family traditions

DMK Releases First Original Song, ‘Pale Blue Dot’

May 22, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, POP CULTURE

DMK — the incredibly talented (and adorable) Depeche Mode cover band from Bogotá, Colombia — has written and recorded their first original song, “Pale Blue Dot.”

Dicken Schrader, daughter Milah (11), and son Korben (8) have been performing as DMK for the last 5 years, putting their creative touch on “Enjoy the Silence,” “Black Celebration” and half a dozen others Depeche Mode classics. They’ve gotten to perform live for crowds all over the world, and even ventured beyond the kids’ bedroom into more creative video productions.

Their latest is an all-new, original family project, with Dad on keyboard and kazoo, Milah playing the ukulele and recorder, and Korben tackling the xylophone and accordion. “Pale Blue Dot” was inspired by Carl Sagan’s book of the same name, and is a simple, sweet song about being connected on this “pale blue dot” we all call home.

A more detailed (and bittersweet) explanation of the song, from the band’s YouTube page:

It was written by Dicken and dedicated to Milah and Korben — who will soon move outside the country to live with their mother — to remind them that our planet is just a tiny speck of dust in the vastness of space and so it doesn’t matter how far away we go, we will always be together.

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Remembering Robin Williams: A Mini Film Fest with My Son

January 15, 2015 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

The Oscar nominations have now been announced, and while many are making lists of films they need to see, planning Oscar parties, or predicting winners, I’m left wondering what kind of tribute will be given to Robin Williams during the ceremony. As a winner for Good Will Hunting, a 3-time nominee, and a co-host in 1986, I’m hoping his work gets the attention it deserves. When you stop and look at the span of his career, you understand why so many felt personally impacted by his tragic death in August of last year.

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One of my greatest joys as a parent has been sharing favorite films with my son. As he’s still quite young, I’m watching most of these family-friendly movies for the first time in decades. Add to that the thrill of seeing them through my 5-year-old’s eyes, and it’s always an amazing experience.

Until recently, I was going through my mental list of favorite movies when choosing ones to show my son. Then in August, Robin Williams passed away, and I decided I needed to introduce my son to this beloved actor’s work.

To my memory, the world hadn’t lost a movie star who was as popular – and still active – in quite some time. I’d wager any movie-lover’s list of favorites includes at least one of Williams’ films. My library includes five of them.

Robin Williams left behind a body of work that included more than 60 films, four of which had yet to premiere. One of these was Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the third installment of the wildly popular series. Excited at the idea of taking my son to see one of Williams’ movies in the theater led us to embark on a mini Robin Williams film fest over the couple of months following Williams’ death.
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ROBIN WILLIAMS - ALADDIN

© 1992 Walt Disney Productions. IMDB.com

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Happy New Year from Designer Daddy, Depeche Mode & DMK

December 31, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

Early on in Designer Daddy’s existence, I learned about DMK — a Depeche Mode cover band from Bogatá, Columbia. If you’ve never heard of them, do yourself a favor and check out my Q&A from a couple of years ago with lead singer/video producer/dad extraordinaire, Dicken Schrader. He and his kids Milah & Korben (the “D,” “M,” and “K”) have added another Depeche Mode classic to their growing catalog, a whimsical cover of “But Not Tonight.”

The production and special effects are certainly more involved than their early, simpler videos. However, it still maintains the innocence and joy this family still seems to have performing together.

I thought the lyrics of “But Not Tonight” and DMK’s accompanying video were a fitting soundtrack as we reflect on the end of one year and the dawn of the next.

The stars in the sky
Bring tears to my eyes
They’re lighting my way tonight
And I haven’t felt so alive
In years

The moon
Is shining in the sky
Reminding me
Of so many other nights
But they’re not like tonight

Wishing you and yours a bright, peaceful, magical, Happy New Year.

Much love,
Brent
Designer Daddy

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Be sure to check out Designer Daddy on Facebook & Twitter for lots of exciting/silly/sappy stuff in the coming year!

Considering Christmas

December 24, 2014 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES

Christmas is often idealized as a time of reflection, to pause and consider life, family, world peace — lightweight stuff like that. But I can’t remember the last time the days between Halloween and New Years resembled anything remotely meditative or peaceful.

I could blame consumerism, box stores and maga-malls; the colder, shorter days; my rambunctious 5-year-old; Obama. But if I’m being honest, it’s all my own doing. If there’s going to be any inner dialog, it’s on me to stop and listen. So one recent evening I sat in view of our tree* and took it all in. Glowing lights in our dimly lit dining room, twinkling and reflecting off the orbs and odd shapes adorning a sweet-smelling fir. I let my eyes wander from ornament to ornament, remembering where and when they were purchased, what was happening in my life. It was like spending time with old friends — you may not see one another very often, but your history is deep and your reconnection easy.

In taking these moments, in making these observations, I came to realize some of these baubles were among my oldest possessions. Outlasting furniture, clothes, photographs, albums, books. Tokens from nearly every year of my life hung from this tree. It was a feeling both comforting and weighty — but it had given me the space and peace of mind I’d been seeking.

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designer daddy - christmas ornament

Mouse, circa 1976
I’ve owned this mouse made of felt and yarn longer than anything else in my possession. I don’t know exactly where or when it was purchased, but I’ve always known it as being from my brother. The photo may not show, but it’s yellowed and frayed in spots. Yet I’ll hold onto it as long as I can, clutching close the memory of our childhood, our innocence and friendship, before dogma and condition and uncomfortable silence took its place. And I’ll hold a little hope that some of the former will return.

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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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