October 31 or November 1. See also

  • Dia de los Muertos;
  • Halloween;
  • Samhain, the name of the Celtic holy day; and
  • All Souls Day
  • Babylon 5 Season 5, Episode 8.

    Primary Plot: A Brakiri religious tradition causes some of the crewmembers to have conversations with deceased aquaintances, most notably Mr. Morden.

    Secondary Plot: Rebo and Zooty (played by Penn and Teller) visit the station.

    Return to the Babylon 5 Episode Guide.
    The last (so far) in George Romero's "___ of the dead" series. A direct sequel to Night and Dawn, Day takes place in an underground US Army bunker in Florida. Before the shit hit the fan, the US Government sent a team of scientists (with a military escort) to this bunker to study what caused the zombie crisis, how they can reverse the process or how to domesticate the zombies..

    By this point, zombies outnumber humans 44,000 to 1. Very little of the world is seen outside the military complex, but what is seen doesn't give much hope. A smallish town completely overran by the living dead, with no hopes of survivors...

    Ultimately the scientists are trying to control the zombies, but with very little success. The soldiers and the scientists start getting unfriendly, and in the end (as with Romero's other two films) all hell breaks loose. The ending does leave a bit of hope for humanity, and it gives the viewer a sense of revenge as one of the characters gets what they deserve.

    While most fans agree that Dawn was the best film in the trilogy, Day tries it's hardest but just doesn't make it to either Night or Dawn's level. The social commentary message so present in Romero's other films is lost in this one, due to battles between writer/director Romero and studio heads. With Day leaving a bit of unfinished business we can only hope Romero is one day able to bring us "Twilight of the Dead" as a fitting end to his most notable zombie series.

    The day of the dead. The day that the barrier between the spirit world and the world of the living is the thinnest.

    Ten years ago, November 29, 1992, the son of two of my closest friends was killed in a drunk driving accident. I was 28, he was 22. He was a passenger. He was named after my father, Malcolm, Mac for short. His parents and my parents had been close friends since before I was born.

    I don't think any of us knew how serious a problem he had with alcohol. I had known him much better as a kid, than as a young man, and I think I still saw him through my growing up eyes: he was the first baby I ever got to take care of, the first one younger than me.

    We are welcoming in the dead today. My new housemate is definitely a pagan, so we are having a group of friends to dinner. We've asked everyone to bring a dish that they associated with someone they've lost. It took me so long to figure out what to cook - I don't know why, because the person who is most recently lost to me is my mother, and she taught me how to cook. The problem was not that I could not think of anything to associate with her, but that there is all too much.

    I am honoring three of my dead. Mac, my mother, and my grandmother. When I think about the day of the dead, and about honoring the spirits, I get the image of a crowd, gathering around the doorway, wanting to be invited in, hoping they have not been forgotten. All four of my grandparents. Other friends. Other ancestors, who I know only from pictures and family history. Other friends....children.

    We live in a culture that wants to pretend that death doesn't exist. You have to sign a piece of paper to STOP doctors from taking "heroic measures" to keep you alive. This is odd to me - do the doctors really think ultimately that they can prevent it? How? And why?

    But in a way, it feels right to sit here, and think about the dead. Not good, but right.

    These three people are still a part of my life. Their dying was, and is, a part of my life. Mac's death was a huge catalyst for me to reconsider the choices I was making, and to some extent it put me on a new path. I wish it hadn't taken that big a jolt to get me to pay attention, but there it is. My mother and grandmother were probably two of the most influential people in my life, in many other ways, mostly good, but a few bad. They were both amazingly hospitable, generous, loving. My grandmother had a mean streak, and I see it in myself once in a while. My mother at times was not good for standing up for what she needed, for taking care of herself instead of everyone else; and I see it in myself once in a while. Mac struggled with his place, with his role within this overachieving family - he was a bit of a rebel...

    I see it in myself, once in a while.

    So I'm cooking a cherry pie, and creating altars in my head for each person. The cherry pie is for Helen. At this time of year, my mother used to turn into the Holiday Mom from Hell - she loved holidays, and pretty much from thanksgiving until boxing day she was going full speed and then some. Her altar includes a silver spoon - how I hated polishing all that damn silverware for the Thanksgiving table. It also includes two watercolors, one of hers, one of mine. Some flowers - I think my love of plants jumped whole from her head into mine, like Minerva from the head of Zeus. A teapot, of her making. In our house, love is taken up in tea cups.

    Mac's altar is harder. When I think of him, I first think of the summer at the lake, when he was about 7, so I would have been 13. He lived in a complete fantasy world, wearing a superman t-shirt every day, and morphing from Superman to Spiderman to Spiderfrog over the course of the summer. As I remember, he wouldn't answer to his own name, only to the proper superhero form of address. A comic book, preferably old and well-thumbed. A bag full of balsam fir needles. He loved our cabins, in Ontario, and the smell of the needles can instantly transport me there.

    I cannot imagine a worse loss than the death of a child. My grandmother died at 94; she was mourned, but her memorial was also a wake, a true celebration of an amazing life. My mother died at 61 - a life truncated, but she had packed an enormous amount of living into those 61 years. I grieve, for my loss, but not for hers.

    But 22. 22 years old. How can I not rage against this loss, against a life that he was not allowed to finish? That realistically, he was barely allowed to begin? I imagine what he would be doing now, at 32. Of the places he would have been, the experiences we might have shared, of the things we might talk about. This is the death I still don't understand. Not a death I can honor - I can honor his life, but not his death. I still rage against the cruel unfairness of it, of the blow to his parents, the hole that can never be filled. Children should bury their parents, not vice versa......

    My grandmother, Katy. Can you tell I live in a matrilineal family? A china cup, with a saucer. I like my tea in a mug, preferably holding about 20 ounces, very strong with milk and sugar, but she liked hers in a delicate china cup. I wonder how many hours of our lives we spent together, drinking tea, talking. More fir needles. She kept coming up to our cabins until she was 92, and I remember taking her on a three day camping trip when she had to be at least 80. I want to be able to chop wood, with an axe, when I'm that age, so I have a good example. A scrap of wood, to remind me of this. A baby quilt. I remember her nimble fingers helping me to make doll dresses, tiny quilts and seams.

    So much of who and what i am is taken up with these people, these ancestors, my dead. I refuse to take this stiff-upper-lip New Englander stance that we won't talk about them, that I won't continue to mourn them, laugh at their foibles, cry at my missing them, have conversations with them.

    I don't know who W.H. Auden wrote Funeral Blues for. It's a favorite poem of mine, and I think expresses perfectly the light that goes out in the world when you lose someone precious to you. I'm glad he wrote it. I'm not sad and mournful today, but reflective. One wonderful line in the poem is I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong. But in a way love does last forever, at least beyond death. As long as I am alive, my love for these people, my life twined with theirs, will be alive. The pieces of who they are are carried inside, and will be passed along to Tessie, and then whoever she in turn loves.

    Maybe as long as love is passed along in teacups, it can last forever.

    For Caroline and Sam, begun October 29, 2002.

    Yesterday was All Hallow's Eve, Halloween, and Samhain. Depending on your tradition, today or tomorrow is Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. A lot of traditions hold that at this time of year, the boundaries between worlds are blurred — in particular, that between the living and the dead, for traditions who believe in a world for the latter. There are wonderful myths explaining why this is so; I'm trying to write one into my attempt at National Novel Writing Month. But myths are for explaining the world so that we can better understand ourselves and the lives we live in it, and all the stories I'm thinking of for this time of year say the same thing: Honor the ones you have lost. So today I celebrated the memory of my late thesis advisor, who died last November, by going out and applying for a job I'm not really qualified for.

    Professor K was firmly of the opinion that it is better to regret something you've done than an opportunity lost. She encouraged her students and everyone she knew to take risks in their academic and personal lives, and her own life was a never-ending string of examples for the rest of us to live by. She would apply for random research grants at the last minute, sending student assistants scrambling to help her put things together. When the linguistics department held a meeting to commemorate her, someone suggested a scholarship should be awarded in her name to the author of whatever project succeeded against the greatest odds, that best exemplified the spirit of "it worked, but it shouldn't have." Although perhaps inadvertently, Professor K's influence made my thesis such an undertaking.

    With Professor K's help, I worked to adapt mathematical methods from evolutionary biology to problems in language change. She suggested readings in historical linguistics, her area of expertise, and then didn't bat an eye when I completely ignored them and said I wanted to gather data on languages by comparing their vowels — even though this went against the conventional wisdom of her field. She even encouraged me. Did she know I hadn't done most of the reading she assigned? Was she counting on the fact that I didn't know pretty much everything ever written about comparative historical linguistics dismissed vowels as invalid sources of data? I don't know, but when, despite all this, my programs returned the correct family tree for several Germanic languages and my control group, Spanish, she was delighted. "I wasn't sure it would work with the vowels," she told me, only at this point, when it was too late to go back and change my methods. Historical linguistic reconstruction is always based on consonants. It's widely believed that vowels change too quickly to give a useful picture of a language's evolution. But because I didn't know that I was bucking the trend, and Professor K didn't tell me, we confirmed her suspicions that the vowels are a source of useful information after all.

    So it was in this spirit, of telling myself that what I didn't know (that I'm not qualified to manage a feminist bookstore, much as I want to work there) could be the very secret to my success, that I drank a cup of Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum Spice tea before heading out to ask about a job at Mother Kali's Books. Professor K introduced me to Sugar Plum Spice at one of our research meetings, and I will always associate it with her. "They only sell it around the holidays," I remember her telling me, "so I have to stock up." I've been hoarding my box since last December, when I saw it in Trader Joe's and thought it would be a good thing to remember her by. Anyway, I had a cup of what I will probably always think of as Professor K tea for courage, and headed out.

    I ended up having a half-hour chat with a really nice lady named Lorraine, who'd not only heard of my obscure little private technical college, but had considered going there as an undergraduate more than thirty years ago. She'd been a math major, too, and it turned out we share a lot of other interests besides. I explained that I've been trying to write, but would like a job to support my health insurance and hopefully cat habits, and that I'd been looking for volunteer work in the community, just to get out a little and stop from going stir-crazy while job hunting.

    Lorraine seemed genuinely impressed by my resumé, even thought it contained no bookstore or even retail experience, and said that she would try to find a project for me, even if it was just volunteer work for the time being. It turns out Mother Kali's is reorganizing bigtime right now, and has been using temporary workers for awhile, but will probably be hiring some time in the next few months. I may have just gotten in on the ground floor, and all because I stifled my doubts and tried my best for something I really wanted. I like to think Professor K would have been proud.

    — 1 November 2002

    Day of the Dead is an episode of Babylon 5, occurring in the Fifth Season, and centered around the Brakiri "Day of the Dead", a ceremony suspiciously like the same holiday, as celebrated in Mexico. The episode was written by Neil Gaiman, and was the only episode in Seasons 3, 4 and 5 not written by J. Michael Straczynski. It also featured comic magicians Penn and Teller.

    There is a word used in geek culture to describe something utterly appealing to Geeks: Squeeee!. And such a word would certainly apply to an episode of Babylon 5, a geek cult favorite, by Neil Gaiman, another geek cult favorite. And perhaps with these expectations, it is hard to judge the episode fairly. It is also interesting to see where this episode fits in to Gaiman's arc as a writer. The Sandman is dense, multifaceted and challenging. Since writing it, Gaiman's writing has seemed to drift further to the center, in some cases seeming downright twee. And perhaps this episode is also colored by my later reading of Gaiman, but I also find it not particularly challenging, especially given the fact that Babylon 5, even at its laziest, is pretty challenging already.

    The plot of the episode involves the Brakiri temporarily buying a part of the station so they can celebrate a rare religious ritual of theirs, the Day of the Dead. Captain Elizabeth Lochley, believing it to be a way to create cultural understanding, goes along with this plan. That night, as the station enters darkness, the residents of that section are cut off from the rest of the station, and are visited by long dead friends or lovers of theirs. Lochley herself meets a (Platonic?) girlfriend of hers, who died of a drug overdose. Londo Mollari meets the Lady Adair. Lennier meets Mister Morden. And Michael Garibaldi meets Dodgers, a one-time lover of his from the Second Season. Their reunions are, as could be expected, both odd and poignant.

    For the true Babylon 5 fan, some of this is a treat. Specifically, any chance to see Mister Morden, especially in an almost sympathetic light, is fun. However, overall, I was curious as to what the point was. The episode didn't seem to have a great deal to say about life and death and loss that hadn't been said earlier in the series, either in terms of the series cosmology or the viewers. In fact, given the fact that Babylon 5 had only occasionally brushed with the supernatural, the episode seemed like a gimmick. And there was no flights of wit or creativity on Gaiman's part, above and beyond the overall flow of the series. And in some cases, it seemed downright cliche. The treatment of Captain Lochley's younger years seemed less like a great insight into her (regrettably underdeveloped) character, and more like Neil Gaiman sitting down and figuring out how he could write a scene that would be sympathetic to women...and ended up seeming like a Grade B Lifetime Movie.

    Somehow, by mixing together Babylon 5, which was good at asking big questions, and Neil Gaiman, who was also good at asking big questions, and then asking about Life and Death, the biggest questions of all...the episode just ended up being mediocre and predictable.

    Ten Years of Terror: The 2010 Halloween Horrorquest

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