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News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 19th March

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 19, 2017 at 10:06 am

“I don’t like violence. I’m allergic to it. I come out in cuts and bruises.’
Jack Fraenkel

1. This week we promoted Speakers’ Corner. It’s part of our five-year plan to make Speakers’ Corner Australia’s best and most famous tourist attraction. (The five-year plan expires in April.)

Helmut did his bit. At 4am Tuesday morning  he got someone to clock him with the butt of a gun, and then he rang an ambulance. The media were soon broadcasting that  ‘a well known speaker at Speakers’ Corner has been attacked with the butt of a gun‘. Straight away, interest in Speakers’ Corner soared, with hits to this website going through the roof.

Well done, Helmut. Keep up the good work.

2. On the following night there was a glimpse of Speakers’ Corner on the ABC’s Cyberhate documentary, hosted by Tara Moss.

What was that result of that welcome publicity?

For a start, our Epiphany Specialist, Mr Bashful, has expressed dismay. He says that in his six years of being an infallible pillar of wisdom at Speakers’ Corner he has not once been wrong, except on just one occasion. And how is it, he wants to know, that on the day of that rare occasion cameras just happened to be rolling? And why, of all the hours of footage taken that day, and of all the hours in which he expressed his searing insights, did the film producers choose to include in their documentary just that one solitary blunder?

It’s a conspiracy, he claims. A stitch up. A coup. Obviously, the producers had planned this well in advance. They would have hired a think tank to examine his rock-solid arguments until a tiny flaw in his logic was found, and then employed the disarming Tara Moss to catch him out.

Why go to all this trouble to taint his reputation, he wants to know?

3. This scribe thinks that Mr B’s reputation wasn’t just tainted . . .

Apart from utterly destroying Mr Bashful’s reputation, the documentary was going to remind Sydney-ites that we’re still here. So, after the documentary concluded, did people rush to their computers to google “Speakers’ Corner Sydney?”  Was this site inundated with hits? Did this site crash, unable to handle the cyber traffic?

Well, no. On Tuesday this site received plenty of hits from people googling Helmut, but on late Wednesday night and on Thursday, after the documentary had aired, we received fewer hits than usual! Oh dear.

Ah, but after seeing Helmut’s antics on the news, and after watching Tara’s documentary, did people make a mental note to visit Speakers’ Corner on Sunday? Did they flock to Speakers’ Corner today? Did the speakers arrive at 2pm to find a madding crowd waiting for them? Were the speakers hailed like rock stars?


Were the crowds bigger than usual?


Even slightly?

No. They were smaller than usual.


4. How well did the book signing go? Not well. No one presented a book to have signed. (This suggests that the ‘5 book limit’ was unnecessary.)

Mr B was adamant that had this book been presented to him . . .

. . .  he would have refused to sign it. When he first read it months ago he claimed it was one of the most enlightening and absorbing books he had read in a long time. He is reading it again, studiously searching for flaws in Tara’s logic. When he finds a flaw he will announce it at Speakers’ Corner.

Here is some advice for you, Mr B: know when you’re beaten.

5. In short, it would be fair to say that Speakers’ Corner is impervious to publicity.

6. Mirko got up onto the Ladder of Knowledge for five minutes and talked about Mother Nature’s role in the end of the  Universe. Thanks, Mirko!

7. Two anti-vaxinators, Leigh and Renata, bravely took turns to stand on the Ladder of Knowledge and present their point of view. They spoke clearly and robustly without umming and aaahing, and coped well with the ire and the flak they received from the hecklers.  They did a good job!

They would probably be critical of the man below:

When asked why he didn’t patent it, he replied, ‘Can you patent the sun?’

8. The ‘Something Nice’ segment, to charm some and irritate others.

9. Poems from Peter the Younger, Uncle Pete and Mr B. Even Nobel Prize winner (cough, snigger) Bob Dylan got a mention when this excerpt from his song, ‘The Masters of War‘ was recited:

I hope that you die
and your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand over your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead.

10. Today’s assertiveness
tip will be just as popular as last week’s, no doubt: Don’t use the term ‘Are you sure?’.

Bill: ‘Do you mind if I sit here?’
Jane: That’s fine.
Bill: ‘Are you sure?’

Bill: ‘Would you like a second helping?’
Jane: ‘No thank you.’
Bill: ‘Are you sure?’

In the first instance, Bill is afraid of being a burden to Jane. In the second, Bill is concerned Jane does not want to burden him. Either way, Bill has a ‘burden’ issue which will undermine him in other aspects of his life.

Although Bill’s intention is to appear polite and concerned, he appears weak. An assertive person would accept the person’s decision. When we immediately accept a person’s decision we give them respect. We assume their decisions mean something. Giving them that credit increases the connection we have with them.

For slightly more information click here.

11. Mr B told the story about Alice and the Dark Forest. Was that fear in the eyes of his grasshoppers when he came to the scary bits? Or were they just desperately trying to keep their eyes open?

Click here for the story about Alice and the Dark Forest.

12. Other topics discussed today:
– The merit of the implementation of The Richmond Report.

– The president of the ACTU, Sally McManus, suggested that it’s okay to break unjust laws. Is she right?

– The sexuality of transgender people.

– The two kinds of happiness.

– The source of anxiety.

– Mr Bashful’s ambivalent feelings about the homeless.

As usual, Helmut took The Ladder of Knowledge late in the day and kept the crowd entertained until it was time for us all to go home.

13. We now have an astonishing 48 subscribers on our Facebook page. Admittedly, that is 31,400 fewer than has Tara Moss.

And you can try our Archives.

Special News for Speakers’ Corner.

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 16, 2017 at 9:30 am

There is to be a book signing this Sunday!

If you were watching the Cyberhate documentary on ABC2 television on Wednesday night you would have glimpsed some of our speakers. The documentary was hosted by Tara Moss and she did a good job of it. Her only flaw was to outsmart speaker Mr Bashful.

As a result of their reinvigorated fame, the speakers will be signing books this coming Sunday at Speakers’ Corner.

There are very few books they won’t sign. Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint are probably two exceptions.

There is a limit of five books per person.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday, 12th March

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 13, 2017 at 10:49 am

‘Be not daunted by your life,
hit it with a fork and knife.’
P. S. Balding.

1. We don’t just live on a goldilocks planet, we live in a goldilocks city. The weather was perfect, and Steve Maxwell was up and about feeling much better! It seems our homeopathic prayers were answered. Steve spoke for a while before heading off to a Rationalists’ meeting.

2. One of the topics discussed today was the efficacy of natural medicines. Current medicines owe a lot to nature, yes, but does that mean natural medicines must therefore be efficacious? One grasshopper seemed to have that view.

There is, it was suggested, a big difference between ancient knowledge and ancient stupidity, and it’s important to differentiate the two.

3. Beware the Ides of March. That’s this coming Wednesday. Julius Caesar wasn’t careful on that day, and look what happened to him.

4. Word has it that if you watch the documentary, ‘Cyberhate‘ this Wednesday night, at 9.32pm, on ABC 2, you might catch a glimpse of two of our speakers. But remember, that day is the Ides of March, so be careful.

Of course, if you come to Speakers’ Corner you will  see a lot more of our speakers, and get to see them in 3D. And it won’t be the Ides of March.

This scribe will be watching the documentary. For some time now he has believed that one of the speakers possesses their own special ‘X’ factor that makes them mega movie superstar material. He believes this documentary could ‘discover’ them, and launch them  into a stellar movie career. Imagine seeing Mirko on the big screen! You read it here first, folks.

5. Poetry stalwarts Peter the Younger and Uncle Pete (no relation) stood on the Ladder of Sensitivity and presented poems, as did Mr Bashful. Here’s one from Uncle Pete:

6. Mark the Grinner, who is not interested in poetry, made damned sure the Ladder of Sensitivity had transformed back into the Ladder of Knowledge before getting up on it to speak. He did an excellent job critiquing our political and economic system, and entertaining the grasshoppers.

7. Ray, our fundamentalist Christian speaker, kindly stopped by to answer a question posed by Mr B. The question’s purpose was to “put Ray in an atheist’s shoes” so that he would understand what it’s like to be an atheist. However, Mr B’s frustration was palpable when he thought Ray wasn’t answering the question, and he disgraced himself by becoming overbearing.

Here’s a supportive message for you, Ray:

8. The subject of rape was broached. The speaker made the claim that if a young man is not perceptive enough when having a kiss and a cuddle with a young woman, he may end up having sex with her yet not realise she was not in full agreement with the plan. She might give in to having sex, yet feel awful afterwards. He, meanwhile, might assume that she was as interested as he was. Result: upon reflection, she might afterwards claim she was raped, and when he finds out that he has been accused of raping her, he might feel bewildered and angry.

As you might imagine, a discussion ensued! It was a grasshopper free-for-all. Should young women be more clear in what they want and don’t want? Should young men be more perceptive? Are we victim blaming? Where are the male role models? Does the influence of a positive male role model make any difference to a horny young man in the backseat of a car? How many bewildered young men have been charged of rape in a police station, and in America, ended up in jail? How many men are pressured into having sex with a woman when they haven’t wanted it?

Here’s something from the Postsecret website:


9. That discussion led to ideas about the best way to meet people.

10. Mr B gave a brief (though not brief enough) summary of the assertiveness tips explained so far. One grasshopper even remembered one of them! Today’s tip was: ‘Don’t live in Wimp City’. Don’t begin a sentence with wimpy words like,
– sorry  ( ‘Sorry, I have to leave now.’ Instead, try: ‘I have to leave now.’)
– I don’t think  (‘I don’t think I can allow that.’  Try instead, ‘I can’t allow that.’)
– Just wondering  (‘Just wondering, why is the sky white?’  Try instead, ‘Why is the sky white?’)

For more examples and more clarity click here.

11. The ‘Something Nice’ segment, to charm some and irritate others.


12. We discussed paradigms. According to Mr B, they’re core beliefs held not just by a person, but an entire society. Such beliefs are strong and pervasive. Our job, says Mr B, is to identify the paradigms influencing us, and try hard to free ourselves from the disabling ones.

13. Other subjects discussed:

– Liquid Natural Gas companies are selling the nation’s gas overseas, making gas dearer here in Australia. Is it right to have millions of Australians paying more for a necessary utility, so that the management and owners of the LNG companies can have bigger salaries, and make bigger profits?

– It is well understood by thinking Australians that homeopathy has no efficacy apart from its placebo benefits. So how do we explain the speaker’s extraordinarily coincidental non-placebonic “cure” of his eczema? Answer: we can’t.

– Trans fats, despite the speaker’s initial claim, are unsaturated fats and they’re bad for the body. Very bad. Far worse than saturated fats. You’d think our loving government would therefore enforce food manufacturers to not use them, or at the very least, force the manufacturers to reveal the trans fats on their ingredient labels. But nuh.
Domino’s Pizzas were asked twice if trans fats were in their pizzas. Twice they didn’t reply. What would that suggest?

– Materialism. Mr B praised it highly, saying that if no person felt the need to have new and better things, we’d all still be living in caves. It wasn’t the ascetics or poor people who created the extraordinary, interesting world we have today, it was the wealthy and the materialistic wanting things.
Of course, materialism has its bad side too, with pollution being one of them.

14. Here’s a Banjo Paterson poem.

15. It has come to this scribe’s attention that he has neglected to inform you that we have a Facebook page. That unforgivable infraction will be remedied immediately: we do indeed have a Facebook page.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 5th March

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 6, 2017 at 11:16 am

“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”

1. In 1915 Ernest Shackleton and his men were stranded in Antarctica when their boat, ‘Endurance’ was trapped in ice and crushed. They lived on seals and penguins for eight months before using three lifeboats to sail a long journey to Elephant island. Disappointingly, there were no elephants left on the island to eat, so Ernest and five others took one of the boats on a dangerous 16-day 1,300km voyage in huge seas to yet another island, inhabited by whalers. (Note: that’s ‘whalers’, not ‘whales’.)  Their journey overland to find the whaling station was one of the most tiring and bitterly cold journeys ever endured. But they got there. A boat was dispatched and all the men from the ‘Endurance’ were rescued.

In short, Ernest Shackleton was a man made of the right stuff.

This scribe was reminded of Mr Shackleton when Mr Bashful turned up today at Speakers’ Corner, defying the  drizzle and impending rain. It was a prodigious effort.

2. It must also be noted that Mr B’s crew of grasshoppers were just as hardy because they too bravely turned up. As it happened, all were spared: rain didn’t come, except for a few seconds that prompted umbrellas to open. It ended up being an enjoyable day.

3. Good news about Steve! The operation on his eyes has been a success after all, though he is still recovering. Get well soon, Steve!


4. Uncle Pete stood on the Ladder of Knowledge to answer the question: ‘Will Malcolm Turnbull still be Prime Minister at the next federal election?’ As usual, he was forthright and entertaining. He then talked about the vagaries of education and answered plenty of questions. Another good effort, Uncle Pete!

Sue the Unflappable also had a few words to say about education; in particular, the misconceptions some people have about schools. As did Jacquie the Patient One.

Thank you to the three of you.

The meme below sounds contrived and corny, but it also makes some good points.



5. Three poems today thanks to Uncle Pete, Peter the Younger and Mr B. And a heady diatribe from Mark the Grinner. Here is one of the poems:


6. And here is another poem recited on the day, by Uncle Pete. An evocative anti-war poem.


7. Today’s assertiveness tip was eagerly anticipated by . . . well anyway, it was this: Ensure your question is answered. Many people use a gamut of ways to avoid answering a question, and the person asking the question often lets them get away with it. Don’t let them get away with it. Cling to your mast. That is, focus ferociously on what needs to happen from now on. In this instance, it’s having your question answered. For more details, click here.


8. Mr B suggested that we have two complete societies in the one city, with each person working a three-and-a-half-day week in one society, or in the other. That would double employment, eradicate overtime and penalty rates,  increase leisure time, allow two parents to give their infant seven days’ child care, and make schools factories, sporting fields etc. productive for seven days instead of five.

Two economies competing against one another.

Careers requiring workers for the entire 24 hours, like the police, fire-fighters and paramedics, could still work within those parameters. There would be other modifications for schools.

But when it was suggested that each football code would have two leagues, one for each society, one bright spark objected to the idea of having two A-league soccer leagues. There was a murmur of agreement.


9. The ‘Something Nice’ segment. To charm some and irritate others.


10. Other subjects discussed:
– The merits of reducing and maintaining current penalty rates. One brave fellow gamely defended the reduction of penalty rates while  everyone else seemed to be against the idea. Well done, brave fellow!

– The foolishness of astrology and the thirteen constellations in the zodiac. The thirteen constellation, no longer used by astrologers, is Ophiuchus, The Serpent Holder.

– People with Disassociative Identity Disorder (formerly ‘Multiple Personality Disorder’) can have physical differences specific to a personality. For example, one personality had blurry eyesight and needed spectacles, whilst another personality (in the same body) had 20/20 vision! In another person, one personality was allergic to orange juice but the other three personalities felt no discomfort after drinking the juice. However, if the “allergic” personality emerged after the juice was drunk by the non-allergic personality, their body would suddenly break out in hives. And, one person was colour-blind, but their other personalities saw all the colours.
(It prompts the question: how many of our own health problems have we “manufactured”?)

– The seven planets orbiting a star 40 light years away. Could at least one of them have intelligent life? Could we ever find out? Mr B gave an emphatic ‘no!’ Whether he’s right or not . . .

– Xeno’s paradox is the idea that someone who begins a foot race behind someone else can never catch up to them, because by the time they have caught up to where the other person was, the other person has moved forward. Ad infinitum.


11. Before you go to our Facebook page, check out this clever move from a librarian. (Thanks, Glenda.)




News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 26th February

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 27, 2017 at 11:01 am

“Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug.”
John Lithgow.

1. Something was up! It was as though half the audience had drunk some mysterious liquid that turned them into blithering idiots. And Mr B, always careful to label things accurately, let them know it.

Mind you, one or two (or three . . .) of his grasshoppers put forth the suggestion that Mr B’s policies were themselves idiotic. This scribe will let you be the judge. Mr B advocated that we:
– raise the legal age a person can be sold cigarettes by one year, every year. For the next eighty years.
– In the same way, we can use the next eighty years to create an entire city (Sydney?) in which there is no gambling, alcohol or cigarettes.
– No one gets an aged pension until they run out of money.
– Free five-star nursing home accommodation for the geriatrics who have not given birth to a child, or sired one.
– Only those who are between the ages of 25 and 39 can vote.

Personally, I think Mr B is ahead of his time.

The last word went to one young girl who tentatively put up her hand to say something. The beneficent Mr B took pity on the poppet and let her speak. She told him off for swearing. (The lass was referring to Mr B’s frequent propensity to call his grasshoppers ‘blithering idiots’.) Taken aback, Mr B pointed out that over half the audience were blithering idiots today, and it was not his fault that they were, and that by informing them that they were blithering idiots he was performing a necessary public duty.

He also pointed out that he wasn’t insulting members of the audience, merely making candid observations.

The young girl seemed unconvinced.

Mr B finally compromised by promising to not call her a blithering idiot.

He’s a classy guy, that Mr B.

2. Steve is still crook with wonky eyes and is awaiting another operation. But he is improving.

Get well soon, Steve!

Steve has written another article for his Passing Parade segment, and it’s below. We really are fortunate to have Steve, not just for his boundless charm, but for his public speaking and for the historical records he provides. He is an invaluable asset to Speakers’ Corner. Thank you, Steve!

Again, get well soon!

3. Uncle Pete almost bowled Mr B over by responding intelligently to a question. Mr B had asked, “Who here can name one of the assertiveness tips from the past five weeks?” Mr B was expecting the usual drool from the corners of his grasshoppers’ mouths, but Uncle Pete answered promptly and correctly. Mr B nearly fell off his ladder. Uncle Pete should be more careful, pulling surprises like that.

Today’s assertiveness tip was a reminder that we are not obliged to answer all questions. If a friendly sales person asks, “How are you going?” we can ignore our past’s conditioning to be polite and instead just ask them what they require from us. That way, we avoid letting them manipulate us into having a friendly conversation and making ourselves more vulnerable. And wasting our time.

Person: “Hi, my name’s Randy. How are you today?”
You: “Good, thanks . . . “  Wrong.
You: “How can I help you?”  Correct. You’ve ignored their question and now you’re directing the conversation instead of letting them direct it. You don’t need to frown when you say it and you don’t need to smile. Just focus on what needs to happen. In this instance, they need to state their business clearly and promptly.
Person: ‘Do you ever feel that you pay too much for your internet connection?’
You repeat: ‘How can I help you?’  Good. You haven’t answered their question and you’re still focusing on what is to happen.
Or, you could at this point simply apply another assertiveness tip:

You: ‘I’m not interested, thank you.’
Either way, instead of allowing yourself to be corralled into their conversation, you’re taking charge, firmly but politely.

For more detail click here.

4. Today’s contributors to the poetry segment were Peter the Younger, Uncle Pete, Albert, Mr B and Mark the Grinner, who chose to read the declaration aboriginal Burnum Burnum made when he landed on the shores of England in 1988:

“I, Burnum Burnum, being a nobleman of ancient Australia do hereby take posession of England on behalf of the Aboriginal people. In claiming this colonial outpost, we wish no harm to you natives, but assure you that we are here to bring you good manners, refinement and an opportunity to make a Koompartoo – ‘a fresh start’. Henceforth, an Aboriginal face shall appear on your coins and stamps to signify our sovreignty over this domain. For the more advanced, we bring the complex language of the Pitjantjajara; we will teach you how to have a spiritual relationship with the Earth and show you how to get bush tucker.

We do not intend to souvenir, pickle and preserve the heads of your 2000 of your people, nor to publicly display the skeletal remains of your Royal Highness, as was done to our Queen Truganninni for 80 years. Neither do we intend to poison your water holes, lace your flour with strychnine or introduce you to highly toxic drugs. Based on our 50,000 year heritage, we acknowledge the need to preserve the Caucasian race as of interest to antiquity, although we may be inclined to conduct experiments by measuring the size of your skulls for levels of intelligence. We pledge not to sterilise your women, nor to separate your children from their families. We give an absolute undertaking that you shall not be placed onto the mentality of government handouts for the next five generations but you will enjoy the full benefits of Aboriginal equality. At the end of two hundred years, we will make a treaty to validate occupation by peaceful means and not by conquest.

Finally, we solemnly promise not to make a quarry of England and export your valuable minerals back to the old country Australia, and we vow never to destroy three-quarters of your trees, but to encourage Earth Repair Action to unite people, communities, religions and nations in a common, productive, peaceful purpose.”

It has been said that on the conclusion of his declaration, Burnam Burnam said: “It’s too cold here, I want to go home.”


5. Raconteur Mirko climbed up onto the Ladder of Knowledge and again entertained the crowd with his wit, charm and striking ideas. Mirko is fast becoming the man for all occasions. If you need an MC for your wedding, funeral, Bar Mitzvah . . . Mirko is the guy to hire. His clever blend of 21st century science mixed with good old fashioned story telling will make your special occasion something to remember.


6. A man suffering arthritis interrupted Mr B by asking for $5.30 for a prescription he needed filled. Tightwad Mr B showed neither compassion nor mercy, telling the man to go to the hospital across the way to get it filled for free. Mr Tightwad had no intention of giving the poor man a few dollars to buy himself a drink.

Fortunately, Peter the Younger jumped in with a big dose of compassion and gave the man $5. The man grinned from ear to ear. Well done, Peter!


Peter the Younger

7. Unseemly comparisons were made today. At one point the speaker likened his audience to a flock of squawking cockatoos, and later, Jack said the meeting attracted visitors in the same way a car accident attracts visitors.

Come to think of it, the meetings are a bit like a car accident.


The audience today.

8. ‘The Something Nice‘ segment, to charm some readers and irritate others.



9. Christian speaker Ray kindly stopped by to answer a question. He was asked, “The wise men in the Bible stopped by to give Joseph and Mary gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. How much gold did Joseph and Mary receive and on what did they spend it?”

Ray had no idea and correctly said it was a ridiculous question.

10. Last year Mr B made the astounding
prediction that the civilised world will unravel in five years time (2021) due to global warming. Today he made another ridiculous prediction: that Donald Trump is on his way to suffering a severe nervous breakdown.

Both Mr B and this scribe hope his predictions are wrong.

11. Other subjects discussed:
– Why is domestic violence so common?
– Is aggression learned or innate? Nature or Nurture? Or both?
– Should someone who is about to own a dog have to pass a knowledge-of-dogs test first?
– Why is the RSPCA to be disrespected?
– What does “Coles Free Range Eggs” really mean?
– What is it like for an airforce navigator to have his plane shot down over Germany, and to parachute unconscious while choking on his tongue?
– Why do teenagers act rashly?
– What makes a good boss?

We also spoke about the conflict between reason and emotion.


12. Even the two most recent Speakers’ Corner dogs, Smoky and Oi, got a mention today, though Uncle Pete felt the need to ask if they were Catholic. Go figure.

Here are two of the Speakers’ Corner dogs back in the mid nineteenth century, when the Domain was popular. The dogs’ names are unknown.


13. This scribe’s BigChat social media  site is not yet up and running, but as soon as we figure out what HTML is, and how to program, we’ll have a site to make Facebook laughingly obsolete. Meanwhile, you’ll have to settle for our Facebook page.

14. Now and then, Steve Maxwell, overall legend and historian, writes an article about the Speakers’ Corners of the world. You can find all his articles in Steve’s Passing Parade segment. Here is his latest article, and it’s about Melbourne’s Speakers’ Corner.

Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade.

“The Atheist Call”, Queen’s Wharf, Melbourne’s Speakers’ Corner.

“Are there no savages in central Africa and if so, why do you not go to them instead of casting those doubtful pearls where no one wants them? Why don’t you go without purse, without weapons, without societies?”

 This was the challenge of Joseph Symes to evangelist Joseph Booth. It was to change the life of the evangelist. Booth was a willing participant in the Sunday evening debates at Queen’s Wharf, which was conveniently near Flinders Street Railway Station, Melbourne. It was a popular Speakers’ Corner in the 1890’s.
Booth and Symes had  radical views.  They had much in common, but not when it came to religion.  They admired each other, as they had come to their different world views in a similar way. They were locked into their separate efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Melbourne public.
Joseph Symes (1841-1906), was a secularist and publicist, born in England, into the Wesleyan faith of his parents. In 1871 he joined the Kilmarnock ministry in Scotland as a probationary cleric. It was during these years he married and began to question his faith. He questioned the mass slaughter of the Franco-Prussian war, the belief in God’s providence, and matters such as Papal infallibility. In July 1872 he refused ordination and resigned from the faith. Symes took an interest in the labour movement  and lectured at the Northern Union Mechanics’ Institute. In May 1876, he joined Bradlaugh’s National Secular Society.

Then, in the far-off  British colony of Victoria, Australia, the local Victorian  Secular Association asked Bradlaugh to send them an organiser. Bradlaugh sent Joseph Symes. Symes arrived in Melbourne with his wife on 1884. He began to publish a weekly newspaper, ‘Liberator’,  and provided his flock with secular meetings, sermons and Sunday schools. Symes fought against the parochial, wowserism of the times. The Lord’s Day Observance Society fought back and lobbied  the Victorian government to prosecute Symes and The Secular Association.  This harassment continued until the Association broke up in 1888. Backed by a faithful few, Symes struggled on with  the ‘Liberator’ and the Sunday meetings at Queens wharf.

In the colonial election of 1889, Symes ran for the parliamentary seat of  Collingwood and came last. This is not surprising considering his radical platform: land nationalisation, graduated income tax, the abolition of colonial titles and governorships, Sunday trading, legalised contraception, the ending of discrimination against Chinese, and Home Rule for Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Joseph Symes  retired in 1892 but continued to issue the Liberator until 1904. He died in 1906 while visiting England.

Joseph Booth (1851-1934) was born in Derby, England. His father was a Unitarian, but
by the age of fourteen, Booth questioned his father’s religious beliefs and, as he could not
live with those beliefs, left home. Over the next few years, Booth educated himself through extensive reading and, before he was twenty, turned to the Baptist Church.
He married in 1872 and in 1880. Booth emigrated to New Zealand and then to Melbourne, Australia, where he became a successful businessman. His business success helped develop his later views on self-reliance and the economic bases of missionary work. As he became more active in the Baptist Church, he became more fundamentalist in church teaching. However his view of capitalism was at odds with colonialism. He believed in a utopian a heaven on earth based on radical self-help.

Booth could not resist the excitement of public debating. He attended  the Sunday evening debates at Queen’s Wharf. The forerunner of the Melbourne’s Yarra Bank Speakers’ Corner. In 1891 he was challenged by the atheist Symes to practice what he preached, sell all his goods and go out to preach the word. Symes offered this challenge to Booth:
“Are there no savages in central Africa and if so, why do you  not go to them instead of casting those doubtful pearls where no one wants them? Why don’t you go without purse, without weapons, without societies?”
Booth called the Symes challenge at Queen’s Wharf  “The Atheist Call”. It changed Booth’s life. He had been thinking of becoming a missionary and wanted to put his ideas of self-help into practice. From 1886, Booth had become more active in his local Baptist Church and more fundamental in his beliefs. Booth sold his business in Melbourne and  agreed to become a missionary in East Africa. He left Australia in 1891 with his young family and started his missionary career, choosing to work in Africa. He aimed to set up the type of self-supporting Baptist mission pioneered by William Carey in India, combining teaching and commercial activities where the natives could become  self–supporting.  His short book, ‘Africa for the African’, published in America in 1897, sets forth many of his ideas.

His first attempt  in Nyasaland  met with opposition from the colonial authorities. In South Africa his plans were rejected. He was barred from central Africa in 1903. Yet he had many supporters who advocated an “Africa for Africans”. He moved to Basutoland where he could  work as an independent missionary. In 1915, one of Booth’s supporters, John Chilembwe, led an uprising in Nyasaland (Malawi.)  Booth came under suspicion and was deported from Basutoland to Britain. He was later permitted to return to South Africa, but when his health failed he went back to Britain and died there in 1934.

 Booth and Syme’s deaths passed unnoticed. Their contribution to radicalism in Australia and Africa has also passed almost unnoticed. What makes change can depend upon one’s meeting a challenge in the most unlikely places between the most unlikely people.

Steve Maxwell.

– Wikipedia; Joseph Booths (1851-1934) Missionary.
– Wikipedia; Josephs Syme ( 1841-1906 ) secularist.
– The Making of a Maverick Missionary: Joseph Booth in Australasia p 48
– Harry Longworthy, The Life of Joseph Booth .P23

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 19th February

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 20, 2017 at 12:09 pm

“You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.”

Sammy Davis Junior.

1. Mr B encountered a troublemaker even before the meeting had begun. Each week, when Mr B first arrives at Speakers’ Corner, he unloads from his car 30 chairs at the bus stop, and then drives off to find a parking spot. When he returns he carries the chairs from the bus stop to The Domain, and sets them up.

But today Albert appeared at the car and began to take the chairs as Mr B was unloading them. Mr B forbade him to take the chairs. Albert laughed in his face. Mr B then had to patiently explain to Albert that the chairs were private property, and for him (Albert) to take them it would be theft. Albert laughed again. Mr B remonstrated with him firmly and Albert finally agreed to not steal the chairs.

The trusting Mr B drove off.

When Mr B returned on foot  ten minutes later he found that Albert had flagrantly disregarded Mr B’s clear requirements. He had carried all 30 chairs across the road (six at a time!) and set them up for Mr B in the usual spot. And then he had gone to the kiosk to buy his wife Jean an ice cream.

Albert is 93.

2. Steve Maxwell is still malingering with his “eye trouble” but today we had four other speakers take the heat off Mr B.

Helmut was the first to replace him on the Ladder of Knowledge, purportedly to talk about the origin of the universe; and Gary the Christian followed him to present an alternate point of view.  Neither man got even close to talking about the universe’s origin, but nevertheless kept the crowd interested.

(Gary later took a platform across the way and continued speaking.)

Mr B took the Ladder again before Mirko got up. Mirko is a natural comic, and kept the crowd entertained for ten minutes.

Later, John August took the ladder to talk about the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership and its “merits”. John must know what he’s talking about because Mr B agreed with him. John displayed a thorough knowledge of the subject, and deftly answered questions from the audience.

There are other people there capable of being speakers, too: Uncle Pete, Mark the Grinner, and Peter The Younger, for example. But when you see only Ray and Mr B speaking at Speakers’ Corner, you might think Speakers’ Corner has a dearth, or paucity, of speakers.  Yet, if all the people who could speak became permanent speakers, we would have plethora of speakers. A surfeit, even. And Speakers’ Corner would be on its way to becoming a solid tourist attraction again.

This scribe will now put his thesaurus away and have a lie down.

3. Good luck Steve with your health issues. Get well soon.



4. The subject of Cold Reading came up. That’s the method frauds use to pretend they’re psychic. One grasshopper said she had visited a genuine clairvoyant who had told her things no one could have known. The staid Mr B patronisingly told her it was a trick, but what the hell would he know?

Here is a video of Derren Brown using cold reading.

5. A grasshopper actually asked to hear some poetry. Who would have thought? Obligingly, Uncle Pete, Peter the Younger, John August, Mr B and two anonymous grasshoppers contributed. The poems were appreciated by all.

One grasshopper requested the words to ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. This scribe figures she can google the title and find a million sites that have it, so here is one lesser known poem, by William Blake. Thank you to the man who recited it.

by William Blake.

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

6. A new segment: The Something Nice Segment, designed to charm some and irritate others. (Click to enlarge.)


7. John Edwards tours
 the world hosting events in which he “talks to the dead”. His methods were explained today, as was the method of a faith healer using an earpiece. See the video below.

8. Today’s assertiveness tip was as profound as the previous four. Mind you, when Mr B’s grasshoppers were asked to  name any of the previous four he received blank looks for his trouble. And a wisecrack. Poor Mr B. He should be awarded a sainthood for his patience and persistence.

This week’s assertiveness tip, he informs me, is: Be aware that you are not obliged to solve the other person’s problem. 

Now you, dear reader, can ignore that tip as well.

Here’s something else about being assertive.


9. We discussed the Monty Hall Problem, in which Uncle Pete was asked to guess which of the three face down Cards, A, B and C, was the Ace of Clubs.

He chose A.
Mr B, knowing where the Ace was, revealed one of the dud cards.
Mr B then asked Uncle Pete if he wanted to swap.
Uncle Pete wisely said ‘yes’. And that’s the weird bit, because although it seems as though swapping would make no difference to the odds – that Uncle Pete would still only have a 50% chance of choosing the Ace by swapping – he has in fact a 66.6% chance of choosing the Ace if he swaps, and only a 33.3% chance of choosing the Ace if he keeps the card he has.  For an explanation click here.


10. Other subjects talked about:
– The speaker spoke of his roommate of two years ago: a black spider that lived in the light mounting above his bed. Somehow, this story was meant to persuade us that we shouldn’t avoid challenges in life, and instead seek change instead of comfort.


– Mr B argued that the Church should not compensate victims of sexual abuse, unless it’s the Vatican itself doing the compensating (a suggestion from a bright grasshopper). He argues that the funds the Church would be giving away are those donated by the gentle, well-meaning parishioners, and why should they be punished? He also argues that we should double the Medicare levy to cover the cost of counselling for ALL those who need it.

– One reason for high house prices and the difficulty in finding rental accommodation is the Chinese buyers. According to an estate agent, many Chinese owners don’t let their newly built properties to tenants because they like to move into abodes which have not already been lived in. (It’s a cultural thing.) That exacerbates the rental problem. And, there are plenty of wealthy Chinese buyers who don’t mind paying inflated prices, which means they can outbid others.
According to Mr B’s grasshoppers, both the UK and Canada have created legislation to deal with that, but Australia hasn’t.

– What punishment should consumers of illegal drugs receive? Should narcotics be legalised? Here is a postcard from the PostSecret website:


11.  MySpace was once the big thing, and then along came Facebook. Well, soon Facebook will be shoved aside and made obsolete by this scribe’s new BigChat venture. Until then, however, you’ll have to make do with reading these posts on Facebook.



News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 12th February

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 13, 2017 at 11:30 am

“When we are gone, they won’t remember what you said or what you did. They will remember how you made them feel”.
Maya Angelou

1. This scribe felt a little guilty visiting Speakers’ Corner today, knowing that while she would be enjoying a leisurely afternoon, elsewhere, a big chunk of South Eastern Australia was being ravaged by bushfires. This scribe feels for the firefighters, and the gentle country folk midst the fires.

2. We missed legend Steve Maxwell today, who is out of the team with a dodgy eye. He will be out next week, too. Let’s hope we soon see him doing cartwheels and backflips.

Here is something to lighten your spirits, Steve:


3. Mr B, too cheap to go to a doctor, began his meeting by asking his grasshoppers for medical advice. I would have thought that to ask his grasshoppers for medical advice would be like asking bedouin nomads for an ice-cream recipe. Nevertheless, he was given advice and if we see  him next week, we will know that he took it. Or didn’t.

4. Gary the Christian returned! Today he grabbed a platform and a few chairs, and across the way bellowed about God. He was slow to get going, but showed guts and persistence, and soon he drew a small crowd. He kept them from then on, and finished the day with a croaky voice. Good on him!

5. In what way are women different to men? And why? This topic kept the crowd contributing for some time. Mark the Grinner took the Ladder of Knowledge to explain why men keep women subjugated. His reasoning: men know that given half a chance, women would quickly outshine them.
Mark said that half his speech was a ramble and might be rubbish.  Be that as it may, he kept the crowd entertained.

6. A merry joke was told:
A man is in the court’s dock charged with murder. The prosecutor says him, ‘You were caught red handed killing your wife with a spanner.”

A man in the gallery stands up and yells at the man charged, ‘You bastard. You utter, utter bastard!’

The judge bangs her gavel and orders, “Quite, please! Quiet in the gallery!”
The prosecutor continues: “And only ten minutes before you murdered her, you murdered her lover with that same spanner.”
The man in the gallery flies to his feet again and cries, “You bastard! Rot in hell!’
The judge bangs her gavel again and barks, ‘Sir, what is the meaning of this? Do not keep interjecting! If you have something to say, say it now, and then be quiet.”

Seething, the guy says to the judge, “Your Honour, I’ve been that man’s neighbour for fifteen years, and every time I asked him if I could borrow a spanner, he said he didn’t have one.”

7. The poetry recitation went well.
Uncle Pete read a beautiful and sad poem, but you’ll just have to trust this scribe because he can’t remember the title.

Peter the Younger also read a beauty: The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe. He even introduced the poem with some eerie organ music. It’s a great poem, but was it too long for an outdoor recitation? This scribe doesn’t know.

Mr B read a poem so simple it completely discombobulated Mark the Grinner, and that was a treat to watch.

Another poetry reading next week!

8. This week’s assertiveness tip? When you’re having an argument with someone, don’t follow Hollywood’s example and hang up on them, or state your case and then slam the door behind you. That’s not winning the argument, it’s just childish.

Instead, talk it through, and if you still can’t come to a resolution, at least leave respectfully, with the other person’s grace.

Click here for a slightly longer explanation.

9. Mr B used a print-out of a smiley face and an imaginary teddy bear to explain why androids will never rise against the human race. He also used a thought experiment devised by John Searle:

Imagine yourself in a room with a pile of cards, and each card has printed on it a different Chinese character.
From outside the room, someone pushes a card through a slot in the door. On the card is a question, written in Chinese. Your job is to find from your pile of cards the card which will answer the question. Then you push that card through the slot to the person outside.

You can’t read Chinese, but fortunately you have a guidebook that indicates which card to respond with. But you don’t have a clue what’s going on.

An outside observer might mistakenly conclude that within the room is an intelligence. But they’d be wrong. It’s just you.

An advanced android would act in the same way: the processor in its room has no idea what’s going on, but it would give the impression it has intelligence and emotions. No matter how human-like it might appear to be, that android can only ever be a mindless processor with nothing inside.

At the rate we are going, one day we will have an android indistinguishable from a human being. It might cry, rage, sulk, laugh and show fear, like we do. It might even be programmed to convince us that it feels all those things. Yet inside it will be a room of processing chips and nothing more. It will have no more humanity than a fold-up chair.

For an android to become like us, or rise against us, it would have to develop consciousness and emotions, and we aren’t even close to beginning that side of it. We are not yet even at the starting line.


10. Other subjects talked about:
– Weasel expressions, like when the church claimed that it had “failed to protect the children in its care”.  They didn’t fail, because they didn’t even try to protect them. As one alert grasshopper pointed out, “They succeeded in protecting the priests.”

– What’s a good way to sell a vanilla slice? (Answer: display the price!) But it works for other cakes too, you dill!

– C.P. Snow’s observation that people who study the Arts often have little understanding of science, whereas people who study science also immerse themselves in the Arts.

– Tonight is a television program based on the life of entertainer, Paul Hogan. Yes, that’s the same guy who chose to use his persona to make money by advertising cigarettes, and the same guy who suggested to troubled youths that having a bigger knife will make you a bigger man.
Someone wondered if his bitter fight with the Taxation Office has been resolved.
A lovely chap, that Paul Hogan.
(When he painted the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I bet he missed bits.)

11. There has been concern lately about fake news on Facebook. This page goes to Facebook. Enough said.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 5th February

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 6, 2017 at 11:48 am

“The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.”
Eldridge Cleaver (Soul on Ice)

1. It was around 38º celsius today (320º centigrade) or for our American friends, 167º Fahrenheit or -67º Kelvin.) Thankfully we had the shade of a colossal Morton Bay Fig tree to be under, and the day was still pleasant.


2. Mr B tentatively put forth the idea that we should change the voting system so that a party could only win government if it won in a landslide. (The incumbent government would stay if they didn’t lose by a landslide.) Currently, political parties are so fearful of losing the next election that they’re afraid to implement controversial policies. They just ‘tread water’. But with this new system, they can focus on getting things done.

Mark the Grinner suggested an even better idea: anyone can go for the job as premier, knowing that at the end of their term they will be put to death if the public isn’t happy with their effort. That way, only those who know their stuff, and who are determined to implement their ideas for the betterment of the state/country, will apply for the job.

Such thinking is sure to interest quality think tanks.

3. We heard four poems today.Aunt Jane‘ was read by Peter the Younger, Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem,  ‘Jabberwocky‘ was read by Uncle Pete, Billy Collins’ ‘Forgetfulness‘ was read by Mr B, and Pia recited the following, to the initial consternation of the audience (click to enlarge):


Pia received a hearty laugh when she concluded.

Mr B says there will be another poetry reading this coming Sunday, but he suspects that his grasshoppers are running out of favourite poems to recite.
How about you? Do you have a poem you can bring along and read?

Below is a drawing of the Jubjub Bird, one of the characters found in the poem, ‘Jabberwocky’.


4. We examined Robert Frost’sThe Road Not Taken‘ and that went well enough, but Mr B tells me there won’t be another poem this coming Sunday. He figures his grasshoppers might like a break from studying a poem.

5. Mr B tried four improvisation theatre-games with his grasshoppers, and a few brave souls stepped forward and had a go. They did an excellent job. The games were:
(i) Three people speaking in one voice had to answer questions put to them. It turns out they were a biochemist who could sing their catchy advertising jingle!
(ii) A scene for three in jail, in which two of the cast members could only speak two lines. Click here to see an example.
(iii) Questions only. When you speak it must be a question.
(iv) Opera. The actors act a scene, and when the director says so, they start singing.

6. We had two extra speakers today. Philip Feinstein, from the musicforrefugees website, got up onto the Ladder of Knowledge and gave us snippets of his recent trip to Christmas Island. However, he had signed a confidentiality agreement, and to his credit he stuck to it: he refused to speak about his experiences in the refugee detainee centre on the island. But we did learn a little about the crabs there. Philip was, as usual, interesting.

And, ‘Mark the Grinner’ also got up. He began his talk by explaining that he had attended 28 schools as a youth. (Thankfully, no one unkindly suggested that it was his 28 attempts to pass 1st grade.) Mark soon ventured into the topic of self-esteem, and along the way took a few cracks at former Prime Minister, John Howard. Mark is an entertaining speaker and we hope to hear more of him too.


7. With today’s technology, scientists can measure distances shorter than a billionth of a millimetre, and incredibly short periods of time. So, this scribe likes to think that there is technology out there, with similar sensitivity, that could measure the disappointment felt by Mr B’s grasshoppers when they learned there was no time left for this week’s assertiveness tip.

It was after 5pm, and it was time to hear from Helmut.

8. Other subjects discussed:
– the non-existent sex life of some married couples. It was suggested that it may be not uncommon.

– Today we had a visitor, Nina, from the Radio Station 2SER. Nina recorded Steve Maxwell speaking about free speech, and then recorded Mr B’s grasshoppers’ views on the subject. Stay tuned.

silly-questions9. Don’t read all this again here. Instead, go to our Facebook page and read it all again there.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 29th January.

In News for Speakers' Corner on January 30, 2017 at 8:47 am

Keith Miller’s dad once said to him: ‘‘Son, life will afford you many opportunities to say nothing. My advice is to take all of them.”

1. If only the grasshoppers at Speakers’ Corner had taken the advice of the quotation above! Poor Mr B. He was again besieged by chatters and interrupters of all persuasions.

Though . . . perhaps it’s time he realised the truth: that he isn’t a speaker; he’s just the moderator of a group discussion, and he should just focus on making sure his grasshoppers discuss matters in an orderly fashion.

Indeed, without his constant interruptions, the audience would be able to get on with the job of informing themselves.

2. Last week, Mr B suggested that he might not turn up this week. But he turned up today, as usual. This scribe thinks he shouldn’t be allowed to get our hopes up.

3. We here at Speakers’ Corner are truly blessed with the weather we receive. On hot days we sit in the shade of the giant fig trees, and in winter we sit in the sun. That way, nearly every Sunday turns out to be beautiful.
We are grateful to the 19th century politicians who had the foresight to create The Domain and plant fig trees for people in the future to enjoy.

“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
Greek proverb.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Chinese Proverb

Our trees aren’t as big as this one, thankfully.


4. If you had a tumour that grew in your brain that compelled you to kill people, and you were then cured, should you go to jail for your misdeeds?

Answers to that question came easily enough. Then the question was asked, If someone is born with a defect in the brain,  and that defect doesn’t allow the brain’s owner to feel empathy or sympathy, and compels them to kill, then should they be left in jail to rot? The answers given were not so straightforward.

Should we at least treat such people humanely, and with compassion, instead of treating them with contempt?

How many people like that are in jails now, suffering because they happened to be born with a defective brain that doesn’t allow them to moderate their behaviour? Should anyone care about them?

Should we admonish sufferers of Tourette’s Syndrome each time they swear?

5. Steve Maxwell had this to say: “In the present economic climate, where greed is touted as good, and politicians are shy in publicly coming forward with their salaries and allowances, who judges their true worth?

Recently, the NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, resigned from the government taking all her entitlements and allowances due her position. According to website, “Salaries and Government allowance for government and parliament,”  the NSW Minister received $287,515 last financial year. That is a weekly wage of $5,529.20. On leaving parliament, the Minister can take a life pension of $150,00,00 per annum., which is $2,884 per week. And remember, many (but not all ) officials and  politicians claim the allowances and entitlements.

The premier of NSW gets $377,780 while within the government, the average wage of a team leader is $162,976. A school principal’s wage is $132,000 per annum, and student nurses get $17.50 ph. The most someone on unemployment benefits gets is $450 p.w. for 26 weeks (that doesn’t include allowances).”

Thank you, Steve!


6. Today John Donne’s poemFor Whom the Bell Tolls‘* was discussed briefly.

* (Spoiler alert: you’re the reason it tolls, apparently.)

This coming Sunday’s poem will be Robert Frost’s famous, ‘The Road Not Taken‘.

The Road Not Taken.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

7. One of the poems recited today was Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall‘ and thank goodness we had Uncle Pete to recite it and not Mr Nasal himself. The poem was a perfect example of how a poem can create a mood and present a strong message without having every line make sense with the lines above it and below it.

Other poems recited were two love poems by Eric Fried: ‘It is what it is’ and ‘Better Not‘; and Peter the Younger read two humorous poems written by John Clarke. ‘Liquidity‘ was one.

Next week more poems will be recited. How about bringing one along?


8. Nearly everyone had a turn trying to speak for thirty seconds without umming or saying ‘You know‘. It was good to see so many people brave enough to step up onto ‘The Ladder of Knowledge‘ and give it a go.

This coming Sunday we may attempt one or two impromptu theatre-games.

9. This week’s assertiveness tip
was a beauty and even the grasshoppers managed to understand it.

Sort of.

A little bit, anyway.

Well, they tried to understand it.

Sort of.

Well, one tried.

I think.

Today’s tip was, ‘Show the person you understand their point of view‘. Click here to see if the full explanation makes sense to you.

10. Reincarnation was discussed, and pleasingly, no one believed in it.


11. Other matters discussed:
– How big would an orange be if nothing else existed but an infinity of space?

– Mr B tried to talk about apathy but kept being interrupted with versions of the hilarious joke, ‘Let’s not bother talking about apathy’. Such hilarity was too much for Mr B and he moved on smartly to the next topic.

– The efficacy of homeopathy.  (Mr Bashful was strangely quiet on that topic. Why?)

– Mr B’s brief holiday at the “hippie” Sydney Confest.

– Helmut tried to finish the day on The Ladder of Knowledge, but couldn’t, because Tony the Garrulous was in fine fettle and wouldn’t let him speak. So Tony replaced him, demanding that Australia arm itself with nuclear weapons.


12. Our Facebook page is just short of having 2,000,045 subscribers, and our archives site is just as popular.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 22nd January, 2017

In News for Speakers' Corner on January 23, 2017 at 11:00 am

Watch your thoughts;
they become your words.

Your words become your actions.
Your actions become your habits.
Your habits become your character.

Your character becomes your destiny.
Bishop Beckwaith

NOTE: MR B will be there this Sunday. And far more importantly, the chairs will be there on Sunday.

1. Speakers’ Corner legend Steve Maxwell was vigorous today and at one point he answered the question: ‘Why are the American Republicans so strongly opposed to Obamacare?’ In the midst of his discussion he pointed out that its real name is ‘Affordable Care’. When people were polled, 80% said the government should get rid of ObamaCare, but when asked about Affordable Care, 80% said keep it! Yet, it’s the same thing! That indicates how much confusion there is, Steve explained.

For your interest, Affordable Care is a 2.9% levy on income + an extra .9% on any investment income above $250,000 per year. (Imagine how big your capital would have to be to earn in interest $250,000 per year!)

2. A few facts about this blog:
– In its four years it has had over 14,000 visitors and over 34,000 views.
– Aust: 26,000 views, UK 2,101, U.S. 1,294, Brazil 668, Germany 636, France  504, Canada 376, Italy 233, Netherlands 222. 133 countries have visited, including Reunion, St Vincents + The Grenadines, and Guadeloupe. (We’re still waiting for a visit from North Korea.)
– It’s growing in popularity each year.
– It now averages 12 visitors a day and 25 views per day. (Admittedly, that’s not many when you compare it with Donald Trump’s site.)
– Its most popular page, by far, is Steve Maxwell’s History of Speakers’ Corner.
– Of the 14,000 visitors, six have left comments, including one troll (who inadvertently unmasked himself at Speakers’ Corner!).
– No one has bought from the gift shop.

3. There is a 62.4% chance that Mr B will be at Speakers’ Corner this coming Sunday, a 34.5% chance he won’t be, and a 3.1% chance he might be.

4. We read poems today. Mr B read, ‘For As Long as Your Eyes are Blue‘ and ‘The Man in the Glass‘. Helmut read a witty one from a science book, based loosely on The Lord’s Prayer; and Uncle Pete read a harrowing poem from war poet Wilfred Owen, who died just one week before WWI ended. Here is the first stanza of Wilfred’s poem, ‘Dulce et decorum est’:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots 
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

The segment seemed popular and Mr B will host it again this coming Sunday if he is present. Already, two people have volunteered to bring a poem. How about you bringing one, too? If you’re not game to read it, someone can read it on your behalf.

5. Today we examined the poem,Spring and Fall‘, and next week’s  poem seems straightforward:
‘No Man is an Island’ by John Donne
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

We might spend more time discussing whether or not the sentiments expressed are valid.

6. Mr B was heard giving Assertiveness Tip Number Two, and at the conclusion of the lecture only one solitary grasshopper was able to say what it was. That reminds this scribe of a book titled: “I taught them, but they didn’t learn.”

The tip is as follows: ‘When complaining to someone about their behaviour, don’t focus on what they have done; instead, state how you feel about their behaviour, and state what needs to happen from now on.

Let’s hope the chapter in his online book explains it better, so that every grasshopper can understand. Click here to be taken there.

7. Two regulars (Howard and Mark) have been “inducted” into this blog’s “Hall of Fame”. (See left).

8. With humility and honesty, Helmut spoke about the day he beat Arnold Schwarzenegger in a body-building contest. His memory of those times was extraordinary.

The Hansard is the report of the proceedings of the Australian parliament and its committees. Helmut explained that The Hansard reveals the names of a number of Australian sport identities caught using performance enhancing drugs, although those names were not revealed by the media. This scribe isn’t game to give those names here, but he will say that the names Helmut provided were interesting, to say the least!

9. We talked about friendship, and someone suggested that we be careful about the friends we choose.


10. Someone asked if young people are narcissistic, because they’re always taking selfies. It was pointed out that young people in the past would have taken selfies too if the technology had been available, and just as instantaneous and cheap. Artists have been giving themselves selfies (self-portraits) for centuries.

Unfortunately, Mirko interrupted to give us a long lecture about Adolf Hitler and his antics. It took us a while to realise he was confusing narcissism with nazism.


11. Other matters discussed:
– the merits of photographing a dog’s bum. The less said about that, the better.

– Mr B explained how the Australian government could close down the detention centres on Christmas Island, Nauru, and Manus Island, without encouraging the so-called people “smugglers” in Indonesia to recommence transporting refugees to Australia.

– Do we mellow as we grow older? Here’s that graph again:


12. It was such a beautiful and enjoyable day we all finished at 6pm, not 5pm, with Helmut again booming across the park.

13. This scribe remembers when there used to be 43 beans in every cup of Nescafe coffee. Now that very same number applies to the number of Facebook subscribers we have. That’s too spooky to be a coincidence.

Our Archives site is tired of being ignored so I’m giving it a plug.

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