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My third appearance on 11 Points Countdown: Fun Things Ruined by Technology

 

I’ve made a return to 11 Points Countdown for a two-parter: “11 Things That Used to Be Fun But Got Ruined by Technology“. You can see my previous turns, (genuine) beer in hand across from host Sam Greenspan, on my about page: first, on the benefits of high gas prices, and second, on underwhelming United States landmarks. But this one has all manner of talk about Sports Illustrated, Brentano’s, vellum paper, computers with spinning wheels, and strolls through the aisles of Blockbuster Video. (I may have mentioned Griffin and Sabine somewhere along the line, but I think it hit the cutting room floor.)

Notebook on Cities and Culture S4E45: A State Apart with Jon Christensen

Jon ChristensenColin Marshall sits down at UCLA with Jon Christensen, editor of Boom: A Journal of California, the recently re-launched magazine from the University of California Press. They discuss the meaning, if any, of the phrase “he lives in California” in an author bio; whether California’s east-west divide bleaches out its much discussed north-south one; why we think so little about water, and whether Los Angeles actually has a problem with the stuff; how to see the world not just in this city, but in the whole of California; Boom‘s “What’s the Matter with San Francisco?” issue; when a city’s insecurity becomes useful; the axiomatic “brokenness” of Los Angeles, but the frequent elusiveness of that alleged brokenness; why Californians feel so pessimistic about high-speed rail; why it has become so difficult to sell the future to Californians, and indeed Americans; the changing idea of the role of the state, and what that would mean if California became its own country; the peripatetic life that led him to jump into Los Angeles, “the ne plus ultra of global cities”; why the true dream of the Southern Californian megalopolis feels so long deferred; how he chose Venice as a place to live, and whether it can remain weird; and whether California could use twice as many people — especially twice as many urban people.

Download the interview here as an MP3 or on iTunes.

Notebook on Cities and Culture S4E44: Fertile Dystopia with Matt Novak

mattnovakColin Marshall sits down in Culver City with Matt Novak, author of Paleofuture, a blog that looks into the future that never was. They discuss what goes through is mind when he sees LAX’s Theme Building; why 1960s visions of jetpacks and flying cars have kept their hold on the American imagination; whether we only remember the wrong predictions of the future, or whether all predictions got the future wrong; why you always have to hedge about who predicted or invented what; how a society’s visions of the future reveal that society’s vulnerabilities; the problematic notion of “invention” itself; why we love the Nikola Teslas of the world, who give us a chance to tell “great stories” instead of messy history; Uber and Lyft as symptoms of a “broken society”; how their generation seems to have grown up on dystopias, not utopias; the technological signs of a new Cold War in the news; how “face-burning” technology ends up working for us in consumer electronics; Los Angeles’ as a “city of reinvention that can somehow feel stale” full of freeways as works of retrofuturistic sculpture; his three carless years here; whether current visions of future Los Angeles seem more plausible than past visions of future Los Angeles; his search for the “relaxed version” of the city; and how he deals with “a society that does not consider itself a society.”

Download the interview here as an MP3 or on iTunes.

Notebook on Cities and Culture S4E43: Baby with an iPad with Jason Boog

jasonboogColin Marshall sits down in Santa Monica with Jason Boog, former publishing editor a Mediabistro and author of Born Reading: Bringing Up Bookworms in a Digital Age. They discuss what freaks us out about the idea of a baby with an iPad; his project’s venerable predecessor The Read-Aloud Handbook; the importance of the very act of reading aloud, and especially what he calls “interactive reading”; the fallacy equating amount of books read with intelligence or even knowledge that plagues children and adults alike; how reading became a proxy for well-being; his new appreciation of Los Angeles libraries developed while taking his daughter around to them; how he introduced Mark Twain to the baby; how our generation seems to have proved that kids don’t get wrecked by unlimited access to content; when, exactly, digital reading became acceptable; his move from New York to Los Angeles, and the cities’ comparative reading cultures; his interest in Depression-era writers, and why on some level we still believe that to become a writer means to become poor; how we’ve become “cyborgs, in a real, genuine sense”; what we can learn by watching the first generation who could say no to books grow up; and what culture his daughter has already started introducing to him.

Download the interview here as an MP3 or on iTunes.

Los Angeles Review of Books: Dana Goodyear

I talk to to journalist and poet Dana Goodyear who, as a staff writer for the New Yorker, has profiled such subjects as Japanese cellphone novels, filmmaker James Cameron, Los Angeles restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, and “Two-Buck Chuck”, the budget wine at Trader Joe’s. Her latest book is Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food CultureYou can listen to the conversation on the LARB’s site, or download it on iTunes.

Notebook on Cities and Culture S4E42: The New Guy with Eric Nakamura

ericnakamuraColin Marshall sits down in Sawtelle (also known as Los Angeles’ “Little Osaka”) with Eric Nakamura, founder of Asian-American aesthetic culture and lifestyle brand Giant Robot. They discuss the differences between the Sawtelle he grew up in and the Sawtelle he finds himself in today; how and where he got his doses of Japanese pop culture growing up; Los Angeles as a “gateway to Asia” then and now; the days when Giant Robot began as a photocopied zine, and what zinemaking means in 2014; Giant Robot’s various manifestations, from shops to galleries even to a restaurant; the local titles applied to him including “Mayor of Sawtelle” and “Sawtelle Shogun”; what he learned about other cities like San Francisco and New York from operating Giant Robot branches in them; the first trips to Japan he remembers, and the American cultural exchange he saw going on in them; his “just hanging out” style of travel, sometimes with stray cats; how Los Angeles’ lack of connectedness may have made it a more interesting place; (former Sawtelle resident) Shunji Iwai’s Vampire, Wong Kar-Wai’s My Blueberry Nights, and what happens when Asian directors work in the West; how Asia has come together in films like Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s Last Life in the Universe; what it means that more artists want to depict Los Angeles these days; and his preference of a role as new guy over a role as elder statesman.

Download the interview here as an MP3 or on iTunes.

Los Angeles Review of Books Podcast: Michelle Huneven

I talk with Michelle Huneven, author of Round RockJamesland, and Blame. In her latest novel Off Course, set in the early 1980s, a 28-year-old economics graduate student from Pasadena sequesters herself in dissertation-writing exile up in the Sierras — with no small amount of romantic intrigue. You can listen to the conversation on the LARB’s site, or download it on iTunes.

Notebook on Cities and Culture S4E41: Born Worn Down with Geoff Dyer

Geoff Dyer, Notting Hill. Feb 2011Colin Marshall sits down in Venice with Geoff Dyer, author of books all across the spectrum between fiction and non-fiction on such subjects as jazz, photography, travel, World War I, and Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker. His newest book Another Great Day at Sea follows his two weeks aboard the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush, and his first two novels The Color of Memory and The Search have just received their very first American editions. They discuss why America needs to land planes on boats; the call he received from Alain de Botton asking what institution he’d like to visit as a writer in residence; place as the nexus of interests on which his diverse body of work converges; his specific desire to write and reside on an American military ship, a place not full of Englishmen already “born worn down”; The Color of Memory‘s late-1980s London, “oily, dark, and full of harm”; the idyllic Brixton life he once led amid the city’s near-total brokenness; how many “Geoff in Venice” jokes he’s heard since moving from London to Los Angeles; the contrast between his Venice life and his last extended American experience, which offered “blissful months in Iowa city”; the comparability of Venice and Brixton’s ramshackle countercultural years; when, exactly, the personnel on the aircraft carrier started talking about Jesus; what Effra Road feels like today; his uncanny knack for living in the right place at the wrong time; how he would write The Color of Memory today, and whether he would feel quite so afflicted with a need for “ideological soundness”; the system of discipline he forced upon himself in his twenties, and the system the soldiers on the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush sign up to have forced upon them; when Another Great Day at sea “became a Geoff Dyer Book”; and what comes of the collision between his sensibility and that place, including the ability to ask. at the right moment, if the whole enterprise means anything at all.

Download the interview here as an MP3 or on iTunes.

Notebook on Cities and Culture S4E40: Eyes on the Streets with Damien Newton

Damien NewtonColin Marshall sits down in Mar Vista with Streetsblog Los Angeles founder Damien Newton (and his young daughter). They discuss what Los Angeles transportation culture looked like from a distance before he came here (nonexistent); how he found himself covering the city’s “turning point”; the advantages to getting around from just where chose to make his home, and the disadvantages that include having to take “the bus to the bus to the train to the train to the train” to Pasadena; the Expo Line’s approach to his neighborhood, and what it has made him think about the ways communities can take advantage of new transit; Santa Monica as “basically paradise” (despite the rumors floating around there of  coming “soul-crushing traffic”); the relative prevalence of “kind-of car-freeness” in Los Angeles, and what makes the difference between it and other cities allowing absolute car-freeness; the city’s early attempt at a bicycle network, like the time it put down “twenty miles of weird sharrows” over a weekend; the benefits of stoking a pretend infrastructure rivalry between Santa Monica and Long Beach; why Los Angeles simultaneously produces complaints about “being forced to drive” and “being forced out of our cars”; the importance to no longer building based on the effects on cars, but the effects on actual people; the generational change that has led some commentators to label young people unmotivated for their lack of driver’s licenses; what has made bikes so much cooler today; Los Angeles’ first Ciclavia, the initial dread that nobody would show up to it, and the instantaneous dispersal of that dread; the questions of how many times you can just report “This is awesome!” about an event like Ciclavia, and whether its future routes can “give South Los Angeles its due”; the difficulty of every firmly saying “this is Los Angeles,” and the non-existence of most Los Angeleses seen in popular culture up to now; and the availability of something culturally new to learn every day in the city, even just on its surface.

Download the interview here as an MP3 or on iTunes.

Notebook on Cities and Culture S4E39: The LAleph with Edward Soja

edwardsojaColin Marshall sits down in Mar Vista with Edward Soja, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at UCLA and author of such books as Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social TheoryThirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places, and now the new My Los Angeles: From Urban Restructuring to Regional Urbanization. They discuss downtown’s Bonaventure Hotel back when he sat for a BBC documentary on it and now; how all of us may only ever talk about “my Los Angeles” when we talk about the city; why he no longer even answers the question, “Do you like living in Los Angeles?”; why it surprises people to find Los Angeles has become the densest urbanized are in America; how the “metropolitan model of the city” became so deeply ingrained in our culture, and how that model itself now undergoes changes; how Los Angeles missed out in the 19th’s century’s phase of centralized urbanization, and what that means for the city today; what he’s noticed by keeping an eye on the cross-streets; the “hot-bedding” going on at all those small motels nobody seems to use, and how that fits in to the wider scheme of survival techniques used by informal urban populations; how he discovered in Los Angeles the “largest industrial manufacturing center in the United States,” and indeed “the largest job machine in the world”; why observers outside and the inside the city suffer so many blind spots regarding it; Los Angeles as “a kind of laboratory for understanding urban dynamics all over the world”; Jorge Luis Borges’ “El Aleph“, and how that story’s central concept of a point that contains all points helps us understand Los Angeles; seeing the spatial aspect of all things as of equal interest to the historical aspect of all things; his current “weird book,” neither quite a novel nor an academic work, dealing with the ultra-spatially just first city in civilization; when people began noticing that “something is happening in suburbia”; and what it means that greater Los Angeles has developed a suburban Chinatown — especially to those with adventurous palates.

Download the interview here as an MP3 or on iTunes.