Margaret Atwood :”rights did not descend out of the sky

Q: This idea, especially when it comes to women’s rights, that, “Okay, well, things are moving forward. Women are better off than they used to be.” Do you think we’re rethinking whether that is always true right now?

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Margaret Atwood : Well, there’s no such thing as inevitable progress. And it always has been true and always will be true that rights did not descend out of the sky. Rights are things that people agree on, and they end up agreeing on them because people work to get them to agree. So they can always change their minds. They say, “Well, this has gone too far. We certainly can’t have high heels; let’s abolish them.” Or whatever it may be. And people are prone in times of crisis, turmoil, and social unrest … to limiting things. Because it makes them feel safer.

So there’s no inevitability about it. And you can’t have human rights for women unless you have human rights. Think of that. You cannot. Because unless you decide that women are some class of nonhuman beings and should have special treatment, then you have to have a general category of human rights, which includes women as human beings.

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Hans Zimmer : “Everything is a minefield”

Q : The way you describe your job, it just has all these paradoxes, like knowing to follow the rules and when to break them. It seems like each movie is a minefield


Hans Zimmer : Everything is a minefield. Yeah, it really is. I actually taught [composer] John Powell years ago. I mean John Powell said it back when I was struggling in trying to find the tone or whatever and the piece of music was crap [Laughs]. But I knew the idea was good, and I just couldn’t make it into music. In typical John Powell fashion he said, “Hans, you just need to wait a while until you get it under your fingers.” And that just really made sense. You can’t just walk in and come up with a masterpiece. You come up with feces, simple and unordinary and … Of course, that’s not what you want to do. You want to go and try this new idea and be really good at it but it takes a while. Every film you have to learn the language. Especially from scratch.

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Bruce Weber :” I’ve always felt like love and affection were really important to me”

Q: How important is the sexual aspect in your body of work?


Bruce : I’ve always felt like love and affection were really important to me. I like it that people have a flirtation with life. I think that’s kind of important. I didn’t think my work was about sex so much as I thought it was about desire. Desire to be close to somebody, to be intimate. A lot of the time people comment on my pictures that they are too sexy or too sexual, but to me it’s just a photograph of a friend and they trusted me and I liked them. I wasn’t afraid to show myself, my feelings about people.

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John Pawson:”We all live in a state of contradiction”

Q: Your architecture is famous for its clarity and purity. Did you seek out those qualities when you were younger?
john pawson
John Pawson: In my mind, everybody feels this need. We all live in a state of contradiction. We want to create order and feel liberated from the weight of too many possessions, but at the same time we love to accumulate things. We want to travel and be alone at the same time. We want to be successful and earn more money, but we also want to turn our backs on the corporate world. But it’s true, I felt the desire for simplicity you are talking about early on. When I was six years old, I went on a seaside trip to Blackpool. On the way back, I realised I had lost my set of pens. I was shocked and swore to myself never to get so attached to things again.

Richard Linklater: ” I was always intrigued by what people said”

Q: Why is it that your movies are so verbally driven? Almost all of them are built around conversation and speech. Do you see language and verbal expression as the place where we really see who people are?


Linklater : Well, I always thought so. If you look at the world around you, we define ourselves more by speech. I remember Sam Fuller saying, “You don’t talk about things. You show it.” And I said, “He’s right. That is cinema.” But when I turned on the camera, it really was about people talking. That was the world I had experienced. I hadn’t been to a war. I hadn’t been a crime reporter. I was always intrigued by what people said, what that meant about what they were saying, and what that betrayed about them—regardless of whether what they were saying made any sense or not. I had done that first film [It’s Impossible to Learn to Plough by Reading Books] that’s very much a kind of structural thing that was about a lack of communication. And in Slacker I wanted a world where the interior was brought forth—kind of like in theater. That’s just the way it came out once I really started to do stuff that felt personal to me. It was people just rapping, talking a lot, with not much going on, technically speaking. It wasn’t really conscious. I’m not that verbal. I’m more of an observer than a talker. So I was as surprised as anybody, really, that that’s how it came out.

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Wangari Maathai :”if we all do the little we can, collectively we can make a difference

Q: Sometimes people look out at the world or they hear these scary stories about global warming and climate change and it feels so overwhelming, and often times it can make somebody just feel helpless to do anything about it. What can people do to get involved? What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a part of the change, but just doesn’t know how they can make a difference?


WM: Well, if we had a lot of time I would give you a story of a hummingbird – I usually give the story of the hummingbird and say that this hummingbird – well, I can’t tell you it all but if you google it you might get that story because I have told it so many times it is now in the Google [note: here is the link]. But it is essentially the story of a hummingbird that refuses to join the rest of the animals when a forest is burning and instead decides to go and bring water from the river, with its little beak, takes a drop of water every time and brings it and puts it on the fire. But the fire is so huge. But the moral of the story is that it doesn’t matter how small the action is, if we all do the little we can, collectively we can make a difference. 

And there are very many little things that we all can do. For example, I learned in America a long time ago, the three R’s, the principle of three R’s – reuse, reduce, recycle. And as I say those words, there are so many things individually we can do to reduce – we don’t need to consume as much as we are consuming. Reduce. And by reusing, we can reuse a lot of things we just throw into the dumpsite. And reduce the production. The more we reuse, the more we can reduce. And in Kenya, one of the ways in which we do that is to promote the use of reusable bags instead of using plastic which is then thrown into the environment, especially the very thin plastic. The other thing that I learned from Japan was that you can also try not to waste, especially people who live in very highly industrialized worlds – they are so wasteful. And we waste because there is plenty. 

And this concept in Japan, by the way, is called “Mottainai” and it is a concept that is based in Buddhism and it used to encourage Japanese before they became so rich – it used to encourage them to be grateful about what they get from their resource, from their world, from their environment – to not waste resources, and to be grateful. And also to be respectful. Respect, be grateful, do not waste. And I was told as the Japanese children would eat rice, even if they left one grain on their plate they would be told by their parents, “Oh, what a mottainai! You finish your food!” And it’s only one grain of rice. So, there is so much wasted of resources where we have a lot of it. 

And let me give you a story – recently I was in the Congo, and I was visiting a very commendable milling factory in the middle of the Congo forest. And that factory is supposed to be harvesting trees sustainably. That is why I had gone to visit them. And they did demonstrate to me how they take these huge, 200 year-old trees, and they actually mark the tree that they are going to harvest. And I was very impressed. But – eventually when we go to the factory, I asked them, “How much of this tree do you use?” And they told me only 35% – the rest is wasted! The rest is put on fire because they have nothing to do with it – they say they don’t know what to do with it, so they allow people to come and burn it into charcoal – literally burning it, reducing it into ashes. That’s waste. So when we say, please do not waste. Be respectful. And be grateful. You know, when I looked at that tree and realized that only 35% will be used, I just thought to myself – what a mottainai! Wasting 65% of a tree that is 200 years old. Honest. 

So there is a lot that we individually can do. In our homes, when we go shopping, as we travel, there is so much we can do. And even though we think that that particular action at an individual level may be very small, just imagine if it is repeated several million times. It will make a difference. So that hummingbird’s actions may look very small, but it is very powerful if it is repeated many million times.

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