A True (Scary) Halloween Story – Book Excerpt

HalloweenBus

A True (Scary) Halloween Story

By Pat Watson

If it weren’t for coincidence you might not read what you are about to. This story begins one late rush hour afternoon a few days before Halloween on one of many travels around this city. Waiting at a bus stop, I let a number of crowded buses pass me by before giving up on the idea that there would be one vacant seat for a tired body. After three or four buses passed, I finally boarded one.

Straight away, the bus driver, a tall gentleman with a calm, restrained voice, recognizing me as a Share columnist, greeted me by name. Oddly, he even seemed to know where I lived. Just before driving off, he handed me a sheaf of papers. As the bus lurched forward, he urged me to look at the package of photocopied newspaper articles. It included a column I had written on the difficult economic conditions immigrants to Canada face. The package was a meticulously organized set of documentation that may serve as clues or answers to what is happening in this post- modern world — if you use mysticism and the Book of Revelations as a reference point.

I don’t lay a lot of store in much of this, but as noted, the power of coincidence suggested that “Richard” had to have his due. Besides, the questions are being raised in churches, in bars and points in-between about the meaning behind all the recent natural disasters, devastating earthquakes and record number of category five hurricanes.

The articles  — many which appeared in the Toronto Star — revealed that technology exists to create some scarier-than-Halloween developments including biometric technology. His notes pointed to Revelations 13:16, a reference to “the mark of the beast”. And as I scanned a March 14, 2005 Toronto Star article on U.S. supermarkets using fingerprint scanning to pay for purchases, Richard proffered that the technology exists to create weather disasters. It was his explanation for the recent spate of killer hurricanes.

His file contained a March 25, 2005 article from the subway paper, Metro, on “Africa’s bloody war for cellphones” about how “the growing demand for cellphones and other high tech devices” meant industrialized countries exploited the war in Congo that killed 4.7 million. Congo has a wealth of coltan, the ore from which tantalum — “a rare, highly conductive and heat resistant metal” used in electronic components — is derived.

Richard’s file contained information on genetically modified (GM) foods. He cautioned against fruits and vegetables that contain no seeds. He noted that rich countries are trying to avoid GM foods, but poor countries are advancing their use.

There was information showing that in 2004, Canadians spent more than $18 billion on prescription drugs. Star feature writer Judy Gerstel wrote in a September 2, 2005 article, “Pushing pills down our throats”, that most Canadian adults are likely taking some prescription drug, whether it’s to lower bad cholesterol or for depression or high blood pressure, etc.

Then Richard’s file got even more interesting. Next came an article that ran in the January 21-23, 2005 24 Hours on U.S. president George W. Bush’s inauguration in which Bush is photographed making a hand gesture that Richard labeled “Black Magic Devil’s Horn”. He also extrapolated on the significance of certain numbers mentioned in the article including, “39 tradition-hallowed words that every president since George Washington has uttered” and the U.S. nation’s 55th inauguration.

His file wrapped up with articles about preparations for the flu pandemic, which he stressed officials say will occur. One Star article (Aug. 26, 2005, “GTA gets ready for the flu pandemic”) notes that a 2004 pandemic report form Health Canada estimated that “up to one-third of the population could fall ill and more than 50,000 could die as a result of a pandemic.” And, a Star article from Oct. 5, 2005 says the U.S. military would be called in to maintain quarantines to control the spread of the avian flu pandemic.

Finally, back to those biometrics and other tracking devices, Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Department is planning a $6.5 million trial project to digitize photos and fingerprints of new immigrants. Biometrics will be collected from applicants to the GTA refugee claimant centre and visa offices in Seattle and Hong Kong. And, microchips on radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags will track products in a pilot project being run by Bell Canada at Staples Business Depot. The idea is that it will “reduce costs and increase productivity.”

It is difficult to make sense of the times. Some will frame the facts of the day using Revelations as their reference point. Richard did. As I got off the bus and it headed west into the darkening evening, I felt an otherworldly sensation, disoriented by the coincidence of choosing that bus over any of the others, but sure that because of it, Richard’s insights had to be shared.          ~~~~~~

Toronto writer and columnist Pat Watson is the author of In Through A Coloured Lens, available for Kindle, tablet or PC at Amazon.com.

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When a Man Beats a Woman – Book Excerpt

In the aftermath of the public discussion of yet another high-profile incidence of spousal abuse, here is an excerpt from In Through A Coloured Lens

March 16, 2009

When a Man Beats a Woman

 

A disturbing story of assault involving two young, high-profile entertainers who are romantically involved is only one of countless millions of such acts of violence perpetrated by one supposedly loving companion or family member upon the other. Years after, the assault on photogenic Barbadian pop singer Rhianna by her fresh-faced boyfriend Chris Brown continued to make headlines.

We consider famous and talented persons to be larger than life, so we commonly assign god-like qualities to them. That could explain why this type of brutal but, sadly, everyday assault continues to sustain such an intense level of interest – someone who seems so special caught in the same crisis of violence as untold nameless women and men.

The FREDA Centre for Research on Violence against Women and Children fact: “Almost 75% of women who leave or stay apart eventually return home to their partners: for the sake of the children (31%); to give the relationship another chance (24%); when their partner promises to change (17%); because of a lack of money or housing (9%).”

Countless couples co-exist in the private hell of domestic violence unnoticed or undetected by the world at large, or even their next-door neighbours. That is, until one of them kills the other – the killer most often being the male partner.

A woman tells a horrendous story that begins with her teeth. She says that almost all her teeth have been knocked out over a lengthy period of time by the man she lived with, and who fathered her five children. They are no longer together, but while they were, he would lock her in their home, imprisoning her, every day as he left to go to work. He would lock her in and take the key. She endured this for years before finding the strength to escape that life. She sought the help of a support agency. No longer a victim, but a survivor, she reflects on her abuser with pity for him.

Statistics Canada fact: “Most multiple-victim homicides and murder-suicides were family-related, and the vast majority of accused persons in these types of incidents were male.”

A young woman whose marriage is failing is discovered by her husband to be having an adulterous relationship. His response is repeated blows to her head. She quietly plans her escape and fearing the worst, she moves to another town.

FREDA Centre fact: “…a large majority of wife killings are precipitated by: a man accusing his partner of sexual infidelity; by her decision to terminate the relationship; and/or by his desire to control her.”

A hairdresser whose childhood was spent in an abusive home becomes involved with a man struggling with alcohol addiction. He assaults her whenever he drinks. Eventually she leaves.

FREDA Centre fact: Women married to or living with heavy drinkers, are five times more likely to be assaulted by their partners than are women who live with non-drinkers. ”

We can be thankful that none of these survivors made the news as homicides.

If one good thing could come out of the very public exposure of Rihanna having been beaten up, battered and bruised so badly, it would be to get both those who abuse and those who are being abused to seek help to confront and repair the dynamics that lead to a relationship of violence.

To the abused person: Your love won’t fix the person abusing you but you can get help for yourself at the Assaulted Women’s Helpline in Toronto (416-863-0511).

To the person who abuses: You must know that trying to control another person’s life through violence is unhealthy, and moreover criminal, behavior. One place to start to get the necessary help to change this behavior is Counterpoint Counselling and Educational Cooperative in Toronto (416-920-0268).

~~~~~~

If We Take Life Too Seriously, Life Will Seriously Take Us – Book Excerpt

In the wake of the loss through depression of Robin Williams, here is an excerpt on mental health and mental ill-health from In Through A Coloured Lens
October 26, 2009
If We Take Life Too Seriously, Life Will Seriously Take Us

One of the unspoken truths of this world in its totality is that it is really one of organized, controlled lunacy. The evidence is everywhere, and while so many of us have had those moments, some individuals lose the façade entirely.
A case in point: A person travels from another land to this one – heart and mind filled with hope for a new and better life. But somewhere along the adventure, her hope dims and in response she finds a new way, nothing like the imagined one. In fact, her life is one of carting bundles, and it does not allow for daily hygiene. It finds her positioned between doors at the underground entrance to a downtown subway station where she humbly seeks your spare change. You might smell her presence before you even see her.
She couldn’t have imagined this as a young woman in the now faraway Caribbean homeland where her dream of traveling to a new country to find a new life was born.
Where does she go at night, one wonders?
You don’t see many Black women living on the streets of this city – a testament to the resiliency of the many, and our invisible, informal support system. But there are some. Being so few, they stand out. They live in our midst, yet still are on the outer edge. There was another who used to collect spare change at Bathurst and Bloor. Where is she now, one wonders?
Another woman of colour, though coaxed, refuses to tell her story. She keeps the details of her life to herself, holding on to her dignity, controlling what little privacy she still can. Yet, her life is very much a public statement, as daily she drags her large, battered piece of luggage around with her. Her hair is sprinkled with grey; some teeth have gone missing. But every day her hair is neatly combed, makeup beautifully presented, although that does not hide the frayed edges of her psyche.
Some days, if she allows you, there will be conversation. One day she gave away that she has a daughter. Where? She doesn’t say. But she will talk nonstop about the “iniquity workers on the Earth.” She will tell you that the devil will trick the unaware in many ways and she will talk, half in a trance, about the spirits of evil that are busy fooling us all with enticements of wealth and power. She will speak to you, but she is not friendly. And if you listen carefully, with empathy, you can hear her keen intelligence mixed in with the madness. You will get a sense of what plagued her mind until she tipped over the edge. You will understand that she is crazy, but not stupid.
If you ask about her swollen foot, bandaged but not seeming to heal, she will tell you frankly that she doesn’t care to discuss that at this time… or any time. She has lost her mind, not her pride. To have come so far to a new land and then to have taken this unforeseen road is heart-wrenching misfortune.
On another day, in another place, there is the other, older, woman of colour. She doesn’t seem to be as disconnected from reality as her younger counterpart. She is friendly, with an approachable demeanour, if you can manage to overlook the smell. For some who abandon themselves to uncontrolled insanity, this is an instinctive defence, keeping them safe – other people are less inclined to approach them because the stench ensures they have a wider personal space. Yet, with compassion, some individuals extend a hand.
One of the pointed differences between the relatively few man and women of colour who live daily on the streets of this city– at least from this observer’s perspective – is that the women’s unstable mental health is not tied to drug and alcohol addiction. Other pressures came to bear to take them to the private hell of mental illness and the public admission of their homelessness. What rejections, what disappointments, what patterns have been running throughout their lives? How is it that they have so lost their humour?
The singer Seal reminds us “we’re never going to survive unless we get a little crazy.” In other words, allowing the madness out a little at a time prevents a full-blown leap into the chasm. Our sisters on the street remind us that Adversity has its own plan. Yet if we take life too seriously, life will seriously take us.

Some Who Fancy Themselves Tough Guys Don’t Die Young – E-book Excerpt

The following is another compelling excerpt from the e-book In Through A Coloured Lens

January 14, 2007

Some Who Fancy Themselves Tough Guys Don’t Die Young 

Guns have been in high schools for decades, another signal of the folly and recklessness along the way to adulthood and maturity. A stable home life ups the chances a teen will be better able to navigate those deceptively treacherous years. If not a stable home life, then a strong early foundation leaves a good chance to recover from the relatively risky teen years.

I remember José (not his real name), a rosy-cheeked boy of Spanish heritage who wore a puffy Afro and identified himself as Black. He went — for a while anyway — to my high school. José was growing up in a household of women – his mother and two older sisters – where he was the only male and had no male presence to emulate or to guide him. School gossip was that his father had died.

José was one of the guys who smoked substances that were not allowed in the smoking area just outside the school building. Later, his attendance at school became irregular. After that, he would visit the school although he was no longer a student there.

I remember the day José showed me his gun. Well, showed off was more like it. He handed me a small bag that was surprisingly heavy. When I saw what was inside, I immediately handed it back to him and asked what he was doing with such a thing.

I didn’t see José again for years, until we ran into each other by chance. The rosiness of his cheeks was all gone. The baby softness, which decades before seemed so incongruous with his tough man attitude, was also gone. Now he was muscular and wiry. Of below average height, he looked nevertheless like someone you wouldn’t want to test in a fight.

He said he was living in a nearby basement apartment and that he had recently returned from one of the States out west where he had served time for armed robbery. He said something about lawyers being some of the best people in the world, and especially sang the praises of his lawyer.  Apparently, he had been able to get José off with less jail time than might have been the case, given the charge.

José said he’d learned a lot in jail about how to be a better skilled criminal. What we are interested in we study. What we study we become good at. What we become good at we practice as a skill.

José would pop up in unexpected places at unexpected times over the years. The next time I saw him was about 15 years after his return from the West Coast jails. Then, he looked like a homeless person. When I said hello, he either didn’t recognize me or pretended not to. It was hard to tell. He said he didn’t know who I was. Mental illness was evident.

The last time I saw José was on a subway train. He looked much, much older than his years. His hair had turned mostly gray and his features had become hardened. Given the previous chance meeting years before, I wasn’t sure whether to say hello or not. I looked in his direction a few times, and as I prepared to get off the train he waved and said hello. He asked how I was. I said, “Fine.” I didn’t ask how he was.

Not every youth who wants to be the bad man is killed off before he reaches 25. Some, like José, live past their dangerous youth. Then they have the rest of their lives to contend with. José didn’t study academics or a trade; he studied crime. He had come from a fine family. That’s what the gossip was. But he didn’t look like a man who had come from a fine family.   He looked beaten and worn out by his life choices.

Toronto writer and columnist Pat Watson is the author of the e-book In Through A Coloured Lens available at amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.co.uk

Radio interview & more free e-book download days

Hello All.

Here is the url for the author interview that took place on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 15 on Diasporic Music with host Otis Richmond to  further promote In Through A Coloured Lens. It can be heard in the last 30 minutes of the recording, but the entire 2-hour session is good.

http://uhurunews.com/radio/playaudio?resource_name=sly-dunbar-pat-watson

In other promo news, another free download period at amazon.com has been added: Dec 16 to Dec. 18. So catch it while you can. If you don’t have a kindle reader, your copy can be downloaded to tablet, smart phone or computer using features available at amazon.com.

Once you’ve read In Through A Coloured Lens, remember to leave a comment and rating at amazon.com . Please share your opinion there with other readers.

Find it at: http://www.amazon.com/Through-Coloured-Lens-Pat-Watson-ebook/dp/B00F8EODTC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387174867&sr=1-1&keywords=in+through+a+coloured+lens

Daylight Saving Time, The Sleep Dilemma – E-book Excerpt

Turn Back the Clock2March 8, 2009

Daylight Saving Time – The Sleep Dilemma

 

Blame American Benjamin Franklin for germinating the idea, back in the late 1700s, that has become the annual torment of trying to get out of bed an hour earlier between March and November – the annual discomfort commonly referred to as “Daylight Saving Time” or DST (or incorrectly, Daylight Savings Time).

Save daylight time?

One grating message that weather forecasters and others foist on us unbelievers is that DST gives us an extra hour of daylight. That man has done what God cannot do is truly a miracle since to add an extra hour of daylight is to go beyond the current parameters of nature. In fact we experience greater hours of sunlight as a result of the rotational relationship between the Sun and the Earth, more precisely because the tilt of the Earth as it moves around the Sun results in greater exposure to the Sun at certain times over the course of a 12-month period. Living in the Northern Hemisphere means we experience increasing hours of sunlight as the year progresses from March through to June; thereafter the hours of sunlight begin once again to diminish. For those who live in the Southern Hemisphere the same occurrence can be observed from September to December. Such is the phenomenon.

 Turn Back the Clock2

Yet, there are those who would like to play at adding an extra hour of daylight; or just as absurdly, daylight saving.

There are a few things in this reality that can never be saved, no matter how we word it. One is time; you can use less of it or more of it, but time cannot be saved. The other is energy of any kind, and that includes light.

Perhaps a better term would be ‘annual time shifting’. Although by any name it is still an uncomfortable adjustment, not the least for people who struggle with sleep disorders, or those of us who are not ‘morning people’. While early birds and night owls generally adjust to the shift in waking time, it can take weeks for those who are not morning people to adjust. In the meantime, they are sleep deprived and function less well.

Further, the rate of heart attacks actually increases in the first few weeks following the movement of the clock one hour ahead. Driving while sleep deprived is also a problem. While parents worry about sending their children off to school in the dim light of dawn. A sensible farmer would ignore all this silliness since the sudden change in schedule would have an unsettling effect on their animals.

People living in parts of Northern Ontario – Pickle Lake, New Osnaburgh, and Atikokan for example – do not go through this annual adjustment. They are located in the Central Time Zone and are already one hour ahead, but the point is they do not have to struggle with the annual change. It’s the same in Northern Quebec and Saskatchewan where DST is not observed.

The rest of us now spend close to eight months – from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November – in this shifted time period when we have the maximum amount of sun exposure this region gets. So if the reason for the shift is to have more awake time during the sunniest part of the day, why not just maintain the time year round?

Historically it was the business sector that advocated for this annual change. Well, as the saying goes, what’s good for business is bad for people and vise versa.

Toronto writer and columnist Pat Watson is the author of In Through A Coloured Lens, available for Kindle, tablet or PC at Amazon.com.