Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

RIP Jon Swift/Al Weisel

I'm very saddened to learn that blogger Jon Swift (Al Weisel) has died. His mother wrote:

I don't know how else to tell you all who love this blog. I am Jon Swift's Mom and I guess I'm going to OUT him. He was Al Weisel, my beloved son. Al was on his way to his father's funeral in VA when he suffered 2 aortic aneurysms, a leaky aortic valve and an aortic artery dissection from his heart to his pelvis. He had 3 major surgeries within 24 hours and sometime during those surgeries also suffered a severe stroke. We, his 2 sisters, his brother, his partner and his best friend since he was 9 years old were with him as he took his last breath. We have all lost a shining start who warmed our hearts, tormented us and made us laugh as he giggled at our pulling something over on us. He passed away on February 27, 2010. My beloved child will live on in so many hearts. I miss him more than I can say. If you are on Facebook, go to organizations and join "Friends of Al Weisel, Unite!" It will give you just a taste of how special he was. Farewell, Jon (Al)

He was only 46. Condolences and best wishes to his family and friends.

There's a Facebook group for him. Here's the Al Weisel homepage for his journalism. Tom Watson has much more, from people who knew him, including his friend Jason Chervokas. skippy has a memorial post rounding up tributes to him.

I didn't know Al Weisel personally. I traded a few links and maybe a dozen e-mails with Jon Swift over the years, talking about art house flicks, books, blog posts and the challenges of staying in character (he played coy). He'd taken breaks from blogging before, and valued his privacy highly, so I had hoped when he stopped blogging last March he had just retired and was living a happy life. He wrote some of the best satire on the intertubes. He also co-founded Blogroll Amnesty Day with skippy, which celebrates smaller blogs, a kindness Jon/Al showed consistently. Finally, he had a great annual series of the Best Posts of the Year (Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves). If you're not familiar with his work, here's a sampler:

"The Best of Jon Swift" (12/17/05)
"50 More Conservative Rock Songs" (5/26/06)
"Jon Swift's Complete Amazon Reviews" (11/18/06)
"Torture Race" (10/5/07)
"Journalism 101" (11/28/07)
"Great Moments in Election Year Blogging" (10/23/08)
"The Triumph of Derrièrism" (12/9/08)
"10 Best Conservative Movies" (3/3/09)

Like Stephen Colbert, he adopted a conservative persona to satirize conservatives. It's not the easiest thing to do. If you stumbled upon a Jon Swift post for the first time and made the mistake of reading it too quickly, you might be suckered into thinking he was actually serious. (Conservatives readers would wind up agreeing with any number of preposterous assertions.) He didn't post often, but his posts would quickly make the rounds because they were so good. His best posts featured several sentences or paragraphs that were gems of satire on their own. He often used links as parenthetical asides and further jokes. Creating that sort of multilayered piece requires a wry sensibility, but also a fair amount of research and craftsmanship. Good comedy is hard, satire is harder, and dry wit like that takes both talent and skill to pull off.

The tributes are pouring in, and they're well deserved. Blogroll Amnesty Day continues, and perhaps the "Best Posts" tradition can be revived. Losing a loved one is brutal, and it must be especially hard for his family to lose two people so close together. Al Weisel's mother passed on the news in the comment thread of the last Jon Swift post from last March. As it happens, it was a condolences thread for Chuck Butcher over the loss of his son. Chuck's comment in the thread to Al's mother here is especially moving. At times, we are connected with others in ways we cannot see or imagine, and a little humor and kindness can go a very long way. Rest in peace.


Anonymous said...


I just have a quick question for you but couldn't find an email so had to resort to this. I am a progressive blogger and the owner of the mahablog. Please email me back at barbaraobrien@maacenter.org when you get a chance. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

I would be very leery of taking that pseudonym, but then, I don't have the talent Mr. Weisel had. Not by a long shot.

Cheyanne said...

Thanks for sharing this info V.S....In true blog style I have linked to you in my tribute blog to Al.....That's what Al did for all of us. It was all about the bigger links in the chain, linking to the little links. You V.S. do your part also in this linky chain of command.

The pen name Jon Swift absolutely worked for Al. I am personally saddened to hear about the death of this man who did more for the Lilliputian bloggers out here in blogland than anybody will ever know.

I've written my Tribute Blog. The co-founder of Blogroll Amnesty Day will be sorely missed. He was a tribal leader of sorts to bloggers of all shapes and szes.

I look at his photo that you provided and think: WOW !!!! He did that.....He wrote that....WOW !!! It puts a face on his stuff.

Anyway that's my 2 cents.
Thanks V.S.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

It's quite a shame. Jon Swift was a true mensch.

Anonymous said...

I sat next to "Jon Swift" aka Al Weisel in Spanish class at Edison High School in Alexandria, Virginia in the late 70's. Years later, I remember reading his pieces in Rolling Stone Magazine never knowing that it was Al. What a tragic loss. Al was gifted, good natured, always had a smile on his face, and never had a bad word to say about anyone. RIP Jon SWft. The world was a better place when we all could enjoy your writings.