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 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.

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 takes an evolutionary approach to happiness and resilience, but has many other topics.   He has presented an Ockham’s Razor talk on the ABC’s Radio National and believes we should burn the Mona Lisa. He also created the dogquiz.org site that helps people learn how to look after a dog.

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.

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 lad.

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.

Tony, atheist.

Tony
New-Zealand born Tony used to be a speaker but now he heckles the other speakers. He is a fervent atheist scathing of the Catholic Church, and 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.

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.

Philip Feinstein

Philip occasionally speaks and is the founder of Music For Refugees. He also runs the Smokenders program, to help people give up smoking.

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 93, 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, 10th February.

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 11, 2019 at 10:24 am

“When one person suffers from a delusion it is called ‘insanity’. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called ‘religion’.”
Robert M Pirsig

1. Last week Steve Maxwell put out a long canvas for passers-by to paint fish on. His aim was to bring that canvas each week until it was covered with pictures of fish, and then submit it with  a petition to the government to better manage our waterways. This week the canvas was finished, well ahead of time. His canvas, and his message, were popular all day.

Thank you, Steve, for your innovative ideas. They bring life and variety to Speakers’ Corner.

 

2. We often have Janet popping by. Janet has designed a flag to replace the current one we have for Australia.

In her flag a red earth circle represents our island continent; the white dots, our coast; and the blue, the ocean. The cluster of blue dots represents the states and territories (the centre dot represents the territories and the six blue dots surrounding it represent the states).

You can vote for Janet’s flag, or any other flag, on the Ausflag website: ausflag.com.au

4. Mr B also gave us a story about the Tibetan yogi, Milarepa: One day his cave was invaded by fearful demons, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get rid of them. Finally he invited them to stay, and at that point they left. Except one, the largest of the demons. Milarepa placed his head in the demon’s mouth, and that demon disappeared too.

He then ruined the story by presenting a homily on how we should move through fear.

Milarepa

5. Mr B is still insisting that James Hardie Industries should not be compensating asbestos victims. And, he keeps insisting that the company’s executives were acting morally when they concealed the compensation money off-shore.

And yes, some of his grasshoppers keep disagreeing. They keep insisting that James Hardie Industries are culpable and should be paying compensation.

The main problem seemed to be that Mr B’s grasshoppers were focusing on James Hardie’s legal obligations, whereas Mr B was focusing on their moral obligations. The righteous Mr B believes our moral compass should be based on what is right, not on what the law says.

How subversive can you get??

He has a point. It’s interesting to note how on one hand, so many people disrespect lawyers and think there should be significant law reform, yet on the other hand, sheep-like, they allow their attitudes to be shaped by what the law says.

Mark the Grinner pointed out that in America, a corporation is a sentient entity. If that’s true, this scribe suggests he should bring that mind-blowing fact to the attention of those researching consciousness.

Your helpful scribe is happy to answer a grasshopper’s question: Bernie Banton worked for the company until 1974, long after the warnings were given.

6. Mr B read the poem, ‘Prayer Before Birth’ by Louis MacNeice. Uncle Pete said he read it poorly. Helmut said he should have memorised it. Your scribe  thinks he should have worn a tuxedo for the occasion and sprinkled the ground with rose petals.

7. Other subjects discussed:
– A leaked document from a Dept of Health funded body reveals that many doctors give their patients an unnecessary physical examination, and unnecessary blood tests, simply to keep the patient happy.

– Mark the Grinner believes all police officers should be over 40 and female. He says the male ones enter the profession for the wrong reasons.

– Mark T. Grinner also said that Australia does not have a diminishing rate of fertility, as the media like to tell us; instead, we have a low rate of fecundity. After looking up the word ‘fecundity’, your scribe thinks this claim should be examined next meeting.

– It was observed that the NSW State election is only six weeks away, yet we have barely heard a murmur from any of the parties. What’s going on?

– Tony kept Helmut on his toes today and their intellectual sparring match was a pleasure to witness. Helmut was trying to explain the origin of the universe and Tony was trying to stop him. It was clearly a case of ‘The Immovable Force meets the Irresistable Object’.

– Mr B was asked if trees can hear. He explained why they couldn’t, and Uncle Pete said they can hear. “They need to hear the man with the axe coming.” Sigh.
Peter the Younger informed us that trees can sense vibrations (that helps them find running water) and Mr B said trees communicate through their roots using a fungus. But they can’t hear. When they evolve ears he’ll reconsider the matter.

– One man put forth the possibility that we, as individuals, exist before we were born. Soon it was a “discussion” between that gentle man and the “boisterous” Uncle Pete. Their “conversation” morphed into a group discussion about the importance of faith, evidence, speculation and philosophy. The gentle man coped well with Uncle Pete’s bluster. Good work, sir.

8. In our Unusual Critter Series we present to you the English Angora Rabbit. It has trouble reading our Facebook page for fairly obvious reasons. It avoids being eaten by English foxes by disguising itself as an avalanche.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Include Janet and her flag.
link on Jan 14 2018

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 3rd February

In News for Speakers' Corner on February 4, 2019 at 9:24 am

“Capitalism and Communism don’t work because they’re based on economics, and we aren’t economic creatures.”
Mark the Grinner 

1. Steve Maxwell’s ankles are in good order and he joined us this week. He had a fair bit to say about the mismanagement of the Darling River, in which more than a million fish have died.

One of Steve’s big pluses is that he presents new material each week, wears a different costume each week, and he goes out of his way to do something special. Today was a good example. He provided a canvas and some art supplies to give everyone an opportunity to draw a fish while he informed them of the facts. The best way to teach is to make it fun. Well done, Steve.

Steve Maxwell discusses the Darling River and describes the big one that got away.

 

A message for our politicians.

 

A school of fish, species unidentified.

2. Mr B tried to get his grasshoppers to distinguish between reality and a parable. He failed miserably.

i.e. If the parable was about the bard William Shakespeare having a conversation with Tony Abbott, some idiot would feel the need to point out that’s impossible.

Sigh.

No wonder the speakers get exasperated.

William Shakespeare is listening attentively to Tony Abbott.

3. If you were at Mr B’s meeting last week you would have heard him explain how pigeons process information at a different rate to us. When we look at a movie running at 24 frames per second, it appears to us as a movie. But pigeons, Mr B explained, see one frame after another.

The inquisitive Uncle Pete asked Mr B how this was discovered. Mr B didn’t know but promised he’d find out.

He writes: “The abstract in the link below explains how it was discovered. The mating rituals of pigeons rely heavily on visual cues, but for those cues to be effective the pigeons must be moving. Researchers showed male pigeons movies of female pigeons. The slower the movie, the less interested the male pigeons were. However, when the movies were shown at 60 frames per second they became significantly interested. That meant, to the male pigeons, the female pigeon finally looked like an actual moving female pigeon at 60 frames per second. And damned sexy she was, too.”

The pigeons cheered when this film was shown, but only when it was shown at 60 frames per second.

4. Five performances from the Serbian performance artist, Marina Abramović, were described. One of those was called ‘Rhythm 0‘. In an art gallery in 1974, when she was 29 years of age, she placed on a table 72 objects (such as: a rose, a feather, honey, a whip, olive oil, scissors, a scalpel, a gun and a single bullet). A sign informed the visitors that they could use the items in any way they wished. She then stood still for six hours.

Initially, people were kind. But over time, they changed. She was stripped naked and she endured indignities, cuts, pain, threats and fear. When the performance was over the people ran away from her.

Interestingly, she had to be home by 10pm because her mother said so.

5. Two Canadians in the audience wanted a little humour, so Mirko took the Ladder of Knowledge and provided it. Then Mark the Grinner spoke for a while about all sorts of things, and it’s safe to say that the U.S.A. did not emerge unscathed.

Mark said 15% of a cross-section of the American population believed that we humans came about through evolution. 32% believe that we came about through evolution after God created evolution. 46% believe that God created the planet some time in the last 10,000 years. He suggested that the reason for these scary figures is that Americans are believers: in God, in their flag, in their Pledge of Allegiance, and in themselves.

Mark also took a swipe at economists (our contemporary soothsayers). He said our economic system is working perfectly. After all, it was not designed for the benefit of the masses, it is designed for the small minority on the top of the heap.

He also had a few unkind things to say about ‘trickle-down economics’.

He’s a cynic, that Mark.

6. Here’s proof that you can never be too young to take an interest in Speakers’ Corner.

7. “What is Art?”, asked one punter.

“It’s one of our inner subconscious selves having the opportunity to express itself”, said Mr B.

This painting from Rob Gonsalves would belie that explanation.

Note the impossible way the boy is handing the jig-saw piece to the girl: either the piece is defying gravity or his thumb is as long as his fingers. Yet, the rest of the painting is detailed and “realistic”. A mistake? Or intended?


8. Other subjects discussed:

– Schizophrenia might be caused by the sufferer having a faulty internal clock. Not only do schizophrenics tend to have faulty internal clocks, the symptom of having one creates the disturbing illusion that your thoughts are being monitored – a common symptom in Schizophrenia.

– Mr B tried to discuss Martin Gardner’s version of the Surprise Test Paradox but struggled to explain the set-up (ten numbered egg cartons and one egg) to his grasshoppers. But then, what would you expect from grasshoppers who feel the need to point out the impossibilities in a parable?
After ten minutes the poor, exasperated man gave up trying to explain the set-up and the paradox itself didn’t get mentioned.

– Mr B explained why there is no such thing as a Canadian. Last week it was a Scotsman. The week before it was a Chinaman. One day he will complete the set and sit back satisfied.

– When Helmut took the Ladder of Knowledge he had a few fresh things to say about Mr Bashful.

– Mr B gave ten reasons why we should not have pill testing stations at festivals, and then he gave ten reasons why we should. A passer-by had plenty to say, and a general discussion began.
This postcard is from the Postsecret website.

9. In our Unusual Creature Series this Shoebill stork from East Africa has been enjoying the articles in Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade.

 

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