The Archives for Speakers’ Corner, Sydney.

This site is the archive for the videos and posts created for the Sydney’s Speakers’ Corner website: speakerscorner.org.au

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6. They just don’t get it!

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Andre Gide

1. Although Speakers’ Corner
is a place for discussing controversial issues, some topics are simply out of bounds. Some things should never be said, by anyone. Today, Helmut crossed the line. He said things unspeakable. He said the game of soccer was a better game than Australian Rules football and Rugby League football. And he gave his reasons.

A Speakers’ Corner Committee will be formed to thrash out what needs to be done about this breach. This cannot happen again.

Meanwhile, here is a lookalike of the miscreant.

2. The fellow who erected this sign insists he is not mad, and claims he has a certificate to prove it.

Repent at Speakers’ Corner!

3. Mr B complained about how his grasshoppers “didn’t get it”, yet for half an hour he refused to explain what it was we weren’t getting. Talk about frustrating! Then, when he finally told us what we weren’t getting, he then accused us of still “not getting it”! Holy moly. Someone cruelly, but perceptively, suggested that perhaps Mr B wasn’t “getting it” at home.

So, what was it that we “didn’t get”, even though he has told us week after week? Answer: that nearly everything is make-believe, and we should be aware of that, and if our wacky make-beliefs disable us, we should drop them.

That’s what we had to put up with for one interminable hour.

Straight afterwards, Mark the grinner stood on the Ladder of Knowledge and in three brief minutes succinctly summarised Mr B’s point.

This meme says it in seconds.

4. Recently, Uncle Pete said our Speakers’ Corner is intellectual. Today, Steve Maxwell proved it:

5.  The Australian Muslim Times has an article, “At Speakers’ Corner We All have a Voice“, by Philip Feinstein. Thank you, Philip!

6. Up on the Ladder of Knowledge Mirko patiently explained to his enthralled listeners how photosynthesis creates water. Poor Uncle Pete, who has only 20th century science to draw upon, kept insisting Mirko was wrong. Yes, there are none so blind as those who will not see.

Trees making water with photosynthesis.

7. Governments and their departments should not simply issue requests, says Mr B, they should also give reasons. A simple example: instead of simply telling us to not feed the birds, the sign should also explain why we shouldn’t feed them.
The same goes for governmental decisions. Governments should explain in writing how they arrive at their decisions.

Another example: eight months ago Mr B wrote to both the Refugee Council and the Department of Immigration with six questions. He is still waiting for a reply. He says that if government departments took the time to answer questions from the public (form letters would suffice in most instances) then people might gain a greater understanding of a situation, and feel less frustrated and combatitive.

Cynics pooh-hooed the idea.

Which sign do you think is more likely to receive a compliant response?


8. Other subjects discussed:
– The two types of happiness, and how they evolved. For more about this see Mr B’s website.

– Many non-human primates have communicated well with researchers, but not one has asked a question! (Have the researches given them the opportunity?)

– We heard the ancient fable about an ageing Chinese emperor looking for a successor. Although the fable was well received by Mr B’s grasshoppers, Uncle Pete, still reeling from the intellectual drubbing he had received from Mirko, found a flaw in it.

– Mr B showed us how male human brains are different from female brains, and reminded us that the brain is our biggest sex organ. From there he tried to prove that we should judge a person’s sex not by their genitals, but by the structure of their brain. Peter the Younger explained why he was wrong.

– We looked at loneliness and compared the merit of nuclear families with close extended families. Which would enrich the soul more?

9. Sadly, our Facebook page is less popular than America’s Super Bowl.

 

 

5. The Zombie Gnomes!

“We wouldn’t have the problems that we have in this world if God had made Adam and Eve Aborigines.  Because they would not have touched the apple; they would have eaten the snake instead.”
Thanks for passing that on, Ray!

1. Phew! Today both the delicate Mr Bashful and the sanguine Steve Maxwell suffered a torrid time. Mr B’s grasshoppers had the temerity to disagree with him, and poor Steve was forced to ban Tony Boyce from all future meetings. (Let’s see how that goes!)

Despite Tony’s incessant heckling, Steve managed to talk much of the day about what it would mean for Australia to be a republic, and why we should become one. At one point, New Zealander Tony justifiably criticised Australia’s treatment of Aborigines, and then proudly claimed that the New Zealanders made no such mistakes. Steve quickly set him straight, citing such examples as the Māori wars of 1845 to 1872.

Speaking of Tony, a keen fan of his sent in this lookalike. Hmmmm.

2. Thanks to all the speakers today:
– Thanks to Young Tommy, who got a gig on Steve’s ladder.
– Thanks to Janet, the lass with the design for a new Australian flag. Janet turns out to be a bit of an entertainer. Good on her.
– Thanks to Mirko, who got a gig on Mr B’s ladder through sheer force of will.
– Thanks to Ray, who had a good listening audience today. He’s happy to spend individual time with sincere questioners.
– Thanks to the softly spoken Mr B.
– Thanks to Steve, the spiritual essence of Speakers’ Corner.
– And thanks to Helmut, who is in the habit of finishing off the day in a classy and professional manner.

Thanks, guys! Here is a group photo of you all:

3. Mr B confessed that he must be old. The top song on Triple J’s hottest 100 is Kendrick Lamar’s HUMBLE, which has umpteen trillion hits on Youtube. Mr B admitted that he could not discern the words, and when he read the lyrics he still couldn’t understand what the hell was going on. He sang the lyrics to his grasshoppers to see what they thought, though some cynics might say that Kendrick lamar would have done a better job of it. For those of you who were at Speakers’ Corner today, you decide whose version was the better: Kendrick’s, or Mr B’s cover.

4. Mr B has a habit of calling troublemakers “garden gnomes”. Today, Peter the Younger led a coup by handing out a handful of zombie gnomes. Yes, zombie gnomes. Garden gnomes in search of brains.

If it’s brains they’re after, you’d think Speakers’ Corner would be the last place they’d look.

 One of the zombie gnomes attacked Mr B. He informs me that it’s now  on his mantelpiece with the one he received for Christmas.

5.  We heard a Cuban fable called ‘The House that Anton built’. It ended with a homily suggesting that our only real purpose in life is to build ourselves a person, because who we are is all that we really have. That prompted a grasshopper to ask the existential question: should we try to improve ourselves?


6. Designer babies.
Is it okay to genetically manipulate the unborn to rid them of defects? Is it alright to ensure that your baby is good looking? (Would that even work, given how standards would change anyway?) Would it be okay if deaf parents ensured that their child was deaf? What if someone didn’t want their child to be gay? Or did want them to be gay? Would babies be subject to fashion? Are we encroaching upon the last century eugenic aims of the Nazi party? (And does Godwin’s Law suddenly apply?)

From the Postsecret website:

7. It’s hard for young men to find the courage to express their interest in young ladies and ask them out. Now, with the #metoo movement and the grey line between harrassment and seduction, has it become even harder for young men to approach women?
Thankfully, the answer seemed to be ‘no’. As one young grasshopper pointed out, provided you treat a woman with respect and humility, you don’t have to fear being accussed of harrassing her.

From there the question was asked: How many women falsely accuse men of harrassment, and cause those innocent men severe and unnecessary pain?

On a cheerier note:

8. Other subjects discussed:
– Mr and Mrs Potts buy a house with a gnarled lemon tree. It turns out the grass is greener where you water it.
(And “thanks” to the guy who turned that pleasant story into something bitter and twisted.)

– Why are some country-dwelling small groups of Aborigines living in squalor? Is it an economic thing about what the government is prepared to do for any small group of people living deep in the bush? Should it be an economic thing? What part do past injustices play? What part do the vastly different mindsets of the white fellas and Aborigines play? Are the Aborigines asked what they want, or does the white fella decide for them? Given their close connection to the land, do the Aborigines have any choice about living in squalor?
These, and other awkward questions, created a torrid discussion for the softly spoken, delicate Mr B.

– Should Australia Day be changed to January 29th? (For the reasons given in this scribe’s previous post.)

– Today we were visited by famed film producer, Harvey Wiggle-bottom. We discussed the ethics of trading jobs for sex.

– Can New Zealand’s pregnant Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern, be an effective Prime Minister and an attentive mother?

– What’s it like walking 5okms a day along a country road reading 1950’s murder mystery novels? It’s emotional, that’s what.

 

4. Australia Day!

“A good accountant is absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of any company, but for God’s sake don’t give them the steering wheel or they’ll have you in a ditch in five minutes.”
Kerry Packer.

1. Today was Australia Day, and eerily, on the road near where we pack the chairs, someone had painted an image of Australia. Extraordinary!

You might ask, “Where is Tasmania?! Where is King Island?”

Look below! They’re there, where they should be. And, you’ll see Hawaii to the upper right, also where it should be.

Some artist has gone to a lot of trouble to celebrate Australia Day. But who? Who would go to all that trouble?

2. And what a day it was. Despite the warnings in last week’s post, three regulars turned up to hear Steve Maxwell and Mr B alternate on the Ladder of Knowledge. The fear was that the regulars would hear material they had heard before, but that didn’t happen. Well, not much, anyway. Instead, the meeting rattled along nicely and didn’t finish until 6.15pm! More than four hours of fun. (Or bullshit, depending on your perspective.)

It made a big difference that Mark The Grinner and Uncle Pete contributed as well. The Grinner got up four times! Here is an example:

3. And here is another:

4. Given that it was Australia Day, Steve Maxwell acknowledged the displeasure Aborigines feel with the date: 26th January. After all, that’s the day the first fleet arrived to invade the continent. Steve recommended that we change the date to the day Aborigines were recognised as citizens. That got plenty of support.

Mr B recommended 29th January instead. His reasoning:
From the 19th to 25th we would have Naidoc week (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee). Each of those seven days could represent ten thousand of the seventy thousand years Aborigines have been on the continent, before the white fella arrived on 26th. The 27th would represent all the migrants that came from around the world to create the non-indiginous nation before 1901, and the 28th would acknowledge all the migrants who have come since federation in 1901. Therefore, with every group acknowledged, we could celebrate every Australian on Australia Day, January 29th.
Most importantly, it would still be a summer’s day. It’s not much fun having a day off and a barby in the winter.

5. Here is this scribe’s solution to last week’s ‘Sleeping Beauty Paradox’:

Nuh. Who gives a stuff. Not one person attempted to solve the paradox on this site or on our Facebook site, so let’s not waste more time on it. Sorry Mr B, but you can sulk all you like.

Our dear readers might like to try answering the following question instead, asked today: “Mary’s father has five daughters: March, April, May, June . . .  What’s the name of his fifth daughter?”

Surprisingly, this stumped a few people.

6. This remarkable lookalike of Ray was sent in by a keen reader. Thank you!

7. Who says some of the hecklers can be a little weird?

No one. No one needs to. It’s pretty self-evident.

8. Other subjects discussed:
– Why didn’t the Aborignes develop technologically like other nations did? (Hint: they didn’t have the domesticatable animals that provided milk & cheese, transport and plowing, and they didn’t have the crops like wheat and barley. You can’t harness a wallaby to a buggy or plow with a wombat. You can’t milk a koala.
Other reasons were given, too. In short, it’s a matter of circumstance. Had circumstances been reversed, Aborigines would probably be the technological powerhouse of the globe.

– Mark the Grinner spoke about John Webster, and how most of his audience were twenty-year olds. He made a few comparisons between Australians of yesterday and Australians today.

– Mr B and Mark the Grinner spoke of the proposed sugar tax. Mark the Grinner was in favour of it, while Mr B recommended that every product with sugar should have on its label a clear visible indication of the number of teaspoons present.
Why not use both methods, fellas?

– Mr B explained why his home hasn’t had cockroaches for twenty years. (It’s not due to his cleanliness!)

– After John Webster died, the Domain Trust wanted to charge the Wayside Chapel (a charity that feeds the homeless) $10,000 to allow them to spread Webster’s ashes in the Domain. The Chapel didn’t pay up, but the ashes were sprinkled in the Domain anyway, under the cloak of night.
(I guess the Trust created that $10,000 charge to dissuade other people from doing the same. After all, they wouldn’t want ashes laying everywhere for picnickers to have to deal with. The chapel did know that the ashes were spread (there is film of them being spread!) and they didn’t try to charge the chapel afterwards, so that’s telling.)

– Two students admitted that if they were given a loaded gun, they would not point it at their foot and pull the trigger. Yet, Mr B wanted to know, why is that so many people choose to shoot themselves in the foot by taking narcotics, or by consuming excessive alcohol, or by driving too fast?

– What truly matters?

– Should Australia become a republic?

– Steve talked about the history of Hyde Park. Mr B criticised history and said it should be banned. That didn’t go down well with Steve.

–  Then Mr B explained why Aborigines don’t exist. (Nor do Danes, Scots, the Japanese, Englanders, Jews, Anglo Australians, etc.)  This was hotly disputed by Steve Maxwell.

– But when Mr B combined his two arguments, Steve exploded. Then it was on for young and old.

3. Webster’s video!

“Faith is pretending to know what you don’t know.”
Peter Boghossian

1. Did you know that if you click on the title above, News For Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 21st January‘, the post becomes easier to read?

There is evidence to suggest that most of our readers aren’t aware of that.

The speakers today: Steve, Mirko (twice), John August, Janet (from last week), Helmut, Mr B, and Uncle Pete. Ray didn’t turn up. And, according to Mr B, grasshopper Peter the Younger was in fine form today. Here is a lookalike of him, thanks to the person who took the time and trouble to send it in.

2. Finally! Thanks to  film-maker Peter Marjason, who made a documentary called “Webster’s Domain” in 1972, we can see the famous soapbox speaker John Webster in full flight. Enjoy!

(And thank you to all the grasshoppers who contributed towards having the film digitised!)

3. Steve Maxwell and Mr B will be at the Domain on Friday, Australia Day. From 2pm until 5pm, as usual.  The two men will be taking turns to speak on the Ladder of Knowledge. Mr B warns his regulars that he will be focusing on his main subject, ‘resilience’. His regulars have heard it all before, so they are welcome to stay away.

4. Who has tattoos, and why? Mr B was forthright.

5. The ‘Something Nice’ segment, to charm some and irritate others. From the Postsecret website.

6. Mr B demanded that all Australian employees be given the opportunity to take 4 months paid “Backpacker Leave”. Anyone should be able to take four months to travel and broaden their horizons, whilst receiving a wage, he argued. (Not including annual leave.) His grasshoppers disagreed with him.

He also said all employees should be given four months “Adventure Leave”, so that if they want to kayak an ocean, or climb Everest, or explore the Amazon jungle, they should be able to do so and still get paid. Again, his parsimonious grasshoppers disagreed with him.

Mr B then insisted that anyone who wants to write poetry should be given four months paid “Authorship Leave”. That’s because their work will enrich the soul of the author and it might enrich the souls of others. Again, he was met with disagreement. His grasshoppers kept arguing that it wasn’t fair that an employer should have to pay for such pursuits. The employer wasn’t going to benefit in any way, so why should they have pay? If the employee wants to write a book or climb Everest, they should fund it themselves.

Mr B then mentioned Maternity Leave . . .

His grasshoppers went silent.

Eventually, one grasshopper pointed out that Australia needs babies to maintain economic growth and to look after the elderly.

That’s when sparks began to fly! The group discussed over-population, immigration, the health of Australia’s environment, and the merit (or lack of) of economic growth. Some people argued that Australia can support a huge population, others didn’t.

Mr B is a pain when he’s testy.

Who knows what this is?

7. The Sleeping Beauty “Paradox”.
Beauty agrees to assist in an experiment. On Sunday night she is to be sent to sleep with a sleeping drug, then a fair coin is fairly tossed.
If the coin lands Heads she will be woken Monday morning and asked: “What is the probability that the coin landed Heads?” She will then be told the experiment is over.

If the coin lands Tails she will be woken Monday morning and asked the same question. Then she will again be given the drug, which sends her back to sleep and makes her forget she had been woken. She will awake Tuesday morning and be asked the same question again. She will then be told the experiment is over.

Beauty knows all this.

When Beauty is asked “What is the probability that the coin landed Heads?” what is the best answer she can give?

(She can’t tell if it’s Monday morning or Tuesday morning by any other way.)

Possible answer A: the chance the coin landed heads is 1 in 2. Beauty knows that the chance of any fair toss of a fair coin landing Heads is 1 in 2. Therefore, the answer must be 1 in 2. 
Put another way: if you were to ask Sleeping Beauty the odds of the coin landing Heads before the experiment began, she’d have to say 1 in 2. So why would she change her mind when she wakes up? She has no new information.

Possible answer B: the chance the coin landed heads is 1 in 3. That’s because there are three possibilities:
i) Heads, and it’s Monday morning, or
ii) Tails, and it’s Monday Morning, or
iii) Tails, and it’s Tuesday morning.
That’s two Tails to one Head.
 If the experiment were conducted twenty times, and Beauty were to bet a dollar on Tails each time she is woken, then assuming half the tosses are Tails she’ll be woken twenty times, and win twenty bets. With Heads, she’ll only be woken ten times, so will only lose ten bets. Twenty wins, ten losses. Wouldn’t that mean that upon waking, Beauty should assume that Tails is twice as likely? And that therefore, the probability that the coin landed heads is 1 in 3?

What do you think?

The creator of the problem, Adam Elga, argues that the correct answer is 1 in 3. Some philosophers agree with him; others differ. You can find their discussions in the magazine, ‘Analysis’. Or try Wikipedia.

Mr B believes he has figured out the “paradox” and will provide this scribe with the correct answer in time for next week’s news. Can you beat him to it? Can you leave an explanation in the comments section? Or leave your explanation as a Facebook comment?

8. Other subjects discussed:
– Uncle Pete gave us a great story of how he, as a boy, made chloroform. He nearly knocked himself out sniffing his results. The beaker fell, but it fortunately didn’t break.

– Helmut explained how matter came into being, and he questioned the idea that we are all made of star stuff.

– In the news today there was another example of a man being infested with tapeworms after eating raw fish. Mr B told his grasshoppers that the only way fishmongers and restauranteurs can ensure their sashimi  is parasite-free is to freeze the fish for seven days at below -21° celsius. (Figures vary.) Few restaurant chefs do that. Even the expensive ‘sushi grade’ the fishmongers sell is probably just a marketing exercise with ordinary salmon.
In Australia,  your sashimi is probably okay because farmed Australian fish is usually pretty clear of parasites. But if you’re planning on making your own sashimi, consider being on the safe side and freeze it for a week in your freezer first.

– We briefly discussed the legalisation of cannabis in California.

– The Australian government has allowed a South American fish, the Peacock Bass, to be sold in Australia as a pet. That fish is now ravaging rivers in Queensland. Did the government not learn anything when they stupidly allowed rabbits, cane toads, the prickly pear, foxes, camels, guppies, koi, deer and buffalo to enter Australia? Apparently not. What else are they not banning, but should be?

– Parents should be charged with child abuse if they produce fat kids by feeding them junk food.

– Related to the above, Mr B said that every student leaving school should know how to change a flat tyre, change a tap washer, change a light globe, and know how to cook a variety of healthy meals. As usual, this message didn’t go down well. Today it wasn’t just Uncle Pete who objected; a younger man explained that imminent technology will soon render those skills obsolete. Eg. 3D printers will soon be producing our meals, lights will last a million hours, and electric cars won’t have wheels you can change easily.

9. Our Facebook page awaits you, if that’s your thing.

It’s a numbat.

If you have lived in Australia for a while and didn’t know that, then you can’t argue that Australia’s human population isn’t having a significant impact upon the native wildlife.

If you live in Australia, when did you last see a numbat near your home? Or in the wild? Or a wallaroo? A quoll? A bandicoot? A ringtail possum? An antechinus? Compared to the concentration of native animals living in our bush two hundred years ago, Australia is bereft of wildlife. It’s a wildlife desert. Our native animals are being eaten by foxes, rats, dogs and cats. With an increasing population, it will only get worse.

But then, do you care?

Because many people don’t.

2. It was windy!

“Every snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty.”
Anon.

1. Talk about windy!  It blew the milk out of a picnicker’s tea. And, it was blowing away Mirko’s laminated signs. That prompted him to sit with one of the groups and “contribute” to the discussions.

It was good to see Steve Maxwell back. He quickly got stuck into stabbing a few sacred cows that moo in our society. Religion was one, and privatisation another.

Steve generously allowed Janet to speak on his platform. Janet is a designer who has entered the Ausflag competition to find a new flag for Australia.

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

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

2. Young Tommy also spoke on Steve’s platform, about kindness again. Did Tommy talk tommyrot? It’s unlikely. Tommy has a sharp mind, and he can be a fast-paced dynamic speaker. (Mr B would disagree with me, simply because he refuses to acknowledge talent. I guess when you have heaps of it yourself, it becomes hard to see it in others.)

Tim also spoke. Tim is a drop-in, and he came with his mate, Spencer. They brought with them recording equipment. The two are up to something, but it’s early stages yet.

When Tim stood upon the Ladder of Knowledge he immediately grabbed our attention by asking: “What is the most dangerous weapon ever?”

Well, dear reader, what do you think it would be?

Answers provided by the audience were: “Mass communications”, “good ideas”, “nuclear weapons”, “anti-matter” (thank you, Helmut), and “central banking”. (This scribe would have incorrectly said “infectious disease warfare” but I’m too unassuming to speak up.)

The answer: AK47s. They’ve killed more people than any other weapon, apparently. Tim explained why and he did a good job of it. Importantly, he seemed to know his stuff.

Tim.

3. People in the media are now asking if Oprah Winfrey would make a good president for the U.S.A.. What a good idea! Today other candidates were put forth: Jerry Springer (for his conflict management skills). Hulk Hogan. Paris Hilton. Kim Kardashian.

Donald Trump wants to appoint four Supreme Court Justices. One keen grasshopper suggested they be replaced by the four kids on ‘Southpark’. We suspect he was joking though. It’s irritating when a grasshopper doesn’t take the topic seriously.

4. Mr B agreed with Donald Trump. “Shithole” nations do exist. They have extreme poverty, corruption and crime. You would not want to emigrate to those nations, and the occupants of those nations seem keen to emigrate. Mr B said Trump’s statements were not racist, as the media have suggested. However, one grasshopper rightly suggested that the word “dysfunctional” would have been a far better option for Donald.

It was pointed out that Donald didn’t make the statement publicly, so he should be able to use the words of his choice. However, someone said that as president, Donald should be careful with everything he says. Someone else added that many people are trying to undermine Donald, to get him out of the Whitehouse.

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

6. We have another lookalike, this time of Steve. Keep sending them in, folks.

7. Mark the Grinner had something to say today. Atop the Ladder of Knowledge he spoke about slavery, past and present. He talked about the rise of greed and exploitation, and claimed that most of us are effectively slaves. He said that we can’t vote the bastards out because there are no viable alternatives.

It was a provocative but persuasive talk, and Mark received many questions and comments. Once he’s up on the Ladder of Knowledge, no one wants him to get off it.

At one point Mark said that apart from the wealthiest 2%, the people have no power. But is that really true?

8. Other matters discussed:
– When a female school teacher has sex with a male student, is it really child abuse? Surely it’s a young man’s dream to have sex with a teacher? Isn’t she doing him a favour? If he does get upset afterwards, is it because someone found out and a big fuss was created?

– We heard the story about Ulysses and the Sirens. The point, supposedly, was that we should ensure we do two things:
(1) Become aware of our false disabling beliefs, and
(2) make damned sure we don’t feed those disabling beliefs in any way, or ignore evidence to the contrary.

– Should we burn the Mona Lisa?
Here is a painting in the NSW Art Gallery. Do you think it’s in the gallery because:
a) it touches our hearts and souls, or because
b) it was painted by a famous artist and it’s worth a lot of money?

If you need further convincing, here is Mr B speaking at Ignite Sydney, run by Stephen Lead.

9. On our Facebook page you can see all of the above memes in imperceptibly different shades of colour.

 

 

1. The first week of 2018

‘Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.’ 

Carl Bard.

1. Today in The Domain it wasn’t as hot as it was supposed to be, and it helped that each of the three speakers held their meetings under the shade of their own Morton Bay Fig tree.

Technically, the speakers don’t actually own the trees. The trees are under the domain of the Domain Trust.

Note: the trees are under the Trust’s domain, not under the Trust’s Domain. To even be considered to be under The Domain, each tree’s roots would have to have a combined mass greater than the tree’s trunk and foliage above ground. At the very least. Then perhaps you could say that the trees would be under The Domain and the Trust. That’s what’s called a syzygy.

Another example of a syzygy is ‘He took his hat and his leave.‘ However, it was too hot for some of us to wear a hat, but we did all leave at about 5.30.

This scribe is confused. I’m going to have a lie down and then get back to you.

2. We had John August speaking, star of 2RSR, (2Rat Shit Radio)*. John spoke about advertising and the economy. And, he explained why the atom bomb was not necessarily evidence of the formula, E = mc2.

An observant reader sent us this lookalike of John.

*Technically it’s Radio Skid Row, 88.9FM.  John’s radio segment is growing in popularity because he has interesting guests and plays music that’s appealing. Discover it for yourself by listening each Tuesday, from Noon until 2pm. It’s certainly not Rat Shit Radio.

3. John kindly stepped down from his platform to allow two other people to speak. The first was Tommy, whose topic was “Kindness versus Selfishness”. This scribe still doesn’t know if Kindness won the bout, or if there were match fixing, or what. But thanks, Tommy!

Elliot spoke about ‘the exploration/exploitation problem’. (See! You should come to Speakers’ Corner to find out what the hell these topics mean!)

Another lookalike: we have a 2014 photo of a guy (see left) who is almost a dead-ringer for Eliot (right, obviously). They even have the same name! However, today’s Eliot does look a little older than his doppelgänger.
 4. Mr B discussed infinity again. Specifically, Adolf Grünbaum’s hypothetical Infinity Machine. With Adolf’s machine we can print all the numbers of Pi. Each digit is printed in half the time it takes to print the preceding one, and is half the width of the one before it.

That means that pretty soon, the machine would be printing infinitely long numbers in an infinitely small print, in an infinitely short period of time. Result: you could print every number of Pi on the first line of a page, in finite time.

Simple, really.

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

6. Our “aspiring novice” speaker, Helmut (who in fact has been speaking since 1972, and some of it intelligible) was in a particularly good mood when he stepped upon the Ladder of Knowledge. He quickly established his knowledge of Einsteinian physics, and graciously gave Isaac Newton the day off by talking of other things.

Unfortunately for Helmut, his nemesis, Tony, interfered yet again. What had been a highly intellectual meeting soon became a circus.

Tony Boyce, nemesis to Helmut, and to any other thinking individual.

7. Based on all the rubbish and the tents left behind at the Lost Paradise Festival (held near the Hawkesbury River), Mr B took a swipe at today’s youth. He bemoaned the fact that they were wasteful of resources and of their money. And, he complained about how environmentally irresponsible it was to leave behind those items, given that they would end up polluting the river and ocean. However, it quickly turned out that he was really having a swipe at us all. “Many people of every age are irresponsible”, he said.  “Why do so many people not care?” he wanted to know.

One insightful grasshopper added that the abandoned, used-only-once tents were probably made by over-worked, underpaid people in another country. And therefore, those tents highlighted even more starkly the obscene contrast between we, the privileged wasters, and the struggling underprivileged.

8. It seems that every week Mr B criticises the media. Today he criticised the seaplane media beat-up. A seaplane crashed and the media milked it furiously. Yet, it was just a crash. Had the family died in a car instead of a plane it wouldn’t be news. Oh, except for the fact that British CEO had died! This heartened the media considerably because it allowed them to milk the crash for a whole week! Apparently, the death of a CEO who we don’t know and don’t care about, is more important and more significant to us than the death of a janitor we don’t know or care about.

Holy moly.

Mr B volunteered the fact that ten years ago, for one entire year he avoided all forms of the news. His aim was to clear his mind of societal paradigms. He did manage to avoid all the news, but the only change he experienced was to become painfully ignorant.

The discussion prompted some grasshoppers to suggest the idea that a few bigwigs are at the top, pulling the strings. Thankfully, a grasshopper, who used to work for the media, set us straight. He said that in all his time working in the media, there were never directions from above.

But then, that’s what he would say, wouldn’t he???

 9. Scenario 1: Factory A is breaching the worksafe rules. An inspector discovers this and fines the company.

Scenario 2: Factory A is breaching the worksafe rules. Someone dies as a result. The factory is sued bigtime and the manager goes to jail for negligent manslaughter.

In both instances the factory’s crime was the same in each instance. Therefore, the punishments it received depended not on its crime, but on timing and on circumstances.

Of course, you wouldn’t want the punishments to be the same in each instance, but the question must be asked: isn’t there something wrong when the punishment depends more on luck and on circumstance than on the crime itself?

10. Other subjects discussed:
– Can a murdered person truly be considered a victim, Part 2, from last week’s unfinished discussion.

– Kudos and thanks were given to Laurence, one of our regular grasshoppers. A few weeks earlier he stood up for someone in a most convincing way. Well done, Laurence!

11. If you believe that (A) in the diagram below is a different shade to (B) then you had better subscribe to our Facebook page. Because it isn’t. They are the same shade.

This extraordinary illusion was created by Edward H Adelson.

 

55. New Year’s Eve

 “The elders hold the ground while the youth make their glorious mistakes.”
Michael Meade.

1. Never again! New Year’s Eve at the Domain brings with it barricades and a shemozzle of stressed-looking passers-by. Plus there was one long snake of people who were aiming to find themselves a good spot in the Botanical Gardens, to be ready for the evening’s fireworks.

Ray stood by that long queue and told his captors the benefits of giving their lives to Jesus. Across the road, a few regulars came to argue with each other and with Mr B.

Later on, Helmut took questions from the audience. He was asked about his family and his relationship with each of his three kids. It was good to hear Helmut’s view of how to raise children. His openess was appreciated and enjoyed.

Below is a photograph of one of last year’s Sydney Harbour Bridge firecrackers going off.

2. If there were an infinite number of stars in the universe, how many would have to be extinguished before we were left with a finite number? As Uncle Pete fatuously pointed out, it was a meaningless question. The idea of the question was to examine the nature of infinity (ies). We didn’t get far.

How many numbers have the digit 3 in them? Answer: Virtually all of them. Almost all numbers have a lot of digits, so very few would not have a 3 in them. Yet, even though nearly all numbers would have a 3 in them, there is still an infinity of numbers which don’t have a 3 in them. That point was made by Clifford A Pickover in his book, Keys to Infinity.

3. Mr B refuses to talk about the existence or non-existence of god/s, yet his meetings consistently flirt around the subject of religion itself. Today was no exception. A passer-by asked, “Who wrote the Bible?” Mr B’s grasshoppers provided many answers, all respectful. Was the Bible written to present literal truths, or is it book of metaphors? Was it written by people infused with the spirit of God, or by people aiming to express their own spirituality? Or by manipulators? Are the stories in the Bible true, or are they examples of common myths found throughout the world, Joseph Campbell-style?

At one point, John August, from ratio station 2RSR*, jumped up and explained the role the Sumerian king, Gilgamesh, played in the story of the Bible. He made his point at the end, and what he said was appreciated by most of the grasshoppers, but sadly, not by Mr B, who gave him a hard time.

*The RSR in 2RSR stands for ‘Radio Skid Row’, not ‘Rat Shit Radio’ as commonly supposed.

4. Then the question was asked, “Why do some people believe in the existence of God while others don’t?” The atheists quickly provided some glib answers, so Mr B had to point out that there are many highly intelligent theists, and many highly logical theists. And, an abundance of dumb atheists. So his grasshoppers took the question seriously and found more sensible reasons.

 5. Thank you to the person who sent in this lookalike of Mirko.

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

7. Other topics discussed:
Steve Maxwell wasn’t there, and we don’t know what Ray discussed specifically, but here are the topics discussed at Mr B’s meeting:
– Did the Australian and English cricket teams disiplay a high level of gutlessness by not trying to make the recent drawn Test match a winnable affair?

– What precisely is it that prompts wealthy people to become even wealthier? Mark the Grinner calls it ‘the money game’.

– Can a murdered person truly be considered a victim?

– How big is the observable universe? 13.8 billion light years in radius (with Earth at its centre)? Or 45 billion light years in radius, taking the expansion of the universe into account?

– The behavioural differences between men and women. (i.e. How each sex looks at their fingernails, or takes off their jumper, or drinks a glass of water.) There were six tests, and one grasshopper failed five of them. We won’t mention any names.

8. Your New Year’s resolution will be: check out Speakers’ Corner’s Facebook page.

How did someone write this without leaving footprints?

54. Cherries everywhere, on Christmas Eve!

“He sees you when you’re sleeping;
he knows when you’re awake;
he knows when you’ve been bad or good
so be good for goodness sake!”
Rachel Crow, from a little ditty she wrote about Santa and God.

1. It appears the speakers have not totally killed our Christmas spirit. Two grasshoppers generously fed everyone with a hundred-weight of cherries. The cherries just kept coming and coming. And not just cherries: they also supplied us with mince pies. All that, plus Mr B’s cheesecake, kept us pretty full.

It was lovely.

2. When rain began pelting down Mr B lost his nerve and suggested we all leave. He’s a wimp, that Mr B. We just sheltered under the tree. Sure enough, a few minutes later the rain left us. We wiped the chairs and began again.

Later, the rained returned, but this time there was lightning too. It scared the bejesus out of Mr B who saw it directly. Everyone else had their back turned to it. Mr B wanted to wimp out again but we wouldn’t let him. Sure enough, the rain and lightning soon stopped. We again wiped the chairs and began yet again.

Perhaps Mr B was thinking of this famous photo, taken when the two brothers’ hair was “playing up”. Soon after the photograph was taken they were hit by lightning. Thanks to reader William George, you can click here to learn how the two lads fared.

3. Well, Helmut keeps surprising us! When he stood upon the Ladder of Knowledge he spoke about lost civilisations and in particular, the Mayans. His knowledge is extensive. It was as though he specialised in the subject. Yet he has never spoken about them before!

The man is amazing.

Helmut has, without doubt, an encyclopedic knowledge of a variety of subjects. He continues to astonish. This scribe suspects we have only just scratched the surface.

Mind you, the Mayans have a lot to answer for, scaring us with their calendar.

4. Mr B has his grasshoppers, and he has his garden gnomes. Mr B has outed a few garden gnomes in his time.

That habit prompted two of his grasshoppers to present him with a Christmas gift today. He is so pleased with it, and so proud, that he has just sent this scribe a photo of it. It’s sitting proudly on his mantelpiece. He again warmly thanks grasshoppers.

One of Mr B’s pet flies obligingly provides scale.

5. Someone sent in this lookalike of Ben the Whisperer. Thanks for that!

Keep them coming, folks!

6. Ray, our evangelist Christian, was on hand to answer the following question (thanks to  Jon Jermey for providing it): If three wise men delivered gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus, what did the family do with all that wealth?

Unfortunately, this inspired further questions like, “Did Jesus gamble much of the money away, and get into debt, and that’s why he was upset with the moneylenders?”

Thankfully, Ray dealt with these stupid questions and set us all straight. Thanks, Ray.

Ray likes to email this scribe the occasional question. For example: “If atheists don’t believe in God, what are they celebrating at Christmas?” He included this meme with his question.

It was nice to hear from you today, Ray.

7. In 1914 a submarine sunk. It was found recently. The media have expressed sentiments like: “At last the descendants of those killed in that submarine can have closure,” and “this will bring peace of mind to the descendents.”

Mr B figures that if anyone had known one of the submariners and was still alive today, they would be at least 110 years old and too gaga to still be grieving. The rest of us, including the descendents, have never met the submariners and wouldn’t give a rat’s arse. Therefore, “closure” and “peace of mind” are not in any way applicable to the situation. The media added that fake emotional element to make the item more newsworthy. Typical.

Finding the submarine meant nothing to anyone except the navy, who would have been testing their ‘searching’ technology. Thanks to Peter the Younger for pointing that out.

8. Did Mr B reveal too much about himself today? Yes, he might have.

9. Greg, a regular grasshopper, told us how he was scammed twice in the same week. He signed up to a Telstra deal but didn’t read the fine print on page 109, so he received only 16mbs instead of the 40 he thought he was paying for.

And, his vet scammed him. Greg’s dog had a tick, and the vet charged him more than $100 for the medicine. When Greg got home he did a little research and found that the medicine was just Aspirin. He rang the vet, who told him that vets can charge what they like.

Holy moly.

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

11. Other subjects discussed:
– In past weeks, Mr B has heavily criticised arguments put forth by smug atheists. Today he planned to pull apart another of their weak arguments, but was halted. (Not by divine intervention, obviously.)

– Mr B explained how status evolved, and added a homily at the end for good measure. From there, Mark the Grinner outlined the role testosterone plays in relationships. (It’s more than you think.) Most interesting.

– We discussed a glaring deficiency in the football game called ‘soccer’. That deficiency makes the game a farce, and until it’s fixed the game will always be a farce.

– Mr B expressed genuine concern for all the priests (the vast majority) who have done nothing wrong, yet have to live their lives and perform their job hearing about the sex scandals perpetrated by others in the Church they love. Not only are those innocent priests tarred with the same brush, it must hurt them considerably to have their Church betrayed so heavily.

– The difference between a belief and a theory. (That seemingly benign topic inspired fervent disagreement!)

12. Santa likes our Facebook page and our archive site. Who would have thought?

 

 

53. The Royal Commission.

“If I sleep in, I am lazy, but if I go to bed early, no one bats an eye.”

Tavit Nisanyan

1. Will we be here Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve?

Mirko, Ray and Mr B will be. Steve Maxwell will be somewhere else.

This Sunday, Mr B will bring with him a cheesecake.

Speaking of Steve, someone sent this scribe another lookalike.

2. Both Mr B and Steve Maxwell spoke about the recent report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Mr B lambasted the Archbishops of Sydney and Melbourne for saying that the traditions regarding the Catholic confessional should not change. He received a brief dose of well mannered disagreement.

Steve Maxwell was not so lucky. On his ladder he was sorely tried by a presenting heckler who attacked him ferociously. According to Steve, “the man’s behaviour was enough to try a saint.”  But Steve says he was  not mistaken about the figures he gave, and here is the proof:

(From Page 5 of the Final Report preface and executive summary)
“It should not be assumed that many other institutions have not had significant problems. Many have. More than 4,000 individual institutions were reported to us as places where abuse has occurred. While some of these institutions have ceased to operate, others continue to actively engage with children and young people. Our resources and the risk of prejudicing criminal investigations or prosecutions meant that we could not publicly examine or report on many institutions in which survivors told us they had been sexually abused.”

(From page 11)
Table 1 – Number and proportion of survivors by institution type, from private sessions May 2013 – May 2017 All survivors Number Proportion (%)
Out-of-home cares                            2,858        41.6 %
Out-of-home care: pre-1990           2,478         36.0 %
Out-of-home care: 1990 onwards  257            3.7 %
Out-of-home care: Unknown era   150            2.2 %
Schools                                                 2,186         31.8%
Religious activities                             1,000        14.5%
Youth detention                                  551            8.0%
Recreation, sports and clubs            408          5.9%
Health and allied                                 192          2.8%
Armed forces                                         76           1.1%
Supported accommodation                68           1.0%
Family and youth support services   61           0.9 %
Childcare                                                32          0.5%
Youth employment                                17          0.2 %
Other                                                        213        3.1 %
Unknown                                                 63         0.9 %

“Out-of-home care comprises both home-based care and residential institutions. Most institution types include institutions managed by religious organisations. More than one in three survivors (36.0 per cent) said they were sexually abused in pre-1990 out-of-home care – primarily in residential institutions such as children’s homes, missions or reformatories. Just under one-third (31.8 per cent) said they were abused in a school, and 14.5 per cent said they were abused while involved in religious activities, such as attending a church or seminary. More than one in five survivors (21.0 per cent) said they were sexually abused in more than one institution.  58.6 per cent said they were sexually abused in an institution managed by a religious organisation. Almost 2,500 survivors told us about sexual abuse in an institution managed by the Catholic Church. This was 61.8 per cent of all survivors who reported sexual abuse in a religious institution.” 

Steve’s heckler

3. Young Tommy stepped onto the Ladder of Knowledge and spoke about depression, autism and asparagus. Why Tommy included asparagus in his talk this scribe has no idea. Maybe the young fellow has an allergy? Anyway, apart from leaving that mystery unanswered, young Tommy spoke well and deftly answered the questions fired at him.

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

5. Mr B’s grasshoppers learned the significance of the statement, “Sulphur crested cockatoos eat rabbits.”

(Overseas readers: cockatoos don’t engage in that behaviour. But the statement is revalatory for reasons not explained here.)

6. Two people spoke about their relationship they had with their parents and the grief they didn’t experience when their parents died. And one person told us what it was like to be seven years old and have a parent die, and then have the other parent suffer a major stroke the next day and be bedridden for more than a decade. Phew!

This scribe reckons Sydney’s Speakers’ Corner is the best in the world because attendees contribute in a variety of ways, and they reveal their vulnerabilities. Their personal revelations make the meetings richer and we thank them for it. We thank them for talking about the things that matter.

7.  Enigma Kate spoke about politics. Are there better ways of choosing and electing our politicians?

It’s good to see Kate presenting alternative yet well considered views. Thanks, Kate!

Kate didn’t bring the background equipment with her. That was put there by the ‘Candles by Candlelight’ organisers to keep attendees entertained until the night’s concert. It’s pleasing to see them doing their bit for global warming by providing candles instead of electric lighting.

8. A passer-by on a bicycle asked Mr B, “What is success?” He told her it’s a make-believe construct that differs from person to person, and that true success only comes when you can accept yourself. The rest is just noise.

9. Unfortunately, politicians have chosen to place a permanent memorial outside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, so that carefree passers-by can be constantly reminded of death.

Sigh.

Three people died, one of them was mentally ill. We don’t need a memorial for that. Countless unknown people die in Australia, and some of them are victims of murder. If we don’t need public memorials for them, why do we need a memorial for these three?

What? Because they made the news?

One grasshopper pointed out that it was a photo opportunity from the NSW Premier. It was that, or the government was afraid that if they didn’t do it they would look heartless to the voters. So, they installed the memorial just to be on the safe side.

How about: instead of nagging carefree shoppers about the impermanence of life, couldn’t the government instead focus on working out how to support the mentally ill so that they don’t do such things in the first place? It’s a tall order, yes, but perhaps in 100 years we will succeed if that’s our focus. To install stupid memorials is to miss the point, and detract from what should be our focus.

A Charles Schultz drawing.

10. Other subjects discussed:
– Mr B could not remember the details or source of a study that included an experiment: photographs of a missing boy were placed all around a shopping mall. The young boy himself stood in the mall for hours, vainly waiting to be recognised!
That prompted Uncle Pete to tell us a funny thing that happened to him: he and his wife discovered such a poster featuring Peter’s brother! Peter rang his brother to inform him that he was missing. Peter’s brother explained that he had gone missing for a couple of days after a domestic dispute, and the police had been diligent in putting up signs!

– Mr B gave three concrete reasons why Christians don’t truly believe in the existence of their God. (Two were supplied by his friend, Jon. Thanks, Jon!)
Was Mr B being serious? Yes, he was. Were his arguments strong? He thinks so. What are the reasons he gave? This scribe ain’t telling. Ask Mr B the next time you’re at Speakers’ Corner.

– Mirko stood on the Ladder of Knowledge and generously explained how gravity makes water. This discombobulated the poor Mr B, because he had only just got his head around Mirko’s previous claim that photosynthesis made water.
It’s good to see Mirko’s advances in science continue. If Mr B cannot keep up that’s his problem.

Here is a picture of gravity making water.

11. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like our Facebook page. If you believe that, you will find our Archives site just as festive.