BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for February 21, 2010 - February 27, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

16:20 UK time, Friday, 26 February 2010

books.226.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. The average life of a web page these days is apparently somewhere between 44 and 77 days.
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2. A "beryl" is a type of precious mineral.
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3. A dentist in San Francisco is named Les Plack.
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4. A piconewton is a millionth of the force that a grain of salt exerts when resting on a tabletop.
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5. There are people in the UK called Justin Case, Barb Dwyer and Stan Still.
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6. Computer game and movie character Lara Croft was created in Derby.
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7. Elephants growl.
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8. Johnny Cash's Guess Things Happen That Way was the 10 billionth track to be sold on iTunes.
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9. The types of lasers that remove tattoos can also be used to clean up works of art.
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10. Recent snow has left the UK's roads riddled with 1.6 million new potholes.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Mike Wilson from East Yorkshire for this picture of 10 books.

Your Letters

15:52 UK time, Friday, 26 February 2010

Re: 'Most unfortunate names' revealed. I'm glad there's nobody there called Bill Posters because, according to all the signs up in unused shop windows, people want to prosecute him!
Mike Harper, Devon, UK

World's most annoyed chicken. And it's not even bald!
Jo K, London

Designing a pump impeller is much like making love to a beautiful lady... has Swiss Toni moved into rocket cars?
Owain Williams, Regensburg

May I nominate a candidate for Misleading Headline of the Day: "GB men's curlers out after defeat"... did they take their hairnets off too?
Kate, Oxford, UK

Why is the car giant Toyota not Toyoda? Well, over here on this side of the Pond it is! To this day, I still have to ask people to spell their names to me if it sounds like a 'd' is the second or subsequent consonant. Recently, someone I thought was Saveeda was actually Civita.
JennyT, NY Brit

Regarding the missing pictures in the fashion quiz, I tried the quiz twice: first without the pictures, and then with the pictures. I did much better without the pictures. I think the Magazine should organise more control quizzes.
Nicolas, London, UK

Basil (Thursday's letters), only after you mentioned it! And then I got the rest of the office to play as well. Good times!
Rachel, Norwich

Not only that Basil (Thursday's letters) but I also noticed that the E-2 Hawkeye has escaped its enclosure and is further north in the main picture. I'll be off now, my anorak is the one with the matching aviation goggles.
David, Cannock, UK

Phil (Thursday's letters), I think it's more like Magazine Monitor being the parent of Paper Monitor and Web Monitor...
Maham, Coventry

Caption Competition

13:56 UK time, Friday, 26 February 2010


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week, a farmer displays his new Lady Gaga scarecrow. But what's going on?

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

6. Valerie Ganne
Even Gok Wan had to admit he'd failed with this one ...


"...and if you want her head to come off, just poke her face."

4. Rockahula
"We calls 'er Lady Aga..."

3. SeanieSmith
"Errr yeah, something different...? Don't tell me - new perfume?"

2. MightyGiddyUpGal
Voted Tractor Supply catalogue's most popular cover.

1. MrLister
"With both Cole and Bridge missing, England's new look defensive wall has an air of vulnerability on the left hand side."

Paperless Monitor

13:48 UK time, Friday, 26 February 2010

Apologies for the late-running and subsequent cancellation of this service. It will resume highlighting the riches of the daily press on Monday.

Weekly Bonus Question

10:16 UK time, Friday, 26 February 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. Any answers submitted using the "Send us a letter" form on the right will be summarily ignored.

And since nobody likes a smart alec, kudos will be deducted for predictability in your suggestions.


UPDATE 1557 GMT: The correct question is how does the world's oldest dog - a Beagle cross named Lulu, 147 in dog years - end her meals with? More details - Daily Telegraph

Of your woefully and deliberately wrong suggestions, we liked:

  • Ben's In 1 Corinthians 13 what was Jesus' reserve list?
  • Grace's What ingredients are needed to make an EPIC cheesecake?
  • MorningGlories' What new additions to the vending machine caused a stampede among IT staffers?
  • dom's Fed up with all the bad publicity, what has Bob Geldof re-named his children?
  • potholes_in_my_lawn's What did I "cook" my wife for Valentine's Day?
  • Yashi's What would make Ready Steady Cook worth watching?
  • slimbo's What is the name of the sequel to Ian Dury's biopic Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll?
  • FilboidStudge's Given the current recession, what are now the new first, second, and third wedding anniversary gifts?
  • And TheCoachman's You know an Oscar acceptance speech is coming to an end when the winner gets around to thanking what?

Thanks to all who entered.

Friday's Quote of The Day

09:36 UK time, Friday, 26 February 2010

"She was created in Derby and deserves to stand alongside some of the more traditional icons of the city" - Councillor Lucy Care on naming a stretch of road, Lara Croft Way.

She's one of Derby's most famous daughters. Now she's got a road named after her. Tomb Raider action-girl Lara Croft won the honour after a public vote. The character was created by computer games designers in the city.
(More details)

Your Letters

15:48 UK time, Thursday, 25 February 2010

Just think of it as a fun new weekly tradition. Here's your latest bumper crop of letters, to make up for yesterday's non-appearance.

See what I mean? Tell off your underlings too much, and they will simply become demotivated and unable to focus, and next thing you know they'll forget to publish the letters every week. You need a comprehensive retraining programme for Monitor underlings in a supportive and blame-free environment.
Adam, London, UK

How can you mention bad science in films without mentioning Avatar?
John Andrews @BBC News Magazine

Or Day The Earth Caught Fire, or Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, or Crack in the World, or Sunshine, or...
John Andrews @BBC News Magazine

J Paul Murdock (Tuesday letters) asked about the difference between a low-dose acclimatisation to peanuts and homeopathy: think of it as the difference between "up to five nuts a day" and "more chance of winning the lottery than ingesting a single molecule".
Charlie, Cambridge

Ben of Bournemouth's letter leaves me wondering: how on earth do you drive a pharmacy (apart from very carefully)? And where would you drive it to? Narcotics Anonymous?
Anita, Bournemouth

Toyota's superstition backfired. Eight lucky strokes in its name, eight million vehicles.
Nuno Aragao, Aveiro, Portugal

Did anyone else spend a good few minutes essentially playing "spot the difference" to work out which planes from the main photo had been used in the inserts?
Basil Long, Nottingham

I don't wish to pigeonhole sociology professors as a class, but I've yet to see a professor of Renaissance architecture use the word "crap" repeatedly when talking to the BBC.
Edward Green, London, UK

Wednesday's Quote of the Day is typical of the disrespect the media shows for the fine traditions of the aristocracy. In future please use the full formal title Her Grace the Duchess of Gaga."
Ben Moxon, Guildford, UK

Telling my teenage daughter that I had just scored 7 out of 7 on the fashionista-speak quiz caused more hilarity than an entire season of QI. Is she trying to tell me something?
Jaye, Rutland, England

Oh come on, play fair! How can we get the right answer on the fashion quiz if we can't see the pictures? It's no good asking me if that's a kitten heel when I'm looking at a white kitten in a snowstorm.
Caroline Brown, Rochester, UK
Monitor note: Have you tried turning it off, then on again?

I am delighted to find I am a fashion victim, having managed a grand total of 0/7 in the fashion quiz. Can I have an anorak to take with me as I leave?
Nicole, London

Of course Paper Monitor is taken. Paper Monitor and Magazine Monitor are married. One day they'll have a baby monitor.
Phil, Guisborough

Paper Monitor

14:44 UK time, Thursday, 25 February 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

OK, time to right the FT imbalance. Yesterday's Paper Monitor did that old trick of taking an inherently trivial story (Ashley and Cheryl Cole's break-up) and running it through the Financial Times filter - all for the cheap laugh of finding that, surprise, surprise, it was the only paper not to have mentioned the story.

Let it not be said the great Pink 'Un is a bit of a blue stocking when it comes to news.

A quick search of the archive reveals the Coles haven't been entirely absent from the newspaper's pages.

Only last November, Robert Shrimsley, managing editor of, namechecked Ash and Chez (though not in that abbreviated manner, it must be said). More details, as the saying goes.

And there is Paper Monitor's Thursday peccadillo - recently revived - of Martin Lukes' diary.

Lukes, a socially inept man, and the sheer embodiment of corporate venality, also happens to be married to a Cheryl, though in this case it's spelt Sherrill, which neatly sidesteps the awkward pronunciation issue.

Given her experience of spousing a far from-universally admired other half, maybe the FT's Sherrill could teach her better known namesake a few things about coping.

It's as yet unclear, however, whether the FT's Sherrill has a tattoo on the back of her neck that reads "Mrs L".

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:09 UK time, Thursday, 25 February 2010

"I ordered him into my car, where he promptly sat on my sunglasses, breaking them. They were a Christmas present from my wife, who was not very happy" - Chief constable Jon Stoddart on the drunk driver caught after making a V-sign at him.

For motorists it can be a perpetual annoyance. Someone drives past you erratically, and to top it all off, shows you the V-sign as a show of indignance. When driver Tracey Kelsy stuck two fingers up he didn't realise his gesture was aimed at the chief constable of Durham, who chased him to find that Kelsy was four times over the drink drive limit.
(More details - The Independent)

Paper Monitor

12:40 UK time, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

OK, so obviously the tabloids are all over the disintegration of Cheryl and Ashley Cole's marriage.

But how do the broadsheets treat such news? They don't - can't - ignore it, but their coverage features no pouty kiss 'n' tell girls nor grainy self-portraits of Ashley in his smalls.

The Independent is clearly conflicted. It puts news of their split on page three, with a beard-scratching thinkpiece further on. But does it secretly hate itself for doing so, and so snipes snidely at the pair to make up for it? It calls the marriage "a multi-million-pound conflation of sport, ambition, dubious miming and good looks", and says Cheryl is "regarded by some as the nation's favourite celebrity" (Paper Monitor's italics).

cheryl_ashley_cole_pa.jpgIt also captions the photo, reprinted on the right, thus: "With typical understatement Cheryl and Ashley promoted the National Lottery".

Later in the paper, Terence Blacker muses on how it's been a good month for "those who get a thrill out of sex and punishment". As in alleged adulterers getting their comeuppance, that is, not... oh, never mind.

"[W]hen it comes to public figures straying, rent-a-gob moralists in the press and in politics react like Victorian great aunts. During the [John] Terry case, the children's author Anthony Horowitz contributed a solemn sermon announcing the 'end of propriety' and invoking a dazzling array of villains, including Hugh Grant, the Duchess of York and John Prescott... This absurd and utterly bogus moralising deserves to be laughed off the pages of our newspapers. It is more demeaning than the misbehaviour it attacks."

And you should be ashamed for paying any attention to it whatsoever.

The Guardian sets Zoe Williams on the case, again on page three (with front-page teaser). She applauds Cheryl for refusing to roll over and play happy marriages:

"[T]he depressing subtext of so many football scandals is that the wives have no ace to play.... what you're basically watching, from George Best to John Terry, is a man who can do exactly what he pleases and a woman persuading herself to forgive him because the alternative is to be exiled. Don't give me alimony, she is about to be exiled from the Garden of Eden. Cheryl Cole makes her own Eden: she has everything he has, in her own right, and more. Money don't maketh the feminist, no, but this looks more like the Noughties than the Fifties for a change, and it's cheering."

The Times offers a crumb of comfort for Ashley Cole - "the odds are usually stacked against power couples anyway" - and muses that ironically, it was Ashley's away games (so to speak) that "catapulted his wife into National Treasure status and made her a premier league star in her own right".

It accessorises this with a sidebar on other women who outgrew their men: Angelina Jolie and Johnny Lee Miller, Alesha Dixon and MC Harvey, Kate Winslet and Jim Threapleton...

The Daily Telegraph moves the whole job lot into the sport section (bar one columnist reading the runes of Cheryl's casual wear choices).

Its double-page spread in Sport includes:

"Chelsea said it was standard procedure with players suffering from bad injuries, partly as a psychological lift, with manager Carlo Ancelotti stressing that he had not spoken to Cole because 'he is recovering from his ankle'."

magazinecovers.jpgAnd in the Financial Times... nah, just jerkin' your chain.

PS: Far be it from Paper Monitor to focus on something inconsequential, but returning to the Observer's redesign, is there not something of the Times' Saturday magazine in the Observer Magazine's new masthead?

And is that not, in turn, a reference to New York magazine, the standard every newspaper supplement might aspire to meet?

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:13 UK time, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

"I believe in certain institutions - cooking, serving dinner, taking care of my family. So I consider myself quite the lady" - Lady Gaga demonstrates an interesting perspective.

It's estimated that 82% of all photographs used in the news media feature Lady Gaga in a baroque costume. OK, that statistic may not be entirely true. But she's certainly everywhere-ish.
More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

15:12 UK time, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

I am a little confused. The BBC reports the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee says the NHS should stop funding homeopathy that uses highly diluted substances. This is, apparently, a waste of time and money. Yet, the BBC also reports that doctors in Cambridge believe they may soon have a cure for peanut allergies by giving sufferers tiny (rather than "highly diluted" then?) amounts to build up tolerance. Who is right then?
J Paul Murdock, Wall Heath, West Midlands, UK

Further to Is it illegal to drink and drive a golf buggy?, you may be interested to know bus conductors can be arrested for being drunk in charge of a moving vehicle.
And I'm a pharmacist and we can be charged with being drunk in charge of a pharmacy.
Dave Moore, Par, Cornwall

Karzai poll body power grab sounds like some kind of controversial wrestling move.
Ben, Bournemouth

All-noun headline of the week?
Rik Alewijnse, Feering, UK

If ever there was a man who's obviously had a recent (and damaging) experience with a poorly translated set of instructions for building his new wardrobe, Robin Bennet (Monday letters) is he.
Jim O'Connor, Winchester

Robin (Monday letters), may I suggest you also try to set up an English Academy to protect British-English? You could perhaps model it on the Academie Francaise, which has provided us with such wonderfully inept words for modern equipment such as magnetoscope (video recorder) and ordinateur (computer), in its ceaseless, but ultimately futile encroachment of English, of whatever form.
Martin Hollywood, Luxembourg

Sarah (Monday letters), that depends on Colin Firth's e-mail software. In some, such as the Mac version of Eudora, unsent e-mails are stored in the outbox.
Colin Edwards, Exeter, UK

Dear Sarah, I *do* mean to be a pedant; if Colin Firth had pressed "Send" while he was not connected to the internet, his message would have been placed into his outbox to be sent when he next clicked "Send and receive". I'll get my 01100011 01101111 01100001 01110100.
HS, Cambridge

Laurie (Mondays letters), I completely agree with your pedantic pointing out, and have also noticed more obvious and widely known facts creeping in over the past year. Following a quick trawl back over the past few months, I find I didn't know only about nine out of the 10 things on average. For accuracy purposes then, I suggest this feature is renamed "On average slightly under 10 things we didn't know this time last week". A bit of a mouthful perhaps, but far better to be clear and accurate.
Jimmy, Dorking, UK

Aaagh, Paper Monitor is taken! Woe unto and much gnashing of teeth from many singletons of ambiguous gender.
Bas, London

I'm Paper Monitor's other half!
Phil, Oxford

Paper Monitor

11:54 UK time, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

You could almost hear the collective "thank god" being uttered in newsrooms when British student Sarah Calascione was rescued from the Atlantic after two days adrift on a raft. "Thank god she's really pretty and has posted some pictures of herself in a bikini on her Facebook page," that is.

The newspapers love nothing more than a happy ending involving a young woman who is fair of face. Miss Calascione was one of more than 40 students, two of whom were also British, who had to be rescued by the Brazilian Navy after the boat they were on capsized. Not that you would know it from the coverage.

"My 48 hours adrift in a raging ocean" is the headline on the front page of the Telegraph, above a large photo of the beautiful 19 year old looking all windswept. The Daily Mail, Independent, Times and Guardian all use it as well. The Sun goes for the bikini shot of her on a golden beach. The only surprise is the Mirror, not one to usual pass up the chance of having a scantily-clad beauty on a page, it uses a small head-and-shoulders shot of Miss Calascione.

Paper Monitor can only assume the other two rescued Brits who were rescued - 16-year-old Gabriella Haines and Nicole Turner, 18 - were not available for interview or photographs. Surely, that's the only reason?

Elsewhere, the Daily Mail does what it does best. It gives us a masterclass in the sort of look-down-your-nose type of journalism it excels at. It invites readers to enjoy Jan Moir's "hilarious dispatch on the steamy soap opera that's titillating the Red Tops". Really it's trying to cover a story without looking like it's covering that story.

The story in question is Cheryl and Ashley Cole's marital problems. Predictably Ms Moir takes the moral high ground and despairs at the number of women tripping over themselves to sleep with Cole and "tell the world about it".

Of course, this is on the same page as photos of all the girls and lurid second-hand details of their encounters with Cole. The Daily Mail would never stoop so low as to actually pay such women for such information, it just lifts the details from the papers that do.

And just in case you missed those "seedy" details, it also has a handy summary of Cole's performance in bed with each woman - "creative", "wild", "lousy" and "not raunchy" apparently. The Daily Mail, double standards? Surely not.

Tuesday's Quote of The Day

09:30 UK time, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

"I have never been jostled by a dragon before. I gave it a shove, then got on my way." - Norman Tebbit on his Chinese New Year experience.

Tory grandee Norman Tebbit must've forgotten to look at his diary. He didn't realise that the revelry near his new home in Bury St Edmunds was all part of the Chinese New Year celebrations. When he went to investigate the noise he ended up right in the thick of the parade.
(More details - Daily Mirror)

Your Letters

17:03 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

Dear Colin Firth, I don't mean to be a pedant, but if you had not pressed "send" the email would be in your "Drafts" folder, not your "Outbox".
Sarah, London

Do slogans change the way I vote? Absolutely. Without a hearing a slogan I will put an X in the box of the party I think will do best for the country. But, if I hear a catchy or inspiring slogan, then I might well put an X in exactly the same box, but with a slightly jaunty flick of the pencil on the ascending second stroke.
Christian Cook, Epsom, UK

Enormous invisible steering wheel fitted to go-kart?
Alex Knibb, Bristol, UK

As we seem to be losing the battle for our own language to be spelt or pronounced correctly, it must be time to re-classify English as British-English and insist all exports to this country whether computers or car manuals are in this version of the English language. Otherwise the English language, as we know it, will disappear and the generations coming through who use American English spellcheck, watch American TV programmes and films will only recognise the American/Australian version.
Robin Bennett, Cheltenham, UK

I got my underage driving experience from dodgems at the local fairground. Didn't do me any harm. Must dash, got a dent to pull out.
Dave Moore, Par, Cornwall, England

10 Things, 19/02/2010: How could you not know there is a Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain when they starred at last year's proms (Prom 49, 18 August 2009)?
Laurie, London, UK

Paper Monitor

12:42 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Welcome to the new Observer, entreated the newspaper's editor John Mulholland in a column to readers on Sunday.

How did the paper's faithful respond? With a near unanimous two-fingered salute.

The Observer has not been having an easy ride of late - with suggestions last year, that it close down. So a lot had been staked on its fresh new look, which was unveiled at the weekend.

Even before it appeared on newsstands, expectations had been raised by an advertising campaign in which a succession of anonymous people - and Mariella Frostrup - were filmed talking it up.

Yes, commented Paper Monitor's other half, but they work for it.

Which is a fair point. But the Observer is smarter than that. It knows that it in this new age of transparency and accountability it's not enough for readers to be told how good something is. The paper-buying public must be accorded the right to say what they think.

The only problem is that newspaper readers, even those of a journal as avowedly liberal as the Observer, are a frankly conservative bunch.

So while Mulholland explained the thinking behind the paper's redesign - which is less radical than might have been expected, amounting mostly to a slimming-down of the paper's pull-out sections - readers were less interested in what had been added than what had been taken away.

"WHERE'S TRAVEL? You're maaaaa-aaaad" commented one reader.

"Oh no what have you done with Neil Spencer's horoscopes?" asked another.

"It was page 8 of the main section before I got to any actual news" said yet another (who, it must be said, seems to have missed the point of the whole Sunday newspaper thing).

And as for the contributor who noted "the content is the same facile drivel", Paper Monitor can't help but think he/she is isn't one of the paper's fee-paying subscribers.

Faithfully manning the barricades against the tirade of invective was the Observer's Janine Gibson, who must have trawled the depths of her goodwill reservoir to thank readers for feedback and vow that it would be read.

But even Gibson dropped the "customer is always right" ethos in responding to the horoscope complaints.

"Was it Kelvin MacKenzie... who fired his astrologer with the words 'As you will no doubt have foreseen...'"

As a champion of newsprint the world over Paper Monitor is just pleased the Observer is still with us - although, had it been a more committed consumer of the paper's horoscope it might have discerned that some time ago.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:51 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

"All I know is don't ever press 'send' until you have had your fridge repaired" - Colin Firth gives an unusual thank-you in his Bafta acceptance speech

Having won the Bafta for best leading actor, for his part in Tom Ford's film A Single Man, Colin Firth revealed he almost didn't take the part, and still has an e-mail in his "outbox" refusing the role. He was about to press "send" when he was interrupted by a refrigerator repair man - and ended up taking the gig. Backstage, he confessed that the fridge is still not fixed.
More details (Daily Mail)

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