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Podthoughts: The Urbanist

Vital stats:
Format: on-location segments all over the world about “the people and ideas shaping our urban lives”
Episode duration: ~50m
Frequency: weekly

I know very few people without a conflicted relationship to Monocle magazine. My own began some five years ago, when I happened upon an early issue on a Barnes & Noble rack. Designed to the hilt, as interested in clothes as in coups, almost unnaturally calm but aggressively internationalist, taking full advantage (rather than desperately clinging to the legacy of) the print medium: here was a publication geared toward me, if almost too precisely. “Is This the Family of the Future? Meet Japan’s New Demographic,” “The Ascent of Brasília,” “Rebranding Britain,” “Generation Lusophonia”: all real Monocle cover stories, beyond which you’ll also find pieces on vintage bicycles, Swedish spas, cinemagoing in Bangkok, and the choicest brands of sneaker cleaner. Unable to bring myself to dislike any of this, l nevertheless sense that enjoying it too openly somehow exposes me, though to what I don’t know. Some disparage the magazine as “aspirational,” but no sooner do I agree than I wonder where, exactly, lies the problem with aspiring, especially if you harbor aspirations of such aesthetic immaculateness.

Seemingly always expanding beyond the core product, Monocle has founded an internet radio station, Monocle 24. As the host and producer of a podcast on “cultural creators, internationalists, and observers of the urban scene,” I now find myself dead center in another set of the operation’s crosshairs. In no possible universe could I resist The Urbanist [iTunes], its program on “the people and ideas shaping our urban lives.” I plundered the archive just as greedily as I devoured the pages of my first issue of the magazine: slick fifty-minute episodes on late-night neighborhoods, on pedestrianization, on train stations, on “great shopping experiences,” on Auguststraße. I heard pieces on the metropolises that intrigue me or have given me lasting memories: Vancouver, Tel Aviv, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Wellington. Yet I heard little about the metropolis that fascinates me more than any other in America, and the one I have for that reason made my home: Los Angeles.

Read the whole thing at Maximum Fun.

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