Tropical Shade of Green Launches on July 10th

July 5, 2018

Uncategorized / Website Updates

I have decided to expand my website a little by giving my blog, writing, and poetry its own dedicated online space. Tropical Shade of Green (TSOG) will officially launch on July 10th and will feature all of my weekly blog posts and new poetry.  Most of the blog posts I have written over the last year will be migrated to this new site.

Roqué In Bloom (RIB) will still stand as my main website and primary hub for all of my creative pursuits, but since my writing will be the most consistent offering of all that I do, I want it to have its own space to grow and flourish.

Otherwise, RIB will offer weekly news, announcements, and status updates on upcoming and ongoing projects. I have a lot coming down the pipeline over the next few months.

Thank you for riding along on this creative journey of mine, and I’ll see you over at Tropical Shade of Green for weekly musings on simplicity, various social issues, creativity, and life in general.

-Roqué

 

There Is an Immigrant In All of Us

July 1, 2018

Culture and Society

Have you ever found yourself in a completely new and slightly scary situation?

Maybe you started a new job and had to learn your work from scratch (in addition to getting to know your new co-workers and how to find everything in a new building).

Maybe you were forced to give a speech or presentation in front of a lot of people on the fly.

Perhaps you moved to a new city without a friend in sight and no idea of where to find a good grocery store or better gas prices.

Maybe you’ve been in a hospital about to undergo an operation. The prospect of strangers cutting you up and doing whatever they want to your body while you are unconscious is unsettling.

Maybe you walked onto a car dealership feeling like you knew what you wanted and left feeling like someone just took advantage of you.

What do all of these scenarios have in common?

For starters, they all involve being in a foreign environment. Secondly, they also involve some degree of fear, feeling out -of-sorts, and being vulnerable.

Now, imagine moving to a foreign country. People speak a completely different language. There are ways of showing respect and gratitude that are confusing. Their food tastes weird to your tongue. You have no idea how to get anywhere, and the public transit is mind-boggling. You miss your family and friends terribly. You miss the comforts of the food and places you were used to. You feel alone and afraid.

Being an immigrant involves being in a foreign environment. It is an experience that can be rife with fear, feeling out-of-sorts, and a sense of uncontrollable vulnerability.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Right now in America, the immigration debate has finally reached the forefront of our national attention. Immigrant families and children are being used as bargaining chips by our own president. Initiatives geared toward cracking down on illegal immigration are racist and inhumane.

Where is the compassion?
How do we find actionable solutions that treat all people with respect and dignity?
Surely we can do better than separating children from their parents and incarcerating all of them?

I will not pretend that I have all of the answers, but perhaps one place to start is to know that immigrants are essentially no different from anyone else. They have dreams. They want to build a good life for themselves and their children. They are intelligent. They know how to love. They feel sadness and fear. They have the capacity to work hard and help others.

If they are no different, then they are the same.

The next time you feel vulnerable, lonely, or afraid, remember that there is an immigrant in the world who is also feeling those things.

The only difference is that their situation might be far more terrifying, sad, and hopeless.

Helping immigrants helps all of us.

Compassion for immigrants is compassion for ourselves.

There is an immigrant in all of us.

-Roqué

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Reading Will Save the World: Summer Reading

June 24, 2018

Culture and Society / Reading Will Save the World

The Summer Solstice just happened, and that means it is officially summer. Reading books is one of my favorite activities during this time of year, and I have a small handful of them to recommend.

There are generally two kinds of books I read these days, and I’ll be offering up a couple of suggestions from each option.

The first kind of books I’ve been reading lately have been for pure escapism and entertainment. I love to dive deep into an imaginative space that is full of awe, mystery, intrigue, and wonder. On a daily basis, I exist in a literal and linear physical habitat, but in my head, there are no such limits. An imagination needs to be cultivated in ways that are boundless. I seek out books that help me do this.

The second kind of books I have been reading lately probably fall under what most would call “self-help” books. This designation seems to have a bad rap. It implies that it is usually a bunch of generic psycho-babble. I do not doubt that there is plenty of this out there, and this is why I take the time to find books that actually have substantive content that is well researched and thoughtfully written.

So, on with the first kind. Here is a book (or a series of them) that will take you on a sweet, engaging, and delightful adventure!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs:

As you might already know, this book was made into a feature film. I first heard about it by watching the movie in a theater. The movie was great, but this book was even better.  It tells the story of how a group of children with special powers hide in plane sight among ordinary people across time. There are some incredibly clever plot devices in the story. It is well written  with steady pacing and endearing characters. I do not want to give anything away, and I highly recommend reading it! The story is so good that I believe it will eventually stand among behemoths like the Harry Potter Series and the Golden Compass as a modern fantasy classic. When I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.

Wanna know something even better about this book?

There are already two of its sequels in print:

Hollow City:


Library of Souls:

Wanna know something even better? The fourth book, Map of Days, was just announced, and it will hit bookstores on October 2, 2018:

Now, on to the second kind:

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

There is so much wisdom in this little book. For myself, I want to live a life in which I am truly engaged in the activities and relationships that I actually want and desire. What this book provides is perspective and a framework on how to think more strategically about the decisions we make regarding our time and personal resources.  It gets down to the nitty gritty right off the bat, and it is truly a learning experience to devour.

Well, that’s it for now! I hope you can find a book that you can sink your teeth into and bask in for a while over these long and hot summer days.

Happy Reading!

-Roqué

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June 17, 2018

Creativity / Visual Poemts

This summer, I am releasing short digital art pieces that I am calling “Visual Poems”.  They will generally be no more than one minute in length and will include video footage with any combination of spoken word poetry and/or original music.

They can be viewed exclusively on my new Youtube channel, and I will announce on all social media when new poems are released.

Why am I doing this?

I want to explore different ways of expressing my ideas. I have always been a musician, visual artist, and writer/poet.  As such, why don’t I combine all of these skills into something that is textured and multi-dimensional? Why stick to only one when I can utilize all three?

In any case, I am releasing the first visual poem today. It includes part of a song that I wrote last fall called “The Memory”.

Enjoy .  .  .

Please stay tuned for more visual poems to come.

-Roqué

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My Summer of Art and Creativity

June 3, 2018

Creativity

It’s June!! Now that summer is upon us, I am feeling blissfully excited to create magical, beautiful things. There is a small handful of projects I want to take on over the next three months, and I’ll be sharing my progress on Instagram and social media.

Here are the upcoming projects in a nutshell.

Creative Thesis Project
The biggest project I am tackling is one related to school. This is a sizable undertaking that will require a large amount of thought, time, and effort. Work begins this month. More on that later.

Photography
Some of you may have noticed the photos of flowers I’ve been posting on social media. Those photos are the result of my tinkling around with my new DSLR camera which is a Nikon D5600. I want to get better at photography, and I’ll be posting more floral and landscape photos.

Stippling
You may recall the pointillism art that I have done in the past. Here is an example of one of my pieces:
I want to start a new piece, and I am trying to decide what it will be. I may or may not incorporate some watercolor. These pieces take a long time to finish, and I will probably just take my time with it. We’ll see. I’ll be posting my progress on it on Instagram once I get started.

Where Pianos Roam

Finally, there will be a new season of my whimsical side project, in which I document the exploits of a traveling miniature grand piano and her rowdy bench.  I’m hoping the new vignettes will start appearing in late July across all social media.

Visual Poems
I am working on integrating my music and poetry with visual video vignettes. This is one of the first steps in this direction.  I have lots of ideas I want to try out. Look for the first video vignette to launch from my youtube page soon.


So, that’s my upcoming summer in a nutshell. I will not have a full schedule of classes to contend with, and my cat Steinway already has me penciled into his schedule for daily feedings, cuddling, and poop-scooping. Sigh.

What are you doing this summer?

-Roqué

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Help To Veto HB 2315 in Tennessee

May 17, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention / Uncategorized

Here’s a phone number:

615-741-2001

When you dial it, you can leave a message for Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam to veto the extreme immigration bill that the TN Legislature just passed. This bill is called HB 2315.  It is designed to undermine the existence of so-called “Sanctuary Cities” by authorizing every police officer to detain anyone for immigration reasons and initiate mass deportations.

THE GOVERNOR HAS UNTIL MAY 22 TO VETO HB2315!!

Please call and urge him to VETO this dangerous bill!

Here is an excerpt from a statement issued by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC):

“HB2315 sets a dangerous precedent by severely restricting the ability of local police to make common-sense, public safety decisions, and forcing local governments to bear the risk and expense of federal immigration enforcement.,” said Stephanie Teatro, Co- Executive Director of TIRRC

 Over the course of many weeks of committee debate, members of the General Assembly heard concerns from local law enforcement, city and county officials, and others. The sponsors were unable to answer basic questions about the legal, practical, and financial implications of the bill or address the concerns about its broad impact and likely unintended consequences.

“During committee debates, the Senate sponsor invited the anti-immigrant hate group FAIR to testify, while the House sponsor used an ethnic slur when presenting the bill,” Teatro continued. “We’re alarmed and disappointed that legislators sided with the interests of the most extreme fringe of the electorate, rather than heed the warnings from law enforcement and local governments.” 

The passage of the bill comes on the heels of a massive ICE raid in Bean Station, Tennessee, where nearly one hundred people in a meatpacking plant were arrested and detained in the largest worksite raid in a decade. Workers at the plant reported rough treatment and detention despite having work authorization, a clear violation of the law and basic, constitutional rights.

It is appalling to me that in a country founded by colonialists and built by immigrants and their children that we have not figured out ways to be compassionate and fair to all of the new immigrants who want to build new lives in America.

Criminalizing immigrants and detaining them indefinitely against their will is inhumane. When you factor in the immense costs involved with operating detention centers and deporting thousands of people, these are resources that could be utilized to support immigrants instead of mistreating them.

If given the chance, most, if not all immigrants, would go through all of the legal and proper channels to become a legal resident or citizen. Unfortunately, there are immense costs involved (in terms of  thousands of  dollars in processing fees and money needed to pay lawyers), impossibly long wait periods that have been known to take several years, and an arbitrary system that does not treat all applicants equally.

If you live in America, there is a chance that you have a friend who is an immigrant from another country. There is an even greater chance that you are descended from immigrants in your own family. In either case, the humane treatment of immigrants is something that relates to all of us in this country. Instilling fear and locking people up is not a solution.

Please call Governor Haslam and urge him to veto HB 2315.

-Roqué

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Developing a New Social Media Philosophy

April 29, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

At some point in recent time, we all got swept under the assumption that we need to have social media as an integral part of our daily lives. Someone somewhere decided that this was good for us, and this mentality became viral.
Nowadays, it is perfectly normal to constantly check how many likes you have on Facebook and to post endless selfies on Instagram and Snapchat.

Does the qualification of being “normal” necessarily make it right? Does the convenience of social media make it absolutely imperative to engage with it all of the time?

At this point, my answer to both questions is no.  I have reached this conclusion only because I have found that the disadvantages of your forum of choice (whether it is Twitter, Instagram, FB, or something else) far outweigh the advantages.

Let’s make a couple of lists.

Advantages of Social Media

  • Constant interaction with friends near and far
  • Sharing one’s life with friends, family, and colleagues through posting pictures, stories, and other content
  • Free and unlimited usage
  • It’s funDisadvantages of Social Media
  • Highly addictive
  • Personal information is used by companies for marketing purposes and other nefarious intentions such as influencing voter behavior
  • Encourages disingenuous posts by users that are misleading and present a false reality
  • Cultivates online stalking behavior
  • Time-consuming
  • Provides exposure to news and media content that is fake or unsubstantiated
  • Creates a false sense of worth through likes and comments
  • Distracts from more important work in one’s life that involve creativity and deeper focus

Obviously, these are my own perceptions,  but all of the points included in these lists are the most significant to me.  We all drank the water and somehow, have become convinced that social media is not only okay but also essential to our connection with the world and our sense of personal identity.

I am not going to drink this water anymore, and I am formulating my own strategy of how to achieve a healthy distance from social media in ways that magnify its benefits and significantly minimize its risks.

Here are some of the new social media practices I will try out:

1. No more hashtags.

Hashtags are supposed to attract attention to your posts, and to some degree, they do. The problem I find is the kind of attention they attract. Hashtags seem to create a paper trail that maps out what you value and what your interests are. These are exactly the kinds of things that advertisers are looking for. I am basically advertising my own sensibilities out to the world for companies to exploit. Why would I do that? From now on, no more hashtags

2. Limit likes on Facebook to close family members and friends

Again, one’s likes create a map of one’s preferences and inclinations. By limiting them to the activities of a small handful of people, this map ought to be deemed useless. I will not be liking any products, services, and content that gives companies more insight into my wallet and time.

3. Only post content that adds value to others or has meaning to me.

I generally do this anyway, but you won’t find me posting a bunch of selfies. I’ll showcase my photography, blog posts, music and shows, creative work, and anything that involves thought, depth, and hard work on my part.

4. Limit my time on social media.

At this point, the only social media app I have on  my phone is Instagram, and I use it to distribute all my content to FB, Twitter, and Tumblr.  Facebook is only accessed on my laptop. This is still a work in progress, but my usage has decreased since I’ve unloaded my cell phone of all that stuff. Eventually, I want to get to a place in which I only access FB once every two or three days.

These four practices are what I have so far, but I plan on initiating more strategies that refine and limit my social media usage in the future. From now on, I proceed knowing that the most important part of my life are the actual face-to-face interactions and relationships that I cultivate every day.  Social media cannot be more important than this, even though it certainly wants to be.

I will write more about how this is going and the progress I am making.

-Roqué

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Posts In Review

April 8, 2018

Culture and Society

This week, I just wanted to highlight some of my recent posts here at Bloom.

There has been a lot of news lately about the misuse of personal information from 87 million Facebook users by a company called Cambridge Analytica. If we stand idly by and allow these infractions to happen, then we become complicit. Here are my thoughts on the matter, and what I am doing about it.

Fight the Power of Social Media

Speaking of news, we are under the auspices of a US President whose behavior and leadership style have been unprecedented. Despite who our leader is, we do not have to follow his example .  .  .

How To Live In the Era of President Trump

Lastly, I have lived long enough in this life to have learned a few important things. Those who learn, learn best by teaching. Here are some of my lessons I want to share .  .  .

My Daily Rituals for a Meaningful Life

I would love to know your thoughts on these topics.

Have a wonderful week.

-Roqué

 

Laughter Makes an Asian Happy

April 1, 2018

Culture and Society

Yes, laughter makes an Asian happy. That particular Asian is me. I’ve been posting lately about such serious issues related to abuse in the workplace, President Trump, the dangers of social media, and the challenges of being a person of color in America.

It’s time to take a breather and to laugh because laughter is a free and immediate high. A quick adrenaline rush. An infusion of joy. It’s right up there with chocolate, sex, and cat cuddles.

Here are some Youtube videos that I have recently enjoyed .  .  .

I’ve lived downstairs from noisy neighbors. This is pretty much how it goes:

I’d say these are more inventive and amusing than hilarious, but the bits with the Mikey the Cat are the best. Videographer extraordinaire Zach King is a national treasure .  .  .

Of course, cats .  .  .

Puppies!!!

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this  .  .  .

No matter how productive, miserable, or joyful you are, laughter will lighten all moods.

-Roqué

 

 

 

Fight the Power of Social Media

March 25, 2018

Culture and Society / Intention

What I have been doing lately may be subtle or even inconsequential, but I have been taking  small steps to fight the power of social media. Earlier this week, news was released about a company called Cambridge Analytica that compromised the personal data of close to 50 million facebook users in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. This is only one egregious abuse of access that large corporations and private entities are granted by social media companies, but it is a significant one–one of possibly countless others that are occurring without our knowledge or consent.

These kinds of invasions are compounded by the use of algorithms and powerful data analysis tools that comb through millions of our posts, hashtags, and photos in order to hone in on our sensibilities, personal tastes, and behavioral patterns. This information essentially becomes valuable fodder for businesses and corporations to use to target prospective customers. These entities can design marketing campaigns based upon vast amounts of social media information that we are freely handing over to them through our daily engagement.

This feels like a subtle form of surveillance and, ultimately, mind control that influences our decisions and inclinations.

Ok then, what can be done about this? Since social media and its encroaching power are relatively new phenomena, there does not appear to be a fail-safe way to guard oneself against it without completely disengaging. This does not mean that we should not try.

Here are some simple safeguards that I have implemented that guide my social media usage:

  • NEVER post personal information such as your street address, the name of the company you work for, phone number, or any other identifying information that could be used against you.
  • LIMIT your use of social media as much as you can. I have removed facebook and facebook messenger from my cell phone. I only check facebook on my internet browser when I am on my laptop. Otherwise, just use social media less. Maybe only allow yourself one-half hour of engagement per day? The less engaged you are, the less free information about your life that you are giving to the world.
  • CHOOSE one social media site to focus your output. These days, I primarily use Instagram because I love that its engagement is centered on photos and captions. As a creative person, this interface is simple and ideal. I have my instagram account set up so that it also posts on facebook and twitter simultaneously without having to visit those other sites. If facebook or twitter suits your needs better, than go with either of those. The smaller your window to the world, the less accessible you and your information can be.
  • UNDERSTAND how addictive social media is. These sites are designed to translate your usage into a formula that engages your attention for as long and as often as possible. Be aware of this and let this knowledge inform your behavior.
  • DESIGN posts that convey your vision of the world and your values instead of giving too personal a glimpse into your life. For example, do not post a photo of the front your house. Instead, post a photo of a flower that you grew in your garden. Do not post about the gifts you received for Christmas. Instead, write about the quality time you had with family and how it made you feel. Think about the message and the energy you want to put out into the world. You should dictate your own conversation, not the other way around.
  • DO NOT USE HASHTAGS, but if you have to, use them sparingly and know that they are like little lighthouses that attract companies who want to sell you products that relate to the ideas you espouse.  Again, this relates to how you want to portray your personal life on social media. Take control of the information and proceed with caution.
  • BUILD YOUR OWN PLATFORM. What I am doing with my website roqueinbloom.com and this blog is using my own platform to share ideas about my life, my ideals, and my activities.  This personal space on the internet exists without some multi-national corporation or foreign government mining my data.  Sure, hundreds of my friends and colleagues from facebook may probably never visit my website, but the friends who will are the only ones that truly matter. (Of course, I also have the ability to post links on social media back to my blog and website every week, thereby using social media to my own personal advantage.)

This is just a small handful of steps I have been thinking about and taking toward my ongoing social media usage. These will not be the only steps I take, and I will be posting more of my ideas surrounding social media and internet usage.

At the very least, I want to invite you to think about how you engage with social media.  Understand how addictive it is and how it can use all that you post and disclose for or against you without your consent.

Either way, it’s up to you how much of your own power and privacy you want to surrender.

-Roqué

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#metoo