The Cultural Gutter

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

For Worse And For Better. But Mostly Worse.

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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

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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 […]

And They Call It Puppy Love

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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 […]

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

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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 […]

Whinge-A-Palooza

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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 […]

My New Weapon of Choice

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In April, the Guttersnipes like to mix it up a little.  This month, Comics Editor Carol Borden writes about romance. “You hit him with a frying pan,” he said to her.  “How come you didn’t grab a knife?” “The frying pan was closer.” Her eyes slid away.  “It’s not like I had time to pick […]

The Measure Of Success

I’ve been thinking about heroes and archetypes again (which is not actually news: story archetype is a sandbox in which I happily spend a lot of time). Feels like it’s everywhere these days.  A few weeks back I was on a panel at the World Fantasy Convention that discussed love and monsters. Alex and Carol […]

Things That Go Bump In The Night

(No, I don’t mean that kind of bump. Sheesh.  You people.) Given the timing of this column, and its proximity to Halloween, it seemed logical to write about the spooky side of Romance.  But it was a little harder than I thought to put together a reading list.  I wanted to concentrate on books that […]

Grumpy McCarpsalot

I love to read.   I love the act of reading, the sensation of sinking mind-first into a story.  I need a certain amount of reading if I’m to function at full capacity.  I consider it a physiological necessity, like sleep, or chocolate.  Sure, I can get not-quite-enough for a few days, but sooner or later […]

To Say Nothing of the Hitman: Romance and Sci-fi meet the comedy of errors

Every April the Gutter switches things up. This month Screen Editor alex writes about Romance. I admit to being a romantic, but I don’t have much experience with romance novels. Like most teenagers, I had a knack for finding the dirty bits in any likely looking books I could find on the shelf, and at […]

Just Leave the Talking Skull Alone

Sometimes you should just leave a talking skull well enough alone. Actually, you should probably always leave a talking skull well enough alone, but that’s not exactly what I was getting at. I’m thinking of Bob from Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels, and the unfortunate transformation he underwent in the tv adaptation, The Dresden Files. […]

Good Books for Bad Days

By its very nature, a Romance is suffused with positive attitude.  The characters learn who they are, what kind of lives they want, and then proceed to go out and get them. The end result is effort rewarded (which is frankly more interesting than virtue rewarded, because virtuousness can be boring).  We like to read […]

Art and Soul

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There are lots of people out there who have excellent memories for things they read, provided that reading isn’t purely instructional.  At least, I hope so:  I’d hate to be the only one. It’s kind of embarrassing — I can remember the plots of books I read when I was eight, but the second I […]

Doing it Wrong on the Right Side of Town

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Once a year this column turns cranky. Lucky you: today’s that day! The Romance genre sells a lot of books. It dominates the paperback trade. When it comes to mass markets, Romance outsells every other genre and subject combined. It stands to reason, then, that it would likely also contain more bad books than any […]

But What I Really Want to do is Direct

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There are lots of great modern romance novels out there. And there are plenty of wonderfully romantic movies. Oddly enough, the latter aren’t usually based on the former (modern romance novels; in this one instance, Jane Austen doesn’t count). Which is not to say there aren’t any at all, but Twilight aside, most of them […]

All That Fairy Tale Nonsense

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One of the many criticisms levelled at romance novels is that they’re a poor model for women when it comes to real-life relationships. All that fairy tale nonsense, detractors say, will make women want the wrong things from their partners. I could list a dozen things wrong with that assumption, but I’ll limit myself to […]

And Now For Someone Completely Different…

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I worked in my local library all through junior high and high school.  One of the lingering benefits was that for years I knew where all the brand new books were kept:  after they were entered into the system, but before they were put on the shelf.  It was like being an explorer.  Not only […]

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    At Mostly Film, Blake Backlash writes about films “mixing of Hollywood’s Grande Dames with Grand Guignol.”  “Such cinematic mixing of Grande Dames and Grand Guignol had its heyday in the second-half of the sixties, and such films are sometimes (more-or-less) affectionately known as psycho-biddy pictures. They tended to feature an actress over 50 in some sort of peril, a melodramatic plot and a title that ends in a question mark.  But there is another, related tradition that goes back further that I think we could place these films in.” (via Dr. Giallo)

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    “I want to tell you about when violent campaigns against harmless bloggers weren’t any halfway decent troll’s idea of a good time—even the then-malicious would’ve found it too easy to be fun. When the punches went up, not down. Before the best players quit or went criminal or were changed by too long a time being angry. When there was cruelty, yes, and palpable strains of sexism and racism and every kind of phobia, sure, but when these things had the character of adolescents pushing the boundaries of cheap shock, disagreeable like that but not criminal. Not because that time was defensible—it wasn’t, not really—but because it was calmer and the rage wasn’t there yet. Because trolling still meant getting a rise for a laugh, not making helpless people fear for their lives because they’re threatening some Redditor’s self-proclaimed monopoly on reason. I want to tell you about it because I want to make sense of how it is now and why it changed.” Emmett Rensin writes more at Vox.

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    At Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Elyse has some things to say about reading Romance. “In the end, it doesn’t matter what I read. It doesn’t even matter that I do read, quite frankly. What matters is that we live in a world where fiction aimed directly at women is perceived as garbage. That doesn’t say anything at all about me, it says a lot about what needs to change.”

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    Brain Pickings looks at the life and work of Tove Jansson and the wisdom of her character, Too-ticky. “Too-ticky, the sage of Moominvalley who solves even the most existential of problems with equal parts practicality and wisdom, was inspired by the love of Jansson’s life — the great Finnish sculptor and graphic arts pioneer Tuulikki “Tooti” Pietilä, Jansson’s spouse. The two women met in art school during their twenties and remained together until Jansson’s death more than six decades later, collaborating on a lifetime of creative projects — all at a time when queer couples were straddling the impossible line between anguishing invisibility and dangerous visibility.” (via Kate Laity)

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    Photographer Kevin Weir uses vintage photographs to create haunting animation in “The Flux Machine.” The Guardian has an interview with Weir and more on his work.

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    At the New Yorker, Jill Lepore considers the intertwining histories of women’s suffrage, feminism, Amazons and Wonder Woman. “It isn’t only that Wonder Woman’s backstory is taken from feminist utopian fiction. It’s that, in creating Wonder Woman, William Moulton Marston was profoundly influenced by early-twentieth-century suffragists, feminists, and birth-control advocates and that, shockingly, Wonder Woman was inspired by Margaret Sanger, who, hidden from the world, was a member of Marston’s family.”

     

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