Soapbox Speakers

Archive for the ‘News for Speakers’ Corner’ Category

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 20th May

In News for Speakers' Corner on May 21, 2018 at 11:10 am

 “An epitaph is an inscription which hopes the virtues acquired by death will have a retroactive effect”.
Ambrose Bierce

1.  Today the camera-shy John August began speaking on the Ladder of Knowledge. However, before he got into his stride, a photographer turned up. John promptly vacated the Ladder. Then Mr B gave us some bull dust about his experience under anaesthesia, and then was replaced by Mirko. Mirko had a few things to say about H2O and the sun’s hydrogen, and the crowd were entertained. Then Uncle Pete took over and gave a very interesting appraisal of the National Appraisal Program for school children, NAPLAN. In his engaging manner, Pete made a good point about the tests that this scribe hasn’t heard elsewhere. He even earned a round of applause.

It was a friendly atmosphere today. The place really does seem to have a sense of community. It was a pleasure to be there.

Unfortunately, your scribe had to leave. I was keen to get back home to watch the replay of Meghan and Harry’s wedding.

2. Speaking of Mr B: as you know, Mr B has recently had surgery to have two wisdom teeth and an appendix implanted. He tells me that some of you have offered him assistance while he recuperates. He informs me that he would like to humbly take up your offer.

Mr B would like his house painted, inside and out. He is well enough to choose the colours. As for the paint and brushes, he wants quality and he doesn’t care how much they cost. He says he might even contribute a few dollars himself.

Would all of you who offered assistance please turn up tomorrow morning and form a working bee. Mr B is prepared to put up with the inconvenience for the next two weeks and we thank him for that.


3. On behalf of Mr B, this scribe would like to thank Peter the Younger. Mr B left early, a bit out of sorts, and the gracious Peter walked him all the way to his car, to make sure he got there safely. It’s people like Peter the Younger who give Speakers’ Corner its sense of community. Thank you, Peter, for looking after Mr B! Much appreciated.




News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 13th May

In News for Speakers' Corner on May 14, 2018 at 9:52 am

“Tell me and I forget; show me and I remember; involve me and I understand.”

1. Your scribe turned up today, as did Mr B. It was a wet and miserable.

Before the meeting was even under way Helmut, Greg and Mr B privately compared catheter stories. Mr B’s story paled in comparison to the other two stories, so he should shut up from now on.

Only a handful of regulars were there to hear the first speaker, Helmut. And, only seven chairs were provided. But they were enough, because it soon began to rain.  Those hardy souls simply relocated to under a fig tree.

Steve Maxwell remained too, but Ray cleared off. It seems God had given him the afternoon off by making it rain. Your scribe had had enough, and left.

2. Occasional visitor and permanent troublemaker Gary Stevens has sent in this photograph of a toy. He claims it looks a lot like Mr Bashful standing on his soapbox.

Mr Stevens is being grossly disrespectful. The toy looks nothing like Mr B. However, in the interests of democracy I present this photograph to you all. Poor Mr B.

This does not look like Mr Bashful.

3. If the above comparison is not disgraceful enough, Mark the Grinner has compounded the crime. He sent Mr B the disturbing meme below, knowing that Mr B has had recent surgery.

Mark the Grinner tried to pretend that it was his companion Sue who sent it in. We all know Sue wouldn’t do that.

The meme has discombobulated poor Mr B. His doctors estimate that it has set back his recovery by at least a fortnight. This is outrageous. Mark the Grinner needs to take a long hard look at himself.

4. Mr Bashful felt the need to send this to all nurses. At least it’s sensible, unlike the rubbish above.

5. If you would rather read these posts on Facebook from now on, you can.

Blue footed booby






News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 6th May

In News for Speakers' Corner on May 7, 2018 at 8:45 am

“Only two things can spook a horse. Anything that moves, and anything that doesn’t.”

1. Unfortunately, your poor scribe has been unable to attend the meetings lately or report upon them. I have had to leave my home at short notice, which is a shame because the constabularly have some questions to ask me about how I tried to save the three kittens from the burning building (previous post). I always like to assist our police force but for the moment I can’t.

I’m writing this in the Community Centre of a small country town.

In another unrelated matter, I have a children’s toy Easter Egg for sale. It is a bit like a large Kinder Surprise but without the chocolate. This gaudy bit of kitch is yours for just $20.


2.  Mr B informs me that his operation to have his wisdom teeth put back in has been so successful he now wants to have an appendix transplanted into him. He knows something is missing in his life, and he figures it must be his appendix. It was removed when he was ten.

He won’t be well enough to be at Speakers’ Corner this coming Sunday 13th.


3. Years ago, speaker Charlie King spoke under the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ but he wasn’t the first to speak under a special tree. Soapbox orator Steve Maxwell has written an article about how, throughout the ages, trees have been a focul point for meeting groups.

The Trees of Knowledge
by Stephen Maxwell.

Trees are wonderful lifeforms. It is no accident that they play an important part in human culture.  The Old English word for a gathering place is “tryst” meaning “time and place”. Trees that have had a tradition as meeting places are called “trysting trees’’.

Trees chosen as trysting trees were usually in a prominent place or had unusual properties, such as a large size, or with lighter and smoother bark. Or the tree stood on its own at the side of a road or in a forest clearing, or near a water source.

In ancient times, food bearing trees were a source of food, shelter material and even natural medicines. Under the shading trees a tradition of learning and sharing took place.

Some trees become so highly regarded that they were worshipped.

Plato’s academy stood outside the walls of Athens beside a grove of olive trees dedicated to the Goddess Athena. The Roman, Sulla, destroyed the olive grove in 86 BC. In spite of the ravages of time, the area remained active long enough to influence the Arabic revival of Baghdad in the 8th century. That revival was the forerunner of The Renaissance and the beginning of the modern age.

Before the invention of mass media, village people would gather to hear news and talk politics around a common prominent landmark, such as a large tree. In some places, such trees had religious (and in others, political) significance.  In this short article, I explore the history of significant trees relating to Speakers’ Corners.

At the site of Marble Arch in Hyde Park, London, stood The Tyburn Tree – which was never a tree but a hanging machine (a type of gallows) where eight prisoners could be dispatched at once. Not a tree at all! Public executions were popular spectacles. If a prisoner was favoured, they could give a last speech before being hanged. But there was another reason why people would gather there and that was to collect clean water from the Tyburn Brook or from the River Tyburn flowing through Regents Park under Buckingham Palace. The river was once reputed to have some of London’s best salmon fishing.

Most Speakers’ Corners developed under a Tree of Knowledge.

Famous Trees of Knowledge in History.

The Bodhi Tree (in Bodh Gaya, India) 
According to sacred texts, the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, attained enlightenment (“bodhi”) after sitting and meditating for seven days under a fig tree in an Indian village. The sacred Bodhi Tree at the Mahabodhi Temple is touted as a descendant of the original specimen under which the Buddha sat. Offshoots across the world are said to have been propagated from the original, such as the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Sri Lanka, which was planted in the 3rd century BC.

The City of Darwin
Darwin’s Tree of Knowledge is an ancient Banyan located behind the civic centre on Harry Chan Ave. The tree looks like a Bodhi Tree. This native Australian  tree has the same genus but is a different species to the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddhists ‘Gautama’ received enlightenment while sitting beneath a bodhi in faraway India.

The local aboriginal people ‘the Larakia’, the Europeans and Chinese have an affinity for this remarkable tree. For the Larakia, is it the because it is the last remnant of the rainforest that once covered the area. For the European pioneers it was a mailing address conveniently opposite the local hotel. For the Chinese it was a meeting place where friends met and talked. The tree is heritage listed and has survived cyclones, bombing in WW2, and land development.

The Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine, Queensland, Australia
Barcaldine is a small town in Central West Queensland. It played a major role in the Australian labour movement.

In 1891, Barcaldine’s Tree of Knowledge was a ghost gum over 200 years old. it was one of the focal points of the shearers’ strike held by Queensland shearers. Due to the severity of the 1890 depression, wool prices tumbled. Sheep station owners tried to cut wages and import foreign workers  at a time when unions were becoming strong enough to strike for an 8-hour day and better working conditions.

Striking shearers regularly met under the Tree of Knowledge. They raised the Eureka Flag and pledged to fight the bosses. The shearers were not alone: the maritime workers’ unions supported them with strike action.  It was a bitter struggle at the brink of war. However, at the same time a major cyclone devastated Queensland and routed both the well-armed Queensland army and the armed shearers. When the weather passed, so had the possibility of revolution. Many of the strikers were jailed. Unions realised that they had to get parliamentary representation to counter the excesses of the system. They formed the Australian Labour Party.
  One year after the strike, union leaders gathered under the Tree of Knowledge and elected the first labour representative to stand for parliament.

Local members of the Barcaldine Historical Society say that around the years of 1935-1943, prior to WWII, people would stand on crates in the main street of Barcaldine’s Oak Street between the Shakespeare Hotel and the Commercial Hotel.  Up to 200 people would attend the political meetings and rallies.

Apparently it was not the same after the war. In the 1950’s a faction within the Labor Party broke away from the ALP and formed  the DLP (Democratic Labour Party). The DLP would meet on the corner of Box and Yew Street. They held meetings from the back of a truck. The new party would often get a hostile reaction. The DLP disbanded in the 1970’s.

The Barcaldine Tree of Knowledge was proclaimed a tree of historical significance.

In the 1990s’ the ghost gum was saved by a dedicated team of tree surgeons, headed by John Cheadle. However in 2006, the tree was deliberately poisoned with herbicide. It killed the tree.  In place of the tree a plaque now commemorates the loyalty, courage, and sacrifice in 1891 of the stalwart men and women of the west from whom, beneath this tree, emerged Australia’s labour and political movement.

Townsville, Queensland.
During the Federal Election in 1998, Townsville Council erected a speaker’s platform and named it “SpeakersStone”. They placed it near the Flinders Street Mall, in honour of a long forgotten “Tree of Knowledge”.
  Patrick Coleman, an advocate of freedom of speech, revived the tradition of Speakers’ Corner in the mall were the tree once lived.

For more information about:
Patrick Coleman:
the Druid garden:

The Liberty Tree (Boston, Massachusetts)

On 14th August 1765, a defiant group of American colonists ‘The Sons of Liberty’ rallied beneath the mighty boughs of a century-old elm tree to protest the enactment of the highly unpopular Stamp Act. The young rebels decorated the tree with banners, lanterns and effigies of the British Prime Minister. Over the next decade, patriots regularly gathered around the tree for meetings, speeches and celebrations until British soldiers and Loyalists in Boston chopped it into firewood during the summer of 1775. The Liberty Tree became such a powerful patriotic symbol that towns throughout the colonies followed Boston’s lead in designating their own versions of a Liberty Tree.

More on The Boston Common, one of the first Speakers’ Corners in America.


Emancipation Oak (Hampton, Virginia)
In the fall of 1861, the children of former slaves who had escaped to the refuge of Union-held Fort Monroe gathered underneath the sprawling canopy of a southern oak tree to listen to African-American Mary Smith Peake as she taught them how to read and write. Previously, slaves had been forbidden an education under Virginia law. Underneath the same oak tree, now on the grounds of Hampton University, African-Americans congregated in 1863 to listen to the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in the South, issued by President Abraham Lincoln.

The emancipation oak at Hampton University


The Kalayaan Tree (The Tree of Freedom)
This Siar tree is  located near the front of the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Malolos, the Philippines.
The tree was planted by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo during a lull in the Malolos Convention. That convention lead to the first  Philippine Republic which was established after the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish Empire (1896-1897).

Directly under the tree is a monument symbolising the meeting of Filipino revolutionaries, represented by statues of Gregorio del Pilar and Gen. Isidoro Torres; Don Pablo Tecson, a legislator; Padre Mariano Sevilla, a nationalist leader of the church and Doña Basilia Tantoco, a woman freedom fighter.

The Kalayaan Tree in the Philippines.


Tolpuddle Martyrs- the pioneers of the Trade Union movement.
The Tolpuddle Martyrs were six 19th century agricultural labourers living in the Dorset village of Tolpuddle (on the River Piddle eight miles East of Dorchester, the county town, and 12 miles west of Poole. The estimated population in 2013 was 420.)

Folklore said that in 1834, local agricultural labourers were barred from meeting in church halls and other indoor spaces. The six men swore a secret oath and formed a secret union called ‘The Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers’. They met regularly under the village sycamore tree’s spreading branches discussing their long hours and small wages.
  When they formed the union they knew it would be outlawed. That made them pioneers of the Trade Union movement. In 1834 they were arrested and convicted for swearing a secret oath as members of a union. On 18th March of that year the Tolpuddle Martyrs were sentenced to penal transportation to Australia.

  The 300-year-old tree is still growing in the village and  is regarded as the birthplace of that first Trade Union movement. The village also hosts an annual festival, ‘The Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival’ and a rally in July.

The Martyrs tree


The Federation University Australia
Known at the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ or ‘Big Tree’ is a Tasmanian Blue Gum. It was chosen as the central focus of the Mt Helen Campus University of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. When the site was purchased in 1966 the architects and planners inspected the site and decided the ‘Big tree’ must remain as a central landmark in the layout of the Campus amenities. The tree is on the National Trust of Australia’s (Vic) Register of Significant Trees (number T11430).

Federation University Australia was formed when the former University of Ballarat and the Gippsland Campus of Monash University were amalgamated.…/tree-of-knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge in Ballarat

Rockhampton, Mount Morgan, Queensland.
On Friday, February 18, 2011 Rockhampton’s iconic Tree of Knowledge came crashing down in Morgan St, taking an electrical service line with it. Until then, the fig tree had offered a leafy and favourite resting place for many generations, since being planted in 1920.

  Council staff removed the tree. The tree had a fungal disease that had decayed the tree’s root system.
  Established in 1858, Rockhampton is one of the oldest cities in Queensland. It was nicknamed the “City of the Three S’s”: Sin, Sweat, and Sorrow”
  A mixture of cattle ranching, Chinese gold digging, sailors’ migration from England, South Sea Island Aborigines, and a publican ensured that Rockhampton had a rip-roaring history as it soon became the second largest port in the state.

Rockhampton’s Racecourse Riot By Carol Gistitin Paper … – Library

Crocodile Creek – Central Queensland Family History Association Inc…/crocodile-creek

“TREE OF KNOWLEDGE FALLS.” MOUNT MORHGON ARGUS,’ 9th march 2011 Rockhampton Qld.


Steve Maxwell. 12-4-18.




News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 22nd April

In News for Speakers' Corner on April 23, 2018 at 9:40 am

‘We should, I believe, be judged by our compromises more than by our ideals and norms. Ideals may tell us something important about what we’d like to be, but compromises tell us who we are.’
Professor Marghareta

1. Unfortunately, your diligent scribe was unable to attend Speakers’ Corner today and can therefore not report on what happened. No doubt Steve Maxwell was at his brilliant best, Ray would have been spreading his important message in his own affable way, Helmut would have again bathed the crowd with his charisma and science, and Mirko’s weekly science lesson would have been a treat.

If anyone else got to speak, this poor scribe missed it.

Mr B would not have been there either. He is having his wisdom teeth put back in. He’ll be away next week too.

Why was this unlucky scribe not present to record what happened today at Speakers’ Corner? Because I am suffering mild smoke inhalation. Yesterday, a four story building was on fire, and someone in the street screamed, “My kittens! My three beautiful kittens! Please, someone save them!” Naturally, I ran into the building with a sledgehammer to break down doors. I was determined to save those kittens!

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the kittens. But I did manage to save two jewellery boxes and a bag of gold sovereigns someone had hidden in the back of a sock drawer. But being a hero has its drawbacks; the mild smoke inhalation has forced me to stay in bed and recuperate.

2. In 1970 and 1971 Daniel Ford took photographs at Speakers’ Corner and he has now placed the most splendid of them in his new book, “The Outside ‘in’ Place“. Daniel has kindly allowed your grateful scribe to exhibit a few of those photos. Enjoy!

You can buy Daniel’s book. It is A4  80gsm double-sided laser-printed, with laminated covers, comb-bound. The photos in both books (hard copy and PDF) have a much higher resolution than in the examples below.
Hard copy: including postage: $26
PDF file (via download link): $12
To get a copy contact Daniel:

Photos under the copyright of Daniel Ford.





3. Thank you to the person who sent in this look-a-like of Steve.

4. Special notice: this scribe has for sale this diamond ring, valued at more than $30,000. A quick sale is necessary. It smells of smoke, so you can have it for just $5,000. More jewellery will be for sale over the coming weeks, but grab this ring while you can!

5. For no reason, have a look at our Facebook page.

And for no reason, try our Archives site.

Afterwards, make a mental note to yourself to have a reason for doing things.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 15th April

In News for Speakers' Corner on April 16, 2018 at 9:34 am

“There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
John Heywood, 1546

1. Steve Maxwell had two guests today: 2SR radio star John August, and a bloke called Andrew, who spoke about blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Your scribe didn’t get to hear what any of the three men said because he happened to be in Mr B’s audience when Mr B spoke about Black’s Infinity Machine. Or a derivation of it. It was similar to last week’s talk about Thompson’s Lamp.

You have ten packs of playing cards, jokers excluded. (You can reuse the cards in this experiment.) When thirty seconds pass you place a red card face up on the table. After 15 seconds you place a black card on the table. After 7.5 seconds you place a red card on the table. And so on. The question is: when a minute has passed, will the last card be red or black?

Will you ever reach the minute, even though a minute will pass?  Time will always be divisible, so will you be placing an infinite number of cards on the table in infinitely short intervals just before you get to the minute?

You might say that the last card cannot be red or black, because there can be no last card in an infinite series. Yet, a minute will pass and at that precise moment there has to be a card placed on the table. Will it be red or black?

What happens if you leave the jokers in?

2. A conundrum. You don’t need to know anything about sport. You just need a brain to solve this puzzle. It’s an easy puzzle, but only one grasshopper managed to work out the answer. The others’ prejudice against sport worked against them. Can you put aside your prejudice of sport and solve the puzzle?

Two football teams, Hawthorn and Melbourne, have played each other just seventeen times. A sports journalist points out to her readers that “Hawthorn has won 15 of their last 16 games against Melbourne.”

The question is: which team won the first game?

Mr B holding two of Hawthorn’s Premiership cups. 2014 & 2015

3. Don’t shoot the messenger. On last week’s Facebook version of this newsletter your gentle scribe was besieged by commenters. The previous day, at Speakers’ Corner, Mr B had said that the Dept of Family Services will provide you with a bed for the night provided you have the wherewithal to ask for it and make use of it. Your scribe not only dutifully stated what he said, he even went to the Dept itself on Monday morning to verify the claims. After all, as you know, this newsletter has a reputation for being 100% right, and it is your earnest scribe’s duty to protect that envied reputation.

After visiting the Department to ask questions, I put the staff member’s answers on our newsletter and on our Facebook page.

That’s when I got into trouble.

Of course, if anyone should get into trouble, it’s Mr B. But it was me, your poor blighted messenger, who was whacked around the head with objections.

It appears that readers want to believe that the Dept is doing a lousy job of providing beds for the homeless. I guess they see people sleeping in shop fronts and under bridges, and assume that it must be the uncaring government’s fault that the homeless don’t have a bed to sleep in. After all, it’s a common complaint the caring make. To believe that the Department is doing a good job just goes against the grain.

“One of the government’s functions is to act as scapegoat.”
Jon Jermey.

So, on Thursday, your harrangued scribe visited the Strawberry Hills branch to again ask questions.

By the way, on the Facebook page some correspendents confused ‘getting a bed for the night‘ with ‘getting a home to live in‘. That was a bit of a leap! Mr B’s claim last week was that if you visit the Dept you will be assured of getting a bed for the night. He said nothing about being housed permanently.

Scribe to staff member: “To be given a bed, the person has to have an income such as a regular Centrelink payment. What happens if the applicant doesn’t have an income?”
“We help them link to Centrelink. That’s the responsible thing to do.” (Yes, to simply give someone a bed to sleep in without helping them in other areas of their life would be irresponsible. Requiring certain conditions be met means other problems can be discovered and addressed. It’s not bureaucracy, it’s commonsense.)
“What if the person is not eligible for Centrelink or pension payments? What if they are a refugee, for example?”
“Some asylum seakers are ineligible because they don’t have permanent residency and have no government funding. In those rare instances we pass the case onto the manager who has the discretion to give them a bed for the night. We would also liase with an organisation like the Red Cross, who can  assist.”
“What about young children? They don’t have a Centrelink income.”
“Under-eighteens rarely, if ever, come here, but if they do, we have a policy to assist them, depending on their age. We might, for example, contact the Dept of Community Services to ensure they have a refuge to go to.”
 “To link someone to Centrelink might take a few days. Where do they sleep meanwhile?”
“Again, we can pass the case onto the manager who has the discretion to assist. When people fall through the cracks we don’t just turn them away, we seek other avenues for them. For example, we might point them to other organisations that provide social housing.”
  “Are those organisations part of this Department?”
  “No, they are non-government organisations but we help fund them.”
“What about drug addict accomodation facilities? I believe there are places drug addicts can visit to get a bed, provided they stay off drugs?”
“That’s a demeaning term you’re using. We call such places ‘specialist homeless services’. Yes, they exist.”
“I was also told that to get a bed regularly a person has to show that they have been trying to find permanent accommodation. What proof of that search do you require?”
“A diary indicating the places they have approached.” (Again, this is the responsible thing to do. By requiring each applicant to search for permanent accommodation they are helping the applicant. To not have that condition would be irresponsible.)
“So, provided the person has an income and is actively searching for permanent accommodation, then feasibly they could get a bed every day of the year?”
“No, the maximum is 28 days.”
“What happens after 28 days?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen it happen yet.”  (Presumably, a person requiring a bed every day would soon tire of having to front up to the Dept every day to get one, especially given that they might each day be given a different bed. So, before the 28 days were up, they would find permanent accommodation for themselves, even if it’s just in a boarding house somewhere. Such places providing permanent accommodation take a percentage of a person’s Centrelink payment. Further, this scribe has no doubt that if someone did exhaust their 28 days, the Dept would not simply turn them out. They would probably point the person to one of the other organisations, such as the Red Cross.)
“I guess you reject some people wanting a bed?”
“Occasionally, if they haven’t tried to meet the conditions.”
“What if someone can’t visit the Dept? What if they have a medical condition that prevents them from queuing?”
“People don’t have to visit. They can ring us and we will find a bed for them.” (
Also, the applicants visiting don’t have to stand while they queue.They are given a number and they can sit on any of the comfortable couches and chairs provided. The place is air conditioned.)

This scribe has to conclude that the infallible Mr B is right yet again: even if 1% of the people asking the Dept of Family Services for a bed for the night are unfairly rejected, that still doesn’t explain why there are so many people sleeping in shop fronts and under bridges. The vast majority of those sleepers would most likely find temporary accommodation too stressful or too isolating.

And, we can’t “kidnap” the homeless and force them into accommodation each night.

Some grasshoppers suggested that the government should supply each applicant with a free bed for the night, in their own room, whenever they want, without any conditions. Holy Moly. (And all supposedly paid for by the amount we would save by not paying for the Department’s bureacracy.)

In short, I’m with Mr B. Let’s not blame the government or society for the homeless people we see sleeping in the streets. Let’s, for a change, not make the government a scapegoat.

I also subscribe to Mr B’s demand that we double the Medicare levy from 2% to 4%, to improve the lives of ALL mentally ill people and their family carers. And for research into mental illness. He is a brilliant man, that Mr B.

4. It should be noted that the Dept of Family Services also places people into permanent housing. Mr B tells me that when he was working in the Dept there was a ten year waiting list for applicants, but urgent cases (the mentally ill, the disabled, the vulnerable) could jump the queue and have a place in weeks when a place became available.

Many people are rejected for a variety of reasons. (Their income might be too high, for example, or they might have pets.) If it were too easy to get cheap, government subsidised accommodation, then many underserving people would apply and get it, and the taxpayer would suffer.

If the mentally ill have access to permanent public housing, why do some sleep in a shopfront? They do so because sometimes a person’s mental illness prevents them from staying in the home they have been given. They find it too stressful or too isolating, or too difficult.

An example of public housing.

5. Mr B explained the difference between emotional beliefs, rational beliefs, and irrational beliefs. He said that most of us have beliefs that are so important to us that we will vehemently defend them, even though a disinterested onlooker would readily see the flaws in our beliefs. People who are otherwise sensible might believe in astrology, or that some peoples are inferior, or that we shouldn’t have sex before marriage, or that they themselves are worthless . . .  Their beliefs are so strong, nothing will change their mind.

We all have such beliefs, said Mr B, and it’s our job to become aware of them, because some of them are disabling us. We can keep the healthy emotional beliefs and ditch the disabling ones. When we become aware of our disabling emotional beliefs we can reduce their influence upon us.

He listed six questions we need to ask of each of our beliefs if we want to know if they are emotional beliefs.

Q1. What evidence would change your mind?  (If you can’t think of anything that would change your mind, your belief is an emotional belief.)

Q2. If someone challenges your belief do you immediately try to prove that person wrong?

Q3. Do you become irritaated when your belief is challenged?

Q4. Do you tend to “misunderstand” the question by going off at a tangent? Do you start to argue about another related matter that feels safer, or you’re more confident about?

Q5. Are you a victim of Confirmation Bias? Do you clasp tightly to evidence that supports your belief, and ignore evidence that contradicts it?

Q6. Do you “just know” that it’s true?

Have you discovered that your belief is an emotional belief? Is it disabling you in some way? Do you choose to keep that belief, or will you one day let it go, when you are ready? Will you let that belief influence you when it’s time to make a decision?

6. Mr B has informed me that this coming Sunday and the Sunday after, he won’t be appearing at Speakers’ Corner. He has chosen to have his wisdom teeth put back in. It’s an awkward operation and he will need time to recover.

7.  Other subjects discussed:
– The meaning of the term ‘cognitive dissonance’.

– Are you condoning live animal exports when you vote for Labor or the Liberals, given that neither party chooses to ban it? Even if you vote for the Greens, does our preferential system of counting votes mean that you’ll end up voting for Labor or Liberal anyway, which means you will still be condoning live animal exports?

– In the tiny town of Swifts Creek in Victoria. a 95 year old woman has had her licence taken from her. Now, to get to Bairnsdale she has to catch a bus. But the bus driver doesn’t pick her up at the bus stop. Instead, he drives to her door and picks her up from there! And, he drops her off at her door when she catches the bus home!
That’s what it can be like in the country.

– Robert Nozick posed the following thought experiment.
You have a choice:
a) to continue to live your life as you are doing now, or
b) you can be put into a deep sleep and dream a long and wonderful life. You dream that your family grow up happy and well. Every book you read is superb. Every film you watch enriches you. You do whatever you want anywhere in the world, and you enjoy it and succceed. You dream an amazing life, and it all seems real. You will have no idea that you are dreaming. You die at a very old age satisfied that you have lived a rich and loving and interesting life. It’s a bit like ‘The Matrix’, but much, much better.

Robert Nozick found that most people chose Option A. When Mr B asked his grasshoppers to choose, he got the same result. We discussed the reasons why most people choose to forgo the experience of living a wonderful life, and choose Option A instead.

8.  No one leaves a comment on this blog, so if you want to read irate comments go to our Facebook page.

Nix and Gerber create these extraordinary models.





News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday, 8th April

In News for Speakers' Corner on April 9, 2018 at 2:33 pm

“Sure there have been injuries and deaths in boxing, but none of them serious.” 
Alan Minter, Boxer.

1. Lost some keys at Speakers’ Corner? Ring Steve: 97135780

Have you lost some keys?

2. If you look at the video of Webster you’ll find his listeners sitting on the grass quietly listening to every word he says. No interruptions, no absurd questions, no arguments. He received the occasional heckle that give him the opportunity to soar to even greater heights.

Fast forward to today and it’s a farce.

How would Webster have handled Mirko? How would he deal with Uncle Pete? And Mark the Grinner? Peter the Younger? Laurence? Tony? Answer: he would be out of his depth, the same way Mr B is out of his depth. Speaking at Speakers’ Corner today is like trying to talk sense into a flock of budgerigars. Constant squawking interrupts every syllable.

Poor Tommy got the same treatment when he got up onto the Ladder of Knowledge to say a few words, as did Mirko. Though when Mirko gets up, he is the budgerigar.

3. Mr B made some extraordinary claims about homelessness. He said that if you need a meal in Sydney there are plenty of places you can get one. If you want a bed to sleep in at night, there will be one for you if you go to the Department of Family and Community Services in the morning. “The only people who sleep under bridges are those who do so by choice,” said Mr B, “or they are too mentally ill to be able to take advantage of the services.”

Your sceptical scribe doubted Mr B, so this morning I visited the Department of Family and Community Services, Chalmers Street, Strawberry Hills. I got there when it opened at 9am, was at the back of the queue, and received assistance at 10am. The staff member verified that yes, anyone who visits the office will be given accommodation for one to two nights. To get more nights they have to take steps towards getting long term accommodation. That means, provided a person is in some way aiming to get proper long term accommodation, they will be given a bed to sleep in every night of the year.

“What about young people?” I asked. “Why are they sleeping in the streets?”
She answered, “Choice?”
“So you would find accommodation for them if they came here?”
“So, anyone who has the capacity to front up here and then find the hotel room given to them, will have a bed to sleep in at night?”  
“Yes. We even have the beginnings of an outreach program. We go looking for people and we offer them a bed.”
“Do you have interpreter services?”
“Do the applicants have to meet any conditions?”
“Yes. They need to provide some proof that they have some form of income, such as a Centrelink payment or a pension.”
“What if they don’t have that proof?”
“We help them get the documents they need.”
“You said they have to take steps towards getting long term accommodation . . .”
“We help them with that too. We can walk them through each step, we can write the letters they need, we can point them to where accommodation is advertised . . .”
“So unless someone is too mentally ill to be able to come here, no one really needs to sleep under a bridge?”
“I believe we do a good job.”

Your doubting scribe has to reluctantly doubt no more and admit Mr B was right. But, he is right only with regards to Sydney (and other capital cities, presumably). As one grasshopper pointed out, there won’t be those services in country towns.

This postcard is from the Postsecret site.

From the Postsecret site.

4.  The government and the media keep saying how important it is to have an electricity grid that won’t allow blackouts. Mr B wanted to know, “What’s wrong with the occasional blackout? Why not endure the occasional blackout and save ourselves the expense of another power station, and save a lot of coal from being burned?” Eight grasshoppers put up their hands to tell him why.

5. Mr B likes infinity,
and he plugged that topic again today. The philosopher José Bernardete asks us to imagine a building with an infinite number of storeys. The second storey is half the height of the first. The third is half the height of the second. And so on. Result: an infinite number of storeys will be no higher than two storeys. Here is the question: Can that building have a roof?

We also examined (briefly) Thompson’s Lamp, a thought experiment devised by James F Thompson. You are to conduct this experiment for precisely one minute. For the first 30 seconds you have his lamp switched on. For the next 15 seconds you have it off. Then you switch it on for 7.5 seconds . . . and so on. Ignoring the barriers physics might present, and whether or not the lamp was made in China, the question is asked: when the one minute is up, is the lamp off or on?

Unfortunately, the discussion came to a quick halt when Peter the Younger said, “There might be a blackout.”

6. Tommy spoke about our inherent purpose. He claims that we, unlike other animals, can influence one another, and that’s our purpose in life: to influence one another and be acknowledged for it. That’s why so many of us crave to be celebrities, war mongers, or to be famous in other ways. One grasshopper challenged him, saying that we can’t remember who invented the wheel, and that there are plenty of people who don’t crave the limelight.7. In 1956 an electrode was placed in a rat’s brain so that every time the rat pressed a lever the pleasure centre of its brain received a mild electrical current, for one second. It enjoyed the experience so much it pressed the lever 5,000 times per hour and ignored its food. Many rats were tested; some pressed the lever 2,000 times per hour for four consecutive hours. The rat exhausted itself pulling the lever, and had to be force-fed, otherwise it would have died of starvation.

In 1972 a man underwent an experiment similar to that which the rats enjoyed. He was permitted to wear the device for three hours at a time. On one occasion he pressed the button 1,200 times, on another occasion 1,500 times, and on a third occasion 900 times. Each time the unit was taken from him he pleaded for permission to press the button just a few more times.

These two experiments were found in an article by Dr. Robert G. Heath. Pleasure And Brain Activity in Man, and in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. Volume 154, No 1. USA. The Williams & Wilkins Co.)

8. Last week Mr B claimed that nothing can go faster than the speed of light. Uncle Pete objected today, saying that nothing material can go faster than the speed of light. He gave two examples: one was unintelligible to this befuddled scribe (it had something to do with the angle a perpendicular ruler makes when it falls to the table.) The second example: tachyons.

Here is a photograph of a tachyon magnified 1 billion times:


9. Other topics discussed:
– The meaning of the term ‘cognitive dissonance‘.  That’s another cheesecake you can bring in with you, Helmut.

– Mirko spoke about his better design of the bicycle. When he was asked if the new motorised bicycles would make his bicycle obsolete he replied ‘No, because everyone is stealing the five hundred dollar batteries in those motorised bicycles.” There, you have it.

– Helmut spoke about soapbox speakers of the past. (They were the lucky ones, remember, who didn’t have a Mirko to deal with.) Helmut then patiently explained to us how Sir Isaac Newton derailed science and sent it backwards three hundred years. Presumably, that means that if Sir Isaac Newton had not been born we would be three hundred years more advanced. We would have colonised the solar system by now, and we’d have cheap fusion power. Bloody Isaac Newton. No wonder Helmut is so scathing of him.

– Who wants to be identified as an atheist?  Do we need to know the derivation of the word to know what an atheist is?

– Can anyone truly be altruistic?

– Should we set goals? Or simply go out and do it?

10. This Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher has subscribed to our Facebook page.

Oriental dwarf kingfisher


News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 1st April

In News for Speakers' Corner on April 2, 2018 at 8:30 am

“. . . just to place the finger on but one  of all the unsolved problems of the world, and say of it: ‘Thus the Creator thought,’ is worth a man’s whole life.”
David Avery, M.Sc.

1. It was Easter Sunday today, but where was Mirko?

Did he hide his own Easter Eggs last night, and have trouble finding them this morning?

2. Yes, it was Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day. Mr B admitted he had no prank planned, but did recount an incident in which he had rung a friend to ask him: “Please make me as many bowls of jelly that you can. I’ll pick them up tonight on my way to a party near your place.” The friend still had a fridge full of jelly days later. Helmut remembered the time when the Telegraph informed its readers the Queen had abdicated, and Charles was to take her place.

Mark the Grinner suggested that two thousand years ago the crucifixion was just an April Fool Day’s joke that got way out of hand. That theory was quickly dismissed. We didn’t talk about religion for the rest of the day.

3. And, it was also the end of Daylight Saving.

4. Mr B spoke
 about a clock being built inside a mountain in Texas, U.S.A.. The clock will keep the time for 10,000 years, and it’s powered by the varying temperatures of the mountain between day and night. Mr B’s grasshoppers figured it had to be an April Fool’s Day joke, but it wasn’t. Or was it? Here is one of Mr B’s 38 sources  if you’re game!

As you would expect, Mark the Grinner took the fun out of the talk by pointing out that a simple sundial would do the trick. Mind you, he is assuming the sun will still be there in 10,000 years, and there is no guarantee it will be.

Riverfront Park Sabarmati Sundial Ahmedabad River

5. Mr B proposed that we create a Speakers’ Corner organisation and grow it into an ethical, law-abiding $30b monolith.

If one person in the organisation were to become a kiddy-fiddler on the premises, should the victims be able to sue the organisation and take its assets, even though the organisation itself, and its other members, have done nothing wrong? Mr B said ‘no’, they shouldn’t be able to sue the organisation. Instead, the fiddler (and anyone else knowingly allowing it to happen) should lose their assets and go to jail, and the public should pay for any counselling the victims need. To make that happen, he suggested we double the Medicare Levy from 2% to 4%.

Mr B said that by expecting the Church to compensate its victims of sexual abuse, we are abrogating responsibility. We should care for ALL victims of sexual abuse.

One grasshopper suggested that we let the victim’s family deal with the perpetrator in a closed room. Uncle Pete wondered if that’s fair, pointing out that many perpetrators were once victims themselves. Gosh it gets complicated, doesn’t it?

Mr B also explained how innocent Christians are having their churches sold by the Anglican Church to pay the victims’ compensation. As if there weren’t enough victims already!

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

6. Let’s say Speakers’ Corner does choose to become an organisation worth billions of dollars. Who would be in the committee? Here are my nominations:
Treasurer: Uncle Pete was quick to volunteer for that position. Thank you, Uncle Pete! That’s the spirit!
Science Advisor: Mirko.
Public Relations: Uncle Pete & Mark the Grinner.
President: Arthur
Vice President: Tony Boyce
Secretary: Mr Bashful
Publicity: Helmut. Helmut has given us plenty of publicity in the past.
Token women on the board: Sue & Jean

We have plenty of capable people willing to take a position: Ray, Steve Maxwell, Ben the Whisperer, Tommy, Greg, Jack, Howard, Kieron, Albert, and Peter the Younger, who was AWOL today.

Please don’t point out that the gender disparity on the board indicates sexism. There are only two women regulars at Speakers’ Corner and I’ve put them both on the board because they’re female, not because they deserve a position. I couldn’t be less sexist than that, could I?

7. Imagine there is a carbon fibre rod one light-year long floating in space. Your spaceship has a towbar, and you hitch one end of that rod to your towbar. Then you fire up your (powerful!) engines and begin to pull that rod along at one km per hour. Question: would the other end of that rod instantaneously move as well?  Or would there be a delay before it moved?

Mr B said that nothing, including information, can travel at the speed of light except light itself, so the other end would not move instantaneously. There would be a delay. Feasibly, (or hypothetically) the rod could be pulled thousands of kilometres before its other end began to move, years later. How can this be? How could it stretch so?

Ben the Whisperer and Helmut howled him down.

Was Mr B right? As promised, he provided this scribe with more information. Try this and this.

8. Mark the Grinner stood upon the Ladder of Knowledge and spoke about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which is when someone is not bright enough to see that they aren’t bright, or aren’t talented. (Or that they shouldn’t be a soapbox speaker, Mr B.)

Mark gave us the name of an American President who might provide an example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

He also spoke of the opposite effect: (no, not the Kruger-Dunning effect, silly), the Imposter Syndrome. That’s when someone (more often a woman) believes she doesn’t deserve to be in the position she is in.

9. Other subjects discussed:
– A grasshopper asked, “Why are so many leaders not up to the task?” He received plenty of answers.

– Steve Maxwell promoted the beliefs of the Rationalists.

– How rigged is the television program, “Australia’s Got Talent“?  Very!
The title of that program irritates this scribe. The title should be, “Australia Has Talent”. The word ‘got’ is ugly and unnecessary.

– Malcolm Turnbill is not our leader. He is the leader of the Liberal Party and our most senior public servant. So, if he isn’t our leader, who is?

– Helmut discovered he is the reincarnation of Sir Isaac Newton, so he spoke about sub-atomic particles. With Mark the Grinner’s assistance he also explained to Mr B how a radio wave can easily pass through a brick wall, but can’t pass through a radio antenna.

– There are 9,728 planes in the air at this very moment, explained Mr B. That’s a lot of planes! Naturally, Uncle Pete questioned the figure by suggesting that one may have just landed and two taken off, and that would make the figure inaccurate.
And would Farmer Brown in his crop-duster be one of those planes?

– Some amputees suffer pain in “their missing limb”. It’s called phantom limb pain. Helpful grasshopper Sophia explained how someone can rid themselves of that phantom pain. (Mr B tried to explain, but failed dismally.) Here is a brief video of the mirror box:

10. You might as well check out our Facebook page before Facebook becomes obsolete.

And try our Archives site, which is already obsolete.

Pink fairy armadillo



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?”



%d bloggers like this: