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Archives for March 14, 2010 - March 20, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

18:09 UK time, Friday, 19 March 2010

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

1. Plastic surgeons in the US are doing lip grafts using muscle from the neck to make lips fuller.
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2. For almost 30 years, the Virgin Mary has been said to appear daily in the Bosnian town of Medjugorje.
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3. The mafia use Facebook.
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4. The flat-headed cat has webbed feet.
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5. Bono, Nick Cave and Jarvis Cocker sing sea shanties.
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6. A "labile" vitamin means it is easily destroyed.
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7. Straightening irons outsell hairdryers.
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8. Dolphins can swim up to 50 miles a day.
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9. Fried tarantula tastes like liver.
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10. The Achilles tendon usually breaks with a loud snap.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Jo Lewis for this week's picture of 10 swans at Ruislip Lido.

Your Letters

17:52 UK time, Friday, 19 March 2010

"For example, on one day an octopus would react excitedly to the crab video, but it would show little interest on another day" Octopuses excited by high definition television. Well, no one like the TV schedules filled with repeats.
Jenny, Manchester

Aaargh! My nemesis again. Six correct in the 7 days news quiz... but why did the last question have to be a NUMBER one?
Graham, Purmerend

It took me a while to work out the relation between the three films used in the results of 7 days 7 questions. I never knew Kate Winslet was in Flushed Away.
I got 3/7. Titanic. Damn. However, I would much rather be Titanic than Flushed Away (which sounds like such an... unpleasant experience, even if it does have a happy ending).
Luisa, Bristol, UK

To be fair, Paper Monitor, there has been one Listener crossword in the last 4,000 or so with zero correct entries. Can the Monitor say as much regarding daily letter publication? OK, I'll get my n. outer garment with sleeves...
Phi (Listener crossword setter), Wellington, NZ

Oh the joy! I finally made it into the top six of the Caption Competition, and the kudos are mine... (on a slow Friday, this is what keeps me sane).
Bangledancer, Lincoln, UK

I live alone and so rarely use a whole onion in a meal (The rise of lazy food). I buy frozen onions so I can use what I need and not waste anything. The diced carrots on the other hand are, I'm afraid, sheer laziness... Fear not, my mother has had a word.
Lauren, Taunton

Re Alex's comment in Thursday letters, Kailyn LeAnne likes this.
Kailyn LeAnne, Kentucky, US

Caption Competition

13:18 UK time, Friday, 19 March 2010


obama.jpgWinning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

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

6. BeckySnow
Better than a Westlife CD...

5. Jo
"Michelle, can someone get hold of Lady GaGa and tell her she's left her wig behind?"

4. Rhys
Gordon Brown finally got his own back for those DVDs

3. Valerie Ganne
The President decided to call the bush George W.

2. Bangledancer
"Don't inhale... don't inhale...don't inhale...!"

1. Pauli
"Three. Three. Three. Three again. Four - no wait, three. Three..."

Paper Monitor

11:01 UK time, Friday, 19 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Let's start with a bit of whimsical reverie to ease us into the weekend. As an idea, Google StreetView Cameras Do The Funniest Things never quite made the transition from print to TV.

But it was a fruitful seam of humorous editorial last year - and one the Daily Telegraph returns to today, with a picture of a seagull with half its wing cut off (fear not animal lovers, a Googleista is on hand to explain it's a result of stitching together images) and a convention of superheroes - Robin, Captain America and Mr Incredible among them - gathered outside a country pub.

"The characters, who were previously thought to be fictional, may have been using the guise of a stag party as a cover to fool their enemies."

Meanwhile, away from superheroes-on-the-sauce news, there's a three-way battle of the previews going on between the Guardian, the Times and the Sun. Yes, the new series of Doctor Who is very nearly upon us... well, it's still over a week away.

True to form, the Sun claims its story as an exclusive: "We're first to review new Who series."

Paper Monitor is mindful of all the delicate flowers out there ready to howl "plot spoiler" so it will tread carefully. The Sun tells us the new Doc is more "street" that his predecessor and at one point even quips "Who da man?".

Unlike the Sun, the Guardian isn't about to bump this piece to its middle pages - giving its treatment p7 billing. The subtext here is that this is a news story more than a mere TV preview.

The paper has been granted a "tour of the new-look time machine" which turns out to be a "set housed in South Wales' Upper Boat studios". It's a level of detail that for the young, impressionable Who fan must rank not so much as a plot spoiler as an existential meaning-of-life spoiler.

Over at the Times, the paper is throwing all it can at the story, with a picture of TV reviewer Andrew Billen peering from behind a sofa across a double-page spread incorporating both the preview and pen biographies of the past three Doctors.

Under a picture of the Tardis crash landing in a street in Cardiff, Billen tells us what Smith brings to the role is his youth. You don't say. Without explaining further, he notes Smith is "comfortable with Google and Twitter" (Aren't we all, especially thanks to the Magazine's own Twitter feed).

And the marvellous Caitlin Moran addresses what is, for some, a key question: "Will Doctor 11 have the phwoargh factor of Doctors 9 and 10?"

"Sex appeal: Too early to tell yet - although the mums all confess to deep theoretical unease in perving someone young enough to look confused by a conversation on Britpop."

Which makes Paper Monitor think back to its previous theme. The site of a 50-year-old police callbox skidding through a public square somewhere in South Wales... that really could jemmy Google StreetView Cameras Do The Funniest Things into a TV slot.

Weekly Bonus Question

10:24 UK time, Friday, 19 March 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.

This week's answer is HALF A WING.

UPDATE 1817 GMT: The answer relates to Google StreetView's latest comedy turn.

Of your wrong answers, we liked:

  • Molly Moo's Who are the worst tribute band for the Eagles?
  • SimonRooke's What do you end up with when tackled by Jonah Lomu?
  • BaldoBingham's What does the wife consider as collateral damage when parking?
  • ARoseByAnyOther's What Foghorn Leghorn had left after the divorce?
  • Brian Saxby's In Jedi math, Y is to X Wing, as B is to what?

Friday's Quote of the Day

10:18 UK time, Friday, 19 March 2010

"For a five year old he had driven quite well" - A police spokesman after a young boy took his family's automatic 4x4 for a drive. Police received dozens of 999 calls about the vehicle, but no one was hurt during his four-mile joyride.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

16:01 UK time, Thursday, 18 March 2010

Nigeria's acting leader is called Goodluck Jonathan? Is this a case, not of nominative determinism, but nominative optimism?
Katherine, Canberra, Australia

This story (Man used penis to assault female police officer) is physically probable only if the officer was a midget, or the antagonist was a giant.
busybee, leh

So, I have to ask Ross in #10 of "Silliest job titles" - are you still Scottish or have your Scots credentials somehow expired?
Nadja, Bostonian in Moscow, Russia

Forget the sex of paper monitor, we now know that s/he is a cryptic crossword aficionado. Is s/he married?
Ian, Winchester, UK

Gareth Bob Thomas (Wednesday letters), I think people probably know what ice cubes are used for. The point is that they are only frozen water - you can make them yourself in the freezer for nothing.
Tommy Scragend, Wigan

Iain (Wednesday letters). I would like to know who first realised you could milk a cow, and what they thought they were doing at the time?
Anne R, Fareham, UK

Peter of Swindon (Wednesday letters): Yes there is an uglier latin derived word, the word "pulchritude" which, ironically enough means beauty - something you would never guess. I doubt that anyone who didn't know the word would be pleased to be described as a woman of extreme pulchritude.
Ray, Turku, Finland

Having read and appreciated today's letters, could the Monitor consider borrowing an idea from that bookface site? It would be great if we could have a "like" option under each letter, with an interactive display of the most liked letters... It might help predict whether an unremarkable letter about averages will start a new debate.
Alex, London, UK

Paper Monitor

12:31 UK time, Thursday, 18 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

At some point in the last two or three decades - around the time computers arrived at Fleet Street - it stopped being entirely fair to mock the Guardian for its spelling mistakes.

The legend of the typo-prone Grauniad sticks with us, though, if the Times' crossword setters are anything to go by. Today's cryptic solutions include, for 8 down, a word clued as follows:

Like Guardian article, utterly misspelt? (8)

Paper Monitor initially thought this side-swipe might be revenge for a recent Media Monkey, in which the Guardian ungallantly pilloried the Times for a massively mild misspelling which gave its fashion editor's name as "Lisa Armstong".

A more likely explanation is that compilers of crosswords - that very physical part of the daily rag - will take any opportunity to celebrate the glory days of pre-spellcheck hot-metal printing, typos and all.

The current solution to the Saturday Times' fiendish Listener crossword reveals that 12 of the answers were to be entered with the following letters omitted: ETAOIN SHRDLU - a reference to the characters that got printed when a newspaper's old-school Linotype type-setter pressed down on the first two columns of his keyboard, and a phrase which entered printers' lore. Paper Monitor did not complete that grid. It may not surprise you to read that it's not unknown for the Listener crossword to receive zero correct entries.

Definition of 'tutelary' Like most cryptic clues, this is made up of two indicators - some wordplay and a definition.

• In the wordplay, "article" gives you "A" (the indefinite article, as opposed to the definite article "the"); which you then add to "utterly" and make an anagram ("A" + "UTTERLY" misspelt").

• The definition is "Like Guardian" - that is, "in the manner of a guardian".

In both cases, the answer is TUTELARY.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:50 UK time, Thursday, 18 March 2010

"It was a technical glitch and unfortunately it hit at the worst possible time on the worst possible channels" - TV boss apologises after porn played on two channels aimed at young children during breakfast time.

Playboy Channel previews - with naked women talking dirty - aired for two hours in parts of North Carolina on Time Warner's Kids on Demand and Kids Pre-School on Demand channels on Tuesday. It was not clear whether parents waited the full two hours before reporting the fault.
More details

Your Letters

16:07 UK time, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

I can't believe people buy grated cheese (The rise of lazy food). By the time you buy it it's all clumped together again anyway. And why do people buy ice cubes? Jeez, don't start me off... I'd better go and lie down in a darkened room.
Steve Tickle @BBC News Magazine

People buy ice cubes because they're having a party, I find. You can fill a bucket with them to keep drinks cold (if the weather is ever warm).
Gareth Bob Thomas @BBC News Magazine

They do pre-diced onion? It's not because I'm lazy, just that I'd rather not cry my eyes out whilst cooking a curry.
SimonDGardner @BBC_magazine

"I work with children a lot and some of them think milk comes from a tiger or a chicken" (The rise of lazy food). Now that's a milking parlour for the intrepid...
Iain, Bristol

Rob asks if football fans fit the most-wanted criteria - high IQs and creativity - for sperm donors (Tuesday letters). I'm an orthopaedic surgeon, I have an interest in architecture and landscape photography, *plus* I'm a football fan...
WB Chellam, Bradford

Chris (Tuesday letters), DJs talking over the beginning and end of a record dates back to when "home taping was killing music". You will never be able to record a whole track without the DJ on it. A bit pointless now with digital media and P2P networking. I think it's just habit now.
Paul Barratt, Bradford

If Chris wants talk-free DJ-ing, s/he should listen to Whispering Bob on Radio 2 on Saturday nights. Announces a tune, says why he likes it and then stays quiet until it ends. You may not like his choices, but you can't dispute his style.
Fee Lock, Hastings, East Sussex

Dear, dear, Lester Mac (Tuesday letters). You may have thought yourself clever to include erroneous facts in your first missive, but you were, I suspect, merely a pawn in Magazine Monitor's grand scheme. The Monitor would have known all along what was going to happen; how do you think such an unremarkable first letter about averages came to be published? It would serve you well not to confuse the puppet with the puppetmaster.
Joe, UK

Liz you're quite right (Tuesday letters). But you must admit that "muliebrity" is the ugliest Latin-derived word one could ever meet. Or is there a worse one? I'll get my amiculum.
Peter, Swindon, UK

Now that we've established that muliebrity is not the same thing as femininity (Tuesday letters), could someone please explain the difference? I would hate to cause offence by remarking on someone's femininity if they were actually being muliebritous, or even vice versa.
Adam, London, UK

Paper Monitor

13:54 UK time, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor doesn't go in for rootling through the wreckage of the private lives of Hollywood stars.

Or at least we don't name them when we do.

The clue to this ill-starr'd couples identity can be found in Jan Moir's opinion piece on page 23 of the Daily Mail - "both born in Reading".

Moir lets her descriptive abilities off the leash.

"These days she is the big Camembert, while he must be content to squeak along in her cheesy wake."

And who can doubt the passion in this line:

"[He] began growing interesting beards and experimenting with assorted goatees and moustaches, most of which rampaged across his face like an unattractive attack of Japanese knotweed."

Elsewhere, the papers could be accused of zeroing in on female BBC presenters today. Again we won't name those featured.

The Mail features a five-year-old photo shoot of a Northern Irish presenter who is romantically linked with the only public school-educated player in the England squad.

And the Daily Express singles out a news presenter as a candidate for Rear of the Year. The article contains the memorable paragraph:

"In the same year she presented Crimewatch in a knee-length dress. Viewers were said to have been distracted from all thoughts of catching criminals when she perched on a desk during the show."

And finally, as a news presenter might say, how might one headline a match report from last night's Champions League? A match in which Jose Mourinho - who famously referred to himself as the "Special One" - returned to Stamford Bridge... with Inter Milan, and against Chelsea. Hmm, perhaps the final score will throw up some ideas.

"The Special 1 Chelsea O" - Times
"Special 1 Chelsea O" - Daily Star
"Special Won" - Daily Mail
"He's the Won" - Daily Mirror

But not all are singing from the same hymn sheet:
"Mourinho's revenge, Chelsea out" - Guardian
"Mourinho's revenge" - Independent, adding on its back page... "Drogba off as Chelsea tumble out of Europe"

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

12:00 UK time, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

"Love Always Wins Over Envy and Hatred" - Title of book of supportive messages sent to injured Silvio Berlusconi... published by his own firm and yours for just 15 euros (£13.55)

When the Italian prime minister ended up in hospital after a man hurled a souvenir statuette at him in December, breaking his nose and smashing two teeth, his citizens sent 50,000 messages of support such as "Even with kryptonite they couldn't knock you down!" A selection have now been collected into book form, a smiling and youthful Mr Berlusconi on its cover, and published ahead of this month's regional elections.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

15:48 UK time, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

As someone who has donated sperm, I was a little disconcerted to read Sports fans in Manchester urged to donate sperm. From my experience, the most common traits sought in a sperm donor were high IQs and creativity. Should we really be encouraging football fans to breed?
Rob, London, UK

"Lists of potential victims are traded between fraudsters who are unauthorised" - is that as opposed to all the authorised fraudsters?
Andrew, Stockport

"The aim is to generate 1.2 gigawatts (GW) of electricity from the sites off Orkney." Then all they'll need is a Delorean and a Flux Capacitor.
Dan, Derby

Peter (Monday's letters), the opposite of "femininity" is "masculinity". "Masculinity" and "virility" are not synonymous - a fact all women, and all too few men, realise.
Liz, Belfast

Femininity is already the opposite of another word: masculinity (Monday's letters). And I always thought that muliebrity meant "the state of being a woman". OK, so I didn't always think it; I read it in a Bill Bryson book.
Louise, Botto

Re Quote of the Day: Replica grenades with a number tied to the pin and a sign urging those with complaints to take a number were sometimes found at work.
Candace Sleeman @BBC News Magazine

I completely agree about continuity announcers interrupting programmes (Monday's letters). I feel even more strongly about radio DJs who insist on talking over the beginning and ends of songs. Why can't they just let the song finish before speaking? These people are simply in love with their own voices, I think.
Chris, London, UK

Is it bad of me to have submitted my letter on averages, knowing that someone would try to correct me, followed by someone else trying to correct them, followed by me writing this letter saying I knew that would happen?
Lester Mak, London, UK

Paper Monitor

12:23 UK time, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Another one bites the dust, another celebrity marriage that is. This week it's Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes.

Both would probably dislike the celebrity tag. While their careers as an actress and film director put them in the limelight, they have said on many occasions that they do not seek publicity in any other way. They are "normal" - albeit with a joint fortune of about £30m.

But with their split making it onto nearly all of today's front pages, they may have to accept they are "celebrities" - whether they like it or not. "Kate Winslet: Marriage to Sam Mendes is over" says the Daily Telegraph, and "Winslet in Split" is the headline in the Sun.

But while most papers just tell the story in a straightforward manner, with the couple's separation being announced last night, two go into overdrive.

The Daily Mirror claims to have the "secrets of Winslet's marriage split". This basically means covering all bases. It says the divorce is because the couple spent too much time together when filming on Revolutionary Road, which he directed and she starred in. It then says they spent too much time apart when Mendes was away working on another film. Finally, it says they decided to spend more time together, but not work together, and found that difficult too. Keep up, keep up.

The other paper all over the split is the Daily Mail. From the headlines it looks like it is taking sides already and is firmly in Team Mendes. "Why IS Kate Winslet dumping Sam?" it asks on its front page. Two further pages of analysis inside pose the question: "So why can't Kate make her marriages work?"

It wouldn't come as much of surprise if it was siding with Mendes, as the paper has previously had a relationship with Winslet rather like a bad marriage mixed with a messy divorce. There have been accusations, arguing, court action and a big payout. And that's just over claims about her exercise regime.

But maybe the biggest shock about this split is that the Mail is being quite gentle on Kate. According to journalist Alison Boshoff:

"Kate, intense and sincere, does appear to have been desperate to make it work, but no amount of reheating via romantic holiday and date nights would persuade this soufflé to rise again."

And she concludes that:

"Maybe Mendes, hailed as a directorial wunderkind but now slightly lost, found it harder to deal with her successes than has been supposed?"

So while it is undoubtedly a hard day for Winslet in many ways, maybe that's one unexpected crumb of comfort she can take from her failed marriage being splashed across the papers.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:16 UK time, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

"He normally brings mobile phones and keys in, which I don't mind looking after - this was a little more unnerving" - Linton Parish Council clerk Sue Parry on being given a grenade

When a warden handed in a grenade he had found while patrolling Linton park in Cambridgeshire, there was cause for alarm. The parish council called in a bomb disposal expert who identified it as a smoke grenade. Panic over.
More details (the Independent)

Your Letters

16:01 UK time, Monday, 15 March 2010

"Muliebrity" may seem an exciting new word. But if you're looking for something that is opposed to "virility", what's wrong with good old "femininity"?
Peter, Swindon, UK

Colin (Friday Letters), I'm afraid Lester is right in thinking the median is an average. An average is simply a statistal measure that tells us about a dataset. An average can be a mode or median as well as the mean, or a number of other measures. To put it another way, the mean is a type of average.
Kimberley Chybalski, Northants

Tom Webb (Friday Letters) can definitely transfer his caption competition kudos. I feel I must declare a conflict of interest though... I am the friend that came up with the "shock and paw" line, so would end up getting all the kudos for myself.
Nicky Stu, Highbury, London

Is it just me who finds the quote marks in this headline somewhat disconcerting?
Adam, London, UK

I know this has been raised before, but shouldn't the winners of the WBQ actually be questions, starting with question words? Although both very funny, SkarloeyLine's effort smacks of being too lazy to put "What was..." at the start, and rogueslr's effort wasn't anywhere near a question, it was a caption. If the status quo is maintained, perhaps the item could be renamed to the more accurate "Weekly Bonus Funny Comment on a Theme"?
Iain, Bristol

Continuity announcers are a menace! They jump in before the last programme has finished and start telling you what's on next/tomorrow/next week etc. You're watching the end of a really good film, relishing the atmosphere and looking at the list of actors and someone jumps in telling you about some comedy show or other and completely spoils the end of the film. We all have TV guides on and off the television - why do we have to put up with these people jumping in at the end of programmes? Some programmes have lovely music at the end which you can't hear because someone's telling you what's on next. They also tell you what's about to happen on some programmes so that, by the time you come to watch it, you know what's going to happen anyway.
Keith Whitworth, Windsor

Paper Monitor

12:49 UK time, Monday, 15 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's Monday, and Princess Diana is on the front page of the Daily Express. Apparently driver Henri Paul was not drunk.

Skkkrrrrrreeeee! (An attempt to render the sound of a phonographic needle skittering across a record through the medium of the alphabet, to signify a "whoa, hold on there little doggy!" reaction.)


It's Monday, and Princess Diana is on the front page of the Daily Express. Apparently driver Henri Paul was not drunk.

Someone check the calendar - this is 2010, is it not? And it has been some time since the Express has brought this old favourite out from the back of the wardrobe (see Diana: A year in headlines, Jan 2007).

But vintage remains all the rage, darling, and so the Queen of Hearts, in a sky blue sequined dress, adorns page one accessorised with a well-worn conspiracy theory.

"Blood samples used to verify the amount of alcohol he had consumed were taken from another corpse, says a new book. Investigative journalist John Morgan claims to finally reveal a 'tidal wave of evidence' that the ­testing process was botched. And he alleges that Paul, 51, was set up as he lay dead in the morgue."

OK, so it's a new claim, from a new book, Diana Inquest: The Untold Story, by an Australian journo. Is this what is known as "upcycled vintage"?

Ooo, Paper Monitor has not previously used the term "upcycled vintage" before. Exciting. And, thanks to the Times, one has another new word to trot out when the time is right - "muliebrity".

It is the female version of virility, says the OED:

muliebrity, n. The characteristics or qualities of a woman; womanhood, womanliness (opposed to virility). Also: softness, effeminacy.

Paper Monitor, for one, did not know that this time last week.

Monday's Quote of The Day

09:32 UK time, Monday, 15 March 2010

"The concepts of man or woman don't fit me. The simplest solution is not to have any sex identification." - Norrie May-Welby on becoming the world's first genderless person.

Born a man, Norrie May-Welby had a sex change in the 1990s, but became unhappy as a woman too. May-Welby is now officially registered on a birth certificate as a "neuter" after doctors in Australia were unable to determine the 48 year old's sex.
(More details - The Daily Telegraph)

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