Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Life in Plastic

Staggering volumes of plastic garbage infect the oceans. The images of sperm whales, sea turtles, and albatross with their innards full of ingested plastic are the stuff of nightmares. A recent report from The Guardian brings new haunting visions. Henderson Island—an uninhabited island in the South Pacific—has the highest density of anthropogenic debris found anywhere in the world, being buried under 38 million pieces of plastic debris, weighing in at 18 metric tons. Hermit crabs on the island use bottle caps and cosmetic jars for shells, and one reportedly was seen using in a doll’s head. I’m impressed by the crustacean’s adaptability, but horrified by the world we are forcing them to adapt to.

Plastic is an indestructible material that we use once and then dispose of. But there is no “away;” the toxic miracle material must go somewhere; and all too often its destination is the ocean. Plastic can kill quickly, such as to the turtle that chokes on a balloon; or slowly, by giving people cancer or sterility.

And yet, it’s damn hard to stop using so much plastic. I avoid bottled water and straws, and bring reusable cloth bags to the grocery store. Still, almost every product comes in a plastic container. (That glossy cardboard? It’s coated in plastic!) I’m still searching for ways to de-plastify. Some suggestions can be found here. Marine plastic is a crisis on the same level as global climate change, and requires a similar all-hands-on-deck response.

Highly recommended: A Plastic Ocean, documentary film directed by Craig Leeson, 2017.

Also check out Greenpeace's Story of a Spoon.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Bud, Lord of the Manor

Bud has risen from his long winter’s sleep, and has just had a bath (which is really a long drink, because he drinks through his skin). I caught the venerable Pacman frog on camera after he had hopped onto solid earth again, and before he found a nice spot, and dug himself partway underground, to rest with head poking up from the mud. Apparently, it was exhausting work for Bud, digging himself out of the deeper burrow where he had hibernated for winter. With this task complete, he spends most of the time sleeping or resting. I want to give Bud an earthworm, but I’m still waiting to see Bud with eyes wide open; the sign of hunger. (Or hopping around the terrarium and attacking the glass, the sign of famishment.) It has been many months since he last ate, but the cold-blooded beast plays by a different set of rules than us hyperactive warmbloods. Without meditation or yoga, Bud is naturally at peace. Until hunger rumbles or thirst drives him back to the pool.

Every year, Bud takes a long sleep in a burrow by winter, and rises for spring. His human caretakers have trouble comprehending the different pace by which the amphibian lives. For one reason or another, we have suspected him dead year after year, then are surprised when he reappears, alive and healthy. This year, when warm weather didn’t awaken him, and a bumpy ride from West Virginia to North Carolina didn’t awaken him, we wondered if Bud would not awaken. Then we spotted him in hibernation, having made a burrow near to the glass wall of the terrarium. This gave us a window into Bud’s world, one we had never had before in so many years. The amphibian slept inside a sort of bubble carved out of the soil, and slowly breathed the fresh air. The earth gave insulation, to make a comfortable environment for an exothermic animal. He shifted positions periodically, and sometimes awakened for a little while. Now we know how he avoids bedsores.

I acquired Bud when I was a teenager, and the amphibian has led an astonishingly long life for his species of more than 20 years, and there’s no telling how long he will live. After I moved away from home, my Mom, the wise botanist Susan Moyle Studlar, has cared for the creature. Hence, Bud is Lord of the Manor, commanding some able servants. It seems that Bud has taken well to the move from West Virginia to North Carolina, and is getting some healthy sunlight as he looks out the south-facing window beyond his terrarium. The new Studlar family home in North Carolina is a little closer to Bud’s ancestral home of South America. His wild cousins live in the rainforest and prey upon insects, lizards, small mammals, other frogs, and anything that will fit down their gullet! Perhaps the scene that Bud surveys in the photo recalls ancestral memories of the rainforest. Then again, the aged amphibian’s eyesight has declined a bit…. I hope he at least sees some nice splotches of green against the sunlight.

Bud hibernating photo by © Susan Moyle Studlar. Bud belongs to the species Ceratophrys ornata.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

From out of the basement, the Bogosaurus awakens!

I made this papier-mâché sculpture when I was 16; ’twas a project for a high school art class. Now I have reunited with the beast, after it had long been dormant in my parents’ basement. At the time I laid down the flour-soaked strips of newspaper, I referred to the sculpted alien as simply “my creature.” Evidently, I am long overdue to give this creature a name and a story. I am working on that now. Tentatively calling it a Bogosaurus; and it’s first issue is forthcoming!

When the whole Studlar family moved out of our old home in West Virginia, I thought that could not keep the sculpture. It’s combination of length and height made it wholly impractical to transport by way of our rental vans, which were already overloaded with stuff. In the final move-out, I had played an insane and exhausting game of “Tetris” in the vehicles. I filled suitcases with books, nested containers in containers like Russian dolls, stuffed all empty spaces with soft things like clothes, put items like staplers and surge protectors under the seats, and arranged and rotated every piece of the puzzle in an effort to use every millimeter of available space. It was around midnight and the snow was falling outside. Weary from the protracted effort and with sore forearms from all the stuffing, I took my final photos of the creature under the basement’s fluorescent lights, thinking it would then join the trash pile, with the moldy clothes hamper and the cans of solidified paint. It seemed an undignified ending to such a memorable creation. But my dad proclaimed that we could keep the creature. I declared that impossible. He suggested putting it atop the load; I objected because that would prevent the driver from seeing out the back. He suggested the car-top carrier; and I noted that it was already full of stuff. Then I had a flash of insight. Or maybe a solution this obvious is not worthy of being called insight. I got out my pocket-knife and cut the creature’s tail off. The long tail we put on top of the load in the back of the van. The body we placed in the front-seat, where there was just enough room, amidst the driver’s overnight back and snack food and CDs. Upon arrival to our new home in Asheville, North Carolina, I taped the beast back together. It now stands proud atop the mantle. I am working on inventing its science-fictional biology.

Bogosaurus sculpture  ©Ross Wood Studlar. Photo ©Susan Moyle Studlar.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

See you in SPACE

I will be exhibiting and selling my comics work at SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) in Columbus, Ohio, March 25-26! Debuting at this show, GUERILLA FOOTBALL: A QUEST BY A CYBORG HORSE TO MAKE HIMSELF WHOLE—a 44-page one-shot science fiction comic book, wherein a transhuman cybernetic horse and orang-utan team up to steal a priceless historic football in hopes of selling it to raise funds to buy themselves human bodies. Their quest is fraught with peril; opponents include the cybernetic football player of the future! I will also be selling just about every other comic book I’ve made or contributed to in the past 14 years, including FROG STORIES, AWESOME ‘POSSUM 2 & 3, etc.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bigfoot relaxes

Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest....

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Inauguration of the Resistance

I was in Washington DC on the historic dates of January 20 and 21, 2017. I attended various events, including the Women’s March and the Festival of Resistance.

At 12 noon on January 20, a cold rain began to fall.

In the afternoon, at McPherson Park, Michael Moore led the crowd in a chant of “Welcome to the shit show!” while the BOOM of flash bang grenades erupted from nearby streets. Haze from teargas filled the air. Confrontations were happening, between cops armed with weapons and protestors armed with the dream of a brighter future. The protestors engaged in civil disobedience to call out and resist the agenda of President Donald Trump. Their bravery earned them injuries from both cops and Trump supporters, who don’t share their commitment to non-violence. It also earned them time in kennels and jail cells, and bogus charges of felony riot, to be fought in court. Moore cheered on the resistance, and called for more.

At The Women's March, I found myself in an ocean of humanity. A crowd so dense that one was sure to lose their group unless they all held hands, and so expansive that only an aerial photo could hope to depict it. My pictures only show small fractions of the crowd, and yet it's still a sea of pink hats. Powerful women from Gloria Steinem to Mother Earth were present; and men who believe in equal rights were well-represented too. After I drove from West Virginia, rode a bus from Pittsburgh, slept on a church floor in DC, and walked and ran across DC (and once managed to ride a sardine-packed subway--public transit was limited and difficult to use in the chaotic weekend of protest), I thought that I had a good story about the challenges I underwent to attend this march. Then I met people who had come from New Mexico. A far longer journey! Three times as many people attended the Women's March as the Inauguration. Sister marches, similarly packed and overflowing, happened all over the United States and all over world. Marches happened in all seven continents (yes, Antarctica included.)



Welcome to the resistance. January 20 may have marked the beginning of the end of American democracy, and perhaps the end of civilization, whether by means of war or environmental degradation. However, one thing is clear: millions of Americans have committed to defending our values and our planet, and won’t go down quietly. In the courts and in the streets, the fight is on.

The funniest sign I saw all weekend was at the Women’s March. It said: “Trump approval rating: 32%. Paul Bart, Mall Cop: 33% - Rottentomatoes.com.”