Colin Marshall sits down in Silver Lake, Los Angeles with Vincent Brook, teacher at UCLA, USC, Cal State Los Angeles, and Pierce College, and author of books on Jewish émigré directors and the Jewish sitcom as well as the new Land of Smoke and Mirrors: A Cultural History of Los Angeles. They discuss the difference between Los Angeles obsession and Los Angeles chauvinism; his time in Berkeley, when Los Angeles became the enemy; the Christopher Dorner incident and the old racial wounds it has re-opened; Gangster Squad and the cinematic abuse of Los Angeles history; the city’s tendency to repurpose rhetoric about it, no matter how negative, and Reyner Banham’s role in that; Los Angeles as Sodom, Gomorrah, and whipping boy; what the German word Stadtbild means, and how Los Angeles lacks it; the great power ascribed to the city by its criticism; whether or not we only use twenty percent of brains, or of cities; hidden places, including but not limited to Barnsdall Park; the work Los Angeles requires from you to master it, and whether that counts as a desirable quality; how technology enables you to watch Sunset Boulevard as you cruise down Sunset Boulevard; Watts Towers as the key to Los Angeles; the city’s far-flung museums, and their 21st-century tendency to roll large objects through the streets; how he came to teach a Rhetoric of Los Angeles class, and what his students have taught him; the truth of most local legends, even when contradictory; and how best to see the Los Angeles palimpsest.
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