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There's no place like home

Well, carrying on from the last post, I left Mum and Dad's place, went into uni with Rev and took him out to lunch. I did a whole lot of stuff at uni, but I'm not going to write about it, because, quite honestly, I don't really want to spend every post writing about the miniutae of my work. Every second maybe (not counting the rants).

Anyway, after a certain amount of time, I donned my ruby slippers, clicked my heels three times, and got on a train. An hour and a half later, I got off the train and was met by my wife. For those of you who can't imagine the joy of seeing your life partner after being away for a few weeks, you should probably live a little more, read a little more and watch a hell of a lot less TV. It was quite a joyous reunion, anyway.

Yesterday and today were both work from home days. Both fairly uneventful, although yesterday Rebecca and I went with our neighbour, Judy, to speak with a guy who lives down the street, George (there will be more on him later, probably next week).

This was a fascinating evening. George and Judy, who have both lived in Ballarat for far longer than either Rebecca or I have lived anywhere, were discussing the history of the street we live in, as well as some of the surrounding streets. It was really interesting. Buildings were no longer "513" but were instead, "the old Everitt house".

I will also mention that we live in a heritage overlay area, which means that, unless the council does something they shouldn't (and surely councillors would never vote against council regulations, right? right? anyone?), the old buildings in the area should be safe from being demolished so that a developer can make a quick buck.

Anyway, it was an incredibly interesting evening, as we got to hear about days and worlds which no longer exist, but have had a significant impact on the way the world is now. About how the homes are a record of what went before. About how houses built immediately after the war had small windows because glass was still expensive. About how one old house use to have tar on the fence, and the kids on the street used to pick bits off and chew it becuase they couldn't afford sweets. About how the houses on the street are more than just bricks and mortar. They are living memories of our lives. They express the hopes and aspirations, the hardships and struggles, the memories and records of the people-who-came-before.

Hugo was certainly right (don't worry, I'll only go on about this for a paragraph or two, and then I'll do a book review. Maybe Hunchback of Notre Dame, given the context.) when he went on and on and on about how architecture was the art of the masses (we'll skip over the bits about the effect of printing presses on this). (I skipped over most of those bits when I read Hunchback, too). Architecture IS the art of the masses. But it's not the churches. It's not the museums (musea?). It's not the courthouses. These are not built by the people and they are not built for the people. They are built by elite organisations as a symbol of their power so that they can effectively subjugate those they are supposed to serve.

So what is it which tells us about the people? It is the houses. The homes. The places where the people can show what is really important to them. How they overcame adversity. If you give me $50 million dollars and a couple of blocks of land (I will say thank you!) I can build you something nice, and tasteful, and probably even artistic. (I can have built, anyway). If you give $50 thousand and a block of land, and tell me to build a home, I have much stronger limitations, so what I build actually reflects not only what I want, but also what my limitations are. And therefore reflects me and the society I live in

Which brings me to the point. What does it say about a society which lets a developer buy heritage protected buildings to tear them down and put up horrible little units, 9-to-a-block with no respect for the surrounding streetscape? It suggests that the society holds nothing about itself sacred. That it can do whatever it likes because it is prepared to erase its past, both the good and the bad, and we end up with an irrelevant cultural homogeneity, where you only see the same things, whether you are in Ballarat, or Melbourne, or Leeds, or New York, or Paris, or Beijing. Cities blur into an irrelevant mix, where no city has things about it which make it special, because we can go 100kms down the road and see the same thing. You can hop on a plane for a couple of hours (and get a sore leg) and get off and see the same city you left, just with a different name. And why? So a little pimp of a developer can make a dollar as society prostitutes itself.

Anyway, as I said, Victor Hugo does go into some detail which I was quite happy to skip over regarding architecture as the art of the masses. But, surrounding that, he tells quite a ripping yarn (I'm sorry for those of you that are waiting for the disney version. I haven't seen it, and can't imagine that it lines up particularly well with the book). In this story, our hero, narrator and (you guessed it) PhD student finds himself in an uncomfortable position where his supervisor threatens him that if he doesn't get some results then he'll have his candidature terminated. Not realising the blessing this really would be, he finds an intelligent young post-doc named Esmerelda.

Esmerelda offers to teach him how to use some important equipment to get the results, but, when he asks her to collaborate with him on a full-time basis, she tells him that she would only collaborate with someone who would provide her with a secure position and funding. She has her eye on just such an individual, a well funded young professor, who gets her to do some work quietly. He then takes it and publishes it without giving her due credit. In the process though, he's accused of falsifying data and is kicked out of the position. Somehow, though, all the scandal gets passed onto her, and her academic career is in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, our young hero is also friends with a famous professor out of Notre Dame Uni. This professor has a research assistant, Quasimodo, who he gets to do all the terrible work for him. One day, Quasimodo reads one of Esmerelda's papers, and realises that there are better experiments he could be doing, and would love to work for Esmerelda. Meanwhile, (yes, there are a lot of meanwhiles in the book) the professor wants to exploit Esmerelda's research.

So, for anyone who hasn't been following so far, we have a talented young researcher named Esmerelda. A famous professor wants to exploit her work, an RA, Quasimodo, wants to work for her, our hero wants to collaborate with her and she isn't interested in working seriously with any of them. She wants to work with someone who has exploited her work and landed her in trouble. In the end, the accusations of unethical research stick, and she is unable to work in academia anymore. No reputable company will employ her, and she is forced to become a management consultant. In disillusionment and longing, Quasimodo goes to act as a PA for her, and neither is heard from ever again.

Anyway, today I got to share my first Kiddush with Rebecca for ages. The way we run the service is as follows: We light 2 candles, say a blessing for the day, drink some wine (with blessing) and eat some bread (with blessing). We then ask each other what is the best thing which happened this week. We usually try to avoid something soppy like "I got to spend time with you" (awwwww....) but sometimes it is just unavoidable. Like this weekend.


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