BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for July 5, 2009 - July 11, 2009

Your Letters

15:50 UK time, Friday, 10 July 2009

Re Tabloid tactics: Isn't "an early, lower-technology version of hacking into ... phones" a bit of a cumbersome way of describing reading someone's phone bill?
Rory, Grimsby

Thanks for the tip-off, Paper Monitor. The Sarah Brown question did indeed come up in 7 days 7 questions, although my ineptitude meant I still only got 4. Still, there's always next week.
Timothy, Leeds

A few anagrams (Thursday's Paper Monitor):
Simon Heffer - Home Sniffer, Sheriff Omen.
Benedict Brogan - Cribbage tendon, Decanter gibbon, Cabinet bog nerd, Bad bingo center...
No special anagram skills here you understand - just running the names through one of the many online services and trawling through the results.
Chris in Paris, Paris, France

Re Shop's joke billboards cause stir, as a resident of Horsham and regular customer of The Candy Box, what has not been made clear in this article is the sheer joy of having John as one of our most colourful and entertaining - not to mention savvy - business owners. He is a credit to the town, and being served by him has more than once brightened my day.
Joanne Macauley, Horsham, West Sussex

Web Monitor hoped for a Charles Dickens reference in this week's copy of The Grocer. Afraid we'll have to disappoint on that score, but as a consolation, we do quote Hamlet in the first paragraph of this week's leader. Grocery's a profound industry, sometimes.
James Ball, Senior Reporter, The Grocer

Aaargh! In the time it took for me to type my all-time best caption in, you closed the competition. It was a guaranteed winner too, and now you'll never know.
Kaylie, Runcorn, UK
Monitor Towers: You snooze, you lose.

Abby (Thursday's letters): I believe I can help you. As any Geordie knows, there is a distinct difference between poor and pour - poor is pronounced correctly with two syllables, thus: poo-ah.
Kahla, Leeds, formerly Newcastle

Abbey, it's a northern thing. Poor is pronounced like poo with an r on the end, pour like door. My wife and children, who are Cornish, pick me up on it every time I say it. Every single time. Poor also rhymes with moor but obviously not with door or floor.
Paul I, Cornwall (formerly Middlesbrough)

Why is there an option to complain about every comment made on this blog? It is a sad state of affairs when you are so scared of causing offense that you make it easier to complain. People cannot expect to go through life without coming across something they might not agree with and they should learn to live with it.
Nick, Salisbury, UK

'Rude' French are worst tourists: one for 10 things we knew last week?
Basil Long, Nottingham

10 things we didn't know last week

15:11 UK time, Friday, 10 July 2009

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

1. Heavy metal in Morocco is regarded as devil-worship.
More details

2. Monkeys notice bad grammar.
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3. Trousers used to be called unmentionables.
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4. Neil Armstrong took Dvorak's New World Symphony and theremin music to the moon.
More details

5. The best place to put a wind turbine is in Orkney Islands.
More details

6. Dinosaurs were couch potatoes.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

7. Ice fallen from the sky is due to leaking plane ventilation systems.
More details

8. Clothes could take photos.
More details

9. Ringo Starr's mum wanted him to work in a bank.
More details

10. Sir Jimmy Savile once saved the day by directing traffic.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week.Thanks to Vic Barton-Walderstadt from Welwyn Garden City for this week's picture of 10 London Eye pods.

Caption Competition

13:39 UK time, Friday, 10 July 2009


Winning entries in the Caption Competitionplinthtowncryer_getty.jpg.

This week, Scott Illman sits out his hour on the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. He's one of the 2,400 people taking part in artist Antony Gormley's One and Other project.

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. Beachcred wrote:
I only asked for an soapbox to stand on, but no, Gormley had to make something special...

5. Fandango2 wrote:
Twitter 1.0

4. RMutt wrote:
Optimistic England fan bags his spot for the Ashes victory parade.

3. Jellyba wrote:
Uniform and prospects they said

2. Magnum Carter wrote:
You: Walking across Trafalgar Square at 4pm Monday in beige jacket with long brown hair and low-cut blue top. Me: Looking down over you in large, loose-fitting bright red overcoat, dark glasses and black cap. Drink?

1. Lord_Mandelson_Foy wrote:
Prince Harry began to suspect that this latest posting was in fact designed to keep him out of trouble.

Paper Monitor

12:21 UK time, Friday, 10 July 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

You could have written the answer on a postcard, sent it to yourself a week ago and still have been absolutely right. Yes, the papers' coverage of Journogate - as Paper Monitor has decided to call it for reasons of brevity - is that predictable.

Exposed in the Guardian yesterday, certain sections of HM Press stand accused of hacking into the phones of celebrities and other people in the public eye. Having broken the story the paper devotes seven pages to it today, illustrating it with photos of big players in the world of football who are said to be victims.

The only other paper to carry the story on its front page is the Daily Telegraph. There must have been lots of air punching and whooping in its newsroom. Not only is it one of the few papers left unblemished by the row, the tale also allows it to get photos of three - YES THREE - of its favourite beauties onto the front page. Gwyneth Paltrow, Nigella Lawson and Elle Macpherson all allegedly had their phones hacked into. That's what the Telegraph would call a result.

In the Murdoch-owned Sun, just eight paragraphs are squeezed onto page two. And those are just to say the Met Police will not be investigating the claims, forgetting to mention the three other inquiries announced yesterday.

The Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail both have the story buried on page 10 and funnily enough both are accused of the questionable practices. In the Times, which isn't implicated in the row but is owned by Murdoch, you can find the story is tucked away on page six.

On one final note, Paper Monitor is interested to see how long the Guardian will be able to keep the story running. Will it get anywhere near the Telegraph and the MPs' expenses row? Just watch it try.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:32 UK time, Friday, 10 July 2009

"She recognised him immediately - his eyes are very blue and he has a good tan" - Police on witness who identified naked man who went to dental appointment.

We've all been nervous about a dental appointment on occasion. But surely never so agitated that we forgot to wear any clothes.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Weekly Bonus Question

09:30 UK time, Friday, 10 July 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 BOX IN THIS ENTRY. And since nobody likes a smart alec, kudos will be deducted for predictability in your suggestions.

This week's answer is A SINGLE PENNY FROM 1982.

UPDATE 1607 BST: The correct question is, what was inside a stolen wallet found 27 years later in a Central Park tree trunk.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

17:51 UK time, Thursday, 9 July 2009

Re ice falling from planes, Richard Taylor assures us that "toilet waste is rarely to blame". But it is sometimes? Even with such an outside chance, I wouldn't be posing, ice-block in hand, for a picture.
Kat Gregg (nee Murphy), Coventry

Help! Re -oor as in poor not pour (How to Say). Could someone explain how to pronounce the two words differently. I have been sitting at my desk repeating them over and over again, and even though I speak a "tonal" language I am struggling to hear the difference.
Abby, London

I always find the pronunciation guides interesting but I was a bit surprised by the latest instalment which tells us that for Urumqi we should be saying oor-uum-TCHEE (-oor as in poor not pour). To think, all these years I've been saying it as "paw". How embarrassing.
Matt Hardcastle, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

L'Aquila doesn't sound like it's in China.
Lee, Birmingham

I have just achieved 2 out of 7 on your GCSE history test. Under current standards that equates to at least a B. I look forward to receiving my certificate.
Rockingham, London

When are you going to get back to GCSE subjects I actually know something about, like science or - um - break time? My colleague is beating me 4-3 on the first seven quizzes and it's making me doubt myself.
Stuart Taylor, Bromley, Kent

"Michael Jackson patented one item - the special shoes he used in the stage version of Smooth Criminal" (10 things). I don't suppose they are a particular kind of leather with a high shiny gloss - you know?
Maggie, south London

Web Monitor

17:25 UK time, Thursday, 9 July 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Mexican drug ballads, reverse stripping into a burkha and the "Bromance" film genre are mingling awkwardly in Web Monitor. If you find an interesting link, send it to Web Monitor via the comment box.

Sasha Baron Cohen• In Esquire, film critic ST VanAirsdale asks what Sasha Baron Cohen's new film Bruno, will mean for gay rights.

The term "Bromance" has already been coined to reflect the genre where, according to cincritic blog, the female object of desire is played by another straight man - such as I Love You Man. VanAirsdale says now the blockbuster film industry is increasingly embracing the idea of a gay protagonist in their films:

"I remember a jittery Heath Ledger meeting the New York press for the first time to discuss Brokeback Mountain in late 2005. He picked at the tablecloth, paused between sentences, slouched on the verge of what seemed like encroaching breakdown. And who could blame him? He'd just spent months rerouting the mainstream with maybe its first-ever convincing gay love story, and here were ten idiot journalists essentially asking variations of what it was like to kiss Jake Gyllenhaal ... Nevertheless, like its contemporary Humpday and Brokeback Mountain and a handful of others before them, Bruno is a phenomenon. The industry is too volatile and money too scarce for Hollywood to get away with patronizing any minority, and all the better that a box-office hit might rock the cultural foundation a little more than two and a half hours of transforming robots."

William T Vollmann writes in Mother Jones about the stories behind Mexican drug ballads. Some radio stations refuse to play the "narcocorridos":

"Carlos Perez said that some of the most famous ballads were about Jesus Malverde, whom he called the patron saint of the narcotraffickers. He lived in Sinaloa. He was Robin Hood. He sold drugs and used the money to help the people. He was killed in a gun battle because he didn't want to give himself up. Some say he was never caught. Some say he died of old age, and others say that he is still alive."

Sarah BrownSarah Brown has set up her own Wag blog for the G8 summit although, she chooses to call the PMs' other halves spouses instead of Wags. It seems that she has made a few friends in the "Spouses club", who regularly meet to be shown around whichever part of the world their partners' G-Unit are that week and, on this occasion, meet the Pope, whilst their partners get on with their jobs.

In the rest of the political blogosphere, The Guardian's Andrew Sparrow has noticed a trend among the political bloggers today- they all seem to think the Conservative press chief, Andy Coulson is on his way out.

• Julian Rendell has managed to make a reference to George Orwell in Auto Week. He's calling speed limit trials in London big brother-esque. Tests involve putting GPS tracking in cars and may result in information used for road tolls. Rendell is not happy:

"the idea has a strong resonance with control-freak politicians and bureaucrats, who like the idea of charging and controlling Europe's motorists at every opportunity."

Next Week Web Monitor would like to see reference to Charles Dickens in The Grocer, please.

• Over the last few centuries many countries have disappeared, more likely due to regime change than rising sea levels. But what happens to the flags of these forgotten countries? Well, thanks to the Dark Roasted Blend blog, these flags have been documented lovingly. From the Qing Dynasty who ruled China, Manchuria, Tibet, Taiwan and Mongolia until 1912 to Rhodesia they are all here for you to ponder the timeliness of socially constructed nationalist sentiment (or the pretty colours).

Tiara the Merch Girl (we assume not her real name) describes herself as a burlesque performer who is Malaysian of Bangladeshi heritage based in Australia . In the radialicious blog, she's looking at how burlesque is affected by racial stereotypes, especially given that she says it has an overwhelmingly white presence.
Merch girl herself controversially performed a reverse strip, getting into a burkha, to a song by singer Deeyah who cooked up a storm for making a pop video where she stripped off her own burkha and jumped into a swimming pool.
She asks:

"Since burlesque is largely about making the sacred profane, and has never really been known for being politically correct, are all cultures fair game to any performer that wants them?"

Merch girl says burlesque is spreading across the world - with a big burlesque scene in Japan and tassels even making a show in an old Buddhist temple in China.
If you're interested in arguing the finer points of burlesque, like "what is the point" you may also be interested in the Magazine article on whether burlesque could be a dying art in the UK thanks new regulation classing burlesque clubs as strip joints.

Paper Monitor

12:56 UK time, Thursday, 9 July 2009


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Not so long ago, HM Press was very exercised about how practices well-known among a small group of people were, with the searching light of scrutiny, suddenly seen to be unacceptable in the public eye.

Back then - last month, actually - it was MPs' expenses. Today it's a bit more uneasy: the subject at the forefront of the nation's mind is (apart from the Ashes) reporters hacking celebrities' phones, and specifically claims that it was more widespread than has been acknowledged.

Uncomfortable territory for journalists to acknowledge some of the tricksy tactics of the business. Thankfully for personal comfort, Paper Monitor can now declare having had no personal experience of these (though that might be one one reason why one spends one's time reading newspapers rather than writing them).

The Guardian makes the running here, with an in depth report (and only a very small mention deep within its coverage that it's not only Murdoch papers which stand accused of questionable practices - they include the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and, shock, the Observer).

So how do the others do? No mention in the Mirror, the Sun, or the Daily Telegraph. The Mail has a single column on that all-important page 21. The Daily Express gives it page eight, as does the Times which focuses on the pressure on David Cameron and his spin-doctor rather than the questions about what actually happened.

Well the next few days will be interesting to see what kind of scrutiny HMP will give itself.

The eye was naturally drawn to a Quentin Letts special in the Mail which tries to pit two residents of this parish against each other - Nick Robinson v Robert Peston. You can read it for yourself - Paper Monitor thought it slightly less than convincing to be honest - but was intrigued by the highlighting of their relative weaknesses: for Robinson it's his eyesight, for Peston it's that he "doesn't like alcohol much". Gentlemen, with vices like that, a weary nation will salute you.

PS. Paper Monitor's enjoyment of reading the Daily Telegraph has been quite spoiled since articles in Private Eye and Press Gazette alleged the paper was making up names of its writers. One Press Gazette correspondent alleges that in times gone by the name Dan Harbles was used to cover cycling, since it was an anagram of handlebars. Now Paper Monitor can't read the paper without trying to look for imagined anagrams of its key writers.

Thus, anagrams of Boris Johnson, Simon Heffer, Benedict Brogan, Bryony Gordon or other Telegraph familiars welcome via the Comments field.

How to say: Chinese names and ethnic groups

11:18 UK time, Thursday, 9 July 2009

An occasional guide to the words and names in the news from Jo Kim of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

This week has seen riots and fighting between the Han Chinese and Uighur ethnic groups in Urumqi. China's President Hu Jintao cut short his visit to the G8 summit to tackle the crisis.

It is important to note that BBC Pronunciation Unit policy is to recommend a standardised and systematically anglicised version of the local pronunciation. (In the case of Mandarin Chinese, we do not recommend tones in our anglicised pronunciation because we do not expect monolingual English broadcasters to recognise and reproduce sounds and features which do not exist in English.) However, if there is an English form of a place name (e.g. Florence), then we recommend this rather than the form in the native language. We also recommend established anglicisations where they exist (e.g. Paris).

Note: where only one syllable appears, it should be stressed. Otherwise, stressed syllables are shown in upper case.

The common anglicisations of Urumqi are oor-uum-TCHEE (-oor as in poor not pour, -uu as in book, -tch as in church) and oor-UUM-tchi. The original Uighur pronunciation is closer to: ue-ruem-TCHEE (-ue as in French vu). The Mandarin Chinese form of the place name (Hanyu Pinyin: Wūlǔmùqí), which is based on the Uighur pronunciation, is pronounced closer to: woo-LOO-moo-TCHEE (-oo as in boot).

Hu Jintao, President of China, is pronounced KHOO jin TOW (-kh as in Sc. loch, -j as in Jack, -ow as in now)

L'AQUILA is pronounced LACK-will-uh (-note first syllable stress)

BEIJING is pronounced bay-JING (-j as in Jack, this is the established anglicisation)

XIN JIANG is pronounced SHIN ji-AANG (-sh as in ship, -j as in Jack, -aa as in father)

UIGHUR, the ethnic group, is pronounced WEE-guhr (-w as in wet, -ee as in meet, this is the established anglicisation)

Han Chinese is pronounced han (-h as in hot, this is the established anglicisation; the Mandarin Chinese pronunciation is closer to khan, -kh as in Sc. loch)

Hui, another Chinese ethnic group, is pronounced khway (-kh as in Sc. loch, ay as in say)

Li Zhi, Urumqi's Communist party boss, is pronounced lee juh (-j as in Jack, -uh as a in ago)

To download the BBC Pronunciation Unit's guide to text spelling, click here.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

08:23 UK time, Thursday, 9 July 2009

"I don't know, is Beckham playing?" - Bruno on England's Ashes fortunes

As the presenter of Austria's number one cable TV gay fashion show readies himself for cinema stardom, a knowledge gap appears in his abilities as a pundit.
More details (Metro)

Web Monitor

16:19 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

From lords sent to live on duck islands to sounds of horses in Kyrgyzstan, Web Monitor cherry picks the most interesting recent events on the web. To share a gem, send your links via the comment box.

• Could comedian, writer and broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli add Lord to his title? Well no-one has suggested this apart from Web Monitor here, but it turns out he's not even interested anyway as he wants to keep hereditary peers in place. He's been getting all hot under the collar about House of Lords reform on the Daily Politics. Reforming Parliament's upper house is back on the agenda and possible changes mooted include 80% or even 100% of the lords being voted in:

"What will they do with the hereditary peers? Put them on a floating duck island? ...The Lords is full of people that bring life experience with them, not just career politicians, industrialists, trade unions, just groovy people. And the level of debate in the Lords far outstrips the debate in the Commons - read through Hansard. If you've got insomnia I think you should do that anyway."

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.

Incidentally, if you like reading through Hansard (the reference of everything said in Parliament that lulls Hardeep to sleep) you may also enjoy possibly the geekiest games in existence - Video Speech Matching courtesy of They Work For You. It's a crowdsourcing game which gets you to match video of the House of Commons from the BBC with the text of Hansard from Parliament. Watch the video, match the text, the clip goes live, and you move up the rankings. As Boing Boing says, "Improving democracy has never been so addictive."

• Michael Jackson's effect on the web is starting to move away from sick jokes and become innovative. The social media guide Mashable has films following the trending topic on Twitter, which show the effect of Michael Jackson's memorial on the twitterverse. Popeater gets political about Jackson, conducting a vote of their own on whether congress should honour Jackson forever - a resolution being put forward by Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee. Among the reviews of the show, like Catlin Moran in the Times which called Mariah Carey up for wearing a "dangerously low cut dress", is What Not To Sing. This database of all songs ever sung on American Idol, which rates each performance, has a special page for all the Michael Jackson songs sung by hopefuls.

• One area that Jackson's legacy is loosing its grip on is videos being posted to blogs, according to Viral Video Chart which lists the top blogged-about videos.
On Monday's Web Monitor pointed to a viral that had beaten Michael Jackson to the top spot on YouTube. But that was about a possible alien life force. Now Jackson is being beaten by a mere Evian advert. Mind you, it is an advert about street-dancing babies. Is this a sign that advertisers are getting their way with the viral video world? Popularity of an advert in virals has not been seen since the Dove Evolution of Beauty ad that wasn't even shown on TV.

• Web Monitor has noticed that there aren't enough handwritten blogs around and as if by magic, when waiting for one handwritten blog, two came along at the same time. Artist Maira Kalman's blog In the Pursuit of Happiness seems to make her commentors very happy indeed. The blog is actually a handwritten history of democracy in America. But Alfred Sirleaf's blog goes one further - it's written on a black board in the middle of a busy highway in Monrovia, Liberia - He's an "analog [sic] blogger". OK, maybe it isn't a blog but the Drivers of Change blog, which flagged it up, does have a point - as Sirleaf's service is essentially doing what a lot of blogs do - summarising all the news in a way people can understand at a place convenient to them.

• From cavorting in Waterloo Station in the morning to the thugga-thugga of a pneumatic drill churning up parts of the ground outside the Bank of England Giles Turnbull in the Morning News has recorded a strangely alluring soundscape of London to give people outside the country an idea of the atmosphere. This reminds Web Monitor of the BBC's Save Our Sounds, which is archiving soundscapes from across the world be they horses in Kyrgyzstan or Monks in Phnom Penh. You can spread sounds yourself with the help of Audio Boo, as pointed out in the Dot Life blog by the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, who thinks an audio revolution could be taking place.

Your Letters

16:19 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The story about Wookey Hole's search for a witch made me look at their website. It seems to suggest they are deliberately seeking to bias the outcome against male applicants. After a lot of stuff about how they are "forced" to make the job open to men and women, they say they have "had to accept" the job may go to a man. Is this stated reluctance the right side of legal? Surely not. If not, I am sure someone can place a hex on them, or alternatively remind them of the requirements of employment legislation...
Mark, Reading

So scientists now claim sperm "first". Shall we vote on it? I say egg first.
Graham, Purmerend, NI

I've heard of icebergs doing it, but an insect? Imagine my disappointment after this headline promised so much: Cruise halted after bug hits ship.
Lee Pike, Auckland, New Zealand

Mr Gammon said: "We heard... a whistling sound and all of a sudden a piece of ice the size of a grapefruit fell on my thigh." Oh, *why* couldn't he have said pineapple? Why??
Sue, London

History GCSE quiz is just like when I sat the O-level. I did rubbish on the first attempt but a whole lot better at the resit. PS: Election 97 is quite old.
Ed, Clacton, UK

So we're back to cabbaging?
Fleur, London

I can't believe Peter Jackson failed to ask the OED whether they've found a synonym for "thesaurus" yet.
Dan, Cambridge

On a tangent to Matthew D's contribution in Friday's letters, I once turned down a date with a guy on the simple basis that he had the surname Gulliver and a photo album on his social networking site called "Me on Holiday". His inability to capitalise on the opportunity for a perfectly good pun made it obvious that he was not the guy for me.
Alice, London

Today's mini-question misleads. The pilot cannot fairly be described as naked for he sports, in clear view - and in line with his profession - a hat (or an oddly shaped painted skull).
James, London

Paper Monitor

13:35 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

After Michael Jackson's memorial service on Tuesday, you could have bet your house on what picture would be gracing the front of the tabloids today. They've been waiting long enough for it - 12 years in fact.

After a series of scarves, blankets, you name it, being draped over their heads in public, Jackson's children have stepped squinting into the spotlight. (Stepped, or perhaps been pushed?)

"King of Pops" is the headline in the Daily Mirror, alongside the picture of Prince Michael, 12, Paris 11, and seven-year-old Prince Michael II - also known as Blanket - on stage at the service. Both the Mirror and the Sun make up for the previous lack of photos by stuffing their respective papers full of them. A taste of things to come for the Jackson kids? Unfortunately, yes.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph leaves little to the imagination with the photo chosen to illustrate a feature on raunchy reads for grown-up women. Wonder what search terms the picture editor used?

A young lady whose dress is in a state of some disarray reclines on the floor, surrounded by abandoned (in every sense) novels. Pages flutter. Spines are cracked. And hardback piles on top of hardback.

Gosh. Is it just Paper Monitor, or did someone turn the air conditioning off?

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:53 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009


For those led here by Wednesday's mini-question, here are stills from Air New Zealand's pre-flight safety video.


Instead of uniforms, four crew members stripped and instead wore body paint. The national airline devised this as a way of encouraging jaded passengers to actually pay attention to instructions on seatbelts, luggage stowage and oxygen masks.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:08 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009

"We have to keep telling people: please don't change the toilets" - A palace spokesman addresses the misconception that royals require new loo seats on official visits.

In the world of the Windsors, does every room smell of fresh paint and does every toilet come with a previously unused seat? Because it is widely assumed that when a royal comes a-calling, the backstage riders include new loo seats for old. Not so, says Buckingham Palace.
More details (The Times)

Your Letters

18:12 UK time, Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Re James Ward (Monday's Letters): I found a country profile on Algeria from 21 October 1997 followed by one from the next day about a colour upgrade for someone who can only see in black and white. Beat that.
Nik Edwards, Aylesbury

Re Status: Red-faced: At my work, we have started an inappropriate-use-of-LOL watch. I think Ashley-Paul Robinson makes the cut. Have other Monitor readers spotted any more?
Mary, Derby

Daniel (Monday letters) - you obviously are a Kath and Kim fan as you know how they would have said it; yet you are presumably male? Therefore the question is still not conclusively answered.
Kay, London

Given the Radio 4 penchant for accordion programme names (File on Four, Loose Bends), might I suggest a dog-sized sheep is actually a shep?
Fred, Rotherham

Adam (Monday's letters), just one problem. Uighur isn't a Chinese word. Mandarin speakers know them as the Weiwu. Nice and easy to pronounce but can make you sound like you're doing owl impersonations if you're not careful.
Miss Lin, Notts

Web Monitor

18:06 UK time, Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Only seen together in Web Monitor: why Saddam Hussein is OK but Hitler is off limits, how cats could save democracy and Derren Brown's theory on why we punish ourselves.

Bernie Ecclestone
• Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has been getting into deep water about comments he made in the Times about Hitler's efficiency. Saying Hitler was "able to get things done" didn't bode well in Germany where the F1 is starting this weekend. The Today Programme reported the German Central Council of Jews have been asking for a boycott of the F1. Ecclestone apologised first in the Jewish Chronicle yesterday, and then again in The Times today, explaining what he meant:

"I'm an admirer of good leadership, of politicians who stand by their convictions and tell the voters the truth. I'm not an admirer of dictators, who rule by terror."

Stephen Pollard in the Jewish Chronicle is suggesting that Ecclestone's column in the Times was not even written by him, but instead, by one of Lord Mandelson's "minions".
This was denied by Daniel Finkelstein in the Times, who also leapt to Ecclestone's defence by saying:

"His comments sound bizarre because he brought Hitler into it. If he'd stopped at Saddam, he wouldn't have had nearly as much difficulty."

• Not all of us have journalists from the Times to defend us when we put our foot in our mouths. But why exactly do we commit these faux pas? Brandon Keim in Wired Magazine talked to Dan Wegner, an expert on what is scientifically known as "ironic process" - or saying exactly what you're concentrating so hard on not saying. It may be that Foot-in-Mouth Disease is caused by stress:

"... when we're really striving for something, when we're under extreme stress or high mental load, that's when we tend to get these ironic effects."

Foreign Policy Journal has identified a trend in dictatorship style - Authoritarianism 2.0. Not only has there been a mushrooming in state funded rolling news channels such as Russia Today and Iran's Press TV but, according to Foreign Policy Journal, authoritarian regimes have also found innovative and sophisticated ways of controlling Internet access deploying armies of commentators and provocateurs "to distract and disrupt legitimate Internet discussions."

Although Web Monitor is normally valiant in its protection of readers against the onslaught of kitten videos and cat content slowly but surely taking over the internet, this article did remind us of the Cute Cat Theory of Internet Censorship. Said theory, reported by the New York Times, was propounded by Ethan Zuckerman, a senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School:

"...when a government censors the Internet, it had better think twice: 'Cute cats are collateral damage when governments block sites' ...People who could not 'care less about presidential shenanigans are made aware that their government fears online speech so much that they're willing to censor the millions of banal videos' and thereby 'block a few political ones.'"

Tom Hanks• If you watched Tom Hanks in the blockbuster The Terminal and thought it would be cool to hang around an airport, then you, may be a Weberian when it comes to airports (that's Melvin the American city planner, not Max). If on the other hand you think airports are a little alienating, you would sit on anthropologist Marc Auge's side of the airport fence, or should we say, border. If you're not convinced that great thinkers have given a great deal of thought to airports, then read Frank Bures' article in World Hum. He is poetic about his love for airports as a destination in themselves:

"Borders will be torn down. Others will go up. Identities will disappear. Others will take their place. Languages will die. Others will arise. The non-places of today are the places of tomorrow."

• Her husband committed the largest financial fraud in history, so why does everyone hate Ruth Madoff? Sheelah Kolhatkar in the New Yorker Magazine thinks Ruth's problem is a particularly female one:

"The court of public opinion has not given Ruth the benefit of the doubt about whether she could have been unaware of her husband's activities, as she has maintained. But there was a time when it was considered normal for wives not to keep track of everything that their spouses were doing."

• Celebrity mind manipulator Derren Brown is spilling his secrets again in his blog.
He's using new research on game theory to explain why we punish ourselves. According to the study, if someone is splitting money with us, we would rather no-one gets any of it than we only get 20%.
Incidentally, Derren Brown is also adding to the huge amount of blogger comment about Sarah Palin mentioned in yesterday's Web Monitor.

Paper Monitor

13:41 UK time, Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Google. Grrr!

Or should that be Grrr-eat!

It's hard to tell which camp the Daily Mail falls into. On page 14 Stephen Glover holds forth on how he'd rather give his medical records to Bin Laden - or even the Government - than to Google, after the Conservatives floated the idea of outsourcing a central medical database to Google or Microsoft.

Quite some argument to sustain, you might think. How does he do?

He raises his own bar from the start, setting out what a useful service Google provides.

If I want to know the telephone number of a shop or restaurant, I can Google it at no charge, instead of wasting money telephoning one of the various successors to Directory Inquiries. Google can direct me instantly to any one of hundreds of useful databases when I am writing an article... As a search engine it has been a revolutionary, and apparently almost entirely beneficent, force...

So is he being over suspicious? He doesn't think so, and proceeds to set out a reasonable argument about how effective Google and Microsoft are as operators, and his concerns about concentrating too much personal information in private hands - whoever's hands these might be.

So how does he turn the argument round to Bin Laden? How is the murderer of thousands and an avowed enemy of the West become a preferred supplier of IT services? Here's how he makes the case:

I would far rather stick [my personal details] in an envelope and send them to Osama Bin Laden or Vladimir Putin.

Right... OK. Your choice. Paper Monitor will probably stick with Google or Microsoft if it's all the same to you.

And despite this position, the Mail too obviously finds it a bit too hard to keep the hard line it has established on page 14. Because on page 28, Google only goes and provides the source material for a key Mail feature. The paper is inordinately fond of quirky double-page picture spreads, and today's is on the entire alphabet spelled out in hedgerows, cul de sacs, ring roads and industrial parks. All found using Google Earth.

And finally, should Paper Monitor buy a hat?

The Guardian's Media Monkey points out that the editor of Times has used his paper to announce his own engagement.

And his fiancée is one Kate Weinberg, who may or may not be the Kate Weinberg who writes for the Daily Telegraph on a regular basis.

If it is she, it's like Fleet St's own Romeo and Juliet. but with a happy ending. Sweet.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:30 UK time, Tuesday, 7 July 2009

buzzonthemoon_pa.jpg"Location, location, location" - Buzz Aldrin on why the picture of him on the Moon is so iconic.

As the 40th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing approaches, Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, has been on the publicity trail, promoting his new book Magnificent Desolation.
More details (the Times)

Web Monitor

18:00 UK time, Monday, 6 July 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Web Monitor has been scouring the web to bring you the most interesting bits.
Send us your favourite links by sending them via the comments box.

Sarah Palin

• Sarah Palin's resignation has set the blogosphere tongues wagging. The Daily Beast steers through the masses of debate on why she resigned, from Bill Kristol's theory in the Weekly Standard Blog that she's planning to become president, to Todd S Purdum in Vanity Fair reporting accusations of Palin putting her personal ambitions before political principles, to fake Sarah Palin on Twitter who has made a comeback claiming she resigned to make time for Twitter. The First Post takes over the reigns to see if the bloggers and columnists know what Palin will do next. Maureen Dowd in the New York Times backs up Purdum on the presidential aspirations theory, but for completely different reasons, saying, "Sarah Palin showed on Friday that in one respect at least, she is qualified to be president. Caribou Barbie is one nutty puppy." What the First Post calls the backlash was headed up by Andrew Brietbart in the Washington Times who accuses Dowd of bullying, declaring "the assassination of Sarah Palin by media". Web Monitor is deluged with comments on Palin. To help us select the best Palin Picks send your favourite via the comment box.

Mashable says Twitter was suffering from another headache-inducing problem yesterday as internet pranksters gathered around 4chan - the popular anonymous internet forum - seemingly orchestrated an attack on the site. The pranksters created a number of fake accounts pushing the hashtag #gorillapenis to the trending topics. The hashtag assault is now apparently under control as it is no longer visible in the Twitter trends. This isn't the first time 4chan has spammed a site, they were previously responsible for hacking Time Magazine's voting system for the World's most influential person, making the site's creator, moot, the winner by a large margin.

• Three brave, if not naïve, individuals dared to challenge a trio of elephants to a hot dog bun-eating contest on Coney Island on Friday, reported WPIX. The cross-species eating contest saw the pachyderms chop down 505 buns in six minutes. The humans in comparison only managed 143 buns. Experts say the elephants had an advantage as they enjoy bread and can consume a foot long loaf in a mere 1.6 seconds. Before the contest, George Shea, Chairman of Major League Eating, said:

"This contest has significant implications for inter-species relations. If humans win, it shows we are unbeatable in this sport, and if the elephants win it will significantly enhance their stature in the animal kingdom."

• With 3.3 million plus viewings in just a few days the YouTube video "Unknown Lifeform in North Carolina Sewer" has intrigued surfers, becoming the most viewed video this week, even beating Michael Jackson's Thriller. The footage reveals a life form reminiscent of the blob. The creature was spotted in a North Carolina sewer, with initial postings claiming it was an alien entity. Scientists have rushed to quell the myth. While the clip is real, Dr Timothy S Wood, an expert on freshwater bryozoa and an officer with the International Bryozoology Association, told Deep Sea News it is actually a colony of tubifex worms. The colonies attach themselves to roots that gradually work themselves into weak points in the pipes. Dr Wood said:

"They are clumps of annelid worms, almost certainly tubificids. In the photo they have apparently entered a pipeline somehow, and in the absence of soil they are coiling around each other. The contractions you see are the result of a single worm contracting and then stimulating all the others to do the same almost simultaneously, so it looks like a single big muscle contracting."

Michael Jackson

• A US family from Stockton, California, believe they can see the image of Michael Jackson in a tree stump. Similarly to the "Cheesus" or "Virgin grilled Mary", the family believe they have their very own spiritual image in their front yard. CW reports that Felix Garcia, who has lived in the house for 22 years, claims he had never noticed the apparent image before Jackson's death. Many people gathered to see the birch stump to see the resemblance over the weekend.
One neighbour said:

"... Michael Jackson was an icon to us. To Stockton, Michael Jackson meant more to us than Jesus, to some people. I think they're both about even."

Web Monitor has been warned about visions before by Phil Plait from the Bad Astronomy blog.

Your Letters

17:23 UK time, Monday, 6 July 2009

In the story about hybrid cars having noisemakers fitted, it only mentions the visually impaired... well I'm almost deaf and I find them a nightmare too! If it's dark, or a blind corner etc I'm forced to use what little hearing I have to help make that 'do I cross?' decision, and on three occasions in the last few months alone, I've almost ended up being hit by a hybrid because I just don't know it's there. It's not just the blind that suffer with these cars! They're lethal.
Kimberley, Nottingham

Given that English representations of Chinese words are simply transliterations and could therefore be legitimately spelled in whatever manner best aids pronunciation, how the heck did anyone come up with "Uighur"?
Adam, London, UK

If the new head of MI6 wears a Speedo swimsuit, it will be obvious who he is, as everyone else will have a shirt and tie.
Rob Foreman, London, UK

I was surprised to read this story. A vertical line is, by definition, the steepest you can get, so a rollercoaster track which goes back on itself like this one is in fact less steep than one which drops straight down.
David, London, UK

"Climate change is causing a breed of wild sheep in Scotland to shrink," you say. No, a warmer climate has allowed smaller sheep to survive and breed. The sheep are taking advantage of changed circumstances - evolution in action.
Faustino, Brisbane, Australia

Following Jenny T's observation (Friday's letters) I spent five minutes searching for the oldest BBC news article online. Any advance ('retreat'?) on New Year's Eve 1997?
James Ward, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Re: the shop puns conversation now being O.V.E.R. (Friday's letters). It is now apparent that Paper Monitor is not, in fact, a Kath & Kim fan. If so, the conversation would of course be O.V.A.H. This clears up instantly the monitor's gender, or at least sexuality. Male. Straight. Go on, tell me I'm wrong...
Daniel, London

Monitor Note: Whatevah

Paper Monitor

12:58 UK time, Monday, 6 July 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

To all the Paper Monitor faithful, this could be the moment your loyalty pays off - in kudos form. Paper Monitor is surely not betraying any confidences in revealing that it is on first-name terms with another well-known Magazine strand, 7 days, 7 questions - the weekly news quiz.

Well, Paper Monitor has tipped off its quizzical chum about a headline from today's Independent that must surely now be in the running for the missing word question in this coming Friday's quiz.

"Sarah Brown's lasagne offensive" tells a story of how the prime minister is trying to win over potentially rebellious Cabinet colleagues by inviting them to sample Mrs B's home cooking.

Actually, mention of lasagne is pretty arbitrary here given the quote from Gordon Brown's spokesman - "[W]e are not going to be running a commentary on the menu - whether it is lasagne, pasta or takeaway pizzas."

Sorry to be a pedant, but doesn't the word "takeaway" here rather undermine the point about troublesome MPs being mollified by home cooking?

Now here's a question for anyone with a long memory - does the name Andy Murray ring any bells?

Scottish... dour... tennis... 73 years of hurt...

The man who only three days ago was the great British tennis hope seems to have been all but expunged from Fleet Street's collective memory.

With Friday's four-set defeat at the hands of Andy Roddick, acres of prospective newsprint about Murray were instantly consigned to the spike.

The Times attempts a spot of CPR on Murray's memory, with a piece on page 13 about how, despite his defeat in the men's singles semi-finals on Friday, Murray has been catapulted into a marketing super league.

But after yesterday's gripping match between Roddick and Roget Federer, it all feels a little behind the pace.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:02 UK time, Monday, 6 July 2009

"You know he wears a Speedo swimsuit. That's not a state secret" - David Miliband on the new MI6 chief, Sir John Sawers

When Lady Sawers posted a number of family pictures and personal details on her Facebook page, without any privacy protection, she maybe didn't think about her husband's latest job appointment - head of MI6.
More details

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