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LAist Staff Interview: Meet Carolyn

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Carolyn Kellogg has been the editor of LAist for just about a month. She's been writing for the site for much longer than that. At the same time, she hosts Pinky's Paperhaus but we'll get into that later. She explains her professional past as a "former music journalist turned web producer". We'd describe her as energetic, intelligent, invested, excited and colorful.

And that's just her hair (rimshot). Thank you, please tip your wait staff.

We wanted to know more about our fearless leader and figured you did as well. Here's her LA Story.

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(photo credit: Jennifer Kolmel)

Age and Occupation:
I've decided this age question is inappropriate—we should scratch it from all future interviews, don't you think? Occupation: Editor of LAist.

Home Town:
Born in Tallahassee, grew up in Rhode Island, Virginia and New Hampshire.

Current LA Neighborhood:
A smart real estate agent would call it Silverlake-adjacent, but it's Koreatown.

How long have you lived in Los Angeles and where?
About 17 years. In addition to Koreatown, I've lived in Highland Park, Silverlake, South Pasadena and central LA near USC. And Palms for 6 awful months.

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How'd you end up writing for LAist?
LAist linked to my blog Pinky's Paperhaus and the post right below that one said the site was looking for contributors. Not taking any chances, I sent LAist HQ a case of Veuve Cliquot, a new Tivo, a gift certificate to AOC and two "massage therapists." The rest is history.

What is the best thing about editing LAist?
There are a million stories in the naked city, and I get to try to write some of them, and help the LAist contributors write them too. I get to spend time exploring the city and call it work. There's so much going on here—it's an embarrassment of riches. Imagine being editor of Texarkanaist – that would suck.

The hardest?
It's hard to walk away from the computer. What if somebody drives into a Metrolink train while I'm in the shower? Suddenly I realize it's 4pm and I'm still in my pajamas.

Tell us about Pinky's Paperhaus.
Pinky's Paperhaus is my lit-ish blog and podcast featuring writers who rock. Authors guest DJ and I interview them about their writing. Some guests write fiction: Steve Almond (My Life in Heavy Metal), Lisa Glatt (A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That), Tod Goldberg (Living Dead Girl). Tod's brother Lee came with a new book, but he's really known for his TV writing, as is Michael Perry. Samantha Marlowe from the literary magazine Swink and Arthur editor Jay Babcock have been on, too. I'm not a literary fiction purist, because it's all writing, and the process of storytelling across genres is really interesting to me. The podcast is a short talk excerpt; full interviews with music can be streamed from It started as a show on the leftie internet station

How did you get involved in internet radio?
In LA, it's all about who you barbecue with. I ran into one of Killradio's founders and I was antsy to DJ again. I first DJ'd at USC (on its totally unheard student radio station KSCR) and then was lucky to have a show on Silverlake's excellent, now-shuttered pirate station KBLT (remembered in Sue Carpenter's 40 Watts From Nowhere). This year I watched the public radio show Marketplace broadcast from its downtown studio; compared to all the scrappy radio stations knew, it was like NASA there. I had no idea radio could be so high tech.

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Where do you think podcasting is headed?
People who know seem to think on-demand is the wave of the future, for TV as well as radio, and podcasting seems to be kind of like the canary in the coal mine. Will people get it? Will advertising revenues support it? Right now, things are looking pretty good.

At the same time, today's podcast environment isn't really a model for what will come later. Currently most podcasts are talk shows because of music licensing issues - with a podcast, you're downloading an audio file, and the RIAA does not approve. Once major record labels work out a deal to legally include the new Beyonce single in a podcast, everything will change. And then it's anybody's guess.

Why do you think books and music are topics that go well together?
I don't know if they do - they're just two things I love. And I had this idea that being able to play their own music would put writers in a different frame of mind than the classic Charlie Rose-style interview, sitting at a table under a spotlight, which seems like the inquisition to me. I love that everyone thinks their musical taste is fabulous, and that sometimes that taste isn't what you'd expect. Like Meghan Daum, who wrote The Quality of Life Report and is now a columnist at the LA Times. She has a sharp, sarcastic writing style, but she loves the incredibly sincere Joni Mitchell.

What are you currently reading?
I'm reading Audiotopia by Josh Kun, an academic but enthusiastic look at music, race and identity in America; Big Lonesome, a book of short stories by Jim Ruland; and the January 9 issue of the New Yorker (editor-at-large notes: me too).

What's your favorite book set in Los Angeles?
Yikes, I was afraid you were going to ask that. There are too many! Fiction, for starters: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy; The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon; Our Ecstatic Days by Steve Erickson; take your pick of Raymond Chandler. I love Gloria Swanson's autobiography Swanson on Swanson for her snapshot of the silent film era in Hollywood; two excellent biographies are Margaret Leslie Davis's Dark Side of Fortune about oil magnate Edward Doheny and William Mulholland, about the man who brought water to the city, by his granddaughter Catherine Mulholland. And four coffee table books of mostly photographs that I have and love are Local News: Tabloid Pictures from the LA Herald Express 1936-1961, edited by, of all people, Diane Keaton; Chavez Ravine, 1949 by Don Normark; For the People: Inside the LA County District Attorney's Office 1850-2000 by Michael Parrish; and Scene of the Crime: Photographs from the LAPD Archive, full of photos that sat ignored in storage until they were discovered by photographer Merrick Morton and his wife Robin Blackman from Echo Park. And so many I'm skipping!

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What was the last piece of music you bought, downloaded or pirated?
I bought 2 CDs: the new Radar Brothers and "Final Straw" by Snow Patrol.

What's your current music playlist?
Augh, I don't have one! My iPod was stolen last week. Now I have to do this thing: take a CD out of a case and put it in a player. Sometimes I even do that with big circles of vinyl. Weird.

What musical act with distinct LA roots do you think best defines LA in their sound?
There is a band that had the California country vocals, so many guitars they created Phil Spector's wall of sound, unrelenting punk rock rhythms, frenetic jazz instrumentals and lyrics that were nihilistic or goofy or sentimental. But their genius was never captured on recordings; maybe you had to be in the basement of Raji's to hear it. That was Thelonious Monster.

What is your favorite LA music artist?
One? Only one! So wrong. But fine, then: X.

Describe LA in one sentence:
Los Angeles is the last surviving outpost of the American dream, always on the verge of waking up to the real imperfect world.

LA has the best:
Light. There's a reason it took LA cinematographers to discover "magic hour" - in NY they only have 4.5 magic minutes every once in a while. Here, every day, the sun is uniquely luminous, the air fills with light, and even the '80s abomination Frank Gehry KFC on Western can look beautiful gorgeous.

You haven't really lived in LA until:
Someplace you used to spend time in (an apartment, club, office) has disappeared.

What is your LA pet peeve?
The Silverlake Trader Joe's parking lot. Hideous. I drive to Eagle Rock instead.

What is the "center" of LA to you?
The bar at Musso & Frank's.

Describe your best LA dining experience.
I do love the hectic atmosphere, campfire smoke and lousy beer buzz of Soot Bull Jeep.

Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?
At Griffith Park Observatory, looking down on the city as the lights go out.

Carolyn will be reading next Saturday evening at the first Vermin on the Mount of 2006. We hear the bookworms that show up to this rock as well.