Day Fifty Three: Imbalance

Daily Journal:


Album cover of “Made in Hawaii” by Jeff Dahl.

Today is another really great entry in 365 Tao that I really need to hear, as I’m sure others do too.

Yesterday, I received the new album “Made in Hawaii” from my early mentor in punk rock, Jeff Dahl. It came in the mail, on a CD. It has been so long since I received a CD in the mail and probably 22 years since I last received a Jeff Dahl CD in the mail, which was probably his old album “Leather Frankenstein” in the early 90s. It was strange to get a Jeff Dahl CD in my mailbox on Kentucky soil again, all these years later. So Made in Hawaii just came out and you can buy it on CD Baby.

By my calculation, Jeff Dahl turns 62 years old this July. He’s basically an 80s & 90s indie punk rock artist and this entire genre of music now falls under the “Dad rock” umbrella, and much of it has also become thematic in its Dad rock as well. Take the brilliant last Michael Monroe album, “Blackout States” or the last several albums by ex-Government Cheese guitarist Tommy Womack. So these guys are all writing memoir books now, and writing songs that reflect on the past. CD Baby notes says this of Made in Hawaii: “This new album was written as little vignettes about Jeff growing up and coming of age in the late 60s and early 70s in Hawaii. Expect a few surprises… Enjoy…”

Anyway, this album is his first in 8 years, since Back to Monkey City was released by the now-defunct Steel Cage Records in Philly, and given a brief but positive review by David Fricke in Rolling Stone Magazine (which I imagine I’ve mentioned in an earlier post). It’s impossible to be unbiased, because Monkey City stands, to this day, as the only album I ever played bass on that I’m 100% happy with the way it turned out and have no complaints.

So far, I’ve only had a cursory listen of every track on “Made in Hawaii”. Basically there are two different Jeff Dahl eras: Up to the late 90s, more distortion on the guitars and backing bands. After the late 90s, he backed off the distortion and played all the instruments on his albums himself (for the most part, aside from Back to Monkey City and guest appearances here and there) I always preferred the albums where he used rehearsed bands to the completely solo albums and this one is a compromise in that way. Most of the drums were done by recording engineer Sam Bradley at Sonic Sculpture Studio in Hilo, Hawaii. Jeff plays guitar and bass. Actually the bass sounds really good on this too. Picked bass, a lot of basic rock n roll walking. I thought outsourcing the drums at least still gives the album a “band vibe”.

I’ll listen more this week.

Also, if someone happens to be on the page because they are interested in Jeff Dahl music, I want to recommend the book The Smell of Death by former Jeff Dahl bassplayer & journalist Bruce Duff. Although Jeff feels the book is “Bruce’s opinion” and doesn’t seem to be crazy about it as much, it’s a really enjoyable memoir about touring the punk dives of Europe in the 90s. At times, the book isn’t flattering to Jeff or others. My advice: Keep in mind that touring is a bitch, people get well past the point of being polite to each other, understand this is Bruce’s point of view and probably says as much about Bruce as it does about anyone else, and enjoy the read.

Deng Ming-Dao on Imbalance:

I’ll start with the short poem.

Sleepless nights.
Diet, mind, conditions
Hold the possibility of correction. 

He says “whenever you feel out of sorts, or cannot sleep, or find it hard to work and think, you are separated from Tao.”

If so, ask three questions:

  1. Am I eating right?
  2. Is my mind tamed?
  3. Is my world safe?

Deng Ming-Dao emphasizes the proper use of food, saying that it is far superior to medicine. I am presently feeling “out of sorts”, although not nearly as bad as in the past. Diet is improving. I’ve eliminated daily booze and cigarettes from my diet, but I’m still finding myself reaching for frozen processed foods out of convenience due to lack of time brought about by long hours at work. I’m not always resisting the temptation for vending machine junk food and carbonated sugary drinks either.

Is your mind tamed? That’s a great question. I have a very active mind. You’ve no doubt hear the (presumably Asian) proverb: ‘The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.’ The mind has its own “interests, habits, and excesses”.

  • Worry
  • Stress
  • Intellectualism
  • Scheming
  • Desires

I’m prone to ALL of this on a pretty regular basis.

The third question encompasses environment. “To cope with this, gain as much control over your environment as possible. Keep your home a haven, have control over your work place, and be independent enough to face emergencies.”

For me, this is probably the most important entry of 365 Tao I needed to hear. That really breaks down balance in 3 steps for you. Keep a good diet. Tame your mind. Keep a safe environment.

I am improving in all three areas, getting much closer to balance with Tao than before. My diet has improved, but is far off from perfect. It is mostly about conquering some temptations and cravings. I struggle with mindfulness all the time. Environment: My home has become less chaotic and disordered, but is not perfect. I am working overtime to make some savings goals to be able to deal with emergencies that arise. This is a long term project to create balance. I’m not even restoring balance since I’ve never had it in the first place. From there things go out of balance from time to time and these three steps will bring you back.

Daily Stoic: What’s Better Left Unsaid

Today, Holiday quotes Plutarch discussing Cato the Younger, and the entry is about thinking before you speak or act. Instead, think over it. Are you reacting emotionally, selfishly, ignorantly, or prematurely? I really don’t want to make this blog political in any way, but former president Obama and current president Donald Trump come to mind here. Trump would seem to blurt out statements without fact checking them first, make arrogant boasts, and react emotionally. Obama was a much more Stoic president. It is important to note that this has nothing to do with the issues and their positions, but Obama was a much more stoic president than Trump. The fact that I notice this “flaw” about Trump says that I also have this flaw in myself. If you are on Facebook, you may notice people lash out at Trump in the same way that Trump behaves himself.

“Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.”

-Lao Tzu

I’m off to improve my diet, mind, and environment. Have a great Wednesday.


Day Nineteen: Initiative

Today is actually January 22nd. I’m learning so far that I am unable to blog daily, but I am able to carry around a composition book where I make notes throughout the day, and in the morning when I am going through my readings and planning for the day. From there, I can go back in and type from the notes. When I can catch a 1-2 hour block, I can get to the computer and type from the notes. So far, it’s rather efficient, but getting several days behind stresses me out a little. I learned this from doing National Novel Writing Month several years ago. You can get a little behind and be okay, but once you are about a week behind, it’s really hard to catch up. I am getting a pretty good handle of my time management, but I will tweak my schedule some more.

I’m really trying to do quite a lot to get my life in order, and there is much work to be done, with all the goals I’ve set for 2017, but I think I’m doing pretty good so far.


Jeff Dahl: An early mentor, first via mail correspondence in the 1990s and later as a member of his band 2000-2008.

As I mentioned earlier, I was going to discuss mentors, which the dictionary defines as “experienced and trusted advisors”. I was recently listening to the audiobook version of “Mastery” by Robert Greene  and he discusses in the book that having a mentor is important for the mastery of anything. In fact, as I have been working through the book “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday. Ryan apprenticed under Robert Greene from the age of 19.

When I was a teenager, I was a budding guitar player who was not quite “good enough” during the tail end of the hard rock/metal reign on MTV. I’ve never been one to handle rejection well, believe me, and I was replaced by a much better guitar player in a garage band I had for a while during high school. The other guy was more naturally talented, had worked harder learning the “shredder” style of guitar, and despite how much I tried to practice, I never could get a handle on doing much more than power chords, barre chords, and never seemed to have the patience and ability to figure out entire songs note-for-note from what little resources we had in pre-internet days: guitar tablature in guitar magazines. I was a voracious reader of anything rock n roll history, and I read about the New York Dolls in the The Illustrated “New Musical Express” Encyclopedia of Rock, an old book my friend found at a yard sale and gave to me, which became my bible of classic rock knowledge. I had interest in similar acts such as David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Mott the Hoople, Slade, T-Rex, etc.

I managed to get a cassette copy of “Lipstick Killers” by New York Dolls, released by ROIR (Reach Out International Records). From that cassette, I learned to be a real guitar player. The material wasn’t difficult to learn by ear and play along with the recording. At that point, I became a Johnny Thunders disciple. Shortly after getting that cassette, I purchased a VHS of miscellaneous New York Dolls video footage from one of the bootleg tape traders who advertised in one of the music magazines and saw the clip of New York Dolls on Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert. The performance of Johnny Thunders on that show was the original prototype for my stage attitude and style and it always stayed with me, even 20 years later.

Shortly after that, I immersed myself in old glam rock from the early 70s and punk rock from the late 70s, particularly the American punk rock, like Dead Boys, Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell & The Voidoids. I began buying issues of the punk rock fanzine from San Francisco called Maximum Rock n Roll Magazine, which were on sale at Ear-X-tacy Records in Louisville, and discovered there was an entire scene and network of pre-punk and “punk rock n roll” preservationists out there in the world. I saw an advertisement in Maximum Rock n Roll for music by Jeff Dahl for sale via mail order. I ordered his first three albums directly from cassette. The basic facts I knew:

  • He was from a band called Angry Samoans and another band called Powertrip.
  • He had played with Cheetah Chrome from the Dead Boys.
  • He was in an early 80s band called Vox Pop with members of The Germs and 45 Grave.
  • He played in the style of Dead Boys, New York Dolls, and Iggy & The Stooges.
  • He was supposedly big in Europe, and kind of an unknown in the U.S.

I was a little surprised to receive, along with the music I ordered from him on cassette and CD, personalized typewritten notes signed by him, along with a catalog of every album he had available, along with other similar acts he carried as a mail order distributor.

After graduation, I moved to Arizona, and discovered that he lived outside of Phoenix. We spoke on the phone, talking about music and records. In 2000, I was the first recruit in a new “Jeff Dahl is back!” band he was forming.

From him, I learned how rehearsals were handled, how records were made and released, how publishing was done, and how shows were booked. Much of that learning was actually applied with The Earps in getting our record deal and doing DIY tours in the US. Looking back, my relationship with Jeff Dahl really was an apprenticeship.

Later on, I worked with Ricky Rat from Thee Trash Brats after he moved to Indianapolis from Detroit. During his introduction of me to his much younger new girlfriend, he explained to her that Jeff Dahl had been a big catalyst bringing all the punk rock n roll bands together as a national network, showcasing them every year at the Desert Trash Blast in Arizona. I quote Ricky, to the best of my memory, in explaining to her that “Jeff Dahl found a niche in Europe following the death of Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators, who were very popular in Europe. He filled the void for the fans who still wanted to hear that kind of music.” Later on, Scott Luallen from Nine Pound Hammer told me “Jeff Dahl was a GOD in Europe for about 10 years.” When I played with Jeff, we were a local band in the Arizona punk rock scene, aside from some shows we did in Hollywood and Las Vegas.

Video of my last performance with Jeff Dahl on February 23, 2008:

The Jeff Dahl Band disbanded following Jeff Dahl’s relocation to Hawaii. Before he left, we released “Back to Monkey City” on Steel Cage Records, which you can purchase here on Amazon. The album had a brief review written by David Fricke in “Fricke’s Picks” in Issue 1066 of Rolling Stone (November 27, 2008)

During my years of playing music, I had many mentors, some very skilled people I learned from, whose lessons are still useful today. Some were almost like deities (either living or dead) I had never met, others were right there with me on the stage, and others just wrote some books I read over and over.

Today, I have different mentors to guide me through the difficult times, problems & issues, and the trials of midlife. Some are the big folk heroes of world religions, like The Buddha, Jesus, and Lao Tzu. Others are historic western thinkers and philosophers like Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, and more modern spiritual writers like Thomas Merton, Pema Chodryn, Jack Kornfield, Wayne Dyer, and Eckhart Tolle. The various authors of books I am reading to guide me through this year, down to Joe Zarantonello at the Thursday night meditation group at Loose Leaf Hollow.

Deng Ming-Dao on Initiative

Key points:

  • The world is a storm of myriad realities, and we cannot allow ourselves to be swept into this vortex. To do so, we become lost and lose our center.
  • Action must be guided by intellect and experience.
  • We learn from teachers, elders, and others.
  • We must test what we learn in the world.
  • We need to have both meditation and theoretical knowledge to be wise.
  • Our basis for initiative is: Wisdom, Courage, Timing, Perseverance.
  • We must burn clean, leaving no bad ramifications or lingering traces. A poor act leaves destruction, resentment and untidiness.

Much of today’s entry reminds me of the Joseph Campbell monomyth, or “hero’s journey”. Supernatural Aid. Meeting with the Mentor.

The Daily Stoic:

Our fortune changes. We may have lived well and lost everything, and got it all back. (Comparing this to the earlier Taoist idea that all life is destruction and regrowth, over & over again, it is very similar. Same idea as the hero’s journey too!)

The Stoics say:

One thing always remains.
Our freedom of choice.
Both big picture and small picture.

Tomorrow, I will discuss conquering laziness and what Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance” in creating any kind of art or project.