Sunday, January 31, 2016


Laurence J. Peter, a Canadian educator and hierarchiologist, is mostly famous for his PETER PRINCIPLE:  MANAGERS RISE TO THEIR LEVEL OF INCOMPETENCE.  

Managers rise to their level of incompetence because the selection of these incompetent managers is based upon their performance in their current roles, rather than on the abilities relevant to the intended role. 


One’s competence should rise in accordance to the level of one’s reality.  For example, my reality: 
I am a faux busker – I am not a brutto temp busker.  I busk only in weather that is conducive to my romantic notions of busking.  When the sun is shining bright in a Simpson clouded sky and my buskspot is windless my consumers are more munificent than on dark and cloudy and rainy and windy days.


First there is a compromise just in getting the gig.  Performers have to convince the venue manager that they are worthy of taking the stage.  Initially, this screening takes place through an audition, which could be live but is mostly through video or even word-of-mouth.  Once the stage date has been set, the candidate getting the gig, if not going solo, must get some other players for a band.  This, too, is usually done through musician camaraderie, which is always a joy, but still a compromise nonetheless.  And once the band members have been decided, then so, too, must the playlist be decided.  Needless to say, debate and rehearsal are professional musts when assigned a formal gig.  The aforementioned skinny of this is that gig accoutrements, physical and mental, are more so than that for busking.

I am a strummer – I am not an arpeggio plectrum finger-picker.  (I never use a pick when playing guitar; though I often don fingerpicks when thrumming my banjitar.)  My strumming guitar style is free-stroke (referred to as tirando in musical theory), combined with a sort of frailing pattern, as is common with banjo picking.  Rather than any traditional strum patterns, my strumming is always an up-picking plucking “in passing” motion of my fingers, combined with a down-picking motion of my thumb.

I am a guitar-slinging summertime drifter – I am not a stay-at-home performer.  As a faux busker I tend to travel on buskation for approximately sixty days in the summertime.  My buskations have always been to elsewhere in Saskatchewan (Canada), Alberta (Canada), and British Columbia (Canada).  And I’ve been on buskation to the Netherlands and to Ireland.  This spring I am going back to Amsterdam to busk, and this coming summer my plan is for an Alaskan buskation.

Don’t get me wrong.  Gigs are valuable to me because they keep me on edge and in musical condition for summer.  Doing a gig means practice, practice, and more practice.  Doing gigs means to keep me song-writing (generally I only perform original tunes when on stage, the exception being an obscure ballad or two).

Don’t get me wrong.  Gigs are valuable to me because I get to gather with my musical friends.  I love the people I gig with.  I’ve met so many musicians, guitar-slinging singer-songwriters similar to myself and … since I am so narcissistic and I love myself so much, I cannot help but love my band mates.

Laurence J. Peter (of the Peter Principle) also came up with PETER’S PLACEBO:  AN OUNCE OF IMAGE IS WORTH A POUND OF PERFORMANCE.

This is my reality.  I know my limits.  I am simply a busker who employs a simple strum pattern on a twelve-string guitar.  All of my band-mates are more (much more) talented than I.  This is the very reason that whenever I organize a gig of rotating performers, I always am first to hit the stage.  Being first, I set the rating performance bar (pun intended – I ‘m talking about bar gigs).  I schedule myself, basically, as the warm-up act.  If I were to go third or fourth or fifth, there would be audience members throwing tomatoes at me.  I kid you not.

Now back to the NEIL PRINCIPLE: THE UNNEUROTIC RISE ONLY TO THEIR LEVEL OF COMPETENCE.  Being neurotic is to express thought and behavior deviant from the social norms, through maladaptive mannerisms.  And this is why it is so easy to recognize Peter-principle managers; they are forever fretting and yelling and blaming.  (Neurotic is not to be confused with Psychotic, which means to be out of touch with reality.) Such mea culpa managers who haven risen then fallen from grace, simply become neurotic meshuggeners, the constant theme of gossip for those they imagine to be directing.  To be neurotic means to suck at dealing with reality, the reality of not being able to do the job for which a Peter-principled manager has been appointed.

Though I am but a sidewalk busker who sometimes takes the stage, I never take on more than I can thrum.  I never rise beyond my competencies to perform.  Therefore, in such a regard I have so far stayed unneurotic and have risen only to my level of competence.  And I must mention that in spite of my reluctant stage-self, my level of competence seems always on the rise.  (I do believe that my gigging, having to publicly strum close the edge of my comfort zone, does provide the necessary cathexis for my musical self-improvement.)   

This brings to mind, a thought of W. Somerset Maugham (French novelist) or Jean Giraudoux (also a French novelist): ONLY THE MEDIOCRE ARE ALWAYS AT THEIR BEST. 

Then for buskers to be always at their best, they need only to stay mediocre.  And the formula to stay mediocre is simple, just never do gigs.  Not wanting to be a mediocre summertime busker, I will continue my wintertime gigging.

In fact, come Monday, March 14th, 2016 my gig is at the CONEXUS ARTS CENTRE in Regina, playing for the Dinner and Silent Auction … a 75 dollar a plate dinner … sponsored by the SCHIZOPHRENIA SOCIETY OF SASKATCHEWAN (SSS)...  the keynote speaker is National Hockey League star, SHELDON KENNEDY (Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames), known for going public as a victim of sexual abuse by his Junior Hockey coach, Graham James.   

And I’ll stay unneurotic leading up to, during, and after this gala event because ... of Peter's Placebo, an ounce of image is worth a pound of performance.  My ounce of image is my band mates, DARREN FORBES (lead guitar), CORBY MAGNUSSON (bass guitar), and MARK WILSON (fiddle).  My secret to illuding competence is to surround myself with the very competent Darren, Corby, and Mark.

FACTOID:  In their Junior hockey days, Sheldon Kennedy and my favorite NHL scout, Brad Hornung, played together on TEAM WESTERN (85-86). 

FACTOIDBrad Hornung was the one who thought of this blog topic today, about not wanting to rise to my level of incompetence, after hearing about my Sheldon Kennedy gig.



Sunday, January 24, 2016


Chatting during the sound check before our opening set at the BUSHWAKKER BREWPUB in Regina, Mark mentioned that he had a couple errands to run between sets.  I was not surprised. Mark has a young family and will be on zoom time until his children become adults.  Such is the way of the Corporate America individualistic culture.   

And in such a culture as ours, there is rarely any room for ghosts.  Mark and I continued to chat about ghosts, while he tuned his fiddle and I, my twelve-string.

Ghosts.  Oh sure, one of my past neighbors was always being brushed by ghosts whilst she tinkled the ivory in her front parlor.  And the building right next door to me where I dine on a regular basis, CRAVE KITCHEN AND WINE BAR, brags by marketing the haunting of the residential ghost in the upstairs chambers.

My rambling for today:  I do not believe in ghosts.  I do not believe in ghosts, probably because I have no time for ghosts.  My world is busy, busy.  I represent Corporate America.  I am forever; it seems, on zoom time.

I do know people who believe in ghosts.  Some of my best friends believe in ghosts. (I love this last line, my appeal to a credible friend authority.)  Actually, I have several close friends that believe in ghosts, and these friends in particular are of First Nations ancestry.  They are: Claudine Neetz (Guidance Counselor), Dawne Cassell (Aboriginal Advocate), Natalie Agecoutay-Sweet (Program Coordinator), and Terrance Littletent (Hoop Dancer, world renown).

I have traveled enough on the planet to acknowledge that ghost do exist beyond First Nations cultures.  In Maritime Canada and the United States there are ghosts.  In rural European countries along the Mediterranean Sea coast, there, too, are ghosts.

Hmmm … to continue my rambling for today:  Collectivistic storytelling cultures have ghosts, and individualistic self-serving cultures do not have ghosts, speaking very generally of course.

I’ll begin with the ghost notions of my First Nations friends.  The Native North American culture is known for its rich oral tradition.  Back in the day, these indigenous people relied simply on their verbal language to share their histories, customs, rituals, and legends.  Such vivid storytelling narratives even today are rooted in the Earth (pun intended).  North American Indians have had a kinship with the land, the water, and the sky since the beginning of time, and still strongly believe in the give-and-take system with the natural world.  

Since the dawn of First Nation life, the teepee and wigwam story legends have always included spirit mentors.  Ghost dances honoring such spirits symbolize the beliefs and rich accounts of ancestral ghosts.  Dream dances signify that after death, the spirits live on and even move among the living. (Disruptions causing unrest for the spirited dead were sure to mean unrest for the living as well.)  

Then the American pioneer arrived, migrating to the West to settle on lands already inhabited by the American Indian, leatherstocking tales of Second Nations, so to express.  These were the days of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, and the community working bees of home building, barn raising, field clearing, and quilt making.  In the colonial oral tradition, tongue-to-tongue ghost tales traveled through the generations, specter upon specter of unbridled nightmares frightened many a child into quivering throughout the night.  

Moving to the right along the time continuum, stories of the Devil were an important part of Yankee Christianity, for both White and Black populations.  Black New Englanders feared the power of Satan simply because he was so like the malevolent spirits of Africa.

Even the early Chinese pioneers to America got into the storytelling act.  On their way to the drudge mine or steel railroad, or even further into the frontier, their toil was somewhat suppressed by the telling of tall and chilling tales.  And this was true, too, of the Chinese sailors, shrimp fishing the American coasts.

The sea has always been for the sailor, a temperamental and dangerous mistress, offering wealth in exchange for a happen-chance horrific loss of life.  Spinning a yarn or ten on and below deck was an integral part of shipboard life.  Spinning a yarn, in nautical slang, is telling a tale of maritime adventure, a sea shanty of dramatic shipwrecks and of bloody sea battles.  The maritime yarn is the result of the collective mates on a ship having to live within close confines and forced proximity day in and day out until shore leave.  Endless nights at sea under gibbous moons can for certain produce some grisly tales.

The community storytelling format is a trademark of any collectivistic culture, a culture that seems fast disappearing.  Collectivistic cultures emphasize the needs and goals of the entire group, the interconnectedness among people playing a central role in each person’s identity.  Such collectivistic cultures are still somewhat apparent in Asia, Central America, South America, and Africa (at least compared to the USA and other Western individualistic nations, where the focus seems more on the rights and concerns of each individual, one selfish moment at a time). The skinny of collectivistic culture compared to that of the individualistic is WE vs Me.

Hmmm … the notion of the existence of ghosts adumbrates an after-earth death experience for each of us.  I do not like the idea of evanescent figures in my present life, never mind my afterlife.  (Yikes affright!)


Still thinking about ghosts since my gig with Mark, I expressed my thoughts last night between periods of a Western Hockey League game between the Regina Pats and the Prince Albert Raiders.  Those who pretended to listen were my son, Baron Child; my cousin John Coburn; and our favorite NHL Scout, Brad Hornung. 

 What about zombies?” Asked Brad, “and what about vampires and werewolves?  Where do these fit in and why do we tell such stories?”

“To show there's something out there worse than us.  These stories simply feed into our foolery and are really, a self-indulgent flattery, offering us some delusional comfort in the false fact that we are not the most horrible beings on the planet,” replied John.

Good one, John!  That same Corporate America that has me appreciating and quite liking the sounds of the sirens in the night, the sound of the police going to save some poor soul from a robbery, the sound of an ambulance going to save some poor soul from a heart attack, the sound of a fire engine going to save some poor soul from a house fire.  These are sirens of others’ darkness and distress – Not so strangely, I find these comforting.

Yikes!  I’m running late!  Posthaste I must submit this blog entry!  As far as ghosts I say ghosts shmosts!
I’ve no time – I’m on zoom time!

(I'm a buzzzeeee bee.)

“There's something out there worse than us.”