Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

October 30, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Calvin Trillon


  • Author Calvin Trillon talks about life as a writer.
Guests:
  • Calvin Trillin - Author


View Transcript
Ted Simons
>> Calvin Trillin is a well-known writer at "Time Magazine," The New Yorker and The Nation. He's also the author of several best sellers including his recent collection of comic verse about the bush administration. Recently Trillin visited A.S.U. to give a lecture on the writing game. I sat down with Calvin Trillin before he gave that lecture.

Ted Simons
>> Calvin Trillin, thank you so much for joining us on Horizon.

Calvin Trillin
>> Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons
>> Let's talk about why you are here. You are addressing A.S.U. about the life of a writer?



Calvin Trillin
>> Yeah. Sort of what it's like to make a living as a writer, which is not a great profit center in general I would say.

Ted Simons
>> Are we heading into, are we in already, a post-literate culture with television, with visual things superceding the written word?

Calvin Trillin
>> Well, I think it's less literate. Or at least a different sort of literate. I think obviously more people are getting news from television and now from the internet that you see get news from newspapers, for instance. On the other hand, a lot more of them are writing on the internet than used to. I mean, all these bloggers. And if this is what you do for a living, I keep wondering, why are they doing that if nobody pays them? I don't understand that. But it's sort of like I still do a verse every week for "The Nation." A couple people there, when somebody writes a letter saying, well, you're wrong about this, instead of just saying, oh, well, okay, I made a mistake, or saying, well, no, I’m right, you write paragraph after paragraph. And I keep thinking, they're not even getting paid for this what was the point of this? I don't understand.

Ted Simons
>> You talked about writing verse. And I know you have a book coming out here shortly regarding the election?

Calvin Trillin
>> Yeah. It's called "Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Campaign in Rhyme." And it's a very long narrative rhyming couplets poem interrupted by some other poems, some of which sound like songs, like there's one about John Edwards called "yes, I know he's the son of a miner but there's Hollywood in that hair." That sort of thing.

Ted Simons
>> I know you've written in the past as well. You have other things out regarding the bush administration in verse.

Calvin Trillin
>> Yeah.

Ted Simons
>> What got you doing this? Lots of folks write but not many in verse.

Calvin Trillin
>> Well, this is a total accident. Again, and I happened -- I used to be called a special occasion poet. Or I should say I used to be what I think of as a special occasion poet, the guy who does the long poem at the rehearsal dinner or the anniversary or big birthday. And I somehow -- actually I may be the only poet ever who was inspired by John Sununu. Not the senator but his father who used to chief of staff -- to be George H.W. bush's chief of staff and was a guy that had a lot of qualities that drew a lot of attention from people like me and wanting to be the smartest guy in the room or show himself. And I loved his name. And I kept saying Sununu. Finally I did a poem called "if you knew what Sununu." And that launched me as a poet.




Ted Simons
>> What kind of reaction have you had to the books? The verse books not only the fact that they are written in rhyme but the fact that they are political and they kind of go at a certain angle. What kind of reaction are you getting?

Calvin Trillin
>> Depends on which party the person follows. I think. I mean, some people think it's just obviously silly. And I don't blame them at all for thinking that. And these have been specifically about George Bush. And so I think it helped the sales a lot. I mean, George Bush is -- I mean, the first book was called "Obliviously on He Sails" and that was from a poem I wrote, a two-line poem when his college marks came out during the 2000 primaries without much effect on the campaign. And the two-line poem went "obliviously on he sails with marks not quite as good as Quayle's." well, it sort of depends on your politics how you respond to a poem like that.

Ted Simons
>> How about other books that you have written?

Calvin Trillin
>> Yeah.

Ted Simons
>> A lot about eating and personal things about your life and father.

Calvin Trillin
>> Right.

Ted Simons
>> Compare and contrast reaction. I guess my -- my question is when you write about such personal things, do people react like I had the same thing happen to me?

Calvin Trillin
>> No.

Ted Simons
>> Or are they reacting to you and your situation?

Calvin Trillin
>> They often draw parallels with their lives. And I did a book about a college classmate of mine, the person in the class we thought might be the president who committed suicide in his 50s. And a lot of the letters I got had to do with "I knew somebody like Denny" or "I was like Denny." and a lot of people -- I did a book on my father. In general, people, even though they came from totally different kind of background than I did, whose father you'd think -- I mean, my father was from an immigrant family and he was a grocer in Kansas City. And I got letters from people, Episcopalian priests, who said your father reminds me of my father. And I think the books -- I mean, if you go by which books sell the most or become best sellers or something, it's the memoirs and the verse books rather than the food books or the reporting books.

Ted Simons
>> Arizona. Your history here. Before the interview we talked about the fact you were in Bisbee about 30 odd years ago?


Calvin Trillin
>> It must have been in the 70s. I should have looked it up before I came. I used to do a piece for the New Yorker every three weeks from somewhere around the United States. I did that for 15 years. So I was in Arizona several times for that. And I was in Tucson for a murder story, and some controversy in Maricopa valley. I can't remember exactly what it was. And Bisbee, I remember my story was -- it may have even been the title "The Ground Floor" because people thought Bisbee, which until a few years before that, had been basically a Phelps-Dodge company town. And which was great-looking. I mean, saved by the fact that if you're a company town during the sort of urban renewal period of American life where a lot of beautiful things were torn down in the name of progress and modernization with government grants and stuff, if they didn't have that sort of energy the town got saved. So it was beautiful. And a lot of people, as I remember, I haven't read the story in maybe since I did it. But a lot of people thought this was going to be the new Aspen or the new Sante Fe. And what they needed to do was get in on the ground floor. So it was really sort of about I guess speculation would be the word.

Ted Simons
>> Well, I guess if we could define it now it -- it would be halfway between what it was and that Aspen Sante Fe goal. Kind of creeping there.

Calvin Trillin
>> Interesting to see it.

Ted Simons
>> Last question, advice to young writers. When they ask for your advice, what do you tell them?

Calvin Trillin
>> Go into software sales, I say.

Ted Simons
>> Calvin Trillin, thank you very much for joining us.

Calvin Trillin
>> Thank you.

Catching Up with Governor Jane Hull

  |   Video
  • Jane Hull is the second woman to serve as Arizona's governor, but the first woman elected to serve as the state's chief executive. She's also the first woman to serve as speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. We catch up with Governor Hull to see what she's been doing since leaving office in 2003.
Guests:
  • Jane Hull - Former Governor of Arizona


View Transcript
Ted Simons
>> She was a teacher on the Navajo reservation before breaking into politics. She went on to become Arizona's second woman governor. Tonight we continue our series by catching up with Governor Jane Hull. Since leaving office in 2003 governor Hull has mostly stayed out of politics. In 2004 she spent three months in New York as a public delegate to the United Nations. But as David Majure shows us, the former governor is enjoying life away from the political limelight.

Jane Hull
>> I loved being governor. But I’m glad I’m not governor now.

David Majure
>> Since leaving her office on the ninth floor, former governor Jane Hull has been able to spend more time on the ninth hole.

Jane Hull
>> I play golf. I play bridge. Didn't think I could occupy my time that way. And I do very well with it. We spend about seven months of the year up north in Pinetop. Lots of friends and lots of family. And time just really goes. I’m not a shopper, never have been. So there are a lot of things I don't do. But I love to read. I love to be up on the current events. Like "The Wall Street Journal." Not as wild about the Republic but I read it.

David Majure
>> Hull was the news through the 80s, 90s and the first part of this decade. She was Arizona's speaker of the house, the first woman to hold that office.

Jane Hull
>> And repeat the oath after me.

David Majure
>> When governor Fife Symington resigned in 1997, Hull, then secretary of state, took his place, making her Arizona's second woman governor. She'd become the first to be elected when she won the office the following year. After all that time in the political spotlight, Hull says she doesn't miss it a bit.

Jane Hull
>> No, you know, the spotlight was something they think a lot of people enjoyed more than I did. My children, my grandchildren and my husband, D.P.S. if there was anything we all enjoyed it was called having somebody pick us up and drive us to wherever we were going.

Jane Hull
>> I suppose I miss going to schools, which I could be doing. That may be one of those things I will take up. But going to schools, talking to kids. Those are the kind of things that I like to do. Some of what I had to do I didn't always like to do it. But you do it.

David Majure
>> For example, giving speeches.

Jane Hull
>> I believe that you can't say it in five minutes it probably isn't worth saying. That translates to about 30 minutes in the state-of-the-state terms. So I'll be brief and to the point.

Jane Hull
>> I mean, speeches, I hated the state-of-the-state. I hated it by the time the staff got through writing it and I'd be rewriting it the day before. And it was just so much. I didn't like listening to it when I was a legislator. I didn't like doing it when I was a governor. You know, it's so great to be retired. It's so great to be an observer of the scene.

David Majure
>> As an observer of the political process in Arizona, Hull shared some of her observations.

Jane Hull
>> I think the budget that was passed last year is disastrous. And it's going to hurt the state for quite a few years, I think. But could I have done any better? I don't know. I don't know. I would have tried to have more consensus. And I think the other thing that really frustrates me, having served I think all of two years on appropriations many, many years ago, is it used to be at least a somewhat open process. And you could go testify and beg for your money if you were a mayor or whatever it was. These days, it's all done later shifts office, has been done since I left. And all of a sudden this monster pops out. And that's much like congress does. I mean, what was the $700 billion started as a 100 page bill and ended up as 4 or 500? People can't digest that. The public doesn't understand it. And to me it just does not serve the process well. I have always looked at myself as a consensus builder, somebody that could put the groups together and do something. I think it's gotten not only in Washington but in every state legislature it's gotten so partisan. And we've almost ground toe to a halt as I watch it. My husband yells at it, I just watch. It but there's just no agreement possible that makes for a good deal for the public. And the public is best served when you have a middle ground.

David Majure
>> In the meantime, retirement is serving governor Hull quite well. She's a precinct committeeman for the first time in a decade. Aside from that she has no desire to return to politics.

Jane Hull
>> I think that most successful people in retirement are those who keep their mind busy, who keep doing something. But I don't think you need to be doing the same thing that you were doing. I have 40 years in different areas of republican politics. That's a long, long time. And certainly I had good times and bad times. And it's kind of a time to rest.

Voting Preparation

  |   Video
  • What kind of identification do you need when voting? Where do you vote? Those are just some of the questions that Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell answers as she helps our viewers get ready to vote.
Guests:
  • Helen Purcell - Maricopa County Recorder


View Transcript

Ted Simons
>> Good evening and thanks for joining us tonight on Horizon. I’m Ted Simons. With the general election just days away, it's time to mail in that early ballot. You have questions about the voting process? Want to know when you'll see election results? Tonight we have the answers. Joining us is Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell. Helen, thanks for joining us.

Helen Purcell
>> You're welcome.

Ted Simons
>> Let's talk about early voting here. What are you seeing and hearing out there? Because it seems like there are some pretty long lines already.

Helen Purcell
>> Yes. We have 10 early voting sites around the county. Those are close at 5:00 tomorrow afternoon, Friday afternoon. But we also have the mail in early ballots. We've had over 800,000 requested, over 500,000 are back in already voted. And we have started counting those.

Ted Simons
>> Wow! So when people going out for the early voting and the polling place at the sites, they're seeing long lines. What's going on there? It's just so many people are interested? Should there be more of these early voting places?

Helen Purcell
>> Well, we would hope to have more, of course. But how many do you open? And do you have the money to do that? As you know we have some not so good economic times so we have not had as many polling places this time, early voting sites. But also we've had this open since October 2nd. So we're now seeing those people who have waited until the last minute to vote.

Ted Simons
>> Yeah. And some folks are saying what, two, three, four hours of waiting kind of takes the convenience of getting it done early out of there, doesn't it?

Helen Purcell
>> That's what we've heard, that there have been lodge lines at some of the polling places.

Ted Simons
>> Any report of problems so far?

Helen Purcell
>> No.

Ted Simons
>> Just besides the wait. That's about it.

Helen Purcell
>> Just the wait.

Ted Simons
>> You ever seen anything like this as far as especially early voting but just in terms of general interest?

Helen Purcell
>> It is amazing to me. But we have been talking about this for a long time. This is a situation that we haven't seen in quite some time. The excitement about everybody. The excitement of having this many people. You don't have a sitting president, you don't have a vice-president who's running. So it's like an open field. We have an African-American running for president, a woman running for vice-president. A lot of excitement.

Ted Simons
>> And here in Arizona you've got a senior senator running for president.

Helen Purcell
>> Absolutely. How about that?

Ted Simons
>> For someone who's voted early -- or check that. Someone who's mailed in their ballot, can they verify? Is there a way to know if my ballot got to where it's supposed to go?

Helen Purcell
>> Absolutely. You can go on our website, recorder.maricopa.gov, go under elections and it has a button on there to check to see if your early ballot has been received.

Ted Simons
>> When people get these early ballots you want them to vote early, don't you?

Helen Purcell
>> Yes. That's the whole thing.

Ted Simons
>> Don't bring in the early ballot on election day because that just sets off a whole different set of problems.

Helen Purcell
>> There will be a number of people who will drop them off on election day as they're allowed to do. But those ballots don't get counted until after the election. So we spend the Wednesday after election kind of seeing what we've got in house, getting prepared, and then we'll start processing those early ballots.


Ted Simons
>> We had a viewer who actually wrote in, e-mailed a question regarding that. Because they felt that last time -- they had heard that last time, especially in that close race in C.D. 5, they were hearing that because they brought in their early ballot on Election day and those weren't counted, we didn't get the results until later on. He had heard that if it's not a close race, that maybe some of those votes aren't counted. Did he hear correctly?

Helen Purcell
>> That's not true, no. Every vote is counted. Every vote that can be counted will be counted. If there's anything wrong with an early vote, if the ballot envelope hasn't been signed or something of that nature. But every vote that's in there will be counted.

Ted Simons
>> And so again, it could be a complete runaway, a complete landslide, you're going to count every vote.

Helen Purcell
>> Absolutely.

Ted Simons
>> They need to know that as well.

Helen Purcell
>> If you're a candidate who has no opposition we're going to count every vote.

Ted Simons
>> What happens if you request an early ballot but you don't vote early, you just show up at the polls? What happens?

Helen Purcell
>> And you don't bring that early ballot with you?

Ted Simons
>> Yes.

Helen Purcell
>> You will have to vote a provisional ballot. Because the signature last year will show that you have ordered an early ballot. They don't know whether you have voted or not. So you will be able to vote but it will be put in a provisional envelope and then we look at those afterwards to make sure did you vote that early ballot. And if you didn't, then that will be counted. But we want to make sure that everything is correct. You were and everything before we count that provisional.

Ted Simons
>> Indeed. When you request the early ballot, the idea is use it and vote it early.

Helen Purcell
>> Use it early and mail it early.

Ted Simons
>> What a concept. For those who are hearing this going, I think I'd like to vote early next time, how do they go about doing it? Obviously too late now but for the next time.
Helen Purcell
>> There's a couple of ways. Now we have a law that says you can be on a permanent early voting list. So that means that every election that you are eligible for you will sent a ballot automatically. Or you can call before each election and request a ballot for that particular election.

Ted Simons
>> What happens if someone somewhere somehow challenges your vote? What happens? What should someone do if someone walks up and says, I don't think you're allowed to vote.

Helen Purcell
>> You can't really challenge someone's ability to vote if they're in a polling place and they're registered to vote and so forth. You can challenge the fact that maybe they have already voted if you saw somebody coming into a polling place at 8:00 in the morning and you see them again at 2:00 in the afternoon, you could certainly challenge that.

Ted Simons
>> Okay. And do you go to one of the workers there on-site? How do you go about doing that?

Helen Purcell
>> You would do that.

Ted Simons
>>You would say, that guy over there has been here before. He's voting often and early. Can you wear a t-shirt, a sticker, can you adorn yourself in all sorts of political paraphernalia when you vote?

Helen Purcell
>> You can't wear anything that has a candidate's name or anything like that, like a proposition yes on whatever. You can't wear anything like that within the 75-foot limit of a polling place. That's buttons and stickers and everything.

Ted Simons
>> So just don't do it.

Helen Purcell
>> Don't do it.

Ted Simons
>> Cameras. Allowed?

Helen Purcell
>> No.

Ted Simons
>> No cameras in polling places.

Helen Purcell
>> No.

Ted Simons
>> So if you want to take a picture of the guy wearing the buttons and stickers both of you take it outside.

Helen Purcell
>> Yes.

Ted Simons
>> Can you take someone with you to help you vote?

Helen Purcell
>> If you feel that you need someone, yes. Now, the people there at the polling place are allowed to do that. And that would have to be -- excuse me -- a republican or democrat that would help -- assist a person. But you could bring somebody in with you if that's what you need.

Ted Simons
>> And this can be someone who has already voted.

Helen Purcell
>> Yes. Yes.

Ted Simons
>> Okay. So if someone sees someone going back to the guy, I think I saw him here before. But no, he was here by himself, now he's here helping someone, the workers have to figure that out.

Helen Purcell
>> Yes.

Ted Simons
>> Having trouble finding workers this time?

Helen Purcell
>> We always have some trouble. We have -- we're in pretty good shape for this election. But we always have people at the last minute that for whatever reason can't serve. So we have a fail safe. We tried to get some extra once this time. Also you can hire people out of line. So if I’m in a polling place and I don't have enough election workers I can hire somebody out of line if they're willing to serve.

Ted Simons
>> Isn't that interesting? Has that ever happened?

Helen Purcell
>> Yes. Oh, yes, many times.

Ted Simons
>> Really?

Helen Purcell
>> Yes.

Ted Simons
>> Wow! If you're in line -- let's say you're in line and polling closes. Deadline hits. If you're in line, do you get to vote?

Helen Purcell
>> Absolutely. The marshall at 7:00 on Election day goes to the end of the line. Those people who are standing in line at 7:00. They get to vote.

Ted Simons
>> Even if the line is all the way from the polling place to the nearest Wal-Mart he's going to stand in that line.

Helen Purcell
>> Absolutely.

Ted Simons
>> Interesting.

Helen Purcell
>> We may see some polling places closing late on election day.

Ted Simons
>> I'll bet. I'll bet. What happens if you're marking and oh, I made a mistake. I just voted for this person. I really wanted to vote for that person. What do you do?

Helen Purcell
>> You take it back to the election worker and they will spoil that ballot and give you a new one.

Ted Simons
>> That's no problem?

Helen Purcell
>> No problem.

Ted Simons
>> Okay. This is a very long ballot. It's somewhat complicated in some respects. It's the general election, obviously a lot of decisions out there. How long do you go around -- do you think it will take for a voter to go around?

Helen Purcell
>> If they haven't looked at their ballot, decided what issues they're going to vote for it's going to take 30 minutes or so. If you've already looked at everything and you know what your going to do it shouldn't take you very long to do that.

Ted Simons
>> 10 minutes, something like that?

Helen Purcell
>> Yes.

Ted Simons
>> For those of you new here as far as what system is used, explain it. I mean, it's not all machine, is it?

Helen Purcell
>> You have a paper ballot, really, that's got the head and tail of an arrow next to each candidate's name. You connect the head and the tail of the arrow. Then you go over and put it in the ballot box. It scans the ballot, counts it right then.



Ted Simons
>> What is done, just general questions. What is done, though, to make sure that things are secure? I mean, what kind of procedures are in place for that?

Helen Purcell
>> Well, we go through a lot of procedures we're lucky in the state of Arizona that we have not only our state laws but the secretary of state has a procedures manual. You know exactly what you're supposed to do with that equipment. All our equipment has to have an accuracy test on equipment before it ever goes out to a polling place. In addition to the equipment we have in our tabulation center for the early ballots. All that has to be checked before we ever start counting a ballot.

Ted Simons
>> Interesting. Do you foresee a time when online voting might take over?

Helen Purcell
>> I think that's possible someday. I don't think I'll probably see it in my lifetime. I know it's been talked about. The thing that nobody can get straight is security. Do you have a secure connection. To make sure that nobody can tap into that. And I don't think anything is ready for that.

Ted Simons
>> For those who are now thinking to themselves, I sure don't want to stand in a long line come election day, give us the secret hours when you should go to the polling place.

Helen Purcell
>> Of yours your busiest hours will be from 6:00 to 9:00 in the morning and 4:00 to 7:00 in the afternoon. So if you could go at other times that would be better. We know there will be lines on Election Day in this election. There's so much interest in this election. I think that's wonderful. If we have tried to plan ahead for that, tried to get more polling places, tried to get more workers, we split up the signature rosters so they can have a two lines. So a lot of things going on. But there are going to be lines. Please be patient. Make sure you have all your information with you ready to go. Check online to make sure that you know you can put in your address, you know where your polling place is. You have a map to your polling place, you have a sample ballot for that polling plate. All that you can look at ahead of time.

Ted Simons
>> All right, well, good luck to you on election day. It will be a very busy night for you folks.

Helen Purcell
>> Yes, it is.

Ted Simons
>> Thank you very much.

Helen Purcell
>> You're welcome.

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