if m.i.t.’s methodology is correct, i may be outed against my knowledge

researchers at boston’s massachusetts institute of technology (m.i.t.) have apparently developed a way to determine whether or not someone is gay (well, at least gay on facebook). this new technological advance purports to determine statistically whether or not one is gay by examining a person’s facebook profile, including the sexual orientation of one’s facebook friends.

…two students in a course on Internet ethics and law designed a program that looked at the profile information—including gender and sexuality—of a person’s Facebook friends and analyzed the information to predict the person’s sexuality. The students called the program “Gaydar.”

as many of you know, i’m a huge facebooker. in fact, facebook was instrumental in helping me win carl kasell’s voice on my home answering device on ‘wait wait…don’t tell me!,’ the npr news quiz. and i’ll tell you right now: i have many facebook friends, including many gay facebook friends. up until recently, my relationship status has always been hidden (in keeping with my now six-year old policy of ‘my private life is none of your business.’) likewise, i have regularly written against california’s proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in california (see also here and here and here). likewise, i am single, clean, in shape, in my mid-thrities, use a mac, drive a hybrid prius, own a cat, love coldplay, regularly write poetry, work in west los angeles, and have generally been described as a ‘metrosexual’ (however one defines it).

so i am curious (not bi-curious, just curious): what will the m.i.t. researchers conclude about me? imho, the fact that i’m writing about this betrays what i already think their conclusion will be. i don’t care if m.i.t. or fresno city college is running the numbers, statistically, i’m gonna make a few blips on the so-called ‘gaydar.’

but should this be the case? should we assume that advocates for same-sex marriage and those who love listening to ani difranco sing ‘little plastic castle’ are themselves gay? part of the reason i never answer the question of ‘are you gay’ is because so much of the anti-gay and anti-same-sex marriage lobby relies on the assumption that those who show solidarity with gay causes must themselves be gay. they may never say so aloud, but they rely on the assumed implication to marginalize the person at church at work within certain social circles. while this may not necessarily be the case, every time a straight man emphatically answers, ‘no!’ to the question of, ‘are you gay,’ it perpetuates this assumption. of course, there are some occasions where the question can and should be answered (like getting hit on in a bar, or a party, or a library, or a public lecture, or at sbl, or at church or, well, you get the picture). but, when someone inappropriately asks, ‘are you gay?’ for reasons of marginalizing the one questioned, straight men need to begin answering, ‘that’s none of your business.’ the sooner straight individuals stop answering the question, the sooner those asking will learn that is an inappropriate question to ask.

while statistical correlations can sometimes indicate certain likelihoods, these statistical trends cannot and should not be used to stereotype, pigeonhole, discriminate against, or define individuals. being friends with, hanging out with, or spending time with individuals of certain persuasions does not result in one being of a similar persuasion. was jesus a prostitute? a tax-collector? a leper? a drunk?? black friends do not make me black. muslim friends do not make me muslim. straight friends do not make me straight. and gay friends do not make me gay. likewise, one who supports the civil rights of homosexuals is not necessarily gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that), just as supporting the civil rights of women, blacks, or straight white males does not make one a woman, black, or a straight white male. we should be free to love one another and do business with, eat dinner with, worship with, marry, live next to, and simply befriend individuals of all races, religions, nationalities, genders, and sexual orientations without being chastised for being friends with them.

i am very comfortable with my masculinity and i do not need to act macho, make fun of homosexuals, denigrate women, or drive a muscle car to try to convince prove to the world i am straight. to me, raging, macho heterosexuals are just as annoying as flamboyant, in-your-face homosexuals. why can’t we simply comfortable with who we are? let the quirky be quirky. let the nerds be nerds. let the gregarious be gregarious. let the soft-spoken be soft-spoken. let the straight be straight. let the gay be gay. and let those who cannot accept those who are different from themselves (or some contrived religious ideal) remain alone in their insecure, judgmental, cookie-cutter, tract housing, suburban, plain vanilla lives.

as for me, i shall continue to state what i have always stated: i like what i like, i’ll date whomever i’ll date, and my sexual orientation is none of your business. i shall continue to add gay and straight friends alike on facebook, and will not ignore their friend requests because they happen to declare a different sexual orientation than my own. and if researchers at m.i.t. want to think i’m gay, it’s fine by me. from what i’ve experienced, they won’t be the only ones.

goodacre on the use of internet resources in scholarship

Duke University Professor Dr. Mark Goodacre.

Duke University Professor Dr. Mark Goodacre.

there is an absolutely wonderful article by dr. mark goodacre (duke) entitled, ‘celebrating the use of internet resources,’ on the bible and interpretation website that is mandatory reading for anyone – student or scholar – doing research on the internet. goodacre is the brains behind ntgateway.com – an online resource for all things new testament.

of particular note is goodacre’s spot-on reasoning for why so many professors despise the internet as a source for research:

Part of the problem is that many scholars are innately conservative in their teaching methods, and they are working with a print-dominated mindset. They are used to print, they like print, they have always used print. They may even print out their emails. Exploring internet resources will be time consuming and difficult. It might take away from valuable research time, or might be squeezed out by the weight of the administrative burden that they are are already struggling under. Add to this the concern that their students probably know far more about the net than they do. Faced with the fear of looking inadequate in front of their students, it is preferable to go into denial, and to stick with what they know.

equally as profound is goodacre’s nostalgic, yet realistic conclusion:

In a world where we think that anything and everything of any use can be found on the internet, it is easy to forget the warm glow inside as we enter the stacks of the university library. That smell is the smell of accumulated wisdom and knowledge of many generations. But the joy of being in the library stacks, or of digging out some wonderful old volume, cannot any longer represent the full extent of our experience of the scholarship we pass on to our students.

give it a read.

tali turns ten today

Tali at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Tali at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

ten years ago today, my life changed forever. my ‘little girl,’ talitha joy, was born on september 18, 1999. it is still the proudest moment of my life.

i surprised her with tickets to the miley cyrus concert at the staples center. oh the lengths to which parents will go to sacrifice for their children! ;-)

as i said in the dedication of my book:

Finally, I wish to thank my daughter, Talitha Joy. Tali, you are the girl I’ve always loved and you are the reason I rise in the morning. May I live each day in an effort to show you that life can be lived with adventure, discovery, knowledge, faith, hope, kindness, laughter, love, and peace. I love you Tali. You will always be my little girl.

happy birthday tali. you will always be my little girl.


kanye west: jackass

Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift during the MTV Video Music Awards

Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift during the MTV Video Music Awards

the scene was a typical mtv video music award presentation. taylor swift had just won the award for best female video. she was in the middle of her acceptance when something highly unexpected happened. kanye west stormed the stage to protest the fact that his friend, beyoncé knowles, should have won. in doing so, he humiliated himself, embarrassed winner taylor swift, and set race relations back a few years.

west grabbed the microphone from taylor swift and stated:

i’ll tell ya, i’m really happy for ya, i’m gonna let you finish, but beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. one of the best videos of all time.

and then west handed the mic back to swift as he was roundly booed off the stage.

swift was speechless, her moment ruined. those in attendance booed west, then applauded swift. music fans cringed. white americans shook their heads. country music fans were furious. african-americans were embarrassed. and according to a tweet by terry moran, someone else was even more upset. while sitting next to president obama, moran tweeted the following:

president obama just called kanye west a jackass.

tmz obtained audio of president obama saying kayne west was a jackass, corroborating the story.

regardless of the fact that the tweet was deleted minutes later, the word was out: the president doesn’t think much of kanye west.

it can’t be any fun for the president to call you out by name. i remember an interview with rap pioneer ice-t shortly after the congressional hearings in 1992 that investigated profanity and hate lyrics in popular music and resulted in the riaa’s (recording industry association of america) ‘parental advisory: explicit content‘ labels being added to album covers. ice-t said he knew he had overstepped a line when the vice president of the united states (then dan quayle) called him out by name.

well, kanye, this isn’t the vice president, and he’s not of another race. he’s the president and he’s a fellow african-american. he’s president barack obama and he’s absolutely right: kanye west is a jackass! and i agree with the president 100%.

kanye west has set back race relations another couple of years. perhaps this is why president obama had such a visceral reaction. following his own slip of the tongue when he said the cambridge police department acted ‘stupidly’ when investigating the report of a break-in at the home of harvard professor henry louis gates, president obama does not want to see anything that could further ignite any possible race relations conversation. kanye west didn’t help.

Country music artist Taylor Swift.

Country music artist Taylor Swift.

taylor swift handled the matter maturely. and the outcry against kanye west from others besides the president is completely justified. can you imagine if the roles were reversed? can you imagine if beyoncé had won the award for best video and some country singer had stormed the stage and humiliated beyoncé by stating in a drunken stupor that taylor swift was should have won? there would be riots and protests. los angeles would be burning like it did after the lakers’ nba championship (any reason to riot is a good one in la).

i don’t care if terry moran deleted deleted his tweet or not. president obama said it and should stick by it!. i’ll say it too: kanye west is a jackass!

fool me once shame on you. fool me twice, shame on me.

west humiliated himself (and mike myers) in 2005 when during a live telecast on national television, he stated the now immortal words:

george bush doesn’t care about black people.

while comedians have had years’ worth of field days with that line, and while kanye’s words resonated with many bush haters back when openly hating the president and heckling him during a joint session of congress was still in fashion (apparently joe wilson didn’t read the vogue article that declared heckling a president is only fashionable when the president is a white republican), kanye’s ‘bush doesn’t care’ quote cast serious doubt upon his credibility as anything other than a talented hip hop artist. but now, with this latest drunken offering, kanye west has solidified his position as true jackass: the man whose music african-americans love, but who they wish would shut up, sing, and stop embarrassing them.

west has since apologized four times, but only once (the last) to taylor swift personally.

kanye west may think george bush doesn’t care about black people, but barack obama thinks kanye west is a jackass. i could not agree more with the president.

meeting students where they are: using twitter to teach

one of my many hats is that of instructional technologist at ucla. part of my job is to seek out new technologies and new uses of existing technologies for use in improving university instruction. a recent article by simmi aujla entitled, ‘professor gets religion about twitter in class,’ caught my eye.

the article reported on a digital humanities effort by mount royal university professor steven engler to get students interested in his religious studies course. the article states:

Hoping to get students engaged in his introductory course on Islam, Christianity and Judaism, Steven Engler, a professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, will test students on news stories posted to the class’s Twitter account.

i am a twitter user, but am not its biggest fan. to me, twitter is facebook without most of the functionality. twitter is facebook’s status updates and nothing more. that said, twitter is where many of the students are and for that reason, anyone who can effectively find an instructional application for twitter should be commended. curriculum should never be modified just to make room for technology; rather, technology should be used to improve instruction when and where it can.

professor engler’s twitter tests are one example of using twitter in a manner congruent with its design. twitter is essentially a series of headlines limited to 140-characters. in that sense, it is like the drudge report, but with only one headline at a time. using twitter as a current events headlines rss feed allows a professor to slip a little instruction into a student’s otherwise narcissistic daily exchange of comedy, drama, and global positioning declarations. and, by making the quizzes simple and not count for too much of the student’s grade, it is important enough to demand worthwhile attention, yet not so overblown that it looks gimmicky. it is a great way to get the students thinking about something besides what some girl they will never date is watching on tv.

if it’s good for the goose… 2010 california protection of marriage act seeks to ban divorce

2010 California Protection of Marriage Act

2010 California Protection of Marriage Act

in the fall of 2008, california voters were asked to choose whether or not to overturn a california law that allowed same-sex couples to marry. a ballot initiative named the ‘california marriage protection act‘, but better known simply as ‘proposition 8’ sought to amend article 1 of the california state constitution, adding a single sentence that reads:

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

despite the large number of catholics, mormons, and evangelical christians that voted heavily in favor of it, the ‘yes on 8’ campaign never explicitly mentioned the bible. rather, the ‘yes on 8’ campaign argued that the purpose of their campaign to ban same-sex marriage was to ‘protect traditional marriage.’ according to the prop 8 website, the measure would prevent against undermining,

the value of marriage altogether at a time when we should be restoring marriage, not undermining it.

‘yes on 8’ supporters regularly called for a ban on same-sex marriage to help ‘protect marriage.’ the ‘yes on 8’ website argues:

Proposition 8 protects marriage as an essential institution of society. While death, divorce, or other circumstances may prevent the ideal, the best situation for a child is to be raised by a married mother and father.

john marcotte of sacramento, california has taken this desire to protect the institution of marriage and to ensure that children are married by a mother and a father to the next level. marcotte has filed a petition to add another ballot measure on the 2010 california state ballot entitled the ‘2010 california marriage protection act.’ his petition seeks to ban divorce in california.

according to marcotte:

I am trying to extend the good work done with Proposition 8 last year. It could really happen. The United States has not always had divorce as an institution the way we do now. As a ballot initiative it bypasses the legislature and the governor. It’s the will of the people made law.

this is brilliant. it is nothing more than the natural extension of the ban on gay marriage. the bible clearly prohibits divorce except in the case of marital infidelity. matthew 5:32 reads:

But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

however, the penalty in the jewish tradition for marital infidelity was death by stoning. leviticus 20:10 reads:

If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.

thus, a man can divorce his wife if she cheats on him, but she cannot remarry because presumably, she’d be dead. interestingly, however, the divorced man also cannot remarry. the second part of matthew 5:32 says:

matthew 5:32 reads:

and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

thus, marrying a divorced individual is also prohibited. likewise, paul prohibits the remarriage of christians. after encouraging all xns not to get married (1 corinthians 7:7, 8, 27), paul states in 7:10-11:

To the married I give this command-not I but the Lord-that the wife should not separate from her husband. (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

thus, the bible clearly states that christians are not to divorce (except for the infidelity exception in matthew 5), and that divorced individuals should not remarry. note that no exception is provided for remarriage in 1 corinthians 7. thus, if one reads the bible in a fundamentalist fashion, according to the apostle paul, divorced individuals cannot remarry under any circumstance.

therefore, it is fair to say that in order to properly protect marriage and ensure that children are raised by both a mother and a father, not only should same-sex marriage be banned, but so too should divorce, as well as the remarriage of any divorced individual. this is precisely what john marcotte is seeking to do by banning divorce: protect traditional marriage. and marcotte is absolutely sure that those that supported and contributed to the ‘yes on 8’ campaign will contribute to and campaign vigorously for his 2010 california marriage protection act. why wouldn’t they? if the supporters of the ‘yes on 8’ campaign truly believe in protecting marriage, and do not want to appear hypocritical, they will eagerly support a ban on divorce.

the bible says homosexuality is unauthorized. the bible also says divorce is unauthorized (with one exception). the bible says the remarriage of divorced individuals is unauthorized. if we’re going to ban gay marriage, we should ban divorce too. if we really want to ‘defend marriage,’ and use state laws to do so, let’s do it all the way!

otherwise, let’s end this hypocritical nonsense and let divorced individuals and same sex couples marry. what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

robert cargill

on sbl affiliation with bibliobloggers

SBL Biblioblog Badge

SBL Biblioblog Badge

this post began as a response to chris heard and doug magnum‘s skepticism about the new affiliation between the sbl and the previously loosely-affiliated group of scholars that blog about religion and the bible called the ‘bibliobloggers.’ there have been many responses, both positive and negative (and funny). my response began as a few comments on some postings, but grew and grew until i figured i should make it into a blog post of its own.

blogging is continuing to gain legitimacy as a means of scholarly communication. at first, it was considered a novelty. then, like the internet itself, it gained legitimacy as more and more legitimate entities adopted the technology. remember when brick-and-mortar companies finally caught up with online startups and adopted internet presences? first corporations said it was a fad for teenagers. then, as those teenagers began to purchase those corporations with their newly-found millions, established corporations began not only to take notice, but began to develop (or acquire) internet presences of their own.

the same is true for scholarship. the self-publishing format of blogging was suspect at first because there was no peer-review and because the power structures of the establishment could not control it. but now that nearly every university and department has some sort of web presence or blog, and that several well-established scholars have adopted blogging and message groups as ways of disseminating preliminary information (and have some fun doing so), the technology is finally gaining some favor with the academy.

as usual, the academy is behind the times when it comes to adopting new technologies. but as it catches up, its members will buoy the credibility of the vehicle. likewise, the adoption of blogging by the academy will buoy those pioneers that blazed the trail for scholars on the internet. many of those pioneers who have been blogging about scholarship since the beginning have made names for themselves as pioneers (like grand master flash was to rap and south carolina governor mark sanford was to ‘hiking the appalachian trail.’) these scholar/bloggers have the experience and the marketing know-how to teach the intricacies of blogging (and yes, there are many) to other scholars.

this new sbl affiliation lends further legitimacy to scholarly blogging, and allows the bibliobloggers to do physically at an annual meeting what they cannot do virtually throughout the rest of the year: sit together, meet each other, welcome new voices, catch up on personal matters, and share ideas – just like every other section at sbl.

like every other sbl group, some will jump in head first, some will participate, some will watch, some will complain, and some will even object because they feel that they were not consulted in the planning stages of the new association. some bloggers turned to blogging in the first place because they could not find their place in the existing academic structure. and now that bibliobloggers are becoming a legitimate entity within the eyes of the academy, some bloggers will object for the same reason they turned to blogging in the first place: they reject authority, structure, affiliation, and organization in any form. and yet, affiliation withe the sbl will help all bibliobloggers, whether one participates or not, because affiliation lends legitimacy to the vehicle of blogging, which is good for all bloggers.

whether one chooses to participate or not, formal affiliation with the sbl will benefit all bibliobloggers. so, regardless of how one feels about the affiliation, we should be grateful for the efforts of those that pioneered this new field, and we should be thankful that some have taken strides towards helping to raise the level of legitimacy of this new, technologically-driven field of study in which we are all involved, affiliated or not.

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