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:
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
School Board Member District 7
Qualifications: somebody’s mom. likes going to PTO meetings
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.
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
* = 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.
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)
There has been a lot of press lately about several lawsuits against Spotify. And many are in support of these lawsuits, pioneering artists’ rights and talking about more royalties for artists. While some of the suits might be warranted (e.g. Spotify allegedly streaming music without the artist’s consent), fighting Spotify really hurts the greater music community.
As an independent artist, I stream my music through many different channels including Apple Music, Google Play, Deezer, XBox Music, and Spotify. At this point in my music career, Spotify matters the most to me. Is it because it offers me the most income from my music? No. Spotify’s royalties are indeed dismal, but that’s not why I’m on Spotify. In fact, most of the projects into which I launch my music serve the purpose of reaching an increasing number of people, not sustaining or gaining a substantial income. Someone like me, with only a few hundred listeners, sees much more value in Spotify than just track dissemination.
Spotify is very social – it connects easily to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, making it easier to connect and share music (and it’s hassle free, as in the platform does it all for you.) It has a unique community-driven playlist system that allows discovery of new artists through playlists as well as its own, constantly evolving, music matching system that will connect artists based on everyone’s listening habits.
And, most recently, Spotify added an About page for artists that offers some analytics reporting and insights into where listeners are coming from. It even shows the playlists through which listeners are discovering your music.
These are services that Spotify offers to me that I might even pay for if they were not included as part of the package that Spotify has put together. These are services that new artists like myself appreciate and use; we care less about payment of each individual and more about how we can leverage this system to get more exposure. And therein lies a huge gap in the complaints that people hear from largely successful music artists and the complaints they don’t hear from young and independent artists that are just starting to share their music with the world. What is driving these lawsuits, in my opinion, is greed. If you’re an enterprising and popular artist, then you wouldn’t need Spotify for anything other than the streaming service itself. In fact, if you’re popular enough, you really just need a venue where your audience can purchase or stream your music.
The highest tier of this group includes artists like Adele and Taylor Swift – their immense popularity is so incredibly strong, that their audience will switch platforms just to hear their new music. So they don’t care; they just sell their music elsewhere.
Just below that tier lies established artists that are still very much dependent on Spotify because it’s just so big. And so they have a legitimate argument – they’re simply not getting paid enough for their music on Spotify, but their audience isn’t interested in switching platforms. They’re in a bind, and they fail to see how else Spotify can benefit them.
What’s left is the large and voiceless community of musicians that want to use Spotify for all its worth. That’s where I sit. There’s an enormous and intimidating barrier in the music industry looming over me, and places like Spotify and Soundcloud can change the game. Whenever a large artist like Adele chooses not to put music on Spotify, it removes listeners who could potentially discover my music through Spotify’s nifty music-matching platform. When artists sue Spotify for exorbitant amounts of money, it threatens to change the way that Spotify functions so as to benefit artists that already have their foot in the door.
There’s a lot of really good music out there waiting to be discovered. And there are a lot of artists out there that are more excited about people enjoying their music than they are about how many more fractions of a penny they’ll make when you stream their song a second time. Spotify, as it is now, favors those artists; and it’s for those artists that I hope Spotify can continue to do what its doing.
Of all the things I love and hate about New York City, it’s actually the people I will miss the most – the throngs of bustling, rude people that I loathe to swim through each day. When I stop, for a moment, and look upon the sea of faces of a crowded bus or a busy park, I see a rainbow of faces. There are people in the world who would grow anxious, afraid, and even angry at seeing faces that are entirely unrecognizable – faces that are different. But I can’t imagine a forest where every tree is the same or a sky where every cloud adheres to the same shape.
I believe that what makes Earth so powerful and so precious is the diversity of everything. I recognize that even things that I perceive as bad or threatening are important because they offer something different than the rest. The faces of New York, when you stop and think about it, are a reminder of this balance. I wish that all people on Earth, at some point in this life as a human, have just one moment of clarity where they realize that they are special because they are each a unique development of mankind. And I wish, that through this realization, they realize that each and every other person on earth is special for that same reason. This fundamental concept, I believe, is the most valuable tenet of our existence. The sooner that humans can learn this, the faster Earth will process towards a new and enlightened world that is predicated upon coexistence and cooperation.
I found this particularly saddening. Not because of the obvious racial implications or poorly managed educational facilities, but because of what it does to the boy. I know what it’s like to get excited about making something and then get weird looks from people about it. I think that one of the worst injustices in the world is discouraging a child from doing something great and unique. The world would be a better place if people were encouraged to explore things that they enjoy, especially if it’s for the betterment of society.