Every seasoned New Yorker and every tourist riding on the subway for the first time knows how important clear signage is to help riders find their way to the right train heading the right direction. On today’s show graphic designer and typographer Paul Shaw explains how the typeface Helvetica was used to impose order over the chaos of the subway signage. Listen to that interview here.
Here’s a review of Paul Shaw’s book in The New Yorker’s The Book Bench blog.
History of Helvetica
The typeface Helvetica was developed by Max Miedinger with Edüard Hoffmann in 1957 for the Haas Type Foundry in Münchenstein, Switzerland. Helvetica’s name is derived from the Latin name for Switzerlant, Helvetia. In 1961 Linotype started marketing the font internationally. Swiss design and sleek, sans serif typefaces were popular at the time, and because Helvetica is a scalable font that can be resized without distorting its proportions, it soon appeared in corporate logos and on transportation signage—In 1966 Vignelli Associates designed the New York Subway sign system using Helvetica (more about that here). When Apple included Helvetica on Macintosh computers in 1984, the font became even more common and is now one of the most popular typefaces of all time.
More on Typography
We did a Please Explain on typography in 2009, and typographer Jonathan Hoefler, type designer and president of Hoefler & Frere-Jones and Steven Heller, co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts, explained how typefaces are designed, trademarked, and the ways type faces can communicate with just their shape. Listen to that interview here.
Today Patricia T. O'Conner was on the Lopate Show to talk about language and grammar and to answer listener questions on the topic, and Natalie from Westchester called to shared a trick she uses to figure out when to use "who" and when to use "whom" in a sentence.
She explained: If you would answer the question with "he" or "she," you should ask the question with "who." And if you would answer with "him" or "her," you should ask the question with "whom."
Which means "Whom does this shirt belong to?" is correct because the answer would be "It belongs to him (or her)." You would ask "Who is going uptown on the A train?" because the answer is "She (or he) is going uptown on the A train."
Knowing the difference between who and whom confuses many people, and this is the simplest trick for figuring it out that I've ever come across. Thanks, Natalie from Westchester!
Looking for a good book to read? We've asked some Lopate Show guests what great books they've read lately, and here's what they've told us:
On Friday, Leonard spoke to filmmaker Annie Sundberg and democratic protestor Myo Myint Cho, who is the subject of Ms. Sundberg's film "Burma Soldier." The film premieres in the United States this Wednesday on HBO 2, but in Burma it's been shown in less conventional ways. The filmmakers, working with the Democratic Voice of Burma, made a Burmese language version of the film that has been pirated via satellite transmissions and other means into Burma. The filmmakers are encouraging people, says Sundberg, to "watch, duplicate and share the film in any way possible, from free DVD copies left in internet cafes to downloading and forwarding links to the film via email, with the goal of reaching as many Burmese as possible."
The film seeks to help Burmese better understand the 60-year civil war still unfolding in their country. Few Burmese have access to a non-government-approved version of their country's violent history.
The annual James Beard Foundation Awards were held in New York on Monday night, and a few of those honored have been guests on the Leonard Lopate Show in recent years. Food is one of Leonard’s favorite subjects, and he's had some rich conversations with chefs and cookbook writers.
Today’s Please Explain is a look at bugs with Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Bugs. If you want to learn more about some specific insects—and some of the diseases they carry—here are some of our other insect-related Please Explains we've done in the past:
Among the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winners are writers Jennifer Eagan, Eric Foner, Ron Chernow, and Siddhartha Mukherjee, who were all guests on the Leonard Lopate Show last year. You can listen to their conversations with Leonard below.
Listen to El Mariachi Infante perform!
Last night in the Greene Space, Leonard spoke with award-winning journalist Jon Alpert and four young filmmakers from Downtown Community Television Center, who also screened excerpts from documentaries they made in the DCTV's youth media training program. And El Mariachi Infante, a mariachi band featured in one of the films, performed.
During Friday’s Please Explain about anger, Dr. Philip Muskin brought up a man named Phineas Gage, who, he said, “was a very responsible manager on the railroad. One day a tamping rod went through his eye, through his brain, and basically gave him a frontal lobotomy. And Phineas Gage then became basically a ne’er do well. He was not responsible, he drank, he caroused, he lost his temper all the time. That is, the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the rest of the brain is really important.”
Phineas Gage was 25 in 1848, and the foreman of a crew building a new railroad track in Vermont. He was packing explosives with a tamping iron that was “43 inches long, 1.25 inches in diameter and weighing 13.25 pounds,” according Steve Twomey, writing in Smithsonian magazine, when an explosion shot the tamping iron through his head—it entered through his cheek and exited through the top of his skull. He survived, but his doctor and friends noticed a remarkable change in his personality in the months following the accident. He became the most famous patient in neuroscience because his injury demonstrated a connection between brain trauma and personality change and showed that specific parts of the brain were responsible for our moods. Read more about Phineas Gage—and see a photograph of him with the tamping iron that injured him—in Smithsonian Magazine.
In February, Dr. V. S. Ramachandran spoke with Leonard about his work in neuroscience, and he described how strokes cause brain trauma that can alter senses and change personalities. One patient started drawing with incredible detail after he suffered a stroke, although he was never particularly interested in or skilled at making art before. In Dr. Ramachandran's book The Tell-Tale Brain, he gives a number of examples of how brain injuries reveal the ways the brain works. You can listen to that interview here.
Wool was the topic of a Please Explain segment in December, but because winter is not quite over (it’s snowing as I write this), many of us are still wearing scarves and hats and heavy winter coats made of wool, so I'm continuing the conversation. There were a few unanswered questions about wool and about animal cruelty in the wool industry, and Clara Parkes was kind enough to e-mail some answers, which I’ve included below.
Although Al Jazeera English is not available on most U.S. cable providers, the network has emerged as a major source of information for Americans interested in what’s happening in Egypt—they're accessing the network on the Web, and live streaming of it has surged over the past week. On Friday Leonard spoke with Al Jazeera English's White House correspondent, Patty Culhane about Al Jazeera's ongoing coverage of events in Egypt.
It's almost impossible to answer every question during a Please Explain segment, and today's discussion of salt left us wondering about one question in particular—Elliott from New York asked: Why do you put salt in an ice cream maker to keep the ice from melting…then put salt on the sidewalk to make ice melt?
I did a little research and found the explanation. Salt lowers the freezing point of water, which is normally 32°F (0°C). When you spread sodium chloride on a sidewalk, the freezing point becomes about 15°F (-9°C).
When you make ice cream, the ice needs to stay below a freezing temperature for a long enough time to allow the milk or cream to freeze. So you add salt to the ice in order to keep its temperature well below freezing, even after it has melted.
Here's a simple recipe for homemade ice cream that requires no special equipment:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups crushed ice
4 tablespoons salt
1 quart size zip-top bag
1 gallon size zip-top bag
Mix together the milk, vanilla, and sugar, the pour into the small bag and seal, making sure there's as little air in the bag as possible. Put the small bag inside the large bag and add the ice, then add the salt. Seal the bag with as little air inside as possible. Wrap the bag in the towel and shake and massage it for 10-15 minutes. The ice will melt but will remain below freezing, and the milk will turn into ice cream!
Holiday tipping can be confusing and intimidating, and the list of people we should tip or give a gift to seems to be growing. Last Thursday, two etiquette experts, Peter Post and Jodi R. R. Smith, joined us to explain who to tip during the holidays and how much we should give. We received a lot of calls and comments, especially about how much to give door men and supers. Here are some of the guests’ recommendations:
- Gail Collins, columnist for the New York Times on the The Leonard Lopate Show,.
-Kate Zernike, New York Times National Correspondent and author of Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America
- New York Times columnist Gail Collins on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and other new stars of this political season, on the Leonard Lopate Show