Soapbox Speakers

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News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 27th January

In News for Speakers' Corner on January 28, 2019 at 10:21 am

“Time is nature’s way of preventing everything from happening all at once.”

1. Today it was windy enough to blow a sailor off your sister. For a fair bit of the time Mr B’s grasshoppers had their eyes shut because of all the dust flying about. There was a fair bit of bulldust flying about too.

Mirko wasn’t there and Steve Maxwell’s ankle is still playing up . Ray was so hidden no one knew he was about.

Mr B first had a whinge about how there was little point in him trying to promote Speakers’ Corner, and when he finally moved on he explained that he had found a new date for Australia Day. Stealing from the ABC’s Radio National he asked the question: “Who was the first Australian to circumnavigate Australia?”

Matthew Flinders is not the correct answer. (Flinders was British.)

The correct answer: an indigenous man named Bungaree. He travelled with Flinders and together they circumnavigated the continent and discovered that it was the one continent. Bungaree was invaluable with his mediation skills every time they had to go ashore and meet the inhabitants. And, Flinders coined the term ‘Australia’. Therefore, establishing Australia’s dimensions (and therefore existence) was a joint effort, and we can commemorate that.

(Unless of course the Aborigines had already sussed that out, but we won’t go into that.)

So, on what day did Flinders and Bungaree complete their journey by returning to Sydney Cove?

June 9th, 1803.

Naturally, we can’t have Australia Day on that day because it’s too bloody cold. So, pick any old date in the warmer months. We don’t have to be precise because we celebrate the birthdays of the Queen and Jesus not on their actual birthdays.

Problem solved. Let’s make it the last Monday in February.

Flinders’ cat, Trim. Terrorist.

2. What is time? How fast does it flow? Or pass? Does it flow or pass at all? When you’re in a car crash (or something) does time seem to slow down? Psychologists used to think that the brain speeded up and processed things faster, distorting our perception of time. A study was done (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, vol 364, page 1841). Volunteers were given a device with a flickering numeral that flickered too quickly for them to read. Each volunteer was thrown off a building, and while they fell they had to try to read the flickering numeral. If in their fear their brain processed information more quickly, they should be able to read the flickering numeral.

The slow motion effect kicked in – the vounteers thought the fall lasted for more than 3 seconds, rather than the actual time of 2.5 seconds – but still they could not discern the numeral. Therefore, the scientists concluded that the slow motion effect is a trick of memory. As one scientist posited, “An intense experience, with heightened fear or excitement, rivets our attention and evokes the firing of many neurons acrosss the brain, causing us to soak up more sensory details. . . . Your brain is on fire when you’re dropping. You lay down denser memory. So you think, “Gee, that took a long time.”

That was part of a talk Mr B gave on the topic of Time.

3. Still on the subject of time, Bill drove his car one day and the trees and buildings by the road began to speed by, as if he were driving at 300kmph. He slowed, but the cityscape continued to whizz by. He had to stop his car.

The world had not accelerated. He had slowed down. He walked and talked in slow motion. When his doctor asked him to count 60 seconds in his head, he took 280 seconds to do so. They found a tumour in his brain’s frontal cortex.

That was just one example of how time can flow, or pass, or be perceived, very differently. Imagine if we all had ‘tumours’ like that (or differently developed brains). Then for all of us a minute (as we feel it now) would take 280 seconds, not 60. Tiime would still pass at the same rate for us, but things in the world would move far more quickly. Flowers would open like we see them in time-lapse photography. We wouldn’t be able to keep up with the world and that perception of time would disable us.

What if a minute felt like only 3 seconds to us? Then the world around us would appear to be in slow motion. Days would be very long, and flowers would take ‘forever’ to open. With our faster reaction time would we injure our bodies more often, because our bodies would still be subject to the same laws of physics? Would we again be disabled?

Presumably then, our brain evolved to create ‘time’ at the most optimal rate that benefits our species. If that’s the case, then other creatures would process time differently to best benefit them. Swifts and tortoises might experience a minute very differently to each other.

What does that say about time?

Then Mr B talked about atomic clocks. The latest is so accurate it loses only a half a second in 14 billion years. Along with Einsten’s theory of general relativitiy, atomic clocks prove that time isn’t always subjective.

So again: what is time? How fast does if flow, if it even flows at all?

There is only one thing for sure. Time catches up with all of us.

4. Sadly, in his talk Mr B said something wrong, ruining a significant ‘always right’ streak. When trying to work out what ‘the present’ is, Mr B said it can’t include any of our past, and it can’t include any of our future, so therefore it could be no amount of time, because if it were an amount of time it could be divided into yet a smaller period of time, which meant there still could be a past and a future. He referred to the Planck constant, as though it were no time. However, Uncle Pete and Helmut pointed out that the Planck constant is indeed a period of time. It is, in quantum mechanics, the time required for light to travel a distance of 1 Planck length (about 1020 times the diameter of a proton) in a vacuum, which is a time interval of approximately 5.39116 X 10 44 of a second.

Dozens of Planck units elapsed in the time it took you to read that last paragraph.

That prompts many questions of course, one being: is that length of time ‘the present’? If not, what is the present? How long is it? And what creates the present?

5. Throughout the topic, Helmut was keen to express his views about time. So, when Mr B concluded his talk he let Helmut take the Ladder of Knowledge to respond. Your scribe was soon surprised to discover that Sir Isaac Newton, a well-known ignoramus, was heavily involved in our misunderstanding of time. Who would have thought?

Later on, Helmut kindly gave the podium to a passer-by who wanted to speak. His name is Trent Crawford and he has the ability to summon UFOs with telepathy. The young man spoke for some time, but your scribe didn’t hear what he had to say. I foolishly accompanied Mr B to his car.

Trent. Telepathic UFO summoning.

When the Vacuum Oil box Trent was standing on was retrieved, Trent chose a less orthodox way to make use of the podium. Steve Maxwell, take note. This method would suit you.

7. In our Unusual Critter Series we feature the plant-hopper nymph, who loves Uncle Pete’s rants.




News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 20th January.

In News for Speakers' Corner on January 21, 2019 at 11:33 am

“It’s as easy as having a shit in bed and kicking it out with your feet.”
Australian saying.

1. Steve Maxwell has strained his ankle and was unable to make it today. Only Ray and Mr B spoke today and it was for nearly 4 hours. Mr B was harsher than usual with the garden gnomes, and their needless interruptions were incessant. Somehow, Mr B didn’t lose his voice. Grumpy old bugger that he is.

In what way was he grumpy today? He barely let Peter the Younger say a word all day, and he gave Helmut heaps.

Amazingly, he actually complimented Uncle Pete a number of times. Uncle Pete barely knew what to do with the compliments, and looked most uncomfortable.

Uncle Pete

2. MP Kelly O’Dwyer gave a news conference the other day to explain why she was leaving politics. She has missed too many instances of her two children growing up, she explained, and she had not been there to see them in the morning or at night. (And presumably, not during the day.) She and her husband were planning to have a third child. Mr B wondered if she is having a third because she is curious about what it would be like to bring up a child.

“This does not mean men or women need to choose between family and public service,” she said, having made the choice to retire from politics to be with her family. “With the right support you can do both and do both well,” she added. Mr B assumed that she therefore had not been receiving the right support. Had her husband been lax, asked Mr B, or had the nanny been too unreliable?

Uncle Pete ventured the possibility that Ms O’Dwyer has retired from politics because the Liberals won’t be in power after the upcoming Federal election.

This scribe wonders how many male parlaimentarians have not seen their children grow up, and why they haven’t chosen to retire from politics to be with their family? For that matter, why did they choose to have children when they knew they would not have the opportunity to see them grow up? Or do those male politicians have “the right support”? If so, what form does that “right support” take to ensure the child happily grows up without a father in their formative years?

3. In 1996 Dr Jill Bolte Taylor had a stroke. In her TED talk, “My Stroke of Insight”, she explains how her everyday worries “untethered  themselves from her and slid away.” Her perceptions changed, too. She could see “the atoms and molecules making up her body blended with the space around her; the whole world and the creatures in it were all part of the same magnificent field of shimmering energy. . . . My perception of physical boundaries was no longer limited to where my skin met air,” she explains. After experiencing intense pain her body disconnected from her mind. “I felt like a genie liberated from its bottle. . . . The energy of my spirit seemed to flow like a great whale gliding through a sea of silent euphoria.”

Sound familiar?

 She had other physical ailments and took a while to recover. Today she says she is a new person, one who “can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere” on command and be “one with all that is.” To her it is not faith, but science. 

Yes, it does sound familiar. It describes the Buddha’s so-called enlightenment 2,500 years ago. And, it describes the enlightenment Buddhist monks seek today.

“Obvously,” explained the percipient Mr B, “the original Buddha had a mild stroke in the same part of the brain and had the same experience. He gabbed about it and inadvertently began a religion. Ever since, poor sods in monestaries have been trying to get their own enlightenment, and many of gone mad in the process.

All they need is a mild stroke in the right place.

Mr B then explained why the rest of Buddhism is a sham.

The purpose of a koan is to overcome logic and dualistic thinking, he explained. Koans make sense on an intuitive level, though they may take years to understand. Here are some of the koans he quoted:
“What is your face before your parent’s birth?”
“The world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your robes at the sound of a bell?”

Here is Mr B’s search for enlightenment.

4. Mr B has a large following. (No, he is not being stalked by a sumo wrestler.) Overseas he is particularly popular, and the respected German author Edna Schuchardt has written an authorised biography of him. Mr B, fluent in German, is pleased to report that her book accurately describes the salient points of his life. He will let us know when it’s translated into English so that we all may purchase a copy.

5. Other topics discussed today:
– Mr B was going to get even more stuck into Helmut, though he ran out of time. “Next week”, he promises. That didn’t stop he and Helmut having a good barney all afternoon. The insults flew thick and fast!

– Scott Bolton is a footballer who was charged with indecent assault for placing his hand on a woman’s thigh in a pub. He ended up pleading guilty to common assault. The question was asked: was it right that he ended up in court? Or not? The views, as usual, were diverse.

– Is there such a thing as a Scotsman? No, said Mr B and he generously explained why.

– A woman asked, “How would we Australians feel if Japan had successfully invaded Australia, and we were in the same position the indigenous people are in now? Would we want to be a part of Japanese society? Would we want our kids and grandkids to meld into Japanese society? Would we feel resentment if we had to find work in order to live? Would we feel resentment if we were exploited when we did get work? How would we feel if we couldn’t get work?

– Are our governments abrogating their responsibility to prevent further CO2 emissions? No, said Mr B, adding that it’s the people who are the bastards, because ultimately they make the decision. They wouldn’t vote for a government that promised to introduce harsh regulations. If the people were fair dinkum the Greens would be in power.

– Should marijuana be legalised in Australia like it is in Canada? No, said Mr B, giving his reasons.
It’s inevitable, said Uncle Pete.

– Speaking of Helmut, the dour Austrian boasted of having studied philosophy for five years compared to Mr B’s measily two. Your bemused scribe figures that’s like boasting you have nailed five of your toes to the floor, instead of only two.
How do you get a philosopher off your doorstep?
You pay for the pizza.

– Mr B began the meeting by giving his reasons why we should not change the date of Australia Day. Then he gave his reasons why we should change the date.

6. In our Unusual Creature Series we present the giraffe weevil from Madagascar. It has been perusing the Speakers’ Corner Gift Shop and has bought nothing.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 13th January.

In News for Speakers' Corner on January 14, 2019 at 1:30 pm

“Gambling is a tax for the people who can’t do maths.”

1. It was good to have Steve Maxwell back from his jaunt up North. Welcome, Steve!

Steve Maxwell stirring the pot.

2. Mr B opened his meeting by discussing his hypothetical penchant for large women. He was aiming to make a point about hypocrisy, but the crowd soon began baying for his blood while garden gnomes tried to voice their opinions out of turn. As a result, Mr B lost his voice. He sounded like a squeaky toy. Then the baying crowd, barely trying to hide their amusement, pretended to be kind and caring by offering all sorts of useless advice. Of course, it was a ruse to get him off the Ladder of Knowledge.

‘Two-Polarity-Mirko’ finally convinced Mr B to temporarily remove himself from the stand to recover, by kindly offering to take the stand himself. Mirko explained to us the importance of oxygen. “Without it you are dead!” declared the harbinger of doom. Someone suggested that other things might also be important for our survival but Mirko quickly put him in his place.

By the time Mirko had finished presenting his dire warning Mr B still hadn’t fully recovered, so Uncle Pete took the stand. He expressed his dismay with the politicians’ handling of HECS debts. Here is what he had to say:

3. Mr B finally managed to make his point about our hypocrisy, and then a passer-by asked for our views about communism. We heard a few views until the Commissariat arrived and marched us off to a nearby labour camp. Here is one view from Mark the Grinner:

4. Here is another view from someone raised in East Berlin before the wall fell. She also spent a few years in West Germany, and in the USA, and now lives here in Sydney.

5. “I met a woman in Houston while on tour as a musician. We went back to her place. Clothes were coming off. No words exchanged, no verbal confirmation that we both wanted to have sex. I simply made a move, and she didn’t say no. I leaned in for a kiss, she didn’t say no. I put my hands on her breasts, she didn’t say no. I reached down her pants, she didn’t say no. I went through the motions, all the way up to and through intercourse, and she didn’t say no, so I assumed she was enjoying herself and everything was good. Then after sex was over she turned to me and said : ‘You raped me.'”

Mr B read those words from an article, and so began a group discussion about consent that didn’t finish until nearly 6pm. It was interesting and enlightening.

Here is a postcard from the Postsecret site that might confuse the men who can’t understand women.

6. Our very best wishes to Jack, who has been AWOL. He has a fairly good excuse though: he has had double bypass surgery on his heart.

We hope your full recovery is imminent, Jack.

The legs of a large pigeon.

7. Other subjects discussed:
– John August had some interesting things to say about Russia’s socialism. But when he tried to redirect the course of the meeting Mr B took umbrage and told him to clear off.

– Ben the Whisperer stood on the Ladder of Knowledge and accused Mark the Grinner of confusing socialism with social security, adding that communism and socialism are destined to fail. Ben was particularly scathing of China.

– while Mr B went to get the car, Helmut took over. But by then it was nearly 6pm and Helmut was fuming. He spent the entire time lambasting Mr B!

– Last week and this week Mark the Grinner lamented the fact that Australians are losing their identity and becoming Americans. Mr B responded by saying, “No wonder! There is no Australian identity!” According to Mr B, Australia is just a collection of disparate communities. Multiculturalism has benefited the nation considerably, but it has obliterated any Australian identity we may have had. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.

8. In our Unusual Creature Series we present to you a sea slug. It has expressed no interest in our Facebook page.




News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 6th January.

In News for Speakers' Corner on January 7, 2019 at 8:49 am

“A lot of our interest in fancy cars, jobs and houses has nothing to do with materialism. It has to do with a hunger for the respect and esteem that is only available in our societies through the acquisition of material goods. It isn’t the goods themselves we seek, it is the love we stand to gain through our possession of them.”
Alain de Botton

1. Your scribe has no idea what the five speakers spoke about because he wasn’t paying attention. Yes, I was there at Speakers’ Corner, but Mr B asked me to sort the logistics for another Carlos Castaneda’s Power of the Night!

If you remember (and you would remember if you were one of the lucky ones) in 2017 Mr B took us to a national park and at midnight blindfolded us. He then had us run full speed into the pitch-black forest. By harnessing the Power of the Night we would instinctively know where to place our feet and when to hurdle obstacles. Although that excursion was not 100% successful, it was character building. And Mr B says he has learnt from his mistake and this time he will bring with him a torch.

Click here to read a description of that exciting excursion in which we harnessed the Power of the Night.

To discover he is planning another excursion is exciting!

How was he prompted to plan another? Apparently there is new a horror film called ‘The Birdbox Challenge’. The characters have to go about their lives blindfolded to avoid vicious supernatural entities. It’s one scary film and it prompted Mr B to generously offer us his services again. He thinks we should all be skilled at harnessing the Power of the Night.

Sign up when you see him. A gold coin donation will be accepted.

2. One brief talk did catch your scribe’s ear. It was about the famous ‘ice man’, Wim Hof, and it was about the not-so famous (but just as impressive) Mighty Apollo. Wim Hoff’s breathing techniques allow him to withstand freezing cold. One of his many feats, for example, is to stay immersed in ice for nearly two hours. Also, he once ran 42kms in five hours, in just shoes and shorts, when the temperature was minus 20 degrees Celsius! It’s all about the breathing, he says.

The Mighty Apollo (Paul Anderson, but not the American weightlifter Paul Anderson) lived in Melbourne and was a man of strength. When he was fifteen he carried a horse up a 32 foot (6km) ladder. In 1950 he towed a semi-trailer carrying two elephants and fifty people (33.5 tons) up the Russell Street hill from Flinders Street to Collins Street, with his teeth. In 1955 he took the weight of an 8.5 ton elephant on a platform on his chest. In 1957 he defeated 60 men in a tug-of-war. Etc. It’s all about the breathing, he would say.

So, both men claimed that their breathing technique allowed them to achieve those extraordinary feats. The lesson is folks: keep breathing.



3. In our Unusual Critter Series we present to you the Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko from Madagascar. It could appear in our Facebook Page and you would never notice it.


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