Sunday, May 31, 2009

ZAZEN IN A NOISY ROOM


My friend Svetlana lives in a small apartment with two roommates. She's a regular practitioner of zazen. So she asked me about a situation she'd encountered a few days ago.

Right at the time she'd set aside for her zazen practice, her roommates decided to start watching episodes of Family Guy in the adjacent room. There was no way to escape the noise. And to add even more misery, Svetlana is a fan of Family Guy and they were watching episodes she hadn't seen.

Still, she decided to do her zazen anyway. But she wanted to ask me what I thought of that.

I can totally relate! I used to have to do my zazen with the Zen Luv Assassins rehearsing with all amplifiers turned to 11 in the basement -- trying to work out a version of "She Said, She Said" without taking into account that the middle section is in 3/4 time. They just kept falling apart every time they got to the "When I was a boy" section. As the pirate with the steering wheel sticking out of his crotch said, "Arrrr, it was driving me nuts!"

Yet I kept on sitting, not just through that, but through countless other distraction -- noisy roommate arguments, noisy roommate sex, buses, trains and aeroplanes, you name it, I have probably done zazen through it!

At one of my stops on my recent tour some guy kept asking me about, like, if you're sitting and a plane flies overhead you lose your concentration. I kept telling him it didn't matter. He kept pressing the question. I don't know if I ever managed to convince him that zazen was still zazen even if you got distracted.

We are not trying to "establish one-pointed concentration" or whatever else some meditation teachers in other religions try and go for. It's still zazen even if you're doing it on a noisy playground at recess time.

Of course you should try and find the quietest spot possible. If you can wait for your roommates to finish watching Family Guy or talk them into using headphones that would always be better. And, to answer another F.A.Q., no, you cannot "do zazen to music." Meaning, you should not deliberately introduce distractions or entertainment into your practice. But sometimes the quietest spot you can find isn't very quiet. That doesn't mean you should neglect the practice. There is still some benefit to be had even if you have to do your zazen among all sorts of noise and distractions.

One of the strangest distractions I've had to deal with comes from Zen teachers who think it's necessary to provide entertainment for people who are sitting. There's a tradition called "kusen" in which the teacher gives a dharma talk during sitting. I hate that! I also hate it when they beat drums and ring bells unnecessarily during practice in a misguided attempt to ape certain misguided traditions present in misguided temples in Japan.

But you deal with what you gotta deal with.

OK. That's my sermon for the day. Now it's off to the salt mines to try and write some material for my next book. See ya!

P.S. By the way, I guess it wasn't the Jerry Rubin who came to that rally the other day. There is a politician here in Santa Monica named Jerry Rubin who is just about the right age, right "look" and right political affiliation (he lists himself on ballots as "Peace Activist Jerry Rubin") to be the Jerry Rubin and really seems to make no great effort to let people know he's not the Jerry Rubin.

Friday, May 29, 2009

GAY MARRIAGE again...

Before I forget, there is Zazen tomorrow (May 30th) at Hill St. Center. I just updated the page about it & realized I had not listed that date. Sorry!

A funny thing happened. I looked at the comments to the most recent posting and it was a pleasant experience. The comments were mostly intelligent, even funny. Maybe I should look in there more often. So I thought I'd run with the whole gay marriage thing for just a bit longer.

In response to a couple of those who commented; I don't think Japan is free from anti-homosexual prejudice and I don't think gay marriage is a completely trivial issue.

I've never really studied Japan's attitude towards homosexuality. But I was surrounded by that nation's attitudes towards everything for 11 years. What I've gleaned is mostly through interested observation rather than study. The main thing I wanted to point out is that gay bashing is pretty well non-existent in Japan. Homosexuality has never been regarded as sinful behavior there. There is no history of people being burned alive for the crime as there is in Europe. There is no precedent for shunning homosexuals or beating them up.

Which is not to say everything is open and free either. It's just that what prejudice does exist (and it does exist) comes from a very different place, and is expressed far more mildly. But if you really want to know the details there are certainly better sources than me!

As far as the importance of the issue, I agree it is a civil rights matter. I heard one person here in California say that a good compromise would be to just make all marriage -- gay or straight -- illegal. It's an interesting proposition.

One argument you hear a lot in California is that homosexuals are already allowed to enter into legally recognized domestic unions with most (though not all) of the same rights and privileges as marriage. Again, I am a poor source of information on this. Still it seems the main thing that supporters of same-sex marriage want is for their unions to be recognized by the state as marriages.

It's certainly fine by me.

I don't know if I really understand the anti-same-sex-marriage argument. It certainly doesn't seem to be well presented in the media here. The stories I read in the LA Times over the past few days don't do much to explain the reasons anyone would want to keep same-sex marriage illegal.

The opponents of Proposition 8 (which made same-sex marriage unconstitutional) largely characterize the supporters of Prop 8 as being hateful. I don't think that's really fair. There must be something else...

Now here's where I'll get myself in trouble. Cuz I went to that pro-same-sex marriage rally the other day and, frankly, what I saw there made me sorta kinda maybe understand why people oppose same-sex marriage. Much of the rally seemed almost as if it were calculated to annoy anyone who would be opposed to same-sex marriage. I know it wasn't. But if it had been consciously designed to annoy them it could not have done a better job. Because, and may Jesus have mercy on my soul for admitting this, it sort of annoyed me. And I support same-sex marriages!

Dig. You had parents come up on stage with their children saying, "I want to teach my little girl that if she wants to marry a girl when she grows up, she can." You had a pair of 14 year old girls saying they wanted Prop 8 overturned so they could be married when they grew up. You had high school boys pledging their love for one-another and dancing together. And you had Jerry Rubin, for God's sake! Jerry Rubin!

All of this is exactly what scares the opponents of same-sex marriage. If they wanted to inflame the hearts and minds of their supporters they could just have video taped that rally and put it on YouTube without comment. Maybe they did!

Now, I believe everyone should have the right to live as they want to as long as it doesn't harm anyone else. But what these folks are fighting for is a to be recognized by the society as a whole as OK, safe, not threatening the established order. You can't win that kind of recognition by giving your opponents precisely what scares them the most.

This is an example of people being too idealistic. I'll say it again for anyone who can't read very well -- I support the rights of same-sex couples to legally wed. I want to see the law changed. But at the same time, the flaws in their approach are so glaringly obvious I can't comprehend how they cannot see them.

I don't have any suggestions, really. And even if I did, I don't think anyone's listening to me on this issue. But it was interesting to me to see the way an overly idealistic approach will always fail. These folks need to try and understand their opponents and make their opponents understand that they are not scary, freaky people (again, again, again, they are not scary or freaky to me, but it's not people like me they need to convince of that).

And that's all I want to say about that!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

AT&T, GAY MARRIAGE and MORE VIDEOS

So who wants to help me fight AT&T? Cuz I signed up for this special international cell phone deal before I went to Canada. The guy at the AT&T store told me that outgoing calls would be 59 cents a minute but that incoming calls would not be charged. This was wrong and I got a phone bill for over $400!

I've never been that great at arguing with bureaucratic people at big companies. So I figure I probably can't win this one even though I was genuinely horribly misinformed. I imagine they'll shift the blame to me for being dumb enough to believe one of their employees.

I guess I could start a "Pay Brad's Enormous Phone Bill Fund" and ask each reader to send a dollar via PayPal to doubtboy@mac.com. HA! I wonder if that would work...

Anyway this is what I get for trusting people in authority.

Speaking of people in authority who ought to be fought, tonight I participated in a march to protest the State of California upholding Proposition 8, which was a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Personally I believe in the rights of gay people to be just as miserable as anyone else. Though I do think it's one of those issues that gets a lot more attention on both sides than it really deserves. God knows there are far more important things going on.

Still, the march started at the Methodist church next door and they were giving away free veggie burritos from Holy Guacamole (Santa Monica's best Mexican restaurant), so why not join the party?

It's one of these bizarrely religious issues I'll never fully understand. Someone stated that they hadn't heard a single argument against gay marriage that did not quote the Bible as its source. The Bible says it's a sin for a man to lay with another man. Yet it also says it's a sin to eat shellfish. But I don't see anyone standing outside the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company with protest signs. Where's the constitutional amendment banning clam bakes on the beach?

I never understood the concept of sin very well. I didn't grow up with it and by the time I tried to figure it out I really didn't have the indoctrination in it that's necessary for you to really grok the meaning of the word. Buddhism doesn't have the notion of sin, nor does it have the idea that marriage is a religious matter. So the idea of gay marriage being problematic to Buddhism never came up.

The Japanese are funny about this subject. It's sort of "don't ask, don't tell" over there. Gay marriage is not recognized in Japan. Yet I've never heard of gay bashing over there. It seems, in my limited understanding of the matter, that if you're gay and Japanese the goal is to be discreet about it when discretion is called for and be as open about it as you like when it's appropriate. For example, you don't bring it up in the work place, but you don't hide it when you're hanging out in Shinjuku Ni-Chome, the gay district of Tokyo. It's OK to be a "new half," which is roughly analogous to what they call "transgender" here. There are dozens of openly gay men on TV all the time.

I couldn't possibly give you the whole spectrum. But the upshot is that once you remove the concept of sin from the picture, everything changes radically.

Whatever. I marched. I chanted. I ate burritos. I came home.

I also put up some new videos. So enjoy them!


ARE BUDDHISTS ALLOWED TO JACK OFF


An astute question from the audience in Montreal.

GOD PART III
This is also from Montreal. One of my favorite Dimentia 13 songs. Here's an MP3 of the studio version of God Part III from the FLAT EARTH SOCIETY CD (1990, Midnight International Records).

BUDDHA WAS A GOOD OL' BOY
This is my country and Buddhism song, written for Tim McCarthy circa 1986. And here's an MP3 of the studio version of Buddha Was a Good Ol' Boy from the FLAT EARTH SOCIETY CD (1990, Midnight International Records).

Monday, May 25, 2009

BACK FROM NEW MEXICO

I'm baaaaa-aaaack!

I'll be in Santa Monica for a while. And I'm chillaxing now. (ugh!)

Here are two videos from my recent trip to New Mexico:

NOT KNOWING

This one got a laugh which you can't hear on the video. It was when I said "butthole."

BUDDHISM AND SPIRITUALITY

You can tell I've been in California too long because I pronounce the word "neither" wrong. You're supposed to say "neee-ther." You ponder that while I go worsh my car.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

ON TO LAS CRUCES!

Today, May 23 (Sat) at 7pm, I'll be speaking at Las Cruces Zen Center at the Unitarian Universalist Church 2000 S. Solano Dr, Las Cruces, NM 88001. So be there or be square!

The radio show yesterday morning was interesting. Too bad none of you called in or it could have been even more so.

Man, I gotta run! See ya!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

MASTER YOUR ENERGY MASTER YOUR LIFE

Sorry for 2 posts in one day, but this just came up.

Here's your chance! Tomorrow, May 22nd, 2009, at 8 AM Pacific Time, I will be interviewed on a show called Master Your Energy, Master Your Life. It is a call-in show and the host, Sheevaun Moran, has asked me to post the phone number on this blog so that readers thereof (that's you) can call in and ask me stuff live on the air. Here is the number:

1.866.472.5795

I just had a look at her website and I'm hoping maybe she'll teach me her technique for overcoming financial blocks -- perhaps by getting every one of her listeners to buy my books!

Man, they oughta give me a radio show!

Oh well. I master my life by not trying to master my life. That way I always feel successful about it! If your goal is not to achieve your goals you'll come out a winner every time!

I KNEW I SHOULDA TAKEN A LEFT AT ALBUQUERQUE!


If only I'd taken a left at Albuquerque maybe I woulda ended up somewhere other than El Paso, Texas, which is where your fearless correspondent (me) finds himself today. But not snatched by a giant hand jutting up from the ground! That shot was taken in Saskatoon at their lovely, but mighty weird sculpture garden.

Last night I played Albuquerque Zen Center to a ravenous crowd of thrill seekers from the Rinzai school! I had a load of fun, though I had been filled up with beans at a local eatery only an hour before I took the stage. Luckily no one was seriously injured. The Albuquerque Zen Center was founded by the legendary Joshu Sasaki Roshi, whose book Buddha is the Center of Gravity I often quote from. Don't look for it on Amazon, though. You'll never find it! Sasaki apparently hated it and never allowed it to be reprinted.

Today I'm in El Paso just hanging out. Tomorrow I'll be talking here. And if you want to know where, check out the link over there to your left about my book tour. It's in there! The following day I'm in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Yet another international stop on my tour! (Yeah, yeah, I know it's America, but I'm told a number of our politicians don't!)

Hope to see ya there!

Here's an excerpt from "Zen Wrapped in Karma" that appeared in Newspaper Tree an on-line paper in El Paso. It's not one of the dirty parts!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A BUTTLOAD OF NEW VIDEOS

THIS JUST IN: My appearance on Suicide Girls Radio is now available on line at this link. If you want to skip ahead to the second hour, which is where my part is, go to the bottom of the page, click download, save the file and fast forward as you like!

This morning I put a buttload of new videos up on YouTube from the just-completed book tour. I'm only embedding 2 of them here because the embedding thing makes some people's browsers load really slow. For the others, just click on the title of the video and you should be taken right to it.

ZEN AND STATES OF BLISS

This one's from Green Apple books in San Francisco. I was actually kind of surprised when I reviewed the video and found this part. I hadn't remembered saying it. And it sounded sort of good. Who'd have imagined I could say anything meaningful? Not me!


DROP THE A-BOMB ON ME


I started ending some of my talks with a rendition of the Zero Defex hit "Drop the A-Bomb On Me!" Here's a live version from Saskatoon.

MIND/BODY ONENESS
This is another clip from Green Apple Books in which I try to explain Nishijima Roshi's old sawhorse about the balance between mind and body.

ATHEISM AND BUDDHISM
This is from a bookstore in Saskatoon. The questioner wanted to know if Buddhism was atheism. It isn't.

ZERO DEFEX: THIS MEANS WAR
Here's Zero Defex on stage at the Comet Bar in Detroit on May 1, 2009. I love singer Jimi Imij's comment at the beginning.

ZERO DEFEX: DRUGS
Here's Zero Defex at the Comet Bar again. Our singer needs to take it easy! He's gonna hurt himself!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

LISTEN TONIGHT TO SUICIDE GIRLS RADIO and DHARMA PUNX REPORT

I'll be on Suicide Girls radio tonight at 1 AM Pacific Time. Listen live on the Internet or later on the podcast. It should be interesting.

This morning I lead Zazen and spoke at the Dharma Punx/Against The Stream place on Melrose in Hollywood. That was fun as usual. Noah was even there, which he wasn't the last time I spoke.

So for my topic I chose to start out talking about a comment I saw in this blog. Yeah, I peeked in again. But I'm not making a habit of it. Why, you ask? Because I saw one comment that said Brad cannot stand criticism and will only be satisfied when every commenter is a sycophantic clone. So I went looking for some of this intelligent criticism and what do I see? A guy telling the world how Brad Warner is not a "real punk" (oh yeah?). He grew up in the "rich suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio" and did not suffer like Noah Levine did.

The rich suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio? Do you guys even read back the things you write before you shoot them off into cyberspace? Cuz Cleveland, Ohio is just rolling in cash, you know. As is Akron, whose suburbs I actually did grow up in (Akron is not the same city as Cleveland, please use Wikipedia for further clarification).

Noah seemed amused. I know I was. This is like the fourth or fifth time I've seen postings warning readers of this blog not to be fooled by phonies like me but to turn to the real deal, Noah Levine instead. I sure hope nobody is putting similar comments on Noah's forums urging people to go to me instead.

Anyhow, the point I was trying to make was that there is no Universal Scale of Suffering by which we can determine who has suffered more and who has suffered less. In fact this is a particularly insidious idea. The idea that some forms of suffering are more worthy of compassion than other forms of suffering is one of those absurd notions that makes people miserable.

I used to suffer from massive headaches on a regular basis. At the time it never occurred to me that they could be caused by stress and depression. After all, here I was in the "rich suburbs of Cleveland" -- actually living in a room at the Kent Zendo, working shit jobs to barely make the absurdly low rent. I'd never had leprosy. I wasn't dealing with a heroin addiction. I had not been abused by my parents. What could I possibly have to stress about? The only real stress was the kind that made for a good TV Movie of the Week. Or at least an Afterschool Special.

So I did not deal with my own stress and depression. And as a result I spread that stress and depression to everyone I met.

Don't judge your feelings by the standards of others.

Anyhow, it was a real good session and I got some good questions. Mainly the topic was about how Zen differed from Vipassana. I don't know much about Vipassana. So I just talked Zen.

Zen is at once the least popular practice in Buddhism in the US today and the most talked about one. Folks are terrified of Zen, and yet fascinated by it at the same time. But, really, it's not that scary. It's not very warm and fuzzy, I'll grant you that. But the scary stuff you've heard is mostly exaggeration.

I'll be there again on June 21st. See ya then!

Friday, May 15, 2009

ALL-DAY ZAZEN MAY 16, 2009 -- NO ORYOKI LUNCH! + MAY 17th at 11 AM at DHARMA PUNX in HOLLYWOOD + SAME NIGHT AT MIDNIGHT ON SUICIDE GIRLS RADIO

Just a quick reminder, there will be an all-day Zazen thing this Saturday, May 16th, at Hill Street Center. That's tomorrow for those of you who are calendar challenged. All details are on the links over to your left, so I ain't writin' 'em down again, you lazy good-for-nothings!

There will be no oryoki lunch. This means you do not have to register ahead of time. The point of registering ahead of time was so we could get a head count and make the right number of lunches. But if there's no lunch, there's no need for pre-registering. So to make that easier, here's a formula:

oryoki lunch served = you must pre-register
no oryoki lunch served = you don't have to pre-register

Good? OK!

Bring your own grub (like I'll be doing) or buy something on Main St. around the corner. Some of us will eat together. You don't have to.

I will be there. But I am fucking exhausted from the tour and the last thing I want to do is talk a lot. So we'll have the usual chatting session afterward. But there will be no lecture or dharma talk. In fact I'd prefer not to talk much at all. I'll just nod and go "um-hm" or "uh-ah." So if you're coming, come to sit, not to hear me talk. OK?

Those of you who want to hear me talk should show up the next morning, Sunday May 17th at 11 am at Dharma Punx in Hollywood 4300 Melrose (between Heliotrope and Vermont).

And if you wanna hear me talk even more tune in that same night at Midnight to INDIE 103.1 (on-line only now) for my appearance on the SuicideGirls Radio show. I think I'm on the second hour of the show, and it's available as a podcast after the live broadcast.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

FAME & MONEY


I'm back in Santa Monica and the weather's fine.

The first leg of my massive international book tour was frikkin' awesome. And I don't even say words like "frikkin' awesome." That's how frikkin' awesome it was. Big, big thanks to all in Saskatoon especially Ken, Jan, Michael, Neil and Jaime for plenty of hospitality in the Great White North. I won't be needing my bunny hug or my toque for a while. But I'll bring them with me when I come back. And I will be back. I'm gonna save all my Loonies and Twonies for the next time.

All the stops were fantastic and I will cherish my moments all over this continent this year forever.

I popped in to the comments section, which I do about once every 4 or 5 weeks and I was not disappointed in my expectation to be disappointed by what I find there each time I look. One person took me to task for always reacting to what's in the comments section. That's kind of funny. Maybe I'm somehow anticipating what's in there without looking.

But the one that kind of annoyed me was a guy saying I was obviously in this for money and fame. Think what you want. But here's the real skinny on money and fame and what I'm in this for.

MONEY
In September 2008 I was offered a position at the company I call "Nakano Productions" in Zen Wrapped In Karma. The catch was they wanted me to move to Tokyo. The annual salary they were offering me was about three times what I get for writing a book, which usually takes more than a year to complete. Not only that, they were cool with me writing books on the side and even taking time off to promote them. I hemmed and hawed and finally said "no."

Can you even imagine the monumental economic stupidity of that decision? I could be making four times as much money as I am now (adding book income + salary) if I'd said "yes." Plus I'd be living in Tokyo, one of the funnest cities on Earth. Where the girls all love American guys, I might add.

So, no, dear know-it-all reader and commenter, I am most assuredly not doing this for the money. Kindly please go fuck yourself now. Thanks!

I am not trying to belly-ache. I do OK anyway. I get enough to keep me in burritos and T-shirts and people have been very kind to me on tour. But I do feel I need to be clear about this.

FAME
I have chosen to try to make my living through my art, to be a professional writer and to devote myself to that craft rather than doing it as a side business. I am also a Zen teacher, but that's something I do for the love of doing it rather than to make money. Yet I write to make money. I don't have any qualms about this fact and I have made it clear on numerous occasions.

In order to make your living as an artist you need to be famous. No two ways about it. In order to earn as much from any kind of artistic pursuit as even the lowest level worker in any office or factory you have to spend a whole bunch of time effort and energy on promotion. So, yes, I pursue fame. But I pursue it not for the sake of being famous, which is mainly a pain in the ass. I pursue fame for the sake of making it possible to earn a decent living as a professional artist. And, as I just said, this has involved taking a massive pay cut. If you're thinking of pursuing a career as a writer, do not do it for the cash.

That's the real deal. Like it or lump it. And if you don't like it, go listen to someone you do like. OK?

I know there's gonna be people out there who'll read this as an angry rant. But I'm really not angry at all. I just feel like it's important to be clear on this stuff.

Now I'm gonna go play in the sunshine on the beach! Yay!

Monday, May 11, 2009

NEW SG ARTICLE: SA+0RI PR0N

My newest Suicide Girls article is up. It's called SA+0RI PR0N". And that's what it's all about!

Enjoy!

Friday, May 08, 2009

SNOW!

First off a very funny video my friend Steve sent me. Does anyone know how to copy a video from YouTube? Cuz I'm sure they'll pull this one off the site.


So I got up this morning and looked out the window of the place they're putting me up here in Saskatoon and it snowed last night!

I've heard it can snow up here any month of the year and it's true! I bet it is not snowing in Santa Monica.

Last night's talk at McNally Robinson Bookstore went very well. I actually read out of Zen Wrapped in Karma, which is something I don't normally do. I chose the chapter called "In Which I Have to Take a Pee Really Bad." One of the less embarrassing ones for me personally. The audience responded well and I got a lot of good questions. This one made it on tape. But I chose not to tape the reading itself and just got the Q&A session.

One of these days I have to do something with all these tapes. But I haven't decided what. I've been handing the camera over to someone brave enough to film each event and taking whatever I get. Some of the resulting tapes are better than others. I could extract the audio and use them as podcasts, in which case the video quality doesn't really matter much. I've also thought of selling them as DVD-R's. Though I don't know if there's an audience for that.

I've had some lovely Northern hospitality while I've been here in the prairie lands of Canada. I'll be here a few more days doing some fairly low-key classes and suchlike. But the major events of the first leg of the tour are now complete. Next it's back home for a bit and then a short jump to New Mexico after which I get to rest up a little for the trip to Europe.

Someone yesterday asked me about a certain uber famous Zen Master's rewording of the precept that usually goes "No selling of wine, no drinking of wine." Nishijima gives this one as, "Don't live by selling liquor." Apparently the Zen Superstar in question has expanded this to include intoxicating mental stimuli such as "bad" TV shows, "bad" music, "bad" books and so on.

I can understand this. Sometimes I visit peoples' houses and they've got a TV blaring away in every bedroom and a radio tuned to some kind of inflammatory shock jock in the kitchen. They get in their car and the radio goes on again. They stimulate themselves wherever they go. Then they wonder why their minds won't ever settle down. But if you keep poking and prodding at that lump of hamburger in your head 24/7 there's gonna be a residual effect.

So to that extent it may be better to eliminate some of that stimulation. It's not sinful to view or listen to anything. It's just that you gotta know it has some effect on you. This is why I don't read the comments section here anymore. I didn't want or need that manner of stimulation.

But I'll tell you one thing. Damn straight tonight I'm gonna go see the new Star Trek!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

SASSY SASKATOON

What can I tell you about Saskatoon?

It’s way up north. Everybody has little electrical cables sticking out from under the hoods of their cars. I asked about this and was told it’s a kind of heater you plug in at night. Cuz when it gets to be like 50 below the oil and other fluids in your engine will freeze and the car won’t start. “Don’t they have those in Ohio?” someone asked. No. I mean it gets cold there too, but not 50 below zero.

The city itself is like 200,000 people, which is about the same as Akron. But unlike Akron, Saskatoon is almost completely isolated. It has no suburbs or “bedroom towns” to speak of. As soon as you hit the city limits it’s flat prairie for miles in every direction. This makes for a sense that the city is like an island of humanity in a sea of canola fields.

I've done a bunch of Zen stuff here so far. I did a talk at the library downtown to a smallish but very receptive audience. I found them a bit more reserved than in other places I've spoken. Like they weren't sure if they should laugh or not. Or maybe I'm just not funny.

I've been sitting with a little Zen group here every morning at 7 and every evening at 4. I'm also sitting with a group based at the local university every day at noon. Then I've been either giving talks or doing book signings each evening at 7-ish. Tonight will be another one at McNally-Robinson Books (see the link to your left for details). That gives me little 2 hour increments in between to actually go and see stuff. Which means I ain't seen much.

It's cold up here too. I mean, as far as the locals are concerned this is Spring weather. It's a couple degrees above freezing today. It did get up to the low 70s Fahrenheit the first day I was here. But I guess that's kind of an anomaly. I'm glad I heeded their advice to pack some warm clothes, though it did make for heavy luggage.

Somebody asked me if Saskatoon is like the town in Northern Exposure. Yes. It really is. Everyone seems to know everyone up here. It's like I mention a record store and everybody's like, "Oh old Bob runs the place and he hates cats and smokes cigars, etc., etc."

There's a surprising amount of Buddhism for such a small isolated prairie city. No Soto style Zen centers, but several other places. I was told this is like Canada's Bible Belt. I haven't seen too much evidence of that. But I don't know to what extent I'd come in contact with it anyway. And besides, my whole tour this time has been full of Bible Belt areas like Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas. I'm getting used to it.

My books seem to sell well up here. The guy at Indigo Books told me yesterday they had to briefly pull my stuff off the shelves so they'd have enough stock for the signing last night.

And it's Canada! I'm really digging on Canada. It's the weird little differences. The Tim Horton's coffee shops. The gas stations and banks are all different from the US ones. The accents! I'm working on the correct pronunciation of house and about. When Americans imitate it they get it all wrong. It's not "hoos" and "a-boot." It's more subtle than that. And "eh," which is just like the Japanese "ne." American English doesn't have one of those, except perhaps "y'know." But that's not quite the same.

I'm staying at a house in the bad part of town. My first night here I watched some ladies of the evening on the corner opposite this place. It looked almost like they were changing shifts. Like one was standing there, then another came along, they had a polite conversation and the first one left but the new one stayed. Do they work in shifts? It doesn't feel dangerous, though. Just a little sad.

I'm gonna go now. If you're up here in the Great White North, stop by the book reading/signing tonight!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

MOTOR CITY MADHOUSE

I'm running out of rock songs about Detroit for the title of posts here. My gigs in Detroit are done. So here's your update.

Friday May 1st
ZERO DEFEX with Amino Acids and U.D.I. at the Comet Club


The last time Zero Defex played was on May 4th 2008 in Kent, Ohio. Jeffro Smull, our guitarist, arranged this gig through his friend, Scott, drummer for the legendary and awesome Amino Acids. I met Scott a couple years ago at Still Point Zen Abbey in Detroit where he regularly attends zazen stuff.

It was a primo gig. But we knew going into it that there was no possible way we could rehearse with the full band before the show. The rest of the group practiced together in Akron and we hoped for the best. I wasn't even able to locate a guitar to run through the songs on except once in North Carolina and again in Montreal. But for all that it came together pretty well. We've played tighter shows before, for sure. But we still rocked the house. Singer Jimi Imij flailed like a madman, Mickey X-Nelson ripped up his drum kit, Jeffro strangled the strings of his SG guitar and I held my own amidst the chaos.

We got a terrific response from the natives. Far better than our last gig in Detroit circa 1983. Though I remember the Detroit crowd being far kinder than the one in Toledo, which was pure hell. In fact maybe it was The Necros in Toledo who bumped us off way late on the bill and not NA in Detroit. I don't know anymore. Anyway, this was a major fun gig.

Jeffro and Jimi high tailed it back to Akron that very night. Mickey stayed at a hotel and went home the next morning. I got back to Still Point Zen Abbey around 2:30 AM. Then I had to get up at the butt crack of dawn to lead a half day retreat the following day. Actually they generously let me sleep until the luxuriously late hour of 8 AM.

Zen Retreat at Still Point and Book Signing
May 2, 2009


We sat three and a half periods of zazen after which I did a Dharma Talk. This was actually one of my better talks, I thought. As usual, when I give a good talk nobody records it. My best talks are kind of like the Loch Ness Monster -- a few dubious "eye-witnesses" and no hard evidence! Maybe it was the fact I was still a little punchy from the night before, but I felt like I said things a little straighter than usual.

At 6 PM the same night we did a less formal book signing and talk. That was taped. It was OK. The audience was far smaller, which surprised me.

Sunday Service at Still Point
May 3, 2009


The following day I presided over Still Point's regular Sunday service. Again it wasn't taped and again I did a better talk. Such is life, I suppose. I wish I could remember some of the questions. One was about goal seeking behavior in Zen practice. Maybe someone else who was there can recall the others...

Still Point is in the Korean Zen tradition. I know they use koans sometimes. But I try not to hold it against them. I'm kind of curious to see how they use them. I know it's optional and I get the impression they don't approach the matter the rather cartoonish way it's often portrayed. They chant melodies, not monotone like in Japanese Zen. That's also kind of interesting. If you don't know the tunes it's a little rough. But I faked my way thru it.

Tomorrow it's on to Saskatoon. I updated the tour dates a little regarding the Saskatoon stuff. See the link to your left. I just listed the major events. Their Facebook page (also linked on the tour dates page) has some other stuff. I hope to see some folks there. I have no clue what to expect in the Canadian frontier! But I got a red hoodie with a maple leaf on the breast in Montreal (did I say this already?). So I should be fine.

Friday, May 01, 2009

NEW LINKS

Couple new things since yesterday.

An Interview by Jon Rubenstein for Adventures in Compassion in the Screen Trade. Very nice and a unique perspective.

Here is a link to an iTunes file of my talk in San Antonio. When I clicked this link it started a kind of convoluted process that eventually landed me in the right spot. You iTunes kids might have an easier time with it, I hope.

Gotta get ready for the show in Detroit tonight. All relevant details are linked to your left or in the flier a couple posts below this one.