Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Today I was asked why I'm so fascinated by the American Civil War. I'm not entirely sure of why it fascinates me so much. Perhaps it's because it was the first war that was documented so thoroughly, particularly as photography was really coming into use by that time. Maybe it's because I feel a deep connection with the USA, always have, and it's an event in American history that really shaped the country and it's people. And also I think it's a war that wasn't fought by two very different peoples, it's a war that was fought by the same people against each other. Brothers, fathers, sons, cousins, friends, colleagues... all fought each other on opposing sides because they made the choice to follow what they believed in.

I have another friend who suggested that perhaps I have been reincarnated from that time. She thinks that perhaps I was a Southerner, as I'm so sympathetic to the South (while also understanding that they had some major injustices going on down there) and have a deep admiration of General Robert E Lee.

Mostly I think it's painted heavily as a "good vs bad" scenario, but it's not really that clear cut. Yes, one side had slavery and the other didn't, but there were many on the North who had no issue at all with slavery themselves, and the majority of those that fought for the South were not slaveholders, and were not fighting for the right to hold slaves, but to protect their homes, and the right to secede from the Union. Slavery was an issue of course, but it wasn't the only issue.

Abraham Lincoln himself said:

"If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that."

Ultimately of course the right thing won through, which was the emancipation of slaves, but the reasons behind it are far more complex than are often portrayed. And it's that complexity that fascinates me.

The photography of the time is nothing short of incredible. For the first time in history, photography was readily available (though still cumbersome with huge cameras and glass plate negatives that had to be lugged around everywhere, and long exposure times which meant subjects had to stand still for long periods to get clear photos.) But the photos produced during this time were MAGNIFICENT. Huge glass plate negatives gave resolution so sharp and amazing that the photographs of today pale in comparison, even with all our technology and colour over black and white.

If you want to see some examples of the cream of the crop of Civil War photographs, I can highly recommend the Shorpy photo blog, who has a fantastic collection of Civil War photographs in high resolution. Click here to go directly to the Civil War collection.

Also on Shorpy today, someone posted this video montage photographs of the dead at Petersburg, Virginia in 1865. I will warn you that these photographs are graphic and are of dead bodies, so if you're of a sensitive nature, you may not want to watch them. I personally find nothing offensive about them at all, I find them incredibly poignant. In fact, be warned that a lot of the photographs on are equally graphic, and of high resolution.

If anyone else is interested in the American Civil War, do drop me a line and let me know. I'd be interested to hear other people's opinions and thoughts on that particular period in American history.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

See this Movie. Seriously.

I saw this movie a year ago. It's amazing. It's Australian, beautifully filmed, a fantastic cast, a wonderful story.

And William McInnes is GORGEOUS.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is "Nice" So Bad?

I had a conversation with a friend about a week ago about "nice people". In particular, how "nice guys don't get the girls." Now this fascinated me, because I consider this friend a nice guy.

The vibe I got from him, was that most people seem to equate "nice" or "good" with predictable, traditional, even boring. That people who weren't nice were more spontaneous and interesting. I'm quite sure that I don't agree with that theory. I'm thinking about the nice people I know in my life, and none of them are boring. None of them are what I would consider predictable.

I think I'm nice, and yet I doubt very much that I am predictable or staid in any way. I think I am very spontaneous. I'm not ashamed of the fact that I am nice. I am proud that I care about other people and how they feel, and that I get joy from making other people feel good. I like BEING good, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I always behave myself!

I'm thinking about the nice guys I know. The friend I had the conversation with... I believe he's a nice guy. He's not boring or predictable. My friend Dave... one of the nicest people on the planet, such a good soul that you just can't believe that any one person can have such a good heart... nope, he's not predictable. Another guy friend I have that strikes me as particularly lovely of heart... nope not in any way boring. In fact, I find all three of these guys fascinating company, funny, challenging of intellect, spontaneous. But also nice, good men. And none of 'em seem to have any problem with the ladies either, for that matter.

When did nice and good become such dirty words? When did the fun go out of being nice or good? When did being a nice person or a good person mean that you can never have any naughtiness in your life? That you become predictable or dull? Was it always perceived to be predictable and dull to be nice?

Now as for women not being attracted to nice men, I personally am HIGHLY attracted to nice men. Nothing sexier than a man who cares. About more than himself. Who cares about his family, his friends, the world, the environment, animals... anything! I personally find the whole bad boy "I don't give a shit about anything but myself." really unattractive, and yes... boring! I think someone who isn't nice, who is self centred is more predictable than someone who is nice. It bores me shitless frankly some guy that goes on and on about himself, and is so arrogant that he swaggers around as if he owns the world.

Am I in the minority? I am not entirely sure about women, but I do notice that there are a LOT of guys out there who will put up with some bitch who treats them like dirt and walks all over them, simply because she's supposed to be "interesting" in her attitude. But do women really prefer bad boys?

A female friend recently suggested that I did really love bad boys, because I have a bit of a thing for Wolverine. And Sawyer from Lost. But I thought about it, and realised that the thing I find attractive about them is that despite the fact they want the whole world to THINK they are bad guys, they're actually quite good men at their core. Wolverine fights on the side of good, not evil, and he loves and protects other people. Sawyer from Lost is a man who has done all kinds of bad things, but his natural instinct when it comes to the crunch is to protect and help people. It is more often than not him that comes to someone's rescue, not Jack, who is supposed to be the good guy.

I just know, give me a man who "gives a shit" about things in life over some self centred, arrogant arse anyday. Nice/good men are sexy. And that doesn't mean they're sloppy and simpering, it just means they can see the difference between what is right and what is wrong and always treat themselves and others with RESPECT. There is nothing sexier than a man who says things like "I thought you might like it if... (Could be anything...) I gave you a call, I washed your car, I made some time for you, I helped the kids school, I rang my mother... anything that shows that they care about people other than themselves, and that they had the thought of what might make me feel good. Mmmm.... now that's SEXY.

And correspondingly, I take great joy in doing something for the people I care about that makes them feel good. Not because it puts me in their good books, but because it gives me satisfaction to know that they walk a little taller or have a smile on their face. Where are the men that find that attractive in a woman?

How do you feel about "nice people". Do you think you are nice? Do you find niceness attractive or do you prefer bad boys/girls? Do you think if someone is nice, that they can't be spontaneous, or they must always "behave themselves"? I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on the nice/good thing.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Unread Books Meme

The 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicise the ones you started but didn’t finish and colour the ones read for school.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel T
he Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
A Tale of Two Cities
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
A Canterbury Tale
Tess of the D’urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The PrinceThe Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield