Every Picture Tells a Story, but that doesn’t mean it’s true

94.9 on the FM dial is CKUA in Edmonton
I have been mulling a new letter and photo combination since the year began. For a month now. Just when I’m close to picking a theme or starting point, something derails my train of thought. Hint. Executive orders.
An executive order on its face is not a bad thing. The use of them by a newly minted American president is hardly unprecedented. In fact, it is more the norm than not. Leaving alone, for now, the content of those orders, I was, early on in His Eminence’s reign, getting premonitions of week 2.  My vision goes like this: the Anointed One turns to the camera, He’s at his royal desk, and glowing with that alien orange lustre he constantly emits, reaches out, and with a deft and so predictably smug placing of his palm, pushes down on a big fat red button. Not that One. The big red button from Staples.
The election South of our fair, and so far, moderate land left me stunned, like everybody, including Trump fans, (humbling for sure), and made me far more introspective than I have been in a long time.
Hilary lost to Him!
Shortly after the fateful night, it was asked of me, quite correctly,
“What does that tell you?”
Hence the introspection. What, indeed, does that tell us?
A stranger enters the room
I will start with the obvious. Informed by hindsight, to be sure. The voters wanted anything but the same. Email scandals, fake news, any other excuse, I guess didn’t help, but the crux, in my view, was change. How that desire was ultimately manifest at the ballot box can be debated and never settled. What I mean is: I am not saying the voters were united in deciding to oust the Democrats and bring in a known loose cannon, consequences be damned, although that was the result, but rather suggest it might have been more like a “sum of all the parts.” Attempting to salvage this tortured explanation, allow me to try and clarify with the thought that enough people had enough reasons (though different) to add up to getting The Bloviator elected. I realize that kinda sounds the same either way, but the point is, a perfect storm elected His Orange unHoliness, and not a concerted will to have Him lead. No matter in the end anyway.
Let’s blow up the system and see what happens. I get that. I’ve done it. In my own way, and on a personal scale of course, and with the predictable, unpredictable results. That attitude is breaking out all over. Trudeau was elected in a landslide, unfortunately, not because of his overly apparent leadership skills, but rather the incumbent doing everything he could to alienate himself from Canadians.
Same in Alberta. Notley was in the right place at the right time. Period. Brexit. I know, you heard. Well, have you stayed tuned long enough to pick up on the projected tab for that decision?
Granted, projections are partly what we are talking about here, and they ain’t what they used to be. For those eyeing Europe, Le Pen is a French version of that wacky Canadian Conservative candidate that wants to screen prospective immigrants for “Canadian Values”. A notion that should automatically disqualify Kelly Leitch from contention right off the get go.
Back to Europe, and the present French leading contender, Marine Le Pen. She is articulate and comes across as sane and intelligent, something I can not attribute to her Canadian counterpart, the woefully inadequate Mrs. Leitch. Deeper analysis of Ms. Le Pen’s platform reveals policies some what at odds with accepted Liberal norms, not a deal breaker I’ll concede, but with that extended analysis, her views might be considered more than a little undemocratic.
A glass pitcher of water

The images presented here have no theme or raisons d’être except as eye candy. I have a folder of oddball images that I continuously add to, “The B-Sides”, I call them. A casual peruse leads me now to pick one and toss it out as a spacer between the words. I hope you find some kernel of enjoyment from these whimsical choices.

Here be your morning chuckle.

A difference in perspective
Now back to regular scheduled programming.
The real big question for Europe is Germany.
Two things.
The planet already took a “yuuge” right turn down the road to overt Nationalism with Trump. Should Merkel fall, and, Heaven forbid, (really!), another formidable Frau replace her, Frauke Petry to be precise, the German Trumpette, We will find ourselves in waters not politically sailed since, yep, the time another German (Austrian actually) was legitimizing xenophobia and decrying “foreigners” to much applause. It would have taken less than a hundred years. Projections on how this will all turn out are far beyond my capabilities (didn’t even see The Orange One coming), but I remain optimistic. It’s only been a week.
Before ruminating further on where, We the Collective, are now, and potentially headed, I will say that I think there is an issue that could overshadow the politics anyway.
All major nations are broke. I’ll concede that’s vague and not news. Let’s assume, (is it not fact?) the G20, at least the G8, are all running deficits and there is only talk of those debts getting bigger.
There is One exception. Germany. Not even the Swiss made the plus column last year.
So. We have the Fatherland (History tickles with irony) not only acting as the beneficent global hospice, but the holder of the credit card for the EU. Yes everyone, the German election will be crucial, and possibly more important in determining nationalist attitudes, and their consequences, than even The Royal Trumpkin. At the very least, a hard turn to the Right, and the consequent closing of borders, and rethinking of the whole United European Experiment will undoubtedly precipitate shall we say, in the jargon of Wall Street, volatility.
Last Gas: Indian Cabins, Ab.
Money, and “What is it?” could finally be a very pertinent question in the face of an increasingly polarized German Nation.
The German seniors are being penalized, now going on five years at least, with non-existent interest payments on their savings, a result of the European Central Bank emulating the U.S Fed, in an effort to stimulate the weaker economies in the Union, to little or no avail it’s been pointed out by people much more successful than I where money matters are concerned, and the tax payers are getting short on patience with having to endlessly makeup shortfalls in that same European Union’s debt obligations. It’s complicated, and I don’t claim to understand more than the first couple lines down from the headlines, but there are very influential bankers and politicians that might make the whole European financial experiment become just that. A failed one, with whatever financial mayhem that will sow.
Germany is what stands between the Euro being money and a dubious promise from an enigmatic debtor.
As for money, and how it’s defined on our side of the Atlantic, let’s leave aside the mostly irrelevant Loonie, as far as this discussion is concerned, and focus briefly on the Dollar. We have The Donald commandeering Fortress America, and U.S. bank notes that state, for all to see, right across their face, that its worth is backed by, “The Full Faith and Credit of the United States Treasury”; therefore, I can only suggest American credit is good, as long as there is faith, and faith requires believers.
Interesting times indeed.
Here is a European summary just published today. I haven’t read it yet, but a quick glance tells me it explains some details to flesh out my ravings, If you’re interested.
A Garden Angel

This little Angel watches over the always beautiful, even award winning, yard of the Vietnamese couple that live across the street from our Edmonton house. I photographed them while they were outside in their front yard, which they usually are during the Summer. In Winter they literally do not leave the house. The first year I thought they left for the season. A lovely elderly couple. Original “Boat People”. They fled their native land when the Communists overran Vietnam. Another failed experiment. Remember?

This little endeavour to touch base with friends and family is all about fun and sharing. I’m just setting the stage, so to speak. Starting with some background and a bit of what’s on my mind. Not anything out of the ordinary either. The difference now is the cast of characters and potential plot twists. As I said, it’s getting interesting.
On that note, I must say when His Trumpness won the vote, I did have an initial reaction of the sort you get when you hear bad news, but it presents the prospect for interesting outcomes. Let’s see how this plays out eh? Where’s the harm? That’s when the introspection started. I’m trying to look at it like an imminent train wreck where no one will be hurt. Optimistic, and naive! Again, nothing new there. Let’s consider this my therapy, and I feel better already. Thank you collective therapists.
The Philipp family Wetaskiwin Clan continues to be blessed with good health and opportunity. We are well, and grateful. Kate is living and working in Edmonton. Alexander is on approach to completing his post secondary plans at Grant MacEwan, no plans filed for further education at this time. No word on other big plans either, and that’s fine. Although, in the Spring, Alex will be traveling in Europe with a good friend from Wetaskiwin. Georgia is in her first year at the U of A, and experiencing all the joys and travails that can entail. Jackson is in Grade 9 and plans to attend Brentwood next year.
Beth is still a committed and ambitious member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In other words, she enjoys the rewards, and stoically suffers the consternations of her always challenging career. The pleasures of big government, and the frustrations of helping people, but maybe not in that sort of order. However work plays out for Beth, in the end she loves it.
Now for me. Excellent. I have my health. The just rewards of maintaining a temple for a body, and always staying in tune to Nature’s diktat regards that blessed vessel which carries my mind and spirit. OK. Maybe that’s a tad thick, but I am on a bit of health kick, and so lately have had the added and commensurate benefit of good clean living. Really. Feeling good loved ones, and seriously, can really, honestly, credit only one thing, the “Lucky Star”, my mother long ago informed me I was born under. Thanks Lucky Star, and all the people and things that make my Star so lucky. I try and balance the karmic scale by donating things I feel others need more than I, and by reminding myself to commit random acts of kindness, and occasionally picking up hitchhikers when I’m able.

Work has me in Saskatchewan most of the time, with sojourns to Alberta for work and time at home. Keeping it simple, things are busy and really there’s not much more to it. For that too, I am grateful.

-35C and blowing. Early January near Stoughton, Sk.

On the play side, I am trying to teach myself how to use some of the vast array of digital software I pay for every month. Not just because I pay for it, but so I can realize at least a fraction of the potential creativity my febrile imagination, and afore mentioned software is capable of producing. I want to build my own website. I want to produce small movies. I have hours (days) of video to edit, some rather unique and rife with potential. It’s video from Fort Providence (‘80s & ‘90s) filmed on tape, and recently converted to a digital format.

As well, there are years of delicious beer photos that accompany the same years of everything else I’ve photographed during that time, and up until now. Images originally captured on Kodachrome 64. That’s incomparable stuff – Kodachrome. I have worthy black and white 35mm images not yet accompanying my photos that have been on display in Providence for so long that whole thing needs an update. I have been working on that too. As for the beer photos, it’s true. For a long time I photographed an embarrassing array of full and frosty glasses of beer. Actually, it’s not embarrassing, and I still take beer pictures, I just try and not have so many opportunities. The photographs are often rather good. On the website I’m hoping to build, I will have a “Random Beer” button. You click it, and a photo of a full, chilled, often exotic beer will be displayed. The main purpose of the so far mythical web site is yet to be determined. Perhaps a vehicle for me to share missives like this, then at least it would be optional for you dear reader. I have more ideas than concrete answers or digital results. Virtual versions – sure. Again, I’m in the process of learning how it all works, and that’s not as hopeless as it might sound. I do have some modest previous experience with web developing methods and programming skills, a fetus of knowledge to grow into a creator of digital wormholes for the electronic universe, so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch, and I’ve periodically reviewed the latest trends and practices. I have a good idea of what I do not know. It’s motivating in an awe inspiring sorta why. I am a novice for certain, but time and effort are the principle stumbling blocks to my publishing an online presence, rather than a paucity of technical know how.

A sitting area at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. Sit in the bar and have a pint with your Bacon and eggs. Kate and I did. Excellent. A Caesar is a good alternative if beer doesn’t suit you so close to noon.
Before releasing you from this highjacking of your precious time,  indulge me one more topic, both popular and controversial.
Not even Climate Change.
You can use the upcoming thoughts, should you find them agreeable, to buttress your ideas on Climate Change, but this little epistle will allow the notion that carbon stores heat in the atmosphere, and mention of the agencies that support that contention, to remain outside its mandate. For now, I will leave the debate of Climate Change being caused, or even effected, by Man’s actions entirely alone.
I want to speak about the Age of Carbon on its own, and hydrocarbon’s dominant role as the provider of humanities energy source. I should say now, the fact I work in the Oil Patch is not lost on me. On the contrary, it forms some of my opinions on the subject. In fact, let’s start there. My livelihood being provided by the energy industry is a stark reminder of the power of a paycheque to sway one’s opinion. It is for good reason I have learned, albeit slowly, and begrudgingly, and not wholly successfully, too hesitate in broaching the topic of alternate energy anywhere within the very broad confines of my working environment, i.e. Western Canada. Of course, there are people in oil country interested in the subject, and the West can stand with anywhere in terms of ingenuity, and forward thinking. However, hydrocarbons do posses an element of religion in these parts.
The Esso refinery in Strathcona County, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on December 23, 2008.

A little self congratulations here. This photo was used by the New York Review of Books, and yes it is as august a publication as it sounds. They paid me a fair price to feature it with a review of the book, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, by Steve Coll. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning Author, and my nephew Cole Philipp bought me the book. Thanks again Cole. The photo is the Esso Refinery in Edmonton. Esso is 75% owned by ExxonMobil FYI.

Realistically, oil is here as a primary global energy source for a long time to come. Just as obvious, to me at least, the black stuff’s days as the fuel of choice are numbered. Let’s face it, change is the only constant. We don’t use horses like we used to. Steam is a nostalgic means of locomotion for everything except massive turbines, and those are powered by coal or natural gas. One much dirtier than the other, but both make poison when burned. No more would we want our house heated by coal, than we would use oil lamps for light. Times change and technology drives that change. Elon Musk is a name we are all familiar with. Let’s pretend we know what motivates him. His companies are into space travel, and most notably cars. Electric cars. Batteries are big with him too. Oh yeah, and solar power. Get the drift? Elon Musk is not investing in mining or fracking. For that matter, neither are a growing number of activist shareholders. Not just the kind of activist that makes the business news in proxy fights or boardroom shake-ups, but the type of progressive fiduciary that guides billions of dollars of university endowment money, or even more billions of dollars of pension fund money. These people are continuously growing in number, and voting with their shepherded capital against hydrocarbons. They recall the lesson of the buggy whip makers that poo poo’d Henry Ford and his infernal contraption.
Exxon Mobil is the worst performing stock in the S&P 500 since the bottom of the market in 2008, after that little banking scare you may recall. An otherwise stellar corporation with a return on equity easily within the top 50% of the same group, and easily in the top ten of the highest dividend payers, … during a zero interest rate environment to boot.
Go figure?

Professional investors are shunning the dirty stuff folks, and you will hear more on that front soon.

Kodachrome 64, Nampa Esso sometime in the ’80’s. Not the 1880’s for you that think it was a very long time ago. Remember when the date 2017 sounded like part of a science fiction title?
Two things. I know, again, but I promised release didn’t I?
Hydrocarbons are dirty. They are dirty when they come out of the ground, and hard to clean up if they get spilled. Especially if they are spilled in water. They are even more dirty when they are burned, and that kind of dirty is even harder to clean up. The U.S. imports 30 million barrels of oil a day. A figure that means nothing to me, and I bet only makes your eyes roll back in your head too. We can agree it’s a big number though. A day! On top of that is all the oil it doesn’t have to import. Again, hard to fathom, but I’ll pile on a little more with a reminder that, that is only The U.S. We outlawed smoking in public, but we think nothing wrong with a street, heck, every street sometimes, jammed with trucks and cars all pouring out more carcinogenic exhaust in a day, than a small city of nicotine addicts could smoke in a lifetime, OK, I’m a little fast and loose with the figures here, but my point holds up I think. Industry, and the emissions from their smoke stacks is even bigger. You get the picture.
Just yesterday I read about how London, England, is being choked with smog, (to be fair, more so in winter), and within a week has surpassed it’s annual allotment for air pollution (I know, who knew?) that’s allowed under an agreement with the European Union. Good thing they’re leaving I guess?? London pales in comparison to some Asian cities, as I have no doubt you are all thinking right now.
If we were traveling for generations across interstellar space to found new colonies on Earth like planets, we would need vast ships capable of sustaining life for generations. At least until we discover faster than light travel, and some big brains equate that to magic. Safe to say, should interstellar travel come about, the first ships to head out will more than likely be slower than light, and the journeys will last decades at least, potentially centuries. Now, lets say the chief science officer on one of those gigantic ships comes to the captain with news the oxygen scrubbers are being overloaded, by something being released into the ships atmosphere. The substance is man made and can be halted. An alternative to the harmful activity will need to be found, and some discomfort may result from the transition etc. None the less, if the activity continues, life on the ship will be adversely effected, making the remaining decades or even centuries very uncomfortable, there is even a risk of making the ship uninhabitable. What’s a captain to do? You can see where I’m going here. Yes, it’s that simple.
Exhaust is poison, and we are being poisoned more and more, so lets just remember that when hydrocarbons are mentioned. Who cares if the planet is warming or not? I’m dying over here.
So as not to come across as insensitive or to simplistic, some people care a lot if the planet is warming or not. Specifically, the people of the Maldives, with an average ground height of less than five feet above sea-level, it is projected to be completely submerged by the end of this century, micro-seconds on a geological timescale. Another, just to name two very concerned peoples, the tiny Pacific Republic of Kiribati. Kiribati has just finalized the purchase of a 20 km2 stretch of land on Vanua Levu, one of the larger Fiji islands, 2,000 km from home. A move described by Kiribati’s president Tong as an “absolute necessity” should the nation be completely submerged under water.
That’s about Climate change though, and we’re not talking about that here. It’s also projection. Maybe scientist are better at it than reporters and pundits?
Some more Kodachrome goodness. Cabins down river from Fort Providence in the ’80’s. I bet they look the same today. It is a very real possibility toxic material from the Oil Sands in Alberta will effect the Mackenzie River in a material way. There can be no doubt that material is already there even if in minuscule amounts. I am unaware of any measurements that have been taken in recent times. I never hesitated to put my face in the water and drink from the Mackenzie. The little fuzzy presence of marine life was not a deterrent where the current was less swift, or the waters shallow.
Plastic. I am not going to start with grocery bags. I re-use all mine as garbage bags, so if I don’t get plastic shopping bags, I have to buy garbage bags.
On subject of plastic sopping bags, I was stunned to the point of trying not to laugh out loud in a 7-Eleven a few years back. The municipal council passed a by-law outlawing plastic shopping bags – in Fort McMurray! No irony there.
Seriously, we all know, and we all are disgusted by the tonnage of plastic humanity throws away every day. Packaging, takeout food containers, disposable everything, and yes, bags, OK, I can find another way. My problem here is I have no solution. I am just as complicit as everyone else, (some try harder), and at a loss as to how we might turn things around.
Sweden has a new sales tax regime to help with the problem of society throwing things away instead of fixing them. 5% tax on repairs, 10% tax on a purchase – for appliances. The problem is how cheap so many of our products are now. Everything is disposable. Who fixes a fridge anymore? A washing machine?
We know we know.
A farm shed along Highway 49 near Peace River, Ab.
People I love, I’m not ranting here, just sharing thoughts that once dwelled on old farm houses, cool new music, the odd politician, family, foreign lands, you know, not the depressing thoughts of endless waste, and poison air choking our blue orb into a uninhabitable malignant solar scab. No. Not that. Therapy remember?
In closing, I promise, we have all heard about the island of plastic gyrating around in the Pacific Ocean. No? It’s the size of Texas. Future thinkers are considering settling on it. Really! Like a new continent for development or mining. Probably both. Texas is a big place, that plastic island is soon to be bigger. True story.
Alternate truth at least.
I don’t know.
How about we enjoy the sun tomorrow, and the next day and hope knowledge and better practices come sooner rather than later. It must start with awareness, so we’ll leave it at that, besides we have a circus in town, and who can concentrate anyway. Turn loose the clown(s), some distraction would be good. I just hope no one gets hurt . . . oh never mind.
The Palliser Hotel in Calgary. Who thought all those big pillows was a good idea?
Next letter I will talk about small furry animals, quantum mechanical mysteries (a favourite), Tarot cards, The Great Trumpkin, (how not too?), and I might have to weigh in on refugees since it will be most likely unavoidable anyway. I confess to having a soft spot for refugees. My dad was one. Not only that, Canada admitted him and many of his countrymen soon after fighting a devastating and world changing war with their country of origin, Germany.  Never mind unfounded hints and allegations of refugees possibly harming the citizens of their adopting nation like we hear today. Not only is that premise disingenuous and void of fact, the current peoples fleeing are still at war. The people of my father’s time fought  each other in a World War, and then somehow found it in their collective hearts to share a nation afterwards. Perhaps that might serve as a point to ponder.
We all want the same thing.  😉
Thank-you for your patience everyone, now let’s sit back, grab some popcorn, and watch the circus shall we. Hopefully it will not turn to madness, just more of the same, but different.