Soapbox Speakers

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News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday May 28th.

In News for Speakers' Corner on May 29, 2017 at 12:07 pm

“There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
John Heywood

1. 92 year old Albert carried all 32 chairs from the bus stop while Mr B stuffed about parking his car. But Albert cheated, taking only six at a time.

Albert is one of a number of individuals who help make Speakers’ Corner what it is.

“Well, what is it?” you ask.

It’s a bunch of people arguing.

2. Steve Maxwell was in good form. He has considerably perked up since recovering from his operations. We mean ‘perked up’ in the positive sense.

Steve mainly talked about the overly expensive $9 billion motorways being built in Sydney by Westconnex. “Those motorways are supposed to  solve traffic jams, but they won’t,” Steve explained.  His reference was David McRaney’s book,  “You can beat your brain“, chapter 2. “Common belief fallacy”.

Steve also explained to a group of English-speaking Chinese tourists what Beijing was like in 1974. (Steve had visited the place with his communist uncle.) The tourists were fascinated to learn what Beijing was like 43 years ago.

From the 'Everyday Life in Maoist China' blog

Party leaders celebrate May Day in 1974

3. Last week Mr B incorrectly stated that birds are not dinosaurs, and two grasshoppers swooped on him like a pair of raptors. To them, his claim was no less inflammatory than a bushfire. Mr B said he’d check his facts.

Today he reluctantly admitted that he was wrong: birds are dinosaurs. The words fell from his lips like stones. There was no enthusiasm in his voice, no grace. But as promised, he did eat humble pie and admitted he was wrong.

This scribe might tone down the metaphors and similes a little.

This perspicacious scribe could tell Mr B still wasn’t fully convinced that birds are dinosaurs. “If we have to take the boffins’ word for these things”, he said, “then presumably a pomologist boffin wouldn’t complain about having tomato in her fruit salad. (Thanks, Glenda.)

4. Speaking of dinosaurs, Mr B might like this picture of one:

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

6. It has been 50 years since a referendum was passed to include Aborgines and Torres Strait Islanders in the national census, and to allow the Commonwealth government to make laws for them. This acknowledgement prompted a robust discussion about the stolen generation.

No agreement was reached, but let’s never forget the treatment Aborignes and Torres Strait Islanders have endured.

7. And, with regards to that referendum 50 years ago, it can be no coincidence that in that same year, the Beatles released one of the most famous albums of all time, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“.

Let’s not forget how the Beatles inspired thousands of adoring followers to try drugs themselves. The Beatles: the greatest drug “pushers” in history.

And they were offered knighthoods???

At least Ringo Starr did some penance by narrating the television program, Thomas The Tank Engine, for two years. That’s some comfort, I guess.

8. Peter the Younger read a poem written by World War I poet, Siegfried Sassoon. Thank you, Peter!

And this anti-war poem is from poet Mary Gilmore:

9. In most instances, a favour is a favour. If we do a favour for someone we shouldn’t expect a favour in return. However, sometimes we are asked to help someone who may not respect our time or our money as much as we’d like. If we choose to comply with their request, this week’s assertiveness tip says we should expect something in return. Something in particular.

For example, if someone close to us wants to borrow money to start a business, it’s only fair that we ask to see a business plan. If someone repeatedly asks us to give them our time, let’s ask them to give us a written account of the steps they’re taking to correct their frequent problem.

It’s fair and reasonable to expect such ‘payments’. And, when the person has to prepare for you a blueprint of the solution, they get to discover that solution for themselves.

10. Other subjects discussed:
– To create affordable housing, should the State government build units alongside the railway lines and above? That would have the trains effectively run tunnels of apartments. If so, as one grasshopper asked, could track maintenance still be carried out?

Triple J, the ABC’s radio station for young people, would say it’s against all forms of discrimination. Yet you will never hear old people on Dr Karl’s science program. That’s because the producers don’t take phone calls from older people. That’s ageist, isn’t it, Triple J?

– Six people spoke on the Ladder of Knowledge today: Mr B, Firey Jean, Helmut, Tony, Viktor Zammit and Mirko.
Albert also spoke, but mainly from his chair. Albert has learned the exquisite skill of changing the subject to suit himself. He has learned well from The Master, Tony Boyce. Oh dear.
Thank you to all the speakers for their contributions.

– Someone asked Mr B’s opinion about whether or not Schappelle Corby was guilty twelve years ago. Mr B expressed exasperation and refused to answer the question, adding that he didn’t know the answer anyway.

– Anyone who applies to go to Mars should be rejected, simply because they are silly enough to apply. We shouldn’t send silly people. So said Mr B. He painstakingly explained why the idea of colonising Mars is absurd and effectively impossible. That didn’t stop a few grasshoppers claiming that similar predictions have been wrong before. To them, Mr B would point to the quote at the very beginning of this post.

If you had the opportunity, would you travel to Mars? Bear in mind that you would be suffering the disadvantages of weightlessness and solar radiation: atrophied muscles, brittle bones, high blood pressure, kidney stones, visual impairment, persistent backaches, loss of congintive function, cataracts, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Not to mention the pyschological problems associated with boredom, lack of privacy, anxiety and likely depression.

“And once you got to Mars, and managed to survive the landing,  it gets worse,” says Mr B.

NASA and SpaceX are working on solving those problems, but Mr B says it’s unlikely that they will. And anyway, those problems are just the beginning.

He’s a cheery sod, that Mr B.

11. There is no escape from the bird/dinosaur discussion on our Facebook page, so avoid that page if you can.

While you’re at it, avoid our Archives page too.


News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday May 21

In News for Speakers' Corner on May 22, 2017 at 12:04 pm

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

1. As soon as he began the meeting, Mr B gave us a sob story about how he can’t always get his facts right when he’s answering questions for which he hasn’t prepared. And he complained about the pressure he feels each week to provide new and accurate material for his regular attendees, but admitted that he refuses to spend the time necessary to prepare enough flawless material for a three hour stint. As a result, he muddles through some subjects and leaves himself open to being proven wrong.

One grasshopper agreed, calling him a “model of courageous imperfection”.

Perhaps Mr B’s ‘confession’ was supposed to pull at our heart strings, but none of our heart strings, valves or ventricles gave a damn about his soapbox oratory problems. So, we waited patiently for him to finish his mea culpa and then got stuck into him with the first wrong thing he said.

That first wrong thing he said was when he claimed that birds are not dinosaurs, contrary to popular belief. He said that although birds evolved from dinosaurs, they have evolved too much to still be dinosaurs. He promises to check his facts and eat humble pie at the next meeting if he’s wrong. (It’s not looking good for him.)

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

3. Philip Feinstein stood on the Ladder of Knoweldge and gave an interesting talk about anti-semitism in Australia. In one example he described how  schools and synagogues hire security guards to vet people entering.

His audience asked him if other religions have similar problems, and more than one grasshopper asked if there might be an ‘Us and Them’ mindset within the Jewish community with prejudices of their own, and which can sometimes verge on paranoia. Philip answered his questioners well.

It was a calm and interesting discussion, and Philip even managed to deal with interruptions from Mirko and one interminable question from Tony. Philip is welcome any time.

Philip helps refugees in detention centres pass the time by supplying them with musical instruments. Click here for his website: Music For Refugees.

4. Two snot-gobblers sitting in the audience also wanted to speak, but they had disappeared by the time it was their turn. One of the lads had hoped to speak about Esperanto, which he said was ‘the world’s best language’. Mr B wanted to know how it came to be the world’s best language when after 130 years, less than 0.003% of the world’s population speak it. He suggested that one criterion for making it the ‘world’s best language’ should be that a sizeable chunk of the globe’s population actually use it.

He’s a pain, that Mr B, when he nips a youth’s enthusiasm in the bud.

We hope the two lads come again and speak.

5. Assertiveness tip number 18: Ask for help. Apparently, being assertive doesn’t mean being harsh and independent. It’s about resolving situations respectfully.

And asking for help is one good way to do that.

When a monk asks a passer-by for a meal he isn’t abrogating responsibility if he doesn’t expect the food, and if he doesn’t resent the passer-by for not supplying it. Indeed, by asking for help under those conditions he is taking responsibility. In the same way, we take responsibility when were are assertive enough to ask for assistance, provided we don’t expect that assistance or resent not getting it. And on those terms, in rejection we have the opportunity to build resilience.

Further, if someone complies with our request, we receive the message that we are worthy. It’s one more briquette towards fuelling our own self worth.

For more information try, ‘The Umpteen Ways To Satisfy Our Deep Need to Belong

6. The question, “Is there life elsewhere in our solar system?” seems to be frenetically asked by scientists nowadays. Mr B asked the question no one else seems to be asking: ‘If there is, so what?’

7. Other subjects discussed:
– Two poems were read in our poetry segment, though for some reason neither poem received a standing ovation.

– We talked about the mentally ill woman who died from brain damage after falling onto the floor of a mental hospital twenty times, while covered in faeces. It’s all very well for us to express outrage when such things happen, but precisely what really would be the most humane way to deal with that patient? The suggestions put forth were  lame.

– An epidemic: when we make enquiries of organisations, those organisations rarely get back to us. In March, Mr B contacted five guttering companies, three Consumer Question hotlines, two publishers and a two government departments, and not one of them answered him. But you know what it’s like, don’t you? You have your own examples.

– For the first time, Peter the Younger got up onto the Ladder of Knowledge to speak, so that he could ram home his point that birds are dinosaurs. Sigh. It was a topic that kept jumping up throughout the day.

Next, Peter will be using the photo below as proof that cats are dinosaurs too. Oh dear.

8. There is no proof that Mark Zuckerberg, host of our Facebook page, is a dinosaur. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that our hecklers are.

For previous posts, dating back to the Cretaceous era, go to our Archives site.



News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 14th May

In News for Speakers' Corner on May 15, 2017 at 10:38 am

“Yesterday is a cancelled cheque. Tomorrow is little more than a promisary note. Today is cash. It is real. It is tangible, and you and I have to spend it wisely.”

1. The drizzle before 2pm didn’t scare away our speakers and it turned out to be a beautiful Goldilocks day.

Mr B had barely stepped onto the Ladder of Knowledge when Ray and Helmut got into a D & M. (Not to be confused with an S & M, which was for later, presumably.) Mr B figured that if Helmut wanted to debate with Ray, then he might as well stand on the Ladder of Knowledge and do it. Helmut agreed, and he was soon entertaining his audience so well that Mr B found himself grabbing a few chairs and setting up elsewhere.

He soon found a handful of fresh grasshoppers willing to listen.

Ray spent the entire day in Helmut’s audience. (No one was sitting on the wet chairs of the kiosk, so there was no audience for Ray.) He seemed to enjoy his ‘holiday’ from saving people’s souls.

Steve Maxwell drew big crowds all day, spending most of the afternoon discussing the winners and losers of the Federal Budget.

With all three speakers holding crowds it was like Speakers’ Corner of old.

Mirko was as troublesome as ever. You can understand why some animals eat their offspring.

It was a very enjoyable day.

Helmut and Ray discussed science and religion amicably.

2. The something nice segment. To charm some and irritate others.

3. Mothers’ Day poem.

4. Other subjects discussed:

– Mr B explained to a Jewish man why there is no such thing as a jew, and explained to a French lass why there is no such thing as a French lass. And, he told an Englander why there such a thing as an Englander. All three took the sad news well.

– The God Particle.

– The meaning of life. Guess whose Meaning of Life involves a white hollow bust of a good hearted devil? And, when one grasshopper pictured an ocean full of goldfish, what the hell did that mean?

– The origin of the universe.

– Eat your veggies.

– The hardship suffered in North Korea.

– James Hardie should NOT compensate ex-employees suffering asbestosis or mesothelioma. (Yes, that old chestnut.)

– Mr B told two shy little girls how to get over their shyness, and why they should. Eventually they overcame their shyness and asked him a question, just to shut him up.

5. Our Facebook page has not yet suffered the ransomware cyber attack that has beleaguered countless people in 150 countries. Nor has our Archive site. Make use of them while you can, because this scribe is damned sure he won’t be paying any ransom.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 7th May

In News for Speakers' Corner on May 8, 2017 at 12:52 pm

“Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: ‘For my sake was the world created.’ But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: ‘I am but dust and ashes.
Rabbi Simcha Bunim

1. It was a quiet day for two reasons: (1) Steve Maxwell wasn’t there (because he was feeling poorly) and (2) There were fewer people around, possibly due to the May Day march nearby and its concomitant traffic problems.

It was a poor day to stay away, because Mr B presented to his grasshoppers a sneak preview of the federal budget, which will be officially revealed this Tuesday night by Australia’s Federal Treasurer, Scott Morrison. How Mr B obtained a copy isn’t clear.

It presents good news! Mr B went through the document, line by line, revealing Scott Morrison’s unorthodox but brilliant economic policy. On Tuesday night every person glued to their television set will be pleasantly surprised and impressed by Mr Morrison’s innovative measures. The treasurer will be providing us all with a $247b turnaround to Australia’s ailing fiscal position! As a result of this budget the deficit will be wiped clean and a big chunk of Australia’s debt will vanish. At this rate, in a little over four years Australia will have no debt. Well done, Scott Morrison! Your budget is bold and brilliant. It will be talked about for years.

Tuesday May 9th will be remembered as the day Australia took a stand and turned its future around!

The presentation would have been even better had Mr B provided a pie chart similar in style to the one below.

2. For the first time in this blog’s twenty year history this scribe made a mistake. Last week we told you that Cyclone Rhonda had returned to Melbourne. We were wrong. She stayed in Sydney for today’s May Day, and when those festivities concluded she came to The Domain to haunt us again. We were treated to a colourful history of the Eureka flag.

She also suggested that we should become a republic. But who would want to offend the harmless dear little old lady pictured below?

3. John August, radio shock jock
of Sydney’s FM radio station, Radio Skid Row, also stood on the Ladder of Knowledge. He spoke about the ‘fractionalisation’ of parties today. For example, one party’s mission might be to help the environment, but there are so many different ways of helping it that the party could attract some environmentalists and repel others. It’s difficult to find a party that truly represents our values and policies.

Mark The Grinner explained why small parties like One Nation don’t have to be elected to make an impact.

Helmut couldn’t speak. Tony wouldn’t let him! (Tony, ex-speaker turned heckler, is so adept at baiting Helmut that Helmut now gives up trying to speak.) Hopefully, when Steve Maxwell returns, Steve can act as a decoy again.

Be kind, Tony!

4. Two poems were read. Mr B admitted to not understanding either of them. And one of them was his! Fortunately, Mark The Grinner was on hand to explain one of the poems to him. It is as follows:


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

6. Other subjects talked about:

– How can it be that Coles was successfully sued for $1.1m by a woman who broke her hip falling off a safety step?

– The generation that has just died (those born in the 1920s) experienced a far greater rate of change in their life than those preceding them and those of us who are following them. They lived in changing times.

– The ‘Keyser Soze’ method of preventing all international wars.

– The upgraded NATO of preventing all international wars.

7. Mirko turned up at 4pm instead of 2pm. He is still adjusting to the changes involved with Daylight Saving Time.

8. Last week’s lament for more Facebook subscribers prompted a deluge of subscribers. (If you can call two a deluge.)

Our Archive site has been nominated by this scribe for the ‘World’s Best Blog With No Visitors‘ award. Wish us luck.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 30th April

In News for Speakers' Corner on May 1, 2017 at 12:37 pm

‘God’s a kid with an ant-farm. He isn’t planning anything.’
From the film, ‘Constantine’.

1. Apologies to our loyal subscribers for the old news that was electronically sent to you earlier.

2. The meeting had barely begun when Mr B disgraced himself by placing no value on children. He called them ‘walking natural disasters’ because they’re contributing to Earth’s population problem. They’ll be the ones using up seventy years of resources and producing more children, he raged. He added that an adult’s life is more valuable anyway: they’ve put so much into themselves.

One grasshopper added to that, pointing out that in some Aboriginal societies, the elders are more valued than children because of all the knowledge they have. When they die, the knowledge dies.

“When an old person dies, a library is lost.”
African saying.

Two young ashen-faced lasses protested, saying that young children have potential.

“Yes, they do,” bellowed the cruel Mr B. “The potential to thieve, consume resources, pollute, and bring into being even more walking natural disasters.”

He then went off the deep end by saying that China hadn’t gone far enough: “What we need is a ‘no child policy’.”

That’s about when three people left. It was not a pretty sight.

 3. As usual, we had members of the audience taking turns to replace Mr Bashful on the Ladder of Knowledge. First was Mirko, who phonetically said that if one factory begins making a product, no other factory should compete with it by making the same product. It should leave the original factory alone so that it can keep employing its workers. Why should one factory send another factory bankrupt?
It appears Mirko has expertise in science AND in economics.
And, he wishes to make it clear that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Next was Cyclone Rhonda, who demanded that Australia become a republic. She was adept at taking questions from the audience, and even more adept at not answering them.
Rhonda is on her way back to Melbourne. Thanks for visiting, Rhonda. You’re welcome any time.

Albert spoke of how innocent people can be persuaded to become soldiers and be sent to other countries to kill people they don’t know. He spoke about paid assassins and about North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un. And he praised China for the way it modernised itself into such a wonderful society. (Albert got plenty of flak for that!)

Helmut spoke about black holes and fielded questions about event horizons. (Speaking of which, it would be wonderful if a few of our hecklers were on an event horizon. Indeed, any horizon would do.)

Mark The Grinner gave what must have been a prepared talk about entitlement, and about characteristics common to the wealthy. The talk had structure. It had anecdotal examples. It had a point. It was excellent.
An example he gave: a study found that people driving luxury cars were four times less likely to give way to a pedestrian than drivers of ordinary cars. (Presumably no pedestrians were run over in the name of science.) Further, in a study in which the participants were asked to play Monopoly, those who were given an initial advantage (an extra die and extra money) and won the game as a consequence, tended to forget that they were given an advantage at the beginning. They assumed they won with skill, and even gloated over their opponent. Message: people with privelge tend to inflate their own importance and look down on those less privileged.
It was an excellent talk that held everyone’s interest.

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

This message is from the PostSecret website hosted by Frank Warren.

5. The roadworks on the Southface leading to Speakers’ Corner will be completed soon.

6. We had beaut poems read to us. Ben The Whisperer read one about a person approaching death. Ben, would you please send it in? Or bring a copy with you next Sunday?

Peter the Younger provided another clever John Clarke poem, and Helmut read an excellent poem that had Isaac Newton being proven wrong yet again! (Where does Helmut find them??)

And there was this poem:

 7. Other subjects talked about:
– When it comes to voting on legislature, should each member of parliament be allowed to vote secretly? That way, they could vote for what they believed in, rather than having to toe the party line. What would be the advantages and disadvantages of that?

– A controversial subject: are there instances in which it is okay for an older person to have a sexual relationship with someone ‘under age’? The question was taken seriously and discussed with civility. Opinion was divided.

– The speaker claimed that we can’t trust the accuracy of records written more than a thousand years ago (such as the Quran and the Bible) so let’s focus on what is happening today. And, just because a custom is accepted by an entire society doesn’t make it an acceptable custom, then or now. So, let’s focus on today’s customs, and if necessary, change them.

Some people struggle to know what’s appropriate and what isn’t.

8. A record was made today. For the first time ever, Mr Bashful didn’t call anyone a ‘blithering idiot’ or an ‘imbecile’. We don’t know why he refrained because the audience was rife with members of both categories, and he was given plenty of opportunity.

Here’s something from one of them:

9. In the last five weeks our Facebook page has attracted just two more subscribers. It’s hard to believe that we are struggling to attract subscribers given that Justin Bieber gets plenty on his page.

And our Archives site is like a cemetery. Posts are buried there, never to be seen again.





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