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.
S2E16: Reality's More Interesting with Thom Andersen

Colin Marshall sits down in Silver Lake with Thom Andersen, professor at the California Institute of the Arts' School of Film/Video and director of films including Red Hollywood, the new Reconversion, and the well-known documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, on the truth and falsity of the city's representation in motion pictures. They discuss The Fast and the Furious shooting on his street; the end of the current era of impressive car chases crafted by Nicolas Winding Refn and Quentin Tarantino; H.B. Halicki's original Gone in 60 Seconds, and the importance of its literalism regarding greater Los Angeles' South Bay; how rarely mainstream cinematic interest looks beyond white people of "immodest means," and what the films that do go beyond them achieve (such as the creation of detective films that actually involve detecting); Killer of Sheep, Boyz n the Hood, and the differences between garden-variety "gang movies" and those that truthfully deal with survival; the questions to do with the black population, bank bailouts, and the destruction of the working class he believes movies could address but rarely do; how much more interesting reality is than our imaginations, which by now have long since filled up with junk; Los Angeles as a representational battleground, and the way filmmakers have an alibi here not to do important work; the native's lack of advantage in understanding this city, and the outsider's advantage in making it strange again, as seen in Zabriskie Point, The Outside Man, Model Shop, and Point Blank; the changes in Los Angeles, how they vanish in comparison to the changes in major Asian cities, and how they have for the most part taken place among the people rather than in the infrastructure; the racism of Crash versus the naïveté of Falling Down; his continuing fascination with the Los Angeles wherein people struggle to make a living; and what fillms and books can to do change minds, given that they so often make minds in the first place.

Direct download: NCC_S2E16_Thom_Andersen.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:27pm UTC

S2E15: Places are People with Ben Casnocha

Colin Marshall sits down in San Francisco's South Beach with entrepreneur, author, blogger, traveler, and learner Ben Casnocha. His latest book, co-written with Reid Hoffman, chairman of LinkedIn, is The Start-Up of You. They discuss the advantages of hanging an IKEA world map on the wall; his ten days of silent meditation and the feeling of enlarged thumbs that resulted; the San Francisco Bay Area's convergence of Californian spirituality and Californian technological intensity; the three Californias: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and everything else; "NorCal" pride and State of Jefferson stickers; being the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and how that got him involved in technology startups to begin with; how where you physically live now matters both more and less than it used to (and who still lives virtually on Livejournal); how loyalty now extends horizontally to your network rather than vertically to your company, and how your identity now comes before your role as an organizational component; his lifelong habit of reaching out to interesting people, and how it differs from the standard sleaziness of "networking"; his visits to Detroit and Athens, and how those cities may have strained his appreciative thinking muscles; his interest in underrated and underdiscussed places as well as people, such as those in South America; his adoption of "home bases" around the world, be they in San Francisco, Santiago, Zurich, or Tokyo; the pronunciation of Tegucigalpa; the loneliness he sees deep in the eyes of people who declare themselves "nomadic"; the necessity of acting consistently on curiosity, and of cultivating both a highly technical and a highly nontechnical mind; whether moving to a city means moving to randomness; and his sensory-deprivation experience floating in a saltwater pod.

Direct download: NCC_S2E15_Ben_Casnocha.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:33pm UTC

S2E14: Next Year, Jerusalem with Peter Orner

Colin Marshall sits down in San Francisco's Bernal Heights with Peter Orner, author of the novels Love and Shame and Love and The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo and the short story collection Esther Stories as well as co-editor of the nonfiction collections Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives and Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives. They discuss the heightened Americanness of Chicago and what it has offered his literary sensibility; our tendency as Americans, for good and ill, to chase stuff, whether in the city or the suburbs; his fascination with how life simply goes on amid grand (and possibly meaningless) power struggles; how, as a fresh college graduate, he found his was to Namibia; how his experience compares with the fictional Scottish doctor who falls in with Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, especially in the sense of the gnawing burden of non-belonging; life in a country where things slow down, and the space for thought that provides; how Namibia inspired him to write a story of a man lost in a Kafkanly inescapable shopping mall, and how he used a school's sole typewriter to compose it; his constant aspirations to the condition of the short story collection, the "highest form," and how even his novels secretly take that form; the experimentalism of great books that don't seem experimental, like Bleak House or Moby Dick; how Namibia's situation compares to that of Zimbabwe, and how many of Zimbabwe's problems can be laid at the feet of Robert Mugabe; how he experiences a San Francisco beyond the Fisherman's Wharves and the Transamerica Pyramids; and his criticism of the city's increasing pricing out of families that leads, ultimately, to a loss of stories.

Direct download: NCC_S2E14_Peter_Orner.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:18am UTC

S2E13: Greatly Great Music with Cariwyl Hebert

Colin Marshall sits down in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens with Cariwyl Hebert, founder of the community-based classical music appreciation society Salon97. They discuss New Yorker classical music critic Alex Ross' hatred of "classical music"; her project of pretension removal and safe-place creation; how she identified a need in the way her work in classical music proved a reliable conversation-ender; developing and implementing the idea of the classical listening party around which  Salon97 is now based; listening party themes that draw attention and/or create tension, and how she strikes the correct balance between too schmaltzy and not schmaltzy enough; having to begin musical discussions with pure opinion, and bringing out the controversial lives of the composers to generate discussion; returning the social aspect to classical music, by beer, wine, or other means; what, exactly, a composer can infuse their music with while keeping it "classical"; the life of the classical music enthusiast in San Francisco, whether or not it crosses into competitive culture-vulturing; what  a Salon97 listening party is actually like, versus Ross' experience of the concert hall; why we sat down at our concerts in the Victorian era and never stood back up; the casualizing influence of the tech industry and how it opens up the various levels of San Francisco culture; and how you can watch Mozart doing stuff.

Direct download: NCC_S2E13_Cariwyl_Hebert.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:18pm UTC

S2E12: Good Old Shareware with Stan James

Colin Marshall sits down in San Francisco's Mission at the Noisebridge hacker space with Stan James, founder of Lijit, creator of the first browser-based massively multiplayer games, co-host of the 7th Kingdom podcast, and author of a book in progress on technology and our minds. They discuss Noisebridge itself and its almost Utopian qualities; how the supernormal stimuli of cat videos create addiction; how his early multiplayer games could created addiction; San Francisco's position as the American city to be in for those with technological interests, not exclusively technological interests; the optimal Mission-style burrito ordering strategy; how we've left the concept of immersion in virtual reality behind in favor of always being at least a little bit on the internet, and how we can see it in the ways we navigate and even date; stepping outside our reactions to new technological developments by going back to Plato; parental disregard for the protocol of Skype calling; his life in Berlin, another city where people go to do projects and make things; how and why he became "Wandering Stan," and the importance he's found of digging into others' lives when he's in actual places; whether younger so-called "digital natives" can better handle technological addictiveness; how wide a swath of the human experience San Francisco offers; how he discovered the difference between his engaged-in-a-project face and his dead-eyed Reddit-browsing face; and how word of Avril Lavigne reached Nepal before it reached him.

Direct download: NCC_S2E12_Stan_James.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:41am UTC

S2E11: Authenticity v. Utopia with Jonathon Keats

Colin Marshall sits down somewhere in between San Francisco's Chinatown, Nob Hill, and Russian Hill with conceptual artist, experimental philosopher, and writer Jonathon Keats, author of the upcoming book Forged: Why Fakes Are the Great Art of Our Age. They discuss his own role as, above all, a fake; his attempt to epigenetically clone such celebrities as Lady Gaga, Michael Phelps, and Barack Obama; Forged, forgery, pursuit of simulacra, and Wim Wenders' Notebook on Cities and Clothes; content's ongoing release from form, and how it sends out the concept of forgery even as it brings it back in; the enthusiastically forged paintings of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and Thomas Kinkade's massively replicated, "master highlighted" images; authenticity as it relates to spaghetti and meatballs; San Francisco's intriguing tension between the claims of its own authenticity and its vision of itself as an experimental utopia — or, in his words, its simultaneous tendencies toward the "incredibly smug" and "very insecure"; why Europeans love San Francisco, and whether that has anything to do with the city's ultimate derivation from their own; his thought experiments' usefulness as "curiosity amplifiers," generating larger questions than the ones they came from; the difference between doing experimental philosophy in San Francisco and in other countries, like Italy; and the exhilarating American freedom that also numbs.

Direct download: NCC_S2E11_Jonathon_Keats.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:43pm UTC