March 20, 2010

    Since he was in elementary school more than seven decades ago, Ralph Fertig has been, by history's long calculus, one of the good guys -- a civil rights Freedom Rider, a fighter for the down-and-out and disenfranchised from Washington to Los Angeles, and more recently on behalf of the Kurdish minority in Turkey.

  • A.J. Duffy: Teachers' choice

    March 13, 2010

    It tells you a lot about what A.J. Duffy brings to the game that he got his job as president of United Teachers Los Angeles by trouncing the incumbent, which had never before happened at the union.

  • Gloria Steinem: The founder

    March 6, 2010

    You know what they say about March -- comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.

  • Sheldon Epps: Play it again

    February 26, 2010

    The Pasadena Playhouse has had more close calls than Pearl White, more farewells (and miraculous recoveries) than Sarah Bernhardt. And here we go again.

  • Steve Cooley: L.A.'s D.A.

    February 20, 2010

    Steve Cooley's isn't a face that's all over YouTube or the nightly news, and he's fine with that. In spite of the celeb cases that have come through the county district attorney's office -- the decades-long case against Roman Polanski and murder cases like Phil Spector's (convicted) and Robert Blake's (acquitted, which prompted Cooley to declare him nonetheless "guilty as sin" and the jury "incredibly stupid") -- Cooley is more in Hollywood than of it.

  • Bill Patzert: SoCal's weatherman

    February 13, 2010

    I'm always telling the skeptics that Los Angeles does too have four seasons: They're called fire, flood, drought and quake.

  • Michael A. Barbour: The roadie

    February 6, 2010

    Maybe the last time a San Diego Freeway construction project got this much attention was back in the 1950s, when a man named L. Ewing Scott was convicted of murdering his socialite wife. According to urban legend, he hid her body in the newly poured concrete of the Sunset Boulevard offramp (northbound) of the San Diego Freeway.

  • Mark Ridley-Thomas: Gospel of Mark

    January 30, 2010

    I've really never known a Los Angeles without Mark Ridley-Thomas around and running something.

  • Ed Begley Jr.: Big green man

    January 23, 2010

    I once tried to pick up Ed Begley Jr.

  • Robbie Conal: Political animal

    January 16, 2010

    I'm always flabbergasted by the foaming fury with which some people regard the painter and guerrilla poster artist Robbie Conal. Over the years, letters-to-the-editor writers have said, "Conal is a cancer on society" and, "He should be behind bars, not in an art gallery."

  • Rick J. Caruso: A work in progress

    January 9, 2010

    Los Angeles is full of a lot of private moguls and a lot fewer public moguls, and Rick J. Caruso is one of the latter -- an immaculate, slightly Italianate master of his universe, with a bit of a retro vibe. The retail superstar conceived and built the Grove, the Americana at Brand and the Commons at Calabasas and is laboring on projects in Montecito and near the Santa Anita racetrack. But he has also thrown himself into civic life, as head of two of the city's most powerful boards, the DWP and the Police Commission, as a charitable force and as a man in the political mix as a possible candidate for mayor. The Grove and its ilk may not be your cup of tea. Caruso has been slammed for creating a cleaned-up alternative retail reality, but millions disagree with you. In 2006, according to Los Angeles magazine, more people hit the Grove than went to Disneyland.

  • Warren Christopher: Mr. Secretary

    December 5, 2009

    Warren Christopher sounds so, well, diplomatic. The former secretary of State sometimes prefaces his observations with "it seems" and "I think" -- as considerations rather than pronouncements.

  • Sheila Schuller Coleman: The reverend daughter

    November 7, 2009

    Iwas 7 or 8 years old, reading my way through my kiddie encyclopedias, when I infuriated my Sunday school teacher by suggesting that the miraculous parting of the Red Sea was simply low tide. At that age, Sheila Schuller was working for her father's fledgling church. On Sunday mornings, she thumbtacked the Sunday school lessons to the wooden picnic tables at the Garden Grove drive-in theater where the Rev. Robert H. Schuller preached sermons from atop the snack stand.

  • Michael Jackson: Sir radio

    October 31, 2009

    You have only to hear the voice to recognize who owns those pipes: talk-show host Michael Jackson, the original issue, with more than half a century on the radio. During the BL era -- Before Limbaugh -- he reached millions of ears on several continents and was, for about three decades, the monarch of Los Angeles' AM talk radio. Jackson wears a coat and tie on the radio, in perfect keeping with the urbane, civil, informed discourse that earned him a place in the Radio Hall of Fame, an honor from the queen of England and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That star was smothered in flowers this summer by music fans who mistook it for the other Michael Jackson's.

  • Leonard Kleinrock: Mr. Internet

    October 25, 2009

    The Internet, like victory, has many fathers. One of the best known is Leonard Kleinrock, a computer science professor at UCLA. He was in the campus computer lab 40 years ago, on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 1969. At 10:30 p.m., he and his colleagues were working on a computer the size of an old-fashioned phone booth when they sent the first computer message. It was launched via a packet-switching mathematical theory Kleinrock had conceived for transmitting data. The message traveled from UCLA to the Stanford Research Institute on a system set up through a Defense Department program. It was a Sistine-ceiling moment, a lightning spark of the Computer Age. Today, Kleinrock is still at UCLA, and so is that computer, the IMP, the Interface Message Processor. It will be the centerpiece of the forthcoming Kleinrock Internet Museum and Reading Room, not far from Kleinrock's office. As the now widely Webbed world marks its 40th anniversary, here's a bit of what it means to Kleinrock.

  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Feminism's freedom fighter

    October 17, 2009

    For five years she's lived under the threat of death from Islamic radicals, and in those five years, she has become an acclaimed and provocative author on matters about Islam and the West. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born into a Somali Muslim family and eventually made her way to the Netherlands as a refugee.

  • Jerrianne Hayslett: Trials and errors

    October 3, 2009

    Fourteen years ago today -- shock and awe. After 16 tawdry months of the Simpson case wallpapering the public square, a Los Angeles criminal court jury found O.J. Simpson not guilty of the hideous murders of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

  • Ken Burns: The public's filmmaker

    September 26, 2009

    Ken Burns is a matchmaker with a camera. He has introduced Americans to themselves, to their history, with documentaries such as "The Civil War." He also used the "pan and scan" camera technique to make still images of the long-dead seem alive on the television screen.

  • Susan Feniger: Spice girl

    September 19, 2009

    Restaurant years are like dog years. If a restaurant survives one year, it's like seven in the real world. So when two women chefs make a go of it for nearly 30 years -- not only one restaurant but several, and TV and radio cooking shows, cookbooks, merchandise, catering and a heavy schedule of fundraisers for their favorite charities -- it's nigh on miraculous. Susan Feniger is one-half of the Too Hot Tamales; with her business partner and friend, Mary Sue Milliken, she's entered the pantheon of L.A. überüber-chefs, with Mexican-inspired restaurants Border Grill and Ciudad. Knowing when to hold 'em and also when to fold 'em is a mysterious skill even among restaurateurs, and both Feniger and Milliken possess it (though many Angelenos still mourn the end of their first hole-in-the-wall effort on Melrose, City Cafe). As of this spring, Feniger has also struck out on her own with Susan Feniger's Street, serving her versions of street food. She makes a daily loop among her restaurants, new and old, and the Brentwood house she shares with her life partner, filmmaker Liz Lachman, and alights at Street to talk shop.

  • Phil Angelides: The Columbo of Wall Street

    September 12, 2009

    One very scary year ago this week, we were tipping headfirst into an economic black hole that threatened to suck down the global economy. How did it happen? Congress has created a 10-member citizens commission to find out. At its head is Phil Angelides, Democrat and millionaire businessman who served as California's state treasurer for eight years and then lost his bid for governor in 2006. Lately he's been working with Magic Johnson to create a fund to fix up and "green up" affordable rental housing for working families. Now he'll be spending a couple of weeks a month in a rented office on Pennsylvania Avenue between the International Monetary Fund and the White House. It's called the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, but in the ways of Washington, these things can end up bearing the names of their chairmen -- the Pecora Commission, the Warren Commission. So by Dec. 15, 2010, we'll have the full report from what will surely be known as the Angelides Commission.

  • Maria Elena Durazo: Labor of love

    September 5, 2009

    With about 92% of private-sector jobs non-unionized, the old "union movement" has become the new "labor movement," one of outreach as much as contract negotiating. In Los Angeles, some of that work falls to Maria Elena Durazo. She succeeded her husband as head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, a year after he died, at 53, in 2005. On Labor Day weekend, she considers the state of the labor movement and her role in it.

  • Gloria Molina: L.A.'s 'first Latina'

    August 29, 2009

    Gloria Molina's life has been one of contradictions: the famous feminist politician from East L.A., the career policymaker/politician who still feels like an outsider. She can claim many "firsts," a lot of admirers and a lot of political foes. The first Latina elected to the Legislature, to the Los Angeles City Council, and the first woman and Latina elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, where she'll likely be until she is termed out in 2014. Her reputation is one of picking fights, but she also picks her fights -- killing a proposed prison in East L.A. in the 1980s, watchdogging cushy government pensions and perks and budget practices, and looking out for Los Angeles' poor, of which she was once one herself, the eldest of 10 kids of a poor Mexican immigrant. You may see her only in TV news clips, jabbing a finger on some point. There's more, and some slow-mo, to GloMo.

  • Patt Morrison Asks Vincent Bugliosi: Taking on Charles Manson

    August 8, 2009

    Vincent Bugliosi has moved on, but the world hasn't. Forty years after the impossibly grisly Tate-LaBianca murders, he is still "the Manson prosecutor." This, in spite of his many books since, arguing with magisterial fury about the JFK assassination, the O.J. Simpson trial, the Bush vs. Gore case and now the Iraq war.

  • Theodore B. Olson: Legal eagle

    July 25, 2009

    When you've pleaded a case before the United States Supreme Court, your memento, your trophy, is a white quill. Some lawyers get one and treasure it forever. Ted Olson has enough to fletch an eagle, and he hopes to add one more -- legalizing same-sex marriage. During the Republican glory years in Washington, Olson was a GOP pillar: at the first meeting of the Federalist Society, on the board of directors of American Spectator magazine, stalwart of the Reagan administration. It was Olson who argued George W. Bush's case to the Supreme Court in Bush vs. Gore in 2000, securing the presidency. He grew up and was educated in California, elementary school through law school, and lived on the Palos Verdes peninsula before going all Beltway on us. And now he's back at his old law firm and working with an old adversary, David Boies, who argued Al Gore's side of the 2000 election. They've launched a challenge to Proposition 8 that could find them together again before the high court -- but on the same side, arguing that same-sex marriage should be part of mainstream America. Who'da thunk it?

  • Jane Goodall: Chimp change

    July 18, 2009

    Chimpanzees and humans share about 95% of their DNA. If affinity and awareness count, Jane Goodall may have a smidge more. As the world's most renowned primatologist, her work has changed what we think of our primate brethren as thinking and feeling creatures, toolmakers, peacemakers and warmongers.

  • Kevin Starr: Making history

    July 11, 2009

    I made the acquaintance of Kevin Starr's books long before I made the acquaintance of Kevin Starr. "Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963," the eighth volume in his serial love letter to California, is arriving in bookstores this weekend.

  • Mavis Leno: More than just talk

    July 4, 2009

    For my money, the funny Leno is the one who's not on TV. Mavis Nicholson Leno is swift with the wisecrack, and she has this big, hearty, irresistible laugh that you suspect makes her her husband's best audience. But there's a fierce focus in her that I first saw about 10 years ago, after she'd begun working with the Feminist Majority on behalf of women in Afghanistan. That was well before most Americans could place Afghanistan on a map, much less knew what vileness the Taliban was up to. Leno may be the most ardent American champion Afghan women have, taking her crusade for literacy and healthcare to the news media and to Capitol Hill. When she spoke to me at the Feminist Majority offices in Beverly Hills, she was preaching to the choir. What she wants is a lot bigger choir.

  • Karen Bass: Madame Speaker

    June 27, 2009

    Since California added term limits to the political rule book in 1990, the piece of furniture occupied by the speaker of the California Assembly has become both a musical chair and an ejector seat. We've had nine speakers in 14 years. Karen Bass is the latest, a Los Angeles Democrat and the first black woman in the job. She was elected to the Assembly in 2004. She became speaker a year ago, and she'll have to pack up and be gone next year. When I first met her, she was a physician's assistant and a community organizer, crusading for foster care and against the myriad liquor stores in South Los Angeles. Sure, today she sits next to the governor in the "big five" meetings -- but with the ticking clock of term limits and the most hellacious budget in decades, I think of the speaker's job now as much like the Woody Allen joke about two women chatting at a resort: "The food here is so awful." "Yes, and such small portions." Bass dishes it out, and takes it.

  • Benjamin Jealous: Mr. Rights

    June 20, 2009

    Benjamin Jealous hears it so often that I'm sure he just lets it slide off by now: "You weren't even born when ... " Fill in the blank with your favorite milestone of recent racial history in this country -- when Rosa Parks sat down on the bus, when the Civil Rights Act passed, when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. But at age 36, the California native and the youngest president of the NAACP was certainly present for the biggest milestone of all -- Barack Obama's election. In a few weeks, Jealous will preside over the NAACP's 100th anniversary convention. He's a Rhodes scholar who went to work for a scrappy Mississippi black newspaper that was firebombed for its exposes. He has organized voter registration drives, run a human rights program at Amnesty International -- and, when he had time, used to run marathons.

  • Jean-Lou Chameau: Cooking up ideas

    June 13, 2009

    I hope Jean-Lou Chameau gets to sleep late this morning. Friday, at his third graduation ceremony as president of Caltech, he also announced $30 million in gifts to that singular institution, where Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman worked their mighty brains. Caltech has raked in oodles of Nobel Prizes. Its operation of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has sent its renown beyond Earth. And its students have pulled off both brilliant research and inspired pranks. The long-ago dismantling of a Model T and the reassembling of it in a student's room, where it was discovered with the motor running, is so well known that President George H.W. Bush kidded around in his 1991 Caltech commencement speech about students reassembling Air Force One in the lobby of his hotel. The school's eighth president is a civil engineer with an interest in earthquakes from a village in Normandy. It had fewer residents than Caltech's undergraduate population of about 900. Now he works at the roll-top desk that belonged to Caltech's first president, the Nobel-winning physicist Robert A. Millikan. It is, says Chameau, "humbling."

  • Laffit Pincay Jr.: Horse sense

    May 30, 2009

    I am laying one finger on the Kentucky Derby trophy. It is small, smaller and far less flashy than a lot of the other trophies on Laffit Pincay Jr.'s shelves -- much less gaudy than any of my parents' bowling trophies. It doesn't need to be flashy: Hello, it's the Kentucky Derby. Pincay won it in 1984. The little horse on top is broken, and he sets the cup aside to have it fixed. Then his cellphone starts ringing: The ringtone is an old song with the line, "No more love on the run," which strikes me as sad because Pincay, 62, has been out of the running since 2003, when he injured his neck in what turned out to be his last race. For seven years, he was the world's winningest jockey; now, he'd rather sing the praises of his son, broadcaster Laffit Pincay III, who talks about the ponies on TV instead of riding them. Next Saturday's Belmont Stakes, the last jewel in the Triple Crown, is raking in bets and headlines for the sport of kings. But in Southern California, Hollywood Park may be bulldozed, Santa Anita is on the block and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is talking about cashing in on Del Mar racetrack's seaside real estate. It's a good time to hear one of racing's most renowned jockeys on life in a sport that's having problems in the far turn.

  • Daryl F. Gates: Clear blue

    May 23, 2009

    At 82, Daryl F. Gates still looks as if he could pass the training physical for the Los Angeles Police Department, which he joined as a rookie 60 years ago and ran as chief for 14 years. When he says that his name was on the front page of The Times more than any other Californian during those years, he's probably right. Gates made headlines because he made waves. His legendary set-tos with politicians and the Police Commission were combustible theater. His tenure as chief overlapped Tom Bradley's as mayor, and there was no love lost between the two; by the 1992 riots, they weren't on speaking terms. Gates' LAPD career carried him from driver for Chief William H. Parker to Parker's right- hand man and heir. He was the last chief to earn the job through the civil service system; since Gates, chiefs have been appointed, with term limits. Now there's talk of lifting those term limits so the current chief, William J. Bratton, could stay on for five more years -- making his tenure one year longer than Gates'. When we met, he brought me a cup of Starbucks, and before I asked the first question, he referred to a 1982 Times story about his plan to ban one of two LAPD chokeholds. In seven years, 16 people had died in police chokeholds, 12 of them African American. Gates told The Times then he suspected some blacks had a medical condition that made them more susceptible than -- and this stirred an outcry for his resignation that never disappeared -- "normal people."

  • Eli Broad: A Broad view

    May 16, 2009

    I'm enough of a workaholic to recognize another one, even if I have to do it from a long way off and by the back of his head. That's Eli Broad up ahead. The man who hates the b-word -- "billionaire" -- prefers the p-word, "philanthropist." With his wife, Edythe, he plays on a bigger board than a hundred average workaholics: in education, science, the arts and L.A.'s civic life. His foundation writes checks to charter schools, Teach for America, a zealous arts program that lends the Broads' collections to museums around the world. The lifted-eyebrow crowd finds fault with his unapologetic big-checkbook activism, but nobody can doubt that the Broads help circle L.A. on the cultural map. Around town, he's Eli, maybe because, like Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, some people aren't sure how to pronounce his surname (it rhymes with "road"), and maybe because he's joined that exalted one-name pantheon. And, for a guy with so much on his plate, he's a pretty fair dancer. I know: I won a bet asking him to dance at the City Hall rededication seven years ago. (And hey, you guys still haven't paid up; you know who you are.)

  • Hugh Hefner: The Bunny man

    May 9, 2009

    I've been in this room in the Playboy Mansion before. As I recall, the painting on the wall was a topless portrait of his wife, Kimberley, mother of his two teenage sons, from whom he is now separated. Now it's just Hefner, painted in Tudor robes, in the style of Holbein. In person, he wears his singular uniform of pajamas and slippers. The girls cavorting outside have changed, but he has not. At 83, he is part of the 20th century cultural pantheon, the subject of " Hugh Hefner: Playboy Activist and Rebel," an in-the-works documentary by an Oscar-winning filmmaker. He remains "creative director" of the family business, Playboy Enterprises (his daughter, Christie, stepped down as chief executive in December). A cable TV show about life with his trio of blondined girlfriends has made him more famous now than he was as the renowned and sometimes notorious founder of Playboy, which, compared with some 21st century smut, is practically decorous. The man who put the "he" in "hedonism" says he's proud of liberating women as well as men from the sexual cage of the 1950s.

  • Laura Chick: California's eagle eye

    May 2, 2009

    If I were writing her business card, it would read, "Kicking butt in sensible shoes since 1993." Laura Chick has enemies. I am not one of them. The woman who's leaving Los Angeles City Hall after two terms on the City Council and two as city controller is stepping up to the appointed job of inspector general of California's $48-billion share of federal stimulus money. Editorial writers have praised her as an eagle eye in a green eyeshade, a grandma turned pit bull. A Toronto newspaper column said Canada needs its own Laura Chick. From her City Hall office, where her unsparing audits have left few stones unturned or uncast, she's just moving into her new quarters near the state Capitol. There, she's arranged "Morgan shelves" for pictures of her 6-year-old granddaughter and, arriving soon, her voodoo doll collection.

  • Identity theft hits close to home

    March 12, 2009

    Now it's my turn to be a statistic.

  • I'd like my CEO well-done, thanks

    February 5, 2009

    Oh, I want it. I want it bad.

  • Villaraigosa's next race

    January 22, 2009

    Whoa, there. Don't let the inauguration lull you into a false sense of ease. You're not finished with voting yet.

  • Capping off the inauguration

    January 18, 2009

    It's the closest thing to a crown that America's small-r republican first ladies get -- the simultaneously regal and egalitarian Inauguration Day hat.

  • California's budget breaking point

    January 15, 2009

    If what it takes to fix California -- to fix everything about the way it raises money and spends it -- is to let it wreck itself first, then maybe we have to let that happen.

  • Is public access TV dead?

    January 8, 2009

    Your remote control isn't screwed up. As of now, there really is nothing on some cable channels.

  • L.A.'s 'Hail a Cab' experiment

    January 1, 2009

    If there's a peak mating season between those oddly matched species, the Angeleno and the taxicab, it surely came at about 2 o'clock this morning, New Year's Day, when "Auld Lang Syne" almost rhymed with "DUI."

  • California has no room for good Samaritans

    December 25, 2008

    Uh, gentlemen? You three wise men? As your lawyer, I'm advising you not to go there.

  • Should we tax pot?

    December 4, 2008

    Barack Obama is probably getting more letters than Santa Claus this year.

  • Cherie Blair gets personal in 'Speaking for Myself'

    November 5, 2008

    If you believed half the snarky descriptions the British press has slung at Cherie Blair, you'd have expected her to arrive in Southern California astride a broomstick, accompanied by flying monkeys.

  • A case of elective compulsive disorder

    October 30, 2008

    At last, the end of crazy is in sight. Come Tuesday night, maybe we can all ... just ... stop.

  • Disney's California Adventure redo

    October 23, 2008

    Fake? We've got nothing against it here. California practically took out the patent on fake. The ingenious faked fantasy world of movies, the virtual technological reality of Silicon Valley and the virtual human reality of the Silicone Valley of the Dolls -- we own fake, baby.

  • 3 no-good propositions

    October 16, 2008

    Here's how difficult it is to put something in the U.S. Constitution: You need the approval of two-thirds of Congress and three-quarters of the states. This is why the Constitution only has 27 amendments, and nearly half of those came with the original Constitution.

  • Is two more hours of Dubya two too many?

    October 9, 2008

    Here's your Stetson, what's your hurry? Americans can't wait to see the back of George W. Bush. Will they feel the same about him at the box office?

  • The 'Bradley effect' in 2008

    October 2, 2008

    If I had a nickel for every time some pundit has opined about Barack Obama and the dreaded "Bradley effect," I could rescue Wall Street.

  • Kicking our addiction to O.J.

    September 25, 2008

    If O.J. Simpson whined in the Mojave Desert (Nevada side), and no one was around to hear him, would he still make a noise? Do we care?

  • Californians are far away at this convention

    September 4, 2008

    The sage of St. Paul, the radio storyteller Garrison Keillor, has a tender spot for California -- so tender that perhaps one day he'll launch "A Coastal Home Companion" as a winter replacement series for his "A Prairie Home Companion."

  • Between 'crazy' and 'committed'

    February 14, 2008

    It's Valentine's Day, and one family is showing its love by showing up in court. Britney Spears' parents plan to ask a judge to keep her under their care and supervision. Try finding a hearts-and-flowers card for that -- "To our daughter, we love you, please go back into the hospital."

  • If Hillary taps Antonio

    February 7, 2008

    Los Angeles, I've always got your back, don't I? So here's how I see this election going down for us:

  • Early birds miss the point

    January 31, 2008

    Now aren't you sorry?

  • After Johnny Grant

    January 17, 2008

    The last time I talked to Johnny Grant was just before Halloween. A couple of venerable actors had been perplexed that our friend Norman Corwin, the founding father of radio drama and subject of an Oscar-winning documentary, did not have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I called up Johnny in his Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel penthouse. Hollywood's honorary mayor for life professed astonishment that Corwin was a man without a star. Get me the paperwork, he said, and I'll take his name to the committee personally, immediately.

  • Britney's Law? Not so crazy

    January 10, 2008

    Wouldn't it be something if the giants of mental healthcare reform in California turned out to be three men named Lanterman, Petris and Short -- and a pop singer by the name of Britney Spears?

  • Ready for their close-ups?

    January 3, 2008

    This can't be a joke because there's a writers strike on and jokes are out for the duration. So in all unscripted seriousness, I ask, could Hollywood really be smarter than Washington? Is it possible that movie people are savvier than political people?

  • Rooting for trees

    December 20, 2007

    What a lousy time to be harping about how there aren't enough trees in the world.

  • In a drought, who you gonna call?

    November 22, 2007

    For starters, the name's all wrong.

  • Who needs writers?

    November 8, 2007

    It's Day Four of the Writers Guild strike, and here's how to tell that the striking writers haven't so much as picked up a Bic: Their picket-line chants are crappy.

  • Blackwater: Not in our backyards

    October 4, 2007

    If you turned on C-SPAN on Tuesday and thought for a moment that you'd punched in some all-action-movie channel by mistake, I can't blame you.

  • The GOP's fairness fakery

    September 27, 2007

    A show of hands: What words do you associate with Americans? No, not "no money down." Name one quality we like to think matters most to us.

  • Mitochondrial politics

    September 20, 2007

    Here's what to watch for at next week's GOP minority-issues presidential debate at a historically black college in Baltimore: empty chairs. All four top Republicans have "scheduling conflicts."

  • His story won't die

    August 23, 2007

    Daniel Pearl's name you know. Chauncey Bailey's, you probably don't. Both men were murdered presumably because of what they did for a living.

  • Taken for a ride on Air Arnold

    July 19, 2007

    HOW SELFISH of me not to have noticed. I had absolutely no idea that Arnold Schwarzenegger was so hard up. He's practically the Oliver Twist of governors. He's so needy that there's a charity devoted almost exclusively to helping him out.

  • A law for bad humans

    July 5, 2007

    HONESTLY, PEOPLE. Here it is, the day after Independence Day, and some "independent" citizens you all are, still expecting someone else to clean up after you.

  • Ho-ney, I'm ho-ome ...

    June 28, 2007

    AND NOW IT'S time for another episode of "I Love Chelly," about that wacky, lovable brunette who's married to a handsome, up-and-coming city attorney who wants to make it big in politics.

  • I don't care about Antonio's breakup

    June 14, 2007

    MAYBE I NEED to call a doctor. It might be a virus. Or an allergy.

  • Green guilt trip

    June 7, 2007

    DON'T YOU LOVE IT when the auto industry starts talking in corporate tongues? The most astonishing idiocies come out of its collective mouth: No, no, no, we couldn't possibly put in seat belts. Air bags? Who'd want to pay for air bags?

  • The $3-a-day diet

    May 24, 2007

    LOSE WEIGHT on $3 a day! Ask me how!

  • Drought, the sequel, is here

    May 17, 2007

    HEY, ALL YOU sequel fans! Last week, it was "Spider-Man"; tomorrow "Shrek" and next week another "Pirates of the Caribbean." And I'm sure you'll be lining up for the most spectacular sequel of all, "Drought III: The Thirst."

  • Let them eat Dodger Dogs!

    April 12, 2007

    OPENING DAY at Dodger Stadium. Out on the fresh, emerald field, it was all about the RBIs and the ERAs.

  • The $1 federal budget

    March 22, 2007

    I WAS WORKING on my taxes at the time, so I was probably already hysterical, but something on the 1040 form got me giggling: the $3 checkoff for the presidential election campaign fund.

  • Does L.A. need another downtown?

    March 1, 2007

    DON'T HATE ME, Eli Broad. I'm just asking the question here: Do we really need a new downtown?

  • Patt Morrison for president!

    February 15, 2007

    MY FELLOW Americans: Today I am announcing that I am not testing the waters. I am not forming an exploratory committee. I am not studying the possibility. I am not embarking on a listening tour.

  • No case, no justice

    January 25, 2007

    BY NOW, Charupha Wongwisetsiri has been cremated and her mom has moved out of the Craftsman condo in Angelino Heights where 9-year-old Charupha was shot as she stood in the kitchen.

  • Who wants a deep-dish Olympics?

    January 18, 2007

    THE LAST TIME L.A. landed the Olympics, it was because nobody else wanted them.

  • Insurance is enough to make you sick

    January 4, 2007

    IT'S A GOOD thing I have health insurance, because I thought my ticker was going to give out when I read this: Health insurance companies will not sell policies, at any price, to hale and healthy people who have, or had, some pretty trifling ailments. Hemorrhoids. Varicose veins.

  • Adopt a homeless Angeleno

    December 21, 2006

    NICE AND WARM? Got enough to eat? Not addled by booze or drugs, or saddled with some mental disorder? Maybe you've even got a house key on your keychain?

  • The phantom congresswoman

    December 7, 2006

    THAT FRESHMAN California congresswoman, Sherri Davis — she does get around, doesn't she?

  • Patt Morrison: Vote for Cal!

    November 23, 2006

    IT'S TAKEN ME all this time to get rid of the disgusting aftertaste of the midterm election TV ads, with their artificial colors and flavors — cloying, bitter, sour, stupid. (Is stupid a flavor? It should be.)

  • Patt Morrison: Arnold lacked the guts to oppose Prop. 83

    November 16, 2006

    I USED TO THINK something was wrong with Iowa. So many Iowans left the Hawkeye State to come here. Maybe it was all that corn. Maybe it was the early presidential caucuses.

  • Patt Morrison: PR for the Homeless

    October 12, 2006

    SUDDENLY, FINALLY, there's some real money finding its way to the homeless.

  • Patt Morrison: The Funniest Movie You Can't See

    October 5, 2006

    SO WHICH will be harder to spot this season — Mark Foley campaign signs or movie ads for "Idiocracy"?

  • Patt Morrison: Memo to Congress -- Voting Is a Right

    September 28, 2006

    EARLY ON election day last June, someone broke into a poll worker's garage in the Central Valley town of Sanger and stole 1,000 blank ballots and two voting machines. Sinister, no? Florida 2000! Ohio 2004!

  • Patt Morrison: Border Fence Is Borderline Insanity

    September 21, 2006

    WHAT, no land mines?

  • Patt Morrison: Owning O.J.

    September 7, 2006

    SWEAR TO DeMille, this is going to be the most frightening story that Hollywood has come across since the news burst upon El Mundo de Movies that a private eye named Tony Pellicano was supposedly eavesdropping on some quite glamorous and private telephones.

  • Kill Barbie

    June 22, 2006

    IT'S TIME to kill off Barbie.

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