Soapbox Speakers

Archive for September, 2019|Monthly archive page

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 29th September.

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 30, 2019 at 8:44 am

How dare you!
Greta Thunberg.

1. At twelve noon, Tim Brunero hosted a debate between those in favour of Australia becoming a republic, and those who aren’t. Unfortunately, there was a disagreement in how the meeting should be conducted. The debaters were not interested in taking comments or questions from the audience, as is tradition at Speakers’ Corner, and some members of the audience were not interested in letting them get away with it. In short, the two oratory styles didn’t mix, and as a result there was resentment and irritation on both sides.

One of the skills a good speaker should have is to ‘know your audience, and speak to them accordingly’. However, your scribe got the impression that the speakers had given no thought to their the audience beforehand, and that they would have delivered the same speeches regardless of who they were talking to. Had the audience been all nuns, or all police, or all Nepalese goat herders, the speakers would have delivered the same speeches in the same way. (Though a couple of the speakers did begin to adapt.)

Perhaps your scribe should clear something up: the hecklers who visit Speakers’ Corner each week are not the irrational rabble that the regular speakers paint them to be. Yes, there are one or two hecklers who are as mad as a hose let go, but the majority are intelligent, well educated and well read. They have something to say and their contribution to a topic is invaluable. I’m not suggesting that today the debaters should have given the hecklers free rein, but I am suggesting that their insular debating style does not suit Speakers’ Corner. At Speakers’ Corner, the hecklers do not come in order to be passively fed other people’s ideas, like sheep coming to the farmer’s trough; instead, they come to contribute and to keep the speaker honest. Today was a clash of expectations.

I should add that the debating speakers should be grateful that most of the regular hecklers mercifully let them be.

However, apart from that difference in expectations, the meeting went well and ran at a brisk pace. There was a healthy attendance, some good points made, free sausages in bread rolls, and no apparent logistical hiccups. Tim Brunero does know how to organise a good meeting.

2. Here are some of the topics discussed after 2pm:
– Does pornography do harm to the people who watch it?

– What can people do to avoid being lonely?

– I am better than no one, and no one is better than me. Is that true?

– Why do we need to burn the Mona Lisa?

– Why is the green plastic “grass” you find is sushi trays proof that humankind has no hope in the future?

3. Today’s unusual critter in our Unusual Creature Series is the Island Fox, native to islands off California. This one has expressed only disdain for our Facebook page.

4. This is getting pathetic, Mr B.






A reminder!

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 29, 2019 at 7:36 am

Groundlings, seekers, history buffs and grasshoppers! Remember: today’s meeting at Speakers’ Corner begins at 11.45am, not 2pm.

At 12 noon Tim Brunero will be hosting the debate between the monarchists and the republicans. Journalist Peter Fitzsimons, radio host Chris Smith and some entertaining debators will be doing their bit to convince us. There will be plenty of chairs for everyone.

At 2pm the “normal” Speakers’ Corner begins.

So, why come at 11.45? Because the generous Mr Bashful will be explaining why we should not become a republic, then he’ll explain why we should, then he’ll present the third option, which no one talks about. And that third option will satisfy most of us.

So, if you’re thinking of coming to day, cut some sandwiches (banana and date, apple and raisin, vegemite and crushed walnut) and bring a Sunny Boy orange juice, and be there early!

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 22nd September

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 23, 2019 at 11:26 am

“A truly liberated woman is not reciting mantras about how much she loves her body.”

1. Phew! To those of you who live in inner Sydney we apologise for all the yelling today. Mr B versus Peter the Younger. Mr B versus Mirko. Mr B versus Helmut. Mr B versus Michael. Can you see a pattern emerging? Yes, the delicate, humble Mr B was besieged by grasshoppers barking at him, and in a bid for self-preservation he may have raised his voice a little. This time he didn’t lose his voice!

What must the passers-by have thought?

Two intrigued passers-by.

2. Don’t forget: this coming Sunday Tim Brunero is hosting a debate at twelve noon, between the Monarchists and the Republicans. Journalist Peter Fitzsimmons will be there, as will 2GB radio host Chris Smith. Plus, experienced debators will add a little gloss and humour to the topic.

It won’t be streamed on Facebook. So, if you have been thinking about visiting Speakers’ Corner, why not come this Sunday?

Before Tim’s meeting starts at 12 (not 2pm), Mr B will take a fresh approach to the topic. That alone will be worth the price of admission.

Price of admission: free.

3. How do you feel about circus lions being kept in cages?

Did you get the right answer?

Click here to go to Mr B’s blog and find out.


4. Other topics discussed:
– Sashin turned up and spoke about epistemology. It was his first experience with Michael in the audience but he managed well enough. Sashin has patience.

– Sashin also asked, “What can be done to improve Speakers’ Corner?”. One of the suggestions made was about Michael.

– Were the people who booed the footballer Adam Goodes racist?

– Dr Harris and his ‘Intelligence Trap’. Is it true that intelligent people often tend to be poor thinkers? Are they trapped by their own intelligence? One thing is for sure: the hecklers have nothing to worry about in that regard.

– Women: don’t feel obliged to love your body.

– We learned about McArthur Wheeler who, once he learned lemon juice can make invisible ink, painted his face with lemon juice and robbed a bank, thinking he was invisible.

– Yap money. There are coins on the micronesian island nearly four metres in diameter and they have been used as currency by the locals for up to 2,000 years. One sank in the ocean, but it’s still being used.

Yap money

5. This week’s unusual creature in the Unusual Creature Series is the cuttlefish. Every one of the critters in these cuttlefish eggs has its own Facebook account.

Cuttlefish eggs

6. Poor Mr B.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 15th September

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 16, 2019 at 12:03 pm

“Data is not information. Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom.”

1. A beautiful day! All went well and we had three passers-by who bravely got up onto the Ladder of Knowledge to speak. Each one of them spoke well and kept the audience interested and asking questions.

We heard from mathematician Dave, who pointed out that we Australians, unlike the Americans, tend to not write poems about our rivers. And, if we want to our rivers looked after in future, we need to start writing poems about them. Uncle Pete helped out immediately with two lines, having ‘water’ rhyming with ‘oughta’. It had a lot of potential.

We have no photo or drawing of Dave. To imagine what Dave looks like, imagine a tall, strikingly handsome man with style and charisma, with Dave standing next to him.

We also heard Sashin speak, about the nature of knowledge, epistemology. A thoughtful man if ever there was one.


And, Chris spoke about consciousness. He fielded all the questions thrown at him, and dealt with them well.


2. Artist and legend Steve Maxwell took a break from speaking, and drew pictures of Sashin and Chris.

Good work, Steve!

Sashin, drawn by Steve Maxwell


Chris, drawn by Steve Maxwell

3. Mr B was wrong. DO NOT come early this coming Sunday, 22nd. It’s the following Sunday, though that is yet to be confirmed.

4. Mr B said we enjoy eating sugar and fat because thousands of years ago those foods were beneficial. Today, however, it’s easy to find those foods and we tend to eat too much of them. He said it’s the same with knowledge. Thousands of years ago knowledge was invaluable, but today there is a glut of it, and like sugar and fat, we gain too much of it. We need to be watchful. Many of us need to acquire less knowledge.

It’s safe to say not everyone agreed with Mr B.

5. Mr B presents another chapter of his book for young people. He reckons it’s important to label our emotions, and be specific. Right now, your scribe is labelling both reluctance and scepticism about Mr B’s ideas.

What emotion is to be labelled here?

6. Other topics discussed:
– Helmut gave his thoughts on consciousness, and how Isaac Newton’s consciousness was seriously deficient.

– The Meaning of Life – versions 3 & 5. The grasshoppers who made the enquiry had heads on their shoulders, and made the topic interesting.

– If a criminal is given 15 years jail, for example, then let’s knock five of those years off the sentence in exchange for having his cell time streamed online 20 hours a day. Why? Mr B argued that any appeal jail has for some would-be offenders would be considerably diminished if they were to see friends and family bored witless. Predictably, Mr B’s grasshoppers were not impressed with this idea either. That’s why they’re grasshoppers. They’re there to learn.

– When Mr B was asked what he thought about Donald Trump he chose to avoid the question. Though he wasn’t good at it.

– Mirko explained how our planet’s two hemispheres represent two polarity, and how a computer’s binary system, one and zero, represents positive and negative, respectively. That should clear things up.

– Mr B also called for complete transparency with regards to a politician’s health. If they are unhealthy in some way we should know about it, he said, giving examples. He also cited Joe Biden’s attempt at gaining the Democratic nomination for next year’s upcoming US election. Joe will be 77 in the election year, and 77 to 83 is far too old for a presidency, said Mr B.
It was the old guys who objected.

– Political donations are spent on . . . what?

– In his talk on epistemology, Sashin mentioned how people used to believe the Earth was flat. If it were flat, here is how the moon might look in a lunar eclipse:

7. In our Unusual Creature Series we present to you the Arabian Oryx. It uses ‘Google Translate’ to read our Facebook page.

8. Poor Mr B is still choosing to remain in the park late into the night, to wait for his admirer.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 8th September

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 9, 2019 at 7:56 am

Just in case you find an eccentric person at Speakers’ Corner, remember this:

‘Eccentrics seem out of step with conventional standards. Maybe they dress differently, have an unusual habit, or are hyperfocused on a specific topic. Others may think they are mentally deficient, but they are not. In ‘Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness,’ American-born and British-educated pyschiatrist David Weeks writes how eccentrics are often physically healthier and significantly happier than “normal” people. He says they typically exhibit five similar characteristics: they are nonconformist, creative, intensely curious, idealistic and unconcerned with how they contrast with conventional culture. Yet, their presence can be unsettling to some.’
Maureen Zappala, author, and president of the National Speakers Association, Ohio. 

1. Mr B turned up with a chest cold that would have killed a thousand elephants. Gamely, heroically, inspirationally, he began his meeting. The subject of climate change quickly came up and Mr B converted it to a talk about emotional beliefs. Do you have an emotional belief, dear reader? An emotional belief is a belief that has become so ingrained in you, and so important to you, that nothing will change your mind.

The danger, of course, is that if your belief isn’t true, you will have no way of knowing that.

Think of a strong belief you have, that you know to be right. For example, do you believe in something that uninformed people mistakenly think is silly?  Do you have a belief that some people are inferior? Do you believe that you’re not worthy? Or loveable? Or that you’re ugly? Or stupid? Or wonderful?

Then with that belief in mind, ask yourself these seven questions:

Q1. What would change your mind? Precisely what evidence would you need to have your mind changed?
Q2. When someone challenges your belief do you immediately try to prove the person wrong?
Q3. Do you easily become irritated when your belief is challenged?
Q4. Do you avoid a person’s awkward question and answer a different one?
Q5. Do you  tend to embrace evidence that supports your point of view, and reject evidence that contradicts it?
Q6. Do you ‘just know’ that it’s true?

If nothing would change your mind, it’s an emotional belief.
If you are intent on proving the other person wrong, that’s an emotional belief.
If you quickly become irritated with a conflicting point of view, it’s an emotional belief.
If you tend to evade properly answering questions about your belief, it’s an emotional belief.
If you succumb to confirmation bias, it’s an emotional belief.
If you know ‘just know’ that it’s true, it’s an emotional belief.

So, do you have an emotional belief? If so, is it making you look silly? Is it disabling you?

Will you let it continue to disable you?

In what way do you benefit from holding that belief?

What other disabling emotional beliefs do you have?

Star signs are true. Your scribe is a Copularian. (Sign of the Fornicator)

2. Giving that lecture was all the ill Mr B could manage, and he and the trillion little virus critters within him sat down. A series of speakers followed. First was Uncle Pete, who began talking about climate change. From his chair, Peter the Younger had a lot to say in response.

The really interesting bit was about one of the mysteries of quantum mechanics. Radium has a half-life of about 1,600 years. That means in 1,600 years half the atoms in a ‘block’ of radium will have decayed. In another 1,600 years another half will have decayed. And so on. The interesting thing is: even though all the atoms are the same, and all are unstable, we cannot predict which ones will decay and which ones won’t. Why would one atom decay almost immediately and another take thousands of years to decay, while both are (seemingly) exactly the same?

No one knows. How interesting!

What is the half-life of radium?

3. Elsewhere, Helmut kept his audience informed and entertained about matters of science, while across the way Steve Maxwell did the same with his expansive knowledge of history.

On the Ladder of Knowledge, still vacated by the sickly Mr B, Mirko kindly explained how gravity creates hydrogen gas (even though it doesn’t). Then Mark the Grinner spoke about the disadvantages of black and white thinking and the Dunning-Kruger effect. Then we heard from Peter the Younger, who passionately defended his point of view on climate change. Lastly, we heard from someone from the audience, Ahren. Ahren kept the crowd until it was long after 5pm and time to pack up. Ahren explained what it means to be a perrenial. (It has something to do with our search for the Universal Truth.)

Each and every one of the speakers did an excellent job.

If all the current regular speakers were to retire tomorrow (or fall off the perch), Speakers’ Corner would continue without missing a beat. We have a plethora of entertaining speakers ready to fill the gaps.


4. Other topics discussed:
– Native Title compensation. Are there inconsistencies we need to sort out?

– Tim Brunero’s special meeting has been postponed to September 29.

– Uncle Pete explained why he became an atheist. Going to a Catholic school is a good place in which to become an atheist, apparently.

5. Here is another chapter from Mr B’s blog about resilience. He wants to know what you are thinking, and feeling. Intrusive bugger.

6. A few weeks ago, one of Mr B’s anonymous grasshoppers left a note on his car, expressing interest in him and promising to come back the following week. It is this scribe’s unpleasant duty to inform you that his adoring fan has not yet been back to see him, and poor Mr B has been pining. At the end of every meeting he has waited, and waited, until long after night has fallen and the bats are weeing on him.

Poor Mr B, a lone figure in the stillness of the night. Waiting. And waiting.

7. In this week’s Unusual Critter Series we present to you one member of the virus attacking poor Mr B. The photo was taking with an electron microscope. This individual also tried to hack our Facebook site.



News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 1st September

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 2, 2019 at 10:48 am

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum  up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

1. It was the first day of Spring and Mr B began with his poem, ‘Ode to Spring’ . It finished abruptly with a rhyme unfinished because he had heard of that old showbiz trick: ‘leave them wanting more’. Oh dear.

The only trouble was, his listeners didn’t want more. But he gave it to them anyway, with his equally awkward, ‘Ode to Kitchen Utensils’.

2. It was Father’s Day today as Steve, Ray, Helmut, John August, Mark the Grinner, Helmut, Mirko and Mr B did their thing on their stepladders. Here are two Father’s Day postcards  from the Postsecret site.

3. The two mad villians were at it again. Having now called them mad, for legal reasons I can’t name them. Suffice to say, their behaviour was “unsettling”. Mirko . . . oh, damn, his name slipped out . . . He was rude, arrogant, invasive, loud and incomprehensible. His normal self, basically. Strangely, he remains likeable. The other unnamed miscreant has the same faults, and persistently interrupted us with his remarks about commo atheists. So very tiresome, Michael.  . . . Oh, damn.

4. A proton was driving along when a policeman pulled him over. “Do you realise you were going 121 kilometres per hour in a 60 zone?” asked the policeman. ‘Gosh,” said the proton, “I must be lost.”

That charming little joke began a discussion about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Mr B wanted some clarification about its role in the movement of a particle at (or very close to) Absolute Zero. That’s -273.15 degrees Celsius. Does quantum mechanics come to play?

In our laboratories we cannot reach Absolute Zero (we’re a few billionths of a degree off). Uncle Pete explained why. He also explained what electrons do and don’t do around the nucleus of an atom. Naturally, Helmut also had something to say.

5. Standing on the Ladder of Knowledge, Mirko told us how he was abducted by aliens and given subliminal knowledge about 21st century science. We tried to find out if he was also anally probed by the aliens, but the truth never came out. Which is probably just as well.

We also heard what the letters on his cap stand for: U Fuck Off!

6. Here is another chapter
of Mr B’s book for young people. It explains the difference between stoicism and resilience.

7. Uncle Pete challenged Mr B’s view of infanticide. It must be said, Mr B has not yet convinced us all of its merits.

Here is a confronting image of a (supposedly) abandoned baby.

8. Other topics discussed:

– The importance of soup in our path to civilisation. Unfortunately, that talk included Mr B’s poem, ‘Ode to Soup’.

– This week we heard the proper version of Newcomb’s Paradox, which uncle Pete rightly claimed was not a true paradox.
Mr B had his work cut out for him. One gentle soul chose to forgo the million dollars simply because she didn’t want to be greedy. And, her husband chose to forgo the million dollar cheque and instead took the ten thousand dollar cheque, simply because he figured it was less likely to bounce. Sigh. Mr B received idiot answers when he presented the “paradox” three years ago. Will he not learn?

– And, we heard from Uncle Pete an accurate version of ‘The Surprise Test’ paradox. ‘Language’ has a lot to answer for, apparently. Michael and Mirko blathered on like excited howler monkeys, and how Uncle Pete succeeded in giving his talk is a wonder in itself.

– Leadership. “You’re not on this planet to justify your existence to anyone. Be the leader of your universe, and lead well.” So said Mr B to a grasshopper who was looking for someone to follow and for a moral code to adopt. Yes, come to Speakers’ Corner with questions like that.

– Another grasshopper, in all seriousness, put forth the idea that we here in Australia should make artificial mountains and artificial rivers, to attract rain. Yes, that’s right, folks. Terraforming Australia.

– We heard a hammed recital of ‘Clancy of the Overflow’.

– If a group pumps out deceitful propaganda and outright lies to support their claim, does that necessarily mean their claim is false?

– We heard why Sydney should get rid of all its public transport, but over a seventy year period to prevent problems.

See what public transport can do:

9. This week’s Unusual Critter in our Unusual Creature Series is the Goblin Shark. This handsome and discerning individual thinks our Facebook site is tops.

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