BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for December 30, 2012 - January 5, 2013

10 things we didn't know last week

17:45 UK time, Friday, 4 January 2013

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

1. The price of college textbooks in the US has risen faster than healthcare, house prices and inflation.
More details (The Atlantic)

2. Four of the world's five oldest people live in Japan, according to a list of people whose birth date and survival have been confirmed.
More details (Financial Times)

3. There are two firms in the world cloning polo ponies.
More details (The Economist)

4. It would have taken 2.5m seagulls to lift James's giant peach into the air, not the 501 that Roald Dahl suggested.
More details (The Guardian)

5. Supertasters who test baby food have twice as many taste buds as most people.
More details (The Guardian)

6. Last year missed being the wettest on record by 6.6mm.
More details (Metro)

7. The average individual in the US uses more than 20,000 sheets of toilet paper a year.
More details (New Scientist)

8. The residents of Surrey account for one fifth of all library borrowing of EL James's Fifty Shades of Grey.
More details (The Telegraph)

9. Hot drinks taste differently according to the cup colour.
More details (Discovery News)

10. A gorilla can tightrope walk.
More details (The Telegraph)


Your Letters

17:25 UK time, Friday, 4 January 2013

I always wondered if Anonymous was related to Dangermouse?
Emma, Jersey

Celebrity Big Brother contestants revealed. This year I have heard of three of them, but could only recognise one of those.
Michael Hall, Croydon

Only three winners in the Caption Competition - kudos has gone into recession!
Andrew, Malvern

Re: Lucien Freud's famous nude "benefits supervisor". Naked or nude? Rather like gourmet or gormand, perhaps?
Candace, New Jersey, US

Paper Monitor

10:41 UK time, Friday, 4 January 2013

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The Sun's motto in its 80s heyday was "shock and amaze on every page".

The paper has a calmer feel now. But that mix of weird human interest, celebrity picture stories and strident patriotism is back today.

There's a letter addressed to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner headlined "Las Manos Quietas!" or hands off (the Falklands). And an annotated picture sequence of Roberto Mancini and Mario Ballotelli engaging in handbags at dawn.

But it's the front page splash that really takes you back to the paper's glory days.

"I've lost 46st". Yes, that's 46 stone. "World's ex-fattest man exclusive".

It's the picture that really grabs the attention. This is the story of Paul Mason, an ex-postman from Ipswich, who once weighed 70 stone but is now down to a mere 24 after a gastric bypass operation. Paul is pictured with his fist tentatively held in the air by way of victory pose. He is wearing a shapeless top that is far too big for him now.

Turn inside and the pics are even more hypnotic. There's a naked one, reminiscent of Lucien Freud's famous nude "benefits supervisor".

The richness is in the detail.

For instance, lunch used to be four portions of fish and chips, two kebabs and a roast dinner. Now it's just a "small portion of spaghetti bolognese".

It's easy to make light of his condition but the compulsive eating had serious consequences. "Firefighters removed the front wall of his house and used a forklift to plant him in an ambulance when he needed a hernia operation while weighing 56st in 2002."

He's come a long way since then. He's able to walk now rather than use an electric wheelchair. He is starting to live a more normal life - walking the dog, going to the cinema and, erm, eating at a Harvester - he had roast chicken "with about five chips".

What started out as a tabloid shocker ends up as an inspiring makeover narrative. It could almost be a movie. As the screen fades with our slimmed-down hero walking into the sunset, the last par brings a collective "ahhhh" from the audience.

"Once I get rid of the spare skin I also hope to be able to go swimming and cycling and join a gym - and find a girlfriend." Credits roll.

Your Letters

15:37 UK time, Thursday, 3 January 2013

I will never be able to think of the smell of warm biscuits in the the same way after reading History's weirdest fad diets
Martin, York

Am I the only person who thinks that this sounds like a stupendous scenario? I'd start the evening in aisle 6 (snacks/crisps), before moving on to aisle 9 (biscuits/chocolates), perhaps via the chiller cabinets for trifles, ice cream, eclairs etc., while fitting in several trips to the drinks aisle. I imagine being locked overnight in a supermarket is very stressful, and stress makes me very hungry. And, um, thirsty.
Sue, London

I loved reading the Dickens' quotes every day last year. Now with another anniversary this year, why aren't we seeing a Doctor Who quote every day?
seriouslykooky, Cannock

"The value of anon" - Abba made a lot out of it. "On anon anon, keep on rocking baby. . ."
Apologies for 80s flashback
Richard P, Essex

So, shall we start a sweep stake as to how long it will take the local council to designate this as graffiti and paint over it? I'll start with 21 days.
Adrian, London

Paper Monitor

12:51 UK time, Thursday, 3 January 2013

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"NICKED NICKED" - The Sun

Que?

"SAVILE COPS NICK NICK TV'S JIM" - Daily Mirror

Ah. It's a reference to Jim Davidson, which may go over the heads of younger readers and others unfamiliar with the 1970s comedian's work.

The Sun, aware that not all its readers will understand its headline, explains that "nick nick" is/was Davidson's catchphrase in the second paragraph of its front page story - before even answering the wheres and whys of the arrest. (He denies the allegations and has since been released on bail.)

A passing colleague adds that Davidson used to say "nick nick" during jokes about the police.

A gift, then, to tabloid headline writers of a certain age.

But it doesn't take a professional comedian to know that if a joke needs explaining, it hasn't worked. Even plugging the phrase into Google is of little help, resulting mainly in people asking what it means - not even Davidson's official website or his Wikipedia page mention this catchphrase.

The Daily Mail resists the "nick nick" reference but - as is its habit - gets in a mention of his "£1million Georgian home in the picturesque village of Stockbridge in Hampshire".

Well, they would, wouldn't they?

Caption Competition

12:29 UK time, Thursday, 3 January 2013

Comments

Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

Seeing in the New Year, Florida style

This week revellers prepare to see in the New Year at the Bourbon Street Pub Complex in Key West, Florida.

Thanks to all who entered. There are three winners this week. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

3. SkarloeyLine

Er, well, when I said I was on my uppers...

2. timtransport

Thanks to Shoe Finance, Imelda Marcos was able to consolidate all her shoes into one big shoe

1. John Ledbury

Then one day I said to the wife, "I fancy a change from bricklaying." And here I am

Your Letters

15:25 UK time, Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Alex (Your Letters), falling over a cliff is always temporary because, usually sooner than you might like, your fall will inevitably come to an end.
Roarshock, Oregon USA

Going incognito? I suppose there's a lot to be said for writing anonymously.
Anon, Llandough, Wales

Paper Monitor

11:13 UK time, Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's a time of year when personal transformation is quite the thing.

For many, that means traditional New Year's resolutions. Paper Monitor's resolutions are entirely newspaper-based, but there are plenty who are slimming, getting muscly, being more charitable or learning the banjo.

In the Daily Mirror, they first have a spread on people who kept their resolutions in 2012. There's a woman who kept a vow to her dying husband that she would succeed in business. And a woman who lost a lot of weight.

On the next page there's "Love your 2013 sexolutions!". Sexpert Dr Pam Spurr gives 10 resolutions for the year ahead.

This is a family website, but number five is "keep a lockable 'pleasure chest' at your bedside".

Rightyho.

The very next page has "6 ways to fix your finances".

Paper Monitor might start with "avoid unnecessary expenditure on 'lockable pleasure chests'".

Over in the Daily Mail, journo Karen Cross is doing something that Paper Monitor can't help but admire - going gonzo.

"I spent £5,000 to look 10 years younger"

She gets injected with lip filler, has her teeth whitened with gizmos and all manner of other cosmetic hoo-ha.

The poor scribe is cut down to size by one of the commenters.

"As far as I can see, the first pic = grumpy face, no makeup. The second = smiley face, lots of makeup. Wonder what the other £4,700 went on?"

Ouch.

Your Letters

13:34 UK time, Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Re: Walkies through Swansea (Paper Monitor). Perhaps it was a dogwood tree?
Candace, New Jersey, US

Most interesting headline so far this year "US to head over fiscal cliff temporarily". Minus a parachute etc, how does one fall over a cliff "temporarily"?
Alex, Grand Rapids MI (currently in London on vacation)


Paper Monitor

11:18 UK time, Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The Daily Mail's website Mail Online is a leviathan of the world of news.

A lot of journalists have spent the last two years analysing why. One of the classic reasons given is that it's different from the newspaper.

And there's a good example today.

On the website today you can see a round-up of the New Year's Eve celebrations.

It's not in Paper Monitor's copy of the paper, not least because it's an early edition. But even the later editions won't have the slew of pictures the website has.

It's a Hogarthian trot through the drunken city centres of England and south Wales. Mainly in pictorial form, with short skirts, bloody faces and public displays of affection.

And it contains a memorable caption:

A woman under the influence of alcohol dragging an uprooted plant through Swansea.

She's walking it like a dog.

There's a peg for it today, but the Mail is making increasing use of these inebriated picture galleries. The new genre needs a name.

Paper Monitor would suggest "Shameful Scenes" or "Dishevelled Britain".

They offer a dose of salaciousness for the reader accompanied by a tantalising whiff of moral opprobrium.

It's always a heady mix.

Your Letters

13:54 UK time, Monday, 31 December 2012

An interesting article about the importance of WC Handy's Memphis Blues, but in the third whole bar of the sheet music extract, the right hand shows a B sharp. Should this not be a B natural?
Wilkins, London UK

Is the BBC turning American? I saw the headline "US 'fiscal cliff' talks go to wire", and had to read a synopsis to find out what that meant.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Re Belgian chocolate an area the size of Maryland: The state, the chicken or the biscuit?
C Rabbit, Dunfermline

I shouldn't really say but me too.
Henri, Sidcup

Re this story, LibriVox volunteers recorded poetry in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel a few years back. The "Te whit, te whoo!" in Sweet Suffolk Owl has some marvellous echoes.
Ruth, Hythe, Kent

Re 100 things, no. 96: To get themselves clean, presumably.
Paul Greggor, London

Surely Ed Sheeran's status as "most pirated artist in the UK" (100 things, No 77) is in fact "artist who's music most people are unwilling to pay for"?
Rob, London, UK

Paper Monitor

10:55 UK time, Monday, 31 December 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The festive period can leave some people feeling more charitable. Not the subs at the Sun.

They have a story about a rugby league player who has supposedly left his wife and is now dating a glamour model.

It starts with the tagline: "Another painful split for Paul". The headline starts: "One-ball rugby ace leaves his wife..." And the text says: "The Warrington Wolves prop - who famously lost a testicle in this year's Super League Grand Final - told his wife Shelley he was leaving her..."

The "painful split" gag seems a mean-spirited response to a man who has had a rather traumatic medical incident.

Elsewhere, this is a time of year when people want advice so we go over to Dear Deidre. There's the usual diet of dirty sex, drug use and relationship argument advice. But the eye is drawn to one particular letter.

The author is a 20-year-old in a relationship with a 36-year-old teacher. The relationship started when the author was 17 and went to the teacher's flat for some help with his homework.

Our 20-year-old, now some years have passed, wants to go public with the relationship. But the teacher isn't so keen.

Deidre advises:

"She may be right that colleagues would raise their eyebrows. She did break important professional boundaries."

Er, Deidre, Paper Monitor is no legal expert but this appears to be an abuse of a position of trust offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

It's punishable by up to five years in prison. That's only England, Wales and Northern Ireland but there's probably a Scottish equivalent too.

Deidre goes on to advise that the relationship is dead if it can't be brought out into the open. Er, right.

Also finishing off with Deidre, she has some sensible advice for NYE:

"I've had so many letters from readers who drank too much on New Year's Eve, then had terrible rows, unprotected sex they regret or an accident."

Avoid.

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