BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for February 13, 2011 - February 19, 2011

10 things we didn't know last week

16:46 UK time, Friday, 18 February 2011

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

1. The paint on an average Easyjet plane weighs 80kg
More details

2. Silvio Berlusconi has appeared in 106 trials, racking up more than 2,500 court appearances, he says.
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3. MPs still have to do jury service.
More details (Evening Standard)

4. There is no central sex offenders register in the UK.
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5. Ancient Britons drank out of skulls.
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6. You needed a permit to carry a sword or dagger in Italy in the early 1600s.
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7. Incan brides had to peel a potato to prove they would be a good wife.
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8. The first recorded use of OK was on 23 March 1839 on the second page of the Boston Morning Post.
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9. The black bear's heart stops for up to 20 seconds when it exhales breath during hibernation and starts again when it inhales.
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10. Wheelchairs can be controlled by thought.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week.

Your Letters

15:50 UK time, Friday, 18 February 2011

Re: Recycling Bins. I've been harping on about this for years. When I lived in California I could get PAID to re-cycle stuff by saving old Aluminium Cans (crushed) glass bottles and newspapers. Then, once I had enough I'd take them down to one of many places where I was paid.. by weight... for these items. Someone (Councils?) is making a killing from us. Pay us to re-cycle and you'll soon see a lot more people willing to do it.
Mike Logan, Sheffield, England

Re: What do you put in nine bins? Here in Norwich we have a comparitively meagre five bins, with an optional garden waste bin making for a sixth. It could not be easier to sort rubbish into these bins, and the vague sense of smugness at somehow single-handedly saving the world from global warming more than compensates for any hassle.
Incidentally, if you're throwing away a bag of textiles a week, there's something wrong with you.
Melissa , Norwich

Speaking of unacceptable restaurant behavior, we recently suggested to a couple of ladies that their teeth brushing would be better placed in the restroom than at the table. THEY were horrified at US.
Jill B., Detroit, USA

Surely the police involved in this investigation should simply be looking for a very casual clown?
I'll get me revolving bow tie...
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Daniel (Thursday's letters), your comment is outrageous and irresponsible: cats should *only* go in the organic waste bin.
The Cat Catcher of TW1, Twickenham

Ellie (Thursday's letters), I've been having the exact same problem. I spent several minutes trying to figure that one out, using the same strategy as I would on a spot-the-difference puzzle.
Jaci, London Colney

Was it just me who was disappointed that this story wasn't about Bigfoot the burglar?
Louise W, Windsor, UK

Re: "Scientists build first anti-laser." Can they now develop the anti-laser printer so we can put in unwanted printouts and get nice, shiny blank paper to use again?
Clive DuPort, Vale, Guernsey

Caption Competition

13:04 UK time, Friday, 18 February 2011


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week it was an artwork called The Runner, which is part of the Liverpool Discovers Art Celebration. It is by artist Faith Bebbington.

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

6. Franc Bolero
When Harry saw the others in the identity parade, he knew it was rigged

5. MightyGiddyUpGal
They've obviously been picked too soon for 2012

4. Killos69
Morph's Irish relatives were real health fanatics

3. Clint75
Anthony Gormley's green period.

2. Pendragon
Haricots of Fire

1. Monkey Reed
EMI releases "Abbey Road: Techno Remixes" album cover.

Paper Monitor

10:48 UK time, Friday, 18 February 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

In life she helped Fleet Street fill endless column inches, so it's fitting that Anna Nicole Smith continues to enthral the papers from beyond the grave.

An opera about Ms Smith's life has made its debut on the London stage.

Predictably, the libretto about a woman who was a lapdancer, Playboy model and 26-year-old wife of an 89-year-old billionaire before her death from an overdose aged 39 generates reams of newsprint.

What is surprising, however, is the reactions of certain titles to the production at the Royal Opera House, titled Anna Nicole.

True, the traditionalist Daily Mail's headline is "A fright at the opera", and its news report observes sniffily that regular attendees of the venue are more "used to seeing internationally acclaimed works by the likes of Puccini, Rossini, Verdi and Tchaikovsky".

Yet its review is actually rather glowing. Critic David Gillard observes that the form "has a long history of tawdry, tragic heroines", citing Carmen, Manon and Salome.

Anna Nicole is, he concludes, "lurid but rather entertaining" - a "glittering morality tale that condemns a soulless society".

The liberal Guardian, by contrast, is not impressed by the production's "cliche texts and schoolboy humour".

According to reviewer Andrew Clements, the music "never suggests or seems to look for sympathy" in the "tawdry" life of the protagonist.

By contrast, the Times awards the production four glowing stars in its review, singling out for praise a "jaw-droppingly authentic pole-dancing scene".

Critic Richard Morrison concludes that he "wouldn't be suprised if this sardonic fable for our times finds a second life on screen or in the west end".

If he is correct, that could be a lifeline for the orchestra of Les Misérables, who, according to the Independent, are being forced to apply for their own jobs.

Perhaps it might not just be journalists whom Ms Smith continues to assist.

Your Letters

15:53 UK time, Thursday, 17 February 2011

Re: What do you put in nine bins? Nine cats?
Daniel Barlow, via Facebook

I don't fly. Even if I did, and even if I happened to end up in a country populated by crocodiles, I seriously doubt the murky waters of a reptile-infested creek could ever tempt me to dip in as much as a toe. So why, then, despite having ignored this article three times already, did my inner voice nag me to read it, just in case the knowledge might come in handy one day? Monitorites, there must be a word for that...
Shiz, Cheshire, UK

Jonathan Lewis-Jones (Wednesday's letters) - young children should be allowed in restaurants. Mothers who change their children's nappies on the table should not. Didn't you point out what was happening to staff? I'm sure they would have got her to stop, because, ew!
Beth Anderson, Wallsend

Jonathan Lewis-Jones, that's not the baby's fault - it's the parents who shouldn't be allowed in.
Greg, Dallas, TX

Re: The Child Catcher of TW1 (Wednesday's letters) - reminds me of WC Fields' pertinent advice: "Invite couples with children. Everyone loves children - especially if they are cooked properly."
R.G, Watford, Herts.

Am I being thick on a Thursday or are these three pictures supposed to be the same? I can't spot any differences...
Ellie, Oxford, UK

Paper Monitor

11:13 UK time, Thursday, 17 February 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture in question today may not be the most exciting you have ever seen, or the most glamourous, but it does the job beautifully.

The Daily Mail and the Express have a photo of Sylvia and Nick Butler outside their terraced house in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

It's to go with a story about the over-the-top approach taken by some councils to recycling. Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council is the worst offender, making householders sort their waste into NINE different bins.

And there the couple are, with their nine bins arranged in descending order of size in front of their home. They have a different one for food slops, clothing, plastic, paper, carboard, food waste, cans and bottles, normal refuse and, finally, garden waste.

Confusing? Just a bit. For starters Paper Monitor would like to know what the difference between "food slops" and "food waste" is. And why does paper and cardboard need to be separated?

Elsewhere, it's Bieber fever in the newspapers. That's teen star Justin Bieber for anyone over the age of 16. He was at the London premiere of his film, Never Say Never, last night. So were most of the country's teenagers - and a few unfortunate adults.

Ian Smith for one went far above and beyond the call of duty as an uncle. The 49-year-old engineer had been sent by his niece to get the star's autograph after she came down with flu. He told the Daily Mail:

The screaming is ear-piercing but I think I've just about got used to it after six hours.

Give that man a medal. And a Bieber autograph.

The Daily Telegraph has a full-page feature on the success of the teen star. Writer Helen Brown nicely sums up what makes him so popular with young girls.

You make a teenage heart-throb by polishing up the boy next door and getting him to sing sweetly of love, at an age when the real boys next door are only lying around grunting.

Ain't that the truth. But what really caught Paper Monitor's eye was a picture in the Daily Mail of Gillian McKeith arriving at the premiere with her teenage daughter, Skylar McKeith-Magaziner. What a splendid moniker. Are her parents fans of a certain Magazine by any chance?

Your Letters

15:43 UK time, Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Should young children be allowed in restaurants? NO - I was in a restaurant one evening (8pm) when a mother on a near by table changed her baby's nappy on the table. We then walked out only paying for the £30 bottle of wine we had ordered and taking it with us.
Jonathan Lewis-Jones @BBC News Magazine

If you want a quiet meal then stay at home, or go somewhere you know is quiet. Why should people with kids be denied the occasional meal out just because somebody who doesn't like kids wants to go there too? It's your decision where to eat
Brian Martin @BBC News Magazine

I have been taking my son to restaurants since he was a tiny babe in arms. He has been taught how to behave. My standards are high. I don't like brattish behaviour either and will not tolerate it when we are out. At three and a half he is perfectly capable of using cutlery and behaving. You probably wouldn't notice us in a restaurant, or all the other children behaving well, just the one brat that doesn't.
Diane Telford @BBC News Magazine

Should young children be allowed in restaurants? Absolutely! Cooked properly, they're extremely tasty.
The Child Catcher of TW1, Twickenham

Re: Anniversary free-for-all. The Royal Mint have followed in the same vein. By the way, I'm sending this letter in commemoration (is this a word?) of the 112-year anniversary of Iceland's first Football Club - Knattspyrnufelag Reykjavikur. I'll get my wikicoat.
Marc, Oldham

"Rooney granted restraining order." Yup, we all fell for that one! Talk about not finding what we thought we'd find. Grudging congratulations to the headline writer.
John Whapshott, Westbury, England

So, according to this size really DOES matter!
Paul, Croydon

Love the caption on the photograph in this article!
Di, The Castleton, North Yorkshire

What is the prize for correctly naming all of the "slebs" alluded to in today's PM? (apart from the possibility of a free subscription to 'Hello' magazine). Permanent exclusion from MM's letters page? (I would like to add that I don't know all the answers - are there any monitorites who would like to enlighten us?)
Paul, Croydon

"Woman lies on bench with beer bottles next to it". Come on, Monitor, you know we won't let you get away with that.
David Dee, Matola Mozambique

Paper Monitor

11:52 UK time, Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor likes to give you a regular dose of the celebrity news, purely out of anthropological interest. But it would never do anything as demeaning as to name the people involved. So here is your latest tranche of Mystery Celeb.

We start, as is only right, in the Sun. The front page is dominated by a picture of the singer who was married to the footballer who fans dislike, but grudgingly admit is rather good.

It shows her lower back tattoo, which Paper Monitor understands to be colloquially referred to as a "tramp stamp" in the US. She was at an awards ceremony and admitted having a "girl crush" on the R&B star who appreciates the value of umbrellas, but fails to appreciate the value of clothes not falling into the category "diaphanous".

A bottom was apparently patted in an encounter.

Inside we see the former singer who is married to the footballer that fans love, but grudgingly admit hasn't been very good for ages. Anyway, the big news is she looks well despite/because she is expecting her fourth child.

On page 17 we have the female singer whose pop iconoclasm seems a bit like that of the much older female singer who was famous for pop iconoclasm. The younger one recently travelled in a giant egg. Now she appears to have a face like a Klingon.

Over on page three of the Daily Star and they have an intriguing story about the man who is on the talent shows and appears to have an increasingly limited range of facial expressions. Apparently Americans are naming their babies after him.

The paper also has more on the trouble and strife between the woman who used to be a model known for a very considerable breast enlargement, but is now more like a personal uber-brand, and her ex-husband, the man largely known for one hit single some years ago and his association with the aforementioned woman.

Readers also get treated to a very-belated celeb Valentine's roundup. It features the veteran model who once got in trouble over white lines, and the fiance who isn't very famous but is in a band.

Then there's a picture of the older gentleman from a rock band of older gentlemen, who was once memorably referred to as the "Goblin King" by a young ex-girlfriend.

The Daily Mirror doesn't have as much "sleb" coverage today.

But it does find space for a picture of the man who was in the Swedish pop foursome who once bestrode the cultural life of the planet. The one with the beard.

The news? He tried on one of his old catsuits.

Your Letters

15:49 UK time, Tuesday, 15 February 2011

So charity Weight Concern thinks that pedalling at work might "benefit employers' bottom lines". Interesting choice of words - would they care to expand, as it were?
Sue, London

Why not hook up the pedals to a generator? That would provide the resistance needed to make it an exercise as well as making electricity. Healthy and good for the environment.
Mark Esdale, Bridge

"Just Go with It sees Sandler (r) co-star with Jennifer Aniston (l)". Really? They need to distinguish between Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in the picture? And i thought she was looking quite well.
Sarah, Basel

Re: Why is alcohol consumption falling? Surely the most perfect article to include a picture of "Drunk girl" especially when you have the line: "The Daily Mail ran a memorable campaign, featuring images of young women slumped on pavements and park benches." Someone really missed a trick there!
Jennie F, Leeds, UK

A news story worth raising a glass to?
Sam, Sheffield, UK

Kirsten (Monday's letters), tell your daughter that the Ministry of Magic deflated her and all was well. Mind you, that doesn't sound much better, does it.
M. Ross,

Paper Monitor

11:16 UK time, Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

And cue the brunette, glossy hair. It's like one big shampoo advert on the papers' front pages today. If you're blonde you don't get a look in.

But who is on which front page? The brunettes featured are Kate Middleton and her sister Pippa, who will be maid of honour at April's royal wedding. Then there's Cheryl Cole, who attended the Elle Style Awards last night, Victoria Beckham and the prostitute who claims to have slept with Mrs Beckham's husband David. Finally, there's "Britain's worst binge drinker aged 15", who has surprisingly glossy hair considering she is said to drink 15 litres of cider, 10 cans of lager and half a bottle of vodka each week.

It will shock no one that the Times and Daily Telegraph have gone with pictures of the Middleton sisters on their front pages. The only surprise is the size of the picture featured in the latter. It has used its broadsheet size to print a photo so big it would leave very little room for any words had it shrunk to tabloid size like the Times. It even trumps the size of the paper's usual A-Level-joy photos, which more often than not feature blonde females. The Express also goes with the sisters.

But what about the Daily Mail? Surely, Kate and Pippa are a certainty? No, publicity veteran Victoria Beckham beats the two amateurs. Not that she'll be entirely happy about this, seeing as the accompanying story is about her husband's failed £15.5m legal action against a magazine that published an article claiming he had had slept with a prostitute. It's the woman in question, Irma Nici, who is splashed across the Mirror's front page.

So, that leaves Cheryl Cole and the UK's "youngest binge drinker" on the Sun and Star front pages respectively. It's a choice between Cheryl in a low-cut dress or a cautionary state-of-our-nation's-youth tale. Remarkably, the binge drinker has knocked celebrity and boobs off the Star's front page for the first time in... well, ever possibly.

Once you get past all the brunettes, today's Telegraph has a story about Google's home-page doodle celebrating the anniversary of the birth of one of Britain's most renowned explorers, the polar adventurer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Fine, nothing wrong with that. Everyone loves a good anniversary, especially the newspapers, just not usually the 137th anniversary. It's normally a 25th one or 100th. Will this signal an anniversary free-for-all? Watch this space.

Your Letters

16:08 UK time, Monday, 14 February 2011

Re: Can children cope with bloodshed in books?, I have spent the better part of 70 years wondering why I was encouraged to read Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Anderson. Bloody, they were.
Lucy Russell-Straw via Facebook

My daughter at about eight asked me to stop reading Harry Potter when Aunt Marge was "blown up" like a balloon. Just follow their lead.
Kirsten May via Facebook

Re 10 things, No 6: I seriously doubt that. I would have thought their enjoyment would be crushed by the tiresomeness of all those witty barmen asking "Why the long face?"
Adam, London, UK

Once again, we have a non-current story (from March 2010) occupying the top spot in the "Most Read" list. It's been there, for pretty much all of this morning. To be honest, I'd missed that Corey Haim had died last March - evidently many others did too.
Paul, Croydon

Re: "Android launches lead mobile show", I thought phones these days were made of more exotic materials...
Paul Greggor, London

There's always the lazy DJ's favourite, Godley & Creme's Wedding Bells. Heard a Radio 1 DJ play it in the late 80s. The stunned silence at the end was great.
Nickthevet via Magazine Monitor

Paper Monitor

13:14 UK time, Monday, 14 February 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's Valentine's Day, and Fleet Street is in love - with Colin Firth.

The Bafta-winning King's Speech actor grins from the front of every front page, apart from that of the Daily Star, which focuses instead on his co-star Helena Bonham-Carter, the paper's readership presumably not containing many thirtysomething female singletons for whom the memory of Mr Firth's appearance in Bridget Jones's Diary has particular resonance on this of all days.

Still, the feast customarily celebrated on 14 February is one that all titles feel obliged to mark - not least the Monitor, with the Shnookums Challenge.

Nonetheless, the prize for paying the most grudging of lip-services to the occasion must go to the Daily Telegraph - a paper, it must be said, that generally sets little store with being in touch with one's inner feelings.

Hence a feature on a man with deformities of the nasal passages is headlined "All I want for Valentine's is my sense of smell back."

The Times is somewhat less curmudgeonly, reviewing the best Valentine's ready meals with counter-intuitive results - "it's hard not to be slightly impressed" by the offering from Morrison's, apparently, while that dished up by Waitrose is "such good value".

On a similarly spartan, post-credit crunch theme, Heston Blumenthal tells the Guardian that cheap food can be special, too.

"I like a kebab as much as the next person," says the inventor of snail porridge and bacon-and-egg ice cream, somewhat defensively. "I like a pork pie, I like a sandwich. At home I'll open the fridge and if there's some ham and Hellmann's mayo, I'll eat that."

Paper Monitor knows what's on the menu tonight chez PM.

Shnookums Challenge

10:08 UK time, Monday, 14 February 2011


Unhappy couple

This is the day when the airwaves, restaurants, bars, and public transport arteries are filled with Valentine's-related sentiment.

And contrary to the expectations of the greetings card industry, there are some people who find themselves somewhat less than whelmed by the whole thing.

These are the people who will not be listening exclusively to songs about "wuv" on their mp3 player.

They are the souls who will have been heartened to read about efforts in other parts of the world to strike a blow for the passion-less.

For these Valentinephobes the Monitor's imagined hero - Shnookums - has assumed the mantle of St Valentine's anti-hero as in 2005, 2007, and 2008.

Here, Monitor readers are invited to assist by sending in their favourite breaking-up songs, the tunes that make this day of universal soppiness a little bit more bearable.

Bob Dylan's Idiot Wind is your starter for none.

All other musical suggestions via the comments box below.

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