BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for July 29, 2007 - August 4, 2007

10 things we didn't know last week

17:59 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2007

wind_turbines203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Comedian Mike Reid was Roger Moore's stunt double in The Saint.
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2. Office printers could be as harmful as cigarettes, emitting tiny particles of toner that can cause respiratory irritation to more chronic illnesses.
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3. One joint of cannabis could be as harmful to the lungs as five cigarettes.
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4. Being left-handed could be linked to genes.
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5. Coffee could protect your skin.
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6. Chris Langham used to write for the Muppet Show – and at one stage was the sole British writer.
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7. One-hundred-and-forty-one people died from being struck by lightning in China in July.
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8. Bottom-pinching is subject to a fixed-penalty fine.
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9. Amstrad is an acronym of Alan Michael Sugar Trading.
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10. Basking sharks have no teeth.

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to R Cooper for this week's picture of 10 wind turbines.

Your Letters

17:52 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2007

Re that old thread of names that determine jobs - can I nominate the Russian explorer who planted a flag beneath the North Pole: Artur Chilingarov.
Doug Wood, Ipswich

Re "Lords rap BBC chairman selection". No, no, no! STOP trying to 'get down' with the younger generation, just tell us who you selected in a normal voice! (I might've missed the point of the story; didn't exactly read it...)
Ben Hill, Cardiff, Wales

Re James Russell's quest for a collective noun for hermits - a misnomer of hermits?
Phil, Cambridge

A contradiction of hermits?
Clare, MK

It's clearly a Herman of Hermits, isn't it?
Ralph, Surrey

A paradox of hermits.
Ed, London, UK

It's an "an observance of hermits," according to "An Exaltation of Larks" (likely the best anthology of collective nouns ever). However, I think I like "an isolation of hermits" better.
Dragon Paltiel, Concord, Calif., US

"A collection of Hermits" - surely that's not possible. One of the defining things about a hermit is that they are singular and alone?
Tim G, Helston, Cornwall

Paper Monitor

12:05 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's been quite a while since Paper Monitor has turned its attentions to the philosophical ponderings of Britain's leading conceptual columnist, Tracey Emin. Time to remedy this oversight.

Today's Independent readers find Ms Emin thinking hard about her upcoming show in Los Angeles as she relaxes next to a swimming pool in the shadow of an old monastery in a "Roman province". Well, who can't relate to that?

The show, as such, seems to be more of a concept than a reality at this stage. And even in Ms Emin ultra-relativist universe, she knows that won't get the turnstiles spinning. She needs a title to focus her thoughts.

"I'm filled with some ferocious excitement. I have a brilliant title: You Left Me Breathing. I like it because it has lots of different connotations." Lots eh? Such as... "Being half-dead. When someone leaves you standing – crying – as you sob and inhale the air you realise how important breath is. The same as when making love with uncontrollable passion…"

And then we get a peek under the bonnet at the furiously threshing creative engine that drives Ms Emin's exploits.

"Yes, I'm very happy with this title. And that's the starting point with all shows… Once you know where you are going you can work towards it."

So where has Ms Emin set her YBA GPS for?

"I want to make a series of crazy sex paintings – half Tony Hancock The Rebel, a quarter Tracey Emin and a good 25% alcohol induced. I want to push myself to the limit… to get to that point where I'm afraid to go to the studio the next day for fear of what I might have done."

And then the line that is guaranteed to inflict desperation and despair on anyone, even blissed-out Californians who, don't forget, are going to have said sex paintings inflicted on them.

"I had a dream last night…"

Good luck Los Angelians. Paper Monitor has spied an exit strategy, in the form of the Sun's reporter Oliver Harvey, who has been put on shark detail. "We swim with Jaws". And there it is, a picture of the razor sharp-toothed Great White launching itself out of the water.

Blimey, and to think Paper Monitor has been scoffing at the suggestion of a man-eating shark off the coast of Cornwall for all this time. But wait… Harvey isn't in St Ives, but 6,000 miles away off the coast of South Africa.

Paper Monitor feels duped, humiliated, almost as if it had been goosed on live TV.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:21 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2007

Gordon Brown's reputation for parsimony looks like it'll be hard to shake off, on the basis of yesterday's Daily Mini-Quiz results, at least. Noting that George Bush had presented the new PM with a trademark flying jacket, we asked what Brown had given to the president in return. The majority – 58% - opted for "nothing". Just 21% were correct in choosing "a book on Churchill". Today's DMQ is on the Magazine page.

Your Letters

18:15 UK time, Thursday, 2 August 2007

So the Russians claim to be the first to plant a flag directly under the North Pole. Didn't Amundsen do that for Norway when he was the first to reach the South Pole in 1911?
Lee Pike, Cardiff, UK

Re the living fossil found off coast of Indonesia - so how come it was dead?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

I love being human sometimes. The living fossil story can be summarised as "Oh yeah, we, er, caught this really old big fish, some people think it's a living fossil and that and it's super rare... so we killed it".
Andrew Burnip, Newcastle upon Tyne

Re "Orangutans use 'charades' to talk" - "when the keeper pretended to fail to understand the original gesture and gave the wrong food, the orangutans stopped using the gestures they had used before and started using some different gestures". I bet they did. I bet they weren't complimentary either.
Stella Alvarez, The Zoo

So according to the "Turn back the clock article, doing something fun slows time down and doing something routine and boring speeds it up? Does that seem backwards to anyone else?
Steven, Glasgow

The baby monkey story has surely provided a brilliant contender for quotation of the year: "I got out a banana and kept a low profile." A lesson for us all.
Janey, Exiled Geordie, Edinburgh

If anything deserves to be on quote for the day, it is: "You can't launch with a cabin leak," said Nasa spokesman Kyle Herring. I can barely comprehend the intelligence that pours out of NASA, I just look on in awe.
Jonathan, Bury St Edmunds, UK

A murder of crows always my favourite. It'll be in a pub quiz this week I tells yer.
Tom, Leeds

My favourite collective noun - a resilience of goldfish.
Sophie, Belfast, Ireland

In the debate on collective nouns, what is the correct term for a group of hermits? An impossible of hermits? A folly of hermits? Does anyone have any better suggestions?
James Russell, Birmingham

Paper Monitor

11:59 UK time, Thursday, 2 August 2007


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

After the fun of matching shark types to front pages (Paper Monitor rather fancies itself as a Northern Wobbygong Shark), there was much amusement to be had on the way home trying to spot a fellow commuter who perfectly embodied the spirit of their chosen read.

Paper Monitor took an early lead in the competition when a man with a fold-up bike and a satchel emblazoned with the LibDem logo got on clutching the Independent. But Punorama, heading home after an enforced sunshine break in central London, soon spotted a 22-year-old in Havaianas applying make-up while reading a Facebook story in thelondonpaper.

Seen a stereotypical reader? Use the COMMENTS button below to describe your own sightings and the best will be posted here throughout the day.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph is trying out a new(ish) trick. The paper will never ever deign to downsize from its broadsheet format (if it does, hunker down with a nice cup of cocoa and a pillowcase over your head to wait out the apocalypse). But it is awfully tricky to delve inside such a big paper on a crowded bus or train, and even the chauffeur-driven denizens of Telegraph Towers are aware of this.

So the editors have been squeezing more and more stories onto the front page in recent weeks. Today there are six, plus a big photo and teasers to the treasures within down the side.

Compare this with the Indie having - say it with me now - one, the Daily Express with two (the obligatory Diana and a.n.other) and the Guardian's two big 'uns and five briefs. The Daily Star has briefs too, only theirs are worn by the latest BB babe to depart the house.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:29 UK time, Thursday, 2 August 2007

Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked, in light of the "chav" ban at Glorious Goodwood, what had actually been forbidden from the race meeting - jeans, exposed tattoos or baseballs caps. Most of you (38%) plumped for tattoos while 29% opted for the correct answer - jeans. Today's Daily Mini-Quiz is on the Magazine page.

Your Letters

16:13 UK time, Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Thank you for providing me with my new favourite phrase: public goosing.
Graeme, Dundee

Once again, Paper Monitor sends me off into the web to use up more of the valuable working day. I was wondering what sharks would best be associated with the papers you didn't mention, from this random pick: Dumb Gulper, Little Sleeper, Nervous, Atlantic Weasel, Whiskery and Gummy (Telegraph, surely). If *we* had to pick one to be associated with, bags me Megamouth.
Stig, London, UK

I surely can't be alone in being unsure whether the headline "Water back in most flood homes" was reporting good or bad news?
Elaine, Newcastle

It's so lucky I've read the letters telling of the resilience of goldfish. Yesterday our cat appeared on the patio with a goldfish in its mouth. Spurred on by the Monitor's letters, I didn't give up hope, but chased the cat around the garden. It held onto the goldfish for a surprisingly long time, before eventually dropping it under a bush. It seemed to be lying motionless, but as soon as I put it back in the water it started swimming happily. Could this be the first time the Monitor has been directly responsible for saving a life?
Adam, London, UK

A prime example of stating the blooming obvious (Stressful job link to depression)... where to I apply for my psychology degree?
Sam, Waddesdon, nr Aylesbury, UK

Today's Big Picture mocks a sign in the Sudan for stating the obvious: "Armed conflict is health risk'". And yesterday we were told "as long as Zimbabwe has a shortage of staple foods, including maize, food shortages are likely to continue". Hrm.
David Richerby, Athens, Greece

As a non-scientist, if I go and look a structure projecting into the sea, would that qualify as a pier review?
Colin, Thatcham

Is it just me or does the guy in the third little photo (Knights of old and new) have really, REALLY long legs?
Basil Long, Newark Notts

Re a "bottom of cyclists" (Tuesday letters) - shouldn't it be a peloton? Cyclist's bottom sounds more like a medical complaint.
Andy Donovan, Sheffield, UK

My favourite collective noun: a bottle of blondes.
Anna, Northumberland

I've always liked the collective nouns for those that study the weather: a cloud of theoretical meteorologists and a shower of applied meteorologists.
Hugh, Coventry

Paper Monitor

10:33 UK time, Wednesday, 1 August 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

If today’s front pages were shark varieties…

The Sun - Basking, in bathos, leading for the fourth day in a row on the “is it or isn’t it?” story about a Great White (or multiples thereof) off the coast of Cornwall.

The Daily Star - Blue, thanks chiefly to a picture of “Lucy - So hot all her clothes are off”.

The Daily Express - Those Pathetic (cf Viz). Yet another Diana yarn.

The Metro - Nurse (in lieu of the yet-to-be-discovered Doctor shark). A surgeon has won a five-year legal battle costing £5m to get his job back.

The Guardian - Hammerhead. The day’s only real heavyweight exclusive, suggesting the Independent Police Complaints Commission will heavily criticise one of the Metropolitan Police’s most senior officers when it issues its report into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes tomorrow.

The Independent - Carpet. The only paper to cover its entire front page with one story, in this case the momentous news that almost 30 years after the fall of the feared Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, the first alleged perpetrator has been charged.

The Scotsman - Loan. That’s what we’ll all need if its lead story about food prices rising sharply because of the summer floods comes to pass.

Alas, still no sight of a Great White.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:58 UK time, Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Sir Alan Sugar is to sell Amstrad to Sky. So yesterday we asked which product did he launch first - 22% of you correctly answered that it was the Tele-video combi, in 1984. But 54% said the PC with 3-inch disk drive, which was a year later and the twin VHS came in 1989. Today's question is on the Magazine homepage now.

Your Letters

17:29 UK time, Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Regarding George Dickson's letter (Monday's letters), if I had tried to help someone who was having a fit, I would be gutted to be called a fool! At least people have come to your aid and not ignored it.
Laura Birch, Huddersfield

Errm, re the Human Calculator and "How is he at factoring large prime numbers?" from Ben in London. I hate to be a pedant, but how can you factor a prime number?
Stew, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I notice that the picture used in the left-handedness story (Gene for left-handedness is found) was predominantly of two RIGHT hands!
Charlie, Nottingham, UK

Re Rob Mullan's comments (Monday letters) about the goldfish surviving out of water, our street was flooded in June, with a 1ft torrent still there at 10.30 on the Monday night. By 7am Tuesday morning it had all gone, and walking down the road about 11am, found a goldfish in the gutter. It was just breathing and covered in dirt, so I rescued it and put in our pond, where it is now swimming happily with some new mates.
T Brigham, Hull

Just thought I would point out that Thursday's letters were a total catastrophy.
I think you will find that should secure the punorama title as well.
Owen McManus, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Many years ago, the Telegraph had a series of letters about collective nouns. One I recall is a "bottom of cyclists".
David, Jerusalem

Paper Monitor

11:00 UK time, Tuesday, 31 July 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor extends its gratitude to the handful of readers who took time out to draw up a Silly Season formula. (See them here) Perhaps the most convincing of the bunch was from Alexander, and that has nothing whatsoever, no siree, to do with the fact that he prefaces his entry with "As a scientist…"

Meanwhile, the story which kicked it all off – the alleged Great White Shark off the coast of Cornwall – graces the Sun front page for a third day running. Today's take – said shark has got a boyfriend.

Crikey. TWO potentially deadly Great Whites off the coast of one of Britain's top coastal resorts. How long before deflated lilos and human limbs are washed up on the sand? Did the Amity Constitution-Journal really make light of matters when a man eating shark was seen stalking its coastline?

Perhaps the Sun's unwritten Page Three Rule (as observed in the past by Paper Monitor) can help us judge how worried we ought to be. The rule states that the more solemn a news day it is, the more likely the Page Three beauty gets quietly dropped.

So what are we to make of the fact that today's Page Three features not one, not two, but five topless women? Paper Monitor would say the Sun is crying wolf, but a wolf being a fluffy animal, its analogous status as a fearsome event seems somewhat diminished.

Even the Sun's Wapping stable mate, the Times, says as much, subjecting yesterday's video evidence to a Silly Season scrutineer (in this case the Boys' Own book of shark fin profiles). The evidence, such as it is, seems to point to a "harmless" basking shark. Although quite what you'd make of this description were you an unsuspecting plankton merrily minding your own business somewhere off the coast of St Ives…

Boffins (as S Murray points out) are integral to a Silly Season story and the Guardian has called one in to sift the evidence on the Great White sighting. His conclusion: "Just because Parliament has gone into recess does not make this a great white shark". Or as the Sun might say - nuf-fin to worry about.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:27 UK time, Tuesday, 31 July 2007

In Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked who was the mother of Janine Butcher in EastEnders. The answer, as a whopping 55% of you knew, was June. Today's DMQ is about Amstrad, and can be found on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

14:39 UK time, Monday, 30 July 2007

So Transport for London (part of the Mayor of London's responsibilities) urges Londoners to walk 2km a day (the distance from Vauxhall to Victoria stations, for example) to improve fitness and cut pollution... on the day that the world's best air pilots arrive to participate in a major air race to be held in London, enthusiastically supported by the Mayor of London (at least according to the air race website)! No double standard there, then!
Martin Payne, London, UK

I like the way the BBC is trying to make itself seem more hip and street, according to the headline: World owes US a debt, says Brown. Maybe they do? After all WE did invent the steam engine, TV and English.
Russell Jacques, Liverpool

I'm surely not the only one that thought Gordon Brown was suggesting the world owed us a debt, rather than the US? I mean I know we've given them football, cricket, rugby and then allowed them all to beat us at them, but I'm not sure that the Romans didn't do more for the world.
Silas, London, UK

Thank-you for clearing up some of the misconceptions regarding epilepsy (myths about epilepsy). It can be a real pain to come round and find some fool with his hand in your mouth.
George Dickson, Shetland

Is "Spears guard faces battery charge" the most ambiguous headline ever? Every word has at least two meanings, and all except battery can be read as a noun or a verb - I first read it as "Spears are used to guard battery chargers for the face"!
S Murray, Chester, UK

Re more pop stars being called Paul - I hate to tell you this, but Paul McCartney's name is James, not Paul. Also, does the list include people like Gary Glitter, whose name was Paul, not Gary?
Graham, Poole

Hmmm, tenuous use of a celebrity photo alert - in the story about Guy Ritchie's new film, there's a photo of him and Madonna with the caption that they got married in 2002... Not very relevant, and all it does is strike fear into us that it would be another Swept Away horror!
Sarah, Edinburgh

The bright side of the floods - "Christmas dinners could even be without sprouts this year."
Sarah, Trieste, Italy

Re: Dog Mess CCTV nets human - I really feel that the phrase "the matter was now in the hands of the police" is a little tasteless to say the least. Let's hope they wore gloves.
Naomi, West Sussex

And there was me thinking that this was going to be another David Beckham story...
Simon Varwell, Glasgow

Regarding the collective noun for monitor fans, I can't think of one at the moment but the best collective noun I've ever heard of is a crash of rhinos.
Sara, Birmingham

Trish, from East Yorkshire (Letters, 24 July)- perhaps Humberside Police have found away of keeping their crime rate down, by policing an area that doesn't exist anymore?
AD, London

I notice that the police are complaining of videos on the web containing "violent footage of children fighting". I await to see the non-violent footage of children fighting.
Jacob, London

Re the top e-mailed stories and felines, has the weather, which is always in conversations, lost its top spot? After all, lately we all know it has been 'raining CATS and dogs'!
Tim McMahon, Pennar, Wales

All of those cat letters on Thursday left me 'feline' a little funny... Gah, could have used that for Punorama!
Mike Harper, Devon, UK

Re cats. This morning when I got up and went out at 0600 one of our cats had hoicked a goldfish out of our pond and left it on the garden path, obviously dead. Being a bit busy I left it there. When I got back, still a bit busy, I left it there some more (it was only a goldfish, after all). Shortly after 0800 I went out again with my children and we all gingerly skirted the body, at which point it moved. Of course not, I thought, but when I looked closer I could see its gill gasping feebly. When I picked it up it wriggled vigorously and when I put it back in the pond it swam happily down into the depths. That fish had been out of water for more than two hours as an absolute minimum. Surely this is some kind of record? I shall be testing the cat's powers of endurance underwater this evening.
Rob Mullan, Wallingford, UK

Paper Monitor

11:23 UK time, Monday, 30 July 2007


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

With Parliament in recess, the schools on holiday and, at last, the promise of good weather, the papers are entering that traditional summer news twilight zone known as the Silly Season.

Now Paper Monitor has grown a little sceptical of talk of the Silly Season. After all, the papers these days hardly need the excuse of summer to fill their pages with weird/unlikely/just plain stoopid tales. But that's the point – a real Silly Season story is not just your average Man Bites Dog eyebrow-raiser. It needs to have something else; an almost unquantifiable essence. In the past, the Magazine has toyed with the idea of a spurious equation (along the lines of Formula Won) to qualify exactly what counts as a Silly Season yarn – all suggestions gratefully received through the COMMENTS button below.

Until such time as we have an internationally-recognised formula, which has been subjected to peer review, Paper Monitor will rely on its finely honed instincts.

Which leads it to the front page of today's Sun. "Jaws 2 – second sighting of Great White circling off the coast of Cornwall."

Yes, as if Saturday's splash – "GREAT WHITE SHARK OFF UK" - wasn't spine-chilling enough, the Sun has tracked down seven-year-old Callum Price and his mum, Catherine, who have video footage of another sighting.

The footage in question is hardly high definition – but there is unmistakable evidence of water (probably of the briny variety) and black triangularish shapes that could indicate a Great White's dorsal fin (or one of several other creatures of the deep).

No matter, it's a perfect chance to whip up some mild panic in the locale of Porthmeor where holidaymakers are fearful of dipping a toe in the water. Just to complete the sense of pantomime, there's a picture of page three stunner Danni bikini-ed up and holding a pair of binoculars.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:41 UK time, Monday, 30 July 2007

In Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked how much on average households spent on domestic help. The answer, which only 29% of you got right, is £37 a week. Today's DMQ, which is in honour of the late Mike Reid, can be found on the Magazine index.

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