BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for October 7, 2007 - October 13, 2007

Your letters

15:16 UK time, Friday, 12 October 2007

A few years ago I wrote to Rubik's suggesting a 'colour your own' Rubik's Cube. I have yet to receive a reply.
K Walker, Runcorn , UK

Have these bdelloid rotifers been on "Trisha"? And if not, why not?
Nigel Macarthur, London, England

The creature that has survived for 80 million years without sex - I assume it is married?
Mary, West Midlands, UK

My experience matches your surprise Going Postal (II) Oban result. Yesterday, an ace CD of Finnish blues music got to me by Royal Mail: it had only been posted on Monday. In Arizona. Amazing!
John Coulthard, Bath, UK

You're right Paul (Thursday's letters) as a forward I can confirm that the scrum has little laughter but lots of pain!
Imogen, London

10 things we didn't know last week

15:11 UK time, Friday, 12 October 2007

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

1. A bdelloid rotifer is a pond-dwelling organism that has survived 80 million years without sex.
More details

2. Pregnant moose seek out human company to avoid the threat of bears.
More details

3. Woodwork lessons are known as "resistant materials" in schools.
More details

4. Housework causes asthma.
More details

5. There were 61 billion web searches made in August.
More details

6. Hitler received 1,000 letters a month of fan mail.

7. Bees frighten elephants.
More details

8. Dormouse stew is a delicacy in Italy.

9. Chancellor Alistair Darling has a mortgage with Northern Rock.

10. Children in Cuba say "I want to be like Che" every day at school.

Sources: 6 and 8 - Times, 10 October; 9 - Times, 13 Oct; 10 - Economist

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Julie Williams for this week's picture of 10 pens.

Going Postal II

11:37 UK time, Friday, 12 October 2007

Britain's postal service is creaking back into action after two 48-hour strikes and the evidence is pictured here.

The Magazine Monitor laid down the gauntlet as the posties returned to work on Wednesday, sending out 10 postcards to readers, from a pillar box in west London.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the distance involved, the remote community of Oban is first past the (ahem) post.

Laura Wright in Oban, in the west of Scotland, received her postcard this morning at 0930 BST, exactly two days after it was despatched with a first class stamp.

Not everyone has been as lucky. Emma Parker, from Cambridgeshire, received a thumping seven items on her doormat on Friday, but no postcard. "I got stuff from eBay that I'd been waiting for, but nothing too exciting. A couple of bills, of course, and some junk mail.

"Last week the only post that got through the strike was junk mail."

Pity the empty doormat in the Cornwall home of Ali Press, which has been bereft of any mail all week. "I saw the postie on Tuesday and he said it would take a week to clear the backlog, even before any more strikes."

Delivery of any letters over the weekend will be noted on Monday morning.

Paper Monitor

11:34 UK time, Friday, 12 October 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"SAMANTHA CAMERON. Has she made Smythson sexy?"

Is this the most Daily Telegraph question every written? All the ingredients are there. Take one lass who is attractive, yet fully clothed and rather well-bred. Mix with a company of impeccable pedigree. Season with the word "sexy" - no more than a dash, mind - and leaven with a photo of said filly decked out in a polo-neck and overcoat. Rrrrr!

Can the rest of the papers follow suit and encapsulate their own brand in just a few words?




After some "furious rifling", Paper Monitor at last has sufficient copies of today's papers to find out.

"Shocked jurors see photographs of dying Diana SEE PAGE 5" - yes, it's the Daily Express

"Birthday boy's father and brother battered by YouTube gatecrashers" - the Daily Mail weaves a cautionary tale of teen parties, yobs run wild and the internet. The paper also compares 2007 mums with their 1977 counterparts, pointing out that mothers today have more shoes, fewer children and yet spend less time doing housework. What, pray tell, could be the subtext?

"Second homes and the budget bonanza" - yes, the Times has a pull-out section for its readers with weekend boltholes. And what will they be doing once they've reached said bolthole? Why, reading the second pull-out on "How to beat France".

"Our young children are anxious, badly behaved, stressed, depressed and obsessed with the cult of celebrity" - complete with photo of sad-eyed boy, it is of course the Independent's front page headline. Come now, Indy, why use 16 words when one will do? Say it with me now: "CRUELTY".

Random stat

10:08 UK time, Friday, 12 October 2007

A survey of music fans who downloaded Radiohead's new album found that 29% paid either nothing or just 1p. More than half gave up to £10.

Your Letters

15:57 UK time, Thursday, 11 October 2007

There story of the chickens on the crashed lorry contains a classic comment. The SPCA spokesperson says of the chickens 'many of them could be in shock and may die'. Elsewhere the article says they were on their way to the chicken processing factory. Need I say more?
Paul Tugwell, Rochdale, UK

Has someone from The Telegraph begun working at MMHQ? I only ask as I noted your choice of 'the pretty blonde one' to head your Polish Perspectives feature.
Dylan, Reading, UK

Despite clicking the following link with anticipation, I found no mention of Catherine....oh well.
Jay, Southend, Essex

If the papers have run out of Beatle references for Paul McCartney's divorce, how about 'Would you walk aawy from a fool and his money?'
John Whapshott, Westbury, England

Can anyone working at the BBC please explain why the alternative text for your Daily Mini-Quiz image featuring the England rugby team reads "Look, men tickling"? I know I've only ever played on the wing but I was under the impression scrums were about strength and technique rather than making the opposition laugh.
Paul, St Neots

Joe, Manchester (Wednesday's letters). If the escalators are traveling at a constant speed and gravity is accelerating your fall, you must eventually go faster than the escalator - unless something keeps slowing you down, like everytime you hit the steps. Why not try it out and let us know the answer from hospital.
Doug, Berkhamsted

Regarding Kevin Peters' suggestion about being a postman in December ((Wednesday's letters). If being a postman is any thing like being a paperboy (which I suspect is to a slight degree), then December is the best time of year to be one. Christmas tips and two paid days of annual leave (Christmas Day and Boxing Day) were the highlight of my year. Of course continuing the round in January was a lot harder, the same cold weather and dark mornings and an 11 month wait until the next set of Christmas tips.
DS, Bromley, England

Please, please, please can we have a regular feature for "10 things we already knew this time last week"?
Adam, London, UK

Paper Monitor

11:23 UK time, Thursday, 11 October 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Things have gone a bit awry at Monitor Towers. On the Newspaper Table, the normal order of things – whereby yesterday's papers are swept away and replaced with today's – has broken down, leading to an embryonic mountain of newsprint. The inundation is compounded by evidence of what can only be termed "furious rifling" – for which Paper Monitor cowardly suggests its night-shift colleagues may be responsible, safe in the knowledge they are tucked up asleep as these uncharitable thoughts are committed to keyboard.

The overall effect is dizzying – a Sunday Telegraph competes with posters of Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin (today's giveaway in the Guardian), pre-budget report "specials" vie with random pull-outs on careers and aluminium (the FT's doing, from Tuesday – "the old company dividing lines are being recycled," should you care to know).

When Paper Monitor manages to retrieve today's haul, its sense of bewilderment is mirrored by the lack of consensus on the front pages. While the Sun concerns itself with Sven's alleged latest exploits off the pitch, and the Metro splashes with Zimbabwe, the Mail, Express and Guardian plump for the superbug tale.

Only the Express lends a celebrity angle to the story – carrying an interview with ex-Bucks Fizzer Cheryl Baker.

The Times also runs with a health story – but a positive one: the benefits of statins. No sign of the once ubiquitous side-bar king, Dr Thomas Stuttaford, who used to opine about health matters serious and trivial, with alarming eagerness.

Meanwhile, confusion reigns when it comes to the McCartney divorce settlement. The Express: "Will Macca make a £50m payout today?" Not if you believe the Mirror: "Macca £60m divorce D-Day". While the Times' legal correspondent tells us: "The former Beatle, who is 65, faces a total payout approaching £70 million…"

Clearly, the Beatles puns which had for so long sustained the tabloids through the McCartney divorce story have dried up. Weathering its current surfeit of newsprint, Paper Monitor however, is put in mind of an eminently forgettable lyric from the Fabs' arch rivals of the day, the Rolling Stones, as they sought to equate redundant newspapers with an unwelcome girlfriend. "Who wants yesterday's papers? Who wants yesterday's girl?" Just don't tell the Guardian's Women's pages.

Random stat

10:31 UK time, Thursday, 11 October 2007

A survey of teenagers by MTV One found they receive an average of £936 a year from pocket money, odd jobs and birthday and Christmas money. The best off 10% receive an average of £1,476.

Your Letters

15:59 UK time, Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Try being a postman in December. I have been bitten five times, fallen in a pond after falling off my bike, been out in -10C and have got up for 18 years at 4am. I get £266 if I am on holiday. Would you do it? If we charged the right amount for stamps - 50 to 60p - then you would get a better service and more mail delivered on time.
Kevin Peters, Essex

We sometimes take our excellent postal service for granted (Going Postal II). We don't use it as much as we could and then grumble when it isn't available. Arguments about cost, punctuality, availability and so forth are really quite specious - surely the fact is that we have a postal service that surely is the envy of most if not all other countries. We should remember the old saying "Use it or lose it."
Neill Leary, Lewisham

So Gordon Brown looks phoney? Or is it David Cameron who looks phoney? They look remarkably alike to me. Who is copying who?

I read the washing instructions on a pair of trousers this morning, which said "Professional dry clean only". It made me wonder just how many amateur dry cleaners there are out there. If you're reading this, please could you tell us about what I assume must be a fascinating hobby?
Adam, London, UK

Re the farmer who found a possible explosive device in a crop of potatoes: "A neighbouring farmer said he thought it was a bomb, so I took it indoors and showed the family and they all thought it was a bomb as well."
Please can I nominate this for quote of the day?
Viv, Newcastle

Is it just me, or is today's random stat a bit rubbish? If you'd said 10% of small businesses don't send and receive mail every day, I might have been a bit more excited.
Dylan, Reading, UK

A third way to solve the Rubik's cube is simply to paint over the stickers in the required colour (Monday letters).
Nigel Macarthur, London

I've recently been pondering on an interesting question and was hoping a fellow Monitor reader may be able to answer it for me: if you fell down an upwards-moving escalator, would you keep falling forever?
Joe, Manchester

Paper Monitor

12:43 UK time, Wednesday, 10 October 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

In the current climate of journalistic honesty, Paper Monitor again feels duty-bound to reveal a long-standing trick.

Ever read a story, an absolute corker, got down to the 10th paragraph and been disappointed to find out it happened in Timbuktu. Or Alabama. Or Nizhny Novgorod.

You'd kind of assumed it was in Norfolk. Or Birmingham. Or Stoke-on-Trent. Or somewhere that you identified more closely with, somewhere a bit closer to home.

The shocking news is that cub reporters in journalism school are told to only mention the far-off location of stories far down in the piece so the reader doesn't lose interest with an exclamation of "oh it happened abroad - these things do happen abroad".

There's a prize candidate in today's Daily Mirror, Sun and Daily Express. An emotional tale of two mothers who were given the wrong babies at a hospital, and only discovered the mix-up 10 months on.

The Sun waits only 'til the latter half of the fifth paragraph to tell you this all happened in the Czech Republic. The Express goes one better and waits until the sixth paragraph. But the Mirror takes the biscuit by waiting until the 10th parapraph to deliver the bad news.

Elsewhere, today's "great minds think alike" prize goes to the Daily Mail and the Times for their description of the normally badger-resembling Alistair Darling - with his fetching white hair/black eyebrow combo - as a magpie, nicking Tory policies.

Bearing in mind that zebras, skunks, dalmations and friesians share his colouring, Darling should probably dye the brows now before the animal jibes really intensify.

Random stat

08:45 UK time, Wednesday, 10 October 2007

A survey by the Federation of Small Businesses has found that 90% of its members send and receive mail every day - when there's no strike, of course.

Going Postal II

17:45 UK time, Tuesday, 9 October 2007

pcard_mag203.jpgIt's three years since the Magazine set out to test the British postal service with its experiment, Going Postal.

Back then, the Royal Mail was being dogged by questions about the punctuality of its first class post.

Would that it were the only concern today. After two 48-hour strikes within the space of one week by postal workers, Britain's once prized postal network has been brought to its knees. The Royal Mail even asked the public not to post anything for fear it will lead to a huge backlog of post.

With workers due to start returning to sorting offices on Wednesday, the system creaked back into action. But the effects of the backlog and the threats of further strikes next week point to an uncertain future.

What better time to test the system again? This time, instead of one card being passed along a chain of readers, we had 10 vintage-edition Magazine postcards (see above) ready to be despatched to 10 willing recipients.

Thanks for the hundreds of people who volunteered to take part. The postcards were posted on Wednesday morning in west London, to addresses all over the UK.

As soon as any of the 10 volunteers receives the postcard, they will send us photographic evidence (by e-mail or SMS, not in the post!). Watch this space for updates.

Your Letters

15:53 UK time, Tuesday, 9 October 2007

I'm wondering if the Royal Mail bosses are missing a lateral thinking trick - start paying their employees by cheques sent through the mail in anonymous-looking envelopes.
Zed, Cumbria

Re: Random stat. So how many people rarely use the back seat and prefer to put their children in the boot?
Jonathan, Bury St Edmunds, UK

On the blue diamond story, we hear that "the stone sold for $1.32m per carat, easily beating the previous record of $926,000 per carat. That was set by a red diamond sold in New York 20 years ago." Point of curiosity - does this really count as breaking the record, when the value of $926k 20 years ago was clearly higher than the value of $1.32m now?
Kat Murphy, Coventry

Stoo, (Monday's letters) you don't have to take the Rubiks Cube apart to complete it. It can be solved by taking all the stickers off and putting them back in the right place.
Andy Nichols, London

Having carried out investigations on the improved editorial standards of the Telegraph and the Guardian following their price rises, will the Paper Monitor investigate whether the Sun's price cut to 20p marks a falling in its editorial standards?
Alastair, Sutton, Surrey

Well done BBC News! You managed to carry a story about newts in London without any reference to Ken Livingstone whatsoever!
Paul Clare, Nottingham

"Pressure time in the school race" was slightly overzealous with the metaphorical use of stock imagery. We had "There are schools which use a lottery to allocate places" with a picture of a lottery ticket, then "Decisions about places will cast a long shadow" with a picture of some long shadows. Best of all though was the picture at the top of the story of people jumping through hoops with the slightly-too-literal caption "A demonstration of the hoops parents will have to jump through" implying that parents will actually have to jump through hoops. Excellent.
HB, London

Paper Monitor

10:15 UK time, Tuesday, 9 October 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Buddy can you spare a dime? Actually, given the current exchange rate make that two dimes. Actually, let's round it up to a full quarter and say no more about it. Why the plea for extra change? Because the weekday Telegraph has followed the Guardian in bumping up its price a whopping 10p sterling to 80p.

When the Guardian pulled this stunt last month, Paper Monitor set out on a short-lived campaign to identify evidence of a 12.1% (allowing for inflation) rise in editorial standards.

So it must be with the Telegraph… Well, there's all the usual stuff - politics and big pictures of pretty young women pegged to insignificant snippets of news. A radiant Samantha Cameron and television presenter Cat Deeley illustrate an article about how a £950 bag designed by the Conservative leader's wife has sold out in three weeks. So does squeezing politics and pretty women into one story constitute a 12.2% rise in standards?

Then there's the article about certain relationships being bad for you. Those in unhappy relationships have a higher chance of developing health problems than those in happy relationships, say researchers. So, is stating the bleeding obvious worth an extra 10p?

Still unsure? Flick to page 23 for all the evidence you need - a full-page feature on Scrummies. They are the rugby equivalent of Wags. There's nine pictures featuring pretty women, a profile of the most important Scrummies and a 10-step guide to becoming one. Now, if that kind of thorough reporting on a subject isn't evidence of a rise in editorial standards, then Paper Monitor doesn't know what is.

But if we're talking about raising your game, the Express is in a class apart today. Diana, Posh and Kate McCann all make it onto the front page. PM thinks it is the first time the paper's three favourite women have all featured on the same day. The paper must be feeling very proud of itself today.

Random stat

09:47 UK time, Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Sixty-five per cent of drivers rarely use their car boot and prefer to put shopping on the back seat, a survey by Chevrolet has found.

Your Letters

15:37 UK time, Monday, 8 October 2007

AT LAST! A feel good story of ex-military equipment sold off for a very good cause and not to fight war.The Fire Service should also look at this area to release their old engines and maybe get people over here to train first on the equipment being issued.
Thomas B, Didcot,Oxfordshire,England

Thanks for highlighting the situation in African countries. It brought home to me just how much we take for granted in this country and how much more there is to ending poverty than simply feeding people. I'd never have realised the situation was so bad. I'm glad the Goddesses have a use, and even though it's a small step, it's a step in the right direction.
Mary Beaird, Manchester

Re: the DMQ. Are there really 1.3 million Londoners on Facebook, or just 1.3 million in the London network? As far as I'm aware, my home town in Bucks. doesn't have a network associated with it, with London being the closest location with a Network. Consequently, my friends from home are all on the London network but only a handful actually live or even work in London.
Jim Aldous, Coventry

Surely the band name 'The Jing Jang Jong' is intended to be a reference to the Ning Nang Nong (where, allegedly, the cows go bong) rather than to any other band.
James, Edinburgh, UK

Well done that Kid. Is there anyone else out there that like me has never completed a rubiks cube in their life, apart from by taking the pieces off it and reassembling it.
Stoo, Lancashire, UK

Regarding your report on the trials of pumpkin farmers. Whilst I sympathise with his plight I couldn't help but wonder where Mr Bowman has seen furnaces that only got as hot as 25C.
Guy Thompson, London,UK

Regarding today's Random Stat: "In the UK, most pumpkins are sold at Halloween." Are you really that short of letters that you have to make writing them that easy?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Paper Monitor

11:44 UK time, Monday, 8 October 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Monday’s newspapers make very unhappy reading for Gordon Brown, who is described on the front pages as “BATTERED” (Daily Telegraph), “IN THE BROWN STUFF” (Sun), “IN CRISIS” (Independent), “FACING THE MUSIC” (Daily Mail) and “SEVERELY DAMAGED” (Guardian).

Only the Mirror and Express fail to put Brown on their front pages, the former for political reasons and the latter because there are too many “new” angles on the Madeleine and Diana stories to follow (and for the rest of the media to ignore).

While all the papers agree it’s been a painful week for Brown, they can’t agree on what sparked his change of heart.

Indeed, there is a rare difference of opinion between allies and Wapping stablemates The Sun and the News of the World. The Sun says the Tory pledge on inheritance tax was the key, a day after the News of the World claimed its own opinion poll had sown the seeds of doubt in Number 10.

What Gordon would do for some of Kylie’s publicity. One interview to Glamour magazine and there’s a feeding frenzy among her favourite tabloids, which can’t agree on the best top line.

She fears she may never get married (Mail), she dreams she is preparing for her wedding when she dresses for big events (Express), she had to grow back her eyelashes (Mirror) and she fears her body may never be what it was (Sun).

At least there’s some substance to the Kylie stories, which is more than can be said of the Times page five lead, which claims that bands are running out of names. “After 50 years of rock, most of the obvious targets, puns and word combinations have been taken,” it says.

That would seem unlikely, and the paper produces little evidence to back this up, only that NME’s track of the week went to a band called Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong - frighteningly similar, the paper says, to two bands, the Ting Tings and the Jing Jings.

Surely this throws up a question far more worrying. Is this the start of the media running out of stories?

PS. Nice to get a pat on the back for rugby heroics without setting foot on the pitch. England’s Steve Borthwick was given top marks by the Times for his performance against Australia, but he wasn’t even on the substitutes’ bench. Let’s hope Simon Shaw, the player they mistakenly omitted, is too focused on the semi-final to notice.

Random Stat

09:30 UK time, Monday, 8 October 2007

A report in the Grocer suggests there will be a 15% rise in pumpkin prices with a bad harvest following a rainy summer. In the UK, most pumpkins are sold at Halloween.

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