2.28.2008

HEY OLDTIMER

It occurred to me today that I am the exact age that my father was when he and my mother adopted me.

I can't imagine how he did it. I feel so old right now, the prospect of chasing a baby around the house makes me want to take a nap. Or have a heart attack -- whichever would result in a longer nap.

I'm 39 years old. I sound like Jack Benny, who claimed to be 39 until his death in 1974 at the age of 80. I have always maintained that age doesn't matter, that it's just a number, that I don't care. But that is bullshit. I do not want to be 40. I really don't. It's not like I'm going to jump off a bridge or anything, but I really would rather this not be happening.

It's not just the number. It's all the meaning that I'm attaching to it. You're supposed to be settled at 40, established, planning for retirement. Are you fucking kidding me?

I don't have a 401(k). I have a comic book collection. And $40,000 of high-interest credit card debt.

I am no more settled at 40 than I was at 30 or 20. Probably less. The only problem is, the older you get, the harder it is to change. Which is why I'm so struck by my dad and his new fatherhood at the age of 39.

Keep in mind that that was 1969. Things were different back then. 40 may be the new 30 today but back then, 40 was 40. Back in those butter-eating, cigarette smoking, treadmill-free days, guys died in their 40s. My father's older brother died when he was 46.

Nowadays, 40 year-old guys are still skateboarding in their hoodies, their iPods blasting age-defying pop music. But that doesn't make me feel any younger. My knees hurt and I'm starting to hobble around like my father -- my 78 year-old father, not the 39 year-old guy who adopted me. I'm a mess.

I have 9 months to do something big -- to change my life in a major way, so that I can feel less like a failure when I hit the big 4-0.

What can I do today that will result in a major change in my life 9 months from now?

I know what you're thinking. But stop thinking it. I can barely afford new underwear right now.

2.25.2008

E-PAY

I had three different auctions on Ebay last week, and only one of them ended successfully. Although "successfully" is a debatable choice of works.

I sold my sofa and recliner for $91. No, not $91 each. That's for both items. Not only that but I'm going to help the guy move the stuff out when he comes over on Friday. What a deal.

Auction #2 was for my antique seaman's trunk. It languished on Ebay for nearly a week, ending well below my reserve price of $50. Then on Saturday night I posted the very same trunk on Craigslist, and it was sold in less than 24 hours -- for $100.

Plus, Craigslist lets you post stuff for free! Take that Ebay with your rip-off insertion fees, and extra picture fees and fees to make a minimum bid or a reserve price or to highlight your listing or put a box around it.


Bullshit.

Auction #3 was for my beautiful bar table and high-back stools from Pottery Barn. I listed them with no minimum bid -- and somebody bid 99 cents. The Buy it Now price was $599, and someone bid ninety nine cents. Not only that, but it was the only bid I got.

I listed that same package on Craigslist and -- again -- people were practically beating my door down. One guy emailed me from his honeymoon in Hawaii asking me to pull the listing and promising me $50 extra if I held the set until he came back. He was prepared to pay $350 for the same exact package that some idiot had bid less than a dollar for on Ebay.

I know Ebay gets all the press, but Craigslist is where the cool kids hang out.

THE RETURN OF THE COMEDIAN

On Sunday I emcee'd the Kids 'N Comedy show at Gotham Comedy Club in New York City.

Longtime readers will remember that previously owned started in July, 2005 as the blog of a stand-up comedian. A lot has changed since then.

Back in 2005 I was doing shows or open mics five nights a week -- at least. All of my creative energies were devoted to writing and performing comedy. But the experience of writing longer pieces for the blog inspired me to change the direction of my extra-curricular pursuits, and to pursue print journalism and creative non-fiction.

One of my very first stories for print was a feature on Kids 'N Comedy, a program that teaches young people age 9-18 to do stand-up. I guess the founders of the program liked my story, because they hired me to teach the class soon after.

Right now I'm in the middle of my third class session, teaching a great bunch of kids. The excitement and enthusiasm that they bring to their work has redeemed stand-up for me. By the time I started teaching the class, I had all but given up on comedy. I was burned out, frustrated with my lack of progress and disgusted by the overall low-rent quality of the art form and most of the people in it.

I don't really consider myself a comedian any more. But every now and then, I get to host a show like this, dust off my old jokes, write some new ones and reconnect with the old me.

The further I get away from doing stand-up on a regular basis, the harder it becomes to do a show. But today it took me only one joke to get my sea legs and fall back into my old persona.


I don't think I'll ever go back to stand-up in the obsessive way I pursued it from 2001 until 2005. But, it's nice to go back and visit every now and then.

Plus, one of the best known comedy clubs in the country paid me $75 to host a show today. That's pretty cool, right?

2.21.2008

THE STREAK CONTINUES

Almost a week later, I'm still having trouble detoxing from my Vegas trip.

I'm a big fan of stimulants of all sorts, and gambling is certainly a stimulant. My pulse quickens. My face flushes. I feel euphoric -- when I'm not losing, of course.

Gambling is like cocaine, without the sniffles.


Casino gambling may not be legal here in the Big Apple, but government-sponsored gaming certainly is. Every day, the New York State Lottery sponsors various numbers games - from Lotto, to Pick Four to scratch-off games, there are plenty of ways for addictive personalities like me to chase the dragon.

Today I visited the magazine shop around the corner and picked up two Win For Life scratch tickets.


Scratching a 4" x 3" card isn't as exciting as the spin of a roulette wheel, but it will do for now. Especially when I go two for two. I won on both cards today -- $2 on the first and $5 on the second.

And the number that won me $5 ? That's right, number 11.

One thing I forgot to mention last week. When my Jetblue flight landed at JFK on Friday night, the flight attendant made the following announcement:

"Welcome to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the local time is 11:11 PM."

This was after I had won, each any every night in Vegas, on number 11 -- including my final roll on the roulette table on Friday, where the number 11 made me $240.

By the way, my birthday is 11/11. And my parents wedding anniversary was 11/11.

2.20.2008

WELCOME TO MY 99 CENTS STORE

I finally got a bid on one of my Ebay auctions!

Some smart internet user saw my antique seaman's chest and decided how much they were willing to pay for it.

99 cents.

That's right, somebody actually placed a bid for 99 cents -- for an antique. You can't even buy a pack of gum for 99 cents. If you don't believe me, take a look for yourself.

As I have said before, the bidder has to come to my apartment to pick this stuff up, because it's too big for me to ship. That means that this person was actually thinking of showing up at my apartment with 99 cents and expecting it not to be awkward.

Was he planning on giving me a dollar and asking for a penny back? Or was he going to come with exact change? And why would anyone bid 99 cents on an auction that has a reserve price? Did he think that the reserve price was less than 99 cents?

Of course I'm not going sell for 99 cents -- not when I have $17.85 in fees to cover. I'm starting to think this whole Ebay thing is one big scam!

2.19.2008

(FACE)BOOK ME DANNO!

I am now on Facebook!

Why? Because I wasn't wasting enough time on MySpace.

Won't you be my friend? It's okay. You don't have to really like me. I don't like any of my MySpace friends.

2.18.2008

BUY MORE OF MY CRAP PLEASE

Did you know that Ebay charges you to post things to their auction site? They call it an "insertion fee."

The last time I paid an insertion fee was in the back room of a strip club on Bourbon Street. But that's another story.

I've set up three auctions in the last 24 hours and I already owe them $17.65. So if my stuff doesn't sell, I still have to pay Ebay $17.65. That sounds like a scam to me.

And they nickel and dime you, like, 15 cents to post an extra picture, or 75 cents to use bold type or $1 for a colored border (sorry, I meant to say "African American" border).

What they don't offer is a fee to guarantee that somebody is going to buy your crap. Now that is something I would gladly pay for. Until then, I have started yet another potentially money-losing business.


I need your help. Save me from financial ruin. Click here to buy my Pottery Barn bar stools and table or here to by my seaman's chest.

That's seaman, by the way. If you're looking for the other spelling of the word, wait until tomorrow when I put my mattress up for sale.

ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY

Sure, it's fun to read previously owned.

But what if you could own an actual piece of furniture from Will McKinley's apartment? What about two pieces of furniture?

Well dream no more! For a limited time only, previously owned readers have an opportunity to bid on both Will's beloved recliner and couch, now up for auction on Ebay!

Manufactured in sturdy oak by This End Up furniture company, the Genuine Will McKinley Recliner and Sofa were purchased in the mid-1990s for use in his first New York City apartment, on West 85th Street. Later they followed Will to his charming West Village studio, where they remain today -- just waiting for you to take them to your home!

Imagine the possibilities! You have the chance to read a previously owned post while sitting upon the very same chair in which Will wrote it. Or the very same couch upon which ever single one of Will's girlfriends -- Mary, Hilary, Carmen, Julie and the famous Maggie -- have sat and/or laid.

And speaking of laid...just kidding! These unique pieces of internet history are guaranteed DNA-free!*

Yes, these durable pieces have seen Will through good times and bad. And now they can be yours. Plus, your winning bid guarantees a face-to-face meeting with Will at his actual apartment, where you will come in a large van or small truck to pick the furniture up. And Maggie will probably be there too!**

It's like previously owned come to life, right before your very eyes!


Don't pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a valuable*** piece (or two) of internet history! All you have to do is click here for your very own previously owned Sofa and Recliner!

And remember, bid early -- and often!

* As soon as you have them cleaned. Particularly the recliner.
** Appearance subject to availability.
*** Not really.

2.15.2008

HAPPY ENDING!

I won! I won last night and I won this morning -- both times on lucky number 11!

Not only did I win back my whole $600 gambling pot, I'm also walking out with an extra $100 just for my troubles.

This is a first for me. I actually won money gambling in Las Vegas.

Things are looking up!

2.14.2008

THE BELLAGIO OWES ME 14 CENTS

Remember that vow I made to limit myself to a $500 gambling budget in Las Vegas? I broke it tonight. But the story has a happy ending.

Okay, maybe not a happy ending. But not a tragic ending.

Over the course of three hours, I lost my $500 pot at the roulette table. By the end I was reduced to buying $3 worth of chips to make my table minimum. That was embarrassing. And this was after hitting eleven once again for a $175 payout!

I walked away from the table with an empty wallet and the condolences of my somewhat sloppy dealer-in-training. I hung my head and sulked back to the elevator bank. But, by strange coincidence, I walked right into an ATM on the way!

What to do? Go back to my room with my dignity -- and my bank account -- intact? Or take one more chance to win back some of my lost funds.

What do you think I did? That's right. I answered the clarion call of the ATM.

I withdrew $100 and, grasping the crisp bill like a life raft in the middle of the ocean, I headed for the Wheel of Fortune slot machine. I slid the $100 bill in and spun the wheel. Bells rang, lights flashed and when the cacophony had subsided, I had won $138.89 on my $100 investment.

I brought my receipt to the cage and cashed it. They gave me my $100 back, plus $138.75.

"I thought it was $138.89," I said to the non-smiling cashier.

"Oh, we round it to the nearest quarter," he relied.

"You mean, you round it down," I said. "That's good to know. Maybe I'll try that trick the next time I'm at the roulette table.

Dead silence.

And then I took my money and headed back to my room. I understand that $138.75 doesn't equal $500. But it also doesn't equal zero.

I will sleep much easier tonight knowing that I'm only $361.25 in the hole. Because you know what that means, right?

It means that tomorrow night I have a gambling budget of $138.75. Can I turn that back into my initial $500?

For the answer to that and other exciting questions, tune in tomorrow -- same bat-time, same bat-channel!

2.13.2008

DON'T ALWAYS BET ON BLACK

So there I was, at the roulette table at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. And things were looking grim.

I was $400 in the hole, with $100 left in my wallet. I had decided to give myself a $500 gambling limit and, unlike on past visits to Las Vegas, this time I was sticking to it.

I needed some luck. And luck shone down upon me. Over the course of the next hour I hit number 11 -- not once, but three times. And each time I had a $5 bet on the number. If you've ever played roulette, you know the payout is 35-to-1. That means that, in the course of less than sixty minutes, I won $525.

When you win large amounts of money while gambling, people start looking at you like you have magical powers. They want to touch you, to talk to you, to be near you. And this time was no exception.

"Eleven?" cackled a well dressed Russian-sounding woman, in between drags of her Capri. "Zhat must be your burseday or zomething like this?"

"Yes," I said. "My burseday...I mean birthday...is actually November 11. So it's 11/11."

"Wow!" she said. "You have a lucky burseday!"

Yes, my hunch about eleven was right. The Sin City Gods were on my side tonight, and everything was going great.

Until Quincy Jones showed up.

Now, when Quincy Jones sits down right next to you at the roulette table in Vegas, what is your first thought?

That's right, bet on black.
Well, it turns out that black is not a lucky color for this particular white boy.

As quickly as I had won, I began to lose. But I was not about to make the same mistake I had made so many times before. So I cashed in my chips and walked away, with exactly $500 in my pocket.

"Good luck, Mr. Jones," I said, as I was leaving.

"Good luck to you," he replied.

Really, you can't make stuff like this up.

2.12.2008

ARE YOU FEELING LUCKY? I AM.

I returned to Las Vegas today, for the first time since June of 2006.

I'm here -- as usual -- working on the production of a large corporate meeting, this time at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino.

Sure, I've had some bad luck in my previous visits to Sin City. But this trip is going to be different. Because this time, I'm staying in a lucky room!

My room number at the Bellagio is 11611.

I tell you that to make a point, not so you will drop by unannounced. Also, please don't call me in the middle of the night and wake me up. That would not be cool. But back to my point.

11/11/68 is my birthday. And 11/11/56 is my parents' wedding anniversary. What do you notice about those two dates? They both include 11 two times and a 6.

That makes this room a lucky room. Believe it. Now I'm going to the roulette table to put my life savings on 11 and 6.

I'm only kidding. I don't have a life savings!

2.11.2008

"A BRONX TALE" ON BROADWAY

Yesterday I saw Chazz Palmenteri in A Bronx Tale on Broadway.

The ninety-minute show, now playing through February 24 at the Walter Kerr Theater, is a revival of the autobiographical, one-man production upon which the 1993 film of the same name is based.

A Bronx Tale is a flawed, yet moving production that fills the gaping hole in the public consciousness left by the bullet that may (or may not) have whacked Tony Soprano last summer. Is there any end to American popular cultural fascination with track-suited, funny-nicknamed mobsters? I don't know, but guys like Chazz Palminteri better hope not.

Palminteri presents his Tale as a storyteller, giving life to all the colorful characters in his Bronx hood, circa the 1960s -- from his nine-year old self, to his wise guy mentor to his disapproving, bus driver father and everyone in between. It's part crime drama, part soap opera, part stand-up comedy and surprisingly soft-edged for a show about murder, mayhem and the mafia.

Veteran director Jerry Zaks stages the show on a set that looks more like Sesame Street than 187th Street. But the hokey scenic design and the occasional moments of crowd-pleasing cheese are offset by the power of Palmenteri's performance.

There is much in this production that I could have done without: the cloying music, the awkward half-acting/half talking thing that Palminteri sometimes falls into, the cartoonish slow motion running meant to convey the emotional gravity of the story's climax.

I didn't need or want any of that.
There were moments when I wanted to yell, "Hey Chazz! Cut the crap and just tell us the story!"

Because, as any Italian-American will tell you, when the macaroni is hot and fresh you don't have to drown it in gravy.

2.10.2008

TERMINATE TASTI D-LITE WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE

2.08.2008

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIMMY OLSEN

For me, the definitive Superman will always be the 1951-1957 syndicated TV series starring George Reeves as the Man of Steel.

And the actor who played "cub reporter Jimmy Olsen" on that series turns 80 years-old today!

In addition to his role in The Adventures of Superman, Jack Larson has also appeared in the TV series Superboy and Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and he has a nice cameo as Bo the bartender in 2006's Superman Returns.


The Adventures of Superman aired on WPIX Channel 11 in New York when I was growing up in the 1970s and I watched it religiously every day after school. It was often paired it with reruns of the 1960s Batman series, another lifelong favorite of mine.

And when Christopher Reeve donned the blue tights and red cape for 1978's Superman - The Movie I thought to myself, "He's good. But he's no George Reeves!"

George Reeves was the real Superman. Noel Neill was the real Lois Lane. And Jack Larson was the real Jimmy Olsen. And they always will be.

Thanks to Superman - Then and Now! for the images!

JOHN McWETHY (1947-2008)

Former ABC News National Security Correspondent John McWethy died on Tuesday. He was 61 years old.

McWethy joined ABC News in 1979 and was a regular contributor to World News Tonight, Nightline and Good Morning America until his retirement in 2003.

I've been a TV news junkie for my whole life, and ABC has always been the network where I get my fix. I've been recording ABC's
World News every night for as long as I can remember, and watching it is a nightly priority.

If you're a regular viewer of a particular news broadcast, the correspondents are sort of like your friends. You visit with them every night and they tell you what's going on in the world. You notice when they have a cold, when they're on vacation and when the anchor (in this case, the great Peter Jennings) calls the reporter by his nickname Jack instead of John.

You also notice when they retire and leave the broadcast. And, sadly, you notice when they die.

The ABC News website has some nice tributes to this great reporter from his friends and colleagues.

John McWethy will be missed, most particularly by me.

2.06.2008

ONE DOOR CLOSES

My girlfriend and I are now officially living together. At her place.

Actually, we've been living together for almost two years now. But that was "unofficial." This is now "official."

Nothing is changing, really. Other than the fact that I will no longer be paying monthly rent on an apartment that I haven't slept in since May of 2006. As you might guess, my accountant is in complete agreement with this decision. And he's not the only one.


On Tuesday, after I voted for what may be the last time as a resident of Greenwich Village, I called Blanche, my elderly landlord.

"This is a switch," Blanche cackled. "Usually I'm the one calling you -- looking for the rent!"

That Blanche. She is such a card.

Some landlords might balk at a tenant moving out with a year and a half remaining on their lease. But when the tenant lives in a rent stabilized apartment on a quiet residential street in one of the hottest neighborhoods in New York City?

They don't balk. They practically fall over themselves to break your lease.

"You were such a great tenant," Blanche gushed, engaging in a bit of revisionist history. "I never had any problem with you!"

Perhaps she didn't consider it "a problem" that she had to call me every month and threaten to evict me to get me to pay my rent. But now that she's getting her apartment back, I guess bygones will be bygones.

Once I get rid of the remainder of my stuff (anybody wanna buy a This End Up couch and matching recliner?), the owner of the building will tear everything out and replace it as cheaply as possible. The peeling ceiling, the creaky wood floors, the window that had to be held open with a Louisville Slugger, the radiator that was slowly sinking through the floor -- all of it will be replaced.

Who knew it would be so easy to get the owner to finally fix the place up? All I had to do was leave.

Then, after he has installed a new refrigerator, stove and sink in the kitchen (which is not so much a kitchen as a "kitchen-like area") he will raise the rent as much as the law allows and put the apartment back on the market with an large broker fee. The last I heard, the fee (which I'm pretty sure is illegal) was more than $5,000 -- a nice payday for someone.

Not me, of course. But someone.


I was paying $1,222.56 per month for a studio apartment in the West Village of Manhattan. That may sound like a lot of you live in Idaho, but New Yorkers know that that is the deal of the century. The new rent will only be a few hundred dollars more but, when you're talking about a stabilized apartment in New York City, a few hundred dollars is a substantial number.

And tenants like me -- people who are dumb enough to give up rent stabilized apartments in great neighborhoods -- we do not come along every day.

Legally I am allowed to sublet the apartment for two years, but I decided to waive that right. The neighborhood (West Village/Meatpacking District) may be hot, but the building is a dump.

And when I say "dump" I am not kidding. More than once I have come home and been greeted by a pile of solid human waste in the vestibule of our "historic" (I prefer "decrepit") building. I have also been greeted by a solid human being. And once by two human beings, who were engaging in behavior that I believe is still illegal in more than one state.

As yes, the memories. I will always have the memories.

So after some consideration, I decided that I could not in good conscience advertise a sublet to friends (or friends-of-friends) in glowing language, like "adorable" or "charming." Because that would be lying. And I may be late paying my rent (and every other bill I owe) but I am not a liar.

If I were going to advertise the place honestly, I would have to say something like:

Cramped West Village studio in a shitty (literally), poorly maintained building with a super who doesn't speak English. Good luck getting anything fixed if it breaks. And try to ignore the transvestite prostitutes on the corner when you come home after 2 AM. Also, the guy who lives below you is a dick and will complain if you breathe too loud. Other than that, you're right near the trendy Meatpacking District. So, if you like $15 martinis and bridge-and-tunnel assholes who act out episodes of Entourage every Saturday night - this is the place for you!

I'm no real estate agent, but I don't think that listing would generate a lot of interest.

But it's too late anyway. My tenure as a West Village resident is over, as of February 28. Now I'm heading on down, to the West side, to a de-luxe apartment in the sky-aye.

People have asked me, why now? Why, after nearly ten years of dating and almost two years of living together am I finally taking the cohabitation plunge. Officially.

For the answer to that question, allow me to quote my soon-to-be ex-landlord Blanche.

"Usually someone has to die for me to get one of these apartments back," Blanche said, as we concluded our telephone conversation.

She didn't know how right she was.


2.05.2008

I WON THE SUPER BOWL

...pool. At work. And now I'm $250 richer -- thanks to David Tyree of the New York Giants!

This gravity-defying grab made me $250 richer!

It's perfect timing, because one week from today I'll be going to Las Vegas for work! Longtime readers of previously owned (all three of you) know what happens when I am in Vegas.

At least this time I'll be starting with a $250 cushion!

Vegas here I come!

SUPER TUESDAY



No electronic balloting here in New York! We do it the analog way.

Sunday's New York Times ran an interesting feature on a guy who keeps these old warhorses in working order, year after year. Read it here.

2.03.2008

BRAINWASHING IN PROGRESS

A few nights ago Maggie and I were watching TV, and a commercial came on for a new movie called Fool's Gold.

"Is that a romantic comedy with Matthew McConaughey AND Kate Hudson?!" I asked, my voice malignant with sarcasm. "Let's buy our tickets right now!"

"Yeah," Maggie agreed, going along with the bit. "I can't imagine what happens!"

Of course, Maggie knows full well what happens in Fool's Gold. And so do you. And so does my nine year-old niece. It's the same thing that happens in every frothy, soft-edged, date movie that Hollywood has churned out for as long as I can remember.

To be fair, the movie doesn't come out until next Friday. Fool's Gold just might be a modern day classic, an envelope-pushing genre-breaker destined for big screen immortality.

But I wouldn't bet my bongo drums on it.

An article in today's New York Times by film critic A.O. Scott gives perfect voice to my frustration with Hollywood, and it's destruction of an art form -- the romantic comedy -- that has generated some of its most enduring classics.

Just about now you may be saying to yourself, "How lucky it is that Will found a companion like Maggie who shares his love of classic movies, and his contempt for modern mainstream dreck!"

That's a nice story, but it's not entirely true.

When I met Maggie she didn't know the difference between Groucho Marx and Oscar the Grouch. And my decade-long brainwashing campaign still has a ways to go.

Case in point: the genre known as film noir and, specifically, Orson Welles' Touch of Evil.

Orson Welles in 1958's Touch of Evil.

Last night Maggie and I made our third trip across (or, more accurately, under) the Hudson River to the Loew's Jersey Theater, a restored 1920s movie palace that I recently wrote about in an article for The Villager and Downtown Express.

The occasion for last night's journey to Jersey City was a 50th anniversary screening of a restored version of Touch of Evil -- Orson Welles' 1958 film noir, starring Welles himself as a corpulent corrupt cop, the decidedly Caucasian Charlton Heston as an idealistic Mexican and Janet Leigh as his imperiled wife.

The version that we saw was a re-cut produced by Universal ten years ago, based upon a 58-page memo that Welles had written after the studio removed him from the project prior to it's initial release. Sadly, less than a decade and a half after Citizen Kane, Welles' name was mud in Hollywood, and this picture only served to make it muddier.

I love Touch of Evil. But Maggie didn't. And she expressed her abject boredom by sleeping through most of the movie. This was not unlike her response to Otto Preminger's classic Laura, which we saw on our first trip to the Loew's last year, or Preminger's Where the Sidewalk Ends and Angel Face (which we watched on DVD) -- all fifty-year-old noirs starring hard-bitten leading man Dana Andrews.

So Maggie doesn't like film noir. Okay. But that doesn't mean its time to break up!

I didn't like Touch of Evil when I first saw it in film school. And I had little-to-no interest in the genre of film noir when I was Maggie's age.


But today, as I stare wide-eyed into the yawning chasm of middle age, I am fascinated by the perversely pragmatic morality of Welles' Captain Quinlan, or Dana Andrew's Preminger anti-heroes. Maybe it's aging that has given me a new appreciation for the gray area between right and wrong that is depicted in most classic noir. Maybe it's the dark pessimism of these films that resonates for the 40 year-old me in a way that it didn't for my younger self. And maybe Maggie will experience the same thing a decade from now.

I don't know.
But I do know one thing. In 2058, no movie theater will be screening a 50th anniversary director's cut of Fool's Gold.

Upon that, my friends, you can most certainly bet your bongos.

2.01.2008

EXPERIENCING THE FUTURE BY WATCHING THE PAST IN THE PRESENT

We interrupt this month-long festival of mourning and remembrance for some good news on the technology front.

Each day we get a bit closer to realizing the promise of the digital future. And today, I took a giant step toward it.

At the annual Macworld Expo last month, Steve Jobs announced that Apple would be offering digital movie rentals through iTunes. Although movies have been available at the iTunes store for awhile now, they have only been offered for purchase -- usually at a cost of $9.99 or more.

I have no desire to own digital copies of feature films, nor do I have the space to permanently store such large files on my laptop.

But now, iTunes users can "rent" movies at a cost of $3.99 for recent films and $2.99 for older ones for a 24 hour period. You can hold on to the unwatched "rental" for as many as 30 days, but once you start watching you have exactly 24 hours to finish. Of course there are some simple ways to hack that time limit but, if you are a law-abiding digital citizen, you've got a day to watch.

Most of the films that Apple is offering initially are recent but, to my pleasant surprise, they are launching with a few great old films as well.

Today I rented, It Happened One Night, the 1934 Frank Capra classic starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.

After clicking on the button that said "rent movie," the film downloaded to my laptop in a matter of minutes. I connected my laptop to the TV with a simple video cable (I also use my laptop as a DVD player, so the cable is always in place) and began watching at full screen resolution. The picture quality seemed to my eyes to be DVD quality and the digital file had "chapter breaks" just like a DVD.

There was no discernable difference from the DVD-renting experience, other than the fact that I didn't have to drive to Blockbuster, or wait for Netflix to mail me a disc.

I watched about ten minutes, but then had to leave to get my hair cut (no remarks, please). I connected my iPhone to my laptop and the digital file of It Happened One Night seemlessly transferred from the computer to the phone. When I got to the subway station I pulled out my iPhone and started watching exactly where I had left off at home. And I kept watching at the barber shop while I got my head shaved, and at the nail salon while I got my pedicure (yes, I felt in need of pampering today).

Now I have 17 hours to finish watching the movie, which I can do just about anywhere.

I know I'm not the first person to do this, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm experiencing the future -- and what better way to do that than with a great old movie from the distant past.