I have posted so many articles about marine art that I have now lost count. So it’s about time that I wrote about my personal approach to the subject. I have no pretensions to being an art critic, much less an art historian. But I do have a passion for art that started in my late teens. The world of marine art is so vast that I have to continue educating myself. With that in mind, I should lke to share some tips for appreciating marine art, most of them applicable to art in general.
Let’s face it. The ships of today can’t hold a candle to the splendour of the sailing vessels that used to roam the oceans. Certainly not the monstrous mega cruise ships or the dreary container ships often celebrated in the shipping world. Here’s a nostalgic look at the former beauties of the sea as portrayed by various artists.
Beauty, it is often said, is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe so, but I don’t derive any aesthetic pleasure from looking at mega cruise ships. I consider these multi-storey floating hotels to be eyesores. At best, they look like stodgy assemblages of Lego bricks; at worst, monstrous structures of steel and glass. The following photographs will illustrate my point.
The sea is complex and mysterious. Woman is not less so. French author Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986) sought to fathom the depths of her nature in her 1949 book, ‘The Second Sex’ (French title: Le Deuxième Sexe) — a feminist tour de force that deals with the psychology of women and how they have been treated through the centuries. The following works of art also provide some insights into woman and her different facets. I hope you enjoy them as much as Simone de Beauvoir’s tome…
The COVID-19 pandemic has stirred chaos in the shipping world the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Thousands of seafarers stranded at sea; cruise ships with infected passengers shooed away from ports; and everywhere, frantic calls to do something about the situation. It all brings to mind a line from William Butler Yeats’ poem ‘The Second Coming’: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
If endurance were all that mattered, I should pat myself on the back and make whoopee. Marine Café Blog turns eleven this 25th of August. It has lasted despite being totally independent; despite the scarcity of advertising support; and despite the generally cold-hearted response from folks in maritime Manila. However, to withstand the vicissitudes of writing, to simply endure, isn’t enough.
In an exploitative and unjust world, the existence of seafarer unions is not only desireable but imperative. Unions are the gadfly of shipping. They keep abusive shipowners in line. They may not eliminate the abuses, but they help reduce their scale and frequency. However, like all institutions, seafarer unions are prone to certain shortcomings and defects. Listed below are five examples.
They say a vaccine will vanquish the coronavirus. Maybe so, but the war against this invisible enemy will be won, not by the tools of science alone, but by the strength and resilience of the human spirit. The following works of art and accompanying quotes highlight the importance of inner peace in these troubled times. I hope they provide inspiration to those who are feeling distressed and perhaps even hopeless because of the pandemic.
To be a seafarer is no joke. It’s a hard life, and there are many things that make it even more so (see my article, ’35 things that make life more difficult for seafarers’). So why do many young Filipinos want to serve in the Merchant Marine? Listed below are some of the usual reasons. I would have liked to include love for the sea and life at sea. However, I have known only a few Filipinos who were driven by such a passion — sea dogs who are now old or have passed away.
Almost a century has passed since Max Ehrmann, an American writer and lawyer from Indiana, wrote his 1927 prose poem ‘Desiderata’ (Latin word meaning “things that are needed or wanted”). Many who were college students during the heady 1960s will remember the opening line, “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste…” and the immortal phrase “you are a child of the universe”. Ehrmann’s words still ring true today. Not only do they inspire. They also offer bits of practical wisdom, a philosophy of life, that seafarers and others can live by during these tumultous times. Here is the complete original text, followed by two video clips (in English and Spanish) of ‘Desiderata’ read aloud.
A humpback whale shooting up suddenly from the depths of the ocean is something to behold. Not everyone, though, will ever get the chance to witness such a spectacle. I hope that the following works of art would give Marine Café Blog readers the pleasure of seeing whales as artists through the centuries saw them: as beautiful, mysterious and awe-inspiring creatures.
As a maritime writer, I must confess that I have, more than once, suffered from self-doubt and a gnawing sense of futility. What does it matter if I write about the rights of seafarers or not? Or about marine art and culture? Will it make a bloody difference? The questions sometimes come like arrows to pierce the soul. Yet, I have managed to continue writing (Marine Café Blog will mark its 11th anniversary this August). I draw courage and inspiration from what famous writers have said about the pain and joy of writing.
In ordinary usage, the word “siren” is defined by the Oxford English Dictiionary as “a woman who is considered to be alluring or fascinating but also dangerous in some way”. Feminists might object to the term as being sexist. However, not a few women would feel flattered if they were called “siren”. In Greek mytholody, sirens (pictured above) were creatures, half bird and half woman, whose music and singing lured unsuspecting sailors to destruction. They have since become the archetype of the woman who has the ability to bewitch and have control over men.