BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for January 8, 2012 - January 14, 2012

Your Letters

17:32 UK time, Friday, 13 January 2012

From the list of 10 things: "Diners in China subvert salad bar rules by building elaborate towers of food." Where have you been, Magazine Monitor? Students in the UK have been doing that for decades! Whoever could build the most robust tower was dispatched to the pizza restaurant salad bar. They'd return with one precariously-piled bowl and at least eight forks!
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Henri (Thursday's letters), there is a very simple explanation for why there are, these days, far fewer UFO sightings despite (or is it because of) the rise in digital camera ubiquity. It has clearly got around the non-terrestrial community that it is now far too dangerous to visit Earth and remain unphotographed. We have inadvertently scared all the aliens away by our smartphone usage.
Martin, Here

Oh, the shame! I laughed at the letter from Mike, Newcastle upon Tyne, then immediately looked for the LIKE button.
Lindsey, London

Everyone knows you'll find more bubbles in an Aero.
Ruaraidh Gillies, Wirral, UK

Oh. So not a celebrity headline then? I'll get my telescope.
Tracey Wells, Notts, UK

10 things we didn't know last week

14:44 UK time, Friday, 13 January 2012

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

1. Diners in China subvert salad bar rules by building elaborate towers of food.
More details (Daily Mail)

2. People eat Christmas trees.
More details

3. The Milky Way is white.
More details

4. Authors who finish other writers' unfinished works are known as "continuators".
More details

5. Monkeys have faces that help them find each other.
More details

6. Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975.
More details

7. Frogs can be very, very small.
More details

8. Superglue is used in forensics.
More details

9. Stars blow bubbles.
More details

10. Some people think dogs can act.
More details

Caption Competition

14:37 UK time, Friday, 13 January 2012


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

There is still no prize, except the traditional small quantity of kudos. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].

An Indian firefighter reacts as they display their skills during the annual fire drill competition in Mumbai, India.

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

6. garethglynroberts
Bollywood in remake of "The Lavender Hill Mob"

5. Nero Cabflor
Barry Chuckle gets lost on his way to BBC Salford

4. MorningGlories
Without the cover of darkness, eloping can prove a bit tricky

3. ARoseByAnyOther
Gulliver's nose hair trim was always a lavish affair

2. DPNixon
Firefighters struggle to control blaze at M. C. Escher estate

1. PeeJayEll
And hold it just there - yes we're receiving BBC1 HD now

Paper Monitor

11:04 UK time, Friday, 13 January 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Home is where the heart is, they say, even if a certain estate agent might not spell it like that. Paper Monitor has always been a bit of a homebody but struggles with some of the duties that goes with it. That makes the Times's story from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas all the more intriguing.

The report suggests that at long last, the dream of having robots doing the housework could be within reach. On closer inspection these turn out to be smart devices with touchscreens and sensors that can identify individual people entering a room.

So no sci-fi robots, after all then? Well there is the Navibot vacuum cleaner, which can sniff out dust by itself and clean a 16ft by 16ft room in 12 minutes.

The other problem with home is the wearisome need for conversation with the other half. The Daily Express touches on this with a piece about the "conversation coma" that afflicts many couples.

The story is based on a survey suggesting that a quarter of couples spend less then 10 minutes a day talking to their partner. Almost as depressing is the claim that two thirds of people say they prefer spending time on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks to cooking dinner with their partner or having a chat with them.

In search of something more cheery Paper Monitor stumbles across the story in the Sun of how straight football fans are "turning gay" for Thierry Henry. The piece - taken from gay lifestyle magazine Attitude - relates how after the French striker's goalscoring return for Arsenal, online forums took up the chorus "Thierry Henry is a man I would turn gay for!"

It's hard to know what's more surprising - the sentiment or the fact that the Sun would run a piece about this. The writer eventually accepts that the fans' assertion to "swap teams" may not be literally true.

But let's not spoil a good story, for as he concludes this is "next-level bromance."

Paper Monitor

18:30 UK time, Thursday, 12 January 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor isn't late today, it's just that the nation's papers that are, or used to be, evening papers haven't had a look-in of late.

The Manchester Evening News treats its readers to a splendid photograph of Thursday evening's "spectacular sunset". All over the city, the paper reports, people were moved to reach for their camera phones and post pictures of the "stunning crimson sky" on social networking sites.

The paper explains that a cold snap has set in, ending the mild spell and creating the still and clear conditions for the sunset.

Over at the Birmingham Mail, the paper's Top Ten series is a tribute to beers from Birmingham-based breweries. "Some are sadly no longer brewed, but these traditional favourites are being replaced by 'new kids on the beer block,'" the paper says. In top spot is Brew XI - once the epitome of the Birmingham pint. The paper is still mourning the passing of the beer's production to Wales.

IT'S a tragedy that this iconic Birmingham beer is now produced by Cardiff brewer Brain's under licence for conglomerate Coors. "Brew" will always be associated with Birmingham and the cask version is still a fine pint.

It's advertising slogan was "For The Men Of The Midlands" and thousands of barrels a year of the easily drinkable bitter were produced at the M&B plant at Cape Hill in Smethwick. When the site was sold for housing development production moved to Burton-upon-Trent before crossing the border to Wales.

Good news in Newcastle's Chronicle comes in the form of a story of an eight-year-old local boy who has been shortlisted for a prestigious international art prize. Joel Steel's painting of a monkey will be exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery, with the winners being announced next week.

Joel's monkey looks like it would make a good playmate for children's TV favourite Peppa Pig. The Liverpool Echoreports that an academic from the city's university has waded into the debate over whether the cheeky cartoon character is having a bad influence on children.

Common sense prevails and Dr Simon Child, an expert in psychology, concludes that there is saying there is "more good" behaviour in the shows than bad. Phew, Paper Monitor can continue watching then.

Good evening.

Your Letters

18:06 UK time, Thursday, 12 January 2012

You miss two very important ways in which digital photography has changed the world: their are far fewer sightings of UFOs; and none of the Loch Ness Monster
Henri, Sidcup

David Richerby, so little imagination. We are talking about the average man/woman, not the average number of partners per man/woman. Average in this case would mean the most common (mode) not the mean. Imagine a commmunity of 30 men and 30 women. If 20 men each had 13 partners, and 10 men each had 5 partners, there would be 310 trysts. These trysts could then be womaned by 20 women having 7 partners and 10 women having 17 partners. It works, we had an experiment.
Ian, Winchester, UK

Isn't it sort of mid-brown on the outside and a kind of fawny/creamy colour on the inside? I'll get my chocolate coating.
Mike , Newcastle upon Tyne.

Hands up who thinks Stephanie Noble doesn't have family living with her?
Buzz, London

I thought today's random stat - 25% of workers binging on chocolate - and the Dickens quotation were serendipity in action!
Lewis Graham, Hitchin

Sorry, Jill, perhaps this is hard to stomach......but your sister has probably always been Monitor's favourite.
Martin Pearson, Hoosick Falls,NY,USA

Your Letters

17:07 UK time, Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Ruaraidh (Wednesday's letter) 'auld lang syne' isn't Celtic, it's Scots (or Lalans), which is an Anglo Saxon language very close to English. I'm not Scottish meself, as you can probably tell by my accent, but in any event I'll get my oats.
John Knight, Beverley, UK

Re 'Auld lang syne', surely in these days of wikipedia, internet democracy and the wisdom of crowds, if most people think there should be a 'sake' in there, then it's clearly needed, and really should be added, regardless of what some elitist, so-called 'official' version says. Sure, it will annoy those pedantic 'people in the know' as Ruaraidh Gillies put it in Tuesday's letters, but so do a lot of commonly heard expressions (c.f. PIN number, USB bus etc.), and it's clearly unfair that the majority should be discomfited so that a few whiners can smirk smugly, as they point out the 'solecisms' of the masses. I'll get my emperor's new clothes.
Ray, Turku, Finland

Ruaraidh, I've always understood "auld lang syne" to mean literally "old long since", which would translate just as "old times". Wikipedia agrees with me and quotes "in the days of auld lang syne" being used as the equivalent of "once upon a time".
Liddlejo, London, UK

Surely "auld lang syne" translates as "old long sins"!
Emma Wilson

"It's said the average British man has had 13 sexual partners and women have had just seven," says Jeff Leach. That can only be true if the average British man has had at least six sexual partners who were foreign and/or male.David Richerby, Liverpool, UK

I hereby request that you cease and desist printing any more letters from my sister (Diane, Sutton, Tuesday letters) at least until I have had an equal quantity of letters printed. You are complicit in bringing sibling rivalry to a whole new level and the fact that I am younger, and always will be, is no longer sufficient to make up for the disparity in publications.
Jill B. Detroit, USA

Paper Monitor

12:49 UK time, Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor can't help but notice the prolific use of pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge this week.

First there was a fashion frenzy over the dress she wore to the War Horse film premiere, then there was a buzz about her 30th birthday - despite the fact she decided to keep it low key - and now, proving the papers love a princess, it is the gifts the royals receive.

However, despite the Daily Mail declaring Kate is the Duchess of diamonds, according to the Daily Telegraph, the answer of what to get the person who has everything is, it seems, a hat.

It says the royal couple received no fewer than 20 different types of headgear - varying from feathery fascinators to a collection of baseball caps - on their first official overseas trip together in 2011.

Cue a pretty photo of William and Kate in cowboy hats in Calgary.

Talking of photogenic people, the papers are also awash with pictures of another lady of a similar age, 29-year-old Amanda Sheppard, who tied the knot with 66-year-old music star Bryan Ferry last week.

Commenting on the 37-year age gap, Mr Ferry told the Daily Express he was "fortunate" to have a younger bride as "you never really meet people your own age who aren't married".

Finally, snaps of one other duo are splashed across the papers today.

The Daily Mail celebrates Dynasty divas Joan Collins and Stephanie Beacham, who have been reunited as the faces of a chocolate bar in a TV advert.

With the TV industry regularly criticised for being ageist towards women, and the ladies now being 78 and 64 respectively, Paper Monitor thinks that's no mean feat.

Hats off to them.

Your Letters

16:08 UK time, Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Thanks for this. I've been out tonight and nicked a lovely tree from the pavement further down the street, so can we have the recipe?
Diane, Sutton

My neighbour's son's girlfriend used to have a dog called Oscar that I used to walk when I took my dog Red (who was a red setter, obviously).
Basil Long, Nottingham

Dr Reece (neither of whose doctorates, we can safely assume, are in celtic languages), I can't give a full translation (Friday's letters) but I *do* know that "auld lang syne" means "old times' sake". Which is why those in the know get annoyed at people singing: "For the sake of old times' sake!"
Ruaraidh Gillies, Wirral, UK

Rob (Monday's letters) - as a seasoned time traveller I'd be more than happy to dip into the future to provide next Saturday's Lotto numbers if Becca doesn't take you up on your offer. Although with the whole wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey nature of things, I can't guarantee exactly when the information will arrive; most likely it'll be some time between next Sunday and 18 July 3014.
Matthew, Glenrothes

Even if you are looking at distances at street level, rather than by train, there are shorter distances than Charing Cross to Embankment (Monday's letters): other contenders include:
Warren Street to Euston Square
Cannon Street to Bank
Great Portland Street to Regent's Park
Aldgate to Aldgate East
and, historically, Aldwych to Temple.
Tim, London

Rob (Friday's letters) - not to mention "Blacks in the red" and similar.
Colin Edwards, Exeter, UK

Paper Monitor

09:21 UK time, Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

At this time of year, when post-Christmas finances are parlous, Paper Monitor starts to fantasise about scooping some kind of cash windfall from somewhere. Anywhere.

It's a fantasy that has come true for 19-year-old Eloise Hutchinson, who picked up £1,346,840 on the National Lottery.

However, according to the Daily Mail, Ms Hutchinson has not behaved as Paper Monitor would in such a scenario (that is, luxuriating in a bath full of £50 notes, throwing said notes excitedly into the air, immediately ordering the entire contents of the Argos catalogue).

Instead, it transpires, she has resisted the temptation to go on a spending spree, "limiting herself to an iPad and some clothes".

Indeed, Ms Hutchinson's approach to material wealth is encapsulated by her account of her post-win celebratory meal:

I had soup for starter and a nice pork dish for my main but there was no champagne as I was driving.

Being the Mail, of course, it is not enough to mention Ms Hutchinson's level-headedness. It also includes a sidebar under the heading "And how not to spend your win" detailing the mishaps apparently encountered by fellow teenage winner Callie Rogers, who has been a tabloid regular since landing £1.9m age 16 in 2003.

Alas, Paper Monitor never gets round to buying a lottery ticket. But hopes of instant wealth are not entirely dispelled thanks to an article in the Guardian.

Journalist Leo Benedictus describes how he checked his bank account shortly before Christmas to find his balance had unexpectedly been inflated by £250,000.

"This is not the kind of figure that a writer for the Guardian gets blasé about," Benedictus notes. However, after a week it transpired that the money had arrived by virtue of his apparent benefactor mistakenly entering a six instead of an eight in the sort code, and he would have to hand the quarter of a million back.

Paper Monitor is ashamed to admit feelings of schadenfreude. Ah well. You win some, you lose some.

Your Letters

18:37 UK time, Monday, 9 January 2012

Do you think Becca in Norway (Friday's letters), who is kindly providing up-dates from the future, could kindly let me have next Saturday's Lotto numbers if I give her a name for her next little one?
Rob, Crowmarsh Gifford, UK

No no no! I'm determined to stand by Andy (Friday 30 December's letters) in this one! The discussion is all about phonetic consonants, not orthographic, because the English language is littered with extra little letters that we never say ("ght" has no "gh" in it, although this does usually indicate a lengthening of the vowel). Becca - [th] is a single consonant, in terms of phonetics, so unfortunately twe[l f th] only has three consonants. My inner and outer pedants have had their outing for the day now, time to tuck it up with a nice cup of Horlicks...
Sarah, Coventry

Dave Parker (Friday letters): "Nymphs". Or perhaps, "rivernymphs".
Alexander Lewis Jones, Nottingham, UK

I think Becca and Dave are both missing the point - Andy is discussing clusters of pronounced consonants, not spellings which happen to include compound consonants (like "th") or silent ones (like "gh"). "Sixths" and "twelfths" both have four consecutive pronounced consonants - resepctively k,s,th,s and l,f,th,s.
Knightsbridge and Hampsthwaite are both place names spelled with six consecutive consonants, but only four and five pronounced ones respectively (and then only if you count the "w" sound as a consonant.
Tim, London

I don't want to be pedantic but I was always told and believe that the shortest distance (see Friday's letters) between two London Underground stations was the 0.161 miles which represents Leicester Square to Covent Garden on the Piccadilly line. TFL seems to agree with this (and they should know!) - see this page. Granted it may only be 180m between the entrances to Embankment and Charing Cross, but the actual track distance from platform to platform is longer. I'll get my Oyster Card (then the journey only costs £2 instead of £4.30...)
Martin, Hemel Hempstead, UK

In this story it would be commendable that the restaurant uses only local ingredients ("no reliance on air transport") except that the benefit is wiped out by customers flying half way around the world to visit.
Rich, Titchfield Common, UK

Paper Monitor

14:44 UK time, Monday, 9 January 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There's a rather good measurement of the amount of news around - if every newspaper is splashing on a different subject.

Looking at today's papers, this is a time of exceptional dearth for the nation's news editors. But before you go starting to put pictures of sad-eyed hacks on one of those charity flyers that fall out of papers and then get thrown away, remember one thing.

The modern news editor always has pictures.

In today's papers, it's pictures of the War Horse premiere.

Some papers just have the horse on the red carpet, some have Spielberg leaning in as if to kiss the horse, and some have the Duchess of Cambridge.

Ah, lovely space-filling pictures.

Elsewhere in the news, Paper Monitor's favourite story is of a 33-year-old PR consultant called Julia whose friends have been on a bit of a mission.

Julia met a guy called Martin in Ibiza in and shared a single kiss as the sun came up. She gave him her number and he never called. She believed she may have got a couple of digits wrong.

Her friends launched a campaign to find Martin using Twitter and Facebook after Julia regularly brought him up in conversation.

That was Friday. Monday's development is that Martin has been found and he has a girlfriend.

But after trawling his Facebook page, the Daily Mail has concluded Julia has had a lucky escape.

So no damage done here, eh.

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