The Cultural Gutter

building a better robot builder

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

Don’t forget the evil magic words

Make lunch sticky note

I often consider how the me of the future will feel about what I’m choosing to do right now, but more on the scale of “morning alex will be really annoyed that night alex didn’t bother to make a lunch” than on the scale of “how will I feel about this decision I’m making in […]

For Evermore: The Raven (1963)

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 4.05.49 PM

Carol Borden has been summoned to mysterious gathering of sorcerers in a haunted castle this week and so she is covering herself with a non-comics piece about the 1963 film, The Raven. One of my favorite things about American International Productions is their opening credit sequences. While low-budget, the opening credits are clever, creative and, […]

Time loops and the failures of memory

Old Grey House by Billy Jacobs

Memory is an unreliable narrator. It seems so absolutely sure of itself when it’s telling you things that it’s easy to forget it can’t wholly be trusted. There are always gaps and discrepancies, sections that get revised in light of subsequent events or reshaped to soften the sharpest edges. Our memories, like our brains and […]

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, […]

Danger: Diabolik: Deep, Deep Down

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 11.02.09 PM

This month’s Guest Star is the Gutter’s own Carol writing about the Mario Bava film, Danger: Diabolik. Holy cats, how’d that happen? My town has basically one landmark, you know the kind of thing people passing through take pictures of. It’s a water tower. An incredibly phallic water tower. It’s like a classical Hindu lingam. […]

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 […]

Neko Ramen Taisho: Finding Your Own Way

neko ramen taisho flaming eyes

Minoru Kawasaki’s Neko Ramen Taisho (2008) is the classic story of a son trying to prove himself to his father and his father’s desire to recreate his son in his own image. Except Taisho, aka William Thomas Jefferson III, is a cat who makes ramen, and his father, William Thomas Jefferson II, is a “cat […]

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 […]

“I Shot People I Like More For Less”

raylan and boyd

Every April at the Gutter we mix things up with the editors writing something outside their usual domain. This week Comics Editor Carol writes about TV. ‘Ware ye plot details for the whole series including the series finale. “Raylan, if a book could only be judged by its cover, you’d be a best seller.” ~Boyd […]

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 […]

Ushering In A New Regime: Johnnie To, Crime Films and Dissent

life without principle poster

Last month, I wrote about British (and a little pre-People’s Republic Chinese) censorship of Hong Kong movies and the ways that wuxia and kung fu movies in particular got around British control of political speech. And now, with wuxia and kung fu movies seemingly all nationalistic, dissent has creeped into the crime films, so this […]

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 […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Rob and Mike watch Edgar Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934) at The Projection Booth. “The first big American studio film — and last big American studio film – directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, The Black Cat is, uh, ‘inspired’ by Edgar Allan Poe’s short story and stars Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in a taut game of life and death.”

    ~

    Gentleman’s Gazette has a piece on the sartorial splendor of Hercule Poirot and of Captain Hastings in the BBC television adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Poirot mysteries.

    ~

    At Pitchfork, Barry Walters writes about Grace Jones. “One night in 1993, I finally got my chance to see Jones perform at a local gay nightclub and took my friend Brian, whose partner Mark was too sick to join us….She didn’t back away from the elephant in the room: She dedicated one song to artist and AIDS casualty Keith Haring, who had used her body for a canvas on the occasion of her legendary 1985 Paradise Garage performance. That night’s show was remarkable for the simple fact that Jones just kept on going, granting one encore request after another, waiting patiently while the sound man scoured backing tapes to find the fans’ offbeat choices. When Jones got to such minor numbers as ‘Crush,’ it became clear that she didn’t want to leave. She was giving as much of herself as she could to the beleaguered troops, knowing full well that many wouldn’t live long enough to see her again.”

    ~

    At Pornokitsch, The Gutter’s own dame with a shady past Carol writes about five films noir.  “Do you want to watch some film noir? I hope so, because I have five films to suggest. Films about dames gone wrong, poor doomed saps, murders, sex and modern knights errant.”

    ~

    At The Alcohol Professor, The Gutter’s own Keith writes about Billie Holiday in a fantastic two-part piece. Part one traces “the history of Billie Holiday and NYC nightlife through the Harlem Renaissance to Café Society.” Part two covers “Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and the jazz scene in New York City clubs of a bygone era.”

    ~

    The New Yorker has a profile of author Gene Wolfe. “His narrators may be prophets, or liars, or merely crazy, but somewhere in their stories they help to reveal what Wolfe most wants his readers to know: that compassion can withstand the most brutal of futures and exist on the most distant planets, and it has been part of us since ages long past.”

    ~

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