Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Drought, The United States and Beyond



Obama: Climate Change is Bad for Your Health

What the media isn't telling you about Climate Change.

Weather is what happens in the sky. Weather includes wind, lightning, storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, rain, hail, snow, and lots more. Energy from the Sun affects the weather. Climate tells us what kinds of weather usually happen in an area at different times of the year.

Climate is the long-term pattern of weather in a particular area. It is measured by assessing the patterns of variation in temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, precipitation, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological variables in a given region over long periods of time. Climate is different from weather, in that weather only describes the short-term conditions of these variables in a given region.

Drought is when an area gets less than its normal amount of rain over months or even years. Crops and other plants need water to grow, and land animals need it to live. It can become dangerous to people and other animals; causing famine and even creating deserts. Drought is a natural event, caused by other weather events like El Niño and high pressure systems. Drought can also be triggered by deforestation (people cutting down forests), by global warming, and by diverting rivers or emptying lakes.

Simple English Wikipedia

   July was the planet's warmest month on record, smashing old marks, U.S. weather officials said.
   July's average temperature was 61.86 degrees Fahrenheit, beating the previous global mark set in 1998 and 2010 by about one-seventh of a degree, according to figures released Thursday (8-20-15) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That's a large margin for weather records, with previous monthly heat records broken by a 20th of a degree or less.
   "It just reaffirms what we already know: that the Earth is warming," said  NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch. "The warming is accelerating and we're really seeing it this year."
   NOAA records go back to 1880. Separate calculations by NASA and the Japanese weather agency also found July 2015 to be a record.

   "In case we have forgotten, because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, 'You know what this is?'" Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said, holding up a snowball. "It's a snowball, from outside here. So it's very, very cold out. Very unseasonable."
   "Catch this," he said to the presiding officer, tossing the blob of snow on the Senate floor last February as part of his case for why global warming is a hoax.
   Jim went on to list the recent cold temperatures across parts of the United States, which included 67 new record lows earlier in the week according to the National Weather Service, as evidence that global warming claims are overhyped. "We hear the perpetual headline that 2014 has been the warmest year on record. But now the script has flipped."

   Excerpt from “Depression 3, Joyce’s Take   Thursday, July 31, 2014
   “This Wednesday,” I continued, “ Senator Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma of course, blocked a Senate resolution that would have admitted that climate change is real. Just That! Not that is was caused by humans, or that we had to do something about it, but just that it was real, that the climate was changing, not for the better or worse, just that it was changing. Inhofe objected to the resolution because he claimed the planet had experienced, and I quote, “no warming for the last fifteen years;” and because nine thousand scientists had signed some petition expressing doubt that greenhouse gases caused global warming. I guess that would be a pretty good argument against human based climate change if any of it were true, which it isn’t. I don’t know what thermometer Big Jim has been looking at, but the one the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has tells us that all of the three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since eighteen eighty. Most of this has occurred since the seventies... nineteen seventies, with twenty of the hottest years occurring since nineteen eighty one! Ten of the hottest years on record have occurred in the last twelve...”
   “Wait a second,” one of the guys interrupted. “You said “this Wednesday.” You mean last Wednesday, don’t you?”
   “No. And this doesn’t even take into account that solar activity has decreased since two thousand, and that ninety percent of all of the heat generated from increased carbon emissions goes straight into the ocean instead of the atmosphere, which is what’s usually measured when attempting to detect the ambient temperature. Inhofe doesn’t get that when the ocean heats up it will eventually  influence atmospheric temperature.”
   “Mr. Joyce, Rick...”
   “How does he explain melting glaciers, and the artic ice cap disappearing, stranding all of those poor polar bears. Now that’s really depressing. Makes me want to break down and cry.
   Inhofe went on to assert that federal government agencies, including the The Department of Defense, NASA, and the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, were colluding to promote the agendas of environmentalists. So a vast conspiracy is under way that Inhofe has double secret knowledge of, but no evidence to prove his assertion. In other words he’s pulling that assertion right of of his big, flabby, Oklahoman butt. Why would the government be doing this? What’s in it for them? What’s their motive?  Senator Inhofe doesn’t answer this important point to his argument.
   Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island made the point for him, and If I remember correctly, he said this, ‘Let me tell you some of the government agencies who are so-called colluding together. How about NASA? We trust them to send our astronauts into space. We trust them to deliver a rover the size of an S.U.V. to the surface of Mars safely and drive it around, sending data and pictures back from Mars to us. You think these people know what they’re talking about? … How about the United States Navy? The commander in chief of our Pacific Command? Is he colluding when he says that? …
   If you want to ignore the federal government, if you live in a world in which you think the federal government colludes with itself to make up things that aren’t true, okay. But look at the property casualty insurance and reinsurance industry. They’re the people with the biggest bet on this. They have billions of dollars riding on getting it right, and they say climate change is real, carbon pollution is causing it, we’ve got to do something about it. So does the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, because they care about the poor and the effect this will have on the people who have the least. So does every major U.S. scientific society. Every single one.’”
   I looked around the room. Everybody seemed suitably stunned.
   I continued.
    “And what about that petition, the one nine thousand scientists signed saying the science behind global warming was not well established. I happen to know about this petition. It even has a name. It’s called the Petition Project, or the Oregon Petition, which purports to be signed by thirty one thousand, four hundred and eighty seven American scientists, including nine thousand, and twenty nine with PhDs, mostly in engineering. Okay, number one, the signatories are listed without titles or affiliations that would permit an assessment of their credentials, which is rather odd, don’t you agree?”
   Most of the vets continued to stupidly stare at me, or at Dr Newsome, I assume to watch her agree with my argument.
   “Two, assuming that all the people that signed the petition reported their credentials accurately, credentialed climate experts on the list are very few, and the others really have no business signing a petition that has to do with something that is not in their field. It's like a psychologist, like Doctor Newsome here [everyone looked at Dr. Newsome now, who was looking at me] making an opinion about solar flares. You wouldn’t do that, would you doctor?”
   She shook her head, “No,” she said.
   “Of course you wouldn’t. Third, approved names on the list included fictional characters from the television show “M*A*S*H,” the movie “Star Wars," Geri Halliwell, from “The Spice Girls,” the father of evolution (which is another disputed theory), Charles Darwin, and prank names such as "I. C. Ewe, " “Fook Mi,” and “Fook Yu.” Duplicate entries, single names lacking any other initial, and corporate names. By golly, in two thousand one, the magazine Scientific American took a random sample "of thirty of the one thousand and four hundred signatories that claimed to hold a Ph.D. specifically in a climate-related science, and came to the conclusion, well, let me see if I can remember. Oh yeah, they said ‘Of the twenty six we were able to identify in various databases, eleven said they still agreed with the petition,  one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers – a respectable number, though rather a small fraction of the climatological community.’
   Well my fellow veterans, I think Senator  Whitehouse said it best when he added ‘The fact you can’t find 9,000 people who think the earth is flat is a bit of a stretch, and the idea that we should base our policy on a petition that imaginary people are on rather than on what NASA and NOAA and the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and every major scientific society and the entire property casualty reinsurance industry are telling us, it’s just extraordinary.’
   I would have to agree.
   Not only that, but when you consider that ninety seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate warming trends over the past century are likely due to human activities, and that most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing that position, well it doesn’t really matter how many deniers come up out of the depths of the corporatocracy (and don’t fool yourselves for a minute that we live in a democracy, my friends, we haven’t lived in a democracy for decades), they are still only three percent of the scientific community, if they are indeed of the scientific community. Three percent compared to ninety seven. If you had a serious illness, which God forbid ever happens to anyone in this room, and ninety seven doctors told you that a difficult course of treatment lies ahead of you, with no guarantee of success, but it was your only chance of survival, and three doctors told you you were okay, and you didn’t need to do anything. who would you listen to? I’m afraid, and I hate to say this because I’m sure some of you might be members of a certain political party, that republicans would rather take the advice of the three, and that saddens, and depresses me.
    Look, the Governor of the great state of Florida, and Skeletor impersonator, Rick Scott, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, were asked if climate change was real, they replied, “I’m not a scientist,” as if that answered anything. This attitude is representative of the entire republican party. “I’m not a scientist,” seems to indicate that they don’t have the information, or the means of gaining enough information on the subject to make a decision to take any kind of meaningful action, which leads to inaction, which itself is a policy position. 
   Charlie Crist, who is running against Scott, when asked the same question said this, ‘I’m not a scientist either but I can use my brain and I can talk to one.’
   Now that’s the kind of attitude I want my politicians to have, not someone who sweeps difficult problems under the rug, and who would have our children deal with situations when it may be too late!”
   I was a little tired now, and weepy.
     “And let’s not forget our dear friends from the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.”
   “What?”  I could hear several of my fellow veterans exclaim.
   “Yes, I share your outrage. Because you know what happens when all of this extra heat and carbon dioxide winds up in the ocean, don’t you? It makes the ocean more acidic, and currently the oceans are more acidic than they have been for tens of millions of years. Yes, yes, I know! I’m not even going to mention what effect this has on the world’s reefs, oh no, I won’t mention that! And I certainly won’t mention the fact that ocean plankton provide fifty percent of the oxygen that you and I breathe, and due to global warming, that capacity to provide this oxygen and support the fundamental food chains of the ocean has decreased by six percent over the last thirty years. No gentleman and ladies, I won’t mention that.
   “Good,” Dr. Newsome cut in, “now I think...”
   “So why does ocean acidification matter? Anyone? I don’t want to monopolize the groups time here, but ocean acidification decreases the availability of carbonate, a material that thousands of species of sea creatures use to form calcium carbonate shells. Yeah, that’s right, shells. Without  carbonate, we’ll see an epidemic of clams, oysters, lobsters and, yes, crabs suffering from osteoporosis, with shells that are thin and brittle, or that totally dissipate. And who relies on these animals other than humans? Seals, otters and walruses who eat shellfish, are also in danger of running out of food.
   So my fellow vets, if something isn’t done soon, all we’ll ever see coming on board the decks of the Time Bandit and the Cornelia Marie are empty cages.”
   My audience was suitable shocked. Some were looking at the wall clock.
   “Thank you Rick, I think we can all...”
     “But what saddens me the most, what I find depressing about this whole situation, doctor, and my fellow vets, is that the right question wasn’t asked. All that really had to be done to clear up this matter, in which the whole destiny of our race may depend...”
   “Mr. Joyce,” Dr. Newsome exclaimed, “maybe we should keep the discussion on a personal basis...”
   “Of course! I was just coming to that. Thank you. The right question to ask, as you so wisely point out doctor, is what is Senator Inhofe gaining by championing climate change denial in the United States Senate? Why would he be doing this in the face of insurmountable evidence which contradicts his position? Huummm?”
   “Do you know?” I pointed to one man wearing a “U.S.S. Forrestal” ballcap.
   “Do you?” I pointed to another.
   “Naw, but...”
   “Of course you don’t! Because nobody asked. I’ll tell you why though. According to Oil Change International, Senator Inhofe has received more than one million, three hundred thousand dollars in contributions from the oil and gas industry since nineteen ninety nine.  The largest donor on his list is Koch Industries, which has given him sixty seven thousand, seven hundred and fifty dollars. Do you think that might have something to do with it?
   Instead of the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the insurance industry maintaining this massive hoax for no particular reason, and James Inhofe having a very good reason to discount the problem of global warming, namely because he’s getting paid for it, now who would you believe? I ask you, who would you believe?”

   “...thanks in part to climate change, drought-fueled infernos are incinerating forests at a record pace from Alaska to California, claiming the lives of at least 13 [now at least 21] firefighters, destroying more than 900 structures and requiring firefighting agencies to call in help from the U.S. Army and as far away as Australia and New Zealand.
   As of Aug. 20, more than 41,300 wildfires have scorched more than 7.2 million acres in 2015, mostly in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. That’s nearly three times the 2.6 million acres that burned nationwide in 2014 and more land area than has burned in any other year over the last decade.
   The blazes have consumed so much land this year because of the drought, fueled by record high temperatures during the warmest January-to-July period in history for the region. Partly to blame for the heat is a giant area of warm water in the Pacific known as “the blob” and the rapidly growing El Niño, which could be one of the most extreme on record.
   The drought and high temperatures are stressing forests to the point where they can’t fend off the worst effects of wildfire, even in those forests that depend on occasional fires to survive.” - Bobby Magill / Climate Central

   “In the Western United States some of the effects of climate change such as increasing temperatures, lower rainfall, and decreases in snowmelt have contributed to longer and more intense wildfire seasons: Fire seasons are now an average of 78 days longer than they were in 1970 and the U.S. now burns twice as many acres every year as it did 30 years ago.
   Fighting fire and protecting the communities it threatens is expensive. As wildfire season has become increasingly severe, the costs of fighting wildfires has increased dramatically but federal funding has not kept up. The Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service—the agencies tasked with battling blazes—have long faced major budget shortfalls and the problem is only getting worse. Here are a few numbers to put the cost increase into perspective:
   $100 million: The amount the Forest Service is spending each week to fight fires this year. It is expected to exceed its annual budget by September.
   $3 billion: The amount of federal wildfire spending per year since 2002, more than doubling from less than $1 billion a year in the 1990s.
   50 percent: The percentage of the Forest Service’s budget that will be dedicated to wildfires, up from just 16 percent 20 years ago.
   30 percent: The percentage of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget that was spent fighting the worst 1 percent of American wildfires between 2008 and 2012.
   Because the cost of suppressing wildfires has grown exponentially and funding has not kept pace, the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior have been forced to borrow money from other pockets, including fire prevention, to cover costs, creating a vicious cycle where funding for other important programs is taken to cover the cost of wildfire suppression.” -CAP Action War Room

   On March 12, Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a professor at UC Irvine, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. Online it was given this headline: "California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?"
   In an email Q&A with Mashable, Famiglietti explains what he really meant by that article, and why he is so concerned about the sustainability of current water use — not only in the West, but also in other parts of the world such as the Middle East.
   Famiglietti: The online headline, written (and now corrected) by the LA Times, was misleading. It originally read "California has 1 year of water left," which I did not write nor did I intend to convey. My real point: at the time of writing, statewide, California's surface water reservoirs held about a year's worth of water supply, perhaps plus or minus a couple of months.
   Of course, our surface water reservoirs are not designed to provide long-term water supply, and really cannot hold more than about 3 year's worth. So after 3 years of drought, it is understandable that our reservoirs are very low.
   However, we are at no risk of running out of water any time soon, since we have decades worth of groundwater in our aquifers. One of the key points of the op-ed was that, since we will be relying more heavily on groundwater this year (perhaps an unprecedented 85% to 90% statewide), that we need to be extremely mindful to use it sparingly — all the more important as we consider the great potential for an even drier future in California with even more prolonged drought.
   Groundwater is clearly our strategic reserve, yet the public does not really realize it, and may also not realize how rapidly it is being depleted. Collectively, we need to make sure that we sustain our groundwater supply for the long term.

   New NASA satellite imagery shows that some areas of California are sinking more than 2 inches (5.1 centimeters) per month. Though the sinking, called subsidence, has long been a problem in the state, the rate is accelerating because the state's extreme drought is fueling voracious groundwater pumping.
   "Because of increased pumping, groundwater levels are reaching record lows — up to 100 feet (30 meters) lower than previous records," Mark Cowin, director of California's Department of Water Resources, said in a statement. "As extensive groundwater pumping continues, the land is sinking more rapidly, and this puts nearby infrastructure at greater risk of costly damage."
    If the land shrinks too much, and for too long, it can permanently lose its ability to store groundwater, the researchers said.
   Certain areas are shrinking very quickly. Regions of the Tulare Basin, which includes Fresno, sank 13 inches (33 cm) in just eight months. The Sacramento Valley is sinking about 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) per month. And the California Aqueduct, a complex network of pipes, canals and tunnels that funnels water from the Sierra Nevada mountains in northern and central California to Southern California, has sunk 12.5 inches (32 cm), and most of that was just in the past four months, according to the new study.
   The need for groundwater in certain regions is largely a result of agriculture: Most of the state's agricultural production resides in the fast-sinking regions around some of the state's most endangered river systems, the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers. As the heat and lack of rainfall have depleted surface-water supplies, farmers have turned to groundwater to keep their crops afloat.
   Subsidence isn't just an aesthetic problem; bridges and highways can sink and crack in dangerous ways, and flood-control structures can be compromised. In the San Joaquin Valley, the sinking Earth has destroyed the outer shell around thousands of privately drilled wells.
   Source Tia Ghose of Love Science

   Mashable: From space, you've collected data showing the dramatic drawdown in groundwater supplies from California's agricultural lands. This clearly is unsustainable, but can you put this into perspective for people regarding how much water has likely been taken, how much land has sunk, and what this means for another hot and dry season ahead?
   Famiglietti: Data from the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission has shown us that since 2011, water losses in California have been catastrophic. In each of the last 3 years, California has lost more than 8 trillion gallons of water, which is more than all 39 million Californians use each year in their homes, and for industrial and municipal use.
   Our last couple of winters — our wet seasons — have been drier than our dry seasons, so our reservoirs and groundwater supplies are not getting replenished. The snowpack is nearly 90% below normal for this time of year. Groundwater is at an all-time low. Wells continue to run dry. In some regions, the land is sinking at rates as high as a foot per year in response to the heavy rates of groundwater pumping.
   All of this means that as we move deeper into 2015, that we will be relying even more heavily on our limited groundwater supply ... which means that we all have to conserve as much water as we possibly can so that we don't drain our precious groundwater reserve and leave ourselves unprepared for future drought emergencies.

   The California Water Commission, responding to a fourth year of drought, approved sharp new limits on the amount of water that can be used on landscapes surrounding newly constructed buildings, such as houses, businesses and schools.
   The revised ordinance will limit grass to about 25% of a home's combined front, back and side yards in all new construction.
   Owners of existing homes do not completely escape the restrictions: Those who launch significant renovations of outdoor areas with more than 2,500 square feet of landscaping also face cutbacks.
   Additionally, grass will be all but banned in landscapes of new commercial, industrial and institutional buildings.
   The ordinance is expected to reduce the water use of a new home by about 20% or about 12,000 gallons a year. Water use on new commercial landscapes will be cut by about 35%, Department of Water Resources officials said. The new rules take effect Dec. 1st.
   When Gov. Jerry Brown stood in a snow-less meadow April 1st and ordered a historic 25% cut in urban water use, he also declared war on California's beloved lawns.
   “The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day — that's going to be a thing of the past,” Brown said.

   Mashable: Climate change may be playing a role in this drought by amplifying its severity through increases in the average temperatures. How should people think of the link between the California drought and global warming, without falling into the "did x cause y" trap?
   Famiglietti: People must begin to recognize that the steady march of climate change is forging ahead and is having a huge impact on water availability. Droughts like the one we are facing now will become more common in the future, and likely even more severe, especially later in the century. It is climate change that is making drought the new normal, and we need to adjust our personal thinking, and our statewide and national water management accordingly.

    Lapping more than one thousand miles of coastline in drought-stricken California is a tantalizing, vast source of water: the Pacific Ocean.
   Cost and environmental concerns have kept Californians from tapping the salty Pacific. But now, as the historic drought enters its fourth year with no end in sight, the state is taking the plunge with plans to turn the ocean into drinkable water.
   "This is going to change the way we look at water in California for decades to come," said Peter MacLaggan, senior vice president of California project development at Poseidon Water, which manages large water infrastructure projects.   
    The desalination process itself is complicated and uses a technique called reverse osmosis, pushing seawater through filters to remove salt and other particles. The leftover, extra-salty seawater is pumped back into the ocean.
   Poseidon's facility in Carlsbad in San Diego County is the largest desalination plant in the western hemisphere, and will start pumping 50 million gallons of fresh water into the community each day starting this fall.
   It's not the state's first desalination plant. The tiny town of Sand City has operated a desalination facility for five years, serving as an example for larger-scale efforts to take a sip out of the Pacific. - Jacob Rascon and Elizabeth Chuck for NBC News


   It might seem that with California having so much coastline, an obvious drought solution would be to transform some of that sea water into water fit for human use. Not so fast!
   Desalinization involves technology that is extremely expensive, so most water officials don’t see it as a major player in improving water supplies. Still, in the city of Carlsbad, close to San Diego, what will be the nation’s largest desalinization plant is expected to begin operating next year. Producing 50 million gallons of water per day, it will be the largest such plant in the Western Hemisphere. That sounds like a lot, but actually is just 7 percent of the county’s total water needs, and at a cost of $1 billion, it seems unlikely that desalinization will provide a primary solution to the drought. -Judy Molland for Care2

   Mashable: As a journalist who covers climate change and extreme weather events, what should be on my horizon — and that of my readers — as we enter the fourth summer of drought in a row?
   Famiglietti: A few things come to mind. A big one is the human response. What will it take for 80% or 90% or 100% of the population to accept the realities of the drought, and to expect and to use far less water?
   Will agriculture voluntarily begin restricting groundwater use? Will the government be forced to impose mandatory restrictions across all sectors?
   Another thing to watch out for is whether there will be a rush to plant more water-intensive crops, like nut trees and vineyard grapes, before the new groundwater legislation is implemented. That would be unfortunate. But as you drive up and down the Central Valley, you can see it happening.
   Mashable: What's the number one lesson you take away from the GRACE data showing groundwater depletion around the world, much of it in potential hotspots for conflict?
   Famiglietti: The number one lesson is that our global water future will consist of haves and have nots. Our data allow us to now clearly anticipate where those places will be, and many of them are trans-boundary. We need to begin taking action now to plan for a future where we need to peaceably move and share water across political boundaries.

   Captain Kirk... I mean actor William Shatner (84) has a plan to help alleviate the drought in California. He floated the idea of starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise $30 billion (as in BILLION) for a water pipeline from Seattle to Lake Mead in Nevada, which feeds water to Arizona, Nevada and California. His proposal involves a 4 foot, above ground pipeline that would run alongside Interstate 5.
   "California's in the midst of a four year old drought. They tell us there's a year's supply of water left. If it doesn't rain next year, what do 20 million people in the breadbasket of the world do?"
   "No, it's simple. They did it in Alaska — why can't they do it along Highway 5?”
   This if successful would be unprecedented. The most funded campaign in Kickstarter’s history was for $20,338,986 going towards a start up, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based smartwatch maker Pebble.
   And the idea is feasible... if Seattle, or the state of Washington, was willing to part with some of it’s water to quench the thirst of Californians.
   It seems that they are not.
   While Washington state has received a normal amount of rainfall so far in 2015, the average snowpack is well below normal and Gov. Jay Inslee has issued an emergency drought declaration for watersheds that account for 44% of the state.
   Snowmelt runoff for the summer of 2015 is projected to be the lowest on record in 64 years and the State Department of Ecology is asking legislators for $9 million in funding.
   Seattle does not have a surplus of water, says Paul Faulds, water resources manager for Seattle Public Utilities.
   "Our water goes to provide water for people, for businesses and for fish. We use our water wisely and manage it throughout the season," Faulds said.
   Thanks to full reservoirs from winter rains and strict conservation, Faulds said Seattle will be able to survive a dry summer, but is in no position to help water wasteful California.
   "We're not being greedy. We do sympathize with them for sure," Faulds said.
   Kirk said even if he can't raise $30 billion, he hopes to at least raise awareness of the water issues California faces.
   A noble Enterprise... indeed.

   Scientists who study long-term climate patterns say California has been dry for much longer periods of time before it became a state. They’ve documented several droughts over the past 1,000 years in the state which lasted 10 or 20 years in a row. By studying tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have discovered a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years.

   We’ve discussed drought before, specifically in California. From Drought, California   2-23-13:
   As of last February (2-2012) the precipitation in the state had only hit 60 percent of the average. Our snowpack water supplies are low as well.
   Drought conditions effect the number of wildfires that annually plague Southern California. The drier the conditions, the easier it is for fires to start and spread.
   According to the analysis of the drought's impacts by the Pacific Institute, a Northern California think tank that focuses on water issues, in an average year hydropower produces 15% of the electricity for the state.
   Citing data from the California Energy Commission, the authors found that figure dropped to 8%-10% with falling runoff levels during the 2007-09 drought. Utilities made up for the loss by burning more natural gas and buying more power from out of state, driving up production costs as well as greenhouse gas emissions. The authors calculated that the switch to other power sources resulted in an additional 13 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
   According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (who keep sending me Emails all of the time... I don't know why):
   “Warmer global temperatures are expected to cause an intensification of the hydrologic cycle, with increased evaporation over both land and water. The higher evaporation rates will lead to greater drying of soils and vegetation, especially during the warm season. Climate models also project changes in the distribution and timing of rainfall. The combination of a decrease in summer rainfall and increased evaporation will lead to more severe and longer-lasting droughts in some areas. Increasing drought frequency has the potential to affect land-based natural and managed ecosystems, coastal systems, and both freshwater quality and quantity. Increasing drought frequency also has the potential to increase the likelihood of wildfires.”  
   To sum up, California has experienced severe drought conditions on a periodic basis. Drought effects the amount of water available for use by humans for various purposes. For instance, the city of Los Angeles uses 200 billion gallons of water a year for personal, industrial, and agricultural use (including the production of livestock foods). Los Angeles depends on water to provide for the production of energy as well. The effect drought has on the available water supply is to lessen it, which means other sources of water needs to be utilized (the prospect of increased demand coupled with reduced supply from the Mono and Owens basins is causing the LADWP to look into a number of new water sources, including a new direct connection to the California Aqueduct, increased use of recycled water, use of stormwater capture and reuse, and increased conservation. Global warming, or climate change, whichever term you prefer, will increasingly tend to exacerbate the drought conditions we're already experiencing (as well as increase the amount of wildfires which are prevalent in the area. It will also effect insect propagation (A new study made at University of Washington suggests that global warming seems to lead in fact to more insects. Warmer climates seem to increase their reproductive rate and population growth, with widespread effects on agriculture, public health and conservation).

   Some climatologists believe that the United States may be looking at a “megadrought.” All states west of the Mississippi are experiencing water shortages, and NOAA data indicates that California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho and Montana are all likely to experience an “intensification” of drought conditions. Arizona and New Mexico are also looking at low water supplies, though NOAA officials believe it’s possible drought conditions may be lifted in future climate projections.
   Climatologists assessing the possible causes of the megadrought are also reluctant to blame it on global warming, as historic evidence suggests that it may be natural and part of a cyclical pattern. Native communities may have survived droughts via tactics like relocating and changing their practices — though some, like the Pueblo, appear to have been unable to cope with the change in climate — but Europeans stumbled upon North America when the continent was rich in water supplies, and colonized it accordingly, without consideration for future water conservation. Now, they’re dealing with the consequences.
   This illustrates that shrinking water supplies and inadequate rainfall aren’t just a problem in the Golden State, and all states need to begin to think about reforming water policy to address the possibility of a long-term change in water availability. Water shortages across the West have already caused problems like mass livestock dieoffs in Texas, uncontrolled wildfires in Montana, and the deaths of acres of orchards in California. These problems are having a direct social and economic impact on affected states, cutting at the baseline of their economy and making financial survival difficult for those who rely on the land to make a living — farmers in particular are struggling across the West because they can’t irrigate crops and provide water for their livestock. That has a ripple effect along the economic chain, as reduced farm profits equate to reduced tax profits, export dollars and other benefits for the state economy as a whole, while fires necessitate substantial expenses for paying fire crews, evacuating affected communities, and providing financial aid and assistance for fire recovery.
   The drought is also permanently changing the landscape of the American West. Low rainfall paired with depletion of the region’s aquifers has resulted in desertification in some regions, and some authorities believe that so-called “desert bands” may be on their way North. Desert conditions currently seen in regions like Arizona and Southern California could work their way into some of the most fertile parts of the country, which could be potentially devastating for food security as well as economic health; California, for example, could go from an extremely wealthy state to one that needs considerable federal assistance to cope with changes in the landscape.
   California’s famous changes to water policy — many of which unfortunately focus on individuals rather than big culprits like the agricultural industry — are capturing attention, but other Western states have been slow to enact water restrictions. Some, like Arizona, believe they have sufficient reserves to weather out, so to speak, conditions that they see as temporary. Others may not realize the extent of the problems they’re facing, an issue that could potentially have a devastating effect on residents and the natural environment. Water rights have historically been an extremely contentious issue in the West, with states battling for bigger shares of sources like the Rio Grande River, and the problem will escalate unless they can reach a uniform convention, not just on water rights, but water policy within individual states, as those with more radical conservation measures may come to resent those without such measures in place. -Source S.E. Smith for Care2

   Desmond Tutu, Vivienne Westwood, Naomi Klein  (“Confronting climate change, Klein argues, requires far more than putting a tax on carbon without rolling back total emissions and believing that scientists will find some magic bullet. It means humanity weaning itself off fossil fuels (Klein adamantly opposes opening the Keystone XL pipeline), governments spending trillions on renewable energy, corporations giving up the idea of endless economic growth, and consumers everywhere learning restraint. We all must learn to stop buying so much, which means learning to stop defining ourselves by what we buy.” ) and Noam Chomsky are among a group of high-profile figures who will issue a mass call to action on Thursday ahead of the UN’s crunch climate change conference in Paris in December.
   They call for mass mobilization on the scale of the slavery abolition and anti-apartheid movements to trigger “a great historical shift”.
   Their statement, published in the book Stop Climate Crimes, reads: “We are at a crossroads. We do not want to be compelled to survive in a world that has been made barely liveable for us ... slavery and apartheid did not end because states decided to abolish them. Mass mobilisations left political leaders no other choice.”
   “It’s important for everyone to know that the players at Paris aren’t just government officials and their industry sidekicks. Civil society is going to have its say, and noisily if need be. This is a good first step,” Bill McKibben, founder of environmental movement, said.
   Artists, journalists, scientists and academics are among the 100 signatories to the statement alongside activists Vandana Shiva, Nnimmo Bassey and Yeb Sano, the Filipino diplomat who lead a fast of hundreds at the 2013 UN climate change summit in Poland after typhoon Haiyan devastated his country.
   The statement and book target corporations and international trade, calling for an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels and a freeze on extraction.
   “Decades of liberalisation of trade and investments have undermined the capacity of states to confront the climate crisis. At every stage powerful forces – fossil fuel corporations, agro-business companies, financial institutions, dogmatic economists, sceptics and deniers, and governments in the thrall of these interests – stand in the way or promote false solutions. Ninety companies are responsible for two-thirds of recorded greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Genuine responses to climate change threatens their power and wealth, threatens free market ideology, and threatens the structures and subsidies that support and underwrite them,” they state.
   I think these artists, journalists, scientists and academics are on to something, namely that the problem of climate change has to be taken seriously, and very soon. That those responsible for creating and exacerbating the problem should be held accountable and forced to finance whatever tactics and strategies are utilized to slow greenhouse gas emissions, and that a Manhattan Project multiplied by whatever it takes sized priority and expenditure be initiated to slow global warming.
   Because as John Oliver quite rightly pointed out above, our attitude toward future generations, up until now concerning climate change has been akin to “Ah... fuck em.”
   But as we can see now, in drought, fires, extreme weather, etc., future generations are not the only ones who will have to contend with the effects of a warming planet.
   We’re doing it right now.

Addendum: 8-28-15: Extreme Drought Hits South Florida
Addendum: 8-28-15: Drought Not Going Away Soon 
Addendum: 8-30-15: 10 ways to conserve water 
Addendum 9-2-15: Worl'd Biggest Economies Devise Plan that could Doom the Planet
Addendum: 9-2-15: More than 8 million acres have burned in U.S. wildfires in 2015. 8,202,557 of them, to be precise.
Addendum: 9-14-15: Worst fire yet

Friday, August 21, 2015

Skid Row Diary 43

22   November   2003    Saturday        Day 133

   “When the Buddha achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, he laughed.” -Thích Thiên-Ân

   I woke to Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting “Chinatown,” theme song from deep inside my head. I don’t know why.
   I showered and cleaned my room. I finished reading Act I of “The Tenth Man.” By then it was time for lunch.
   John was down there. We sat together. He talked about how his computers were attacking him, and how he spent most of his time trying to make them work. I sympathized with him, then went to buy a Supper Lotto ticket, some large manilla envelopes, and some cookies from Rite-Aid.
   I exchanged videos at the library, and then used one of their computers for an hour to journey way out on the Internet to check on the stats for the average flying speed of the New England Swallow.
   When I returned to my room I wrote and exercised, one right after the other. I listened to The Prairie Home Companion, playing out of San Diego this week, and making fun of us Californians for not having weather.
   These Minnesotaians come down here and think that they’re so hot. I just makes me want to puke!  
   I taped all of the music the show had to offer, and was glad I did. Natalie MacMaster, a Canadian (Garrison Keillor or calls encroaching Canadians “Frostbacks”) violin player, and her band played, and I enjoyed them so much that I will now be forced to buy one of their CDs. They have a frenzied, Celtic quality about them, which appeals to my frenzied Celtic nature.
   Keillor also mentioned that 40 years ago today, President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, which is very true, he was.
   40 years ago today I was 8 years old, and on the playground at Colfax Elementary School in North Hollywood, California, when I asked why the flag was half way down the pole and it was explained to me.
   I read from Orwell’s “1984,” and the newspaper. At 7:15pm I attended the Drifters meeting in Gladys Park, and listened to Loraline, Ida, and Julie tell their stories.
   Julie, with only a week sober, is 44 years old and suffering from kidney failure and cirrhosis of the liver. She’s on a list for a liver transplant, but needs six months of sobriety in order to receive it. She hopes that she’ll make it.
   So do I.
   The boys in the day room were watching a Jet Li movie with rapt attention when I returned. I made tea then retired to my lonely room to read the paper, and watched Milos Forman’s rendition of “Amadeus,” the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the Mariah Carey, Jim Morrison, and Natalie MacMaster of the classical era, as seen through the eyes of his bitter rival, Antonio Salieri. The film starred Elizabeth Berridge and F. Murray Abraham, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his efforts.
   I also watched a Monty Python tribute hosted by Steve martin. It was a “best of” show without the dead parrot.
   Then I went to sleep and dreamt I was walking through the streets of 1800's Vienna with Heidi Klum, the fashion model, Elizabeth Berridge, Enya, the Irish singer and songwriter, and Wendy Thorlakson, the actress and producer.
   They were all wearing yellow string bikinis, which I thought rather odd as it was obviously snowing, and everyone else on the street was dressed in 17th century garb, including myself.
   But girls will be girls, and they’ll wear what they want I suppose.
   No stopping them.

23    November   Sunday    Day 134

   At 8:30 I got out of bed, showered, then used one of the computers in the day room to update my files and copy them onto different disks.
   I have a compulsive tendency to protect my useless information in unneeded redundancy. 
   I stopped computering in time to make it to the first floor by 9:30 in order to sign in for the last four days. I also took this precious opportunity to walk down the street to buy the Sunday paper.
   The weekend anchor lady for NPR’s morning news program was having her weekly chat with the puzzle editor of the New York Times, who provided this weeks puzzle, something about two words with similar meanings being changed by one letter and turning magically into their opposites. I vowed then and there that if I ever became remotely interested in solving word puzzles I’d shoot myself in the left temple.
      I also listened to an interview with Lisa Pittman, who organized protests in Miami against a World Trade Organization meeting. She said the police were coming down hard on them, and those who had been arrested had been abused.
   I also listened  of studies done indicating the level of ignorance Americans suffer with about the world in which they live. A 2002 National Geographic survey reported that 87% of Americans couldn’t identify Afghanistan on a map, a country the United States is currently at war with. One would think that an interested, engaged, and informed citizenry would know. 
   But the United States doesn’t enjoy the fruits of an interested, engaged, and informed citizenry, and certain political factions are perfectly content to keep it that way.
   We tend to place making money, running up credit card debt, checking out the latest fashions, and watching college football and “The Simpsons,” above being generally knowledgeable and participating in civic duties, and we are constantly encouraged to keep those priorities by our economic system, the media, pier pressure, and political deviance. So one can hardly place all of the blame on the average American for being exceptionally ignorant about certain ares of consideration.
   And ignorance is easier way to go than trying to figure out reality. It’s much easier, for example, to pretend to believe that a God created the universe (and I say “pretend” because if folks truly believed in God, heaven, and eternal life after death, then they wouldn’t fear death at all, indeed would welcome it, and hasten  as much as possible it’s arrival, short of committing suicide, which some sects believe is a mortal sin. Funerals would be causes for celebration rather than sadness due to loss of a loved one, sadness being a selfish response to the importation of the deceased into heaven), rather than try to figure out all stuff behind the Big Bang.
   And so forth.
   Okay, I’m guilty of “The Simpsons” (which is rather quite clever and engaged in real world observations), but not the football, especially college. I prefer track and field. The long jump, javelin catching, and shot put dodging.
   I wrote while listening. Tacos and beans for lunch.
   At 1:00 I taped the comedy “Home Alone,” because I’m a big fan of John Hughes... at least when he’s trying to be funny. 
   I spent a good deal of time reading the paper. While exercising I experienced another attack of amaurosis, my left eye slowing losing it’s vision, completely losing it, the returning to normal, all within about two minutes. It in no way hampered the 37 count burpies I was doing at the time.
   There’s no pain during these attacks, and I’m fairly used to them, but it is concerning.
   You’d be concerned, wouldn’t you?
   Some kind of Spanish, beef noodle concoction for dinner. Very tasty.
   I meditated. I watched “The Simpsons,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” and Ron Howard’s “Arrested Development.”
   A rare coincidence occurred exactly at 9:13PM. The planets supply of oil reached its peak, meaning humans had sucked out half of the total available amount, and from now on there would always be less oil then there had been before.
   And I also discovered I was tired of being alone.
   What do the two have to do with each other I wonder?
   Liza Minnelli made a rare appearance on “Arrested Development.” She looked good. I had been worried about her.
   I wrote some more and ate peanut butter cookies before going to bed.
   I had a strange dream about being in a hospital awaiting a liver transplant. Bambi Woods, the incredibly attractive and talented star of the entire “Debbie does Dallas,” franchise, Lindy Booth from “Relic Hunter,” and  Ewa Aulin from the film “Candy,” were in the room visiting me. They were all dressed in long black dresses, which I thought rather odd due to it being very hot. They each gave me a kiss on the forehead as they wheeled me off to the operating room, never to be seen or heard from again.

24   November    Monday    Day 135

   I got out of bed at 7:00 and, dressed, and met McCree in the lobby at 7:30. He sat with me in the cafeteria while I ate a breakfast of sausage and eggs. Then I took him to Trimar.
   For a guy who didn’t have two nickels to rub together, all Ron could do was bitch and moan about the length of the trip to the plasma center. I hadn’t bothered to explain to him the route we’d be taking in minute detail, the indignity of the procedure itself, and all the paperwork that would be involved.
   He liked the $30 though.
   The tiny sample of blood I provided at the beginning of the screening process proved to be too fatty, meaning there was too much fat in it. I was directed to drink a small amount of lemon juice and wait a half hour then try again.
   I gave my friend Aurica a wave hello, then sat back with McCree in order to listen to him bitch a little more.
   “I’ve probably made over fifty thousand dollars here over the years,” I told him.
   “I wouldn’t tell anybody else that,” he said.
   “Why? I’m not ashamed of it. Nobody else here is ashamed... only you, and as I recall, you jumped at the chance to do it when I told you about it. Donating helps me through tough times, helps the staff here keep their jobs, helps the owner, Anna, get richer than she already is, and keeps the whole damn American economy afloat, not to mention the patients who desperately need these plasma products! Why Alan Greenspan should get down on those boney knees of his and thank God that I come here on a regular basis to do my part! Stop being so selfish, Ron, and think about other people for once.”
   “This is the last time...,” and on and on.
   My blood was still too fatty on the second try, damn cookies, and eggs and sausage! I place a curse of infinite despair on you and your brethren!
   I left McCree there, giving him the bus schedules he needed to find his way back.
   For some reason I didn’t seem to mind the waste of my time. Usually I’d be upset. Perhaps I’m maturing.
   I returned downtown and picked up my mail, and visited the library they have down there.
   Later in the evening I watched “Rambling Rose,” starring Laura Dern, “Rush,” starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, and after a great deal of meditation, “Barfly," starring Faye Dunaway and Alice Krige.
   “Barfly,” is a semi-autobiography of Charles Bukowski, the poet and author during the time he spent drinking heavily in Los Angeles.
   I’ve drank heavily in Los Angeles, written a book, and no ones made a movie about me!
   I feel neglected.
   Perhaps I should have been more public in my drinking, rather than staying at home and watching movies while chuckling to myself in a derisive manner.
   Live and learn.
   I dreamt I was in a hot air balloon high over the Himalayas, just west of the Tibetan Plateau, with Laura Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Kiki Daire, the beautiful and talented star of “Accidental Starlet,” “Prescription for Peril,” and the immortal “Ass Clowns 2” (they cut out her scenes in “Ass Clowns,” which is why it’s not immortal). 
   The ladies were all wearing sling bikinis, which I thought rather odd as it was incredibly cold up where we were.
   “I’m so cold Rick,” Laura called out to me, fighting the high winds to be heard.
   “Me too,” cried Jennifer and Kiki.
   “My gosh,” I said. “I wish I had thought to bring along some extra and appropriate clothing.” I looked down and discovered that I was only wearing speedos and a polka dot tie.
   “Yeah! Why didn’t you tell us it would be be freezing,” Jennifer yelled. “I wouldn’t have worn this sling bikini you gave me.”
   “Me either,” Kiki chimed in.
   “Well, you know we’re headed for Hawaii. It will be much warmer there, I promise.”
   “I hope so,” Laura said.
   “But it’s November,” Kiki pointed out. “Won’t it be cold there too.”
   “Oh no,” I said. “It’s warm there all of the time.
   “Bullshit,” Jennifer exclaimed.
   “But what do we do in the meantime?” Laura quite rightly asked.
   “I think we only have one alternative, Rick,” Kiki exclaimed, always the practical one. “We must huddle together to conserve our body heat.”
   “Yeah,” Jennifer agreed.
   “Yeah, Laura said. “Give it up Joyce!”
   They forced me to give it up.

25   November   Tuesday    day 136

   Coincidentally, at the same time my VCR, set to playing slow during the scene in “Barfly” when Faye Dunaway accidentally displayed her pretty legs, the Weingart maid knocked on my door very loudly and in rapid succession. It being only 8:30, I was not prepared or dressed, and told her to hold on a moment while I put on some clothes.
   She was just about to move on when I opened up and allowed access. I left her to her duties and went off to the showers.
    When I returned, freshly scrubbed and sparkily clean, the maid had departed. I took my thyroid medication, an aspirin, some vitamins of various natures, and the last Wellbutrin tablet that I possessed. From now on no more psych meds! Hello “A Beautiful Mind.”
   I wrote, and read the Amnesty International reports concerning the murders and atrocities committed to the women of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which is just south of El Paso, Texas, seperated by the mighty Rio Grande River. There have been at least 340 murders of young women over the last decade, probably many more
   I couldn’t help but cry as I read. These women, these girls, these beautiful human beings at one time had wondered like we all wonder at the world we have been thrust in. They had laughed, been frightened, sad, joyful. They had looked up at the stars at night, marveled at their consistent beauty, and thought about what they might be. They had hopes. They had ambitions, some simple, some complex perhaps. They had sought love and friendship. They had played with dolls, read books about faraway and mysterious places... watched movies. About the only thing they didn’t want was to be raped and killed at the hands of brutish, low assholes with savage passions.   
   I had lunch. I discovered that McCree had taken the day off from the Needle Exchange. That’s what a little cash in the pocket of a practicing alcoholic will do. Decrease the nation’s productivity.
   I proceeded to the library and retrieved my mail. I took the Red Line subway to LACC and picked up their class schedule for the Spring and Winter, then returned to the Weingart.
   Somewhat amazingly, there was a story about Ciudad Juarez on television in the day room which I noticed while heating some water for coffee in the microwave. An official inquiry in Mexico has determined corruption and fraud had been prevalent throughout the investigation of the murders. That was old news and obvious to anyone knowledgeable of the situation there, but at least the story was being publicized, gaining some attention, and world opinion and pressure can only play a role if the world is aware of what’s happening there.
   I continued writing in my room. When finished I exercised while listening to side 2 of Led Zeppelin’s second album. 
   Pretty good band for a bunch of limeys.
   Swedish meatballs for dinner... or actually one meatball again. Granted it was a big one. I cut it into little pieces and mixed it in my noodles. I read from the paper when I got back upstairs, and watched “The Simpsons,” prohibition episode, when Springfield outlawed booze after a particularly rowdy St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Irish people were depicted as doing nothing but drinking and fighting.
   Which is true. We aren’t good for anything other than drinking and fighting. And growing potatoes. And using the restroom occasionally.
   Nothing on television tonight, so I tuned into The Phil Hendrie Show on KFI radio. He was talking about Glen Campbell being arrested for drunk driving, hit and run, and assault on a police officer, and how Wynonna Judd isn’t as good looking as her sister and mom.
   At 8:00 I watched a Nova exploration of Mt Kilimanjaro, the  dormant volcanic mountain in Tanzania, the tallest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain (not part of a mountain range) on the planet (5,895 meters for foreigners, 19,341 good old American feet for us).  It has been said that Kilimanjaro is the house of God, but no one has seen him/her/it at home.
   It has three volcanic craters, that look like pimples grouped close together.
   Frozen carcass’ of leopards can be found near the summit at times. No one knows why.
   The glaciers on Mt Kilimanjaro are melting. They may be all gone within the next two years.
   That makes me sad as I am particularly fond of glaciers.
   I returned to Phil after the Nova program. Now he was interviewing himself in the guise of a man who had the position that Thanksgiving should only be allowed for white people.
   “If you’re black or Hispanic in this country, what do you have to be thankful for?! Blacks are always trying to worm their way into everything. Can’t white people have just one day... one day for themselves?!” The man also postulated that the Canadian Thanksgiving is only celebrated to thank sweet Jesus Christ that each morning they wake up next to the United States of America!
   Callers called in, not getting that Hendrie was impersonating the man, and got all mad. Amazing.
   I stayed up late and watched Charley Rose interview a field reporter back from Iraq. I exercised, then watched the first half of Orson Welles third, and last great picture, “Touch of Evil,” restored to what everybody hopes was his vision, using his notes written after studio executives all of the sudden knew better than he did what was good for the film, mucking up the whole picture in the editing process before it’s original release in 1958. The movie concerned  murders within a Mexican border town of all things.
   Fucking suits! They’re always doing things like that.
   I only watched half. I got sleepy and tired near 2:00, and dozed off and had the most amazing dream. I was walking through a field of clay towards the setting sun. Two columns of women proceeded me. Little Lauren Sarene Kay, just 4 years old when her father threw her off a 120 foot cliff in affluent Palos Verdes, California, in order to avoid paying child support. She was at the lead. Esmeralda Herrera Monreal, 15 when murdered in Ciudad Juarez, stood by her side. Mónica Alanís, Silvia Arce, Viviana Reyes, Dorothy Stratten, Playmate of the year when her estranged boyfriend blew her face off with a shotgun. Lilia Alejandra Garcia, just 17, Griselda Mares Mata. Elizabeth Short, "The Black Dahlia," my city of Los Angeles’ most famous murder case, her body found severely mutilated and cut in half at the waist, her killer still unkown. Paloma Angelica Escobar Ledezma, 16, Rosalba Pizarro Ortega, 16, Lana Clarkson, a 40 year old actress who was shot to death by the famous music producer Phil Spector. Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly, known as the "canonical five," widely believed to have been murdered by Jack the Ripper. Yesenia Concepcion Vega Marquez, 16, Minerva Teresa Torres Albeldaño, 18.
   I walked solemnly behind them, tears streaking down my face. I looked behind me.
   There were millions more. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Happy Birthday Joanna Cassidy!

                Blade Runner

Picture Legend:

1. Joanna
2. Philadelphia
3. With a pre-Close Encounters Bob Balaban in her first co-starring role in 1974‘s “Bank Shot”
4. The Roller Girls
5. Buffalo Bill
6. At home
7. Zhora Salome
8. Bradbury Building
9. With Nick Nolte and Gene Hackman in “Under Fire”
10. On “The Love Boat”
11. On “Dudley,” with Dudley Moore
12. In “Hotel Malibu,” with Cheryl Pollak and John Dye
13. As the Vulcan T’Les on “Star Trek: Enterprise”
14. With Frances Conroy and a little kid in “Six Feet Under”
15. With Corbin Bernsen on “Boston Legal”
16. With Dana Delany on “Body of Proof”
17. Sexy
18. “Odd Mom Out”
19. Relaxing with Pierce Brosnan in “The Fourth Protocol”
20. With Bob Hoskins in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”
21. Promotional picture with Gene Hackman for “The Package.”
22. With Dabney Coleman and Uma Thurman in “Where the Heart Is”
23. Promo with Christina Applegate for “Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead”
24. In 1993‘s “The Tommyknockers”
25. Promo with James Garner for “The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A.”
26. With Keanu Reeves in “Chain Reaction”
27. In “Ghosts of Mars”
28. Working on art stuff
29. Ms Joanna

   It is my great pleasure and honor this morning to give a great big Joyce’s Take Happy Birthday Shout Out to one of my favorite actresses, Zhora Salome herself, Ms Joanna Cassidy!
   Similar to a large percentage of the general population, Joanna Virginia Caskey was born as a teenie tiny female infant at a very early age in Camden, New Jersey ( 39° 56′ 24″ N, 75° 6′ 18″ W. ). Well why should we care about Joanna Virginia Caskey, you ask? And rightly so! It is highly probable that at some point, more than likely at an early stage of her career, Joanna Caskey changed her name to Cassidy.
   You can see Philadelphia from Camden as it’s right across the Delaware River.
    Isn’t it wonderful!
   Today Camden has been described as the murder capital of the nation, which I had always assumed to be Poughkeepsie, New York for some reason. This is what the journalist Chris Hedges wrote about Camden in 2010 for The Nation magazine in an article entitled “City of Ruins.”
   “Camden, New Jersey, with a population of 70,390, is per capita the poorest city in the nation. It is also the most dangerous. The city’s real unemployment—hard to estimate, since many residents have been severed from the formal economy for generations—is probably 30–40 percent. The median household income is $24,600. There is a 70 percent high school dropout rate, with only 13 percent of students managing to pass the state’s proficiency exams in math. The city is planning $28 million in draconian budget cuts, with officials talking about cutting 25 percent from every department, including layoffs of nearly half the police force.”
   I worry about the people who live there, but I’m sure it was much nicer in Camden when Joanna was born. In any case her artist parents, Virginia and Joe, moved from Camden all the way to Haddonfield, New Jersey (39° 53′ 43.57″ N, 75° 2′ 3.46″ W), a little over 9 miles away... about a 14 minute drive if the traffic isn’t too bad, when Joanna was very young, and that’s where they raised her.  At an early age she took up painting and sculpture. She attended Haddonfield Memorial High School, where she described herself as being "a rowdy kid," “rowdy” being defined in the noun form as “a noisy and disorderly person.”
   Haddonfield Memorial High School is famous for it’s Marching band. The co-writer of the television show “Monk,” Andy Breckman, also went to school there. So did a lot of other people.
    At the appropriate age Joanna went on to major in art at Syracuse University, which is located in Syracuse, New York (43° 2′ 49″ N, 76° 8′ 40″ W), which is approximately 225.79 miles due north from Haddonfield...  266.46 miles by car.
   In 1964, while at Syracuse, she married Kennard C. Kobrin, a doctor in residency, and worked as a fashion model to help get him his degree.
   They moved to San Francisco (37° 47′ 0″ N, 122° 25′ 0″ W), which is 2,433 miles west from Syracuse...  2,797 miles if your driving.
   Kennard set up a psychiatric practice. Joanna continued modeling and gave birth to a son and daughter. Thuckland Isildur and Mimi Nakamara respectively. 
   While modeling gigs and and appearing in the odd commercial or two, she found work in small roles in what some might consider major films, such as 1968‘s “Bullet," with Steve McQueen, which the Internet Movie Data Base lists as her first acting job. Many consider that film to contain the best car chase ever. Here is the beginning of that scene, and here’s the end.
   She appeared in the Jason Robards, Katharine Ross romantic drama, “Fools,: in 1970, three “Mission Impossible,” episodes, two as an uncredited stewardess, and one as an uncredited model. Her contribution to the show may or may not have inspired the Tom Cruise movie franchise.
   In 1973 she finally got a credited role playing Rita Mailer in a revenge, crime/drama, “The Outfit,” starring Robert Duvall and Karen Black.
   She also appeared that year with Walter Matthau in “The Laughing Policeman, which was no comedy, but in it Joanna displayed her characteristic “infectious, howling laugh.”
   1973 also saw Smokey the Bear impersonating Joanna in a public service announcement. I’ll leave the obvious moral, ethical and legal implications of this tactic up to you dear readers, and just reproduce said PSA here.
   She and Kennard divorced at some point in 1973, and Joanna moved to Los Angeles, where I live.
   She was either 27 or 28 at the time, and here’s what she told Jennifer Juniper Stratford for something called Vice:
   VICE: When did you decide to become an actress?
   Joanna Cassidy: I was 27 or 28, which is pretty late to get started in the business. I was a wife for a while. We had children and I raised them, but still there was a wild streak in me. It wasn’t enough. I had to see life in a new fashion. I don’t know why. It’s the big question. In 1972 or ‘73, I moved to Los Angeles to see where it would take me.
   In 74 she scored her first co-starring role with none other than the master himself, George C Scott, in “Bank Shot.”
   She won another co-starring role in 1974‘s supernatural thriller, “The Night Child.” In 76 she appeared in the television show “McCoy,” with Tony Curtis, and a small role in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first real theatrical film (discounting 1969‘s “Hercules in New York,” in which he more or less played himself), “Stay Hungry,” with Jeff Bridges and Sally Field.
   1977 saw her in three films. The 70‘s film parody, “American Raspberry,” with Warren Oates, the comedy mystery/thriller “The Late Show,” with Art Carney and Lilly Tomlin, and with a pre-Quentin Tarantino Robert Forster in “Stunts.
   The next year she won a regular gig, well a four episode gig on “The Roller Girls,” which ran for six episodes. The series centered on the Pittsburgh Pitts, an all-girl roller derby team.
   “It was the first time in my career that I found a role I was naturally prepared for. I was one of those first people in Venice roller-skating. I even got my kids into it and we were down there every weekend. I even did roller-dancing. The show was great fun but they only made six episodes. My roller derby name was “Books” Cassidy!”
   Here she discusses the show with Johnny Carson and demonstrates her roller skating proficiency and her classic laugh.
   And a clip from the show.
   She also guest starred on one of my favorite sit-coms, “Taxi,” and one of my least favorite, “Starsky and Hutch.”
   “It used to be such a stigma, making that transition to various entertainment medias. There are a couple of actresses who have cut it quite well and I consider myself one. You have to work, you have to have your craft. Every job you do, you gain more experience. You never stop learning.”
   Joanna continued pretty much in this same vein, TV shows, television movies, and the occasional theatrical film until she gained a lot of attention, and a Golden Globe Award, as a regular on the short lived sit-com, “Buffalo Bill,” with Dabney Coleman and the lovely Geena Davis.  The show was loosely based around the character Dabney created for the film “9 to 5,” and featured the misadventures of an egotistical talk show host, played by Dabney and his staff (including Geena and Joanna) at WBFL-TV, a small TV station in Buffalo, New York. It premiered May 31, 1983 on NBC and ran for only part of two seasons (1983–84).   
   Here’s a clip of Joanna winning her Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Series Musical or Comedy.
   She also received a nomination for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
   But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Slow down Rick. Take a deep breath. Count to ten. Continue...
   On March 9th, 1981, filming began on Warner Bros. “Blade Runner,” a neo-noir dystopian science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott (his third feature film, coming right after the success of “Alien”) and starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah, and Joanna as the assassin replicant, Zhora Salome. Filming lasted four months. The Bradbury Building, here in downtown Los Angeles at the corner of 3rd and Broadway, within walking distance of where I’m typing this (I could walk there right now if I choose to do so. As a matter of fact I think I will. Please excuse me.    Okay, back now), was one of the filming locations for “Blade Runner.” There’s a Subway sandwich place on the ground floor now.
   Vice: “Not only did you get to play a replicant in Blade Runner, you also have one of the most beautiful death scenes in existence. How did you land the role of an android working as an exotic snake dancer?"
   Joanna: “I told the director he had to give me the part because I was the only actress in town with a pet snake who knew how to handle them.”
   The film was released in 1,290 theaters on June 25th, 1982. It didn’t do well in the United States closing it’s initial run earning just $32,868,943.57, worldwide, on a production budget of $28 million. Wow, that’s $4,868,943.57 in pure sweet profit you say. Hold your horses there partner. When marketing and distribution costs are added in, which roughly equal the production costs, that makes the total cost to put the film out there at about $56 million. So “Blade Runner,” actually lost approximately $23,131,057.57, which sucks, especially if you’re the producer.
   Reviews of the film were what they call “mixed” at the time, which means some liked it, others didn’t.
   I liked it. Roy’s “Tears in the Rain,” monologue, which Rutger Hauer, the actor who portrayed Roy, wrote himself, is one of the most touching and effective scenes emphasizing the impermanence of life that’s been captured on film... ever.
   It makes no sense scientifically, but is very poetic.
   The film has gained what they call “cult status,” which Wikipedia tells us is: “A cult film, also commonly referred to as a cult classic, is a film that has acquired a cult following. Cult films are known for their dedicated, passionate fanbase, an elaborate subculture that engage in repeated viewings, quoting dialogue, and audience participation. Inclusive definitions allow for major studio productions, especially box office bombs, while exclusive definitions focus more on obscure, transgressive films shunned by the mainstream.”
   Wikipedia also tells us: “While not initially a success with North American audiences, the film was popular internationally and garnered a cult following. The film's dark style and futuristic designs have served as a benchmark and its influence can be seen in many subsequent science fiction films, anime, video games, and television programs. For example, Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, the producers of the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, have both cited Blade Runner as one of the major influences for the show. Blade Runner continues to reflect modern trends and concerns, and an increasing number consider it one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. It was voted the best science fiction film ever made in a poll of 60 eminent world scientists conducted in 2004. Blade Runner is also cited as an important influence to both the style and story of the Ghost in the Shell film series, which itself has been highly influential to the future-noir genre.
   The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1993 and is frequently used in university courses. In 2007 it was named the second most visually influential film of all time by the Visual Effects Society.”
   Wow. And Joanna is a big part of that, as well as most of the other cast members. Of all the television shows and films she has appeared in, she is probably best known for her performance in “Blade Runner” (of course Rutger’s portrayal of Lothos in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” overshadowed “Blade Runner,” completely, as did Hannah’s “Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman,” in 1993. Harrison Ford, who I’ll never forgive for killing Joanna, went on to have a small measure of success in several films before and after “Blade Runner”).
   The next year she starred with Nick Nolte, Ed Harris, and Gene Hackman in the political/war/drama “Under Fire.”
   Joanna appeared in many television shows, some of which I liked. Some include “The Love Boat” with Siegfried, “Hart to Hart” with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, “Trapper John, M.D.” with  Pernell Roberts, “Lou Grant,” a regular gig on “Falcon Crest” with Jane Wyman, “Fantasy Island” with Khan Noonien Singh, “Northern Exposure” with our conservative friend Janine Turner, another regular gig on“Dudley,” with Dudley Moore, “Burke's Law,” with Gene Barry, “Murder, She Wrote” with Angela Lansbury, three episodes as a judge on “L.A. Law” with Corbin Bernsen.”
   In 1993 she was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in Children's Programming, for her work in a “CBS Schoolbreak Special,” entitled “Other Mothers.”
   In 1994 she starred in “Hotel Malibu,” along with a young Jennifer Lopez, before she made it big in movies like, “Money Train,” Blood and Wine,” and “Selena,” in 1997.
   The show concerned a hotel in Malibu, California, and ran on CBS for 6 episodes, and... that’s it.
   She’s also been on “Melrose Place” with Heather Locklear and Courtney Thorn-Smith. In 1997 and 98 she provided the voice for Inspector Maggie Sawyer for 8 episodes on an animated version of “Superman” along with Dana Delany and Lisa Edelstein. Another 8 episodes on “Diagnosis Murder” with Dick Van Dyke, 3 episodes on “The District,” with Craig T Nelson, “Good Morning Miami.” She played T'Pol’s (Jolene Blalock) mom for 2 episodes of  “Star Trek: Enterprise.”
   In 2001/2005 she was the recurring character Margaret Chenowith, the psychologist mother of Brenda, Billy, and Kristin, and the wife of Bernard, in “Six Feet Under.” For her work she received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
   In 2006 she appeared as an aggrieved wife in 5 episodes of “Boston Legal” with James Tiberius Kirk and Raymond "Red" Reddington. 2 episodes of “Heros” the next year with Hayden Panettiere.  She is seen in a photo of the twelve senior members of the show's mysterious Company, then appeared as Victoria Pratt in the tenth episode of season two, "Truth & Consequences," during which her character was killed, and if I ever get my hands on David Anders who killed her there’ll be hell to pay (even though she tried to cut off his head)!
   She’s been on “Ghost Whisperer,” with our lovely and talented friend Jennifer Love Hewitt. “Criminal Minds,” “Desperate Housewives.” “Hawthorne,” with Jada Pinkett Smith. She worked with Dana Delany again, playing her mom, on 14 episodes of “Body of Proof.” Here’s a clip of her promoting the show on “The John Kerwin Show.”
   Joanna has also appeared on “Bones,” “Call Me Fitz,” “Perception,” and 6 episodes of “Odd Mom Out,” the last one airing 6 days ago, July 27th, on Bravo.
   Alright, back to movies.
   In 1986 she appeared with Robin Williams, Peter O’Toole, and Rick Moranis in the comedy “Club Paradise,” which was directed by Ghostbuster Harold Ramis. The next year she was a Russian spy in “The Fourth Protocol,” with Michael Caine, a pre-Bond Pierce Brosnan, and Ned Betty. 
   Again, I’ll never forgive that Irish son-of-a-bitch Brosnan for killing her. Mother F_ _ _ _ er!
   Of course we all remember her in Robert Zemeckis’s 1988, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” playing Bob Hoskins girlfriend in the animated/live action adventure/comedy. Here’s a clip.
   And here she is at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebration of the 25th anniversary of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
   That year she also starred with pre-Iron Man Robert Downey Jr, pre-Jack Bauer Kiefer Sutherland, Bruce Dern and Winona Ryder  in “1969,”  a drama concerning dissatisfaction with the war in Vietnam.
   I re-watched “The Package,” a few nights ago, a 1989 action/thriller Joanna made with Gene Hackman, Tommy Lee Jones, and Pam Grier. It was actually better than I remembered.
   She worked with Dabney again, along with Uma Thurman in 1990's comedy/drama “Where the Heart Is.”
   I have no idea! Where is it?
   Here’s the whole movie if you’d like to watch it. Don’t worry, I can wait. Take your time.
   In 1991 she played the boss of one of another favorite actresses of mine, post-Bundy Christina Applegate, in “Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead.” Here’s a clip.
     In 1993 she played real person, public relations expert, Linda G. Robinson, in the television movie “Barbarians at the Gate,” along with James Garner, Jonathan Pryce, and Tom Hank’s lovely wife, Rita Wilson. The film tells the tale of the 1988 leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. “Barbarians at the Gate,” aired, or actually cabled, on HBO, so in it you get to hear James Garner say “F_ _ K” a lot, which is rather unnerving.
   She also appeared as Sheriff Ruth Merrill in Stephen King’s “The Tommyknockers,” that year, the true story of what happens when you discover a buried spaceship filled with hibernating evil aliens in your backyard.  The television mini series also stars Jimmy Smits, CSI’s Marg Helgenberger, and our good friend Traci Lords.
   “The Tommyknockers,” aired on ABC, so there was no swearing involved... just lots of creepy violence.
   In 1994 she worked with Garner again as his ex-wife on the T.V. film, “The Rockford Files: I Still Love L.A.
   She worked with Eddie Murphy in Wes Craven’s 1995 comedy/horror/romance, “Vampire in Brooklyn,” starred as Judge Martha Knowlton in the drama/thriller television movie “Eye of the Stalker,” appeared in 1996's “Chain Reaction,” with Keanu Reeves, Morgan Freeman, Rachel Weisz, Fred Ward, and our friend Brian Cox.   
   2001 saw Joanna in a John Carpenter joint, “Ghosts of Mars,” along with Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, and Clea DuVall. The film made $8,709,640 on a $28,483,221 budget, and drove Carpenter from the movie business until 2010.
   I liked it. I’m going to watch it tonight in fact. I sincerely hope I will suffer no adverse effects.
   In 2009 she worked with “Mad Men”’s Jon Hamm, the original Lara Croft, Rhona Mitra, and Jessica Chastain in the crime/drama “Stolen.”
   And besides working and excelling in many other fine films, shorts, and television shows, Joanna just wrapped (finished) “Too Late,” opposite John Hawkes and, completed the Blumhouse feature “Visions,” opposite Isla Fisher, Jim Parsons, and Eva Longoria.
   When she’s not working Joanna  is devoted to her art (painting, sculpting, acupuncture) and is a dedicated animal activist who advocates for animals, as well as miniature golfer, hot air balloonist,  free style spelunker, Irish stepdancer, and collector of old things, or  antiques.
   She presently resides in the Los Angeles area with her dogs, Kosygin, Ratmoor, and Mustafa Gahten.
   Her name in Elvish is Nessa Aldaríon.
   Vice: “It’s interesting that 30 years later, Zhora is still in you. What inspired you to create a YouTube video of the scene that was cut from the movie?”
   Joanna: “The older I get, the harder it is to be normal. I can’t stand all the things people say you aren’t supposed to do when you are older. I’m a dignified and eccentric lady who just doesn’t want to quit letting my imagination play out. I like doing silly things but deep down it’s a statement about not suppressing your creativity.”
   Here is the Snake Dance that was left out of “Blade Runner.”
   And finally, all of us here at Joyce’s Take wish Joanna and her family and friends continued good health and fortune, and of course, a very happy birthday.
   Happy Birthday Joanna!