Category Archives: books

CNN panel presents its book “Unprecedented” at Politics and Prose; a visit to Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria, after the fake news scandal

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I did visit the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria today in Washington DC just as it opened.

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I also attended a book-signing party at Politics and Prose Bookstore (next door) with a panel from CNN for its book “Unprecedented” headed by Brian Stelter.

My apologies for calling them “Poets …” on Youtube — the right name for the bookstore is Politics and Prose. Some scrambled memory, maybe a senior moment.

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There was an introduction by the business owner on the fake news crisis in the neighborhood.

The panel follows.

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3 Question about the future of the Democratic Party

4 My question on Trump and social media v. libel, wartime concerns, and fake news

(Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2016 at 10:45 PM EST)

Pimping out my own DADT books at Outwrite DC today.

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I did set up an exhibit at the Outwrite DC in Washington DC today at the DC Center for the LGBT Community, in the atrium at 2000 14th St. NW (ha, ha, only about 5 miles from Nationals Park, a half-mile from Town DC and 930 Club, and Atlantic Plumbing, for that matter).

So I got to do a good interview.  I covered the narrative of my own William and Mary expansion, my own getting drafted during Vietnam, how that mixed with the debate on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and led to my first book in 1997, and how 9/11 complicated my proposals for a “Bill of Rights II”, leading to the second book in 2002, and how freedom of speech and the Internet led to the substance of the third book in 2014.  I did mention “open access”.  I mentioned that I have a draft screenplay for how you might film it.

The interviewer did get the idea that external pressures matter, and that even with a fight for liberation and equality (and the tension between those two concepts), individual moral compass, in reacting to the needs of others in any group one belongs to, matters.  That’s kind of paradox of identity politics.

I got three clips.  The people filming me were unfamiliar with my camera, so the sound is hard to hear,

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(Posted: Saturday: August 6, 2016 at 6 PM EDT)

Update: Aug. 10

Here are a few more videos (other than the QA for “Queer Brown Voices” which is here).

A “simple song” video

Introduction 1

Introduction 2

Introduction 3

Introduction 4

Info on the Combined Book Exhibit (my most recent book is included in 2016)

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The Combined Book Exhibit allows an author’s book to be shown at library shows and book conventions.

A related service is PubMatch, which provides management for international intellectual property rights for book authors.

My “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book will be in the 2016 CBE cycle, as explained here.   I will be present at the Wshington DC exhibit July 1-3 2016 (venue TBD).

(Published Wednesday, April 20, 2015 at 10 PM EDT).

Reid Ewing’s recent podcast interview ties a lot of themes in psychology and art together

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I found an interesting podcast recorded by Dr. Dave Verhaagen and his Champion of Mental Health award, of actor Reid Ewing.  The article is here, and the podcast, running 40 minutes (worth it to listen to in entirety) here.

Reid was known as the handsome, lanky and goofy character Dylan for some time on Modern Family. He has starred in several comedies, in the horror “Fright Night”, the web sci-fi comedy TV series “The Power Inside”, and has made a number of music videos, like “Traffic Jam”, and an intriguing three-part series of short films “It’s Free” in mockumentary style, but somehow tied up with a company Igigi Studios.

Reid, now 27, got media coverage in November 2015 with his essay in the Huffington Post disclosing a previous issue with body dysmorphia.  He also announced on Twitter, almost as an afterthought, that he is gay, saying “I was never in”, Advocate story.

The podcast is interesting to me for several details.  I’ll leave the reader to listen to Reid explaining his own account of the experience, as well as his situation now as a college student and his circumstances in the film world (toward the end of the interview). If I understood right, his father of the same name is a well-known professor of city planning in Utah.

Also, before moving on with my own perspective, let me note that some of this is not about Reid (or me),  It’s a biological fact it takes until around age 25-28 for the brain to be fully grown.  Chess players reach their biological peak at about age 30.  By the mid 20s, people often wonder how they were taken in and manipulated by others promoting certain ideas (about body image, for example) when they were teenagers.  He even mentions wanting a “conversation with his younger self”, right out of relativity.

Now, I did want to note that as a young man I experienced a kind of dysmorphia, but it was expressed in almost a flip-side manner of what he describes.  While I was sexually attracted to young men who fit a certain cultural stereotype of “masculinity”, I was surprisingly disconnected from awareness of my own personal appearance and of my own body most of the time.  By the time I started paying a lot more attention in later middle age, it was already “too late”, as I had melted away.  Reid’s own report of dysmorphia might seem surprising in light of his MF YouTube video “Imagine Me Naked” (2011), not as well known (also from Modern Family) as his song “In the Moonlight (Do Me)”, which actually works as a music prelude if you play the music alone by ear on a church organ (without the words). The “naked” does have telling lyrics, talking about never having to “fake it.”

His comments bear a certain relevance to the topic of psychological growth, the way it has been discussed at the Ninth Street Center in New York City, now known as a remnant, the Paul Rosenfels Community.  Rosenfels had developed the theory of character specialization or “polarities” (masculine and feminine, power-love, right-truth, objective-subjective, unbalanced-balanced, fun-pleasure, masochism-sadism, guilt-shame, and other axes).  Rosenfels’s analytic writing style follows from Eric Hoffer, and is best known for his 1971 book “Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process” (earlier review ).   In 1986, the Center made a black-and-white video “The Paul Rosenfels Video Anthology”, of which it printed a DVD in 1998, about an hour of talk-group footage.

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The Center opened in 1972 and remained so until 1991, between 2nd and 3rd avenues on E 9th Street in the East Village.  (I think Matt Damon and Anderson Cooper live somewhere in the general area and may be familiar with the history of the place.) The space had two basement rooms.  Originally, there were talk groups on Wednesday and Friday nights, and an acting class on Mondays, and potluck suppers on Saturday.  Over time, the talk groups expanded.

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Reid mentions acting as if it were therapeutic, as he can become someone else and leave his own issues with the self and body image.  I have heard other actors (mostly stage) say similar things, especially at the Center in NYC, and later hanging out with IFP-MSP in Minneapolis and later Reel Affirmations in Washington (and even when visiting Mark Parrish [“Jerome’s Razor” and “Mustang Sally”] one time in Boston).  Reid expresses a healthy skepticism of established authority, as to “what truth they are speaking to”.  (Moral “right” is complementary to human “truth” in the Rosenfels polarity system.)

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I’ll mention a couple other things.  Reid is passionate about animals, and adopts dogs, and his twitter feed shows life with dogs and at least one very venturesome cat. Actor Jesse Eisenberg is mentioned in Wikipedia as having a similar interest in rescuing cats.  (Dogs and cats both learn to recognize the unique electromagnetic signature of the heartbeat of their owners, and find it stimulating.)  His Twitter feed has always contained a lot of drawings and mentions of literary subjects, and lately has been communicating a lot of material from Japanese manga, especially Danganronpa, where he adopts the names of some characters.   The podcast, toward the end, mentions the Japanese film ( 2000)  “Battle Royale”, which anticipates “The hunger Games” but that has some unusual storytelling structures (my review   has already attracted unusual volume of hits).

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With Danganronpa, as with other PlayStation games, people make “movies” or “web series” out of games played out with the characters.  I suppose a movie distributor or theater chain could buy a license to offer some of these in game film festivals.  I’m not a gamer myself, simply because there isn’t time in life for everything.


A lead good guy in “The Event”  Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) is a gamer who doesn’t know that he is actually an extraterrestrial alien with powers and who will not age.

I do mean this as a complement (or complment?)  Could Reid host SNL on NBC?  As Dylan?  As Mikan or Reba?  Maybe do a satire on how so many people want everything in life to be “free”?  But the problem is, that sounds like satire that would please conservatives (or maybe pseudo’s like Donald Trump as well as the “little Rubio’s” of the world).  Or maybe libertarians, best of all.  It’s hard to get tickets to SNL if you do the Amtrak Acela routine.  I’d love to get the same hotel room in the Yotel or Iriquois.

(Published Saturday March 19, 2016 at 11:30 PM EDT; some photos come from my just-moved train set, which is supposed to model the rama-like space station for my own screenplay, “DADT Ephiphany”)

ABC’s series’s on Herman Wouk’s World War II novels

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I do recall being somewhat “swept” by the two big ABC miniseries on Herman Wouk’s massive novel duet, “The Winds of War” (1983) and “War and Remembrance” (1988)., giving a complete chronicle of World War II.  I even recall the majestic D Minor opening theme by Bob Cobert, and the montage of images from around the world subsumed by the War.

The first series aired in 1983, while I lived in Dallas.  It ran for 15 hours and was divided into seven episodes.  The first episode was titled “The Winds Rise”, and the second was “The Storm Breaks”.  The final was “Into the Maelstrom”.  The hero is commander Victor Henry (“Pug”), played by Robert Mitchum. He learns of the Hitler-Stalin pact, and travels the world meeting world leaders. His middle son, the idealistic Byron (Jan Michael Vincent) works for a member of the Jastrow family that will always be fleeing the Nazis. The series ends with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the way the 2001 movie by that name begins.

The second series started in late 1988, which I could watch shortly after I had moved back to Arlington VA from Dallas, with a downsized lifestyle.  Mitchum continues as Pug, but Vincent is replaced by Hart Bochner.  For Aaron Jastrow, John Houseman was replaced by John Gielgud.  I remember the entire series being rebroadcast in the mid 1990s, around 1996, when I was living in a larger place in Annandale and working on my first book.  The mood of the series often inspired me.  I would sometimes watch an episode before going out on a weekend evening (like to “Tracks”).  The series is much longer, with twelve episodes.  As it progresses, the plight of the Jastrow family gets increasing emphasis. There is a long sequence in the “Paradise Ghetto”, Theresienstadt, in Czechoslovakia, where Aaron participates as an elder running the artificial “colony”.  But eventually, starting one chilly afternoon in late October, all are transported by train to Auschwitz. The journey takes longer that it should according to geography, and encounters early snow.  When the prisoners arrive, the scenes resemble those of the 2016 Academy Award winner “Son of Saul”. The women’s hair is cut (and the men’s bodies may have been shaved).  The next to last episode ends in a gas chamber.

The series also dramatizes the assassination attempt on Hitler.

Wouk’s earlier novel, “The Caine Mutiny” (Edward Dmytryk, Columbia), became a long-running film in 1954, at the RKO Keith’s in downtown Washington. I remember “hating” Lt Commender Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) who takes over command of a ship and is tried for mutiny (a touch of “Billy Budd”).

(Published Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 3:30 PM)

A series on sexual orientation in the 1990s with a curious moniker

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Back in the 1990s there was a sequence of two books that constitute almost an antithesis to my work.

These are two items from Routledge, authored by Bob Powers and Alan Ellis.

The first is “A Manager’s Guide to Sexual Orientation in the Workplace”, for which I have a hardcover dated 1995.  The second is “A Family and Friend’s Guide to Sexual Orientation”, dated 1996, paper.  I actually purchased these in paper copy in 2000 at a Barnes and Noble in Minneapolis.  Today, the first of these is a collector’s item on Amazon; the second appears unavailable.

The books do make up a real series, because the subject matter of each book is different (unlike the “Healing our World”, last post, which has multiple editions of essentially the same material).

I had previously (in 2000) reviewed these on a legacy site here. http://www.doaskdotell.com/books/bguide.htm

A couple of aspects of the series still seem noteworthy in today’s discussion.  One of these is simply the authors’ viewpoint.  The authors treat sexual orientation as an immutable trait that invokes no need for any existential (or “essentialist”) moral debates on personal life courses, choices and actions.  And there is relatively little attention to the political issues of the time (military, marriage, and the like) now so well known. That is in marked contrast to the tone of my own “Do Ask, Do Tell” series that I commenced in 1997.

The second is that the authors treat these works as practical, didactic “handbooks”, especially the second of these, where there are empty spaces for consumers to write down notes, as if at a weekend hotel symposium.  The books have many testimonials or accounts of various people in workplace or familial situations.  To me, this approach is hyper-commercial, and tends to “talk down” to the reader.  But in some contexts, this method (like the “for Dummies” series) does sell a lot of books and makes money. I’ve seen it done with religious matter.

The books have each have a red button with a white “Do Ask, Do Tell” text on the cover art. Page 14 on the first book has a little sidebar conclusion “Do Ask! Do Tell!” and mentions little novelty items with the slogan being sold, but I don’t recall seeing these anywhere in the 1990s (I lived in the DC area then but visited Texas, California, Nevada,  Washington State, New York and Minnesota during that period).  The phrase was not included as part of the formal title of the books.

Mary Ruwart’s “Healing Our World”

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One concept of a “policy concept” series of books is like mine, to have a series, where successive books add new subject areas.

However, Mary Ruwart has taken a more vertical approach, with “Healing our World”, which has three editions, in 1993, 2003, and 2015.  The new editions add new coverage on the same 22-chapter, 5-part structures.  The first two editions have the subtitle “In the Age of Aggression”, but the most recent version had the subtitle “The Compassion of Libertarianism: How to Enrich the Poor, Protect the Environment, Deter Crime and Defuse Terrorism”. Edition Two has a Foreword by Frances Kendalll and Leon Louw.  The third edition has a foreword by Ron Paul.

I had reviewed the first two editions on my legacy site, here.  The author’s site is here and her publishing company is SunStar Press, in Kalamazoo, MI.

The books (especially the first two) have a much more tutorial style than do mine.  There are many illustrative notes in the columns.   The earlier books were distributed partially by an education company called Pinnacle.

The books also confine themselves to economic and (especially in the latest edition) international non-intervention issues, rather than the “moral” social issues.

However, the terms “non aggression” (a lynchpin of libertarianism) and “compassion” to address the tendency of governments to use force to force individuals to bow to group norms, at some risk to themselves (as in the self-defense issue), or to practice crony capitalism, encouraging established and politically connected businesses to overrun individuals and entrepreneurs.  The Internet has indeed allowed small businesses envisioned by individuals to break out and become powerful (look at Facebook).  Ruwart especially gives many examples of where over-regulation and over-licensing interferes particularly with minority small businesses.

The recent debacle with water supply in Flint, MI (and other communities) illustrates her ideas well.  So do past Jim Crow laws.

(Published: Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, at 12:30 AM into Sat AM EST)

My parents had discarded some “anti-social” books that had been popular in the 1950s

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When I was growing up, through the 1950s, my parents had many books in the den case, including a set of 1950 World Book Encyclopedias (I remember the salesman’s visit just after we moved into the Drogheda house in late 1949) with wonderful color-coded elevation maps of U.S. states and Canadian provinces, that TWB did not continue printing in later editions. I wonder why.
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We had some books that my parents later decided were problematic, after the expulsion from William and Mary and later the stint at NIH in 1962. One was “Education for Death” by Gregor Ziemer, which now is sold only as an expensive collector’s item by resellers on Amazon. The book inspired a short animated film “Education for Death: The Making of a Nazi”, directed by Clyde Geronimi, from Walt Disney Studios, in 1943 (my birth year). That book disappeared in the 1960s from the shelf.
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Another book that had been there was “Facts of Life and Love, for Teen-agers”, by Evelyn Millis Duvall, originally published in 1953 for the YMCA Associated Press. That disappeared, and the paperback (Popular Library) was pubbed for 25 cents in 1954. It’s mainly about dating and petting, and preparing teenagers to accept a life where sexuality will live only inside marriage producing children. Actually, it had a lot stuff about how girls and boys mature physically, like on p. 33, where she describes the significance not only of the beard but of chest and leg hair (writing for a segregated white audience, and not too concerned about aging many years later). But the most controversial passage in the book may occur on page 65 where she, in talking about homosexuality, separates “overt” from “latent” homosexuality. That has become be basis of my declaration of “latent homosexuality” to the Dean of Men at William and Mary, and it was a bone of controversy at NIH, seen as a deliberately divisive ploy to rationalize ideas that others were used to seeing as immoral. Duvall tries to write reassurance for boys who don’t develop as fully (and girls), and even says “We learn to love as we grow up with other people” (p. 66). The implication of this line of thinking otherwise (very much evident at NIH in 1962) was that the path I followed mentally could mean there was no place at all in the world (of marriage, at least) for less competitive men and women. And two decades before, we had been fighting a world war over this idea, in part.
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The most notorious book like this was probably “Growing Up Straight”, by Peter and Barbara Wyden, republished by Signet and available from resellers in paper, subtitle, “What Every Thoughtful Parent Should Know about Homosexuality”.  (The back cover reads “A book that talks frankly about a parent’s great unspoken fear.”) This book came out (pun) in 1968, one year before Stonewall, and one year after the notorious 1967 CBS News broadcast “The Homosexuals” with Mike Wallace. It has a foreword by Stanley F. Yolles at NIH (where I had been a “patient’ in 1962 (link ). He mentions an NIH psychologist, Howard Moss, whereas I remember a psychiatrist named Maas. One gets the impression that this whole charade is a self-serving exercise for “professionals” to make money with their “expertise” on sexuality – regarding homosexuality as mental illness could make some people money (including pastors). Today we have amateurism.
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The authors write as if public opprobrium against homosexuality were alone enough reason to try to prevent it, ignoring the obvious circularity of the reasoning. In fact, the first chapter is “Why talk about it?” On p. 21 he states his purpose, “The homosexual life today entails truly fearful penalties”. At various times, he admits that something about this is over-the-top and not completely rational. On p. 153, he talks about some legal cases where the government tried to ban homosexual immigrants, as if to admit something is self-serving for those who enforce these ideas.
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Nevertheless, the Wyden’s pander to the stereotypes, with characterizations of the “pre-homosexual child” (like me), and how parents inadvertently raise homosexual sons and daughters. They want everyone to grow up to be “sexually normal” and sexually “safe”. There is a lot of discussion that modern culture inhibits boys from becoming manly and makes them fearful of performing with girls. (The comments by certain Dr. Bettelheim.) That naturally leads to the idea (which used to be feared in boarding schools, dorms, and the military) that the mere presence of homosexual men makes marginally straight men less sure of themselves. In one passage, around p. 83, the “experts” explore the idea of fear of getting hurt in sports (which, today, given the concussion scandals in football, seem justified after the fact), as well as physical frailness, or less-than-normal physical development, such as a high-pitched voice or the lack of body hair (which would apply to white men – this was a segregated world). Even so, the book offers no “solutions” for the less “well endowed”. Somehow, they are to be encourage to court women anyway and give their parents grandchildren, and women (who in past generations needed economic support) are supposed to go along with these men and accept them as potential marriage partners anyway. “You do the best you can” and not more. It’s easy to see how the sports metaphor took on moral overtones in earlier generations, when in earlier wars, women had to do the support work so that the men could do the fighting.

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There is actually another book with the same title, “Growing Up Straight” and subtitle “What Every Family Should Know about Homosexuality“, by. Dr. George A. Rekers, 1982, published by the Moody Press of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.  Out of morbid curiosity, I ordered a used copy from “Sunrise”, which came with a thank-you note. The copy was heavily underlined, as if used as a text in a Bible class at one time.  The book makes no pretense of any non-circular reason for objecting to homosexuality, and not much interest in science, beyond religious authority.  To give it some credit, it mentions the health risks (like Hepatitis B) of some male homosexual conduct in the years immediately before the AIDS epidemic became big news and a huge political risk to all the gains from Stonewall.
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I do recall a book in 1987 by Richard Green, “The Sissy Boy Syndrome: The Development of Homosexuality”, from the Institute for Social and Policy Studies, actually published by Yale University Press.
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On Blogspot, I reviewed a book on this topic authored by Joseph Ncicolosi as late as 2002, “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality”, link.
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Forcing people to conform to the gender debts imposed on them by others used to be “big business” that some political “conservatives” still want to defend.
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(Posted: Monday February 15, 2016 at1:45 PM EST)

Two other books with “special” narratives in the LGBT area, by Bazhe and Baker; why they matter to my writing now

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In the screenplay “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany” which I am about half-way through rewriting (as a shooting script) in a modern Final Draft 9 (which has a lot more facilities for identifying scenes and making notes), I presume that a character, Bill Ldzet, like me finds he has been abducted and is living in an ashram inside a large space station (part of it on a huge centrifuge to increase gravity) created by “angels”.  He undergoes a certain amount of “re-education”, maybe with a slight amount of Maoist purification.

One problem is identifying all the other characters, and tracing their past association with Bill on Earth, and how that creates tensions among them.  Then, there is the question, why is “Bill” special enough to get all this attention?  What about the life narratives of everyone else there?

Part of the answer is that there are not that many other senior citizens on the ashram, who would have a life narrative as long and convoluted as mine.  (The movie “Youth“, for example, as a point of comparison, presents Michael Caine playing a conductor/composer at a spa, retired and apathetic, gradually getting the back stories of a couple other seniors there, especially an aging film director/screenwriter (Harvey Keitel) and an aging actress (Jane Fonda).)

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In fact, I do believe my own life story, through age 72, is indeed very unusual.  That’s one reason I remain “stuck” on mining it for more ironies, rather than getting hired to write other peoples’.  But there are a couple of books, both self-published and from iUniverse, that tell stories of comparable complexity.

One of the best is “Damages“, by B. K. Bazhe (2002).  The author (from the Balkans) tells a complex story of eldercare, dealing with communism and Islam, military service, sexual orientation, and even some cross-dressing requiring “depilation”.  I have a detailed review on a legacy site here.  I met Bazhe in Minneapolis in the summer of 2003 when he was on a speaking tour, shortly before I moved back to the DC area to start looking after my own mother myself.  Don’t confuse the title with “Dispatches” which is an HBO-Channel4 (Britain) film about anti-gay discrimination in Russia.  The books was well reviewed in Minneapolis gay papers in early 2003, as a story that needed to be told, maybe even filmed.

Another such book is “The Sound of One Horse Dancing“, an autobiographical novel by Tom Baker, reviewed by me in 2012 on Blogger here.  Baker was caught up in an incident at the College of William and Mary in the fall of 1963, two years after I was expelled from there in the fall of 1961, but he would eventually graduate and has been active with William and Mary GALA (I met him first at a book fair in New York City in March 2012).   I’m not sure how much of the “novel” is “true” but it presents rejection by family, a lot of conformist social pressures to compete in conventional ways to get business, a job firing, and then making a living as a hustler in the days just before Stonewall.  Baker has authored at least two other books.

I suppose these narratives would deserve “special” status in the plot logic behind the “ashram”.  But the way the screenplay is set up, some sort of effort would have been set up on the space station in advance to receive anyone chosen as “special” enough.

I’ll add that I talked to the William and Mary libraries (Gregg Swem and Law School (Marshall-Wythe) by phone last week.  The Law School has my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book (don’t know if it is the original 1997 printing, or the 2000 iUniverse which is expanded, more durable, and has some typo  fixes).   The 1997 printing it completely out of stock (and a collector’s item).  The library also has my little 98 page 1998 booklet “Our Fundamental Rights and How We Can Reclaim Them: A Psychological Approach” (original printing only, no POD).  I did encourage the LS library to purchase the next two in my DADT series and to check to see if it has Baker’s book (since Baker graduated from WM).  I would echo the encouragement for Bazhe’s book, which is a complex narrative relating sexual orientation and gender  identity to other social issues (like inherited family responsibility for elders) and political issues in an international context — even more critical today given what happens in Russia, Africa, and the Islamic world.