Saturday, June 9, 2018

March for Everything

Today is, in some ways, like every other day — we wake up and think of friends and colleagues and the concerns we share for the oceans and beaches. But, since today across the planet there will be thousands of people joining together for events and Marches for the Ocean, we feel a extra special affinity. We have received multiple announcements about Chris Jordan's Albatross screenings and the roll out of his extraordinary gift to the planet. We are grateful for his clear and deeply creative responses to the environmental crises we face. The mark he has made is oh, so, beautiful and oh, how it hurts. We bow in respect and rise in inspiration when we think of his steady and years-long commitment to making the film exactly right. And now, it is his time. We were excited to be witness to the power of his presence on the UN World Stage and since we could not be there we tuned in via WEBTV UN. 

Closer to home, in Fairfax, it was not just a March for the Oceans it was a March for Everything. From Grandson Jude with a pot on his head to the Marin Alliance for Marijuana Dispensary team with pot in their heads and along the way there was politics aplenty (Solidarity Sundays) and the politics of pleasure with dazzling hula-hoop routines. Politics?We affirm the reality of the TAO, that great philosophy of "Is you is or is you ain't, and even if you ain't, you is."

The Grand Marshalls were Pete and Pat Arrigoni. In 1975 the Marin Mammal Center opened in Sausalito due to the successful work of Pat and two friends, Paul Maxwell and Lloyd Smalley.  Pat then published the story:  “The Marine Mammal Center: How It All Began. Recollections of One of the Founders”. We're pretty pleased that our Ghost Net Monster at the Center was extended from a six-month stay to going on four years now. 

Fairfax is for us, out-of-the-valley "over the hill." When we say "going to town" we mean Fairfax. Along with having most everything we need — library, grocery, hardware/building supplies, in that order, the community has long been a leader in the sustainability movement. By passing a pesticide notification ordinance, forming the open space committee, limiting chain stores and adopting styrofoam-free and nuclear free ordinances, Fairfax is making a difference at our local level. When Richard moved to Cali in 1974 Fairfax was a musical Valhalla and a palpable garden of Eden. With six live musical venues you never wanted for entertainment and with the European tradition of planting fruit trees as a primary gesture of settlement, in summer and fall, you could walk the sidewalks picking all the overhanging pears, figs, apples and... you could stuff in your face...

The parade began with the siren call of fire engines and Jes Richardson's Ghandi had the last word: 


Tuesday, June 5, 2018


It's June 5, World Environment Day.
What did we do today?
We walked to VOTE and along the way we picked up plastic.

We have traveled the world talking about beach plastic, presenting exhibits and giving hands-on workshops. When we are inland, folks complain WE DON'T HAVE A BEACH, WE DON'T HAVE PLASTIC,  WE WON'T BE ABLE TO CREATE. Y'all are lucky to live close to the ocean (heard this in Dallas and in Houston). Don't despair! We describe how plastic navigates from street to beach, how it makes its way down the gutter, down the drain, down the watershed, down the creek, down the river, then out into the ocean then back onto the beach. When stuck in freeway traffic just take a look at the shoulder, at the median. There be PLASTIC. PLASTIC. PLASTIC. In Dallas we went for a stroll near the museum where we were doing a workshop and the question of "where does all this plastic come from?" was quickly answered with a 10-minute pick-up along the gutter.  

As we set out on our journey today we did what what we always do at Kehoe Beach — we took an establishing shot. Here is the scene in the pastoral San Geronimo Valley: rolling hills, blue sky, grazing horses, and blackberries in bloom.

Our sun dappled walking trail parallels Sir Francis Drake Blvd, taking us past fields and through wooded areas arriving at our Polling Place at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center. At our age the importance of keeping on the move is palpable so we don't "seize up". The daily step counter, now on our phone, has become a metric for a competitive matchup.

Although many people now mail in their ballots we love exercising (!) our right to vote in this public way. We appreciate the poll-workers who stand vigilant to make sure each vote is scanned properly as it is put into the ballot box and we get a soft thrill when they give us our I VOTED TODAY merit badge.

It's not just the problem with the Russians trying to influence our elections, We are concerned about voter turnout and the purging of voter rolls. Attempts to disenfranchised voters, long lines at the polls, cyber-security, laws requiring people to show ID are just few of the problems. 

At our poll, you state your name then sign for your ballot — no photo ID required. It might help that most everyone knows everyone but it still reminds that there are places where there are attempts to block legitimate voters by requiring a government ID.

Along the way we collected a bag full of plastic- we were curious to see what items on our hit list we would find road-side. Our efforts did not disappoint. It just goes to show ya, we do vote with our pocket books.

It can be done. Change is afoot across the planet. Just one little chunk of pernicious-ness has been eliminated: The 3"x1/2"x1/8" piece of red plastic is now gone from Kraft Handi-snacks. Insignificant...yes, but on our one stretch of beach, over the years, we found 563 of those little devils. Vote with every means necessary. There are forces who would like to see democracy weakened to favor the oligarchical banditos. Don't make the mistake of thinking you are insignificant. 

El pueblo unido jamas será vencido

Sunday, June 3, 2018


Geeze, after 20 years of our being in the Plastic Pollution biz, you'd think there'd be no need for that National Geographic Planet or Plastic? shouldn't even be a question. Oh! The infinite ways of hubris! Let's see, where did we leave that magic wand? But at least this latest Nat Geo has got everybody talking and is having a big impact way beyond our "plastic people community." 

Thanks to Janis Selby Jones for amping up the blue in this pic of the magazine cover with a background of blue plastic collected from North County beaches in San Diego.

Check out Mandy Barker's photo spread (pages 76-77) of Coca-Cola caps. In the bottom left-hand corner, Kehoe Beach is named. Those are our caps from "our" beach. We were thrilled to be included in such a powerful visual explication of consumer culture, that shows Coca-Cola the international impact of their bottles and caps in the ocean and on beaches. Sorry to single out Coke, 'cause Lord knows, after a couple of hours toiling in the garden, there's nothing like a tumbler of Coke on ice (with a glass straw—keeping a modicum of virtue intact). Just wondering how Coca-Cola will respond?!?

It seems that Kraft has responded. We had heard that the red cheese spreaders are gone from their Handi-snacks. After collecting over the years, just under 600 of the little red sticks from Kehoe Beach, in 2010 we had a dialogue going with Kraft to get them to replace the plastic sticks with bamboo or avail. A recent stop at the market to check on the product confirmed the change. Nabisco is touting their environmental stance. However, we were astonished to find on the Internet blowback from some consumers "as loyal white cracker enthusiasts" who are petitioning via for Kraft to put the red sticks back. They are longing for the traditional - they really do miss those red rectangles. Doesn't anything stay the same any more? And they complain about how hard it is to get a butter knife into the small square cheese compartment. YIKES. What happened to convenience? An ongoing Ritz Facebook page is the place to voice your pro or con complaints.

June 5 is World Environment Day and June 8 is World Ocean Day so, with all the awareness and action building events and fun, we should be feeling the blue wave. This year the WED theme is #BeatPlasticPollution. World Ocean Day the action focus is to prevent plastic pollution and encourage solutions for a healthy ocean. 

Yeah, lots of blue yammering and promises for the ocean along with the red Coca-Cola caps and some interesting news from Kraft about white crackers makes our personal theme this year is BLUE, RED and WHITE.

We are angry and feeling unpatriotic as the Trump administration's EPA continues to roll back important environmental legislation. Next up are fuel efficiency standards. United States standards were on pace to become by 2025 the most aggressive in the world. What happened to the US being an exemplar, leading the charge for the health of the planet? Fortunately, the powerhouse of California is ready to fight the fight. Attorney General Xavier Becerra has vowed to meet in court any attempts to revoke California’s clean air waiver. 

Judith, remembering the choking smog in Southern California during her college days in Claremont, when the air was so thick that you couldn't even see across the street, lungs aching with every ozone-infused breath, cries out, "what are these people thinking?" 

Hey, GOP what about states rights?

Where is the conserve in conservative? Roger Scruton in this long essay in a search for an answer takes up the call to think local, think small while recognizing the importance of thinking beyond our time by consulting "the interests of the unborn and the dead."

Friday, April 27, 2018

Do Something

When asked for advice about art making we use the sage words from Jasper Johns 1964 sketch book:
Take an object/ Do something to it/ Do something else to it.

In February we were in The Woodlands just north of Houston for the Inspire Film Festival for the screening of One Beach Plastic the short film about our project. We were on stage for the Q&A and presented a hands-on workshop with the Arts Council. Read our blog report Out There.

Unbeknownst to us, in the audience was Dawn Caldwell, sixth grade science teacher, who took our story to heart and wrote: 

"I, like so many others,  am sure, was inspired by your story in One Plastic Beach and have shared the story with my students and our whole, Coulson Tough K-6, community.  We have taken your story to heart and and moved to action and are attempting to "curate" the lunchroom plastic. We are just getting started but hope to be able to create something in time for Earth Day, April 22nd.  We will have an opportunity to auction off our creative something on the 21st and donate that money to bring art therapy to children with cancer at Texas Children's Hospital here in The Woodlands.  I was wondering if as we get closer if you might be able to "consult" with us via Skype or something.  As a science teacher I am doing a great job teaching about the impact of plastic on our planet but... coaching the children to create something visually appealing is intimidating. Let me know and THANK YOU for the inspiration to make a difference and raise awareness for plastic responsibility."

We were thrilled to learn that Dawn was inspired by our film, who in turn, inspired her students to collect plastic from the school cafeteria, naming their project, One Plastic Lunchroom!  Hmmmmm…..we have beach plastic, street plastic, house plastic and now a whole new category — Lunchroom Plastic! 

We set a date/time for a Skype. Unfortunately, our desktop computer is so antiquated (circa 2004), after many fits and starts, after much fussing about with Skype and Facetime we settled into an old-fashioned, (circa 1874) phone conversation.

We told the students about our first category of collecting — lids of all kinds, colors and sizes and how we liked the look of the concentric circles. We explained that we use the pieces of plastic like brush strokes on the canvas — and described the wrangling that goes in to every artwork we make, the playful banter, the arguments going back and forth until we finally agree. 

We encouraged the students to just get started. 
"Take an object/ Do something to it/ Do something else to it."
— simply begin—the notion is that the human mind is miraculous and wants above all to express itself and to let the materials speak — as you work with the pieces of plastic they will find their own place.

There are no rules for making art except for the idea that the human being has been doing it for ±40,000 years. Imagine the bottle of the human genome with its content label: bone, muscle, fat, connective tissue, art, science & curiosity. We recommend The Origins of Creativity by E.O. Wilson's (Harvard biologist). 

Dawn wrote: "With your direction we set up a table right in the middle of our sixth grade hallway with two a white and a black canvas.  It is AWESOME watching the children and teachers and pretty much whoever passes by add a little bit of something."

Here's their creation station with bins of plastic. By letting passersby do something and then do something else, they reached some remarkable conclusions.

Their fund-raising efforts were a huge success. At the silent auction they raised over $850 that will be donated to the Periwinkle Foundation's Arts in Medicine Program at Texas Children's Hospital.

The students did something, then they really did something else.

They are champions!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

No Drilling, No Way.

For the "Listening Session" hosted by Congresspeople Mike Thompson, Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman on Tuesday, March 27 at the Bay Model, Judith put together this "NEVER FORGET" poster.

Lest we forget, we begin every power point presentation with two photographs that have shaped our work as artists. Earthrise 1968 by Bill Anders and an oil-soaked bird from the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. 

Even though Kehoe Beach seems far way from oil-drilling we still find clumps of oil and tar balls on the beach. And what is plastic anyway but oil (albeit transformed) washing up on the beach? We remember the 2007 Cosco Busan heavy fuel oil spill and the 1971 collision of two oil tankers in the Bay that had a big impact on the birds of Bolinas.

We do not forget, the warm day at the beach in 2011, when Judith stepped on a tar ball. Such a distressing mess that we almost gave up.

As a friendly-reminder gift to the CongresspeopleJudith created souvenir statuettes, a piece of tar from Kehoe Beach mounted on a DVD base. An aide-mémoire that the problem of oil is not a distant pipe dream — it is here now.

The standing-room only crowd at the Bay Model was revved. Various stakeholders, invited speakers (lawyers, scientists) and the public expressed their views about the proposed drilling. Speakers included such luminaries as Frances Gulland senior scientist at the Marine Mammal Center and David Helvarg, executive director of Blue Frontier and youth from Heirs to the Ocean.

As chance would have it Judith sat next to Assemblyman John Dunlap (now 95) and his bride Mary Lu Kennelly (married in 2016). John was a regular customer at Judith's health food store Optimum Foods in Napa (1974-85). 

In the early Seventies John (D-Solano & Napa Counties) along with Assemblymen Alan Sieroty (D-Los Angeles County) helped form an alliance of coastal stewards. That set the stage for the launch in 1972 of Proposition 20, the California Coastal Initiative, aimed at regulating coastal development that resulted in the California Coastal Commission and the long term vision of protecting the coast. He never imagined some 45 years since the establishment of the Coastal Commission that there would even be a discussion of off-shore oil drilling, let alone a true threat by theTrump Administration. 

We were thrilled to stand with such stalwarts as John Dunlap who's vision for a healthy and accessible coast was good then and is good today. We added our voices to the message being sent to Washington, DC.

No drilling, no way.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Original Minds

When Elia Haworth calls - Richard answers. He is always at the ready to read on her Original Minds radio program that airs Saturday mornings on KMWR. Elia is an expert at the art of the interview and her lively banter brings out the best in her guests. Over the years her invitations have encouraged Richard on his writing path giving him the opportunity to test out stories that he posts on his website: 

We were in the middle of a 3-day, 2-night all inclusive overnight with grandkids Clem and Wishbone so we all were up and out early to make it to Point Reyes for the 9 AM show. On time, because, radio does not wait. The kids were intrigued by the studio, the microphones, the audio mixing board and the mystery of sound waves. It was a first, a thrill of the lifetime, when Elia let the kids introduce themselves to the listening audience.

Hear the story of Red Bull Storms the Gate on Original Minds

Richard read his tale of the Red Bull Storms the Gate, that illuminates the story of The Palace of Fine Arts. It's the story of witnessing a bizarre encounter of a 3-ton SUV with a retaining wall (no injuries). He began with a short teaser, Art Degree Zero, about his first public speaking gig to the Women's Club of his hometown of Kankakee, Ill. in 1972.

No trip to Point Reyes would be complete without a stop at the Bovine Bakery to fuel up with gluten-laden treats. Then we headed for Kule Loklo, a Coast Miwok Cultural exhibit, a re-creation of village community life that uses traditional methods and materials to explain the abundant lifestyle enjoyed by the coastal tribes. It was volunteer clean-up day to prepare for a gathering so Clem pitched in.

Bear Valley Visitor Center is park headquarters and education central with displays of wildlife and history and nurdles.  OH MY! 

Looks like "nurdling" is now an officially a verb. It's a suggested beach time activity, described as a treasure hunt for trash. The Park Service is even offering "Revenge of the Nurdles," an appropriately named ranger-led beach walk. Revenge, indeed! The number of nurdles in the marine environment has surpassed the number of stars in the Milky Way. Nurdles have been washing up on Kehoe Beach for years. We first became aware of nurdles in 2006 when a back injury put Richard on Injured Reserve, unable to perform the stoop labor motions of picking up. A quick web search of the little things we'd found opened a new world of astonishing facts about human impact on the world.

Two more grands joined the party the next day. What a great shape these kids bring to life. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Message in a Bottle 2018

Art show, science fair, film festival and reunion.
However you want to describe it, Message in a Bottle 2018 at the Palace of Fine Arts
was all of that and so much more—
a great confab of ocean-lovers and plastic pollution activists
and students with their families who were eager to show off their work on display.

The scale and scope — a tidal wave of hope for the oceans — a buoy of up-lift.

Although we keep up with the plastic people via social media, we love being in the real (not virtual) presence of friends and colleagues Science Programs Director from 5 Gyres Carolynn Box, artist Alicia Escott, and The Story of Stuff Stiv Wilson.
After years of knowing about Aaron Hazelwood, the plumber and beachcomber extraordinaire, we had never met. He has amassed quite a collection from Ocean Beach:

We were happy to compare notes and to see among the hundreds and hundreds of the red Kraft Handi-snack cheese spreaders he has collected that he too had one green one. Back in 2010, we had corresponded with Kraft about their efforts to go "green." His find validated our thesis.

Internationally renown photographer Mandy Barker, all the way from Great Britain, was in San Francisco at Fort Mason for the Photofairs/San Francisco and at the Palace for Surfrider's Message in the Bottle. 

Her latest project Beyond Drifting is a remarkable re-creation of microscopic views of plastic and plankton that are presented in large scale prints and as an old science book circa 1830.

Thanks to the Internet and email we have had a long collegial long-distance correspondence. In 2015 we contributed footballs to her World Cup series. This year when she called for Coke bottle caps we shipped her a box full.

We were thrilled to add the monumental Palace of Fine Arts to our growing list that we are calling, tongue in cheek, "Scenes of Triumph." When we began our project it was something of a hobby—even artists need a hobby, right? But in the 20+ years of our project, our notoriety has been on an ever-expanding trajectory. Are we glad about this? More than for some notion of fame and "fortune" we believe we've brought awareness of plastic pollution to venues all over the planet, from Cairo to Lincoln Center, from Alaska to Brazil and on this evening in the grand exhibit hall of The Palace of Fine Arts.

Originally built for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition as a venue to showcase some 11,000 works of art — through the years The Palace went through a bad time of ruin then was restored in the 60's. The enormous space now hosts, corporate events, trade shows and even Message in a Bottle 2018. The scenic grounds are a popular tourist destination with the rotunda, colonnades and lagoon serving as popular sites for wedding photography. 

Richard's Red SUV unwinds a story about The Palace and his commute to San Francisco.

Our "Spiff "and "Bottles" hung in a prominent position just inside the front door of the exhibition hall. Such fun to watch visitors taking a long good look up close at our "Barrette Wreathe." 

Yes, "A Scene of Triumph."