Soapbox Speakers

Archive for March, 2018|Monthly archive page

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 25th March

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 26, 2018 at 10:37 am

“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport.”

1. Mr B was grumpy today for a number of reasons.

That’s not unusual.

He was most cross when someone tried to take over his meeting.

2. When Mr B left the Ladder of Knowledge in the capable hands of Helmut, he wandered over to Steve Maxell’s meeting. Then he and Steve were at logger-heads again. Steve Maxwell thinks highly of history and believes it should be taught in schools; Mr B thinks history is the second-greatest blight humanity has to suffer, and if he could successfully ban history world-wide, he would.

To prove his point, Mr B asked a random passer-by, “When was the Battle of Hastings?”

Of course, the passer-by rattled the correct answer off with ease.

You, dear reader, probably know the answer too. Yes, it was in 1066.

“Why the hell would schools continue to teach that crap?” Mr B wanted to know. “How can they possibly justify their decision to do so? In what way would we be worse off if we didn’t know that in 1066 there was a battle in Hastings?”

Steve Maxwell put his case forth and it was on for young and old.

The day before the Battle of Hastings.

3. The Sentinelese are a group of people living on a tiny island in the Bay of Bengal. They have been left alone by nearly all outsiders for tens of thousands of years. Mr B had prepared a talk for his grasshoppers, to impart the little we know about them gleaned from the few brief encounters people have had with them. However, his grasshoppers were so interested that they felt it necessary to interject with a heap of assumptions, and to google the topic. Mr B had no interest in competing with stupid assumptions or smart phones, so he got the sulks and abandoned the talk.

As far as we know, the Sentinelese did not participate in the Battle of Hastings.

4. Mr B spoke about the Australian cricketers who tried to cheat by tampering with a cricket ball. But instead of focusing on the incident itself, like the media have done, he explored the pressure the cricketers might be under to make such a stupid and ugly mistake. Had their self-worth become dependent on them winning? And, why didn’t the bowler have the assertiveness skills to simply say no?

I think I can help you out here, Mr B. Schools don’t teach their students assertiveness skills because it’s more important that they learn English history. For example, it’s imperative that they know when the Battle of Hastings occurred.

The Battle of Hastings began when a cricketer was caught tampering with the ball.

5. We discussed ‘The Twins Paradox’. Or at least, we tried to.

A brief summary of The Twins Paradox: an astronaut travelling at half the speed of light will age at a much slower rate than someone on Earth. (The film, Interstellar, relies on this.) This paradox prompted ten-year old twins, Jill and Bill, to experiment. Bill remained on Earth for another sixty years while his sister Jill, in her IKEA spacecraft  that she assembled herself, shot around the solar system very fast indeed. When Jill landed back on Earth she (and her spacecraft) had aged thirty years since her departure, while her brother Bill had aged sixty years.

What has this got to do with anything?

The reiteration of the paradox was to prepare us for a question from Mr B. However, we didn’t get to hear his question because there were just two many interruptions, clarifications and meanderings.

Are you beginning to see why he was grumpy today?

Twins Jill and Bill

Here is a question: on the day Jill landed, the craft became faulty. IKEA had given it a 35 year warranty. Would the craft still be under warranty?

6. Someone kindly sent in this look-a-like of Helmut. Thank you!

7. Other subjects discussed:
–  Mr B said that the word ‘per’ in the expression ‘10 metres per second‘ indicates a rate, or a ratio. ‘10 metres for each second.’  Two grasshoppers “set him straight”. They informed him that the word ‘per’ doesn’t mean that at all; it means ‘divided by’.

– Mirko stood upon the Ladder of Knowledge and patiently explained to us his innovative modification to the humble pushbike. His extra crank saves the rider considerable energy, he explained. Unfortunately, the cranks in the audience would have none of it.

– Do many Australians vandalise ebikes, or complain about them, because they are spoiled rotten and like to whinge, and don’t really give a damn about traffic congestion, air pollution, another person’s convenience, respecting other people’s property, and our need for exercise? Or are the complainers, as one grasshopper suggested, protesting about the data ebike companies steal from us?

– Low Document Loans. Are banks doing the right thing when they encourage loan applicants to lie about their earnings?

– Mr B argued that the Church(es) should not compensate victims of sexual abuse. He wants all victims of sexual abuse, from inside the Church and out, to have free access to the counselling they need, and that we should double the Medicare Levy to make that happen.
You can’t imagine the flak he received!

– Mr B explained the basics of how companies and shareholdings work, and then explained how Divident Imputation works. Members of the audience tried to assist him by using jargon. Oh dear.

– Did the Russians poison their treasonous spy with a nerve agent because they wanted to send a message to other agents thinking about swapping alliances? Or were the Russians framed?

– Should retirees be taxed more and be refused the imputation rebate? Mr B said ‘yes’ and some grasshoppers said ‘no’.

8. Join our Facebook page and have your data promptly collected and misused.

For more information about our speakers try our Archives site.

Elephant shrew





News for speakers’ Corner, Sunday 18th March

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 19, 2018 at 10:32 am

“You cannot flatter an honest man. Nor can you insult him.”

1. Steve Maxwell was absent without leave today.  This is the first time Steve has not appeared since the last time he didn’t appear, but we are assured he will be here this coming Sunday.

Meanwhile, Spring Chicken Tony Boyce celebrated his 81st birthday today at the Domain by ignoring all references to his birthday. I guess that’s one way to celebrate it.

Mirko disgraced himself. Every two minutes during the meeting Mirko had a question about the topic . . . about something vaguely related to the topic, and that was fine. Mr B dutifully took his questions. Unfortunately, Mirko took Mr B’s keen interest as an invitation to interrupt loudly on countless other occasions. Eventually Mr B revoked his invitation for Mirko to have a turn on the Ladder of Knowledge, and then Mirko did his block. He did his lolly. He threw out every toy in the cot. And, he promised to never come here again.

See you this coming Sunday, Mirko.

They’re both as old as Stonehenge, but lack its Joie de vivre.

2. We briefly gave Stephen Hawking a minute’s silence. It’s not true that Stephen’s main claim to fame was to inspire an action figure. He did more than that.

3. Farce Number 1: The speed of light is the same for all observers. Imagine a giant observer so big he could fit our observable universe into his laundry. If a new star appeared 100 light years away from Earth, from our Earthling point of view that star’s light would take 100 years to reach us. But from the giant observer’s point of view, looking at our universe in his laundry, the distance between the Earth and the star would be less than a centimetre. And, with the speed of light the same for all observers, then to the giant, the star’s light would reach Earth seemingly instantaneously. How can this be?

That was Mr B’s silly question, and didn’t he cop heaps for it!

4. Farce Number 2: Mr B spoke about regulated hunting in Africa and the U.S.A., and about canned hunting (raising animals in cages to release and shoot). He told us how much each hunter is charged (a hunter is charged US$80,000 to kill one elephant). He asked us why Winter is a good time to hunt mountain lions.* He told us that African nations raise hundreds of millions of dollars with regulated hunting, and how much of that money is spent on the conservation of those animals and on anti-poaching measures.

Why did he speak of all this, and more? Because he figured his grasshoppers would find it interesting.

He was wrong. They didn’t.

That’s when it got ugly.

It wasn’t Mr B’s day.

* Did you figure out why hunters like hunting mountain lions in the winter? It’s because the lions leave tracks in the snow. The lion doesn’t stand a chance.

5. Yet again, Mr B bravely revealed his boundless ignorance. But this time, the invaluable Uncle Pete helped out.

Well, he helped out everyone else. Mr B is still confused.

What was Mr B’s naive question?

In Eintein’s formula . . . (actually, it’s our formula now, not Einstein’s. He’s dead, and has lost all property rights.) Anyway, in our formula E = mc2, Mr B understood that the ‘E’ stands for Energy, the ‘m’ stands for Mass, and the ‘C’ stands for the Cpeed of light. (Einstein was a poor speller.) Mr B wanted to know, how can we square the speed of light? We can square a number, but we can’t square a ‘speed’ or a ‘weight’ or ‘an area’. For example, the square of the number 299,792,458 (metres per second) will give one answer; the square of the number 186,ooo (miles per second) will give another answer. And so on. We could square the number of chains or furlongs too, and each time, the result would be different. For that matter, why per second? Why not per half minute?  All this variability would bugger up the formula, wouldn’t it? So, what’s going on? Mr B wanted to know.

More next week. Hopefully.

These horses are not running furlongs at the speed of light. Not the one I backed, anyway.

6. Steve Maxwell has done it again. Years ago he had the presence of mind to keep six issues of a magazine edited by ex-speaker and anarchist, Warren Buckland, President of the ‘Muggers, Bashers and Robbers Union’. It is with pleasure I present to you ‘The Federalist‘.

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

8. Other subjects discussed:

– A young German fellow by the name of Flack (sp?) spoke  on the Ladder of Knowledge to express his concern about the far-right political party AfD (Alternative for Deutchland) in Germany. He said that many people are mocking the party’s supporters, but their use of satire isn’t helping. Flack would like more people to sit down with AfD followers and listen to their concerns. Only then might the Germans avoid the pain to come.

– John August spoke about the blight of ever-present advertising.

– Whispering Ben spoke briefly about Bruce Pascoe’s astounding book, “Dark Emu”. He says it should be required reading for all school children.

– Helmut explained why God is infinite light.

Helmut, is this God taking a nap?

9. We have a Facebook page and its formula is   F = tw2.   (‘F’ stands for Facebook, ‘t’ stands for Time, and ‘w’ stands for ‘Wasted’.)

Asian palm civet



News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 11th March

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 12, 2018 at 6:32 am

Special notice: Mr B is in good health and will be at the Domain this coming Sunday 18th to provide chairs for the indolent.

“Broken and broken again on the sea,
the moon so easily mends.”

1. It was again a quiet day, but a beautiful one. We didn’t finish until nearly 6pm.

Steve Maxwell turned up late, bless him, after attending his friend’s 100th birthday. When Steve did get to speak he spoke about Australia’s dark and troubled past: the convict settlements, the mistreatment of the Aborigines, the World Wars . . .

. . . and then he presented another thought experiment: what would be the consequences of banning the iphone from the classroom?

2. We spoke about sledges in cricket.

Rod Marsh to Ian Botham: “So, how’s your wife and my kids?”
Botham: “The wife is fine but the kids are retarded.”

3. If you watched the video of John Webster on Youtube you would have discovered that he sold a newsletter to his listeners, for twenty cents. The industrious Steve Maxwell got his hand on a few copies and they’re now on this blog. Good work, Steve!

If you’d like to see all 25 pages, click here. Here is a sample below.

4. Another famous sledge:

Glenn McGrath to Eddo Brandes: “Why are you so fat?”
Eddo’s reply: “Because every time I make love to your wife she gives me a biscuit.”

5. Thank you to the person who sent in this striking look-a-like of Mr Bashful.

6. Another sledge:

Shane Warne: “I’ve been waiting two years for another chance to humiliate you.”
Daryll Cullinan: “It looks like you’ve spent it eating.”

7. Scientists in our “top” science organisation, the CSIRO, have become stamp collectors, said Mr B. Searching the deep ocean floor, researchers hauled up 42,747 poor, hapless fish, and discovered five new species. Now the staff can spend their lives and the taxpayer’s money cataloguing them. Mr B thinks that if they had just stuck to stamps then 42,747 fish could have remained on the sea floor alive and continued to mind their own business.

Mr B then sarcastically explained how the planet’s supposed environmental degradation is just a myth. After all, he explained, we are discovering more species than are becoming extinct, so we have a net increase in species. At this rate, we will soon be overrun with wildlife.

8. Another sledge:

Warne was trying to get a chubby batsman out. The wicketkeeper Ian Healy suggested to Warne, “Bowl a Mars Bar halfway down the pitch and I’ll stump him.”
Everyone laughed and the batsman replied, “Nah, David Boon will be onto it before I can move.”

9. Mark the Grinner responded to last week’s post in which it was revealed that Mr B’s offer to speak to the students at Sydney University had been rejected. Mark was scathing of the University’s censorious policies. He even drew on the Dark Ages and The Enlightenment to make his point.

Mark also spoke about the warnings you often find preceding television programs: “Viewers may be concerned by the following images.” Mark believes we shouldn’t receive such warnings; we need to harden up and accept reality. The world can be a horrible place and we need to accept that, not  hide from it. Mr B, sitting in the outer, objected. His objection was futile.

10. Another sledge:

Dennis Lillee to a batsman: “I can see why you are batting so badly. You’ve got some shit on the end of your bat.”
The batsman would look at the end of his bat.
Dennis: “Wrong end, mate.”

11. Uncle Pete ascended the Ladder of Knowledge to give us a vignette of a man called Henry Moseley. Henry was a brilliant man who furthered our understanding of sub-atomic particles. When World War I broke out he could easily have avoided conscription, but chose not to, arguing that if a coal miner was obliged to risk his life, then he himself should risk his. It has been said that he may well have won a Nobel Prize had he not been shot dead in Gallipoli.

Then, when we discussed the pay packets of CEOs, Uncle Pete was prompted to suggest that nurses should strike for much better pay, even though a few of us would die in the process. If they striked for long enough, the government would cave in.

12. Another sledge:

Merv Hughs to batsman: “You can’t fucking bat.”
The batsman hit the next ball for four runs and then replied: “Hey, Merv, we make a good pair! I can’t fucking bat and you can’t fucking bowl.”

13. A few weeks ago, Donald Trump suggested that teachers should be given guns in school. Mr B asked his grasshoppers to provide ten reasons why the idea is a stupid one. He received three reasons before the discussion became such a farce he changed the topic.

14. Another sledge:

In a Sheffield Shield match Steve Waugh was taking his time getting ready to face his first ball: taking guard, scratching out his mark, looking at the field settings. Jamie Siddons decided enough was enough and remarked: “For fuck’s sake, mate, it’s not a fucking test match!” To which Waugh replied: “Of course it’s not . . . You’re here.”

15. Other subjects discussed:
– Was the government doing the right thing when they “stole” Aboriginal children from their parents in the early 1900s? Or was it a shameful period in Australia’s history? Or both? Is it true that all but one of the claims for compensation have been denied, because government records indicate that the children were stolen for good reason? Or did the bureaucrats make up lies to justify their actions? Were most of the Aboriginal children given the opportunity to visit their parents from time to time, or was that a lie too? These, and other questions, made the discussin lively.

– According the ABC news, school principals are stressed and overworked. A study found that they are interupted 70 times a day. One grasshopper scoffed. She’s a Deputy Principal, and deputy principles are interrupted 170 times a day!

– In China, do some people hire Chinese strippers to attend funerals, in the hope of getting a higher turnout? Or is that fake news?

– Many companies don’t pay tax. Is that a good thing? Are the ways some companies avoid paying tax legitimate? Do they, by reinvesting their profits into research and development (and pay no tax as a result) ultimately benefit the nation because they grow in size and employ more people?

– What is hunger? Does the hunger of a well fed Australian differ from the hunger of someone used to eating one small meal a day? Is the Australian’s hunger laced with anxiety, because they’re not used to going hungry?

– Should GPs automatically take a patient’s blood pressure while the patient is explaining why they are there? Or is the onus on the patient to ask?

– Speaking of Nobel Prize winners, Mirko was “vigorous” today on the Ladder of Knowledge as he patiently explained complex matters that only a Nobel Prize winner could understand. For example, here are three of the more comprehensible lines of his flyer:
Static cloud discharge H2O1 Rain Lighting (sic) 
Sun’s U/V   I/R in water mist rise on Gravity
Also could discharge on land H2O1 Life.
This poor scribe struggles to understand Mirko’s deep message, though the recurring theme seems to be “MOTHER NATURE!’ It’s a shame that Mirko’s boundless knowledge is wasted on us, when he should be in a university lecturing.

Mother Nature

16. Another sledge:

Merv Hughes was giving the batsman, Graham Gooch, a hard time with his bowling. 
Merv: “Would you like me to bowl a piano and see if you can play that?”



News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 4th March.

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 5, 2018 at 12:10 pm

“The music is not in the notes but in the silence in between.”

We discussed what might Mozart might have meant. The hapless Mr B read too much into it.

1. Today we had a plethora of speakers up on the Ladder of Knowledge: Mirko, Mark the Grinner, Philip Feinstein, Mr B, Helmut and Guy. Across the way was Steve maxwell, and by the kiosk, Ray.

Speakers all over the place.

But the crowds today were the smallest we have seen for some time. It was still an interesting day.


2. Steve Maxwell held a thought experiment, and it was so successful he held it all day with his passers-by. (A thought experiment is an imaginary scenario created in order to test a hypothesis through to its possible conclusions.) His experiment: what characteristics would the perfect politician have? His passers-by came up with a wide variety of answers, and each point-of-view had merit. And, points-of-view came from the far right to the centre, to the far left.

Steve was very satisfied about how his meeting went, and he will be doing more thought experiments in the future.

3. Mr B was asked about the state of free speech in universities. That pressed a button! He reminded us all of his “generous” offer to speak at Sydney University nearly three years ago and the reply he received: ‘Our stakeholders have advised that allowing you to conduct your event on University grounds is considered not in the best interests of staff and students.’

Presumably, the “stakeholders” were concerned that Mr B might incite violence and leave the university in rubble, or defame a litigious bounder and diminish the university’s coffers.

With his fury reignited, Mr B bellowed that a university’s job, and privilege, is to create a fertile environment for the students, because those students  need to think thoughts not yet thought if they are to be the doers of the future and create a world we don’t yet have. Students are humanity’s lifeline for a better world, he said, and administrators should expose their students to new ideas, not protect them from ideas. And from a soapbox speaker, for goodness sake?! Since when did a soapbox speaker become a dangerous subversive capable of corrupting minds? Since when was a student’s mind so fragile?

The “stakeholders” obviously don’t know Mr B very well. The man couldn’t corrupt a loaf of bread.

Perhaps the officials were concerned the students might be offended? But a university is the place to be offended. That’s where students need to learn to cope with offence, and harden up and deal with it, and decide for themselves what is offensive and what has merit.

And, it’s the university’s role to help each student develop a bullshit detector, to prepare them for a world seething with bullshit. Students need all the practise they can get sorting bullshit from the truth. However, if they are shielded from views perceived to be ‘not in the best interests of the staff and students’, how will they develop the confidence and grit to develop their bullshit detectors or their own fresh thinking? And then, from where will new and exciting ideas spring?

Shielding its students from ideas, wacky or otherwise, is not the way to go. 

To protect the students (and staff) from any speaker is to treat them like children. It demeans the students, it demeans the staff, it demeans the university.

It occurs to this scribe that if the administrators choose to protect the students from a simple soapbox speaker, in what other ways might they be hobbling their students’ development?

Mr B finally concluded his hissy fit and changed the subject.

4. One of the many good things about Speakers’ Corner is that people don’t hold grudges. Week to week passions are ignited and comments can be “blunt”. Ray, for example, is our fundamentalist Christian speaker, and instead of frothing at the mouth when his beliefs are challenged or insulted, he maintains his calm demeanour and remains approachable. Mr B can be insulting in his pathetic attempts to be witty, but his grasshoppers forgive him. Mirko berates his audience constantly (“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” and “Shut up!“) but we love him all the same. Some people get under Steve Maxwell’s skin all day long, but when those same pests visit the following week he welcomes them.

It’s a pleasure to be in an environment in which you can frankly state your opinion, create a tizz, and then everyone is happy again.

This video of Ray and Uncle Pete has had over 138,000 views. People have commented upon their earnest conversation, and one or two have correctly suggested that the two men would harbour no animosity after such an encounter. They might even have a beer together!

5. Thank you to the person who sent in this look-a-like of Tony. Much appreciated.

6. Philip Feinstein provided us with some good news: the Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, was very prompt in allowing Philip to send music instruments to the detainees on Nauru and Manus islands. (Philip is the founder of Music For Refugees.) The instruments have arrived in Nauru, and they’re on their way to Manus Island.

Philip also talked about the 501 visa. He thought it outrageous that a non-citizen, who has committed a crime and been given a 12 month jail sentence, can be deported after serving their time in jail.

7. We learned about the Syrrian fellow who was born blind. At 17 he obtained a student visa to the U.S.A. and arrived in Los Angeles with little money, no contacts, no sight, and unable to speak English. He found a park to sleep in for two months (not years, Mr B!), a gym to shower in, and a library in which he could learn English. In 2 months he could communicate! He found housing, and now, four years later, he speaks fluently and is flourishing. Extraordinary!

Have you ever wondered how blind people use a computer?

8. Other subjects discussed:
– Guy spoke in favour of Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs.

– We examined the other Ten Commandments, 11 to 20.

– We discussed a little more about Bruce Pascoe’s book, “Dark Emu”. What was Aboriginal life like?

– Mirko talked about “No brain pollution” and “no talk, no sense”. I think that’s what he talked about, anyway.

– Uncle Pete is wondering when someone will steal a hair from Barnaby Joyce and his son, and compare the DNA.

– Both Helmut and Mark the Grinner (separately) spoke on religion. Mark the Grinner asked if perhaps being religious is a form of mental illness. He quoted Robert Persig: “When one person suffers from a delusion it’s called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it’s called a religion.”

“Gran calavera eléctrica” by José Guadalupe Posada, Mexico

9. We are on Facebook for reasons unclear. We have an Archives site for no reason at all.

Indian Bull Frog


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