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

After enjoying unexpected commercial success with “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More”, Italian Director Sergio Leone ends his trilogy of “Spaghetti Westerns” with “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”.

Amazingly, even at this point in his masterful direction of western movies made in Spain, Leone would not enjoy a nickel’s worth of adulation from the critics as only the Laurel Awards would give a single award to Clint Eastwood for Action Performance, and that was as runner-up.

Hollywood and its stars ignored Sergio Leone just as they have Johnny Depp. They refuse to recognize that even westerns or pirate pictures can be artfully done and have unique acting performances. Clint Eastwood is The Man with No Name, and Johnny Depp is the perfect pirate as Captain Jack Sparrow. There will never be another equal of either in these roles

At least one film director, screenwriter and actor—Quentin Tarantino—has identified Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as “the best-directed film of all time.” It was Tarantino who gave moviegoers “Reservoir Dogs”. “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill (Vol. 1 and Vol.2)” among others.

But back to Leone, who helped write the screenplay with mostly Luciano Vincenzoni. It was Vincenzoni who came up with the premise for the film—three rogues looking for some treasure at the time of the America’s Civil War—and its title.

The triangle of rogues included The Good (Clint Eastwood, a professional gunfighter referred to as “Blondie” in this film who would become The Man With No Name in subsequent western films spun off of his character), The Bad (Lee Van Cleef, a self-centered hit man referred to as “Angel Eyes”) and The Ugly (Eli Wallach, a self-centered outlaw referred to as “Tuco”).

Long story short, the plot involves first establishing the three rogues as bona fide killers. Blondie then becomes a pseudo bounty hunter in partnership with Tuco, turning him in for the bounty, rescuing him before he is hanged, and repeating the process until Blondie leaves Tuco in the desert to die. Tuco survives, and lives to find Blondie and return the favor.

As Blondie is about to die while being forced to walk across the desert by Tuco, they are interrupted by an out-of-control, driverless carriage loaded with dead bodies. Except one body, Bill Carson, lives long enough to tell Tuco where $200,000 in gold is buried in exchange for water. While Tuco goes for water, Carson tells Blondie the exact grave in a cemetery where the gold can be found. Suddenly they have a compelling reason to become partners again

Dressed in the Confederate uniforms of the dead men, Tuco takes Blondie, who is near death, to a local Catholic mission run by Tuco’s brother, a priest. Blondie’s recovery goes well, but Tuco’s reconciliation with his brother does not.

Blondie and Tuco leave the mission and end up being captured by Union soldiers and taken to a prison camp where Angel Eyes (now a Union sergeant) takes personal charge of torturing the captives. Angle Eyes is aware of the gold, has his enforcer beat Tuco senseless, and learns the name of the cemetery. He then turns Tuco in for the bounty, frees Blondie (who knows the exact location) and he and his gang of 5 thugs head for the cemetery with Blondie.

Tuco manages to escape on the way to his hanging, turns up in a town the Union forces have bombed silly, and runs smack into Blondie, Angel Eyes and his band of 5. Blondie and Tuco manage to kill all 5 thugs as Angel Eyes escapes, and now all three are headed for the cemetery.

On their way to the cemetery, Blondie and Tuco run into a full-blown Civil War battle over a bridge crossing a river to the cemetery. They witness the continual carnage, blow up the bridge, and then the soldiers from both sides—as well as Blondie and Tuco—move on.

Once in the cemetery, it is inevitable that the three rogues face off in one of the greatest western showdowns ever filmed. The confrontation is full of Leone’s masterful panoramic shots, extreme close-ups and clever sequence of final events. If you have not seen this film, you must, it may be the greatest western film ever made. If you have seen it, you should see it again to better appreciate Sergio Leone’s masterful direction.

There are many great moments in this film. Two of my favorites involved Tuco. In the first, while Tuco is in the bombed-out town, he manages to find a bathtub and take a bath. While doing so, a bounty hunter (remember than Tuco still has a price on his head) confronts him buck naked in the tub.

At the start of the film, the bounty hunter is one of three gunmen who confront Tuco and Tuco shoots all three. The one that confronts Tuco lost his right arm but lived and now shoots with his left arm. He reminds Tuco of his distress and, while doing so, Tuco kills him with his gun that is hidden beneath the bubble bath water. Tuco then utters this memorable line: “When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.”

The other scene I love is when Tuco walks miles and miles out of the desert and into a town with a gun shop in front of him. After dousing himself in a water trough, he confronts the proprietor, remakes a pistol out of parts from three other pistols, and then steps outside to test the weapon.

He hits three standing figures downrange, turning them sideways, and then fires three shots to cut each in half. Two figures fall immediately and the third remains standing. Tuco takes a mouthful of whiskey, and then jumps and as he lands, the third target falls. This is a guy film, and you really need to be a guy to fully appreciate what I am sharing here. Tuco’s role in this scene helped invent the word cool.

Moviegoers watching this film at the time were not aware that Eli Wallach (Tuco) was nearly killed three times while playing his part.

He was almost poisoned on the set after drinking acid used to burn the bags filled with gold coin so they would rip open easier when struck with a spade. A film technician had poured the acid into a lemon soda bottle and Wallach didn’t know it. He drank a lot of milk and finished the scene with a mouth full of sores.

In another scene where Wallach was about to be hanged while on a horse, the rope was severed by a pistol shot but the frightened horse galloped for almost a mile with Wallach’s hands tied behind him and the noose still taut around his neck.

In a third scene, in order to cut off his handcuffs from his captor, Wallach places his captor on the railroad tracks and waits for a train to come by and break the chain attached to the cuffs. He was within a foot of track and ducks his head to the ground as the train rolls by. The entire film crew and Wallach were unaware that heavy iron steps jutted out from each box car and any of the numerous box cars with iron steps would have decapitated Wallach had he lifted his head.

Wallach would later acknowledge and complain in his autobiography that safety on the set was not one of Leone’s primary concerns in directing the picture.

For the record, Tuco’s full name in the film script was Tuco Benedito Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez

Because Sergio Leone spoke barely any English and Eli Wallach spoke barely any Italian, the two communicated in French. Because an international cast was employed, only Eastwood, Van Cleef and Wallach spoke in English, and were dubbed in Italian for the debut release in Rome. All other international cast members spoke mostly French or Spanish and were dubbed later. This accounts for the fact that none of the dialogue in the film was completely in sync.

Here are three interesting facts from the film for guys:

1) The cache of gold in the film was $200,000, which does not seem like a lot of money today. However, gold was $20+ an ounce in 1862 and was $628 an ounce in 2006, so the gold was worth more than $6 million in today’s money.

2) In the film, Blondie (Clint Eastwood) used a Colt 1851 cartridge conversion revolver with silver snake grips, and a Winchester 1866 “yellow boy” with ladder elevated sights. Angle Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) used a Remington 1858 Army percussion revolver. Tuco (Eli Wallach) used a Colt 1851 Navy percussion revolver with a lanyard. The soldiers used Gatling guns with drum magazines and Howitzer cannons.

3) Clint Eastwood wore the same poncho without replacement or cleaning during all three of Leone’s spaghetti westerns. In the second film (For a Few Dollars More) you can visibly see that his poncho was mended after being pierced by 7 bullet holes from Ramon’s Winchester in A Fistful of Dollars. The mended area, originally on the left breast, is worn over Eastwood’s right shoulder blade in For a Few Dollars More.

From virtually no acclaim at the time, Sergio Leone’s “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” is now regarded as a classic by many critics. It was part of Time’s “100 Greatest Movies” of the last century, and it is one of the few films which enjoy a 100% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes (rottentomatoes.com). The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is currently ranked no less than 5th among the Internet Movie Database Top 250, all of which is not too shabby for an Italian guy directing an American Western.

Even master movie critic Roger Ebert gives Leone his just due as an excellent director, and acknowledges two other Sergio Leone films as unquestioned masterpieces—”Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968) and “Once Upon a Time in America” (1984).

Sergio Leone was born into the cinema. His father was Roberto Roberti (aka Vincenzo Leone), one of Italy’s cinema pioneers, and his mother was actress Bice Valerian. Sergio Leone was born in Rome in 1929 and died in Rome in 1989 from a heart attack. He remains one of the great directors in film history.

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.)