Author Archives: bookshelfbattle

TV Review – Manifest (2018 – Apparently Cancelled)

Hey 3.5 readers.

This show’s cancellation is as mysterious as a missing plane.

BQB here with a review.

Remember a few years ago when there was a missing plane, no trace of it found and all the cable news channels talked about it ad nauseum for hours and hours on end? (Not that it wasn’t a tragedy but it was to the point where you’d wake up in the morning and there’d be a guy on TV talk about the missing plane, then you’d go to bed and someone was still talking about a missing plane.)

Well NBC made an entire show about just that, only the passenger and crew survive. They take off in 2013, get struck by lightning and then miraculously land five years later in 2018. Ironically, while this show began in 2018, news of its existence took three years to reach my brain, with Netflix delivering said news.

The rest of the world has moved on without them…hard since for the passengers, no time has passed. Yet in those five years, friends and family have gotten older, some have even passed away. Spouses have found other romantic partners. Kids have grown up, leaving siblings on the plane behind.

I have to admit, I generally despise network television. It’s all very bland, formulaic and predictable. It’s that way so that Joe Blow McNoCable can tune in on any episode, pick up what’s going on instantly and then keep watching without bothering to go back and watch the earlier episodes.

But I like this one and I would have never heard of it if it hadn’t shown up on my Netflix radar. Frankly, it’s odd that NBC decided to cancel it as it has gained a lot of fans on the streaming platform.

I’m five episodes in and debating whether or not to keep watching. The overall question of the show is how did this plane land five years into the future? The individual episodes have mini mysteries, i.e. the passengers develop special powers they use to help people, thus the secondary question of how did the plane’s travel through time give them special powers? The mini mysteries are fun, though if the show is cancelled, I doubt we’ll get answers to the big questions.

To that end, it is somewhat reminiscent of Lost. I never bothered with that one but it was about a plane crash and a mysterious island. Plenty of threads let out and then fans tell me they never got any answers. (SIDENOTE: The show also reminds me of early 2000s’ The 4400, about 4,400 survivors of alien abduction who are suddenly returned to earth…so who knows? Maybe the plane’s passengers were abducted by aliens.

And there’s the rub. Whenever I discover a network show I like, I eventually do stop watching, rarely finishing it to the end if an end is even allowed. Years ago, I was into NBC’s The Blacklist and Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. Both followed the same formats, i.e. the sweeping question solved a bit in each episode, while each episode follows on a singular premise. But alas, the networks just keep pulling those strings without ever really tying them up. You can only follow bread crumbs for so long before you either find a gingerbread house or grow sick of bread crumbs.

I’ll probably watch a few more episodes and who knows? Maybe Netflix will order some more seasons since it’s high on their top ten list this weekend.

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Happy Monday, 3.5 Readers

Thank you for being my 3.5 readers. What have you 3.5 readers been reading lately?

TV Review – Harley Quinn – (2019 – ?)

Grab your baseball bats, 3.5 puddins.

It’s time for a review of Harley Freakin’ Quinn.

At the outset, I have to say this show is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Some thoughts on why that is, in no particular order:

#1 – It’s a Gotham based, DC character infused show, that’s for adults and when I say it’s for adults, I mean, it’s for adults. It’s weird. Watch with the sound down for a minute and you might be lulled into thinking it’s a kids show. I mean, superheroes are for kids, right? But no…there’s swearing and sex and uber violence like very serious graphic violence. You don’t want to let your kids watch this. I know, Batman and Co. are for kids, right? Nope, not this show, which brings us to…

#2 – It’s a parody of the DC Universe and the comic book genre. It focuses on Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and in season one, we see Gotham’s top she-clown break up with The Joker (ala Birds of Prey) and come out from Mr. J’s shadow, fighting to be thought of as a supervillain who stands on her own evil merits and not as the Clown Prince of Crime’s sidekick. Along the way, DC’s long laundry list of main characters (heroes and villains) are trotted out and poked fun of…but the best jokes are reserved for the lesser knowns, the goofy characters you’ve unlikely ever heard of before, or maybe heard of once in passing.

Examples? Harley’s BFF Poison Ivy dates Kite Man, and that’s his power. He has a kite that pops out of the back of his suit so he can fly around. Pretty useless character, right? You’d think so until you meet such lackluster Batman opponents as Calendar Man, Condiment Man, and so on.

Overall, the writers had a fun time pointing out the silliness of the comic book world and yet…

#3 – The plots are well laid out and surprisingly riveting. In season 1, we see Harley recruit a crew of lesser knowns like Dr. Psycho, King Shark and Clayface to take on Gotham’s worst villains and fight her way up to the top of the food chain. In season 2, Gotham lies in ruins and Harley and Friends team up with Commissioner Gordon, Bat Girl and yes, even Batman to prevent the city from meeting its doom. This leads me to…

#4 – It saddens me what DC decided to do with its theatrically released movies. Here, in this cartoon, the writers set out to parody DC and comic book culture and yet, created a more coherent plot than the DC films did. As you watch, bread crumbs are laid out and they lead to something. There’s a laundry list of characters yet they all get their time to shine. Slowly but surely, the writers introduce you to their silly versions of these characters and then build up their silly version of Gotham. Watching actually pays off and you don’t leave feeling like you were jerked around. Ultimately, that’s all the fans wanted from the DC movies.

#5 – At first, I did wonder whether maybe an adult version of the DC universe was something worth making. After all, aren’t these characters for kids? Shouldn’t adults grow up and put away childish things? Drop the F bombs, cut out the uber violence and naughtyness and create something the whole family can enjoy? But then again, that leads me to…

#6 – This is the hands down funniest thing I’ve seen on TV in awhile. Somehow, it walks a fine line between keeping the wokesters happy and delivering jokes that push PC boundaries. For more of what I’m talking about, see Poison Ivy’s takedown of the Condiment King with the help of her sidekick, Frank the Plant (JB Smoove stealing the show as a man eating Venus fly trap). “Change of plans, sauce fucker.”

FINAL THOUGHTS: In the end, all we fans ever wanted is for writers to build a world. Yes, the DC characters reside in a world that we know ad nauseum, so no, we don’t need to see young Bruce Wayne’s parents get shot by a mugger outside the theater for the 1,000 time. We don’t need to see Superman’s baby sized space ship crash in a cornfield behind the Kents’ house for the 1,000th time either. With new TV shows and movies comes new versions of old characters and all we ask is to be introduced to your new versions, get to know them, then let things build. Comedy writers did that here and one day DC might figure out how to make a cinematic universe that the whole family can enjoy.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Bonus points for Kaley Cuoco who I think is great in everything she does and is underutilized by Hollywood. See this show on HBO Max.

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GET A FREE BOOK!

Hey 3.5 readers.

Your old pal BQB here.

You know what is the worst? Paying for stuff.

You know what is the best? Getting free stuff.

My book = free stuff.

So, you should get a free copy.

All this weekend it is free.

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Movie Review – The Woman in the Window (2021)

Ugh. I wish this woman would get out of my window and off of my TV screen already.

Hollywood, what’s going on?

BQB here with a review of another stinker.

My 3.5 readers are aware I rarely give out the terrible “not shelf worthy” rating because as much as a movie might suck, it usually has some redeeming value and high, in the end, any movie that has been made is 100 percent better than the movie I didn’t make but some movies have little value and some are better off not made. The two films I watched the past weekend, Wrath of Man and The Woman in the Window, fit the bill.

BTW, this is a movie meant for people who have seen this film and the film it is based on, the classic Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart. If you haven’t seen either, look away, for SPOILERS ABOUND.

This isn’t a reboot of Rear Window but more of an homage. Rear Window is as close to perfect as a film can get and even by modern standards, the set design (which includes the construction of a whole host of apartments for the recovering Stewart to peep into) is fascinating.

Stewart’s character is a peeper but he has some redemptive qualities. He’s a famous photographer, laid up with a broken leg courtesy of a shoot gone wrong on his latest globetrotting adventure. He’s an older, gray haired man in this, but young Grace Kelly digs him because this was the time when Hollywood was like, “Yeah, young chicks like successful famous old dudes with money” whereas today they’d take like a 70 year old actor and slap hair dye on his plugs and try to make it look some young babe isn’t repulsed by him.

Sorry, I’m getting off on a tangent. Bottomline, Stewart while practicing his photography spies some odd doings with his neighbor that don’t quite up and the crux of the film is whether or not a heinous crime has been committed or if Stewart is just engaging in gossip and speculation over a lot of nothing.

I’m not sure why anyone would try to make a Diet Coke version of this film (I’m not sure why Universal (Hitchcock;s old stomping ground) didn’t sue either. It be like me making a movie about a farm boy turned space pilot who blows up the Bleth Blar and calling it Blar Blores but whatever.

The movie seems to go out of its way to set itself apart from Rear Window and maybe this is where it messes up. Here we have Amy Adams as child psychologist Anna Fox, an agoraphobic who, for reasons to be revealed later, is afraid to leave her house.

Anna spends her days watching old movies and peeping on her neighbors across the street. On one fateful night, she sees her neighbor’s wife, played by Julianne Moore get stabbed, cries “J’accuse!” at the husband, an evil Gary Oldham, only for the cops to be all like, hey pipe down crazy lady because the dude’s wife is here and alive – enter Jennifer Jason Leigh as the woman claiming to be the real wife who is A OK sans stabby wounds.

Look, I’m not a detective. I never went to the police academy or anything but I’m pretty sure even the most inept cop, upon hearing a neighbor say “I saw my neighbor’s wife get stabbed” wouldn’t stop at “but hey the wife is here.” You might, you know (SPOILER) ask around to see if there are any past wives, girlfriends, other women in the man’s life that the neighbor might have confused for a wife and find out if any of them are missing?

But ok. Sometimes movies require us to suspend disbelief.

SPOILER ALERT – the neighbor’s mentally ill son did it and I don’t know, I thought Hollywood was done with demonizing the mentally ill? While the big slasher flicks of long ago would feature a killer who went nutsy cuckoo, I’ve noticed slasher flicks in recent years usually have the slasher motivated by greed, money or what have you – i.e they’re sane and they are purposely killing to enrich themselves.

And hey, look, sometimes there might be a position where a cuckoo bird (sorry, is that PC? I’m old so I don’t know) flies off the handle and though it is sad that they experienced emotional trauma that turned them into a wack-a-doodle, sometimes it is either the main character or the goofball and you can’t blame the main character for defending themselves now and then we can all sit around and think about what tragic actions happened to make the killer a killer and how to keep them happening in the future so people get the help they need and don’t become killers.

Wow that was a long run on sentence.

Ultimately, the film is about a woman who is a child psychologist who spends half the film touting her child psychology credentials and then ends with a child psychologist throwing a teenager to his death through a skylight.

I don’t know. I mean, look, I know I’m not the most PC person in the world but even I thought like, hey, either have her use her child psychology skills to talk the kid into dropping the weapon and turning himself in so he can get the help he needs, or just make the bad guy Oldham and that it was all about money or whatever.

And then the movie just has threads that are pulled and never sewn back together. Like for awhile it looks like Oldham is the killer because in the last city he lived in, his assistant fell to her death back at his old job and he tranferred to a job in a new city after that. Suspicious…maybe this guy has a habit of killing the women in his life. It is never answered if that was an accident or a killing.

Plus Oldham is arrested in the end and it is never fully explained why. One might assume he helped the son cover up the murder and that’s a terrible thing to do so ok, book him…but if he didn’t know the son did it…I don’t know. They could have expanded and explained what exactly happened there.

STATUS: Not shelf-worthy and I worry maybe COVID is really causing Hollywood to make a lot of stinkers. Plus, I worry about movie quality if movie theaters go bust because a lot of these streaming films are crap now.

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Movie Review – Wrath of Man (2021)

File under: when a movie looks good and turns out to be bad.

BQB here with a review of Wrath of Man.

I love Jason Statham. Really. I’ve been hooked since his Transporter films.

I like Guy Ritchie though sometimes he is hit – Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and sometimes he is miss (King Arthur.)

With 2019’s The Gentlemen showing Guy Ritchie still had “it” and reuniting with Statham (also in LSTB), I thought this movie would be the bomb dot com but instead it’s the fizzle fo shizzle.

Why? It’s entirely too complicated, and unnecessarily so.

A good mystery can be fun…and oftentimes, when the mystery is too mysterious, I’ll suspend disbelief and nod and say to myself, “Yeah, I can’t really expend the mental energy needed to figure out if what everyone is doing/saying really does add up to X character being the culprit but I’ll smile and nod because overall this movie was fun.”

Just didn’t happen here.

Weird because the premise is cool and ironically, this is the most boring movie about armored car heists I have ever seen. Like, the bullets are flying and the bombs are exploding and I’m yawning because holy moly who cares.

Strangely, the premise is interesting. Fortico Security has had many of its armored trucks robbed as of late. Amidst this turmoil, Statham’s “Mr. H” is hired as a new security guard. The first ten-twenty minutes are a lot of exposition, presented badly, way too much telling and not enough showing, almost like one of those video games where your main character meets their BFF NPC who gives them a tour of the new digs and introduces you to everyone. Lame.

It starts to look like it might redeem itself when Mr. H’s truck is robbed and he displays some pretty badass skills against the robbers, kicking their butts easily and leaving everyone wondering how a poorly paid security guard can fight like a karate expert.

This is the grand question of the film and you watch and watch and watch as threads are pulled but never quite sewn back together. I waited for an explanation, weeding through possiblities like maybe he’s an undercover cop, maybe he’s a rival bad guy, maybe this, maybe that.

I never got the answer and ultimately had to google it to find out it’s in the middle of the film in a flashback that didn’t really seem like a flashback. It was a rather poorly placed flashback that seemed like part of the present if you ask me.

STATUS: Not shelf-worthy, a rating I rarely give but it truly did suck – which is surprising because it includes a director I like, a main star I like, as well as a cast I like, full of big names – Josh Hartnett, Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan and so on. But hey, pizza is good and orange juice is good but mixing two good things doesn’t always mean the result will be good.

I wonder if maybe this is, to my knowledge and I could be wrong, Ritchie’s first film set in America. Maybe all his dialogue sounds better coming out of Brits but I don’t think so. His dialogue is usually more stylish than this. And while he is from that Tarantino-esque 1990s school of directors who like to put the end in the middle and the beginning at the end and the middle after breakfast, it was just too much complication without enough payoff.

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You Need to Watch Oversimplified

Hey 3.5 readers.

If you heard a video got 3 million views this weekend (and the weekend isn’t over yet) you’d probably assume it features like, Beyonce performing a live concert on top of the Empire State Building or something but what would you say if I told you it was about the Napoleonic Wars?

I know. Mind blown, right? Anyone can get 3 million people to watch a video about Beyonce in a spontaneous concert, but it takes a pretty special kind of brain to get 3 million people to watch a video about 1800s French warfare.

Little seems to be known about “The Oversimplified Guy” but his videos are pretty great. He “over simplifies” history, boiling down histories of wars, battles, time periods etc. down to a half hour to an hour or so. His work is an example of great things that can be done on a small budget. Animated characters that are little more than stick figures, lots of clip art…but the jokes come flying at a fast and furious pace and honestly, I’ve learned more about world history from these vids than any history class.

Fun stuff. Check it out:

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Movie Review – Cruella (2021)

Hey 3.5 readers. Your old pal BQB here. Just wanted you to know I just finished my screenplay for “Jeff!” a villain origin story about the fun adventures that Jeffrey Dahmer went on as a kid. What? No one wants to see a movie that would glorify a man who kidnapped and cannibalized a bunch of poor unsuspecting victims? Got it. That makes sense.

Whew. Good thing you warned me, 3.5 readers. I would have been very embarrassed if that movie had been made. But it’s not like Hollywood would have made such drek anyway, right? I mean, it’s not like they once greenlit a trio of films about the childhood and early adulthood of the man who would go on to be Space Hitler, the idea being that sure, he killed a lot of people but hey, he used to be an adorable little pod racer and what? They made it. Yeesh.

OK but surely, Hollywood would NEVER and I mean NEVER make a movie that glorifies a villainess who runs around trying to kidnap a bunch of Dalmations so she can skin them and turn their hides into coats and fashion accessories and wait…they’re doing it? THEY ALREADY DID IT?

Huh. OK then. BQB here with a review.

Part of me gets why Disney makes movies like this. They have a great big catalog of characters that fans love and the more media they make about these characters, the happier the funs are and besides, if they don’ t keep whipping out schlock based on their IP, then some other rival studio might make something similar. No, some other studio couldn’t make their own film about Cruella, but give Cruella enough time in the vault and out of the public’s eye and some other studio might just get away with making a film about their own villainous fashionista and we can’t have that now, can we?

Part of me doesn’t get it. Villains are bad and to make movies about their early years, the ones that molded them into the evildoers they are today seems to send the wrong message. I suppose it’s silly to read too much into it, though these films sort of suggest that evil adults are allowed to justify their misdeeds of the present as long as they had rough childhoods in the past and if that’s true, then I guess we all get away with being supervillains, don’t we?

Not quite.

At least in Maleficient (spoiler alert) we learn that we’ve been misunderstanding Disney’s favorite witch and secretly, she was trying to protect the princess all along. DOUBLE SPOILER ALERT – here in Cruella, we learn that Cruella doesn’t really have a penchant for turning puppies into coats (her villainous behavior is an act to attract publicity for her fashion label). Even so, if you watch the original 101 Dalmatian films, it doesn’t seem like an act. It seems like she really wants those puppies to become designer handbags.

But movies are all about the suspension of disbelief I suppose.

The plot? It’s a battle of the Emmas as Emma Stone plays the titular Cruella, born Stella to a kind mother who tries her best to parent Stella out of her evil ways. When said mother dies tragically, young Stella is orphaned and hits the streets of London, meeting the dudes who would become her henchmen, the trio becoming grifters and living off the spoils of trickery, fraud and petty crime.

Eventually, Stella is taken under the wing of London’s then leading fashionista, The Baroness (Emma Thompson), and it seems like all of Stella’s dress designing dreams will come true until she learns that the Baroness is actually a horrible person whose comeuppance is due. Enter Cruella, Stella’s secret (and eventually, only) identity who lives to upstage the Baroness at every fashion show at every turn.

Were there a lot of people clamoring for what ultimately boils down to a Disneyfied version of The Devil Wears Prada? Probably not and there’s the problem with this film. Most of these Disney flicks depend on cute animals. Readers, I don’t know if you are aware of this, but kids really like cute animals. Adults like cute animals too but are savvy enough to understand that cute animals poop and pee and love to chow down on expensive furniture and so on.

In other words, the main selling point of 101 Dalmations were, you guessed it, all the adorable puppies. Dogs are part of the act here, but not as prominently. If you were hoping for lots of cute canines in every frame, you’ll be disappointed. The point of Cruella was to just put the puppies in peril so you, the viewer, end up with a better appreciation for the puppies upon their inevitable rescue…so take away the puppies and you’re left with…dueling fashionistas? Yes, I know. Every kid is dying to rush out and see movies about fashionistas.

I do have to give the movie points for great costumes, some funny moments, and a fantastic soundtrack, basically a sampler of 1960s and 70s counterculture songs. The film spans both decades, from Cruella’s 1960s youth to her young adulthood in the 1970s as sort of a punk rock type figure. Yes, the great irony of Disney making a punk-ish, counter-culture film.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy but I’m not sure who the movie is for. Adults who are into fashion have more choices for media about fashion. Kids who love puppies have more choices when it comes to movies that feature puppies. That’s mainly my chief complaint about this movie – it needed more puppies. Otherwise, Emma Stone provides a fabulous Cruella impersonation.

Is it worth the $30 rental fee on Disney Plus? Unless you’re really dying to find out how Cruella became Cruella, I’d say you could wait until this one’s streaming for free or at least for the regular Disney Plus subscription price.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Point Break (1991)

Whoa, like, gnarly, bro. Totally radical.

BQB here with a review of this bro-tastic film.

Sometimes people goof on this movie and I’ll admit, there is a lot you have to suspend disbelief for (namely, that it is pretty obvious from the get-go that Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Utah is a narc from the get go and it is unlikely that Bodhi’s (Patrick Swayze) gang of radical extreme sports loving, parachuting and wave surfing dudes who rob banks to support their globe trotting endless summer lifestyle would be fooled but whatever. Movies are all about suspension of disbelief, aren’t they?

This movie is a lot of things. It’s Reeves at his California bro-iest, where they allowed his surfer dude accent to fly free. I wonder if his accent wasn’t the inspiration for this film altogether. Someone somewhere in Hollywood must have been like wow we have this famous actor who sounds like a surfer dude. What can we do with him? That’s my guess anyway.

It also has Gary Busey in, my opinion, his best and most memorable role. Go ahead. Name another film Busey has been in. I know he’s been in a lot, but this is the one I remember him for, as Utah’s partner, older mentor who tells all the younger agents he was in Vietnam when they were in diapers or catching bad guys when they were popping zits or whatever. Also, he’s so hungry that he orders two meatball sandwiches because he could eat the ass end out of a rino. Now that’s real hunger right there.

It has bank robbers that are funny (the ex presidents who wear president masks while doing impressions, Nixon’s “I am not a crook” line stealing the show as well as the cash. Frankly, I think this movie set the standard for bank heist films and every other bank heist film since has been trying to copy it, with no one coming close to creating a group as funny yet also as scary as the ex-prez gang.

Young Utah infiltrates the gang, falls in love with Bodhi’s ex Lori Petty and falls in bro-love with Bodhi, admiring Bodhi’s free spirited, rejection of the work a day 9 to 5 chain yourself to a desk culture, yet also realizes the dudes can’t just be allowed to flaunt the law and put people in danger just to finance their lifetimes of fun.

It’s a great film and BTW, did you know it was directed by Kathryn Bigelow who won best director for The Hurt Locker? Seriously, Point Break is literally one of the most testosterone fueled, kick ass, bad ass films ever made, filled with gun fights and bank robberies and explosions and dudes in Ronald Reagan masks turning gas station pumps into flame throwers so they can set cars on fire and its got one of the dudes from the Red Hot Chili peppers as part of another gang of bad dude surfers except this one deals drugs and I could go on and on and on…and it was directed by a woman!

I’m not sure of the backstory there. I wish I knew more. Frankly, I think after Point Break, Bigelow should have been able to get her hands on many an action film, directing them through the 90s and 2000s at a rapid clip but her next memorable one doesn’t come until 2009’s The Hurt Locker, close to 20 years later. What’s up with that, Hollywood? This is a woman who clearly gets the action genre, who knows how to keep action lovers like me chomping on the popcorn so y’all should have given her more films to helm.

Not that anyone reads this blog anyway, I’m not saying Hollywood didn’t or what the case was. Just its odd to me that its Point Break in 91, then she did other stuff, but nothing really that stands out to me until The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Unless there were some films in the middle that I’m forgetting about.

STATUS: Shelf-worth, bro. Radical. BTW, there’s a speech that Bodhi gives about projecting strength that stuck with me this recent time I watched it. Every few years I dust off this gem and give it a go. I watched it as a kid (probably shouldn’t have) and thought it was pretty cool but didn’t understand everything. As an adult, I get Bodhi’s speech about strength. He says he projects strength to get what he wants out of life. If you act weak, people will treat you weak. If you act strong, people will give you want you want just out of fear of your strength.

Does this apply to everyday life? I mean, no you shouldn’t walk around like you’re ready to kick everyone’s ass. However, if you, say, go into a job interview dressed nicely, looking sharp, your fitness is on point, you’ve sought out the right experience and credentials for your field and you don’t come off as desperate, said employer might be like wow we need to scoop this person up before someone else does.

Also, I forget the actor’s name but Utah’s boss telling the young Utah that he’s young and dumb and doesn’t know anything and the worst part he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. As I get older, I realize many problems that arose in my youth came from me not even knowing what I didn’t know. Like I kick myself for not doing X but then I have to admit that I had no clue Y result would happen or that I even had options A B C D or E, so hate on myself as much as I want but sadly, when you’re young, you have a lot less info to go on, which is sad because ironically, this is also the time when you are called on to make the most important decisions in life that will follow you forever.

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