BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for May 15, 2011 - May 21, 2011

Popular Elsewhere

16:40 UK time, Friday, 20 May 2011

A look at the stories ranking highly on various news sites.

Salon declares a story about an eight-year-old getting botox which caused outrage was a hoax. Kerry Campbell had said she gave her child botox and bikini waxes in order to give her a leg up in the pageantry circuit. Salon calls the hoax attention seeking, much like the balloon boy story of 2009.

A popular story with Daily Beast readers looks at the fight over Zsa Zsa Gabor’s fortune. The 94-year-old star fell into a coma early on Wednesday morning but, the Daily Beast says, her ninth husband and only daughter continue to fight over control of her assets. Her daughter Constance Francesca Hilton claims Frederic von Anhalt, Gabor’s husband, has been leaking stories to the media. These have ranged from pictures of Gabor in a hospice bed after her leg was amputated because of a gangrenous infection to claims Mr von Anhalt wanting Gabor’s body to be preserved and displayed upon her death. He says he "can’t control the media frenzy" and denies being paid by celebrity website TMZ.

Law and order actress Rosie Perez is suing a production company for not getting a stunt woman to film a scene where she was violently shaken according to CNN’s most read article. The scene in Law and Order Special Victims Unit was filmed in 2009. She said an extra playing a school crossing guard "negligently, carelessly, violently and recklessly" pulled and grabbed her. The producers have not commented.

A paramedic died after taking tablets she bought over the internet to help her sleep according to the Daily Mail. The story adds 27-year-old Lorna Lambden had taken four or five Amitriptyline tablets which she’d bought through a foreign website to help her cope with demanding shifts. The drug is an anti-depressant which is sometimes used as a sleeping pill in low doses. Too much can stop the heart.

The New York Times’ most blogged article discusses the angst of allowing your children to have a Facebook account. New York Times editor Bill Keller says when he let his 13-year-old daughter join the social networking site he felt as if he had passed his child "a pipe of crystal meth". He is concerned aboutwhat is being lost in the age of instant distraction from contemplation to "complexity, acuity, patience, wisdom and intimacy".

Your Letters

15:23 UK time, Friday, 20 May 2011

I really hope the barman asked: "Why the long face?"
Tommy Scragend, Wigan

Call me crazy, but isn't it just remotely possible that Princess Beatrice looks like Queen Victoria because they are related?
John Whapshott, Westbury, England

It's clearly friday afternoon and time to go home. I read this (London 2012: One million bid for Olympics 100m tickets) as 1 million bid for 100 million tickets and thought the uptake had been a bit slow.
Sarah, Basel, Switzerland

Can we reasonably assume that this resulted in slow mooving traffic?
Sue, London

Just to let everyone know... I can't bear the thought of seeing the world end, so I'll be going away for the weekend.
Graham, Purmerend

Dear Monitor, I hadn't realised that the end was quite so nigh, but stiff upper lip and all that and suppress the emotional stuff for the minute. I've hired an Aston Martin for the weekend, we'll drive to the coast where there's a rental yacht waiting stuffed full of champers, pork scratchings and a hand picked crew you'll be very happy with! I've sold my car and my house and I've maxed my credit cards, but we'll be in Monaco by daybreak and we can hit the casinos with my cash and your expense account. I've emailed your boss at the BBC, told him a few home truths and saved you the bother of resigning - you're already sacked. It may be the last day but it'll be great!
Richard Martin, Doncaster, UK

Monitor note: What expense account?

Caption Competition

12:58 UK time, Friday, 20 May 2011


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week its Gerhard Knapp from Germany preparing for the World Beard and Moustache Championships.

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

6. Candace9839
Take that, Tom Selleck...

5. Ruaraidh Gillies
I Know What Santa Did Last Summer.

4. Mr Snoozy I'm not sure.... Do you think the medallion makes me look a bit daft?

3. SimonRooke
It started out as a goatee until Gerhard discovered planking.

2. Blogbuster
Gerhard sports the 'Beatrice' beard.

1. LaurenceLane Super-injunctions, at last we can reveal the picture Fred Goodwin wanted to suppress.

10 things you didn't know this time last week

11:48 UK time, Friday, 20 May 2011

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

1. Watermelons can explode.
More details

2. The Queen is apparently not a Guinness drinker. Or at least not in the morning.
More details

3. The hardiest animal on Earth is known as a "water bear".
More details

4. Humans stare longer at people with bad reputations.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

5. Parrots are good at teamwork.
More details

6. "Highly cheerful" people die younger.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

7. A good sense of smell helps mammals' brains get bigger.
More details

8. The internet craze of planking started in the UK and in Australia.
More details

9. Tarantulas shoot silk from their feet.
More details

10. There are only two beret factories left in France.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week.

Paper Monitor

10:45 UK time, Friday, 20 May 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Goodbye dear readers, it's been emotional. Tears are welling up in Paper Monitor's eye because this could be the last time we all do this. Don't start, don't start or we'll all be blubbering.

Unless Harold Camping, a former engineer from California, is terribly mistaken, the world pretty much ends tomorrow. For all the details of what might happen go to page 31 of the Times. But to summarise, not many of us will be left when the worst earthquake in history hits the planet. (A colleague of Paper Monitor also did this rather nice explainer on whether earthquakes can be predicted.)

So if Mr Camping is right, what have the papers chosen to fill their pages with for the final time? It's the old favourite - the doppelganger game.

The Daily Express and the Sun keep it very topical with lovechild lookalikes. Boris Becker and daughter Anna - the result of a brief but infamous broom cupboard incident at the London restaurant Nobu - feature prominently. The likeness is spooky.

But the Mirror has a new twist on the much-loved doppelganger game - royal lookalikes. It says Prince William is the spitting image of King Edward I and Princess Beatrice looks like Queen Victoria.

But you have to feel for Harry, his regal doppelganger is Princess Victoria, who became Queen Mary. It's all to do with the red hair, not the fine, feminine features and dress. Still, can't imagine the prince's friends are going to let this pass without some ribbing.

But the harshest/bravest celebrity doppelganger of the day is courtesy of the Daily Mail. It compares the canary yellow dress, with feather-like fringe, worn by Naomi Campbell at the Cannes Film Festival to the plumage of Big Bird.

They call it "Sesame Street chic". Steady on, you really don't want to ruffle Campbell's feathers - even if it is your last day on Earth.

Popular Elsewhere

16:22 UK time, Thursday, 19 May 2011

A look at the stories ranking highly on various news sites.

Over the past 12 months Bon Jovi earned more than Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry combined. A popular article in Forbes says they manage to earn more because their "relatively affluent" fan base are prepared to pay for tickets to see them tour. The group also have fewer costs compared to the likes of Lady Gaga because they only have to transport six band members.

The end of the world is going to be at 6pm on 21 May according to a preacher reported in a popular Independent story. The article points out Harold Camping, the preacher who makes the prediction, has been wrong before. Mr Camping predicts just 2% of the world's population will be immediately "raptured" up to heaven. The story goes on to say that most predictions of this sort would be dismissed but, due to financial support from the Family Radio Network, Mr Camping's forecast has been heavily publicised through an advertising campaign.

"Mummy hates daddy and you should too" starts a popular Slate article. It's talking about parental alienation syndrome where, when the parents are in conflict, a child allies themselves with one parent. The syndrome isn't officially recognised and is trying to do so. The book that holds the key to that is Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But the story explains there is fierce competition to be listed in the manual. It says that having a name for the syndrome would help apportioning blame, and a price tag, in child custody fights. Slate predicts the syndrome would be used mostly be fathers' rights groups.

Journalist Dorothy Parvaz recounts her time in a Syrian "secret" prison in al-Jazeera's most read story. Parvaz says she heard beatings in other cells in a detention centre where she says many Syrians have "disappeared". "I was standing in two fist-sized pools of smeared, sticky blood, trying to sort out why there were seven angry Syrians yelling at me" she says.

The number of long-lasting marriages in the US has risen according to the Washington Post's most popular article. The article says one reason for the increase is that people are marrying later in life, after they have completed their education. "Not only are they more mature, but they also are more financially secure."

Your Letters

15:45 UK time, Thursday, 19 May 2011

Regarding: The debate over how to categorise rape. Rape is rape, man or woman. It can't be put into little boxes and filed away
Len Hall @BBC News Magazine

Agreed Phil, but I'd also like to know why, if the 25,000th burger was the record, why did the previous record-holder stop at 24,999? Could they not stomach one more?
Ruaraidh, Wirral, UK

SS (Wednesday's letters), I can't believe someone admitted to doing that. And how easy does it mean the quizzes are when I finally get 7/7 (last week, Magazine and World News)?
CJ, Cambs

Would planking on your side or your back be considered a splinter group?
Mike, Newcastle upon Tyne

To John Thompson (Wednesday's letters), who is asking for a bumper crop of letters on 20th May. Call me a cynic if you like, but I look forward rather to a bumper crop of letters on the 22nd.
Raymond Hopkins, Kronoby, Finland

John (Wednesday's letters), I suggest we have a rollcall on Monday. Given the Monitorites penchant for pedantry, grumbling and bad jokes - we shouldn't lose too many people.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Paper Monitor

13:45 UK time, Thursday, 19 May 2011

Tall, dark and handsome - Paper Monitor has long wondered why the tall was so important. The Daily Mail provides one answer According to researchers, women's preference for lofty men is down to their perceived fighting ability.

In evolutionary terms, tall men are apparently more useful because they can pack a more powerful downward punch than shorter men. Women, it seems, have preferred mates that can offer the best protection.

If you're not tall but grumpy - then it's not all bad news. The Daily Telegraph reports that people who are happy-go-lucky are likely to die younger than their more gloomy counterparts.

Scientist believe children who were rated "highly cheerful" at school were more likely to be carefree and take greater risks than their more reserved class mates in later life.

The newspapers love nothing better than a bizarre animal story - it gives them a chance to have fun with the headlines. The tale of the man who tried to board a train in Wrexham, North Wales, prompted a bumper crop. The Daily Mail asks "What do you think this is, the pony express?", while the Mirror's "Away neigh" comment asks whether the man thought he was in a "one-horse town" after being forced to leave the horse behind.

Cantering along to the Daily Star, underneath the headline "Moby diction" is the discovery by scientists that sperm whales "talk" with regional accents, and can be identified by the sound of their clicks.

No doubt Paper Monitor won't be the first to make the "clique clicks" pun.

Popular Elsewhere

17:02 UK time, Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A look at the stories ranking highly on various news sites.

Joel Klein has been chancellor of New York City's school system for eight years. In a popular Atlantic article he explains why his schools are still failing. He says he has learnt a few painful lessons about how corrupt politicians abuse the schools system. He also thinks that people tolerate bad education of the neediest children because they believe either that we can't do any better or that these children are "irredeemable".

The New York Times' most popular article asks if happiness is overrated. It says the founder of the positive psychology movement - who focuses on the keys to happiness - regrets creating happiness measurements. Martin Seligman's positive psychology movement has inspired David Cameron's policy to survey people's state of mind, the article explains. It goes on to say Dr Seligman now thinks the surveys are flawed and give inaccurate results.

A British tourist faces year in Dubai jail after calling the Islamic prophet Muhammad a "terrorist" according to one of the Daily Mail's most popular stories.
The article says the 40-year-old was in the Mall of the Emirates when he "got into an argument" a 21-year-old salesman from Pakistan. He allegedly said that "Muslims in Pakistan are not normal because they kill each other and kill people outside Pakistan".

A popular Guardian story says a picture of the space shuttle Endeavour has been taken by an iPhone user. They took the picture from a passing the plane and the image has gone viral across the web. Stephanie Gordon took the picture as the shuttle hurtled away from its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Centre. The article quotes her as commenting "Dad is finally ok with me being on twitter".

Russia Today's most popular story says a former CIA agent is claiming Osama Bin Laden died in 2006. It quotes Berkan Yashar who said on Russian TV Station Channel One that Bin Laden was seriously ill before his death and had he faded away to skin and bon. Mr Yashar added that they had washed his body before burying it.

Your Letters

16:15 UK time, Wednesday, 18 May 2011

I don't know what I find more worrying. The fact that he's eaten 25,000 Big Macs. Or the fact that he knows he's eaten 25,000 Big Macs.
Phil, Oxford

Adrian (Tuesday letters) like I overhear school children on the bus on the way to work who overuse the word Like like It made me wonder what they are teaching in school like I have deduced that the word Like replaces all forms of punctuation like Do this to any sentence and you will instantly be "talking street" like "innit" like
Lee Pike, Auckland, NZ

I spent the whole of last night practicing planking. I must say it is harder than it sounds - I woke up this morning feeling as stiff as a board.
Colin Main, Luton, UK

OK, Andrew of Newark (Tuesday letters), so if they don't take that advice, they don't get fined, but if they're going to disregard expert opinion, shouldn't they then be denied future medical care? What's the point wasting any more money on them? If they can't follow simple instructions to eat less and exercise more, then they're beyond help.
Mike, Edinburgh, UK

Is there a word for being so bad at the Magazine quiz that when I'm three quarters of the way through and have a score of zero that I decide to aim for 0/7, but even fail at that and guess wrongly to get a right answer?
SS, Caernarfon, Cymru/Wales

Dear Monitor, may I humbly suggest that it was my Moose Head "8 pointer" Antler fascinator, worn by Eddie with such aplomb on the day of the wedding (letters, 3 May), rather than any Philip Treacy reproduction, which has rekindled British interest in headgear.
Richard Martin, Doncaster, UK

Re: Quote of the day: "There is no possibility that it will not happen. We do not have a plan B." Please can we have a bumper crop of letters on Friday 20th?
John Thompson, Kirkby Lonsdale

Paper Monitor

10:47 UK time, Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Page three is a curious institution.

Not the bare-breasted page three of the Sun and the Star, but the fact that newspapers usually reserve their third page for something a little lighter, a little fluffier, a little more colourful.

In the Daily Mirror there's a classic example. They go big on picture of Paula Abdul and Cheryl Cole at an X Factor USA launch event, wearing dresses of a similar shade of red.

Page three is a bit soft because, in tabloids particularly, page two is a dose of hard news.

The Daily Mail also has Abdul and Cole. The Mail has its own version of the page three formula, as they often choose to run a wacky survey story as the anchor. Today's links increasing sales of biscuits to economically straitened times.

The Daily Express goes with the stories about Arnold Schwarzenegger's private life.

Some newspapers resist. The Financial Times doesn't know the meaning of the word fluffy. And the Times, offering page two to the leader writers, is therefore often minded to have something serious on page three.

The Daily Telegraph's choice is rather odd today. It's a story about a landlord in dispute with some departing tenants, who has chosen to blockade their property with skips in order to stop them moving out. It's real local paper stuff.

But it's not the kind of thing a local paper would reserve for page three.

In local rags, the space is often dominated by birds' nests appearing in unusual places, animals that think they are other animals, children doing precocious things and other frippery.

Ah, happy days.

Popular Elsewhere

17:23 UK time, Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A look at the stories ranking highly on various news sites.

NPR's most read story looks at the science behind what makes things annoying. For instance, why is hearing someone else's phone call more irritating than just overhearing a normal conversation? The piece explains the problem with a phone conversation is you only hear half of it so your brain tries to predict the other side but often fails. Although there are pet hates there are generic things that annoy everyone - sudden changes in volume and a range of frequencies - like nails down a blackboard.

The New York Times' most e-mailed story looks at the risks a CNN newsreader took when he came out as gay. Don Lemon made the revelation in his autobiography. The article says he hadn't hidden his sexuality but was still scared to talk about it in public saying "It's about the worst thing you can be in black culture." He goes on to explain "you're taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away."

A popular comment piece in the Guardian retells columnist Ian Birrell's Twitter "spat" with the president of Rwanda. Birrell says Mr Kagame had replied personally to his tweet criticising an interview in the Financial Times with the president. Birrell calls their exchange about human rights "all slightly surreal". But, among Birrell's accusations of Kagame's leadership, he also seems perturbed by the style the president used. Birrell noted that both "his missives to me were peppered with the sort of text abbreviations used by teenagers" and "His tweets were heavy with exclamation marks."

Slate's most read story is asking why there seem to be more natural disasters and technological crises this century. Among the potential, but improbable, risks to come it lists the risk of electromagnetic pulses being used as a terrorist's weapon, as well as geologists' warnings that a storm could turn California's Central Valley into a "bathtub". The article advices "normal" people not to worry saying "a key element of maintaining one's sanity is knowing how to ignore risks that are highly improbable at any given point in time".

This summer Hollywood is betting on a record 27 film sequels according to the Daily Beast's most read article. It goes on to say that there will be the highest number of fourth sequels ever including Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol; Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides; Scream 4; Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World. Film critic Roger Ebert argues that sequels threaten to kill the film industry because they demonstrate that "a majority of modern big-studio releases are marketing decisions yoked however reluctantly to creative ideas somewhere farther down the food chain".

Your Letters

16:20 UK time, Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Later, heard in the school playground, one boy to another: Do you, like, like Like, like?
Adrian, London, UK

I have just taken the advice of your excellent article about planking and Googled it. Using Google Images is enlightening. It returned pictures of, well, wooden ships...
Mark, Reading, UK

Re: this story. "Before this project this was just a specimen lying in the drawer." Uh, what is it now?
MF, London

Re: Paper Monitor on Princess Beatrice's royal wedding hat. And it has a practical side if worn to a picnic for a ping-pong-ball toss.
Candace, New Jersey, US

In reference to: Is it fair to fine fat people for not dieting? No. It isn't. If your doctor advises you to lose weight, it is merely that. Advice. It cannot ever be fair to penalise or impose a fine on someone merely for not following advice. Incentives can be given to those who follow the advice.
Andrew, Newark

Sorry, Alexa (Monday's letters), but you shouldn't rely on Google, nor indeed postal addresses. Maps show the county boundary as following the river. The Post Office gives Hampton Court's "Post Town" as East Molesey, which is indeed in Surrey, but if you cross the bridge from Hampton Court to East Molesey itself you encounter signs saying "Welcome to Surrey". Just to confuse people even more, Hampton Court Railway station is actually in East Molesey.
Tim, Surrey

Paper Monitor

09:58 UK time, Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor has remarked before about the attention lavished on Princess Beatrice's royal wedding hat.

Mocked, ridiculed, compared to everything from a Star Trek weapon to a toilet bowl - the fascinator has, for the newspapers, proved endlessly fascinating.

At last, however, the headpiece is finally getting the praise it deserves in the Guardian.

According to the paper, its positive spin-offs have been twofold.

Firstly, by auctioning it on eBay, Beatrice will raise cash for two charities - Unicef and Children in Crisis.

Secondly, the contraption, designed by Philip Treacy, has apparently sparked a boom among the British hat industry:

Despite criticism in the media the hat is believed to have rekindled British interest in millinery. John Lewis has reported that hat sales have increased 60% since this time last year, and Philip Treacy himself has seen demand from stockists and customers double.

Paper Monitor hopes we haven't heard the last of this multi-faceted chapeau.

Pictures of Pippa Middleton on holiday have become a proxy for the lack of honeymoon images of her sister.

Perhaps the hat will become as regular a fixture in the papers as was the wedding itself during the build-up to the event.

Popular Elsewhere

16:54 UK time, Monday, 16 May 2011

A look at the stories ranking highly on various news sites.

The Independent's most read story a £435 test which tells you how long you will live will soon be available on the high street. The article says the blood test heralds a new medical era. It explains vital structures on the tips of a person's chromosomes, called telomeres, are examined. Scientists believe are one of the most important and accurate indicators of the speed at which a person is ageing. It goes on to suggest the results of the tests might also be of interest to companies offering life-insurance policies or medical cover.

The New York Times' most blogged article claims a secret mercenary army is being trained up in the United Arab Emirates. It says the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide flew in Colombian soldiers disguised as construction workers. The article says the force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts. It speculates the troops could be used to suppress potential uprisings. The story goes on to warn that introducing American soldiers to the mercenary troop creates a volatile situation.

The Atlantic's most popular piece looks at Sarah Palin's changing political career. It argues that while she is famous for being an "unbending, hard-charging, red-meat ideologue" while she was in office she acted differently. It uses the example of her teaming up with the Democrats to "tame big oil". The article speculates that if she runs for president she'll have to decide what kind of politician she wants to be.

A popular Slate article argues the RAF's World War II Spitfire can teach us about nurturing innovation and radical ideas. The prototype cost £10,000 - then roughly the price of a nice London house. It is difficult to quantify the vast number of lives saved. For the author Tim Harford this illustrates the problem with judging an investment in innovation based on the estimated return on your investment. He argues that it often just can't be predicted.

A popular story on Time looks at the Iranian sentencing to blind a man. The sentence, which has been suspended, was for pouring acid on a woman's face. The article says the suspension came after outcry against it. It was at first allowed under a law which allows analogous retribution to violent crime. It goes on to say the law is rooted in an "eye for an eye" approach to justice based on 7th Century Islamic jurisprudence.

Your Letters

15:51 UK time, Monday, 16 May 2011

Should not have read this just before going to bed. It's going to be a long, and itchy, night.
Liz, Poole

Sorry, Tim of Kingston (Friday's letters), but according to Hampton Court Palace's own official website and Google Maps, it is too in Surrey.
Alexa, Surrey, Leatherhead, Surrey

Re: Why has the Queen never visited the Republic of Ireland? Perhaps the word "Republic" has something to do with it?
Andrew Oakley, via Facebook

"There were several Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cars made for the film, but this was the only one that actually worked." Erm... are you implying that this car actually flies and swims? I'd pay the $2m for that!
Liz, Poole

In the spirit of AV, can I claim a score of six-and-a-half out of seven on the Quiz of the week's news? The correct answer on the only one I got wrong would have been my second choice...
Paul Greggor, London

Bid to save "the most important wreck". Can I claim that title?
Henri, Sidcup

Paper Monitor

11:07 UK time, Monday, 16 May 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

For a journalist, there are thankless first-person colour writing assignments and thankless tabloid first person colour writing assignments.

For the latter, you usually have to dress up.

Getting a hapless reporter to put themselves at the heart of the story is a time-honoured newspaper technique. Tim Dowling of the Guardian has carved out a career and - Paper Monitor assumes - a reasonable income doing little else.

Not all practitioners have the status of star "gonzo" journalists like Hunter S Thompson, hanging out with Hell's Angels or filing drug-fuelled, stream-of-consciousness copy from the 1972 Democratic Party convention.

Take Lee Price of the Sun, who today writes up the day he spent as a silver-coloured living statue in London's Covent Garden.

The article makes for an entertaining read. But it's painfully clear that Price didn't enjoy putting it together.

"It's not a job for the upwardly mobile - in fact mobility in ANY direction is best avoided," he begins.

"Being a living statue means staying stock-still for agonisingly long periods."

Physical discomfort is not the only obstacle he faces. As a source of competition, Price is not welcomed into the trade with open arms by his fellow statues.

Indeed, the reporter will have been aware that a statue known as the Invisible King was recently jailed for assaulting another whom he believed had stolen his pitch.

Price nicely captures the paranoia at the heart of the profession as he tells of being "eyed territorially by other street statues":

An all-silver witch is particularly hostile as I pass, perhaps understandably, as I've stolen her colour. Rather than find out just how protective she is of her spot, I hop it - eager not to make a monumental mistake.

Just be thankful he went there so you didn't have to.

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