Soapbox Speakers

Archive for October, 2016|Monthly archive page

Speakers’ Corner News, Sunday 30th October

In News for Speakers' Corner on October 31, 2016 at 10:52 am

1. Steve had a halloween theme to his talks today: he talked about death and all its connotations. He spoke of how Death has been regarded throughout history, and he talked about assisted dying. He held a healthy crowd enthralled all day.

Speaking of halloween, this pumpkin scares this scribe because it reminds him of someone.


2. We rarely talk about Mirko, and that’s  because we have no idea what the hell he is talking about. On his lips is genius, no doubt, but we mere mortals are too impatient to hang around trying to decipher the message of that great oracle.


Mirko Terzic.

Mirko, for example, has created a phonetic language which allows every person on the planet to understand every other person on the planet. He magnanimously provides an example here. According to him, anyone on the planet should be able to read and understand the left-hand side card. (The sign on the right-hand side simply provides some helpful homespun advice.)


There is a prize for the first person to correctly decipher the sign on the left.

Given that all 7 billion people on the planet should be able to understand this innovative universal language, then in theory you have 7 billion competitors. In reality though, you’re competing against the people who read this post. That limits your competitors to zero, so you’re in with a chance.

3. Steve took a break and placed a mask on himself, and began remonstrating with Mirko about something. For us it was like a Punch and Judy show, though without the class.


4. Mr B valiantly tried to give a brief history of the planet Earth, but was sidetracked repeatedly. In the process he learned from his grasshoppers that marine dinosaurs did not exist (but marine reptiles did (and do)).


5. Gay marriage was a topic yet again, and we gained a Christian’s perspective. To be fair, the Christian was not critical of homosexuality; he simply believes that the word ‘marriage’ has a specific meaning. Hmmm.




6. How, precisely, does evolution work?
 An example was given, appreciated, and debated. Mr B also mentioned that 98% of a chimpanzee’s DNA is found in humans. The 2% difference affects, chiefly: the size of our brain, the larynx, and our hairlessness. (Instead of making hair, we use the protein for making brain matter.)


7. Other subjects discussed:

– Can we overcome indoctrination?

– Like in the Dreamworld accident media beat-up, do florists send their wilting flowers to places where there is an accident, to inspire gentle (and gullible) people to start buying flowers to place there as well?

– Souls. From whence did they come? If they’re not physical, how do they stay with the body? (Thanks to Plato for that question.)


8. A final halloween treat for you all: a ghost SUV, partly caught on film. The photograph is real. Extraordinary.


9. It seems the only way we can significantly increase our Facebook page numbers is to buy the company and manipulate the figures. Next week begins our crowd funding appeal to do just that.

And then we’ll buy WordPress to increase the visits to our Archives site.

10. Steve Maxwell has written another fascinating episode of his Passing Parade:

Speakers’ Corner Rome.
The eternal city of Rome is littered with the remains of Speakers’ Corners. Most famous was the Roman Forum, the administrative and political Centre of Rome’s Empire. In front of the Senate House, Caesar built a ‘rostra’ from which the Caesars could address the public. Any member of the public could address the people or petition the Senate. Once a year a Tribune, representing the citizens in the forum, would be elected to address the Senate. However, speech that met the Caesar’s disapproval could lead to punishment. Cicero’s tongue was cut out and nailed to the Rostra.

Next on the list is the talking statue. The first and most famous was named “Pasquino”, which is near Piazza Navona. Apparently, during the Renaissance in 1501, Cardinal Carafa installed a small statue of Parolclus (named “Pasquino”) in a small square near Piazza Navona. The Cardinal  allowed his latin students to post written poems on the statue once a year on the 25th of April. A tradition to poke fun at the Pope and the Government in Latin verse began. Any dissenting verse could have you burnt at The Stake in nearby Campo die Fiari. That was the fate of Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), a  martyr of Science. Pasquinata (Pasquinade) is the word Italians used for a short satire exhibited in a public place.

Another famous talking statue is named “il Bambino”. The original statue depicted a reclining Silenus – half man, half goat. But most Romans believed the statue was ugly. They called it il Babuino (a deformed Baboon). Nowadays the spray-can has superseded the quill. Graffiti gangs spray protest messages and tags on il Babuino, and they reappear after every white wash.

During Benito Mussolini’s (1883-1945) regime, free speech was punishable by a torturing dose of caster oil, or by death. Anti-Fascists were indeed brave, and many lost their lives in Rome. With the defeat of the  fascistic came a free press and a newfound – but sometimes not so free – speech. Italian governments came and went but the people continued to practice free speech. 

For centuries, the Piazza del Popolo was a place for public executions, the last of which took place in 1826.

Nowadays, Piazza de Popolo is a popular meeting place for demonstrations. For a while it was choked with traffic in a sea of cars. But today, the Piazza is a pleasant pedestrian zone. Having no traffic and in close proximity to the political heart of modern Italy, Piazza del Popolo has attracted radicals like the celebrated politician Mr. Marco Pinellas (1930-2016). Marco organised huge rallies in Piazza de Popolo. He was a radical to the end. He even smoked a joint of cannabis in Piazza and in St Peter’s Square during attempts to legalise cannabis.

On your travels to Rome take a look at il Babuino, “Pasquino” and Piazza de Popolo. No doubt you will see a protest rally here or there.

Steve Maxwell.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 23rd October

In News for Speakers' Corner on October 24, 2016 at 12:01 pm

1.We had a visit today from a ranger, who demanded that the speakers to stop speaking. Mr B is disappointed – not in the ranger, but in the Speakers’ Corner grasshoppers. For four years Mr B has been speaking to them about the importance of identifying our emotions and dealing with them in a healthy constructive manner, yet it took the visit of a novice ranger to discombobulate the lot of them. Instead of calmly dealing with the situation, they got into a tizz and the situation became unpleasant. (Uncle Pete was the exception. Who would have thought?)

It would be pleasing to say that commonsense prevailed, but it didn’t. Technology did. The ranger rang his superiors and the matter was cleared up.

It wasn’t the ranger’s fault – he should have been told about Speakers’ Corner. But then, who would tell him? The Domain Trust doesn’t speak of us, they don’t answer our letters, don’t mention us on their website, and refuse to include us on their maps. They do their damned best to make us invisible, which is disappointing given that we are a fond part of Sydney’s history, and that with a little assistance we could grow into a significant tourist attraction. But no, they pretend we don’t exist, and their refusal to acknowledge us disadvantaged their ranger. Out of courtesy at least, they should have mentioned us to the poor fellow.

But our reaction to the ranger? Abysmal. Four years of solid, intensive training from Mr B was defenestrated when it mattered.

Mind you, it doesn’t say much for his teaching abilities.

Let’s be gentle with one another.


2. Helmut explained how
gravity waves don’t exist, and that objects are drawn together with electro-magnetic force. Yet he conceded that gravity does exist and it’s not an electro-magnetic force. Thanks for clearing that up, Helmut.

Helmut was asked about black holes with the proviso that he didn’t include Isaac Newton in his answer. Helmut began his explanation by telling us about Isaac Newton.

Honestly, you could ask any question about any subject and Helmut would feel obliged to include Isaac Newton in the answer.

Tony: ‘What flavour ice-cream do you like?’
Helmut: ‘It goes back to when Isaac Newton . . .’

It is said that when Helmut reaches that climactic point in coitus he doesn’t scream the name of his partner, or even the name of his dog; instead he screams, ‘Isaac Newton was an ignoramus!!’

3. It was asked, ‘Do the recent power cuts in South Australia indicate how soft and precious we have become? Should we look to ourselves and focus instead on being resilient to such minor inconveniences? Should we refrain from complaining, especially when it means that if we do, the beleaguered renewable energy technology experiences even more pressure?’

This meme suggests that we may be spoilt:


4. Mr B suggested that religious people might be addicted to the thought that there is a god. Does the part of the brain that fires with a gambling, alcohol or narcotic addiction fire in a deeply religious person when they think about their god?

And later, he criticised the smug atheists who insist on Christians supplying reasoned arguments, and evidence, to support their belief in God.


5. The speaker also said that people shouldn’t receive a pension if they own their home and have money. They should spend that money first.

Nor should they be allowed to vote if they’re older than forty. ‘Or have an IQ of less than 120‘, added the studious Uncle Pete. It’s a brilliant idea. Every voter should encounter a question sheet when they enter a toll booth. If they fail to answer every question correctly their vote won’t count. It will improve democracy considerably. Thank you, Uncle Pete!

Q1. Al-qaeda, ISIS and Halal are terrorist organisations. True or False?
Q2. There is science behind astrology. True or False?
Q3. Mike Baird is the current premier of NSW. True or False?
Q4. The world used to be black and white until the mid-twentieth century. True or False?
Q5. Ten percent of $200 is $20. True or False?
Q6. The ‘boat people’ asylum seekers are illegal immigrants. True or False?
Q7. The sun passing between the Earth and the moon is called a solar eclipse. True or False?
Q8. Africa is a country inhabited by elephants and giraffes. True or False?
Q9. Polar bears eat penguins and seals. True or False?
Q10. One way to get hydrogen is to stick a fish in a bowl of H2O. When the fish has used up all the oxygen the hydrogen is left. True or False?
Q11. Dolphins are more intelligent than humans. True or False?
Q12. Albert Einstein invented the Theory of General Relativity and the Perpetual Motion Machine. True or False?
Q13. Joe has B.O. Those letters stand for Bacteria Oxide. True or False?

Of course, including this questionnaire in the voting booth would mean no heckler could ever vote again.

6. Over population became the topic, but no one approved of Mr B’s idea to have a zer0-child policy. He suggested that any person not giving birth to a child, or not siring one, should be rewarded with free accommodation in a five-star nursing home when they reach 70. That would act as an incentive to not have kids. Tony intervened before the logistics could be explained.

It was also pointed out that even if we were to keep our population at 7 billion, our current use of resources would still not be sustainable. The way an educated person uses resources means that the Earth will still suffer severe environmental degradation in the near future. And, a grasshopper explained, when oil runs out our grandchildren will suffer a profound drop in their standard of living.


That same grasshopper also suggested that our carbon emissions might not be enough to prevent an imminent ice age. Goodness gracious. Ice ages are normal climatic conditions for the Earth, he argued.

7. Other subjects spoken about:
– Artificial intelligence. No matter how intelligent a computer might become, it will always be impotent and benign because it won’t have emotions. It won’t have desire, ambition, malice or curiosity, for example. And without curiosity, and without those other emotions, why would it attempt to solve any problem it was not requested to solve?

– A grasshopper linked the origin of the universe with consciousness and the subconscious. The link bewildered Mr B and it served him right.

8. Donald Trump climbed into the conversation, bless him. Here’s an idea for an aspiring American:


9. A Scotsman wanted to know why he didn’t exist. (That’s what Mr B’s sign said.)  Mr B generously explained why the man didn’t exist, though the man still looked real to the rest of us.

The answer had something to do with paradigms, which Mr B said are beliefs held by a society. For example, a person born and raised in Japan will believe they’re Japanese simply because their malleable brain has been acculturated to adopt the ways and beliefs of Japanese society. So, they are not inherently Japanese; they have been made that way. And once we see that, we can begin to make new choices.


How about adopting this view instead, he suggested:


10. If you subscribe to our Facebook page you will get an opportunity to read everything that you have just read in this post, again! What joy.

If you look at our Archive Site you can read every post written in the past three years. Nirvana!




News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 16th October

In News for Speakers' Corner on October 17, 2016 at 10:43 am

1. Mr B opened with a joke that he seemed to think would have us rolling in the aisles. He tried to convince us all that the current spate of menacing clowns was a serious issue, and that we should arm ourselves with . . . a popgun.


Who writes his stuff? The Grim Reaper?

2. It wasn’t long after that when Mr B was asked for his thoughts on Bob Dylan being awarded the Nobel Prize for Nostalgia. Sorry, for Literature. We’d like to say Mr B was magnanimous, but that’s a quality he lacks. He was, as you would expect from him, critical. He responded by suggesting that if Bob Dylan got a Nobel Prize for Literature, then Mirko should get one for Science.


3. Unfortunately, Mirko got wind of Mr B’s “support” and took that as an invitation to continually interject. Mirko was at his very best today, in terms of being a pest, and it was only the very real threat of having his laminated signs frisbeed to the five corners of The Domain that prompted him to behave himself.

If there were a Nobel Prize for Being a Pest, Mirko would get that too.

You can forget about Global Warming: Mr B’s exasperation levels were at an all time high, and we could have fried an egg on him. Fortunately, a life coach was nearby and saved the day. Caroline Southwell took the ladder and replaced Mr B.

Suddenly there was calm.

The calm dismayed Mr B. After all, the hecklers hadn’t shut up for him, but as soon as Caroline had begun speaking they were like lambs on Valium. She had made them silent with just a look, and with her intriguing way of discussing a subject.

What dismayed Mr B even further was that as soon as Caroline had begun speaking, the crowd grew. It was as though a Flash Mob had appeared. Mr B had been working like a dog all afternoon and had only managed to get a trickle of a crowd, and he had been losing his voice in the process, so he was galled to see a crowd suddenly appear after a few gentle words from Caroline. (For the rest of us it was like a breath of fresh air.)

Thanks, Caroline, for showing Mr B how it’s done.

For all we know, he’s still sulking.

Caroline’s command of the ladder may have had something to do with her piercing eyes. She only had to look at someone to let them know she was giving them 100% of her attention. She kept her listeners spellbound as she answered questions about Love, the Unconscious, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming.


4.  Here is a glimpse of Caroline at work:

You’re welcome back any time, Caroline.

And Mr B, if you want to take a long holiday for any reason, that’s alright with us.

5. When Caroline departed, Mr B took his ladder back. A grasshopper claimed that we are motivated by only two emotions: love and fear. Michael Leunig wrote something similar. (Click to enlarge.)

6. Later on, Andrew Toth replaced Mr B, who by then was becoming used to being replaced. Andrew spoke about the meaning of life, while across the way, Steve Maxwell spoke about the absence of God and lazy Christians.


7. We have a Facebook Page which has numbers lower than Malcolm Turnbull’s approval rating, and we have an Archive Site that gets fewer visitors than Ted Bundy’s grave.


News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 9th October.

In News for Speakers' Corner on October 10, 2016 at 11:24 am

1. Who would have thought? Uncle Pete pointed out that if John Lennon had not died (John Lennon was a “musician” from an archaic forgotten pop band) he would be 76 today. Who would have thought that that trite, banal observation would have sparked a conversation that lasted ages and drew a crowd bigger than the AFL and NRL Grand Finals put together?

Mind you, if John Lennon were still alive today he’d be dead by now, with all the drugs he took. The speaker made a passing reference to this:

2. Why was there a big crowd? Was it because the speaker was eloquent, erudite and charismatic? Was he entertaining? Inspiring?  No, none of that, unfortunately. There was a big crowd because the hecklers were fantastic. Uncle Pete was in good form, as usual, and a sprightly, confident woman didn’t hold back with her stories and claims. Her companion was a gentle, perceptive man who spoke at just the right time, and three deep thinkers intermittently made some powerful points. Further, a lovely, sensitive man coped with harsh words from the speaker while passionately defending people with alternative views. And, elsewhere in the crowd, a polite young woman put up her hand to make some biting observations. Nearby, a philosopher with wit (who is becoming a regular) was as sharp as ever, and the guy with the grin reminded us all not to take any of it too seriously. It was a good reminder, and we didn’t. It was a beautiful, enjoyable day.

(Although this scribe felt sorry for the poor speaker, who continually looked beleaguered.)

3. The hecklers ignored the poor speaker and robustly thrust their
opinions upon one another. To begin with, they argued about role models and drug taking and alternative medicine. This scribe’s head was spinning.


4. They didn’t stop there, because somehow, the Illuminati crowbarred its way into the conversation when it was ‘revealed’ that they had caused the Malaysian MH17 plane to disappear with its sixteen stem-cell scientists. Holy moly!

And, we learned how the Illuminati keep covering up the beneficial effects of vitamin B17. (No sir, nothing to do with B52s.)

They are cads and bounders, those Illuminati.


5. The crowd was in a frenzy but they were just warming up. They moved on to speak about media manipulation, and even Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds got a mention. As did The Dead Kennedys.

The hecklers were like a surging attack of army ants, and this scribe had to take a Panadol.

6. Then suddenly Donald Trump was the topic. And then Edward de Bono’s wheelbarrow!


7. But did they stop there? No, of course they didn’t. The subject of ageing came up, and some pretty interesting claims were made.


8. One topic discussed earnestly, and for a while, was gay marriage. The meme below displays two photographs. The top photograph is of two couples who married after meeting each other for the first time just ten minutes earlier, and the second photo is of a couple who have been together for decades but can’t marry. The difference? It’s something to do with the definition of marriage, apparently.

9. The conversation about gay marriage prompted occasional speaker, Tony Boyce, to move away and speak about the subject nearby.  The ideas he expressed were a little different to Mr B’s. Indeed, they were ‘a little different’.

10. To calm the crowd down, the speaker explained why no one over 40 should be allowed to vote, and that perhaps we should introduce three-and-a-half-day weeks. (i.e. One half of the population works half the week, the other half works the other half week. That would create twice as many jobs and increase productivity, he argued.) The response to both ideas was tepid, and the crowd settled.

It was like a mad bull calming itself.

11. Steve Maxwell, avowed atheist, boomed from the podium and spoke about his encounter with a Jehovah Witness. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that encounter!

Mind you, Steve would have heard the Jehovah Witness’s claims before, and the Jehovah Witness would have heard Steve objections before. It would have been like two old buddies meeting up to talk about old times. And fun to watch.

12. Meanwhile, Mr B was asked about a quality he valued. He replied, ‘gratitude’ and this meme says it all:


13. Our Facebook page has become exclusive. Only people who choose to subscribe can subscribe.

Our Archives site has a similar restriction: now, the only way you can read past posts is to go to the archives site. There is no other way.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 2nd October.

In News for Speakers' Corner on October 3, 2016 at 10:30 am

1.Steve Maxwell had a great day, despite the fact that there was a Grand Final about to be played, and that it was a long weekend. He spoke about the Duke of Windsor, Prince Edward, the son of George V and the heir to the Crown. The guy was a pro-nazi. (The Duke, not Steve.)

A few English tourists debated with Steve about the matter.

Steve also spoke about World War II and former Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert G Menzies.

English tourists debating with Steve.

English tourists debating with Steve.

The debate continued long into the night.


English tourists still debating with Steve.

2. Mr B didn’t fare so well. Today the garden gnomes (Norm, Mirko & Tony) ganged up on him with their incessant chatter, and the poor man ended up becoming Mr Grumpy. It wasn’t pretty, folks.

Logan Pearsall Smith would have seen the positive in their quarrels because he’s the one who said, “For souls in growth, great quarrels are great emancipations.”

Logan Pearsall Smith doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Normally the graph below would give a fair indication of the ageing Mr B’s temperament, but those three garden gnomes seemed to really get under his skin. (Click to enlarge.)


3. Maths and Xeno’s paradox were discussed. Helmut insisted that the speaker didn’t understand mathematics, so here is a test for Helmut:


4.  Uncle Pete expressed
his objection to the new proposal to allow farmers to hunt native animals without a permit. Perhaps Uncle Pete would prefer this type of hunting?


5. Mr B gave a brief history of the planet Earth, starting from the Big Bang. At one point the dinosaurs got a mention.


6. Other subjects discussed:
– The news. We don’t understand it. We watch it on television or listen to the radio, but we don’t understand it. The broadcasters know this, and deep down we know it, but we all pretend otherwise.
That leaves a huge gap in the market for some wily producer.

– An idea was put forth to have one lone city in Australia created for people who wish to live in a city without alcohol, gambling and cigarettes. Interestingly, this suggestion received a hostile response.

– We have a habit of answering a question without taking a few moments of silence to think first. There seems to be a stigma attached to anyone pausing to think about a question before speaking.

– Women’s football. Given that women began playing Australian Rules in Western Australia in 1915, and have intermittently played it since then,  and given that many women admit to wanting to play the game, then why has it taken so long for a women’s league to be organised? Why did they leave it to men to organise their league?

– A conspiracy theory: When astronaut ‘Buzz’ Aldrin said ‘something is following us’ on his way to the moon in 1969, he should have sparked a conspiracy theory about NASA covering up a UFO sighting. After all, the conspiracy theorists made up other stupid stories, including space craft on the moon, and about the moon landing not taking place. However, no conspiracy has been created about words that were actually said,  ‘something is following us’. That suggests that the conspiracy theorists themselves have conspired to not create a conspiracy theory about it. What are they hiding, and why?


7. Greg said that 
anyone suffering a stroke at night was disadvantaged, because the ‘stroke specialists’ weren’t prepared to get up at 3am to go to the hospital to treat the sufferer. This was disputed.

Let’s hope this helps:

8. So far, both our Facebook page and our archives site have withstood any cyber attacks they may have experienced from Russia or China.

%d bloggers like this: