One Man’s Art Is Another Man’s Graffiti… Or Not…

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As our followers know, we reside in the beautifully tranquil town of Mount Dora, Florida. It is a place so wonderful it has been given the nickname “Someplace Special.” But that is not to say it is without its share of controversy or problems.

For the past year, most Mount Dorians have been following a story that started locally but quickly escalated to make national news. A couple has painted their home in the style of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The city authorities advised them to remove it or face financial penalties. And the escalation began.

The facts of the situation must be explained.  The home is not under any HOA regulations. There is no city ordinance that prohibits them from painting their house in any manner they choose. And the reason they did this in the first place was not from an aesthetic preference but rather as a means to help their autistic son identify where he lived.

Add this to the fact that Mount Dora positions itself as a strong supporter of the arts and markets itself in that way to the tourism industry… well, it doesn’t take much to recognize that the optics on this does not favor the city.

So most of us are relieved to learn that a settlement has finally been reached between the homeowners and the city that will allow them to keep their Van Gogh inspired house. May they build many fond memories there in the years to come.

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.

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Our Neighborhood Movie House

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Mount Dora is about to get a new Epic Movie Theater! Opening date is just around the corner and it is exciting news for our little town. We haven’t had a movie theater in our local environs since 1996. And to say our citizens are excited would be an understatement.

Even before the theater has officially opened, news has arrived that the Central Florida Film Festival has chosen our new theater as its official venue. Our cup runneth over. And it prompts a memory which has become something of a family favorite.

Back in the day, when I was running my Christian film review website, I was invited to review the entries of the Florida Film Festival hosted by the Enzian Theater in Maitland Florida. As I waited for the festival date, I continued to review the mainstream movies that were being released weekly.

My reviews, which I called “movie parables,” were designed to explore spiritual truths to be found in the secular entertainment of our day. It was a new concept and I received a lot of hate mail because of it. Non-Christians resented my bringing my faith into their entertainment world and religious Christians didn’t much care for my bringing secular entertainment into their faith.

It was an interesting time but one that led to a ten year career in the film review business.

One day, I stopped at the post office to pick up any correspondence that may have arrived to my film website’s PO Box address. Among the bills, there was a small package wrapped in brown paper addressed to me in a crayon scrawl. I didn’t recognize the return address and I wasn’t expecting anything. I thought it odd but I took it and put it in the back of my car and drove home.

When I arrived home, I told my wife about this package. She, knowing about the hate mail I had received, freaked. She made me promise to call the police to find out how I could x-ray the package before I opened it.

I, being a dutiful husband, did as she asked. It was a brief call. I was told to stay put and not touch anything. Within minutes, two firetrucks, three police cars and a few unmarked cars blocked off the street where I lived. I normally would have sent my wife out to deal with this since calling the police was her idea but she somehow decided this would be a perfect time to take a shower.

I walked out the door and the man in charge came over to me. He asked me where the package was so I went to my car, took it out and started walking back to him. He sternly instructed me to stop where I was and put the package gently on the ground. I obeyed.

He studied it for about five minutes then took a penknife out, slit the bottom of the package and withdrew its contents. As he handed it to me, he could not disguise the smirk on his face.

It contained a videotape of a film that had been entered in the film festival and sent to me for review purposes. It was a documentary of the life of porn star John Holmes AKA Johnny Wadd.

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I am pretty sure I was the butt of many a joke that night at the station house.

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

 

Feeling A Little Blue, Berry?

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I love Mount Dora. Not only is it where I live and work, there is always something fun going on. This weekend, it is the 4th annual Blueberry Festival! Woo Hoo!  I know, I was skeptical at first myself. But this little “festival that could” has burst all expectations throughout the last four years as it has grown exponentially in its popularity.

You’d be surprised at how many products or events can be developed that feature this delicious little berry.  Or maybe you wouldn’t. I was.

I remember picking blueberries with my granddaughters once on one of those “how can we entertain the kids for an hour” moments. It was fun watching their excitement as they filled their buckets. You can have that same experience at the festival as a blueberry picking excursion has been announced at a local farm using the Mount Dora Fun Bus for transportation to and fro.

Within the festival itself, you’ll find booth after booth filled with examples of what you can do with the blueberries after you have picked them. Blueberry Pie, Blueberry Jam, Blueberry Muffins, Blueberry Craft Beer, Blueberry Wine, Blueberry scented soap, and the list goes on.

My problem is that I was born in the 50s and grew up in the 60s and 70s. There is only one blueberry reference that I will ever remember. And it is associated with one of the most obnoxious movie characters of all time.

 

The Blueberry Festival continues through today, April 29th. I urge you to stop by with the family. And take pictures or videos because… #MemoriesMatter.

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

A Foodie Memory

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Our kids pulled out all the stops this year. First, they gifted us with a wonderful theatrical experience by giving us tickets to WAITRESS. And then they provided us with a gift card to try out Norman Van Aiken’s new Mount Dora restaurant, 1921. This restaurant prides itself on using fresh items found in and around Florida.

OMG. What a special meal.  We were greeted with specially printed menus that had an anniversary greeting at the top. We opted for the chef’s tasting menu that gave us a sampling of all of this talented chef’s favorite creations. It is something I would recommend to anyone going to this restaurant (and I will be recommending this restaurant to everyone.)

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First up, an Italian country salad with pomelo and pistachio pesto. I’m not much of a salad guy but it was easy to clean this plate.

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Next, roasted octopus with artichokes. Our server, Mason, explained that the octopus found in a particular section off the Florida coast dine primarily on crab which gives them a kind of sweeter taste. I dreaded this plate before it came as it would normally be something I would turn my nose up at but I have to say it was my second favorite course. Meaty and flavorful. Quite a surprise.

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Up next, a substitution. Instead of the red snapper that was on the menu, we were treated with a special catch of the day: Pumpkin swordfish. Pumpkin because its flesh, when raw, has a distinctively orange hue. It is because it eats nothing but shrimp and the keratin buildup causes its skin to change color. Served in a lemon-caper butter sauce, I would have gladly accepted seconds were it available. By far, my favorite course.

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Rounding up the entree sampling was a beef shoulder tender served with white asparagus. A little on the heavy side (we aren’t big red meat eaters) but certainly can’t argue with the taste or presentation.

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Finally with our decaf coffee we accepted a banana panna cotta for dessert drizzled with bourbon caramel.

It was not just a dinner. It was a full-on culinary experience. Our server took the time to explain what made each course unique and educated us on the process that goes into developing the menu that can change daily based upon what their vendors bring them that day.

A big thank you goes to our kids for such extraordinary (and extravagant) gifts. You made this anniversary so special for us and gave us a break from giving gifts to each other. We just decided to enjoy the ones you gave us. Believe me, it was more than enough. You helped us make a memory today.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories by taking old home movies, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos or slides and converting them to digital forms. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

The Best Compliment Ever

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I received a compliment yesterday. I actually receive them most days but I don’t often mention them. I am basically a modest and reserved person (although you may find people who think they know me who will disagree with that assessment. Go figure.) Regardless, I am generally not inclined to bring undue attention to myself.

But yesterday’s compliment struck home with me. It spoke to what is probably the one attribute that I strive hardest at maintaining. I received a call from an out of state individual who has been following me for months on Facebook. He spends part of his year in my area (winters generally) and the rest of the year he spends in northern climates.

He called me to let me know that he has chosen to bring his videotapes to Florida next time he comes down for one reason only. He trusts me to transfer his precious family memories to a digital form in the best possible manner. Through following me on Facebook and by reading my blogs, he said he could tell that I was a person of integrity. That hit my heart big. Because it is true.

I may not always be the smartest guy in the room. I may not always be the most talented guy in the room. But I hope I can always be the truest guy in the room. Ask me a question. I’ll tell you what I can do and what I can’t do. I’ll tell you what I think would be the best solution to your problem and I’ll advise you whether it makes financial sense to chose one way over the other.

Why? Because that is what I want service providers to do for me. Service providers can always make money just by providing the services they do. They don’t need to pad their coffers giving people services or products they don’t want or need. I vow never to be that guy. I want to be the guy people trust to do right by them. My integrity is everything. I’m just glad someone noticed.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of older media like film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Giver’s Gain

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I have been a member of a BNI (Business Networking International) chapter for four years now and can tell you, from personal experience, it has been the most beneficial business networking association that I have ever found.

I mention this because I had previously belonged to a fine chapter in Apopka but found out late last year that an effort was being launched to start a new BNI chapter in the Mount Dora/Eustis area. So, as a Mount Dora businessman, I transferred my membership there to add support to this effort.

Why is BNI effective?

  • They only accept one company per classification. If the chapter has a plumber who is a member, no other plumber may join. This adds to the value of chapter membership.
  • The overall principle which guides the group is “Giver’s Gain.” Each member is focused on how they can help the other members increase their sales and customer base. The benefit is clear. If you are looking at how you can help the other members of your chapter, you need to recognize that all the other members are all looking at how they can help you. Giver’s Gain. The more you refer people to your other members, the more you’ll see that being reciprocated.
  • Because membership is prized, all applicants go through a vetting process to make sure the chapter is comprised of professionals who have credibility in their industry.
  • It is not a social club. While we all know how to have fun, we also recognize that the reason we have joined BNI is to grow our businesses. There is no faster way to grow a business than to develop business relationships with other businessmen and women. BNI affords a great opportunity to do just that.
  • The proof is in the pudding. BNI boasts over 230,000 members in over 8300 chapters worldwide. In the last 12 months, those members passed over 14.3 billion dollars in referrals that resulted in closed sales.

I mention this because we are still in the early stages of forming our chapter. Many highly sought-after seats remain open. Remember, we can only take one company per business classification so the earlier people jump onboard, the higher the likelihood of there being a spot for them

We are having a visitor day 2 weeks from now. It is scheduled for Thursday, March 8th at 7:30am. If you are local to the area, I highly encourage you to come out and sit in on a meeting. Meet the other members and decide for yourself if it is something that would benefit your company. If you are not local, I encourage you to do a search to find a BNI chapter close to your area.

Call or email me for more information. I would be happy to provide you with the details so you can attend the next meeting as a guest.

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

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling…

 

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Here’s another video that takes a look at my home town of Mount Dora… this time it is taken from a different perspective. Many of us may never stop to consider the accessibility factors that can affect some of our visitors and neighbors. It is nice to know that our city planners recognize and act upon the little things that can make a big difference to those who roll into our town.

Thank you Sylvia Longmire for the nice shout out to Mount Dora.  Next time you’re in the area, stop by the studio for a visit. Be sure to come in via the rear parking lot for easy access to the entrance ramp for our front door.

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

Construction Zone

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Perspective is everything.

I spent much of yesterday evening in a community meeting with neighbors trying to get information regarding the construction planned in and around our home for the next couple of years. Our quaint little town is becoming more accessible to the outside world and as traffic increases, so must the roadways.

Some of our concerns involve safety, noise pollution, land grading and flooding potential, HOA involvement, speeding through and past our community, egress in and out of our neighborhood, impact on property values, among many others.

When my family first moved into the home I lived in during my grade school years, our little Maryland suburban neighborhood was just getting started. I remember living with a construction site in our back yard for what seemed to me to be two or three years. It was great.

Bear in mind, as a mischievous young boy, I had none of the concerns mentioned above. All I saw was a vast, untamed playground with enormous dirt mounds, plenty of rocks, and giant machines that could double for anything from alien spaceships to parts of an abandoned western ghost town. I spent many after school hours there, lost in my imagination.

As an adult, I seem inclined to want to control my surroundings – shape them to my liking. As a child, having no control, it was easier to accept things as they came and find the enjoyment within them. It may be a little wistful naïveté speaking, but I miss those days.

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

One Degree of Separation

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Seeing as the Mount Dora Art Festival is continuing today (and will also end today so it is your last opportunity to come on out and enjoy fine art on display in our beautiful downtown district), I thought I would continue with my fondest recollections regarding some of the artwork my wife and I have collected over the years.

We have an unfortunate tendency to purchase first and inquire later so we have had a few surprises after we bring our artwork home and try to find out a little about its history. (See yesterday’s blog post.)  The painting displayed above was something we were able to acquire as the high bid at a local antique art auction.

I was thrilled to discover that I unknowingly purchased a little bit of Hollywood history (albeit indirectly related.) The painting was signed Gene Grant and, as it turns out, he is an American artist who was commissioned to provide the artwork for the movie “An American in Paris.” In the film, Gene Kelly portrayed a struggling American painter. The pieces he is shown working on or carrying around were provided by Mr. Grant.

As Gene Kelly is one of my favorite movie stars of that era, I was tickled to have one degree of separation between us.  I have a Gene Grant painting. Gene Grant worked with Gene Kelly. Boom. Winner.

I must have shown my enthusiasm too strongly because that Christmas, as my main gift, my wife bought us tickets to go see the Broadway musical version of An American in Paris. The tickets probably cost three times more than the painting. I fell asleep in the second act.

Here’s a photo of our artist Gene Grant in between the movie’s stars, Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.

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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

An Original Carol Burnett

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The Mount Dora Art Festival occurs this weekend (which is a fantastic event – if you’re in the area, please stop by and enjoy it.) But it always reminds me of the one time when I put my “artistic” foot down in my house.

My wife and I enjoy displaying original art in our home and, as an ex-art history major, my wife has made most of the decisions when it came to acquiring a new piece. Most meaning all… all but one. We were with a dealer who had a oil painting my wife fancied but it was priced a little high. She was bargaining when I spotted an oil that I liked even more than the one she was trying to buy. So I said, “How much for this one?” He was quick with the reply. “Tell you what, you meet my price, I will throw that one in for free.”

“Sold,” I quickly agreed before he could change his mind. I looked proudly at my wife who did not, at that moment, notice my pleased expression because she was too busy rolling her eyes.

On the way home with our possessions, I was giddy with the great deal that we made. She was a bit more subdued. So I dropped my ace card. “You may not have noticed, but my painting was signed by “C. Burnett.” You and I may very well be the owners of an original Carol Burnett.”

Again with the eye roll. “You don’t know that.” “Not yet,” I explained, “But I will soon find out.”

While she hung her painting in our dining room, I took mine to my office and propped it on top of my bookcase. And I began googling.

A few hours later, I sheepishly approached my wife.  “Well, we don’t have a Carol Burnett.” She looked at me. “So what exactly do we have?” “We have something that was apparently churned out by a Mexican production line. Burnett is not the name of the artist. It is however what one art critic suggested we could do with it… Burn it.”

I came home the next day to find that my Burnett was no longer in my office. It now occupies a space in our garage, propped up against the tool chest.

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.