BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for August 1, 2010 - August 7, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

17:33 UK time, Friday, 6 August 2010

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

1. Rotterdam is Europe's busiest port.
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2. Beach huts in Scarborough cost nearly as much as a one-bedroom flat.
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3. Buttocks are hardest to tan.
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4. Last year, Iceland became the first country with an openly gay head of state.
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5. Middlesex was first documented in the Eighth Century.
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6. Winston Churchill concealed a reported UFO sighting while prime minister because he feared it would cause mass panic and make people question religion.
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7. One in five drivers killed in road accidents has some kind of drug in his body.
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8. Hormones can affect shopping habits.
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9. William, Alice and Robert are names the English adopted from the Normans.
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10. Fourteen swimmers have been rescued from The Thames in the last six months.
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Your Letters

14:34 UK time, Friday, 6 August 2010

The price of being single... Is a price worth paying to watch whatever channel you want to watch!
John Henderson @BBC News Magazine

I live alone in a three bed house, so am paying three times the rent I would normally. The up side of this is that I can leave money / dirty clothes / valuable items around the house and I know they will be there when I get back, plus I have my hoovering days down to 4 per year (twice for landlord inspection, once for christmas and once for spring cleaning). It was Series 3 before I realised "Men Behaving Badly" was not a documentary.
Ian, MIlton Keynes

Living alone costs singletons an extra £250,000. Surely not, if they include all the food housemates steal
Tommy Ayre @BBC News Magazine

Regarding quote of the day. "I phoned 999 and an hour later a PCSO turned up and said 'I'm sorry I'm late, I had to wait for a bus because there weren't enough cars'." I'm sorry - this person got a 33 minute response to a non-emergency call, from a PCSO who clearly used his initiative when he found no cars at the nick, and she's still complaining? There's just no pleasing some people.
Stuart, Surrey

Was there any need for the the flesh eating alien fish picture on the front page? Made me come over all funny so early on a Friday.
Madison, Leeds

Five whole weeks without so much as a Weekly Bonus Question. Sob! That's it! This is a coup and I'm taking over... "A wine vending machine." Let's have your amusing questions.
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Caption Competition

14:23 UK time, Friday, 6 August 2010


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week it was contestants in the synchronised swimming competition at the European Swimming Championships, currently being held in Hungary.

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

6. Manisha
Mystery of the Lochness was finally solved - much to the dismay of many

5. Indum49
The "Simon Says" competition was now down to the last two!

4. SimonRooke 
"Keep smiling and edge towards the exit, I think that's Lembit Opik in the audience."

3. Gregss100x
John Barrowman launches JAWS: The musical

2. Ajshaw
Paris and Lindsey still found it difficult to distinguish between eyebrow pencils and toothpaste.

1. Cairngorm McWomble
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - the global warming years.

Paper Monitor

09:38 UK time, Friday, 6 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor knows how it feels to have a bad day... Falling out of the wrong side of bed, finding the fridge bereft of milk and then spending the day saying the wrong things at work.

But, then, at least Paper Monitor's misplaced phrases are unlikely to have global repercussions.

Spare a thought then for David Cameron who, having slickly negotiated the pitfalls of being prime minister during his No 10 honeymoon, has quickly been brought down to Earth.

Not content with pointing out what it sees as one "gaffe", the Daily Mail even mentions a second "blunder" on the same page.


David Cameron was facing damaging questions over his diplomatic style and judgment last night after making a throwaway claim that Iran had nuclear weapons.

The PM was branded a foreign policy 'klutz' after the gaffe, made during a public meeting screened on live television.

Strong stuff, but perhaps less painful than the accompanying report of 75-year-old Kathy Finn's assertion that Mr Cameron "denigrated" his country by suggesting on US TV that Britain had been America's junior partner during the Second World War.

Mrs Finn, it seems, was unimpressed by the PM's apology and explanation during a public question and answer session.

His party's former chairman Lord Tebbit also weighed in, accusing Mr Cameron of "sloppy, slap-happy" government for remarks suggesting Pakistan was "exporting terror".

Perhaps what Mr Cameron needs is a good foreign policy coup?

Paper Monitor has an idea that could do the trick - a quick word with Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.

As the Daily Telegraph reports the knock-on effect of Russia's ban on wheat exports, brought on by drought, could add up to a 10p rise on the price of a loaf in the UK.

The PM could be heralded for saving us a lot of dough if he plays his cards right.

One place he might want to steer clear of for a while, however, is Merseyside - the source of some alarming reports.

"Communist China set to seize Liverpool FC," reports the Daily Mirror under the headline "You'll Never Wok Alone".

Rumours abound that Hong Kong businessman Kenny Huang's proposed buyout of the club from American duo Tom Hicks and George Gillett is backed by China's state investment vehicle.

Various denials have been issued but it has not stopped the headline writers having plenty of fun.

From a foreign policy view, the reaction of the club's fervent following reported by Chris Brereton in the Independent is a touch alarming.

Forget the fact that they know little about Mr Huang - or any of the other potential bidders. For the time being, anybody has to be better than the current owners.

"As long as it gets the Yanks out," smiled Robert Kelly, a student aged 18.

Paper Monitor feels this foreign policy is a tricky business.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:13 UK time, Friday, 6 August 2010

"I phoned 999 and an hour later a PCSO turned up and said 'I'm sorry I'm late, I had to wait for a bus because there weren't enough cars'." - Stevenage woman left unimpressed by police response to her discovery of a shotgun.

She had been walking in woodland with her two-year-old granddaughter when she found the double-barrel weapon wrapped in a bin bag. Police say the community support officer arrived 33 minutes after her call, having used public transport because officers had been responding to three other emergency calls.

More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

17:02 UK time, Thursday, 5 August 2010

Re: Naomi Campbell. The TV and print media do not give two hoots about Charles Taylor and the alleged war crimes, until the supermodel Naomi Campbell pops up. Why is it that mainstream media only cares when a celebrity is involved?
Tim Simmons @BBC News Magazine

May I suggest that Mr Evans checks behind the sofa as that's where I find most of my lost things.
DS, Croydon, England

To Anne Harris (Wednesdays Letters), of British Columbia. I heard a busker playing Silent Night last Sunday - 1st of August. Does that count?
Al, Wellington

To Anne (Wednesdays Letters), our local Debenhams has had a Christmas tree up in the store since the end of June. Is is advertising their christmas savings club but does it still count?
Amy, Norwich

Anne (Wednesdays Letters) - I am sorry to report that I can beat the Costco decorations sighting. I saw a fully decorated christmas tree in my local Debenhams back in mid-July, advertising a Christmas savings scheme of some sort. I am not proud to win this one, but will award myself a congratulatory biscuit nonetheless.
Emily Parry, Portsmouth

Sorry Anne, (Wednesdays Letters) I can one up you on that one - Chrismas Cards for sale in Birthdays on Saturday. You might have the lead on the earliest purchase though...
Robyn, Cheshire

Paper Monitor

13:42 UK time, Thursday, 5 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's comforting, in these straitened times, to learn that others are ticking along nicely - so nicely, in fact, they can afford to give away half of their billion-dollar fortunes.

Is "comforting" the right term? Or should that be "teeth-grindingly infuriating"?

The newspapers understand that so many of us regard the super-rich with a complicated mixture of envy, awe and resentment. Hence the prominent coverage given to the story that 40 US billionaires have pledged to hand over at least 50% of their wealth to good causes.

The Daily Mail lays out in loving detail profiles of what it calls the "megabucks donors" - Bill Gates with his estimated £33bn, and CNN chief Ted Turner, who has "the largest herd of bison on the planet", and Barron Hilton, pictured alongside granddaughter Paris, as if to demonstrate that the ultra-wealthy can be worthy of our sympathy.

Of course, as the Times points out, not all of those on the Forbes 400 list were so philanthropic. Investor Warren Buffet, a ringleader of the scheme, admits that some of them, when approached about making the pledge, launched "a tirade" about excessive taxation and the scale of government.

The Guardian, perhaps unsportingly, scours the rich lists to identify those among America's richest who have not signed up. The Walton family, owners of Wal-Mart, and Google founders Sergei Brin and Larry Page are among those conspicuous by their absence.

However, the paper notes that "publicly declared philanthropy is much greater in the US than Britain, where wealthy individuals tend to shy away from the public gaze".

Paper Monitor notes with approval this patriotic depictions of the UK's wealthiest as bashful, Hugh-Grant-in-Four-Weddings-and-a-Funeral-style billionaires, as opposed to brash Yanks in stetsons ostentatiously throwing around dollar bills. Mostly because this characterisation neatly ducks the more obvious conclusion: that our tycoons are just tighter than theirs.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:33 UK time, Thursday, 5 August 2010

"Sort of fat" - Eric Pickles considers his public image

The portly secretary of state for communities and local government gave an interview to Conservative blogger Iain Dale, in which he also revealed that he keeps a Che Guevara portrait in his office as a motivational tool.

More details (Iain Dale's diary)

Your Letters

15:37 UK time, Wednesday, 4 August 2010

When I tell people I live in Dorchester, they say "in Dorset" and I reply "yes I heartily recommend it"! Without counties I wouldn't be able to do that and my life would be empty.
Gordon Stewardson @BBC News Magazine

Re: counties. If we do away with counties, what will people from Yorkshire have to be cocky about?
Heather Kavanagh @BBC News Magazine

Scientists have discovered an evolutionary reason why humans and whales both have grandmothers. Yes, both have mothers who had mothers.
Paul Greggor, London

Best line ever: "French-speaking, wine-drinking, castle-building"
Ralph Allison, Chatham, Kent

I presume I'm not the only one to be disappointed by the story behind "Parties gather for alcohol summit"?
Simon Varwell, Inverness

Spotted at my local Costco today - artificial Christmas trees, first of the season. Also spotted at my local Costco this evening, a family of four selecting one of said Christmas trees. Do I win a prize for the first Christmas decoration sightings of the year?
Anne Harris, Northern BC, Canada

Paper Monitor

09:29 UK time, Wednesday, 4 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Allow Paper Monitor to indulge in a spot of navel gazing, if you will.

Those of you lucky enough to live in parts of the UK where you can chance upon a copy of Metro on your morning commute may have spotted a list of 20 "Tough guy tear-jerkers" on page three.

It reprints the list compiled by none other than the Magazine last week of movies that make men cry.

No ordinary men, either, but you. So take a bow, dear readers. Paper Monitor applauds Metro for recognising the weight of your opinions.

However, Paper Monitor must temper this rare dalliance with vanity by expressing concern about the obsession with image apparent in many of the day's newspapers.

Chef Gordon Ramsay, we are told in the Daily Mail, has had a "smile makeover" in the form of teeth veneers.

The old almost snaggle-toothed look is gone. Now the Ramsay grin is a lot brighter, straighter and dare it be said, gleaming enough to rival the dazzling Simon Cowell.

It seems odd for a bloke whose grizzly persona is the key to his riches to want to smooth off his rough edges. Paper Monitor wonders if Ramsay will be so keen to polish his language.

On the same page, the Mail reports the results of a survey suggesting half of all men fear going grey above all other signs of ageing.

What, with that and the Guardian - among others - reporting the results of academic research on the vital issue of whether the all-over tan is achievable, it is no wonder the Guides are getting worked up.

The Times reports that research carried out by Girlguiding UK found half of girls aged 16 to 21 would have surgery to improve their looks.

And many of the youngsters have decided enough is enough.

More than 20,000 girls have signed a petition urging David Cameron to intervene and force magazines to tell readers when photographs have been digitally enhanced. They say that airbrushing is undermining the self-confidence of an entire generation.

More power to their arm, in Paper Monitor's view.

All this leaves Paper Monitor wondering whether the human race has evolved as much as it would like to think - particularly when it comes to attracting a mate.

The Independent describes an eligible bachelor "from a stable family background" who takes a healthy interest in the opposite sex and is ready to settle down.

But Kesho, an 11-year-old gorilla born in Dublin Zoo, might need more than the luck of the Irish in his bid for a harmonious relationship as the leader of a "harem of three lonely females" at London Zoo.

The move is both delicate and essential because the social organisation of a band of gorillas is centred on the dominant male and without such a leader, the female grouping at London Zoo is likely to split apart in acrimonious bickering, experts believe.

Paper Monitor suggests Kesho will need more than a bright smile to succeed.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:29 UK time, Wednesday, 4 August 2010

"It was better than Legoland" - Teresa Bystram, who has come under fire for taking three of her eight children to killer Raoul Moat's funeral.

Ms Bystram, 53, of Addlestone, Surrey, had never met Moat but told the Sun he was a "good role model" for her offspring. The newspaper condemned her as "sick, thick and deluded".

More details (The Sun)

Your Letters

17:43 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

"The train set off from north London's Wembley Park station at about 1030 BST on Monday." It's the first ever air-conditioned train on the Tube, so you'd think they'd know the exact time it left, wouldn't you?
Dick Savage, Plzen, Czech Republic

A one-bedroom flat for £35,000? If they were that price I would buy three today. I do like the chalets though. Well done Scarborough.
Will Bailey, Scarborough

"Using scientific gadgets?" Hey, spare us the technical details will you...
John Bratby, Southampton

The term "Wild Swimming" and the rather boring advice to the swimmers that they should be "always swimming with somebody else, being sober and thinking about currents, tides and where you're going to get out" don't sit well together with me. Maybe it should be renamed Not at All Wild But Slighty Boring Swimming.
Alan Addison, Glasgow, UK

If Gisele Bundchen's suggestion is taken up I imagine people will complain that we've gone from a nanny state to a wet nurse state.
Paul Stanch, Newcastle, UK

Fred was right, as confirmed by the tourist board of Saint He-LEE-na.
Phil, Guisborough

Paper Monitor

11:09 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Flogging a dead horse might put off the UK's famously animal-loving newspaper readership. But how about milking a cloned cow?

We may not yet be in silly season - despite the August dateline, news desks can busy themselves with devastating flooding in Pakistan, the diplomatic row between that country's leadership and 10 Downing Street, plus the environmental crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. Thus, we have not as yet been treated to this year's Victor Meldrew Found In Space.

Nonetheless, Parliament is in recess and most public relations practitioners have decamped from Soho to the beach. In such circumstances, putting out a newspaper becomes more difficult, and any reporter with a halfway decent story can expect to be instructed to "see if you can take it on" the following day.

Monday's papers were full of the New York Times's bizarre scoop about a cloned cow somewhere in the UK apparently producing milk for unwitting supermarket consumers. Having failed to positively identify said bovine, British science correspondents have a tricky task in getting another morning's worth of copy out of the tale.

Of course, they rise to the occasion. "More than 100 cows descended from cloned cattle have been born on British farms," splashes the Daily Mail. Campaigners are warning that cloned cow meat will "inevitably" end up on British tables, asserts the Daily Telegraph. The Sun's features desk gets geneticist Robin Lovell-Badge to explain why he would happily knock back a glass of cloned cow's milk himself.

A valiant effort, given that no-one has yet actually held up the calf in question for our examination. If ever were a silk purse fashioned from a sow's ear - or, indeed, a cow's udder - it were today.

Nonetheless, an Eeyore-like groan of ennui emanates from the keyboard of the Mail's Richard Littlejohn. He wanted at least a month off writing about politicians, but ex-home secretary Jacqui Smith's application for a part-time post at the BBC Trust has compelled him to break his self-imposed embargo.

Is there really so little else to write about? Perhaps this year's Victor will soon be gazing down from the heavens. As Oscar Wilde would surely observe were he brought back from the dead and employed as Paper Monitor's holiday cover - we all may lie in the gutter, but some of us look in the stars.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:02 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

"Tweet strong young man, tweet strong" - Rapper Kanye West's advice to 33-year-old Stephen Holmes from Coventry, the only person the star is following on Twitter.

The reason why West, who has over 400,000 followers of his own, picked Holmes as his "chosen one" remain obscure. For his part, Holmes, whose Twitter contributions revolve around such topics as his affection for vodka and Irn Bru, has admitted that he now feels "pressure to say amusing and witty tweets now".

More details (The Guardian)

Your Letters

15:37 UK time, Monday, 2 August 2010

A magazine about death that includes real-life experiences? Is that quotes from people who've died?
Malcolm, Birmingham

Did they play croquet at the Olympics? Much as is fascinating to see the odd sports, I believe that poetry and other non-physical events also took place. Can we be enlightened to these other extreme events?
Andy Winsch, Glouceester

I'm not entirely sure why cricket is listed alongside tug of war and croquet as "activities suited to a village fete". I'd heard it was a major international sport. Although I can't help thinking we might win the Ashes more often if we decided it with croquet.
Edward Green, London, UK

Re Paper Monitor. I've looked at the photo and it's pale burgundy with a fuchsia top section. I have spoken.
Jessica Cahill @BBC News Magazine

Paper Monitor doesn't know what to wear to a wedding? Knows the difference between fuchsia and burgundy? Surely female. Any man (except some Celts with kilts or something similar) wears a suit. Flash guys with more than one suit might choose a light suit for summer, dark for winter. Also, mingling? Men don't mingle.
Luke, Edinburgh

Hah! Yet further proof that Paper Monitor is a woman. Any man would not even believe that "fuschia" and "burgundy" are real colours in the first place, being no more than poncey synonyms for "purple", and certainly would never have thought they could be different colours.
Adam, London, UK

May I ask a question? How do you pronounce the island St Helena? I've always thought it was St HeLEENa, but heard it as St HELina in the film "The Ghost Writer." The girl's name I've always heard as HELina. If anyone has time, please let me know. Thanks.
Fred, Saudi Arabia

Paper Monitor

11:02 UK time, Monday, 2 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Weddings have always been a social minefield for Paper Monitor. What to wear? With whom to mingle? And how to brazen out consuming the maximum quantity of free food and alcohol having spent the minimum possible on gifts for the happy couple?

And now there's a new of etiquette to negotiate: fuchsia.

The pronunciation of this colour is one which has vexed Magazine readers in the past. But what actually constitutes this tricky shade is something that appears to divide the Times's top writers.

whatcolouristhis.jpgIn his report on Chelsea Clinton's marriage to Marc Mezvinsky, Tim Teeman describes the dress worn by the mother of the bride (also known as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pictured right with the happy couple) as "a fuchsia-coloured Oscar de la Renta gown". In an adjacent sidebar, however, deputy fashion editor Carolyn Asome describes Ms Clinton's frock as being "pale burgundy".

Paper Monitor is no expert, but had always imagined fuchsia and burgundy (however pale) as being quite different. Perhaps the Times's style guide should be updated accordingly, unless readers can advise otherwise.

Not every correspondent is so fixated on colour charts. According to Daniel Bates of the Daily Mail, some £6,400 was spent on each guest, the couple exchanged vows under a "flower-adorned gazebo" and the bride insisted on an "infidelity clause" in their pre-nuptial agreement, meaning Mr Mezvinsky will lose any claim to her fortune should he fail to adhere to his vows.

For the Daily Telegraph - disdainful of an event populated by the US Democratic party establishment - highlights instead its observation that "celebrity guests were thin on the ground". It continues:

Instead of an anticipated guest list that had included Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Sir John Major, star watchers had to make do with sightings of the husband-and-wife actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, the film producer Steve Bing and the dress designer Vera Wang.

Is Sir John Major really on an equivalent star billing with Ms Winfrey and Mr Spielberg? Can he even be closer to the A-list than Mr Danson, whose celebrity status has admittedly waned since the heyday of Cheers? To readers of the Daily Telegraph, it would appear that he is.

The Guardian, a paper which rarely fails to be entranced by American liberal glitter, leaps gallantly to the bride's defence. The lack of showbiz names, it insists, was "in tune with the family event that the woman at its centre had wanted it to be".

At last, someone has made the bride feel that her big day was special. Paper Monitor notes approvingly that wedding etiquette has not died out entirely.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:33 UK time, Monday, 2 August 2010

"I was encouraged to be as active as possible" - man who claimed thousands in disability benefits on being filmed refereeing a football match

Terry Langford, 62, of Horwich, near Bolton, was ordered to repay £2,777 and given a 12-month conditional discharge after pleading guilty to failing to tell authorities about a change in his circumstances. Langford had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1987 but despite claiming he was virtually unable to walk, was caught on camera running to keep up with play during a junior football match.
More details (Daily Mirror)

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