While walking around the vast Venetian Hotel complex at Right Online 2010 with Jon Gabriel, a familiar routine soon ensued. The following conversation occurred virtually verbatim, for instance, when we encountered veteran Hot Air blogger Ed Morrissey.
Jon: “Hi Ed. I’m Jon Gabriel.”
Ed: “Hi Jon, good to meet you” (smiling affably, but transmitting, in spite of himself, that he hasn’t the foggiest clue why he should know who this is).
Jon: “I’m @ExJon on Twitter.”
Ed, suddenly beaming broadly: “OHHHH, yeah! I LOVE following you on Twitter. I just didn’t recognize you without the coffee cup.”
And so the back-and-forth went, repeatedly. It’s admittedly clichéd, but if I heard it more than once (and I did), it probably occurred in several dozen instances.
It was a privilege to get to spend some significant time over lunch with Jon and his co-blogger and longtime friend, Kevin Creighton at Grand Lux Café (as well as Jenny Erikson, Pamela Gorman and Brian Fojtik; since I’m already name dropping, might as well implement the last full measure). Jon may have left his mug of joe back home in Arizona, but his trademark humor is a standard staple everywhere he goes.
The wit and bonhomie emerge from a wellspring of ready joy and honest goodwill. Jon is a man of deep faith in God, devotion to his country and love for his family and friends. Additionally, he is well-read and capable of citing a wealth of historical and literary sources, which I greatly enjoyed and from which I plan to benefit (or at least, shamelessly plagiarize) regularly in the future. I hope he isn’t, for instance, the last blogger with whom I get to discuss a bit of Dietrich Bonhoeffer…but he will always hold the distinction of being the first.
3,818 followers have already located Jon’s Twitter account. If you are, against the odds, not yet among that number, @ExJon is the handle you’ll want to type into your Twitter search function of choice. And of course, Jon & Kevin blog regularly at www.exurbanleague.com. Be prepared to smile a lot and occasionally “LOL!”
10 Questions for Jon Gabriel
1. Your blog has some very impressive shout-outs prominently (and appropriately) posted on the right side, from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin and others. A) How long have you been blogging politics and B) I assume this led you to Twitter. Correct guess?
We just had our fourth anniversary and fortunately, we’ve received some nice mentions. Since everyone asks, we named it Exurban League because we live in the exurbs of Phoenix and all the good names were taken. Four friends founded the blog, but only Kevin (@Hawthorne) and I blog. As for Twitter, I jumped on about two years ago and have since been distracted from blogging, work, family, personal hygiene… everything, really. It’s pernicious. Even worse than Farmville.
2. Solely because I’m weary (after the first two weeks) of the dull phrasing of “Give us a brief bio”, I’ll pose the query in a different way: Tell us about the life journey that has made you who you are today!
Raised on the mean streets and food courts of north Phoenix. My family ranged from far right to far left. Although we usually disagreed, we always had a great sense of humor about it all. After high school, I joined the Navy and became a submarine reactor operator. Despite the engineering background, I got a degree in Journalism, then began working in graphic design, which morphed into marketing – my current vocation (yes, I’m ADD). Somewhere along the line, I conned a woman into matrimony and sired two precocious daughters. I have yet to kill a man, but they’ll be teens soon enough.
3. I am, however, not going to revise this question: What does being a conservative mean to you?
Conservatism is an ideology tempered by experience. I describe myself as a Western Conservative who has a strong libertarian streak (think Barry Goldwater). However, I couldn’t be a pure libertarian because the philosophy often disregards millennia of societal trial and error. In theory, it should work perfectly, but the real world demands pragmatism. I prefer free markets, low taxes, less government, strong defense and sufficient room for faith in the public square, while understanding that none of these will ever lead towards utopia.
4. You are renowned for the zingers and one-liners that seem to emerge so effortlessly from the @ExJon psyche. Can you give us some thoughts on the role that humor plays in politics and life in general?
People in politics tend to be uptight, so it’s nice to lighten the mood. People are so angry now that humor seems the most effective way to make a political impact. If you can get an opponent to laugh at their beliefs, they often will question their assumptions.
Of course, if the humor is heavy-handed, it comes off as preachy or mean-spirited. This is why Bill Maher hasn’t been funny in years. The main goal has to be simply to make people laugh. Some of my favorite jokes are at the expense of my own side.
Angela is indeed awesome. We’ve been married for 12 years and have daughters aged 6 and 8. And a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and a Burmese cat. And a trampoline.
6. Name some of your favorites: Books, movies, musical artists, vacation spots, sports and a couple miscellaneous items of your choice.
For favorite books, I’ll say Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, The Kalevala which is a Finnish epic (I’m Finnish!), anything by C.S. Lewis, the Bible (obv). Lileks. Cookbooks.
Favorite music: Starflyer 59, Interpol, Aphex Twin, John Coltrane, Slowdive, Ride, New Order, Portishead, Sibelius, Pixies, Pinback, Smiths, Decemberists and a zillion others (i.e., indie hipster krep).
Favorite movies: Blade Runner, This Is Spinal Tap, Wings of Desire, Buckaroo Banzai, Kung Fu Hustle, Hot Fuzz, The Mission.
Favorite vacay: Monterey, California.
Favorite sports team: Green Bay Packers.
Favorite fashion accessory: Pocket square.
Favorite animal: Sea otter.
Favorite inert gas: Xenon.
7. Who are 3 of your heroes/role models and why and who are 3 public figures who drive you nuts and why?
Heroes: C.S. Lewis, for defending the faith with intelligence and grace; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for showing the Left what human rights and feminism really are; and Ronald Reagan, for redefining conservatism as a positive, hopeful ideology. Can I add Calvin Coolidge? No? Well, I’m adding Calvin Coolidge anyway.
Nuts-drivers: Al Gore, for passing off closed-mindedness and greed as intelligence and altruism; Pat Buchanan, as the anti-Reagan, defining himself by what he is against; and Osama bin Laden, who is a total jerk.
8. You’re a committed Christian and social conservative. How does this inform your politics…or vice versa? More directly, what public issues matter to you in our time as a result of your faith?
Ultimately, my faith makes me humble about what politics and society can accomplish. No leader or political movement will change human nature or achieve heaven on Earth. While I am socially conservative and understand that all laws enforce some type of morality, I know that government cannot save people’s souls. The older I get, the more libertarian I have become on many issues. The best thing government can do right now is leave us alone. And get off my lawn!
9. My favorite memories from Right Online 2010 are the lunch you and I had with several other Twitter friends whom we were meeting for the first time, as well as the 8th floor Blogger Bash the next evening. The joy and camaraderie of conservative gatherings like these are very real…and intriguing. What do you think facilitates this? Shared values? Common goals?
Right Online was the first of these shindigs I’ve attended. I can be anti-social in big crowds, but really enjoyed the experience (to my surprise). Although I hadn’t physically met anyone there before, it was like we had known each other for years, due to our online friendship and shared goals. And in our hypersensitive, PC culture, it’s nice just to have a place where we let our guard down a little.
10. Name three lifetime goals that would be on your “Bucket List.”
- Start a bucket list.
- Visit every state in the U.S. (39, so far).
- Eat my weight in enchiladas.