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

Striking Photos of Old Matchbook

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

My friend Tom Taylor, the noted radio analyst, wrote to tell me he's very excited about his latest purchase -- World War Two-era matchbooks. Who knew there was such a specialty!?

"Wanna see a cool WWII matchbook? I bought this at the Brimfield antique markets in Massachusetts two weeks ago, and I've never owned it before, though I've heard about it. There are two jokes here in what's called a "featured matchbook", so read the 3 pics in numerical order. In good shape with all its matchsticks (which this one lacks), this is worth about $80." (He didn't say how much he paid.)

These are actually the only known photos of Tom's fingers. Historians take note! It's an Off-Ramp exclusive.


Breakdancing in Little Toyko - UPDATE WITH VIDEO FROM EVENT

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

This was the scene (photographed by Twitterer lahiphopdance) you could have watched through the glass walls of the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo tonite til 11.

Julian and I ate dinner at Suehiro and happened across the Undadog 4 Battle 4 Little Tokyo, presented by Maximum Stylez MDC, a hiphop breakdance competition that kept us rapt for a good hour.

Kids and young adults were flying all over the floor, emitting a ton of positive energy. Black, white, Asian, Latin, gay, straight, didn't matter. The security guard, an older bullheaded guy, was beaming, saying something good about keeping the museum open late. I'm sure this kind of stuff happens all the time and I just don't know about it. But I'm glad I saw it tonite.

Here's a taste of what was going on:


Ahmad Jamal In LA Next Weekend! Go!

This man's piano playing will scramble your brains, add colors, lights, herbs and spices, and feed them back to you through your ears.

Ahmad Jamal is one of the undisputed great jazz pianists. He is nearing eighty. Don't put off seeing him play. A few years ago, he was coming to LA fairly regularly, playing at the Jazz Bakery and Catalina's, but lately he's been doing concert venues, not clubs, and NOT in SoCal.

But I checked his website at random today and noticed that he's booked for a rare LA gig. It's this coming Friday and Saturday, September 25 and 26, at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 West Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016.

When I bought my tickets, there seemed to be plenty left. Hope to see you there. My guess is you could dress nicely for this concert with no loss of face.


Great Day in Duarte

My husband Julian and I had a great time in Duarte today, where I served as Ambassador in the Duarte Route 66 Parade and Classic Car Show.

The event was pretty light duty. It involved eating a tasty breakfast at the community center, meeting event organizers and city officials (Congresswoman Judy Chu was there, too), riding in a convertible and waving, then meeting and greeting at the vintage car show and carnival after. Oh, and sending one of the city's worthy citizens into the dunk tank. (Two balls for a dollar; I spent $2.) I left too early to dunk a city councilwoman. Lots of great kids (like the DART volunteers who shepherded us around) and good people.

I met Zac Sunderland, the teen circumnavigator, who was the parade's Grand Marshall, and who posed politely for about two hundred photos -- including this one (by Julian Bermudez) -- and a signed a lot of autographs. His message: "Don't pigeonhole kids; give them an opportunity to live their dreams."


Backstory on Vang Pao

We're learning today that the government is dropping charges against Vang Pao, the Hmong hero who's been under house arrest in Orange County for a long time. Above, he's visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC in 2000. (LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Well, Vang Pao is my former colleague Doualy Xaykaothao's GREAT UNCLE, and she produced a profile for us that we aired on Off-Ramp in 2008. I've pulled it from the archives and hope you'll give it a listen.