Ellen Alperstein page at LA Observed

Ellen Alperstein is an independent writer and editor. Her commentaries and essays have appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsday and other metropolitan newspapers. She has been an independent reporter for several magazines and newspapers. A former travel journalist, she was the editor of several inflight magazines, including America West, for which she wrote a sports culture column. Until its dissolution in 2009, she was an editor for the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post news service. Email

What you need in the desert on the hottest day of the year during a stay-home pandemic is not a power outage.
Smoky air + plus southeast winds = a brilliant desert sunset
One enemy of social justice is our inability to discuss race with each other.
Creative communities thrive hard by the moribund Salton Sea.
1 might be the loneliest number, but also the most salubrious.
A holiday celebration for everybody who loves corned beef.
A mixed marriage thrives in the northern reaches of the Coachella Valley.
It rained in the valley, it fogged in the hills, it snowed in the mountains. Everybody got a huge helping of winter in the desert.
Holiday greetings from a brass section of one.
Ellen Alperstein: After six years and two trials, the jury delivers a jaw-dropping verdict in former sports columnist T.J. Simers' lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times.
After several years and 21 dead animals, the city of La Quinta finally agreed to erect a barrier to keep bighorn sheep off the golf courses and away from human danger.
Ellen Alperstein: A tiny group of hard-hitting unknowns help the top tennis players in the world sharpen their game at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Their compensation? A sandwich and a pat on the back.
Ellen Alperstein: As always, the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells draws big crowds and big action. New this year are a few winged creatures.
Ellen Alperstein: We're on the brink of a super bloom of wildflowers, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is open for business. Maybe.
Heavy desert rain this month is pushing Nature into a bipolar mood.
The car seemed to spontaneously combust. The fire brigade was prompt, effective and kept the neighbors safe.
The jury duty phishing scam isn't new. That doesn't make it easy to detect.
Forging connection after the mass shooting in Pittsburgh.
The art of NASA is music to our ears.
Like everyone, I was pissed to receive a jury summons. That was before I met the judge.
Desert-dwelling scorpions are difficult to see by day, but at night, they shine.
It took 13 years, but publishers finally paid the writers they had ripped off.
Tips for cooking with fowl: don't.
Post-match news conferences at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells seldom yield insight or surprise. But you might get a traffic report.
The pros at the BNP Paribas Open this week in Indian Wells play a highly refined game of tennis. And the scurrying children who attend to them are also at the top of their games.
Venus and Serena Williams at Indian Wells--the sequel.
The super blue blood moon early Wednesday morning was a private eclipse showing for a sleepy photographer with an anemic lens.
Ellen Alperstein: Being a good citizen, my parents taught me, makes America greater.
The print edition of the Los Angeles Times often bears advertising stickers on the front page. Today's was particularly newsworthy.
Ellen Alperstein: We've had the sexual harassment conversation before. This one is louder, but is it different?
Former tennis pro Rosie Casals opines about "Battle of the Sexes" and about what it was -- and is -- like for female athletes.
A subscriber's wish list for the new L.A. Times regime.
Seeing professional boxing live for the first time affirms that it embraces the best, the worst and the goofiest of humankind.
When it's hotter than hell, everyone needs a savior.
Traffic is light in the eastern suburbs of Joshua Tree, population 7,400-ish.
The outdoor season ends for desert art.
One really couldn't claim a Southern California identity, I learned, until one had enjoyed a Double-Double at In-N-Out.
Beware the repeal of FCC privacy protection.
The southern part of Joshua Tree National Park is awash in color.
Things we heard from players and fans at the tennis tournament.
Plant managers for the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden ensure that the venue is appropriately accessorized with flowers.
Stringing rackets for the pros at a major tennis tournament is not a job for the weak, the slow or the inexperienced.
What's not to like about encountering more surprises than flowers while wandering around the desert in Anza-Borrego?
'Antiques Roadshow' revisits Palm Springs, where nine years ago a record was set for the most treasures valued at six figures.
Rainbows are fleeting gifts brought to you by sunlight dancing with water droplets. Sometimes, the show lasts longer than you've a right to expect.
The best companion on an early morning hike has four legs and an air of imperialism.
After the rain, the desert awakens with quiet beauty.
Church, meet state on election day 2016.
The notable lack of a columnist writing from the World Series makes you wonder -- again -- about the lack of judgment at the Los Angeles Times.
The reason Roger Ailes lost his job is lost on too many people.
Friends with benefits. Sorta.
I'm terrible at math; it is possible the tronclodytes are even worse?
Sure, it's toasty in Van Nuys. But it's so hot in the Coachella Valley the dogs wear shoes.
A writer/producer serves up some film promotion and a side of fries.
This year, I won't be able to wish my mother a happy Mother's Day.
It's damp, it's gray, it's oh-so-welcome weather in the preternaturally sunny desert.
The avian neonatal unit is full.
A tiny visitor has moved in and created a neonatal unit.
The president visits the desert. A small Obamajam ensues.
Richard Riordan's party for former LA Times journalists was the kind of celebration of talent the paper should have had.
Where life happens 24/7.
Even if it's time to make a change, Ellen Alperstein writes, it's still hard to say goodbye.
The trial of former sports columnist T.J. Simers versus the L.A. Times is underway. As if the paper doesn't have enough trouble these days.
The latest addition to the back garden moved in unannounced, but not unwelcome.
Another gallery event where the art gets hijacked by the weird. And we mean that in a good way.
We had the whole golf course to ourselves. You can too, if it's August in Indio.
This time every year, a comet's trash turns into a human's treasure.
Time Warner Cable pays another visit. Confusion ensues.
The definition of hangin' out.
St. Andrew's Abbey is a high-desert retreat where, for visitors, practicing the faith is optional.
Is this a house or a flashback? Reporting from Venice.
These people walk among you. On stilts. Dressed in leaves and bark.
All newspapers makes mistakes; they're inevitable and forgivable, as long as they correct them promptly and honestly. So why didn't the LA Times do so?
The public radio pledge drive at KCRW draws a diverse crew of people eager to take your call.
You have a week to file your tax return -- do you know where your write-off is?
For our money, the best version of March madness plays out not on the hardwood, but the desert floor.
How Coachella Valley's wind farms flip nature's switch. A side trip into eco-technology.
Take one chamber orchestra with innovative composer, add dollops of noise to melody, mix well and serve to the patrons who subsidized it.
Friends with death benefits.
If the golf at the tournament at Torrey Pines disappoints, just cast your gaze due west.
I don't understand much of the content of Charlie Hebdo, but just holding it means more than I can communicate.
Counting the number of people who sleep on the street is a seasonal job performed by homeless census volunteers. People such as me.
Overheard in the next booth.
Some people celebrate the new year with a bellowing Rose Bowl crowd. We prefer the sound of the waves.
The LA County memorial for unclaimed human remains makes a powerful civic statement.
A documentary film opening today in Los Angeles shows a community struggling to understand how a sex abuser terrorized its children and recast its storied college football identity.
Overheard at the 99¢ Only store.
The volume of campaign mailers and candidate phones calls is too much of a muchness.
California brown pelicans are no longer endangered, but they still fight to survive.
When the conversation turns to zombies, the buzz is all about bees.
Sex, lies and a little off the side at the Sit Still Salon
Los Angeles baked, but Baker was balmy.
The Sit Still salon appeals to a certain consumer market.
Members of the L.A. Zoo Safari Society needn't trek to Africa to pet an Angolan python.
When in Rome...
Unlike the south-facing beaches, the sand at Santa Monica was relatively undisturbed by the high-wave action courtesy Hurricane Marie. But lifeguards were on high alert.
Using a lottery to bribe people to vote is beneath our dignity.
Street parking in downtown Santa Monica is tough. Some drivers have an unfair advantage.
This month, two long-hidden demonstration sites reopen at the La Brea Tar Pits. LA is oilier than a hedge fund manager with a portfolio full of credit default swaps.
The digital medium is dangerous. Just ask the Los Angeles Times.
Noon hour, corner of Ashland and Second Street, Santa Monica. Two middle-aged males stand with their bikes. One is black, one is white with a gray-blond ponytail trailing out of his helmet.
Santa Monica welcomes cyclists, no matter what species you are.
Life is complicated, cognition is dissonant, choices abound. So just read the signs already.
The state controller is custodian of unclaimed property, and he'd really, really like to give it back.
It's a little late to call a foul against Donald Sterling. We're not shocked that Sterling is a racist; we're ashamed of our enabling hypocrisy.
Sometimes, roadside attractions render the journey the destination
The question 'how hot is it?' once again will be answered by the landmark thermometer in the desert town of Baker.
If you think the desert of Southern California is dead, you're not alive. Some photos from a recent trip.
The last thing you want in your town is terrorism, so the first thing you want is to be prepared.
A new zoo TV channel at Children's Hospital LA is part of the healing process.
Ferrari in love on a warm Valentine's Day.
For a zoological veterinarian, the range of patients spans aardvarks to zebras.
STOP CANCER supports innovative cancer researchers who are on the brink of better treatment, if not a cure.
Midway through the first quarter, Time Warner Cable's Super Bowl broadcast went black. As if that's a bad thing.
Most people visit the San Diego Safari Park to gawk at exotic animals. Its California condors aren't exotic, but they are endangered, and they're fortunate to have a posse of professionals to help them procreate.
Body parts are visible from the alley of Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, but it's not what you think.
Pelicans, dolphins and surfers ... it's Christmas morning at Santa Monica Bay.
The short films screened at the Nihilist International Film Festival are not soon to be major motion pictures.
At the fabled track, some people watch the races. We watch the barns.
In the Santa Monica Mountains, if you look you surely will see.
The Legislature is poised to pass a bill preventing professional athletes who play for out-of-state teams from filing workers' compensation claims in California. It would be a no-brainer if other actors performed responsibly.
Can you have fun at the Del Mar racetrack even if you can't tell a claimer from a classic? You bet.
The roots of standup comedy were planted in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Such a deal.
The fair in Costa Mesa requires traveling to another county where the food and local customs are exotic and edifying.
Congressman Henry Waxman held a community forum on gun violence and mental health at Santa Monica City Hall. The public was welcome, as long as it held its collective tongue.
Two guys with eponymous shamrocks on the wall at the doomed Tom Bergin's tavern were too far away to salvage the memorial to their youth before the wrecking ball arrived. What are friends for?
The Santa Monica College shootings and the NSA's mass surveillance should make clear that security requires controlling both the guns and the spies.
The Natural History Museum celebrates is centennial anniversary this weekend with an invitation for citizens to help its scientists demystify L.A.
Ricky Jay could conjure a taxi in the rain in the middle of a cornfield. A documentary film about the renowned illusionist doesn't explain how, and, really, would you want it any other way?
Why would you stand on a corner with a picket sign if you don't want people to hear your message?
New vocabulary from a robust community meeting about development in Santa Monica: "facade-omy."
Why visit Sea World when you can watch dolphins perform in your back yard?
If a blackbird doesn't steal your sandwich while you're in the pool, thank the master falconer whose birds of prey clear out the riffraff.
The documentary "Hava Nagila (The Movie)" celebrates a song everyone knows and wonders why.
A documentary film about Capt. Henry Morgan loses its way, like the privateer it features.
Selling the car closed the book on 70 years of driving. As Bette Davis said, "Old age ain't no place for sissies."
Endeavour's slow, middle-of-the-night commute made our hearts race.
October is spider season in L.A., and we're crawling with enthusiasm.
An innocent visit to a rural Nevada town introduced the writer to a singularly local tour.
When cable service was disrupted, my Olympic dream nearly came to an end.
Bo Slyapich loves his job. He's in pest control, and as a rattlesnake specialist, doesn't have a lot of competition.
In advance of Mother's Day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are on high alert for bad guys hiding in the flowers. Los Angeles is the number two port of entry for flowers imported during the Mother's Day season.
The L.A. County Natural History Museum looks forward to opening its public field site in time for the museum's centennial celebration next year. Here's an early glimpse inside the 3½ acres of fauna-hosting flora reclaimed from a parking lot in Exposition Park.
Some people can't spell, and everyone makes grammatical mistakes. But it's sad when a professional communicator doesn't care.
Sometimes you just have to raise your outdoor voice.
Warning: Watching the Denver Broncos is a hazard to your health.
Everybody has a story, and StoryCorps wants you to speak up.
There's information and there's news. Too often, their purveyors don't know the difference.
A new film about the Klitschko brothers, holders of all boxing federation heavyweight championship titles, tells a story more about humanity than conquest.
Some memories of the 9/11 attacks are decidedly small scale.
The midnight show on Santa Monica beach is a fishy little rom-com with a serious take-home message
Making new friends from really old fossils at the Natural History Museum's new Dinosaur Hall lets you tap your inner Allosaurus.
The wacky Fourth of July parade in Santa Monica nearly takes a tragic turn.
When public figures retire, the attention should be more about honoring success and less about how reluctant they are to leave.
The president gives the "birthers" a cookie. He should have sent them to bed without supper.
When it comes to sporting competition, expressive enthusiasm has devolved from the fantastic to the literal.
The Star Spangled Banner is always a featured player at sports events, and it's always on the losing side. Time for a makeover.
In 1790, the workers who counted people for the first U.S. census were federal marshals. Last week it was people like me.
The L.A. Times is promising readers great things for the New Year, so here's a glass-half-full toast to 2011
You can't help it, you have a crush on Zenyatta. Get in line.
Playing the also-ran sport of doubles tennis, a guy from India and a guy from Pakistan lose the match, win the world and set the standard for perspective and class.
You have many lovely qualities, Trader Joe, but you also exhibit a disturbing pattern of behavior, and you need to stop it.
Why would people oppose any marriage not their own, or even consider it their business to pass judgment on the rectitude of such a personal decision?
Citizen journalism is a wonderful addition to the collection and dissemination of news and community development, but it isn't going to replace the kinds of stories people need with regularity to expose civil servants gone wild.

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