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Archives for September 24, 2006 - September 30, 2006

10 things we didn't know last week

17:45 UK time, Friday, 29 September 2006

10lanterns_203.jpg1. There are more than 600 full-time creative writing degree courses at UK universities. More details

2. Lionesses favour balder lions, with less of a hairy mane.

3. Ubuntu, espoused by Bill Clinton, is the African philosophy which means "I am because you are”. More details

4. Menthol cigarettes are harder to give up than normal cigarettes.

5. The brain is soft and gelatinous - its consistency is something between jelly and cooked pasta. More details

6. People suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome can be helped by talking about it, say researchers. More details

7. China executes more prisoners than the rest of the world put together. More details

8. One in eight children in primary schools in England have English as a second language. More details

9. Europe has a Buddhist state - the Russian republic of Kalmykia.

10. The Mona Lisa used to hang on the wall of Napoleon’s bedroom. More details

[2. Times, 27 September; 4. Guardian, 26 September; 9. Daily Telegraph, 29 September]. Thanks to Lester Mak and Jonathan Richardson for submissions and Rebecca Andrews for the picture.

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week.

Your letters

17:23 UK time, Friday, 29 September 2006

What!?! Paper Monitor has another half? I thought it was just the new layout...
Anna, Northumberland

Paper Monitor reads Popbitch, how cool is that?
Lee Richards, Teesside

"No free wallchart", Paper Monitor? How about a free JPG download of a wallchart, then?
Charles, USA

On reflection perhaps it would be better if we didn't see all the losing entries for the caption competition.
Keith, Guildford

Steve asked what an "ident" was. It's what you get when you drop yer mp3 player
John, London

Right, let's put this thing to bed. Deep breath everyone...
1 tonne of crisps eaten in the UK every 3 minutes
= 20 tonnes (19,999,999.8g) per hour
= 280 tonnes crisps in 1 Olympic sized swimming pool
35g per packet of crisps
= 8,000,000 packets in swimming pool

1096 phone boxes in swimming pool
= 7299 packets per phone box
45p per packet of crisps (that about right?!)
= £3284.55 worth of crisps in each phone box
= £3,599,866.80 worth of crisps in the swimming pool

1 phone box worth £8,500
= £9,316,000 worth of phone box in the swimming pool

Total worth of swimming pool with phone boxes and crisps
= £12,915,866.80 per 14 hours
= £22,141,485.84 per day
= £8,081,642,331.60 (£8.08 billion) per year

= £1,414,287,408.10 (£1.41 billion) VAT per year to go towards the NHS to treat the unhealthy obese kids.
Can we all go home now please?
Paul, Portishead

What is the point of Daddy Longlegs, easy food for my cat.
Nigel Greensitt, Salford

No matter how times I read it, it still doesn't make any sense. Donor police quiz top Blair aide. I've not got the time to read the story. Is it about kebabs?
Jon Cox, Hove

Regarding the use of a grill macchine: the best way to get around the obvious design flaw is to jam something under the front of it to raise it a few centimetres. This allows the fat to continue cooking your food instead of draining away all the time.
Martin C, London UK

Re. your request for formula for how widely a time-wasting e-mail must be sent before it's news.
Let E = number of newspaper editors
I = total number of e-mail inboxes
T = number of times e-mail forwarded
CC = average number of people each e-mail is copied to
S = number of potentially interesting stories that day.
Then probability = (T*CC)(1-S)/(I*E)
For the Daily Express, however, you have to add in another term: D = number of days since story about Princess Diana appeared to give:
(T*CC)(1-(S+D))/(I*E)
Valerie, Wigan, UK

In your Ealing fire story.
You report: "Hundreds of people were told to stay indoors or leave their homes " Glad that's clear then.
Bob, Cardiff

Caption competition

15:26 UK time, Friday, 29 September 2006

It's time for the caption competition - results!
geldof_brown_getty.jpg

This week, Bob Geldof reacts to Gordon Brown's speech at the Labour Party conference.

Here are the winning entries.

1. Tall Tone
...and as Bob here from the Arctic Monkeys agrees...

2. Simon Rooke
Damn, that's a great name for a kid, Fiscal Prudence Geldof.

3. Lynn
Brown fails to comprehend rock paper scissors

4. Gareth Jones, Anglesey
I wonder if that Noel Edmonds thing will shut him up?

5. Phil
Gordon: "Look at the shadow Bob, it's a chicken"

6. Brian O'Broin
Bob, if you can't say it, just point to the person who chose your suit.

You can see the non-winners by clicking here .

Paper Monitor

11:01 UK time, Friday, 29 September 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Ok here's a puzzler. Anyone like to define a bogus formula to explain how widely a time-wasting e-mail must be sent before it's news?

Paper Monitor only asks because yesterday afternoon, after reading Popbitch, Paper Monitor saw a link there to a site selling toupees for babies. It was quite funny, and so the link was obviously sent on to Paper Monitor's other half. But today, the pictures are in the papers (well, the Sun and Metro, which is nearly the same thing).

At what point did the contents of one's inbox merge with the contents of one's newspaper?

Other highlights to consider today:

"HAMSTER: FIRST PICTURE" trumpets the Sun on p1, omitting the obvious fact that the picture is so blurred that if we hadn't seen it for ourselves on telly, it could have been anyone.

"MARCH OF THE MIDDLE CLASS" boasts the Daily Mail, hoping that they will be marching to its tune.

"Oldest profession helps boost Greek national output by 24%" tempts the FT (read the story here if you must, but frankly you've had the best bit already).

And the podcast madness shows no sign of abating. The Times writes that Joanne Lees has spoken for the first time about her time in the public eye - in an exclusive podcast for the Times.

Meanwhile, remember that issue of the Independent last week, when Kate Moss blacked up for the front cover? (Was it only a week? It feels like it should have been about 40 years.) Well the Guardian, which last week wrote at some length about the contemptibility of blacking up, today reports with some glee on its website that sales of that day's Indie were a bit disappointing.

They were above normal, but not as much as when the Indy had included a wall chart of the human body the week before. This was inspite of the paper offering a wall chart of the Kate Moss front page. Not for the first time, but Paper Monitor's a bit bewildered, and is taking refuge in today's Private Eye. "Inside:" it claims on its front page. "No free wallchart!"

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:04 UK time, Friday, 29 September 2006

Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked readers to name the kitchen gadget that we're most likely to buy and never use. The correct answer, grilling machine, was only spotted by 14%, with 60% cooking up the wrong answer of a breadmaker.

Your letters

16:22 UK time, Thursday, 28 September 2006

What's the point of daddy longlegs? Exactly and maybe you could start a list. I'd add wasps, midges and Anthea Turner...
Stig, London, UK

Can I be the first to say "no, daddy longlegs are not the most poisonous things in the world...
Imogen, London

Why did people telephone Paul Vance if they thought he was dead?
MJ Simpson, Leicester, UK

Re: Correspondence on the BBC 1 ident. Bring back the hot air balloon, there was no need to do away with it. Also, please tell me those prancing pratts fell off the roof!
Alan, London UK

Can someone tell me what an ident is? The clues, that the old ones were scarlet and brown and the new ones feature a hippo don't tell me much and the word isn't in the dictionary.
Steve, London

Re: Thursday's miniquiz . I only use my grill machine (nice choice of generic) for toasting sandwiches. It's simply the best use for them - grilling chicken breasts as recommended is very messy to clean up. Cleaning up after grilling sausages is messy too, but using the grill machine for sausages is well worth the extra work. You get all the niceness of frying (crispy skin, colour, flavour) without the gut-churning grease. Quality.
Lucy Jones, Manchester

Not so, Jennifer. Chanterelle mushrooms grow 2 to 5 cm per month, and are ready for Smurf inhabitation in under 6 months, as long as the mycellium diffuse effectively and individual hyphae aggregate to form stable structures to allow for structural integrity and plumbing.
Tom Brownlee, Birmingham, UK

Phil B-C in London - I severely hope the 1200 phone boxes you were involved in crushing weren't the classic British red telephone boxes, or we may have to try you for crimes against humanity. Besides, as they now retail for around £8,500 each, I would hope you are kicking yourself. (As an aside, this allows me to predict that a swimming pool full of phone boxes would be worth around £9.3 million pounds)
Ian Ferguson, Southampton, UK

MM, "You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips; and there's no tenderness like before in your finger tips...." I want the old 'you' back. J x x
J, Southampton


Paper Monitor

11:57 UK time, Thursday, 28 September 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

With a verdict in the bag in the romping-sex-tape-judges-chilli-hot -stuff-illegal-immigrant-once-married-to-a-suspected-serial-killing -asylum-seeker trial, the papers get to show their hands on the background material they've amassed – but were unable to publish - during the trial.

It's hard to think of a story that has ticked quite so many boxes, especially with the revelations that the Brazilian cleaner at the centre of it, Roselane Driza, was once married to an Albanian wanted for alleged people-trafficking and pimping, and is suspected of murder.

The Times treats readers to a retrospective of some of the sassy outfits Driza chose for her court appearances. It also speculates on what she'll be wearing in prison, with a picture of an inmate at Holloway mopping the floor "HER NEXT WARDROBE?" it wonders.

The Daily Mail gleefully pricks Driza's inflated ego, relating how she'd turned up to court with a letter telling photographers, in broken English, not to take her photo too close; and how she had tried to ditch her cleaning job in pursuit of becoming a philosophy student.

"Femme fatale with a mop and a bucket" runs the headline.
Daily Telegraph observers will know the mix of sex and dishonoured Establishment, in a court setting, is just about perfect for its paper – and it delivers in spades, across (broadsheet) pages one, two and three.

It does, however, strike a surprisingly sympathetic note for Driza, noting how "She could have seen [her lover reporting her to the police] as a betrayal... but she has barely had a bad word for him" and "there is no doubt she had made a home and life for herself here".

The Independent - which along with the Mirror (ok, and the FT) resists putting the story on the front – is docked marks for its all-too obvious headline: "Sex, lies and the stolen videotapes".

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:42 UK time, Thursday, 28 September 2006

In Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, the challenge was to find the theme word most used by Gordon Brown in his Labour party conference speech. Community and society were the most popular options, but the correct answer, "people", was only spotted by a quarter of readers.

Your Letters

15:31 UK time, Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Mona Lisa may have been pregnant? Don't be silly, we all know she looks like a woman who has just eaten her husband.
Nicola Turton, Old Basing

At last, the scarlet and yucky brown BBC One idents are going. Any hope of the fondly remembered hot air balloon reappearing in one of the new series?
Maura, Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan

I have yet to see the new BBC One ident featuring a hippo, but I hope it's the same one that appeared every time Reggie Perrin's mother-in-law was mentioned.
Kieran Boyle, Oxford

I refuse to believe a Smurf is three apples tall. That would mean their toadstool houses would be about four apples tall - which is clearly ridiculous, toadstools aren't that big.
Jennifer, London

I would like to nominate the Evening Standard for this week's "Most Baffling Headline For Someone Who Doesn't Really Follow Sport" award. "Bond Faces Toon Sack Over BBC Bung Sting", seen across somebody's shoulder on the train yesterday, had me confused for a good 10 minutes.
Bob, Reading


Punorama updated

13:26 UK time, Wednesday, 27 September 2006

The rules are simple. We choose a story and you write a punning headline for it.

Punorama!This week it was news that Chelsea and England footballers Frank Lampard and John Terry have been lined up for walk-on parts in a new Bollywood blockbuster. The film Jhoom will include a character who is a devoted Chelsea fan and be partly shot in London.

Judge's verdict

Lots to play with again this week, as well as some strong front runners.

It was obvious - but it was a goodie. Frankie goes to Bollywood was sent in by Chris, Johnny Lyttle, Mike Grimes, Brian Saxby and Pix6 from Vienna.

Another hot favourite - well among those who can remember the sitcom - was Terry and Jhoom. It was sent in by Amber, One Eyed Owl, Nigel Macarthur and Kip - among others.

Some real sparks of genius came from Rhys with Lamps, Camera, Action, Candace with Whose sari now? and Stephen C with Blues Score Hindi Extra Time.

And an honourable mention for National Lampard's: Indian Vacation from Neil in Reading.

But MM's personal favourite this week is the rather lovely Jhoompers for goalposts . Well done Simon Rooke, you get a gold star.

Losers click here.

Paper Monitor

10:48 UK time, Wednesday, 27 September 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye…

Yes, it’s adieu to you and you and you from Tony Blair. How does his last speech as party leader play with the papers - none of whom are backward in coming forward about where their sympathies lie.

“ALMOST EVERY WORD BLAIR SPOKE WOULD HAVE BEEN PERJURY HAD HE BEEN ON OATH” thunders Max Hastings in the Daily Mail.

“I DID IT MY WAY,” is the Sun’s headline. “WHO’S SORRY NOW, LABOUR?”

“BLAIRWELL,” puns the Daily Mirror, running a pull-out quote from the PM’s speech that has Paper Monitor confusing his words with those of Bryan Adams. Or Daniel “Last of the Mohicans” Day-Lewis. “Where-ever I am, whatever I do, I’m with you. You’re the future now. Make the most of it.”

“FANTASTIC MR FOX” is the Daily Telegraph’s strapline. Hmmm, that seems unusually flippant for the Establishment’s paper of choice… D’uh - it’s the title of the Telegraph’s free Roald Dahl audio book! “SHOWMAN BLAIR STEALS THE SPOTLIGHT FROM BROWN,” is the paper’s take, and its editorial compares his swansong to that of Telegraph poster girl Margaret Thatcher when she was deposed (to paraphrase, “I’ve won you lot three elections you know”).

But speaking of giveaways, what’s on offer in today’s batch of wall-charts? The Guardian has the sky at night; the Times’ classic film poster is North by Northwest; and the Mail has British Wildflowers - territory the Guardian claimed a mere fortnight ago. A sign that this fight is getting nasty?

How to Say: Barroso

10:01 UK time, Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Comments

A weekly guide to names and words in the news, from Catherine Sangster of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

José Manuel Durão BarrosoThis week's pronunciation is the name of the president of the European Commission and former Portuguese prime minister, José Manuel Durão Barroso.

We find that Portuguese names sometimes suffer when pronounced by English speakers who are more familiar with the sound of Spanish; such speakers may think they are making the correct sounds, but what they are producing can be very far removed from the Portuguese pronunciation.

Our recommendation for this name (which is as always anglicised in line with our usual policy) is as follows:

zhoo-ZAY man-WELL doo-ROW(NG) buh-ROH-zoo

zh as in measure. ow(ng) is like the diphthong in cow, but the vowel is nasal. There's a sound file of a native Portugese speaker saying the name on this page.

(For a guide to our phonetic pronunciations, click here)

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:16 UK time, Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Tuesday's mini-question asked who was wearing this necklace.
pete203.jpg
Fifteen percent said Charlotte Church. Wrong! Eighteen percent said Orlando Bloom. Nope. Thirty-one percent said Kate Moss. Uh-uh. And 36% correctly guessed it belonged to her boyfriend, Pete Doherty.

Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your letters

16:04 UK time, Tuesday, 26 September 2006

In reply to T. Nicholson - no, no, no, I was only talking about the trains. Doing the same for air fares would indeed make no sense at all. I guess you don't have Virgin Trains in Canada. You lucky people.
Chris R, Cambridge, UK

Re: T. Nicholson in Canada - Whilst it's certainly true that "cheap Brits" can make a rather upleasant mess on the beaches of Florida and the Med (among other places) I'm not sure it's entirely fair to refer to them as pollution.
Chris, Paris, France

T. Nicholson from Canada - Chris from Cambridge was referring to Virgin Trains, not Virgin planes. So Richard Branson could transport all those pesky Brits around their own country for less, but not ship them abroad. Would that make you happier?
Margaret, Christchurch, NZ

During a quiet moment at work this afternoon I "steeled" a look at Paper Monitor only to discover to my horror that I am now a 'Monitorite'. Sounds like a Trilobite-Monitor Lizard cross breed if you ask me.
Jim, Aldershot, England

The owner of Fudge the Hamster wrote about his daring escape: "It's amazing really, if you wrote it as a film script no-one would believe it." I suspect if it was made into a film then nobody would go and watch it.
Thomas Steuart-Feilding, Bristol, UK

Dear Charlotte, you're right of course. Sorry to PM for spreading misinformation, could somebody sneak out at lunchtime and measure the internal and external volumes of a phone box, so that we can try and get it right.
Ian, Cosenza, Italy

Charlotte is quite right, you cannot fit 1172 phone boxes in an olympic sized swimming pool. After I crushed 1200 such phone boxes, they left a volume equivalent to about 80. I reasoned that crushed steel alone (the telephones handsets had been removed) made up about 6.5% of the total volume. and so, in my professional judgement, you could fit about 1096 red phone boxes in an olympic sized swimming pool. Unless of course you crush them first.
Phil B-C, London

Re: 'runners-up' in preference to 'losers' comment. I would be happy to get a mention, end of story.
Tim McMahon, Pennar, Wales

Pip : the Monitor regularly sends me pleading love letters, and all manner of gifts. Perhaps it's just you?
Ian

Paper Monitor

11:33 UK time, Tuesday, 26 September 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's an inspiring story of a tough Scottish upbringing that turned Gordon into the man he is today. His father's dreams – dashed; the debts and the determination to overcome adversity; the nod to humility. Yes, Gordon Ramsey's autobiography, Humble Pie, as serialised in the Sun, makes gripping reading.

But all the press loves a clanger, so it's Cherie Blair's off-the-cuff remark about the other Gordon being a liar that steals the headlines. Amid much muttering about wives' tendency to embarrass their husbands – courtesy of Cherie's father, Tony Booth - the Sun drafts agony aunt Deidre Sanders into the fray. And she comes up with a surprisingly forgiving reading, pointing out how much stress Cherie has been under and how she should be given credit for her difficult role.

Might we expect a Dear Deidre photo story reconstruction sometimes soon?

But loyal Paper Monitorites will know that if there's one paper more than any other which has, er, strong feelings about Britain's "first lady" it's the Daily Mail. Is it sympathising with the stress Mrs Blair has been under?

"Hell hath no fury like Cherie" it tells us, across pages six and seven. Cue a forensic examination of the alleged long-standing antagonism between Mrs Blair and Mr Brown and a checklist of her "gaffes" down the years.

The paper even speculates that rather than scupper Mr Brown's future, her comments might damage her own marriage… and then goes on to lift the lid on the recent marital strains experienced by the Blairs.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:28 UK time, Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Congratulations Magazine readers, the majority of whom (56%) yesterday knew the last Chancellor of the Exchequer before Gordon Brown was Kenneth Clarke. Today's Daily Mini-Quiz is on the Mag index.

Your letters

15:55 UK time, Monday, 25 September 2006

Let's get this straight: an Egyptian woman with a US passport gives birth on a British plane which lands in Canada. So the child's nationality would be... what?
MJ Simpson, Leicester, UK

Re: Air crew delivers premature baby. The quote that "The whole crew was involved" doesn't fill me with confidence. Who was flying the plane?
Ian

I'm not sure I like to be classed as runners-up (ie: losers) in the caption competition.
I prefer the term "overlooked winner".
MJF, Liverpool

Chris in cambidge - are you suggesting virgin airways should cut prices and not donate to cuting global warming but rather polute the planet with more cheap brits. chris you are out of your mind
T. Nicholson, Victoria bc, Canada

British papers make frantic efforts to attract readers with 'free' wall charts, CDs, DVDs, language learning aids and so on. Has any of them considered trying to be a better newspaper instead?
Zed, Cumbria

I wonder when the Express will start their giveaway of glossy full colour wall-charts of Princess Diana... surely it is only a matter of time.
Stuart, Aberdeen

Sorry Ian in Italy, I though about this and unless you know how thick the outside of the telephone boxes are then your calculation is wrong. The crisps are inside the telephone box, the outer shell could be 2 inches meaning that 1172 boxes could not fit in a pool.
Charlotte, Mids

Despite the new look it takes longer than ever for our "letters" to be published (or not). Perhaps the service could be franchised out to the Royal Mail? PS, Why do we give you our email addresses - you never seem to write or send flowers or sing us love songs? Sniff
Pip, Kettering

Paper Monitor

10:48 UK time, Monday, 25 September 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

In an example of how political ideologies between the old left and right are blurring, wall-chartism, until now a creed synonymous with the liberal, left-leaning press, has been annexed by one of the media's more conservative elements. Yes, the Daily Mail has launched its own wall-chart series, with 14 to collect.

But, in its characteristic opposition to hand-outs, the Mail wants readers to work for their freebie – so unlike the Guardian, where said wall-chart slips out of the paper and almost knocks half-drunk macchiato on to the floor, Mail readers have to dirty their hands with coupons and the humiliation of handing them over at the counter of WH Smith. It's all a bit reminiscent of milk tokens.

Perhaps sensing the rumble of the Mail's tanks on its lawn, last week's Guardian struck a righteous tone when previewing the return this week of its own, "original" wall-charts. Today's offering is clouds. Which rather complements the Times' giveaway classic film poster: Gone With the Wind.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:06 UK time, Monday, 25 September 2006

On Friday, the Daily Mini-Quiz asked how much money was spent worldwide on buying weapons. A narrow majority guessed the correct answer, £1.54bn per day.

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