Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Memorable Words on Fame

My actress daughter and I were discussing the desperate behavior of some teary-eyed fans who appeared at the window of a set she worked on last week. "There she is! Hi, Victoria! Look over here!" they shrieked at the 17-year-old star of the show. My daughter called the gawkers "freakish" and told me that Victoria showed more tolerance for the crazed fans than they deserved.

"After all," my daughter explained, "even Victoria doesn't think of herself as being in some higher class than others. She talked to me like one high school girl to another. And I liked her because she was really friendly and fun to talk to, not because she has her own TV show. If I met her at school, and not on a set, I'd want to be her friend. Some of the other extras on set with me only cared about getting a picture of themselves with her, while I wanted to know her."

I replied, "You want to know her because you want to know her. The star-struck fans want to know her so that they can SAY they know her. That's one of the difficulties of fame: knowing who really admires you versus who wants to use you."

My daughter described Victoria's demeanor as one that says to others, "Hey, I'm just like you, except I have my own TV show, rather than, Hey, I'm just like you...only better!" The latter type are usually in the business of seeking fame, not artistic achievement, and most often, they are the "wannabes," not the successful. "I can't stand it when an acting teacher asks our class why we want to act and some of my classmates say, 'To be famous.' That's not a reason to act."

Remember this the next time you meet a "star": He or she is just a person whose achievements have brought not only admiration from others, but public visibility as well. Most "stars" don't think of themselves as some higher class of human; fans put them in that awkward position. Imagine their point-of-view, being more visible as a persona than as a person. Sounds as lonely as it is exhilarating.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Tolerance

"Tolerance" doesn't guarantee "acceptance" any more than "legal" guarantees "ethical." I see "tolerance" as a smile over gritted teeth, while "acceptance" is a relaxed smile and a nod. I see "tolerance" as a euphemism for "I'll pretend to like you if you pretend to like me." I see "acceptance" as a heartfelt "It's so nice to know you and learn from you."

To tolerate someone is to put up with them. To accept them is to connect with them.

We need to abandon "tolerance" as a loosely disguised term for politically correct civility; a phony, self-righteous word for people who wish to appear open-minded and loving to their fellow human beings; and an erroneous synonym for acceptance. We need to use words honestly.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lyrics from My Newest Song, "Breathe"

A song by Susan L. Lipson, Copyright September 2010

Some days every stranger seems familiar
And yet when I smile at you, I get a blank stare in return.
You see walls between us,
Such illusions, such delusions, such intrusions
That prevent us from connecting.
And yet when you think about us scientifically,
How can we be strangers when we share the air we breathe?

I breathe you
So to deceive you
Is like lying to myself.
I breathe you
So to relieve you
is like comforting myself.
I breathe you
So to conceive of you
as one with me is true…

For how can we be strangers
When we intimately share
The air that we both breathe;
Exchanging each breath from birth to death,
So what are ‘strangers’ when we all share air….

I breathe you
So to believe you
Is like trusting in myself.
I breathe you
So to retrieve you
Is like rescuing myself.
I breathe you
So to receive from you
Is giving back as well….

BRIDGE REPEATS, followed by an instrumental, bringing it down to opening melody:

Walls dissolve between us when we really wish to see;
How can we be strangers when we share the air we breathe?

Please let me know if you like the lyrics. I've recorded this a capella on an mp3, but I plan record to add instrumental accompaniment soon, once I can lure my accompanists back from their college lives for a school break. If you want to hear it when it's done, let me know....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Music of Language

In Italy a few weeks ago, as I listened to the musical cadence of spoken Italian, I imagined notes on a staff: three or four on the same line of each measure, then one longer note jumping to the top of the staff, followed by a final note on the same line as the initial three notes. Every sentence, even the most mundane, sounds like a melody in Italia....

"Ba-BA ba BAAAA ba," bleets the Italian sheep before supplying the milk for the creamy balls of wet mozzarella hiding beneath the freshest basil leaves and sugary tomato slices.

"Please, signOOOOra, allow me to HEEEELP you," insists the fawning sales clerk in the Limoncello store, pouring shots of lemony liqueur for anyone, regardless of age, who checks out the beautiful cello-shaped bottles filled with yellow syrup that warms the throat and stomach on the way down.

"One pomoDOOOORa pizza--si, signOOORA?" asks the waiter in Naples, who believes that his meter-long pizza outclasses all other pizzas simply because pizza was invented in Naples.

Yes, even I, asking the basest question, "Where is the toilet/restroom?", feel compelled to imitate the cadence of the Italian musical phrase: "Do-ve la toi-LEHEHEHEH-te?" My kids smirk. They say I imitate everyone with an accent when I talk to them. I argue that if I DO imitate a foreigner, I have shown a sincere form of flattery, to show respect for the foreigner, not a desire to poke fun at him/her.
When in Rome...


Tuesday, April 27, 2010


In my computer documents file, I found my old submission for a Writers Digest "Your Assignment" contest, instructing writers to rewrite, in 75 words or less, a scene from a well-known piece of literature so that the antagonist defeats the protagonist and the story ends "unhappily ever after." I chose, of course (as a children's book author myself), a children's book to "blacken." I hope you find my alteration of Charlotte's Web as amusing as I did in rediscovering the short piece today (even though it never won a prize).

by Susan L. Lipson, Poway, CA

Templeton, fed up with the attention lavished on that stupid pig Wilbur, scrambled up the barn post toward Charlotte's web, planning revenge via vandalism. The spider's newest woven word for Wilbur, "BRILLIANT," shone in her web--yet another phony testimonial to keep the superstitious farmer from slaughtering Wilbur. Templeton snickered as he pulled out the letters "ril," then ripped out "ian," leaving 3 letters that would seal his porcine pal's fate.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tap Dancing and Courageous Writers

Tap-dancing has much more embarrassment potential to a beginner than jazz dancing does. I know--I've been taking tap classes. Sometimes I wish those metal plates would fall off so that my missteps would not broadcast themselves to my fellow dancers. Sometimes I think I would have been better off in jazz dancing classes, where the shoes are soft and the missteps easier to cover. But jazz wouldn't have helped me as much with my writing as tap does.

Just as tapping on the wrong beat will call attention to my need to practice more, sharing my writing with a critique group makes my errant verbal beats public and undeniable, calling my attention to my need to revise. I used to keep my works-in-progress mostly to myself, until I felt they were ready for submission, and my soft-shoe approach allowed me to overlook what the tap-shoe approach--the public read-aloud in a critique group--would have made apparent. I wasted a lot of time by not tap-dancing as a writer and overpowering my own former insecurities.

Everyone in my tap dancing class can hear each other's missteps as we try out our new routines, just as my fellow writers can hear each other's mistakes loudly and clearly. Tap dancing has reinforced for me my need to goof up publicly without the ability to cover up with fancy footwork. Jazz dancers, with soft shoes, like writers who never share their work in a public way, can attempt to revise their errors and hope that no one notices. Tap dancers and courageous writers who share their works-in-progress can't take back the sounds they've emitted, and thus become more determined NOT to make the same errant sounds again.

When people ask me, "What on earth made you agree to take tap classes?," I answer, "It's a challenge--embarrassing sometimes, but actually fun. And, my writing critique partner talked me into it! She's very convincing."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Words to Benefit Others

"Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others." -Buddha That's my reason for writing words and songs, and for teaching. The Buddha summed it up!

I wrote a song the other day for the purpose of healing my community, despondent as many of us are since the discovery of the murders of Chelsea King and Amber Dubois. Some might assume that I want to share the song, my husband pointed out, out of egotistical reasons, to get fans. That thought had not occurred to me, because I only thought of the song as a kind of offering, to benefit myself by healing others, to feel as though I could do something to help, instead of feeling so helpless, as most of our community feels now. I know my husband is right, that people assume writing and sharing is about ego. But it's not for me. It's a higher purpose.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Contradiction Within a Metaphor

While discussing my plans for the enormous success of a newly finished manuscript with my son (as if planning has anything to do with success!), I mused, "Ah, I'll be in heaven when that happens."

My wise son replied, "That's a weird expression, Mom. It can be both negative AND optimistic. You could be saying that success won't happen till after you're dead. Or you could be envisioning the joy you expect to happen."

Maybe I should have used a simile instead: "Ah, I'll feel like I'm in heaven when that happens."

Word power...


You get an idea for a poem or a story, but you're in your car or out walking, somewhere impossible to write. And the idea spins into lines in your head, begging to be recorded. You worry that you'll forget this windfall of words before you can write them down. My advice to you: Don't strain to record them later if they were but temporary traveling partners. You wouldn't try to force a friendship with someone you met on the road unless some surprising, special bond had occurred. The same applies to your words.

I have learned to trust the power of reverberation in my writing life.

Reverberation is a quality directly proportional to the quality of the words. Great words tend to stick around and echo in your head till they're recorded. They are memorable because, by definition, they are "able to be remembered"--by the author as well as the reader. If you've forgotten your own words, chances are that someone else will forget them, too.

Trust the power of reverberation, and recognize that memorable words flow--they can never be manufactured.