BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for July 11, 2010 - July 17, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

17:31 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

sign203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. David Beckham's wife Victoria is named "Posh" in his mobile phone.
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2. Plants think.
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3. Having a big head may protect against dementia.
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4. Gorillas play tag.
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5. Throughout history, most US infants of both genders have worn dresses.
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6. Mount Everest is getting less icy.
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7. Former Olympics minister Tessa Jowell is a "must-see" landmark on Google Maps.
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8. The Vatican says ordaining women is "grave" as is sex abuse.
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9. Wearing high heels makes flat shoes more painful.
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10. Scientists don't know whether intensive exercise is good for footballers.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Vic Barton-Walderstadt for this week's picture of 10 signposts in London's Hyde Park.

Your Letters

16:40 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

Oh dear. What does it say about me that I felt a tear coming to my eye just from reading this article?
Adam, London, UK

Glad to discover that despite the upheaval of the new site design, Magazine Monitor-endorsed units of measurement are still being used widely.
Andrew Agerbak, Harrow, Greater London

A little tip for Fran, from Brill, (Letters, Wednesday) - the new design has made it even easier to find the Magazine! Slap bang at the top of the page, second row of links, under UK. So easy you don't even need to scroll down!!
Steve Bowman, London

Not only is there a link to the Magazine at the bottom of the News home page, but there's also one at the top, in the red set of tabs. Panic over! *twitch*
AnnieMouse, Farnham, Surrey

My thoughts on your new look website - does it come with satnav, as I am wearing out my back button? And computer says No
Adrian, West Midlands

As a self-confessed grammar pedant I couldn't refrain from drawing attention to one of my pet grammar hates: "women were asked to lay on their front"? "Lay" is transitive - you lay an object down; "lie" is the correct intransitive verb to use here.
Jenny, Basingstoke, UK

Given that dinosaurs laid eggs, does that mean that chickens were around before dinosaurs?
Colin Edwards, Exeter, UK

Re: "squatting toilets" in Rochdale - any idea what the symbol on the doorw will be?
grumpuoneuk, Ilford

Two recent stories have jumped out at me: babies born at home are more likely to die than those born in hospital and now out-of-hours births are more risky. I don't know how our daughter survived being born at home at 7.30pm on a Saturday evening!
DaveP, Sheffield

Everyone knows Kes was a Peregrin Falcon!
Beth, Chichester, UK

If we (Letters, Tuesday and Wednesday) are referencing movies for the use of the word "weaponised" I would like to nominate Batman Begins. The scarecrow releases a "weaponised hallucinogen" on the slums of Gotham City. This is in fact the correct use of the adjective, describing a normally non-military object (i.e. a narcotic) being used as a lethal weapon. It does in no way mean armed.
Rob, Crawley, UK

"To all my nurnberg fans..."
I'm guessing Pink's thinking here was along the lines of 'Hmm, it's not in the US so I'll just spell it kinda how it sounds if you say it with a lazy American accent....'
SL, London

Teenagers complaining about youth discrimination (Paper Monitor, Thursday) are overlooking one thing. If I discriminate against someone for being elderly, they can't go away and become younger; if I discriminate against them for being gay, they can't go away and become straight; if I discriminate against them for being black, they can't go away and become white. But if I discriminate against someone for being young, they literally can go away and become older! It's nothing personal - they just have to wait a bit and they'll get the same treatment as everyone else.
Edward Green, London, UK

Tim, Don and to some extent, David (Letters, Wednesday). There's worse: Honeywell have the acronym ADD - or, Accidental Death or Dismemberment. So there's little use reigning in disturbisms (LURID)...
Adrian, Douglas, Isle of Man

Regarding this there actually training and licensing for removing road kill? I would have thought "Get shovel and scrape it up" would suffice?
Michelle, New Zealand

Caption Competition

13:50 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

Full rules can be seen here [PDF].

Winning entries in the caption competition.

The competition is now closed. Thanks to all who entered. This week it was a 30-foot tall eyeball sculpture by artist Tony Tasset, unveiled in a park in Chicago.

The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. Candace9839
1984 - the sequel

5. katelils
The Chicago Eye didn't seem to have the same 'fun factor' as its London counterpart.

4. TheCoachman
Derek, will you please put down that huge magnifying-glass? You're scaring everybody.

3. clint75
Despite education cutbacks, one school said they had sent a pupil to Chicago.

2. Steele Hawker
Now the aliens are demanding more Optrex

1. redalfa147
I can't think of a cornea caption than this.

Paper Monitor

09:40 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Ah, adolescence: Era of self-absorption, social awkwardness and Topshop.

Paper Monitor may not be quite in the first flush of youth; to Paper Monitor, references to "grime", "txtspk" and "carefree, un-jaded existence" are as impenetrable as the original Norwell Codex manuscript of Beowulf.

It's all Fleet Street's fault. To most newspapers, teenagers tend to fall into one of two categories - Drunk Girl, or plucky youth who sails around the world unaided/climbs Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of Cancer Research/gets into Cambridge at age 13.

This is understandable. As we are often reminded, today's youths don't read newspapers - they get their understanding of world affairs from social networking sites, text messages and the Twilight films, so why bother trying to win them over?

The Guardian thinks differently, however, and has given over an edition of its G2 supplement to be "The Teen Issue", complete with features about organising one's bedroom, flirting online and which pair of skinny jeans to wear with your Converse All Stars.

The paper's reputation may suggest that all this will have the flavour of a beard-sporting trendy vicar interrupting a ping pong session at the Friday night youth club to tell the awkward throng that they should check out the new Florence and the Machine long player because it has a really good beat.

And, inevitably, there is an element of that, although the paper is sensible enough to hand over much of the day's writing some duties to some real, human teenagers.

Here is Rebecca Grant, 15:

Why is it OK to discriminate against teenagers? Human beings are allowed into shops in groups, can choose where they sit at the cinema, and can get on a bus without fear of being turfed out halfway home. Teenagers don't have these privileges. Can you imagine the outrage if an irate bus driver suddenly stopped and bellowed, "Right. All you over-60s, off the bus"?

It's so unfair. Especially when the nation's journalists are revisiting their own adolescences via the news that Robbie Williams has re-joined Take That.

"As a former Take That diehard, I'm chuffed to bits," gushes Beth Neil in the Daily Mirror. "It'll be like Whitley Bay Ice Rink 1994 all over again."

Others aren't so enthused.

"The only problem I can see is Robbie's crippling stage fright," deadpans Gordon Smart in the Sun. "Still, at least he will have the best four friends he has ever had standing shoulder to shoulder beside him."

Nostalgia, eh? It ain't what it used to be. Paper Monitor feels older than ever.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:15 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

"It is intimidating and scary just to think about what her reaction is going to be. Hopefully she will jump on board" - Bristol Palin on how her mother Sarah will respond to news that she and former partner Levi Johnston are back together despite an acrimonious - and very public - break-up.

Ms Palin, 19, announced that she and Mr Johnston - the father of her 18-month-old son Tripp - are engaged after they "reconnected" while working out custody plans. How her mother will react is anyone's guess - after their separation, Mr Johnston posed in Playgirl magazine and engaged in a war of words with the Palin family.

More details (CNN)

Paper Monitor

11:09 UK time, Thursday, 15 July 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor is feeling miserable.

After a splendid sun-soaked start to the summer, the morning of St Swithin's Day broke to the sound of rain drumming on windows and cars splashing through puddles.

The prospect of a barbecue this weekend seemed as distant as the end of those 40 days and 40 nights of wet weather folklore promises.

Still, at least there was some cheer to be found in the daily papers. Nothing tickles Paper Monitor's funny bone more than a shaggy dog story or, in this case, a fisherman's tale.

As the Daily Mail reports, 16-year-old angler Nick Richards landed a "golden wonder" while fishing on holiday in Poole, Dorset.

His 5lb catch - a goldfish measuring a staggering 16 inches - was believed to have been released into the wild after outgrowing its tank.

And for those Doubting Thomases among you, a photo shows Nick grinning while holding the catch - believed to be a British record for a goldfish, which he later returned.

There was more animal magic in the Sun, this time thanks to some "eggheads" from Warwick and Sheffield Universities.

Prof John Harding explains how the team he led solved the riddle of which came first - the chicken or the egg - by programming the "ingredients" chickens use to make eggs into a supercomputer to see how they were constructed.

The results showed that a particular protein in chickens acts as a tireless builder, placing one microscopic section of shell on top of the other. It initiates this building process before going off to start on another part of the egg.

Without this builder protein, the eggs would not exist. And yet it is only found in a chicken's ovaries. This means the bird must have come first.

This doesn't explain where the chicken came from but, still, one bow-legged step at a time.

With mood suitable lightened thanks to these tales of our fishy and feathered friends, Paper Monitor's mind turns to lunch.

But will it be tuna, chicken or egg and cress sandwiches today?

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:52 UK time, Thursday, 15 July 2010

"It's absolutely ludicrous - Thomas Crapper would be turning in his grave" - Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, greets the news that a shopping centre is installing Turkish-style lavatories.

No longer will the sight of "squatting toilets" be confined to holidays abroad, if you shop in Rochdale. The Exchange shopping centre is having two squatting toilets plumbed in, after staff attended a cultural awareness course.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

15:50 UK time, Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Ooh, another new look to the BBC News. I am sure you'll have your usual naysayers, but once they have found the link to the Magazine (towards the bottom of the page, centre left) they'll come round!
Fran, Brill, UK

Has the news website sub-editor joined the Refresh Resistance, is it just coincidence that "Features and Analysis" sees "Welcome to our new look" immediately followed by "Rip it up... ...and start again"?
Rik Alewijnse, Feering, UK

The coded messages from the Refresh Resistance continue. Features & Analysis: "Welcome to our new look" now followed by "Planning an exit". Yes!
Rik Alewijnse, Feering, UK

Re: Is it ever OK to call someone a Nazi? I have been called a Grammar Nazi; I take this as a rather warped compliment.
Ian Oliver @BBC_magazine

In response to: Is it ever OK to call someone aNazi - what of self-confessed grammar nazis; should this descriptor, too, be a faux pas? I've no doubt many Monitor readers would label themselves as such.
Si, Leeds

Not sure where the author was a little confused with their choice of animal for the picture at the bottom of this story - isn't it ostriches that are popularly thought of as burying their heads in the sand, while tortoises retreat into their shells?
Nicola, Bristol, UK

David in Hong Kong (Tuesday's letters)clearly doesn't work in the defence sector. A whole jungle of jargon exists beyond weaponised - mostly in acronym form. Spies are not spies but Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Operatives. Soldiers are warfighters. Full-spectrum dominance means blasting the bad guy from every angle. Network-centric warfare is being able to communicate on the battlefield. I think I'll leave my COAT (Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade).
Tim, London

David (Tuesday's letters) - "weaponised" must surely be a word, because it was used in the critically aclaimed GI Joe movie. It was at the point where they took some nanobots and used a nuclear accelerator to fire lasers at them. I can't tell you how much that annoyed me - though it turned out not as much as the bit later in the movie where an explosion caused an iceberg to sink.
Dan, Cambridge

Paper Monitor

12:51 UK time, Wednesday, 14 July 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

After yesterday's celebration of lukewarm revelations, three more mildly interesting points from the diaries of Lord Mandelson, as serialised in the Times.

1. Operation Teddy Bear sounds benign, which was just the plan. Blair and Mandelson and others devised a plan to split the Treasury in two, thus hoping to neutralise Gordon Brown's power base. It was called Teddy Bear so as to avoid suspicion. It hit the buffers: "[Tony] outlined the plan to Gordon, who responded with a flat 'no'."

2. After Mandelson was sacked from the cabinet the first time, over a house loan, he and partner Reinaldo were invited to spend the night at Chequers with Cherie and Tony. "Cherie invited me to return, with my mother, for Christmas," he writes.

3. Blair loves Mick Jagger. "Tony summoned up his courage and went up to Mick [Jagger, after a dinner]. Looking him straight in the eye, he said: 'I just want to say how much you've always meant to me.' For a moment," writes Mandelson, "I thought he might ask for an autograph."

The Times really is filling its boots with its Mandelson - and it is all a good read for those who are interested in this sort of thing (which Paper Monitor is). They must be highly chuffed with their purchase.

But there's a line in Daniel Finkelstein's column today which turns the head: "One of my favourite cartoons appeared the morning after the resignation of Paddy Ashdown as leader of the Liberal Democrats," he writes. "Two men are walking past a newspaper billboard that reads: 'Ashdown stands down.' One man is turning to the other, saying: 'I've already forgotten what I was doing.'"

Priceless work, showing once again how a cartoonist can in a single sentence and a few squiggles say something contemporary, something human and something funny. So who, pray, is this talent that has stuck in Finkelstein's mind since 1999, the year Ashdown stepped down? There is no mention in the article. But come now... a moment's thought and if Paper Monitor is wrong here please do speak up and humble pie will be eaten, but surely the responsible cartoonist can really have been the one and only Matt? Of the Daily Telegraph?

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:42 UK time, Wednesday, 14 July 2010

"He asked if we visited the others and I said we didn't know where they lived. So he gave us their addresses" - Beatles fan Sue Baker on how Paul McCartney helped her track down the other members of the Fab Four after she turned up on his doorstep in 1965.

Ms Baker and a friend located McCartney's house using a magazine's description, and the star was happy to give her the whereabouts of his bandmates. Sand her companion also became regulars on the doorsteps of John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr - and insists that the group "were always happy to see us" in a more innocent age, chatting and posing for photos.

More details (The Times - subscription required)

Your Letters

19:20 UK time, Tuesday, 13 July 2010

I doubt I'm alone when I say that Tuesday got just that little bit brighter with this story...
Sue, London

So in fact this teacher earned well below the recommended salary, the additional money coming from a project he took on and arrears from the previous year, all quite legitimate and fair. Is it just me or someone stirring the pot with this story?
Ruth, Oxon

Re this story, of course why would anyone use the word "armed" when you can just make up the word "weaponised".
David, Hong Kong

Bernard Owen, of the Betws-y-Coed tourist association, says using tarmac on one of the Snowdon paths is a "slippery slope". Isn't that how mountains work?
Rob Foreman, London, UK

It is very patronising all this stuff about old people not using computers (Monday letters). Many of us have been using computers since stuff came out on punched tape. We had an emergency dash to my mother when she could not get online after a downloaded update and we helped her sort it out. Although being pensioners, it is not too easy for us to drive such a distance. Perhaps PD James, unlike my mum of similar age, did not do her own office work and therefore got out of touch with things - others have just kept on updating our home office equipment over the years.
Heather, Lincoln, UK

Paper Monitor

14:00 UK time, Tuesday, 13 July 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Phew, those Mandelson diaries eh? The vitriol, the backbiting, the dripping of pure poison... only, despite five pages of coverage* in today's Times, and plenty of talk about how their publication has sparked a bout of Labour in-fighting, Paper Monitor remains largely underwhelmed by the, er, revelations.

So in lieu of "five killer exposes", here for your delectation, are five mildly interesting things to come out of the Prince of Darkness' memoirs.

1. Alistair Darling's job was under threat - Gordon Brown had wanted to replace him with Ed Balls. But this plan fell apart when James Purnell unexpectedly quit the government, weakening Brown.

2. Alistair Darling (again) knew Labour's election fortunes were sunk thanks to his Tesco bellwether - "You can tell just by going into Tescos [sic]. People look away. They're embarrassed," he told Mandelson.

3. In the Corfugate scandal... cast your mind back folks, this is the one where Mandelson was said to have dripped "pure poison" about Gordon Brown into the ear of then shadow chancellor George Osborne - also holidaying in Corfu at the time. But how did Mandelson - who'd been invited to party by the Rothschild family - end up staying on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska's yacht? Because there was no room at the Rothschild inn after Osborne took the last bedroom.

4. Mandelson wears the privileged company he keeps lightly. Still in Corfu, he remembers "The other guests - an array of yacht-borne Murdochs and friends of the Rothschilds."

5. Gordon Brown couldn't make spontaneous lunchtime appointments because - in one instance at least - he couldn't scramble his protection officers quickly enough.


Tuesday's Quote of the Day

10:48 UK time, Tuesday, 13 July 2010

"If the bubble touches me, you're going to be arrested for assault" - A police officer at the G20 protests in Toronto threatens a demonstrator who was blowing soap bubbles.

A video shows the Canadian officer also warning the protester: "You touch me with that bubble, you're going into custody." The activist is subsequently filmed being handcuffed and led into police van.
More details (BoingBoing)

Your Letters

15:54 UK time, Monday, 12 July 2010

I find PD James comments about computers patronising and ageist. There is no reason why anyone cannot be taught how to use a computer, if they want to. My father, at the age of 83 would be very lonely without one. He talks to his family every day on Skype, buys and sells on EBay, listens to his kind of music on Youtube, and he spends hours amusing himself by trying to catch out Wikipedia on any factual errors. He only got a computer four years ago. Life would be lonely and boring without it for him.
Angela Painter, Cheshunt, UK

PD James is a wimp. My grandmother is 92 and is proficient with email and computers. Ok, she's not on facebook, but I don't think she feels left behind.
Beth, London

Re: "Cornwall man thanks Twitter advice for face treatment." By publishing this story, are the BBC suggesting (or even condoning) that twitter is the first action to take when ill? If I woke up and found half my face paralysed I think I would contact my doctor BEFORE I twittered. Ahh progress!
Graham, Cornwall

"Bullet-proof custard" - the best phrase ever!
Martin, Oxford

These nominative determinism headlines just write themselves...
Paul Maplesden, Tunbridge Wells, UK

You're just making these names up now just to get us to write in aren't you...
Luke, Edinburgh

Basil (Friday's letter), you appear to have missed Second Breakfast and Tiffin from your otherwise extensive list.
John, Surrey

Basil (Friday's Letters) - please will you marry me? I dream of finding such a cultured gentleman to take high tea with and possibly make it to breakfast the next morning.
Sarah, Cannock, Staffs, UK

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:31 UK time, Monday, 12 July 2010

"Every week some marvel is unveiled. It's awful, really, because when you get to the age of 90 you can't really use a computer" - crime novelist PD James says the pace of technological change is leaving the older generation behind.

The writer, who sits in the House of Lords as Baroness James, warns progress can be "horrifying and frightening" for those of advanced years, who risk being excluded from a world where even simple tasks like booking train tickets are moving online.

More details (Daily Telegraph)

Paper Monitor

09:22 UK time, Monday, 12 July 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Anyone who, like Paper Monitor, gamely endured the dismal two hours of the self-styled greatest show on Earth will know - if they managed to stay awake - that Spain are football's world champions.

But while "Spain Reign", as the Daily Express acknowledges, the papers also manage to squeeze a last drizzle of national pride from the lemon that was England's World Cup.

"English ref was real World Cup star," it proclaims on its front page, next to a picture of Howard Webb brandishing a yellow card. Photos of the Spanish winners are relegated to the back page.

"Yellow, 'ello, 'ello," says the Sun, noting that by dishing out 15 yellow cards and sending off Holland's Johnny Heitinga, the formidable Yorkshire police sergeant had claimed an unusual record.

But it is full of praise for Webb's performance:

The Rotherham official, 38, was booed by Dutch fans as he collected his medal later. But he kept his head as players lost theirs, clattering into each other in a string of appalling challenges.

The Guardian was as unimpressed as Paper Monitor by the quality of fare on offer, branding the final "brutal", "filthy", a "night of shame" and even "anti-football".

Good job England's finest was in the middle, although Paper Monitor reckons he may have wished he had packed his handcuffs and truncheon for the trip.

The Guardian, which highlights the referee's key decisions with a "Webb watch", reports:

By the time the match entered its second quarter Howard Webb had issued yellow cards to Robin Van Persie, Carlos Puyol, Mark van Bommel and Sergio Ramos, probably hoping to keep the temperature down...

You had to feel sorry for the Englishman, who had probably hoped, on such a gala occasion, to be able to referee the match with a light touch.

Mick Dennis, who claims the splendid byline of Football Correspondent and Level 7 referee for 14 years in the Express, is full of praise. Giving his expert view of how Webb reacted when surrounded by players after a particularly reckless tackle, he says:

He stood with legs planted firmly and slightly astride so as not to be forced back by anyone and he used both arms to signal his clear intention that everyone should get out of his face.

It was demonstrative authoritative body language which told the players, the crowd and a TV audience of more than 700 million that the Yorkshire copper was in control of the situation.

Paper Monitor wishes someone with a similar approach had reffed England's tie with Germany - or at least one who could spot the ball crossing the goal line.

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