BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for February 15, 2009 - February 21, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

16:10 UK time, Friday, 20 February 2009

10_hanging_203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Elephants kiss.
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2. Members of the public can be New York police officers for one day.
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3. The Catholic Church studies confessions.
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4. British "superguns" defeated the Spanish Armada.
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5. Hitler had bad table manners.
More details (The Times)

6. Injured turtles can wear artificial flippers.
More details (ABC Australia)

7. Pills can banish bad memories.
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8. Grizzly bears hate getting their ears wet.
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9. "Prawo Jadzy" means "driving licence" in Polish and is not a real name.
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10. Chimps can log on.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Gary Tanner for this week's picture of 10 hanging bird feeders in Devon.

Your Letters

15:21 UK time, Friday, 20 February 2009

I'm almost as surprised as my postman - and a little embarrassed - to be in receipt of 27p thanks to my 1p request in last Friday's letters. I'm not sure what I'm more concerned about: publishing my address on the Magazine Monitor or that people actually sent me money. Wonderful humanity, though - one anonymous donor sent a gorgeous countryside drawing which is now on my bedroom wall.
Ben Merritt, Sheffield, England

So many questions raised by this story. Having recognised he was blind, why was the firm sending him a normally-typed letter? Will the letter of apology be correctly adressed, or even written in Braille?
Matt, Cambridge

Can I get in an early nomination for the phrase "elephant in the curriculum" as Most Painfully and Wrongly Contrived Metaphor of 2009?
Catherine, Leicester

I know Michael O'Leary is unpopular but does he really need to wear a flak jacket for a press conference?
Hugh Annand, Brussels, Belgium

As one of Monitor's regular grammar pedants, I can't believe you gave 4th place in the caption competition to a caption with a misplaced apostrophe. That should definitely give you negative kudos points.
Adam, London, UK

Re the Atlantis-Google Earth story. Dr Orser's comment that "even if it turns out to be geographical, this definitely deserves a closer look" is pretty interesting. Does he mean to say that something which appears in a particular place on the Earth, which is described in relation to other geographical features ie 620 miles off the coast of west Africa, might not necessarily be geographical. Next week's revelation in the Sun: sex is biological.
Jon Barnes, Bridgend

Caption Competition

13:39 UK time, Friday, 20 February 2009


Winning entries in the caption competition.

The competition is now closed. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].


This week's picture is of the "no kissing" sign at Warrington Bank Quay station.
Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. manisha98116
"And that is the sign I was conceived under."

5. bennym22
"And in other news, parents have applauded the move to ban the physical expression of inter-muppet love on Sesame Street."

4. crazymurdav
"Tourist's were reminded to be on the look out for Easter Island heads in disguise, especially around Valentine's time."

3. redalfa147
"Train station bans in-focus people."

2. MJF_dodo
"Cowboys Kissing Women In Rollers Strictly Prohibited."

1. lavaboarder
"No Rorschach inkblot tests allowed."

Paper Monitor

12:17 UK time, Friday, 20 February 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press newspaper websites.

No newspapers at Monitor Towers today so Paper Monitor's manicured fingers are spared the smudgey print and are instead clicking their merry way through the best of the web.

But wait, what's this? A discarded Guardian under a desk?

And it's looking like Groundhog Day as the paper plasters another Starbucks grande moccacino across the prime real estate of the blurb bar above the masthead?

After the twists and turns of yesterday's Starbucks coverage in the Guardian, analysed in these pages, it's normal service again in the Land of Unlikely Bedfellows, with the promise of a complimentary coffee for every reader.

Now back to the online news offerings.

Here are some stereotypical headlines. Guess the paper:






Answers: 1. Express 2. Independent 3. Guardian (it's Christopher Hitchens, not brother Peter) 4. Daily Mail 5. Sun

And for those of you that struggled on those, here's an under-arm throw, as it's Friday...


Friday's Quote of the Day

10:42 UK time, Friday, 20 February 2009

See the Quote of the Day every morning on the Magazine index.

'It looks like an aerial map of Milton Keynes' - Man who spotted potential site of Atlantis on Google Ocean

Aeronautical engineer Bernie Bamford was browsing Google Ocean when way out in the Atlantic he saw a grid pattern that could only indicate one thing... radical town planning goes back a lot further than we think.
More details (the Sun)

Your Letters

15:49 UK time, Thursday, 19 February 2009

Regarding this story - there's a handy map telling us where Poland is, but not one for Ireland. I will be unable to understand the news story until this is rectified. If you could have someone from the local news standing near a car, holding a driving license and pointing out the appropriate countries in an atlas that would be most appreciated.
Helen, Cambridge

I love that the story of the Indian boy marrying a dog has a quote from the "bride's father". The "bride" was the dog.
Jen, Basingstoke

Your Thursday quote of the day from the Wildlife Protection Society of India put a quite different picture in my mind from that intended. I couldn't shake the image of a bear resting on a cane, a loose cravat at the neck, drawling in a louche Leslie Phillips voice "Hello".
Mark, Reading, UK

OK... not entirely sure but is this not even the least bit of nominative determinism?
Tyler, Oxford

In reference to the letter by PS (Wednesday letters), the number of points used for a turn in the road is NOT irrelevant. The more points taken, the less control the candidate must have over the car. Three points is idea, five is okay, but the candidate will be marked down for seven or more. I'm currently learning to drive so this is very fresh in my mind.
Emma Thompson, Gillingham (Kent), UK

GDW (Wednesday letters), you're wrong. I have two pairs of twins and have had little energy since they were born.
Martin Hollywood, Luxembourg

Paper Monitor

12:50 UK time, Thursday, 19 February 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Back in October, Paper Monitor discussed the tying of the knot between Starbucks and the Guardian. The cappuccino conquistadors evidently felt liberal was the way to go, dropping the Times as their paper of choice and consummating their new relationship with a series of free coffee offers for Guardian readers.

So did the appearance of the company's logo on the front page of today's Guardian trumpet further frappuccino freebies? Alas no - it was merely to draw readers to the Guardian's treatment of a story featured in most of the papers detailing Lord Mandelson's reported four-letter rebuke of Starbuck's chairman, Howard Schultz, who had given a dismal review of the UK's economy: "Latte Wars" read the enticing promo.

Inside, on page six, Mr Schultz's comments - that of all the countries Starbucks operates in, the economy of the UK is causing the company most concern - and Lord Mandelson's football-fan riposte (reportedly "who the f*** is he?"), are used as a jumping-off point for a two-page spread analysing the relative economic performance of the countries the company is present in, and the fall-out from the spat.

What's going on here? A more cynical reviewer than Paper Monitor might raise an eyebrow at the number of prominent Starbucks' logos featured in the large cross-page graphic (eight) and the relative importance given to the story (two full pages).

Paper Monitor has lost its column inches tape measure, but by way of rough comparison: the recently jilted Times restricts itself to a short precis of the story, buried on page 19. The Daily Telegraph gives ever-so-slightly bigger billing on page 10.

Meanwhile a less cyncial reviewer than Paper Monitor might ponder that the Guardian went the extra mile in fully reporting this story, exactly because it wanted to demonstrate it was editorially robust enough not to be swayed by commercial interests.

Being neither more nor less cynical than those particular reviewers, Paper Monitor naturally (actually) has no view. But is very amused that, whether it wanted to cosy up to Mr Schultz or not, the Guardian managed to spell his name wrong. Twice.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:02 UK time, Thursday, 19 February 2009

"The dancing bears have largely been gotten rid of but not the charmers" - Wildlife Protection Society of India spokesman on the fight against snake charmers

Around 5,000 charmers took to the streets of Calcutta this week, protesting against the Indian government's crack down on their profession. There are apparently an estimated 800,000 snake charmers plying their trade in the country. If Shakti Banerjee has his way, that could mean there are a lot of snakes on the loose.
More details (the Independent)

Your Letters

15:54 UK time, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Dear Monitor, why, when the question of the North-South divide is raised, do Northerners take such a London-centric view of the South? There are plenty of lovely places in the South East alone to complain about; take Canterbury, Winchester, Guildford, Eastbourne and Royal Tunbridge Wells for starters. There's plenty of room for cultural belittlement outside of London, you know.
Nicolas, Warrenville, IL, US

Re: "Learner driver 'was worst ever'" I hope the examiner didn't actually request the learner driver perfom a three-point turn as this story suggests. The actual requirement is to turn the car around using the forward and reverse gears. The number of "points" taken is irrelevant.
PS, Newcastle, England

Re: Is it selfish to have more than two children? I thought I was saving energy by having twins; was I wrong?
GDW, Edinburgh

Mike (Tuesday letters) - I've got your coat.
Margaret, Christchurch, NZ

Oh dear, Louise of Surrey (Tuesday letters). Never heard of Mark Twain? Let y'self down there.
Phil, Manchester

To follow up on Basil Long's letter (Tuesday letters) shouldn't the Vodafone spokesman have advertised their phone as "the thinner, nicer Android-powered device on the market"?
Stephen Turner, Cambridge, England

I find it strange that it was felt necessary to lock up Abu Qatada because "he was considering fleeing the UK". Given that the authorities were trying to deport him at the time, wouldn't that have just saved everyone a lot of trouble?
Adam, London

Looking at the strapline on this article - I wondered when we might see a similar gender-identifier on the top of the Monitor column.
The therapist, Portsmouth

Surely I am not the only one who thinks this article is six weeks early?
Dr Reece Walker, London

Paper Monitor

12:06 UK time, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Readers' appetite for strange animal tales has been proven by scientists to be essentially bottomless.

So while the front pages may be wall-to-wall fat cats, elsewhere there is ample evidence that animals of the metaphorical variety can't compete with the real thing.

The Daily Express, for instance, has along with many others a full page splash on the friendly fox living in the Eddingtons' one-bedroom flat in Ditchling, East Sussex.

Animals acting like people has long been a favourite and, as long as there are cute pictures, a sure-fire winner.

Miss Snooks, as the fox is called, duly obliges with suitably anthropomorphic images of her sitting on a chair watching TV ("Is Basil Brush on yet?" wonders the Daily Mail), and curled up in a duvet. Aaahhhh!

Paper Monitor would speculate endlessly on why people never tire of these stories but is momentarily distracted by a picture in the Daily Mirror of a man squeezing the nether regions of a lion, nicely illustrating the next category of animal stories - strange man-beast relationships.

This one's between British park ranger Alex Larenty, working in South Africa, and Jamu the lion. The testicle grope is a technique he uses to make friends with his charges. Paper Monitor certainly admires his balls.

But when an animal story turns tragic the papers are not quite sure how to treat it.

Travis the chimp had been brought up for 14 years by his US owner Sandra Herold, as if he was one of her children.

Over the years, he appeared in a number of television adverts, could log in to a computer, dress himself and loved eating steak and watching baseball.

But on Monday Travis went berserk, seriously mauling a family friend who is fighting for her life in hospital. Travis was shot by police and limped back to his cage to die.

Having provided years of curiously human animal tales for the media, suddenly Travis's is a tale which no longer fits the cuddly category.

The tale is treated as a straight news story by the Guardian, which has no accompanying picture.

But the Daily Mail has a couple of pictures of Travis in better times, which reminds readers that animals - especially the most humanised ones - can be mourned just like people.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:49 UK time, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

"Pull My Finger" - Phrase being fought over in US trademark infringement action

It's hard not to laugh. Two firms selling mobile phone software, Air-o-Matic and InfoMedia, are locked in a titanic legal struggle over an infantile flatulence-related phrase. The former says it has a unique brand involving the phrase. The latter argues it is a common descriptive phrase.
More details (CNN)

Your Letters

15:33 UK time, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Am I the only person who gets published here who never gets my coat?
Mike, Newcastle upon Tyne

Vodaphone say: "This is the thinnest, nicest Android-powered device on the market." Which it may well be. It is also the second, and therefore has a competition of just one other Android-powered device. Not such a fantastic claim, in the context.
Basil Long, Nottingham

Re: Posh fashion and Tina Turner. We Don't Need Another (Size) Zero.
Candace, New Jersey, US

Re the picture in this story. I'm hoping that this is mark I of said charger, and that mark II will have slightly fewer plugs?
Ruaraidh Gillies, Wirral, UK

Gosh, we women are terrible aren't we? In 1917 we're found tricking the good ol' British tommy with our evil wanton ways, and then in the 1940s we have gotten even worse by betraying our loving male partners and contracting all sorts of terrible STDs. I look forward to tomorrow's instalment of "how women ruin your life".
SL, Southampton, UK

I've been feeling a bit peaky at work today, but I actually thought I was hallucinating when I saw this headline. Actually reading the article didn't make me feel much better. I think I'll go for a lie down...
Amy-Jo, Valenciennes, France

Re Monday's letters, the metro paper in Paris is called... the Metro. Startlingly original.
Harriet, Paris

Paper Monitor

13:26 UK time, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There's something wonderfully anachronistic about the phrase "girlie calendar". Paper Monitor has an occasional theme on the subject of journalese - words and sayings that are only ever uttered by journalists in print. To wit, "girlie calendar".

At least one paper deploys it atop the story of the scientific research into how men respond to images of women in bikinis. The story, readers won't be surprised to hear, has garnered a fair bit of coverage in today's papers.

The thrust of the findings is that men dehumanise women who are depicted in two-piece beach wear. And dehumanisation of fellow humans is, as we know, a bad thing.

So how do the papers accept the challenge to show their better sides on this gauntlet being thrown down? The answer is, not always as you might think.

Exhibit A: a full page given over to the story with the headline "University of the bleedin' obvious" and below it a picture of two high-fiving beach volleyball players in requisite minimalist uniform.

It's the Sun, obviously? Nope.

The Mail then? Wrong again.

Step forward the Independent. In mitigation, the picture is cropped to show top halves only... which is more than you can say for the Times.

The Mail, meanwhile, desists from illustrating the story at all, although it does invoke the "girlie calendar" phrase. And in an echo of the Indy's headline, it can't help but note in the story itself the discovery that men remember images of scantily clad women better than those of fully-clothed women are hardly surprising.

The gong for most po-faced presentation, however, must go to the Guardian for its straighter than straight take. No pictures. No mention of girlies or the bleedin' obvious. And in referring to the findings based on MRI brain scans, just this deadpan final line: "The same area lights up before using power tools to do DIY".

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

10:42 UK time, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

"Very Mad Max" - Fashion designer Victoria Beckham mixes up post-apocalyptic and early 1960s.

She meant Mad Men of course, as her press officer quickly pointed out, when she was describing one of her own grey cashmere dresses. But Tina Turner's "deconstructed" look in Mad Max III: Beyond Thunderdome is not the worst thing in the world. Is it?

Your Letters

15:07 UK time, Monday, 16 February 2009

I'd be curious to know how the kissing world record managed to end up with an odd number of participants.
Athos Athanasiou, London

Dear Paper Monitor, oh font of all knowledge that is newspaper related, could you please let me know whether the Paris Metro has a free newspaper called Le Tube? Thanks.
Ed, Clacton, UK

Now look here, I don't consider myself a prude... but I found it a little embarrassing browsing the Magazine homepage while at work today. Please think of us red-faced office workers next time you choose the picture for the headline story.
Joe A, London

I hope I'm not the only one who jumped to conclusions after reading "Brown sorry after assault arrest".
Jess, York

Ben, (Friday letters) sent you your penny with pleasure. With the thank you note, can you also include payment for my packing and postage invoice. Looking forward to your repeat custom.
Mike Thomas, Wirral

With reference to this story, I would like to make it clear to all your readers that there is no such operation in progress at the EU. Yes, there are many attractive leggy blonde women, of which I include myself, but we are perfectly innocent ex-Soviet bloc women looking for a better future in the glorious west. This isn't a James Bond movie you know.

Ilyka Tomaykalov,
The EU,
formerly Moscow,
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Russia

Paper Monitor

12:20 UK time, Monday, 16 February 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

One of the ways Paper Monitor used to while away Friday afternoons, in its geeky past, was enjoying NTK's Life Imitates Onion. (Anyone else miss NTK? Add your tributes, via the comment form below.)

But life continues to imitate the Onion, as this sad Times story demonstrates: "A sex-change woman has pleaded guilty to reckless homicide after her elderly husband was 'exercised to death'. Christine Newton-John, 41, who named herself after the singer Olivia Newton-John following her operation, faces up to five years in prison for forcing her exhausted 73-year-old husband to swim in the pool of their apartment complex in Chardon, Ohio."

And that's not even to mention this: Record nails broken in car crash.

At the other end of the news spectrum is another tale in the Times about how millions of people who have had photo driving licences for 10 years are unaware that they need to be renewed, and that they could be fined for having an out-of-date licence. What a good story, original and relevant, and one of those rare things - something in the newspaper which actually makes you do something about it (in this case, open your wallet/purse to see when your driving licence expires instead of hoping not to be stopped by the side of the road and answering awkward questions to an officer of the law).

So kudos to the Times's esteemed transport correspondent, who day after day finds something interesting to write. Paper Monitor is just left wondering what gave him the idea for this story, and hopes it was merely a casual glance in his wallet.

Apropos of nothing, Paper Monitor felt a bit conned having shelled out for the Sunday Times, lured by its front page promotional box promising "The world's 100 best blogs", only to find inside that there were only 49 blogs listed. Part two of that series next week, even though one feels one has paid for it already.

The Daily Mail has strong views about Wikipedia. Can you guess what they are? That's right, it really doesn't like it. The headline (which is longer than some Wikipedia entries) tells the story: "WICKED-PEDIA! Millions trust its every word. But Wikipedia, the error-ridden online encyclopedia, has become a dangerous tool for lazy students, spiteful cranks and truth-twisting politicans." The conclusion is thus: "If Wikipedia does disappear or if, as could conceivably happen, it were taken over and commercialised (and perhaps made a professional service) by someone like Bill Gates or Google, its amateurish, free-for-all days will doubtless be mourned. But at least those monstrous inaccuracies would disappear with it."

How very dare they suggest that making monstrous inaccuracies is best done by amateurs. One needs to be a real professional to do it properly.

Monday's quote of the day

10:04 UK time, Monday, 16 February 2009

"Whatever their ages, I say well done for bringing the child into the world" - Father Seamus Hester on teenage parents Alfie and Chantelle

The local Catholic priest to Alfie Patten and Chantelle Steadman (13 and 15) refused to join the chorus of condemnation that has followed the news of the birth of baby Maisie.

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