Notebook on Cities and Culture
(Formerly The Marketplace of Ideas.) Colin Marshall sits down for in-depth conversations with cultural creators, internationalists, and observers of the urban scene all around Los Angeles and beyond.

In Seoul's Yangjae station, Colin talks with Barry Welsh, host of the Seoul Book & Culture Club and Seoul Film Society as well as professor at Sookmyung Women’s University. They discuss what Koreans know about the Isle of Man, the last place he lived; how he founded his now well-known book club; his literary encounters with the concept of han; how Kim Young-ha's I Have the Right to Destroy Myself introduced him to the real Seoul; how little time people have to waste in Korea versus how much they have on the Isle of Man; how his life in various parts of the British Isles prepared him for the kind of regional differences important in Korea; whether he endorses the view of Koreans as "the Irish of Asia"; what got him out of his homeland in the first place; the rich mundanity he experienced when he first came to Seoul; who turns up when the Book Club talks about North Korea; how Korean movies, especially older ones by auteurs of previous generations, have helped him get a grip on things in the country; howe he learned to interview writers; the first things he noticed about Seoul, such as the number of shops still open at 10:00 at night (and how that differs from his hometown of Auchterarder); with what authority he can speak on the matter of where "Scottish people eat spicy food"; how Koreans talk about "our country," but Scots don't; the stylistic difference in questions about books asked by Korean readers versus foreign readers; the feeling of safety of Seoul versus the ambient threat of Glasglow; the commonalities between "Cool Britannia" and the "Korean Wave"; his non-fandom of haggis; his perspective on the issue of Scottish independence from all the way over in Korea; the advantages of book club operation as a foreigner; and his impressions of the Korean generation represented by his students.

Direct download: NCC_Korea_Tour_Barry_Welsh.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:16 PM

Right across the street from Seoul's Insadong district, Colin talks with Daniel Gray, creator of the site Seoul Eats, proprietor of craft beer restaurants Brew 3.14π and Brew 3.15π, and for four years a partner at O'ngo Food Communications. They discuss his weariness of the term "Seoul food"; what part of Korean culture happens around the table; what goes into "Daniel Gray's Ultimate Food Tour"; the pre-existing perceptions food tourists bring about Korean cuisine; the two senses in which Koreans "eat everything together"; why Koreans ask not if foreigners want to eat Korean food, but if they can; how he grew up adopted in Delaware and decided to explore Korea only after college; his first encounter with Korea in adulthood, attempting to find breakfast in Gyeongju; whether any remnants of the Korean language remained in his mind from the first five years of his life; how he got started writing not about food, but about his experience seeking out his biological mother; the meals that made him realize he loved Korean food; the dishes that took him the most getting used to, especially Korea's "nostalgic foods" from the 1960s and 70s; the way Koreans use American cheese; the sugar on Korean garlic bread; the importance of balancing all the flavors; whether the average Korean has a higher awareness of food than the average Westerner; what happened to a pizzeria in Korea when it didn't serve pickles; what makes Brew 3.14π's pizza different; what a Korean gets when they want American food; why you can't badly criticize a restaurant in the Korean media, and how that made Seoul Eats a refreshing read; the difference in attitude toward (and ease of) opening one's own restaurant in Korea and America; how restaurants show their generosity with their side dishes; the foreigner's search for "real Korean flavor" and "authenticity" in general; where to go first to get a handle on eating in Seoul; why Korean food hasn't taken off in the wider world to the extent that, for example, Japanese food has, and what that might have to do with its lack of a unifying idea; the international barriers to entry of 떡볶이; the food experiences without which you cannot understand Korean food; what he learns about international Korean food from the stream of food tourists he's met; and how he introduced his American parents to Korean food.

Direct download: NCC_Korea_Tour_Daniel_Gray.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:22 PM

In Seoul's Itaewon district, Colin talks with Alex Jensen, host of weekday news show This Morning on TBS eFM. They discuss whether he envisions who he's talking to when he's talking on-air; what first strikes him about the Tube whenever he goes back to London; when he very first took to the airwaves; how much he knew about the existence of English broadcasting in Korean when he headed there in pursuit of the probable love of his life; how he developed his professional broadcasting life in Korea through "friends of friends"; what put him off music radio, and "the full breadth of life" offered by current-events radio; his grasp of the "raw emotions" of Korean, and how they came into play when he reported the sinking of the Sewol (and how it compared to his newsroom experience during the London bombings of 2005); his preference of fairness over neutrality; how the movies introduced him to the depth of Korean sentiment; why Seoul doesn't confront you with packs of drunken fifteen-year-olds on the way home; what Korean freedom consists of today; whether he, too, has a "Korean dream"; his very first impressions of Seoul, and how he sought out similarities to London while receiving them; the utmost importance of simply getting to know people; how much an English-speaking job impedes the learning of Korean; why Korea has so much English radio in the first place; the culture that develops in major media not in a country's dominant language; the questions he can ask that a Korean might hesitate to; the sensationalism over North Korea in foreign media versus the shrugging in South Korea; how different Itaewon, where he lives, feels from the rest of Korea; where he sees the emergence of a more international Korea; where to find the best British food in Seoul; and how having a long, large-scale media conversation with Korean society has helped him integrate into it.

Direct download: NCC_Korea_Tour_Alex_Jensen.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:20 PM

In Seoul's Haebangchon district, Colin Marshall talks with Charles Montgomery, professor in the English Interpretation and Translation Division of Dongguk University, editor of the site KTlit.com, and global ambassador of Korean literature in translation. They discuss the first Korean books that excited him; the mistakes he made in choosing his first works of Korean literature to read; the significance of bestseller authors Kim Young-ha and Shin Kyoung-sook; the impossibility of getting around the literary prize system, and how that suppresses genre; how the substantial literature of the Korean War compares to what literature America has of its own Civil War; how his Korean best friend influenced the course of his professional life; why he burnt out as a marketing director and how it led him to Korea; the intense nature of Korean emotional bonds (and the intensity of their absence); why you have to treat everyone in the United States as a "potential shooter"; what happens when you read Korean literature with an understanding of the culture; whether Americans can ever internalize the Korean sense of obligation to society; how much Korean literature makes it into English; the idea that, to write for foreigners, a Korean writer somehow becomes less Korean; the popularity of Haruki Murakami in Korean translation; how he got "inside the elbow"; America and Korea as cultural antidotes to one another; why cities back in the U.S. seem to lag so far behind those of Korea; how one translated bestseller "drags" the rest of its country's literature behind it; how Dalkey Archive handled Korean literature; the Korean preference for short stories and novellas over full-length novels; the insights into Korean society that literature still gives him; why Korean characters seem to lack agency; what Western literature he likes; which Korean writers have a tantalizing amount of work still untranslated; why Koreans have considered so many elements of their culture unknowable to foreigners; the exalted status of the 작가님; the signs that will let us know Korean literature has made it; and what stands a chance of becoming Korea's geisha, chrysanthemum, sword, sushi, and Shinjuku.

Direct download: NCC_Korea_Tour_Charles_Montgomery.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:33 AM

In Anyang, Colin talks with Steve Miller, creator of the Asia News Weekly podcast, and the vlogger formerly known as QiRanger. They discuss whether he notices what goes on on around him has he records himself on video on the streets of various countries; the suburbs of Seoul versus the suburbs of Phoenix; the possible pronunciations of "QiRanger"; why he lives in Asia, and in this moment Korea; whether he researched Korea beforehand or just plunged in; when and why he made his first video ever; how his travel videos came as a natural extension of old family slideshows; the origin of his "walk-and-talk" videos, in which he does exactly that; the usefulness of neighborhood maps in Korean subway stations, especially when they got calorie counts added to them; why he enjoys Korean food in the Philippines so much; his experience as a tall white guy with a shaved head in a homogenous Asian country, and how his youth at a black school prepared him for it; how he got into news podcasting; the cafe street in Dongtan, where he lives, and how business models become brief crazes in Korea; the planning for failure Koreans don't tend to do; his Korean foods of choice; the difference between 신천 and 신촌; his success rate with Mexican cuisine in Korea; how to think about the Philippines; the inevitable video-making that happens on his vacations; what a GoPro actually is; they myth about foreigners in Korea he'd most like to explode; the motivation his Star Trek-watching childhood instilled in him; why he wants to stop teaching basic English in Korea, and why students of English there rarely learn to communicate well; why he thinks Asia is so important, and how he thinks it enriches those who come to it.

Direct download: NCC_Korea_Tour_Steve_Miller.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:51 PM

You know about Notebook on Cities and Culture, but do you know about "Los Angeles, the City in Cinema"? For the past few months, I've been creating video essays about the variety of Los Angeleses revealed in the films shot and set there, like Blade Runner, Her, Drive, Strange Days, and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. You can find out more about them and watch all of them at colinmarshall.org.

On January 25, 2015, I'm coming to Portland, Oregon's Hollywood Theatre to give a screening and live talk called "Portland and Los Angeles: The City in Cinema". I'll show and discuss never-before-seen Los Angeles video essays there, but it'll also be the world premiere of "Portland: The City in Cinema", my long-form video essay on the roles the City of Roses has played in films like Zero Effect, Old Joy, Cold Weather, and My Own Private Idaho. Also, we'll definitely all drink a lot of beers. For details, visit colinmarshall.org, and to buy your tickets, visit hollywoodtheatre.org. Thanks.
Direct download: NCC_Portland_promo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:25 AM

In Seoul's Hongdae district, Colin talks with Keith Kim, creator of the travel and culture site Seoulistic. They discuss how Birkenstocks became the dominant Korean trend in the summer of 2014; what a gyopo is, and what it means to live in Korea as one; his ability to present himself as both a Korean and a foreigner; the Korean expectations to which he can least adhere; how little the old and the young understand one another in Korea; how the tattoo and smoking situation has changed in society since he first arrived; what he found when he first visited Korea during the celebratory time of the 2002 World Cup; the difficulty of finding a coffee shop in Apgujeong not attached to a plastic surgery clinic; why Koreans assume certain personality traits correlate with certain facial features; why you can do "Humans of New York", but you couldn't do "Humans of Seoul"; the advantages of "not counting" in Korean society; the power of "Korean stink eye"; why he chose to live in Japan as well; the old people who freely touch foreigners on the train; what most clashes with his American side, especially in the realm of dating; what makes more sense in Korean society than in American; the varying attitudes toward parental wisdom in Korea and America; how a foreigner can know Seoul better than a Korean; what foreigners tend to do wrong in Korea; the difference between American and Korean suburbs; why he wants a back yard; the death of "the American dream," and why his Korean-born Americanized dad wants to return to Korea from his own; his desire to live in Thailand; the single idea of beauty that has taken hold in Korea, and why the population may, ultimately, just want to look the same; his coterie of "international people" in Seoul, and how much they usually like the city; the Korean demand for opinions; how to avoid becoming a bitter expat in Seoul; why he folds his clothes like a Japanese housewife; and whether he'd base himself in New York, Seoul or Tokyo if he had to choose right now.

 

Direct download: NCC_Korea_Tour_Keith_Kim.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:46 PM

In Seoul's Hongdae district, Colin talks with Chance Dorland, radio- and podcast-hosting expat in countries like Germany, Colombia, and now South Korea, currently of Groove magazine's Groovecast, TBS eFM's "Chance Encounters" segment, and Chance and Dan Do Korea. They discuss the one thing that unites Americans; the origins of his Korean podcasting career; whether people knew what the Peace Corps was after he got out of the Peace Corps; why he rejected both Los Angeles and New York; how he made peace with growing up in a small Iowa town, despite what he never got to learn there; mudding; what it felt like, growing up, to meet someone who had been to a major city; how he acquired a "fake family"; what, in adolescence, he somehow "knew" America had more of than any other country; the affliction that made class attendance difficult; when he realized Boston, where he went for college, doesn't count as a big city; the enthusiasm for World War II that got him applying to go to Germany; the comparative lack of user-friendliness in major American cities; what he doesn't have to deal with in Seoul; the simultaneous fall of traditional media and rise of new media; how Korea opened the opportunity to form band after band; the general low quality of so many people working in the American media; how he got out of English teaching and into radio; where his desire to work with poor people led him; why the Peace Corps lies, and how he wound up getting the wrong medication in their time with them; where to find Korean food in Des Moines; why he wants to do radio "in a booth," and why that may prove more attainable in Korea than elsewhere; how he started reporting for TBS eFM; the obstacles to getting a job as a foreigner with no Korean wife or Korean heritage; and how foreigner occupational diversity might benefit Korea.

Direct download: NCC_Korea_Tour_Chance_Dorland.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:15 PM

On the Seoul Floating Islands, Colin talks with Nikola Medimorec, co-author of Kojects, an English-language blog on transport, urban planning, and development projects around Korea. They discuss the first Korean city he ever experienced, and what introduction it gave him to both the country's festival culture and its development culture; what makes the transit different in Asia than in elsewhere; the installation he witnessed of glass panels on the subway platforms, and how that not just prevents suicides but improves the riding experience; the question that got him studying geography in the first place; the success of his posts on KTX stations he wrote in his first, German-language blog, and how that led to Kojects; why he most enjoys writing about Korean bicycle infrastructure, now that it has become possible to bike there; the difference between cycling in Korea and cycling in Germany, where he grew up; how old Korean men all listen to the radio on their bicycles; how he plunged right into his studies at Seoul National University, including a statistics class in Korean; how the Suwon EcoMobility Festival took over his life; the cities that most fascinate him outside of Seoul; his impressions of the new-built "city from scratch" of Songdo and the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, "an alien spaceship landed in the middle of Seoul"; the current Seoul mayor's aversion to all big projects, especially the "ugly" DDP; the ongoing controversy of the Cheonggyecheon Stream; whether a project like the Yonsei-ro Transit Mall can allow for commerce on the street (and especially street food); his initial surprise at all the people on the streets in Seoul, and the changing reasons they've come out to the streets; where to look for a pojangmacha, and why having to search for them is a problem in itself; the domestic culture of  Germany versus the urban culture of Korea; what impresses German friends when the come visit Korea; what Korean cities could learn from European ones; whether Korea has any more large-scale projects remaining in the future; how older European buildings have become favored, while even 25-year-old buildings in Korea have badly deteriorated and await redevelopment; what the new "phallus symbol" of the Lotte World Tower (in which he once saw a fire) demonstrates, and why he doesn't care about that kind of skyscraper; whether Korean 빠리 빠리 culture results in a shoddy built environment; why he couldn't do a Kojects-style blog in Germany; Kojects' reliance on Korean sources, and how that separates it from other English-language sites observing Korean cities; how much of his mastery of Korean comes directly from reading about transport and urban development; his preferred methods for first exploring a city; what you notice when you walk in Seoul; and the story behind the Seoul Floating Islands on which they sit.

Direct download: NCC_Korea_Tour_Nikola_Medimorec.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:33 PM

At a bar by the train tracks near Yongsan, Colin talks with Jon Dunbar, urban explorer, editor of long-running Korean punk zine Broke in Korea, and author of Daehanmindecline. They discuss the difference between a Korean abandoned place and a Canadian abandoned place; how Seoul got re-inhabited after the war; the development of poor "moon villages" on the hillsides; how he defines "urban exploring," and why he dislikes that name; the urban renewal process that causes the abandonment of neighborhoods; the hired goons who harass people to leave areas slated for demolition; how big a city all the abandoned buildings he's visited would constitute by themselves; his experience in the tunnel from The Host; what it means to explore Korea's abandoned/disputed/places as a foreigner, and the difficulty of getting Koreans interested in urban exploration; the time he ran into a man collecting scrap metal, and why that man felt embarrassment for his country; the difference between the Korea he came to, which had both grass huts and high-rises, and Korea today; why so many buildings in Seoul have reached such an advanced state of decrepitude so quickly; what he prefers about North Korean architecture to South; what most high-rises in Seoul stand on the ruins of; his discovery of the Korean punk scene, and why he needed to confirm its existence before he came to live; the lower level of violence and higher level of musicianship in Korean punk; how he got to work for an organization like the Korean government; the ominousness of a presidential promise to promote "the happiness of the people"; the meaning of han, why the government now wants to eradicate the concept, and how pansori reggae expresses it; the change in Seoul mayors that brought about a change in major Seoul building projects; the significance of the new Dongdaemun Design Plaza and the politics involved in building it; how, rather than declining, Korea has "improved in every way" since he turned up; his life in Bukcheon hanok village, and how its old-style houses have become more coveted in recent years; whether Korea can shake the idea of "old = bad"; where in Korea he witnessed a funk brawl; and the way to "use your unfamiliarity as a tool" in a place like Korea.

Direct download: NCC_Korea_Tour_Jon_Dunbar.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:43 PM