BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for January 24, 2010 - January 30, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

17:22 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010

10birthdaycandles29jan.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. By 57, men tend to wear their trousers just seven inches below their armpit.
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2. Running barefoot may pose less risk for injury than wearing running shoes.
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3. Motor home owners in the UK need a professional licence to drive one of the "homes on wheels". Not those in the US.
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4. Swans divorce.
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5. Texting may help children learn to spell btr.
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6. Some dinosaurs were ginger.
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7. Haggis has been banned in the US since 1989.
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8. Among the first ever vacancies listed at early job centres were piano regulator, picture frame gilder and "girl confectioner's packer".
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9. Mackenzie Crook keeps tortoises and three of them star in his latest play.
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10. Face blindness - difficulty in remembering faces - is called prosopagnosia.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Anita Bekker for this week's picture of 10 birthday candles on her daughter's cake.

Your Letters

16:45 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010

I'm the Monitor and so is my wife.
Tim G, Helston, Cornwall

No I'm the Monitor and so is my wife!
Matt, Croydon

No, I'm the Monitor!
J Paul Murdock, Wall Heath, West Midlands, UK

No! I'm the Monitor.
Paul I, St. G, Cornwall

I am Monitor... and so is my wife!
Paul Lawrence, Cirencester

Actually, my wife's the Monitor!
Ed S, Hong Kong

No, I'm Monitor!
Alexander Lewis Jones, Nottingham, UK

I haven't seen Avatar and I'm not the Monitor! I am, however, Spartacus.
Eleanor, Jersey

No, I'm the Monitor!
John Mac, London

I'm Paper Monitor, and so is my wife.
AD, London

No, I'm Paper Monitor...
AD, London

Monitor note: *Sigh* No, you're not the Monitor. You're all very naughty boys and girls.

Caption Competition

13:37 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week, a street encased in bubble wrap. (Anyone else itching to get popping?)

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

6. Raven
"Typical! The one day of the week you pop out, and that's the day they try to deliver everything."

5. Noel
"... and, as a result, they've taken £10 off my excess!"

4. HaveGavel
"Am I on drugs again?"

3. fandango2
Where Are They Now? Episode 1: The Andrex Puppy.

2. Kudosless
Google Street Wrap.

1. Clarence_E_Pitts
"...and this weekend Millwall are away to Windsor Athletic."

Paper Monitor

12:27 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

On Thursday, an editorial in the Guardian assessed Apple's new creation, the iPad, and concluded: "Is that it?"

Clearly not, given the six pages devoted to it in Friday's paper, which asks, without a hint of irony: "Much ado about nothing?" This is in addition to the many, many column inches it devoted to the topic on Thursday.

As the Magazine pointed out yesterday, Wednesday was a bad day for a good product launch.

The Guardian's coverage today runs to:

Paper Monitor would inform you, lovely reader, of their conclusions. But by this stage your humble columnist feels rather as if it has swallowed a bucket of syrup and needs to wash its delicate pallate with something quite bitter.

How fortunate that Marina Hyde's Lost in Showbiz - a saloon bar specialising in delicious acerbic cocktails - is just a few pages away.

Which to choose from the menu? Perhaps a tall, cool shot at famous waistlines - straight up, no ice:

"It is an immutable law that there is only a finite amount of fat in the celebrity universe, which can be neither created nor destroyed. It can be merely transferred from one star to another, and chronicling that endless migration is worth over £38bn annually to the celebrity magazine economy.
The exodus of subcutaneous lipids from former EastEnders stars is a particularly fascinating sight - in fact, it helps to think of it as the industry's wildebeest migration."

Ahhhh - a refreshing draught indeed!

Weekly Bonus Question

11:12 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010


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 108 GOALS.

UPDATE 1800 GMT: The correct answer was something about football and some team that's conceded that many goals.

Of your self-consciously wrong answers, we liked, in no particular order:

  • FilboidStudge's I think it's something to do with Canadian ice hockey, but I can never remember how to do the conversion to Fahrenheit.
  • BeckySnow's What's an ambitious score if you're flicking paper balls and the cat's in goal?
  • EnfieldBlues [14]'s What would make a game of cricket entertaining for an American audience?
  • MightyGiddyUpGal wrote: Is that why they call it fantasy football, dear?
  • Kipson's What do we need to solve the prison over crowding crisis?...... Oh! Sorry.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:26 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010

"I told them I didn't want to see anything like that ever again. It was kindergarten behaviour" - theatre director Oliver Reese chides his cast for swapping water for vodka

A play in a prestigious Frankfurt theatre went awry when four of Germany's top actors decided to substitute vodka for water. The performance, an adaptation of the novel Moscow To the End of the Line, involves what the programme describes as a "crazy depiction of one of the most famous alcoholic benders in world literature". The show ended with one of the actors being carted off to hospital in an ambulance to have his stomach pumped.
More details (the Guardian)

Web Monitor

16:34 UK time, Thursday, 28 January 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today on Web Monitor: Ozzy Osbourne's kind of autobiography, the source of a Hollywood producer's outburst and slum chic.

Ozzy Osbourne• Ozzy Osbourne has been promoting his autobiography. Actually, perhaps "autobiography" is not the mot juste, since none of it was written by Osbourne. Talking to Cole Louison at GQ he admitted (in his usual colourful language) that he never put pen to paper. Otherwise he wouldn't have got anywhere:

"I'd still be writing the first page. I got a ghostwriter, Chris [Ayres], and he was relatively easy to work with. I have a thousand and one stories, so went pretty quickly. We actually had enough for two books."

Web Monitor previously mentioned an outburst from Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in the blog Letters of Note. The letter complained that director Errol Morris was so boring in an interview promoting his film that there may be need for an actor to play him in future. Now blogger Jason Kottke has tracked down what seems likely to be the NPR radio interview which provoked such a reaction.

• Believe it or not, slums are fast becoming fashionable among town planners, Stewart Brand at Prospect magazine reports. Praised for their "walkability", if not their hygiene and living standards, they are also noted for their thriving business life:

"Alleyways in squatter cities, for example, are a dense interplay of retail and services -- one-chair barbershops and three-seat bars interspersed with the clothes racks and fruit tables. One proposal is to use these as a model for shopping areas."

Links in full

GQCole Louison | GQ | Yes, Ozzy Osbourne Wrote A Book (Kinda)
NPRErrol Morris | NPR | Filmmaker as Detective
ProspectStewart Brand | Prospect | How slums can save the planet

Your Letters

15:46 UK time, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Some say he's sold 25m crime novels. All we know is he's called The Stieg.
leebroughall @BBC_magazine

Very interesting quote. It is right of course both from a humane point of view but also I would imagine in terms of productivity if we take the longer view.
John Eacott, London

Regarding today's quote - what! £2,400 for a 72-page book - blimey. Talk about stress.
Trina, UK

Who knew Gordon Brown had turned in to King Knut?
Lee Heyes, Swindon

Re place name pronunciation. My North-of-England boyfriend keeps telling me that there is no "R" in Bath. I reply that there is both an "L" and a "W" in Alnwick.
Susan, Newcastle (previously Kent)

Perhaps Fry was on his way to visit Laurie (Paper Monitor). May we keep him too?
Candace, New Jersey, US

Tell Alex in Bristol (Wednesday's letters) that I must be the Monitor as I've not seen Avatar. Indeed I've not seen Titanic either, though I do know how it ends.
Liam Higgins, N Ireland

Me too I'm afraid; don't even know what its about except that there are some blue people in it. And I'm not Monitor.
PollySaxon, Cornwall

Oh my God. Alex (Wednesday's letters), I haven't seen Avatar. I must be Monitor. All these years and I never realised.
Louisa Hibble, Leicester, UK

Monitor note: No, I'm the Monitor!

Paper Monitor

12:09 UK time, Thursday, 28 January 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It is as predictable as getting a random Australian celebrity who, handily, lives in the UK to launch your cafe chain's take on an Antipodean coffee classic (despite his having no known previous attachment to flat whites, see mini-quiz - or caffeine).

Paper Monitor is talking about a) Stephen Fry in San Francisco as Apple's guest and b) the papers quoting him on how much he likes their new supersize iPhone (minus the phone). Well he would, wouldn't he?

Couldn't the iHype team have shown a bit more imagination and flown out, oh, Betty White from Golden Girls or, um, Today's Jim Naughtie whipped into an especially curmudgeonly mood for the occasion? If he'd liked it, Paper Monitor might have paid some attention.

So. Let's play... drum roll please... Fryspotting.

(People in glass houses... Fry crops up in a bulletin from this parish too.)

So, a lot less Fry than initially expected. Glad one didn't place any bets, despite being tempted.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror's digital content director gets an extra-special mention for plugging the virtues of his own paper while writing in another

"There are certain parts of the UK where it's not best advised to prance about with 500 quids worth of shiny new tech. No one ever mugged anyone for a copy of the Mirror."

As does the Independent's Nicholas Lezard for explaining how his friends without mobile phones communicate:

"I was late for a rendezvous with one of them. He wrote 'in the pub' on the back of an envelope and pushed it through my letterbox. 'I got your text,' I said when I hooked up with him a bit later."

Paper Monitor is rather taken with this method of texting.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:05 UK time, Thursday, 28 January 2010

"It's OK to be inconsistent, fail, stop competing, be mad, sad and glad, switch off, daydream, relax, cry, show my feelings, need people, please myself, do what I want, be me" - advice in a new Stress Awareness and Management manual for Treasury staff.

The manual, which cost £2,400 to print and is 72-pages long, has been issued to all staff in the department. It's certainly been a tough year, with Britain's faltering economy, and the manual sets out ways to recognise and deal with stress. The government "supports its staff", said a spokesman.

Your Letters

16:18 UK time, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Re How to Say: The "t" in Port-au-Prince is not silent in its French pronunciation - it is followed by a vowel so is pronounced in much the same way as your Haitian Creole example.
Steph, Glasgow

No discussion of easily mispronounced placenames (How to Say and Tuesday letters) is complete without a recognition of the withering look of cold death you'll get from any Cornishman should you fail to pronounce Mousehole correctly. It's a mistake you only make once...
Ashley Pearson, Hull (but raised in Cornwall)

Try and pronounce my name Ruaridh. It is pronounced Roo-Ree. But it isn't spelt like it. It is Gaelic for Red King or King of the Red Heads.
Ruaridh Williams, Colwyn Bay

Re Quote of the Day: I'm sure by now you've received a chorus of smug observations that "Hallelujah" is used in the film. I'm sure there's a pun in there, but I can't quite get a Handel on it.
Edward Green, London, UK
Monitor note: Thank you. The colleagues who've seen it forgot that point, even under direct interrogation.

So, we may not yet know the Monitor's gender, but we do know s/he is one of the few people left in the world who hasn't seen Avatar. Narrows it down.
Alex, Bristol

Mmmmm, 2 out 7 in the Pay Gap quiz. Poor.
Dave, Swindon, UK

The pay gap quiz was interesting. I wonder if anybody realises that professional commercial archaeologists, who often have two or more degrees, earn less than traffic wardens? In some companies it is as little as £13,000 a year. The commercial archaeology sector is a part of the construction industry, with archaeological excavations often required by planning law prior to building. To us it has always been about the love of the profession, but there cannot be another job which requires such extensive professional qualifications and training, which pays so proportionally little. Most similarly qualified people in other professional industries (engineering, commercial geology etc) actually start on what we expect to end up on if we stay in the commercial sector for 10 or 15 years. It is depressing to realise your dream job after years of study will pay you less than if you were a traffic warden.
Alexandra, Reading, UK

Joel (Tuesday Letters),"an university education" is incorrect actually. If the letter at the start of the following word sounds like a consonant, then we use "a". If it sounds like a vowel then "an" - in modern English anyway. At work, I park in an NHS car park, not a NHS car park. But I've not been to uni - so I'm probably wrong and I've probably got issues about it.
Claire, Kent

I definitely got a university education.
Alexander Lewis Jones, Nottingham, UK

I looked.
And I saw the BBC's status update.
And lo! There was a bit of a typo.
And in the distance I heard a raven cawing.
But that was nothing to do with the typo, it just added a bit of atmosphere.... See more
So I thought I'd include it.
Michael Thomas, via @BBC News Magazine

Sarah (Tuesday letters), in that classic Not the Nine O'Clock News sketch, what Gerald the Gorilla actually said was: "It's a whoop of gorillas, professor, a whoop. It's a flange of baboons."
Helene Parry, S Wales expat to Brentford

Web Monitor

15:26 UK time, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: a dying music genre, how to sell a movie and confessions of a book pirate.

US indie band Fleet Foxes• It's fun for cultural commentators to pronounce musical genres dead. But for Rachel Maddux at Paste magazine, when she proclaimed indie music dead, she had another problem: defining what it is. She gives it a go:

"Indie is, at once, a genre (of music first, and then of film, books, video games and anything else with a perceived arty sensibility, regardless of its relationship to a corporation), an ethos, a business model, a demographic and a marketing tool. It can signify everything, and it can signify nothing. It stands among the most important, potentially sustainable and meaningful movements in American popular culture - not just music, but for the whole cultural landscape. But because it was originally sculpted more in terms of what it opposed than what it stood for, the only universally held truth about 'indie' is that nobody agrees on what it means."

• The blog Letters of Note collects correspondence they say deserves a wider audience. They've published a letter from the Hollywood studio head Harvey Weinstein to documentary maker Errol Morris after a promotional interview for the film, which later went on to win many awards. The producer finished with the greatest put down Web Monitor has seen:

"If you continue to be boring, I will hire an actor in New York to pretend that he's Errol Morris. If you have any casting suggestions, I'd appreciate that."

• In anticipation of e-readers increasing book piracy, much like film and music piracy. C Max Magee at the Millions found someone who pirates books now. Calling themselves "The Real Caterpillar" they told the Millions the whole process can take over 40 hours for one book, which begs the question why bother:

"The dearth of material I was interested in is what prompted me to scan in the past, in order to share some of my favorite, less popular authors with as many people as possible... I assume they [pirated books] are primarily produced by individuals like me - bibliophiles who want to share their favorite books with others. They likely own hundreds of books, and when asked what their favorite book is look at you like you are crazy before rattling of 10-15 authors, and then emailing you later with several more. The next time you see them, they have a bag of 5-10 books for you to borrow."

Links in full

The Millions
C. Max Magee | The Millions | Confessions of a Book Pirate
Letters of NoteYou're boring | Letters of Note
Paste MagazineRachael Maddux | Paste Magazine | Is Indie Dead?

Paper Monitor

11:03 UK time, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

If there's a limit to the emotional reach of newspapers, it could perhaps be put down to their reliance on standard prose. But two papers today use poetry in an effort to get to readers' emotional core.

The Daily Mirror runs the poem Trout Fishing in memory of journalist Rupert Hamer, killed in Afghanistan this month while on assignment for sister paper the Sunday Mirror. The poem was read at his funeral, held yesterday.

The Times showcases a moving extract from Christopher Reid's collection of poems in memory of his late wife. It has just won the Costa literary prize.

And staying with the Times, the paper has an exclusive of poet Simon Armitage's tribute to Madeleine McCann, who has been missing for 1,000 days.

Inside the T2 supplement, the paper's literary editor Erica Wagner writes about the tradition of commemorating news events through poetry. And just in case you thought this was a lot of effort for a one-off, there's a trail to a poetry special in this Saturday's Times, to include, yes, a wall-chart.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:35 UK time, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

"Avatar Hallelujah Mountain" - New name for Chinese mountain said to have inspired the hit film's floating islands.

chinese_mountains226getty.jpgA Chinese Government website claims a Hollywood photographer spent time shooting the striking rocky columns in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (pictured right) in 2008 in preparation for the film.

It's clear where the "Avatar" part of the name came from; but why "Hallelujah" - unless it's an allusion to the peak's previous name, which translates as Southern Sky Column or South Pillar of Heaven.
More details

Your Letters

17:08 UK time, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

"Other birds may nest-hop like avian Colin Farrells" (Paper Monitor, Tuesday) - does this mean that there is more than one Colin Farrell? If that is the case, I would like to put my name down now to claim one of the delightful creatures as my own. Thanking you muchly.
Emily Parry, Portsmouth, UK

I've always understood that when Van Gogh lived in London, his name was written down in the register of the church he attended. It would have been written down as he said it, and I believe that it was written down as Van Goff. That might not be the precise spelling of the name in the church register, but certainly suggests that Vincent said his name with the "ff" at the end.
Nicola, Basing, England

As an MA Fine Art Student I often avoid referring to artists I can't pronounce, in an oral session at least, rather than face red-faced humiliation when I stumble. I was thinking about writing a book with the correct name pronounciations for those students such as myself or art enthusiasts... anyone want to contribute?
Amanda, Horley

Web Monitor, I think you mean turtles. That said Not the Nine o'clock news managed to change the collective noun for baboons to a whoop, maybe we collective power of the bbc can change the collective noun for turtles (or tortoises) to a ninja.
Sarah, Colchester

To the frustrated Kaylie (Monday letters): I think you mean "I didn't get *an* university education", but don't worry about it.
Joel Horne, Tokyo, Japan

Re: Kaylie from Runcorn. Its alright, for those of us who are doing a degree, the ability to express ourselves comes from all the practice at writing complaints letters to the student loan company, and starting Facebook campaigns on how badly run a course can be.
Chris K, Guildford

Andrew, (Letters, Monday) if you think you've got problems explaining the pronunciation of " the seaside resort Scheveningen or the Frisian island Schiermonnikoog", try going to the north Norfolk seaside town of Happisburgh and saying "It's lovely here in Happys-berg".
Jaye, Rutland, England

How to Say: Haiti and Port-au-Prince

15:39 UK time, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

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

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, there are some place names appearing frequently in the news which have raised pronunciation questions.

For foreign place names, it is BBC Pronunciation Unit policy to recommend a standardised and systematically anglicised version of the local pronunciation. However, if there is an English form of a place name (e.g. Munich for München), then we recommend this rather than the native language form. We also recommend established anglicisations where they exist (e.g. Paris).

In the case of Haiti and Port-au-Prince, we recommend the established anglicisations HAY-ti (-ay as in say, stressed syllables in upper case) and PORT-oh-PRINSS (-i as in pin). These anglicisations appear as early as in the 1937 edition of Broadcast English advice on foreign place names by the Pronunciation Unit's predecessor BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English, which had members such as Arthur Lloyd James and Daniel Jones. These anglicisations are now so established that they are codified in British English pronunciation dictionaries, gazetteers and atlases. In the case of Port-au-Prince, the established anglicisation is reportedly commonly used in Haiti in English language contexts.

Of course, different anglicisations for foreign place names can exist at the same time. For Port-au-Prince, in our recommendation for this place name, we acknowledge that pronunciations closer to the Haitian Creole pronunciation PORT-oh-PRA(NG)SS (-a(ng) as in French "vin") and French pronunciation POR-oh-PRA(NG)SS (-t is silent) are still used by English speakers. However, for the sake of consistency across the BBC, we advise our broadcasters to use the established anglicisation, PORT-oh-PRINSS. Similarly, while different anglicisations for Haiti (HIGH-ti, high-EE-ti and haa-EE-ti) are in still use, HAY-ti is considered the most widespread and established and we recommend this pronunciation.

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

Web Monitor

15:27 UK time, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: ageing and the action film, getting the message out and why computers in films aren't like those in real life.

Mel GibsonMel Gibson reveals to Jeanne Wolf in Parade Magazine that he's started feeling the strain of action scenes:

"It's getting harder. You wake up the next day like road kill, even though it's just pretend fighting. Having some 25-year-old guy jamming you into walls and stuff wreaks havoc with your lumbar. I usually book a chiropractor in advance because you know it's gonna suck."

Stephen Battersby at New Scientist opens a cosmic can of worms when he considers the astronomer's dilemma to be discussed in April: after decades of listening out for extra-terrestrial life and hearing nothing, should we be sending out our own messages? And if so, what would ET be interested in?. Mr Battersby's conclusions are a little suprising:

"If Earth's efforts are anything to go by, we can expect a basic maths lesson and some pictures of naked aliens."

Petra Maya at the radio station NPR asks why computers in films are nothing like those in real life. She turns to graphic interface designer Mark Coleran who is responsible for designing computer screens in films such as The Bourne Identity. One reason is that when computers started appearing in films, not everyone knew what they actually looked like - but knew what video games looked like. The use of large text stuck because it got the message across clearly.
Now, he says, life is imitating art:

"The interfaces Coleran creates can seem fantastically futuristic - he gets a lot of inspiration from university software labs and prototypes from companies like Microsoft. But occasionally a product hits the market that bears an uncanny resemblance to one of his fantasy designs. 'And unfairly,' he says, 'sometimes we get credit for it.'"

Links in full

see alsoJeanne Wolf | Parade | 'Life's Experiences Season You'
see alsoStephen Battersby | New Scientist | Exolanguage: do you speak alien?
NPR Petra Maya | NPR | Hollywood's Computers

Paper Monitor

12:49 UK time, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Who would have thought the tale of two swans could be such a fruitful allegory for the social ills of Britain in the 21st Century?

To be fair to the Daily Mail, that's not a claim it actually makes of its piece "The truth about the sex lives of swans". It's just that Paper Monitor can't help but spot parallels with the human world, Brad and Angelina notwithstanding.

The peg for the piece is the story that two swans have got a "divorce".

For all the romantics out there, preparing for Valentine's Day with cards of these stately creatures nuzzling in such a way their necks conveniently form the motif of a human heart, this is bad news indeed.

Swans are unusual in the animal kingdom for being monogamous. Other birds may nest-hop like avian Colin Farrells, but not swans. They are creatures of commitment. They respect family values.

In short, if swans bought newspapers they'd probably have the Mail delivered to their reed bed every morning.

But this notion of fidelity has been upset by the arrival of two previously romantically linked two birds at a wetlands centre in Gloucestershire. Each has returned with a new partner.

Clearly, this sort of wayward behaviour requires some interpretation. Step forward Colin Tudge, author of the Secret Life of Birds.

Tudge speculates that the reason for the separation is one that's mirrored in human behaviour - the pair may have failed to produce any eggs:

"In nature, there seems little room for romance - natural selection rules."

As if to emphasize the humanness of swans, there even appears to be a glancing reference to current debate about homeowners' rights to defend their property.

"Swans are highly territorial - they know what stretch of the river is theirs and so does everybody else. The pairs gang up on intruders - and together they get better at it year by year."

And as for the details of their sex life, as promised by the headline, thankfully, this is a spot of sub-editor hyperbole. Tudge is mercifully silent on the whys and wherefores of swans going at it.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:50 UK time, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

"It will offend the British, it will offend Muslims, it will offend jihadists" - US film critic David D'Arcy on Chris Morris's new film satirising suicide bombers.

After Brass Eye, Morris immersed himself in preparing for his next project, a black comedy about would-be terrorists who plan to blow themselves up during the London Marathon. The result is Four Lions, which has premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to mixed reviews.
More details

Your Letters

17:21 UK time, Monday, 25 January 2010

Mesmerising how fast Jeremy contradicts himself here... "I am particularly looking forward to meeting ordinary American people and hearing about their extraordinary lives."
Tom Webb, Surbiton, UK

Regarding today's Quote of the Day, suicide euthanasia booths are hardly a new idea, dating as far back as 1895.

By the year 3001, they'll be on every street corner!
Si, Leeds

Re today's quote of the day: I'm struggling to see what a martini and a medal have to do with euthanasia. Is this some strange interaction that I'm not aware of? Should I be very careful to make sure there are no medals nearby next time I drink a martini?
Adam, London, UK

Good to see that Martin Amis (Monday's Quote of the Day) is a Futurama fan...
Rob, London, UK

"A university degree helped us to think for ourselves, write decent sentences and stand up for our own opinions." I'd like to express an opinion on how frustrated and angry this elitist posturing made me, but as I didn't get a university education I'm afraid I am unable to. Maybe I should just go and punch something instead; what do you think?
Kaylie, Runcorn, UK

Your piece on the damage sustained to a Picasso painting ("Picasso painting ripped by New York woman's fall") leaves one question unanswered. If the woman couldn't see a 6ft by 4ft painting, what was she doing studying art in a major museum?
Mark, Reading, UK

Thank you for your helpful note. I see however that you are not following accepted pronunciation in your rendering of Dutch. Does the correct pronunciation only matter in English? Both Vun Khokh and worse Fun Khokh, are vernacular (read Cockney) pronunciation and totally unacceptable to my ears as an accepted (ABN) Dutch speaker. The correct way is V, the a from car, N and then Khokh as you correctly said. The V and the A sounds are quite specific in Dutch and tell tales of accent. Thank you very much for your incipient interest in what happens at the other side of the channel.
Dr CFW Rietveld, Haarlem, Netherlands

Having lived and worked in Holland for many years after being brought up in Scotland with a Dutch mother, the "Fun KHOKH" pronunciation comes quite easily. You can imagine the horror at hearing the common American "van GOH" version. Now try explaining the correct pronunciation of the seaside resort Scheveningen or the Frisian island Schiermonnikoog.
Andrew Walker, Mountain View, CA, USA

Cloverfield 2! When's it set for release?
Dave W, Liverpool, UK

Web Monitor

16:56 UK time, Monday, 25 January 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the tortoise teaser, what chess brings to poker and standing up for the gamers.

Mackenzie Crook• Actor Mackenzie Crook revealed on the Andrew Marr show that he keeps tortoises. Three of the beasts, moreover, star in his current play. But Mr Crook seemed a bit unsure about the collective noun for his charges. He settled on "herd". Users on Reptile Forums prefer, it turns out, "rockery" or "creep"; Wikipedia goes for the latter. Web Monitor is sorry to learn that it's not a "ninja".

• The chess grandmaster who lost the man-vs-computers battle, Garry Kasparov, argues in the New York Review of Books that computer programmers should move on from the game of kings. That's because they aren't getting nearer to their goal of simulating human thought by making computers good players. Instead, Mr Kasparov suggests that they should be trying to make machines play a game with an altogether less refined reputation:

"Perhaps chess is the wrong game for the times. Poker is now everywhere, as amateurs dream of winning millions and being on television for playing a card game whose complexities can be detailed on a single piece of paper. But while chess is a 100 percent information game - both players are aware of all the data all the time - and therefore directly susceptible to computing power, poker has hidden cards and variable stakes, creating critical roles for chance, bluffing, and risk management."

• Headlines last week declaring that video games cause rickets riled gaming-enthusiast-cum-businessman Nicholas Lovell, writing in Games Brief. Fighting his corner against bad press for games, Mr Lovell contacted the authors of the cited study. They confirmed that there was in fact no connection - with children too young to play the games at most risk of the disease. He also found that comparatively higher risks of rickets lay elsewhere:

"But there is an even more important issue here. The study highlights the difficulties of people with dark skin synthesising enough Vitamin D from the British weather. It also highlights the dangers of overzealous parents slapping sunscreen on their children at the first hint of sunshine."

Links in full

BBCMackenzie Crook | BBC | The Andrew Marr Show
New York Review of BooksGarry Kasparov | New York Review of Books | The chess master and the computer
Games BriefNicholas Lovell | Games Brief | Scientists behind 'games cause rickets' deny link

Paper Monitor

11:47 UK time, Monday, 25 January 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Women's editor of a certain paper (that narrows it down already) interviews feminist columnist who used to write for the same paper.

It's got to be the Guardian.

When Kira Cochrane talks to Natasha Walter about her new book, Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism, the author gets superstar treatment.

Her photograph fills the front page of the paper's features supplement, G2, and the whole of page six is given over to a similar picture.

The interview itself offers few surprises.

Walter is not the first feminist to reject the notion that pole dancing and stripping are liberating to women (although she may be the first who took her research seriously enough to endure a "Babes on the Bed" competition at an Essex nightclub in order to strengthen her argument).

And Cochrane enjoyed the book.

But what does jolt the reader is the rather incongruous diary of "Walter's day" alongside.

We learn that 11am means chocolate brownies.

And at 1pm, "I have a sandwich from Pret A Manger, the avocado salad wrap, which is eaten at my desk. If I'm working, I'm working."

An hour later, " I might spend the afternoon writing an article."

Even serious features, it seems, have been infected by Twitterisms.

PS. When a paper demands that readers "spot the difference" between a photograph taken pre-makeover and one taken post-makeover, they presumably don't expect the answer to be: "Yes, the one on the right has brighter lighting."

Monday Quote of the Day

10:43 UK time, Monday, 25 January 2010

"There should be a booth on every ­corner where you could get a martini and a medal" - Martin Amis introduces the concept of High Street euthanasia booths.

Foreseeing a "civil war" in Britain between young and old 10 to 15 years from now, the controversial author has a novel solution.
More details (the Guardian)

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