BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for June 7, 2009 - June 13, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

16:07 UK time, Friday, 12 June 2009

10drops_226.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Gay people in China used to be prosecuted under "hooliganism" laws.
More details

2. Canada used to border Zimbabwe.
More details

3. Carly Simon had a stutter.
More details

4. Sir Alan Sugar donates his salary from The Apprentice to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.
More details (Mail)

5. Setanta started in an Irish dance hall in west London in 1990.
More details

6. A new word in the English language is created every 98 minutes.
More details

7. You're seven times more likely to be a millionaire if you're called Patel than if you're called Smith.
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8. More than half of all Patels in the UK are married to people born Patel.
More details

9. Only eight Britons who fought in the Spanish Civil War are known to be still alive.
More details

10. Britney's father monitors her mobile phone use.
More details (Times)

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Vic Barton-Walderstadt for this week's picture of 10 drops of water in Welwyn Garden City.

Your Letters

15:11 UK time, Friday, 12 June 2009

I've just completed the 7 Days 7 Questions quiz, and found out that a "new" word added to the English Language is "Twonk - a stupid or foolish person". This isn't new. Timothy Spall was using it to descibe the Red Dwarf crewmembers in Back to Reality from series five, 17 years ago.
Martin, Bristol, UK

How do you download a web browser without a web browser?
Stuart Taylor, Bromley, Kent

From the Kiss and Patel article: '"It's our culture and tradition," says one of the young women at the event, who didn't want to be named.'

I'm guessing it might be "Miss Patel".
Neil Moir, Aberdeen, Scotland

There is a fundamental flaw in your article "Ronaldo for beginners". Given that it is apparently written "for those who don't follow the game or the celebrity world which accompanies it", who exactly do you think is going to read it?
Adam, London, UK

Malawi's chief justice, Lovemore Munlo: "[Madonna is] also financially stable." Understatement of the week?
Martin, bristol, UK

Is it my imagination, or does Phil Spector minus his wig look uncannily like Mr Burns from the Simpsons?
Liz, Staffordshire Moorlands

Caption Competition

13:43 UK time, Friday, 12 June 2009


signpost_300.jpgWinning entries in the caption competition.

In this picture, a man helps launch the Gathering 2009 at Holyrood Park in Edinburgh.

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

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. Lloyd-Barnes Donald was suspicious about the new Setanta aerial he purchased on ebay.

5. chris_in_paris
Filming is now well underway on Mel Gibson's controversial combined sequel to The Passion of the Christ and Braveheart.

4. W_K_Snowdon
Antony Gormley's first draft for "Angel of the more Northerly".

3. dry_boak
Meanwhile, a small dog in the background was wondering where the hole in the ground had suddenly appeared from.

2. semi_mental
Scotland's effort to thwart Google Streetview was becoming a little extreme.

1. LaurenceLane
Angus wasn't so much a Renaissance man as he was a post impressionist.

Paper Monitor

11:59 UK time, Friday, 12 June 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The sheer audacity of the woman. First Kate Winslet tells the press that she doesn't employ child care to raise her brood, then she, er, changes her mind and employs a part-time nanny.

What's more, her spokesman tells the Daily Mail, "Kate has never said that she did not have a nanny at a time when she did have a have a nanny."

Sorry Mr Spokesman, there's an ocean of ambiguity in that statement. Can you be more clear on this matter - did Kate Winslet have a nanny at a time when she said she did not have a nanny?

And was she one of the parent who took part in this survey, also reported in today's Mail?

Talking of which, a BBC presenter has been rumbled (Paper Monitor grew up on a diet of Enid Blyton, sorry old chap) for sprinkling The Smiths song titles into broadcasts.

The Guardian has taken a dim view of Chris Packham's antics on Springwatch, surmising that it's a bet to earn a few pints from mates.

Paper Monitor would never compromise its performance by doing such a thing.

Thanks to all those readers who responded to yesterday's clarion call for more Facebook fans. We're now into four figures.

To ask that of readers was not a panic measure on our part, but the Magazine and its readers/fans go hand in glove.

OK, Web Monitor, I've won. You owe me a gin and tonic.

Weekly Bonus Question

10:26 UK time, Friday, 12 June 2009


Welcome to the Weekly Bonus Question.

Each week the news quiz 7 days 7 questions will offer an answer. You are invited to suggest what the question might have been.

Suggestions should be sent using the COMMENTS link below. And since nobody likes a smart alec, kudos will be deducted for predictability in your suggestions.

This week's answer is JAI HO!

UPDATE, 16.47 BST: The correct answer is, what is the 999,999th word recorded by The Global Language Monitor.

Friday's Quote of the Day

10:02 UK time, Friday, 12 June 2009

"A rocky marriage but the sex was great" - A senior figure at Old Trafford describes the club's relationship with the departing Cristiano Ronaldo.

It was not quite a seven-year itch - it was 12 months short - but the flamboyant Portuguese footballer's on-off flirtation with Real Madrid means his marriage to Manchester United has come to an end.

More details (Times)

Your Letters

16:16 UK time, Thursday, 11 June 2009

OK - how many people misunderstood the "high-speed" part of this headline ?
Paul Greggor, London

Are people really so bored that the most read story at the moment is about a man not wearing a wig?
Simon Robinson, Birmingham, UK

Serious scientists discovering elements? A look at the picture accompanying the article makes me think they're actually celebrating 25 years of Tetris!
David, Jerusalem

Will someone tell Anneka Rice (see Web Monitor) that it's just as wrong for her to assume that that's what men want!
Dave Trowbridge, Dunstable, UK

Re: Communal cabbing. Let me see... motor vehicles with more than one passenger, all paying for a journey in the same direction... aren't they called "buses" ?
Paul Greggor, London

In the Caroline Flint story she is quoted as saying she resigned because "I didn't feel Gordon Brown had full confidence in my loyalty". I'm no defender of GB, but doesn't this show that he was right?
Phil, Guisborough

The headline Ferrero cleared of hazelnut fraud is yet another that was always going to disappoint.
Adam, London, UK

C'mon Steve (Wednesday's letters), give poor Mr Clark a chance. He's clearly studied these little marvels for years without getting any attention, so using spurious comparisons is his only hope.
I hate to burst his bubble my pointing out that his hummingbird is outperformed by a small pebble dropped from a window.
Mark Esdale, Bridge

Oh dear, I scored 1 out of 7 on the GCSE Geography quiz, and the one I got right was really a maths question. Now I understand why I got a 'U' in my o-level all those years ago!
SueO'Rourke, Burnley, UK

Web Monitor

15:39 UK time, Thursday, 11 June 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Web Monitor doesn't so much surf the web as do doggie paddle through it - passing as it goes countless cat videos and desperately clinging to the occasional enlightening article to lay down on the shore that is this blog. Remember to pass on your good links and fraught metaphors by commenting on the box to the right of this page.

Jamie Oliver
• Here's a little bit of Schadenfreude for Web Monitees tucking into afternoon sugary snacks, the Now That's Nifty blog collects pictures of hospital food from around the world. Just don't tell Jamie Oliver that there is also a blog, izismile, of pictures of school food from around the world - according to Oliver's blog, his revolution continues so if he gets wind of it we could be in for another campaigning documentary.

• Nearing the end of its first week, Big Brother 2009 has introduced telly addicts to the new generation of people aiming to be famous just for being famous. But Sam Leith in Prospect Magazine may have a shock for the housemates - as he predicts the death of celebrities who do nothing. He cites the rise in the 1970s style talent shows such as Britain's Got Talent and Strictly Come Dancing which ask more of the celebrities than to sit around, get drunk and have arguments:

"Some kind of a flight towards authority--towards excellence, even--is taking place...
Still, a culture that celebrates people who can actually do stuff, and invites professionals to judge them, is surely a move in the right direction."

Anybody know whether Prospect magazine is on the Big Brother contestant's reading list this year?

Van Morrison• Meanwhile, one man who gained his fame for talent, Van Morrison, has told Reuters that he hated the fame game so much that had his first album been more of a success, he would have cashed in and quit:

"I am not one who has ever taken well to fame and what that attracts. It's a drag. I just wanted to be a songwriter and a singer. I did not bargain for all the rest of it."

Good to see that Van the Man is consciously shrugging his "miserable old codger" of music media stereotype.

• The Uniform Project is following one girl wearing one dress for one year. is an exercise in sustainable fashion. However, judging from the pictures so far it is more an exercise in accessorising. Just in case you're worried about her hygiene, rest assured that there are actually seven identical dresses. Caution should be expressed, re Alex Martin attempted the same experiment in 2005. At her coming out of the brown dress party, Martin's dress was stolen, its own e-mail address was set up and people were urged to take pictures of it on its new journey.

Web Monitor noted a few weeks ago an article about more and more homeless people having virtual addresses, be it e-mail addresses, Facebook accounts or even laptops. Now games designer Robin Burkinshaw has created homeless people in the virtual world of The Sims. After kicking his characters Kev and daughter Alice out of their house and giving them no means of income, his blog charts their existence, making friends in order to watch their televisions and using old ladies' baths.

Seed Magazine looks at how Charles Darwin not only identified the idea of evolution but also influenced Victorian art from naturalist art about the struggle of existence, to a raft of 19th Century political cartoons depicting Darwin as a chimp:

"Just as Darwin introduced Victorian sculptors and French impressionists to scientific order, artists helped the young naturalist draw a connection between details in nature and his bubbling ideas on evolution."

Paper Monitor

10:50 UK time, Thursday, 11 June 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It is so hard to keep up. What's in and what's out?

The fashion pages asiduously aim to keep us abreast of what's hot and what's not, but it can all be so confusing. (OK, Look of the Week is Peaches Geldof in, er, shoes, jeans and a top. And one is wearing shoes, jeans and... d'oh!)

Fortunately, the Daily Mail is happy to help spell out in no uncertain terms what the fashion of the day is today. Protruding nipples, it would seem. Which can be achieved by wearing a sheer top in a chilly wind, or presumably by popping in a hot wash that pair of comedy breasts you bought for the office Vicars 'n' Nuns.

Victoria Beckham helpfully demonstrates this trend but neither confirms nor denies how she achieves this particular look.

"Some have gone so far as to have surgical augmentation, while others are said to wear 'stick-ons'," says the Mail, pointing out that the technical term is "nipplet", and illustrating its article with a photo of Point of View (no relation) nipplets. (Other fake nipple brands are available.)

Elsewhere, the Mail has a harsh reality check for your's truly. One likes to think one has a few fans, but these perhaps number rather fewer than one might hope. The Mail reports that on Monday evening, the BBC met with "100 of the corporation's most popular performers". Paper Monitor must have over-looked that invite in its Outlook calendar.

Expecting wine and canapes, they were instead told of "swingeing reductions in their huge salaries". (Other pay scales are available.)

But the Mail gets itself in a bit of a pickle - perhaps the dog ate its calculator (see Web Monitor on - and forgets to divide estimated annual salaries by 12 for its factbox on radio presenters' monthly salaries. See here.

Meanwhile, a cautionary tale in the Daily Express - about the man fined £50 for littering... for dropping a tenner.

The story is also in the Sun, with a photo of said man and said tenner. "Doesn't look like a tenner..." one mutters, then notices it's the Scottish Sun (regular readers may remember the different exchange rates for English and Scottish notes).

But back to the question of popularity. At the time of publication, Paper Monitor - and colleagues at the BBC News Magazine - has 875 fans on Facebook. Let's get this up to 1,000 by the close of play today. Click here, and then on become a fan. Tell your friends. (Other Facebook feeds are available - though they're not a patch on this one.)

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:28 UK time, Thursday, 11 June 2009

"We don't need any more kids - we have plenty of people on this planet" -Cameron Diaz shows her Malthusian bent.

It's all the rage at the moment - with the Optimum Population Trust and so forth - to link unchecked population growth and damage to the environment. Although Ms Diaz's remarks may be more to do with her own sense of tedium about questions relating to her future family plans.
More details (Daily Mail)

Web Monitor

16:07 UK time, Wednesday, 10 June 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Web Monitor tells you who is saying what across the web, be that Anneka Rice or the President of Rwanda. If you find an interesting viewpoint, send the link by commenting on the box to the right of this page.

Web Monitor announced yesterday that Naomi Wolf had crowned Angelina Jolie as the new queen of feminism because, after all, she has it all. But someone who gave up "having it all", or at least having a camera following her running around in leggings for most of the early 1990s, Anneka Rice, is saying women don't want it all anyway.
In the Daily Politics, she explained:

"I was the real action girl, I had young children, I had an exciting lifestyle. It really must have seemed like I had it all but all that came at a price and I gave up a very high-earning job because I wanted to bring up my family...
I just don't think women want the same things as men do, that they're not driven by power success and money. What they want is emotional fulfilment...
Stop presuming that women want to be like men - we just don't."

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

Wired Magazine follows the story of the first digital currency. E-Gold was a private, international currency that aimed to circulate independent of government controls, and at one point was second only to Pay Pal for online transactions. But it was the currency of choice for card fraudsters who could transfer funds from anywhere in the world anonymously. Now the founder, Douglas Jackson, is serving the last month of his sentence for conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting service and conspiracy to commit money laundering and he says in his blog that he intends to start again, this time legitimately.

The compendium of contemporary optimism asks one simple question: what are you optimistic about? Users fill the homepage with reasons to be cheerful. Web Monitor now knows that after the rain, the colours of the rainbow are beautiful, thanks to Alice Alle, or that looking into children's eyes you can see blind optimism. All this makes a pleasant change from message boards which consume themselves with how slightly annoying situations are comparable to Nazi Germany. But Web Monitor's glass is always half-empty, so an overdose of optimism can leave an unsettling after-taste on its rather delicate palate.

Paul Kagame• The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame blogs on the Huffington Post about the first US peace corps volunteers returning to the country after the 1994 genocide. He is calling for volunteers coming to the country to recognise they will learn a lot, just in case they thought they were going to get an instant sainthood:

"We will, for instance, show them our system of community justice, called Gacaca, where we integrated our need for nationwide reconciliation with our ancient tradition of clemency, and where violators are allowed to reassume their lives by proclaiming their crimes to their neighbors, and asking for forgiveness. We will present to them Rwanda's unique form of absolution, where the individuals who once exacted such harm on their neighbors and ran across national borders to hide from justice are being invited back to resume their farms and homes to live peacefully with those same families."

One Post Wonder collects blogs that only ever have one post before they run out of steam. One blogger stated, "Up until recently I didn't understand the draw of blogs" and then, one assumes, forgot what they had only just realised. Now Slate Magazine is tracking "orphaned tweets" - the legion of twitterers who signed up, tweeted once on Twitter, the micro-blogging service, then never returned. Most seem to be consumed by the question tweet asks - what are you doing? Thank goodness, now we know icyrick is standing up, infima is studying and kttheet is wearing a gigantic t-shirt (2XL). Slate just wonders if the reason they haven't tweeted since is because they are still doing these things so have no need to update their status.

Maggie Gee asks in Prospect Magazine if we are a kinder nation than in the past. Despite ratings soaring for talent shows that film small children crying, Gee sticks up for the reality television audience by saying that - as well as pointing and laughing - it can also empathise with celebrities like Jade Goody:

"We can grieve for their deaths without having the hard physical tasks that attend to someone dying in our own lives, the organising and communicating, the enduring sorrow or guilt. We can project hatefulness onto them without actually harming them. We can love them without being disappointed by a lack of return. And sometimes, just sometimes, when they enact human pain or joy for us, we may genuinely empathise with them, too."

Your Letters

15:20 UK time, Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Regarding the millionth word in the English language. Putting considerations of the validity of "Web 2.0" as the millionth word aside, GLM state that the word "N00b" (I've always preferred the spelling "Newb") is the "only mainstream English word that contains within itself two numerals". Presumably, these two numerals are the two 0s used to represent the Os (I did a semester in leetspeak studies one Summer). However, I seem to remember reading about another word, recently included in the list of English words that also has "two numerals within itself", that word being "Web 2.0", mentioned at the top of the story.
James, Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom

Right, which was the millionth word? Web, two, dot or zero?
Steve, Dunfermline, Scotland

Re David Bain's Brain Strain. Thank you David. After reading this I turned vegetarian. Until I realised the untold harm I was causing those poor vegetables. Now I won't even drink water for fear of killing those defenceless microbes.
Johnny, York, UK

I was very pleased to get 5 out of 7 on the GCSE quiz today, although I'm not sure why I got question 5 wrong... I had assumed that giving the choices of "1. Clints and grikes", "2. Clints and grikes" and "3. Clints and grikes" was a pithy comment on the basic nature of today's exams, until I chose number 3 and found it to be "WRONG! It's clints and grikes." Retrying showed that the correct answer was number 1. No wonder I found geography so difficult at school - there's a subtlety in it that I had not fully appreciated.
Jo, London
Monitor note: Due to a technical error this question did indeed feature the phrase "clints and grikes" three times. This has now been corrected.

Picture 4 - is that official TfL advice?
Lee, Birmingham

Re Paper Monitor: "Sigh. Only the most V of VIPs can travel at speed around a busy urban centre."
I was going to point out that, as VIP stands for Very Important Person you should have said, "The most I of VIPs ...", then realised how stupid it would sound. Oh, you cosmopoles! You may whinge when you have to walk unexpectedly to work, but you do have a way with words.

Fee Lock, Hastings, East Sussex
Monitor note: Thank you.

US researcher Christopher Clark claims Hummingbirds are faster than jets - simply by using different units for the compared meaurements. Hence three inches would be longer than two miles, 5g heavier than 2lb, because the numbers are bigger. Perhaps we should name such comparisons "Berkleyisms" in honour of his college, if only we could think of a suitable abbreviation for the term.
Steve Taylor, Liverpool, UK

David Bain's Brain Strain Refrain

14:22 UK time, Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Is eating children worse than tucking into a fry-up? Having set out this philosophical conundrum in his most recent column, David Bain responds to a selection of readers' comments:

This month's Brain Strain concerned the fictional Mr Cronus who, like his Titan namesake, kills and eats newborns.

Only two centuries ago, remember, some thought it was okay to enslave one group of sentient beings (black people) but not another (white people). Yet none of them could cite a difference justifying their contrasting attitudes.

Many of this month's contributors face a parallel challenge. They think that it's okay to kill for food one group of sentient beings (pigs) but not another (human newborns). Are there differences they can cite to justify these contrasting attitudes?

Some said it's riskier to eat humans than pigs. But sky diving is riskier than golf yet no less permissible. Nor do we (unlike Eskimos) need to eat any meat. We're only after the taste.

But taste is just the point, says DisgustedofMitchum, who tells us, with slightly alarming authority, that newborns don't taste as good as bacon. But they do to Mr Cronus, and remember it's his actions that were at issue.

Squaremind mentions the afterlife. But, as Naomith asks, if only humans have an afterlife, isn't that a reason to be more careful of pigs' lives, not less? But some will say that God allows us to eat pigs, but doesn't want us to eat newborns. But it's hard to tell what God wants without first deciding what he should want. Hence we're back where we started, looking for justifications of contrasting attitudes.

BlackIsleJag and others invoke more human purposes. Pigs are bred and farmed in order to be killed and eaten. They owe us their lives. But (as HappyHippyMabel suggests) think how this argument plays out in other cases. Was slavery less bad in the case of slaves born into it? Would you be happier with Mr Cronus if he "bred" newborns to eat?

If God's no help, what about Darwin? Eating newborns, some readers who left comments warned, would threaten the species. But not, surely, if it were properly managed. Perhaps the idea is that natural selection is responsible for the widespread urge to eat meat but not humans. But urges are neither permissions nor obligations. That many feel an urge not to copulate with their own sex doesn't make it wrong for homosexuals to do so.

PerfectCookieJar reminds us that our species has evolved so that most of its adult members are self-conscious, highly intelligent, and future-oriented. But, remember, some humans lack these features. Tragically, as a result of the most profound brain damage, a few will never have them. The Cronus challenge is about them.

But they are not "them" but "us", some will say. They'll suggest we have special obligations to our immediate families simply because family members are "us"; and they'll extend some similar moral notion of "us" to all humans, but not to pigs. But the worry with such strategies is avoiding brute tribalism, avoiding leaving an open door for racists or sexists to justify discrimination by deciding that the relevant "us" is actually whites or men.

Suppose, finally, that the challenge we've been grappling with, of justifying killing pigs and not (orphaned) newborns, cannot be met. That would leave two options: that killing either is permissible, or (as Smallrabbit and other vegetarians claim) that killing neither is.

Paper Monitor

11:34 UK time, Wednesday, 10 June 2009


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

A politician. An egg. And the twain meet. To the surprise of the former.

To the papers, such an event is a gift. The puns. The candid photos of someone who normally stage-manages his or her facial expressions with great care. And the glee with which the prank is reported.

All elements are present and correct now the yolk is on BNP leader Nick Griffin.

Even the normally strait-laced Financial Times gets in on the act, crowing "Egged on" on its front page.

"Eggstremists" - Metro
"Bad egg is hit by a good egg" - the Sun
"Shell shock" - Guardian
"Shell-shocked" - Daily Express
"The yolk's on you" - Daily Star (great minds...)

Meanwhile, Paper Monitor has no wish to be Londonshire-centric, but merely mentions the Tube strike in the hopes of eliciting a modicum of sympathy from those whose commute was no more disrupted or delayed than usual. (Feel free to share your non-London tales of commuting hell using the comments box.)

For during a two-day visit to the capital, the Daily Telegraph reports that the Obamas (minus one) "sped around the city in a motorcade".

Sigh. Only the most V of VIPs can travel at speed around a busy urban centre - any busy urban centre - and to read this on a day when millions of ordinary Joes and Jos (including your columnist) commute at walking pace is enough to make one choke on one's eel pie.

Speaking of which, why did Michelle, Sasha and Malia opt for a fish supper in Mayfair, rather than this local dish?

And vinegar or ketchup? The papers are strangely silent on their choice of condiment.

And finally, the same article quotes an US tourist at Westminster Abbey. On being told by security that someone important is on the way, she responds thus: "'I said we were from Illinois...'"

Is it just an American thing to broadcast where you are from to strangers?

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:14 UK time, Wednesday, 10 June 2009

"Nice people take drugs" - Banned ad slogan by drug reform activists Release

The strapline by the drug policy reform group has been withdrawn from the sides of London buses. The charity was told the inclusion of the words "also" or "too" would make the ads less likely to attract complaints and ensure they fit non-broadcast advertising codes of practice.
More details (the Guardian)

Dear friends (repeat)

17:58 UK time, Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Dear friends

Public service announcement follows.

It's now easy to follow the Magazine elsewhere.

fb_6666.gifTo follow us on Facebook, click here (and then click on the word "Like").

twitter_6666.gifTo follow us on Twitter, click here (and then click on the word "Follow").

But please don't have nightmares.

Web Monitor

17:30 UK time, Tuesday, 9 June 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Underwear telling the story of the economic crisis and the US president being influenced by a children's programme - it could only mean one thing - it's been a normal day for Web Monitor (which is unrepentant over Ruaraidh Gillies's comments - Paper Monitor may choose to go along with the old media "look away now if you want to avoid knowing the result" convention, but this is the web - you can't suppress information). Now remember, readers, if you come across an unusual point of view on the web, send it to Web Monitor via the comments box to the right of this page.

Barack Obama and Sesame Street
Nancy Gibbs decides in Time magazine that Barack Obama is the first US president from Sesame Street. It's not just convenient for her as his background is harder to pin down compared to previous presidents, it's also to do with his age - he's the first Potus who has been young enough to watch Sesame Street, growing up - and said he did so. But of course, Gibbs goes deeper than that - she notes his optimism, enterprise and earnestness. Jezebel goes one further attempting to pin down the episodes that he could have watched although there's no mention of how The Count might have informed his macro-economic policies.

• "We'll share files in Brussels" is not your average election promise but then, the Pirate Party isn't your average political party. Ernesto from Torrent Freak looks at why Sweden's Pirate Party managed to secure a seat in the European Elections with the promise to make file-sharing legal. Ernesto suggests that the win may have more to do with their comparative youth, as he observes the Pirates received more votes from those under 30 than any other party in the European elections.

Angelina Jolie• Naomi Wolf became an advocate of feminism after publishing her book, the Beauty Myth, which claimed all forms of beauty were socially constructed . So how would she feel about the "conventionally beautiful" Angelina Jolie knocking Oprah Winfrey off the top spot of Forbes' 100 most powerful celebrities? According to Wolf, in Harpers Bazaar, Jolie is unique in the celebrity world - possibly even a feminist icon:

"She has created a life narrative that is not just personal. Rather, it is archetypal. And the archetype is one that really, for the first time in modern culture, brings together almost every aspect of female empowerment and liberation."

• The linguists behind Global Language Monitor are getting very close to counting their millionth word in the English language. There were only 15 words to go since last time Web Monitor checked, so unless we start getting creative, the millionth will be born sometime on Wednesday morning. The website Wordnik however, seemed to have pipped Language Monitor to the post as they claim to already have 1.7 million words. (Exactly what the GLM classifies as a word is covered in this Magazine article from April.) Maybe the difference is down to their pooling of resources from all around the web instead of using linguists. With all these words to contend with, the New Scientist predicts an increase in that tip-of-the-tongue feeling as they explain why your brain just can't remember that word. The more words you know, the more the words will elude you and the less you use the word, again the more likely you won't, you know, like, remember or something.

• Finance writer Michael Brush on MSN Money stripped down the ways to track the recession to its underwear. Economists say the sales of men's pants is a good tracker of the recession as they stop buying them because no-one can see the difference. The US economy saw a 12% decline in sales in the 12 months to January. Brief sales are also seen as a good early indicator of a recovery due to pent-up demand leading to people buying more pants as the recession nears its end.

• Here's the digital version of "the dog ate my homework" - sells you corrupted files that you can send as an attachment by email. By the time the recipient explains the file seems to contain scrambled and unrecoverable data you should have bought some time to finish the assignment and send it again. If Web Monitor doesn't seem to be here tomorrow it's because the dog ate the computer.

Your Letters

17:27 UK time, Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Monday's kind, fraternal Paper Monitor may have been sensitive to those who had not yet watched the final of The Apprentice, but it failed to pass on the advice to teenage upstart Web Monitor, who had no such qualms. I blame the parents.
Ruaraidh Gillies, Wirral, UK

Chris, Paris (Your Letters, Monday). No. As well as Norway and Sweden fjords also exist in Denmark, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and other places.
HannaH, UK

Re Monday's Quote of the Day - cultural differences. Punning is held in far higher regard in France than in the UK, and is looked upon as high comedy. To make a pun in a foreign language, as here, would be seen in France as the epitome of wit. The French, on the other hand, would be baffled by what was so funny in a lot of what the British regard as hilarious.
Marc Laforge, St Heliers - between the two

Re Quote of the Day: it sounds amusing, but that joke could get old very quickly if Obama decides to visit Cannes next.
Edward Green, London, UK

Just what UKIP were looking for on election day, a hanging Chad
Jel, Swansea

Re Neil Armstrong's first words on the Moon (Your Letters, Monday), surely this is the ultimate in pedantry? We send three men 380,000km (equivalent to 7.6 million Olympic size swimming pools) to another world, and people are more concerned about the grammar of the first words spoken there. There should be some kind of term for pedantry which completely ignores heroic success to focus on insignificant details.
Tom, Maidstone, UK

Is it possible that the Kashmir Deer is rare because it has a predilection for gathering on roads?
Noel, Holt, Norfolk

With reference to this, Monitor presumes...
Do what?
Stuart , Croydon

M: Folks, Monitor just wants to issue thanks those who have taken to HTML formatting their links, following this post. It's much appreciated.

Paper Monitor

13:12 UK time, Tuesday, 9 June 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The Daily Mail breaks from the pack with a front page that makes no mention of the words "Gordon" and "Brown", angling the spotlight at Monday's High Court victory for the Omagh families.

It's unlike the Mail to let the government off the hook of the hottest political tale in recent memory. But the paper has some personal capital wrapped up in the Omagh campaign, and the victory is not only an opportunity to celebrate the families' victories, but also for a spot of back-patting.

"It was the Mail's editor Paul Dacre, when we came to see him all those years ago, who gave us a massive boost that we could never have got from anyone else," says the families' spokesman.

Their solicitor chimes in with similar sentiments "This is... a vindication to all those who supported us, especially the Daily Mail..."

And while the Mail doesn't stint on coverage of the government's current woes several pages on, the Omagh story is an island of well-wishing amid otherwise treacherous waters.

Witness this warm quote from Lord (Peter) Mandelson, who the Mail credits with giving £10,000 to the families' campaign: "I could not be more delighted by this outcome. I would thank the Daily Mail for their strong support."

It just shows that hostilities at one level needn't be carried over into other events.

Over at the Daily Mirror, they've been doing a rain dance following the seemingly interminable drought in Syco-related coverage (Syco being the name of Simon Cowell's company, responsible for Britain's Got Talent (which finished its TV run the week before last) and X Factor).

The heavens have opened thanks to news of a forthcoming series of X Factor (who could have seen that coming?)

Nothing pleases the readers, it seems, like a little imagined skirmishing and, what's this, the Mirror has unearthed a "fierce battle" between X Factor judges Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue. What's at stake? The honour of being, er, "No1 Babe".

How do we know? Because at the first round of auditions yesterday, both women turned up looking, well, quite presentable. Case closed.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:18 UK time, Tuesday, 9 June 2009

"I know the public are furious with politicians but I didn't realise the anger had spread to Britain's cow population" - Former home secretary David Blunkett tries to explain why he fell victim to a cow attack.

It was an unhappy 62nd birthday for David Blunkett as he was hit by a charging cow while walking in the Peak District.
More details (the Times)

Web Monitor

16:42 UK time, Monday, 8 June 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Web Monitor clicked through the pages of the web as fast as the new apprentice should be selling signage to doctors' surgeries, bringing you all the best bits here. If you find an interesting piece of internet gold, e-mail us by commenting in the box on the right.

Daryl HannahDaryl Hannah told Gaby Wood in the Guardian what made her start campaigning about the environment:

"I kind of recognised the fact that it looked like we were heading towards a war for oil, not a war against terror, and since I had been off petroleum for a number of years, I felt it was imperative that I get out there and start letting people know that there are other options available to us. Most people were completely gobsmacked by the idea that cars could run on vegetable matter."

Web Monitor recently recommended an article about the rise of homeless people having e-mail, Facebook andTwitter accounts and as a continuation of this theme we're now recommending you read this critique of homeless shelters by a homeless person.
Commenting on the End Homelessness blog, "SlumJack Homeless" says homeless shelters cause more problems than they solve, wasting your time as they're designed to protect addicts from their addictions. But his main gripe is all the rules about bedtimes, that keep him away from the internet cafes.

Salon magazine tells the story of the most successful "super- repo man", Nick Popovich. He makes his money repossessing jets and yachts from the once-rich for the banks, so business is going well at the moment. Web Monitor thinks he may need to watch a little bit of the Fast Show as judging from this quote, he'd get on with imaginary car salesman Swiss Tony:

"Repossessing a giant, gleaming multimillion dollar plane is kind of like courting a beautiful woman. Sometimes the chase is better than the catch."

• The Daily Mail website is a lot fruitier than its newspaper, sprinkled with pictures of bikini-clad celebrities on holiday or women painting the town red. Now the buffthebanana blog links to the celebrity articles in the Daily Mail website so you don't have to wade through the other stuff.

Carly Simon• The singer Carly Simon explains in the Daily Beast how she overcame her stutter:

"There is nothing more humiliating for a stutterer than to have their word or sentence finished for them. I didn't have names for these fears.... In the early years, I was beaten into states of self-hatred and begging to go 'home.' Please let me go home. To my mother. I was assaulted, bruised, battered, and broken. I knew the answers in class and couldn't raise my hand. I had to learn that the first devastating lesson was to learn to have the courage to face life... I learned that singing was a big, big, big relief. So, after many years, it was becoming more and more clear: I would be a singer."

• The Apprentice winner, Yasmina Siadatan may be wondering why she bothered after being given a middle manager job in a signage department as her prize. But Web Monitor would like to remind her, it could be worse than working for Siralan-soon-to-be-Lord Sugar and point her towards Business Insider's list of the worst CEOs ever. Yasmina will be relieved to see that her new boss doesn't feature.

Your Letters

15:06 UK time, Monday, 8 June 2009

I see that Chad Vance was worried lest, in his "unexpected" ride clinging to the outside of a high speed train in Australia, he fell off. Of course, he might have been a little more sure of his grip and concentrated a little better had he not chosen to film himself doing it...
Mark, Reading, UK

I'm not sure Ms Pratt's advice is particularly useful if you're blind and can't see the cow coming. But I did like that it could be easily summarised, in traditional farmer-style, as "Gerrof my land!"
Dan, Cambridge

Well, the critics would have had the day circled long ago, if it weren't for the fact that the date of the broadcast was changed only a week ago so as not to clash with the England World Cup qualifier on Wednesday night.
Matt, Cambridge

It's been obvious all along that Neil Armstrong fluffed his lines. Not so much for the lack of sound before "man", but for the long pause after the second "one" and slightly downbeat sound to the ending, when he realised he'd blown it.
Colin Edwards, Exeter, UK

Re the Caption Comp winner - "The Stepfjord Wives" - it's a nice pun, but aren't all the fjords (the "crinkly edges") in Norway, not Sweden?
Chris, Paris

I went to your front page to find the headline "Rescuers find Snowdonia missing" hidden half way down the stories on the right. Surely something of this magnitude should have been the main headline? There are over 25,000 people living in Snowdonia, they can't just have vanished. Is it all just ocean now? If it's global warming to blame then none of us is safe.
Joe T, Glasgow

David Bain's Brain Strain

14:49 UK time, Monday, 8 June 2009


bain_126.jpgWelcome to David Bain's Brain Strain - a forum for Monitor readers to debate philosophical matters and, in so doing, find a worthy distraction from the demands of the workplace.

Last month, he asked when does the Cutty Sark stop being the Cutty Sark? The month he's on to cannibalism.

Read on and then add your thoughts to the debate using the comments form. Remember, this is philosophy - there IS no right or wrong answer. (The brain strainer will read all your comments before, in a couple of days, returning to offer his thoughts on the debate.)

UPDATE, 10 JUNE: Read David Bain's responses here.

Shocking breakfast news: a certain Mr Cronus has been killing and eating human newborns for snacks. To take our minds off it, we focus on our bacon and eggs. But is bacon the right comfort food?

Think about why we're outraged. It turns out that Mr Cronus kills only orphans, and does so painlessly. But, even so, his victims were living beings, sentient and innocent. Killing them for snacks is obviously and seriously wrong.

Fair enough. But pigs were killed for our breakfast. And they're living beings, sentient and innocent. So some fancy footwork looks to be required if we're not to be hoist over the breakfast table by our own petards.

fryup_bbc226.jpgNot very fancy, you might say. There's an obvious difference: the newborns were humans, the pigs not. But that can look as unpromising as the following: "It's worse to kill white people than black people because white people are white and black people not." If colour differences aren't important, why are species differences?

Because, you might reply, species differences correlate with other differences. We humans are smarter than pigs. We're self-aware. We anticipate our futures and engage in long-term projects. So, when killed, we're harmed in ways pigs can't be.

But even if that's true of you and me, what about the newborns Mr Cronus was snacking on? Pigs are more intelligent than dogs and perform impressively in many cognitive tests. They wouldn't give you or me a run for our money, but they would a newborn.

Yes, you might say, but newborns will develop into people more intelligent, self-aware, and future-oriented than pigs. True, and so will foetuses. But why is such potential relevant before it's realised?

Perhaps there's a good answer to that. But even if potential is relevant, what about those newborns who sadly lack it? If Mr Cronus killed only them, would that be okay? And, if not, isn't it equally wrong to kill pigs for bacon?

David Bain is a lecturer in the philosophy department of the University of Glasgow. Find out more about him by clicking here.

Paper Monitor

10:12 UK time, Monday, 8 June 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Every television critic circled this day on their calendar long ago, in fluorescent pen.

The morning after The Apprentice Final is one of those television events that requires a witty commentator to apply that first medicinal dose as fans enter the early stages of Apprentice Cold Turkey.

Usually languishing on page 28, today the TV critics are centre-stage to deliver their verdicts.

The Times is Sugar-coated, with Suralan's appearance on The Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning providing a sweet appetizer to The Apprentice climax that night.

Two TV spoonfuls of the millionaire means the paper's first page not covering the European elections is devoted to him. First up, his interview with Marr, which prompts this wonderful description of Sugar by the Times's Sam Coates.

"How Gordon Brown must envy him. He doesn't have charm. There's no sign of any emotional intelligence. His sense of humour is oddly stunted and he's stubborn, arrogant and mouthy. And yet the public not only love him but back him in their millions with their remote control."

Sir Alan told Marr his appointment as the new so-called enterprise tzar was "politically neutral", to which Coates had one mischievous riposte.

"'I don't see this as kind of a political thing,' opined the personal friend of Gordon Brown who has just accepted a government job and a Labour peerage."

The Times take on the final itself is that the identity of the winner is irrelevant, overshadowed by the news that Sugar's lieutenant Margaret Mountford (below) is leaving the show to write a PhD on papyrology.

mountford_bbc226.jpg"What? No more frowns, eye-rolling, eyebrows shooting skyward and withering glances? The Apprentice is only bearable because of Mountford, and Nick Hewer, and their caustic shepherding of the contestants. Can PhDs in papyrology be fast-tracked?"

Writing in the Daily Mirror, Hewer reflects on the "heartbreak" of life post-Mountford, but it's his insights on events off-camera that give his column a spark.

For instance, he reveals that no-one on Kate's team knew the French for "love" and had to ask him before they picked a name for their box of chocolates, Choc d'Amour.

And Philip was "humiliated" to be picked second-last in the teams contesting the final, and snubbed by his girlfriend Kate in the process.

Sir Alan's new apprentice features on the front pages of the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Guardian and the Daily Express, although interestingly there's no mention of the show in the business Bible, the Financial Times.

The Mail calls her "the new Sugar babe" and revels in the clash of what it calls the Alpha Females.

The Daily Mirror and the Sun both claim to have exclusive interviews with the winner, who now has a job working for Sir Alan's new digital signing company, Amscreen.

And in this iPlayer-sensitive age, that was an Apprentice-themed Paper Monitor with no spoiler.

Aren't we nice?

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:23 UK time, Monday, 8 June 2009

"Yes we Caen" - Slogan coined by Philippe Duron, the Mayor of Caen, to honour visit of President Barack Obama.

So weak punning is not just an Anglo-Saxon affair. With this entry, a play on Obama's campaign slogan "Yes we can", the mayor is spoiling us.
More details (the Times)

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