The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘ghosts’

For Entertainment Purposes Only

Posted by BigWords on April 13, 2016

Has anyone else been watching the various programs on the supernatural currently doing the rounds? Have you noticed anything strange in their presentation to a (presumably) intelligent audience? If not, then this is where you start paying attention to the way in which you are led through the problematic area of “shows which we have to apologize for.” It is an annoying subset of programming etiquette, and one which needs an immediate reappraisal.

If you have been watching these shows and are at a loss to pinpoint any unease in the lead-in to these shows, then let me elucidate some of the lingering hesitation inherent in their showing.

Ever since the first ghost-hunting shows appeared, there has been a distinct lack of conviction in putting them in front of an audience. You may have noticed that message flashed up on screen stating that what follows is for entertainment purposes only, but… Why is this required? Do we get this before sitcoms? No. How about game-shows? Uh… Not there. Maybe kung-fu films, because we certainly wouldn’t want people getting kicked in the head because someone saw it done on television? Sorry, nope.

It is a form of discrimination, and one which continues to baffle me in how arbitrarily it is applied. Do we get the message before religious shows? If you know the answer to that question, then you know that there is a problem at the root of the phrase’s use. It’s too easy to take from the application of the statement that what follows such an announcement that there is a disconnect between broadcaster and program. Shows which air sans statement can, therefore, be taken as fact.

There are people reading this who, for whatever reason, aren’t going to care about the tradition. Some might expect it, and others may ignore it, but the fact that such a blatant distancing is still in effect needs at least a little examination. Surprisingly, when I was putting together my thoughts for this, the BBC – of all places – highlighted the problem in an unexpected way. The comment is at the bottom of this page.

I have long believed that mainstream news should have a label “for entertainment purposes only”.

You can’t argue with that.

Okay, so it is a comment on the internet, and we all know how easy it is to rattle off something when faced with a well-rounded, insightful article. But it got me to thinking about what else should be relegated to the status of ‘entertainment’ – why, for instance, don’t we get this before sporting events? Surely, if there is one category of broadcast which practically cries out for such a disclaimer it is the area of sports broadcasting. There’s little to no educational merit in watching horses running around a course.

And soccer. And, for that matter, F1. Really, we should just go whole hog and stick it in front of everything which appears on the idiot box. All of those police shows, the endless, mind-numbing antiques shows (yeah – nothing in those are raising the bar any), and even medical shows if the standards aren’t going to rise above mediocre. I could go on, but you can probably tell by now where this is going…

We need to talk about MTV. Long ago, hard as it may be to remember, they used to show music. Does anyone else remember that? It is in the name – that’s what the M stands for. I know they are doing lots of original programming, but that doesn’t excuse them from abandoning their core reason for existing. Why, I ask you, aren’t they flagging the message up at the end of every advertising break?

Man, this was meant to be a neat little break in the serious.

Okay, video time again. Just remember, these are all for entertainment purposes only…

Heh. Nobody else will be sleeping tonight.

Just sharing the love, people.

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Business As Normal

Posted by BigWords on July 25, 2009

The last couple of posts were kinda lazy, pulling up stuff from disk and fobbing you guys off (which sucks – I know), but the course, my writing and a commitment for the end of next month have eaten into my already-tight schedule. So it’s back to business as normal…

Which means that I’m off on another tangent, and thinking strange thoughts.

I spent a while yesterday afternoon looking at my western-not-a-western and trying to decide when to drop the bomb. The story has taken a leap into deep mythology without me even trying to be smart, and there are now references to Aztek curses, angry spirits and ‘ghost lights’ alongside the usual shootouts. There was a half-second when I considered using a little bit of Cthulhu mythos in there as well, but I don’t want to over-egg the weirdness factor. And I took out the zombies, ’cause that would be too much even for me.

This all built itself up from a couple of completely disconnected scenes which I couldn’t figure out. Now there is a couple of thousand years of back-story, two time frames and a massive monologue which (hopefully) ties everything together. I’m still patchworking in some facts, strange characters, references and sly call-backs, but at least it looks like something that I am not completely dissatisfied with.

It was only when I got to the beginning of the mid-section (a long and convoluted trek through the middle of nowhere to find lost gold) did I realize that I have managed to link it in to some of my other stories. This is where I should explain that my stories were never intended to share a single universe, but the cumulative effect of simultaneously writing different eras, genres and formats (short stories and novels) has manifested a few common points of reference:

  1. The Native American whose skeleton is discovered in a thriller short story is of the same tribe who appear in The Reverend. Might even be a character from the novel…
  2. There’s some loose threads from Faerwither which get tied up in the monologue, though it is presented as a myth in this instance. I may leave it as it is, but the coincidental use of a common legend is slightly jarring when surrounded by other elements.
  3. A similarly-described charm to the one the MC wears turns up (chronologically) a hundred or so years later in Ghost Bureau, and has an important plot surrounding it.

It isn’t as if I am deliberately creating a cohesive universe across my work, but it seems to be happening regardless.

I’ve also noticed that there are a lot of whathefuck moments passed by completely, when something extraordinary happens and none of the characters seems too put out. The tidying up of the absurdisms will get done soon, when I have time to edit properly. There are many people who use anything they like in a story, but I have always had a hard time censoring my own thoughts – That goes some way to explain one of the stranger concepts (which has been shunted to one side now), but was originally going to be my first novel…

The novel in question began life when I was probably six or seven years old. Yes, six or seven years old, because you’re never too young to start. I didn’t write anything, but that is when the idea came to me for a fantasy story which, looking back on it, is probably no sillier than many ideas which have made it into print.

The basic concept came to me – and stuck in my brain for the better part of a decade – when I was playing on the floor, my toys laid out in front of me. I remember sorting the action figures into ranks, standing them in rows according to how large they were. The giant Voltron robot (which may have been a Hong Kong knock-off come to think of it) was at the back, with all of the Action Man figures. In front of them were the slightly smaller figures from Super Powers, He-Man, ThunderCats and other mid-sized toys.

In front of those stood the Action Force, Star Wars and tiny little toys. I seem to recall a handful which had shiny silver 3D stickers for faces, or maybe on their chests… The very smallest toys stood in the front, little 5mm tall yellow figures (I have no idea of their origin, so they remain a question mark) and some Dinky cars. The basic thought which kept interrupting my already-logical little mind was one of scale, and I struggled to put them all in a single story. When I think about it, most of the other kids had no problem whatsoever accepting the varying sizes of their playthings…

The story unfolded itself over the course of my school days, when I discovered lots of little facts that could help me orchestrate the idea of a planet with characters ranging in height from a few inches to dozens of feet tall. I also came up with a massive cast of characters at this point – somewhere in the region of two thousand main characters and many, many secondary ones. I threw everything and the kitchen sink into the epic, with werepeople, robots, the ghosts of dinosaurs, talking monkeys (just because) and other strangeness.

The original story now exists as a series of tales (300-500 pages handwritten) in the bottom left hand drawer of my desk. I’ll eventually look through them to see what I can salvage, but I have a feeling that I will be disappointed. So there you have it… The roots of my writing addiction, and a disturbing glimpse into the mind of a child who was plotting out an epic when he should have been playing in the sun.

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What Does A Ghost House Look Like?

Posted by BigWords on July 20, 2009

This afternoon I gave in to temptation and bought a copy of Paranormal, which sets out its’ view on the supernatural clearly enough. It’s in the continuation of titles such as Fortean Times, Encounters and hundreds of books and television shows which claim that spirits are all around us… But the evidence is presented with some photographs that perpetuate the stereotype of gray and spooky locations.

Which doesn’t sit right with me.

Don’t get me wrong on this – exploring things outside of our understanding is important, but do we have to be subjected to slanted images? Purposefully chosen photographs, which do the work of a couple of thousand words, are common in nearly every media, but in this specific area we should be looking at subjective and impartial evidence.

Do the images which accompany their ghost tales look like the photographs you see in the windows of estate agents? No. And that is why I can never take these types of magazines completely seriously, because they try so damned hard to convince people of the existence of possible spirits that may or may not exist. There’s nothing wrong with a mundane photograph which depicts how a place actually looks, with proper lighting. Using deliberately spooky pics just plays into the stereotype of “Oooh, it looks haunted.”

Yes it fucking does, because that is what the magazine wants you to think.

The television shows such as Most Haunted, which airs on Living (without any irony), are just as manipulative and shallow. I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt when I can, but as episodes nudge ever-closer to self-parody and slapstick it becomes difficult to see where the truth is. How much of a show has to be set up before it gets re-positioned as a drama rather than a documentary?

There are some compelling stories which raise interesting questions about the afterlife… Borley Rectory and Mary King’s Close are enough to make even hardened skeptics take a fresh look at the evidence, but they have been re-fashioned into traditional ghost stories to cater for the mass-consumption of anything ooky. It’s a shame that the facts can never be presented as they are, twisted as they are to fit the perceptions of low-brow rubberneckers. It gets real old, real quick.

Even if you strip away the bullshit that has been pasted onto real locations, the matter of separating the legends from the actual history is troublesome. How many years did it take for the Mary Celeste to regain her true name after the novelized version of history dubbed her Marie Celeste. We shouldn’t be fed the images which play off emotional feelings to hauntings, but see the locations for what they are. Most are unspectacular.

The rattling chains associated with disturbed spirits – which was an ancient Roman concoction – has remained with us, as has many other absurdist views. And no-one has yet answered one important question regarding ghosts:

If the earthbound spirits are victims of violent deaths, forever doomed to walk the earth, then why aren’t more sightings reported with better evidence to back them up? Why do ghosts only seem to appear in pitch darkness, when terrible photography is the only option?

I’m going to buy the magazine again, just to see if they are eventually gonna use regular photographs. I like the idea that the creators believes in something, but I’m not sure if they are going about presenting the evidence in the best way.

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