Black Bananas
Electric Brick Wall
Drag City

Jennifer Herrema, a graduate of the renegade art-noise band Royal Trux, seems to be getting younger as time goes by. Echoing Sky Ferreira's 2013 album Night Time, My Time, Herrema's latest outing as leader of Black Bananas unleashes an invigorating wave of damaged synth pop, swathed in distortion and smothered by electro-fuzz, suggesting a ramshackle punk band trying to provoke an uproar with new toys. Electric Brick Wall draws heavily on glam-rock and '70s funk, transcending any pretentious conceptual undertones through sheer anarchic vigor. It's noisy fun with more than enough chaos to upset your old-fogey friends.

On June 29, 2013, I attended Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier's wedding at San Francisco's City Hall and filmed the video above.

It was an especially jubilant occasion that marked the end of a long legal battle. Earlier that week, they won their Supreme Court case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, on a 5-4 decision. The ruling officially overturned Proposition 8—an earlier ballot initiative that nullified a 2008 ruling from California's highest court legalizing gay marriage—effectively making gay marriage legal again in the state. Perry and Stier wasted no time, and became the first same sex couple married under California's new legal regime.

All of us in attendance that day, from media, to family, to other spouses-in-waiting, were aware of the historical significance of Perry and Stier's nuptials. But we hadn't witnessed the behind-the-scenes story that led to their marriage. Now with HBO's new documentary The Case Against 8, which premieres Monday night, we get an exclusive look at the emotion and effort that took their case all the way the Supreme Court.

The Case Against 8's story begins with election night in 2008. While much of the country was celebrating Barack Obama's victory, gay marriage supporters were shocked and saddened by the election results coming out of California, where voters had approved Prop 8. As Ben Cotner, a co-director of the documentary, told Mother Jones, "none of us thought it would pass." He describes that night as "a wake up call to gay people that we weren't doing enough."

Soon after the ballot initiative passed, Cotner and co-director Ryan White got in touch with the two marquee attorneys who would lead the legal challenge to invalidate Prop 8—the very-odd-couple of Ted Olson and David Boies. In 2000, Olson and Boies squared off against each other at the Supreme Court as lawyers representing George W. Bush and Al Gore, respectively, in the presidential election-defining Bush v. Gore case. In The Case Against 8, we see them united once again, but now as allies for a progressive cause.

From the beginning of the film, we're reminded how surprising it was for Olson to emerge as a full throated supporter of gay marriage. After securing the White House for George Bush, Olson served as the socially conservative administration's Solicitor General. For decades, spanning from his time as an assistant attorney general under Reagan to his 2009 oral arguments on behalf of Citizen's United in the Supreme Court case that lifted key limits on corporate campaign spending, Olson had amassed a resume that made him one of the Right's leading legal lights. Kristina Schake, an official at the non-profit that spearheaded the challenge to Prop. 8, puts it simply, describing Olson as "the most prominent conservative lawyer in America."

image: case against 8
Hollingsworth v. Perry plaintiffs Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Paul Katami, and Jeff Zarrillo in "The Case Against 8" Courtesy of AFER/Diana Walker/HBO

"People were worried he was a mole or would sabotage the movement," co-director Ryan White told Mother Jones. But throughout The Case Against 8, Olson is seen tirelessly fighting, both in private and in the courtroom, for gay couples' right to marry, calling marriage itself a "conservative value." White says Olson deserves a lot of credit, noting that "even our own President [Obama] wasn't in favor of gay marriage when our filming began."

Olson and Boies were amenable to letting cameras observe their work, but the decision to allow filming in private meetings ultimately fell to their clients: Kristin Perry, Sandra Stier, Paul Katami, and Jeffrey Zarrillo—the gay couples who were the battle's public faces. Opening their private lives to the documentarians for what would surely become a stressful, emotional, and vulnerable period was no easy decision. But the couples decided to allow access because they believed in transparency and the educational value of the case.

Early in The Case Against 8, there's a scene showing a grueling prep session between Perry, Stier, and their lawyers. Attorney Sarah Piepmeier is playing the role of an opposing lawyer, preparing Stier for her first appearance on the stand. Piepmeier asks a series of questions and presents research intended to discredit Perry and make her intentions for the case appear entirely selfish. Following an uncomfortable few minutes, Piepmeier hands Stier a printout of her Facebook page, and says, "Your description for yourself was: 'Middle-aged mom with delusions of grandeur.'" Stier replies sheepishly, "Yes," to which Piepmeier says, "Ok, I have no further questions." Stier explodes with embarrassment and laughter and Perry adds, "That is so mean! What the hell?!" It's clear that when the real trial begins, these moments of levity and safety will vanish.

Kristin Perry has four sons who are featured throughout the film as important sources of inspiration for the couple. "You don't always take the time to listen to your moms," said co-director White, "but to hear them talk about it on the stand...they were in tears."

To win, the plaintiffs had to expose, explain, and describe their feelings for one another and for their families, which is not always easy to do in private, much less before a court and all the world. These scenes make The Case Against 8 not only an intimate look at the legal groundwork that led to Hollingsworth v. Perry, but also an honest, riveting account of love—and a recognition of how far this fight has come.

The Case Against 8 premieres Monday June 23 on HBO. Watch the trailer:

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.

Update: FIFA officially says the goal was scored at 34 seconds, according to the Washington Post.

The US is playing Ghana today in the World Cup. Forward Clint Dempsey scored a goal just 30 seconds into the match. That makes it the fifth-fastest World Cup goal ever

Here's a Vine:





In this film, Filipino immigrant and former Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas does what he does best: tell a story—in this case, his own, with an eye toward humanizing the debate over America's 12 million undocumented immigrants. Since revealing his undocumented status in a 2011 New York Times Magazine article, Vargas has traveled the nation pushing reform and sparking difficult conversations with lawmakers and voters. But one place he hasn't been able to go is the Philippines. Documented, which shuttles between Vargas' New York City flat and his mother's home in Manila—with a stop at a Mitt Romney town hall meeting along the way—is sprinkled with heartbreaking scenes of their complex relationship, strained by 20 years of separation. Keep a box of tissues handy.

UPDATE, June 22, 2014, 12:07 p.m. ET: A North Korean official has weighed in. "However, Kim Myong-chol, who is often described as an 'unofficial' spokesperson for the communist nation's 'supreme leader,' said the dictator would probably watch the movie anyway," the Guardian reports. (And here's Seth Rogen responding to that.)

"I am incredibly proud and a little bit frightened to present the first teaser for our next movie, [The Interview]," actor/director Seth Rogen tweeted on Wednesday. The reason he might have been a bit frightened was because of the film's plot. Here's the official synopsis of the movie, which is set for theatrical release on October 10:

In the action-comedy The Interview, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show "Skylark Tonight." When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate Kim Jong Un.

In The Interview, the binge-drinking, Kobe Bryant-loving, human-rights-allergic ruler is played by Korean-American comedian Randall Park. Here's the trailer:

"We read as much as we could that was available on the subject," Rogen told Yahoo Movies. "We talked to the guys from Vice who actually went to North Korea and met Kim Jong Un. We talked to people in the government whose job it is to associate with North Korea, or be experts on it." Rogen also said that he and co-director Evan Goldberg asked North Korea experts to check the script for authenticity, because Rogen thought the truth about the dictatorship is "so crazy you don't need to make anything up." There is a joke in the trailer about how the regime once claimed that Kim Jong Un doesn't urinate or defecate; this is based on actual propaganda about his father Kim Jong Il.

North Korean officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the upcoming Rogen-Franco comedy that involves the pair trying to kill their leader. (It's really hard to get in touch with them.)

But as the film's release approaches, don't be too surprised if someone issues an angry statement. In 2005, shortly after the release of Team America: World Police, North Korea's embassy in Prague demanded that movie be banned in the Czech Republic, insisting that it harmed their country's reputation. Team America was made by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and uses a cast of puppets to satirize the war on terror, as well as liberal Hollywood. A Kim Jong Il puppet is the main villain.

Now, here is the new poster for The Interview:

The Interview film
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

UPDATE 2, July 11, 2014, 4:29 p.m. ET: The North Korean government filed a complaint with the United Nations over The Interview. Read the letter, which labels the film as an act of war by the Obama administration, below. The State Department did not respond to my request for comment regarding North Korea's view that the upcoming Seth Rogen / James Franco comedy is an American act of war.


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.

On Wednesday, actress Ruby Dee passed away at the age of 91. Her long career brought her much acclaim and many honors, including an Academy Award nomination for her work in Ridley Scott's American Gangster. She, along with her late husband and fellow actor Ossie Davis, was also famous for her civil rights activism, which dated back to the 1950s.

Dee began attending protests as a child, joining picket lines to campaign against hiring discrimination. She and Davis emceed the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his landmark "I Have a Dream" speech. They rallied against apartheid in South Africa. In 1999, they were arrested while protesting the death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant from Guinea, who was gunned down by four NYPD officers. And the list goes on.

"I never remember, like, saying, 'I'm gonna join the civil rights movement'—that's all I knew all my life, some aspect of it, even before it was called the civil rights movement," Dee once told an interviewer from the Archive of American Television. "When I first, years ago, saw my first picture of black men hanging from trees, well, I could scarcely know the meaning of things. Or, I remember things that stuck in my head, this family strung up and the woman was pregnant and they opened the belly up, the baby had fallen out...So I can't say that I joined [the civil rights movement]; I was born into it. Racism is a disease of democracy. Our country could be one of the greatest countries that god ever imagined, were it not for this thing of racism...This grand experiment that is America is tainted by racism and bigotry, and these kinds of hatreds...This ridiculous thing of racism."

Via New York's PIX11 News, here is footage of Dee in 1969 reading the names of young black men killed by police officers:

"Ruby Dee was…a woman who believed deeply in fairness, a conviction that motivated her lifelong efforts to advance civil rights," SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard said in a statement. "The acting community—and the world—is a poorer place for her loss."


Obvious Child is being widely described as an "abortion comedy"—a catchy, if inadequate, designation. The movie (directed and co-written by Gillian Robespierre, and starring Saturday Night Live alum Jenny Slate) does involve abortion and funny jokes, many of which are about abortion and farting, among other topics. But Obvious Child is much more than the "abortion comedy" designation might lead you to believe.

"We were confident that our take on this story was thoughtful, and heartfelt, and that the comedy was funny and not for shock value," Slate tells Mother Jones.

The film follows New York-based comedian Donna Stern (played by Slate) who, after losing both her day job and her unfaithful boyfriend, engages in what she thinks is just a one-night stand—which leads to an unwanted pregnancy. She decides to have an abortion at Planned Parenthood, and she schedules it for Valentine's Day. The result is a witty, honest, and affecting romantic comedy that addresses a charged issue with unexpected clarity. The Huffington Post called it, "the year's most revolutionary film."

Obvious Child does not push a political agenda, but there is little chance of that stopping anyone who is paid to be upset by this sort of thing from, well, being upset by it. "Has Hollywood hit a new low?" the Daily Caller asked. "Here's a new oxymoron, even for the liberal media: abortion comedy," NewsBusters decried. "Apparently nothing sounds funnier than an unplanned one-night stand and a courageous destruction of God's most beautiful and most innocent creation," Brent Bozell wrote at

"[Conservatives bashing Obvious Child] haven't seen the movie; they're basing it on articles and trailers."

The film premiered in New York last week, and is getting a slow theatrical roll-out elsewhere starting this Friday. As it garners more attention, it'll likely piss off more people. Fortunately, this doesn't seem to be much of a concern for Robespierre or Slate. "Whatever other conversation occurs, we're really excited," Robespierre says. "[Conservatives bashing Obvious Child] haven't seen the movie; they're basing it on articles and trailers."

"You know, we just set out to make this story. We weren't thinking about anything but making this story," Slate says. When I asked them if they were looking forward to the moment when Rush Limbaugh gets ahold of the movie, Slate replied, "We're looking forward to people seeing our movie, and enjoying it."

On the other side of the reproductive-rights debate, people are certainly enjoying, and endorsing, the film. "Honest portrayals about abortion in film and television are extremely rare, and that's part of a much bigger lack of honest depictions of women's lives, health, and sexuality," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "This film is a major breakthrough—not just because it shows a woman deciding to have an abortion but because it shows her as a full and complete person making the serious decision to end a pregnancy and still having a full and fun life."

Planned Parenthood also consulted on the development and production of Obvious Child, vetting the script and allowing them to shoot in a clinic in New Rochelle, New York. "They were so supportive, a real friend of the film," Robespierre says. "They read a draft of the script, they loved it, and they were so enthusiastic that we were making a movie that sort of takes away the stigma of the choice. The character is not hard on herself, and she's not ashamed, and not judgmental. And it's a positive, safe procedure." Planned Parenthood then offered a few notes on the screenplay (what a nurse at one of their clinics would say to a patient, for instance). A few Planned Parenthood employees can be seen in the film as extras. "They were big fans of Jenny," Robespierre recalls.

"We don't describe our film as an 'abortion comedy'; I don't think that's a thing, you know?"

Robespierre became a big fan of Jenny after she saw her perform stand-up in Brooklyn in 2009, at a bar behind a record store. "We finished the script but hadn't cast the role of Donna yet, and there she was, blowing us away with this confessional style of comedy," Robespierre says. "She was talking about when she was a little girl she would hump furniture in her house." The pair then made a 2009 short film, also called Obvious Child, which then became the feature they're promoting today.

"We don't describe our film as an 'abortion comedy'; I don't think that's a thing, you know?" Slate says. "I understand that it's something that might draw readers. But for us, it's the funny, and heartwarming, and new story of one woman at this time in her life."

"Yeah, we don't like boring shit," Slate continues, summing things up.

"Yeah, fuck that!" Robespierre says.