Thursday, March 14, 2013

Coleman Hicks Portrait in Progress

My son Coleman is so great. We climbed rocks together recently in Central Park. Then, we were approached by the portraitists. Would you like to have your son portrayed forever in charcoals? Why, sure. I mean, why not be a tourist in your own City one day. The artist (whose name seems to have been signed "Lex Pork" or something else) was quite talented. Coleman's energy was waning a bit, but the portrait that resulted was quite warm. It reminds me of Coleman at a slightly earlier age. Here are some shots I took of this portrait coming together.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sparrow Reviews Slingshot

 one of my all time favorite poets, Sparrow, is also a good friend. He lives in the lovely and mossy-soft Catskill Mountains now. I stopped by his house on my book tour this past Summer, and gave him a copy of my new book. He wrote a nice review, and so I thought I would share it with you:
Slingshot to the Juggernaut by Sander Hicks
 reviewed by Sparrow
I'm a "passive Truther," like a passive smoker. I don't seek out conspiracy theories; rather, I stumble upon them. (A "Truther" is someone who questions the official story of September 11.) Sander Hicks was passing through my town, promoting Slingshot to the Juggernaut, and asked me to read his book, so I did. To my surprise, I agreed with almost all of it.
Here's why. On the 10th anniversary of September 11, I was three blocks from Ground Zero, chanting with my friend Julia Indichova. She goes every year, to bow and sing. Mostly we chanted one of her songs:

Two thousand nine hundred sixty four people;
Two thousand nine hundred sixty four like you.
Two thousand nine hundred sixty four people;
Two thousand nine hundred sixty four like me.
Two thousand nine hundred sixty four voices
Calling for warring, for warring to cease;
Two thousand nine hundred sixty four voices
Calling to you and me, calling for peace.
When our meditative session was over, I walked across the street into a large Truther rally. I took all the leaflets, and spent the next few days reading them. Afterwards I was convinced -- or nearly convinced -- especially by the Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Here were construction experts telling me that a skyscraper doesn't collapse on its footprint, moving through "the path of greatest resistance." It's never happened before, anywhere -- except when a building is demolished. Furthermore, in the rubble of the World Trade Center -- which was removed with dazzling speed -- evidence was found of nano-thermite, an explosive used in demolition.

Furthermore, what about 7 World Trade Center, the third building, 42 stories high, which also miraculously crumbled in its footprint, without being hit by "insane terrorists from another land"? Few Americans even know this building fell, partly because there are no iconic videos of it.

And then there's the anthrax. Seven days after the "terrorist attacks," deadly anthrax was mailed through the postal system. Seven people died. Almost everyone has forgotten this. Sander gives impressive evidence that this was weapons-grade anthrax, from American military laboratories. Does this mean that the American military was implicated in the anthrax? Unlike the hijackings, no compelling suspect was ever introduced.

Sander became famous as the founder of Soft Skull Press, which he began while working at a copy shop. Sander would xerox small CD-sized books at night; eventually, Soft Skull became one of the most important independent publishers in the US. (Is this the place to mention that Soft Skull published three of my books?) Sander left the publishing business and founded Vox Pop, a visionary café in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Sander has now spent 10 years in the frustrating and lonely Truther movement, and from it has fashioned a philosophy; nay, a theology. Slingshot to the Juggernaut comprises a report of his recent research on September 11 (and its aftermath), a memoir, a call to revolution, and a blueprint for The Truth Party, a political movement engaged in electoral politics.

From Sander, we discover a highly complex network of "shell" corporations, CIA fronts, governmental agencies and creepy millionaires, all tangled together like vermicelli. There isn't one Grand Conspiracy, but rather 1907 partial conspiracies -- and no actor knows more than a few hints of skulduggery. Sander doesn't explain how the Whole Thing Works, but rather picks at contradictory pieces of evidence around the edges. For example, he studies interviews with Mohamed Atta's short-term Florida girlfriend, Amanda Keller:

"Amanda claimed she was another coke buddy of Atta's. She dated him on the rebound from a broken heart... According to Amanda, he had a foot fetish; was moody, jealous, and often depressed; he was a terrible lover. He dismembered a litter of kittens in her apartment when she dumped him..."

Florida's top guerrilla reporter, Daniel Hopsicker, tracked Keller down and through her discovered that the FBI was doctoring many facts about Atta. He hadn't appeared in Florida in June 2000, as the FBI claim, but had been in the state much earlier. He wasn't a devout Muslim -- he actually enjoyed alcohol, cocaine, pork, and rap music. He had many passports and spoke many languages, including German and Hebrew. With his European friends, Wolfgang Bohringer, and another man named "Stephen," he went on weekend-long cocaine binges in Key West. Atta was quite the partier; he even appeared on GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff's party yacht one week before 9/11.

Mohamed Atta was supposedly the mastermind of the September 11 attacks! If any of this is true, it changes everything. Is it really possible that seventeen madmen with boxcutters entirely destroyed three massive skyscrapers, one of which they didn't hit?

Sander is an extremely brave guy. He knows that people in his business get "disappeared," but he is unafraid. One reason is that Sander is a man of faith. Towards the end of the book, he moves on from politics to religion:
Jesus was not a "king" or a worldly leader. In fact, he was the opposite; instead of an object of worship, instead of a man of power, he was a man of empowerment, giving power, empowering. His magic was free magic.

Let's look at another teaching of Jesus's from the Synoptic Gospel of Mark:

You know that the rulers of this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son Of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.
(Mark 10:42-45)

Politically, the closest Jesus gets to a modern description is that of a nonviolent, spiritual anarchist.

Sander may be the world's first investigative mystic.

I wish I had read Sander's previous Truther book, The Big Wedding, to see how his thinking has evolved. At the end of the book, Sander asks us to forgive Dick Cheney:
Even though Dick Cheney is "indictable" for 9/11, it makes more sense for us now not to seek his punishment. Rather than revenge, let's desire truth. This is a more practical goal, and it's more ethical... Dick Cheney is obviously suffering, writhing in his guilt for his illegal wars, mass killings, and 9/11 cover-up.... Cheney likes to have people think of him as a Darth Vader type of character, but to do so is only to play into his own mythmaking. Really, what we have here is a troubled, hurt, and hurting human being.

In Cheney's last years on earth, we can find out the truth about 9/11 by simply asking him more questions, free from reprisals. That way, we indict a system, not a lone mad gunman.

Is Sander the only Truther who pities Mr. Cheney? Maybe. Call me a softie, but I was touched by his (hypothetical) magnanimity.

One of the unspoken questions of Slingshot to the Juggernaut is "Who tells the truth?" Another is "Who suppresses the truth?" One theme that emerges is that the truth is often told by weirdos -- people too stupid or obsessive to be bribed into silence. Sander has joined the ranks of the truth-telling Outsiders. Ignore him at your own risk.