Thursday, August 6, 2020 -
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Short stories

I’m old school. My connection to social media is pretty limited — no Twitter or Instagram. Although I am on Facebook, I’m not that active on it.

While I have met and followed some super-interesting people on Facebook, who I feel so deeply grateful to have crossed paths with, it is rare for me to really follow anyone. For the most part, social media is not where I do my socializing.

I am an old fashioned panim el panim — face-to-face — kind of person. I find it weird to talk to an avatar.

Of course, there are also those escalating and insane comment threads that often develop. Often, people’s filters go out the window behind the screen and things can get out of hand.

I prefer real life socializing to screen time.

But a nice little harmless surprise that seems to be a feature of social media are all those ridiculous short videos.

At first, I found them to be annoying and a waste of time. Indeed, many are.

But over time I have developed an appreciation for them. And every once in a while I have even stumbled upon a gem.

Once upon a time, there was the art of the short story. These days it’s all about the brief video as a platform to tell a quick, short “story.”

We all sometimes have those inattentive ADD moments in our lives, and those are the perfect moments to fill with one of these crafted videos, be it an inspirational one or just a plain feel-good video.

Who am I kidding? I am a total sucker for them.

There are those amazing famous videos that have gone viral that we’ve all seen. That touching one of the bear cub climbing back to his Mama — It stands as the very definition of determination or resilience.

I’m totally that person, who can click on a quick short social media video that communicates a compressed inspiring story about, say, someone disabled overcoming his or her limitation, or the power of kindness and empathy. By the end I’ll be sitting there wiping off the tears streaming down my face.

It’s so embarrassing. But I own it!

This week alone, when I add up the melange of quick short videos that came my way, I have jumbled in my mind quite a few powerful images and interesting tidbits.

There was the one about a musician who has devoted his retirement to playing classical music to elephants in elephant sanctuaries. He specifically plays for elephants who were abused in circuses and tries to bring them a sense of soothing calm and joy (can there ever be too many elephant videos in the world?). One day, I will make it to an elephant sanctuary, I hope.

There was the sweet little video about two siblings playing basketball and the older sibling, who is all of three or four, helping his toddler sibling successfully get a ball into the hoop and make a basket.

Since it was international Holocaust Memorial Day I encountered  quite a few powerful Holocaust photos and videos, short stories summing up the resilience of various survivors.

There was the juxtaposed photo of a young Israeli IDF soldier on the left, and on the right a concentration camp victim in black and white. Another version of it was a young grandchild in IDF uniform in a protective stance or pose, alongside his survivor grandparents — a bit of a time travel moment there.

Another Holocaust themed video was showing iconic WW II photos in black and white or sepia intentionally transformed into color. I think this is powerful, in the sense that these people did not live their lives in black and white. They had many shades. When we see a photo in black and white, there is a certain oldness, or simplicity, or one-dimensional flatness we attribute to it, and immediately categorize it with certain black and white perceptions.

I hadn’t thought of it until a couple of weeks ago when I went to see the movie “Green Book.” There was a gripping preview for a WW I film called “They Shall Not Grow Old,” which, to haunting whistling, shows gripping black and white war footage with the words on the screen reading, “ . . . the people who experienced it did not live in a silent black and white world.”

And here, this week, I came across this very concept as applied to Holocaust photos.

While normally I would absolutely be a stickler for old black and white classic movies remaining in their original and authentic black and white splendor — not “updated” into color — I thought this artistic approach of putting color and dimension to real life stories and tragedies has merit and psychological insight.

There were a couple more videos I came across. One was about Yehoshua Hershkowitz, an elderly Brooklyn Jew who recently passed away. He spent his life feeding the poor. Another was about a Jewish good Samaritan, who was relaxing at the beach, sitting on one of those huge boulders at the shoreline, when suddenly he noticed a surfer crash into the boulders. He immediately did all he could to hold the surfer’s head above water, which he valiantly did for 30 minutes until emergency help arrived. No one knows who this mystery man is. All anyone knows is that he was seen walking away from the scene with his hand folded over his head, to replace the kippah he lost in the water.

There were a few more little bursts of video inspiration that I clicked on throughout the week.

But one that stands out to me is from quite a few months back. It’s called “The Line Rider’s Beethoven’s 5th,” produced by someone named DoodleChaos. Trust me, it’s worth your four minutes and 25 seconds.

This synchronized video is an engineering feat. From a few lines that become the outlines of two bikers and a road, brilliantly animated to Beethoven’s 5th, this is storytelling at its finest.

In a few minutes an epic journey or relationship is conveyed, with a depth of emotion and meaning but without a word uttered — without any actual image or facial features of anyone other than figures made up and animated from lines on a keyboard. Whoever this DoodleChaos guy is, he’s a master storyteller and a physics and digital genius. What he produced is like a fusion of thoughtful film and classical music, all from mere lines on a keyboard. This guy is a legend.

The story of his little digital bikers is laced with a true sense of loss, joy and meaning, defined with such profundity and vulnerability.

By the end of the four minutes, you might have shed a tear, or had dropped your heart a few times.

Social media is good for more than just socializing and networking. It’s good for bursts of inspiration and feel good videos you can always count on.

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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