Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jon Swift 1667—2010

Like the earlier Jonathan Swift, after whom the late writer/blogger Al Weisel named his blog (Jon Swift), the latter day version of the brilliant 18th-century satirist was himself a brilliant satirical writer. But Jon Swift was more than just the name of an excellent blog; it was a pseudonym, a nom de plume, a pen name, and—so I like to think—Al’s alter-ego. Unfortunately, I never met Al; sadly, any chance I might have had of ever meeting him ended abruptly, with his premature death, on February 27th.

But that’s not the end of my tribute to the blogger known throughout blogtopia* as Jon Swift, it’s only the beginning. However, from this point on, the story gets vastly more complicated and infinitely more convoluted. That’s just the way things are when everything is connected.

When Blogroll Amnesty Day rolled around in February of 2009, Frieddogleg was nearing two months old. At the time, most of the blogs on my blogroll were carryovers from an earlier blog (Petey’s Pipeline), including Chuck for…, a great lefty political blog, written by Chuck Butcher, that I’d been following for a year or two. Chuck gets the credit for introducing me to Jon Swift, who graciously added Frieddogleg to his blogroll; Jon gets the credit for turning me on to Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, who also blogrolled Frieddogleg; Skippy gets the credit for clueing me about Badtux the Snarky Penguin, ’Tux earns kudos for . . . well, you can see where this is going. Thus is everything connected.

Jon Swift also gets credit, either directly or indirectly, for my discovery of numerous other interesting blogs, including BLCKDGRD, The Barefoot Bum, MoltenMetalMama, We Move to Canada, Bad Attitudes, and Just an Earth-bound Misfit—all of whom reciprocal link to Frieddogleg, and all of whom I read whenever their respective authors post new content. Credit Jon, too, for many other blogs I’ve found (but with whom I haven’t yet found time to do the things necessary to complete a blogroll exchange). It was largely Jon’s generous spirit and liberal linking policies—not to mention the huge number of followers (relative to mine) he had—that convinced me that blogrolls have actual value, and that hugely popular blogs like Jon Swift are well worth emulating. No one knew better than Jon the importance of being connected.

With Blogroll Amnesty Day 2009 behind me (and a hugely expanded blogroll gracing the sidebar of my blog) I returned to blogging with new enthusiasm and a renewed sense of purpose. I looked forward to following Jon Swift because anything that puts a smile on my face or coaxes a laugh out of me before I’ve had my first mug of coffee—or before noon, whichever comes first—gets my nod of approval and all the support I can muster. I hoped that by interacting with Jon Swift some of Jon’s success would rub off on Frieddogleg so that it, too, could reap some of the benefits of being connected.

Jon Swift’s cutting edge satire prompted my sister to speculate that the blog was actually written by a writer—or team of writers—who wrote for Stephen Colbert. Apparently, a fair number of bloggers had similar thoughts. But things like that happen when everything is connected.

Jon posted what was to be his final entry on the Jon Swift blog on March 19, 2009. It was a short post (perhaps his shortest, ever), titled “Sometimes There Are No Words,” that brought to the attention of his many readers a sad personal tragedy that had befallen Chuck (of Chuck for…) earlier that day. The irony is that it was Chuck who, many months later, alerted me that Jon Swift had recently died. Interesting, the way things that go around eventually come around—when everything is connected.

Only the people who were closest to the blogger now known to the world as Al Weisel know the real reasons why he chose to hide his true identity from the legions of followers who provided, on a daily basis, quantifiable proof of Jon Swift’s success and popularity. Only they know for sure why Al suddenly and mysteriously stopped blogging for no apparent reason. The rest of us can only speculate.

To explain the identity thing, perhaps Al delighted in creating the aura of mystery that surrounded Jon Swift. That seems reasonable. The cessation of blogging as Jon Swift is a little more difficult to speculate away. I prefer to think that life simply intervened, perhaps threw at Al a project so large that no time for blogging remained. Throughout Al’s long hiatus I maintained a high degree of optimism that Jon Swift would one day return, and I waited patiently for that day to come. Mine was unfounded optimism, as it turned out; bloggers take time off, but Death never does, and Death had other plans for the man who kept his true identity cloaked in the mantle of Jon Swift.

In the matter of Al Weisel/Jon Swift, it’s fair to say that both blog and blogger were more than the sum of their individual parts; both were worthy of profound respect, and both had mine. R.I.P., Al Weisel.

R.I.P., Jon Swift.

*Yes, Skippy coined that term.

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