"I Know"

From Sharon Van Etten's Are We There


Liner notes: Paring her confessional chamber pop to just voice and piano, Van Etten delivers a harrowing lament: "You see me turn around and try to hide my sigh…Then you disappear because you can't fight fear."

Behind the music: Are We There is the fourth album from Van Etten, who has recorded with the National, Shearwater, and the Antlers—not including her appearance on a John Denver tribute CD.

Check it out if you like: Intense folks like Angel Olsen, Cat Power, and Alela Diane.

This review first appeared in the May/June issue of Mother Jones.

This post contains some spoilers.

The X-Men film series, about a class of mutant superheroes and villains, has always been about the persecution of minorities. The first installment, 2000's X-Men, drew soft parallels between the US government hunting for mutants and past Nazi atrocities. The story for 2011's X-Men: First Class, was directly influenced by the civil rights movement and the contrast between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the latest installment, X-Men: Days of Future Past (directed by Bryan Singer, and starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, and Ellen Page), this theme continues with a storyline surrounding a fictional program from the early 1970s, approved by President Richard Nixon, that involves sending killer robots after America's closeted mutant population. The film's political backdrop also features a mutant-ized take on the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, where the US agreed to end direct military involvement in the Vietnam War. On top of that, the new X-Men flick deepens the alternate history explored in the franchise by suggesting that this handsome devil was secretly a mutant:

John F. Kennedy
NASA/Wikimedia Commons

Yep. That's John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States.

In the film, Erik Lehnsherr, a.k.a. Magneto, (played by Fassbender) is being held in a secret prison beneath the Pentagon for his alleged involvement in the JFK assassination. After his fellow X-Men break him out of prison, he claims that he was wrongly convicted and that he was actually trying to save the president from Lee Harvey Oswald's bullet. His reason? "He was one of us," Magneto says.

To be fair, this is a brief moment in the movie, and it is never clarified if "one of us" means JFK was a mutant or something along the lines of a friend of the oppressed mutant community. One plausible interpretation of Magneto's claim here is that it pays homage to the aborted "Princess Diana is a zombie mutant superhero!" plot from the X-Statix spin-off.

We can only assume that JFK's secret mutant powers consisted of killing Iraqi liberals and rampant lechery.

Now here's a fake mini-documentary released in November that summarizes Magneto's alleged involvement in the JFK assassination:


On an intellectual level I know watching this movie wasn't actually worse than being eaten alive by a herd of rabid beasts but…



The Dylanologists

The Dylanologists

By David Kinney


It seems like everybody and their dog has a book about Bob Dylan, but The Dylanologists turns the spotlight on his most obsessive fans instead. Journalist David Kinney takes us into a world of zealous collectors who will snap up anything the great man has touched, nerds who obsessively trade and catalog bootleg recordings, and code breakers who pore over every quote and lyric for meaning. We learn about the travails of dedicating one's life to an inaccessible hero and the emotional toll of having that hero regularly reinvent our favorite parts of himself. Through it all runs a tension between the Dylanologist's compulsion to understand the "real" Bob and the artist's steadfast desire to remain an enigma.

This review originally appeared in our May/June 2014 issue of Mother Jones.

Mark Fiore is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a website featuring his work.

Elizabeth Warren went on The Colbert Report Monday to discuss her new memoir A Fighting Chance, which is "totally for real no joking guys please believe me" not a campaign book. The senator from Massachusetts and the future Late Show host discussed a lot of things including but not limited to how Reagan forged a culture of deregulation and leniency on Wall Street that led directly to the 2008 financial crisis and how the people responsible for said crisis who ran the biggest banks in America have still not been held responsible.

I grew up in an America that was investing in kids. It was investing in public universities. It had a high minimum wage. It was an America that said every kid had a fighting chance.And that's how we built America's great middle class. Then starting in about the 1980s we started turning in another direction...And what happened is [Reagan] had a couple of ideas. The first one was that they would fire the cops. Not the ones on main street but the ones on Wall Street...making sure that our largest financial institutions actually followed the law...If we don't have basic rules what happened is what happened then. And that is the big financial institutions made billions of dollars by cheating people on credit cards and mortgages...There's been a lot of freeloading, but the freeloading has been by the biggest financial institutions who got bailed out by the American taxpayers, who broke the law and were never held responsible...Here's the key part—nobody went to jail for any part of this. The only people in America today who go to jail are regular folks. Big financial institutions get out there, they launder drug money, they violate the law, and still no one is held accountable. I think that's fundamentally wrong.

Why won't Elizabeth Warren let banks launder their drug money in peace?


On Sunday's episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver celebrated the tenth anniversary of gay marriage in America; on May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriages. In the segment (watch above), Oliver highlights one of the "unusual obstacles" that marriage equality still faces: In the English version of Tomodachi Life, Nintendo new life-simulator video game, players do not have the option of participating in same-sex virtual relationships. After the game's release, Nintendo apologized for "disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships," and seemed to imply that any future installments in the Tomodachi series would include same-sex romance.

Oliver and co. had fun with this, and imagined how the characters of the Nintendo world would react to the news of Nintendo's statement:

1. Mario and Link celebrate and make out:

Nintendo gay marriage
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight


2. Princess Peach and Princess Zelda engage in some foreplay:

Nintendo gay marriage
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight


3. Yoshi and Toad get hitched:

Nintendo gay wedding
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight


4. Bowser weeps at the funeral of his "longtime partner" Donkey Kong:

Nintendo same-sex relationships
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

Click here to listen to my recent conversation with Oliver about the wild humor and smart commentary of Last Week Tonight.

You might have already heard that the images of destruction in the new Godzilla movie (starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, and Bryan Cranston) were largely inspired by real-world disasters. "As we were writing the film, the horrible events in Fukushima [where a tsunami caused a nuclear meltdown] happened and we had to make the decision: Do we stay away from that or do we acknowledge that you've opened this Pandora's box of nuclear power, and when it goes wrong, it really does go wrong?" director Gareth Edwards told the Daily News. (The original Godzilla film, Gojira, was cleverly critical of US nuclear testing, and the critically maligned 1998 Godzilla, directed by Roland Emmerich, blamed Godzilla's wrath on nuclear tests in French Polynesia.)

The 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina are also given visual nods in Edwards' version of Godzilla. Furthermore, the director drew on the horrors and devastation of modern warfare. Edwards says that he and his crew revisited images from Iraq, Afghanistan, World War II, and other conflicts.

"You sit down on Day One with all of the different heads of department and you say, 'OK, let's take this seriously, let's do this realistically,'" Edwards tells Mother Jones. "There's never really going to be giant monsters that come out of the ocean and smash a city and cause a tsunami and things like this. But, there are events that smash cities and cause tsunamis within nature and war, and so you don't have to think very hard to recall that imagery. It's so scarred in our minds that as we are creating the movie, we are getting all of those reference images and it's nearly impossible not to be influenced by them."

One of the first things Edwards did when he started this project was he went out and bought photography and history books and then studied them closely with his team. "We literally sat down and had a hundred different books," Edwards says. "A lot of war books, a lot of aftermath, whether it be terrorist or natural disasters; just because people are so familiar with that imagery that…now we have a reference for what it's supposed to look like when a giant monster comes…Science fiction is not really about the future. It's about the time today when it was made and it's reflecting the things of the moment."

Here are a couple shots from the film that have a wartime or natural-disaster vibe:



Godzilla 2014
Images courtesy of Warner Bros.

The Department of Defense cooperated with the filmmakers, which gave Edwards and his crew access to aircraft carriers and US soldiers, some of whom appear in the movie as extras.

If you'd like to check out a full transcript of the roundtable discussion a few critics and I had with Edwards, click here. Now, here's the trailer for the latest Godzilla:

(Knock knock)

"Who's there?"


"Pizza who?"

"Pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band Pizza Underground."



"I said, we're Pizza Underground. We're a...hey, can you hear me through this thing? Look, maybe you should open the door."

"No, no, I can hear you fine. Did you say you were a pizza-themed cover band?"

"A pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band, yes. Have you heard of the Velvet Underground?"

"And what are you selling?"

"Well, nothing, really. I mean, I guess technically we're selling pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover songs."

"I think you have the wrong house."

"No, look, you know Macaulay Culkin?"

"My family is just sitting down to dinner. I really don't have time for this."

"Macaulay Culkin? The actor? Home Alone, The Good Son? You know him?"

"Yes, I know of Macaulay Culkin."

"He's with us! He's in the band."

"Please. I don't want to have to call the police."

"No, look, I'm going to slide this photo under the door, ok? (slides photo under door) You see that? That's a photo of Macaulay Culkin wearing a shirt with a picture of Ryan Gosling wearing a shirt with a picture of Macaulay Culkin on it."

"Now does that not blow your mind?"








"Yes, what?"

"Yes, it blows my mind."

"OK...OK! Now we're cooking with fire! So, how about it, friend? You want to open the door and let us in? It's freezing out here."

"Yeah...yeah, OK. (begins unlocking door) Honey, could you make up some more spots at the table? A pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band is going to be joining us for dinner...Don't ask me to explain. You just have to see this photo of Macaulay Culkin."

The End.

(via Bullett Media)

Lily Allen
Warner Bros.

Sheezus cover

Good news: Motherhood and five years off the scene have not dulled Lily Allen's edge. The sharpest tongue in British music continues to call out poseurs and phonies on this bracing third album, and Allen doesn't spare herself. She acknowledges her own vulnerabilities and contradictions for all the world to hear. Collaborating again with producer and co-writer Greg Kurstin, Allen specializes in barbed observations wrapped in catchy electro-tinged pop, mocking self-aggrandizing attitudes on the title track, taunting bloggers in "URL Badman" ("When I'm a big boy I'm going to write for Vice"), and taking down celebrity preening on "Insincerely Yours" ("We’re all here coz the price is right"). Getting personal on the straight-talking love song "As Long as I Got You," she sings sweetly: "Staying home with you is better than sticking things up my nose." If Allen occasionally seems too focused on the rampant absurdities of junk culture, she's still a smart, deceptively sophisticated artist—and never, ever boring.