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ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Muse

Eiffel: What Goes Up

As the Seine meanders aimlessly through Paris, Gustave Eiffel’s work of wonder appears to glide from one bank to the other. Our Batobus commuter boat docks in the shadow of the Tower, and I shepherd my small flock to the shore.

Razi, 14, and Danny, 11, have been troupers on this first trip to Europe, and they are eagerly anticipating the Eiffel Tower.

Except … my wife Susan has a phobia. Elevators make her anxious, and she’ll only ride in one if there’s no alternative. Fortunately, the small hotels we have stayed in on this trip have booked us on low floors so she can climb the stairs. But the Eiffel Tower is no walk-up, and we approach with some apprehension. . . . CONTINUE READING: Eiffel: What Goes Up

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Muse

On Discarding Books

How Not to Be a Library

Today we gave away over 300 books from our dusty shelves. Many bags, crammed full of books, all in excellent shape, an alarming number unread and unopened.

It started with a holiday season when our kids were away most of the time, coupled with a desire to reduce dust and sneezing, amplified by a dread of our kids someday discovering that our vast collections were both voluminous and virginal.

The latter dread, which is not uncommon for retired folks, is a byproduct of having lived in the same house for 32 years. Without regular purges of stuff, every closet, shelf, or cabinet would be stuffed. That’s why they call it stuff.

The last book purge took place a few years ago, when we discarded funky old open shelving and invested in glass-doored book cabinets from, you know, the huge Swedish place. But the cabinets didn’t close tight, the dust seeped in, and the number of books doubled.

. . . CONTINUE READING: On Discarding Books

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Storytelling • Muse

A Storytelling Journey

I gave a talk on Storytelling at my 50th Dartmouth College Reunion last month. Following is the text of my ten-minute introduction. If you want to see the whole, one-hour presentation, including video clips and stories, click on the video player below. Closed Captions (CC) available.

I never wanted to be a performer … until I discovered storytelling.

About two-and-a-half years ago, a friend of mine had a gig playing classical guitar at The Marsh, a club in Berkeley that was hosting a monthly storytelling night called Tell It On Tuesday. She urged me to come along. After she finished playing, five people, all roughly my age, stood up in turn and told stories. . . . CONTINUE READING: A Storytelling Journey

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Storytelling • Muse

BILLY SOLO Video — Part 2

One-Man Solo Storytelling Soirée Salon

4/20/18 at Silk Road House, Berkeley, California

I guess gratuitous self-promotion pays off, eh? Every single chair was in use. I was so pleased with the turnout and the enthusiasm of the audience, even if most of them were friends!

They laughed a lot, usually at appropriate moments, and applauded each story. What fun!

Part 2 includes these stories:

  • “FDR: Fear Itself”
  • “Evelyn’s Story: Alex and the Cole Porter Show”
  • “Mendocino: The Essence of Nature”
  • “Snow Story: The Moon and Dr. Zhivago”

. . . CONTINUE READING: BILLY SOLO Video — Part 2

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Storytelling • Muse

BILLY SOLO Video — Part 1

One-Man Solo Storytelling Soirée Salon

4/20/18 at Silk Road House, Berkeley, California

My solo storytelling show last Friday was amazing, a real peak experience!

What a fun evening! I had a terrific time and feel wonderful about having challenged myself like that. I did eight stories, about 75-80 minutes of material in all.

The place was packed. About 48 people in a medium-smallish room.

Part 1 includes these stories:

  • “Anansi”
  • “Dog Years: Pop, Sophie, and the West Wing”
  • “The Seven Lies”
  • “Chartres: Ecstasy at the Altar”

. . . CONTINUE READING: BILLY SOLO Video — Part 1

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Storytelling • Muse

BILLY SOLO: One-man, One-hour Storytelling Soirée Salon with BILL ZARCHY

Friday, April 20th at 7 pm

Silk Road House, 1944 University Avenue #107, Berkeley (6-minute walk from Downtown Berkeley BART)

Tickets are ON SALE NOW: http://bit.ly/billysolo

OR Go to zarchy.eventbrite.com . . . CONTINUE READING: BILLY SOLO: One-man, One-hour Storytelling Soirée Salon with BILL ZARCHY

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Storytelling • Muse

Moose Encounter

(Loosely inspired by a tall and nearly true tale)

Jake rushed through the door—sweaty and disheveled—to find Al playing solitaire in the main lodge.

“Al! I just had a moose encounter,” said Jake. “Up on Bacon Ridge. It was pretty great, dude. Wait’ll I tell the guys at home about this.”

“Was it sweet and chocolatey?”

“No, dipshit! Not that kind of moose, with a U! Moose with two O’s, like Bullwinkle. Huge, with antlers. I just saw one.”

“Tell me.”

“I grabbed my camera, hiked to the top, then took a few snaps, looking down at the ranch in the fall foliage. It was right purdy, pardner.” . . . CONTINUE READING: Moose Encounter

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Storytelling • Muse

A Writer’s Debut As a Storyteller

About two years ago, I went to a storytelling event at The Marsh in Berkeley and watched six people tell six very different stories. Some personal, some historical, all about 10-15 minutes long.

My first reaction: I can do that.

Little did I know.

The tellers were all from Stagebridge, a Senior Theatre Company housed in an old church in Oakland, so I started taking storytelling classes there. Stagebridge also offers courses in acting, directing, singing, dancing, and many other kinds of performance. It’s the only “senior” thing I’ve ever done. But close friends, both recently retired psychologists, have found new passions in performance at Stagebridge, and, so I dove in.

. . . CONTINUE READING: A Writer’s Debut As a Storyteller

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Production • Muse • Teaching

How to Succeed in the Film Business While Really, Really Trying

An old friend from the East Coast contacted me recently to see if I had any career advice for her friends’ son, a recent film school graduate who was trying make it as a filmmaker in New York City. I told my friend that, though my experience as a freelance crew person in the Bay Area wasn’t directly applicable to his efforts at finding production clients in New York, I would be happy to offer some general advice. Here it is.

Hi,

Nice to hear from you. As I explained to our mutual friend, I’m not sure how to advise you, other than telling you a bit about my career.

A little background:

Though I grew up on Long Island, I’m not too familiar with the world of production in New York City, having worked my entire career in the SF Bay Area market. I did do some shooting in New York at times, but primarily for California-based clients, usually Silicon Valley companies. And I worked as a freelance director of photography, not producing films as a production company, so my advice will be pretty general.

After graduating from Dartmouth with a major in government, I taught high school . . . CONTINUE READING: How to Succeed in the Film Business While Really, Really Trying

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • VIdeos • Muse

Incense Cedar

As we pass the 30-year mark in our home next week, the tall tree in the right rear corner of the yard, an Incense Cedar, stands tall and true, more than twice the height of the house.

When we moved in, there were two tall trees. The left rear corner held a Monterey Pine, so enormous and overgrown that many low branches reached 25 feet across the yard to touch our deck. Others extended over our neighbor’s fence, then across her yard, to rest on the opposite fence on the far side.

The pine was a happy, magnificent, giant forest tree, but clearly it lived in the wrong part of the world. The neighbor remembered that the pine had been a smallish living Christmas tree that the previous owners of our house had plunked into the ground just a dozen years before. The neighbor and I removed 20 huge, low limbs with a pruning saw one day shortly after we moved in, then we had a tree guy come in and take off another 15 higher limbs. A few years later, another tree tried to remove the pine, which by then was over 60 feet tall and continuing to . . . CONTINUE READING: Incense Cedar

ROVING CAMERA BLOG • VIdeos • Travel • Production • Muse

Showcasing ‘Showdown at Shinagawa’—The Video

Video of a presentation by Bill Zarchy at Northbrae Community Church, Berkeley, California on 2/3/16.

The author reads excerpts from four of the stories in his book, Showdown at Shinagawa: Tales of Filming from Bombay to Brazil.” He also discusses the ins and outs of self-publishing, as well as his background as a globe-trotting cinematographer.

The stories read:

  • “Starstruck at Cannes: Morgan Freeman on the Red Carpet”
  • “21st Century Village: Telemedicine in Rural India”
  • “Dog Years: Sophie, Pop, and Bill Clinton”
  • “Shanghai Lunch”
  • Please note: Video is from an iPad. Sound level is low, but audible. Crank it up!

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Production • Muse

    Bangkok, the Saudis, and the Jism Balls

    Sunset over the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok

    “I’m hungry,” said Randy, as we set up a sunset shot from the overpass near the end of our first day on the ground. “We need something to eat.”

    “Okay,” Larry agreed. “I’ll get street food. There’s lots of it around.”

    “Is that safe?”

    “This is at least my fifth trip to Thailand. I’ve never gotten sick on street food here.”

    “Unlike Mexico,” I put in, “or India, or Uganda.”

    “Or other places. I think everything’s very fresh here. When you buy something, it’s usually been made just minutes before.”

    Larry crossed to the other side of the pedestrian bridge, past a mutilated street beggar, to one of several food carts there. We resumed setting the camera for a shot of traffic below on Sukhumvit Avenue near our Bangkok hotel.

    Two men walked up and caught Randy’s eye. “Are you people Americans?” asked the larger, more prosperous-looking guy.

    I looked up from the camera as Rod adjusted the focus for our shot and Conrad set up his mic. The strangers didn’t look Thai. “Why?” Randy asked.

    He regarded us with a big smile and open arms. “We are from Saudi . . . CONTINUE READING: Bangkok, the Saudis, and the Jism Balls

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Muse

    Dog 3.0—Good Golly, Miss Molly

    Meet Molly.

    The third in the Pantheon of Zarchy Family Dogs, she follows, in succession, Sophie the Wonder Dog and Montana Banana Zarchy, all of them delicious sources of unqualified love.

    Molly is eight months old, about 45 lbs., a super-cute Boxer mix with light fawn-and-white coloring and a longer snout than the typical purebred Boxer. She was a stray found in another part of the state, without tags or microchip, then rescued from a “high-kill” shelter by the fine folks at Milo Foundation in Point Richmond. We adopted her two weeks ago, and she is making an easy transition from pound pup to pampered pooch.

    (Kudos to the Milo people, BTW, who rescue over 1500 animals per year.)

    Molly makes herself right at home.

    I didn’t always love dogs. When I was six, my dad realized that I was afraid of dogs, because my mom was scared of dogs and her mom was scared of dogs.

    So we got a dog, a little Fox Terrier mutt named Honey, who was sweet and soft and cuddly and shed like a husky. Despite her size, she was famous as a fierce watchdog who came tearing through our house . . . CONTINUE READING: Dog 3.0—Good Golly, Miss Molly

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Muse

    The Moon, the Snow, and Dr. Zhivago

    One autumn about a million years ago, I was living with friends in Vermont, teaching high school, avoiding conscription, and just starting my California Dreaming.

    We lived on a farm on a dirt road off another dirt road. The farm didn’t grow anything. The owners lived on Guam, used it only as a summer house, and were dumb enough to have rented it to four just-out-of-Dartmouth, draft-dodging, occupational deferment, Vietnam-avoiding high school teachers.

    They decided to rent it because they had been burglarized the year before when the house was empty and thought having someone live in it year-round would enhance security. They also installed a bright street light over the yard to ward off burglars.

    The farm consisted of 80 acres of beautiful, rolling Vermont hills, four streams, fields separated by stone fences, and a gentle hill to climb at sunset when the deer came out to feed. The total rent was $150 a month.

    The farm was easy to find. From Windsor, where I was teaching, you drove a few paved miles to Hartland Three Corners, a tiny hamlet among verdant fields, then another few miles to Hartland Four Corners, even tinier. From there the rest of . . . CONTINUE READING: The Moon, the Snow, and Dr. Zhivago

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Baseball • Muse

    Present at the Re-Creation: The Loma Prieta Earthquake

    October 17, 1989, 5:09 pm

    Section 51, Upper Deck

    Candlestick Park, San Francisco

    “It’s in the drink, man! The Bay Bridge has fallen down!”

    Uh oh, it’s going to take a while to get home tonight. The man in front of me with the radio pressed to his ear continues to relay news to the fans around us. We’re here for the third game of the World Series. Five minutes ago, the earth shook, and the crowd cheered. Now we start to realize the magnitude of what’s happened. And where the heck is Darrell? . . . CONTINUE READING: Present at the Re-Creation: The Loma Prieta Earthquake

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Muse

    A Chance Encounter

    Running the clapstick. First year at Stanford Film School.

    Sometimes the course of your life can turn on one small thing, one chance encounter. It happened to me, many years ago, the day Beverly invited me to visit her.

    Of course I had the hots for her—pretty, round face, sparkling blue eyes, long blond hair. But ever since our one blind date during college, I had known we would never be more than friends.

    I ran into her at Butcher and Stephanie’s wedding about a year after graduation. She was the maid of honor and I was an usher. During the reception, at a fancy club on the harbor in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Beverly and I wandered down the hill to the beach, got high, and played on the rocks at the water’s edge.

    “I’m living with three other girls in Cambridge this summer,” she said. “Why don’t you come visit? Come hang out with us.”

    Wow, four girls in one apartment! An attractive offer after four years of monosexual education at Dartmouth, and another year of monastic existence while teaching high school in northern Vermont. So a week later I drove to Cambridge to see her.

    John, a . . . CONTINUE READING: A Chance Encounter

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Muse

    We Loved Our First House

    We loved our first house in San Francisco, in the Excelsior district of the Outer Mission. We loved the fact that we owned it, loved that we had managed to move quickly enough to evade eviction by our last landlady (who had suddenly decided to move into our apartment), loved that our living space had increased to include three bedrooms and two baths, loved that we now had a huge, two-car garage with washer and dryer and a concrete back yard we transformed into a garden with roses and sunflowers and paths of brick and camomile.

    We loved our location across from Crocker Park, loved taking our toddler to the swings there, loved jogging around the park, loved watching the Samoans play cricket there on Sundays, loved seeing others play softball, loved strolling through the Eucalyptus-lined lanes.

    We didn’t love the gunshots that emanated from the park in our first month living there, didn’t love the fact that our jogging route behind the grandstands took us through a smelly concrete canyon which had been used as a urinal since the beginning of time, didn’t love the handful of unsavory characters who hung out there, didn’t love that the long-promised . . . CONTINUE READING: We Loved Our First House

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Muse

    Pop’s Podunks

    Whenever my dad wanted to speak metaphorically about Podunks—places that were remote and sparsely populated—he often cited Broken Elbow, Indiana, and Frozen Dog, Iowa.

    I always assumed they were real places, and recently I dug around to find out how they got their colorful names. Internet research truly is the best!

    Googling “Broken Elbow, Indiana” yielded a few promising results: a juicy lead about an Indiana Pacers player (Chris Copeland) who broke his elbow; an informational site for medical elbow and shoulder providers in Indianapolis; another site for orthopedic surgeons in northwest Indiana; and a news alert about an Oakland A’s player (from Indiana) who broke his elbow throwing a pitch this weekend.

    My search for the origins of “Frozen Dog, Iowa” also seemed rife with possibilities: a TV news story about a man discovering a frozen (human) body while out walking his dog in Des Moines; another self-explanatory headline “Frozen Dog Found in Trash in Iowa;” and a pet food site (for dogs, cats, and ferrets) called “My Pet Carnivore” which, among other things, sells frozen pet food in Iowa.

    But where should I go from there? Some hard thinking was necessary. I mean, really, would anyone name . . . CONTINUE READING: Pop’s Podunks

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Muse

    For Mom, A Century Later—We Miss Your Bright Eyes and Sweet Smile

    Today is the 100th birthday of my mom, Jeanette Tulman Zarchy, who passed away about two years ago. In her honor, I am republishing this eulogy I wrote for her memorial.

    I want to tell you a little about our mom, whose life mirrored our nation’s history for the last century.

    She was born Jeanette Dorothy Tulman on May 4, 1914. Think about that for a minute. She was born before the start of World War One, when Woodrow Wilson was president, the first of 17 presidents during her lifetime.

    Jeanette was born at home at 107 Bristol Street, in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, a neighborhood of immigrants. Her family rented, then owned and lived in the three apartments at 107 for generations, the occupants changing a bit from time to time, as these relatives moved out and those cousins moved in. At one point my great-uncle Julius Littinsky had his medical office on the ground floor. Other members of the extended family lived nearby. My great-uncle Israel Brower had a pharmacy a block away, on the corner of Bristol Street and Pitkin Avenue.

    Jeanette’s family was the Fiddler on the Roof generation. They had fled oppression in . . . CONTINUE READING: For Mom, A Century Later—We Miss Your Bright Eyes and Sweet Smile

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Travel • Muse

    Unpunished

    Ten of us arrive, unannounced, at the restaurant on the terrace, hoping for an outside table.

    The staff seats us quickly, then waters, breads, menus, wines, serves, desserts, and espressos us in style. The service is seamless, though during the meal I notice one of our waitresses hurrying by, looking harried. But we gab and laugh and catch up in the sun on the terrace, enjoying the company, the food, and the splendid New England day.

    Eventually the waitress brings the check, with amends. “I’m so sorry about the delay. Thanks for your understanding.” . . . CONTINUE READING: Unpunished

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Books / Writing • Muse

    Roving Camera’s 2500th Facebook Like

    The Facebook Page for Roving Camera: Bill Zarchy’s Blog passed 2500 Likes earlier today. It’s been my pleasure to write for you on a crazy array of subjects for more than two-and-a-half years, and I humbly appreciate your support, enthusiasm, and suggestions.

    I’ll be publishing two books of my stories this summer and have more surprises in the works, so stay tuned! . . . CONTINUE READING: Roving Camera’s 2500th Facebook Like

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • VIdeos • Muse

    My TEDx Talk: Problem-Solving and Adaptation in a Digital World

    Recently I was honored to give a TEDx Talk on creative problem-solving.

    Using examples from three different film projects, I talked about thinking on your feet, adapting to change, and improvising solutions—valuable skills in any era, especially our digital age. It’s not just about mastering the gear, I tell my students. It’s about releasing your creativity. The ability to acquire and propagate images with ease doesn’t make you a Spielberg, any more than learning to write turns you into Shakespeare. But creativity, inquisitiveness, and collaboration will never go out of style.

    TEDx programs are independently organized TED-like events. . . . CONTINUE READING: My TEDx Talk: Problem-Solving and Adaptation in a Digital World

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Muse

    For Pop, A Century Later

    My daddy was the strongest man in the world. My daddy was the smartest man in the world. My daddy could build or fix anything, and he was an expert on everything. That’s how I thought of him when I was growing up, and most of it turned out to be true.

    My dad, Harry Zarchy, was a Renaissance man, a teacher in the New York City schools for 36 years, a skilled musician, a hobbyist and craftsman who excelled in fields as diverse as jewelry making, watch repair, clock making, furniture building, ham radio, photography, drawing, and countless others. And he was an author, the creator of over 30 books on crafts and hobbies and the outdoors for kids and teenagers, mostly with his own photographs and drawings. Between 1941 and 1973, in 32 years, he published 36 books. . . . CONTINUE READING: For Pop, A Century Later

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Baseball • Muse

    Confessions of a Bicoastal Baseball Fan

    In honor of the A’s and Giants both winning their divisions and making the baseball playoffs:

    Here’s my dirty little secret: I am a bicoastal baseball fan. I root for both the Giants and the Athletics, who play on opposite coasts of San Francisco Bay. This duality is heresy for many baseball fans, who call me a “bad fan” and consider sports loyalty an absolute, one-sided affair, even in a two-team market.

    But how glorious to have two clubs to follow! When one wallows in mediocrity, the other is often a contender. One of my teams plays at home every day. If the other is on the East Coast, their starting times are staggered, and I can listen to or watch two games a day – an embarrassment of riches, for sure.

    . . . CONTINUE READING: Confessions of a Bicoastal Baseball Fan

    ROVING CAMERA BLOG • Muse

    My First Paid Writing Gig

    To kick off the new year, I recently came upon this joke I wrote years ago, originally published in Boys’ Life Magazine in 1961. As payment, I received a Boy Scout Handbook, making this my first paid writing gig! It’s obvious to me that I was right to choose film and video as a career (and not joke writing!)