Sunday, September 24, 2006


The Toronto Sun headline for the hottest newsmurmur going:

Perhaps we can also anticipate the follow-up article to Mark Steyn's October 2004 speculation that "He's Bin Laden to rest":

As for this Bush-failed-to-get-bin-Laden business, 2-1/2 years ago I declared that Osama was dead and he's never written to complain. There's no more evidence for his present existence than there is for the Loch Ness monster, which at least does us the courtesy of showing up as a indistinct gray blur on a photograph every now and again. Osama is lying low because he's in no condition to get up.

This most recent Frenchly-rumored scenario-- that OBL succumbed to typhoid in remotest AghanoPakistan-- would go a long way to explain why his #2, Ayman "Big Al" Zawahiri, and not OBL himself, turned up in the "Favourite Fatwas: Bridges to Babylon Fifth Anniversary Tour" video released to Big Al Jazeera this past 9/11.

OBL-ah-dee, OBL-ah-dah, OBL-ah-dead?

It works for me. And, oddly, for President Dubya too, since it takes OBL off the table (as it were) as an election issue, without anyone being able to accuse the Republicans of having busted, bombed, or buried him and then held back the news until it fit the "October Surprise" model.

The truth is OBL is more or less a dead issue anyway in the grand scheme of thwarting Big Al Qaeda-- despite the Democrats' best effort to periodically dredge him up into an anti-Bush bat-- since (to quote another British invasion limey bastard, Donovan) "the organization ain't really organized", and has pretty much outgrown his control. His money was probably not getting out as freely as it once did either, major funding having been taken over by their good friends in Iran, and perhaps some quarters of Saudi Arabia.

So we'll wait with less than baited breath to see
if, like Twain (in this and no other way), "Rumors of his death will prove to have been greatly exaggerated."
May he rest in pieces.
it's H-i-i-i-i-m !!!!

(leftover stray enthusiasms from attending Toronto Film Fest premiere of "Alatriste" with Lord Aragorn, or as they say in Elvish, "King Ethelstud the Uncoiffed", traipsing the carpet. He had the jacket, but didn't seem
to own a tie.)


Yes, it has fallen silent th
is past week, and will be so again for the next ten days. Trips to Texas, Quebec, and Newfoundland in the offing.
And this at a time when there is so much happening it’s hard to know where to begin.


Northeastern establishment aghast—would this have happened in a Kerry administration? Mrs. Heinz could not be reached for comment.
Neither could Mary Jo Kopechne.


Venezuelan kleptocrat HUGO CHAVEZ did his well-prepared stand-up routine against the golden backdrop of the United Nations Chamber, and had ‘em rolling in the aisles with the ol
d “What is that smell?” schtick
"The devil himself is right in the house. And the devil came here yesterday. Right here. It smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of.”
And then he made
a dandy sign of the cross that would have put Madonna to shame, folded his hands, and cast his eyes heavenward. [By “devil,” of course, he meant President George W. Bush, who had addressed the august body the day before, with a veritable slurpy of conciliatory words about the world’s reasonable expectations of the nasty nations. Chavez also called him a liar and tyrant, and has since announced that Bush plans to have him assassinated.]

Chavez had prefaced these diplomatic overtures with a brief commercial message peddling Noam Chomsky’s latest pastiche of re-cycled columns in book form, called "Hegemony or Survival" . This show of America-hating unity, this delicious juxtaposition of venomous madmen cuddled together on their surrealistic pillow was an inspiration to see.

CHAVEZ’s clown act was such a hit he took the show on the road to a Harlem church (where he was joined by patriots Danny Glover and Cornell West, representing Hollywood and academentia, respectively) and re-played the devil routine, supplemented by an equally hilarious bit about George Bush’s battle with alcohol—what a hoot!

But of course, Chavez was only the opener for the nutt
y Iranian comedy stylings of:


(He’s got the dinner-jacket—but he doesn’t seem to own a tie.)

Later that same day, Iran’s spunky little president mounted the podium (and probably an orange crate) to address the august body (or was that the September corpse?) of the United Nations General Assembly with several pages of the kind of Zionist-butt-kicking banter that always kills ‘em (literally) in the Catskills.

He closed his remarks by addressing someone else who, as
far as we know, has not been formally admitted to the august body, that is, our buddy Allah (no relation to Kevin Smith’s “Buddy Christ”? But I digress).

That’s right—Mahmoud took it upon himself to make a public prayer.
Whether we like it or not, justice, peace and virtue will sooner or later prevail in the world with the will of the Almighty God…All divine prophets… have all called humanity to monotheism [Hindus take note—emphasis added—ed.], justice, brotherhood, love and compassion. [Zionists take note—this does NOT mean you—ed.]…
Oh Almighty God, all men and women are your creatures and you have ordained their guidance and salvation. Bestow upon humanity that thirsts for justice, the perfect human being promised to all by you, and make us among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause.

He refers, of course, to the coming of the 12th imam, Muhammad al Mahdi, whose reappearance has been awaited lo these thousand years. And when it happens, well, Kaboom. Or something like that.

What do I like best about this Cirque de Psychosis? That the tent, the bleachers, the clowns, and the verbal candy-floss were all on the generous tab of the United States of America, THAT BASTION OF THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE.

Where were the voices of the left complaining about this egregious highjacking of the mechanisms of government in the name of private superstitions? (Probably the same place they hide every time the Dalai Lama comes to town, who once famously condemned homosexuality as "astonishing" and "wrong, full stop," and condemned all sexual acts carried out in, ahem, alternative orifices. But this doesn't keep him off the cocktail circuit. But I digress.)

Can any of us imagine the baying at the moon if President Bush had stood at the UN podium and folded his hands in prayer? If he had prayed to Jesus Christ to bless this world and all its people until He comes again in glory? If he had referred to any of the declared enemies of the nation that he governs (or, Allah forbid, his nation’s best customer for its principal export) as a malodorous Satan?


Imagine there’s no Heaven—it’s easy if you try.
No hell below us—just the devil in a dark suit and tie.

From the preamble of the United Nations Charter—1945:
WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED…to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours...
As "speech codes" go, this is it. It’s sad to discover that the UN Charter does not appear to contain another single word that might be construed as a standard of conduct of the representatives of member states assembled.

I suppose if it did, we might have seen some penalty imposed Krushchev for his shoe incident, which seems to have been, up until the Chavez speech, the only overtly boorish act to ever disturb the playing out of the raving farce which is the daily business of the General Assembly. Maybe it’s time to enact some regulations about ad hominem attacks and name-calling—perhaps that such acts would incur a six-month suspension of participation.

After all, ideally shouldn't one be unfailingly courteous when presenting resolutions to blame Israel and the Jews for everything wrong everywhere (also the daily business of the General Assembly). We could call it Gibson's Law.


The second-worst ex-president, WILLIAM JEFFERSON BUBBA CLINTON, lost his composure while taping an interview with FOXNewsDude Chris Wallace—one in which the ex-prez's own ground-rules were that half of the 15-minute session must be devoted to Clinton’s Global Initiative project, and half to topics of Wallace’s choosing.

Clinton’s explosive response to Wallace’s question about whether he might have done more in eight years to stop Osama Bin Laden says a lot about the ex-president’s monumental hubris— in view of the recent docudrama Path to 9/11, this is a timely and obvious question, one that would have guided a man of lesser ego to prepare an answer, so as to parry with his customary deftness any accusation of negligence under his administration.

But Clinton appears to have been blind-sided—as if he could not have conceived that anyone to whom he had granted audience would dare to be so unpleasant. And, to his (I expect) regret, his ire manifested itself in precisely the same red-faced, squint-eyed, scolding, finger-wagging, steam-shooting-from-the-ears posture that most Americans recall from his bald-faced lie about what he did or didn’t do with “that woman—Miss Lewinsky.”

Mr. Clinton and his hench-persons railed like Cassandra against scenes of his cabinet's bumbling or even deliberate dropping of the Osama ball, scenes said to be more drama than docu. But from what some insiders have reported, Bill should consider himself LUCKY that the scenes did not reproduce, verbatim, what was actually said-- by many accounts, the TV show only scratched the surface of the Clinton administration’s “own goal” on the matter—and the less of it recounted factually, the better for the Clinton legacy.

Which insiders? Well—take them with a grain of salt, to be sure—Michael Scheuer and Louis Freeh, for instance. Each has axes to grind and his own nest to feather (not unlike Richard Clarke, whose self-serving book provides much of the basis for the TV drama, and makes of him the towering hero.) But they are not alone, and should not be ignored.

Captain Ed looks at the Clinton fault-line: You say Al Kayda, and I say Al Kyda-- "Let's call the whole thing off" -- and move on to figuring out what we do now. He's got a point.

Anyway, when it comes to rotten representations, it's basically a cat-fight: hard to say whether Condi Rice or Madeleine Halfbright comes off as more of a bitch. Clinton and Bush do not appear as characters, and both should be grateful.

Want to know what Pope Benedict actually said about Islam (or rather, about Socrates)? Look here.

Want to know what he meant? Start here.
Nice capsule comment here.

Au revoir, y’all.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Scroll down to read the tribute to 9/11 World Trade Centre Victim JACK CHARLES ARON -- part of the 2996 Tribute Project



Michael Moore has been here at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, Bush-bashing at high "f***ing" volume, and touting bits and pieces of crockumentaries-in-progress. The news that a young Canadian
GOTH-punk has not only modeled himself on the Columbine shooters, but managed to execute (literally) a similar crime spree, must come as a shock to the grunge-costumed multi-millionaire film-maker, who devoted a considerable amount of his hit schlockumentary “Bowling for Columbine” to the well-crafted myth that Canadians are a happy tribe of maple-sugar-slurping folk who live in unlocked houses and are culturally immune to the quintessentially American firearm fetish.

It is with no glee, gloating, or satisfaction whatsoever that we introduce the corpulent crap-monger to something called REALITY, Canada style--
that is, prior to the 1989 Columbine (Colorado) shootings, there were 39 people gunned down in Canadian school shootings across the country, with 22 deaths, including the 14 women killed by a gunmen known as Marc Lepine.

Canadian feminists have co-opted the date of the Lepine massacre as an annual grievance fest about violence against women-- fair enough, as long as the memorial reminds (as it never does) that Lepine's original name was Gamil Gharbi, a young man tutored in the traditional Islamic abuse of women by his wife-beating father. Unfortunately, as Mark Steyn has
noted, every December 6 "our own unmanned Dominion lowers its flags to half-mast and tries to saddle Canadian manhood in general with the blame for the Montreal massacre."

In view of Canada's (in David Cronenberg's cinematic words) "history
of violence," it would seem that Michael Moore has two possible courses of action: (1) produce a new director’s cut of “Bowling” from which the Canadian fantasy fabrication has been excised; or (2) find some way to blame Bush for the latest Montreal shoot-out, and then ADD the appropriate incriminating footage to every mockumentary he has ever made—doesn’t matter what the subject is or was: it’s all Bush’s fault. Everything is.

[That's Death of a
President -- sh-h-h-h!]

God knows I tried— going online at 7:00 a.m., callin
g the box office when it opened each day, standing in line for nearly two hour
s for a rush seat—but it was not to be. Could not get a ticket to watch what my fellow line-stander was overheard describing as (*adult content warning!) “Every liberal American’s wet dream – so I really want to see it!” She was a nicely dressed and decent enough looking young woman in her mid-twenties (except for the sprouts of Kelly green hair among the brunette thatch). And, as fellow line-standers go, she was by no means the most obnoxious. But she was pretty representative. A guy in front of her, and a woman behind me, were my favourite sort of Ugly American, the one who trashes and apologizes for his or her native land while visiting abroad.

Behind was, in fact, someone who very likely would be viciously carica
tured as the classic Ugly American if she were not a holder of the Absolutely Correct opinions. She was bleach-blonde, large, long-winded, and loud. And for at least an hour, non-stop, she held forth to her Canadian companion about the evils of stupid George Bush, blood for oil, imaginary constraints on free speech, the temptation to move to Canada (oh please, please do, and rid the American nation of people like you!-- but of course, they never do-- somewhere underneath they know when they've got it good). She would spend her time in line, she said, "getting the adrenaline up to see old George W. take a shot. I've been apologizing to Canadians for weeks..."

Her Canadian friend chimed in all about the misery of the poor military and wondering how anyone in the military could vote Republican... blah, blah, blah. Conspiracy theories then entered the discussion, with the Canadian's considered opinion that in the 2004 election "they [Republicans] cheated this time, but they learned how to cover their tracks."

I, alas, was alone and feeling the kind of intimidation people on the left fantasize about feeling when in truth they are as safe as houses. And I was trying desperately to read a book I needed to finish before seeing another festival film that night (scroll down). So I just sighed and endured. My reward for all this was to be told that there were no tickets left, and whatever entertainment I was going to get there was that which I already had out on the street. There is another showing this evening, but I have a prior engagement, so I guess I'll just have to wait until it becomes a hit in popular release in Canada at the neighbourhood theatre.

One voice of sanity emerged from within the din of the Toronto Film Festival this week. Kevin Costner, of all people-- not known for either brains or talent-- surpised many by opining that, "It's awfully hard if you're his [Bush's] children, his wife, his mother, his
dad; there's a certain thing we can't lose as human beings, which is empathy for maybe the hardest job in the world. Whet
her we think it's being performed right or not we can't, like, wish...or think that's even cute."

Well. I may have to rethink my views on "Waterworld."


or maybe that headline should read:


All eyes were on Pope Benedict XVI in Bavaria this week when his lederhosen caught fire -- no, wait, that didn't happen -- when he was delivering a learned lecture to an audience at the University of Regensburg. Too bad most of the people reporting on it weren't intelligent enough t
o get a job mopping up the University of Regensburg.

'nuff said.


Read Charles Krauthammer at today's Jewish World Review and get a dose of realism that makes every hair on your body stand up in panic. File it under K for "Kaboom."

FOXNews makes a funny:
One of FOX's morning news-babes (I actually hate that misogynist Limbaugh-ism, but I will never take any of these women seriously until they do something about the stiff-as-straw, Mary-Tyler-Moore-in-a-downpour
hairjobs and the call-girl make-up) was recounting the story of the Cuban Conglobulation of the world's most prominent "leaders" who "hate America." That sentence was followed, without pause, by the words, "Kofi Annan will be arriving today..."


Just when you thought the Stupid [Republican] Party couldn't get any stupider or closer to the abyss of election disaster, God Bless the Evil [Democratic] Party-- they come up with new ways to self-torpedo, which could end up handing their opponents yet another unmerited victory in the fall.

Among this year's winning ideas for the Democrats? Forget nukes i
n Iran-- go after Wal-Mart.

Show average A
mericans once again the true depths of your contempt for them by treating their favourite store (where they save billions every year) and one of their favourite places to work (a new store in the Chicago area had 25,000 applications for 325 positions) as if it is the biggest threat to society's well-being since Global Warming (which we know is a much bigger threat than Global Nuking). (Although I've heard that nuking can be sort of warm-- is that right?).

I have but one question of such Democrats who are taking up this particular electoral cudgel (among them that sterling intellect, Delaware Senator and presidential dreamer Joe Biden): when is the last time you saw one of those senior-citizen Wal-Mart greeters standing at the door in a blue apron holding up the
dripping, severed head of an American soldier or Iraqi civilian, and shouting "Allah Akbar!-- would you like a shopping cart for this?" The Blue Apron Brigades-- be afraid, be very afraid.

I don't like shopping in Wal-Mart at all, frankly, and probably don't go there more than a few times a year. But that's the joy of the free market-- I don't make that decision for anybody but me.


I did have a ticket for that other film, and still had to stand in line for a couple of hours just to get a decent seat. I had chosen the ultimate in escapism (and why not?), a Spanish swords / damsels / fancy-costumes epic called "Alatriste" -- fortunately there were subtitles or I'd have been dead meat.

I bought the book of the same name on a Monday and finished reading it on Tuesday about five minutes before the celebrities arrived in the theatre for the Festival screening, but as it happened that book ran out of steam after the first 20 minutes or so of the movie, and the action moved on to selected bits from the other four volumes in the series. If that s
ounds like a recipe for disjointed mayh
em, it was.

Too bad, really-- it is the most expensive commerical film in Spain's history, based on an incredibly popular novel series written by Arturo Perez-Reverte, who wanted to find an entertaining way to re-introduce Spaniards to their history. People had high expectations, and if the comments on the Internet Movie Data Base are anything to judge by (from ordinary folks, almost exclusively within Spain, where the movie was released last week) there is immense disappointment, outrunning the positive comments by about two to one. (I decided to contribute a fairly charitable one on page three of the comment post.)

I enjoyed watching it and in certain respects it is extremely good (es
pecially the gorgeous art direction inspired by the great painters of Spain's Golden Age, like Diego Velasquez). But there is a fundamental incoherence which I can't believe is entirely fixable even if they were to attempt a thorough re-edit. Costuming was wonderfully authentic, but the unfortunate down-side of this is that the fashion of the day (all the men in black, with similar hair and beards)
contributed to the confusion between underdeveloped characters.

Why did I go to this film, other than the fact that I love to see a good swash get buckled? Wel
l, because it stars that Middle Earthy Cheese Danish, Viggo Mortensen, in a totally cool giant hat, rolling out his Argentinian Spanish at an incomprehensible clip. On that note: even though I don't speak it, I can pick my way through written Spanish to a limited extent, and you'd think I could understand some of what was issuing from the screen-- but NO-- not a chance. Some of the Spanish viewers complained that this slurred speech is typical of Spanish cinema and they're not too fond of it. But nearly all of them savaged Mortenson for butchering their language through his colonial pronunciation. They were merciless! [Perhaps Henry Higgins had it wrong: "The Spanish don't care what they do, actually, as long as they pronounce it properly."] From my seat, I couldn't see a sliver of light between the two accents as delivered-- it was all Aramaic to me.

The Spanish Inquisition (were you expecting it??!!!! No one does!) plays a role in the stories, and the Grand Inquisitor is particularly creepy. There's a trick to this role about which I had no clue, [*gringo spoiler alert*] and that is: it's played by a woman. Apparently she's a very well-known Spanish actress, Blanca Portillo, and immediately recognizable to that audience, who on the whole found this casting choice bizarre. However, the clueless outsider (me) finds it rather effective. All things considered, the Church doesn't come off too badly in the film, or in Book I, which is a relief considering that, well, those Spanish types were enough to give the Inquisition a bad name.

It's a surprisingly dark film for a costume epic (the fate of the major romantic interest is probably unprecedented -- no spoilers here). But that is the spirit of the declining age which Perez-Reverte wants to write about. I thoro
ughly enjoyed reading his book-- it's light historical fare, but well-written (or well-translated?!) into respectable prose with an ear for poetry and a talent for delightful tangents that stroll well outside the plotline, are informative and pleasant, and then scamper back to the scene, becoming almost a character on their own. At this point only two of the five books are out in translation, #2 titled Purity of Blood. I do believe I'll go get it.

R.I.P. Former Texas Governor Anne Richards

Not my cup of Texas Tea politically, but you had to hand it to her for being a good ol' girl and a character. Not at her best when she referre
d to her (much misunderestimated) opponent, George W. Bush, as "some jerk" running against her in 1994, when he wooped her by 7 percentage points. (Let's see now, if a Governor of Texas can be responsible for inventing terrorism without yet being President, is Anne Richards on the hook for World Trade Center one?)

As much as I could enjoy Anne when she was in high gear, I find it difficult to forget her most dismal moment at one of the last Democratic National Conventions (either '00 or '04). Asked what she considered to be the greatest advance for women (in the 20th century, I think-- maybe ever, who knows?), she paused for a nanosecond, and then said, "Contraception." Asked to elaborate by a somewhat surprised questioner, she went on at some length about how the ability to contracept is the most basic advantage for women, upon which all others depend, or words to that effect.

Very impressive. Not the right to vote, or own and inherit property, or get an education, maybe attend medical or law school, or run for office, or be a bank president, or an ambassador, or just to choose whether and whom to marry, for that matter-- no, the key ingredient to women's happiness and advancement has been the ability to have sex without babies.

Power to the persons, Anne. Hope the crossing was smooth.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

CRASH AND RECOVERY [That's what it's all about, isn't it?]

The 2996 Tribute site was overwhelmed yesterday and went under, but is now back on its feet. Please visit it after reading my tribute to JACK CHARLES ARON, below. It's September 12 but there's no reason n
ot to keep on reading-- read half a dozen a day, and you won't be finished by next September 11. Think about that.

And remember that for each name in the 2996 list there is (give or take a few) the name of an American or coal
ition soldier (sailor, airman, Marine) who has died in service in Iraq, and another 500 in Afghanistan. Their names are here.

Forgetting is not an option. Compl
acency is suicide-- and that's their "thing", not ours.

I listened breathlessly for Jack Aron's name to be read yesterday at Ground Zero-- he is the new September 11 reality for me. Many hours, and many tears, later I tried some es
capism, blasting CD's at high volume in my car, among them the album of the Beatles' #1 hits. Far from being an avenue of escape, they became an emblem of what I had learned about Jack Aron, and "I Wanta Hold Your Hand" became about him. That brought the tears back. But strangely, about halfway through the album, when it got to the hits from the Beatles' later drug-filled, quarrelsome, bed-in crucify-me years, I found myself skipping through the songs and finally switching the whole thing off. Apparently I have lost patience with the self-absorbed decadence into which they descended, along with a substantial portion of the western world. We are still feeling the crippling effects of that plunge, and likely wouldn't be in our present new-fascist pickle if we had held the line against a lot of that stuff.

By the end of the day yesterday I had ceased being sorrowful and was back into anger mode. Not the most productive frame of mind, but at least geared up to continue doing battle in the year ahead.

This family's Two Towers, and the Third: STILL STANDING
-- as photographed on Ellis Island, where a hundred years ago their great-grandfather realized his "ambition -- happiness -- to come to America."

We ain't leavin', and we ain't givin' it up.

Friday, September 08, 2006

September 13, 2001
Please contact me at *** if you have any knowledge of the whereabouts of my husband, Jack Aron, who works for Marsh and was on the 95th floor of 1 WTC. My 11 year old son & I love him dearly and are so worried. Please let us all pray for him and all the other victims.
[St. Petersburg Times – Electronic cries of desperation]
September 14, 2001
Marsh USA
Status: Of the 1700 employees who worked at the WTC and the 50 to 100 visitors scheduled to be there Tuesday, 1400 are safe as of Sept 14th.
[ – company contacts page]
September 19, 2

MISSING: Jack Aron

Jack Aron, 52, of New Jersey, worked for Marsh & McLennan on the 95th floor of Tower One. His family includes a wife and one child. He is described as five-seven and 140 pounds, of Caucasian descent with black hair, dark brown eyes, and a mustache. He is wearing a gold wedding band.
[Village Voice – For Whom the Bell Tolls, Part II]

September 20, 2001
Nine days after the most devastating terrorist attack against the United States in history, the known death toll of victims continues to rise. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said there are 233 confirmed fatalities, and 170 have been identified. Those identified included 37 policemen, 35 firefighters and two emergency medical technicians. He said the number of people missing is 5,422.
[list of fatalities does not include Jack Charles Aron]
[FOX NEWS -- Terrorist Attack Victims]
November 9, 2001
By the latest official count, 600 people are now confirmed dead at the World Trade Center. 3,770 remain missing. Including the Pentagon attack and the United Airlines flight that crashed in Pennsylvania, the dead and missing number 4,603.
PBS -- The News Hour with Jim Lehrer]
+ + + + +
Jack Charles Aron, 52, Bergenfield, N.J., information technology, Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc. confirmed dead, World Trade Center, in or at building.
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

I had forgotten.

I thought I would never forget a thing about that day. But in the years that have followed— through grief and anger and pride and fear; through shock and awe, through aggression and paralysis; through “jaw-jaw” and “war-war” (as Churchill understood them); through memorials and monuments, and up and down the endless list of names— I had forgotten that in those first hours and days, growing into weeks, of numbed confusion, the missing were not yet presumed dead. The search had not yet been called off. There was still faith and hope that the nightmare might yet end in joy.

Eventually reality clobbered all of us. It was a reality so mammoth one could hardly imagine ever being able to forget or suppress a particle of it. But the evidence argues the contrary: too many people, throughout many nations, even those who have been victimized by subsequent attacks, have permitted themselves a comfortable amnesia that leaves them carping or sneering or puzzling as to what all the fuss is about. The 2996 Tribute Project has been initiated to remind all who have eyes to see and ears to hear of the precise measure of that terrible day’s loss.

Upon hearing about the 2996 Project, it was my first hope to be able to write a tribute to one of the two victims whose families I have been privileged to meet. I didn’t lose anyone that I knew personally that day. But one of my son’s classmates lost a father. Within a week of the attack I attended the memorial Mass for Ken Basnicki at the school, and within the year I met his family, as well as that of WTC victim David Barkway, at the American Consulate 4th of July gathering in Toronto, held to express the shared grief and to celebrate the long (albeit sometimes abrasive) relationship between our two nations. I figured I would do my best work if I could write about someone whose story I had already been following closely, and with whom I had even a tangential personal connection.

But the 2996 list showed that both those names had already been covered. So in registering for the project I was assigned the subject of my tribute essay—a stranger. I was invited to meet Jack Charles Aron.

These days most everybody knows where you go to find out about a stranger. Punch his name into an internet search engine and his story starts to unfold. Google a September 11 victim and peculiar things can turn up. I found Jack Aron at the somewhat ghoulishly-named “”. A page of Arons listed burial sites like Riverside Cemetery, Arlington National, Holy Family, Odd Fellows, Greenoaks, and Arab Memorial Cemetery. A Private 1st Class Edward Aron has lain in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France since 1918. Private Jerome Aron was buried at Luxembourg American Cemetery in 1945. But when you “find a grave” for Jack Charles Aron in 2001, it’s not like the others: his burial place is listed as the World Trade Center.

Most sites turned up in a September 11 name-search are simply lists of all the victims’ names. Countless
people feel the need to express themselves about that day, and put all their creativity into sites with complex and impressive graphics. Then they search for words, and for most of them the only words that speak the awful truth are the names. List them single file, build a wall with them, no matter how you set them out, the sheer size of the list— the amount of space taken up by those thousands of words— never fails to take one's breath away.

A more painful variation is to open the way for every one of those listed names to blossom into a story, inviting contributions from anyone who has a memory, a tale, or a good word to say about each individual. What’s wonderful about these “guestbook” websites is that they are obviously visited not just by the circle of friends who mourn the particular victim, but by strangers who stroll by, stop and read, and are moved by what they learn about someone they have never met.

I found four guestbook sites paying tribute to Jack Aron. Between October 2001 and August 2006, thirty among the hundreds of visitors to these sites left messages. One man who worked with Jack in the 1970’s, and had seen him only intermittently since then, left tributes on all four guestbooks over the course of four years. This colleague, Bill, always gave the basic
details of their friendship, but he took the trouble to compose something a little bit different for each entry, even the two written on the same day in 2004. It was Bill who could not say often enough that Jack Aron was the mildest, sweetest, gentlest man you could ever meet. He also called Jack a mensch. But, most tellingly, Bill described Jack Aron as “the antithesis of those that caused his death.”

Of the thirty messengers, twelve were Jack’s friends, co-workers, neighbors, and childhood schoolmates. The other eighteen didn’t know him at all. Some shared his hometown; one went to the high school that was his town’s fiercest rival; one Israeli man felt a connection because they shared two names—“Aron” and “Charles”. But most were just moved to comment on the picture, drawn in words as well as images, of an ordinary guy who inspired some extraordinary feelings.

Jack Charles Aron was a physically slight man, as the distress message
above describes him (5’7”, 140 lbs.), and as his friends remember him: diminutive, angelic, with beautiful, large brown eyes.

One of the richest qualities of these dozen friends’ memories is that they speak of several different phas
es in one man’s life. The school friends remember sports teams, dances, first drinks, broken hearts, their generation’s music (Jack introduced them to the Beatles, had the best stereo, sported long hair, and went to Woodstock). One recalled that behind Jack’s dry humor and hip tastes was his deeply troubled childhood as the son of Holocaust survivors—a background he seems to have weathered better than other family members, for some friends remember Jack as an up-and-coming young businessman burdened with the care of his older brother, who had fallen prey to substance abuse.

Co-workers remember Jack Aron as an exacting manager with high standards, and a stickler for detail. But he was equally a fun and friendly presence at his office, and he seem
s to have left one predominant impression with everyone he worked with at a series of firms: that marriage and fatherhood (which came to him somewhat late in life) were his greatest source of happiness. He talked endlessly of his son Timmy, only 11 when Jack died at age 52. Jack earned his “great dad” designation by coaching his son at baseball and basketball. After he died, Timmy told his teammates he would never play again.

A guestbook message from October 2003 describes the boy as “not doing well…despite the counseling”— though a year later another friend writes that he and his mother are “doing as well as can be expected. Timmy is turning out to be a fine young man, and Evelyn is really holding things together for his sake.” She closes with the promise to Jack, “We will be there for your family as long as they need us.”

Evelyn Aron was born
in the Philippines, and she and her husband had thought of retiring there to live on a salt farm they had purchased in 1997. The investment had given Jack a new nickname among his colleagues at Marsh & McLennan: “Jack Aron the Salt Baron.”

Jack Charles Aron worked in Information Technology for the multi-national insurance firm Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. He was one of 295 Marsh employees (four of whom were Muslim) killed in World Trade Center Tower One on September 11, 2001. Raised in Washington Heights, New York City, Jack Aron was residing in the historic New Jersey town of Bergenfield at the time of his death.

Bergenfield was also home to World Trade Centre victim Peter Negron, 34, who worked for the Port Authority of New York.
His most glorious tribute: “dear mr.negon [sic], You were the funnyest and coolest father i ever knew. i wish you were still here to see all of us agian. all of peters freinds and peter ill never for get you. singned, kevin, glenn, mikey, david, and your son pete”

And Berge
nfield is still the home of Col. John O
Dowd, 30-year army veteran.

As commander of the New York District of the Army Corps of Engineers, O’Dowd was six blocks from the WTC when it was attacked. In 2002 he volunteered for service in Afghanistan as commander of the Afghan Engineering District. But this was only after a full year’s service as the officer in charge of transporting and sifting a seven-story pile of WTC debris— 1.3 million tons— to retrieve human remains and personal effects such as identification cards, and wedding bands.

We cannot know for sure, but perhaps Col. O’Dowd performed that service for his Bergenfield neighbor, Jack Charles Aron.

Cities and towns of every size, all over a world touched by war, have erected monuments upon which are etched the names of the fallen. The purpose of this has always been to remind anyone who sees them that deaths in battle happen to real, identifiable people, not to faceless masses. But the truth is that over time most of those etched names evolve into little more than decorative markings at which the eyes of witnesses glaze over.

Our era of mass communication permits us to keep a longer and more vivid hold on the individual identities of our war-dead, both military and civilian, through projects like 2996, and a great variety of other memorial acts. Three contributors to the internet guestbooks I’ve quoted here had the honor of “meeting” and remembering Jack Charles Aron long before I did.

At the one-year anniversary of 9/11, thousands of flags bearing the victims’ names were distributed to schools, and Tricia Schrum of Virginia carried Jack Aron with her that day. On the same day Rachel Putnam of Texas received and wore a wristband with his name. And that evening, Damon Corrigan of Washington State was proud to wear a tag bearing Jack Aron’s name as he participated in a performance of the “Rolling Requiem”, in which choirs and orchestras around the world performed Mozart’s haunting funeral Mass. No doubt there have been many others paying similar homage. The writers of the 2996 Project are just the latest.

Over these five years there’s been a sort of reflex to paint the title “hero” across the massed names of September 11 victims. But the friends of these victims, one by one, can think of other words. Jack Aron’s friends prefer: “sincere, honest, decent, good, remarkable, one-of-a-kind, a true gentleman, a mensch.”

Jack Charles Aron - 1949-2001

The antithesis of those that caused his death.

May he rest in peace.

Winefred's Well also pays tribute
to the 26 Canadian victims of the September 11 attacks, with special remembrance of the families of Ken Basnicki-- Maureen, Erica, and Brennan, -- and of David Barkway -- Cindy, Jamie, and David.

Enormous credit and thanks to the Dale Challoner Roe of the 2996 Tribute. Visit the site to read more tributes.

Photo credits:
1- tower collapse - United States Search and Rescue Task Force site
2 - missing - Bronston Jones - NYU Medical Centre wall
3 - night rescue - Joel Meyerowitz
4 - Cooper's pond, Bergenfield - Tom Schopper
5 - debris pile - Aris Economopoulos
6 - quilt - United In Memory Gallery

7 - ashes - [previous post] - James Nachtwey

An outstanding gallery -- "Seeing the Horror" -- Digital Journalist/American Photo




Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tickets to the, uh, you-know, DOPE, er, D.O.A.P. flick (sh-h-h-h-h), not available at this time…

I was not successful in getting my hands on a single ticket for DEATH OF A PRESIDENT (there, I said it) yesterday, despite standing in line for a considerable time on a Toronto street. However—I am determined. I will get online at some pre-dawn hour or show up for a rush seat. Trying to decide whether to wear that Bush t-shirt…

At this point I’ve decided to forget going to the gala opening of the DOPE thing on Sunday night, just because it will conflict with the first evening of the increasingly controversial Path to 9/11 on ABC.

Yes indeedy, a virtual
kerfuffle has erupted over the upcoming television “docu-drama” that not only recreates the horrors on the streets of Manhattan and the other targets, but tries to explain which politicians had what role to play in the unconnected-dot scandal that made it all possible. Apparently the account would have us believe that presidents who slept through decades of terrorist attacks in distant lands might have had as significant a degree of responsibility as the president who had been on the job all of eight months—fancy that.

This is becoming quite the entertaining farce. The left is up in arms because the docu-drama tries to reconstruct the years of mis-steps, through mo
re than one president, which brought us to the wretched pass of 9/11. Voices on the right are saying that nobody comes off looking good. But those on the left can’t stand it, and are crying out for—wait for it!!—all out CENSORSHIP of the show it they don’t get it revised to suit their Clintonista fantasies.

So it’s all pretty incredible. You can create a grotesque caricatured docudrama of the private life of Ronald Reagan when he’s too old and sick to defend himself, and, well, that's entertainment!

And you can portray George Bush— in television comedy, caricatures, formal addresses and debates, “documentaries”, commercial films, plays, and assorted advertising campaigns—as virtually retarded, or an active and witting accessory to the deliberate terrorist murder of thousands of his fellow-citizens, a soulless profligate of the lives of American military, a plunderer, liar, thief, tyrant, racist, moron, moron, moron, and you can even make a public show of your conjured fantasies of murdering him— and that’s all just fair comment.

In the July 26, 2004 Issue of New York Magazine, Stephanie
Zacharek called this sort of thing, “This season’s oddest cultural convergence.”
read the following with maximum ennui:]
Assassination has become the taboo du jour. Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins may be closing, but next month, I’m Gonna Kill the President!, a satirical play by the pseudonymous Hieronymous Bang, reopens at a top-secret downtown location. (We could tell you where it is—but then we’d have to kill you.) Jonathan Demme has remade The Manchurian Candidate with Liev Schreiber, Meryl Streep, and Denzel Washington, and Niels Mueller’s drama The Assassination of Richard Nixon, starring Sean Penn, is based on the true story of a salesman who attempts to murder the president. And although the novel won’t be released until August 24 (the eve of the Republican convention), Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint has already caused a stir: One character ruminates at great length on his desire to assassinate George W. Bush…The point is that a dalliance with the fantasy of assassination has nothing to do with, and isn’t likely to lead to, committing the act itself. In unruly times, people tend to have unruly thoughts...
Kill the president? You unruly old thing, you! But try to examine how those charged with governing and protecting the American nation performed (or didn’t) in the exercise of their solemn responsibilities— try to re-construct historic events based upon assembled accounts and quotations and logical surmises (all of which have documentable sources even if they are now conveniently gainsaid by the principal players)-- and the free-thinking, free-speechifying left cries FOUL!!!!! And it wants you silenced. NOW. OR ELSE.

I well remember at the time, five years ago, that the mere suggestion that a new president, at 8 months, could bear a greater measure of responsibility for not thwarting the September 11 attacks than did the former one in 8 years (or any of his predecessors, especially the grovelling, begging, whimpering Jimmy Carter) was so laughable I never believed it could possibly stick. But I underestimated the effect of the yet-to-be-identified malady called "Bush Derangement Syndrome." In the interim we have seen such horrors from the raging haters that nothing should be able to surprise any of us.

But Lord, what a grubby, childish spectacle is this (apparently successful) tantrum of intimidation on the part of the second-worst ex-president and his willing accomplices. Still, I can’t wait to see what's left of the program. (I gather the nips and snips were not extensive, though it's a great disappointment that the producers caved to Bubba and his boys.)

What’s saddest about it all, though, is that if the current president sits down to watch The Path to 9/11, I do believe that a hell of a lot of it will come as news to him. And there’s no excuse for that—it’s all been so obvious, all along.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Your intrepid reporter is ever vigilant, even when on holiday. A leisurely drive "around the boot" brought us within view of France, in the form of the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, floating so Frenchily in Fortune Bay, Newfoundland.

As a matter of public interest, I can confirm that, as usual, the French are up to no good. How do I know this? In the slightly foggy distance I could discern not a single building, boat, or person on that side of the island. What else could it mean? No possible good could come from this.
They're up to something.

H !!!!!

Canons on Isle St. Pierre.

Watch this space for updates.


This blog is a participant in the 2996 Tribute Project.

On September 11, 2006, over 3000 bloggers will each pay tribute to one victim of the 9/11 attacks. There are 2,996 names on the roll of the dead, but so many people want to be part of the tribute that the names are being distributed more than once. Visit the site to find out how you can be a part of the tribute, either as a writer or reader or spreader of the word.

Check back here on September 11 to meet and remember Jack Charles Aron.


You may already have heard of the British entry into the TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, Death of a President, a futuristic pretend documentary revisiting the 2007 assassination of President George W. Bush, in retrospect from 2009 or thereabouts, and chronicling the events which led up to and followed that historic moment in the film-maker's fevered imagination.
* MEET *

I had contemplated trying to collect a small crowd of protestors, but one always hates to be in the position of crabbing about something sight unseen. I've decided it might be more useful, since I am here where it's happening, to go and see the creature.

Oddly (heh) there are no tickets to any of the three screenings available through online tickets sales. It's amazing how much effort these folks seem to have gone to, to bury this nasty little boil on their cinematic butts. Nowhere on the copious TIFF website, as far as I can tell, is the actual title to the film mentioned-- it's called Death of a President, but goes by the alias D.O.A.P. [Did no one spot the humour in this? Are they really that DOPE-Y?!! Or were they just DOPED?]

So if I'm really serious about seeing the thing, I guess I have to go downtown to the box office and do this transaction in person. [Ew-w-w-w] It's a dirty job but somebody sane has to do it. Watch this space.