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.
S1E13: The Trash Compactor of Reality with Scott Jacobson

Colin Marshall sits down in Atwater Village with comedy writer and music video director Scott Jacobson, who has written for programs like The Daily Show, Squidbillies, and Bob's Burgers, and made videos for artists like Nick Lowe, Superchunk, and The National. They discuss the comedic style of George Herriman's Krazy Kat and whether a place exists for it today; expectations, the enemy of comedy; what it means that the likes of Adult Swim and Tim & Eric can thrive in today's world, or if they indeed thrive in it; The Daily Show's rise alongside George W. Bush's, and the trickiness of presenting its voice as the voice of reason; the feeling of finally getting a foothold in New York, and the sense of personal failing that comes from not loving it; whether anyone else misses the obscure cruelty of Craig Kilborn's Daily Show; the "journalistic vamp" and other news filler, up to and including Glenn Beck's moment of popularity; the "trash compactor of reality" that is political coverage, and the solace offered by a Squidbillies or a Bob's Burgers; his childhood love of the divisive Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist; the way critical opinion eventually came to elevate Carl Barks' Scrooge McDuck Comics, and the joy of bringing something in "low art," like Hospitality's "Friends of Friends," to the public's attention; using ridiculous contexts to smuggle genuine content; New York's manic energy that insistently pushes you forward; and the phenomenon of "really smart people doing really stupid things" that, championed by the David Lettermans and Conan O'Briens of the world, has risen to prominence in modern comedy.

Direct download: NCC_S1E13_Scott_Jacobson.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:10pm UTC

S1E12: We Care About Everyone with William Flesch

Colin Marshall sits down in Westwood with William Flesch, professor at Brandeis University and author of Comeuppance: Costly Signaling, Altruistic Punishment, and Other Biological Components of Fiction. They discuss José Saramago's way with obscure Biblical episodes; literary Darwinism and its discontents; why and how we get concerned with what happens to fictional characters at all; the difference between stories we care about versus stories we don't; how we recommend books, films, and shows to friends, thus caring about how they care about how characters care about one another; Michael Haneke's scary Funny Games viewed with an audience and Michael Haneke's ludicrous Funny Games viewed at home; what's so great about Wittgenstein; the trade-off between humanizing and monsterizing your viliains, as with Hitler in Max and The Boys from Brazil; the perfect biological pitching of Onion's 9/11 headline "Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell"; what makes the 19th-century novels of George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, and William Makepeace Thackeray so gripping; our desire to feel we've misjudged characters; Buffy, Angel, and our bets about liking them; and characterization and reversion to type all the way from Shylock to Stewie Griffin.

Download the interview from Notebook on Cities and Culture’s feed here or on iTunes here.

Direct download: NCC_S1E12_William_Flesch.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:27am UTC

S1E11: How Serious Are You? with Megan Ganz

Colin Marshall sits down in Larchmont with comedy writer Megan Ganz, who's written for the Onion and Important Things with Demetri Martin, and now writes for NBC's Community. They talk about easing her transition from New York to Los Angeles with the Coen Brothers' Barton Fink; Los Angeles as an unfurnished apartment to New York as a furnished one; her fond memories of aimless subway trips; what we don't know about growing up in Michigan, especially regarding the preparation of vegetables and local pride in Tim Allen; the Onion as something to aspire to in adolescence; the best comedy's tendency to happen naturally, without being in on its own jokes; what one would get wrong by assuming Community, the "show that can get away with anything," represents a model of sitcoms today; her use of the voices of various characters and institutions rather than he own; the comedy gold to be mined from misalignments between tone and content; community college-going as a hobby; and the lingering question that hangs over certain people, places, and operations: "How serious are you?"

Direct download: NCC_S1E11_Megan_Ganz.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:16pm UTC

S1E10: A Roomful of Strangers with Wade Major

Colin Marshall sits down in Santa Monica with Wade Major, senior film critic at Boxoffice, co-host of IGN's Digigods, and regular participant on KPCC's Filmweek. They discuss what Sucker Punch represents the coagulation of; whether it is a greater crime for Zack Snyder to make Zack Snyder movies sincerely, or for Zack Snyder to make Zack Snyder movies cynically; the importance of spontaneity, not formula, to creative business; the simultaneous democratization of criticism and of filmmaking itself; the world he emerged out of film school into; his father's career in silent pictures; the philosophical differences between the film schools at USC, UCLA, and CalArts; the possibilities of a new business model for criticism meant to be read after seeing the movie; Pauline Kael's conception of criticism as a means of keeping filmmakers honest; bigtime directors' assumptions that they can't make films about their real passions; The Artist as it taps into both filmmakers' and critics' fears of getting left behind; how without taste, you've lost; feeding off the energy of a roomful of strangers in actual theatrical screenings, and learning something about yourself at the same time; the "dysfunctional family" that is the Los Angeles Film Critics Association; the critic's mandate to move film into a larger cultural context; and the director's mandate to get out into the world and live before ever shooting a frame.

(Photo: Kristi Lake)

Direct download: NCC_S1E10_Wade_Major.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:50am UTC

S1E9: Suggested User with Alison Agosti

Colin Marshall sits down in Los Feliz with comedy writer, baseball reporter, and Twitter "suggested user" Alison Agosti. They discuss the preferred pronunciation of "Los Feliz"; Rancho Cucamonga's chief industry of teenage pregnancy; how Los Angeles looked while she was growing up in the Inland Empire; the promise of New York as a land of letters, art, and coats; her mass childhood purchase of used Woody Allen tapes, including but not limited to Husbands and Wives; the morning she woke up to 1500 e-mails from Twitter in her inbox; her realization that comedy writing could count as a job; what it takes to get on a Maude team; her struggle to coming up with new ways to write "hit the ball" or to present a narrative in a 2-1 game against the Diamondbacks; her music blog Headphones In; finding humor in the complicated, as unworkable as it can end up in a sketch; raking in the Twitter stars by mentioning eating something weird by yourself; her weariness of apologizing for Los Angeles, a city that doesn't work against you except when you can't find parking; Venice, either the "weirder" or "non-shitty" Santa Monica; how we only children who refuse to network or compete can explain ourselves to actual grown-ups; the appeal of the intelligent, loud, brilliant but unself-aware Woody Allen-type character; what she likes to satirize in herself; playing (but not beating) Ecco the Dolphin on the Sega Genesis; and "the woman-in comedy thing," which turns out not to be a thing at all.

(Photo: Philip Eierund)

Direct download: NCC_S1E9_Alison_Agosti.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:13am UTC

S1E8: Can We Talk About Driving? with John Rabe

Colin Marshall sits down in the Los Angeles Central Library's courtyard with John Rabe, host of Off-Ramp, KPCC's weekend pointillist portrait of Southern California. They discuss the merits of recording in a library courtyard and in Cheech Marin's house in Malibu; picking a road in Los Angeles and following it wherever it goes; the troubled history of Cypress Park and the truth about the Isabel Street shooting; the Los Angeles "churn" and the effect of constant neighborhood change on the historical consciousness; the historical bounty to be found in the Los Angeles Public Library's photo collection; the city's rising optimism and falling crime (and its lack of a mob); the McMartin preschool trial; his desire to live in a place with the word "gardens" in its name; his tendency to look ahead, not back, and to move randomly, not in patterns, and how that shapes Off-Ramp's character; his anger at drivers who slow down on the freeway with their brakes; his plan to banish citizens who break the social contract and institute a Waste and Fraud Corruption Lottery to give money to the rest; the lessons of Carmageddon; what makes radio documentaries sustain; and how, if you want to create radio, you should just break out your iPhone (or whatever you have) and record something.

(Photo: Karl Rabe)

Direct download: NCC_S1E8_John_Rabe.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:29am UTC

S1E7: Geographical Verisimilitude with David Bax

Colin Marshall sits down in North Hollywood with film and television critic David Bax, co-host of the podcasts Battleship Pretension and Previously On. They discuss his fifth-grade shoving match over Ghostbusters; the difference between criticism and the assertion of one's opinions; being a film and television critic while living right near the heart of film and television production; Chicago's advantages as a filmgoing city, including but not limited to the Gene Siskel Film Center; discovering a cinephile community on the bus; St. Louis and other cities' loss of local critics writing with local sensibilities; whether the aspiring critic must first reject working in production; the sharpening of his critical perspectives on formalism and structuralism as revealed by Michael Mann's Public Enemies; if a critic should tell an audience why they like a film, why the audience should like a film, why the audience should pay attention to a film, or simply how a film works; why the internet offers a superior medium for television criticism; what television can do that film can't, and why to watch them differently; whether television shows labor under a corrupting business model; Treme, New Orleans and geographical verisimilitude; the askew real-placeness of many Los Angeles productions; the outdated marketing of television as evidenced by the Whitney billboards that once littered town; how and why to avoid approaching art as commodity; what he would say to those who who don't consider criticism a "real job" (and how he would agree with them); and the necessity of discussing film and television as if for posterity, just as a program like The Sopranos seems to have been created for it.

(Photo: Jenny Smith)

Direct download: NCC_S1E7_David_Bax.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:23pm UTC

S1E6: Discernment with Tyler Smith

Colin Marshall sits down in North Hollywood at midnight with film critic Tyler Smith, co-host of the podcast Battleship Pretension and host of the podcast More than One Lesson. They discuss the strong associations between diners late at night and talk about movies; his struggle to stay in Chicago and ultimate move to Los Angeles; his choice between screenwriting and film criticism; film criticism's relationship with the kinds of conversations film geeks have; the impulse to start a podcast, and what it took to understand what makes a fascinating film discussion; how to talk to comedians about film, even if they claim not to care about the medium; his return to his old church in Nixa, Missouri to give a lecture about the film industry in Los Angeles; the concept of discernment not just in criticism, but in Christianity; the power and influence some Christian ideas about film ascribe purely to content; Fight Club and the attitude pictures hold to their own content; whether film reflects the personality of its creators or possesses one of its own; and how much one wants to get to know the personality behind a film when that personality happens to be, say, Orson Welles'.

Direct download: NCC_S1E6_Tyler_Smith.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:20pm UTC