Sunday, November 2, 2014

Vampires, zombies, and Day of the Dead

I opened and closed A bad week for private space with a scheduling note.
At the end of Set back your clocks, including the ones for insulin pumps, I told my readers to "stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment entry."  It's still coming, probably at 7 PM EST.*
*Midnight Greenwich Time is now 7 PM, not 8 PM, so that's when the stats for the next day begin.
The time has arrived.

I begin with two videos for Halloween from Georgia Tech that I originally included in last night's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (A bad week for private space) on Daily Kos.  First, Sinking his teeth into Dracula: Georgia Tech's resident horror film scholar.

John Edgar Browning is a Marion L. Brittain Postodctoral fellow at Georgia Tech, and teaches classes on the horror genre of literature and film. One of his particular areas of expertise is vampires, specializing in the Dracula figure in popular culture. Brittain Fellows like Browning tailor their courses to their own research interests while meeting state and university objectives and outcomes.
He's not the first scholar I've written about who studies vampires.  In Sustainability news from campuses on the campaign trail for the week before Memorial Day, I included a press release from the University of Wisconsin about the scholarship of Tomislav Longinovic, who explored the vampire as a metaphor for malignant nationalism.  I wonder if Browning is aware of Longinovic's work.  If not, I have three words for him: Bela Lugosi's Dead.*

Next, Georgia Tech Humans vs. Zombies game Fall 2014.

Students, faculty, and staff take part in Humans vs. Zombies, or HvZ, a weeklong game of tag with short missions and strategy mixed in.

“Being a human is fun because it really tests your ability,” says computer science major, Rachel Clark. “Every day you survive feels like a pretty neat accomplishment.” The zombie life, Clark said, is also fun, but less stressful. “It’s also more common for zombies to casually hunt in groups, which makes a great chance to meet new people.”
If it's Sunday when "The Walking Dead" is being shown, there will be zombies.

Follow over the jump for my reaction to material about The Day of the Dead from the University of Kansas.

I included this aside as a transition in Zombies, gangsters, and sideshows between the zombies and gangsters.
The rest of the article covers The Day of the Dead, which looks like something I should return to later.  I haven't written much about that part of my trip three years ago, instead focusing on eating bugs and encountering interesting reading.  It might be time to talk about a holiday that is equal parts Halloween and Mardi Gras, with uniquely Mexican elements composing the rest.
Here's the rest of Zombies and Day of the Dead help class explore ideas of death, living dead.
Although the zombie has lost its connection with its Haitian origins in the American imagination, the Day of the Dead has lost none of its connection with Mexico on this side of the border. Haney’s class explores how the Mexican tradition has come to be celebrated differently in the United States than in its communities of origin. The Mexican tradition, which focuses on honoring deceased relatives, centers on families visiting cemeteries. For three days on Oct. 31, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, the participants believe the spirits of departed ancestors visit the earthly world, providing a chance for relatives to pay homage to them.

 In the United States, the event honors Mexican heritage and culture. Day of the Dead celebrations are often held in art galleries and schools.

“One of the things that Day of the Dead does in the United States is to provide a way for ethnic Mexicans to present themselves to their neighbors,” Haney said.

Haney notes that the cultural exchange of ideas isn’t one-sided. He points to countries in Latin America that have begun to celebrate the American concept of Halloween and trick-or-treating, partly in response to foreign companies’ efforts to market costumes and candy.

“Looking at people in Mexico taking up Halloween and people in the United States celebrating Day of the Dead, and you ask yourself what is going on,” Haney said. “How is it that ideas are moving from one context to another, and how do they change?”
I spent the week of Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico during October and November, 2011.  It was an eye-opening experience.  I'll just concentrate on the public celebrations I observed.

First, I toured a cemetary during the night of Halloween.  In the U.S., only the thrillseekers and vandals would be there.  In Oaxaca, entire families were having picnics on the family plots.  The atmosphere was festive with the local orchestra playing, fireworks, and vendors just outside the gates of the cemetary.  Kids were trick-or-treating inside the cemetary, just as mentioned in the article.  While they were wearing costumes, like American kids, they weren't going door to door asking for candy.  Instead, they were begging strangers for coins.  That's certainly an adaptation of an American tradition that makes it distinct.

The next night, I joined a grownup version of trick-or-treating.  My hostess and her friend invited me to a parade of sorts.  A bunch of revelers, most in costume, lined up in an alley behind a brass band.  We then strolled down the street, stopped at a house, and asked for treats.  We got tortas, Mexican sandwiches, which were passed out on a platter the size of a small door.  I managed to get one of them.  It was delicious.  Also, plastic shot glasses of mezcal were being passed around.  That made for a very entertaining evening, and is the reason I often describe the holiday as a combination of Halloween and Mardi Gras.

While waiting for that parade to form up, I watched another pass by.  It was led by three young men in costume, a devil, a grim reaper, and a Mesoamerican death god.  That image perfectly summed up the Mexican heritage of being a fusion of European and native elements.  I wish Americans could be as comfortable with our hybrid origins.

That's enough for tonight.  I might get around to writing more about my trip when the occasion arises.

*Here's the video of the song by Nouvelle Vague I embedded in most of those posts.

This video will continue to be my favorite because of the opening dialog and the use of the scenes from "Dracula," although the version by Chvrches is starting to grow on me.

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