Outlander Series 1 – Episodes 1-8

So, this is different, but let’s give it a try.

Outlander is a new TV show developed by the network Starz in America. It centres around a young woman, Mrs. Claire Randall, in the 1940s who has survived WWII as a combat nurse and is readjusting to life with her husband. They plan to spend some time together in the Scottish countryside when things go awry in the way of our heroine vanishing at Craigh na Dun. We soon find out she has time travelled to the 1740s in a period of history that has the Scottish Highlanders and the English in growing conflict.

I had first heard of the show on the blogosphere as well as TV and gossip forums. It seemed people were excited because it was a new historical fictional drama. Then I found out it was a drama based on a popular series of books that had been published decades ago with its own built-in fans. There was also strong buzz for the show because the executive producer is Ronald D. Moore – he of Battlestar Galactica fame. So, I said why not!? Might as well jump on this bandwagon and see where it goes. Here are some brief points.

5 Reasons to watch Outlander:

1) Claire is a HBIC. A fierce female character with feminist values which she not only believes in, but also voices. Out loud. In the 1740s. She’s brave and takes no bullshit from the men around her. She’s also empathetic and deals with danger only a survivor knows how to. Basically, Claire is amazing.

2) Vulture have enrolled Roxane Gay to write the recaps, and they are fucking hilarious. For example,

As always, Claire is appalled by the Highlanders’ barbaric ways. At what point will she stop being so surprised by the 18th century? She’s getting a bit Taylor Swift about the whole thing, all that wide-eyed surprise.

3) Acting. Music. Cinematography. These three aspects of the show truly stand out even from the pilot episode. A lot of pressure is on Caitriona Balfe (Claire) to pull off this show as the story is told primarily through her eyes. We have to feel for the character as she become accustomed to this new way of life. Her bewilderment is both endearing and terrifying at times, but it’s up to her to figure this world out and we just have to trust and follow her lead. The music by Bear McCreary is simply brilliant. To be honest, I rarely notice music in TV shows, but the score chosen by McCreary is often evocative and the mix of 1940s swing with the more folk music just makes the show that much more inclusive. The cinematography is truly stunning. Outlander captures the countryside of Scotland in all its glory.

Outlander

4) Sam Heughan.

5) The show is pretty timely. Days after episode 6 aired in the USA, Scotland was to vote in a referendum to decide if the nation should gain independence from the UK. Was it coincidence that the bloodiest episode – the one in which the English were portrayed at their most evil – was the one aired prior to the most important vote in British history since the 1970s and most likely earlier? Conspirators, I call thee.

3 Reasons not to watch Outlander:

1) The dialogue can be cringey at times. It’s always difficult to write dialogue from centuries ago, and there are a lot turns of phrases that seem unnatural to the ear. However, this is nothing to the Scottish accent which is difficult to decipher. The show is challenging in this aspect.

2) Listen Moore, whoever told you the voice-overs was a good idea should be fired on the spot. Let’s not patronise your audience. Thankfully, they only last heavily for a couple of episodes in.

3) Do NOT watch if you are a member of the Men’s Rights Movement. Seriously, don’t do it. You’ll just get all bothered and flustered and the older members will probably suffer heart failures and other atrocities which would rid them of the world. And we need you dammit. *smiles*

PS. I adore the theme tune of the show:

Graduation – Class of 2014

Graduation is supposedly one of the best and most memorable days of your life. A day to celebrate the achievement of finishing university with a Bachelor’s degree in the field you have chosen. Parents and family members are to beam with pride and joy having helped in some way for you to reach this ultimate goal. That’s what they say anyway.

The question arises as to what happens to those of us who are unhappy with our degree results, but still plan to go to graduation.

Well, mostly the day consists of putting on a brave face and smiling unnaturally.

That’s probably what I should say, but it would be a lie. Graduation, if anything, brought to the forefront just what a crazy ride those three years actually were. The fact that I even made it to this point is barely believable. Sure, I’d always planned to go to university ever since I was a child. I even knew what degree to pursue by age 10, as mad as it sounds. But never did I envision how I was going to get there; where I would go; who I would meet; and lastly, where I would go from then on.

Tuesday 15th July was a HOT day. The campus was filled with students and their guests. It was chaotic, but also a friendly and celebratory atmosphere. The graduating ceremony itself was formal, but also relaxed enough for certain students to sprint into push ups on stage and take selfies before shaking the Vice-Chancellor’s hand. The speeches were interesting enough and had an uplifting air to them that highlighted the changing world with a special emphasis on how lucky we were at this moment in time to collect our degrees as well as the impact of social network media on the world today.

Back to the question of whether graduation was worth going to due to the unhappiness of the results, I would say I made the right choice. It’s difficult at this moment to look passed the results in the cold light of day, no matter how understanding my family and friends are. It’s that thing of once you get something into your head; it’s mighty hard to release it. For me, schooling was everything and I knew it was a platform that I was to be judged on. However, I refuse to let a number revolve around my life.

It’ll just take time to realise that life is more than a piece of paper.

Happy Graduation to the Class of 2014!

 

Facts and Fiction.

The unemployment rate in the UK stands at 2.2 million, or 6.8%,  as of May 2014 and of that figure, 868,000 are in the 16-24 year old category. The good news is that the overall unemployment statistic is at its lowest number for the first time in five years. The bad news is that graduates are still finding it extremely difficult to find jobs that a) have anything to do with our degrees and b) if we do manage to find a graduate job, the starting salary is at a stagnated rate having not increased from the time recession hit where graduate wages were the first cuts. It is a fact that unemployment is declining for this quarter, but is the picture as rosy as politicians paint it?

The Guardian tells us “there were 60 applications for every vacancy in 2013, compared with 49 in 2011” illustrating the growing competitive nature the working world is for graduates right now. The challenges facing those of us looking for work is practically impossible ones to overcome at the moment. Graduates want to be working having completed years of further education, but which employers are driven to take the risk in training those who have just left University and are hungry to establish themselves?

The problem is it is becoming clearer by the day that it is no longer sufficient to have only an undergraduate degree when applying for jobs. In reality, to find a steady and secure workplace, we would either have go straight into a Masters course with the intention of specialising to leapfrog other candidates or be continuously gaining work experience throughout our schooling years to boost our CV’s and thereby leapfrog other candidates. Over the last two years, it has become more and more apparent that due to the lack of jobs available, employers have had to be extremely selective which sadly means completely bypassing University graduates. Indeed, when our names are thrown into the pit, the beast spits them out again such is the disregard for our accomplishments. The story is plainly written for the near future, but perhaps we can cling to the hope that the writing is only in pencil.

This is a discussion that we all need to have: graduates, employers and societal leaders. It might be annoying to hear for some, but we are the leaders of tomorrow and the discussion is an important one as there is a strong lack of awareness on the issue of expectation. Young adults, particularly those around 16-18 years old, should be aware that a University degree is no longer enough to chart out a career because graduate jobs are truly limited and in high demand. Don’t be fooled into the trap of just thinking that University is enough. Nope, go to University planning ahead and thinking of a Masters or graduate programme in mind. People may not want to admit it, but soon enough it will become a norm for students seeking higher education to also be have a Masters degree under their belts.

I would encourage graduates to check out both the graduation and higher education sections of The Guardian’s online content. Links are here:

http://www.theguardian.com/education/graduation

http://www.theguardian.com/education/higher-education

Don’t be too depressed about the future, though. Summer is officially here, the year is 2014, and the World Cup starts in a matter of hours.

Song of the week: K’Naan – Wavin’ Flag http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTJSt4wP2ME

What To Do Now?

You’ve just completed your last exam of final year at University. It was weird saying goodbye to your friends and peers when leaving, but you know your truly good friends will keep in contact. Probably as soon as you turn the corner. On the quiet journey home, the thought appears: What on earth will you do with your life now?

This is exactly what happened to me last Friday. Final exam finished, it was time to start looking forward. But, what exactly am I looking forward to? Sadly, there are no job opportunities laid out in front of me with doors opening in all directions. Most career jobs firstly require experience, and a substantial amount at that, before employing a graduate and that was simply not possible for me as studying already took up most of my time at University. This directly impacts my CV. Which at this point is practically non-existent. Well, certainly not good enough to be hired for most graduate programmes.

So, perhaps a Masters to advance my education and open doors in higher places? Well, firstly, there’s the issue of money to pay for the course. Secondly, there’s the more important factor of deciding what to actually study in University for another year. There are so many choices in the areas of both Politics and History, my chosen degree, that it is difficult to even think about narrowing them down. Thirdly, there’s the matter of choosing the institution to partake in this active role of further education. Would I stick with the place that accepted and enrolled me for the past 3 years, or do I move on? It’s too late to apply to graduate programmes for this upcoming September, so at least time won’t be a worry here.

The next few months, then, will be about finding out what I truly want in life.  Hey, the eureka! moment might not happen, but I’ll do everything in my power to search for it with a fine comb. Sleep will be occurring, too. A lot of sleep. I have three years worth of it to catch up on after all. It’s only a few days, but it already feels weird knowing that I’ve stepped into the wilderness. Predators in every corner, but maybe a few friends in hiding too, just waiting to cross paths. What are your summer plans fellow graduates?

Song of the week: Daley – Blame the World http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvCGMpQAU_E