Continuing a tradition I’m fond of, here’s another round of WordPress prompts and my responses:
WordPress: Have you ever had to fire someone?
Erin Virgil: No, I’ve never been anyone’s boss like that, and I doubt I ever will be. I have been fired myself though, more than once. At the time I always felt like an abject failure, the tragic cliché carrying out all my personal junk in a cardboard box. Only after a few years in the next, better job did I realize the firing had little to do with me and more to do with the tyrannical directors of these awful offices I had worked for, or financial decisions raining down from above. One of the worst bosses I ever had, a former corporate jerkoff transplanted to our government office, was on a mission to replace everyone around him; I was the second out of six people fired for nebulous reasons, and at least ten other employees transferred or resigned to get away from him. He was impressed by my education apparently, as I remember him saying to me once when I mishandled a call on the confusing, multiple phone lines, “Imagine it’s the dean of Barnard College calling, you don’t want to drop his call!” I wanted to reply, “You prick, I’m 27 years old, this isn’t my first damn job out of college,” but instead I nodded and smiled, like a good secretary.
WP: Make a list of five things you’re afraid to write about.
EV: 1. Global warning, the reality of it terrifies me. 2. Sickness. I’ve got a head cold and slight fever right now, but if I write any more about them I’m superstitiously afraid they’ll get worse. 3. Drugs, for some reason. I guess because of the legality issue, and the frightening power held by Big Pharma. I have a lot to say on the topic too, so it’s kind of a shame. 4. Romance novels: I tried to start writing one in the Harlequin school, both for money and to see if I could do it, but instantly I felt dirty and had to put it down. Which is interesting because I do technical writing for money, and while I hate it, it doesn’t feel icky in the same way as romance writing does. 5. Violence, small and large. I don’t like to think to long about acts of violence, I’m too much of an empath, it weighs me down.
WP: What makes someone beautiful?
EV: That’s a tricky question. Physical beauty is subjective to start with, it changes across cultures and decades, and even inside the same culture and time individual tastes vary widely. There is this ugly consumer culture, in the West and the East (who can say exactly where it started?) that revolves around celebrating beauty and youth to sell chemical goods, clothes, cars, anything really. As much as I try to ignore it, faces in magazine ads with shining studio lit hair still get to me. Physical beauty without any strength of character is like a Greek mask; temporal, false, tragic and sometimes comic. Leave it at this: the longer I get to know someone I respect and like, the more beautiful I seem to find them, regardless of their face, hair, body type or age.
WP: How do you stay true to yourself?
EV: Writing this blog is one way; I write here to connect with the three or five people who read it, and this feels true. It’s a place for me to practice the craft, and I don’t feel pressured here, by deadlines or someone else’s requirements on my substance and style. Another way I stay true to myself is painting and collage; making visual art is intrinsically truthful, and even if I get discouraged and give up on a drawing, it never feels like wasted time; something was accomplished, concentration and study, sometimes even Right Mind.
WP: Describe a dream you’ve had more than once.
EV: Recently I’ve been dreaming variations on a central theme: high school. For the last week at least, I’ve dreamt I’m back in high school, stuck in an endless hallway lined with ratty old lockers. I’m not my current age, 31, or the age I was in high school, I’m like an alien dropped down into a tightly controlled, highly monitored world of senior high (in retrospect, this qualifies as a nightmare). Last night I made it outside (narrowly evading Gestapo hall monitors) to a playground by a baseball field. In the dirt by the swings I found a gold clock that fell open when I picked it up. A black feather, a pressed butterfly and a ring with a blue stone inside; I put these things in my pocket, returned the clock to the dirt.
WP: Does technology help you write?
EV: Depends on the technology. My laptop is very helpful, I can type much faster than I can write longhand. And the technology behind this blog (and the email prompts I received) enable me to write at this moment. Video game technology however, particularly Nintendo Wii, is extremely unhelpful. Television, movies, some music; I’ve gotten so that I can have them running in the background while I’m writing. Not sure how good this is for my brain, but it’s turned into a habit. Lately I’ve gotten some quality prose and editing done while half-watching various cartoons from the 1970’s; writing this post, I’ve chosen to stream “Star Trek: The Animated Series,” and William Shattner’s voice bleeds in and out of my thought process.
WP: Write a review of the last movie you saw.
EV: “Union Station,” a wonderful film noir from 1950 starring Nancy Olson and William Holden, was the last movie I actually sat and watched attentively all the way through, neither writing nor collaging. It’s a fine movie; a little slow, like a lot of suspense movies from that era are, but filled with the most gorgeous costumes and hairdos. As the majority of the action unfolds in Chicago’s Union Station, all the characters are wearing traveling clothes; the women wear long wool pea-coats, elegant scarves and fabulous hats, and the men, both good guys and bad, wear the ubiquitous trench coats, dark fedoras pulled low and slightly slanted over the brow, and smoke cigarettes at a jaunty angle, leaning against marble columns or peering over newspapers. The plot involves a rich man’s blind daughter getting kidnapped, all of this partially witnessed by his secretary (Nancy Olson) from her window on the train to Chicago. William Holden is the good cop, plowing through cups of coffee and cases of Lucky Strikes to shoot the bad guy, rescue the blind girl, and overcome Nancy’s sexual inhibitions. Rating this movie within its time frame, alongside such standards as “Sudden Fear” and “Double Indemnity”, I’d probably give it three and a half stars out of five. The two leads are fantastic actors, but, as often happened in films from the 40’s and 50’s, the character actors (guild members hired to play one role and one role only, across ten to twenty different movies) plodding alongside of them are a motley crew; some great, some decent, some just plain awful.