HBM116: Finest and Most Rotten (Going Forward)

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Park Row and William Street, several blocks away from 154 Nassau. Photo taken in August I92I by George Balgue. Via OldNYC

Mar 21, 1919 - NEW YORK CITY
An anonymous writer for the New York Tribune stands at 154 Nassau.  The writer asks passers-by a simple question: “Do you think this is a good world?”  It’s just four months after Armistice Day, and on the tail of a flu pandemic that killed 55 million worldwide.  The writer publishes five answers, ranging from “damned rotten” to “the finest”. Mar 21,

Mar 21, 2019 - NEW YORK CITY
Producer Ula Kulpa stands at the same spot and flags down passers-by 100 years later and asks the same question, “Do you think this is a good world?”  Today, life expectancies are up, yet we still fight wars. We are still sometimes cruel to loved ones and strangers. So, with the perspective of an additional century, what do New Yorkers think about the world’s goodness?

New York City letter carrier wearing mask to protect against Spanish Flu in 1918. Via The National Archives.

The original column from 1919 in which “The Inquiring Colyumist”
asks their question for a piece in the New York Tribune.
An Armistice Day celebration on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in 1918. Photo by Paul Thompson via The New York Times.

This episode is a collaboration with the podcast Going Forward. Going forward is produced by Julia Drachman and Ula Kulpa.  Jeff Emtman did additional editing on the piece.

Music: The Black Spot | | |  Smiles by Lambert Murphy (1918) | | |  You Hear the Lambs a-Cryin' by Fisk University Jubilee Singers (1920)

Jeff Emtman is visiting Copenhagen to teach a masterclass on sound design and to do a radio cinema event about sound’s haunting nature.  Join him at Radiobiograf, Copenhagen’s Radio Festival.
April 12, 2019: Masterclass: Jeff Emtman on Sound Design
April 14, 2019: Jeff Emtman Presents: The Haunting Magic of Sound


Jeff Emtman, Bethany Denton

Ula Kulpa, Julia Drachman