The Cultural Gutter

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

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 […]

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 […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    At Comics Alliance, Chris Sims interviews Ed Brubaker about his work on Batman, Gotham Central and Catwoman. “When I look back at [Catwoman], I’m so proud of the first 25 issues of that book, when I felt like everything was firing on all cylinders. I probably should’ve left when Cameron Stewart left instead of sticking around. That’s one of those things I look back at and think “Ah, I had a perfect run up until then!” (Incidentally, Comics Editor Carol’s first piece for the Gutter was about Brubaker’s first 25 issues of Catwoman).

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    At Sequential Art, Greg Carpenter writes a lovely piece about Charles Schulz’ Peanuts. “After only two installments, Schulz had solidified the rules for his comic strip.  Random acts of cruelty would punctuate this irrational world, and Schulz’s trapped little adults would be forced to act out simulations of human behavior, using hollow gestures to try to create meaning in a universe where no other meaning was evident.  If Shakespeare’s Macbeth had been a cartoonist, the results of his daily grind, “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” might have looked somewhat similar—each character a “poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage” until he or she was heard from no more.”

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    The Smithsonian Magazine has a gallery of US spy satellite launches. “Just as NASA creates specially designed patches for each mission into space, [National Reconnaissance Office] follows that tradition for its spy satellite launches. But while NASA patches tend to feature space ships and American flags, NRO prefers wizards, Vikings, teddy bears and the all-seeing eye. With these outlandish designs, a civilian would be justified in wondering if NRO is trolling.”

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    At The Guardian, Keith Stuart and Steve Boxer look at the history of PlayStation.“Having been part of the late 80s rave and underground-clubbing scene, I recognised how it was influencing the youth market. In the early 90s, club culture started to become more mass market, but the impetus was still coming from the underground, from key individuals and tribes. What it showed me was that you had to identify and build relationships with those opinion-formers – the DJs, the music industry, the fashion industry, the underground media.” (via @timmaughan)

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    Neill Cameron has re-imagined the characters of Parks & Recreation as members of Starfleet. (Via @neillcameron)

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    Christopher Lee has released a promotional video for his latest album, Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing.  You should probably watch everything at Charlemagne Productions.

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