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

“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.


The Gourmet Magazine mourning period is officially over – Rabe notes “The Gourmet Cookbook’s” return to used bookstore shelves.

I’m an habitué of used bookstores. Cliff’s in Pasadena, the late Acres of Books in Long Beach, Brand Bookstore in Glendale. I buy books at these stores and usually read them, and am always looking for cookbooks, as our kitchen bookshelf attests:

For years, I'd seen the two-volume “The Gourmet Cookbook” for sale at these bookstores, usually several copies, and never bought one. But the day they announced the demise of Gourmet magazine last year, they all disappeared, and I kicked myself. (The magazine now lives on online.)

My mom, the late Maryann Elizabeth Rady Rabe, was a good cook who belonged to the LSSC faculty’s Gourmet Club (they took turns holding dinners with gourmet menus, a must in Northern Michigan).

Here’s the two of us, c. 1967, in a photo by Joe Clark, HBSS, who used to take the photos for the Jack Daniel’s ads.


NYT tells of slave - Henry Box Brown - who “special deliveried” himself to freedom

I know a reasonable amount of black history – I can recite a few lines from Paul Laurence Dunbar, I know who Dred Scott was, I understand the pernicious effects of Jim Crow – but I had never heard the story of Henry Box Brown, whose middle name says it all.

As retold by Alison Leigh Cowan today in the New York Times, abolitionists sent Brown from the South to the North in a special delivery box.

“He came to me on Saturday morning last in a box tightly hooped, marked ‘this side up’ by overland express, from the city of Richmond!!’’ Mr. McKim wrote an associate in New York named Sydney Howard Gay. “Did you ever hear of any thing in your life to beat that? Nothing that was done on the Barricades of Paris exceeded this cool and deliberate intrepidity.’’

It’s not known if any other slaves managed to escape in this fashion, but Cowan says several tried unsuccessfully, but gave themselves away by making noise in transit. The online version of her article is worth a look because it also includes many original documents related to the fantastic escape.


Rabe sets new record ...

Just so you know, I went all day today without my iPhone, having accidentally left it on the coffee table when I left for work.

As I write, I'm going on 12 hours without it. This is a record in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. KPCC's Inland Empire bureau chief Steven Cuevas is looking into reports of a man in Riverside who went without his iPhone for 17 hours.


Mmmmm. Parks & Rec’s Sweetums makes for contented cows and docile people.

Who could have predicted, that crazy night at House of Pies …

(Photo: Julian Bermudez)

… that my friend, the actor Chris Murray , would soon be corporate creep Nick Newport in NBC’s new Thursday night series Parks & Rec? Here’s “Newport” extolling the virtues of corn syrup.

Chris, who played Dean Rivers on "Zoey 101," and who is the son of Don Murray and Hope Lange, has appeared on Off-Ramp a few times. He’s told us the story of his unjust handcuffing by a morally compromised security guard in the employ of a public-access-blocking Malibu Beach Baron, updated us on his efforts to get Lange a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and revealed the secrets of being staff announcer for the Pinewood Derby at his kids’ elementary school.

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