Thursday, August 04, 2011
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.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
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!
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
It’s hot outside, hovering in the 90s, with the heat index reaching into the triple digits today.
Last summer we did a Please Explain on heat stroke, and Dr. Susi Vassallo, Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, discussed the causes and symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion and suggested ways to stay cool and healthy during the summer’s hottest days. Listen to that interview here.
Some facts we learned during that conversation:
The heat index takes heat and humidity into consideration. When the humidity’s high, it becomes impossible for sweat to evaporate, so the body has a hard time cooling itself.
When we’re hot our blood vessels dilate to bring blood closer to the surface of the skin, which is why we become flushed in the heat.
The elderly are especially vulnerable. Their ability to cool is compromised because their heart, which needs to pump harder in order to move blood to the surface, is generally not as strong. Over the counter cold medications and prescription drugs such as blood pressure medication can aggravate the body’s ability to cool itself.
Dr. Vassallo explained that heat stroke occurs when the core body temperature reaches 106º and mental capacity is altered—there’s often confusion. She also said that “heat exhaustion is basically anything less than that.” The body temperature is normal or close to normal, but the person may feel hot, may be sweating, may collapse, may have stomach upset, or may vomit.
Dehydration happens when the body doesn’t have enough circulating water, and we lose more fluid—through sweating, usually—than we replenish. If you’re sweating a lot, especially if you’re exercising, you should drink plenty of fluids.
The Mayo Clinic’s Web site stresses that you have any of the signs or symptoms of heatstroke, seek medical help immediately. Heatstroke is a medical emergency that you should not try to treat at home.
Friday, June 17, 2011
The first coupon ever created was, unsurprisingly, invented by the Coca-Cola company in 1887. The coupons offered a free sample of the year-old drink, which was initially sold for 5 cents. In 1895--just 8 years later--Asa Candler proclaimed that Coca-Cola was sold and consumed in every territory of the United States.
By the early 1900s, coupons became so ubiquitous that this 1906 New York Daily Tribune article ironically proclaimed "A Great Future is Predicted for the Rebate Coupon." Then--as now, with Groupon--there were skeptics who weren't quite sure that all the savings were worth it:
"One may imagine the non-transferable feature of rebates amended so that the little checks and coupons may be included in legacies. The last will and testament of John Jones will bequeath to his beloved heirs 5,000 pink stamps, 2,263 brown coupons, 967 olive checks and a lesser assortment to complete the kaleidoscope."
The tongue-in-cheek article goes on to playfully suggest a political use for coupons: "It may be assumed that political parties and candidates already issue varieties of trading stamps that are mostly worthless after election. Pledges and platforms glow with the fading iridescence of true rebates. A few coupons guaranteeing a round of government seed, a front seat at an inaugural, the privilege of finding fault and voting on the other side next time, might heighten enthusiasm in a campaign."
A thought for the 2012 election, perhaps?
Monday, June 13, 2011
On June 12, the 65th Annual Tony Awards took place. Leonard has spoken to a number of the winners of the last few months and you can listen to those conversations by following the links.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Rooftop Films is screening the documentary, "Battle for Brooklyn," directed by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, who were on our show yesterday. I had the chance to talk to Dan Nuxoll from Rooftop Films after the show and learned that Galinsky and Hawley are among a group of directors who Rooftop has worked with over the years. Another filmmaker who has had multiple films screened through Rooftop is Todd Rohal whose "The Catechism Cataclysm" is screening in the parking lot across the street from BAM later this month. He is often grouped in with the mumblecore movement. However you might feel about that movement or just the word mumblecore, the fact that one of the stars is Steve Little, who is hilarious in the TV show "Eastbound & Down," may demand that you suspend judgment.
Thursday, June 09, 2011
On today’s show, Leonard spoke to Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, the co-directors of the new documentary, "Battle for Brooklyn," which explores the opposition to the Atlantic Yards project. As the film details, despite the original announcement that framed the project as a done deal, the entire process has been endlessly complicated, and eight years later construction has only just begun. The Lopate Show and WNYC have been following the story over the years, and if you want to catch up on the some of the back story or just hear different perspectives on the topic, you can listen to some of these segments:
Thursday, June 09, 2011
Back in May, we spoke to The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer about her article, “The Secret Sharer” as part of our Backstory series. Mayer’s article discussed the case of former National Security Agency executive Thomas Drake who is facing charges of violating the 1917 Espionage Act as part of the Obama Administration's efforts to crack down on national security leaks.
In today’s Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima reports that the government has withdrawn some of the documents that Drake had been accused of leaking to a Baltimore Sun reporter. Legal experts say that this weakens the government's case.
UPDATE: on Friday, June 10, The Wall Street Journal reported that Thomas Drake will plead guilty to the unauthorized use of a government computer, a misdemeanor offense. The government will drop the rest of the charges.
Monday, May 16, 2011
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.
Friday, May 13, 2011
On today's Please Explain, Leonard is speaking to Joe Graedon, author of the book and website The People's Pharmacy, about generic drugs. I became interested in the topic when I was recently prescribed a generic antibiotic--and was floored by how much cheaper it was than the name brand I normally requested. Curious to see just how the costs between generics and brand-name drugs broke down, I used data from IMS Health and Drug Topics to compare the prices of the top ten name brand and generic drugs. The full list is in the chart below.
The results aren't too surprising--generics are all significantly cheaper--but now my curiosity has been piqued yet again: just what do these drugs do? Let us know in the comments if you've ever taken one - and share with us your stories of pharmacy shuffles!
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
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.
Friday, May 06, 2011
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:
Friday, April 29, 2011
On today's Please Explain, Leonard will be speaking to Deb Perelman and John Willoughby about recipes, both good and bad. Below, we've posted two recipes for the same, delicious food: Devil's Food Cake. The recipes span the 20th century: the first, from Fanny Farmer, was initially published in 1896. The second, by the team at Cook's Illustrated, was tested hundreds of times before its publication in 1994. Notice how much shorter the Farmer recipe is--we'll be debating whether brevity is a good thing, or whether more specific recipes yield better results. But before we do, we'd like to hear from you: what do you look for in a recipe? Let us know in the comments below!
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
After all the rain we've been getting here in the New York area, it's great to walk down the sunny sidewalk and see tulips in full bloom and the trees starting to show their leaves. The down side of that natural beauty: it means that allergy season is here. A few years ago, we looked at allergies on Please Explain, and if you're wondering why you're sniffling, sneezing, or have itchy eyes, just take a listen:
Friday, April 22, 2011
I combined Please Explain with our annual Good Friday gospel show in order to give some background on gospel music. Many people interested in learning about gospel music have been confused by some of its terminology, so I’ll try to clear up some of that.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Last night was the first night of Passover, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the Jews' escape from slavery in Egypt, and, for some, marks the beginning of spring. Here at the Lopate Show, we've discussed Passover traditions both serious and light over the past few years. Below, you can find a list of some of our favorite segments, as well as some of our favorite Passover recipes. If you celebrate Pesach, let us know in the comments about some of your traditions!
Monday, April 18, 2011
T.S. Eliot has said that April is the cruelest month. It’s also Poetry Month, and here at the Lopate Show we’ve been marking it in our own way. Last week we had poet Meghan O’Rourke and former Poet Laureate Billy Collins on to talk about their new works.
We also asked Leonard’s Facebook friends what their favorite poems are and got some great responses. >>>