Sunday, October 19, 2014

Finally My Fan Review of the Outlander TV Series, Season 1 Part Une, on Starz

This review is quite belated. In fact one could actually say it is beyond overdue. Honestly I wasn't quite certain what to write. I actually thought the production spoke for itself. It is visually terrific. It pulls you into the story immediately, having the audience invest in every character in the story (Except for the times when Dougal goes into creepy mode and Black Jack is well...Black Jack).



I began reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon as soon as it was published. It was a unique idea for a book. Time travel through the druid stones. One thing that readers need to keep in mind is that interest in Stonehenge had made a resurgence two decades ago, so using similar configured stone circles for a time travel adventure sounded like fun. Now, I don't generally read romance novels and don't like long drawn out multigenerational epics either (give me a good spy novel or a space opera anyday), but join some ancient Celtic philosophy with a Scottish revolt against the British (I suppose that is the American in me) and I was all in. One of the things I have always enjoyed in a book, is to learn something new. And the author being a professor of history just added that little bit of authenticity to her books to make it real enough for your minds eye. So yes, I fell in love with the story.

I, just like everyone else who loves the series, became highly invested in Claire and Jamie. We,
romantics, always like to say that true love transcends time. We search for it ourselves throughout our lives. Poets, psychologists and scholars discuss the human need for true love ad infinitum. It is simply part of our humanity, the need to love and be loved. To matter to just that one other special person. So it is not surprising that the love shared by our protagonists spoke to so many for so long.

The issue, one I am certain the producers worried about, was how were the fans going to react to their production. Were the fans going to accept their Jamie and Claire? How true to the books were they going to be? Afterall if you messed too much with the storyline, the fans would not be pleased.

What I take away from the series so far is that what has been leftout and what has been added has actually increased my enjoyment of the series. While there are little allusions to issues from the book, such as when Claire mistakes Dougal for Hamish's father, it is glossed over quickly and no further mention is made of it. If you had read the book you would know that Colum, due to his disease could not father a child, so Claire actually figures out that Hamish's biological father is Dougal. I also liked the addition of the charming young English officer Lt. Jeremy Foster who tries to come to Claire's rescue. (Not every Englishman is Black Jack Randall afterall.)

I am glad that they have given Frank his humanity. I have always felt that Frank got a little shortshrift in the books. The readers were so invested in Claire retuning to Jaime that Frank had to be made out  
to be the bad guy. The person who did not deserve Claire. But the series shows a man deeply in love with his wife. A man who had to choose other men for dangerous missions in which they most likely would not return. That is not something that is easy to live with. It is a terrible burden. Frank is seen very sympathetically. I thought it was about time. There is the allusion to his ancestor Black Jack in an episode, a genetic predisposition toward evil. But it is Frank's abiding love for Claire, as when he was calling out for her at the stones, that helps you see the abject sadness of Frank's undeserved predicament.

Meanwhile, the bringing into the series the day to day life of those in Scotland at the time is quite interesting. Seeing the beauty that is the nation of Scotland, beyond the idea of Loch Ness is grand. Getting a little education on their society, how people lived, what they believed, and even how they may have interacted with one another during this time period is fun to watch. The understanding of what was happening between Scotland and Britain is also informative. In fact that relationship could be summed up in Jamie's flogging scene.

I have to be honest. I have watched, and rewatched, and rewatched all the episodes on Starz Play except the episode where Jamie is flogged. I just can't do it. It's not even a long part of the hour. Just a few minutes infact compared to the rest of the script. But it is brutal, evil and horrible, as it is supposed to be. You get the sense of the psychopathology of Black Jack Randall. What the Scots faced when dealing with the British and the reason they were so inclined to revolt.

And yes I loved Outlander Wedding. If you enjoyed the books and the series how could you not?

In the end the series lives up to expectations. The actors are terrific. They are the characters in the book. The production 's authenticity brings the story to life. I am so looking forward to part deux in April. It's funny, I know what is to come. It is not a happy ending. I also know that I will cry through that last episode. (I'm stocking up on tissues now) But I also know that many of those Scots that survived Culloden Moor ended up in the American colonies on the brink of the American revolution (lucky for us Yanks). (Hint: Read Dragonfly in Amber right away if you haven't already. It will help you feel somewhat better after the Season 1 ending. Interested to see what they will do with that book in Season 2.)

So yes, I have really enjoyed the Outlander series so far.  Every fan should be pleased.  Plus there really is something about men in kilts.






Friday, October 17, 2014

The Simple Power of Handwashing

In light of the fear about the spread of Ebola, it is important to remember this basic, ancient and oft forgotten fight against disease....

From TED ....

Myriam Sidibe is a warrior in the fight against childhood disease. Her weapon of choice? A bar of soap. For cost-effective prevention against sickness, it’s hard to beat soapy handwashing, which cuts down risk of pneumonia, diarrhea, cholera and worse. Sidibe, a public-health expert, makes a smart case for public-private partnerships to promote clean hands — and local, sustainable entrepreneurship.


Saturday, September 20, 2014