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

San Diego Opera gets new life from old hand

Missy West

San Diego Opera senior docent Kathleen Kay O’Neil, protesting the decision to close the opera company.

There’s been a lot of good news at the beleaguered San Diego Opera and it finally looks as though it will be alive for its 50th anniversary next year. The latest was the appointment of a new, if temporary, general manager, William Mason.

Mason is the former impresario of the Chicago Lyric Opera, which has long been thought of as America’s No. 2 company after New York’s Met. Mason, who had over 50 years with that organization, presided over the Lyric through its own tough times recently.

RELATED: Haefele recommends LA Opera's CD of "The Stigmatized"

“They need somebody new,” Mason explained to station KPBS. “I’m 72-years-old. I have no new ideas, and I’m not trying to formulate any.” In fact he’s four years older than his immediate predecessor, Ian Campbell, who employed his ex-wife as his assistant and was forced out after he tried to close the 49-year-old opera company in March.

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PST LA/LA: From Latino to Latin American ... What does it mean?

May 6, 2013: LA Mayor Eric Garcetti clowns at Pacific Standard Time LA/LA event in downtown LA, at which the Getty Foundation announced $5m in PST LA/LA research grants.

John Rabe

May 6, 2013: LA Mayor Eric Garcetti clowns at Pacific Standard Time LA/LA event in downtown LA, at which the Getty Foundation announced $5m in PST LA/LA research grants. L-R: Mark Siegel, Chair, Getty Board of Trustees; Deborah Marrow, Director, Getty Foundation; Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles; Roxana Velásquez, Maruja Baldwin Executive Director, San Diego Museum of Art; Michael Govan, Chief Executive Officer and Wallis Annenberg Director, LACMA; Jim Cuno, President & CEO, J. Paul Getty Trust.

"…In reality, our north is the South. There must not be north, for us, except in opposition to our South. Therefore we now turn the map upside down, and then we have a true idea of our position, and not as the rest of the world wishes. The point of America, from now on, forever, insistently points to the South, our north." —Joaquín Torres García

As nesting swallows circled over a hip downtown restaurant’s courtyard recently, the Getty Foundation announced new torrents of funding for a brand new Pacific Standard Time set to bloom in late 2017.  This $5 million investment is explicitly intended to swerve the focus of much of Southern California’s arts establishment Southwards: from Los Angeles Latino to Latin America. They’re calling it, so help me, LA/LA.

As the Getty’s press release put it, “Through a series of thematically linked exhibitions, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA aims to take a fresh look at vital and vibrant traditions in Latino and Latin American art.”

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Opposite day artists: 'The Snowy Day's' Ezra Jack Keats at Skirball, June Wayne at PMCA

June Wayne

June Wayne's "The Cavern," Kafka Series, 1948

Ezra Jack Keats' illustration for "Apt. 3," 1971. Ezra Jack Keats Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi.


Off-Ramp contributor Marc Haefele reviews "The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats," at the Skirball Center through September 7; and "June Wayne: Paintings, Prints, and Tapestries," at the Pasadena Museum of California Art through August 31.

Two different Los Angeles area shows. Two artists with parallel backgrounds who evolved very differently. Both very worth seeing. Ezra Jack Keats and June Wayne were both born in the 1910s, both were child prodigies from humble parents and were largely self taught, both were involved in 1930s WPA mural projects and did defense-related design work during WW II.

But otherwise, how the different their visions and careers turned out.

RELATED: Low-performing Inglewood & Compton schools try arts-based revamp

Just over 50 years ago, little children’s book was published about a boy exploring the fresh snow of a winter day. It was illustrated in assemblages of bright primary colors and the pages were filled with pale glowing snowflakes much like the spatters in a Jackson Pollack painting. It was called “The Snowy Day” and its hero was a little child in a bright red snowsuit.

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DJs and dinosaurs: Sketches of Natural History Museum's First Friday

Mike Sheehan

Mike Sheehan

Mike Sheehan

Mike Sheehan

Mike Sheehan

Mike Sheehan

Mike Sheehan

Mike Sheehan

Mike Sheehan


Off-Ramp is the only radio show we know of with a resident sketch artist. In a world where everyone takes photos of everything they see, and we soon forget what we saw and what we photographed, Mike Sheehan explores the world with his sketchbook, leaving us with delightful, indelible images of life in Southern California. Here's his latest sketchbook and letter.

Hi John,

I finally got to one of the Natural History Museum's First Fridays. Been wanting to go forever. I've always loved this museum, it's one of my favorite places to sketch. Where else can you get a dinosaur to pose for you? 

Don't take our word for it! Go to the next First Friday at the Natural History Museum

So I thought it would be cool to draw at this event and see the museum at night. I had it in my mind these things were sedate quiet affairs. I was wrong. I got there early and people started slowly arriving. They have little loungey seating areas in the diorama halls. I love seeing the museum dark and lit with colored lights. 

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Remembering Efrem Zimbalist Jr.'s acting career — and his violin sonata

Actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr., seen here at his California home in 1982, died Friday, his family announced.

Wally Fong/AP

Actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr., seen here at his California home in 1982, died Friday at 95.

Off-Ramp commentator Marc Haefele remembers a brief but memorable encounter with Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who died Friday at the age of 95.

There is still no reasonable accounting for how I ended up interviewing Efrem Zimbalist Jr. back in 1987. Of course, there was a reason: As a fabulously underpaid L.A. City Hall reporter, I moonlighted for a national AM radio network to keep up my car payments.

The bright and patient woman who employed me didn’t want my political reporting. She needed entertainment coverage. “That’s all that matters nationally about Los Angeles,” she explained.

Unfortunately, it didn’t matter much to me. I did not own a TV. I was not paid enough to go to movies, let alone rock concerts, plays, theatrical musicals and so on. So I didn’t even know what most '80s celebrities looked like, let alone what their latest projects and personal problems were.

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