My Two Cents (Pennies for your thoughts??)


Since everyone seems to be an American historian these days, here is the opinion of a life-long lover and student of history who is also currently a history professional and instructor.

Number one: history is interpretive. There are many American histories, not one monolithic history–even two professional historians can look back at a historic person, event, or place and interpret it differently (in fact, this is encouraged in the field). So, like most things, history is subjective. But, one must explain and back up an argument with evidence. Thus, no one is really right and no one really wrong. I think this is hard for most people to understand– certainly my students have a tough time with it. Even seemingly hard facts (dates of events for example) can be debated. What I find truly fascinating, then is how each time period—historic peoples (so, us as Twenty-first century Americans)– interpret history in a certain way and historians can study this to learn more about that specific society—their likes, dislikes, anxieties, beliefs, etc.

SO, SO, SO…it does seem from both sides of the divide (oh, yes!) that statues from the Confederate side of the American Civil War are seen today as symbols of racism, hate, and oppression. If this is how a majority of Americans view these individuals and the Civil War, then by all means take them down. But, please put them in museums were we can learn from them. As an art historian too, we lament the destruction of art! I just watched a British historian who specifically studies the destruction of art as a way to understand historic peoples better (he studied the French Revolution) and the toppling of political regimes….hmmmm.

Side note—those that marched in Charlottesville are not Nazis–Nazis are time and site specific. Neither can you compare Gen. Lee with Washington or even judge the past for the institution of slavery. We simply learn from it by trying to nail that slippery jelly to the wall. Oh, and there is no monolithic American culture either, BTW…but, I guess that is another post.



Lamia’s Lament

Lamia_and_the_Soldier 1905

John William Waterhouse, Lamia and Soldier, 1905

“She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue,
Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue;
Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard,
Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson barr’d;
And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed,
Dissolv’d, or brighter shone, or interwreathed
Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries –
So rainbow-sided, touch’d with miseries,
She seem’d, at once, some penanced lady elf,
Some demon’s mistress, or the demon’s self”

–Excerpt from John Keats’ Lamia, 1884

Lamia_Waterhouse 1909

Lamia (Second Version) by John William Waterhouse, 1909






Food Musings with a bit of Culture Mixed in.


Wayne Thiebaud (b.1920-present) Three Ice Cream Cones, 2008

Now, I know one of the great ironies of life is that we all feel (at one time or another) that we don’t “fit in,” aren’t “part of the crowd,” ie aliens in our own world. This is, in fact, is human nature. Hence the irony, because we are not distinct nor separate creatures—and especially in our feeling of isolation!! These sentiments actually, if anything, make us more human and more alike our neighbor than anything. However, on occasion, I do feel this not “fitting in” especially when I encounter American cultural tastes around food.

Case in point, I went to a free BBQ today in hopes of pocketing some veggies for later. Yes, veggies—anyone who knows me I get more excited about veg and fruits—especially fruits—than any sweet, cookies, cakes, you name it. I mean, a bag of oranges or apples makes me seriously happy. I start to panic when my fresh fruit and veg run out, hence my stopping by the picnic for reserves.  I don’t believe that this love affair with fruits and veg is the norm for most Americans, so research/stats/advertisements/word-of-mouth/and plain old experience has shown me.

For instance, at this BBQ, as I’m eying the veggie platter lasciviously, which mind you is sandwiched (or veggied) between two enormous sheet cakes. The girl helping at the BBQ says to me (as if a secret), “we’ve got ice cream sandwiches too!” Now, I have never really loved ice cream, so do not understand Americans’ obsession with it. But, at that BBQ three other people mentioned these darn ice cream sandwiches to me, like—honestly they were crack or something. Psst, you know we’ve got mint chocolate chip and double chocolate chip!

As I piled my plate high with cukes, carrots, celery all set to leave, another person mentioned the ice cream sandwiches! I felt the universe was trying to tell me something, so I ventured over to get one and, really, just to be nice. Not only was there a line, but there was a guard monitoring this stuffed cooler. Handing out the ice cream sandwiches like a king bestowing loafs of bread to his subjects (one for each mind you!) When I get up there, I pick one on top that happened to be strawberry ice cream with snickerdoodle cookies. Fine, I like those flavors. Because I didn’t really want it, I bravely ventured to take this ice cream home in the AZ heat! It survived and it was good (if not a tad sweet and I still only ate half). The veggies, however, were long gone before I even got to the ice cream.

The whole experience has left me pondering about my food tastes and main-stream food tastes. All I can think is that, at least with this event and group of people, I was different. For instance, where was the fresh fruit??? But, mainly because all I kept thinking was that I would have placed the guard at the veggie platter!


Wayne Thiebaud, Jolly Cones (Ice Cream Cones), 2002

Ghost Ship Memorial Late December 2016

I ventured to the site of the Ghost Ship Fire (12/2/16, Oakland, CA) in late December to pay respects to a childhood friend, John Igaz, and the other victims. It was surprisingly cathartic and peaceful. The site itself had an eerie stillness and calm. The evidence of the fire was chilling, but the tributes were touching. John and I both grew up in Alameda, and the site was just over the High Street Bridge to Alameda. For some reason, I take comfort in the fact that John was not far from home. Here are some photos, link to more below.

Pearls of Wisdom

Art: Vladimir Kush, Pearl

Ruba’iyat #209

I cannot hide what stands out a mile,

I cannot tell the mysteries of Time,

My intellect dredges from thought’s ocean,

A pearl which I fear to thread.

–Omar Khayyam

CA Train Series #1 & #2

I absolutely love trains! Who else is a train buff? The rhythmic sound of the tracks, being able to watch life pass– it’s hypnotic and a great time to be self-reflexive! Simply put, it’s one of my favorite ways to travel. It has issues, don’t get me wrong (I was once stuck for over 5 hours on a track!) but I still love it!


I have probably taken over 100 or more Amtrak trains from 1999 to the present! I used to take either the Coast Starlight or the San Joaquin every break during my undergraduate studies at UCSB from Santa Barbara to Oakland. Now in PhD program, I still take the train in CA to go home for breaks!


Here are links to pictures I took while traveling on Amtrak’s San Joaquin in December and January.


Taking photos from a train window, is in itself an art form….



2016, goodbye. 2017, hello.

Oh, the lessons learned.
Only from darkness can we learn true
Beauty only exists because ugliness exists.
Happiness–only because of sadness.
Two sides of a coin.
We are all the same.
All is all.
There are no real differences.

All my beautiful light-bearing souls,
do not be afraid.
Do not place expectations on 2017.
Make no resolutions except this:
Turn your light up!
If even one more notch, our light combined
can outshine any dark.
Light shall overcome.

This means being true to yourself and your dreams.
Being kind to strangers, all creatures, especially
Those different from you.
Learn, learn, and learn some more
and then share your knowledge and beauty
with the world.
Try to understand and see where others
are coming from.
Listen to people’s stories.
Connect, really connect.
Compliment people.
Help people.
The smallest deeds send ripples.

Do not buy into fear, there is nothing to fear.
All is an illusion.
All is cycles, all comes and goes.

Work on yourself, love yourself.
Be kind to yourself.
Then extend that love outward to
all you come across.
I wish all more love, more hugs, joy and good health
in 2017.
Let’s all try to laugh and dance more in 2017.