Soapbox Speakers

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News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 30th July

In News for Speakers' Corner on July 31, 2017 at 11:40 am

“I never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith – it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe.”
Robert Heinlen.

1. Even before we got underway we had a passer-by asking Steve for the opportunity to speak, and Steve generously made way for him. For fifteen minutes, Shimon spoke on the podium about homelessness and what it takes to make a community. He did a good job, holding everyone’s attention.

Shimon is welcome back any time.


2. Steve replaced Shimon and then spent much of the day talking about the divide between science and religion, and about his theory that Australia should have more states.

Steve wasn’t suggesting that Australia should invade other nations to get more states; rather, he was suggesting that we divide the current states into smaller states.

This scribe thinks that’s a good idea. Indeed, Victoria could split itself into eleven states, each one hosting a team from the Australian Football League. State Essendon, anyone? Hawthorn, the Premier State?


3. The ‘Something Nice’ segment, to charm some and irritate others. (If the sign above doesn’t already warm your heart.)

4. Ray, our evangelicial Christian speaker, informed this scribe that he had had a good day chatting to several people about God.

The other speakers turn up each week because it’s a fun afternoon, but Ray is selfless. He turns up solely to spread the word of God. He gives his time to save the souls of others. He doesn’t get the support of a big crowd, and he regularly gets atheist dipsticks pestering him, but he battles on. That’s because he wants people to one day receive what he expects to get: eternal life.

Ray might not have a high strike rate saving those souls, but as he explained to this scribe, he is at least planting the seed.

Good stuff, Ray!

Ray has not yet had a crowd this big.

5. Mr B caused consternation when he criticised the patronising view society takes of women’s efforts to exercise. He said that if women don’t exercise because they feel intimidated and embarrassed, then perhaps we should be focusing on helping them develop the confidence to move through those awkward feelings, rather than focusing on making them feel more comfortable.

That didn’t go down well.

He then remarked upon a woman’s need to be loved for who she is, rather than on being loved for what she looked like. He said that perhaps a woman should learn to live her life without relying on being loved at all. He said that if we are older than twenty we don’t need to be loved by someone to be happy, and if we believe otherwise we need to wake up.

That didn’t go down well either.

6. Other subjects discussed:
– Our JokeFest went well, with Uncle Pete getting away with a rude joke because it was funny. David got a good laugh from a joke four seconds long. If only the speakers could be so efficient.

– Melvin Lerner’s ‘Just World Hypothesis‘ was discussed. It is about our habit of blaming the victim when we don’t have the power to help them. Examples given: someone with an illness, poverty, obesity, rape victims, refugees, and the happiness gurus who insist that success is all about persistence.

– Mr B explained to a Scottish woman why there is no such thing as a Scotsman. To her credit, the woman took the bad news philosophically.

– To ask someone to believe in themselves is like asking an atheist to believe in God. It won’t happen. Beliefs don’t work that way. Even for a million dollars or with a threat of death, we can’t adopt or ditch a belief as though it’s a raincoat. So, when the happiness gurus tell us to believe in ourselves, they’re being naive. (And suffering from the Just World Hypothesis.)

– A bystander asked Mr B for the meaning of life. To spare his regulars who have heard it before, Mr B took a different tack. He tried desperately to remember the message he had given in his latest video. Manfully he persisted, despite his poor memory and a surfeit of interruptions, and eventually he got it out. He then asked the bystander if she were satisfied with his answer. She said ‘no’, and everyone laughed. Poor Mr B.

– Mirko was a right royal pain in the proverbial today, blathering nonsensical rubbish involving goodness-knows-what. In other words, business as usual.

– Mr B explained how he once hypnotised thirty people without actually hypnotising anyone. He’s pretty amazing, that Mr B.

– “How do you know if something has life?” asked 93 year-old Arthur. He then answered his own question. (It’s a generous grasshopper who supplies both question and answer.) Arthur explained that anything that moves must be alive. That’s as detailed as he got. When asked if a plastic bag blowing about in a breeze was alive he rightly ignored that silly question.

– Should television judges be cruel to talentless wannabes?

– Uncle Pete gave us two enjoyable anecotes of a time when he was 15 years of age. The first was a description of what happened to him when he made his first batch of chloroform, and the second was about the time he appeared to set the school on fire with his negligent use of phosphorous. Great stories!

Peter must have been a real handful when he was a kid. Then again, he’s a handful now.

7. Our Facebook page has 56 subscribers but 58 followers. What the hell does that mean?


News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 23rd July

In News for Speakers' Corner on July 24, 2017 at 10:21 am

“The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof,
a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an
oracle, is inborn in us.”

Paul Valery, poet and philosopher (1871-1945)

1. “I know. It’s for ventilation.” 

Those were the words spoken by Mirko as he stood on the Ladder of Knowledge spruiking his new message. He had just been informed that his fly was undone.

Mirko was serious. He brushed off the interruption and continued spruiking, with fly agape.

Three weeks ago this scribe may have been guilty of a little fabrication. Pointless really, because what goes on at Speakers’ Corner really is stranger than fiction.

Mirko is hoping that scientific bodies take him seriously and adopt his 21st century principles. This scribe would have thought that purposely leaving your fly undone to give yourself ventilation would not significantly add to your credibility.

2. We had the ‘Something That Changed My Life/Anecdote’ segment and Uncle Pete again starred. Last week he told us how he gained an interest in chemistry, and today he gave us a warm story of how he so astonished a class with his knowledge, enthusiasm, and ability to inform that both the teacher and some students suggested he become a teacher. It was a light bulb moment for Peter who, up until then, had no idea of what career he would choose. He still teaches.

From Mr B we heard an anecdote about the ‘Wise Woman and the Stone’ story. According to an Optus guy in Mumbai, Australians tell that story to him about 60% of the time! It has to be a lie, but what a strange lie.

3. We had five good souls contributing to our Jokefest today.

4. A good murder mystery has a murder, suspects, alibis, a clever detective, and a solution which makes the reader want to kick themselves and exclaim, “Gosh, I should have picked it. The clues were there!” The murder mystery (by Jon Jermey) below has all those elements. Two weeks ago it was read aloud at Speakers’ Corner and today there was an enquiry about it. Ear tiz.

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

6. Other subjects discussed:
– The selfish way councils use their power to promote and applaud themselves, by placing plaques in our parks and on our buildings.

– Mr B put paid to the idea the a few NSW Blues sabotaged themselves by having a few drinks a few days before the State of Origin football match. He recounted how AFL player Robert Dipierdomenico got drunk the night before a Grand Final (he thought he wouldn’t be playing) and was still best on ground the next day.

–  ‘When someone votes for a candidate solely because the candidate shares their creed, is the voter being prejudiced, or are they simply hoping to be represented?’ Discuss.

– The hole that was created under Sydney University’s law building was huge, yet there are only a few car park levels going down. The question: is there a building under the car park we don’t know about?
One grasshopper said it wouldn’t be a spy centre, because spy buildings hide themselves in plain sight. He gave us an example of a telecommunications building that’s obviously a base for ASIO.

‘Are women in Australia paid less than men? If so, why?’ Mr B addressed that question in two ways: by comparing like with like with two neurosurgeons of different sex; and then by comparing the total amount of money women earn compared with the total amount of money men earn, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

7. Our Facebook page is ventilated, too.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 16th July

In News for Speakers' Corner on July 16, 2017 at 5:46 pm

“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
Noam Chomsky

1. My apology to those of you who received half of this post earlier. You might think the wrong button was pressed, but no, it was the Russians trying to hack this site.

2. Why is it cold in winter and warm in Summer? Not just this year, but every year? It’s the same in the Northern hemisphere! It seems too extraordinary to be a  coincidence, so what’s going on?

Thankfully, it was warm in the sun today at Speakers’ Corner, but as soon as the sun was hidden behind the city’s buildings it got chilly. We finished early, at 4.20pm.

3. Normally, Mr B refrains from talking about God, but as soon as he stood on the Ladder of Knowledge the subject was broached and he got sucked in before he could swat the question away.  On one side of the audience was a believer (though of what we still don’t know), and on the other side was Helmut barking his version of God. That stereophonic nonsense kept Mr B busy for twenty minutes.

Even Jean, Albert’s wife, got up to speak about the non-existence of God. No one argues with Jean. Jean is formidable.

Only when the words ‘intelligent design’ were thrown at him did Mr B shrug of his stupor and change the subject.

4. At one point Helmut threw the First Law of Thermodynamics at Mr B. If you have forgotten what that first law is, it’s:

5. Sprightly Albert stood on the Ladder of Knowledge and spoke about Collective Consciousness. He managed to plug his book as well. Interestingly, the price of that book goes up and down like the proverbial bride’s nightie.

6. Albert also talked about how he turned from being a sceptic into a believer when he saw evidence of his wife’s psychic powers in palm reading. Jean had met a man, read his palm, and told him that thirty years ago his first wife had drowned in a bathtub while having an epileptic fit.  It turned out to be true! (Or the man let her think it was true.)

This scribe does wonder how the creases in the skin of one’s palm manage to convey such information. If Jean can translate those creases, can we get her to translate the Voynich Manuscript?

7. Our ‘Something Nice’ segment, to charm some and irritate others.

8. Years ago Speakers’ Corner had an indigenous man, Donny Dodd, as a regular speaker: Donny turned up today and accepted an invitation to stand on the Ladder of Knowledge. After a slow and shaky start, Donny became his old wily and vibrant self. He asked for questions and made damned sure he didn’t answer them. He fired back questions of his own and made cryptic points to astound and befuddle us all. It was easy to see how entertaiing Donny would have been back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, because he was entertaining today.

9. In the Anecdote/Regret/Something that Changed Your Life segment Mr B recounted how he nearly accidentally shot himself dead with a bow and arrow 12 times. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

Why are we not surprised?

10. In the same segment, Uncle Pete gave us an absorbing story of the time when he was eleven and sent to sit in the chook pen for punishment. When Peter started throwing muck at the chooks, his exasperated father drove off to his brother’s place and retrieved some random books for Peter to read. The books were chemistry books, and Peter found them so interesting he couldn’t put them down. They changed his life.  He has had a rewarding life as a chemistry teacher.

Even though Uncle Pete knows a lot about chemistry,  his still finds it hard to keep up with Mirko’s advanced 21st century knowledge.
Mirko was quiet today.

11. We had our Jokefest, too.

12. The speaker complained of how mean it was of the media to give blanket coverage to an incident in which two male AFL executives were fired for having an affair with two female underlings. As if that were news! How much unnecessary pain and embarrassment did the media cause just to get a story, to fill the a dunce’s void?

And, he complained of how weasil-like it was of the AFL to give a press conference to announce their departure, in an ironic effort to prove that the AFL has integrity. Yes, the AFL publicly threw the men under the bus to prove to us they have integrity! Amazing.

And of course, the media swallowed it up because they knew the public (who has no right to know such gossip) would lap it up. The public are very good at accepting the dross they’re given as news.

13. Other subjects discussed:

The Sandcastle Story, though one grasshopper provided us with a different interpretation.

– The speaker explained why there is no such thing as an Aborigine (or Anglo Australian, or Japanese, or Jew, or etc.) Unfortunately, the indigenous Donny didn’t hang around to hear the explanation.

14. You will find all this on Facebook.




News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 9th July

In News for Speakers' Corner on July 10, 2017 at 1:47 pm

“Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”
Ray Cummings

1. Poor Mr B. He’s a delicate man, as most of you know, and today he had a savage battle of wits with two young women. It wasn’t a fair contest because Mr B lacked amunition. The two young women argued using facts and logic,  and all Mr B used was his obnoxiousness. The savaging he endured was brutal and the audience loved it. This scribe likens the audience to the rabble you’d find in the peanut gallery.

Poor Mr B, I suggest you lick your wounds and move on.

2. Our best wishes for Tony Boyce. He has had prostate cancer for seven years and he’s now on stronger medication. It has been knocking him around. He couldn’t come today. Good luck Tony!

When there is a discussion in full swing, Tony likes to contribute irrelevant points, to give the discussion depth.

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

4. Every Sunday a bicycle tour group (with music blaring) visits Speakers’ Corner. Mr B was about to give them his usual generous explanation of how Speakers’ Corner came into being when his regular grasshoppers revolted. They howled in protest, having heard the story so many times.

Uncle Pete came to the rescue. He took command of the Ladder of Knowledge, promising to give his version of the history of Speakers’ Corner. The audience settled down and listened attentively. Three minutes later the story had concluded and everyone was happy. Even Mr B, who is now thinking of delegating a few more tasks to his minions.

The tour group left happy, with music again blaring. That music reminded Uncle Pete of the inanity of many song lyrics. Mr B taunted him by declaring that Bob Dylan provides plenty of examples. (Uncle Pete is a big fan of Bob Dylan.) Uncle Pete was not to be outdone, and an anecdote followed.

Mr B eventually prised Uncle Pete off the ladder.

5. This joke was used to begin a talk about ‘time’.

Compare that snail’s perception of time with a pigeon’s, which when watching a movie would see 24 still frames, one after the other, every second. We humans are in the middle somewhere.
And, it’s feasible that an extra-terrestrial alien observer might perceive  our traffic in the same way we see it when it’s fast forwarded on television. Or, it might see our traffic in slow motion. Time seems subject to perception. Yet, it’s a real and measurable thing: think of two synchronised atomic clocks: one on Earth and one travelling fast on a space station: they are soon out of synch because time differs in different conditions. So, we discussed the nature of time.

6.  “Life is a play. We are given a character but no lines. We have to ad lib throughout life. We act in character, and at times, out of character. We are obliged to flesh out our character in the way we think fit. We are defined somewhat by other characters in the plot, and by how we react to our circumstances. There are many contiguous plays. Our character can slip into other scenes, particularly if the original scene is a lot of boring unmanageable shit.”
Helane Paizes, sister of Mr B.

Helane’s off-the-cuff words were quoted and a discussion soon ensued about the merit of John Donne’s famour words:

Are we islands, as Simon and Garfunkle suggested, or are we ‘one’? The views given were varied and interesting.

7. Do we have something we can be proud of? The following comment was found on our Youtube channel.

“That’s a nice speaker’s corner! The Hyde park speaker’s corner in London is messy, loads of noise and disrespect! The one in Sydney looks more intellectual and they don’t only talk about religion.”
Baptiste G.

8.  Today everyone agreed they had regrets, but only the speaker himself chose to volunteer one. It was about how he unnecessarily got his parents to walk further than necessary. That regret was deemed lame by one grasshopper. “Can’t you do better than that?” he asked.

Presumably the baying crowd want a regret involving blood and guts and a lost fortune, or something.

Due to grasshopper reluctance to express a regret we are changing the segment. This coming Sunday, bring along your tale of regret, OR life changing experience, OR an astonishing or entertaining anecdote.

9. The JokeFest fared better
, though one joke was more of a paradox about an unexpected exam. Uncle Pete pointed out that if a teacher tells her students that she will be giving them an unexpected exam in the following week, she won’t be able to give them that unexpected exam. Why? Because every day is predictable. If the students haven’t been given the test by Thursday they would know they would be getting it the following day, Friday. It would be expected. That means, an unexpected exam cannot be held on a Friday; it can only be held on a Monday to Thursday. However, that means that if the test hasn’t been held by Wednesday then the students would know they’d be getting it on the following day, Thursday. So again, it would be expected. Therefore, the exam cannot be on Thursday. And so on. Working back, using that logic, the test cannot be a surprise on any day of the week!

Yet, the teacher gives the test on Tuesday and it’s not expected, so where precisely is the logic wrong? Uncle Pete asked the audience for a response, and if you’d like to know the results of his enquiry:

10. Last year, Mr B proved conclusively to his grasshoppers that 1 + 1 does not always equal 2. Today he provided us with another mathematical proof, courtesy of the CSIRO. He proved to us that 2 + 11 = 12 + 1.

11. Other subjects discussed:
– Can an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile be intercepted? No, it was claimed, and the reasons why were given. To intercept one would be like trying to fire one bullet to hit another, this article from ABC news explains.

– The difference in pay between men and women. (That’s when the delicate Mr B was soundly beaten in the battle of wits. That’s enough on that subject.)

– Why do some some alcoholics attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings relapse? Mr B audaciously explained why.

– Toxic and acidic wastewater escaped a tailings dam in Israel, saturating twenty kilometres of desert and killing everything in its path. Jeepers. What’s worse is that few people know about it. How many other similar incidents are occurring througout the world, every week, and going unnoticed? It’s a bad sign when catastophes like that don’t make the headline news.

12. Check out our Facebook page if you are connected to the interweb thingy.



News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 2nd July

In News for Speakers' Corner on July 3, 2017 at 12:11 pm

“We can’t all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the kerb and applaud when they go by.”

American humorist, Will Rogers

1. It was a cold day but it was hot in the sun. Figure that out.

As usual, the speakers were Ray, Mr Bashful, Steve Maxwell and Helmut. Plus, we had guest speaker and Radio sensation, John August get up to speak and answer questions.

Mirko was at his “effervescent” best.

Mirko was once probed by aliens and given advanced science tips. When the aliens chose Mirko to spread the word they chose wisely.

2. Some regulars claimed that last week’s post about Mr B’s excursion was a fabrication. I think we have a trust issue going on here.

3. Occasionally you will find advertisements on this blog. This scribe wants it noted that he makes no money from those advertisements and doesn’t get to choose them. The advertisements you find on this blog are put there by the company that created its infrastructure: WordPress.

Except this advertisement below. I put that there. I like the colours. I attribute the photo to

WordPress: I wish you didn’t place advertisements on this blog but I understand why you do. Thank you, WordPress, for providing this scribe with the free tools to create this blog. Much appreciated.

4. This blog received a visit from The European Union. It seems they have their own flag.

128 visits from Australia? A fluke. This blog only averages 20 visits a day.

5. Three people spoke on our Ladder of Lament and expressed regrets: an unbought mattress; being hit by a car while riding a motorcycle; and remarks left unsaid when getting the strap in school.

It’s an interesting segment. And, we were given a bonus: when the grasshopper spoke about his motorcycle incident, he also recounted his extraordinary experience while laying unconscious on the road.

Regrets, I’ve had a few.

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

7. We had our Jokefest segment too, which got laughs. The joke below was NOT told.

The wife of a businessman was told their housekeeper wanted a raise. This upset her, and she decided to talk to her housekeeper about it.
 She asked: “Maria, why do you want a pay increase?”
Maria: “Well, Señora, there are tree reasons why I wanna increase. The first is that I iron  better than you.”
Wife:  “Who said you iron better than  me?”
Maria: “Jor huzban he say so.”
Wife: “Oh yeah?”
Maria: “The second reason eez that I am a better cook than you.”
Wife:  “Nonsense, who said you were a better  cook than me?”
Maria: “Jor hozban did.”
Wife, increasingly  agitated: “Oh, he did, did he?”
Maria: “The third reason is that I am better at sex than you in the bed.”
Wife, furious, through gritted teeth:
 “And did my husband say that as well?”
Maria: “No Señora . . . the gardener did.”
Wife:  “So Maria, how much did you say you want?”

8. Other subjects discussed:
– In 1983 The San Diego Yacht Club purposely lost the American’s cup to Australia II, so that they could win it back the following year and display it in their own yacht club in San Diego.
With all the interruptions the speaker received this quick five minute point was stretched to twenty minutes.

– In 1987, New Zealanders lost the right to criticise Australia for Greg Chappell’s notorious under-arm bowling incident in 1981 when they tried to cheat the San Diego Yacht Club using an onerous technicality.

-The Federal government has announced that it will be creating a cyber-force for its Armed Services, beginning with 100 people. It aims to have 900. The speaker wondered why the hell we don’t have a cyber-force already! (One grasshopper suggested we probably do, and that the government is just making it official.)

– “Let’s treat terrorists well when we catch them,” suggested the speaker. He gave his reasons why.

– In a question-and-answer website called ‘Quora’ the question was asked, “My wife and I are atheists. Our child wants to go to church. What should we do?” The speaker proudly stated that every one of the fifty atheist answers he read suggested that the child be taken to church. “It’s a shame,” he added, “that most believers don’t give their unwilling children the same respect.”

– John August spoke about the need to reduce Australia’s population and gave recommendations on how it could be done. He punctured a few myths along the way. When someone claimed that we could divert rivers and create a gardens in our dry areas, debate raged amongst the grasshoppers. It was like having a sudden flush of locusts.

– “Should we seriously consider nuclear power?” asked one grasshopper. Arguments for and against were made about nuclear power stations, coal seam gas and other fossil fuels, batteries, and renewables (geothermal, windmills, solar). Even the old perennials, the “imminent” fusion power and thorium power stations, got a mention.

– Someone asked why nearly all the regular grasshoppers attending each week are men. Then it was asked, “why do men outnumber women in most areas of interest?” A few reasons were put forth, and the predictable claim of “Misogyny!” arose (from a man).

– Has Donald Trump permanently changed what it means to be presidential? Is he giving the role an overhaul? Could he end up doing a good job? In what way is Paul Keating’s 1992 touch-up of the Queen relevant?

9. Our Domain legend, Steve Maxwell, has written another article for his popular ‘Passing Parade’ series. You might be surprised at how troubled and violent our society used to be.

Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade.

The Red Flag Riots

After World War I, Military Intelligence organised loyalist groups from returned sailors, soldiers, and airmen.  Their aim was to stop Bolsheviks in Australia.

Trouble began on July 29, 1918 when George “gunner” Taylor, a returned soldier and radical, raised the first red flag in Australia while addressing a large crowd of 1,500 in the Brisbane Domain. The Domain is located directly under the Captain Cook Bridge at Garden Point, behind Queensland Parliament House.

Taylor was attacked and knocked from his platform by six returned soldiers. A riot ensued. Police restored order while Taylor’s supporters sang the radical song “The Red Flag” and the attackers sang ‘Rule Britannia” and “Australia Will be There”.

The riot escalated when 5,000 returned soldiers rallied and marched on to the North Quay (also a regular Speakers’ Corner) and attacked the Industrial Worker of the World (IWW) platform. More returned soldiers, some armed, then marched across the Brisbane bridge to the Russian Headquarters in South Brisbane. Some of the Russians in the Headquarters fired shots in defence. Next day, newspaper headlines made sensational reading: “Police and soldiers badly mauled”.

Loyalists rallied from far and wide 8,000 (many armed) marched on the Russian Headquarters again. This time, police cordoned off their approach. The police were armed with bayonet rifles. Mounted troopers then attacked the crowd without reading the riot act. The troopers whipped and charged through the mob. A two-hour battle ensued.

The police, though outnumbered, kept to their lines despite many being injured by hails of bricks and timber fencing. Returned soldiers fired shots, narrowing missing many troopers. Hand to hand fighting was so close that the Police Commissioner Urquhart was accidentally wounded with a bayonet. 14 police and 100 demonstrators were wounded. The riot subsided, but the anger of the returned soldiers manifested into a week long series of anti-Bolshevik rallies and parades.

One of  the main political outcomes of the riot was the rise in popularity of the RSSAL (Returned Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen League) which later became the RSL.

Both Taylor and Urquhart survived.
 George Cuthbert “Gunner” Taylor (1886-1957) later became the Labor member of Enoggera in Brisbane between 1932 – 1944, and the State President of the RSL. Frederic Charles Urquhart (1858 – 1935) was appointed as Administrator of the Northern Territory in 1921.

George Cuthbert Taylor (Wikipedia.)
Frederic Charles Urquhart (Australian Biography)
‘Long Blue line’, P190. 23 march 1919.
Daily Mail correspondent in September 1918.
The Red Flag Riots by Raymond Evans. University of Queensland Press.

Steve Maxwell.



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