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



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



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



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.