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Ugly Watches

12 Sep

About one month ago, I first became aware of a watch for sale on Watch U Want. It is a watch created by the watchmaker Christophe Claret for the Guy Ellia watch company. I am always looking at listings for complex watches, and that probably has something to do with why an ad for this watch appeared on my browser. The watch originally retailed for nearly a million dollars, but it has been marked down to $250,000. For some reason, the internet robots that place these ads on my web pages aren’t able to ascertain that I am incapable of buying a million dollar watch.

This watch is as ugly as it is useless. It is too large to wear comfortably in almost any occupation. It has to be hand wound, so it would be a constant burden, and even an extremely wealthy person would feel uncomfortable wearing it almost anywhere for fear that it might get damaged:

guyellia-repitianminutezephyr-_26048-dnls-150928_13461

Yet, I absolutely love this watch. If I had a net worth of not less than $250 million I might even consider buying it. For a detailed explanation of what this watch is and what it can do, I recommend viewing this video posted by Watch U Want:

Like many pragmatic people, I am tempted to ridicule this watch. It is far less useful than the Samsung Gear watch I wear all the time. My Samsung watch is also my telephone. However, it can be used as an alarm, navigation, texting, a timer, and several other functions…most of which hold no interest for me. I am reminded of how I used to look for watches with lots of functions. For a while I wore a Casio Databank that was designed to be used as a calculator, but that I mostly used just for its alarm functions. I still use that watch as my main alarm clock, but I never wear it.

Half a century ago, before watches became electronic and digital, watches that had lots of “complications” were mechanical marvels. The pinnacle of these watches were the so-called automatic watches that were supposedly self-winding, although they were (and are) so inefficient that their users had to buy expensive winding stations and/or spend a substantial amount of time pumping their arms to keep their watches wound.

Like I said, I am tempted to ridicule this watch, but that is the wrong way to look at it. If you go to YouTube and look at some videos of watch making and watchmakers, you will quickly realize that the making of these watches is not just a monetary enterprise. The people who make these watches are extremely proud of their work and view themselves more as artists than as merchants. The correct way to view a watch like this is as a work of art.

I cannot afford this watch. Yet, I still get enjoyment from it. It pleases me to know that a watch like this exists. It pleases me to look at the video posted by Watch U Want and marvel at its mechanical monstrosity. Like I said, it is not an attractive watch. Yet I love it. The person who made this watch was obviously in love with machinery. He had the same mentality as people who see a race car and want the hood opened to inspect the engine. To most people, engines are ugly, but to someone who loves machinery, they are beautiful.

This watch is expensive because of the craftsmanship, knowledge, and effort that went into making it. However, it would never have been made if there were no people rich enough to buy it. Watchmakers could not afford to make watches like this if there were no people who could both afford to buy them and were willing to shell out the money.

For that reason, I must also love the people who have that much money and are willing to spend it on this kind of watch. I may feel, in passing, that their money would be better spent on more charitable pursuits, but what if it was? Then this watch would never have been made and I would never have been able to look at the pictures of it, watch the video about it, and marvel at its aforementioned mechanical monstrosity.

The same is true of most of the famous paintings that are now displayed in museums. They would never have been painted if not for the rich merchants that commissioned them. The artists who painted them could not have afforded to spend the time if no one was willing to pay for the painting. I suspect that watches like this will eventually find their way into museums, where they will be admired and appreciated by generations to come.

So, let us all appreciate the extravagant watchmakers of the world and the extravagant watch buyers of the world. If not for all of them, there would be no ugly-beautiful watches like this one, and there would be no ugly-beauty in the world to appreciate…if only on museum walls and in YouTube videos.

My Own Bild Lilli Doll

1 Sep

I collect interesting and unusual toys. For example, I have all of the Micro Machines Star Trek ships, and I have 1:64 scale die cast replicas of all the most famous automobiles. Recently, I added a toy to my collection that I am extremely proud of. It is an original Lilli doll:

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I put her in this cheap dollar store dress while I am waiting for a nicer dress to arrive in the mail. I have wanted a Lilli doll for years, ever since I learned about her remarkable history. I acquired one just recently from a seller on eBay. It was embarrassingly expensive.

For those of you who do not know, Lilli was the precursor to Barbie. She began with a cartoon that appeared in the Bild German newspaper in 1952. A cartoonist, Reinhard Beuthien, was asked to draw a picture to fill a space in the paper. He originally drew a picture of a baby with a large forehead and big eyes, but the editor did not like it, so he ordered Reinhard to come up with something else. Reinhard used the same drawing, but transformed it into a beautiful woman named Lilli. The whole history of Lilli can be read in the Wikipedia entry for the Bild Lilli doll.

So, Barbie began with a drawing of a baby that was transformed into a woman with infantile features. The cartoon was a hit. Eventually, the newspaper contracted for a doll based on the cartoon that was intended as a kind of pornographic gag gift for men. However, she became popular with young girls who liked to dress her and play house with her.

During a trip to Europe, Ruth Handler acquired three of these Lilli dolls and copied them to create Mattel’s now famous Barbie. If you ever wondered why Barbie looks the way she does, keep in mind that she originated with a pornographic cartoon about a baby-faced gold digger from Post-war Germany.

Never before in history had it been seriously considered that young girls would want to play with an adult-aged 11½ inch doll. It was only through the curious historical accident of a baby being transformed into a cartoon and this cartoon being transformed into a gag gift for men that the discovery was made. But there she was, Barbie, the apple in the eye of nine year old girls around the world.

I should know. My own sister, nine years older than me to the day, had to have one. As my mother tells it, my sister saw Barbie in a department store window and cried until my father, who didn’t have much money at the time, drove several miles back to the store and bought one for her. My sister acquired her first Barbie doll in 1959, the year I was born.

Barbie’s face has changed quite a bit over the years, but her body has remained mostly the same. She has always had those same large breasts and that same pinched waist. From her inception, there have been complaints about her unrealistic figure. Just recently, A Daily Mail article declared that “If Barbie was a real woman she’d be forced to walk on all fours and would be physically incapable of lifting her over-sized head.” Most complaints have centered on her large breasts and tiny waist. The claim is repeatedly made that if she were a real woman, she would have too little body fat to be able to menstruate.

I have always found these complaints to be frustrating and misleading. People who criticize Barbie’s figure notice only the characteristics they wish to criticize and never notice that everything about her is unrealistic and ridiculous. What about the fact that she is made of plastic and is frozen in time like someone who has used far too much Botox? They say that if a woman actually looked like Barbie she would be unhealthy. However, the evidence from women who have attempted to look like Barbie suggests that she would also be freakishly unappealing:

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That is not even the most significant misunderstanding. Since dolls are small, they must have exaggerated features so that their features stand out. If Barbie had a realistic face and figure, she would not look like a miniature person. She would look utterly featureless. She would look like a bar of soap.

Recently, sales in Mattel’s Barbie have been tanking. Personally, I think it is just because Mattel has saturated the market with so many holiday Barbies and specialty Barbies that their clientele cannot absorb the inventory. My brother used to buy every Holiday Barbie for his daughter. They are sitting in storage now, never removed from their original boxes, and no one knows what to do with them. I own a Star Trek Barbie. I gave an X-files Barbie to a friend who was an X-files fan and swore he would never own a Barbie. Recently, I bought a Barbie that is a copy of a vintage Barbie portraying a student teacher. I am a math teacher and found this edition to be particularly amusing:

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I have considered buying one of these for my female team-teaching partner, but I am not sure she would appreciate the joke.

To increase sales, Mattel is releasing a new line of Barbies with more realistic and diverse figures. These include short Barbies, tall Barbies and fat Barbies:

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However, I think they are missing the point. Young girls, influenced by fantasy films like Twilight, have become interested in dolls like this one that has green skin, giant eyes, and legs so long and skinny they are almost insectoid:

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Talk about an unhealthy body image!

Hyper sensitive people give Mattel a hard time for making a doll with unrealistic features, but they completely ignore the true nature of children’s fantasies and fetishes. Barbie’s flaw has never been that she is too unrealistic. Her flaw has always been that she is too realistic. Consider these other dolls that have wings and can fly or have tails and swim like fish:

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Children do not want reality. Reality is boring to children. Normal children who grow into normal adults are no more inclined to hold onto their hope of having a body like Barbie than they are to hold onto a desire to fly like a fairy or swim like a mermaid. Children’s stories and toys have always featured ridiculous things. For some reason that is a part of childhood. It must be a good idea or society would have given it up millennia ago. They would have given up Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, giants, witches, wizards, myriad talking animals and everything depicted by Dr. Seuss. Recall that Lilli was originally based on a baby-faced comic character that the toy makers apparently attempted to copy in all her unrealistic glory. She was the realization of a cartoon. Barbie is the reincarnation of a realized cartoon.

So what is the lesson in all of this? I will leave that to the reader. If I were here to teach a lesson, I would probably tell you to buy a fat doll or something like that.

But my Lilli doll is a thing of great beauty…and I will cherish her forever.

Gillitron the Idiot and the Three Gamesters of Triskelion

25 Jul

Long before anything came to be, the three Gamesters of Triskelion and their idiot brother Gillitron were sitting outside of existence. They were passing what passed for time in nonexistence by betting on what might happen next.

Gamester 1 said, “I wager that nothing will ever happen. Nothing will ever come into existence.”

Gamster 2 and 3 gave him 1 to 10^1,000,000,000,000 odds, since his prediction would almost certainly come true.

Gamester 2 said, “I wager that nothing will happen for a very long time, but after a period of time, less than infinity, a dimensionless point will come into existence.”

Gamester 1 and 3 gave him 10^1,000,000,000,000 to 1 odds, since it was so improbable.

Gamester 3 said, “I wager that, after an indefinite period of time, less than infinity, an empty space with N dimensions (greater than 0) will come into existence. It will have no properties and contain nothing.”

Gamester 1 and 2 gave him 10^(10^(10^(10^(10^(10^(10^10)))))) to 1 odds since it was extremely improbable.

Then, their idiot brother Gillitron spoke up. Gillitron was never part of the usual betting process because he did not understand mathematics and always said things that were inconceivably stupid. Gillitron said, “Eventually, there will be a universe with N dimensions (greater than zero) that collapse and form properties that emulate a whole taxonomy of particles that will move and form together and eventually result in the appearance of solid planets supporting complex forms, of which some will have conscious experiences such as emotions, color, taste, etc.”

Gamester 1, 2 and 3 then contemplated all the myriad degenerate structures that could exist, such as particles that simply bounce off of each other and never take any form. Rather than giving odds, they merely laughed at their idiot brother Gillitron…as they had laughed at him an infinite number of times before.

After an indefinite period of time, Gillitron’s prediction came true.

Gamester 1, 2, and 3 concluded that the game was rigged and that there was some uber-gamester they were not aware of that stacked the deck.

Escape from Ferguson

10 Jul

It is becoming increasingly clear that Donald Trump has no possibility of winning the presidency in November 2016, and it is equally clear that our next president will be Hillary Clinton. When Hillary is first inaugurated, this will give a temporary boost to women’s egos. However, it is clear that she intends to continue the “divide and conquer” approach to minorities that has won Democrats their votes at the expense of minority cultures. She intends to continue the policies that Jason Riley has so dramatically illuminated in his book Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.

Hillary will probably be president for eight years and we will probably never have another Republican president. The reasons are three-fold. First of all, the Obama Administration has deeply corrupted the IRS and other government institutions. A Republican, in order to win office, must not merely overcome media bias, but must overcome an increasingly chilling legal reality. Second, Democrats are doing everything in their power to import and empower people, such as illegal immigrants and felons, who should not be allowed to vote. Third, Democrats have convinced minorities that they are beholden to them for their government benefits. These minorities will never be persuaded that Democrat policies are actually harmful to their communities.

This post is not directed toward those who have and maintain the view that Democrat policies are beneficial to minorities and society. I consider those people to be a lost cause. They refuse to understand, and they are continually shoring up the lies that have gotten us to this place in history. This post is directed to those who realize what has transpired and are wondering how to survive the era of Democrat supremacy.

The reality at hand is that we are in the process of creating an extremely dangerous permanent underclass. These will be people whose neighborhoods, like the island of Manhattan in the film Escape from New York, can only be isolated and avoided and can never be brought into the mainstream of society.

Manhattan Wall

The emergence of this underclass is evident from the riots in Ferguson and other cities, culminating in the killing of five police officers in Dallas, followed by a complete lack of remorse by those responsible. A recurring Democrat complaint is that we have too many black men in prisons. Soon, Democrats will release these and other dangerous criminals into the wild purely for political reasons. We will have neighborhoods that, for all intents and purposes, are prisons. Since there will never be walls around these dangerous resulting ghettos, escaping their influence will be increasingly tricky. What follows is a plan for dealing with this reality.

Building walls around these ghettos like in the movie Escape from New York will not be a possibility. When gated neighborhoods become commonplace, these ghettos will often appear as if they are walled in, but Democrats will ensure that the inhabitants are always free to roam about. Distance will be the only real defense.

There are two ways that this distance can be achieved. The first will be actual physical distance. Criminals are disinclined to travel far from their homes. If you live at least ten miles from a dangerous ghetto, you are unlikely to be a direct victim. However, distance will be difficult to maintain, since these ghettos will tend to spread into the surrounding territory. It is well established that the poor criminal element of society, bolstered by Democrat social policies, tends to reproduce rapidly. If you chose physical distance as your remedy, you will have to constantly move further and further away.

I live on an island. That is probably the simplest remedy. However, it is questionable if my island refuge will continue to be viable. Liberals on our island with do-gooder tendencies are encouraging disreputable people to move here. Eventually, we will have our own little imported ghetto and we will be just like everywhere else. In any case, islands are small and rare.

Soon, it will be possible to build communities in the ocean that are essentially giant floating islands. These will have the advantage of being immune to local anti-discrimination policies. People on these islands will be able to pick and chose who is allowed to move there. Their requirements will have nothing to do with race, but will be drawn entirely from psychological characteristics: content of character rather than color of skin. Black people who qualify to move to these communities will relish the opportunity. With new technologies, it may be possible to build giant floating communities…essentially islands in the sky. With new construction materials, especially graphene, it may be possible to build giant dirigibles suspended by hydrogen or helium that float above the earth and look exactly like clouds. If more esoteric technologies such as the EM-drive pan out, it may be possible to suspend extremely large communities in the air. However, these communities will be expensive to live in.

Stratos

In the past, I have outlined how people will ultimately colonize space. This would be the ideal way to escape the dangerous Democrat ghettos. However, there is a real possibility that we will never get into space. Even if someone finds a way to create the self-replicating robotic systems I describe in another blog entry, Democrats may pass regulations that make it nearly impossible for anyone to move there. They may pass nearly prohibitive regulations on the requirements of stations in order for them to be inhabited. They may institute a system of inspections that make space stations nearly impossible to complete. It is said that when a ship is built, the paperwork weighs more than the ship. Imagine what similar policies will do to the colonization of space! Keep in mind that Democrats will have all the political power and they will never allow anything that threatens to undermine that power.

What is my plan? The real key to avoiding the Democrat ghettos of the future is to save your money. This is the second way of creating distance. No matter what happens, you must put away 10% of your income. In this way, you will be able to afford to continually move away from ghettos and, if necessary, move to floating or flying islands. There is accumulating evidence that your money will be worth much more in the future than it is now. The secure people of the future will be the ones who put away 10% of their income today. This used to be the habit of people in times when we did not have unemployment insurance and other social safety nets. However, those social safety nets do not take into account that, while you may be rescued by the safety net, you will not be rescued from the other people in the net. This is a new age that requires new measures.

The best way to save money is to have it put automatically into an IRA. It is too easy to tap into an ordinary savings account when you desperately want a new car or you see a dress in a store window you cannot live without. However, the “set it up and forget it” nature of IRA’s and similar programs protect you from these immediate temptations.

If you do not save 10% of your income in this way (or whatever way works) people of the future may have sympathy for your plight. However, they will not be able to do anything for you. There is much talk these days of creating a guaranteed basic income. However, no guaranteed income will rescue you from the dangerous ghettos. It will only ensure that you are able to keep your head above water while you are deeply immersed in these ghettos. Some day, when being poor is more of a state of mind than a financial reality, having a guaranteed income and living in these ghettos will be little more than prison sentences: plenty to eat and clothes to wear, but nothing to live for.

Also, you have to consider the possibility that if you live in one of these ghettos you may not be able to hold on to the money you receive from the state. With absolute lawlessness, there may soon be various forms of extortion. You may receive a check from the state every month, but 90% of it will go to some local protection racket.

Yes, the key to surviving the future Democrats are creating is to start saving 10% of your income now. It is that simple. Just do it. Get a system set up that works and make it happen. You may have thought I was going to propose some esoteric solution that no one has thought of before. In a way, the solution I am proposing is new because it is so old. Everything old is new again and the problem of the past—protecting yourself from the basic elements—is back with us. However, in the world we are creating, the basic elements will take the form of vicious anti-social entitled people who will rob you blind and never leave you in peace.

Universal Basic Income and the Coming Super Stud

12 Mar

The other night, I was watching a news story about the Zika virus.  It explained that the virus would soon be coming to North America and went on to describe how it was being combated by creating genetically altered mosquitoes. My sister, who was watching with me, was struck with incredulity, “How can that help?”

I explained to her how it worked and made an analogy. I said, “Suppose some alien race wanted to destroy humanity. One thing they could do is inject a horde of gorgeous sexually aggressive females with a defective gene that caused their offspring to die at a young age.”

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My sister caught on, but I suddenly realized I had chosen the wrong gender to modify in my analogy. If you injected genetically modified women, they could only have as many defective babies as they are able to carry to term. Since one woman can typically carry one or two babies to term over a period of nine months, all that would be accomplished would be to bring an end to that particular line of offspring. However, suppose you instead injected a horde of strong, aggressive, attractive alpha males into the population. They would push all the less aggressive males aside and impregnate all the women…even many of the ones in committed relationships to less appealing males.

Suddenly, I realized this is exactly what we are doing to our poorest citizens. However it is being done in an insidious way.

In the 1960’s, when we loosened mores about women becoming pregnant out of wedlock, we made it easier for aggressive virile males to have babies. Women became less afraid of becoming pregnant, and if males could merely impregnate women, they would become fathers. This would have had little effect if the babies had no way to thrive. However, it was combined with another element: the welfare program. By providing a guaranteed income to women who got pregnant out of wedlock, we made it possible for these babies to thrive. We made it possible for males who have a genetic defect (no genetic propensity to stick around and help raise their children) to saturate the population with new males who carry the same defective gene. Moreover, since not sticking around to help raise offspring released these males to impregnate more women, we made it a genetic advantage to be irresponsible.

Many people are considering creating a guaranteed basic income. With this, the last barrier will be removed to creating the instrument of our own destruction. We will open the door to a generation of large, virile, aggressive males who women cannot resist, but who are completely incapable of taking responsibility for their offspring. These will be super studs who have nothing but their basic income to thrive on, but who are so gorgeous and virile that every woman will desire them. Moreover, many of these women will actually want to have their babies.

It could take as few as two generations for the population to be saturated by these males. Keep in mind that one male can impregnate women as quickly as he can get from one vagina to the next. When these sexual gods show up at the doors of plain looking women ready to have sex, these women, who usually get little attention, will be emotionally defenseless. These women may not have any suitable means of support, but they will have no shame and they will have their guaranteed basic income. Their male offspring will have a guaranteed basic income that ensures they thrive to and through adulthood so that they can impregnate as many women as possible.

This will simultaneously generate a population of women who are less resistant to the super stud’s charms. Women who resist these males will not have as many babies as women who succumb.

Since a guaranteed income is a social program, it will become an additional third rail of politics. It will be nearly impossible to repeal. It will continue to be available as the population expands. Upper and middle class citizens will continue their current trend of having fewer babies, but the super studs and their offspring will populate without constraint. Eventually, the world will be filled with irresponsible, sexually promiscuous people.

The constant drain on our economy will slow scientific and industrial progress to a halt. The dreams of creating super intelligent machines that eliminate the need to work will fade into oblivion. Ultimately, society will collapse and we will enter a new dark age populated by dumb, sexually aggressive barbarians.

Since the population will be far too large to be supported by the essentially agrarian society that will replace industrialization, horrible wars will ensue. These will be low tech wars of attrition, because the new sexually aggressive population will not be able to maintain or manufacture sophisticated weaponry.

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The population will dwindle to a tiny fraction of what it is today. We will finalize the plan to do to ourselves what we are doing to the mosquitoes.

In another hundred years or so, there may be a renaissance. This will be a renaissance in which religious beliefs and their accompanying mores reign supreme. Once again, sexual promiscuity will be strictly prohibited. As these newly enlightened people look around, they will find the literature of previous generations. They will come to think of the societies that instituted a basic income as more recent instances of Sodom and Gomorrah. They may even add chapters to the Bible. Hopefully, they will recognize the mistakes of their ancestors and follow a different path.

The Prototypical President

16 Feb

During presidential elections, there is always discussion about what qualifies someone to be president. Is it more important to have someone with governing experience, or is it more important to have someone with business experience? Does a president need to have experience in the military?

First of all, a prospective president’s race and gender are immaterial. We should be beyond that by now. If beauty is skin deep, it is certain there is nothing shallower than someone who sees race or gender.

Governing experience is important in itself, but it is also a matter of trust. Donald Trump, for example, may do an excellent job of governing the nation, but voting for him is risky. How can we know that when he gets into office he won’t completely change his allegiance or, worse still, have no allegiance at all? Someone who has governed a state for at least one term has demonstrated what they will do when they get into power. It is extremely unlikely that someone who has governed a state in a certain way will govern the United States in an entirely different way. It is important that they actually govern a state. A governor is someone who has made real decisions and been held accountable for them. Senators and representatives can vote for things like going to war or raising taxes and later deny that they are responsible. Governors have to execute the decisions they make and answer for the outcome.

A president who has never run a business cannot understand the problems of a business man. How can a person who has never made actual business decisions know what it takes to make a business succeed? How can he know the effect of more regulations, expanded medical insurance requirements or higher business taxes if he has never had to make payroll and still make a profit? How can he grasp the experience of working 80 hour weeks…staying at an office or a desk after hours doing his bookwork? A politician can philosophize indefinitely about the likely effect of a policy. A business man has to subtract expenses from income, balance a checkbook and pay bills.

Tax Burden

A president who does not have direct military experience may be an excellent commander in chief. The problem is that he will have no legitimacy. When a man or woman who has no military experience sends troops into combat, there is a natural objection: how can someone who has never faced an enemy in a life or death struggle make such a decision? How can he order someone to do something that he might be unwilling or incapable of doing himself? Is he leading the troops or is he actually hiding behind them? Great military commanders from Alexander the Great to George Washington literally lead troops into battle. Alexander is often described as having been his own best soldier. A commander in chief must have military experience.

Here is my ideal résumé for someone who aspires to the presidency. It is unlikely that anyone will ever have these exact qualifications, but the closer someone can come to this the better. This is not the résumé of an ordinary person. No ordinary person should be President. A president should be a superman:

0-18 years of age:

Excellent student and athlete. Reads everything. Sincere but not obsessive Christian. Skeptical of religion, but never cynical. He loves life and does not struggle with meaning, so he does not need pat answers to complicated questions.

18-21

Joins the Marines just because he is curious and patriotic and he admires the Marines. Ideally, he will experience some combat. Honorably discharged.

21-28

Goes to college. Majors in physics and minors in economics. Gets a PhD in computer science. Always reads difficult science, history, economics, philosophy, etc. He can practically recite the Great Books.

Great Books

28-48

Officer in the military. Gets married and stays married. Is 100% loyal to his spouse. Ultimately works in the Pentagon as an expert in computer science.

48-58

Lives off his pension while building a successful business.

57-64

Sells his business for at least a billion dollars. The best test of the success of a business is what someone will pay for it. Runs for and is elected as state senator or representative in his own state.

63-68

Runs for and is elected as governor of his own state. This is probably the most important qualification. No one should be president who has not governed a state.

67-70

Serves as Secretary of State for the United States. A prospective president must have national experience and foreign policy experience.

70

Runs for President of the United States. By this time, he is so knowledgeable and experienced that any decision he is confronted with will be nearly automatic. While he will have lived 70 years, he will still seem young and alert. I have met plenty of 70 year-olds who suffer no infirmity. This is what I expect from a president.

Like I said above, this is not the résumé of an ordinary person. This is the résumé of a superman. There are over 300 million Americans. Out of these 300 million, it is not unreasonable to demand such a person for our leader. The résumé of a prospective president should not be complete. It should not be merely exemplary. It should be vast.

Letters to Santa

29 Dec

Recently, I came across an internet page written by Doctor of Theology Terry Watkins. He explains, in no uncertain terms, that Santa is actually a representative of Satan and that having anything to do with him is intrinsically evil:

Santa Claus, The Great Impostor

Children think they are associating with a jolly old man with a good heart but, according to Watkins, “there [is] something or someone else hiding behind jolly ol’ St. Nick”. Interestingly, while this page eventually acknowledges that Santa, otherwise known as Saint Nicholas, was an actual historical figure to whom many miraculous acts and the origin of the Santa stories have been attributed, Watkins quickly dismisses this by claiming that there probably never was such a person. At this point, I am forced to remind Dr. Watkins that the very same kinds of arguments have been used to show that Jesus was not a historical figure. Interestingly, while we have absolutely no reliable relics to prove that Jesus lived, we have a hand-written transcript and the actual bones of Saint Nicholas. Since these bones were separated at one time into two lots and the lots have been compared to confirm that they are from the same man, they are even more compelling evidence that the man actually lived and that these are his actual bones.

The original Saint Nicholas was a broad dark-skinned man about 5 feet tall. As was the fashion for men in his station, he probably had a full white beard. If you were to put him in a modern Santa suit, he would probably look very much like the modern notion of Santa Claus. He had somewhat darker skin than most Caucasians tend to visualize, but skin color is relative; and to people of his time, he would have appeared to be your typical broad, jolly, white-bearded old man. By analyzing his bones, scientists have reconstructed his face:

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Nicholas is most often depicted as wearing the robes of a catholic bishop, and if you Google his image, you are met with a sea of red. I am somewhat skeptical as to whether a bishop of his nature living at that time actually had such elaborate garments, but I could be mistaken:

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The stories of Nicholas and the miracles he performed are diverse. However, he is most fondly remembered as a giver of gifts who famously dropped a bag of money down the chimney of a dower-less girl so that she could be married. The money bag landed in her recently washed stocking, thus giving rise to the stories about Santa leaving gifts in stockings. Of all the stories attributed to Saint Nicholas, this one is considered to be among the most likely to have some historical basis. Note that Santa preferred to give in secret, though he was occasionally revealed by accident.

If any of the stories about Nicholas are true, he was undoubtedly a good man who believed in the spirit of giving. He was certainly a Christian who believed in salvation through the blood of Christ. He was one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed. Due to the miracles attributed to him, he is officially recognized as a saint by most Christian denominations.

Something of which many non-Catholics and most non-Christians are unaware is that Catholics believe in the intercession of saints. In other words, they believe that it is proper to make prayers to saints in the hope that they will intercede on one’s behalf to invoke God’s favor. Many people, to this day, pray to Saint Nicholas for such intercession.

So, now I am going to play the same “what is really going on” game that Dr. Watkins plays. Children write letters to Santa. However, if his place as a traditional Saint is properly understood, these letters may be considered as prayers to a saint for intercession. Parents, who are aware of the contents of these letters, can be seen as acting on behalf of the Saint. They may believe they are acting on their own behalf for their children, but as every Christian knows, all good emanates from God. Thus, from a purely theological standpoint, this can all be seen as a very holy act of formal written prayer followed by the Saint ostensibly interceding through the parents to bring about a positive response from God.

Do saints actually exist in the sense that some religions believe and do they actually intercede? Is this interpretation of what is taking place endorsed by God?

Assuming that Jesus actually existed and actually said the things that are printed in the Bible, he is quoted as saying, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Unless Jesus was a fool or nonexistent, there is no mistaking his meaning. So let us take a look at the fruits that Santa has borne.

Many stories are associated with Santa. Some, such as the Rankin/Bass “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” swing wide of the historical mark. In the Rankin/Bass version, Santa is portrayed as an orphan abandoned to a bunch of elf toymakers and raised by the elves. Some, such as the more recent Tim Allen movies, completely replace him with human stand-ins. However, nearly all of these accounts have certain elements in common. They portray faith and generosity as powerful forces that can overcome adversity. They demonstrate that giving is more important than receiving. They emphasize truth, love and loyalty. One of the most common themes of such stories is that asking Santa for meaningful gifts such as healing a friend or rescuing a relative from desperation has greater power than asking him for expensive toys. If the concept of Santa Claus is to be judged from its fruits, I would have to say that it has borne positive fruit.

Naturally, I am taken aback by implications in some accounts that Christmas is overly dependent on Santa. In the Larry Roemer “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, Santa suggests that Christmas might have to be cancelled if he cannot make his rounds. However, there are just as many accounts to the contrary. In the Dr Seuss poem, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, the clearer lesson is that Christmas will come without Santa’s gifts and that it has a much higher meaning. Even the stories that suggest that the meaning of Christmas is closely tied to Santa have plenty of other strong spiritual messages.

Is Santa real? Does he actually intercede on our behalf?

If you are a Christian and do not wholly reject the concept of the intercession of Saints, it is very reasonable to believe that he is and does. Personally, I like to think that God is OK with other spiritual beings acting on his behalf as long as they do not take all the credit. If he is not, then we are all fools whenever we do a good deed.

I choose to believe that Santa is real. Like all real things, he is not quite like we typically imagine him. However, we are used to that. Most of us realize that nothing in the real world is as simple or straight-forward as our visualizations. Atoms are nothing like little solar systems, and the solar system does not have little rings showing the paths of planets that are close enough together to be seen in a single view. Similarly, Saint Nicholas may not operate in quite the fashion that children are presented with. However, if Nicholas really is with us, he really does listen to our prayers, and he really does intercede on our behalf, I like to believe that he is pleased with the depictions of him as a wise and jolly old elf that rides in a sleigh drawn by eight tiny reindeer. Possibly, he even had a hand in their invention. If nothing else, it obscures him as the intermediary of giving which, if the legends are correct, he would greatly prefer.

Maybe, sometimes, the jolly old saint manifests in the form of the man in red just to satisfy naïve believers. Like all miraculous spiritual phenomena, his manifestations in this form would be fleeting and subjective…possibly even illusory. Such is the way of the spiritual world. Such is the way of Santa Claus.