This site is the archive for the videos and posts created for the Sydney’s Speakers’ Corner website: soapboxspeakers.wordpress.com
“Now let me get this straight: the Australian Taxation Office cannot recover $17.5 million of $18 million from lawyers, inclluding those working for the ATO, because of legal advice from lawyers, based on laws framed by lawyers and legalised and administered by a legislature, executive and judiciary dominated by lawyers.
I hear, however, that the ATO is doing very well against butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.
Time for a sea change, folks.’
G. A. Warrener.
1. Well! Something has changed at Speakers’ Corner! The Ladder of Knowledge seems to have developed a weird magnetic quality that draws people towards it and then get on it and speak. That’s alright, I guess, but Mr B was getting frustrated.
The first person up was Uncle Pete, but he was the only one who didn’t make the request. It was requested of him. We heard how reading one book in a chook shed changed his life. It’s a good story.
Mr B then reclaimed the Ladder to spend ten minutes insulting Helmut, before explaining why supernatural forces were not allowing him to do evil.
Then John Pink got up to speak. He explained why the interpretation of dreams helped him overcome mental illness. He had a bit say about chakras, too.
Then we heard from Peter the Younger, who told us how socialists are the tools of capitalists.
Then Steve Maxwell had a few words to say about politicians. He asked us to not vote for any of the major parties in next year’s election.
Then it was Vladimir’s turn to speak. (He came last week.) He changed the pace by giving us a disturbing anecdote about his early schooldays.
Then Tommy got up to speak as it began to rain. He had to speak to his listeners under the Morton Bay Fig tree.
The rain began pelting down, which meant poor Helmut, who had endured ‘the boring Mr Bashful’ for two hours and who was next in line to speak, missed out on speaking altogether. That was a shame, because we were hoping to learn if there has ever been a revered scientist who was, in truth, an ignoramus.
2. What if the part-time speakers banded together and created their own speaking space? They could take turns entertaining and informing the passers by. If they gave each person five minutes, for example, marked by a bell, they could each have plenty of turns. They could serve as an audience for themselves and attract passers-by, and heckle themselves. That way, each speaker would get plenty of practise in public speaking, plenty of practise dealing with hecklers, and a decent sized audience. Not only that, they would be considerably improving the breadth and variety of Speakers’ Corner, and getting it closer to becoming the tourist attraction it should already be.
We could have Helmut, John August, Vladimir, Tommy, Peter the Younger, John Pink, Philip, Marie, Miki, Daniel, others, and passers-by all having a go. Combined, they would be formidable.
So guys, why not?
3. Other topics discussed:
– A question was asked about near death experiences. Mr B talked about his near death experience while on the operating table. However, there were tiny clues to suggest he wasn’t being 100% truthful.
– The Meaning of Life (version three).
– In a small country town fifty years ago, a young boy pressed the B button on a telephone in a telephone box, in the hope of getting a sixpence. In ten minutes the PMG were there looking for him. Was it to catch him for attempted theft (as he thought?) or was it to give him his sixpence? How is it even possible? We’ll never know.
– How often have you been driving and your car has come to a stop because one of the battery leads has fallen off the battery? It happened to one speaker forty years ago, in his first and only attempt at being a hoon.
– The stupidity of owning a watch wardrobe.
– Which came first? The chicken or the egg? (Answer: the egg.)
– Some dreams have such a strong emotional impact, or source, that they can prompt tears when the dream is told, and they can pop up unintentionally ten years later in story.
– Mr B expained the difference between ghosts and the afterlife, and why neither exist. He laid the blame on the inadequacies of natural selection.
4. This week’s unusual critter from the Unusual Critter Series is the 89-98 butterfly. No one has yet understood this extraordinary mathematical message Nature is trying to send us, but when it is worked out, it will be on our Facebook Page.
‘I am the CEO of an Australian software company and have many degrees and qualifications. The one which gave me most value was my Arts degree from the University of Adelaide in philosophy and history, because it gave me the ability to rationalise and bring perspective to the value of things in life.’
And: ‘. . . to gain the ability for critical thinking, for evaluating differing theories and coming up with your own analysis of the evidenece. In that sense, the content is irrelevant – it’s teaching students skills that will be useful for the rest of their lives.’
Henning A. Klovekorn. 2018
1. If you know anything about Speakers’ Corner you will know that Helmut tends to be critical of Sir Isaac Newton. Who says you can’t speak ill of the dead? Well, today Uncle Pete ascended the Ladder of Knowledge and defended Sir Isaac’s intelligence. He gave examples of the man’s brilliance that made sense when he explained them, but your poor befuddled scribe can’t relate them here. Suffice to say, Helmut still had a dig at the dead man, but seemed to concur with Uncle Pete’s appraisal.
Dark matter and dark energy were also discussed. The question was posed and answered: if energy and matter are different states of the same thing (as are water and ice), can dark energy also exist in another state?
Uncle Pete’s talk was most interesting.
2. Steve Maxwell himself wrote the summary of what he talked about. He recited a monologue to his audience and then asked them: what was the danger?
THE MONOLOGUE. “You could tell them it won’t wipe out the whole city. There’s not enough of it. It’s not a bomb. However, it will contaminate entire farms, milk, butter, eggs, get carried into markets on meat and produce, into theatres and restaurants, get carried around by people on their clothes, on their shoes, on insects and birds… and on children… Then you’ll have to describe the symptoms to watch out for – hoarse coughing, heavy sweat, horrible retching. Then the blood begins to break down the cells. If you merely touch your skin, the watered blood just oozes out of your pores. Finally, you haemorrhage internally. Blood fills the lungs. I doubt if anyone can explain that calmly to three million people without touching off the worst panic in history.”
Naturally, 90% answered Covid-19, which was incorrect, but that’s understandable, considering we are in a Covid pandemic.
The answer needs an explanation.
The monologue is from the 1959 movie CITY OF FEAR (1959) imdb and YouTube.
Doctor Wallace, adviser to the mayor, cautions on the danger of notifying the public.
The storyline of the movie: Drug dealer escapes from jail and steals a canister of radioactive Cobalt-60 which he believes is heroin. The authorities go into a flap and try to recover the canister.
The correct answer is cobalt-60. The monologue is fun to read out and I followed it up with a discussion about the danger of radioactive poisoning from nuclear reactors, atomic testing in Australia, hospital radioactive and biomedical waste, which is already a major problem and will get worse with the Covid-19.
3. After Mr Bashful gave a lengthy diatribe on the importance of emotions, Tommy took the Ladder of Knowledge and explained where the Black Lives Matter protestors went wrong. He had to valiantly deal with Peter the Younger, who was as vociferous as ever.
One of the good things about Tommy is his preparation. He studies the topic and even prepares a speech. (Good luck presenting a speech, Tommy!)
4. One fellow in the audience was critical of Mr B for not speaking briskly on a wide variety of topics. He makes a fair point! Mr B, please take a long hard look at yourself during the week and from now on, come to Speakers’ Corner with a few more topics, please!
Quite rightly, the man (Vladimir) got fed up with Mr B’s tedium, and left. He then soon began speaking on a milk crate nearby, and he spoke about the urgent need for law reform. That is one of Mr B’s pet topics. However, unlike Mr B, this man had real life experiences to draw upon. The law really is a nasty piece of work.
Your scribe doesn’t know the man’s name, but I do know he did a good job speaking and he is welcome back any time.
5. Steve Maxwell sent this scribe a photograph of a fabulous painting of London’s Speakers’ Corner, in Hyde Park. It was painted in 1940 by Grace Golden and it’s called ‘Free Speech’. Click on it to have a good look. It’s worth it.
Grace Golden was born in London and studied at Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art. She exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1936-40 and made a career as a book illustrator, concentrating on theatrical subjects and scenes of London life. This view of the crowds at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, near to Marble Arch, was one of her first oil paintings. She worked more usually in the media of watercolour or wood engraving because of her training as an illustrator. The artist recalled that she had seen the principal speakers many times at Speakers Corner and that the woman speaker in the foreground belonged to a sect called the Pillar of Fire.
6. Kent Blackmore directed your scribe to some photographs in the State Library. They are out of copyright, having been taken in the Domain in March, 1949 by photographer Ivan Ives. Thank you, Ivan, and thank you, Kent!
You will notice a great deal has changed in Speakers’ Corner since then. For a start, in those days there was a lot less colour.
7. At 4.40 Mr B graciously gave the Ladder of Knowledge and a small crowd of twenty to Helmut, to finish the day’s meeting. Helmut’s first topic of choice was to berate Mr B for giving him only twenty minutes on the Ladder. If Helmut were a pet he’d be a pet crocodile.
Helmut talked sciencey stuff while being heckled by Mr B. Isaac Newton may have been mentioned more than once, and the Hadron Collider was also talked about. One thing we did learn: Mr B is a better heckler than he is a speaker!
Speaking of the Hadron Collider, here is the enjoyable Collider song sung by the Horribles Cernettes:
You say you love me but you never beep me
You always promise but you never date me
I try to fax but it’s busy, always
I try the network but you crash the gateways
You never spend your nights with me
You don’t go out with other girls either
You only love your collider
I fill your screen with hearts and roses
I fill your mail file with lovely phrases
They all come back: “invalid user”
You never let me into your computer
You never spend your nights with me
You don’t go out with other girls either
You prefer your collider
I gave you a golden ring to show you my love
You went to stick it in a printed circuit
To fix a voltage leak in your collector
You plug my feelings into your detector
You never spend your nights with me
You don’t go out with other girls either
You only love your collider
8. Do people have souls? If so, are their souls their personalities, or something else? A priest was walking past and he called out, ‘Yes, people have souls!’. His passing by at that very moment was too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence, so he was obviously sent from God to answer the question. Unfortunately, the priest refused to stay a little longer to answer the second question on God’s behalf. God would have been displeased.
9. Other topics discussed:
– Mr B was asked about The Meaning of Life and he gave two of his five answers. Most wise and wonderful gurus provide just one answer, but Mr B has five at the ready! We truly are lucky to have him.
– The question was asked, ‘What do you make of animal lovers who eat meat?’
– How did all the matter in the universe fit into a tiny singularity smaller than a pinhead, to instigate the Big Bang? Mr B explained how. (Yet he himself has lately been struggling to fit into his trousers. Go figure.)
– Uncle Pete was prompted to go sciencey when he was asked the question, “Could Carl Sagan have been correct when he suggested that an entire universe may be inside an atom?” And when he came to answer the question itself, he didn’t rule the possibility out!
– Mr B was asked, ‘What is your favourite colour? He was overjoyed with the question. He’s a strange man, that Mr B.
10. This week’s unusual creature from the Unusual Creature Series is the giant squid. This one is sun baking. It will have a look at our Facebook Page when it has the time and inclination.
“The people who strongly hate people from another culture and people who strongly love people from another culture have something in common: neither must mix much with the people from the culture they are referring to.”
1. It was a beautiful day and the topic for a big chunk of the day was the relationship between black-skinned people and white -skinned people. (Or between brown and pink skinned people.) Steve Maxwell had the temerity to contradict our infallible Prime Minister, who had said there had been no slavery in Australia. Steve talked about ‘blackbirding’, which was the practice of kidnapping Pacific Islanders and forcing them to work in the cane fields. He also gave other examples of slavery in Australia.
It’s about time Steve stopped contradicting our Prime Minister.
On the other side of the path Mr B talked about the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest in the U.S., and about the reasons why U.S. cops are so brutal. And, he tried to give a more accurate perspective on who is killing who.
He also talked about Aboriginal deaths in custody. He said we here in Australia should not focus on rectifying the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody. He said if you’re in jail or being arrested by the police, you’re LESS likely to die in custody than if you are white. Why would he come to that conclusion? Because although 29% of Aborigines end up in jail, they make up only 20% of the deaths in custody. Whites make up 71% of the jail population, but make up 80% of the deaths in custody.
Therefore, instead of focusing on deaths in custody, he said we should be focusing on reducing the 29% incarceration rate, and getting it down to 3.3% (the percentage of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia). For that matter, let’s work on reducing the incarceration rates of everyone towards zero.
2. Mr B also talked about ‘redlining’. Between the 1930s and 1960s, US government policy ensured that white people had access to bank loans to finance their homes, and black people didn’t. The government did that by dividing cities into red and green areas, and then ensured that only the people living in the green areas (the whites) had access to the loans. The people in the red areas missed out.
Even if some blacks could afford to move into a green (white) area, they weren’t allowed to. The developers wouldn’t let them. (After all, they’d bring down property values.)
The practice ensured that the whites could own their own homes and become wealthier, while the blacks stayed poor. Over the years the problem has been compounded. Businesses thrive in the money-lush green (white) areas, pushing up house prices even further, while the red (black) areas not only missed out on having flourishing businesses in their districts, they were also subject to being dismantled, to make way for the freeways being built for white commuters. And, because schools are largely funded by land taxes, the schools in the green (white) areas are well funded because house prices are so high. In the red areas . . . you guessed it : the schools struggle for funding because of the low property values. As a consequence, they can’t employ many experienced teachers or have quality facilities. So, guess who gets into college?
Redlining was abolished in 1968, but its rippling effects still pervade Amercan society. And, according to Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative reporter of the New York Times Magazine, banks still charge blacks higher interest rates than they do whites. Plus, every year, black and Latino home buyers experience 4 million incidents of illegal housing discrimination.
Result? Deep resentment, lousy futures, a sense of powerlessness, and plenty of low socio-economic areas. And as you would know: hroughout the world, low socio-economic areas tend to have high crime rates. It’s not just a ‘black thing’.
In other words, if the situation had been reversed and whites had been kept in the red areas, we would today have the whites resenting black privilege, and with their disenfranchment and the poor futures ahead of them, they would be committing the crimes, and then looting and protesting about the death of one of their own. They’d be holding signs saying that white lives matter.
If today’s whites could picture that, they might finally understand the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, instead of complaining about how all this looting is so unnecessary.
Well, that’s what Mr B said, anyway. Midst the arguments.
3. It was nice to see journalist John Pilger drop by for a little while. He wisely declined an invitation to stand on the Ladder of Knowledge and speak.
4. Other topics discussed:
– The bombing of Japan in WWII.
– The relationship between anxiety and happiness.
– Helmut had a few unkind words to say about Sir Isaac Newton. Helmut also declared himself an expert in quantum physics. Someone in the audience told him that anyone who says they understand quantum physics doesn’t understand quantum physics. Helmut insisted that he DID understand quantum physics. So, there you go.
5. This weeks animal in the Unusual Animal Series is the Caracal, native to Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East and India. So far, this individual has displayed no interest in our Facebook Page. But it’s slowly coming around.
“. . . mate . . . I want to do you slowly. There has to be a bit of sport in this for all of us. In the psychological battle stakes, we are stripped down and ready to go. I want to see you ashen-faced. I want to be encouraged. I want to see you squirm out of this load of rubbish you give us all. There will be no easy execution for you. I’m going to do you like a slow cooked roast dinner.”
Paul Keating, ex Prime Minister of Australia
1. What a miserable day. It was cold and drizzly when Steve Maxwell got up to speak. He provoked the placid Mr Bashful by extolling the virtues of history, and Mr B foolishly took the bait. Pretty soon voices were booming across Speakers’ Corner.
Across the way, Uncle Pete expressed his views on the Ladder of Knowledge. He explained why Australia should not have had a lockdown for the Covid 19 virus. He said we should have done nothing about it because only the sick and the old, like him, would die off, and that would be a good thing. The world could do without 50 million old people who aren’t much good for anything. The economies would benefit, he explained, instead of being shattered like they have been.
Also, it is safe to say Uncle Pete was not one hundred percent complimentary about our politicians. He said that for decades they have kept making stupid decisions. ‘Given that most of them are solicitors, what would you expect?’ he asked.
Welcome back, Uncle Pete!
2. Your scribe visited the Art Gallery when nature called. Interestingly, there was someone at the gallery’s door taking everyone’s name, address, telephone number and email address. It took some time.
If someone catches the Covid 19 virus they will be asked where they have been. If they say, ‘Last week I visited the Art Gallery of NSW at 2.15pm,’ then presumably everyone who visited the gallery on that day after 2.14pm will be contacted, then tested for the virus and be asked to self-isolate. Or quarantined, maybe?
In short, unless you are willing to lie about your contact details, going out to some places could have awkward consequences. Your dear scribe can’t lie, so he’s waiting for the call . . .
The lesson: when nature calls, don’t listen. What would it know, anyway?
3. If you would like to read the solution to Baffle #5 Harold’s Ghost, click here.
4. It began to rain and we finished soon after we began.
This week’s creature in our Unusual Critter Series is the giant Japanese spider crab. Imagine one of these on your dinner plate!
This one wants to visit our Facebook page but has trouble using its computer’s keyboard.
This week’s quote was to be, “A riot is the language of the unheard‘, by Martin Luther King Jr., but you would have heard that quote plenty of times by now. So here is another, even better, quote from another great leader:
“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”
Ron Barrassi, football coach.
1. Steve Maxwell ventured in to Speakers’ Corner today, and found people! And, he spoke! Good work, Steve!
(We hope that eye heals soon, Steve!)
2. There was another person speaking too! Joy of joys! It was Margaret, from the ‘Non Smokers Movement of Australia‘. And why wuldn’t she speak? After all, May 31st is World No Tobacco Day.
Never head of it? That’s because it has a lousy acronym. Try saying ‘WNTD’. Organisations only become well known if they have a good acronym.
Says WHO. If the WHO had called themselves the Organisation for a Healthy World or any other combination, no one would know who they are.
The same goes for Roger Daltry’s band.
Anyway, Margaret spoke and Steve said she did an excellent job. We do hope Margaret doesn’t wait until May 31st next year to speak again. Let’s hope she turns up much sooner. Next week, even?
And Helmut?? Gosh! Two thirds of the three amigos turned up today. Next week we will have the trifecta!
4. The Grim Reaper was there too, looking for smokers. Fortunately, Uncle Pete gave up smoking years ago. Helmut hid behind a tree, presumably. We’ll know for sure if he turns up next week.
5. Health Minister Brad Hazzard was told by Margaret’s group to protect the health of thousands of workers in pubs and clubs, by completely banning smoking in those venues. Currently, there are still sections kept for smokers, and staff have to passively smoke when they clean them.
6. Next week, folks, Speakers’ Corner resumes officially! Come along and make up for your absence. Have a break from working at home.
7. Don’t we at Speakers’ Corner have a fantastic backdrop? Not only do we have the best soapbox speakers in the civilised world, we have the best layout. What could be better than to have Speakers’ Corner in the beautiful Domain with the stately NSW Art Gallery nearby? All we need is a MacDonalds next door to make it perfect.
8. If you would like to read the solution to Baffle #4: Death of the Agoraphobe, click here.
9. Would you like another Baffle? Would you like to solve the mysteries found in Baffle #5: Harold’s Ghost?
10. This week our unusual creature in the Unusual Critter Series is the Baluchistan Pygmy Jerboa, the world’s smallest rodent. They live in the Baluchistan region of Pakistan and Afghanistan. These two individuals think our Facebook Pageis tops!
‘A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.’
Arnold H. Glasow.
1. Although the NSW Art Gallery is still closed because of the Kung Flu virus, Steve Maxwell checked out Speakers’ Corner today in drizzly conditions. Virtually no one was about. One fellow who did turn up was Helmut.
Thanks for checking the place, fellas. On the information you have provided, the other speakers won’t be turning up in the near future.
Here Blind Freddy applies social distancing to the seagulls.
Below, Blind Freddy displays a diagram that shows how nine people could listen to one speaker.
All he needs now is an effective plan that will bring them, and another effective plan that will shut them up.
You know it’s bad when you have only one person in the audience, and it’s Helmut.
2. Here is how they are doing it elsewhere:
(What would visiting Martians think of us Earthlings?)
3. Congratulations to Glenda Browne for correctly solving the murder of Chin Loo. Well done, Glenda!
If you would like the solution to last weeks Baffle #2: Who Stole the Ferrari, click here.
Did you get it right? Did you figure out which twin was the thief?
4. Baffle #3: Who Stole the Victoria Cross?
It’s ANZAC day. Clay and Rock have once again taken the arduous journey to visit their old digger mate, Cliff, at his home. The three men sit in the warm kitchen telling each other war stories they have told over and over again. As they laugh and reflect, and imbibe, like they have done all those times before, Cliff’s live-in carer, Sandy, washes the dishes.
If you would like to read more, click here. The solution will appear this coming Monday, 25th May.
5. We resume our Unusual Critters Series with another unusual critter: the yak.
Hopefully yaks eat rocks, because grass seems to be in short supply in Nepal.
This one greased our Facebook page with Yak butter.
It is pleasing to see that Steve is taking social distancing seriously. He is an example to us all.
That said, the man’s a worry.
“If I were asked to answer the following question: What is slavery? and I should answer, It is murder!, my meaning would be understood at once. No extended argument would be required to show that the power to remove a man’s mind, will, and personality, is the power of life and death, and that it makes a man a slave. It is murder. Why, then, to this other question: What is property? may I not likewise answer, It is robbery!, without the certainty of being misunderstood; the second proposition being no other than a transformation of the first?”
— Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, What is Property?
1. Rainy weather. Last week Mr B warned us about the Ides of March. “Something bad would happen”, he said. Well, what could be worse than having Speakers’ Corner cancelled?!
2. Notice: Apparently there is a virus about. There is a tiny chance that one day, one or two of the speakers will have to self-isolate. Therefore, this warm and caring scribe suggests that if you are thinking of coming to Speakers’ Corner on a Sunday, you might like to check this blog beforehand, some time Sunday morning.
We hope Mr B isn’t forced to self-isolate, because he’s the one who brings the chairs.
Here is some poor soul with a virus.
3. This week’s critter in our Unusual Critter Series is the rare mouse-deer of South East Asia. These critters are so tiny they can’t reach our Facebook page to view it.
4. Steve has written another article for his Passing Parade. On this cold and wet day it’s a good time to present it to you! It’s about Adelaide’s Speakers’ Corner.
In 1986, Terry (Terence) Hewton, an English and history teacher; Dave Diss, formerly British Navy; and Peter Mogford, were organising regular Thursday pub lunch meetings. Terry describes these meetings as delightful, rambling and cathartic discourse. The meetings were assisted by any articulate, balanced, humane, socially and politically aware reportage from the newspaters. The men looked for what could point them towards the best way of expressing themselves as they sought to nudge the world in a better direction.
They fumed over the state of the world on a Thursday afternoon – ‘a sort of pub Speakers’ Corner with us retired lefties’ – and anyone could join in.
At one such meeting, they were discussing the complex matter of the widespread disengagement of our population with Australian politics. This prompted them to revive regular open-air soapboxing at the Speakers’ Corner in Botanic Park, Adelaide. That Speakers’ Corner was not forgotten, but was slowly fading from popular memory.
Terry recalls: “We gave speeches, partly as a speaking exercise, but also to encourage others.” They had experienced soapbox oratory in Hyde Park, London, and wanted to see if it would work in Adelaide.
“It ran for a few years regularly in Botanic Park, then went on the road to several locations in the city and country, ending up mainly as a fringe event at folk festivals, where there is a sympathetic audience,” said Terry. For example, in the main street of Kapunda, State Liberal MP, Ivan Venning, “addressed the masses assembled for the town’s annual Celtic music festivals.”
Terry adds, “It did not turn into a mass event as in the days of old, but people still desire this type of direct, highly interactive discourse, and join in if the opportunity is there ”. Ordinary people, usually male, also addressed audiences regularly. Hecklers from the sidelines added colour to the spectacle.
Terry makes the point that: “It is quite unlike the public speaking we are now used to. Because soapbox speakers address a shifting audience – people come and go throughout any one talk – it is not possible to give a structured address with a beginning, a middle and an end.”
Soapbox orators speak on a theme about which they are passionate, beginning with provocative statements to stimulate debate, and then responding to the heckling. Not unlike parliament.
Terry Hewton says: “Let’s rekindle the heart and soul and the passion in our political discussions. Let’s get the soapbox spirit back into Australian politics.”
Terry and friends are currently using the World Wide net to communicate their passion for lively debate, and are regulars at music festivals.
The Botanic Park soapbox venue is now rarely used.
Heckle and Jeckyl Life of Speaker’s Corner. The Adelaide Review, March 18, 2005.
Sunday Mail July 16, 2006 .
Terry Hewton https://www.facebook.com/terence.hewton
There were other speakers on the day: