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.
S3E28: Aesthetic Moments with JJ Lee

Colin Marshall sits down in Vancouver's Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden with JJ Lee, menswear writer, broadcaster, and author of The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit. They discuss where to buy pocket squares in Vancouver (and whether to just have your kids make some); what to wear during the city's "false start summer"; his own uses of color, and his gradual approach toward "weird clothes"; our coming age of wide-open, postmodern suit-wearing, a recovery from men getting stupid about dressing in the sixties and seventies; his own early dislike of suits, when they to him represented all that went wrong in society; his father's quick rise, painful fall, and the undiagnosed, self-medicated depression that laid under it; his realization that people are highly aesthetic beings, always creating aesthetic moments; the adoption of tragic versus comic narratives, and which one led his father to stop dressing well; the way precision has replaced instinct for well-dressed men; Montreal and its status as Canada's style capital; his favorable impression of Toronto's dress, textbook though it may be; Vancouver's athleticism-influenced casualness and its limitations; how he starts conversations with clothes, even in New York; the lie behind the idea of "truth" in dress; how men now wear suits, but often defensively, out of fear; the decline of Chinatown tailoring culture; the way men today don't quite know how to be in a tailor shop, never having had that sort of interaction before; and his current project of essays on fatherhood, and the importance of leaving a legacy of ideas for his sons.

Direct download: NCC_S3E28_JJ_Lee.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:22pm UTC

S3E27: No Mo' Po-Mo with Paul Delany

Colin Marshall sits down in Yaletown, Vancouver, British Columbia with Paul Delany, professor of English at Simon Fraser University, editor of the reader Vancouver: Representing the Postmodern City, and author of the article "Vancouver: Graveyard of Ambition?" They discuss whether it makes sense to talk about a "postmodern" city in 2013; the influence of Douglas Coupland, William Gibson, and Jeff Wall; Vancouver's future-oriented open-endedness; his path to Vancouver from England via the United States and specifically a crumbling New York; the state of Vancouver in 1970, when he arrived; how the West End became dense in the fifties, and how Yaletown evolved; English literature's interest in the phenomenon of the modern city, and his own; the city as a nexus of fascinations; his disappointment in Vancouver's architectural development and its lack of internationalism, save for buildings like the downtown library, the unofficial campus for the city's many foreign language students; all the condo towers as Ballardian "prisons with the locks on the inside"; Microsoft's aborted entry into Vancouver's suburbs and its subsequent relocation to downtown; what led him to ask whether Vancouver made for a graveyard of ambition; the importance of getting outside Vancouver, and regularly; the lack of a fruitful intellectual model to replace postmodernism as a means of viewing Vancouver; and how the city's large and growing Asian presence prepares it for the future.

Direct download: NCC_S3E27_Paul_Delany.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:56am UTC

S3E26: Fifth-Generation "Japanese" with Leslie Helm

Colin Marshall sits down in Santa Monica with Leslie Helm, former Tokyo correspondent for Business Week and the Los Angeles Times, editor of Seattle Business, and author of Yokohama Yankee: My Family's Five Generations as Outsiders in Japan. They discuss the Asia connections of Los Angeles and Seattle; Japan's changing place in the zeitgeist since when he covered their economic bubble; how he observed the West's acceptance of Japan from his vantage as a quarter-Japanese yet Japanese-born "outsider"; how much of his family drama turns on the issue of how Japanese each member looks; the point of foreigner's entry Yokohama was before it became considered an extension of Tokyo; how firm identities as foreigners helped members of his family's older generations thrive in Japan; the new coolness of part-Japaneseness in this internationalist era; his frustration with the myth of Japanese difference and purity; what actually happened to Japan the economic powerhouse; the weakness of Japan's craft-based strengths in a software-based economy; what the low level of English in Japan reveals about the country's educational system; the fame his family accrued in the shipping business, and the bad reputation the company ultimately developed once sold; his kids, who look Japanese but grew up Western; the upside to the Japanese burden of obligations; to what extent Japan has realized it needs outsiders to keep the country going; what it means that Japan can burn through so many Prime Ministers in such a short time with no social disruption; the Shinto religion as Boy Scouts; how this book of family history became a painstakingly designed volume for the world to read; what America has, still, to learn from Japan; and which country seems more likely to overcome its worst tendencies. 

Direct download: NCC_S3E26_Leslie_Helm.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:31am UTC

S3E25: A Fine and Private Place with Joseph Mailander

Colin Marshall sits down in Los Feliz, Los Angeles with Joseph Mailander, who since 1981 has written fiction and poetry as well as political and cultural analysis in the city. His new collection is Days Change at Night: Notes from Los Angeles' Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. They discuss his long relationship with Argonaut Street; the unique changelessness of Playa del Rey; how Los Angeles became the first recognizably great city built on a mechanical scale; the pronunciation of "Playa del Rey", "Los Feliz", and even "Los Angeles", and his impatience with our sanctimoniousness in our rectitude and insistence on our errors; the fact that nobody comes to the city looking to see rules enforced; how contrarian a position he takes in naming 2003-2013 as the "decade of decline," and what New York looked like in its own, more severe one; the counterintuitive way political, economic, and social decline bring with them a flowering of arts and culture; Los Angeles' tendency to punish the very people who have fun in it, and whether they actually feel punished; how the renter-heavy housing market reflects political decline; young people who just want to make enough money to move out of town, and why they often don't do it after all; his repeated crossings of the Shakespeare Bridge to get to the theater district; what Disney Concert Hall, with its faulty fire alarms and lack of meeting places, means to him; conductor Gustavo Dudamel's hair as the Los Angeles Philharmonic's value proposition; how Los Angeles seems to have missed the arc of its own musical narrative; the expensive development of Grand Avenue, "the official street of Los Angeles ego," as a signal of out-of-touchness; Ye Rustic Inn, its Myrtleburger, and its promise of anonymity; and which administrators just don't understand the character of the city.

Direct download: NCC_S3E25_Joseph_Mailander.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:05pm UTC

S3E24: Aftershave Smile with Jeff Weiss

Colin Marshall sits down in Los Angeles' Franklin Hills with Jeff Weiss, music writer for the LA Weekly and many other publications, editor of The Passion of the Weiss, co-host of the podcast Shots Fired, and co-author of the book 2pac vs. Biggie. They discuss the total time of his life spent waiting for rappers to show up to interviews; Tyler the Creator and Odd Future as today's representatives of Los Angeles, and what the collective has to do with West Coast experimentalism and the city as a magnet for eccentrics; how he fights his personal war against cliché; kids today, and their tendency to listen to music of all eras, including golden ones, several of which we live in at any given time; Dam-Funk, Matthewdavid, Flying Lotus, and the new, highly Los Angeles-y genre they have created; the genesis of modern instrumental hip-hop; the un-irony of Los Angeles, and your need to carve out your own world within the city if you live in it; his journey from jock to writer, and his novel about a real tragedy on his baseball team; his childhood growing up in a culture-free household; how he one day found himself "hate-watching" Girls; how the Low End Theory helped him stop hating Los Angeles, and how the city concurrently "opened its gates" more generally; which albums can mentally prepare you for the city, and especially for its absurdity; his mentorship by Herbert Gold, the alleged rival of Jack Kerouac; and the only two prices that have come down in the past decade: that of cocaine, and that of writing.

Direct download: NCC_S3E24_Jeff_Weiss.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:17pm UTC