Newsletter: Essential California: The Rams go out like a lamb

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Feb. 4, and here’s what’s happening across California:


Well, the new football powerhouse in Los Angeles didn’t get its Hollywood ending after all. On a night when the Rams high-powered offense never got going, quarterback Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to a 13-3 victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, further etching his name into Super Bowl lore. The Patriots’ sixth Super Bowl title under coach Bill Belichick ties the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most in NFL history. Brady’s sixth Super Bowl win is the most by any player in history. The loss ended an otherwise impressive season for the Rams and second-year coach Sean McVay. Los Angeles Times

-- L.A. is a city that loves winners, but it was taking this loss surprisingly well. Los Angeles Times


-- On Sunday, experience counted, writes columnist Bill Plaschke. Los Angeles Times

-- And quarterback Jared Goff didn’t have it. Los Angeles Times

-- The halftime show included a kneel, and in this case it made things all that much worse. Los Angeles Times-- Not that much to talk about with the Super Bowl ads. New York Times

-- Let’s talk about the biggest story everyone wants to ignore: Super Bowl gambling. The New Yorker


-- Rams fans didn’t have a great time standing out in Atlanta. Boston Globe

‘It felt like a bomb went off’

A small plane slammed into a two-story house in Yorba Linda on Sunday, killing five people including the pilot, and creating a chaotic scene as neighbors ran out to discover the home on fire and pieces of the aircraft strewn across their yards. Two other people were taken to a hospital with mild to moderate burns, said fire Capt. Cameron Rossman, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Authority. Los Angeles Times

Firefighters at the scene of a deadly plane crash in Yorba Linda on Sunday.
(Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

A hidden heist

Thieves made off with several valuable pieces of furniture designed by icons Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Schindler, pilfered from a USC warehouse that stored the contents of a Hollywood Hills showplace home. It was a heist that remained hidden from the public — and police — for six years until an anonymous letter to the Los Angeles Times exposed the crime. Los Angeles Times


The Times on Monday debuts its newest Metro columnist, Frank Shyong. His first column introduces himself with an explanation of his problems with the classic L.A. movie “Chinatown.” He also offers a vision of how he will chronicle the city:


“I fell in love with newspapers because I saw them as a place where on a given day, anyone and everyone’s story could be told. That principle has rarely matched up with the reality, but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe that newspapers should belong to everyone. ‘Everyone’ is an important word that means different things to different people in this age of algorithmically shaped worldviews and the distortions of social media. But for me the definition has always been simple: Everyone is everyone. Everyone is not just the people you agree with or look like, or the people who share your ZIP Code or speak your language. Everyone is everyone. And that’s what I’ll be writing about.” Los Angeles Times

More from Frank’s world: For several years, Shyong served at The Times as a reporter covering the San Gabriel Valley, where he delighted, informed and challenged our readers with a sharp examination of Asian politics, life and culture. Here are some samples:

-- How food distanced him, then brought him closer to his immigrant parents. Los Angeles Times

-- A dying mother’s plan: Buy a gun. Rent a hotel room. Kill her son. Los Angeles Times


-- The Olympics and the burden of Asian American expectation. Los Angeles Times

-- The epic story of how this Cambodian immigrant became the L.A. fried chicken king. Los Angeles Times

-- The Chinese boxer in Oscar De La Hoya’s world. Los Angeles Times

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RIP: Throughout a long career as a local educator, Michelle King exceeded expectations at every step but never had a chance to leave a defining mark at the peak of her career — as Los Angeles schools superintendent — because of the illness that would later claim her life. King, the first African American woman to lead the L.A. Unified School District, has died, the district announced Saturday. Los Angeles Times

Reimagining her hometown: Octavia Butler grew up as a black woman in a midcentury Pasadena at its most conservative and smug. Her science fiction captures being trapped in that world as an outsider. Los Angeles Review of Books

Valleyspeak: One of the bravest things you can say is, “I am from the Valley.” Not L.A. Not Cali. Not SoCal. The Valley. The New Yorker


Back onstage: “I’m OK.” That was the first thing Jussie Smollett told the sold-out Troubadour in West Hollywood on Saturday night when he walked onstage after his attack in Chicago. Los Angeles Times

Good news, bad news: A weekend of heavy rain moves out, but the mudslide risk remains. Los Angeles Times


Democratic mega-donor: Why it’s important Sen. Kamala Harris has this one on her side. Los Angeles Times


Plus: “She loved me, and I loved me. It was a perfect relationship. Now she’s happily married to a great guy. And if she gets elected, I’ll probably have to leave the country.” — Willie Brown on Kamala Harris. San Francisco Chronicle

State of the Union preview: Helen Nguyen is the wife of Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, an Orange County resident who has been imprisoned in Vietnam since July. He was arrested while touring the country and is under investigation for “actions” to overthrow the government. Now, she will take center stage at the State of the Union. Los Angeles Times

The dark side of the California dream: A law that has made affordable housing hard to build. Los Angeles Times

Commentary: Was Huntington Beach targeted for violating affordable housing rules because it’s red? Wall Street Journal


Feeling blue: California Republicans struggle as a “toxic brand.” San Francisco Chronicle

Wake-up call: Troubling signs for California’s pension system. CALmatters

California vs. Trump: And the fate of the wetlands. Wall Street Journal



New details: A deep profile of the troubled life of the man who killed a rookie Davis police officer. Sacramento Bee

Grim trip: Jurors visited a desert grave site in Victorville last week as part of the trial of Charles “Chase” Merritt, who is accused of killing the McStay family, who disappeared in 2010. Los Angeles Times

Moving violations: San Diego is ticketing a lot more motorized scooters. San Diego Union-Tribune



Facing the inevitable with courage: Hospice care can be an essential way to die with dignity — or it can be the final indignity. Steve Lopez explores with 92-year-old Happi Hicks. Los Angeles Times

Harsh realities: BuzzFeed once looked as if it was building the digital equivalent of a Hollywood studio backlot. Where does it go from here as the business matures? Los Angeles Times

Up in Colusa County: The California town that is not so slowly sinking. Mercury News

Economic anxiety: It’s getting harder to afford a home in Southern California. But how does it stack up to past boom years? Orange County Register


Plus: In the Bay Area, child care sticker shock is right up there with real estate sticker shock. Mercury News

Celebrity chefs: Chinese New Year, eating and two very different generations. Los Angeles Times

Gathering spot: How one park in Chico has become a special place for victims of the Camp fire. Chico Enterprise-Record



Los Angeles area: Rainy, 59, Monday. Scattered showers, 53, Tuesday. San Diego: Rainy, 61, Monday. Showers, 58, Tuesday. San Francisco area: Rainy, 50, Monday. Mostly cloudy, 50, Tuesday. San Jose: Rainy, 51, Monday. Scattered showers, 50, Tuesday. Sacramento: Showers, 51, Monday. Scattered showers, 49, Tuesday. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California: L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti (Feb. 4, 1971), boxing promoter Oscar De La Hoya (Feb. 4, 1973) and L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl (Feb. 9, 1941).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)


Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.