family traditions

Tylenol Recreates Norman Rockwell Painting with Lesbian Moms

December 16, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

A new campaign from Tylenol brings an iconic Norman Rockwell painting to life with more diverse depictions of family – including an Asian family, an African American family, and a family with lesbian mothers.

Tylenol Norman Rockwell Lesbian Moms

Few would associate the word “modern” with Norman Rockwell. Many of his most recognized paintings are full of sentiment and nostalgia, rendered in an ultra realistic style — none of which earned him the respect of art critics. Yet as a young artist, I was fascinated not only by the detail of Rockwell’s work, but also how he portrayed America in the 40s and 50s. This was the world of my parents and grandparents, so I always felt a connection – as if I was looking through an old family photo album.

“Freedom From Want” is arguably Rockwell’s most well-known work. Part of a series for The Saturday Evening Post originally intended to promote patriotism, it has since become synonymous with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays; epitomizing The American Family. Yet, like most of Rockwell’s early work, it focuses only on white (and straight) America — something that causes a decided disconnection for many today.

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Rudolph’s Magical Holiday Giveaway

December 15, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

One of my favorite childhood memories was watching TV specials during the holidays. This was long before streaming video, DVR, or even DVDs. You had to (OMG!) wait for the holidays to roll around and (WTF?) watch them at the time they aired. Sounds horrendous, right? Yet being able to see them only once a year made it that much more special.. Unlike now, where my 5-year-old can watch Frosty on a loop until Easter. And while I loved Peanuts, The Grinch and all the others, my favorites were always the Rankin/Bass specials — particularly Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The creativity of the stop-motion animation, the catchy songs, and of course the wonderful characters — all added up to something truly magical.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Holiday Giveaway

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Rudolph, Hermey the Elf, and thier pals on the Island of Misfit Toys. That’s right, FIFTY YEARS. While the animation looks rudimentary compared to today’s CGI blockbusters, the obvious hand-craftedness of the Rankin/Bass shows are what make them both charming and mesmerizing. When I showed Rudolph to Jon for the first time a couple of years ago, he was transfixed…and still is. And so am I.

So to celebrate, commemorate and (once again) collaborate, Lunchbox Dad and I have pooled our creativity and pulled together some nifty Rudolph-themed prizes. Check out all the awesomeness, then enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post!

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A Gay Dad’s Letter to His Younger Self

December 2, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF

Dear Younger Gay Self
Dear Younger Me,

Well, it looks like same-sex marriage is about to be legal in the entire U.S. And although it seems like it’s taken an eternity for all 50 states to come around, it’s pretty amazing when I stop and think about it. But you probably have no idea what I’m even talking about, do you? That’s why I’m writing you — to let you know how things will be when you’re an adult, so you can be encouraged and have hope and just hang in there. I’m also writing to remind myself how lucky I am and how far I’ve come.

Remember when you were about seven years old, and you started having thoughts that made you think you were different, not quite right, broken? And how you inherently knew you were doing something wrong, even though you weren’t doing anything but being yourself? And then you started looking in the index of every Bible you ever came across for mention of the word “homosexual” — hoping above all hope for an answer to what was going on inside your head and heart. I’m sorry you had to go through all that.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens…and so Do My Memories

November 29, 2014 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

Conversations With My Son: Star Wars The Force Awakens trailer

I resisted the pull of The Dark Side, not watching the new Star Wars teaser trailer online. I was determined we would see it on the big screen first, so Friday afternoon we went as a family to the one theater in our area showing the 88 second preview before all its films. We were nearing the tail end of Black Friday, so the throngs were out in full, clogging the freeway, the parking garage, the mall — all to near capacity.

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I’d spent some time the day before talking to my 5-year-old about the new movie and the Star Wars canon in general. It was a confusing and disheartening conversation…

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Author Judith Viorst Talks Alexander, Movies & the Benefit of Bad Days

November 12, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

A couple of months ago my husband mentioned that he had a client whose mother was a children’s book author, and that a movie was being made of one of her books. He couldn’t remember the mother’s name, so I asked him his client’s name: it was Alex Viorst.

“You mean like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Alex?!?” I asked excitedly.

It was indeed the same Alex. And his mother — and the author of the book (and many others) — was Judith Viorst.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, was published in 1972, has sold over 2 million copies and won a myriad of awards. It spawned three sequels, the most recent published in September of this year. In 1998, Viorst worked with the Kennedy Center to turn the book into a musical production. On October 10, 2014, Disney released a film version of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner.

Judith Viorst - Alexander and the Terrible book

Like many kids who started reading in the 1970s, Alexander was a perennial favorite. Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled to talk with an author from my childhood. Many thanks to Nick and Alex for arranging this wonderful opportunity for me to chat with Judith about her books, the movie, her family, and the importance of bad days.

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Designer Daddy: I know you were involved in the creation of the musical of Alexander at the Kennedy Center. How much were you involved in the creation of the movie?
Judith Viorst: Zero. There’s a different set of principles between what authors do in the theatre and what they do in the movies. In the theatre, they really cannot change an and or a the without consulting you. So I wrote the script for the musical, I wrote the lyrics, and I worked with a friend of mine, Shelly [Markham], who wrote the music, and I was at every rehearsal. If they needed something, I wrote it. Nobody else did. And of course there was a huge amount of brilliant input from the director. But with the movie, they buy the book, they give you money, and that may be the last time you have anything to do with each other. They did arrange for a weekly fee for the 12 weeks they were making the film, if they felt the need to consult me. But they never felt the need to consult me. The musical was my take on the book, and the movie was Disney’s take on the book.

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Big Hero 6 Review: A Big Hit with the Whole Family

November 10, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

To cap off a truly epic 5th birthday weekend for our little (sorry, BIG) guy, we put down the LEGO sets and headed out to see Big Hero 6 as a family. This had been in place for several months — long before we’d planned the birthday party or bought presents or spent way too much time stuffing the hero-themed goody bags.

On a previous family movie outing, we’d seen the trailer for a new film we knew nothing about called Big Hero 6. Yet by the end of the preview we were all hooked. Disney + Marvel + superheroes + martial arts + huggable robots = DUH. And then it said it was coming out November 7 — OUR SON’S BIRTHDAY. We made plans then and there to be back opening day.

Since the characters and story were new to us, I had fun doing some “research” and then “educating” Jon in preparation for the birthday viewing. We had a blast on the film’s web site, which included character profiles, video clips and a couple of cool games. I even bought a picture book to read at bedtime. Disney — ever the marketing masters — already had quite a few books (for all ages) available prior to the movie’s release.

And it probably comes as no surprise that I made lunch notes of all the characters. But okay, enough set up — what did we think of the movie?

Big Hero 6 - Hiro

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Movie-Inspired Halloween Costumes

October 28, 2014 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

If you’re frantically looking for easy, last-minute Halloween costume ideas, this is probably not the post for you. But if you love Halloween, creativity and the movies, you’ve come to the right place!

I recently started writing family-related content for Fandango, and my first assignment was an article about creative family Halloween costumes. Our family has always had a blast dressing up together, and I knew I had more than a few friends out there who did the same. So I pooled my massive sea of Internet resources, and they delivered… TOO MUCH! I ended up with more content than Fandango could use, so I wanted to give these other cinematically-creative families the spotlight on my own site. Go grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy these picturesque, movie-inspired Halloween costumes!
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Halloween costumes - Rocket Raccoon - Guardians of the Galaxy

Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy
An avid comic book fan, James decided to make his young son into Rocket Raccoon for an upcoming comic-con, who had seen (and been enamored by) the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer he’d seen on TV. The costume was a simpler version than shown here, but James made it all himself. At the convention it caught the eye of an experienced costumer who ended up making the custom mask, feet and tail shown in the photo. Way to work a room, Rocket! James’ son will, of course, be trick-or-treating in his full Rocket gear this Halloween.

Get the look: The jacket was made by cutting up and sewing pieces from a red t-shirt onto a navy turtleneck, accented with gold buttons. The raccoon tail (found at a frontier shop) was sewn into the seat of blue sweatpants. Read more here.

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The 7 Queerest Questions I’ve Been Asked as a Gay Dad

August 20, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF

7 Queerest Questions I've Been Asked As A Gay Dad - Designer Daddy

I always imagined myself as a father, but I never imagined being asked questions quite like these.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I went with queerest questions — other than the obvious alliteration and overall cleverness, that is. Because while some of the questions are offensive, some are annoying, and some are downright stupid, they’re not all offensive, annoying or stupid. But they are all queer — as in odd, strange, bizarre. Much like the entire experience of parenting.

Now, if we’re done questioning the queerness of my headline… on with the questions!

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“He doesn’t have a mom… because she’s dead.”

July 16, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

Mommy's Dead
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HOW IT HAPPENED

So here I was, my not-small frame perched on the teeniest of tiny wooden chairs, clad in a retina-searing-orange t-shirt emblazoned with my son’s preschool logo, waiting for the class to be corralled before we headed to the petting zoo for a field trip. All of these kids knew me as “Jon’s Daddy,” the one who picks up — as opposed to “Jon’s Papa,” the one who drops off. There are other quite noticeable differences, but I can imagine that from a 4-year old’s perspective, we’re both just gigantic, bespectacled, goateed man-parents.

Yet it still came as bit of a surprise when I overheard my son’s classmate say, “Jon, your Papa’s here!” As expected, my son quickly corrected his chum, and things seem to be right with the world.

There was a lot going on, kids hopping up and down, excited about the field trip, distracted by the several parents scattered and squatting around the room. But amidst the melee, I hear mention of “mommy” something. I turned back toward my son and his posse, and the same friend exclaimed to all who would listen, “Jon doesn’t have a mommy… because she’s dead.”

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Boys Kissing Boys

July 2, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, MAKING MEMORIES

Boys Kissing Boys

We were winding down from a particularly drama-filled play date. There had been sharing-related skirmishes; LEGO lay strewn about the playroom like carcasses on a battlefield; there had been tears. And after much cajoling and promises of future bounty, there had been an “I’m sowwy” from my little force of nature to his playmate and host. Jon can sometimes be like a giddy locomotive off its tracks. Full steam ahead, tooting its merry horn, nary a thought for the fact that it’s derailed and tearing through the countryside, mowing over everything and everyone in its path.

Yet while he may be full of drive and boundless energy, he’s always been very affectionate. Which, for me — his somewhat introverted and decidedly less adventurous Dad — makes it all manageable.

After we’d made our apologies and gathered our things to go, Jon approached his friend — 6 years old to Jon’s 4 and-a-half — to tell him thank you. He followed with one of his epic hugs — both arms flung out fully extended, not closing them until he’d fully enveloped the huggee. His friend seemed a little overwhelmed, but hugged back; then my son tilted his head, stretched up on his toes, and moved in to give his pal a smooch on the cheek.

The friend jerked his head away, reacting with an annoyed “WHAT THE…?!?” Jon just kind of shrugged and let go. But my heart broke a little.

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