Tag Archives: Curiosity

Taoist Horror Movies

Believe it or not this phrase was a recent search term that lead someone to On the Other Hand.

It’s one of those terms that sticks with you. I’d never thought about what a Taoist horror movie would look like or even wondered if there was such a thing.

What makes a movie Taoist? Does a throwaway reference to Taoism count? What about any movie set in China that references ancestor spirits? Sometimes that’s about all that is used in North American horror movies when Christianity is dragged into the plot. It’s not surprising that there are films out there that do the same thing with other religious or philosophical beliefs. I just wonder where the line between Taoist horror movie and horror movie with vague references to Taoism is or should be drawn.

Time for some Internet research.

So it turns out that there (might be) such a thing as a Taoist horror movie :

Xiong Bang

Fei Taugh Mo Neuih

Shuang Tong

Wu Long Tian Shi Zhao Ji Gui

Or at least these are films that employ certain Taoist principles and ideas. I haven’t watched them so cannot say if they’re about as “Taoist” as a ghost story involving a priest and a crucifix could be said to be “Christian.” 😉


Have you seen any of these films? What did you think of them? Where do you draw the line between [noun] horror movie and horror movie that references [noun]?








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Five Word Challenge

Lately this blog has been fairly serious.

There’s nothing wrong with that but today we’ll try something else.

There is a list of five words a little later on in this post. You’re going to do something with them:

  • Write a poem or short story.
  • Make up a humorous song and sing it to the next person you meet.
  • Draw or take a picture of these items.
  • Rearrange the letters to create five new words that should be added to the English dictionary.

Or anything else that awakens your creativity.

Your words:

  1. Orange
  2. Anticipation
  3. Soil
  4. Mouse
  5. Basin

Ready, set, create!

(And then come back and leave a comment telling us what you did.)


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Embrace the Shame

As far back as I can remember I’ve lived with one foot in imaginary places. Whenever the world around me quiets down enough for thoughts to form (and sometimes even when it doesn’t) I stitch together stories in my mind.

No two have ever been quite alike. If I don’t like the direction a story is headed I begin again from the first scene to create something better. I tell myself stories that are funny, sad, outlandish, as cliched as I could possibly make them and as unique as I dare. I tell stories as I go to sleep and pick them back up again while getting dressed or eating breakfast in the morning.

Sometimes as a kid I’d whisper the lines or scene I was working on to see if they sounded as good out in the open. It was something I was deeply ashamed of growing up, though. No one else I knew crafted stories like this or, if they did, they never talked to themselves while figuring out a particularly tricky plot point. At 11 or 12 I’d cycle through these feelings, promise to put away childish things and never do it again and then slide back into storytelling a day, week, month later. Life without story-telling was and is:

  • Eating the same meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of your life.
  • A vocabulary of 100 words, 90 of which are about the weather.
  • Eternal February.

I assumed that other people had internal dialogues rarely if ever* and that there was something unhealthy about continuing to make up stories after puberty. Like an early bedtime or training wheels on a bike it only seemed appropriate for kids half my age and yet I had zero interest in what I thought I should be thinking about as an adolescent: clothing. makeup. boys. dating. calories.

*I’ve since learned this isn’t true!

It sounds nonsensical now but this bothered me for years. More than anything I wanted to blend in, to think the way other people thought. Being different wasn’t a perky slogan or a beat marched to with pride back then it was something to try to get rid of (or hide well) at the first opportunity.

I began to grow more comfortable in my own skin as I stopped worrying so much about the thoughts I thought were rolling around in the heads of everyone else. What mattered was this: I like telling stories and hashing them out has never hurt anyone.

If it’s weird, well, there are far more destructive things that I could be doing with my time.


Do you have any slightly eccentric habits or personality quirks that you’ve always felt a little ashamed of? How did you learn to resist the urge to compare your thoughts with how other people behave in public?

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Ceiling Walk

I have a homework assignment for you today.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing: lie down for a minute. (If you’re unable to do that lean back in a comfortable position instead.)

What do you see?

Do you spy a cottage cheese ceiling? Are there crown mouldings in the corners of the room that you’ve never noticed before? What sort of lighting is up  there? Are you looking up at trees or clouds?

Most importantly: what obstacles would be in your path if the world turned upside down and the ceiling became the floor?

My Apartment

would have a rough cottage cheese floor. The windows would begin about six inches off the floor and there would be ungainly steps to every other room in the house. The walk to the front door would be especially treacherous with a light, fire alarm, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector all crowded around the step to the hallway. The door handle would be a little difficult for me to reach without some sort of step stool.

It wouldn’t be as difficult as hanging onto the nubs of buildings or the spindly fingers of trees outdoors, but I can imagine tripping a time or two before I grew used to the change. Luckily, we wouldn’t have any staircases to navigate at home in the event of a topsy-turvy world. Learning to slide down what was once their smooth, gradually-sloping ceilings would be rather tricky.

Why Do This?

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”——The White Queen, from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

I like these types of exercises because they stretch the mind, encouraging one to think not only outside of the box but of a world in which the box may not always sit nicely on the floor, have the same number of sharp corners or actually be a box at all from one day to the next.

More importantly, it’s entertaining. One of the worst things about becoming an adult is how serious life becomes all of the sudden. Play is pushed to the dankest, most remote corners of our lives if it is even allowed to continue at all. Yes, sometimes the bills need to be paid, the house cleaned, the laundry folded, the toilet fixed, the groceries purchased and put away.

At other times, though, one needs to play.

What hurdles are on your ceiling?


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The Care and Feeding of Ideas

Every September there is a fantastic book festival here called Word on the Street.  Everyone who values knowledge and the free exchange of ideas belongs there, regardless of age, background or worldview. Imagine a city park filled with booths promoting graphic novels, children’s stories, magazines, literary journals, literacy foundations, religious groups like Muslims and a spattering of neopagan and new age gurus, and even some authors promoting books that I think were self-published.

In the middle of the park one can find poetry and dramatic readings, special speakers on a variety of social and ethical topics, political debates, and Q&A sessions with a wide variety of publishers, authors, and bloggers. Many of the views represented each year are contradictory. It doesn’t matter, though, because this is a festival of curiosity, wonder at the world around us, and the cross-pollination of ideas.

Ideas rot from the inside out if we never test them, share them with others, or listen the views of people who see the world in a different way. It doesn’t matter what the idea is, isolation breeds extremist views that can do much more harm than good.

Think of what would happen if a small group of people were secluded from the outside world.  Sooner or later, their descendants will become inbred and if new members are not at least occasionally introduced the community could easily die out altogether. Relying on the same gene pool (or way of looking at the world) year after year increases the chances that recessive genes (or  really, really bad ideas) will pop up.

This is why I love Word on the Street. Yes, the food is delicious. Yes, it is wonderful to discover new authors, listen to discussions about e-books and blogging, or pick up free bookmarks or magazine samples at the booths. The exchange of  ideas, though, is where the magic happens. Even in a large city like Toronto people tend to drift to other people who think, act and believe like them. This may be a diverse city comprised of  many different communities but these communities still look and act like a small town in both positive and negative ways. A close-knit community can be fantastic support system; it can also be unbelievably suffocatingfor anyone who cannot fit the mold of who or what someone in that community is supposed to be.

Slowly I have been accumulating friends who value the art of conversation, who don’t expect anyone to change his or her mind or for any sort of consensus to be agreed upon. I just wish I knew how to stumble upon them more quickly!


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Lucid Dreaming

Once a month or so I have a lucid dream. It used to happen much less often, maybe only a few times a year.  Less often, I’m able to recognize that I’m dreaming and consciously move the storyline in any direction in which I want it to go. Eventually I’d like to lucid dream at least once or twice a week and learn some good techniques for changing the plot of a dream if I dislike where the story is headed.

I haven’t figured out how to have a lucid dream on command yet but I have discovered a few ways to determine if what is happening around me is a dream. Asking “does this make sense?” can sometimes focus my attention on any portions of the dream that couldn’t actually happen in real life: walls, doors and windows whose physical structure seems to change position each time I see it, everyday objects that don’t look, feel or behave like they typically have in the past or friends or family members whose appearance or demeanour is radically different from how they acted or looked the last time we saw one another.

Paying close attention to detail is another fairly reliable indicator of a probable dream-state. If the words in a book or the numbers on a clock are blurry or completely indecipherable, I’m either dreaming, trying to read something written in a language other than English (or, to a certain degree, Spanish) or have forgotten to wear my glasses.

By far the most reliable method I’ve found so far is to ask myself, “how did I get here?” I began by periodically asking myself this question during the day. I’d start with whatever activity I was busy with at the moment – exercising, grocery shopping, writing, talking to friends – and work my way back through the last 24 hours or so, especially when encountering a situation that seemed at-all out of the ordinary.  Eventually it became such a normal part of my thought-process that I started doing this in dreams that either didn’t make sense or were giving me with fuzzy clocks and unreadable blocks of text. Almost without fail, if I’m dreaming I will eventually come to a point where I can’t remember how I ended up at a particular location or involved in a certain activity . That blank period of time is often what triggers my mind to realize that I’m asleep.

Of course, some dreams are so deep that I don’t realize that they were dreams until after I wake up again. As I am slowly dreaming lucidly more often over time I hope that one day I’ll be able to recognize any dream that takes an alarming (or dreary, or commercial, or just-plain-tedious) turn as a dream and manoeuvre into something more pleasant.  Yes, that means that every now and then I have dream-commericials. The most recent one was either for a mop or for the cleaning solution that the mop was sloshing around on a linoleum floor. The jingle wasn’t particularly clear on that aspect of it.

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