BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for September 3, 2006 - September 9, 2006

10 Things...

10:00 UK time, Saturday, 9 September 2006

10 ThingsSnippets harvested from the week's news, chopped, sliced and diced for your weekend convenience.

1. There were seven unsuccessful attempts by early humans to settle in Britain, before the first successful attempt, 12,000 years ago. (More details)

2. Chimpanzees are learning how to cross roads safely, researchers in West Africa have discovered. (More details)

3. Estate agent signs from Northern Ireland are being re-used as roofing tiles in South Africa. (More details)

4. The model railway market in Germany is the biggest in Europe and is estimated to be six times larger than in the UK. (More details)

5. Bob Dylan inspired Pam Ayres to write poetry.

6. The world's fastest supercomputer will have its speed measured in "petaflops", which represent 1,000 trillion calculations per second. (More details)

7. Migrant workers send back £149bn to their families in developing countries, says the United Nations. (More details)

8. Stingray barbs are up to six inches long and before Steve Irwin's death, they had caused only two other fatalities in Australia.

9. The term Eastenders was coined by the media in the 1880s, with these Victorian Londoners being associated with crime and ill-health.

10. The medical name for the part of the brain associated with teenage sulking is "superior temporal sulcus". (More details)

[5. Daily Telegraph, 7 September; 8. Daily Telegraph, 5 September; 9. BBC One, Who Do You Think You Are? 6 September]

[Today's picture was 10 ducks at Priorslee Flash, Telford, taken by Emma Jackson. Want to send your picture? Click here.)

Your Letters

17:19 UK time, Friday, 8 September 2006

• I'm puzzled: Blair has said that he will stand down within the next 12 months, yet I heard on the radio this morning that some Labour back benchers think he should stand down sooner than that. Surely by definition that will still be in the next 12 months? Or do they want him to announce his resignation last week?
Stephen Buxton, Coventry, UK,

• Re: "Seeing the teenager in the brain". How apt that the part of the brain that generally results in a sulk is so appropriately called the "superior temporal sulcus".
DS, Bromley, England

• Come on BBC, get with it. Here's a story you missed:
"Traffic chaos ensued around the Houses of Parliament yesterday as politicians' mothers turned up in their four wheel drive vehicles to pick them up at the end of the day. The incident was made worse when Charles Clarke threw his empty Noddy & Big Ears lunchbox at one of the other children".
Mike, Hull

• My office is being re-arraged over the Weekend. At the moment, I have my back to a wall but on Monday, I'll have my back (and therefore computer screen) to the rest of the office. I just wanted to say goodbye, it's been lovely.
Caroline, London

• In response to Alex from Norf London. Currently there are 800 calls a day from climbers but the French authorities wish to limit the numbers to 30,000 climbers a year thereby reducing the call-outs. The French seem not to have considered climbers who start on the Italian side.
Alastair, Sowf London

• Yesterday we had the story of the Swiss man speeding due to lack of goats, today the man forced to marry a goat. May I be the first to propose a goat-watch?
Laura, Aberdeen

• Before war breaks out over whether London is the only metropolis in UK, I'd like to mention that the word means "mother city" (from the Hellenic tendency to form new colonies overseas, then reminisce about their old home town). Since Bala, Gwynedd, was the home polis of many emigrants to Patagonia, there must be at least two metropoli in the UK.
Gus, London

• With reference Saffron Garey's letter about Fish and Chips, I think the "standard" phrase, is "Fish and Chips Twice". Of course, this also allows the joke "I went into a chip shop and asked for fish and chips twice. The chippy said 'I heard you the first time'"
Ed, Clacton, UK

Jennifer, Berlin. Surely 'scoops' is a verb?
dave godfrey, swindon, uk

• Re the whole gins and tonics debate, the big pluralisation issue is why do we wear a pair of pants but only wear A thong
Rodney Horwood, Aylesbury

Caption Comp - results!

13:25 UK time, Friday, 8 September 2006

It's time for the caption competition... results!

This week, Dame Helen Mirren jokes with photographers at a news conference to present her film The Queen at the Venice Film Festival. Here are our favourite six captions.

1. Coming soon - Helen Mirren is "Bez"
Phil, Cardiff

2. "Miss Mirren, just how tall is Tom Cruise?"
Alan Gifford, Tamworth, UK

3. Dame Helen's next role is Princess Margaret
Lewis Graha,, Hitchin

4. "You know what they say about photographers with long lenses..."
Brian Ritchie, Oxford, UK

5. "They've chopped this much off my legs."
Mike , Newcastle upon Tyne

6. "Then just as they injected the Botox, I sneezed!"
TB, Los Angeles, USA

Paper Monitor

11:12 UK time, Friday, 8 September 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press... in this instance, coverage of yesterday's Blair-Brown leadership shenanigans.

Tony Blair was like a "strip-tease dancer who arrives onstage to loud applause, then coquettishly removes one mitten" - Simon Hoggart, the Guardian, on the prime minister's knack of promising to end speculation, only to fuel it further.

Daily Mirror headline: "Deal or no deal?"

"PM hit by new leek" - the Mirror again - "There were far more important things to worry about as Trimdon Labour Club held its annual and keenly contested leek show.

"Are you Tony Blair?" - school child protesting against prime minister, to Quentin Letts, Daily Mail sketch writer.

"It worked for Clinton but will it be Blair's route to salvation?" - Tom Baldwin of the Times notes how Bill Clinton's public stock rose in the dying days of his presidency, after the spotlight shifted to Al Gore's battle with George Bush for the White House. Could this be at the back of Blair's mind?

Body language expert Dr Peter Collett, again, in the Times: "[Mr Blair's] mouth involuntarily indicated deep disquiet. Several times he opened it slightly and pulled down the corners in the antithesis of a smile. [Mr Brown showed] less disjunction between what he was trying to say and his non-verbal signs."

Cartoon: the Daily Telegraph's Matt envisages a stall at the forthcoming party conference selling Labour 2007 diaries "Now with no specific dates".

Factoid: The suppliers of metal barriers outside the school where Tony Blair had made his speech, had been receieved a last-minute call to double the order - the Times, the Guardian, the Telegraph and more.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:00 UK time, Friday, 8 September 2006

Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked how many calls do rescuers get from climbers on Mont Blanc, where yellow snow and overcrowding mean the French want to limit the 30,000 visitors each year. It's 800 a day, up from 15 a decade ago, which 10% of you got right. Just over half said 80, and 36% said 24 calls a day.

Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

16:51 UK time, Thursday, 7 September 2006

• A wonderful example of an all-noun headline: Sheep poo paper scoops top award.
Jennifer, Berlin, Germany

• Surely the discussion over "gins and tonic" or "gin and tonics" (Wednesday letters) is the reason why abbreviations were invented - if you order "two G&Ts" there will be no misunderstanding. Unless someone wishes to argue the case for "two Gs&T".
Iain, Cheltenham

• You don't say "I'll have a gin and a tonic". It's one drink called a "ginandtonic". And if you're asking, mine's a Pimm's. No, make it 2 Pimmses...
Anna, Northumberland

• The G&T debate reminded me of an example of the north/south divide which I experienced when I first lived in Leeds. Up north, "two fish and chips, please" will get you just one portion of chips, but round here they assume you want both two portions of fish and of chips.
Saffron Garey, Farnborough

• The front page of the BBC website's entertainment section talks about the "meteoric rise" of the Arctic Monkeys. Surely meteors fall, not rise? At least according to all the disaster movies I've seen. Would "helium balloon-like rise" not be a better phrase? And what has height got to do with it anyway?
Neil Moir, Aberdeen

• Curiosity piqued by your article on goji berries, I tried them myself. They look like lemon pips dipped in red dye; they taste like lemon pips dipped in red dye. Anyone fancy a handful? There's a whole bag (minus two berries) up for grabs.
Isabella, Sheffield

• Re: Thursday's daily mini-quiz. If 30,000 climbers tackle Mont Blanc each year, then that's around 80 a day on average. So if your answer of 800 rescue calls a day is correct, each on calls the rescue services 10 times on average. If your numbers are correct I'm surprised they haven't installed phone boxes on the ascent, as someone could make a tidy profit from these calls.
Alex, Norf Lahndahn, UK
Monitor note: Thems the figures the French gave

• Simon Varwell (Tuesday letters), London IS the only metropolis (in England, anyway), the definition being "chief city, capital".
Mark Esdale, Bridge, Canterbury

• Robin's Venetian blind van gag is good (Wednesday letters), but here there's someone who'll pump out your septic tank who claims he is "number one in the number two business".
Kip, Norwich UK

Caption Comp

12:26 UK time, Thursday, 7 September 2006

It's time for the caption competition.
Dame Helen Mirren jokes with photographers at a news conference

This week, Dame Helen Mirren jokes with photographers at a news conference to present her film The Queen at the Venice Film Festival. But what's being said?

Send us your captions. We'll publish a shortlist on Friday after 1200 BST for you to vote for the winning entry.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:00 UK time, Thursday, 7 September 2006

Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked about Tony Blair's body language. What was he saying? The answer, according to a body language expert, was "poo, what a smell". Most of you went for either of the other suggestions: "I don't like you" or "Supportive? Pah".

Your Letters

16:15 UK time, Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Your story about the USSR in the Cold War asks "if there are no food shortages, why do people eat muesli?" Exactly, why aren't they eating porridge???
Tim, UK

Re Paper Monitor's thoughts on "xxx is the new Diana". Is this the new "X is the new Y"?
Edward Higgins, Plumstead

Fantastic puns! Finally, a whole host of puns that are both cringeworthy, funny and relevant! And no bloody Mary Poppins songs...
Robin, Edinburgh

Nearly untreatable TB found. If ever there was a gift to a Monitor letter-writer, that's it: "I never knew he was lost"... "What do you mean, nearly?"... "That's one MP facing reselection then"... or maybe you mean another microbe responsible for dozens of deaths each day?
Jel, Swansea

Phil, a real statistician wouldn't dream of correcting you if you were wrong (Tuesday letters). He'd just say that you are probably wrong.
Adam, London, UK

Linguists will squabble about the plural of gin and tonic till the cows come home (Tuesday letters). Both "gins and tonic" and "gin and tonics" are syntactically acceptable solutions because it is a binomial collocation not a composite noun. The aim should always be to reduce ambiguity - don't say two gins and tonics unless you want four drinks.
PJ, Aberdeen, UK

Re Blind man was 'dangerous driver'. There was (and maybe still is) a van in Aberdeen that says "This van is driven by a blind man" - it is, of course, owned by a Venetian blind company. Comedy gold.
Robin, Edinburgh

Punorama - results!

12:30 UK time, Wednesday, 6 September 2006

The rules are as simple as could be: we pick a story in the news, you come up with a punning headline.

Jason LewisThis week, it was the story of adventurer Jason Lewis who is taking a stock of sausages for the latest leg of his human-powered round-the-world trip. Sausages? What better way to distract the wild dogs from attacking him in Tibet?

So, how did you punsters do?

A popular response to this dog and sausage story was to think about variations on "hot dog", including Thomas Steuart-Feilding of Bristol who elegantly suggested Thwart dog with relish.

There's more than one way of skinning a sausage - and another group of punsters focused on the phrase "bangers and mash". For instance, Ric from Richmond, was among those proposing Bangers and dash.

Tim Evans asked if submitting multiple entries was against the rules. Yes, very much so. Which is a shame, because otherwise we could have included his enjoyable A snack is the best form of defence.

Also worth a wolf-howl of recognition are You bait nothing but a hound dog from Brian Ritchie, Oxford, and Grillers in the mist from Kip of Norwich.

But with puns, it's a case of no pain, no gain - and getting the right blend of pain-inducement and relevance was Wurst case scenario submitted by Rebecca Plumb, London.

You can read the rest of your entries by clicking here.

Paper Monitor

11:33 UK time, Wednesday, 6 September 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It is the one question on EVERYBODY'S lips. Speculation is rife, the dividing lines have been drawn, and the case for and against has been put. Can you guess (who said "Tony Blair's leaving date" at the back)?

No, silly, it's whether Kate Middleton is the new Princess Diana. Do keep up.

The Daily Mail is the latest to ask this burning question and to lay out its evidence in the now-traditional photo spread: Here's Diana in a blue frock; here's Kate in a blue frock. Here's Diana in a cosy hat; here's Kate in a cosy hat. Here's Diana in a scarf; here's... well, you get the picture.

(Incidentally, "is _______ the new Diana" is a favourite question of the Mail, with assorted other females who wear blue frocks, cosy hats and scarves, Cherie Blair being a recent example.)

It's been a busy week for the photo editors who look after the Diana picture archives - the Mail and the Daily Mirror have raided the archives for snaps of Diana with her divorce lawyer, after the former Lady Macca was snapped with the very same man, who is handling her split.

No cosy hats or blue frocks for Heather Mills, though. She's decked out in hippy chic, which, try as hard as they might, the photo editors will struggle to find a similarly-attired Diana. Bang go plans for a "Is Heather Mills the new Diana?" double-page photo spread.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked what's now banned from school dinner tables in England. It's salt cellars, which 53% of you answered correctly, while 37% said deep-fried food (allowed twice a week) and 10% said metal knives.

Those looking for today's DMQ will find it on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

16:23 UK time, Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Re the alleged plan for Blair to appear on Blue Peter. If I recall correctly, the Blue Peter is hoisted immediately before setting sail to warn the rest of the crew to get back on board. Aspirant vexillologists ( may wish to create alternative farewell messages.
Jel, Swansea

Now that you've heralded Jodrell Bank as Britain's Greatest unsung landmark, it isn't unsung any more. So what's Britain's new greatest unsung landmark?
Matt Folwell, Cambridge

Actually, Kelly in USA, Harvestmen are a type of spider. In England daddy long legs aren't spiders at all but crane flies - flying insects that have a three-part life cycle like a caterpillar - grub, larva, adult. Another difference in the English language on each side of the Atlantic.
Sarah, Brighton

Great stuff on the freesheets, PM. Nice to have a peek at the intrigue behind it all. Now I know why, when thelondonpaper isn't exactly shy about mentioning Sky, London Lite isn't so keen on mentioning the Standard. (As pointed out by Diamond Geezer.)
Anthony, London

It is only the extreme boredom of work that made me carry on reading this to the end. No more London-centric PMs please I think you'll find that there are regional pages within the BBC News website.
JFK, Sheffield

So "Monitor apologises over the London paper wars to all 'non-metropolitan' readers". Since when was London the only metropolis? The biggest city yes, the only one, no.
Simon Varwell, Glasgow

"Blind man was 'dangerous driver'" - oh come on! Are these kind of headlines made up just for monitor readers?
Mike, Nottingham

Jel's letter regarding statistics produced by the BBC Asian Network is unfair to those who produced the report. 500 is an adequate sample size. The population being sampled is young British Asians rather than the whole UK population, so Jel's 6 million figure is her own fantasy. I reckon these numbers tell us that we can be 95% sure that the real proportion is between 0.074 and 0.126, so Jel's random guess of a 1% chance of the report being right seems wrong too. I'm sure a real statistician will correct me if I'm wrong. I haven't done this for a while.
Phil, Guisborough

I have a problem with these "research has shown link between..."-type articles. The link might run the opposite way that researchers expect. For instance in this one generally autistic-spectrum disorders, mean some degree of social awkwardness, so, probably, it takes longer to get the hang of this dating lark, and, eventually, results in later fatherhood. I notice that the researchers didn't think of this! As an interesting exercise, next time you see one of these stories, try to think up an alternative reason for the link, with the cause and the effect reversed. It sheds a lot of much-needed light on academic research!
Candy Spillard, York, UK

"Gin and tonic" is a composite noun phrase, and as such the plural ending "s" is at the end of the phrase, making gin and tonics. However, this depends entirely on how many you are talking about. In my experience it goes 1 gin and tonic, 2 gin and tonics, 3 gins and tonicses, 4 ginsntonics, 5 tinsanggonics, 6 ticongis.
Fiona, York


15:40 UK time, Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Jason LewisThis week, the story of adventurer Jason Lewis (that's him, on the right) who is taking a stock of sausages for the latest leg of his human-powered round-the-world trip. Sausages? What better way to distract the wild dogs from attacking him in Tibet? Read more here.

Just come up with a catchy pun that would make a good headline for the article, and leave it as a comment below. The best will be featured in the Magazine Monitor on Wednesday.

Paper Monitor

11:30 UK time, Tuesday, 5 September 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's been hard in recent days to move for articles which predict the end of newspapers altogether. (Monday's Magazine story In future, will all newspapers be free? was a novel twist on this trend.) So amid all this gloom, it's puzzling to note that 10 years ago our capital city had just one newspaper, the Evening Standard. As of yesterday, it has four (five, counting City AM). And people say life in the UK isn't as good as it used to be.

So what to make of the new entrant to the market, called (in lower case text with no spaces) thelondonpaper. It's Mr Murdoch's new toy. Lord Rothermere, the gaffer in these parts as far as local papers is concerned, isn't too impressed and so last week launched London Lite. The lord's tactic is simple - and is the same one his late father used with pinpoint accuracy against the late Robert Maxwell in an earlier battle: namely, launch a competitor to the new entrant, confuse the readers, let the Standard stay out of the fray, above it all, and hope that enough people stick to their established purchasing habits and that it will all be over by Christmas.

London's newspapers But Mr Murdoch's reserves of cash and cunning are deeper than Mr Maxwell's, so this battle is beginning to feel like an epic struggle brewing. Less Murdoch, you might say, and more Mordor.

So what will make the difference? Purists might like to look for subtle shades of styles of reporting, but Paper Monitor suspects it will come down to two things - in the main, how effectively can the armies of newspaper distributors be marshalled to hand out free copies (if this battle goes on for long, we might see newspaper barons become passionate advocates of mass immigration of cheap labour). But the style of the paper will also count.

And on that score there are a few things to note:

1. Isn't it odd that both thelondonpaper and London Lite have chosen purple as their colours? Rat-like cunning or coincidence? Either way it reminds Paper Monitor of a 6th form economics lesson about how competing ice cream sellers will make most cash by selling the same things in the same place.

2. Calling it thelondonpaper makes it feel something like a student rag, but does have the virtue of a youthful feel, and almost sounds like the name of a website before it's even started. While Metro has spread around the country, calling it thelondonpaper will make it harder to pull off the same trick.

3. Lite is an odd name too, especially for a newspaper group which one associates with the kind of Middle England which tuts at such Americanisms. (See The meaning of lite.) If the message that gets across is that free newspapers are essentially throwaway items, Lord Rothermere will probably not be upset.

4. London Lite claims to be "London's first and original free afternoon paper". That's a bit much, considering it launched last Thursday.

5. London Lite's front page attractions are Liz Hurley, cellulite, listings and an Argentinean striker. thelondonpaper's draws are Pete Doherty, Armando Iannucci, Basement Jaxx and coffee. Paper Monitor is not typical in these matters, but if it had to it would probably choose for the latter.

6. Lite has a good tabloid newsy feel to it. thelondonpaper feels a bit cooler, and more like a magazine.

7. The death of Steve Irwin will have saddened many. But probably not in the newsrooms - always rather strange places - which must have buzzed when they heard it. "CROC MAN KILLED BY STINGRAY" in thelondonpaper; "The Croc Hunter is killed by a fish" in Lite. The true test of both papers will come on days when the choice of lead story isn't obvious.

8. The Standard appears unworried by it all - save for a new line added to the top of the masthead, which gives the game away. In elegant serif font, as if it had been carved in Kensington stone, it now says "LONDON'S QUALITY NEWSPAPER".

9. One cunning ruse in thelondonpaper is to have a rundown of headlines of the morning's papers. Mischievously it includes the Evening Standard.

10. Sorry to bore non-metropolitan readers of Paper Monitor. But this is going to be a fascinating battle which could have an impact on the entire British newspaper industry. If it doesn't affect your reading habits now, it could well do in the months to come.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:00 UK time, Tuesday, 5 September 2006

The kids have gone internet crazy. Yesterday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked what proportion of five-year-olds in the UK have used websites for entertainment in homes with the internet? The answer: 95% - something that only 21% of those who took part got right. Those who wish to take part in today's DMQ will find it on the Magazine index (while those wishing to drop in on Miss Hoolie and Archie the Inventor should visit the Balamory website).

Your Letters

16:42 UK time, Monday, 4 September 2006

Re the 10 thing that says London has the best public transport in the world. The city of Curitaba, Brazil, has the world's best public transportation system. This is the opinion of numerous transportation experts and urban planners who have gone there to study the system's many innovations. I have not been there myself, but I have used public transportation systems in many countries of the world, including London, and from reports I have studied I see no reason to disagree with the opinion Curitaba's.
C. Alexander Brown, Rockcliffe Park, Canada.

One in 10 'backs honour killings' is tendentious nonsense. It's one in 10 of an unrepresentatively small sample, amounting to 50 individuals. From that base, you suggest six million are of that opinion. I'd say the probability of your being right is well less than 1%.
Jel, Swansea

It's always nice to have those big decisions you make in life justified for you (Britain 'worse than 20 years ago').
James Hayward, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Regarding the story about readers spotting Harry Potter error - 11 results from 10 exams. Clear proof that exams are easier than they used to be.
MCK, London

Rob from Letterkenny asks about the plural of daddy longlegs, I suspect it would be "daddies long legs", just as it is "gins and tonic".
VM, London

To Rob: I checked the OED, and it doesn't list a plural for "daddy longlegs." It does, however say that another name is "harvestman." So, harvestmen?
Kelly, Chicago, USA

Rob, the plural of Daddy Long Legs is crane flies.
Andy, Leeds, UK

When I click for more details about Toytown the horse from 10 things, it takes me to the Airfix page. Did Phillips stick the horse together herself?

Anyone else see this story from last Monday and think they were looking at an elephant's eye, rather than the eye of a hurricane?
Maurice Day, Bootle

One for 10 things we DID no this time last week: Children who grow up with alcoholic parents bear emotional, behavioural and mental scars, experts say (Children of alcoholics 'damaged')?
Francis Kenway, Great Yarmouth

Paper Monitor

11:46 UK time, Monday, 4 September 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The front pages of the papers are dominated by the faces of the service men who lost their lives in the aircraft crash in Afghanistan. And the follow-up reports focused on the sombre mood at RAF Kinloss, where most of these men had been based.

When such big stories break over a weekend, other pre-planned material can get pushed aside. But there were other stories and trends stirring in the undergrowth.

The Daily Mirror has plugged into the going back to school theme - giving a large amount of floorspace to the drive for healthier food in schools. This dove-tails neatly with a children's DVD give-away and a colour spread on the father of triplets who is writing his own blog.

A couple of years ago, who would have expected a tabloid, the, to be showcasing bloggers? But even though it's mainstream, is it interesting?

Here's a snippet from My Diary of Triplet Fatherhood. "March 18: I counted how many spoonfuls of rice-yam-broccoli-milk mush I dished out during supper. It came to 144. No wonder meals take a while." Exactly.

Elsewhere, the chill winds of autumn are being heralded. There is nothing older than last season's panic, so forget the drought and global warming, because the Daily Mail has a new weather worry: Monsoon Britain. "Scientists warn the future is cloudbursts and floods," says the strapline.

The Mail is also reviving an old favourite double act: Paul Burrell and Princess Diana. And because it's Monday, the Daily Express pitches in with its own perspective on what the butler saw.

For those following the grand-daddy of conspiracy theories, the John F Kennedy assassination, there is another detail added by the Guardian - that Nellie Connally, the last surviving person who was in the car with President Kennedy when he was shot, has died at the age of 87.

A moment before the first gun shot, Mrs Connally had turned to Kennedy and said: "Mr President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you."

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:00 UK time, Monday, 4 September 2006

Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked for the meaning of the word "stooze". This baffled most readers - with only 17% identifying the correct answer, which is to borrow money cheaply and then profit from it. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine index.

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