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

the siren song of shipwrecks

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  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)

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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

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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?

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  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

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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

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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…

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“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

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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 […]

Maybe You’re My Love

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[In April, the Guttersnipes like to mix it up a little.  This month, Romance editor Chris Szego writes about anime] Only those with excellent social standing and those from filthy rich families are lucky enough to spend their time here in the elite private school, Ouran Academy.  The Ouran Host Club  is where the school’s […]

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

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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 […]

Catharsis denied: when fiery doom
is an anti-climax

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When I was about 12, my parents took me to see a stage version of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings performed with life-sized puppets. As Frodo was agonizing over pitching his precious ring into the fiery pit of Mount Doom, Sam, exhausted from the epic journey but determined to help his beloved friend, inched […]

Is that a gun in your sweatpants?
Art, morality and The Superbowl

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I told my 3 year old that I’d find a bed for his google-eyed dinosaur. “I promise, sweetheart.” Then, after 45 minutes of ducking in and out of his room with him crying and the senile cat howling in the background while I tried to write an article, I threw the dinosaur across the living […]

How to be a Man in Four hours: The Perils of Instant Gratification

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As a transguy, the question “What makes me a man?” has meant both pretty much the same things to me as to any other guy, and also something a bit different. I had to figure most of it out on my own, going through a second puberty of sorts at a point when all my […]

Some superpowers are just useless enough to be real

astral projection

My best friend growing up had a theory about people claiming to have special abilities like ESP, levitation, or astral projection. She had a babysitter who claimed she could levitate, but only when she was alone. My friend’s theory wasn’t that these things were impossible, but that realistically they wouldn’t be very cool. She figured […]

The Dark Knight and the ACME Bomb: Batman and realism part I

The ending to The Dark Knight Rises left my wife doubled over laughing in the parking lot of the theatre. I tried to take a picture for posterity, but it was too dark. Given that no one else in the audience seemed affected in the same way, I expect I’ll need to explain why: simply […]

A Warning to the faint of heart
And eight year olds

When I was in grade two, my school thought it’d be a great Halloween activity to have a movie screening of old horror films. They showed us the 1931 adaptations of Dracula and Frankenstein, the original 1932 The Mummy, and the 1954 3-D classic, The Creature from the Black Lagoon. At age eight I had […]

Cinematic Narrative and the Ethics of Slaying Monsters

In 1988, I spent more hours of my life than I care to recall playing Zelda II: The Adventure of Link on my original 8-bit Nintendo. Combined with Ridley Scott’s Legend, Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, and Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride, it gave me a soft spot for sword and sorcery. Playing Shadow of the […]

Linus and the Real Girl: An Anatomically Correct Security Blanket

Whenever I saw Lars and the Real Girl at the video store, I skipped over it thinking it was a tasteless comedy. I’m not sure how I missed that it was critically acclaimed, written by Nancy Oliver of Six Feet Under, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and nominated for an Academy Award and […]

I Was Raised by Muppets

Of all the people whose art and philosophy have shaped the man I grew up to be, I think it’s possible that I have been most influenced by Jim Henson. The way the Muppets interacted with one another and the values they lived by formed a foundation for an understanding of relationships that has continued […]

Karma Borrowed my Fist: Ayn Rand, Earl Hickey and The Law of Attraction

Earl: I got a weird feeling in my stomach. Randy: Maybe you got stomach cancer. Can karma cause stomach cancer? – My Name is Earl, “O Karma, Where Art Thou?” Season 1, Episode 12   While I was packing returns at the bookstore where I work, a random book on relationships caught my eye. I […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Make-up artist Lucia Pittalis transforms herself into Rambo, Walter White, Bette Davis, Iggy Pop and many more.

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    There is a gallery of Patrick Dougherty’s woven “Stickwork” installations in Salem, MA at Odd Things I’ve Seen. In a similar vein, you can see some of Joshua Walsh’s art and design for True Detective season 1.

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    This week, our friends at The Projection Booth discuss “George Lucas’s Star Wars (AKA Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), the sci-fi film from 1977 that has been rendered unavailable in its original form due to its creator’s tampering.”

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    Speakeasy Radio hosted an tweetalong of The Company Of Wolves followed by a short podcast where Prof. Kate Laity, Ms. Angela Englert and the Gutter’s own Carol discuss the film, author Angela Carter and werewolves. Listen to the episode of Speakeasy Radio here and see all the tweets here.

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    At Terrible Minds, Chuck Wendig writes about Mad Max: Fury Road and Game of Thrones. “So, two very popular storyworlds. Two portrayals of a world where women hold dubious power and are seen as ‘things.’ One of these is roundly criticized for it. One of them is roundly celebrated for it. Game of Thrones catches hell for its portrayal of women and this subject. Mad Max is wreathed in a garland of bike chains and hubcabs for it. What, then, is the difference? Let’s try to suss it out.”

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    Friend of the Gutter, Kate Laity writes about medieval settings, ideas of heroism and masculinity, and “how people use history to veil the way they think about how things are now.”

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