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

Rabe’s "Vast Wasteland Project" takes shape. Guggenheim app to come to document abandoned TV sets.

WARNING: By reading this blog, you are participating in an art project.

As you may know if you’ve read this blog at all regularly, I’ve been looking for some traction for my ongoing photo essay on the abandoned television sets of Lincoln Heights and Cypress Park.

On Monday I wrote, “So far, no calls from Taschen or the Annenberg photo center. Maybe because of the glaring lack on conflict or even the vaugest narrative thread. No arc, as they say.”

So when Kevin Roderick charitably linked to the blog on LA Observed, I took it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a sign to get a move on.

I e-mailed Mark, a professional grant-writing friend, about how I might take this further. Mark wrote back:

“A Guggenheim Fellowship, I think: an artist transplanted from the Midwest to LA wants a grant to drive around California to document the state's love/hate relationship with television, as expressed through a certain physicality, an undeniable confrontation with the physical reality of television: when you hate more than just what television represents, but the structure itself and what it represents in your living space. What is it, exactly, we're kicking to the curb here?”

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Power Trio: Jon Bon Jovi, Steve Lopez, and John Rabe tour LAMP, talk homelessness.


(L-R: LAMP Interim Executive Director Shannon Murray, Jon Bon Jovi, LA Times columnist Steve Lopez, KPCC’s John Rabe. I know it’s blurry. I didn’t take the picture.)

If you’re a big Bon Jovi fan, you know that Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Foundation does a lot for homeless people. If you’re a former 1980s DJ who played Bon Jovi back then but wasn’t really into their music all that much, it might come as a surprise.

I’m in the latter camp, and now my eyes are open. The LA Times’ Steve Lopez (read his Skid Row stories here) got me invited to Jon’s tour of LAMP Monday afternoon. (Bon Jovi is in SoCal for the band’s big concert tour, and plays Staples Center Thursday.) Turns out Bon Jovi has been seriously working on the issue for years, since a day he saw a homeless man asleep in front of Philly’s city hall and said to himself, “I can do something about this.”

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RIP Bobby Espinosa, and Viva El Chicano.

How sad. I just heard that Bobby Espinosa, of the band El Chicano, is dead. He was only 60. Listen to the Off-Ramp interview with Espinosa – featuring the wonderful Jesus Velo of the band Los Illegals interviewing his hero – and you get a sense of why Espinosa and El Chicano made a difference.

And watch them play Viva Tirado on YouTube, and get a sense why their music filled the air and the airwaves in Southern California:

Please leave your memories of El Chicano below in the comments section; I'd love to share them with listeners this weekend on Off-Ramp.

(Check out John's weekly show Off-Ramp.)

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The TV Giveaway marches on! More free tv’s in Cypress Park and Lincoln Heights.

Some photos from Monday morning.

They’re part of my continuing photo essay on the discarded televisions in my neighborhood, the working class area around the confluence of the LA River and the Arroyo Seco.


So far, no calls from Taschen or the Annenberg photo center. Maybe because of the glaring lack on conflict or even the vaugest narrative thread. No arc, as they say. Although this one kinda looks like a giant Darth Vader helmet.


Here, for your viewing convenience, are the previous entries in the photo essay, in reverse order …

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Sorry I’ve been away from the blog for a few days. The fundraiser demands singular focus. But on my way in this morning, I spied the latest entry in my ongoing series on discarded television sets … and it’s a two-fer:


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I still don’t know what to make of the junked tv’s. (See previous blog entry.)

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“Family Circus” marks 50th anniversary by being actually funny … in a rerun.


Nowadays, Dad’s only job in the daily panel comic strip “Family Circus” is to act the foil for his kids' treacley naïveté, and cartoonists Bil and Jeff Keane’s only hope seems to be that we will cut out the strip and tape it to the fridge. “How cute! That’s just what Tiffany said!” … or … “That’s what Timmy said to Grandma that time at Old Country Buffet when she ate prunes! Let’s send it to Grandma for her refrigerator!”

The strip also used to be called “Family Circle,” until the magazine of the same name complained. They used to drive around in a Volkswagen Beetle; now it’s a Chrysler minivan.

And Dad (“Bill,” née “Steve”) used to smoke and drink. Check this one out:


The only fridge this would get taped to is the mini-bar in a Vegas hotel room.

The strip debuted on February 29, 1960, making this its effective 50th anniversary, and Keane is rerunning old strips to celebrate. It’s a bad idea because it just highlights how unfunny and formulaic “Family Circus” is now.

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