BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for February 12, 2012 - February 18, 2012

Your Letters

16:05 UK time, Friday, 17 February 2012

We have too many nudes, India doesn't have enough. Surely we can come to some sort of arrangement?
Andrew, Malvern, UK

To HB, London (Thursday's letters), I expect it was something along the lines of, "Abu Qatada? Is that like some kinduv cocktail? Classy!"
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

People in Tickton have lost their phone and internet service due to cable theft.
Ticked off, more like.
David Richerby, Liverpool, UK

"Cameron and Sarkozy praise ties." Length? Style? Colour? Knot? We must be told!
Simon, Edinburgh

Paul (Wednesday letters), choristers, opera singers and a capella singers enunciate the beginnings and endings of words for clarity, and emphasise the internal vowels for rounded sound which projects. Whitney Houston singing "luv" instead of "l-l-u-u-v-v" makes it a shorter sound (and it's obvious what the verb will be) so she could spend more seconds on the "I" and the "you". Like her stuff or loathe it, she had an exceptional voice and made a pretty much seamless transfer from gospel singing to R&B and pop.
Fee Lock, Hastings, East Sussex

Is there a word for that sense of urgency one feels when one has a witticism to share on the letters page and is concerned that if one doesn't get down to it right away one may not be the first to make said witticism, and therefore one may not have one's letter published?
Joe, Rustington, UK

10 things we didn't know last week

15:39 UK time, Friday, 17 February 2012

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

1 Certain tattoos are illegal in Honduras.
More details

2. The singing of a number of notes over one syllable, as popularised by Whitney Houston, is called a melisma.
More details

3. Goats have accents.
More details

4. There are 364 different ways to mis-spell the name of the Welsh village Betws-y-Coed.
More details

5. Sloth meat tastes tough, gamey and a bit like pork.
More details (Slate)

6. A chameleon can fit on the head of a match.
More details

7. The world's hottest chilli pepper can burn its way through gloves.
More details (Metro)

8. Richard Dawkins invokes God when flustered.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

9. A snowdrop bulb can sell for £725.
More details (Daily Express)

10. Birds are less monogamous when the climate is changeable.
More details (Discovery News)

Caption Competition

12:46 UK time, Friday, 17 February 2012


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week it was a man in a heart costume on a train in Peru.

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

6. Graham wrote:

Where am I going to find a Tin Man these days?

5. MukkaMonkey wrote:

The main problem with this costume, Luis reminded himself, was that you had to watch out for Vinnie Jones trying to thump you.

4. Ade wrote:

A fare of the heart.

3. Fern Coolbra wrote:

Aorta gone by bus.

2. MuteJoe wrote:

Has anyone seen my friends, I, N and Y?

1. Kudosless wrote:

"Tickers please."

Paper Monitor

10:18 UK time, Friday, 17 February 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor has long celebrated the celebrity-skewering wordsmithery of the Guardian's Marina Hyde, and this week the Lost In Showbiz columnist outdoes herself.

Hyde turns her gaze to the second autobiography by Alex James, erstwhile Blur bass player, occasional Sun food writer and "Britain's premier cheese bore".

It's fair to say that James's conversion from rock star to whey-mixing country squire has been extensively documented, not least by James himself, and Paper Monitor, like Hyde, has long wearied of his "rennet-based droning".

Hyde's verdict on the book? "James writes like the brilliant satirist Craig Brown has got hold of his computer and done his worst."

And certainly, it's hard to disagree with her verdict based on passages like this:

Let's lay our first scene in a chapter entitled CHEESE, in which Alex's land agent poses the fateful question: "'Do you like cheese?' I told him I did," reveals Alex.

Still they come. "The bigger your house is, the less you throw away." "The Industrial Revolution skipped the Cotswolds." "A lot of problems would be solved if everybody lived on farms."

And then there is this excerpt:

"On the whole," muses Alex, "I was surprised how much I liked most of the people who lived nearby. Not just the nobs and the billionaires. We took on two gypsies from the trailer park as cleaners and they fascinated me. The younger one was very pretty ..." The reader is never burdened with their names - the elder cleaner is described elsewhere in the book as "the not-so-pretty gypsy girl".

But, according to Hyde nothing matches a "six-page hymn to what can only be described as the most twattish shop on the planet". Run by the wife of a local billionaire who, according to James, doesn't "particularly care about making money", it apparently sells a range of "tasteful objects", which "radiates prestige", boasting "a whole New Age massage, yogaromatherapy wing, apparently staffed by Tibetan Buddhist monks".

Hyde's despair radiates from the page. Paper Monitor applauds.

Your Letters

16:57 UK time, Thursday, 16 February 2012

"Abu Qatada: British minister visits Jordan for talks" - what did she say?
HB, London

Nominative determinism even reaches the local news.
Phil, Oxford

Tut tut, Monitorites! I'm off work for a day and we suddenly start letting Robin (Tuesday's letters) get away with using "anniversary" to mark the passing of a single day?
If the Latin for day is "diem", surely it should be "dieversary"? Pedants, for shame!
I'll get my toga.
Ian, Bristol

Paul (Wedensday's letters), I think they actually meant to say "lurrrrrv."
Richard, London

One presumes not many of these would be compatible with the Sunday Sport headline challenge.
Basil Long, Nottingham

Some Sunday Sport news stories you may have missed:

(Local News)
Barrow in Furnace!

(Transport News)
Ash Ton Under Line!

(Farming News)
Hay Stings!
Udders Feeled!

(Royal News)
Will's Done!
Woe King!

(Tragic News)
Bag Shot!
Burnt Island!
E's Kill Bride!

I'll get me Ulster!
Paul, Marlow, UK

New Castle!
Don Cast 'er! (controversial new Mad Men actress)
New Ton Abbot! (fattest cleric in the UK)
Kate, York, England

Mornington Crescent!
Mark, Bridge

Paper Monitor

10:02 UK time, Thursday, 16 February 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor raises an imaginary glass of champagne to James Whitaker, Fleet Street's legendary royal reporter, who has died following a battle against cancer.

Whitaker had the distinction of serving on all of Fleet Street's daily tabloid newsdesks. But it was at the Daily Mirror where he was best known. There he covered Princess Diana's divorce from Prince Charles and broke such scoops as Diana's relationship with Dodi Fayed and the Duchess of York's toe-related encounter.

Despite the fact he covered her private life in painful detail, the Princess of Wales remained fond of Whitaker, lending him his nickname The Big Red Tomato after spotting him skiing in a bright scarlet suit.

For Paper Monitor, however, the definitive anecdote of his career came in the wake of Diana's death. As the paper he served that night tells it:

The Mirror's news editor rang him and said: "We need 20,000 words and we need it in four hours." "Dear chap," replied James."Put me over to the copytaker." For four hours a relay of typists took down his words. One or two facts needed checking, but James delivered.

He was fond of self-parody, and never fell victim to the self-importance which he affected. As former colleague Roy Greenslade puts it in the Guardian: "He was aware of his booming, plummy voice, often telling how an Australian newspaper had once described him as sounding as if he was a retired brigadier addressing a pair of deaf daughters."

Nonetheless, according to Greenslade, "it was his habit to stack up a plate of smoked salmon sandwiches next to his typewriter alongside a bottle of champagne".

Towards the end of his career, according to the Daily Telegraph, Whitaker was given his own Mirror column, "the purpose of which was to enrage the readers and generate a large postbag. It worked: Whitaker used the space to complain about irritants such as the outrageous price of Krug and the difficulty of finding decent servants".

He rarely enraged those who knew him personally, however, and Paper Monitor often had cause to be grateful for Whitaker's generosity with his time on occasions when this columnist was ordered to harvest instant quotes from a royal expert. He will be missed.

Your Letters

16:44 UK time, Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Blimey, the picture looks like a fluffy dressing-gown button beside a peapod.
Sarah, Basel, Switzerland

Surely 2012 (see Monday's letters) has more anniversaries than 2011 because it has more days as well?
Basil Long, Nottingham

Paper Monitor, I wasn't born alone. I distinctly remember my mother being there.
Jo, London, UK

Public service announcement. If you are close enough to a wild animal to take photos of it on your mobile phone, you are what wildlife experts call "too close". Getting too close to a wild animal makes it feel threatened, which can have one of two results: if the wild animal is smaller than you, it will probably run away; if the wild animal is three times your weight, it will expect you to do the running. For this reason, wildlife experts advise that you do not get too close to wild animals. Especially large ones.
David Richerby, Liverpool, UK

According to this article Whitney Houston conserved energy by singing "luv" instead of "love". Anyone care to explain?
Paul, Marlow, UK

She's back! Poor thing didn't get much of a break after the New Year.
Annabel, Windsor, UK

I don't dispute the truth of this story, but wouldn't it be pretty easy to make a giant match and put a normal-sized lizard on it? Easier than discovering a new species, anyway.
Edward Green, London, UK

Rahere, Smithfield (Monday's letters). Actually, no. In 2012, unlike non-leap years, there is an anniversary for things that happened on the 29th February, such as Hattie MacDaniel becoming the first African-American to win an Oscar (1940), The abdication of Queen Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden (1720) or the coup d'etat that removed Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (2004), and doubtless numerous engagements where the woman proposed to the man...
Ray, Turku, Finland

Monitor: Earlier, we publicised an appeal for British placenames that - with an exclamation mark added - sound like Sunday Sport headlines. Along the lines of Nun Eaten! A selection follows.

Turnham Green!
D Ben Draw, Oxford

All the places near me seem to be good placer names.
Hitchin - Hit Chin!
Royston - Roys Ton! (cricket century perhaps)
Letchworth - Letch-Worth! (or worth a Letch at least!)
Huntingdon - Hunting Don! (looking for somebody called Don, or maybe a University Lecturer!)

Ashley Brown, Ellington, Huntingdon, England

Butter Wick!
Great Dun Fell!
and my favourite and Bill Bryson's - Lickey End...
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Paper Monitor

09:57 UK time, Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Juxtaposition is one of the key pitfalls confronting those tasked with laying out papers.

On a fast news day in a high-pressure newsroom, it's easy to understand how an article about crematoria might end up next to an advert for cookery classes.

But readers - and social media - are unlikely to be forgiving of these unwitting lapses of taste.

Paper Monitor would therefore like to express commiserations to the design team at the Independent's i paper.

It follows up the story that pop star Shakira was attacked by a sea lion with a light-hearted feature about other celebrities who have had run-ins with the animal kingdom.

Next to it, unfortunately, is a rather less amusing report of a zoo keeper being killed by a lioness.

In other news, Paper Monitor notes that Laurence Rickard of TV's Horrible Histories has mentioned on Twitter that he is compiling a "list of place names that double as Sunday Sport headlines if you add an exclamation mark".

So far he has come up with "Nun Eaten!" Can readers suggest any more? Use the letters form on the right.

Your Letters

16:58 UK time, Tuesday, 14 February 2012

So scientists have to include a new mathematical quantity known as the Rapunzel Number to predict the shape of a ponytail? What a let-down!
Paul Greggor, London

Is the three-time Killer Whale in this story another case of nominative determinism, or am I stretching a point? I'll get my sou'wester.
Paul, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Happy St.Cyril's day! If you don't know, there are more than 365 saints so they have to share days. Today is also St.Cyril's day who has been adopted by us as patron saint of platonic friendship.
Susan, Newcastle

Alison (Monday's letters), I was a bit put out from your message as I had just made you some home-made marzipan hearts covered in dark chocolate. Too bad - MM will have to have them instead. Happy Valentine's Day MM.
Rachel, Wayzata

Rahere, Smithfield (Monday letters), I thought that too. So 2012 has more anniversaries than, say 2011, because more things have happened.
Les, Wolverhampton

Can I be the first to congratulate Rahere on the first daily anniversary of his letter.
Robin, Herts, UK

Paper Monitor

10:30 UK time, Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor appreciates that not all readers of this column will have woken up to flowers, chocolates and associated Valentine's Day paraphernalia.

It is with these people in mind that the Daily Mail is presumably pitching its page five lead.

"My online date didn't exist..." runs the headline, "and the scam cost me my £40,000 life savings".

It lays out in sorrowful detail the story of a woman who went looking for love on the internet but instead fell prey to a fraudster. Paper Monitor can reassure those bereft of cards this morning that after reading the article, even the most joyful Valentine's recipient will be left feeling cynical and depressed.

Julie Burchill in the Sun is in a similar happiness-puncturing mood.

"When I hear the word 'romance', I reach for my whoopee cushion," she harrumphs.

Nonetheless, Ms Burchill manages to find some solace each 14 February.

"I love Valentine's Day," she opines, "simply because it drives home to me how I'll never have to even pretend to be romantic again."

After reading today's press, neither will Paper Monitor.

Your Letters

16:49 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

Re: your article about the spread of Braille, our local hospital has [or at least used to have] an ingenious system in the lifts. The floor numbers were in Braille but on separate, non-functioning buttons the exact size and shape of the proper buttons you have to press which was next to them. How is a blind person to know?
J. Paul Murdock, Wall Heath, West Midlands, UK

Is the terminology "Most Popular" really suitable for the most read/visited news stories? The word popular generally implies some sort of approval or affection for the subject. Every time I see a story relating to murder or rape I find it a little disconcerting for it to be listed as popular. On the news stores themselves it is good to see the use of the term "share" instead of "like" or "+1" as these would be very inappropriate for some stories.
Paul I, St G, Cornwall

The last one in a box of chocolates that are all the same may taste best, but in our house the last one is usually marzipan - bleurgh.
Alison Croft, Edinburgh

Surely every year, not just 2012, sees the anniversary of every event in history, by definition?
Rahere, Smithfield

Paper Monitor

14:37 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Today is not a good day for people in the world of features.

There's a fair amount of news around but a shadow lurks over their counterparts in the featureszone. It's Valentine's Day tomorrow.

Surely, you say, this is a fertile time for features. Well, no, not really.

Since (judging by a quick squiz on Wikipedia) Valentine's Day has been going 600 years there's really not much more to say.

Paper Monitor occasionally overhears features ingénues pitching Valentine's ideas to gnarled features editors. The response is usually not pretty - "no", "computer says no", "never, never, never" etc

But many papers still plough on - both on the day and on the 13th. So today the Sun has "How to prepare for Valentine's Date".

It's a rather practical thing about eating and exercise rather than anything more soulsearching. It's all about having some dark chocolate and a handful of nuts.

Paper Monitor would prefer "in case of romantic crisis, break glass and remove emergency cat" or "you're born alone and you die alone".

The Guardian's G2 goes the other way with no Valentine stuff.

It has a couple of nice things - a lovely set of pictures of wholly unnecessary quotation marks in signs, and then a piece about German humour.

It starts off with a section about Dinner for One - a sketch that plays on New Year's Eve in Germany every year. Readers of this parish are already well aware of it.

In fact, Dinner for One is so well known that the comments field at the bottom of the Guardian online piece gets a bit hostile.

But it must be said the feature - or edited book extract to be more accurate - does a pretty good job of opening out into wider differences between British and German comedy.

It talks about the prevalence of comedy in the UK and the popularity of a totally deadpan delivery.

Of course, the commenters think it's churning up old stereotypes about Germans loving slapstick while sophisticated British people prefer verbal humour.

Anyway, at least it's not about Valentine's.

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