Hi, I’m here

A little over a year ago, I stopped regularly engaging with social media. It wasn’t an absolute, deliberate choice but instead something that was fueled in part by a general boredom with technology and also by my growing anxiety with the increasing amount of propaganda on social media. It was bothersome and frustrating to not only see it all but to see my friends and family blindly following aggressive and misleading content towards ideologies I felt were very wrong. I don’t want social media to be a political tool or even a news outlet but instead a way to connect with other people. I believe that technology has the ability to strengthen our humanity if we let it, but I believe the best way to do it is to remember the people with whom we’re connecting through that technology.

I miss the ease with which I can interact with people on social media, and I think I can approach it now with a clear and creatively-charged mind. I plan to share and engage a bit more, but I totally will block your ass if you’re being an idiot.

If you’re wondering where I’ve been: I quit my job, traveled a lot with my savings, released an album of piano solos, learned to oil paint, learned to draw vector images, built an identity as a street artist (kinda), mastered making ice cream, and learned to solder, among other things. I’m continuing to work on my music and art, and I’m toying with the idea of building a business plan for a unique ice cream shop.

I’m now figuring out what I want to do next professionally. I want to find a job that is challenging both intellectually and creatively. I didn’t mind being a data analyst, but I don’t want to be a data jockey or task rabbit that just does what he’s told. That sort of humdrum just doesn’t make for a happy Domenick. I enjoy and excel at being in charge of projects that require a wide range of skills. Let me know if you come across anyone that might need me.

In the meantime, enjoy this video that I included with my application to The Onion:

 

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How to visit other cultures

I was watching a television program that covered some student missionary work to rural Africa. The students as well as the mission leaders strolled around a compound, observing and marveling at the way these people lived. Occasionally the mission leader would ask one of the locals what they were doing or what something was, and then the mission leader would get excited and explain it all to the students. There would be some discussion, and the students would take pictures and video. They were observers, they acted like scientists, they were careful not to get too involved with the locals. They were culture tourists. I’ve seen people act like this before, in person, and there’s something unsettling about it.

It’s great to introduce yourself to cultures that are different than you. It’s awesome to interact with people who live different than you. But when you do, don’t marvel at them as if you’re impressed with the way they weave cotton by hand. Don’t observe them as if they are animals. They are people just like you. Sit down with them, chat, have a meal. When you approach another human beings in their home town, ask to join them as if you are both human beings. Because you are. They are just people who do things differently than you. Its offensive and wrong to treat people like they’re not people. Be kind, open-minded, respectful, and adventurous.

The Wind

[travel journal excerpt, 20/5/16]


Atop Sigiriya, I was alone.  On the precipice of the great island mountain, the wind grew strong.  The gusts so great, it felt as thought it could carry me away.  But the wind was filling me with a power, and it felt good.  I closed my eyes and felt the awesome power fill me, and when I opened my eyes to behold the great landscape before me, it felt as thought I could fly.  I got down on my knees and was thankful.  The wind slowed down briefly, perhaps in response, and then continued to fill me with life.

The Ocean

[travel journal excerpt, 18/5/16]


On the beach in Bali, I took my new phone out to snap some pictures of the view.  I didn’t have the time to really spend more than fifteen or twenty minutes, so it was just enough time for a few good pictures.
I stood about 25 feet from the shoreline and brought my phone up to position.  As I took a panoramic photo, the ocean suddenly rushed towards me.  The water rushed past my ankles as if coming to meet me specifically.  I stepped back, feeling somewhat afraid.  It felt as if the ocean, empowered with a will, was trying to pull me in as it had pulled my previous phone from me just a few days ago.  It felt alive, and I was overwhelmed.
The bubbling waves called out to me, the sound of its foamy current sizzling in the perfect air.  All I could hear was the ocean, beckoning to me with its great, strange power.  In awe, I fell to my knees and thanked the universe for my existence.

Impressions of America, Abroad

Last year, I traveled around the world; sometimes I would write things down.  Coming from the USA  certainly had a tremendous impact on my travels and the way I experienced things.  Below are some comments about the United States and being American that came up in conversation with different people I met.  Some were volunteered and some were prompted, some are positive and some are negative, but they’re all sincere.  And that’s what I appreciated the most.

I’m someone who is always questioning myself and who I am as a person.  I think this is important to become the best possible version of myself.  In the same way, I think it’s good for people to question where they’re from and what their country is before celebrating it.

I’ve replaced people’s names with the place where they’re from, and I’ve added a picture I took of that place.  Note that these quotes are all between March and July 2016.

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The US is a very nice place with lots of problems.  -Berlin Germany
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I can never go to the United States.  It is too dangerous.  -Gifu Japan
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When I was younger, I really wanted to go to the US and live there.  But now, I would never.  It’s a scary place, no?  And now, maybe Trump can launch an atomic bomb haha.  -Berlin Germany
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Americans are great people, but I don’t like the United States.  They’re crazy over there, really crazy.  You best stay here in Italy.  -Tropea Italy
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Americans have this amazing quality where at any point in their lives, they can completely change.  – Berlin Germany
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The United States is a good place for money – that’s what your grandfather used to say.  But as they were filling him with drugs and killing him at the hospital, he begged to return to Italy.  America has a sickness, and I don’t like it.  -Ricadi Italy
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Here in Cambodia, we are poor.  But we have food, we have shelter.  There are children in the world who do not even have these things.  I wish that if you have money to give, that you would give it to those people.  -Siem Reap Cambodia

YouTube: a missed opportunity?

The internet is a truly magnificent thing – a massive data network that collects all of human knowledge and ideas.  In many ways, we’re learning to use the internet in very exciting ways and ways that can really advance society – like Khan Academy, Wikipedia, and the “internet of things” that allows us to tap into this resource to inform and power household objects in new ways.  But oftentimes, we’ll come across a missed opportunity.

YouTube is a very popular site that people use to watch videos of cats and obnoxious bloggers.  But a friend showed me a site that made me realize just how much of a missed opportunity YouTube really is.  It showed me what, I believe, YouTube should be. Astronaut.io is a constant stream of seldom-watched YouTube videos that are titled something like DSC or IMG with a random number sequence afterwards.  Essentially, they’re the forgotten videos that people uploaded but never bothered to  share on social media or even title – moments from kids’ birthday parties, high school basketball games, impromptu personal interviews, dancing practice, babies’ first moments, someone seeing snow for the first time.  They’re extremely personal moments that were never really intended to be watched by anyone else, and it’s beautiful.  I feel like this is what YouTube should have been: something more personal than the doctored-up videos of people trying to impress the world or the bootlegged TV shows and sensationalized news segments.  YouTube is just becoming a bad version of television with even louder commercials when it could have been something more.  It could have been something more human.

Domenick’s Indie Gift-Giving Guide

Buying presents can be a drag if you’re heading to Target or the mall for your gift-giving tasks, but it’s way more fun and exciting to give something really unique.  I’m lucky to have really talented friends, so I’ve compiled this list of things that some of my friends have made that I think would make good presents.  You’ll also be supporting my friends’ artistic endeavors by buying from them, which is one of the best gifts of all!


 

Cartoon Lapel Pins by Jeff Cinco – Cinco takes pop art elements from cartoons and video games and makes them into wearable art.  They’re perfect for that longtime nerd, the born again Pokemon fan, or even just Simposon’s nostalgia (everybody likes the Simpsons).  I got myself a Handsome Bartward pin, and it’s pretty awesome.  If you’re looking to get me Christmas present, I really want that 8-bit Gengar pin…

Price range $10-ish


 

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Custom Watercolor Portrait by Alex Czysz – My friend Alex has been drawing weird comics for years, but he’s recently gotten into watercolor.  If you give him a reference, he can paint a colorful watercolor likeness for you.  Who wouldn’t like a portrait as a present?  He does humans and animal pets too.  Maybe he can paint even paint you or your friend with a favorite celebrity.

Price range: $45 + shipping and handling


 

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Is’nana the Were-Spider Comic Book – Greg is the biggest comic book enthusiast I’ve known, so it was only appropriate that he started his own series.  The comic has a really good story, so I would recommend Is’nana to anyone who enjoys comics or graphic novels.  As someone who enjoys this sort of stuff as well, I’ve always liked reading about new or lesser-known characters; it’s just so much more fresh and interesting.  This first volume comes as a handsome and neatly printed, full-color, trade paperback.  You can order it off Amazon, so it’s super convenient.

Price range: $19.95

 


 

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Original Piano Music by Boy in the Rain – Oh hey, that’s me!  I released an album of piano solos that I wrote and recorded myself.  I think it would make a really good present for someone who enjoys instrumental music, but it also makes really good relaxation or studying music.  You can listen to some of my tracks and buy the album right off my site.  I’m also on iTunes and other digital stores, but I don’t think that makes as good a present.  Plus, I worked really hard on the album, and I think it looks really awesome!

Price range: $15


 

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Drake Arnold Art and Clothing – If you know someone who would love some trippy psychedelic stuff, check out Drank Arnold’s etsy page.  I drunkenly met Drake at a party, but I feel like I’ve been doing acid ever since I’ve added him on Facebook.  His work is otherworldly and fantastic.  He’s done all sorts of projects from murals to painting pianos, but his etsy page is full of really cool prints and also clothing that you can purchase.

Price range: $15 – $50


 

Get the Picture: Jump Start Your Photography Instructional DVDs – This DVD is the first of a series that my dad and his friend created to teach professional photographic principle beginning with very basic instruction to advanced tips and guidance.  You can find the other DVDs on Amazon, too.  My dad’s kinda old and has been a career photographer for almost 40 years.  He’s very passionate about his work and is actually very good at explaining both technical and artistic principle in a simple, logical way.  If you read reviews of any of the DVDs, you’ll find tons of really positive comments.

Price range $50


 

Empowering Girls in Rural Nepal Through Music and Journalism – Generosity, to me, is the result of great compassion.  If you’re feeling truly generous, then you might shed some compassion for the many poor young women in Nepal who face an immense struggle.  I’ve known Vanessa since my freshman year of college, and she has since gone to organize humanitarian efforts abroad.  She currently works at the Peace Grove Institute in rural Nepal, educating girls to help them overpower the many barriers that prevent them from controlling their own lives.  I’m sometimes hesitant about donating to charities because I’m not sure how much of my money is going to the cause, but I knew that donating to this one meant that Vanessa was ensuring that all the funds went to the right place.  All proceeds fund school supplies, musical instruments, and art supplies for Vanessa’s educational program.

Price range: whatever you want!

Critique of “Evan,” the Sandy Hook Promise PSA

Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit formed after the terrible Sandy Hook Massacre that is dedicated to preventing gun violence, recently funded a video title “Evan.”  The video encourages viewers to try to prevent gun violence by “looking for signs.”  It follows a romantic short story of the boy-meets-girl type, but each scene stages a boy in the background who is plotting mass violence.

I also believe that violence can be prevented, but I think that this video, although well-intended, is largely misguided.  The video implies that we should all be on the lookout for that one person who might be scheming to do something hurtful to lots of people.  It doesn’t even give any guidance as to how to spot that person; instead, it’s more akin to a horror film, telling you that the killer could be right behind you at any moment.  This video mainly succeeds  in perpetuating the idea that someone with a violent mind is possibly lurking in the corner somewhere. It encourages us to be aware, fearful, and always on guard.

But the reality is that a person with violent potential could be much closer to you – a real person who is somebody’s friend, somebody’s student, somebody’s neighbor.  And furthermore, a person who acts violently might not necessarily be carefully plotting out a scheme over the course of several days; many acts of violence are not premeditated.  What this video does succeed in doing is casting feelings of guilt and fear to the general public – that we must constantly be vigilant for even the slightest clues or we’ve failed our part in preventing a mass tragedy.  This is a message that is far less helpful than it can be.

It’s unreasonable for me to expect you to catch the character in the background, but it is reasonable for me to expect you to notice disturbing behavior of a friend or your mailman or you student.  I think that’s a far more reasonable expectation for everyone, and it encourages kindness and compassion instead of fear and scrutiny.  The truth is that anyone can act out at any time.  It’s our responsibility, as humans, to show compassion and concern for those who we interact with on a daily basis.  It’s the casual dismissive attitude that we often adopt that is responsible for letting people go down a dark path – even those closest to us.  I don’t believe we need to live in fear if everyone would extend some love and paid attention to the people with whom they have actual (and potentially more meaningful) interactions.

The 2016 Election Florida Ballot

Voting involves some tough decision-making despite (sometimes) a lack of information.  I started out putting together a cheat sheet for myself so that I can better understand some of the state and local aspects of my ballot, but decided to share it here in case anyone else can benefit from it (particularly the Amendments down at the bottom).  If your precinct isn’t in Florida, this might not be very helpful.


President

I’m not offering any help here because we have all been bombarded with so much information about the candidates, that this should be the easiest decision on the ballot at this point.  If you are honestly still conflicted over whether Clinton or Trump would be a better fit for the president of the United States, God help you.

Consider voting for Joe Exotic…

That was not a serious recommendation.


The rest of the ballot

Now for the tough part: all the other stuff on the ballot that is also pretty important but seems to get no attention at all until you’re standing in front of your ballot frustrated and bewildered.  Below are some resources and personal recommendations on who to vote for in Florida and Tampa Bay local elections.


US Senate

Marco Rubio is very handsome, but he notorious for never showing up for work.  He apparently has admitting to not really liking his job as Senator, so I don’t think he should be re-elected.  Sometimes when you really hate your job, you just need a kick in the pants to move on.  Just vote for someone else.

Patrick Murphy has been described as a “super liberal,” but that’s honestly hardly the case.  He’s actually moderate and will probably break from other Democrats when voting on most issues.  Regardless of how you feel about any of that, he’s still likely a better choice than Marco Rubio.


Florida State Senate District 20

Tom Lee – is the only one running, so you should just vote for him unless you would like the position instead.


Judges

I voted YES to retain all judges except for Charles Canady (who even conservative Supreme Court Justice Scalia overturned some of his decisions, calling them unconstitutional).  A NO vote for a judge means that the judge is ejected and Governor Rick Scott appoints a new judge.  So if you vote no, make sure you think that this dude’s gonna find a better guy for the job:

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School Board Member District 7

Cathy James
Qualifications: somebody’s mom.  likes going to PTO meetings

Lynn Gray  (also see LinkedIn)
Qualifications: extensive teaching experience


Soil and Water Conservation Districct Group 2

This is a coveted position for Hillsborough County.  It’s difficult to make a decision here because of so many candidates and so little information.

Some General Information

Christopher Carlos Cano – seems like a concerned citizen with no relevant experience.  I found this terrible video interview and his facebook page  He does seem to want to use the position to hold agencies and corporations accountable for polluting our water supply, and he definitely does care about making a difference.

Erik Challenger Sr – has a facebook page.  It has no information other than encouraging the public to do what they can to conserve water…. the Democratic Party recommended this guy

Kim O’Connor – all I know is that she’s affiliated with the Green Party.  I suppose this is the one position that we can agree a Green Party candidate is appropriate.

David R. Phillips Jr.  – A blog I found notes that David R. Phillips Jr would be the progressive choice but I honestly don’t know where he got that info.

Deborah Tomargo is a real estate broker so…sounds like a serious conflict of interest


Soil Conservation Group 4

Nicholas Tobasco Bissett – his LinkedIn shows no relevant work experience….

Joshua S. Knezinek is a Libertarian and wants to basically take the board down because he thinks it’s a waste of time and money so….not the best candidate for actually conserving water.

Susan Dumke is apparently involved in blueberry farming.  The Democratic Party of Florida recommends Susan Dumke


Tampa City Council District 7

This position is apparently contentious, and the candidates appear to sort of be on equal footing as far as likelihood of getting elected.  Since the position requires a 50% majority, this will probably have a runoff election, so you may have to vote again come December.  They actually all seem pretty qualified; their positions on how to handle city growth vary.  This is a nonpartisan position, but candidates have gotten support from parties.  The Tampa Bay Times has a good write-up on the candidates and recommends

General information – http://saintpetersblog.com/tampa-city-council-district-7-candidates-disagree-stormwater-tax/

* = candidate has been endorsed by a current council member

 

Jim Davidson – emergency room physician, supported by the GOP,

*Orlando Gudes – former Tampa cop, seems to really care about improving Tampa and increasing police presence (particularly in New Tampa for some reason)

Avis Simone Harrison – ex-teacher, has a strong agenda to improve schools.  Supports educating police before increasing their presence

*Gene Siudut – assistant editor of La Gaceta, promises to be a voice for New Tampa

Cyril Spiro – a physician

*Luis Viera has a vision for improving mass transportation and supports balancing investment in both downtown and north Tampa.  He notes that North Tampa has the bulk of the jobs but a deficit in amenities to support those jobs, which is a very good point.  Former attorney, young, comes highly recommended by the Tampa Bay Times and the Democratic Party of Florida.


Amendments

I voted NO on all amendments except for Amendment 2.  These are always worded in a way that is confusing and not clear, so I’ve tried my best to make sense of them:

Amendment 1 allows companies to monopolize solar energy.  I feel like it’s important to keep renewable energy as accessible as possible to the average consumer.  I do believe it is the way we should be using solar energy as much as possible being that sunlight exists as a virtually inexhaustible source of energy for us to harness.  As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson put it, “If aliens did visit us, I’d be embarrassed to tell them we still dig fossil fuels from the ground as a source of energy.”  (Vote No)

Amendment 2 allows people to use medical marijuana in Florida if they have a debilitating disease and a prescription.  I find it really odd that the only options available to people to manage pain and other ailments are extremely addictive and have a multitude of side effects.  This very specific legislation allows doctors to give Floridians a healthier option for various illnesses.  (Voted Yes)

Amendment 3 gives property tax exemptions for disabled first responders.  I wasn’t 100% sure about this but I eventually voted no.  I don’t think this is the best way to alleviate disabled persons, especially since it singles out one particular occupation for .  Also, Florida doesn’t have a whole lot of tax revenue sources so I think it should try to maintain the property tax.  A yes might mean raising taxes elsewhere, although some supporters argue that it wouldn’t have that great of an impact on tax revenue.  Regardless, I feel like a better way of alleviating the burden of disabled persons in general is to offer them other benefits (e.g. some better health coverage perhaps) instead of trying to cut corners here and there, making taxes more complicated.  It’s somewhat of a cop-out if you think about it.  It’s like saying, “Oh, you got shot while working for the county?  Well….good news – you won’t have to pay property taxes anymore!”  instead of  “Oh, you got shot while working for the county?  Here’s some decent health care treatment for you.”  Also, keep in mind that a property tax exemption wouldn’t benefit first responders who don’t own a home.  (Voted No)

Amendment 5 gives property tax exemptions to senior citizens who own homes.  This is a huge source of income for the state of Florida which already has plenty of benefits and an income tax free economy that senior citizens enjoy.  If we cut this tax stream, we’ll have to find a way to replace that revenue.  Florida is and is continuing to be a retirement state, largely because of low taxes and the many amenities that retirees get for living here.  I think it’s only appropriate that, if they own a home, they pay taxes on it just like everyone else. (Voted No)

 

Disney’s Storytelling Tradition of an “Imperfect” Family

My sister pointed out to me that most Disney and Pixar protagonists have one parent (if any at all).  The other parent is either killed off, lost, or completely absent during the entire film.  Any film that you come up with off the top of your head (with only one exception that I’ll let you ponder about) lacks the model two-parent setup: Jasmine only has the Sultan as her Dad, Snow White has an absent father and an evil queen stepmother, Belle only has her father, Ariel only has King Triton as her dad, and Toy Story’s Andy has a single mom.  According to what my sister’s read, Walt Disney himself started this trend in Disney’s earliest films: Snow White, Cindarella, even Bambi.  Disney apparently felt that no one really has a perfect family life, so having both parents present in a story represented an unrealistic and idealistic image with which his audience would have trouble relating.  This may be true and even noble in its own respect; in a time where the American family was a particularly hyper-idealized image of a smiling couple with two kids and a dog, Disney sought to portray different types of families.  You could say that it broke down that idealized image.  It also showed that an “imperfect” family is something that is acceptable and normal.  It also addresses the pain Bambi felt when he lost his mother (and the horror that the rest of us felt) as something that can be overcome.

But I think there is something more important that we gain from Disney’s decision to consistently present us with single parents: it is much easier to digest the relationship between a child and one parent than it is to digest the relationship a child might have with a pair of parents.  Let’s take a look at this recent animated short, for example.  This 6 minute short film features a little bird and its mother bird during a pivotal time in its development; the film has no dialogue.

http://www.koreus.com/embed/piper-pixar

There’s a lot to examine in even this short, 6-minute clip.  You can acknowledge immediately that Piper has just one parent (and somehow through the magic of Disney animation we understand that it’s a mother).  The relationship between Piper and mother is very specific.  There is a moment at around 5:15 where the mother smiles lovingly at Piper playing on the shore.  There’s a bond there and a deep connection between two characters.  We aren’t distracted by a couple reacting here but instead just one character reacting to another.  And that simplicity does a lot.  Imagine two parents here; we’re already forced to question the relationship between those two parents before we can even begin to think about the relationship of the two individuals to Piper or the collective pair to Piper.  On top of all that, our own personal biases come into play – some might begin to compare and create judgments based on personal experiences with family life (which may or may not include two parents).  By eliminating all of that and keeping it to just one parent, Disney keeps the storytelling simple and straightforward.  It allows us to focus on that relationship – that loving bond that Piper has with mom.  All of the pretense and the overanalyzing fades away because it’s really more about this one relationship which was expertly conveyed by Pixar.  Perhaps there’s a better reason or maybe my sister’s original understanding of Walt Disney’s preference for the single parenting trend is accurate.  But there’s no denying that this element does, in fact, simplify and improve the storytelling.