Looking for Mr. Fraser

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What is it that we love so much about the Outlander books?  Is it Claire and her bad-ass self? The history? The adventure? The steamy sex? The love story?  For me, it’s all of those things.  But above all else, it’s one James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.

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 Outlander:  1636 vs 199

Dragonfly in Amber: 1832 vs 133

Voyager: 2508 vs 121

What are those numbers, you ask?  Mentions.

One of the best features of e-books is that they let readers (ok, maybe just me) indulge my obsession to find information about my favorite books quickly and easily (i.e., gather data, take notes, and highlight and/or bookmark favorite passages).  After the finale of Season 2, and to support my hypothesis that the show runners were getting off track where Jamie Fraser is concerned, I did a little search of Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager, the three books in the series where both Jamie and Frank appear.  The figures above show the number of times Jamie is mentioned versus the number of times Frank is mentioned.  The difference is pretty striking.  It’s also quite obvious who is the more important character.  Can’t dispute hard data, Ron.

Some fans (and apparently the showrunners) think that Outlander is strictly Claire’s story, and by extension, the story of her relationships with Frank and Jamie.  I don’t entirely agree with that.  In the wake of Season 2, I found myself in numerous discussions about this very topic with other “book people.”  I wasn’t surprised to discover how many of us see it quite differently; we see the Outlander series as more Jamie’s story than Claire’s. And even when we didn’t agree on that, two things about which we all did agree was that it is NOT Claire and Frank’s story, nor is it a “love triangle” between Jamie, Claire and Frank. The central character in the series is really Jamie.  The story may be told from Claire’s perspective, but her narrative is all about him: how he smells, the way he looks, his intelligence, his bravery, his sense of humor, the way he makes her feel…The few times she mentions Frank, it is usually to tell us that he was a good father to Bree and to let us know that in comparison to Jamie, as a man and a husband, he is woefully lacking (whether or not she had a hand in those failures is a topic for another post):

Jamie. Jamie was real, all right, more real than anything had ever been to me, even Frank and my life in 1945.  Jamie, tender lover and perfidious black-guard.

Perhaps that was part of the problem.  Jamie filled my senses so completely that his surroundings seemed almost irrelevant.  But I could no longer afford to ignore them.  My recklessness had almost killed him this afternoon, and my stomach turned over at the thought of losing him.

-Outlander

*Note: this passage is from right after she tried to get back to Frank, but was picked up by the Redcoats and taken to Fort William. Makes me wonder if her heart was really in it, or did she just feel guilty and obligated to try and return to Frank? Just something to consider.

As I mentioned, I realize that some people still see Claire as the main character-that the story is about Claire and what happens to her, and that Frank is just as important a part of her life as Jamie. I ask those people to please read the books again.  Once Jamie comes into her life, almost everything Claire does and says is relayed to the reader through the prism of Jamie: how events affect him as an individual, them as a couple, and the world they inhabit.  He is like the sun; a powerful, magnetic force to which everyone is drawn and around which everything revolves.  The difference in Outlander, though, is that the depth of feeling isn’t one-sided. For Jamie, Claire has the same overwhelming pull for him as he does for her

“I had thought I was well beyond that stage, had lost all trace of softness and was well set on my way to a middle age of stainless steel.  But now I thought that Frank’s death had cracked me in some way,  And the cracks were widening, so that I could no longer patch them with denial. I had brought my daughter back to Scotland, she with those bones strong as the ribs of Highland mountains, in the hope that her shell was strong enough to hold her together, while the center of her “I am” might still be reachable.

But my own core no longer held in the isolation of “I am,” and I had no protection to shield me from the softness from within.  I no longer knew what I was or what she would be; only what I must  do. (my emphasis)

For I had come back, and I dreamed once more, in the cool air of the Highlands.  And the voice of my dream still echoed through ears and heart, repeated with the sound of Brianna’s sleeping breath.

“You are mine,” it had said. “Mine! And I will not let you go.”

-Dragonfly In Amber

*Note:  these are Claire’s thoughts after 20 years apart from Jamie.  Her first instinct after Frank’s death is to run back to Scotland, in search of a ghost. Her grief is palpable-but it’s not for Frank.

……………………….

“It’s a lot too late to ask that,” I said, and reached to touch his cheek, where the rough beard was starting to show. It was soft under my fingers, like a stiff plush.  “Because I’ve already risked everything I had.  But whoever you are now, Jamie Fraser-yes.  Yes, I do want you.”

-Voyager

I don’t mean to say that Claire isn’t also a wonderful character, and Caitriona plays her brilliantly.  She embodies the characteristics that many of us, as women, possess ourselves (or wish we did!): strength, intelligence, resilience, compassion, resourcefulness, sensuality, and yes, a certain degree of recklessness and a “damn the consequences” attitude.  But for all of her great, and not-so-great, qualities, I would go so far as to suggest that Claire is at her most interesting when she is with Jamie (and before I get a lot of comments suggesting I’m being sexist, NO, I do not think a woman needs a man (not even Jamie Fraser) to be interesting, fulfilled or complete!).  I just happen to think there is a good case to be made for Jamie being the more fascinating character. (Side note: I’m not saying that he is perfect. If he were, he wouldn’t feel so “real” to the reader. However, I really wish the whole “King of Men” moniker could just be erased.  It’s silly and turns the very interesting character of Jamie Fraser into more of a caricature. Nobody wants to see that. Ron practically rolls his eyes whenever he says it, and Sam looks uncomfortable whenever someone mentions it.  Jamie Fraser is supposed to be a human being (granted, an exceptional one), not a comic book super hero).

Consider this:  would you be more interested in reading a story about Claire without Jamie, or one about Jamie without Claire? I know, I know, most of us would prefer them together as a couple, but indulge me.  I know which I would choose.  Even Diana Gabaldon finds Jamie the more interesting character:  beyond the core Outlander series, Virgins is about Jamie, The Exile is about Jamie, The Scottish Prisoner is about Jamie (even though it’s in the Lord John series).  Are there any additional books or novellas about Claire? No.  If I’m not mistaken, I believe Diana has even said that she relates more to Jamie than to Claire.  And why not?  Jamie is a much more compelling and nuanced character than Claire.  We know what Claire will do in almost every situation (usually something that ends up putting Jamie and/or herself in mortal danger…lol), but Jamie often surprises us.  In addition, it is Jamie that develops the most over the course of the series.  We see him as a young, slightly reckless warrior, a survivor of sexual assault, an outlaw, a prisoner, a merchant, a conspirator, a soldier, a laird, a printer, a smuggler, a pioneer… Most importantly, we see him grow and mature as man, a father, a grandfather and a husband to Claire.

So all of this begs the question: why are TPTB (the powers that be) changing the story and minimizing Jamie’s character in the show?  In Jamie they have a beautifully rich character in his own right, they have enough great prose and dialogue in the books for 50 episodes per season and they have the perfect actor to play him. It makes no sense to shift so much focus away from the most beloved character in the books. Here are some examples of what I mean.

For the most part, I loved Season 1, and after re-reading (again) Outlander, I realized why. THEY STUCK (MOSTLY) TO THE BOOK AND USED A LOT OF DIANA’S DIALOGUE.  Perhaps that’s less interesting for the screenwriters, but their job is to adapt an existing piece of work to film, not to re-write the characters. Wisely, that’s what they did in Season 1.  I will take exception to two, rather major, changes to the first season.  The first was in The Wedding. In the show, the focus was on Claire.  In fact, in the recap after the episode, both Ron and Terry said that it was “all about the dress, Claire’s entrance, the way Jamie reacts to her,”etc., etc. But if you re-read that passage in the book, you will see that they were wrong.  Diana wrote it from the completely opposite perspective. Diverging from societal norms, this wedding wasn’t all about the bride; it was about the groom:

It was a “warm” Scottish day, meaning that the mist wasn’t quite heavy enough to qualify as a drizzle, but not far off, either.  Suddenly the inn door opened, and the sun came out, in the person of James.  If I was a radiant bride, the groom was positively resplendent.  My mouth fell open and stayed that way.

A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight–any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance.  A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored young Highlander at close range is breathtaking.

Well over six feet tall, broad in proportion and striking of feature, he was a far cry from the grubby horse-handler I was accustomed to–and he knew it. Making a leg in courtly fashion, he swept me a bow of impeccable grace murmuring “Your servant, Ma’am,” eyes glinting with mischief.

“Oh,” I said faintly.                                                                                                         

-Outlander

Don’t get me wrong. I loved that episode, and still think it was one the best hours of film that I have ever seen.  I loved the way they started after the ceremony and worked backward. I loved the sex scenes, going from awkward first encounter, to the passionate, lust-filled round 2, to the beginnings of falling in love at the end. I loved the scene between Jamie and Murtagh talking about Jamie’s mother and how Claire’s “smile was as sweet” as Ellen’s.  I loved the “bible smack-down” between Willie and the priest.  It was romantic, funny, emotional and sexy as hell!  In short, it was perfection, so I didn’t mind the change.

At the time, I also didn’t really think anything of shifting the focus from Jamie to Claire when, for example, the writers had Jamie thinking that it was the vision of Claire that was “like the sun coming out,” instead of the other way around. I appreciated that the reversal was made as Ron’s homage to his wife, Terry.  In fact, I thought it was quite a sweet gesture and didn’t think it took anything away from Jamie’s character to do it. However, in retrospect, having seen all of the other changes where the focus was moved from Jamie to Claire in Season 2, I’m beginning to think that maybe it was more deliberate, and less romantic, than I originally thought. Maybe I’m just cynical.

The other significant change to Season 1, which I mentioned in my previous post, was the failure to allow time for Jamie to heal and for he and Claire to reconnect after his assault at the hands of BJR. Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe were brilliant with what they were given.  But why was that entire section skipped when it was so hugely significant to the development of Jamie and Claire’s relationship? Those of you who have read the books know what I’m talking about (the length and intensity of the “exorcism,” the tentative first intimate encounter, the passion and re-connection in the hot spring, and yes, even the dark humor). There really was no excuse for it, given that they had three additional episodes in which to address it.  Both Maril and Terry are huge fans of the books; I find it difficult to believe that this subject never came up in private discussions,  in the writer’s room or when they were blocking out the episodes before filming. I mention it again here because it was a rare, but crucial, misstep by TPTB.  Not only did it fail to give both the characters and the audience a much-needed catharsis after the events in Wentworth Prison and to Ransom a Man’s Soul, it resulted in the writers having to alter the natures of the core characters and much of the flow of Season 2.  I suppose we’ll never know why they chose to eliminate those scenes from Season 1, but someday I’d really like an honest answer to that question.  I would much rather know it was a miscalculation rather than an intentional decision to prop up Frank’s character and undermine Jamie’s.

As for Season 2, I’ve already made my thoughts known on the altering of Claire & Frank’s characters, the diminishing of Jamie’s and on the nearly complete, and incomprehensible, lack of sex and intimacy between Jamie and Claire (see Yeah…It Kind of IS About the Sex). I won’t revisit them here.  In preparing to write this post, I re-read many different parts of the first three books, among them “the print shop scene.”  As always, it brought me to tears.  I so want the filmed version to do the same.  I mean, seriously, I want to be like this when I see it:

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As of this writing, the cast and crew have reconvened in Scotland and are ready to start filming Season 3, Voyager.  So here are my pleas to Ron, Maril, and all of the directors and writers:

  • Please DO NOT continue down the path you were on in Season 2.  Focus on Jamie – and on the relationship between Jamie and Claire.  A LOT happens in Voyager, but don’t get so lost in the “action” that you forget why millions of fans love these books.  If we want to watch a high-seas adventure in the Caribbean with lots of gratuitous and unnecessary sex, we’ll watch Black Sails.  There are many scenes you can skip or merge together for the sake of time. Some suggestions:  99% of Claire’s life with Frank, the serial killer in Edinburgh, Mr. Willoughby, some of the events in the ocean crossing, much of the voodoo in the Caribbean.  There are plenty of things you can skim over that won’t affect the story going forward to Drums of Autumn. Please do not skip over Jamie’s time without Claire (i.e., Ardsmuir, Lallybroch, Helwater) or any of the time with him when she returns. Those scenes are far too important not to include in all their glory.
  • PLEASE, do not make the mistake you made in Season 2 (and yes, I do think it was a mistake) by skimping on the love story (including the sex) that is the heart of Outlander. There is no shame in producing a top-quality love story. They are sorely lacking on television today. You have enough talented people working on this show that you can weave the romance between Jamie and Claire seamlessly into the history and adventure of the story.  You did it in Season 1 and it was adored by critics and fans alike.  I challenge you to do it again. Let us see more of this:

“Do ye know?” he said softly, somewhere in the black, small hours of the night. “Do ye know what it’s like to be with someone that way? To try all ye can, and seem never to have the secret of them?

“Yes,” I said, thinking of Frank. “Yes, I do know.”

“I thought perhaps ye did,” He was quiet for a moment, and then his hand touched my hair lightly, a shadowy blur in the firelight

“And then…” he whispered, “then to have it all back again, that knowing. To be free in all ye say or do, and know that it is right.”

“To say ‘I love you,’ and mean it with all your heart,” I said softly to the dark.

“Aye,” he answered, barely audible. “To say that.”

His hand rested on my hair, and without knowing quite how it happened, I found myself curled against him, my head just fitting in the hollow of his shoulder.

“For so many years,” he said, “for so long, I have been so many things, so many different men.” I felt him swallow, and he shifted slightly, the linen of his nightshirt rustling with starch.

“I was Uncle to Jenny’s children, and Brother to her and Ian. ‘Milord’ to Fergus, and ‘Sir’ to my tenants. ‘Mac Dubh’ to the men of Ardsmuir and ‘MacKenzie’ to the other servants at Helwater. ‘Malcolm the printer,’ then ‘Jamie Roy’ at the docks.” The hand stroked my hair, slowly, with a whispering sound like the wind outside. “But here in the dark, with you…I have no name.”

I lifted my face toward his, and took the warm breath of him between my own lips.

“I love you,” I said, and did not need to tell him how I meant it.

  • Please stop changing the story by focusing so much on Claire (and giving so many great lines written for Jamie to Claire).  Diana wrote them for Jamie for good reason. It doesn’t bolster Claire’s character to diminish Jamie’s.  Claire is not a character who would give up everything for a man who was not her equal.  And Jamie wouldn’t be with a woman that was angry and shrewish.  If he wanted that, he would have stayed with Laoghaire.  And therein lies the secret to what makes this story so popular with your key demographic, i.e., women.  Jamie and Claire are not only soul-mates; they are a match of equals.

“You are my courage, as I am your conscience,” he whispered. “You are my heart-and I your compassion. We are neither of us whole, alone. Do ye not know that, Sassenach?”

“I know that,” I said, and my voice shook. “That’s why I’m so afraid. I don’t want to be half a person again. I can’t bear it.”

-Drums of Autumn

  • Please, please, please stop with the Frank lovefest.  I have nothing against Tobias Menzies, but ENOUGH. This story is NOT about Frank. We don’t need to see every detail of Claire’s life with Frank.  Even the non-book readers can infer what those 20 years were like. Personally,  I don’t want to hear from RDM & Co. ever again about how we “need to include Frank so that we can understand Claire.” No…we don’t.  And we really don’t if you keep changing Frank’s nature.  “Book Frank” was kind of jerk; not the nice, understanding saint you changed him into.  If Frank were that wonderful, why would Claire want to go back to Jamie? Why would she have spent that entire 20 years in love with a ghost?  The story needs to make sense to the non-book readers.  If you truly want to understand Claire, you need to focus on JAMIE.

“All the time after ye left me, after Culloden-I was dead then, was I not?”

“I was dead, my Sassenach-and yet all that time, I loved you.”

I closed my eyes, feeling the tickle of the grass on my lips, light as the touch of sun and air.

“I loved you, too,” I whispered. “I still do.”

The grass fell away.  Eyes still closed, I felt him lean toward me, and his mouth on mine, warm as sun, light as air.

“So long as my body lives, and yours-we are one flesh,” he whispered. His fingers touched my, hair and chin and neck and breast, and I breathed his breath and felt him solid under my hand. Then I lay with my head on his shoulder, the strength of him supporting me, the words deep and soft in his chest.

“And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours.  Claire-I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you.”

The wind stirred the leaves of the chestnut trees nearby, and the scents of late summer rose up rich around us; pine and grass and strawberries, sunwarmed stone and cool water, and the sharp musky smell of his body next to mine.

“Nothing is lost, Sassenach; only changed.”

“That’s the first law of thermodynamics,” I said, wiping my nose.

“No,” he said. “That’s faith.”

-Drums of Autumn

 

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(Not sure who made this .gif, but thank you!)

 

You have found the perfect actor to play Jamie Frasier in Sam Heughan.  Diana has created one of popular literature’s most beloved characters in Jamie Fraser.  Give Sam his due; let him run with it.  The fans will love you, and the show will be all the better for it.

A Wee Haggis Tale

Once upon a time, in a magical, faraway land called Scotland, there lived a wee creature called Haggis Scoticus Putidus, although the local people just called it Haggis.  As the Haggis was rather unpleasant looking, most of the time it was left in peace, but there were some that considered it to be a delicacy and hunted the Haggis.

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(Although, I’m no sure why anyone would want to eat a haggis…doesna look very appetizing to me, ye ken.  But what do I know…I eat grass.)  

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One day in January, Haggis decided he wanted to visit Edinburgh to see the great Scottish poet he had heard aboot called Robert Burns, who would be reciting his new poem “Address Tae A Haggis.”  He had always wanted adventure and wished more than anything to be famous, just like Bilbo Baggins (even though he was a Haggis, no a Hobbit). The only problem was that he was scairt of the hunters.  He remembered when he was a wee bairn, his maither had disguised he and his wee haglet siblings in such a fashion that no one would eat them!

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(even coos dinna like brussel sprouts)

So he decided that going out incognito would be the safest thing to do. He tried on several different costumes, to see which might be best for traveling without attracting too much attention:

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This one was too hairy…

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This one was too scary…

But the next one….that one was just right!

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(Of course he would go disguised as a wee coo…why wouldn’t ye?)

So Haggis began his journey.

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First he went to Inverness, then to Aberdeen, then to Dundee, then to Stirling, until at at long last, he arrived in Edinburgh!!

But how would he get into the theater to hear the great Mr. Burns?  The bouncer took one look at him and said such wee creatures were not welcome.

Poor Haggis was so distraught that he sat in an alley and cried. Poor Haggis!

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As it happens, Mr. Butcher happened to be passing by at just that moment.  He wasna fooled by the wee Haggis’ disguise, but kept that information to himself.

“Why, whatever is the matter, sir?” asked the Butcher

“I traveled all the way from the highlands to see Rabbie Burns, but they willna let “my kind” in,” he sobbed.

“Perhaps, I can help ye there. Come with me to my shoppe and I’ll help ye gain entry.”

“You will??? Oh thank you!” (Haggis would have hugged him but he had no arms, ye ken. It was no a good idea anyway…when people tried to squeeze HIM, things tended to ooze out). In the back of his wee mind, he could hear his maither warning him not to go with strangers, but he so wanted to hear the magical poetry about the haggis!

So off he went with Mr. Butcher to his shoppe.  When they got inside, Mr. Butcher pulled out a large silver platter.

“Here, lad, I can nestle ye here on this platter among the neeps and tatties.  Ye’ll be carried in right under their nebs and no one will be the wiser!

Haggis was verra happy as they carried him in out onto the stage and put him down right in from of Robert Burns himself!  Suddenly, the pipes began to play!

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Here’s the transcript of the poem and a wee translation, if yer interested or plan to attend a Burns Supper ever in yer life:

Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit’ hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis

 Translation

Fair and full is your honest, jolly face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

The groaning trencher there you fill,
Your buttocks like a distant hill,
Your pin would help to mend a mill
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distill
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour wipe,
And cut you up with ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm steaming, rich!

Then spoon for spoon, the stretch and strive:
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
Till all their well swollen bellies by-and-by
Are bent like drums;
Then old head of the table, most like to burst,
‘The grace!’ hums.

Is there that over his French ragout,
Or olio that would sicken a sow,
Or fricassee would make her vomit
With perfect disgust,
Looks down with sneering, scornful view
On such a dinner?

Poor devil! see him over his trash,
As feeble as a withered rush,
His thin legs a good whip-lash,
His fist a nut;
Through bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his ample fist a blade,
He’ll make it whistle;
And legs, and arms, and heads will cut off
Like the heads of thistles.

You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery stuff,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But if you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her [Scotland] a Haggis!

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And so wee Haggis was consumed by Rabbie Burns and became a part of Scottish history.  The moral of this tale?  Be careful what ye wish for…and if you’re made of a meat product, don’t trust anyone named Butcher.

If ye care to try and make a wee Haggis, here is a traditional recipe-with wee coo commentary- (and if ye can get through it without vomitin’ yer guts out, ye automatically become a Scottish citizen. It’s the law):

Ingredients:

Set of sheep’s heart, lungs and liver (cleaned by Mr. Butcher) (Sounds delicious so far…NOT)

One beef bung (aye…it’s what ye think it is…I canna believe what these daft humans use my wee arsehole for!…I need to sit down…hmmmmphmm)

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3 cups finely chopped suet (raw beef or mutton fat, especially the hard fat found around the loins and kidneys…OCH…I dinna know aboot other coos, but I dinna hae any “hard fat” around my luscious loins!)

One cup medium ground oatmeal

Two medium onions, finely chopped

One cup beef stock (JHRC..what is with the beef ingredients!)

One teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

One teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon mace

Preparation Method:

Trim off any excess fat and sinew from the sheep’s intestine and, if present, discard the windpipe (windpipe?? Ew). Place in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour or possibly longer to ensure that they are all tender (at this point, yer kitchen should smell like a tannery. If yer entire family hasna moved out, yer not makin’ it right). Drain and cool.

Some chefs toast the oatmeal in an oven until it is thoroughly dried out (but not browned or burnt!) (Like that would make it worse) 

Finely chop the meat and combine in a large bowl with the suet, oatmeal, finely chopped onions, beef stock, salt, pepper, nutmeg and mace. Make sure the ingredients are mixed well. Stuff the meat and spices mixture into the beef bung which should be over half full (Being careful to control yer gag reflex) Then press out the air and tie the open ends tightly with string. Make sure that you leave room for the mixture to expand or else it may burst while cooking (and if THAT happens, ye’ll hae a fine wee mess on yer hands, with burst sheep offal and coo arsehole all over yer lovely kitchen!). If it looks as though it may do that, prick with a sharp needle to reduce the pressure. (um…oww)

Place in a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and immediately reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for three hours. Avoid boiling vigorously to avoid bursting the skin (I repeat, so as not to hae burst sheep offal and coo arsehole all over yer wee kitchen)

Serve hot with “champit tatties and bashit neeps” (mashed/creamed potato and turnip/swede). For added flavour, you can add some nutmeg to the potatoes and allspice to the turnip/swede. Some people like to pour a little whisky over their haggis – Drambuie is even better! Don’t go overboard on this or you’ll make the haggis cold (Aye, and I’m sure it bein’ cold would “ruin it”…seems ta me the more whisky ye drown the shite in, the better!). At Burns Suppers, the haggis is traditionally piped in and Burns’ “Address to the Haggis” recited over it, as ye saw earlier in the Tale.

And They All Lived Happily E’er After

(except wee Haggis, the sheep and the coo)

I Love Paris in the Springtime: The Frasers Take a (Much Needed) Holiday Abroad

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So…we ended with the Frasers on a cruise ship, heading for La Belle France, with a trusty Murtagh in tow, and a baby on board. I suspect, however, that even in the 18th Century, it would still take less time to cross the Channel than it will for Droughtlander Part Deux to end. Whatever shall we do with ourselves while we’re in Outlander Purgatory? (not to be confused with MyOutlanderPurgatory.com which you should all check out BTW, because 1. I say so. 2. It’s awesome; and 3. Tracy and Carol.  That is all).  There’s just one wee problem…

Season One is over and WithOutlander has begun,,,

I thought I would take this first stretch sans Outlander TV to talk about Gay Paris.  I know, I know, no one wants to see Jamie Fraser in a powdered wig with a faux beauty mark stuck to his face. (Although, if I recall correctly, our Jamie resists that ugly temptation until Voyager). That doesna mean that there is nothing good about France.  Au contraire, mes amies.  France is a lovely country full of wonderful things, especially Paris.  And no, all French people are nae rude…they only behave that way when they’re in England (‘tho I’m no quite sure how they got into Castle Leoch) :

Things I love about Paris:

Aaahhh Paris, The City of Light

What’s NOT to like about Paris? It’s beautiful, it’s romantic, it’s full of magnificent art and architecture!  The history, the bistros, the shopping, the food…Need I I go on?   So, with so much to see and do, where should you start?  Here are this wee coo’s top 12 (just to be contrary, as coos are wont to be)  recommendations (for humans) *Coo note:  these 12 are “respectable” for all..I’ll get to my recommendations for those with more “singular tastes” a bit later.

1.  Les Cathédrales:  Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle and Sacre Coeur.  There are hundreds of lovely churches, cathedrals and chapels in Paris, but ye shouldna miss these.  No one can fail to marvel at these structures; their beauty is beyond compare. Don’t forget to check out the frequent chamber, chorale or medieval music concerts at Notre Dame (and the others). Absolutely magical. Just do it, you’ll be glad you did.

2.  Les Bateaux Mouches (a “mouche” is a type of wee midgee, en français, in case ye didna ken that).  Oui, they are touristy.  So what?  It’s a lovely way to see Paris.  Go at night and you’ll understand why it’s called the City of Light.  Magnifique et si romantique!

3. Avenue des Champs-Élysées.  Do stroll along the most famous of Paris streets from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde.  If anything epitomizes Paris, c’ést ça. Stop at one of the many outdoor cafés, have a bottle of wine, or two, and take it all in.

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4.  Les Musées.  This is a tough one. There are soooo many to choose from in Paris. The Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Centre Georges-Pompidou, the Jeu de Paume, the Musée Rodin…it can be a wee bit overwhelming.  Moo’s advice? Pick one of the biggies I mentioned and decide in advance what ye want to see (e.g. specific works of art, special exhibits, etc), since ye could easily spend an entire week in the Louvre alone. Then pick one of the smaller, more “specialized” museums of something ye find particularly interesting (ye can find everything from museums dedicated to Salvador Dali and Edith Piaf, to space museums, music museums, natural history museums…the list is endless)

5.  Le Shopping!  (I didna make that up…ye can really say “le shopping”), window or real, if ye have plenty of clink, on the Rue Ste-Honoré.  Ye can find everything from the ultra-hip (Colette, Damir Doma, Comme des Garçons),  to French status labels (Goyard, Hermès, Chanel), to shops that are a bit less pricey but every bit as stylish. If you want to shop at places a little more down to earth, try the quartier Marais (in 3rd and 4th arrondissements). If you’re a serious Power Shopper, have a sense of adventure, and good right hook,  then ye must go to the Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt, the world’s largest and most famous flea market (it’s over 150-years old!).  If ye canna find it there, you’re probably no going to find it at all, lasses).

6.  La Tour Eiffel.  Dinna argue with me.  Just go, and go all the way to the top.

7. Les Cocktails.  Do splurge and go for cocktails at the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz or Bar 228 at Le Meurice.  So shi-shi!

8. Le Château de Versailles.  Ok, not technically in Paris, but only a short train ride away.  It’s magnificent and WAY over the top in every way. The Palais is truly a sight to behold and the grounds are amazing. Take some baguettes, a few bottles of wine (don’t forget the corkscrew!), a nice assortment of cheeses and fruit and have yourself a lovely picnic.  Ye might just see Donas, Bouton and myself, if ye look carefully!

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A verra cool way to spend the day.  Here’s a link to the home page: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/homepage for more info.  Be wary, though, lasses…if the King’s about, ye may want to hide yer nipples.  He’s into inappropriate touching, ye ken?

9.  E. Dehillerin (metro stop Les Halles).  If you love to cook, this store will blow.your.mind. It’s also verra cool that probably every famous chef in the world has wandered the aisles at some point.  It’s worth going to ogle and drool over the copper cookware alone.

10.  Shakespeare and Company,  For half a century, this world-renowned bookshop on the Left Bank (opposite Notre Dame) has offered food and a bed to penniless authors – the only rule is that they read a book a day. A kind of book-induced euphoria takes over as ye enter. Its wee nooks and crannies overflow with new and second-hand  books (and they’re in English for those of ye that are French-challenged). Take note of the  hand-painted quotations and the wishing well, then wander up the miniature staircase to the reading library in the attic. Shakespeare and Co. is the stuff of legends. A must for all book lovers. Go. You know ye want to.

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11.  Les Jardins Publiques, Cimetière du Père Lachaise, et  ” Les Isles.”

Wanderin’ aboot Paris is one of my favorite things to do.  If yer lookin’ for a little respite from the bustle of the city, walk around the gardens (they have lots of tasty flowers and plants to nibble on). Les Tuilleries, les Jardins de Luxembourg, le Jardin de Plantes (which is no just a park, but also a Botanical garden) and Le Bois de Bologne are all beautiful places to relax and eat some grass.

Cimetière du Père Lachaise.  Ok..it’s a cemetary, not a park, but it’s beautiful and trés cool.  Some verra famous people are buried here:  Honoré de Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Maria Callas, Frédéric Chopin, Jean de la Fontaine, Molière, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Marcel Proust, and Oscar Wilde, to name a few.  It’s a nice, peaceful place to ruminate.

In between the right and left banks of Paris are the Ile de La Cité and the Ile St. Louis. Ile de la Cité is the more famous of the two, since that’s where ye’ll find Notre Dame Cathedral and Ste-Chapelle.  However, just behind the gardens of Notre Dame is the Pont Saint-Louis pedestrian bridge which leads to the the Ile Saint-Louis.  It’s a lovely place to walk among the quiet courtyards of 17th-century mansions, shop in local boutiques or get some ice-cream at the world-famous Bertillon. Yum.

12.  Le Fromâge! Le Vin! Les Patisseries! oh myyyy

From a wee coo’s perspective, I could write an entire blog just about cheese (the milk, ye ken)…particularly le fromâge français. These people don’t mess around…they take their cheese verra seriously!  Did ye know that there are approximately 692 different kinds of cheeses in France (and that list keeps growing!)? Aye, ye heard that correctly. Six.Hundred.Ninety.Two.  That’s a lot of fromâge.  And it DOESNA come in pre-packaged, individually wrapped slices…can ye feel French people crossing themselves and makin’ the sign against Old Nick at the very thought!?  No…in France, one goes to a fromagerie. The next time you’re in Paris, try the Fromagerie Laurent Dubois at 47 Ter. Boulevard Saint-Germain (taste the Roquefort with quince jam, yer mouth will love ye for it) and Chez Virginie on 54 Rue Damrémont (near Montmartre).  They’re two of the best (I still have their business cards for the next time I go on holiday!).  You will think you have died and gone to Cheese Heaven. Don’t be afraid to ask for a wee taste first to see what ye like (most cheese shops are verra accomodating, even to Sassenachs). Ye can also request smaller amounts when buying from a large wheel. Ye should plan to buy only enough to eat for a day or two, and then go back and try something else. Fergus will tell ye that that’s what the French do.

And what goes well with sublime French cheeses?  Sublime French wines, that’s what. Aye, I ken verra well that in these days, ye can buy lovely wines from all over the world. But in Jamie and Claire’s time, France was the center of fine wine production, as I’m sure Jared will explain to ye next season.

There are 10 principle wine growing regions in France: Alsace, Bordeaux, Borgogne (Burgundy), Beaujolais, Champagne, Jura Languedoc, Loire Valley, Médoc, Côtes du Rhone and Provence. Personally, I prefer the hearty red wines from Borgogne and Bordeaux, but ye can find delicious wines to suit all tastes in France. I dinna pretend to be an expert (they willna let coos into the programmes to become sommeliers…can ye believe that? Hmmmphmm!), I just know what I like when I taste it, ye ken?  If you’re feelin’ a bit confused about the intricacies of French wines, just follow this wee link for a nice, fairly short, overview of the regions and the wines they produce: http://about-france.com/wines.htm  Slàinte Mhath!  Oops…I meant A Vôtre Santé! (to yer health), or if you’re feelin’ a bit more informal: Tchin Tchin!  (Here’s a wee bit of trivia for ye…do ye ken where “Tchin Tchin” comes from?  Well,  it’s from the Chinese expression qing qing (or tchin tchin), meaning “please-please” or “happy days,” which was historically used in China to invite people to drink. French soldiers coming back from China after the Second Opium War introduced it in France. However, this didna occur until after the late 1850’s, so Jaime should remind Claire not to use that expression during their time in France, ye ken?  They willna know what she’s talking about, and we dinna want her dragged off to be burned as a witch again, do we?)

Les Pâtisseries

Mon Dieu, regardes les pâtisseries!

No one..NO ONE, does pastry like the French.  I dinna care if you’re on a diet, if ye go to France, ye must eat the pastries (well, the pastries AND the bread). Bakers tend to specialize in one or the other in France, so make the effort to seek out a good Pâtisserie shop for the pastry and a Boulangerie for the bread.  (This wee coo wouldna “steer” ye wrong in this…hehehe).  Where to start with the pastries? So many classics to choose from.. the ones you’ve probably heard of: profiteroles (delicate cream puffs drizzled with chocolate), éclair au chocolat, macarons and madeleines of all varieties, pain au chocolat, beignets and milles feuille,  and those you probably havena, but must try:  pain au raisin (delicate viennoisse pastry spiraled with raisins and custard), croissants amande (croissants dusted with sliced almonds and powdered sugar, filled with almond paste resulting in a crispy, nutty, yet soft in the middle treat that will make you slip into a dream-like #PASTRYCOMA), chausson aux pommes (kind of a hand-held apple pie – NO not like our fast-food hot apple pies…don’t MAKE me stab ye with my horns!) and palmiers (made with a croissant-like dough, folded over and over and over with sugar, creating lots of flaky layers and a caramelized sugar crunch when you bite into them…simply sublime). I’m dying here right now…any of ye seen my drool bucket?

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Ok, lads and lasses, those are the socially acceptable things to do in Paris.  But there are other things to do, as well, ye ken?…Viens mes petits espèces de pervers…(et. non…ye may NOT ask me how I ken about such places. Hmmmmphmm. 

Paris After Dark: The Adult and the Unusual

Deyrolle.  Would you like to visit Master Raymond’s “secret room”…?. Paris has many unusual shops, but one of the strangest has to be Deyrolle, a 184-year old establishment on rue du Bac, not far from the Musee d’Orsay on the Left Bank. Tis no an apothecary, but a taxidermy shop.

The ground floor looks like a fairly ordinary small home and garden shop (apart from a couple of stuffed gazelles standing on their hind legs and dressed to look like humans).

Does this make me look fat? (It’s verra weird in here).

But walking up the stairs is like passing through the stones. The second story appears to have changed no much at all since the store originally opened it’s doors. It’s dusty, crazy, chaotic, and crammed with stuffed animals of all shapes, sizes, and…poses. There’s also ancient wooden cases full of insects, shells, botanical prints and a variety of curiosities. Yeah…no, it’s creepy.  Can we leave now?

AHHHHHHHH!!!! OCH…it’s me cousin Gerald!! How did this happen to ye. lad? We thought ye were on holiday in Vegas!

(WTF?) I once caught a fish “this big”…

Les Cabarets Français.  Paris is verra famous for it’s burlesque/nude reviews, and sex shows.  If ye’re lookin’ for the sexiest revue in the city, ye can spend the evening at the Crazy Horse Paris cabaret, which has been entertaining Parisians and tourists alike with its “Art of Nude” shows for over 50 years. Ye can also book a dinner-revue at the world-famous Moulin Rouge and enjoy a French Cancan show.  The club is in Pigalle (the “red light” district, known for its strip clubs and peep shows).  Aye, I ken it’s a wee bit touristique, but, c’mon!…Toulouse Lautrec used to hang out here! Other well-known cabarets in Paris are the Lido on the Champs Elysées, the très parisien Paradis Latin, La Nouvelle Eve, a belle époque-inspired music-hall, the exotic Brasil Tropical revue,  and the glamorous Folies Bergères. (Ye should know that there’s lots of nekkid women in these shows…don’t bring the bairns.  Unless yer French.)

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Musée de l’Erotisme.  Oh stop it…yer in Paris, for god’s sake!  Of course, there’s a sex museum!  Also located in Pigalle, the musée  houses Alain Plumy and Joseph Khalif’s private collection of erotic artworks as well as temporary art exhibits by French and International artists. Visitors can also find sacred sex art objects,  historical and contemporary erotic art pieces, antique sex education books, fetish photos, sex comics, rare pictures of brothels, anal jewelry, and chastity belts, among other things.

Sexy Lingerie!  Like the food and the wine, les femmes Françaises do NOT compromise when it comes to lingerie.  And, unlike in most other countries, lingerie shops in Paris dinna cater to men’s tastes…they cater to women’s. French women ken there is an art to seduction, and lingerie is an essential component of the game. If you’re looking for top-notch, beautifully-made lingerie, three of the best boutiques are Louise Feuillere (this is the best (and most fun) choice if ye want something truly unique).  Madame Feuillere does lingerie sur mesure, meaning her pieces are custom made to fit your body.  Stop by her workshop to see her pre-made pieces and get inspired, then work together with her to design something personalized to your taste!), Chantal Thomass (ye should know, this is one of the finest and most famous lingerie shops in the world.  Chantal Thomass is credited for the trend “Dessous Dessus” (innerwear as outerwear) and is famous for cutting-edge, haute coooture lingerie.  Their line is FAB!! But dinna go into CT dressed like a wee slob…they will nae pay ye any mind – think Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman tryin’ to shop on Rodeo Drive in her whuuure outfit). Ye’ve been warned. Finally, if you want something, ah, a bit more, as Mrs. Fitz would say,…(interesting, that is), ye must go to Agent Provacateur (their lingerie is of impeccable quality and are a wee bit on the naughty side!  Expensive or no, I dare ye not to buy anything.  All the sexy wee coos LOVE, LOVE, LOVE AP!). Ooh la la!

Go shopping at a Sex Supermarché

For more naughty fun in Paris, go shopping at a Supermarché de Charme Concorde. There are 4 of them (that I know of), all of which are located, surprisingly, in quiet neighborhoods of Paris.  The Concorde supermarkets are huge sex shops offering over 10.000 different sexy items for ALL tastes.  The atmosphere in these stores is much more…convivial (at least to wee coos), than sex shops in the US. (Why are American humans sae silly and prudish aboot these things? Just askin’). These stores attract a large and varied clientèle, straight, gay and other, who shop for everything from adult magazines, erotic DVDs and videos, sex toys, and aphrodisiacs to hot lingerie (not quite the same as ye find in the other boutiques I told ye about, ye ken), fetish shoes and accessories, all with the help of the friendly (usually not skanky) staff.  (Shhh..these stores also feature ultramodern private viewing booths where clients can watch more than 3000 adult movies of all kinds, if yer into that sort of thing).

Les Clubs Libertin. Looking for a little more adult fun?  Paris is home to (allegedly) more than 500 clubs libertins (aye, that would be sex clubs…for swingers, ye ken?)  One of the most famous (said to be frequented by the rich and powerful) is Les Chandelles at 1 rue Thérèse. It’s kind of a legend, but caters more to the over 40 crowd.  Another “club échangiste” is Le Mask, which has a slightly younger crowd (mostly 30 somethings).  As the name suggest, they encourage people to wear masks, both for discretion, and to give the experience that “Eyes Wide Shut” feel.  There doesna seem to be much “swinging’ going on…more a place to watch other people having sex (or having strangers watch you!) than swapping. Most of these clubs are private, so to even have a chance to enter, ye must be dressed properly (at least until ye get inside).  Oh, and pants are discouraged for women, just so ye know.

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Do ye think I’m sexy?

Well, mes enfants, I guess that’s enough to to get ye started….what are ye waitin’ for?  Vas-y!  Paris is waiting…

“I Will Have Your Surrender Before You Leave This World”

“I felt an intolerable weight oppressing my breast, the smell of the damp earth, the unseen presence of victorious corruption, and the darkness of an impenetrable night…”

Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness

Och, lads and lasses, I dinna think I can be witty after watchin’ Episode 115. It’s way too dark in my wee coo heid. I suspect the finale will be just as devastating. I tried in my last post to use humor, not to make light of the subject matter, but to remind myself that these are fictional characters, and to try and prepare myself for the last two episodes.  I dinna think it worked. Most of us knew what was coming.  We thought we were prepared for it. We weren’t.  It was beyond harrowing and extremely hard to watch.  I’m sure I’m not the only person who turned her head away, covered her eyes and physically recoiled at Jamie’s agony, Claire’s anguish and the revolting display of BJR’s sadistic cruelty.  But, in my humble opinion, as a fan of these books, it was important, necessary even, for us to bear witness. We owed it to Jamie. To everyone involved with this episode, you created a Masterpiece.

From what I read out in “social media world”, the reaction of both the public and the critics was, for the most part, very positive. But there were some people that felt that the writers and director went too far in the depiction of the violence, to the point of describing the episode as exploitative “rape and torture porn.”  I disagree. Perhaps the problem was in the medium, not in the material.  In the books, what happened to Jamie is given to us second hand, from Claire’s POV.  On television, Ron Moore and company were faced with the task of giving it to us in real time.  In the books, we can “see” what we want to see, and what we don’t.  We can skim past (or skip altogether) those parts that make us uncomfortable; our minds protect us from what we don’t wish to confront.  On film, however, we can’t hide from the immediacy of the images.  The rape and torture are there for us to see, visceral and brutal, thanks to the skill of the actors, director, writers, make-up artists, special effects crew and cinematographers.  If we choose to watch, we are forced to see their vision of what we have read.  If that vision is even worse than what we imagined, we find it even more upsetting.  But I say to the critics of the episode: if you think it went too far, then you should direct your anger at Diana Gabaldon, not at director Anna Foerster and writer Ira Stephen Behr.  The episode was faithfully adapted from the source material; the rape and torture scenes were not gratuitously added or made more gruesome just to generate hype and controversy.   Re-read the book; that’s how it went down, people.  And don’t kid yourselves…when we get to the finale, if Ron and company stay true to form, things will get a whole lot worse before they get better. I understand what those who didn’t like it are saying. I get it. Really, I do.  So much so that I nearly didn’t read the rest of the series after reading Outlander the first time because of what happened at Wentworth Prison.  I was so angry at Gabaldon for “doing that to Jamie.”  Even now, after having read all of them (more than once), I still struggle with her choice to build up this wonderful character, only to utterly destroy him.  I know he recovers, but it’s clear that he suffers from PTSD for the rest of his life.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in fantasyland.  I know life isn’t fair. I don’t expect everything to have a happy ending.  I’ve written things myself that are dark and ugly.  I just couldn’t understand why she felt it necessary to go there with Jamie and BJR.  Wasn’t the flogging enough?  So why?  WHY?

I guess we’ll never really know why she chose to write that into the book.  I know she’s said it has to do with plotting and structure and the “rule of 3,” but that’s really not the answer we want.  It’s a wonderful story that we all love, much as we might hate the scenes at Wentworth and the aftermath at the Abbey. But in the end, Diana Gabaldon made up these characters and it was her choice as to what trajectory their stories took. We can accept them or put the books aside and never read them again.  The more interesting question is why do we care so much? Would we have been as upset if BJR had chosen to torture and rape just some random character?  I doubt it.  We would have found his sadistic behavior upsetting, but we wouldn’t have cared in the same way. We’re invested in Jamie and Claire, so we care about what happens to them.  It seems to be human nature to care more about the pain of those we love, even when they are fictional, than about other people in general.  What does that say about us?

Another interesting question that comes up in discussions of these events is: “Why do we find it so much more disturbing when this happens to a man?”   Is it so unnerving to us because it happened to Jamie, or because the victim is male?  Let’s face it, we’re all kind of in love with him, so perhaps it is because it’s Jamie. But it’s not really that simple. Why is it that people seem to be much more appalled if a man is raped, than a woman? One reason, and Jamie does talk about this when he describes his ordeal to Claire, is that men cannot stop themselves from responding sexually, even though they are repelled by what is happening to them.

“… he hurt me -hurt me badly- while he did it, but it was an act of love to him. And he made me answer him- damn his soul! He made me rouse to him!”  The hand bunched into a fist and struck the bedframe with an impotent rage that made the whole bed tremble.”

If you stimulate a man, his body body will respond. The same is usually not true for a woman, not under those circumstances.  So, on top of the rage and pain and shame victims feel after being sexually assaulted, men have the added issue of feeling that they somehow “actively participated” in it, even though that was clearly not their intention. Consequently, it must make them question their own role in the assault with respect to “consent.” Their bodies betray them. That’s a pretty horrible burden to bear.  But does this mean that rape is worse for men?  I guess that depends on your perspective. I would posit that it is equally devastating for a man or a woman, just in different ways. And let’s face it, it’s women who constitute the majority of rape victims, both in the media and in the real world. Regarding people’s reaction, or lack thereof, to female rape, that, my friends, is more of a sociological discussion.   Hold on a sec…need to step up on my soapbox for a moment.

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We live in a rape culture. It’s everywhere: on television, in feature films, in literature, comic books, video games…and, worst of all, in reality.  To illustrate my point, Google the name Anita Sarkeesian.  For those of you unfamiliar with her, she is a media critic and blogger who has been repeatedly threatened with rape, torture and death just for having the audacity to speak out against violent and degrading images of females in video games.  Yes, really, you heard that correctly.  Over fucking, stupid, inconsequential video games. Or what about the Indian woman who was gang-raped, tortured and murdered on a public bus in Delhi?  The examples are too numerous to mention.  The pervasive depiction of violence in various media unfortunately only serves to “normalize” the sexual objectification and exploitation of women, to the point that we have become numb to it.  We barely even notice it on the screen anymore. Maybe that’s what we should really get upset about. Pretty scary that we don’t. I do have a pet theory about this episode and the upcoming finale:  maybe, just maybe, they decided not to pull any punches with the violence in these episodes as a way of reminding viewers just how damaging and horrendous rape really is. To remind us that it is not about sex, but about power and control. I have no way of knowing if that’s the case, but I like to think so.  Ok, rant over. Back to the episode…

How is it that you can love something as an amazing piece of film and still be totally creeped-out and repulsed by it? I’m not sure how they managed it, but to Anna Foerster and Ira Steven Behr: Bravo.  As for the actors, I am in awe. The performances blew me away. Fearless and absolutely raw.

“I have never met any really wicked person before. I feel rather frightened. I am so afraid he will look just like everyone else.”Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Let’s start with Tobias Menzies. His portrayal of of BJR is riveting and so, so, SO disturbing in its oh-so-polite precision.  It was beyond uncomfortable to watch him smash Jamie’s hand, then hold him and shush him like a child, all the while putting his uninjured hand between his legs to arouse him. But no, he “won’t give in to coarse passion.” He wants Jamie to surrender to him…to “consent” to his own torture and sexual assault.  How does he achieve that?  By using the one weapon he knows will work:  Claire.  And when he kisses Jamie, after nailing his hand to the table…was there anyone not weeping for Jamie and Claire by then?.  Oh, and let’s not even talk about he back licking. Menzies’ performance made me want to: 1. shower, 2. shower again, 3. sit in a corner, curled in the fetal position, clutching a Costco-sized bottle of Laphroaig with a very long straw in it.  Thanks, Tobias.

Caitriona Balfe

“Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild; With a faery, hand in hand; For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” ― Willam Butler Yeats, Collected Poems

I have to admit, when I first saw Cat, she was not who I pictured as Claire at all, but it didn’t take long for her to turn me around. She is amazing.  She IS Claire: independent, strong, funny, intelligent, and beautiful inside and out. And the chemistry with Sam Heughan? Perfection.  Her performances have been wonderful since the very first episode, but in this one, she was exceptional. We were right there with her in Sir Fletcher’s office, barely keeping it together, and then losing it spectacularly as she stumbled out of the prison. The expression on her face as she looked into the box containing Jamie’s personal effects, the Je Suis Prest brooch, Sawny…all those small, personal things that summed up the life of the man she loved, broke all of our hearts. It was devastating.  Later, when she was in the cell with Jamie, we all experienced her anguish over what had happened to him, and what would happen to him and how helpless she felt, knowing she couldn’t save him from the horror of Jack Randall.

Sam Heughan

“Innocence eroded into nightmare. All because of very bad touch. Love, corrupted.” ― Ellen Hopkins, Fallout

Jesus, man, you could have prepared us! I did not see that coming.  Wow.  Just, wow. Mind blown. I’m not sure Sam always gets his due as an actor, with so much attention being focused on Tobias and how creepy his Jack Randall is.  But that time is over. Sam’s performance was stunning, especially considering that he was chained up and nailed to a table for a good portion of the episode. I’m certainly no expert on acting, but it seems to me that Sam had the harder job in this. All he had to work with, for the most part, was his face.  The range of emotion that he managed to convey with just his eyes was astonishing. In just that one scene, when BJR cuts open his shirt and is caressing and licking the scars on his back, we all saw, and experienced, Jamie’s realization of just how depraved Randall was. We felt his rage, agony, revulsion, fear and finally despair, all in the course of just a few minutes, just by watching his face.  If that performance wasn’t Emmy-worthy, I don’t know what is.

As much as I was dreading this episode (and most of the next one as well), I was thrilled for the actors. They were up against some horribly dark and difficult material and they did not flinch away from it, and they did not disappoint. I’m sure the finale will be just as amazing. Masterpiece, indeed.

The Pleasures of Whisky “Laird Broch Tuarach, that’s me”.

Have ye ever seen anything more flippin’ adorable than drunk Jamie Fraser? (Aside from his arse, which will merit it’s own blog post…patience, my preciouses).  Almost peed my pants watching this scene.  And can we give some props to Sam? Movie night in the meadow has shown more bad renditions of actors overdoing drunk on film than I care to recount.  But not our Sam…well-played, big guy.  Well-played.  Just a touch of word-slurring, the hopping on one foot trying to get the boot off (who hasna experienced that?), the unrealistic over-confidence that only the truly inebriated possess…genuinely funny performance.  Must have been all that practice as the Tennent’s lager guy (along with the lovely and talented Tim “The Enchanter” Downie. WootWoot!)

Now, as most of ye ken, book Jamie says that yer drunk only if ye canna stand anymore.  Sitting on the bed, doesna count.  C’mon, Sam, ye lightweight!  Buck up, man, no passing out!

“Jamie,” I said, “how, exactly, do you decide whether you’re drunk?”

Aroused by my voice, he swayed alarmingly to one side, but caught himself on the edge of the mantelpiece. His eyes drifted around the room, then fixed on my face. For an instant, they blazed clear and pellucid with intelligence.

“Och, easy, Sassenach, If ye can stand up, you’re not drunk.” He let go of the mantelpiece, took a step toward me, and crumpled slowly onto the hearth, eyes blank, and a wide, sweet smile on his dreaming face.”
Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber

So all of this drunkenness and debauchery got me to thinking about the sublime pleasure that is Whisk(e)y.  the subject of this week’s blog.

So, How DO  You Spell It?

Here’s what they had to say over at masterofmalt.com (hey,  Àdhamh Ó Broin
@Gaeliconsultant, little help with the pronunciation, if ye dinna mind.  Wee coos have a tough time with the Gàidhlig, ye ken.  Especially after we’ve had a few drams.  Does make the milk taste good, though!)

“The term ‘whisky’ derives from the Gaelic usquebaugh – itself from the Scottish Gaelic uisge beatha, or the Irish Gaelic spelling uisce beatha. Uisce comes from the Old Irish for ‘water’ and beatha from bethad, meaning ‘of life’. With this in mind, whisky is etymologically linked with a great number of spirits, all of which refer to the origins of the spirit – the quest for the elixir of life.” A worthy goal if ever I heard one.

Survey says:  Whisky if you’re a Scot; Whiskey if you’re Irish.  (Oh, who the fuck cares…pass the bottle).  I’m going with the Scottish spelling ’cause I’m lazy and currently obsessed with all things Scot/Scots/Scottish/Scotch.

One Bourbon, One Scotch and one Beer Rye

What is the difference, you ask? Well, first, they are all whisky, which means simply that they are made of fermented grain mash. The differences lie in which grain is used.

Scotch Whisky

To qualify as a Scotch the spirit must be made from malted barley, with many Scotches using nothing more than barley, water and yeast.  It  is aged in oak casks for no less than three years, and must have an Alcohol By Volume (ABV) at less than 94.8%.  Finally, and most importantly, you cannot call your drink Scotch unless it was made 100% in Scotland by hot and well-defined Scotsmen with amazing pecs and thighs that can crack walnuts. Sam Heughan and Thom Evans come to mind:

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images (6)(ok, aye, I made that last part up)

For a little more on the regional differences of Scotch Whiskey, here’s Sam (taste-testing whisky at 10:30 am on a Monday – which I would highly recommend. Side note: Coos do NOT like Mondays…we want to shoot, shoot, shoot ’em all down) with the E’s Kristin Dos Santos:

Laphroaig is my current favorite Scotch whisky (NOOOO, NOT JUST BECAUSE SAM LIKES IT. JEEZ).  It took me some time to come around to it…it’s verra peaty and a wee bit of an acquired taste.  The first time I had it, dinna like it much at all.  (Of course, it may have just been that the name kind of reminded me of Laoghaire…that’ll leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth, aye?) Be patient…it’ll grow on ye.  One last thing…here’s a handy pronunciation guide for some of the more challenging Scotch names:  www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/home/jhb/whisky/pronounc.html

 Irish Whiskey

This may sound incredibly silly, but Irish whiskey is pretty much any whiskey aged in the Republic of Ireland or in Northern Ireland.  Really…that’s what makes it Irish. I dinna ken why it’s nae more complicated..it just isna!  I never said it wasna tasty! Like Scotch, it must be distilled to an ABV of less than 94.8. However, the distilling standards are much less particular than in Scotland.

“It must be made from yeast-fermented grain mash in such a way that the distillate has an aroma and flavor derived from the materials used”. (Aye, I know…that says absolutely nothing.  I copied that line directly from Wikipedia). From what I gather, you can use any cereal grains, but if you mix two or more it must be labelled as “blended”.  Finally, the whiskey must be aged for at least three years in “wooden casks” (apparently any old maggot-ridden wood will do in Ireland).  Och, I’m kidding! Don’t get yer knickers in a bunch.  Actually, Irish whiskey differs from Scotch in the distilling processes. The three main types are Single Pot, which uses unmalted barley along with the malted barley mash. (this type of whiskey is unique to Ireland); Double distilled and Triple distilled. The vagaries of distillation are beyond my ken.  If ye really want to know, look it up yer damn selves. I’m no yer maither!

Moo’s recommendation from Eire is Teeling Small Batch.  It’s aged in rum casks, which gives it a lovely flavor.

American Whiskys

Bourbon:  Bourbon is made with at least 51%  corn, plus rye, wheat and barley.  By law, it must be aged in new, charred oak barrels, and must be made and aged in the US (but not specifically in Kentucky, contrary to popular belief).  The taste of bourbon is often described as “spicy” and “fiery.”

Moo’s personal favorite is Maker’s Mark (which is a “wheated” bourbon).  If you want a traditional bourbon, I have it on good authority that Evan Williams Single Barrel is excellent.

The other “corn” oriented whisky comes from Tennesee and is made with corn, rye and barley (usually 60% corn to 40% other grain ratio).  It is made with the “Lincoln County Process (which involves pre-aging charcoal “mellowing”).  It has a sweet, smooth flavor with a lot of “corn character.”  Moo recommends the classic Jack Daniels Old No. 7. Dougal would love it, aye?

Rye:  Rye is more or less the same as bourbon, except that it is made with rye (Duh), not corn.  It is described as herbal, grassy, fiery and spicy. It will kick your ass, but in a good way.

I don’t often drink rye, but I once had Whistlepig Straight Rye.  It was verra tasty.

So there ye have it.  Have ye enjoyed this wee trip into the world of whisky?  I hope ye will go try it.  In the immortal words of  that witty American, Mark Twain:  “Too much of anything is bad.  Too much of good whisky is barely enough.”

Beware though…here’s what happens when you have a bit too much (thank you again, Sam)

Slàinte Mhath!