Monthly Archives: March 2016

Old Home Movies – Reel 2

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My next idea was to see if Bell & Howell was still in business and had a website. I was pleased to find they were and their website even had a tab for vintage product repair. Excitedly, I clicked on that link but rather than being taken to an online parts catalog, it listed an e-mail address for a company in California with a contact name. I quickly sent off an e-mail message to the person explaining what I needed and almost immediately the e-mail returned as undeliverable.

I pondered for a few days what my next step would be. I decided to look at my favorite toy store—Lowe’s—to see if they might have something that might work. I knew from the remaining pieces that it needed to be a round, continuous band with no metal connector. After unsuccessfully wandering all over the store, I came upon the idea of a plumbing O-ring. I scoured the plumbing section but only found parts that came with very small washers or O-rings. As I was about to give up, I found a rack with packages of large O-rings.   There were three different size packs, each containing several O-ring sizes.   I knew an O-ring wouldn’t stretch as much as a rubber belt so I went with the largest size O-rings.

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Turned out my guess was wrong, as all of those were too large. Still determined, I returned the #3 pack and exchanged it for the medium sized #2 pack. The O-ring that seemed to be about the right size was a bit thicker than the rubber belt and I had trouble getting it over the large pulley and then stretching it around the pulley on the motor drive.

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I finally got it around both pulleys and then turned on the projector. It seemed to work like a charm. Now all I had to do was wait for it to get dark to see the movies.

My wife joined me for the first viewing. As I fed the first film into the projector, it began to make a groaning noise and soon after gave off a burning smell—like the smell you get when a vacuum beater bar sucks up a spool of yarn—as if the O-ring was binding up on the pulleys, no doubt due to the O-ring’s wider girth in comparison to the slim, original belt. But it didn’t break and even though sounding labored, the projector continued to run.

We started with some of the small, unlabeled reels just to see what they were. I seemed to recall that the reason we stopped using the camera was because some of the films we shot were all washed out, probably due to the outdoor filter not dropping into place. And sure enough one of the first ones we watched was that way. But in spite of the poor film quality, it was precious images of our youngest son’s first birthday and him taking some tentative first steps in our backyard.

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We watched a few more movies, at least until the rewinding and change over from one reel to the next for just three minutes of action got too tiring. These unlabeled reels turned out to be our youngest son’s first and second Christmas. In one of them, we were surprised to see my oldest sister with us on Christmas morning, a visit neither my wife nor I even remembered. As we watched our youngest son climb the stairs of my in-laws house, we were amazed at how much he looked like his daughter—our first granddaughter. And when we saw him “monking” in his baby bed, it was a dancing motion exactly like I had seen his daughter doing just a few days before.

The next night, we decided to watch some more of these movies. I had just loaded a reel and gotten it started when the projector bulb suddenly burned out. That item I knew I wouldn’t find wandering the aisles at Lowe’s (fortunately, turns out that is an item available for purchase online from a bulb source).

But seeing our kids in these movies and even much younger versions of ourselves, we knew that no matter what the cost of film transfer, that these were treasures that must be preserved and shared with our kids so that they too could show their kids moving images of themselves when they were young.

The end.

Old Home Movies – Reel 1

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I realize you have to be of a certain age to recognize one of these. Before the age of cam recorders, video cameras, digital video media, and even personal computers, there were home movie cameras. And once the film, typically a 50-foot roll (about 3 minutes of film) was sent off for developing and returned, you would watch the movie with one of these projectors on a white screen in the dark.

In the early 1980s, my in-laws gave us for Christmas one-year, a Bell & Howell Super-8 movie camera and projector—Super-8 being the modern advancement over regular 8-mm film with a larger film image. And up through the late 1980s, we used this to film significant events—Christmas, birthdays, and vacations.

I can’t recall the last time I got the projector down out of the closet to watch some of these old movies (I have no idea where the camera is). It might have been one Christmas when our kids came home from college for the holidays to show them in action when they were just toddlers. But even that would have been over 10 years ago.

Last fall, I was out in California visiting my son after the birth of his first child. We were sitting around talking and he asked me if I had ever considered transferring the movies to a digital media. I have to admit that I had not even thought of those old movies in many years. I had been actively scanning in old photographs of our kids growing up but it never crossed my mind to transfer the movies. He mentioned it wasn’t cheap but it would be worth exploring.

Soon after I got home, I decided to get the projector out to see if it even still worked. I figured if the transfer process was expensive, I might want to screen the movies to see which ones were worthy of being transferred.

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I was amazed at how many films we had, some of which I had spliced onto big 400 foot reels. With a little trepidation, I plugged in the projector and turned it on. I was immediately pleased to see that the bulb still worked, the cooling fan came on, and the drive began to take up the film from the small reel I had placed on the projector. Then all of a sudden, it made the most horrible, gut-retching sound I cannot even describe, the film stopped advancing and the light no longer projected through the lens.

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I removed the easy access panel from the front where I could see the remains of a black rubber belt that had literally disintegrated flinging little pieces everywhere inside the projector. It was very sticky, almost like tar and the small pieces I got on my fingers wouldn’t easily come off.

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I braved to take off the back panel—the one normally labeled today “warning: no user serviceable parts inside” to discourage inquisitive minds—and could see that there was a chain drive still intact but the motor that drove the entire projector was where the mutilated belt had been stretched. I found more sticky bits of the belt that I had to try to clean out.

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I wondered why the projector would have been engineered with both a chain drive for one function and a rubber belt for the main drive. But wishing it had been designed differently was not going to get over the fact that I needed to replace this belt. I knew from previous experience with trying to get an old turntable to work that finding a replacement belt was going to be quite a challenge.

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I first tried using one of my wife’s hair scrunchies; it seemed just about the right diameter. I fed it over the pulleys and turned on the projector. It seemed to work—temporarily that is—until the little metal clasp that connected the two ends caught on the lower pulley and then got lodged there. Now covered with sticky black rubber from the destroyed belt, I couldn’t even give it back to my wife as she would be most displeased to get that sticky black rubber in her hair.

Intermission – to be continued…

Shaken, Not Stirred

It is probably a rare individual who wouldn’t recognize by this catchphrase what this post is about—Bond, James Bond. Until recently, I wouldn’t have necessarily categorized myself as an avid Bond fan, certainly not to the degree that some people are fanatical about the Star Wars movie series. But I must admit that I have become more of a fan now that I have begun to read Ian Fleming’s books upon which many of the Bond movies are based.

Embarrassingly I was not even cognizant that there was a series of James Bond books until my wife began to read them several years ago. Sure, I would recognize the names of Ian Fleming and Albert R. Broccoli in the credits of a Bond movie. And often after watching a movie, I am motivated to read the book upon which the movie was based since usually you get so much more of the story from the book than the movie. But since I didn’t see any of the movies in the 60s and 70s when most of the ones based on the Ian Fleming books were originally released, I just never made the connection between his books and the movies.

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I started reading Fleming’s books in 2015 when one of my $2.99 “daily book deals” for my Kindle was Casino Royale, the first James Bond book Fleming published in 1953. I was interested in reading the first book since having seen the 1967 movie Casino Royale, I was most disappointed in the movie despite its all-star cast since it was actually a spoof on secret agent 007 (interestingly this movie stared David Niven as 007, the actor Ian Fleming originally wanted to be cast as Bond in the movies rather than Sean Connery). This short book (less than 200 pages) was a quick but enjoyable read that got me hooked on reading more of the series. And reading it, I recalled some of the scenes from the 2006 remake starring Daniel Craig in his first role as 007, which prompted me to re-watch this movie as well.

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When I checked my usual source for e-books (Amazon), I was disappointed to learn that rather than the $0.99 to $2.99 price for each I expected for 50-year old books; I found that each book was $7.99. With 13 more Fleming books in his series, my literary Bond fix would cost me over $100. I decided to just wait and see if any others came out as low-cost daily deals.

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Not long after finishing this first book, I got an Amazon e-mail about a 007 “SPECTRE trilogy” book. When I clicked on the details, I discovered it was actually not a book by the same name of the 2015-released movie, but rather a bundling of three different Fleming books, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice all for the bargain low price of $3.99. Turns out all three of these books features Bond battling with SPECTRE, the SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion, a notorious organization also featured in several James Bond books written by John Gardner after Ian Fleming’s death.

Although I originally envisioned reading the Bond books in the order in which they were published thinking there was a chronological flow of development from one book to the next, I decided to make an exception and read these three in the order in which they were combined into this one trilogy. I’m glad I did, as the order is important to the storyline with each subsequent book revealing important details referred back to in the previous books. I also decided to reverse my normal practice of watching a movie first and then reading the book, I read the books first and I am very glad I did this too.

In my experience of watching a movie based on a book, often important details are either omitted from the movie altogether or only briefly touched upon, creating a bit of confusion for the movie watcher. In the case of all three books, reading the book first actually made the movie much more understandable (although the last movie diverged quite a bit from the book creating a much more sinister plot). And even though I knew how the plot ended, having read the book first made the movie more enjoyable.

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Thunderball and You Only Live Twice are Sean Connery’s fourth and fifth of seven total movies in which he was the featured 007 agent. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the only movie starring George Lazenby, and justifyingly so in my opinion.

Having thought that I had seen all of the James Bond movies, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had never seen any of these three. So rather than watching a rerun of a movie I had seen before, they were all new stories to me enhanced by the prior knowledge of having the details from the book in advance of watching the movie. And in reading both the second and third books of this trilogy and watching the movie afterwards, I was amazed to learn two facts about James Bond, ones that I never knew, and ones that I will not reveal here so as to not be a “spoiler” for those also new to these three stories.

Credit: 007.com

Credit: 007.com

I realistically know that James Bond is simply a fictionalized character we can only picture in our mind’s eye based on our favorite actor who portrayed 007 over the 50+ years since his creation. But gaining details from these most enjoyable books makes him more real and makes me want to learn more about him and his secret missions. Having read these four books and watching the companion movies, has motivated me to now add all of the old Bond movies to my NetFlix queue and read the remaining 10 Ian Fleming books. My plan is to read the book first, and then watch the movie. And I will be pleased to find out if there are other 007 movies I thought I had seen before but now learn are new stories to me of this iconic character. Maybe after reading the book, I’ll enjoy watching the movie while sipping on a dry martini—shaken, not stirred—of course.

The Black Book – My Version

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Seeing the professional quality of my niece’s Black Book resurrected the idea for me to write my own story. It was fun to read my parent’s story again and see the new photos as well. And I was even more convinced that our story had to be written. But time and other distractions got in the way and so the idea was pushed to the back of my mind.

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Sometime around the time my niece published her version of the Black Book, I learned that my daughter had started a blog. I had never read a blog before so was unfamiliar with the concept. I began to read my daughter’s almost daily posts and felt a real connection to her even though she lived almost 2,000 miles away. It was a real treat to read her eloquent words—for unlike me, she is a literary scholar—and get a glance into her thoughts and feelings through her prose and photos.

These stories weren’t for the most part of significant events, but rather just everyday musings, thoughts that if not written down somewhere would likely be lost. I thought what a great way to capture these elusive reflections for posterity.

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Not long afterwards, my wife started her own creative blog and I began to read hers as well. My wife is very creative and I highly encouraged her along the way. And thanks to our son-in-law’s help, she overcame the technical aspects of launching a blog.

Often I would comment to her after reading her latest post that I could never have written that—my own telling would have been just the facts without the flavor or emotions—the old ad image of trying to sell the steak sans the sizzle.

But then she invited me to be a guest writer on her blog. I thought a while about what I would want to write on and in the end decided to write on my love of calendars.

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Turns out I had a lot to say as the post was so long, it had to be split into two separate postings.

The feedback I got was tremendous and highly encouraging. I also found it personally very rewarding to go onto the Internet and find something I had written, something that anyone could find through a search engine. Thanks to my wife’s invitation, I began to think what it would be like to start my own blog.

My first step was to jot down some potential ideas that I would want to blog about. I came up with a list of about 25 topics and so convinced myself that I had enough to get started. I wrote a couple of drafts and had my wife proofread them.

My next step was to come up with a blog title. Having witnessed the creativity that my daughter and wife had expressed on their blogs, I decided that I too wanted to explore my own creativity. But I wanted my title to not only reflect this but also identify me for what I was professionally and so chose the title “OneCreativeScientist.com.”

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Thanks again to our technically talented son-in-law, he talked me through the process of obtaining a domain name and then linking that to my WordPress account. My first attempt at publishing failed but even though being extremely busy at the time, my son-in-law helped me troubleshoot and correct the problem from almost 2,000 miles away. My introductory post published on 09 Feb 2013.

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As I wrote these early posts and added new topics to my list as they came to me, I realized that I was telling the stories that I had wanted to write in my version of “the Black Book.”

Recently, I came across that old WORD file—appropriately named “David’s Story”—on an old computer. As I read the words, I recognized that thankfully my writing skills had in fact improved over the ensuing years. But what I realized the most was that except for one of those stories I had included in that first chapter so long ago, I have written about each in this blog. Whether consciously or subconsciously when I first started out, this blog has become “My Black Book.”

Interestingly, it is not structured like I originally envisioned my book would be—in chronological order. But nonetheless, it tells my story and my interactions with all those I love. And along the way, it has helped me to discover some things about myself.

Whether or not I ever decide to convert this blog into a book one day, it will continue to exist as my digital, virtual “Black Book.” I hope to continue to publish more stories both from memories as well as new experiences. Thanks for reading and especially thanks for all of your encouraging comments!