Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Truthfully Speaking

In my limited time to visit other blogs these past few weeks, I’ve noticed a minor topic trend: speaking the truth and/or speaking positively.

The first post in this regard came from Christine Kane.  In late October she posted on going complaint free and encouraged her readers to join in.  This is truly a challenge and a good one.  Christine also recently posted a few solutions for those of us finding it difficult to remain complaint-free.

Alyson Stanfield also posted on ArtBizBlog on speaking truthfully and using kind words; so essential today.

Both posts reminded me about the yoga of speech; that is, to become conscious of what comes out of your mouth.

In the first step of becoming conscious of what you say, try to notice not just what you say but how you say it (i.e. the tone of voice.)  Do your words create emotional residue?  How do you feel after certain remarks?  How do other people react?

The second step involves self-inquiry.  Ask yourself “what makes me say what I say?”  Unexpressed anger, grief, or longing?  Do your words mask what you really want to say?  How do your words affect people?

Remember the saying “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say it?”  The yoga of speech offers these three questions to ask yourself before you speak:

Is this true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?

By asking yourself these three questions, especially in the heat of a conversation, you give yourself pause.  In the silence of this moment you empower yourself; you empower your speech.  And out of this silence you may find wisdom.

To read more about the yoga of speech, visit here


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Video Improvisations: Dr. T and the Impromptu 3

Eric had a gig Friday night at Gallery 119 in Lowell.  He played with two other musicians; Karen on augmented cello and Michael on bass and table guitar.  The three of them (Impromptu 3) were accompanied by Dr. T, who provided video mixing.

So what does that mean?

Dr. T (aka Emile Tobenfeld) mixes video images that he has compiled and projects them on a large screen while the musicians create music to compliment the images.  I consider it performance art that is truly spontaneous.  You’re not quite sure what images Dr. T will project on the screen, though he will give the musicians a general theme as a starting point.  From there they have to keep an eye on what is projected on the screen, develop and play music to match (or perhaps not) the images, and then also try to compliment what each other is playing.

Hence the names improvisation and impromptu (also because Dr. T often knows each musician, but they may not know each other.)

As I watched and listened to the performances I started to think about altered art work.  How the artist starts with an image or surface and then adds elements, removes elements, and transforms the piece until it feels complete.  Or perhaps round robin art events where individual pieces of art are passed amongst a group of artists, each person adding elements until the piece returns, transformed, to the original artist.

I also wondered what it would be like to make art to music.  I don’t mean working on art while listening to music but making an original piece of art influenced or inspired by a piece of music.  (For some reason Jackson Pollock paintings come to mind.)  You’re constrained by the type of music and the length of time the song plays.  But often out of constraint and limitation something wonderful emerges.

And so it was with the performances on Friday night.  A little constraint to begin with as the images appeared onscreen and one musician would begin to play a rhythm.  As more images appeared, changed, and repeated, the musicians joined in; each adding his or her signature to the piece.  The music would swell, dip, and sometimes become a little frenzied.  A range of emotions was sometimes evident. 

And then the improvisation, the pictures, the music, would quiet and come to a close.  And before the audience was a finished piece.

ericpreps1109.jpg   drtssetup.jpg   karenpreps.jpg   michaelwarmsup.jpg


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20 Minute Meals

Where has this week gone?  When I was little I believed that time went to Australia because it was on the other side of the earth.  Now I believe time just keeps moving on whether I catch up with it or not.

Continuing with the time theme, I want to recommend a great cookbook for those who are also pressed for time (all the time or sometimes), Minute Meals: 20 Minute Gourmet Menus.  Delicious Weekday Dinner Solutions from the Chefs at minutemeals.com.

I found this cookbook last year at Barnes & Nobles during a time when I was feeling exceedingly frustrated with preparing meals and running a home-based business.  I like to cook but I was finding my expectations of myself and my cooking clashing with making time to cook.  In a nutshell, I began to dread cooking and found the whole ordeal very stressful.

Minute Meals is great because each meal/recipe is a complete presentation, including the main entree, salad or veggie, and dessert.  Lots of shortcuts are suggested such as using pre-cut veggies or fruit from the salad bar, microwaving rice (a real light bulb moment for me) and buying bagged salad greens.

Simple tricks that I just never considered because I believed I had to prepare everything by hand and/or prepare it on the cooktop.

Minute Meals is divided into 6 chapters covering main courses (soups and salads), poultry, meat, fish & shellfish, pasta & grains and healthy menus (which are menus that follow dietary guidelines from the USDA and its food pyramid; the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society).  Not that the other menus are “unhealthy” but those in the last chapter include nutrient analyses for all components of the menu.

So, if you feel pressed for time, if cooking is one more task that adds to your stress level, or if you just don’t like to cook and are looking for quick meals, check out Minute Meals.

You can also check out the menus at minutemeals.com


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The 90 minute “sprint”

Eric shared an interesting article on productivity with me the other day.  According to Tony Schwartz, president and founder of the Energy Project in New York, productivity isn’t about time, it is about energy.

According to Mr. Schwartz, human beings aren’t “designed to be linear but rather to pulse, to move between expenditure of energy and renewal of energy.”  When we establish this rhythm, we are most productive and most sustaining.

Mr. Schwartz provides his own experience as an example.  When writing a recent book, Schwartz worked in four 90 minute “sprints” each day.  During these “sprints” he worked uninterrupted.  Each “sprint” was followed by a 20-30 minute break which might include having a meal, exercising or reading.  The break or disengagement did not mean reading email or surfing the web but doing something that was truly reenergizing or refueling.

Using this approach of uninterrupted work time followed by a period of refueling, Schwartz completed his book in 90 days, working half the number of hours each day that he had worked on a previous book.  The previous book took him one full year to write.

In this article, Mr. Schwartz also discussed how positive emotions serve performance (whereas negative emotions bring everyone down) and how we’ve lost sight of absorbed focus; that is, doing one thing at a time versus multi-tasking.

I tried Mr. Schwartz’s recommendation this past week in the studio.  I worked for 90 minutes at a time, mostly on specific production pieces, followed by breaks that usually took me out of the studio or moved my focus elsewhere.

For the most part I was more productive on those days where I used this approach.  The hardest part was the refueling aspect; those segments usually lasted longer than his suggested 20-30 minute time frame.

Finding a rhythm in which to complete your work is a very interesting concept, especially when completing production tasks.  It is very easy to get bored in short order.   Focusing on one task for a set period of time does make finishing the task easier and time does go by quicker.

What do you think?  How do you approach working efficiently in the studio?


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For Dad

Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is celebrated on November 1 & 2.  These are days set aside for honoring those who have passed before us.  Families set up altars in their homes to honor deceased relatives and celebrations are held graveside.

The remembrance of deceased ancestors and loved ones is traditional among many cultures and is often marked by the lighting of candles or lamps and the laying out of offerings such as food and drink.

dadblog.jpgWith these traditions in mind, I choose today to honor my dad, William J. Butler (1925-1990.)

This is one of my favorite pictures, taken when he and my mom were married.  My dad was the oldest of four children and first generation Irish born in the U.S.  He had a tough upbringing, losing both of his parents while he was still a child.  He dreamed of being a lawyer but learned a trade working as a sheet metal contractor, also affectionately known as, “a tin metal knocker.”

What I remember most fondly are the little songs he would sing and the silly little jokes that he would play on us, like short-sheeting our beds and putting perfectly cut sheets of wax paper in our lunch sandwiches.  I have two older brothers and two older sisters; we all played jokes on each other…afterall, we learned from dad.  There was a lot of laughter in our house.  I know where I get my sense of humor and smart-aleck remarks from.  It is that Irish gene.

I learned a lot about gardening from my dad.  He loved to go into the vegetable garden with a shaker of salt, pull a ripe tomato from the vine, sprinkle a little salt on it, and eat it fresh right there.  Everytime we grow our own tomatoes, I think of him.

What I miss are our heartfelt conversations, sitting on the porch and looking at the stars and reading the Sunday paper.  Dad would read the paper from front to back.  I do the same thing.

There are many things I never got to tell him and some things I probably shouldn’t have said; life is funny like that.  Sometimes I pass a man on the street who reminds me of my dad.  When that happens I like to think that he is watching out for me.  We all have angels, you know.

So today I honor you, dad, for all the laughs and good memories we shared.  I know you’re looking down on all of us, keeping watch, keeping us safe, and I know that you are proud.

If you have a relative or pet that you would like to honor, write a post on your blog and link back to this post.  If the trackback works as it should, I’ll post another entry with your blog pages honoring your relative or pet.

If you’d like more information on Dia de los Muertos, visit here and here.