A past speaker visits.

“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.”
Marsha Norman

1. Another blast from the past!

Yes, okay, that might be a cliché but it’s better than ‘An eyesore from before!’ or ‘The devious from previous!’

Jim Creek, a past speaker from the 1980s, turned up. He used to speak about Jesus and God (in a favourable way) and today he stepped up onto The Ladder of Knowledge and spoke about them again. He spoke well and determinedly. With Peter the Heckler’s help he drew the biggest crowd of the day. Congratulations to him!


2. If Mirko’s New Year resolution was to talk intelligibly in 2017, he broke it today.

If Peter the Heckler’s New Year resolution was to cease searching for pedantic loopholes in a speaker’s claim, he broke it today.

If Mr B’s New Year resolution was to avoid being fazed by Mirko’s unintelligible interruptions, and by Peter’s incessant pedantry, he broke it today.

3. Mr B claimed that for the last fifteen years, the Australian Cricket Board has pressured the captain to not enforce the follow-on. That way, the game lasts longer, resulting in more advertising revenue for the television broadcaster and the ACB.

Mr B thinks this is akin to match fixing, and demands an enquiry.

Mr B has a point. Consider even just the last test played: even though rain was threatening to wash out the game, and even though Pakistan had hit a whopping 450 runs in its last innings of the first test, and even though Pakistan was a mammoth 223 runs behind after its first innings, Australia chose to bat again. Extraordinary.

This scribe believes that Mr B doesn’t go far enough. We need more than an enquiry, we need a Royal Commission.

Uncle Pete suggested that the captain’s decision to bat again was made to give his batsmen a confidence booster. Peter the Heckler should also front up at the Royal Commission.

4. ‘I am better than no one, and no one is better than me.’

The quote divided the group. Some thought the statement was obviously correct, while others thought it was obviously incorrect. It was interesting to see opinion so clearly divided. The twain didn’t even get close to meeting.

What do you think? Is a kind person who lives a good life, and whose work is valued, a better person than a child-molesting serial killer who robs people and farts in lifts?

The answer will probably be obvious to you, but bear in mind that the person next to you might also think the answer is obvious – and think differently.

5. The poem discussed was ‘Child on top of a Greenhouse’, by Theodore Roethke. The grasshoppers’ observations were insightful, although The Grinner disgraced himself by making a joke and getting the biggest laugh of the day.

The poetry discussion seems to be one of the more popular segments in Mr B’s armoury, in the same way that a cucumber sandwich is more popular than a lettuce sandwich.

6. How about reading next week’s poem now and coming up with a few ideas in preparation?

And The Nuns Wore Lipstick
We used to holiday
In the small towns of northern Italy
or drive further north
across the border to Switzerland, which
to my childish eyes
glistened, gleamed, and ran like clockwork.

All was new and neat and tidy
Even the leaves seemed to fall tidily
Beneath boxes of optimistic flowers
Arranged equidistantly at window sills.
Such persistent cheerfulness
Left me nervous
I must admit.

Everything was accounted for,
no loose ends, no unclaimed parts,
Cuckoo clocks and countless watches ran to time.
So, we strolled through mountain villages,
Sipped hot chocolate in pretty cafes,
Climbed into chair-lifts,
(my mother’s desultory step
not quite in keeping
with those of eager tourists).

Once, we passed a group of nuns
and my father shook his head.
‘Did you see that?’ he murmured. ‘They’re wearing lipstick!’
The disbelief, the quiet horror in his voice
stayed with me long after
the images from the rest of the holiday
receded like slides, and took up their ordered places
as mementos of a distant holiday.

Denise O’Hagan, 2014

7. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” A grasshopper said this old chestnut was helpful when you had to deal with verbal bullying. He noted that nowadays, people are more easily hurt by insulting comments. They lack resilience.

It is an interesting point. Many of the bullying examples put forth by victims of trolls do seem remarkably benign to this scribe, prompting him to wonder how anyone can be hurt by them.

Troll: “%$#**&%$$%!!!”
Anyone familiar with the ‘Sticks and stones’ saying: Yawn.

8. We discussed the state of being functionally insane. To be functionally insane is to have lost your marbles without losing your ability to function in day-to-day life. You can still cook, shop, drive and so on. The only giveaway is when you talk: you might appear a little eccentric or scatterbrained. If you talk about a complex issue of which you have a deep understanding, you might be all over the place but you will probably get away with it. You might even convince people you’re a genius.

Surprisingly, no one at Speakers’ Corner was used as an example, but a retired university professor was.


9. There will be no video highlights this year. Early in 2016 our videographer gave up filming the speakers for reasons unclear and unwanted.
The exception was Mr Bashful. He was filmed. There was plenty of video of him, but no highlights.

10. “What do you think of means-tested pensions?” asked one grasshopper. A civil discussion followed.

Other questions were asked:
“Where should the cut-off point be?” And,
“Should the family home be included?” And,
“Is the aged pension an entitlement for taxpayers once they reach a certain age? Or should it be seen as welfare for those who failed to save properly?”, as Senator David Leyonhjelm suggested recently.

11. It was an afternoon of props. Mr B used a balloon and an imaginary raison loaf to explain the Big Bang and the expansion of the universe. He said that the universe is expanding at the rate of 73 kilometres per second every parsec (3.3 light years), which means the universe could be far, far bigger than the piddling 90 billion light year (in diameter) sphere we know it to be today. Our observations are limited by the lethargic speed of light, which can’t keep up with the combined expansion of space when stars are a long way away from us. If light travelled at double its current speed, and that was reflected in its red shift, how much more of the universe would we see?

12. More props.
Adam: “God, am I black, or am I white?”
God: “You is what you is.”
With that joke, Mr B began to explain the EPR paradox. He used a yellow sheet, a disposable glove, and asked his grasshoppers to imagine Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz riding a motorcycle. He also included another joke to help flesh out his explanation of the Heisenberg Uncertainty:
A proton driving a motorcycle is pulled up by a policeman.
Policeman: “Sir, do you realise you were doing 120 kms per hour?”
Proton: “Oh. I must be lost.”

Throughout all this, Helmut showed remarkable restraint by refraining to contradict Mr B. Then, at Mr B’s invitation, Helmut took the ladder to set everyone straight.

The day ended on a good note, with Helmut booming across the park.

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