Interview with 8 Bit Dad’s Zach Rosenberg

October 21, 2011 at 11:23 pm , by 

Eleven months.

A few days ago at a tour of the GM (Chevy) headquarters in Detroit, I met a fellow “daddy blogger” who runs a website on fatherhood called 8BitDad. I told him how last week I interviewed myself for the first of my new series, Interviews with Non-Famous People, and was currently looking for more dads to feature in it. (In order to be considered the least bit famous, you have to have a Wikipedia entry written about you.)

Zach Rosenberg, the Co-Creator and Editor-in-Chief of 8BitDad, was game for being the 2nd person to be interviewed for my series. (I’m in bold italics, he’s not.) Here’s what went down:

How is your daddy blog, 8 Bit Dad, different from mine?

I think the main difference is that you run an actual blog – that is, a “web-log” – a journal of events. 8BitDad is closer to a culture-site. So, where yours is deeply personal about your own family, ours isn’t – but is deeply personal matter. In a sense – and this is of course not an insult – if someone wasn’t interested in hearing about you, particularly, you lose them as a reader. Generally, I just lose readers for making bad jokes and ruffling feathers around moms and dads.

Does the term “daddy blog” annoy you?

It does – I don’t like “blog” in general. But there’s a distinction – not all fatherhood (and motherhood) sites are blogs. 8BitDad, not a blog. Parents.com, not a blog. But Parents.com has bloggers who blog on their particular wing of the site. I don’t necessarily like being “lumped in” as a daddy-blogger because I’d like to think of myself as more of a journalist, but let’s be honest – I’m not really beating the street the same way I used to when I worked for a newspaper, and as far as being lumped-in, what a great set of guys to have as company. All of the “dad-bloggers” I’ve talked to have been awesome.

Though I have my assumptions, tell me exactly how you came up with the name of your blog. (I will need you to use the word “stellar” in your answer.)

Well, my friend Bryan Ferguson and I were talking about starting some kind of fatherhood site one night while talking smack about a couple baby products. We thought “man, we’ve got to get this attitude up on the internet.” So we had our goal – a stellar, fatherly attitude. But what to call it? We both liked that nostalgic idea of the Nintendo as being the icon of “our generation”, but knew we couldn’t be something like NESDad or Nintendad. We had maybe three names we liked at the end of the night and when I woke up the next morning, Bryan texted me “I took the plunge and registered 8BitDad.com” so we ran with it.

In an effort to mock the trend of using 3 one word sentences (Just. Like. This.), please describe your blog accordingly. Just. Three. Words.

Paternity. In. Pixels.

Recently you published a post criticizing Parents.com. For those who didn’t instantly click the hyperlink in the sentence above just now, explain what your beef is with the website that is ironically hosting this interview.

I know, right? Talk about some form of irony, or coincidence, if you’ve got a degree in English and know that it’s not really irony. Well, I’ve got a beef with most “parenthood” sites. In a nutshell, parenting websites are typically very mom-oriented, even if they use the words “and dads” from time to time. They’ve got largely female staffs, primarily female bloggers, and, if you’re into chicken-or-egg debates, primarily female readers.

Fathers do still visit parenting sites like Parents.com but it’s tough to feel like part of the community when it’s all mom-this, mom-that. I love moms and I respect all the things they do – but Parenting sites need to also consider fathers – and that’s where my specific beef came in: I get Parents.com e-mails, and they use banners like the one I showed on 8BitDad – emblazoned with things like “Free Stuff for Mom & Baby.” Well, I’m neither mom nor baby. I’m a parent, which is why I was on Parents.com.

I’m a father – a proud one, and I don’t want to sift through mom-stuff to find something that applies to me. I mean, hey, you don’t need to really answer this, but as a father, doesn’t it irk you that right above your bio is a link to “Mom Tools” and “Win”? Where’s “Dad Tools”? You know why it’s not there? Because ask anyone else on your editorial staff why “Dad Tools” is missing and I guarantee they’ll ask “what tools do dads need? They’re not carrying a baby.”

The perception is that dads don’t need anything, and if it were offered, they wouldn’t take it. I’m not trying to knock moms down, I just want equal representation in a place that’s named after the genderless reference to kid-having folk.

What has been your biggest challenge so far as a dad?

My biggest challenges have been walking-the-walk, so to speak. I do a lot of talk on my site about patience, but patience with a baby, toddler and youngin’ is tough. Sometimes, you just don’t know what to do. And I’ve always had a rule – whatever I want to do/say right after my kid makes me hit the roof is exactly what I don’t do. I take time to think, relax and be consistent. Any fight you have with a 2 year old is a losing one. If you’re fighting with a kid that has no sense of reality and logic, you lose. That’s a tough nut to crack. So staying patient and being the adult, when all you want to do is yell back, that’s the toughest.

What is the weirdest thing about your parenting style?

Probably my commitment to my kid’s health. You look at me and think “alright, he’s a 300-pounder, his kid’s got to have bacon grease for blood.” But it’s not like that at all. We make all our kid’s food fresh and healthy. He gets peas and carrots on his pizza, made with thin, homemade dough and homemade sauce.

He doesn’t drink juice – I’m one of those weirdos. So he gets milk in the morning and night, and water all day. Kid loves water. He’s on the right track. And shhh, don’t tell him, but when my wife and I indulge in fast food, we make him that at-home-healthier-equivalent and wrap it in one of the fast food wrappers so he thinks he’s getting a treat too.

Poor kid will think Taco Bell burritos have peas, corn, carrots and broccoli in them until he’s old enough to drive there himself and buy one. I mean, really. I may have hit the hamburger buffet a little too much in life myself, but my kid doesn’t know good from bad – so I need to teach him good eating so by the time he’s a teenager, he’ll have the foundation for healthy living.

What is your favorite quirk about your child’s personality so far?

He’s picked up my wife’s and my speech patterns and phrases. So if we go out to dinner, he will ask a waitress for a glass of water, and use “please” and “thank you.” You don’t expect it from a 2 year old. And I know being polite isn’t a quirk, but it just sounds so funny. You don’t expect toddlers to be polite. They’re pretty unsavory people, so when they say “thank you” or “I love you” unsolicited, they sound quirky.

Is your dad a rabbi or does he just play one on TV?

Both. He played one on Diagnosis Murder, that old TV show with Dick Van Dyke. Sometime later, he finished his rabbinical school and was a real one. He usually played judges, jerk doctors and sweater-wearing fathers, but never decided to become one of those. I mean, we live in Los Angeles – no need for sweaters there.

What is your favorite (8 bit) regular Nintendo game? Your answer must serve as a metaphor for fatherhood, in some way.

I always go with the underdog, Metroid. Large, free-roaming world, ominous music, deep weapons system for the time, multiple endings, secret codes (including one that wasn’t unveiled until recently!), and a surprise female lead. Hmmm…not sure I can come up with a fatherhood metaphor for that one since it was “Mother” Brain and a woman protagonist. Maybe…uhhh, that’s what happens when there’s no fathers around? *snicker*

I could, for the record, be persuaded to say MegaMan 2 solely for the music.

I’m sorry; you’re wrong. The correct answer was Super Mario Bros. 2. It serves as a metaphor for fatherhood because it teaches kids to eat vegetables. Actually, it teaches kids to pick up vegetables and kill their enemies with them. I guess you’re right, Zach Rosenburg.

See bro? Also, I’m sticking with my answer, even thought my metaphor is weak.

You have the last word, 8 Bit Dad.

I may sound like I’m militantly pro-dad and anti-mom. I’m not. I’m against the splitting up of moms and dads. From time to time I enjoy a good joke but not at the others’ expense. The Father’s Movement was born out of the Women’s Movement; when women started going to work, someone had to stay home with the baby. So – that became fathers. But there’s still a lot of leftover law and not-on-the-internet legislation and perception changes that need to happen for fathers to get their fair dues.

We’re slowly being regarded as legitimate parents – but the laws are far behind. So, although us fatherhood writers have a lot of fun pissing and moaning about simple stuff on the internet, there’s more important work to be done out in the world. Check out the National Fatherhood Initiative or Fathers & Families to see what kind of laws are being made (and which ones need help) if you really want to give father’s a boost! Also, thanks man – always good talking to another father. Power to the Paternal!

Zach Rosenberg’s Bio:

Zach grew up under a nearby orange tree in California’s San Fernando Valley. He has worked at publications such as Filter Magazine, Geek Monthly Magazine, UNleashed Magazine, WYWS Magazine,The Los Angeles Sentinel (“the largest Black-owned newspaper on the West Coast”), and also worked on His Side with Glenn Sacks (“The largest mens’ and fathers’ issues radio show in America” in 2001).

His son was born in January 2009.

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A Storytelling of Snake Charmers (or Escapists)

Sometimes there’s no way to get around or over a problem; the only way to get past it is to just go through it.

This past Saturday my friend Tommy and I embarked on our second annual canoe trip on The Harpeth River in Nashville.  The same river that just a month ago flooded much of the western part of the city.  I would love to paint myself as this avid outdoorsman, compensating for the fact (as I’ve established before) that I’m no athlete.  But really, it’s just that I can’t turn down an activity with a friend that allows me to spend several hours breathing fresh air, getting sunburned (just my knees, very badly), and getting to see wildlife.

Especially one that I deem as a lazy adventure (Manspeak, Volume 8: Relaxation).  With the water being as high as it was, very little power was needed on our part to get the canoe moving.  Just basic steering away from rocks and into the best currents.  Like most male oriented social activities, canoeing  kept us from awkwardly facing each other the whole time (Manspeak, Volume 4: Stance).  And gave us something to do when there was nothing to say (which never really happened, because of our mutual love for Super Mario Bros. 2, McGee and Me, and fatherhood).

Two hours into our journey, after relatively no stress whatsoever, I had to do it.  I had to, in typical 1980’s sitcom fashion, speak a line of ironic foreshadowing: “This has been a really laid back trip.  No problems at all.”

Instantly, we look up and ahead.  Two trees had fallen from the flood; one from both sides of the river, blocking the entire length of passage, doubly.  But even in that moment, we didn’t realize that this puzzle ahead was more complicated than just getting past two fallen trees.

We decided the right side of the river promised the easiest and quickest clearance.  I had learned from our last trip that where there was thick, abundant, yellowish foam, it meant there was a decaying animal trapped alongside the river.  As we got closer to the foam, both of us smelled the corpse before we saw it.  A large dead fish, head and tail missing.  Still the size of the pillow you sleep on every night.  Meaning that passing through would ineviditably mean we would have to step in the water to lift the canoe over the fallen tree, we opted to check out the left side of the river blockage as to not get funky fish foam on our sunburning legs.

We steered to the canoe to the other side, seeing right way that the depth of blockage was even greater.  In our strategy forming minds, we both came up with our own idea of how to get through.  Tommy wanted us to stick to our original plan; to step in the water and lift the canoe over our heads and over the trees, then place it back in the water and hop back in the canoe.

I, however, saw a different means of escape.  Shaking the tree and its submerged limbs further in and out of the water, I came to the conclusion that if I crouched down low in the boat, Tommy could stand on the tree, pushing the canoe through the limbs as I helped keep them pushed down to make way for our path.

Tommy is an easy-going guy.  Or maybe it was my natural older brother demeanor, but I convinced him to do it my way.

And right as he said, “alright, let’s do this”, I replied with “Oh, there’s a snake right there!”

I picked my oar up, placing it on my shoulder like a rifle.  “Look five feet away from the end of my oar.  There’s a black snake wrapped around that branch.  He blends in almost perfectly.  His head is up, and he’s looking at us right now.”

It’s not that he didn’t believe me, it’s just that my head was in the way for a few minutes before he could finally see the thing.  And when he did, he jumped in to “crisis mode” with me.

Of course, a man in Crisis Mode is not a man who gets nervous or noticeably excited.  He is a man who speaks lower and slower as he attempts to play the situation in slo-mo, in order to figure out the best practical solution for the potentially dangerous and deadly problem.

After another five minutes (which seemed like 20) of deliberation, after realizing our wishes of killing the snake with a flame thrower were not part of reality (thanks a lot Contra), that we had to meet this problem head on, we went in to Action Mode, while of course, simultaneously remaining in Crisis Mode.

Keeping our eyes constantly scanning the weather, the bank (filled with a good amount of visible snake holes), and the canopy of tree branches over us for more snakes, we carefully lifted the canoe out of the water and over the fallen tree, sliding in the mud (he was wearing flip flops, I was wearing my ten-year old New Balance cross country running shoes), only to realize that once we set the canoe back into the water, another 12 feet ahead was another (this being the third) fallen tree blocking the entire width of the river.

The snake, now behind us, had slithered off of his resting (preying) place on the branch.  Was he in the water now?  Were his friends waiting up ahead of us?  We tried not to think about it.

We hoisted the canoe over the final tree.  The only way into our vehicular escape module was to hop down a few feet from the tree we were standing on at that point, which meant possibly tipping the boat over.  Thank God, we both landed it and got out of there as fast as we could.

The final hour of the trip involved a lot of head turning at every threat of another lethal animal.  We did end up seeing a doe that froze once it saw us.  I was convinced I would see a great beast out there, like a mountain lion or a blank panther.  Never happened though.

The thing is, I’m typically the last person to ever spot any kind of creature in wildlife.  And despite me being so close to the snake, I’m still amazed I spotted it.  We talked about the possible ending this story would have had if I wouldn’t have miraculously seen the snake.  I would have remained in the canoe as Tommy pushed us through, the snake would have been inches away from my nose- either biting my face and falling into the canoe with us.

When I bought my mountain bike back in April, the girl who sold it to me told me that when her brother was working at Bonnaroo last year, he got bit by a water moccasin.  He had to be airlifted to the hospital and given a $40,000 antidote.  Now he was to pay off that debt on a $30,000 a year salary.

But in that moment encountering the snake on the river, what else could we do?  We couldn’t go over or around the problem, we just had to man up and go through the problem.

Myself and Tommy back in 2008