Gerry B's Book Reviews

Coming Out to Play by Robbie Rogers, Eric Marcus (Contributor)

A coming out story to some, an inspiration to others.

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Click on the cover to purchase

Click on the cover to purchase

Robbie Rogers knows better than most that keeping secrets can crush you. But for much of his life Robbie lived in paralyzing fear that sharing his big secret would cost him the love of his family and his career as a professional soccer player. So he never told anyone what was destroying his soul, both on and off the field.

While the world around Robbie was changing with breathtaking speed, he knew that for a gay man playing a professional team sport it might as well be 1958. He could be a professional soccer player.  Or he could be an out gay man. He couldn’t do both.

Then last year, at the age of twenty-five and after nearly stepping away from a brilliant career—one that included an NCAA Championship, winning the MLS Cup, and competing in the Olympics—he chose to tell the truth. But instead of facing the rejection he feared, he was embraced—by his family, by his teammates, and his fans.

In Coming Out to Play, Robbie takes readers on his incredible journey from terrified teenager to a trailblazing out and proud professional soccer player for the L.A. Galaxy, who has embraced his new identity as a role model and champion for those still struggling with the secrets that keep them from living their dreams.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

At this stage in social history, when it is somewhat common for a professional athlete to declare his or her sexual preference, it is easy enough to dismiss this autobiography as just another coming out story. Indeed, some other reviewers have said as much. However, I believe this viewpoint ignores the uniqueness of a human drama, as well as an epoch in history that should not be forgotten.

Coming Out to Play by Robbie Rogers [Penguin Books, November 2014] tells an all too familiar story of a teenager caught in the dilemma of being ‘different’ in a world of sameness – called ‘normal.’ Nonetheless, in spite of this, and carrying the burden like a hundred-weight, he climbs the ladder of success to achieve a pinnacle of success among the demi-gods of athleticism – professional sport.

coming out to play - rogersCan you imagine the fortitude, inner-strength, and yes, Gaul, it takes to achieve stardom under such circumstances? That’s what this story is all about. The message here, to both gay and straight youths struggling for an identity is, ‘stay the course.’ It is one thing to be intimidated by others, but it is a worse to be intimidated by oneself.

Coming from a mainstream press like Penguin Books, you can be guaranteed it has been made readable. Depending on your taste, therefore, it is both an interesting and inspiring story. Four and one-half bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Pioneer Christmases… Before commercialism spoiled them.

 

Click on the logo to view my books to datre

Click on the logo to view my books to datre

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

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January 5, 2015 Posted by | Autobiography, Coming out, Gay Jock, Gay non-fiction, Robbie Rogers | Leave a comment

Harry’s Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It, by Harry Leslie Smith

Need a reality check? Then this is the non-accusatory read for you! 

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As ‘Black Friday’ quickly approaches, with people already camped out to get first dibs on the latest bauble or gadget, I thought you might enjoy this perspective on life until you pick up your credit card bills next month. J
Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

‘As one of the last remaining survivors of the Great Depression and the Second World War, I will not go gently into that good night. I want to tell you what the world looks like through my eyes, so that you can help change it…’ ~ Harry Leslie Smith
In November 2013, 91-year-old Yorkshireman, RAF veteran and ex-carpet salesman Harry Leslie Smith’s Guardian article – ‘This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time’ – was shared almost 60,000 times on Facebook and started a huge debate about the state of society.

Now he brings his unique perspective to bear on NHS* cutbacks, benefits policy, political corruption, food poverty, the cost of education – and much more. From the deprivation of 1930s Barnsley and the terror of war to the creation of our welfare state, Harry has experienced how a great civilisation can rise from the rubble. But at the end of his life, he fears how easily it is being eroded.

Harry’s Last Stand is a lyrical, searing modern invective that shows what the past can teach us, and how the future is ours for the taking.

Harry Leslie Smith is a survivor of the Great Depression, a second world war RAF veteran and, at 91, an activist for the poor and for the preservation of social democracy. His Guardian articles have been shared over 60,000 times on Facebook and have attracted huge comment and debate. He has authored numerous books about Britain during the Great Depression, the second world war and postwar austerity. He lives outside Toronto, Canada and in Yorkshire.

*Note to copy writers: While your trendiness is noted – converting most everything into a mnemonic – the problem being that only you and a handful of others know what the hell you are talking about. Communication is still a two-way process.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and Harry Leslie Smith represents nearly 100 years of history in his seminal book, Harry’s Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down, and What We Can Do to Save It [Icon Books, June 5th 2014].

Browsing some of the reviews already published, I notice that the majority of them make some reference to disregarding the opinions of seniors as being outdated.

Overlooking the other issues with this way of thinking (e.g. stereotyping), it is also illogical. Who best to ask other than someone who has ‘bin der, and done dat’?

This is Leslie Smith’s point as well, and so, in a non-proselytizing way he sets out to tell you his story: from first fighting a war against tyranny, and subsequently the battles to win old age retirement benefits, social assistance for the poor, and universal health coverage, to name a few. No sooner had these been achieved, in whole or part, when the entire scenario changed with the social revolution of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Old, tried and true standards, were tossed in favour of mass consumerism that the corporations quickly embraced with an array of slick new gadgets to addlepate the public even more – a world of never-ending bliss with the newest model of automobile, TV, or smart phone.

Individuals like Leslie Smith, having been raised according to stricter standards, could see the banality of all this, of course, but as the other reviewers have already noted, his opinion (and others) were considered outdated and irrelevant in the face of such wonderful entertainments and gadgets.

To his credit, Leslie Smith does not assign blame to any one or group; rather he lays out his observations for everyone to see, in terms everyone can understand, together with his manifesto for the future.

This is inspirational reading. It is like sitting down with ‘the old man of the mountain’ for a chat about the real realities of life that seemingly are lost on modern society. Highly therapeutic and recommended. Five bees.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Thalidomide! Canada’ tragedy.

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Autobiography, Military history, non GBLT, non-GLBT, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Out of the Blue: Confessions of an Unlikely Porn Star, by Blue Blake

Bookshelf copy

A witty and humorous romp through the gay porn industry –

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out of the blue confessions - coverStory blurb: Out of the Blue is a hilarious autobiographical romp that details the life of porn star turned director/producer Blue Blake and his adventures in the skin trade. Blue has worked with every major star in the industry and won many major awards and honors, including induction into the Gay Porn Legend Hall of Fame.

Available in ebook format – 410 KB (so you can still download it in time for Christmas)

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I was looking around for something light and also inspirational to fit the season, and Out of the Blue: Confessions of an Unlikely Porn Star, the autobiography of Blue Blake [Running Press, 2009] was the surprising answer. I say “surprising” because one would hardly expect the adventures of a porn star to be either light or inspirational, but Blue Bake pulls it off with remarkable wit and humour.

Although he had a fairly rough childhood in Nottingham, England, an abusive father as well, he doesn’t dwell on it. Neither does he dwell on the usual coming to grips with his sexuality or coping with homophobia. Rather, he takes us on an erogenous romp through the commercial porn business, letting us in on the behind-the-scenes goings-on; including seducing self-identifying heterosexual hunks, and the love interests that develop between porn stars.

Blue Blake isn’t just a pretty face and tantalizing body, he is writer of considerable talent and charm. Five bees.

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Visitors count for Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 40,907

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

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Notice: Due to Amazon’s recent decision to  purge reviews it deems “questionable” from  its pages (without notice), I will no longer be posting  on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. Instead, I will post on Goodreads and Barnes and Noble. I ask you to patronize these sites as well.

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Merry Christmas to all! May you share it with family and friends, and in good health.

 

December 24, 2012 Posted by | Autobiography, Contemporary biography, Gay documentary, Gay non-fiction, Hollywood, Homoerotic, M/M love and adventure, Male bisexual, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth: How a Gay Child was Saved From Religion, by Scott Terry

A raw but optimistic story of human resilience – 

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Cowboys, armaghedon, etc. - coverStory blurb: Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth: How a Gay Child Was Saved from Religion offers an illuminating glimpse into a child’s sequestered world of abuse, homophobia, and religious extremism. Scott Terry’s memoir is a compelling, poignant and occasionally humorous look into the Jehovah’s Witness faith — a religion that refers to itself as The Truth — and a brave account of Terry’s successful escape from a troubled past.

At the age of ten, Terry had embraced the Witnesses’ prediction that the world would come to an end in 1975 and was preparing for Armageddon. As an adolescent, he prayed for God to strip away his growing attraction to other young men. But, by adulthood, Terry found himself no longer believing in the promised apocalypse. Through a series of adventures and misadventures, he left the Witness religion behind and became a cowboy, riding bulls in the rodeo. He overcame the hurdles of parental abuse, religious extremism, and homophobia, and learned that Truth is a concept of honesty rather than false righteousness, a means to live a life openly, for Terry as a gay man.

About the author: In 2007, Scott Terry sent an excerpt from his yet-to-be published book, Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth, to the San Francisco Chronicle. An hour later, he received a freelance contract and a request for more, leading to many stories for the paper.

In his book, Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth, Terry has produced a gritty and poignant autobiography of an innocent boy escaping an abusive and fanatical childhood. Scott Terry was raised as a devout Jehovah’s Witness, and spent his childhood praying for Armageddon to come and asking God to heal him of his homosexual thoughts. By adulthood, he had escaped the Witness religion and no longer believed in an upcoming apocalypse. Indeed, as a gay man and a real cowboy, he was riding bulls in the rodeo, abandoning all faith in religion.

Scott writes for the Huffington Post, and also writes a blog for http://www.Freeminds.org, one of the largest ex-cult and ex-Witness websites. Scott Terry is an urban farmer, a watercolorist, an installation artist and a successful businessman. He lives in Northern California.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When it comes to eating and reading, I am a compulsive. I generally decide what I want to eat at the last moment, and I choose what I want to read by a mood that overtakes me at the time. Last week, while I was preparing for this review, I decided I was in a biography mood; someone or something interesting with an off-beat story. Consequently, when I came across Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth: How a Gay Child was Saved From Religion by Scott Terry [Lethe Press, October 2012] it filled the bill very nicely.

It is the author’s own story of an adolescence dominated by a shrewish stepmother who took perverse satisfaction in psychologically abusing him, telling him he was unloved and unwanted, and at the same time filling his head with thoughts of Armageddon in his own lifetime. It was also a time when Scott began to notice his attraction to other boys, and the conflict this created in light of his parents’ homophobic beliefs and that of their Jehovah’s Witness religion.

To this point there is little unique about this story: An abused lad at the hands of a dominating mother; a semi-cult religion with a homophobic bent; and a conflicted emerging homosexuality. However, what is refreshing is the positive attitude Terry maintains throughout, and the lessons to be gained from it.

Going back to the story, the situation finally came to a head when Scott’s sister insisted on returning to her biological mother, and the stepmother forbade him to have any contact with her. Fortunately, Scott had other relatives who weren’t caught up in the Jehovah’s Witness religion, and who had genuine compassion for him. Using this support as a base, Scott  gained the strength to accept his sexuality and move on–eventually becoming a rodeo performer.

This is a raw story of bad parenting—which debunks the tired old adage that “mother knows best”—and also the destructive nature of some dogmatic religions. However, it is also an inspirational story of resilience, even at a young age, and the ability to overcome adversity. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 38,962

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

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Stop the Bull: Canadian history made boring…

bullpoohI had reason to go looking for a Canadian web site similar to Legends Of America, an excellent history resource with some real ‘meat’ to it—meaning, it is history made interesting. It also features some Canadian characters who have played a significant role in American history, i.e. Pearl HartBat Masterson, etc., for which there is hardly a mention in Canadian-based histories.
A veritable wasteland

 What I found was a depressing collection of thumbnail sketches, afterthoughts  to American frontier history, a roll call of stodgy Canadian/British statesmen (John A. Macdonald, etc.), and lesson plans so dry you could strike a match on them. More

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by. Just a little bit more than 1,000 visits to go to reach 40,000 visits–20,000 more than last year. Yay!!

 

 

 

 

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Autobiography, Coming out, Gay non-fiction, Non-fiction | 4 Comments

Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, by Tab Hunter with Eddie Muller

A fascinating look at a man and an era

Story blurb: Welcome to Hollywood, circa 1950, the end of the Golden Age. A remarkably handsome young boy, still a teenager, gets “discovered by a big-time movie agent. Because when he takes his shirt off young hearts beat faster, because he is the picture of innocence and trust and need, he will become a star. It seems almost preordained. The open smile says, “You will love me,” and soon the whole world does.

The young boy’s name was Tab Hunter—a made-up name, of course, a Hollywood name—and it was his time. Stardom didn’t come overnight, although it seemed that way. In fact, the fame came first, when his face adorned hundreds of magazine covers; the movies, the studio contract, the name in lights—all that came later. For Tab Hunter was a true product of Hollywood, a movie star created from a stable boy, a shy kid made even more so by the way his schoolmates—both girls and boys—reacted to his beauty, by a mother who provided for him in every way except emotionally, and by a secret that both tormented him and propelled him forward.

In Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, Hunter speaks out for the first time about what it was like to be a movie star at the end of the big studio era, to be treated like a commodity, to be told what to do, how to behave, whom to be seen with, what to wear. He speaks also about what it was like to be gay, at first confused by his own fears and misgivings, then as an actor trapped by an image of boy-next-door innocence. And when he dared to be difficult, to complain to the studio about the string of mostly mediocre movies that were assigned to him, he learned that just like any manufactured product, he was disposable—disposable and replaceable.

Hunter’s career as a bona fide movie star lasted a decade. But he persevered as an actor, working continuously at a profession he had come to love, seeking—and earning—the respect of his peers, and of the Hollywood community.

And so, Tab Hunter Confidential is at heart a story of survival—of the giddy highs of stardom, and the soul-destroying lows when phone calls begin to go unreturned; of the need to be loved, and the fear of being consumed; of the hope of an innocent boy, and the rueful summation of a man who did it all, and who lived to tell it all.

Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I can’t remember being a star struck fan of Tab Hunter (being “star struck” was a condition limited to “bobby soxers” in 1950s’ Pefferlaw), at 74 I am of the right generation to appreciate an autobiography like this one, i.e. “Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Move Star by Tab Hunter with Eddie Muller [Algonquin Books, 2006].

For one thing I much prefer a behind-the-scenes view of things, which is especially justified after reading about some of the unadulterated hype generated by the Hollywood PR mills in Hunter’s case. Admittedly I’ve never understood the type of mass hysteria demonstrated by “fans” of anyone, be it Elvis, The Beatles, or Will and Kate. Therefore, the first good thing I’ll say about Tab Hunter’s biography is that he didn’t start believing his own press releases. Consequently, we do get a pretty fair glimpse of the man behind the image.

Beyond that I would say that this story will be of interest mainly to people of my generation, movie buffs, and modern historians (apologies for the term, Tab). However, for those of us who qualify it is a delightful walk down Memory Lane. For example, remember this:

“The Arlington Theatre, home of all my film-infused fantasies was now the neighbourhood’s big make-out. I figured I should get in on the action, be like the guys, even though I had little in common with them. [My experience as well].

“Four or five guys, cruising in a pack, would surround one of the local girls. They’d guide her to the back of the theatre, the way animals isolated and heard one of their own. They’d take turns nuzzling her and fondling her breasts.

“I did it too—even though I was always afraid the girl would call the police on me, the way Lois had [A false complaint]. As I copped a few sheepish feels, my brain disconnected.  I should be out at the barn, with the horses! That’s where I belong!

“The guys ribbed me, of course, for my lack of enthusiasm. I didn’t care. I didn’t want any part of it.30-31.”

And that first time:

“One of those nights at the Arlington, as I was sitting alone in the dark, a man swooped down into the seat beside me … This guy knew exactly what he was doing.

“I let him do it. Hard to say why—I was scared, stupid, and excited. When he was finished, he gave me a dollar and wrote his phone number on a card. “If you every want to do it again,” he said, “call me.”

 “No chance of that, I told myself, buckling up. But despite the shame already suffocating me, I tucked his card inside my little rawhide-stitched wallet.”32

 And confession:

 “I entered the anonymous confines of the dark confessional, my heart pouding. Because of my acute claustrophobia, confession was already difficult for me. I thought I’d die as I haltingly explained to the priest what had happened. Saying the words was torture, but confessing was the only way I could go on living with myself.

 “I never finished. Through the latticework boomed the priest’s voice, branding me the most despicable creature in the world. I was unfit to receive God’s forgiveness, unfit to set foot in His house, unfit to live. On and on this “man of God” went, mercilessly, until I ran shaking from the confessional. Instead of offering sanctuary, the church I loved now felt hateful and oppressive.”32-33

 I think those passages speak for themselves about how it was to be a gay teenager in the 1950s, so perhaps the reading list should be expanded to include those supporters of DOMA, etc., who want to return to the bad old days.

 For those who have an interest, however, I highly recommend this story as a fascinating look at an era through the eyes of someone who saw if from the mountain. Five stars.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews: 12,904

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I’m happy to say that after a long struggle, Amazon-Canada is now listing Nor All Thy Tears as both available and in stock–although it’s hard to understand how a ‘print on demand’ book can be “out of stock.” Moreover, it is also displayed with a product description. Hallelujah!

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Nor All thy Tears is now #2 on the Barnes and Noble “Romantic Fiction” List.

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August 28, 2011 Posted by | Autobiography, Historical period, Hollywood, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Here’s What We’ll say: Growing Up, Coming Out, and the U.S. Air Force Academy, Reichen Lehmkuhl

A timely look at the anachronistic  ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy.

 

 

 

Blurb: Reichen Lehmkuhl is perhaps best known for the ambition, intelligence, and athleticism that won him the grand prize on CBS’s Amazing Race. Since winning the million-dollar prize, Lehmkuhl has gone on to find success acting in film and television. However, he played the biggest role of his life long before his professional acting debut, when he was forced to hide his sexuality to comply with the Air Force’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Here’s What We’ll Say tells the harrowing inside story of what happens when cadets who are committed to serving their nation’s military figure out that they are in fact gay. With no way out and no place to turn for protection, a new code of conduct emerged among gay and lesbian cadets that helped ensure their safety. Gathering secretly in various locations, cadets formed a hidden network. To guarantee the privacy of individuals in attendance, however, each meeting opened with, “Here’s what we’ll say…” — a pledge so sacred that the group had it inscribed on the inside of their class rings.

About the author: Reichen Lehmkuhl is a graduate of the Air Force Academy, a former captain in the Air Force, an actor, an international model, a flight instructor, winner of CBS’s Amazing Race, and a gay rights advocate. He lives in Los Angeles.

Review by Gerry Burnie

Given the current debate regarding the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy, Here’s What We’ll Say: Growing Up, Coming Out, and the U.S. Air Force Academy” by Reichen Lehmkuhl [Da Capo Press, 2007] is a timely topic. Regretfully those that need to read it most—the religious fundamentalists and dogmatic, small-c conservatives–will probably never see it.

Lehmkuhl’s story relates his troubled childhood; the breakup of his parents’ marriage, the feeling of not being wanted, and the psychological impact of all this. His feelings of inadequacy are also exacerbated by the stigma of living in a trailer park—i.e. the perception of being “trailer trash.” However, apart from being Lehmkuhl’s own story there is nothing unique about this. Nor is there anything about it that would necessarily be deleterious to a person’s later life. Therefore, I question the author’s choice of devoting 50% of the book to the telling of it when a quarter of the 368 pages would have said it all quite nicely.

Fortunately the second 50% somewhat redeems the prosaic first part, and finally gets down to the business of his coming out and the U.S. Air Force Academy, as stated in the title.

Although I was vaguely familiar with the discipline of a military academy, the pseudo-sadistic hazing rituals, etc., Lehmkuhl’s intimate knowledge of such has revealed much I didn’t know. For example, I knew nothing about the demeaning practice of running the “strip” [see photo to the left], which Basic Recruits are required to do between classes, or the memorizing of meaningless passages for the sake of being able to spout them on demand. It all seems rather mindless, but it is something that has worked to develop men for decades, and in the case of Westpoint Military Academy has worked since the time of Thomas Jefferson.

More odious is the systematic scourging of homosexuals at the official level; a point that ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ doesn’t address. This umbrella approach does not preclude being investigated or ‘outed’ by someone else. It also doesn’t preclude significant numbers of raunchy, virile young lads from indulging in ‘extra-curricular activities’ in spite of the risk.

To counteract this ever-present risk, Lemhkuhl describes how he founded an ad hoc brother and sisterhood, referred to as the “family,” which operated on the pragmatic basis of you lie and we’ll all swear to it, in order to protect one anothers’ asses. While one might argue the ethics of such a principle, Lemhkuhl makes a compelling argument for its validation on the basis of counteracting an even greater injustice.

Overall I found this story to be a worthwhile read on account of its look behind the anachronism of  ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy. Three and one-half stars.

January 31, 2011 – A new threshold for viewership has been achieved! Thanks to you, January was the best month ever with 1,104 viewers. I am humbled by your interest, and sincere in my thanks. Gerry B.

January 29, 2011 Posted by | Autobiography, Military history, Non-fiction | 4 Comments

   

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