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

The Huntington unveils big changes, but not too big

Tim Street-Porter/The Huntington

New entrance at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

For years, I’d feared the worst. Behind that intrusive belt of chain link and green canvas fence, with all the hidden noise of power digging machines, smashing jackhammers and growling tractors going on behind it, and heaps of dirt piled high, I dreaded that something terrible was going on in the dark, hidden heart of our dear old Huntington.

We were promised a new visitor center, a new store, a new cafe and restaurant. I imagined the Disney-fied worst: Henry Huntington’s Roller Coaster Red Car Ride; Pinky’s Pinkberry Parlor. The Blue Boy Fashion Center. Maybe even a giant Rem Koolhaas-LACMA style amoeba of purple reinforced concrete sprawling all over the lawns between the library and the old gallery.

My fears were groundless. The $68 million (not much more than the Getty paid for its new Manet) 52,000 square foot Education and Visitor Center addition is in perfect harmony with the early 20th Century original library and art gallery, perhaps more so than some previous increments, such as the nearby and blankly imposing Munger Research Center. 

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Are you high on mountains? Cool event Saturday

San Gabriel Mountains

Bruce Perry, Department of Geological Sciences, CSU Long Beach; Courtesy National Park Service

An aerial photograph of the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California.

A friend who has one of those cabins in the San Gabriels that you have to ride a mule into sent Off-Ramp a note about an event for fans of L.A.'s mountains ... which is pretty much everyone:

"The Sierra Madre Historical Preservation Society and First Water Design present the finest assembly of experts of our magnificent mountains and their impact on our history, culture, and way of life." It's a long list of historians, authors, and others who've spent their lives studying and writing about the mountains.

  • John Robinson: "The San Gabriels," "Trails of the Angeles: 100 Hikes in the San Gabriels," "Sierra Madre’s Old Mount Wilson Trail"
  • Michele Zack: "Southern California Story: Seeking the Better Life in Sierra Madre," "Altadena: Between Wilderness and City"
  • Elizabeth Pomeroy: "John Muir: A Naturalist in Southern California," "San Marino: A Centennial History"
  • Nat Read: "Don Benito Wilson: From Mountain Man to Mayor," "Los Angeles 1841 to 1878"
  • Michael Patris:  "Mount Lowe Railway"
  • Glen Owens: "The Heritage of the Big Santa Anita"
  • Paul Rippens: " The Saint Francis Dam"
  • Willis Osborne: "A Guide to Mt. Baldy & San Antonio Canyon"
  • Christopher Nyerges: "Enter the Forest"
  • Norma Rowley: "The Angeles Was Our Home"
  • Chris Kasten: cartographer and former manager of Sturtevant Camp

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Wil Wheaton and other Star Trek alumni perform in 'War of the Worlds' benefit

There are still a couple dozen tickets left for one of the most interestingly-cast performances of H.G. Wells, Orson Welles and Howard Koch's "War of the Worlds." On Saturday, Jan. 17,  generations of Star Trek actors will take on the world's most famous radio show.

The cast — directed by Jim Fall — features: René Auberjonois (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”), Michael Dorn (“Star Trek: TNG”), Dean Haglund (“The X-Files”), Walter Koenig ("Star Trek"), Linda Park ("Star Trek: Enterprise"), Jason Ritter (“The Event”), Tim Russ (“Star Trek: Voyager”), Armin Shimerman (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”) and Wil Wheaton, playing... Orson Welles.

The performance is a fundraiser for Sci-Fest LA, the new annual science fiction play festival, so tickets aren't cheap — but they're scarce, and this looks like a memorable night.

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Meet the man behind the art garden on the Hyperion Bridge in Atwater

Jeff Harmes

Alana Rinicella

At the corner of Glendale and Glenfeliz, Jeff Harmes created an art garden completely from scratch.

Jeff Harmes

Alana Rinicella

Jeff keeps many succulents in his garden, such as these cacti.

Jeff Harmes

Alana Rinicella

Eclectic figures, such as these wooden heads, can be found throughout the garden.

Jeff Harmes

Alana Rinicella

Jeff's reconstructed peace sign, composed of seashells and stones.

Jeff Harmes

Alana Rinicella

One of two heart-shaped formations made out of stones from the L.A. River.


On the median on the Atwater Village side of the Hyperion bridge, Jeff Harmes built a garden. It's an act he calls "taking nothing and making it into something that everyone can get something out of, that can inspire everyone."

Having lived on the streets for 30 years, Jeff says grew to hate litter. He used to sweep street gutters with a piece of cardboard and remove trash packed into the forks of trees. He thought of them as small acts that would go mostly unnoticed.

On a whim last spring, he started tilling the median — or "the island," as he likes to call it ... although "oasis" is more like it, now. He made rock sculptures from stones he scrounged out of the L.A. River. In celebration of spring, he made a peace sign out of flowers. 

He says he doesn't know much about gardening or landscaping. He learns as he goes and looks to commuters for suggestions. In the absence of running water, he relies on rainfall.

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Anna Mastro's debut 'Walter' epitomizes Palm Springs Film Festival

"Walter"

Andrew J. West stars in Anna Mastro's "Walter"

It's always dicey to characterize a major film festival based on the movies you personally see there, because no matter how diligent you try to be, your impression will always be statistically anecdotal.

I'll see perhaps 10 percent of the films at this year's Palm Springs International Film Festival by the time they roll up the red carpets for the final time, added to the 25 or so I'd watched before I got here, owing to the festival's unique programming policies.

Not bad considering there are 190 movies being screened. So I think I've got the feel of things here. I wouldn't want my doctor to diagnose me based on a test with a 35 to 40 percent chance of accuracy, but I'm not a doctor. Instead of "Do no harm," I quote Spencer Tracy to myself. He said the secret to the creative process is to "just look 'em in the eye and tell 'em the truth."

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