In an Over-Communicated, Intrusive World, Simple is Better
Ed

Yes, Virginia, There
Is a Santa Claus

 
Copyright © 2007
by Ed Bagley

(Editor’s Note: The following editorial by Francis P. Church was first published in The New York Sun in 1897 in response to an
8-year-old girl’s letter to the editor, and is arguably the most famous editorial ever written in an American newspaper. This incredible piece of writing happened when newspapers were the primary means of communication. In 1897 there was no mass communication by radio, television, computers, cell phones and the associated technical goodies we have today. Readers actually believed and trusted in newspapers. Now we do not believe and trust in newspapers anymore than we do in politicians.)

Here is how Francis P. Church responded to Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter:

“We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except (in what) they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.

All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal (supernal means “of exceptional quality or extent”) beauty and glory beyond.

Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

About the Exchange
Francis P. Church’s editorial, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” was an immediate sensation, and went on to became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in The New York Sun in 1897, more than a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.

Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O’Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:

“Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn’t any Santa Claus,
I was filled with doubts.
I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.

It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would always say, ‘If you see it in the The Sun, it’s so,’ and that settled the matter.

‘Well, I’m just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,’ I said to father.

He said, ‘Go ahead, Virginia. I’m sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does’.”

And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents’ favorite newspaper.

Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer.

Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, “Endeavour to clear your mind of cant.” When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.

Now, he had in his hands a little girl’s letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.

“Is there a Santa Claus?” the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply that was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.

Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in 1906, leaving no children.

Virginia O’Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master’s from Columbia University, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator.

Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

Clason’s “The Richest Man in Babylon” Part 2 – The 7 Cures for a Lean Wallet and The 5 Laws of Money

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

Part 1 of this 2 Part series ends the synopsis of George Clason’s book “The Richest Man in Babylon,” but Clason raises an important question: Why should
so few men be able to acquire so much gold?

The answer is because they know how.

One may not condemn a man for succeeding because he knows how. Neither may one with justice take away from a man what he has fairly earned, to give to men of less ability.

And so it was that the good king of Babylon sought out the richest man in Babylon to teach to others in his kingdom the secrets of his success.

This is a synopsis of what the richest man taught to the people
of Babylon:

The Seven Cures for a Lean Wallet

1) Start your wallet to fattening. Save one-tenth of all you earn. Remember that a part
of all I earn is mine to keep. Do this faithfully. Do not let the simplicity of this escape you.

When I ceased to pay out more than nine-tenths of my earnings,
I got along just as well.
I was not shorter than before, and, money came to me more easily than before.

2) Control your expenses. How is it that all do not earn the same yet all have lean wallets? Here is the truth: That which each of us calls our “necessary expenses” will always grow to equal our incomes unless we protest to
the contrary.

Confuse not necessary expenses with desires. We all have more desires than our earnings can gratify. Examine which of the accepted expenses of living can be reduced or eliminated. Let your motto be 100% of appreciated value demanded for every dollar spent.

Budget your expenses so that your actual necessities are met without spending more than nine-tenths of your earnings.

3) Make your money multiply. Protect your growing treasure by putting it to labor and increasing. Money in your wallet earns nothing. Money that we earn from our money is but a start; it is the earnings generating earnings that builds fortunes.

When the richest man in Babylon loaned money to the shield maker to buy bronze, he said this: “Each time I loaned money to the shield maker, I loaned back also the rental he had paid me. Therefore not only did my capital increase, but its earnings likewise increased.”

4) Guard your money from loss. Everyone has an idea of how to make quick money; few, however, have the evidence of making money to justify their idea, scheme or offer of quick riches. The first sound principle of investment is security for your principal.

Before you loan your money to any man assure yourself of his ability to repay your loan, and of his reputation to do so. Make no one a present of your hard-earned treasure.

Consult the wisdom of those experienced in handling money for profit. Such advice is often freely given for
the asking, and may possess more value than the amount you
are about to invest.

5) Make your home a profitable investment. When you can set aside only nine-tenths of what you earn to live, and can use a part of that nine-tenths to improve the investment in your housing, do it; owning your own home is also an investment that grows with your wealth.

Your family deserves a home they can enjoy and call their own. It builds a sense of stability and well-being.

6) Ensure a future income. Build income-producing assets that do not require you to work forever. We will all grow old and die.

You should prepare a suitable income for the days to come when you are no longer younger and cannot work as hard, and to make preparations for your family should you no longer be with them to comfort and support them. Provide in advance for the needs of your growing age, and the protection of your family.

7) Increase your
ability to earn.
Desire precedes accomplishment, and the desire must be strong and definite. When you have backed your desire for saving $1,000 with the strength and purpose to secure it, you can then save $2,000.

Desires must be simple and definite. Desires defeat their own purpose when they are too many, too confusing, or too difficult to accomplish. Cultivate your own powers to study and become wiser, more skillful, and more productive.

Here is more sage advice from Clason’s masterpiece on financial matters:

The 5 Laws of Money

If you had to choose, would you choose tons of money or wisdom? Most men would take the money, ignore the wisdom, and waste the money. Here is the wisdom:

1) Money comes gladly and in increasing quantities to any man who will put aside not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and the future of his family.

2) Money labors diligently and contently for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying unto itself in infinity if kept working diligently. Money multiplies itself in surprising fashion.

3) Money clings to
the protection of the cautious owner who invests it with the advice of men wise
in its handling.

4) Money slips away from the man who invests it in businesses or purposes that he is not familiar with, or which are not approved by those skilled in its keep. The inexperienced handler of money who trusts his own judgment, and puts his money in investments which he is not familiar, always pays with his money for his experience.

5) Money flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings, or who follows the alluring advice of tricksters and schemers, or who
trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.

Here is the hard lesson of the 5 Laws of Money: You cannot measure the value of wisdom in bags of money. Without wisdom, those who have it quickly lose money, but with wisdom, money can be secured by those who have it not.

This ends the condensation.

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

Is it possible for an excellent, groundbreaking film in a specific genre to be overlooked at award ceremonies? Absolutely, and a perfect example is “A Fistful of Dollars” that gave rise to what we commonly identify today as “the spaghetti Western”.

A Fistful of Dollars was the first of Director Sergio Leone’s masterpiece trilogy that would be followed by “For A Few Dollars More” and “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. It was Leone who realized that the American-made Westerns of the 1950s had become nothing more or less than housing developments designed with a cookie-cutter pattern of staleness.

Leone’s answer was to shoot the film as if he was orchestrating an opera. The result would become the model for many Westerns to come, featuring his trademark taciturn characters, precise framing, extreme close-ups and the haunting music of Ennio Morricone.

All of this would give rise to “The Man With No Name” (Clint Eastwood), who was originally referred to as “Joe” in A Fistful of Dollars, but became The Man With No Name in the sequels.

I am very boffo on this film and for good reason. The combination of Leone’s direction is excellent given Morricone’s music, the cinematography by Massimo Dallamano and Federico Larraya, film editing by Roberto Cinquini and Alfonso Santacana, and sound by Elio Pacella. A Fistful of Dollars was shot in the Spanish province of Almeria.

Despite its credentials, A Fistful of Dollars would win only one award—the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists’ Silver Ribbon for the Best Score by Ennio Morricone. You could see this film for the musical score alone and come away very impressed.

Released in 1964, A Fistful of Dollars would not make its American debut until 1967. The film’s arrival here was delayed when “Yojimbo” screenwriters Akira Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima sued for breach of copyright and won, receiving 15% of the film’s worldwide gross and exclusive distribution rights for Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Kurosawa said later he made more money off this project than he did on Yojimbo, which was released 3 years earlier. The screenplay was written by A. Bonzzoni, Victor Andres Catena and Sergio Leone.

The story is about a gunfighter (Clint Eastwood) who comes to a small border town and offers his services to two rival gangs—the Rojos and the Baxters.

The Rojos include the dangerous Ramon (Gian Maria Volonte), Esteban (Sieghardt Rupp) and Don Benito (Antonio Prieto), Ramon’s girlfriend Marisol (Marianne Koch), Rubio (Benito Stefanelli) and Chico (Mario Brega). The Baxters include John (Wolfgang Lukschy), his wife Consuelo (Margarita Lozano) and a bevy of additional lesser-light banditos on both sides.

The bell-ringer in the film, Juan De Dios (Raf Baldassarre) warns the gunfighter, “you’ll get rich here, or you’ll be killed.” The gunfighter later acknowledges that the “crazy bell-ringer was right, there’s money to be made in a place like this.”

Neither gang is aware of The Man With No Name’s ploy to play one against the other, each thinking they are using him against their rival, but the gunfighter will outwit them both.

Along the way he will personally kill at least 14 of them, get the Rojos to completely obliterate the rest of the Baxter gang, rescue the kidnapped wife and return her to her family so they can safely escape, rescue the innkeeper Silvanito (Jose Calvo), and eliminate Ramon Rojo in a classic showdown worthy of any Western movie every made and too good to share here.

Another actor to watch in this film is Piripero the undertaker (Joseph Egger), who provides the avenue for The Man With No Name’s escape when he is incapable of doing so on his own.

The genius of Sergio Leone is seen in one of the film’s earliest scenes. As the gunfighter rides slowly into town, 3 Baxter gang members fire shots to scare the mule he is riding. After some food and whiskey, the gunfighter confronts his tormentors with this dialog:

“I don’t think it’s nice, you laughin’. You see, my mule don’t like people laughing. He gets the crazy idea you’re laughing at him. Now if you apologize, like I know you’re going to, I might convince him that you really didn’t mean it.”

Properly incensed and challenged, 4 key Baxter gang members draw to fire and are cut down in a blink of an eye by The Man With No Name.
While the dialog and action in this scene are excellent, Leone’s direction is even more so and here is why: In American films, when a cowboy was shot, one camera was ALWAYS focused on the shooter and a split second later, another camera cut to the victim. Leone captured the scene with the camera over Eastwood’s shoulder, so the moviegoer could vicariously witness the shooting as if he was doing the shooting.

Leone’s genius was as powerful today—44 years later—as an interactive web site on the Internet, both of which did not exist in 1964. No wonder it is so easy for moviegoers today to experience his genius.

A Fistful of Dollars is too good not to experience. Like so many films that are expected to be nothing and become classics in movie history, the role of The Man With No Name is littered with big names who did not play the role when an unknown like Clint Eastwood did.

This list includes Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Richard Harrison. Harrison would later acknowledge that “maybe my greatest contribution to cinema was not doing A Fistful of Dollars and recommending Clint for the part.”

Eastwood had been in the television series “Rawhide” prior to being tapped for the role. He helped build the character of The Man With No Name by buying black jeans form a sport shop on Hollywood Boulevard, buying the hat he wore from a Santa Monica wardrobe firm, and buying his trademark black cigars from a Beverly Hills store. He cut the cigars into thirds to give them a more distinctive look.

Leone was reportedly taken with Eastwood’s distinctive style, commenting in Italian that “I like Clint Eastwood because he has only two facial expressions: one with the hat, and one without it.”

Like another tremendously successful actor Tom Hanks, Eastwood knew how to instinctively exude enormous charisma that was never evident in his low-key style. Any real man in America would be proud to strap on The Man With No Name’s gun belt and pistol. Is A Fistful of Dollars a guy film? Certainly.

Leone did not direct the first spaghetti western ever made, but his was the first one to receive a major international release, not to mention the fact that it launched Clint Eastwood on an incredibly successful career as one of Hollywood’s most popular, profitable and bankable actors and directors ever.

The First Time I Had Witnessed a Miracle

 

(Ed’s Note: This article was written in 1976, 44 years ago, on the occasion of my daughter’s birth, and was first published in The Lacey Leader, the newspaper
I owned and operated for
8 years. As a Christian,
I celebrate the Resurrection of Christ rising from the dead this Easter Sunday so that all who believe might have eternal life. It is a joy for me to recount this miracle with you, recognizing that the birth of life is both a miracle and mystery to be cherished among all of our living experiences.)

Copyright 1976
by Ed Bagley

I have lived on this Earth 31 years, but Saturday night was the first time
I had ever seen a miracle.

It started in the dead of sleep at 5 a.m. For four hours I slept on like a newborn baby. It was nothing unusual for me—
the freight train that cuts Patterson Lake in two could detour through our bedroom, and I would probably not wake up.

Inside Annette—while I cut through zees like rewrite copy—a slow stirring began. Soon it became sharp pains. Finally I woke at 9 a.m. to greet the new day and found out Annette had been up at 5 wondering if her time had come. It had.

We checked into St. Peter Hospital at 11 a.m. and began an even longer wait. Soon it was 1 p.m., then 3 and 5 and 7 and 9 and her labor continued. The baby was not in the right position, and Annette spent a good deal of time figuring out how to push when the contractions came.

It was a struggle we went through together, her frank cries of anguish and my dispassionate encouragement. I could not have become emotionally involved, or it would have been all over for me. I wanted to see everything.

Finally monitors were put on her to play out the frequency of the contractions and the frequency of the baby’s heartbeat. A steady blip, blip, blip played across the face of the machine and, to the right, numbers changed every few seconds, telling the baby’s heartbeat per minute. Eventually medicine was used to help induce the contractions.

After 17½ hours, Annette went to the delivery room and I was right behind her. Inside, as Dr. Krug exhibited a totally calm, professional demeanor, I watched as the baby’s head pushed into the new world.

Dr. Krug noted that the cord had a knot and then, with one final push, Kristin Ann came into the world and nothing could hold back Annette’s elation and tears, and Kristin’s cry for survival.

Kristin was bright and alert to the momentous occasion; she immediately opened her eyes and let us know she was here—it must have been a tremendous struggle for her too.

I sat stunned, not giving in to instant joy. I wanted to note, with the patience and calm of a craftsman, every detail of this glorious moment.

Kristin looked blue and—had it not been for her crying—you might have thought she was not alive. Her eyes, if not her voice, said otherwise. I felt like
I could have reached out and touched the Hand of God.

Later, in the nursery, I was astounded that Kristin looked a healthy pink only minutes after her arrival. Her eyes were still open and her mouth was constantly moving.

When Annette came out of the delivery room and the nurse wheeled her up to the window, I was sure I saw Kristin smile. As if to test this observation against reality, I asked the nurse if she had smiled. I could not believe it.

The nurse replied yes and then, when the nurse, Annette and I once again focused on the wonder before us, Kristin Ann smiled again.

(Ed’s Note: Family is the fundamental core unit of our culture, from the unity of many comes the strength of the family to fulfill its destiny, with each generation experiencing the life cycle, and the joys and challenges of realizing our individual and group potential. The gift of life is only our first gift, it is up to us—as individuals and as a family unit—to love and support each other as we develop our unique gifts as children of God. Regrettably, more than 62 million babies have suffered abortion and been killed in their mother’s womb because of the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973 by the United States Supreme Court. It obviously never occurred to the majority of the 7 of 9 setting Justices that they would have not been alive on Planet Earth if their mothers had aborted them. And many of us thought that those 7 Supreme Court Justices that ruled in favor of the motion were kind, thoughtful and sensible students of the United States Constitution, a document whose authors never, and I mean never, would have approved the motion. I say this because our great nation ensured us that were endowed by God with the fundamental tenet of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The majority decision by those
7 misguided Justices have resulted in the killing of 62+ million babies and counting, as more are killed every day in America. It is easy to see why liberal progressives are happy with kicking God out of our schools. These are the same Pro Choice believers who would like to kick God out of our country and kick Christianity out of our nation, then we could become a socialist nation (or Communist or a Dictatorship) without a need for God or religion. Non-believers have some other ideas about this same topic. That’s OK. I believe our universe is big enough to accommodate everyone.)

Financial Thoughts
on Investing
by Warren Buffett

 

(Ed’s Note: The following condensation is from The Tao of Warren Buffett, written by Mary Buffett and David Clark and available for sale at Amazon and bookstores nationwide. I am always impressed by what Warren Buffett has to say and am doing this condensation to help promote their book.)

On Investing: Never be afraid to ask too much when selling offer too little when buying.
(Ed’s Note: How much you get from a sale or how much you have to pay when making a purchase determines whether you make or lose money and how rich you ultimately become.)

(Ed’s Note: For more of Warren Buffett’s advice go to the menu bar above and click on Financial Thoughts.)