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.
S1E18: Historic Détente with Andy Bowers

Colin Marshall sits down at NPR West in Culver City with Andy Bowers, Executive Producer of Slate's podcasts and fourth-generation Angeleno. They discuss his status as a "secret Angeleno"; what it takes to introduce microphones into entertaining conversations without things getting tiresome; the difference between podcasts as podcasts and podcasts as imitation radio; discovering the joy of biking in Los Angeles; the city's troubled downtown bike lanes and what they emblematize about local civic projects; what problems arise when you try to get anything accomplished in a city with 88 distinct municipalities; Roger Rabbit, Chinatown, and the allure of mythical Los Angeles malice; whether or not you can really move into a Woody Allen movie; his youth in Los Angeles and his return which converted the city from an adolescent one into an adult one; the various placements and interpretations of Los Angeles' great east-west divide; his time at National Public Radio bureaus in London and Moscow, and the accessibility of those cities' cultural institutions; his time producing Day to Day, and the loss of public radio's old eclecticism; podcasting as radio's skunkworks, especially in this podcasting Mecca of southern California; podcast listeners connecting with hosts even more than with content; and why Stephen Metcalf stirs so many people up, anyway.

(Photo: Steve McFarland)

Direct download: NCC_S1E18_Andy_Bowers.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:00am UTC

S1E17: Food, Film, and Frugality with 99-Cent Chef Billy Vasquez

Colin Marshall takes a trip to the 99¢ Only Store and beyond with Billy Vasquez, better known as the 99 Cent Chef. They discuss the store as a prime venue for peoplewatching (whether the people dress in their Sunday best or in pink-striped miniskirts); the appeal of midcentury Googie diner architecture; how he drove out to Venice Beach on the 10 and stayed in Los Angeles for 37 years; the meaty usefulness of both chorizo and soyrizo; asparagus, a product you'd never have found at any 99-cent store a decade ago; 99-cent Italian beer with 99-cent Italian pasta, and 99-cent German beer with 99-cent German chocolate cake-coated marshmallows; ingredient substitution (like cumin for curry powder) as the essential skill of the 99-cent gourmand; the strange allure of Vienna Sausage corn dogs; inventing the only pasta that pays tribute to John Cassavetes; the suicidal possibilities of marshmallow ropes; the delicious possibilities of portobello crab rockefeller; the Banquet-to-Contessa spectrum of frozen dinners; the two-piece 99-cent deal to be had every Tuesday at Popeyes'; the Los Angeles Expo Line as a glorious passageway to places like Earlez Grille, Let's Be Frank, and Chef Marilyn's Soul Food Express, and his adventures at cheap eateries on rail lines past; how his Cajun heritage taught him, with nutria and crayfish, that you can eat anything; his street photography, and the Restaurant Nocturnes video series that came out of it; and all of the fascinating contradictions of Los Angeles, a city both beautiful and tarnished, that just might disappear if you don't water it.

Direct download: NCC_S1E17_Billy_Vasquez.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:19pm UTC

S1E16: Cavalcade of Marvels with Michael Silverblatt

Colin Marshall sits down in West Hollywood with Michael Silverblatt, host of the literary interview program Bookworm from KCRW in Santa Monica since 1989. They discuss how he's managed to host a book show for so long "in Los Angeles, of all places;" the near-racist tradition of New York writers savaging Los Angeles in the thirties and forties; introducing the likes of Edward St. Aubyn to Angelenos and others well beyond; radio as a dreamlike "mad tea party," whether dreamt in one's car or at one's computer; the band Sparks as American humorists, the writes Krys Lee as an exponent of ethnic writing as both exotic and erotic, and how to recommend both without resorting to anything so uninteresting as opinion; being not a critic, and not a fan, but an omnivorous conversationalist; the lamentable rise of "patented hip taste;" how Terence Malick's Badlands drew him out to Los Angeles from the East Coast; the Angeleno phobia of cultural confrontation; Los Angeles' failure to insist upon or preserve its genius; not driving because you never learned versus not driving because you don't know how to get the money for a car; America as a "cavalcade of marvels;" and the importance of accepting and existing the confusion of an ungraspable whole, whether its the whole of a book, of a film, of an album, or of Los Angeles.

Direct download: NCC_S1E16_Michael_Silverblatt.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:10pm UTC

S1E15: Your Own Pimp and Your Own Whore with Molly McAleer

Colin Marshall walks through Larchmont with Molly McAleer, co-founder of HelloGiggles and writer for CBS' Two Broke Girls. They discuss the definition of internet fame, especially when one's internet debut comes in a photo funneling a beer; whether moving to Los Angeles after graduating from the disappointingly party-free Boston College counts as a betrayal of Boston; her avoidance of the label "humorist," and thus any association with Mark Twain; her time at Defamer, which gave her a "magical" view of Los Angeles, and what she'd say to those who accuse it and every other Gawker site of hastening the decline of western civilization; joining Two Broke Girls at the height of the Whitney Cummings boom; Koreatown, her point of entry into Los Angeles after having lived in a frat house with 32 dudes; aging a thousand years after spending six in Los Angeles; how much of a discount on nail polish counts as a deep discount on nail polish; her struggle to be as popular with her friends as her mom; the resurgence of press-on nails; experiencing utter brokeness in Los Angeles, and getting banned from using Google ads when those friends tried to help her out; cookies aside, the reduced presence of the Girl Scouts, except in cases of high-profile transsexual trouble; her resistance to driving, and her feeling that some people are meant to drive, while others are meant to be driven; the basic tasks of life that somehow never get taught; manicures as the last bastion of personal maintenance; and how hard it is to avoid humblebragging when The Wonder Years' Fred Savage directs your script.

Direct download: NCC_S1E15_Molly_McAleer.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:45pm UTC

S1E14: Fathers Chosen and Unchosen with Pico Iyer

Colin Marshall sits down in downtown Los Angeles with Pico Iyer, writer about place — both our dreams of it and its realities. They discuss his new book The Man Within My Head; how best to introduce Graham Greene's The Quiet American to new readers; how he started a book on being a pleasantly bewildered foreigner in Japan and finished a book about Greene, brush fires, and his own father; the roles of fathers both chosen and unchosen; the ultimate unknowability of other people, and the form of intimacy found in accepting that not-knowing; graduating from school into a British Empire twenty years dead; his Fowlerian perspective to Los Angeles' Pyle; England under the burden of too much past, California under the burden of too little, and his inoculation against the excesses of both by having oscillated between them; his return to England in the form of Japan; how Los Angeles anthologizes the world within itself versus how Japan does, and how Los Angeles handles its multiculturalism versus how Toronto does; his distrust of words, and Greene's distrust of everything but words; his father's interaction with the children of the 1960s' Californian counterculture, and Hunter S. Thompson chronicling the collapse of that culture while seeing idealism without ideology; living friends as traveling companions versus dead authors as traveling companions; and Greene as, at once, his predictor, reflector, guide, understander, and anticipator.

(Photo: Derek Shapton)

Direct download: NCC_S1E14_Pico_Iyer.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:08pm UTC