Ask Mr Zen / Paul Stanley’s Book

PaulThanks to everyone who attended last night’s screening of Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen in San Francisco. The Q&A was fun even though it was a million o’clock for me when I did it!

Who’s got questions? I’m thinking about doing a podcast or something called Ask Mr. Zen. Send your questions with Ask Mr Zen in the title to for consideration!

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I just finished reading Paul Stanley’s new autobiography Paul Stanley: A Life Exposed. My friend Greg Fain, practice leader at Tassajara, described me as a “non-ironic KISS fan.” That’s sort of true and sort of not. I’m non-ironic in the fact that I actually like them and listen to them rather than being one of those people who just wears KISS t-shirts to be ironically hip.

On the other hand, even when I was a teenager I knew KISS was stupid. But stupid in a good way, meaning that they were very transparent, honest and unpretentious. I remember having an argument with a friend when I was in high school that Christine Sixteen was a more real version of the same sentiments Sting of The Police espoused in Don’t Stand So Close to Me.

Sting coyly coos, “Young teacher / the subject / of schoolgirl fantasy / She wants him / so badly / knows what she wants to be,” while Gene Simmons gets right to the point and says, “I don’t usually say things like this to girls your age / But when I saw you coming out of school that day / That day I knew / I got to have you / I got to have you!” Both Sting and Gene Simmons were school teachers before they became rock stars, by the way.

I appreciated the way KISS didn’t try to sugarcoat their stuff the way more “intelligent” bands like The Police did. I liked The Ramones for the same reason. In fact I always thought The Ramones had a lot on common with KISS. Same as I feel Ted Nugent has a tremendous amount in common with Iggy and The Stooges musically even though most of their fans don’t realize it because their political views are so different. KISS was dumb and fun and never tried to be anything else (other than on their disastrous concept album The Elder, which is a whole other level of stupid, I love that album, by the way!)

Paul Stanley is the last of the four original KISS men to put out an autobiography. Gene Simmons was first in 2002. It took until 2011 for the next one to come out from Ace Frehley. Peter Criss followed up in 2012 and now we have Paul’s version of events. I’ve read all but Ace’s books, which I started on the other day.

Gene’s book was funny and entertaining. He takes credit for everything! Peter’s book was very well put together by his ghost writer in that it really sounds like his voice. This is something Ace’s ghost writers (he had two) failed at. Ace’s book sounds nothing like Ace. Paul Stanley doesn’t give his ghost writer credit on the cover like Ace and Peter did. But at the very back of the book he finally acknowledges he had help. Gene claims he wrote his on his own, and he’s such a workaholic maybe he really did.

The most striking thing about Paul’s book to me was the way he never misses an opportunity to say something bad about Peter Criss. It seems like every time the original KISS drummer’s name comes up, Paul finds a way to tell us that Peter never really wrote the songs he was credited for, or that he was a drunk, or that he was manipulated by his girlfriend, or even that he was a crappy drummer. I take exception to that particular criticism. If KISS had had the John Bonham-like drummer Paul Stanley thought they truly should have, they would have been far less interesting. The fact that Peter Criss was back behind this Zeppelin-meets-bubblegum monstrosity trying to play like his hero jazz drummer Gene Krupa gave KISS a unique and very cool sound they lost when Peter left.

Ace Frehley, on the other hand, is treated pretty kindly. Paul Stanley praises his talent and ability in the early days while bemoaning how Ace let drugs and drink ruin what had once been so promising. Paul’s not as brutal to Gene as he is to Peter. But he does get in a few digs about how Gene Simmons isn’t nearly as good a businessman as he wants people to think and how he takes credit for lots of things he never actually did.

It’s also funny that Paul Stanley seems to be more interested even than Gene Simmons in letting us know how rich he is. To me, it’s borderline criminal that Paul Stanley sells something like $2 million a year worth of paintings that nobody would spend a dime on if he weren’t a member of KISS, or that he once spent $70,000 on a lamp. It’s disgusting and it’s part of the reason there’s so much pain and poverty in this world. Have the decency to at least feel like an asshole about it, Paul! Like I do for buying your book. But I digress.

That being said, it was a good read. I got a little tired of hearing how the fact that he was born with a deformed ear made him do nearly everything he ever did in life, whether good or bad. But I did like learning that superstar Paul Stanley is just as shy and introverted as I am much of the time. He tells the story of driving to some fancy restaurant at the height of KISS’s fame, then feeling like too much of a loser to go in alone and driving home to eat a TV dinner. I do stuff like that all the time. Like Paul Stanley, I find it extremely difficult to relate to people unless they know I’m (sort of) famous. I just feel so incredibly awkward starting conversations. It’s far better to let other people start them with me. Then it’s easy whereas otherwise it feels impossible.

I was able to pull out a few very tangentially “Zen-ish” things from Gene Simmons’ book when I wrote about it in Hardcore Zen. But I can’t really come up with anything comparable in Paul Stanley’s book. If you’re not already a fan of KISS there’s probably not much in it for you. Even if you are a fan, he doesn’t give the kinds of insights I’d like to read about, like specifics about how they got the bombastic sound on the Destroyer album or how much of KISS ALIVE was actually recorded live. For anything close to that kind of stuff you need to read David Leaf and Ken Sharp’s KISS: Behind The Mask.

Sorry, readers, for the lack of “Zen” this time. But I’m working on a couple of new articles that address issues of practice. Stay tuned!

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I ain’t Paul Stanley. Nobody spends $2 million on any of my drawings! Your kind donations make this blog happen and pay my rent (once again last year I earned more from blog donations than book sales). Thank you for your support!

Registration is now open for our Zen & Yoga Retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center May 9-11, 2014. Sign up now! Seats are going fast!

ZERO DEFEX will play on May 16, 2014 in Akron, OH


Sometimes a movie is made to tour.

Are you interested in seeing HARDCORE ZEN with your local community? Would you like Brad Warner to speak at your university, meditation group, or personal guests?

Now you can have both. The film will screen at a location at your discretion. Simply contact booking@bradwarnershardcorezen.comwith the following specifics: your location, contact info, and potential date for the event.

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51 Responses

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  1. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer April 21, 2014 at 9:28 am |

    It’s OK to KISS off explaining zen on occasion.


  2. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm |

    You’re welcome, sorry to have had to miss the Q & A; I tip my lack-of-a-hat to Brad Warner, for his efforts on behalf of us all!

    Totally off-topic, a programmer defined KISS in a new way the other day; as far as programming goes, he said he prefered “Keep It Stupid Simple”. We need more teachers of the practice that is enlightenment who believe in KISS!

  3. boubi
    boubi April 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm |

    Brad i’m astonished you “find it extremely difficult to relate to people unless they know I’m (sort of) famous.”

    What should the rest of humanity do who isn’t even as (sort of) famous as you are?

    I don’t understand where is the problem to be “just” a true man without rank ?

    “here & now” stuff? … ????

    1. Daniel
      Daniel April 22, 2014 at 2:36 am |

      I’m not. Why shouldn’t he? Because of the Zen-Stuff? It just makes you see there’s no one there that’s all. Won’t make you into a perfect being.

      So you decide…either Brad is phoney…or your idea of a zen-master is…

      1. boubi
        boubi April 22, 2014 at 4:57 am |

        Come on Daniel

        First of all i don’t think Brad to be a fake as a few pretenders around here are. I think he is a nice and honest guy and his job to bring back to reality the zen teacher persona is something very good and very needed.

        What is the matter in the end?
        To be supernatural beings or to be “just” normal persons “without rank”?

        It’s the last of the 10 pics about the bull, “going to the market”, it’s about shedding all the bullshit we constructed, the layers, and the “famousness” could be one of them.

        So what?
        I’m astonished to know that he has an issue relating to people unless he is seen as a “famous”, i wouldn’t be astonished of it from a rock star who’s busting his ego through fan’s adoration.

        I like Brad, i don’t think he is a fake (fakes are making much more money), i don’t think a zen teacher (and lineage holder) is some kind of superwhatever, it was like saying to a friend of mine “what you started to smoke again after quitting?”

        1. Daniel
          Daniel April 22, 2014 at 7:51 am |

          I don’t agree the zen-teacher thing is needed. At least not in the way it works nowadays or in the past. The word “zen-master” says it all.

          Just call the guy a meditation-teacher and let him wear normal clothes, same as everyone else. Make him stop teaching people “how to live” etc…stop the weird rituals around him. Stop people having to bow in front of him.

          All of the stuff that makes people, especially those who’re often in a special situation, otherwise they wont show up in a zendo – usually (there are exceptions, just my experience…those lives that just go all right usually don’t want to meditate or zen-out)…to think that zen-master figured it out and knows it all. Which is simply just bullshit, and every zen-teacher who isn’t totally deluded knows it too…if he’s a good one he knows it much better than most other people.

          We don’t need that old master-student relationship anymore in modern societies. And it’s deluding…the zen-teacher is just another guy…difference here he’s doing zen, not football or whatever. But that’s it! Everything else makes “students” go in the totally wrong direction of thinking the teacher has something they don’t…and so they keep on searching and seeking for-fucking-ever. I’ve seen guys going to zen-retreats for 10 or even 20 years and still didn’t get it and wonder what it’s all about….really funny. Like a complete life of slavery 😀

  4. boubi Fred
    boubi Fred April 21, 2014 at 2:05 pm |


    1. Fred
      Fred April 21, 2014 at 2:13 pm |


      like the sun
      into the ocean waves
      at the end of the day.

      1. boubi Fred
        boubi Fred April 22, 2014 at 8:28 am |

        Oh yeah!

        BTW the password for this account is the same as the user name.

        1. boubi Fred
          boubi Fred April 23, 2014 at 11:35 am |

          That is both hilarious and true.
          Neither Boubi, Fred, nor Boubi Fred

  5. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 21, 2014 at 4:42 pm |

    Ted Nugent and Iggy & The Stooges? Are you fucking kidding me?? Wow. I saw both live many times back in the day and they had NOTHING in common: The Nuge is all about writing a song to have an excuse to take a guitar solo, Iggy & The Stooges (you ARE referring to the band AFTER the band simply called The Stooges, right? With James Williamson??) are/were all about the primal beat and flaying ID. RAW POWER has plenty of guitar “solos” but they subordinate to the rhythm/vocals or accompanying them, not balls to the walls Ted-style stand alone leads.

    And two more words: KISS suck.

  6. Fred
    Fred April 22, 2014 at 4:37 am |
  7. shade
    shade April 22, 2014 at 7:37 am |

    I had a boyfriend in high school who was also a big fan of both KISS and The Ramones, which always puzzled and vexed me. Because, to my lights, The Ramones is a way, way, way better band. Not to mention more substantive. As far as I can tell, the only thing the two bands have in common is the whole comic book, monster-movie aesthetic. Uh, and the fact that almost all the members had dark hair).

    True, a good deal of the Ramones output was shit-kicking and fun (or romantic) but there was also a lot of very shrewd social and political commentary as well. I don’t think KISS did a lot of numbers along the lines of Havana Affair or 53rd & 3rd. (Am I wrong? I admit I’m not nearly as familiar with KISS as Brad is.)

    But whatever… no matter how much you love a band, there’s gonna be someone out there that thinks they’re the worst band ever.

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles April 22, 2014 at 5:45 pm |

      Legend has it Joey Ramone started his band after seeing KISS’s first gig. Go figger.

      1. shade
        shade April 23, 2014 at 6:55 am |

        Haven’t heard that one, and I’m pretty well versed in Ramones lore. Though Joey was briefly in a glitter rock band before the advent of the Ramones so maybe there’s something there. Rock n’ roll origin stories are almost always strange.

        Actually, maybe all origin stories are strange, come to think of it.

  8. Daniel
    Daniel April 22, 2014 at 7:41 am |

    Old topic…but here’s why the word “BUDDHISM” and everything associated with religion is a bad idea. Of course you can now come up as a citizen from a non-buddhist country and being in the very special, minority soto-zen tradition of buddhism that this is not YOUR understanding of buddhism…but the other millions of buddhists in buddhist countries won’t give a shit.

    Naomi Michelle Coleman was arrested as she arrived at the airport in the capital Colombo after authorities spotted the tattoo on her right arm.

    A police spokesman said the 37-year-old was arrested for “hurting others’ religious feelings”.

    A magistrate ordered Ms Coleman’s deportation. She is currently being held at an immigration detention camp.

    She is expected to be removed within days.

    Naomi Michelle Coleman
    Ms Coleman’s tattoo, pictured here, shows a Buddha sitting on a lotus flower
    Sri Lanka is particularly sensitive about images of the Buddha.

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 22, 2014 at 8:20 am |

    Mr. Warner-san, my housemate argued that your wrestling partner was a schill. Say it ain’t so!

    Your groupie was a bit of acting in a different film that Pirooz felt made the point, I see.

    Not that it matters much. Just about the highlight of the film for me was the line “What is this, Brad- some kind of Upaya? Huh?”, and I don’t really care whether or not the guy was a plant (I don’t think he was, but Pirooz, ya got me confused about the documentary part!)

    1. mb
      mb April 22, 2014 at 9:03 am |

      Mark – I was wondering about the same thing. That guy was in the audience at the L.A. showing and asked the first question during the Q & A that night. And the fact he’s part of Pirooz’ “repertory company” (well…). The only other way to look at it was that it was legit at the time (i.e. he was an angry “customer” during the filming) who later became friends with everybody afterwards ??) Me confused too.

  10. Thor29
    Thor29 April 22, 2014 at 9:36 am |

    Speaking of rock stars…
    What’s the connection with Lamb of God singer Randy Blythe?
    (He makes an appearance in the documentary about Brad).
    Is he into zen? Or just a fan of Zero Defex?

  11. Harlan
    Harlan April 22, 2014 at 10:57 am |

    “I find it extremely difficult to relate to people unless they know I’m (sort of) famous.”

    I sort of choked on this line too. That is of course not relating to people at all. It is the opposite of relating to people.. But with your explanation it makes more sense.

    I’m not seeing the tremendous amount of commonality between Nugent and the Stooges, at least by listening to them. But I don’t listen to either band much. I do like what the Police did though. Maybe because they seem less theatrical and are better players. I kind of like it when musicians know what they are doing and not just acting out some bizarre nightmare.

    Yet I like Ironman’s singing..

  12. AnneMH
    AnneMH April 22, 2014 at 7:47 pm |

    Hi Brad,
    The nun that I work with has an interactive phone call, it has been called dial-a-nun. It started small but has really grown last I heard. And with the information on how to call it gives the method to offer dana, which is important to make easy. There are many free conference call sign-ups. Of course with faces is very nice, just a thought.

    Speaking of rock stars and people who get groupies, do you ever get groupies? I mean more than people who read your blog and say strange things. That may be something to not talk about publicly huh, but you could call me, or email, or I could stop by and we could be best friends. I mean all those (other) groupies can’t like you nearly as much as I do. However if you had a lot of groupies you may break out of the poverty tax bracket so you probably don’t have a rock star size problem.

  13. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 22, 2014 at 9:13 pm |

    I like the singing and dancing, as usual:

  14. shade
    shade April 23, 2014 at 6:59 am |

    “People who read your blog and say strange things”. That’s hilarious. That may be the perfect description of the typical Brad Warner uh – fan? Follower? You know what I mean.

    1. boubi Fred
      boubi Fred April 23, 2014 at 11:40 am |

      “That may be the perfect description of the typical Brad Warner uh — fan? Follower?”

      The correct term is “Brad Warner devotee”. Just like the Krishnas. And it is pronounced “duh-VO-tee” not “deh-vo-TAY”.

      1. boubi Fred
        boubi Fred April 23, 2014 at 12:24 pm |

        The new password is what

        1. boubi Fred
          boubi Fred April 23, 2014 at 1:26 pm |

          we are boubi Fred.

  15. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 23, 2014 at 12:16 pm |

    Thanks for the explication, Brad. While I will agree with mb that the film is really a docu-drama, then, I don’t actually mind. James Roehl was fabulous, and you weren’t bad as the teacher confronted with the heckler from hell, either.

    Also like mb, I had assumed your earlier remarks were about that scene. Maybe it was about the scene where the older folks were questioning your open stance on student-teacher relationships (I can’t remember the opening scene)– that felt a little uncomfortable, because they were so iron-clad convinced that your position would be hurtful and was the same held by others who had done harm (sort of like Ms. Schireson).

    “I mean more than people who read your blog and say strange things.”

    strange things!

  16. boubi Fred
    boubi Fred April 23, 2014 at 1:26 pm |

    yessssssssss….. a truly schizophrenic avatar !!

  17. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 23, 2014 at 2:02 pm |

    or who have strange user names… “boubi Fred”?! Welcomes back, Anonymous!

    May I add that my housemate now reports a favorable impression of the film, even realizing the acted elements– especially meaningful to her were your statement, Mr. Warner, that if you can do it then anyone can do it, and your teacher’s statement that everyday life is where a person can test whether something is Buddhism or not. I had forgotten that Nishijima said that, so my thanks to Ingrid for reminding me!

    1. Fred
      Fred April 23, 2014 at 3:00 pm |

      ” your teacher’s statement that everyday life is where a person can test whether something is Buddhism or not.”

      How would this work?

      1. boubi Fred
        boubi Fred April 23, 2014 at 3:37 pm |

        Well, it’s very logical actually, just think it out…

        Everyday life probably refers to a ‘typical’ day in one’s action set. So that might be a Tuesday for a person who works a 40 hour week from 9am to 5pm each day.

        So on a Tuesday, what happens? Well, one goes to work and sits at a desk and does the typical tasks of the job while having typical interactions with the office people. (This scenario can be adjusted to your particulars, you know who you are, right?)

        So, on my desk is a paperclip. Is this Buddhism or not? How do I test for this? Well, Buddhism does not float. Everyone knows that. So I take the paperclip to the bathroom and place it in the toilet. Voila! Not Buddhism!

        Just like that. Adjust test to your situation.

        1. boubi Fred
          boubi Fred April 23, 2014 at 3:40 pm |

          user= boubi Fred
          password = what

        2. minkfoot
          minkfoot April 23, 2014 at 4:09 pm |

          So, on my desk is a paperclip. Is this Buddhism or not? How do I test for this? Well, Buddhism does not float. Everyone knows that. So I take the paperclip to the bathroom and place it in the toilet. Voila! Not Buddhism!

          Hol’ on there, podner!

          Buddhism does not float.
          Paper clip does not float
          Therefore paper clip is not Buddhism?

          If the paper clip floated, you might have a case. But wherever did you get the sillyass notion that Buddhism doesn’t float?

          1. boubi Fred
            boubi Fred April 23, 2014 at 7:10 pm |

            Oh sorry!
            Buddhism floats!
            Paper clip does not.
            Therefore paper clip is Buddhism!

  18. Fred
    Fred April 23, 2014 at 3:47 pm |

    “So, on my desk is a paperclip. Is this Buddhism or not? How do I test for this? Well, Buddhism does not float. Everyone knows that. So I take the paperclip to the bathroom and place it in the toilet. Voila! Not Buddhism!”


    1. Fred
      Fred April 23, 2014 at 3:50 pm |

      “user= boubi Fred
      password = what”


    2. boubi Fred
      boubi Fred April 23, 2014 at 7:33 pm |
  19. boubi Fred
    boubi Fred April 23, 2014 at 9:35 pm |

    Here’s a riddle: When is a croquet mallet like a billy club? I’ll tell you: Whenever you want it to be!

  20. boubi Fred
    boubi Fred April 23, 2014 at 9:43 pm |

    Well, in reply to the regular whose gone missing when boubi Fred appeared, I would say: “Off with their heads!”

    There’s the paper clip, there the desk. Here an eyeball, there the seat of the pants, and all along this whistling noise as a fearsome nosegay interrupts the passage of the true person of no merit in and out of the holes in the face.

    “Haste makes waste, so I rarely hurry. But if a ferret were about to dart up my dress, I’d run. ”

    ‘The abandonment of activity in the body that is occasioned by “making self-surrender the object of thought” will at some point touch on the habitual activity connected with the movement of breath, and at the moment the breath is “cut off” in the surrender of activity, relaxation brings a return to the senses without the application of thought applied and sustained.’

    The Cheshire cat, describing the induction of the second meditative toilet seat.

  21. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 23, 2014 at 9:45 pm |

    meant to make that as myself, that last. but those last two were my only contributions as boubi Fred, you can’t pin this thing on me!

  22. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 23, 2014 at 9:47 pm |

    I swear it!

  23. Seriously
    Seriously April 24, 2014 at 3:00 am |

    I not goat maker of boubi Fred either, Mr Feete. My goat poo made in hide plain sight to embrace gigantic uberman.

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