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.
S1E5: The City in 2D with Glen Creason

Colin Marshall sits down at the Los Angeles Central Library downtown with Map Librarian Glen Creason, author of Los Angeles in Maps. They discuss the point at which Los Angeles becomes not just a place to live but a subject; riding the old Pacific Electric streetcars that prompted the city to grow so large in the firs place; using maps to see the influence of trains, water, the movies, and oil on the city's spread, growing up in the "Leave it to Beaver territory" of South Gate; early Los Angeles-boosters selling the city by employing mapmakers' sleight of hand; downtown's death in the sixties and seventies, and its more recent revival; learning little but having a lot of fun at UCLA during the Summer of Love; when the city "took a breath and reinvented itself," Los Angeles' uniquely dramatic geographical setting; how multiculturalism took hold from the very beginning; what it took to build the Third Street Tunnel; how miracles of civic engineering turned into freeway frustration; the non-disaster of "Carmageddon"; where the water in the Los Angeles River went, and how it remains useful as a navigational aid; the American notion of creating an Eden; whether Los Angeles is, as the posters say, "a world in itself"; former Italian and German communities, and current Indian and Chinese ones; the city's surprising new walkability; whether the "driver's paradise" days of twenty minutes to everywhere really happened at all; becoming the Map Librarian serendipitously; Los Angeles' past of rabbits, gambling ships, and Central Avenue jazz clubs; what happened in Chavez Ravine; how good intentions in Los Angeles' development have often led to reconsideration; how even longtime Angelenos learn from the ways the constant influx of new Angelenos approach the city; and the endless last rites given to Los Angeles that it never quite needs.

Direct download: NCC_S1E5_Glen_Creason.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:59pm UTC

S1E4: Chitlin' Circuit with Eliza Skinner

Colin Marshall sits down at Bourgeois Pig in Hollywood with Eliza Skinner, comedian, musical improviser, comedic rap-battle impresario, writer, and the woman of the one-woman show Eliza Skinner is Shameless. They discuss a Scotsman who left his wife possibly due and possibly not due to what he felt in her onstage spirit; the one-way intimacy of performance; the proper cultivation of one's personal brand; the odd confluence of skills required for the non-career (absent an eccentric billionaire) of musical improvisation, and the fear some have of practicing them; when New York felt like one big "last call"; the apparent ease of performing in Los Angeles as a buoy for the spirit; breaking the shackles of "musical improviser" as an identity; the women of Shameless like Amy and Karen, who compulsively complicate their lives in ways they don't understand; matching mother-daughter breast implants; the lack of female characters who are lovable yet not likable; the fact that nobody, given that everyone plays the hero in their own story, thinks of themselves as an asshole; the fears of being misunderstood, of foxholes, and of getting stuck in underwater tubes; Tyler Perry, who honed his craft on the theatrical "chitlin' circuit," as the ideal career model; the logistical requirements of setting up freestyle rap battles; and what it takes for RuPaul to deem you "shelarious."

(Photo: Tyler Ross)

Direct download: NCC_S1E4_Eliza_Skinner.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:55am UTC

S1E3: Family-Guyization with Jordan Morris

Colin Marshall sits down at Fat Dog in West Hollywood with comedian and actor Jordan Morris, co-host of the comedy podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go!, writer on the web series MyMusic, former host of Fuel TV's The Daily Habit, and creator of satirical commercials for "Gamewave" and the "Action Circle." They talk about growing up in Orange County with the solace of ska music; The Simpsons' un-overstatable influence on the current generation of young comedy writers; whether and how "Family-Guyization" is affecting comedic culture; the usefulness of college as "a place to be bad for a while"; how those who move to Los Angeles from other major cities have gone blind to their hometowns' sources of suckiness; the prohibitive cost of a bedazzled T-shirt; what kind of a golden calf Conan O'Brien's show represents for today's comedic minds; "gab podcasts" and the rapidly diminishing viability thereof; the temptation to pander to your audience, whichever audience your medium determines you have; whether working at an "action sports" channel made for a living hell; how and why fifteen-year-olds maintain their alienness to non-fifteen-year-olds; and how best to satirize the troubled relationship some hardcore gamers have with human sexuality.

(Photo: Pat Weir)

Direct download: NCC_S1E3_Jordan_Morris.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:23am UTC

S1E2: "Graduate Education" with David L. Ulin

Colin Marshall sits down at the La Brea Tar Pits with David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times book critic, editor of the anthologies Writing Los Angeles, Another City, and Cape Cod Noir, and author of The Myth of Solid Ground, The Lost Art of Reading, and the upcoming novella Labyrinth. They talk about his attitude as a young New Yorker moving to Los Angeles; his approach to everything in life through the filter of books; his "graduate education" writing for the mythologized oasis of writerly cool that was the Los Angeles Reader; the importance of competition in print journalism; criticism as the search for the most important questions; how to talk about a city that doesn't know how to talk about itself; how to have a coherent conversation about a city that resists coherent conversation; the "sacred ordinariness" of Los Angeles; how literature of exile became literature of place; ersatz public and protected pseudo-urban space; whether the city will feel the same ten years from now; whether we'll still have what architectural critic Reyner Banham described as an "autopia" ten years from now; how narrative offers our only hope of meaning, yet only offers meaning up to a point; and what happens when our narratives go bad, assuming we notice.

(Photo: Noah Ulin)

Direct download: NCC_S1E2_David_L_Ulin.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:39am UTC

S1E1: Shinin' with DC Pierson

Colin Marshall sits down in Hollywood with comedian, actor, and novelist DC Pierson, man behind the one-man show DC Pierson is Bad at Girls, one-third of the Mystery Team of Mystery Team, and the author of The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To. They talk about innate, unchanging age; teenage blogging; Daria; the compulsion to read criticism; moving to Los Angeles from New York; avoiding falling into the standard complaint-driven narratives of young New York writers who move to Los Angeles; whether and how Los Angeles is shinin'; the mysteries surrounding how many Hollywood residents earn their income; building things rather than tearing things down; becoming the butt of your own jokes; blogging one's first hundred days in Los Angeles; and the inherent criminality of existing in one's twenties.

(Photo: Zac Wolf)

Direct download: NCC_S1E1_DC_Pierson.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:20am UTC