Thursday, September 21, 2006

Better Know A Blogger I

In a new interview series, DOVBEAR talks to leading bloggers about... well, really anything that comes up. This week David Bogner, the award-winning creator of Treppenwitz, is on the seat of heat. Please ask your own questions in the comments, and David (or someone pretending to be David) will be pleased to answer them.

Notes: If you'd like to participate in a future edition of Better Know a Blogger write to me at To be considered, you must blog at least three times per week, and have been writing for at least 6 months. Any similarity to Steven Colbert's Better Know a District is purely coincidental. Plus, he steals from me all the time.

Next week: Mobius of JewSchool

David: Sorry I'm late.
Me: NP. Is now a good time?

David: We just delivered three patrol boats to the Israel navy and I was at the commissioning ceremony. Just got back.

Me: Ooh.
Me. Ok, here we go, and don't worry, this won't hurt a bit.
Me: First question: Jewlicious or Jewschool?
David: Is that like 'Ginger or Maryanne?'?

Me: More like "boxers or briefs" ;)
David: With no disrespect to either... let me just say 'Depends'.

Me: Does anyone call you Trep in real life?
David: So far only you. :-)

Me: How do you feel about that?
David: anyone who knows me in real life calls me by my real name. I find it interesting that many of the people I know only on the net call me Trep. But it doesn't bother me at all.

Me: You're not anonymous, and you don't shy away from controversy. How do you keep the blog world from colliding with the real world? What happens when your kid's teacher, for example, wants to yell at you about your latest post?
David: I do a lot of self editing which helps avoid most of the pitfalls. I try not to publish anything less than 6 hours after writing it. That way I have a chance to look at it with fresh eyes before I hit the publish button. You'd be surprised how many things don't see the light of day because of that 'cooling off period'… although I have frequently had to apologize and retract things I've written. But that could (and does) happen in real life as well.

Me: Has your blog ever gotten you dirty looks in shul?
David: Dirty looks? No. I've had a few friends tell me that they didn't share my views though.

Me: Are you worried your blog one day might embarrass your kids, or interfere with their social life? Say Yonah decides he wants to be a Haredi, for example, and his prospective in laws - a fine Meah Sharim family – come across the blog...
David: We've raised our kids in a very open, non-judgmental household. We are mainstream observant Jews... but they have grandparents who don't keep much beyond tradition... an aunt who is a uncle who is an atheist and married to a non-Jew...etc. I don't think my blog is going to be the thing keeping my kids from finding the right shidduch, do you? :-)

Me: Well it depends on the shidduch, but I suppose other blogs, and other bloggers have more to worry about :) Moving on.

Me: You've been at this for two years, right? Why aren't you bored with blogging. How do you fight of the urge to mail it in occasionally?
David: Going on three, actually. I go through periods where certain aspects of journaling start to seem repetitive. I force myself to change my focus for a few weeks. Since I'm pretty happy with my life... and in my own skin... I don't get tired of rehashing it on Treppenwitz.

Me: Why don't you cut corners, though? I've looked at your blog very carefully, and you never seem to take short cuts. How do you maintain that level of professionalism?
David: That's nice of you to say, but the truth is I NEVER edit myself.

Me: I don't edit myself, either. Maybee yu cn till?
David: That would be the death of the thing for me. I have a few readers who email me with typos and grammar problems... it's actually gotten to be a bit of a game with them to see who can find the first mistake. The real trick as I mentioned earlier is simply not publishing the crappy posts. And there are plenty of them.

Me: I take the opposite approach at DovBear. The crappy posts get published, too. And often they get the most comments. In fact, I've often said, why bother churning out well-written posts, if the crap gets a better response?
David: We have a very different focus. I see you as tossing out ideas and challenging people. I spend most of my time challenging myself.

Me: How?
David: Mostly when I write about topical issues... politics... religion... social justice. I am very conflicted being a transplanted American liberal who happens to be a religious settler. If you look at even my angriest posts you will notice that near the end I usually prop the door open a bit. Y'know, just in case I need to back-track a little in the comments section. At first I felt guilty not taking a firm stand. But I found I learned more from commenters when they perceived flexibility. In my ideas, that is.

Me: Are you trying to learn, when you blog, or to teach?
David: Look, it would sound pretty pompous to say I am trying to teach people with treppenwitz. But I know that there are a lot of people out there who have had to adjust their ideas about Jews, settlers, dati people, etc. because of me. It's not that I am an example of anything, but rather that by reading me they find it is dangerous to generalize. It is mostly a creative outlet for me. I used to play gigs (on trombone) 4 times a week. Now I write about as often.

Me: I think anyone who blogs has something he wants to get across, especially if he stays with it after his audience expands. That's not pompous. We all have values and lessons we'd like to share. That's what makes us bloggers.

Me: Can you tell me who the Ren Reb is?
David: Nope. And I'm not even a little curious. I like my superheroes with their capes and masks on, thankyouverymuch.

Me: Lots of readers seem to operate on the theory that their lives will change if they unmask a popular blogger. They pursue hidden identities with a real ferociousness. As a non-anonymous blogger, I suppose you don't have to put up with that, but has an off-balance reader ever crossed the line?
David: True, being public about my identity has sort of done away with the need for anyone to 'out' me. But that doesn't mean keeping treppenwitz has been all beer and skittles. In addition to dealing with trolls, I have my own personal 'church lady' who sends me long, scripture-laden lectures about everything from my potty mouth (huh?) to the fact that I'm not holding up my end of the whole 'representing all religious Jews' thing. Good times.

Me: What's one thing you want the blogosphere to know about you?
David: Anything I want people to know I pretty much write. Anything I want to hide... well, that's another story. :-)

Me: Ok, I think that's it. This was painless, right? Maybe too painless, right?. Thanks for being a good sport.

Update: David sent this postscript:
Full Disclosure: When Dov Bear emailed me the final draft of the interview to review I was initially a little put off that he had cut it down by almost half. But in retrospect, I'm a bit relieved that he saw fit to edit out the discussion of my years in rehab... the stint in jail... and the profanity, particularly the part where I shared my own riff on the well known joke, 'The Aristocrats'. Thanks for preserving my squeaky-clean image DB. You my be a cockyhead to renreb... but you'll always be a prince to me.

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