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.

Colin Marshall sits down under the cafeteria at Santa Monica College with beloved Los Angeles radio personality Madeleine Brand, now host of Press Play on KCRW, formerly of NPR's Morning EditionAll Things Considered, and Day to Day, KPCC's The Madeleine Brand Show, and KCET's SoCal Connected. They discuss how much easier she has it waking up for noon radio nowadays instead of morning radio; what to call her format, a popular one in Los Angeles, where one host talks to a series of people, each with their own thing going on in the news; the distinctive difficulty of finding subjects that interest a large percentage of Los Angeles; her first decade in Southern California, and her later college years in Northern California as KALX's "Madame Bomb"; Los Angeles' unusually close relationship with the radio; the east-coastification she experienced in her years amid the "visceral humanity" of New York; how the heightening, densifying Los Angeles we see on the way (and imagined in Her) strikes her inner New Yorker; her lingering nostalgia for the sense of "peace, openness, and quiet" that formerly characterized this city; how we might allow Los Angeles to both define itself and not define itself, retaining its borderlessness with the rest of the world; how she's solved part of the hours-in-the-day problem (and the traffic problem) by hiring a driver; the asshole each and every one of us turns into when we get behind the wheel ourselves; what, exactly, makes for a "news story"; her task of making a subject meaningful beyond the first thirty seconds; the grim public radio listener's moment of realization that they're trying to guess what interests you; the mechanics of a five-minute interview (featuring an actual, table-turning five-minute interview); how often complaints come from a legitimate argument, and how often they come from a bad life; how easy Los Angeles makes it to live a bad life; the missing types of public discourse she'd like to hear in Los Angeles; the sorts of problems that public discourse can help to solve, such as school segregation; and whether to call him "Smokey Bear" or "Smokey the Bear."

Direct download: NCC_S4E38_Madeleine_Brand.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:50pm UTC

Colin Marshall sits down in Los Angeles' Miracle Mile district with photographer Mark Edward Harris, author of such books as Inside North KoreaInside IranThe Art of the Japanese Bath, and Faces of the Twentieth Century. They discuss filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami's introduction to his Iran book, and his rule about always excluding people from his own photographs; the importance of children in images of Iran and countries like it; how Bruce Lee may or may not have started his interest in Asia back in his San Francisco childhood; how his job on The Merv Griffin Show came to an end, leaving him free to travel the world and build up his first real portfolio; how he once processed film while traveling, and the lasting thrill he got from first seeing an image appear in the developer; when and how digital cameras first became acceptable; what he learned from Stanley Kubrick's early journalistic work with Look magazine (not to mention from Dr. Strangelove); the countries, of the 90 he has visited, that he finds himself returning to again and again; the restrictions he has to work under when shooting in North Korea; whether the two Koreas still feel in any way connected to him; his interest in revealing the realities of the nations once named as members of the "Axis of Evil"; why Iranian men tend to look like they stepped out of the 1970s; his relationship with the "discipline and quiet fortitude" of Japan; how he managed to get into Japanese baths with a camera; whether America's center of Asia gravity has shifted to Los Angeles, a city friendly to the internationalist; how little work he thinks he's done here, and how much he actually has;  and late May's Fotofund campaign for his new Iran project.

Direct download: NCC_S4E37_Mark_Edward_Harris.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:48pm UTC

Colin Marshall sits down at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law with Ethan Elkind, an attorney who researches and writes on environmental law and the author of Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail System and the Future of the City. They discuss the reason visitors and even some Angelenos express surprise at the very existence of the city's subway; the roots of the assumption that Los Angeles would always have a 1950s-style "car culture"; why something as essential as a rail system has required a "fight"; the persistent Roger Rabbit conspiracy theory about the dismantling of Los Angeles' first rail transit network; why so may, for so long, failed to consider the city's inevitably dense and increasingly less car-compatible future; Los Angeles' long-standing anxiety about joining the ranks of "world-class" cities, and how the absence of a subway fueled it; how Californian rail systems, Los Angeles' especially but the San Francisco's Bay Area's BART as well, physically embody the compromises of consensus-based politics; what some Angelenos mean when they talk about "Manhattanization"; the similarity between a city's expectation that its citizens all own their own cars and an expectation that they all own their own power generators; how much the conversation about rail in Los Angeles has to do with, simply, density in Los Angeles; why Metro pretends not to know about its own problems and resorts to "corporate PR-speak"; whether those who lament the limitations of Los Angeles rail can blame individuals (such as Henry Waxman); whether anyone can change the minds of Angelenos who want the city to return to 1962; the demoralizing effects of such far-flung completion dates as 2036 for the Purple Line subway to UCLA; and how every voter can come to consider the Los Angeles Metro rail system "a precious thing."

Direct download: NCC_S4E36_Ethan_Elkind.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am UTC

Colin Marshall sits down in Santa Monica with architect and urban designer Doug Suisman, author of Los Angeles Boulevard: Eight X-Rays of the Body Public, soon out in a new 25th anniversary edition. They discuss the difference in cycling to his office on Wilshire Boulevard versus Venice Boulevard; the conceptual importance of "path" and "place" in any urbanism-related discussion he gets into; his arrival in Los Angeles in 1983, after years spent in Paris and New York, and the mixture of disappointment and fascination he first felt on the boulevards here; what it meant that he sensed movement as well as abandonment; how Los Angeles wound up with the its destructive-car-culture rap, and how its freeways have less to do with that than the way its boulevards also became a kind of freeway system; the mistaken notion that the city "doesn't have transit," and what specific kinds of transit it actually does still lack; his work with the design of the Metro Rapid buses, and why they've struggled so long just to get a dedicated lane; the combined optimism and complacency of Los Angeles in the 1980s, before any rapid transit had appeared; the excitement he first felt at the the city's private architectural boom, despite its seeming lack of a public realm; how Los Angeles has begun to overcome its "enclave instinct" and find an "urban public language" as Amsterdam did in the 1930s; the importance of the Olympics, MOCA, LACMA's Anderson Wing, and now the Ace Hotel's opening in downtown, that "50-year overnight sensation"; what caused Wilshire's "wig district"; what his childhood trips from his suburban home to downtown Hartford, Connecticut taught him about city life; coffee shops as harbingers of human connectedness; the basic differences between "apartment cultures" and "house cultures," and how a city moves from one to the other; and the way the boulevards fit into the psychological framework of Los Angeles alongside the mountains and the ocean.

Direct download: NCC_S4E35_Doug_Suisman.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:39pm UTC

Colin Marshall sits down at Monocle magazine's offices in Marylebone, London with Andrew Tuck, editor of the magazine, host of its podcast The Urbanistand editor of its book The Monocle Guide to Better Living. They discuss how the London experience for a Monocle reader differs from that of others; how the magazine came to view the world through the framework of cities, and what they look for in a good city experience; the importance of aesthetics in all things, when aesthetics means stripped-down, timeless vitality rather than whatever more and more money can buy; the importance of slowness in everything Monocle touches; the magazine's launch in 2007,  the global economic crash that happened soon thereafter, and why it began to matter even more that they covered "tangible things"; his notion that every Monocle reader has a business in them; what he found when he first came to live in London at eighteen; what he sees on his 40-minute walk to work each day, always on a different route; the city's internationalism, and what it affords an outfit like Monocle; how the prediction that the internet age would render it no longer necessary to meet people has turned into "nonsense"; the origin of the Urbanist podcast, and the episode of that show which reversed interviewer and interviewee; the "terrible trend of thinking all cities are kind of the same"; why the likes of Copenhagen, Melbourne, and Zurich rank so high on Monocle's quality of life survey; urban "wildcards" like Naples, Beirut, and Buenos Aires, which have the advantage of the "intangible"; what, exactly, the magazine has always seen in Japan; the cities that continue to generate questions, such as New York (and not "the New York people pretend they loved in the seventies"); the charge against Monocle's "aspirational" nature, and why anyone would think that a liability; the more established media companies who have stopped doing journalism in favor of "navigating the downward spiral of their titles"; the organic, human-like nature of London that still surprises; and how he wants to see whether the city grows old with him.

Direct download: NCC_S4E34_Andrew_Tuck.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC