BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for August 23, 2009 - August 29, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

17:06 UK time, Friday, 28 August 2009

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

1. iPhones are not yet sold in China.
More details

2. Margaret Thatcher suffered one parliamentary defeat as prime minister - on Sunday trading laws.
More details

3. English holidaymakers drink an average of eight alcoholic drinks a day.
More details

4. The UK population grew more in 2008 than at any time since 1962.
More details

5. And Germany's population is shrinking.
More details

6. West Ham's stadium is really called the Boleyn Ground, not Upton Park.
More details (Guardian)

7. The smell of cut grass makes people happy.
More details (Telegraph)

8. A pint glass lasts an average of only three months.
More details (Times)

9. An Englishman sailed to the "New World" only two years after the first European is thought to have landed in Newfoundland.
More details

10. Men in China cannot marry until aged 22.
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 deckchairs in Welwyn Garden City.

Your Letters

17:04 UK time, Friday, 28 August 2009

Wow, it sure was tough getting seven points in this week's 7 days 7 questions. The fact there were only six questions may have had something to do with it.
Adam, London, UK
Monitor note: Apologies. An earlier version included a question based on a widely reported news story about The Wire that turned out to be a hoax. A new seventh question is now present and correct.

I see that nominative determinism also applies to illegal activity.
David Richerby, Leeds, UK

Re this story - while Marek Kukula may well be a brilliant astronomer, he apparently has a limited imagination based on the quotation - "It is one of the few things where we can go out into our own gardens and do it ourselves."
Luke, Edinburgh

Shocking news! Holiday makers act like they're on holiday. Next week's stunning revelation: movie goers eat more popcorn than people who don't go to the cinema?
Justie, London

Roger Pickard's Spanglish "hand grenade" ice cream will probably proved to be pomegranate (Thursday's letters).
Nuno Aragao, Aveiro, Portugal

The researchers at IBM didn't notice, but this molecule also has the property that it moves while you're looking away from it reading the article, but stops as soon as you look directly at it.
John Bratby, Southampton

Did they shear it or dip it I wonder.
Malcolm, Wrexham, Wales, United Kingdom

Caption Competition

12:46 UK time, Friday, 28 August 2009

Comments

Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

meditativegorilla300pa.jpg

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

This week, Mjikuu, one of three female gorillas at London Zoo, looks at a photo of the new male that will be joining them soon from a French zoo.

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

6. BeckySnow
A thanks but no thanks letter arrives from Peter Jackson.

5. SheffTim
"...and this is one of the Mrs in a field when we visited France last year..."

4. LaurenceLane
Hirsute female would like to meet similar male with good sense of humour and own tyre.

3. Candace9839
"He's been in the Cadbury advert, don't you know..."

2. Rockahula
It had been a hot summer - too hot - when Gus had swung fatefully into her life. There'd been screeching, there'd been bananas, and yes, there'd been tears. She'd been young, he was from the wrong side of the valley - she'd been a fool to think it could work. And yet all these years later, she could still taste his fleas if she closed her eyes... Now, sitting in the warm glow of the late afternoon sun, she clung to this - this bittersweet reminder of a moment of glorious madness; a love that should never have been... And yet... and yet... even now, one question still lingered in her mind like the warm fragrance of sweet fragipani blossom on the sultry air of a summer's evening: where the hell had he managed to get a photo developed in the jungle?

1. KaptainKaption
"Hey, I got that job as a Bloke-a-gram."

Paper Monitor

12:00 UK time, Friday, 28 August 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There's nothing better on a Friday than a seeded batch of news-lite, coated in the tastiest tabloid treatment available.

The Daily Mirror does a delicious Big Brother post-mortem that sets aside all the pseudo-psychological analysis in favour of a more blunt instrument - who earned how much?

The top 30 earners from the show are pictured across a double-page, in order of wealth accumulated off the back of the programme.

The list is headed by the former boss of Endemol, John de Mol, who the Mirror estimates has earned £1bn from the show.

Several former winners, and losers, top the £1m mark. Paper Monitor is pleased to see that one of its favourite contestants, brainbox John Tickle, has been well rewarded. He ranks 27th in the list, having pulled in £230,000.

It's a shame the paper doesn't try to replicate the format in its online version of the story.

Meanwhile, the Sun makes a similar call on its visual portrayal of the Afghan War dead. While its arresting front page featuring headshots of all the British soldiers killed in Afghanistan has drawn praise for its punch, the version on its website lacks the same impact.

Paper Monitor likes nothing better than turning the pages of a newspaper, yucky print and all, but with time and effort, stories like these can be represented online in a way that matches and surpasses what can be offered in paper form.

PS. If imitation is indeed the highest form of flattery, did any Monitorites listen to BBC Radio 2 this morning? During the newspaper review, the host offered the answer "30lbs" and asked listeners to send in possible questions. Sounds familiar. Very familiar...

Weekly Bonus Question

09:26 UK time, Friday, 28 August 2009

Comments

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 SUPERSONIC SKID. But what's the question?

UPDATE 1426: The correct question is, name a vintage fairground ride that's been hit by the Brussels ban on incandescant lightbulbs. (More details - Daily Express)

Of your deliberately wrong suggestions, we liked:

  • wortluck's Result of incorrect application of Enterprise's handbrake?

  • and narcobiker's What noise was heard when Usain Bolt lost his footing in the 100m?

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:16 UK time, Friday, 28 August 2009

"This was a bankogenic recession" - Boris Johnson

Bankogenic recession is a bit of a favourite phrase for the London mayor, who first coined it back in December in an interview with the Times. And on Thursday, the London mayor told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "It was caused by bankers being reckless and making mistakes. They can't keep paying themselves stonking great bonuses and not expect there to be some sort of political comeback."

Your Letters

18:38 UK time, Thursday, 27 August 2009

You definitely need a voting mechanism in the caption competition - there are certainly good ones, and one wants to thumb them up like Facebook, or better yet rate them out of 10.
Utku Er, London

"Every sentence ends in a coma" (quote of the day). Isn't that why Big Brother is being discontinued?
Graham, Purmerend, Netherlands

Why single out medieval French poetry? Shakespeare, like that other tedious English pastime, cricket, would induce a coma in anyone.
Tony Mactire, Glasgow, Scotland

Rob, I hate to get technical about this, but the woman in the picture is using a desktop, not a laptop (Wednesday letters). As for her hand position, the happy looks on all faces (four if you count both pictures) suggests she is pressing escape to end a 250-minute long PowerPoint presentation.
Joel Horne, Tokyo, Japan

Does anyone else think that the Loch Ness Monster on Google Earth looks rather like a boat with wake coming off the back?
Basil Long, Nottingham

Can I nominate Dr Power from this article as Best Potential Superhero Name?
AK, Ipswich, UK

Following from "acid herbs" (Wednesday letters), I visited a restaurant in La Rochelle. The menu was so badly translated that my friend photographed every page for posterity. They offered delights including "Salad of barrister to crabs", "Miller's wife field" and "Salad unroasted and string bags of anchovy". The most impressive dish was called "Let us award a medal to of eel-pout to the swim dips in the sauce Noilly".
Rob Foreman, London, UK
Monitor note: I'll have what she's having...

My personal favourite for a translation was at a restaurant in southern Spain. It offered the wonderful "hand grenade" flavoured ice cream. A real taste explosion...
My wife translated the Spanish version as "pineapple".
Roger Pickard, London
Monitor note: And her...

On a recent holiday to France the pizza menu contained these confusing translations: "let us pepper" and "let us lard" for poivrons and lardons (you need to understand a bit of French to get those) and the disturbing "goat tackle" for chevre, meaning goats' cheese.
John, Belgium

Re "pimp" for Keith, Ian Mayor and Web Monitor. Language evolves; get over it or learn Sanskrit.
Emma Daw, Rockville, MD, US

Rachel of Minnetonka (Wednesday letters), you had me worried there with your sudden knowledge of the Australian climate. I've had to check on the whereabouts of your home city - and it's where I thought it was. Then I had to check if it was anywhere near this place. And it isn't.
Anne, Bucks

Did you invent the term "annualism" simply in order to write Just what is annualism? I can find no other reference to the term anywhere, and the usual definition of annual or annualist is of something that happens repeatedly every year, rather the opposite of something that occurs for a year as a one-off.
George, Cambridge, UK

Web Monitor

17:50 UK time, Thursday, 27 August 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Sibling rivalry is breaking out in Monitor Towers but Web Monitor, as always, rises above and uses it as an excuse to work hard in our slowly growing link dealership. Help our empire expand by sharing your favourite bits of the web via the letters box to the right of this page.

Designer surgical masks on Trend HunterPaper Monitor revealed, in what they no doubt saw as a hard hitting exposé, Web Monitor may not actually be too good at micro-blogging. Two words PM: Matthew Robson. Yes, he's the boy who, as Web Monitor mentioned, stormed it at his work experience after writing a report reproduced in the Guardian telling the old men at Morgan Stanley that he thought Twitter was really only for old men. Web Monitor thinks Paper Monitor needs to get with-it.The BBC Magazine's article on what teenagers are interested in could be a good start. Then PM needs to take trip to perhaps the King of Cool - the website Trend Hunter - today keeping us informed on the world of cutesy style which is big in Japan. They were also the first on the scene to witness the cool swine flu masks brigade reported in a previous edition of WM. Pink Tentacle has its tentacles, which are presumably pink, out testing the cool waters around Japan ranging from robot nurse bears giving patients big hugs to marriage count-down bras mentioned by Web Monitor when just a wee nipper. Come on you monitorites, show Paper Monitor what you're made of and send your favourite trend-setter websites via the letter box to the right of this page.

President Obama driving a golf buggyPatricia J Williams in the Daily Beast argues that Barack Obama's presidency has highlighted a group in American culture previously ignored by the media - the black elite. She says the group's heightened press presence has been coupled with some fundamental misunderstandings which she tries to clear-up:

"So, a little background for those terrified that the ship of state is about to be steered toward the shoals of Rush Limbaugh's wildest fears: it may come as a surprise that the black middle class is just that, middle class. It is conformist, pleasantly centrist, relatively conservatively Christian, overweeningly upwardly mobile and generally better (if more anxiously) dressed than its white counterparts."

• As Paper Monitor finishes for the day around midday and Web Monitor is still working into the evening, WM was interested by the question posed in City Journal. Steven Malanga worries that we aren't going to get through the recession if we don't pull our finger out and asks whatever happened to the work ethic:

"After flourishing for three centuries in America, the Protestant ethic began to disintegrate, with key elements slowly disappearing from modern American society, vanishing from schools, from business, from popular culture, and leaving us with an economic system unmoored from the restraints of civic virtue. Not even Adam Smith - who was a moral philosopher, after all - imagined capitalism operating in such an ethical vacuum. Bailout plans, new regulatory schemes, and monetary policy moves won't be enough to spur a robust, long-term revival of American economic opportunity without some renewal of what was once understood as the work ethic - not just hard work but also a set of accompanying virtues, whose crucial role in the development and sustaining of free markets too few now recall."

As always, send us your links so that Web Monitor can start going home early.

Paper Monitor

13:29 UK time, Thursday, 27 August 2009

Thanks for your help yesterday, Monitorites, and apologies for the late-running of today's service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The diary room will close. The chickens (are there still chickens?) will be set free. Davina McCall will be running off copies of her CV, as will that Geordie voiceover bloke. And the tabloid picture editors are holding a wake for the steady stream of "BB Babes" that drip from the faucet of fleeting fame.

So how do the papers mark the passing of Big Brother, which over the years has generated many many many column inches for broadsheet and tabloid alike?

In the Daily Telegraph, there is a think-piece from on the Darwinian evolution of reality television since those heady days of "Nasty Nick" writing names on bits of paper. "[It] has had to mutate to survive... Britons' devotion to these newer hits [Strictly, X Factor] reflects some of Big Brother's original strengths - the sense of an audience coming together for an event, and a national preoccupation with distracting trivia."

Oooo! That's right, Strictly's starting again soon. Goody!

It goes on: "Viewers root for their favourites to do well, rather than for unpopular contestants to do badly... No longer is fame divorced from merit, as it was in those grim years when Goody could command the cover of Heat magazine by changing the colour of her lipstick."

Our lady of reality television, may she rest in peace...

The Sun - which has all but ceased covering Big Brother - is rather more interested in Kerry Katona and Katie Price, who it reverts to calling "Jordan". Oh, and a tree with a bottom-shape in its trunk. Perhaps it's an ash?

But wait, here's something on page 14. "DAY 768 IN THE HOUSE. Big Brother... you have been evicted."

See what they did there? The Telegraph did almost the same thing, with "Big Brother gets its eviction notice".

Sun TV critic Ally Ross reckons that what really did for the show was the success of Celebrity Big Brother - in particular, CBB 2006, in which George Galloway pretended to be a puss-puss.

"A bunch of nonentities arguing about a shopping list was never going to be the same after we'd seen a sitting MP impersonate a cat," says Ross, reminding Paper Monitor that there is no more chilling phrase in the English language than "Shall I... be the cat?"

"Thank God it's the end" says the Daily Mail, predictably. Equally predictably, the Daily Star is in mourning for the goose that laid the golden egg, marking its passing with a double page spread of the topless lovelies who have exited the house to pose nearly naked for the red-tops in the past.

And finally, an observation that adds to the body of evidence that Twitter is for old people (wrinklies over the age 30, that is).

Cheeky upstart Web Monitor is, for some reason, wanting a screen grab of micro-blogging site in action.
"How do you log in?"
"Here's how," says Paper Monitor.
"If I write something here, will it just publish all by itself?"
"Only if you click that button there."
"I'm typing something in, but it's not showing up. Why?"
"Because that's your screen grab in Photoshop..."

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:03 UK time, Thursday, 27 August 2009

"All of the sentences end in a coma" - Final-year Exeter University student's assessment of medieval French poetry.

Yes, coma not comma, pedantry-hawks. This is one of the many blunders submitted by lecturers to the Times Higher Education magazine's annual exam howlers competition.
More details (The Times)

Web Monitor

17:54 UK time, Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Web Monitor is touched to see Paper Monitor's new co-workers - the readership - unite against possible treading on toe action. Paper Monitor reads papers. Web Monitor reads the web. Lets get on with it.

• It's not often that you hear feminists referring to themselves as birds but, as Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times reports, pro-war feminists - the Feminist Hawks - are on a mission to spread their word on the internet.
Web Monitor has reported before on feminist blogs being few and far between. In the New York Times' special report called Saving the World's Women Heffernan says the partnership between combative right-wingers and feminists was an unlikely marriage made on the internet, led by "unobvious" feminist, US conservative David Horowitz:

"Hawkish sites that have taken up feminism include Little Green Footballs, Jihad Watch and Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine. On a recent day, the home page of the last featured reports of female prisoners being raped in Iran; prepubescent girls getting married in Gaza; and a possible honor killing by an immigrant in New York. This material is expected to help seal Horowitz's general case for the war on terror, though he has not yet changed the name of his cause to, say, the war on misogyny."

comparethemeerkat.com• Advertisers, it seems are trying to elbow in on social media sites. This makes poor old Web Monitor very tired, wading through the seemingly infinite viral videos to find internet gold, only to discover they were trying to sell us something all along.

As noted in Web Monitor before, T-Mobile have constructed flash mobs and a YouTube channel. Meanwhile the viral video stop motion trend also on WM was adopted by Olympus to help flog their cameras. WM also observed that the only viral capable of pushing Michael Jackson songs from dominating the whole top 10 of the viral video charts after his death was an Evian ad involving break-dancing babies.

Now Claire Beale says in the Independent that price comparison websites are in crisis talks to come up with the next big cult advert. And it's all down to one smartly dressed meerkat. Beale says that Aleksandr Orlov, the Meerkat character selling the compare-the-market website, has 536,542 fans on Facebook, at least 24,000 Tweeters are following him on Twitter and nearly 1,000 people have signed his petition to get the word "seemples" - simple - into the Oxford English Dictionary:

"The price comparison sites spend millions of pounds buying bucket loads of airtime and then filling it with some of the blandest, hammiest ads on the box. Now that Aleksandr has them all held to ransom, panic is setting in. Appealing to our penny-pinching instincts with cheap and nasty advertising is no longer good enough. There might be a recession on but we are not buying advertising tat any more. Aleksandr has shown the price-comparison market can appeal to our purses with élan."

• It looks like Web Monitor may have found the earliest traces of the word pimp.
Having pondered yesterday just when exactly the word came to have a positive meaning - to decorate - a read of numerous word blogs (mentioned in Web Monitor previously) didn't disappoint. However it is on the internet Goliath - Wikipedia's - site where, in the Wiki page dedicated to pimp, it is claimed the word pimp has actually gone full circle from positive to negative to positive:

"It is believed to have stemmed from the French infinitive pimper meaning to dress up elegantly."

Web Monitor is still soliciting examples of pimp turning up in unusual places. Just send the link via the letters box to the right of this. To get you started, here's one from the New Scientist: Pimp My Penknife.

The use of the word pimp provoked discussion from New Scientist regular readers, when commenter James wrote about his son's use of the word in its positive meaning. "Correct Man" explained to James what he saw as the turning point of the word:

"Can I please explain the origin of the word 'pimp' as used on cars, bikes, penknives etc. It does derive from the Pimp of yesteryear, or more precisely, the gaudy cars they stereotypically drive. Remember they guy in Magnum Force that the corrupt copper blew away. His car had been pimped to the max. So the word has a new meaning as a verb, that, though derived from an unpleasant source, is no longer offensive when used correctly. You can tell from the context how the word should be interpreted, to deliberately misinterpret the meaning is just being facetious.
Of course, if your son comes home and says he is pimping his classmates, further enquires may be warranted."

Green shoots and leaves IV

15:53 UK time, Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Comments

How you measure a green shoot, part four.

It's the Magazine's ongoing hunt for alternative ways of measuring what's going on in the economy.

builder_bricks226pa.jpgSo far we've looked at your suggestions for measuring trends in transport (number of cars on the M6, for instance) and newspapers (number of job adverts) as well as mess on the pavement. Today's alternative indices come from homes and building.

The idea of a "crane" index is a long-established one - that the number of big ones on the skyline indicates economic activity and confidence - but there are other more left-field measures from the world of bricks and mortar.

How about a Skip Index. Cranes only tell you about large commercial and residential developments. The number of skips used in affluent residential areas is a prime economic indicator, says reader Andrew Drummond.

But Skip Index is already being questioned, by Alex Mack. He says that while it might mean people are more affluent and spending the money on their houses, it might also mean that people cannot afford to move but their family is still growing and therefore they have to upgrade their house. So beware.

A related index is scaffolding, says Robin Cook, from London. It indicates an increase in building work, a sure sign people are spending money again, he suggests. Bu the same caveat applies as for skips.

Or you could ask an architect. Nick Mulholland is one and says he has been able to spot the upturn in the economy 12 months in advance for the last three recessions. He says the numbers of clients seeking planning permissions tends to increase suddenly when credit terms and confidence improves.

It's possible to turn the Crane Index on its head, suggests Zoe S, of High Wycombe, who watched cranes in Leeds a couple of years ago and noticed it was possibly indicative of over expansion/over confidence - not necessarily economic growth.

Away from the building industry, but still firmly in the home zone, is the Mr Smith Letter Index. Georgina from London explains: "Those letters from estate agents claiming that a 'Mr Smith' is desperate to buy a house in your road if you'll just give them a call. We've had almost none for two years, and then three this week."

Your Letters

15:46 UK time, Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Surely it's not just me who sees the irony in a train service that won't be ready for another 21 years being described as "high speed"?
Adam, London, UK

Further to Emma's cannibalistic-sounding dishes (Tuesday letters) in SE Asia, I've had "Chicken Curry with Aborigine" in Southern Thailand. They taste just like aubergines, by the way.
Graham, Purmerend, Netherlands

I just want to pause for a moment and thank the Chinese genius who created the sign "Tender fragrant grass, how hardhearted to trample them". Poetic, poignant and almost moving.
Mark, Reading, UK

Following on from Chinglish menus, it happens nearer to home, too. I once read the English version of a menu in Salzburg, Austria which seemed to offer "Acid Herbs" with everything. Thinking I had stumbled across some local narcotic they were adding to the food I asked for the original German menu only to find out they had literally translated "Sauerkraut".
J Paul Murdock, Wall Heath, UK

Ian Mayor and Web Monitor wonder "how are we so casually, and so quickly using 'pimp'" in a positive way but they are fighting an immoveable force. Witness the way "gay" was adopted by one section of society before being accepted almost universally as a synonym for a male homosexual. It has robbed all future generations of the opportunity to understand the original meaning of a great deal of literature and especially poetry. "Now and again I can remember something of the gay garden that was childhood." Try reading Patrick Kavanagh's lines to a class today.
Keith, Lismore, Ireland

Bad though it is about Microsoft changing a black man's head for a white man's, I also find it more than a little disturbing that they think computer users can use their laptops with their heads at the same angle as the lady's on the right of the picture.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Re Steve Hill (Tuesday letters): Given Nasa's track record in getting the shuttle launched first time like today for instance, the delivery estimate was probably "this week, next week... sometime, anyway". And what's the problem anyway - it's not as if the astronauts will have nipped out for a pint of milk when the delivery arrives.
Tim Gerrish, Helston, Cornwall

Oh, why not do a Robespierre and rename everything? I vote for Soggy, Damp, Moist and ICouldDoWithaCuppa.

Rachel, Minnetonka

Paper Monitor

12:55 UK time, Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Comments

A service that would highlight the riches of the daily press...

...if the paper boy hadn't given up the ghost on the way up the stairs to the top floor of Monitor Towers, figuring that what with the lift being broken, and it being not only summer but the last week in August, so what's the point as everyone will be on holiday.

But Paper Monitor is here, paper boy, here at its desk.

So let's make this a group effort. If you've seen something in the papers today that you like, please share it with the group, using the comments form on this page (not the "Send us a letter" form on the right).

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

10:19 UK time, Wednesday, 26 August 2009

"It's such a waste of time trying to tell your husband to pick up the socks or clean the loo. It's much easier just to do it yourself" - Feminist Fay Weldon strikes another blow.

It seems from her latest newspaper interview that Fay Weldon is aware that editors send female reporters to see her in the hope of weedling out a controversial quote or two. But she's not going to let that stop her giving eminently quoteable interviews.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

17:25 UK time, Tuesday, 25 August 2009

I was surprised at this headline. I've spoken to friends all over the UK, and from what I can tell, all of Britain likes The Wire.
Jo, London

If legal highs are banned, what will they be called then? And if they are no longer called legal highs, does that mean they're not banned any more?
Adam, London, UK

Looking at the signs in the "Chinglish" article reminded me of some fantastic meals on offer which appear on menus in various parts of South-East Asia. My particular favourites were a cafe in Sihanoukville, Cambodia which offered "Muslims with milk" and "Muslims with yoghurt" (presumably they meant muesli) and a restaurant in Savannakhet, Laos, which featured a dish called "Fried Habitually Drunk". I wasn't brave enough to find out what that was.
Emma Fortun, Jersey

Before I revealed the Big Picture I thought for a moment that Glenn Close had had her head grafted onto some sort of animal. I was relieved to find that this was not the case.
Paul Davidson, Edinburgh

Regarding the International Space Station getting a new oven and freezer, I'd be interested to find out whether they were given a delivery estimate of "Between 9am and 5pm".
Steve Hill, Milwaukee, WI, USA

Is it me, or is the scariest thing about this article that the BNP seem to wish to embrace the Folk community. Will we see them in Cambridge and Sidmouth trying to enlist Clannad, Enya and the Pogues?
Jon Argles, Bristol, UK

Web Monitor

16:20 UK time, Tuesday, 25 August 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

In Web Monitor today: the people who think we are spending too much energy on the whole and others who feel more needs to be spent on cakes. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending a link via the letters box to the right of this page.

cakewrecks website• Discovering Cake Wrecks - a blog documenting the times when professionally made cakes go wrong led Web Monitor to reminisce about various other snack based blogs like Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down and Pimp That Snack. That got Web Monitor wondering and subsequently wandering around the web to answer the question - what happened to the word pimp? Word bloggers did not disappoint. Ian Mayor explains in his blog that the word's meaning changed from someone who solicits customers for a prostitute to making something glamorous but Mayor is not happy about the situation:

"So how are we so casually, and so quickly using 'pimp'? it deserves no such redemption and there's no positive way to spin it, to use pimp as a synonym for ostentatious or extroversion is to incrementally sanitize the trade it represents and I refuse to use to do that."

Metro tracks the change back to the MTV show Pimp My Ride hosted by rapper Xzibit which also introduced a generation to diamond-studded, continuously-spinning, gold alloy wheels.

In Slate, Jesse Sheidlower reported on the furore in 2008 over a misunderstanding of the word when referring to Chelsea Clinton calling Democratic convention superdelegates on her mother's behalf :

"MSNBC host David Shuster asked two guests: 'Doesn't it seem as if Chelsea is sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?'"

The Daily Writing Tips blog gives the starkest example of the new use:

"Much to my horrified amazement, I just ran across a Facebook page called Obama Is A Pimp.
The amazing thing is that the page is supportive of Barack Obama ...Pimps exploit, abuse, and degrade women. What kind of cultural perspective enables pimp to evolve into an inoffensive word?"

You can "pimp" this blog but you won't make any money - just send your favourite links to surprising places pimp pops up on the internet.

• In the unlikeliest partnership since baking and the rapper Xzibit (see above) is self-proclaimed premier clairvoyante to the stars Madame Arcati and wealth management website Spears. Arcarti interviews the senior editor of Spear's magazine, Josh Spero, about where you can find moneyed people given the global recession:

"At the moment, Russia and the Middle East are heavily oil-dependent for wealth, which is a mixed blessing. As for implosion, it's already happened - most have been bailed out by the Kremlin. I'd look to China in the future - it can only go up."

• When someone leaves their old job it's always interesting to see if they spill the beans on what they really thought. Alison Thomas's interview with the departing chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission Jonathon Porritt in the website Public Service reveals he sees future energy choices very clearly:

"I'm pretty certain that, in terms of big-picture generation, the world will have to choose between nuclear on the one hand or coal plus CCS [carbon capture and storage] on the other. I don't like either technology, I think they are both ludicrously expensive and not the right way to go, but I would much rather have CCS and coal than nuclear."

Paper Monitor

13:24 UK time, Tuesday, 25 August 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

So the Ashes hangover coverage continues, with souvenir supplements galore with the Guardian, Independent, Times and Telegraph all getting in on the act.

Andrew Flintoff in 2005 and 2009This use of the word "hangover" is not of course to imply that Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff has had an actual hangover. After the now infamous post-Ashes 2005 shots of him looking particularly bleary-eyed, he made sure to appear fresh-faced this time round on the morning after.

The Times reports on the cash machines in London that are dispensing money with a cockney edge, offering customers "some moolah for ya sky rocket", "balance on the Charlie Sheen", a "Huckleberry Finn change" and "sausage and mash with receipt". Charlie Sheen and Huckleberry Finn - are these official Cockney rhyming terms? And no, despite checking the calendar, it is not 1 April.

There's potential for confusion in some of the papers as the Daily Mail and Telegraph - and not the Independent - carry full-page photos of a 24ft white shark leaping out of the water off the coast of South Africa.

Meanwhile the Independent's front page features a tutu-wearing blonde ballerina, which would surely be more at home on the Telegraph's pages.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

08:29 UK time, Tuesday, 25 August 2009

"Left at the next street. No, right. You know what? Just go straight" - Bob Dylan as the voice of sat-nav

The singer-songwriter, who wrote Down The Highway, is in talks with car companies to become the voice of their GPS system. If agreement is reached and his raspy voice is installed in cars, Dylan would be following in the tyre marks footsteps of Homer Simpson and John Cleese.

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Web Monitor

15:28 UK time, Monday, 24 August 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Web Monitor ponders the emotional well being of Afghan drug lords and asks why Phillies are arguing over pretzels. Share your favourite bits of the internet by sending the link via the letters box to the right of this page.

• On the news website True Slant, Jeff Tietz looks at how drug money has influenced Afghan architecture. Tietz reports it's tricky for a millionaire drug lord to spend their money outside the country so instead they build self-sufficient towns for themselves and their workers:
Afghan policeman on an opium poppy field

"The pioneering Khan bought a town (land, buildings) in southern Helmand Province and transformed it into a rejuvenating way-station for his drug runners, who could pause after their travails and walk, self-reflectively, along the shores of a big artificial lake.
'Narcotecture' is the term used in Afghanistan to describe what the drug lords build. The Sherpur neighborhood in Kabul has the greatest concentration of narcotecture, but the phenomenon is national. Square blocks are razed, ancient family compounds are razed, and narco-palaces, sometimes several on a single vast lot, go up. The mansions may have twelve bathrooms, four kitchens, and rooftop parking lots. Many are fenced and armored; all are guarded.
Stylistically, narcotecture is incoherent and dizzyingly busy. Residences are composed of clashing globe-spanning elements: Asian pagoda tiers and eaves curving to points, Greek temple columns, mirrored skyscraper glass, medieval-castle balustrades and parapets, Persian pillars and arches, arabesque wrought-iron balcony railings, confectionary plasterwork. Some are straight imitations: a White House is under construction in Sherpur."


• Although Web Monitor wouldn't mind having so much money that we could create our own town - perhaps based on cities that think like the web such as Vancouver - there is a nagging feeling: "Yes, but are these zillionaire drug lords happy?" Drake Bennett from the Boston Globe reports that new research suggests money can buy happiness as long as your cash is spent on holidays and lunch for friends instead of new clothes and flash cars:

"The problem isn't money, it's us. For deep-seated psychological reasons, when it comes to spending money, we tend to value goods over experiences, ourselves over others, things over people. When it comes to happiness, none of these decisions are right: The spending that make us happy, it turns out, is often spending where the money vanishes and leaves something ineffable in its place."


• Ideas blogs are multiplying across the web like yeast in an airing cupboard.
Idea a day gives you an idea a day. No browsing previous ideas is allowed, focusing Web Monitor's mind on motorway safety:

"Place transparent, arched covers over major roads. The soundproof walls would also absorb impact in the event of accidents."

Meanwhile business idea of the day urges: "Don't keep your business idea secret." Web Monitor was getting ready to invest a few pennies on a personal wind farm or other madcap Dragons' Den style ideas but found this blog prefers to link to pretzel factory start-up tales such as those in Michael Callahan's account in CNN Money of the Philadelphia Pretzel wars. Four companies are competing to take over the US's pretzel trade one of the Philly pretzel pioneers being DiZio:
Pretzel seller

"By the ninth grade he knew he wanted to run a pretzel business, but in college the dream was usurped by more practical plans. After graduation he became a stockbroker. But DiZio couldn't contain his pretzel obsession. He soon traded his suits for an apron, and he and a college pal, Len Lehman -- a psych major who jumped in simply because he thought working for himself would eventually allow him more time to play golf.

Send your favourite ideas blog via the letters box to the right of this.

Your Letters

15:25 UK time, Monday, 24 August 2009

Kirk and Keith (Friday letters) are missing a trick here - how about: Keith, while Kirk had had "had had 'had had' had had 'had'. 'Had had' had had", had had "had had 'had had', had had 'had had had': 'had had' had had". "Had had 'had had', had had 'had had had': 'had had' had had" had had...
Matt F, York, UK

Monitor: We've had had had enough.

Keith from Lismore, I'm not a boy.
EH (Lizzie) Lawrenson

Re 10 things, No 2: I don't believe that the average length of a PowerPoint presentation is 250 minutes. Most presentations I go to last less than an hour. I think you're presenting the statistic for the average length of time a PowerPoint presentation feels like it lasts.
Adam, London, UK

I have been using both Eastern & Western emoticons on web forums for ages- yet I'm of Western origin (UK). Many of my other Western friends also use such emoticons: well we use a mix of :) and ^-^. I personally think the Eastern ones are easy to understand but the Western ones are easier to find on the keyboard.
K Morrison, Rochester, UK

Re this story, 126 million pints of beer are served a week in the UK. That's 6,552 million a year and only 5,500 pints are used as weapons (assuming each attack uses one pint glass). That's 0.000084% of all pints that are used as weapons. Sounds like a very serious problem.
Elle, London

Just read your list of good and bad PPT presentations, I can't believe no-one has mentioned Randy Pausch's Last Lecture or Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure. Both are riveting talks, that are wonderfully supported by the visual presentation that goes with them.
Simon Howes, Leighton Buzzard

Paper Monitor

12:44 UK time, Monday, 24 August 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

What's your contender for most gripping newspaper URL? Whatever suggestions are in the offing, this would take some beating...
"Vicar-Dibley-broken-marriage-gossip-gay-affair-bull-breeder-stetson.html"

This particular string of words pops up in the Times, although it is not a Times URL. Can you guess which paper it comes from? All will be revealed...

The Times features supplement contains a colour piece by a journalist once asked to edit his village newsletter. And how is this news, you may ask? Because he found himself in possession of a scoop.

Because his local vicar moved in with a female friend after separating from her husband. And then become upset when rumours suggested they might be more than just friends. So she preached a sermon against gossiping. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the nuclear option - her story made the Daily Mail, and others, earlier this summer. (Kudos to those who correctly guessed the Mail as author of that URL.)

And his scoop? "[H]ere, in my hands, was Reverend Morton's response to the furore." She described her friend as a "Good Samaritan" and herself - well, her past, which included a child out of wedlock - as "a modern-day Mary Magdalene".

Elsewhere, the Times takes the Ashes win as an opportunity to wheel out the old chestnut about successful sportspeople becoming hot commercial properties for the second time in a week.

Last week it was Jessica Ennis, now it's Stuart Broad.

Paper Monitor is reminded of a piece it read in Observer Sport Monthly in which Team GB's medallists reflected on the promised gold rush of promotional opportunities that never materialised. Except for Chris Hoy and Rebecca Adlington.

Monday's Quote of the Day

08:23 UK time, Monday, 24 August 2009

"Hedgehogs. Why can't they just share the hedge?" - this, folks, has been judged the funniest joke of this year's Edinburgh Fringe.

The winning joke was a one-liner from London comedian Dan Antopolski. But what do you think - has your funny bone been well and truly tickled?
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