Jimmie Bise has been at this for a long time in social media years: since 2004! I wasn’t even patronizing any blogs back then, but even at the virtual dawn of the weblog era, Jimmie was already at the helm of The Sundries Shack. That same site is still running strong six years later and headed into what promises to be a banner year in 2011.
I enjoy Jimmie’s contributions because they are compiled from a depth of historical, political and cultural perception, as well as a broad array of personal life experience. Jimmie effortlessly weaves these strands into a literary tapestry that is pungent and fresh. Of course, the dulcet tones with which he is vocally endowed render a valuable auditory asset when he shifts his focus to podcasting once a week!
I met Jimmie at FreedomWorks’ first annual Blog Con in DC this last September. I felt, however, as though I’d known him for years. Jimmie is a prolific presence on Twitter, as well as an eloquently expressive writer. That same hearty bonhomie is extravagantly conveyed in person. Jimmie has the uncommon and underappreciated gift of silently communicating to people that they matter, which endears him to his friends in the social media community.
There is an additional characteristic that shines through in Jimmie’s efforts: He doesn’t take himself so seriously that he forgets to have fun while vividly filling his role in the conservative movement. Exhibit A is Jimmie’s explanation in Question #4 of how he began blogging about politics! No doubt, it comes naturally to him, but he embodies the admonition that I’ve heard Rush Limbaugh issue for years, “Sometimes, we all just need to lighten up.” Advice which bears repeating!
If you enjoy chatting on Twitter, you are probably already following Jimmie Bise. If you are that rare outlier who has yet to discover him, begin today at @Jimmiebjr and help Jimmie get to 3500 followers!
10 Questions for Jimmie Bise
1. When did you first know that you were a conservative and how do you define the term?
I’m pretty sure I’ve been a conservative all my life! I can’t recall a time as a kid when I dashed off a letter to my member of Congress demanding universal health care or decided that G.I. Joe had to read Cobra Commander his rights before they arrested him and carted him off to Supervillain Prison. Back then, my friends and I pretty much lived with the same set of rules: Root for the good guys, boo the bad guys, stick up for people smaller and weaker than yourself, play fair and by the rules, don’t pout when things don’t go your way, don’t insult someone else’s mother unless you want a fight, treat your friend’s sister like she was family, work hard, play hard and pray every morning and night.
Actually, that’s not a bad definition for what conservatism really means to me as a person.
I guess if I had to boil conservatism as a practical way to govern down to its essence, it would be: a) Keep government at the lowest level you can; b) treat every dollar you spend like you were taking it away from someone’s child because you are; c) remember that “we the people” are smarter and more wise than “you the politician”; and d) never get between the people and their God-given right to order their lives, their communities and their states as they see fit.
2. Tell us about Jimmie Bise and what made you who you are today.
I think everyone will get more than a good taste of who I am from the rest of the interview but I’ll hit the highlights here. I’m the oldest of nine kids; we all grew up in Charles County, Maryland, south of Washington, DC. I’m the grandson of a coalminer and the son of a draftsman and a housewife. I was once voted Most Likely to Become a Baptist Minister by my high school class. I’m a writer, podcaster, and new media enthusiast. Believe it or not, I’m a natural introvert who spent a lot of time learning how to be extroverted. I teach junior church in a non-denominational church I’ve attended for the past few years. I don’t have a college degree but I’m ridiculously close to an AA in Music (I’d eventually like to direct my own choir and write choral pieces). I do sing in a choir I helped start, played in a jazz band for 11 years, and also co-founded a local chamber orchestra in which I played clarinet for four years. Music is important to me; it’s always been a part of my life.
3. Here is a list of favorites we’d love if you’d list: books, movies, musical artists, TV shows, vacation spots, hobbies, food!
Television: Ghost Hunters; Ghost Adventures; classic Battlestar Galactica; the old Firing Line show with William F. Buckley; Futurama.
Books: The Shining, by Stephen King; Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk; Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter.
Music: Mostly classical, old-school R&B and jazz. I like Wilson Pickett, Buddy Rich, and Holst!
Vacation Spots: Next summer, I’m resolved to spend a long weekend in upstate PA at an amusement park called Knoebel’s. I’ve wanted to go there for a couple years and 2011 will be that year, God willing.
Food: I love Italian food but, as you can guess, there isn’t much food I don’t like. Mostly, I like food that’s delicious and filling and served in generous portions in places where you can take your time, enjoy it, and then hang out with friends afterwards and chit chat for a couple hours.
4. You’re a premiere member of the conservative social media elite! When did you start the Sundries Shack blog and how would you describe the niche that it fills?
The legend known to dozens of readers as The Sundries Shack was born in late April 2004. I think I put up my first post, which was some lame variation of “ZOMG! First Post! LOL” on my birthday, which is the 28th (you know, in case you were saving up to get me a gift).
I wish I could say that I had a grand plan to fill a niche when I started The Shack, but I didn’t. This was years before everybody and his brother started putting out handy guides with helpful information like “picking a niche.” I wanted to write about things that interested me, and I found I got a lot more traffic writing about politics than old Thundarr the Barbarian episodes (Best: the episode with the wizard Gemini, where Thundarr flies a helicopter) or the merits of the 3-4 defense (slightly more turnovers than the 4-3, but you need very athletic linebackers to pull it off well), so that ended up being what I wrote about most.
5. How did “The Delivery” podcast start and when/how did you discover Twitter?
About a year and a half ago, I started listening to podcasts regularly. One of my favorites was Brass Balls Radio from the incomparable duo of Wendy Sullivan and Mike Williams. I got to know Wendy on Twitter and we became friends. I had worked a little bit in local radio when I was younger and guested on other podcasts before, so I thought I might try my hand at it. I sought a lot of advice, especially from Wendy and Melissa Clouthier and they eventually convinced me to stop thinking about it and actually do it. I recorded the first episode of The Delivery a week or so after that and, 62 episodes–over a year!–later, I’m still enjoying it as much as when I started. Probably more so, actually.
My discovery of Twitter was not particularly exciting. I had read about it in a couple online articles and it seemed a really good way for me to build relationships with folks in a way I couldn’t on my blog. I joined on Thanksgiving Day 2008 and, about two years later, here I am, the subject of a big-time interview!
6. Would you describe yourself as an activist? If so, what political causes fire your imagination and inspire you to continued activism?
Though some of my friends would disagree with me, I don’t think of myself as an activist. I don’t do big rallies (I’m averse to large crowds) and I don’t often have the time it takes to get truly involved in a political campaign. I am good at connecting people, especially matching people who have needs to people who can help meet those needs, so perhaps you could say I’m an activist in that sense.
Freedom is the cause that inspires me every time. I believe America’s greatest cause is making sure we do everything we can to make freedom available to as many people as possible. I get angry at the ferocious isolationism I’ve seen from the left and a good chunk of the Libertarian Party over the past decade or so. How you can look at someone groaning under a tyrant’s heel who is practically begging for your help and say “Screw you; I got mine” is beyond me! Those rights the Founders rightly deemed inalienable to us are inherent in everyone, but the people who live in tyranny will never know them unless they get some help with the despot’s boot on their throats.
Limited government is my thing. The Founders were a pretty clever bunch of guys and the system they built, which was designed to push almost every political decision down to the states and local governments, was the most insightful political innovation the world has ever seen. If you think about what limited government really means, what it does and does not make possible, it’s hard not to marvel over how elegant the construction really was.
7. Since you’re my interview for this utterly crucial week, what election result(s) would bring you the most pleasure on November 2?
To paraphrase Conan (the Barbarian, not the Talk Show Host), I want to crush the Democrats, see them driven from office, and hear the lamentations of the commentators on MSNBC. My fondest hope is that this election delivers a death blow from which the wicked progressive ideology never recovers. I want the sun to rise Wednesday morning on the smoldering ruin of the progressive movement. Then I want to start seeding the ground with salt.
I think that’s going to take a bigger victory than we’ll probably get. As I was recently reminded on my most recent podcast by political guru par excellence, Nathan Wurtzel, a 50-seat swing in the House and a 6- or 7-seat pickup in the Senate is an exceedingly uncommon event and it would be a great victory for conservatives and the Tea Party if that happened. I think all the models I’ve seen set up just that way, though, and I don’t want us to be discouraged because we “only” scored a stunning rout instead of a one-shot “kill”. Still, one-shotting the progressive movement just two years after they declared conservatism dead yet again would be an amazing achievement.
8. Who are 3 people, whether low-profile or celebrities, who have served as sources of inspiration to you, for whatever reason? Who are 3 others that would cause you to shudder with horror?
1) My Mom and Dad. I hope one day to be half as honorable, intelligent, charming, and good-hearted as they are. And they spent their lives showing me how parents should sacrifice for their children and work hard to give them a stable family environment.
2) Ronald Reagan. I don’t it’s exaggeration at all to say that his relentless optimism about America and his love for Americans saved this country from despair and decline. He was the first politician I truly admired and perhaps the only one who never truly let me down.
3) Michelle Malkin. I don’t admire Michelle for her politics nearly as much as I admire her for her boundless energy and the tremendous size of her heart. She’s simply a very good person who does not deserve the mud slung at her almost daily.
I’m not sure who would cause me to shudder with horror beyond the usual evil suspects like Kim Jong-Il, Fidel Castro, David Axelrod or other petty tyrants. I suppose there are some politicians on the left whose self-aggrandizing and ridiculous moral preening would cause me to suddenly wish for a bag full of rotten tomatoes to hurl, but when it comes right down to it, I find them more deserving of ridicule than horror.
9. You write well, speak fluently and provide relevant commentary with influential guests. How would you advise those who are striving to improve their writing and their grasp of issues and to make connections with conservative influencers?
Wow! Thank you, again. Are you sure you don’t have me confused with Michelle Malkin or The Anchoress or some other very good writer and conservative influencer?
I won’t claim to know the secret of good writing or having a solid hold of the issues. I can share what I’ve learned from other people who have done it much better than I have for much longer, though. If you want to be a better writer, you have to write a lot and read good writing. There’s no magic potion you can quaff to get a +2 to all your Write Language rolls. (What? I did mention the part where I’m a geek, right?) The more you write, the better your skill at writing becomes, just like Larry Bird’s tireless free-throw shooting practice made him almost automatic at it. Not only does more writing make you a better writer, it also makes writing easier. You won’t have to think so hard to find the right voice for your next blog post or essay or what have you. The voice you want will already be developed and ready for you.
The same goes for issues. The more you read and listen to people who know what they are talking about, the better a grasp you will have yourself. More importantly, though, is the practice I think of as treating your ideas like Pokemon. You have to get them out there competing with other ideas so you can see the flaws and improve them. Also, I like the idea of my opinions on free trade bursting forth from my blog like Bulbasaur, whipping up on some isolationist’s weak Charmander with the Back Vines of Truth. What can I say?
(Let me note here that I needed to consult with a couple of my Twitter friends on the correct spelling of Charmander. Both @BrandonKiser and @falahime tell me that my Bulbasaur would get pwned because Bulbasaur is inherently a weaker type than the fire-based Charmander. However, my Bulbasaur is mighty and would pwn that fire-breathing weakling. Thank you.)
As far as influence goes, that’s a bit trickier. I think I’ll borrow from the Bible and say that if you want friends, you have to be friendly. The people we think of as conservative influencers aren’t magical beings who don’t have other human contact. Often, they’re busier than a lot of us, so getting on their radar takes time, but like the rest of us, they respond well to friendliness and valuable contributions. Just be polite and useful, like you would with anyone else.
10. Tell us about 3 memorable life experiences so far, as well as 3 goals that remain on your list.
Another tough one. Are you getting paid by the number of times I sit back and say “Crap! How do I answer that question”? If you are, you’re making bank on this interview, let me tell you.
I’ve had a lot of memorable experiences in my life, or at least moments that have stuck with me for a long time that are just too personal to be terribly interesting to someone else. Did that make sense? I hope it did. But let me share a couple of the ones I think you and they will find interesting.1) In the summer of 2006, I and the choir in which I sang for a number of years at the College of Southern Maryland went on a two-week tour of southern Germany and Austria. Early on, we sang in the Speyer Cathedral and performed Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque in the crypt. The acoustics were magnificent and it was probably one of the best performances of the song we had ever done. By the time we were done, we had drawn a small crowd of perhaps 100-150 people and several of them were crying (as were several of us). I’m not sure I’ll ever be part of a more inspiring musical performance.
2) I almost ran over Michael Barone at CPAC 2009. I was headed somewhere in a hurry and so was he and when I rounded the corner, we almost collided. I was going to grumble and keep on moving when I realized “Holy crapweasel, it’s Michael Barone”! It’s probably a good thing we both looked up when we did. I weigh a bit more than he does, so I’m pretty sure I would have hit him like Ray Lewis hits a wide receiver going over the middle and I don’t think it would have helped my reputation to be the subject of the headline “Crazed Blogger Puts Michael Barone in the Hospital.” Thankfully, we avoided injurious impact and Barone was gracious enough to spend a couple precious minutes with me while I stammered out an introduction and my appreciation for his work. I wish I had possessed the presence of mind to invite him on the podcast. Maybe next time.
3) Speaking of football, I think I’ll toss in the championship my high school team won in my junior year. I went to a small Christian school in suburban Maryland and we didn’t have enough guys or equipment to field a proper team, so our school did the next best thing. We played six-man flag, no pads, and pretty much everyone played “Ironman.” (That’s when you play offense and defense, not when you don powered armor and fight crime, though that would have been cool, too). There were a few other schools who had the same difficulty putting a team on the field, so we formed our own athletic conference and my junior year was the first in which we had an actual championship tournament. We were playing a school out of Dundalk and the game was very close. They scored a late touchdown to bring them within one point and decided to go for the two-point conversion. I was a defensive end and, don’t you know, they called a running play right at me. The quarterback, who was one of the fastest people I’d ever seen, had the corner on me, and he had a blocker in front of him. At the last minute, though, I got just enough room to get a hand out, dive, and snatch his flag before he hit the end zone. No two points for them, but a championship for us. I admit, that doesn’t sound like much, but I was the smart kid, not the athletic kid. I had spent my whole life competing with kids a year older than I in gym class, which gave me a lot of reasons to believe I was just a fat tub of athletic fail. Playing football (and a couple other sports) in a smaller setting where I could get stronger, faster, and more confident was a big deal to me at that age.
Okay, now the three goals. I’ll keep these short because I’ve rambled on quite long enough (and thank you to everyone who has stuck with me this far!) I want to build the podcast to the point where it is not only self-funding, but it is considered the Internet equivalent of the Rush Limbaugh Program. I’d like to earn a living from my writing and podcast work. And I want to buy a house in a quiet place with solid internet access and a good school system. How’s that!
Thanks, Glen, for letting me tie up some of your blogging real estate!