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

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. 


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.


New hope for the supposedly shuttered San Diego Opera

Missy West

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

UPDATE 9:43pm 4/24/2014:  There's another potential legal obstacle to the shutdown of the San Diego Opera.  Hope Singer, an attorney for the American Guild of Musical Artists, says the guild is seeking a temporary restraining order against the opera company in San Diego Federal District Court. The  union represents solo singers whom the opera already contracted for performances in the upcoming season, and the TRO would require the opera to put up $1.75 million in assets to pay the contracted singers, even if the company shuts down as proposed. ''The singers have to get paid anyway, whether they get to sing or not," Singer said. 


On what was supposed to be the final Friday night performance of the San Diego Opera - its longtime director had just announced there would be no next season - senior docent Kathleen Kay O’Neil was having none of it. As ticket holders milled in the forecourt of the Civic Theater, she stood out among the large handful of protesters in her black jump suit and a home-made skull mask. And she carried a big sign: “Please Don’t Let Our Opera Die.”


7 Byzantium books to read after seeing new double Getty exhibits

Courtesy Byzantine & Christian Museum, Athens.

Icon with the Archangel Michael, about A.D. 1300–1350, Constantinople; tempera and gold on wood. Gift of a Greek of Istanbul, 1958

A short list of books on Byzantium from Off-Ramp contributor Marc Haefele to accompany his review of the Getty Center and Villa's first simultaneous show: Heaven and Earth.

Original history by Byzantine writers:

  • The Alexiad” by Anna Komnena (sometimes Comnena): Princess Anna’s own story of the reign of her emperor father in the 11th Century during the arrival of the crusaders. She’s such a colorful figure that she appears in some of the novels listed below.
  • The Secret History" by Procopius: The original tell-all dish on Constantinople’s famous couple, the Imperial Justinian and Theodora. Her naked stage performances with her trained geese still titillate.

  • 14 Byzantine Rulers” by Michael Psellus: Anecdotal, engrossing, informative, wide-ranging.

Four great novels about the Byzantine Empire:


Pete Seeger tribute to be hosted by Arch Grove Music in downtown Los Angeles

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger at age 88 photographed on 6-16-07 at the Clearwater Festival 2007 by Anthony Pepitone

Ash Grove Music is bringing together an all-star cast of folk, blues and roots-rock musicians this weekend to honor folk musician and activist Pete Seeger, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 94.

Perhaps best known for his role in the folk music and activism scenes of the 1960's, Seeger began his career decades earlier when he helped Alan Lomax collect songs throughout the south for the Library of Congress. He gained musical fame as a member of The Almanac Singers and then The Weavers, whose chart-topping success was cut short by a blacklisting in the McCarthy Era. Seeger reemerged as a prominent folk musician and activist in the tumultuous sixties and has remained a beloved public figure ever since.

The tribute will include Claudia Lennear, former Blaster Dave Alvin and Rick Shea, Len Chandler, Ross Altman, Peter Alsop and many others. Spoken word performers Mike Davis, S. Pearl Sharp and the Get-Lit Players will also be getting in on the fun.