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.

Colin Marshall sits down in Hackney, London with Iain Sinclair, author of numerous books, all rooted in London and all operating across the spectrum of fiction to nonfiction, including DownriverLights Out for the TerritoryLondon Orbital, and most recently American Smoke: Journeys to the End of the Light. They discuss the momentarily impossible-to-define issue of Hackney's identity; the need to walk the neighborhood to know it — but to then do it your whole life; the re-making of the landscape in Hackney as elsewhere in London; the surprisingly functional London Overground's only partial integration into the city's transport consciousness; the way commemorative plaques "fix history," which forces you to find the reality for yourself; the operation of London hierarchies as he witnessed it in his book-dealing days, and how he then came to see uniformity set in; why students today never seem to get all the way through his books, drawing instead "a series of cultural cartoons" from excerpts and immediately applying them to their own project; why he's never had the sense of writing about London, per se, a subject to which he'd never expected the public to connect; the way the city's irrationality tends to drive those who write about into the realms of fiction; the criticism he takes for including "too may references" in his books, and his readers' freedom to pursue those references or not; the involved pub conversation that ensued when a Frenchman walked up to him and asked, "Is this London?"; what might have counted as the center of London in the seventies, and what might now; what results from asking, "What is this the center of?"; Geoff Dyer's years on Effra Road, and the associations its very name brings to mind; how he knows when one of his books  (or the latest continuation of his "one big book" of a career) has come to an end; taking on another country in American Smoke, and discovering the disappointing London in the mind of the Beats; and his notion the he has only ever "articulated aspects of place," still the most robust nexus of interests and influences available.

Direct download: NCC_S4E31_Iain_Sinclair.output.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:00 AM

Colin Marshall sits down in Winchester, England with PD Smith, author of books on science, literature, superweapons, and, most recently, City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age. They discuss whether London has all the elements of the archetypally ideal city; the essential quality of "a place where you meet strangers"; the need to avoid writing only about buildings; the recent moment when half the world's population found itself living in cities; the factors that have made city life more possible today than ever before; what on Earth Prince Charles talks about when he talks about architecture and urbanism; the enduring impulse to knock cities down and start them over; the un-knocked-down city as a palimpsest-like store of knowledge, perhaps with its own "latent consciousness"; Tokyo and the metaphor of city as body; whether, in experiencing cities or writing about them, to focus on one element at a time or to try to take them whole; what Germans get right about city-building; when and where Starbucks starts to seem like the most foreign place you could go; the globe-spanning "cities" of the airport, the high street, or any other non-place; what it takes to make London strange again; the detective as a quintessentially urban figure exhibiting a mastery of his sensationalistically grim, dark, troubled environment; and the challenge any interesting city issues its resident: "Figure out how to live in me."

Direct download: NCC_S4E30_PD_Smith.output.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:25 PM

The Kickstarter drive for Notebook on Cities and Culture's Korea Tour has nearly reached its halfway point. But we still have over $3300 of the budget left to raise. If you want to hear Notebook on Cities and Culture go beyond season four and on to a whole season of in-depth conversations all around the most fascinating country in Asia today find out more about how you can back the Korea Tour at its Kickstarter page. Rewards include postcards from Korea, mentions of your project or message on the show, and copies from the print run of my extremely limited-edition Korea Diary. Thanks.

Direct download: NCC_Korea_Tour_Kickstarter_update.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:17 PM

Colin Marshall sits down for bangers and mash in Woolwich, London, England, with writer on political aesthetics Owen Hatherley, author of the books Militant ModernismA Guide to the New Ruins of Great BritainA New Kind of Bleak, and Uncommon, on the pop group Pulp. They discuss the relevance of the combined sentiments of the Pet Shop Boys and the Human League to his critical mission; his sickness of "where's my jetpack"-type complaint; the new limits of the possible; whether one more easily sees politics expressed in architecture in England that elsewhere; the coincidental rises of the welfare state and modern architecture; the nature of England's north-south divide, one starker than that between the former East and West Germany, the unexpected tasteless drama of northern building, and the "ruin porn" richness of towns like Bradford and Liverpool; housing as the chief political issue of modern Britain; the shamefacedness of new English building, and the tendency of it to bear little relation to its own location; his view of buildings like the now-demolished Tricorn Centre in childhood, before he'd internalized "what architecture should look like"; how the still-standing Preston Bus Station demonstrated that a provincial city wasn't parochial; the long-gone heyday of the City Architect; his upcoming book on architecture and communism, and what he's discovered in his exploration of eastern Europe; why he might feel the need for a disclaimer stating that he already knows about the gulag; and how he found that the Soviet regime generated much more nostalgia, in its buildings and otherwise, than people think.

Direct download: NCC_S4E29_Owen_Hatherley.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:58 AM

Colin Marshall sits down in Canterbury, England with Jack Hues, founding member of the rock band Wang Chung and jazz band The Quartet. Wang Chung's latest album Tazer Up came out in 2012, and The Quartet's next album Collaborations Volumes 1 & 2 comes out this fall. They discuss what makes the "Canterbury sound"; the differences between Wang Chung's "English" and "American" albums; what recording in another city or country, and drawing in its "vibe," gives a project; music as a language, and how different styles of music feed into each other as do different languages; the "librarian mentality" that has many of his students talking initially about musical genres rather than about musicians; what growing up with the Beatles made possible; his Haruki Murakami reference in Wang Chung's "City of Light", and how he works into songs other things simply happened upon in life; his formation of The Quartet after 9/11; how he gets to balance teaching, The Quartet, and Wang Chung now that the latter doesn't demand an all-consuming lifestyle; how only his American students ask about Wang Chung, and how nearly all of them have internalized the form of the "pop song" unconsciously; critics' misguided fixation on lyrics; Wang Chung's use of unusual chords, and what makes some music generally more interesting than other music; whether the world of 1980s pop music could accommodate the darker side; art's emergence from constraints, and how he goes about imposing them on The Quartet; the experience of revisiting "Dance Hall Days" for a remix; whether Wang Chung would play "Rising in the East" if someone shouted it out; the musical place where Wang Chung and The Quartet meet; how to enjoy feeling like an outsider yet use roots as an artist; and the reaction drawn at a recent Wang Chung show: "Wow, you guys are real musicians!"

Direct download: NCC_S4E28_Jack_Hues.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:25 AM

Colin Marshall walks through Stratford, London with John Rogers, author of the blog Lost Byway book This Other London: Adventures in the Overlooked City. They discuss how one should approach one's first London shopping mall, a built phenomenon that has changed dramatically over the decades; his memories of playing soccer with rotten fruit in the older of Stratford's indoor shopping centers; whether knowing the "other" London requires you to first know the standard London; how "ramble books" got him writing about unwritten-about places; the importance of feeling proud of wherever you live; the unshrinking "London Book" industry, whose robustness possibly owes to the difficulty of pinning the city down; comparisons with Los Angeles, where myths and easy definitions go uncontested; when Leytonstone went from part of Essex to part of London, and what that meant; the historical John Rogers, who got burnt at the stake; what constitutes his walking "practice," which has earned him a reputation as "the drinking man's Iain Sinclair"; the richer connection to the environment you feel when walking, and the aid to thinking it provides; how he first began blogging about his walks, and how the activity took on elements of journalism; his curiosity about London places and place names, and how walking facilitates the accretion of related facts into knowledge; his use of pubs as "third places," and his use of samosas as walking fuel; the Orwellian enjoyment of hardship; and his memories of riding the Docklands Light Railway into the sunset when he first came to town.

Direct download: NCC_S4E27_John_Rogers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:03 PM

Colin Marshall sits down in Marseille, France, specifically in the Le Corbusier-designed Unité d'Habitation, with Jonathan Meades, writer and broadcaster on architecture, culture, food, and a variety of other subjects to do with place. In his latest film, Bunkers, Brutalism, and Bloodymindness, he looks at architectural styles once- and currently maligned. They discuss how much his residence in Marseilles has to do with his residence in the Unité d'Habitation, to which "caprice" brought him not long ago; unapologetic building versus pusillanimous building; the lack of centralized planning that afflicts France, and what kind of built environment it has brought about; what makes Marseille "no longer the city of Gene Hackman and Fernando Rey"; the phases of the Unité, from its rejection by the workers for whom Corbusier intended it onward; the larger reaction to 20th-century social housing in France and Britain, and what it means that those countries have no taste for the sublime; which European borders he crosses and most immediately notices that "someone cares" about the buildings; what you miss by never having seen Portsmouth's Tricorn Centre, which rose in a rebuilt city in a time when "new meant better"; how he finds no place boring, an attitude for which he may have received inadvertent training traveling through England with his salesman father; places as gardens of forking paths, leading to all manner of other things; real places, and the fiction places you by definition invent when you try to describe them; the "persona completely apart" he uses to contrast against the variety of places on display in his films; his ideal of satirizing everything; what went into his upcoming book An Encyclopedia of Myself, beginning with the "lie" of its title; whether he has ever felt fascinated by American places; what the French consider too "difficult" about his un-methodical work; and what hope we should hold out for a future Jonathan Meades film on Buenos Aires.

Direct download: NCC_S4E26_Jonathan_Meades.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:19 PM

Colin Marshall sits down for a pint at Nelson's Retreat, a pub on London's Old Street, with Neil Denny, host of Little Atoms, a show about ideas and culture on Resonance FM. They discuss whether beer improves or degrades the quality of ideas discussed; how the show's concept has changed over time, differently involving notions of science, culture, atheism, the Enlightenment, and the left; how he began podcasting, and then had to stand out from the sudden morass of skepticism-themed podcast; the different role of religion in the United States and the United Kingdom, and the difficulty of making any untrue statement about America; what effect the events of July 7, 2005 had on the formation of the show; how he conceives of his interviews as encounters with authors you read at the pub; the early inclusion of Jonathan Meades on the guest list, and how he represents the show's ever-growing interest in place; whether you must polarize to truly gain popularity; the Little Atoms American road trip, and what it taught him about how best to think about America's dually prominent scientific and religious enterprises; the American sense of place and the built environment versus that of England; how he sought out the semi-secret public gardens in the skyscrapers of San Francisco; how both of them changed the way they frame their core interests on their shows, but not the interests themselves; how he feels when he listens to his own early interviews, from back when he labored under the feeling of fraudulence then inherent to working outside the "legitimate media"; guests' welcome yet troubling compliments of, "You actually read my book" or "You really listened to me"; and friends' equally telling questions of, "Can you really talk to somebody for an hour?" 

Direct download: NCC_S4E25_Neil_Denny.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:25 PM

Colin Marshall sits down in London's Tower Hamlets with composer and artist Robin Rimbaud, better known as Scanner. They discuss the usefulness of a new place's disorientation; the fun of grasping that new place's systems and making its connections; other skills in the set gained from a lifetime of travel; the "great change" he has observed living in east London for fourteen years, where he arrived in search of "light and high ceilings"; the value of his work's taking him to places he doesn't choose; what he learned long ago when his visiting American friend's girlfriend reflexively called every difference in England "really stupid"; the ease of complaint and the difficulty of embracing these differences; the importance of pattern in all areas of life; the complex question of how to cross a street in Vietnam; travel as a means of seeing your own home; photography as a means of notetaking; his shelves of diaries, kept every single day since age twelve, and what it says about his overarching skill of discipline; self-documentation's need of a system to give it meaning, and how his famous early Scanner work gave meaning to other people's phone calls; the intriguing question of how, exactly, you ended up interested in something, friends with someone, or in a place; whether not liking a piece of culture just means you can't connect anything else to it; the greater fascination of why others love something you don't love, and the need to experience it all in order to value what you do love; why we had such strong allegiances to music as teenagers; Nick Drake, B.S. Johnson, and the non-connected creator alone against the world; how he facilitates connections himself by staying available at all times; what he listens to in London, especially the local accents and terms of address like "mate," "love," and "boss"; how friends visit London and fail to connect to the west end, whereas he remains excited by the rest of the city; and the joy of walking by the historic site of George Orwell's arrest.

Direct download: NCC_S4E24_Robin_Rimbaud.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:25 PM

Colin Marshall stands around Hackney, London's "Tech City" with urban designer Euan Mills. They discuss how to tip in a London bar and how to cross a London street; when he realized he has become an urban designer, and what that entails; the hugeness and non-understandability of the spread-out, car-dependent, crime-fearing São Paulo, where he grew up hating cities; the development of his interest in people, not buildings, and cities as networks of people; how he came to London, a city of paradoxes that still gives him the sense that anything exciting that happens will happen there; what, exactly, makes a "high street"; how zoning differences between the U.S. and the U.K. affect neighborhoods, and the sorts of changes he's seen in London's in the 21st century; This Isn't F***ing Dalston, and what it told him about the edges of neighborhoods; how long a place takes to gentrify, and how it then matures, coming to embody all its eras at once; what bars, and the price of a pint of Guinness, tell you about a neighborhood; how everybody likes "authenticity" and nobody likes to feel like a target market; the test of a business you feel uncomfortable entering; what it means then the charity shops, 99p stores, and betting offices start showing up; the change in places like the growth in our hair, so show we don't notice it; the necessity of combining local experience with placemaking expertise; São Paulo as a repeat of  London in the 1960s, and the bad reputation top-down planning developed in that era; what to look for in London, like the intentions of a place or its people; the importance of thinking about who owns the land; and what effect the London weather might have on all this.

Direct download: NCC_S4E23_Euan_Mills.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:46 PM