I thank Thee for the bull, O God,
Whenever a steak I eat,
The working of his mammoth cod,
Is what gives to us our meat.
And for the ram, a meed of praise
He with his mighty cod
Foundation for our mutton lays
With every vigorous prod…
Of beasts, man is the only one
Created by our God,
Who purposely, and for mere fun,
Plays with his mammoth cod.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
"Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed."Benjamin Franklin used the form we are currently more familiar with, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789 (which was re-printed in The Works of Benjamin Franklin, 1817):
"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."Ryan Anderson:
The NRO web briefing and Yuval Levin draw our attention to today’s column by David Brooks. And rightly so. As Yuval points out, our modern pursuit of health as “the primary good” is making it almost impossible to prevent it “from overwhelming every other good” and bankrupting us in the process.
But there is an unsettling oddity about Brooks’ column. He opens by uncritically praising Dudley Clendinen’s essay, “The Good Short Life,” in The Times’s Sunday Review section. And he closes by recommending three other essays:
. . . let me provide links to three other essays, which offer other perspectives on why we should accept the finitude of life and the naturalness of death. They are: “Born Toward Dying,” by Richard John Neuhaus, “L’Chaim and Its Limits: Why Not Immortality?” by Leon Kass and “Thinking About Aging,” by Gilbert Meilaender.
But all three of these authors would firmly reject the central argument advanced by Clendinen: that his life will soon no longer be worth living:
I have a plan. If I get pneumonia, I’ll let it snuff me out. If not, there are those other ways. I just have to act while my hands still work: the gun, narcotics, sharp blades, a plastic bag, a fast car, over-the-counter drugs, oleander tea (the polite Southern way), carbon monoxide, even helium. That would give me a really funny voice at the end.
I have found the way. Not a gun. A way that’s quiet and calm.
I've come close to death three or four times and, according to the bible, I've only got another 6 years before I kick the bucket at the allotted span of three score and ten. So I'm getting a bit more sanguine about death every day.
It has also become clear to me that "dialectical materialism" (as Marx termed communism/socialism) is based on a fear of death - actually a fear of reality in all it's forms. Hence the fallacy that food, housing and "health-care" are rights along with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - as well as handsome husbands, obedient children, fluffy pets and gardens full of flowers, butterflies, rainbows and unicorns.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
We have forgotten the art of dying, says the Bishop of Tonbridge. Until he made this remark I was hardly aware there was a Bishop of Tonbridge. There certainly isn’t a cathedral in Tonbridge.
No matter; what he says is true.
People say that death is the last taboo.
The last answer in the Penny Catechism used to be, “After my night prayers I should observe due modesty in going to bed and occupy myself with the thoughts of death.”
A bestseller after the invention of printing was The Arte or Crafte to Lyve Well and to Dye Well, published by Caxton’s associate Wynkyn de Worde.
I’m not sure that I’d like the family flocking around the bedside while I’m busy dying, as today’s bishop suggests, but they were much happier living (and dying) publicly 500 years ago.
A very telling illustration in one edition of the Arte etc might, however, depict modern manners: the sick patient is impatiently scrunching up the bedclothes, knocking over a bedside table with his medicine on it, and rejecting an attractive plate of chicken.
The illustrator shows a satisfied-looking devil in the corner. This attitude is us all over. We are so reluctant to die that we live longer and longer.
But I think the real difficulty, for anyone, is that the doors of death are so narrow that they can only be entered in single file. You’re on your own.
It might be all right on the night, or it might not. The two or three dry runs I have experienced, which turned out not to be the real thing, seem in retrospect to have been handled amateurishly.
In general, the movement for dying at home is encouraging. Hospitals are no better venues for deaths than for honeymoons. But if we have lost the culture that makes dying part of life, and if rehearsal is unrealistic, there can still be a sort of keep-fit regime that serves the purpose of the old Arte of Dying.
A friend of mine was given a cushion by a nun who had embroidered it. Amid the flowers and butterflies is the neat motto: “I die daily.” Well, one does and one doesn’t. It’s an attitude problem; adjust it right and eventually you’ll feel fair fit to drop.
Stockwell was a photogenic American child actor of the 1940s, popular due in no small measure to his air of innocence and his beautiful, cherubic face with its dimples and his sparkling eyes, topped with a crown of curls. Still an actor in demand while well into his middle years, he is one of the few juvenile performers to succeed lifelong in films - most recently in Battlestar Galactica and JAG and Quantum Leap.
While wonks, pundits, and bores obsess over sovereign default, collapse of the financial system, economic implosion, mass social disorder, and the nuclearization of the Middle East, some at least of us keep our eyes fixed on higher matters: the τ-π controversy, for example.
This all started back in 2001 when Bob Palais published an opinion piece in Mathematical Intelligencer arguing that we have fixed on the wrong value for the most fundamental of all mathematical constants. They key number is not, as they mis-taught you in school, a smidgeon over 3.1415926535897932384626433832795. In Prof. Palais’ words: “The proper value, which does deserve all the reverence and adulation bestowed upon the current impostor, is the number now unfortunately known as 2π.”
Prof. Palais’ partisans subsequently proposed τ (the Greek letter “tau”) for the true and proper universal constant, whose value is of course a tad north of 6.283185307179586476925286766559. They issued a manifesto. Indignant mathematical conservatives brought out a counter-manifesto in defense of traditional values, or at of least this one particular traditional value. Bitter conflict then broke out, with marriages destroyed, friendships sundered, and brother making war against brother.
With passions thus inflamed, the controversy is bound to have some impact on the political life of the nation. May we know where presidential candidates stand on the issue? Will they defend a number that has been a core component of Western Civilization and the key to our scientific and technological development? Or will they take sides with those wreckers and levellers who would put at naught the accumulated wisdom of centuries? We should be told.
At least they didn't actually use the Wall Street Journal reporter's head. This ad is via France by the Paris office of ad agency JWT. I'm sure Pearl's French widow Mariane will just adore it when she sees it.
Today France celebrates its revolution with Bastille Day parades and parties. Me, I reckon that 18th century slaughter-fest should merit only a national day of mourning with a ceremony of penitence at Notre Dame and a president wearing a black armband. But the French see it otherwise.Of course American leftist morons think that the French are more civilized than us. This post that I wrote years ago on my old political blog still gets hits from Google: The difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution.
Here, just as an example, is an account of the day the revolution hit the prison at Bicetre in Paris. It was common criminals and beggars held at Bicetre -- not political prisoners or rich men or anyone of power under the old regime. That made no difference to the butchers of the revolution. Egalité meant anyone could be slaughtered, no matter how poor or helpless they were:
"Forty-three of the 162 persons killed at Bicetre were under 18, including 13 age 15, three age 14, two age 13 and one 12-year-old."
When the Swiss Guards -- the most courageous and honourable of men in the revolution -- were overwhelmed by revolutionary mobs while standing by their duty to the king at the Tuileries palace: "They were given neither shelter nor quarter. Hunted down, they were mercilessly butchered: stabbed, sabered, stoned and clubbed. Mutilators hacked off limbs and scissored out genitals and stuffed them in gaping mouths or fed them to the dogs."
It was owned by of one of the author’s descendants, and is an incredibly rare surviving manuscript of an Austen novel, written in the author’s tiny, neat handwriting.
Experts believe Emma – the heroine of the novel who is headstrong and independent-minded – is based on the author herself.
The youngest daughter, she has been brought up by a wealthy aunt and is appalled by the crude husband-hunting of her elder sisters.
Austen confided to her sister Cassandra, in a letter that Mr Watson was going to die in the course of the book, which would have been her fourth novel.
The manuscript was never completed and it is believed she was shocked and devastated by a situation of life imitating art, when her own father, also a clergyman, died while she was writing it in 1805.
It was sold at Sotheby’s in London yesterday for £993,250, three times the guide price, to an anonymous buyer.
The work contains a host of Austen’s shrewd observations about polite society in the early nineteenth century.
In one scene Emma Watson gives the aristocrat Lord Osborne a piece of her mind on the subject of women and marriage, saying: ‘Your Lordship thinks we always have our own way. That is a point on which ladies and gentlemen have long disagreed. But without pretending to decide it, I may say that there are some circumstances which even women cannot control. Female economy will do a great deal my Lord, but it cannot turn a small income into a large one.’
When the author’s father died, she was forced to move in with her brother and sister-in-law who she did not get on with.
The Watsons was written after Austen completed Northanger Abbey and before she began Mansfield Park and has been acclaimed by experts.
Critic Margaret Drabble described it as ‘a tantalizing, delightful and highly accomplished fragment, which must surely have proved the equal of her other six novels, had she finished it.’
Many say that a lot of raw honeys are just as good as manuka, but because the more potent manuka honey is not to everyone’s taste it is now marketed mainly for healing.
Recent research says natural honey can even stop you snoring as its properties can reduce minor nasal-related infections. It contains antioxidants, pollen grains and other goodies too.
For the first year, there is a fair bit to learn. A friend bought Beekeeping for Dummies but we joined the local beekeepers’ association, and my husband went on a course for six afternoons.
We bought a first hive and put it at the outer edge of the shelterbelt in the orchard. It is fairly sheltered, a warm spot and minimal bee air miles for the veg and fruit.
I regularly tend the wild flowers running around their hive and have few qualms about working close to the hive.
They do react strongly to smells. Aftershave can make them angry and they appear to react less favourably to natural male odours than female ones. My “earthy” smell after a day digging and delving causes precious little reaction, even on days when my husband reckons they are tetchy.
A friend mowed around his bee hive on a ride-on mower and the vibrations caused them to attack him, even following him into the house. They hate this sort of disturbance.
Bees certainly have moods and when you get to know them you can tell their mood by their buzzing. A few unfortunates acquire bad-tempered colonies, which they cannot keep, but this is rare.
Time-wise, I reckon they take about one-and-a-half hours to two hours a week of looking after during March to October.
We feed them a sugar solution at the end of September so they have enough honey stores to survive the winter. If we didn’t do this we would get less, or possibly no honey at all.
For most of the winter they are best left alone – if you open the hives you let the vital heat escape. They cluster to keep warm and sometimes fly out on a cleansing flight to remove waste and such like.
Occasionally it’s worth “hefting”, lifting the hive corners to see how much honey (food) they have.
In March on warm days they start to fly, looking for food among the wild cherries and blackthorn. Our wild cherry (Prunus avium) crops seem to have exploded, we now have huge, delicious, edible cherries and the birds leave my soft fruit.
In April the apples and pears are visited before the arrival of the rape in May. The bees will fly three miles or so to get this as it is extremely easy for them to harvest. The resultant honey is more crystalline and harder but delicious.
Other summer jobs include watching for them to swarm so you can entice them to a new hive next door (we now have two), seeing they are healthy, putting on more “supers” (chambers where they can form honeycomb) and then collecting the first batch of honey around June. This took a few hours over two days during which the kitchen became a little hot and sticky.
Apart from honey you can collect the wax and make candles, furniture polish, face cream or just barter it with the suppliers in return for foundation (wax sheets for making honeycomb).
Our first crop of 16 jars caused real excitement. We love it and are hoping for a similar-size second crop shortly. Though sadly, we are all still giving the pigs a good run for their money in the snoring stakes.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Ultimately your survival needs fall into five main categories. Your situation dictates the order. They are:This is all fitted into the hollow butt-stock of a Mossberg 500 which of course every real American owns along with Swiss Army Knife and a copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Every survival kit must include contents that directly or indirectly meet these five basic survival needs. The shotgun platform I decided to use is the Mossberg 500 – PUMP. I chose a pump action because it is easier for me to troubleshoot and work on in the field compared to other models. I chose the Mossberg brand because it is a very popular gun, and there are literally hundreds of aftermarket modification pieces and parts designed to fit this gun.
Next I assembled a variety of survival kit items to be stored in the butt stock compartment. To remove the rubber butt plate, I use the cross point driver on the multi-tool. Below are the items that I included in this kit and why.
* 4”x6” Aluminum Baking Pan: Available at any grocery store, this aluminum bread pan can be folded flat for compact storage. A metal container is invaluable in any survival scenario. It can be used to boil water which kills bacteria, virus, and cysts. Boiling water is a 100% effective method of water purification. This container can also be used for other cooking tasks as well as water collection. The reflective metal also makes an excellent signaling device.
* Trash Bag: A trash bag has a myriad of survival uses. Some of the most practical are poncho, water collection, ground tarp, make-shift shelter, solar still, and flotation device.
* Fishing Kit: This kit includes 20 feet of 30 lb test line, 5 assorted fish hooks and 3 sinkers. Not only can these items be used for fishing but the line can also be used as cordage for shelter building, gear repairs, or animal snares. Bank lines can be set at night to work while you rest.
* 2 Non-Lubricated Condoms: By design, condoms are watertight. They make amazing water containers–capable of holding about 1 liter of water each. They are very lightweight and compact and make great back-up water collection and storage containers. They can also be used to protect fire materials such as matches and dry tinder. You can also fill these with clear (but not purified) water and leave them in the sun for 48 hours for UV purification.
* Water Purification Tablets: Boiling water is not always possible or practical. Chemical water treatment tablets are an excellent back-up water purification solution. They weigh virtually nothing and take up very little space. You can fill up a condom with water and use a tablet to purify it. They also have a very long shelf life. Chemical tablets are not very effective on cloudy or dirty water. The water must be fairly clear. You can pre-filter using clothing or a bandana.
* Emergency Survival Blanket: These survival blankets are designed to reflect and trap your body heat in a cold weather survival scenario. They also make excellent make-shift shelters, ground tarps, ponchos, rescue signals, and fire heat reflectors.
* First Aid Supplies: (packed in zip lock bag): 3 adhesive bandages, 30 SPF sun block packet, 2 wound closure strips, 2 Ibuprofen pills, 2 Acetaminophen pills, 2 Calcium Carbonate pills.
* Carmex Lip Balm: Not only for obvious reasons, but this petroleum based product can be mixed with natural fire tinder such as cattail down. Doing so can extend burn-time up to 5 minutes which is very helpful in fire building. This is an excellent multi-use product.
* Whistle: Even though I have signal flares, a rescue whistle is always a good idea.
* Small Bic Lighter: This is the easiest way to start a fire.
* Snare Wire: Snares can work for you while you are working on other tasks–such as sleep. I’ve included 25 feet of snare wire for building traps. This can also be used as cordage or binding for a variety of projects.
Felix Salmon debates it:
Back in 2009, Chris Anderson posted this chart, showing how Netflix’s consumers were embracing the long tail of its offerings. As the number of movies in Netflix’s library grew from 4,500 to 18,000, the top 500 movies in the library went from constituting more than 70% of demand to less than 50% of demand.Adrian Covert tries to understand Netflix's strategy:
In shoving people out of their DVDs-by-mail schemes and into the streaming-only option, Netflix is reversing the trend seen in Anderson’s chart: the proportion of demand accounted for by its top 500 titles is almost certainly going to reach new all-time highs.
I use Netflix more for the "long tail" (golden oldies, foreign and indies) than for the current blockbusters mostly because most modern Hollywood movies are such crap.
Instapaper founder Marco Arment took to Twitter and ventured a guess about the effect the streaming-only plan will have on Netflix, and thinks that if a large number of people go streaming-only, it's possible Netflix will have more firepower to negotiate with going forward. He also thinks it's possible Netflix was caught off guard by the costs involved in scaling up their streaming operation, and needed more financial resources to do so. And Arment is onto something. Netflix needs to find a way to strong arm studios into giving up more streaming content. Right now, the studios have the power.
Flynt's story begins in the poorest county in America. The town of Lakeville, in the hills of Eastern Kentucky, had forty residents, comprised of five families. They lived isolated along dirt roads. No asphalt was laid until Flynt was 10, in 1952. "It was like a medieval settlement," he says. Most of the people there were illiterate, and hadn't travelled more than a few miles in their entire lives.From The Professor and the Pornographer by David Eisenbach:
Flynt believes his different attitude to sex was born in those hills. "I'm a hillbilly and people like me come to sex without all the hang-ups imposed by the hypocritical morality of the middle class," he once wrote. Yet his autobiography, An Unseemly Man, contains many passages that present children in strange ways. His first sexual experience, he says, was when he was seven. He says his cousin, another seven-year-old, asked him to "do it" with her and "I did a lot of squirming and humping as she instructed". He says about his first wife, Peggy: "Her mother had let her screw around since she was 10 years old." I ask if she really wanted to. "It was different times," he says, shrugging.
He lost his own virginity at the age of nine, to a chicken. He describes penetrating its egg sack, and how "when I let the chicken go, it started towards the main house, staggering, squawking and bleeding" – so he immediately killed it. Did you feel bad for the chicken? "What? No. It was a" – long breath, gasp – "chicken."
And then he was molested himself. When he ran away at the age of 15, he was picked up on the side of the road by a man and forced at gunpoint to take part in sexual acts. How did this affect you? "I don't think it did. I've always been heterosexual. I've never had thoughts of being gay." But abuse isn't about sex for the victim, I say. He looks puzzled by this. "It made me more aware," he says. Of what it's like to be a victim of sexual assault? "No." He looks bemused by the question. "Of... uh.... It didn't cause any psychological trauma."
"I've spent most of my life hyped-up, doped-up, or drunk".
But he can still remember the birth of Hustler. Flynt set up a series of strip clubs, where he bragged: "I'm selling pussy by the glass." He was taking amphetamines the whole time and was sexually "insatiable, sometimes having sex with a different woman every four or five hours". Then, in 1974, he decided to publish a magazine to be distributed in his clubs. He thought he had spotted a gap in the market. Playboy was serving up "sanitised, idealised women", and focused on their breasts and legs. "I was always interested in the crotch," he says. "And [in] real women... I dared to portray people's real sexual fantasies, not somebody's idea of what fantasies should be." That was his secret, along with – as he put it in his autobiography – "showing a very young woman with an older man".
He is telling me about his famous court cases. He spent years going from one court case to another, in any state that claimed Hustler was "obscene" – and he was constantly under threat of being sent to prison for it. "At my first court trial I was [initially] sentenced to 25 years in prison without bail," he says. "That's when the fight for free speech began. It never stopped because there was always some prosecutor somewhere in the country who wanted a piece of me and I was always there to oblige them... I remember we had a case in Nashville, Tennessee. It was a jury entirely of women, all aged 60 or over. It took them 20 minutes to acquit. I knew then that something was changing in America. They might not want to see it but they didn't want the government telling them what they can and can't see."
His most famous case was against the Christian fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell. Hustler ran a mock interview with Falwell, in which he lovingly described his first sexual experience – in an outhouse, with his own mother. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Appearing before the Justices, Flynt screamed that they were "eight assholes and a token cunt" – only for them to find in his favour.
Then, one morning in 1978, Flynt's ripple of legal victories was suddenly halted on the doorsteps of a courthouse in Georgia. He was walking into court when he heard a loud crack – and looked down to see "my intestines were spilling out of my body. The front of my stomach had been ripped off".
He had 11 surgeries, removing six feet of his intestines. "It felt as though I had been disemboweled and hung on a meat hook in my grandpa's smokehouse," he says. Nobody was ever arrested, but eventually a white supremacist called Joseph Paul Franklin claimed he had done it because he was outraged by an interracial photoshoot in Hustler. Flynt says: "He killed about 25 people, but when he was asked by an interviewer if he regretted any of it, he said, 'Yeah. I hear Larry Flynt is a really nice guy. I shouldn't have shot him'." He laughs, and then his laugh seems to run away from him uncontrollably, and suddenly his face reverts to its blankness, and his head lolls forward.
He never walked again.
He says: "I'm like – you know, there's a phrase, about a racehorse that's run too many races and been beat too much. I been in a lot of prisons, I got shot, I took a lot of drugs. I'm beat."
Flynt can make a rousing Voltairean case for freedom of speech, and for his place as a martyr in its cause. He has plenty of practiced lines about the people who oppose it, many of them funny: "The right-wing of the Republican party isn't so much a political agenda as a plea for help," he says.
I describe some of Hustler's most notorious photoshoots to him. "Dirty Pool" depicted a woman being gang-raped on a pool table. A few months after it was published, a woman was gang-raped on a pool table in a town called New Bedford – and Hustler responded to the criticism suggesting they may have inspired the assault by publishing postcards of another woman being gang-raped on a pool table with the greeting: "Greetings from New Bedford, Gang Rape Capital of America."
Then I describe "The Naked and the Dead", a Hustler spread in which a woman is forcibly shaved, raped, and apparently killed in a concentration camp. Who, I ask, finds that sexy? "That is satire. That's what I went to the United States supreme court for. It was a landmark judgment. It was a unanimous decision. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, one of the most conservative justices, said sometimes things are done under the name of the First Amendment that are less than admirable but that doesn't give the government the right to suppress it."
I think back to the pictures from Hustler of women with rats coming out of their vaginas. Don't you think this suggests a deep hatred of women's sexuality, probably stretching back to your rage at your mother? He doesn't react. His face registers nothing. "No," he says eventually. I wait for him to say more, but he doesn't.
You say that Hustler is all about dissolving sexual shame – but, in fact, your pornography feeds on shame. It is the lifeblood of Hustler. "Look," he says, "you're talking to me about something that is legally protected speech and I don't feel I have to explain the various parodies and satires we do in the magazine. I will concede to you one thing – Hustler is offensive, even to the point of being iconoclastic. That's our purpose – to be offensive. We're always pushing the envelope, it's understandable that people are getting upset – but that's what built our reputation and it's what our core readership like."
The most serious (and most fiercely contested) charge against Flynt – politely ignored by the supposed liberals who queue up to champion him as an icon of freedom – is worse still. It is that he was a child molester. I decide to raise the topic sideways at first. I ask about a comic strip he ran in Hustler for 13 years, called "Chester The Molester". It featured an old man who, in each strip, would trick prepubescent or adolescent girls into pleasuring him. A typical cartoon shows a little girl in a hiked-up dress hurtling down a playground slide, while Chester the Molester is waiting at the bottom with his tongue hanging out. The man who drew the cartoon, Dwaine Tinsley, was convicted of raping his own daughter, Alison, and of forcing her to take birth control pills from her 13th birthday onwards. He served two years in prison – and Hustler continued to publish the cartoons drawn from his jail cell.
Flynt looks irritated. "Dwaine Tinsley was a genius," he says. "He was at one time in America in the Seventies and Eighties the most brilliant and recognised cartoonist in America... I liked him. He was an old country boy, you know."
Flynt's daughter, Tonya, claims she remembers those cartoons very well. In her memoir, Hustled, she alleges that her father showed her those cartoons when she was nine and "began to explain what little girls do with their fathers... The cartoon character with the erection represented the good, loving father. Dad's hand moved to my breasts". She says the molestation made her "filled with self-hate, anxious to be done with life as I know it, even if death was the only way out".
When I read this passage to him, Flynt's face doesn't move. He looks limp, and impassive. "You know she waited until she was 40 years old to say that I molested her when she was 10," he says. "When I asked her why she didn't come forward sooner, she said it was that – what do you call that memory thing? The memory thing. The authorities never took any action because they didn't believe she was credible. I know what it's like to be falsely accused. These women are always vying for attention. They [Tonya, and her sister] were living with their mother. I didn't get on with their mother at all so I didn't have any relationship with them. I remember when she was in high school she called me and said" – he adopts a mocking, whiny little girl's voice – "'Why are you out to screw my life up? Everybody at my school knows your job. I'm ashamed of my name. Blah, blah, blah.' And I said – I got a solution for ya. For ten bucks go to the local courthouse and change your name."
He continues: "She got a deal where she was speaking at these churches around the country and they'd pay her four or five hundred dollars to speak and say what a horrible father I was." (In interviews, Tonya denied this was her motivation.) "I just ignored her until finally one day she contacts me and says, 'I don't know why I said the things I said'. That was the last conversation I ever had with her. I think really she was looking for attention because I divorced her mother when she was very young – maybe a couple of years old. In her whole lifetime I saw her maybe three times."
[T]hey made it up, because [they are] Republicans and I expose Republicans.
Flynt has co-authored a book called One Nation Under Sex, which traces the sex lives of America's Presidents from its founding. It shows how the US has had a President who at the age of 43 had sex with a 14-year-old slave-girl (Thomas Jefferson), a gay President (James Buchanan), and – this is his "favourite story", he says – a First Lady who was only 19. "Grover Cleveland's wife died on the campaign, so he married the nanny. Today, you'd get called a cradle-snatcher for that,"
He doubts Barack Obama would cheat on his wife because: "You ever looked at her? If he ever cheated on her she'd kick his ass. You know they may be black but they've got a very stable family." Then he says, apropos of nothing: "Sarah Palin is the dumbest thing. But I made a fortune off of her. [He made a porn film called Nailin' Palin, based on her]... She did a disservice to every woman in America. She knew from the first month of pregnancy that kid was going to be Down's Syndrome. It's brain dead. A virtual vegetable. She carries it to all these different political events against abortion, she did it just because she didn't want to say she'd had an abortion. How long is it going to live? Another 12, 15 years? Doesn't even know it's in this world. So what kind of compassionate conservative is she? I don't think anybody will want her near the White House." I am so thrown by the unpleasantness of all this I don't even interject.
One afternoon in the spring of 2009, I was marking midterms in my tiny garret office at Columbia University when the phone rang. "Hello, David, it's Larry Flynt." I barely got off a shocked "Hello" when the raspy voice said: "I saw your show on the History Channel, and I have a business proposition for you. When can you come to L.A.?" Trying to be cool, I replied, "I think I'm free this weekend." Flynt told me his assistant would make the travel arrangements and abruptly hung up. In an instant, my academic career took a mighty strange turn.
Flynt owns an elegant office tower, clad in black glass, in Beverly Hills. When I exited the elevator, I was transported into a 19th-century French salon. Every inch, from floor to ceiling, is decorated in Beaux-Arts paintings, bronze nudes, and Second Empire furniture. As Flynt's assistant solemnly led me down the long hall to two imposing mahogany doors, I felt as if I was going to an audience with the pope rather than a porn king.
The doors opened to an expansive office overlooking the Hollywood hills. As soon as I took a seat in front of his hand-carved desk , Flynt got down to business. "I want to write a book with you about the sex lives of the presidents. Go back to your hotel, think it over, and let's talk some more over dinner."
My mind raced as I sat poolside back at the hotel. What would writing a book with Larry Flynt mean to my academic career? Sure, Flynt was a free-speech champion, and during President Bill Clinton's impeachment proceedings, following the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he had helped save Clinton's presidency by outing the sexual affairs of House Speaker-elect Robert Livingston and at least one other Republican.
Whatever reluctance I still had about becoming partners with Flynt dissipated that first evening when I arrived for dinner at the Polo Lounge, in the Beverly Hills Hotel, and walked past Al Pacino; Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher having dinner with Bruce Willis and his new wife; Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes; and Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel. That was it! The kid from New Jersey turned Ivy League lecturer was going Hollywood.
From the outset, Flynt and I wanted to write an entertaining book that would be taken seriously. We were not interested in just assembling a string of juicy presidential sexcapades; we wanted to show how sexual affairs and scandals actually had a major impact on elections, foreign policy, and domestic affairs. By focusing on sex, a topic that presidential historians had long ignored, we began making connections between the personal and the political that previously had been missed.
We detailed how Ben Franklin helped save the American Revolution by seducing influential French women, and how a love affair between President James Buchanan and Senator William King aided the secession movement. We discovered that President Woodrow Wilson's girlfriend had dictated his letters to the German kaiser, and that lesbian relationships inspired Eleanor Roosevelt to become a crusader for equal rights.