The film Unfaithful is described as being about a couple whose “marriage goes dangerously awry when the wife indulges in an adulterous fling.”

I resisted seeing the movie for a long time because of an unfortunate confusion: I thought that the female lead, played by Diane Lane was actually played by Dianne Wiest. Somehow the idea of Ms. Wiest locked in a torid affair with a swarthy frenchman seemed, well, untenable.


On my pay-per-view movie description screen last night in the Sheraton Nashua, I was warned that the movie contained “uninhibited sexuality.”

Now first off, what is the reason for distinguishing between “uninhibited sexuality” and the alternative (presumably “inhibited sexuality”) when posting such warnings? I can understand a warning, or at least a note, about sexual content in a movie, but if you were going to warn me about something, wouldn’t it make sense to warn me about the later, not the former? I mean, isn’t that the unhealthy alternative?

Ironically, the sexuality in Unfaithful is completely inhibited — that is what the movie is about. There is nary a sexual act, nor hint of same, that is not tinged with significant, heavy meaning. There is a thick fog of regret and confusion and guilt and passion and jealousy and anger suffused over the movie.

Having witnessed enough infidelity up close to know the territory, I can say with some authority that the movie is a stunningly accurate portrayal of how it all works: it’s messy and horrible and delightful and hurtful and liberating. And yet at the same time, completely normal and rationale seeming while you’re inside it.

Unfaithful is not a morality tale: it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, and least not as far as infidelity is concerned. It is not a classic “affair movie,” both in that the genders are reversed from the tradition, and because there’s no horrible “living a soulless shell of a life and forced into the arms of another” buildup.

The movie quite effectively demonstrates how random chance and momentary crazy mixed up feelings can push people towards doing things that would otherwise seem unreasonable. The Diane Ladd character doesn’t live a horrible existence. She is not unfulfilled, particularly, nor depressed (at least not more than the rest of us). She leans into having an affair rather than bursting into it, and although once she’s on the inside she is overcome by lusty irrationality, even that isn’t something foreign nor difficult to grasp.

The irony is that by bringing a turn of events that is normally couched in all sorts of turmoil and pathos down to earth and portraying it as normal and unfortunate, but with hideous consequences, the movie is probably more effective as a infidelity prophylactic that other, more overwrought movies on this theme.

Unfaithful makes being unfaithful look easy and familiar. That’s enough to put the fear of God into anyone.

Punch Drunk Love

Still from Punch Drunk Love This is the thing: the new film Punch Drunk Love, starring Adam Sandler and Emily Watson, is staggeringly, heart-wrenchingly good in ways that I cannot begin to describe. I was on the verge of breaking down (tears, happiness, angst, joy) for most of the film. It hit very close. You will see the film and either feel much like I did or you will feel disappointed because it seems crazy and chaotic in ways that mean nothing to you.

In Praise of Librarians

The last time I spoke to a group of librarians, at the APLA conference several years ago in Charlottetown, I spent 45 minutes tearing a strip out of them for creating poorly designed, poorly conceived, poorly connected websites. I fear that what I intended as a rallying cry came off sounding smarmy and more like “you guys are really jerks” and there was a palpable chill in the room when I was done.

Not being able to face the cold wrath of disgruntled librarians again, I opted to end on a cheerier note in my talk to the systems librarians at Access 2002 yesterday:

“You are the caretakers of a set of fragile and brilliant ideas about information and how it should be stored and organized and made accessible to all.

And you live in a world that is increasingly telling you that you are nuts.

Reading between the lines of Access this week, I picked up a subtle chord of exasperation — a sense that constant battling with evil vendors and stupid governments and misguided funding agencies and the power hungry jerks in the computer room is starting to wear you down.

Please don’t let it.

Please know that your work is valued by those on the outside.

Please know that at least some of us are ready to go to the baricades with you on issues of freedom of information, access, and equity.

Please know that in the group that yesterday was dismissed as tatooed, nose-ringed Pringles can collectors are people who share many of your ideals, and if you can find ways of letting them inside the castle, the will glady come, create, spread, innovate, program, and perhaps even entertain.

I will leave you today with some words from the The Committee on Cooperative Principles from 1965:

“Cooperation at its best aims at something beyond promotion of interests of individual members (…) Its object is rather to promote the progress and welfare of the humanity.”

That is your business too. I laud you for it. Keep up the good fight.”

Needless to say, I was somewhat better received.

Preparing a talk is an all-consuming process for me. The carefully crafted “just in time” preparation methods I inherited from my father, while saving me from the travails of advance preparation, do result in a sort of surreal extended low-level panic for the days and hours leading up to the event. It’s somewhat agonizing, but ultimately helpful and probably worth it.

Driving to Dallas

In some state of confusion last month, I arranged to fly from Windsor to Boston at 6:15 a.m. This meant getting up this morning at 4:30 a.m. to catch a cab to the airport.

I read an article recently about hotel air conditioning and heating. Apparently it’s much more expensive to hotels to have quiet, central heating and cooling, which is why most hotel rooms have a combination heater and air conditioner under the window. The quieter units cost a lot more, and so the older and cheaper the hotel, the more likely you are to have a very loud and annoying machine in your room. The Radisson Windsor obviously opted for the very cheapest model, and as a result my sleep for the past three nights has been punctuated every 45 minutes by a loud clunk, followed by some noisy heating, followed by silence.

Which is all to say that as I type this at Gate Two in the Windsor Airport, I am not particularly well rested.

However much unrest I might feel, I will never match the adventures of the cabbie who drove me to the airport this morning. Last week he received word that his cousin, who he hadn’t seen for 26 years, was going to be in Dallas, Texas for several hours. So my cabbie, his wife, children and parents rented a car in Windsor, drove to Dallas (stopping only for 5 hours in a hotel halfway there), spent 3 hours with his cousin, and then drove back.

The closest I’ve ever come to matching this feat was driving from Vancouver to Peterborough, and although I pushed hard, I did stop every night, and did it in four days. At the end of my journey my hands were glued to the steering wheel, and I had nightmares about driving for several weeks thereafter.

My cabbie said that in this fast-paced hectic world, people have to stop and slow down once in a while. That his example of this was driving 2,500 km at 150 km/hour to see his cousin for 3 hours is somewhat odd, but still, somehow, rings true.

6 o'clock is very early

I am sitting in a very weird position, here at 7:37 a.m. on a Monday morning.

First, I have been up since 5:30 a.m., which is one of the few times that I’ve been up at 5:30 a.m. in the last decade. Well, actually, ever. I was up that early to get here to the Cleary Centre to set up the wireless Internet for the Access 2002 conference. Unfortunately nobody else was up that early, including the engineering staff who were supposed to be here at 6 a.m. So I wandered around the bowels of the hall looking for a missing cable modem. People started to show up around 6:30 a.m., though, and we’re in action here.

Second, I am sitting at the back of the main hall, and directly ahead of me is the Detroit skyline, which seems close enough to be able to see the workers in the GM Tower at their desks. The sun is just coming up over Detroit, and I’ll soon find out whether it looks better in the day or the night. My taxi driver from the airport claimed I would be let down in the morning when I got to see Detroit in all its gritty glory.

Speaking of which, the taxi ride from the Windsor Airport to downtown Windsor was thrilling. Apparently there was some danger of getting “stuck behind the train,” — something that, from the way the taxi driver said it, seems tantamount to getting stuck forever. His solution to this horrible possibility was to drive as fast as his taxi would go, and to weave in and out of traffic constantly. We didn’t get stuck behind the train, and we made the trip in about 10 minutes. And I lived to tell the tale.