Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Great Interview Experiment Hosted by Citizen of the Month

As I mentioned last week, I am participating in the Great Interview Experiment hosted by Neil Kramer over at Citizen of the Month.  The Karma gods surely blessed me as I ended up in a sandwich between two amazing bloggers, Danny Miller of  Jew Eat Yet and WordNerd of words...thoughts...nonsense.  The premise was that among commentors to Neil's blog, each of us would interview the person who commented before us and be interviewed by the person who commented after us.  It was a challenge to develop thought-provoking and entertaining questions.  It was intriguing to be almost simultaneous interviewer/interviewee.  I am so grateful to Neil for providing this opportunity.  Both Danny and WordNerd are incredible writers and I'm elated to be reading their blogs and honored to be part of the blog community with them.  Here are my questions and Danny's answers.  I will post a link to WordNerd's interview of me as soon as it is available.

Me:You have lots of references and posts about “vintage” television and movie stars.  Do you feel that the stars of the 40s and 50s had more substance as actors and performers or is it just childhood and early adulthood nostalgia that keeps you drawn to them?

Danny:That’s a hard question. While nostalgia obviously plays a role, I think my appreciation of classic movies and the great movie stars of the past is more about preference and quality. Despite the many pitfalls of the old studio system, they sure cranked out a lot of superior product. But in every decade there is always a lot of quality and a lot of trash. My reverence for the Katharine Hepburns and Cary Grants of this world will never change but that doesn’t mean I don’t admire today’s talent also. Currently, actors like Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet will propel me to the theatre no matter what they’re in. Regarding TV, there are some fantastic shows on today but in general I fear we are at a low point and that some of the shows on the air today are so horrific they would make Faye Dunaway’s Diana Christensen from “Network” blush.

Me: You and I are close in age and like you, I watched a lot of television when I was young.  I remember the so-called “experts” lamenting that watching too much television was ruining our generation.  Now, we say that about the video game generation.  How would you compare the two?  Are they better or worse or the same as us?

Danny:I don’t think TV ruined us Baby Boomers as much as was feared. As I was saying on a recent blog post, although I watched a ton of TV growing up, I also spent countless hours playing outside with my friends (seriously, were there more hours in the day back then?). We didn’t have the same problems with childhood obesity in the 60s and 70s because we were still pretty active. Yes, we were watching TV but there were no computers sucking up the rest of our time. I am not a fan of video games at all, mostly because of the content that I see which tends to be hideously violent. Happily, my 14-year-old daughter was never interested and we have no intention of bringing any game box into our house as our baby son gets older.

Me: You are a seasoned blogger and I’m a newbie.  My method of learning to be a better blogger has been to read a variety of blogs and apply the good techniques of others while still maintaining my voice, style and uniqueness.  That being said, as a seasoned blogger what advice do you have for me and others who are new to blogging?

Danny:I am thrilled that people like you are starting blogs. I love that form and while the blogosphere was exploding when I started five years ago, so many excellent bloggers I know have stopped their blogs recently and people seem to be more interested in short-form expressions like Twitter (which I still can’t bring myself to go near). I hope you’ll keep on blogging, the posts I’ve read of yours include everything that is good about blogging—honesty, pain, humor—and my only advice would be to keep writing about whatever YOU are interested in, without obsessing about your audience or “stats.”

Me:  My 14 year old daughter has naturally red hair that appears to be the same color as your daughter’s hair.  Other kids refer to my daughter as a “ginger”.  My daughter wants to know if your daughter is teased incessantly because of her hair color.

Danny:Isn’t that color the best? I was thrilled when my daughter was born with a full head of hair that was exactly the same color as my mother’s and grandmother’s. I love red hair and happily, I don’t think Leah has ever been teased because of the color. If she’s had any hair angst, it’s from her curls and she went through a period where she straightened it. But now she loves the color and the curls, even through her recent lice episode (ugh!).  I’m surprised your daughter is teased over it. But then again, women with red hair used to be burned for being witches! Tell her that when those little biatches are older they’ll be spending lots of money to dye their hair your daughter’s color!

Me:I showed my daughter your daughter's picture on your blog, in hopes that she would identify with another beautiful young red-head.  Instead, she begged me to ask you that question.  I agree with you, I love the color.

Me: I’ve always tried to instill tolerance and acceptance in my children.  I was blessed to have a good friend in college who was Jewish and I invited her to my home often and especially every year at Chanukah so my children and I could learn about and appreciate Judaism (we were practicing Christians at the time).  Even so, I know that there are still plenty of opportunities to learn and appreciate other cultures and religious faiths.  What is the most notable thing that non-Jews still don’t understand and/or appreciate about Jewish traditions?

Danny:Hmm, that’s an interesting question. There are probably lots of misconceptions about Jewish tradition. Some people mistakenly believe that religious Jews are very serious and dour, but the truth is that Judaism is a very joyous religion. There are lots of rules, yes, many of which seem odd in our current times, but the pursuit of happiness is also written into Jewish law. And while sexism certainly abounds in the ultra-orthodox branches of Judaism, women are also revered and it is stated that a man must make sure his wife is happy and satisfied, if you know what I mean. It is definitely not a prudish religion. Even though orthodox women are prohibited to have sex during their period (and the week that follows), they are strongly encouraged to do so at other times, and not only to procreate! (Yikes, your question had nothing to do with sex…forgive me!)

Me:No forgiveness needed; sex is always a welcome topic here.
Me: Losing a child is one of the most emotionally difficult things to experience.  Writing can be cathartic or heart-wrenching or a combination of both.  What has been the most emotionally difficult blog post that you wrote?

Danny:I read your heart-wrenching, poignant post about losing your son and so appreciated your sharing that. I haven’t had the courage or perspective yet to write about my son Oliver’s death last April but the other day I finally wrote some specifics about the earlier part of that day when my wife went into labor at 24 weeks and delivered our twins. I agree that writing can be cathartic and I don’t know how I would have made it through the past seven months without my blog. Having a blog to pour some of my thoughts into is almost as good as therapy, I love it.
Me: What or who motivated you to become a writer?

Danny:I always liked to write, and had notebooks full of poetry (oy, I never write poetry anymore!) when I was in elementary school. When I was young I loved Roald Dahl’s books and I wrote to him in England. His personal response to me made a huge impact and I was convinced that he named the character of his next book (“Danny, Champion of the World”) after me. I’d say he was a big inspiration. I also had some wonderful English teachers amidst the not-always-great educators in the Chicago public school system. As someone who had a very hard time expressing my emotions when I was young, writing was the best way to feel like I was being heard, to feel like I mattered.

Me: What is the most significant thing you’ve learned from blogging that you wish you had known when you first began writing your blog?

Danny:I never dreamed that blogging would provide me with such a great community of people like it has. I especially felt that during our recent ordeal with our twin boys. My blog has been such an evolution for me, it has taken on different purposes as time goes by. I guess the only thing I wish I’d realized when I first started was what I told you in question #3 above, to not worry if anyone would be interested in what I was writing about but to just follow my own passions and let the chips fall where they may. That has worked very well for me but I spent a lot of time back in the day worrying about losing readers.

Me: Is there anyone who you respect as a writer but yet you don’t enjoy their writings? For example, I admire and respect F. Scott Fitzgerald as a talented writer, but I don't enjoy his writing.

Danny:I would say that Saul Bellow falls into that category for me.  I think I tried to read "Humboldt's Gift" about five times but never made it past the first 50 pages.  "Herzog" too.  But I haven't picked either book up in years, maybe I should try one last time now that I'm middle-aged!

Me:  Tell me one item from your "bucket list."

Danny:Gosh, maybe my one item should be to create a bucket list, I’ve really never thought about it! I get easily overwhelmed by such concepts but then I remind myself that it doesn’t have to be big saving-the-world stuff. My daughter recently told me that the three things she wants to do before she dies is go through a car wash where you get to sit in your car, wear a hoop skirt, and play a serial killer in a play. Okay, all doable! So on that level, I’ve always wanted to take a driving trip through Europe. I’ve been there lots but always traveled by plane or train, I would love to get off the beaten path and drive around for a while, stopping wherever I like. I’d probably start in France. I’d also love to learn to play the piano and to experience weightlessness.

Again, my thanks go to Danny for his wonderfully candid and enlightening answers to my questions.  If you have the chance go read the other inteviews in the Great Interview Experiment.  They can be found here.


  1. I enjoyed this. I avoided Twitter for a long time because I thought that it was problematic too. I ended up giving in and have found it to be very useful. I still blog on a regular basis.

  2. Always a delight to hear Danny's take on things, and you did a wonderful job interviewing him.

    As another around your age (and blogging for roughly as long as Danny...oy!), I second his gentle urging that you continue blogging, exercising your wonderful voice.

    Although I wish Danny wouldn't bag on Twitter. Twitter is awesome, too, in its way.