Archive | September, 2012

Hannah Fraser, Ivan Landau, and Sigur Ros

14 Sep

So Icelandic band Sigur Ros is holding a mystery film experiment contest, inviting film makers and video directors to create an original video for one of the tracks from their new album Valtari. I happen to love Sigur Ros, their haunting sad strange otherworldly music that is, among other things, used so beautifully and wrenchingly at the end of one of my favorite films of all time, Mysterious Skin (see the ending here, tho really you should just go watch the whole film, not to mention read the amazing book by Scott Heim [tho prepare to be completely heartbroken, in the best way]). They’re also really wonderful live, and when I saw them several years back were almost completely in shadow the whole time.

Anyway, you can imagine that such a contest has inspired some gorgeous work, and it so happens that filmmaker Ivan Landau’s entry in said contest stars none other than mermaid extraordinaire Hannah Fraser, both above and below the water. The video itself and the images that have emerged from it are just unbelievably stunning. Look:

And here’s the amazing video itself:

Sigur Rós “Dauðalogn” [Mystery Film Experiment Submission] from Ivan Landau on Vimeo.

Obviously, you should vote for this film immediately, or at least at some point over the next four days before voting ends [the winner of this online vote will become an official selection in Sigur Ros's Valtari Mystery Film Experiment, one of them being that cool one one with Shia Labeouf you might have seen before]. You can vote here.

And, finally, here’s what Hannah had to say about the experience: “The video was an incredible experience of working with such a talented crew and such a beautiful melting pot of play meets art meets work with a creative purpose.”

Now go vote, on behalf of mermaids everywhere!

Canadian Mermaid Marie, International Mermaid Queen

12 Sep

So you’ve probably been wondering who the new International Mermaid Queen is since Weeki Wachee’s Kylee Troche can’t be it forever… or can she? Anyway, a new queen was in fact crowned at MerPalooza last month. Her name is Canadian Mermaid Marie, and she is amongst other things magical and French-speaking and gorgeous and FORTY-ONE years old, which just so happens to be the age of yours truly. Ahem. So she is obviously very deeply inspiring.

Photo by Gabriel Cadieux

Not to mention she wears very cool make-up and is, like many mermaids, a passionate ocean defender.

Our glamorously scintillating Q and A follows.

So Marie, when did you become a mermaid?
I was very little when we first moved to the suburbs and got our first pool. I already knew how to swim but, just for safety, I was registered to swim classes. Back in the 70’s in Quebec we didn’t have certifications; we had badges. So I got my very first swim badge when I was 6 years old. That was also the year they aired TV series version of the Japanese anime Marina the little mermaid, and that was it. I wanted to swim like a mermaid so badly that I started tying my legs with a skipping rope and practiced swimming like a dolphin in the pool. I’d practice holding my breath until I was on the verge of fainting. By the time I was 12, I could hold my breath for 4:30 minutes. But it wasn’t until the movie Splash came out in 1984 that this became a palpable reality for me, that movie really brought all the magic to life.

Photo by Gabriel Cadieux

When did you start mermaiding professionally?
It’s been 14 years now. It all started with photography, and later digital imaging, which was part of my job being a photographer back then. And then, after making several tails for photography purposes, being also a professional costumer, I discovered that I was a big hit with the kids on the waterfront and at the beach, hehe! So I decided to grab that opportunity to bring environmental awareness to the children and to my community.

What’s it like being a mermaid in Canada? Do you live near the ocean?
Unfortunately no, I don’t live near the ocean, and this pains me every day. The St. Lawrence river is right at the end of my street however and I live about an hour away from the Champlain lake. I cover mostly private events as there are very few aquariums and theme parks around here and they don’t hire mermaids. I love to teach so I use the mermaid approach to make learning entertaining for kids and adults.

Photo by Denis Bussiere

Can you tell me about some of the most memorable jobs you’ve done?
I think the most memorable gig I did was the very first time I wore a mermaid tail for a photo shoot. As I was sitting there posing, I heard in the far distance on the hill above me the hysterical screams of a little girl saying “MOM, MOM, LOOK!! IT’S A MERMAID MOM, A REALLY REAL MERMAID” …I though my heart was going to melt, it touched me so much that I cried and I’m crying right now, just as I do every single time that I recall that day or any other day that this happens. Having the power to bring magic in the life of children is a true gift and I treasure every single moment that I’m permitted to do so.

You were just crowned International Mermaid Queen at MerPalooza. How was that experience?
A dream come true is all that I can say. I was one of the oldest mermaids on stage that day and as far as I know, the only foreign one too. I went there for fun and to have the honor of meeting some famous mermaids, merfolk and tail makers. I expected to be entered in a 40+ category or something along those lines; I never thought in a million years that I’d be crowned as Queen all together. I was incredibly moved and particularly touched by all the kind words and letters I received afterwards.

Photo by Gabriel Cadieux

How was your experience at MerPalooza generally? Had you ever been part of a large mermaid gathering before?
I had organized a photo shoot with several mermaids locally in the past but none of them were professional mermaid entertainers aside from me. I was extremely sad to have missed MerCon the previous year because I found out about it too late to plan for the trip so, when I heard this event was taking place this year, there was no way I was gonna miss it!

I was told the event had to change location at the last minute so considering that fact, I think the organizers did a wonderful job at putting everything together. I was incredibly grateful that I was able to make the trip and bring with me my son, as well as my childhood friend with whom I daydreamed about mermaids and mermaiding in our pool as a very small child.

You recently swam with MeduSirena at the Wreck Bar. How did that happen?
I was in the Fort Lauderdale area in April and I stopped by to say hello and to see one of her shows. I had been meaning to go there most of my life but it had always been impossible up ’til then. They always invite a visitor for a little dip as part of the show so, since she knew who I was, it ended up being me that night. It was a silly clownish parody of sorts where I had a shell top and pants on and pretended to be a “mermaid wanna-be” from the aquaticats and she acted totally puzzled that I was pretending to steal the show. It was just a silly little gig, lots of fun though! Marina’s such a funny lady, a total sweetie. For me, having the chance to swim at the Wreck Bar and being part of the show was a dream come true, event if it wasn’t really as a mermaid per se. :))

Marie and MeduSirena at the Wreck Bar

What is it that draws you to mermaids and the ocean?
My love of history and mythology is what has always drawn me to mermaids. I think it’s the mystery and sense of freedom they represent that has always made me be one of them. I was 7 years old the first time I saw the ocean. I remember sitting there in awe before that beautiful immensity and thinking that I wanted it to be my home. I dream of being able to buy a sailboat someday and move to the sea permanently. I’m also a shark lover and defender; I’ve made it my mission to save them from extinction, one shark at a time. I militate every single day and fight for their protection. One day I hope that I can join some of my friends that are professional shark divers for a shark dive, it’s one of my fondest dreams.

Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Yes. Don’t do it just because it’s trendy, put your heart into it and bring something positive to the planet while doing it. Don’t just be a copycat, be innovative, graceful and unique. Also, take some swimming lessons before thinking of putting on a tail. There are so many amateur mermaids out there right now that it’s already starting to bring up safety issues to some beaches and public pools, penalizing us professional entertainers from wearing our tails at those locations and greatly affecting our work and mission altogether. Practice, practice and practice some more at the pool before attempting to swim through water currents or anywhere else. Don’t go in lakes or in the ocean with your tail if you’re not a qualified swimmer. And most of all, NEVER swim alone. I’m 41 years old, I’m a professional swimmer, I do underwater ballet and underwater photography, and still, I never swim alone. My fluke once got tangled in weeds and I would have drowned regardless of how good a swimmer I am if I had been by myself!

Photo by Denis Bussiere


Brenda Peterson’s The Drowning World

4 Sep

So Brenda Peterson is a very accomplished and fancy National Geographic (and otherwise) writer who’s written 17 books, most of them having to do with the natural and usually aquatic world and even with cool oceanic characters like the gray whale and the dolphin and, more recently, the glamorous, shimmering mermaid. In fact Brenda has a spanking-new mermaid novel called The Drowning World, which comes out this month and also has one day left of a Kickstarter campaign, the supporting of which will get you perks like a signed book, a character named after you (in the sequel), or even a manuscript critique for all you aspiring mermaid authors. Here’s a preview of the first two chapters. Brenda also attended MerPalooza and wrote about it for The Huffington Post, generously advising regular humans everywhere on how to attain mermaidly allure.

Below, I talk to Brenda about The Drowning World, sea creatures in need, and fancy author things generally.

What made you decide to write about mermaids?
My fourth novel, the environmental thriller Animal Heart, was reviewed by a book critic from Library Journal who wrote, “one can hardly imagine a more heartfelt work or a more unusual love story than this one.” Hmmmm, I thought, “unusual love story.”

What would be more unusual than two people from an underwater cosmos and our world trying to find love together? Mermaid and human. Every taboo or prejudice that we experience in inter-racial or interfaith love would be magnified. My own decades studying dolphins had left me feeling half-human, so why not explore this hybrid or mixed relationships in a love story? The Drowning World is set both in Aquantis, an underwater advanced civilization of merpeople, and in a future Florida, called SkyeWorld, circa 2020 and 2030. Marina, a highly trained mermaid, is on her first spy mission to SkyeWorld. On the beach she meets Lukas, a proud Cuban refugee who is helping his father rescue sea turtle eggs from an oil spill. Marina saves Lukas’s life with her magical skills, but can she save herself from a life-long nemesis from her own world?

So can you tell us a little about yourself and your books? What draws you to the oceans?
I’ve published 17 books—novels, memoirs, essays—and almost all of them have something to do with our blue planet’s underwater realms. In fact, I’ve drowned twice. Those near-death experiences left me with a profound devotion to our seas. “Maybe fathoms deep in the sea is where all the old and the new souls are dreaming and changing and being born again,” I conclude my 1990 essay “On Drowning” from Living by Water.

As a National Geographic author, I’ve also spent two decades underwater studying whales and dolphins. Cetaceans are my inspiration for The Drowning World because my merpeople are really half-dolphin and half-human. So there is a real animal nature and intelligence to my amphibious hybrids, called Aquantans. They are Shape Shifters and Go Betweens in many worlds. I’ve been working on building my underwater cosmos in The Drowning World since 2003. In fact, my address since email was first invented was always “Mermaid Ink.” Imagine my surprise and delight when suddenly all these mermaid books surface, just as I finally finish my own novel!

Can you talk about Seal Sitters and any other marine-related activism you’re involved in?
It’s never been enough for me to just be an artist. My five years in the editorial department of The New Yorker magazine when I was in my twenties taught me that “art for art’s” sake was not my path. I am grateful for the literary apprenticeship to writing from those New York years; but I knew I wanted to connect my work to the natural world. So I returned to my native West Coast and have lived in Seattle since 1981. My first memoir, Build Me an Ark: A Life with Animals, was my way of engaging with other animals as an activist-writer. So all of my journalism and non-fiction is always in service to something greater than art. I’ve lived on water for so long that the tides, birds, marine mammals, all seem a part of my own body.

My co-founding of the grassroots volunteer Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network began as just a few neighbors sitting on our backyard beach keeping watch over the seal pups while their mothers fished far out in the Salish Sea. Call it day care for Seal Pups. My first children’s book, Leopard and Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups, is just out from Henry Holt for Young Readers. [Here’s a link to an ABC News interview on Seal Sitters.]

You recently attended MerPalooza and wrote about it for the Huffington Post. What did you think? What kind of reaction have you gotten?
My brother lives in Tampa where this summer’s MerPalooza was held. So I had a perfect excuse to attend. When I told my literary agent, Sarah Jane Freymann, about the mermaid convention Sarah Jane said, “I’m there!” I call her my WaveMate because we travel on book tours together and always take time out to swim in the nearest ocean together. When my brother, and Sarah Jane and I attended Merpalooza we were amazed at the professional mermaids. Those elegant tail flukes and the commitment to marine conservation won me over. My Huffington Post article focused on Mermaid Enakai, a young mermaid who is devoted to shark conservation and also beautiful mermaid design. I also was very moved by Stephanie’s story of her grandmother, who ran away from home in the 1940s to become a real mermaid in the Weeki Wachee roadside shows.

Brenda encountering a mermaid at MerPalooza

Why do you think mermaids are so appealing to us, anyway?
Mermaids swim through all of our myths and folklore. Like you, Carolyn, I much prefer the powerful, sexy, soulful, and darkly complex mermaids that authors are creating for the 21st century. The psychologist C. G. Jung always asked, “Why this dream now?” So I wonder: Why this mermaid trend now?

Is it because we intuit that we are all bound for a MerWorld as seas rise and coastlines sink? Is mermaiding a way of adapting, first in our imaginations, before we finally face the facts of climate change? Maybe it’s simply time for women to make and reclaim their own mythology. We no longer believe the prince will save us or give us a soul. We realize that, like Venus rising from the sea, women must find our own destiny—even if it means running away from home.

Can you talk about The Drowning World, your Kickstarter.com campaign, and how people can join in/order the book?
I turned down a publisher’s offer for The Drowning World because I wanted complete artistic control—from cover design to choosing my own professional editors, some of whom worked with me on other traditionally published books. It’s a ton of editorial work but also an exhilarating experience to produce an indie book. I’m so grateful to my many Kickstarter bakers who are part of my Publishing Pod. They will receive special rewards this month, including signed copies of the book, characters named after them, having their name in my Acknowledgments, private Book Club visits via Skype or FaceTime. The book is now finished and at the e-book conversion lab and my designers for the paperback. Both editions are due out this month!

Anyone who wants to join our Kickstarter publishing project has until September 5th at 8 p.m. ET to back The Drowning World. We are already 103% fully funded but there is still time for more backers to dive in with us and swim with the Publishing Pod!

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