My First Blog… Over 20 Years Ago

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You may not know this but Memories Matter isn’t my first trip around the blogosphere. It has been a full ten years since I retired as The Christian Critic. Between 1998 and 2008, I wrote movie reviews and film commentaries under the name of Michael Elliott.  My reviews were published in the website/blog Movie Parables and in a few syndicated columns scattered across small towns.

My very first review was the Leonardo DiCaprio 1998 film, The Man In The Iron Mask. After that, over the next ten years, I reviewed pretty much every major film that was given a national release in the U.S. In addition to providing the traditional critical appraisal of the film, I added a unique twist. I looked for (and always managed to find) a way to use the film or an aspect of it to make a biblical connection.

For instance, the familiar quote from Mr. Spock in the Star Trek series “Live long and prosper,” is more than Vulcan greeting… it is a biblical promise that can be found in both Ephesians chapter 6 and 3 John chapter 1.

In the Disney animated classic, “Pinnochio.” Jimmy Cricket tell us that “a conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to.” The line has even more poignance when you replace the word conscience with God. After all, “a still small voice” is how He is described in 1 Kings 19.

Writing the Christian Critic blog was a great time of spiritual growth and development for me because it forced me to look at the world through the filter of God’s Word. In addition to reading the Bible for understanding, I began to see more clearly how it can be practically applied to our lives. God did not give us His Word just so we could read it… It is meant to be lived.

That blog led to the publication of two books, Thus Saith Hollywood (vol 1 and 2). They are still available on Amazon and, come to think of it, in my studio… I think I still have a carton left somewhere.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

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Please Czech This Out

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Sometimes we just wait too long and then it is too late.

I spoke today with someone serving as caretaker for an elderly person. It is hard, especially when you’re caring for someone you care about. But the reality is that none of us are going to be around forever. We would be wise to take the opportunity while it exists to ask the questions and get information that will otherwise be lost for all time.

We offer a service that we call LifeStories. It’s where we sit an individual in front of a camera and ask them questions about their life: what their childhood was like; what events stood out for them during their lifetimes; what their fondest memories were. Their answers are recorded and preserved in a video format that can then be passed onto the family members, and preserved for generations to come.

Not doing something like this results in a hard lesson to learn. Inevitably, gaps in our understanding will come to light and we’ll wish we knew more about our ancestors and our family history.

Case in point: The above picture was found in a box filled with other photos belonging to my family.  I don’t know the people pictured. I don’t recognize the setting. I have no idea what the occasion was that prompted the picture to be taken. But it was apparently noteworthy enough to be included in a collection of our family memorabilia.

There is a clue. On the back side of the photo are non-English words scrawled in pen. I don’t speak the language. I’m thinking it is Czech, the nationality of my father’s side of the family. I post it here in case anyone can translate it for me.  It may be nothing. It could mean everything.  No way for me to know.

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I plugged it into a Siri driven translator and it came back with the following: “This is a shoe shooter Terom – the son of a bathtub slips the torch eo mu pomrala heraz feathers.”  Perhaps it is just me but somehow I think Siri’s translation may be a bit faulty.

If only I had taken the time and effort to learn more about my father’s parents and their past while they were here to answer those questions. #MemoriesMatter.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Digital Video Archive

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It was a relatively slow day in the studio today. So I spent the time catching up on the video transfers in my queue. I find that more and more people are requesting transfers of videotapes to computer files on usb drives instead of getting DVD disks. And we are happy to do that for them. And we still process a large number of DVD disks. And we are happy to do that as well. But we do have a third option – developed specifically for us. We call it DVA, Digital Video Archive.

Last year, during our corporate getaway, a few of us teamed together to do a western tribute to our DVA product.  I have it posted below. DVA brings the best of the DVD features (chapter markers, authoring capabilities) to a streaming technology. It allows you the ultimate flexibility to watch and share your home movies – wherever you are, whenever you want.  Call us for more information.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, here’s the award winning short film: The DVA Kid.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Say U.N.C.L.E.

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I had a client in my studio today who made a living out of buying and selling heavy equipment at auction. Sounds like a dream job for any boy who once spent hours on the floor with his trucks and cars. I don’t think I was ever that kid. I don’t remember being as infatuated with big trucks or heavy machines like my sons were or my nephews were at a young age.  Me, I was more into role-playing.

I would spend hours protecting the snow covered neighborhood as Batman… climbing snowplowed mounds pretending they were mountains. My younger sister tagged along as Robin until she got too cold.

Whenever anyone in our neighborhood bought a new appliance and the box it was packed in appeared outside their house, it immediately became a fort or log cabin as I took on the persona of Roy Rogers. The girl next door was an adequate stand-in for Dale Evans.

But one Christmas, I received the coolest gift ever.  I was around 9 years old and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a bit hit for NBC. I was gifted a genuine U.N.C.L.E briefcase with combination locks, agent i.d.s, a plastic gun with a silencer, passports, walkie talkies connected by string, and hidden compartments galore. I went from cartoon crimefighter to cowboy hero to genuine superspy.

For the next year, I was a man from U.N.C.L.E…. I opted to be Napoleon Solo because I didn’t know how to pronounce Ilya Kuryakin. I also believe this was the year that proved to be my last foray into the make believe world of pretending. I can’t remember play-acting after that. But it sure was fun while it lasted.

For the uninitiated, U.N.C.L.E stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. Napoleon Solo (played by Robert Vaughn) and Ilya Kuryakin (played by David McCallum) were the top agents who took their orders from Alexander Waverly (played by Leo G. Carroll). Their nemesis were the agents of Thrush, whose primary goal was, what else?, to take over the world. In my neighborhood, I and I alone was responsible for stopping them.  At least until my gun broke and I lost my agent id.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Viva La Similarité

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I have been asked repeatedly, “Do you write your own blogs or did you hire someone?” When I assure them that I write all my own stuff they quickly follow up with “Where do you find the time?” or “Where do you get the ideas on what to write about?”

If you haven’t picked up on the theme of my blog as yet, it is based on a simple truism. Memories matter. Each one of us is a walking encyclopedia of experiences. We wake up, experience life, go back to sleep. And repeat day after day.

When I started my Home Video Studio business, people started bringing their memories to me for preservation. And it struck me, in an age when our differences are continually being magnified or exploited in what appears to me to be an orchestrated attempt to keep walls or divides between us, how similar our memories are. Despite all the cultural, racial, economic, philosophical, political, or gender specific labels that can be used to highlight our differences, our memories seem to prove the opposite. They unite us in a deeply personal and profound way.

We tend to record the same kind of events and for the same reasons. Our memories spark the same emotions within us; bring the same smile to our lips; cause the same tears to be shed. When a customer comes in and tells me what memory he or she is looking to have preserved, it is never hard for me to relate. I have the same kind of memories and I know how important they are to me.

Most if not all of my blog posts come directly from a shared memory that I have been reminded of by working with or talking to my clients. I never seem to have writers block because we all have a vast memory vault from which to pull treasures.

Yes, we are all different because we are all unique individuals. But within our differences there is plenty of common ground upon which we can stand. Share a memory with someone today. You may be surprised to see where it will lead.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

This Blog Post Is Brought To You By The Letter R

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The good old days may have indeed been old but they weren’t always 100% good.  I certainly had my share of trials and tribulations. Like anytime I was asked to speak.

I had trouble with the letter R as a young boy. Don’t know why. I just couldn’t form certain sounds with my mouth. And all those sounds somehow involved an R. To this day, I can’t be friends with anyone named Rory unless I give him a nickname.  Spike would be a good choice. I can say Spike.

I distinctly remember the summer before I started “real” school. Kindergarten was for kids. But I was graduating to the numbered grades. I was proud and ready to go. Until… All summer long, my parents would bring their friends over to the house and inevitably get them to ask me one question: “What grade will you be in this year?” I was taught to always answer an adult’s question. So I would dutifully respond, “Fust… I’m going to fust grade.” And that response was always rewarded with a gale of laughter.

I became a voracious reader of the thesaurus – finding words I could use to communicate while trying to avoid the “er” sound. Fust grade was awful… made tolerable only because I had a young pretty teacher, Miss Muella (actually Mueller but well, you now know my problem).  But I stuck it out and aced fust grade. And I graduated into, God be praised, second grade! I could say that all day long.  I couldn’t wait for my parent’s friends to ask me now what grade I’ll be in.

That summer, I had my opportunity… my parents had some house party and we were trotted out to pay our respects. And the question was asked… “What grade will you be in this year?” Without hesitation, I stood tall and proclaimed with perfect elocution, “Second! I will be in second grade.” I wasn’t expecting a follow up question.  “And what grade will you be in next year?” “Thud,” I blurted out without thinking. And my heart sank as the laughter rose around me.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Cry Me A River

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Tears are shed relatively freely in our studio. Most of the times they are happy tears… but not always. Memories can dredge up emotions and can bring back the pain of loss or hurt. Our clients know they will always find a compassionate ear or empathetic shoulder on which to lean at such times. And we stock a large supply of tissue.

We’ve seen octogenarians shed tears watching footage of their now adult grandchildren as kids and being reminded of how quickly life has passed.

We’ve had people break down simply by hearing the long forgotten voice of a family member who had departed this earth decades earlier.

We’ve helped families plan memorial video presentations for their loved ones even as they grapple with the deepest emotional pain they’ve ever experienced.

We get it. We understand. And we are right there for you. Because as sometimes painful as they are, memories do matter.  Because with the passage of time, our sadness will eventually fade. And when it does, it is the memories that we have worked to save or preserve that will bring us comfort, joy, and happiness. Sometimes, it feels like they are the only things that can.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

545 people are responsible for the mess, but they unite in a common con

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The passing of noted columnist Charles Krauthammer made me pine for the straight talking, clear thinking columnists I grew up reading. They are becoming rarer and rarer to find. Krauthammer was one. In my day, the one columnist whose earned my respect and admiration was Charley Reese.  I appreciated his no nonsense style and common sense approach to observing the world around him.  Here is arguably his most widely circulated column first published in 1984.

February 3, 1984|By Charley Reese

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don’t have the constitutional authority to vote in appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don’t write the tax code. The Congress does. You and I don’t set fiscal policy. the Congress does. You and I don’t control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices – 545 human beings out of 238 million- are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Bank because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.

I exclude all of the special interest and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.

No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.

Don’t you see now the con game that is played on the people by the politicians? Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of Tip O’Neill, who stood up and criticized Ronald Reagan for creating deficits.

The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept. it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating appropriations and taxes. O’Neill is speaker of the House. He is the leader of the majority party. He and his fellow Democrats, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto.

Just 545 Americans have fouled up this great nation.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 235 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted – by present facts – of incompetence and irresponsibility.

I can’t think of a single domestic problem, from an unfair tax code to defense overruns, that is not traceable directly to those people.

When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise complete power over the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red. If the Marines are in Lebanon, it’s because they want them in Lebanon.

There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it.

Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical force like “the economy,” “inflation” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. They and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses – provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Batman

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Did I ever tell you all about my bat encounter?  It was probably not one of my finest moments.  Picture me, alone in a house. Watching television in a pair of gym shorts and not much else. It was summer. And hot.

I noticed a smudge on the fireplace bricks. Never noticed it before. I went up to wipe it off but as I reached out my hand, it flew away.

My scream broke a decibel level, I’m sure. Last time I heard anything like that come out of my mouth was at the end of Carrie when (SPOILER ALERT) Carrie’s hand reached out of the grave.

My mind came to grips with the situation. I had a bat in the house. I was the only one home. It was up to me to defend the homestead. I needed to gear up.

Protect my feet – cowboy boots. Protect my hands –  winter gloves. Wait a minute… didn’t I hear that bats like to nest in hair? On goes the cowboy hat.  Now I look like the consummate bat hunter. Gym shorts, cowboy boots, big insulated gloves, bare chested, with a stetson to complete the outfit.

And to capture the flying demon?  What else… a tennis racquet. Did I mention that I was alone in the house?  Thank goodness. There would be no photographic evidence of any of this.

I stalked the creature around our living room and for a terrifying quarter of an hour it was man against flying mammal. I swung my tennis racquet with wild abandon any time it fluttered in my direction, looking every bit the weekend tennis player that I was. Suddenly, out of frustration, I flung the racquet up in disgust and accidentally clipped the bat which zigged when it should have zagged. It crashed to the floor.

I quickly placed a trash can on top of it and sat back, spent.  Now what? I caught a bat. I knew I had only stunned it. So what do I do?

I settled on the humane option. I took the trash can out to the patio, removed the lid and let the bat fly free into the night sky. But I can’t help thinking that while I had a funny story to tell my friends, the bat had a much better tale to tell – the story about a near-naked cowboy tennis player with big hands who in a moment of compassion, let him go.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

You’ve Got Mail!

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Who can forget that iconic greeting or the soothing but irritating dial up tones you heard when accessing your America OnLine account? For those old enough, the odds are that AOL was your first introduction to the wonders of the Internet.

AOL began in 1983 and went through a number of transitions before hitting it big by becoming America’s gateway to the Internet. I first used it with my Commodore 64. The Commodore 64 was an 8 bit system and took its name from the fact that it possessed a whopping 64 kilobytes of RAM. It was far from being blazingly fast but we didn’t care. Back then, we were amazed at the world it introduced us to.

This comes to mind because I had a woman in my studio yesterday with a dilemma. She had a box of old floppy disks that contained a bunch of .art files. These files could not be opened with any program known to her.

.art is a file format that AOL used for graphic images to facilitate transfer speeds. It was a highly compressed file format that is unfortunately no longer used in today’s gigabyte world.

I was unable to help her recover the files that were on those floppy disks because the programs used to read those files are no longer in existence. I asked if perhaps she still had access to the computer which made the files or a backup of the original computer’s hard drive. But she did not. And unfortunately, no other program that I know of can open the files, uncompress them and render a readable image that can then be exported to a different format that can be accessed, stored or printed with today’s equipment.

I truly hate disappointing people. But it served as a rude reminder that technology is continually advancing and as it does, it makes our old technical standards obsolete and unsupported. We can and do work wonders with many of the old formats that were once popular decades ago. But as time continues to advance, our abilities to access older and more obscure formats will grow less and less. It is, unfortunately, the way of the world. If you have memories stored on devices or in files that you currently can’t access, you may want to think about getting them transferred soon before that option is taken away from you forever.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.