He jokes that he's a "New York snob" in some ways but not in regard to Southern California. He's enjoyed the chance to live close to nature, dwelling with his wife in a rented Rudolph Schindler house in Studio City. Thanks to traffic, he's listened to more radio than in any other period of his life. He has taken in a wide range of local culture, enjoying a tour of modernist architecture, LACMA's "Art of Two Germanys / Cold War Cultures" show, "The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam" at the Steve Allen Theater and the Grand National Roadster Show at the L.A. County Fairplex in Pomona.
He's been enjoying restaurants like Osteria Mozza, Lou and Palate Food+Wine and sent enthusiastic tweets about his visit: "once they figure out teleportation (and, ok, preventing quakes and wildfires)," he wrote in one, "there'll be no reason not to live in southern california."
He's been dazzled by the rain and struck that Hollywood liberals are as stubbornly inflexible as he'd been told.
Andersen had a recent cover story in Time magazine that expanded on some of the ideas he's been speaking and writing about at Art Center.
Previous decades have ended more or less on schedule. "But in all salient respects, 'the '80s -- Reaganism's reshaping of the political economy, the thrall of the PC, the vertiginous rise in the stock market -- did not end," he writes. "The '80s spirit endured through the '90s and the 2000s, all the way until the fall of 2008, like an awesome winning streak in Vegas that went on and on and on. American-style capitalism triumphed, and thanks to FedEx and the Web, delayed gratification itself came to seem quaint and unnecessary."
The piece is a portrait of the world just ended as well as a sketch of what might be coming next. "The vocabulary of addiction recovery could come in handy just now," he writes in Time. "We are like substance abusers coming off a long bender, hitting bottom (we can only hope) and taking the messes we've made as a sobering wake-up call."
One thing that troubles him is the loss of serendipitous discoveries as the Internet replaces print with more self-directed kinds of information.
With his writing and his radio program, he tries to provide a kind of enlightened canon or common language of the kind the country has been losing since the late '60s. The cultural left made the mistake in spreading the idea, he says, "that what's relevant to you is what's important, even to the point of making up our own facts. And we've seen it come back to bite us, with things like intelligent design."
The move of serious culture to the margins of American society is hard to mistake, he says. "The age in which any novel or novelist can be really central to the American conversation passed away a long time ago, with the Updike-Mailer-Roth generation. Jonathan Lethem and Jonathan Franzen are great writers, but I'm sure they will agree, they're not going to be on the cover of Time magazine."
For all this, he feels there are good things in store for the culture as well as for him personally. Working in a publications class made him pine for his days running magazines. "I have nostalgic, elegiac feelings," he allowed. "But I'm more curious to see what's gonna happen next. I'm certainly not remotely terrified. If you're 22, you might be on the ground floor of something new, whatever form those new things take."
During his time here he's begun a novel, set in the 1960s and the present.
He's also working on the pilot for a 30-minute show for HBO. The program, which he's working on with screenwriter Lawrence O'Donnell, will loosely resemble his 1999 novel, "Turn of the Century." That novel offered one of the last major literary glimpses of the fat-and-happy New York media world just before 9/11.
"This complacent, self-regarding world at a point of implosion . . . " Andersen says. "Sounds like comedy to me!"