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News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 26th February

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 27, 2017 at 11:01 am

“Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug.”
John Lithgow.

1. Something was up! It was as though half the audience had drunk some mysterious liquid that turned them into blithering idiots. And Mr B, always careful to label things accurately, let them know it.

Mind you, one or two (or three . . .) of his grasshoppers put forth the suggestion that Mr B’s policies were themselves idiotic. This scribe will let you be the judge. Mr B advocated that we:
– raise the legal age a person can be sold cigarettes by one year, every year. For the next eighty years.
– In the same way, we can use the next eighty years to create an entire city (Sydney?) in which there is no gambling, alcohol or cigarettes.
– No one gets an aged pension until they run out of money.
– Free five-star nursing home accommodation for the geriatrics who have not given birth to a child, or sired one.
– Only those who are between the ages of 25 and 39 can vote.

Personally, I think Mr B is ahead of his time.

The last word went to one young girl who tentatively put up her hand to say something. The beneficent Mr B took pity on the poppet and let her speak. She told him off for swearing. (The lass was referring to Mr B’s frequent propensity to call his grasshoppers ‘blithering idiots’.) Taken aback, Mr B pointed out that over half the audience were blithering idiots today, and it was not his fault that they were, and that by informing them that they were blithering idiots he was performing a necessary public duty.

He also pointed out that he wasn’t insulting members of the audience, merely making candid observations.

The young girl seemed unconvinced.

Mr B finally compromised by promising to not call her a blithering idiot.

He’s a classy guy, that Mr B.

2. Steve is still crook with wonky eyes and is awaiting another operation. But he is improving.

Get well soon, Steve!

Steve has written another article for his Passing Parade segment, and it’s below. We really are fortunate to have Steve, not just for his boundless charm, but for his public speaking and for the historical records he provides. He is an invaluable asset to Speakers’ Corner. Thank you, Steve!

Again, get well soon!

3. Uncle Pete almost bowled Mr B over by responding intelligently to a question. Mr B had asked, “Who here can name one of the assertiveness tips from the past five weeks?” Mr B was expecting the usual drool from the corners of his grasshoppers’ mouths, but Uncle Pete answered promptly and correctly. Mr B nearly fell off his ladder. Uncle Pete should be more careful, pulling surprises like that.

Today’s assertiveness tip was a reminder that we are not obliged to answer all questions. If a friendly sales person asks, “How are you going?” we can ignore our past’s conditioning to be polite and instead just ask them what they require from us. That way, we avoid letting them manipulate us into having a friendly conversation and making ourselves more vulnerable. And wasting our time.

Person: “Hi, my name’s Randy. How are you today?”
You: “Good, thanks . . . “  Wrong.
You: “How can I help you?”  Correct. You’ve ignored their question and now you’re directing the conversation instead of letting them direct it. You don’t need to frown when you say it and you don’t need to smile. Just focus on what needs to happen. In this instance, they need to state their business clearly and promptly.
Person: ‘Do you ever feel that you pay too much for your internet connection?’
You repeat: ‘How can I help you?’  Good. You haven’t answered their question and you’re still focusing on what is to happen.
Or, you could at this point simply apply another assertiveness tip:

You: ‘I’m not interested, thank you.’
Either way, instead of allowing yourself to be corralled into their conversation, you’re taking charge, firmly but politely.

For more detail click here.

4. Today’s contributors to the poetry segment were Peter the Younger, Uncle Pete, Albert, Mr B and Mark the Grinner, who chose to read the declaration aboriginal Burnum Burnum made when he landed on the shores of England in 1988:

“I, Burnum Burnum, being a nobleman of ancient Australia do hereby take posession of England on behalf of the Aboriginal people. In claiming this colonial outpost, we wish no harm to you natives, but assure you that we are here to bring you good manners, refinement and an opportunity to make a Koompartoo – ‘a fresh start’. Henceforth, an Aboriginal face shall appear on your coins and stamps to signify our sovreignty over this domain. For the more advanced, we bring the complex language of the Pitjantjajara; we will teach you how to have a spiritual relationship with the Earth and show you how to get bush tucker.

We do not intend to souvenir, pickle and preserve the heads of your 2000 of your people, nor to publicly display the skeletal remains of your Royal Highness, as was done to our Queen Truganninni for 80 years. Neither do we intend to poison your water holes, lace your flour with strychnine or introduce you to highly toxic drugs. Based on our 50,000 year heritage, we acknowledge the need to preserve the Caucasian race as of interest to antiquity, although we may be inclined to conduct experiments by measuring the size of your skulls for levels of intelligence. We pledge not to sterilise your women, nor to separate your children from their families. We give an absolute undertaking that you shall not be placed onto the mentality of government handouts for the next five generations but you will enjoy the full benefits of Aboriginal equality. At the end of two hundred years, we will make a treaty to validate occupation by peaceful means and not by conquest.

Finally, we solemnly promise not to make a quarry of England and export your valuable minerals back to the old country Australia, and we vow never to destroy three-quarters of your trees, but to encourage Earth Repair Action to unite people, communities, religions and nations in a common, productive, peaceful purpose.”

It has been said that on the conclusion of his declaration, Burnam Burnam said: “It’s too cold here, I want to go home.”


5. Raconteur Mirko climbed up onto the Ladder of Knowledge and again entertained the crowd with his wit, charm and striking ideas. Mirko is fast becoming the man for all occasions. If you need an MC for your wedding, funeral, Bar Mitzvah . . . Mirko is the guy to hire. His clever blend of 21st century science mixed with good old fashioned story telling will make your special occasion something to remember.


6. A man suffering arthritis interrupted Mr B by asking for $5.30 for a prescription he needed filled. Tightwad Mr B showed neither compassion nor mercy, telling the man to go to the hospital across the way to get it filled for free. Mr Tightwad had no intention of giving the poor man a few dollars to buy himself a drink.

Fortunately, Peter the Younger jumped in with a big dose of compassion and gave the man $5. The man grinned from ear to ear. Well done, Peter!


Peter the Younger

7. Unseemly comparisons were made today. At one point the speaker likened his audience to a flock of squawking cockatoos, and later, Jack said the meeting attracted visitors in the same way a car accident attracts visitors.

Come to think of it, the meetings are a bit like a car accident.


The audience today.

8. ‘The Something Nice‘ segment, to charm some readers and irritate others.



9. Christian speaker Ray kindly stopped by to answer a question. He was asked, “The wise men in the Bible stopped by to give Joseph and Mary gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. How much gold did Joseph and Mary receive and on what did they spend it?”

Ray had no idea and correctly said it was a ridiculous question.

10. Last year Mr B made the astounding
prediction that the civilised world will unravel in five years time (2021) due to global warming. Today he made another ridiculous prediction: that Donald Trump is on his way to suffering a severe nervous breakdown.

Both Mr B and this scribe hope his predictions are wrong.

11. Other subjects discussed:
– Why is domestic violence so common?
– Is aggression learned or innate? Nature or Nurture? Or both?
– Should someone who is about to own a dog have to pass a knowledge-of-dogs test first?
– Why is the RSPCA to be disrespected?
– What does “Coles Free Range Eggs” really mean?
– What is it like for an airforce navigator to have his plane shot down over Germany, and to parachute unconscious while choking on his tongue?
– Why do teenagers act rashly?
– What makes a good boss?

We also spoke about the conflict between reason and emotion.


12. Even the two most recent Speakers’ Corner dogs, Smoky and Oi, got a mention today, though Uncle Pete felt the need to ask if they were Catholic. Go figure.

Here are two of the Speakers’ Corner dogs back in the mid nineteenth century, when the Domain was popular. The dogs’ names are unknown.


13. This scribe’s BigChat social media  site is not yet up and running, but as soon as we figure out what HTML is, and how to program, we’ll have a site to make Facebook laughingly obsolete. Meanwhile, you’ll have to settle for our Facebook page.

14. Now and then, Steve Maxwell, overall legend and historian, writes an article about the Speakers’ Corners of the world. You can find all his articles in Steve’s Passing Parade segment. Here is his latest article, and it’s about Melbourne’s Speakers’ Corner.

Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade.

“The Atheist Call”, Queen’s Wharf, Melbourne’s Speakers’ Corner.

“Are there no savages in central Africa and if so, why do you not go to them instead of casting those doubtful pearls where no one wants them? Why don’t you go without purse, without weapons, without societies?”

 This was the challenge of Joseph Symes to evangelist Joseph Booth. It was to change the life of the evangelist. Booth was a willing participant in the Sunday evening debates at Queen’s Wharf, which was conveniently near Flinders Street Railway Station, Melbourne. It was a popular Speakers’ Corner in the 1890’s.
Booth and Symes had  radical views.  They had much in common, but not when it came to religion.  They admired each other, as they had come to their different world views in a similar way. They were locked into their separate efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Melbourne public.
Joseph Symes (1841-1906), was a secularist and publicist, born in England, into the Wesleyan faith of his parents. In 1871 he joined the Kilmarnock ministry in Scotland as a probationary cleric. It was during these years he married and began to question his faith. He questioned the mass slaughter of the Franco-Prussian war, the belief in God’s providence, and matters such as Papal infallibility. In July 1872 he refused ordination and resigned from the faith. Symes took an interest in the labour movement  and lectured at the Northern Union Mechanics’ Institute. In May 1876, he joined Bradlaugh’s National Secular Society.

Then, in the far-off  British colony of Victoria, Australia, the local Victorian  Secular Association asked Bradlaugh to send them an organiser. Bradlaugh sent Joseph Symes. Symes arrived in Melbourne with his wife on 1884. He began to publish a weekly newspaper, ‘Liberator’,  and provided his flock with secular meetings, sermons and Sunday schools. Symes fought against the parochial, wowserism of the times. The Lord’s Day Observance Society fought back and lobbied  the Victorian government to prosecute Symes and The Secular Association.  This harassment continued until the Association broke up in 1888. Backed by a faithful few, Symes struggled on with  the ‘Liberator’ and the Sunday meetings at Queens wharf.

In the colonial election of 1889, Symes ran for the parliamentary seat of  Collingwood and came last. This is not surprising considering his radical platform: land nationalisation, graduated income tax, the abolition of colonial titles and governorships, Sunday trading, legalised contraception, the ending of discrimination against Chinese, and Home Rule for Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Joseph Symes  retired in 1892 but continued to issue the Liberator until 1904. He died in 1906 while visiting England.

Joseph Booth (1851-1934) was born in Derby, England. His father was a Unitarian, but
by the age of fourteen, Booth questioned his father’s religious beliefs and, as he could not
live with those beliefs, left home. Over the next few years, Booth educated himself through extensive reading and, before he was twenty, turned to the Baptist Church.
He married in 1872 and in 1880. Booth emigrated to New Zealand and then to Melbourne, Australia, where he became a successful businessman. His business success helped develop his later views on self-reliance and the economic bases of missionary work. As he became more active in the Baptist Church, he became more fundamentalist in church teaching. However his view of capitalism was at odds with colonialism. He believed in a utopian a heaven on earth based on radical self-help.

Booth could not resist the excitement of public debating. He attended  the Sunday evening debates at Queen’s Wharf. The forerunner of the Melbourne’s Yarra Bank Speakers’ Corner. In 1891 he was challenged by the atheist Symes to practice what he preached, sell all his goods and go out to preach the word. Symes offered this challenge to Booth:
“Are there no savages in central Africa and if so, why do you  not go to them instead of casting those doubtful pearls where no one wants them? Why don’t you go without purse, without weapons, without societies?”
Booth called the Symes challenge at Queen’s Wharf  “The Atheist Call”. It changed Booth’s life. He had been thinking of becoming a missionary and wanted to put his ideas of self-help into practice. From 1886, Booth had become more active in his local Baptist Church and more fundamental in his beliefs. Booth sold his business in Melbourne and  agreed to become a missionary in East Africa. He left Australia in 1891 with his young family and started his missionary career, choosing to work in Africa. He aimed to set up the type of self-supporting Baptist mission pioneered by William Carey in India, combining teaching and commercial activities where the natives could become  self–supporting.  His short book, ‘Africa for the African’, published in America in 1897, sets forth many of his ideas.

His first attempt  in Nyasaland  met with opposition from the colonial authorities. In South Africa his plans were rejected. He was barred from central Africa in 1903. Yet he had many supporters who advocated an “Africa for Africans”. He moved to Basutoland where he could  work as an independent missionary. In 1915, one of Booth’s supporters, John Chilembwe, led an uprising in Nyasaland (Malawi.)  Booth came under suspicion and was deported from Basutoland to Britain. He was later permitted to return to South Africa, but when his health failed he went back to Britain and died there in 1934.

 Booth and Syme’s deaths passed unnoticed. Their contribution to radicalism in Australia and Africa has also passed almost unnoticed. What makes change can depend upon one’s meeting a challenge in the most unlikely places between the most unlikely people.

Steve Maxwell.

– Wikipedia; Joseph Booths (1851-1934) Missionary.
– Wikipedia; Josephs Syme ( 1841-1906 ) secularist.
– The Making of a Maverick Missionary: Joseph Booth in Australasia p 48
– Harry Longworthy, The Life of Joseph Booth .P23

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 19th February

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 20, 2017 at 12:09 pm

“You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.”

Sammy Davis Junior.

1. Mr B encountered a troublemaker even before the meeting had begun. Each week, when Mr B first arrives at Speakers’ Corner, he unloads from his car 30 chairs at the bus stop, and then drives off to find a parking spot. When he returns he carries the chairs from the bus stop to The Domain, and sets them up.

But today Albert appeared at the car and began to take the chairs as Mr B was unloading them. Mr B forbade him to take the chairs. Albert laughed in his face. Mr B then had to patiently explain to Albert that the chairs were private property, and for him (Albert) to take them it would be theft. Albert laughed again. Mr B remonstrated with him firmly and Albert finally agreed to not steal the chairs.

The trusting Mr B drove off.

When Mr B returned on foot  ten minutes later he found that Albert had flagrantly disregarded Mr B’s clear requirements. He had carried all 30 chairs across the road (six at a time!) and set them up for Mr B in the usual spot. And then he had gone to the kiosk to buy his wife Jean an ice cream.

Albert is 93.

2. Steve Maxwell is still malingering with his “eye trouble” but today we had four other speakers take the heat off Mr B.

Helmut was the first to replace him on the Ladder of Knowledge, purportedly to talk about the origin of the universe; and Gary the Christian followed him to present an alternate point of view.  Neither man got even close to talking about the universe’s origin, but nevertheless kept the crowd interested.

(Gary later took a platform across the way and continued speaking.)

Mr B took the Ladder again before Mirko got up. Mirko is a natural comic, and kept the crowd entertained for ten minutes.

Later, John August took the ladder to talk about the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership and its “merits”. John must know what he’s talking about because Mr B agreed with him. John displayed a thorough knowledge of the subject, and deftly answered questions from the audience.

There are other people there capable of being speakers, too: Uncle Pete, Mark the Grinner, and Peter The Younger, for example. But when you see only Ray and Mr B speaking at Speakers’ Corner, you might think Speakers’ Corner has a dearth, or paucity, of speakers.  Yet, if all the people who could speak became permanent speakers, we would have plethora of speakers. A surfeit, even. And Speakers’ Corner would be on its way to becoming a solid tourist attraction again.

This scribe will now put his thesaurus away and have a lie down.

3. Good luck Steve with your health issues. Get well soon.



4. The subject of Cold Reading came up. That’s the method frauds use to pretend they’re psychic. One grasshopper said she had visited a genuine clairvoyant who had told her things no one could have known. The staid Mr B patronisingly told her it was a trick, but what the hell would he know?

Here is a video of Derren Brown using cold reading.

5. A grasshopper actually asked to hear some poetry. Who would have thought? Obligingly, Uncle Pete, Peter the Younger, John August, Mr B and two anonymous grasshoppers contributed. The poems were appreciated by all.

One grasshopper requested the words to ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. This scribe figures she can google the title and find a million sites that have it, so here is one lesser known poem, by William Blake. Thank you to the man who recited it.

by William Blake.

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

6. A new segment: The Something Nice Segment, designed to charm some and irritate others. (Click to enlarge.)


7. John Edwards tours
 the world hosting events in which he “talks to the dead”. His methods were explained today, as was the method of a faith healer using an earpiece. See the video below.

8. Today’s assertiveness tip was as profound as the previous four. Mind you, when Mr B’s grasshoppers were asked to  name any of the previous four he received blank looks for his trouble. And a wisecrack. Poor Mr B. He should be awarded a sainthood for his patience and persistence.

This week’s assertiveness tip, he informs me, is: Be aware that you are not obliged to solve the other person’s problem. 

Now you, dear reader, can ignore that tip as well.

Here’s something else about being assertive.


9. We discussed the Monty Hall Problem, in which Uncle Pete was asked to guess which of the three face down Cards, A, B and C, was the Ace of Clubs.

He chose A.
Mr B, knowing where the Ace was, revealed one of the dud cards.
Mr B then asked Uncle Pete if he wanted to swap.
Uncle Pete wisely said ‘yes’. And that’s the weird bit, because although it seems as though swapping would make no difference to the odds – that Uncle Pete would still only have a 50% chance of choosing the Ace by swapping – he has in fact a 66.6% chance of choosing the Ace if he swaps, and only a 33.3% chance of choosing the Ace if he keeps the card he has.  For an explanation click here.


10. Other subjects talked about:
– The speaker spoke of his roommate of two years ago: a black spider that lived in the light mounting above his bed. Somehow, this story was meant to persuade us that we shouldn’t avoid challenges in life, and instead seek change instead of comfort.


– Mr B argued that the Church should not compensate victims of sexual abuse, unless it’s the Vatican itself doing the compensating (a suggestion from a bright grasshopper). He argues that the funds the Church would be giving away are those donated by the gentle, well-meaning parishioners, and why should they be punished? He also argues that we should double the Medicare levy to cover the cost of counselling for ALL those who need it.

– One reason for high house prices and the difficulty in finding rental accommodation is the Chinese buyers. According to an estate agent, many Chinese owners don’t let their newly built properties to tenants because they like to move into abodes which have not already been lived in. (It’s a cultural thing.) That exacerbates the rental problem. And, there are plenty of wealthy Chinese buyers who don’t mind paying inflated prices, which means they can outbid others.
According to Mr B’s grasshoppers, both the UK and Canada have created legislation to deal with that, but Australia hasn’t.

– What punishment should consumers of illegal drugs receive? Should narcotics be legalised? Here is a postcard from the PostSecret website:


11.  MySpace was once the big thing, and then along came Facebook. Well, soon Facebook will be shoved aside and made obsolete by this scribe’s new BigChat venture. Until then, however, you’ll have to make do with reading these posts on Facebook.



News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 12th February

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 13, 2017 at 11:30 am

“When we are gone, they won’t remember what you said or what you did. They will remember how you made them feel”.
Maya Angelou

1. This scribe felt a little guilty visiting Speakers’ Corner today, knowing that while she would be enjoying a leisurely afternoon, elsewhere, a big chunk of South Eastern Australia was being ravaged by bushfires. This scribe feels for the firefighters, and the gentle country folk midst the fires.

2. We missed legend Steve Maxwell today, who is out of the team with a dodgy eye. He will be out next week, too. Let’s hope we soon see him doing cartwheels and backflips.

Here is something to lighten your spirits, Steve:


3. Mr B, too cheap to go to a doctor, began his meeting by asking his grasshoppers for medical advice. I would have thought that to ask his grasshoppers for medical advice would be like asking bedouin nomads for an ice-cream recipe. Nevertheless, he was given advice and if we see  him next week, we will know that he took it. Or didn’t.

4. Gary the Christian returned! Today he grabbed a platform and a few chairs, and across the way bellowed about God. He was slow to get going, but showed guts and persistence, and soon he drew a small crowd. He kept them from then on, and finished the day with a croaky voice. Good on him!

5. In what way are women different to men? And why? This topic kept the crowd contributing for some time. Mark the Grinner took the Ladder of Knowledge to explain why men keep women subjugated. His reasoning: men know that given half a chance, women would quickly outshine them.
Mark said that half his speech was a ramble and might be rubbish.  Be that as it may, he kept the crowd entertained.

6. A merry joke was told:
A man is in the court’s dock charged with murder. The prosecutor says him, ‘You were caught red handed killing your wife with a spanner.”

A man in the gallery stands up and yells at the man charged, ‘You bastard. You utter, utter bastard!’

The judge bangs her gavel and orders, “Quite, please! Quiet in the gallery!”
The prosecutor continues: “And only ten minutes before you murdered her, you murdered her lover with that same spanner.”
The man in the gallery flies to his feet again and cries, “You bastard! Rot in hell!’
The judge bangs her gavel again and barks, ‘Sir, what is the meaning of this? Do not keep interjecting! If you have something to say, say it now, and then be quiet.”

Seething, the guy says to the judge, “Your Honour, I’ve been that man’s neighbour for fifteen years, and every time I asked him if I could borrow a spanner, he said he didn’t have one.”

7. The poetry recitation went well.
Uncle Pete read a beautiful and sad poem, but you’ll just have to trust this scribe because he can’t remember the title.

Peter the Younger also read a beauty: The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe. He even introduced the poem with some eerie organ music. It’s a great poem, but was it too long for an outdoor recitation? This scribe doesn’t know.

Mr B read a poem so simple it completely discombobulated Mark the Grinner, and that was a treat to watch.

Another poetry reading next week!

8. This week’s assertiveness tip? When you’re having an argument with someone, don’t follow Hollywood’s example and hang up on them, or state your case and then slam the door behind you. That’s not winning the argument, it’s just childish.

Instead, talk it through, and if you still can’t come to a resolution, at least leave respectfully, with the other person’s grace.

Click here for a slightly longer explanation.

9. Mr B used a print-out of a smiley face and an imaginary teddy bear to explain why androids will never rise against the human race. He also used a thought experiment devised by John Searle:

Imagine yourself in a room with a pile of cards, and each card has printed on it a different Chinese character.
From outside the room, someone pushes a card through a slot in the door. On the card is a question, written in Chinese. Your job is to find from your pile of cards the card which will answer the question. Then you push that card through the slot to the person outside.

You can’t read Chinese, but fortunately you have a guidebook that indicates which card to respond with. But you don’t have a clue what’s going on.

An outside observer might mistakenly conclude that within the room is an intelligence. But they’d be wrong. It’s just you.

An advanced android would act in the same way: the processor in its room has no idea what’s going on, but it would give the impression it has intelligence and emotions. No matter how human-like it might appear to be, that android can only ever be a mindless processor with nothing inside.

At the rate we are going, one day we will have an android indistinguishable from a human being. It might cry, rage, sulk, laugh and show fear, like we do. It might even be programmed to convince us that it feels all those things. Yet inside it will be a room of processing chips and nothing more. It will have no more humanity than a fold-up chair.

For an android to become like us, or rise against us, it would have to develop consciousness and emotions, and we aren’t even close to beginning that side of it. We are not yet even at the starting line.


10. Other subjects talked about:
– Weasel expressions, like when the church claimed that it had “failed to protect the children in its care”.  They didn’t fail, because they didn’t even try to protect them. As one alert grasshopper pointed out, “They succeeded in protecting the priests.”

– What’s a good way to sell a vanilla slice? (Answer: display the price!) But it works for other cakes too, you dill!

– C.P. Snow’s observation that people who study the Arts often have little understanding of science, whereas people who study science also immerse themselves in the Arts.

– Tonight is a television program based on the life of entertainer, Paul Hogan. Yes, that’s the same guy who chose to use his persona to make money by advertising cigarettes, and the same guy who suggested to troubled youths that having a bigger knife will make you a bigger man.
Someone wondered if his bitter fight with the Taxation Office has been resolved.
A lovely chap, that Paul Hogan.
(When he painted the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I bet he missed bits.)

11. There has been concern lately about fake news on Facebook. This page goes to Facebook. Enough said.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 5th February

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 6, 2017 at 11:48 am

“The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.”
Eldridge Cleaver (Soul on Ice)

1. It was around 38º celsius today (320º centigrade) or for our American friends, 167º Fahrenheit or -67º Kelvin.) Thankfully we had the shade of a colossal Morton Bay Fig tree to be under, and the day was still pleasant.


2. Mr B tentatively put forth the idea that we should change the voting system so that a party could only win government if it won in a landslide. (The incumbent government would stay if they didn’t lose by a landslide.) Currently, political parties are so fearful of losing the next election that they’re afraid to implement controversial policies. They just ‘tread water’. But with this new system, they can focus on getting things done.

Mark the Grinner suggested an even better idea: anyone can go for the job as premier, knowing that at the end of their term they will be put to death if the public isn’t happy with their effort. That way, only those who know their stuff, and who are determined to implement their ideas for the betterment of the state/country, will apply for the job.

Such thinking is sure to interest quality think tanks.

3. We heard four poems today.Aunt Jane‘ was read by Peter the Younger, Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem,  ‘Jabberwocky‘ was read by Uncle Pete, Billy Collins’ ‘Forgetfulness‘ was read by Mr B, and Pia recited the following, to the initial consternation of the audience (click to enlarge):


Pia received a hearty laugh when she concluded.

Mr B says there will be another poetry reading this coming Sunday, but he suspects that his grasshoppers are running out of favourite poems to recite.
How about you? Do you have a poem you can bring along and read?

Below is a drawing of the Jubjub Bird, one of the characters found in the poem, ‘Jabberwocky’.


4. We examined Robert Frost’sThe Road Not Taken‘ and that went well enough, but Mr B tells me there won’t be another poem this coming Sunday. He figures his grasshoppers might like a break from studying a poem.

5. Mr B tried four improvisation theatre-games with his grasshoppers, and a few brave souls stepped forward and had a go. They did an excellent job. The games were:
(i) Three people speaking in one voice had to answer questions put to them. It turns out they were a biochemist who could sing their catchy advertising jingle!
(ii) A scene for three in jail, in which two of the cast members could only speak two lines. Click here to see an example.
(iii) Questions only. When you speak it must be a question.
(iv) Opera. The actors act a scene, and when the director says so, they start singing.

6. We had two extra speakers today. Philip Feinstein, from the musicforrefugees website, got up onto the Ladder of Knowledge and gave us snippets of his recent trip to Christmas Island. However, he had signed a confidentiality agreement, and to his credit he stuck to it: he refused to speak about his experiences in the refugee detainee centre on the island. But we did learn a little about the crabs there. Philip was, as usual, interesting.

And, ‘Mark the Grinner’ also got up. He began his talk by explaining that he had attended 28 schools as a youth. (Thankfully, no one unkindly suggested that it was his 28 attempts to pass 1st grade.) Mark soon ventured into the topic of self-esteem, and along the way took a few cracks at former Prime Minister, John Howard. Mark is an entertaining speaker and we hope to hear more of him too.


7. With today’s technology, scientists can measure distances shorter than a billionth of a millimetre, and incredibly short periods of time. So, this scribe likes to think that there is technology out there, with similar sensitivity, that could measure the disappointment felt by Mr B’s grasshoppers when they learned there was no time left for this week’s assertiveness tip.

It was after 5pm, and it was time to hear from Helmut.

8. Other subjects discussed:
– the non-existent sex life of some married couples. It was suggested that it may be not uncommon.

– Today we had a visitor, Nina, from the Radio Station 2SER. Nina recorded Steve Maxwell speaking about free speech, and then recorded Mr B’s grasshoppers’ views on the subject. Stay tuned.

silly-questions9. Don’t read all this again here. Instead, go to our Facebook page and read it all again there.

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