Halloween: not the only time you can visit a cemetary

I’m known to have quirky taste in just about everything (stop sniggering – and you know who you are!). One thing that I have always loved that many people found beyond quirky was a certain fascination with cemeteries. OK, no, it’s not a fascination – I love cemeteries, so much so that the highlight of a trip to Paris I took a couple of years ago wasn’t the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre or even the shopping, but rather visiting the “Cimetière Père-Lachaise”, which played a prominent role in one of my favorite reads, “Le Comte to Monte-Cristo”.

Imagine my pleasure when the following little gem of a tourism article landed in my inbox today:

Weekend in New York: You Can Come and Go. They’re Staying Awhile.

Published: November 30, 2008

A lot of people live in New York, which is part of what makes the city so great. But it comes with a corollary that’s a bit of a downer: a lot of people die there, too.

Luckily, back in the mid-19th century, someone had the foresight to set aside some future prime real estate for some pretty cool cemeteries, among them Green-Wood in Brooklyn, Woodlawn in the Bronx and Calvary in Queens. They’re all worth a visit, but for different reasons: Green-Wood has the most beautiful grounds, Woodlawn has the most intriguing monuments, and Calvary has the best views.

If you think visiting cemeteries is a bit creepy, you would never have made it as an 1860s tourist. At that time, Green-Wood Cemetery — an early example of the “rural cemetery” movement imported from Europe — had become one of the country’s premier attractions, ranking up there with Niagara Falls. Half a million people visited a year, and that’s just counting the live ones.

In his book “Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery: New York’s Buried Treasure,” Green-Wood’s historian, Jeff Richman, notes that New York at the time had few public parks and little public sculpture, which partly explains the attraction. He also quotes an 1866 article in The New York Times that noted “Green-Wood is as permanently associated with the fame of our city as the Fifth Avenue or the Central Park.”

And that was before so many famous people were buried there, among them F. A. O. Schwarz of toy fame, Samuel Morse of code fame, Charles Ebbets of Dodgers fame, Boss Tweed of corruption fame and Louis Comfort Tiffany of stained glass fame. It was also before the monk parrots were there — in one of the oddest twists of cemetery history, the squawking green guys escaped from a shipment at Kennedy Airport and settled into the ornate towers of the entrance gate, where they squawk still.

Read the rest of the article here.

Woman ‘kills’ ex-husband in online world

Yes, yes, you read that title right. This is totally worth the read, and the questions it raises? Priceless.

From the CBC:

Woman ‘kills’ ex-husband in online world

A 43-year-old player in a virtual game world became so angry about her sudden divorce from her online husband that she logged on with his password and killed his digital persona, Japanese police said Thursday.

The woman, who has been jailed on suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data, used his ID and password to log onto the popular interactive game Maple Story to carry out the virtual murder in May, a police official in the northern city of Sapporo said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of department policy.

“I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning. That made me so angry,” the official quoted her as telling investigators and admitting the allegations.

The woman, a piano teacher, had not plotted any revenge in the real world, the official said.

She has not yet been formally charged. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison or a fine up to $5,000 US.

Players in Maple Story create and manipulate digital images called “avatars” that represent themselves, while engaging in relationships, social activities and fighting monsters and other obstacles.

In virtual worlds, players often abandon their inhibitions, engaging in activity online that they would never do in the real world. For instance, sex with strangers is a common activity.

The woman used login information she got from the 33-year-old office worker when their characters were happily married to kill the character. The man complained to police when he discovered that his online avatar was dead.

The woman was arrested Wednesday and taken nearly 1,000 kilometers from her home in southern Miyazaki to be detained in Sapporo, where the man lives, the official said.

Online miscreants usually banned

The police official said he did not know if she was married in the real world.

Bad online behavior is usually handled within the rules set up by online worlds, which can ban miscreants or take away their virtual possessions. In recent years, virtual lives have had consequences in the real world.

When bad deeds lead to criminal charges, prosecutors have found a real-world activity to cite — as in this case, in which the woman was charged with inappropriate computer access.

In August, a woman was charged in Delaware with plotting the real-life abduction of a boyfriend she met through the virtual reality website Second Life.

In Tokyo, a 16-year-old boy was charged with stealing the ID and password from a fellow player of an online game in order to swindle virtual currency worth $360,000 US.

Virtual games are popular in Japan, and Second Life has drawn a fair number of Japanese participants. They rank third by nationality among users, after Americans and Brazilians.

The puzzle that are obsessions, or wow, how teenagers love Edward Cullen!

I read and reviewed the book ‘Twilight’ awhile ago, and although I enjoyed the read and could understand why a teenage girl would go gaga over it, I was still curiously puzzled enough by the ensuing Edward-mania to go to a midnight masquerade for the launch of the fourth and last book in the series, ‘Breaking Dawn’. The teens I was chaperoning were probably surprised at how much fun I had; I especially enjoyed dropping shocking little sentences here and there (oh, the reaction to some of them was priceless!), and so I thought I would do something Twilight-related yet again once the movie came out.

Unfortunately enough, a little thing called a sprained ankle prevented me from going to the midnight viewing of the movie, but I still talked to some teens, both boys and girls, and boy did they surprise me.

First of all, Edward-craze doesn’t seem to be limited to girls only. One teenager I spoke two, a lovable little 14 year old, told me that he loved Edward because he was the gentleman that his grandfather was and he wanted to be. He admitted to being puzzled by the rudeness of his peers, and didn’t like the way they treated girls. He had been low-key before about being a gentleman, but now that Edward was the in thing, he had decided to come out of the gentleman’s closet. And, judging by the adoring glances some of the girls accompanying him were casting, it seems that he might have nailed it on the head.

Another teenage boy I spoke to, a big 18 year old taller then my father, told me how he hated the way women were seen by the entertainment industry. He had three little sisters he had taken to the movie and didn’t like to think that other guys thought of them that way. Then he told me that he hoped that Twilight would pick up enough for in the population of guys so that they “get the point: being mean to girls and calling them *itches isn’t cool”.

Needless to say, I was very impressed.

The girls also had something to say about that. One feisty 17 year old told me that she wanted to be treated like Edward treated Bella – i.e. with respect. When I asked her how she would make that happen, she already had an answer: she was going to treat herself with more respect. According to her, that entailed not acting a way because it was expected of her, or dressing in a way because it made her more sexy, but rather to be her own self, to dress herself in a way that people couldn’t but respect her, and talk to others they way she wanted them to talk to her.

Be still, my heart.

I don’t know yet if I happened upon a sample of teens that was a reflection of the entire population of teens in Canada, but if I have, there certainly is more hope for the future than I thought! One thing is certain: I am going to be talking to a lot more teens in the coming weeks just to see how this whole ‘Twilight’-mania has affected them.

Beating the Gloom of Winter and a thing called Recession

I am very much into preventative measures: exercise before you start gaining weight, take vitamins before you have a week of bad eating (namely, while on a trip), take vitamin C and echinacea as soon as you get tired rather than when you are starting to feel under the weather – that kind of thing.

And I am of the opinion that when things are not going too well around you, the best thing you can do is to limit your exposure to negative things.

I’m not saying don’t read the news and ignore the problems; quite the contrary, I’d say now is the time, more than ever, to thoroughly invest yourselves in your communities. Hurrah for grassroot mouvements!

However, reading the news might be a better option than watching TV (images are a lot more powerful); inviting friends over, even if it is so that each can read their own book, is better than staying alone; eating something tasty will boost moral, and watching happy movies will definitely make a difference.

Here are a couple of movies that have just been released or that will be release soon that might make for some good preventive medicine:

Four Christmases: Comedy starring Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon & Robert Duvall: Synopsis: No one enjoys the holidays more than Brad and Kate. Every December 25th, this happily unmarried, upscale San Francisco couple embark on a holiday tradition they have shared every year since they met – ditching their crazy families for a relaxing, fun-filled vacation in some sunny exotic locale. There, sipping margaritas by the pool, they toast the season, knowing they have once again avoided the chaos and emotional fallout of their four respective households (…). But not this year. Shorts and sunglasses packed, Brad and Kate are trapped at the San Francisco airport by a fogbank that cancels every outbound flight. Worse yet, they are caught on camera by a local news crew, revealing their whereabouts to the whole city… and to their families. With no escape and no excuses, they are now expected home by Brad’s father. And Kate’s mother. And Brad’s mother. And Kate’s father. Four Christmases in one day. As they brace themselves for a marathon of homecomings, Brad and Kate expect the worst—and that’s exactly what they get. But as Brad counts down the minutes to their freedom, Kate surprisingly finds herself tuned to the ticking of a different clock.

Dostana: Indian Comedy starring Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra & John Abraham: Synopsis: In typical Bollywood fashion, Dostana is the story of two friends caught in a love triangle that will make you laugh, cry, cringe and clap. Promised!

Santa vs. the Snowman: Animation with the voices of Jonathan Winters, Ben Stein & Victoria Jackson: Synopsis: It’s a new holiday classic: a lonely snowman comes across Santa Claus’ bustling village one Christmas Eve. Jealous of Santa’s good fortune, he makes a desperate attempt to capture the spirit of Christmas and win the children’s affection for himself. A heartwarming story for all ages.

Rachel getting married: Romantic Drama starring Anne Hathaway & Debra Winger: I hesitate to put this movie here, as I have yet to see it, but I’ve been told that although it tackles dark subjects, the movie will leave you feeling light-hearted. Then again, this is based on a single assessment, so if you have seen it, to let me know if it’s true… Synopsis : When Kym (Anne Hathaway) returns to the Buchman family home for the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie Dewitt), she brings a long history of personal crisis and family conflict along with her. The wedding party’s abundant cast of friends and relations have gathered for an idyllic weekend of feasting, music and love, but Kym with her black-comic one-liners and knack for bombshell drama is a catalyst for long-simmering tensions in the family dynamic. Filled with the rich and eclectic characters that have always been a hallmark of Jonathan Demmes films, Rachel getting married paints a strikingly perceptive and sometimes hilarious family portrait. Director Demme, first-time writer Jenny Lumet, and the stellar acting ensemble leaven the drama of these difficult but compelling people with wry affection and generosity of spirit.

Wall-E: Animation with the voices of Ben Burtt, Jeff Garlin & Kim Kopf: This one has been out for awhile, but it’s apparently still playing on some big screens. Definitely heart warming, totally adorable and ill put a smile on just about anyone’s face! Synopsis: The Earth is now an uninhabitable trash heap and humans have hired an inept company to clean it up. The only problem is, of the hundreds of thousands of robots, called WALL-E’s, sent to pick up the trash, only one remains operational. That is until another robot mysteriously arrives and changes everything.

Slumdog Millionaire: Indian Dramedy starring Mia Drake, Imran Hasnee & Anil Kapoor: Synopsis: Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika, the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show’s questions. Intrigued by Jamal’s story, the jaded Police Inspector begins to wonder what a young man with no apparent desire for riches is really doing on this game show? When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the Inspector and sixty million viewers are about to find out…

Madagascar 2: Animation with the voices of Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Chris Rock & Jada Pinkett Smith. Synopsis: In the highly-anticipated sequel to “Madagascar,” Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria, King Julien, Maurice and the penguins and the chimps find themselves marooned on the distant shores of Madagascar. In the face of this obstacle, the New Yorkers have hatched a plan so crazy it just might work. With military precision, the penguins have repaired an old crashed plane — sort of. Once aloft, this unlikely crew stays airborne just long enough to make it to the wildest place of all — the vast plains of Africa, where the members of our zoo-raised crew encounter species of their own kind for the very first time. Africa seems like a great place…but is it better than their Central Park home?

More SNL: Automotive Bailout Skit

Enjoy! And thank you, Konservo!