Soapbox Speakers

Archive for June, 2018|Monthly archive page

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 24th June.

In News for Speakers' Corner on June 25, 2018 at 1:50 pm

Asked of ex NSW Premier Bob Carr: “When did your scepticism first emerge?

“When I was 15 or 16, wandering through the Sydney Domain on a Sunday afternoon, listening to an orator from the Rationalist Society flinging out challenges to biblical orthodoxy. “

(From this weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald)
My thanks to Glenda Browne for bringing it to our attention.

1. When you read a story you can’t ask the author “Is this true?”. You have to let the author take you on a journey and you discover whether or not it is true when the author intends you to discover it. But when a speaker at Speakers’ Corner sets about telling a story he isn’t allowed to let the story unravel at its own pace. No, not at Speakers’ Corner. Instead, the poor speaker gets his impatient garden gnomes asking, “Is the story true, Mr Speaker? Is it? Is it?” The speaker is forced to confess that it is indeed true, or it isn’t. Thus, any impact that the ending of the story might have is deflated. Sigh.

Honestly, the speakers at Speakers’ Corner deserve medals and accolades for putting up with their listeners’ interruptions and demands.

The reason no one pays the speakers at Speakers’ Corner is because no one could pay them enough.

Here is one speaker who has put up with an awful lot over the last four decades. Good on you, Steve.

2. Mr B began one topic
by explaining that his mother used to work in the council’s library. Each year the library would wastefully spend their allotted funds like crazy, for fear that if they didn’t, their budget would be reduced the following year. Then he introduced his topic: “Religion is no longer the opiate of the masses; it’s television.” A few grasshoppers nodded to concur. But when Mr B demanded the federal government reduce the ABC’s funding by 50%, suddenly they were up in arms! Fans of Peppa Pig and Dr Who were outraged!

Here are some facts gleened from Mr B’s exhilarating talk:
– The ABC received in this financial year $1.2b. Next year it will receive $1.36b.

– Plus, they receive nearly $200 million from other sources of revenue. That’s close to $1.4b each year.

– Mr B reckons Sydney’s taxpayers should not have to fund FOUR ABC television stations and TWELVE radio stations in Sydney. “We don’t need that many, no matter how addicted to television we are,” he said. “Nor should the taxpayer pay for four codes of football to be broadcast. Why the hell should the taxpayer be paying to have the Hornets vs Lizards football game broadcast?” he wanted to know. “Yes, television is the opiate of the masses, but that doesn’t mean the taxpayer should fund all that opium.”

– The ABC’s purpose is to ensure every person in Australia has access to the news in case of bushfire, invasion, etc. “We don’t need to spend $1.4b each year to ensure that,” he said. “And you can still have your Peppa Pig, Dr Who and David Attenborough programs. Just get rid of the fat.”

– What fat, Mr B? Well, apparently 45.4% of the $1.4b (that’s $635,600,000) is used to pay salaries. If every employee received $100,000 a year that means there must be over 6,000 employees. (If the average salary is $50,000 that means there are 12,000 employees.) Assuming 40 of the 54 radio stations are regional stations and require ten people each (that’s generous) that means the other radio stations and television stations combined employ very approximately 5,600 people. That’s about 294 people per station. “There’s the fat!” he exclaimed. (The figures are rubbery but you get the point, dear reader.)

– And, according to the leader of the Australian Conservatives, Cory Bernardi, the ABC spends $2m each year paying Google (.5m) and Facebook (1.4m) to promote the ABC. “Should the taxpayer shell out money to promote the ABC to itself?” Mr B wanted to know.

– “Plus, when there is even a whiff of cuts to its funding, the ABC indulges in extreme self interest by making the topic one of its leading stories,” claimed Mr B. “They use their radio and television programs to promote their cause, hogwash the listeners, and protect their honeypot. As a result, no federal government is game to reduce its funding for fear of a voter backlash. So, the funds (increased each year) keep rolling in, year after year. The ABC naturally wants to spend the funds (or it will look stupid) so be prepared for more waste, and more television and radio stations. Mr B concluded by saying that his mother’s library was just an amateur when it came to profligacy.

Your scribe wasn’t 100% convinced by Mr B, but this new ABC logo is a touch worrying.

The new ABC logo.

3. Peter the Younger drew a big crowd when he took the Ladder of Knowledge. He patiently explained to us all why humans are NOT necessarily causing global warming or climate change, and why human activity is not causing damage to the Great Barrier Reef. He received plenty of ‘feedback’ and handled it well. He had an answer for every objection. It was the most exciting part of the day.

Peter did a fantastic job and it’s a shame he isn’t a permanent speaker.

4. From the big topics to the small.
During the week Mr B used the formula “Area of a circle = πr2” to calculate how much of a pizza base is covered with topping. From a nearby pizza restaurant the results are:
Large pizza: 76% has topping on it.
Small pizza: 77%
That means nearly ONE QUARTER of a pizza doesn’t have topping on it.

“So what?” said three grasshoppers. “We like the crust.”


5. Mirko got up to speak and Uncle Pete
again had trouble grasping Mirko’s scientific gems. We have to admit, Mirko is very patient with those who have trouble understanding the very basics of physics and chemistry.

Mirko was talking freely about Mother Nature when the inquisitive Uncle Pete asked him, “What about Father Nature?” As quick as a flash Mirko provided the answer: “Father Nature is the software programmer that allows Mother Nature to do her work.” That floored us all. Mirko has obviously given that question a lot of thought already. Have we barely scratched the surface of his knowledge?

The extraordinary thing is: Mirko is serious when he comes out with this material. It’s just as well he gained his knowledge from advanced aliens, otherwise we might doubt the veracity of his claims.

6. From the audience Kyle got up to speak. He quickly overcame any nervousness he may have been feeling and spoke about how history itself is muddied by our historians more than we care to mention. The example he gave was of a German fellow, John Rabe, who saved more than 200,000 Chinese lives from the Japanese army in the Nanking massacre. When John Rabe returned to Germany soon after World War 2 the allies took a dim view of his Nazi heritage, but eventually the Chinese expressed their appreciation of him.


7. Infinity yet again!
Uncle Pete stood on the Ladder of Knowledge and explained Zeno’s paradox of Achilles & the Tortoise. But he explained it with the example of a frog in a well. (Why he didn’t use Achillles & the Tortoise is still unclear.) Then he explained the flaw in Zeno’s paradox. (Yes, he’s a party pooper.) Uncle Pete received considerable flak from the audience for his effort.

Later, Mr B also briefly discussed Zeno’s Arrow. At any point in an arrow’s flight it cannot take up more space than itself, so it can only be in one place at any one moment of time. An infinite number of snapshots would reveal an infinite number of stationary arrows. That means motion is impossible, said Zeno. That’s the theory anyway. Uncle Pete was willing to put an arrow through the heart of the speaker to prove motion is possible. Oh dear.

Then some bright spark wondered if Zeno had trouble catching a bus.

Then a not-so-bright spark wondered what Xena (presumably the Princess Warrior) was doing with a frog in a well.

Then someone else began talking about the actress Lucy Lawless and the conversation degenerated pretty quickly from there.

8. Other topics discussed:
– Are some people above average in their intelligence while others are below, as Mr B claimed? Or do we have different types of intelligence that make comparisons pointless, as a school teacher claimed?

– We spoke briefly spoke of nuclear resonance fluorescence.

– We also discussed the likeability of two of television’s giants: Tom Ballard and Joel Creasey.

9. Her Majesty the Queen of England has subscribed to our Facebook Page. So too has her husband, Prince Philip.

The sea swallow joins our series of unusual creatures.

Sea Swallow


News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 17th June.

In News for Speakers' Corner on June 18, 2018 at 10:17 am

“I never make the mistake of arguing with people for whose opinions I have no respect.”
Edward Gibbon

1. He’s back!

2. The subjects discussed today:
– Steve Maxwell spoke of ‘The History Wars’ mentioned in the Weekend Australian. The article claimed that the ugly side of western civilisation does not diminish civilisation itself. Steve disagreed.

– Uncle Pete explained the possible science behind spontaneous human combustion.

– A passer-by called Tim gave us a Marxist perspective on why goods are produced and sold. He spoke clearly and coherently, and answered questions well. He did a good job.

– Mr B explained the skeleton differences between communism and socialism. Helmut provided us with a few jokes about communism like, “Communism: What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is none of your concern.”

– When Mr B was undercover in hospital he found himself watching daytime television. Today he let loose. His vitriolic about Dr Phil was unpleasant, and his observations of the show ‘Ellen’ were unsettling. And, he accused the makers of an underwear advertisement of plagiarism. “How dare they steal my term, ‘grasshoppers’!” he lamented, “The advertising executives who visit Speakers’ Corner should be ashamed of themselves.”
(The fact that he stole the term from the 1970’s television program, ‘Kung Fu’, doesn’t seem to concern him.)

– Some people say they don’t believe in a god but claim there is a “life force” that created us all. Mr B went to town on those people. He explained that if the life force is not a sentient entity it could not have chosen to create the universe and we who live in it; and if it is a sentient entity then they do believe in a god after all, because any sentient, omnipotent ‘life force’ must be a god. Using the weasil words ‘life force’ to pretend you don’t believe in a god will not cut the mustard, he said.

– Ray remained speaking near the kiosk, and we have no doubt that he calls his god ‘God’ and not the weasil term ‘life force’.

– Helmut told us that in his wrestling career he had had 167 wrestling matches, many of them against famous wrestlers such as Spiros Orion, Mario Milano and Killer Kawolski. Helmut was obliged to lose to those famous wrestlers, he explained, but when he faced wrestlers of his calibre the winner was decided by the toss of a coin in the locker room before the match. The length of a match was pre-determined too, with promoters assisting by giving a secret sign to tell them it was time to close the match.

– Mr B gave us seven reasons why there cannot be an afterlife. Part of that talk was an explanation as to why there can be no such thing as a ghost.

3. When the sun crept behind the skyscrapers it got cold, so Mr B finished early and Helmut took the ladder at 3.45pm. Helmut spoke about the interchangeability of light and matter. Forty minutes later we collected the chairs and called it a day.

4. Our Facebook page  has over eighty subscribers, but each post only reaches around 20 people. Go figure.

Another photo from the ‘unusual animal’ series:

The blue footed booby.


An outright lie from Mr Bashful.

In News for Speakers' Corner on June 12, 2018 at 10:47 am

Mr B must be feeling a lot better because he is trying to pull a swifty over this scribe. In the past I have never known Mr B to tell a lie, or even stretch the truth. Every regular visitor to Speakers’ Corner would testify that Mr B’s penchant to speak the truth is obsessive. Yet today I received this disturbing message from him:

Dear Scribe,

the surgery has gone horribly wrong. As you can see, my head has been removed. It has been replaced by a mechanical device and tubes.

Fortunately they did not discard my head, and the surgeon has promised to reattach it by Sunday.



Yours sincerely,

Mr Bashful.

I strongly suspect that Mr B has NOT had his head severed from his body. I believe he is lying, and that these are sinister illusions. Don’t forget, Mr B has been ill recently and it’s possible that these outright lies are the result of his strong medication. We must be forgiving, at least until we ascertain the facts.

Your humble scribe.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 10th June

In News for Speakers' Corner on June 11, 2018 at 12:01 pm

“For souls in growth, great quarrels are great emancipations.”
 Logan Pearsall Smith

1. Although the weather was uninspiring it was a good day. At one point an American chap called Logan stood high on the Ladder of Knowledge, and with his strong, arresting voice he did a fabulous job. He spoke mainly about people’s relationships with one another. It was quality, interesting material and as one listener said of him, “He is a complete and utter natural.” Logan is welcome back any time he likes.

We got lucky in other ways, too. Peter the Younger argued with Steve Maxwell about Climate Change, and was prompted to get up onto the Ladder of Knowledge and speak about it. That prompted Ben the Whisperer to do the same! Both men spoke well. That is good news! It appears that while Mr B is away malingering we have the next crop of quality speakers shooting up. We have discovered that there is considerable depth in Speakers Corner, and it’s pleasing and heartening to see.

Where Mirko fits into that depth it’s hard to say, but he had a good rave again today.

Uncle Pete didn’t get to speak but Steve Maxwell did. Steve spoke about the fact that historians have strangely ignored the history of birth control. He gave one exception, from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The Parson’s Tale speaks about such matters, and apparently it  includes references to abortions, condoms and other less orthodox forms of sex. Not bad for the 15th century!

Mr B is still away, though he expects to be at Speakers’ Corner this coming Sunday. If the Ladder of Knowledge isn’t too crowded, he hopes to say a few words.

2. Helmut surprised us yet again. He spoke about drugs in sport, and it turns out that he is a big fan of tennis. He gave a point by point description of the French Tennis Open. Helmut is one of the few people who could make such a description interesting.

These two dogs appear to be interested in the tennis too.

Special notice.

In News for Speakers' Corner on June 3, 2018 at 11:23 am

A handful of you would have realised that the posts have been irregular lately. There is a reason for that and I can now reveal it to you. The dutiful Mr B has been in hospital, undercover. He wanted to ascertain the quality of Australia’s health care system, and to do so he spent five nights in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit faking blood clots in his lungs. He then felt obliged to spend another five days in recovery in a ward, to get an overall perspective.

He is now out of hospital, but unfortunately he is suffering the effects of all the medications the doctors forced upon him. He should be well enough to return to Speakers’ Corner on the 17th June. It is then he will give his grasshoppers a two minute report on his findings.

All this time, your diligent scribe had to remain near Mr B to ensure he didn’t inadvertently end up with a lung transplant or something. That would have been taking things too far. That’s why I couldn’t attend the meetings recently.

But from what I have heard, the meetings have been going very well without him. That’s good to hear!

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