Apr 8, 2020

Passover and Easter Skype and Facetime Tips

Lights! Camera! Dust hippos!

By Ed Goldman
With Passover beginning this evening at sunset, and Easter arriving this coming Sunday, I thought I’d pass along some helpful hints for those of you who won’t be able to share in-person these totally different holidays with your loved ones or relatives (who are not always the same people, I’ve just been informed).

Why not let Skype, Facetime or another app I know nothing about whatsoever turn your computer or phone into a conduit to everyone’s kitchen table, living room or patio, depending on what part of the country everyone lives in and how fast this pandemic and climate change are turning event planning into a game with slightly longer odds than those of Russian roulette.

If you haven’t availed yourself of any of these marvelous devices, there are some challenges and solutions you may want to consider before going “live.”

Ed couldn’t ex-Skype in time. Photo by S.L. Fee.

1. The Challenge: During this enforced lockdown, ask yourself when you last dusted, vacuumed, cleaned the litter box or showered? Neither Skype nor Facetime is equipped with a smell-ometer (yet) and certainly, dust floating in the air can give your images a hazy, Camelot feel (so can pulling a pair of ecru pantyhose over the lens, which is how Norman Jewison’s cinematographer says he shot (and won an Oscar for) ”Fiddler on the Roof.” (One unintended result: It made the Cossacks look dreamy.)

To be sure, very few viewers will be able to tell if your home has not merely dust bunnies but dust hippos. Or that your wall-to-wall carpeting is actually a series of throw rugs now linked by debris into forming a pattern. They won’t be able to sniff your litter box or, thank Heaven, you. 

To recap: It’s not so much how you and your home will actually look or smell in the video transmission as how you’ll feel and behave. If you and your domicile reek, you’re sure to convey this, especially given your tendency to wear not only your emotions but lately, last night’s Rao’s Homemade All Natural Marinara Sauce®, on your sleeve.

The Solution: Opt for appearing on camera in an extreme close-up. Instead of forcing you to do an elaborate cleanup, the dishes and your laundry, this will require only that you (1) wash your face, (2) trim your nose hairs and (3) floss. If you place the camera a little above you so that it tilts slightly downward,  you may safely eliminate Step 2.

2.The Challenge: You’ve been told your speaking voice can not only wake the dead but also cause several of them to voluntarily go back to being dead—without even taking a few days off to sample that swingin’ zombie life. 

While your voice is high enough to summon dogs, which would render it all but silent to most humans, it is capable, especially when you trill “Memories,” to cause traffic to pull to the side of the road, even if it’s many blocks away and you’re singing in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber you’ve set up in your former gift-wrapping room.

The Solution: Do as they do in the film business: Hire someone to dub your voice, then play it back while you’re on camera and try to lip-synch along. I admit that this approach could inhibit the free flow of conversation, since if you don’t know in advance exactly what everyone’s going to say, you can’t very well record your responses to them. 

Now, you could do what they do in Italian films, where they never record the dialogue as it’s being spoken. Everything is “looped” in after shooting ends. This makes it possible for Italian films to be shown in a variety of countries and languages and also provide steady employment to one multi-lingual guy with a raspy voice who’s always saying something like, “Watch out, Hercules, he has a trident hidden in his pelt pocket!” (Or, alternatively, “Watch out, Clint, he has a six-shooter hidden in his serape!”)

Or—and this is harder, I’ll admit—you can make a list of everything you think people will say to you and pre-record your responses. Some can even do double-duty.


a.Comment: “You haven’t aged a bit!”
Response: “We just spoke an hour ago.”

b.Comment: “Where are the kids?”
Response: “We just spoke an hour ago.”

c.Comment: “We were very sorry to hear about your uncle’s passing away. How are you holding up?:”
Response: “We just spoke an hour ago.”

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).