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Archives for August 26, 2012 - September 1, 2012

10 things we didn't know last week

15:55 UK time, Friday, 31 August 2012

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

1. Chimpanzees have a secret handshake.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

2. In Italian, there is a word for a summer hit song that is played everywhere you go - tormentone.
More details

3. The favourite number of Count von Count from the Muppets is 34,969.
More details

4. The writer Ian McEwan applied to work at MI5 and was rejected.
More details (FT)

5. A hurricane can make the Mississippi River run backwards for 24 hours.
More details

6. Ferrets are used to test the flu virus.
More details (The Independent)

7. Mitt Romney has a stake in Armitage Shanks.
More details (The Times)

8. Only Fools and Horses is popular in the Balkans.
More details (Daily Express)

9. There's a subcategory of homicide in the Philippines for so-called My Way killings - deaths which come in the wake of karaoke rows.
More details (The Times)

10. On two occasions Neil Armstrong could have been killed by malfunctioning Nasa machinery.
More details (Esquire)

Seen a thing? Tell @BBC_magazine on Twitter using the hashtag #thingIdidntknowlastweek

Your Letters

15:42 UK time, Friday, 31 August 2012

I'd only prevent kids from reading 50 Shades because it's drivel.
Darren, London

Re: comedy and Newcastle Evening Chronicle: I went to grammar school in Mill Lane Hebburn, at first I thought it sounded like heaven but I can assure you it wasn't, more like Hell. Teachers kept saying: "You will wish you were back here after you leave." Wrong again as I didn't want to be there in the first place let alone go back! I got a good education though admittedly...
Tim McMahon, Martos/Spain

"Weighing the cat", "stuffing the chicken" (Thursday's letters)... this procrastination stuff is great. In our family it's referred to as "mowing the lawn"!
Simon, Burnham

Ok, call me slow, but I've only just understood the Mo jokes (letters passim). I've spent the last few days thinking about Men Farah and Tum Farah and wondering why it was funny.
Kay, Folkestone/London

Paper Monitor

12:28 UK time, Friday, 31 August 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Perhaps it's became summer is coming to an end, but Fleet Street's columnists appear especially grouchy today.

Take Harry Mount, of the Daily Telegraph, who takes the Queen's wearing of earplugs at the Paralympic opening ceremony as a cue to attack the absence of silence from British public life.

Piped music, leaking iPods, the beep-beep of reversing vehicles, even people slurping coffee loudly - all irk the Trappist Mount:

We silence obsessives can't hope to turn the music off; our only hope is to shut it out, as the Queen did. Lots of people in offices wear earplugs - not just at work, but during the infernally loud commute, too. I always take a pair to hotels, which, with their minimalist decor and fondness for unadorned stone, are extremely effective echo chambers.

Of course, for maximum crotchetiness one must turn to the Daily Mail, on the pages of which Julia Llewellyn Smith addresses the many and varied frustrations of dealing with a GP receptionist, most people's first point of entry to the NHS.

"I have no complaints about its fantastic doctors and nurses," she writes. "But seeing one of them in person is a process so complex it makes the discovery of the Higgs Boson look like deciphering Book One of Janet And John."

Best of all, though, is Suzanne Moore of the Guardian, who harrumphs through a long op-ed about her dislike of school uniforms - in Moore's view, they neuter pupils' individuality and waste teachers' time on enforcement.

Not everyone shares her view, however.

"Since I bought my daughter's uniform she has, of course, had it on all the time, though school doesn't start until next week," Moore harrumphs. "She is expressing herself or getting at me."

That which irritates us most, of course, is always closest to home.

Caption Competition

12:18 UK time, Friday, 31 August 2012


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week a girl with a false moustache leads a poodle in a dog competition in Cleveland, Tennessee.

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

6. Candace9839:
Not to worry, his art is worse than his bite.

5. Rob Falconer:
And this is Salvador - he's a Dali-matian.

4. VirtuousFang:
Crufts open the revised classifications for poodles: Miniature; Toy; Abstract.

3. Kudosless:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Bright Lime.

2. MagnumCarter:
Some felt the rules governing the Labradoodle category had not been properly explained.

1. Nick Fowler:
Mum, what does indelible mean?

Paper Monitor

17:02 UK time, Thursday, 30 August 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Every so often Paper Monitor likes to take a look at that most venerable of British press institutions - the evening paper.

They're in long-term decline, something many people have mourned.

There's still gold in them thar hills.

The biggest glob of nutritional goodness is in the Manchester Evening News. Trading Standards have turned up a takeaway that's serving doner kebabs with 1,800 calories.

And there's a 1kg Chinese meal and a lamb pasanda that's actually beef.

But any students planning to patronise these eateries are set to be disappointed. Trading Standards decided not to name them.

Over in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle there's a tale of a "local" comedy. Not for local people, but actually for the BBC. It's set in Hebburn. And it's called Hebburn. Hmmmm, local.

We'll skate over the Birmingham Mail as it's, ahem, no longer an evening.

But the Yorkshire Evening Post has a classic tale of local paper woe. Councillors are considering abandoning free Sunday parking and city centre entrepreneurs are, needless to say, full of that woe.

Whatever the naysaying, for the moment at least, the institution of the evening paper lives on.

Your Letters

15:35 UK time, Thursday, 30 August 2012

Love the phrase "weighing the cat" for procrastination. We use "stuffing the chicken" for the act of faffing around doing unnecessary things when you should be leaving the house, after my mother-in-law gave that as the reason for keeping everyone waiting at the door for half an hour.
Jo, London, UK

Darn. I was going to submit my procrastination story to you, but I never got around to it, and now it's too late.
Chris, London, UK

Cardiff sign Noone from Brighton - does this count as news? They signed nobody from Sunderland or Manchester United either.
Jimlad, Paris, France

Al (Wednesday's letters), I hear that the police live at 999 Letsby Avinue (or did I get that from a Christmas cracker?).
Susan, Newcastle

Al, I'd like to propose locative determinism.
Paul, Isle of Man

Today's Random Stat about whale vomit is enough to start an epidemic of regurgitation. Pass the bucket...
Tim McMahon, Martos/Spain

To provide balance (as the BBC does so well) to the article about Methodist Halls becoming nightclubs, I am part of a church that meets in a building that was formerly a mens' club, amongst other things. There are of course many new churches occupying industrial and commercial buildings all over the country as well!
Nick, Heathfield, East Sussex

The link to this story reads US expands more than estimated, so I looked at my waist and sighed, "Too true."
roarshock, USA

Your Letters

16:26 UK time, Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Re: Rowan Pelling's feature about procrastination. Please pass her my profound thanks as today I sent five invoices and upgraded my website. Being self employed is remarkably challenging for procrastinators yet this is what I have chosen over PAYE employment.
Judith Scott, Leeds

Dear Prof Monitor, you're missing a trick by requesting for thesis submissions by post. You should at least vet those taking part by telephone questionnaire. Just by chance, I have my own line set up: 0906866...
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Ey up Basil (Tuesday's letters) - I too live in the fair city of Nottingham and you have confounded me. I suppose some of the posher offices have a water boiler and not just a kettle to cope with the required tea making capacity. And yes, Thursdays are widely acknowledged as prep days for Friday (usually by people I manage). I'd say Friday pm is when work tails off - which is why I'm fond of calling essential meetings then (keep an eye on them eh?). But "gotten up to" as a verb? Really?
Trina, UK

Ginny Murphy has claimed her cat Teddy bear was the Essex Lion. Looking at Ginny's own impressive mane and tan colour, is there a chance she was sunbathing in the field at the time?
Christian Cook, Street, Somerset

Martin (Tuesday's letters), I heard Mo only has the one brother, called Town. Not sure who has the best singing voice though.
Rob Orme, Winsford, Cheshire

I would like to point out an excellent example of organisational addressative* nominative determination. The headquarters of The Geological Society of America is in Boulder, Colorado.
*(anybody know the correct word that I am looking for here?)
Al, Wellington NZ

Paper Monitor

10:29 UK time, Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

One of Paper Monitor's favourite regular newspaper features is the Daily Express's daily premium-rate telephone poll.

Today, readers are invited (at a charge of 35p plus network operator rates, or 36p from a BT landline) to answer yes or no to the question: "Should those who have never worked get dole?"

Perhaps Paper Monitor is taking a reckless punt, but this columnist predicts the outcome will be North Korea-like in its support for the negative option.

After all, results for yesterday's poll - "do we pay too much council tax?" - were a finely balanced 99% "yes", 1% "no".

(As an aside, Paper Monitor believes there is a PhD thesis to be written about Express readers who participate in these polls by voting for the minority position. Submissions, please, to Prof Monitor c/o the University of Oxford Circus, formerly White City Polytechnic).

However, the best example of user-generated content in today's press was submitted by Dr David J Peters of Eastergate, West Sussex, to the letters page of the Times:

Sir, In 1970, with an obstetric exam looming, I persuaded my brother to act as a foetus and practised delivering him several times through the legs of the piano stool using two soup spoons as forceps. Breech and other difficult presentations were also rehearsed and it was obviously a success as I later gained my diploma.

Perhaps a medical career is not beyond Paper Monitor after all.

Your Letters

16:21 UK time, Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Rob, London (Monday's letters), I heard Mo Farah has two brothers, Men and Tum. Not sure who is the fastest though.
Martin Pearson, Hoosick Falls, Upstate NY, USA

As regards 10 Things number one, I have my own thoughts. Yes, Mondays are bad but generally you are still on a bit of a high from the weekend, able to chat around the water boiler about the various shenanigans one did (or is at least purporting to have) gotten up to over the weekend.
Tuesdays are terrible. There is nothing good about a Tuesday. It is as far away from the weekend as one can get.
Wednesday is not a bad day. It's halfway through and downhill from here!
Thursdays are even better, so much so that they have been renamed Pre-Friday round my way.
And Friday is Friday. It's practically the weekend. No-one does any work on Friday. Well, except me (in case the boss is watching).
Basil Long, Nottingham

Having now seen the photo of the "lion" in Essex, I am most unimpressed. It looks more as if the local repertory company is putting on The Wizard of Oz.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

A Procrastinators Anonymous organisation? Did anyone turn up tp the meeting?
Malcolm, Tamworth

I'd have written yesterday but, well, you know how it is.
Diane, Sutton

Paper Monitor

11:23 UK time, Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Silly season analysis: Day II

August is, typically, the newspapers' silly season. The August bank holiday represents the month's high water mark of silliness.

In 2011, otherwise under-employed reporters found themselves pursuing reports of great white sharks in Cornwall.

Some 12 months on the hunt is on for a different creature on the other side of southern England.

Reports late on Sunday of a lion having been sighted at a caravan site near Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, led the Daily Mail to splash the story in some editions.

By Monday morning, Fleet Street's finest were en route to the Clacton area in search of big game.

Unsurprisingly, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Star both despatched reporters in full khaki hunting gear to conduct their inquiries.

The Times approached the story in a similar fashion, sending Ruth Maclean, who grew up on the edge of the Serengeti in Tanzania, to look for the big cat. It was a difficult task, she lamented: "Essex at this time of year is exactly the colour of lions and there are dozens of handy haystacks to hide behind."

Amed police were deployed, two helicopters were scrambled and experts from Colchester Zoo were frantically consulted. Eventually, officers concluded that the creature was probably "either a large domestic cat or a wildcat".

Today's newsapers attempt to identify the culprit, but come to different conclusions.

According to the Daily Mirror, the feline is in fact a ginger cat called Tom. The Daily Mail, however, pinpoints another moggy named Teddy Bear.

The Sun, however, is rather more credulous about the initial report.

"I am convinced I heard the lion roar as I walked the streets of St Osyth hours after the sighting," writes non-khaki-wearing reporter Ben Cusak, "and it was terrifying."

In one title, at least, the story did not end with a whimper.

Your Letters

12:49 UK time, Monday, 27 August 2012

Mo Farah has an identical brother (10 Things, Friday)? Who can run faster? Hmmm, Mo's spectacular recent successes are suddenly explained, methinks... Perhaps you should check the footage again, and see if there's any moment where Mo runs behind a tree or hedge?
Rob, London, UK

I bet the repeats we get now will still be on.
Malcolm, Wrexham, Wales, United Kingdom

"... if either Armstrong or Aldrin had broken an ankle or got injured on the lunar surface... the uninjured astronaut would not be able to get them back in the craft because it was a long climb up the ladder. He would have died on the Moon."

Okay, please form an orderly queue to correct me here, but given the whole Moon/gravity situation, would it not actually be reasonably easy to get someone up the ladder? I only ask because leaving someone on the Moon seems a bit harsh...
Sue, London

Mike, Friday letters, possibly a Triumph (Act 3 Scene 4)?
Mark Esdale, Bridge, UK

It's a bit of a novel twist on the Man Bites Dog story.
Basil Long, Nottingham

Paper Monitor

12:06 UK time, Monday, 27 August 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The August Bank Holiday is just another working day - if the fatness of today's papers is anything to go by.

Yes, they seem as fat as any other Monday. The Boxing Day papers are at the other end of the spectrum. While the nation is fat with turkey, the newspapers are alarmingly skinny. Why do they bother at all?

But today there is the usual summer smorgasbord.

The Daily Mail looks forward to the Paralympics with a feature that zeroes in on a number of female competitors. Including a very large photo of one of them in an evening gown.

There is the usual end-of-the-silly-season fare.

The Sun reports on chaos in Solihull caused by a herd of 30 cows and bulls rampaging through the town centre.

It ends another story about a woman plagued by a medical condition that causes her to have a hundred orgasms a day with the quote: "I even tried sitting on frozen peas."

It's not the best sex-related quote of the day. The Mail has a serious court story about a couple in court for having loud sex.

One of the protagonists, 45-year-old Colin MacKenzie from Australia, says: "How can you live in a place where you can't have sex? It's ridiculous. Anyway it's mostly Jessie. The sex goes from four to seven hours, five nights a week. I'll probably die of a heart attack - she's almost killing me."


In the Daily Star they can only find a paragraph's worth of space for a raid on an Ann Summers store in Portsmouth. A large amount of lingerie was taken.

But the highlight in the Mail is an item about an eight-year-old boy who has an extraordinary rapport with marmots.

There's a big picture.

Nice marmot.

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