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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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Entries in true blood (12)


In Which There Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of

Lady Banjo Eyes


Breaking Bad
creator Vince Gilligan

True Blood
creator Alan Ball

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is distracted from his job for a moment, but no more. On his 51st birthday, his wife slowly walks, fully-clothed, into the family pool. She can't get good with the way things are now that Walt is running his own business. She chainsmokes in the home, she begs for his cancer to return, she can barely manage to bake a chocolate cake. Her behavior is so exaggerated that she has turned into the Danielle Steele version of an adulterous wife.

It's a lot harder to write a character sketch like this about the protagonists in the eighteenth season of HBO's True Blood. What's that you say? It only feels like the eighteenth season? No matter. The typical scene on True Blood lasts only the thirty or forty seconds it might take you to get bored of it before moving onto the next character. It's like skipping from YouTube to YouTube, and in every episode, there are over a thousand.

not casting Fred Savage as Godric was an almost unforgivable mistake

The character I least understand on True Blood is Eric Northman. When the show began he was completely committed to the superiority of vampires over humans, now he walks around acting like he's Saint Ignatius. You have never seen a man so completely convinced there is no vampire god. He's become a Christian message board troll who waits for someone to espouse their faith in under 130 characters and then chimes in with a "Not likely!"

Understanding the motivations of a drama's personages is the first step to empathizing with their predicament. I almost admire how much True Blood eschews this. The only time it has its characters even react to the madness that surrounds them is when they cry afterwards. By the next episode, they are generally fine. The rule on True Blood - that everyone gets a storyline - extends even to the most peripheral characters, especially if they were kind enough to offer Alan Ball an on-set blowjob.

Alan Ball and Anna Paquin will not be doing any USO tours, of that much we can be certain

After a time, playing with the lives of fictional people becomes like moving things around on your desk. Alan Ball hates God so completely he had to become him.

Everything bad on True Blood is associated with religion, even the eating of a child. Ball believes that faith is the corruptor, the scapegoat instrument by which evil is wrought. His most sincere and good-willed individuals on the show are completely without faith; they feel lost in the world as he does, and simply by virtue of not knowing exactly what they are, are blessed and imagined as heroes.

No such luck for Walter White. He spent his entire life before he got brain cancer afraid of things, unable to decide who he was or what he should be doing with his life. Once he realized that, his new problems began.

I have lived longer than anyone I have talked about so far in this essai besides Eric Northman. One of mankind's most enduring cliches is that success comes with a price. (This cliche was first associated with Jesus, and later, Kristen Stewart.)

Whatever truth there is in this statement exists completely outside the realm of human experience. For those who aren't successsful, no price is too high. And for those who are successful, like the creators of Breaking Bad and True Blood, there must be some other reason for their unhappiness, an explanation that lies outside themselves. If they actually found they liked being miserable, success would feel like a curse.

taking Nancy Pelosi's dream and bringing it to life

Basically, it's easy to forget that you are the one who knocks. Many years ago my daughter came to me and explained that one of her classmates was afraid of me. What was I going to do about that? I offered to meet the young man, and he came over to our house for dinner. I asked him if he still felt afraid of me. "No," he said. I told him to wait.

Walter White is happy, perhaps the happiest he's ever been, but there is no one to enjoy it with him. Is this what it is truly like to run a critically acclaimed television series? Must there be a feeling in everything that they will be found out as a fraud, a charlatan? Did Matthew Weiner put his blood in a syringe and infect everyone in Hollywood with his identical insecurities?

I noticed some years ago that I find myself happier in the company of sad people, simply by comparison. And when I meet truly happy people - Oliver North comes to mind - I feel sorry for myself, that I cannot be as they are. Even more astonishing is that I am allowed to behave this way by the people in my life.

Beel, drain this woman while I watch the uneven bars

There might be another reason that this cliche keeps reoccuring in our popular fictions. Vampire leader Salome Agrippa (Valentina Cervi) has quickly become the worst character on True Blood. Her scenes are completely boring; she speaks with a vague monotone that is supposed to come off as threatening but in reality just lulls the viewer to sleep. Her idea of acting consists of brushing back her bangs. If I have to view her bare chest one more time, I'm going to start missing the acting "skills" of the guy who played Lafayette's top.

But besides the fact that Salome can't act and looks completely unappealing without clothes, the various travails of Salome don't interest me or my wife because she is truly satisfied with herself. Salome is incapable of change. Eventually this will be her downfall as she tries to take over the world for her vampire God, but until then I guess I have to keep watching Bill (Stephen Moyer) penetrating her with his ass raised high in the air, like he's about to hammer a nail.

you killed off Christopher Meloni FOR THIS?

True Blood and Breaking Bad, as they ascended to their first heights, made a point of portraying strong and powerful women. Now that these dramas near their conclusion, these women are actually revealed only as exceptions to the general rule of female archetypes - power and vulnerability can no longer exist within one human person. There may be sexism behind this, and I'm sure there is, but I can suggest another cause as well.

sexism, yoWhen a man changes his mind, or becomes something different than what he is, it is not a betrayal. This is expected of him: it happens when he begins a household, settles down with his partner, has children. These are all changes for him, and the responsiblities are said to improve who he is.

When these things happen to a woman, it is thought to be no more than a natural extension of herself. Lies. This vicious canard is completely subsumed in how men think of the opposite sex. But the reality is not that women aren't changed by the contours of family and marriage. It is that, on a conscious or even subconscious level, women are better at understanding what change implies than men will ever be.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is the former vice president of the United States. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about the beginning of Breaking Bad's season.

"We Are Not Good People" - Bloc Party (mp3)

"Octopus" - Bloc Party (mp3)

The new album from Bloc Party is entitled Four, and it will be released on August 20th.


In Which Flowers Never Bend With The Rainfall

The Dying Mirth


Who has it better, gays in New York or television critics? I spent the last three hours digesting the second season of Showtime's The Real L Word. I now know more about an arbitrary set of lesbians in Los Angeles than even my proudly out daughter. Here are some conclusions I have come to about lesbians:

- there's a lot less talk about Celine Dion than I had been led to believe

- by and large they work at Marc Jacobs or in advertising

- they're just like us

"i just decided i want to start a lifestyle magazine called Dirty Boudoir"

- Turquoise is a frequent motif in their swimwear

- Lafayette's last name is Reynolds and his boyfriend is straighter than Sam Merlotte

I connected more with a bunch of lesbians way outside my age and price range than I did with the entire cast of True Blood. Try achieving empathy for a newly-turned lesbian who stages MMA fights in New Orleans for some reason and tongue kisses her "opponent" afterwards. Try feeling sad for a bunch of people who turn into horses.

not so subtle allusion to the four horsemen of the apocalypse

Most shows end with a deux ex machina, they don't begin with one. The first eight minutes of True Blood were about as intelligent as all the horrible things Mother Jones has been writing about Michele Bachmann. Your magazine was named after a female politican, maybe you shouldn't spend your entire website criticizing one. After you spend 80,000 words picking on one woman, she starts to sound pretty good simply for defying you. The only magazine more unfaithful to its mission than Mother Jones is Cat Fancy.

Am I going too fast for you? Are you the kind of person who needs 8,000 well-crafted words in order to understand that True Blood is simply a propaganda vehicle for the Democratic Party? (Don't worry, David Frum is working on a column about this.) Harry Reid sketches out True Blood storyboards on bar napkins in between bong rips. The entire Sookie-is-a-fairy storyline came about when he used a derogatory word to describe Barney Frank.

[stage whisper] sookey?

The only good part of True Blood was Bill Compton's office as the King of Louisiana. A Bill Compton as Patrick Bateman-montage might be the only thing that would ensure Alan Ball spends enternity in heaven. But you didn't come here for mediocre jokes about True Blood and cutting edge observations about Mother Jones. You came for the throne, and also for my summer reading pix.

Last Sunday's season finale of Game of Thrones featured no horse being cut in half, no raunchy sex scenes between inappropriate partners. There were some heads on pikes, but thankfully no one was decapitated. Someone did get suffocated with a pillow, but there was a very strong feeling the individual in question was already dead. There was only one prostitute and she was bored.

Boring a prostitute is no easy feat. Even when Karl Rove is tired of "consulting", he goes for the reach around to make sure you're receiving something tangible in return for $1500 an hour. After he's finished serving you, he gets roughly the same expression on his face as Khal Drogo did after his vaginal rejuvenation.

he's still most likely going to be voting in the Democratic Dothraki primaries

After the black magician restored her husband to some semblance of life, Daenerys did what any one of us would do - she got really high and set herself on fire. Sir Jorah Mormont's facial expressions during this scene were so cartoonish it's truly a wonder he didn't scream, "No, you'll burn on the pyre, Khaleesi!!!" Try shrieking "Khaleesi!" wildly during oral sex and when you're at the ATM. The rewards are great.

A dreadful scene between Varys and Littlefinger proved that nothing of any interest was happening in King's Landing except for King Joffrey's awesome tyranny. In the books, Joffrey is about as likeable as Joe Biden, but in the show he has a striking charisma. When he ordered his guard to slap Sansa in the face my cheeks immediately grew rosy at the thought of the ensuing gifs.

With a big lack of protagonists in King's Landing, Tywin Lannister had a fatherly moment with Tyrion and sent him off to be his grandson's Hand of the King. He'll have to sit on a high seat, but he won't be any more out of place than Arya Stark is "disguised" as a boy. If you want to make someone seem like a boy, shave their head, or draw a picture of a dick on a piece of paper and put it inside their pantaloons.

sansa stark after hearing dance with dragons will be delayed again

While you're waiting for season two of Game of Thrones, it is best to educate yourself in the interim. My summer reading picks are thematically oriented around "If You Like Game of Thrones," because let's face it, who doesn't? The rest of George R.R. Martin's oeuvre is a little hit-or-miss, never read his music novel The Armageddon Rag unless you want to fall asleep and never talk to George about it unless you want to hear him bitch about his publisher for six hours.

Here are all GRRM's hits:


A Song for Lya

Sometimes I'm at a loss for what made this novella one of George's most popular stories. On the surface, A Song for Lya is a familiar tale about two psychics falling out of love. There's nothing new in the light satire of an alien religiosity. Instead it's the little details that make Lya distinctive - all of its relationships, especially the main love relationship, seem completely alive and real in a setting where such emotions are often overlooked and cast aside in favor of the weirdness that surrounds them. Lya makes us seem like the real aliens. The novella, available in GRRM's story collection Dreamsongs, is most memorable for its stunning ending, which never ceases to create a warm feeling in my bowels.



Martin's collaboration with Lisa Tuttle serves as the template for his strong-minded heroine whose society just doesn't understand her. He also experimented here with an island setting for the first time, foreshadowing the inimitable Iron Islands and Dragonstone, the place Littlefinger eventually takes Sansa.

In Windhaven this oldest of science fiction conceits concerns a generation of fliers, ending with a broken-down old woman who can't get in the air anymore. Whether the idea was Martin's or Tuttles doesn't matter, it's George's usual tact of following its story past where most authors would cease entertaining themselves.



Saying Sandkings was the best thing George R.R. Martin ever worked on is not that difficult a summation of this novella. Sandkings is the one of the greatest pieces of horror fiction ever composed, concerning a man who walks into a pet store looking for the next big thing and getting more than he bargained for. It was also later adapted into a fabulous graphic novel/one-shot, pre-figuring the Targaryen-era Westeros stories GRRM would later release, including The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword, both of which are well worth seeking out.


Tuf Voyaging

Martin was only honing his chops as a stylist when he created this series of popular stories about a cat-owning space detective. Modeled after his idol Jack Vance, the tales take on a strange environmental cast that makes them a little wooden at times, but given a chance to follow in Vance's humorous footsteps, Martin does as least as well as Vance's other imitators.




Fevre Dream

Martin's attempt at the vampire motif came about two decades too early. Set in a slave-owning American south where a riverboat is a marked sign of status, Fevre Dream contains a scene where an African-American baby is eaten by savage vampires, and is not for the faint of heart.

What made Fevre Dream such a distinctive horror novel at the time was its gluttonous, unconventional protagonist, who makes a rather dire setting romantic in its finer moments. The twist ending is enough to make it an ideal present for your mother; mine preferred Clive Barker.

Songs of the Dying Earth

Martin co-edited this tribute to Jack Vance, and his contribution to the volume, "A Night at the Tarn House," ranks with the now-deceased Kage Baker's awesome story in the style of her hero. Martin's magnetic introduction details his gesture towards Vance in Tuf Voyaging and where he believes he diverges from his progenitor.

You can read GRRM's recollection of writing "A Night at the Tarn House" here. His own personal blog is awesome - every month, he posts high definition images of the lice living in his hair.


Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording and the CIA's foremost analyst on George R.R. Martin. You can find his Game of Thrones recaps here.

"Stargazer" - Thievery Corporation (mp3)

"Where It All Starts" - Thievery Corporation (mp3)

"Light Flares" - Thievery Corporation (mp3)

The new album from Thievery Corporation, Culture of Fear, was released on June 28th.


In Which We Made Love Like Only Two Vampires Can

People Love Giving Redheads Tips


True Blood barely conceals its softcore intentions these days. When they introduced yet another hot love interest for Sookie I realized they had given up the ghost of pretending this show was anything else besides a showcase for super hot men with muscular body types of all races. You know, like the X-Men or World Cup soccer.

If you think watching a main character with no real personality go through a bunch of different fantasy fulfillment scenarios mostly based around encountering sexual variety is just for chicks may I direct you to the ultimate male Mary Sue: Agent James Bond. Yeah yeah, he's the best spy in the world and he likes martinis or whatever but unless Sean Connery is playing him Bond's charisma is mostly implied. 

There is nothing people want more to than to get to know a group of fictional characters and then see them paired up in different romantic combinations. Audiences want sex scenes with backstories. They want to invest in characters and then see them fuck each other. This is why movie and television sex scenes are titillating in a way pornography can never be. As fantasies go, they are way more like real life.

It accounts for the enduring popularity of love triangles (keeping Archie comics in business since 1942) and explains why John Mayer said he wants to write fan fic for porn he watches. What is missing in pornography that is present in other kinds of fiction is an interior aspect to the characters. Television uses long form seriality to go deeper into characters and their connections, approximating actual relationships.  

When social boundaries are transgressed, they are often boundaries that have been carefully established and built up over time. That's why Rachel and Joey was such a big deal on Friends, because they'd managed not to fuck for eight seasons despite being the two hottest people on the show. Rachel should probably have picked Joey. She would have saved us a failed spinoff and spared Ross another failed marriage.

We don't even necessarily like to see romantic buildup paid off in fiction, because perversely enough often wanting is more pleasurable than having. Mulder and Scully sustained The X-Files through seven seasons by not fucking each other, and their sexual chemistry murks Bill and Sookie's, who we've actually seen have sex. 

In serialized television you are sometimes logging literally hundreds of hours with characters over the course of seasons. It's like getting to know people in real life, seeing their lives build and progress over time. The parasocial relationships people have with fictionalized characters are stronger than many real life relationships.

Even though the Twilight Saga is four books long and six hours of film deep, its characters are filled in with the most basic of details. Eclipse tries to remedy this by providing several backstories for its vamps and werewolves, but ultimately the dots connecting the characters from their pasts (Civil War) to the present (revenge) seem like Stephanie Meyer's rushed attempts to fill in blanks and pad out her romantic fantasy masturbation tale after exhausting ways to say that Edward is cold and sparkly.

What is with the Civil War obsession, vampire nerds? Brother against brother? Twilight fetishizes the Pacific Northwest but Stephanie Meyer also has a boner for the Confederacy. It is also probable that Stephanie Meyer was influenced by another Hollywood romantic blockbuster based off a "women's novel," Gone With The Wind. Either way, vampires and the antebellum South go together well because they are both steeped in decædance and romanticized heavily by a certain kind of nerdy girl.

Southern Gothic predates Anne Rice's vampire novels but Rice literalized the "gothic" part in her 1976 supernatural thriller Interview With The Vampire. Flannery O'Connor's depiction of the South as a place where freakishness and grotesquerie run rampant paved the pathway to Rice's supernatural New Orleans that currently leads True Blood's endless stream of magical vagrants just passing through Bon Temps.

Part of True Blood's fetishization of the South seems to have to do with a fantasy about simplicity. Jason Stackhouse is most often given this role of the idiot as truthsayer, but True Blood is prone to letting all its characters bear this out. In many ways it is exactly like Li'l Abner, a comic I was obsessed with as a kid.

In True Blood's version of the South, the racists always look like grimy rednecks, and small towns are pan-sexual rural oases. How fucking bummed is Sam Merlotte going to be when Sookie is like "it's not that I don't like shapeshifters, it's just you."

Alan Ball may be from Georgia, but True Blood is Hollywood all the way. Bon Temps is just a super-horny Mayberry. Sookie Stackhouse has to choose between her brunette vampire fiance who is literally sort of corpse-like, a way hotter blond vampire with possible repressed Nazi tendencies, and now also a jacked as fuck hot beardo werewolf dude. Including the fan service dream sequence sex, chick gets laid as much as Don Draper. Maybe it's the alliterative names?

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She is on tumblr and twitter

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