Soapbox Speakers

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News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 27th August

In News for Speakers' Corner on August 28, 2017 at 11:19 am

“It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior’s life”. 
Stephen Pressfield

1. The buoyant Steve Maxwell had three main topics today. He was asking the question: “What in your opinion is the most important issue that will affect the world in the future? Will it be . . .
– the corruption of the state?
– Automation, and the concomitant large percentage of the population being unemployed?
– Man-made pollution and its affect on nature?”

One of the many good things about Steve as a public speaker is his propensity to introduce new topics each and every week. And make them interesting.

Steve Maxwell (Photo by Joseph Iliades)

2. Mr B spoke about happiness and its relationship with the Hadza, a hunter-gatherer tribe in Tanzania.

“Onwas is an old man . . . Across his arms and chest are the heiroglyphs of a lifetime in the bush: scars from hunts, scars from snakebites, scars from arrows and knives and scorpions and thorns. Scars from falling out of a baobab tree. Scars from a leopard attack. Half his teeth remain.”
Michael Finkel, National Geographic 2009.

“A Hadza hunt at night: Walking through Hadza country in the dark is challenging; thorn bushes and spiked acacia tress dominate the terrain, and even during the day there is no way to avoid being jabbed and scratched and punctured. A long trek in the Hadza bush can feel like receiving a gradual full-body tattoo. The Hadza spend a signifcant portion of their rest time digging thorns out of one another with the tips of their knives.”
Michael Finkel, National Geographic 2009.

3. Mr B claimed that Aborigines were not the first to discover Australia 65,000 years ago. They didn’t “discover” it at all! Unlike Earnest Shackleton, Christopher Columbus, Abel Tasman, and countless Polynesians and Melanesians, the Aborigines weren’t explorers searching for and discovering new lands. 65,000 years ago sea levels were lower, and the Aborigines would have walked across the land bridge between the land masses we now call Papua New Guinea and Australia, taking advantage of the abundant fauna along the way. It may have taken the tribes hundreds of years to cross. Then, they “woke up one morning” and found that the sea level had risen and they were “stranded”.

That’s not “discovering” a continent, argued Mr B. That’s “getting stuck on an island when the tide comes in.”

But he readily agreed that the white fella was wrong to invade over 200 years ago.

(Apparently, the Aborigines colonised the continent by going along the East and West coasts, until they finally met in South Australia. There was a land bridge to Tasmania too.

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

5. Other subjects discussed:
– Gay marriage. Mr B explained why he is in favour of it.
One grasshopper told us that both his mother and father were gay. Ironically, the Church would have approved of that marriage of convenience. (We also learned that genuine love did grow over time.)

– Why was a young boy deemed missing in Barcelona after the terrorist truck-driving incident, when he was simply one of the unidentified dead? The media were taken to task about this. (The media regularly get a walloping at Speakers’ Corner.)

– What are the legalities regarding people being filmed in the park? Can someone refuse to be filmed? (More about that next week, hopefully.)

– Mirko took the Ladder of Knowledge and talked about stupidity and smart phones. Heaven help us!

6. The warm day suddenly turned cold and black clouds threatened. We finished early at 4pm.

Our Facebook page received two subscribers this week. Does that mean it has gone viral?

If you have something important to do but you’re a procrastinator, then you might as well check out our Archives site.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 20th August

In News for Speakers' Corner on August 21, 2017 at 11:15 am

“A politician tends to put the interests of the State before those of Australia, the interests of his party before those of his State, the interests of his constituency before those of his party, and the interests of the man he happens to speak with before the rest of the world. Such politicians become popular.”
Walter Murdoch.

1. A big thanks to all the financial contibutors today! Thank you, grasshoppers! So far we have raised $324.10 towards the cost of having a 1972 film of speaker John Webster digitised. (See the last post.) And in the process, someone got a $70 book for $10.

2. The day began with Mirko trying to convince Uncle Pete and a few onlookers that he had invented a perpetual motion machine. Next week he would provide incontrovertible proof: a photo. Suddenly Uncle Pete saw the light. He understood Mirko’s message! Then he mocked this scribe for having doubts. Jeepers.

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

4. As promised, Mr B explained the process of natural selection, but he “went around the world” to do it. He first examined hybrids, then what makes a species, before finally moving onto the topic of natural selection itself.

Even lions are subject to the process of natural selection.

5. Other subjects discussed.
– Guys, have you ever caught yourself in your zip? We heard about one boy’s unenviable experience.

– What do you do when you are twenty and your mate discards a slide photograph of his lover in a negligee? You retrieve it from the bin when he isn’t looking, of course, and when he hosts a slide night eight years later with his family you make sure it magically appears in the slide show. Then you watch what happens next.

– Mr B gave his leadership rant. (i.e. Our Prime Minister is not our leader. He is the leader of the Liberal Party, and he is our most senior public servant.)

– Chimpanzees groom themselves by picking nits and leaves from each other, whereas we humans groom each other by texting. Which method do you think is the more soul enriching? Mr B gave eight reasons why smart phones are having a negative effect upon us.

6. Helmut spoke about physics and had to deal with one interesting character new to Speakers’ Corner. In the photo below we see that the laws of physcics don’t always apply. Where did the gravity go, Helmut?! Take that!

7. It was a cold day
and we left early, at 4.30pm.

8. Why not click on our Facebook page and read this all again?

And try our Archives site if you would like to read 200 more.



Bring your money!

In News for Speakers' Corner on August 17, 2017 at 11:22 pm

Bring your wallets, your loose change, and that gold sovreign you’ve been keeping in the bottom drawer for that rainy day.

In 1972 a twenty minute film was made about Domain speaker, John Webster. It is called, ‘Webster’s Domain‘ and its producer is film maker Peter Marjason.

This scribe hoped to find a digital copy to put on this site and on Youtube so that those who fondly remember John can see him again. However, the film is no longer in the State Library, and it’s not in any other library in Australia. The only copy this diligent scribe could find is in the National Sound and Film Archive (NSFA) in Canberra.

They have quoted $405 to make and send me a digital copy of the film. (That’s without the timecode rudely intruding.)

This scribe is wondering if you regulars might be interested in contributing towards the cost?

Dear regulars, if you’d like to see a film of the famous John Webster, bring your rent money and your child’s moneybox with you on Sunday. And part with it.

And bring something to auction off. An auction might help too.

If you do choose to contribute, Mr B promises to refrain from calling you a blithering idiot for the first fifteen minutes of the meeting. (After that he can’t guarantee he’ll be able to hold back.)

With regards to all,

The Scribe.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 13th August

In News for Speakers' Corner on August 14, 2017 at 12:41 pm

“The great majority never brood, never philosophise, never ask questions about the meaning or purpose of life. They take things for granted; they swallow the universe like a glass of beer.”
Walter Murdoch.

1. A challenge to any Christian!

Mr Bashful doesn’t talk about the existence or non-existence of God, and he normally doesn’t debate Christians about the Theory of Evolution. That’s because Mr B has found no Christian able to explain to him the process of natural selection. He figures that if Christians are willing to dismiss a theory they haven’t taken the time to understand, why waste time with them?

But after an experience today (albeit pleasant), Mr B wants this accommodating scribe to announce for him the following open challenge to each and every Christian:

“Christian: please describe to Mr B and his grasshoppers the process of natural selection in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Please indicate how a new species can come into being, according to the theory.”

Mr B isn’t expecting the Christian to believe the explanation they provide. He only wants the Christian to explain it. He figures that if atheists are cognisant of the Christian’s point of view (having had it thrust upon them throughout their life), then it’s only fair that Christians are cognisant of the atheists’ point of view, even if they (the Christians) don’t believe it.

Mr B suspects that in all the years to come, up there on the Ladder of Knowledge, he will find no Christian successfully meeting that challenge.

Of course, many Christians do believe in evolution. (And many are scientists.) They seem to be the ones who don’t feel the need to introduce the subject of God in the first place. But if one of them does successfully takes the challenge I will laud their effort on this site.

As it happens, Mr B will be answering that very question this coming Sunday. And, perhaps the humble Uncle Pete will find the courage to contribute as well.
If you want to understand the process of natural selection and how new species come into being, come along this Sunday.

2. Mr B also wants it known by Christians that: the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the Theory of Evolution are completely different issues. Put another way, evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life, and the origin of life has nothing to do with the origin of the universe.

Yes, dear Christians, discuss those topics with consenting speakers if you must, but please don’t confuse those topics with one another. They are different issues entirely!

3. Steve Maxwell made a sign that welcomed people in forty languages. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find a translation for the term ‘soapbox speaker’, so foreign speakers still didn’t know what the hell was going on at Speakers’ Corner. But that didn’t stop Steve: he had a steady crowd all day.

As did Tony. That may have had something to do with his sign, which read ‘No Same-Sex Marriage’. “It’s topical”, he explained afterwards. Yes, it is, Tony. But please would you join us in the 21st century!

4. The ‘Something Nice’ segment, to hearten some and irritate others.

5. Mr B wasn’t popular today. That’s because he was telling people what to do, by criticising the social media zombies who look at Facebook five hours a day, and the couch potatoes who watch television five hours a day, and the brick breakers who train in martial arts five hours a day. It was that last suggestion which inspired the most insults. Apparently, the public respect people who spend a big chunk of their life learning how to harm folk.

Mr B doesn’t yet understand that as the martial artists perfect their ability to kill people, they’re developing self-discipline and growing spiritually.

And it seems he doesn’t understand that people on Facebook for five hours a day are developing inner core body strength, and wisdom.

And that people watching television for five hours a day are gaining compassion and resilience.

It’s time to wake up, Mr B.

6. Who won the fabulous prize for answering last week’s question posed by Uncle Pete (about the Earth circled by string)?  Answer: no one. Uncle Pete left before people put forth their responses. My advice? Be there this coming Sunday and we will definitely resolve the matter, early!

Uncle Pete

7. Towards the end of the day Helmut stood upon the Ladder of Knowledge and said a few harsh words about Sir Isaac Newton. We, his groundlings, suspect that Sir Isaac Newton might have once sleighted Helmut, and Helmut has never forgotten it. We can think of no other reasonable explanation to explain Helmut’s incessant vituperation of poor Isaac.

Following Helmut was the fervent Christian, Gary O’Shea. Gary answered questions about Christianity and appeared emminently sensible. Gary plans to come back next week to speak on a separate ladder. If he steals Mr B’s crowd, Speakers’ Corner will be the better for it!

8. Other subjects discussed:
– Mr B was about to explain abstract paintings when he was sidetracked into explaining why the NSW Art Gallery is not an art gallery, but a financial institution.

– We delved into a man’s subsconscious to discover his meaning of life. (It turned out to be straightforward. No mental gymnastics were necessary.)

– Why do we have religion? Mr B gave four (of seven) reasons.

– Should we change the curriculum in schools? If so, which subjects would we introduce, and which would we ditch?
As expected, Mr B wanted to ditch foreign languages and all forms of history. His criticism of history prompted a strong reaction, too!

9. If you would like to read all this in a different font go to our Facebook page. And try our Archives site if you haven’t already.


News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 6th August

In News for Speakers' Corner on August 7, 2017 at 11:38 am

“He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.”
John Stuart Mill.

1. Years ago your scribe held his dog’s tablets in his left hand and his own vitamin tablets in his right hand. Absent-mindely he swallowed the dog’s tablets. I rang the Poison Centre and was told I should be okay. I was. However, Steve Maxwell made a similar mistake with some tablets on Saturday night, and ended up in hospital. He wasn’t well enough to come today, but he’ll be back next week.

Imagine if Moses had absent-mindedly swallowed the tablets he had been given. How different would the world be?

2. We had a gamut of guest speakers today: Gary O’Shea spoke well about the pressure upon Catholicism; in a soft voice, Rochelle labeled the real culprits causing Global Warming and answered plenty of questions; Mirko gave a humorous speach about H2O and Mother Nature (it wasn’t meant to be humorous); and Uncle Pete gave us another entertaining adventure about his early chemisty exploits. This one featured bromine.

Each and every one of those speakers did an excellent job keeping the crowd interested. Hats off to them.

Meanwhile, 93 year-old Arthur was unstoppable with his quick-fire questions. He even got up to dance when some music was played.

Arthur’s daughter, Jacquie, accompanies Arther on their regular visits. Hats off to her, too!

3. Uncle Pete gave us a puzzle to work on: Imagine a string wrapped around the equator of a perfectly spherical Earth. Cut the string and add another metre to one end, then join the two remaining ends. Now, if the string could circle the Earth in a uniform way, how far from the ground would the string be?

Uncle Pete told us all to work it out and give him our answer this coming Sunday. (Of course we will.)

Uncle Pete will provide a fabulous prize to the person providing the first correct answer. You are not, of course, allowed to google the problem or cheat in any way. (That suggests to this scribe that the fabulous prize will not be claimed.)

Bonus question: how long is a piece of string?

4. Mr B asked: “Are we knowledge gluttons?” We humans crave sugar and fat because thousands of years ago those helpful foods were hard to come by. Today we still have those cravings, but fats and sugars are easy to come by. Result: we eat to much of them. Is it possible that we humans craved knowledge thousands of years ago, because knowledge was helpful, and we are still subject to that craving? And that because knowledge is so plentiful and accessible nowadays, we consume too much of it?

5. We had heard of Jean’s prowress as a palm reader, and Jean kindly agreed to participate in an experimental palm reading. A volunteer from the audience provided her palm for Jean to read. Mr B took notes on what was said.

Unfortunately, Jean’s accuracy was considerably off.

Jean was a good sport to allow herself to be tested in that way. Jean, and others like her, are what makes an afternoon at Speakcers’ Corner so much fun. Thank you, Jean!

Next Sunday we will ask Jean to read this palm. She couldn’t do any worse.

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

7. Zeno’s Dichotomy Paradox. Let’s say I am to walk a kilometre. First, I to walk half a kilometre. But before I can walk that half a kilometre I have to walk a quarter of a kilometre. But before I can walk that quarter of a kilometre I have to walk half that distance again. And so on. That means there is an infinite regression, and I can never actually begin to walk at all.

Of course, that’s not true. Where is the fault in the logic?

Thanks to Uncle Pete, here is another way to think of the problem: I am to walk a kilometre. I walk the first half. Then I have to walk the first half of the remaining distance. Then I have to walk the first half of that remaining distance. And so on. There will always be a distance that I first have to walk half of. That means I can never walk the entire kilometre.

Again, where is the fault in that logic?8. Life coaches tell us that if we want to succeed we should surround ourselves with smart people. If that’s true, who will be giving their time to the not-so-bright? The not-so-bright need help from those who are smarter. Should the smart people abandon them in their pursuit to be with other smart people?

9. Other subjects discussed:
– You’re at a dinner party and someone says out of the blue, “28 of my daughter’s 30 classmates are Asian”. Is that a racist observation to make? Discuss.

– Only one joke in the JokeFest was told, but it got a laugh.

– Last week a Scottish woman discovered that there was no such thing as a Scot. Today another Scot discovered he wasn’t Scottish. If this keeps up, Scotland will soon be empty.

– Mr B said we need to reduce Australia’s population and the world’s population. He suggested various ways on how to achieve this. A few grasshoppers protested, giving their reasons.

– A three-and-a-half-day week for half the population, and a three-and-a-half day week for the other half. That would double employment and increase productivity, claimed Mr B. Should we include the Universal Basic Income, one grasshopper asked?

– We could ban cigarettes without inconveniencing anyone, while giving the cigarette manufacturers and the governments eighty incremental years to get used to the changes.

– No one over the age of 40 should be allowed to vote, explained Mr B. One grasshopper disagreed, suggesting that a 60 to 65 limit would be better.

– Is Australia’s native wildlife and vegetation worth saving? “Yes,” said Mr B. Can a human live in Australia without contributing to its environmental degradation? “No!” said Mr B. Some grasshoppers had the temerity to disagree with him.

10. Our
Facebook Page has won the inaugural Speakers’ Corner Award for the best Facebook page representing Sydney’s Speaker’s Corner.
Not only that, our Archive site won the biennial Speakers’ Corner award for having the most posts about Sydney’s Speakers’ Corner.

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