Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Great Barrier Reef

We may ‘muddle through’ and adapt to climate change, but the latest disturbing news from Australia shows that it may be too late to save some of its ancient wonders, like Tasmania’s prehistoric forest and Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef.
- Amy Spurling, Engineering & Technology (E&I), Oct 13, 2016

Picture Legend

1. Scleractinian corals
2. 500-milligram calcium supplements made from calcium carbonate
3. Coral
4. More coral
5. Zooxanthellae
6. Sea anemone
7. Jellyfish
8. Fourth Grader
9. Massive coral
10. Branching coral
11. Great Barrier Reef (GBR)
12. GBR
13. GBR seen from space
14. Another view from space
15. Humpback whale
16. Dugong
17. Red-throat emperor
18. Sea snake
19. Olive Ridley
20. Saltwater crocodiles
21. Chimaera
22. Giant clam
23. Cone snail
24. Seahorse
25. Frogs
26. White-bellied sea eagle
27. Sea grass
28. Ascidian
29. Bryozoan
30. Halimeda
31. More coral
32. Merewif
33. Albino sperm whale
34. Tourists looking for whale
35. Overfishing
36. Destructive fishing
37. Ghost
38. Coastal development
39. Pollution
40. Thermal stress
41. Ocean acidification
42. Crown-of-thorns starfish
43. Bunnies
44. Lionfish
45. Bleaching

    Scleractinia, which are also called stony or hard corals, are marine animals in the phylum (a principal taxonomic category that ranks above class and below kingdom) Cnidaria that usually live on the bottom of the sea in shallow water, and which build themselves hard skeletons out of calcium carbonate (CaCO3, strong evidence suggests the presence of calcium carbonate on Mars, although probably not coral based. It would be really cool if it was though). The individual animals inside that stony exoskeleton are known as polyps and have a cylindrical body crowned by an oral disc with a mouth surrounded by tentacles. Although some species are solitary, most live in colonies. The polyp that starts everything, or the founder, settles on the seabed and starts to secrete all of that calcium carbonate to protect its soft mushy body. Solitary corals can be as much as 10 inches across but in colonial species the polyps are usually only a few millimeters in diameter. Some polyps reproduce by budding but remain attached to each other, forming a multi-polyp colony with a common skeleton, which may be up to several feet in diameter or height according to species.
   The shape, size, and appearance of each coral colony depends not only on the species, but also on its location, depth, the amount of water movement, and other factors. Many shallow-water corals contain symbiont (an organism living in symbiosis, or the relationship between two different kinds of living things that live together and depend on each other, like Donald Trump and Sean Hannity) unicellular organisms known as zooxanthellae (a yellowish-brown symbiotic dinoflagellate (a large group of flagellate (a cell or organism with one or more whip-like organelles called flagella) protists (the members of an informal grouping of diverse eukaryotic (any organism whose cells contain a nucleus and other organelles enclosed within membranes) organisms that are not animals, plants or fungi) that constitute the phylum Dinoflagellata) present in large numbers in the cytoplasm of many marine invertebrates) within their tissues.
   These symbionts give their color to the coral which thus may vary in hue depending on what species of zooxanthellae it contains.
   The coral provides the zooxanthellae algae with a protected environment and compounds they need for photosynthesis. In return, the algae produce oxygen and help the coral to remove wastes. Most importantly, zooxanthellae supply the coral with glucose, glycerol, and amino acids, which are the products of photosynthesis. The coral uses these products to make proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and produce calcium carbonate.
   The relationship between the algae and coral polyp allows a tight recycling of nutrients in nutrient-poor tropical waters. In fact, as much as 90 percent of the organic material photosynthetically produced by the zooxanthellae algae is transferred to the host coral. This is the driving force behind the growth and productivity of coral reefs.
   Stony coral polyps are closely related to sea anemones and jellyfish (I had a bad experience with jellyfish when I was in the navy and hate them with a red hot passion... I suppose there are some good jellyfish, but I’ve never met one), and like them are armed with stinging cells known as cnidocytes.
   Corals reproduce both sexually and asexually. Most species release gametes into the sea where fertilisation takes place, and the resulting larvae drift around until they settle down, or are eaten,  but a few species brood their eggs. As we’ve discussed, asexual reproduction is mostly by fragmentation or budding, when part of a colony becomes detached and reattaches elsewhere.
   Stony corals occur in all the world's oceans. Hard corals that are colonial can  and do form part of reef structures; and which most utilize zooxanthellate and are found in the shallow waters into which sunlight penetrates. Other corals do not form reefs, some of which occur in deep water where no light reaches.
   Hard corals first appeared in the Middle Triassic (a geologic period and system which spans 50.9 million years from the end of the Permian Period 252.17 million years ago (MYA), to the beginning of the Jurassic Period 201.3 MYA. The Triassic of course is the first period of the Mesozoic Era), but their relationship to the tabulate and rugose corals of the Paleozoic (the longest of the Phanerozoic eras, and is subdivided into six geologic periods (from oldest to youngest): the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian. As every fourth grader knows the Paleozoic comes after the Neoproterozoic Era of the Proterozoic Eon, and is followed by the Mesozoic Era) is currently unresolved, a situation which quite frankly keeps me up at night.
   Coral reefs begin to form along the edges of islands or continents. As the corals grow and expand, reefs take on one of three major characteristic structures —fringing, barrier or atoll.
   Fringing reefs, which are the most common, project seaward directly from the shore, forming borders along the shoreline and surrounding islands. Barrier reefs border shorelines as well, but at a greater distance outward. They are separated from their adjacent land mass by a lagoon of open, often deep water. If a fringing reef forms around a volcanic island that sinks completely below sea level (the world’s volcanic ocean islands are sinking. As the young volcanic rock cools and is carried away from the volcanic “hot spot” by the movement of tectonic plates, the island sinks down as rapidly as a few millimeters per year) while the coral continues to grow upward, you’ve got yourself an atoll. Atolls are usually circular or elliptical, with a central lagoon. Parts of the reef platform may emerge as one or more islands, with gaps in the reef providing access to the central lagoon
   In addition to being some of the most beautiful and biologically diverse habitats in the ocean, barrier reefs and atolls also are some of the oldest. With growth rates of 0.3 to 2 centimeters (2 centimeters equals 0.78742 inches) per year for massive corals (Massive corals are characteristically ball- or boulder-shaped and relatively slow-growing), and up to 10 centimeters (3.93701inches) per year for branching corals (branching corals are characterized by having numerous branches, usually with secondary branches).
   It can take up to 10,000 years for a coral reef to form from a group of larvae. Depending on their size, barrier reefs and atolls can take from 100,000 to 30,000,000 years to fully form.
   Off the coast of Queensland, Australia, lies the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), the world's largest coral reef system. It is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching over 1,400 miles over an area of approximately 133,000 sq miles.
   The GBR is the only living organism that can be seen from outer space. Take a look at the pictures above if you don’t believe me. I assure you, they weren’t photoshoped.   
   Thirty species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises have been recorded in the Great Barrier Reef, including the dwarf minke whale, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, and the humpback whale. Large populations of dugongs live there. More than 1,500 fish species live on the reef, including the clownfish, red bass, red-throat emperor, and several species of snapper and coral trout. Forty-nine species mass spawn, while eighty-four other species spawn elsewhere in their range. Seventeen species of sea snake live on the Great Barrier Reef.
   Six species of sea turtles come to the reef to breed: the green sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, flatback turtle, and the Olive Ridley. The green sea turtles on the Great Barrier Reef have two genetically distinct populations, one in the northern part of the reef and the other in the southern part. Fifteen species of seagrass in beds attract the dugongs and turtles, and provide fish habitat. 
   The largest predator in the world barring certain sharks and whales, the saltwater crocodile, live in mangrove and salt marshes on the coast near the reef. Around 125 species of shark, stingray, skates or chimaera live on the reef. Close to 5,000 species of mollusc have been recorded on the reef, including the giant clam and various nudibranchs and cone snails. Forty-nine species of pipefish and nine species of seahorse have been recorded. At least seven species of frog inhabit the reef islands.  
   215 species of birds come to the reef for vacations, or nest or roost on the islands, including the white-bellied sea eagle and roseate tern. Most nesting sites are on islands in the northern and southern regions of the Great Barrier Reef, with 1.4 to 1.7 million birds using the sites to breed (it’s not known who counted them).The islands of the Great Barrier Reef also support 2,195 known plant species; three of which are endemic.
   There are 15 species of sea grasses on the Great Barrier Reef. See grasses grow in shallow water where sunlight reaches them as they require sunlight for photosynthesis. They are true plants (unlike seaweed and algae, which are fake plants) with roots, flowers and seeds.
   There are at least 330 species of ascidians on the reef system with the diameter of 0.4–4 in. Not only that, there are between 300 and 500 species of bryozoans that live on the reef as well!
   Four hundred coral species, both hard and soft inhabit the reef. Five hundred species of marine algae or seaweed live there, including thirteen species of genus Halimeda, which deposit calcareous mounds up to 110 yds wide, creating mini-ecosystems on their surface which have been compared to rainforest cover.
   The GBR is the home of between17 and 23 species of merewif (Donec piscis dominae), or mermaids. Fishing for, or the removal of these creatures to be recruited as sex slaves in the Netherlands, is strictly prohibited.
   A rare albino sperm whale visits the reef on a regular basis at least twice a year (April and October predominantly), and is a huge attraction for tourists, who have named him after an American DJ, singer, songwriter, musician, photographer and animal rights activist and the 37th President of the United States. No one knows why.
   The reef was born during the Miocene epoch,  23.03 to 5.3 million years ago. As the sea level rose and fell throughout the passage of time the reef built itself into a vast system of shallow-water reefs and atolls extending 140 miles off the Australian coast and ending in an outer wall that plunged half a mile to the sea bed.
    The first humans arrived in Australia from Asia about 60,000 years ago, when the sea level was low. Of course they didn’t call it Australia back then. They called it Macaroon for some reason. I don’t know why.
   Aboriginal people hunted and fished the reef’s waters and cays for thousands of years, and continue to do so.
   Captain James Cook became the first European to navigate the GBR in 1770.
   “The sea in all parts conceals shoals that suddenly project from the shore, and rocks that rise abruptly like a pyramid from the bottom,” he wrote in his journal. Cook’s ship foundered on one of those shoals and was nearly sunk, but after several months Cook escaped the mighty grasp of the hungry reef.
   Once the reef was discovered by Europeans and other non-indigenous people it became very popular. All kinds of people, explorers, scientists, artists... janitors, and tourists flocked to the reef to fondle it.
   Yet, the evil government in Queensland attempted to lease nearly the whole thing to oil and mining companies in the 1960s.
   Anything to make a buck, right?
   That particular course of action was not popular, and spawned Australia’s first conservation movement and a decade-long “Save the Reef” campaign that culminated in the 1975 creation of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park protects a large part of the GBR from damaging activities. It is a great big, some might call vast, multiple-use Marine Park which supports a wide range of uses, which include commercial marine tourism, fishing, various  ports and shipping, recreation (including synchronized swimming), scientific research and a means of support for the indigenous people of Australia.
   Again, fishing and the removal of artefacts or wildlife (fish, coral, merewif, sea shells, etc.) is strictly regulated, and commercial shipping traffic must stick to certain specific defined shipping routes that avoid the most sensitive areas of the park.
   Currently 75% of the world's corals are threatened due to:
1. Overfishing. Overfishing is a form of overexploitation wherein fish are fished until there are so few fish that the fish have a hard time finding other fish in order to mate and have little baby fish. This can happen anywhere! In ponds, rivers, lakes, home aquariums, oceans... anywhere! Overfishing can result in resource depletion (the consumption of a resource faster than it can be replenished), reduced biological growth rates (growth rates refer to the percentage change of a specific variable within a specific time period, given a certain context) and low biomass levels    (the mass of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time).
2. Destructive fishing. As fish stocks decrease around the world, methods of harvesting them have become increasingly extreme. Destructive fishing techniques refers to any type of fishing system that destroys the fish habitat and devastates the marine environment, including bottom trawling (bottom trawling is trawling (towing a trawl, which is a fishing net) along the sea floor. Some people, certainly not me, refer to it as "dragging". Scientists divide bottom trawling into benthic trawling (the benthic zone is the ecological region at the lowest level of a body of water such as an ocean or a lake, including the sediment surface and some sub-surface layers)  and demersal trawling (the demersal zone is the part of the sea or ocean (or other deep body of water) comprising the water that is near to (and is significantly affected by) the seabed and the benthos. The demersal zone is just above the benthic zone and forms a layer of the larger profundal zone (the area of water wherein sunlight does not penetrate)), bycatch (the unwanted fish and other marine plants and animals caught during commercial fishing for a different species, such as sharks, dolphins, and aquatic Blue Jays), the use of poison and explosives (using poison and explosives to catch fish, like Kangaroo Dundee and Uncle Joe), and ghost fishing (any discarded, lost, or abandoned, fishing gear such as nets or traps and pots, in the marine environment that continues to fish and trap animals, entangle and kill marine life, disseminate habitat, and act as a hazard to navigation. This gear is sometimes called “ghost gear,” in honor of the  Swedish heavy metal band. I cannot overstate the amount of impact this gear has on today’s marine environment.
3. Coastal development. Coastlines around the world and other places are steadily turning into new housing, holiday homes, and tourist developments. This intense human presence does not bode well for marine ecosystems and species. 60% of the earth’s population (as of a couple of seconds ago the world’s population stood at 7, 460,497,384. There’s a lot more people on the planet now (even accounting for deaths). 60% of 7, 460,497,384 is 4,476,298,430.4) live within 37 miles of the coast. Unfortunately, rising sea levels (which are still illegal in North Carolina) directly related to global warming will have huge adverse effects on this large percentage of the nation’s, and the world’s population. Accordingly, thousands of local YMCA’s in these affected areas have begun free swimming seminars in the hopes of mitigating this pressing situation. 80% of all tourism takes place in coastal areas, with beaches and coral reefs among the most popular places for people to wander off to. Similar to habitat loss, which is more than likely the greatest threat to the variety of life on this planet today (and is why we are seeing so many bears and alligators on our city streets), and identified as a main threat to 85% of all species described in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of species officially classified as "Threatened" and "Endangered,” coastal development and tourism are major irritants to the marine environment. 
4. Pollution. Pollution (the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light. Pollutants, the components of pollution, can be either foreign substances/energies or naturally occurring contaminants (such as microorganisms, radionuclides (radioactive elements that can be found in rock and ground water), radon, nitrates and nitrites, heavy metals (metals that weigh more than 20 pounds), and fluoride). Pollution, mostly of the man made variety has obvious disadvantageous effects on not only the animals comprising and inhabiting the world’s reefs, but the entire marine environment.
5. Thermal stress. F A = - E a d T. Having said that, corals thrive in locations that also happen to be near their physiological limits of endurance (just as most plants and animals live within a small window of environmental parameters that allow life to flourish... if the temperature is too extreme, hot or cold, life cannot exist. If there is not enough oxygen in the atmosphere most forms of life cannot exist. If the air pressure varies too much life cannot exist, etc.), making them sensitive to stresses caused by sea temperature anomalies (which are correlated to a warming overall planetary climate) resulting in the phenomenon known as coral bleaching.
6. Ocean acidification. A more acidic ocean interferes with the formation of calcium carbonate to form shells or calcified skeletons which may significantly change the physiology of calcifying marine organisms like coral. Calls to add massive amounts of  sodium carbonate (soda ash) or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to the world’s oceans in an effort to lower ocean acidity have been largely panned as being highly impracticable.
7. Crown-of-thorns starfish. The crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) is native to coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific region. On healthy coral reefs, the coral-eating starfish plays an important role, as it tends to feed on the fastest growing corals such as staghorns and plate corals, allowing slower growing coral species to form colonies. These animals are particularly common on the GBR, but they tend not to be picky and will eat coral wherever they come across it. Contrary to popular belief coral eating starfish are not advantageous to the life and health of coral itself, and reefs in particular.  
8. Introduced invasive species. Most introduced marine invasive species have been brought to Australian waters unintentionally through shipping activities and mariculture (a specialized branch of aquaculture involving the cultivation of marine organisms for food and other products in the open ocean, an enclosed section of the ocean, or in tanks, ponds or race ways (an artificial channel used in aquaculture to culture aquatic organisms) which are filled with seawater). Australia, for example, has a large volume of shipping trade with South-east Asia and the similarity of their marine environments increases the risk of introducing foreign marine species. Yachts and smaller vessels can also unintentionally provide a mechanism for transporting marine invaders either as fouling (refers to the undesirable growth of marine organisms on immersed artificial structures such as ship hulls, jetty pilings, navigational instruments, aquaculture net cages, marathon swimmers,  and seawater intake pipes. If you’ve ever seen a pier piling covered with barnacles then you’ve seen marine fouling) or in ballast water. Heavily fouled vessels can carry up to 11pounds of gross, living, yucky stuff per square meter of exposed surface. Under the right circumstances, foreign species can hitch a ride and be released or spawn in Australia’s marine environment. It is estimated that about 7000 different marine species, including viruses, bacteria and small marine invertebrates are transported around the world in ballast water every day. More than 150 million tons of ballast water is discharged into Australia’s major ports each year. Toxic dinoflagellate algae for example can survive in ballast water for weeks. Dinoflagellates can accumulate in mussels, oysters and scallops and when eaten cause paralytic shellfish poisoning in people.
   Larger organisms can be pesky as well. For instance the introduction of European rabbits (Oryctolagus hoppididness), that were first introduced to Australia by the First Fleet (The First Fleet is the name given to the 11 ships that left England on May 13th, 1787, to found the penal colony that became the first European settlement in Australia) in 1788 (and are suspected of being the most significant known factor in species loss in Australia), is analogous to the Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans), which was introduced to Florida waters in the early 1990s (experts speculate that people have been dumping unwanted lionfish from their home aquariums into the Atlantic Ocean for up to 25 years), and is currently spreading rapidly throughout  the west Atlantic, Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas. This carnivore may cause harmful changes in coral-reef ecosystems via predation on native fishes and invertebrates, as well as competing with native predators.
   A mass bleaching event, fueled by warming water, has affected corals around the world, but has proved most visibly destructive on the GBR. Almost a quarter of the reef’s coral has died off, with the previously healthy areas of the ecosystem’s north, the worse off.
   Coral bleaching occurs when prolonged high temperatures cause coral to expel their zooxanthellae, their symbiotic algae, turning the coral into snow-white skeletons.
   Corals can recover from this but some just die. Divers on the GBR have spotted large areas of degraded coral, with some reporting the smell of rotting, decaying coral when they emerge from the ocean’s waters.
   Almost all parts of the GBR have suffered bleaching, but not all of it has died. Scientists hope that large parts of the reef, and the animals that depend on the reef, will recover, although the long-term warming and acidifying of the oceans pose a grave threat to reefs around the entire world.
   Some scientists have suggested the only way to repopulate the GBR and other reefs around the globe is the employment of genetic engineering.
   I suggest that the sickness of the reefs are indicative of a much larger problem. We as a world populace have to face the difficult problems that dealing with global warming and climate change, over fishing, invasive species, and pollution present, not only to the reefs and the ecosystem that depend on them, but for our species, the human species, for if we hide our heads in the sand and continue to ignore these pervasive problems then the human community will be the ones who next will undoubtedly face a different world, a more difficult world (for our children and grandchildren), possibly a world in which men and women cannot exist.
   The GBR is a harbinger of are own fate. Will we take these issues seriously?
   I don’t believe there was one question regarding global warming, or environmental issues during the three presidential debates we’ve recently suffered through, and Hillary Clinton mentioned them only in passing.
   Climate change is without a doubt the gravest problem, the greatest danger, that our species has ever faced. We need to treat this issue with the seriousness that it deserves.
   Or is it already too late?
   Some think so. This is an example of what some believe
   And this describes our possible future if we continue on our current path. 
   I don’t know if it is too late or not to avoid the catastrophic consequences of our inaction, and our devotion to corporate profit rather than species.
   I do know that if we continue to do nothing then the future for our progeny will  certainly be bleak. 
   Hopefully the is still time for hope. I certainly hope so.
   As for the coral, it’s health is synonymous with ours, and they face the same threat that we do, and some feel there is hope for it still.  
   Kim Cobb, a coral reef expert at Georgia Tech states, “I have studied corals off Christmas Island in the Pacific where 85% of them have died, it was a graveyard. But even there, I was shocked to see remarkable resilience. Amid the graveyards of the reefs there were areas that looked like nothing had happened.
   There is a lot we can do to minimize climate change and we need to get going on that. To say reefs are finished and we can’t do anything about it isn’t the message we need going forward.”

Addendum: May 31, 2018: How to Save the Great Barrier Reef

Monday, October 17, 2016

Dependent's Day!

Picture Legend:

1. “Dependent’s Day”
2. Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
3. Hardy
4. Universal Studios Hollywood
5. Peter Duel
6. The El Portel Theater
7. Mechanical butter
8. Benita Robledo
9. Poster
10. Michael D. Lynch
11. Yeoman Rand
12. Making “Burden”
13. On the Red Carpet
14. Joe Burke
15. Benita and Joe (or if you prefer Alice and Cam)
16. Teresa Ganzel
17. Michael and cast
18. Alice having a chat with her mom (Bertila Damas)
19. Alice
20. Cam at the microphone
21. Day 5 of shooting
22. Alice and Cam again
23. Benita’s picture

   It’s official!
   Joyce’s Take endorses “Dependent’s Day!”
   I had been up all night trying to finish my last pack of cigarettes before going to sleep. I had paid good hard American cash for them, and I was going to finish them off, and smoke every single one, by God, even though I seemed to be suffering from an oncoming cold, flu, or pneumonia, one of the three, or possibly all of them, as I had a runny nose, and couldn’t stop coughing.
   But I’d get that last cigarette!
   It was 2:34 in the morning of October 13th, 2016, and I was watching the second half of the two part premier episode of “Star Trek the Next Generation,” on BBC America, “Encounter at Farpoint,” which not only marked the beginning of a successful series that would last for 7 seasons, and 178 episodes, but was unique in that it was the only episode that boasted Marina Sirtis, playing ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi, wearing a mini skirt.  
   I’d switch to “Morning Joe” on MSNBC at 3am, the 3 hour long weekday talk program hosted by Joe Scarborough, the former Republican Congressman from Florida, and the lovely and talented Mika  Brzezinski, journalist, and daughter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was the National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter and a counselor to President Lyndon B. Johnson.
   MSNBC is considered the liberal equivalent to Fox News, yet “Morning Joe,” and one other hour program in the afternoon had a decidedly conservative bent. I watched it because I’m in to national politics and get up early in the mornings, and it’s the only news program I can stomach at that time of day, plus it’s always interesting to see the conservative reaction to current events... an honest reaction. You won’t get that on Fox, which is primarily a propaganda network.  
   That morning, Joe and his cohort regulars, journalist Mike Barnicle, TV host Willie Geist, MSNBC analyst and resident dick Mark Halperin (he was suspended in 2011 from his duties at MSNBC for "slurring" President Barack Obama on “Morning Joe,” saying the President came off as "kind of a dick" during the previous day's press conference), and the lovely and talented former  communications chief of President George W. Bush, Nicolle Wallace (Mika serves as the mild liberal balance on the show), were all in a dither reacting to the Access Hollywood video featuring presidential candidate Donald Trump describing his pussy grabbing prowess, which had been released the following Friday, and the subsequent claim of Jessica Leeds, that Trump had sexually assaulted her on an airplane 35 years ago, which had been made on the Anderson Cooper program (the same Anderson Cooper who had asked Trump pointedly during the second presidential debate if he had ever physically acted out what he had described in the AH tape. “No, I have not,” Trump replied) the night before.
   Scarborough was all skeptical about the “timing” of the release of the tape, and the accusations that would follow in the coming days, resulting in Trump’s poll numbers declining steeply.
   Was this a democrat/liberal/media conspiracy?
   Probably not considering the self admitted propensities of the candidate himself, but even if it was, so what? This was a presidential campaign, not a session of “Jeopardy.”
   I chuckled to myself, and felt all warm and fuzzy inside.
   All the while I was watching this, and later a 4th dimensional vampire movie, I would be coughing, and monitoring various news sites on my computer, via Yahoo Mail. Sites such as Alternet, Raw Story, Reader Supported News, etc. I would typically spend about one third of my day on Email (one third writing and editing, and one third staring vacantly off into space) .
   I am well informed.
   Nationally, not locally. The building next door to mine could be on fire, which was being reported on the local television news and I’d know nothing about it.
   I got to that last cigarette at around 7am, then laid down for awhile.
  At 8:45am I meandered downstairs fully prepared to rake up all of the leaves I had seen in the garden we have in the back of the building, a garden that me, and my arch rival, 75 year old Hardy, had begun approximately ten years ago (pictures).         
   When I walked out there my friend Cliff was sitting on one of the benches, finishing up his breakfast.
   The leaves had disappeared, or most of them at least.
   “Somebody raked them up already,” I told him.
   “Does that make you angry?” he asked.
   “No, but now I have nothing to do.”
   “Go home,” he said.
   “I can’t. The ladies are coming today.”
   Chris, Jeannie, and Gutrin, 3 mature ladies who are affiliated with some gardening organization, would come today to help out in the garden. They were expert gardeners, and they provided expertise, and often resources, such as seeds and plants, planters, and garden dirt.
   I found some leaves that were lying on the rocky section of the garden, and tried to rake them up without getting too many rocks. I talked to Cliff         
   “Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature this morning,” I told him.
   That was true. 75 year old (hey! Just like Hardy) Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize in Literature that morning.
   “Who?” Cliff asked.
   The ladies arrived and began fiddling with the plants. I raked and tried to busy myself. I hadn’t been feeling well lately, and had neglected watering the garden as much as I should have, so they spent a lot of their time cutting off dried sections of plants.
   I brought down Cassandra, the new case manager, and introduced her to the garden ladies. They talked and talked.
   At one point Chris and Jeannie we strolling along the fence that separates our garden and the wild, open space next door.
   “Oh! Look at that,” Jeannie said, pointing to the large plant that was based next door, but had it’s tentacles crawling up the side of our building.
   “It must be some kind of cactus...”
   “It’s a Mongolian Maneater,” I told them.
   “Yeah, right. But it’s the healthiest plant out here.”
   “Sure it is. It got Rupert last week.”
   “What?” they both exclaimed in unison.
   “Just don’t get too close,” I told them. “But here, did you see this?”
   “What?” they asked.
   I pointed upwards. “See up there?”
   “Right there. On the third floor fire escape.”
   “Yeah. What?”
   “If you look just right, squint a little to get the lighting, cause it’s kind of hard to see...”
   “Yeah,” Jeannie said.
   “You can just make out... my socks and underwear drying on the rail...”
   It was true. My socks and underwear, and a shirt, were up there drying in the sun.
   They laughed. People think I’m funny sometimes, but I’m just over compensating for a deep seated sense of insecurity.
   After they left at 9:45am, I walked over to the Hippie Kitchen for a minute, came back. I quickly went through my Email, then fixed myself a nutritious turkey frank (with extra potassium chloride!) At 10:55 I left the building and walked to Central, where I caught a rare 62, which took me downtown, where I entered the subterranean lair of the Red Line subway.
   I was kind of tired, having been awake all night and all, and passed in and out of consciousness during the long, boring ride to North Hollywood.
   When I used to frequent movie theaters, before I learned how to get movies on the Internet, I would take the Red Line to the Universal Studio station, which was the next to the last stop on the north end of the Red Line’s route. I would go on up to City Walk, and watch movies at the AMC 19. Today I took the train all the way to the end, to the North Hollywood station, where I’d never been before.
   I was frightened.
   I knew the Laemmle NoHo 7 theater was close by, but when I got up onto the street level, I was rather disorientated, and walked a couple of blocks in the wrong direction before I realized there were just too many used car dealerships around me, and so turned around and walked back.
   I grew up in North Hollywood. My father had owned a liquor store, Parkview Liquors, on Lankershim Bl, right across the street from Universal Studios.
   Me, my younger sister, mom and dad had lived in a small two bedroom apartment just down the street from the store, on Willowcrest St. My father died in that apartment.
   It’s no longer there. It’s now a parking lot.
   I used to go with my dad on delivery trips inside the studio to deliver booze to the stars (it must be great to be an actor, when you can drink on the job all day. It’s a wonder they get anything done!). I’ve delivered booze the sets of “Ironside,” “It Takes a Thief,” “The Virginian,” and “The Munsters.” Grandpa Munster (Al Lewis) was a good tipper.
   I once delivered booze to a set that was going to have cast party, and a guy by the name of Peter Duel tried to help me carry in one of the boxes.
   “I can do it,” I told him.
   “I know you can,” he said.
   That man would go on to play David Willis on a TV show called “Love on a Rooftop,” with “Laugh In”s Judy Carne, and most famously Hannibal Heyes, on “Alias Smith and Jones.”
   He had it made and seemed to me like a happy guy, but in the early morning hours of the last day of 1971, he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
   I passed the El Portel Theater, where I had first seen “Mary Poppins,” in 1964. They don’t show movies there anymore. It’s a playhouse now.
   I was surprised to find the Laemmle closed when I arrived near 12pm. There was a little sign on the door though that indicated they would open up at 12:45, 15 minutes before they began showing movies. This would be the first time I’d been to a movie theater in like... 7 years, and I was looking forward to the film, of course, but also the popcorn with lots of mechanical butter and salt, and a big cup of coke.
   Al Pacino and Robert De Niro were once on a taped segment of the Letterman Show, promoting their film “Righteous Kill.” They read that night’s Top Ten List, which consisted of the perks one receives when one is a big star.
   Al Pacino said this, “Number five... they give you extra mechanical butter when you get popcorn at the movies.”
   Something to look forward to Benita.
   I was here to see my Facebook friend’s film, “Dependent’s Day.” Her name is Benita Robledo, and she’s the female lead in the movie. There’s several pictures of her above. Isn’t she lovely (a feature that is widespread among females, but some more than others).
   We’ve encountered Benita twice before here on Joyce’s Take, here and here.        
   In case you've forgotten:
  Bio From Smartass Radio:
Benita Robledo (born June 28, 1984) is an American actress. Robledo was born in Harlingen, Texas and resided in Edinburg, TX until she was fifteen. She later moved to Orlando, Florida where she attended a performing arts high school, and later relocated to New York City to attend SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Actingwhere she holds a BFA in acting. Robledo’s father is an attorney, and her mother is an elementary school teacher. She speaks both English and Spanish fluently. Robledo is 5′ 3″ tall.
  She began ballet at the age of two, and has performed professionally with the Rio Grande Valley Ballet, and Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. She is skilled in ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap, baile folklorico, flamenco, tango, and lap. Robledo’s first television appearance was on Guiding Light in 2007, and her first major film appearance was in What Happens In Vegas in 2008. Since then, she has also appeared on television episodes of KingsMichael and Michael Have Issues, and had a recurring role of Amalia on Gossip Girl and TeenWolf. In film, Robledo has also had roles in Every Day and Going The Distance. Robledo is the voice of Rose Marigold in the video game, Alan Wake. She has also appeared in several television commercials for advertisers including Verizon Wireless, MTV, Blue Cross & Blue Shield, McDonalds, and most notably, Lowes and the United States Postal Service.
  Benita loves knitting, “I never leave home without my knitting, but I only knit while driving if I’m stuck in crazy traffic on the 405. A girl has to have some restraint!” She also loves reading and states “My taste in books is ridiculously eclectic. It ranges from David Foster Wallace to some very nerdy sci-fi/fantasy stuff!
    Although Benita remains dark and mysterious, she was generous enough to fill in a great deal of her bio on her birthday tribute, information that can be found no where else (maybe). All of us here at Joyce’s Take (me and my invisible cat Herkimer) are deeply grateful for this, but I have discovered some additional information that she did not include, possibly due to her modest nature.
   From the Fortune of Underreported yet Collaborated Knowables (FUCK), it appears Benita at one time “Climbed Mt Everest backwards [I don’t even know what that means!]. Can talk to whales. Has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting [well, we knew that]. Speaks Swahili in her sleep. Has a one-eyed cat that likes to play with her hair. Plays the xylophone and various forms of the lute. Won the 2014  Crochet Guild of America Design contest by crocheting a functional nuclear reactor. Was briefly detained by the FBI in 2014 for crocheting a functional nuclear reactor.”
   That about does it I guess.
   I found a lovely poster of the movie, then a seat near a bike rack where I could kick back until the theater opened. I had brought a book with me in case just this type of emergency popped up.    “Human Trafficking, Human Misery, the Global Trade in Human Beings,” by Alexis A. Aronowitz. I’m studying this subject hard as I’m considering a career change.
   At 12:50 I entered the now open theater (Max and Kurt Laemmle, the founders of the Los Angeles theater chain, were cousins of Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle. Small world), and purchased a ticket.
   “Your website wouldn’t accept my credit card last night,” I told the pretty young blonde behind the cash register.
   She squenched up her little face and said this to me... “Really?”
   “Yup,” I told her. “It told me my Visa was not valid. The one you just used. You might want to look into it.”
   I walked away.
   She won’t do anything about it.
   I bought some nice popcorn with extra mechanical butter, and soda, the found me a seat in Theater 6.
   I was the first one in there, but the place soon filled up.
   There’s no better popcorn than theater popcorn in my opinion. Soda too. Canned soda makes me ill.
   Then the film began.
   “Dependent’s Day,” “was released on April 15th, 2016, here in the U.S.  It’s appearance at the Laemmle that day would be the very last time it would be on the big screen before it went to wherever movies go after they make their final appearance on the big screen.
   I felt privileged to have the opportunity to see it in this type of venue.
   It was produced by We Push Trains INC and DOA Films.
   The cast included these wonderful actor and actresses: Joe Burke, Benita Robledo, Shannon Lucio (“The O.C.” “Prison Break”), Erin Pineda (“Fingerbutt” “Sex Scientists” No, these arn’t porn flicks), Jules Willcox (“Styria” “10,000 Days”), David August “Dirty Filthy Pigs” “Man of the Cloth” I don’t know about this dude. On his resume he claims to be the lead in “Dependent’s Day,” which is hardly the truth. He was... competent though, in his teeny tiny little part), Eugene Byrd (“Dead Man” “8 Mile”), Brian George (“Horrible Bosses” “Ghost World”), Todd Bridges (“Diff'rent Strokes” “Hollywood Horror”), Charlie Hofheimer (“Black Hawk Down” “The Village”), Zachary Alexander Rice (“The Catch” “Woggie”), Lisa Ann Walter (“Bruce Almighty” “War of the Worlds”), Javier Ronceros (“Listening” “Coyote”), Bertila Damas (“Mr. Murder” “The Insomniac”), Jason Lew (“The Free World” “Restless”), and last but not least, Josh Staman (“Save Point” “Jogging Leads to Ice Cream”).
   There are literally lots of other people who may have wandered into the frame on the streets of downtown Los Angeles, where most of the film takes place, but they go uncredited.
   The synopses of “Dependent’s Day,” on it’s own website reads something almost exactly like this: “After realizing his girlfriend is the breadwinner of their relationship, Cam is on a mission to prove he can also be a breadwinner and he is THE MAN. But he will be struggling from job to job, where women are in charge. Can Cam prove he can provide and not be dependent?”
   We shall see.
   “Dependent’s Day,” was written and directed by 35 year old Michael D. Lynch, from a story by himself and Joshua Staman, who of course also acted in the film.     
   Michael, or “Big Mike,” as I like to call him, grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan (    42° 16′ 53″ N, 83° 44′ 54″ W), which is a good a place as any I suppose. When he was old enough he worked as a  film projectionist, which is a really cool job as you get to see a lot of movies for free (and hopefully popcorn with mechanical butter too).
   The lovely and talented actress Grace Lee Whitney, who played Yeoman Rand on the original “Star Trek,” series, was also from Ann Arbor. The Playboy Playmate twins, Kristina and Karissa Shannon as well.
   Yeoman Rand was the pretty blonde lady who always had Captain Kirk signing stuff.
   When Michael got tired of Ann Arbor he moved to Illinois to attend the Columbia College of Chicago film school, where he learned all about producing and directing films. When he got tired of that he moved here with his wife/girlfriend Kristine Lynch, to L.A. where I live, to pursue a career in  filmmaking.
   He got a lot of work and experience working with various other people, who were also involved in making movies.
    In 2008 Big Mike's movie work took him into political activism as producer/cinematographer of seven Barack Obama shorts of the "Barack: Yes We Can" film series, which have been screened nationwide to enormous acclaim and, have been made available through iTunes.
   Michael and I have that in common. Barack Obama. He helped make the film shorts, and I own an Obama T-shirt.
   Or at least I used to. I haven’t seen it for a while.
   He was also the producer/cinematographer that year for "Help Wanted," which won the  Best Narrative award at the Elevate Film Festival.
   “I feel privileged to see so many of the movies I work on end up on the big screen. Like every child of the 1980’s, films like Star Wars and Superman set my imagination on fire; as an adult to have the opportunity to create exciting worlds for future generations to enjoy is a dream come true.”
   “Burden," which Michael wrote, produced, and directed, had it's world premiere July 25th, 2009 in front of two sold out crowds which was the first time a film sold out two shows in the AOF festival history. 
   “Burden” has won 4 awards in 3 countries:
BEST VFX SHORT at the Action On Film International Film Festival 2009.
BEST FILM USA (Under 10 Minutes) at The International Film Festival of Ireland
STAFF PICK AWARD at the Dragon*Con Film Festival in September of 2009.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS FILM at the Fantastic Planet Sydney Sci Fi and Fantasy
   The short stars Grant Weiss and a little brunette girl, and can be seen right here.
   “I have always enjoyed movies that provoke the imagination. I adored going to the cinema as a child and submerging myself in an experience that was adventurous, exciting and fresh. With Burden, I wanted to recreate those escapist fantasizes of my youth for future generations. To create a living, breathing, world that wasn't restricted by my limitations as young filmmaker and accomplish what my peers were telling me was impossible.
   My initial inspiration for Burden came when I first arrived in Chicago and I saw the Financial District's Board of Trade building. I was awestruck by its beauty and prominence, but it would take years until Burden would become a reality. Creating a film is like giving birth, but often the filmmaking process takes far longer than nine months. By the end of production we had utilized nearly 500 extras, 80 visual effect shots, a live orchestral recording of the score and with the dedicated cooperation of the Chicago Film Office, shut down four downtown blocks [unheard of for a short film].
   Burden was a project where I was able to fulfill my dream of creating a comic book universe of my own. It took years longer to complete than I had ever anticipated when I went into development. I am thrilled at what my dedicated crew and I have accomplished, and am humbled by legendary voice actor Peter Cullen's contribution to this work. Burden is a film meant to inspire, excite and transport, and if I bring a smile to just one person in the audience, I will have accomplished all my goals.”
   Mike has recently produced a short entitled "Swerve" starring Shiloh Fernandez (“Evil Dead 2013“ “Red Riding Hood”), Juno Temple (“Black Mass” “Sin City: A Dame to Kill    For”), and Noah Segan (“Looper” “War Pigs”).
   "Swerve" was in the first block to sell out at the Palm Springs Int'l Shortfest 2010.
   Big Mike is currently in development for a feature adaptation "Burden," and producing Brendan G. Murphy's first feature film "Fallen From Grace" with Shiloh Fernandez attached to be the lead.
   How exciting!
   Boy, if “Burden,” comes out as a feature, with Michael directing... big bucks for him man. He won’t be making shorts anymore.
   The wonderful actor, Joe Burke, 32 years old, plays the male lead in “Dependent’s Day,” and he does a exemplary job. It is Joe’s character, Cam Shuer, who really is the driving force of the film, and the entity that moves the story along throughout it’s entirety, seemingly without  effort, presenting an amazing comedic performance, which also at times is poignant and sympathetic. I mean this guy is really good, and Joe and Benita work so well together one can almost believe a girl like Alice Rivera (Benita’s character) could really fall for a short dumpy, and broke guy like Cam.
   This gives me hope that when Stephanie Powers finally gets over the loss of William Holden,  she and I will get together.
   Hey! It could happen!
   Stop laughing!
   Joe was born at a very early age in Toledo, Ohio, as was another of my favorite actresses, the lovely and talented Teresa Ganzel (I wonder if she’s single. I’m so lonely).       
   Toledo is called "The Glass City" sometimes. Apparently there’s a big glass industry there.
   After high school Joe moved to Chicago, where my dad was born, and where he studied filmmaking and theater at Columbia College Chicago, the same school Michael attended.
   In 2007, he moved to Los Angeles, again, where I live, and where he continued his filmmaking studies, earning his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Directing from the world-renowned (famous) American Film Institute in 2009.
   Some of Joe’s credits include “Four Dogs,” “House Sitting,” and “Interns of F.I.E.L.D.” in which he first worked with Benita. 
   “Dependent’s Day,” itself is wonderful. One of the best times I’ve had in a movie theater in years. You’ve got a great and a little unusual story that works. A tremendous cast. High production values (cinematography, sound, editing, art design, costumes (Benita’s Alice is a clothes designer), catering, etc). It’s even got music! And if “Burden,” is any indication, I’m willing to bet that Michael shelled out a pretty penny for some original orchestration.
   And “Dependent’s Day,” takes a look at some serious issues that other films just gloss over. Such as the popularity of bizarre, unnatural sex positions. The annoyance of farmer’s market’s (they are always closing streets in order to set up  freaking farmer’s markets here downtown, wrecking havoc with bus routes. Put them in Pershing Square!), What women talk about when they get together (Sex, sex, sex! They're worse than Trump!). The saga of male babysitters. How to use legal tender. The art of red winging. Sexual harassment at the workplace. The plight of the unemployed. The trials and tribulations of busboys. Our archaic tax code. Marital sexual relations. Power struggles within relationships. How to reject friendly advice, to name just a few.
   We actually get to see Benita knit!
   We get to see the tops of a lot of tall buildings in Los Angeles.
   Let’s face it, Michael has a building fetish. And that’s perfectly alright. To each they’re own. Some people get off on big butts, or the WWE, or miniature golf. Big Mike likes large phallic structures.
   I for one have always wondered what was on the top of the Library Tower, what some call the U.S. Bank Building now, and it’s a big... well, you’ll have to see the movie to find out. 
   I left the theater filled with joy and new found hope for this complicated and at times very cruel world we find ourselves in.
   I was so happy that I skipped back to the Metro Station.
   When I got home I retrieved my socks and underwear, then checked my Email. Benita had sent me another picture of herself  on Facebook as is her custom.
   I don’t mind.
   But I used this opportunity to send her a message:
   “Just saw Dependent's Day in NHo. Fantastic job miss Benita! So much so that I intend to write a piece on it. It's also extremely educational. I always thought a red wing was some form of shoe...”
   You never know how folks are going to respond to entries on Facebook. I’ve sent out what I had considered a joke, but was taken as an insult, so I had to explain myself, which always sucks.    Anyway, later I received this:
Like · Reply · October 13 at 4:17pm
Benita Robledo
Benita Robledo “Thanks so much for supporting Richard! Can't wait to read it!”
   At 6pm Hardy and I watched “The Rachel Maddow Show,” together in my room.
   We’re both staunch liberals.
   I don’t think it’s a exaggeration to say that my life has only improved after watching “Dependent’s Day.” I feel complete now. That vague feeling of emptiness that had plagued me for so long is no longer there. I feel that if I were to die tomorrow, it would be okay, I wouldn’t mind at all, because I had seen that film.
   As a matter of fact I no longer suffer from ambition. I have no more goals. There is nothing more that I need to do.
   So, accordingly I will be moving to Nepal next week, to Lumbini in the south specifically, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama (a lot of people think Buddha was born in India. They would be wrong).
   I shall live in a monastery and eat bowls of rice. I shall meditate 19 hours a day, until I find the way to liberate all sentient beings.
   I will be at one with the universe.   
   But that’s next week. Tonight I will leave you with these treat clips starring Benita Robledo.
   The first is a “A drug-fueled action comedy.”
   Now I do not condone the use of drugs... especially heroin and crystal methamphetamine, unless used responsibly of course.  
   Here’s the wonderful clip.
   And this one’s a dance video, starring Benita and Heather Higginbotham.

Clark rocks!