Soapbox Speakers

What is Speakers’ Corner?

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.

Every Sunday, from 2pm until 5pm, people gather in Sydney’s beautiful Domain park to discuss matters. The ones standing on ladders are ‘the speakers’, and they believe it’s their job to educate  their ‘grasshoppers’ or ‘groundlings’.  The ones sitting in chairs believe it’s their job to point out why the speaker is wrong, and to heckle. Both parties are kept busy.

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

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

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

Steve Maxwell, legend.

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 used to be a professional wrestler going by the name of Helmut Rommel. He took on the likes of Killer Karl Kox, Mario Milano and Spiros Orion. And, he once beat Arnold Schwartzenegger in a body building contest.
More importantly, Helmut knows a lot about metaphysics (more than Arnold Schwartzenegger and Killer Karl Kox combined), and he is happy to explain why Isaac Newton was an ignoramus.
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 Terzič, 21st Century inventor.


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. To contact Mirko:

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.

Mark the Grinner.

As a heckler, Mark regularly gets a hearty laugh from the crowd with his meticulously crafted questions. As a speaker his humour is still there, but his talks have substance. He comments on human behaviour and attitudes, and he doesn’t hold back.

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

His companion, Sue, is less vocal, but she has no trouble speaking her mind when she has something to say.

Mr Bashful, 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’.
  Mr Bashful’s favourite topic is his evolutionary approach to happiness and resilience, but he ends up talking about almost anything else.  He has presented an Ockham’s Razor talk on ABC Radio National and believes 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 but rarely contributes to it.

John August (Occasional speaker)

John speaks earnestly on a wide range of subjects, and if you’re in Sydney you can listen to his radio program on Radio Skid Row, 88.9 FM every Tuesday, from noon until 2pm.

John is an active member of the Pirate Party, which is a serious political party devoted to making Australia more democratic. He and other pirates speak at the Domain now and then about their policies and other topical matters. (That’s ‘topical’, not ‘tropical’.)

To see videos of John performing at Speakers’ Corner go to his Youtube channel.
John also has a website in which he comments upon current affairs, both here and abroad.
He is a busy man.


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 Speakers’ Corner, they are lucky students indeed. Click here for a few highlights. For more videos of Uncle Pete, go to the archives site.

Tony, atheist.

New-Zealand born Tony used to be a speaker but now he heckles the other speakers.  In this video  Tony expresses a few of his well considered opinions. For more videos of Tony click here.

Max (Quiet listener)

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

Jack (Quiet observer)


“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.

Peter the Younger


The well-read Peter knows an awful lot about many subjects, and in particular: geo-politics and U.S. shenanigans.  Click here to hear why Pete comes to Speakers’ Corner.


Howard is always polite and reasonable, yet despite that he fits in well at Speakers’ Corner. His contributions are appreciated by all. Click here to hear why he comes to Speakers’ Corner.

Ben the Whisperer

Although Ben is softly spoken, when he does speak, people listen. Click here to hear why he likes Speakers’ Corner.


Click here to hear why Kieron likes Speakers’ Corner.


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 Albert is below. Both of them are excellent value at Speakers’ Corner.


Albert 3

Albert may be 94, 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.

If  you would like to buy a copy ($20) email Albert:
Albert is the husband of Jean.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 10th November

In News for Speakers' Corner on November 11, 2019 at 11:04 am

“I must study politics and war so that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
US President John Adams.

1. Speakers’ Corner really is a fast, free-flowing circus. If you haven’t been to Speakers’ Corner in Sydney before and you think it’s just a bunch of old men ‘chewing the fat’ with one another, you’re so wrong. It’s instead a lot like professional wrestling, but without the physicality and commonsense.

2. Across the way we had Steve Maxwell and Ray speaking. Mirko “kindly” took the Ladder of Knowledge from Mr B and spoke incomprehensibly about ‘demensia’. It was a clever application of the old writer’s adage, “show, don’t tell’.

3. We played two games of ‘Would I lie to You?’ Peter the Younger LIED outright when he claimed to have a pet rock as a child, and cried when his parents threw it away. You bloody liar, Peter! (Good job.)

And, passer-by Kai told the TRUTH about the time he became so drunk when he took his dog for a walk that he lost his dog and never saw it again. Kai fooled most of us into thinking he was lying. Again, good job!

Kai at Speakers’ Corner

4. Mr B begged your scribe to include yet another chapter from his book for young people. I have hidden concerns about doing so.

5. For more than a year Mr B has tried to explain the problem behind the monkey and the typewriter thought experiment. He has failed, until today. With sheer persistence he finally got to the end.

Let’s say a monkey is to randomly type Shakespeare’s play, ‘Richard the Third’, and it hits one of 40 keys every second. How long will it take for the monkey to type the first word in the title, ‘Richard’? Answer: over 7,000 years. To type ‘Richard’ and press the space bar will take over 300,000 years, and to type ‘Richard T’ will take 3 million years. And if the next letter isn’t an ‘h’ we are back to square one.

If we’re lucky, the monkey might type the entire title in a few trillion years. But then we hope the monkey types ‘A’ in the hope of typing ‘Act 1’. If it fails to type an ‘A’ it’s back to the drawing board. Sorry, the typewriter.

To type the first entire paragraph might take until the heat death of the universe. But luckily we have infinite time so that doesn’t matter. But we then have to begin the next paragraph, and if the first letter isn’t the right one, we again have to start again. (Or the monkey does.) An entire lifetime of the universe, wasted.

And that’s just the first paragraph.

The entire first act? Perhaps a trillion to the power of a zillion years? What if, after that period of time elapsed, we are almost there? Let’s say the monkey has to press the key once more and get a full stop, in order to finish the first act. It has a one in forty chance of doing so.  It fails. You guessed it: we start again.

To get the entire play typed? It types for another a zillion to the power of a quillion years, always starting again when there is a mistake. The universe has long, long been dead. Countless heat deaths of the universe have elapsed.  No matter. Hey, we have all the time we want. We have infinite time.

What about two plays in a row?

What about every Shakespeare play?

What about every play?

What about every book in the world?  Let’s say that in an unimaginable amount of time the monkey has typed half the books in the world. It’s still incredibly unlikely it will type even the next word of the next book correctly. So, we start again.

Mr B finally asked the question: ‘Will ANY finite task like that be completed in infinite time?’

He said yes. He said that a finite task must be completed with infinite time.

What about every book in the world, a trillion times over? Remembering that if there is one mistake, we have to start again?

Yep, because it’s a finite task. And there’s infinite time.

There was disagreement. Some said it’s possible that a finite task would not be completed if given infinite time in which to attempt it. Then it must be asked: “Why not?” Doesn’t that tell us that we can’t comprehend infinity?

This is not a monkey, it’s a chimpanzee. If the task is eventually completed, will the achievement count? Or will the chimp be disqualified for not being a monkey?

6. Mr B has begun a new series: paradigms. Each week he will present an absurd idea that most of us think is a good idea because most people hold it. Today it was: ‘We are all entitled to a reasonable standard of living.’

As predicted, people took umbrage. They raised all sorts of concerns about inequality and wealth distribution. But that’s what happens when you adopt the collective beliefs of a society – you get fooled. (According to Mr B, that is.)

7. It was 5.15pm when Mr B decided he had had enough, and he shanghaied Mark the Grinner onto the Ladder of Knowledge. Mark the Grinner was all over the place, as usual, and as usual he kept his listeners transfixed, or laughing.

Mark had trouble identifying the sex of one poor kid, who as a result will no doubt be in therapy for his entire adult life. (Though the kid did seem to take it well. Besides, he/she is a good looking kid so that’s a good upside.)

Mark also railed against a bunch of university students. He claimed they didn’t have the mettle children in school seem to have, because school children are better protestors. The university students took it well and gave it back to him. They accused everyone older than they of being to blame for the world’s trouble.

Mark must have said other things too but your gentle scribe was too busy reeling from the insults he was receiving from Mark, to notice.

8. Other topics discussed.
– With regards to jobs and automation, what will the future bring for young people?

– Will the Earth be habitable in fifty years? (The young ones didn’t seem to think so. But then again, they didn’t seem to mind either. They were laughing away.)

– What are the four ways to die? (There are only four, it appears.)

– You’re a tree. Where are you and who’s looking after you? What do your answers say about the way you look at life?

– If someone tries to shoot someone and misses, should they receive the sentence they would have received had they succeeded? Or, should they receive a lesser sentence (as is the case) simply because their aim was poor?

– Should we allow advertisers to use any image they like of anyone they like, to advertise their product, without having the person’s permission and without having to pay them? Mr B thought it might be a good idea. Your scribe figures it won’t be happening soon.

– If women and their babies are being saved when they would both normally die in childbirth without medical intervention, does that mean they may be giving birth to children who have the same ‘dangerous childbirth’ genes (if indeed the cause was faulty genes and not just bad luck)? If so, in the far future will natural childbirth be possible for western women?

From the Postsecret site:

9. Speaking of childbirth, this week’s unusual creature in our Unusual Creature Series is the Marabau stork of Africa. It was recently offended by our Facebook page.

Marabau stork. Photograph by Jon Jermey

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 3rd November

In News for Speakers' Corner on November 4, 2019 at 4:07 pm

“We have to look after humans. Animals had their chance to evolve into humans, but they didn’t, so fuck ’em.”
Mark the Grinner.

1. Mr B began the day with a whinge about Journalist Fran Kelly and other journalists like her. When journalists ask a politician, “Would you like to be leader some day?” that ‘gotcha’ question means however the journalist answers, they’re damned. And, if they criticise the question and refuse to answer it, they’re accused of prevaricating.

Then Uncle Pete took the ladder. Last week he said he would talk this week for fifteen minutes about feminism. However, during the week he made the ‘mistake’ of presenting his views to his wife and two adult daughters. He was quickly and thoroughly set straight. So, his talk on feminism today was a fizzer, but in his usual entertaining fashion he talked about other things.

2. Other topics discussed:
– When someone tends to study a topic and talk about it at length with anyone who will listen (or pretend to listen), what’s going on? Is there a deeper concern not being addressed? Can we discover it?

– If for our entire lives we Australians will be governed by one only Labor or the coalition, do we really live in a democracy?

– Do the people wanting a one world government have our best interests in mind?

3. Mr B wants to know: Are you like Sir Thrustalot?

4. At 3.30pm the rain fell, and we all went home.

With thanks to Peter the Younger, today’s unusual critter for our Unusual Creature Series is a freshwater crab found in Northern Australia. When the river is dry it lives in burrow in the side of the river bank, and estivates. That means it spends the dry period in a dormant state. (No, not Tasmania. In a torpor.) Neither of the specimens below has subscribed to our Facebook page.


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