BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for June 17, 2012 - June 23, 2012

10 things we didn't know last week

17:00 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2012

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

1. Alan Turing chained his mug to a radiator to prevent anyone else using it when code-breaking at Bletchley Park.
More details (The Times)

2. Enoch Powell used to do impressions of Antiques Roadshow
More details (New Statesman)

3. Baby songbirds build playlists.
More details (escience news)

4. Wayne Rooney finds out what kit his opponents will wear in advance so he can picture himself scoring.
More details (The Independent)

5. Humanity weighs in at 287 million tonnes.
More details

6. Babies learn to see in 3D four months after they are exposed to light
More details (New Scientist)

7. Typing each Captcha - online security checks involving random words - takes about 10 seconds.
More details

8. Greenland sharks swim at less than 1mph.
More details

9. Japanese deer eavesdrop on monkeys to find food
More details

10. Hat-shaped clouds appear near Mount Fuji.
More details

Your Letters

16:02 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2012

Do we call him Flag when he is not on a boat? Kevin Smart on naming his son Union Jack.
Anne M, Eilean Siar

V. Martin, Barnoldswick, Lancs
Susan, Newcastle (
Thursday Letters)Pick me, pick me, pick me! Hull City
MCK, Stevenage

Oh, how useless Susan. It's as bad as knowing that there's only one London Underground station that does not contain any letters from the word "mackerel".
Mark, Bridge, UK

To Jo, London: Well, I could (reluctantly) be referred to as a "middle-aged lady" and I can immediately disprove that theory by assuring you that I have no idea who Christian Grey is, never mind how old he is... I'll get me sensible flat shoes and shuffle off...
Fi, Glos, Gloucestershire, UK

Caption Competition

13:50 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2012


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

Here, Natalie Haverstock poses after being escorted out of the Royal enclosure at Ascot.

6. Waldo wrote:
The Union Tack(y)

5. MorningGlories wrote:
Take that, Wonder Woman

4. Edmund Crispin wrote:
They ran it up the flagpole, but unfortunately nobody saluted it

3. Catherine O wrote:
One false move with that hat pin and we'll have ourselves a new course record.

2. Rob Falconer wrote:
David Cameron sends a unbiased ambassadress to Argentina to discuss the Falkland Islands

1. MightyGiddyUpGal wrote:
What were the odds Elton John would have the same outfit?!

Paper Monitor

13:34 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
If you're only going to read one Rio summit article then the Times is the place to be.

"Lovers check out and the earth moves in at Rio's 'hotels of sin'" does what it says on the tin.

There's very little environment in the piece. Let Paper Monitor rephrase that. The environment explored by hack Tom Whipple is the Love Time Hotel, one of Rio's many rent-by-the-hour venues.

"It is the third day of the Rio+20 environmental conference, and Rio is full," he explains. So full in fact that delegates have had to book into these cheap palaces of carnal delights.

Just in case readers might be scared off by the byline - "Tom Whipple Science Correspondent" - there is a large picture of him, naked but for a strategically placed towel, reclining with a glass of champagne on the hotel bed, his reflection captured in various mirrors.

Champagne is one of the safer options on a menu that also includes "vibradores" and "penis grande com cinto". Paper Monitor's limited Portuguese reckons the last word means belt. Think about it.

The incongruity of delegates staying in a hotel with such racy props is impossible to avoid. There in the lobby "holding iPads, was a high-level delegation from Nigeria discussing sustainable development strategies."

They are not feeling in their element, though. "We are looking for another hotel," Professor Olubukola Oyawoye tells Whipple. "We are trying to find a better environment." Seeing as she is state commissioner of environment, this seems rather poignant.

The choice of a love hotel has some unintended consequences for the Times' man. "At the Love Time, a stern sign at the door warns against prostitution. A bit like a bring-your-own-bottle restaurant, it instead allows guests to choose who they invite upstairs, and then levies an appropriate corkage fee."

So, when Whipple is visited by a colleague from the Sunday Times, £15 is added to the bill. Imagine putting that on expenses.

Your Letters

15:26 UK time, Thursday, 21 June 2012

Longest daylight hours today and here it is dark and murky. Downhill all the way now until the bright lights of Christmas. I've cheered myself up by putting the sprouts on ready.
Aqua Suliser, Bath

Ah, so Paper Monitor (Wednesday) is not a middle-aged lady then. Otherwise he would know that Christian Grey is 25.
Jo , London, UK

Re: How much football can you talk about to a non-fan? The only thing I know about football is there is only one team in the league where you cannot colour in any of the letters even if you write them in capitals (that and the offside rule, of course).
Susan, Newcastle

What I would like to know is, is she still married?
Alex, London

Oh, Doctor Walker (Wednesday's letters),
Me bad at haikus / When with numbers sudoku / Even worse get coat.
Graham , Purmerend, NL

Paper Monitor

12:35 UK time, Thursday, 21 June 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Some colleagues of Paper Monitor are of the opinion that there are no new ideas.

Everything has been done now and it's only a question of slight variations.

Today, the newspapers look rather tired so Paper Monitor decided to review the Times from 21 June 1912.

The first article Paper Monitor should chance on in the 1912 Times? A slot called "From The Times of 1812" and a reproduction of a century-old piece about Luddite violence.

The quoddest of QEDs, you might suggest.

And of course, from 1912 to 2012 the same themes remain. Only different.
Royal Ascot was on.

"The Paddock resembled a great garden of waving colour. Blue and grey, lavender and mauve were the predominant hues, with many shades that were none of those but came from the same parent-stock.

"There were, perhaps, not so many panier skirts to be seen as might have been expected of the fashion of the hour but most of the gowns that attracted attention observed a similar principle.

"Those that looked the most simple fell in fold upon fold of filmy material, and many of the charming new coats were to be seen.

"There were no high colours. Everything was dainty."

The presence of fake tan is not mentioned in the account

Elsewhere, there was a disruptive strike in France (seamen in Marseilles).

And binge drinking seems to have remained a bit of a constant, with a court case revolving around a "Cork Club".

The judge explained that a cork club meant that members were compelled to carry a cork wherever they went and were called upon to "stand" drinks all round if challenged when they had no cork in their possession.

Technology launches also dominated as they do today.

"A dairy firm in a south-western suburb have installed a slot-machine for the sale of milk during hours when the shop is closed.

"When a penny is placed in a slot and a handle turned the requisite supply of milk issues from a suitable aperture under which the vessel has to be held."

Plus ca change.

Your Letters

15:16 UK time, Wednesday, 20 June 2012

James H, York (Tuesday's letters) - Team A wins 60% of their home games - that means they lose or draw the remaining 40% presumabley to another team (say b-z inclusive). Team A also win 40% of their away games. meaning they lose or draw 60%. The two are not related. I'll get me away kit.
PollySaxon, Lichfield

Thanks for all the football conversation tips, but I get by fine with "You mean people get paid for kicking a ball around a field?".
Diane, Sutton

Dear people of Ilfracombe, it's called "a joke". The whole reason that it's funny to say that Ilfracombe is "laced with prostitution" is that it's so obviously untrue. What Mr Shatner is really saying is that Ilfracombe is the last place on the planet where one would expect to find a prostitute and, furthermore, that he expects everyone he's talking to will understand this.
David Richerby, Liverpool, UK

Dear oh dear, Monitor posts an item about Computer scientist Severin Hacker without a Nominative Determinism warning?
Rik Alewijnse, Feering, UK

Sorry, Ian from Redditch (Tuesday's letters) but that is not a haiku. Haiku have 17 "on" - poetic syllables - in a pattern of five in the first line, seven in the second and five in the first. Yours has five, six and five. Calm light on new day/ Fresh breezes stir gentle air/I will get me coat.
Dr Reece Walker, London UK

So the Feathers had a visit from the police because they were hosting a gig by, not at, 4am? I really don't see the problem. Obviously the Police visit was a Sting.
Rob Mimpriss, Bangor, Wales

Paper Monitor

12:54 UK time, Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The Times's story from Tuesday about the tax avoiding comedian has caused a bit of a ripple in newspaperworld. Paper Monitor has been Carr-ful not to name the comedian in question but the papers have gone right ahead.

The Sun has followed up today with a piece from Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander headlined "Rich tax dodgers as bad as dole cheats".

Browsing Twitter, Paper Monitor's attention is drawn to this piece from the Daily Telegraph in 2010.

It accused Alexander of avoiding capital gains tax when selling a flat. They said it was designated as his primary home to the Revenue, while being designated as his second home to the parliamentary authorities for expenses purposes.

Alexander's explanation was that he had simply taken advantage of "operation of final period relief, which exempts homes from CGT for 36 months after they stop being the main home".

And in a delicious twist, the Googlers are able to find financial advice from the Daily Telegraph in 2007 reminding readers of this very rule.

Ah, the path of the citizen journalist.

Anyway, on to much sillier matters - our more natural home - and Paper Monitor must express surprise that the tabloids have only just got around to doing pieces on the "mommy porn" publishing sensation Fifty Shades of Grey.

The Daily Mirror did something yesterday and the Sun follows up today. For those who've had Salinger-esque levels of social contact these past few months, it's an S&M-laden love story about a young woman and a middle-aged businessman inspired by the Twilight series.

In features journalism, some of the hacks like to talk about "the curve". The academic curve is something to do with a bell and statistics, but the features one is about judging the right moment to do a piece.

For instance, 5 February 2004 would have been a bad time to do a piece about the rise of Facebook. No-one would have heard of it.

But doing a piece about its rise on 20 June 2012 is equally daffy. People in internet-free caves in Stornoway or Bhutan know what it is.

Different media entities are in different places on the curve. If you were a tech blog, you would have wanted to chronicle the rise of Facebook during 2005. If you were a tabloid newspaper you might have got away with 2007.

Over to the Fifty Shade of Grey features curve. It's too late for anybody.

Your Letters

16:12 UK time, Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Regarding Basil's letter about the Beaufort scale not being poetic. I feel I can only respond in haiku... Calm light on new day/ Fresh breeze stirs gentle air/ Stormy hurricane
Ian, Redditch

Basil, it's poetic even in your letter. I'm just not sure if it's the actual vocabulary, elegant in its limitation, or the memory of the announcer's measured tones while I lie tucked up safe and warm being glad I'm not out there in the teeth of it. Either way, your summary has greatly enhanced my understanding and appreciation.

"English league teams win roughly 60% of their home games versus 40% of away games, on average." So home teams win 60% of the time, and away teams win 40% of the time, so presumably nobody ever draws?
James H, York

Paper Monitor

10:29 UK time, Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

We like a joke here at Paper Monitor. Always up for a laugh.

A year ago, a certain well-known comedian appeared in a TV sketch sending up Barclays, which had been criticised for carrying out a tax avoidance scheme. The joker donned a blond wig and hammed it up as a bank clerk, dishing out advice about how best to manipulate the system and pay only 1% tax. Ho ho ho.

But I bet said funny man ain't finding things too funny/is laughing on the other side of his rotund face this morning, after a big investigation in the Times. The paper accuses him of... paying only 1% tax in a scheme that - to this layperson - sounds not dissimilar to the one the funny man derided so deftly.

A big photo of him is splashed across the front page - in it, he holds a finger to his lips in a "shoosh" gesture, looking far less glam than in his Barclays-bashing blond wig get-up.

Never less than picture perfect, though, is a certain Duchess of Cambridge, whose shapely legs and toothy charms grace many a paper's page.

She, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Wessex are pictured having a ruddy good time at yesterday's Garter Day service, all adorned in summer pastels and sporting nude-coloured shoes, gifting headline writers with easy puns about being "seen in the nudes" (Daily Mirror) and having "a white laugh" (the Sun), and a "dream in cream" (front page of the Daily Express), which runs with the rhyming on to page three with "Royals have a scream in cream".

Fragrant Kate's outfit ticked the thrifty box too - she'd worn it at last year's Trooping the Colour. The fashion choices of the artist-formerly-known-as-the-nation's-sweetheart (Cheryl Cole) don't go down quite as well, at least not in the Mail.

A picture gallery of her most unusual sartorial choices during a "retina-burning year" of "car-crash couture" features MC Hammer trousers, multi-coloured leopard-print jeggings and Power Ranger chic.


But, let's face it, she'd look good in a bin bag - or even a Barclays uniform and blonde wig.

Your Letters

16:10 UK time, Monday, 18 June 2012

Kevin Connelly says the Beaufort Scale has evocative language when compared to 'official' Met Office rain language but it doesn't. The Beaufort Scale actually just has six terms: calm, air, breeze, gale, storm and hurricane, which are occasionally coupled with one of six adjectives: light, gentle, moderate, fresh, strong and whole. It's really not that poetic.
Basil Long, Nottingham

Please don't withhold any kudos (Friday's letters). We've got enough problems with the liquidity of the Euro without kudos going into freefall. I'm hoping to be able to save enough kudos to be able to buy a life - eventually.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Re 10 Things point 5. Phew I am pleased I read this story. Before moving I found these controlled crossings too fast, one had to be a whippet to get across before the green man started flashing and beeping "times up" warning. Sure it was a ploy to reduce the ever-growing grey population in the UK. Most crossings here are not controlled - there are a few but plenty time to cross and pedestrians take priority. Alarming when driving as a pedestrian lunges onto a crossing without looking, and there are crossings at the entrance to roundabouts, schools, all end of roads. UK take note and learn.
Tim McMahon, Martos/Spain

Paper Monitor

13:21 UK time, Monday, 18 June 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

A colleague of Paper Monitor's happened to remark today that the Daily Star is cleaning up its act and going all respectable on the front page, at least.

We were wondering who might test out this hypothesis and realised, ahem, that would be Paper Monitor.

We've got hold of four copies of the paper. This is not a wide enough sample for a quantitative survey, we acknowledge.

But Paper Monitor had to pull these from a giant mound which felt a little bit like a dangerous game of Jenga. There were probably more in there, but we didn't want our death notice to read: "Crushed by pile of tabloid newspapers."

The Daily Star used to strongly favour a scantily clad woman on the front page, preferably displayed full-length down the page.

Today's has no such feature. Instead, there's a giant Greggs promotion, a Rooney story and a headshot of Tulisa.

Back to Friday's edition and again, glamour lady-age is at a minimum. OK, the main story is "Topless babes target England Aces" with a small image of a blonde Ukrainian lady, but mostly covered up. It's pretty chaste stuff by Star standards and again the page is dominated by an offer of four burgers and four beers for every reader.

Setting aside the Daily Star's mission to make the UK fatter, there does seem to have been a sea change.

But, the other two papers extracted from the tabloid monster pile turn out to be from summer 2011. They are also devoid of obvious bikini-age.

Perhaps these are natural outliers and the trend remains the same?

More study is required. Back to the newspaper pyramid...

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