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.

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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.

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BILLY SOLO Video — Part 2

One-Man Solo Storytelling Soirée Salon
4/20/18 at Silk Road House, Berkeley

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”

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BILLY SOLO Video — Part 1

One-Man Solo Storytelling Soirée Salon
4/20/18 at Silk Road House, Berkeley

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”

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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.”

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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

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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

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A Chance Encounter

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

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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

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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!

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Paris When It Sizzles

“Pinch me,” says Susan as we cross the Seine from the Left Bank to face the sun-drenched Gothic towers of Notre Dame. “I can’t believe we’re back here.”

We peel off jackets and join the throngs of tourists and worshippers outside the Cathedral. Despite the lyrics of the Cole Porter song — “I love Paris in the summer, when it sizzles” — it’s only April, but the temperature this afternoon sizzles near 80.

We’ve visited Paris at earlier stages of our lives …

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