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

These Were A Few Of My Favourite Books

bollywoodaffair

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

    At Teleport City, the Gutter’s own Carol writes about 12 books that vary in reputability and their harrowing nature. They include books by Shirley Jackson, Raymond Chandler, Patricia Highsmith and Herman Melville.

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    Anne Billson has posted a 1985 interview she did with director George Miller (the Mad Max films). Miller talks about many things including Aunty Entity’s probable past as a hero and Max as, in Mel Gibson’s words, “a closet human being.” (Thanks, Matt!)

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    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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