On mermaids

No, I haven’t seen any lately. As a medievalist I am painfully aware that the people I study and write about had mermaid issues. The medieval world was full of creatures that have long since faded into extinction. Unicorns, you don’t see as many unicorns as you used to either, but mermaids have pretty much faded from the collective consciousness of mankind, except for sailors and other seafaring types. The mermaid, a half-female, half-fish, is a hybrid creature that arises directly out of the subconscious of unruly minds and over-active imaginations. I think. Sailors have spotted them across the globe, resting on the rocks of faraway wild lands into which civilization had not yet crept. Hybrid creatures, though not too uncommon–the platypus and the bat, for example–are not what most people expect. The griffin, the centaur or the minotaur are three hybrid species which are both misunderstood and feared and are often difficult to find these days. Mermaids are problematic in the sense that they seem to provoke desire in the sailors viewing them. The male gaze goes berserk, runs amok, you might say with sexual desire while viewing these creatures. Freud would probably say that mermaids don’t exist at all and are only the product of an overactive imagination and a repressed libido. Although the rational empiricist might buy such drivel, I think mermaids should be shown the benefit of the doubt about their very existence. That they should flee from civilization should come as no surprise. Outsiders would just try to capture them and either enslave them or put them on display. Capitalism just works that way. That they should be shy and retiring should also come as no surprise since they often have to deal with half-crazed out-of-control sailors who are probably in danger sailing too close to the rocks to see the mermaids. Mermaids turn out to be their own kind of hazard–attractive, but dangerous. Ships don’t sail very well unless they have water under their keel, not nasty rocks or dangerous reefs. The existence of mermaids suggests the existence of mermen as well, but neither artists nor scientists have dealt with this obvious problem. I have nothing to say about merchildren, perhaps they only ever come ashore when they are adults. There have been many documentaries made about mermaids, and the mythology concerning mermaids and their desire to have legs is well-known. The obvious clothing-optional issues of merpeople present serious problems for filming or photographing these beings, unless shells and hair are strategically placed to prevent Victorian repressions from being provoked or assaulted. If you see a mermaid on any of your future voyages, you would be well-advised to keep sailing and leave well-enough alone.

On mermaids

No, I haven’t seen any lately. As a medievalist I am painfully aware that the people I study and write about had mermaid issues. The medieval world was full of creatures that have long since faded into extinction. Unicorns, you don’t see as many unicorns as you used to either, but mermaids have pretty much faded from the collective consciousness of mankind, except for sailors and other seafaring types. The mermaid, a half-female, half-fish, is a hybrid creature that arises directly out of the subconscious of unruly minds and over-active imaginations. I think. Sailors have spotted them across the globe, resting on the rocks of faraway wild lands into which civilization had not yet crept. Hybrid creatures, though not too uncommon–the platypus and the bat, for example–are not what most people expect. The griffin, the centaur or the minotaur are three hybrid species which are both misunderstood and feared and are often difficult to find these days. Mermaids are problematic in the sense that they seem to provoke desire in the sailors viewing them. The male gaze goes berserk, runs amok, you might say with sexual desire while viewing these creatures. Freud would probably say that mermaids don’t exist at all and are only the product of an overactive imagination and a repressed libido. Although the rational empiricist might buy such drivel, I think mermaids should be shown the benefit of the doubt about their very existence. That they should flee from civilization should come as no surprise. Outsiders would just try to capture them and either enslave them or put them on display. Capitalism just works that way. That they should be shy and retiring should also come as no surprise since they often have to deal with half-crazed out-of-control sailors who are probably in danger sailing too close to the rocks to see the mermaids. Mermaids turn out to be their own kind of hazard–attractive, but dangerous. Ships don’t sail very well unless they have water under their keel, not nasty rocks or dangerous reefs. The existence of mermaids suggests the existence of mermen as well, but neither artists nor scientists have dealt with this obvious problem. I have nothing to say about merchildren, perhaps they only ever come ashore when they are adults. There have been many documentaries made about mermaids, and the mythology concerning mermaids and their desire to have legs is well-known. The obvious clothing-optional issues of merpeople present serious problems for filming or photographing these beings, unless shells and hair are strategically placed to prevent Victorian repressions from being provoked or assaulted. If you see a mermaid on any of your future voyages, you would be well-advised to keep sailing and leave well-enough alone.

On Mae West

She was clearly ahead of her time. Mae West was a liberated woman who loved sex and didn’t give a damn who knew it. Unshackled by the bonds of matrimony (although officially married twice), she had as many boyfriends as she cared to have and was completely unapologetic about any of it. Feared by many, despised by some, men wanted to be with her (and so did a few women) and women secretly wanted to be like her. Her blond hair and hourglass figure were her luxurious trademarks, and she made no bones about being an actress or that her acting was any good. She was just herself and that was enough. What gave her freedom from the repressive American society out of which she grew was her debonaire attitude of sophisticated charm, her sexy double entendres, and that shape. She was an original and that is what made her special. She was unashamedly and unabashedly herself regardless to whom she was talking. Hounded by groups who would censor her act, she never feigned decency or politically correct behavior because she didn’t care what the world thought of her. She knew that men desired her open and blatant sexuality, and she also knew that women feared her independence and liberation from the shackles of a repressive society that normally did not allow her kind of lifestyle. She rejected the hypocrisy of puritanical America, shunned monogamy as anachronistic and limiting, had sex with whom she wanted. What is so remarkable about her as a person and an entertainer is her charismatic ability to charm, entice, seduce just about everyone in the room. She was dead sure of herself as a woman, and she wasn’t going to let anyone around her forget who was in charge. The Hayes Bureau tried, often, to censor both her language and actions, and they often succeeded, but having watched her movies, I realize that it was her personae as the independent, liberated, sexual being that they could not contain, hold or censor. Her famous tag line, “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime” is loaded with sexual innuendo and bravado: she is the sexually active predator looking for some new action. This is her pick-up line. She says, “Honey, when I’m good, I’m good, but when I’m bad, I’m very good.” Implicit in her double entendre is a flawless reference to her own raw sexuality. When a young lady sees Mae for the first time, she exclaims, “Goodness,” to which Mae responds, “Darling, goodness had nothing to do with it.” The liberated sexuality of Mae West lies in stark contrast to the repressed Victorianism of the early Thirties that was just recovering from flappers and the wide-open partying of the Roaring Twenties. No one could contain Mae West, and she could steal a scene from heavyweights such as W. C. Fields or Cary Grant simply because she was so outrageously open about who she was. Contemporary performers such as Madonna or Cher could only wish they had the energy of this all-star diva.

On Mae West

She was clearly ahead of her time. Mae West was a liberated woman who loved sex and didn’t give a damn who knew it. Unshackled by the bonds of matrimony (although officially married twice), she had as many boyfriends as she cared to have and was completely unapologetic about any of it. Feared by many, despised by some, men wanted to be with her (and so did a few women) and women secretly wanted to be like her. Her blond hair and hourglass figure were her luxurious trademarks, and she made no bones about being an actress or that her acting was any good. She was just herself and that was enough. What gave her freedom from the repressive American society out of which she grew was her debonaire attitude of sophisticated charm, her sexy double entendres, and that shape. She was an original and that is what made her special. She was unashamedly and unabashedly herself regardless to whom she was talking. Hounded by groups who would censor her act, she never feigned decency or politically correct behavior because she didn’t care what the world thought of her. She knew that men desired her open and blatant sexuality, and she also knew that women feared her independence and liberation from the shackles of a repressive society that normally did not allow her kind of lifestyle. She rejected the hypocrisy of puritanical America, shunned monogamy as anachronistic and limiting, had sex with whom she wanted. What is so remarkable about her as a person and an entertainer is her charismatic ability to charm, entice, seduce just about everyone in the room. She was dead sure of herself as a woman, and she wasn’t going to let anyone around her forget who was in charge. The Hayes Bureau tried, often, to censor both her language and actions, and they often succeeded, but having watched her movies, I realize that it was her personae as the independent, liberated, sexual being that they could not contain, hold or censor. Her famous tag line, “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime” is loaded with sexual innuendo and bravado: she is the sexually active predator looking for some new action. This is her pick-up line. She says, “Honey, when I’m good, I’m good, but when I’m bad, I’m very good.” Implicit in her double entendre is a flawless reference to her own raw sexuality. When a young lady sees Mae for the first time, she exclaims, “Goodness,” to which Mae responds, “Darling, goodness had nothing to do with it.” The liberated sexuality of Mae West lies in stark contrast to the repressed Victorianism of the early Thirties that was just recovering from flappers and the wide-open partying of the Roaring Twenties. No one could contain Mae West, and she could steal a scene from heavyweights such as W. C. Fields or Cary Grant simply because she was so outrageously open about who she was. Contemporary performers such as Madonna or Cher could only wish they had the energy of this all-star diva.

On towels

It is generally considered a good thing to pack a towel if you are traveling. At least, that’s what the thirty-second edition (inter-galactic edition, Buenos Aires, 2077) of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy suggests. Besides its general use for drying off after a shower, a towel can come in handy on inter-stellar flights with cold air-conditioning when you want to nap and your seat mate has taken the blankets. Folded, it makes a nice pillow. It can also be used as a matador’s cape if you find yourself alone and in a ring with a raging bull. If you can’t extricate yourself by running away, a towel is a nifty distraction for the bull to play with while you decide to run. Many travelers use their towel to wrap important or expensive bottles of non-standard beverages that they cannot get onto an airplane and must pack in a suitcase. Smaller items such as children, dogs, and ornamental statuary may also be wrapped in the towel for shipping. In case no napkins are provided, a towel can come in handy while eating lobster or brisket, depending on where you like to lunch. Of course, one never knows when one might be invited to the beach, and a towel is always handy at the beach. If you get invited to a friend’s house, you can always use your towel to dry the dishes after dinner. Towels have been used to wrap around the torso when one has been surprised in flagrante delicto doing something one should not do, especially if that something involves nakedness. Towels are often given as gifts when nothing better is at hand, but one should always make plans to replace a gifted towel. Towels make impromptu blankets for picnicking, although Terrellian fire ants should never be ignored. Ripped, torn or stain towels need to be cleaned, mended or replaced. You never want to get caught with your towel down. Towels have been seen being hoisted into place to catch a little wind by errant sailors who are down on their luck. A strange towel is always a great conversation starter or possible hook up line. If the hook up works, the towel will then have other applications as well. Never forget your towel after you are done and never leave a towel behind, which may or may not depend on how quickly you are leaving. Do not let bartenders use your towel to dry the bar. Although beer won’t stain your towel, it does leave a tell-tale smell. I carry an extra-full sized giant terry cloth towel because you never know what you might need to cover up.