28. 2/10 for Vincent Van Gogh

“Intolerance is violence to the intellect and hatred, violence to the heart.”
Indian proverb.

1. Mr B ruined his voice box again and it served him right. He shouldn’t bark at his grasshoppers like he does, no matter how wrong they are.

He began his meeting talking about functional insanity, and was at pains to point out that he wasn’t talking about anyone at Speakers’ Corner. Like hell he wasn’t. He explained how functional insanity differs from your everyday, run-of-the-mill insanity.

He treated the topic respectfully and his grasshoppers disgracefully.

Here he is in full flight today at Speakers’ Corner:

2. When Mirko got up to speakon the Ladder of Knowledge he had refreshingly new material to present to us which, unfortunately, was as incomprehensible as his regular material. From what this humble scribe gathered, the tenet of his speech seemed to be that every time you take three steps forward you complete a  walking ‘cycle’. Brains-trust Laurence figured out that by taking three steps forward your feet are in the position they were when you started, and that’s a cycle. Fair enough, except that you are back in the same position after two steps, but who’s counting? The point is, Mirko must have been making sense after all, because Uncle Pete understood him well enough. At one point, when your humble scribe was completely bamboozled, Uncle Pete asked Mirko, “Is it two polarity?”

“Yes!” confirmed Mirko, validated and vindicated.

You could have pushed this scribe over with a feather. Mirko had been making sense after all! Peter had understood him!

I’m sorry Mirko, that I wasn’t bright enough to understand you. With your new topic I was thinking you had lost yet another marble, but it turns out that you were making sense all the time. The expression, “Pearls before swine” comes to mind.

Mirko, you remind me of another genius:

“They did not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they’ll listen now.”

3. Speaking of Vincent Van Gogh, that’s who Steve Maxwell talked about today. In the mid 1800s a bloke founded Mort Docks, the first dry dock in Australia. (That’s when no alcohol is allowed on the premises.) Funnily enough, the gimmick worked and it made that bloke a multi-millionaire. That allowed his son, John Peter Russell, to go to France to study Impressionism. Impressionism is a type of art. But it is not, as you might think, a type of art for people who can’t paint properly, it’s a type of art all on its own. Who would have thought? In France this fellow, John Peter Russell, met Vincent Van Gogh who was a Dutchman also studying Impressionism, but missing an ear. They became friends. It turns out that the fellow with the three names is the only artist to have painted a portrait of Vincent Van Gogh, (other than Vincent himself, who made a habit of it).

Compare the two artists’ portrait of Vincent. I have given each of them a mark out of ten, and you can see that John’s painting is far better than Vincent’s. And bigger, too. Vincent could have learned a lot from his friend, had he tried. But as often the case with people who lack talent, it seems Vincent was better than John at promoting himself. We have all heard of Vincent Van Gogh (thanks to Don McLean) but we have never heard of John Peter Russell.

John Peter Russell’s portrait of Vincent Van Gogh.    9/10.


Vincent Van Gogh’s portrait of Vincent Van Gogh.    2/10.

A reader just informed this scribe that Vincent was not a good promoter of his work. Vincent only sold one painting in his life. Presumably, that was to his mother.
It’s hardly a surprise, is it? If he were alive today he wouldn’t make the Archibald finalists, would he? So, why is he famous? It can’t solely be due to Don McLean. Singers can only do so much. Ask Steve Maxwell when you see him next. He’ll know.

4. Steve also spoke about Australian history and politics, and about Rimbaud the Poet. The poet’s name was Rimbaud and he was a poet. This scribe googled his poems to find a good one to present here.

 5. A passer-by asked if shecould step up onto the Ladder of Knowledge. Maria spoke for five minutes about free speech, and did a damned good job of it. She was fluent and had something to say. She railed against our apathy. We hope she becomes a permanent speaker at Speakers’ Corner.

6. We were reminded of The Groom of the Stool who was a fellow in bygone times who would wipe the king’s bottom after the king defecated. Mr B said that no human being should ever wipe another healthy adult human’s bottom, because to do so demeans humanity. We have a human responsibility to wipe our own arses, he said plainly.

He added that there are other tasks we should do for ourselves, rather than let another human being do them for us. We should clean our own houses, for example. He also applauded the Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovi, and the French President, Emmanuel Macron. She, Vladamir Putin and President Macron were on the dias and about to greet the players after an important soccer game. It was pouring with rain. Putin had a minder who held an umbrella over him. But not Kolinda or Macron. They knew better. They know that it is every person’s duty to hold their own umbrella. But, because they wanted to greet every player from France and Croati warmly, they chose to forgo an umbrella and stand in the rain.

Mr B applauded you both. So does this scribe.

Mr Putin: do you also have a Groom of the Stool?

7. Did humans evolve from monkeys? No, we didn’t. An ancestor common to apes, great apes, monkeys and hominims (and lemurs, lorisoids and tarsiers) was a small rodent-like animal called the plesiadapis, that lived 55 to 58 million years ago. It was about the size of a 2kg possum.
(an artist’s impression)



And there was the propliopithecus. It lived about 25 to 30 million years ago. Larger, and weighed about 4.5kgs:

It’s doubtful these pictures are photographs; more likely, they are artists’ impressions and they may not be accurate. As we have already discovered above, impressionist artists don’t aim for accuracy. Impressionists Vincent and John both painted Vincent, and their portraits differ considerably.

8. Other subjects discussed:

– Mr B said that Politician Craig Kelly was right when he said we can’t keep complaining to the Russians about their destruction of Flight MH17; we need to focus on the future. But was it a political mistake to say the truth?

– Is property make-believe? A social construct? Or is it real? Who owns my apricot tree? Me? The possums who take the fruit? Or the aphids who live there 24/7?

– Are we being hypocrites when we criticise Trump for being too friendly with Russia? Would we call him stupid and reckless if he was antagonistic towards Russia? Do we want good relations with Russia, or bad ones? Is diplomacy relevant anyway? Is money, trade and the sale of armaments the real glue for lasting peace?

– For the third week in a row we heard about that monkey and its typewriter in infinite time. At this rate, the monkey will have typed the play before we have finished the topic.

– Why do Christians and atheists so often confuse the origin of lifewith evolution, when the two are completely different? Mr B gave a rational (but unappreciated) reason. He says we often use the word ‘life’ when we mean ‘living things’. The two terms have different meanings. “You can find life a half mile deep under the ice in Antartica.” See the problem with that sentence? Few people do.

– Do we determine a person’s nationality by their genes? By their acculturation? By their birth certificate? Or by their citizenship? Or by . . .what?

– The Child Sexual Abuse Redress Scheme. The idea is to give people who suffered sexual abuse in the “care” of a religious institution $150,000, counselling, and a letter of apology from the institution (if wanted). Should sexual abuse victims in jail for being paedophiles be excluded from the scheme?  Mr B said no, and put forth an idea for a scheme he thought was even better. (Hint: it wasn’t THAT good.)

– A sunken Russian warship was recently found. Supposedly it has in it $176 billion worth of gold bullion.
$176 BILLION?  Really??
$176b just to pay the salary and crew?  Really??
$176b on a ship that is in a war, and could be sunk?  Really??
The Korean salvage company that found the ship has only been listed on the Korean Stock Exchange a month, and has only $100,000 in its kitty. It’s funny how they found the vessel so quickly. Really??
In short, Mr B was suspicious.

9. If the creatures aboveare not unusual enough, here is a photograph of an extant creature in our Unusual Creature Series. It’s a golden-mantled tree kangaroo, and it has its own Facebook page.