Monday, February 28, 2011

Useful Things I Learned At College Dept

HT: Failblog.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Unclear On The Concept Dept

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Low-budget review: Lydia Salnikóva's Hallway

Short version: good stuff, but certainly not pop, and somewhat demanding of the listener. You should certainly buy it if you like music for its own sake and habitually give your music your full attention, as Salnikóva's music both demands and rewards the listener's full engagement. (Think of her as a "quality time" musician, who wants you to pay attention to what she's saying, musically and lyrically, rather than know, Gentle Husband Readers, how you get in trouble very rapidly if your wife is trying to talk to you and you're sort of half-listening while trying to watch the game? Well, in her music Salnikova is trying to talk to you, and she expects you to be paying attention, if you see what I mean.)

On the other hand, if your tastes are straight Top-40 and you use music primarily as a sort of background soundtrack for your life, honesty compels me to say that this may not be the album, or the artist, for you. Still, though, I think you should still probably buy it and give her a chance. And if you do decide to give her a try, then give the album an opportunity to sink in over several listenings, as hers is the kind of music that grows on you as it settles in and gets comfortable.

Comparisons between Salnikova and her fellow Bering Strait alumna Natasha Borzilova are inevitable -- wait, you know what? I bet they both get tired of that. So, I had a set of parallels drawn up between them, but I think I shall decree the comparison evitable after all, and I hereby evitate it. So let it not be written, so let it not be done.

Salnikova is a lyricist first and foremost, but she is also a first-class musician. So let's begin with a (somewhat forlorn) attempt to classify her musically, and save the discussion of her lyrical persona for the end.

The young lady has a simply golden singing voice, pure and clear and expressive, and she is a more than accomplished pianist, with sound musical instincts and an uncompromisingly personal voice both lyrically and musically. I don't know what her music would sound like if she had a big budget and could spend a couple of months in a studio with a houseful of musicians and a top-notch professional producer at her disposal -- I'm inclined to believe that Salnikova backed by a full orchestra, on the right song, would blow the doors off the concert hall. But Hallway is a literally home-made album, written and performed and mixed and produced entirely by Salnikova herself, which gives her a somewhat constrained canvas but affords her absolute control of the palette. The result is certainly successful, but it is somewhat hard to classify, though it is definitely (except for the opening cut "This House Isn't Old") not country -- there are times (especially in the early measures of "Beautiful") when she reminds me in some indefinable way of Norah Jones, but even then it's a sort of fleeting impression. It sounds as though she writes most of her songs sitting at a piano; a prototypical Hallway song has lots of right-hand piano chords on quarter notes setting the beat for the singer, and the drum machine has the habit of waiting until after the first verse to show up for the party. Guitars? I'm not she knows they exist.

Hallway has the feel of an exploratory album from an uncompromising artist who has something to say and is looking in each song for exactly the right musical embodiment of what she's trying to get across, without worrying at all about the commercial viability of the final polished result. She's generally successful, though naturally in some songs more than others. It's hard to figure out any way to improve "This House Is Old," for example (which I would think could actually get airplay on a mainstream country station with the right agent), and the rather eerie synthesizer tone she came up with for "Just One" is so exactly right that one almost suspects that the song was written to suit the synthesizer voice rather than the other way around. I mean, I doubt that's how it really happened, but the synthesizer voice is so perfect for the mood of the song that the song might as well have been written for it. The melodic hook that opens the insouciant little "What If It's Love" exactly sets the mood of the song, which is a very feminine mixture of concern, amusement and exasperation with the adorable but relationally clueless guy who may yet mess everything up by being such an idiot. (You Gentle Female know how you love your husband dearly, but you know that every so often you have to prepared for the guy to do something really stupid just because he's a man and men aren't, let's face it, all that bright? Or maybe you did love a guy dearly but he was too much of an idiot to know a good thing when he had you, and eventually you had to give up? Well, you ladies will recognize the tone of this song right away. You will feel empathy and concern for the narrator, who has yet to land the particular clueless wonder she's decided she wants, having yet to figure out how to motivate him to chase her so that she can catch him. But you have to like her because she at least still seems to be fairly cheerful about the whole mess.) On the other hand, on "Trapped" the chorus rather falls apart melodically -- one gets the feeling that Salnikova got exactly the words and chord progressions she wanted and then tried to come up with notes that would fit. But "Trapped" is an exception to the general rule, which is that Salnikova is a creative, disciplined and skilled songcrafter who knows what she wants to say and usually finds the right way to say it. (And even "Trapped" is not a bad song, just one where the melody comes slightly unstuck in the middle.)

It seems to me that you can see Salnikova's determination to give true expression to her artistic vision, without concern for commercialism, in the version of the Russian folk song "Ah Ty Step Shirokaya" that she includes on Hallway. It's worth comparing this to the bluegrass version of "Porushka-Paranya" that Kukuruza came up with and Bering Strait subsequently perfected, and also, if you'll stay with me on this one, to Tchaikovsky's "Little Russian" symphony. Russian folk music lies quite outside the European tradition, and a Westerner trying to sing along with a Russian folk tune for the first time is likely to come a cropper...the phrasing can be "irregular" to Western ears, for example, and the melodic lines can be exotic. Tchaikovsky exploited this to great effect in his Second Symphony, in which he takes the melodic line from a Russian folk song, allows a lone French horn to state the theme, and then slowly weaves a Western-style symphony around that folk melody, naturalizing the folk song, as it were, into the Western form. Kukuruza took the folk song "Porushka-Paranya" and reworked both lyrics and music into a foot-stomping bluegrass number that, once the superior musicianship of Bering Strait was turned loose on it, could yank an entire audience to its feet with delight -- but which would have sounded right at home on "Hee-Haw" if you had just taken out the Russian lyrics and substituted English lyrics instead.

But while Salnikova's version of "Ah Ty Step Shirokaya" was cut in a Western studio using a grand piano and a drum machine and a string-voiced synthesizer, the integrity of the original folk melody and rhythm is preserved; if you, Gentle Western Reader, wish to sing along with this one, then you'll have to be prepared for it to take a while for you to figure out where the melody and rhythm are going next. This is not a European symphony that uses a Russian folk song as a foundation, or a Tennessee pickin'-'n'-grinnin' bluegrass piece that was a Russian folk song in a former life. It's a Russian folk song that borrows some Western instruments for a little while. (And it's worth learning to sing along with, I might add.)

As a quick aside...I wonder if Salnikova thinks of Repin's painting of the Volga barge haulers when she sings this song? I myself, at least, can't hear the song without thinking of that painting; and the mood of the music and the mood of the painting are certainly more than compatible.

Salnikova's artistic voice is a profoundly melancholy one, but not a particularly sad one -- indeed, as odd as it may sound, I would describe her predominant mood as melancholy optimism. You can encapsulate it in a seven-word quotation from "Someday":
...I'll be happy again -- you'll see [ever the optimist]
Someday [but certainly a melancholy one]

My very favorite Bering Strait song (and that's really saying something because I love their stuff) is the haunting "Safe In My Lover's Arms," which Salnikova wrote, and which is I think a very typically Salnikovian take on love: the narrator in the song has not given up hope of a happy ending united with her lover, but the emotional moment Salnikova chooses to capture is one of separation and intense longing. Hallway's "Beautiful" is lyrically in exactly that same space, though the musical take is quite different. Salnikova's narrator, loving her man who is perfect in every way except for being far too long absent on a far-too-long business trip, is a true kindred sister to Li Po's "River-Merchant's Wife."

Or take "Now That It's Here," in which Salnikova has fallen head-over-heels in love:
I'm as out of control as I've ever been
And all of my senses seek deeper in
I can barely speak
My knees are weak
But this song isn't about dancing deliriously around in the intoxication of infatuation; this is no "On the Street Where She Lives." Instead we are in the stage where the girl has realized that she has fallen and fallen hard, but is realist enough to know that "follow your heart" is very often a recipe for disaster, and is doing her best to decide what she ought to do:
Minutes are slow-dancing gracefully
They’re trying to help me, I do believe
To figure this out,
What I’m to do now
Now that it’s here
Arm’s length away
Staring me in the face
This wasn’t planned
Wasn’t foreseen
It might make a fool of me
And I’d probably let it…
But as much as Salnikova focuses on difficulties and regrets, "self-pity" is not a word likely to be associated with a Salnikova song. In the break-up song "Just One," for example, the strongest impression is one of regret on her lover's behalf; he is losing as much as she is, but unlike her he doesn't see it and isn't going to get around to regretting it until sometime in the future when it's far too late. Resignation, regret, frustration, a touch of anger...these are all present in "Just One." Self-pity is not.

There is a musical moment on "Forgiven" that captures this bedrock optimism. "Forgiven" is another breakup song, a moderato 6/8 in which Salnikova is bringing out into the open what both she and her long-time lover know: though neither meant for it to happen, they have grown further and further apart and now can both recognize that the relationship has no future. She reaches the chorus, and the music swells and strains in irresolution and tension...
Say, who needs a life of regrets?
Let's just consider all debts....
...and the tension holds for two measures before resolving to the major for the final word...
And on that final chord the music takes us out of the emotional rapids into a place of peace and even a kind of cheerfulness, mimicking perfectly, if only for a moment, the emotional release of letting go and accepting the inevitable and moving on without bitterness.

Now, not every song on the album is a sad song. There is, for example, "Written In My Heart," in which Salnikova (who is of course in reality a very accomplished poet and musician) adopts the persona of one of the rest of us, who are capable of feeling love deeply but lack the artist's gift of expression. Naturally this instantly becomes a song that I have every intention of singing to my wife as soon as I get to Shanghai in a couple of weeks; it's very generous of Salnikova to write a song for us inarticulate folks that says, "I don't know how to say this" and says it exceptionally well. Still, the music has just a hint of sadness in it, as though the narrator is a bit sad that she can't celebrate her lover the way he deserves to be celebrated.

"Once I Thought I Knew," though, is purely triumphant, and is the song that I have every intention of teaching my wife to sing to me...
Once I thought I knew what it’s like
To be touched
But I never knew what it’s like
To be moved this much
Till you shook me to the core
You stopped me in my tracks
Wherever I was before
I’m not going back
Okay, I'm teasing about making Helen sing that to me. But it's a fun song, with its sort of Seventies electric-piano thinking-about-verging-on-funk sound. If this song comes on when I'm out in public with my teenaged children, then I can tell you right now that they're going to get embarrassed by the Groovy Dad Dance that will immediately commence. "Okay, Dad, I don't know you, understand?"

Salnikova (as an artist, I mean -- I have no idea what her personality is like outside of a studio) is somebody who believes, unlike Sinatra, that when one has had a few regrets, it's a waste not to mention them -- but also a pointless misuse to wallow in them. They are part of who you are and how you came to be that person, and they are to be embraced and lived with sans bitterness. The album opens with my favorite cut and ends with Salnikova's, and I think (though she might not agree) that the themes are similar.

"My House Isn't Old" is a song from a heart that has its regrets and burned bridges in its past, but has come to terms with them and sees no reason to run from them:
My house isn’t old, but there’re ghosts in it walking around, ooh-ooh
They don’t show their face, just make ominous whispering sounds, ooh-ooh
So I let them be
They are just restless like me

My house isn’t old, but I think there’s a leak in the roof, ooh-ooh
Now I haven’t seen puddles of water, just droplets of dew, ooh-ooh
So I let them lay
I never minded the rain

You say I should drive the ghosts away
You say I should wipe the water away
Then my house‘ll be bright as day...
And then the Salnikovian twist:
...Just like every other place
Salnikova's characteristic narrator (all her songs are first-person) doesn't have to flee regrets because they don't make her miserable -- indeed, once they have been worked through, they add their own unique, somehow essential flavor to a life deeply and passionately, if not necessarily always prudently, lived.

And then there is the final cut, "When You Open Your Eyes Today." It's an appreciation song (one which happens to have deep personal meaning for me), sung by Salnikova to a person who has touched her life, as well as others', in a powerful and positive way. But the person she is singing to is somebody who seems to have failures in his past...and so Salnikova urges him to embrace that same peace that she herself expressed, way back at the beginning of the album, in "My House Is Old." I'll let this review end, as Hallway itself ends, with these lines:
But if you should remember things
That got broken along the way
Please remember that all those things
Brought you right where you are today
And mine is one of the many lives
That are better for knowing you
So you must’ve done something right
And you must’ve done someone good

When you open your eyes today
I hope there isn’t a cloud in your sky
I hope you float on a stream
From a beautiful dream
Into your beautiful life


UPDATE:If you've just come here from Ms. Salnikova's blog, welcome! I hope you enjoyed it. If you did...well, alas, I fear this post is not very representative of most of my blog posts, which are overwhelmingly composed of things that amused me and that I blogged here so that I could find them again, or else of journals of trips with the family, such as this one of a trip with some of my kids to West Virginia, or this one of the trip to Shanghai where I fell hopelessly in love with the girl I married three months later...interesting to me, naturally, but I don't expect them to interest anybody else. Every so often, though, a song or book or work of art will move me deeply enough to draw a response. So here's what I think is a more or less complete list of posts like this one that I've done over the last five or six years, so as to save you the trouble of having to hunt through mountains of silliness in order to find the six or seven serious pieces.

Since I presume many of you are Bering Strait fans, you may find interesting my personal rankings of every Bering Strait song plus the songs from Cheap Escape, with a brief explanation of why each one is ranked the way it is.

I very briefly reviewed Pages here, but included the Russian lyrics to "Oy, Moroz, Moroz" and my own translation. The Russian lyrics are good.

I liked the Michael Buble / Ivan Lins reworking of "You Look Wonderful Tonight" enough to write about it at length here, then decided, "Well if they can rewrite those woeful original lyrics then so can I" and posted my own lyrics here.

I thought Andrea Bocelli's Christmas album deserved its own low-budget review and low-budget-reviewed it accordingly. Then a commenter named "Iris" who knows WAY more about Andrea Bocelli than I ever will, showed up and corrected certain aspects of my unkind take on "I Believe," and did so effectively enough for me to issue an apologetic correction.

I give a philosophical/musical/parental take on Sinatra's version of "It Was a Very Good Year" here.

Here is what happened when I took my daughter Merry (now an excellent high-school alto) to her very first opera.

Hip-hop artist MOC got a thumbs-up from me, and as far as I can tell it didn't do her a bit of good, as I don't think she ever released another album, and may not have sold any copies of her first one other than the one I bought, which is a cryin' shame as far as I'm concerned.

Luis Miguel's Christmas album Navidades is my favorite Christmas album, but somehow I only got around to a brief note on "Noche de Paz," which is my single all-time favorite version of "Silent Night, Holy Night."

If you like history or literature, then I make a passionate case for your buying Sophie Williams's astonishing memoir in this post.

I can't think of any others off the top of my head. I will say, though, that my all-time favorite post -- a reaction to a deeply moving incident in my life that demanded a rather radically different writing style in order to try to capture the intensity of the emotions and the overwhelming speed at which everything happened, and is quite unlike anything else I have ever written -- is "An Incident on Good Friday."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A very interesting musical evening lies ahead...

...for those planning to attend NASA's big annual "State of the Program" dinner.

I have friends who are interested in NASA for various reasons and might be interested in this dinner, which turns out to be open to the public. But even for you guys who don’t care much about NASA, it turns out that the musical entertainment this year is an artist whom I like very much and have followed for several years as part of one of my favorite bands; her solo career is just now getting underway and I think you’re likely to find that the music that evening is quite memorable. For $15 – which includes dinner! – I think you’ll find it very far from a wasted evening. Of course, you’ll have to listen to a career bureaucrat give a speech…but still I think it’s a great deal.

Lydia Salnikova was the keyboardist and one of the two female lead vocalists for Bering Strait, one of my all-time favorite bands (as I explain at painful length here, ranking each of their songs in order of my personal preference). Bering Strait was composed of a bunch of young Russian kids who came to America because they wanted to be, of all things, in a Nashville country band. And they were AWESOME – Grammy-nominated, in fact – but, alas, ultimately headed in separate individual directions musically. Once the band broke up, Lydia put together a very nice little self-produced, keyboard- and lyric-driven indie album in her home studio which I’m enjoying a lot these days (you can buy it here), and in her spare time sang the role of Charlemagne’s wife on Christopher Lee’s bizarrely entertaining heavy-metal-opera tribute to his illustrious ancestor. (You can’t make this stuff up. Also I bought that album just because I had to hear Christopher Lee and Lydia Salnikova singing a heavy-metal rock-opera duet, and it was much less unintentionally comic than I had expected – actually surprisingly good. For days I found myself wandering around chanting under my breath, “I shed the blood of the Saxon men!”) So for this particular dinner she and Dane Bryant are both coming armed with pianos and are doing a bunch of space-themed songs in honor of the occasion…Salnikova’s actually soliciting suggestions on her blog as we speak. So far I think the two of them are looking at piano-and-vocal-only covers of songs by Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, the Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer and R. Kelly. Somebody has suggested that they cover Sarah McLachlan and Eric Idle as well, both of which sound like good ideas to me.

In short, I think this is likely to be a VERY interesting musical night. So even though it’ll only be a day and half after I get back from China, and even though I’ll still be jet-lagged enough to be deeply concerned about snoring during Director Coats’s speech, I’m planning to leave work early enough to hie myself to the Johnson Space Center to listen to, of all things, a career bureaucrat give a speech about why his department should get more money. (That isn’t the official topic of his speech, but what do YOU think he’s going to talk about??)

And I’d like company, and I don’t think you Gentle Readers will be sorry you went…so let me know if you’re interested and we’ll have a party.

And if I’m REALLY REALLY lucky and you guys pray a LOT, then maybe Helen will have come back with me and she might be able to join us.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Unorthodox, but effective

My granddaughter likes very much for me to dance around the room (or march, if we're doing Sousa) while singing to her, especially if she's unhappy about something. And I'm happy to do it. Tonight, she was a bit colicky and not very happy; so Grandpa took her dancing around the living room for a while and sang her to sleep.

But after I put her back in bed it struck me that a casual bystander might have found my choices of lullabies a little bit odd...effective (the first ones got her happy and got her to forget about the gas, and the later ones put her to sleep), but definitely odd...because after all I mostly just sing songs I think are fun. So for the sake of future reference, here was tonight's musical programme for my Angel girl...

  • "How Is My Little Angel Girl" (lyrics improvised to the tune of Kenneth Alford's "Colonel Bogey March")

  • "Pretty Little Angel Eyes" (first verse only because to my surprise and shame that was all I could remember)

  • "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena"

  • "Frankie and Johnny" (à la Jimmy Rodgers, not Elvis Presley)

  • "The Red-Headed Stranger" (à la my dad as remembered from my own childhood bedtimes, not Willie Nelson)

  • "Stay Awake, Don't Rest Your Head" from Mary Poppins

  • "Pie Jesu Domine" (Gregorian chant from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, replacing "...dona nobis requiem" with "...dona Angel requiem" -- this is always my coup de grâce when it's time to get Angel's eyes to close; it's a perfect lullaby, even to the lyrics ("Holy Lord Jesus, give Angel peace"), as long as you leave out the part where you smack a board against your forehead in self-chastisement)

Hey, whatever works...

Friday, February 04, 2011

Reading Chinese poetry (in translation of course) is interesting...

...because when I find one I like, I never know whether what I'm reading is actually a good translation of the original.

Here, for example, we have a poem from Xin Qiji (1140-1207), which I liked enormously in its translation by Tony Barnstone:

When young I never knew the taste of sorrow
yet loved to climb up towers,
to climb up towers,
and just to write poems I pretended to be miserable

Now I've exhausted all of sorrow's flavors
but stop before I say it,
stop before I say it,
and finally just say, "What a cool autumn day."

I love the contrast, and the gentle self-mockery of the poet looking back on the silliness of his youth. So I wanted to see whether Helen likes that poem too...which means I start looking for it in Chinese. In this case, I'm lucky, because this is one of Xin Qiji's best-loved poems, and his Wikipedia article gives me the Chinese text. But it also helps me come up with an almost-literal, see for yourself.

醜奴兒 辛棄疾

愛上層樓 愛上層樓
欲說還休 欲說還休

In my youth I knew not the taste of sorrow
I loved to climb towers
I loved to climb towers
And as a game to write poems speaking of my sorrows

But now I know utterly the taste of sorrow
I long to speak and find peace
I long to speak and find peace
But I say, "It's a nice, cool autumn day."
And the translation Wikipedia offers:
When I was young, I could not tell what melancholy was, but I loved to climb towers. As I climbed up this and that tower, I wrote many a poem too, but these poems did not communicate true melancholy, they were simply a word game for me. As for now, I have grown old and tasted the bitter taste of melancholy, I wish to talk and write about it, but I am silenced, I give up even before I try. How I want to talk and write about it, but give up even before trying! I find myself exclaiming instead, that this chilly weather makes a good fall!

Okay, I know classical Chinese requires way fewer words than English; so any Chinese poem will be longer when translated into English. But...42 words (滋味 is a single word) to 108??? Really?

But I do have one site to send you to that does a lovely job of "translating" the poem, though in this case it translates it into visual art and music rather than into English. Here is a short video that consists of an animation that evokes (very successfully) classical Chinese watercolor painting, with this poem sung as a soundtrack and the lyrics showing up karaoke style...but in lovely classical brush-stroke calligraphy. Really very much worth the minute and a half it takes to watch it. (There's more of that style of animation there if you just start clicking on other videos, just as if you were on could spend quite a bit of time exploring there without regretting it.)

And the Darwin Award for 2010 is won, at the last minute, by somebody we can laugh at with a clear conscience

Now this story, which tells how a would-be suicide bomber in Russia was blown up in her own apartment when a spam text message unexpectedly popped up on the cell phone she had just wired up as a detonator, is a classic all around (except for the fact that the same group did, later on, successfully detonate bombs at Domodyedovo, as you probably saw on the news). But I think my favorite bit comes when the reporter deadpans:
The phones are usually kept switched off until the very last minute but in this case, Russian security sources believe, the terrorists were careless.

Um..."careless." I'd say so.

Well, that wasn't the reaction I was expecting

Helen likes to see how I dress to go to work; so I periodically take a picture before leaving in the morning and send it to her. On this particular morning rain was forecast; so I added the hat that Roma and Anya gave me a couple of months ago, just in case.

Then Helen showed the picture to Kai -- who instantly pronounced me a member of the "Cowboy Mafia." So this is officially Kenny Daddy's Cowboy Mafia outfit.

I like this one..and that one...and...well, Happy Chinese New Year to all!

By the way, whenever Helen gives me that smile of hers with the one huge dimple on her left and almost no discernable dimple on the right, I'm always reminded of Tolstoy's description of the young Princess Bolkonsky, "celebrated as the most seductive woman in Petersburg." Tolstoy mentions that the only way in which the Princess's face fell short of perfectly symmetrical, classical beauty, was that her upper lip was very short, usually failing to cover her teeth. But he goes on to add, "As is always the case with perfectly charming women, her defect -- the shortness of the lip and the half-opened mouth -- seemed her peculiar, her characteristic beauty."

This made no sense to me until I spent three days with Helen on my first trip to Shanghai, came back head-over-heels in love...and whenever I would remember her smile, that one-sided dimple was the first thing I thought of, and always with delight. "Her peculiar, her characteristic beauty..." Um, yep.

Why my daughters won't be spending this weekend with me

Because, as I explained to Rusty and Roma, you simply DO NOT DRIVE in Houston when there's ice on the road, even if you grew up in Siberia and could drive on ice for a thousand years without ever making a's not YOU, it's the other idiots. Driving in Houston when there's ice on the road is like going for a drive when everybody else on the road is drunk.

So here's what the traffic map for Houston looks like at about 10:45 this morning:

And do you know why there are so many wrecks in Houston this morning? Well, let me give you a hint by showing you the aftermath of one of those wrecks:

Now just ask yourself how fast a person has to be traveling to roll his car and smash up his neighbor's as badly as the unfortunate second car is smashed up. And then remind yourself that this fool was driving that fast...ON ICE.

And now you know why I don't drive in Houston when there's ice on the road.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Chinese New Year's Day, 2011

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

There's so much to enjoy in this ultra-realistic action scene...

...that I hardly know where to begin. I think my favorite part is the part where he and his horse slide under the flatbed trailer rather than jumping it. But Dave makes a good case for the "spontaneously leaping jeeps." (And I like the commenter who said something like, "I only snickered once or twice...but each time I snickered it lasted for several minutes.")

For the benefit of my non-Indian friends I should make it clear that the actors and directors and scriptwriters of this film know perfectly well that it's all very stupid and unrealistic. It's part of the genre and part of the fun. I mean, what, you're going to tell me you, my Gentle American Reader, didn't enjoy Independence Day or Tremors? Or that classic, inspired bit of comic genius (I am not being in the least sarcastic) The Emperor's New Groove? It takes a ton of creative intelligence to come up with the idea of a guy sliding under a flatbed trailer...on horseback. Be serious, would you have ever thought of that? That's what I thought.

So sit back and enjoy...Chiranjeevi in Alluda Majaka.