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?"