22. Is coal mining draining Sydney’s water supply?

“A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.”
Ian McEwan, Atonement.

1. For years Mirko has been talking about the translating software he has developed, and thanks to the Japanese, his invention has finally been commercialised. Congratulations, Mirko!

Speaking of Mirko, he  wasn’t here today, for family reasons. But naturally, Destiny had to provide a suitable replacement and it did: Michael turned up and was a pest just like Mirko. Sigh.

The Welsh words say, “I’m not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.”

2. Steve Maxwell brought our attention to Water NSW’s submission to an Independent Expert Panel. It claims that coal mining is draining Sydney’s water supply. Millions of litres are being lost daily to the coal mines, explained Steve. Some creeks are now bone dry because of the coal mines.  If you would like to know more, click here.

Warragamba dam is drying out because of the coal mines.

3. A passer-by, Kevin, bravely stood on the Ladder of Knowedge to tell us his true ghost story. He did a good job of it, too. Thank goodness it was day time. As a follow-up, Mr B examined the nature of ghost-hood in general, but he wasn’t convincing.

From the Postsecret website:

4. A paradigm is a collective belief held by society. Some paragigms can be wacky, but people believe them anyway, because it appears to them normal and sensible. Mr B listed a few paradigms, and one of them was the reverence of burial sites. We tend to take graves and tombstones too seriously, he said.

5. “What is the relationship between humility and epiphanies?”, one passer-by wanted to know. Mr B gave his view on the matter, and on the matter of optimism and pessimism.

6. Other topics discussed:
– Mr B talked about another incident involving his past love life. He hasn’t told that story before, and he probably won’t again.

– Helmut spoke about the tennis and about his mentorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger, when Arnold was a polite young lad willing to learn from Helmut.

– Sashin spoke about the four truths of Buddhism, but he unfortunately received too many interruptions from Michael.

– Mr B presented a fair chunk of his happiness material today because his regulars were across the way listening to Helmut. Mr B spoke about the two different types of happiness, how the two types evolved, the relationship between anxiety and happiness, and the Deep Need to Belong. For a reminder, click here.

– Michael was allowed up on the Ladder of Knowledge. Mr B expected that the crowd would suddenly leave to send Michael a message. But no, the crowd immediately grew. Sigh. Michael talked about atheists.



21. Anti-gravity shoe invention

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. “
Mary Oliver

1. The meeting began in an unorthodox manner, even for Speakers’ Corner. Mirko explained to us his latest invention: anti-gravity shoes.

I am not making this up. Nor was he kidding us. Mirko fully believes in his ideas.

HIs idea is to attach magnets to the footpaths, and magnets to the soles of our shoes. The magnets would repel each other and make it easier for us to lift our feet. “One stride could be ten metres” he told us, eyes bright.

His plan was flawless, except for the bit where he said the magnets in the footpath would be positive, and our shoe magnets would be negative. Uncle Pete charitably pointed out that if that were the case, we would stick to the footpath. Ex-electrician Mirko would have none of that. He rejected the idea that for his plan to work we would have to use magnets with the same polarity.

Honestly, I really am not making this up.

It is fair to say that Mirko did not receive the support he expected. As a result he was a right royal pest to Mr B for most of the day.

2. Peter the Youngerstood on the Ladder of Knowledge to say a few words about global warming, as did John August. But John left in a hurry after a remark about “old farts”.

3. Your scribe can’t tell you what Steve Maxwell, Helmut or Ray talked about, but late in the day we had a passer-by get up and speak. His name is Sashin and he spoke about the necessity for veganism. Try his colourful website.

Sashin’s talk prompted Mark the Grinner to offer us vegan recipes. He also offered recipes for left-handed people and rangas (people with red hair). As cannibalism is still against the law, no one took up his offer.

4. Mark the Grinner and Uncle Pete were busy being pests. They entertained everyone except the speakers with their witty remarks. Here are just some of the discussions they interrupted:
The Just World Theory.Do you blame the other person for their plight because you feel powerless to help them?

The  Tyranny of the Should. Get rid of the ‘shoulds’, ‘oughts’ and ‘musts’ in your life and become relaxed and easygoing.

– The Newstart Allowance. “It’s more than enough”, said Mr B, “especially with the added rental allowance of $122.40.” Thankfully he didn’t go so far to say that people on Newstart are living in luxury.
The figures on this linkdon’t include the $122.40 per fortnight rental assistance.

– Can the laws of physics, created 13.8 billion years ago in the Big Bang, be applied to the universe of light that existed before then (according to Helmut)? Indeed, were the laws created in the Big Bang at all?  Could they have existed before then?

– Did Scott Morrison’s love of the Game of Thrones help him win over the disinterested swinging voter and help the coalition win the election?
There’s no coal in ‘coalition’. Oh, wait, there is.

– Why can’t a cricketer choose to take three runs instead of four, if she hits a boundary? The one answer put forth was unsatisfactory.

– Do people with wacky ideas have them because they have neglected to think deeply about the implications of their belief?

– “What is the biggest problem facing the world?” asked someone. Mr B replied: “Overpopulation.” Mr B then got stuck into us, and three grannies then got stuck into Mr B.

– The history of hecklers. (See last Thursday’s post for a full description)

– Are there any wealthy people not struggling financially?

– Why do new smokers, before they are properly addicted, not see that cigarettes could be becoming a problem for them, and stop while they still can?
From the Postsecretwebsite:

5. This week’s Unusual Critter is the Croatia Marten. It has not yet found the time to look at our Facebook page but promises to do so.




The History of Hecklers

There are many articles about the history of soapbox orators, but none about the hecklers. This article addresses that omission.

1. Julius Caesar  46 to 44BC
Julius was a character. His main topics were politics and the military. However, he had stiff competition from two other soapbox speakers: Brutus and Mark Antony. You can find examples of their speeches on Youtube.
  Unfortunately, Caesar’s hecklers were a disagreeable lot, and one day things got out of hand. He was stabbed and taken to hospital, but pronounced dead on arrival.

2. Jesus Christ  circa 27 to 35AD.
Jesus stood on a hill and talked about religion (a popular topic). Some historians say he had about twelve people in his audience, which suggests his oratory skills were no better than Helmut’s. Other historians claim he had hundreds of people in his audience, which suggests his oratory skills were entertaining, but lacked sufficient depth to attract more than twelve regulars.
  His hecklers were brutal, and he didn’t last long as a soapbox speaker. However, he was the most successful; his ideas are still discussed today.

3. Adolf Hitler 1930s to 1945
Adolf was a controversial soapbox speaker who stood on a balcony to talk to his ardent followers. He had a remarkable ability to inspire audience participation: for reasons unclear he would intermittently get his followers to raise their right arm. However, Adolf broke the unwritten law of soapboxing by using a microphone and amplification, and drowned out his hecklers’ objections. For that reason none of his hecklers rose to prominence.
Unfortunately there was a war going on at the time and his distracted hecklers were losing interest in what he had to say. With his popularity waning, in April 1945 Adolf took his own life.

4. Benito Mussolini. 1930s to 1945
‘The Iron Prefect’ was an Italian fellow who, like Hitler, enjoyed addressing his followers from a balcony. His adept use of body language, vocal variety and improvisation made him one of the world’s best soapbox speakers. However, he made Hitler’s mistake of using a microphone and amplifier, but his hecklers were less accommodating. One shot him dead. That concluded Mussolini’s soapboxing days.

5. Mahatma Gandhi.
Mahatma was an Indian soapbox speaker whose favourite topic was civil rights. But he was a man of contradictions: his speeches pleased the Indian segment of the community and alienated the English, yet there is no suggestion he was racist. He would often undertake long fasts, yet there is no firm proof he had an eating disorder. He lived modestly and honestly, and advocated non-violence, yet spent plenty of time in jail. A heckler became fed up with Mahatma’s inconsistency and shot him dead.

In conclusion, we can see that hecklers are a disagreeable and murderous lot. It is not an understatement to say our current orators are brave and noble fellows, for they have chosen to put their lives on the line for the edification of their followers. For that we thank them.

20. After the federal election.

“The best cure for sea sickness is to sit on the lee side of a church.”

1. It was the morning afterthe Federal Election but the election wasn’t mentioned at Speakers’ Corner. Why? Because Speakers’ Corner is the place for discussions you don’t get elsewhere, and discussions about the election were everywhere else.

That is why Speakers’ Corner is head and shoulders above every other media outlet on the planet.

. . .

Your poor scribe just had a coughing fit. I’m alright now, thank you.

2. It was perfect weather and all four speakers: Steve, Helmut, Mr B, and even Ray, had steady crowds all day.

And, all day, ultra-pest Mirko earnestly tried to inform everyone about the importance of the past, present and future. Mr B was patient with him but this scribe chooses to be less diplomatic. Mirko: Your past must have been a nightmare, you haven’t been in the present for twenty years, and you have no future except for Friday night’s banana custard. Let it rest, for goodness sake.

3. Uncle Pete was keen to learn more about the process of natural selection, and Helmut was keen to learn the Ist Law of Thermodynamics. It’s heartening to know that men that old still have enquiring minds. They are an inspiration to the rest of us.

4. Mr B has changed his mind.For years he has been saying schools should teach their students life skills, and he has received plenty of opposition. “Where would we find the time to teach these skills?!” cried the outraged teachers in the audience. Unlike Mr B, your thoughtful scribe thinks they make a good point. After all, how could they teach a student how to change a flat tyre AND the year in which the Battle of Hastings was fought?

Yes, Mr B points out that he also wants history banned from the curriculum. He argues it would not only enrich each student’s life, it would also free up time so that life skills could be taught. But that change won’t happen any time soon, we both suspect.

Anyway, today he recanted a little, saying that kids can learn some life skills from Youtube. The Battle of Hastings is safe.

The Battle of Hastings. A copy of this print is just $10.66, plus postage.

5. Other subjects discussed:
Alice and the Dark Forest

– What were the unfortunate circumstances of Mr B’s loss of virginity? (Yes, folks, he has lost it. Though not recently.)

– Who leads you? It’s certainly not Scott Morrison.

– Which school subjects are the most important? Is maths one of them?

6. This week’s Unusual Critter is the amblypygi, found worldwide in tropical areas. Although it’s harmless, you probably wouldn’t want to sleep with hundreds of them. The one pictured is a regular contributor to our Facebook page.


19. Ratbags come to Speakers’ Corner.

“You can have the other words – chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it.” 
Mary Oliver.

1. Tim Brunero’s sixteen politicians were interesting and spoke well.  Your diligent scribe filmed them all. However, when editing the videos I aimed to get rid of the rhetoric and the anecdotes, and focus on the policies. But the video still ended up being more than 35 minutes long. That’s 33 minutes too long for this day and age. So, then I figured I’d include just the fun bits. But that would have been doing the politicians a disservice – they had put a lot of work into their presentations and it would not be fair of me to trivialise their efforts for your amusement.

Result: No video. And I have wasted far too much time on the thing to now write a review of what happend on the day.

I learned a few things though. Here are three tips for any politician giving a speech:
1. Don’t waste your time (or our time) complaining about the situation. We already know there is a problem.

2.  Instead, spend the time telling us:
a) your policies. What will you specifically recommend once you’re in parliament? (Giving us platitudes like “We will protect the environment”doesn’t cut the proverbial mustard.)
b) how will you fund your policies?

3. Have a website with your policies on each issue clearly outlined. Anticipate at least twenty possible objections or questions about each policy, and address them.

P.S. Extra tip: in future, when you “go out and talk to the people”, talk to the smart ones. Pooled ignorance creates neither knowledge nor wisdom.

Who dropped a name tag?

2. There has been disatisfaction with Tim’s Speakers’ Corner 2.0.

The complaints:
1. The amplification means that the power now rests too much with the speaker. In the old days the hecklers had a chance to speak. For the speaker to be able to drown out hecklers and ignore awkward questions is a big step backwards.

2. The publicity has assisted Tim but not the rest of us mainstayers. On Phillip Adams’ Late Night Live program Tim gave the impression to some listeners that since the 1970’s Speakers’ Corner’s has been defunct, and that he was bringing it back.

3. Members of the audience felt uncomfortable knowing that their comments would be recorded and live streamed. They were concerned that what they said might adversely affect their reputation, so they were forced to remain silent.

4. The amplification would drown out other speakers wanting to speak across the way.

5. This new method overwhelms a tradition going back more than 140 years. Some things should never change.

The praise.
1. The amplification means that the power now rests with the speaker. In the old days the hecklers had a chance to respond. For a speaker to be able to drown out hecklers and ignore awkward questions is a big step forward.

2. We have been getting publicity. On Phillip Adams’ Late Night Live program Tim reminded people of Speakers’ Corner and this website suddenly got fifty new visitors and 150 views.

3. Members of the audience were grateful for the opportunity to express their comments, knowing that their livestreamed comments would reach a wider audience.

4. The amplification would draw crowds and make it easier for the audience to hear the speaker.

5. This new method brings a crusty, 140 year old tradition into the 21st century. The world is changing and we need to adapt.

Tick which is applicable:
If you like Tim’s innovation, be pleased, because there are two more to come.
If you like Tim’s innvation, be disappointed, because there are only two more to come.

If you don’t like Tim’s innovation, be pleased, because there are only two more to come.
If you don’t like Tim’s innovation, be disappointed, because there are two more to come.

Thanks to Victor Zammit for this photo of John Webster and his throng.


Phillip Adams on Late Night Live.

The ABC’s Phillip Adams has interviewed Tim Brunero, who has organised this coming Sunday’s event in which politicians from the minor parties will be presenting their policies. Tim spoke well and his knowledge of Speakers’ Corner is extensive. It’s an interesting interview and if you’d like to hear it click right here.

And remember, Steve Maxwell and Mr B will be appearing from 12.30pm to 2pm to present their own policies. That’s to make sure you will hear something sensible.

Some of the parties that will be represented from 2pm will be ‘The Shooters and Fishers Party’, ‘The Science Party’, ‘The Pirate Party’, ‘The Flux Party’, ‘The Hemp Party’, Clive Palmer’s ‘United Australia Party’ with sitting senator Brian Burston, and other parties you haven’t heard of.

Some of their policies are as eccentric as Mr B’s. Yes, hard to believe! But here is a sample:
– build a new city called ‘Turing’ with a minimumheight restriction for residential buildings
– beef up renewable power by 800% and have everything in Australia run on renewable power
– invest in all science that will get rid of aging
– smart phone app that allows the people to vote for policies in parliament
– bring back national service
– eradicate foreign aid
– new expressway through the Blue Mountains
– support for nuclear power
– support for euthanasia
– tax-free threshold raised to $70,000
– religions should pay tax

Listen to it live streamed on Facebook or see you Sunday!

Here are some of the speakers:





18. The ABC deceived me!

“True friends stab you in the front.”
Oscar Wilde.

1. The rain tricked your scribe.It was raining when I was about to leave and the ABC’s rain map suggested it would keep raining, so plans to attend Speakers’ Corner were abandoned. But the rain map was wrong and the day unaccountably brightened. (Another good reason to halve the ABC’s funding.) Presumably, the regulars were smarter about picking the weather and turned up to enjoy the day without your scribe.

Steve, Helmut, Ray, Mirko and Mr B may well have been at their dazzling best, and I missed it.

2. A challenge is issued!  This coming Sunday, organiser Tim Brunero will have politicians from the minor parties giving us their policies. They will have access to a microphone and the event will be live streamed on Facebook from 2pm until 5pm. Come along to listen, and ask a question!

However, the regular grasshoppers will still need their weekly dose of wisdom, so Steve and Mr B will be speaking from 12.30pm until 2pm.

Mr B will be presenting the policies he believes Australia needs, and he challenges Tim’s politicians to point out the flaws in his policies. (Of course, it’s a trick. There are no flaws in his policies.)

Steve Maxwell has issued a similar challenge. By 2pm the politicians will be in disarray, but wiser.

Steve is a member of the Greens, and Mr B has provided me with a small sample of his policies:
– A super upgrade of animal welfare.
– No free trade. No Trans Pacific Partnership.
– Repeal all Unfair Dismissal laws.
– No assisted killing.
– No pill testing, no decriminalisation of drugs.
– Reinstate penalty rates.
– The Keiser Sose principle for Defence.
– No religion to be taught in schools.
– Restore our environment & increase habitats.
– Double the Medicare levy.
– Royal Commision into the justice system & significant law reform.
– Prison reform
– Innovations in science
– 12 special projects that no politician seems courageous enough to implement, including the development of an infallible lie detector & a Journal for Negative Results.
– And learn how he is going to fund those projects!


3. In our Unusual Critter Serieswe present to you the alien-like, almost indestructible, tardigrade. It likes our Facebook pagebut refuses to leave a comment.


17. A senate seat for Mr B?

”While there is a lower class I am in it.  While there is a criminal class I am of it.  While there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”  
Eugene Debs.

1. Last week on this blog the question was asked, “Will Helmut get off his Austrian derrière and speak across the way?” Today the answer was ‘yes’, and he had a crowd for most of the day.

2. Mr B says he will be fighting for a senate seat in this upcoming Federal election, but he doesn’t yet have an electorate. He hopes he isn’t leaving it too late to get one. Today he told us his policies.

He also (partly) explained why intelligent life will never visit Earth. (He didn’t explain why it would want to.)

3. Peter the Younger wants to know: “If the oceans are warming, and thus absorbing less CO2, why are the oceans becoming more acidic instead of alkaline?

Does anyone know?

4. Today’s critter in our Unusual Critter Series is this giant African Daddy-long-legs spider. It tried to eat our Facebook page.