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The cliché is that a picture is worth a thousand words. Not so.

Here is a picture that has been often seen. For those born yesterday, it is Vice-President Lyndon Johnson taking the oath of office for president in November 1963.

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Class. write down everything you know about the scene.

Did you know this?

At President Kennedy’s death in Highland Park Hospital, Johnson had been told by the Attorney-General’s office to take the oath of office immediately. This counsel was affirmed vigorously by the military advisors who travelled with the deceased president. Why? Why no respectful period of mourning?

In that uncertain time in the Cold War nuclear age, the fear was that a hot head somewhere might take precipitous and irreversible action. Remember ‘Dr Strangelove!’ One prophylactic was an immediate and seamless transfer of power to new hands.

It was also stressed by all concerned that the new president should get to Washington D.C. as soon as possible to take up the reins and calm public fears.

The Secret Service also wanted to insure the security and safety of the new president, in case there was more to come. The times they were indeed uncertain and foreboding.

Ergo the ragtag group around the Vice-President set off for Air Force One to fly to Andrews Airforce Base. A ragtag assembly, yes, it was; but all the same some thought did into its composition even in those dark and dreadful hours.

Before leaving the hospital Johnson, with the presence of mind he often had, asked for a judge to join the group on Air Force One to administer the oath of office. He also insured press photographers were on board to document and broadcast the moment.

And not just any judge.

He asked for a judge by name: Sarah T. Hughes. She is the woman with her back to the camera.

Hughes judge.jpg Judge Hughes

Johnson had nominated her twice for more senior federal judicial appointments, and each time it was blocked, because she was woman, because she was too old, because Johnson had nominated her was enough for Attorney-General Robert Kennedy to oppose her promotion.

In a kind of overdue compensation, Johnson bestowed upon her the historic role of swearing in the president there on Air Force One. But wait, there is more.

It also showed that same Attorney-General who was now in charge.

For the same purpose — demonstrating the smooth and immediate transfer of power — to calm the US populace and show the Soviets that it was business as usual, he asked Mrs. Kennedy to stand with him in the bloodstained clothes she wore. The torch was passed.

The picture alone tells us none of this. So much for the lie that a picture is worth a thousand words. This one alone is not even worth the four hundred words it takes to explain it.

When I upset a bookshelf groping for a power point a volume of Robert Caro’s magisterial biography of LBJ fell to the floor and in restoring it to the shelf, I noticed this picture.

It’s a wrap for another year for us Festies. We went to five shows and found three winners, one curiosity, and the fifth.

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In first place is Retro Futurismus. Whatever those Davy girls are on, there should be more of it! Followed closely by Ladies in Black. And showing, Measure for Measure.

That a mature Shakespeare plays came third is a surprise to us, too. But it was in Russian.


Ladies in Black was good as Goody’s should be. [The cognoscenti will get it, and hoi polloi won’t, and that is as it should be.]


Retro Futurismus is genre-free and sometimes gender bending it is. Vaudeville one reviewer called it, and that will do. It is a variety show with some singing, some dancing, some wall climbing, some aerial without a net, a singing slinky, some ultraviolet light, and some more.

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We found it amazing what can be done with bubble wrap, kitchen tongs, and house bricks. Strewth!

I am at a loss for words, except to say the next time Retro Futurismus puts on a show, I want to be there. The wit, the creativity, the energy, the bonhomie were all contagious.

Though I was intrigued by the description, i failed to list it when we consulted about our Festie this year. Why? Because it started at 09.45 pm, which is a good hour after I am in my pyjamas with a book in hand. But Kate said it was go, and so we went. She was right again. It was go!

We took an Opal bus each way and waited four minutes and nine minutes. The ride was twenty minutes. This I mention to indicate how easy and convenient it was.

I have made one hundred visits to the Newtown Gym on the current annual membership, which continues to late September. Three or so days a week after walking the dog around the park I head for the gym, while Kate takes the mutt home.

Gym logo-4.png I cannot vouch for either the 4 a.m. start or the midnight finish.

A visit to the gym consists of twenty-five minutes on one of the stationary bicycles or the upper torso whirly-gig. There follow stretches of the calf and thigh. Then comes a test of some of the metals to see if they are still heavy. The weights will includes both leg and upper body.

When pressed for time I omit some, or all of the weights.

The gym routine involves a uniform of sweat pants and shirt with a red jacket, pockets stuffed with reading matter, water bottle, sun glasses for the walk to and from, cleaning cloth for the glasses, earphones, and a neck pouch for the iPhone and notebook. That is in addition to the house keys and wallet in the sweat pants pockets, along with the magic fob to enter the gym. Locked and loaded.

I read on the bikes and listen to podcasts on the upper torso machines, hence the earphones. If possible I use a device near a window to watch the world go by on King or Wilson Streets. The first choice is listening is ‘In Our Time’ with Lord Bragg from BBC4, followed by ‘The Writer’s Almanac’ with Garrison Keillor, and ‘Grammar Girl’ with Mignon Fogarty. Choices two and three come into play when his Lordship goes on vacation.

I keep notes on what I do at the gym, so as to vary the exercises from one visit to another, in the notebook. It is partly encoded, since I am the only reader.

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Usually the routine is finished about 9 am. At home a star goes on the calendar date of each gym visit, as per daughter Julie's instructions.


Here I am après le gym on the way to Best and Brightest last week.

The Bougainvillea is a beautful and deadly thing. Those that have been near one, know what I mean. Its name comes the French admiral who commanded the mission that lead to the first European description of this fecund, tropical beauty. We had one for a while, in a pot to contain its growth. Even so it grew over the door to the laundry, and one of us had to go. Either the Bougainvellea or all of us. Those thorns are large and small, each sharp. Owie!

These two are on Hordern Street in O'Connell Town at Shane's house.


The colours are as intense and vibrant as the thorns are sharp and penetrating.


Beautiful to look at -- from a safe distance.

For the cognoscenti O’Connell Town is the historic name of an enclave within the larger historic Bligh Estate that once encompassed most of contemporary Camperdown, Annandale, and Newtown. There are no remnants of the Blight Estate left in the area, or so I have been told by a fellow gym user who has lived in O'Connell Town for forty years.

Having moved into this area, while dog walking, going to and from the gym, and to the station and bus stop we are learning about O’Connell Town.

We noticed this display on the corner a few days ago. Take a look.

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Look closer. It is an album of photographs blue tacked to the outside of a house. See.


There were twenty photographs of assorted subjects.

Then one day, one was missing but the rest remained. My hands were full and I did not get a picture. Then a few days later they were all gone only leaving behind the blue tack.

Huh? What was that about? You can tell me.

Do shirts grow on trees? Not often but sometimes. Let me explain.

On our quiet residential cul de sac stands a sapling and one morning when out with the dog, we noticed it had a shirt dropped over a lower branch. Hmm. It’s Newtown and we are inured to weird sights. We ignored it for a day, and then I stopped to take it off - thinking, though the thought was not fully formed, to put in the bin for tomorrow’s trash collection, removing another eye sore from the street.

Other eye sores have included mattresses dumped at the end of the street. No doubt some green voter thinks the mattress fairies will look after it. Detritus from home renovations. Nails which have given us more than one flat tire. As I said: Newtown, where a little bit of the wild West remains.

As I touched the shirt I realised it was not, as I had unconsciously supposed, a filthy rag but rather a clean, ironed, King Gee workshirt, and that it was heavy, heavy because there were keys in the top buttoned pocket.


Turning the shirt around to get at the pocket I also found a University of Sydney crest on it. Huh!?


In sum, there was a clean, near new, University of Sydney building and grounds workshirt with a ring of half a dozen keys on it. Wait! There is more.

The keys were security keys, those double channel that used to cost of a hundred dollars a piece to replace when I was head of department. I know this because Dr. Twit, a loser in every other respect, lost a key regularly. That was five years ago so now probably $200.


We pondered how anyone could lose the shirt off the back. We wondered why the shirt was so neat. Why it was dropped over the tree branch. Most of all, we wondered why it was so far from the University. We speculated how it might have happened but none of our ideas made much sense. (No snide remarks please!)

Because she was going to meet an old comrade in books for lunch on campus, on the way the Child Bride took the shirt to the Campus Security Office. There she was told, as the keys and shirt, were gratefully received, that nothing had been reported missing - there is a standing order to report lost keys immediately. Dr Twit was good at that.

The return of the shirt was a quick transaction and no details were asked or given, so we shall never know the next act in this drama. Let the imagination begin!

We may also imagine who King Gee was, because the King Gee web site is mum on the subject.

Showcase for IVth Honours Research

The fifth annual presentation of undergraduate student research in the Honours from the Department of Government and International Relations took place on Tuesday 13 May at Parliament House. The presentations were punctuated by two question times. A reception with light refreshments and finger food followed the formalities.

The five panelists were Dominic Jarkey, Christine Gallagher, Luke Craven , Aishwarrya Balaji, and Charles Cull. The proceedings were chaired by Cindy Chen herself a panelist in 2013.

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Aishwarrya BALAJI, Charles CULL, Dominic JARKEY, Cindy CHEN, Luke CRAVEN, and Christine GALLAGHER

There were more than 160 registrations for the event. Those present included parliamentarians, solicitors, journalists, researchers, economists, public servants, sponsors of prizes in the study of Government and International Relations, other who have hosted interns or collaborated on research projects, members of the Department, and current IVth Honours students, and other alumni.

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Volunteers from the Politics Society staffed the welcome desk, ushered, and managed the floor microphones.

More photographs will be posted in due course.

Congratulations to one and all.

The link is live for 21 more days. Have a look. Please cut-and-paste. The hyperlink tool remains inactive.


Some books are too complicated for a reader’s good. Here’s what I do about it.

Many of the krimmies I read have two parallel story lines: the police procedural and the villains getting up to villainy, often in every-other chapter. Toward the end these parallel lines meet. The technique is common but it takes an uncommon writer to do it well. To make both the plodding police and the risk-taking villains believable and interesting.

For the most part, the technique is connect-the-dots because it spins our the story, makes the book bigger (so the punter feels like it is more for the money, etc). A successful writer’s second book is never shorter than the first one, that must be a rule in publishing, and so on to the third in a mindless progression. But the results is unbalanced, not in page count, but in interest.

I am reading one such example now: Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Absent One (2012).


The police procedural part is well done, the characters interesting, the office politics credible, the dogged persistence refreshing in a world of 30-second attention spans, the speculative leaps satisfying if sometimes ill-judged, the varying interpretations that evidence supports intriguing, and so on. That is the half I am reading.

But every second chapter concerns the villains, and they are such cardboard characters that as they enter the pages a hiss rises from book. The author’s distant contempt for anyone with money and they are always the villains in these books is blinding. Everyone who drives a BMW or owns a house is presented as an unindicted war criminal who grew up pulling the arms off the children of the toiling working class. So I express right through those chapters by turning the pages. These villain-chapters fatten up the book but they only parade the author’s prejudices, no doubt in the effort to tap into the like prejudices of readers. Oh hum.

Ergo I can recommend half of The Absent One, but not the whole.

The Best and Brightest Showcase of IVth Honours Research in the Department of Government and International Relations will be on 22 May from 6 p.m. at Parliament House on Macquarie Street in the theatrette.

Graduates of Department of Government and IR, University of Sydney


This is a place for graduates to get in touch with each other. When the blackboard unit of study web site ends, students can shift to this one. When I have occasion to contact graduates I will ask them to visit this blog and leave a comment. Open this post and you may find yourself pictured.

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We kept a travel diary on this trip, as we always do, but it now competes for input with Kate’s blog
and mine http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/theoryandpractice/

Not to be out done, Julie also blogged their part of the excursion




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Here is the PowerPoint file on Leaders, leadership, and us. It is a link to You_Tube.

Best wishes.
Michael Jackson
Government and International Relations

This post is for those who completed GOVT6301.

If they wish to maintain a dialogue with each other, they may do so by posting to this entry. I offer it as a service in reaction to comments about missing the opportunity to engage with each other when the unit ends. If it is used, I will leave it. If not, I will delete it.

Please note that the blog is published and anyone can read it.

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A statement of welcome and best wishes to students starting Government in 2009.

A few words of greeting and orientation for students new to Government and International Relations. Click the link to You Tube and have a look.



Some words of congratulations to those who have completed IVth honours in 2008.

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I took a picture of the plaque outside the Utopian Café in Plaka on Melos with the idea that I would decipher later, at my desk. Here I am but I cannot decipher it so I am asking bleaders to help. What does it all mean?

utopia cafe.jpg

Post your suggestions with this item please. My thanks to those that pause to have a look.


A video from the real Michael Jackson


A revised version with a few more features.


Click and all shall be revealed.

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Best wishes to one and all. Click on the camera or arrow below to see all.


The odds and ends.


Vote early, vote often!


All I ever wanted to know about numismatics and was afraid to ask.


Quick! What is the difference between The Museum of Traditional Pottery and the Traditional Pottery Collection?


The Benaki Museum sets a standard in every respect.

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Further questions or comments may be posted here.

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And it is Rosé!

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Blogs I read.


Who is the best Poirot? This question came up on Facebook, and I naturally took to the keyboard to answer. See below for further enlightenment. Facebook had a great many expressions of opinion on this question, and I am glad to see that. However, that is all they were. Blurted opinions. Below I start an argument with some criteria.

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The Stelvin top is here to stay, and hooray, I say, to that!


The Wikipedia needs help on rosé, and I am just the guy who can do it!


I found more rosés than I had time to drink at Dean and De Lucca’s in Georgetown. I vowed to return as soon as possible, Reader, to pursue knowledge for you.


Dedicated as I am, I have also dared to try some “wines” that remind me that there are limits to my search for knowledge on your behalf, Reader.


Is it cherry, strawberry, water melon, ruby grapefruit, or raspberry? Moi, je prefere raspberry.


Wait! I hear the pedants among you, as is to be expected, quibbling.


In 2006 I gave myself an OOPS award.


I had an inquiry from a research centre on campus about the use of the blog for teaching and research.


Over the years I have accumulated mementoes from students.

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Download file


Out of print and out of copyright titles avaiable in electronic form.

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Thoughts on the canon of poltical theory and life.

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