Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

Remembering Daniel Pearl: Journalist, violinist

Daniel Pearl's Kidnappers Sentenced

Getty Images/Getty Images

This undated photo shows Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal newspaper reporter kidnapped by Islamic militants in Karachi, Pakistan. The Wall Street Journal announced February 21, 2002 that Pearl has been confirmed dead, presumably murdered by his abductors.

Born in New Jersey and raised in Encino, Daniel Pearl would have been 51 years old last week.  But Pearl, a tremendously accomplished journalist and reporter, was murdered 12 years ago in Pakistan by Islamist thugs, the first American journalist to be criminally killed in this century’s unending perfect storm of  Middle Eastern wars and conflict.

His professional admirers knew him as an able and fast-ascending newspaperman whose career had taken him from small town coverage in western Massachusetts to  the chiefdom of the Wall Street Journal’s Asian Bureau.  Along the way, he’d broken major stories and spoke truth to power in former Yugoslavia, Africa, and South Asia, among other places, far and near.  

What many colleagues did not know about him was that Daniel had a strong musical background.  He was an accomplished violinist who had studied with the former concertmaster of  the Los Angeles Philharmonic and, in the course of his travels, made music with people he met all over the world. 


Pasadena misfit celebration the Doo Dah Parade returns

Doo Dah Parade

L.A. Taco

Attendees of the annual Pasadena Doo Dah Parade.

Only one event can bring together a disco drill team and human billiard balls — all in the middle of the street. The Pasadena Doo Dah Parade, a beloved outlet for eccentricity, will return for its thirty-seventh year this November. 

Started as an alternative to the Rose Parade, Doo Dah offers people the chance to proudly embody their alter ego. "Everybody has one day to escape all the trappings of their day-to-day regimen and let their alter-egos rule for that day," said Tom Coston, one of the few original Doo Dah parade marchers.

Attendees can catch the legendary Snotty Scottie and the Hankies leading the pack of wacky characters, as well as take in the art cars and floats. OC NORML's Mardi Grass and the Klingon Assault Group are just two of the many floats slated to appear.


World's oldest play, 'Persians,' has message for today

Alex Israel on Wikipedia Commons

A bust of the Playwright Aeschylus, at the North Carolina Museum of Art

Off-Ramp culture commentator Marc Haefele reviews Aeschylus' "Persians," in production this month at the Getty Villa.

It’s the world’s oldest known complete drama, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to mount.  Yet the SITI Company’s production of Aeschylus’  “Persians,” in a good new translation by Aaron Poochigian, worked magnificently at the Getty Villa’s Fleischman Theater Wednesday night. So much so that it often seemed like a message from 2,500 years ago to the 21st Century: "Indulging in pointless wars can destroy even the greatest nation."

What’s challenging about the play is its very sparseness. There are only four characters: Queen Atossa of Persia, played by Ellen Lauren; her husband’s ghost, played by Stephen Duff Webber; a messenger; and her son, King Xerxes of Persia. Plus an all-important chorus of courtiers. And all the play’s action is not only off stage, but has already occurred.


Frank O’Hara’s 'Lunch Poems' turn 50

Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library

Frank O'Hara, author of "Lunch Poems," still in print 50 years later.

Commentator Marc Haefele writes about arts and culture for Off-Ramp. Here, he attends a reading of Frank O'Hara's "Lunch Poems" and muses on the connections.

I drove down to Silver Lake and parked almost directly in front of  Stories Books. I have associated this area for so long with lunching with a particular old friend, now in his 90s, that I failed to notice how young the rest of the neighborhood was getting. But Stories Books is full of first editions, Hollywood-angled but not exclusively. Pastries and coffee in the back. If I lived near here, I'd hang out here all the time. 

Marc Haefele on the Huntington's new "whippersnapper" American galleries

This is a special night, though. In the back, outside, a lot of people are reading Frank O’Hara’s "Lunch Poems" out loud. All of them doing it pretty well.


Getty mounts Minor White photography exhibit

Minor White/J. Paul Getty Museum

"Dodd Building,” Portland, Oregon, 1939, an early photo by Minor White.

Off-Ramp commentator Marc Haefele reviews "Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit," a new photo exhibit at the Getty Center through Oct. 19.

“No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer It has chosen.’’ —Minor White

Minor White (1908–1976) stands  inconspicuously at the center of 20th century photography. White contained several paradoxes: 

  • Self-taught in the art of taking pictures, he became a great teacher.
  • He stood equal to the most famous photographers of his time—such as Ansel Adams and Alfred Stiegletz—yet stayed out of the spotlight of fame.
  • Employed as an academic,  he took his camera into the wilderness of nature to create his greatest work—which edges over into a spiritual abstraction that became almost a religion to White.