Asked of ex NSW Premier Bob Carr: “When did your scepticism first emerge?
“When I was 15 or 16, wandering through the Sydney Domain on a Sunday afternoon, listening to an orator from the Rationalist Society flinging out challenges to biblical orthodoxy. “
(From this weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald)
My thanks to Glenda Browne for bringing it to our attention.
1. When you read a storyyou can’t ask the author “Is this true?”. You have to let the author take you on a journey and you discover whether or not it is true when the author intends you to discover it. But when a speaker at Speakers’ Corner sets about tellinga story he isn’t allowed to let the story unravel at its own pace. No, not at Speakers’ Corner. Instead, the poor speaker gets his impatient garden gnomes asking, “Is the story true, Mr Speaker? Is it? Is it?” The speaker is forced to confess that it is indeed true, or it isn’t. Thus, any impact that the ending of the story might have is deflated. Sigh.
Honestly, the speakers at Speakers’ Corner deserve medals and accolades for putting up with their listeners’ interruptions and demands.
The reason no one pays the speakers at Speakers’ Corner is because no one could pay them enough.
Here is one speaker who has put up with an awful lot over the last four decades. Good on you, Steve.
2. Mr B began one topic by explaining that his mother used to work in the council’s library. Each year the library would wastefully spend their allotted funds like crazy, for fear that if they didn’t, their budget would be reduced the following year. Then he introduced his topic: “Religion is no longer the opiate of the masses; it’s television.” A few grasshoppers nodded to concur. But when Mr B demanded the federal government reduce the ABC’s funding by 50%, suddenly they were up in arms! Fans of Peppa Pig and Dr Who were outraged!
Here are some facts gleened from Mr B’s exhilarating talk:
– The ABC received in this financial year $1.2b. Next year it will receive $1.36b.
– Plus, they receive nearly $200 million from other sources of revenue. That’s close to $1.4b each year.
– Mr B reckons Sydney’s taxpayers should not have to fund FOUR ABC television stations and TWELVE radio stations in Sydney. “We don’t need that many, no matter how addicted to television we are,” he said. “Nor should the taxpayer pay for four codes of football to be broadcast. Why the hell should the taxpayer be paying to have the Hornets vs Lizards football game broadcast?” he wanted to know. “Yes, television is the opiate of the masses, but that doesn’t mean the taxpayer should fund all that opium.”
– The ABC’s purpose is to ensure every person in Australia has access to the news in case of bushfire, invasion, etc. “We don’t need to spend $1.4b each year to ensure that,” he said. “And you can still have your Peppa Pig, Dr Who and David Attenborough programs. Just get rid of the fat.”
– What fat, Mr B? Well, apparently 45.4% of the $1.4b (that’s $635,600,000) is used to pay salaries. If every employee received $100,000 a year that means there must be over 6,000 employees. (If the average salary is $50,000 that means there are 12,000 employees.) Assuming 40 of the 54 radio stations are regional stations and require ten people each (that’s generous) that means the other radio stations and television stations combined employ very approximately 5,600 people. That’s about 294 people per station. “There’s the fat!” he exclaimed. (The figures are rubbery but you get the point, dear reader.)
– And, according to the leader of the Australian Conservatives, Cory Bernardi, the ABC spends $2m each year paying Google (.5m) and Facebook (1.4m) to promote the ABC. “Should the taxpayer shell out money to promote the ABC to itself?” Mr B wanted to know.
– “Plus, when there is even a whiff of cuts to its funding, the ABC indulges in extreme self interest by making the topic one of its leading stories,” claimed Mr B. “They use their radio and television programs to promote their cause, hogwash the listeners, and protect their honeypot. As a result, no federal government is game to reduce its funding for fear of a voter backlash. So, the funds (increased each year) keep rolling in, year after year. The ABC naturally wants to spend the funds (or it will look stupid) so be prepared for more waste, and more television and radio stations. Mr B concluded by saying that his mother’s library was just an amateur when it came to profligacy.
Your scribe wasn’t 100% convinced by Mr B, but this new ABC logo is a touch worrying.
3. Peter the Younger drew a big crowd when he took the Ladder of Knowledge. He patiently explained to us all why humans are NOT necessarily causing global warming or climate change, and why human activity is not causing damage to the Great Barrier Reef. He received plenty of ‘feedback’ and handled it well. He had an answer for every objection. It was the most exciting part of the day.
Peter did a fantastic job and it’s a shame he isn’t a permanent speaker.
4. From the big topics to the small.
During the week Mr B used the formula “Area of a circle = πr2” to calculate how much of a pizza base is covered with topping. From a nearby pizza restaurant the results are:
Large pizza: 76% has topping on it.
Small pizza: 77%
That means nearly ONE QUARTER of a pizza doesn’t have topping on it.
“So what?” said three grasshoppers. “We like the crust.”
5. Mirko got up to speak and Uncle Peteagain had trouble grasping Mirko’s scientific gems. We have to admit, Mirko is very patient with those who have trouble understanding the very basics of physics and chemistry.
Mirko was talking freely about Mother Nature when the inquisitive Uncle Pete asked him, “What about Father Nature?” As quick as a flash Mirko provided the answer: “Father Nature is the software programmer that allows Mother Nature to do her work.” That floored us all. Mirko has obviously given that question a lot of thought already. Have we barely scratched the surface of his knowledge?
The extraordinary thing is: Mirko is serious when he comes out with this material. It’s just as well he gained his knowledge from advanced aliens, otherwise we might doubt the veracity of his claims.
6. From the audience Kyle got up to speak. He quickly overcame any nervousness he may have been feeling and spoke about how history itself is muddied by our historians more than we care to mention. The example he gave was of a German fellow, John Rabe, who saved more than 200,000 Chinese lives from the Japanese army in the Nanking massacre. When John Rabe returned to Germany soon after World War 2 the allies took a dim view of his Nazi heritage, but eventually the Chinese expressed their appreciation of him.
7. Infinity yet again!
Uncle Pete stood on the Ladderof Knowledge and explained Zeno’s paradox of Achilles & the Tortoise. But he explained it with the example of a frog in a well. (Why he didn’t use Achillles & the Tortoise is still unclear.) Then he explained the flaw in Zeno’s paradox. (Yes, he’s a party pooper.) Uncle Pete received considerable flak from the audience for his effort.
Later, Mr B also briefly discussed Zeno’s Arrow. At any point in an arrow’s flight it cannot take up more space than itself, so it can only be in one place at any one moment of time. An infinite number of snapshots would reveal an infinite number of stationary arrows. That means motion is impossible, said Zeno. That’s the theory anyway. Uncle Pete was willing to put an arrow through the heart of the speaker to prove motion is possible. Oh dear.
Then some bright spark wondered if Zeno had trouble catching a bus.
Then a not-so-bright spark wondered what Xena (presumably the Princess Warrior) was doing with a frog in a well.
Then someone else began talking about the actress Lucy Lawless and the conversation degenerated pretty quickly from there.
8. Other topics discussed:
– Are some people above average in their intelligence while others are below, as Mr B claimed? Or do we have different types of intelligence that make comparisons pointless, as a school teacher claimed?
– We spoke briefly spoke of nuclear resonance fluorescence.
– We also discussed the likeability of two of television’s giants: Tom Ballard and Joel Creasey.
9. Her Majesty the Queen of Englandhas subscribed to our Facebook Page. So too has her husband, Prince Philip.
The sea swallow joins our series of unusual creatures.