24. A student speaks!

“Young people want to change the world. What would be far more productive, says the Dragon, is to change their idea of the world.”
Andrew Toth, in his book, ‘The Purple Dragon’.

1. The first question Mr B was asked as he stood atop the Ladder of Knowledge like a mighty Roman god was . . .

No, no, I’ll start again. My job as scribe is to make the speakers look good, but clearly, not to the point of being ludicrous. The best thing I can say about Mr B on the Ladder of Knowledge, while remaining honest, is that he inhabits it.

Think of Smeagol and the ring.

Anyway, he was asked, ‘What do you make of Margaret Court’s comments? Should we rename the Margaret Court Arena?”

For those of you unknowledgable about the matter: a retired tennis player said some silly things. Should we punish her? Mr B gave his fence-sitting answer and most of his grasshoppers had something to say about it as well.

2. With regards to the Margaret Court incident, aren’t the media at fault? If someone says something silly, shouldn’t the reporter think to themselves, “That’s silly. Reporting what they said won’t help anyone. I’ll ignore it.”

But instead they think, “Great! This person’s famous, so if I report what they said I’ll have a scoop. Yes, the person is troubled and people will be offended, and nothing good will come of it, but my boss will be pleased because what I report will sell advertising space.”

People in the media complain about having their jobs under threat, but so often they make it hard for us to feel sympathy for them. In such instances, ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’ seems to be poor advice.

3. A big chunk of Steve Maxwell’s charm is that he prepares new, fresh material each week. Today he spoke about Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, and juxtaposed the ideas expressed in that work onto current Australian society. Can More’s ideas apply to us? Good work, Steve!

4. A student from Cheltenham High School, Sydney replaced Mr B on the Ladder of Knowledge and suddenly the crowd brightened. It was as though the clouds had parted and we were bathed in sunshine. She explained why she isn’t pleased with how the school is run, and talked about the changes needed. She didn’t half sink the boot in. She was direct, articulate and interesting, and had no trouble answering questions, even from Tony.

She is another example of how the future is in good hands.

5. Albert, with his ideas about collective-bloody-consciousness, got up to speak about them and spoke well. (Thanks for carrying Mr B’s 32 chairs again today, Albert.) Mirko also got up to speak, but inexplicably lost the crowd quicker than a whiplash.

 6. Some sad news. Today was the last of our poetry readings for a while. (Unless someone requests to read one.)

We went out in style. Peter the Younger read another haunting Siegfried Sassoon poem, and the grasshoppers helped Mr B examine ‘The Draft Horse’ by Bobby Frost.

Mr B’s sole consensus was that the poem is about fate and imminent death, though not of the horse.

7. Some more sad news. Terrible news, really. There was no Assertiveness Tip from Mr B and there won’t be one from now on. He has completed the list.

In one nostaligic moment, here is an example of Tip #8, of what not to do.

8.  Good news!
Next week begins our new JokeFest Segment. So come along, step onto the Ladder of Drollery, and tell us a joke.

To give us an inkling of what the segment would be like, Uncle Pete told a joke, and got the heartiest laugh of the day. The bar has been set high, folks.

9. More good news!
Each week, Mr B will reveal to his grasshoppers a disabling paradigm. Paradigms are wacky beliefs held by a society. They can be strong and pervasive, and it can take clear thinkers decades to demolish one, though Mr B reckons it will take him just five minutes to open the eyes of his grasshoppers. (We’ll see.)

Well! Thank goodness Mr B is here to help us. (Cough cough). So, turn up each week to get one of your cherished beliefs pulled apart.

Today’s revelation was: ‘Get rid of your books! You’re doing yourself and the world a disservice by owning books.

You had to be there.

One philistine misunderstood Mr B’s message and began chanting ‘Burn the books,! Burn the books!’ Sigh.

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

11. Other subjects discussed:
– Mr B’s science fiction story, about a large space ship that has been moving through space for thousands of years. Its naked occupants have lost their past and have no knowledge of planets, stars or space. The story ends three billion years later with a fish.

– Should we let people express their wacky views on radio and television in the pursuit of free speech and balance, or do such instances lead to false balance?

12. This scribe also operates our Facebook page, though he still hasn’t got the hang of how it all works. However, he has a rough handle on our Archives site.

23. Yes, birds really are dinosaurs

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

1. 92 year old Albert carried all 32 chairs from the bus stop while Mr B stuffed about parking his car. But Albert cheated, taking only six at a time.

Albert is one of a number of individuals who help make Speakers’ Corner what it is.

“Well, what is it?” you ask.

It’s a bunch of people arguing.

2. Steve Maxwell was in good form. He has considerably perked up since recovering from his operations. We mean ‘perked up’ in the positive sense.

Steve mainly talked about the overly expensive $9 billion motorways being built in Sydney by Westconnex. “Those motorways are supposed to  solve traffic jams, but they won’t,” Steve explained.  His reference was David McRaney’s book,  “You can beat your brain“, chapter 2. “Common belief fallacy”.

Steve also explained to a group of English-speaking Chinese tourists what Beijing was like in 1974. (Steve had visited the place with his communist uncle.) The tourists were fascinated to learn what Beijing was like 43 years ago.

From the 'Everyday Life in Maoist China' blog

Party leaders celebrate May Day in 1974

3. Last week Mr B incorrectly stated that birds are not dinosaurs, and two grasshoppers swooped on him like a pair of raptors. To them, his claim was no less inflammatory than a bushfire. Mr B said he’d check his facts.

Today he reluctantly admitted that he was wrong: birds are dinosaurs. The words fell from his lips like stones. There was no enthusiasm in his voice, no grace. But as promised, he did eat humble pie and admitted he was wrong.

This scribe might tone down the metaphors and similes a little.

This perspicacious scribe could tell Mr B still wasn’t fully convinced that birds are dinosaurs. “If we have to take the boffins’ word for these things”, he said, “then presumably a pomologist boffin wouldn’t complain about having tomato in her fruit salad. (Thanks, Glenda.)

4. Speaking of dinosaurs, Mr B might like this picture of one:

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

6. It has been 50 years since a referendum was passed to include Aborgines and Torres Strait Islanders in the national census, and to allow the Commonwealth government to make laws for them. This acknowledgement prompted a robust discussion about the stolen generation.

No agreement was reached, but let’s never forget the treatment Aborignes and Torres Strait Islanders have endured.

7. And, with regards to that referendum 50 years ago, it can be no coincidence that in that same year, the Beatles released one of the most famous albums of all time, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“.

Let’s not forget how the Beatles inspired thousands of adoring followers to try drugs themselves. The Beatles: the greatest drug “pushers” in history.

And they were offered knighthoods???

At least Ringo Starr did some penance by narrating the television program, Thomas The Tank Engine, for two years. That’s some comfort, I guess.

8. Peter the Younger read a poem written by World War I poet, Siegfried Sassoon. Thank you, Peter!

And this anti-war poem is from poet Mary Gilmore:

9. In most instances, a favour is a favour. If we do a favour for someone we shouldn’t expect a favour in return. However, sometimes we are asked to help someone who may not respect our time or our money as much as we’d like. If we choose to comply with their request, this week’s assertiveness tip says we should expect something in return. Something in particular.

For example, if someone close to us wants to borrow money to start a business, it’s only fair that we ask to see a business plan. If someone repeatedly asks us to give them our time, let’s ask them to give us a written account of the steps they’re taking to correct their frequent problem.

It’s fair and reasonable to expect such ‘payments’. And, when the person has to prepare for you a blueprint of the solution, they get to discover that solution for themselves.

10. Other subjects discussed:
– To create affordable housing, should the State government build units alongside the railway lines and above? That would have the trains effectively run tunnels of apartments. If so, as one grasshopper asked, could track maintenance still be carried out?

Triple J, the ABC’s radio station for young people, would say it’s against all forms of discrimination. Yet you will never hear old people on Dr Karl’s science program. That’s because the producers don’t take phone calls from older people. That’s ageist, isn’t it, Triple J?

– Six people spoke on the Ladder of Knowledge today: Mr B, Firey Jean, Helmut, Tony, Viktor Zammit and Mirko.
Albert also spoke, but mainly from his chair. Albert has learned the exquisite skill of changing the subject to suit himself. He has learned well from The Master, Tony Boyce. Oh dear.
Thank you to all the speakers for their contributions.

– Someone asked Mr B’s opinion about whether or not Schappelle Corby was guilty twelve years ago. Mr B expressed exasperation and refused to answer the question, adding that he didn’t know the answer anyway.

– Anyone who applies to go to Mars should be rejected, simply because they are silly enough to apply. We shouldn’t send silly people. So said Mr B. He painstakingly explained why the idea of colonising Mars is absurd and effectively impossible. That didn’t stop a few grasshoppers claiming that similar predictions have been wrong before. To them, Mr B would point to the quote at the very beginning of this post.

If you had the opportunity, would you travel to Mars? Bear in mind that you would be suffering the disadvantages of weightlessness and solar radiation: atrophied muscles, brittle bones, high blood pressure, kidney stones, visual impairment, persistent backaches, loss of congintive function, cataracts, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Not to mention the pyschological problems associated with boredom, lack of privacy, anxiety and likely depression.

“And once you got to Mars, and managed to survive the landing,  it gets worse,” says Mr B.

NASA and SpaceX are working on solving those problems, but Mr B says it’s unlikely that they will. And anyway, those problems are just the beginning.

He’s a cheery sod, that Mr B.

11. There is no escape from the bird/dinosaur discussion on our Facebook page, so avoid that page if you can.

While you’re at it, avoid our Archives page too.


22. Are birds dinosaurs?

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

1. As soon as he began the meeting, Mr B gave us a sob story about how he can’t always get his facts right when he’s answering questions for which he hasn’t prepared. And he complained about the pressure he feels each week to provide new and accurate material for his regular attendees, but admitted that he refuses to spend the time necessary to prepare enough flawless material for a three hour stint. As a result, he muddles through some subjects and leaves himself open to being proven wrong.

One grasshopper agreed, calling him a “model of courageous imperfection”.

Perhaps Mr B’s ‘confession’ was supposed to pull at our heart strings, but none of our heart strings, valves or ventricles gave a damn about his soapbox oratory problems. So, we waited patiently for him to finish his mea culpa and then got stuck into him with the first wrong thing he said.

That first wrong thing he said was when he claimed that birds are not dinosaurs, contrary to popular belief. He said that although birds evolved from dinosaurs, they have evolved too much to still be dinosaurs. He promises to check his facts and eat humble pie at the next meeting if he’s wrong. (It’s not looking good for him.)

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

3. Philip Feinstein stood on the Ladder of Knoweldge and gave an interesting talk about anti-semitism in Australia. In one example he described how  schools and synagogues hire security guards to vet people entering.

His audience asked him if other religions have similar problems, and more than one grasshopper asked if there might be an ‘Us and Them’ mindset within the Jewish community with prejudices of their own, and which can sometimes verge on paranoia. Philip answered his questioners well.

It was a calm and interesting discussion, and Philip even managed to deal with interruptions from Mirko and one interminable question from Tony. Philip is welcome any time.

Philip helps refugees in detention centres pass the time by supplying them with musical instruments. Click here for his website: Music For Refugees.

4. Two snot-gobblers sitting in the audience also wanted to speak, but they had disappeared by the time it was their turn. One of the lads had hoped to speak about Esperanto, which he said was ‘the world’s best language’. Mr B wanted to know how it came to be the world’s best language when after 130 years, less than 0.003% of the world’s population speak it. He suggested that one criterion for making it the ‘world’s best language’ should be that a sizeable chunk of the globe’s population actually use it.

He’s a pain, that Mr B, when he nips a youth’s enthusiasm in the bud.

We hope the two lads come again and speak.

5. Assertiveness tip number 18: Ask for help. Apparently, being assertive doesn’t mean being harsh and independent. It’s about resolving situations respectfully.

And asking for help is one good way to do that.

When a monk asks a passer-by for a meal he isn’t abrogating responsibility if he doesn’t expect the food, and if he doesn’t resent the passer-by for not supplying it. Indeed, by asking for help under those conditions he is taking responsibility. In the same way, we take responsibility when were are assertive enough to ask for assistance, provided we don’t expect that assistance or resent not getting it. And on those terms, in rejection we have the opportunity to build resilience.

Further, if someone complies with our request, we receive the message that we are worthy. It’s one more briquette towards fuelling our own self worth.

For more information try, ‘The Umpteen Ways To Satisfy Our Deep Need to Belong

6. The question, “Is there life elsewhere in our solar system?” seems to be frenetically asked by scientists nowadays. Mr B asked the question no one else seems to be asking: ‘If there is, so what?’

7. Other subjects discussed:
– Two poems were read in our poetry segment, though for some reason neither poem received a standing ovation.

– We talked about the mentally ill woman who died from brain damage after falling onto the floor of a mental hospital twenty times, while covered in faeces. It’s all very well for us to express outrage when such things happen, but precisely what really would be the most humane way to deal with that patient? The suggestions put forth were  lame.

– An epidemic: when we make enquiries of organisations, those organisations rarely get back to us. In March, Mr B contacted five guttering companies, three Consumer Question hotlines, two publishers and a two government departments, and not one of them answered him. But you know what it’s like, don’t you? You have your own examples.

– For the first time, Peter the Younger got up onto the Ladder of Knowledge to speak, so that he could ram home his point that birds are dinosaurs. Sigh. It was a topic that kept jumping up throughout the day.

Next, Peter will be using the photo below as proof that cats are dinosaurs too. Oh dear.

8. There is no proof that Mark Zuckerberg, host of our Facebook page, is a dinosaur. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that our hecklers are.

For previous posts, dating back to the Cretaceous era, go to our Archives site.

21. Religion vs Science

“Yesterday is a cancelled cheque. Tomorrow is little more than a promisary note. Today is cash. It is real. It is tangible, and you and I have to spend it wisely.”

1. The drizzle before 2pm didn’t scare away our speakers and it turned out to be a beautiful Goldilocks day.

Mr B had barely stepped onto the Ladder of Knowledge when Ray and Helmut got into a D & M. (Not to be confused with an S & M, which was for later, presumably.) Mr B figured that if Helmut wanted to debate with Ray, then he might as well stand on the Ladder of Knowledge and do it. Helmut agreed, and he was soon entertaining his audience so well that Mr B found himself grabbing a few chairs and setting up elsewhere.

He soon found a handful of fresh grasshoppers willing to listen.

Ray spent the entire day in Helmut’s audience. (No one was sitting on the wet chairs of the kiosk, so there was no audience for Ray.) He seemed to enjoy his ‘holiday’ from saving people’s souls.

Steve Maxwell drew big crowds all day, spending most of the afternoon discussing the winners and losers of the Federal Budget.

With all three speakers holding crowds it was like Speakers’ Corner of old.

Mirko was as troublesome as ever. You can understand why some animals eat their offspring.

It was a very enjoyable day.

Helmut and Ray discussed science and religion amicably.

2. The something nice segment. To charm some and irritate others.

3. Mothers’ Day poem.

4. Other subjects discussed:

– Mr B explained to a Jewish man why there is no such thing as a jew, and explained to a French lass why there is no such thing as a French lass. And, he told an Englander why there such a thing as an Englander. All three took the sad news well.

– The God Particle.

– The meaning of life. Guess whose Meaning of Life involves a white hollow bust of a good hearted devil? And, when one grasshopper pictured an ocean full of goldfish, what the hell did that mean?

– The origin of the universe.

– Eat your veggies.

– The hardship suffered in North Korea.

– James Hardie should NOT compensate ex-employees suffering asbestosis or mesothelioma. (Yes, that old chestnut.)

– Mr B told two shy little girls how to get over their shyness, and why they should. Eventually they overcame their shyness and asked him a question, just to shut him up.

5. Our Facebook page has not yet suffered the ransomware cyber attack that has beleaguered countless people in 150 countries. Nor has our Archive site. Make use of them while you can, because this scribe is damned sure he won’t be paying any ransom.

20. Mr B hands down the Federal Budget.

“Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: ‘For my sake was the world created.’ But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: ‘I am but dust and ashes.
Rabbi Simcha Bunim

1. It was a quiet day for two reasons: (1) Steve Maxwell wasn’t there (because he was feeling poorly) and (2) There were fewer people around, possibly due to the May Day march nearby and its concomitant traffic problems.

It was a poor day to stay away, because Mr B presented to his grasshoppers a sneak preview of the federal budget, which will be officially revealed this Tuesday night by Australia’s Federal Treasurer, Scott Morrison. How Mr B obtained a copy isn’t clear.

It presents good news! Mr B went through the document, line by line, revealing Scott Morrison’s unorthodox but brilliant economic policy. On Tuesday night every person glued to their television set will be pleasantly surprised and impressed by Mr Morrison’s innovative measures. The treasurer will be providing us all with a $247b turnaround to Australia’s ailing fiscal position! As a result of this budget the deficit will be wiped clean and a big chunk of Australia’s debt will vanish. At this rate, in a little over four years Australia will have no debt. Well done, Scott Morrison! Your budget is bold and brilliant. It will be talked about for years.

Tuesday May 9th will be remembered as the day Australia took a stand and turned its future around!

The presentation would have been even better had Mr B provided a pie chart similar in style to the one below.

2. For the first time in this blog’s twenty year history this scribe made a mistake. Last week we told you that Cyclone Rhonda had returned to Melbourne. We were wrong. She stayed in Sydney for today’s May Day, and when those festivities concluded she came to The Domain to haunt us again. We were treated to a colourful history of the Eureka flag.

She also suggested that we should become a republic. But who would want to offend the harmless dear little old lady pictured below?

3. John August, radio shock jock
of Sydney’s FM radio station, Radio Skid Row, also stood on the Ladder of Knowledge. He spoke about the ‘fractionalisation’ of parties today. For example, one party’s mission might be to help the environment, but there are so many different ways of helping it that the party could attract some environmentalists and repel others. It’s difficult to find a party that truly represents our values and policies.

Mark The Grinner explained why small parties like One Nation don’t have to be elected to make an impact.

Helmut couldn’t speak. Tony wouldn’t let him! (Tony, ex-speaker turned heckler, is so adept at baiting Helmut that Helmut now gives up trying to speak.) Hopefully, when Steve Maxwell returns, Steve can act as a decoy again.

Be kind, Tony!

4. Two poems were read. Mr B admitted to not understanding either of them. And one of them was his! Fortunately, Mark The Grinner was on hand to explain one of the poems to him. It is as follows:

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

6. Other subjects talked about:

– How can it be that Coles was successfully sued for $1.1m by a woman who broke her hip falling off a safety step?

– The generation that has just died (those born in the 1920s) experienced a far greater rate of change in their life than those preceding them and those of us who are following them. They lived in changing times.

– The ‘Keyser Soze’ method of preventing all international wars.

– The upgraded NATO of preventing all international wars.

7. Mirko turned up at 4pm instead of 2pm. He is still adjusting to the changes involved with Daylight Saving Time.

8. Last week’s lament for more Facebook subscribers prompted a deluge of subscribers. (If you can call two a deluge.)

Our Archive site has been nominated by this scribe for the ‘World’s Best Blog With No Visitors‘ award. Wish us luck.

19. Roadworks.

‘God’s a kid with an ant-farm. He isn’t planning anything.’
From the film, ‘Constantine’.

1. Apologies to our loyal subscribers for the old news that was electronically sent to you earlier.

2. The meeting had barely begun when Mr B disgraced himself by placing no value on children. He called them ‘walking natural disasters’ because they’re contributing to Earth’s population problem. They’ll be the ones using up seventy years of resources and producing more children, he raged. He added that an adult’s life is more valuable anyway: they’ve put so much into themselves.

One grasshopper added to that, pointing out that in some Aboriginal societies, the elders are more valued than children because of all the knowledge they have. When they die, the knowledge dies.

“When an old person dies, a library is lost.”
African saying.

Two young ashen-faced lasses protested, saying that young children have potential.

“Yes, they do,” bellowed the cruel Mr B. “The potential to thieve, consume resources, pollute, and bring into being even more walking natural disasters.”

He then went off the deep end by saying that China hadn’t gone far enough: “What we need is a ‘no child policy’.”

That’s about when three people left. It was not a pretty sight.

 3. As usual, we had members of the audience taking turns to replace Mr Bashful on the Ladder of Knowledge. First was Mirko, who phonetically said that if one factory begins making a product, no other factory should compete with it by making the same product. It should leave the original factory alone so that it can keep employing its workers. Why should one factory send another factory bankrupt?
It appears Mirko has expertise in science AND in economics.
And, he wishes to make it clear that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Next was Cyclone Rhonda, who demanded that Australia become a republic. She was adept at taking questions from the audience, and even more adept at not answering them.
Rhonda is on her way back to Melbourne. Thanks for visiting, Rhonda. You’re welcome any time.

Albert spoke of how innocent people can be persuaded to become soldiers and be sent to other countries to kill people they don’t know. He spoke about paid assassins and about North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un. And he praised China for the way it modernised itself into such a wonderful society. (Albert got plenty of flak for that!)

Helmut spoke about black holes and fielded questions about event horizons. (Speaking of which, it would be wonderful if a few of our hecklers were on an event horizon. Indeed, any horizon would do.)

Mark The Grinner gave what must have been a prepared talk about entitlement, and about characteristics common to the wealthy. The talk had structure. It had anecdotal examples. It had a point. It was excellent.
An example he gave: a study found that people driving luxury cars were four times less likely to give way to a pedestrian than drivers of ordinary cars. (Presumably no pedestrians were run over in the name of science.) Further, in a study in which the participants were asked to play Monopoly, those who were given an initial advantage (an extra die and extra money) and won the game as a consequence, tended to forget that they were given an advantage at the beginning. They assumed they won with skill, and even gloated over their opponent. Message: people with privelge tend to inflate their own importance and look down on those less privileged.
It was an excellent talk that held everyone’s interest.

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

This message is from the PostSecret website hosted by Frank Warren.

5. The roadworks on the Southface leading to Speakers’ Corner will be completed soon.

6. We had beaut poems read to us. Ben The Whisperer read one about a person approaching death. Ben, would you please send it in? Or bring a copy with you next Sunday?

Peter the Younger provided another clever John Clarke poem, and Helmut read an excellent poem that had Isaac Newton being proven wrong yet again! (Where does Helmut find them??)

And there was this poem:

 7. Other subjects talked about:
– When it comes to voting on legislature, should each member of parliament be allowed to vote secretly? That way, they could vote for what they believed in, rather than having to toe the party line. What would be the advantages and disadvantages of that?

– A controversial subject: are there instances in which it is okay for an older person to have a sexual relationship with someone ‘under age’? The question was taken seriously and discussed with civility. Opinion was divided.

– The speaker claimed that we can’t trust the accuracy of records written more than a thousand years ago (such as the Quran and the Bible) so let’s focus on what is happening today. And, just because a custom is accepted by an entire society doesn’t make it an acceptable custom, then or now. So, let’s focus on today’s customs, and if necessary, change them.

Some people struggle to know what’s appropriate and what isn’t.

8. A record was made today. For the first time ever, Mr Bashful didn’t call anyone a ‘blithering idiot’ or an ‘imbecile’. We don’t know why he refrained because the audience was rife with members of both categories, and he was given plenty of opportunity.

Here’s something from one of them:

9. In the last five weeks our Facebook page has attracted just two more subscribers. It’s hard to believe that we are struggling to attract subscribers given that Justin Bieber gets plenty on his page.

And our Archives site is like a cemetery. Posts are buried there, never to be seen again.

18. Is this sign racist?

“The greatest horrors of our world, from the executions in Iran to the brutalities of the IRA, are committed by people who are totally sincere.” 

John Mortimer.

1. Mr B’s propensity to give his grasshoppers 4 minutes to speak, and then answer questions, seems to have become a habit. Today’s extra speakers were the usual suspects: Albert, Jean, Mirko, Rhonda and Helmut.

Helmut was asked to speak about his days of being a professional wrestler in Sydney. He explained how he had wrestled as Helmut Rommel for more than three years, having 167 matches. How many did he win? There was no point in asking him, given that the winners were decided beforehand, he explained. No match did not have a pre-determined outcome. He told us what he was paid. He gave anecdotes. He was required to be a good guy, which he thought was stupid. After all, Germans were the bad guys in those days. (He is Austrian, it must be noted.)

Helmut also spoke of the bodybuilding world and its scandals, and that was interesting too.

Killer Karl Kox, one of Helmut Rommel’s opponents.

2. The best work of the Higher School Certificate art students from NSW high schools (public and private) is being displayed in the NSW Art Gallery, directly opposite Speakers’ Corner. The speaker claimed that some of that art work is far better than much of the rubbish the gallery owns and displays.

There was hum of agreement, and Mr B was in danger of launching into his regular diatribe against the gallery. Thankfully he was distracted, and the audience were spared another dose.

3. It was asked, is this sign below racist? (The owner of a Melbourne milk bar stuck this sign to his window.)

Mr B certainly found the mix of ‘blacks’ with dogs objectionable, though he conceded that the poor phrasing was probably due to the writer’s poor English.

For the sake of the argument we assumed that the ‘black’ kids of that age were indeed stealing. The following questions were asked:
(1) Could the ban simply be a financial move?
(2) What about the fact that the shopkeeper is only prohibiting 14 to 18 year olds? Older ‘blacks’ are welcome? Does that change our perspective?
(3) What if the shop owner didn’t include Sudanese kids, only Aboriginal kids? Or vice versa? (In other words, skin colour wasn’t an issue.)
(4) What if the shop owner was white, and he found that only white skinned youths of that age stole, and he prohibited only them? Would he be racist?
(5) What if the shop owner was Sudanese and he was only banning Sudanese teenagers of that age?
(6) What if the shopkeeper knew some of the black kids and trusted them, and made them exceptions?
(7) What if there is a gang of young white kids, aged from 14 to 18, and they all wear a blue bandana to show they’re in the gang. To stay in the gang they’re expected to steal, and they steal from the shopkeeper regularly. What if the white shopkeeper put up a sign that said: ‘Members of the blue bandana gang are prohibited’? Does that mean he has a prejudice against the colour blue? Does it mean he has a prejudice against bandanas? Or a prejudice against blue bandanas?

 Or does he have a prejudice against teenagers who choose to wear blue bandanas? Does he have a prejudice at all?
(8) For those of you who still think the sign is racist: let’s say the shopkeeper is obliged to pull down the sign and as a consequence loses $1,000 a year, every year, to theft. Would you be prepared to reimburse him?

Discussion was vibrant.

4. The Something Nice segment. To charm some and irritate others.

5. A few months ago Mr B explained why there is no such thing as a Scotsman (or Swede, Tongan, Aborigine, Jew etc.) He even made a video of the talk which has resoundingly been ignored. The video below expresses the same sentiment, but says it much better. Lift your game, Mr B.

6. Other topics discussed:
– Waterlogged homes in Wooloomooloo prompted a discussion about the merits of housing developers using their own inspectors to self regulate.

– Mr B railed against the idea that someone could be charged with ‘blasphemy’, and he expressed concern about the idea of people voting for a candidate simply because that candidate shared their faith. He would prefer that people vote for the person they think is best for the nation.

– Peter the Younger read another pleasing John Clarke poem, and then the group discussed Mary Gilmore’s poem, ‘The House’. Its reception was lukewarm at best, with Mark The Grinner being genuinely distressed.

– Bad statistics. To say that you’re nine times likely to be killed by a bee than a shark is a gross misrepresentation of the facts, Mr B claimed, indignant.

7. Our Facebook page is still short the ten million subscribers it seeks. And try our Archives site if you want to know more about our speakers or see past posts.

17. Bumper Easter issue

“The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

1. Welcome back, Steve Maxwell! Steve told this scribe that today went well for him and he felt no pain.

His theme for today was “Australia: Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going?”

After an afternoon of soul searching and debate with his grasshoppers, a consensus was reached. Their answers:

“We don’t know who we are, we don’t know why we are here, and we have no idea where we are going.

That’s a good day’s work, Steve! See you next week.

2. Today was Easter Sunday. Tony arrived late, and it was suggested that it was because he had trouble finding the Easter eggs he had hidden for himself in his garden the night before.

This scribe has just received some photos from the Danish Delight, Pia. I will intersperse the posts with them.

Speaking of Easter Egg hunts:

3. Mr B urged us all to buy only free range chocolate eggs. Then in a more serious vein he compared Easter egg hunts with today’s western society. He pointed out that although older children find more chocolate eggs in the garden than younger children because they have the advantage of age, height, nimbleness & experience, at the end of the hunt the eggs are combined and shared equallly among all the children. However, in our society, those with the the advantages (born into wealth, with high intelligence, going to the right school . . .) aren’t so quick to share their ‘Easter eggs’ with those less fortunate (those forced to stay home to care for a loved one; the intellectually or physically disabled, the uneducated . . . ).

4. Today, on Easter Sunday, we all felt it appropriate to have a minute’s silence for J.C. And so we did.

Then Pete the Younger solemnly stood on the Ladder of Sensitivity and read two of his poems as a tribute. As usual, we enjoyed them.

John Clarke was certainly a talented and likeable man.

Our Danish visitor Pia recited an old favourite and got a good laugh for her effort.

Dave, an artist who brought along a whopping big painting featuring Christ on the cross, also read a poem. Both his painting and his poem gave every person who trivialised the real meaning of Easter a harsh metaphorical wallop. Both painting and poem were wonderful! Thanks, Dave!

Then Mr B had to let the side down with some doggerel:

Daisy the Beautiful
Oh daisy with thy flower of gold,

Thou art a thing of beauty to behold, 
growing there in the dark, dark ground,
the ground where worms and slugs abound.
But when you flower in the bright, bright sun,
we know the slugs have lost and thou hast won.
Rex Dawe.

5. If the poem below doesn’t make sense to you now, it might this coming Sunday when Mr B and his grasshoppers discuss it.

6. Mr B invited members of the audience to get up and speak. Cyclone Rhonda spoke about the need for Australia to become a republic and left all of us in her wake. A fantastic effort.

Norm had the crowd intrigued with his views on education. He received lots of questions. Good work, Norm!

Albert the Whisperer claimed that Jesus Christ was mortal and the resurrection was a put-up job. He agreed that Jesus Christ was effectively just a soapbox speaker.
(Does that mean that when the Second Coming finally occurs, the returning messiah will be a soapbox speaker? Should we be speaking to Steve Maxwell and Mr B with more respect?)

This scribe suspects that the ‘dead man’s fingers‘ fungus is the closest thing we’ll get to a person being resurrected.

Dead Man’s Fingers fungus

7. We spoke about the man in the U.S. who was dragged off the plane and suffered injuries as a result. Mr B explained why the man was at fault, and that whatever injuries he received, he deserved them. (Mind you, the man will win millions in a law suit.)

8. Mr B nearly fell over when a grasshopper expressed interest in his assertiveness tips. (Everyone else thought she was a plant.)

Today’s tip? He told us to not try to be mindreaders. When there is something we don’t understand, let’s ask. Click here for more information.

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

10. Mr B discussed a video of a Muslim woman explaining to another Muslim woman how an angry husband should hit his wife with a scarf. Mr B defended the woman, and said that the media were unconscionable in their self-righteous protest. By saying that she was condoning violence, and that it was outrageous that she did so, the media were simply trying to gain viewers.

He hoped the media would turn their focus back to the high rates of real domestic violence in anglo society.

11. We discussed a knotty problem about Australia’s intake of refugees. How many should we welcome? Were the people who were against the idea of welcoming more refugees lacking in compassion, as advocates suggested, or were there other factors? Should logistics be part of the decision? Is it a question of values?

Mr B claimed that 99.9% of Australia’s population were willing to take refugees, but differed in the number that they’d take. Further, he claimed that 99.9% of Australia’s population would baulk at taking every displaced person on the planet, which means that nearly everyone would at some point feel compelled to say, ‘That’s enough. No more refugees.’

The conclusion? We should talk more and be less self-righteous. And every overt advocate of refugees should be asked the simple question: “Of the 40 million refugees who would be willing to come to Australia, how many would you accept?” Because as soon as they attempt to answer the question, they have to face the fact that whatever number they give, it would mean they too would be rejecting refugees. (Unless they said, ‘All of them’, in which case, they should be locked in a closet.)

12. Other subjects discussed:
– ‘Why did the Vikings bury their soldiers with their swords?‘, Mr B wanted to know. After all, if they had dug the soldiers up a few years later they would have found that the sword had not been whisked away to Valhalla. (Nor had the soldier, for that matter.) That would have told them to not waste swords by burying them.
One grasshopper patiently explained to Mr B that it was the spirit of the sword that accompanied the soldier to Valhalla. (As though that made more sense.)

– Women should not be expected to love their bodies, said Mr B. They already have enough problems with their self-esteem without having to deal with their failure to heed that banal advice.
One grasshopper suggested that perhaps we should be encouraging women to stop hating their bodies.

13. Lost property. The speaker asked the crowd if anyone had lost a roll of $100 notes wrapped in a rubber band. They had found the rubber band.

14. A big ‘thank you’ to the kind grasshopper who handed Tony Boyce and Mr B an Easter Egg each after the meeting. Both the egg and the generosity were appreciated!

Thankfully, the eggs were made of chocolate, unlike this one:

This beautiful work of art was created with fine drills and steady hands.

14. Someone has left a comment at the end of last week’s post. Make of it what you will.

15. Everyone who visits our Facebook page before midnight tonight (Easter Sunday) will receive an extra chocolate egg from the Easter bunny on Monday morning.

16. Cyclone Rhonda returns!

“. . . the old idea that ‘Mother Nature’ knows best is a concept that could only have arisen in a comfortable, well-fed society which has forgotten what it is to struggle for existence. Nature is not motherly, she is red in tooth and claw, she ravens for food – and she has no favourites.”
John Wyndham.

1. Cyclone Rhonda is back, up from Melbourne! When she stood on the Ladder of Knowledge she wowed the audience with a string of opinions. She and Norm had a few words to say to each other, which only added to our amusement.

Later in the day she agreed to debate with Mr B the idea that Australia should become a republic, and she won the debate easily by not bothering to present her point of view. She used the opportunity to talk about 1970’s communism and Chiang Kai-shek. A brilliant manoeuvre that left Mr B looking silly.

Rhonda will be at Speakers’ Corner for another two weeks.

Rhonda, visiting from Speakers’ Forum, Melbourne in 2015.

If you’d like to see Rhonda in action, click here to see a few video highlights.

2. Other grasshoppers were invited to speak too, and each was given five minutes plus question time. Kieran explained why he thought Donald Trump’s bombing of the Syrian airfield was a good idea. He spoke well and is obviously informed.

Mirko spoke about his phonetic language. He nodded sagely when the group, working together as a team, finally managed to decipher one of his printed phonetic messages. He felt vindicated.

Mark the Grinner spoke about perfectionism, and about the relationship between reality and our growing addiction to electronic devices. He also briefly mentioned selfies. He should know that it’s not just humans who take selfies:

3. Steve Maxwell almost made it to Speakers’ Corner today, but a minor setback in his recovery meant that we won’t see him for another week. No backflips or cartwheels for another month, Steve. Doctor’s orders.

4. Mr B admitted that he struggles to complete questionnaires, and to give an example he felt the need to describe the time he was in a spa with eight others and had an awkward experience.

Peter the Younger suggested that most questionnaires are designed to get the result they want anyway, so perhaps it’s not such a bad thing that Mr B struggles to complete them.

5. Today’s assertiveness tip was:
‘Get out of the habit of using filler words like ‘um’, ‘er’, ‘like’, ‘sort of’ and ‘you know’.

What does that bad habit have to do with assertiveness?  Click here to find out. 

To practise, a few grasshoppers took turns to play the ‘Half a minute’ game in which they had to talk for 30 seconds without using those filler words’. They made the task look easy.

6. Mr B told the tale about Ulysses sailing by the island of sirens. He said that like Ulysses, we also have to  tie ourselves to a metaphorical mast when we are presented with temptations that can disable us.

If that doesn’t make sense see this chapter on his blog.

7. This week’s paradigm. (A paradigm is a pervasive belief held by most people in society, even though that belief might be weird to an objective and sensible observer.) The paradigm: “We are entitled to a high standard of living.”

People who have adopted that paradigm (most of us) have little interest in sacrificing comfort for change.

A few months ago South Australia experienced a number of power blackouts, prompting displays of indignation and blame. Yet not once did someone say, ‘Let’s accept the blackouts. Rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars rectifying the problem and wasting resources, and increasing energy bills and pollution in the process, let’s simply shrug and get out the candles. Let’s put up with the inconvenience now and then.”

As expected, Mr B’s grasshoppers objected to the idea, and a discussion about the merits of coal mining and renewable energy sources ensued. That’s precisely what happens when a paradigm is prodded.

8. The something nice segment. To charm some and irritate others.

(A strange meme. A little girl with paper wings attached probably won’t fly. She’ll just plummet. But hey.)

9. Other subjects discussed:
“I am better than no one, and no one is better than me.” Is that true? Or are some people better than others?  Views were divided.

– The parable of the king and the artist. (That’s the story of how the king wanted a picture of peace in his palace.) The story went down well if you could consider stony silence as ‘going down well’.

– Land tax. It was proposed that every investment property is taxed not on the area of the land itself, but on the amount of floor space of a building. So, instead of having 20 apartments that are each charged one twentieth of the land tax for that block of land, each apartment would pay the full tax. That’s 20 times the revenue for the government (for that example), and it would prompt owners to let their properties instead of leaving them empty. It was a brilliant idea, spoilt only by two troublemakers who put forth sound objections.

– Do each and every one of us have a ‘pearl’ inside us, as we try to deal with a past irritant still within us?

10. The poems. Peter the Younger read one short, sharp poem, while Mr B supplied a longer one.

by Robert Service

‘Twas on the sacred First of May
I made a sentimental sally
To buy myself a slender spray
Of pearly lily of the valley;
And setting it beside my bed,
Dream back the smile of one now dead.

But when I asked how much a spray?
The figure seemed so astronomic
I rather fear that my dismay
Must have appeared a little comic.
The price, the shopgirl gravely said,
Alas! was fifteen francs a head.

However, I said: “Give me three,
And wrap them in a silver paper,
And I will take them home with me,
And light an ‘in memoriam’ taper,
To one whose smile so heaven bright,
Was wont to make my darkness light.”

Then lo! I saw beside me stand
A women shabby, old and grey,
Who pointed with a trembling hand
And shyly asked: “How much are they?”
But when I told her, sadly said:
“I’ll save my francs for milk and bread.”

“Yet I’ve a daughter just sixteen,
Long sick abed and oh so sad.
I thought – well, how they would have been
A gift, maybe, to make her glad . . .”
And then I saw her eyes caress
My blossoms with such wistfulness.

I gave them: sought my garret bare,
Knowing that she whom I had loved,
Although no blooms I bought her there,
Would have so tenderly approved . . .
And in the dark I lay awhile,
Seeing again her radiant smile.

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