BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for November 8, 2009 - November 14, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

16:44 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009

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

1. Reading lamps can run off the electricity that comes down a defunct landline socket.
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2. Men's urine is less acidic than women's.
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3. Coral can eat jellyfish.
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4. The first sell-by dates were on milk and cream in the 1950s.
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5. Early flights to India stopped to refuel in Basra.
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6. Porn for the furry community is known as "yiff".
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7. Russia has 11 time zones.
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8. Travelling in a "road train" can cut fuel consumption by 20%.
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9. Canadian Transport Minister John Baird called his cat Thatcher.
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10. Pigtails used to be known as queues.

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Darren Farr for thing #2, and to Ann Cooper for this week's picture of 10 Spanish dresses for little girls, taken at a Costa Blanca market.

Your Letters

16:21 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009

Re Pee to help make your garden grow: If 10 of the 60 male staff members peeing on a hay bale has saved 30% of the estate's water consumption from flushing toilets, then the 50 female staff members must have been flushing less than half as often as their male counterparts. The complete opposite of every other house in the country.
Rob, Sheffield, UK

How can you possibly make John Humphreys' quip the quote of the day, when the very same story contains this gem from Dimbles himself: "Trust my wife's bullock to take me out."
Tim Barrow, London, UK

An unfortunately placed bit of dirt on my computer screen had him being knocked out by his wife's buttock. I spent a few confused minutes wondering why it was being loaded on to a trailer in the first place.
Jim, Crowborough

7 days quiz. Mixing up Bert and Ernie. Unforgivable.
Rachel, Leeds
Monitor note: Am very, very ashamed.

This CD v iPod "experiment" is ridiculous. It has nothing to with the iPod, although admittedly the result "larger speaker sounds better than smaller speaker" wouldn't have the same cutting edge journalistic feel to it. If the iPod was plugged in to the large speakers the result would have been very different. Oh, and a sample of 10 data points is far too small to draw statistically valid conclusions. I'll get my note.#
Jonny, Leicester

Where are you Magazine Monitor? Isn't it bad enough that normally you discriminate against international readers by making it difficult to find you, now you've just gone off completely? Caption competition? Gone. Your letters? Gone. More about today's quote? Gone. Arghhhhhhhhhhh Am I supposed to work this afternoon? Is that it?
(Or is it just a problem with my computer?)
Meg, Geneva, Switzerland
Monitor note: It's not me, it's you.

If I could come out of retirement and say how chuffed I am to join Simon Rooke on 50 captions selected by the Monitor. I'd like to thank my little helpers who've been submitting on my behalf since I hung up my quill. They will now join me as I slip back into retirement. It's been a blast.
Stig, London, UK

May I just thank all those that enter the caption competition every week. They never fail to make me laugh, often long and loudly. Kudos to you all.
Tim Dennell

Caption Competition

12:36 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week, a country singer throws a chair during her performance in Nashville. But what's being said?

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

6. Tony Boyle
The all new Monopoly divorce game figures are very realistic.

5. NorfolkOnce
Now it was getting really weird, thought Alice. The Cheshire Cat had clearly put more than sugar in her tea...

4. tim_g
It was 1986. Janice was thrilled with her new mobile phone.

3. rogueslr
It always was a tough gig, ducking beer bottles was one thing, but this was the last time she did the DFS sales conference.

2. BaldoBingham
"Jedward! Get off my stage!"

1. leenewham
"Lada Gaga, here's your other shoulder pad..."

Weekly Bonus Question

10:56 UK time, Friday, 13 November 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 SNAKES, SPIDERS AND DEEP WATER. But what's the question?

UPDATE 1631 GMT: The correct question is, what are Katie Price's pet phobias as she prepares to go into the I'm A Celebrity... jungle again?

Of your woefully yet deliberately incorrect questions, we liked:

  • HPark's The pessimist's boardgame of choice?
  • ShizBob's Just prior to my recent divorce, what clues led me to believe things weren't working out?
  • ARoseByAnyOther's Downsides to living in a castle?
  • BeckySnow's Marilyn Manson writes his first book for children.
  • And SkarloeyLine's Who are the Addams Family's solicitors?

Paper Monitor

10:27 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Here is Paper Monitor's seventh law of journalist priority.

"If things happen to attractive blonde women, they are always more newsworthy than if they happen to paunchy, balding men called Derek."

This rule informs the size of the space dedicated to the story of a 23-year-old beautician from Essex who takes on a property developer in court without the help of lawyers and saves her mother's home and business.

Eat your heart out Erin Brockovich. Now make no mistake, if Derek was the protagonist in the story, it would still be a heartwarming yarn that would make the papers. Just not as prominently perhaps.

It dominates page five of the Daily Mail and the picture of Georgina Blackwell is 28.5 x 7.5cm.

The only odd thing in the Daily Telegraph is that they wait until page 11 to give readers the story, although there is an 18.5 x 12.5cm picture. The seventh law is also in evidence on page seven of the Telegraph where there is a young blonde woman who is fighting a fine for throwing bread to the ducks in the park.

Over in the Daily Mail there is another chance to show a picture of John Bercow -full name "the diminutive John Bercow" - and his wife Sally (cf Jamie Cullum and Sophie Dahl, Bernie Ecclestone and ex-wife Slavica, and Sol Kerzner and just about anyone). The occasion is that Mrs Bercow is, err, planning on becoming a Labour councillor. But really it's all about the photo.

Elsewhere in the Mail, and this morning it's hard to put the thing down, there's a two-page spread that wins today's gonzo award. Take your hat off to intrepid reporter Jessica Hatcher as she sheds her clothes to take part in the "naturist Olympics".

And finally there is a most unusual thing on pages 28 and 29 of the Daily Mail. Last month Nick Davies - whose book Flat Earth News caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth in newsrooms around the country - did an investigation into the much-trumpeted national police investigation into sex trafficking, Pentameter 2.

His conclusion was that despite the trumpeting, the operation failed to result in a single person being proved to have coerced somebody into being a prostitute. Trafficking stats first had doubt cast on them in January in these pages.

But the Mail is having another go with a "special investigation" that starts with a hat tip to Davies, and, well, a bit of investigation of his investigation.


Friday's Quote of the Day

08:52 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009

"If you are highly observant, you will have noticed that I am not David Dimbleby - he has had an encounter with a bullock and he came off worse" - Question Time stand-in John Humphrys explains the host's absence.

David Dimbleby was unable to host Question Time for the first time in 15 years. He was knocked out by his wife's bullock as it was loaded on to a trailer.
More details

Web Monitor

16:01 UK time, Thursday, 12 November 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the allure of lists, how cute took over cool and going underground.

Umberto Eco• He's curating at the Louvre an exhibition on the subject of the infinity of lists. So what is it that makes lists so alluring to novelist Umberto Eco?
In Der Spiegel Eco tells Susanne Beyer and Lothar Gorris why he thinks we write lists:

"The list is the origin of culture. It's part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order - not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogues, through collections in museums and through encyclopaedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart's librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte... We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That's why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It's a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don't want to die."

• Web Monitor has often been a proud protector against the onslaught of kitten videos on the web. But why are cute things so popular anyway? Jim Windolf in Vanity Fair hopes it's just a phase:

"The popularity of Cute Overload (and the more than 150 other cute-animal sites catalogued by the recommendation engine StumbleUpon, including Stuff on My Cat, Cute Things Falling Asleep, Kittenwar, and I Can Has Cheezburger) reflects a growing self-infantilization that is also in evidence at the social-networking site Facebook, where countless subscribers have posted photos of themselves as babies on their profile. Maybe the move toward cuteness has come about partly because the idea of 'edge' has gotten old. We used to romanticize tortured souls like Dylan Thomas, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, but their equivalents from recent years - Kurt Cobain, Elliott Smith, Heath Ledger, David Foster Wallace - have elicited expressions of pity more than anything else.

• When cities reach their breaking point, life must be moved beneath the surface according to Shu Yu in Triple Canopy magazine. He's China's subterranean-development expert. After years of working in Japan's underground worlds, he's moved back to China and tells Triple Canopy that you have to get past a lot of hesitancy to convince people to live work and play underground:

"For underground developments to be successful, you have to find a way to get around the problems of light, moisture, and noise. People associate the underground with tombs and bomb shelters. On the surface, the field of vision is broad: You can see light, trees, people going about their business. Underground, in a sealed space, you can't; it's difficult for people to see how they might escape if something happens. If the air quality isn't sufficiently regulated, it will give off an 'underground smell'. Generally, cramped, closed spaces make people agitated and uncomfortable. We are still researching the underground environment to determine the extent to which its characteristics affect physiology and psychology."

Your Letters

14:45 UK time, Thursday, 12 November 2009

So the computerised marking system doesn't like repetition, or metaphor, or dramatic effect. Well, Paper Monitor, you'd better hope that it doesn't recognise Little Britain jokes, or you're getting marked down for plagiarism (twice).
Ruaraidh Gillies, Wirral, UK

Re Police cycling guide (Paper Monitor): I'm not sure that four-year-old Nelly is such an expert at all. She fell off, I note. And hurt her knee. Frankly, I think Nelly might benefit from a 93-page pamphlet.
Chris, London

The picture on today's Daily Mini-Quiz has the text of "Actor posing as policeman" - which is seen when placing your mouse pointer over it. This isn't some "actor posing as a policeman", this is the legend that is PC Plum from Balamory. My two-year-old daughter will confirm this.
Martin, High Wycombe, UK

I saw Xbox gamer 'gutted' after cut off and feel that community service would be a less harsh sentence for software theft.
Ed, Clacton, UK

"A spokesperson for the X Factor declined to comment on Sting's interview, saying he was entitled to his opinion."
So in what way did they decline to comment?
Simon, Edinburgh

Further to Rachel and Ken's letters (Wednesday letters), a sure sign is when you become completely invisible to teenagers walking towards you and have to step into the road to get past. Very worrying as I am only 34 and this has been happening to me for about five years.
Emma, Jersey

Paper Monitor

11:38 UK time, Thursday, 12 November 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

They say exams are getting easier. But if put through the new computerised marking system used to assess school essays, would the articles about this innovation pass muster?

The non-redtop papers report on how the system marks down Churchill's famous "We shall fight on the beaches..." speech for repetition, awarding it an F in the equivalent of an A-level English exam. (Is that a pass or a fail these days?)

So the computer says no to repetition. And to metaphor, and to the many tricks writers deploy for dramatic effect. "Ungrammatical", it said of the climactic scene in Lord of the Flies in which Ralph tries to flee from the other children:

"The savage knelt down by the edge of the thicket, and there were lights flickering in the forest behind him. You could see a knee disturb the mold. Now the other. Two hands. A spear. A face."

And "Computer says: Incomprehensible" when fed passages of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, reports the Times. True, but that is rather the point.

So how does the computer compare to a human marker? The Independent has a handy comparison that may be of cold comfort:

"Isabel Nisbet, acting chief executive of Ofqual, the independent exams watchdog, argued that students could compare the computer's assessment to a marker who had experienced a rough night before marking an exam."

Meanwhile, the Sun and others pile into news that police chiefs have compiled a comprehensive "how to cycle" guide for bike-mounted officers.

"The potty pamphlets, running to 93 pages in TWO volumes, tell cops how to balance so they do not fall off."

So the paper drafts in an expert beginner to write a MyView column - Nelly Merritt, a four-year-old who finds cycling easy:

"I LOVE my bike. It's pink with flowers and I have a matching helmet.
I just climb on to the seat and start pedalling with my feet.
I used stabilisers at first but now it's so easy I whizz around and go for really long bike rides with my dad.
I did fall off last week and hurt my knee but Mummy said to get back on and I did.
I can even ride with one hand and go really, really fast!"

And finally, a paper review on the radio this morning set Paper Monitor to musing. The presenter commented on the Daily Star's deployment of "sponger" in its headline about the economically inactive: "Haven't seen that word in the papers for a bit".

Newspaper search service Lexis Nexis begs to differ. In the past three months, it has been used 49 times, mainly in the Star, the Sun and the Dailies Mirror and Express. Oh, and twice in the Guardian. Surprised? Once in an interview with Ricky Gervais, the other in a cryptic crossword clue.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:35 UK time, Thursday, 12 November 2009

"Initially it's like medicine but I've got used to it now" - Liz Hurley on switching from wine to vodka.

In news that will rock the wine industry, sometime actress Liz Hurley is reported to be switching her drinks in order to retain her svelte figure.
More details (Daily Mail)

Web Monitor

17:24 UK time, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: joking aside, last requests and more noughties nostalgia.

Johnny Vegas• Johnny Vegas is joining a long line of comics complaining about the problems of gag-snatching. In the Independent blog Vegas argues that if a joke has been stolen, but it's difficult to prove, it all comes down to how guilty the thief feels about taking it:

"The saddest thing is though; little is ever said to the perpetrators themselves. Their shameless audacity often leaves its victims dumbstruck, almost fearful to protest. I myself have sat in dressing rooms, feeling like a pensioner asked to point out a mugger from a police line-up, but without the security of a one-way mirror (although I'd best point out first, before every other comic does, that the contents of my comedic purse were wholly sentimental and worth nothing of any real critical value)."

Christopher Beam In Slate asks what prisoners on death row ask for as their last meal. Although the a cheeseburger is the most popular, he finds the requests are often memorable:

"Karla Faye Tucker requested a fruit plate but didn't eat it. John Wayne Gacy asked for shrimp, fried chicken, French fries, and a pound of strawberries. Timothy McVeigh ate two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Instead of a last meal, Tennessee convict Philip Workman requested that pizza be distributed to the homeless in Nashville. (Prison officials denied his request, but local groups passed out pizza in his honor.) Before his execution in 2000, convicted rapist and murderer Odell Barnes requested a last meal of 'Justice, Equality, World Peace.' In 1992, Arkansas convict Ricky Ray Rector, who had brain damage from shooting himself in the head after killing a police officer, ate a final meal of steak, fried chicken, and cherry Kool-Aid, but famously said he wanted to save his pecan pie for later."

• Noughties nostalgia continues (see Monday's Web Monitor) with Simon Reynolds in the Guardian music blog. His notable bit of the noughties is the growth of the beard. Reynolds observes that the beard isn't just there to keep you warm:

"The beard has become one of the crucial, era-defining signifiers for non-mainstream rock in the noughties.
That's particularly the case in the United States, where whiskers have an obvious fit with Americana genres like alt-country and free folk. But things have also taken a hirsute turn in the UK this past decade... beardedness is tantamount to a visual rhetoric, almost a form of authentication, as though the band are wearing their music on their faces."

Send in your favourite summing up of the last ten years via the letterbox to the right of this page.

Your Letters

16:12 UK time, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Re Project Laundry and Americans' attitudes to washing lines (Web Monitor), in the game Sim City 4, one of the signs that a property is going to the dogs is a washing line appearing in the garden. A little bit geeky, but true.
Louise, Botto

Re Noisy sex woman loses appeal bid: The council is reported as measuring sound levels of "47 decibels". That's "average residence noise", according to noise charts. Am I missing out on something at home?
Steve-O, Sheffield

Is there a fexionary entry for the feeling of wanting to read a news story which is dominating the 'most read' chart, but not daring to because you are at work? You know the one I mean.
Ken, Cheslmsford
Monitor note: This one, perchance?

Sarah (Tuesday letters), who wants a word for the nagging fear that you have just typed utter babble - for many of us this state is called "normality".
Graham, Hayle

Sarah, I believe it is called "blogging".
Ben, Bournemouth

Provided you restricted yourself to 140 characters of utter babble, it's called "twittering".
Tim, Helston

Rachel (Tuesday letters), the most reliable way to tell if age is creeping up on you is whether you have noticed how young policemen look these days. BTW, did anyone else who was watching Sunday's Remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph notice how young our new First Sea Lord looks?
Adam, London, UK

Rachel, I have started reading Monitor letters, laughing and only then realising that it was I who wrote it. My memory's not what it used to be.
Rob, London

Rachel, the other day I saved an empty jar because I thought it was "a useful size". I'm only 25.
Jenny, Manchester, UK

You know when you're old when:

  • You see a poster for a new album and you don't know which is the band and which is the album title
  • You find driving aimlessly round the countryside, finding "a nice place for coffee" and driving home again a worthwhile way to spend a day
  • You suddenly realise that teenagers are a different species

This last happened to me at about 33 - I'm now 43 so am ancient.
Ken, Hornchurch, Essex

Dear Rob, First of all I'd like to say how much I look forward to reading your contributions to the Monitor (Tuesday letters). Your easy style and wonderfully witty comments make great copy. It's always a fortunate day for us all when your comments are included. I would also like to congratulate you on your recent good fortune, would that Lady Luck was smiling at me a bit more these days, but sadly she turns her face away from me. I have to say that loan of a few pounds would make all the difference to my life...
Vicky, East London

Judging by the number of Tuesday's letters that are from across the Atlantic, I think I've spotted the loop-hole in how to get this one published...
Martin, High Wycombe, US (not really)

Paper Monitor

12:39 UK time, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Once upon a time they were rivals, but in recent years the fortunes of the once-mighty Daily Express and the currently-mighty Daily Mail have diverged.

But today Paper Monitor is reminded that they can still sing from the same hymn sheet.

On page 12 of the Express and page 14 of the Mail there are full page opinion pieces that, while not identical twins, are certainly hard to tell apart.

The Express headline reads: "Brown is a failure but even he does not deserve this."

That in the Mail says: "I loathe Gordon Brown's politics. But surely he doesn't deserve the mauling he has received for trying to offer condolences."

And the confluence of the opening paragraphs is eerie.

In the Mail:

"When it comes to my general disdain for Gordon Brown the politician, I yield to few people. I deplore almost everything he has done in the past two years as Prime Minister, and the ten years before that as Chancellor."

And over in the Express:

"This newspaper yields to nobody in its low opinion of Gordon Brown's leadership of the country. We said when he first became Prime Minister that he was not fit to do the job and have been taking him to task for his multiple failings ever since."

So, just to clarify, nobody is yielding.

The pieces are both about the Sun's attack on the state of Gordon Brown's handwriting, revealed in the letter to bereaved mother Jacqui Janes, who lost her son in Afghanistan.

And both take roughly the same position: Brown rubbish leader, letter very messy, hats off for writing to all the bereaved, Sun nasty.

The Mail's leader goes even further than the opinion piece by Stephen Robinson. It comes very close to criticising Mrs Janes when it says:

"So wasn't there something discreditable about the way this private conversation was recorded and published as part of a campaign against his conduct of the war?"

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:38 UK time, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

"You adore music more than anything in the world, you have a great passion, but that doesn't mean you had to marry the lead singer of every band you ever had a poster of on your bedroom wall" - Patsy Kensit in a letter to her 16-year-old self.

After notching up Dan Donovan (Big Audio Dynamite), Jim Kerr (Simple Minds) and Liam Gallagher (Oasis), La Kensit has now pledged her troth to Jeremy Healy (DJ/Haysi Fantayzee). But she still feels moved to communicate with her younger self in the form of a book for charity full of celebrities' advice.
More details (Daily Express)

Web Monitor

17:25 UK time, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: not mellowing with age, the micro-celebrity and why we still have receipts.

Robert Downey Jr
• Actor Robert Downey Jr is back on the A-List, says Scott Raab at Esquire. At 44 Downey's not afraid to admit he doesn't feel like he's getting wiser with age:

"I hand it to any and everyone who has made it past their late thirties and has any sense of contentment, because you know so much, and the anxiety can be so overwhelming - and managing the anxiety is a skill set that seems like a menu that changes every day."

• How many fans are the perfect amount for a musician to make a living?

In the brave new musical world, the founding editor of Wired magazine Kevin Kelly suggests the future for musicians is to cultivate a small following of really dedicated fans. He's putting the magic number of fans to earn a living at 1000. That's assuming that the so-called "true fans" will be buy everything - merchandise and all - the artist sells.
To prove this, Ariel Hyatt in Music Think Tank found musician Matthew Ebel who makes makes 26.3% of his net income from just 40 hardcore fans.

But there is now a dissenting voice, standing-up for the casual fan. The Fingertips music blog argues that overlooking the importance of a mass of listeners who don't worship you will bring on an age of infinite bad music:

"If everyone now thinks they only need 1,000 fans to make it as a musician, then yikes - you won't believe how many more people will be out there trying to do just that.

And that, to me, is the biggest indictment of this well-intended but not well-thought-out idea: that it will in fact be a beacon of hope for 'vanity press' musicians who write and sing and record songs that they should not even be sharing with their friends, never mind 1,000 strangers. No matter how untalented and unpromising any one person with a Mac and a dream may be, he or she will be nothing but inspired to know that all they need are 1,000 fans and they can be a full-time, professional musician. Why, most of them probably have at least 600 Facebook friends. That sounds like they're already more than halfway there."

• Incidentally, in this digital world, why do we still have receipts? Chadwick Matlin in Big Money asked what it would take to get rid of receipts, the answer was so costly and complicated he gave up :

"So I begrudgingly and all-too-appropriately wave my white flag. You win, receipts. You're too entrenched for us to force out in a grassroots campaign. It's up to big business to get rid of you - the credit card companies are our only hope. And for obvious reasons, that means there isn't much hope at all."

Your Letters

15:44 UK time, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

In addition to the perception of poverty, air drying laundry also suffers from dirty air (Web Monitor). When I was a kid, drying clothes outside in fresh air was better than using a dryer. Today, the clothes attract and absorb all kinds of strange pollutants and end up smelling odd. Plus, there's an urban privacy issue concerning undergarments hung up for all to see.
Jay, Armada MI, US

I love my solar dryer. There's something different in the way clothes smell when they're allowed to dry in the wind and the sun.
Robert Melvin, Lakewood, Colorado, US

We take great pride to hang the laundry outside for savings and mostly environmental reasons (Web Monitor). And I am talking year-round. You'll see me with boots in the snow, hurrying to hang the wash so it does not freeze before it is on the line. Once up, it dries very well - "sublimation", water goes from the frozen state right into the dry winter air. We use the electric dryer not more than twice a year, when it unpredictably rains on the laundry.
Kurt D Stottmeier, S Carver, MA, US

UK lottery winners unveiled: Now where did I put that family tree?
Dave, Cambridge

I play the Lottery every Saturday, and I'm a little worried about their announcing the winners of the £45m Euromillions. Did they have the choice (and, if so, why did they agree?). I certainly wouldn't want anybody knowing about the £10 I won last week.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Ah, so BBC news is starting a sideline in quashing rumours? In that case, I'd like to put people straight about what didn't (and never will) happen between me and Harry. Anyone else got a use for this new service? I have a feeling they might have bitten off more than they could chew...
Louise, Oxford

Re Thriving trade in out-of-date best-before foods: Seems you've broken Approved Foods and Food Bargains - good work Magazine!
liamf1, via Twitter

Amen, Peter (Monday letters). Clearly, the worst thing about Hannah Montana is the accent, and all of us have twangs. I wish I too could be accent-free, just like the people wherever Caroline (Friday letters) is from who've managed to avoid this linguistic plague.
Nadja, north of Boston, US

I'd like to put forward the following, from this story, as a contender for quote of the day: "We'd consider the koala with the same level of diligence and dedication as if it were the death adder" - Bob Beeton, Chairman of the Australian Threatened Species Steering Committee.
Dec, Belfast

Yesterday I found myself saving an odd piece of string and a folded sheet of foil. Today I think I will begin using the phrase "Mind you...". Is this the insidious onset of age?
Rachel, Minnetonka

Can my fellow Monitorites help me? Does anyone know a word for the nagging fear that you have just typed utter babble.
Sarah, Colchester

Paper Monitor

11:23 UK time, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Brits winning just over £91 on the EuroMillions. It's a good news story, isn't it? Well yes, but that's not enough for two of today's newspapers. They've managed to dig out some bad news among the celebratory champagnes corks.

In one there's the story of an unemployed man from Middlesex who thought he'd won and celebrated by putting £5,000 behind the bar of his local pub on Saturday night. He found out after the money had been spent that he wasn't one of the winners after all and is now £5,000 in debt.

In the other paper there's news of an eighth member of the winning work syndicate in Liverpool, who was thought to have recently quit the group because he was "too skint" to keep up with the weekly payments.

The story runs, even though it's been denied by the other winning members. But why let facts get in the way of such a "good" tale of bad luck (by that Paper Monitor means good in the media sense, which usually doesn't mean good for the person in the story).

Any guesses which papers printed these stories? Answers at the bottom of the page.

Coverage of the work syndicate's win has made three new media stars, with their pictures splashed across most newspapers. There's the chap giving the thumbs up from his office window in Liverpool and holding up a sign saying "I'm minted". There's also the man who left the office wearing a hastily-made smiley mask to conceal his identity. He's also giving the thumbs up. Finally, there's the hobby horse dressed in sunglasses and a fleece, with a sign saying "Lotto Winner" around its neck. Waiting media were told to form an orderly queue for interviews. These winners are rich and funny.

Answers: the story of the unemployed man was published in the Daily Mail and the story of the eighth syndicate member was in the Sun. Surprised? Maybe not.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:40 UK time, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

"My head is fried with it. We are being tortured and I want to clear up this mess" - Mickey Gormley, who was rumoured to have won £45m in the Euromillions lottery

Businessman Mickey Gormley from County Londonderry has pleaded with people to stop ringing to congratulate him on winning more than £45m in the Euromillions lottery... because he didn't win a penny of it.
More details

Web Monitor

17:09 UK time, Monday, 9 November 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the story behind a presidential sing-along, failing to become nostalgic about noughties brands and snootiness towards airing clean laundry in public.

• Climate change activists have uncovered a particular snobbishness in the US - towards the washing line. Alexander Lee is executive director of Project Laundry List which aims to make air-drying and cold-water washing laundry more widely accepted. Lee explains in New Scientist what he thinks is behind the demise of the washing line:

"Yet clothes lines have become a rarity in the US, in part because draconian regulations make it impossible for many people to dry garments naturally. Around 60 million Americans live in homeowners' associations such as condominiums, retirement communities and mobile home parks. Most of these ban or severely restrict the clothes line.
Why? Clothes lines evoke a negative emotional reaction from many Americans, who view them as flags of poverty. Property owners often fear that a clothes line in their neighbourhood will lower the value of their house."

• Noughties Nostalgia is well underway and bloggers are sticking their oar in too. A list of brands that defined post-war Britain has inspired cultural historian Joe Moran to see if the noughties brands could evoke similar feelings. He thinks not:

"Activia single pots, Jamie Oliver, Strictly Come Dancing, The X Factor, Kettle Chips, Innocent Smoothies, KFC Bargain Buckets, goatee beards, low-slung jeans, Ugg boots, peasant skirts, iTunes, Amazon, Boden clothes, beanie hats, Who Do You Think You Are, iPlayer, Twitter, wristbands, full-zip hoodies, Caffe Nero, farmers' markets, 3 for 2s at Waterstone's, Radio 2, Cath Kidston tents, VW Kombi camper vans, Nintendo Wii, Doctor Who, High School Musical, Festivals, carveries, Top Gear, Ant and Dec, misery memoirs...

No, it doesn't really work."

Johnny Cash• Johnny Cash may not be best remembered for supporting Native Americans. But in 1972 he sang to President Nixon "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" a protest song about a Native American marine who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. In Salon Antonino D'ambrosio looks back at why Cash was passionate about their cause:

"Raised in rural poverty on the margins of America, Cash empathized with outsiders like convicts, the poor and Native Americans. But his identification with Indians was especially deep - even delusional. During the depths of his early '60s drug abuse, he convinced himself, and told others, that he was Native American himself, with both Cherokee and Mohawk blood. (He would later recant this claim.)"

Your Letters

15:28 UK time, Monday, 9 November 2009

How appropriate that after his hit song, Tom should have continued his interest in traffic matters on the motorway.
Simon Rooke, Nottingham, UK

What's with all the text on the main picture of the Greggs article? After seeing it I felt like I didn't need to read the rest of the article. I still did though, because I love you.
Rob, London

"There's a huge chunk of blokes who want lots of food cheaply. (Greggs is) doing that job absolutely superbly."

"Huge chunk of blokes", or "huge chunky blokes"? Was this a typo?
Martin, Bristol, UK

The picture of Gordon Brown not bowing his head at the cenotaph, which Paper Monitor describes as "rather inconclusive", also shows him not eating custard, not smoking, not heading a football and not winking at the Queen, amongst many other non-activities. What sort of picture WOULD have conclusively showed him not bowing?
John Whapshott, Westbury, England

Oh Caroline, (Friday's letters), your parents have done a bang up job with you, and their draconian measures have made you the well-rounded person your letter suggests.
Peter, Cardiff, Bristol

"Macaques find fake monkeys creepy." Really? Can't think why.
Rob, London, UK

Paper Monitor

11:26 UK time, Monday, 9 November 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Why does the Times front page story about serious offences being dealt with by cautions lack the impact the same story has in the Daily Mail?

The reason is this - three strong pictures of victims' injuries.

Great pics make all the difference, a point further underlined in the story that Morrissey stormed off stage after being hit by a bottle.

The Mail, and the Independent, have a photo of the moment of impact, unlike some of their rivals.

But if there's one person who probably wished his picture was not in the papers today, it's probably Gordon Brown, photos of whom are used for purposes that have nothing to do with flattery.

The Sun accuses him of failing to bow his head at the Cenotaph as he laid a wreath, but uses a rather inconclusive picture as evidence.

And the Mail mounts a stinging personal attack on Mr Brown out jogging, entitled "A RUNNING JOKE".

It lambasts him for his T-shirt, trackie bottoms and trainers - an outfit, columnist Julie Welch concludes, is for the "morbidly obese".

She says Mr Brown's gritted teeth, sweat and clenched fist - standard hallmarks of exercise, some might say - are evidence of middle-aged poor health.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:11 UK time, Monday, 9 November 2009

"ikee is never going to give you up" - Message in a Rick Astley-themed worm affecting iPhones.

The bad news is the first worm to affect iPhones has been discovered. The "good" news is that it appears only to change the wallpaper of your "jailbroken" [cracked so as not to be tied to a network] phone to a picture of Rick Astley and display the above message.
More details (Gizmodo)

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