Shooting the Tube

There is a huge difference between a dull photograph of Yosemite Valley and an Ansel Adams photo. Adams didn't photograph Yosemite Valley, he shot the weather in the valley.

Left: Carleton Watkins, Right: Ansel Adams

In the same way, there is a lot of bad surfing photography. It's the same shot over and over, someone tube-riding shot from below. LeRoy Grannis' photos, however, are good, really good, surfing photos. They are not the same shot over and over. Beside the obvious issues of lighting, composition, color, and content, Grannis' images work because they are not photos of surfing. He photographs the people surfing. The images are about culture and community. They objectively depict the surf community in the 1960s and 70s. This separates the work from traditional sports photography. The action is the backdrop to the individuals in the frame.

They also work because everyone is super groovy, even the elderly spectators with bitchin' sunglasses.

The Dead Parents Years

For some odd reason that I have yet to understand, being a parent on television in the 1960s was life threatening. Perhaps it was a generation gap rejection of a paternal society, or a way to save money on actors, but there were a whole lot o’ dead parents on-air. Family Affair, which sounds suspicious at best, was about two incredibly sedated orphaned children. They lived with their “uncle” and his “butler” in a New York high-rise. I don’t know what happened to the parents, but the kids seemed well adjusted to their death, or didn’t care. And what’s with Mr. French, the butler?

The Courtship of Eddie’s Father was about Eddie’s life after his mother died, his dad, and their “house-keeper” Mrs. Livingston. That Mrs. Livingston seemed very submissive to Eddie’s father, if you catch my drift. My Three Sons was about three sons, Fred MacMurray and their “housekeeper” “uncle” Charlie. Their mother also was dead.  Once again, nobody ever mentioned her or was upset. It was like a Stephen King novel where everyone is keeping a dark secret.

Another example from a slightly earlier time is Bachelor Father. John Forsythe is niece Kelly’s uncle. After her parents are killed, she goes to live with her "uncle" and his “houseboy”, Peter. John Forsythe tries to keep Kelly out of trouble at Beverly Hills High.

In the end, there are a lot of dead parents, children who don’t care, and suspicious household “help.” Either the kids are complicit in the deaths, or they are cold and heartless. And the household help is there for “other” reasons that cannot be shown on-air.


It's Not Easy Being Avocado Green

Once again, I was driven to drink by an HGTV home improvement show. Rather than naming these shows Color Splash or Spice Up My Kitchen, they should be named more honestly. I’m thinking, “Search and Destroy Historic Value”, or “Incredible Vintage Tile Replaced: A Spa Bathroom Cheap.” Why would anyone look at a beautiful bathroom with turquoise tile and fixtures that would stand after thermonuclear war and think, “If I could only rip that out and replace it with some bamboo paneling?” On a show last weekend a new homeowner decided her avocado green bathroom was dated. Uh, yeah, that’s what makes it good. So they ruined it. Why? Why? I kept asking as they tore into the tile, “Boy this tile sure is set in here. It’ll take days to take this bathroom apart.” Of course this is God’s way of telling you to stop.

I understand that avocado green is difficult for some. I’ve found that there are two ways to make some one turn beat red with anger in a presentation. First, urinate in the corner and say, “That’s how you treat my work.” Secondly, use avocado green. People really get mad when they see it. Personally, I love it. It’s important to differentiate avocado green from hunter green. Hunter green has more blue, and avocado (or cactus) green has more yellow.

Coming out of the flower child, granola movement in the 1960s, avocado green was popular in the 1970s because marketers wanted everyone to feel good about buying a station wagon that got 7 miles per gallon. As it was avocado green and brown, it was clearly natural. The same went for plates, dresses, washing machines, fondue sets, and anything that needed to be cloaked in “natural.” If marketing people were smart now, they would realize the same thing was happening. Then you could buy an avocado green truck and leave it running all night long, just in case you needed to leave in a hurry. It’s a natural tone; it’s good for the earth.

It's a Small World

When I was in school, I was taught this: if you want to sell the cake, show the cake. And, then I was told to break that rule when needed. A great example of this is the comparison of an Edsel ad and a classic DDB Volkswagen ad. The Edsel ad, while trying hard, is, well, stupid. It shows the Edsel, tells us some nice information, and begs us to buy one. The 1961 Volkswagen ad confidently sends the message that “you’re cool enough to get it.” It’s the same tactic that Starbucks uses when it makes cups with only an icon, or creates a faux language for the sizes of the cups. This lets us feel that we’re part of a special group, and we “get it” because we know what venti (Gigantic and will make you shake) means.

I’ve heard people argue about “intelligent design” and evolution. The Volkswagen ads prove that evolution is not true. If it were, then car ads would now be even better. But alas, they look more like the Edsel ad than VW. I don’t really understand the “intelligent design” idea. The Volkswagen ads are intelligent and they are designed. This must what they mean when they talk about intelligent design.

Hot Diggety Dog

Hot Dog on a Stick logo

You may remember my emotional rant about Ihop recently and its tragic mistake to lose the “pancake” concept. I am heartened when someone gets it right. Hot Dog on a Stick is a favorite of most people I know. Teenage boys like to stand by and watch the young women employees pump the lemonade machine. Kids like the cheese on a stick.

I like the design aesthetic. Somebody smart decided to stay with the look that has a decidedly 1960s vibe. I’d like to believe that this was on purpose, not because somebody simply forgot to rebrand and then it came back into style. The look is what a hot dog stand should be: bright, cheerful, playful, and simple. There is a rigor in its implementation that should make any hard-core identity manager swoon. The drinks match the color palette of the logo, the uniforms reiterate the attitude, and the minimal menu reinforces the core experience: hot dogs on a stick. Life is serious, but corn dogs really aren’t. This is a perfect combination of form, function, and communication fusing together perfectly.

Hot Dog on a Stick stand

Hot Dog on a Stick packaging

Hot Dog on a Stick uniforms

Hot Dog on a Stick drinks and uniforms

The lemonade pumping

Hot Dog on a Stick signage

Why we bow down to It’s a Small World


It seemed fitting that Disneyland's It's a Small World should be the first post here. It’s hard for many to understand but we joke that the artistic genesis of AdamsMorioka is It’s a Small World. I’m usually met with a look of terror when I mention this. Now it’s not the tiny dolls I love, but the world they live in. Where else can such an incredible riot of color and form co-exist harmoniously and tell a coherent story, all to the tune of a song that can never leave your head?

Numerals, It's a Small World clock

Numerals, It's a Small World clock

Poster, interior, It's a Small World