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.
S4E4: What Do People Really Eat? with Besha Rodell

Colin Marshall sits down in Silver Lake with Besha Rodell, who has written about food in New York and Atlanta, and last year came to Los Angeles to become the Weekly's restaurant critic. They discuss the secret appeal and non-Australian origins of the Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin' Onion; her Australian youth, and the friends who insisted she join them at Koala Blue after she came to the States; what counts as authentic Australian cuisine, and the tortured question of "authenticity" in Los Angeles; her concerns with what people really eat; her predecessor Jonathan Gold's influence on the city's food culture; the appeal of putting yourself utterly at a restaurant's mercy; "ego-driven" versus "devotional" cuisine; the strange modern prevalence of kale salads; her preference for odd and uneven dishes versus perfect and derivative ones; how she got to know Los Angeles in the three weeks she had before moving here and then assembling the Weekly's 99 Essential Restaurants list; the paradox of more money on the west side and less food there; how far you have to go before a restaurant doesn't count as "in Los Angeles" anymore — or whether such a distance exists; the spread of this city's culinary interestingness, and how it compares, culturally, to Atlanta's divide between "Inside the Perimeter" and "Outside the Perimeter"; how ideally, a restaurant critic would move to a new Los Angeles neighborhood every two months; the advantages of the "bogus" system of star ratings, and why chefs want their stars; the current blowup in food interest, and what the internet has to do with it; how she came up through restaurant culture, and came to appreciate how you can't be "kind of a cook"; how you can't understand Los Angeles if you don't eat much here, and how best to understand it when you do go eating.

Direct download: NCC_S4E4_Besha_Rodell.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:34pm UTC

S4E3: Constellation of Villages with Lynn Garrett

Colin Marshall sits down at the top of the Hotel Wilshire with Lynn Garrett, proprietor of popular online community Hidden Los Angeles and fifth-generation Angeleno. They discuss how best to prepare Germans for their Los Angeles vacation, since their guidebooks have failed; which human needs the many persistent myths about this city fulfill; how here, you are your own salvation; the revitalization of the Los Angeles River, as against the notion that "all it is is dead bodies and gang members"; Los Angeles as reflector of the observer's own particular hatreds; getting to know the city not as a city, but as a constellation of villages; her art-school exploration of the city back when she "didn't know not to"; who hangs out and talks on Hidden Los Angeles, and which topics get them most fired up; the human tendency to get upset about change of any kind, whether positive or negative, and to adjust perceptions accordingly; what happened when Hidden Los Angeles went viral, attracting 250,000 followers; Caine's Arcade, Skid Row charities, and all the other ways she's found the community can help (when not arguing); what the followers teach her about Los Angeles, the city no one person can possibly know; and what she learns from leaving the city, as well as how she makes herself an outsider when in it.

(Photo: James Acomb)

Direct download: NCC_S4E3_Lynn_Garrett.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:45pm UTC

S4E2: Prada and Fallas-Paredes with Brigham Yen

Colin Marshall walks through downtown Los Angeles with Brigham Yen, Realtor and author of the urban renaissance blog DTLA Rising. They discuss the sort of neighborhood that can rise from nothing, and whether Los Angeles' downtown has come back from a deeper state of nothingness than other downtowns; the "bones" of a city's center, and how Los Angeles' have remained sound through all its problems; the late introduction of public space here; his car-centric youth in the San Gabriel Valley suburbs, and how going to San Francisco for school changed everything; the enduring "obesity" of Los Angeles' streets, even as it has become the fastest-changing city in America; in what order transit, restaurants, bars, shopping, and housing needed to return downtown; how streets become "activated" with human energy; Broadway's prospects for becoming "one of the coolest streets in America"; the healthy urban balance of a Prada by a Fallas-Paredes; how he began writing about cities by writing about Pasadena, and how interaction between the blogging half of his career and the real-estate half has deepened ever since; how he responds to longtime Angeleno's complaints about "brainwashed Millennials" and their fallen expectations; the special importance of an undisputed urban center amid a sea of suburbia; the laid-back sensibility he hopes Los Angeles can retain during its transformation; and what dream people can see actively (and successfully) pursued if they visit downtown Los Angeles themselves.

Direct download: NCC_S4E2_Brigham_Yen.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:08pm UTC

S4E1: An American Rediscovery with City Walk

Colin Marshall sits down at the Old Pasadena offices of Rigler Creative with Thomas Rigler, Steve Reich, and Caitlin Starowicz, creators of City Walk, a new television and web series from KCET and Link TV on the transformation of American cities and our ability to walk in them. They discuss the walkability of Old Pasadena right beneath them; City Walk's origin as a project purely about the health benefits of walking, and how it expanded; their own discovery of the new walkability of American cities as they shot and researched the show, how they found they'd already been documenting that "wave of change" almost inadvertently; their insights into the vision of park planner Frederick Law Olmsted; the buildup of frustration with postwar American cities, and what planning for and living around the car has to do with it; what they felt when experts elsewhere argued that, in fact, Los Angeles is the city of the walkable future; how they learned the distinctive urban language of this city, whether they grew up here or came to it later; the end of one form of the American Dream, the beginning of another, and the consequent "slumming of the suburbs"; how much the context for their interview and urban exploration material has widened with time and additional research; what it takes to make a show about experiences, not messages; City Walk's distinctive aesthetic, meant to represent the life of a city itself, and how the Iverson Mall Walkers fit into that; and how they revived the magazine-format show for the internet just as cities have revived themselves for the 21st century.

Direct download: NCC_S4E1_City_Walk.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:04am UTC