Saturday, 29 January 2005

A Hedge of Thorns

I thought for a change I would subject any readers I might have to some of my poetry. This one is based on the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty." By the way, her eyes are green because there is a certain woman I have always thought looks a lot like Sleeping Beauty....

So much stands between us two,
a hedge of thorns, a lake of fire.
A sleeping curse e'er keeps you
imprisoned in a castle dire.

So many have tried before
to save the day and win your heart.
Dead litter the castle door,
brave knights and princes torn apart.

Yet I would brave the dragon
to look upon those eyes of green
and to stroke that hair so golden,
to kiss the fairest girl e'er seen.

Where others failed, I shall not
to awaken you from your sleep.
I've a weapon they did not,
a love that runs ever so deep.
Yet I would brave the dragon
to look upon those eyes of green
and to stroke that hair so golden,
to kiss the fairest girl e'er seen.

Where others failed, I shall not
to awaken you from your sleep.
I've a weapon they did not,
a love that runs ever so deep.

Friday, 28 January 2005

Genre Mélangé

For the most part it seems to me that people behave as if literary and film genres possess firm boundaries. A mystery is a mystery, a Western is a Western, and never the twain shall meet. In truth this is often not the case, as most literary and cinematic works tend to cross genre boundaries from time to time. The Ox-Bow Incident isn't just a Western, it is also a psychological drama as well. Pscyho isn't just a horror movie, but also a mystery. There are very few books or films that can truly be said to belong firmly to only one genre. That having been said, there are those times when a work combines two or more genres that are so distinct that it becomes something utterly new. I refer to such works as being genre mélangé or, in plain English, "mixed genre."

In my opinion the perfect example of genre mélangé is the old TV series The Wild Wild West. The Wild Wild West was pitched to CBS as James Bond in the Old West. It was then automatically planned to be a combination of the espionage and Western genres. As the series got underway, however, it emerged with elements of science fiction of the Jules Verne variety and even outright fantasy. The Wild Wild West was then not simply a Western, but also a spy drama and a sci-fi series. Common sense would seem to dicate that such a duke's mixture would not work. Not only would such a series be poor in quality, but it would also probably not see much success. Yet The Wild Wild West is regarded by many as a classic TV series. It ran four years on CBS before going onto one of the most successful syndication runs of all time. In fact, it was so successful that Fox debuted another sci-fi Western in the Nineties. While The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. did not have a long run, it remains a cult series to this day.

Another example of genre mélangé is the movie The Crimson Pirate. Made in 1952 at the height of Hollywood's pirate craze, The Crimson Pirate was ostensively a pirate movie. Burt Lancaster played the title character, Captain Vallo, who decided to sell weapons stolen from a Spanish galleon to a rebel leader. Along the way he encounters Professor Prudence, an inventor whose inventions are decidedly advanced for the 18th century! The Crimson Pirate is then not simply a pirate movie, but a sci-fi movie as well. As it is also played tongue in cheek and has a great deal of humour, it could also be considered a comedy. The Crimson Pirate is then simultaneously a pirate movie, a sci-fi movie, and a comedy.

Another cinematic example of genre mélangé is Kronos, known in the United States as Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. This Hammer classic follows the adventures of Kronos as he battles a new sort of vampire. The movie is obviously a horror film, yet as Kronos wields a sword to great effect, it can also be counted as a swashbuckler. Director/screenwriter Brian Clemens also incorporated elements of John Ford Westerns. Kronos is then a combination of horror, swashbuckler, and Western.

Of course, at times when enough works combine enough elements of enough genres, a whole new genre can be born. This was the case with cyberpunk. Cyberpunk combined film noir elements with elements of science fiction with a focus on computers and other information technologies. What originally began as genre mélangé became a subgenre of science fiction in its own right. Oddly enough, cyberpunk would spawn yet another subgenre--steampunk. Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction using a Victorian or Victorian style setting, but with decidedly advanced technology (usually powered by steam, hence the name). The early steampunk works used the noir elements of cyberpunk and the same anti-authoritarian attitudes, although they eventually grew to resemble the scientific romances of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells more than cyberpunk. Arguably, both The Wild Wild West and Adventures of Brisco County Jr. could be considered precurssors to steampunk.

Anyhow, genre mélangé as probably existed as long as the whole convetion of genres has. Indeed, the past few years have seen Van Helsing, Hellboy, and others. I rather suspect as time goes by there will be more works of genre mélangé.

Sunday, 23 January 2005

Good Night, Johnny

This morning Johnny Carson died at age 79 from emphysema. I don't think I have to inform any Americans reading this who Johnny Carson is. After all, he was host of The Tonight Show for 30 years.

Johnny Carson was born in Corning, Iowa, although his family moved across the state line to nearby Norfolk, Nebraska when he was very young. He made his debut on stage at age 14 performing magic tricks as the "Great Carsoni." During World War II he served in the Navy. After being mustered out, he worked at various Nebraska radio stations before getting a job at KNXT-TV in Los Angeles in 1950.

It was at KNXT that he hosted Carson's Cellar, a sketch comedy show. He soon found himself writing for The Red Skelton Show. One night Skelton was injured, so that Carson found himself having to stand in for the famous comic. That was Carson's big break. Carson soon found himself as host of a number of different shows. In 1954, CBS placed him on The Morning Show, their first atempt to compete with NBC's Today. That same year he as then made the host of the quiz show Earn Your Vacation. From 1955 to 1956, he had his own variety show, The Johnny Carson Show. From 1957 to 1962 he aas the host of the game show Who Do You Trust?. It was in 1962 that NBC decided he was the man to replace Jack Paar as host of The Tonight Show. He remained its host for thirty years.

Johnny's death saddens me a good deal. Carson was brilliant as the host of The Tonight Show. He was a great interviewer who also had a flair for sketch comedy. And to this day, his monologues are still unmatched for being funny. Indeed, Carson has always reminded me a bit of Jack Benny, my favourite comedian of all time. Like Benny, Johnny could be self deprecating. He often joked about his divorces and even his wealth. And like Benny, he could create laugther with a mere look. Whether Johnny Carson was the greatest late night host of all time is a matter that is up for debate, I suppose, but there are two things that cannot be debated. No one else will probably host a late night show as long as Johnny did. And I doubt anyone else will be as well loved.