March 13, 2008

For Immediate Release

Contact: Duncan Crary, 518-274-2723

Top Suburban Sprawl Critic Launches Podcast

James Howard Kunstler, Author of “The Geography of Nowhere”, Features Weekly on Talk Show

TROY, N.Y. — One of the world’s loudest and funniest critics of suburban sprawl is now podcasting.

The KunstlerCast is a weekly talk show about “the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl,” featuring James Howard Kunstler. Updated Thursdays, each 15-minute program tackles the coming end of suburbia and cheap oil.

“Suburbia is a living arrangement with no future,” Kunstler said. “I believe a lot of people share my feelings about the tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside that makes up the everyday environment where most Americans live and work.”

A former staff writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, Kunstler is best known as the author of “The Geography of Nowhere,” a landmark anti-sprawl book that gave people a vocabulary and syntax to articulate their growing disgust with the American suburban landscape. Kunstler’s own language is peppered with snarky descriptions, like “parking lagoons”, “one-story UFOs”, “Nature Band-Aids”, “patriotic totems”, “fry pits”, “starchitecture” and “yesterday’s tomorrow.”

Duncan Crary, 29, the show’s host and producer, approached Kunstler, 59, with the idea of podcasting to expose a new generation of Americans to these ideas.

“As a teenager growing up on a cul-de-sac in the burbs, I knew there was something wrong with the place where I lived. But I couldn’t quite say what it was until I read ‘The Geography of Nowhere.’ Then I figured it out,” Crary said. “Do you know what a cul-de-sac is, really? It’s a dead-end circle.”

Although Kunstler’s books have become standard reading in urban planning courses, he has no formal training in planning or design. In college he majored in theater, which perhaps provided a foundation for his mainstream appeal and humor.

“It’s sort of evolved into a comedy act,” Kunstler said of his approach to critiquing life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. “Samuel Beckett put it well when he said ‘Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.’ These environments cause us so much unhappiness, so much distress, that they’re a source of comedy.”

Show topics on the KunstlerCast have included the overabundance of chain drugstores, dismal downtown parking garages, European car clubs and the future of small cities. Listeners from across North America have called with questions about hideous architecture, the fate of various cities and alternative fuels.

Kunstler dismisses the quest to find an alternative fuel to replace oil as a wish to keep the American automobile fleet running at all costs. But, he notes, you can’t run 200 million vehicles, WalMart and Disney World on used French fried potato oil.

“The one thing that Americans are never talking about is building walkable cities or walkable neighborhoods. It doesn’t require any heroic new technologies or new discoveries to create walkable environments, which are absolutely the most pleasant places to live in and get around,” Kunstler said. “Sure we all have our own cars at our disposal all the time. But because of that there’s almost no place in America that’s worth being in or driving to!”

Kunstler’s post-oil novel, “World Made By Hand”, was published this month by Atlantic Monthly Press. His nonfiction books include “The City in Mind,” “Home from Nowhere” and “The Long Emergency.”

The KunstlerCast is available for listening anytime for free on the Internet.

The show also airs twice a week on KAYO-LP 92.9 FM & 94.3 FM Northwest Indy Radio in Washington State. Crary said he hopes other independent community radio stations will carry the show soon.

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[ Headshot: James Howard Kunstler ]