The Cultural Gutter

beyond good and bad, there is awesome

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

A Short History of Hellmouths

Bourges Cathedral Medieval Last Judgement Hellmouth

Living just outside the gates of hell is a very convenient plot device. It handily solves the narrative challenge of providing a plausibly endless supply of demons and evil beasties for a protagonist to fight, and it’s not like hell ever goes away. Maybe you get lucky and manage to close the gate near you, […]

Not in my backyard

The Last Stand poster

“Not in my backyard” is a phrase that has acquired a bunch of negative connotations since it came into common usage in the 80s. NIMBYism usually means that there’s something you benefit from or rely on to maintain your lifestyle, but you don’t want anyone to build one near where you live. As in, “Please […]

Jurassic Park vs. Ghostbusters

Godzilla vs Stay Puft

The title is probably misleading. It makes this sound like one of those Grizzly vs Shark or Sperm Whale vs Giant Squid books that my son keeps pointing out in the Scholastic Book catalogues he brings home every month. Maybe you’re envisioning the Ghostbusters, all geared up with their old-school vacuum backpacks, facing off against a group […]

Maybe the Grendel just needs a hug

Grendel learning

Every April at the Gutter we mix things up with the editors writing something outside their usual domain. This week Screen Editor alex writes about video games. The last time I wrote about video games, I detailed my failures as a creator in the original Creatures artificial life computer game. I mocked myself for the […]

Later is when we have less time

Adele Blanc-Sec book

Impatience is a trait that can be irritating, both in other people and oneself, and often results in disaster. In one of my previous articles, Don’t Be That Guy, I used the term “incapacitatingly impatient” to describe all the crazy things people do because they can’t bring themselves to wait long enough to make a […]

It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past

Something nasty in the woodshed thumbnail

I’m not much for making New Year’s resolutions. The idea of a chance to reset the clock on things I keep meaning to do more consistently or successfully than I ever seem to manage is appealing, but it seems like a bit of a gimmick to me. It’s never really a clean slate because you […]

Don’t be That Guy

go back wrong way

If I ever write a self help book, I think I’m going to call it Don’t be That Guy. You know that guy? He’s the one who took two brownies even though everyone was asked to only take one and then there weren’t enough for everybody. He’s the guy who completely failed to notice you […]

Let’s not realize your dreams…

28 days later bad dream

For our anniversary, my wife and I got a really nice message from my family wishing us good things, including that we would “realize our dreams”. When I’d finished responding, I looked over at her and noticed she had a strange expression on her face. You might think that after I woke up to find […]

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it

Justified thumb

As soon as the old detective starts talking about buying a boat and all the fish he’s going to catch, or what the view will be like from his back window when he retires, you pretty much know he’s not gonna make it. Or maybe he will, but not without taking a bullet in the […]

High diving boards, banana costumes,
and other risks worth taking

Normal Rockwell Boy on High Dive

I come from a family of eggheads, so summer camp for me was usually something like Mini University. We’d play with metal shavings and magnets, or compete to design the most aerodynamic paper planes, but one of the things we also got to do was use the Olympic swimming pool with a full size, triple-decker […]

You really should have given up

Let go

I’m still thinking about willpower from my last article, and while it’s true that ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ (as my Grandma used to call it) is an important skill, it also really helps to know when to bail. Oddly, even though the desire to give up comes pretty naturally, deciding when you should actually do it doesn’t seem […]

Self-control and other things that
make it worse later

cupcake and puppy

Awhile back I had one of those moments where I read something that made all the kaleidoscope pieces shift slightly into a pattern that made more sense: part of our problem in trying to make the best, healthiest choice about everything is that self-control is a limited resource. If you’re constantly forcing yourself to behave […]

I had a bad day, but you’re a jerk

car puddle splash

We all know what we thought before we did that thing we really shouldn’t have done. We had a reason. Maybe it wasn’t a good reason, but unless we’re in an existentialist novel it wasn’t completely random and without motivation. Our understanding of why we do things is inextricably linked to what happened around us […]

Bright spot theory and the
science of the heart

My heart is like a toddler. It has very little concern for cause and effect and only a tenuous grasp on temporality. All sorts of things it really ought to know by now, it doesn’t appear to. I’ve had years to teach it better social behavior, but it’s basically still the kid jumping up and […]

Forget the consequences, just get me
a sandwich

sandwich thumbnail

Over the past several months I’ve been working my way through all of Pendleton Ward‘s Adventure Time, in part because it comes in 11 minute segments that are easy to squeeze into tiny cracks of spare time, but mostly because it’s awesome. There are lots of things to love about it – the humor, the weirdness, the […]

Vengeful gods and other simulated
life failures

norn hatching

When it comes to raising a child who can use words and interact with other humans, so far I seem to be succeeding, but I have to admit that my track record prior to this was not exactly promising. Aside from managing to keep an egg safe for a week in middle school, my first […]

David Banner will never have a
normal life

Transforming into the Hulk

Whenever I find myself edging towards misery or self-pity, I start humming the ending theme from The 1970’s tv version of The Incredible Hulk. I think to myself, “David Banner will never have a normal life.” It’s a technique I owe to Carol Borden, who has a lot of interesting things to say about The […]

Maybe we’ll buy a boat

unaccompanied minor

In the house I grew up in, at the front of the garage, there was a pair of boat supports on the wall. No boat, just the two long arms sticking out at roughly skull level so you had to manoeuver awkwardly underneath them to reach the cars. My father built them out of 2x4s […]

the siren song of shipwrecks

shipwreck 4

  And when she sang, the sea, Whatever self it had, became the self That was her song, for she was the maker. from “The Idea of Order at Key West” by Wallace Stevens My wife is fascinated by sharks and the Titanic, so I’ve seen a lot of documentary footage of sunken boats since […]

Naked Woman (Steep Hill)

Naked Woman menu 2

One night, when I was poking around on the internet for something mindless to play, I stumbled across a game called Naked Woman (Steep Hill). The description: “Control the fate of a naked woman riding down a steep hill. 20 options decide her doom. Feel free to suggest any other fates she can face!” My […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    At New York Magazine, David Wallace-Wells writes about bees, colony collapse disorder and beekeeper Dave Hackenberg. “It’s been a long decade for bees. We’ve been panicking about them nonstop since 2006, when beekeeper Dave Hackenberg inspected 2,400 hives wintering in Florida and found 400 of them abandoned — totally empty. American beekeepers had experienced dramatic die-offs before, as recently as the previous winter in California and in regular bouts with a deadly bug called the varroa mite since the 1980s. But those die-offs would at least produce bodies pathologists could study. Here, the bees had just disappeared. In the U.K., they called it Mary Celeste syndrome, after the merchant ship discovered off the Azores in 1872 with not a single passenger aboard. The bees hadn’t even scrawled CROATOAN in honey on the door on their way out of the hive.”

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    Andrew Nette has a pair of interesting pieces on pulp you might be interested in. First, he writes about “the New Pulp” and a bit about Fifty Shades of Gray in “Fifty Shades of Pulp.” Then he writes about pulp and literacy and furthering social advancement in “Pulp and Circumstance.”  “Most people view pulp as either exploitative lowbrow culture or highly collectable retro artefact. Yet pulp has a secret history which Rabinowitz’s book uncovers. Her central thesis is that cheap, mass-produced pulp novels not only provided entertainment and cheap titillating thrills, but also brought modernism to the American people, democratising reading and, in the process, furthering culture and social enlightenment.”

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    The Projection Booth interviews actor Ed Asner.

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    Transcript from BAFTA’s tribute to director Johnnie To, “Johnnie To: A Life In Pictures.” It’s a great interview with To about his films and process. “Like when I made The Mission I didn’t have a script. It was 1999 and I didn’t have any money so we went to Taiwan and they gave us very little money to hurry up and make a film, so without any script we just started making it. And after 19 days we made the film.” (Thanks to the Heroic Sisterhood!)

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    A gallery of sweet geeky art from Native American artist, Jeffrey Veregge. “My origins are not supernatural, nor have they been enhanced by radioactive spiders. I am simply a Native American artist and writer whose creative mantra in best summed up with a word from my tribe’s own language as: ‘taʔčaʔx̣ʷéʔtəŋ,’ which means ‘get into trouble.'”

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    John Reppion continues his series on English magic and Jonathan Strange And Mr. Norrell. Next up, “Away With The Fairies.”

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