Saturday, August 6, 2011

New York Then and Now

Recently on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show (although they had guests hosts this past week) there were two very interesting segments about our dear city. 

The first was on, of all things, the typography of the subway system. All of our subways signs have the same font: Helvetica. Yes, good old Helvetica, known in the world of typography as the font to end all fonts, the ultimate font. There was  actually a very good documentary a few years ago about this very font called ... drum roll, please ... Helvetica. You should listen to the segment and then see the movie. You'll never look at a subway sign in this city again quite the same way.

Next up: the Roaring Twenties! NYC in the 1920s was a crazy fun time. It was also a transformative era. The War to End All Wars (also known as The Great War and eventually World War I) had just ended, and America -- especially NYC -- was ready to party. Problem: booze had just become illegal. Prohibition. But the economy was booming and the Charleston was the rage and folks wanted to drink. Thus the rise of organized crime, the Mafia, which provided the booze and broads and all the fun -- and for which American society has paid a terrible price. Another legacy of the 1920s: the rise of the mass media. Radio. Movies. Gossip columns. Neon lights. The city we live in today was shaped in the 1920s so you should definitely check this segment out. 

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