Word for the day

November 29, 2007

Incunabulum– a book that was printed, not handwritten, before 1501.  The word has a glorious weight to it, reminiscent of the painful process (though significantly less painful than that of copying these tomes out by hand.) of printing at the very beginning of the Gutenberg era. I love the thought that, though these bookmakers (mainly monks, I presume) considered themselves innovators of the time, the word is so wonderfully antiquated. Plural: incunabula. Hurray for words that are just blatantly unchanged from Latin!

And yes, I am a dork.


I wonder about army kids. A friend of mine, a major (I think) in the army, has just been deployed to Kyrgyzstan (either that or Azerbaijan… not positive) and… I’m just wondering about his wife and children. I know him from Russian class, where he would make everyone laugh with his accent and bizarre jokes. We’d go out for drinks after class sometimes, a small group of us: me, Boris, this girl Nina who had was covered in tattoos and who had alternately been in publishing, a model, and in a punk band prior to coming to Harvard, and him. A slightly bizarre grouping, but he was always funny with his GI Joe name and take on life.

It was always funny to think of his reality in the army, with a wife (who was NOT happy about his hanging out with girls in their twenties) and two children, both with names equally fit for an action hero. I worry, though, about his wife and children in whatever Central Asian republic he’s been assigned to. The world of army bases is terribly foreign to me, and it’s so strange to think of a community, located in a foreign country, where nothing but English is spoken, and the currency is the dollar. There are schools on the bases, or if the bases are small enough, the students are bussed to the local American school, which is why I went to school with several kids with perfect military haircuts and Midwestern accents, who brought in Twinkies and Fruit-by-the-Foot from the commissary. They didn’t speak a world of Italian, and confined their activities to the base and the company of other American children. Their mothers formed little blonde suburban communities in their houses, yards edged with white picket fences. Driving onto the base was an instant trip to suburban America, located right outside Milan. A creepy contrast.

So then I think about this wife and kids going to Central Asia. This wife who will probably never learn much Russian beyond the words for hello, thank you, and goodbye, and the children, who will spend some of their formative years in one of the most interesting, for its sheer alien-ness, places on Earth… but will learn very little of it. It’s similar to what scared me so very much about Seoul, where the expat community simply did not interact with the locals, except for those who had been educated elsewhere. It’s truly scary how insular expats can be when living abroad.

Sometimes I make up movie sequences in my head, and then go mad for days on end trying to find out where on earth they’re from. Most recently invented was a scene, supposedly in Blue Velvet, where Kyle Maclachlan and Laura Dern slow dance and outdoors in the dark to Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You” and the air of the film is just fraught with sex, and evil and longing. Then there’s a cut to the interior of a car, where someone is waiting, and something unrelated but bad is about to happen. I think there might be crickets in the background, and a fence. The kind of hazy recollection that Never mind that this never actually happened in the movie: it’s taken me a good half hour of googling to determine that I don’t in fact mean the scene where Kyle Maclachlan and Laura Dern dance in the actual film, and the film isn’t even remotely connected to the song.

Amusingly enough, Kyle Maclachlan is actually in a film that features the song, called Rich in Love, which looks rather heinous. It isn’t the one I’m looking for.

To make up for my blabber, a trailer for Blue Velvet:

That might not quite make up for my blabber, to be truthful… severed ears and Dennis Leary being insane might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But I find myself craving some David Lynch. Even if it doesn’t contain this scene that I’m craving.