Sunday, May 30, 2021

Life on Zoom, part two: Camera quandary

 Copied from a Facebook post on the Dreaming Up 5781 group page:

Laurie Zimmerman
May 24 at 10:48 PM
I’ve been leading services mostly from my attic all year. Now that we’re moving towards hybrid services with Zoom, my tech committee wants to know whether I want a laptop/iPad in front of me where I mostly fill the zoom box or 1-2 cameras further back that show more of the synagogue behind me. Any thoughts?
. . .

Sam Blustin
I think it would really depend on your goals and what kind of experience you want to create for those online. We have two cameras mounted in back, but the shots are super tight on the leader to mimic the intimacy of the zoom shot. We wanted it to feel the same even as others joined in person. I also want pretty static shots and not changing often for the same reason. I want them to feel like they’re fully in the room, and frequently changing reminds them that they’re not actually present (in my opinion)

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    Laurie Zimmerman
    Sam Blustin This is helpful - thanks!

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  • Shira Salamone
    Sam Blustin , you read my mind--I wish every online synagogue service used static shots, instead of fancy "cinematography," which I hate because it really wreaks havoc with my kavvanah:  [Here, I included a link to my previous blog post, Life on Zoom: Keeping up appearances--or not

    Shira Salamone
    Sam Blustin, this may seem irrelevant and even irreverent, but it's neither--Fred Astaire had the right idea. "Over his 35-year film career, Astaire performed in 31 movie musicals. He changed the way dance was filmed, insisting the focus be on the dance steps themselves, using a stationary camera shot—rather than the then-popular technique of frequent cuts and a constantly roving camera." (See As a veteran Israeli folk-dancer, I find it no end annoying when a videographer zooms in on a dancer's feet or face, because dance is a full-body art, and the videographer is showing off *their* art rather than that of the dancer's. Same with fancy camera work during a synagogue service--whose "show" is this, the cantor's or the cameraperson's? Cameras should be *showing* the service, not *changing* it into a television show! If I wanted to watch a movie, I'd go to Showtime, not to shul! As a davvener, I want to feel "fully in the room," and that's impossible when the videographer is, in my opinion, just showing off their *own* skills rather than focusing on the baal/at tefillah [prayer leader] and/or darshan/it [person giving a sermon/presenting some learning].

    Friday, May 28, 2021

    Life on Zoom: Keeping up appearances--or not

    Some of us have become quite camera-conscious as a result of being on Zoom.  Honestly, I so dislike the way I look on Zoom that I actually bought lipstick for the first time in about 30 years.  Here's my latest attempt to look semi-presentable on Zoom:

    On the other hand, I've finally resigned myself to leaving my webcam in one position--if my head disappears from view every time I stand up for the Amidah prayer, so be it.  And I'll confess that I've given up dressing up for evening Zoom services, unless it's our own synagogue's Zoom service--I just stay in my jeans, though I do try to wear one of my nicer t-shirts on Fridays.

    Other people have gone in the opposite direction, losing all concern with how they look.  Some folks remain seated throughout an entire Zoom service, though they would never do that when praying in a synagogue.  Others just stare at the screen and don't follow the usual Jewish tradition of moving their lips when praying--they look as if they're watching a television show.  The worst story I've heard, though, was of the poor soul who apparent forgot that they were on Zoom and were caught onscreen in their underwear in the middle of a service, with the minyannaires all unmuting to shout "Turn off your camera!!!"

    Synagogues have been all over the map on Zoom and/or livestream.  I mentioned some interesting issues in my post about "the tail wagging the dog."  More recently, I've noticed some serious challenges regarding the presence of cameras in sanctuaries.  Some cantors/cantorial soloists/synagogue singers have become so concerned about connecting with their online congregations that they play to the camera(s) and forget to, ya know, look at their siddurim (prayer-books).  In other congregations, the cameras have swallowed the services.  :(  It's one thing when arrangements are made to have a split screen showing the synagogue musicians playing their instruments safely in a different room or balcony while the clergy conduct the services on the main floor of the sanctuary.  It's quite another when the videographer(s) superimpose translucent shots of the musicians over opaque shots of the clergy.  How much more intrusive can a videographer get?  How is one supposed to maintain one's kavvanah (focus, intention, devotion) through such distractions?  What do these videographers think they're doing--filming movies?

    How will some of the synagogues that have become heavily dependent on cameras readjust once they go back to in-person or hybrid services?  And how will congregants readjust to having to actually participate in the services?

    See Life on Zoom, part two:  Camera quandary

    Thursday, May 27, 2021

    One of those days (sigh)

    Yesterday, I stupidly left too late to get to my doctor on time, and had to reschedule my appointment for a month later.  :(

    Then, when I bit into a candy that I'd bought for consolation, I felt something so hard that I knew it wasn't safe to swallow--and when I spit the hard object into a tissue, it turned out to be that darned dental crown that had already been glued back in twice.  :(  :(

    Today, I told my dentist that, if he didn't figure out how to keep that darned crown glued into my gum where it belongs, it would be a classic case of "three strikes, you're out"--I'd find a new dentist.  You might say that this could be his "swan song."  :)

    Central Park

    Pond just north of Central Park South

    Sunday, May 23, 2021

    Our recent trip to Bear Mountain


    RFK (Triborough) Bridge, close up

    Bear Mountain Bridge
    (Yes, I have a thing for bridges)
    Tower at Bear Mountain summit,
    followed by three views from the top 
    and one from the bottom

    Many thanks to my husband for being the designated driver--after four rounds of eye surgery, I'm no longer qualified.  But I'm very fortunate to have enough vision left to enjoy gorgeous views such as these!

    This is what can happen when there's no in-person Kiddush :(

     I wore a new dress yesterday when I was co-leading our Shabbat morning services on Zoom yesterday, and no one even noticed.  

      Zooming is rough on my ego.  :(

    Wednesday, May 19, 2021

    The lack of a national healthcare system costs millions in lost tax revenue

    There has been some talk on Facebook about employers who underpay their employees being responsible for some people choosing to stay on unemployment benefits rather than returning to work. If you can make more money from unemployment benefits than from employment, why work? That says a lot more about employers than it says about their employees. 😠
    But I haven't heard anything about a related problem: people who deliberately remain unemployed or underemployed because they can't afford to pay for their own healthcare and must carefully maintain their eligibility for Medicaid. This has been going on for years. Have I missed something, or, if not, why is no one talking about this?  
    Been there, blogged that four years ago: A hidden cost of the lack of guaranteed health-care coverage

    Sunday, May 16, 2021

    Thoughts re Megillat Rut/Book of Ruth

    The most shocking verse in Megillah Rut is this one:
    "So she stayed close to the maidservants of Boaz, and gleaned until the barley harvest and the wheat harvest were finished. Then she stayed at home with her mother-in-law." (Megillat Rut/Book of Ruth, chapter 2, verse 23)
    Let me get this straight--Boaz knew that he was a "redeeming kinsman," but he let Ruth glean through the entire barley and wheat harvests and didn't make a move to give Ruth or Naomi any *long-term* help until he was "shot-gunned" into it? What's so heroic about letting two widows beg for food between harvests?

    Tuesday, May 11, 2021

    Can I sue the Sages for damages from davening? :)

    I've stretched out the sleeve of my long-sleeved tee-shirt so badly from pushing it far enough above my elbow to lay tefillin that I'll have to consign the shirt to the rag pile.  Yep, I dipped my sleeve in my dinner two times in ten minutes.  (Ha-laila hazeh sh'tei f'amim--on this night, we dip twice?!).  So nu, can I sue?  😀

    I'm back--my new computer has arrived!

    My desktop stopped working before I could finish placing an order for a new one. 🙁. And our son, despite hrs of work over 2 days, couldn't resuscitate his ancient laptop. 🙁 He did, however, tap into his network and conclude that I'd get a better combo of quality and price online than in a store, even though both the Dell and the HP sites are a pain. I borrowed my husband's laptop just long enough to buy an HP with what our son assured me are decent specs and a half-decent price--it was shipped last Monday (after my Friday order), which was a serious factor in my choice of comps. Our poor son volunteered for the set-up honors, because he knows that I'm clueless about both hardware and software.

    My new computer *finally* arrived yesterday afternoon (four days later than originally scheduled), and our son spent hours getting it set up, sitting me down and making me do my own downloads so that I'd know how, and helping me reorganize my files. It's a pleasure to be back on a full-sized keyboard instead of having to type with one finger on a cell phone. Many thanks, and yay!

     We now return you to our regularly-scheduled posting.  😀

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