“Gluten Free Intolerance is Only a Figment of our Imaginations,” says Science.

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Here it comes. Bad press for gluten free diets, as reported by Casey Chen of Gizmodo in an article appropriately titled, “Being Gluten Free is Dumb, and Apparently Gluten Intolerance Doesn’t Even Exist.” Apparently gluten intolerances are a figment of our imagination. Really, it’s fact, scientific fact. And I’ve known very few Scientists to ever be wrong.

So, if these gluten free people aren’t hyper sensitive to gluten, what the hell is their problem? I’ve heard of people that have travelled overseas, carrying with them a gluten intolerance, to have no difficulties consuming bread in Paris. Right away, after reading the reports of people fed up with gluten intolerant people, I knew something had to be right… Or wrong.

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New Projects are Just Around the Corner

It’s been a long time since I produced a film. That’s what a couple years of school, a couple years of corporate life, and some health problems will do to a guy. But I’m ramping up some new projects, both big and small, and ready to deliver in the near future.

The Secret Project

I recently wrote a short film, and started looking for funding. I was hesitant to announce anything online unless the project got the go ahead, but if successful, I’m sure you’ll all hear about it loudly as I announce it through every social media outlet I’m remotely connected to.

Retro Gravy

I’m very excited about this. I’m starting a blog dedicated to bringing readers and viewers a “modern retro” recipe for success. We’re talking drinks, food, and hoping to eventually move into decor and possibly fashion. There are no rules for the site; I’m not attempting to force feed Mad Men’esque culture down people’s throat. My goal is to infuse some good old fashioned classic style with what the modern man and woman enjoys today. This should be bopping by the summer time.

The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Project

I’m juggling some ideas right now, and trying to pull in some interested collaborators. Looking at doing something involving time travel, which would be a no-budget venture, as well as a sports documentary. I’m also writing a story which will be adapted into a feature length script eventually, looking to have a completed draft of that by the end of the summer.

In the meantime…

I’m attending university, volunteering with youth at a inner-city program called JustTV, something I’ll hopefully explain in more detail soon, and wrestling daily with a less than one-year old Boston Terrier. She’s a handful. I’m looking forward to getting back into the arts, and appreciate the people who have supported me over the years, people who still remember “The Show,” care to discuss the issues in “A Good Indian” and get a laugh of some of the crazier things I’ve attempted with the camera.

Cheers,
Andrew

What to Expect After Brain Surgery

How to deal with the challenges you will encounter after brain surgery.

Brain SurgeryFew can think of surgical procedures more frightening than brain surgery. After all, your brain constitutes who you are as an individual, while at the same time communicates and ensures all the organs in your body are running optimally. Most who are prepped from surgery receive great support and information from their medical team, however, after surgery, many are left on their own, and struggle to deal with the ups and downs most commonly experienced by post-op patients. This article is a first hand look on what to do after surgery to ensure you’re able to get your life back on track.

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Out of the Two Types of People, Which One Are You?

People are driven by 2 things in life: producing or consuming.

Consumers

Driven by the desire to acquire, whether it be a home, vehicles, or to provide for their children and family.

Producers

Driven by the desire to produce, whether it be something artistic, scientific, or something manufactured.

Truth be told, we are all consumers. Our very survival depends on consuming, as does our economy. Without consumers, producers would have no reason to produce. Essentially those driven by consumption also practice producing, whether it’s part of our job, or acquiring goods that in turn feed the producer.

Confused yet?

I believe it’s important to understand what you’re priority in life is and what drives you. Do you go about your professionally life in order to make financial gains in order to acquire goods for yourself and your loved ones, or do you go about your professional life with the goal of creating something consumable for society?

It’s also just as important to understand the people of the opposite nature. Traditionally people lean more toward the “consuming” nature, with a focus on getting the best paying job possible so they can provide for their families. Sometimes these people discourage artists, or ‘dreamers’ from focusing solely on producing. But the relationship between the two is so naturalistically reciprocal it often gets overlooked, and the producers (whom have a wide financial disparity among them) are looked at in a negative light.

To the producers out there, I implore you to ask yourself, “Why not me.”

If your driven to produce, why can’t you be the one to create a song that people listen to you, a work of art that hangs on a galleries wall, or a formula that cures a disease?

I found this message in a Ted Talk by Brad Meltzer, a novelist and tv show creator/writer.  Brad’s message is strong, and his Dream Big and Work Hard attitude should inspire the producers among us.

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What’s a University Degree Worth?

Why would anyone get a university degree in the humanities?

I recently read an article from the Huffington Post that outlined plenty of successful people that graduated with a University degree in the humanities. I’m also fairly certain that a quick google search would lead me to a list successful people that either dropped out of University or never attended. If you read the above article, you’ll notice that there’s no direct career path through a psychology major to becoming a late night political talk-show host, or becoming a presidential candidate. So what is a degree worth? I’ll try to explain based off of my own experience.

There’s no wrong way to do it…

The truth is that a degree’s worth depends on your ability to use the information you obtained from it to further yourself, your ability to sell to someone else its worth, or to get you to a graduate program that is job-specific, such as a doctor, lawyer, dentist, or teacher. I’ve applied, and gotten jobs that were advertised with a preference of those who have obtained a University degree. So why, after dropping out of University twice, would I decide to go back for a third (and hopefully final) time?

Here’s my story of going the university route backwards.

I went to university straight out of high school, enrolling in Business at Acadia University. I didn’t know what I wanted to do out of high school, but starting a business sounded enticing. Unfortunately the program preached getting a job rather than taking the risk of starting your own small or large empire. I also found myself skipping class to work on my own business plan, and changing courses and majors at an alarming rate, until I eventually decided to drop out and head to an audio engineering program in Winnipeg.

I eventually started my own company, and made great money while the rest of my friends either toiled in school or made six-figures working for oil and gas companies in Western Canada. But like any good entrepreneur I eventually got bored. I went back to university and quit again to join a start-up company and was eventually offered a piece of the pie only to resign from my position after a smattering of health issues plagued a couple of years of my life.

So what did I do? I went back to school to get my English degree, Theatre minor, aiming to eventually become a teacher.

Good idea? Well, Education Faculties are pumping out teachers in the same fashion as puppy mills, leaving a saturated job market. And according to everyone I would talk to (note: literally and figuratively everyone) a bachelor’s degree in the humanities (English, History, Classics, Theatre, etc.) is worth about the same amount as the paper they’re printed on to most down to earth employers.

So why did I do it? After all, I have enough experience to land some sort of decently paying marketing position in the city, or to work on film sets and earn a decent living. I don’t enjoy feeling ancient amongst other students in their early 20s who seem to think they’re the smartest kids in class, and my health problems make it difficult to read from a book, which is less than ideal for someone studying literature. After my degree, I’ll probably be $60k in debt, and in my early 30s.

Here’s the first thing a I think about when trying to rationalize the decision to myself. The way I look at it, if I finished school when I was 24 instead of 31, in the grand scheme of life, I would still have to pay off $60k in student loans at some point. This way, I got to spend a lot of my younger years gaining valuable life experience and spending my money in a more ‘youthful’ manner.

Second, right now the degree has much more value to me, due to my maturity, and the fact that I have experienced more in my life other than just sitting in classrooms. I know for a fact that in my late teens and early 20s, I would have not been able to absorb the course material like I can now. The text’s authors speak directly to me, rather than at me. Out of all the authors and writers I’ve studied in university, I don’t believe I’ve studied one that published work in their mid-20s after completing their own university degree. No, the writers I’ve studied have drawn on life experience outside of the classroom.

That’s not to say that my marks are better now than they would have been if I had followed through with finishing school earlier in my life. Actually, the fact that I’m balancing more “grown up” life items with pursuing a post-secondary degree makes it much more difficult to obtain stellar grades, given I have other substantial commitments. But in terms of connecting with the text, and applying it to real life, my studies mean more to me now than they would have when I was younger. Given that I’m pursuing a career in education, film, and communication, I have much more confidence in my work moving forward. If I have more confidence, and I’m able to appropriately communicate this confidence, employers and funders will be more confident that I will be able to get the job done.

Not everyone is the same. Some people are brilliant, and feel that they are able to get the most out of their education by going the more traditional route as I do through my unconventional route. My point is that their is more than one way to go about post-secondary education, and that if you’re feeling discouraged in what is traditionally expected of you after high school, don’t be afraid to be bold and do things a little bit backwards.

The Canadian Health Care System Breeds an Unfavourable Mindset

We’re so fickle.

To be fair, the loudest ones in the room don’t always represent the thoughts of the majority. But I took issue with the latest reader feedback from a CBC story which covered a report that cited Canada having the worst patient wait times of all 11 OECD countries.

The article is titled, “Hypochondriacs, not wait times ruining Canadian health care, say many CBCNews.ca readers.”

Having a fair bit of experience accessing medical services in this country, and in the province of Manitoba, I can tell you that the issue is not as simple and arguably much worse than this.

In mid-2011, I began having severe intermittent abdominal pain. It was enough to send me to the emergency room six times within roughly a one-year span. Each time I went I was observed by a doctor, who could not come up with a diagnosis, and immediately discharged after the pain subsided. I also visited my family doctor, who sent me to two different specialists over the course of the year. Both specialists chalked it up to IBS.

Define “Great Medical Advice?”

I remember my last visit to the emergency room. The emergency room doctor told me that I wasn’t a person that should be seeking treatment in the emergency room. He did his absolute best not to come off as completely condescending. It was frustrating, as if he thought I got off on waiting five-plus hours in pain, unattended, in the waiting room of the hospital. I asked if I should just ignore the pain, and suffer at home, and he contradictorily replied by telling me that I should come in if I was having pain… but there was nothing he could do about it. Within the subsequent months, my overall health rapidly deteriorated. I was on a lot of medication that masked my symptoms, and eventually lost the majority of my sight.

Blindness is apparently a much more effective symptom for the emergency room, and rightfully soon. After a comfortable twelve-hour stay at the emergency room, and visits from the best doctors and neurologists within the hospital and city, it was determined that I had a brain tumour.

Oh, and I should mention as a side note that the medical professionals that day were baffled as to why an order from a specialist a couple of weeks prior for a CT scan was lost within the system. Nonetheless, I received the CT scan and an MRI on the same day, enough to conclude that I indeed had a brain tumour situated on my pituitary gland.

Honestly, I was quite relieved with the diagnosis. After roughly a year of battling with symptoms I finally had answers. I had successful surgery that removed the tumour, and I had my vision restored, which was essentially a miracle. Today I still suffer from the side effects from surgery, or just the residual effects of having a brain tumour in that area of my brain.

Actually, in all honestly, my current team of doctors say that my current health condition likely isn’t linked to my brain surgery at all.  In fact, they tell me that likely no one will be able to tell me what’s happening to my body, that nobody can really read into my current symptoms and say for certain that it has to do with my brain surgery.  Honestly, I feel like some of the doctors have the mindset of the legendary Ron Burgundy when trying to explain the interpretation for San Diego. The interpretation of my symptoms have been lost centuries ago… ???

So where am I going with this, and why am I so disgusted with the ignorant viewpoint that hypochondriacs are destroying our medical system?

Well, if I was given a proper examination by any one of my medical professionals when my symptoms first started, a year of suffering and a year and counting of recovering could have been greatly reduced. Abdominal pain can be triggered by a number of things, such as Hypopituitarism. That’s happens when your pituitary gland has a tumour attached to it, which causes a number of symptoms. “Because the hormones released by the pituitary gland control a number of body functions, hypopituitarism causes a number of symptoms, which include abdominal pain, fatigue, decreased appetite, decreased libido, loss of armpit or pubic hair, low blood pressure, increased sensitivity to cold, vision problems, weight loss and weakness.” (livestrong.com article) I won’t get into the exact details of my symptoms, but you get the idea from the above list.

My suffering aside, how much money would have been spent if I was given a proper thorough examination to begin with? Imagine if we could take those six emergency room visits down to one. I probably had another dozen doctor and specialists visits on top of that. Instead of blaming the shortcomings of our system on hypochondriacs, lets look at the problem with the system itself.

The Canadian Health Care System Breeds an Unfavourable Mindset

I’m not only talking about the mindset of the public, I’m talking about the mindset of our medical professionals. No doubt, I think they also believe are system is plagued by hypochondriacs, which is also referred to in the CBC article. Our general practitioners spend a minimal amount of time with their patients, and often attempt to put band-aids over symptoms with drugs rather than getting at the root of the problem. They only have time for the immediate result, and fail to attempt to really improve our overall health.

Our health system benefits two types of people. It benefits those with severe symptoms, where a body part is in immediate danger, or death. It also benefits those seeking quick medication for common symptoms. Everyone in the middle is forced to wait until: a) The symptoms and condition somehow work themselves out, or b) the condition gets bad enough where action is forced.

Canadian Health Care

Here’s a great analogy. I have electrical problems with my car. Sometimes it doesn’t fire up right away. The issue is intermittent. Every time I bring it to a garage, it starts without problems. A quick diagnostic reveals there is nothing wrong with my battery. The mechanic tells me that unless I want to pay a large amount to have it looked at, I should just wait until the car will no longer start so they have an easier time troubleshooting the problem.

Just imagine if that car were my body. That’s almost literally my experience with the Canadian health system. That’s the mindset within the system, and it’s one that the medical community and public have come to accept.

How many of us have seen the signs in our doctors office stating, only one medical issue per visit? What are we supposed to do with that information? And wouldn’t doctors want to know about all are symptoms in the event they’re linked? We’re all aware that we’re fitted into time slots for checkups and appointments; it’s a system that we’re so used to it seems we have a hard time conceptualizing an alternative. And if someone mentions that a private health-care system would be better, The United States is second last in patient wait times to Canada.

We all have our opinions on how the Canadian Health system can be fixed, but ignorantly blaming hypochondriacs for the problems of our system only exasperates the problem.

Unfortunately, I feel the little amount of action in improving our system is due to the condition of those negatively affected by the system. Frankly sick people, and those who “just” suffer from quality of life issues and are cast aside from our system are more pre-occupied with their health. The energy for this group to stand up and demand change just doesn’t exist, and I know this from first hand experience.

I do think that our system is close to rock-bottom, and will improve in the future. Unfortunately, like the patients of Canadian Health Care, the system will have to experience severe close to death like symptoms before the government will step up and make a change.

Who cares about the movies?

Are Movie Theatres a Big Deal Anymore?

I’m a filmmaker, but honestly, it’s been a long time since I looked forward to watching a flick on the big screen as oppose to grabbing a drink of choice, making my own snacks, and binging on an unhealthy number of television episodes in the comfort of my own home.

Of course, I’m rocking a modest Bose stereo system, a decent sized plasma television, and my place features a theatre style popcorn maker, but that’s not the point.

The point is movies just don’t have the appeal the once did.

Kevin Spacey nails it in this speech he delivered at the Edinburgh film festival. The film and television industry has learned from the failings of the music industry, listening to its audience and delivering them what they want – content delivered in a form that gives control to the viewer.

The medium no longer matters. Television shows and movies now reside on phones and laptops. In some cases, hollywood elite are embracing streaming deals before traditional broadcasting. Websites like Vimeo and Indieflix are allowing low-budget producers a platform to showcase their creation to mass audiences with the ability to not merely give your content away. More importantly, people are willing to pay and support these creations because producers are able to charge a fee that’s reasonable. And all of a sudden, a $50 night for two of movies and snacks feels less and less appealing.

When’s the last time you felt compelled to catch a movie on the big screen that didn’t cost over $100 million to produce? Okay, not all of us track movie budgets but it breaks down like this; if the movie has an A-list actor, a giant marketing campaign, and is labelled under action/adventure with an appropriate amount of explosions and audience acceptable CGI, it’s likely a film created for over $100 million.

When Steven Spielberg starts to have trouble pitching films that will hit the big screen, you know the industry is changing rapidly. In a talk with George Lucas at USC, the two spoke on the likely coming changes to the film industry which featured a more broadway like approach to the Cinema and variable ticket prices.  

This brings up 2 major points:

First – What do audiences want to see at the movie theatres?

Undoubtedly, lower concessions would be welcomed, but that’s likely not happening without other major changes first. Honestly, I think the theatres have already started to figure out how to please their audiences. Take something with a following (a book, comic-book, remake, old television show, etc.) and make a film out of it. People sporting character costumes while viewing films is starting to become socially acceptable and commonplace. The Trekkies have won!

I popped The Usual Suspects on at my place the other night and watched it with my girlfriend. Honestly, for as great as this film is, I don’t think it gets a wide theatrical release today. Despite stellar performances, it doesn’t garner the cast or the sizzle most box-office films offer today. Best case it’s a limited release, just enough to qualify for an Oscar, and it’s straight to VOD. On one hand, the notion that a great film like that isn’t appealing to a mass audience is sad, on the other hand, what’s the problem with that? I know there’s a certain prestige to garnering box office numbers, but take Kevin Smith’s bold move with his Red State flick, which he chose to self-produce and distribute. I won’t bore you with a synopsis of the film or the exact details of his business model, but Mr. Smith knew his audience and catered to it, and essentially succeeded. After all, the name of the game for most filmmakers isn’t huge box-office success, that’s reserved for only a small percentage of filmmakers in the world. It’s the ability to make the film you want, and to have that film make enough money to justify your ability to make another film of your choosing.

Which brings me to my second point – Everyone can make movies these days!

Indie filmmakers are able to get acceptable quality at a fraction of the price say, during the 1990s. Sure, most of these films will never hit the big screen, but so won’t Netflix’s House of Cards. The rise of crowd-funding has put audiences in control of what’s being made, and has given a chance to filmmakers from every corner of the planet.

The film industry is changing. Arguably, it works out better for the viewer, and has great benefits for the filmmaker. But, this brings me back to my original questions. Are we going to miss the big screen? Are theatres catering to their audiences? Does anybody care, or are they content on having their own personal theatre in their home?

Is January the most depressing month of the year?

January the most depressing month of the year?

ahh… the New Year

So what do we do now?

The holiday season is a time people generally attribute to happiness. Immediately after that season, we experience what some experts declare the most depressing month of the year. If you read the Huffington Post, you’ll see that January 6th will likely go down as the most depressing day of the year, with the infamous Blue Monday (third Monday of January) still on the horizon.

I guess it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The holiday season is a two week binge of food, friends, family, and drinks. And then comes the low, accompanied by a mountain of new work, unrealistic new year’s resolutions, and reality. So what do can we do about it?

Surviving the most depressing month of the year

First, remember this….

You survived a more challenging life not to long ago. Let’s face it, preparing for Christmas was likely a hectic endeavour. Now you’re able go through life free of preparing for your epic Christmas binge. Think of January as a time to relax at work.

But you declare, “The other depressed people will bring me down!”

This is true. Depression is contagious. So what do you do in an office full of party-poopers?

Ignore them. Be the one to bring a positive avenue into your office, classroom, or wherever you happen to frequent on a daily basis. Write the word “Relax” on a piece of paper, post it, and keep it visible if that works for you. Just remember, it’s not as bad as it seems, and the people around that appear to have received coal in their stockings are likely just suffering from a strong bout of the January blues.

And those new year’s resolutions…

Please, Please, PLEASE! Keep them attainable. If you’ve been out of shape for the majority of the previous year, it’s going to take the majority of the following year to get back in shape. It may, in all likelihood, take the majority of the year to change your life enough to get your body back to the point where you’re able to reach the results you dream of. Believe me, I’ve been there, done that.

Better yet, instead of creating goal-oriented resolutions opt for a more effective mindset based resolution. For example, instead of declaring that you will lose 15 pounds before your spring break vacation trip, shift your resolution to a mindset such as, “I’m going to live a healthier life style in the new year.” For a lack of better words, this is a healthier approach which focuses on the macro rather than the micro. Often I find people who reach such a goal to let their health go by the wayside after reaching their goal. And if this is the case, what is the point, other than the obvious superficial intentions.

Simply put, here’s your survival guide for January. Keep things realistic; don’t catch the depression bug; think big picture while you wrestle with going back to reality; and above all, just stay positive.

Feeling lost? Use the Internet!

I tend to think living in a large metropolitan area oppose to a small town or community can be quite a lonely endeavour. It’s ironic, so many people around you yet it’s easy to feel connected to no one.

I’ve been thinking of that as I embark on researching for Plan F, with the goal in mind to have a constant stream of content to write on starting in 2014. I started looking for websites and articles related to some of the subject matter I’d like to cover, and have found myself struggling to find anything outside my current goto sites.

After I had my surgery, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon itsjustbenign.org, which proved to be a great resource on a subject that even baffled my doctors. Being able to read and connect with others in a similar situation boosted my confidence. I still marvel at the human mind, and the fact that when we discover others suffering the same plight as our own we feel better. The impact of community cannot be overstated.

Since starting Plan F, it’s been difficult finding anything similar, let alone news articles that really cover mental health without merely referencing the need for more funding in the field. Brain tumours… much of it relates to cancer, which is understandable. I read the other day that only 15 000 suffer from brain tumours each year (I believe in the states alone) so it’s understandably not on the minds of many, no pun intended. However, I do find several sites interesting that don’t necessarily reflect the core message I like to deliver, but definitely hit the necessary notes.

This one launched recently, from someone I actually went to high school with. Small World Travels is a blog following Josh Henry on his journey to visit 100 countries before he’s 30. Obviously it’s a travel blog, but when I read his post on taking his 20s off, I couldn’t help but to relate. Case in point, Josh writes, “I had dreams of working a solid job, owning a big house, nice car, a having a lovely and stunning wife who loved to pamper me with chocolates and massages . Of course, not all goes to plan.” Josh’s attitude towards life is refreshing. I hate to dismiss the more traditional viewpoint on living life, because I do believe that to be fulfilling as well, however after reading Josh’s blog it begins to become difficult not to live vicariously through his posts.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have my good friend Mitch Calvert over at mitchcalvert.com. Mitch has a more traditional approach to life. He has a great job in a career he enjoys, has a side business, a condo, and a fiancee. He’s been named a top fitness blogger on several websites, but what I find so fascinating is his story of transformation. This guy is dedicated, believe me. I once witnessed him slamming a protein shake he kept in his pocket after a bouncer refused him entry into a club with the drink.

I’m finding some other great resources as well. Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life features plenty of guest bloggers and methodology, however after looking in some of the comment sections I wonder if it’s not just one motivational blogger speaking to the next!

It takes awhile to find what we’re looking for, whether it’s online or in life. One thing I cannot suggest more than anything is to read! Why? It allows you to create a community, a web of resources, customized to fit your life. It’s not easy, and it takes time. There’s no list out there of material that satisfies us all. But the more you read, the more you will discover. I’m not a world traveller, yet Josh’s site is something I can relate to. My fitness level is no where near Mitch’s, nor do I wish to consume the ultra-healthy diet he promotes, but his transformation gives credibility to his writing, and the subtext suggests a constant approach to both improving and enjoying life, something none of us should argue with.

Drop a comment, or send me an email and let me know what you read. Perhaps I’ll write another post like this in the future, and include some of my new favourite places to visit online.

 

The Plan for the Rebrand

Some of you may have noticed the slow roll out of my new “rebranding” efforts. So, what should you expect?

The last few years have been quite the roller coaster, to say the least. I moved away from my own productions to take an opportunity at a media/web startup up company as the Creative Director. After a couple of years on the job, and an illness that changed my outlook on life, I decided to move back into the arts with the goal of eventually combining my love of media with my pursuit to carve out some sort of career in education. Of course, along the way I’m still going to ignite my fire and passion for story telling.

Soon, I will unveil my plans for Plan F, a project that involves the telling of my personal story through illness, as well as commentary on other examples of perseverance. I’ll also continue to post on upcoming media projects and collaborative efforts. Starting in 2014, my goal is to regularly post and engage with people online via my Plan F project, and the newly redesigned andrewjoegeorge.com. For now if you’d like to chat, feel free to contact me via email.

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