BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for January 16, 2011 - January 22, 2011

10 things we didn't know last week

16:57 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011

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

1. Princess Diana had two wedding dresses.
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2. President Kennedy's famous line "Do not ask..." was inspired by the headmaster of his prep school.
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3. Fourteen-year-olds build successful iTunes apps.
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4. Justin Webb's father was a BBC newsreader.
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5. "Filthy lucre" and at least 256 other distinct phrases from the King James Bible are in modern English idiom.
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6. There have been a number of suggested 13th signs of the Zodiac over the years.
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7. Phone books are getting thinner.
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8. Birds make "No trespassing" signs.
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9. Smoking damages the body in minutes.
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10. Chess playing stimulates different brain activity.
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Your Letters

13:19 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011

Re: Live chicken thrown at KFC staff: "Inspector Helen Smith, from the RSPCA, said the bird was not harmed but did suffer some distress.". So I'm guessing it had to deal with the counter staff but didn't actually eat any of the food.
Joel, Hamburg, Germany

Martin (Thursday's letters) - I feel much the same way about non-Christians automatically getting the Christmas holidays off. I don't think we'll win this one though.
Sarah, Warrington

Martin (Thursday's letters): As a contractor I don't get paid when I don't/can't work, meaning that I would love to go about as if the Royal Wedding was a normal day. I wish them well and all that, but their happiness seems to come at the price of a day of my wages.
Joseph, London

Re: Martin (Thursday's letters) and "that wedding". I haven't been motivated enough to express my disinterest BUT I shall be working as normal. Like many self-employed people I cannot afford to take an unpaid holiday.
Graham, Hayle, Cornwall

In the 10 things, "President Kennedy's famous line "Do not ask..." was inspired by the headmaster of his prep school." Is that "Do not ask, do not tell"? Hmmm....

Martin, Luxembourg

How appropriate that this story about animals living in the soil should appear in Earth News.
David, Romford, UK

Caption Competition

13:02 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week it was a rarely seen manuscript of one of the world's most important copies of the Koran. Each of the Koran of Kansuh al-Ghuri's 470 pages are the size of a large plasma screen TV. It is kept by the University of Manchester's John Rylands Library.

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

6. Grazvalentine
That's the last time I listen to Richard and Judy!

5. Killos69
The Katie Price Biography Anthology was a bit much

4. Tim G
I thought they said the new phone books were smaller ..

3. Eattherich 
Applying for benefits has never been easier. When you've read and answered the questions just sign and date at the bottom of the last page, please.

2. Presto_west_end
The "coffee table book" takes on a new meaning.

1. Cheesy
There were fears that Amstrad's take on the iPad would be less than competitive.

Paper Monitor

10:37 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's hard being a celebrity sometimes. US rapper P Diddy is in town and he has a cold. Sorry, he has "flu". Whatever, he's not feeling too well at all. But being the trooper he is, he soldiers on with his commitments. These seem to consist of plugging everything from his album to his own-brand vodka.

Of course, being so ill he needs some help. This consisted of a 40-strong entourage when he visited the Sun's offices to be interviewed. Yes, that's a four followed by a nought. The crew included someone to comb his hair during the interview, someone to spray his hands with sanitiser and someone to type for him during an online question and answer session.

The parents of severely disabled Celyn Williams must surely feel they are living in an alternate universe, if they have read about the hardship Mr Diddy is currently having to endure. The story of how they have been pushed to the limit trying to look after their six-year-old daughter is in all the papers.

Celyn is blind, quadriplegic, has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and needs round-the-clock attention. They get just six hours a week respite care from social services. Unable to cope, they have now said they have no choice but to put their daughter into full-time care.

"All I am asking for is a little more support," Ceryn's mother, Riven Vincent, tells the Times. In the Daily Telegraph, she says she is "crumbling" under the relentless pressure of looking after her daughter.

But the chances are that without someone to go to the shop for them and buy the Sun and without someone to open it for them, and without someone to read it to them, and without someone to look after Celyn for them so they can concentrate on what is being read to them, they haven't had a chance to catch up on poor Mr Diddy's troubles. Maybe he could send some of his 40-strong entourage over to help.

Your Letters

15:56 UK time, Thursday, 20 January 2011

Funny thing - as an unemployed person I'm constantly told by the JobCentre that I should take any work, over any hours, for any money, regardless of how desirable the job may or may not be. Then this happens, which kind of undermines the whole thing.
MK, Greater Manchester

Re: What is Baroness Warsi's "dinner table test"? I cannot imagine sitting round the same table as George Osborne or any of the heads of our great British banks, something I suspect the Baroness would be quite comfortable with, but each to his own.

Firstly warsi's dinner table is a metaphor so people should not be asking etiquette experts to comment. Come on BBC grow up. Secondly what a group of friends discuss anywhere together is their business and will always reflect current news and affairs.

I don't really understand how this situation can arise. ALL public sector workers earning over £21k = pay freeze. MPS are both public sector employees and earning over £21k, therefore the freeze should override any other rules. Simple.
Mel, Newcastle, UK

Re: Why are phone books getting thinner? BT has also made the typeface smaller so much so that I can no longer read it even with my new varifocal spectacles. I have to use a magnifying glass. When contacted they offered free access to their online service provided I had a recognised eye disease or was registered blind! Funnily enough the page trumpeting their sponsorship of the Olympics was in a large, clear type.
Mary Redman, Writtle, Chelmsford, Essex

I have just received my "new-size" phone book. I have average vision, but the combination of poor, grey recycled paper and tiny type-size makes it impossible to read in normal indoor light. Whatever became of accessibility? Does it not apply to BT?
Nick , Wakefield UK

I assume then that all of these people who just have to voice their lack of interest in the forthcoming Royal Wedding, (Wednesdays Letters) will truly nail their colours to the mast and have the same attitude to the accompanying bank holiday and will just go about that day as if it was normal working Friday. I suspect not, and I would be hugely disappointed by that.
Martin, High Wycombe, UK

I'm with you Tony Maye (Wednesday's letters), thought of 100 days of boring drivel to get through before the great event makes me wish I'd emigrated.
Pamela Read, London UK

Paper Monitor

11:38 UK time, Thursday, 20 January 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

What a commotion an obscured breast can cause. The breast in question belongs to model Miranda Kerr, who also happens to be Mrs Orlando Bloom and mother of two-week-old Flynn.

The happy couple have posted a picture of Ms Kerr breastfeeding their new son on their personal website. Young Flynn is covering most of one breast and a dressing gown is covering all of the other one, as well as the rest of Ms Kerr's body.

But it seems that when the underwear model isn't revealing her flesh on a catwalk, it becomes a hotly-debated subject. According to the Express, Ms Kerr is now in the middle of a "breastfeeding row" about whether or not mothers should breastfeed in public. With whom is not really clear.

The Daily Mail says "in a world where celebrity parents insist on introducing their babies to the world in big-money, glossy magazine deals, the picture marks a refreshing change". The refreshing bit for the Mail being that it hasn't had to fork out a fortune to buy the picture.

"BLOOMING' ECK" is the headline in the Mirror. The paper is rather confused. In a world where many celebrities moan on about privacy, why post a picture with your "boob out" it asks? Columnist Polly Hudson also admonishes them for "dishing all the birth dirt for anyone who cared to read it". That "dirt" being that it had been a "long, arduous and difficult" birth. Hardly the gory details.

Unusually, it's the Daily Star that takes the most measured approach to the picture. It takes it for what it is - a proud mum and dad presenting their new son to those who are interested. The Star being the voice of reason. Now that's not something that happens everyday.

Your Letters

15:22 UK time, Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Re: Can Kate Middleton's dress stay a secret? I'm like most people. The wedding is good news, and I wish the pair of them well, but beyond that I really struggle to find the time or the energy to care about it.
Craig Williams @BBC News Magazine

I wish they'd keep the ruddy wedding a secret.
Tony Maye @BBC News Magazine

Re: Why are phone books getting thinner? We are told that the saving in paper is three times the weight of the London Eye. Does this join the London bus and Olympic swimming pools as an approved unit of measure?
Francis, Watford

Nelson's Column for height, a double decker bus for length, and now...the London Eye makes its debut as a measure of weight. Bravo.
Aaron, Lowestoft, UK

Michael Thomas (Tuesday's letters), apparently part of the wall driving brigade.
LC, London

Michael Thomas, (Tuesday's letters), can I add Tsars to your wishlist ? Do you really have to be a Russian aristocrat to be nominally in charge of anything these days?
Paul, Ipswich

SS, (Tuesday's letters), another difference is there are very few stay at-home dads who breastfeed their babies. Well I would assume so, anyway.
Caroline Brown, Rochester

Paper Monitor

10:53 UK time, Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Isn't it nice when an ex-colleague goes onto bigger and better things? Don't you feel that warm glow of pride when an former co-worker - or best of all, a former boss - achieves success and remuneration well in excess of your own?

Anyone? Anyone?

The Daily Mirror seems oddly deflated by one-time editor Piers Morgan anding the prime interviewing slot once presided over by TV legend Larry King on US channel CNN.

"TV's Piers Morgan's biggest fan, Piers Morgan, gave himself a pat on the back after the launch of his new TV show," miaows the paper's leader.

"Now he faces a challenge to win viewers. Because the only person watching might, in the end, be Piers Morgan."

What could the Mirror possibly have against the man who was ejected from its editor's chair after publishing photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqis that the paper was subsequently forced to concede were fake?

Its TV critic Jim Shelley launches his review of Mr Morgan's first interview thus: "Piers Morgan claimed 300 million people across the world would watch his debut show on CNN - although 299 million were probably lonely businessmen in hotel rooms who stumbled on it while searching for its porn channels."

Shelley does depart from the party line by conceding that his one-time overlord is "always pretty entertaining, and rarely makes for dull television". But the critic suggests the US may take some time to adjust to Morgan because he "mentioned the cricket".

But on this point, Shelley may be wrong. A feature in the Times reveals how that most English of games is enjoying an incongruous bust of popularity in Compton, the city in Los Angeles county once notorious for its gang culture. The one that NWA were Straight Outta.

In a remarkable story that reminds Paper Monitor of Netherland, Joseph O'Neill's masterly post-9/11 novel about cricket in New York, it turns out that the Compton Cricket Club - "a team of former gangsters" - started out by "hitting runs in a parking lot 13 years ago, using trash cans as wickets".

Now they are embarking on a world tour. Ted Hayes, a social campaigner and homeless activist, was instrumental in getting the side off the ground. He explains its appeal among the west coast's dispossessed:

When I played that first game of cricket I saw the difference between soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, which all have sportsmanship rules, but they don't have an etiquette like cricket. In cricket, you don't argue with the umpire, you don't show dissent, you don't ridicule your opponents, or your team-mates if they make a mistake. Cricket teaches you to play the game in a respectful manner. It teaches you discipline. And I believe that when the players go beyond the boundary, they live a better life with their family, their siblings, the police.

He adds: "If the British never did anything right, they did right when they invented cricket." Maybe Piers Morgan's chances are better than his former employers think.

Your Letters

15:51 UK time, Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Re: Are record clubs the new book clubs? What's a "record"?
Les Woods @BBC News Magazine

There are novels, and there are collections of short stories. There are concept albums, and there are collections of songs. Let artists produce the work as they feel it, and let listeners choose to listen as they desire it. There's room for all. Now excuse me while I download War and Peace, Book 1, Chapter 12 - it's the only part worth reading!
Gavin Regnart

Re: Are record clubs the new book clubs? Aaaaaaagh! I wish people would stop using the word "brigade" for any collective group. It's especially prevalent in things to do with political correctness. Drives me up the wall for some reason.
Michael Thomas @BBC News Magazine

Re: Have the Zodiac and star signs changed? Maybe people should just read all 12 horoscopes, and see which one they like the best on any given day. I mean, why let scientific facts about the universe get in the way of your daily dose of ridiculous mythology?
John Bratby, Southampton

Yet again I stumbled over a heading in the BBC live bookmarks: Three killed AFTER motorway crash. The article explains that they died IN the crash. There is a difference.
Vic in Berlin, Berlin/Germany

So, what's it like being a stay at home dad? Just like being a stay at home mum I guess, except he stands up to go to the toilet.
SS, Caernarfon, Wales, UK

Re: Monday's letters, I believe I am the thousandth person to point out that acronyms and initialisms are both types of abbreviation, and hereby claim my prize. Ooh, a familiar coat, how lovely!
Chris Perry, London

Paper Monitor

13:00 UK time, Tuesday, 18 January 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There's nothing the papers like better than to check out how our exported British talent is performing Stateside. And this morning there are three Brits under the American media's microscope.

One joked his way to notoriety, one stuttered and one sat on a cream armchair asking questions.

First up, it's naughty Ricky Gervais, who finds himself cast as enemy number one and possibly even blacklisted in Hollywood after poking fun at Tinseltown royalty as host of the Golden Globes Awards in Los Angeles.

The BBC website yesterday provided a neat summary of some of his offending gags, but today the papers get stuck in, with a mixture of admiration and disapproval.

The creator of David Brent received full backing from Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail:

You have to recall that these starlings of global glitter are dim birds, prone to follow the flock. And the flock did not know what do because it had never encountered such risky mockery... One of the paradoxes of the American film world is that it purports to celebrate individuality... but it has a terror of independence of mind

It might have been a performance that raised Gervais in the estimation of many British observers. But the American commentators were not amused.

The New York Times was among the kindest, merely describing Gervais as the "master of ceremonies, not civility", but the Washington Post spoke for many when it said Gervais was miscast, even inquiring whether the country was at war with England.

Not all Americans failed to see the funny side. Robert de Niro was visibly amused, apparently, and had his own irreverent joke when on the stage, and the Mirror noted how Al Pacino said Gervais was doing what he's paid to do - be a comedian.

For those that like to see the British uphold a more deferential standing when abroad, then Colin Firth supplied a blend of gentility and humour in accepting his Best Actor award, quipping about staving off a mid-life crisis.

But the third Briton in the news, Piers Morgan, received a cooler reception on his debut in one of the highest-profile jobs on American television, taking over the Larry King Show on CNN.

According to the Guardian, he was "too fawning" when interviewing his first guest, Oprah Winfrey.

A demonstration that British humility and deference is far from dead, despite events elsewhere.

Your Letters

15:59 UK time, Monday, 17 January 2011

Is this picture really "an image of coping"? Looks a bit deranged to me.
Sarah, Nantwich

"Mothers Admit to Parenting Lies": I just opened this article to be greeted with a child's painting of a face along with the seemingly unrelated caption "Mothers are under pressure to keep up an image of coping, says the survey". Is this actually a child's drawing, a photo of a harried mother trying to cope or an artist's impression of the parental "image of coping" while simultaneously breaking down? I found this most intriging.
Martin, Bristol, UK

Oh to be in Southampton now, and to finally get a chance to use one of my favourite Eddie Izzard quotes: "Whose pig is this?"
Martin, Bristol, UK

Re: 10 things: "Aristotle was known as the human Wikipedia." I knew the greeks had soothsayers, I'd just never realised they were that good.
Ian, Bristol

No, Artistotle certainly was not known as the human wikipedia (10 things). He might have been nicknamed that more recently, but I doubt he'd have answered to it.
Katy, Cambridge

CORRECTION: Patrick, Adam (Friday's Letters), it's not an abbreviation either. An abbreviation is where a word is shortened (e.g., co., ltd., etc.). DRA is an example of an initialism. I'll get my fine-toothed comb.
P. Dant, Marlow, UK

Paper Monitor

09:37 UK time, Monday, 17 January 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Is rock 'n' roll dead? It's a proposition that must surely vex all followers of popular culture, but none so much as those journalists paid to write about said idiom.

Paul Gambaccini - the "Professor of Pop", no less - has argued that we are witnessing "the end of the rock era... in the same way the jazz era is over", citing a slump in sales. The percentage of rock songs in the charts plummeted in the last calendar year to 3% from 2009's 13%, according to official figures.

Times rock critic Will Hodgkinson, of course, is a man with a vested interest in refuting such allegations, given that his livelihood depends upon the genre remaining very much alive.

Nonetheless, he makes a fairly good fist of asserting the continued relevance of stratocasters, solos, feet on monitors et al.

Rock music, he concedes, "reached a creative peak in May 1972 with the release of Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones". But, he adds, "to conclude that rock is irrelevant because it cannot top this peak is like saying that literature is over because no one will better Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, or that painting has been redundant since Impressionism".

Hodgkinson continues:

There is a reason why the biggest concerts in the world continue to be rock concerts and why everyone is excited at a rumour that the Rolling Stones are playing Glastonbury. Rock music has a unifying power that makes people feel good. It isn't just about escapism, although that plays a part, and it isn't just about ego worship or imagining yourself up on stage: it's about the shiver down your spine, the hairs-raised-on-your-arm feeling that the sound of a rock band going at it full tilt can bring. Pop, which is concerned with materialism and aspiration, can rarely reach those heights.

Paper Monitor has an alternative theory about the recent decline in rock's fortunes: the absence of pony tails.

Time was when any stadium icon worth his (and it was usually his) salt gloried in lustrous locks tied back behind the cranium. But, like Samson, their hair has been cropped; witness the sensible short-back-and-sides sported by the likes of Muse's Matt Bellamy.

And which tribe has now made the style its own? Why, according to the Guardian, it is the 21st century's superstars - Premiership footballers.

Newcastle's Andy Carroll and Jonas Gutierrez; Sotirios Kyrgiakos of Liverpool; Benoît Assou-Ekotto of Tottenham Hotspur; Kenwyne Jones of Stoke; Sunderland's Kieran - all, notes writer Pete Cashmore, revel in a hairdo that, within living memory, would have been "a target for jeering fans".

Cashmore's explaination for this trend? The inability of top-level athletes to indulge in binge-drinking is causing them to fritter away their generous salaries in hair salons:

You may not be able to cement your masculinity by getting hammered every Saturday night, but you can still feel like Charlie Big Potatoes by doing something sartorially or tonsorially ridiculous that costs a fan's monthly wage.

So it's the absence of a rock 'n' roll lifestyle that's responsible? Maybe Will Hodgkinson is right after all.

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