Soapbox Speakers

Archive for September, 2018|Monthly archive page

Vale Arthur Knight.

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 26, 2018 at 12:05 pm

Dear Arthur Knight has died peacefully at the age of 95.

We can divide people into two groups: there are the extroverts and the introverts, there are the cruel and the kind, there are those who barrack for Collingwood and those who don’t, . . .  and there are those who care, and those who don’t care.

Arthur Knight cared. He had strong views and at Speakers’ Corner he fervently expressed them. That made him interesting and his visits to Speakers’ Corner, colourful. He will be missed.

Thank you, Arthur, for keeping us “informed” and entertained. You did well.

And thank you, Jacquie, for regularly bringing your father along to Speakers’ Corner. Much appreciated.

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 23rd September

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 24, 2018 at 12:07 pm

“I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” 
Mary Oliver, poet.

1. Lovely in the sun; a refrigerator in the shade. A good day overall with a steady crowd and numerous speakers.

It was nice to see Angela arrive late in the day. Angela is a past speaker, and today she brought her wheelchair with her. (Presumably her broom is out of order.)

Today’s speakers were Helmut, Tommy, Steve, Ray, Mirko, Mark the Grinner and Mr B. We hope Maria joins us soon. The last time this scribe spoke to Maria she had bronchitis and sounded like Death itself.

Mr B began with two stories about a king and his subjects. Then he changed the topic, showing us a drawing he figured was scary. What do you think? Do you think it’s scary?

Each rectangle represents a week of your life, assuming you live to the age of ninety.

2. Ray sent this to your young and spritely scribe. It made me smile.

3. Mr B gave us a new fourth answer to the question ‘What is the Meaning of Life’ and it turned out to be a metaphor using the cheesecake he brought with him and shared.

Regarding the cheesecake, Mr B, next time make it firmer and less crummy.

Later on he gave versions Number 1 and Number 2 for the Meaning of Life, but this time he and his grasshopper worked it out together.

Version Number 3 had the day off.

Here’s yet another version:

4. The cheesecake was handy because coincidentally, it was also Mark the Grinner’s birthday. For some reason Mr B kept calling him Mr Heinz. Why? We don’t know.

Mr Heinz’s first topic was about how unimpressed he is with the warnings television stations give viewers before the program begins. He had a few tart things to say about that, and about the people who require them.

P.S. This scribe requires them.

5. While trying to make a point, Tommy on the Ladder of Knowledge mentioned that 2 + 2 will always equal 4. Naturally, Mr B put up his hand to kindly explain why Tommy was wrong. This scribe would like to say that Tommy was suitably impressed with Mr B’s explanation, but that would be an outright lie.

6. Last week Mr B and a deeply religious man talked about Islam. This week the man turned up again and somehow the discussion resumed, with the origin of the universe being the focal point. They got nowhere, of course. But here again are two memes representiing both sides of the divide.


7. Someone called Mr B a guru. Mind you, it was Tommy. Tommy is not always as reverential as he bloody-well should be. The fact is, Mr B is indeed a guru. He completed this course late last year.

8. A man in the audience informed Mr B that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Mr B said the man should come to Speakers’ Corner more often; he’ll hear hundreds of them. Besides, if there were no such thing as a stupid question, what sort of questions would stupid people ask?

9. Tommy asked Mr B, “Why shouldn’t we try to succeed?” Mr B promptly told him. Mr B also explained why we shouldn’t try to reach our full potential.

10. Tommy excelled as a speaker again today because he said provocative things and said them well. One complaint he made was about the people who claim they can’t shape their future because of what happened to them in the past. He received plenty of flak for that. But does he have a point?

11. In our Unusual Creature Series, our Facebook page has never before featured the Central and South American Purple harlequin toad, and it never will again.




News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 16th September.

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 17, 2018 at 11:35 am

“A drunken man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.”

1. It’s that time of the year when the sun is warm enough for us to be wearing a T-shirt, but the breeze is cold enough for us to be wearing a jumper.

For the first ten minutes, Helmut and Mr B argued about the workings of Speakers’ Corner. Then, once all speakers were in place, the day unofficially began. Mr B prattled on about how his life was changed by a nine-year old girl, who at school chose to remain seated for the singing of Australia’s National Anthem.

He said that whether or not the schoolgirl’s reasons for abstaining were justified, each and every one of us should be able to remain seated for the National Anthem without having to give a reason why. After all, it’s a “victimless crime” hurting no one, and our democratic values should allow it. He added that standing for the anthem is institutionalised peer pressure, and that every one of us has the moral obligation to resist that peer pressure. “If we ask our young people to resist peer pressure to take drugs”, he said, “then we should encourage them to resist peer pressure in other aspects of their life, to get practise. Remaining seated for the anthem is a good opportunity not to be wasted.”

“Why do people create such a big fuss about not standing for the National Anthem?” he asked, before answering his own question. “It’s because there is no such thing as ‘we’ Australians. Australians are a cluster of separate, disparate groups, and the anthem is about the only thing that gives us the comforting illusion that we are united. To remain seated is to suggest the scary notion that we are not united after all. For the rest of us standing, we are suddenly presented with a yawning abyss. And who wants that? It’s no wonder people have been making a big fuss about the schoolgirl’s refusal to stand.

Uncle Pete pointed out that the girl’s public school handled the matter with intelligence and sensitivity. They offered her alternatives. “But”, said Mr B, “the school should not have questioned the girl for staying seated, or offered her alternatives. Instead, the principal should have asked the other students, ‘Why are you succumbing to peer pressure and standing up?'”.

From now on, Mr B will remain seated for the National Anthem, he promises. Mind you, he tells me he hasn’t set foot in a cinema for years, and has no plans to do so in the near future, so it may be some time before he has the opportunity to remain seated for the anthem.

2. Speaking of democracy, John August and some of his colleagues from the Pirate Party turned up to speak across the way. The Pirate Party is not as absurd as it sounds. It has serious policies you may wish to consider.

3. Mr B relinquished the Ladder of Knowledge to Mark the Grinner, who admitted he didn’t have much to say, but in his entertaining fashion he said it anyway. The other speakers throughout the day were Mirko, Steve, John August (and co.), and Helmut. But where was Maria? (Just in: she had a cold.) Where was Ray? Where was our new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison? Prime Ministers have spoken at Speakers’ Corner before, so it’s about time we had another speak here. But Scott: no longer than four minutes please. We don’t want to lose the crowd.

Speaking of guest speakers: Prince Harry and Duchess Markle will be visiting Australia soon. They come from a country that created the original Speakers’ Corner, so they will be keen to visit our Speakers’ Corner to see how we are faring. Further, they may have heard that our Speakers’ Corner is more intellectual than the one in their Hyde Park, London, and they will be interested to see what we are doing right. When they arrive at Speakers’ Corner they will be asked whose side they’re on: the Republicans’ or the Monarchists’? They will be given four minutes each to rebut any arguments put forth by our speakers and hecklers.

4. Under severe duress from Mr B, this scribe reluctantly gives Mr B’s new website a plug:  Your scribe agreed to comply with this request only because the site features a photograph of our dear departed Speakers’ Corner dog, taken at Speakers’ Corner.

She was smarter than Mr B and more likeable.

Here is another photo of her at Speakers’ Corner “borrowing” a sandwich from Mr B’s bag.

5. We discussed the poem, “Spring” by Mary Oliver. 1990.

6. Six months ago Mr B was given a small book: a pocket guide to The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, and he was asked to read it. Today the man returned to hear Mr B’s verdict.

Mr B had read it and he had it with him. (Presumably he has been bringing it for six months!) What followed was a long and passionate “discussion” between the two men as Mr B expressed his thoughts on the ideas presented in the book.

Your unbiased, dispassionate scribe doesn’t like to take sides, so here are two memes representing each point of view.

Other subjects discussed:
– A young lass asked Mr B what he thought of teenagers. He seemed pleased to be given the opportunity to express his high regard for them.

– Unfortunately, your scribe doesn’t know what Steve Maxwell, Helmut Cerncic, John August (and co.) or Mark the Grinner spoke about. How about coming to Speakers’ Corner and finding out for yourself?

– The question was asked, “What’s the meaning of life?”

7. In our Unusual Creatures Series, this Gerenuk from Africa wanted to appear on our Facebook page. We are happy to oblige.





Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 9th September

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 10, 2018 at 11:47 am

“You are a rock most of the time. Sometimes it’s okay to be the river.”

1. What a beautiful Goldilocks day! Even better, Speakers’ Corner flourished, even without the services of Maria and Ray. We hope they’re back next week.

What was good about Speakers’ Corner today? We had four speakers going, each with a crowd. Steve, Helmut, Mark the Grinner and Mr B all had crowds of varying sizes and if you squinted your eyes it almost appeared to be a carnival atmosphere.

Mirko contributed too, in his patented way.

Not only that, at one point Mark the Grinner graciously allowed young fellow Tommy to take the stand, and Tommy created a crowd of his own. He expressed his views on the ethics of adults having sexual relations with 13-year-olds. He received plenty of disagreement.

Of course, the topics among the speakers differed considerably. Passers-by were spoiled for choice.

It was a fabulous day and we didn’t finish until after five.



2. One topic discussed was the difference between introverts and extroverts. It was asked: can introverts be speakers?

Does this help?


3. Another topic Tommy was forced to discuss was abortion. This postcard was on the postsecret site.

4. Mr B had a brief disagreement with a grasshopper about infinity, yet again. It seems the subject itself has no ending. He claims he has a firm understanding of the subject, while two grasshoppers claim he has no i-bloody-dea.



News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 2nd September

In News for Speakers' Corner on September 3, 2018 at 12:03 pm

“When the white missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land.
They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”
Desmond Tutu.

1. The trouble is, this poor scribe can no longer report what was said at Speakers’ Corner because things have changed, for the better. There are more speakers but your scribe doesn’t get to hear much of them.

Who are the speakers? Ray, Maria, Steve, Helmut, Mark the Grinner, Mirko and Mr Bashful, who has chosen to speak separately from the main bunch. He’s focusing on his pet subject, resilience, and I think we have all heard enough about that.

Maria, Steve and Ray weren’t here today. That was lucky for them because it was bitterly cold (for Sydney, that is).

It was Fathers’ Day today. This postcard first appeared on the postsecret website.

2. This scribe did happen to hear Mark the Grinner criticise the ABC for advertising itself on the ABC, for goodness sake. “They’re preaching to the converted,” he lamented. This scribe wonders why the taxpayer-funded ABC doesn’t advertise the taxpayer-funded SBS programs, and vice-versa. Perhaps next week Mark the Grinner can explain why.

3. Mark the Grinner also spoke about tattoos and how they once meant something. He said young men getting tattoos nowadays must be living at home with their parents, because if they had to support themselves they couldn’t afford to get a tattoo. That’s the kind of clear thinking you get at Speakers’ Corner.


4. Mark the Grinner also mentioned ‘The Trickle Down’ effect. Nuff said.

5. In our Unusual Creature Series this Lowland Streaked Tenrec has never been seen at Speakers’ Corner. Not this particular one, anyway. But this Madagascan native has been to our Facebook page and thinks it’s tops.



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