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.

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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.

Killing The Black Dress

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I will apologize in advance if this post comes off a bit sexist. It is certainly not my intent. But political correctness doesn’t change the fact that men do some things differently than women. Case in point: Shopping.

Men are hunters. We typically will shop only when we have to and we have to know what it is we’re after. Browsing is not allowed on a hunt. Hunting is specific, targeted, controlled. And you don’t quit until you bring home the game.

My wife will go shopping for an item, spend 5 hours in the mall, only visit three stores and come home disappointed that she didn’t find it. But she will manage to buy three other things she wasn’t looking for.

I vowed to teach her the man’s way. And I had the opportunity. We attend a formal affair once a year. I wear the same tux every year. My wife insists on wearing a new outfit. So I told her that we were going to shop for her dress together. I was going to teach her how to kill the black dress.

We went to the Millennia Mall in Orlando. Bloomingdales, Nordstroms, Ann Taylor, Black and White, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s… A target rich environment.

Before we went into the first store, I gathered the intelligence. We needed a formal gown (men, that means it has to be long). My wife gets cold easily so she wanted it to have sleeves. She doesn’t like frills and ruffles so nothing too flowery. Simple, elegant lines. 

First store, straight to the sale rack. Found three possibilities. She turned them all down. No problem… I was ready to move on. She was looking at cocktail dresses. Nipped that in the bud.

Next store, straight to the sale rack. Not much there but found one that might work. She tried it on. Nixed it. Not discouraged. We have just begun and we’re in the zone. Nice energy flow working.

Next store. Jackpot. Multiple dresses. Each one matching all her specifications. I loaded her up and sent her to the dressing room. I waited, confident that the black dress was cornered and we’d be taking it home.

Thirty minutes later she comes out wearing a dress I didn’t give her. Sleeveless, strapless, with ruffles (I later learned that it was called ruching, not ruffles.) Despite the fact that she went off the reservation with her choice, it was still a record breaking shopping expedition for her. We were making progress.

The formal event arrived. In our hotel room, she spent her requisite time getting ready, waiting until the last minute to put the dress on lest it get wrinkled. Her anguished cry alerted me that the black dress might not have been killed after all. Turns out that a sleeveless, strapless gown requires a specific kind of bra to wear underneath. One that we did not pack.

It was ten minutes until we were to walk the red carpet. Out comes the smartphone. I found a Victoria’s Secret less than a mile from the venue. I used to get embarrassed when I would find myself in certain situations.  Marriage has driven that right out of my system.  I ran the mile in my tux, burst into Victoria’s Secret sweating and panting and cried at the top of my depleted lungs, “Quick, I need a bra!” You can imagine the attention I received. But I killed the bra, delivered it to my wife, and was every bit the mighty hunter providing for his mate.

Next year, we’re shopping online.

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

Memory Lapses

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Hey, it happens to all of us. We take great pains to record the special moments of our lives. Then we tuck them away to make sure they are kept safe and secure. After 30 or 40 years, we take them back out only to find that we can’t watch them any more because the technology we used back then is now obsolete.

So we find someone like Home Video Studio who can convert our old memories to a digital form that will play on today’s equipment. All well and good but we’re not out of the woods yet. As we are watching those memories play back… the ones we haven’t seen for decades… we discover that we don’t recognize some of the people or places that appear on the screen.

It happens more often than you think. I had an elderly couple watch some of their 8mm film that I transferred for them. The footage opened with a pair of toddlers under a Christmas tree. I could see their confused expressions. They looked at me and actually asked if perhaps I was showing them someone else’s film. They were so adamant that I began to doubt myself. I doubled checked but it absolutely was their footage.  As we continued to watch, they eventually realized that the toddlers on the screen were their own children — just 60 years younger then they are now.  It turns out, my clients had never seen that particular 8mm film before. It was shot but never viewed. Tears were certainly shed once we recognized what we were seeing.

Now sometimes, the mysteries are never solved. No worries. I’ve had people come back to me and ask me to edit sections of their movies in order to remove people or places that no longer have any relevance to their lives. Once the film or video has been digitalized, editing that footage is relatively easy to accomplish. We have the ability to shape your memories to your exact specifications, allowing you to enjoy your past exactly the way you want to remember it.

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.

It Is Funny The Things You Remember…

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We always enjoy talking to the customers that come into the studio… getting to know them… hearing their stories… It never ceases to amaze me the many connections I can make between their memories and mine. Today, we were helping a woman with a video tape that she needed converted to a digital form. In speaking with her, she informed us that she owned a roller skating rink. The memories came flooding back.

Our youngest son could skate like an Olympian. There was a grace he possessed on the ice (with blades) or on the wood (with wheels) that defied explanation. He was a natural. But he was also a guy’s guy. And he discovered hockey. First roller hockey but he eventually graduated to the ice.

I wish I could tell you the fond memories of watching him compete and perform intricate movements that seemed impossible to me… but that isn’t what I remember most.

I wish I could tell you of the exciting games I was privileged to watch as a spectator, cheering my son on from the bleachers and celebrating their wins… but that isn’t what I remember most.

I can, however, tell you about the ride home. You see, in order to get the ice time, we had to join a league about 90 minutes from the house. And after the game, where he gave his all on the ice, my son took off his uniform, dressed in his street clothes, and stuffed his gear: jersey, pads, and everything else into his gigantic hockey bag which I then hefted into the back of our car. To say it was aromatic would be an insult to noses everywhere. I have never in my life before or since experienced a stench like the one that came from that hockey bag. And I’m the son of a gym teacher. I grew up around locker rooms.

The week in between games were spent trying to neutralize the locker room scent from the bag. And we tried everything. Nothing really worked. We sprinkled it with lemon freshener. It just made it smell like lemon sweat. We tried airing it out in our backyard which I think is why we didn’t see many birds come to our feeder during hockey season. I contemplated chucking everything into our pool and using super-chlorinator tablets to see if that would do anything but chickened out… not because I might have to replace his gear but because I thought I would somehow ruin the pool.

Still, a little acrid exposure was a small sacrifice to make in order to watch your children engaged and enjoying one of their passions. And I truly did enjoy watching him skate. Still do.

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.

Have I Got A Girl For You!

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So I released the images taken at our corporate photo shoot today. What you see above was one of the pictures that made the final cut. Thanks to all who left positive comments. We agree… we think they turned out fairly well. Thank you to Stephen Flint Photography who worked with us throughout the process.

Seeing the picture, I couldn’t help but reflect on the passage of time. This past April, my wife and I celebrated our 26th year of marriage. Here’s what we looked like in our “infancy.”

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Personally, I think we look better today than we did back then. But then again, photo retouching has come a long way since those days.

Still, digging out this old wedding photo reminded me that it almost didn’t happen. I think I blogged about how I met my future wife while doing a play in Orlando. We were cast opposite each other. She caught my eye immediately. What I didn’t know at the time was that I also caught hers… just not in the way I would have wanted. She shared with me much later that she tried to set me up with a girlfriend of hers. Apparently I was good enough for a friend… but I didn’t quite exceed past that bar. At least not at the start.

Fortunately I was too obtuse to pick up on the hints that she wanted to introduce me to someone. Sometimes being unaware works out for you. What did Forrest Gump say? “Stupid is as stupid does.” I’ll take that kind of stupid every day because sometime during the long rehearsal period I must have grown on her. She eventually stopped dropping the hints about getting together with some “friends” and just decided to spend time with me.

Personally, I think she made a good decision but I can’t speak for her.  (Well, I could but I’ve learned not to – stupid is as stupid does, remember?)

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.

 

Everyone Has A Story To Tell

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It is the tagline we use in the marketing for our LifeStories product: “Everyone Has a Story to Tell.” And because of what I do, I am in the unique and privileged position to hear many of them. I found myself reflecting upon some of the people I’ve met and the tales they have told since I opened my studio.

There was the WWII fighter pilot who told me about the dogfight he had with a Japanese Zero during the great Marianas “Turkey Shoot.” At one point the Zero, who was out of ammunition, tried to ram him in mid air, passing so close over his head he could actually count the rivets in the fuselage.

There was the mom of a world champion waterskier who would fill me in on what it was like in the early days of competitive waterskiing with story after story of her daughter’s journey.

There was the ex-musician who was working as a laborer here in Central Florida who had just learned that an album he made some twenty years ago had become very popular in South America and was getting a lot of radio play. He was on his way down there to make a personal appearance.

There was the documentary filmmaker who was finishing up a project on powerlifters and had some bizarre encounters with some of the colorful characters who hang around the periphery of that sport.

There was the combat veteran who was involved in the Battle of Midway. He watched the entire conflict from his perch on a 30 foot searchlight tower armed only with a rifle. Mere days earlier he was sharing a bunkhouse with Hollywood director John Ford who would regale him and his other bunkmates with stories of his movies and the celebrities who starred in them.

And recently I sat with a woman whose parents bought a three masted schooner in 1948 and beached it by a NJ boardwalk in order to convert it to a unique gift shop/tourist attraction. It became the signature landmark of the entire community.

What’s your story? And how can I help you not only to tell it but preserve it so it can be retold to future generations? Call us to get started.

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.

Can You Hear Me Now?

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It was a slow day today. I came to find out that it was due to a nationwide outage of my landline telephone provider. No calls in/no calls out. Thanks Comcast.

But as frustrating as the day was, it made me reflect on other times when I was “cut off” communication-wise from the rest of the world. I had a strange epiphany.

I realized that being “cut off” from the world is a relatively new experience.  In this age, with our smartphones and 24/7 tv coverage, we are literally plugged in to almost every corner of the world at any given time.  It was not always so.

When I was growing up, news came on at dinner time and was over before we were finished eating. We would read the newspaper to catch up on the news of the day. Sure, the news we were reading was a day old but the reporters had that time to check for things like accuracy.

We had one phone line coming into the house and we had to take turns to use it. And the phones we were using weren’t smart. They weren’t dumb either. They were just phones. You used them to dial a number (on a dial!) and they somehow magically connected you with the person you wanted to speak with. And if you couldn’t reach them you just wrote them a letter and mailed it off. And you would most times get a letter back in response.

The first step I took to full access connectivity to the world was my pager. I had a job where the employers thought it would be good if I could be reached anytime, anywhere, by anybody. I felt important when I was first given the device. I was stupid. It took less than a month for me to learn to hate the pager. But that was only the beginning.

Technology evolved at a rapid pace. Cell phones, Email, Internet Messaging, FaceTime, LiveStream… we eventually reached a place where we can touch anybody at any time, anywhere they are… and they can touch us.  I’m not so sure that’s an improvement.

If memory serves, we were pretty happy when we were less plugged in… less accessible… less connected. At least less connected electronically. We were more connected physically and emotionally. And that isn’t a bad thing at all.  Thanks Comcast for the downtime… and the reminder that human connectivity beats electronic connectivity every time.

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

Wigwam Village

 

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I had a former client come back to the studio today to tell me his story. He had purchased an old reel of 8mm film from an antique dealer. The only marking on it was the year 1959. He bought it as a curiosity and brought it to me to convert to a digital form. He became so animated when he was telling us what he saw on the film.

Most of it was uninteresting footage of random scenery but as the camera panned, suddenly, there on the side of what was S. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando, were a few dozen concrete teepees. He couldn’t believe it. “I stayed there as a kid!” he shouted. My wife, who grew up in Orlando, also remembered them.

Wigwam Village, as it was known, was the brainchild of Frank Redford who, in the 1930s began constructing steel and stucco structures in the shape of Indian teepees and renting them out to curious travelers. It began in Horse Cave, Ky but started cropping up in other locations around the country in short order.  A Wigwam village was build in Cave City, KY; followed by a village in New Orleans, LA.

The Wigwam Village in Orlando was the fourth site and by most accounts, the largest. Built in 1948 it consisted of 27 “wigwams” which were advertised as being able to accommodate up to 4 people. It was also billed as “Orlando’s largest motel.”

Subsequent villages were built in Bessemer, AL, Holbrook, AZ, and San Bernardino CA

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In Orlando, the teepee structures were situated in a U shape with a giant teepee located at the open end which housed the registration desk, administrative offices and a restaurant. A pool was constructed later on which was situated in the middle of the lot.

Orlando’s Wigwam Village was demolished in 1973 to make room for the East West Expressway. A Vacation Lodge now operates on that site.

So, in summary, my client bought an unknown random reel of film and after converting it to a viewable format realized that, in so doing, he had captured a memory from his youth. And then when sharing that memory with us, he was able to spark a similar memory within my wife. It just goes to show you that we are more connected than we are divided. People should spend more time sharing memories with each other. It draws us closer together.

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 and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.