November 14, 2010

Brick Walls, New Beginnings

"Is it possible that there are no coincidences?"
- Signs, 2002

An excellent question, and one that I am beginning to think can be answered in the affirmative.  I would assert that not only is it possible, that it is entirely probable.  How am I so sure?  Another good question, and one whose answer relies more on a gut feel than empirical fact.  A gut feel, and some happenings that would otherwise be dismissed as benign, had I not been paying attention.  They are:

  • Reading an article written by sports columnist Bob McKenzie
  • Befriending an old public school acquaintance on Facebook
  • Watching Kevin Smith perform at Kitchener's Centre in the Square
  • Reading a Chazz Writes blog post written after he saw that same Kevin Smith show in Kitchener
  • A friend and co-worker from another lifetime offers to do me a favour

"The brick walls are there to let us show how badly we want something"
- Randy Pausch, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

I stumbled upon the above YouTube video in one of the most unlikely ways, but given that hindsight has a tendency to be 20/20 maybe it wasn't so unlikely after all.

I was reading one of my favourite sports columnists Bob McKenzie about the non-passing of the hockey legend Pat Burns.  Typically when a person continues to live on day after day this isn't column-worthy material, but this case was unique.  The media had falsely reported that Pat Burns had finally succumbed to cancer - again.  That was a whole story unto itself, and Bob did a remarkable job of spinning the tale, but as he did he mentioned Randy Pausch's lecture and trusting that Mr. McKenzie would not lead me astray I watched it.  I watched it in complete awe, and one particular moment jumped right out of the screen at me.  It was the moment where he emphasized the quote above and added, "(Because) the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough".

The next day I wrote that quote on my white board at work.  Begging people to ask me of its origin just so I could point them to Randy's lecture and hope that they ask themselves what it is they want so badly that they would tear down a brick wall.

I've been flirting with the idea of writing a proper story for quite a while but years and years have passed and I keep staring at the wall.

"It's been great for me and essentially, I am the audience"
- Billie Mintz

I then befriended an old school acquaintance on Facebook, Billie Mintz.  When I was in grade 3 Billie kicked my Batman lunch box down the sidewalk.  He's an artist now, composing music, writing commercials, shooting movies - and he's really damn good.

I wrote a fake commercial once and even got some rough footage shot with the help of a friend but I never edited the raw footage and the files are who-knows-where on my computer now.  That was years ago, and I keep staring at the wall.

"Go where the puck is going to be"
- Walter Gretzky (father of Wayne), by way of Kevin Smith

I am a big Wayne Gretzky fan.  I consider him to be the greatest hockey player of all time. and as it turns out, I am not alone in my admiration for Wayne.

My wife was starting out the window at work one day and over the shoulder of her co-worker she sees a sign for a Kevin Smith appearance at Kitchener's Centre in the Square (smodcast episode #144 recaps his gig).  She calls me immediately and within minutes I had secured seats for the Q&A session to take place two days before our 11th anniversary.  Now poop jokes aren't exactly on the list of anniversary presents (possibly for something like the 61st, but certainly not the 11th), but you can't go wrong with laughter to bring a couple closer together, and there was definitely lots of laughter.

I have been a Kevin Smith fan since Clerks, and while I am by no stretch of the imagination a Die Hard fan (pseudo inside joke there for anyone at the show), I do keep up on his career, and genuinely admire and respect how he has built his brand - and done so on his own terms.  Who else could make a movie and pay for it entirely on credit cards?  Kevin Fucking Smith.  That's who.

I used to write content for a trivia-based video game. I used to keep a notebook with all my ideas in it.  I took a screen writing course once and even mapped out a few rough ideas.  I own two books on screen writing by Syd Field, both of which are covered in dust.  On occasion I'll stare at them just sitting there on the wall.

"Develop your craft and work on your dream"
- Robert Chute

Until a few minutes ago I don't even know this guy's name, only that he did a blog post after seeing the same Kevin Smith show that I did and his Twitter account is @RChazzChute - and he's a writer.  His post outlines some of the many things he took away from the show and was somewhat amazed that Robert wrote about many of the same thoughts that had popped into my head throughout the course of the show and in the hours and days that followed.

Kevin replied to Robert's post and that spawned a follow-up post in which he writes, "An Evening with Kevin Smith really was an eye-opener and course correction for me and I’m already working away on that. (I hope some of you stick around or swing by once in a while to see my progress.)"  This is significant to me because those could have easily been my words had I not been stuck on my couch, sitting there, passive.... staring at the wall.

"If you ever want me to read something, just let me know"
- A Friend

Robert also writes in his Kevin Smith retrospective, "Don't give the critics too much credit, especially when they make you feel bad about yourself or decrease art’s productivity." and "Make friends".

A former colleague and friend just got back from a month long vacation to Australia.  We were catching up on Facebook, chatting away when I asked her, "So now what?"  She's in-between jobs, getting married soon, and selling a house.  She's thinking about moving to France, which is not surprising as she's always struck me as someone who follows her dreams and is undaunted by the obstructions life can sometimes put in your way.

She asked me if I had done any more writing and I said, "Not really, but I'm thinking about it", and I had every intention of telling her the story you have just read, but I had to go read books to my wonderful daughter and I didn't get the chance.  Before I signed off though she managed to type, "If you ever want me to read something, just let me know".

"How's your writing going?"
- Another Friend

A dinner with some long-time friends happened yesterday and right before dessert that's what Trevor asked me.  I gave him the Cole's Notes version of the Kevin Smith show and the subsequent blog post by Robert.

Today I dusted off Syd Field's "The Foundations of Screenwriting", found my old ideas book, ignored the TV shows recored on my DVR, created a new Twitter account (@potatochipmath), email address (, found a quiet spot in the basement, and wrote this.

Wall?  What wall?

November 02, 2010

Allergy Update #2

OK, so I'm back with another update on the Registered Holistic Allergist and related treatment.  I went back for another reversal, this time for dust and pets and other dirt-type things (last time we reversed a whole whack of grasses pollens and such).  To top it all off I brought my deathly-allergic-to-peanuts son with me.

We get the son out of the way as it was his first visit.  To say that this was the moment I really started to think "this is total horse shit" is a gross understatement.

First, let's go over The Test:

Place your thumb and ring finger on your dominant hand together tip to tip.  Have the allergist then try to pull your fingers apart.  If this is difficult, then everything is as expected.  Now do this with your hand palm down on the top of your head.  You should get the same result as with no hand on your head.  Oh yeah by the way, you can't have anything in your pockets, no cell phone or iPod nearby, and for crying out loud don't cross your legs.  OK, now flip your hand over so the palm is up and the back of your hand is touching the top of your head.  Apparently this draws "energy" away from your other arm and makes it easier to pull your fingers apart.  That's the baseline.  I shit you not.  Now, holding your fingers together as mentioned, hold up a vile of "energy" (that represents whatever it is you're allergic to, or having problems with) to your forearm that's attached to the hand with the fingers together.  If it's easy to pull your fingers apart, your sensitive/allergic to it.  The easier it is, the more sensitive or allergic you are. If it's difficult (like it was with palm down on your head or no hand on your head at all), then you're good.  Repeat for a few hundred things.

Don't ask me how they mirror the "energy" for all this stuff.  She was unable to tell me how it works, only that they order the vials and they come labeled: ragweed, grass, insomnia (yes, they have one for this), stress (yes, this too), etc...

So because my son is so small and just a kid they do the test with me as the proxy.  I hold his right hand with my left hand and hold my finger tips together (thumb to ring finger) and he holds up a vial to his neck (not sure why.  I asked and she told me it was because it was a location central to his energy or some crap like that).  Then they do the test on me.

Here's the best part: Their test came back with him only slightly allergic to peanut and peanut products.  In fact, it barely registered.  It was awesome.  They had absolutely no explanation for it.  Keep in mind that I have personally called an ambulance for my son as I watched his face swell up like a balloon after he simply touched peanut putter to his face.  Keep in mind that I had a scratch test done for nuts and other food products done and peanuts reacted so severely that the doctor had a script for an Epi Pen in my hand before he was done testing the kid for other stuff.  So, for the holistic allergist to come up with the result they came up with, well let's just say I'm leaning toward this being nonsense at best and a freaking swindle at worst.

Now this is where I went from simply skeptical to downright offended that they described this as Science in my presence (and on their website).  You see, I had a loonie in my pocket (that's a dollar coin for you non-Canadians out there) and my swipe card from work on my belt AND my son was wearing his Epi Pen pouch around his waist.  So, all that was affecting the energy and that's why the result was off.  So, I took care of all these energy bungling things and had them do the test over again.  Same result.  No explanation.  Anyhow, we continued because we were already there and it was a bugger of a drive out.  Of course, if this does happen to work I will care less how or why it works and just be thankful it does (don't look a gift horse in the mouth and all that jazz).

But what bugged me the most was that any result that was expected was irrefutable proof that it worked but every result that was not expected was explained away with some lame ass excuse, and that's NOT science.  Science is a special discipline in that regardless of the results, all of them count.  A result that disproves your hypothesis is just as valid (most of the time more valid) as one that proves it, and as a scientist you have the obligation to count ALL the results, regardless of how right or wrong they make you look.

At any rate, the kid gets his treatment (peanut allergy reversal #1 of 4) and I get "re-tested" for a few things and then have my reversal done.  But then, I start to begin to fight a cold, and it was hard to tell if I'm sneezing and have a scratchy throat because of my allergies or because of that.  Felt like a little bit of both...