Friday, May 20, 2016


Thanks to the Internet we have connected with a cadre of planetary plastic people. Email is fine for cursory communications but it is a special occasion when we have the opportunity to enjoy face-to-face time with kindred spirits from afar. This week artist Jane Gillings and her agricultural scientist husband, Len came from Australia to visit us and make the trek to Kehoe Beach.

After blah-blah-blahing about all of the plastic we find on Kehoe Beach the anticipation of going to the beach is fraught. These people have come half way round the world to go to the source - not only to see, first hand, the material as found in situ but to experience, first hand, the source of our creative inspiration. Every time we take someone to the beach we worry the question— what if there is no plastic?  

Mind you there are many other reasons to go to the beach — on a warm and sunny day there is the glory of the wildflowers and the sight and sound of the ocean. And at Kehoe there are the layers of geological history and the swoop of nesting peregrine falcons.

When we travel the distance, hike the trail, come to the rise in the dune, look out across the sand and see not a spec of plastic. This is it? the looming fear realized — embarrassed about our boasting, maybe we really are washed up.

But as we walked the tideline, the plastic was there. WHEW! Jane and Len were astonished about the amount. Although there were not the great swales of debris like we find after the storms in February, there was certainly plenty. 

On a scale of 1-10 it was a 4 or maybe a 5.

By the time we had reached the cliff on the north end of the beach, in about an hour and a half, our bags were full. We were not disappointed. Happy to be able to show them a milk pull tab, a tampon applicator and a nurdle.

The funny thing (or should we say unfunny thing) about nurdles is that they are damn near invisible — look just like grains of sand. But, once you see them, they are surprisingly easy to see.

Back in the studio Jane set about to present her findings organized in knolling fashion. Knolling is defined as the process of arranging related objects in parallel or 90-degree angles as a method of organization. 

For guests coming and going, our jolly stanchion guy is at the ready to meet and greet.
Thanks to artists Chuck Wiley for crafting the head and Richard Lang for putting the lift in the torso.

And for us? Hi-ho we are always at the ready to go the beach and we are ready to knoll.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Punctuation Party

!!! Come dressed as your favorite punctuation mark !!!
!!! Sip on "Exclamation" cocktails, wine and brews !!!
!!! Belly up to the delicious Tacolicious bar !!!

and celebrate the the 20th Anniversary of San Francisco Center for the Book. 

Since book people know how to party it up and they do know their fonts and fun I knew that there were be many creative costumes in keeping with the punctuation theme. I knew had to come up with an appropriate beach plastic something to make my point be it a comma, question mark, exclamation point, apostrophe, ampersand, hyphen, period.

Period that's it. I will go as a period. Maybe a bit cliched to wear a necklace ring of tampon applicators and call it "Period." But the response was both puzzled and enthusiastic. 

Several women of my generation did not recognize the source of the materials for my necklace, thought it was intended to represent exclamation points or maybe a ring of bullets or bombs. When I explained  "period" there was a moments pause, then great sighs of relief as they expressed how grateful they were to be post -menopausal. 65 is definitely the new 50.

Back in my (and their) day the tampon was composed of compressed paper, cotton batting and cardboard. Now the tampon, for so-called ease of use and comfort of insertion, is encased in a bullet shaped hard shell plastic cover. Yet another example of how plastic has literally and figuratively inserted itself into our lives.

Younger women recognized the source immediately and were astonished to learn that this feminine hygiene product is washing up onto beaches everywhere. From Kehoe Beach over the years we have collected hundreds of applicators in an variety of styles and in array of "feminine" colors: pink, green, perlesecent. Wikipedia reports that the average woman uses approximately 11,400 tampons in her lifetime. Mama mia, that is a lot of plastic. 

My necklace, as punctuation, did make a point — about the problem of plastic pollution. Period.

Mary Austin, co-founder of SFCB asked Richard AKA The Poetry Jukebox to be an auction item for the fund- raising party. Richard is a crowd pleaser as he moves through the party offering poems, free for the asking, to encourage revelers to bid big $$$ for the chance to have the Jukebox at their own special event. In the old-fashioned Wurlitzer jukebox or as an iPod with greater memory, the PJB is a great way to spread the word.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Visions of underwater fantasy might not be the first thing you think of when you think Arizona and it might have been awhile since you have been to Mesa, so now until May 29 is the time to get to the i.d.e.a. Museum.

Underwater FantaSEA is an extravaganza of fun and facts about the importance of the ocean for the health of the planet. Along with serious statistics about how long plastic lasts in the ocean, mermaid's reading stories and swashbucklers telling tales, there have been demonstrations about how to gear up for a deep sea dive and our beach plastic prints and video have graced the exhibition hall.

i.d.e.a. may be a long way from the coast but their team of designers and curators collaborated with scientists and marine researchers to mount a timely exhibit for kids of all ages that they hope will inspire future ocean stewards through innovative educational programs and hands-on activities.

Already there have been some 23,0330 visitors, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Harmonic Convergence

Friday, April 22 is not exactly the "Harmonic Convergence" but it is day when planetary forces align and we will be celebrating both Earth Day 47 and Passover 5776.

On August 24, 1987 Judith had just completed hiking the Inca Trail arriving at Machu Picchu the morning of the Harmonic Convergence. 

She writes:
We had not hiked there in hopes of joining with the HC believers. On the contrary, the night before we had camped at the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) so that we could descend into the sanctuary arriving at the sacred sun stone before the tourist buses arrived. Expecting a crowd of other intrepid hikers congregating to witness the great shift in the earths' energy, helping to facilitate the coming new age of world peace, to our amazement at sunrise there was nobody there. Nobody! So we celebrated our good fortune, rambling the grounds without hordes of eager tourists with cameras shutters clicking or the humming, chanting, drone of dancing and hugging convergers. The earth didn't make a monumental shift that day, but I certainly did. It might have been the altitude or maybe it was just the thrill (and exhaustion) at having arrived after the arduous terrain of the trail, either way I felt harmonically realigned, resonantly attuned.

On August 24, 1987 Richard was at the bottom of the Grand Canyon standing under a rock-warmed waterfall near Tapeats Creek having a nice wash-up after days of travel down river. 

He writes:
It was a spur of the moment thing, this river trip. A friend had called the evening before saying he had a spot on his little boat if I wanted to come along. A private trip in 12 foot boats. Not the big 40 foot baloney boats as we came to disdainfully call them. Humans are so hierarchical given half the chance. What y'all should know is that I had successfully traversed a lot of 60's style new age-y territory developing a wicked backhand with the skeptic sword, able to slice through any hocus pocus-y clap-trap. Working as a studio artist provided a more than ample touch with the mystic. As I was out buying supplies for my raft trip down the canyon, I had to jostle my way through a crowd thronged with finger cymbal, incense wafting, dreamy-eyed purple clad (mostly) new agers lining up to shop at the new age book store, Paper Ships. "What's going on?" I ask. The woman in diaphanous white says, "It's the Harmonic Convergence. Those who are leaders of the new age will be led as if by magic to power spots around the planet." "What's a power spot?" I ask. "OooH, my," speaking as if to a two year old—impossibly  dense—"Places like Mt Shasta, Haleakala, Machu Picchu, Mt Fuji, the bottom of the Grand Canyon. "Wow," I exclaim, "I'll have to stop calling it the Moronic Divergence. I'm in, baby."

These days, instead of waiting for another Harmonic Convergence, we have been congregating with friends to usher in our own new era. We bring here to the fore the important accomplishments of our beloved colleagues:

Friday is the last day to see the exhibit Out of Place: Creativity meets Detritus of Land + Sea featuring the work of Janis Selby Jones at the China Brotsky Gallery at the Tides Thoreau Center in San Francisco.  Her stunning photographs juxtaposing plastic debris against the horizon line of the Pacific Ocean and her playful re-imaginings of refuse into objects of interest and beauty are not to be missed. 

Bicyclist extraordinare Sarah Bellum completed her inspiring fifty day, 1,192 mile, zero-waste bicycle journey from San Luis Obispo to Portland where she has arrived and is now establishing a home in a beautiful spot where she will create the next chapter of her adventure story.

Doug Woodring's, Global Alert hit the big time in Times Square, NYC this month. His app will allow people to track trash hotspots anywhere in the world’s waters or coastlines. 

Go Doug!!!!

Andrew Mellen
, professional organizer, offers more than just a way to get organized, he offers a philosophy of life with the byline: 
more love, less stuff.  He has helped us to get rid of clutter giving us space for more plants and more time in the garden.

For Passover we will be drinking wine and eating bitter herbs (and Richard's Grandma Ida's famous recipe for chopped liver) with our neighbors who share our love of gardening; who have sparked Richard to propose recording our conversations creating an over the fence school of manure digging and practical wisdom.

Richard writes:
It wasn't even dawning, it was the midnight before the dawning of the age of Aquarius. In college, regular classroom school, not studio art,  I took a class in comparative religion. Huston Smith was visiting professor. Cool that he had written the text book: World's Great Religions. Course syllabus included The Sacred and the Profane—Marcia Eliade—how we create the "Dancing Ground"—the place where we express our relationship to a spiritual sense of the world. There was the, just released, Purity and Danger,  by Mary Douglas; what is allowed in the temple and what is kept out. The nature of pollution in the largest sense. It became a primer for the nascent eco movement. As explications of Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish practices unfolded, it was the Jains who really got to me, the sweepers walking in front of practitioners lest they step on an ant. Fallen fruit was the only allowed food. A strong kind of devotion. But finally it was the balance of the Tao—that everything is contained in everything else, relaxed and easy, that made me convert (as if you could convert to something like the Tao—(as a religion, it's the original "Is you is? or is you ain't? —religion— And even if you ain't, you is.").

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Bay Area Artists Fuse Art and Activism To Tackle Environmental Crises

is a mouthful of a title but when it is announced by Michael Krasney on KQED's Forum, the most popular morning news and public affairs program, everybody is listening.

The program featured William Fox, director of the Center for Art + Environment, the Nevada Museum of Art; Jane Kim, artist, science illustrator and founder of Ink Dwell; Camille Seaman, artist; her photography is featured in "Vanishing Ice" at the David Bower Center in Berkeley; and moi, Judith Selby Lang, artist, One Beach Plastic.

It was an honor to be on the program with such an esteemed group of artists. The conversation was lively and fast paced and about my favorite subject — art and activism.  It was a real challenge to tell our story in just my allotted five minutes. Yes, just as I was getting warmed up, it went by in a jiff. 

For your listening pleasure, they have already archived:

Monday, March 21, 2016

Collect 'em all.

In 1954 for only 25 cents and a box top from Kellogg's Sugar Frosted Flakes or Kellogg's Sugar Corn Pops, you could get a set of three plastic US Navy Frogmen figures that would rise and submerge in your bathtub thanks to a small mount of "high pressure propellant" (aka baking powder) packed in to the foot.

On February 24, 2010 we were thrilled to find one of those plastic toys. We named him "Diver Mike."

On March 19, 2016, some six years later, it was a stunner to find another Frogman, this time on La Selva Beach just south of Santa Cruz.

Six years have passed since that first find and in Internet years in terms online information available, that means exponential.

The three figure have now been identified as the Torch Man (red), the Obstacles Scout (green) and the Demolition Expert (yellow).

The 1950's era TV advertisement is now available:

and there is a spread of the cereal box showing detailed instructions:

As Kellogg's cajoles, collect 'em all. We will some day complete our trifecta collection. We are on the lookout for the Demolition Expert.

In 2008 we met Michael Stocker at the Environmental Grant Makers Conference held at Asilomar in Monterey (100+ miles south from our home in Forest Knolls). He was presenting his information about noise pollution in the marine environment—a grave threat to sea creatures as the ocean depths become ever more militarized and industrialized by the likes of "Diver Mike". Marine life communicates by sound and as the ocean gets ever more noisy crucial connections between creatures are lost in the cacophony. "Hey, Michael, where do you live?, we ask. Turns out Mr. Stocker lives just across the road in Forest Knolls. He's been our great pal since then. Have a look at his efforts to ease the burden of the clanking, gear shifting, explosion testing of the "Diver Mikes" of the deep: Ocean Conservation Research

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rhapsody in Green

Judith writes:

This month we went from drought to deluge in a wink and although the drought in California has not yet been declared officially "over" the creeks are flowing and the seasonal waterfall across the valley is a cascade of white water. The hills feel truly alive again, relaxed and easy as the green of spring spreads. Can you hear it humming?  All indicators say that it is going to be a good year at least for oaks — an astonishing number of the acorns are sending up shoots. My drive from Forest Knolls though the rolling hills and vineyards to Sonoma where I teach was a glorious essay on the color green and since it's St. Patrick's Day, I knew it would be the day to explore GREEN and the question, which green do you mean?

To ask what color? can quickly wind into a mire of confusion. There are many names from turquoise to chartreuse, myrtle to mantis, but all of them are in the green spectrum. Students were encouraged to make an artwork using the pieces of plastic as if they were brushstrokes of paint. To not think about what that shard might have come from — don't think of a shampoo bottle— just consider the shape and the color.

Start with three basic ideas: 
1. Color family — when we say green we mean the pure color of green but consider the variations of light green, dark green and everything in-between.
2. Variations in value —  tint is light and shade is dark.
3. Chroma - the saturation or intensity — brightness and dullness.

With this new awareness of the green spectrum they set about to paint green but not just by mixing yellow and blue. What happens when lemon yellow is mixed with cobalt blue or cadmium yellow is mixed with ultramarine blue? What green did you mean?

The Thursday dinner table at Mary and Brewster's is always special but on St Paddy's Day the theme was green with bowls of green peas and trays of green asparagus. There were even savory leafy greens in the ice cream dessert.

Since the Irish love a good brew and a rollicking song, the dinner conversation question was to tell a story about alcohol and singing. After a few drinks and rounds of stories by the end of the evening we were asking ourselves, what color did you say that is?