I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California, but all opinions expressed at this blog are my own. I’m using this blog as an outlet for free thought about whatever happens to be of interest to me on any given day. I am not writing as a spokesperson for my employer.
I share 20th century journalist I.F. Stone’s belief that:
[N]o society is good, whatever its intentions, whatever its utopian and liberationist claims, if the men and women who live in it are not free to speak their minds.
Consequently, this blog is a place where I speak my mind.
If you would like to send me an email, here’s the address to send it to:
In the photograph above are my wife, my two daughters (at the time, ages three and five), and me. The photo was taken in May of 2009 at the Getty Center in Westwood.
I haven’t seen you in ages. I hope all is well.
I happened across your blog tonight – odd how we live so close, but must connect via technology. I like your poetry and thought your wife’s comment about the “pimp” hat was funny.
I saw your post on PZ Meyers. You would probably like this blog (but skip down a couple of posts): http://airtightnoodle.wordpress.com/
I’m glad to see you are still writing.
Sorry, I should have told you this is Don Phillips.
I’ve got two kids now—another girl. Hope you and your wife and kids are well. I’d love to have lunch with you sometime over the next couple of months. I’ve got an old phone number for you—I just looked it up. I see that the last digit is “3.” I’ll try to reach you over the next day or two.
Hi, I am an English student myself. I am also a critic of religious thought (and mindset). I am about to add you to my blogroll (we actually share one or two links ;p). Please add mine, too!
It is marchofunreason.wordpress.com
We share completely different opinions on certain things so perhaps we can have interesting discussions?
I’m happy to make your acquaintance. I look forward to our future dialogue.
Wanted to share this article with you. A little behind the seen look?
Take care. Your site is most interesting.
thanks for the article link—that is, indeed, interesting.
another link to how well our gov. did her job while mayor of “allisaw”
The REM video was most enjoyed.
I really enjoy your site and will visit often.
thanks michelle, that’s extremely kind of you to offer the encouragement.
thanks for yet another good link—i read the article.
Very interesting content.
Since you teach writing/literature, and I’m an English Lit major, I’ll be returning to check out your posts.
thanks for the vote of confidence—i’ll get back to some more “englishy” themes after the election.
Just stumbled upon your blog randomly while attempting to quench my eminent thirst for the lines of William Blake’s “To Nobodaddy”. I had no clue the poem was called this until I found it on your blog minutes after patiently scrolling down down down. I developed this thirst when Neil Young’s “Dead Man” Soundtrack came on my iPOD and the lines of that William Blake poem were cited in Johnny Depp’s voice…and when he said “Or is it because secrecy gains females loud applause”…that beautiful light was turned on inside me and I thought to myself “how perfect, another soul who feels that it’s rather off-putting to witness men manipulate women by presenting themselves as pseudo-enigmas.”
Thank you for this blog! My new and only favorite.
Wow. Thanks for sharing that. I’ll listen to the Neil Young song again.
And thanks for the encouragement.
Excuse me from being so presumptitous, but I just happened to come across your site this evening. . .I believe we are related. I am Laura Tafarella Summers Dob 9/26/1951. My dad is Louis Dominick Tafarella born in NYC 1924, he is the son of Vincent and Pauline Tafarella.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I am loojking forward to hearing from you.
my dad, santi, has been in italy this past month vacationing—and also doing some research on my grandfather—who was a musician at carnegie hall—and later in hollywood.
my guess is that your dad is the brother of my grandfather—is that correct?
or perhaps even a child of my grandfather?
santi sr. had 10 children by two different marriages.
or perhaps my grandfather was your grandfather’s brother?
I’m not sure if you get these kind of requests, but would it be possible to have you read some of my poetry?
If so, could you email me and I’ll send you some.
I am sorry to ask this type of question on a public forum but there are no alternative options.
Nice Blog you have going on here.
And there are some of us who are so impressed that we attempt to plug or increase the traffic to your marvelous work.
I sure hope you were not offended in any way by my referencing you and your insights on my tiny blog, “American Age.”
I meant nothing but good will; furthermore, as one reads my “About” pages my entire intent with three of my blogs is too encourage critical thinking. Far too many people have put there minds in ‘coast mode’ and are just not using their minds.
I’d imagine that you must have fits at times being the professional you are and especially what you do for a living. I am a retired professor of English and at times I wonder if people understand the importance of written communication.
Love what you’re doing here…especially how your present your material. Cheers!
Thanks Jon-Paul, you are very kind.
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I dont hate you, I think you are smart. I dont agree with some things, but thats all.
Also, I added your blog roll. I know I am pretty extreme, but I am HEARTBROKEN over my nation, and I HATE ALL of these parties. That’s me.
Hey, I’m looking for a nonChristian to interview via email for my website. Would you be interested? (If not, I’m sorry to bother you.)
I don’t mind doing an interview with you. You can write me with one or two questions at a time. Let’s say right here in this “about” thread, okay? And then you can paste them over to your blog. Will that work for you?
Also, just realize that I may not be able to give you much of a response until after October 7th (a week from now). I’ve got a super-busy week ahead of me and I don’t see a slowing down again until the 8th.
You can post your first question or two today (if you like), but I might not respond superfast.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Here are the first few questions. My only requests are that you have no links in your responses.
Tell me a little bit about yourself including your interests, your work, and your family?
What is the most important thing to you?
What event in history during your life most sticks out to you?
Very briefly, I’m an Assistant Professor of English at a college in California. I’ve had a lifelong interest in the subjects of literature, philosophy, science, and religion. I’ve always been someone with a strong interest in puzzling out life’s Meaning (with a capital “M”). In terms of what’s important to me, I begin with my wife and kids, and after that the (I think) normal quest for human meaning in a very complicated and confusing universe. I lost my mother to cancer at the age of five, and this may be what initiated my lifelong concerns with the meaning of human existence. Literature, for me, is one route into thinking about what it means to be human. In terms of Christianity (since that is a concern to you), I was a Bible carrying fundamentalist as a teenager. I learned to love literature via the King James Bible, so I don’t regret my time of belief at all. Since my late teens, I’ve described myself as either an atheist or an agnostic. In my present state of mind, I’m agnostic, but I have sympathies toward God belief, and understand it.
I am a senior high school student in Hayward, CA. I am doing a presentation on the literary term, Negative Capability. I am going to cite you as my source. What specific university do you teach at? Thanks for the great resource.
Antelope Valley College in Southern California.
I happened across your blog by accident tonight and I must say I’m not surprised you have such an outlet. I’m not sure if you remember me. I really enjoyed your lectures in the several classes I took from you, and reading this blogs feels like somewhat of a continuation of those lectures. I’ll be reading. Cheers.
I started blogging about a year and a half ago—and it is definitely an outlet for me. By the way, I think that your journal book from the lit. class last year is in my office (if you ever want to pick it up). Hope you’re still writing.
That’s awesome, I blog as well although I’ll admit my blog isn’t as literary as yours haha I’ll try and swing by and snag my journal one of these days. It seems like my classes never work out so I can come by during your office hours. I’ll see what I can do. Hope you’re well.
In Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, the legal penalty for converting to another religion from Islam, is death. This is sharia law, Mohamed’s idea, it’s in the Quran, it wasn’t invented by terrorists or “fundamentalists”.
For the past couple of years, the Organization of Islamic Conferences within the United Nations, has aggressively pushed for a Resolution to combat the defamation of religion. Of course, the only religion they want to protect from “defamation” is Islam. This law would make it a “hate crime” to criticize Islam, to say anything negative about Mohamed, in any form – books, speech, films. If voted into law, this would become international legislation binding on all member nations, including America. The last vote, last year was 86 in favor, 53 opposed and 42 abstentions. It’s a close call.
The organization that filed a lawsuit against mayor Rex Parris of Lancaster, is CAIR, the Council of American Islamic Relations.
In Great Britain, polygamy was already legalized, only for Muslims, of course. There was a case in 2006 that involved a Muslim man who drove 64 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone – usually grounds for an automatic loss of one’s driving license. The defendant’s lawyer explained that his client’s need to speed was because he has one wife in Motherwell and another in Glasgow and sleeps with one, one night and stays with the other the next on an alternate basis. Without his driving license he would be unable to do this on a regular basis. The judge was sympathetic to the polygamist and gave him back his license. This is an example of giving preferential treatment to Islam as a religion.
In light of all these facts, let me ask you a question: why are you so hostile toward a Christian mayor who said something that’s hardly a threat to anybody’s rights, and you remain indifferent to the way Islam is gaining ground through politics? I’m talking about Rex Parris.
I don’t understand people like you. Agnostics and atheists in this country are so concerned about prayer in the military, “In God we trust” on government buildings or if a Christian politician says something, but they are not seeing the real threat to them and to everyone else. Is it ignorance or hypocrisy, huh?
If you think Islam is a tolerant religion, just go to Saudi Arabia or Pakistan and tell them the Quran was not inspired by God. See what will happen to you.
By the way, in a society where Islam is the predominant religion, there are no agnostics and atheists. You ever wondered why?
You better wake up and see what’s going on! If Islam gets more preferential treatment with the help of their politically correct extremist friends, you won’t have the luxury to disagree with their religion. Do you ever think about that?
I’m every bit as concerned with Islamic fundamentalism as you are, but I make distinctions between Islamic fundamentalism and moderate forms of Islam (a distinction that you don’t recognize, but that Western scholars of the religion do recognize). I do not believe that Islam is a monolithic religion (any more than is Christianity). And I believe that the future of Islam can belong to its nonviolent practitioners.
Also, I would remind you that it might have been a Muslim woman in Singapore, working for very low wages, who put together the electronic panel board of your computer (and mine). To assume that Islam cannot be integrated into a peaceful global community is to give up before trying. People are not so different from one another as you imagine, and Islam has every capability of tolerance and peaceful coexistence that Christianity has.
As for my own concerns about fundamentalist Islam, I’m not sweeping anything under the rug (as these three recent posts of mine attest):
And as for Mr. Parris, he slights the diversity of his community by foregrounding Christianity as normative and making the doubting community (non-religious people) and non-Christians invisible or marginal. I pay taxes here as well, and I expect to be treated with equality. Mr. Parris’s gestures are forms of disrespect that I, for one, will continue to speak out concerning.
thanks for your reply.
I’m not demonizing Muslims. If I would have said that all Muslims are terrorists who love to blow up buildings, then you could say that I demonize them. I didn’t say that and I don’t believe that.
“People are not so different from one another as you imagine”.
I don’t imagine they are different, you assumed that. They are just as human as we are, with joy and sadness. They try to make meaning of this life. It’s just that when you grow up in a society where you are indoctrinated from childhood that all people who don’t submit to Allah and his prophet Mohamed, are evil infidels who have no right to live on this earth, chances are you will end up with a twisted and dark theology.
Those thousands of people who were dancing and smiling on the streets of cities in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria to mention just a few, when the September 11 terrorist attack happened, were not “fundamentalist” terrorists. They were normal people. Why did they react like that when thousands of innocent people got killed in another part of the world? Doesn’t that tell you anything?
I’m saying there’s a serious problem with their religion. “By their fruits ye shall know them. People don’t gather grapes from thorn bushes” Jesus said. In other words, when a religion produces fanaticism and other “bad fruits”, there’s something wrong with its doctrines. The same can be said of medieval Christianity, the horrors of the dark ages were a direct result of some of its doctrines. Such doctrines need to be openly condemned and rejected, as far as God is concerned and as far as humans are concerned. Because if we don’t condemn and reject them, those doctrines will continue to grow and gain ground, and will end up destroying the free world.
…”a distinction that you don’t recognize, but that Western scholars of the religion do recognize”.
What distinction? The Quran preaches violence and killing of infidels. It even says “Take not the Christian and the Jew for a friend, for they are only one another’s friend”. You call that tolerance?!
The form of “moderate Islam” that you are referring to, doesn’t exist. It exists only in the mind of utopian and ingnorant individuals, like the Western scholars you have mentioned.
You fail to understand that Islam by definition is not moderate, and that has nothing to do with
“fundametalism”. You think there are two kinds of Islam, that’s just a politically correct myth.
In the case of sharia law, Islamic law based on the Quran, the doctrines and practices are unknown by most people in Western countries. All those agnostics and “scholars” who say “Islam is a tolerant religion” are so ignorant, they could earn a degree in stupidity. They don’t know anything about the horrors of sharia law, yet they defend Islam against any criticism.
Some of the doctrines and practices of sharia law include the death penalty for converting to another religion, flogging of women who don’t wear a veil in public and lying to “infidels” in time of war, as justified. In fact, sharia law, which is basically Quranic law, even states that any peace treaties signed with “infidels” have no value before Allah, so they can be broken any time.
Does that sound like a religion that teaches people to keep their promises? “Let your Yes be Yes, and let your Nay be Nay”, Christ said. Very different.
Rex Parris made those comments to some Christian people in the community. He didn’t say that to a large audience of thousands of residents of the town or city, so he wasn’t talking to the population of your city. You took his words out of context. There was no reason for you to be offended. As for “In God we trust” signs in public places, I can’t comprehend why they bother you so much. Do you have insomnia because of them, you can’t sleep at night?
If you don’t believe that God exists, then they shouldn’t bother you. You don’t have to trust in God. But if the majority of the people in your city do believe in the existence of God, in some way, then that sign has every right to be there. The presence of that sign there doesn’t force you to become a believer. By the way, if you’re an agnostic, then you are different from atheists. An agnostic believes there’s a possibility that God exists. It’s just that as an agnostic, you probably don’t believe God can be known and understood. Is that right?
“I would remind you that it might have been a Muslim woman in Singapore, working for very low wages, who put together the electronic panel board of your computer (and mine).”
And I’ll remind you that it was a Bible-believing Christian man by the name of Michael Faraday who made some important discoveries in the field of electronics, from which we all benefit.
I agree with you Scott that Islam or Muslim religion…is dangerous.
Did you know that Obama has appointed for State Department Legal Advisor, Harold Koh, a man who wants the U.S. to adopt Sharia Law?
Is that crazy or what! Everything about Sharia law is in opposition to our Bill of Rights and Constitution.
I don’t think Americans would be too happy with that.
I would be curious to know how many Americans are aware of this, and realize that the “change” Obama wants isn’t good.
There’s the rub isn’t it Santi? I am a religious bigot, and I too pay taxes. I expect my bigotry to be treated with as much equality, with equal license, as your pluralism. I offend by making a distinction. You offend by making an equivalence.
Respecting MY community (that is, to the extent that a community is mine), Christianity is not only normative, it IS the community. The “doubting community” is not only invisible; it has no existence in MY community. Any other result is either mere convenience or imposition.
You attend a very strange church then, for I’ve rarely met a religious person who isn’t, in private conversation, actually suffused with doubts.
And as well they should be, as so much of what they are asked to believe by their clergy is ridiculous.
But I wouldn’t prevent your freedom to be ridiculous. And if your wife puts up with your silliness and authoritarianism, I wouldn’t interfere with her freedom either. You are Dostoevsky’s bitter Underground Man. I get it. I understand your need to assert contrarity and imagine yourself a free thinker. But the broader community, since it is multiple, and not in a forced covenant with your God, has to set some minimal rules that make at least for a modicum of peaceful relations between people when sharing our collective spaces.
I may have doubts, but you apparently have none. It appears that you blindly accept the proposition that man has value in and of himself. Have you ever questioned this proposition? Upon what basis do you accept it? What sort of free thinking have you done?
Or are you simply a moral desCartes, and that’s that?
My wife is not free to accept or reject my “silliness and authoritarianism.” Else she would not be my wife.
Why cannot one of those multiple communities set a rule of “this is what we believe, this is who we are?” If it cannot so affirm, then in what sense is there a multiplicity of communities?
You sir, are Captain Ahab intent on chasing a great white whale, a man railing endlessly against the Universe.
R. Rex Parris publicly told america that he wants not only to crush drug addicts/criminals but he wants to hurt them not help them or rehabilitate but to eraticate them, just like the way he is getting rid of descent people who are on section 8. He passes judgement on these people without understanding that he is a criminal and a liar and should be the one behind bars.
Ichanced upon your blog a few months back while browsing to know more about the myth of Prometheus.I found your blog posts very fascinating.Today when I read your profile I was pleasantly surprised to know that we have some common interests.I had been teaching English language and Literature in
Government Colleges of my home state in India for more than three decades.I have visited the US many times and comprehend the politics and social milieu of your country a little bit.I very much apprecite the platform you provide for the expression of free thought.
We too are grappling with Muslim imbroglio in one of our sensitive states.Hope the powers to be manage to find a solution.
Santi, I recently started my own blog.So far I have only written about my personal experiences. The address is:youandi-uppal.blogspot.com
Pl.have a look.
Thank you, and I’ll be sure to have a look at your blog this weekend.
If you have the energy, either at your blog, or in a thread here, might you consider sharing your optimism (or pessimism) with regard to Muslim/non-Muslim relations? I would appreciate your perspective.
I would certainly do that,please give me some time.
Muslims are friendly and hospitable people. But they are least accommodating in matters of their faith or belief. At places they have genuine grievances and at others unjustifiable ones. I don’t think terror attacks by their extremist brethren would ever cease unless we create Janat on earth.
In recent past more terrorist acts have been perpetrated by Islamists than by any other religious group. They are ever ready for Jihad or any extreme action. Remember the Fatwa against Salman Rushdie.
The number of Muslims in world population is large and is growing. No democratic set up can afford to ignore them. In my own country, because of the compulsions of vote bank politics, the political parties follow appeasement policy and refrain from calling a spade a spade.
Though outwardly the educated and the well placed may seem moderate but scratch the surface and all emerge in one hue. Inviting them and getting invited by them for coffee or dinner is fine but be careful and confine your talk to their wonderful cuisine.
Thanks for your thoughts on the subject. Muslims do make great hummus, don’t they?
Smash beans, not authors.
I hope, however, that your bleak assessment is incorrect. My view is that more Muslims would speak out and be more moderate about diversity matters if they felt that it was safe, from within their own communities, to do so. A small group within a larger group can intimidate. I don’t think that most Muslims are itching, just beneath the surface, with radical views.
—Santi : )
I find you very interesting even if I disagree with your stance on some of your views. I am a self-educated man, not like you with the academia but I love critical thinking. I think of myself as a passionate intellectual. We have some things in common so I would like to converse with you, if at all possible. Here is my link on FB http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1281970013
I read and I hear things but I’m still preplexed as to how anyone thinks of God is on their side, I have many friends on many sides of the religious persuasion but yet they still think they can say God is on their side. So I always ask this question, which most have no clue as to what it means. So I ask with this quote… So if we as humans have the free will to choose good or evil and suffer the consequences, is it the will of God or should we not attach any accord to God.
I would like the answer or at least a good discussion from those who invoke God’s name for their own cause. From what I know God doesn’t take sides we do….
ooops forgot to check the notify me via email ;-).
just to encourage you with your well balanced (just in my opinion!) critique and well spent views.
Enjoy reading your blog-
hope you and yours are well.
Hi Santi – A post on the subject of blogging would be appropriate to mark 1m hits – which looks likely in the next 24 hours. Happy million and many more!
Thank you, Colin!
—Santi : )
Looking forwarde for your posts
I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award. Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been trolliping through your blogs, and I’ve very much enjoyed what I’ve read thus far. Feel free to play along with this little award bit, or ignore it as chain garbage. It’s not a bad way to get new eyes on your blog. Either way, you can rest easy knowing that you have at least one little fan. 😀
Check the link of my blog for info on the Liebster Award below:
I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve read by IF Stone and should read more of his work one day. That’s a good quote.
Since other people on this thread have brought up the subject, I will add that I, too, was a literature major as an undergraduate.
I too came across your blog via a Google search (for ‘negative capability’) and have enjoyed the discovery. Sad to see you have attracted your to-be-expected quota of extremists (god save me from extremists with guns).
To those who are concerned by Sharia law permitting lying in the case of war, I would ask their opinion of governments who routinely lie in time of peace as all our so-called democracies do ad nauseam? And if you fear the rise of Muslim extremism I might suggest that the Chinese people and their government (what a very odd use of the possessive that one is!) are significantly less tolerant of such extremists than your own nation. It is the Chinese who will after all succeed to the hegemony left vacant by the approaching decline of the US although I am far too old to be around to see it as this century unfolds.
More strength to your arm and best wishes,
Huigh in Canberra
Any relation to Anthony tafarella?
I was looking for some information on negative capability and the Gods of the Search Engine delivered me to your blog post on that subject. I’m glad to have found you and will check in, read, ponder, and perhaps respond in the future. Thank you.