BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for March 21, 2010 - March 27, 2010

Weekly Bonus Question

16:39 UK time, Friday, 26 March 2010


UPDATE 1639 BST: The correct question is, Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes won the annual prize for the oddest book title. (More details - Guardian)

Of your wilfully and deliberately wrong questions, we liked:

  • LaurenceLane's What was the original title of Graham Greene's novel 'Travels With My Aunt'?
  • TheCoachman's What do you call yarns about yarns?
  • SimonRooke's What was the title of Captain Hook's autobiography?
  • Pendragon's What episode was deemed too exciting for viewers of "Last of the Summer Wine"?

Thanks to all who entered.

Your Letters

16:00 UK time, Friday, 26 March 2010

Where will all those ex-Eastenders find work now?
Kate, York

Re: Assault charge for stripper outfit rugby player. Dressed up as a stripper? As the stereotypical male stripper seems to be dressed up as a police/fireman etc, does that just mean he was naked?
Bruce, London

I was terribly disappointed that the front page teaser for last week's ten things, "Neck muscles used to plump lips", was not about evolution.

GJ, Oxford

I can't be alone in wondering what King Arthur thinks of this (Camelot sold to Canada)
Karen Cooke, Gloucester, UK

Re:UK beaches swamped by plastic litter, say campaigners ) - "It said the amount of rubbish was 77% higher than in 1994 - its first annual survey - and the proportion of plastic volunteers found had never been higher." Are they the latest cereal-box craze, then? Roll up, get your plastic volunteers here! Set of 10 - collect them all!
Catherine, Leicester

Andy (Thursday's letters) it is so not. I always do it and there are always 10. Why I do is beyond me.
PollySaxon, Cornwall

Andy, (Thursday's letterscount the beaks!
Jenn, Porthcawl, Bridgend

Re: Thursday's letters - No, Andy, you're not alone, I also compulsively count the 'ten things' photographs. Maybe we need some kind of support name is Phil and I count things...
Phil S, Vancouver, Canada

Gordon Brown (no, not that one, the one in Thursday's letters) is right, but the problem is more widespread than just axing. There are no more fires, just blazes; nobody writes anything, they pen it; there are no attempts, only bids... I could go on and on but it's only 7.30 and I need my coffee. Journalistic-shorthand-creep?
Karen Cooke, Gloucester, UK

Re: axe attack (Thursday's letters). It's all very worrying; I suggest a probe, followed by a crackdown.
Timothy, Leeds

10 things we didn't know last week

15:31 UK time, Friday, 26 March 2010

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

1. Eighty-two million people play Farmville.
(More details)

2. The name "scrumpy" comes from a word meaning small and shrivelled.
(More details)

3. Rudyard Kipling turned down the Order of Merit - twice.
(More details)

4. In The Wizard of Oz, Toto was played by a dog called Terry.
(More details)

5. Pine that is grown in a cold climate has greater durability.
(More details)

6. The Bill began life as a one-off drama called Woodentop.
(More details)

7. The world's most complex mathematical problem is called the Poincare Conjecture.
(More details)

8. There are only about 10 Pagani Zonda S supercars produced each year.
(More details)

9. Teachers sometimes get lavish gifts from their pupils like a Tiffany bracelet.
(More details)

10. Over 260 species of marine wildlife become entangled in litter or mistake it for food.
(More details)

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Anita Bekker for this week's picture of 10 boats.

Paper Monitor

12:42 UK time, Friday, 26 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press

Funny what a pound can buy you these days... a copy of a newspaper such as the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, a day's unlimited perusal of the Times' website (from June, that is, when it will erect its paywall) or the Independent.

Not simply a copy of the Indy - though that, indeed, is the cover price of the paper - but the entire business ... the newspaper, its full complement of staff, its archive, its printing contracts and so on. Oh, and just as all newspapers these days like to include a freebie sweetener - a DVD, discount restaurant vouchers, that sort of thing - so the Indy's former owners threw in the Independent on Sunday for good measure.

Why a pound? Well (and for those who didn't read the Magazine explanation first time around) anyone who has had the good fortune to study the law of contract will know this is all about *consideration*, although a friend of Paper Monitor's whose dad bought a company for a pound informs it that, in that instance at least, the sum never actually changed hands.

Reading the small print of the Independent deal it turns out the former owner actually paid the purchaser £9.25m to take the paper of its hands. Why not just settle on £9,249,999 and be done with it?

Friday's Quote of The Day

09:13 UK time, Friday, 26 March 2010

"All the pain suddenly went and - despite the thrashing, maniacal croc spinning me like a top - I felt a surreal calmness" - The British teacher who was attacked by a crocodile.

Never smile at a crocodile - so the song goes. British teacher Anthony Blackmore didn't have time to, during his terrifying encounter with one. He swimming in Lake Malawi when an 11ft croc got his teeth stuck into him.
(More details - The Daily Mail)

Your Letters

16:08 UK time, Thursday, 25 March 2010

"A real sense of farming"? If farming really involved clicking on virtual chickens and finding golden mystery eggs and clicking pink and brown cows to get strawberry and chocolate milkshake, I would take it up!
Luisa, FarmVille

Axe Attack: Move over, Crunch Creep, there's a new candidate for the over-use award. Yesterday on the BBC News web site we had a headline on BA axing flights, Darling axing stamp duty and London Underground axing jobs. Is nothing cut, reduced, cancelled, made redundant or closed these days?
Gordon Brown (Yes, really), St Neots, UK

Was I the only one thinking the Pulp back catalogue was up for grabs?
Vincent, Worthing

So cloudy days increase student applications to colleges/universities? I mean really, why is someone wasting time finding out this kind of useless information? Now if it helped on buying that winning lottery ticket.
JennyT, NY Brit

Bill Mooney (VP and general manager of Zynga) - surely born to make cash out of cows?
Jane Verne, London, UK

Is this the first instance of perhaps phonetic(ish) Nominative Determinism "Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing"?
Jo, Reading

Given the impending new series of Dr. Who, I think the headline writer on this story really missed a trick. It could so easily have been Cider-men attack Downing Street.
Phil, Guisborough

What's the Order of Merit? My dad, then me, then my wife.
Ben Merritt, Sheffield, England

Is it just me who feels compelled to count the objects in the "ten things" photographs, just to make sure? last week's swans were particularly taxing.
Andy, Bath

Never mind the fine points of what storks may or may not do in some mythical stories (Wednesday's letters), isn't it rather more worrying that our future prime minister is apparently unaware of some very basic biology?
Adam, London, UK

I always thought that the stork (Wednesday's letters), left babies under gooseberry bushes.
Emma, Jersey

Caption Competition

14:10 UK time, Thursday, 25 March 2010


Winning 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. Candace9839
In loo of a beach holiday

5. Tremorman
Who got sand on the toilet paper?

4. Raven
James was pleased that the holiday cottage was indeed a stone's throw from the beach, but an extra three walls would have been nice

3. HaveGavel
The new "log flume" was a bitter disappointment

2. placey1
Although it looked like she was building sandcastles, the truth is she was just going through the motions

1. simon
I knew it was an error asking Tracy Emin to do the bathroom.

Paper Monitor

12:30 UK time, Thursday, 25 March 2010


A celebration of the riches of the daily press.

As predicted yesterday, the Daily Telegraph now has "Newspaper of the Year" emblazoned on its front page. The Times, previous owner of the mantle, has just Max 15C, min 3C. And while we know that the Daily Express remains "The World's Greatest Newspaper", how can we not have previously noted that the Daily Mirror offers "Real News... Real Entertainment", the Daily Star is "Britain's most successful newspaper", and the FT"World Business Newspaper". Odd that last one, but Paper Monitor isn't making it up.

There's more Budget coverage in today's papers than one could decently consume in a week. But Poppy, 19, from Somerset, gives the Sun's Page Three her analysis on the increase in tax on cider. "It is a uniquely refreshing beverage which scientific studies have concluded to be rich in health-improving antioxidants - or, as the Wurzels put it, 'it soothes all me troubles away oh arr oh arr aay.'."

The Times's Ann Treneman, celebrates having witnessed the "Great Alistair Darling joke" (taunting the Conservatives about closing tax loopholes with Belize): "It was a whoopee cushion with eyebrows. No one saw it coming, possibly because we were trying so hard, as when driving at midnight, just to stay awake... I knew that [Mr Darling] had probably been up all night, dulling [the Budget] down. After all, this is a man who boasts that he won the Most Boring Politician of the Year award from Trucker's Weekly."

One award the paper is trumpeting is that to political cartoonist Peter Brookes, whom Paper Monitor has long considered a towering talent. But try as one might, one can't work out who a character with his head on the chopping block about to be done for by an executioner Alistair Darling is. It looks a bit like Benjamin Netanyahu, but that can't be right. Edward Heath maybe? The legacy of Edward Heath? No, that's nonsense. A banker, perhaps? He is wearing a blue suit so it might just be a Conservative, but that doesn't feel quite right. Maybe it's a character meant to indicate public spending? If so, convention surely dictates he would have the words PUBLIC SPENDING in massive lettering on his clothes. Maybe it's just Paper Monitor's failing. You can see the picture here, and are invited to put us out of our misery either in comments below or via the Magazine's update on Facebook.

(PS. Just think, in a few weeks, we won't be able to link to things like this on the Times without the possibility of hitting a paywall.)

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:42 UK time, Thursday, 25 March 2010

"It is inevitable if you combine the Union Flag with a space theme" - Designers of the new UK Space Agency's logo when told it looks like one that appeared in Dr Who.

The £10,000 logo features a red arrow soaring upwards from a Union Flag. Sci-fi fans say it is similar to one used for the Space Rocket Group, which featured in a Dr Who Christmas special three years ago. The designers say: "There is barely a passing resemblance."
More details (the Sun)

Your Letters

16:05 UK time, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Re: Last Supper 'has got supersized'. In the spirit of this research, I'd like to postulate that Dali's Last Supper indicates that most people don't get their five-a-day.
Nicolas, London, UK

I first read "sacred cows" as "scared cows". I was wondering, frankly, what you were on. Scared cows of cinema? Oh dear.
Luisa, Bristol

I always though that Eve was the first woman, rather than Florence Nightingale
Basil Long, Nottingham

Hats off to the picture editor for shoehorning an almost entirely gratuitous photo of Sean Bean into this story. More please!
Susan, UK

I think with all the SamCam abbreviability, we should start Go-Bro!
Jamie Brown, Didcot

Secret agent? Doesn't sound very secret to me!
Jaz, Bath

I'm worried about Kirsten (Tuesday's letters) as my parents told me that storks dropped the baby down the chimney. How does she expect the baby to get into the house otherwise?
John Brown, Brussels, Belgium

In regards to everyone's Stork/Chimney comments (Tuesday's letters): If you remember the Roman Catholic scene from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life you'll realise that chimneys are magically connected to a womans womb.
Liam, Northampton

To Mel, (Tuesday's letters), that's easy: the luggage.
Sophie Smith, London

Paper Monitor

13:31 UK time, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the best newspaper of them all?

Now don't be misled by the question, it's not the Daily Mirror.

On Monday, it was the Times - which gleefully carried a "Newspaper of the Year" tag just under its masthead, as it had done daily for the previous 12 months.

But that changed last night at the annual British Press Awards - the, forgive the overused analogy, Oscars of the newspaper industry - when the crown was passed to the Daily Telegraph. (The Times can at least console itself with having Caitlin Moran being named columnist of the year.)

The paper carries a report of its award on p2, though it wasn't sufficiently ready for the accolade to have the title ready to slap on its front page. Expect to see it tomorrow.

But where does all this leave the Daily Express. While the paper failed to hoover up any of the major awards at last night's do, it is not about to drop its claim to be "The World's Greatest Newspaper".

Paper Monitor has never found out which august body actually bestowed this honour on the paper. In the finest tradition of Fleet Street, it seems it must be attributed to "unnamed sources".

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

10:31 UK time, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

"I've been told it's equivalent to using a firearm" - Commuter Colin Furze on why police say he can't use his specially-adapted flame-throwing scooter on the road.

The 30-year-old plumber kitted out his scooter with a flame-thrower he built in his back garden. The vehicle now shoots out 15ft flames. He says riding it makes him feel like a "secret agent", but the police have told him he cannot use it on the road.

Your Letters

15:40 UK time, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Concerning: "Is the 'Jade Effect' still working?" No.
Iain F MacMillan @BBC News Magazine

Balamurugan Kannappan @BBC News Magazine

Typical blokes! I think us women are more aware of making sure we get our smear tests regularly now.
Emma West @BBC News Magazine

Jade Goody helped me. I went and got checked out. I haven't forgotten her story. I do think she was important in that regard. I asked my nurse as she was checking me out whether she had witnessed a Jade Effect and she said yes, there had been noticably more appointments.
Jennifer Cleverdon @BBC News Magazine

Regarding Cameron's "sometimes it takes a while before the stork pops one down the chimney" comment. Does anyone else find it a bit worrying that someone hoping to lead the country doesn't know the difference between a stork and Santa?
Kirsten, Wandsworth, London

Re: BA still cancels flights in the aftermath of strikes. Newcastle has exactly four incoming and four outgoing BA flights scheduled a day, so a cancellation figure of 58% is pretty impressive - which part of the plane didn't leave?
Mel, Newcastle, UK

I know I won't be the only one, but I was massively disappointed by this headline: "Evans 'to play Captain America'."
Simon, Edinburgh

Re: Thinking inside the box. I'm guessing his surname is either Barrow or Gale!
Ralph Allison, Chatham, Kent.

Looks like The Times is trying to muscle in on the nominative determinism market. Paper Monitor needs to sort them out.
Luke, Edinburgh

Paul, (Monday's letters) the police may or may not have much experience of five year olds driving but I bet they have a lot of experience of drivers acting like five year olds!
Lynne Holmes, Lincoln

Judith from Weybridge (Monday's letters) has a point, although my attention was drawn more to the 5-foot camera mast than the door stickers.
Brian Saxby, Newcastle, UK

Paper Monitor

13:13 UK time, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A celebration of riches of the daily press.

It's a little while since Paper Monitor has indulged in its favourite form of juvenilia. So let's have a look at today's punning headlines on the forthcoming Cameron baby.

Sorry to report there are quite a few pretty poor examples, including: "SAM'S HAVING A BABYCAM" (Daily Mail), "Dust off the SamPram, Dave" (Daily Mail, again), "Wham bam! Sam Cam to be mam" (the Sun). But the Times's "Sam Cam moves towards labour" is neat, as is the Guardian's "Sam Cam's labour bombshell".

This whole Sam Cam thing isn't going to go away, is it? One wonders if, without such a handy abbreviation, the opportunities for getting into the papers might be limited?

Some student of politics somewhere surely needs to get PhD funding to examine the effect on the length or abbreviability of names on political coverage. It's the tyranny of the column width. When everyone's reading online text on the backs of their hands this won't happen any more.

The Times also deserves special mention for its headline on the editorial about the Dispatches/Sunday Times investigation: "Byers Market". Neat.

But there are no thanks to the Mail or the Times for dusting off the revelations, from Cherie Blair's book Speaking for Myself, that Leo Blair was conceived during a prime ministerial visit to Balmoral.

But just so that Paper Monitor isn't the only one slightly embarrassed again, let's recap: Mrs Blair was "extremely disconcerted to discover on her first visit to Balmoral in 1998 that everything of hers had been unpacked - including her "distinctly ancient toilet bag with its range of unmentionables".

She wrote: "This year I had not packed my contraceptive equipment, out of sheer embarrassment. As usual up there, it had been bitterly cold, and what with one thing and another..."

Anyone still reading? If so, you'll may be pleased to hear that the Daily Telegraph's 1st Rule of Attractability - as set out in yesterday's Paper Monitor - holds true for today. Page one and page three.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:42 UK time, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

"I wasn't on hands-free, but I figured I wasn't really driving the car" - Rona Williams, whose trapped car was shunted by a lorry along a motorway for almost a minute.

The lorry driver, oblivious to what was happening, continued to drive at about 60mph while Ms Williams, a vet from York, frantically phoned the emergency services. The lorry driver eventually realised the drama unfolding beneath his bumpers, and pulled over on the hard shoulder.
More details (the Guardian)

Your Letters

16:34 UK time, Monday, 22 March 2010

Presumably the police have lots of experience of five year olds driving ? (Friday's Quote of the Day).
Paul Greggor, London

Lauren, Taunton Friday's Letters , living alone is no excuse for buying frozen chopped onions ( The rise of lazy food). When I lived on my own, I only used half an onion at a time. The other half would be wrapped in clingfilm and put in the fridge. It lasts 2-3 days.
Clare, Turnford, Herts

I'm sorry, Quote Monitor, but it's not obvious that knives are bad, particularly army knives. It is obvious that knifing someone is bad, but cutting carrots? (Or using a screwdriver or opening a bottle?) I just hope no-one queries your stance on infidelity.
Warren, Bristol

Knives aren't bad, Quote of the Day Monitor; I fixed my car horn with mine this morning (well, I replaced the fuse). I wonder how many spork attacks we'd have to see before we started demonising sporks.
Phil, Guisborough

No, BBC, knives are not bad, *stabbing* people with knives is bad. Which most of us don't do, by the way. Most of us would use an army knife to cut cheese or apple while on a picnic or to sharpen our sketching pencils. By mindlessly repeating the governments' ludicrous stance on this, the BBC accepts the criminalising of these most innocent of activities.
Kat Brown, Glastonbury, Somerset

How is it unmarked yet it has safety camera stickers on the door, I'm confused?
Judith, Weybridge, UK

Paper Monitor

13:15 UK time, Monday, 22 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Which newspaper has the following editorial rule: there must be an attractive woman on the front page and also on page three.

You might guess the Daily Star. You'd be wrong. You might guess the Sun. You'd be wrong again.

Both of those newspapers are entirely free of front page attractive-womankind today.

It is the Daily Telegraph (sorry, no link in this case) that seems to have this rule.

Today it is old photographs of Samantha Cameron. Taken in 1997, the shot on the front page is of her in a fairly skimpy red dress. Inside we see more shots of her - reclining in a black evening gown and showing a bit of thigh in a white mini-dress. The big picture shows her on the floor, playing with kittens, while wearing a sheepskin dress that appears to have been made out of a John Motson castoff.

Paper Monitor does not want to stand accused of being unscientific in its analysis of the Daily Telegraph's attractive-woman-on-the-front policy. To prove our point we walk over to the firehazardy pile of papers that sit in the office and pick out the first two Telegraphs that come to hand.

They are dated 17 March and 15 March. The latter has a picture of the blonde woman caught up in legal shenanigans in Dubai after being accused of the "crime" of kissing someone.

The 17 March edition has a picture of Zara Phillips on the front. Somebody has helpfully ripped off the top half of page three, although there is still a picture of the Duchess of Cornwall on that page.

Anyway, back to "Sam Cam", as the Telegraph says she is "known to her friends" (surely they just know her as Sam, just as Paper Monitor is not known as "Pap Mon", but simply as "Pap").

In the Daily Mail, Amanda Platell is positively gushing/frothing over the photos, and she has some wonderful analysis.

"The resulting look is more flirtatious than outright raunchy - think Sharon Maughan in her Gold Blend coffee advert days."

But the wonderful thing about the Mail's coverage is the reader comments at the bottom.

The acid "Mike Wilson, Rotherham, United Kingdom" writes: "I will definitely be voting for the gorgeous Samantha at the next election - what? It's her husband who is the politician? Damn!"

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:32 UK time, Monday, 22 March 2010

"Every man should possess a guitar, an army knife, a shelf full of books, a warm coat, a computer and a mistress" - Former Monty Python star Eric Idle lists the bare essentials.

Obviously, knives are bad. And infidelity. But you can't argue with the rest of this list at least.
More details (Daily Mail)

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