Soapbox Speakers

Archive for December, 2017|Monthly archive page

News for Speakers’ Corner, Christmas Eve.

In News for Speakers' Corner on December 25, 2017 at 12:38 pm

“He sees you when you’re sleeping;
he knows when you’re awake;
he knows when you’ve been bad or good
so be good for goodness sake!”
Rachel Crow, from a little ditty she wrote about Santa and God.

1. It appears the speakers have not totally killed our Christmas spirit. Two grasshoppers generously fed everyone with a hundred-weight of cherries. The cherries just kept coming and coming. And not just cherries: they also supplied us with mince pies. All that, plus Mr B’s cheesecake, kept us pretty full.

It was lovely.

2. When rain began pelting down Mr B lost his nerve and suggested we all leave. He’s a wimp, that Mr B. We just sheltered under the tree. Sure enough, a few minutes later the rain left us. We wiped the chairs and began again.

Later, the rained returned, but this time there was lightning too. It scared the bejesus out of Mr B who saw it directly. Everyone else had their back turned to it. Mr B wanted to wimp out again but we wouldn’t let him. Sure enough, the rain and lightning soon stopped. We again wiped the chairs and began yet again.

Perhaps Mr B was thinking of this famous photo, taken when the two brothers’ hair was “playing up”. Soon after the photograph was taken they were hit by lightning. Thanks to reader William George, you can click here to learn how the two lads fared.

3. Well, Helmut keeps surprising us! When he stood upon the Ladder of Knowledge he spoke about lost civilisations and in particular, the Mayans. His knowledge is extensive. It was as though he specialised in the subject. Yet he has never spoken about them before!

The man is amazing.

Helmut has, without doubt, an encyclopedic knowledge of a variety of subjects. He continues to astonish. This scribe suspects we have only just scratched the surface.

Mind you, the Mayans have a lot to answer for, scaring us with their calendar.

4. Mr B has his grasshoppers, and he has his garden gnomes. Mr B has outed a few garden gnomes in his time.

That habit prompted two of his grasshoppers to present him with a Christmas gift today. He is so pleased with it, and so proud, that he has just sent this scribe a photo of it. It’s sitting proudly on his mantelpiece. He again warmly thanks grasshoppers.

One of Mr B’s pet flies obligingly provides scale.

5. Someone sent in this lookalike of Ben the Whisperer. Thanks for that!

Keep them coming, folks!

6. Ray, our evangelist Christian, was on hand to answer the following question (thanks to  Jon Jermey for providing it): If three wise men delivered gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus, what did the family do with all that wealth?

Unfortunately, this inspired further questions like, “Did Jesus gamble much of the money away, and get into debt, and that’s why he was upset with the moneylenders?”

Thankfully, Ray dealt with these stupid questions and set us all straight. Thanks, Ray.

Ray likes to email this scribe the occasional question. For example: “If atheists don’t believe in God, what are they celebrating at Christmas?” He included this meme with his question.

It was nice to hear from you today, Ray.

7. In 1914 a submarine sunk. It was found recently. The media have expressed sentiments like: “At last the descendants of those killed in that submarine can have closure,” and “this will bring peace of mind to the descendents.”

Mr B figures that if anyone had known one of the submariners and was still alive today, they would be at least 110 years old and too gaga to still be grieving. The rest of us, including the descendents, have never met the submariners and wouldn’t give a rat’s arse. Therefore, “closure” and “peace of mind” are not in any way applicable to the situation. The media added that fake emotional element to make the item more newsworthy. Typical.

Finding the submarine meant nothing to anyone except the navy, who would have been testing their ‘searching’ technology. Thanks to Peter the Younger for pointing that out.

8. Did Mr B reveal too much about himself today? Yes, he might have.

9. Greg, a regular grasshopper, told us how he was scammed twice in the same week. He signed up to a Telstra deal but didn’t read the fine print on page 109, so he received only 16mbs instead of the 40 he thought he was paying for.

And, his vet scammed him. Greg’s dog had a tick, and the vet charged him more than $100 for the medicine. When Greg got home he did a little research and found that the medicine was just Aspirin. He rang the vet, who told him that vets can charge what they like.

Holy moly.

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

11. Other subjects discussed:
– In past weeks, Mr B has heavily criticised arguments put forth by smug atheists. Today he planned to pull apart another of their weak arguments, but was halted. (Not by divine intervention, obviously.)

– Mr B explained how status evolved, and added a homily at the end for good measure. From there, Mark the Grinner outlined the role testosterone plays in relationships. (It’s more than you think.) Most interesting.

– We discussed a glaring deficiency in the football game called ‘soccer’. That deficiency makes the game a farce, and until it’s fixed the game will always be a farce.

– Mr B expressed genuine concern for all the priests (the vast majority) who have done nothing wrong, yet have to live their lives and perform their job hearing about the sex scandals perpetrated by others in the Church they love. Not only are those innocent priests tarred with the same brush, it must hurt them considerably to have their Church betrayed so heavily.

– The difference between a belief and a theory. (That seemingly benign topic inspired fervent disagreement!)

12. Santa likes our Facebook page and our archive site. Who would have thought?





News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 17th December.

In News for Speakers' Corner on December 18, 2017 at 11:40 am

“If I sleep in, I am lazy, but if I go to bed early, no one bats an eye.”

Tavit Nisanyan

1. Will we be here Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve?

Mirko, Ray and Mr B will be. Steve Maxwell will be somewhere else.

This Sunday, Mr B will bring with him a cheesecake.

Speaking of Steve, someone sent this scribe another lookalike.

2. Both Mr B and Steve Maxwell spoke about the recent report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Mr B lambasted the Archbishops of Sydney and Melbourne for saying that the traditions regarding the Catholic confessional should not change. He received a brief dose of well mannered disagreement.

Steve Maxwell was not so lucky. On his ladder he was sorely tried by a presenting heckler who attacked him ferociously. According to Steve, “the man’s behaviour was enough to try a saint.”  But Steve says he was  not mistaken about the figures he gave, and here is the proof:

(From Page 5 of the Final Report preface and executive summary)
“It should not be assumed that many other institutions have not had significant problems. Many have. More than 4,000 individual institutions were reported to us as places where abuse has occurred. While some of these institutions have ceased to operate, others continue to actively engage with children and young people. Our resources and the risk of prejudicing criminal investigations or prosecutions meant that we could not publicly examine or report on many institutions in which survivors told us they had been sexually abused.”

(From page 11)
Table 1 – Number and proportion of survivors by institution type, from private sessions May 2013 – May 2017 All survivors Number Proportion (%)
Out-of-home cares                            2,858        41.6 %
Out-of-home care: pre-1990           2,478         36.0 %
Out-of-home care: 1990 onwards  257            3.7 %
Out-of-home care: Unknown era   150            2.2 %
Schools                                                 2,186         31.8%
Religious activities                             1,000        14.5%
Youth detention                                  551            8.0%
Recreation, sports and clubs            408          5.9%
Health and allied                                 192          2.8%
Armed forces                                         76           1.1%
Supported accommodation                68           1.0%
Family and youth support services   61           0.9 %
Childcare                                                32          0.5%
Youth employment                                17          0.2 %
Other                                                        213        3.1 %
Unknown                                                 63         0.9 %

“Out-of-home care comprises both home-based care and residential institutions. Most institution types include institutions managed by religious organisations. More than one in three survivors (36.0 per cent) said they were sexually abused in pre-1990 out-of-home care – primarily in residential institutions such as children’s homes, missions or reformatories. Just under one-third (31.8 per cent) said they were abused in a school, and 14.5 per cent said they were abused while involved in religious activities, such as attending a church or seminary. More than one in five survivors (21.0 per cent) said they were sexually abused in more than one institution.  58.6 per cent said they were sexually abused in an institution managed by a religious organisation. Almost 2,500 survivors told us about sexual abuse in an institution managed by the Catholic Church. This was 61.8 per cent of all survivors who reported sexual abuse in a religious institution.” 

Steve’s heckler

3. Young Tommy stepped onto the Ladder of Knowledge and spoke about depression, autism and asparagus. Why Tommy included asparagus in his talk this scribe has no idea. Maybe the young fellow has an allergy? Anyway, apart from leaving that mystery unanswered, young Tommy spoke well and deftly answered the questions fired at him.

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

5. Mr B’s grasshoppers learned the significance of the statement, “Sulphur crested cockatoos eat rabbits.”

(Overseas readers: cockatoos don’t engage in that behaviour. But the statement is revalatory for reasons not explained here.)

6. Two people spoke about their relationship they had with their parents and the grief they didn’t experience when their parents died. And one person told us what it was like to be seven years old and have a parent die, and then have the other parent suffer a major stroke the next day and be bedridden for more than a decade. Phew!

This scribe reckons Sydney’s Speakers’ Corner is the best in the world because attendees contribute in a variety of ways, and they reveal their vulnerabilities. Their personal revelations make the meetings richer and we thank them for it. We thank them for talking about the things that matter.

7.  Enigma Kate spoke about politics. Are there better ways of choosing and electing our politicians?

It’s good to see Kate presenting alternative yet well considered views. Thanks, Kate!

Kate didn’t bring the background equipment with her. That was put there by the ‘Candles by Candlelight’ organisers to keep attendees entertained until the night’s concert. It’s pleasing to see them doing their bit for global warming by providing candles instead of electric lighting.

8. A passer-by on a bicycle asked Mr B, “What is success?” He told her it’s a make-believe construct that differs from person to person, and that true success only comes when you can accept yourself. The rest is just noise.

9. Unfortunately, politicians have chosen to place a permanent memorial outside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, so that carefree passers-by can be constantly reminded of death.


Three people died, one of them was mentally ill. We don’t need a memorial for that. Countless unknown people die in Australia, and some of them are victims of murder. If we don’t need public memorials for them, why do we need a memorial for these three?

What? Because they made the news?

One grasshopper pointed out that it was a photo opportunity from the NSW Premier. It was that, or the government was afraid that if they didn’t do it they would look heartless to the voters. So, they installed the memorial just to be on the safe side.

How about: instead of nagging carefree shoppers about the impermanence of life, couldn’t the government instead focus on working out how to support the mentally ill so that they don’t do such things in the first place? It’s a tall order, yes, but perhaps in 100 years we will succeed if that’s our focus. To install stupid memorials is to miss the point, and detract from what should be our focus.

A Charles Schultz drawing.

10. Other subjects discussed:
– Mr B could not remember the details or source of a study that included an experiment: photographs of a missing boy were placed all around a shopping mall. The young boy himself stood in the mall for hours, vainly waiting to be recognised!
That prompted Uncle Pete to tell us a funny thing that happened to him: he and his wife discovered such a poster featuring Peter’s brother! Peter rang his brother to inform him that he was missing. Peter’s brother explained that he had gone missing for a couple of days after a domestic dispute, and the police had been diligent in putting up signs!

– Mr B gave three concrete reasons why Christians don’t truly believe in the existence of their God. (Two were supplied by his friend, Jon. Thanks, Jon!)
Was Mr B being serious? Yes, he was. Were his arguments strong? He thinks so. What are the reasons he gave? This scribe ain’t telling. Ask Mr B the next time you’re at Speakers’ Corner.

– Mirko stood on the Ladder of Knowledge and generously explained how gravity makes water. This discombobulated the poor Mr B, because he had only just got his head around Mirko’s previous claim that photosynthesis made water.
It’s good to see Mirko’s advances in science continue. If Mr B cannot keep up that’s his problem.

Here is a picture of gravity making water.

11. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like our Facebook page. If you believe that, you will find our Archives site just as festive.



News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 10th December.

In News for Speakers' Corner on December 11, 2017 at 12:37 pm

‘Who are you?’ I asked the watcher in my dreams.
‘Who wants to know?’ was the reply.
Paul Broks

1.  Even before the chairs were out, Donny Dodd was keen to get cracking. For many years, Donny was a fiery speaker at Speakers’ Corner, speaking about Aboriginal affairs. He was entertaining, informative, and hard to tie down. Today, under a Morton Bay Fig tree not much older than he, he resurrected the Donny of old and spoke abut Australia’s Constitution of 2003, and the 1986 Australian Act regarding borders. Welcome back, Donny!

Donny Dodd, indigenous speaker.

2. As usual, the tireless Ray was near the kiosk out to save souls. Few evangelists are as committed. Whether or not you like Ray’s evangelistic message, you have to acknowledge his resolve.

Steve Maxwell, on the other hand, spoke about more Earthly matters: Australian politics and China. Here he is taking an undeserved break.

Cool Daddy, AKA Steve Maxwell

3. Should a synagogue be required to hire out its premises to the Nazi party for its anti-semitism rally? Should an African-American T-shirt maker be required to print one with the words, “Join the KKK“?  Should a gay baker be required to bake a cake with the words, “Gays are X%#@*”?

“No”, rightly say some fundamentalist Christians, “and therefore, no church official should be required to marry homosexual people.”

The difference is: Jews, African-Americans and gays suffered persecution from their tormentors, whereas homosexual people have not historically or collectively persecuted Christians. Further, nowhere in the Christian Bible does it say that Christians are required to help God enforce His precepts. Indeed, it indicates the contrary: that we have free will. God will do the judging, and He doesn’t need fawning ‘policemen’ to assist Him.

This week the Australian parliament passed laws to give homosexual people the same right to marry as straight people. The ‘no’ voters are concerned about religious people having to act ‘against their good conscience’. Mr B explained why ‘acts of good conscience’ are not acts of good conscience at all, but acts of sycophancy and discrimination. His grasshoppers took the subject seriously and contributed significantly to the discussion.

4. A young man by the name of Tommy has become a regular, and today his mother accompanied him to see what the hell it was all about. Tommy takes insults well, is happy to interrupt, has a lot to say, and what he does say is tripe. He fits in perfectly. Today he asked about the subject of forgiveness, and of course Mr B had something to say about that. Then Tommy himself chose to get up and speak. He spoke well, and we hope he speaks again.

We don’t have a photograph of Tommy yet, so this will have to do until we do.

5. The ‘Something Nice’ segment, to charm some and irritate others. (From the Postsecret site.)

6. Good old Arthur is anti-fluoride. Fluoride is the substance put into our drinking water to help prevent tooth decay. Uncle Pete offered to explain how it protects our teeth, and the crowd almost threw him onto The Ladder of Knowledge. Pete explained in a clear manner the chemical processes involved, and then answered twenty questions. When he finished he received hearty applause for his effort. Thank you, Peter!

As it happens, we have a lookalike of Peter that someone sent in. The resemblance is eerie.

7. Grasshoppers, please note!  If a speaker is talking about a subject (eg. over population) and happens to use a metaphor, simile or analogy to make a point (eg. he might make a passing reference to caterpillars), the topic does not become ‘caterpillars’! We don’t need someone interrupting the discussion to add to our knowledge of caterpillars. For goodness sake.

8. This week, ex-journalist Ben McCormack was fined $1,000 and given a three-year good behaviour bond for the “crime” of telling another pederast online what he’d like to do with boys. Ben had not bought or sold child pornography and had none on his computer. He had not contacted children on his computer and there was no evidence to suggest he had tried to groom any child in any way, anywhere. The only “crime” he had committed was to express his inclinations to another person who wouldn’t judge him on his sexuality and call him a deviate or pervert. In other words, the poor man had to undergo extreme humiliation, lose his reputation, and lose a thousand dollars simply because he told someone what he would like to do.

Mr B was scathing of our society’s self-righteousness, lack of compassion and intolerance, and of the judicial system.

Mr B believes that any pederast or paedophile that goes through life not acting upon their inclinations doesn’t deserve condemnation and punishment; they deserve a medal. And they deserve our compassion and our thanks.

9. It is commonly claimed that each of us possesses a subconscious. Mr B proposed an alternative: that within each of us reside multiple selves. In this rare instance, this scribe will take it upon himself to explain Mr B’s extraordinary claim.

According to Mr B, we might have a dominant self that we identify as ‘me’, and possess less developed selves that stay ‘in the background’. “After all,” he explained, “if the brain can produce one self, why couldn’t it produce more than one? Of course, one of those selves would have to become dominant for the organism to function properly.”

His grasshoppers didn’t take well to that idea!

Mr B listed five ways we might become aware of those other selves. ‘Dreaming’ was one way. Here is an example of a dream from Mr B. See if you can see why this dream might indicate the presence of multiple selves:

Female teacher to schoolboy Mark: “Mark, what sound does a parrot make?”
Schoolboy Mark: “It squawks.”
Teacher: “No. Try again.”
Schoolboy Mark: “It imitates sounds?”
Teacher: “No. Forget it.”
Schoolboy Mark to another schoolboy: “What was she on about?”
Other schoolboy: “She wanted you to make the sound of a parrot squawking.”

Notice how the teacher’s question could be answered in two ways: the way she intended and the way Mark understood it? In the dream, schoolboy Mark did not understand what the teacher wanted. But the teacher knew what she wanted, and so did the other boy. How can that be? Presumably, Mark (the man dreaming the dream) had written the script, so surely all the participants in it would know what the teacher required. But no, schoolboy Mark didn’t. So, how could the man dreaming the dream create that ambiguous question and fool himself?

Answer: he couldn’t. Another self within Mark’s skull wrote the script with the intention of fooling the dreamer!

Can it be that the Frederick Kekulé, the man who suddenly understood the benzene molecule after waking from a doze, was given the answer not by his subconscious, but by another self within him who saw the problem in a different way?

When some people suffer extreme stress and feel they are separating from their body, is their dominant self leaving ‘the cockpit’ while they’re still awake? (They’re still within the body of course. The ‘rising’ above the body is part of the disassociation.) Could it be that in that extreme situation, there are now two conscious selves: one experiencing the stress and the other observing them experience it? But only one memory is incorporated?

Ernest Hilgard asked hypnotized people to immerse their arms in iced water for long periods and feel no pain. The subjects did so, and displayed and reported no pain. However, when Hilgard asked them if ‘at some level’ they knew that they were experiencing pain, they responded affirmatively. Could it be that one of their selves felt no pain, while another did?

Does Mr B’s idea have merit? Or is he as mad as a hose let go?

Is Mr Bashful as mad as a hose let go?  (Photo courtesy of Ross Duncan. Thanks, Ross.)

10. How did you feel when a parent died? Grief? Relief? Nothing? Joy? Next week we will definitely explore that subject. Join us.

11. Mr B claims that
The Australian Cricket Board has, over the last few years, “suggested” to its test captains that they should never enforce the ‘follow-on’. Why? Because when the follow-on is not enforced the game is likely to go on for a longer period of time. That means more advertising dollars for the commercial television broadcasters.

Uncle Pete disagreed. He says attitudes have changed over time, and that no weak team wants to bat last on a dodgy wicket. Uncle Pete is a silly mid on.

12. Mr B examined the gender pay gap yet again, with a fresh eye. He presented a study that found that tall men are paid, on average, 9% to 15% more than men of average and below average height. It seems we respect tall men. The speaker then pointed out that men are, on average, taller than women. He concluded by saying that perhaps the pay gap between men and women has nothing to do with gender, and everything to do with height!

Initially, his tongue seemed to be in his cheek, but a few perceptive comments from his grasshoppers added an extra dimension to the argument.

13. The speaker explained how he tricked himself into completing an almost interminable poll for the Roy Morgan company. One of the poll’s questions asked, “Of the thirty government policies below, which three matter to you most?” The speaker was dismayed to find that none of the following were options:
– ‘the pollution of our air, fresh water and sea’
– ‘land degradation’,
– ‘habitat loss’,
– ‘over population’ and
– ‘the environment and its ecology’.

14. Our Facebook page is an enigma, though our Archives site is as important as the world’s biggest seed bank in Norway, and equally relevant to our day-to-day life.


News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday, 3rd December

In News for Speakers' Corner on December 4, 2017 at 9:40 am

“Don’t argue with idiots. They will bring you down to their level and beat you with their experience.”

1. We can’t say we weren’t warned.

Last week, Mr B warned his regulars that this week he would be talking about one subject only, for as long as it took. And true to his word, he did.

The subject was, “Is the human species inherently good or inherently bad?” From the outset he admitted that nothing can be inherently good or bad. Something is what it is. If we determine something is good or bad we are using value judgments, and they are arbitrary and changeable. They’re make-believe. “And yet,” he promised, “I aim to find out anyway. I need to know. Join me if you will.”

Three hours later . . . !

It was 5.20pm when he kindly woke his grasshoppers to let them know Helmut was about to speak.

2. Mr B said his talk should only have taken half an hour, but with all the interruptions . . .

He said he expected that.

However, Mr B’s mentors (Rolf Harris and Don Bourke) would have been displeased with him for becoming so grumpy. He was at his grumpiest today.

He said he expected that too.

Although it was a fraught day, it would have been even more fraught for this scribe had I not nodded off early in the peace. That was a blessing for me, I learned later. However, before I had the good fortune to nod off, I witnessed a grasshopper offer Mr B $50 to change the subject. Yes, it was a genuine offer, and Mr B took it.

Unfortunately, Mr B broke his promise by refusing to change the subject anyway. It was pointed out that Mr B’s non-compliance with the deal provided a timely example of how one human being can act badly. Which in turn proved humanity was inherently bad.

As if willing to prove the opposite, grasshopper Laurence took objection to Mr B’s dishonesty, and stood by the Ladder of Knowledge for the next twenty minutes talking over him. He would not desist, he explained, until Mr B handed back the ill-gotten moola. Mr B continued to refuse, point blank.

It was riveting viewing, folks.

Finally, order was restored. Mr B still had the $50 note and continued to speak about the same topic. That was when I nodded off. I can’t report anything more.

3. Last week, someone said Englishman Karl Pilkington looked a lot like Mr B, and someone else compared Steve Maxwell with Keanu Reeves. That prompted someone called Tony to send in another lookalike.

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

5. If you check your calender you’ll find that it will soon be the holiday season. Try this friendly tip.

6. This scribe has no idea what Ray, Mirko, Helmut or Steve Maxwell spoke about. That is Mr Soporofic’s . . . Mr Bashful’s fault for sending me to sleep. However, three subjects were discussed briefly at the beginning of the meeting:
– If a man treats his wife badly at a function, should we say something?  (Opinions were divided on whether something should be said, and to whom.)

– With regards to last week’s Push-me-Pull-You dog story and the photographic evidence provided, Mr B stood high on the Ladder of Knowledge and asked for an apology from those who had insisted one of the dogs was male.
He did not receive the apology, but he did receive more abuse.

– The speaker asked: “Who recorded Sam Dastyari telling a Chinese firm that Labor believed Australia shouldn’t interfere in the South China Sea? Peter the Younger answered ‘ASIO’ and it seemed to be the right answer.

ASIO operative

7. How did you feel when a parent died? Grief? Relief? Nothing? Joy? Next week or the week after, at least two people will be standing on the Ladder of Knowledge to answer that question. If you’re there, you will be invited to do so too.

8. The grasshopper did eventually get his $50 back. Everyone was pleased about that except Mr B.

Speaking of money, we are on Facebook but haven’t yet figured out how to make money from it.

The Archives site is not yet a moneyspinner either.





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