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Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Low-budget film-maker from India flies high with Superman of Malegaon

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 6:08 PM

Courtesy of The Times Online

By Rhys Blakely

When Slumdog Millionaire wowed audiences having cost a mere £15 million to make, the film industry’s savants foresaw a new era of super-frugal, post-credit crunch cinema.

They did not know the half of it. The latest darling of the festival circuit is a dirt-poor director who learned his trade shooting wedding videos in a backwater Indian town. His latest movie was made for just 0.01 per cent of the budget of Danny Boyle’s movie.

When Shaikh Nasir, 33, a shopkeeper with a unshakable passion for cinema, embarked on his first feature film in the industrial hub of Malegaon in 2000, his measly 50,000 rupee (£650) budget meant a bullock cart had to serve as a camera crane and neighborhood tradesmen were roped in to star.

Even the plot was second hand. The film was a spoof remake of Sholay, a hit 1970s Bollywood action adventure — even if Mr Nasir’s villain’s had to forgo the horses ridden by the original’s bandits, to travel by bicycle instead.

The homage, with its Python-esque eye for the ridiculous, delighted local audiences and won the director a cult following, but its DIY appeal never extended beyond the subcontinent.

Now, six super-low-budget films later, it appears that Mr Nasir is finally on the cusp of breaking onto the world stage. His latest project, Malegaon ka Superman (Superman of Malegaon), made for a relatively lavish 100,000 rupees, is winning international acclaim.

Something of Mr Nasir’s agreeably ramshackle — if slightly loopy — style is gleaned when he recounts his influences. “I learnt my craft from the English classics,” he told The Times. “James Bond, Jackie Chan, Charlie Chaplin, Commando, Rambo.” Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that while Malegaon’s Superman dons the red and blue of his Hollywood namesake, there the similarity ends.

Mr Nasir’s hero is played by Shaikh Shafique, a skinny factory worker who was paid about £1.30 a day in what was his first acting role.

Superman’s lycra outfit hangs from his scrawny frame. He wears flip flops over his baggy blue leggings, threads hang from his billowing shorts, and his asthma means he is not always up to fighting his nemesis, a local tobacco baron.

This may not sound like the type of fare worthy of winning gongs, but a documentary, called Supermen of Malegaon, which records the making of the feature film has clinched awards at film festivals in Los Angeles, Prague, Pakistan and Italy.

When Malegaon ka Superman was shown at a festival in Goa this week, international buyers jostled to snap up the rights. Consequently, a worldwide cinema release is — astonishingly — on the cards.

Such a move would put Malegaon, a gritty industrial town previously best known for ugly inter-religious violence, on the world cinema map — a status it surely deserves given the dedication of its hard-pressed film makers.

The region, about 180 miles northeast of Mumbai, is famous in India as the site of a bizarre parallel movie universe. Home-produced spoofs of Bollywood blockbusters made by a handful of budding amateur directors are more popular in Malegaon than the originals they parody.

The appeal of the spoofs, which are shown on VHS tape in local “mini theatres”, owes much to the incorporation of local idioms and the escape they offer audiuences from the monotony of 14-hour shifts in local factories, Mr Nasir says. There is also the delight to be had in spotting the neighborhood postman hamming it up as, say, an evil henchman.

The Superman film marks the first time Mr Nasir has sought inspiration from Hollywood, but it remains true to his cottage industry ethos. It may have the biggest budget yet and be the first to be edited on computer. But the production process still rests on improvisation.

Superman is only able to achieve the illusion of flight, for instance, because he is held up horizontally above the heads of three of the crew or rolled along on a plank of wood placed on top of a bicycle.

Now, with Superman proving a triumph, Mr Nasir’s fans want to know what source material he will tackle next?

Malegaon ka Dinosaur” — a remake of Jurassic Park — and “Malegaon ka Rambo” have been mooted as “dream projects”. However, a remake of another superhero franchise seems most likely: “Malegaon ka Spiderman“. Unless, presumably, Hollywood’s lawyers consider that an homage too far.

Low-budget blockbusters

• The low-budget zombie film Colin, which featured at Cannes festival this year, was made for £45. Marc Price, the director, said that the budget was spent on “a crowbar and some tapes”

• Robert Rodriguez raised almost $7,000 to make El Mariachi, his first feature film, by taking part in clinical drug trials. He went on to make blockbusters such as Sin City

• Oren Peli’s film Paranormal Activity cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to make and grossed more than $106 million

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‘Supermen of Malegaon’: Hooray for Mollywood

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 2:13 PM

By Piyali Bhattacharya

Courtesy of Wall Street Journal

You’ve heard of Hollywood, you’ve even heard of Bollywood. But have you heard of Mollywood? We hadn’t either until we heard about the film “Supermen of Malegaon” which is coming out in Edison, New Jersey this weekend. Director Faiza Ahmad Khan sat down with us for a chat about his new documentary, which follows the lives of people creating the latest Mollywood film.

So what is Mollywood? It turns out that the people of Malegaon, a small village just out side of Mumbai, India, are very dedicated to cinema. So much so that they have developed their own brand of film: Mollywood. The “M” refers to Malegaon, not to the idea that the films are “by Muslims for Muslims,” as some blogs have suggested.

According to Khan, Mollywood films are spoofs of popular Bollywood and Hollywood films. Movie enthusiasts in Malegaon first started the project with remakes of such popular Hindi movies as “Sholay.” When those were a success, they parodied other big Indian films like “Lagaan.” Their latest endeavor has been to create a spoof on the Hollywood film “Superman.” Faiza Khan first became interested in the project while reading a local newspaper that had covered it. “I was between films at the time,” he told Speakeasy “and was intrigued by the idea of Mollywood.” He and a friend headed out to Malegaon to check it out, and ended up staying with the crew for almost three months.

While he observed the people of Malegaon create their version of “Superman,” Khan found that the key to Mollywood films was humor. “They are always trying to get a message across. Whether it is about the communal violence that happens around them, or the low wages they receive, humor is the way in which they convey it.” Using humor to take the edge off has resulted in Mollywood films being very successful, while at the same time addressing prevalent social issues.

“The most important thing to recognize about Mollywood,” Khan told us, “is that each film is made with a huge community effort. The people in Malegaon are poor laborers. They don’t have money or resources. But they have extreme enthusiasm for film.”

Khan says that the community gets together and decides what kind of film they’d like to make next. Then, each member of the village gets involved in helping out with some aspect of the film. Khan says that with a lot of determination and patience, residents have learned how to use cameras properly and create shots. “It’s a very democratic way of filmmaking,” Khan said. “They are changing the way films are made.”

Supermen of Malegaon is going places

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 2:02 PM

by Arthur J. Pais

Courtesy of Rediff

Nearly two years since it was made, the witty, poignant and life-affirming documentary Supermen of Malegaon which has travelled to more than two dozen film festivals is getting a theatrical release.

It is being shown at Big Cinemas Movie City Edison, New Jersey for a week through FilmKaravan, a distributor specialising in offbeat films such as Sita Sings the Blues.

If Edison embraces the film, it could be in more theatres in other American cities. In any event, it is also available on DVD. Though the film has been travelling to film festivals across the globe, it is giving a solid nudge for more recognition, and this time by the public, through FilmKaravan.

Set in the city of Malegaon, full of communal tension and economic slump, the documentary chronicles the life of a handful of cinema enthusiasts who make their own films — quirky, low budget, socially aware and spoofs of Bollywood films. When their ambition grows, they are ready to take on Hollywood and Superman.

The film, produced and directed by Fazia Ahmad Khan, has received glowing reviews from the likes of Variety and has been shown at an Asian Film Festival at the Museum of Modern Art.

She said the terribly inexpensive films made in Malegaon, some costing just about $5,000 serves as a community builders, though she confesses Hindus living on the other side of a river dividing the textile town came to hear about these ultra low budget films when they heard of the documentary Khan was making.

Khan is also careful to point out that these films, and movies in general, are important part of the people’s daily lives in this textile city

‘Working at a loom is an underpaying job involving serious health risks,’ she said in an interview discussing the people of Malegaon. ‘They work six days a week for about ten hours a day and they’re on their feet the whole while. So on a Friday, which is a holiday, they go to a movie to forget the drudgery of their lives. For those 3 hours, they are Shah Rukh Khan [ Images ] running through mustard fields or Abhishek Bachchan [ Images ] chasing a beautiful woman around trees.’

Variety called the Khan film ‘An agreeably ramshackle film about the unshakable commitment of an equally rickety group of dirt-poor movie tragics producing a superhero spoof in their Muslim village…Supermen of Malegaon possesses a loopy, energetic charm.’

At the Silverdocs Documentary Film Festival a reviewer declared: ‘Faster than a speeding auto rickshaw, Faiza Ahmad Khan’s film will steal you away and take you sailing joyously into the skies of India [ Images ]… A terrifically fun story of underdogs who rise to the task of being supermen.’

At a recent screening of the film at a festival, an audience member asked Khan how she went around casting her film. “I did not know how to react,” she says with a chuckle. “I though it was obvious it is a documentary.”

She was inspired to make the film after reading an article in an Indian publication on the passionate life of the filmwallahs in Malegaon.

She says though she is willing to try her hand at a feature film, for the time being she is happy making the documentaries. Her next will focus on the tribal people and how developmental work affects their lives for better or worse.

Superman who spits!: How commerce corrupts, and less money means more honesty

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2010 at 7:50 AM

Versus

Courtesy of Mumbai Mirror

By Mayank Shekhar

Nasir Sheikh is one of India’s most passionate film-makers. You may not have heard of him. Chances are, you’ve heard about some of his films. He’s made two. As we speak, he’s finishing his third, the most ambitious project yet. They’re certainly the talk of the small town he comes from.

Like many  contemporary directors in this country, Nasir learnt film-making at the films. He did his “rehearsals” with Hollywood, studying “master directing, master lighting….” Hindi movies, he feels have “weak direction”. James Cameron’s The Abyss, it appears, is one of his favourites. It played for a month in the video theatre he once owned. He now runs a clothes showroom in the same space, which is evidently not his calling.

Years before, Nasir had taken up a moving camera to shoot local weddings. He does remakes of popular blockbusters now. They are fresh works still. Only the premise is borrowed. For this, he even names the original movie on the title. Nasir is evidently untouched by the credit-stealing ways of Bollywood, though he only lives about 300 kilometres from Mumbai.

It’s a place called Malegaon, known for many things. One of them, a local says, is its unlimited passion for movies, where a Shah Rukh hair-cut sells for Rs 101, and a Sanjay Dutt one for much more (Dutt’s hair needs better styling at the back).

A river divides this town between Hindus and Muslims. Both live on either side but rarely mingle. The segregation is complete. This is no different from the sub-continent itself, where two upset neighbours, separated by recent history, are still united in their love for Bollywood films.

Malegaon is predominantly Muslim. Faiza Ahmed Khan’s hilarious and tender documentary, warmly called the Supermen of Malegaon, takes you into the heart of this mofussil district. It is clearly the most amusing film you’re ever likely to watch on the making of another movie.

In the film, Nasir says he’s already taken on Bollywood, having directed both Malegaon Ka Sholay and Shaan. This time his ‘takkar’ (battle) is with Hollywood. Computers can make this possible. He will shoot the film on chroma, where actors perform over a green sheet, and the background images are generated digitally. It would cost him Rs 2 lakh at a Mumbai studio. With Rs 2 lakh, he could make four movies, he says. He’d rather do it on his own. Nasir needs to balance his means with quality, instead of the other way round, where budgets seem inversely proportional to content.

Nasir is going to make his hero fly. He is making Malegaon Ka Superman! The first four parts of the American franchise, he says, were commercial successes, but the fifth Superman failed because they’d merely remade the first one. This was unnecessary. There’s so much in the concept to take it forward.

Nasir’s parody takes Superman to Malegaon; dancing in the fields; saving his love from slick goons; flying up to catch better signals when the cellphone network is weak. This Superman, in a rich baritone, says he wants everyone to “thooko” (spit) everywhere, on the streets, in the restaurants… Because, “I louv filth!”

It’s quite a moment in Faiza’s documentary when Nasir finally reveals his Christopher Reeves: a worryingly thin, short, dark man Akram Khan, who appears in a Superman sky-blue suit with M for a new emblem, and the long nada of his boxer-shorts deliberately left hanging. Akram has taken leave to play the main role. He works 12-hour shifts in a power-loom, like most of Malegaon, which hardly gets power for a few hours in a day.

Akram’s underpants have been split from the bottom. He’s made to slide into a log of wood that juts out of a cart. A few people wave his red cape from behind. The cart moves forward taking Akram along. The cape’s flying in the air. Superman tears into an autorickshaw and drags a villain out. You’ll want to clap.

Most other times, Akram remains hung to a horizontal pole pretending to fly. In one scene, Nasir dropped his camera in water. The crew left Superman alone in a pond, floating on an air-tube. The camera was fixed later.

The movie, I hear, is ready. It’s worth looking forward to. You at least know these guys were only honestly making a film, not thinking of everything around it, but the film itself.

‘Supermen of Malegaon,’ on Review

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 at 6:41 PM

Courtesy of Variety

By Eddie Cockrell

A Mediacorp (Singapore)/NHK (Japan)/KBS (South Korea) production for the Asian Pitch. Produced by Faiza Ahmad Khan, Siddarth Thakur, Gargey Trivedi. Executive producers, Junichi Katayama, Chung-Yong Park. Directed by Faiza Ahmad Khan. With: Sheikh Nasir, Akram Khan, Shafique, Farogh Jafri, Shakeel Bharati.
(Urdu, Hindi dialogue)
An agreeably ramshackle film about the unshakable commitment of an equally rickety group of dirt-poor movie tragics producing a superhero spoof in their Muslim village, “Supermen of Malegaon” poses no threat to Warner Bros. but possesses a loopy, energetic DIY charm. Pic, which won the jury award for docu feature at Italy’s annual Asian film confab, the Asiatica Film Mediale, is too specialized to support a theatrical campaign, but is bounding along the fest circuit and should show its strength in ancillary.

Like “American Movie” before it, “Supermen of Malegaon” is about dreamers with more ambition than talent or resources. Here, the dreamer is wedding videographer and former videotheque proprietor Shaikh Nasir, who runs a cottage industry making spoofs of Hollywood fare and the Bollywood films produced a hundred miles away in Mumbai. The locals eat these films up, as life in the cotton-mill town of Malegaon provides little other entertainment.

Nasir is budgeted the equivalent of $1,200 for the project, which he explains by saying, “So far, nobody has messed with Superman.” One of his screenwriters, Farogh Jafri, reasons, “You open with a blast, so that you have the audience’s concentration,” while another, Akram Khan, who plays the bad guy, has a weird obsession with filth.

Reasoning that Superman would be “a victim of many diseases” with “asthma from flying through pollution,” they hire a scrawny guy named Shafique (who’s a dead ringer for Charlie Callas) to be their hero.

The shoot isn’t without incident: The helmer drops his camera into a river, Shafique needs four days off for his wedding, the handmade uniform must be washed and dried every day, and a local paper’s coverage repeatedly refers to the production as “Spider-Man.” Finally, the film, with the poster tagline “The Pack of Blasting Comedy,” is preemed at the resuscitated video parlor to much excitement.

Docu helmer Faiza Ahmad Khan is clearly fond of this endeavor and takes a benevolent view toward these passionate cineastes. Seventy-nine-minute version screening at SilverDocs appears to be a pre-existing 52-minute cut with the actual finished product grafted on; as rough as its creation would suggest, the pic sports a subversive humor.

Camera (color, HD), Gargey Trivedi; editor, Shweta Venkat; music, Sneha Khanwalkar, Hitesh Sonik; sound, Gunjan Augustine Sah; sound designer, Niraj Gera. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, Australia, June 7, 2009. (In Silverdocs Film Festival, Silver Spring, Md. — Silver Spectrum.) Running time: 79 MIN.

Raavan or Not?

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 3:24 PM

By Anisha Jhaveri for Filmkaravan

As if we didn’t already have enough Ramayan adaptations in the world, Mani Ratnam decides to join in on the fun. Raavan, as the title unashamedly gives away, is the acclaimed director’s take on the epic, with a few plot and character twists thrown in—you know, to be “different” and all.

Known for thwarting power in favor of the poverty-stricken, tribal leader Beera Munda (Abhishek Bachchan) is revered by villagers yet resented by local authorities. Consistently evading capture and arrest, he has gradually grown to unofficially rule the small town of Lal Maati.

Enter Dev Pratap Sharma (Vikram), an accomplished and highly-respected inspector, called upon to rid Lal Maati of the roguish likes of Beera once and for all. With a few strategic attacks on Beera’s world, Dev is at his commanding best—until he learns that his own wife, Ragini (Aishwariya Rai), is the kidnapped victim of Beera’s revenge.

Led by the goofy-but-wise forest guard Sanjeevani* (Govinda—a casting choice I can only explain as a weak effort to simultaneously fulfill the need for a “Hanuman” as well as some comic relief), Dev and his band of trusty colleagues set forth into Beera’s jungle to rescue Ragini. Meanwhile, as Ragini increasingly interacts with her captor and learns of her husband’s hand in his painful past, sides of him emerge that contradict his image as a demonic villain.

I can see where Ratnam might have been going with this. Beera has been endowed with Robin Hood-like qualities and a rather tragic backstory, while it is occasionally the supposedly-heroic Dev whose intentions appear morally questionable. In so doing, Ratnam allows each of them a realistic and relatable, rather than symbolic, function. While this certainly makes for greater character dimensionality, it remains to be seen whether Indian audiences will buy these more sensitized depictions—will they accept such loose interpretations of religious figures, or resent them, arguing that because Ram and Raavan’s mere existence is to signify the battle between virtue and evil, to humanize them would defeat their purpose? Perhaps if the film hadn’t been so blatantly touted as a modern-day Ramayan, and therefore hadn’t weighed itself down with the pressure of adhering to the tropes of the original, the blurring of the lines and somewhat unresolved ending would have worked more favorably.

As for the acting, lackluster performances abound. You already know how I feel about Govinda. The others aren’t much better. Abhishek often appears to be channeling his inner Joker with manic grins and fits of psychotic rage; yet where he truly shines is during Beera’s rare betrayals of vulnerability. Aishwarya has little to do besides emit the occasional shrill shriek and feature in an oddly placed, if not completely unnecessary, song and dance number. It is entirely possible that this production was probably an excuse to get the Bachchans onscreen together again because let’s face it, they’re an unavoidable package deal now.

At 138 minutes, the film is simply too long, especially when one considers that a good half hour could have been saved just by eliminating the excessive shots of Ash peering through dew-laced lashes at her surroundings in slow motion. If you must go, go for music—the score’s unique syncopations and catchy rhythms ooze classic A.R Rahman—and stay for the cinematography. Save for the aforementioned slo-mos, Santosh Sivan puts forth a visually stunning display that not only showcases his mastery of his craft, but justifies watching the film on a big screen, assuring us that despite our misgivings about any narrative gray areas, Raavan is unmistakably a true beauty to watch.

White Rice vs. Brown Rice

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2010 at 2:53 PM

by Karan Malla for FilmKaravan

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina opens with the line “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Like tragedy, comedy too can be quite contextual.

I saw two movies screened at MoMA’s The New India exhibition. The audience for both the screenings was fairly similar, mostly brown with a smattering of white, but the response was dramatically different.

Superman of Malegaon tells the tale of self-trained filmmakers in a small textile town on the outskirts of Mumbai. The audience is all equally amused as they see our 90-pound movie star suspended on wooden planks, pretending to fly. Sometimes we laugh at their amateurish efforts. At times we are amazed by their ingenuity. Though mostly we smile with them as they try to escape the miseries of their real world. The audience in the theatre has no experience of this life, there are no inside jokes so we are all in harmony.

Contrast this with Quick Gun Murugan where two arguments broke out during the screening. Why? Well certain sections of the white audience felt the brown were laughing too hard and too frequently.  And rightly so, for what is funny about a dude with thick foundation and eyeliner muttering “Come out, I say” in a thick accent? The movie is replete with humor that winks at Tamil cinema, and unless you have experienced it the movie seems more bizarre than comic.

The two movies bring out an interesting choice that filmmakers face – should I amuse everyone, or should I make a few laugh their heads off. I enjoyed both the movies – but I am sure the elderly lady snoring in the row behind me felt QGM had been a total waste of her waking hours.

Supermen of Malegaon opens for ONE WEEK ONLY at Movie City 8 in Edison

Get your tickets now –Moviecity 8, Edison

Not in the area? Get your DVD straight to your mailbox – www.filmkaravan.com

Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!

In Uncategorized on June 14, 2010 at 1:51 PM

Courtesy of Sun Times

By Roger Ebert

I vowed I would never become a Twit. Now I have Tweeted nearly 10,000 Tweets. I said Twitter represented the end of civilization. It now represents a part of the civilization I live in. I said it was impossible to think of great writing in terms of 140 characters. I have been humbled by a mother of three in New Delhi. I said I feared I would become addicted. I was correct.

Twitter is now a part of my daystream. I check in first thing every morning, and return at least once an hour until bedtime. I’m offline, of course, during movies, and don’t even usually take my iPhone. The only tweeting I’ve done with mobile devices was when our internet went down one day, and when my laptop was lost in Cannes. But you can be sure that before I write the next three paragraphs I will tweet something.

Twitter for me performs the function of a running conversation. For someone who cannot speak, it allows a way to unload my zingers and one-liners. One of the problems with written notes and computer voices is that, by their nature, their timing doesn’t work. I used to have good timing. Now in real life a conversation will be whizzing along and a line will pop into my head and by the time I write it down and get someone to read it, the moment and the context will have disappeared. Often everything will grind to a halt while I remind people what I was referring to.
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As for computer voices, yes, it will be great to get the final version from Scotland of the voice that sounds like me. But I will still have to type before I speak. There was a warm response when Chaz and I unveiled the voice on the Oprah program, but unfortunately some people got the wrong message. “Ooh,” I was told, “now you have a computer to speak for you!” — as if the computer could listen and responded on its own. If Cereproc in Edinburgh can do that, they will have perfected Artificial Intelligence.
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Also what I do is, I listen, and type on my laptop, and I have a speaker attached, and the voice speaks what I typed. The problem is, the conversation races ahead, and I am forced to (1) wait for my opening, or (2) interrupt people. Of course we interrupt each other constantly in everyday life, even using little strategies like nodding and sneaking in a “but…” as a marker to indicate we have something we need to say. Sneaking in via computer speaker, on the other hand, sounds loud, mechanical, and rude. And I’m still behind the beat. With a Tweet, what you are saying is all right there. Not an interruption. Not late. Not badly timed. Just itself. I can have timing on Twitter that is impossible to me in life.
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There are millions of Tweeters, or Twits, as I prefer to think of us, and no doubt many of them are bores. Try reading the real-time stream if you dare. Those I follow give value for time. I’ll get a retweet from someone, and if I like it, I’ll go to that person’s Twitter page and scan 20-30 Tweets and make a judgment call. Some of my discoveries may only have a dozen followers, but I have a sixth sense.
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My rules for Twittering are few: I tweet in basic English. I avoid abbreviations and ChatSpell. I go for complete sentences. I try to make my links worth a click. I am not above snark, no matter what I may have written in the past. I tweet my interests, including science and politics, as well as the movies. I try to keep links to stuff on my own site down to around 5 or 10%. I try to think twice before posting.
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This has become addictive. I tweet too often. I actually go looking for stuff to tweet. I have good friends who suggest things. I will tweet a link someone suggests on this blog. I will tweet good lines from comments here (with credit). I like to retweet. Sometimes I do a thing called Tweeto, where I retweet three new followers. I was doing this daily, but have scaled back because it was keeping me up too late.
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I’ve made a change recently. After writing my blog, “The quest for frisson” and reading two recent articles about internet addiction, I have looked hard at my own behavior. For some days now I have physically left the room with the computer in it, and settled down somewhere to read. All the old joy came back, and I realized the internet was stealing the reading of books away from me. Reading is calming, absorbing, and refreshing for the mind after hectic surfing. Chaz and I have quiet chats where we sit close and she talks and waits for my reply and this is soothing after the online tumult. I like the internet, but I don’t want to become its love slave.
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But still I tweet. I am in conversation. When you think about it, Twitter is something like a casual conversation among friends over dinner: Jokes, gossip, idle chatter, despair, philosophy, snark, outrage, news bulletins, mourning the dead, passing the time, remembering favorite lines, revealing yourself.
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Now I want to share some of the people I follow. I can’t share them all, and will have to leave out some dear friends. All I can say is, if I follow you, that speaks for itself. One thing you will find is that many of these tweeters are women. I follow a lot of men, but I’m convinced women make the best tweeters. They tweet more about life, and less about facts. Okay, so tell me I’m wrong.
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What I look for are people who generate a fair percentage of Tweets while speaking in their own voices. You’d be surprised the number of people who only retweet all day long. I like people who tweet great links. I’m not so much looking for news; I get that in the usual way. It’s more fun to get news indirectly. For example, @caponeAICN tweeted that from his porch facing Wrigley Field he could see four helicopters. You might ask, what did that mean? With my razor-sharp intellect, I intuited: The Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup, fans had gathered at Wrigley, and TV news was showing the crowd. I already knew about the Blackhawks, and Capone assumed I had: The mark of a good Tweeter.
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I find out a lot about television itself the same way. @bleakey, for example, watches TV for me so I don’t have to watch it for myself. Many other Tweeters also do, but I like @bleakey’s intensity. She cares more about “Dancing with the Stars” than anyone on the show. Then she’ll say something that reveals she is smart, funny and not just a couch potato. @kellyoxford tweets so well she was actually flown to Hollywood to meet with TV executives. @oliviacollette always has an unexpected angle on things, and had lots to say about the “Husband Unit” during her recent honeymoon in England and Spain. I look for people like that. @sunsetgunshots is an example of a Tweeter with a high percentage of good links: She’s obsessed with film noir, and has a knack of turning up stuff I didn’t know but find out I always wanted to.
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My day follows a familiar pattern. In the morning, I’ll find a poetic tweet waiting from the wonderful @natashabadhwar, who is a filmmaker and photographer in New Delhi and most of all a mum of three. It will have already been today for a long time in India. When you follow one great Indian Tweeter, you tend to come across several more. In the morning they’re all waiting for me. There is @nancygandhi, an American living in India, who says she is a “paragraphist.” I don’t know anything about @RajeshJoshi except he travels widely, injustice makes him mad, and he writes well. @shubhragupta and @anupamachopra are both film critics, often writing about western films.
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In America, in the morning, @morningporch sits on his porch with a cup of coffee and tweets mostly about what he sees. @bluegrasspoet says she is a poet and lives in Kentucky. No kidding. @etherielmusings has winsome small observations, and rampant romanticism. When I visit any one of the Twitter streams listed in these two paragraphs, Indian, Canadian or American, I find the others retweeted. From halfway around the world, one degree of separation.
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The two most avid sports fans I follow are women: @christylemire, the film critic of the Associated Press, and @joanwalsh, the editor of Salon.com. I had to unfollow one guy because he would tweet every single run, basket, touchdown, goal, etc., of the game he was watching.
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One of the best Tweeters on politics is @flipcritic, a Filipino working in Malaysia. @markos is the founder of DailyKos, and tweets tirelessly about state races, polls, scandals and predictions. @margoandhow, who I personally dragged kicking and screaming into Twitter (telling her she was a born Twit, which she didn’t like the sound of), is into politics and gossip. Her mother was Epie Lederer (Ann Landers), and she’s a chip off what she calls the Old Lady. @dustytrice is a Democratiç party strategist from Minnesota and has a deadly wit. @tinadupuy is a liberal columnist Los Angeles.
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There are a lot of Tweeters who are funny, in addition to being many other things. @I-am-Ozma can be indignant, sad, passionate, and wonderfully snarky. So can @mozaffar, who teaches Islam and patiently, peacefully, moderately defends his idea of his faith against hate from without and within. One of the smartest Tweeters is @georgelazenby, whether or not he is the George Lazenby. I think there’s a good chance he might be, because he doesn’t make any such claim in his bio.
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No one lives her life on Tweeter more urgently than @missbanshee. Every day is an unfolding emergency of panic attacks, searches for blog topics, mourning for a cat, computer emergencies, adoption of three cats, despair, and then things growing so dire that she “*throws self on fainting couch.*” Another life in progress is @DCDebbie, who blogs about a personal life in which she seems clearly heroic, and bitches on Twitter about her sex life and Glenn Beck.
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And there are many more. Chicago friends. Movie critics from all over the world. McSweeney’s magazine. Scientific American. Facets Cinematheque. And on and on and on. Funny thing. I’m spending more time in conversation these days than I ever have.