Thursday never looking back it’s FRIDAY MOVIE RECS

Hi all, I am caffeinated and gleeful, even though my New England enclave is apparently likely to be subject to more WEATHER in the near future.

This weekend I will be seeing Tomb Raider and possibly also Love, Simon, though I have a busy weekend ahead of me so maybe not.

But you’re really here for the streaming recommendations. I know you. All cozy wrapped in that blanket on your sofa. I get you. I, too would like to hibernate till spring is really here.


I started watching season 2 of Jessica Jones last weekend and I think it’s a much easier watch than the first season, but still very good (still not an *easy* watch per se, mind you). I mainlined about half of it and haven’t had the energy to go back for more, but I shall at some point.

Netflix seems to have put a number of 80s and 90s classics up again recently, including the original Ghostbusters, the 1989 BatmanDead Poets SocietyStrictly Ballroom, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Bring it On.

If you’re looking for something more serious or out-of-the-way, consider Whale Rider.

A story of a Māori girl struggling for understanding and acceptance from her traditionally-minded grandfather, based on a novel by New Zealand novelist Witi Ihimaera.


One of your options on Hulu is The Punk Singer, a documentary about Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre.

Though the documentary is specifically about Hanna, it also gives you a slice of the riot grrrl movement in general.

If documentaries aren’t your bag, they also have An Ideal Husband (1999) – starring Rupert Everett and Julianne Moore from the Oscar Wilde play.


Amazon has a classic comedy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I heard this is getting a female-led remake and I am PSYCHED. Steve Martin and Michael Caine star as con artists. This is one of the most underrated Steve Martin movies ever, in my opinion.


Prime has classic The Last Unicorn. Netflix has Dreamworks’ Kung-Fu Panda. Hulu has’ Don Bluth’s The Secret of Nimh.

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That’s it for this week, kids and kittens. Have a good weekend and hold on. Spring *is* coming. I swear it.

A Wrinkle In Time

I almost feel as though there is no way I can possibly be fair to this movie. I (like many, I’m sure) read this book roughly eleventy billion times when I was a kid. And I wasn’t sure how well I’d remember it after all this time (I don’t think I’ve cracked its cover in about three decades) but I did. I remembered it well enough to notice not just when scenes were changed but when lines were changed.

That being said, this movie was by no means for me. It’s for a new generation of kids, coming up and finding their own wonder in the universe. And in spite of my (minor) frustrations and my (#pretentiousOld) substantial case of ‘but the book!’-ism, I really enjoyed this movie.

They did omit at least one major scene and at least three major characters that were in the book and I absolutely understand why they did that. I understand far less that they took one of the many adult female figures in the book and had her played by a male person.

However, the production was beautiful. The costumes were breathtaking and the scenery was full of beauty and light. I thought they did a great job with the casting – I enjoyed very much the multi-racial family Disney turned the Murrays into. The film was moving and engaging. I started crying in the first five minutes when Meg and her father are talking about their family adopting a little brother.

“Out of the whole universe he found us and we found him,” her father earnestly tells her. And that is part of the message the film conveys – all the things that make up the specialness in each one of us, including our doubts, our faults and our loves.

The Murrays weren’t the only place the film introduced more diversity. Mrs. Who, one of the beings of power who sends Meg on the film’s main quest, speaks only in quotations. In the novel, as I recall, the quotations were mainly from poets of Western canon, Shakespeare and the bible. The movie drew from many more sources for her quotes, and I thought that was grand.

I was sad that the film omitted one of the few non-pretty characters, Aunt Beast (they give her kind of a shout-out at the very beginning, but that’s all). Her importance in the novel was vast and while I understand why they took out the scene on her planet (it’s kind of an interlude, plot-wise), I thought she would have helped to sell the seriousness of the danger in Meg’s quest and also the importance of taking care of oneself before one can take care of others.

Anyhow, I feel sure that the movie coming out will not only introduce a lot more kids to the characters who meant so much to me growing up, but will probably get a lot of them to read the novel as well. Both may stand alone and not have to represent each other. For any of you who may be concerned about this, I thought they did a good job of broadening the religious themes (such as they are, A Wrinkle In Time is one of L’Engle’s least religious novels, in my opinions) to something universal.

I will be very interested to see if there’s a director’s cut of the film available at any point. Director Ava DuVernay clearly approached the material with love as well as with an eye to modernizing and broadening its message. I’d be very interested to learn more about why she made the choices she did. And I’ll be looking for more of her work in the future. The only other film I’ve seen of hers is Selma and it’s so different it’s difficult even to get a handle on her artistic style based on these two examples.

All in all, the film is well worth seeing. And I hope that a lot of kids do in spite of the backlash any film that diversifies an older property gets.

Friday streaming recs!

Hey hey hey! Happy Friday, folks. We’re getting some relatively nice days after a run of Weather(tm).  And there is a lot to look forward to media-wise, this weekend.

The new season of Jessica Jones is out on Netflix. I am planning on seeing A Wrinkle In Time in theaters. (I read that book roughly one hundred billion times as a kid, along with any of Madeline L’Engle’s I could get my grubby kid-hands on.) In general we’re creeping up on a bunch of shows starting up again and the oscar nominees are finally loosening their grip on theaters — making way for some big, explosion-based fun.

Here’s some fun stuff that’s streaming this week:


Our old flix friend has Moon. A polished idea scifi film that I was impressed by. Sam Rockwell does a fabulous job playing the lone technician working for corporations on the moon. The film addresses some traditional scifi questions as well as digging into potential endgames for a mechanized future.

Having come out in 2009, I feel as though it was at the forefront of the wave of big-budget high-concept scifi which we (well, definitely I) have been enjoying for the past several years.

A warning – certified horrible human Kevin Spacey voices an AI in the film. Which is a fucking shame. Because it’s a really good movie.


Hulu has the delightful Tom of Finland biopic that I enjoyed so much towards the end of last year.


Amazon has Thanks For Sharing — a film I have thrust upon many friends through the years since I’ve seen it. Brought to you by part of the creative team behind acclaimed indie film The Kids Are Alright, Sharing stars Mark Ruffalo as an addict in a twelve-step program. The story is a complex, but sympathetic look at twelve-step programs, how they work for folks and their limitations.


Netflix has made-for-tv movie High School Musical and its sequel, which are cute and upbeat.

Prime has 2005 scifi adventure Zathura.

Hulu has last year’s live-action Power Rangers, which was a pretty fun (and diversely-casted) kid-aimed action film.

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That’s all for this week! I wish you peace and pizza.

Red Sparrow and other weekend news

I don’t pay attention to critics of film. I often, in fact, go out of my way to avoid other people’s opinions of a film before I’ve seen it. And afterwards, I may go check out what other people thought, but I don’t really care that much. What one will enjoy is pretty subjective, and the collective consensus about pop culture skews white, straight and male to a degree I find positively demoralizing.

This is all to say I mostly don’t give much of a fuck about the Oscars. I sometimes watch them for the red carpet spectacle and fashion, but I didn’t last night. It’s nice that Jordan Peele won best writer for Get Out, though. (Kind of ridiculous that he was the first black person ever to win best writer, though. We have so far to go and just a huge history of bullshit to try to dismantle.)

Anyhow, while I didn’t see the oscars, I did get out to see Red Sparrow. I was amused afterwards when I looked up info about it on the way out of the theater to see that people were accusing it of “failing at its women’s empowerment message”. I have no idea where they got the notion that it was supposed to have a women’s empowerment message. Certainly not textually. Maybe the director said something somewhere?

Anyhow, it’s a spy/counterspy film set (largely) in Russia. And its the kind of story where everyone is super dangerous and the Russians speaking to each other basically never speak in Russians, but always have Russian accents. It’s a bit too thriller-y for my usual tastes, but it’s a woman-led action movie, so it made it onto my list anyway.

Before I saw it, I was calling it “the sort-of Black Widow” movie. The heroine does indeed have some cosmetic parallels to the Marvel character – ballet, deception, catch 22s and coercion.

The story is not really exceptional if one is familiar with the spy thriller genre. The only things that really do distinguish it are that a woman is the main character and the focus on sexual exploitation as a spy gambit.

This is where any argument about its ever being intended to be about women’s empowerment falls right down for me. It’s not about voluntary use of sex as a tool in a spy’s arsenal. It’s about people who don’t quite know what they’re in for being trained as mini modern Mata Haris. There are male-bodied folks as well as female in the training program, but most of the grinding humiliation and forced participation is directed at female characters.

The fact that Jennifer Lawrence’s main character gets a little slice of her own back by the end of the film after being put through this program is mildly emotionally satisfying but in no way diminishes not just the story she’s been through nor how the movie chooses to tell the story.

Both the story and the movie are about exploiting womens’ sexuality. And the story is engaging, but it’s not groundbreaking nor particularly political (ironic for a spy thriller, I guess). I feel as though if a similar film had been made with the same characters 10-20 years ago, Lawrence’s character would not have been the main character but would have been an accessory to some guy’s story.

The one thing that is slightly empowering, in a cold, shattered sort of way, is that our heroine ultimately saves herself. There are a lot of men in the story pressing her in many directions and putting her in invidious positions over and over and she uses what she’s learned to outsmart, outlast and manipulate them. It’s a story about creating new options for yourself when you’re given a choice of evils, but it doesn’t lead us to believe that the new third way is, in contrast, an unequivocal good.

For my many sensitive friends, I will say that the film has many, many awful scenes – torture, sexual coercion, violent rape & rape attempts. Basically all the CWs ever should go on this film. I didn’t find the rapes to be diminished or sexualized, for what little that’s worth.

It kind of reminded me of La Femme Nikita in attitude, though this is a more difficult watch (and I didn’t find Nikita easy). I’m sure that it’d be enjoyable to folks who are comfortable enough with spy genre tropes. I’m equally sure that the mild emotional satisfaction the resolution of the film brings is not remotely enough for anyone uncomfortable with any of the plot elements I mentioned to push through and watch it anyway.

So, honestly, the best thing about it is probably that it out-performed Bruce Willis’ Death Wish at the box office in the first weekend. As well it should. As little empowerment as Red Sparrow offered, it has to be better than two women fridged in the first ten minutes as motivation for the main character. And in our current climate of mass shootings, I’d really rather see sex used as a weapon than weapons used as solutions to All The Things in my downtime.

Friday streaming (and pouring) recs

It is a soggy, drenched evening here on the East coast of the U.S. It’s the kind of night that makes me bitter that “it was a dark and stormy night” is the go-to example of triteness in writing, because if you’ve been out on a dark and stormy night, you know it’s spooky and sometimes also miserable. To be barely able to see and have wind and rain whipping around your head and making creepy noises – you can see why people go there to evoke mood.

This weekend, films I may see in the theater include Red SparrowPhantom Thread, and Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.

Here are some streaming recs for those who are (wisely, if you’re anywhere near here) staying in, tonight:


New streaming on netflix is Wind River, a mystery thriller starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. I haven’t seen this one – it was on my list and got away from me, as movies sometimes do, but the critics liked it quite a bit. I may watch it myself, this weekend.

It also has one of my cheesetastic favorites, the 2001 Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie.

This is not a good movie, per se, but I like it a lot. And Jolie does a bunch of her own stunts, which is impressive. Just…don’t look at the plot too much. Or at all, if you can help it.


First let me say that I finally got around to watching the first season of Hulu’s Runaways, and it was pretty good. It might actually be more enjoyable if you’ve never read the comics and don’t know which cards are being left out of the deck, but I’ve read them and still enjoyed it.

They also have the movie Mermaids (1990). Cher and Winona Ryder star (along with an itty bitty baby Christina Ricci) in a film about mothers, daughters and romantic relationships. It has a bit of funny and a bit of moving and all in all is kind of sweet.


Prime has what I can only describe as a cancer comedy: 50/50.

It’s a buddy comedy based on the real life experiences of writer Will Reiser. It runs the gamut of emotions and feels very real and visceral in places while still being overall pretty funny.


Not movies, but Hulu has the first three seasons of Steven Universe, now, which I adore. And they also have the classic Pinky and the Brain and the series off of which it spun, Animaniacs.

Netflix has the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in its current kid movie selection.

That’s it for today. See you next week. Stay dry!


Annihilation was one of the movies I was really looking forward to, this year, and I wasn’t disappointed by it. Visually striking and beautiful, which is perhaps to be expected from director Alex Garland. Also thoughtful, interesting and full of characters that are largely better developed than I would expect, given the number of them.

Five different women with their own idiosyncrasies and their own voices travel through a dream-like reality and carry us with them on their journey. As I told a friend just before I saw it, Annihilation is a woman-led ensemble action scifi horror movie, and is therefore what I would like to pump directly into my veins to wake up every morning and keep myself vital.

I know that there were questions of whitewashing the movie. Other people have discussed that with more depth of knowledge than I could. It does, however star five women of different ages, all of whom are portrayed with their own strengths and weaknesses, most of them are scientists. None are sexualized outside of the snippets of actual sex scenes we see Natalie Portman’s character in, and those are well-placed in an emotional context.

So: problematic, yes. But I enjoyed it anyway. I liked seeing women as strong and as intellectual on the screen. I liked seeing them get to be emotional and seeing the ways they dealt with those emotions.

In its treatment of women it was a nice change from the only other of Garland’s films I’ve seen so far, Ex Machina. That bought hard into some deeply irritating sexist tropes. It may have been attempting commentary on them, but I’m not convinced it succeeded.

I keep thinking I should watch Ex Machina again, considering that, unlike the majority of movies I didn’t enjoy watching the first time, it has really stuck in my head and kept me thinking, which I believe is a point in its favor. However, there are so many things on my to-watch list, I don’t know when I’ll be able to make that happen.

But I digress.

Like in Ex Machina, setting is like an additional character in the film, driving the plot forward in the way that setting rarely does. I got a very palpable sense of the the landscape our characters ranged through. And that landscape developed throughout the film, carrying the film’s themes of creative destruction and transformational journeys within itself as well as passing it on to the people moving through it.

It is deeply a science fiction movie, full of ideas and lines of thought that raise many more questions than they answer. The plot doesn’t fully resolve at the end of the film. I don’t know if that’s an artistic choice or because Garland is planning to adapt the other two novels in Jeff VanderMeer’s southern reach trilogy  into films as well. After seeing this one, I hope he does. And I’d like to read the novels themselves, though I understand there are lots of differences between the screen version and the original written one (as there almost always are).

Annihilation is a rich tapestry, with a lot to take in. More, I suspect, than can be absorbed in one viewing. I certainly would be open to repeat watchings to try to take in more of its layers.

It is also very definitely a horror film. Things that happen in the dream-like, ethereal landscape are in hard contrast to the landscape itself. The horrific things that happen (and how they happen) are frequently vital clues for our band of scientists on the screen, moving the plot forward with the information they bring.

In the film landscape, there have been a slate of Big Idea Scifi films over the past several years. And I am in love with them. In love, really with the whole new hard scifi film movement that brought us GravityArrivalInterstellar, and The Martian. I would definitely place Annihilation in this movement as well.

As much as I enjoy a good space opera (a fuckton, for the record) it’s nice to see some science fiction cinema that has a lot more intellectual depth and which sticks a little closer to home. It’s nice to see some bigger budgets invested in Idea Genre Fiction in general.  I hope we’re starting to get past the era of snobbery in which genre fiction isn’t taken as seriously as ‘realistic’ fiction.

All fiction that works deeply for the audience is based more in emotional truth than in factual reality. Science fiction and horror can bring us just as much emotional truth and deeply relevant themes as any random award-seeking biopic or Work of Art.

The upshot of all this is that I enjoyed Annihilation a lot. It was effective as both scifi and horror. It had lots of intellectual badass women characters. It’s beautiful and thoughtful and emotional — pretty meaty as an experience.

How to talk to your barista about your depressive episode.

If one lives in one place for any length of time, one is likely to become a regular at some business or other. Being a regular is this weird, transactional, casual relationship. It can feel awkward to be noticed, but it’s also nice to have people be nice to you.

My goal in any retail or service-receiving situation is for the person on the other side of the counter to remember me either as one of their favorite customer for the day or as completely forgettable. I try to be nice and polite to all these folks to make it easy for them to be nice and polite to me, since they pretty much have to.

This means, though, when I fall off the grid for a month or so at a time, people notice. One never goes through life without impacting others and most of us impact lots more people than we think about when we consider the question of our own worth.

The upshot of this is, if one, say, spends the vast majority of January fighting off a depressive episode and wrestling with one’s inner demons to get out of bed every morning, instead of doing one’s usual errands, one is likely to get some questions when one re-emerges.

“I haven’t seen you in a while,” the guy at the sandwich shop might say. And what can I say back to that? Saying “I was locked in a Sisyphean cycle of my brain eating itself” is a bit much to lay on so casual a relationship, particularly one where the other person is supposed to show sympathy and kindness at the expense of their own energy and emotions.

I usually go with “I’ve been out of town for a while,” (true, for the week before my depressive episode began) or “I’ve been sick for a while” (true, for the week after it ended) or “It’s been really crazy at work” (true for several weeks in the middle).

To be open about one’s mental illness is all well and good, but my barista should not have to get into this shit with me just to sell me coffee, no matter how nice and friendly he appears to be.

Retail interactions aren’t where activism lives, is I guess what I’m saying. And while I sometimes do get into identity politics with service folks (like thanking someone whose nametag lists their preferred pronouns, for instance) I don’t usually go beyond a sort of queer secret-handshake-style interaction (when called for).

It’s one thing to be open and honest about this shit. We do need that. Mental illness needs to be de-stigmatized. (Hell, plenty of *physical* illnesses still need to be de-stigmatized, too. The culture of associating morality with illness and disability is a huge topic and one that is too big for this post.) But it’s okay to not tell all of the truth all of the time. It doesn’t undermine your truth. It’s not a failure of will.

So — all this is to say that stuff got to me in January. I always struggle in deep winter (the lack of light especially eats my brain). I’m behind on basically everything in my life and running to catch up. I know it’s late for me to say this, but I’m still hoping to get some good work done in 2018. I want to bend towards action and positive change.

It’s not a resolution, because I don’t make those. Just a goal or a hope. And as always, in perpetuity, it starts today, because that’s what I’ve got.


Hey all! I’ve been out of commission for a while because of family visit, depression, depression, work crunch time, depression and most recently a wicked cold that had me out of work for a few days and still has me sleeping almost as soon as I get home from anywhere.

More on all that later, though. This is our typical Friday post.

THIS WEEKEND, I will be seeing Black Panther (for the third time), and, if my cold allows me time and energy, also Annihilation and possibly also Phantom Thread, Game Night, some of the Oscar-nominated short films, and/or one of the classic films in the Sidney Poitier repertory series going on at my local theater (though most of that is double features and honestly ???? I might fall asleep. Because of the cold, not the content, obviously).

Some streaming recommendations for y’all:


Netflix is pounding harder and harder on its original shows, and I do see why, but I came to you for movies, netflix! Please don’t forget!

Epic BBC miniseries North & South is back in rotation. If you’re a fan of costume drama or Richard Armitage looking all brooding and sexy, this is a great watch. It also has some hot takes on the industrialization of Britain and the ways inequality interacts with that in the circle of capitalism’s cause and effect. Based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Actual screenshot of Richard Armitage Brooding like a pro in period dress.

For a bit more fun and a bit less realness, both Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and Ocean’s Eleven (2001) are up right now.


I haven’t seen it in a while, but I do remember being *ahem* strongly encouraged to watch romance The Cutting Edge by a college girlfriend and enjoying it a lot more than I expected to.

Hulu also has Frank an indie about the intersection of mental illness, exploitation and art which has a surreality that turns on a knife edge from whimsy to something a lot more difficult. It’s very well done and a fascinating watch, but not an easy one. It stars young Magneto, General Hux, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as bitter, artistic-purist queen of my fucking heart.


Amazon has one of my favorite films of last year, Logan Lucky. It’s a heist film and a justice film and a romp and emotional and I have been known to refer to it as a lost episode of Leverage.

They also have the musical film of Little Shop Of Horrors (1986), which had spot-on delightful casting and was generally well done if you can ignore the mangling of the Broadway show’s ending to something more sappy-Hollywood. It’s funny, creepy and catchy as hell.

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There we go. I’m not gonna pick out any kid-specific recs tonight because I’m honestly kind of amazed that I’m still awake.

More (hopefully lots) in the coming week.

It’s good to be back, kids and kittens.

Friday Streaming Recs

Do you ever have that thing where time seems to stretch eternally and fly by simultaneously? That’s been this week, for me.

My biggest excitement of the week is that I’m getting a new handheld vacuum that I ordered, today. Don’t grow up, kids.

I finally started watching The Good Place this week, which approximately everyone in the universe has recommended to me. It is a delight.

The movies that are being released this weekend do not move me. I may go and watch something I missed earlier, or re-see something, or play movie theater roulette, but it’s supposed to be surprisingly mild in New England, so I may not in favor of getting some chores & errands done.

Either way, here are some streaming recs!


Space nerds everywhere have probably already seen this, but Apollo 13 is on Netflix streaming and it’s totally worth watching. I may, in fact, watch it again, as it’s been ages since I’ve seen it.

It’s well done. Sciency and delicious.


Joss Whedon has fallen out of nerd favor, I know, but if you dig Shakespeare, his Much Ado About Nothing is quite good. Full of fantastic performances, the film pulls none of its punches. Not an entirely easy watch, but worthwhile, it was apparently filmed over, like, a long weekend at the Whedon house.

Prime Video

It Comes At Night wasn’t as I thought it would be, but it’s a horror film that has at its core some deeply human strengths and failings. Honestly, though there is much that is horrific in the film, I wouldn’t have classified it as a horror film if I had seen it independent of its advertising. It’s more like a Shakespearean tragedy run through a Samuel Beckett lens (albiet with less snappy dialog than that implies).


Amazon has Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go To Heaven:

A classically animated musical that came out in the late eighties.

Speaking of classic animation, Hulu has The Black Cauldron:

And speaking of classics in general, from the “crying about animals” category, Netflix has The Incredible Journey


Love and kisses from Cambridge, kids and kittens.

Friday Recs (kind of)

So I’m in the middle of a freaking depressive episode. Started sometime yesterday. Spent last night laying in the dark in my bed trying to convince myself that eating was a thing that should happen (I did eventually succeed). Spending this morning listening to the entire Panic! At The Disco catalog on spotify in chronological order.

I know what started the train down, but it doesn’t really matter after a certain point. Avoiding triggers may help one avoid these things, but demystifying them does fuck-all.

This too shall pass, and I do have plans to go see some stuff this weekend. Tops on my list are Proud Mary and The Post. Other possibilities include Coco and Phantom Thread, though honestly, I am probably more likely to go see The Shape of Water or Call Me By Your Name again.

It is a three-day weekend for me (yay working in academia) so I hold out hope.

I don’t actually feel like hunting up what’s streaming where, today, that I’ve seen already. I thought I’d highlight some of the things that are streaming that are on my list (and in some cases have been for ages) that I still haven’t watched.

Less Than Zero

A young Robert Downey, jr. plays an out-of-control drug addict. This will be a hard watch but I suspect a good one. It’s on netflix.


This film made waves when it came out almost a decade ago. I wasn’t nearly as big a horror buff then as I am now, though, and even though I was pretty delighted by the concept of the vagina dentata making its way into modern pop culture, I haven’t watched it yet, even though netflix has made it super easy.


Being involved in pop culture spaces means I already know half the freaking songs from this movie. Just never got around to watching it. Also on netflix.


I have heard the legend of this movie from a lot of Theater Kids of a Certain Age (aka younger than I am). I have only seen snippets of the incredible music performances in it. It’s streaming on hulu.


As a former theater kid, myself, I feel like I SHOULD HAVE FOR SURE seen this movie. Not to mention it’s rated pretty highly by plenty of critics and my mom (a retired literature teacher) liked it. It’s also on hulu.


This was just one of those movies I wanted to see when it came out and never got around to. It’s streaming on amazon.


From the director and writer of one of my favorite comedies, Obvious Child, this film also stars Jenny Slate, who is fantastic. I wanted to see it when it came out and didn’t get to. It’s on amazon.

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Honestly, I probably will just keep watching episodes of The Addams Family and stupid youtube videos, instead.

I hope y’all have a great weekend! And next week, may my brain be less annoying.