A Review Of The Super Bowl LII Halftime Show

Hey everyone! Each semester, I like to share at least a couple of the projects I worked on because A) you guys keep asking me to and B) tbh it’s kinda nice to show this stuff off to someone besides the professor and maybe some of my classmates?

Music Journalism seems like an excellent candidate for this, since we have very frequent and very short assignments. A while back, my prof instructed us to write a review of the Super Bowl LII halftime show. 

I had great fun with the assignment. As you will soon see.

Enjoy!

If, at your friend’s Super Bowl party, you fell asleep in front of the TV after pigging out on chips and dip and woke up to Justin Timberlake’s halftime show hoping it was a bad dream caused by indigestion, no one would blame you. Your friend looks at you sadly: “Remember when the halftime show was good?”

As someone who wasn’t even born when NSYNC began their career and is still fairly unfamiliar with Timberlake’s music, this was not a promising introduction. Rather than experiencing the nostalgia of the previous generation, I related to the awkward kid taking a selfie with him during “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” the only song that seemed to get a reaction from even diehard fans during what was the least energetic halftime show I have ever seen.

“Can’t Stop The Feeling” was the last track. It should have come first.

It was like watching my dad trying too hard to be cool.

The singer himself didn’t seem all that excited to be there, with his dancers and backup singers providing most of the entertainment. During “Mirrors,” dancers whirled about holding giant mirrors, flashing bursts of light throughout the stadium in the only visually appealing portion of the performance. Timberlake had approximately the same command of his stage as a hapless, self-conscious soloist at a middle school talent show.

The past three years’ headlining acts have each had a strong sense of purpose driving their performances. Katy Perry provided pure fun. Beyoncé brought a powerful political message. Lady Gaga focused on the avant garde.

Justin Timberlake, by contrast, did not seem particularly engaged in this, his third Super Bowl performance, at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Drawing upon Prince’s connection to the city, Timberlake beamed an enormous floating image of the late artist in the sky above him.

When your Super Bowl performance relies on riding the coattails of past and more charismatic halftime shows, it might be a sign that it’s time to accept that the world has moved on from you.

Bye, bye, bye, indeed.

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Movie Review: Proud Mary

Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a hit woman working for an organized crime family in Boston, whose life is completely turned around when she meets a young boy whose path she crosses when a professional hit goes bad.

I can’t for the life of me remember how I heard about this movie? It certainly didn’t have great marketing, but at any rate I looked forward to it for months because uhhh Taraji is really pretty and I’m gay for women beating the shit out of douchey men.

I actually went to go see it with my best friend before she LEFT ME to go study abroad, so I’m happy we both enjoyed it as it was just one part of a great night.

The gist of the movie is that Mary assassinates this guy and, while leaving the scene of the crime, realizes he has a son. Who she just made an orphan. She takes the kid – Danny – under her wing some time later out of remorse, but extricating herself from the life she’s made is no easy feat and together, the two of them are drawn deeper and deeper into danger.

“Newsflash, asshole! I am the mothering type!”

I loved the way Mary and Danny serve as foils for each other. Similar childhoods. Similar Issues™. Similar sense of humor. And they’re always there for one another. At times the plot is rather predictable, but I’m always a sucker for parallels in narrative structures soooo like… I actually didn’t mind the predictability that much.

Proud Mary‘s R rating is definitely warranted: Between the shootouts and a torture scene, it’s a lot bloodier than I thought it would be. I dealt with that just fine, but I wanted you to know in case that sort of thing bothers you because I know I didn’t expect that level of violence in a movie where one of the two leads is like twelve.

The music was FANTASTIC. No matter how many times I’ve seen it before, I love a good action scene with some overly-loud music in the background. Somehow I don’t think I’d ever heard Tina Turner’s cover of “Proud Mary” before?! I had the Creedence Clearwater Revival version – which is what I was raised on – stuck in my head for weeks leading up to this movie.

One major criticism I do have is that the plot took a while to really get going. Britany Murphy at Geeks of Color said it better than I could in her review of the movie, but essentially the action didn’t pick up until the third act.

By that time, I was on the edge of my seat, worried for Mary and Danny. No spoilers, but what an intense ending! I felt emotionally drained by the time we left the theater. I just wish the earlier scenes hadn’t dragged along. It was as if the filmmakers were fumbling around for a story, making their way through a fog until they found the right path to take. Once they got there, their hard work paid off.

Proud Mary was the first film I saw in 2018… and what a way to start the year. While it isn’t without its flaws, overall it has a lot of heart and humor. And plenty of action! It’s not one that I would watch again right away, but I definitely do want to revisit it at some point in the future.

Rating: 3.5/5

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A Review Of “It’s All Absolutely Fine” | AKA Is Rubyetc My Long-Lost Sister?!

“My brain, having been suspended in a state of hyper-vigilance for such a long time, just packed in and said, ‘No more, your job now is to lie on the sofa incredibly still and just work on evaporating, you useless towel’. And so I did.”

Story time! I’ve always wanted a sister. Older or younger, either will do. (Or a twin! I wouldn’t mind sharing my birthday if it meant I had a sister.) Alas, my dream never came true and so I treasure the friends who are like sisters to me instead.

And now I’ve decided that Ruby Elliot, AKA rubyetc, is my sister. My long-lost and more artistically-talented sister, that is. I mean, she must be! Her drawings just GET me. I follow her on social media and each new picture she posts seems to come at the exact time I needed them.

“Collectively, our mental health relies heavily on supporting one another, but sometimes that’s not enough. On a basic level, I think therapy is a slightly more structured way of getting what we probably all need when we are struggling, which is to talk and to be heard.”

Filled with her trademark oddball illustrations, It’s All Absolutely Fine: Life is Complicated So I’ve Drawn It Instead tackles everything from mental health and body positivity to friendships and #adulting.

I love her outlook on life. Diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and bulimia, Elliot has – like me – already been through A LOT despite being only in her twenties. But – once again, like me, she tries her best to be positive about this mess we call life. She writes and draws about depression honestly, but with a batshit sense of humor running through it all.

“Because the silence is exhausting and isolating in a way it needn’t be.”

And really, isn’t that exactly what we need more of? The 2018 MOOD is being honest about our struggles, but without being perpetually negative + falling into an anti-recovery mindset. Navigating your way through early adulthood is challenging enough, but add mental illness to the mix and the whole experience becomes even scarier and lonelier. It’s SO important to talk openly about what you’re going through… that way you can both lend support to others and receive support from them.

“What I have got a shot at controlling is the way I manage what’s happening. And that’s what I was in therapy for, not to be fixed, but to facilitate and support me finding some sort of way through my difficulties.”

I look forward to the day Elliot announces she’s publishing a new book. I’m so grateful she’s here. Keep growing – and don’t let others’ opinions of you make you doubt yourself, she reminds us. And try to laugh, however hard that may be at times. Pet dogs. Get something to eat. Draw a flower with a grumpy face saying “fuck,” if it makes you feel any better.

I won’t lie, the last few years have been tough for me. But I’m getting better, thanks to meds and therapy and persistence and discipline. And the support of others, including some who don’t even know me. Ruby Elliot’s drawings, and this book, came into my life at exactly the moment when I most needed them.

Thanks, big sister.

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An Update On My Classes | Women’s Health, Annotations, & “Hallelujah”

Hey everyone! I’m five weeks into the semester and things are going swimmingly. I mean, I’m tired all the time, but it’s a satisfied feeling of exhaustion that greets me when I crawl into bed at the end of each day, you know? I’ve settled into a routine and everything.

Enough chatter from me, here’s what I’ve been up to.

Diversity & Power in the US

This is an introductory-level course, so it covers a lot of stuff I already know either from previous classes or my own reading. But I’m not complaining… this course is required of all GWSS majors and I’m grateful for the easy A! Lately we’ve been studying slavery, class, disability, et cetera. We keep revisiting the same subjects with different degrees of depth, so we’re now back to race. One of our recent readings was an excerpt from Malcolm X’s autobiography that just blew me away! Brb adding it to my tbr list.

Women in Premodern East Asian Literature

So this is a 2000-level course… buuuuut I’m working just as hard or maybe even harder than I have in some 4000-level classes?! Don’t get me wrong, I love reading so many tales I’d never even heard of before, but man is my professor intense. Quizzes here, reading responses there, reading checks everywhere. I’ve been highlighting and annotating like crazy.

Our latest assignment was to rewrite one of what my prof calls “virtue tales,” little stories designed to instruct women how to behave in proper society. Had a lot of fun with it since I got so much practice in that genre with Literary Retelling & Impersonation last spring!

Women & Their Bodies in Health & Illness

I’m pretty proud of myself for staying on top of my reading load in ALL my classes so far (!), but even if I fall off the wagon in my other courses I know this is one whose assignments I’ll never neglect. It’s heavily discussion-based and the readings are super engaging – some of them are downright conversational, tbh – and it’s been refreshing to talk so openly about everything from dating violence and healthcare inequity to gender roles and sex education. Plus, the professor has a wonderful sense of humor!

Easily the high point of my Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Transnational Feminism

I love love LOVE this prof’s insistence that we give concrete examples in our discussions of the reading. The readings here are definitely some of the most dense + challenging I’ve ever had, so I appreciate that she makes us gradually break them down until they’re more accessible. It can be hard and sometimes makes my brain hurt, but when talking about economics or systems of oppression or what have you it can be easy to slip into jargon and theory, so she always urges us to thinks of examples we can see in the world around us.

Music Journalism

My professor is like eighty and I think we’re all afraid he might drop down dead any moment… his music taste and views of the world never cease to surprise us – or at least me. He went on a rant the other day about music young women like is devalued by society and I was just like HI UM I’M LOVE YOU.

Our assignments are frequent but short because, as he’s explained, even if you have a steady job writing a music column you’re not gonna get a lot of space. So you’d better learn how to be concise. We’ve written about our favorite covers of “Hallelujah,” critiqued the Super Bowl halftime show, and written several album reviews. I’m surrounded by old favorites and constantly discovering new songs. In fact, just the other day I fell in love with MILCK and her brand-new EP This Is Not The End, which I reviewed for our first graded assignment.

Keep your eyes out for posts where I share things I’ve written for this class! I’m having such a blast in it, oh my god. Feeling exceptionally grateful I signed up for it since I was worried before it started that it somehow wouldn’t be a good fit for me.

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How is February treating you so far? Handling your classes OK? Did you do anything special for Valentine’s Day?

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The Bucket List Tag

Have you ever made a bucket list? I’ve created (and revised!) many over the years. What can I say? I love lists… and I love setting goals perhaps even more! Today’s tag is taken from Brin’s Book Blog and I hope you all enjoy it!

1. Have a small, quiet wedding

Emphasis on the small. I may even just have a courthouse wedding, with only as many people as are needed to witness and officiate. Now, if my future wife has strong feelings against this, we’ll obviously have to find some sort of compromise, but I would rather not be inundated with people. Big weddings are so expensive – and besides, my introverted self finds the thought of such an event absolutely exhausted! Why would I want to feel so overwhelmed on such an important day?

2. Get a book published

I mean, hopefully more than one. But we all have to start somewhere! Gonna write all of the gay shit, you guys. GAY SFF SHIT. And picture books, too! I just need to find an illustrator…

3. Travel to Australia & New Zealand

Australia, because so much of it is so desolate and filled with weird-ass wildlife. New Zealand, because it looks gorgeous in a way that is completely different from Australia’s beauty. I hate hate hate being cooped up in a plane for long flights, but I’ll brave the trip for sure if this is where I’m headed!

4. Revisit Ireland

Not a day goes by that I don’t miss Ireland. I studied abroad there last summer and wish I could have stayed longer. I want to take my parents there someday: I think they’d especially enjoy the western part of the country, which is more much wild and eerie. I also want to go there with Orphu @ A Mirror Made of Words so we can explore Dublin and maybe even attend one of Derek Landy’s book signings! I picked up a signed copy of his latest, Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection, for her, but I wish she could have been there in person!

5. Have my mental health more under control

Don’t we all? I expect this will be a lifelong project… OCD, in particular, is something that you’re stuck with for life, although you can certainly take steps to better manage it. I want to become better at self care and at dealing with difficult, complicated feelings rather than simply trying to ignore or bury them.

6. Mentor LGBTQ+ kids & teens

My dream is to work at a shelter for homeless LGBTQ+ youth! I don’t want either adopted or bio kids (for reasons too numerous to list here), but I do love the passion and curiosity and energy of kids. And I want to help those who aren’t fortunate enough to have a family and home to call their own anymore.

7. Meet Ian McKellen

There are many famous people I would love to meet, but McKellen currently tops the list. I love his acting + his sense of humor! I wish I could have dinner with him and bombard him with questions about what it was like to grow up gay in a time so different from the present day and age. I WANT TO HUG HIM IF HE’S OK WITH IT.

8. Complete a Wreck This Journal

Because I fuckening love notebooks and little art-y projects. Actually, I just thought of the cutest thing: What if I bought my wife and I each a copy and we work on them together, seeing how differently we interpret every page?

9. Have my photography printed in National Geographic

Ideally, I would love to go “on assignment” to provide the photos for an article… perhaps I’ll even write the article as well! If that doesn’t happen, I want one of my entries into their many photography contests to be chosen as the winner. I check their website constantly to see if the current theme is something I’d like to submit photos for!

10. Build a catapult

What’s that? You weren’t expecting that? But but but consider this: A giant catapult that can hurl pumpkins hundreds of feet through the air. I may need some help with this. (Afterward, we’ll feast on pumpkin pie.)

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I’m tagging:

And as always, feel free to participate whether or not I tagged you. (Or ignore this tag, if you so choose.)

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Have you made a bucket list and if so, what’s on it? Which tasks will be the easiest to complete? Which items are more difficult?

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First Reactions To The “A Wrinkle In Time” Trailer

Hey guys! I don’t know about you, but Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was a huge part of my childhood. When I heard there was gonna be a live action film adaptation I was more than a little worried because, for as much as I would love to see this story told on the big screen, I was uncertain if the project could actually be pulled off. A Wrinkle in Time is an odd little book, with each rereading leaving me more confused than enlightened by the end.

But then I saw this trailer while sitting in the theater waiting for The Last Jedi to start, and… it actually… looks… GOOD? So I’m excited now.

Enjoy!

P.S. You can find my earlier film trailer reaction posts here.

Warning: Spoilers ahead! Read/watch at your own risk!

0:04 – Hhhhhhh nOSTALGIA

0:09 – Whoaaaa, trippy. I love when movies are like, “Well, we gotta include the Disney logo anyway, so let’s get creative with it…”

0:17 – I’m just?? So happy?? That Meg Murray is black and mixed in this version. Of course I would love to see original stories and not just adaptations, but there isn’t nearly enough media depicting scientifically-minded black girls so I’m all about filmmakers going against the casting status quo instead of just hiring all white people.

0:25 – I CAN’T WAIT TO MEET THE MURRAY FAMILY, I’M EXCITE

0:30 – Omggg is that Charles Wallace he’s adorable !!!!

0:39 – I love this goddamn story and how much it makes my head hurt from thinking so hard. (That was not sarcasm, in case it isn’t clear. It is 100% genuinely one of my reasons for adoring it.)

0:45 – I’M CRYING LOOK AT CAMAZOTZ IT’S PERFECT

0:51 – …I’ve never totally understood the concept of a tesseract until seeing it now. Things like this are why I’m looking forward to this movie so much! It’s like there’s a mini-movie going on inside my head while I read, but I’ve still never been able to wrap my mind around the method of traveling the Mrs. Ws use.

1:01 – !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1:08 – Lmao I still can’t get over the idea that her dad’s Chris Pine what even

1:01 – Me??? Tho????

1:38 – Me n all my pals living our best lives

1:42 – When I eat a single vegetable and feel like I’ve satisfied my Real Adult™ quota for the day…

1:52 – I’M… EMOTIONAL…

2:03 – Ooooooooooooooooooooo

2:19 – ?!?!?!??!?!?!!?!?!??!?!

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Provided initial reviews have me just as hyped as I am right now, I hope to see this over spring break. I’m really curious to see if this movie motivates me to try the rest of the series… here’s a little secret for you: I’ve never actually read any of the sequels! I love love love A Wrinkle in Time but just couldn’t get into the others and have been meaning to for years. We’ll just have to see, I guess!

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What’s your opinion of this trailer for A Wrinkle in Time?

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Reading The Rainbow: Heather Has Two Mommies

Reading The Rainbow is an original regular feature at Musings From Neville’s Navel. I’m a lesbian bookworm who loves to geek out about books and gay stuff, so why not talk about both subjects at once?! Basically, I review books with LGBTQ+ characters and/or themes, discuss the pros and cons of each, and tell you which stories are worth your time!

Title: Heather Has Two Mommies

Author: Lesléa Newman

Genre: Picture book

Length: 32 pages

Published by: Alyson Books

Date of publication: 1989

Source: Library

The simple and straightforward story of a little girl named Heather and her two lesbian mothers was created by Newman and illustrator Diana Souza because children’s books that reflected a nontraditional family did not exist, but a firestorm of controversy soon ensued.

Previous Reading The Rainbow posts may be found here.

The grandmother of LGBTQ+ picture books, Heather Has Two Mommies has long been on my TBR list. How could it not be? I want to write for children someday, want to write stories could appeal to a little gay kid not too different from who I used to be – and without authors such as Lesléa Newman paving the way, I would not have this opportunity.

I always find it difficult to review picture books since they’re so short, but I’ll do my best.

Newman has an excellent grasp of what draws children into a story – namely, repetition. Heather has two hands, two feet, two pets, two mommies, et cetera. All the best pictures and, indeed, many older stories such as myths and legends and religious texts make use of repetition and lyricism.

The message at the heart of this book comes near the end: “The most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love each other.” For a book published in the eighties, it shows a wide range of families, from adopted siblings to grandparents as surrogate grandparents. There’s some racial diversity here, too, in addition to an illustration of a child in a wheelchair.

While I’m on the subject of the illustrations… while I enjoyed Lesléa Newman’s storytelling, Diana Souza’s illustrations left me rather less than satisfied. The book has in fact been republished with new pictures by Laura Cornell, which are much more engaging than the originals. My local library didn’t have the newer edition, though, which is why I chose to review this version. I would definitely choose the updated edition if I were to read this aloud to a child!

It’s not even that the black-and-white illustrations of the 1989 edition are a bit bland; while that color palette can certainly be dull, I’ve read some excellent picture books + graphic novels told that way! (Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Jeff Smith’s Bone series both come to mind.)

It’s more that, um, some of the illustrations are just downright WEIRD. Like, what exactly is up with Heather’s dog on the front cover? That’s not a dog, that’s an eldritch horror. It looks like it wants to gobble her up any minute now. What is this, Little Red Riding Heather and the Big Bad Wolf?

But I digress.

I would recommend this book to…

  • Little kids learning about different types of people + families
  • Those interested in studying the history of LGBTQ lit, especially gay children’s lit

See, the thing is I wouldn’t just grab this off a shelf and start casually reading this to a child. It definitely seems like a book to TEACH, not to READ, especially if like me you’re stuck with an older copy.

I wouldn’t say Heather Has Two Mommies is an un-engaging story, but it’s not an exceptionally fun one either. It just kind of… exists. Good for introducing little kids to the idea that everyone is alike in some ways and different in others, but not really something I would give as a gift.

May actually be of more interest to older readers, given its significance in the canon of LGBTQ+ literature.

Rating: 3/5

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