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Oct 3, 2013

A New York Fishing Story (true) | Episode 180

An afternoon supermarket run with the wife in the chevy to Fairway, threw the fishing rod in the back.
My wife went in to the supermarket alone as she loves it and I hate it... so I'm just the driver.

Fishing for the pure novelty of it, I would never eat anything that comes from upstream;

The old guys ten feet away had caught a couple of big ones, and had already sliced and spiced....

I caught a snag.... hmmm there goes my lure.... but no! It comes loose... sort of.... and I hoist it slowly up to the surface.
It was very heavy, as the murderer had put the gun in a sock and the sock had filled up with Hudson river sludge.

I was relieved it wasn't a head....
It was a .38 automatic nickel plated hand gun. One slug missing.

I took it to the 34th Precinct, cops gave me a hundred for it. Guns for Cash, no questions asked.

Went to the supermarket and bought some fish.

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Sep 25, 2013

Great Barrier Reef Video: A week out with Mike Ball Dive Expeditions | Episode 178

After six Months in Australia, I'd done the bulk of the editing for a few short underwater films.

It took an invitation to present them in New York City to bring me to finish this one off with a bit of narration and some titles. I spoke last night to a nice crowd of scuba divers, showing them this video and a few others. I have just uploaded this one to youtube. Take a look:





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Sep 19, 2013

Episode 176: Scratching around in the dark with John Chatterton

Doing the Advanced Wreck Penetration Course with diving legend John Chatterton, in the cold waters off the coast of New Jersey... not your everyday SCUBA training.
Photos by Pete Bucknell and Mike Rothschild

2012: I bumped into a tall dark stranger with a cheeky look in his eye on the gangway of a dive boat in New Jersey. I had no idea what John Chatterton looked like, or how well known and highly regarded he was. No possibility of being struck down by the man's reputation if you don't know when he's standing right in front of you.

He was conducting his advanced shipwreck penetration class from the boat that I was about to dive from, so I ended up spending the day in his vicinity. At the end of the day while filling tanks I found myself telling him the most off-color stories I had in my repertoire of off-color material. He passed the test by not being shocked, but amused. I could be myself around this guy.

A year later, one of my dive buddies called and asked me if I was curious about actually taking Chatterton's course this time around.
Class began a Month later.
as the silt, angered by our scraping fins, brought the visibility in the stairwell to zero, I let my camera rig drop to the deck as I began to undo the penetration line
Navigating a wreck
Chatterton took the class through the anatomy of a solo dive on the Andrea Doria (wiki) as his old log books were passed around. He talked about the multi-pronged approach to navigating inside a wreck, which, unlike an underwater cave system, needs more than just a line in to follow out again. Flashing strobes left along the way, the general direction of a compass needle can work, architecture etcetera.
Dive Boat the John Jack

Before the sun came up, the clank of tanks being brought aboard the dive boat woke us. Today we'd be training at 80 - 100 feet on the wreck of the Algol.
There wasn't much chatter on the way to the site, but on arrival the days exercises were laid out:
Dive 1: Basic drills at 80 feet on the deck of the wreck which lay upright:
-Deploy and stow each piece of gear (both lights, both knives, both reels, both bags etc.)
-Follow a penetration line into and through the wreck with your buddy.
-Repeat, but with a blackout mask (so you are blind) simulating a silt-out.
-Repeat, but your buddy is also now out of air and must breath from your tank too.
The Author in full rig
You get the picture... running lines from reels of nylon, avoiding entanglement, not getting lost... Good fun scary stuff if you haven't done it before.
The Author:Reel Practice
Five dives later, we'd covered the course requirements and then some, and we'd become acquainted with some ideas and skills that we all vowed to ourselves that we would improve upon.

Dive 6 was a 'try out your new skills' dive. My buddy and I tackled a second deck penetration which involved a flight of stairs. I was sent up the stairs first by my buddy, as I had my video camera and he wanted me to be able to shoot before the visibility went to shit. The reel was tied off to the base of the stairs and left there as I headed up, knocking loose rust and silt, clouding the way back.

It was time to turn, so with a couple of shots in the camera, headed gingerly back down the stairs into the blackness. The silt, angered by our scraping fins, brought the visibility in the stairwell to zero, I let my camera rig drop to the deck as I began to undo the penetration line. Time and air ticked down slowly. 
After what seemed like 5 minutes, but was probably only 15 seconds, I had the reel winding in the line to the exit, where I handed it back to my buddy. He struggled with undoing the primary tie-off so we cut it and headed up the mooring line, where we spent some time with our teacher and the video camera, before a boat ride to Jersey. 

An intense weekend, and I will likely never forget it.



Mats Stahlkrantz, John Chatterton, Peter Bucknell and Mike Rothschild .......... in blackout masks


Read John's Blog: Shadow Diver

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )


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Sep 10, 2013

Episode 175: Diving the Shipwrecks of the 1000 Islands

Who knew that so many ships could sink to the bottom of one river?

After crossing the border into Canada, my dive buddy, Scott Della Peruta, steered the heavily laden SUV into the parking lot of the waterfront motel where we'd spend the next four nights. We had ten cylinders in the back, including some pure oxygen, two drysuits and a long list of dive equipment packed in milk crates and dry bags, but no mosquito repellent.
Caiger's Motel

Scottie assembling the Inspiration Rebreather
Scott spent a couple of hours preparing and testing his rebreather for the four shipwrecks we'd be diving the following day.
Passing out at 9:30pm, I was still severely jet lagged, having just returned from a European assignment (The Australian Youth Orchestra Project) - I was due for a holiday, and not a short one, but this 5 day trip would do for now...
Early next morning...
Members of the New York Sea Gypsies
This was a 'club trip' which meant that we knew almost all ten souls aboard the small aluminum dive boat The Osprey. It takes some getting used to, assembling your life support equipment on a crowded and often lurching boat, but you get it done because there's no choice.
Early morning starts for the next few days began with motel eggs, scuba equipment and searching for passports, as we would dive on both the Canadian and USA sides of the St Lawrence river, littered with well preserved shipwrecks that had gone down over the last century. Exciting stuff, a limited access museum which you enter 'weightless' .. almost. 
Author entering with Camera Rig

Four days of exploring the bottom of the river occasionally involved 'going with the flow', which for me meant at one point that I was heading down stream with my surface marker buoy, having a lovely time but watching the dive boat grow smaller as I headed further into Canada. Picked up by a friendly rubber dinghy, I was back on the boat in 5 minutes, having practiced Francaise on the nice couple who hoisted my gear out of the water for me. It was all part of the plan of course....
Decompressing after a long dive, camera hanging
There is a video to come from all the great footage collected, but thankfully I have clients to look after this week, so It'll burn a hole in my shelf for a few days...
Shooting Video on the wrecks of the St Lawrence River
Photos by Mike Rothschild and Pete Bucknell


I need help: documentary in process (More info here )


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Aug 21, 2013

The Joshua Bell tour with the Australian Youth Orchestra

Rip through the tour with this fast paced look at the 2 week tour.
Fitting was the music provided by the final encore played by the orchestra in Gstaad at the Menhuin Festival.



More info about this tour on the Tour Company's site: HarrisonParrott.com

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Aug 18, 2013

Episode 173: Joshua Bell interview, Australian Youth Orchestra Tour

I'd been planning the interview with Joshua Bell for a while. The schedule had been very hectic, and Bell tends to be a bit touchy on performance days, so the timing had to be just right.

He's a very easy character to interview, once you manage to get him into the room. He and I agreed to leave it until after the Amsterdam Concert, and the interview took us about 7 minutes to shoot.
Turns out he is facebook friends with my wife, whose career he is following.

The concert footage was a challenge to film, as the Kurhaus in the quaint German city of Wiesbaden didn't seem to have an inch of floor space that didn't contain an audience member; so hardly any room for a tripod (let alone two!).

Take a look:


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Episode 172: A Look Into A Young Percussionist's Mind

The town of Kassel, Germany. The home of the Brothers Grimm. This was the scene for today's video shoot, while on tour with the Australian Youth Orchestra.

ABC Classic FM's Emma Ayres helped me out on this one as she did the last video, with a few introductory words to camera in her trademark calm radio tones. This one focuses on the thoughts of the orchestra's principal timpanist and his role in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.



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Aug 17, 2013

Episode 171: William Barton, Aboriginal musician, performs "Birdsong at Dusk"

My tripod was arriving later in the day by freight, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to film William Barton in action with a string quartet drawn from the Australian Youth Orchestra.

They performed his 7 minute piece: Birdsong at Dusk:


Watch more of this series of videos


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Aug 16, 2013

Episode 170 : Joshua Bell concert in Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the city known to all good classical musicians as the home of the Concertgebouw, a concert hall that rivals all others.
This was last night's venue for the latest miniature film of the Australian Youth Orchestra.

 Maestro Eschenbach's plane was slightly delayed which gave me the opportunity to do a quick spot with ABC FM's Emma Ayres who speaks so beautifully on the radio. This was the launching point for the rest of the video. Eschenbach, as usual provided a few verbal gems for the camera along with some compelling rehearsal footage. Have a look at the fifth installment of this series of videos:

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Aug 13, 2013

Episode 169: William Barton: didgeridoo master teams up with the Australian Youth Orchestra in Europe (video)

A tiny village in lower Austria called Grafenegg is the set for the latest video, shot during the Australian Youth Orchestra's tour of Europe. William Barton is a true character and good fun to be around.

He's  the star of the large scale orchestral piece by Peter Sculthorpe, called "Earth Cry", which features the didgeridoo.
When I interviewed him on the castle grounds with a hand held camera, I realized for the first time how big he is in stature. I had to really hoist the camera up high to get a well framed shot of him. He had some nice words to say about youth and music. Have a look at the video below, it's just over two minutes.

Joshua Bell and Christoph Eschenbach have been chatty and fun back stage after concerts, even though they are in the throes of performing a piece for the first time: Scheherazade by Rimsky Korsakov, which has a ripping solo violin part throughout. I'll interview Joshua Bell in a couple of days after the Amsterdam concert is out of the way and he's a bit more relaxed.

Anyway, here's William:



I need help: documentary in process (More info here )


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Aug 12, 2013

Episode 168: BERLIN: The Australian Youth Orchestra begins their European Tour with Joshua Bell

I managed two days of rest in New York before getting on a Berlin Air flight, seemingly crammed with screaming babies.

The film project continues, with three webisodes up on line now, and five more to go. I'm producing one for each concert day so it's going to be a busy time. Thankfully, I managed to get some sleep on the plane despite the chorus of tiny vocal chords.

The orchestra management has booked us all in to high-end hotels, which means nice big breakfasts with fruit, eggs, prosciutto and smoked salmon, all mixing together in the one stomach....

I paid a visit to a couple of monuments to shoot some B-roll to match an interview with Martin Alexander, 22 year old violist, who had gone off and rented bicycles with a group. Brandenburg gate was their destination. When I was here in the eighties, the monument was near the Berlin wall, and fenced off from the public during which time I'd crossed at Check Point Charlie, changed money on the black market at 5:1, and had dinner in revolving restaurant in the TV tower with an American tourist who got so drunk that when got up to leave, he buttoned his chair into his coat and dragged it across the room. So easy to drift off topic....

Dinner last night with Emma Ayres the ABC Classic FM presenter, who turns out to have been a professional violist in a past life. She's sending back podcasts each day.

The hard part about this gig is keeping batteries charged and all the camera equipment ready to go, amidst bus trips and early morning domestic flights, while keeping the artistic planning of the videos at the forefront of my mind.
Last night, a spanner in the works: "not permitted to film during the concert"... so I had to string together bits of Joshua Bell playing a 'stop-start' rehearsal, but it came out nicely. Take a look:



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Jul 31, 2013

Episode 167: Interviewing Christoph Eschenbach for the Australian Youth Orchestra


Christoph Eschenbach had already made quite an impression on the young orchestra when I arrived for the second film shoot of the series of videos I'm making for the AYO's 2013 European tour.

Glenn Christensen and Yuhki Mayne both spoke well on camera before rehearsal, even playing a couple of orchestral excerpts for the short documentary that will come later in August after the tour's over.
After moving the cameras around the orchestra, finding those special shots amidst a sea of bows and music stands, I managed a few minutes with the Maestro, who I had met previously in Philadelphia when my wife was performing with the Philly Orchestra (after which she and Eschenbach performed some Schubert Lieder much to the delight of the audience).
 Finding the story trail that leads through three different interviews and tying them together with music, footage and the right transitions is quite a puzzle and a bit of an art form. So at one in the morning, after the upload was complete, I landed in the soft hotel bedding, satisfied that another one was in the bag.

Episode 2 of the Australian Youth Orchestra's 2013 European tour project: 

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Jul 25, 2013

Jul 24, 2013

Episode 165: Film shoot: warm-up rehearsals with the Australian Youth Orchestra

Nice interviews this morning with two of the next generation of Australia's formidable classical musicians.
The Australian Youth Orchestra is preparing itself for the arrival of Joshua Bell and Maestro Christoph Eschenbach who, no doubt, will be really surprised at the high level of this group of young musicians (16-25 year-olds). After the concerts in Sydney and Melbourne, the European Tour begins.
Check out the itinerary.

I spent a couple of hours filming their first run through of Rimsky Korsakov's Schehrazade. Impressive. Video to follow in the next episode. (here it is)

It was an early morning start: moving out of Sydney accommodation (I'm heading down to Melbourne for the week as Rini's done with her latest opera at the Opera House). 
The edit was slowed down by the difficulty of deciding what to cut from the interviews, as they were so good. Positive stuff that you really want to include, but you have to keep it short.
Check out the orchestra's youtube channel:


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Jul 20, 2013

Episode 164: Things go awry on a deep dive on one of Sydney's old ship wrecks: The Tuggarah

Interesting day on Sunday, dove the wreck of the Tuggarah, which was in "150 feet of water", just off the coast of Sydney.

The current on the surface was strong enough to push the small boat into the breeze. It took them four or five tries to hook in, dragging the anchor over the wreck using the fish finder as a visual aid. Not easy in these conditions. Eventually one of the old blokes, double tanks and all, did a commando dive head first over the side and went with the anchor to hook it in. Came up with one eardrum bleeding…. didn't make any fuss, just kind of joked about it. They make them tough here.
I suggested he see a Doctor, and he said he'd just look at it with the shop's scope that he inspects tanks with. A good sense of humor given the circumstances. Made me smile anyway.
Tank inspection/eardrum damage assessment scope


He reported the conditions :
"a ripping current, all the way down to the wreck. It's really up to you whether you want to dive it…."
Everyone looked kind of blank….

Somehow, despite no decision really being made, we, with four exceptions who were either seasick or smarter than us,  found ourselves gearing up.
My buddy and I looked at each other and talked about being careful, as there'd already been some 'mishaps'.
We'd already talked about this crew's plan of action for the scenario of a diver losing the anchor line. ("see you in an hour hopefully... you got a big surface marker buoy?" same as the North East Atlantic diving that I'm used to)

I had double steel 100 cubic foot tanks and a smaller 40 with 53% oxygen for decompression, and borrowed regulators, buoyancy compensator and halcyon harness all of which I'd dove before....  and a camera with lights (pic).
The plan was to do 18-20 minutes at 150 feet which gave us about 25 minutes of decompression including some deeper stops during our ascent. 

I was surprised as I jumped in and grabbed the line off the back of the small dive boat that the current was so strong.
It was probably doing about 2 knots. I was having to hold the rope with both hands to stop from being pushed back. It was hairy, but dive-able if you were used to heavy currents.

Juggling the video camera so I could clip its tether lanyard on to a D-ring on my harness, I could now let it go and get back to the business of making hand over hand headway along the boat's water-line railing to the anchor line, which was running almost horizontal.
My dive buddy, experienced, and a big strong bloke carrying a large Gates housing was straining to do all of this one handed, unbeknownst to me, as he couldn't manage to clip the camera off because it was a two handed job. It looked to me like he was doing just fine, but looks can be deceiving.

At the bow of the dive boat, I had an elbow around the anchor line which I was worried would rub a hole in my drysuit as the boat heaved up and down. 
"Do you want to rest here for a minute and catch your breath?" 
I yelled at my buddy through my regulator as he reached the end of the railing. 
He nodded, and we paused.

A few minutes later, after beginning our slow descent, I looked up the line from twenty feet to watch his progress. He was making a methodical, repeated one handed pull motion towards me. The current was blowing us both upward too, so getting down the line took some muscle. He seemed fine still.

Looking back up the line from seventy feet, I saw the line flick forward out of his hand as the boat pulled it taught. He immediately gained some depth, but he was away from the line and couldn't get to my fins to pull himself back to the line, and gave me a very hurried "I'm heading up, you go ahead" signal.

I paused for a moment on the anchor line to make a decision: "Go, or No-go".
Quickly realizing that I could no longer offer any help to him, as letting go of the line would mean two exhausted divers instead of one diver needed to be handled on the surface and brought back on deck.

Having been trained in solo diving, I switched into 'solo diver' mode, and put thoughts of 'how is he going to get back to the boat' out of my head as much as possible, and started checking gauges.
The double tanks held lots of gas, and I was just running a few minutes behind the plan, which was fine.

Things were much calmer at maximum depth on the sand, and the silver lining was: the current was blowing very clear blue water over the wreck, so you the visibility was great for video, but I'd just spent 8 minutes of my planned bottom time muscling down the anchor line, so only about 10 minutes left.
After spending some time filming a beautiful specimen of a wobbegong shark, and having a bit of a look at the remains of the wreck, I saw that my time had come to an end.

This video starts with the Tuggarah wreck footage, and the large wobbegong shark:



Garvin Hook on a Jon Line
Decompression was entertaining in the current, and I wished I had packed my jon line. The Aussies hadn't heard of a garvin hook before, which I reckon would sell well here (invented by a skipper whose boat I dive off in New York) , but it would have been great to have a bit more space at 20 feet where 4 of my colleagues were doing a similar amount of decompression.

Meanwhile…..
My buddy had surfaced 10 feet behind the boat's safety line, and was kicking as hard as he could but not making any headway, and by the time they let the line out ten feet for him, he was so exhausted and crippled by lactic acid build up that all he could do was hold on while they pulled him and his camera rig in to the boat and hoisted him aboard, one piece of equipment at a time. Safe.

Moral? Be able to use both hands at all times. Always carry a Nautilus Lifeline. Be fit. Descend together close enough to your buddy to be able to lend a helping hand.

Here's a nice little interview about diving in Australia: ScubaDiverLife 
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Jul 16, 2013

Episode 162: Australian Youth Orchestra to bid farewell in two concerts with Joshua Bell

An orchestra made up of many of Australia's finest young musicians will give two farewell concerts before boarding a plane bound for Europe.

The Sydney Opera House will be the venue on August 3rd, and Melbourne's Hamer Hall will host them on August 5th with an excellent program including Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, starring Joshua Bell, whom we are so lucky to have visiting our shores, the first time in over two decades.
Christoph Eschenbach will be conducting.



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Jul 10, 2013

Episode 161: Gearing up for European Project with Australian Youth Orchestra, tour with Joshua Bell in August

August approaches. Plane tickets and hotel bookings are in place as AYO's administrative team gather biographies, immunization records and dietary needs of the young players who are about to put their hard personal practice into action when Joshua Bell joins them in just a couple of weeks.
I've been devising shot lists and interview questions for the eleven day tour that will take us from Germany, to Austria and to Switzerland. The project gets its wheels moving in Sydney with a couple of webisodes being shot during rehearsals before the orchestra performs its Australian concerts in Sydney, Melbourne.

I heard Joshua Bell play the Beethoven concerto in Melbourne a couple of decades ago, which was mesmerizing, and we're all happy that he's making the trip to Australia to join our young musicians. 

Poster outside the Sydney Opera House
Shooting with a few high end cameras in some beautiful European cities, I'm expecting to capture some nice footage during this project. It's going to be a busy but rewarding time.
Stay tuned!

It'll all be posted on the AYO channel:


Read more posts about the AYO tour.



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Jun 30, 2013

Episode 160: The Force of Destiny, opening night Opera Australia a huge success

A brand spanking new production of Verdi's "La forza del destino" was met with open arms by an enthusiastic Sydney opening night audience at the opera house on Saturday evening.

A dark and bloody production, one can almost smell the rotting corpses. Dimly lit, Mark Thompson's costumes, makeup design and sets work beautifully to keep the audience immersed in the story. A well rounded cast of strong singers brought Verdi's intentions to fruition.

First performed in 1682 at the Bolshoi, this work is seldom performed in this part of the world, and though I did manage to see it in Melbourne in the eighties at the Victorian State Opera, this is a far superior account. Director, Tama Matheson, took the risk of making this already dark opera even more macabre, but the whole work was completely watchable and compelling.

The grim tale of manslaughter, love and shame is overseen by roaming fortune teller Preziosilla, coercing the menacing hand of destiny throughout; a stroke of directorial brilliance that tied the story line together and maintained our attention, thanks to the constant care given her character by Rinat Shaham, known so well to the Sydney public for her performances as that other gypsy fortune teller.
Rinat Shaham as Preziosilla
The chorus played a large part in this production and were subtle in the right places and were always in time with the orchestra no matter where they were placed.  The supporting roles were very convincingly played by our local singers.

Giacomo Prestia has a fabulous bass voice, and his dealings with his raucous underling, played by Warwick Fyfe, gave us some light relief. In fact, the artistic intensity of all of the male cast members was quite awe inspiring, allowing the subtlety and austerity of the action to remain true. Sword fighting stripped to its bare bones, deaths and grievous bodily penetrations were completely believable and well staged. 

Riccardo Massi, in his debut as Don Alvaro, was a joy to listen to, his velvety tenor voice filling the house without  strain. He's going to have a fabulous career. 
Jonathan Summers, whom many of us heard in the Traviata on the harbour last year (I caught it in the movie theatre in New York City) gave a performance that demonstrates why he is so well regarded in the profession. Secure and convincing throughout, Summers' acting matched his musicianship.
Jonathan Summers, Rinat Shaham and Riccardo Massi

Summers and Massi: awe inspiring duet

Riccardo Massi triumphed in his debut as Don Alvaro
Singing the gargantuan role of Leonore, and making her first appearance in Australia was Soprano: Svetla Vassileva from Bulgaria. Consistently yelling "brava", the Sydney audience greeted her warmly. It's hard to imagine how such a large voice can be generated in such a small body, but she's singing these vast roles around the world with great panache.
Soprano: Svetla Vassileva in her Australian Debut as Leonora

Later at ECQ Lyndon Terracini, Opera Australia's artistic director, and former lyric baritone, thanked his international cast and artistic team, pointing out that he'd given Tama one of the most difficult operas in the repertoire to direct.
Lyndon Terracini

Mezzo Soprano: Rinat Shaham chats with the public

Bass: Giacomo Prestia at the bar with Maestro Andrea Licata
Details: see Opera Australia's press release

Some background on the production:




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