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Keith’s Korner: Confessions from the Editor (#5)

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Keith’s Korner: Confessions from the Editor (#5)

Changes afoot at The House, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. So I thought this column might best be used for an introduction to some of the new features, as well as to note (and perhaps to get some feedback on) some of the inevitable glitches that tend to result from any technological upgrade.

This wave of additions and (so-called) improvements was instigated in good part by our switch of URL (make note of the new address if you haven’t already, though the previous one should still redirect you to the site, forever and always). It gave me enough of a concrete push to solve a longstanding mystery, one that had baffled both myself and House compatriot Jeffrey Hill, namely how to upgrade from the Blogger Classic template and still have the “span class” function in place.

Sans technobabble: the “span class” function provides excerpts of all articles (of whatever length the editor chooses) on the site main page with a prompt to “Read more!” at the end of the excerpt. Clicking “Read more!” takes you to the full article in question, archived on its own webpage. I’d tried a few go-rounds with Blogger Help to no avail, but I woke up the other day determined to crack it. Blogger Help again did not live up to its name, but it did direct me to a more baby-steps-at-a-time site that explained exact placement of the necessary HTML code. Finally figured it out on our sister site, The Criterion Collection Database, which gave me enough confidence to try it on the mother site. Switchover went without a hitch.

But I then came across the first of the inevitable glitches, one that I had sort of expected. You’ll note on several of these entries that either the entire text or a portion of it has less space between lines. Take a look at Kevin B. Lee’s latest Shooting Down Pictures entry (on El Topo) as an example. Looks like somebody took a marshmallow with writing on it and flattened it slightly.

Noticeable, not all that pretty when compared to other articles on the site, but a fault I was willing to live with during the upgrade period (however long that may turn out to be—I suddenly see visions of Sisyphus and his boulder before me). A little trial-and-error later and I think I’ve discovered at least part of the problem: if the article in question has a “blockquote” or “center” command it seems all the text following, even if the HTML tags are closed, gets squooshed. I’ve tried removing the tags, but no changes have resulted. The text is still flattened. With this, as with any other issues I list in this column, I would greatly welcome some insight from our readers/staff, either in the comments section or via e-mail at keithuhlich@gmail.com.

Before we delve into more quandaries, though, let’s go through a few of the new additions to the site. First thing you’ll note is that a good number of the entries now have “Labels” added to them. This is a method of archiving articles according to specific subjects of interest. So now, if you’re interested in finding all the episodes of the “Lichman & Rizov” podcasts (I just know you are), you need only go to the sidebar on The House main page, find the section called “Labels,” scroll down to “Lichman and Rizov “Live” at Grassroots Tavern” (all labels are arranged alphabetically and have a corresponding number showing how many entries are listed under that subject), click on it, and that will take you to a page with all the podcasts (ten entries per page) listed from most recent date of publication.

The “Labels” section will have more subjects placed in it on a daily basis. You’ll be able to search by directors (Kubrick, Malick, etc), by specific columnist (just today I labeled every article by Zachary Wigon and Andrew Schenker), etc. It will take a little time for everything to be listed as we’re currently pushing 1900 individual posts, but I hope this helps to ease searching for specific favorites at The House.

More, then, on the sidebar (screen right on all site pages): At the top you’ll note I’ve added a “Subscribe” function for our readers. Semi-Luddite that I am, I have only a vague conception of what this allows, though I’m sure our more techno-saavy visitors can enlighten and/or make use of the function accordingly (I’m just glad, truth be told, that it doesn’t take up all that much space).

Directly below “Subscribe” is “The House Archive,” where you can find all our published entries broken down by year, then month of publication. A nice feature allows you to collapse the “Archive Section” via the solid arrows next to the respective years and months so that it is not taking up too much of the sidebar. Directly below this is the “Labels” section, which I’ve explained above.

Below “Labels” is a section I’m particularly fond of: “The House Blog Roll.” Basically, this is a listing of specific blogs that I often visit, updated according to most recent posts. So when GreenCine Daily, say, puts up the latest of its voluminous link-gathering entries, it’ll move to the top of the “Blog Roll,” appearing with blog name, followed by the bolded title of the most recent entry, followed by the time since the blog in question’s last update. Both the blog name and the most recent entry title are clickable.

One issue I’m suspecting with this function is that it is conceivably slowing down load time of The House, and also giving me a good many 502 server errors. I’d ask our readers to let me know if this is also occurring for you or if it is an isolated incident, perhaps a day-specific Blogger glitch. This is a feature I’d like to keep, but it isn’t worth it if it is indeed slowing things down. Just note that this feature might be disappearing and/or re-appearing in the coming days, depending on what I discover.

Onwards: directly below the “Blog Roll” is a section called “The House Recommends,” which is essentially a static listing of sites I visit and/or ones that belong to our lengthy list of contributors. Easy one-click access to these webpages, and it, along with the “Blog Roll,” is always being added to, so if you don’t see your blog or name on here, I’m either getting to it, or you should send me an e-mail (see above and/or in my bio below) asking to consider your blog or site for sidebar publication.

Finally, below “The House Recommends” is our list of contributors, which I can only assume will continue to grow. Pitches now being accepted.

Exciting times. Going forward you’ll be seeing a good number of new features, our standard text entries, video and audio podcasts, etc. The House will keep expanding, with necessary feedback and comments from you, our readers, helping us along the way. Thanks for your continued support. I’ll be archiving this under the label “House Maintenance” in case you’d like to access it or any other such technical announcements in the future.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie as actress Sharon Tate, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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Who Killed My Father Is Heartbreaking but Prone to Pat Sociological Analysis

Édouard Louis’s latest is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts.

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Who Killed My Father

Author Édouard Louis’s father has been an important figure in each of his previous works, even when he’s never seen or mostly at the periphery (as in The History of Violence). With his latest, Who Killed My Father, Louis finally turns to directly examining his most important, damaged relationship. Both in his previous books and interviews, Louis has repeatedly acknowledged this broken relationship, largely stemming from the author’s open homosexuality. Alongside this, Louis’s prior works have circled around a number of themes to which he returns here: the French political and working classes, the small-town prejudices that surrounded his upbringing and drove a closeted homosexual boy to escape to more cosmopolitan Paris, and the role of state power in producing social and physical illness.

With Who Killed My Father, Louis invites inevitable comparisons to Abdellah Taïa, another talented French writer who’s also gay and largely estranged from his place of origin, and also primarily an autobiographical novelist. Like Louis, Taïa incorporates his complicated relationship with a parent into several of his books. Taïa also connects that relationship, his writing, and his experience with the society he left behind in Morocco and the one he found in France. But what distinguishes his writing in, for example, Infidels or Salvation Army from that of Édouard Louis in Who Killed My Father is a strong sense of meaning. Taïa incorporates his relationship with his mother, M’Barka, to convey something more meaningful and developed.

Louis begins down this same road before clumsily inserting a political tract at the end of Who Killed My Father that doesn’t knit as effortlessly with parts one and two. The book situates Louis’s relationship with his father front and center as compared to his previous work. It’s clear that he’s exposing the painfulness of their relationship for the purpose of speaking about political power and its physical and social toll on those who don’t possess it, but Who Killed My Father stumbles in conveying its message adequately.

Louis’s account of his father’s suffering and violence toward those around him is both painful and sharp. Who Killed My Father is strongest when Louis is demonstrating his father’s most private acts of kindness, as when the father gives Louis a copy of Titanic for his birthday after trying to convince him to ask for a more “masculine” gift. After Louis realizes that his carefully planned tribute to the pop band Aqua at a family dinner has embarrassed his father, the man reassures Louis that “it’s nothing.” In the book’s first and strongest part, Louis expounds not only on the relationship with his father, but also excavates what might have made his father the man he grew up with. At one point, he recounts finding a photograph of his father in women’s clothes—undoubtedly some adolescent joke, but also inconceivable from the man who insisted to his son that men should never act like girls.

Regrettably, part one ends with a trite conclusion that says everything and nothing at the same time. In part two, the story attempts to braid together all the malignant threads of Louis’s family narrative. Louis recalls igniting a violent outburst between his father and older brother as a result of his mother shaming him for acting too much like a girl (“faggot” is what some others in the neighborhood more precisely call him). The insinuation hurts and angers him so much that he betrays his mother’s confidence on another family secret, setting loose a new wave of violence. Part two is short and important to moving Who Killed My Father toward some wider evaluation of the questions Louis begins the book with, but it ultimately fails to find its footing by pivoting in part three to an unearned polemic against the political classes.

Who Killed My Father is strong as a portrait of a family unable to communicate (except in brief moments of tenderness) through anything but volatile, toxic outbursts, but the book at its weakest when trying to ham-handedly force this narrative into some broad theorizing about power and society and structural violence. Part one aligned beautifully with a narrative of meaning more comparable to Taïa at his best. Unfortunately, the story quickly falls apart when Jacques Chirac is indicted for destroying Louis’s father’s body through changes in health care coverage. It’s not that the questions Louis ends with aren’t necessary and important ones; it’s that there’s so little threading the narrative together into anything cohesive. What was the point of the first two-thirds of the book? His father was cruel, occasionally loving, but never mind because the state is killing him? The life of the poor is one of abject powerlessness against an unremittingly powerful and callous “ruling class”?

Louis deserves credit for the attempt to tie it all together into some grander commentary on the political class and its ambivalence, but the conclusion is simultaneously glib and condescending. Perhaps Louis didn’t intend it, but the book’s conclusion drains away responsibility for the cruelty and bigotry of those like his father, and patronizes them as with a quick How could we expect any better of the noble, working poor? Is it the state’s or the ruling class’s subjugation of his father’s body that’s somehow also responsible for his inability to sympathize with gays or immigrants? Of course, the poor are subjugated by the rich and Louis has written more meaningfully about the implications of that relationship elsewhere. But in Who Killed My Father, he inadvertently demonstrates that the answer isn’t to sanctify them any more than it is to demonize them.

Édouard Louis’s Who Killed My Father is now available from New Directions.

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