Sermonizing… again!

When I’m not being a filmmaker, writer, randomly appearing on TV and being a part-time ninja, I occasionally give sermons. My pastor, possibly having a lapse in judgement, left me in charge of my church this weekend.

The sermon I gave is about how people are leaving the church in record numbers and what Christians can and should be doing about.

Sneak peek: “Our society is so very intolerant of anything seen as being broken, and yet Christ came for the broken. He said He has come to make all things new.”

Click here if you want to read it. C’mon… you know you want too….


“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” – Albert Camus

“I shouldn’t have to feel like an immigrant in my own country.”

I said that during a dinner with some friends a few weeks ago. Shortly after that I became the target of a hate crime.

We were discussing how we can reach out to the Aboriginal population of my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario. Hamilton has a Aboriginal population of roughly 17,000, bolstered by the Six Nations Reserve, which is about 20 minutes away. Things have been tense in the Hamilton area for Aboriginals ever since they occupied a housing development in nearby Caledonia, claiming it was on land given to them in a treaty signed in 1784. After the occupation and its fallout, I’ve noticed a definite increase in anti-Aboriginal sentiment in Hamilton. Those sentiments flared up again when Idle No More was at it’s height last year.

The dinnertime discussion touched on that Aboriginals in Hamilton face an uphill battle in truly showing what they have to offer. Aboriginal education rates are far below the levels of their non-Aboriginal counterparts in both secondary and post-secondary graduation levels, and Aboriginals are disproportionally over-represented in Canada’s criminal justice system compared to their non-Aboriginal counterparts.

The dinner discussion led to brainstorming ways that we can help Aboriginals, especially young men, rise above the social disparity facing them. We talked about the need for respect, tolerance and forgiveness. We talked about how education was the single biggest factor in determining the potential one’s life has. Unfortunately, all that anger towards Aboriginals came right back to the forefront as we were leaving the restaurant.

A man followed us out and singled me out, convinced that I was one of the Aboriginals who occupied and damaged his home during the Caledonia blockade. I told him that he was mistaken and that I purposely avoided Caledonia because I didn’t agree with what was going on there and didn’t want to be associated with it. My denials only served to further enrage him and he took out that rage by punching me several times, including one hit that broke my nose.

After being hit several times, two police officers on a routine patrol of the area stepped in and arrested him. When I was done giving my statement to the officers, one of them said to me “it’s not that often that we have an Aboriginal file charges. Most of them they seem to want to avoid having anything to do with us”.

In the weeks since that incident, I’ve reflected on what it means to me to be Aboriginal, especially in light of such overt racism. It’s one thing to hear someone talk about an something like racism or a hate crime. It’s a completely different thing to go through that yourself. I’ve read about hate crimes, the victim’s statements, the newspaper commentaries about how our society should be better than this. It’s suddenly all taken on new meaning for me.

As I replay in my head what happened to me, how the incident unfolded, one thing becomes crystal clear: a feeling of being helpless. It’s not that I couldn’t have fought back. I know how to fight. I know how to throw a punch, block an opponent’s punch, look for an opening in their defenses to exploit. No, rather that feeling of helplessness came from the realization that in this type of situation, I couldn’t fight back without quickly being viewed by some witnesses as the troublemaker.

The hardest thing to do when someone is taunting me, trying to get me into a fight, is to stay calm and not go for it. I’ll be honest with you, I have a temper. It can be very difficult to turn the other cheek knowing full well that when I do, the person trying to goad me into a fight will just redouble their attack because they see I’m not fighting back. With the assault, if I fought back just as hard as my attacker fought me, it would be very easy for him to justify to the crowds that every negative thing he believed about Aboriginals was absolutely true.

I wanted to fight back. I wanted to hit him as hard as he was hitting me, but what good would that have accomplished? Most likely I would have been charged with assault, same as he was, and any victory, moral or otherwise, that I could have achieved as an Aboriginal would have been gone. I couldn’t fight back during the assault. It’s almost humiliating on a personal level to stand there and take my attacker’s punches when I know how to fight back. Yet, I took them, knowing full-well that I didn’t want to give him (or any onlooker) any justification for his hateful beliefs. The same goes for times when I’ve been out and people have made racially charged comments towards me. Comments like “I’ve never seen a sober Indian before”, or “What are you doing off your reserve?”, or “Waiting for another government handout?” do get under my skin, even if I seem to not have let them register with me.

The racial comments do get to me. I can’t lie to myself and say they don’t. There have been nights, after someone has said something or done something particularly vicious, that all I can do to get out that anger is punch a couch pillow until my arms feel like lead. There have been nights when I’ve screamed into a pillow until my lungs hurt because that is the only way to get this built-up anger out of me in a way that doesn’t cause more problems. I could have made a snide remark back to the people making loaded comments towards me. I could have pushed back when someone purposely pushes me aside just because of my racial heritage, but what good would that do? Nothing worth doing.

I’m not going to let being assaulted get me down. I have too many other things to work and focus on than being defined by someone else’s anger. As I’ve said before, if we truly desire justice, change, and healing, it can only come when we end our desire to see the other person hurt. I honestly do forgive my attacker for his outburst of anger towards me. He was wronged and mistook me for the person who wronged him. I would imagine hearing someone you believe blockaded, occupied and damaged your home talking about fairness, justice and respect towards others would seem like an extremely hypocritical act.

I don’t harbor any ill-will towards my attacker. I’d rather forgive and move on and hope that he finds a better way to deal with emotions and sentiments he obviously hasn’t dealt with. There’s nothing to be gained by holding on to anger or letting that anger turn into prejudice.

In the weeks since the attack, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the evening’s events. I think about the conversations I had over dinner about wanting to find a better way to help Aboriginals live up to their potential. Unfortunately, I can see all too clearly that the road to achieving a better world for Canadian Aboriginals is one that is going to be littered with more incidents like what happened to me, and done by both sides.

I do dream of a day when I no longer feel the need to say “I shouldn’t have to feel like an immigrant in my own country”. I can’t accomplish that dream on my own and I am well aware that for all the positive steps taken towards eliminating prejudice and intolerance, there will always be those who, when confronted with the choice of self-education or racism, will choose racism because it’s the easy road.

I don’t know if my attacker is racist or just someone who reached their breaking point after having to go through a situation where there were many mistakes made by all sides involved. I’d prefer to believe that he just reached a breaking point and made a bad decision. I’d like to believe that in the weeks since that night he too has spent time contemplating a better way. I could be completely wrong but I want to believe in the best in people.

After all, you can’t truly hate someone you believe in; if they do let you down, you hope that one day they can do better.

I hope that better day comes soon.

“Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.” – George Bernard Shaw

This morning I woke up to find that my cat Roxy had stolen my dirty socks and was trying to bury them in her litter box. She could have been doing that because my socks were befouling her nasal passages but Roxy is known for stealing things and taking them to strange places. Case in point, she has stolen many things from around the house, from action figures to stuffed animals, a Soren Kierkegaard finger puppet, and feminine hygiene products. My wife once discovered that Roxy had left the toilet brush on her side of the bed.

Waking up to the sound of my socks slowly being buried in kitty litter should be strange. It was certainly unexpected, but unfortunately, at least around my house, it wasn’t really all that strange of an occurrence. For those of you that know me personally, you know how bizarre my everyday life is. No matter what I do, or how innocently I try to do something, almost inevitably, something strange or weird happens. Those occurrences have become so common place with me that my family and friends call them “Shaneisms”, as in “that could only happen to Shane”. And these things happen so often to me that when it came time for me to think up a blog title, I couldn’t come up with a more fitting name!

I know what you’re thinking: “Come on! Everyone has strange things happen to them! How strange can your life be” and so I offer up the following:

I was in Toronto and finished up my business early so I decided to go down to the Air Canada Centre to see if there where any tickets for that night’s Toronto Maple Leafs game. As I was in line for tickets, a man in full military fatigues asked “Are there any single people here?” and I said “I am”. He asked if I needed a ticket and I said “Sure. How much?” “It’s free. It’s Armed Forces night tonight and we have an extra ticket. It’s yours if you want it, courtesy of the Canadian Armed Forces“. I gleefully and gratefully accepted and thought to myself “hey, this is great… now I might actually have money left over for those overpriced hotdogs they have here”. I discovered that the ticket wasn’t for a seat, but rather was for a private box the Armed Forces were given for the night.

As the night went on, not only did I end up in the box with members of the Armed Forces, but during the second intermission, the Commander in Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces at the time, General Walter Natynczyk, came to the box to meet and greet those in attendance, myself included. After the game was over, which the Leafs lost (I’m used to that by now…), all Armed Forces personnel and “their guests” were invited to go down on the ice and meet the entire Leafs team. The final icing on the cake is a very strange and weird coincidence: the person singing the anthem that night was Alan Frew, lead singer of 80’s rock band Glass Tiger. It so happens that my sister went out with him a couple times way back when.

While the above is one of the most surreal Shaneisms, it’s not even remotely the only one. For example, I was working on a small film shoot in Toronto during Pride Week. We had finished shooting and were moving to our next location. While the rest of the crew moved equipment, I stayed behind and finished cleaning up. When I was done I started to make my way to the new location, only to find all the streets in the area blocked for the Dyke March.

After surveying the situation, I decided the best way to get to my destination was the parade route, so off I went. As I walked I was getting many strange looks from parade onlookers. It finally dawned on me that I was the only guy I could see walking along the route and that I was surrounded by literally thousands of lesbians. I thought to myself “Meh, why not?” and eventually made my way to the new filming location. When I met up with the rest of the crew, they very quickly realized I had just come from the Dyke March, which led to many of them trying to hold back the giggles as we all got down to work. Or at least tried to.

Some of the Shaneisms are my own fault. I do have a love of the absurd and a sense of humor that has been described as “off the wall” and “strange”. Case in point, when I was in the hospital battling kidney stones, I had to fill out a sheet of personal information. Part of that information was what title I prefer to be called (Mr, Mrs, Miss, etc) and I chose “other” and wrote in “Your Holiness”. Showing a great sense of humor, the hospital staff referred to me as “Your Holiness”, asking “Do you need anything, Your Holiness”, “How are you feeling today, Your Holiness” and on like so. This lead to some laughs for the other patients (and their families) in the same ward as me as some of them would peek out their doorways as I walked by. They wanted to see this person the nursing staff kept telling “it’s good to see you up and about, Your Holiness”.

Not all the Shaneisms that are my own fault are done with on purpose. Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivty Disorder (ADHD) does tend to make me a little “spaced out” at times. I tend to zone out into my own little world and not notice things around me. This happened recently while I was availing myself of the washroom of my local library.

I entered the bathroom, which I thought was empty, and started singing to myself the song “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen“. When I was done my duty I went to wash my hands only to release I wasn’t alone after all. One gentleman started to burst out laughing as soon as I looked at him, while another, using the sink beside me, kept giving me awkward sideways glances, slowly moving his body away from me. It then dawned on me that the lyrics of “Let It Go” can take on a completely different meaning when coming from a bathroom stall:

“Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore

Let it go, let it go, turn away and slam the door

I don’t care what they’re going to say

Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway”

When I tell people about my adventures, I often get a reaction of “you’re making this up”, or “pics or it didn’t happen”. I totally understand why people have that reaction. If I had to sum up my life in one sentence, it’d be a quote by Robin from the 60’s Batman TV show: “The way we get into these scrapes and get out of them, it’s almost as though someone was dreaming up these situations, guiding our destiny”.

For a long while my father-in-law didn’t believe the strange stories constantly being told me and my wife. That all changed when we were coming home from a trip to a car dealership. We were driving down one of the access routes that separate the Hamilton mountain area from the lower city, where I live. As we did, we had a bodybuilding dwarf, all covered in tattoos, long hair flowing behind him, go by us on his bicycle, giving us the middle finger as he did. We stared at him, somewhat disbelieving, as he sped away from us. Without saying anything else, my father-in-law turned to me, looked me right in the eye and said “All those stories… I believe you now”.

I’ve been asked why these things keep happening to me, and I can only offer up two explanations. The first is that this is all learned behavior from my dad. I believe this is partly right. He is a very friendly fellow, who sometimes doesn’t have the social decorum he should. Case in point, when he tells people, including complete strangers, the story of his heart attack, it always ends with “And I never did my underwear back”, at which point my mom tries to pretend she doesn’t know him.

There is something to the theory that the Shaneisms are learned behavior in that once we tried to get rid of a wasps nest under a tree but used way too much gasoline, prompting an explosion much larger than anticipated, and leading to my mom to come running out of the house wondering why she just saw a fireball outside her window.

The second theory is that these things happen because I simply tend to notice more things than normal and jump at opportunities that present themselves, even if my actions follow no discernible, logical process. I can admit this most likely the case. Having ADHD causes me process everything going on around me, whether I want to or not. It also causes me problems with impulse control. This causes opportunities that either would or should fall by the wayside to suddenly appear to me and I have to go for them, even sometimes against my (somewhat) better judgement.

Playwright George Bernard Shaw, in saying “everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough” was getting at the idea that the longer we live, inevitably, the more varied experiences we will either have happen to us, or will have the chance to happen. Those experiences, both good and bad, can sometimes only be known if we make the conscience choice to know them.

At the end of the movie “Ever After“, the Brothers Grimm ask the Grand Dame about the fate of Cinderella, if she really did live happily ever after. The Grand Dame responds “while Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived“. That line expresses the idea that the journey is just as important as the destination, that life is about seizing opportunities and seeing where life takes you.

The adventure I had at the Maple Leafs game started just out of me not wanting to go home to Hamilton yet and wondering if there were any cheap tickets available for that night’s game. I walked to the Air Canada Centre thinking “they’re probably sold out, and even if they’re not, Leafs tickets are always really expensive” but I went anyway.

I’ve had friends ask me “why do you get to have all the fun”. I tell them “just go with it… it’ll be fun!” and there have been many times  they’ve ended up having an adventure of their own. My wife has said many times “my life has gotten a lot more interesting since I met you”.

I won’t even try to predict what Shaneisms might happen to me next… that’s part of the fun, but I do encourage you to be on the lookout for “Shaneisms” of your own. In the words of Auntie Mame, “Yes! Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

Now, go on… live! It’s time for me to get back to living, myself. That and I should probably make sure Roxy hasn’t buried anymore of my clothing in her litter box…


“Pics or it didn’t happen.”

“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.” – Bill Clinton

Today, January 28th, has been designated by Bell Canada as “Let’s Talk” Day, an event designed to raise awareness about mental health issues and help end the stigma that those who have a mental health issue face everyday. This day has personal significance for me because I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), along with several co-existing or “co-morbid” effects.

ADHD is characterized by an inability to concentrate on or complete a task, hyperactivity, impulse control problems, as well as social and behavioural issues. What makes ADHD so rough, for me at least, isn’t the actual ADHD itself. While the effects of ADHD are controllable, the co-morbid effects are what cause me the most trouble. For example, I have dyslexia, which is not a good thing to have if you work as a writer and do a lot of public speaking, which I do.

I also have impulse control and aggression issues. The impulse control issues makes me prone to addictive behavior and as such I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs. I do, however, have addiction issues with video games and surfing the interweb. The aggression issues make it so that if I get angry, I can have a very hard time controlling that rage. If I don’t find a way to cool down I turn into a skinny, olive-skinned Hulk and proceed to break things, things that afterwards I realize work better when not shattered into several pieces.

ADHD also makes everyday relationships a bit of a challenge for me. That hyperactivity and impulsive behavior can lead to me being inappropriate, no matter how hard I try not to be. I also have a difficult time with boundaries and personal space. I know they exist but I can get so caught up in the moment I don’t know I’ve crossed a line until I’m well past it.

I’ve never been on medication such as Ritalin or Adderall, and I’ve been lucky that I’ve found non-medication based ways to cope. Being involved in writing and filmmaking and giving public talks is a big help to me because it gives me an outlet for all that energy. I can pour all those ideas and images and thoughts racing through my head into a story or a film idea. I do most of my writing at night since there are fewer distractions. I don’t have errands to run, I don’t have people coming over or phone calls to answer. The darkness of night means I have less to see out my windows and there’s less city noise to draw my attention away from my task at hand.

It’s difficult to describe what having ADHD is like to someone who doesn’t have it. Everyone who has ADHD suffers from it differently. For me, it’s like everything is constantly turned up to the max. Whether I want to or not, I take in everything around me. Every sound, every colour, every movement. All of that constantly competes for my attention and when I’m having a difficult time controlling my ADHD, everything feels like it’s simultaneously slowed down and moving at high speed.

Even on a good day, for me this sensory overload is very difficult and stressful to process. Most of the time I can handle it, and I can find ways to focus on the task at hand. Unfortunately, if I’m tired, or in a stressful situation, those ways of filtering and focusing tend to break down and even the simplest tasks, like doing the dishes, can be a stressful time.

Because of that constant sensory overload, things like family reunions and large group outings are not the most fun for me. That social awkwardness I mentioned earlier kicks in full force. I’m fine with one on one moments, even small groups aren’t too bad but the more people that get added to an event the harder it is for me to control all that sensory input racing at me. Either I end up getting mentally worn out by the end of the day or I become so hyper that I can’t control how spinny I get.

While it can be a lot of fun for those around me if they just “go with the flow”, for those who aren’t sure how to react to that excess energy I have, it can lead to strained relationships. More than once someone has said to my wife “can’t you do something to control him”, leaving her in the unfortunate position of having to defend my ADHD issues while simultaneously trying to bring me down a notch or two. Or six.

That excess energy made grade school and university very difficult for me. I found the classes too slow and would then get in trouble for not paying attention or acting up in class. It’s not that I was a bad kid, or that I went to school with the express desire to raise hell. The classroom environment was too structured for me and often I would act up out of frustration and boredom. I did have a few teachers who understood that I had special needs and by being patient with me they helped me make school a little easier to get through.

I know that the aggression issues that can come out if the combination of too much energy and too much stress is present and the impulsiveness I can display are what make people around me uneasy. It’s the “what if” nature of ADHD, that “what happens if he can’t control it while I’m around” thought that makes people keep me at a distance.

ADHD has affected my social life, my academic career and those co-morbid effects can make every day a challenge for me. The final, and worse, co-morbid effect that I deal with is one that so many people suffer from: depression.

I fall into a depressive episode when either I’ve had a prolonged period of high stress or when I’m unable to take any “me” time to slow my mind down. Every 5-6 months, almost like clockwork, I have a bout of depression. I can feel those bouts coming on but I can’t stop them. Sometimes they last for a couple days, others a couple weeks. One day I can feel on top of the world and the next day I don’t want to be a part of it anymore.

The longer the bouts last the worse they are and during the really bad bouts I think about harming myself. There’s an internal struggle that goes on: on the one side I feel completely apathetic; nothing matters, not even my own well-being. On the other side, I keep telling myself “don’t do anything stupid… ride it out and in a few days you can be yourself again”. Riding it out is far easier said than done.

The effects of ADHD can be difficult to deal with for those around me. Because mental health issues like ADHD are very complex in their roots and causes, understanding them as an outsider can often be difficult. I am well aware that my ADHD has caused strained relationships with family and friends. My wife has been asked “why is he like that” and “can’t he stop being that way”.

The worst thing about having something different about you is that once people find out you struggle with something that falls under “mental health issues”, a stigma often quickly gets attached to you. It doesn’t matter the issue you’re dealing with or the severity of it. As soon as those three words enter into the conversation you get labelled and people start defining you by that label. I’ve experienced this myself with trying to discuss ADHD and it’s effects with others.

It doesn’t help that far too often if someone does go and do something violent, there is very quickly media speculation about whether or not that person did have mental health issues. Even if that speculation turns out to have no basis, the damage is already done as it reinforces that unfortunate stereotype that any mental health issue means the person dealing with it is a time bomb waiting to go off.

That uneasiness that people feel when they’re with someone who has a mental health issue only makes dealing with it and finding positive ways to move forward that much more difficult. I attribute this to a lack of awareness and education. It’s hard to be patient with something you don’t understand and it’s that sense of unpredictability that makes any mental health issue so uncomfortable to deal with.

That stigma of having a mental health issue extends beyond just the person who has the issue. That person’s family often has the stigma extended to them, with questions then raised about their own lives. “What if they’re the same way” and “How could they let this happen to their own family” are two of the ones I’ve heard most asked. Neither of those questions are fair.

I didn’t wake up one morning and choose to have ADHD. I think it’s safe to say that very few people have ever decided “you know what, today I’m going to start having a mental health issue, just to mix things up a bit”. I was born with ADHD and I will have to deal with it for the rest of my life. And yes, I have other family members who have it and there’s a high probability that any children I have will have at least some ADHD-type behaviors.

It’s far too easy to put up boundaries when we’re around those with mental health issues. Like politics and religion, we treat mental health issues as something best left not talked about. I’ve had it several times that when someone, even someone who knows me quite well, finds out that I have ADHD and suffer from depression cycles, they’ve said to me “Really? I never would have guessed that. You hide it so well”.

That’s it though, isn’t it? I hide it. I hide because I, like anyone dealing with a mental health issue, don’t want to be defined by it. I don’t want to be stigmatized by that label that not everything is quite perfect with me. I don’t want to be labelled as “broken” because our society is so unforgiving of broken things.

For those reading this, I didn’t write this because I want you to read it and say “poor guy, that’s a rough thing to deal with”. Quite the opposite, actually: I don’t want pity but rather I seek understanding. My hope is that you will come to understand that those of us who have a mental health issue, we’re just like anyone else.

I’m lucky, in some respect, in having ADHD: I’ve been able to learn to control it, for the most part. Yes, I have bad days but for the most part, I can function relatively normally. I might take a few more breaks than normal and wander around the house when working on something, or I usually make sure I have a snack with me during periods where I have to stay sitting for a long time. While these coping strategies do work more often that not, that doesn’t mean it’s completely under control.

I do have my bad days, my Jekyll and Hyde moments. When those ADHD symptoms are too much to keep in check, or when that bout of depression hits full-force, it can be unpleasant for those around me because it is sometimes far too easy to lash out at those I’m closest to. I think it’s safe to say that we hurt those we love most because we believe they’ll be the ones most likely to forgive and forget. After all, that’s what family and friends do, right?

I have cancelled events, taken time off work and blown off friends because of the depression. I guess I could say I took a “mental health day”. Sometimes I just need a day to re-center and re-focus myself, a day to shut out the world and try to right myself. When those days happen, I feel that battle inside myself, the pull to be that productive member of society I know I am, and the pull to give into the pure emotion raging through me and say “to hell!” with everything and everyone. I know during those times that I can be an absolute jerk to those around me. Trust me, I don’t want to be.

Like so many others who have a mental health issue, I don’t want to be defined by it. To do so is miss who I really am. ADHD and all its co-morbid issues are just a part of me, albeit an unwelcome one. But those issues don’t show you everything that I am or everything that I am capable of. Like so many others struggling with mental health issues I’m trying to work through these issues as best I can. And sometimes they will get the better of me. So please, be there for me in my dark days, and above all, be patient with me.

Mental health issues aren’t something to be feared. Bell’s “Let’s Talk” day gives us a chance to have a safe, constructive discussion about issues many of us silently deal with every single day. Let’s remove that stigma attached to mental health. Let’s talk.

Democracy without Secularism

As avid followers of Shaneisms will note, one of my closest friends is Daniel Mullin, he of The Unemployed Philosopher fame. In wanting to keep myself in his good graces (mostly so I keep getting birthday and Christmas presents from him) I’m shamelessly promoting several projects he’s been working feverishly on and that are now available for public consumption.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen! I present to you, straight from Dr. Mullin’s mind to your eager eyeballs, these wonderful events that will engage your mind, excite your heart and enchant your very soul!

First up, the good Doctor’s doctoral dissertation, Democracy Without Secularism. Follow the link to read a critique of Jürgen Habermas as you’ve never read before! Don’t know who Jürgen Habermas is? All the more reason to read this attractively bound volume!

Next on the list is Moving On: Essays on the Aftermath of Leaving Academia. Dan wrote one of the chapters about his often tumultuous time in the world of post-university Academia and will give you some sense of what the very-quickly-changing world of higher education is really like.

And finally, if you live in the Toronto, Ontario area and are interested in philosophy, Dan is starting up a philosophical cafe, where people can gather together and discuss philosophical concepts from Plato to whether or not the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence.Who knows… I might show up to one myself! Follow his blog to get the latest updates.

And please… support his writing efforts by buying his book. You’ll be doing me a favor as well since it means more money for my future birthday and Christmas presents!

And stay tuned here… there’s plenty of edutainment coming up for 2014!

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

Here we are: December 31, 2013. Time to say goodbye to the old year, ring in the new, sing “Auld Lang Syne” and all that stuff. And time for me to reflect on the past year.

It’s been a busy year for me. I’ve written here about everything from Aboriginal issues, to why I don’t like school, to social justice issues and what it’s like to be a filmmaker. I started a second blog about my take on what it means to be a Christian in today’s society and I even had a chance to poke fun at the whole idea of social & personal branding, which ruffled some feathers with friends in the real world… which totally made my day!

So here I am, looking over the past year, and I realized that I have several articles for Shaneisms that never made it online. Whether they didn’t come together in the way I had hoped, didn’t make it past the outline stage or simply got put to the side and forgotten about (out of sight, out of mind), these poor, miswritten literary outputs are quietly awaiting their chance in the virtual sun.

It’s not that I haven’t wanted to finish them or that I read them over and thought “this is so bad I think it gave me cancer”. The truth is more that real life got in the way. For some of the partially written articles, I got called away to another project and had to devote my attention elsewhere. With some others, its that by the time I was happy with what I had written, the social relevancy, that small moment of time when they’d be current and hip, had passed and it would take extensive re-writes to get them into something that won’t make the reader say “wow, that’s yesterday’s news, man!”.

*Author’s note: say that last part in your best 70’s hippie voice for full dramatic effect.

I do hope to have some of those ideas finished and posted over the coming year here on Shaneisms but I can’t make any promises. After working as both a writer and filmmaker for some time now I’ve learned far too well that even the best planned-out projects may not make it to fruition. As those fragmented articles in my My Documents folder attest, writing something that will (hopefully) capture a reader’s attention and leave them wanting more is an art unto itself.

There are days where the ideas come fast and furious, times when I can write an article from beginning to end in one sitting and post the final draft with very few edits. There are also days when trying to get a coherent idea down on paper is almost impossible, leaving me feeling like my mind as a giant “this space for rent” sign in the middle of it. I guess right there is the hit or miss nature of having a creative mind: some days you got it and other days you wonder why you don’t have it and where you’ve possibly left it.

As much as I call myself a writer I do find writing blog articles difficult. A blog can be an intensely personal thing. I don’t mind being open about who I am, and even talking about my failures and shortcomings, such as my being a university dropout and someone who lives everyday with ADHD, a very difficult to control learning disability. The difficult part is finding a balance between writing something and staying on topic as opposed to writing about something and making it nothing but a “look at me and how beautificent I am!” post. I’m not interested in writing (or reading) those types of blog entries. If I talk about myself it’s with the hope that it emphasizes or clarifies something else in the entry.

I like to think that being open and honest might help someone reading the blog articles I post deal with a similar situation in their life. For example, when I wrote about Idle No More, I was subsequently asked to speak about issues facing Aboriginals in Canada. After one such talk, one which I talked about the ongoing affect of the Residential Schools on Aboriginal families (including my own), I had a woman tell me that for the first time she felt the strength to publicly talk about her and her family’s experiences in Residential Schools. As I titled my first-ever Shaneism, “big things have small beginnings”.

I don’t expect this blog to set the world on fire. If it gets some notoriety, or a reputation as somewhere that is both informative and entertaining, I’d be perfectly all right with that. This is simply a small corner of the interweb to call my own, a place where I can comment on how I see the world around me, and what is affecting me at the moment.

As I look over what I’ve written about in the past year I can safely say that predicting what’s on tap for the 2014 version of Shaneisms isn’t something I can really predict. It’s really rather like trying to predict what 2014’s fads and memes will be (much twerking, many foxes, so doge… wow).

I will predict this though: as much as I know I’ll have days where my brain goes on vacation the moment I sit down to write something, I’m looking forward to writing about whatever it is I’ve gotten myself mixed up in next. And I hope you will join me for the ride.

For now, thanks for reading, and here’s wishing you and yours the very best for 2014.

Now… since I’ve gotten a good head of steam built up, I should probably go work on some of those unfinished Shaneisms. After all, one should always finish what one sta

“There’s no business like show business!” – Ethel Merman

I recently had the privilege of having a short film I directed shown at the Hamilton Film Festival. The film, Mrs. Neverlate & Mr. Betterlate, follows the story of a first date gone wrong. Although it was shot in 2011, this was the premiere showing. The night after the premiere it was shown again as part of a charity screening. Stephen Hayes, the director of Lucky 7 (a past winner of the festival’s “Audience Choice” award), was recently badly injured and Lucky 7 was shown as a fundraiser for him. Hayes personally chose two shorts to be shown in front of his film and it was a big honor to have my film chosen by him as one of those two, especially with me being a first-timer when it comes to film festivals.

While this was my first short film, I’ve worked on and off in film and TV production since 1998. I can’t think of a moment in those 15 years that I was more nervous than when the first title card for Neverlate came up on the screen. I’ve seen my work (and myself) on TV before but that’s always been as part of someone else’s production. To see Neverlate shown in public was nerve-wracking for me because as the film’s director I have a lot riding on the audience reaction to the film.

When Neverlate was playing I was paying attention to the audience. I was hoping they would respond to the beats of the film in the different ways I had hoped they would, that they would get drawn into the film, laugh at the right places and have a smile on their face when the credits began. I had a myriad of thoughts running through my head when the film first started up: will they like it? Will they hate it? Will they find it enjoyable? If they like it, do they actually like it or they just being polite? Is their honest opinion something more along the lines of “that was so bad I think it gave me cancer”? When the applause began I finally started to relax. I said to my wife, Michelle, “I think they liked it”. She smiled and replied “Told you”.

When Neverlate was shown in front of Lucky 7 the anxiety started up again. Showing it as one of several shorts is one thing but to be shown in front of an audience choice winner was something different. Stephen Hayes saying “I personally selected the shorts” gives the audience an expectation of certain level of quality. When the lights dimmed and Neverlate started I quietly grabbed the sides of my chair and held on tight. When the film was done, and everyone applauded, I looked around. I said quietly to myself “No one seems to have randomly died…” and started smiling. “Maybe I do have some idea of what I’m doing after all…”

Even though I’ve worked on film and TV projects before, this was fundamentally different. With previous projects I wasn’t part of the audience when whatever I worked on was aired. When I worked on a show or film, I finished my part and was on my way. This is very apparent to me when I think about my time working on weekly TV programs. I never bothered “admiring” what I had done because I was all too aware that next week’s show, with all its tight production deadlines, was staring me in the face. With the short film, those deadlines aren’t there and I’m actually in the audience getting instaneous feedback on whether or not I hit the marks I set out to.

I’m not someone who likes to see something I’ve done. I never have been. I don’t mind other people viewing or enjoying something that I’ve had a hand in making but my own personal preference is to leave the room when something I’ve done is presented. For example, I’ve done TV interviews and podcasts and never listened to the final version. During a networking event for the film festival I was surprised to find out how common this attitude is among filmmakers, including actors. One actor I spoke to said he loved to perform but always closes his eyes when his character was onscreen.

In the week I’ve to decompress from the rush of the film festival, from having my first short film shown, to all the people I met, to the the fact that being at the theatre night after night was far more tiring than I had anticipated, many thoughts have crossed my mind. I know the reason I was so anxious about the film being shown is a fear of rejection. A film, even a short one, is something deeply person. I’ve heard premiering a film being compared to raising a child and having to send them into the world on their own for the first time: you’ve tried to do things the best you can, done what you can to achieve a certain level of quality, but once those lights dim and the projector starts it hits you that all bets are suddenly and irrevocably off.

During the festival’s social networking times I got into several discussions about filmmaking and they always ended up along the same lines: even if you’ve been doing it a long time, films are very hard to make. Even if you’re focusing on one single aspect of production, be it producing, directing, screenwriting, acting, cinematography, editing, you name it, it is very challenging to get everything just so. When Neverlate was filming, my cameraman said to me “there’s only so much energy in every project. I’ve been on sets that have great ideas but no direction and they just fall apart. But I’ve also been on sets with crappy ideas but they made it through because even though it was crap there was a singular idea of what the end product should be”.

I can attest first hand to how true that statement is. Directing a short film for the first time showed me first hand how difficult being a film director can be. It was very challenging because the main part of directing is, to me, keeping everyone involved, both in front of the camera and behind it, and keeping the project within an often very specific emotional area. If you stray too far in either direction the tone of the film risks suddenly becoming either too dramatic or too comedic, and that quick shift in tone can easy throw the audience off. If you lose the audience, even for a moment, it can be disastrous. With the rise of short videos on Youtube and the success of Vine, audience attention spans are shorter than ever. It’s now an uphill battle to keep the audience involved in the story from beginning to end.

It can be exhausting bringing an idea to fruition, navigating all the steps from initial concept, to scriptwriting and casting the roles, to getting locations and equipment, to actually filming, to editing and putting all the final touches on it. And that doesn’t even touch on everything that can go wrong during any one of those points in filmmaking. I’ve found that the hardest part of filmmaking is actually getting everyone together at the same time, especially when the budget is low or non-existant. I’ve worked on projects that have been delayed at the last minute, sometimes for months, because someone suddenly was unavailable. It’s frustrating but that’s part of the nature of filmmaking.

I was asked by a gentleman at the festival “you know how hard it can be to make a movie… why do it?” I replied that the hours can be long (Neverlate was shot in two 16 hour long days), unexpected things happen all through production (we had one of our actors bow out three days before shooting and replacing him wasn’t easy because we were a unionized shoot), but that moment when you see something that started out as just an idea in your head but is now projected in full color on a big screen… well, that is a feeling that is very hard to beat.

Neverlate was described as “an homage to silent films” by Stephen Hayes during an audience discussion after the Lucky 7 screening. I guess that’s as good of a way as any to describe it. While there is dialogue, it’s only in the form of narration done by Mrs. Neverlate and Mr. Betterlate, relying more on music and imagery to inform of you what’s going on. While Neverlate isn’t the type of project I’m usually drawn to, I’m very happy with the outcome. I usually am more drawn to a story with a more “philosophical” bent (perhaps that’s a side effect of studying Philosopy in university) but sometimes a story just strikes you in a certain way. Any filmmaker reading this should know what I’m talking about.

Now that the film festival is over and Neverlate had a good reaction, what now? Do I put something else out there? If so, what should it be? Neverlate was based on a poem by a local writer and actor. If I do something new, chances are it will be based on my own original idea, which means it will be that much more personal, and therefore that much more nerve-wracking when (if?) it has its first public showing.

Maybe I should see if the makers of Pepto-Bismol are interested in a product placement in my next film…


*Authors’ note: A very big shout-out and thank you to the organizer of the Hamilton Film Festival, Nathan Fleet! Cheers, Nathan!