Wednesday: Hili dialogue

It’s Wednesday, September 21, and the “food day” holidays have reached their nadir with National Pecan Cookie Day. I doubt that any reader here will eat one. Getting to the larger events on this day in history, in 1897 the New York Sun published its famous “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter, helping inspire, I’m sure, dozens of Christian apologists.  The Sun‘s response, evoked by an inquiry from an 8-year-old girl, is given below. It could have been written by someone like C. S. Lewis, but substituting the word “God” for “Santa Claus” and leaving out the chimney bit. It even extols faith and says the world would be meaningless without Santa! Have a look:


Speaking of fantasy, on this day in 1937 J. R. R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit was published.

Notables born on this day include the great mountaineer Hermann Buhl (1924), killed by falling through a cornice on Chogolisa in Pakistan in 1957. He’d made the first ascent of Nanga Parbat, finishing it solo and bivouacking overnight at atltitude because he was caught out late. Leonard Cohen was born on this day in 1934, Stephen King in 1947, and Bill Murray in 1950. Those who died on this day include Walter Brennan (1974) and Florence Griffith Joyner (1998, epileptic seizure). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has taken to sleeping upstairs on the guest bed.

A: You have become very fond of this place lately.
Hili: The guests come and go but bedding stays.

In Polish:

Ja: Bardzo polubiłaś ostatnio to miejsce.
Hili: Goście przyjeżdżają i wyjeżdżają, a pościel zostaje.
Lagniappe: from Dangerous Minds, via reader T. Fife, we have the face of Charles Darwin seen in a patient’s eye scan. Pity the person can’t charge others to come see it!


  1. busterggi
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    ” in 1897 the New York Sun published its famous “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter, helping inspire dozens of Christian apologists.”

    Damned mainstream media.

  2. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    ‘Not believe in Santa Claus? You might as well not believe in fairies!’

    Says it all, really.


    • eric
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Yep, I love that bit. It shows a whimsy that I think is often missing from today’s discussions. Clearly, the author (authors?) were perfectly aware of what they were doing and didn’t think there was any harm in it. I expect many atheists today would be horrified with that attitude.🙂

  3. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    ‘THE SUN’

    This is obviously not the Sun to which I am accustomed. (To quote Maxim: “On November 17, 1970 […] The Sun, the newest addition to Rupert Murdoch’s expanding publishing empire, put a nude photo of German model Stephanie Rahn on page three under a headline no one read. This struck roughly half of The Sun’s readership as a really good idea ”


    • Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      I used to work with a bunch of “English job-shoopers” (ex-pat. Englishmen contract engineers who came the USA in the 60s and 70s and stayed).

      Any time one of them went back to the UK, he was expected to return with at least one copy of the Sun for page 3 viewing (“here comes the page 3 girl!”). I’m quite sure they never looked at any of the rest of it.

      • Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:16 am | Permalink

        “Job-shoppers” Must. Proof. Read. (Some day.)

        • Doug
          Posted September 21, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

          Benny Hill joke;

          Teacher: “What is the hottest part of the Sun?”
          Student: “Page 3!”

  4. Christopher
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Pecan cookie day? Let me know when it gets to National Pecan Pie day. THAT is a day I can really tuck into, especially if it’s my grandmother’s pie, but she only makes that for us around Thanksgiving.

    But, the question is, how do readers pronounce “Pecan”? I go for peKAhn, as in Madeline Kahn, or as “puhkahn, rather than the amusing, mostly southern “pee-can”, or as Gordon Ramsey says, “peak-in” (well, he probably says g*$#&$^ F*&$^ing peak-in pie).

    • James Walker
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      As a true Canadian, I front the second vowel: pee-CAN🙂 If it occurs in combination with another vowel, the stress shifts: PEE-can pie.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      I say pee-can, but I might have to change if that means I sound like George W.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    … the “food day” holidays have reached their nadir with National Pecan Cookie Day. I doubt that any reader here will eat one.

    I’m not much for sweets, but those Sandies Pecan Shortbreads aint’ half-bad. Now that you’ve tossed down the gauntlet, I might have to pick up a package out of pure orneriness.

    • Rita
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      They’re “Pecan Sandies”, and YES, they are good. I think I’ll also buy a package today.

    • busterggi
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      One of my favorite cookies!

    • W.Benson
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Jerry has perhaps never eaten a pecan date-nut bar, although technically it may not be a cookie.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Hili finds lots of places to rest with such a busy schedule. A sure sign of intelligence.

    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Our cat, Holly, loves the second set of bathroom rugs, which live on top of a chest of drawers in the guest bedroom (why put them in the chest when they’ll be on the bathroom floors next week, and the ones there will be in the wash). Height and something freshly washed!

  7. Dominic
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    H.G. wells – hi 150th birthday! Taught by Huxley no less, & a great futurist…

    Also the birthday of Savonarola… bonfire of the vanities.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Leonard wasn’t the only Cohen born on this date. Just heard on the radio that today’s the birthday of Ethan, the younger half of the great filmmaking duo the Cohen brothers, makers of Lebowski (and maybe a couple other moving pictures, I hear).

    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Coen, not Cohen.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 21, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

        You’re right; and I knew that, but forgot it somehow. What I get for not looking it up. Pretty sure I got the birthday part right at least.

  9. rickflick
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    “…National Pecan Cookie Day. I doubt that any reader here will eat one.”

    Give me a chance, I’m finishing the last of my butterscotch pudding.

    • Christopher
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      I bought some butterscotch pudding…and forgot to make it. D’Oh!

      • rickflick
        Posted September 21, 2016 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        It’s still not too late. They grant a significant grace period.

  10. Sastra
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Theists not only get offended when atheists compare believing in God to believing in Santa Claus, they often become scornful and even amused. Why, what could better show that atheists don’t understand God than this puerile and ridiculous analogy? God is nothing like Santa Claus. Old Man in the Sky With a Beard. Pshaw.

    But the ‘Yes, Virginia’ letter is, as Jerry points out, a perfect example of the need to believe, and how faith is defended against The World. It’s sophisticated apologetics.

    • eric
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Meh, I don’t see it that way. The reference to fairies is pretty clearly tongue in cheek. Or do you think they were seriously saying disbelief in fairies is preposterous?

      IMO the authors are defending make-believe in Santa, not serious belief in him. Now, many atheists today might think that its not just ‘harmless fun’ to tell their kids Santa is real. That’s fine. But still, the argument ‘I think its okay to let your kids believe in Santa’ (what the authors are communicating to the adult audience) is not the same sort of argument as ‘I think its rational for adults to believe in Santa’ (which would be actual apologetics).

      • Sastra
        Posted September 21, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        The claim that “when you stop believing, you lose something pure and precious” is applicable to fairies, Santa, angels, and God. This is belief in belief, as Dennett calls it. And the refusal to entertain ‘possibilities’ — to believe in something asa the say — is I think directly related to the common assumption that atheists lack the capacity of wonder and joy.

        Of course, my analysis here may be skewed as usual by the fact that I actually know people who believe in fairies — and/or respect those who do. They’d never agree that their beliefs are obviously “preposterous.”

  11. Posted September 21, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    One of the few good things that came out of this is the paper “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Real World”. Alstom (the author) is a Christian, but his defense of metaphysical realism is secular enough.

  12. Barney
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Just in case you haven’t seen this yet, and non one else has told you, Professor Ceiling Cat (a very low chance, I think), this looks like your kind of article:

    How cats conquered the world (and a few Viking ships)

    First large-scale study of ancient feline DNA charts domestication in Near East and Egypt and the global spread of house cats.

  13. Another Tom
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    When I was little my big sister started picking on my little brother and I for believing in Santa. She stated that only dumb little kids believed in Santa. Then our mom told her that only people who believe in Santa get presents from him at christmas. My sister suddenly started believing in Santa again.

    My siblings and I now buy our primary gifts from Santa with an extra gift from our mom, but if you ask my sister if Santa exists I bet she would say yes.

  14. Posted September 21, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I like the “Yes, Virginia” letter. Reminds me of a favorite fantasy novel, Pratchett’s “Hogfather”.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted September 29, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      Having jut put a volume of Pterry’s shorter works back to the library, I do feel the need to re-read Hogsfather. Maybe I’ll do it over the winter solstice holiday season.
      Would you like a “bah” with your “humbug”?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 30, 2016 at 2:20 am | Permalink

        One of his best novels, IMO.


  15. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    The problem I have with the letter is how male-centric the language is, especially as it’s a letter to a girl. It’s also effing patronising. I can’t help but wonder if the same letter would have been written to an 8-year-old boy.

    Yes, I know that’s just how things were then, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Is it any wonder so many girls grew up believing men are supposed to be in charge in all circumstances when this sort of attitude surrounded them so completely?

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: