Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Missable or Dismissable: Slate's Freaky Fortnight

Next contender for the title of:

Missable or Dismissable?

Slate's Freaky Fortnight.

For two weeks, Slate's Michael Agger and freelance writer Susan Burton (of This American Life and more) are switching places. He's staying home with the kids and writing from there, like she used to do, and she's going in to his office at Slate and editing his pieces.

Their reflections are intriguing. Here's how Burton talks about adjusting to life outside the home, in her second post (it's a series):
It's like I'm in another time zone. Like when you're on vacation, and it's 4 p.m. Mountain Time, you think to yourself, But it's really 6 p.m. Eastern.
Like this: It's 2:32. In Brooklyn Time, that's Mike-as-Susan's afternoon trip on the bus to school; in Slate Time, that means I should finish up this dispatch and file. 2:40: Brooklyn Time, Mike at pickup, chatting with parents; Slate Time, me refreshing Facebook, Twitter, feeling petrified. 2:45: Brooklyn Time, Nick exiting classroom, his arms probably covered with the red paint that makes him look swollen; Slate Time, me returning e-mail. 3:20, Brooklyn Time, Mike-as-Susan stopping with Nick for cappuccino; Slate Time, me leaving the building for Starbucks. Caffeine: the great unifier of work-and-home life. (Read her whole post here)
In the most recent post, Agger talks about the expectation that men must be the primary breadwinners:
What do men fear exactly? This notion was brought home to me yesterday when a teacher at Nick's school began asking me questions about our experiment. "Do you feel emasculated?" he wondered.
At the moment, the two of us were the only men in a hallway full of baby sitters and moms. Emasculated is too strong a word. But I do feel as though I am swimming against the tide. I certainly come across other dads during the day. I've even met a grandpop who helps out as a regular "manny." But we are the exceptions, like those albino squirrels you see on occasion.

This project gets to the heart of something I keep asking myself: Which side has it better? In my particular case I don't see it as a gendered thing, since my boyfriend's job is an office job, period. There's no way he could stay home, even if I worked outside the house. But as a freelance journalist and grad student, I get bouts of curiosity about how the other half lives. Full time workers with pensions and officemates. Their dispatches, and memories of my past experiences in an office, make me think that maybe I don't have it so bad, after all.

But there's another reason why their project is very missable:

For someone contemplating giving up the internet for a year, Freaky Fortnight is a reminder of why the internet is the best medium for telling certain stories. Yes, this could be a book or a magazine, but their blog posts are almost in real time. The gaps make me feel the same way Dickens' readers probably felt between installments of Great Expectations. With the exception that Agger and Burton can actually write. And they're not foised upon ninth graders who preferred Salinger, thank you very much.

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