No song probably depicts the hardships and suffering of African-Americans as poignantly and as beautifully as ‘Ol’ Man River’. Jerome Kerr composed the song for the 1927 musical Show Boat with Oscar Hammerstein II as lyricist. Almost a century on, the words and the melody still resound in a society that has yet to really come to grips with racism.
Narcissism seems to be getting out of hand even in the staid world of shipping. Just visit LinkedIn, the professional networking website. The place is brimming with what one might describe as corporate selfies. A lecture delivered, a commendation received, an article published — it’s all a great opportunity for martiime folks, both the prominent and the obscure, to post pictures and sometimes videos of themselves.
Does the rest of the world give a hoot? Most probably not, but the posters think they have accomplished something important that has to be trumpeted.
Men who are obsessed with manliness can learn a lesson from tugboats. These mean little machines are capable of pulling ships and barges that are many times their size. They can navigate through narrow canals and shallow waters. Their power and adroitness more than make up for their relative lack of bulk. The best tugboat, however, is a wimp on the water without an experienced skipper at the helm. It all boils down to how one uses the power available.
To be brutally frank, most men have a constant need to validate themselves. They do so in a myriad of ways. Some may go into bodybuilding; engage in numerous casual sex affairs; or speak and act arrogantly. Others express their manliness in more subtle ways, such as driving around town in an expensive SUV or displaying their awards and trophies in their offices for visitors to admire..
It’s a kind of psychological weakness from which many a seafarer is not exempt. Indeed, the obsession with manliness is common in the still-male-dominated world of shipping. The following are some memorable quotes about this male phenomenon.
The short-changing of Filipino mariners on their remttances seems to be an incurable disease. Dishonest manning agents have been at it for decades. They convert the dollars to pesos at less than the prevailing foreign exchange rate. This means less money in monthly allotments for the families of seafarers. The total annual take for those with sticky fingers may well run to millions of dollars. The following are three ways to put a stop to the stealing, but each one, unfortunately, is not without problems.
Unless one is a polyglot, searching for the equivalent of ‘seafarer’ in different languages can be a daunting task. According to Ethnologue, the leading resource on world languages, there are 7,139 known living languages. Perhaps not all of them have names for ‘seafarer’, but even a partial list of such names would call to mind the biblical story of the Tower of Babel.
The French call a still life ‘nature morte’ — literally meaning ‘dead nature’. The term seems spot on. The British art institution Tate describes still life as “one of the principal genres (subject types) of Western art – essentially, the subject matter of a still life painting or sculpture is anything that does not move or is dead.” However, the word ‘dead’ hardly comes to mind when one comes face to face with a masterful still life.
The following paintings depicting fish and other seafood are fine examples. They celebrate the bounty of the sea and the infinite richness of nature. But more than a feast for the eye, these still lifes, hopefully, will remind the reader of the oft-oppressed fishermen who help feed humanity.
Shakespeare and all the other writers who said beauty fades spoke the obvious. Unless they are properly maintained, even beautiful lighthouses eventually fall victim to the ravages of time. But some old photographs of such structures, thankfully, are here to stay. The following pictures were all taken more than a century ago. Yet, they still retain the power to captivate and prompt the viewer to think about the beauty and splendour of lighthouses
It is heartening to see many people visiting Marine Café Blog for its repository of downloadable sea songs and shanties. I hope to add more musical files to the database. In the meantime, here’s a list of the most downloaded songs to date in ascending order (click on the song titles to play and download).
A torrent of words continues to swirl around seafarers’ rights. It’s a giant whirlwind that is constantly whipped up by the maritime unions and various NGOs. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has joined in with its own brand of rhetoric and sloganeering. Never mind if the issue of workers’ rights properly belongs to another UN agency, the International Labour Organization. Amid all the noise, one word hardly gets mentioned. Yet, in this single word can be found the path to a better treatment of seafarers.
All mariners, presumably, love their mothers. What kind of man does not? Even when one gets older, marries and has his own family, the emotional bond remains. Fond memories linger even after one’s mother has passed away. In a sense, the umbilical cord is never really cut. The following quotes are some of the most powerful on the subject of mothers and their capacity for making sacrifices and for loving selflessly and unconditionally.
I recently came across three lighthouse poems which should delight anyone who loves lighthouses. All were written by women. Does that really matter? Feminists and literary critics would probably say ‘No’. However, there is a difference between men and women in the way...
What gives rise to the exploitation of seafarers? Is it greed or lack of empathy? Is it 21st-century materialism? Is it the predatory infrastructure that has been built around the seafaring profession through so many maritime regulations? Surprisingly, the answer was provided by the Buddha more than 2,000 years ago.