tv [untitled] CSPAN June 21, 2009 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT
american media ever. >> yeah. >> it's not something you see on fox tv. >> yeah. [applause] >> all right. so the first question is, how can we get your experiences to our leaders in washington, d.c.? and the whole idea of travel and understanding and diplomacy? >> funny you ask. i was just at a big party in washington, d.c. last week. [laughter] >> i'm very excited about this and i'm writing a book right now called travel as a political act and this is just 50 pages of this book that i'm doing that put experiences like that i had all over the place which i think is important like 9/12 they can travel like a medieval gesture. we need to do that. i went -- i was just hanging out
with my senators from washington state and their staff people and they are enthusiastic into taking this into congress and i think it's very realistic that we could give every person in the house a copy of this dvd and encourage them to watch it. i think it would be a practical single hour to watch it. have you seen it? good. i think it's just educational. so i think we're going to do that. and there's an appetite for this. this is very timely right now. i'm trying to get something called the citizen diplomat of the year award. [applause] >> so there's a recognition that this is -- there's hard power and soft power and sometimes it's better to wheeled soft power. that's something i learned on my last visit of congress. they are concerned about finding a more effective to deal with these persistent problems. again, i want to stress i'm not naive about the problems between
iran and the united states. i've not said an opinion on anything about that. it's just we all want to get to a peaceful solution if at all possible and, you know, when we were convincing the rest of the world to go to iraq with us, at the united nations in the grand assembly hall there's a huge mural where everybody gathers which is picasso's mural that tries to human collateral damage. our government decided to cover that the night before when colin powell tried to convince everybody to go to war with us. they just didn't want people looking at what war is all about, you know? and that scares other people. we didn't even notice, really. google that. it's a fascinating thing and we didn't even notice. europe should noticed it. >> the next question is, in your recent pbs program you interviewed mostly young educated people and they were pro-american. what about the old people? do they like americans? >> well, i was just there for 12 days and i don't know -- my only
experience is anecdotal and everywhere i went these old ladies sitting in the village that you saw in the show, they were old and provincial as you probably could imagine and, you know, they just were laughing about the thing. i didn't feel they were angry with me or anything. i think thankfully around the world people know there's a difference between people in their government. one thing i was struck by is governments come and go but the people are still there. we have to clean up the mess of their government and our government and it's just pretty important to try to contain it, i think, you know, 'cause they get swept away with different elections and the people are still there. i didn't feel like it was a generational thing. young people are interested in the west. old people are a little more conservative and fearful of the west but i didn't -- i honestly never felt any sort of -- one man got really kind of crazy with us when we went up to his temple and he was deranged and he hated american just like you
hate germans when you hate americans, loopy people who are deranged. generally it's people to people and it's positive. >> is it practical for individual u.s. citizens to go to iran as tourists? >> americans have a little more hoops to go through but there are lots of companies in the united states that legally take groups to iran. and you can google that or get lonely planet's guidebook to iran and look in their resources chapter but there's a company -- i'm in seattle and there's a company that takes many groups to iran every year. the guy who accompanied is making his own educational tour of iran under the tour. the only way to go to iran is take a tour or visit friends. >> i had a friend with the stanford travel program. >> so stanford appearance program. >> but it was a big success. >> basically, i spent four months in european and leading
tours and making the tv shows and i've had the three most powerful travel experiences outside of that that i've had are educational tours that i've taken to central america and it's educational tourism where you have an organization who meet with different aspects of society and you try to get a firsthand look at all these complicated issues. it is such a thrill to be down doing that sort of thing. just recently i was down for the 25th anniversary of the assassination of the archbishop. i could have gone to mazatlan with my family and i was laying on bunker eating beans and rice that day and beans and rice the next day. everybody has that option but it's just kind of perverse for somebody on their vacation to want to get into the politics. but you do have that option and i find it really inspirational and lots of fun. so you can look into that. >> okay. did the government of iran
censor any of your interviews. >> people were careful about not getting in trouble by being with us sometimes. i felt there was a little bit of nervousness if people would show our guide/minder. if you live in a totalitarian society you know there's guys watching. and if you got aspirations for your kids and you want to play it really safe, you're not going to invite the american film crew over to your house with the camera rolling and talk about how much you hate the ayatollah. i mean, that would just be stupid. and we did go into one family's home on the condition that our minder did not bring his camera. so i'm not naive about the fact that there are -- it's not a free society. there's a big government looking at you and you'll get in trouble if you do something subversive. on the other hand, i was impressed by how people talked to us with the camera rolling on the streets. people clam up with a big camera in any society oftentimes.
and, you know, that was a challenge for us. it reminded me a lot of the soviet union. i traveled quite a bit in the soviet union back in the cold war days and you have a whole class have people who are kissups. they'll join the bureaucracy and do anything so their kid have an inside track to college and a steady job. they'll turn their neighbors in if they're violating some government dictate. when i got permission in the big mosque we went in the big room in the administrators they all looked like mahmoud ahmadinejad. they had the same suit and had the same little beard. this is kind of creepy. this is the kissups. in every society you've got those kinds of people. even in ours. [laughter] >> not in ours. how would you rate the hotels you and your crew stayed during your troop and do they have western toilets? >> the hotels were great. we stayed in the fanciest hotels in town and they were, you know, no more expensive than you'd stay in a basic business hotel
here. i didn't want the back door experience. i wanted a safe place to leave our camera gear and i wanted to get online and all that kind of stuff, you know. every city has an international class hotel. and every city has funky little guest houses. if you're there on your own, i would think you would have a more rewarding time staying in the funky guest houses and the guidebook lists those. it's a free enterprise. they are not so good at free enterprise because it's not their primary concern. it was interesting it was -- the whole place felt like it was on business valium, you know, nothing was that important. >> did you have a chance to go shopping? >> i didn't go shopping, no. >> you didn't boy any jewelry for your wife. >> i bought a mecca compass so i could find which direction mecca is. but it doesn't work here on the west coast. [laughter] >> no, i don't shop when i travel. >> well, let's hope your wife is not watching. >> my wife cool. she looks at it in photographs.
>> how about the cleanliness in of the city itself. was there trash and graffiti and mcdonald's? >> i was impressed there was no angry graffiti and there was certainly no american chains. i didn't think there was that many places to get a bite to eat. here you got temptations all over a place in a big gulp fast food society. there was plenty of food to eat and you weren't constantly tempted with that. it felt clean. reasonably clean. i wasn't -- there's countries you were impressed how dirty except for the bathrooms. the bathrooms were horrible. and i gained a sort of appreciation for what women have to do all through their lives. [laughter] >> because remember there's no urinals there. all my life and all the guys in this room when you go in a stadium you go in the bathroom there's like 50 people trying to go the bathroom and there's 20 urinals and there's an open one.
well, if you go into a bathroom at ayatollah khomeini's mosque which accommodates a million people you go in the bathroom there's like 30 doors and you don't know which one's available. you have to check each door and they're filthy. i mean, people wash their hands for religious ritual but they just mere stuff around when it comes to cleaning the bathroom. [laughter] >> i'm just telling you my experience. [laughter] >> did you visit a church or synagogue? >> did not visit a church or a synagogue. there's churches and synagogues in my slides. they're all over place. i knew it wouldn't be in the stuff because i didn't want to get in the religious thing. i wanted to know the difference between sunnis and shiites, not how christians were mistreated. i really wanted to understand the dominate religion there. >> any advice for making traveling especially airports easier for someone walking with a cane?
>> well, if you have concerns about your physical traveling the most grueling travel anyways is the heat and the crowds of summer. do yourself a huge summer go at the end of the season march or october, much, much easier. >> did you have the opportunity to eat in the home of a persian family? if so, how was your meal and what did you eat and are persians as hospitable as i heard, yes. >> yeah. i get in trouble because i'm honest that i'm not crazy about persian food. >> what? >> you hadn't mentioned that earlier. >> i tried not to but i wanted to now. it doesn't make you sick. [laughter] >> i find it better than norwegian cuisine, okay? >> we know than salted cod? >> everybody tells me well, you haven't eaten in a persian home of course there's great persian food especially in the united
states. but in restaurants -- i should stop talking about this probably. [laughter] >> in restaurants i found it fairly predictable and it was wonderful cabobs and rice and that sort of thing, okay but you get into a person's home as we did and they pull out all the stops and it becomes this incredible banquet which i found exquisite and we were invited in a home and you saw it was a pretty wealthy family's home they were big shot business people and i wanted to see the women kind of like hang out and be loose and casual and unguarded and they would normally do that i would imagine but as soon as we brought our camera in, their house became outside. you see what i mean? it was no longer their private house was westerners were there with a big camera they were dressed modestly and quite formal. but it was still great to get in a home and see a family and we ate wonderfully. >> as an american born iranian
with an iranian last name is safe to travel to iran with a u.s. passport. i heard from many people it would not be wise to travel without an iranian passport and that is difficult to obtain. >> technically, this is a legal issue so i don't want to give you any binding advice but what i've heard is some people it's dangerous for them to go to iran if they left the country under shady circumstances during the change over from the shah and khomeini and so on. there are people who go back to iran and they have a tough time getting out. you should make sure you know what you're doing. as far as the issue of christians and jews going to iran, there's no problems. i met lots of christians and jews running businesses there and, you know, people just said it's the dominate muslim society but we do our thing and we're fine. >> how do we reconcile that iran supports family values while at the same time supporting suicide bombers which depleats the family? >> i don't reconcile that.
i don't deal with that. what am i going to do, continue to refuse to learn about them? i would say that it's wrong for americans to think that we have heroes that only wish they had more than life to give for their country. we were raised thinking those are the ultimate. they are a dime a dozen on this planet and today we are the empire. we are the red coats. we are 4% on the planet spending more than than any other country and you can't get elected without promising more for military. this is the sacred cow. we have military bases right now in 130 countries. only america can declare somebody else's natural resources vital on the other side of the planet vital to our national security interest. that doesn't ring well to other people when it's their natural resources. we are outvoted routinely in the united states 140-4 on issues
that matter to the desperately poor half of humanity. the 3 billion people trying to live on $2 a day. time and time again check the united nations website. it's 140-4. who stands with america? israel, marshall islands and micronesia. those are the four countries who gets it? they are the caring compassionate altruistic ones and everybody else is a conspiracy against our freedoms when it comes to child labor, global warming, land mines, militarizing space, maintaining embargoes on places like cuba, third world debt relief, water issues so it's complicated. but we are -- whenever i write that america might be an empire, it gets a lot of upset, you know, that's very, very sensitive stuff. and i don't even say we're an empire.
i say 96% of humanity is inclined to look at us like an empire because they think we act like an empire given what i just explained to you and there's never been an empire in the history of this planet that didn't have angry people on its fringes nipping at it. and any of those people that have other values than ours knows there's only two things you can do if you're going to fight the united states. you can die or you can be a terrorist. you see, there's no other way if you want to fight america. so it's a difficult situation. so, yeah, iran supports terrorists. i think that's a terrible thing. i'm not going to get -- justifying that but i'm going to say that my hunch is that if we were less easy to demonize they'd have a tougher time recruiting these terrorists and we could do constructive things on this planet rather than divisive and destructive things. [applause] >> amen. applause applause
>> thank you. someone wants to know how many languages do you speak? >> how many languages do i speak? just english. nothing to brag about. i'm a generalist. every time i try to learn a few words and then i go to portugal and latvia and i can't even remember my own area code. [laughter] >> i make kind of a big deal that i'm a monoglot. my whole work has been try to encourage americans to travel boldly even if you don't speak the language and i'm able to go to europe and write guide books and have tours and have a good time with my family on vacation speaking the world's linguistic common denominator. that's the language you can be lazy. if a greek meets a norwegian in the alps how do you think they communicate. english. what greek speaks norwegian? now my son speaks fluent italian right now and i'm envious.
my whole deal is if you want to go to portugal and you don't know how to speak the language, don't worry about it. have a good time. >> you travel with an open mind and a open heart and that's more important than speaking a language. >> much more important is your attitude if you go there to learn not judge. >> how do you balance iran? their drive for nuclear weapons by volatile leaders? >> i would try to arrange it so they don't have such volatile leaders by giving them an environment where they could elect a moderate. from their point of view israel has got nukes, india has got nukes, russia has got nukes, america has got nukes? why can't they have nukes? well, we say you can't have nukes. well, they're threatened by us. if i was president i'd probably wouldn't let them have nukes, you know, but i don't want that to get in way with my endeavor to understand these people and get to know them and let us
travel as ambassadors of good will so we can let them understand us better and we can understand them better and again it's driven by fear. they're afraid of us. they want nukes. >> and this is the last question, thank you so much for all your peace efforts. did you try to go to the beautiful north of iran, the green caspian sea area. i lived there for nine years and will be glad to lead you all there. >> all right. let me just -- before i do the last question, i want to just quickly remind you -- well, i'll do that last question and then i'll just -- i guess, we'll talk about those books later. i didn't have enough time to go to the caspian sea. that was my first trip to iran. i went to iran back in the last days of the shah just as a backpack across but i didn't have much interest in picking up all these issues. having gone to iran just for
this brief trip last may, i want to go back. i just scratched the surface, obviously, and i just -- everywhere i turned there was interesting stuff and so many people in iran said you got to get up in the caspian sea in the more lush area. everything was over 4,000 feet and it was speckled fascinating ancient sites and hard-working industrious communities and the great communities that we saw. >> well, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> this was wonderful. [applause] >> thank you. thanks. >> and we hope you go back. >> yeah, i'm going to go back. thanks a lot. what a delight to be able to share this with everybody and it's fun to think it will be broadcast on radio and tv and so on. i did want to remind you the people at kepler's books did a lot of work. i wanted to be sure -- you know, they got a smartering of single titles, paris or istanbul or
whatever. the three books that they have are the core books would be the most interesting are the europe through the back door. that's the how to travel book that i've written and that really is the one book you'd want to read the way to travel. my passion is to make this book helpful the first is skills and individual chapters on my favorite discoveries. postcard from europe it tells all my favorite stories laced into one fantasy three-week trip. a real fun read. as i mentioned earlier it's my worst selling guidebook but i just think -- and for some people it's their favorite because it lets them get to know behind the scenes of my work doing tv and tour guiding and guidebook writing. and you meet a lot of people and the best of europe is the sacollection of the most important chapters all over europe. the notion here if you're going to do a once over lightly trip you have the big sites covered here. not big cities. so those are the three books
they have a lot of and they've got individual titles otherwise. those who got my tour booklet i'm sorry i ran out if you want to learn more about our tour program it's the hottest thing in my business. we take 10,000 people a year to european. we just weather the storms and i've noticed from a -- it might be interesting to you if you're selling tours what's not selling -- we got 6,000 people sold already for next year and we'll be just fine -- i mean, people overreact to this in a lot of ways but what's not selling is the introductory tours. and what is really selling very well are the advanced tours. turkey, the basque country, the baltics, the people who return. so what i derive from that is, certain people are hell bent on traveling and they will put off to whatever to travel because that's part of their lifestyle. they'll take the best of europe tours one day. there are a lot of people still traveling but that's sort of the scenario.
those of you who picked up the maps, that's just the way to locate all my favorite destinations. i had 20 maps left and rather than make y'all not get them, i rewarded the people first by giving them a copy of the map for those who of you who later. the first 20 books that are bought over there get a free map so that gives you that europe map if you'd like. it's 6 bucks otherwise. if you're curious about my business it's explained in your packet in this newsletter and then this blog is just -- i'm just so old when i do a blog i go backwards and i put it in print. so here's my printed blog. and then the most important thing is my journal from this iran experience and you all got that in your packages, okay? so i guess the routine is i stay here and sign books or whatever and thank you very much. it's great to see you. [applause] >> rick steves is the author of many travel guys for europe and
host travel shows on public television and public radio. mr. steves also writes a weekly syndicated column for the "chicago tribune." for more, visit ricksteves.com. >> we're at the 2009 bookexpo america booksellers convention at the javits center in new york city. i'm here with stacy publicity director of city lights book out of san francisco. what do you have coming out this fall? >> well, this fall we actually have a couple of books coming out from angela davis. we have a collection of essays. it's her first book that's been published in about four years. that covers themes that she's particularly interested in. racism, sexism, the prison industrial complex and then particularly an interesting book that we're publishing with angela is a new edition of the narrative of the life of frederick douglass, an american
slave which contains douglass' narrative that was part of a course she taut in ucla in the '70s so it really brings to life that essay and we'll also include a new essay that includes that written by her. it will be enriched by the old and the new world. we're also publishing the awakener it's a long-awaited memoir with her lenny bruce, allen ginsburg in greenwich village in the '50s so more than just focusing on the beats it really presents a bigger picture of literary life in new york in the '50s and greenwich village which continues to always seem to be of interest. so we're excited about that one.
and then our latest book that came out is called the peep diaries how learning to love watching ourselves and our neighbors. and what the author is talking about is at one time everyone was interested in pop culture because everyone is fascinated by celebrities. but he's coined this term peep culture in that the focus has gone from celebrities to the focus on yourself. that you actually can be the celebrity and you -- you can do that by blogging and websites and youtube videos and so it's a commentary on what that change in technology has created for social and cultural life in the u.s. it's very entertaining and he inserts himself in lots of scenarios. he blogs all the time. he actually was a bea today twittering people's secrets. people were asked to -- if they wanted to get a copy of this book today. we asked them to tell us a
secret and then he went ahead and went on his twitter account and twitted those secrets. so yeah, some of the new nonfiction that we've got. >> regular book tv viewers knows city lights as a bookstore and your offices are on the second floor of that bookstore. how did city lights start and who founded city lights? >> city lights publishing was actually started in 1955 by lawrence getty and many people know who lawrence is. he's actually one of the most renowned poets in the world. he began the publishing company with a collection of his own poems called pictures of the gone world. that was the first book in the city lights pocket poet series which has gone on to continue publishing. we have about 60 books in print right now in the series. >> so tell me a little bit about the bookstore and the publishing house. how does it work.
is there synergy between the bookstore and the publishing house? >> yeah. i would say that -- at one time most of the people that worked in the publishing company had worked in the bookstore. the person that is now the editorial director worked for over 15 years in the bookstore and is now leading the way publishing excellent books for city lights. we're in the same building. it's quite symbiotic. the books that we publish very much reflect the types of books that we carry in the store, the commitment to progressive politics, literature and translation, new voices, gay and lesbian literature, poetry, poetry and translation. if one were to look at the city lights list or kind of think about the books that i was just talking about and then walk through the story, you would get the same sort of sense that the selection there is being curated
for you. it's done by a several people and a whole host of people working in the bookstore. the mission is one and the same that continues through the bookstore to the books that we publish. >> now, how old is mr. getty and is he still involved with the bookstore and/or the publisher? >> lawrence is 90 years old and he just -- we just celebrated his 90th birthday with him. at this point, i would say that any poetry that we're publishing is vetted by lawrence. that it has to have his approval but the great thing that he's done is that he hasn't kept the company to himself. he's delegated work to lots of people like myself and let us kind of continue his vision in our own way. so at this point w