Lists

Philadelphia Family Fun: Our Five Favorites

April 23, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES

If you’re looking for affordable family fun, look no further than Philadelphia. Our family got to spend four days with our up-the-coast neighbor; however, the first two were just me and my 6-year-old — a challenge I wasn’t sure I was prepared for. Under normal circumstances, my adventurously independent son is a handful. Now we were sans one dad, adding a train ride, a hotel stay, and a bunch of activities in a city I knew next to nothing about. Papa and I had spent an anniversary weekend years ago, focusing mainly on art museums and antiques. I knew my kiddo was having none of that, so we were in uncharted territory.

It’s also important to note that Jon was not as over the previous week’s stomach bug as I thought.

Known as the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia has plenty of affection for families and kids, too. We made it through the trip with lots of flying colors, great memories, and even learned a few things. And yes, there were lots and lots of trips to the bathroom.

Here are our five Philadelphia favorites — along with a score for the restrooms at each location, based on their ability to accommodate weary, middle-aged dads and a kindergartner whose bowels were constantly at DEFCON #2.

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5. THE FRANKLIN INSTITUTE
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Philadelphia family fun — Franklin Institute

The initial draw of The Franklin Institute was the Art of the Brick exhibit — which did not disappoint. Yet on further exploration, the entire museum was amaze-balls, as the kids say. From the giant interactive heart, to the train factory, a planetarium, and pretty much any invention or sciencey thing you can think up — it had it all.

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19 Things My Kid Has Eaten Since He Last Had a Vegetable

March 1, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF

Things My Kid Has Eaten - SmartyPants Vitamins

As parents, one of the most common struggles is getting our kids to eat. To eat healthy. To eat what’s set before them. To eat at all.

My son’s mealtime issues are multi-tiered — a parfait of frustration, if you will. Sitting still (or down) is a frequent battle; and as he’s gotten older, he’s become more resourceful in acquiring between-meal snacks. But the biggest hurdle has been his continuously dwindling palette, particularly when it comes to vegetables. While we do sneak them in sometimes (pureed cauliflower in pasta sauce is a favorite), the fact remains he won’t knowingly put any sort of vegetable in his mouth.

But before I go on… If you’re one of those Type A parents whose kids have eaten only well-balanced, organic, locally-grown meals since birth, you can just keep on scrolling. We have plenty of inadequacy on our plate already. And besides, don’t you have some homemade kale-quinoa-almond milk popsicles to whip up?

Okay, now that they’re gone, the rest of us can relax a bit and get down to business. As an exercise in catharsis, I’ve compiled a list for you. A ridiculously long, ridiculously gross list of 19 things my kid has eaten (or chewed, or put in his mouth) since the last time he willingly ate a vegetable.

Cringe at the carnage, be strong in the solidarity, and be sure to share your own weird, stomach-churning tidbits in the comments.

1. Boogers

I figured I might as well get this one out of the way. While one of the most common and arguably most disgusting things kids ingest, I just don’t get the appeal. Maybe it’s the convenience of the short delivery route, or perhaps it’s a child’s first way of practicing recycling. Whatever the reason, I have no idea what the chemical make-up of boogers are, and I’m okay with that. But I’m pretty sure it’s not vegetables.

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The 50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time: #1-10

December 31, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time

At long last… the Top 10. As with much of the list, this final batch is a mix of expected crowd-pleasers and personal favorites. I toiled long and hard on it, so if you take issue with some of my rankings, please be gentle.

Without further fanfare, the final installment of the 50 GREATEST SUPERHERO TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME!

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10. TEEN TITANS / TEEN TITANS GO!

2003-2006 / 2013-present

Anime-inspired Teen Titans balanced fun and sophistication, as did its retro-cool theme song. Cancelled after its fifth season, the show was reborn in 2013 as Teen Titans Go! Though the spin-off features the same heroes voiced by the same actors, that’s where the similarities end. As an appeal to a younger audience, everything was shortened: the length of the episodes, the characters’ stature, even the theme song. The Teen Titans theme was chopped and remixed, now buzzing with frantic layers of electronica — a perfect fit for this over-the-top send-up of young superhero life.

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Designer Daddy’s Top 15 Blog Posts of 2015

December 30, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

Designer Daddy Best of 2015

2015 was quite a year for me, for my family, and for several communities to which I belong. A flurry of sticky-note success; a milestone in equality; venturing into kindergarten; the return to a galaxy far, far away; the tragic loss of a friend — all of these contributed to one of the most eventful 12 months in my recent history. And it’s been exciting, fun, cathartic, intimidating, and inspiring for me to chronicle it all here (and a couple of other places) in word and doodle.

So if you’re a new reader curious to know what this site is all about, or a familiar friend sharing some moments of reflection, welcome. These are my 15 favorite blog posts of 2015.

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The 50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time: #11-20

October 22, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time

We’re getting so close I can taste it — and it tastes like…spinach?!? It’s the penultimate chunk of the 50 GREATEST SUPERHERO TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME!

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20. SMALLVILLE

2001-2011

“Save Me” appeared on the Remy Zero album The Golden Hum, released around the same time as the Smallville premiere — and it was a perfect fit. All jangly guitars and pleading lyrics, “Save Me” not only spoke of those looking to be rescued by (not yet) Superman, but of Clark himself, in his constant quest for love, acceptance, and the deets on his alien heritage.

Fun fact: This is the only song on the list not written specifically for the show it was on. A few other faves featuring pre-existing songs that didn’t make the cut: “How Soon Is Now?” a Smiths cover by Love Spit Love from Charmed; “Echoes” by The Rapture from Misfits; “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” by Cake from Chuck.
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The 50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time: #21-30

October 7, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs

No intro this time… let’s just jump right into the action of the 50 GREATEST SUPERHERO TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME, part 3!

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30. BATMAN BEYOND

1999-2001

Batman Beyond was a big departure for the Dark Knight franchise, as it placed Gotham City into the future, with a retired Bruce Wayne mentoring — nay, controlling — a new Batman in the form of teenager Terry McGinnis. The show tackled darker themes and grittier emotions, which was also reflected in its techno/industrial opening theme song. The music and the show were both pretty kick-ass, and I can’t wait to get to the future, where (like in nearly every interpretation of the future) it’s just one nonstop rave!
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The 50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time: #31-40

September 29, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs

Before you do anything else, go read Part 1 (#s 41-50). Done? Alrighty, let’s keep going.

What makes a superhero?

There are as many ways to define a superhero as there are cast members in the last X-Men film. For the purpose of this list, I considered any person/animal/robot/being with super/supernatural powers who does good/fights evil OR a regular person/animal/being/robot who does good/fights evil that is super/supernaturally-powered. I omitted shows that fit snugly in the sci-fi genre, because that could be a whole ‘nother list in itself. And because I have other things to do besides watch TV all day (though I wish I didn’t).

Even with my methodology, these weren’t easy to narrow down. You’ll notice this batch of 10 is actually 12, but who’s counting? Oh yeah, I am…

Welcome to Part 2 of the 50 GREATEST SUPERHERO TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME!

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40. IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES

2009-2012

As with the show at #41, Iron Man: Armored Adventures debuted following the hugely successful film version of its title character. Throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, DC Comics pretty much ruled the cartoon superhero realm. However, bolstered by their big screen dominance in the last two decades, Marvel has created some truly spectacular animation… and some truly spectacular theme songs. Iron Man: AA pulls out all the stops in this cool, catchy opener.

Fun fact: The Iron Man: Armored Adventures theme song is performed by Rooney, which (apropos of absolutely nothing) is named after Ed Rooney, the principal in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
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The 50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time: #41-50

September 22, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs

We are in the midst of a TV superhero renaissance. While super-powered heroes and villains have been part of the television landscape from its beginning, recent years have seen a marked increase in not just superhero shows, but good superhero shows. Between network, cable, streaming, and online, there are over 20 programs currently featuring live-action or animated heroes. And with as many as a dozen new shows planned in the next year, superhero fans are singing a happy tune.

Yet the one thing most modern superhero shows lack is a kick-ass theme song. Gone are the action-packed earworms of old. No “Here I come to save the day!” or “Thunder-Thunder-Thunder-Thunder-Cats!” Not even a “Na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na, BATMAN!”

Instead we’re left with an assortment of indistinguishable instrumentals that do little to set the tone (or tell the story) of their shows — with nary a memorable melody among them. Can you hum the intro to Gotham, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Arrow? Didn’t think so.

But rather than harping on what’s lacking in the current bumper crop, I want to celebrate the rich, raucous history of where campy TV, catchy jingles, and spandex-clad heroes collide…by making an EPIC LIST. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be ranking the TOP 50 SUPERHERO TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME! My choices are based on popularity, catchiness and cultural impact… with a heaping dose of personal preference. I welcome your criticisms, your praise, and your suggested omissions!

But first, let’s kick things off with a BANG!, a POW! and a penis-shaped car!

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50. THE AMBIGUOUSLY GAY DUO

1996-2011

These animated shorts aired only 12 times during a 15-year period on Saturday Night Live, but this questionably close pair of heroes certainly left their mark. Ace and Gary (voiced by Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell) poke fun at Batman and Robin’s oft-rumored homoerotic relationship, while both the animation style and silly/serious theme song ape the ‘toons of the 1960s and 70s. Kudos to creator Robert Smigel for crafting a jingle from such an unwieldy mouthful of words.
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Dinotrux! Netflix Original + 20 Pop Culture Mashups Ranked

September 8, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

netflix dinotrux mashup of fun & adventure

Whenever I hear about a new show or film combining one thing with another (killer robot monkeys, alien zombie bunnies, Sharknado), I automatically think of the scene in the movie Big where Tom Hanks (possessed by his younger self) sits in on a pitch meeting at a toy company. After examining a proposed toy, created entirely from market research, younger self Tom offers this critique:

“It turns from a building into a robot, right?
Well, what’s fun about that?” 

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You can’t just rip off a good idea, tweak it slightly, and automatically expect it to work. It’s obvious when “grownups” are just trying to capitalize on a trend, and when a kid (or a kid at heart) creates something truly inventive — their passion and inspiration clearly shines through.

Such is the case with Dinotrux, a new series on Netflix that successfully re-imagines the “mash-up” genre into something fun and exciting for kids and families. Based on Chris Gall’s series of children’s books, Dinotrux smooshes together dinosaurs and construction vehicles, as well as several Reptools (reptiles + tools). It’s kind of hard to believe no one had done this before!

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8 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

August 10, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

It’s T-Minus three weeks until my son starts kindergarten, but I’m not stressed at all. I know there are a lot of other parents out there just like me, who will be sending their baby out into the big, bad world of crafts-making and rule-following and bells ringing…and them being away from you all day, and you not knowing what the hell is going on and why can’t I give him a cell phone so he can text me if he needs me but his spelling is still pretty terrible…oh no he’s already behind and it’s my fault plus he’d only use a phone to play Minecraft and won’t learn anything and flunk out of school on his first day thus ruining his chance of any happiness in life!!!

Nope, not stressed one bit.

Preparing your kid (and by “your kid,” I mean you) for their first day of REAL SCHOOL is easier than you think. Just follow these few simple suggestions and everything will be absolutely, positively, one hundred percent perfect.
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1. GET THE LAY OF THE LAND

Obtain schematics for the school, including drop off/pick up spots, location of the nurse’s office, routes to bathrooms, and all fire exits. Make a recording describing these layouts in detail, then play them while your child sleeps so they’re subliminally committed to his or her memory. Conducting middle-of-the-night fire/disaster/poop drills are also beneficial. Air horns recommended.
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2. KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE…

Do background checks on all the kids in your child’s classroom, as well as their parents. Find out which have a record of pulling hair, spitting or biting (applies to kids or parents), and make flash cards so your child can familiarize him or herself with this “Bad Seed” list.

Additionally, hack the school’s computer and maneuver your child so he’s seated next to that super genius musical prodigy with the millionaire parents.

8 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

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