When Histories Intersect

 

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Before I got into the business of digital archiving, I admit I was one of those who compartmentalized history into two groups: There was the history we learned in school – famous names, dates, important battles – and then there was your personal history – where you came from, who your ancestors were, what you ate for lunch last week…

But soon after I began working with people’s personal histories, it immediately became apparent that there is no divide. All history is personal.

Today, a client hired me to digitize a dozen audio cassettes. They all contain the interviews she had with her mother, a Hungarian immigrant. Hours upon hours of personal recollection recorded on audio tape of what her life was like. And the client put a bit of a rush on it because she is soon flying off to meet with the offspring of the people that saved her mother and entire family from the Holocaust. The audio tapes contain a first hand narrative from someone who was there. And she thought the family who saved her family might like to hear it.

Personal History and World History cross paths. And they do so more often than we recognize.

Never discount the experiences you have lived through. They may be the history tomorrow’s children study.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

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Got Milk?

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Memory triggers are strange things. You never expect them and can never know where they might lead. But, perhaps because of what I do for a living, they occur to me on a regular basis.

Please bear in mind, I am a nice person. I’m never hateful; I bear no animosity towards anyone. But there is something in my character that enjoys making people laugh at inappropriate moments. Nothing vindictive… just an over-abundance of playful fun.

Last night I made a joke in response to something my wife said at the dinner table. The problem is that I instinctively waited until she had taken a sip of her wine. There is nothing wrong with that per se. The spit take is a classic comedy bit. It is just that it loses a little humor when employed in real life situations.

But, in my defense, it is deeply ingrained in my soul. I still remember myself some 50 years ago. For me, my junior high school success was found in the lunchroom – by the daily recounting of how many people I could get to pass milk through their nose. It is a developed talent. Timing is everything. And, I am sad to say, I worked at perfecting the technique. I actually got quite good at it. To the point where it became second nature.

Why my peers continued to sit at my lunch table I’ll never know. Maybe they thought I wouldn’t turn my special super power upon them and they just wanted to see some other poor soul pour milk from their nostrils. But I was completely non-discriminatory. If an opportunity knocked, I answered no matter who the victim would be and more times than not I was greeted with a lactate explosion. It never failed to satisfy.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Waiting Tables

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We dined at a chain restaurant last night and I was impressed with the waitress who served us. Not only was she friendly, personable and attentive, she had the ability to balance a full tray of plates and glasses on one hand above her shoulder. It is a skill I never mastered.

After college, in between acting jobs, I did what every starving actor in New York does… I got jobs waiting tables. I have no problem admitting that I was without doubt the worst waiter in all of Manhattan. The one time I tried to do the one hand balancing trick, I dumped an entire glass of orange juice on the head of a small boy. Unfortunately, he was the son of the owner. I didn’t finish out the shift.

The only waiter job I actually excelled at was in Times Square. I got a job serving tables at the once famous delicatessen Leo Lindy’s.  Lindy’s was, in its heyday, known for its caustic waiters and excellent cheesecake. By the time I arrived on the scene, it had devolved into just another mediocre restaurant without much of the flair of the original.

Knowing I had no actual talent for waitering, I figured I had nothing to lose by trying to capture the essence of the original Leo Lindy’s. And so I began insulting my tables. If they were slow in ordering, asked stupid questions, or simply couldn’t make up their minds, I had a repertoire of snappy one-liners that Don Rickles would be proud of.

Surprisingly, they loved it. I became one of the more popular waiters in the place. The meaner I acted to them, the bigger the tip I received. It only lasted for a few months – until the next acting job came along. The only regret I have is that I never got the complaint, “Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.” Because I had the perfect response for it.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through digitization of films, video, audio, slides, and photos. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd

Be Mine

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Flowers? You don’t need no stinkin’ flowers. This Valentine’s Day, if you want to wow your significant other with a gift he or she will truly treasure, bring me 30 pictures of the two of you together along with your favorite song, and I will deliver back to you a photo video keepsake – a customized DVD presentation that will remind you both of the special relationship you share.

Let’s face it. Flowers wilt and die. Chocolates are eaten and are soon forgotten. But memories are meant to last forever. And with our Valentine’s Day Special we can make that happen for you. #Memoriesmatter.

With thirty pictures, one song, and $74.99, you’ll be able to give your sweetheart the greatest gift ever… the memories of the times you’ve spent together and the knowledge of how special they are to you… because you spent the time and effort towards putting together this keepsake. This discounted package includes an archival quality, fully authored DVD enclosed in a case with a customized case wrap and comes conveniently packaged in a gift bag.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. This offer is for lovers only so call today to place your order. 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. But we are also in the business of creating new ones. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd

 

Some Like It Hot

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I was running late at the studio yesterday so, instead of coming home to prepare dinner, I stopped off at our local Thai restaurant and brought home some chicken curry. I ordered it medium hot. One bite and I was reminded that my definition of hot and the Thai definition are separated by a few hundred degrees. It reminded me of one of my very first dates as a shy and awkward youth.

After summoning up the courage to ask a young lady for a date, I sought advice from her friends on where they thought she’d like to go for dinner. The response was immediate and unanimous. “Chinese food,” they said, “She loves Chinese food.”

“Perfect,” I thought, not knowing my Moo Goo from my Gai Pan. But I threw caution to the wind and booked a reservation anyway. How hard could it be? Food is food.

I didn’t recognize a thing on the menu. I let her order her course and then relied on the classic fall back position. “I’ll have what she’s having.” What I didn’t understand then was what she was having was extra hot.

I have a few very specific physiological reactions to extremely spicy foods… none of which are attractive, especially if you are aiming to impress someone.

First my nose begins to run. Like a fire hose. Next my eyes water. Think Terms of Endearment on steroids. And then, (and I didn’t even know this was possible), I begin to projectile sweat. Literally.. sweat droplets would leap from my forehead like they were launching themselves from the decks of the Titanic and, to my utter embarrassment, without regard to where they might land.

Throughout all this I kept trying to make small talk to keep some semblance of order and dignity to the date. Thankfully the waiter noticed my plight and brought me extra bowls of rice with the helpful advice, “Eat. You feel better.” I would have replied but my tongue was now swollen to twice its size.

I never went back to that restaurant. I never had a second date with the girl. But now, with every Chinese meal I eat, I order an extra side of rice. One never knows.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitizing of film, videotape, audio tape, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Someplace Special

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Each year around this time, the interconnected areas of Mount Dora, Tavares, Eustis, Umatilla, and East Lake County come together for a time of unity, vision and togetherness. Mount Dora calls itself “Someplace Special” and, as you may have heard me say before, I certainly believe that it is. But, truth be told, the whole area is special and each individual community rightfully exhibits pride in what they have built and where they see themselves going.

A couple of years ago, I set up a green screen and asked participants to this annual event to try to explain on camera what it is about this area that makes it “Someplace Special.” Here is a look back at some of the responses:

 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit us at www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Drawing Woody

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I spent most of yesterday with a local artist who was building a legacy video. We had already captured his artwork to a digital form; yesterday was spent capturing his narration as he explained the backstory to each of his paintings. Once done, it will be a blessing for his family and for future generations.

It did remind me of the sad fact that I possess absolutely no artistic ability. Even stick figures confuse me and, when I draw them, they seem somehow grossly deformed. However, I do have a wild card to pull out if ever pressed into service. I know how to draw Woody Woodpecker.

I remember watching Walter Lantz, brilliant animator and cartoon creator, giving a crash course on TV on how to draw Woody and for some inexplicable reason, it stuck in my head.

If you go through my grade school textbooks and happen upon my doodlings, you will be sure to see Woody’s visage on page after page.

Below is a video of Walter and Woody. I don’t think this is the one I saw because my process to draw Woody is different. But I do remember Walter Lantz giving step by step instructions on how to draw his most famous character even while that same character offered critique from the very page upon which he was being drawn.  But memories are like that… subjective. I know what I remember… I just don’t know if it is true.  But I can draw that pesky woodpecker in my sleep so I must have learned it from somewhere.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call us at 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Stingray Memories

 

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I transferred a videotape today that contained footage of my client as a young man winding his way along the California highways in a Corvette.  Took me back.

I have loved Corvettes ever since my uncle Chuck (the Navy fighter pilot) pulled up in front of our house in a stellar 1964 Corvette Stingray. Coolest car ever.

Ever since then, the idea of owning a ‘vette was paramount in my mind. But, as you know, it is not the most practical nor economical automotive choice available. Never was. Still, the idea of driving a Corvette seemed to me to be the epitome of cool. So I graduated high school (where I drove a 1964 Ford Fairlaine station wagon); I graduated college (where I drove a 1969 Pontiac Bonneville); entered the workforce (where drove a 1977 Mustang); got transferred to New York City (where I reluctantly traded in my beloved Mustang and bought a cheap Datsun because I knew it was fated to be trashed).

But then, one fateful day, I was visiting my parents at their first retirement home in Ocean City MD, when my baby sister pulled into the driveway with a guy who was driving… you guessed it… a snazzy little Corvette. Sibling envy kicked in.

The very next day, I traded in my butt-ugly, orange, and severely dented Datsun B210 and bought myself a brand new 1986 Corvette convertible. No way I was going to let my little sister have my dream car before me. And for the next 2 years, I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Watching my client’s video reminded me of the pleasure I received from driving something that other people envied. I once had an anonymous love note tucked under my wipers when I parked outside a restaurant. The fact that I couldn’t afford it never really occurred to me until I had to face that reality and traded it in for a boring sedan.  But there was no denying… it was fun while it lasted.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Happy Birthday Sergei Eisenstein!

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I don’t know if anyone noticed that Google paid homage to Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein yesterday. It would have been his 120th birthday.

I studied Eisenstein’s work when I was in college – particularly his masterpiece silent film “Battleship Potemkin.” His primary contribution to the film world was his development of the film montage – editing disparate clips in a way to evoke emotion and add to a story in a brief period of time,

The role of a film editor is often largely overlooked by the general public but there are few other contributors that have as great an impact on the final product. The editor, more than anyone else is tasked with capturing the heart of a film and delivering it to an eager audience. If he does his job well, no one notices him… they’re too involved in the story he pieced together.

Eisenstein’s work today may seem dated or even antiquated. But there is no mistaking that it was revolutionary in its time. The Odessa Steps sequence in Battleship Potemkin (filmed in 1925) is still studied in film classes today. It was even successfully copied in many other films decades later including: Brian DePalma’s The Untouchables; Terry Gilliam’s Brazil; George Lucas’s Star Wars III; and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.

As someone who edits video, I can appreciate how a film is enhanced and improved through the work of someone who takes raw footage and converts it to a finished product. It takes skill to shoot video. It takes a different skill to shape the video shot into a final product that will engage an audience.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. We also edit those memories to tell the story you want future generations to remember. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

 

 

 

Emergency!

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I spent much of yesterday sitting in a hospital room with an ailing patient. It reminded me that of all the places I’d rather not be as a healthy man, a hospital tops the list. However, should a medical emergency ever befall me, a hospital is the only place I’d want to go.

The first time I can recall being in the emergency room, I was in high school. Following a brilliant play of my design, I was all set to score a touchdown in an intramural football game when I stepped full stride into a gopher hole. My foot lodged and the momentum of my body did the rest. The result? My hip bone was no longer connected to… well, anything else.

After being ignobly carried by my teammates (through the girls’ gymnasium to my teenaged chagrin) to the school nurse’s office, I was then rushed onto an ambulance for a quick ride to the hospital. Guys in white coats rushed to the vehicle, rushed me onto a gurney, rushed me into the hospital, and there I began the interminable wait to be treated. With no rooms to be had, I was pushed up against the wall where, I was convinced, I was promptly forgotten.

At one point a young nun came to stand beside my gurney. Never having been in this situation before, I politely asked if she was “my nun.” I didn’t know. I thought maybe every patient was assigned one. She quickly moved on.

As it turns out, I eventually got the treatment I needed. Bones and ligaments healed – and healed so completely that to this day I cannot even remember which leg it was that got injured. It was restored to its original form. So I guess I have to be thankful to the doctors that tended to me.

Just as I am thankful to the dedicated individuals of Leesburg Regional Hospital Emergency Department. Professional, caring, compassionate, and friendly, they made a trying situation tolerable and a unpleasant event almost pleasurable. Well done.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd