Maritime charity in the Age of Selfies

Maritime charity in the Age of Selfies

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why maritime charity workers love to post selfies on social media. Can anyone imagine Mother Teresa carrying a selfie stick whilst ministering to the poorest of the poor in Calcutta?

I can understand that the maritime charities need to highlight their work and keep the donations coming. The problem is that some have made a habit out of plastering selfies on Facebook and Twitter. In the process, they are making it about themselves, not about the seafarers.

The photos typically show the do-gooding invidividual smiling together with seafarers on board their ship or handing out small gifts to the crew at the local seamen’s centre. It is all innocuous, but the charity workers would do well to cut down on the selfies.

There is too much narcissism (and self-centredness, too) in the 21st century. It is feeding on the popularity of social media platforms and advances in smartphone technology. Time to rein it in. Time to let Narcissus rest in peace.

~Barista Uno



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Immortal impressions: Claude Monet’s marine paintings

Immortal impressions: Claude Monet’s marine paintings

The art movement known as Impressionism produced many notable artists. The greatest of them all, I daresay, was Claude Monet (1840 – 1926). The founder of French Impressionism, Monet executed colour on canvas as a ballet dancer would perform on stage: with energy, precision and nimbleness. He is famous for his Water Lilies series, but his marine paintings are no less marvellous. Indeed, they mesmerise.


The giant of Impressionism

Countless pages have been devoted by art critics and art historians to Monet. The following video does not paint a complete picture of the artist and his life. However, it provides some interesting snippets about the man and his place in the history of Impressionist art.

A glimpse of Monet’s marine art

One can spend hours looking at the marine paintings of Monet. He created so many, and some are so captivating they can put the viewer in a kind of spell. I present here only a few works, all of which exemplify Monet’s mastery of colour and his ability to render light at different times of the day. Call them impressions by the artist, but they are impressions that leave a permanent mark.

The Thames below Westminster, 1871, by Claude Monet

The Port of Le Havre, Night Effect, 1873, by Claude Monet

The Havre, the trade bassin, 1874, by Claude Monet

The Pyramids, Cliffs at Belle-Ile, 1881, by Claude Monet

Sunset, Foggy Weather, Pourville, 1882, by Claude Monet

Charing Cross Bridge, 1899

~Barista Uno



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The impact of COVID-19 on seafarers’ rights

The impact of COVID-19 on seafarers’ rights

As the novel coronavirus marches on, the global shipping community is hailing seafarers as the “Unsung Heroes of Global Trade”. The slogan sounds nice but hollow. In fact, it is downright disingenuous.

How can the words ring true when thousands of seafarers have been stranded in foreign ports and harbours because of COVID-19? That the problem exists on such a scale shows how the maritime world really regards the men and women who toil at sea: they are commodities.

Some likely scenarios

The commodification of seafarers will not end after the pandemic has blown over. Anyone who thinks otherwise is hopelessly naive. Violations of seafarers’ rights, which had been rife long before COVID-19, could very well increase. The following scenerios in the short term are not hard to imagine, especially in poorer countries:

> The slump in shipping markets will lead to a scramble for shipboard jobs, fuelling corruption and such malpractices as the illegal exaction of fees from applicants.

> Cases of crew abandonment will increase rather than decline as more shipping operators face financial difficulties.

> As crew deployment dips, more manning agents will be tempted to steal from the dollar remittances of seafarers.

> Cutthroat competition amongst training centres will increase because of dwindling enrolments.

> Seafarers claiming for sickness or disability benefits will face more stonewalling from shipowners and their crewing agents.

For all the damage it has wrought, the pandemic has served as fertile ground for many acts of kindness, generosity and even heroism, It may, in the end, help humanise communities. One can only pray that it will have the same effect on those who deal with seafarers.

~Barista Uno



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10 ways seafarers can improve their English skills

10 ways seafarers can improve their English skills

Never mind Maritime English. That thing was invented so that more people can make money from seafarers. What is essential is that ship officers and crew are able to communicate in simple, clear and effective English.

Good English language skills not only contribute to shipboard safety and proper coordination between members of the crew. They can also boost a ship officer’s career. I have known successful doctors, chemists and ship officers who were not particularly bright or talented. Yet, they went far because they could express themselves in proper English.

I hope the following tips will help seafarers and others who wish to speak and write better English.


Avoid textspeak when texting (e.g., typing “cul8r” to mean “see you later”). You cannot hone your English skills by butchering the language in this manner.



Practise your English on Facebook. Post or comment in English, and do not limit yourself to your own nationality group and native language.



Stick to English when speaking in English. Do not mix English with words or phrases in your native language in the same sentence (Filipinos have this bad habit). This is no way to improve your command of English. It can also be annoying to your listener.



Watch English language films and TV talk shows. Pay attention to the dialogue and how words and phrases are spoken.



Install a dictionary on your smartphone. It comes in handy when you encounter a word you are not familiar with. Several dictionaries are available in Google App Store (I use the free version of the Oxford Dictionary)



Challenge yourself with crossword puzzles. It will help you expand your vocabulary and is a good way to beat boredom and loneliness.



Practise reading aloud a short paragraph and record your voice. This will give you a good idea of how you sound like when speaking to people.



Be conscious of how you pronounce words in English. Not pronouncing them correctly could result in your being misundertood or misinterpreted by others.



Watch your spelling and grammar.



Cultivate the habit of reading. Books and magazines help broaden your outlook and improve your English skills.

~Barista Uno



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The art of isolation in marine art

The art of isolation in marine art

The art of isolation in marine art

Freedom is the possibility of isolation. — Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

While humans by nature have a perpetual need for company, we all need to be alone sometimes. No, not the solitude of quarantine or imprisonment, but the solitariness born out of choice and free will. To be able to step back from the noisy crowd is to be free in the real sease of the word. As the following works of art show, there is something beautiful and almost sublime about this freedom.

Reading by the Shore, circa 1883-85
Charles Sprague Pearce (American, 1851–1914)
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Hawaiian Fisherman, 1916
Charles W. Bartlett (English, 1860–1940)
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Fisherman and Reeds, Album-Leaf Painting, 19th century
Unknown Chinese painter
Image source: Brooklyn Museum

Melancholy, 1911
Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863–1944)
Image source: Wikiart: Visual Art Encyclopedia

The Red Canoe, 1889
Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910)
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The seaside in Palavas, 1854
Gustave Courbet (French, 1819–1877)
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

~Barista Uno



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