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From my interview archive: Arts & Letters Daily founder Denis Dutton

This year, I’m listening again to selections from the archive of long-form interviews I conducted on the public radio program The Marketplace of Ideas and podcast Notebook on Cities and Culture between 2007 and 2015.

My favorite college class won that designation not just by delivering me my sole A, but by introducing me to Arts & Letters Daily. It lasted the entire quarter but had only one assignment, the same for all fifteen or so students enrolled: write an essay on globalization. On the first day, the professor had us pull up a site that he promised us would offer a fount of engaging and clearly written pieces on a variety of subjects, globalization and otherwise, and so I took my first look at the same three columns, unchanging in format but always ever-changing in content, that I’ve checked every day since: Articles of Note, New Books, and Essays & Opinons (with the less regular Nota Bene on the side). Arts & Letters Daily, in other words, immediately joined the short list of outlets I couldn’t do without.

Pull up the Arts & Letters Daily front page today and you get links to writing on such subjects as the relevance of Alain Badiou, the algorithmic manipulation of human emotions, the optimism of Thomas de Quincey, and the failure of “cool” — all worth reading, and as a mixture more or less what I would have expected when I began following the site over a decade ago. Still, I can’t help but feel that its sensibility has shifted somewhat over the past six years since the death of its founder Denis Dutton. Whatever sensibility it had under him (which had its detractors, one of whom labeled the site “Farts & Fetters Daily”) did enough to shape my thinking that, when I launched my radio show The Marketplace of Ideas, I took the site a a kind of intellectual template for my interviews. And what better tribute could I pay, I eventually thought, than to invite Dutton himself on for one?

When I e-mailed asking if he’d like to have a conversation, I knew nothing about him except that he founded Arts & Letters Daily and that he lived in New Zealand, but when he replied he gave me quite a start: not only had he gone to UC Santa Barbara, the very same university I had (and the one where I took that globalization essay class), he’d been the manager of KCSB, the station where I recorded and broadcast The Marketplace of Ideas, back in the early 1960s when it switched from AM to FM. We talked not just about his work with Arts & Letters Daily but with the Bad Writing Contest, memorably “won” with this 94-word monstrosity by Judith Butler:

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

“To ask what this means is to miss the point,” wrote Dutton. “This sentence beats readers into submission and instructs them that they are in the presence of a great and deep mind.”

I didn’t know at the time that Dutton, a philosophy professor by day, was at work on a book of his own on aesthetics and evolution. When The Art Instinct came out, I naturally brought him right back on the show to talk about it (thought not before Stephen Colbert did). Later that year, on a trip through New Zealand, I wondered if I should ask if he had any time to meet up, but in the event passed by Christchurch, where he lived, maybe figuring I’d catch him and the city the next time around. He died, of course, the very next year (I actually wrote his obituary in the Santa Barbara Independent), and the year after that an earthquake destroyed enough of central Christchurch that people tell me it’s never really been the same since. I don’t suppose there’s some kind of lesson in all this.

Seoul Urbanism on TBS eFM’s Koreascape: Seoullo 7017 sneak preview

Each month I join Kurt Achin, host of Koreascape on Seoul’s English-language radio station TBS eFM, for an exploration of one of Seoul’s urban spaces. This month, along with Yoon Il Gyu of the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s Regeneration Planning Division, we get up above Seoul Station and onto quite possibly the city’s most anticipated urban development of the decade: Seoullo 7017. Previously known as the Seoul Skygarden, the project has permanently shut down a freeway overpass and turned it into a walkway park featuring not just a variety of Korea’s plants and trees, but snack shops, foot baths, trampolines, and more besides. Given its repurposing of elevated space for cars as elevated space for people, some have called it Seoul’s own version of New York’s High Line, but the two projects have their differences as well. We talk about them as we walk Seoullo 7017, which opens to the public on May 20th, and also about the challenges of building such a space, the hopes for its future as it settles into a sometimes neglected part of Seoul’s urban landscape, and how it could show freeway-filled Western cities the way forward.

Stay tuned for further explorations of Seoul’s architecture, infrastructure, and other parts of the built environment. You can hear our previous segments here.

From my interview archive: Japanologist and Yukio Mishima, Kenzaburō Ōe translator John Nathan

This year, I’m listening again to selections from the archive of long-form interviews I conducted on the public radio program The Marketplace of Ideas and podcast Notebook on Cities and Culture between 2007 and 2015.

A few years before I ever set foot in Asia, I read John Nathan’s memoir Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere, the story of his growing up as a Jewish New Yorker in Arizona, studying the Japanese language in college, moving to Japan soon after graduation in the early 1960s, and quickly falling in with such Japanese literary and cinema luminaries as Mishima Yukio, Ōe Kenzaburō, Abe Kobo, and Teshigahara Hiroshi. The book contains many more stories from subsequent chapters of Nathan’s career on both sides of the Pacific, but the sections on Japan inspired me to seek out the memoirs of other Westerners who’d lived there as well: Donald Keene’s On Familiar Terms, Donald Richie’s The Japan Journals, Edwin Seidensticker’s Tokyo Central, or more obscure — but to me, no less fascinating — volumes like Peregrine Hodson’s A Circle Round the Sun.

Originally, though, I’d simply read Nathan’s book as preparation for an interview with him on The Marketplace of Ideas. He then held, and I believe still holds, the title of Takashima Professor of Japanese Cultural Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, where I went to college and at whose campus radio station I started the show after graduating. I’d up to that point recorded all the show’s conversations over the phone, so talking to this professor about his just-published memoir provided me the opportunity to get some face-to-face interviewing experience. It also, so I may not have realized at the time, provided me the opportunity to exhume my own long-buried interest in not just Japan but Japan’s part of the world, and not just that of a distant observer.

Nathan, by the time of my own undergraduate years at UCSB, had become something of a celebrity among that school’s students of Japanese: a highly entertaining orator full of stories about the Japan of bygone decades (many of them involving first-hand encounters with the writers and other artists whose work stoked the students’ own interest in Japan), but who could also come off — if I recall the RateMyProfessor comments correctly — as brash and lordly. I suspect I would have taken that attitude as an invigorating antidote to the simpering inoffensiveness found elsewhere in the humanities, but regrettably, I never took any of Nathan’s classes in college myself because I didn’t want to know about Japan in college: after having taught myself some basic written Japanese in middle school, I came to regard an interest in the language and the culture as the province, at least in my generation, of the sloppy, socially inept nerd, and only later, through gradual re-introduction to its less animation- and video-game-oriented fruits — such as the dark, surreal novels of Nathan’s friend Abe — could I kindle it again.

I even began studying Japanese properly, though I came to it through my interest in the Korean language, which I’d started teaching myself not long before launching The Marketplace of Ideas. With no Korean classes easily available to take around Santa Barbara (and with my having been sternly told to graduate after accruing too many credits at UCSB already), I enrolled in a Japanese class at Santa Barbara City College, having heard about the two languages’ (somewhat overstated) similarity of grammar and vocabulary and hoping to meet a Korean classmate or two with whom to practice the Asian language I really wanted to learn. That did happen, but in the process I also realized that I’d never really killed my desire to immerse myself in more things Japanese, and the example of Nathan — and Keene and Richie and Seidensticker and Hodson and many other East-going Westerners besides — led me to the realization that I could actually go to Japan, too.

My interview with Nathan, in addition to being the first I ever recorded in person, also turned out to be the first I had to air in two parts. I’d brought several question-filled notebook pages into the studio (this being so early in my interviewing career that I still felt I needed the crutch of notes), but in the event got so caught up in the conversation that I could simply let it flow naturally, and at length. Nathan, a true storyteller with his life experiences presumably fresh in his mind from having just written the book, happily obliged me with detailed answers that steered the conversation in a host of unexpected directions. I took great satisfaction from the pleasure Nathan expressed at the interview after (and even while) we recorded it, but looking back — from my current life, living in Korea, frequently visiting Japan, and writing, reading, and thinking more than ever about both of them — I wonder whether he could sense what the encounter would, a decade later, inspire me to do.

Korea Blog: “Western Avenue”, Korean Cinema’s Response to the Los Angeles Riots

The Korean name of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, sa-i-gu (사이구), means “four, two, nine” — or rather 4/29, the first of the six days they tore through streets after the the Rodney King verdict came out. Given Los Angeles’ large Korean population, the highest of any city outside the Korean Peninsula itself, and the fact that its Korean-owned stores took so much of the damage, the Korean media granted this unrest on the other side of the Pacific the importance of a domestic disaster, flying at least 30 journalists straight over to interpret the chaos for the dismayed and bewildered audience back home. The very next year, Korean cinema, enjoying a 1990s resurgence after a couple decades spent losing out to foreign (and especially Hollywood) imports, came out with its first and still only statement on the riots: Western Avenue.

Directed by Chang Kil-soo, a filmmaker already known for telling stories of countrymen crushed in pursuit of the American Dream, the movie (which you can watch, albeit without subtitles, on Youtube) sees the riots through the eyes of a representative Korean immigrant family: Kim and his wife, who arrive in Los Angeles in the 1970s and work hard to save up for their own convenience store in which to work harder still, and their three Korean-American children, saddled with the “English names” of Frank, Bobby, and Marian. Just before the riots break out, the film carefully gathers the entire Kim family, along with the store’s sole black employee and his grown son, into their blast radius with only a single handgun for defense. But its last-act depiction of Korean suffering at the hands of black rioters comes after much more time spent depicting Koreans suffering at the hands of unsympathetic whites.

Or rather, its first two acts focus on the suffering of Marian — real name Jee-soo — after she dares to change her college major from medicine to drama, getting temporarily disowned by the enraged Kim as a result. Graduating from Yale, she moves to New York with her fledgling filmmaker boyfriend Steve, a mulleted loudmouth who takes her idea of making a movie about her own immigrant experience and turns it into an psycho-erotic spectacle titled The Exotic. “This film is so sexual,” asks a ponytailed slickster at its debut Q&A. “Did you have a hard time to act, with the Oriental morals?” Chang presents this as the humiliating nadir of Marian’s futile struggle for acceptance in the country she had since childhood regarded as her own. When she justified her disobedience of Kim’s demand that she become a doctor, she’d described herself as not a Korean but an American — only to have Steve describe her as “my little wildflower from the Orient.”

Read the whole thing at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Los Angeles Review of Books: Haruki Murakami, “Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa”

Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 opens in the middle of an unusually scored Tokyo traffic jam: “The taxi’s radio was tuned to a classical FM broadcast. Janáček’s Sinfonietta — probably not the ideal music to hear in a taxi caught in traffic. The middle-aged driver didn’t seem to be listening very closely, either.” His passenger, a young woman named Aomame, turns out to be not just a part-time assassin and one of the 928-page novel’s three main characters, but something of a classical music aficionado as well: “How many people could recognize Janáček’s Sinfonietta after hearing just the first few bars? Probably somewhere between ‘very few’ and ‘almost none.’ But for some reason, Aomame was one of the few who could.”

Not many pages later, Aomame has, at the driver’s suggestion, ditched the immobile cab in favor of an alternate route to her next victim: a set of emergency stairs built into the expressway that takes her not just to ground level but into an alternate reality. (“[P]lease remember,” the driver ominously cautions as she departs on foot, “things are not what they seem.”) Apart from the unrepresentative third-person omniscient narration, a device with which Murakami describes himself as uncomfortable, the scene, with its conspicuous reference to Western culture in an explicitly Japanese setting on one side of the boundary between this world and a mysterious other, neatly showcases some of the most often remarked-upon qualities of Murakami’s fiction.

The narration in Murakami’s earlier novels comes in the voice of protagonists something like himself, or his younger self: Japanese men in their 20s or 30s, individualist urbanites who enjoy cats, cooking, admiring women’s ears, pondering the depth of wells, quoting English-language novels and films, and listening to records. Though 1Q84 offers no obvious authorial surrogate, Aomame shares with Murakami the ability to know a Janáček — and to identify which Janáček — when she hears one. The Sinfonietta’s inclusion in a Murakami novel has ensured that many of the author’s countrymen now also know it when they hear it: world-famous Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa’s recording of the festive, elaborate, slightly maddening piece turned best seller in Japan not long after the book did.

Read the whole thing at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

From my interview archive: comic artist Peter Bagge, creator of Hate

This year, I’m listening again to selections from the archive of long-form interviews I conducted on the public radio program The Marketplace of Ideas and podcast Notebook on Cities and Culture between 2007 and 2015.

On trips to the library growing up, I’d make right for the comics section — around Dewey Decimal 741, if memory serves. The selection didn’t change often, so I took out the same books over and over again: collections of early 20th-century strips like Krazy Kat and Popeye, which in the bland context of the 1990s seemed almost rebelliously eccentric; The Big Book of Urban Legends; plenty of Zippy the Pinhead anthologies; and more of often than most, The Adventures of Junior and Other Losers by a certain Peter Bagge. It offered everything I wanted at age eleven or twelve: clearly the work of one man alone (then as now, I don’t spent much time on teams), it had a highly distinctive art style, stories and dialogue that seemed “real” (as opposed to the words and deeds of funny animals and superheroes), and — most essential of all — absolutely nothing in it seemed aimed at, or rather down to, kids.

Only later did I find out that Bagge, a longtime resident of the greater Seattle area where I myself lived, was a comic-artist icon — or at least he’d long held iconic status in the field of “alternative comics,” a movement to which Seattle back then represented, or had recently represented, a Mecca. He’d made his name with the series Hate, which throughout the 1990s chronicled the life of a young slacker (to use the zeitgeist word of the time) named Buddy Bradley as he bounced between cities, between scams and quasi-legitimate jobs, and between frightening girlfriends and very frightening girlfriends. I first binged on it with a phonebook-thick collection of Hate‘s first few years purchased on a weeklong school trip to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The store, More Fun, had a slogan fourteen-year-old me certainly couldn’t resist: “Comic books for grownups.”

And though my own growing up has in few or no ways resembled Buddy’s, episodes of his thoroughly Gen-Xer life — some of which I’ve read through five, ten, fifteen times — still come vividly to my mind on a near-daily basis. On the way down to California, moving before college (not, for better or for worse, a chapter of Buddy’s still-rigorous education), I stopped in on More Fun again to catch up on Hate. Around that same time, Bagge began contributing, in comics form, to the libertarian magazine Reason, a development that delighted me: somehow I felt relieved that he didn’t hold the Standard Pacific Northwest Liberal suite of political views, even though my own might lean slightly closer to those of the SPNL than those of Reason. And Bagge himself has, over these past fourteen years of Reason work, revealed himself as hardly an ideologue — again to my relief.

Given all Hate and the rest of Bagge’s oeuvre has undeniably done to shape my very psyche, I knew I had to find an excuse to talk to him as soon as I got into the interviewing game. The first opportunity came in 2008, when a book about him and his work came out — not a book by him, but close enough for me — and the second came the next year, on the publication of his first bound collection of Reason pieces. The third took over half a decade to line up, but it made perfect sense, since I’d ended The Marketplace of Ideas and started the more place-oriented Notebook on Cities and Culture. Recording another interview with him in Seattle when I next happened to be there, I then used it to promote the Kickstarter fund drive for Notebook on Cities and Culture‘s Seattle-oriented sixth season. In the event, the money came up way short, but I did have what seemed, at least to me, a pretty ideal guest with whom to end the show.

EPILOGUE: I went back to to More Fun on a West Coast road trip taken between ending Notebook on Cities and Culture and before moving to Seoul. Naturally I stocked up again on Bagge material once again, making the transaction with the very same proprietor who’s stood behind the counter on every single one of my five-ish-yearly visits — a little grayer than the first time, sure, but then I don’t exactly look like a teenager anymore myself.

Korea Blog: The March of Fools, a College Comedy Darkened by Dictatorship

Mixers, sports matches, drinking contests, brushes with the law, anxiety about the future — Western audiences have come to expect all these elements from college comedies over the past half-century, and they’ll recognize them all in The March of Fools (바보들의 행진), a movie that belongs to essentially the same tradition. But it renders its college-comedy tropes a few shades darker to better reflect the reality of mid-1970s South Korea, a time and place caught between the demands of a very old social culture and the equally rigorous ones of the relatively new dictatorship intent on developing the country’s economy and keeping its people in line. Its hapless freshmen protagonists may get into as much trouble as the denizens of Delta House, but those guys never had to look into quite so deep an abyss.

At first glance, the Korean college life of the 1970s portrayed here seems to combine several conditions that never simultaneously obtained in America. Though The March of Fools‘ protagonists, a couple of casually philosophy-studying freshmen named Byeong-tae and Yeong-cheol, seem to lead pretty freewheeling lives, they also complain of having gone completely dateless up to the beginning of the story. “I’ve never chatted up a woman other than my mother,” says Yeong-cheol, in a line that at once underscores his misfit nature: he also tirelessly insists that his bicycle is a car and dreams, after retiring on the fortune to be made from selling miniature umbrellas to facilitate cigarette-smoking in the rain, of going out to sea to catch one particular, probably imagined, “beautiful whale.” But it also underscores the traditional, sometimes suffocating closeness of family relationships, especially with mothers, that can give rise to complications down the line.

Potential relief from their lifelong dry spells appears to Byeong-tae and Yeong-cheol in the form of a large-scale double date (an activity known, then as now, by the Konglish term 미팅, miting) between the men of their philosophy department and the much-coveted women of Ewha Womans University’s French literature department. After managing to scrape together the small entry fee, the two friends thrill to the prospect that “we could meet our future wives” on this, their very first date. But on the day of the event, after they’ve put on their finest suits — or rather their only suits, and ones a little stylistically outdated at that — they run afoul of an officer from the “hair squad,” one of the policemen then charged with dragging just such shaggy college boys as our heroes back to the station for sensible haircuts.

Read the whole thing at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

From my interview archive: disgraced science writer Jonah Lehrer (2008 and 2009)

This year, I’m listening again to selections from the archive of long-form interviews I conducted on the public radio program The Marketplace of Ideas and podcast Notebook on Cities and Culture between 2007 and 2015.

About a decade ago I came across an ad for a book called Proust Was a Neuroscientist. Intrigued, I looked it up and found that it dealt with the pre-modern-neuroscience neuroscientific revelations made by not just In Search of Lost Time but the paintings of Paul Cézanne, the writing of Virginia Woolf, the music of Igor Stravinsky, and the cooking of Auguste Escoffier. It struck me as the perfect kind of two-cultures material to discuss on The Marketplace of Ideas, which I’d just launched, so I asked for a press copy of the book and scheduled an interview with its author, a 26-year-old science writer by the name of Jonah Lehrer.

Six or so years later, Lehrer made what remains his most recent tweet, saying, “I’m deeply sorry for what I’ve done.” What did he do? I still don’t quite understand it myself, but it involved changing the occasional quoted word, lifting someone’s blog post, making up facts about Bob Dylan, acts of something called “self-plagiarism” — the sort of thing that shakes one’s confidence in a writer’s work, no doubt, but in this case it made Lehrer a pariah. He got in trouble for his book about “how creativity works” in 2012, by which time I’d ended The Marketplace of Ideas but also interviewed him twice already: about Proust (later judged as “without significant problems” and spared) and then about his next book How We Decide (judged as tainted by the revelations, and thus recalled and pulped along with the principally offending new book) the next year.

I’m not going to front like, in the grand total of two hours we talked, I could sense something “off” about Lehrer, an intangible tip of the iceberg of deceit below. In fact, I liked the guy and I liked his books — or at least I liked his first one and can’t remember much about the second. (He also once wrote a blog post comparing the structure of Los Angeles to the structure of the brain, which over a few years of my own early attempts to explain the city I sent around to more than a few people.) That doesn’t mean I don’t believe he deserved what he got, although I don’t really believe in desert at all. In a way, I can’t help but see the whole situation, this making an example of one sloppy writer by knocking him off the pedestal we put him on at such a young age, as a paroxysm of bad conscience in popular science writing as a whole.

Lehrer has long tended to attract the adjective “Gladwellian,” very seldom as a compliment. I suspect that he and Malcolm Gladwell’s circles of haters — those who champion hard, inconvenient facts over pat stories, or at least those who like to see themselves as doing so — overlap significantly, and it doesn’t surprise me that Gladwell has mildly defended Lehrer now and again since the latter’s fall. At least Lehrer doesn’t seem to have had it as bad as his fellow Angeleno Stephen Glass, who as an equally young journalistic star made up whole articles at The New Republic. That scandal even became a major motion picture, Billy Ray’s Shattered Glass, though I think far more often of Anthony Lane’s review than the movie itself:

Glass may be a rotten apple in the barrel, but the contention of Ray’s film is that the barrel itself, the noble calling of the reporter, is as sturdy and as polished as ever. Give me a break. On second thought, give me “His Girl Friday.” Five minutes of Howard Hawks’s speedy and cynical view of hacks in sharp suits, as they themselves bend the world to fit the shape of their own cynicism, is a more bracing sight than ninety-four minutes of Stephen Glass and his tragic slide from grace.

From my interview archive: economist and Marginal Revolutionary Tyler Cowen (2008 and 2009)

This year, I’m listening again to selections from the archive of long-form interviews I conducted on the public radio program The Marketplace of Ideas and podcast Notebook on Cities and Culture between 2007 and 2015.

I don’t remember exactly how I first found Marginal Revolution, but I’ve read it longer than nearly any blog in existence. Part of that owes to the fact that, unlike many if not most of the blogs I used to read, it actually remains in existence. More of it owes to my unflagging interest in the distinctive mind of one of Marginal Revolution’s two founding bloggers, George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen.

As you might expect, Cowen writes primarily about economics, and I discovered his work just as I started getting into that subject myself, but you don’t really need to care about economics to get a return on keeping up with his blogging: over this past month alone, he’s also posted about George Steiner, new Italian fiction, artificial intelligence, tennis, grip strength (unrelated to tennis), spiders, the appeal of Ireland, robot stage actors, empiricism, emotions, how to give a talk, Indian curry stain removal devices, American sexual frequency estimation, satellite-radio payola, Monteverdi’s madrigals, a rising chess star, and the political effects of self-deception.

That list might make Marginal Revolution sound like one of those projects “about everything” that you’re not even supposed to think about launching in the 21st century’s hyperspecialized #content landscape. Usually that kind of generalism indicates a fatal lack of focus by its very nature, but Cowen has somehow always matched breadth of subject with clarity of thought, which creates its own kind of high consistency. That may owe to his tendency to see the world thorough an economic lens, especially in his signature “Markets in Everything” posts, and it comes in for especially good use in his writing about food, whether on his Washington, D.C.-area Ethnic Dining Guide or in a book like An Economist Gets Lunch.

That one came out a bit too late to record an interview about on The Marketplace of Ideas, but by that point I’d already talked to Cowen, who now hosts an interview podcast of his very own, twice on the show. Both conversations got into his methods for consuming and thinking about culture, in edible form or any other. Not long after the second, I borrowed another of Cowen’s signature post formats, the recommendation-soliciting “bleg” (blogbeg), to prepare for a visit to New Zealand, my first trip — and really, really not my last — off the American continent. One of the comments in reply came from the Marginal Revolutionary himself:

Eat fusion cuisine in Auckland and Wellington, Malaysian and Burmese food, fish and chips (of course), lamb, forget the beef and chicken 100 percent. Don’t order them once.

I very much like Napier. Do “quaint” things, like shopping for tea cozies. Try to rent a cabin for a day or two away from a city. Drink their wacky fruit juices. Go for walks. Don’t expect too much culture or good art to look at. The Pacific materials in the Auckland museum are superb, however.

Good advice, it turned out!

Though I haven’t had another chance to interview Cowen since (Notebook on Cities and Culture never having made it to a D.C. Season), I’ve done my best to adapt his habits of mind when traveling, eating, watching, and reading elsewhere. Anyone who has come to the conclusion that Los Angeles is his “favorite city in the whole world” and that Apichatpong Weerasethakul is “the most enduring director of our time” will, at least for my purposes, come to other highly relevant conclusions as well. He’s only written a little about Korea (“There are so many coffee shops here.  But why?” he asked in 2012), though he has undertaken a longstanding quest for the ideal bibimbap. Next time he gets here, I’d be glad to introduce an additional data point or two.

Seoul Urbanism on TBS eFM’s Koreascape: The Destruction of Bamgol Village

Each month I join Kurt Achin, host of Koreascape on Seoul’s English-language radio station TBS eFM, for an exploration of one of Seoul’s urban spaces. This month we join urban explorer Jon Dunbar of Daehanmindecline for a walk through an old neighborhood called Bamgol Village — or what’s left of it. Urban redevelopment never stops in Seoul, and when it happens it scrapes whole communities off the map, usually in order to replace clusters of low-rise buildings with another set of the high-rise tower blocks that have increasingly characterized the city since the 1970s. Bamgol Village’s bid to save itself with by filling its walls with colorful murals didn’t pan out, and as in all such condemned neighborhoods, some residents haven’t had an easy time leaving: amid the heaps of rubble stand half-demolished houses still strewn with possessions, and at least one may even remain occupied.

Stay tuned for further explorations of Seoul’s architecture, infrastructure, and other parts of the built environment. You can hear our previous segments here.