Soapbox Speakers

The speakers and hecklers!

In Speakers and hecklers. on March 8, 2015 at 11:51 pm

“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.” 
Gerry Spence.

This sums up the relationship between the speakers and the hecklers.

This sums up the relationship between the speakers and the hecklers.

Some people say the speakers at Speakers’ Corner are a little eccentric. There might be a skerrick of merit in that point of view. Whatever the case, they’re an entertaining bunch.
Click here to see their 2015 highlights.
Click here to see their 2014 highlights.
Click here to see their 2013 highlights.

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The Speakers and Hecklers.

Steve Maxwell, historian and political commentator.

Steve Maxwell In various personas, but always engaging, Steve talks about religion, Australian history and politics. Click here for highlights. To see more videos of Steve, go to the archives site. From his book, ‘Soapbox Oratory‘ Steve writes: ‘In a modern city, there must be a place where strangers can meet and discuss the issues of the day without fear of persecution; where the right to retain one’s individuality is allowed.

Helmut Cerncic, metaphysicist.

Helmut 4

Helmut once beat Arnold Schwartzenegger in a body building contest. He knows a lot about metaphysics, (more than Arnold Schwartzenegger), and is happy to explain why Isaac Newton was an ignoramus. But his battles with hecklers are fun. He calls his listeners his ‘groundlings’. Here are some highlights. For more videos of Helmut, go to the archives site and to his own site, ‘Is Science the New Religion?’.

Mirko Terzic, 21st Century inventor.

Mirko

Mirko has created a phonetic alphabet to be used world-wide, and it’s better than Esperento. He has solved the problem of perpetual motion and has diagrams explaining how to get free unlimited energy from hydropower. Mirko knows how to think outside the square. Here are a few highlights of Mirko. For more videos of Mirko go to the archives site.

Ray, Christian.

Ray is concerned about your soul.

 Ray is passionate about spreading the word of God. He takes the task seriously but isn’t confronting. He is a gentle man willing to answer your questions. Here are a few highlights. For more videos of Ray, go to the archives site.

Mr Bashful, epiphany specialist.

Mr B 2

Mr Bashful, the epiphany specialist.

Epiphany specialist Mr Bashful tells us he is the spiritual advisor to the Dalai Lama, though that’s yet to be verified. He calls his listeners his ‘grasshoppers’ and his foes ‘garden gnomes’. (He himself could be called ‘King of the Cheap Shots’.)
  Among other things, Mr Bashful talks about New Age scams,  happiness myths, and why we should burn the Mona Lisa. One thing he isn’t, is bashful.
To learn more about him and see videos of him in action, click here.
He now has a Facebook page.

Tony, atheist. (Speaker and  heckler)

Tony
New-Zealand born Tony is a fervent atheist and scathing of the Catholic Church. When he is not berating Christianity he is either sinking the boot into other religions, or supporting Palestine. In this video  Tony expresses a few of his well considered opinions. For more videos of Tony click here.

THE HECKLERS

Uncle Pete (heckler and occasional speaker)

Peter - best

During the week Uncle Pete teaches students, and if he teaches them with the same verve he has for the Sunday passers-by, they are lucky students indeed. Click here for a few highlights. For more videos of Uncle Pete, go to the archives site.

Jovo (occasional speaker)

Jovo

 Jovo is a charismatic man, which may explain why he is also known as ‘Rasputin’ and ‘The Wild Man of Serbia’. Throughout the world he is envied by monks, yogis and gurus for his ability to tap into a stream of consciousness and verbalise it. 

Andrew, the exhibitionist. (Heckler.)

If you have any questions to ask of a flasher, Andrew is the guy to ask.

If you have any questions to ask of a flasher, Andrew is the guy to ask.

 Andrew used to be a speaker – he used to be the only flasher in the world prepared to stand up and talk about flashing, and support it. There are four entertaining videos of Andrew speaking.  Here is just one. For more videos of Andrew, go to the archives site. His award winning book about exhibitionism (flashing) is available on Amazon.

Max (Quiet listener)

Max

Max is one of the gentler regular visitors. Says little, but when he does speak it’s sensible. A pleasant change for Speakers’ Corner. Click here to discover why he visits Speakers’ Corner.

Arthur (Heckler)

 Arthur 1

Arthur is not what you call the shy type, and is generous with his opinion. I caught him searching for disciples.

Jack (Quiet observer)

 Jack

“The old grey owl sat on an oak.
The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Now, wasn’t he a wise old bird?”

Click here to hear a few words from Jack.

Silvia

Sylvia

Silvia drops by and stays for some time. We hope one day she expresses an opinion.

Pete

Pete

Click here to hear why Pete comes to Speakers’ Corner.

Daniel

Daniel

Click here to understand why Daniel visits.

Jean

Jean 2

Jean tries so hard to be feisty, but she’s just a big softie. Click here to hear why she comes to Speakers’ Corner.
Her husband is Albert, below. Both of them are very good value at Speakers’ Corner.

Albert

Albert 3

 Albert may be 92, but he is as alert as anyone, and fit. When he helps Mr B unload the chairs he carries six at a time.
Albert wrote an absorbing book titled, ‘Civilisation Hijacked’. It explains how good men are persuaded to do bad things.

Book
If  you would like to buy a copy ($20) email Albert:  al.morris@optusnet.com.au
Albert is the husband of Jean.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 15th January

In News for Speakers' Corner on January 16, 2017 at 11:43 am

“I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.”
Robert Frost

“When I write, oddly I don’t think, I just feel.”
Denise O’Hagan

1. Mr B opened his meeting by explaining how he lost his virginity (years ago, not last week) and gained a dose of the clap in the process. Just what the crowd wanted to hear. (Though I suppose it did settle one perennial question: had he actually lost it?)

2. Mr B then thrust a pamphlet at the audience: ‘Islam on Poverty – A brief introduction to the Islamic viewpoint on poverty’.  He explained how he could understand why disaffected youths, after reading such a pamphlet, might start to think that organisations (like ISIS) had good intentions, and be inspired to look deeper into it.

It was evident Mr B could only give a cursory and stumbling view of the subject, but a knowledgeable grasshopper accepted an invitation to get up onto The Ladder of Knowledge and speak. He did a  good job. In a mild-mannered way he answered questions about Islam, and deftly parried questions unrelated to the subject. (Speakers’ Corner is thick with those.)

His website weneedtotalkaboutislam.com suggests he is not too keen on Islam.

3. Ray, our Christian speaker, enthralled the weary tourists trying to enjoy a cold drink at the kiosk. He presumably talked about the benefits of giving one’s heart to Jesus. That’s fairly self-explanatory in a religious context. In organ-donor context is makes less sense.

This scribe has no idea what Steve Maxwell talked about because he didn’t get to listen to Steve talking, and Steve never bothers to let this scribe know what he talks about. The cad.

This weekly newsletter might sometimes appear to be a touch Mr Bashful-centric. The reasons for this are unclear, although it might have something to do with this scribe being unable to listen to all three speakers at the same time.

4. Mr B informs us that 
by popular demand (???) a new segment begins. Each week, Mr B will examine one of his fifteen assertiveness tips from his online book, ‘The Umpteen Ways to Satisfy Our Deep Need to Belong.

This week he began with an introductory explanation of what assertiveness is, and its benefits.

The introduction was like a taste of honey to the hungry and adoring crowd. With their excitement at fever-pitch they could not contain themselves, and with sky-high expectations interrupted his explanation crying, “Give us the tip! Give us the tip!”

It was heartening to see Mr B’s grasshoppers so fired up, so keen. He tantalised them by giving a gentle recap of the tip he explained last week, ‘You are not obliged to give a reason‘.  That worked the crowd into an even deeper frenzy, and he was barely half-way through when their excitement got the better of them. “Give us the tip!” they implored again. “Give us the tip!”

With their interest so high, so strong, they looked almost threatening.

It was a prime example of superb oratory. It reminded this scribe of how Hitler and Mussolini, and the Beatles, drove their crowds wild with excitement.

However, when a few started foaming at the mouth he wisely chose to cut the segment short, managing to placate the crowd by promising to give the tip next week instead. That placated them pretty quickly, in fact.

The frenzy had been too much for one grasshopper. It had fried his brain. After Mr B had taken great pains to recap last week’s tip, at great length and with much repetition, he was asked by the grasshopper, ‘So, what’s the tip?’

Sigh.

5. Denise O’Hagan’s poem, ‘And the Nuns Wore Lipstick’ was discussed for nearly an hour by the thoughtful grasshoppers, and a few different interpretations were put forth.

Next week’s poem is by the English poet, Gerald Manly Hopkins, who wrote it in 1880.

Spring and Fall

(to a young child)

Margaret, are you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! As the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

6. Next week we will also have a special poetry reading – by everyone! Bring along your favourite poem (or two) and step up onto The Ladder of Sensitivity to present it. You won’t need to discuss your poem like Mr B discusses poems, so relax. (Though if you want to discuss a poem in the same manner, have a word with him and it can be arranged.)

Practise reading your poem(s) at home, taking care to read it like it’s meant to be said. Practise reading it in an ‘over-the-top’ way. You’ll be surprised how much better that can be. It won’t sound ‘over-the-top’ at all.

What type of poem? Any, provided you think we’ll understand it. Make us laugh, make us cry.

Here is one to whet your appetite:

The Cow on the Hill  (Author unknown)
On a hill there was a cow.
It walked away, it’s not there now.

There! Can you do better than that?

7. A false belief rectified: 
Q. How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A.  0.9999999999999999 (recurring).

That’s because  0.99999999999999 (recurring) actually equals 1.

The idea that 0.9999999999 (recurring) only approaches 1, but never quite gets there, is a fallacy. It is actually 1.

The proof?
x = 0.999 . . .
10x  = 9.999 . . .
10x  = 9 + 0.999 . . .
10x  = 9 + x
9x  = 9
x  = 1

Thank you, Uncle Pete!

8. Why would someone waste their time recording an almost dead language?
That was the question Mr B asked of his grasshoppers, claiming that a language is not like a plant or creature or artefact which the public, and researchers, can appreciate with little fuss. However, only a linguist can appreciate a dead language, and they would have to spend years of painstaking study to do so. Even then, the appreciation gained could not be passed onto the general public or even to close associates. It  perhaps could be passed onto another linguist boffin to appreciate, but that’s just another dead end.

In short, let’s not fund anyone hoping to record a dying language. Instead, let’s give them a clip in the ear and tell them to wake up to themselves.

9. The number 42 is mistakenly believed by some people to be the meaning of life. Had they read Douglas Adams’ book properly they would know that it’s merely the answer to the Ultimate Question. But no one knows what the Ultimate Question is.

Until now. It has been discovered. It is as follows:

‘How many subscribers does the Speakers’ Corner Facebook page have?’

Coincidentally, how many posts does the Archives site have? Yes, the same number: 42! And more, even!

Speakers’ Corner News for Sunday, 8th January 2017

In News for Speakers' Corner on January 9, 2017 at 12:02 pm

“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!

the-last-supper

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.

Peter the Heckler 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
Periodically
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.

delusional


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.

13. If you haven’t read any of this article then you might as well read it, but make sure you read it on our Facebook page.
If you haven’t read any of our past posts, and don’t want to, don’t go to our Archives site.

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