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J. Robert Oppenheimer

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What more do you want, mermaids?
--
Isidor Isaac Rabi, noting Oppenheimer had organized scientists to develop the atomic bomb for the US, in defense of him at McCarthy-era security hearings, as quoted in "Atomised" by Brian Cathcart in The New Statesman' (10 January 2008)

 
J. Robert Oppenheimer

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I have become post facto a representative of the country. So if you ask, "Is Mermaids a Canadian film?" it has become one. It has become a means whereby people characterize Canadian film. I think in the creation of Mermaids, I did see it in political terms. I thought of the underdog. Canada is not a superpower by any means. It's very quietly, comfortably democratic, but it's plagued by a sense of inferiority.

 
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Our voices, our representation of ourselves, have been in the hands of others, namely men, since the beginning of the mediums of film and television. My main character in I've Heard the Mermaids Singing videotaped a confession that is used through the film. It's her way of having control over her definition of herself.

 
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Go and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the Devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
And find
What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

 
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These ambiguities, redundances, and deficiences recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.

 
Jorge Luis Borges
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