Soapbox Speakers

Archive for October, 2019|Monthly archive page

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 27th October.

In News for Speakers' Corner on October 28, 2019 at 12:14 am

“Science is the real news. The rest is the same old stuff coming around and around, yet again.”
Paul Davies.

1. It was a beautiful Goldilocks day in which half the people wanted to be in the shade, and half in the sun. We made it happen.

The bad news: Steve Maxwell and Ray didn’t turn up.

The good news: Steve has written an article about Adelaide’s Speakers’ Corner. You’ll find it below.

Ex-teacher Uncle Pete began the afternoon with a series of anecdotes. One was about the day he gave a student an unacceptable, over-the-top roasting, and he later apologised to the boy and to the entire class, and ended up being liked and respected. How does he get away with his behaviour? We don’t know, but he gets away with bad behaviour every week at Speakers’ Corner.

Next week he will be stepping onto the Ladder of Knowledge and talking about feminism.

2. Mr B had some strong words to say to the people who criticised the boys at St Kevin’s College in Melbourne for singing lewd songs in a bus. He said that to shove a strapping youth into a school desk for hours every day is like forcing a Ferrari to drive at no more than 30kms an hour. Plus, those boys are in a boys’ school, so they’re not getting the opportunity to mix with girls and learn to relate with them. And, at their sexual prime they’re not getting their needs addressed. Is it any wonder they become a little ‘twisted’, and sing lewd songs on buses?

“What did you learn at school, Hans Thomas?” Dad asked.
“To sit still,” I replied. “It’s so difficult that we spend years learning to do it.”
From ‘The Solitaire Mystery’ by Jostein Gaarder.

If we are to criticise those boys for their poor behaviour, we should also thank them for the sacrifices they make in order to please society.

Please note that Mr B’s views are not necessarily the views of this scribe.

Well, maybe they are. Mr B does seem to know what he’s talking about.

3. At one point passer-by Daniel got up to speak about Liberal policies. He fielded lots of questions, which is the sign of a good speaker.

Daniel left his jacket behind. If he wants it back he can email this scribe at

4. We played another three rounds of ‘Would I lie to You?’  We had one unashamed liar: Carol did NOT in her earlier years pretend to be a guru and accidentally get a follower.

However, Peter the Younger told the truth, while trying to lie! He coincidentally DID happen to live in a house for four weeks and not know a cat was also living there. And, Uncle Pete DOES always eat toast in the morning (at 3am).

The truth is out there!

5. Mr B has thrown at us another chapter of his book on resilience and happiness. He wants us to ignore the dills in the peanut gallery.

The dills in the peanut gallery.

6. Other topics discussed:
-Some people have a penchant to learn about events in history as though they’re collecting stamps, yet seem to have no insight into the ‘other side’s’ point of view.

– We learned about Pat, a 95 year old woman with advanced macular degeneration, who still mows her lawn (and changes its spark plugs). She lives near a small country town in East Gippsland, and when she rings a tradie to have something fixed, the tradie arrives the next day and does it for free. She can’t get anyone to accept her money. Even the bus driver, who takes her to Bairnsdale once a fortnight, makes sure he goes off his route to pick her up and drop her off at her front gate.
I guess that can happen in a small community when you do good things for people while you’re young and healthy.

– We heard about the woman who dived into a river to save her son from drowning. After she had saved him and returned to her seat, it was pointed out that she still had a (now soggy) cigarette between her lips.

– We heard from Mirko in the audience. He insisted on being informed as to what we should do with mentally ill people with ten fingers, in a bus. If you understand what he is getting at, you’re a genius.

– Mr B told us he had heard countless stories of women being pestered by men to go out with them,  and who had finally said ‘yes’ to the man, and then ended up marrying him. Mr B wanted to know why such stories are appreciated, given how many times we hear of men being shamed for asking a woman out more than once. (“What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?” and “That’s sexual harrassment.”) Mr B’s grasshoppers attempted to set him straight. But by the end of the topic he still looked bewildered.

– Just to clear things up: your scribe informs you that the capitalised letter ‘N’ represents the chemical Nitrogen, as well as the 14th letter in our alphabet, whereas the lowercase ‘o’ has the sole function of being the fifteenth letter of the alphabet.
In other words, your scribe understands both parts of the word ‘No’. Not that it’s helped any.

– What does it mean to objectify women? (Or men?) For that matter, what does it mean to objectify an object? What does it mean to subjectify an object? What’s the objective in asking these questions?

– Helmut discussed free will. He said it exists!

7. In our Unusual Critter Series we proudly present to you a crayfish that doesn’t inhabit creeks, rivers or lakes. Or oceans, for that matter. It lives in the ground. There are 17 species and nearly all of them live in Victoria, Australia. They would all jump at the chance to subscribe to our Facebook page. You do have that opportunity, so don’t waste it.

8. Stalwart Steve Maxwell has, in his lighthearted style, written more articles for his Passing Parade. Here is the first:


In 1836, the South Australian colony was established through free migration directly from Great Britain. No convict transportation was assigned to South Australia.

British politician Edward Wakefield (1796-1862) campaigned for colonization and self-government in the empire. His system of settlement took no account of aboriginal rights and took tight control of land and labour. Adelaide soon became a centre of trade and commerce. Rich mineral deposits and agricultural land ensured the success of the colony. It was not long before trade unions organized, among the miners from South Australia and Broken Hill, (N.S.W.). Once the population reached 50,000, self-government was granted in 1851. The first parliament under responsible government was elected in 1857.

The Botanic Park’s Speakers’ Corner began as a religious forum. Open-air religious meetings were common in the streets of Adelaide during the 1840’s and 50’s. And the first report of a Speakers’ Corner was found in the Botanic Garden’s Annual Report from 1887 where there appeared this significant announcement:

“On Sunday afternoon some religious sects, the Salvation Army, and the Crusaders, assembled in “THE CIRCLES” for worship and as long as no damage is done to the location, I do not see any reason for preventing such assemblages.” 

For the next seventy years, Botanic Park Speakers’ Corner was the beating heart of Adelaide’s public politics. Non-conformist protestants began to flourish in the colony – some with the motto “WHERE THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS, THERE IS LIBERTY”. But the spirit of The Lord works in mysterious ways. The Methodist Weekly of 1912 complained about their losing their grip on the working class. “Men who formerly were in our churches are now at the Botanic Park on sabbath afternoons or at some other political gathering. The leader of the Labor and socialistic movement is largely outside our churches”.

As the 19th century closed, the rise of the working-class platforms began to grow and outnumber the religious platforms. The 20th century saw the rise and fall of Speakers’ Corner.

Steve Maxwell, Oct 2019

– The Botanic Garden’s Annual Reports.
– The Botanic Gardens of Adelaide and State Herbarium.
– The Mortlock Library South Australia
– ‘Free Speech in Botanic Park’ by L.P. Jervis.
– Sound of Trumpets History of the Labour Movement in South Australia   P59. by Jim Moss

Botanic Park, Adelaide


News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 20th October.

In News for Speakers' Corner on October 21, 2019 at 10:20 am

“And how shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds?”
Kahil Gibran.

1. The thing about Steve Maxwell is that he is versatile. Not only does he have an extensive grasp of Australian history and Australian politics, and not only does he explore countless contemporary topics such as climate change and U.S. politics . . .  he is also an artist. And his art varies considerably in style as well. Today he used six of his paintings to help him examine climate change and make a protest. They were on display to inspire questions and discussions.





2. Mirko was yet again an annoying garden gnome. Each week he displays incredible rudeness by thrusting his material in front of people and talking about it, while they’re trying to listen to the speaker. We all still love him, but why?

On the other hand, Michael behaved impeccably. By not turning turn up.

3. We enjoyed another session of playing ‘Would I lie to you?’ All four participants turned out to be liars. What a disgrace. Philip did NOT walk around with a stone in his shoe for a week. Jackie did NOT find a body in a national park. Uncle Pete does NOT have a PhD. Peter the Younger did NOT go to the wrong funeral and only realise it the next day.

What’s the world coming to?!

The stone in Philip’s shoe? No, he was lying!

4. Sashin got up to read us an excerpt of a poem, and some quotes. From a chair in the audience, Mr B politely interrogated Sashin about the gist of what he was saying, which was about the role of meditation in dealing with suffering. It was an eye opener to see Mr B polite.

Thank you, Sashin!

5. Mr B regained the Ladder of Knowledge and responded with some rhetoric about the merits of anger, though at one point a young woman called Jackie proved him wrong. Mr B doesn’t appreciate troublemakers proving him wrong and if we had had some security at Speakers’ Corner, Jackie would have been ejected from the park.

But we don’t, so she stayed.

Then Philip took the Ladder of Knowledge to speak about the body’s relationship with the mind, and whether or not trees and other plants can in some way know what the hell is going on around them. (If they do, they are are faring better than some of the hecklers.)

We learned that a slime mould learned to find its way around a maze. But did it cheat?

6. Mr B has submitted yet another chapter of his interminable book about resilience. This chapter sounds like it would suit upcoming Halloween. It’s about Charlotte and the Creatures of the Dark Forest.

7. Other topics discussed:
– What makes you angry?

– From where to emotions come? What part does the gut and its microbes play?

– One fellow turned up to talk about the existence or non-existence of God. That’s about the only topic Mr B refuses to talk about. So, the fellow moved to another vacant ladder nearby and raised the topic. We hope he persists, because once he gets the hang of it he’ll attract a big audience.

– Meanwhile, across the way, Ray continued to patiently try to save  a few passers’-by souls. (Did you like that plural and the apostrophe? Perhaps Mr B is right: we should simplify spelling and get rid of apostrophes.)

– Helmut spoke about how and why tennis players purposely lose tennis matches, and end up richer because of it.

– Six questions from Mr B helped us explore ethics.

– The slaughter of unwanted racehorses. What Pollyanna world are people living in if they didn’t realise that was happening? Mr B put forth a plan.

– We did “You’re a tree” again. This time the tree had no idea where it was, or what water was, or anything, because it was a tree and, as we have established, trees don’t tend to know what the hell is going on. Nevertheless, the experiment was enlightening.

8. This week’s unusual animal from the Unusual Critter Series is the Muskox of the arctic. It can’t click on our Facebook page because its hooves aren’t dexterous enough. But this forlorn threesome wish they could.


9. Mr B has finally given up waiting for his damsel to reappear. He tells your scribe he is taking a new approach: he will be playing hard to get.

Good on him, but this is all getting a bit silly, and your scribe will no longer report on Mr B’s efforts to find his one true love. (Or her sister if she’s better looking.)

Mr B, playing hard to get.





News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 13th October.

In News for Speakers' Corner on October 14, 2019 at 11:24 am

“Success is about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is about growing others.”
Jack Welch.

1.  When your scribe walked up alongside the Art Gallery on his way to Speakers’ Corner, a bit before 2pm, he heard yelling. ‘Uh oh,” I thought, ‘Someone’s angry and it sounds like it might lead to violence.’ But when I was closer I recognised the source of the voice: Peter the Younger. Steve Maxwell had with him a huge painting, and on it were remarks about climate change.

Enough said.

Simply, Speakers’ Corner had started a little early. However, without the ‘Speakers’ Corner’ signs about to warn passers-by, it just sounded like an argument getting out of control. But no, it was just Speakers’ Corner.

Which means, of course, that the only difference between grown men yelling at each other, and Speakers’ Corner, are the signs proclaiming that it’s Speakers’ Corner.

Oh dear.

Why can’t we all get along?

2. Today we had fresh, delicious home baked Anzac biscuits (thank you, Aunty), tasty gingerbread (thank you, Ray) and cheesecake (thanks, Mr B,  for not saving me a slice!). We were commemorating/celebrating two things: (1) the fact that Uncle Pete has not smoked for twenty years, and (2) the fact that from today, Mark the Grinner will not be smoking. We applaud them both.

Both men spoke about their choices, and answered questions.

The festivities were interrupted by a kookaburra making a statement about Steve Maxwell’s Eureka flag.


Uncle Pete – twenty years cigarette free.


Mark the Grinner – twenty minutes cigarette free.

3. Would I lie to you? We played the popular television game and the punters liked it. We’ll be doing it again in future. Bring along a truth about yourself (Mr B will provide the lie) and be part of the action.

4. Mr B presents another
chapter from his book for young people. In this excerpt he suggests we don’t talk like a zombie.

5. Other topics discussed:
– Steve spoke about climate change and how it’s human induced. Peter the Younger finally got fed up and moved elsewhere.

– Ray spent some one-to-one time with a member of God’s flock.

– Helmut spoke softly and patiently to his groundlings about science.

– Mirko proudly explained that if you do a google search for ‘Mirko Terzic inventor’ you will find he is on the first page of google’s rankings! This proves he is finally being taken seriously. Yes, Mirko, well deserved! He even presented us with a laminated print of what he had found on the site: a photo of himself and an impressive list of his achievements. They looked slightly familiar.

– Should we burn the churches? Matthew 6: 5-8 (NIV) from the Bible seems to suggest we should.

– Imagine you’re a tree . . .   Where would you be growing? Who or what waters the tree? Who or what looks after you? . . . .
Can you see why you chose that image?
One brave soul participated, and your scribe wishes Mr B had spent more time with her image because there was more to say. But he seemed distracted by serial pest Michael, and the job was only half done.

– Isaac Asimov wrote one of the most popular science fiction short stories of all time: ‘Nightfall’. Mr B told us the story and made a hash of it.

– Serial pest Michael “kindly” volunteered to speak. So we let him.  Five times he stood on the Ladder of Knowledge and gave us his views. (And five times we all moved rapidly away to somewhere else.) For some reason, we couldn’t persuade him to ascend the Ladder of Knowledge a sixth time.

– Why is Australia like Bus number 2, the Coolibah Queen?

– Mr B gave four tips on how to become a good listener, and seven tips on how to be interesting. Perhaps he should use those tips himself.
One of those tips was: be like Mr Ed, who never spoke unless he had something to say.

Mr Ed was smarter than most of today’s hecklers.

6. This week’s unusual critter from the Unusual Creature Series is the Arctic wolf. These two specimens would chew our Facebook page to pieces if they could.















News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 6th October.

In News for Speakers' Corner on October 7, 2019 at 11:27 am

“Plagiarism: stealing from one person to feed another. Merely a conduit. Requiring no more talent, and being no more meaningful, than the cable delivering the talent to the TV set.”

1. Every year, without fail, Tony Boyce has turned up an hour late the day when Daylight Saving begins. You can set your sundial by it. However, he didn’t turn up at all this time. He is not yet allowed to leave his maximum security aged care home. Your scribe visited him and he says hello to you all. He misses Speakers’ Corner and heckling Helmut.

Don’t count on Tony not coming back sometime, Helmut!

2. Passer-by Jenny Lowe got up to speak.  She spoke about DNA and explained how it was integral to life. She also said it is too complex to have arisen on Earth; it must have come from outer space. That prompted Peter the Younger to ask a question or two.

Jenny has written a book, “Are you ready . . .?” and she kindly sold a few of us copies. It might come in handy because in it she reveals the identity of the anti-Christ.

Your scribe was lucky enough to get a copy, but I won’t be revealing the identity of the anti-Christ any time in the near future. You can buy your own copy.

Hint: it’s not Bindi Irwin.

Jenny Lowe and her book, ‘Are you ready . . .?’


Bindi Irwin is not the anti-Christ.

3. Philip came again! He is becoming a regular heckler and speaker. He was again persuaded to say a few words on the Ladder of Knowledge, and he had three topics. One was about the brain. ‘Is it simply a communications system that connects each part of the body?’ he wanted to know, ‘like a telephone system?’ (Or something like that, anyway.)

And, Philip explained why autonomous vehicles will allow greater public nudity. And, he suggested that joining the 20 Centimetre Club might become commonplace.

Philip also wanted to know: “Why aren’t fire escapes slippery dips?”



One very good thing about Philip: he chooses unusual, original topics that attract our interest immediately.


4. Bertrand’s Box Paradox.
Three boxes, labeled A, B & C. In one box are two gold coins. In another, two silver coins. The third: one gold coin and one silver coin. Jenny is asked to guess which box has the gold and silver coins. Jenny points to box C. What is the chance she is correct? Answer: 1 in 3.

So far, so good.

One coin is taken from box C and it is seen to be a silver coin. It is then put back into the box. Again we ask: “What is the chance that the box contains a gold and silver coin?” (In other words, what is the chance that the other coin is gold?) Is the answer 1 in 3, or 1 in 2? (After all, we can eliminate the box with two gold coins.)

The answer, counter-intuitively, is still 1 in 3.

One way to look at the problem is: “What is the chance that Jenny chose the only box with coins of a different colour?” Obviously the answer would 1 in 3, and just because we happen to see one of the coins doesn’t change anything; it’s still 1 in 3.

But to please the doubters, let’s change the question to the more commonly asked question: “What is the chance the other coin is also silver?” (Again, we can eliminate the box with two gold coins.) Is the answer 1 in 2? 1 in 3? Or 2 in 3?

Again, counter-intuitively the answer is 2 in 3.

Consider: “What is the chance that two coins of the same colour were chosen?” The answer is obviously 2 in 3. And, just because we happen to see one of the coins doesn’t change anything; the answer will still be 2 in 3.

This scribe is obliged to suggest to Mr B that from now on he go easier on his poor befuddled grasshoppers. Again they were hopelessly out of their depth. Not so much for getting the answer wrong, but for having the temerity to suggest that Mr B himself was wrong.

5. Here is another enthralling chapter from Mr B’s book for young people. Is his book a self-help book? No, it’s a pre-self-help book. Its purpose is to help young people become adults who don’t need self-help books.   What presses your button?

6. Mark the Grinner reluctantly got up onto the Ladder of Knowledge and said that nothing had recently ‘pissed him off’, and he had little to talk about. From then on we couldn’t shut him up. He got stuck into university students for not being the activists school children manage to be. He got stuck into fish, for stealing the bait he puts on his hook. He found plenty of things to rant and rave about. From having nothing to complain about, he suddently seemed to have an endless supply. And it was so entertaining!
Throughout the rant, Mark kept imploring Mr B to die, simply because Mr B dared to raise his hand to ask a question. But that’s par for the course, for both of them. Mr B, as usual, refused to oblige.
In this photo Mark’s craziness is apparent.

Mark the Grinner.

7. Other topics discussed:
– Mr B spoke about the advantages and disadvantages of having a one world government. Peter the Younger was sceptical about the advantages, to say the least.
Later, Philip also spoke about the nature of what a one world government might be like.

– Joe asked a question about whether the mind is human, or what is the mind?, or something like that, but Mr B was flummoxed by the question (as is your scribe). It was Mr B’s turn to be out of his depth and he admitted it. He gave a lame answer and moved on.

– Is it a bad sign for someone when he rescues a fruit fly from a bathroom and puts it outside? And opens all his doors to let blowflies escape, instead of swatting them?

– What’s the secret about the almonds next to Tony’s bed?

– Recurring dreams.

– Swedish health care was compared with Chinese health care.

– How did General Custer really die?

8. This week’s unusual creature in our Unusual Critter Series is the Colugo, a close relative of the primates found in South East Asia. This particular one has given our Facebook page five stars.

9. This is getting ridiculous, Mr B. Face facts. She’s not coming back.

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