BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for December 13, 2009 - December 19, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

17:05 UK time, Friday, 18 December 2009

lanterns_morocco_226.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. The Queen travels to Sandringham by scheduled train each Christmas.
More details (The Times)

2. The Moon has the coldest place in the Solar System measured by a spacecraft
More details

3. About 3.8 million cheques were written in the UK every day last year.
More details

4. Australian stingless bees immobilise intruding beetles by mummifying them in resin, wax and mud.
More details

5. The Royal Mail's missed parcel cards are also known as "739" cards.
More details (The Guardian)

6. 748 million burgers are sold in the UK annually.
More details

7. Women's touch is more sensitive than men's.
More details

8. The Na'vi language spoken in James Cameron's new film Avatar took four years to write and develop.
More details

9. Female spiders eat their mates despite them being nutritionally poor.
More details

10. Milton Keynes central railway station appeared as a UN building in Superman IV.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Hayley Salvo for this picture of 10 lanterns taken in Morocco.

Your Letters

16:22 UK time, Friday, 18 December 2009

Glad to see the spirit of Punorama is still alive and well for half the winning entries of today's Caption Competition...
Pix6, Vienna, Austria

Kerry Rose's letter is indeed one of the funniest ever. I do feel, though, that I should point out that it is slightly factually incorrect - there is no Pontin's in Llandudno.
Jim, Snowy Crowborough

Kerry Rose's round robin letter: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Laughing my head off and scaring my colleagues was probably the best way to finish the workday before the Christmas break. I whole-heartedly vote for this as the best letter of the year.
Katherine, Canberra, Australia

If two men had been flashing to women they'd have been arrested straight away. But as the flashers are women, it's in the "funny" section instead (Paper Monitor).
Rhys, Manchester

Hello. I've been away from the computer. Are we still on Porridge Watch?
John D Rockhill, The Sonoran Desert, Arizona, US

Caption Competition

13:32 UK time, Friday, 18 December 2009

Comments

Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

cashcowcheque_getty.jpg

One from the archives to mark the passing of the cheque. In 1970, Punch humourist AP Herbert reenacted one of his fictional legal cases (more details from Snopes). He scrawled a cheque on the side of a Golden Guernsey, and took her to the bank to be cashed in.

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

6. redalfa147
If Damien Hirst ran banks...

5. fandango2
"I'm afraid you've gone pasture overdraft limit. We're friesian your account."

4. HaveGavel
"Of course I'm a steakholder!"

3. philjwade
"He told me he left his cheque book in his udder suit."

2. Nick Fowler
Bankers find a way to get around having their bonuses taxed.

1. Pendragon
"And I had a devil of a job trying to stuff one in your Night Safe yesterday evening..."

Paper Monitor

12:33 UK time, Friday, 18 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
First the silliness.

In newspaper world, the splashes and the big stories usually hog all the limelight.

But what about the humble nib, the news in brief. It serves a vital tool in Fleet Street. Newspaper layout is rather like a game of Tetris, and nibs represent a handy "l" block.

But what if you only read the nibs, how would the world seem?

From the Daily Star Paper Monitor discovers that the town of Ratingen in Germany is to charge Google £18 per shot for using its roads to take photos for Street View.

The Sun is nibtastic. A milkman has won an award for his friendliness over 24 years of service. Another snippet tells us about a first edition of Casino Royale going for 10 grand at auction.

Who can fail to be fascinated by the theft of a lorry with a ton of cheese on board? Or, still on the theme of cheese, the German driver hit by a 1lb lump thrown through his windscreen?

But the pinnacle of today's nibs is the revelation that two "knickerless" women, in their 30s and 50s, have been flashing at men in Plymouth.

From the silliness of nibs to the seriousness of crowdsourcing.

The Guardian yesterday announced the winner of its online contest to find out how Tony Blair is able to keep all of his finances so secret.

Thanks to this bit of crowdsourcing, the Guardian now knows that Mr Blair is using The Partnerships (Accounts) Regulations 2008, with the key aspect the use of a "limited liability partnership". Richard Murphy, a crusading accountant from Tax Research UK, is the man taking the credit for solving the conundrum.

Weekly Bonus Question

11:02 UK time, Friday, 18 December 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 ODDS OF 2-1. But what's the question?

UPDATE 1650 GMT: The correct question is, what are the current odds of a white Christmas in both London and Glasgow?

Of your amusingly but totally wrong suggestions, we liked:

  • West_London_Willy's I have two brothers. My mother will descend on one of us on Christmas Day, meaning no Bond film, no snooze after lunch, The Queen's Speech in all it's HD glory, and the need to stay sober to drive her home afterwards. What are the odds of a Merry Christmas for me?
  • Valerie Ganne's What are the chances of the BBC showing Saw IV at Christmas lunch-time?
  • MorningGlories' Yes, but what are the odds he actually IS a betting man?
  • Candace9839's What's the ratio of black to blue socks after doing the washing?
  • SimonRooke's What are the chances I'll get the coffee one when offered a chocolate this Christmas?
  • The_same_Eddie-George's What was recently voted most confusing racehorse name ever?
  • feralkitten's What are the odds the brussels will overwhelm the spuds in my Boxing Day bubble and squeak?
  • And CraigyD's What was the original name of the film Twins?

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:27 UK time, Friday, 18 December 2009

"We assessed the terrain and decided to move on" - Al Gore quips after he and Gordon Brown march into the wrong room in Copenhagen.

In a scene reminiscent of a Point Blank outtake, the prime minister and the former US vice-president march solemnly into a room at the Copenhagen climate summit, with the flashbulbs popping. Then they march right back out again.
More details

Your Letters

17:22 UK time, Thursday, 17 December 2009

So the owner of the lost bag "will be asked to describe its contents". I'll guess they will say: "As well as the ashes, the bag also contained a photograph of a man, woman and child, cigarettes, a bottle of perfume and make-up." At a push they may even name the street it was lost in, and when...
Tattooed mummy, Sussex

Re swearing on 5 live: The presenter says: "We asked them not to do it and they did it anyway." The song in question has the lyrics "I won't do what you tell me". Quite a spectacular example of missing the point.
Shona, Edinburgh

Re Hershey chocolate tasting odd: One of my favorite things about my London visit from the US was the prevalence of Cadbury's vending machines in the Tube stations. It was a kind of paradise...
Jennifer Colleen Absher @BBC News Magazine

I'm very sorry, but the chocolate vending machines were removed from the Tube platforms a couple of years back. I miss them so much.
Keira Vallejo @BBC News Magazine

I am an American and agree that our chocolate is very bad indeed. That said, I still think the Germans have you Brits beat.
PS: And I (for one) am very sorry about Mickey D's.
Elizabeth MacDonald Cotner @BBC News Magazine

Leif wants to know if sending this joke (Wednesday letters) to Scottish relatives would cause offence. I sent it to my Scottish father-in-law last Sunday.
His response was - and I quote - "Ha ha ha - very funny, Ben."
I trust this answers your question.
Ben Merritt, Sheffield, England

Send it, it made me chuckle. We tell much worse ones about ourselves anyway.
Amelia, Aberdeen

Leif, even if it's not suitable it's still a great joke.
PS: I'm stealing it.
Dec, Belfast

It would be far better to stick to those tried and tested favourites: bagpipe jokes. The definition of a gentleman? Someone who can play the bagpipes, but doesn't.
Or what's the difference between a bagpipe and an onion? No-one cries when you slice a bagpipe.
Adam, London, UK

Listening to a TV news broadcast on Wednesday, I distinctly heard: "Tiger's problems are continuing to mount."
Dickie, NY, US

The funniest Monitor letter ever (Wednesday letters)? The one from Kerry Rose. I'm sure we're all dying for this year's update on how Weston and Elvis are doing.
Jill B, Detroit, US

Web Monitor

16:00 UK time, Thursday, 17 December 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: a bleak verdict at the 20th anniversary of the Simpsons, rappers for economic theory and science fact behind science fiction.

Simpsons• On the twentieth anniversary of first episode of the Simpsons, Thomas Rogers in Salon interviews the show's unofficial biographer John Ortved. He explains why he thinks it has disappeared from the cultural radar:

"As the show sort of moved away from its roots, starting around the sixth season, and the show kind of got a little zanier, the show became sort of unmoored from those emotional character-driven plots that initiated the series. You really start to get 21 minutes of throwaway jokes and then one minute of emotional reconciliation thrown in at the end."

• Web Monitor has spoken before about the joys of geek rap, but this was still a surprise. A report about the comeback of Keynesian economics for the US broadcaster PBS introduces us to Billy Scafuri. He has set up a simulated rap battle between John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek, who opposed Keynes' preference for public spending. Here's an excerpt:

"We've been going back and forth for a century
Keynes: I want to steer markets,
Hayek: I want to set them free."

• The film Avatar is set in the year 2154 where humans are the aliens. Adam Hadhazy from Popular Mechanics dissects the film to see whether if any of the science fiction in it could come true. One element is the necessity for humans to live through another body. So Popular Mechanics asked Miguel Nicolelis, a neuroscientist at Duke University working on technology which helps people walk again, how near we are to out-of-body experiences:

"'We are training monkeys to control their own avatar using brainwave activity,' Nicolelis says.

Other work has allowed primates to remotely move robotic arms, and, in humans, electrode implants have helped generate synthetic vocalizations and mentally move computer cursors. Yet other efforts seek to reroute neural signals via wearable machine interfaces around the severed spinal cord to reconnect functional bodily muscles back to the brain.

The seamless and complete transfer of consciousness into another biological body envisioned in Avatar is bounds beyond what is presently realizable, however. 'It's pretty far-fetched,' Nicolelis says."

Links in full


SalonThomas Rogers | Salon | Why "The Simpsons" no longer matter
PBSPaul Solman | PBS | Keynes Vs Hayek: Late economists' hip-hop legacy
Popular MechanicsAdam Hadhazy | Popular Mechanics | The Science Behind James Cameron's Avatar

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:41 UK time, Thursday, 17 December 2009

"It's the sort of sound that turns me on - but not for daytime radio" - BBC audition panellist when Led Zeppelin applied to play on Radio 1 in 1969.

The verdict was yes when the fledgling band applied to record a session for John Peel's show Top Gear. But despite playing the now classic tracks Dazed and Confused and Communication Breakdown, not all the panel were keen. In documents released from the BBC archive, one said Plant, Page et al were too derivative - an "English blues-group, longing to sound like Muddy Waters but failing".
More details

Paper Monitor

10:20 UK time, Thursday, 17 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's the revenge of the "trolley dollies". If you think being a British Airways cabin crew means being whisked around the globe, staying in five-star hotels in fabulous and exotic destinations - and only requiring the three words "chicken or beef?" - then think again. Members of staff have been speaking to broadsheet journalists about how hard their job is.

One unnamed with 13 years of experience tells the Guardian that he or she has lost pride in the job because cuts to crew have left them with so much to do on a flight. Meals are taking longer to serve, passengers are becoming more abusive and the in-flight entertainment system keeps breaking, the crew member tells the paper.

Times journalist Imogen Edwards-Jones spent a year interviewing cabin crew for her book Air Babylon. She says her research unearthed some bizarre aspects to the job.

The "touch the toes" test, for instance, which enables the cabin services director to check there are no visible panty lines. "VPL is the enemy of the well turned-out air hostess, so some of them simply ditch their underwear."

Only certain brands of make-up are allowed and forearms have to be "hairless, bleached or waxed at all times". Put on weight and you're told to lose a few pounds.

Is that really true?

A (rather hairy-forearmed) senior BA crew member this morning told Paper Monitor that he recognised none of these as current job requirements, although there are rules about lipstick colours, while tattooed forearms must be covered up.

And any waistline restrictions?

"Hardly. Some staff can barely make it up the aisles," he joked.

Your Letters

16:12 UK time, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Is tear gas a greenhouse gas?
Ed, Clacton, UK

Re OMG. Did you just feel a quake? I noticed a similar phenomenon nearly two years ago. Should I have written an academic paper instead of a blog entry?
Andrew Collier, Cambridge, UK

To all those claiming the noughties do not end until next year (Tuesday letters), which decade would you place 1990 in? The 80s? Thought not.
Bob, London

Right, enough of this decade rubbish.
The 80s was 1980-1989, then 1990 was the start of a new decade.
Using the same logic, the 00's run from 2000-2009.
Count the years - 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. There are 10 there.
2010 = decade over.
Adam, Tewkesbury

Helen: 2000. Does that have enough zeroes for you?
Jenna, Bath

The fact there was no year zero is unimportant. A decade is any period of 10 years. On your 10th birthday you have lived for a decade, whether you were born in 1989, 1990 or 1993. The Magazine is celebrating the decade where the first three digits are "200".
Andy Taylor, Southampton, UK
Monitor note: And you can download our special 200- poster here.

And everyone loves a round number!
Amy S, Cambridge

Oooh, so close! (see end-of-decade sweepstake, Wednesday 9 December)
Pascal, Grand Union Canal, Cowley, Uxbridge

Why does the BBC refer to Mr Guttenberg, but would not dream of referring to the Trapps instead of the von Trapps. I went to look at the Style Guide for help and got sidetracked by the fact that my BBC search threw up more results of Monitor letters than the style guide itself.
Harvey Mayne, Frankfurt, Germany

Unemployment rise continues to slow is put in unusually cheery terms. Another way to say it would have been "Unemployment continues to rise". Is the Beeb trying to keep our spirits up in the run up to Christmas?
Phil, Guisborough

Simon Cowell tells NME: "The Christmas number one... over recent years, it was Bob the Builder one year, Mr Blobby. There's a tradition of quite horrible songs. I think I've done everyone a favour."
Should someone remind him he conceived and produced Mr Blobby's Christmas number one?
Sam, Leeds

David - good point (Tuesday letters). The "man-meets-goat" story totally beats my stoned wallabies.
Kailyn LeAnne, Kentucky, US

OK, I give in. I finally read the goat story.
Kay, London

Further to Rory's request (re Tuesday letters), undoubtedly the very best letter of the last decade, or century even, was the one I sent. But Monitor obviously didn't think so as it wasn't printed.
Peter, Cropthrorne, Worcs

Dear Monitor, is the following joke suitable for sending to relatives in Scotland?
A man in Aberdeen calls his son in London the day before Christmas Eve and says "I hate to ruin your day but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; 45 years of misery is enough."
"Dad, what are you talking about?" the son screams.
"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Leeds and tell her."
Frantically, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like hell they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this!"
She calls Aberdeen immediately: You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Sorted! They're coming for Christmas - and they're paying their own way."
Leif, Chearsley, Bucks
Monitor note: Will throw this one over to the panel. Guys?

Web Monitor

15:31 UK time, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Tiger Woods on advertising bannerA celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: Tiger's no-go brands, searching surges through 2009 and revelling in failure.

Marketing Magazine has a little fun with brands least likely to sponsor Tiger Woods.

Brylcreem's slogan "control yourself" and Greggs the bakers' line "ready when you are" make the top 10. Somehow, Web Monitor imagines the golfer wasn't fielding calls from these two even before he hit the front pages a couple of weeks ago.

• Everyone's chomping at the bit to get their end-of-year lists out. Google's Zeitgeist found Michael Jackson the fastest rising search term of 2009 and Beijing 2008 the fastest falling. YouTube has also released its list of the most watched YouTube videos of the year, with Susan Boyle still at the top, where she has been since April. And Twitter has also released its top trends of the year - #iranelection coming in as the most popular.

• Actor Alec Baldwin hasn't been shy from showing his failures of late. And he doesn't let Wired Magazine down in his interview charting his unhappiness with the films he's been in. He says he's done with doing films for the money but lets Wired in on how the fall from fame felt:

"When your fortunes ebb in the movie business, it's like The Sixth Sense: You're dead and you don't know it."

Links in full


Marketing MagazineBill Britt | Marketing Magazine | Top 10 brands least likely to sponsor Tiger Woods
see alsoThe official YouTube blog | What You Watched and Searched for on YouTube in 2009
TwitterTwitter blog | Top Twitter Trends of 2009
Wired USAScott Brown | Wired| The Fall and Rise of Alec Baldwin

Paper Monitor

12:48 UK time, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

If Keira Knightley is the average Daily Telegraph reader's definition of all that's right in a woman and Zara Phillips sets the pulses of the Daily Mail's male audience racing, then who is the Guardian's pin-up of choice.

Daft question of course. You're average Guardianista would surely never fall into the trap of idolising a public figure based on something as facile as appearance.

Well, yes and no.rachida_dhati_16_12_09_afp_226.jpg

Step forward Rachida Dati, the former French justice minister who has confessed to a friend that she's bored with working as a Euro MP.

So underwhelming is the news value of someone feeling jaded about a job in the EU that the rest of the press seem to have passed this one by. Even the Indy, with its rich pro-European credentials, has given it a wide berth.

But Dati - with her smouldering Beatrice Dalle-ish eyes, black mohair sweater and glossy red lipstick - is today's Guardian cover girl (see story here).

Talking of stories which most of the other papers have overlooked, the Sun gives half a page to an update on the Hillsborough tragedy on 1989.

In many minds, the paper is inextricably linked with its erroneous reporting of the event. It later apologised, but its mistake had led to a widespread boycott of the paper in Merseyside.

Now, though, it stands alone in keeping readers up to speed with latest developments in the story.

Back at the Indy, the paper boasts an interview with chess granndmaster Viktor Korchnoi, and goes big on the Russian's fear that "computers will be the death of chess".

Paper Monitor feels as if has been catapulted back to a 1983 edition of Tomorrow's World.

Didn't Deep Blue long ago prove the superiority of a computational device over the human brain when it comes to the matter of moving ornaments around a game board?

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:43 UK time, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

"I was really surprised when my customer told me it was Mr Murdoch. He seemed like such a nice man" - Newsagent Daxa Solanki on being the subject of a fact-finding visit by a media mogul

Ms Solanki, who runs Jads newsagents in London's Turnham Green, was a little perplexed when a businessman turned up with two sales reps and, without announcing himself, began asking questions about sales of four particular titles: the Sun, the News of the World, the Times and the Sunday Times. The visitor was, of course, one Rupert Murdoch.
More details (the Guardian)

Your Letters

17:18 UK time, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Margaret (Monday letters), it is always MORE efficient to turn off the lights when exiting a room. There is an urban myth about fluorescent tubes taking 20 minutes to cancel out their start-up energy consumption, but this was debunked by the popular US (and one time BBC Two) science show Mythbusters. They found out that it only take 23 seconds for this to happen.
Behn, Plymouth

I believe the break-even point is a matter of seconds. You should probably switch them off if you have a long blink.
Ian Woodward, Winchester, UK

By the way, LED-based low-energy lights don't have the same "dim start up" problem that compact fluorescents do.
Mark, Bridge

The Christmas card about "gingers" is stupid but can someone enlighten me, please? I've never heard about discrimination against redheads, but from the repeated coverage on the BBC it seems to be rampant in the UK. What gives?
Nadja, Bostonian in Moscow, Russia

Surely those people who drink three to four cups of tea or coffee a day have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes due to drinking less soft drinks?
Alex K, Bath, UK

Whoever did the captions in the Christmas party story deserves a substantial Christmas bonus.
Timothy, Leeds
Monitor note: Dad, I've told you not to write to me at work!

Re Popular carols have folk roots: This practice is still thriving in the villages around Sheffield, where it's traditional to meet in the pub on Boxing Day and sing local hymn tunes. Most villages have their own tunes, and woe betide anyone who sings the conventional tune, or even worse, a neighbouring village's!
Alex, Sheffield

Following this article I'm going to send this letter in anticipation of someone either questioning the meaning of "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at" or, even worse, stating that it means "On Ilkley Moor by yourself". If MM is really on the ball, this letter will directly follow someone who's fallen into one of those two categories.
It actually means "On Ilkley Moor without a hat" in a Yorkshire dialect.
I'll get my 'at.
Ben Merritt, Sheffield, England

I am confused. Why has the end of the ninth year of the 21st Century become the end of a decade (A portrait of the decade)? Are we perpetuating the media myth that the 20th Century ended a year early in 1999? Perhaps we should realise that if journalists were good at arithmetic they would be doing a useful job.
John, Northampton, UK

Why are we celebrating the end of the decade? It does not finish until next year. There was no year zero. 1-10 not 0 - 9. Is this more dumbing down?
Helen Gauld, Dundee

A top 10 best letters of the Noughties list anyone?
Rory, Grimsby

In the interests of avoiding being in contempt of court, please could you inform me if any of my comments have broken the injunction on Tiger Woods reporting (Monday's Paper Monitor).
Thank you.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Kailyn LeAnne (Monday letters), I thought it was the accepted truth among Monitorites that this was the greatest story ever?
David, Poole

Web Monitor

14:58 UK time, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: Sting's spare lyrics, holding fire and the noughty step.

StingTalking to Cal Fussman in Esquire, singer Sting reveals some unwanted mail attention:

"People send me song lyrics all the time. It's difficult. I'm not sure what they want me to do with them. Looking at lyrics without the music is like looking at a one-legged man."

Brian Palmer in Slate asks why rappers hold their guns sideways. He finds out from firearms experts that it is actually pretty bad for aim, and may have only become popular after being seen on television. And there is an advantage for TV and films:

"Directors may prefer the style because it makes it easier to see both the weapon and the actor's face in a tight camera shot."

• The noughties nostalgia goes sour in the Guardian as it lists the people who ruined the decade.
If they are not in the list for being too bad, they are in the list for being too good and making everything else seem "unambitious" (cue David Simon, creator of the TV series The Wire).
Next to Dan Brown - in the list for encouraging conspiracy theorists - is bestseller Rebecca Farnworth. If you haven't heard of her, it may be because she's the ghostwriter of Katie Price's debut novel Crystal. This outsold the entire Booker prize shortlist, much to the Guardian's dismay:

"Farnworth hadn't published a single book at the time of agreeing to write Price's works, and Price herself said she wasn't keen on reading them. Yet these setbacks never prevented the pair from machining the kind of 'sassy' prose that set gender equality back 40 years, nor did it stop them from using the kind of celebrity marketing strategy that had already reduced the music industry to a cash-poor game of Celebrity Squares."

Links in full

Esquire Cal Fussman | Esquire | Sting: What I've Learned
SlateBrian Palmer | Slate | Why Do Rappers Hold Their Guns Sideways?
GuardianGuardian | The people who ruined the decade

Paper Monitor

12:08 UK time, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

In the past Paper Monitor has admitted getting rather wicked delight from reading a brutal review in the papers. It's not the nicest character trait but - as Tiger only recently admitted - no one is perfect.

So, apologises over with, lets get down to the dirty and delicious business of what critics think of Guy Ritchie's new film - Sherlock Holmes. Yes, the man who is so often on the receiving end of a battering from the critics is back again. Are you licking your lips too?

Luckily for Ritchie it seems the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw is off today. In the past he's demolished the director's cinematic efforts, calling Revolver "a muddled, pretentious bore". Nasty man.

Catherine Shoard gets the job of reviewing his latest offering. Good news for Ritchie? Put it this way, he probably would have preferred Mr Bradshaw. Her view is as follows:

"At least in the past Ritchie knew what he was making, even if it wasn't that good. This muddle of genres reflects a collapse in confidence in his ability to deliver anything."

The Times is not a fan either. While there are some words of praise, film critic David Hayles says the film is "tension free" and "lacklustre". But there is some good news for Mr used-to-be-Madonna's-husband - Mr Hayles doesn't blame him, instead pointing a finger at the script.

"After the botched jobs of Revolver and RocknRolla it is a relief to see Ritchie directing someone else's script. Sadly, it's not a very good one, ill adviserly building a bespoke Holmes story from scratch and coming up instead with Scooby Doo."

For Paper Monitor the words "Christmas" and "presents" and "all at once" spring to mind when reading the reviews. Different ones probably jump into Guy's mind.


Tuesday's Quote of the Day

08:08 UK time, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

"SANTA loves all kids. Even GINGER ones" - Christmas card Tesco has withdrawn from two stores in York after complaints.

When shopper Davinia Phillips, whose three young daughters have red hair, saw this card on the supermarket shelves, she compained in no uncertain terms. Staff agreed to remove the cards, and Tesco is yet to decide if it will withdraw the cards nationwide.
More details

Your Letters

16:06 UK time, Monday, 14 December 2009

I wonder if I'm the only one to read "London retailers toast sales rise" on the England news page and wonder why toast sales are on the up and how are they being counted? Disappointment followed when I opened the story to find that I shall probably never know the vital sales statistics of toast.
HannaH, UK

Pascal (Letters, Wednesday), I think you'll find the '0' to which the noughties refer is actually the '0' before the '9' in 2009. The fact that 2010 *ends* in a zero is irrelevant. It will still be the start of the 'tens' decade.
Grace, Wellingborough, UK

Love the poster of the things / words / people of the decade. But for some reason, I mistook Simon Cowell for Alan Titchmarsh.
KC, Manchester

What on earth is the deal with the portraits of our faces of the decade?
I fail to see the artistic merit of a portrait where the subject is unidentifiable without additional information; but even given the subjectivity of my opinion, surely such a visually stimulating piece would have benefitted from suitably recongisable faces.

Roger Federer looks like Worzel Gummidge!
Ralph, UK

Does anyone else think that Mr Marks perhaps ended up with the wrong company and should have teamed up with Mr Spencer instead?
Basil Long, Nottingham

Is it more energy-efficient to leave the lights on or to switch them off every time you leave the room?
Margaret, Christchurch, NZ

Greatest.
Story.
Ever.

Kailyn LeAnne, Kentucky, USA

Web Monitor

16:00 UK time, Monday, 14 December 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: from British to bitterish, endangered skills and annual Christmas Panic Day.

David SchneiderDavid Schneider writes his own version of the British Comedy Awards after the weekend's ceremony - or "Bitterish Comedy Awards" as he prefers to call them:

"There was the usual amount of quality bitterness. It can only be a matter of time before they feed some poor victim to the baying comic masses by including a Lifetime Lack of Achievement Award (hope I don't get a nom for that one)."

• Back in early 2008, Robert Scoble started a short list of skills which are no longer needed - from dialling a rotary phone to refilling a fountain pen. Almost two years later, the list on Brad Kellett's site Obsolete Skills is in the hundreds. A particular favourite of Web Monitor is the lost skill of how to be a pen pal:

"If you're a huge nerd, you can play chess with your pen pal. Actually write out the individual moves in your letter and keep a chess board reflecting the current state of the game. You'll have at least a week (maybe a month or two if your pen pal is international) to ponder your next move. "

• In the Guardian Chris Addison marks today annual Christmas Panic Day - the day everything changes from merry Christmas cheer to dread that everything Christmassy may have run out. But for now, let's just reminisce about the last two weeks:

"The first half of December is when the Christmas season is at its most enjoyable. Different rules apply to other times of year. 'Five a Day', for example, refers to the secret guideline you've given yourself for minimum mince pie consumption. And wine that has been bolstered by the addition of cloves can't possibly be as strong as it tastes, so may be discounted from your recommended daily alcohol intake."


Links in full

David Schneider Bitterish Comedy Awards
Robert Scoble | Scobleizer | Obsolete skills
Brad Kellett | Obsolete skills
Chris Addison | Guardian | Oh God, oh God, oh God, it's Christmas Panic Day again


Paper Monitor

13:34 UK time, Monday, 14 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

A dozen words into Caitlin Moran's four-page feature in the Times, it's obvious she didn't get the interview with Simon Cowell.

OK, Paper Monitor doesn't know that for a fact, but has been around long enough to know that the words "...goes in search of..." seldom presage a piece in which there follows a face-to-face interview with the party being sought.

Further into Moran's feature on Cowell, and his influence on the music business, she drops the phrase "according to all available paperwork" - which is a slightly fancy way of referring to what in the trade is known as a "cuttings job", ie all the quotes in the article have appeared somewhere else before. In this case, a recent interview Cowell gave to GQ magazine seems to have been instrumental.

As cuttings jobs go, however, it's a thorough piece of work and it's all nicely topped off with a photomontage of Cowell portrayed as a king, with his various courtiers.

Elsewhere, one paper has taken it upon itself go further than perhaps it legally ought to about the injunction obtained by Tiger Woods preventing the media in the UK from publishing certain bits of information.

The BBC's report on the injunction on Friday said only this:

"Lawyers for US golfer Tiger Woods have obtained a UK injunction preventing certain information purportedly about him being published.

"The order was granted by a judge at the High Court in London, and concerns alleged information which cannot be disclosed for legal reasons."

In short, we can't publish certain things about the appropriately named golfer, but more entertainingly we can't tell you what kind of thing we're not allowed to publish.

News organisations in the US have obviously reported on the circumstances of the injunction and British newspapers appear happy to ignore it too.

It would obviously be naughty of us to identify the mid-market tabloid that has tried it on over the injunction today. So we won't.

Added to the recent furore over Trafigura getting an injunction against reporting of a question being asked in Parliament, and it's easy to see why in journalistic circles people are starting to get a bit agitated about the whole "free speech" thing.

Expect lengthy discussions in media studies classrooms everywhere and a Roy Greenslade-style column or two.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:47 UK time, Monday, 14 December 2009

"He's beautiful and chic and groomed but he has raggedy hands, nails that look like he clipped them with his teeth. I think if you're going to be in a movie, America deserves a clean foot" - Sarah Jessica Parker passes judgement on Hugh Grant's finger and toenails.

Comparisons are often drawn between the state of the teeth in the US and then across the pond in the mother country. But, of course, there's much more to it than that.
More details (The Insider)

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