Friday, October 30, 2009

Slate on "Gravers"

Yesterday, Slate published an article on people who visit graveyards for fun. Most of the article is devoted to people who volunteer for Find A Grave, who apparently call themselves "gravers."

It's sort of a strange article. The author repeatedly supports his interview subject in the belief that visiting graveyards is something to be embarrassed about. "It's not surprising that Cara feels she needs to make excuses for hanging around a cemetery," writes Adrian Chen, though he never really digs into the cultural assumptions that might make him think that's an obvious conclusion. He has a paragraph or two about Mount Auburn and the rural cemetery movement, but is not very reflective about the place of cemeteries in 21st-century America. Chen maintains an air of good-natured bewilderment throughout and ends by implying that "gravers" should find something better to do with their time.

It's all very silly. Chen is a humor writer and I suppose that this article has some appeal from a "look at these whackos" point of view. Plus, Halloween. Still, it's weak as a humorous piece because Chen discovers that the gravers are actually pretty normal. It's weak as a news piece because it is unreflective and doesn't get to the heart of the matter. Why do people do this? Why do you think it's a weird thing to do? What does that tell you about our society?

In all, harmless, but I might turn the final question back on Chen: "You don't have anything better to do than this?"


Linda Hughes Hiser said...

Never knew I was a graver! I have recently found your blog and am enjoying it greatly.

Robert J. said...

Non sequitur: Are you able to successfully download/export images from the Farber collection? There is an Export link, and it does download a file, but it is in .zip format, and when I try to extract it nothing comes out. I don't know if that's a problem with the file or with my method of extraction.

For example, try the top-right Export button on the Job Lane stone from Malden and see if you can get the file:,-Job?trs=4&sort=Name%2CDates&mi=0&qvq=q%3Ajob+lane%3Bsort%3AName%2CDates%3Blc%3AFBC%7E100%7E1

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

I have had trouble exporting files from Farber in the past.

This usually works (and worked for the Job Lane file):

1. Click export button
2. .zip file appears on desktop
3. double click .zip file
4. a folder with the same name as the .zip file appears on desktop
5. open folder, which contains desired .jpg

I know that's not very scientific, but it's the best I can describe it. I am using Mac OS 10.5, but I don't know if that matters.

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

I still have not figured out hoe to use the "embed" feature, though.

Robert J. said...

Yes, that's the export method I tried, and it did download the zip file, but when I try to extract it never works, as though the zip file is somehow defective.

But I found another roundabout way to download the images. If you go to "Embed" and choose "Forum" as the type, it will display the image on the page as a normal jpg, and then you can drag or control-click or whatever to get it onto your own desktop. I don't think it's the full resolution, but it works for reference or comparative study.

Robert J. said...

And speaking of linking and embedding, here is one that should definitely be added to the "101 Ways" list, since it's actually illustrated on the stone.

latif said...

i've never seen the word w(h)acko spelled with an 'h' before.
in any case. big fan of the blog.

Caitlin GD Hopkins said...

I guess I always thought of it as etymologically akin to "whack."

I also accept Wakko as a legitimate spelling.