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May 27, 2008

Read: A thriller in ten chapters

The Observer’s literary editor Robert McCrum stood down this month after more than 10 years in the job. And what a tumultuous 10 years. When he started it was a world of ‘cigarettes, coffee and strong drink’. But that has all changed - new writers, big money, the internet, lucrative prizes and literary festivals have all helped revolutionise the books world. Here he charts the changes in 10 short chapters - and wonders if an ‘iPod moment’ is imminent.

Published online on Sunday, May 25 at the Guardian Unlimited. The ten short chapters are:

  • Chapter 1: New Blood: Zadie Smith

  • Chapter 2: Amazon

  • Chapter 3: JK Rowling

  • Chapter 4: The Corrections

  • Chapter 5: Festivals

  • Chapter 6: Prizes

  • Chapter 7: Ian Mcewan

  • Chapter 8 Blogs Vs Reviewing

  • Chapter 9: Eats, Shoots & Leaves

  • Chapter 10: The Kindle

You may also want also spend some time exploring the Guardian’s companion piece: A decade of books.

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May 25, 2008

A garden tour












When it comes to describing the beauty and lushness of our garden, I am at a loss for words. My runny nose and eyes also make typing difficult. I did manage to post some tweets.

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May 22, 2008

A love/hate meme for the end of May

I love to eat: spicy tuna rolls at least once a week.

I hate to eat: okra and tomato stew.

I hate to go: visit my parents grave site. They reside in my heart and I think of them daily.

I love to go: strolling through our garden with EM.

I love it when: I can hear the wind rustling leaves.

I hate it when: I let my emotions cloud my judgment.

I love to see: older couples holding hands.

I hate to see: street kids panhandling.

I love to hear: EM singing to herself.

I hate to hear: cats fighting in the middle of the night.

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May 20, 2008

of peonies, twigs and other small things

We’ve been spending most of our free time tending the garden: weeding, watching and watering. Each day we walk with EM and explore the grounds. Our front yard has a huge, springy lawn edged by an explosion of flowering plants, shrubs and trees. EM shrieks and laughs at each new bud: “Look mama. Look — it’s getting ready to come out. It’s blooming.” And, “Mama, what’s that called?”

Recent discoveries include: three pumpkin colored poppies the size of small dessert plates; a tall, majestic iris; yet another papery peony, and chaotic rows of bachelor buttons, bluebells and forget-me-nots. Our Gary Oak, we’ve recently discovered, is home to a family of faeries who “go to work.”

EM brings offerings of daisies, twigs and small green leaves.







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Read: Behind the masks

With George Orwell, the patron saint of straight-talking as his guide, David Runciman asks when openness becomes just another form of hypocrisy - Guardian, May 17, 2008

Modern democratic politics sometimes seems to have been reduced to a game of hunt the hypocrite. Politicians who do not practise what they preach are an affront to democratic sensibilities, because they seem to be setting themselves apart from the rest of us, obeying their own private rules. The same goes for politicians who do not tell us what they really believe (which is the classical definition of a hypocrite - someone who “masks” the real person underneath). We want our politicians to be sincere, so that we can know they are not hiding anything from us. So all politicians are ceaselessly probed for the little inconsistencies, double standards, concealments and obfuscations that indicate a hypocrite, by opponents who know what damage that label can do. Almost all negative political advertising is essentially an attempt to show that a rival candidate for office is not as good as he or she pretends to be. And that’s why negative advertising works.

This obsession with sincerity, and loathing of bogus sentiment, has benefited some politicians and damaged others. George W Bush, Tony Blair, John McCain and Barack Obama have all taken advantage of the premium we place on politicians who seem to be comfortable in their own skin, and with their own values; Al Gore, John Kerry, Gordon Brown and Hillary Clinton have all suffered from appearing to hold something back, so that we can never be sure who it is we are dealing with. Brown in particular is paying the price for his inability to come to terms with the new confessional politics. People want to know who he really is, but if what he is really is a cautious and reserved politician who plays the percentages, then the public don’t want to know. So he is forced to tour the daytime-TV sofas trying to show his human side, and ends up revealing only how uncomfortable he is with the politics of self-revelation. His caution and his constant calculation make him look like a man in a mask - the classic hypocrite with something to hide.

But there aren’t really any winners here. The sincere politicians soon find that they too look like people with something to hide, since no one can withstand the scrutiny of the 24-hour news cycle. They also discover that no one can survive without chipping away at the sincerity of their opponents. McCain and Obama want to offer a truth-telling politics that stands above partisan bickering, but they also have to make sure that no one is fooled by the fake versions on offer elsewhere. So the straight-talking politicians, as they allow their proxies to rubbish their rivals, end up looking like hypocrites too.

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May 16, 2008

Read: Language that makes you say OMG

A must read article, excerpt below, on teens letting emoticons and other forms of chat-speak slip into their essays and homework, by Mary Kolesnikova, Los Angeles Times.

Linguistic butchery while texting is one thing. In school assignments, it is quite another. What’s worse is how popular culture is encouraging this madness. A notorious offender called ICanHasCheezburger.com is a cute enough diversion — it posts adorable pictures of cats, “lolcats” as they’re called, with funny captions. But persevere beyond your first gag reflex and you’ll notice that the captions are written in lolspeak.

Lolspeak has its own wiki-dictionary online — sorry, a dikshunary — where fanatics go to linguistically out-mangle one another. A recent entry on ICanHasCheezburger.com featured a cat looming over a laptop with the caption: “Just when u thot it wuz safe 2 go bak on teh interwebs.” Another features a kitten: “why ur hed just asplode? wuz it my cuteness? sry.”

Why did my head just “asplode,” kitty dear? Because I could not transcribe that caption without Microsoft Word’s AutoCorrect going into overdrive. And because ICanHasCheezburger.com receives 50 million page views every single month. Only 50% of users are between 18 and 49 — which means a large chunk of the under-18 set is picking up lolspeak when they should be learning English.

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A Facelift for Chicken-Scratch

I may not be posting much these days but chicken-scratch has had lots of behind the scenes activity. A new and improved blog with increased functionality and more writing from me (I promise) will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

I have also been experimenting with social media like Twitter. And I am working on integrating all aspects of my online world. In the meantime, if you do miss me, please check out my self-conscious twitterings here.

Let the adventure begin.

Oh, and Happy Victoria Day to y’all!

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May 9, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

My mom is a neverending song in my heart of comfort, happiness, and being. I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the tune. ~Graycie Harmon




For more of Zena Koo’s photography visit Slate.com

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