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The light and dark sides of the seafarer’s world

The world of the seafarer has two aspects. There is the light side, which one sees in the pictures of smiling seafarers on social media. And there is the dark side, which comes to the surface through news photos of abandoned crews or the deplorable conditions on board a flag-of-convenience vessel. The world would not know about the latter if not for ITF inspectors, Port State Control authorities and the news media. The duality calls to mind the Chinese philosophy of yin/yang, the two opposing and complementary forces that underlie all natural phenomena and all aspects of life.

Pictorialism: Robert Demachy’s waterside photographs

Anyone who believes that photography is more than just a matter of recording reality ought to take a look at the pictures made by Robert Demachy (1859–1936). The man was a leading French light in the late 1860s to early 20th century movement called Pictorialism. The term is succinctly defined by Britannica as “an approach to photography that emphasizes beauty of subject matter, tonality, and composition rather than the documentation of reality.”

River romance: The Seine in poetry, song and painting

The Seine River in France runs for 780 kilometres (485 miles) — shorter than the country’s longest river, the Loire (1,020 kilometres or 634 miles). But it is the beloved river of Paris and one of Europe’s great historic rivers. And like other great rivers such as the Volga and the Mississippi, it has, through the centuries, held a strong fascination for creative spirits — poets, musical composers and artists. The stream of inspiration has never stopped flowing.

Why is the IMO selling the STCW electronic edition?

One can understand that the printed edition of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (or STCW) cannot be given for free. Like any other publisher, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has to cover the cost of printing plus some markup for overhead expenses and profit. But why sell the electronic edition, and for a hefty £50 (USD67.16) at that?

Carnival of colours: Venice in Impressionist paintings

“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go,” the American novelist and screenwriter, Truman Capote, once said. Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet may not have felt exactly the same about the fabled city. For sure, though, Venice had an exhilarating effect on these two key figures in the art movement called ‘Impressionism’. Both painters depicted its waters, palaces, cathedrals and sky in colours that continue to bedazzle viewers in the 21st century.

Filipino seafarers faced with two long-term threats

Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a big blow to Filipino seafarers and the manning agents in Manila. Total deployment plunged by 54% in 2020 as the scourge of the virus disrupted supply chains and the normal process of crew change. But two trends could pose an even greater threat to Philippine manning over the long haul. Both have been slowly eating away at the country’s’ coveted standing in the global seafarer market. Yet, they do not seem to be receiving enough attention.

Tribute to seashells: Three verses, one music video

Like countless people around the world, I am fascinated no end by seashells. Just looking at them is a source of great pleasure. It can even be therapeutic. Someday, I might write a poem on the subject. In the meantime, let me share the following three verses and a haunting song about seashells. Relax and enjoy.

Immortal rivers in traditional Chinese art and poetry

Rivers are a popular theme in traditional Chinese art and poetry. This should come as no surprise. According to the first national census of water, China had 22,909 rivers which had catchment areas of at least 100 sq. kilometres at end-2011. The longest of the seven major rivers — the Yangtze River (6,397 kms.) and the Yellow River (5,464 kms.) — were cradles of Chinese civilisation. Thousands of rivers are thought to have disappeared before the 2010-2011 census was taken. The culprits: rapid economic development, misuse and climate change. But China’s rivers will never really die. They have been immortalised in paintings and poems.

Waterfront photos from the distant past that will captivate you

Why anyone would want to linger inside a mall mystifies me. Malls are cold and boring, even dispiriting. There is more life, more energy on the piers and wharves as the following old photographs show. Time has taken its toll on some of these pictures. Yet each one still speaks volumes about the vibrancy of commerce on the waterfront and the sedulous stevedores who keep the cargoes moving.

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