The Cultural Gutter

we've seen things you people wouldn't believe

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

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 […]

Never mind, try again, fail better

oops key thumb

I experience my flaws like grains of sand or loose teeth. They bother me and I worry at them absently, out of habit, but over time they’ve become familiar landmarks. Even though I keep wanting to change them, in some way they’re as much a part of how I understand myself as the qualities I […]

Dolly vs Elvis: Why wait until

you’re dead?

Dolly Parton thumb

  I’m like a cartoon! I’ll look this way when I’m eighty. I can see it now, people will be rolling me around in a wheelchair and I’ll still have my big hair, nails, my high heels and my boobs stuck out! – Dolly Parton   Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley. Two cultural icons born […]

Tammy Faye says give everyone a chance

things fall apart thumb

As someone who spent most of my teens and twenties struggling with depression, it took me a long time to arrive at the realization that I am an optimist. It was a fact that was obscured by my overall misery, as well as an aesthetic that involved a lot of skulls, listening to melancholy music, […]

a little bit of evil keeps you alive

heart thumbnail

It’s inside you. If you’re talking about blood or cookies, that’s a good thing. You definitely want those inside you. If you’re talking about aliens or zombie viruses, not so much, right? Well, 99% of the time the answer is probably ‘Hell, no!’ but the other 1% makes it a much more interesting question than […]

And the award for Most Egregious Editing goes to…

elvira edited

“There’s nothing wrong with G-rated movies, as long as there’s lots of sex and violence.” – Elvira, Mistress of the Dark Once upon a time, long, long ago, when Netflix and TiVo were just a twinkle in the ether, there was a boy who loved going to the video store. His usual haunts were small, […]

Secret Agent, Detective, Genius, Jerk: Modernizing Sherlock Holmes

holmes cover 1

A man with dark wavy hair wakes up in an iron-framed bed in the middle of a windowless room. He leaps out from under the white sheets and stares intently at a corner of the white ceiling. Suddenly, gracefully, he spins to defeat an invisible opponent in four swift motions, finally falling to his knees […]

the lego mind-set: what would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?

atari

When I was a kid, my parents got me a later model Radio Shack Trash 80 (TRS-80)  computer, but what I really wanted was an Atari. All my friends had them, so I spent hours in other people’s basements, pushing that one red button and twisting the joystick as we navigated pixellated characters through two-dimensional […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Author Philip Pullman talks about the work of William Blake at The Guardian: “My mind and my body reacted to certain lines from the Songs of Innocence and of Experience, from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, from ‘Auguries of Innocence,’ from Europe, from America with the joyful immediacy of a flame leaping to meet a gas jet. What these things meant I didn’t quite know then, and I’m not sure I fully know now. There was no sober period of reflection, consideration, comparison, analysis: I didn’t have to work anything out. I knew they were true in the way I knew that I was alive. I had stumbled into a country in which I was not a stranger, whose language I spoke by instinct, whose habits and customs fitted me like my own skin.” (via Kate Laity)

    ~

    At Sequential Art, Ryan Carey deconstructs and reconstructs Jack Kirby’s OMAC . “In order to better understand OMAC, then, we’ll be taking things one piece at a time here — we’ll look at where the ideas came from, how they related to other views of the future popular at the time, where Kirby was, creatively and professionally, in 1974, and ultimately try to decipher precisely why all of this ended up in the shape it ultimately did.  After that, we’ll concern ourselves with the real nitty-gritty of examining each and every one of the series’ eight issues, before taking a look at how, and in what form, the legacy of both the character and the book continue, and evolve, to this day.”

    ~

    Video of illustrator and character designer Katsuya Terada drawing and talking about his work. (via @aicnanime)

    ~

    A 1,300-year-old Egyptian book of spells has been translated. “Among other things, the ‘Handbook of Ritual Power,’ as researchers call the book, tells readers how to cast love spells, exorcise evil spirits and treat “black jaundice,” a bacterial infection that is still around today and can be fatal.”

    ~

    Zack and Steve go through and review Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Module S-1: The Tomb Of Horrors at WTF, D&D?!…so you don’t have to.

    “Steve: Most of the opening paragraph is a warning about difficulty. ‘You’ll never find the demi-lich’s secret chamber’ and the tomb is fraught with “terrible traps, poison gases, and magical protections.” It’s telling you not to play the adventure.

    Zack: Not just in that part. In the DM’s notes section at the start, Gygax explicitly warns Dungeon Masters that if your players enjoy killing monsters they will be unhappy with the adventure.

    Steve: ‘This module is only for parties that enjoy dying immediately and repeatedly.’ Oh, man, we’re not going to play though this thing are we?”

    ~

    Dr. Nerdlove takes a brief break from helping the nerd get the girl to address something that’s been bugging him. “Pardon me while I go off on a bit of a media criticism/ rant here. So I’ve been enjoying the *hell* out of The Flash lately except for one thing: Iris Allen. Her character is screen death; every time she’s around, everything comes to a screeching halt.

    The problem is: it’s not her fault, it’s the writers. Rather like Laurel Lance in the first two seasons of Arrow, she has Lois Lane syndrome. Her (like Laurel and Lois) entire character arc is based around being ignorant of events that literally everyone else in her life is aware of.”

    ~

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