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

Rabe’s photo essay from Venice Beach – no weirdos, I promise.

My sister in law Patty (right, below) came to LA last weekend with her friend Sherri (left, below) and, since they’re from Michigan where the average temp right now is -273 F, they wanted to hit Venice Beach…

We spent a lot of time just breathing the sea air and saying, “Mmmm. This is nice.” And them asking me why I didn’t come out to the beach more often. I didn’t have a good answer.

Then, we checked out the skate park and the two moms (Patty and Sherri) winced every time they saw a little kid on a skateboard without a helmet. Then, the souvenir crap strip, and then, happily, a walk by the beach houses and down a few quiet lanes along the canals.

Here are the rest of the shots, taken with my Hipstamatic app.

By the way, apropos of sunsets and mmmm, this week on Off-Ramp, Steve Julian, KPCC’s award winning Morning Edition® host, goes tequila tasting.


A Vast Wasteland of Televisions and Rabe’s Question

I took this photo this morning. This is only the latest trashed tv in my neighborhood. For the last couple weeks, I’ve come across easily a couple dozen big tube tv’s in the trash or – usually – on the verge.

Why? Was there a big sale at Costco? Did all the analog/digital converter boxes suddenly stop working at the same time? Did someone tell everyone in Cypress Park that there’s a tv fairy who will leave $20 under your pillow if you dump an old tv?

Please leave your answers below and meanwhile, I guess I’ve found the topic for a new photo essay.

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


Actor and Off-Ramp commentator Barry Cutler handicaps Oscar noms

Barry Cutler, who has graced Off-Ramp with his comments about George Carlin, “A Christmas Carol” flimflammerist Kevin von Feldt, and impersonating Abraham Lincoln for schoolkids, annually handicaps the Oscar nominations for his friends. Here’s his email:

First, I would like to disown the person who wrote this email - one so engrossed in this silly contest and the choosing of best in the arts. It's a ridiculous notion which should not be encouraged. The Oscar telecast is a trashy waste of time. (The right to argue about these awards, however, is an important civil liberty.)

Best Actor - My choice would be Colin Firth, although everyone in the category is worthy except Morgan Freeman (in this particular performance). Jeff Bridges will win.

Best supporting Actor - My choice would be Matt Damon because he was very good and I'm sick and tired of the silly-ass acceptance speeches Christoph Waltz composes at each ceremony, but Waltz will win.

Best Actress - My choice is Carey Mulligan but, rather than going on merit and accuracy, the members will go for popularity and/or wrong category and will choose either Sandra Bullock (because they like her, they really like her and -other than in “Crash” - she's never been a contendah) or Meryl Streep (because she is the greatest but she's in the wrong category).

Best Supporting Actress - My choice is Julianne Moore (who isn't nominated because the Academy members are, how do you say?, f---ing fools). Still, if Penelope Cruz would go to bed with me in payment for my vote, she'd win pants down. But, even though I don't think I really like the person, Mon'Nique certainly earns and will get the award. (Samantha Morton should have received a nomination as well.)

Best Animated - My choice would be “Fantastic Mr. Fox” but they will give it to the good but one of the most overrated films of the year “Up!”

Art Direction - Even though it doesn't deserve ALL of the technical awards I would gladly have “Avatar” win them all if it removes any pressure to give it best film and/or director. Here it probably earns it.

Cinematography - I haven't yet seen “The White Ribbon” by one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema. For now, my choice would be “Hurt Locker” but I'm guessing they'll give it to “Avatar.”

Costume Design - Haven't seen “Coco before Chanel” and wonder how they ignored the wonderful “Single Man,” directed by a fashion designer. No idea. I know nothing of how they really select this award. Is it how well costumes support the film or how pretty everything is? The costumes in “Bright Star” supported well.

Directing - I haven't yet seen “White Ribbon” but I am positive Michael Haneke should be in this category. Of those in it, my choice is easily Kathryn Bigelow and hope and think the Academy will choose her as well. After that I'd go with Jason Reitman. After that Tarantino. After that Lee Daniels. The absolute last - after all not nominated - would be the technician Cameron.

Documentary - I've seen only two so far. I'm a great admirer of Daniel Ellsberg, but didn't see the film. Of what I saw, I am strongly for “The Cove” and think it will win. I'm surprised and glad Michael Moore, who I enjoy, wasn't nominated.

Doc short sub - no idea. (Please note that an actor and commentator refrained from expounding on something he doesn’t know about. – Ed.)

Film editing - My choice “Hurt Locker.” Probable winner “Avatar.” “District 9” was also very good.

Foreign Language - I haven't seen any of them but, based what I've seen in the past and know of the films, I am for “White Ribbon” and think it will win.

Make up – “Il Divo” was a terrific movie and, since this is its only nomination, I'd like to see it win. But they will probably give it to “Star Trek” because it gave a lot more employment to make-up artists.

Music - Here is the first place I should mention one of the best films of the year and one of the all time great children's film, which was totally ignored in the nomination, “Where the Wild Things Are.” The score was perfect and should have won this category. Of those nominated, “Hurt Locker” best supports the film. But they will probably go for schlock, which means “Avatar” or “Up!”

Song - Again, don't know if they choose the most supportive or most likeable. I seem to be one of the few who really liked the film*“Nine” and this could be its only award. But I liked “Crazy Heart” as well and I think “The Weary Kind” will win. (*Yes, Barry. You and one other. Not me. – Ed.)

Best Picture - My choice and, I think, the winner will be “The Hurt Locker,” which is one of the greatest war films ever made. I have a feeling “The White Ribbon” should have been included in this category. “The Blind Side” is one of my favorite books and least favorite films - turned into a somewhat racist lie. An ugly populist choice. “Up!” is greatly overrated. “Where the Wild Things Are,: one of the great children's films, should have been included. I'm a big fan of “Up in the Air,” “An Education,” “A Serious Man,” “Precious,” and “District 9,” although none of them should be chosen over “Hurt Locker.” I even like “Avatar” - although I would rage and retch if it won.

Animated short - no idea.

Live action short – ditto.

Sound Editing - Again, I root for “Hurt Locker” but think it will go to “Avatar.”

Sound Mixing – ditto.

Visual Effects - Probably “Avatar,” although “District 9” was clever and great fun.

Adapted Screenplay - I love “An Education” but I really like “Up In The Air” and think it will probably win this.

Original Screenplay - My absolute favorite would be “A Serious Man” but the goy will probably choose “Inglorious Basterds” (which does have the delight of watching Jews slaughter Nazis). Screenplay was good but not strongest point for “Hurt Locker.” “The Messenger” was a terrific screenplay but the movie probably wasn't popular enough. “Up!” could win if evolution is really dead.

-- Cutler

I’m sure Barry is wrong about half of these, so give him hell in the comments section below!

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


Perfect parody of a TV news report

In the public radio world, many of us have dreamed of/produced parodies of the quintessential NPR piece that starts with footsteps crunching through gravel or through a field. Next comes the intro of the farmer or environmentalist or widowed mother of four, followed by a pithy cut from him or her ... You get the picture.

Here is one of the most perfect parodies of a tv news piece I have ever seen, and it's much better than the radio parody because it includes a laser decapitation. Warning: the reporter uses the F-word once.


Three ways the iPhone is a time machine to the past

The KPCC News team was recently assigned iPhones and I guardedly switched over from my trusty Blackberry. It makes sense because the iPhones can not only take pretty good pictures and video, but can also be used as a backup recorder with pretty high fidelity. So it’s a leap into the future. But not entirely. Two of my favorite iPhone apps actually turn the thing into a time machine to the past.

I’ve already blogged about the Hipstamatic app, which changes your pristine digital photos, with their deep focus and high detail, to leaky old Polaroids and Brownies.

I’ve been pondering why I like this so much, and I think it has to do with simplifying. There’s too much detail in a digital photo, too much distraction. The crappy old cameras only looked at one thing at a time, and rendered that one thing in a sort of Impressionistic way, engaging your mind more, or at least in a different way.