SAFER AT HOME – DAY THIRTY-TWO

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May 4, 2020

There’s a challenge trending on Facebook where people are asked to post the ten most influential albums they listened to growing up. I’m seeing lots of variety but none of the albums that most influenced me.  See, I was never all that into collecting music or developing a musical style or taste. My vinyl influences were of a different genre but they nevertheless greatly helped to shape my personality.  So without further ado…

Number 10: That Was The Year That Was – Tom Lehrer.

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It was a live album recorded at the hungry i in San Francisco, containing performances by Tom Lehrer of satiric topical songs he originally wrote for the NBC television series That Was The Week That Was. I can still remember all the words to “New Math.”

Number 9: An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May.

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A Grammy award winning album that features selected pieces from their Broadway show of the same name. Nichols went on to become an acclaimed Hollywood director (The Graduate, Catch-22. The Birdcage). I performed one of their skits in high school.

Number 8: The Wonderful World of Jonathan Winters.

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Wildly inventive, utilizing improvisational humor, Winters was the Robin Williams of his day. Williams may have been better, but Winters was first.

Number 7: The First Family.

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A good-natured parody of then-President John F. Kennedy. Issued by Cadence Records, The First Family became the “largest and fastest selling record in the history of the record industry. This and Tom Lehrer’s album were my introduction into political humor.

Number 6: My Son, the Nut – Alan Sherman.

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 My Son, the Nut was the last comedy album to hit #1 on the Billboard 200 for over half a century, until “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Mandatory Fun in 2014. The classic “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah: A Letter From Camp” was cut one on side two.

Number 5: Class Clown – George Carlin.

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 With the Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television, Carlin brilliantly demonstrated how humor can be used to deliver a powerful social message.

Number 4: Pardon my Blooper! – Kermit Shafer.

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 A collection of live radio and television mistakes, usually of an embarrassing nature. A guilty pleasure, it never failed to have me doubled up in laughter, no matter how many times I heard it.

Number 3: To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With – Bill Cosby.

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Regardless of the reprehensible choices he made in his personal life, there is no denying that as a comedic storyteller, there were few in his league.  Spin Magazine once chose this 1968 recording as the greatest comedy album of all time.

Number 2: Mom Always Liked You Best – The Smothers Brothers.

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 The personalities, the banter, the musical talent, they were one of my favorite comedic acts. I loved their TV show as well.

Number 1: The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart.

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This recording won Album of the Year at the 1961 Grammy Awards, where Newhart was named Best New Artist; it was the first comedy album to win Album of the Year and the only time a comedian had won Best New Artist. His delivery probably did more to shape my humor than any other influence. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora 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.

Safer at Home – Day One

April 3, 2020

Well, that happened sooner than expected.  It is just the first official day of the Safer at Home – Florida initiative and I’ve already lost track of days and dates.  It unfortunately came to my attention as I was leaving the house (with mask on) to walk down to my 92 year old mother-in-law’s house where she is riding this thing out with her caregiver. I was just checking on some workers who are painting the exterior of her home. As I was almost out the door I hear my wife’s voice behind me, “Happy Anniversary.”

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That’s the look of a man who just got busted.  It’s the first time in 28 years that I’ve forgotten. What makes it worse is that I’m the one who usually has to remind Kate. The one year I forget – she remembers. And I have nothing for her. It’s not like I can sneak out now and pick up some last minute gift that she’d see right through anyway… So what’s a guy to do? It has to be big. Something she will appreciate despite the memory lapse.

There’s only one thing.  It’s time for a promissory note. And as much as it pains me… or will pain me… I know what she wants.  I finally have to bite the bullet and commit to losing those extra 10 pounds I’ve been carrying around the middle for so long. I tell you this much. Lesson learned. I’ll never forget an anniversary again.

So, I was looking on the Internet for a piece of exercise equipment that could be easily used during this time of self-isolation and I immediately turned to my go-to trusted source… the As Seen On TV website. The bottom line: this year, I’ll be wrapping up the Simply Fit Board and Mat purchase receipt as an anniversary gift.

Maybe if I’m lucky, when it arrives, she’ll love it so much, I won’t get a chance to use it.

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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.

Schnitzel Me This

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We here at Home Video Studio have a pretty cool business. We are in the unique position to have access to a huge storehouse of personal memories because families bring their recorded treasures to us to preserve and protect. And in the process, we get to vicariously experience things of which we may have no personal memory. For example, I had never before heard of or listened to Professor Schnitzel. And yet, I had the opportunity to hear three of his recorded comedy routines that were presented to me on vinyl 45s.

But in researching this name, I came across something very interesting. There were at least two Professor Schnitzels that became popular in America. One operated on the west coast in the 1920s and the other on the east coast during the 50s and 60s. There is no indication that the one was aware of the other’s existence.

The first Professor Schnitzel was played by a man named Clarence Coleman in the 1920s.  A realtor in San Francisco, Coleman created the character for a radio show in 1927 called Blue Monday Jamboree which aired on KFRC-AM. While CBS eventually picked the show up and syndicated it nationally, Professor Schnitzel was sadly never added to it as a regular character. Over the next few years he would make appearances on other shows up and down the AM dial.

The second Schnitzel made his home in Reading PA. Theodore L. Rickenbach was best known for performing his character in front of live audiences and for producing a series of 45rpm recordings for Butch Records.  It is this Professor Schnitzel that I heard yesterday when I transferred those 45s into CDs for my customer.

Both men based their humor by adopting a thick, almost unintelligible Pennsylvania Dutch accent along with a folksy demeanor to tell jokes and make funny observations about life, language and everything Pennsylvania Dutch. Audiences of the day howled.

By the way, the word schnitzel, if you didn’t know, comes from the German for “slice” and refers to a dish where a cut of meat is pounded flat, coated with breadcrumbs and fried. Typically made with veal, chicken, beef, turkey or pork. The veal version is known as Wiener Schnitzel.

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.

Bum Rap

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Throughout my adult life I’ve carried with me an air of what I thought was self-confidence… self-reliance… self-assurance…  All of which I believed to be positive and desirable qualities. I come to find out that what I thought was self-confidence, others perceived as arrogance.

Go figure.

The realization came over a dinner conversation I had with my 90 year old mother-in-law, God bless her. We were talking about how difficult it can be to trust people that you don’t really know and I made the tongue-in-cheek remark of: “Yeah, you didn’t really like me at first, did you?” And to my great surprise, she agreed.

My wife was aghast. “What do you mean, you didn’t like him?  What was wrong with him?” She deadpanned, “He was arrogant.” And then she turned to me, stone-faced. I immediately went defensive.

“I have heard that before,” I admitted, “but it isn’t true…” I’m just comfortable with who I am. I don’t find that I have to put on a polite facade when I meet people.”

“Like I said,” she quickly replied, “Arrogant.”

I had no response. And my wife was too busy laughing to come to my defense.

It’s hard to be arrogant when you are bested by a 90 year old in a battle of wits.

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.

New Is Not Always Better

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My wife and I like antiques and have pretty much furnished our home with them. Perhaps 80% of the furniture we use is over 50 years old if not older. One thing we quickly realized is that certain concessions have to be made when you choose to populate your living space with old things.  Like not expecting them to always work as they should.

We have a 100 year old storage cabinet with drawers that always stick… to the point where I don’t remember what we’ve stored in two of the drawers because it’s been so long since I’ve been able to open them. But the cabinet itself looks great and fits the space. And so far I haven’t missed whatever might be in those two drawers so I really don’t feel the need to replace it.

However, our dining room table which was bought from a Sears catalog in 1905 was admittedly beginning to show its age. The table itself still looked in good shape but whenever we inserted its leaves to accommodate visitors, my wife was so embarrassed by their condition she needed to use a tablecloth to cover the flaws.  (Which kind of gives me a clue as to how she’ll be dressing me in years to come.)

Anyway, we started pricing out replacement dining room sets and the costs to get something of quality were exorbitant. So we just kept the old Sears set until we could figure something out. One day, at an antique auction, I spotted an old dining room set that was being put up for sale. Nice carvings, chairs looked great. And it was a drawer-leaf table – meaning it went from a 4 top to a 8 top by pulling out its built-in leaves. And they were in great shape… original to the table which means no tablecloth would be needed.

I looked at my wife who shrugged and said, “I don’t think so.”  By this time, we’d been looking for over a year without finding even a potential candidate. I was excited by this find but my wife was not so I played it cool.  I sat down and watched the auction.

The table came up late in the sale. Still looked good to me. My wife sat stone faced. The auctioneer opened the bidding. Crickets. No one wanted it. He dropped the opening bid price. Sounds of silence from the crowd. He looked at one of his partners and said, “Looks like I’m buying this one. $100 to…”

I thrust my paddle in the air so quickly, I broke the sound barrier. Based on the expression my wife gave me, she must have heard it. But I bought the dining room set: One expandable table, six chairs, in near perfect condition, for $100.00. It now sits proudly in our home as a table no one sits at… right near the cabinet that doesn’t open and the clock that doesn’t chime.

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.

I Am Grout

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I’d like to meet the twisted mind that invented grout… or at least the consumer application of it. It’s difficult to apply; impossible to keep clean; and a major pain to remove. Really, what’s to like?

Guess what I spent the weekend doing? Why my wife puts handyman items on my weekend todo list I will never know. After so many years of marriage, you’d think she’d pick up on the fact that, while I have many long suits, being handy is not among them.

But the state of the grout in our shower stall has been skeezing her out for a while now so as I approached my Sunday chore list I saw written (in capital letters) REGROUT THE SHOWER TILES!  First step: I immediately went to get a six pack of beer to use as a celebration once the job was done. It is important to self-motivate.

Turns out, I got lucky. It wasn’t the grout that needed replacing. The silicone sealer had become stained over time – probably because it was poorly installed the last time it was done. (Not one of my finest efforts.)

So out with the old, in with the new. To be honest, it wasn’t that tough a job… at least it wouldn’t have been for a guy under 5 feet tall. But at 6’3”, and something something years old, my body doesn’t bend and maneuver in a small square space all that well. It did get a little looser after I self-lubricated by cracking the celebration beverages a bit early.

So mission accomplished. Our stall has been re-silicone sealed. Can’t wait to see what is on the list for next Sunday.

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 Got A Problem? I Got a Joke.

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One of the benefits of being a part of a franchise operation is the ability to tap into the collective knowledge of those who are providing the same services you are… even though they may be in different areas of the country.  Every so often, one of us will run into something that we haven’t seen before and it is comforting that we have the ability to learn from those who have been doing this longer and have probably run into the seemingly unsolvable problem that lies before us.

Sometimes.

Recently, one of our colleagues reached out for suggestions about a difficult file transfer he was trying to accomplish.  An android phone video file that needed to be accessed by a Mac computer. And none of the established procedures were working.  The colleague reached out to the Home Video Studio community. And the response was overwhelming.

Studio owner after studio owner offered suggestions as we have all had to deal with uncooperative devices. But all the suggestions offered had been tried to no avail. After multiple suggestions and multiple “tried that, doesn’t work” responses, there was only one recourse. I decided to chime in. After all, the studio owner seemed desperate enough to try anything.

“Take the android phone,” I advised, “Place it in a paper bag. Wave it over your head… And scream like a chicken!” When all is lost, I find it best to take comfort in the comedy stylings of Dick Van Dyke.

The good news is that the owner was able to reach a solution on his own. The difficulty was found to be linked to a faulty cable.  Personally, I prefer the scream like a chicken solution.

Here’s the link to the Dick Van Dyke episode entitled The Impractical Joke. Love me some Dick Van Dyke. He was my comedy mentor throughout high school.

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.

Time To Recharge The Old Battery

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Today was a pet peeve day. And it came as a surprise.  It was a pet peeve that I had almost forgotten about. Car troubles. I figure for the amount of money we spend on acquiring automobiles, once we acquire them, we shouldn’t have to spend another dime. They should just work… like, all the time.

This morning mine didn’t.  I love my SRX. It’s a 2012 and I haven’t had one iota of a problem with it. That’s been over 5 years and 95,000 miles. A perfect record. No complaints…. until this morning. I loaded it up; went to start it up to drive to work; and I heard a sound that I sometimes make whenever I try to get up out of the recliner after binge watching a favorite show for an episode too many.

But the sound is irrelevant. The point is, it didn’t start. No time to mess with it. I had my wife drive me to the studio and she took me home at the end of the day. Thinking that maybe my car had become something of a late sleeper, I tried it when I got home. Absolutely no sound. In my mind, I could not stop the thought… it’s dead. After all, it would not be the first car that breathed its death rattle in my presence. My beloved Jeep Cherokee comes immediately to mind… may it rest in peace. But that’s another and much longer story. Still, even with all the car experiences I’ve had, I could not help thinking… she’s gone too young.

I attached jumper cables between my car and my wife’s. (That sounded a lot easier than it was.) It took me 30 minutes in Florida heat just to find the battery on the SRX. It was hidden under a device cover I swear I saw once on Star Trek (Next Generation, not the 60s original.)

I took a beer break while I let it charge another 30 minutes before I gave it a try. I turned the key or, more accurately, pushed the button. IT LIVES! The engine started and continued to run on its own. I immediately drove it to the auto parts store for a battery diagnostic. They could find nothing wrong with it. I mean, absolutely nothing. I came to them with a perfect battery.

So suddenly… all eyes were on me. I must have done something stupid. I must have done something really lame-brained to drain a perfectly good battery. To their credit, the store employees said or did nothing to make me feel this… they didn’t have to. I’m well aware of my own inadequacies. Which is why this is a pet peeve. I hate being thrust in situations in which I am ill-equipped to succeed. My lack of knowledge of auto mechanics is rivaled only by my lack of knowledge of astrophysics. But since I am rarely called upon to solve problems dealing with quantum theories, the latter never embarrasses me. The former is a sore spot residing squarely upon my masculinity.

But the good news is that I left the auto parts store with the instruction to drive the car around for 30 minutes to recharge the battery. And other than the loss of points on my man card, there was no other out of pocket expense.

So all’s well that ends well… until we wake up tomorrow and try to start the car.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora 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.

Silly Is As Silly Does

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Somewhere in the adult handbook seems to be a rule that grownups aren’t supposed to be silly. Fortunately, I was never given a copy of that handbook. I considered it a compliment whenever my granddaughters would stop me in the middle of one of my antics and say, “Papa, you’re being silly.”

I was reminded of that yesterday when I was spending some time with one of my clients. This delightful couple will be celebrating their 50th anniversary soon and if my half-hour with them is any indication, theirs was a lifetime of fun, humor, and yes… silliness.

They told me of their annual  “Anything Goes” quasi-Olympics they used to hold in their neighborhood. It consisted of silly games where adults, perhaps aided by certain adult beverages, competed in teams and spent the day acting like children.  If you ask me, that sort of silly behavior should be encouraged. If you turn on the news, you can see where acting serious has gotten us. A little silly in our lives might feel good right about now.

Why not give it a try… Maybe it will catch on. After all, laughter is infectious.

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.

 

How Hot Is It?

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We recently got back from Tucson Arizona. It was 122 degrees Fahrenheit there.

We’re back home in Florida. Temperatures are in the low to mid 90s.

Our air conditioner unit decided to call it quits in the studio. Temp inside on Saturday was a solid 89 degrees..

If you read the signs like I do, then you know that it is time for:

How Hot Is It Jokes!

Johnny Carson was the king of the set up and delivery. I watched him night after night. The jokes weren’t always funny but he was. It was a gift he had… to tell a joke that bombed and then turn it into more laughter than the joke itself was worth.

So in my best Johnny impression:  “It was so hot…”

Audience: “How hot was it?”

  1. It’s so hot I saw a funeral procession pull through a Dairy Queen.
  2. It’s so hot cows are giving evaporated milk.
  3. It’s so hot, asphalt has a liquid state.
  4. It’s so hot I saw a bird pull a worm out of the ground with an oven mitt.
  5. It’s so hot the Statue of Liberty was asked to lower her arm.
  6. It’s so hot, I saw a chicken lay an omelette. 
  7. It’s so hot they installed a fan in the debt ceiling.
  8. It’s so hot, I discovered my seat belt makes a pretty good branding iron.
  9. It’s so hot people are breaking wind just to have a little breeze.
  10. It’s so hot, I started putting ice-cubes in my waterbed.
  11. It’s so hot, Optimus Prime transformed into an air conditioner.
  12. It’s so hot Siri asked to be dipped in a glass of ice water.
  13. It’s so hot bums are holding signs that read, “Will work for shade.”
  14. It’s so hot, Jehovah’s Witnesses started telemarketing.
  15. It’s so hot, I saw a dog chase a cat – they were both walking.

Good news is that the a/c is working again so come on by the studio with some of your memories. We’ll preserve them (and you) from the heat.

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.