WARNING: This blog post contains warnings


I’ve never been a fan of movie ratings.

In America, ratings are designed to aid parents in choosing appropriate material for their children to consume. But the people hired to assign the G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 notations tend to be far too narrow-minded and puritanical to provide an accurate overview of a movie’s contents. If I was a mother, I doubt I’d pay much attention to these arbitrary labels.

Now warnings, warnings are a different story. Warnings can be helpful .. and humorous.

“This show contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion advised.”

That’s rather vague. Define disturbing.

“Intended for mature audiences only.”

At what age is one “mature”? I know some 40-year-olds who wouldn’t qualify.

“This program contains language.”

No way!

Monty Python’s Flying Circus had a great one:

“There are scenes of violence, people’s heads being ripped off and their toe nails being pulled out in slow motion. Then there’s a scene where you can see EVERYTHING, but my friend says it’s just all in the way he’s holding the spear.”

This week, I spotted a hilarious warning. It applied to the new teen zom-rom-com “Warm Bodies.” Although the film is rated PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned), the actual contents of the film include:

“Gun violence and mild zombie chomping.”

What exactly is “mild” zombie chomping anyway? Do they just nibble or is actual chewing involved? Either way, consider yourself warned.

Sting v.4


This is what I’ll be doing on June 20th:



Now Bangor, Maine, is a five-hour drive each way from my home, but getting the opportunity to see one of my favorite artists in an outdoor venue is just too good to pass up.

The first time I saw Sting perform was at Jones Beach on Long Island, a beautiful amphitheater right on the water. While most of the audience sat contently in their seats, I spent the entire concert dancing in the aisle.

The second time I had the chance to see Sting was during the “Today” show’s summer concert series. As soon as I got off work on Friday morning, I raced over to Rockefeller Center and arrived just in time to hear him sing two songs before the show ended. Although incredibly brief, the performance put me in a fantastic mood all weekend.

The third time I saw Sting in concert was on a hot summer night in Central Park. I managed to arrive early enough to find a decent spot near the stage, and when he sang “Moon Over Bourbon Street,” I was entranced by the both the song and the stunning full moon that rose up behind the stage. I was in the heart of Manhattan, but the combination of the music, the moon, the heat, the humidity, the crowd and the hours of dancing made me feel as though I had been magically transported to New Orleans. It was wonderful.

So even though I generally dread the arrival of summer, I have at least two things to look forward to this year: attending the next Society of Professional Obituary Writers conference in Toronto and seeing the amazing Sting again.


Late night ponderings about mocking machines


Street lampSometimes The Blog of Death server mocks me.

I’ll sign into the content management system, in this case WordPress, and attempt to delete the thousands (I kid you not) of spam messages sitting in the “to be approved” queue. For some reason, WordPress or my server Dream Host only allows me to delete 100 messages at a time and so the whole process takes for-freakin’-ever.

When I spend too much time on this task, I receive a server error that says my request is too large.

I hit the back button and try again.

“Your server request is too large.”

I clear my cache and try again.

“Your server request is too large.”

After seeing this message over and over, I start to take it personally. “No, server,” I think, “my request is not too large. Perhaps your capabilities are too small? Or maybe, just maybe, the spammers are too cruel. Did you ever think of that?”

The server does not reply.

The Roller Coaster Week


I’m going to take the weekend off. No plans. No obligations.

I just need a couple of days to decompress.

For me, decompressing generally involves writing, reading, watching movies, spending time with my husband, petting our animals and baking. These are the activities that bring me joy and nourish my soul.

The week wasn’t all that bad. I mean, there were some high points. I wrote a story that was splashed on the front page of HuffPost U.S., U.K. and Canada. That same story received more than 33,000 comments and was viewed over 1.6 million times. My dear friend John resurrected The Blog of Death on a new server so I was able to post an obituary I really liked. I tried out a recipe for carrot cake and it tasted delicious. I spent time with friends, both on the phone and in person. M woke me with kisses every night.

All in all, the highs were pretty good.

On the other hand, the temperatures rose, a rain storm blew in and all of the snow disappeared. That article I wrote, the popular one? It also generated a great deal of mean-spirited and insulting e-mails/comments/tweets. I got a migraine from the storm, though thankfully it didn’t last. We didn’t win the lottery. Again. And, as sometimes happens, I let the news get to me.

This occurs to most journalists at one time or another. I’m convinced that’s why so many have alcohol problems and broken marriages. As Nietzsche said, “When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”

So many things hit me this week. The 200+ people who perished in the nightclub fire in Brazil. Did you know that the victims’ cell phones, which were placed on their bodies, continued to ring as frantic families tried to reach them? The cruel bastards who were dog fighting a pack of pit bull terriers in Florida. (When the authorities showed up to rescue the dogs, the look of relief on this pup’s face nearly broke my heart). The gunman who shot and killed a school bus driver and then kidnapped a little boy (he’s been holding the child hostage for two days now). The woman in Mogadishu who was allegedly raped by soldiers and still had the courage to report the assault, only to have the government arrest her, interrogate her for days without legal counsel and then threaten her with years of imprisonment. Her husband and the reporter who interviewed her were also arrested. Do you know what prisons in Somalia are like? People aren’t just processed and bailed out. Think more along the lines of torture, starvation, gang rape. It’s too hideous to comprehend, and yet I must, because right now, that is what these people are facing.

Almost every day is like this. The stories I cover allow me to see the goodness in some people and the awfulness of humanity as a whole. Yet what keeps me going back to work night after night is the knowledge that I am serving society to the best of my ability, and that by covering these horrific events, some readers may be inspired to respond, to act, to change the world.

Most of the time, I don’t let the horrors get to me. But every once in a while, I simply despair. On those days, I close the laptop at the end of my shift, and try to leave the misery behind for a few hours.

Hugging my husband always helps.

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