The Cultural Gutter

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

These Were A Few Of My Favourite Books

goblinemperor

It’s that time of year again, when the snow get shy and slush falls instead; when the sun seems like a distant memory from when you were a kid; when customers show up at the last minute wanting rare imported titles, like, yesterday. In short, it’s Christmas, the worst best time of the year for shopkeepers. […]

Famous Last Words

aurevoir

(…because Famous Penultimate Words just doesn’t have the same ring…)  Next month I will write my last column for The Cultural Gutter. I wrote my very first column as a Gutter Guest way back in 2005, about Magic Flutes by Eva Ibbotson. Although Ibbotson died in 2010, she was then and remains today one of my […]

Dressing It All Up

weepumpkin

For someone with a well-documented history of cowardice, I really like Hallowe’en. Yes, the holiday comes replete with ghosts and ghoulies, and a porous boundary between the living and the dead. It produces scads of creepy costumes, and an endless supply of horrible slasher films. But to all that I say:  candy! There’s more to it, of […]

Lives! Camaraderie! Action!

strangemaid

I talk a lot. This comes as zero surprise to anyone who has ever met me. But it’s not just a personal preference. No, really! It’s also pretty much required for what I do. I run an independent bookstore: talking to customers is a large part of my job. One of the best parts, in fact. […]

All The Gin Joints

drink

I’m going to flat out admit I know very little about the Roaring Twenties. What little I do is mostly cribbed from still images  and movies like Chicago. You know: jazz! Drinking! Dancing! More drinking! Guns! And did I mention drinking? Not exactly what you might call a rigorous examination of an era that contained seismic changes […]

For Worse And For Better. But Mostly Worse.

xcircle

Now is the summer of our discontent… We’ve finally gotten down to actual summer weather in the last two weeks. So of course I spent the last two weeks without AC as I dealt with a series of cascading electrical problems. One complete power shut-down later, things are finally back on the level… just in time […]

Powers That Be

vote

By some strange quirk of timing and location, I am currently involved in or gearing up for three different elections at once.  On the federal front it’s just a by-election to fill a recently vacated seat: it is the least visible and strident of the three. The provincial election is in full swing, loud and […]

Bitter Coin

warmemorial

Generally I try to keep my columns from retreading old ground. There are so many great books, authors and ideas out there that it seems a waste to repeat any of them. But today I’m going to revisit Simone St. James. Because… damn. Shropshire isn’t the kind of place I expected to have a revelation […]

And They Call It Puppy Love

dogcat

I own several shares of a cat. It’s not a weird as it sounds. A friend with a cat travels travels a lot, so the kitty spends a fair amount of time with me. She’s spending this week with me in fact, while her owner is off swimming, running, and cycling hundreds of kilometres at a triathlon […]

The Turn of the Tale

Frozen thumb

Carol’s wonderful piece about Frozen nearly had me writing one of my own.  Sisters being friends, yay! Snowman not as annoying as feared, yay! Big number for Idina Menzel, yay! But the bulk of what I had to say boiled down to ‘better than I thought’. That’s a sentence, not a column. But Carol’s column […]

You’ve Got A Friend

cartoonfriends

My grade one teacher hung up a lot of art in our classroom. Some pieces were temporary: the cartoon ghosts at Hallowe’en; the fold-out bells at Christmas; the uneven hearts we made for Valentine’s Day. Others were framed and permanent, like the giant map of mostly Canada (the bits of the US that ran along […]

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things

inquiry

I always enjoy writing a ‘Best Of’ column, and this year it’s particularly timely. Not only do I work in retail (which is category 5 insane right now) but my week also included a bicycle accident and a broken water main. Frankly, I needed some happy time. It did me good to think about and/or […]

All Alone In The Moonlight

remember

Recently I moderated a panel discussion on CanLit and the SF/F genre and it got me to thinking.  Specifically, it got me thinking about memory. And that’s because if there’s one thing modern Canadian literature is full of, it’s memory. Years ago (a decade, mebbbe?)  an industry journal published a chart detailing the subjects of […]

Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind

snowflake

This week, I thought I saw the first snow of the season. Turns out it was actually sleet, which is kind of like snow’s annoying idiot cousin. But I got excited anyway, because the thing is… I love winter. Don’t get me wrong: that doesn’t mean I don’t love fall and spring too. Bright green […]

Thieves To The Left Of Me, Killers To The Right.

prisonstripes

This month I thought I’d take a look at some of the bad boy heroes of Romance. I’m not talking about common-or-garden variety bad boys, here. That strain, the rebellious, troubled men, often misunderstood and usually returning from years spent away, are a staple of the genre.  They have a satisfactory character arc and generally […]

No, It Really Is What You Know

happyld

Holy crap, it’s Labour Day weekend already. Seems like one minute I was looking at hopeful seedlings in my garden and the next I was staring sadly at the mashed detritus of spindly broken plants and cursing construction workers… wait, I’m getting off track. What I really mean is, the unofficial end of summer really snuck […]

Strong. Women.

strength thumbnail

Ever have one of those months in which several disparate threads from different aspects of your life all suddenly seem to be part of the same cloth? I’m having one right now. The recent truly excellent articles by carol and alex combined with the current interwebs-fueled firestorm over ‘fake geek girls’ and the collective cognitive […]

Beach Reading

beachball

It may not entirely feel like it, but it’s finally summer. Commercial fiction gets its second biggest bump of the year during the summer (the biggest is at Christmas, obviously), and  because the Romance genre is the largest section, its uptick in sales is the most noticeable.   That’s because mild and humid as it might […]

Whinge-A-Palooza

banana

What, it’s June already? I’m sure a I had a whole year here a minute ago. In any case, summer means humidity, allergies, and a sad lack of home AC. This year, it also means  squirrels in the roof (don’t ask. No, really). And that means it’s time for my annual bitch column. This month […]

Things That Change You Forever

weeghost

I have a ghost story of my own.  At least, I have a ghost-cat story. My final year as an undergraduate was spent in relative splendor.  My friends and I lucked into tenancy in the house of a professor on sabbatical.  Twelve foot ceilings!  Built in bookshelves! Three cats! Real, grown-up furniture!  Wait… let’s get […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Comics Alliance suggests seven Star Wars comics to read before Disney makes them disappear. (Including a comic by one of Comics Editor Carol’s favorite creative teams–Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman). “Starting in 2015, Disney’s handing the publishing of any and all new Star Wars comics over to Marvel Comics, with an all new, optimized-for-corporate-synergy canon that will spread across all their media platforms. Anything that’s not a movie (especially one of the Original Trilogy movies), or a Clone Wars cartoon, will be unceremoniously Order 66-ed out of existence, giving future filmmakers a clean-ish slate to make movies (and money) on. But what about all those Dark Horse comics? That’s where we come in with 7 Dark Horse Star Wars comics you should track down before they disappear.”

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    At the New York Observer, Ashley Steves writes about Craig Ferguson’s The Late, Late Show. “No one could ever prepare you for watching an episode of Ferguson’s Late Late Show. A friend could not sit you down and explain it (“Well, it’s really meta and deconstructive and there’s a horse”). There was really no good way to recommend it. It was something you discovered and became a part of. You had to stumble upon it on your own, perhaps restless or bored or simply curious while flipping through channels when your eye quickly caught some of the madness. And that’s the best part. It was an unexpected gift. At its worst, it could still send you to bed grinning and comforted. At its best, it was art. It was silly and fun and truly not like any other late night show.”

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    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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