July 7th (Front Porch Paperbacks)

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They can put their ears to the bindings the way children put their ears to shells and hear the beating heart inside. And they treat our books accordingly, handing them off lovingly to others with a passionate appeal: "This one. It is not easy to be an independent these days. It is an age of twenty-four-hour sound bites, of product and packaging and a thank-you-drive-through-please marketplace, of "truthiness" and cynicism masquerading as patriotism, of lies and betrayals that challenge the ability to stand fast in independence. As we sit here in Valley Forge, staring across the glittering forever highways of America to the historic land just beyond, it is a stirring reminder that this was a nation founded by independents.

And it feels no less a radical, necessary act to me today to be a champion of books--to champion ideas, to explore the myriad complications of the human heart, to examine the individual not out of context but as part of the larger human story. We have never needed the independent spirit more than we do right now. It is necessary work, and I humbly thank you for it. I don't watch TV. Haven't for years.

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Not that I really have anything against it but my life tends to be busy enough that I can't manage to be near a TV at the same time each week so following series or having a favorite show is pretty much out. It's pretty funny, really, since my parents used to worry about me watching too much TV when I was a kid which is a concern that seems to have gone sadly out of fashion, oh well. Granted, there are things like TiVo and, even using a VCR which I can program, thank you very much but it never seemed worth the trouble just to be able follow a series.

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There have been some series that I thought were well worth watching. Right now I'm starting to get sadly hooked on Deadwood though I did dodge the bullet on Battlestar Galactica there were just too many holes in the plot of the pilot for me. But the point is, I don't watch TV. I read instead. But not because I think it's "better" or "more meaningful" or in any way superior to TV.

I just like it better and I can do it just about anywhere. Which finally brings me to my point. In this field I have heard many people go on and on about the literary merits of various writers and works. I also hear about how specific genres are "important" for various reasons -- "Science Fiction gives us the opportunity to consider and confront questions that our society and species will have to face in the future" or "Fantasy is a road map to the beliefs and ideas that are central to our shared, human mythology" or "Horror gives an important chance for the reader to confront their personal fears and demons, rendering them powerless".

Are you nodding and saying, "Yeah, that's right. If so, I'm sorry for what I'm about to say. I think that most of the people who talk about those lofty ideas are missing the main point of why Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror exist. Genre fiction is an alternative to watching TV.

Ouch, huh? Yup, not very lofty. But when people writers and editors especially forget that we're in the business of providing entertainment, the result is crappy fiction that doesn't sell. That's not to say that the lofty ideas that I mentioned can't be served by genre fiction or that genre fiction can't or shouldn't aspire to the highest levels of writing. But the story and the entertainment has to come first because that's why people buy and read this stuff. They want a good story, a fun ride, something to relax with and take a break.

And if they don't get it, they won't read it and the work cannot accomplish anything, neither something base like entertainment or lofty like changing people's lives or their world. And by the way, what's so bad about writing solely to entertain? People die without entertainment. Their lives become nothing more than survival and that's not enough of a reason to keep going for many people. So we need entertainment. It may not be one of the most basic needs like food or shelter, but it's damn close.

Even people in the most squalid refugee camps or miserable prisons play games, even if it's nothing better than "kick the rock". So isn't providing entertainment actually a pretty lofty vocation? Perhaps a more important one than trying to change the world or people's attitudes? It's because of this that it makes me tired to listen to people in the field disparage writers like Stephen King and Robert Heinlein or sub-genres like Tolkien-esque Quest Fantasy or Military SF. I love Stephen King and Heinlein and so do a lot of other readers.

It's not because they are masters of the language or because they have sophisticated plots -- it's because they're entertaining. And that's good enough for me. Best, Alan.

Hello movie fans. Time to get your Halloween on! Leading the pack are several new episodes of Showtime's Masters of Horror. Jenifer, directed by Dario Argento is a fun little bit of twisted Italian horror cinema.

July 7th (Front Porch Paperbacks) by McCorkle, Jill | eBay

But the real piece de resistance from Masters of Horror is the episode that Showtime refused to air. It was directed by Takashi Miike, and called Imprint. Remember when I mentioned him last month? Well, this episode was a bit too controversial for Showtime, so it never aired, but it is here now on DVD, and it is really pretty intense, and at the same time smart and engaging. Other films to fill out your October chills include the just-arrived Lady Vengeance, from Korea.

Vengeance, Old Boy. Japanese grindhouse-esque films reached a peak with this series of films, including the title movie, Atrocity, and The Final Chapter. Rape, revenge, mutilation, etc.

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Unlike most of the B films and poverty row flicks that have appeared as public domain disks, this set shows Karloff in some of his best performances. This is from the director of Hardware…the director who was kicked off the set of The Island of Doctor Moreau… who showed back up on set in creature prosthetics, just to torment star Val Kilmer, who got him fired in the first place. Dust Devil was previously available in an extremely edited version on VHS. But all three of the fairly lengthy documentaries look fascinating. This 5 disk set should not be missed.

Another good Halloween flick is The Last Broadcast. This one focuses on the legend of the Jersey Devil. I loved these films as a kid, and still love them. Fun magical space alien hi jinx for the whole family.

I guess he got tired of seeing all those Chinese pirate editions of the Laserdisks selling on ebay. Good stuff for both the casual Star Wars fan, and for the hard core fan who has been afraid that their Laserdisc player would die before Lucas finally made the originals available on DVD. Anyway, that should cover most everything.

Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at cobalt earthlink. Please contact Jude at jfeldman borderlands-books. It is impossible to describe without spoilers, so we'll just say that the unlikely cavalry heads off to rescue Mendoza from her exile, and then. Come chat with Kage and find out what is next in store for this talented author and her poor, benighted characters.

Don't miss this reading. Two traveling college students confront their disintegrating relationship and the new American reality in a breakdown lane along the Italian Superstrade. A woman chases the ghost of her neglectful father to a vanished amusement park at the end of the Long Beach pier.