TRANSCRIPT: The Role of Women in the World; Interview With Robot Comedian
Aired September 4, 2011 – 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: This is GPS, THE GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of our viewers in the United States and around the world. I’m Fareed Zakaria.
We have a terrific show for you today, filled with some of the most interesting thinkers in their fields. First up, a new way to think about the role of women in the world with a terrific, important panel.
Then a first for GPS, I will have a robot as a guest. You will want to meet my new friend, Data.
Next, a man who made me think differently about innovation, the world renowned architect, Frank Gehry. He designs buildings like nothing you’ve ever seen before. How does he innovate?
Then, how do you capture the essence of a world leader? I’ll talk to the acclaimed and innovative photographer Platon.
And finally, think you can’t sell chopsticks to China? Think again.
But first, here’s my take. These are the dog days of summer, and in this hot, sweltering weather, most Americans are busy working. I know, I know, not you folks in the Hamptons, but the others.
Meanwhile, most Europeans are busy vacationing. Thus it has ever been, only it’s getting worse. Nowadays the average European gets about three times as many days of paid vacation as his counterpart in America.
Italy has the most vacation days, with the average worker there getting 42 paid days off according to the World Tourism Organization. Next was France, with 37 days; Germany with 35; Brazil at 34; the U.K. at 28; Canada, 26; Korea and Japan both with 25. The United States was near the bottom of the list, with the average worker getting 13 paid days off.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Well, the conventional answer is that this attitude towards work makes the American economy the envy of the world. America is a hectic turbo-charged system that builds, destroys, rebuilds all at warp speed. It’s what created the information revolution, Silicone Valley, hedge funds, biotechnology, nanotechnology – whatever that is – and so on, and there’s no time for lolling at the beach. In fact, it’s not clear at all that working for a few extra weeks in the summer is what makes a nation’s economy hum. Take a look at these numbers from Ipsos, a consulting firm, on the percentage of citizens that actually use all of their vacation days.
The French, predictably, lead the pack. Eighty-nine percent take all of their days; but 75 percent of the Germans – and their economy is strong – take their allotted days; 70 percent of Indonesians, in a country enjoying a booming economy, use all of their days; but only 57 percent of Americans take advantage of their days. And we have fewer paid vacation days than almost any other major country. Even with those just 13 days off, only 57 percent of Americans take them all. To remind you again, 89 percent of the French use all of their days off.
If you’re worried that working less will mean America lags behind, don’t worry. America’s growth historically has been fueled mostly by investment, education, productivity, innovation and immigration. The one thing that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with America’s growth rate is a brutal work schedule.
After all, we were working hard during the very slow years of the 1970s, we’re working hard now. In fact, some experts believe that working harder might actually depress productivity numbers because the additional hours worked rarely generate strong output. We are not as productive at 8:00 P.M. as we are at 9:00 A.M.
So, take a break. Go to the beach. Read a book. Watch TV. Wait a minute, you’re already watching TV. So, well done.
Let’s get started.
ZAKARIA: I want to spend a little time today talking about an absolutely crucial issue, the role of women in the world. One of the most important indicators, for example, of how the revolutions in the Middle East will go is how well they will treat women. Throughout the Arab world and in Africa, women remain second class citizens, beholden for life to a male relative.
Is this changing? How fast? What else is happening with women in the world?
We brought together a terrific panel to talk about this issue. Let’s turn to “New York Times” columnist Nicholas Kristof, who with his wife, the journalist Sheryl Wudunn, together wrote “Half The Sky.”
One of the great stories from that book is that of Zainab Salbi, who also joins us. She is the founder of Women for Women International.
Nick, how much of the treatment of women is culture, how much of it is religion, and how much of it is Islam in particular?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: There’s no question that organized religions in general tended to take a social hierarchy that typically had men very much in top and sanctified it, kind of placed the stamp of God on top of it. And this is true of a number of religions.
On the other hand, it is clear empirically, if you look around the world, that the places where women are most likely to run into terrible problems are predominantly Muslim countries. My own take is that has much less to do with the Koran and with Islam, as such, and rather more to do with culture and that the insecurity, the violence, the social conflict has less to do with the Koran and rather more to do with a cycle of not educating girls, of marginalizing women, which leads to very high birth rates, which leads to a very high demographic cohort of young people aged 15 to 24, which is the most destabilizing thing a country can have.
And the way out of that is to do what a number of Muslim countries have done – Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia – which is to educate girls. And, you know, the reason that Bangladesh is so different from Pakistan today, even though they started as one country, in part is that Bangladesh has done a superb job educating girls and now has more girls in high school than boys.
ZAKARIA: And both countries are 95 – 99 percent Muslim.
KRISTOF: And both are – both are Muslim countries. I mean it’s – and they read the same Koran. But Pakistan is a real mess, and Bangladesh is not.
ZAKARIA: What about China? Because, I mean, to my – to me, when you hear about the treatment of women, you know, if you go back 100 years in China, women’s feet were bound, which, you know, people have to understand that that basically meant you were breaking the feet of every woman in –
SHERYL WUDUNN, CO-AUTHOR, “HALF THE SKY”: Absolutely. A hundred years ago, China was probably the worst place on earth to be born female. My grandmother’s feet were bound. But what gives me extreme amount of hope is that in one generation that was eradicated. This is a centuries-old practice.
And yet, partly because they had people inside China and people outside China that were foreign missionaries also, who thought this was a horrendous practice. They got together and they actually formed a strategy. They really were able to basically launch a counterattack against this practice, and in one generation eradicate it in China.
And then, what Mao did was that he said – and this is really critical. He said that education for everybody, including girls. So that meant that girls could go to school with the boys, and it was just mandatory education for everybody in the country.
But then, what was even more important – and this is a critical fact, especially for places like Saudi Arabia and Japan – the girls were not only educated, they were able to work in the formal labor force. The society accepted them in the formal labor force, and that was critical. They could get jobs, they could work in factories. And that was the beginning of China’s economic revolution. Light industry, which employed women, making the clothes – the clothes we wear, the shoes we wear, the – the bags that we – we carry, they were made by women, and that jumpstarted China’s economic revolution.
KRISTOF: I think China is a good antidote to the way we tend to psych ourselves out about the Muslim world. And, yes, indeed in a number of harder line Muslim countries, you know, because of culture, women don’t have opportunities. But culture is not immutable. Culture can change, and China is the best evidence of that.
And the other thing is that I think we tend to psych ourselves out and say, you know, should – isn’t it a little bit imperialist for us to be telling other countries how to treat women? You know, isn’t that a value that we should leave it to them to decide?
And I think, again, you know, Sheryl just feel – feel so fortunate that there were outsiders who were willing to push against the practice of foot binding. And I think there are some practices that you just have to say are not acceptable.
ZAKARIA: Well, in India, you know, the – there used to be a practice, a Hindu practice, that the woman was tossed on the – on the funeral pyre, on the burning funeral pyre of the man, in a – into – as a kind of sacrifice. And the British basically just outlawed it, a governor general called William Bentinck, said this is abhorrent and I don’t care what people think, and it caused riots and all that.
But talk about Islam, because this is something – what, you know, we come back to, writers like Ayaan Hirsi Ali say it’s Islam, and, you know, until you change the religion really, you can’t change anything.
ZAINAB SALBI, FOUNDER & CEO, WOMEN FOR WOMEN INTERNATIONAL: No, I don’t believe that, because Christianity at one point had that, Judaism had that. Every religion has this patriarchy and horrible practice towards women. It changed. It evolved.
I think –
ZAKARIA: But it is true that right now the Muslim world –
SALBI: It’s our Dark Ages.
SALBI: Yes. I think the Muslim world is – is living in the Dark Ages, and if you look at it historically, as what happened in Europe and other religion, then it makes historical sense. And it’s – I do believe we can evolve and we can – the religion can – and we can do that in a few things.
A) I think revival of historical characters in Islam, such as Khadija. Muhammad’s wife was 20 years older than him. She was a very successful business woman. She hired him as her employee. She chose to marry him, and she was the first one who – who helped him believe in God’s message.
The revival of characters like Khadija – if she was alive today, she would probably – to quote President Clinton when he went to Saudi Arabia, she probably would be the biggest business woman, actually, in today’s history. And everyone accepts her personality and character. We need to revive her in a much more vibrant way.
So I do believe in the possibility of a cultural and a religious evolution, as all religions went through this historical period.
ZAKARIA: We’ll be back in a moment with more from the panel, including why international aid groups now realize it is much smarter to give money to women than men. Why? When we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTOF: Between 50 and 110 million females are missing around the globe. This is an astonishing figure. It means that in any one decade more girls are discriminated against to death around the world than all the people who died in all the genocides of the 20th century, which is a, you know, it’s a staggering scope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: It is a truism in the world of international development that if you give an aid dollar to a man, he is likely to spend it at the bar or on guns. If you give that same aid dollar to a woman, she will buy necessities, food or diapers, or invest it in the family or a moneymaking venture.
And we are back with Nick Kristof, Sheryl Wudunn and Zainab Salbi, talking about women, culture, Islam – all kinds of things.
Nick, when you look at this – this statistic, why do you think that that’s true?
KRISTOF: You know, that’s the part that we really don’t know, and there are various theories. Some people think that it’s biological, nurturing instinct. Other people think that’s nonsense, that it’s essentially the way we’re socialized.
But what is clear is that across continents, across religions, across cultural traditions, that women are more likely to take income that they have, and also if they have titled-over assets, if they have financial assets, more likely to convert those to the benefit of their children and more likely to invest in small businesses.
ZAKARIA: Do you – have you seen this in action? I mean, are there stories of – when you went around, do you feel as though there are places where you actually could see this vividly? WUDUNN: Well, there are many different ways that this comes to – that this surfaces. For instance, in microfinance, which is a very typical way that – that many people have gotten involved in this issue. If you give a loan to a woman she really seems to tend to take it very far. When you give a loan to a man, he can take it somewhere, but often the repayment rates are much lower.
So big micro financing institutions like Grameen and – and BRAC, which basically started these things in Bangladesh, they didn’t want to be discriminatory, so they wanted to give to men and to women. But they found that women were just repaying at much higher rates than men. They were losing money by giving micro loans to men. So they’ve now switched to 97 percent of lending to women.
ZAKARIA: Zainab, what – what do you think about this? What’s your response – I mean, do you see this on the ground, that the women put the money to work productively?
SALBI: Very much so. I mean, statistically, women, re-spend 97 percent of their income or whatever their investment are, on their families, compared to men, who spend – re-spend 40 percent on their families.
But this reminds me of a story. I was in Afghanistan a few months ago, and I met a woman who was promised to be married at six – at the age of six, was married at the age of 15, was a widow and single mother at the age of 16. And she talks about how, you know, her life led and what she’s done with it.
So she – during the Taliban she was very poor. The Taliban beat her up for working in the streets with the very shoes – with the only shoes she owned, and they broke her shoes, and she was very bitter and – and sad about that.
And when I met her right now, she is working. She’s earning $450 a month, which is very significant in Afghanistan. She’s sending her daughter to school and determined that her daughter will not get married until she finish college. And she’s going back to her own school. She’s finishing her own education.
There’s a correlation – if you want to change practices from child marriages to women education and women working and the economy, there’s a correlation between that and investing in their mothers. And that mother, in her case, knows that I will not repeat to my daughter what I’ve gone through. And she is changing that culture practices in Afghanistan, or the behavior practice in Afghanistan.
So there’s no better investment, in talking about Afghans as an example, than investments in women who gets it. My money goes to my daughter who will go to college, who will get a better life.
ZAKARIA: What – what is the most successful place in which you’ve operated? You’re – you deal with women in distress in – in so many places. What’s your big success story?
SALBI: You know, all of them are successful. I mean, we work from Congo to Rwanda to Sudan to Afghanistan and Iraq.
ZAKARIA: And you started in Bosnia.
SALBI: And we started in Bosnia.
A couple of things is. One is we’re noticing that the first investment a woman make in terms of who they hire in their business is actually their husbands or their sons. The first decision they make. All of them – in Africa tend to – women tend to actually run with that $1 investment and do so much of it, and that seems to be the most vibrant place in terms of change.
I recently met a woman in Congo, in the midst – I mean, right now, as we speak right now, hundreds of thousands of women are getting raped in Congo. And this woman – it’s the same story usually. It’s a pattern of a story. She’s displaced, she doesn’t have anything, poverty. Her husband doesn’t know how to deal with the situation.
She went through Women for Women International’s program. We taught her – part of what we do is teach vocational and business skills for women, very poor women, to help them stand on their feet and earn their own income.
She learned soap making. He was cynical about her soap. She gave it to – she gave him samples to show it to his friends, and – and he started believing in her soap. And instead of her running a separate business of soap making, she actually made him a partner, but a different kind of partner, in which he goes and sell, gives her the money back, she is the one managing the money. And you see change –
Again, I’m interested in the changing of social patterns. She changed the relationship from she gives him all the money and he spend it on his, as you mentioned earlier, on his alcohol and cigarettes and prostitution or weapons. And now she reversed it. Now he goes and works and brings her the money and they manage it together about their sending their kids to school, better housing and better life’s conditions for both of them.
And so the – I would say Africa in general actually, where the investment is – goes triple the way than other countries.
ZAKARIA: You know, there’s – there’s a lot of good news in – in this book, but there’s also a lot of bad news in the sense that – paint the picture of just how bad it is for women in many parts of the world.
KRISTOF: Maybe the best gauge of the discrimination against women and girls is that how much of it is lethal. We don’t tend to think of discrimination, gender discrimination as being lethal. In much of the world, it is, and you can measure that by looking at the population ratios.
In India, for example, for the first year of life male and female mortality rates are fairly similar, because they’re depending upon the breast, and the breast doesn’t have a son preference. In age one to age five, a girl is 50 percent more likely to die than a boy, and that’s because they’re depending upon their parents, who do have a son preference, who don’t give that girl the same access to food and health care. And the upshot of – of this is differential levels of mortality that mean that between 50 and 110 million females are missing around globe.
This is an astonishing figure. It means that in any one decade more girls are discriminated against to death around the world than all the people who died in all the genocides of the 20th century, which is a, you know, it’s a staggering scope.
ZAKARIA: Final thought, what can we – what can people do?
WUDUNN: Oh, there are many ways. First of all, people have to care. They have to say this is unacceptable, as Zainab was saying. And once each individual can actually say that and take a step, then the politicians will start beginning to notice that this is something that – it’s an issue that the voters care about.
It really does start with individuals and a mass of individuals to join a movement to create change. It isn’t just something that the government does from the top down. The governments have to play the role as well, but you also need bottom up. You need grassroots, bottom-up movement that really starts to change perception and attitudes around the world.
ZAKARIA: Thank you very much. We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
“DATA”, ROBOT SKETCH COMEDIAN: I am just a mediocre robotic comedian. Pleased to meet you, Fareed. Are you ready for some action?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: And now for our “What in the World?” segment, a very special one. You’ve probably heard of Watson, the computer that went head-to-head with humans on “Jeopardy.” You know that robots are increasingly used in manufacturing around the country, around the world. But have you ever heard of a robot sketch comedian?
Well, meet Data. Also joining us is Data’s handler, Heather Knight, a doctoral researcher in robotics at Carnegie-Mellon, who studies the intersection of entertainment and robotics.
So Data, take it away.
DATA: Hello, everybody. Can you hear me? All right. The volume is good. OK. Thanks. Excited to be here. Let’s get started. Gosh, I love saying that. It makes me feel like some kind of superhero, but actually, I am just a mediocre robotic comedian. Great to meet you, Fareed. Are you ready for some action?
ZAKARIA: I am.
DATA: Show me a postcard.
ZAKARIA: So what Data wants here is a postcard of one of three neighborhoods in New York about which he has some comedy sketches prepared. And I think, of the three neighborhoods – Times Square, West Village and Brooklyn – I’m going to choose Times Square and show him the card.
DATA: Good choice. On my way over here, I passed through Times Square. Have you seen the Naked Cowboy? He plays the guitar in his underwear and a cowboy hat. You know, just shaking his booty.
Tourists love that guy.
ROBERT JOHN BURCK, THE NAKED COWBOY: All right, don’t touch the squishy parts.
DATA: In fact, I am such a devout tourist that I had two video cameras installed on my face.
Well, that’s all I got. Did I do OK? Be honest.
ZAKARIA: No, not really.
DATA: But I was really trying.
HEATHER KNIGHT, ROBOTICS RESEARCHER, CARNEGIE MELLON: Yes. His ego needs some help.
ZAKARIA: Oh, come on. It’s not so bad.
KNIGHT: Try again.
DATA: Am I doing a good job?
DATA: They love me. They really, really love me. Now I can go home happy.
ZAKARIA: OK. So Heather, that was pretty amusing, but mostly just fascinating. Now, we should tell the audience that you wrote the –
DATA: Catch you later.
ZAKARIA: — you wrote the routine for Data, but his reactions are sort of natural. He senses – and if there were an audience there, he would actually – he’s trained – the sensors work so that he can sense the audience’s reaction. KNIGHT: Right. Yes.
ZAKARIA: Explain how that works.
KNIGHT: So, like robots can learn through lots of Data and so what’s – in some of my work I’ve been using each member of the audience as kind of a data point for machine learning. So in the reactions of a large group of people to a robot performer on stage, a robot could potentially learn – hopefully learn – to be more charismatic and more effective communicator and also – yes. And also be able to shape a performance for an individual group of people.
So there can be visual feedback, which is kind of conscious or we could make an iPhone app for you’re all giving feedback along the way, like I love that joke. You could rate things more, like Netflix style or –
ZAKARIA: And – and the robot would, in effect, incorporate that information and tell more of the jokes that –
ZAKARIA: — that you like and fewer of the ones – sort of like Pandora, with the thumbs up or thumbs down.
KNIGHT: Absolutely. Or you can even try telling jokes with a different set of gestures and see that joke is 10 times as funny for an audience.
ZAKARIA: Now, all of this is – sort of can be filed under artificial intelligence, and earlier this year, Watson, the IBM super computer, beat its human competitors in “Jeopardy.”
KNIGHT: I know.
ZAKARIA: So how sophisticated is – are we – are we getting here?
KNIGHT: Well, I think that those two projects are actually great tandem projects. Watson is great at searching databases, and – and one of the things that I’m trying to do with the audience is generate some of those databases and also specifically generate them around social expression. So a machine can know how to actually communicate effectively with us, and so we don’t have to adapt to using a screen or using a keyboard. They can learn how to work the way that we do.
ZAKARIA: Now, there are people, of course, who worry about something called the singularity. That is, the moment where robots will actually become smarter than we – than humans, and will be able to learn and keep learning. Is that really going to happen?
KNIGHT: Do all parents feel that way about their children? I just – I just wonder sometimes. I – I do feel like the way that we raise technology and the – and the applications we use them for can – and the storytelling we think about in the creation of new technology will help us shape the direction that it’s used. And we’re not on the cusp of singularity at this very moment, but I do think that when – and you put people and robots together in teams, we can achieve much more than either of us can do alone. We’re still very unique.
ZAKARIA: Heather Knight, Data, thank you very much.
KNIGHT: Thanks for having us.
ZAKARIA: And we’ll be right back.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Time for a check of today’s top stories.
Tropical Storm Lee has triggered tornado warnings along the Gulf Coast and is pounding Southern Louisiana with heavy rains and high winds. The slow-moving storm is expected to drop as much as 20 inches of rain by tomorrow night.
As officials keep an eye on Tropical Storm Lee, President Obama travels to Patterson, New Jersey, today to survey the damage from Hurricane Irene. The state’s Governor Chris Christie will join the president on the tour of Patterson’s flooded areas.
A typhoon in Western Japan has left at least 18 people dead and dozens more injured, according to Japanese News Sources. The storm which struck yesterday also caused massive mudslides. At least 50 people are missing.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn is back in France. The former International Monetary Fund chief has been under house arrest in New York after being accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. But prosecutors dropped those charges because of questions about his accuser’s credibility.
Strauss-Kahn was widely expected to challenge French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the country’s presidential elections next year, but polls show most French voters now don’t want him to run.
And those are your top stories. Now back to FAREED ZAKARIA GPS.
ZAKARIA: Think for a second about the most innovative thing you’ve seen. I bet whatever comes to mind was probably a technological innovation, a gee-whiz gadget or a joke-cracking robot, something like that.
But the fact is, innovation can and does come in many different areas, from business practices to the arts, literature, music, painting, design, architecture. The finest artists are often the most innovative. Think of Jackson Pollock’s paintings, Charlie Parker’s “Bebop.”
One of the finest architects in the world fits that model. He’s Frank Gehry, perhaps best known for his innovative, undulating waves at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao amongst many others. He joins me now.
Frank, thank you for joining.
FRANK GEHRY, ARCHITECT: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: How do you come up with an idea? Because so much of what you have done was not conventional, was not the way buildings were build. It was not the way people conceived of things. So where did stuff come to you from?
GEHRY: Well, I’m very thorough, which people probably don’t realize. And so I do a lot of research. I spend a lot of time with the clients, with the site, with the program and invent as I go along ideas that respond to those.
And in that process with – with the client involved and a clear understanding of budget and, you know, engineering and what can go on, we vet some directions together and they’re complicit, which I love because in the end when it looks strange, it want them – they’ve been part of it.
ZAKARIA: But the strangeness comes from where?
GEHRY: Well, I don’t know these whys, but there’s – to me it’s not strange. It looks like everything else is strange. And so stuff starts to unfold and little models and ideas and sketches. A lot – there are about 50 to 100 models made in that process.
ZAKARIA: And it’s very deliberative.
GEHRY: Yes. And then when I understand it completely, when I think I know, then I kind of put it away and then I call that the candy store. I call that when I know the problem, everything about it that I can imagine. And then I start to make the real design and the ideas.
And so the language comes from – of the curves comes from history. It’s not just invented out of whole cloth. If you look (INAUDIBLE) Marbles in the Elgin (ph) Marbles in Britain, they express motion in the marble. You see the soldiers pushing their – their shields, and it’s palpable. You feel it.
If you look at the Indian Sheba figures moving and – and I’ve studied those and there’s movement with inert materials. So it’s from history, it’s possible.
ZAKARIA: So this – the famous story that you took a piece of paper and crumpled it and looked at it and that was the Disney Hall in L.A.
GEHRY: But that’s a famous story because the Simpsons had me do that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARGE SIMPSON, “THE SIMPSON’S”: We asked Frank Gehry to build us a concert hall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEHRY: And that’s the (INAUDIBLE). Everybody thinks I’m going to crumple a paper. Clients come to me and say crumple a piece of paper, we’ll give you $100 and then we’ll build it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frank Gehry, you’re a genius.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: But in fact, it was a long, long –
GEHRY: No, no, no, no. That was just a fun – fun thing. But it has – it has haunted me. People do – who’ve seen “The Simpson’s” believe it.
ZAKARIA: When you design a building, is your principal concern to make something dazzling beautiful? Or is your principal concern to have it so that it functions exactly the way that it’s meant to be, an apartment building with all the apartments?
GEHRY: Yes, to function is first and to get it build, it has to be on budget. And so you have to deal with technology and the culture of construction. And that’s complicated, and I think it’s very important. And then to bring something to it other than just – and it doesn’t cost extra. That’s the interesting thing. We’ve proven that over and over again.
So a building should engender some kind of an emotional response. If you go to Disney Hall, the key issue was the relationship between performer and audience. I worked my butt off to make that special. I think it helps the – psychologically, it’s psycho acoustic, we call it. If the orchestra feels the audience, you’ve experience this in one of your talks (ph) you speak better. You feel it. And that happens in a performance and I think it happens in everything.
ZAKARIA: What about this new building in New York? It’s a big apartment building. What did you see as the crucial thing there to get right?
GEHRY: The pro former for the apartments was a T-shaped building. It’s a given in New York, it’s a New York model. We made it a little bit higher so that – and added the stair steps like the historic buildings in New York. We didn’t have to do that. We could have been straight up.
So that was the declaration, if you will. It was my trying to fit a building into New York. And then I added the – the folds. Folds are like when your mother holds you in your arms, it’s very basic I think. It’s primitive that people respond to folds. And I think that’s why great artists in history focus so much on it.
And so I wanted to have that warmth, that feeling in the city that this building was accessible and that it – by adding the folds it was somehow timeless. It wasn’t exactly a modernist slab. It had some kind of a thing to it.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that when you look at American architecture, creativity right now, does it feel like, you know, we’re still at the top of the world? Does it feel like 1950s, abstract expressionism taking the world by storm? Where – where is America in today’s kind of landscape?
GEHRY: Well, I think we’ve just been through – in architecture we’ve just been through a very expressionist period where there’s a lot of money, people are doing things, and – and it’s coming to a screeching halt by – by the culture around architecture. There’s kind of a backlash and they’re saying focus on sustainability, focus on – on the social issues and the architecture should be – come secondary. And it seems like so thoughtless to eliminate the baby with the bath water kind of – use those other things. It becomes a manter for less talented people to get their way probably.
ZAKARIA: Frank Gehry, thank you. We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PLATON, PHOTOGRAPHER: I thought in the last 15 seconds, I owe it to myself to do the picture I really believe in. So I said to him, Mr. President, will you show me the love?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Most people with one-word names are rock stars – Bono, Madonna, Cher. My next guest has a one-word name – Platon. He’s not a rock star in the traditional sense, but he is a star photographer. And his specialty is capturing the essence of world leaders in a single frame. Welcome.
PLATON: It’s good to be here, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: You worked before with a lot of celebrities, George Clooney, Al Pacino, Yoko Ono. So who are more difficult to deal with? Mega stars or world leaders?
PLATON: There’s actually now formula with people. And the moment you – you start to fake it and apply a formula, it’s Endsville. Every person is totally different and you have to go in in a very humble, raw, open state of mind. I mean, what I do is maybe three percent photography. The rest is complete psychology and people skills.
ZAKARIA: So tell me about a few of these. There’s this great shot of Putin, a difficult man to photograph only in the sense he rarely agrees to be photographed.
PLATON: Yes. To my knowledge, it’s the only formal portrait he’s ever done outside the Kremlin. I was flown to Moscow. I photographed him in his private dasher. And I was let into his room where they essentially dissolved the Soviet Union, so it’s very historic.
And I said to him, I’m a massive Beatles fan, are you? And the first thing he did was he took off his translating earpiece, ushered all his advisors out of the room. And it was me, him and perhaps 15 security guards. So it was very, very cozy and he said let’s talk.
So he spoke perfect English. And I said, well, I want to know if you like The Beatles. So he said I do like The Beatles. So I said what’s your favorite Beatles song? He said “Yesterday.” So I said I can’t believe I’m talking to you about The Beatles.
Now, the interesting thing is that connection allowed me then to get close and – and he allowed me in. And I think probably when I took the picture I was about an inch and a half away from his nose.
ZAKARIA: And probably the most famous shot of yours, I have to say, is probably the Bill Clinton shot, which was during the Lewinsky scandal. It is called the crotch shot, right?
PLATON: Yes, it was.
ZAKARIA: Did you think when you did it, you know what? This is going to come out with a rather emphasized crotch?
PLATON: I had no idea. It was my first presidential portrait, and it should probably have been my last. The magazine actually said to me, whatever you do, don’t use that lens. You’ve got eight minutes with him.
So, you know, I spent seven and a half minutes doing a very sort of elegant head shot of Clinton. And then, I thought in the last 15 seconds, I owe it to myself to do the picture I really believe in. So I said to him, Mr. President, will you show me the love? And at that point I think some of his advisors winced. But he knew what I wanted. He said, I know what he means. And he put his hands on his knees and he gave me that Clinton charisma.
ZAKARIA: You have two photographs of – one of Obama and one of Bush, and they couldn’t be more different.
ZAKARIA: And in a way, you know, at least, they conform to the conventional view of Obama is cold, as cerebral, very elegant. Bush as warm, folksy. Is that how they came across to you? PLATON: No, actually. And it’s very interesting because in this project, Obama was photographed on the rise to power. It was during his presidential election campaign. And Bush was photographed after he left office. So bush was rather – had a reflective view on the whole sitting.
Obama is obviously very charismatic as we know as a speaker. I remember saying to him, though, as I was taking the picture that my mom really hopes you make to it the White House. And he leaned forward and said, tell your mamma I said hi. So it was – there are moments of this wonderful natural people skills that just overflow with Obama.
With Bush, it was – it was quite a challenging shoot, one of the hardest I’ve ever had. He walked in the room and I remember he said to me, you better be photographing a guy who is happy and not some kind of snarler.
ZAKARIA: B.B. Netanyahu, how did he strike you?
PLATON: Netanyahu has a very powerful confidence. He came over to me and he put his hand on one shoulder, on my shoulder and he took my hand with the other hand very firmly. He looked into my eyes and he said, Platon, make me look good.
ZAKARIA: Perhaps your most famous shot is the Gadhafi. I don’t know if it’s the most famous. It’s the most grand.
PLATON: Gadhafi chose arguably the worst moment to sit for me. Again, at the General Assembly in New York, I was just a few feet away from the podium where Obama was actually speaking. And it’s a very confined space.
And at the end of the corridor, I saw this giant crowd swell of about 200 people coming towards us. In the middle of the crowd swell was Gadhafi, and he was marching in slow motion with this defiant spirit. He was surrounded by female bodyguards dressed head to foot in green military clothing. It was a scene from a James Bond movie.
ZAKARIA: The Amazonian guard.
PLATON: Yes. So he walked right up to me and sat for me as if saying, I will sit for a portrait on American soil right under the nose of the American administration while Obama is actually making the speech. And that’s when we did it.
ZAKARIA: And his wild clothes with this – the –
PLATON: Yes, the regalia.
ZAKARIA: — the brooch of the Africa – of Africa and the robes.
PLATON: It’s – he wore this – this sort of pork pie hat that tamed his wild hair. He had these incredible chocolate robes. I mean, people say to me, is he – is he crazy? Is he mad? He may well be those things, but he also may well be the smartest person in the room. And I don’t think he’s to be underestimated.
ZAKARIA: What makes a photograph great? I mean, people sometimes wonder, they look at photographs and they think, well, you know, I could take photographs. Is it – is it the moment? Is it the lighting? Is it – you say it’s a lot of psychology.
PLATON: I think it’s all the things working together. Sometimes the stars are aligned to create a happening. You may laugh at my foolish optimism, but I – I do passionately believe in the human condition, and I believe in the – the dignity of the individual, and in many ways this is perhaps a feeble attempt to appeal to this international power community to come together to solve the world’s problems.
ZAKARIA: Platon, pleasure.
PLATON: Thank you so much.
ZAKARIA: And we will be back.
ZAKARIA: There’s been a lot of talk recently about the economic strength of the U.S. dollar. But our “GPS Question” this week concerns the physical strength of the dollar. The question is, how long does the average $20 bill last? How long is it in circulation? Is it, A) six months; B) two years; C) six years; or D) 10 years?
Stay tuned, we’ll tell you the correct answer.
Make sure you go to CNN.com/GPS for 10 more challenging questions. And while you’re there, check out our website, The Global Public Square. You’ll find smart interviews and takes by some of our favorite experts many of who you’ve seen on the show. You’ll also find the show itself if you missed it. Don’t forget you should also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
This week’s “Book of the Week” is by our guest earlier, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It’s called “Half The Sky.” It’s filled with uplifting stories of women defying the odds, breaking through oppression and repression, and it reminds you of just how tough it is for women in so many parts of the world.
Now, for “The Last Look,” they say you shouldn’t send coals to Newcastle or try to sell ice to Eskimos. But how about trying to sell chopsticks to the Chinese? Think it’s a bad business idea?
Jay Lee is here to prove you wrong. He has built a chopstick factory in America’s Georgia. He employs 100 people. But perhaps his best worker is this chopstick chopping machine. It runs 24 hours a day, six days a week and it makes two million chopsticks a day. And Lee sells them to the Chinese. You see, it turns out China is running out of wood, and Georgia’s soft poplar trees are apparently perfect. Lee, better keep chopping. China uses 45 billion chopsticks every year.
The correct answer to the “GPS Challenge Question” was B, the average $20 bill lasts only two years in circulation. The life span of a $1 bill is even shorter, 1.8 years. Maybe we ought to consider going the way of the Canadian Loonie and having a coin. Go to our website for more.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week. Stay tuned for “RELIABLE SOURCES.”