The Greatest Generation

Don Knotts passed away. Now my two favorite TV guys are gone: Don Knotts and Bob Denver.

LOS ANGELES - Don Knotts, who won TV immortality and five Emmys for playing the bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show" with self-deprecating humor, was remembered by his friend and co-star as a comedic genius who wrote some of the show's best scenes.

"Don was a small man ... but everything else about him was large: his mind, his expressions," Griffith told The Associated Press on Saturday. "Don was special. There's nobody like him."

Knotts, 81, died Friday of pulmonary and respiratory complications at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, said Sherwin Bash, his friend and manager.

His half-century career included more than 25 films and seven TV series, most notably playing the bug-eyed deputy who carried in his shirt pocket the one bullet he was allowed after shooting himself in the foot. The constant fumbling, a recurring sight gag, was typical of his self-deprecating humor.

The show ran from 1960-68, and was in the top 10 of the Nielsen ratings each season, including a No. 1 ranking its final year. It is one of only three series in TV history to bow out at the top: The others are "I Love Lucy" and "Seinfeld." The 249 episodes have appeared frequently in reruns and spawned a large, active network of fan clubs.

Knotts, whose shy, soft-spoken manner was unlike his high-strung characters, once said he was most proud of the Fife character and didn't mind being remembered that way.

He also played the would-be swinger landlord Ralph Furley on "Three's Company," which he joined in 1979, and was an original cast member of "The Steve Allen Show," the comedy-variety show that ran from 1956-61.

Knotts' G-rated films were family fun, not box-office blockbusters. In most, he ends up the hero and gets the girl — a girl who can see through his nervousness to the heart of gold.

In the part-animated 1964 film "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," Knotts played a meek clerk who turns into a fish after he is rejected by the Navy.

In 1998, he had a key role in the back-to-the-past movie "Pleasantville," playing a folksy television repairman whose supercharged remote control sends a teen boy and his sister into a TV sitcom past.

The West Virginia native began his show biz career even before he graduated from high school, performing as a ventriloquist at local clubs and churches. He majored in speech at West Virginia University, then took off for the big city.

"I went to New York cold. On a $100 bill. Bummed a ride," he recalled in a visit to his hometown of Morgantown, where city officials renamed a street for him in 1998.

Within six months, Knotts had taken a job on a radio Western called "Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders," playing a wisecracking, know-it-all handyman. He stayed with it for five years before making his series TV debut on "The Steve Allen Show."

He married Kay Metz in 1948, the year he graduated from college. The couple had two children before divorcing in 1969. Knotts later married, then divorced Lara Lee Szuchna.

Knotts is survived by his wife of three years, Francey Yarborough, and two children, Karen and Thomas, from his first marriage.

My grandfather is older than either one of them and thankfully in good health but now that those younger than him are going...When I think of my grandfather I think 65 for some reason and have to remind myself he isn't 65 anymore or even 75. He is still very tall and walks straight and dresses up everyday in khakis and a blue shirt. He has a million pairs of khakis and blue shirts. He still has very young gestures. Some old photos of him from the early 70s have him looking quite glamorous and I can't pinpoint why except that he has always carried himself very well and dressed simply but with style. He is a WWII Purple Heart recipient being shot 3 times and left for dead on the side of a mountain in Italy in the winter at the age of 17 or was it 19. He has endured many operations before he was 25 and pain from his wounds his entire life but I have never seen him unhappy once in my life. I do fear for him now that those of his generation, called the Greatest Generation are passing on.

mental notes i am sharing

I have been so occupied with other pressing issues and such I haven't had time to play with my cameras and I miss that. I have two Holgas that I purchased for $14 each, that was back pre-Holga fad and they could be found really cheap. I think they go for $35 now. Anyway, I played with them for a while and had fun but gave it up because I was spending all my money on film and developing. It was supposed to be temporary but they got stashed in a drawer and I found them the other day and got so happy! Time to start taking pictures again, can't believe I put my Holga out of mind when I took out of my bag.
I also played with an old Poloroid Land Camera. I was spending a lot on 667 and 669 film but LOVED the results. Now I see these wonderful sights and have nothing to photograph them with. As much as I loathe the whole digi cam revolution and the inching out of real cameras and film I still want one. While I still want the Canon A620 or something like that I am still looking for a good Brick-that's right, a mid 60's Argus. I would also like to find flash cubes for my 110. I love the grain those produce and would like indoor shots. I would also like to develope some 120 film I took a few months ago with my Brownie and DOH! I still have 3 disposable cameras to develop. I'm usually so camera and film happy but man, I have really slacked off these past months.

Now that I have taken my cameras out my quest for that perfect remote control SLR and non digi cam is up again. I'm a huge Cindy Sherman fan. I was introduced to her work in the 80s when I was in high school. I was trying to do that sort of thing myself as a kid and teen, costumes, characters and self portraits etc....and she did it so perfect and right on, made me want to make my own scenarios even more but I never found a good enough camera or long enough self timer and cable release.
I need to retire from the workforce. Seems like Austin is filled with people my age who retired from the workforce ages ago and are doing quite well doing nothing but pursuing their hobbies and interests during the day. What they do for money, dental and medical care is not my business but leaves me puzzled and envious. I'm not talking setting up a business and working for yourself, that IS work, I'm talking about the...darest I say...slackers (said it, shoot me) who I see when I take a vacation or sick day. Who are these thirtysomethings at HEB at 10am and out taking photos at 11am and eating at Dog Almighty at noon and stay playing ping pong until 2pm and keep referring to how they did yesterday and last week at ping pong right at that same ping pong table!!!! Green, I tell you, turning green! Students? Nah!!!!! Too old looking. No way, don't have those little worried faces and even students pack it up and take it indoors come end of the semester and I see the same faces out and about year round. Green I tell you...very, very green!!!! I'm taking more pictures.

Oh yeah and listening to Transformer.

Mini-Minutiae Rants

So, what happened to all the Necco wafer conversation hearts this year? Were they not made? Did they sell out? Did I go to the wrong stores? I came up with nothing after driving to 4 stores!!!

I was looking forward to blogs filled with I hate Valentine's Day etc.....nothing. Perhaps now that retail has co-opted this,  maybe no one can say it better than corporate?

Recently my neighborhood has been into this anti-McMansion thing. I'm into the anti-McMansion thing myself. I'm pro yard, anti the razing of cute, working, stable little homes from the 50s and 60s, anti-McMansion developers, anti-McMansion trash. Crestview and Brentwood are cute little hoods with tract and ranch homes. Some were not kept up as well as others. So tear them down and put in a cute little home that fits the lot and aesthetic of a basic American foursquare.

On Ebay those house plan books from the past go for big bucks and I see new books at the stores selling "vintage" plans, repro-retro there are people out there interested in these homes. Hmmm I'd like to see more stucco California Mission style myself like the few that are sprinkled about town but....

But are Austinites really all in favor of these ill constructed, ill looking giant, chicken coop homes.

My Grandad built chicken coops for his birds and they looked just like the modern urban homes they are building sans the glass on windows and the garages. They aren't attractive, post-modern looking glamour homes, not repro-retro California style, not at all reminiscent of the new classic and much coveted Usonian home, or even Joe Eichler (who built homes from 1947 to 1973, using architects Anshen & Allen, Jones & Emmons and Claude Oakland), nothing like that. Pure Post modern Chicken Coop. They go up in like one month, made of plywood and sell for upwards of $300K! They don't look at all stable or secure.

(My Grandparents in Mexico built a home in the 60s that is so ultra modern. I don't have a photo but I have the blueprints and would love to build that home in town (huge pipe dream). It looks fresh today and is the missing link between the 50s ranch and what Metrohouse is doing. Why can't people put up homes like those I wonder. )

So what happens is it looks out of place up against homes from the 40s and ranch homes from the 50s and the run down rentals. Those structures themselves I feel will look run down in a few years. They are all painted so drab, earth toned. Too many Frank Lloyd Wrongs with money.

They speak of density. Things that are done well in other cities fail in this town because there is a lack of intelligent resources when it comes to city planning. If you want a single family home over 2100sqft, new! then you are burb material. Duplexes? I would never want to OWN one. Special people live in those things and own one. I see future rentals when I see duplex. Metrohouse does their stuff well (not too crazy about all Studio Momentum has done though). It's these others who do post modern so poorly. I wish Metrohouse would stop with charging so much though. I guess we"need" duplexes now? Is the yard passe? So anyway, my hood is quickly becoming a zoning nightmare. Like eating oysters at 2am and watching that Jacque Tati movie with that modern home then falling asleep.....
People with bad taste and bad ideas and no vision may win again. Mediocrity and greed are ruining Austin.

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Happy Valentine's Day

My dream job would be designing greeting cards but I would be happy to just design Valentines. In school we'd decorate those old one gallon milk boxes (remember those?) and then at 2pm someone's mom would walk in with cupcakes. Room mothers, that's what they were called. Then there was candy and the passing out of the Valentines. Everyone silly on sugar punch jumping around all excited. Construction paper hearts with paper doilies going home to Mommies. Everyone would read their crappy and kitchy Valentines. I liked themed ones. I swear I got a Happy Days {television show} Valentine once. I remember signing my name to 30 Valentines the night before with my Mom was such a chore. There were people I wanted to leave out but had to stick to class list. The teacher cards-the biggest ones. Valentines that were scratch and sniff were cool. I put a lipstick kiss on one anonymous Valentine in the 3rd grade. I had an extra.  It was a huge hit and created much excitement and got a lot of laughs. I kept my secret. No one ever found out who it was. I can't remember who I gave it too. Now I make a few cards every year for friends.


The demise of the Stardust, Riviera and Westward Ho

Future Vegas is one big, sterile, mall of the bland and predictable, the formulated, the focus group tested, the safe, the replicated and mcmansioned. Future Vegas will be for the gluttonous, the mediocre, the easily frightened (those afraid of the grit and the color a place can offer), the easily impressed the uncreative, the culturally lazy, the aesthetically handicapped and the banal. Vegas isn't what it used to be when those "old" hotels ruled (still do in my book, I don't need a theme park to get my jollies, I don't need a mall either I would go to gamble, to dress up and be seen and catch Don Rickles or Tony Bennet or Wayne). This is the NASCARRING of America. America isn't what it used to be, there is a disgustingly,gluttonous hunger from a country with a huge void that ...FYI won't ever be filled because the more you have, the more you want and it gets to be as interesting as a white wall. America's best years are behind it, culturally, economically, socially and by all means politically.
RIP Old School Vegas.

To All Luddites

Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Managing Editor
Wed Feb 1, 10:00 AM ET

After 145 years, Western Union has quietly stopped sending telegrams.

On the company's web site, if you click on "Telegrams" in the left-side navigation bar, you're taken to a page that ends a technological era with about as little fanfare as possible:

"Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a customer service representative."

The decline of telegram use goes back at least to the 1980s, when long-distance telephone service became cheap enough to offer a viable alternative in many if not most cases. Faxes didn't help. Email could be counted as the final nail in the coffin.

Western Union has not failed. It long ago refocused its main business to make money transfers for consumers and businesses. Revenues are now $3 billion annually. It's now called Western Union Financial Services, Inc. and is a subsidiary of First Data Corp.

The world's first telegram was sent on May 24, 1844 by inventor Samuel Morse. The message, "What hath God wrought," was transmitted from Washington to Baltimore. In a crude way, the telegraph was a precursor to the Internet in that it allowed rapid communication, for the first time, across great distances.

Western Union goes back to 1851 as the Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company. In 1856 it became the Western Union Telegraph Company after acquisition of competing telegraph systems. By 1861, during the Civil War, it had created a coast-to-coast network of lines.

Other company highlights:

1866: Introduced the first stock ticker.
1871: Introduced money transfers.
1884: Became one of the original 11 stocks tracked by the Dow Jones Average.
1914: Introduced the first consumer charge card.
1964: Began using a transcontinental microwave beam to replace land lines.
1974: Launched Westar I, the first U.S. dedicated communications satellite.

On Jan. 26, the last day you could send a telegram, First Data announced it would spin Western Union off as an independent, publicly traded company.