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

New 'Dr. Zhivago' backstory details Soviet repression, author's personal torment

Off-Ramp correspondent Marc Haefele reviews The Zhivago Affair by Peter Finn and Petra Couvee.

More than 55 years ago, something unique happened in the U.S.  literary world: two novels, each by a Russian-born writer, dueled for top place on the New York Times’ best seller list. Finally, Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” was trounced by #1 best seller “Dr. Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak, a poet few Americans had heard of. 

Suddenly, at the height of the Cold War, tens of thousands of citizens of the Land of the Free were imagining themselves on the Siberian Steppes, following Zhivago and his life-love Lara in their hopeless quest for a separate peace in the Russian Civil War. In colleges, students were enrolling in Russian courses and trying to read “Zhivago” in the original.

Nabokov’s enduring tragedy of pre-teen vixen Lolita is probably more popular today.


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Tree climbing champs return to Griffith Park to defend their titles

Jamilee Kempton (first on the left) and Chad Brey (third to the right) pose with fellow winners of the 2014 North American Tree Climbing Championship.
International Society of Arboriculture

Yes, competitive tree climbing is a real-life thing. If you'd like to know more, take a listen here

Griffith Park once again hosts the Western Chapter ISA Tree Climbing Championship for 2014. The West's top professional tree climbers will gather for the chance to compete in the International Tree Climbing Championship in Milwaukee. 

2013 champions Jacob Claassen and Jamilee Kempton will climb to protect their champion titles. Kempton and Santa Barbara native Claassen both competed in the 2014 North American Tree Climbing Championship held in Pasadena. Kempton placed third in the Women's Master Challenge.

California climber Chad Brey will also compete for the Western Chapter title. He edged out fellow climbers to win the 2014 NATCC. Come August, he'll head to Milwaukee for the 2014 ITCC.  


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Assemblyman Mike Gatto's vintage license plates are stamped out

The California DMV is taking preorders for three different classic designs under the state's new legacy license plate program. Any plate that receives at least 7,500 preorders by Jan. 1, 2015, will be made available to motorists for $50 — it's the same cost for sequential and vanity plates.
Mashup of images from California Department of Motor Vehicles

We get letters:

I read an article of yours online about the new California vintage license plates in which you said that the letters and numbers on the new plates will be raised, not flat. I’ve seen contradictory information about this and am wondering if you know any more about it now that the yellow on black plates are being issued. If the letters and numbers are raised, does this include the “California” at the top or only the actual license number? Thanks so much for your help. — Jane R., Berkeley

And we get action ... from the license plate bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Mike Gatto:

-----Original Message-----
From: Gatto, Mike
To: Rabe, John

Stamped metal, using the original molds!

RELATED: Vintage black license plates first to go into production


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San Diego Opera gets new life from old hand

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

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. 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.
John Rabe

"…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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