Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Whatever happened to ghosts?

So, what has happened to ghosts?

Yeah, I know about Ghost Hunters, the TV show, but I'm talking about ghosts in horror stories--the kind of fictional ghosts that haunt houses, walk through walls and do bad things to people. Where have they gone?

Zombies are big now, which is fine. I've always had a warm spot in my heart for zombies. Vampires are even bigger, but of course the romance and YA authors have stolen them from the horror writers. Worse, they've turned them into sparkly vegan boy-toys.


Weres are few and far between nowadays. I miss them too. And you hardly ever see a mummy any more. But I miss ghosts most of all--the good, old fashioned, evil, murderous kinds of ghosts that kept us quaking in fear under the covers late at night when we were kids.

I think I first fell in love with horror as a child when I found out I was pretty good at making up ghost stories and scaring the hell out of the other kids as we sat around a campfire late at night. Seeing their effect first hand was great fun. There's really nothing quite as satisfying as watching your best friend's eight year old brother pee his pants because a story you made up on the fly scared the bejeebers out of him. Those stories were almost always about ghosts. I still think there is nothing more frightening than a good ghost story. So where have they gone?

I wish I knew.

Mr. King, Mr. Koontz? Are you reading this? What about you Mr. Little? Mr. Ketchum? I'm sure you're all regular readers by now *cough*, so let's get on the stick. I want more ghosts. Gimme ghosts. Bring back the ghosts.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Haggis' New Rule for Humor

In my younger days (1960s-1970s) a well-timed F-bomb or a crude reference to a reproductive organ would have me rolling in the aisles. Lenny Bruce knocked ‘em dead in the clubs with that kind of material. Richard Pryor too. But nobody did it better than George Carlin. His (in)famous 7 Filthy Words You Can’t Say on TV was classic. So if I laughed then, why don’t I laugh today?

Is it because I’m older? Is it because I’ve turned into some kind of prude? Is it because I’ve completely lost my sense of humor? Well, sure. But I think there’s another reason too. Vulgarity simply isn’t funny anymore.

Humor is a lot like horror, my other vice. They both sneak up on you from behind. The difference is that humor hits you in the face with a banana cream pie while horror chews your neck off. In both cases, it's the "sneaking up" that makes it work. And F-bombs simply don't sneak today. Why? Because they've become commonplace. They’re no longer unexpected. They no longer shock. They've lost their punch--their edge.

Hang around a bunch of teens or twenties long enough and you'll know what I mean. It's "eff this" and "eff that." It's "eff" as a noun, adjective, verb, adverb and probably a gerund too, whatever the hell a gerund is. So how can it sneak up on you when it's in your face all the time? It's lost its meaning.

So I'm declaring vulgarity dead in humor as of today, and I have to say I won't miss its passing. If you do, I'm sorry, but you're simply going to have to deal with it. Move along. Shock me with something different. Maybe try innuendo for a change. Innuendo's a lot harder to do, but it's infinitely cleverer. And it makes me laugh.