Thursday, July 29, 2010

Movies with a Scottish theme

Here are a couple of movies related to Scotland that I watched recently.

"Rob Roy" (1995)

I finally watched "Rob Roy" yesterday for the first time. For OUTLANDER fans, I think this is a much better film than "Braveheart". I really enjoyed it. The acting is superb, the costumes and scenery are fascinating to look at, and there are so many things that remind me of Diana Gabaldon's books. In no particular order:
  • standing stones
  • men in kilts (yes, lots of them!)
  • Highland cattle
  • sword fights
  • maggots (briefly)
  • dirks and sgian dubhs
  • a tall and handsome Scottish hero (played by Liam Neeson) who has some very Jamie-like views on honor (see below)
  • a Gathering (of MacGregors, not Frasers or MacKenzies, but still....)
  • love between husband and wife that endures despite hardship and tragedy
  • a villain almost as despicable as BJR
Here's the trailer for "Rob Roy":

And here is a scene from the movie where Rob Roy explains honor to his young sons:

Here is a video I found on YouTube that features a hauntingly beautiful song called "Ailein Duinn", from the movie. It's sung by Karen Matheson of Capercaillie. I don't know what the words mean, but I think the song is lovely. And these photos of Scotland are wonderful.

"Stone of Destiny" (2008)

I heard about the movie "Stone of Destiny" several years ago from Cathy MacGregor on Compuserve. It's not a very well-known movie, and rather hard to find on DVD, but worth watching, in my opinion. This Canadian film tells the story (based on real events) of four Scottish university students in 1950 who plotted to steal the 9th-century Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey in London and bring it back to Scotland. Read the review here if you're interested.

"Stone of Destiny" is a rather low-key movie with a sweetly innocent feel to it ("What could possibly go wrong?" says one of the conspirators). Not a very long movie, either, only 96 minutes, and it moves pretty quickly. I found the Scottish accents a bit hard to follow at times, but that may just have been because I'm not used to hearing them. The movie was well-acted and I would certainly recommend it to OUTLANDER fans.

You can find it on DVD here or here. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available on Blockbuster or Netflix, which is a shame.

If any of you know of any other films with a Scottish theme or filmed in the Highlands that are worth watching, please let me know. "Mrs. Brown" is one, although I haven't seen it in years. "Braveheart", of course (although I personally didn't care for that movie). Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A little news, and a new excerpt

Another Song from "OUTLANDER: The Musical"

If you enjoyed the brief song samples from the "OUTLANDER: The Musical" CD, you may be interested to know that another full-length song from that CD, "I am Ready", is available for download from the web site of Allan Scott-Douglas (who sings the part of Jamie in the musical).

I like this song quite a bit. The Scottish accent, especially. <g> Click here to listen to it.

If you are thinking that it's weird to hear Jamie singing -- given that we know he is tone-deaf and can't sing -- you're not alone. Diana's response on her blog yesterday to someone who made a similar comment was interesting, and worth reading.

UPDATE 7/28/2010 3:41 pm: Diana has posted some additional information on her blog about this Saturday's performance of the songs from "OUTLANDER: The Musical" in Aberdeen, Scotland.

"The Space Between"

And speaking of Diana's blog....she posted a new excerpt there yesterday from a story she's been working on:
This is from a short story (well, all right, it's 25,000 words, but still...) I've just done for an anthology. The story was originally called "Terror Daemonium" and is the story of what happened to Michael Murray (the middle brother, between Young Jamie and Young Ian, Janet's twin) and to Joan MacKimmie (Laoghaire's younger daughter; Marsali's sister) when they went to France at the end of AN ECHO IN THE BONE. I later changed the name to "The Space Between", but it'll be up to the anthology editor as to which title he prefers.
Please keep in mind that I don't read excerpts! If you'd like to discuss this story, there's a thread on Compuserve here, or you can post on the LOL Excerpt Board. Thanks.

Monday, July 26, 2010

OUTLANDER: The Musical - official web site

The official web site for "OUTLANDER: The Musical" is now up and running (thanks to Michelle Moore). It includes (among other things):

I would encourage you to check it out!

If you don't know what this is all about, read the explanation on Diana's web site. CDs will be available for purchase starting August 1, but you can pre-order now, as I did, through PayPal, by following the instructions on the OutlanderTheMusical site.

Please spread the word to anyone else you think might be interested! If you are on Facebook, there's an "OUTLANDER: The Musical" group here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Carmina Gadelica

I've been browsing through the Carmina Gadelica, the collection of Celtic prayers, blessings, and charms compiled by Alexander Carmichael. As Roger explains in ECHO:
[He] went on to tell them about the Reverend Carmichael, who had combed the Highlands and the Isles in the nineteenth century, talking with people, urging them to sing him their songs and tell him their ways, collecting “hymns, charms, and incantations” from the oral tradition wherever he could find them, and had published this great work of scholarship in several volumes, called the Carmina Gadelica.

(From An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46 ("Ley Lines"). Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Some of the prayers are really quite beautiful. Here, for example, is a Celtic prayer from the Carmina Gadelica, Volume III, that appears in FIERY CROSS. I like this one a great deal.


Bless to me, O God, the moon that is above me.
Bless to me, O God, the earth that is beneath me,
Bless to me, O God, my wife and my children,
And bless, O God, myself who have care of them ;

Bless to me my wife and my children,
And bless, O God, myself who have care of them.
Bless, O God, the thing on which mine eye doth rest.
Bless, O God, the thing on which my hope doth rest,
Bless, O God, my reason and my purpose.
Bless, O bless Thou them. Thou God of life ;
Bless, O God, my reason and my purpose,
Bless, O bless Thou them. Thou God of life.

Bless to me the bed-companion of my love.
Bless to me the handling of my hands.
Bless, O bless Thou to me, O God, the fencing of my defence.
And bless, O bless to me the angeling of my rest ;
Bless, O bless Thou to me, O God, the fencing of my defence.
And bless, O bless to me the angeling of my rest.
"Soul Peace" and "Soul Leading" (prayers that Jamie recommends to young Ian in VOYAGER) are listed in Volume I, as is the blessing Claire recites just before leaving Jamie in DRAGONFLY ("The Battle to Come").

There are a great many other Celtic prayers, charms, and blessings listed in the Carmina Gadelica. Not all of them are as solemn as the ones mentioned above. Here, for example, is the "Cud-Chewing Charm", from Volume II of the Carmina Gadelica, which Roger notes briefly in ECHO (p. 458 hardcover ed.) And there are several different blessings for smooring a fire.

If you want to see more from the Carmina Gadelica, look here for volumes I and II, and here for volume III.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Diana's public appearances July-November

Diana Gabaldon has posted her schedule of public appearances for the remainder of 2010 on her blog, Voyages of the Artemis.

I hope some of you will be able to see her in person. I'm very much looking forward to her appearance at the Bookmarks Book Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, on September 11. (If anyone else is planning to be there, please let me know.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A missing scene from FIERY CROSS

Check out Diana's latest blog entry, which is mainly talking about the new German edition of the OUTLANDISH COMPANION (DER MAGISCHE STEINKREIS) but also includes a very funny scene from THE FIERY CROSS that does NOT appear in the English edition of the book.

I thought it was hilarious, but go read it for yourselves and see what you think.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

OUTLANDER: The Musical - how to order CDs

Diana Gabaldon posted more detailed information on Compuserve yesterday about the OUTLANDER song-cycle (titled "OUTLANDER: The Musical"), including information on how to order a copy of the CD that goes on sale August 1.

Mike Gibb, the songwriter, explained the ordering process as follows:
The CD will be available mail order from 1 August but advance orders are now being taken. The CD costs £10 plus £1.00 postage (UK only) and US$15 plus $4.00 postage outside the UK. Payment can be made to at Paypal. Anyone unsure on how to make payment please contact me at the above email address and I’ll happily guide you through the process.
At the moment, there is not yet a web site for the OUTLANDER CDs. You can do what I did, and send a payment via PayPal to, including your name and mailing address and specifying that it is for the OUTLANDER CD.

If you haven't yet listened to the song, it's available to download here. (Diana says it's fine to share it with your friends, too.)

And here are the Gaelic lyrics, also provided by songwriter Mike Gibb:
Is tu fuil ‘o mo chuislean, is tu cnaimh de mo chnaimh.
Is leatsa mo bhodhaig, chum gum bi sinn ‘n ar n-aon.
Is leatsa m’anam gus an criochnaich ar saoghal.
Is tu fuil ‘o mo chuislean, is tu cnaimh de mo chnaimh
Based on what we've heard so far, and the list of song titles that Diana provided in her post on Compuserve, I'm very excited to hear what the rest of the album sounds like. Two more weeks, and then we'll all find out!

UPDATE 7/23/2010 6:40 am: For more information about "OUTLANDER: The Musical", check out the official web site,

UPDATE 8/9/2010 4:50 pm: You can see my comments on the songs on the CD here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New site badge

I've redesigned the site badge for Outlandish Observations. I was getting very tired of looking at the old one.

Here's the updated version.

Outlandish Observations badge

Let me know what you think. And feel free to copy the code below if you would like to put my badge on your own site.

Book-tour information for THE EXILE

As if we didn't have enough excitement this week with the news about the OUTLANDER song-cycle, I wanted to pass along something that I saw on the LOL Social Board yesterday (thanks to Susan H.E. for posting the link! <g>)

Diana Gabaldon's book-tour schedule for the upcoming graphic novel, THE EXILE, has been posted on the Random House web site, here. According to the site, tour dates are 9/21-10/8.

Cities on this tour include Denver, Tucson, Kansas City, three different locations in California, and two locations in New York -- ending with Comic Con in NYC on October 8th. I know a lot of people are already very excited about that!

The details are subject to change, of course, so please check that site for further updates.

In case any of you are wondering, no, I won't see Diana on this book-tour. But I'm planning to go see her in Winston-Salem, NC, on Sept. 11, at the Bookmarks Book Festival. Very much looking forward to that!

For those of you who are wondering how and why the locations are chosen for Diana's book-tours, read this.

And remember, even if you won't get a chance to see her on this tour, you can still order autographed copies of all of Diana's books through the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ. Diana says they ship all over the world.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Listen to this!

Diana Gabaldon posted something verrrry interesting on Compuserve yesterday.

Go here and click on the file attached to the message to listen to it. Or right click on the attachment and click Save Target As... (in Internet Explorer) or Save Link As... (in Firefox) if you want to download a copy for yourself.

As for what this is, here is Diana's brief explanation:
When I went to Edinburgh last year, I met a lovely gentleman named Mike Gibb, a lyricist/playwright, who said that he'd fallen in love with OUTLANDER, and that he and his friend, composer Kevin Walsh, would like to do a song-cycle--a musical telling of the story in the form of 14 or 15 songs. (There's a possibility that this song-cycle might eventually be the bones of a stage production, but for now, it's just songs.)
Diana got permission to make this particular song available as a free download, but if you want to hear the rest of the songs in the collection, you'll have to pay for them.

Watch for the official announcement, with all the details about the project, including how you can order CDs, on Diana's blog and/or web site in the next few days. If I hear anything further, I'll post updates here.

I think the song is just lovely, even though I don't speak Gaelic. (The Gaelic lyrics are here, if you're interested.)

Do take the time to listen to this. I think you'll like it!

UPDATE 7/13/2010 1:17 PM: Diana has posted an announcement on her blog about this, with some more details.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Diana likes my sign!

Diana likes my homemade sign! Here's what she had to say on Compuserve this morning:
The sign was a great idea <g>--and that's an excellent picture of you; you look so pretty and friendly, I don't know who could resist talking to you.
And then she asked if she could use this picture on her redesigned web site. Wow! (Naturally I said yes.) I'm flattered and delighted that she likes it enough to want to use it herself.

This is a great example of a last-minute idea that turned out to be Just Perfect. I went to a local craft store the day before our trip to Grandfather Mountain, bought the blue posterboard (the same color as the OUTLANDER paperback) and some gold-foil alphabet stickers, and it didn't take long to put it together.

I enjoyed being a sort of "roving ambassador" for Diana's books at GFM on Friday. I'll definitely bring the sign with me when I see Diana at the Bookmarks Book Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, on September 11. I'd love to get her to autograph it for me!

Some news about the ECHO UK paperback

UK readers take note: Diana Gabaldon posted some additional information about the mass-market (small size) paperback of AN ECHO IN THE BONE on her blog last week.

This edition, due out on September 30, 2010, will include some extras that are not in the U.S. paperback edition. According to Diana:
In this case, UK fans will get:
1) Potted biographies of a number of prominent characters,
2) An essay on the Life and Times of Scotland in the 18th century (not written by me, but a nice job by whoever did write it),
3) _Beautiful_ (and geographically correct!) maps, both of the Scottish Highlands, and of the American Colonies, circa 1776. Aaaannnnddd…
4) An excerpt from Book Eight, which tells you What Happened to Jem in the Tunnel.
Note: If you want to read or discuss the excerpt, go look at Diana's blog. Please keep in mind that I don't read Book 8 excerpts. Thanks!

I would like to see #2 and #3, but the chances of my ever seeing this particular edition of the book are pretty slim. Still, I think it's great that the UK readers are going to get some extra "goodies". Seems to me it's the least Orion can do, after that frustrating and inexplicable four-month wait for ECHO's hardcover publication in the UK!

You can pre-order the UK mass-market paperback from, here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Back from the Highland Games

I'm back! I had a WONDERFUL time at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games on Friday, and although I didn't manage to meet up with the group from LOL after all (due to some logistical confusion), I chatted with at least a dozen different OUTLANDER fans during the course of the day.

My homemade sign -- a last-minute idea -- was extremely effective, and I will have no hesitation about using it at future gatherings and book-signings. <g>

We had no trouble at all getting a parking space close to the entrance...but then again, we followed their advice and got there when the gates opened at 8 am. And while we were waiting for things to get started, we were entertained by this group of pipers. (I never did find out which clan they were affiliated with.)

The weather was good, no rain while we were there, though it started to rain just as we exited the park and it rained all the way down the mountain on our way out. We were very, very lucky. <g>

I missed Albannach, but did get to hear Alex Beaton perform, and I bought a CD of his songs, which we enjoyed very much on the way home.

I bought a pewter key chain with the MacKenzie clan badge:

and a Fraser of Lovat pewter "kilt pin" with a stag and "Je suis prest" on it. (I was glad to find the latter, as they had a lot of Fraser badges and such, but only one Fraser of Lovat -- which is, of course, Jamie Fraser's clan. I wanted to hold out for the real thing. <g>)

The man in green shown below introduced himself to us as the chief of Clan Arthur, visiting from Scotland for the Games. He looked immensely dignified, and I liked the eagle feathers on his bonnet. <g>

We saw some of the Highland dance competition. I'd never seen the actual dancing before, only pictures, and it struck me as extraordinarily stylized, a bit like watching synchronized swimming. You can see from the picture (click on it to get a better view) that there were some boys competing as well as girls. <g>

One of the clan booths had a real broadsword that they let us try out, holding it by the basket hilt and waving it around. That was fun. <g> I don't know what kind of sword is pictured below, next to the targe (I forgot to ask), but maybe someone here can tell me? I only got one very quick glimpse of a dirk, but the point looked VERY sharp! <g>

We saw the last few minutes of the sheep-herding demonstration. I liked watching the border collies work. Especially since my friend Cathy MacGregor told me -- jokingly -- several years ago that I have a border collie personality. (She's quite right about that, by the way. It's part of what makes me an effective Section Leader on Compuserve, I think. That desire to have everybody marching more or less in the same direction, and to gently round up the stragglers and those who wander off on their own. <g>) The dog had no trouble herding sheep, but the ducks were significantly less cooperative....

We stopped for about an hour at midday while I plugged in my scooter's battery charger at one of the tents. While we were waiting, my mom went and got us lunch at the only Scottish-food vendor in the place. We had bridies, haggis, and chips. The haggis was surprisingly good, given its reputation, and we concluded that it's probably better not to think about what's in it or how it's made. <g> And I had asked for a bridie specifically because of the references to them in the books. It was delicious.

While we were eating lunch, we watched this woman spinning yarn with an old-fashioned pedal-operated spinning wheel. It looked to me like something that Brianna or Marsali might have used in the 18th century.

Finally, I have no idea why this woman was walking around wearing wings (possibly she's a faery?), but I couldn't resist getting a picture. <g>

We had a wonderful time and I would not hesitate to go back again next year!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What is a Highlander?

So my parents and I are getting ready to go to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games later this week, and my mom, who knows nothing about Scotland, is getting very curious about the whole thing.

She asked me yesterday, "What exactly is a Highlander?"

Loooonnng pause, while dozens and dozens of images, scenes, quotes from the OUTLANDER books flashed through my mind. :-) We have no Scots ancestry at all,, and although I did try to get my mom to read OUTLANDER once, about three years ago, her reaction was rather tepid and I don't think she remembers much. (Oh, well. Maybe I'll try again, after we get back from this trip.) How best to explain, succinctly?

Finally I said, "They're from the northern part of Scotland. In the mountains, you know? And traditionally they were the ones that wore the kilts and such."

How would YOU answer that question, if you were talking to someone who knew nothing whatever about Scotland, or Diana Gabaldon's books? Are there particular scenes or quotes that come to mind when you think of the word "Highlander"?

My favorite, of course, is this one:
"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 breath-taking.

The thick red-gold hair had been brushed to a smooth gleam that swept the collar of a fine lawn shirt with tucked front, belled sleeves, and lace-trimmed wrist frills that matched the cascade of the starched jabot at the throat, decorated with a ruby stickpin.

His tartan was a brilliant crimson and black that blazed among the more sedate MacKenzies in their green and white. The flaming wool, fastened by a circular silver brooch, fell from his right shoulder in a graceful drape, caught by a silver-studded sword belt before continuing its sweep past neat calves clothed in woolen hose and stopping just short of the silver-buckled black leather boots. Sword, dirk, and badger-skin sporran completed the ensemble."

(From Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14 ("A Marriage Takes Place"). Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
That was the point where, on my first reading of OUTLANDER, I fell in love with the series forever. <vbg>

What about the rest of you? What images, quotes, scenes, etc. from the books best describe what a Highlander is?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, and a surprise

So I was spending the 4th of July at my parents' house, and my mother happened to mention that she'd seen an article in the local paper about the upcoming Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, scheduled for July 8-11. She wanted to know if I was interested in going.

Well, naturally, I said, "Of COURSE I'm interested!" <g> I've never been to a Highland Games or any other type of Scottish festival, although I've heard a lot about them.

We were joking about what clan we would belong to -- my entire family ancestry is Eastern European Jewish on both sides, no Scots anywhere that I know of <g> -- and to my utter astonishment, my mom said, "I have an old plaid that my mother brought back from a trip to Scotland years ago."

So she went and got it out of the closet, and it turned out, to my amazement, that what she had was a hand-woven MacKenzie tartan!

It's somewhat darker than the pattern shown here, but it says "Clan MacKenzie" on the label, and if you look closely it's definitely the same pattern. (I didn't have a camera with me yesterday, but I'll try to post a picture of it soon.)

My grandma died in 1979, when I was fourteen. I'm not sure when she made this trip to Scotland, but I think it must have been in the 1960's, possibly earlier. What an amazing coincidence, that of all the tartans out there, she would have chosen the MacKenzie. Even more amazing, that my mom still kept it, all these years later. (I had seen it before, of course, but never attached any significance to it, until yesterday. To me as a child, it was just a scratchy old blanket of dark blue wool.)

So, we will be at the Games on Friday, July 9. (Driving up from Raleigh the afternoon before.) As of right now our plan is to return home that evening, because we'll likely be worn out from the day's activities. If you are going to be there on Friday, let me know, and maybe we can meet up. (EDIT to add that I have been in contact with the group of LOLers who are going to be there, and I can't wait to meet you all in person!)

And who cares if I don't have a drop of Scottish blood? Diana Gabaldon doesn't, either, and she certainly didn't let that stop her! <vbg>

Somewhere up there, my grandma is looking down at us, and smiling. We miss you, Grandma, and thanks so much!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

1776: The Musical

As we approach the 4th of July holiday in the U.S., I can't resist putting in a plug for my favorite Revolutionary War movie: "1776", which is a musical about the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

If you've never seen "1776", I highly recommend it. It came out in 1972 (based on the Broadway musical of the same name) and I think I've seen it almost every year since I was nine or so. That tradition continues to this day; my family always watches it on DVD every July 4th, and we will do so again this year.

Diana Gabaldon likes it, too; I've heard her describe it as "hilarious, moving, and very singable". I asked her specifically about the costumes, because I'm fascinated by the details of the 18th century clothing in this movie, and she said they're pretty accurate.

For those of you who have read AN ECHO IN THE BONE: Can you watch Ben Franklin in this movie without thinking of the scene in ECHO where he's "air-bathing", stark naked? <g> That image is burned indelibly into my brain now, and I don't think I'll ever forget it.

Here are a few of my favorite songs from the movie:

1) "But, Mr. Adams" - Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and others argue about who should write the Declaration.

2) "The Egg" - Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson choose America's national bird.

3) "Sit Down, John" - This is the movie's opening number.

If you like what you see here, you can get "1776" via Amazon here. It's also available on Netflix and Blockbuster. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Great news about the ECHO paperback!

Check out Diana's latest blog entry for some great news about how well the Green Slime (aka U.S. trade paperback) version of ECHO has been selling so far.

Diana says:
I opened my email this morning to hear that the new Green Slime edition has hit the New York Times list—I _think_ that’s the first time one of my trade paperback editions has done that! It’s also #4 on BookScan’s bestseller list, mentioned in USAToday (today), and has stunned the publisher (in a happy way [g]) by selling lots more copies in its first week than the trade paper edition of A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES did—and they thought _that_ was good!
So, it looks like all of our (collective) efforts to get the word out have been paying off!

Or maybe the publisher had a point about changing the color of the cover to increase the visibility and sales of the book, who knows? <g>

Or maybe it's all due to the EXILE preview, and all those readers who are dying to know "what Jamie and Claire really look like". <g>

Whatever the reason, this is excellent news, and I wanted to make sure people here were aware of it, too.

If you haven't yet bought a copy, see Diana's blog entry for details about a special promotion that Borders is running.

Congratulations Diana!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

June poll results

Here are the results of the June poll.

What is your favorite "mmphm" scene from the OUTLANDER books?

  • 48.9 % - OUTLANDER - wedding night (Chapter 15, "Revelations of the Bridal Chamber")
  • 16.8 % - VOYAGER - turtle soup (Chapter 56, "Turtle Soup")
  • 10.9 % - DRAGONFLY - farewell scene (Chapter 46, "Timor Mortis Conturbat Me")
  • 7.3 % - FIERY CROSS - in the barn (Chapter 49, "In Vino Veritas")
  • 4.4 % - DRUMS - Roger and Bree's handfasting night (Chapter 40, "Virgin Sacrifice")
  • 4.4 % - ECHO - in the garden (Chapter 50, "Exodus")
  • 1.5 % - ABOSAA - after Claire's rescue (Chapter 29, "Perfectly Fine")
  • 5.8 % - Other
There were 137 votes in this month's poll. Thanks to everyone who participated! (And thanks also to those who mentioned scenes I didn't include as choices in the poll. <g>) I didn't vote in this poll myself, but I would have gone with the wedding-night scene as well. I don't get tired of it, no matter how many times I've read or listened to it.

The July poll is about your favorite animal from the books. Please take a moment to vote. Thanks!