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.
S1E24: Japanese International Style with Todd Shimoda

Colin Marshall sits down in Little Tokyo with novelist Todd Shimoda, author, in collaboration with visual artist L.J.C. Shimoda, of "philosophical mystery" novels with science, engineering, Japanese and Japanese-American themes. His latest, Subduction, follows a disgraced young physician into his four-year exile on a tiny, earthquake-prone, mythology-freighted island off the Japanese coast. They discuss Japan's very real earthquakes in Kobe and Fukushima; the book's obsessed characters, whether obsessed with seismology, documentation, or simply staying on the island; the question of how much scientific data he can safely include in a novel, and if this age of Wikipedia changes that; the "four-dimensional" Japanese cultural co-existence of mythology and science, and its blurred boundary between practice and belief; writing a novel of Japan without writing a novel of Japanese-ness, and avoiding other problems that befall Westerners' writing about the East; Haruki Murakami, Kobo Abe, and the Japanese International Style; his risk of real-life island despair while living on Kauai, and his regular, pendulum-like moves between the urban, suburban, and rural worlds; how to use the cultures that converge in Los Angeles to write a novel of Los Angeles, where the appearance of no neighborhoods becomes the reality of too many; the city's actual earthquake of the previous evening; Chin Music Press' sense of geographic place; and the availability of a constant stream of Western fascination with Japan for a novelist to tap into.

(Photo: Mike Mazzoli)

Direct download: NCC_S1E24_Todd_Shimoda.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:26pm UTC

S1E23: The Music Nerd Ghetto with Hollywood Steve Huey

Colin Marshall sits down in Barnsdall Art Park with Hollywood Steve Huey, writer and media personality, former critic at All Music Guide and host of the web series Yacht Rock. They discuss his introductions to the likes of Michael Jackson, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Barry Manilow; elements of his home state of Michigan, including Big Rapids (not to be confused with Grand Rapids), Ann Arbor, and the urban ruins and $5,000 mansions of Detroit; the All Music Guide's shaping force on his musical consciousness; the lack of a genre equivalent to Yacht Rock today thanks to marketing departments' lack of imagination; great works, like Nirvana's Nevermind, that both found genres and dissolve them; life in the music nerd ghetto within the entertainment capital of the world at the time of bewildering musical (and cinematic and televisual) bounty; acquiring the name "Hollywood Steve" through a one-off gig on Pirates of the Caribbean; how he came to appreciate Barry Manilow, an artist known to some as a byword for bad music; and why guilty pleasures — whether musical ones in the case of Barry Manilow, or urban ones in the case of Los Angeles — are better enjoyed as regular pleasures.

(Photo: Sammy Primero)

Direct download: NCC_S1E23_Hollywood_Steve_Huey.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:12am UTC

S1E22: The Discerning Cosmopolitan Cartographer with Eric Brightwell

Colin Marshall sits down in Silver Lake with Eric Brightwell, proprietor of both Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography, which offers hand-drawn maps of neighborhoods in Los Angeles and beyond (and posts them to Amoeba Music's Amoeblog), and Brightwell, which offers luxury and craft items to the discerning cosmopolitan gentleman. They discuss the days when Silver Lake was Ivanhoe; the distinctively shifting and disputed nature of Los Angeles neighborhoods; the differences between neighborhood mapping by Google Maps, by Yahoo Maps, on subway station walls, and by hand; the unintended Berlin Wall effect of freeway construction; his attracting of angry, all-caps comments from the gangs of Frogtown; longtime Angelenos' lack of awareness about the neighborhoods that surround them, and their need to believe that their own has gone to the dogs; Hollywood's retailers of pimp-geared $169 three-suit deals; how an authenticity jones can ruin your experience of Los Angeles; his discovery of microsubcultures in unexpected places, and the larger fact that no one part of the city is more interesting than any other; Hitler's Pacific Palisades bunker; and the advanced art of entering a neighborhood, exploring it, and documenting it without knowing anything at all going in.

(Photo: Fern)

Direct download: NCC_S1E22_Eric_Brightwell.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:34pm UTC

S1E21: Connoisseur of Silence with Todd Levin

Colin Marshall sits down in Silver Lake with comedian, writer, and comedy writer Todd Levin, who's written for Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, Conan, and the Onion News Network. They discuss using comedy performers as tools; the advantages of being a cipher; deliberately bewildering the audience, listening for reactions beyond laughter, and in the process becoming a connoisseur of silence; the comparative humorous possibilities of Tetley and Bigelow tea bag package copy; the inevitable and healthy decision to stop reading internet feedback on one's work; Conan O'Brien's coxcomb of hair; New York's inherent masochism, and Los Angeles' bus stops full of people who look just about to surrender; the pleasures of New York's crosstown buses and the agonies of its garbage trains; Los Angeles' lack of an excuse for shuffling around in flip-flops; his heightened suspicion of venues that aggressively promise good times, and what aggressive promises of laughter can do to comedy; the ultimately fruitless technique of reliable joke insertion, which reveals an anxiety to hold an audience's attention and in so doing loses that attention; that particular Conan O'Brien brand of delivering silliness and lasting memories at once; and the haunting question of telling which of your actions indicate maturity, and which indicate complacency.

(Photo: Lisa Whiteman)

Direct download: NCC_S1E21_Todd_Levin.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:22am UTC

S1E20: All the Single Ladies with Tony Pierce

Colin Marshall sits down at KPCC headquarters in Pasadena with Tony Pierce, the station's blog editor, former editor at LAist and blog editor at the Los Angeles Times, and author of the Busblog. They discuss the time when he was the only English-language blogger to ride the bus; the longing for Los Angeles that brought him out of the Chicago suburbs; his years in the collegiate Eden of Isla Vista; making like the rich young prince in the bible and selling all his stuff in order to leave San Francisco and come back to Los Angeles; beginning to blog as a way to let all the city's single ladies know he was here; his encounters with different groups of people on different transit lines, and his strategic use of the subway for drinking; how people in Los Angeles can live here for decades without ever bothering to be truly present, and how they might do that in any city in the world; his push, while editing LAist, to tap into as great a variety of voices and experiences as possible; his belief that the Busblog, despite its explosive popularity, never deserved to get known at all; the fixture of Los Angeles literary culture that is the paradoxically positive Charles Bukowski; and how, in all of the Busblog's non-fanciness, he still wants to let the ladies of the world know he's available.

Direct download: NCC_S1E20_Tony_Pierce.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:59am UTC

S1E19: DJing the DJs with Mark "Frosty" McNeill

Colin Marshall sits down in an undisclosed Hollywood-ish location with Mark "Frosty" McNeill, co-founder and creative captain of the internet radio "future roots music" collective Dublab. They discuss founding an internet radio station in 1999, when everything sounded like a tin-can phone; the nature of future roots, where the very old meets the very new, the very traditional meets the very experimental, and everything sounds different yet retains a common undercurrent; Dublab's mission to curate the curators, or "DJ the DJs"; his theory that all art is derivative, especially all music, but in a good way; his days doing gruntwork at USC's classical station, and the roomful of free John Cage, Terry Riley, and Nonesuch albums it afforded him; Dublab's early courtship by the companies of the internet bubble, and the free lunches (and nothing else) this offered; Los Angeles' great advantages of diversity and space, of both the physical and mental varieties; what about music seems to incentivize narrow rather than wide appreciation, and how to get around that without being a pusher man; Secondhand Sureshots, the short documentary he co-directed, and what it says about the importance of repurposing forgotten and obscure sounds; whether and how the dust on a record acts as "seasoning"; and the joy of reconstructing someone's personality by buying their record collection at a thrift store — and how he did just that by giving it a spin on his show Celsius Drop.

Direct download: NCC_S1E19_Mark_Frosty_McNeill.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:44pm UTC