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News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 26th March

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 27, 2017 at 11:36 am

“The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.”
Steven Wright

1. A recovering Steve Maxwell began Mr B’s meeting for him while Mr B farted about parking his car. Steve had a good crowd ready for Mr B when he finally arrived.

Throughout the day members of the audience were invited to get up onto The ladder of Knowledge and speak. Each was given precisely five minutes (with a warning at the four-minute mark). The participants were Peter the Younger, Mirko (heaven help us), Uncle Pete, Albert, Mark the Grinner and Helmut. Every one of them did a good job.

Quokkas on Rottnest Island

2. Steve is having another op this week. We all wish you well, Steve. Have a speedy recovery.

3. A speaker
 suggested that the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is a right royal wally for saying to journalist Neil Mitchell: “Does giving everybody a $276 a night in travelling expenses in Canberra pass the sniff test? Yes, I think clearly it does, assuming you think that’s the right amount. As long as the cost is the same across the board it’s a fair system.”

Malcolm was referring to government frontbencher Michael McCormack’s habit of staying overnight in his wife’s investment property when visiting Canberra, and claiming the $276 entitlement from the tax payer. (He received $48,000 over three years.) Malcolm thought that was fair and reasonable.

Two grasshoppers valiantly tried to justify McCormack’s entitlement claim, but even they ended up joining the audience in taking a dim view of it.

Why isn’t the media highlighting the lack of integrity displayed by McCormack and Turnbull? Why isn’t there outrage?

By the way, if you are a politician living in Canberra you still get an $87 entitlement a night, ninety days a year.

4. The usual suspects plus Helmut
took turns to stand on The Ladder of Sensitivity to read a poem. (This scribe points out that they took turns so that our fervent reader does not mistakenly think all four men stood on the Ladder together and read a poem in unison. They didn’t. But maybe one day?)

Here is one of the poems:

5. Today’s assertiveness tip was ‘Don’t be a “Maybe”‘. When you say something like, “I might come back later” when you don’t have that intention, you undermine yourself. Both parties know it’s a lie, and you just look feeble and wishy-washy. For more information click here.

To make the point, Mr B gained Uncle Pete’s assistance in a role play set in a mens clothing store. But Mr B mistook Helmut for a mannequin, and things went downhill from there.

By the way, apparently you can buy a shirt at Target for $3.

6. The ‘Something nice’ segment, to charm some and irritate others.

7. The seven wonders of the world were briefly discussed.

8. To prove that success has no importance, Mr B claimed he hadn’t succeeded in life, but was still happy. But troublesome hecklers kept contradicting him, arguing that he was successful. They gave him compliments, and made statements similar to the one below. Poor Mr B.

9. There were two young women in the audience and Tony Boyce felt obliged to claim that they were wearing provocative clothing. Fortunately, the women had figured Tony out by then, and laughed off his observation.

Ah, Tony.

I guess Boyce will be Boyce.

10. Other subjects discussed:

– Just how much does an omniscient god know? Could it know what it’s like to be a mortal human being?

– There are four arranged marriages for under-age girls in Australia every week. Should the Muslim community be singled out? Do the media unfairly focus on the Muslim community?

– The parable of the carrot, the egg and the ground coffee beans. (Mr B tells me he is enormously grateful for Uncle Pete’s insightful and pertinent interjections questioning each segment of Mr B’s story with the might of science. The interjections added an extra dimension to the parable.) This scribe agrees. Had Aesop had a man like Uncle Pete by his side helping him write his fables, Aesop would now be a household name.

– The story of Farmer Brown and his dog at the gates of heaven.

– The story of ‘The Last Leaf‘ by O Henry. (I guess you could say it was the story of O.) To justify his telling of the story, Mr B tacked on a homily at the end. Gracious of him.

– Are psychics psychic? (Hint: Nuh.)

11. Postscript: When Mr Bashful complained to this blog last week about the ‘stitch up’ done to him on the Cyberhate documentary, this scribe thought he was being paranoid. But the producers sent him an email and here is an excerpt:  ” . . . the whole project was just a ruse to capture your one mistake to discredit you on national television.”

There! Mr B has his nemeses alright.

12. Our efforts to create a new social media platform, called BigChat, have stalled indefinitely, because we still can’t figure out what HTML is. So, keep going to our Facebook page.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 19th March

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 19, 2017 at 10:06 am

“I don’t like violence. I’m allergic to it. I come out in cuts and bruises.’
Jack Fraenkel

1. This week we promoted Speakers’ Corner. It’s part of our five-year plan to make Speakers’ Corner Australia’s best and most famous tourist attraction. (The five-year plan expires in April.)

Helmut did his bit. At 4am Tuesday morning  he got someone to clock him with the butt of a gun, and then he rang an ambulance. The media were soon broadcasting that  ‘a well known speaker at Speakers’ Corner has been attacked with the butt of a gun‘. Straight away, interest in Speakers’ Corner soared, with hits to this website going through the roof.

Well done, Helmut. Keep up the good work.

2. On the following night there was a glimpse of Speakers’ Corner on the ABC’s Cyberhate documentary, hosted by Tara Moss.

What was the result of that welcome publicity?

For a start, our Epiphany Specialist, Mr Bashful, has expressed dismay. He says that in his six years of being an infallible pillar of wisdom at Speakers’ Corner he has not once been wrong, except on just one occasion. And how is it, he wants to know, that on the day of that rare occasion cameras just happened to be rolling? And why, of all the hours of footage taken that day, and of all the hours in which he expressed his searing insights, did the film producers choose to include in their documentary just that one solitary blunder?

It’s a conspiracy, he claims. A stitch up. A coup. Obviously, the producers had planned this well in advance. They would have hired a think tank to examine his rock-solid arguments until a tiny flaw in his logic was found, and then employed the disarming Tara Moss to catch him out.

Why go to all this trouble to taint his reputation, he wants to know?

3. This scribe thinks that Mr B’s reputation wasn’t just tainted . . .

Apart from utterly destroying Mr Bashful’s reputation, the documentary was going to remind Sydney-ites that we’re still here. So, after the documentary concluded, did people rush to their computers to google “Speakers’ Corner Sydney?”  Was this site inundated with hits? Did this site crash, unable to handle the cyber traffic?

Well, no. On Tuesday this site received plenty of hits from people googling Helmut, but on late Wednesday night and on Thursday, after the documentary had aired, we received fewer hits than usual! Oh dear.

Ah, but after seeing Helmut’s antics on the news, and after watching Tara’s documentary, did people make a mental note to visit Speakers’ Corner on Sunday? Did they flock to Speakers’ Corner today? Did the speakers arrive at 2pm to find a madding crowd waiting for them? Were the speakers hailed like rock stars?


Were the crowds bigger than usual?


Even slightly?

No. They were smaller than usual.


4. How well did the book signing go? Not well. No one presented a book to have signed. (This suggests that the ‘5 book limit’ was unnecessary.)

Mr B was adamant that had this book been presented to him . . .

. . .  he would have refused to sign it. When he first read it months ago he claimed it was one of the most enlightening and absorbing books he had read in a long time. He is reading it again, studiously searching for flaws in Tara’s logic. When he finds a flaw he will announce it at Speakers’ Corner.

Here is some advice for you, Mr B: know when you’re beaten.

5. In short, it would be fair to say that Speakers’ Corner is impervious to publicity.

6. Mirko got up onto the Ladder of Knowledge for five minutes and talked about Mother Nature’s role in the end of the  Universe. Thanks, Mirko!

7. Two anti-vaxinators, Leigh and Renata, bravely took turns to stand on the Ladder of Knowledge and present their point of view. They spoke clearly and robustly without umming and aaahing, and coped well with the ire and the flak they received from the hecklers.  They did a good job!

They would probably be critical of the man below:

When asked why he didn’t patent it, he replied, ‘Can you patent the sun?’

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

9. Poems from Peter the Younger, Uncle Pete and Mr B. Even Nobel Prize winner (cough, snigger) Bob Dylan got a mention when this excerpt from his song, ‘The Masters of War‘ was recited:

I hope that you die
and your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand over your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead.

10. Today’s assertiveness
tip will be just as popular as last week’s, no doubt: Don’t use the term ‘Are you sure?’.

Bill: ‘Do you mind if I sit here?’
Jane: That’s fine.
Bill: ‘Are you sure?’

Bill: ‘Would you like a second helping?’
Jane: ‘No thank you.’
Bill: ‘Are you sure?’

In the first instance, Bill is afraid of being a burden to Jane. In the second, Bill is concerned Jane does not want to burden him. Either way, Bill has a ‘burden’ issue which will undermine him in other aspects of his life.

Although Bill’s intention is to appear polite and concerned, he appears weak. An assertive person would accept the person’s decision. When we immediately accept a person’s decision we give them respect. We assume their decisions mean something. Giving them that credit increases the connection we have with them.

For slightly more information click here.

11. Mr B told the story about Alice and the Dark Forest. Was that fear in the eyes of his grasshoppers when he came to the scary bits? Or were they just desperately trying to keep their eyes open?

Click here for the story about Alice and the Dark Forest.

12. Other topics discussed today:
– The merit of the implementation of The Richmond Report.

– The president of the ACTU, Sally McManus, suggested that it’s okay to break unjust laws. Is she right?

– The sexuality of transgender people.

– The two kinds of happiness.

– The source of anxiety.

– Mr Bashful’s ambivalent feelings about the homeless.

As usual, Helmut took The Ladder of Knowledge late in the day and kept the crowd entertained until it was time for us all to go home.

13. We now have an astonishing 48 subscribers on our Facebook page. Admittedly, that is 31,400 fewer than has Tara Moss.

And you can try our Archives.

Special News for Speakers’ Corner.

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 16, 2017 at 9:30 am

There is to be a book signing this Sunday!

If you were watching the Cyberhate documentary on ABC2 television on Wednesday night you would have glimpsed some of our speakers. The documentary was hosted by Tara Moss and she did a good job of it. Her only flaw was to outsmart speaker Mr Bashful.

As a result of their reinvigorated fame, the speakers will be signing books this coming Sunday at Speakers’ Corner.

There are very few books they won’t sign. Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint are probably two exceptions.

There is a limit of five books per person.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday, 12th March

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 13, 2017 at 10:49 am

‘Be not daunted by your life,
hit it with a fork and knife.’
P. S. Balding.

1. We don’t just live on a goldilocks planet, we live in a goldilocks city. The weather was perfect, and Steve Maxwell was up and about feeling much better! It seems our homeopathic prayers were answered. Steve spoke for a while before heading off to a Rationalists’ meeting.

2. One of the topics discussed today was the efficacy of natural medicines. Current medicines owe a lot to nature, yes, but does that mean natural medicines must therefore be efficacious? One grasshopper seemed to have that view.

There is, it was suggested, a big difference between ancient knowledge and ancient stupidity, and it’s important to differentiate the two.

3. Beware the Ides of March. That’s this coming Wednesday. Julius Caesar wasn’t careful on that day, and look what happened to him.

4. Word has it that if you watch the documentary, ‘Cyberhate‘ this Wednesday night, at 9.32pm, on ABC 2, you might catch a glimpse of two of our speakers. But remember, that day is the Ides of March, so be careful.

Of course, if you come to Speakers’ Corner you will  see a lot more of our speakers, and get to see them in 3D. And it won’t be the Ides of March.

This scribe will be watching the documentary. For some time now he has believed that one of the speakers possesses their own special ‘X’ factor that makes them mega movie superstar material. He believes this documentary could ‘discover’ them, and launch them  into a stellar movie career. Imagine seeing Mirko on the big screen! You read it here first, folks.

5. Poetry stalwarts Peter the Younger and Uncle Pete (no relation) stood on the Ladder of Sensitivity and presented poems, as did Mr Bashful. Here’s one from Uncle Pete:

6. Mark the Grinner, who is not interested in poetry, made damned sure the Ladder of Sensitivity had transformed back into the Ladder of Knowledge before getting up on it to speak. He did an excellent job critiquing our political and economic system, and entertaining the grasshoppers.

7. Ray, our fundamentalist Christian speaker, kindly stopped by to answer a question posed by Mr B. The question’s purpose was to “put Ray in an atheist’s shoes” so that he would understand what it’s like to be an atheist. However, Mr B’s frustration was palpable when he thought Ray wasn’t answering the question, and he disgraced himself by becoming overbearing.

Here’s a supportive message for you, Ray:

8. The subject of rape was broached. The speaker made the claim that if a young man is not perceptive enough when having a kiss and a cuddle with a young woman, he may end up having sex with her yet not realise she was not in full agreement with the plan. She might give in to having sex, yet feel awful afterwards. He, meanwhile, might assume that she was as interested as he was. Result: upon reflection, she might afterwards claim she was raped, and when he finds out that he has been accused of raping her, he might feel bewildered and angry.

As you might imagine, a discussion ensued! It was a grasshopper free-for-all. Should young women be more clear in what they want and don’t want? Should young men be more perceptive? Are we victim blaming? Where are the male role models? Does the influence of a positive male role model make any difference to a horny young man in the backseat of a car? How many bewildered young men have been charged of rape in a police station, and in America, ended up in jail? How many men are pressured into having sex with a woman when they haven’t wanted it?

Here’s something from the Postsecret website:


9. That discussion led to ideas about the best way to meet people.

10. Mr B gave a brief (though not brief enough) summary of the assertiveness tips explained so far. One grasshopper even remembered one of them! Today’s tip was: ‘Don’t live in Wimp City’. Don’t begin a sentence with wimpy words like,
– sorry  ( ‘Sorry, I have to leave now.’ Instead, try: ‘I have to leave now.’)
– I don’t think  (‘I don’t think I can allow that.’  Try instead, ‘I can’t allow that.’)
– Just wondering  (‘Just wondering, why is the sky white?’  Try instead, ‘Why is the sky white?’)

For more examples and more clarity click here.

11. The ‘Something Nice’ segment, to charm some and irritate others.


12. We discussed paradigms. According to Mr B, they’re core beliefs held not just by a person, but an entire society. Such beliefs are strong and pervasive. Our job, says Mr B, is to identify the paradigms influencing us, and try hard to free ourselves from the disabling ones.

13. Other subjects discussed:

– Liquid Natural Gas companies are selling the nation’s gas overseas, making gas dearer here in Australia. Is it right to have millions of Australians paying more for a necessary utility, so that the management and owners of the LNG companies can have bigger salaries, and make bigger profits?

– It is well understood by thinking Australians that homeopathy has no efficacy apart from its placebo benefits. So how do we explain the speaker’s extraordinarily coincidental non-placebonic “cure” of his eczema? Answer: we can’t.

– Trans fats, despite the speaker’s initial claim, are unsaturated fats and they’re bad for the body. Very bad. Far worse than saturated fats. You’d think our loving government would therefore enforce food manufacturers to not use them, or at the very least, force the manufacturers to reveal the trans fats on their ingredient labels. But nuh.
Domino’s Pizzas were asked twice if trans fats were in their pizzas. Twice they didn’t reply. What would that suggest?

– Materialism. Mr B praised it highly, saying that if no person felt the need to have new and better things, we’d all still be living in caves. It wasn’t the ascetics or poor people who created the extraordinary, interesting world we have today, it was the wealthy and the materialistic wanting things.
Of course, materialism has its bad side too, with pollution being one of them.

14. Here’s a Banjo Paterson poem.

15. It has come to this scribe’s attention that he has neglected to inform you that we have a Facebook page. That unforgivable infraction will be remedied immediately: we do indeed have a Facebook page.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 5th March

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 6, 2017 at 11:16 am

“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”

1. In 1915 Ernest Shackleton and his men were stranded in Antarctica when their boat, ‘Endurance’ was trapped in ice and crushed. They lived on seals and penguins for eight months before using three lifeboats to sail a long journey to Elephant island. Disappointingly, there were no elephants left on the island to eat, so Ernest and five others took one of the boats on a dangerous 16-day 1,300km voyage in huge seas to yet another island, inhabited by whalers. (Note: that’s ‘whalers’, not ‘whales’.)  Their journey overland to find the whaling station was one of the most tiring and bitterly cold journeys ever endured. But they got there. A boat was dispatched and all the men from the ‘Endurance’ were rescued.

In short, Ernest Shackleton was a man made of the right stuff.

This scribe was reminded of Mr Shackleton when Mr Bashful turned up today at Speakers’ Corner, defying the  drizzle and impending rain. It was a prodigious effort.

2. It must also be noted that Mr B’s crew of grasshoppers were just as hardy because they too bravely turned up. As it happened, all were spared: rain didn’t come, except for a few seconds that prompted umbrellas to open. It ended up being an enjoyable day.

3. Good news about Steve! The operation on his eyes has been a success after all, though he is still recovering. Get well soon, Steve!


4. Uncle Pete stood on the Ladder of Knowledge to answer the question: ‘Will Malcolm Turnbull still be Prime Minister at the next federal election?’ As usual, he was forthright and entertaining. He then talked about the vagaries of education and answered plenty of questions. Another good effort, Uncle Pete!

Sue the Unflappable also had a few words to say about education; in particular, the misconceptions some people have about schools. As did Jacquie the Patient One.

Thank you to the three of you.

The meme below sounds contrived and corny, but it also makes some good points.



5. Three poems today thanks to Uncle Pete, Peter the Younger and Mr B. And a heady diatribe from Mark the Grinner. Here is one of the poems:


6. And here is another poem recited on the day, by Uncle Pete. An evocative anti-war poem.


7. Today’s assertiveness tip was eagerly anticipated by . . . well anyway, it was this: Ensure your question is answered. Many people use a gamut of ways to avoid answering a question, and the person asking the question often lets them get away with it. Don’t let them get away with it. Cling to your mast. That is, focus ferociously on what needs to happen from now on. In this instance, it’s having your question answered. For more details, click here.


8. Mr B suggested that we have two complete societies in the one city, with each person working a three-and-a-half-day week in one society, or in the other. That would double employment, eradicate overtime and penalty rates,  increase leisure time, allow two parents to give their infant seven days’ child care, and make schools factories, sporting fields etc. productive for seven days instead of five.

Two economies competing against one another.

Careers requiring workers for the entire 24 hours, like the police, fire-fighters and paramedics, could still work within those parameters. There would be other modifications for schools.

But when it was suggested that each football code would have two leagues, one for each society, one bright spark objected to the idea of having two A-league soccer leagues. There was a murmur of agreement.


9. The ‘Something Nice’ segment. To charm some and irritate others.


10. Other subjects discussed:
– The merits of reducing and maintaining current penalty rates. One brave fellow gamely defended the reduction of penalty rates while  everyone else seemed to be against the idea. Well done, brave fellow!

– The foolishness of astrology and the thirteen constellations in the zodiac. The thirteen constellation, no longer used by astrologers, is Ophiuchus, The Serpent Holder.

– People with Disassociative Identity Disorder (formerly ‘Multiple Personality Disorder’) can have physical differences specific to a personality. For example, one personality had blurry eyesight and needed spectacles, whilst another personality (in the same body) had 20/20 vision! In another person, one personality was allergic to orange juice but the other three personalities felt no discomfort after drinking the juice. However, if the “allergic” personality emerged after the juice was drunk by the non-allergic personality, their body would suddenly break out in hives. And, one person was colour-blind, but their other personalities saw all the colours.
(It prompts the question: how many of our own health problems have we “manufactured”?)

– The seven planets orbiting a star 40 light years away. Could at least one of them have intelligent life? Could we ever find out? Mr B gave an emphatic ‘no!’ Whether he’s right or not . . .

– Xeno’s paradox is the idea that someone who begins a foot race behind someone else can never catch up to them, because by the time they have caught up to where the other person was, the other person has moved forward. Ad infinitum.


11. Before you go to our Facebook page, check out this clever move from a librarian. (Thanks, Glenda.)




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