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.

Find past posts  on our Archives site.

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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

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: terzic33@optusnet.com.au

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.

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 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.

Tony
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

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)

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.

Peter the Younger

Pete

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
howard

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.

Kieron

Click here to hear why Kieron likes Speakers’ Corner.

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

Albert

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.

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

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News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 8th September

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 9, 2019 at 7:56 am

Just in case you find an eccentric person at Speakers’ Corner, remember this:

‘Eccentrics seem out of step with conventional standards. Maybe they dress differently, have an unusual habit, or are hyperfocused on a specific topic. Others may think they are mentally deficient, but they are not. In ‘Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness,’ American-born and British-educated pyschiatrist David Weeks writes how eccentrics are often physically healthier and significantly happier than “normal” people. He says they typically exhibit five similar characteristics: they are nonconformist, creative, intensely curious, idealistic and unconcerned with how they contrast with conventional culture. Yet, their presence can be unsettling to some.’
Maureen Zappala, author, and president of the National Speakers Association, Ohio. 

1. Mr B turned up with a chest cold that would have killed a thousand elephants. Gamely, heroically, inspirationally, he began his meeting. The subject of climate change quickly came up and Mr B converted it to a talk about emotional beliefs. Do you have an emotional belief, dear reader? An emotional belief is a belief that has become so ingrained in you, and so important to you, that nothing will change your mind.

The danger, of course, is that if your belief isn’t true, you will have no way of knowing that.

Think of a strong belief you have, that you know to be right. For example, do you believe in something that uninformed people mistakenly think is silly?  Do you have a belief that some people are inferior? Do you believe that you’re not worthy? Or loveable? Or that you’re ugly? Or stupid? Or wonderful?

Then with that belief in mind, ask yourself these seven questions:

Q1. What would change your mind? Precisely what evidence would you need to have your mind changed?
Q2. When someone challenges your belief do you immediately try to prove the person wrong?
Q3. Do you easily become irritated when your belief is challenged?
Q4. Do you avoid a person’s awkward question and answer a different one?
Q5. Do you  tend to embrace evidence that supports your point of view, and reject evidence that contradicts it?
Q6. Do you ‘just know’ that it’s true?

If nothing would change your mind, it’s an emotional belief.
If you are intent on proving the other person wrong, that’s an emotional belief.
If you quickly become irritated with a conflicting point of view, it’s an emotional belief.
If you tend to evade properly answering questions about your belief, it’s an emotional belief.
If you succumb to confirmation bias, it’s an emotional belief.
If you know ‘just know’ that it’s true, it’s an emotional belief.

So, do you have an emotional belief? If so, is it making you look silly? Is it disabling you?

Will you let it continue to disable you?

In what way do you benefit from holding that belief?

What other disabling emotional beliefs do you have?

Star signs are true. Your scribe is a Copularian. (Sign of the Fornicator)

2. Giving that lecture was all the ill Mr B could manage, and he and the trillion little virus critters within him sat down. A series of speakers followed. First was Uncle Pete, who began talking about climate change. From his chair, Peter the Younger had a lot to say in response.

The really interesting bit was about one of the mysteries of quantum mechanics. Radium has a half-life of about 1,600 years. That means in 1,600 years half the atoms in a ‘block’ of radium will have decayed. In another 1,600 years another half will have decayed. And so on. The interesting thing is: even though all the atoms are the same, and all are unstable, we cannot predict which ones will decay and which ones won’t. Why would one atom decay almost immediately and another take thousands of years to decay, while both are (seemingly) exactly the same?

No one knows. How interesting!

What is the half-life of radium?

3. Elsewhere, Helmut kept his audience informed and entertained about matters of science, while across the way Steve Maxwell did the same with his expansive knowledge of history.

On the Ladder of Knowledge, still vacated by the sickly Mr B, Mirko kindly explained how gravity creates hydrogen gas (even though it doesn’t). Then Mark the Grinner spoke about the disadvantages of black and white thinking and the Dunning-Kruger effect. Then we heard from Peter the Younger, who passionately defended his point of view on climate change. Lastly, we heard from someone from the audience, Aaron. Aaron kept the crowd until it was long after 5pm and time to pack up. Aaron explained what it means to be a perrenial. (It has something to do with our search for the Universal Truth.)

Each and every one of the speakers did an excellent job.

If all the current regular speakers were to retire tomorrow (or fall off the perch), Speakers’ Corner would continue without missing a beat. We have a plethora of entertaining speakers ready to fill the gaps.

Aaron

4. Other topics discussed:
– Native Title compensation. Are there inconsistencies we need to sort out?

– Tim Brunero’s special meeting has been postponed to September 29.

– Uncle Pete explained why he became an atheist. Going to a Catholic school is a good place in which to become an atheist, apparently.

5. Here is another chapter from Mr B’s blog about resilience. He wants to know what you are thinking, and feeling. Intrusive bugger.


6. A few weeks ago, one of Mr B’s anonymous grasshoppers left a note on his car, expressing interest in him and promising to come back the following week. It is this scribe’s unpleasant duty to inform you that his adoring fan has not yet been back to see him, and poor Mr B has been pining. At the end of every meeting he has waited, and waited, until long after night has fallen and the bats are weeing on him.

Poor Mr B, a lone figure in the stillness of the night. Waiting. And waiting.

7. In this week’s Unusual Critter Series we present to you one member of the virus attacking poor Mr B. The photo was taking with an electron microscope. This individual also tried to hack our Facebook site.

 

 

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 1st September

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 2, 2019 at 10:48 am

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum  up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

1. It was the first day of Spring and Mr B began with his poem, ‘Ode to Spring’ . It finished abruptly with a rhyme unfinished because he had heard of that old showbiz trick: ‘leave them wanting more’. Oh dear.

The only trouble was, his listeners didn’t want more. But he gave it to them anyway, with his equally awkward, ‘Ode to Kitchen Utensils’.

2. It was Father’s Day today as Steve, Ray, Helmut, John August, Mark the Grinner, Helmut, Mirko and Mr B did their thing on their stepladders. Here are two Father’s Day postcards  from the Postsecret site.


3. The two mad villians were at it again. Having now called them mad, for legal reasons I can’t name them. Suffice to say, their behaviour was “unsettling”. Mirko . . . oh, damn, his name slipped out . . . He was rude, arrogant, invasive, loud and incomprehensible. His normal self, basically. Strangely, he remains likeable. The other unnamed miscreant has the same faults, and persistently interrupted us with his remarks about commo atheists. So very tiresome, Michael.  . . . Oh, damn.

4. A proton was driving along when a policeman pulled him over. “Do you realise you were going 121 kilometres per hour in a 60 zone?” asked the policeman. ‘Gosh,” said the proton, “I must be lost.”

That charming little joke began a discussion about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Mr B wanted some clarification about its role in the movement of a particle at (or very close to) Absolute Zero. That’s -273.15 degrees Celsius. Does quantum mechanics come to play?

In our laboratories we cannot reach Absolute Zero (we’re a few billionths of a degree off). Uncle Pete explained why. He also explained what electrons do and don’t do around the nucleus of an atom. Naturally, Helmut also had something to say.

5. Standing on the Ladder of Knowledge, Mirko told us how he was abducted by aliens and given subliminal knowledge about 21st century science. We tried to find out if he was also anally probed by the aliens, but the truth never came out. Which is probably just as well.

We also heard what the letters on his cap stand for: U Fuck Off!


6. Here is another chapter
of Mr B’s book for young people. It explains the difference between stoicism and resilience.

7. Uncle Pete challenged Mr B’s view of infanticide. It must be said, Mr B has not yet convinced us all of its merits.

Here is a confronting image of a (supposedly) abandoned baby.



8. Other topics discussed:

– The importance of soup in our path to civilisation. Unfortunately, that talk included Mr B’s poem, ‘Ode to Soup’.

– This week we heard the proper version of Newcomb’s Paradox, which uncle Pete rightly claimed was not a true paradox.
Mr B had his work cut out for him. One gentle soul chose to forgo the million dollars simply because she didn’t want to be greedy. And, her husband chose to forgo the million dollar cheque and instead took the ten thousand dollar cheque, simply because he figured it was less likely to bounce. Sigh. Mr B received idiot answers when he presented the “paradox” three years ago. Will he not learn?

– And, we heard from Uncle Pete an accurate version of ‘The Surprise Test’ paradox. ‘Language’ has a lot to answer for, apparently. Michael and Mirko blathered on like excited howler monkeys, and how Uncle Pete succeeded in giving his talk is a wonder in itself.

– Leadership. “You’re not on this planet to justify your existence to anyone. Be the leader of your universe, and lead well.” So said Mr B to a grasshopper who was looking for someone to follow and for a moral code to adopt. Yes, come to Speakers’ Corner with questions like that.

– Another grasshopper, in all seriousness, put forth the idea that we here in Australia should make artificial mountains and artificial rivers, to attract rain. Yes, that’s right, folks. Terraforming Australia.

– We heard a hammed recital of ‘Clancy of the Overflow’.

– If a group pumps out deceitful propaganda and outright lies to support their claim, does that necessarily mean their claim is false?

– We heard why Sydney should get rid of all its public transport, but over a seventy year period to prevent problems.

See what public transport can do:

9. This week’s Unusual Critter in our Unusual Creature Series is the Goblin Shark. This handsome and discerning individual thinks our Facebook site is tops.

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