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

Surrealist Film Festival coming to Downtown LA; Rabe offers entry.

“Dadaists would remove the wings from a dragonfly and call what is left a red pepper. Surrealist would put wings on a red pepper and call the creation a dragonfly.”

Check out the International Surrealist Film Festival, on March 21st at 8pm at the Downtown Independent Theatre -- 251 S. Main Street LA CA 90012.

Here’s the promo:

The organizers say they’ve received 300+ films from 30+ countries. They’ll screen some number of them over 3 hours (with musical accompaniment if needed) and will give away a vintage 16mm Bolex movie camera or a Digital Harinezumi Video Camera to the Grand Prize winner.

Off-Ramp will cover the results of the Surrealist Film Festival on the March 13th Off-Ramp.

The film below, "The Vigil," which I posted some months ago here, will be on the bill. The organizers tell me it's "on the edge" of surrealism.


Oscar my neighbor and his damned green thumb.

My neighbor Oscar is showing off again.

While my tomatoes rot on the vine, he grows them as big as softballs. Every year, he turns the lot he owns across the street from his house into a garden paradise, full of corn and peppers and cucumbers and squash and choyotes and any number of other tasty plants.

It’s only March, and he’s already built some nice planters from fence slats.

And damned if he doesn’t already have seedlings.

Please feel free to share your garden envy stories below.

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


No great shakes, but a fun local tidbit … the origin of Shakers Restaurant’s name.

Shakers Restaurant, on Fair Oaks in South Pasadena, across from Bristol Farms (there’s another in Glendale), has pretty good food at reasonable prices. Service is usually fast and friendly, and I can’t name another place that serves Portuguese sausage for breakfast.

I never thought about the name “Shakers” until Thursday, when I looked up at the sign in the vast parking lot behind the restaurant.

“Salt Shaker.” Hmmm.

It's certainly not as questionable a name as Sambo’s -- unless you go to UCSD, I guess -- but a waitress told me that around thirty years ago, Shakers changed the name to make it seem more health conscious. (They ARE always happy to substitute fruit for hash browns.) And Larry Mantle confirms that he remembers it being the Salt Shaker c.1980.

The real question is: Who made the sign in the parking lot? Since the restaurant was opened in 1971, that sign is between 30 and 39 years old, but it doesn’t look a day over five. That’s workmanship!


LA Times’ Steve Lopez explains his and Jon Bon Jovi’s parallel paths to fighting homelessness.

This week on Off-Ramp, we walk through LAMP Community, the Skid Row homeless center, with rocker Jon Bon Jovi (right), whose Soul Foundation has built hundreds of units of affordable housing in the last 6 years. The reason I got invited in the first place is Steve Lopez (left), the muckraking LA Times columnist. We’re pals from his time at the Philadelphia Inquirer and my time at WHYY.

But Steve and JBJ also have Philly roots in homeless advocate Sister Mary Scullion, as Steve explains in his Talk Back blog.

Bon Jovi, it turns out, is no dilettante. He has studied public policy issues regarding mental health and homelessness in various cities while on tour, calling it a fact-finding mission for his nonprofit organization. The charity supports affordable housing projects, and I've seen the effects of Bon Jovi's generosity in Philadelphia, where once-devastated neighborhoods have been rebuilt by and for Sister Mary's mental health clients, or family members, as she would call them.


NY Times notices Oscar-nominated “Secret of Kells” … But Solomon and Off-Ramp had it long before.

(Our hero gets a tour of the woods from what he thinks is a little girl. (GKIDS/Cartoon Saloon))

There’s a big piece today in the New York Times on director Tomm Moore’s animated “The Secret of Kells,” which is up for an Oscar.

But it’s not just geography that makes Mr. Moore a surprise addition to the Oscar race. It’s also the style and story of his independent film, a hand-drawn labor of love made for 6 million euros (about $8 million), the equivalent of what, in headier days, some studios would spend on a film’s Oscar campaign alone. If, artistically, “The Secret of Kells” is a throwback to the era of animation before computer-generated imagery, its promotion is pure digital age, forgoing the pricey ads and flashy parties that Academy Award campaigns are traditionally built on in favor of cheaper social media and savvy targeted marketing. It was a lark, and it worked.