BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for January 3, 2010 - January 9, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

17:04 UK time, Friday, 8 January 2010

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

1. The G-spot nearly came to be known as the Whipple Tickle
More details

2. The average British woman's foot is a size five and a man's is a size nine.
More details

3. You have a legal duty to clear snow and ice from your path if you know it would otherwise be a hazard to people legitimately walking up it.
More details

4. Cleopatra's eye make-up may have protected against disease.
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5. Breast implants can slow you down.
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6. Swiss law allows enormous speeding fines.
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7. The legal limit for flying is nine micrograms of alcohol per 100ml of breath.
More details

8. People are still buying audio cassettes - 8,443 were sold in 2009.
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9. Mobility scooters are exempt from the Road Traffic Act, leaving police powerless to act against examples of careless driving.
More details

10. You can spot signs of high cholesterol from looking at someone.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Vic Barton-Walderstadt for his picture of 10 posts, Welwyn Garden City.

Your Letters

16:00 UK time, Friday, 8 January 2010

Re: Schools urged not to shut in snow. What else then, open the doors so it can escape?
Rik Alewijnse, Feering, UK

The BBC asks how 2010 is different to 1963. I, for one, am glad that in one way it's just like 1963, inasmuch as families can gather around the TV on a Saturday evening to watch Doctor Who!
Glenn, Croydon

Beautiful snap, but isn't it time we stopped calling it a "snap"?
John, Sevenoaks

Oh, the nominative determination here!
Catherine Hall, St Newlyn East, Cornwall

"Turbines in the nine zones could generate up to 32 gigawatts of power, a quarter of the UK's electricity needs." As Olympic-sized swimming pools or areas the size of Wales can't be used in an electical context, it should be pointed out that this is enough energy to power 26.4 DeLoreans fitted with flux capacitors?
The Bob, Glasgow

DON'T use cat litter as grit! (Thursday's letters) It has clay in it, which is 10 times more slippery than ice when its wet!
J, Bath

Oh Liam (Thursday's letters). Thank you so much. Apart from falling off my chair laughing, you have just saved me about 250 hours work per year. LMGTFY is about to become a mainstay of my response armoury.
Kevin Friery, Portsmouth UK

Did I just use the letters form to try and enter the WBQ? (Hangs head in shame)
Ed, Clacton, UK

Caption Competition

13:40 UK time, Friday, 8 January 2010

Comments

Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

twosnowmen_7jan_getty.jpg

This week it was two snowmen on a wall.

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

6. Darth Banana
The day that Nick Park switched to plasticine.

5. lolkat
"Global warming? Hmm, I'm still on the fence."

4. Rob Falconer
"I see that Raymond Briggs next door is scribbling in his notebook again."

3. SeanieSmith
"Daddy, where did I come from?" "Errr, well son - you see there are birds and errr bees and well... No, I'll just tell you straight - somebody threw you."

2. Tancred
"During these final moments of our lives together, as we melt into the emptiness that is water; the fact that I'm missing a button somehow seems slightly trivial, but thanks for mentioning it."

1. j-o-n-a-t-h-a-n
"Dad, why did you and mum call me Puddle?" "Ambition son, ambition."

Paper Monitor

11:49 UK time, Friday, 8 January 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's been a long time. The Independent has a poster front page. No sad-eyed dolphin, though, and no "CRUELTY" headline.

Instead page one is entirely given over to a satellite photo of the UK from above - no green and pleasant land, this, but an entirely white land mass that earns the headline: "Ice land".

The same photo appears in just about all the papers, as it is a striking illustration of the cold snap that has glazed the nation's roads and pavements with ice, closed countless schools - not that many seem prepared to actually do a spot of shovelling or gritting to minimise the risk that has shut the gates - and sent sales of sledges and soup soaring.

The Daily Telegraph headlines it "DEEP FREEZE BRITAIN - Isle of White". Nice work from the subs' desk. Even the Financial Times adorns its page one with this big picture, but with a headline where word play gets nary a look in: "Gas supplies for businesses turned off in struggle to meet record demand." What, you were expecting a pun?

Speaking of headlines, however will the headline writers tackle the task of Jonathan Ross and the BBC parting ways?

"Back to making the tea, Wossy" - Daily Express
"WOSSY WAS WODGERED" - Daily Mirror
"FWOZEN OUT" - Sun
"Humiliated Ross quits BBC" - Daily Mail, which wastes little sympathy on either the man or the corporation. Well, it wouldn't, would it.

In addition to its main news story and comment boards, the Mail has several of its columnists pile in. Scalpel!

Perhaps Paper Monitor didn't know, or has not previously devoted brain space to this factlet, but one points out that his three children are called Betty Kitten, Honey Kinney and Harvey Kirby.

And not a lot of people know that.

Or maybe they do...

Weekly Bonus Question

09:59 UK time, Friday, 8 January 2010

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 not in the form on the right). And since nobody likes a smart alec, kudos will be deducted for predictability in your suggestions.

This week's answer is 49,000 YEARS TO READ OUT.

UPDATE 1604 BST: The correct question is, how many years would it take to read out all of the known digits of Pi, speaking at one number a second? (More details - Times)

Of your wilfully and deliberately wrong questions, we liked:

  • Raven's How long you'd need to read Joan Collins' day-to-a-page diary?
  • Rob Falconer's How long would it take Jonathan Ross to read the news if there were lots of R's in it?
  • Abbotofmelrose's The licence agreement of any software that you install, and just click "I have read and understood..."
  • Prejudiced's Peter Mandelson's job titles?
  • Toffeedaz's And now over to the travel news in your area... where I believe they will be running through a list of all the untreated roads where you live.
  • Darkmarker's How long does it take to read the full list of Ryanair surcharges

Thanks to all who entered.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:22 UK time, Friday, 8 January 2010

"Many readers will be aware that I am at the moment a guest of the United
States. This is not a country club but life here is not uncivilised and has its
entertaining moments"
- Conrad Black on life in a Florida prison.

In British newspapers he is still usually "Lord Black", but to the Federal Bureau of Prisons he is merely Conrad M Black or prisoner number 18330-424, an inmate at Federal Correctional Institution Coleman Low. Black wants Spectator readers to know he is OK. Anyone with a green card and an interest in rehabilitating criminals may want to know that FCI Coleman is urgently hiring correctional officers.
More details (Evening Standard)

Web Monitor

16:40 UK time, Thursday, 7 January 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the roots of British public mourning, political blogging explained using hip-hop, and group theory in the bedroom.

floral tribute• In the Spectator Will Self charts the history of what he calls the death shrine. Starting off with Marc Bolan, candles and flowers started appearing at the sides of roads where there had been an accident. He marks Princess Diana's death as the moment when the shrines became popular but, says that this could actually be a return of a much older practice:

"Grotto-building died out in London by the 1950s, but I think it not unlikely that the buried memory of it has surfaced in the contemporary car-crash shrine. However, this doesn't explain the countrywide phenomenon: we can only attribute it to a resurgence of the 'old religion' - and not simply pre-Reformation Christianity, but the Druidic beliefs in sacred sites that it happily accommodated."

• Why do you bloggers seem to spend half your time attacking each other? So asked a friend of Neil Robertson of the politics blog The Bleeding Heart Show show. Mr Robertson had no answer, so decided to respond using a rap analogy:

"There are two categories of beef. The first is basically a personal vendetta which snowballed out of a few slights (either real or imagined). For example, Tupac's beef with Notorious BIG started because Shakur thought Biggie had tried to kill him.
But it's also created by market forces. Feuding is the rap game's equivalent of quantitative easing: if your sales are sloppy and your commercial stock is low, the best way of getting back into the game is by calling out another rapper. This is why the lowly (but fittingly titled) Game has spent half the year trying to get the better-selling Jay-Z to respond to his disses. If Jay responds, Game's commercial stock soars. Always has, always will."

• Group theory in the bedroom is a title likely to get the pulse rating but it is actually a mathematical quandary worked out by Brian Hayes in American Scientist. Group theory being the study of symmetry, he tries to find a formula for the order in which you should flip your mattress to get the most use out of it. Seven pages later, he doesn't find his golden rule for mattress flipping but insists this isn't distressing him:

"The absence of a golden rule for mattress flipping is a disappointment, but it does not portend the demise of Western Civilization. We can adapt; we can learn to live with it."

He adapts by creating a theory which would work if mattresses were cubes and then suggests you just get married.


Links in full


New StatesmanWill Self | New Statesman | Death shrines
Bleeding Heart ShowNeil Robertson | Bleeding Heart Show | The Rap Fan's Guide To Political Blogging
American ScientistBrian Hayes | American Scientist | Group Theory in the Bedroom

Your Letters

15:23 UK time, Thursday, 7 January 2010

SPOILER ALERT
I am not convinced the 70% increase in cat litter sales during snowy weather is due to it being used to grit driveways (7 questions on snow). As soon as there is the merest threat of snow, my otherwise perfectly house-trained cats started to use the fire grate, the bath and the cupboard under the stairs as indoor toilets. Even when (in desperation) I locked them out the house, they hung on until I let them back in. The snow, at least in my house, has led to a 100% increase in cat litter purchases but none of it is on the path.
Alison Waters, Shepperton

Hurrah, my first ever score of seven on a Magazine quiz. However it was the snow quiz and as a weather forecaster one suspects that anything less that 7 would just not do...
Laura, Weybridge, Surrey

When I go to the car, which I get to via the kitchen, I wear:

  • Thermal top
  • Thermal leggings
  • One woollen short sleeve top
  • One woollen long-sleeved top
  • A fleece
  • A down waist-coat
  • A down jacket
  • A balaclava
  • Gloves
  • Vaseline
My daughter is the same, plus has a blanket and a hottie for the journey to school. Man up a bit, UK!Rachel, Minnetonka


Snow? It's blooming boiling over here.
Stuart, Sydney, formerly Croydon

I'm shocked at how some sick individuals out there can seek to defile the innocence of hardcore porn with depraved footage of Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers.
Kat Gregg, Coventry

Ben Merritt asks how the value of pi to millions of digits can be checked (Wednesday letters). Easy! Just draw a circle, measure the diameter and circumference and divide. You may need a large piece of paper and a lot of pencils.
Geoff Harrison, Alsager

Basil wants to know what a kitten heel is (Wednesday letters). I think I can help.
Liam, Chesterfield, UK

A kitten heel is best described as a baby stiletto: deadly skinny, but only an inch or two tall. They're most useful to three types of women:

  • teenagers learning to walk in heels;
  • professional women whose bosses think Manolo spikes are excessively sexy and comfy courts aren't sexy enough;
  • and Tom Cruise's girlfriends...
Sophie, London, UK


The Guardian's eco-living correspondent apparently thinks people who can't afford wood can afford a briquette press (Wednesday's Paper Monitor). Eco-friendly? OK. Logical? Not so much.
Nadja, Bostonian in Moscow, Russia

Kitten heels. Another name for Puss in Boots perhaps?
Tim D, Sheffield

Re the mini-quiz on the e-book most popular with illegal downloaders. Is it illegal to download the Kama Sutra as its copyright must have expired by now?
Graham, Hayle

Malky (Wednesday letters), I'm not so sure the soporific effect of monitoring a "light" will transfer when monitoring "naked" air passengers.
Patrick Boden, Nottingham

Paper Monitor

12:07 UK time, Thursday, 7 January 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

This epistle has been delayed by the wrong type of snow.

And health and safety concerns.

Short staffing.

A shortage of rock salt.

And signalling problems.

To kill time, you may care to download our bumper issue of The Best of Paper Monitor.

But enough. To business.

There can be no prizes for guessing the theme of the front pages. The weather. But can you match the photo to the newspaper? Answers below.

  • Dad 'n' daughter sledging
  • Snow flurries envelop Houses of Parliament at dusk
  • Home Counties landscape
  • Snow-capped Downing Street bobby
  • Photo illustration of frosty "-10C" overlaying Downing St's door
  • Naomi Campbell in a bikini
  • Smiling snowman
  • Katie Price's on-off boyfriend in the Celebrity Big Brother house

Here are the answers:

  • Sledging - Daily Mail
  • Parliament in snow - Times
  • Landscape - Daily Telegraph
  • Bobby on beat - Guardian
  • Frosty -10C - Sun
  • Bikini - Daily Express
  • Snowman - Independent
  • Jordan's man - Daily Star

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:57 UK time, Thursday, 7 January 2010

"One year the shorts stayed on and then I just found it was my fingertips that got cold" - Postman Jason Urwin, who does his rounds with bare legs - even in snow.

The Shropshire postie has worn his uniform of blue shorts every day since he started work four years ago, and vows not to change the habit despite the cold snap.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Web Monitor

16:11 UK time, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: answering the unanswerable, fake countries and fugitive hero status.

• Slate magazine's unanswerable question of 2009 was "If a Siamese twin commits murder, does his brother get punished, too?" A reader vote demanded some kind of answer to the question so writer Daniel Engber gave it a go. The nearest he came to an answer was by looking at a pregnant convict, as the hypothetical case had no legal precedent:

"That said, there have been a few recorded instances of conjoined criminality. By one account, the original Siamese twins, Chang and Eng Bunker, were arrested over a scuffle with a doctor who tried to examine them, but never prosecuted. Nor were they ever charged with bigamy, despite having taken two wives."

• Fake countries have to try harder, says Graeme Wood in Foreign Policy. He takes a trip around what he calls Limbo World - the areas which want to be their own countries. He's taken a trip from Somaliland to Kurdistan going to ministries and collecting visas for countries that don't exist. His best anecdote goes like this:

"On my most recent visit to the Republic of Abkhazia, a country that does not exist, I interviewed the deputy foreign minister, Maxim Gundjia, about the foreign trade his country doesn't have with the real countries that surround it on the Black Sea. Near the end of our chat, he paused, looked down at my leg, and asked why I was bleeding on his floor. I told him I had slipped a few hours before and ripped a hole in my shin, down to the bone, about the size of a one-ruble coin. Blood had soaked through the gauze, and I needed stitches. 'You can go to our hospital, but you will be shocked by the conditions,' Gundjia said. So he pointed me to the building next door, where in about 20 minutes I had my leg propped up on a dark wooden desk and was wincing at the sting of a vigorous alcohol-swabbing by the health minister himself. I was not accustomed to such personalized government service."

• If you haven't already heard of him, Colton Harris-Moore is an 18-year-old fugitive in the US. Bob Friel at Outside magazine gets us up-to-speed on the teenager who, he says, has gained hero status on Facebook for allegedly stealing a couple of planes. Friel delves into who would support him:

Colt's Facebook fan club now has more than 9,000 members. A big Swedish contingent came aboard recently, along with a number of marriage and wanna-do-you proposals and plenty of helpful suggestions for the 'Barefoot Burglar', such as 'You should steal the space shuttle.'"

Links in full

SlateDaniel Engber | Slate | What if a Siamese Twin Commits Murder?
Foreign PolicyGraeme Wood | Foreign Policy | Limbo World
see alsoBob Friel | Outside | The Ballad of Colton Harris-Moore


Your Letters

15:37 UK time, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

As far as my fairly mathematically-limited brain knows, there is no known pattern to the constant pi. So by calculating an *extra* 123 billion previously unknown digits, how does anyone know any of them are correct?
Ben Merritt, Sheffield, England

So Mr Bellard, who has dedicated goodness knows how much of his time to develop a programme that calculates pi to 2.7 trillion digits, and invested in a giant hard drive on which to store this 49,000-years-to-recite figure, is "not especially interested in the digits of pi"? I'd love to see him going all out on something he does care about.
Kat Gregg, Coventry

Since the first complaint about English binge-drinking was raised by St Boniface in the Eighth Century, I wonder if James Nicholls has looked quite hard enough (Web Monitor).
Jane Stevenson, Turriff

Re Err on a G-spot, I am reminded of the joke about the woman who was taking a drug which had the side effect of giving her an orgasm every time she sneezed. When asked if she was taking anything for the side effect she said, "Yes, pepper".
John Airey @BBC News Magazine

Paper Monitor asks on Twitter "do you know the *fashion way* to wear a belt in 2010?" The technically correct way to express that would be "do you know the *~*fashion way*~* to wear a belt in 2010?"
absintherobette @bbc_magazine

I still have no idea what a kitten heel is (Paper Monitor).
Basil Long, Nottingham
Monitor note: Can anyone help Basil?

When I worked in a new whisky bottling plant in the 1960s, on each bottling line there was a station at which someone was expected to sit facing a light which revealed any foreign matter in the bottles. Within several minutes of going on the light, the person on duty started to nod off. I suggest full-body scanners will have the same effect.
Malky Cameron, Perth

Sue - no! Michael Hall - yes (Tuesday letters). The answer to banana cake is yes - just made some. Adrian - I didn't know that. Woodchopper - I've seen him too.
Sorry if I missed anyone ...
Maggie, south London

Just wondering if Tall Tone from "Snowless Essex" is still boasting the same call sign today?
Shiz, Cheshire, UK

Paper Monitor

11:43 UK time, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

At last, a use for newspapers. Burn 'em.

This is the suggestion from the Guardian for those who are chilly, in possession of a fireplace and short of coal and firewood. The peg is a spuriously-sourced piece in Tuesday's Metro, in which an unnamed charity shop assistant in an unnamed charity shop in Swansea said pensioners were buying old books to burn as fuel.

The Guardian's eco-living correspondent is aghast at the idea of book burning, and suggests phone directories and cowpats instead.

"If you're still intent on combusting hard-crafted words, then you might as well set fire to this very newspaper instead. Buy yourself a briquette press, soak a load of old copies in the bath, then spend a few hours making your own paper briquettes. Once dry, they will burn much like logs."

Meanwhile, 'tis the season for turning over a new leaf. At the start of the week, the papers latched onto diet tips and boot camp-style fitness regimes. Today the fashion desks carve the new year's fashion commandments on stone tablets.

So what to wear in 2010?

Sugar-almond shades of lemon yellow, ice blue and blush pink, says the Daily Telegraph. And kitten heels. Yes, they're back from the 90s. And bodysuits. No word on whether designers have nailed the issue of poppers. (Paper Monitor doesn't know any of you well enough to explain in any more detail.)

The Guardian piles in with ankle boots, double denim, pale shades - "rose pink, oyster, putty" - and chinos, another refugee from the 90s.

"Question - How does a pair of chinos get promoted from Sarah Palin territory to fashion basic? Answer - you roll them up.
Pale grey takes them further up the fashion food chain and makes them very easy to combine with your new pale blazer."

It gets even more confusing on the issue of belts.
"Nothing says you 'get it' like wearing a basic belt in the 'right' way. 2010 is all about the slim belt with a slightly worn feel. The fashion way to wear it is to do the buckle up then pull the end down straight rather than threading it through the loops."

Um. Don't get it.

Ah! Now you're talking... the Times's fashion editor turns her attention to snow boots and picks seven cosy styles with "that all-important traction". Sensible lass. And its Mutton Dressed As Lad column champions long-johns.

Sensible. Very sensible.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

08:25 UK time, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

"The culprit behaved himself becomingly on so solemn an occasion and ascended the scaffold without assistance" - Nathaniel Bryceson on witnessing the execution of Samuel Quennell in 1846

Archive entries from the diary of Nathaniel Bryceson are being posted online by Westminster City Council. On 5 January 1846 Bryceson witnessed two public executions - those of Martha Browning and Quennell - as well as enjoying his annual sprat supper.
More details (Westminster City Council)

Web Monitor

15:52 UK time, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the economising economists, looking back at binge drinking and mobiles across the world.

walletJustin Lahart in the Wall Street Journal delves into the world of economists to see how much scrimping and saving goes on in their private lives. He detects a trend for economists to be more likely to be free-loading cheapskates and notes that it stretches back quite a bit:

"Some of the world's most famous economists were famously frugal. After a dinner thrown by the British economic giant John Maynard Keynes, writer Virginia Woolf complained that the guests had to pick 'the bones of Maynard's grouse of which there were three to eleven people.' Milton Friedman, the late Nobel laureate, routinely returned reporters' calls collect."

After the Christmas-New Year break, the relationship with alcohol is often reconsidered. James Nicholls in History Today suggests that we are being fooled into thinking binge drinking is traditional in Britain:

"Worrying about drink may be as British as talking about the weather, but binge drinking is not as British as rain and the danger of believing otherwise is that, to echo George Gascoigne, recent fashions will be misperceived as entrenched traditions and thereby reinforced. History doesn't tell us any simple stories when it comes to the place of alcohol in British society. But, if we are right to be concerned about recent trends, then this complexity should be embraced."

The Economist reports that although technology often spreads in a similar way across the world, mobile phone usage differs widely. Anthropologists studying mobile phone subcultures (Web Monitor kids you not) have been looking into it:

"In hot India, for instance, men rarely wear jackets, but their shirts have pockets to hold phones - which therefore cannot be large. Indian women keep phones in colourful pouches, less as a fashion statement than as a way to protect the devices and preserve their resale value. It also makes for a noteworthy contrast with Japan, says Ms Jung. If women there keep phones in a pouch and decorate them with stickers and straps, that has nothing to do with economics, but reflects the urge to personalise the handset. Phones are highly subsidised in Japan and the resale value is essentially nil, so it is not unusual to see lost units lying in the gutter."

Links in full

Wall Street JournalJustin Lahart | Wall Street Journal | Secrets of the Economist's Trade
see alsoJames Nicholls | History Today | Drink: The British Disease?
EconomistEconomist | The Apparatgeist calls

Your Letters

15:17 UK time, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

"Whole Body Imaging (WMI)" - would you trust security to someone whose spelling is so bad?
Liz, Belfast

cameron_5jan_getty.jpgIs David Cameron releasing his greatest hits album (re photo, right)?
Dylan, Reading, UK

Are mobility scooters becoming a road menace? Yep. Saw an old bloke clip a pedestrian the other day. Must have been doing 15-20 mph on a crowded pavement.
woodchopper @BBC_magazine

Re the mini-quiz, just in case someone hasn't already complained...
£1 at 6/5 *wins* £1.20. Your stake is returned so that £2.20 is what you take back from the bookie. But if you hadn't bet in the first place, you'd still have £1.
Tall Tone, Snowless Essex
Monitor note: While on the subject, apologies for the technical gremlins which plagued this and other offerings.

The picture of the Queen in Wills defends the Queen shows her with flowers in her left hand. OK. Not unusual for Her Majesty. But there are two bananas in her right hand. Why? Healthy mid-morning snack?
Adam, London
Monitor note: To make banana cake? Those look awfully ripe.

Re Rob Falconer's letter and "Hole of a town. Everyone is pregnant. No Starbucks. Hoodies dominate the streets". I knew he wasn't talking about Croydon, as we have three Starbucks.
Michael Hall, Croydon, UK

Am I the only one who would cite the absence of a Starbucks as a positive?
Sue, London

My local supermarket has Christmas candy on its shelves, with a note saying "Before you know it it's Christmas again" (Easter Eggwatch in past letters). This must be the earliest sign of Christmas 2010 in any shop.
Johan van Slooten, Urk, The Netherlands

Alan (Monday letters), the collective term for bankers is "wunch". That should help.
Adrian Fowell, Douglas, Isle of Man

Paper Monitor

11:30 UK time, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"We can't go on like this."

Sound familiar? That's because the phrase the Tories have adopted as their electioneering slogan has been put to many and varied uses in the past, notes the Daily Telegraph. And not just by Margaret Thatcher, who deployed it regularly.

"The phrase appears in dozens of films including Withnail & I, the classic British comedy about penniless actors that came out in cinemas in 1986, when Mr Cameron was at Oxford University. In one of the scenes, the main character, played by Richard E Grant, declares: 'We've got to get some booze. It's the only solution to this intense cold. Something's got to be done. We can't go on like this. I'm a trained actor reduced to the status of a bum.'"

Make of this what you will.

cameron_poster5jan_getty.jpgMeanwhile, it's only been running two days, but Paper Monitor's new strand Premature Eleculation Monitor - to track when exactly the general election campaign begins - is keeping busy.

This is because HM Press is very fond of repeatedly spotting drawn battle lines, fired starting guns and opened salvos.

For the Daily Telegraph, Labour launched its election campaign on Monday. No, wait, read further into its front page story: "On what was the first day of the unofficial election campaign..." (Paper Monitor's italics).

There's nothing unofficial about it for the Sun, which devotes much of pages eight and nine to a cartoon of Brown, Cameron and Clegg in jogging clobber, sprinting across the starting line. One race official says to another: "They DO know it's a MARATHON, don't they?"

So how long a marathon are we talking? Political editor Tom Newton Dunn thinks he knows:

"IT was only day one of a 123-day General Election campaign. Staggering I know, but that's how long we've got to go if Gordon plumps for May 6, as everyone now expects."

The Times - the Sun's sister paper - begs to differ, predicting a polling date in April.

But enough crystal ball gazing. Times sketch writer Ann Treneman poses a far more intriguing question.

"I spent the rest of the launch trying to figure out if Big Dave had been Botoxed and if he'd added a shadow of a manly moustache to his upper lip. Later I actually measured one eye: it was almost a foot across."

So what's the answer - is this the unvarnished David Cameron? Treneman provides no hint as to an answer.

So who will ask? Why, the Daily Mail of course:
"A Tory official denied that Mr Cameron's photograph had undergone major airbrushing to enhance his appearance but conceded there may have been minor touching up."

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:41 UK time, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

"A cougar is eating Angel!" - A Canadian boy raises the alarm as his golden lab defends him against a hungry mountain cat.

While collecting firewood in his garden, Austin Forman, 11, notices his dog Angel started acting strangely, shadowing his every move. The reason soon becomes apparent - a cougar charges out of the dusk straight at him. But Angel leaps at the big cat, and the boy runs inside. A mountain ranger responds to the family's call for help, and shoots the cougar as it savages the dog.
Angel is recovering, and Austin now does his chores during daylight hours.
More details (Globe and Mail)

Your Letters

17:20 UK time, Monday, 4 January 2010

Re Antartica plane remains 'found'. Well, it would, wouldn't it? Unless it was lost again.
Jenny T, NY Brit

No 52 of "100 things..." isn't strictly true, as it refers to a period of time millions of years ago, when Zimbabwe wasn't called Zimbabwe. Until 1980, it was called Rhodesia. Possibly it was even called something else again millions of years ago.
Adam, London, UK

Presumably the 'fatties roaming the site' use extra-broadband.
Mike, Newcastle upon Tyne

Re. the mini quiz on a child's first word, my grandson's was "arab" (we still don't know why!) whereas my eldest grandaughter's was "Nana" (cue smiling me!), we're waiting with anticipation for the youngest grandaughter although with two elder siblings it will probably be "no"!
Sue, Wootton Bassett, UK

Following Eggwatch in your letters, in one aisle in a local supermarket this weekend, we saw Easter Eggs, Hot cross buns, Valentine's chocolates and Christmas goods sharing shelf space - but no Halloween candies.
Richard, Picton, Canada

I spotted Malteaster Bunnies on sale in WH Smith today (3 Jan). Not only is this far too early, but a terrible pun.
Andrew, Reading

"Hole of a town. Everyone is pregnant. No Starbucks. Hoodies dominate the streets" (Monday's Quote of the Day). OK, so it was Lowestoft ... but you had to read it to check it wasn't your town, didn't you?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Maybe the sea lions just don't like parties?
Ann Cooper, Orpington, England

Mariam (Friday letters), in Britain it is perfectly acceptable for people not to be able to count. In fact we often give them huge pensions for not being able to count. The people that get these pensions are called useless bankers (or something close).
Alan Addison, Glasgow, UK

Web Monitor

14:41 UK time, Monday, 4 January 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: star predictions, the rise of the super-accent and male ballerinas.

Bono• In the New York Times Bono makes his predictions for the next 10 years. Among his thoughts about piracy (which have attracted criticism), car design and future polluters is one about a music festival for the three Abrahamic religions:

"Here's something that could never have happened in the Naughts but will maybe be possible in the Tweens or Teens - if there's a breakthrough in the Mideast peace process. The idea is an arts festival that celebrates the origin of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Every year it could be held in a different location; Jerusalem would obviously be the best place to start. In Ireland, at the height of the 'Troubles,' it was said that the only solution for rabid sectarianism was to let 1,000 punk-rock bands bloom: music helped create a free space for dialogue (of a high-volume variety). So no politicians allowed. Artists only."
Foster Kamer at Gawker was not impressed with the list, asking Bono to be more partisan over international conflicts. He gave his own scathing recommendations for Bono including:
"Stop it with the Jesus complex. Are you Bono? Yes. Are you Jesus? No."


• The accent, it seems, is not dying out, according to Dominic Tobin and Jonathan Leake in the Sunday Times. They report the resilience of urban accents in the UK as one of the most marked trends of recent years. And outside cities, language experts at York and Lancaster's universities have found regional "super-accents".

If you're underwhelmed not being able to hear the differences in the written article, take an audio journey around the UK's accents with the BBC's Voices project, or there is also the British Library's archive of accents charting the change in accents over the past 50 years.

Desert Island Disc's interview with opera director John Copley brought up an uncomfortable moment for presenter Kirsty Young. Copley, whose father called him a "pansy", didn't always want to be an opera singer, instead opting for ballet, which led to this exchange between the two (half an hour in):

"Young: You did want to be a ballerina.
Copley: Well a ballet dancer.
Young: Yes sorry, all this talk of pansies has rather thrown me.
Copley: I probably did want to be a ballerina."

Once Web Monitor's toes had uncurled, the question remained: what do you call a male ballet dancer? Thankfully this has been answered by a ballet graduate in Answerbag:

"Okay, here it is. Male ballet dancers are called Danseurs, sometimes Danseur Nobel if they are a 'star'. Most refer to themselves as the same as the women do, as 'ballet dancers.' Ballerinas are only called that if they are the star principal dancers in a company. Sometimes you are referred to by your rank in the company such as Principal (Etoiles), soloist, or corps. de ballet."


Links in full


New York TimesBono | New York Times | Ten for the Next Ten
see alsoFoster Kamer | Gawker | Ten Ideas for Bono
TimesDominic Tobin and Jonathan Leake | Times | Regional accents thrive against the odds
BBCBBC | Voices
British LibraryBritish Library | Changing Voices
BBCKirsty Young | BBC Radio 4 | John Copley on Desert Island Discs
Answer BagAnswer Bag | What do you call male ballet dancers?


Paper Monitor

12:39 UK time, Monday, 4 January 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

A new year deserves a new strand - so all hail the launch of Premature Eleculation Monitor.

At the heart of the idea is when exactly the general election campaign begins.

According to Monday's Guardian it was yesterday, when Gordon Brown appeared on the Andrew Marr show and David Cameron was pictured cradling a baby.

"The battle lines for the general election were drawn yesterday," says today's Guardian.

Not so, according to the Times, which tells us the "Labour leadership [will] fire its opening shot in the election campaign today"

But all this looks positively tardy when you consider the number of times HM Press has already announced the, ahem, opening salvo of the general election campaign.

There was GB's New Year's statement - noted in the Scotsman from Wednesday last week thus:

"Gordon Brown fires the starting gun on the 2010 general election campaign today, using his New Year's message to attack the Conservatives as the party of the 'privileged few'."

Back in April 2009, the tone for the election campaign was set by the chancellor, who a few months later fired the starting gun.

But was he too late? Had the gun already been fired by his boss in the Queen's Speech? The following month the Pre-Budget Report was hailed as another signal the election campaign was under way, although disappointingly no mention of guns, opening salvoes, battle lines etc...

In other news...

Maybe it's a sign of the slow start back to work after the Christmas break, but the Daily Mail is reprinting world records that, well, aren't true.

To be precise they've just been made up by a trio of comedians. Example:

"Most misquoted phrase: 'the world is my oyster'. Invariably used to mean 'the world is at my feet.' Which is not what it means at all... The phrase means 'I will have to use force to get what I want.'"

Flick forward nine pages to p24, and alongside a story about the "suicidal despair of 1 in 3 young jobless" there's a case study of 21-year-old Daniel Abbott.

It starts like this...

"When Daniel Abbott finished his IT diploma at the age of 21, he thought the world was his oyster."

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:49 UK time, Monday, 4 January 2010

"Hole of a town. Everyone is pregnant. No Starbucks. Hoodies dominate the streets" - Panto star attacks Lowestoft, is booed on stage, then retracts.

Owen Woodgate, Prince Charming in Cinderella at the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft, got himself in trouble when he slated the Suffolk town on a well known micro-blogging site. Fortunately Twitter allows you to delete posts. Unfortunately, Google has something called cache.
More details (the Times)

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