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Ernest Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying

I have about 15 different characters who speak, narrate in A Gathering of Old Men. I think there are 15 of them, and I had to get -- some way I had to distinguish 15 different voices. I had to give each one of those voices different little characteristics, little nuances, each one needed to have, whether it was a small boy, Snookum, who was about -- I suppose Snookum must be about eight years old or nine -- to people who were 80 years old. I had several 80- or 70-year-old men in there. I have two educated white women, Candy as well as Miss Merle. How would I distinguish those two voices, difference in those two voices? I have a sheriff, a big sheriff in there. How'd I get his voice down? Then I have a little skinny deputy, his little deputy, I had to get his voice down. Then I had a minister who used a lot of religious terms, and another older lady who used a lot of religious terms. How do I distinguish those two voices? So I think it's only through having lived in Louisiana and coming from such a place, because there we have so many different -- we have several different dialects in my part of Louisiana. I come from Cajun, Creole, and of course both Creole black (and) Creole white there in Louisiana. I attended a Catholic school there for a little while. I knew the Baptist religion. My folks are Baptist. So you know, I draw from these experiences.
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Ernest Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying

Ernest J. Gaines: He asked me who was I writing for, and I said, "Well, Wally" -- he wanted us to call him "Wally," you know, because we were all informal around the place. He didn't want anyone to call him "Mr. Stegner" or anything like that. I said, "Well, Wally, I don't write for anybody in particular." I said, "I've learned from many writers." He said, "Well" -- I said, "I've read all these writers." I said, "I learned a lot from a writer like Ivan Turgenev," but I said, "He was just an aristocrat writing in the 19th -- mid 19th century -- and I know he was not writing for an Ernie Gaines on a Louisiana plantation." And I said, "Still, I learned from him because of the way he wrote that little novel. I learned about a young man coming back to the old place and how he reacted to the old place." I said, "I didn't know anything about that until I read that book," and he said, "Listen, Ernie." He said, "Suppose a gun was put at your head, and that same question was asked. Who do you write for?" I said, "Well, in that case, I'll come up with an answer." And I said, "The answer would be that, first, I'd write for the young black youth of the South, so that I could help him in some ways to find himself, his directions in life. Let him know something about where he's coming from, what he came from, and how to try to help him find his way." And then Wally said, "Well, suppose that gun was still at your head," and I said, "Well, then I'd write for the white youth of the South, to let him know that unless he knows his neighbor for the last 350 years, he knows only half of his own history, that you have to know the people around you. And his neighbor, of course, was the blacks, African Americans." So that was all the discussion on who I write for, but I don't write for any particular group. When I face that wall, when I sit at that desk and face that wall to write, looking at the blank wall, I just try to create those characters as well as I possibly can create them.
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Ernest Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying

I said, "Well, I have this idea about this. I want someone that lived from slavery to now. But to make it real, I have to bring in different things about history or whatever," and I said, "Let's start with 12 national things." Of course, they did not experience these things, but they may have heard about these things. So we talked about things like slavery. We talked about the Reconstruction period. We talked about, oh, the Depression era, many things. So after we dealt with 12 things nationally, about 12 things nationally, then I dealt with 12 things statewide. This is what could have happened in the State between 1862, say, until 1962. What could have happened in the State that they could have heard about from someone else, from other sources? They didn't know anything about it, really. They couldn't read. So they did not know anything about it directly. So let's deal with that. So we must have come up with ten, 12 things there. Then we dealt with the parish, need something here. She knows more about -- she has to know something about the parish. So we dealt with the parish. Then we came to the plantation. So the circle becomes smaller and smaller, and there are four books there in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. After I had gotten all this information, then I tried to put it into the voices of these different people who are going to tell the story about this little old lady, but they talked so much about her that I fell in love with her, and it was then that I decided to write the book from her point of view.
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Ernest Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying

A common theme in my writing, one of the things in my writing has been about someone teaching someone younger something about life. Miss Jane does the same thing, and in Of Love and Dust I did the same thing, and a short story called "Three Men," we got the same thing. Someone is teaching somebody. Catherine Carmier. It was not always a teacher, but an older person, a much more wise person teaching a younger person about life, and I've always wondered in schools what were -- what did we teach anyone? What did we teach people in school? Surely, when I went to school, I was taught reading and writing and arithmetic. The teacher -- I only had one teacher in this classroom -- and he could not have taught me anything about pride and about my race or history of Africa or whatever. He couldn't teach me anything. He didn't have time to teach anything other than the basic things: reading, writing, arithmetic. So I tried to combine the idea of teaching someone something and a young man who is innocent of a crime. I'd try to bring those two things together. And what does this young man owe the world -- to the world -- when he's going to be executed for a crime he did not commit? What does he owe to the world? What does he owe to himself, when they think that he's a piece of nothing? That's all he's been taught since a small child, growing up on a plantation, such as the one I created for that. He's never been given love, except by his godmother.
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Bill Gates

Co-Founder and Chairman, Microsoft Corporation

We actually talked about it in an article in -- I think 1977 was the first time it appears in print -- where we say, "a computer on every desk and in every home " and actually we said, " running Microsoft software." If we were just talking about the vision, we'd leave those last three words out. If we were talking an internal company discussion, we'd put those words in. It's very hard to recall how crazy and wild that was, you know, "on every desk and in every home." At the time, you have people who are very smart saying, "Why would somebody need a computer?" Even Ken Olsen, who had run this company Digital Equipment, who made the computer I grew up with, and that we admired both him and his company immensely, was saying that this seemed kind of a silly idea that people would want to have a computer.
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John Gearhart

Stem Cell Research

I got interested in animal genetics, and particularly the model system, which was this fruit fly drosophila, melanogaster. I got my Ph.D. actually studying that and then I wanted to extend it immediately to humans if I could. Now, this is an era where the genetics of human beings was in its infancy, but I decided to go through the mouse as a model system. The model, the mammalian model at that time, of course, was the mouse, and then 30 years later I am finally into humans, where I wanted to be many, many years ago, and having the resources and having the environment at Hopkins now, where I am Director of Research in Obstetrics and Gynecology. My interests are still in human development and what controls it, what regulates it. I am very interested in the basises of congenital birth defects, what is the cause of them, and then how we can ameliorate the problems with them.
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John Gearhart

Stem Cell Research

To this day -- I mean, I've written him, I've seen him in meetings and things, and he -- I'll never forget it -- when I took this course I didn't understand anything about genetics and I did very badly on the first exam because I just couldn't get into the vocabulary, into the concepts. I was really having difficulty, and then it just opened up to me and I just completely understood. I mean, it was never again a problem. Jim Wright, just a dynamic, dynamic individual. And from then on in I was stuck on this, but I applied it more to plants. You know, I was still in this mode in plant breeding. I did my honors thesis on looking at the pigmentation that you see in flower petals and the pinks and the -- particularly the pinks and the purples and reds -- and I figured out the genetic pathway that went through these different colors. They are called Athysanuses. And that was my honors thesis as an undergraduate.
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John Gearhart

Stem Cell Research

"Gosh, we've isolated these! We've used them for targeting the mouse genome. We've used them in tissue culture. Wouldn't it be nice to have human embryonic stem cells?" So that ultimately -- and this is where we are going -- that in a laboratory setting we could have in a dish, just in dishes, control cells that are going to form muscle, nerve, whatever other tissues we want.
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John Gearhart

Stem Cell Research

Virtually any tissue is affected by these extra sets of genes. So we're now getting down to the level where we can begin to measure this, rather than having to take biopsy material or something which just doesn't work very well. This is what got me into the area of wanting to get human embryonic stem cells, and we started on this in 1993. It took a couple of years to get approval, as you can imagine, to get access to tissue, and then to begin the actual experiments of trying to derive that tissue. I think this meandering career -- going from interest in plants to invertebrates, to vertebrate genetics, and then into humans and applying this to clinically relevant things -- I think this reflects as a scientist, the freedom that you have. The interesting thing here is that the thread of this is all the same and that is, how genes are regulating and controlling developmental processes? Whether you are looking at this in a plant or a fruit fly or a mouse or a human, these processes are all the same, but you have this ability and this freedom, if you will, to go from one system to another.
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John Gearhart

Stem Cell Research

We have been able to demonstrate -- I mean, Jamie Thompson and myself using different procedures -- that you can isolate and have in culture these very important cells that have this ability of replicating in culture and then, under the right conditions getting them to -- what we call -- differentiate, or become specialized into different tissues. That's where we are. Where are we going right? Well, what we're trying to do right now is to identify the conditions under which you can take these cells and instruct them to only form one cell type. In other words, let's say you have a million cells in a dish of these embryonic stem cells and you say, "I want only dopaminergic neurons." Big term, but it's a specific type of a neuron and it's one that is clinically relevant because it's the one that's at risk in Parkinson's disease. Now how do we get all those cells in a dish to go in one direction? That is a difficult biologic problem. Or to form heart muscle? Or to form islet cells in the pancreas? Or anything else? So this is where we are going to be for the next ten years, figuring out the conditions under which you can take these cells that can form anything and saying, "But I only want this."
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