True Blood – Season 7

Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin in 2009

Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin in 2009

Warning. This review contains several spoilers about the seventh season of the TV show “True Blood”!

On August 24 the seventh and last season of the show “True Blood” ended.

The TV show “True Blood” is based on a series of novels written by Charlaine Harris. The story is based on the idea that vampires and other supernatural creatures exist but thanks to the creation of synthetic blood, the True Blood, vampires no longer need humans for food and came out in the open. The consequences are complex with humans who have fear of vampires and vampires who believe that coexistence with humans is impossible.

The series “True Blood” begins in Bon Temps, a small town in Louisiana, where Sookie Stackhouse, part human and part fairy, finds herself mixed up with the vampires of Louisiana. In particular, she meets Bill Compton, with whom she begins a romantic relationship.

Over the seasons, various plots were developed in the show that build the mythology of vampires and later that of the fairies with the presence of Rutger Hauer as an ancestor of Sookie and Jason Stackhouse. Other plots were focused on the love life of the various characters, especially Sookie. From the beginning, there were also erotic contents but the show is characterized by many factors, including those metaphorical. It addresses issues such as discrimination against minorities, drugs, religion, the influence of the media and others.

In “True Blood” sex is part of life and is shown as well as other complications experienced by the characters. Humans (heterosexual, homosexual or otherwise, they’re all in the same boat), vampires and other supernatural creatures are after all united in their difficulties with their relationships but also in the desire to find someone.

Personally, I was never attracted by the most romantic part of a series so I wasn’t passionate like many other fans of the show about Sookie Stackhouse and other characters’ love stories. Sometimes certain narrative choices seemed to me soap opera stuff, made only to have some fans who are more interested in the romantic side of the show argue about those plots.

In “True Blood” I particularly liked the building of the vampire mythology and the development of the stories of other types of supernatural creatures. I don’t think all plots turned out well, especially in recent seasons, but at least for a few seasons I think it was overall a really good show.

“True Blood” seventh season cast consists of:

  • Anna Paquin (foto ©bladerunner0427) as Sookie Stackhouse
  • Stephen Moyer (foto ©bladerunner0427) as Bill Compton
  • Sam Trammell as Sam Merlotte
  • Ryan Kwanten as Jason Stackhouse
  • Alexander Skarsgård as Eric Northman
  • Chris Bauer as Andy Bellefleur
  • Kristin Bauer van Straten as Pam Swynford De Beaufort
  • Lauren Bowles as Holly Cleary
  • Nelsan Ellis as Lafayette Reynolds
  • Carrie Preston as Arlene Fowler Bellefleur
  • Deborah Ann Woll (photo ©Tomdog) as Jessica Hamby

The seventh season of “True Blood” was intended to close some stories of the protagonists. My impression is that the soap opera side was prevailing and the writers basically wanted to satisfy at least some groups of fans with choices that left me puzzled.

Sookie seemed to have finally found some sentimental peace together with Alcide but obviously it was just an impression. Poor Alcide was quickly killed off and forgotten as quickly by Sookie, who in a short time took again an interest in Bill.

The bond between Sookie and Bill is so strong that he’d rather die of hepatitis-V to allow her to have a normal life and have children. Bill’s death is all in all well done: he was never really happy as a vampire but when he dies he’s someway human again, as suggested by the fact that Sookie can perceive his thoughts.

Jessica’s story could’ve beeen very interesting but is a bit wasted. As a human, she was a teenager who grew up in a family of religious fanatics. Turned into a vampire in the first season, she starts discovering the world, is involved in the Bill’s adventuers and because of her inexperience she messes things up a lot. Her romance with Hoyt is chaotic and ends badly, especially because of her.

At the end of the show, Jessica reaches a certain maturity and meeting Hoyt again, when he’s back in Bon Temps on the occasion of the death of his mother, could’ve been an opportunity to have a closure with the past and move forward. Instead, the choice was to heve hare rekindle the relationship between the two of them with Hoyt dumping Brigette, his new girlfriend, without many thoughts.

Deborah Ann Woll in 2010

Deborah Ann Woll in 2010

Very hastyly, Jessica and Hoyt get married even though he doesn’t remember anything about her. The message is one of those that went through the whole show: their marriage isn’t legally recognized but love is love. It’s appropriate that Jason starts a relationship with Brigette, more or less a love at first sight.

The epilogue of the show is about as dull as possible: a leap forward of a few years and several characters along with various children born in the meantime with Sookie visibly pregnant. If you’re diabetic you’d better skip it and stop at the scenes with Eric, in my opinion the best character in the show, who along with Pam, the perfect companion for him, has become rich by selling “New Blood” exploiting Sarah’s blood.

I’m happy that “True Blood” is over because it really seemed that they ran out of ideas. I’ve never been a super-fan of the show mainly because of its soap opera elements but at least for a few seasons it was really enjoyable and going on would have completely ruined it. With its end, the memories will be mostly positive.

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Amazon buys Twitch for $970 million

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos

The official announcement came that Amazon has bought Twitch for $970 million to be paid in cash. Twitch is a video streaming platform particularly targeted to video games with the broadcast of games played by users. Twitch offers both live and on-demand streaming. This news comes after months of rumors of possible acquisitions, especially by Google.

Twitch was created in 2011, initially under the name, as a spin-off. The company’s site was divided into several categories of contents but the category dedicated to video games grew very quickly so the company decided to devote resources separate from the other categories.

During these three years, Twitch has grown tremendously, also thanks to the contribution of new investors. In July, there were 55 million unique visitors for a total of 15 billion minutes of contents. Over a million people sent their contributions: individual players, professionals, publishers, developers and other organizations connected to video games.

Among video games fans, watching games is like watching a game of a classic sport on TV. Twitch showed that it’s a global phenomenon and enthusiasts found the ideal platform to follow games online. It’s for this reason that in recent months there were rumors of a strong interest from Google, which wanted to integrate Twitch with YouTube, but also from Yahoo, which wants to enter very strongly the field of online video.

For a while, it seemed that Google would buy Twitch but in the end surprigly Amazon did it instead. The company’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos (photo ©Steve Jurvetson) and Twitch CEO Emmett Shear released the classic statements of satisfaction that follow an acquisition.

Amazon has been developing its Instant Video service for a number of years showing it want to compete in the field of video streaming. It’s clear that Jeff Bezos wants to expand this type of activity, which with Twitch will also become social. In short, it’s potentially a big deal!

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The Wrecks of Time aka The Rituals of Infinity by Michael Moorcock

Michael Moorcock omnibus that includes The Ice Schooner, The Eternal Champion and The Rituals of Infinity (Italian edition)

Michael Moorcock omnibus that includes The Ice Schooner, The Eternal Champion and The Rituals of Infinity (Italian edition)

The novel “The Wrecks of Time”, also known as “The Rituals of Infinity”, by Michael Moorcock was published for the first time werialized between November 1965 and January 1966 in the magazine “New Worlds” under the pseudonym James Colvin and in 1967 as a book.

Professor Faustaff is traveling in the California of one of the various versions of the Earth when he meets Nancy, who is hitchhiking. Together, they stop at a motel, where they meet another traveler who seems to Faustaff immediately suspect. He’d like to investigate but gets called for an emergency.

The D-squads are back at work. These mysterious people cause Unstable Matter Situations, phenomena that lead to the destruction of one Earth. Faustaff and his organization are trying to stop them but the Professor soon realizes that the situation is more complex than he previously thought.

In one of his early novels, Michael Moorcock uses one of the themes that have marked his work, that of the alternative worlds. Over the years, he built his own fictional multiverse that connects several different universes described in his stories.

In “The Rituals of Infinity” Professor Faustaff (Faust+Falstaff) runs an organization that has the means to move through a series of alternate Earths. About thirty years before the events of the novel, Faustaff’s father discovered their existence but over time some of these Earths have been destroyed by the mysterious D-squads for unknown reasons.

“The Rituals of Infinity” telss the attempts by Faustaff and his organization to oppose the actions of the D-squads and save the alternate Earths that are attacked. A typical element of Michael Moorcock which can already be seen in this novel consists in the fact that throughout the story Faustaff discovers that things are far more complex than he previously thought and the truth is different from what he expected.

This novel is very short by today’s standards so after a beginning that introduces characters and setting the pace is generally very high, with several twists. Michael Moorcock is strongly linked to the New Wave movement but the plot of “The Rituals of Infinity” is more reminiscent of the adventurous stories of the previous years. The author adds elements more typical of the ’60s as the rituals of the title.

Faustaff himself seems in many ways more a character of the Golden Age story, being a scientist with multiple skills. Again, Michael Moorcock seems to want to somehow “modernize” him but I think it does it in a clumsy way weakening the absolute protagonist of the novel.

In my opinion, Faustaff’s eccentricity end up being mostly a distraction. The author seems to want to make him more human but in the end he just seems a bit weird. The impression is that Michael Moorcock was still developing his style but he couldn’t develop the characters at their best yet.

Even Nancy, whom he met at the beginning of the novel, and with whom he quickly started a relationship, ends up being a burden. In his case, the problem is that she’s essentially useless in the story. When she’s present, she speaks with Faustaff, sees some events but has no real role.

The result is a story that in my opinion works especially in its basic elements. There’s an adventure through the worlds with the gradual discovery of what is really going on that is intriguing. Everything around it is so-so, beginning with the characters: besides Faustaff, there are a couple of them decently developed, the others are essentially irrelevant.

In the end, “The Rituals of Infinity” is in my opinion a decent novel to be considered for its “historical” value in Michael Moorcock’s career and for this reason it may be interesting especially for his fans.

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R.I.P. Steven Nagel

Steven Nagel's NASA official photo

Steven Nagel’s NASA official photo

On Thursday August 21, 2014 the former astronaut Steven Nagel passed away due to cancer. He’s survived by his wife Linda M. Godwin, also a former astronaut, and their two daughters.

Steven Ray Nagel was born on October 27, 1946 in Canton, Illinois, USA. He received a bachelor of science in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1969 and a master of science in mechanical engineering at California State University, Fresno in 1978.

In 1969, Steven Nagel joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) program and began training as a pilot of military aircraft. In subsequent years, he accumulated a total of 9,400 flight hours, also as an instructor and test pilot.

In 1979, Steven Nagel became a NASA astronaut. After being part of the backup crew or the support crew in the first Space Shuttle missions, he flew in four different missions. In 1985, he was part of the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery in the STS-51-G mission. In 1985, he was part of the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger in its last completed mission, the STS-61-A commanded by Hank Hartsfield. In 1991, he was the commander of the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis in the STS-37 mission. In 1993, he was the commander of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia in the STS-55 mission.

Steven Nagel retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1995 with the rank of colonel. In the following years, he worked as a manager at the Johnson Space Center and as a researcher pilot for the Aircraft Operations Division. In 2011 he moved with his wife to Columbia, Missouri, where they both became teachers at the University of Missouri.

Throughout his life, Steven Nagel has received many honors. Among them, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Meritorious Service Medal from the U.S. Air Force, NASA’s Space Flight Medal, Exceptional Service Medals and Outstanding Leadership Medal, and others. They show only in part his professionalism and his skills.

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The first two satellites of the Full Operational Capability phase of the Galileo system alternative to the GPS were launched into the wrong orbit

Two satellites of the Galileo system lifting off on a Soyuz ST-B/Fregat rocket (Photo ESA/CNES/Arianespace - Optique du Video CSG P.Baudon)

Two satellites of the Galileo system lifting off on a Soyuz ST-B/Fregat rocket (Photo ESA/CNES/Arianespace – Optique du Video CSG P.Baudon)

Two satellites of the Galileo project were launched into orbit yesterday, when it was afternoon in Europe, from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, using a Soyuz ST-B rocket with a Fregat upper stage. The two satellites are part of the system alternative to GPS made ​​by the European Union. It took nearly four hours before they separated from the Fregat stage and entered into orbit. Initially it seemed that everything went fine but after a few hours anomalies were detected in the satellites orbits with consequences yet to be assessed.

The first four satellites of the Galileo system had already been put into orbit in October 2011 and October 2012 and four is the minimum number for a constellation and to test the system. These new satellites and the next ones start the Full Operational Capability stage with which the various services available will be offered.

The Galileo system is designed to be very sophisticated, not only for the precision in the localization but also for the additional services that make it superior to the GPS. The SAR (Search and Rescue Support Service) service greatly enhance the performance of the COSPAS-SARSAT system to rescue people in danger. It will allow two-way communications so that people asking for the rescue will receive a confirmation signal and know that someone is coming to help them.

The validation phase (In-Orbit Validation, IOV) of the Galileo system took a long time but it was a new system that was to be tested properly and especially one of the satellites had some technical problems. Only after that it was verified that it worked properly, it was possible to approve the start of satellite launches with the final design.

Now the Full Operational Capability (FOC) phase is supposed to start at last. A series of satellites that will add up to the Galileo constellation are scheduled for launch for a total of 30 of them on three different orbital planes at an altitude of about 23,522 km, in a medium earth orbit. The satellites will be distributed equally so for each orbital plane there will be 9 operational satellites plus a spare one ready to take over in the event of a malfunction of one of the others.

The Galileo project is important for the European Union because it makes it independent from the GPS system, which is controlled by the U.S. Department of Defense, is very sophisticated and includes commercial pay services. In recent years, there were tensions between the EU and the USA because of the strategic importance of this type of systems.

For some of the next launches a version of the Ariane 5 ES rocket is scheduled to be used, able to launch four Galileo satellites at a time. It takes at least 18 to be able to provide all the services of the phase of the Full Operational Capability phase. The next launch is scheduled for December 2014.

There were already several delays in the early launches, now first of all it will be necessary to assess the problem of the orbit of these two satellites, whose inclination was measured in the last hours in 49.69° instead of the programmed 55.04°. The satellites may still be usable and they’ll need to figure out if they can correct their orbits using their thrusters. It’s not a good start for the new phase of the Galileo project but its continuation depends on the consequences.

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The Rose by Charles L. Harness

The Rose by Charles L. Harness (Italian edition)

The Rose by Charles L. Harness (Italian edition)

The novella “The Rose” by Charles L. Harness was published for the first time in 1953 in the magazine “Authentic SF”.

Anna van Tuyl is a composer, a dancer and a psychiatrist who is trying to finish a piece titled “The Rose”. When she realizes that her body is changing and thinks she’s getting ugly a period of crisis start for her. However, at the same time she finds more inspiration for her piece.

When Anna starts analyzing the famous painter Ruy Jacques, she realizes that he’s also undergoing the same physical changes and that they’re at a more advanced stage. The strange relationship that begins between Anna and Ruy aggravates the one between Ruy and his wife Martha, who is very jealous. Husband and wife are heatedly debating the conflict between art and science and Anna is caught in the middle.

“The Rose” has a history quite out of the ordinary, even for a peculiar author such as Charles L. Harness. This novella was initially published only in a British magazine, a fact abnormal for an American author. It was Michael Moorcock who rediscovered it after more than a decade and from there its fortune began, so much so that in 2004 it was nominated for the Retro Hugo Award for the best works published in 1953.

Charles L. Harness’ sources of inspiration for “The Rose” are the tragic death of his brother Billy from a brain tumor and the story “The Nightingale and the Rose” by Oscar Wilde. For the rest, this novella contains elements typical of this author, starting with the theme of the superhuman, in this case with some people who are going through a transformation.

Charles L. Harness has never been a hard science fiction author. His stories contain elements of pseudo-science that are far from rigorous and sometimes even make no sense from a scientific point of view. In “The Rose” the concept of evolution is expressed in a totally unscientific manner. What interests the author is the characters’ experience that brings them to a different mental level, another typical Harness theme.

The changes of the characters are included in a story that explores a conflict between art and science. Because of the pseudo-scientific content of this and other stories by Charles L. Harness it’s hard to take him seriously when he talks about science but in “The Rose” in my opinion he still managed to get some interesting results.

These themes, mixed with a kind of love triangle involving the main characters, form a story that’s a it chaotic but manages to reach an ending that somehow brings the various pieces together. It’s a rather philosophical science fiction, closer to the New Wave of the following years than the Golden Age of the previous years.

“The Rose” contains more dialogue than action so the pace is often slow even though there are very intense moments. The emotions come from the characters’ feelings, not the adventure. The balance between all the elements of this novella isn’t very stable and in some ways it’s dated and yet it remains a fascinating history.

“The Rose” is generally published together with the short story “The Chess Player” (1953), a humorous story about chess, and the novelette “The New reality” (1950), one of the most famous stories by Charles L. Harness that talks about the influence of what people believe on reality.

Despite some flaws and its age, I think “The Rose” is an intriguing read that I recommend to anyone who appreciates stories tending to the philosophical.

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