Archive for February, 2012

How to Have Fun

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Disneyland Railroad Main Street Station

If there is one thing I need out of life, it’s to be useful. I give my time to AIGA, teach at Art Center, write books, and let people in when they are merging in traffic. All of these, however, are irrelevant in comparison to my useful tips for visiting Disneyland. I’m not interested in programs or books that help guest plan every minute of a day for maximum efficiency. If I wanted maximum efficiency I would vacation at a German auto factory. I don’t understand why anyone would want to race from one attraction to the next, watching the clock and screaming at the kids if they fall behind schedule. It’s supposed to be fun. So here are my tips:

Disneyland Main Street West Panorama

Disneyland Main Street East Panorama

1. Never, ever, ever, enter or leave an area when a parade ends. If you are in the middle of Main Street and the parade ends, do not move. You will be swept up into the crowd; you may lose the hand of your child or friends. This is as foolish as trying to calmly cross the street during a mass exodus from a burning theater. Find a quiet spot in a store and wait. It will only take 5-10 minutes for the masses to disperse.

Disneyland Space Mountain

2. Get a FastPass as soon as you enter the park. You don’t need to run screaming toward Space Mountain. You can return at a reasonable time and pass all the guests in line who have no patience or sense of pre-planning. FYI, the FastPass system has been on a grid not shared by all parks. So you can get a FastPass for Soarin’ Over California and one for Indiana Jones at the same time. Rumor has it that Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin is on a grid all by itself.

Disneyland Churro Stand

3. Do not eat everything because you are at Disneyland. I hear this excuse often, “Oh, it’s fine. I can have the popcorn, frozen banana, and corn dog at the same time. I’m at Disneyland.” Wrong. The location will not prevent an upset stomach from over-indulgence. And, as I learned the hard way, you will gain weight if you use this excuse, have an Annual Passport, and visit each weekend.

Disneyland Pirates of The Caribbean

4. Pay attention to guest capacity on attractions. The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Little Mermaid have a system that is in constant motion. The line will move quickly. Dumbo starts and stops, and can only handle the number of guests on the attraction. The line will move slowly.

Disneyland Topiary It's a Small World

5. If there is a line, relax. You probably don’t have an imminent meeting or doctor appointment. It’s okay to wait for a few minutes and catch your breath.

Disneyland Rivers of America Panorama

6. Do not beat your children. This seems obvious, but how often have you seen the frustrated parent shaking the poor child, “You better stop crying and start having fun! Do you know how expensive this is?” The good thing about children is their mood swings. They aren’t like adults who hang on to being angry or sad. They’re crying and then five minutes later, laughing. And you don’t want to be the parent people stare at as they pass.

Disneyland Railroad Main Street Station Panorama

7. Go to the empty line. If a line is open, it’s open. If a cashier is sitting with no line, they aren’t closed. Everyone just assumes the line might be closed and doesn’t want to appear to cut. If there are two cues for an attraction and one is empty, it’s not closed; people are simply easily confused. Here’s a tip, if you want a pineapple swirl at the Tiki Juice Bar, use the line inside the Enchanted Tiki Room patio. Remember, the pushy bird gets the worm.

Disneyland Adventureland Panorama

8. Avoid Adventureland if you need to get to New Orleans Square. The layout is dense and traffic patterns are tight. Go through Frontierland. The street is wider and people aren’t standing in the path, mystified by the idea of Bengal Barbecue skewers.

Disneyland Frontierland, Golden Horsehoe Panorama

9. I like to eat at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante for Mexican food, or Stage Door Café for chicken fingers. If the patio at Stage Door is too crowded, take your tray to del Zocalo. It’s okay; you can move your food from one restaurant to another. There are no alarms if you step over the boundary with your turkey leg. In fact, we’ve often all gone separate ways and brought everything back to the Plaza Inn to eat.

Disneyland Frontierland Panorama

10. Remain calm. This isn’t a test. God is not judging you if you don’t do every attraction. The point is to enjoy yourself. Take rests, sit on a bench on Main Street and eat some popcorn. It’s okay to only ride the Disneyland Railroad and Mark Twain, eat lunch, and wander.

Disneyland Town Sqaure

One last suggestion is to watch the flag retreat ceremony on Main Street. It happens at Town Square in front of the train station late afternoon. I might be corny, but it’s pretty wonderful to see the salute to the armed services, national anthem, and lowering of the flag for the day.

Musings of the Mad

Friday, February 24th, 2012

detail, Sean Visits Georgia O'Keefe, Sean Adams, 1984

I recently found some notebooks from my time in college. It’s nice to think that you’ve changed over time, matured, and found some wisdom. But these notebooks prove two things: I haven’t changed since I was 20 years old, and I was clearly insane. While other students were hastily taking notes about Roland Barthes, I was intently drawing the objects I deemed “mean.” The notebooks reveal a person obsessed with bizarre trivial ideas. Why did I create a narrative where Georgia O’Keefe serves me toast? I catalogued the world around me, which Southern California of the early 80s was new wave Vals (Valley teens), Bevs (Beverly Hills teens), and their shopping habits. I also include a page on semiotics to prove that while I was busy drawing LA Eyeworks sunglasses, I was also trying to understand structuralism.

The sad part of this, or the good part depending on your point of view is that my current notebook is no better. Today I finished a rather intricate drawing of a riverboat during a meeting.

Sean Visits Georgia O'Keefe, Sean Adams, 1984

detail, Sean Visits Georgia O'Keefe, Sean Adams, 1984

Portrait of Post Mods, Sean Adams, 1985

detail, Picture of Post Mods, Sean Adams, 1985

Art Things, Sean Adams, 1984

Nice Things, Sean Adams, 1984

Mean Things, Sean Adams, 1984

Picture of Different Glasses, Sean Adams, 1985

Actual notes, Sean Adams, 1985

Notebook cover, "Save me from the pig" added by me

Art-Nouveau Feeder Fetishist

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Herb Lubalin

What I want to talk about here is fat. Not “phat” fat, but fat fat. Everyone is concerned about the country getting fatter. But what happened to typography and shapes in the late 1960s and 1970s? They got fat. I understand the issue of anti-consumerism. Coming from an anti-establishment counter-culture environment in the 1960s, companies needed to make messages and products “big.” Bigger was better, and if it could also be in earth colors and look natural, even better. If I actually purchased an item, rather than making it on my loom at home with macramé, I wanted to know I was getting my money’s worth. So we see fat logos, wide lapels and ties, big shirt collars, bell bottoms, and giant brown cars.

I am ashamed to admit this, but I like fat Victorian shapes. It’s as if the Garamond and curly shapes ate too many French fries and went from delicate to, well, very, very healthy. All the years of praising refined letterforms and deriding bold serifs have led to this shameful admission. Granted, in the hands of a master such as Herb Lubalin or Tom Carnase, the results are spectacular. But, when abused by someone less adroit, the result is clunky, horsey, and vomitous (yes this is now a word when discussing ugly typography). I hope this post will prove my veracity and commitment to the truth. We only tell the truth here, at any cost. This admission will, no doubt, ruin any chances of ever receiving an AIGA medal, being invited to join AGI, or being spoken to by any of my friends. So be kind when you find me at a conference sitting alone as other designers point and whisper, “Oh, yes, it’s true. He has a secret thing for the chunky type.”


Ray Barber

Herb Lubalin

Herb Lubalin


Bob Peak



Herb Lubalin

Herb Lubalin

Herb Lubalin

Herb Lubalin

Herb Lubalin

In Search of Lost Time

Friday, February 17th, 2012

I love a good diorama. Actually, I love the bad ones too. They talk to me, not about the setting or subject, but about time. There is something so odd and comforting as the Neanderthals, elephants, or honey badger stand frozen in time and space. It’s as if they are trapped in a time-dilation event behind the window. In their world, time moves normally, but for us they stand motionless. Then there is the subtext of death. These animals are no longer alive. The Neanderthals, Paiute Indians, and early settlers are artificial. They have glassy eyes and forever engaged intently on the task at hand. The Mise-en-scène represented to us is not a static grouping of animals or people. The diorama attempts to convince us that this is reality. This is the magic of narrative. As human beings, we immediately construct the story and imagine ourselves on the never changing hot African veldt, damp Amazonian jungle, or Ice Age tundra.


Getting Angry, Baby?

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Robert Sinnot, Porterhouse Room, Hotel Sherman 1950

You can’t live in Los Angeles and not have some kind of food issue. Everyone I know is vegan, gluten free, pescetarian, lactose intolerant, only raw food, or only eats local food in season. Ordering at restaurants is like an interrogation in an Iranian prison, “Tell me! Is there any wheat? Don’t lie. I will know!” I try to be as trouble free as possible. My only constraint is too much meat. I probably won’t order the Meat Lovers Platter at Claim Jumper.

Twenty years ago, some of our friends invited us to dinner with their out of town guests. These guests were older and went to Nickodell Restaurant whenever they visited. The older part is important because Nickodell was an ancient restaurant near Paramount studios. It must have been a hot spot in the 1940s, but had declined in a bad way. It sounds like a groovy dive that should be fun. But, the evening was a cross between Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Blue Velvet. The inside of Nickodell was standard issue Hollywood: vinyl booths, nicotine stained dark walls with framed photos of old movie stars, and dim lighting.

The out-of-town couple started the evening with several martinis. They quickly began arguing. After ordering appetizers, they switched to wine, and continued the vicious attacks on each other. By this time, I was feeling sick. Then the food came. An extremely old waitress wearing something similar to a 1940s nurses uniform slowly wheeled an old metal cart to the table. The couple’s giant slabs of beef sat on the top shelf. As she wheeled the cart away, they attacked their bloody and rare steaks, slammed down two bottles of wine, and yelled at each other while chewing. This was the impetus for my aversion to excessive amounts of meat.

However, this has not dampened my love for the Porterhouse Room logo. Robert Sinnot designed this around 1950 for the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. It’s a beautiful mark and proves that a logo does not need to be all hard lines and flat geometry. My only issue is that I can’t tell if the cow bull has no eyes, or alien eyes.

Robert Sinnot, Porterhouse Room brass doors

Robert Sinnot, Porterhouse Room glass door

Nickodell Restaurant, courtesy