Archive for September, 2015

The University of Arnor library has a vault space problem in that we are running out of room for our archival collections in our climate-controlled vault. This is a problem that only money will solve and that’s a tough sell during these tight budgetary times. So while my boss, Leslie, is hammering out the official report to the Provost, I sat down and hammered out the following lines to the tune of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”. Check out these sick beats, yo!

Yes, we’re running out of space, space, space
Our stuff needs a climate-controlled place, place, place
Preservation is a race, race, race

Against time.


Need some cash, need some money
Cough up them greenbacks, honey

A fat bankroll.


Politicians gonna legislate, late, late
What we gotta do to rate, rate, rate
A seat at the table and a plate, plate, plate?
Let’s sit down.

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One of the themes of Outlander is war and what it does to people–perhaps not surprising since executive producer Ron Moore explored similar ideas in his re-booted Battlestar Galactica series. All four of our main characters (Claire, Jaime, Frank, and Jack) are shaped by what has and what is happening to them during the conflicts they’ve participated in.

Claire and Frank in Uniform

As our story opens, we meet two returning veterans, Frank and Claire, just six months after having mustered out of the British Army and still adjusting to each other and to civilian life. Frank, in some respects, has had a harder war than Claire. Frank worked for British Intelligence and, as a result, was involved in a lot of secret missions that he can’t talk about. Claire, at least, can discuss her service as a battlefield nurse openly. The whole reason they are in Inverness is Frank’s interest in genealogy, his escape from his wartime memories.

Their idyll is short-lived as Claire falls through time and winds up essentially fighting for her life behind enemy lines. In some ways, Claire has been thrust back into the military life that she left, traveling with a band of soldiers, patching up the wounded, seeing men fight and die. Claire doesn’t spend her time the way I would –curled in a ball and weeping uncontrollably–but it’s a mistake to think that the constant stress is not affecting her and her actions in the series.

She’s lonely, she’s miserable, she’s drinking too much, she’s irritable, and acting rashly. Through much of the first season, Claire does what a British soldier is supposed to do when captured–stay alive, resist her captors, and look for her chance to escape. When she finally makes that pivotal decision to stay with Jamie and not return home, she’s making a bigger decision than leaving her husband, she’s abandoning her duty as a British soldier and citizen.

I have to wonder what would have happened if she would have told Dougal the truth about her travel through the stones while they were at St. Ninian’s Spring. Dougal is pre-disposed to believe anything she says at this point since anyone who drinks from the spring is supposed to be unable to lie.  Would he have taken her back to Craig Na Duan, I wonder, or would he have tried to keep her with him?

The fact that Claire is a woman is the thing that saves her life. If, say, Frank had fallen through the stones, he probably would have had a much harder time to avoid being killed. After all, a woman is not considered a threat (a target, yes, but not a threat) whereas Frank really is a Sassenach spy, although admittedly an ex-one who has worked for a different king.

Frank in the Bar

While Claire is trying to survive the 18th century, back in the 20th century Frank is living out a film noir nightmare. His wife has vanished, the police have given up the search, and even his close friends admit the cause is hopeless. Frank winds up in a bar trying to drown his troubles in the bottom of a shot glass when a dame who’s trouble sits down next to him. That’s when things get even more gnoirly (that’s gnarly and noir together).

We’re never told what exactly Frank did when he was part of British military intelligence. The implication we’re given is that he was some kind of paper pusher, but Frank displays a set of street smarts we don’t expect from a desk jockey. The dame lures Frank down a dark alley where he’s jumped by a couple of thugs. Things look bleak for our boy until he pulls out his blackjack (and what’s a nice historian doing with that kind of street weapon in his trench coat pocket we’d like to know) and delivers an impressive and brutal beat down on his attackers.

To quote The Wolfman, “even a man who’s pure of heart and says his prayers at night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the moon is full and bright.” Frank discovered just how close to the surface his own inner monster is. How often has it been unleashed before, we wonder? [Incidentally, just purely coincidence that Tobias Menzies will be playing a Lycan werewolf in the next Underworld movie and my thinking of this werewolf poem, but ya gotta admire the synchronicity].



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White Ghost Cover

James Benn’s latest entry in his Billy Boyle series is a flashback of sorts. In 1943, Billy is in North Africa when he finds himself and his friend, Kaz, re-assigned to the South Pacific, specifically the Solomon Islands, to investigate the death of a native Coastwatcher. The chief suspect is a guy Billy used to know back in Boston–Jack Kennedy. Jack’s in the hospital recovering after losing two men and his PT boat on a recent mission. The brass still haven’t decided whether to court martial him or pin a medal on him.

There’s no love lost between the Boyles and the Kennedys which ironically makes Billy the perfect investigator as far as Jack’s father, Joe Kennedy, Sr. is concerned. Joe, Sr. has pulled strings to make sure Boyle is on the case. If he exonerates Jack, Billy is seen as being fair and above the fray. And if he finds him guilty, Billy is seen as pursuing a grudge.  Jack’s a charmer, a womanizer, and a liar, but is he a killer? That’s what Billy and Kaz must find out.

Set against the brutal fighting of the South Pacific campaign, White Ghost is an excellent mystery as well as being a meditation on war.

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Here’s Tobias Menzies being all epic and reading an excerpt of the Iliad at the Almeida Theatre. He was one of about 60 actors who all took turns reading the Iliad as part of the Almeida’s celebration of its upcoming season of Greek plays. His section deals with the battle between Hector, hero of Troy, and Achilles, hero of the Greeks. I wish the Almeida would post the entire event because this is awesome.

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Dougal is one of my favorite characters and this music video is particularly well done. I like the way spoken lines from the show and the music are intercut.

Here’s a lovely video for Frank and Claire set to “Against All Odds.”

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Couldn’t resist sharing the following Outlander music videos …..

Clan Mackenzie–they’re bad, they’re bad, you know it, you know ….

And for the ladies …..



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