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Amy Tan

Best-Selling Novelist

Amy Tan: Reading for me was a refuge. I could escape from everything that was miserable in my life and I could be anyone I wanted to be in a story, through a character. It was almost sinful how much I liked it. That's how I felt about it. If my parents knew how much I loved it, I thought they would take it away from me. I think I was also blessed with a very wild imagination because I can remember, when I was at an age before I could read, that I could imagine things that weren't real and whatever my imagination saw is what I actually saw. Some people would say that was psychosis but I prefer to say it was the beginning of a writer's imagination. If I believed that insects had eyes and mouths and noses and could talk, that's what they did. If I thought I could see devils dancing out of the ground, that's what I saw. If I thought lightning had eyes and would follow me and strike me down, that's what would happen. And I think I needed an outlet for all that imagination, so I found it in books.
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Amy Tan

Best-Selling Novelist

One day, after being told one of these stories didn't work, I thought, "I'm just going to stop showing my work to people, and I'm just going to write a story. Make it fictional, but they'll be Chinese-American." What amazed me was: I wrote about a girl who plays chess and her mother is both her worst adversary and her best ally. I didn't play chess, so I figured that counted for fiction, but I made her Chinese-American, which made me a little uncomfortable. By the end of this story I was practically crying. Because I realized that -- although it was fiction and none of that had ever happened to me in that story -- it was the closest thing of describing my life. Of the feelings that I had, of these things that my mother had taught me that were inexplicable or had no name. This invisible force that she taught me, this rebellion that I had. And then feeling that I had lost some power, lost her approval and then lost what had made me special. It was a magic turning point for me. I realized that was the reason for writing fiction. Through that, this subversion of myself, of creating something that never happened, I came closer to the truth. So, to me, fiction became a process of discovering what was true, for me. Only for me.
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Julie Taymor

Theater, Opera and Film Director

If you look at the scene -- Act Two, it begins with a drought. Now, I could have trees -- green trees with leaves falling off, drying up. But wouldn't a film do that better, and an animated film even better, because they can make it any way they want? So I say, "What -- in the most simplest terms, with the most simplest theatrical idea -- technique can say it?" And it was a big, white circle of cloth that's silk with blue lines on it that was pulled through a hole in the floor. And all you saw was that circle, which was also the circle of life, was also the circle of Mufasa. It's the main element in the entire -- the main symbol is the circle, as the wall is the main symbol in Grendel. You watch this water -- but it's just silk -- disappear through a hole. Film can't do that. Theater is far superior to film in poetry, in abstract poetry.
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Julie Taymor

Theater, Opera and Film Director

Theater evolves through religion to be the mediator between the darkness and existence, to help you get over the hump of a bad season and no rice paddies and a sickness, a demon that's come into your family and has spread malaria. And you go, as the artist -- the shaman -- would make these spirit journeys, and he would take you into a place. Now, it's a psychological play, but as we said, the concrete world isn't necessarily the most powerful world. The world of the mind -- whether you're watching Matrix or whatever -- the world that's inside here has the power to do a lot of good and a lot of damage.
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Edward Teller

Father of the Hydrogen Bomb

There was an absence in our teaching system, as there is, I believe, in most high school teaching systems, to consider mathematics and science as exact. "It is so, it is provable, it is indubitable!" All of it is true. But it misses the point. The interesting thing in the exact sciences is what is not yet known, what is in doubt, and that process of doubt, of contradiction, which actually occurs as science changes from century to century, should be reproduced in every student's mind. And I think, as a matter of fact, it is being reproduced in every good student's mind.
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Edward Teller

Father of the Hydrogen Bomb

We had a busy conference. And my wife and I got very tired by the end of the conference. But no sooner did we start to relax -- let's say 15 minutes after -- there was a telephone call, and my friend Leo Szilard was on the other end. "I am at the Union Station, come and get me." Well, Szilard was perhaps the last -- or one of the last -- men who had a great influence on me. That is, a great positive influence. No one could have had a greater influence on me than Hitler, who made it entirely clear to me that one could not ignore politics, and very particularly one could not ignore the worst evils in politics. What Szilard wanted was to say, "Here is what I have been waiting for! Here is what I have told you in London years ago: fission. Maybe in fission, when a big nucleus -- the biggest, uranium -- splits into two pieces, perhaps this fission, caused by one neutron, will emit two neutrons and then nuclear explosions will become possible." It made sense. And a few weeks later, there was Szilard on the phone calling in from New York. "I have found the neutrons!"
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Edward Teller

Father of the Hydrogen Bomb

That summer, I was teaching at Columbia and Szilard came to me one day. "Can you drive me out to the end of Long Island to see Einstein?" You know, Szilard was very ingenious and could do anything except drive a car. And furthermore, he had false hopes that I would be a good driver. At any rate, I got him to Einstein. He invited us to a cup of tea, and Szilard took a letter out of his pocket and Einstein read it carefully and signed it, and made one relevant remark. "This is the first time," he said, "we would get energy directly from the atomic nucleus, rather than from the sun, which got it from the atomic nucleus." He handed the letter back to Szilard, and that was the second of August. The rest is known to everybody. I had played my essential role as Szilard's chauffeur. Szilard gave the letter to an acquaintance of his who knew the President -- who knew Roosevelt. The letter was signed on the second of August, a little more than four weeks before Hitler invaded Poland. The delivery of the letter was slow, but it got there, circumventing any interference by secretaries. And FDR saw it, end of October, after Hitler and Stalin defeated -- and divided between themselves -- Poland. The letter said the science is there. Nuclear explosives can be made, and the Germans were the first to know about it, they discovered it. I cannot think of a time where such a letter could have made more of an impact on Roosevelt than the time when he actually got it. He immediately issued orders and we got going.
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Edward Teller

Father of the Hydrogen Bomb

In the spring of 1940, I got an invitation to a Pan-American Congress -- to which I was determined not to go -- in Washington, next door. And Roosevelt was going to speak and I still was not going. But the day before his speech, Hitler invaded the Lowlands and it was very clear that the decisions in the World War were now immediately impending. And Roosevelt was going to speak about that, so I was going. The first and only time that I saw Roosevelt, and that was from a distance. He talked about the fact that the time to fly from Europe to the American continent was not so great, that small nations are not secure, neither are big ones, that the scientists may be blamed for the horrible things that are happening. "But," said Roosevelt, "I am a pacifist, and you, my friends, are pacifists, but I am telling you, if you are not going to work on the instruments of war, freedom will be lost everywhere." That was the question on my mind. And I had the impression that Roosevelt was talking to me. And of course that was stupid to think so -- me of 2,000 people -- but yes, me. Because, of a couple of thousand people present, it may have been he and I and none other who knew about the possibility of the atomic bomb. I read the letter that he read, and I knew the actions that he had already taken to start work on nuclear explosives. When he finished talking, my mind was made up. And I remember looking at my watch, he had talked 20 minutes.
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