BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for January 31, 2010 - February 6, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

16:55 UK time, Friday, 5 February 2010

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

1. When the term "nostalgia" was coined in the 17th Century, some thought it was a uniquely Swiss phenomenon.
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2. The removal of bales of straw can legally constitute building work for planning law purposes.
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3. Half of the world's 7,000 languages are in danger of disappearing.
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4. Some bugs do not get tackled for years.
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5. Glass attacks in bars and pubs cause 87,000 injuries a year in England and Wales.
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6. You can pay for university courses with Tesco Clubcard points.
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7. Italy has 180 products with protected origin status, the most in the EU.More details

8. Racing camels can be worth millions.
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9. Lego fanatics use computer modelling to design their creations.
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10. "Baby brain" is is just a myth.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Tim Hinds, Southport, for this picture of 10 shoes in a temple in Kyoto, Japan.

Your Letters

16:26 UK time, Friday, 5 February 2010

When I was a little lad, my imaginary friend Winston and I had our own language. To preserve this I have decided to send this missive so that it may be stored on the Great Magazine Monitor Database and live on should I meet an untimely end. It is a simple language, consisting of only three words:
Perkyflump, noun - grown-up who doesn't understand that some children do not like sprouts and will not eat them no matter how many times they insist they are "good for you".
Miyagithon, noun - pencil-based game for poor children in which several pencils (and the occasional pen) battle using derivative forms of various martial arts. The winner is known as The Miyagitor.
Brattlement, noun - feeling of impotent rage felt by older brothers towards younger sisters when they insist on being irritating because they know the big brother will get in lots of trouble if he hits them with his Millennium Falcon.
Dylan, Reading, UK

Nostalgia. What is it good for? (@BBC News Magazine)
Absolutely nothing.
Daniel Younghusband

Say it again.
Jude Brindley

Huh.
Damon Scott

War, huh, yeah...
Anita Thomson

What is it good for?
Sharon Barrett

Absolutely nothing!
Lindsey Martin

Seeing Why do shops leave the lights on at night reminded me of the French group Clan du Neon, who save the shops the trouble of switching them off and go around at night doing it for them.
Steven, Stretford

Re artificial limb envy - as yet, I don't know of anyone who has purposefully cut off a limb in order to perform better in athletics.
Katherine, Canberra, Australia

Doesn't this explain how this happens?
Ashley Brown, Croydon, UK

Does anybody else get annoyed when the BBC use the new (version 7 or 8) internet explorer logo for a story relating to ie 6?
PB, London

Sarah (Wednesday letters), the picture in question was not actually of the wronged woman given the pseudonym "Shaheeda Khan". It was of the family lawyer, Aina Khan. But unless you hovered your cursor over the picture, you weren't to know that.
James, Stockport, UK

Re Bear Grylls' claim about the camel (Quote of the Day): he's getting mixed up with The Empire Strikes Back. Remember your light sabre next time, mate.
Alastair, Uddingston, UK

Re double-yolkers, my dad used to get trays of 24 eggs from the farmer close to where he worked. They were almost all double yolkers - apparently a law states he cannot sell them so we got them free. They were fab.
Emma, Blackpool

So, did Rebecca eat *all* of those scrummy eggs? Herself? Can't help wondering what her cholesterol level is...
Oh, all right then, I'm starving. And envious.
Susan Thomas, Brisbane, Australia

Jacob (Thursday letters) - yes, you must keep going with Mad Men. I love it so much that I now pretty much always order an Old Fashioned whenever I'm in a swanky bar, just because that's what they drink on Mad Men. (It turns out, by the way, bartenders everywhere hate making Old Fashioneds.)
Nicky Stu, Highbury, London

Caption Competition

13:20 UK time, Friday, 5 February 2010

Comments

Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

cardboardpints_4feb.jpg

This week, Lawrence Dallaglio lines up for a pint. But what's going on?

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

6. Sammy the Saint
England's new 15 looked good on paper but can they deliver on the field?

5. MightyGiddyUpGal
When Vanessa Perroncel dreams.

4. Candace9839
When you've really got your beer goggles on...

3. ImmortalHulkHogan
"You and who's army?.....oh"

2. Rob
Agent Smith winds down on the weekend.

1. Raven
George began to suspect somebody was conning him after he'd announced drinks on the house.

Paper Monitor

11:05 UK time, Friday, 5 February 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There is an old routine that starts: "The Times is read by the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by the people who own the country. The Guardian is read by the people who think they should run the country. The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country..."

The Daily Star isn't always mentioned, but if it was inserted into the routine today it could be: "The Daily Star is read by the people who, if they ran the country, would make textspeak into the national language."

The paper's Text Maniacs section is a fascinating insight. The plurality of entries today are about the noted polymath Katie Price and her marriage to the cage fighter.

But trawl through these and there are glorious insights.

Coloredrainbow texts: "wen ur asleep ur spirit leaves ur body and can walk and do anything, wen u do go to spirit u are in perfect health again."

Right, thanks for that.

Another texter, Mad Max, seems to be inviting other regular contributors to join him in staging a coup. He writes: "Mad Painta, Mad Frank, Mad Mo, Mad Brad, Mad Mc Rainhill. We should meet up & sort this country out."

And perhaps most poignantly, the paper has lost, through a technical error it says, all of the pictures sent in by ordinary punters of them with famous people.

They are reduced to using a picture of an ordinary bloke with Olly Murs at Chicago Rock Cafe in Stevenage.

The glamour.

Weekly Bonus Question

10:56 UK time, Friday, 5 February 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 AMBIENT SAUSAGE ROLLS.

UPDATE: The correct question is how were the meat-and-pastry treats labelled in Co-op?

Of your deliberately wrong suggestions, we liked:

  • Nzie's What do you give to stressed sauerkraut?
  • Valerie Ganne's What happens if you put an ambient sausage on the top of a hill?
  • alan_addison's My oven is busted, my microwave on the blink, but I desire a small snack of mechanically recovered meat wrapped in an oily pastry. Oh, Delia, what can I have?
  • FilboidStudge's After many more years of training, what has Esther Rantzen's dog finally succeded in saying?
  • MorningGlories' How was Melton Mowbray translated into Japanese?

Thanks to all who entered, and apologies for the late running of this update.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:36 UK time, Friday, 5 February 2010

"Once in the Sahara I gutted a dead camel and slept in the empty bloody carcass, with the skin pulled over the opening to protect me" - 'Survivalist' Bear Grylls

You've got to love him, good old Bear. He's not a man to let newspaper allegations [in the Sunday Times in 2007, of staying in motels in Hawaii when he was supposed to be stranded in the wild] get to him. Camel-skin hats off to him. A survival tip picked up from a Ye Olde Star Wars movie?
More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

15:54 UK time, Thursday, 4 February 2010

fourdoubleeggs.jpg
My frying pan with four double-yolked eggs from the same box - all I could fit in the pan, but all six in the carton had two yolks each. They were Colombian Blacktail eggs (not sure if this makes a difference). They tasted lovely.
Rebecca Bullock, Sittingbourne

This has to be the understatement of the year thus far - "delay"!
Lucy P, Ashford, Kent

I was interested to read about the PEBKAC (problem exists between keyboard and chair) (Wednesday's letters), we've always called it PICNIC (Problem In Chair Not In Computer)!
Gail, Reigate

Regarding today's quote. Questions arise: a) Were his feet bare or was he wearing socks? b) If bare feet, how would Tesco react to socks? c) Has his limp gone now, after 8 years? Either yes or no, he might now reasonably consider wearing shoes again.
Dagwen

I may possibly be the millionth to point it out, but the old adage is that horses sweat, men perspire and women glow. Our "humble correspondent" may well have just answered a question bugging monitorites for years now!
Richard Place, Barnstaple

I thought the old adage was that horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies merely glow, but then that doesn't leave any room for Paper Monitor. Perhaps "glint" would be an appropriate alternative, or maybe someone can come up with something better?
Jake, Hungerford, Berkshire, UK

Dear Paper Monitor, following our discussion about what programmes I might enjoy after a shared love of all things Bartlet and Sequinned (albeit not at the same time), I have an update. I have caught up with "Being Human" and am enjoying it very much. I haven't yet found an opportunity to watch the Swedish Wallander, but it remains on my to do list. Have made a start on Mad Men - still undecided, perhaps Monitorites could offer advice to whether I continue or not?
Jacob, London

Web Monitor

14:30 UK time, Thursday, 4 February 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: artificial-limb envy, chicken feed and testing whether bonuses work.

Oscar Pistorius• Could we enter an age of artificial limb envy? That is what Paul Hochman in Fast Company is trying to convince us. He puts across an argument that the prosthetic limb industry is about to enter an age of high profit due a future increase in amputees from diabetes related diseases and better engineering. He talks to Hugh Herr, double amputee director of the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab:

"It's actually unfair. As tech advancements in prosthetics come along, amputees can exploit those improvements. They can get upgrades. A person with a natural body can't."

• What can managers learn from chickens? Peter Lennox in the Times Higher Education Supplement conducts a self-confessedly unscientific study into chicken transferable poultry skills. He promises they can teach us lots about behaviour, ethics, evolution and the "psychopathic nature of modern efficiency". His ideas about chickens' inner-thoughts and existential angst are, by necessity, based on guesswork - but he supplements this supposition with some observations of human behaviour:

"Watching chickens helps us understand human motivations and interactions, which is doubtless why so many words and phrases in common parlance are redolent of the hen yard: 'pecking order', 'cockiness', 'ruffling somebody's feathers', 'taking somebody under your wing', 'fussing like a mother hen', 'strutting', a 'bantamweight fighter', 'clipping someone's wings', 'beady eyes', 'chicks', 'to crow', 'to flock', 'get in a flap', 'coming home to roost', 'don't count your chickens before they're hatched', 'nest eggs' and 'preening'."

• Never mind the ethics of bankers' bonuses, behavioural economics professor Dan Ariely says in Wired that his research shows bonuses don't even work. They could in fact make things worse. Prof Ariely describes the effect of carrot-dangling in his experiments:

"We asked them, for example, to assemble puzzles and to play memory games while throwing tennis balls at a target. We promised about a third of them one day's pay if they performed well. Another third were promised two weeks' pay. The last third could earn a full five months' pay. (Before you ask where you can participate in our experiments, I should tell you that we ran this study in India, where the cost of living is relatively low.)

 

"What happened? The low-and medium-bonus groups performed the same. The big-bonus group performed worst of all."

He goes on to make a provocative conclusion:
"The financial crisis, perhaps, didn't happen in spite of the bonuses, but because of them."

Links in full


Fast CompanyPaul Hochman | Fast Company | Prostheses You'll Envy
Times Higher EducationPeter Lennox | Times Higher Education | Pecking order
Wired UKDan Ariely | Wired | Bonuses boost activity not quality

Paper Monitor

12:02 UK time, Thursday, 4 February 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The problem may be with the accelerator pedal, but the Times for one is not shy of stepping on the gas on the Toyota story.

Its coverage is infographics-a-go-go (links to PDF), with a detailed technical illustration of the accelerator pedal and, in, particular the rogue friction pad.

So excited is it by the story that it dispatches a reporter to one of Toyota's suppliers in Scotland, a tale told in a blue "Behind the story" box as part of its double-page spread.

"The Scottish factory has had contracts to supply 'throttle position sensors' to Toyota's plant in Burnaston, near Derby, which has made nearly 350,000 Auris and Avensis models over the past two years."

OK, so that's established that, then. But wait, there's more.

"A request to speak with Kenny Hall, the company's finance director, was granted, but Mr Hall declined to comment on the relationship with Toyota.... Outside, an employee having a break was equally reticent. Could he confirm that the company supplies Toyota with parts? 'No, I couldn't possibly confirm that,' he said, before smiling awkwardly and stubbing out his cigarette."

Well, that was well worth the trip then.

More revealing is its article on why mosquitoes pick and choose between humans. As one largely left unmolested by mozzy bites - unless no-one else is around on which to feast - Paper Monitor notes that researchers say they tend to target those who sweat more.

As the old adage goes, men sweat, women perspire and your humble correspondent merely glows.

And finally, a wonderfully evocative headline from the Daily Mail: "Village in fear of the unpleasant pheasant".

The sub-editor who came up with this beauty deserves an extra dollop of custard on his/her Spotted Dick at the canteen this evening. For the bird does indeed sound unpleasant:

"Men, women, children, prams, bikes, dogs and even cars have all fallen victim to the psychopathic fowl, which some believe is out to avenge its dead relatives."

Kudos, then, to the photographer who risked life and limb to get an up close and personal snap of the bad-tempered bird. How he or she escaped unscathed is not explained in the article.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:23 UK time, Thursday, 4 February 2010

"I suspect it's the perception that my feet might smell, but they don't" - Man told to leave a Tesco store for not wearing shoes.

After making it to the frozen meat section, Dave Richards, 47, was spotted by staff and told he could not carry on shopping in the store in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, unless he put shoes on. Mr Richards gave up footwear eight years ago after his physiotherapist said it would cure his limp. A spokesman for Tesco said: "We don't think that's an unreasonable request."

Your Letters

15:56 UK time, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

I fail to see the point of changing a woman's name to protect her identity, but then posting a picture of her face.
Sarah, London

Well done for publishing the Mastermind quiz - I laughed scornfully at the man in question until I did the quiz and got 3. I am now feeling rather sheepish.
Sue, London

It's fairly obvious how the ID for quiche problem happened. There are two flavours of barcode used in stores, EAN-8 (7 digits+1 checksum digit) and EAN-13 (12 digits + 1 checksum). Tesco (and most of the others) use EAN-8 numbers for their own brand products so that's 10 possible combinations. Someone somewhere has to keep their databases up to date with the details of what product has which barcode and price. So we have an opportunity for data input error. For stuff like beers, wines and spirits, the barcode triggers a "check ID" notice on the till. Adult market magazines also have an ID check. The error is clearly due to one digit out of place, so the quiche got the ID check.
As with all things computerised it's garbage in, garbage out. Combine that with a PEBKAC (problem exists between keyboard and chair) from the till operator, and you get a silly news story.
Dougie Lawson, Basingstoke, UK

Re proof of age for quiche buying, I especially liked the one about the 40+ woman who was denied permission to purchase a bottle of wine because she could not produce proof of age, and then when her 22-year-old daughter showed her ID and tried to buy it, was denied, for fear she would give the wine to her mother.
Paula Newman @BBC News Magazine

Alan (Tuesday letters), what they serve you may be *called* haggis but it isn't. Haggis is offal and offal is not permitted for human consumption by American law. Therefore "haggis" made in the US isn't actually haggis. Sorry!
Kimberley, Nottingham

Whilst Steve Harris is right in saying that "very" adds nothing to "unique" (Tuesday letters), I think that "almost exactly" is a perfectly reasonable thing to say. Has he never claimed to have "almost finished" anything?
Michael, Edinburgh, UK

With reference to your untimely fire drill (Paper Monitor), might I suggest it would make things a lot easier if WBQ were in every day (under its maiden name of LBQ), and Caption Competition made more frequent visits? It looks as if it's all too late for Punarama, who must have been burnt to death in a previous fire drill.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Oh dear. We better all stop reading the Monitor...) Then NOBODY would be the Monitor (Friday letters), and everyone would be friends again. :)
P.S PLEASE? turn it in to a lil yellow person? I did my html stuff myself... Pwetty please?
Jaz, Bath
Monitor note: No.

What an appropriate name for someone trying to use a legal loophole.
Iani, Aberystwyth

Web Monitor

15:39 UK time, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the new reason we multitask, how to survive a 35,000ft fall and the science behind the cowboy films.

Roy Rogers• Scientists, surprisingly, have been studying the question of why the good guy always wins in a Hollywood shoot-out. Debora MacKenzie in the New Scientist says Nobel prize winner Niels Bohr has a theory about this - the good guys are second to draw their gun and are quicker at reacting. Now she's found another scientist Andrew Welchman who's found this may not be true in real life:

"Now Welchman says neuroscience doesn't support Hollywood's portrayal either. The only way the last guy to draw could win is if the reactive part of the brain makes him move so fast that the time it takes him to draw, plus his reaction time, is less than the time it takes the first guy just to draw."

• If you're reading this while you should be working then you may credit yourself with being able to multitask. David Glenn at the Chronicle of Higher Education thinks multitasking is a myth which has developed over the last decade.

Clifford Nass, a professor of psychology at Stanford University has previously found that multitaskers are the worst at multitasking. He told Mr Glenn the motivations behind multitasking need to be considered:

"One of the deepest questions in this field... is whether media multitasking is driven by a desire for new information or by an avoidance of existing information. Are people in these settings multitasking because the other media are alluring--that is, they're really dying to play Freecell or read Facebook or shop on eBay--or is it just an aversion to the task at hand?"

Dan Koeppel in Popular Mechanics dispels a myth that falling out of a plane means dying. In How to Fall 35,000 Feet - And Survive he gives a countdown of what to do should the event arise:

"Granted, the odds of surviving a 6-mile plummet are extra¬ordinarily slim, but at this point you've got nothing to lose by understanding your situation. There are two ways to fall out of a plane. The first is to free-fall, or drop from the sky with absolutely no protection or means of slowing your descent. The second is to become a wreckage rider, a term coined by Massachusetts-based amateur historian Jim Hamilton, who developed the Free Fall Research Page--an online database of nearly every imaginable human plummet. That classification means you have the advantage of being attached to a chunk of the plane."


Links in full


see alsoDavid Glenn | Chronicle of Higher Education | Divided Attention
Popular MechanicsDan Koeppel | Popular Mechanics | How to Fall 35,000 Feet - And Survive
see alsoDavid Glenn | Chronicle of Higher Education | Divided Attention
see alsoDebora MacKenzie | New Scientist | Draw! The neuroscience behind Hollywood shoot-outs


Paper Monitor

13:19 UK time, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Sorry for this delay in service. Your correspondent has been standing outside on the pavement after an evacuation of Monitor Towers. Yes, a fire drill.
"Quote of the Day?"
"Present."
"Paper Monitor?"
"Present."
Daily Mini-Quiz?"
"Present."
"Caption Comp?"
...
"Caption Comp?"
...

There's always one who takes the chance to slip off. Bet no-one will see him again until tomorrow.

Anyway. Back to the papers.

terry_gesture_pa.jpgJohn Terry. He was on the pitch last night. As you may have heard, he's in a spot of bother at the mo for playing off-side. Seeing as he's saying little about his personal circumstances, a picture can paint a thousand words.

So what's he saying in this photo? The papers get to work translating this gesture.

"Silent partner: Terry quietens a hostile crowd..." - the Times
"Shhh-UT IT... Blues skipper terry hits back at Hull's fans last night" - the Sun
"QUIET, PLEASE: John Terry silences the boo-boys as Chelsea draw level..." - Daily Star
"Captain stares down his tormentors" - Daily Telegraph
"Silent treatment: Terry makes a point after Drogba's goal" - Metro

But in the picture wires, which supply photos to news desks, the Press Association photographer who took this snap captions it thus: "Chelsea's John Terry celebrates after team mate Didier Drogba (not pictured) scores from a free kick."

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

10:11 UK time, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

"I told her I was certain the proof of age laws do not apply to quiche" - Woman challenged for ID while trying to buy quiche.

All Christine Cuddihy, 24, wanted was a cheese and onion quiche. But she was left flabbergasted when she was asked for ID to prove she was 21.
More details (Daily Mail)

Web Monitor

15:11 UK time, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: graduation day with the queen of the wizards, Geordie trucker confessions and the emergence of the "spokespirate".

JK Rowling• An old JK Rowling commencement speech at Harvard has been buzzing around the web since it was posted on the lecture-sharing website Ted. After wondering what pearls of wisdom she could pass on to Harvard graduates, Ms Rowling decided they wouldn't know enough about failure because, as she puts it, "[t]he fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure."

She explains that if it weren't for failing "to an epic scale", she wouldn't have written the Harry Potter books:

"An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.
 
"I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged."

• If one ever wonders about how a tabloid journalist looks back at his or her work, Web Monitor can offer a little insight from Jon Craig who now works for Sky's Boulton and Co blog; he reveals his part in a "slur" of Mo Mowlam while at the Daily Express:

"Now, it wasn't me, back in my Fleet Street days, who wrote in 1997 that she looked like 'an only slightly effeminate Geordie trucker'.
 
"That was the late Lynda Lee Potter, in the Daily Mail. But it was my story in the Daily Express the day before about Mo's dramatic change in appearance that got the lady columnists sharpening their claws...
 
"Naturally, my memory was jogged when I watched the Channel 4 film, Mo, starring the brilliant Julie Walters, and I think I probably cringed in my front room as I heard her read out the Lynda Lee Potter 'Geordie trucker' column in horror."

Mark Liberman at the blog Language Log has been carefully documenting new words for the last seven years. He's found a new word that has tickled him: "spokespirate", found in an article about Somali pirates in Newser:

"'They are the ones pirating mankind for many years,' a spokespirate tells Agencia Matriz del Sur."

Mr Liberman adds that he suspects the word isn't completely original, but that he hasn't seen it used in reference to "ship-jacking" pirates. Language Log, incidentally, is also mentioned in yesterday's conversation at the Guardian about that newspaper's use of the "gate" suffix to indicate a scandal.

Links in full

TedJK Rowling | Ted | The fringe benefits of failure
SkyJon Craig | Sky News | Mo, me and the 'Geordie trucker' slur
see alsoMark Liberman | Language Log | Spokespirate


Paper Monitor

13:39 UK time, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Paper Monitor is temporarily indisposed but will return tomorrow with renewed vigour.

Your Letters

13:06 UK time, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

"7. Haggis has been banned in the US since 1989." No it is not. Only imported Haggis has been banned. My favorite Scottish restaurant prepares it on request upon 24 hrs notice.
Alan (McPhee) Bonjour, Madison Heights, Michigan, US

Re: Double yolks (Daily Mail). My mum once cracked open an egg from our local farmer and found a triple yolk - on the same day, one of the same farmer's cows gave birth to triples. Can somebody work out the odds of that?
Ian Ferguson, Southampton, UK

Can someone offer Ollie Barrett a definition: "Define entrance? It's ridiculous".
Louisa Hibble, Leicester, UK

Further to Ian Hague's letter, why do so many TV presenters insist that 'sixth' should be pronounced with a "c" instead of the "x" ("sicth")?
Dave Godfrey, Swindon, UK

Ian quoted BBC presenters speaking properly. They also use "almost exactly" (it is exact or it isn't) and "very unique" ( there are no grades of unique - it is unique or it isn't).
Steve Harris, Stroud

Is this article an example of an Obama Lama Drama?
Michael, Exeter, UK

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:28 UK time, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

"I have no idea why they thought Taylor Swift would be performing at St Margaret Mary's when she was in America picking up her Grammys" - Spokeswoman for singer Taylor Bright after Liverpool Echo mistook who'd be performing at a local primary school.

A teenage American singer with the first name Taylor. Well, there's only one person that can be - TAYLOR SWIFT! The multi-selling country singer popular with tweenagers! And she's coming to Liverpool! EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
Oh. It's not her. It's Taylor Bright. Who she? Good job news didn't spread too far... oh. It did. Oops.
More details

Your Letters

16:56 UK time, Monday, 1 February 2010

mirror_226.gifPaper Monitor, not sure if you've seen Dr Miriam Stoppard's Daily Mirror article "Why the latest party drug (Mephedrone) brings new DANGER". Unfortunate that, when you search for Mephedrone on the Mirror website, the first thing that pops up is an advert telling you where to buy it (see image, right).
Will Harris, London

Did you know today's date is a palindrome? 01022010
Susan Kenworthy, Strathaven

It's really not accurate to say "there will be a lot of students this year who do not get a place at university". If they don't get a place, they won't be students, will they?
Adam, London, UK

Shoes may have changed how we run, eh? Well, no, because the story says that people with shoes run differently from those without shoes. So in fact shoes have changed the way we run when we're wearing shoes. I wonder if I can get any funding to investigate whether oven-gloves have affected our ability to handle hot things.
Phil, Guisborough

Re Plan to halve smokers in 10 years - seems harsh to me, but at least it will stop them smoking.
Tom Colvin, Basingstoke, UK

I read a report about children of five years of age not being able to speak properly. Are you surprised? BBC presenters cannot pronounce the word Gatwick, they say Ga'wick. They also use use the words "at about". How do you have "at about"? At is a point and about is a around a point.
Ian Hague, Bury, Lancashire
Monitor note: But you try telling a five-year-old that...

Web Monitor

16:10 UK time, Monday, 1 February 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: wasted youth, Stephen Fry's failed hiatus and what happens when the restaurant critic eats on the High Street.

Martin Amis • In an interview where he reveals his least favourite author, Martin Amis in Prospect magazine dismisses younger writers as a waste of time:

"But it's a fantastically uneconomical way of reading, to read your youngers. No-one knows if they are any good. Only time knows that."

It turns out he cringes at his own early work, which was, Web Monitor understands, much-feted at the time:

"I tried to read The Rachel Papers [Amis's first novel] recently, to reacquaint myself with what it is like to be 20 or 19, and I couldn't read it. I knew it quite well so I knew all the good bits, the not bad bits, but as a structure and as a... the craft is pitiful."

Stephen Fry is not doing too well with his self-imposed microblogging hiatus. He promised to take a Twitter holiday to work on his memoirs, since when he has tweeted over 40 times. Most recently, promising he is just "popping up again quickly", he is pointing his followers to a protest song concerning the government's file-sharing plans.

• Most restaurant reviewers visit places where Web Monitor wouldn't be able to afford the starters. In the New Statesman, Will Self has been working his sedentary way around fast food outlets. He is unsurprisingly downbeat about most, but the Japanese noodle chain Wagamamas almost gets a compliment. Mr Self seems perturbed at his near-magnanimity:

"Sometimes I think my ideal meal out is being served a slice of white bread by an aggressive anaesthetist in an operating theatre."

Links in full


ProspectTom Chatfield | Prospect | Martin Amis: the Prospect interview
TwitterStephen Fry | Twitter
New StatesmanWill Self | New Statesman | Real Meals: Mama said knock udon out


Paper Monitor

12:50 UK time, Monday, 1 February 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

In the great news cauldron there are really only a few ingredients.

Hacks have the terms "diary" and "off-diary" for much of the work they do. "Off-diary" is all the stuff generated by reporters ferreting out the news in the time-honoured but now increasingly rare fashion.

But "diary" is manna from heaven for all those hard-pressed news editors dealing with ever-dwindling bands of reporters.

"Diary" is everything you know is going to happen in advance. Court cases, debates in Parliament, product launches, surveys, reports, buildings opening and sporting occasions.

You can write the backgrounders for these pieces well in advance, get them subbed and they are ready to run at a moment's notice. In this era of increased prominence for websites and the speed with which they break news, it's more important than ever.

Of course, if the diary item is the Queen opening a new garden, you can write the piece in advance because you know exactly what is going to happen. But what if the outcome is uncertain?

You may have wondered how a newspaper website can have lengthy backgrounders on a guilty defendant in a court case, excoriating him for all his sins. What would have happened if he had been found not guilty?

The short answer is that news desks prepare two complete sets of backgrounders for guilty and not guilty verdicts. In cases with multiple charges or multiple defendants they may even prepare a slew of partially guilty pieces to cover all bases.

Publishing the wrong backgrounder for the verdict is a moment for wailing, gnashing of teeth, and occasionally even sacking of staff.

The defeat of Andy Murray in the Australian Open final is a classic "diary" scenario. On Friday, news editors will have been asking sports editors about Murray's odds of winning.

They would have been thinking about colour from pubs in Dunblane, with people in blue and white face paint. A picture gallery of Murray stretching back to childhood. An analysis of his game. A news story predicting he will soon be number one. A history of British players not winning grand slams.

Of course, come the day and the defeat there's a quandary, some of this prepared stuff can still be used, but the news editors know that the appetite among readers after a defeat may be limited.

The Independent has ploughed on regardless, a victim to "diary" fundamentalism. It gives pages two and three of the main newspaper to the defeat, with a piece by a psychologist on what Murray needs to do mentally.

The Daily Mirror takes a more reasonable line, offering page 11 to a crying Murray and then relegating the rest of the stuff to sport.

The Daily Telegraph, surely tennis's home newspaper on a purely socioeconomic basis, offers a teeny-weeny front page photo that essentially says "go to sport, this loser doesn't deserve any more space in news".

One thing all the papers are agreed on is that Murray nailed a quote: "I can cry like Roger, it's a shame I can't play like him."

It's also a shame that he left a load of news editors crying over spiked copy too.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:33 UK time, Monday, 1 February 2010

"I did that on purpose just to see how many people pay attention" - Boxing promoter and would-be MP Frank Maloney on the misspelling "Britian" in his election poster.

Apparently, it's a trick to get people's attention, but any newspaper chief sub-editor winces when they see a line like "Frank Maloney - Fighting for Barking and Fighting for Britian".
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