Disneyland is a TARDIS

Disneyland is a TARDIS. Let me explain.

The TARDIS is Doctor Who’s1 time machine. It is cleverly disguised as a blue police box. TARDIS stands for time and relative dimension in space but that’s just because acronyms are cool and don’t worry about it too much unless you’re asked that question at a trivia competition. The important things about the TARDIS (besides it’s big blue appearance) are twofold: it is a time machine and it is bigger on the inside.

Now while I do think that Disneyland is (or can be at its best) a kind of time machine, transporting someone to the wonder and awe of their childhood, I think the other aspect is more interesting. Disneyland is bigger on the inside.

I was listening to a podcast sometime last year (I wish I could remember which one it was – it was two dudes talking so it could be literally any podcast) and they were talking about some of the architectural design and design constrains of Disneyland. I had heard most of it before (the hub design, using high points in each land for orientation, making sure there was no bleed over between lands, etc.), but the conversation on the podcast then ventured into new territory for me: that some of the rides actually existed outside of the park boundaries (aka beyond the Disneyland Railroad loop). Once I heard this, it was so obvious, but I hadn’t thought about it before. Of course some of the rides went beyond the boundaries. That’s the only place they could go.

I have maintained for some time that Disneyland is superior to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World and one of the main reasons (besides being the original) is design constraints. Design constraints are usually a good thing. They make people more creative. Think about haikus, sonnets, and the 3 minute pop song. Enormous creativity can come out of sometimes harsh or even arbitrary constraints. Disneyland is no exception.

The land that Disneyland sits on in Anaheim is not that big. If you’ve ever run a half-marathon through the park or looked at it on Google maps, you will understand just how small it really is. But when you’re in the park, it doesn’t seem small at all. In the proper context, it is huge and seems to defy normal spatial dimensions. And that’s because it cheats.

Some of the “cheating” is just the normal kind of expected thing. For instance, it is pretty obvious that Pirates of the Caribbean is underground and you can kind of think of that as multiplying available space. But there is something else going on as well – actually extending the park beyond the apparent boundaries.

I have two examples of this. Now, to be clear, this is mostly just speculation on my part

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye (or just: the Indiana Jones ride like everyone calls it)

The full line is half a mile long. To put that in perspective, that is basically the same distance as walking from the main entrance plaza (near Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln) to the hub (the Mickey and Walt Disney statue) and back two times. So even if that line is snaking back and forth a lot (which, of course, it is), you are still going quite a distance in that full line and that line is taking you somewhere that is not that close to where you started.

And then the ride itself is quite large. It takes up even more space than the line, probably by a wide margin. And when you try to figure out where exactly that is, well, some of it is going to have to be outside the park boundaries.

Disneyland Google Maps

When you look at the satellite images of the park, it’s even more obvious. There is the big forrested area that is the Jungle Cruise and then there’s Pirates of the Caribbean which is already underground. So the Indiana Jones ride is pushed further out and has to be on the other side of the railroad. There is literally no other place for it to go.

The Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion might also have a similar situation, but my guess is that it is not as much (i.e., not as far outside the park as the Indiana Jones ride is). Obviously, there is the clever downward elevator switcheroo at the beginning2 (which, as a kid, made me feel really awesome when I figured that out). So that gets you underground and then you have to walk a bit and then get on the conveyor belt ride3.

The Rivers of America is preventing too much underground construction in that direction, so it has to go the other way. And the Haunted Mansion isn’t exactly what I would space efficient. It is another large, winding ride and all of that has to go somewhere. And that somewhere is, at least in part, probably outside the park4.

TARDIS

I think it’s great that Disneyland is able to trick our perception of space so much. (And time, too, for that matter – either waiting in a long line or just spending time with family and friends – most of it seems to fly by.) It’s just another interesting aspect of the happiest place on Earth.

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  1. For those of you not familiar with Doctor Who, the longest running sci-fi series on television, you should do yourself a favor and watch some of it. The newer seasons are on Netflix. My favorite Doctor is the Tenth (David Tennant). Something about the suit and Converse combo, maybe. 
  2. with no windows and no doors 
  3. The Haunted Mansion is also another example of some of the problems I see with the Magic Kingdom in Florida. They basically copied the design and structure of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion over there, but they didn’t have the same design constraints about it needing to be underground to save space. So it, and a lot of other things, feel a bit out of place because there is so much more space in Walt Disney World. They have basically unlimited space there and so the design constraints are different. 
  4. I think this is also why there are more larger rides on the west side of the park. If you look at the map again, the east side of the park goes up against the 5 freeway and my guess is that they can’t build under that. The park is kind of lopsided. 

The world will never be the same

So I didn’t write a blog post yesterday. It’s actually been a few days since I’ve posted. I skipped Saturday on purpose because I was at Disneyland with my cousins (more on that later). Sunday I was too tired, so I gave myself a pass. Yesterday (Monday), I should have written something. But I didn’t. I sat at the computer and had time to do it. But I ended up listening to Hamilton for an hour instead of writing a post.

Hamilton is the new Broadway musical sensation that is taking over the world. It tells the story of Alexander Hamilton from his arrival in New York City in 1776 through the Revolutionary War, the building of the U.S.A., up to his untimely death in 1804. The musical was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also just recently received a MacArthur genius award) and is based on the biography by Ron Chernow.

I had first heard about the show a couple years ago. I have always loved musicals and so I kind of follow the news w/r/t new musicals. Lin-Manuel Miranda worked on the show for more than six years before it came to Broadway and early on in 2009, he performed a version of the opening number at a poetry and spoken word performance at the White House. After that, a lot of people were anxious to see what, if anything, would come of an ambitious, rap/R&B inspired musical about a forgotten historical figure.

And last year, the show opened off Broadway to frankly insane reviews and I didn’t think there was any possible way it could live up to all of the hype I was hearing.

In September, NPR was streaming the full original cast album as part of their First Listen series. I listened to the whole thing immediately and was blown away. The hype was real. It is legit.

I like NPR’s description of the show:

The songs he wrote for Hamilton are not rap songs. This is musical theater made by someone who knows rap to be all our cultural lingua franca, whose sense of humor is legible to people like us. It is songwriting done within rap’s regulations and limitations. It’s a work of historical fiction that honors the sentiments of rap, a play off collective memory that feels overwhelming personal.

Like all good musicals, it has highs and lows, powerful songs and sad songs and love songs and an interesting and engaging cast of characters. Also, it’s so funny! The fact that this musical is also (mostly) historically accurate makes it all the more amazing that it succeeds in such a powerful way as a musical in its own right, not just because it handles the subject matter so well. It is a tragic story, but the musical breathes so much life and relevance into the life and legacy of a man that lived more than two hundred years ago, that it almost feels more triumphant than tragic at the end.

I’ve been listening to it pretty much non-stop for the last month. I’ve been trying really hard not to sing random songs during meetings and on the train and I’ve mostly succeeded. It is so good and I just want everyone to know about it and share in the joy that it is bringing me and thousands of others who are listening to it (or are lucky enough to get tickets). Every week I have new favorite songs. Last week it was “Dear Theodosia” and “The Schuyler Sisters” and this week it’s mostly “Helpless” and “The Election of 1800”. Also, the three King George songs will pretty much always be hilarious and amazing.

Most of my knowledge about Alexander Hamilton is from high school AP U.S. History and it comes down to two main bullet points: he was the first secretary of the treasury (and let’s be honest, this is easier to remember because he’s on the $10 bill) and he helped write the Federalist Papers. Since I do a lot of trivia competitions, this is probably more knowledge about Alexander Hamilton than most people remember more than a decade after high school. So Hamilton also excels at bringing light to one of the lesser known and remembered Founding Fathers. He had an extremely important role in the fight for and development of our young country and history should not forget him. It’s wonderful that we have Lin-Manual Miranda and the wonderful cast of Hamilton to continue to tell his story in a very compelling way.

Old Educational Computer Games

I’m hanging out with my brother (and sister-in-law and their newborn twins) this week and in some of our downtime my brother Anthony and I were reminiscing about some of the old computer games we played as kids. We had a Macintosh SE as our first family computer in the late 1980s. There were a bunch of educational games that we played and some non-educational as well.

We both remembered playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego1, Dark Castle, Crystal Quest, Tetris (of course), Shuffle Puck, and a few others. But there were two games that we couldn’t quite remember the titles or full descriptions of. Anthony remembered a race car game that had something to do with math and I remembered a quiz/trivia type of game that had something to do with castles. Anthony thought that maybe there was a trophy room in the trivia game where you would be able to over time fill up the room with awards in the game and that sounded right to me as well.
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First day on the job as an aunt

My brother and sister-in-law (but let’s be honest, mostly my sister-in-law) had twins almost three weeks ago. Twins! So exciting. So now I am an aunt twice over. They are Lucas and Sophia. And they are adorable.

Here is Sophia:

And here is Lucas:

See, aren’t they are adorable? They are my two favorite babies ever, hands down. This week I took off from work and came down to LA to help out with them. I’d seen lots of picture and video chatted with them a few times, but today I finally met them in person and got to hold them. I fell in love with them immediately. And they seemed to know me (or at least trust me), even though we hadn’t met before. With other babies in the past, I have always felt kind of apprehensive and worried that I would do something wrong, but with Sophia and Lucas, I feel more confident and less anxious about screwing things up. I have no idea why that is; it seems strange that that is the case, but it is undeniable that that is how I felt today.

Sophia was generally an angel all day and mostly slept. Lucas, on the other hand, is a bit fussy (within the normal newborn parameters probably) and was fairly demanding of our attention. Luckily we didn’t have many instances of them both being needy at the same time. I’m not sure how Kristina is going to do it all by herself once she doesn’t have any help. Until then, we will take it one day at a time and just try to get through juggling all of the binkies and bottles and diapers and blankets and burps. I think it’s going to be a long (but happy) week.

Once again it’s time for NaBloPoMo

So it’s November 1st again and I have once again decided to participate in #NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month, because I like to challenge myself and I still don’t feel like writing a novel in a month (this is an offspring of the popular #NaNoWriMo movement). Last year I did this challenge and I think it went pretty well. Astute observers of this blog will notice that I haven’t posted on my blog since the final post of last year’s #NaBloPoMo and yeah, well yeah. That’s kind of why I have to do this. Otherwise my blog will never get updated.

In the meantime, I have written many drafts of posts. Sometimes the article is almost finished but I just can’t hit publish. Other times it is a title and the first sentence or just an idea for a post. But, rest assured that I do think about my blog a lot and want to publish interesting stuff on it. I just don’t. Because I like things to be “ready” and good. Which is why #NaBloPoMo is perfect for me, because things can’t be perfect because I need to post something every day for a month. Things will just have to be ok. And I need to be ok with that.

So, here goes another month of blog posts. I hope you find at least some of them interesting. Post topics I have planned for you (no promises on any of these):
– my trip to Alaska this past summer (mostly Denali National Park)
– my trip to Sweden in June
– how much I love the musical Hamilton
– some tutorials about R (the statistics programming language)
– my thoughts on fictionalized time travel
– my favorite pens
– thoughts on being an aunt to two newborn twins

So I hope you stick around for the whole month. Let me know if there are any topics you really want me to talk about. I have 30 days to fill (only 29 now!) and I would love to hear from you.

NaBloPoMo: Wrapping Things Up

Well, I made it through the month of blog posts. NaBloPoMo was an interesting little experiment. I only skipped one day (the day I went to Disneyland), which was intentional that day since I knew I wouldn’t have time to do it. I’m actually kind of surprised that I made it. There were many days when I didn’t feel like doing a post, but setting this goal and having a daily externally visible benchmark for goal success was a good motivator.
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Two movies and a trailer

Movies are a big deal in LA. So, today, my last full day in LA for a little while, was spent watching a couple movies. And also a trailer for a movie that was even a bigger deal than either movie. The two movie-going experiences really represented how much movie-watching has changed just in the last few years.

So, you might have heard that they released a teaser trailer for the new Star Wars movie today. You can watch it online here OR you could go to one of only 30 or so movie theatres that were showing it today to see it on a big screen. Guess which option we chose?

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