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The wonder of water: A celebration in song and art

The wonder of water: A celebration in song and art

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water,” wrote W.H. Auden in his poem First Things First. This is such an obvious truth that one wonders why the seas are strewn with tonnes of plastic waste and rivers are polluted till they become dark and ugly. The following song and works of art are a tribute to life-giving andl life-sustaining water. They are a reminder as well that water is a precious resource that ought not to be taken for granted.

Original Spanish lyrics

by Alfredo Gonzalez Vilela

Agua limpia,
Agua clara,
Agua en el cielo y el mar,
Agua tu que vas corriendo
Y otra que tan quieta está.

Eres vida y eres muerte,
Según la forma en que vas,
A veces vas tan suave
Y otras vas en vendaval.

Una gota diminuta,
Infinitas en el mar,
Eres rica, pervivencia
De toda la humanidad.

Agua rica,
Agua pobre,
Encañada
O en libertad,
En el aire,
En el suelo,
Por debajo,
Por detrás,
Agua tú
Siempre presente
Sempiterna
Tú serás.

En desierto
O en vergel,
En el frío
O en calor,
Tan necesario
Elemento,
La base
De nuestro ser.

Puedes salvar una vida,
Haces crecer una flor,
Donde estás tú siempre hay vida,
Si faltas mucho dolor.

De una fuente cristalina
Cae un chorro de cristal,
Eres tu agua divina
Agua de mi manantial.

 (Poetic) English translation

by Marine Café Blog

Clean water,
Clear water,
Water in the sky and the sea,
Water you are running
And another how still she is.

You are life and you are death,
According to the way you go
Sometimes you go so gently
And other times you go in a gale.

A tiny drop,
Infinite in the sea,
You are rich, survival
Of all humanity.

Rich water,
Poor water,
In a ravine
Or in freedom
In the air,
On the ground,
Below,
Behind,
Water you are
Always present
Everlasting
You will be.

In desert
Or in orchard,
In the cold
Or in the heat,
So necessary
An element,
The base
Of our being.

You can save a life
You make a flower grow
Where you are there is always life,
If you lack much pain.

From a crystalline fountain
A stream of glass falls,
You are your divine water
Water from my spring.

Fountain, 1920
Jessica McMurray (American, no other details provided)
Courtey of the Cleveland Museum of Art

Five plovers and waves, 1826
Nakamura Hôchû (Japanese, 1790-1818)
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Woman Bathing (poster), unknown date
Mary Cassatt (American, 1844-1926)
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Landscape with Waterfall, 1841
Nakabayashi Chikuto (Japanese, 1776–1853)
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rain, 1889
Vincent Willem van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890)
Courtesy of the Google Art Project

Niños en la playa, Valencia (Children on the beach, Valencia), c. 1916
Joaquín Sorolla (Spanish, 1863–1923)
Courtesy of Sotheby’s London via Wikimedia Commons

~ Barista Uno

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Popeye the Sailor and macho culture in the 21st century

Popeye the Sailor and macho culture in the 21st century

Popeye first made his public appearance in 1929 in Elzie Segar‘s newspaper cartoon strip, Thimble Theatre. He has since become a household name. A Britannica online encyclopedia article describes him as “a scrappy little seaman with bulging forearms, a squinty eye, and a screwed-up face, punctuated with an ever-present pipe in his mouth…always ready for a fight instead of a reasonable discussion, has a gravelly voice, and is constantly mumbling under his breath.”

Pugnacious and wisecracking, Popeye the Sailor has endeared himself to millions of cartoon fans. Britannica calls him “an international folk hero”. His appeal stems partly from his no-bullshit manner of talking (“I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam,” he loves to say). But mostly it comes from his image of the aggressive male and of musculine strength, which unfailingly breaks out after he eats a can of spinach. It is an image that many men as well as women apparently find attractive. Indeed, Popeye represents a macho culture that continues to thrive today in spite of feminism and the clarion call for gender equality.

The following Popeye videos are both entertaining and enlightening. Enjoy watching. For more about Popeye the Sailor, click here.

Popeye’s Self Defense

Popeye and his arch-rival Bluto (aka Brutus) engage in a battle of strength in this hilarious episode which feminists would love. Instead of being impressed, the gangling Olive Oyl is annoyed by their puerile one-upmanship. She shows them what real strength is and then fixes the huge mess they created.

It’s the Natural Thing to Do

At the request of their fans who are tired of the rough stuff, Popeye, Bluto and Olive try to learn to act with refinement in a self-training session. But they all find it excruciating, and they revert to being less than “ladies and gentlemen”.

Popeye for President

As this video illustrates, politics is fertile ground for macho culture. Today, those running for office may not engage in a contest of strength as Popeye and Bluto did. But it’s the same game of showing who’s the better man — an adrenalin-spiking sport involving artifice, backstabbing and promises to the spectators.

~ Barista Uno

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Four ways poetry can be useful in the world of shipping

Four ways poetry can be useful in the world of shipping

To suggest that poetry can be useful to maritime executives and professionals may sound silly. In the contemporary shipping world, it is Plutus, the Greek god of wealth, who rules — not Apollo, the god of music, poetry, and light. Indulging in poetry seems such a waste of time, a luxury for practical people. But is it really?

For sure, poetry won’t add a cent to a reader’s bank book. But it was never meant to. Poetry has more subtle uses in the frenetic, profit-driven world of maritime commerce.

Poetry can provide fresh and powerful insights into life at sea and the hardships faced by seafarers. Consider Sara Teasdale’s short poem ‘At Sea’:

N the pull of the wind I stand, lonely,
On the deck of a ship, rising, falling,
Wild night around me, wild water under me,
Whipped by the storm, screaming and calling.
Earth is hostile and the sea hostile,
Why do I look for a place to rest?
I must fight always and die fighting
With fear an unhealing wound in my breast.

Or these earth-moving lines from Ezra Pound’s translation of the Anglo-Saxon poem, The Seafarer’:

May I for my own self song’s truth reckon,
Journey’s jargon, how I in harsh days
Hardship endured oft.
Bitter breast-cares have I abided,
Known on my keel many a care’s hold,
And dire sea-surge, and there I oft spent
Narrow nightwatch nigh the ship’s head…

Poetry can help cultivate amongst seafarers a love for the sea as well as respect for the marine environment. Who would not be captivated by the opening stanza of John Masefield’s iconic ‘Sea-Fever’ and think of how beautiful the sea is?

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

Poetry — defined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge as “the best words in their best order” — can serve as a reminder to the shipping industry that one should choose one’s words carefully. Good poets avoid clichés and platitudes. They craft their language in such a way that the words are meaningful, not superfluous, and sound sincere. All this is worth keeping in mind for the slogan-spinners at IMO London and all maritime folks who wish, not just to be understood, but to be believed by their audience.

Finally, poetry can enable maritime professionals to reconnect with their essential humanity and that of others, especially the seafarers. The great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, said about poetry:

Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toenails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone and not alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own. All that matters about poetry is the enjoyment of it however tragic it may be all that matters is the eternal movement behind it – the great undercurrent of human grief, folly, pretension, exaltation and ignorance – however unlofty the intention of the poem. (from ‘A Few Words of a Kind’ by Dylan Thomas)

 

~ Barista Uno

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Windjammers and steamers: Alfred Wallis’ delightful art

Windjammers and steamers: Alfred Wallis’ delightful art

Windjammers and steamers: Alfred Wallis’ delightful art

The paintings of Cornish artist Alfred Wallis (1855–1942) are often called “naïve art”. Tate, the venerable British art institution, defines the term as art that “is simple, unaffected and unsophisticated — usually specifically refers to art made by artists who have had no formal training in an art school or academy”. Whilst the label is technically correct when applied to Wallis, it is woefully inadequate to describe his art. It does not do justice to the man.

True, Wallis never attended art school. A fisherman for most of his working life, he only started painting when he was 70 years old (click here to learn more about his life and art). His artwork also has a child-like simplicity which one finds in so-called “naive art”. However, the mind that brought it forth was not unsophisticated.

Wallis’ paintings congealed from his experiences as a mariner and fisherman and from his love for the Cornish seaside town of St. Ives, where he lived for 52 years until his death in 1942. Collectively, his works represent a vision of the maritime world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — a world of windjammers and steamships that had faded away.

Wallis did not care about perspective or artistic technique. He painted naturally, with vigour and an instinctive sense of composition and visual rhythm. Interestingly, he did not do so on canvas since he could not afford it. He painted with oil (including ship’s oil paint) on paper, board or whatever usable material was at hand. The result, as the following examples show, is art without affectation but with plenty of charm.

St Ives, c. 1928
Alfred Wallis (1855–1942)
Courtesy of Tate
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) licence

Voyage to Labrador, ? c. 1935–1936
Alfred Wallis (1855–1942)
Courtesy of Tate
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) licence

‘The Hold House Port Mear Square Island Port Mear Beach’, ? c. 1932
Alfred Wallis (1855–1942)
Courtesy of Tate
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) licence

Two-Masted Ship, c. 1928
Alfred Wallis (1855–1942)
Courtesy of Tate UK
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) licence

P.Z. 11, c. 1928
Alfred Wallis (1855–1942)
Courtesy of Tate
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) licence

Boats at Rest in Mount’s Bay, date unknown
Alfred Wallis (1855–1942)
Courtesy of Tate
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) licence

Schooner under the Moon, ? c. 1935–1936
Alfred Wallis (1855–1942)
Courtesy of Tate
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) licence

Wreck of the Alba, c. 1938–1939
Alfred Wallis (1855–1942)
Courtesy of Tate
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) licence

The Blue Ship, ? c. 1934
Alfred Wallis (1855–1942)
Courtesy of Tate
Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported) licence

NOTE: The Tate website has more details about the paintings featured in this article plus some interesting backstories. Click here.

~ Barista Uno

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Light in the harbour: The Statue of Liberty in old photographs

Light in the harbour: The Statue of Liberty in old photographs

Light in the harbour: The Statue of Liberty in old photographs

As Americans celebrate the 4th of July, I thought I would share some old photographs of the Statue of Liberty. Well over a century after its inauguration in October 1886, the colossus continues to shine — a symbol of freedom and hope, not only for Americans but for the rest of humanity. I am including a poem by the American Jewish poet and activist, Emma Lazarus (1849 – 1887). The poem is inscribed on a plaque at the entrance to the statue’s pedestal.

Learn more about the Statue of Liberty here.

Liberty enlightening the world—Inauguration of the Bartholdi Statue, Harbor of New York—Military and naval salute, the President’s arrival at Liberty Island (1886)
Photo by H. O’Neil, New York
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

Liberty Island, New York Harbor (c. 1890)
Photo by S.R. Stoddard, New York
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

Statue of Liberty, New York harbor (1910)
Detroit Publishing Co., publisher
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

Statue of Liberty seen from the S.S. Coamo leaving New York (1941)
Photo by Jack Delano (1914-1997)
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

Sailor with arm around woman with the Statue of Liberty in background (1952)
Photo by Angelo Rizzuto (1906-1967)
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

Statue of Liberty at Night (1965)
Photo by Robert Yarnall Richie (1908-1984)
Courtesy of SMU Libraries Digital Collections

The New Colossus

by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

~ Barista Uno

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