Soapbox Speakers

Archive for February, 2019|Monthly archive page

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 24th February

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 25, 2019 at 11:38 am

‘Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.’
Albert Einstein, when asked to say a few words about Mr Bashful.

1. Helmut began the meeting and it soon became a lively affair with Mirko’s interjections.

When Mr B arrived he admitted he hadn’t prepared for the day, so would some of his grasshoppers assist by speaking? They didn’t disappoint. First up was Mirko, who was still keen to educate Helmut and the rest of us. Mirko spoke earnestly about his phonetic language, and then introduced a new topic: music. He then kindly answered questions. We learnt a great deal from him.

Mirko also mentioned that he had worked as an electrician for many years. He was asked about Ohm’s Law, and he did his best to describe it in lay terms.

He was also asked if, during his time as an electrician, he had ever been electrocuted. He said ‘Yes!’ and for some of us, that explained a lot.

2. Before the next speaker took the Ladder of Knowledge, Mr B said a few words about his own musical education. For a few years in school this poor fellow thought a tuning fork was just a classroom version of a starting gun for the kids to say, “Sing C. C B A G. Call it Doh: Doh. Doh Ray Me Far So La Te Doh.

“What the hell was that about?” Mr B wanted to know.

And to this day he still doesn’t know why his music teacher was obsessed with ‘Doh, Ray, Me, Far, So, La, Te or Doh.’ (‘Notice the ‘Doh’ repeat? It gets two mentions for some reason.) Most contemporary singers rarely use those words, though admittedly, Julie Andrews used the lot in just one song.

And in 1972 Country Radio used ‘La’ repeatedly at the end of their hit ‘Wintersong‘ but Mr B’s music teacher never mentioned the song!

Simply, he and music never got on, and he never passed the subject. However, Mr B says he was always keen to grab the tambourine, so that’s something.

A grasshopper asked Mr B to replicate her ‘La’. He did a pretty good job of it. He looked disappointed when he wasn’t asked to sing an entire song.

What is the difference between a tune and a melody?

3. The next speaker was Helmut again. Helmut has become cheery and accommodating. What’s he up to, folks? What’s he planning?

Helmut had a few words to say about music, physics and the old timers who discovered stuff. He also had to deal with a vociferous Mirko, who was still keen to explain himself.

Helmut even explained, cleverly, the link between physics and love.

4. Mr B then told a joke before giving up the Ladder to the next speaker, Mark the Grinner.

5. Mark the Grinner spoke about the banks and it’s fair to say he is not enamoured with them. He read out the Banking and Finance Oath of 2012 and had trouble reconciling the oath with the antics recently revealed in the Banking Royal Commission.

It’s also fair to say that Mark is not always 100% politically correct when he admonishes a listener for having the temerity to ask an awkward question. Entertaining though.

6. Mr B read a poem.

7. Other subjects discussed:
– Steve Maxwell spoke about the upcoming NSW state election. (Yes, there is one!) And, he spoke about politics in general.

– Mark the Grinner said psychotropic drugs are not addictive, and he explained why the elderly are the biggest users of them. It’s because many of the elderly are in nursing homes, and they are given those drugs to keep them quiet and easy to manage.

– Ray, our fundamentalist Christian speaker, again spoke near the kiosk. Ray isn’t interested in getting a crowd; he’s interested in saving souls. This scribe respects his dedication.

– Mr B explained why he doesn’t debate the Climate Change sceptics. (He doesn’t know enough about both sides of the argument, and he isn’t prepared to spend the time necessary to rectify that.)

– Mr B was asked why at home he framed his electricity bill, gas bill, water bill and phone bill, and hung them on his wall. He gave an unexpected answer.

– Who or what creates society? Does a society exist? Do billions of societies exist on Earth?

– Janet still presents her flag design for the time when Australia is ready to change its flag.

– Even the Flat Earth Theory got a brief mention by someone making a point.

8. In our Unusual Creature Series we present to you the Sumatran Rhinoceros. For the first time its picture appears in our Facebook page.






News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 17th February.

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 18, 2019 at 6:34 am

“.. and people get married like marriage is victory, and people have children like children is a victory. It’s something they have to do because there’s nothing else to do. There’s no glory in it, no steam, no fire.. it’s very, very flat.”
Charles Bukwoski

1. Helmut began the meeting in a cheery, co-operative mood and answered questions posed by his groundlings. For some reason he equated intelligence with knowledge.

It was another hot day and it was good to sit in the shade.

2. A poem was read.

3. Mr B pulled off a wonderful card trick
, but presented it so poorly few people understood what happened.

Had his grasshoppers known what was going on, they would have responded like this:

4. Mark the Grinner took the Ladder of Knowledge and starred again. He is an entertaining, natural speaker.

Then Mr B took the platform and asked, “Should illegal drugs be legalised/decriminalised?” The discussion lasted for over an hour and many people contributed. It was a perfect example of how people can disagree with one another respectfully.

Here is a Valentine’s Day note from the Postsecret website.

5. Other subjects discussed:
– Mr B gave two life hacks (handy hints) to his appreciative audience. One was about how to create and store passwords; the other: go into any Starbucks cafe and say, “Ariana Grandé.” You will be handed a coffee.

– Would a multi-billionaire lose control of her company if she gave much of her money away? (The answer, Mr B was informed, was “No”.) Are the large multi-million dollar salaries CEOs receive justified? (The answers he received were: “Yes” and “No”.) Would an Australian-wide salary cap work? (“Yes!” was the consensus.)
Mr B was grateful to his grasshoppers, because his questions were interoggative, not rhetorical.

– Towards the end of the day, the still cheery Helmut again took the Ladder of Knowledge and rounded off proceedings nicely. There had been more than four hours of discussion.

– Another good speaker, Peter the Younger, spoke briefly while your scribe helped the Pirate Party set up for their talk across the way. John August spoke about economics.

– If someone dies overseas, why do their relatives spend a small fortune and go to a lot of fuss bringing the body back? Why not just have their rello disposed of over there? Mr B was genuinely curious.

6. In our Unusual Animal Series we present to you the deep sea Goblin shark. This particular specimen thinks highly of our Facebook page.







News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday, 10th February.

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 11, 2019 at 10:24 am

“When one person suffers from a delusion it is called ‘insanity’. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called ‘religion’.”
Robert M Pirsig

1. Last week Steve Maxwell put out a long canvas for passers-by to paint fish on. His aim was to bring that canvas each week until it was covered with pictures of fish, and then submit it with  a petition to the government to better manage our waterways. This week the canvas was finished, well ahead of time. His canvas, and his message, were popular all day.

Thank you, Steve, for your innovative ideas. They bring life and variety to Speakers’ Corner.


2. We often have Janet popping by. Janet has designed a flag to replace the current one we have for Australia.

In her flag a red earth circle represents our island continent; the white dots, our coast; and the blue, the ocean. The cluster of blue dots represents the states and territories (the centre dot represents the territories and the six blue dots surrounding it represent the states).

You can vote for Janet’s flag, or any other flag, on the Ausflag website:

4. Mr B also gave us a story about the Tibetan yogi, Milarepa: One day his cave was invaded by fearful demons, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get rid of them. Finally he invited them to stay, and at that point they left. Except one, the largest of the demons. Milarepa placed his head in the demon’s mouth, and that demon disappeared too.

He then ruined the story by presenting a homily on how we should move through fear.


5. Mr B is still insisting that James Hardie Industries should not be compensating asbestos victims. And, he keeps insisting that the company’s executives were acting morally when they concealed the compensation money off-shore.

And yes, some of his grasshoppers keep disagreeing. They keep insisting that James Hardie Industries are culpable and should be paying compensation.

The main problem seemed to be that Mr B’s grasshoppers were focusing on James Hardie’s legal obligations, whereas Mr B was focusing on their moral obligations. The righteous Mr B believes our moral compass should be based on what is right, not on what the law says.

How subversive can you get??

He has a point. It’s interesting to note how on one hand, so many people disrespect lawyers and think there should be significant law reform, yet on the other hand, sheep-like, they allow their attitudes to be shaped by what the law says.

Mark the Grinner pointed out that in America, a corporation is a sentient entity. If that’s true, this scribe suggests he should bring that mind-blowing fact to the attention of those researching consciousness.

Your helpful scribe is happy to answer a grasshopper’s question: Bernie Banton worked for the company until 1974, long after the warnings were given.

6. Mr B read the poem, ‘Prayer Before Birth’ by Louis MacNeice. Uncle Pete said he read it poorly. Helmut said he should have memorised it. Your scribe  thinks he should have worn a tuxedo for the occasion and sprinkled the ground with rose petals.

7. Other subjects discussed:
– A leaked document from a Dept of Health funded body reveals that many doctors give their patients an unnecessary physical examination, and unnecessary blood tests, simply to keep the patient happy.

– Mark the Grinner believes all police officers should be over 40 and female. He says the male ones enter the profession for the wrong reasons.

– Mark T. Grinner also said that Australia does not have a diminishing rate of fertility, as the media like to tell us; instead, we have a low rate of fecundity. After looking up the word ‘fecundity’, your scribe thinks this claim should be examined next meeting.

– It was observed that the NSW State election is only six weeks away, yet we have barely heard a murmur from any of the parties. What’s going on?

– Tony kept Helmut on his toes today and their intellectual sparring match was a pleasure to witness. Helmut was trying to explain the origin of the universe and Tony was trying to stop him. It was clearly a case of ‘The Immovable Force meets the Irresistable Object’.

– Mr B was asked if trees can hear. He explained why they couldn’t, and Uncle Pete said they can hear. “They need to hear the man with the axe coming.” Sigh.
Peter the Younger informed us that trees can sense vibrations (that helps them find running water) and Mr B said trees communicate through their roots using a fungus. But they can’t hear. When they evolve ears he’ll reconsider the matter.

– One man put forth the possibility that we, as individuals, exist before we were born. Soon it was a “discussion” between that gentle man and the “boisterous” Uncle Pete. Their “conversation” morphed into a group discussion about the importance of faith, evidence, speculation and philosophy. The gentle man coped well with Uncle Pete’s bluster. Good work, sir.

8. In our Unusual Critter Series we present to you the English Angora Rabbit. It has trouble reading our Facebook page for fairly obvious reasons. It avoids being eaten by English foxes by disguising itself as an avalanche.













2. Include Janet and her flag.
link on Jan 14 2018

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 3rd February

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 4, 2019 at 9:24 am

“Capitalism and Communism don’t work because they’re based on economics, and we aren’t economic creatures.”
Mark the Grinner 

1. Steve Maxwell’s ankles are in good order and he joined us this week. He had a fair bit to say about the mismanagement of the Darling River, in which more than a million fish have died.

One of Steve’s big pluses is that he presents new material each week, wears a different costume each week, and he goes out of his way to do something special. Today was a good example. He provided a canvas and some art supplies to give everyone an opportunity to draw a fish while he informed them of the facts. The best way to teach is to make it fun. Well done, Steve.

Steve Maxwell discusses the Darling River and describes the big one that got away.


A message for our politicians.


A school of fish, species unidentified.

2. Mr B tried to get his grasshoppers to distinguish between reality and a parable. He failed miserably.

i.e. If the parable was about the bard William Shakespeare having a conversation with Tony Abbott, some idiot would feel the need to point out that’s impossible.


No wonder the speakers get exasperated.

William Shakespeare is listening attentively to Tony Abbott.

3. If you were at Mr B’s meeting last week you would have heard him explain how pigeons process information at a different rate to us. When we look at a movie running at 24 frames per second, it appears to us as a movie. But pigeons, Mr B explained, see one frame after another.

The inquisitive Uncle Pete asked Mr B how this was discovered. Mr B didn’t know but promised he’d find out.

He writes: “The abstract in the link below explains how it was discovered. The mating rituals of pigeons rely heavily on visual cues, but for those cues to be effective the pigeons must be moving. Researchers showed male pigeons movies of female pigeons. The slower the movie, the less interested the male pigeons were. However, when the movies were shown at 60 frames per second they became significantly interested. That meant, to the male pigeons, the female pigeon finally looked like an actual moving female pigeon at 60 frames per second. And damned sexy she was, too.”

The pigeons cheered when this film was shown, but only when it was shown at 60 frames per second.

4. Five performances from the Serbian performance artist, Marina Abramović, were described. One of those was called ‘Rhythm 0‘. In an art gallery in 1974, when she was 29 years of age, she placed on a table 72 objects (such as: a rose, a feather, honey, a whip, olive oil, scissors, a scalpel, a gun and a single bullet). A sign informed the visitors that they could use the items in any way they wished. She then stood still for six hours.

Initially, people were kind. But over time, they changed. She was stripped naked and she endured indignities, cuts, pain, threats and fear. When the performance was over the people ran away from her.

Interestingly, she had to be home by 10pm because her mother said so.

5. Two Canadians in the audience wanted a little humour, so Mirko took the Ladder of Knowledge and provided it. Then Mark the Grinner spoke for a while about all sorts of things, and it’s safe to say that the U.S.A. did not emerge unscathed.

Mark said 15% of a cross-section of the American population believed that we humans came about through evolution. 32% believe that we came about through evolution after God created evolution. 46% believe that God created the planet some time in the last 10,000 years. He suggested that the reason for these scary figures is that Americans are believers: in God, in their flag, in their Pledge of Allegiance, and in themselves.

Mark also took a swipe at economists (our contemporary soothsayers). He said our economic system is working perfectly. After all, it was not designed for the benefit of the masses, it is designed for the small minority on the top of the heap.

He also had a few unkind things to say about ‘trickle-down economics’.

He’s a cynic, that Mark.

6. Here’s proof that you can never be too young to take an interest in Speakers’ Corner.

7. “What is Art?”, asked one punter.

“It’s one of our inner subconscious selves having the opportunity to express itself”, said Mr B.

This painting from Rob Gonsalves would belie that explanation.


8. Other subjects discussed:

– Schizophrenia might be caused by the sufferer having a faulty internal clock. Not only do schizophrenics tend to have faulty internal clocks, the symptom of having one creates the disturbing illusion that your thoughts are being monitored – a common symptom in Schizophrenia.

– Mr B tried to discuss Martin Gardner’s version of the Surprise Test Paradox but struggled to explain the set-up (ten numbered egg cartons and one egg) to his grasshoppers. But then, what would you expect from grasshoppers who feel the need to point out the impossibilities in a parable?
After ten minutes the poor, exasperated man gave up trying to explain the set-up and the paradox itself didn’t get mentioned.

– Mr B explained why there is no such thing as a Canadian. Last week it was a Scotsman. The week before it was a Chinaman. One day he will complete the set and sit back satisfied.

– When Helmut took the Ladder of Knowledge he had a few fresh things to say about Mr Bashful.

– Mr B gave ten reasons why we should not have pill testing stations at festivals, and then he gave ten reasons why we should. A passer-by had plenty to say, and a general discussion began.
This postcard is from the Postsecret website.

9. In our Unusual Creature Series this Shoebill stork from East Africa has been enjoying the articles in Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade.


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