Now Playing — Time

Sibil Richardson doesn’t dispute the fact that she and her husband, Rob Richardson, committed a crime. She lays it out plainly. The two of them were facing a dire situation with their small business, and their place of desperation led to the bad decision to attempt a bank robbery. Sibil was given a relatively light sentence, but Rob was hit with what was effectively the promise of the rest of his life behind bars. At the time the judge’s gavel fell, he was given no hope of early release. Sibil and Rob already had a family full of children, all of them now facing the prospect of growing up with a father. Garrett Bradley’s new documentary, Time, tells their story.

The film is mostly from the perspective of Sibil, who relentlessly works against a dismissive, unkind, and costly legal system to get some amount of relief for Rob, arguing that the sentence was disproportionate to the offense. In scene after scene, Sibil is determined and patient, holding tight to the possibility of a better outcome tomorrow despite hard experience that has taught her hope is like a mass of oiled-up ball bearings. She has become an advocate, speaking to church groups and college classes about the prison industrial complex and the deeply embedded racism that exacts harsh punishment against black men while letting perpetual criminals within the halls of power continue riding the endless escalatory of upward mobility.

In images of softened black and white, Bradley depicts the experience without the commonplace documentary adornments of narration and other broadly explanatory elements. It is a sort of direct cinema approach, though enriched by a dreamlike quality. Sibil herself filmed relentlessly over the years, creating a document or the family Rob didn’t get to see grow and change. Bradley melds that footage with her own, giving the sense of memory intruding, as if Sibil’s attempts to bring Rob back to her stir the bygone past: all the time apart, all the time lost. The approach has an incredible power, coming as close as possible to not only depicting the feelings of sadness, but transferring directly into the viewer. It is all too easy, or so it seems to be, to feel what Sibil feels when watching Time.

Although the lack of overt commentary can lull some into believing intense neutrality is the goal of the film, Bradley is definitely putting forth an argument. With poignancy and truthfulness, Bradley presents the persistent injustice in the justice system. There’s little indication of an institutional hope that Rob will be rehabilitated, that he will learn from his state-imposed punishment and emerge a batter person, a laudable contributor to society. Instead, the expectation is he will rot and those fighting for him will simply give up and move on, worn out by the callousness. When Sibil recounts going to talk to the women who were working in the bank on the day of the robbery, therefore directly confronting the ill effects of the crime, she is willingly engaged in the type of restorative justice that would happen in a society that wasn’t bleakly committed to dehumanizing those who run afoul of the law, no matter the circumstances that led them there. Time is about the loss of precious years by Rob and Sibil and those they love. By the film’s end, the squandering of lives is so intensely shared that it feels like time is being stripped away from everyone in our great shared community. Allowing people to heal and rebuild makes the whole better.

Top 40 Smash Near Misses — “Tiny Dancer”

These posts are about the songs that just barely failed to cross the key line of chart success, entering the Billboard Top 40. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 41.

Maxine Taupin used to sew patches onto Elton John’s garments and make other repairs to stage costumes, no small tasks. Serving as seamstress for the band was hardly the most prominent or notable role for the once and future Maxine Phyllis Feibelman when John released the album Madman Across the Water, in late 1971. The woman who was a ballerina as a child was now a newlywed, having married music man Bernie Taupin, John’s steadfast lyricist. When Taupin sat down to put words to some of John’s new music, that L.A. lady was on his mind. Actually, the whole experience of being in Los Angeles in the early nineteen-seventies occupied Taupin’s thoughts, and he tried to capture the entirety of the experience, from religious proselytizers roaming the avenues to pirouettes on the beach.

“Tiny Dancer” became the lead track on Madman Across the Water and served as the album’s second single, following “Levon,” which became John’s third Top 40 hit in the U.S. “Tiny Dancer,” though, had some built-in challenges. Stretching to over six minutes, the track was a tough sell for radio programmers who preferred quick and peppy, all the better to make it seem like they were cramming in a lot of tunes between cascades of commercials. John was a known performer, but he wasn’t yet a superstar with the kind of clout required for sprawling singles. “Tiny Dancer” broke John’s streak of placing songs in the Billboard Top 40, peaking at #41.

The middling success initially of the single proved to be an inaccurate forecast of its legacy. Later embraced by both album rock and adult contemporary radio stations, the song soared in popularity, eventually selling over three million copies in the U.S. and cementing a place in pop culture so prominent that arguably exceeds that of any of John’s many other collaborations with Taupin.

Other entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Top 40 Smash Near Misses” tag.

Top Fifty Films of the 10s — Number Fourteen

#14 — 20th Century Women (Mike Mills, 2016)

It dismays me to know that 20th Century Women is a period piece, roughly as removed in time from the era it depicts as, say, Steven Spielberg’s 1987 World War II drama, Empire of the Sun, and four times as distant as George Lucas’s American Graffiti, a cinematic breakthrough in nostalgic pining. An autobiographical tribute to the women writer-director Mike Mills learned from as a boy, 20th Century Women is set in 1979, and I was just old enough in that bygone year to attest to the fundamental accuracy of the film. There are the usual signifiers of clothes, belongings, and music. More impressively, Mills has recreated the feel of the time, a moody haze as the long hangover of the nineteen-sixties gradually gave way to the gleaming sheen of the nineteen-eighties. It’s one thing to strategically stock sets with prop room artifacts and thrift store finds; it’s quite another to capture an essence, as honest and romantic as an echo.

The film centers on fifteen-year-old Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), growing up in a large, rickety home with his mother, Dorothea (Annette Bening). An older woman with a bohemian bent, Dorothea presides over a bustling home, which includes a post-collegiate woman (Greta Gerwig) still navigating the transition from rebellious youth to a version of adulthood with some version of her fierce principles as well as a rugged, sensitive handyman (Billy Crudup). Rounding out the ad hoc family is Jamie’s slightly older friend Julie (Elle Fanning), a wounded bird who understandably inspires unique pangs of affection in Jamie. The plot is loose and episodic. Mills is more invested in providing a truthful rendering of what it feels like for Jamie to learn and grow around this group of distinctive people, how he formulates a sense of self by mirroring other, or perhaps rebelling against them.

The late nineteen-seventies setting provides more than flavor in 20th Century Women, and it similarly has greater purpose than accurately adhering to the calendar pages associated with Mills’s own experiences. Mills commits to understanding the how and why of the era as a formative time, the ways in which the society around him would feed a person’s identity and future. Whether the mix of academic reasoning and pop theorizing in consideration of gender roles or the ways that clashing music styles — the pummeling punk of Black Flag, or the arty deconstructions of Talking Heads — endeavored to erase all that had come before in favor of something new, anything new.

It’s clear that the forgiveness of memory partially shifts the hue of the incidents Mills spins into humorous fiction, but he rejects any inklings he might have had towards sentimentality. That’s partially achieved through the tough but kind performances, especially that of Annette Bening. As a mother who was — for the era, in particular — somewhat older when she had her only child, Bening is stretching across an extra-long generation gap, and she shows the strain of it as well as the simple grace that comes from doing her best, for her son, for her friends, and for herself. 20th Century Women honors those efforts and those choices, acknowledging that, for absolutely everyone, there’s no definitive instructions to getting life right.

College Countdown: CMJ Top 1000, 1979 – 1989 — #455 to #453

455. The Tubes, Remote Control (1979)

It was a pairing destined to take pop excess to new heights. Across the late nineteen-seventies, the Tubes made a name for themselves by going large and bold with their rock pronouncements, like Elton John if the spangled Dodgers uniform and Donald Duck costume were aligned with the creations he put on record instead of standing as mere stage diversions. For the Tubes’ fifth album, production duties were handled by Todd Rundgren, who spent his whole career in pursuit on studio opulence. Whatever else might come from the collaboration, the resulting product was sure to be grandiose.

Rundgren urged Fee Waybill, the band’s lead singer and creative driver, to come up with a concept album. Waybill turned to a favorite novel for inspiration, freely borrowing the theme’s of Jerzy Kosinksi’s Being There (also the subject of an acclaimed, exceptional film adaptation released the same year). The resulting album, Remote Control, fixates on television as an evil entity. It’s the opiate of the masses and a vast wasteland, an easy target for derision, maybe too easy. The lyrics are filled with glib, dopey lyrics that make points in a thudding, didactic way. “Turn It On” is a rubbery rock that finds Waybill declaring, “Got a feeling something’s taken hold/ ‘Cause I’m flying by remote control/ No misunderstanding/ Before I make a landing/ I’ll lose my mind and I’ll trade my soul.” And “TV is King,” one of two songs officially credited as co-written by Rundgren, has all the nuance of an elementary school report written by a kid who’s just learned the concept of a thesis statement: “I really love my television/ I love to sit by television/ Can’t live without my television.”

Tuning out the words and concentrating on the music helps. The Tubes were always populated with skilled, exploratory musicians who could flit in and out of different genres at will. “No Mercy” has an agreeable blues rock structure, “Only the Strong Survive” is a neo-funk workout that anticipates the best of Was (Not Was), and “Prime Time” is a slick pop song that sits just adjacent to disco, boosted by charismatic vocals by Re Styles, a stage performer with the group who was given an occasional turn at the microphone. “Getoverture” is probably the pinnacle, reaching ever higher in its garishly gorgeous synth excess.

The original plan called for the Tubes to take Remote Control on the road with an elaborate stage show. After a few tryout gigs at UCLA, the band decided the stage falderal was distracting from the music, and the idea was scrapped in favor of a more basic tour. Remote Control did as well commercially as any other album from the Tubes up to that point, but it wasn’t good enough for their label, A&M Records. Midway through the recording of their next album, the band was dropped.

454. Camper Van Beethoven, Camper Van Beethoven (1986)

Camper Van Beethoven was at an enviable peak of prolificness. Just a few months after the release of their second full-length, II & III, the San Francisco band was back in the studio, joined by iconoclastic musician Eugene Chadbourne. Working with a restless experimenting heightened similar sensibilities within the band, and the resulting self-titled album is dazzling in its freewheeling spirit. Even the dead ends have the charm of beautifully overgrown cul-de-sacs.

Camper Van Beethoven opens with “Good Guys and Bad Guys,” as strong of a song as the band ever recorded. With chiming tones and a buoyant melody, the track’s lyrics lay out a sweet slacker manifesto: “So let’s get high while the radio’s on/ Just relax and sing a song/ Drive your car up on the lawn/ Let me play your guitar.” Given other lyrical efforts by David Lowery, the frontman of Camper Van Beethoven, there might be a tinge of irony to the laid-back aspirations, but the lines nonetheless so perfectly capture the romantic aimlessness of one’s early twenties to make “Good Guys and Bad Guys” one of the quintessential college radio songs of its era.

Much of the album strays from that easygoing vibe, flashing wild ambition and expansive musicianship. “Surprise Truck” is a thick psychedelic jam, and “Still Wishing to Course” is packed with jumpy, dense lyrics, like a Stephen Sondheim elocution workout rendered as college rock. “Hoe Yourself Down” is an antic bluegrass number, “Folly” has an offhand raga vibe, and “Stairway to Heavan” is experimental tape loop nonsense, like Butthole Surfers without the condescension. Anyone seeking out the goofball humor that previously put Camper Van Beethoven on the playlists of both MTV and Dr. Demento could find it in plenty of place on the album, notably the cheeky “Joe Stalin’s Cadillac and the Deadhead jibing of “We Saw Jerry’s Daughter” (“And the brothers and sisters are free to go where they want/ And be who they want to be/ And nobody wears flowers in their hair/ Cuz flowers are everywhere”). A cover of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive” can be heard as another sort of japery or a claiming of a crown. The uncertainty was a major part of the appeal of Camper Van Beethoven at this point.

Following Camper Van Beethoven, the band appealed to a lot of people in the music industry. Not long after the album was released, the major labels came courting. The band signed with Virgin Records and proceeded to make the album that is arguably their finest work.

453. The Call, Reconciled (1986)

After the release of their 1984 album, Scene Beyond Dreams, the Call had a rough couple years. Disenchanted with their corporate home, Mercury Records, the band tried to extricate themselves from the contract. The squabble left them without a label for about two years, and when they finally managed to break away and sign instead with Elektra Records, the Call were motivated to make a big statement of a record. With major guests Peter Gabriel, Robbie Robertson, and Jim Kerr pitching in, The Call delivered Reconciled.

The album is lead by two strong rock songs, seemingly designed to reverberate off of every cranny of an arena. “Everywhere I Go” and “I Still Believe (Great Design)” are deviously catchy and have the soaring, anthemic quality of Kerr’s main outfit, Simple Minds, or even the standard bearers of grandiloquent modern rock music, U2. The cuts are so good, they seem a convincing rebuke against the former label that could never quite figure out how to position the Call and their unobtrusively pious lyrics. Were they best suited to album rock radio or did it make more sense to go straight for the Christian rock market?

It turned out Elektra Records wasn’t quite sure how to sell the band either. It didn’t help that the remainder of Reconciled is of shakier quality, even when recognizing it’s impressive in a way to pull off impeccable bombast, as the band does on “The Morning.” There’s simply too much schmaltz to material like “Tore the Old Place Down” and “Even Now,” swoon, causing the album to turn into a slog. The Call made one more album for Elektra — Into the Woods, released in 1987 — and then they found themselves again hunting for a new label.

To learn more about this gigantic endeavor, head over to the introduction. Other entries can be found at the CMJ Top 1000 tag. Most of the images in these posts come straight from the invaluable Discogs

Outside Reading — Model Writing edition

Buying Myself Back by Emily Ratajkowski

Although I haven’t conducted a definitive analysis of the responsive media coverage to Emily Ratajkowski’s piece, written for New York magazine, I’ll wager that most of it focuses on her convincing recounting of sexual assault by a named photographer. If so, I guess that’s understandable. That’s the newsy information contained therein. And yet there is so much more here that merits attention and consideration. With clear eyes and firm reasoning, Ratajkowski details the callous stripping of personhood she experiences working as a model, where assertions of her identity of ownership of her image are met with derision. The same photographer who assaulted her sexually also profits extensively off of photographs of her that are clearly being used beyond the bounds of the initial agreement. If she went into the photographer’s house and stole tens of thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment, she would be arrested and charged with a crime. He’s engaged in equally clear-cut thievery, but justice for Ratajkowski requires a costly, arduous trek through a convoluted court system. And her public protests are met with nasty moralizing about sexy photos she did consent to, the equivalent to “What was she wearing?” blame-shifting. One man committed a crime, but there are a lot of people who are culpable.

People Need to Give Up the Illusion of Bipartisan Friendship by Jessica Valenti

As a matter of spiritual self-preservation, I’ve culled my social media feeds to largely avoid the sort of posts that are likely to draw me into angry digital arguments or keep me up at night fretting that I didn’t forcefully, thoroughly correct an utterly wrongheaded point. This means I’ve seen less of the common meme that declares a willingness to have beer with someone with different political views, or some similarly smug call for camaraderie in the face of division. So it’s pretty clear to me that those particular shares are done disproportionately by people who otherwise fill their feeds with bigotry, fanciful interpretations of the Second Amendment, crackpot COVID theorizing, and other abhorrent opinions. That truth is part of the foundation of Jessica Valenti’s piece, published by GEN. Political views aren’t some benign, inconsequential part of a person, like hair color or a weakness for puns. They speak to the very core of who someone is and how they interact with others. An individual espousing, for example, positions that say transgender people don’t deserve equal rights or Black people should stop complaining about police brutality is an individual who is saying something about what their friendship is worth. Let them drink their beer alone and think about why you’re not excited to sling an arm around their shoulders and sing “The Rare Old Mountain Dew” together.


How to Save Restaurants by Priya Krishna

Recently, and famously, sprung from Bon Appétit, Priya Krishna heads to The New York Times to write about the state of the restaurant industry during the ongoing bungling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is basically at the point of criminal malfeasance at the White House. As part of her broad diagnosis of the industry at this moment, Krishna shares stories from around the country, highlighting some of the creative, inspiring efforts of chefs and business owners. Among those celebrated is Francesa Hong, pictured above, who runs Morris Ramen, a fantastic restaurant in the city where I live. She responded to this moment in time by helping launch an initiative to address food insecurity in the community and further aligned her money and her mouth by running for the state assembly, a seat she is almost certain to win in November. I was proud to vote for her in the primary, and I’m proud to vote for her again on my next ballot.

How Liberals Opened the Door to Libertarian Economics by Kurt Andersen

Also writing for The New York Times, Kurt Andersen explains how Milton Friedman’s economic theories underwent baffling, damaging evolution in the public consciousness, from easily dismissed nonsense to the underpinning of broadly adopted policies that have resulted in devastating — but cleverly disguised — income inequality in the U.S. As usual, Andersen makes his arguments expertly, tempering the outrage with the occasional dollop of caustic wit.

Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (2008) by Douglas A. Blackmon

Journalist Douglas A. Blackmon won the Pulitzer Prize for this powerful historical investigation into the ways Black citizens were further subjugated for decades after the Civil War supposedly granted them freedom that never should have been taken away in the first place. With harsh, necessary clarity, Blackmon practically itemizes the institutionalized and court-validated injustice practiced largely — though not exclusively — in the South, selling citizens into unpaid labor, often on the basis of clearly invented criminal charges. It’s a profound piece of scholarship, precisely the sort of necessary reckoning with our nation’s past and the debt still due because those that suffered passed their suffering down to later generations just as assuredly as the exploiters gifted prosperity to their descendants. Forget the Orwellian nomenclature being used for the latest empty gesture from the proud bigots with official White House titles. There’s nothing patriotic about education that isn’t honest about past immorality in an effort to learn and correct, letting everyone move forward to a better, strong tomorrow based in collective good.

Golden Words — Fleabag, “Episode 1”

Since great television comedy always begins with the script, this series of posts considers the individual episodes that have claimed the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series over the years.

A familiar woman stands before one of the sinks of what appears to be a public bathroom in a fairly posh establishment. It’s revealed that she’s cleaning blood off her face, apparently from a blow to her nose. There’s a knock on the door and a man’s voice is heard, asking, “Can I do anything?” She responds, “No, thank you,” and he replies, “They’ve gone.” The familiar woman turns and extends a cloth to another woman, sitting on the ground looking somewhat shell-shocked, with a similar splash of blood across her face. After briefly checking herself in the mirror, trying valiantly to regain her poise, the familiar woman turns to look directly at the camera. “This is a love story,” she states with a slight, satisfied smile.

So goes the perfect beginning to a spectacular season of television. Phoebe Waller-Bridge based the first season of Fleabag on her one-woman stage show of the same name, the confessional aspect of monologuing directly to the audience replicated through expert, inspired breaking of the the fourth wall in the series. For the second season — which she has pledged is also the last season — Waller-Bridge ingeniously deconstructs the conceit. For the opening episode, simply titled “Episode 1,” she hasn’t quite reached that point yet. Instead, her writing reestablishes everything about the series: the characters, their tense relationships, the jovially caustic tone. It also introduces a key new character, a handsome priest (Andrew Scott) who becomes the object of Waller-Bridge’s lead character in the love story she promises. The core of the episode is a family dinner that is a masterpiece of aggression that evolves from passive to right on the edge of active.

“Episode 1,” like every other piece of Fleabag‘s second season, is a thrilling creative feat. It is precisely the sort of work that I expect to be ignored by institutions that dole out entertainment awards. And yet there Waller-Bridge was, standing on a Los Angeles stage with an Emmy in hand, her writing judged the best of the year over competition such as Veep and Barry, established favorites of the Television Academy. It was an early award for the ceremony, and it turned out to be the harbinger of a night where the show cleaned up, nabbing trophy after trophy. The award for Waller-Bridge’s words is perhaps the most satisfying, though. Her script feels like a pure, potent manifestation of Waller-Bridge’s brilliance.

Other posts in this series can be found at the “Golden Words” tag.

The Art of the Sell — They Might Be Giants, Lincoln

These posts celebrate the movie trailers, movie posters, commercials, print ads, and other promotional material that stand as their own works of art. 

I can assure you that college radio programmers required no heavy-handed promotional coercion when They Might Be Giants release their sophomore album, Lincoln, in the fall of 1988. Even so, it was a fine reassurance that trade publication advertisements for the release from the oddball, wildly creative duo eschewed the usually bland band photo or rote rendering of the album cover. In keeping with the cleverness of the band, Lincoln was touted with a succession of images offering a reminder of other things that had carried the same name over the years, such as the tunnel and the log, and the promise of “18 new songs to rock your world from a couple of guys named John.” It’s an incredibly simple ad. It’s also one of the only ones from my college radio days that I still remember, over thirty years later.

Other entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Art of the Sell” tag.

Top Fifty Films of the 10s — Number Fifteen

#15 — Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)

If George Miller was going to go back the Wasteland, he was going to get everything he could out the post-apocalyptic landscape. Mad Max: Fury Road was released thirty years after Miller seemingly completed a trilogy with Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and the revival seems like thirty years of idea generation packed into a couple hours of film, with no concept deemed too outlandish for inclusion. If a small army of mutated fellows ravenous for violence go roaring across the desert in a quest for battle that resembles a fever-dream demolition derby, of course they’d bring along a grotesquely masked beastie in a filthy red union suit playing a double-necked guitar that shot flames. Why wouldn’t they, for heaven’s sake?

In Mad Max: Fury Road, the taciturn, weather-beaten hero known as Max is played by Tom Hardy, the modern actor who owns the adjectives taciturn and weatherbeaten. By any reasonable accounting, though, the movie belongs to the women who team with Max to fight off the marauding hooligans of the beast-like Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a warlord who presides over a desperate, cave-dwelling citizenry by withholding scarce resources such as food and water. Five women he’s enslaved to use for forced breeding escape under the guard of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, at peak magnificent fierceness). As a claw swipe against patriarchal villainy that exists here in the pre-apocalyptic society, the messaging isn’t subtle. Arguably, the bluntness of Miller’s thesis makes it more satisfying.

Miller’s haymaker swings extend to the action scenes, and it often feels as if the entire film is an action scene, with a few comparatively quiet moments so the participants can catch their breaths. It’s hard to imagine the kinetic, thunderous battles orchestrated here — mostly conducted in tricked-out vehicles that make the mightiest real-world monster trucks look like tinny Hot Wheels — will ever be matched, at least in any film that doesn’t registered a fatality count that would necessitate charges in some sort of international court. The physicality of the staging and stunt work would be impressive enough if the film were presented as a single static long shot. Instead, Miller and his collaborators deliver a master class in film mechanics. Editor Margaret Sixel won an Academy Award, as did the teams in charge of sound mixing and sound editing. Cinematographer John Seale should have won one, too. And all of them deserve accolades not usually associated with filmmaking. Medals for valor, maybe?

As the U.S. theatrical exhibition business teeters on the precipice, Mad Max: Fury Road is an example of what will be lost if big-movie-big-screen entertainment falls into the abyss. Dreams live on that screen. Legends live there. A production such as Mad Max: Fury Road is recognizably great no matter how it’s seen. I’d wager, though, that it takes movie theater scale — in image, in sound, in everything — to unlock its full power. In that context, it’s staggering.

Laughing Matters — Saturday Night Live, “White Like Me”

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

A few years ago, Neal Brennan was interviewed by The A.V. Club about his comedy touchstones, and he recalled watching a certain 1984 Saturday Night Live sketch with a statement that should be absurd, but I suspect holds true for a lot of white people who grew up part of Generation X.

“I think that is probably the first time I thought, “Oh. Being Black is different. That is a totally different experience,” Brennan said.

The sketch was known as “White Like Me,” and it was at the center of the episode that Eddie Murphy came back to host, his first time in that role since leaving the late night comedy program for movie stardom. The premise was that Murphy wanted to conduct an experiment, stirred by curiosity over whether it was true that “there are actually two Americas: one Black and one white.” He worked with the makeup artists up on the eight floor of 30 Rockefeller Center to adopt a convincing guise as a white man, and then he ventured into the world. It was sly satire, building its comic hyperbole without ever tilting Murphy’s experience undercover to pure cartoon. It was exaggerated, but it was clear that it was only by a matter of degrees. Brennan’s epiphany was a reasonable response. But maybe I think that because it was probably the first time I truly landed upon that thought, too.

“White Like Me” can be watched at NBC’s website for Saturday Night Live.

Previous entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Laughing Matters” tag.