Archive | June, 2011

Caroline the Lake Murray Mermaid

27 Jun

Caroline the Lake Murray Mermaid is a lovely mermaid working out of Lake Murray Shores, South Carolina. I spoke with her a couple months ago… and just last week she got a job swimming at Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach for the summer, every day at 12, 4 and 8, and so you should obviously go there immediately to see her. If you are very lucky, I might post a follow-up interview with her to see what it’s like, swimming with stingrays and sharks and other gorgeously terrifying creatures, in a huge glass tank. In the meantime, you can visit her youtube channel for some mermaidly videos, after reading our delectable, yet slightly out-of-date, Q and A.

How long have you been a mermaid?
I have been a mermaid for two years now, but if you ask anyone in my family they’d tell you that I’ve always been a mermaid at heart. Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved the ocean and all it’s inhabitants. I was first introduced to mermaids when I saw Disney’s The Little Mermaid and from then on, I was hooked. Mermaids completely captured my imagination and strengthened my love all things aquatic. Whenever I went swimming, I’d pretend is was a mermaid and swim dolphin-kick style. In my later years, I found that I could swim faster when I swam that way. As a kid, I would wrap a long blanket around my legs, put on a belt so it stayed at my waist and tie the bottom to look like a mermaid’s fin, and crawl around the house in my ‘tail’ hahaha :) So pretty much, I’ve been been a mermaid my whole life.

What is the appeal of mermaids—and mermaiding—to you?
Oh gosh, everything! Hahaha :) When I first learned of mermaids, I fell in love with their entity. They’re the most magical and wonderful mythological creatures and I just can’t imagine our world without the impact of their stories. They are the bridge between humans and the aquatic world that covers the majority of Earth. I’m so jealous that they can swim along the most unique and powerful creatures on this planet all day long. I swear, if I had a set of gills, I’d be underwater 24/7! Being able to ‘be’ a mermaid has brought me the most joy I’ve ever experienced.

What is it like, working as a mermaid? Can you tell me about some of the events you’ve done?
It is THE most satisfying job I could have ever fathomed. I can’t express to you in words the way if feels when a child’s face lights up at seeing a real live mermaid, and getting to talk to her and swim with her. It’s simply incredible. Right now, all I’ve done are private kid’s parties, but I’m not complaining. I get to play mermaid games with the kids (like Fish, Fish, Mermaid and Diving for Treasure), and I crown the birthday girl with a handmade tiara of seashells making her an honorary mermaid. I’m working on making an appearance in the fountain in front of my local movie theater for the premier of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, plus I’ve already been booked for two private parties in June and I’m planning a graduation trip to Jamaica for a week.

How has mermaiding affected your regular life?
It’s changed it completely (for the better though). At first, some of my ‘closest’ friends ridiculed me and stopped talking to me completely because they thought I was a nut. My real friends, however, stayed by my side and really supported me, especially when the news spread to the rest of the school. I was teased, taunted, all of the above, but I never let it get to me. The torments by my fellow students did dwindle though and people started to encourage me. The school newspaper did an article on me and I even got my own page in that year’s yearbook! It was pretty exciting for me. Today, I still get the occasional insult at school and on YouTube the hateful comments never cease, but like I said I haven’t ever let that slow me down. If anything, being a mermaid has raised my self-esteem to a level I had never had before. I’m not saying it’s made me cocky, just that I’m much more able to stand up for myself in a tasteful way and I don’t let what other people say/do bring me down, which is something that I’ve struggled to achieve my whole life.

How do people respond to you when you’re in your tail?
In a couple of different ways. Mostly, it’s your typical “Omg, there’s a mermaid!” that I get from the kids and at lot more adults then you would think, which I LOVE. I love giving that mystical moment to them. Occasionally while I’m at the local pool I get a “Where did you get that tail?” from the older kids and teens who know it’s not real. If there aren’t any little children around, I tell them about the How to make a swimmable mermaid tail video by Sasha and about Mermagica.com. Then on very rare occasions, I get a hater who thinks it’s fun to ruin the magic for the little kids. I’ve only had it happen once and I was able to convince the kids that he was in denial, but it was close. I’ll never be able to understand why some people feel the need to take that magical moment away from children. It just baffles me.

I understand you appear as the little mermaid and as the tropical mermaid. Can you tell me about these two characters?
Yes :) The Little Mermaid is obviously based off Disney’s Ariel. That’s my big kids party character and I love it. I’ll sing them a song or two from the movie and do my best to mimic her bubbly personality. The Tropical Mermaid, on the other fin (hahaha), is my mermaid persona. She’s got a very positive outlook, is quite energetic, loves to talk to children and teach them all about her world, and is a little flirtatious when she’s not around kids. She also loves to raise awareness about what humans are doing that hurt her and her friends in the water. She wants to teach children how to care for the oceans, lakes, and rivers so that they’ll still be there for centuries to come.

Where is Lake Murray? What does it mean to you to be the Lake Murray Mermaid? Are lake mermaids different from ocean ones?
Lake Murray is a man-made lake located near Columbia, South Carolina, and to be the Lake Murray Mermaid means the world to me. Its a great responsibility for me because I feel a duty to protect it from harm and to let people know how to prevent damage from being done. Lake Murray is a huge part of the culture here and everyone loves to enjoy it. It would be a shame if the aquatic life in it were to be destroyed. I don’t believe that lake mermaids are much different from ocean mermaids. The problems they face in their homes may be a bit a different, but we’re all after the same goal: To protect and heal our waters. We’re all mersisters at heart, whether we’re from fresh or saltwater. :)

I know you have some mixed feelings about mermaids’ growing popularity. Can you talk about this?
It’s complicated. I love that mermaid’s are growing in popularity because one: it’s great for business, two: its a great for true aspiring mermaids/mermen who have been afraid to dawn a tail, and three: it’s a great way to raise awareness about our fragile water systems. The only thing that unnerves me is that I think people will start becoming mermaids just because it’s popular, which will drown out the true mermaids who actually care about the responsibilities a mermaid has. One thing I can’t stand are people who do something or say something just because its cool and not because it truly expresses themselves. It just bothers a part of me deep down inside and it’s sad. They should go after they truly care about, not ‘what’s hot’ at the time.

What message are mermaids trying to send to the rest of us?
Quite a few I’d say. One of the main ones are that people need to start realizing what their doing/what damage has already been done to the oceans, lakes and rivers. Did you know that everyday things like fertilizers for your lawn can harm aquatic ecosystems near you? After rain, the chemicals in the fertilizers combine with the water and runoff into the waterways. When it makes its was into a river, lake, pond, etc., it can cause eutrophication (the formation of algae blooms) that literally suffocate and destroy the ecosystem by sucking up all the oxygen in the water. Not cool.

I think that mermaids are also trying to say that you should be true to yourself. Being a mermaid isn’t for everyone,but neither is being a doctor or a pilot or a construction worker. Do something with your life that you love doing and that will further individualize you as a person. I strongly believe that if every person did that, the world would be a better place. Not to mention, people would be so much happier with the life they were living! It’s so sad that people are put down for expressing themselves if it’s not considered ‘normal’. I know that if you do what you love anyway, everything other people say just won’t have an effect on you.

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Try swimming in a monofin before you put on a tail. It’ll help you get the motion down and get used to your legs being tied together. On that note, NEVER swim alone when you’re in a tail or even in a monofin. People have drowned before doing this. Practice increasing your breath hold on LAND while you are lying down and never practice in the water. Its very dangerous. When you are ready to get a tail, make sure you don’t copy someone’s design or even mimic it. Be creative and make a statement! Your tail reflects you and it should set you apart from all the other mermaids out there. After you go swimming, always put a drop or two of rubbing alcohol in your ears!! I am currently roughing out the consequences of not doing this (it’s called a bad case of Swimmer’s Ear aka very very VERY painful). The alcohol will evaporate any water in your ears after a swim (p.s. don’t use q-tips either). Lastly, educate yourself on the issues about the oceans and other bodies of water. Its a good thing to be aware of as a mermaid because trust me, you will be asked about it at some point. I believe that’s all I have to offer on that subject other than to research other mermaids and learn our ways. Best of luck and happy splashes. :)

Pin-Up Artist Krysztof Nemeth Talks Mermaids

24 Jun

So debonair pin-up artist Krysztof Nemeth has a penchant for mermaids, as most debonair pin-up artists and in fact most people living in the world at large do, and so I asked him about mermaidliness generally. Krysztof has done pin-ups of all kinds, though, including pirates and roller derby girls and lady devils and librarians and nurses and witches and really, you name it. He has even done a pin-up of a mermaid authoress!

And you can buy all kinds of pin-up-py products at his online store.

AND, in addition to doing amazing pin-up art, Krysztof also put together (and plays the guitar in, and writes songs for) the exceptionally cool electro-noir-lounge Kansas City band The Latenight Callers, who just came out with this very awesome noir video. Please watch it immediately:
 


 
I know. I saw the band when I was in Kansas City a few months ago, and was blown away.
 
Here’s our mermaidly Q and A:

What is your attitude toward mermaids? And where do you feel that mermaids fit into the general pin-up panoply?
I adore Mermaids! I’ve drawn quite a few, actually; one of my most famous was for the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, in fact! I’d like to think that Mermaids are wonderful material for pin-up interpretation; as have many pin-up and fantasy artists before me. In fact, my next mermaid pin-up is going to be a totally bad-ass Pirate Mermaid! Yar!

Do you feel differently when drawing a mermaid than when drawing a regular human?
I do, actually! Probably my favorite thing to draw on a pin-up are legs and feet…parts that are decidedly NOT on a Mermaid. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t find the same kind of sensuality in the lines, curves, and delightful lower-half of these sultry sea-babes!

Can you explain to me what a Mermatrix is?
Ah, yes, The Mermatrix. The Mermatrix is a drawing I did a few years ago for an art show in Seattle. Her mythology (yes, every girl I draw has a fabulous back-story) is that she’s a naughty Daughter of Neptune who has a shiny, black tail, a starfish brazier, octopi holding her ponytails, and a severe Trident she uses to inflict her own brand of Deep Sea Sadism! I think she was actually last seen in the North Atlantic, utilizing a German U-Boat as her leviathanic lair…

What is the special allure and power of the Mermatrix, and does she differ from your average mermaid?
I think she appeals to the bad-boy sailor in all of us…perhaps the antithesis of the almost faerie-like enchantment of what most people think Mermaids to be. She’s definitely a representation of the fierceness, the unrelenting power of the sea…yet surely shares with her (nicer) sisters the magical power of ultimate unattainablity… and that’s definitely a huge source of her power!

Do you have any advice for aspiring mermatrices—and/or mermaids?
Oh, I’m not sure I could give any advice, knowing that I’m certainly one of those captivated travelers who would search for glimpses of these elusive creatures, from the tops of tall masts or the portholes of iron giants…but I certainly can ask for them to be what they are to the fullest, for this world needs that kind of magic.

Mermaid Photographer Susan Knight

23 Jun

So Susan Knight is a Hawaii-based photographer who specializes in ocean/underwater/mermaid photography, and she will even be the official photographer at the first annual MerCon/World Mermaid Awards this August in Las Vegas. Yours truly shall be in attendance (and on a panel or two) and you should obviously come, too. She will even be booking private underwater portrait sessions before and after the convention, and you can pre-book an appointment with her on her website. (Plus this fall she will be travelling on the mainland, doing mermaid portraits, with dates tba). Susan is also the photographer who famously caught mermaids reading books in the wild.

AND she has filmic evidence of their existence:
 

 
Here is some more of her photography, featuring Doreen Virtue (of Obsidian) and Dana Mermaid and some mysterious, nameless creatures of the sea:

Aren’t they lovely? Here is our Q AND A:

So how long have you been photographing mermaids and other underwater creatures?
I have been interested in water and the beauty of water for as long as I can remember. Even as a young girl in swim lessons. My photography has developed from a hobby began 20 years ago. The last 5 years has been about learning to do it under water. That is when I moved to Hawaii. This year, it seems the Mermaids are really showing themselves and if you spend as much time in the water as I do, you get to spend time with Mermaids too!

How did you start?
My venture into under water photography actually began with the gift of a small camera and an underwater housing from my husband who is also a photographer. I still remember the day he first showed me how to manipulate the camera settings manually. Each image was unique and vibrant. Then he asked “Now, don’t you feel like an artist?” And I did! It was an incredible epiphany. I also make artwork in Photoshop which is a very creative and fulfilling process for me. All my artwork begins with a photograph.

Can you tell me about some of your more interesting experiences?
Three examples come to mind.

I love exploring the coastline here. There are the most incredible sea caves and lava tubes. Some are quite deep and you can SCUBA and free dive back into them to explore. In the winter, the waves here can be huge. The swell was so crazy one particular day and the surge was pushing us back and forth in the cave. That is when I came upon a rare and exciting find. This image is in my “Mermaids for the World” Gallery, which raises money for ocean and kids charities. It is Dana Mermaid, the super smart local Mermaid that reads your books!

Whalesharks are my favorite and another rarity here. I have been incredibly lucky to swim with several. To me, they are the biggest Mermaids. The largest fish in the world with no teeth and the most amazing gentle manner. So much so that while I am photographing them, they will slowly move their huge tail to carefully steer around me. This one was about 25 ft long and stayed around for 45 minutes before disappearing into the deep.

One other time while doing a photoshoot, a pod of Hawaiian spinner dolphins swam around us and this one looked back at me with a knowing eye. I had just been hugged by a pod of dolphins. It was amazing.

How would you compare photographing mermaids to photographing regular humans?

As a photographer, my job is to capture the essence of the moment. We all have such amazing power and beauty inside of us. Many people are just disconnected from the water and are uncomfortable at first. For both regular type humans and Mermaids, connecting with them, being playful and encouraging is what makes the magic happen. Mermaids are especially sensitive and very aware of their bodies in the water. This is always a joy to capture on film. I just happen to be a Mermaid that loves my legs. I love to run. So I sometimes have my tail but mostly photograph other Mermaids and water folk wearing fins on my feet.

How would you explain the allure of mermaids?

They are deep and mysterious What’s not to love about them? They are connected to two worlds that are very different. Mermaids inspire us to be truly who we are. They bridge a perceived gap for land creatures back to the sea. I was amazed the day I learned this…there are places on earth with water and no life, but no where on this planet is there life without water. There is the same percentage of water in our bodies as there is ocean to land. It is who we are.

The sea nourishes and draws us to it. It is important to give back. I encourage all people to be mindful of our thoughts and actions. and send love to the sea. While it is important to be aware, acknowledge and take action on matters such as pollution and misuse, it is also important to focus on the beauty of the sea. To expand that consciousness. Then it becomes more and more of a reality. I believe there are more Mermaids showing themselves to bring us this important message. I appreciate all Mermaids. We have an unbounded love for the sea and all her creatures.

Do you have any advice for mermaid models?
Being comfortable in the water is very important. Having a deep love and connection with the water and within yourself is also key. That is the energy that the camera picks up. The lens loves passion, love, joy and excitement. Those things express to help create beautiful, timeless images. Images, which in turn inspire, and connect us all to water and to the ocean.

Also, be aware that special training is recommended. Take a freediving course. Learn the capabilities and physiology of the human body and your own body. Respect that. I recently took my second free diving class with two of my regular Mermaid playmates, so we can all be safe and have fun while we are creating. It has actually made a huge difference in the images we are now producing. We swim with dolphins, manta rays, fish and other large animals.

Any advice for other photographers trying to capture mermaids on film?
Yes. Patience. Go into the underwater world with respect and awe and you will find respect and awe. Be aware that how you are, your energy, reflects all around you. I often meditate before I swim. When I am laughing and silly and enjoying myself, that is when the dolphins come. That is when the Mermaids are most playful.

Sarah Porter’s Lost Voices

22 Jun

So recently USA Today did an article on mermaids surfacing as the next big thing and the recent “school of mermaid novels” being released. Among them is Sarah Porter‘s debut novel Lost Voices, which comes out July 4th and is the first in a trilogy of mermaid tales. It has one gorgeous cover featuring mermaid Malena Sharkey, whose interview you shall read here shortly, and the premise sounds awesome and spooky. I met Sarah the other night, and she was charming and cool and quirky and lives in Brooklyn with her husband. Below is her awesome book trailer, followed by our Q and A.
 
 

So can you tell me the basic premise of Lost Voices?
Well, the idea is that girls who are orphaned, abandoned, or abused—broken in some way—can renounce their humanity in a moment of despair. If they make that choice, they turn into mermaids. The mermaids sink ships in vengeance against the human world that hurt and rejected them. But Luce, the heroine, finds that even though she loves being a mermaid she can’t quite come to terms with murdering helpless people. On the other hand, she’s been terribly alone, and she’s deeply grateful to the mermaids for offering her acceptance and love. She’s caught between her humanity and her new mermaid nature, and she has to make some extremely difficult choices.

What inspired this particular story?
There were different sources: a crazy mermaid story I wrote in graduate school, and another mermaid story I made up with a friend. But as for the key idea—that mermaids are the lost girls of the sea—I just knew that had to be the way things work.

I’ve taught a lot in junior high schools and high schools. It reminded me of what a struggle it is at that age to understand who we are, and what our own humanity means. Once you learn everything humans are capable of, then how can you accept that you’re one of them? The mermaids think they’ve escaped from their humanity, but it gradually becomes clear that in many essential ways they haven’t. They’re both human and not-human at the same time. I think a lot of smart, thoughtful teenagers feel something of that: they have a sense of being part of the world around them, but also partly outside it, fundamentally different from other people.

What attracted you to mermaids?
I love the image of a divided nature: human vs. other, visible vs. secret and subaquatic, everyday vs. magic. If you only saw a mermaid as she was rising to the surface, you could think she was a human girl. Her tail is like the secret side of her personality, her hidden self, or the unconscious mind. That’s why my mermaids can’t take their tails out of the water for more than a few seconds: it’s hard to see or reveal those hidden aspects of ourselves for long!

Have you always been attracted to mermaids?
I’ve always been attracted to mythological, semi-human creatures, but maybe not mermaids specifically until pretty recently.

Why did you decide to set the book(s) in Alaska?
The first two volumes are set in Alaska. By the third book, though, most of the action has moved down to San Francisco Bay and the surrounding area; that’s the part I’m working on now.

I guess I’m attracted to rough, northern landscapes in general. I wanted somewhere bleak and lonely and stormy, and I wanted the tribe Luce joins to be fairly small and isolated from the rest of mermaid society. She can only know what they tell her, and it’s impossible for her to guess if there could be any alternative ways of being a mermaid. It increases the drama of Luce’s position, because she can’t just go off and find another tribe twenty miles down the coast.

Why do you think mermaid books—and mermaids generally—are so popular right now?
I really don’t know why this is happening now. Mermaids do symbolize the divided aspects of human nature, but that’s hardly something new. But I hope the mermaid craze will encourage people to become more conscious of the oceans and all the ecological problems affecting them!

Do you have any favorite mermaid books/art/films, etc? Any that inspired you at all?
They aren’t exactly mermaids, but The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley works with some of the same ideas as Lost Voices, though in an extremely moralistic Victorian way. And “The Little Mermaid” by Andersen is a touchstone, of course, especially for the second book in the trilogy, Waking Storms. There are some wonderfully strange old Russian and Czech film versions of that story, too. And I love all the risqué mermaid illustrations from that old French magazine, La Vie Parisienne: mermaids smoking cigarettes under ice rinks, mermaids dodging missiles. You can find them online, but you probably shouldn’t if you’re under eighteen.

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
I honestly hope that none of your readers ever reach a place of such despair that they turn into mermaids—at least, into mermaids as I know them. But if you do become a mermaid, keep working on learning to master your voice, sing in your own way, and don’t forget that some of us on land still love you.

Bonus Post: “Mermaids of New York” Screening this very night!

16 Jun

I know, it is so much mermaidliness in one day your head is spinning.

Well, listen: filmmakers Lady Aye and Mica Scalin, whom I met with and interviewed some weeks back though I have still not transcribed said interview for your reading pleasure due to mermaid camps and general laziness (though a photo was captured of our glamorous mermaidly manicures on the night in question), are having a screening of their film THIS VERY NIGHT in Brooklyn. This film is called “Mermaids of New York” and started out as a documentary about the Coney Island Mermaid Parade and then evolved into larger portraits of some of the fascinating ladies involved. LIKE the before-mentioned Bambi, and the fabulous Dame Darcy. You can read more about the project here.

Tickets for the screening are available here. It will be held at Union Docs, at 322 Union Avenue at Maujer, in Brooklyn, tonight at 8pm.

Mica and Lady Aye will be screening the film at MerCon as well.

And here are two more of their upcoming events in New York:

On July 7, at 6:30pm, Mica and Lady Aye will be holding a Happy Hour Fundraiser (a fundraiser to get them to MerCon) at R-Bar, New York, NY

And on July 21, at 8pm they will be hosting the awesome panel Sirens and Society: Post-Modern Mermaidia at Observatory, in Brooklyn, NY.

And here, finally, is a lovely promo video for the film:

Isn’t it beautiful?

Soon I will become unlazy enough to feature a riveting interview with these ladies on this very blog, so just you wait.

Mwah!

Coney Island Mermaid Parade Founder Dick Zigun

16 Jun

So as I’m sure you realize, this Saturday is the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade, where thousands of people show up dressed like mermaids and parade through Coney Island. Some weeks ago I interviewed parade star Bambi the Mermaid, at which point I’m sure you began preparing your costume in earnest, if you hadn’t already. Yours truly shall be participating as a JUDGE, so please do not disappoint me. Thank you. After, there is a Mermaid Parade Ball in which, among other things, several mermaids, including Ms. Bambi, shall be swimming in the Coney Island Aquarium.

The founder of the parade, which began in 1983, is one Dick Zigun, who also marches in it every year. Our illuminating Q and A is below.

So how and when did the Mermaid Parade begin?
In 1983 I went to the local police precinct and community board and asked for permission to hold an annual traditional 4th of July parade in Coney Island and was turned down due to that day already having a large crowd… So I decided to create an all new parade celebrating the summer solstice. As soon as we made up the name Mermaid Parade, even before the first parade took place, people were entertained and laughing since mermaids don’t have feet and can’t walk

Why mermaids?
I have an MFA from Yale School of Drama and very aware of mythology and various African and world culture celebrations of water gods around summer solstice. Also streets in Coney are named Mermaid and Neptune, and I did research into early events at Atlantic City and Coney around the turn of the century and found that mermaid costumes were popular.

How have you watched the parade grow and change over the years?
The Mermaid Parade has now surpassed 4th of July as number one business day and attendance day during the entire Coney Island season. I’m proud that many people who attend have no idea it is an event produced by a small non-profit… and I’m proud to have created an actual New York City holiday.

Why do you think it’s been so successful?
Because I am a serious artist who invents serious annual events and performing opportunities like the parade, our sideshow, and the neo burlesque movements that allow other artists to act out within a creative structure. The parade teaches mythology to local kids who live on Mermaid and Neptune avenues… It provides self esteem for people who work at Coney Island amusements and attractions and provides opportunities for NYC’s substantial arts community.

How can, and how do, people participate in the parade?

They register online at coneyisland.com and can compete as Best Mermaid, Best Neptune, Best Marching Group, and Best Homemade Float.

Do you yourself get dressed up and participate?
For 29 years I have led the parade dressed as The Mayor of Coney Island in an antique one piece wool bathing suit and a top hat, and wearing and banging my own large bass drum.

Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, fat or skinny, beautiful or ugly… If you have a fish tail, you are a mermaid!

Mermaid Camp at Weeki Wachee

16 Jun

So this weekend I attended MERMAID CAMP at Weeki Wachee, and I wrote the following extremely informative article about the experience, which you should obviously read immediately:

*Last Weekend I Went to Mermaid Camp*

Because I am very generous, I am including some extra photos here:

Here are all us campers in mermaid garb:

And one of me in a rather odd yet deeply glamorous mermaid pose:

And here are us campers and former mermaids after a day of swimming with a manatee:

And my hostess, Weeki Wachee artist-in-residence Julie Komenda:

And here is camper Jaclyn with our manatee best friend:

Also, a couple days after camp Ms. Barbara Wynns took me out to Three Sisters Spring in Crystal River for more mermaidliness and manatees. Here’s a shot of the two of us under water:

And here is me trying to pose in a semi-elegant manner and also not drown:

The end.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 683 other followers

%d bloggers like this: