8. Frauds and shysters

“You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.”

Sammy Davis Junior.

1. Mr B encountered a troublemaker even before the meeting had begun. Each week, when Mr B first arrives at Speakers’ Corner, he unloads from his car 30 chairs at the bus stop, and then drives off to find a parking spot. When he returns he carries the chairs from the bus stop to The Domain, and sets them up.

But today Albert appeared at the car and began to take the chairs as Mr B was unloading them. Mr B forbade him to take the chairs. Albert laughed in his face. Mr B then had to patiently explain to Albert that the chairs were private property, and for him (Albert) to take them it would be theft. Albert laughed again. Mr B remonstrated with him firmly and Albert finally agreed to not steal the chairs.

The trusting Mr B drove off.

When Mr B returned on foot ten minutes later he found that Albert had flagrantly disregarded Mr B’s clear requirements. He had carried all 30 chairs across the road (six at a time!) and set them up for Mr B in the usual spot. And then he had gone to the kiosk to buy his wife Jean an ice cream.

Albert is 93.

2. Steve Maxwell is still malingering with his “eye trouble” but today we had four other speakers take the heat off Mr B.

Helmut was the first to replace him on the Ladder of Knowledge, purportedly to talk about the origin of the universe; and Gary the Christian followed him to present an alternate point of view. Neither man got even close to talking about the universe’s origin, but nevertheless kept the crowd interested.

(Gary later took a platform across the way and continued speaking.)

Mr B took the Ladder again before Mirko got up. Mirko is a natural comic, and kept the crowd entertained for ten minutes.

Later, John August took the ladder to talk about the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership and its “merits”. John must know what he’s talking about because Mr B agreed with him. John displayed a thorough knowledge of the subject, and deftly answered questions from the audience.

There are other people there capable of being speakers, too: Uncle Pete, Mark the Grinner, and Peter The Younger, for example. But when you see only Ray and Mr B speaking at Speakers’ Corner, you might think Speakers’ Corner has a dearth, or paucity, of speakers. Yet, if all the people who could speak became permanent speakers, we would have plethora of speakers. A surfeit, even. And Speakers’ Corner would be on its way to becoming a solid tourist attraction again.

This scribe will now put his thesaurus away and have a lie down.

3. Good luck Steve with your health issues. Get well soon.


4. The subject of Cold Reading came up. That’s the method frauds use to pretend they’re psychic. One grasshopper said she had visited a genuine clairvoyant who had told her things no one could have known. The staid Mr B patronisingly told her it was a trick, but what the hell would he know?

Here is a video of Derren Brown using cold reading.

5. A grasshopper actually asked to hear some poetry. Who would have thought? Obligingly, Uncle Pete, Peter the Younger, John August, Mr B and two anonymous grasshoppers contributed. The poems were appreciated by all.

One grasshopper requested the words to ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. This scribe figures she can google the title and find a million sites that have it, so here is one lesser known poem, by William Blake. Thank you to the man who recited it.

by William Blake.

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

6. A new segment: The Something Nice Segment, designed to charm some and irritate others. (Click to enlarge.)


7. John Edwards tours the world hosting events in which he “talks to the dead”. His methods were explained today, as was the method of a faith healer using an earpiece. See the video below.

8. Today’s assertiveness tip was as profound as the previous four. Mind you, when Mr B’s grasshoppers were asked to name any of the previous four he received blank looks for his trouble. And a wisecrack. Poor Mr B. He should be awarded a sainthood for his patience and persistence.

This week’s assertiveness tip, he informs me, is: Be aware that you are not obliged to solve the other person’s problem.

Now you, dear reader, can ignore that tip as well.

Here’s something else about being assertive.


9. We discussed the Monty Hall Problem, in which Uncle Pete was asked to guess which of the three face down Cards, A, B and C, was the Ace of Clubs.

He chose A.
Mr B, knowing where the Ace was, revealed one of the dud cards.
Mr B then asked Uncle Pete if he wanted to swap.
Uncle Pete wisely said ‘yes’. And that’s the weird bit, because although it seems as though swapping would make no difference to the odds – that Uncle Pete would still only have a 50% chance of choosing the Ace by swapping – he has in fact a 66.6% chance of choosing the Ace if he swaps, and only a 33.3% chance of choosing the Ace if he keeps the card he has. For an explanation click here.


10. Other subjects talked about:
– The speaker spoke of his roommate of two years ago: a black spider that lived in the light mounting above his bed. Somehow, this story was meant to persuade us that we shouldn’t avoid challenges in life, and instead seek change instead of comfort.


– Mr B argued that the Church should not compensate victims of sexual abuse, unless it’s the Vatican itself doing the compensating (a suggestion from a bright grasshopper). He argues that the funds the Church would be giving away are those donated by the gentle, well-meaning parishioners, and why should they be punished? He also argues that we should double the Medicare levy to cover the cost of counselling for ALL those who need it.

– One reason for high house prices and the difficulty in finding rental accommodation is the Chinese buyers. According to an estate agent, many Chinese owners don’t let their newly built properties to tenants because they like to move into abodes which have not already been lived in. (It’s a cultural thing.) That exacerbates the rental problem. And, there are plenty of wealthy Chinese buyers who don’t mind paying inflated prices, which means they can outbid others.
According to Mr B’s grasshoppers, both the UK and Canada have created legislation to deal with that, but Australia hasn’t.

– What punishment should consumers of illegal drugs receive? Should narcotics be legalised? Here is a postcard from the PostSecret website:


11. MySpace was once the big thing, and then along came Facebook. Well, soon Facebook will be shoved aside and made obsolete by this scribe’s new BigChat venture. Until then, however, you’ll have to make do with reading these posts on Facebook.