On Marriage, Sexuality, and Sassenachs

*Minor Spoiler alert for both the show and the book*

I was in high school when I finally read something that stole my heart and soul enough to supplant Little Women as my favorite book. I was never without a book in my hand, and that is still true, so giving a book the title of favorite has significant meaning. I bestow the title with reverence.

That book which replaced Alcott was, and still is, Outlander. You may have heard of of this book recently because Starz has created a very successful show from the book.

I have been swooning over this book for the better portion of my life. No matter how many times I reread the books or listen to the audio books, my heart and soul are mesmerized.

It is not just the romance which is striking, though that is part of it, which makes Outlander the powerhouse it is to so many readers. Starz has done an absolutely phenomenal job transferring the book to the screen with integrity to both the story and the characters. Their social marketing campaign has been fabulous too. More on that another time.

For now, I want to tell you why this book, and now the show, are important and why, after all these years, it is still the book I recommend the most. Even if you have never read the books, the show is well worth your time. The history, costuming, and characters are fantastic.

Reason 1: Men in Kilts

Let’s just get this out in the open early. Kilts are sexy as hell and when you have an entire cast of men running around in them, I do not give a fig what they are doing while kilted. Can you just show off those knees a little more? Thanks. I’ll be in my bunk.

Reason 2: Dialog

Gabaldon has her characters going from serious to witty in less time than Jamie can throw Claire’s skirts over her head. The dialog is honest, true, poignant, and laugh out loud funny. The writers of the show have highlighted some of the best lines from the book and put in many more to showcase some of the characters (Angus and Rupert, you dogs. I love you).

Reason 3: Real Marriage

Marriage is messy, sexual, heart-wrenching, beautiful, and work. Jamie and Claire, once they figure out how much they do love each other, love hard, but that does not mean their marriage is easy. As a reader, and now as a viewer, we are privy to watching how a real marriage works. It is rare that I see a marriage which reflects my own healthy relationship with my husband on a screen. The only other example I could think of this week was Wash and Zoe from Firefly.

Jamie and Claire argue with flair and heat and in the beginning, they argue a lot. They yell at each other and occasionally throw things, but they always make up. They are a team. Jamie tells Claire in the beginning, “It’s the two of us now.” It is them against the world and they never forget where their loyalties lie even when they do not agree.

Ever since the hype of The Wedding episode started, I have been thinking about healthy sexuality in marriage and what a good example Jamie and Claire are of this. As an aside, the episode was a shining example of the Female Gaze and it hit all the right places, for everyone. Here is a controversial truth: Married people have good sex lives. Our culture has people fooled into thinking that the only people having frequent, good sex are single people in their twenties. I am sorry to say this is simply not true and it is amazing to have this portrayed so vividly before us, both in print and on screen.

Jamie and Claire give and take in a way that is realistic and beautiful. Growing with them as they figure each other out in the bedroom and watching the awkwardness of the first few encounters is priceless. We can all relate to the awkward moments because we all have a few of our own to share.

As the series progresses, we travel with them as they deal with separation, loss, tragedy, and war after war. We are able to watch them as they continue to work together as a married couple to navigate the world. It is a treasure to see and I am grateful to have been a witness on their journey so far. Through it all, they are a team who communicates and loves the way a healthy married couple should.

Reason 4: Claire is not a trope.

I have grown incredibly tired of watching otherwise great shows in which every single woman in the cast is either a bitch, a damsel in distress, a manipulator, or a slut (or hoor as the highlanders say). There are many popular shows on right now, even some written by women, who do not have one redeeming female character. Gabaldon created a female lead who is flawed, but not a trope. Best of all, Claire is a sexual being who is celebrated instead of punished for it.

Don’t get me wrong. Claire has her moments of idiocy and she has trouble keeping her twentieth century opinions to herself, but she is rarely a simple bitch. She is a compelling character you forgive and love and the men around her respect her, even if they do so begrudgingly. They are not that enlightened after all. It is the 1700s.

Claire has a healthy sexual relationship with both her husbands and she is never portrayed badly for enjoying this aspect of her married life. It is refreshing to see a woman allowed to be sexual without being labeled a hoor. Women are sexual beings too and we should not be punished for something that is natural.

Reason 5: JAAMF

James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Fraser. I have been pondering marriage and why Jamie is so appealing. I can only come up with one reason: he is the perfect man. A mix of innocence, but with a hearty dose of knowing exactly who and what he is. His vows mean something to him on a visceral level. Jamie pledges to Claire, “You have my name and my family, my clan, and if necessary, the protection of my body as well.” Repeatedly, Jamie makes good on his promise, compromising himself to ensure the protection of his wife and others he considers his.

This is the kernel of his character which draws people in.

Jamie is a servant leader. He rarely asks to lead, but when it is his duty he does so without reservation and with the needs of others always fixed firmly in mind. He gives every ounce of himself to his purpose. Other men recognize this and willingly place themselves in his hands.

On top of all the uprightness of character, Jamie is so obviously, even in the beginning, quite over the moon for Claire that you fall for him hard and fast. As the years pass and their relationship endures, he still loves her with a fierceness that any lassie would be blessed to call her own.


2010 Census

The Rochester household received our 2010 Census form last week. In true geek fashion, we were excited to add out numbers to the count. Numbers are thrilling to my engineering husband and I like participating in the research aspect of it. Looking over the form, though, brought to mind this classic Christopher Walken SNL skit.

–Jane, lives with two humans, a dog, and a sugar glider

Flexible ePaper from LG

According to Tom’s Hardware, LG has announced a 19 inch epaper display that, unlike its predecessors, is flexible. LG uses a foil substrate instead of glass so that the entire display can be bent.

I am not sure about other people, but I immediately thought of the paper sheet that Badger shows to Mal, Zoe, and Jayne with an alert for a “rogue vessel, classification ‘Firefly’… spotted pulling illegal salvage on a derelict transport.”

–Jane, wheel never stops turnin’

What Usability Says About Your Organization

For many reasons, not the least of which was extremely bad customer service, constantly rising prices, and what I now know is an inferior product, the Rochester household is… wait for it… canceling cable.

I will not go into great detail, because Mr. R did a mighty fine job over on the family blog (and with far fewer sputterings and angry diatribes than I would have managed, I might add). The fact that we canceled cable is not the only story. Secondary to our ousting of Comcast as our cable and DVR provider (we are still paying them for Internet, alas), is the fact that we now own a TiVo.

After four years of renting a DVR from Comcast (you are neither allowed to buy it outright or buy your own. if you did how could they fleece you for $15 a month?), I was not expecting TiVo to do anything other than record my shows in a reasonable way with reasonable reliability. After years of dubious service from Comcast, I was setting my expectations understandably low. How much different could one DVR be from another?

TiVo is to the Comcast DVR what a ripe bing cherry is to that imitation red stuff they call cherry flavoring. There is no comparison.

Why is TiVo so wonderful? Usability.

It is obvious the moment you open the box that TiVo expects real people to use their product. The set up is simple: connect it to your TV and turn it on. TiVo them walks you through the set up. There is no large instruction book. Just some simple instructions on the screen.

Once you have the initial set up complete, there is a set of tutorials pre-loaded onto your TiVo that teach you how to use some of the basic and more advanced functions of the TiVo. The menus are easy to read. The options are easy to understand. TiVo groups my programs by title and type (what a concept!). It is easy to find new programs. Adding new programs on the old DVR was excruciating when searching by name or channel. With TiVo, it is so easy, even a sleep deprived, barely functioning mom can handle it.

I have been won over with my TiVo. Couple that with the fact that the over the air HD channels look worlds better then the HD I was shelling out over $80 a month for and I am a happy, Comcast free lady.

This tale of two DVRs tell a larger picture. With my first DVR, it was clunky and, though it got the job done, it was obvious that Comcast neither designed or cared about my satisfaction with the product. And why should they? If I wanted to use a DVR with their service, I had to use theirs. While it is possible to use a TiVo with cable (lots of people do and now I know why), I would still have to pay for the TiVo service on top of my huge cable bill.  I was given one option with Comcast;  they had no incentive to offer me a better product.

The inferior product I was given by Comcast and allowed to “rent” reflects what they thought about their customers. I associate the terrible usability with the terrible customer service. Not only was the usability of the DVR bad, but their website left a bit to be desired as well. During Hurricane Ike, we were without Internet or cable for almost a month and there was no information on Comcast’s site about the outage. All the other utility companies were very forthcoming with information, but getting information from Comcast required a huge amount of effort and energy on the part of the consumer. Usability, they have little. Customer service, they have very little of that too.

I have never spoken to anyone at TiVo, but I have used their website and now their product. Everything I have seen from them is simple and well explained. There are multiple options that, not only fit my budget when purchasing, but that fit my recording needs. I can hook TiVo up to the Rochester house wireless network and watch YouTube videos or recordings I have downloaded in shared folders on the network. It is a beautiful thing.

The usability of the product and the customer service make me believe that TiVo cares about me, as a person and as a customer. It does not matter if they actually do care; it only matters that I think they care and thus I am willing to give them my money and shout their praises.

For any organization, that is what you want. You want customers who are not only loyal, but are willing to sing of you from the rooftops. Positive word of mouth is better than thousands of dollars in advertisements and it is definitely better than one person with a bad experience spreading word of your failure as an organization.

Next time you are considering the usability of your organization’s website, catalog (OPAC), product, or building, ask yourself what these things will say to your customers and users. What message are you sending them with the products you are giving them? Do they leave frustrated or happy? Do they feel like you care about them? Are you offering an inferior product for a need they can get filled elsewhere in a better, more comfortable, hassle-free fashion?

–Jane, likes being a customer with whom great care is taken

Frivolous TV Post

And because the Wee Bairn is occupied I would like to take this moment to say:

Smallville may have jumped the shark last week. Giving Lana superpowers so her and Clark can go fight bad guys and, you know, super bone is about the silliest thing I have seen and there is some crazy crap on tv. Seriously.

Bairn now demanding attention. Someone should have told me this was a 24/7, thankless job. *sigh*

–Jane, where is a damn nanny and housekeeper when I need one?

Mmmm… Jensen Ackles

In which I talk about some CW shows

Supernatural has been on the Rochester household list of watched shows for all of its four seasons. It is a very diverting show which has never disappointed me. Mmmmm… Jensen Ackles. And the plots and stuff, obviously.

One of their recent episodes, about some mysterious circumstances at a magician’s conference, was named “Criss Angel is a Douche Bag.” It made me laugh and laugh. The comic styling in Season three of “Ghostfacers” was also hilarious. This clip of Eye of the Tiger was added onto the end of an episode. You Tube is actually a great place to see some funny clips of the Winchester boys. Aaaaand, I am officially sucked in.

About 30 minutes of clips later.

This show uses a lot of classic rock as theme music, which Mr. Rochester and I like. There really is very little I do not like about the show. Mr. R is tired of the self loathing exhibited by Jensen Ackles’ character. Mmmm… Jensen Ackles. But it does not bother me. Not in the way that the angst between Clark and Lana on Smallville makes me want to run from the room screaming and tearing my own eyes out. At least the writers on that show seem to have spared the viewers much of that business this season. The summary of this week’s episode says that Lana will go missing, so I am already getting ready for an episode full of stupidity on the part of Clark. “But I luuuurve her. Why can’t I have her for myself?” *gag*

While I am talking about CW shows, I may as well admit that my guilty pleasure show this year is 90210. I can not stop watching it, even though it is not that great. Is this how people who watch reality television feel? You really want to stop and you feel your brain dripping out your ears at the silliness but you simply can not look away?

–Jane, still does not get “reality” TV

Whedon Gets 7 Show Deal With Fox

Thanks for the info, Jason.

Joss signed a seven show deal for a new series, called The Dollhouse. Our very own Whedonverse Eliza Dushku will be the leading role. She plays a woman, Echo, who can be hired to fulfill any fantasy, sexual, illegal, or sweet, but when her task is done her memory is wiped and she lives in a facility called the Dollhouse.

It sounds interesting. Joss and Eliza did an interview with Kristin Dos Santos of E! and you can imagine her squealing in joy as she wrote the piece.

–Jane, finally, we can have some good Joss sized television again

Shiny Goodness

Two Firefly related news items for all my Browncoat readers.

Amazon has placed Firefly as #2 on its Sleepers and Keepers list because it has been “…selling copy after copy since the day [it was] released without ever having made industry headlines…” Shiny.

There is a sequel to Finding Serenity coming out in August. It is entitled Serenity Found. If this second collection of essays is anywhere near as good as the first, I will be a pleased lady.

After looking up some of the links in Wikipedia, I realized that the Firefly article is a “Features Article” which means out of approx. 1,796,936 articles, only 1,407 are superb. We are so very pretty.

–Jane, “One of you is gonna fall and die. And I’m not cleaning it up. “

Arms Dealers

I am working tonight and thus am home this morning with tea and the dog, watching it rain, again. Remember the show from the 80’s, the A Team? It comes on in the morning here at 8 and I had it on while I was packing my lunch and dinner. I remember loving it as a kid.

Did you ever wonder where they got all their guns and explosives?

–Jane, always liked Murdock the best for some reason