God hates fangs

Stephen Moyer as vampire Bill Compton in "True Blood."
Photo courtesy HBO

Vampires don't usually do too much for me, but I have to admit that I've gotten a bit hooked on HBO's new series, "True Blood." It's funny, creepy and unsettling and it's set in the South, so it pretty much hits the grand slam of oddball horror and cracked behavior.

The show (by "Six Feet Under" creator Alan Ball) is based on a series of Southern vampire novels by Charlaine Harris. The premise: A Japanese company has developed synthetic blood that provides all the vampires' basic nutritional needs, allowing them to make themselves known and to ask for the same rights that humans have.

Ball said in a radio interview that he sold this to HBO as "popcorn TV," which it mostly is. There's some subtle comment on anti-vampire discrimination and religious intolerance that has parallels to anti-gay sentiment, but mostly it's just weird and fascinating and bloody.

The best part of the show is the opening credits (below). Newsweek notes that opening credits are sort of a dying art, but Ball uses them to great effect to open "True Blood" with a sense of doom. Shot on film at various speeds and printed with some colors overly saturated and others muted, the credits are like a Southern Gothic fever dream brought to life, gators and religious hysterics included. And on the soundtrack, Jace Everett growls, "I wanna do bad things to you." Oh, yeah!

Too bad they didn't borrow this look for the series itself:


Thomas Friedman is damned angry

And for once, I agree with him. 

Friedman was on Fresh Air the other night, talking about his new book, "Hot, Flat and Crowded." In the book, Friedman challenges the conventional wisdom that the best way to break our dependence on foreign oil is to "Drill, baby, drill!" What we need to do, he says, is break free of oil altogether by developing new, eco-friendly and sustainable energy technologies.

As Friedman notes, the three people grinning at the chants of "Drill, drill, drill!" at the Republican National Convention were the observers from Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. They want us to stay hooked up to the oil company. They make billions off of it. And alot of that money is funneled to terrorism and despotic regimes.

What brought down the Soviet Union? Friedman argues convincingly it was $80 a barrel oil, which caused the Soviets to over-extend themselves, followed by $10 a barrel oil, which ruined their economy. Iran, he says, is a country in a similarly precarious spot. It funnels billions in oil revenue to radical causes. Should oil prices drop again, Iran would be in trouble.

We had a shot at developing alternative energy technologies, but the Reagan Administration cut off subsidies in the 1980s. Now, all the technology we developed has moved to other countries and all we have left is our dependence on oil. Friedman says, if we would use government regulations to shape the economy to make it favorable to green energy, we could create technology that would lead the world.

Friedman says the notion of drilling our way out of our dependence on foreign oil is "crazy." He's angry that the opportunity to get free of foreign oil has been squandered and that we keep digging ourselves in deeper and deeper to the oil economy.

He's right. We should all be angry. Check out the Fresh Air interview.


The real story about oil

On the Media is one of the best shows on NPR (and you can listen to it on a podcast if you can't catch it on the radio). The show asks tough questions about the media and shows how we often get played for suckers by politicians and big business.

On last week's show David Fiderer, a writer for the Huffington Post and a banker in the energy industry for 20 years, was the subject of a segment. Fiderer is ticked that reporters are so easily taken in by the energy industry and that they lack a basic understanding of how it works. Will drilling offshore lower gas prices? Nope, says Fiderer. Nuclear power as a way to energy independence and lower gas prices? It won't make a difference at the pump, he says.

Bob Garfield, reporter for the segment, asks about the possibility of energy independence:
GARFIELD: Like given the way petroleum deposits are distributed on Earth, is it reasonable to imagine the U.S. being fully independent of foreign oil, ever?

FIDERER: Not if we consume oil at anything close to the rate we have for the last 50 years. If we consumed oil at the rate we did in 1965, we would still be importing 40 percent of our oil.
Reporters shouldn't let politicians and energy industry leaders control the debate, Fiderer says. Amen.

Check it out. You can listen to the segment here: