I have to admit to being had by the Jon Swift character. I never read his submissions closely, scanning them for the essence of what he was writing about, and thus was totally unaware for a couple of months that he was skewering conservatives. It wasn’t until I read on some other blog that he was a satirist that I actually began to read what he wrote with that in mind.
I don’t necessarily feel bad or stupid about it. I apparently wasn’t the only conservative unable to divine the author’s intent. In truth, what Al and others on the left sometimes see as right wing nonsense is occasionally anything but. However, his unerring eye for absurdities on the right, and a pitch perfect ear that regurgitated conservative talking points to make them sound ridiculous, placed him in a class all his own as a satirist.
Al Weisel died on February 27. 2010. The tragedy of his death at age 46 was compounded by the circumstances; he suffered “2 aortic aneurysms, a leaky aortic valve and an aortic artery dissection from his heart to his pelvis,” according to his mother who posted the news on his long defunct blog. And he was stricken on the way to his father’s funeral in West Virginia.
Good satire needs to be subtle enough to sound plausible while giving broad hints that lets the reader in on the fun. It is a tightrope few are creative enough, disciplined enough, and talented enough to walk. Al managed it with apparent ease. At all times, he maintained a sincerity so believable, you occasionally did double takes on what he wrote to make sure he was poking fun at you.
Eventually, we struck up a sort of odd email relationship. Whenever I was a subject of one of his satirical lances, he would email me - usually including a pithy comment. I would banter back in kind (although with less joie de vivre and not half as much talent). I was pleased that he invited me to participate in his “Best Blogs of 2007″ roundup. Not too many conservatives could say that.
Eventually, he mostly stopped linking because we were usually on the same wavelength when it came to criticizing conservative lunacy; me screaming about it and he parodying it. I can’t say I missed being the target of his razor sharp wit and poison pen. But he was a joy to read if only to marvel at the elegance and clarity of his writing.
As with many such email relationships over the years, we fell out of touch. The news of his passing has opened the floodgates to memories from my early days of blogging and has helped me recall how every day seemed a challenge to be joyfully faced.
Can’t say that anymore. Age and burnout eventually take their toll on a blogger’s constitution. Al doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. And I have no doubt that he’s already skewered St. Peter in The Heavenly Times for something he said when Al talked his way past him and through the pearly gates.
Ed Morrissey has an old Blog Talk Radio show of his that featured me on the first half hour and Jon Swift the last half hour.