BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for December 23, 2007 - December 29, 2007

Your Letters

14:37 UK time, Friday, 28 December 2007

Now you're talking. Japanese prisoners not liking their pyjamas? That really is a random stat!
K, Edinburgh

Re Unholy dust up in Nativity Church. Before the year draws to a close can I be the first to nominate the following sentence as news sentence of the year: "prompting pitched battles with brooms". It can't be often that you get to slot that into a news story.
Sam, Waddesdon, Nr Aylesbury

As news broke of the Benazir Bhutto assassination, the "most read" box was dominated by this story and its sidebars, save one brave interloper that refused to be buried - Paris Hilton not getting all her grandfather's billions. I'm sure Damon Albarn could use this to highlight his dismay at today's celebrity obsessed culture.
Dylan, Reading, UK

I surely wasn't the only one to double-take at the headline Plant awarded Beard of the Year? I think the Weeping Willow is most likely.
Danny Cunningham, Amersham

Re American Michael's comment about having only one day off at Christmas (Thursday's letters) - remember that you had a day off last month for Thanksgiving, probably one for Memorial Day and several others through the year that the British don't get.
Liz, Poole

Joanne, the difference is that the money to pay for the shirt is going to workers and to the economy of another country (Thursday's letters). Instead of your own. That this very basic idea has escaped you is, with all due respect, perhaps the cause of the dollar's current doldrums?
Chandra, London

So who, or what, was, or is, the theatrical Viagra referred to in Thursday's Paper Monitor, if Pat Kirkwood was the "1940's answer to" her, him, or it?
Rob, London, UK

Bit puzzled by Thursday's daily mini-quiz which asked which area has the least welcoming people. First of all, Yorkshire (the friendliest) is a county while London, Birmingham and Sheffield (possible unfriendliest) are cities, so they hardly qualify as regions. Secondly, and more importantly, Sheffield is actually in Yorkshire, so hardly counts as a choice except to the severely geographically challenged. Do I really care? Well, it's late December and I should be working...
John Knight, Beverley, UK

Paper Monitor

12:18 UK time, Friday, 28 December 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's not often that photographers give their account of news events, preferring instead to let their images do the talking.

But John Moore, a Pulitzer-winning photographer of Getty Images, snapped Benazir Bhutto waving to supporters through the sunroof of her car moments before her assassination and then of the blast and its aftermath. He is interviewed in the Daily Mirror - with similar accounts in the Guardian and Times - of how he came to capture the dark finale to the Pakistani opposition leader's life.

He was packing up to leave when, seeing her standing up in the car, he ran back to grab a few frames. Then the bomb went off about 30ft from where he stood. "I kept the motordrive on the camera, trying to keep it directed at the explosion as I was pushed back... After a few minutes I looked back at what I'd taken and saw my pictures of Bhutto standing up in the car. The next frame was taken seconds later, maybe just two or three, and all you can see is the yellow of the bomb."

Meanwhile, domestic news has yet more dispatches from the sales. £1,000 a minute. £2,000 a minute. £1,000,000 a minute. Putting a figure on how much is spent in the annual sales frenzy is an inexact science but that doesn't stop the papers trying. Even a single story can have more than one figure, from average sales to the peak at 9.45am as all those who queued in the cold finish browsing and head to the tills.

And the Daily Telegraph also provides an answer to why Next - the Radio 2 of the High St - always makes the headlines with long queues and frenzied melees. Why the excitement over clothes that have "occasionally been labelled boring by fashionistas", as the paper's retail editor delicately puts it.

"Next attracts so many bargain hunters because it is one of the few mass-market retailers that refuses to slash its prices before Christmas," he says. "Pictures of shoppers fighting each other to get into its stores are marketing gold dust and worth a trolley-load of paid-for advertising."

And serve to remind Paper Monitor that popping into town after work to pick up a few bits is probably a bad idea.

Random stat

10:03 UK time, Friday, 28 December 2007

In a Japanese justice ministry survey of inmates who left jail in the year to March, 44% said they disliked the design of their prison-issue grey striped pyjamas.

Your Letters

12:00 UK time, Thursday, 27 December 2007

What's the story behind the incredible shrinking man in the photo for the article about the repairs to the Severn Valley Railway? He's only about twice the size of the concrete sleepers just behind him.
Martin, Oxford

Re the daily mini quiz in which the Yorkshire tourist board thinks Yorkshire folk the most friendly. Now there's a surprising result.
Pete Makings, Nottingham

Re Bye bye, brands: I guess we are just stupid. The UK Government thinks we can survive on services alone, with legal ,software and accountancy services already going abroad. It would be laughable, if the consequences in a decade or so were not going to be so serious. By 2009 there will be NO major manufacturers of domestic Appliances here. NONE! Seventy-five per cent have already gone - not everyone can work in an office or hotel. If you think the dollar has declined, just wait until you see the collapse of the pound when it happens.
Jeremy, Thatcham

Well if you feel that strong about British icons being made abroad you can always protest by ceasing to buy such items.
Graham Henderson, Surrey

Made in UK, Made in USA or Made in China what's the difference? A shirt is a shirt regardless where it is made. The most important think for the client is affordability.
Joanne Fennessy, New York, NY

A unique thing last weekend here in S Korea. I saw and subsequently bought, as it was a rare sight, a Churchill dinner set, which had been made in the Potteries.
Paul Harper, Busan, South Korea

Praise be to the Monitor for dragging him/herself out of bed on Boxing Day to stop me feeling so bad about living in a silly country where they only have one day off at Christmas.
Michael, Rockville, MD, USA

Paper Monitor

11:53 UK time, Thursday, 27 December 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

With little else to fill their pages bar year-end quizzes (which somehow feel so last week), the papers fall with enthusiasm on Boxing Day blood sports. No, not what-was-once-fox-hunting, silly, but the start of the post-Christmas sales (although several, among them the Sun and the Daily Telegraph go for both forms of hunting).

For 'tis the season for camping outside a posh department store/electronics outlet/discount retailer/newsagents (delete as applicable) so as to be first through the doors once the inconvenience of 36 shopping-free hours is over and done with for another year.

The Sun's News in Briefs recounts how Page Three Stunna Becky has been out bagging bargains before dropping by Wapping to pose in her pants. "I love the sales almost as much as I love Christmas. There are some great deals." She's even sporting a pair of camouflage knickers, standard issue for those brave enough to go over the top and on to the High Street.

The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, decks its front page with a large photo of a triumphant sales shopper clutching not just one but FOUR new handbags, each large enough to breach carry-on luggage restrictions, as is the fashion these days. She stands, in a suitably militaristic overcoat, at the head of a long queue. Every one of the queuers regards her haul with undisguised resentment.

But the paper also reflects on notable characters who shrugged off this mortal coil on Christmas Day. Page five is given over to Pat Kirkwood, the 1940s answer to "theatrical Viagra" who once danced the night away with the royal consort, the Duke of Edinburgh, to sour looks from his courtiers. A Telegraph woman through and through.

The other is the Telegraph's former obits editor, Hugh Massingberd, who reinvented the form in the 1980s, shaking obituaries free of mothballs to celebrate the eccentricities of even those who played life with the straightest of bats.

A full page is devoted to his obit, along with space on pages one and two. The obit alone is highly commended for its use of the marvellous - and very Massingberd - word of "squirearchical".

Aptly, as it was he who encouraged the judicious deployment of killer details in obituaries, his Telegraph chums pull out the stops. One anecdote recounts how he was a great trencherman. "After breakfasting at the Connaught Hotel in 1972, he was particularly proud when the head waiter shimmied up to inform him that he had eaten the biggest breakfast ever served, the previous record holder being King Farouk I of Egypt."

And once, when depressed, Massingberd was asked what would cheer him up. "To sing patriotic songs in drag before an appreciative audience," he replied.

The mere thought of which warms the cockles of Paper Monitor's heart. Now that might be the way to see in 2008 in style.

Random Stat

10:30 UK time, Thursday, 27 December 2007

Fifty per cent of male drivers under the age of 21 crash in their first year of driving, according to Government road safety figures.

Paper Monitor

11:47 UK time, Wednesday, 26 December 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Pity the poor newspaper reporters working Christmas Day to keep the nation informed on Boxing Day.

Except for Guardian readers who must forgo their fix for 48 hours because the paper has continued its tradition not to publish today.

Perhaps that's a wise move, given the paucity of news. The Queen's speech, archbishops' homilies and sales shopping are Boxing Day staples. But only the Sun and the Telegraph front pages produce genuine exclusives.

"ARISE SIR PARKY" proclaims the Sun, which says the 72-year-old chatshow host will receive a knighthood in the New Year Honours.

In typical fashion the paper pays a three-page homage to his career. Parky is mocked up as a medieval knight but the headline "SIR CHATALOT" suggests the pun wizards of Wapping are still on Christmas leave.

The skills of the Sun's stand-in sub editors are further exposed on the next page when a picture of the Queen laughing at a boy's Union flag hat is weakly headlined "MAJ HATTERS".

No such staffing crisis at the Daily Mirror, which is nearer the mark on that story with "ONE JUST HAT TO LAUGH".

Or at the Telegraph, where their defence and Afghanistan correspondents say MI6 agents have held secret talks with the Taleban.

The story was picked up by other media including, interestingly, Guardian Unlimited where the nature of the medium means the web journalists have not enjoyed the same break afforded to their print colleagues.

Random Stat

10:00 UK time, Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Forty per cent of the workforce will be working for some or all of the period between Boxing Day and the end of the year, says a survey of 2,042 adults by the Post Office.

Your letters

12:53 UK time, Monday, 24 December 2007

Re: How to receive a goat (and other unglamorous gifts). As a 40-year-old working professional, I don't really *need* anything so last year I asked for charity donations. Many people didn't heed the requests, but my 'main' present was clean drinking water for 150 people. It was the most emotional present I'd ever had and I still well up when I think about it now. After all, what do I need compared with basic drinking water. If all the money we spend on Christmas for ONE YEAR was given to charity I'm convinced we'd wipe out poverty and disease for ever.
Bill Turner, Bristol

Last year I bought my little sister a charity gift (which we'd agreed to do beforehand); it was a supply of fertiliser. I wonder what her facial expression would have been if I had *actually* given her a pile of poo for Christmas . . .
Matt, London, UK

If someone decided to donate a goat or whatever to some 'charity' then next year I would inform them I had spent their Christmas present on a beer or Indian meal for myself. However fortunately I don't know any such precious people.Happy Christmas one and all.
Steve Brown, Bracknell UK

To Ken in Chelmsford (Friday's letters), I think you'll find that you won't get your goat - but some grateful family in Africa probably will. I'll get my gloat.
Jimlad, Paris

"There were 1580 cosmetic treatments in the UK on average last year." Isn't applying bog standard makeup a "cosmetic treatment'? And where does the 'on average' come into it? Per week? Per person? Per rock star? I'll get me kohl.
Angus Gafraidh, London UK

A case of "out of the fire - into the frying pan?"
Naomi P, West Sussex

Paper Monitor

11:01 UK time, Monday, 24 December 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

No sign of the papers slimming down for Christmas Eve, or any flicker of festive cordiality between the tabloids.

alesha_pa203.jpgThe interview they all wanted is with Alesha Dixon (right), winner of the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, and the scrap between them for her story is an illuminating one.

The Sun, which can usually outbid its rivals, is victorious, devoting the front and a double-page inside to its "STRICTLY SAVED MY LIFE" scoop.

As is usual practice among the losers, the Mirror, Mail and the Express steal the quotes but only the Mirror - which probably lays claim to the story that Jesus was born in Bethlehem - has the audacity to put it on page three and slap "exclusive" on it.

The only photo it has of Alesha that's not from the show is one with her head turned, as if being driven away in a car trailed by unwanted photographers. Not the usual kind of shot from a cosy tete-a-tete holed up with a reporter.

So far, so strictly desperate, but the Mirror compounds its temerity by relegating its genuine exclusive to page 22.

On his 50th birthday, Shane McGowan is in good spirits, and reveals not only that he started drinking when he was four - "Ribena turned to stout" - but that he will have his teeth fixed next year.

The Mail and Express have their own Alesha showdown over how much she'll make in the coming year.

"ALESHA SET TO MAKE £5M" says the Mail front page. "DANCE CHAMP ALESHA SET TO EARN £10M" says the Express front.

Their source is Max Clifford, although there's no quote to support the figures. A classic case of think-of-a-number. Then double it.

But let's break for Christmas on a more constructive note and a nod to the witty subs. The stories are the Queen on YouTube (right) and bad weather. The headlines...

WHITE MISTMAS - Sun (near-miss)
MIST FLIGHTS - Mirror (hit)
ONE'S TUBE - Sun (hit)
ONETUBE - Guardian (near-miss)
HER ROYAL iNESS - Mirror (near-miss)

Many happy returns.

PS. Chris Martin has bought three Henry vacuum cleaners in John Lewis, says the Mirror. One for himself and two more as gifts. Perhaps his loved ones should read today's Magazine lead on what to say on opening an unglamorous gift.

Random stat

09:37 UK time, Monday, 24 December 2007

Thirty-five per cent of people expect to toast their Christmas meal with Champagne compared to 37% with sparkling wine another sort, according to a poll by YouGov and commissioned by Sainsbury's.

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