It’s About Time

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I have always had a fascination with time travel. Perhaps it all started, as most things usually do, when I was a young lad watching The Rocky and Bullwinkle show. That show contained a segment where Mr. Peabody and his faithful assistant Sherman used their “Wayback Machine” to witness and possibly interfere with well-known historical events.

Since then, I have had my share of “must-see-TV” shows dealing with the possibility of traveling through time.  Among my favorites:

THE TIME TUNNEL

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A pair of “scientists” get trapped in time. Each episode finds them in a different time and place – usually during some historically important moment. Near the end of the episode they somehow activate the time tunnel which deposits them in some other place with another adventure that will await them… same time next week.

IT’S ABOUT TIME

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For sheer silliness this comedy, by the same people that came up with Gilligan’s Island, featured a couple of astronauts who inexplicably end up in prehistoric times. Later, they return to their own time with their new prehistoric friends in tow. It, understandably, only lasted a season but the show’s theme song is still embedded in the minds of whoever heard it.

QUANTUM LEAP

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This show puts a twist on The Time Tunnel conundrum. Not only is the central character (played by Scott Bakula) trapped in a time warp, every time (episode) he is transported to a different when and where, he assumes the character of someone from that time and must complete some cosmic task as that character in order to be released to travel elsewhere in time.

TIMELESS

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A much more recent entry to the world of time travel entertainment, Timeless featured the crews of two time machines chasing each other through the past. One hopes to change the past to shape the future to their liking – the other hopes to stop them. Unfortunately, the show did not last long enough to come to a satisfying conclusion.

I am sure I am not alone with this fascination. There is something about the past that captivates us. Part of us longs to pay a return visit if only we could. It is comforting to know that while it may never be possible to do so physically, no one can stop us from traveling back there in our minds.

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

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Florida is Frozen

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OK, I know enough not to expect sympathy from those who are dealing with temperatures in the negative numbers. (I still don’t get how you can measure the absence of something… negative 4 degrees to me means 4 degrees less than zero temperature – zero temperature equals no temperature at all so how can you have less than no temperature?) And that’s why I’m not a meteorologist.

I am racking my brain to remember the coldest I ever was. I remember the big blizzard in DC in 1966. I was in grade school then and can recall playing outside – scaling the Mount Everest-like mounds that the snowplows conveniently piled up in front of our driveways.  That wasn’t cold then… it was just fun.

There was the snowfall of 1974 in Pennsylvania when my car drifted into a snowbank where I was stuck overnight until I could dig myself out. I was a college guy then and I fortunately had a libation with me which I cracked open and that seemed to make me impervious to the cold… or so I chose to believe.

Then there was the blizzard of 1983 that shut down the DC area for a day or two. I was working then for a transportation company that had international responsibilities. A local snowfall wasn’t going to stop the business we had in other countries. I had to walk through waist high snow for a mile to get to the office to handle the incoming calls. Out of 100 people, I was one of six who was able to make it in.  I don’t remember the cold… just the determination.

I’m pretty sure each of those examples at the time would have struck me as being unbearably cold but our minds have the capability to pick and choose what we want to remember.  I guess I chose to remember the experiences without the accompanying temperatures.

I hope my Northern friends have similar experiences with their minds.  Stay warm and safe ya’ll. Build some good memories.

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.

I’ll Be Your Huckleberry

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It is amazing what will spark a memory.  I was transferring a client’s film today and the Christmas scene that appeared on the screen was of a young boy who had just received an inflatable punching bag in the image of Huckleberry Hound.

I had one of those. And I certainly remember Hanna-Barbera’s Huckleberry Hound being a favorite cartoon when I was growing up.  But my memory played a trick on me.  I would have sworn that the Huckleberry Hound Show that I watched as a youngster consisted of three segments: Huckleberry himself; Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo (whose segment eventually became more popular than those of the titular star); and (I thought) Quick Draw McGraw with his sidekick “bing bing bing” Ricochet Rabbit.

But I was wrong. Quick Draw had his own show. The third segment for Huck, as he is familiarly known to his young fans, involved a pair of mice, Pixie and Dixie, and the object of their abuse, the cat Mr. Jinx. Just goes to show how memories can tend to distort and blend together over time.

A few trivia tidbits about this cartoon from my past:

Huckleberry Hound debuted in 1958 and featured a slow moving, slow talking blue dog who held a multitude of jobs and always seemed to succeed due to either luck or an obstinate persistence.

Huck was voiced by Daws Butler who also provided the voices for Wally Gator, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, and Snagglepuss.

Daws Butler fashioned the voice of Yogi Bear after Art Carney’s portrayal of Ed Norton in The Honeymooners. And, despite the similarities, he always denied using Andy Griffith as the inspiration for the voice of Huckleberry. (And as it turns out, Huckleberry arrived on the scene a few years before Andy Griffith became a household name.)

It was the first animated program to be honored with an Emmy Award (1961).

Edit:  Yet another memory failure. I have been reminded that Ricochet Rabbit was not the sidekick of QuickDraw McGraw.  He was the star of his own show. Quick Draw’s sidekick was Baba Louey – which I should have remembered on my own as that was also the nickname given to my baby sister.

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.

Welcome 2018!

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It’s a new year… but we will never stop celebrating the old years.  It is just what we do. Fortunately, we continue to be given plenty of opportunities..

Here are just a few of the items currently in our studio that we have been asked to convert to digital form so the memories they evoke can be preserved and enjoyed both now and in the future:

  • Video footage of a family’s trip to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City.  It’s hard to believe that event took place 54 years ago.
  • An old audio tape of young children reciting their poems and jokes for a special Mothers’ Day audio gift. Those children on the recording now have grandchildren about the same age they were then.
  • Negatives of a wedding. – It turns out those negatives are the only known photographic evidence of this milestone event because the original wedding album was either lost or destroyed.
  • 8mm film – some of it dating back to 1948. It was recently discovered by the grandson of the man who shot the footage. He says he is not even sure what is on them. What a happy surprise is in store for him…

Each of these items are precious to the people who brought them in. They represent fragments of time from their personal history. We certainly welcome the New Year and all the hope and promise that the future brings. But at the same time we venerate the past and respectfully honor all that came before. And there is no better way to honor the past than to ensure it does not fall victim to the obsolescence of the media on which it is stored. #MemoriesMatter

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. And don’t forget our End of Year sale – now extended through Jan 6!

Eat in the New Year

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I don’t know about everyone else’s New Year’s Day menu, but if you were to dine with our Southern household, I know exactly what you’d be having for dinner tonight. It was the same every year.

Ham Steak, Hoppin John (a black-eyed pea concoction), yellow rice, corn bread, and an orange jello salad. We were told that such fare was a family tradition that brought health, wealth, and good fortune to those who partook of the meal.

Ours was not the only tradition that was played out at the dining room table around the world. There seem to be as many New Years Day food staples as there are cultures:

SPAIN:   If you celebrate the New Year in Spain, you’ll be wanting to bring twelve grapes with you. Their custom is to pop a grape with each chime as the clock strikes midnight.

NETHERLANDS: The Dutch will be looking for a local food cart for their annual portion of oliebollen (fried oil balls). These doughnut-like dumplings contain currants or raisins and are sprinkled with powdered sugar.

JAPAN:  As far back as the 1600s, Japanese families are accustomed to eating soba noodles at midnight to symbolize their desire for longevity and prosperity.

ITALY:  Italians end the year by celebrating La Festa di San Silvestro and partaking of the traditional sausage and lentil stew known as cotechino con lenticchie. The lentils are said to represent money and good fortune.

DENMARK/NORWAY:  You’ll see towers of cake in these nations as the residents celebrate with their traditional Kransekage (wreath cake). Concentric rings of cake are layered one atop another, decorated and oftentimes have a bottle of wine situated in the center hole.

MEXICO: Tamales, a favorite food at any time of the year, becomes even more prominent at New Years. It is often served with menudo, a soup said to be able to cure hangovers.

AUSTRIA/GERMANY: There will be plenty of pigs on the table in a German/Austrian household. Suckling pig is sure to be on the menu as well as Marzipanschwein, little pigs made of marzipan.

POLAND/SCANDINAVIA: Pickled herring is the go-to meal for New Years in these countries – often served in a cream sauce or with onions. A special treat called Sledzie Marynowane is make by soaking salt herrings in water for a day and then layering them in a jar with onions, allspice, sugar and white vinegar.

VARIOUS COUNTRIES: A tradition that spans multiple cultures is the baking of a New Year’s cake. Within the cake is usually hidden a gold coin or figure and the person who finds it in his slice is said to be destined for a prosperous year.

Whatever your tradition, eat heartily and have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories – even those found around the dining room table. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

Auld Lang Syne

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What would New Year’s Eve be without the annual tradition of a well imbibed crowd slurring their way through a rendition of Auld Lang Syne? But why this song and what does it mean?

In the 1700s, the Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the words (borrowed from an old song which had been passed down through the ages orally but had never before been written down). It was eventually set to the tune of a traditional folk song and has since become a staple at New Year’s celebrations around the globe. Bandleader Guy Lombardo has been largely credited for its popularity in American culture.

It is a song that wistfully asks us, in the midst of our revelry, to pause for a bit to remember the past. As we stand on the brink of yet another new year, it is fitting to cast a look back at all our days gone by. After all, it is our past that has brought us to where we are today.  

Here are the full lyrics to the old song – modernized to help us understand the meaning of what it is asking us to consider.

AULD LANG SYNE (Times Gone By)

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne (times gone by)?

CHORUS:
For times gone by, my dear,
for times gone by,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for times gone by.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for times gone by.

CHORUS
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since times gone by.

CHORUS
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine†;
But seas between us broad have roared
since times gone by.

CHORUS
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will ale,
for times gone by.

CHORUS

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories and would like to wish you and yours a very Happy New Year. And cheers to Auld Lang Syne. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.

How to Remember the Past

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How can you better remember that perfect day with your family or a special moment? The following are some insights from psychologist Charles Fernyhough, author of the book Pieces of Light, on the tricks and limitations of making good memories:

I’m picky about memory. I don’t want to remember more “stuff,” like the elements of the periodic table or the names of all the presidents (I’ve got Wikipedia for that). Instead, I want to stay in touch with the events of my own life: that great midnight conversation I had with a friend, or that visit with the kids to the Tower of London on a cold spring Sunday. I want to be like my grandmother, who, when I interviewed her at age 93, could recall how she felt as she saw the bombs dropping on London during the Blitz. Oscar Wilde referred to memory as “the diary that we all carry about with us.” I want mine to be filled to overflowing: not with mere information, but with the stories that make me who I am.

In order to remember an event, we first need to encode it, which means taking in information through our perceptual systems and converting it into a form that can be laid down. At the very least, that means we need to be there in the moment when things are happening. Plenty of studies have shown that, when our attention is divided, we do a worse job of encoding, probably because we don’t process the information so deeply. Our memory suffers, not just for the things we are supposed to be remembering, but also for the contextual details that might later act as cues to recall.

Shun distractions, in other words, and you should encode events more effectively. Simply telling yourself to remember might work too. In one vivid memory of early childhood, the novelist A. S. Byatt recalls telling her young self, “I am always going to remember this.” She did. Studies show that if we are motivated to remember something, we will often do it better—as long as we are motivated at encoding rather than at retrieval, when strenuous efforts to recall are less effective.

Sometimes the biggest distraction is that very determination to remember. I heard the story recently of a teenage girl who, at the end of a family trip, was busy taking pictures on her smartphone while her parents were calling her away. “I’ll be there in a minute,” the girl was heard to say, “I’m just doing my memories.” How many times have you watched footage of an event on the TV and seen people in the audience filming it for themselves? With high-quality cameras in our pockets, there’s a strong temptation to live our lives through a viewfinder.

This cuts two ways in terms of its effects on memory. True, you end up with a representation of the event that can later be a useful cue to memory (photograph albums really do take you back in time). On the other hand, you are also attending to the act of recording—which, if you’re as hopeless at using a phone as I am, takes a lot of attention. And a picture is always partial: it can’t capture anything of the other sensory details that can be such powerful cues to memory, such as sounds and smells.

We shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that our online, multitasking lifestyles are necessarily a bad thing for memory. My Twitter timeline is a pretty good guide to what I have thought, felt, and laughed about in the last couple of years. We can also use digital technologies to store information that we might not attend to very much at the time, and which can subsequently be a potent cue to retrieval. This is the rationale behind some people’s use of the SenseCam, a small digital camera, worn around the neck, which is triggered to take pictures by movement and changes in the light. SenseCam has been used by amnesiacs to provide cues to memories that would otherwise be inaccessible. Tiny details from an image, features that would hardly have been noticed at the time, can spark memories in a Proustian rush.

We can do plenty of other things to boost our chances of having rich autobiographical memories. A key principle of memory is elaboration, the process of generating new connections among bits of information so that they form a more organized and persistent memory trace. Talking about the past (both to yourself and to others) serves to elaborate the memory. Children whose parents elaborate on past events go on to produce richer autobiographical narratives. Writing about the past, in the form of a diary that can be revisited in later years or decades, might be even more effective. And bear in mind that, when we encode information about an event, we also encode some of the contextual details (like sounds and smells) that accompany it. Those background details, when we re-experience them, can be effective cues to retrieval, which is why going back to a place is one of the best ways of reactivating memories of it. Some people (like pop artist Andy Warhol or many chefs) even use smells deliberately to reawaken memories of particular events; many of us use music in the same way.

While we’re putting all this into practice, we also need to be aware of the deceptions and distortions of memory. Memory does not record the past; it reconstructs it according to the needs of the present. Remembering better is not about pointing the camera and switching to HD mode. We should think about remembering as we would think about other creative things we do, like playing the sax or shooting hoops at basketball. Doing it well does not mean crunching more data; it means being aware of the mechanisms it works by and the tricks it can play, so that we can forge new relationships with these precious stories of the self.

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

First Record

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Kids today have so much to be thankful for… but at the same time, I can’t help but think that they may be missing out on some of the more iconic moments we remember of growing up. I vividly recall the first music that I purchased with my own money. A 45 rpm single of The Beach Boys hit “Barbara Ann.”

For any kids that may be reading, let me explain. Before there was iTunes or Pandora or Spotify, there were record stores. That’s where we would have to go to buy a song we wanted to hear. They were sold as single recordings on vinyl discs that could be played by dragging a needle across the face of them. On the flip side was usually a lesser known song by the same artist or group. In my case, it was “Girl, Don’t Tell Me.”

Buying a record was a monumental decision for a child. The first time you put your allowance money down to buy a piece of music that wasn’t chosen for you by your parents was like taking a first step towards your independence.

I may be wrong but I doubt today’s kids can remember the first song they downloaded. It is just too easy a process to be memorable. Back in the day, great thought and planning had to be made to bring about the physical transaction that resulted in a sale of the one piece of music you decided you wanted to own. There would be other purchases to be sure, but the first record held a special meaning all its own.

“Baa Baa Baa, Baa Barbara Ann…”

Or maybe not.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories. One of the many services they offer is digitalization of audio recordings from reel to reel tape, cassette tapes, or vinyl records. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd

How Did Christmas Look on the Year You Were Born?

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Things do change… Christmas is no exception. Have fun scrolling through these pictures that highlight what was popular at Christmastime through the years.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/smart-living/this-is-what-christmas-looked-like-the-year-you-were-born/ss-BBnMNGt?ocid=NL_ENUS_A2_20171222_2

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

What’s Your Resolution?

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What’s your New Years’ resolution?

The old year is quickly departing. Here comes 2018!

For whatever reason, people seem driven to resolve to make a change in their lives at the break of a new year.  Most of the time, our New Years’ resolutions are destined to fail within the first week or two. 

If you really want to make a change in your life, the folks over at TED Talks have some pretty unique ideas that may have more of an impact on your life than the usual “lose weight, exercise more” resolutions we’ve all tried and failed at. Take a look:

https://ideas.ted.com/9-creative-new-years-resolutions/

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