BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for December 17, 2006 - December 23, 2006

Powering down

17:00 UK time, Friday, 22 December 2006

Brimful of festive spirit, spongy German biscuits and Swiss milk chocolate truffles, the Magazine Monitor is powering down for the Christmas break. It will be back on Boxing Day, for a brief appearance, before resuming normal business on Wednesday 27 December.

Happy Christmas to Monitorites one and all... and watch those mince pies.

10 Things...

14:48 UK time, Friday, 22 December 2006


1. Komodo dragons can have virgin births with offspring produced without any male contact.
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2. The human nose, pressed to the ground like a dog's, is sensitive enough to track a scent laid in an open field.
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3. In Japan the term "Paris syndrome" describes the psychological damage experienced by tourists shocked by the rudeness of Parisians.
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4. A two-headed reptile has been found in fossil form in China.
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5. There will be 18 million vehicles on the UK's roads this weekend.
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6. Comedy duo Laurel and Hardy had to provide their own clothes for their movies.
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7. The final Harry Potter book was planned, in part, a dozen years ago, says JK Rowling.
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8. The Turkmenistan president, Saparmurat Niyazov, who died this week, had banned beards, ballet, gold teeth, opera and recorded music on television.
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9. The Vauxhall Belmont is the car most likely to have been stolen last year.
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10. The Archbishop of York was once approached as a possible candidate for Celebrity Big Brother.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Lee Pike, Cardiff, for this week's picture of 10 holly berries).

Paper Monitor

11:21 UK time, Friday, 22 December 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

What would Christmas be without a travel chaos story? Even in years when the weather is benign and mild, there's always a slew of stories about tailbacks, gridlock and passenger getaway misery. But fog - well, that's a gift, especially when you consider it sounds a little bit like a naughty word beginning with "f".

"Christmas is all fogged up" runs the Metro splash; "For fog's sake," says the Sun.

When they're not making suggestive puns, they're going into infographic overdrive. The Express has a map of Britain criss-crossed by white lines that could be flight paths, train routes or motorways. Readers are left to make up their own minds.

Despite tough competition, the Independent and the Times nose ahead in the infographic challenge, the Times devoting a whole page to a map of Britain, littered with triangular warning signs and such like. The profusion of icons means it's hard to get a handle on what's going on, but suffice it to say Cornwall looks quiet.

Until, that is, you look at the Indy's (colour) map. It's a cluttered affair, but its warning signs notably don't tally with those in the Times. All of a sudden, the South West and south Wales have become traffic blackspots.

A word of advice to motorists and other travellers - Britain is in Christmas getaway gridlock, although the true picture is hard to make out. But that's fog for you.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:10 UK time, Friday, 22 December 2006

Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked how many baby Jacks had been born in the 12 years since the name topped the popularity list. The correct answer, 100,000, was identified by 48% of readers. The current quiz is on the Magazine index.

Your letters

15:39 UK time, Thursday, 21 December 2006

To Jon in Bristol and the million monkeys with their typewriters. I always prefered Jo Brand's version, which was that eventually one of them would type "hey hey we're the monkeys".
Steve, London

The trend for reviving grandparents' names brings comedian Milton Jones' joke irresistibly to mind:
"My grandparents were called Pearl and Dean. Of course, we didn't call them that. We called them Grandma and Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-papapa..."
Helene Parry, South Wales expat to Brentford

Another appropriate name for an appropriate job, we have Holly Farmer, in charge of Christmas decorations at Paignton zoo.
Nick Rikker, Barcelona, Spain

Re: the query about the use of "random". It's the latest fashion commodity of students. "Ohmygod that's totally random!" can be yelled at anything from traffic cones to buses to waking up in the park after a heavy night out. Most of the time it's not random, it's just irritating.
Jealous, Southampton

One-hour Caption Competition - results

13:40 UK time, Thursday, 21 December 2006

santas_ap.jpgAs a festive treat, we've done a special speedy edition of the cap comp. You had just one hour.

Here are the winning entries for the massed Santas on motorbikes - thanks to all who entered.

1. Lynn
Christmas evening vespas

2. Ruaraidh Gillies
"On Ducati, on Honda, On Triumph, on Norton!..."

3. Peter Seaton-Clark
"Now, before we set off does anyone need a wii?"

4. Kent Moreno
Merry Christmas from Conformists Anonymous!

5. Stig
“Did anyone see the Bishop of Southwark on their travels?”

6. Ian Butcher
“OK. Just how many of you received copies of little Johnnie's Christmas list where he asked for a motorbike?”

Paper Monitor

10:20 UK time, Thursday, 21 December 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Sooner or later, one of the papers was bound to try it. Besieged by the press and speculation he had been drunk and wayward after a Christmas party, the Bishop of Southwark told the BBC a few days ago that he had made a complex trip across London by bus and Tube on the night in question. "I defy anyone who has had too much to drink to make that journey," he said (apparently oblivious to the fact that "night bus" is just a modern day synonym for drunk tank).

The resulting sparkle in tabloid editors' eyes across the capital could have been usefully deployed to guide in all those fog-delayed planes. Over to the Sun, where a reporter, kitted out in full bishop garb - mitre, crozier, cape etc - knocked back a bottle of vino and charts his journey from the Irish embassy in London's Mayfair (where the real Bishop had attended a drinks reception on the night in question) to Tooting Bec, south London, via London Bridge.

Paper Monitorites can rest easy that the Sun's man made it to his destination in one piece.

One of Paper Monitor's sub strands - although it's never been formalised as such - could be termed "middle class watch", the point being that many of society's ills, which are the bread and butter of much daily news, have little tangible impact on the middle class audience of the "quality" and "mid-market" press.

So if a paper can tease out a middle class angle from such a story - bingo, it suddenly seems all the more important. The Daily Mail can do this in its sleep. But today's Guardian proves a worthy match, sending a reporter undercover in the British National Party, to reveal that the BNP is, apparently, throwing its weight behind a middle class recruitment drive. Members allegedly include a prominent ballet dancer and a successful complementary medicine practitioner.

It's a significant infiltration by the Guardian - to instil one of its reporters as central London organiser of the party. But while the findings are eyebrow-raising, there's a sense the BNP's leader, Nick Griffin, will actually be quietly pleased with much that is told here, confirming, as it seems to, the party's effort to change its image.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:13 UK time, Thursday, 21 December 2006

Yesterday we asked which seasonal ingredient that Nigella calls "squashed teddy bear noses" has been flying off the shelves. It's prunes, which she uses in a chocolate Christmas cake, and which 64% of you correctly identified. Another 19% opted for currants and 16% chocolate buttons. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

08:39 UK time, Thursday, 21 December 2006

In reply to Jackie Thompson's query about the word "random", my dictionary says that random means "occurring without definite aim, reason, or pattern". I suspect that many women might agree with Jackie Thompson's niece that this applies nicely to most husbands.
James Carter, Manningtree, UK

As a 17-year-old I can confirm that 'random' can mean anything. It's not good or bad it's just what it says- random! May I add that I do use this word and my parents are just as confused!
Charlie, East Sussex

Dave Dee asked for a flexicon for that worrying condition where you distinctly remember NOT being drunk, but nothing else? Might I suggest, Shamnesia?
Silas, London, UK

Abstemious Minded?
Candace, New Jersey, US

Teetotal recall?
S Murray, Chester, UK

Nick Jones, Dorking, UK

Innsomnia? Also, considering the Southwark road name, Crucifiction?
Ian, Horsham, England

Regarding the Daily Mini-Quiz's question about what HD-DVD stands for, apparently only the BBC were confused. It stands for both High Definition and High Density DVD. Over 98% of people have correctly got it so far.
Michael, Singapore

Interesting and thoughtful article about the team on Beachy Head trying to stop suicides, but I couldn't help smiling at the second paragraph, "...2006 has seen a dramatic fall in the number of deaths..." The temptation to say "plummetted" or "taken a nose dive" or "dropped rapidly" must have been almost overwhelming. The restraint of the writer is admirable.
Nigel, Edmonton, Canada

Does anyone else spot a flaw in Godwin's law, as described in how to argue. "The greater the length of an internet discussion, the higher the chances of a comparison involving Hitler or the Nazis." This reminds me of the million monkeys with a million typewriters writing Shakespeare theory. I propose MM's law - "the greater the length of an internet discussion, the higher the chances of a comparison involving the Magazine Monitor, or cabbage, or Marmite Christmas cards, or...!"
Jon, Bristol

Punorama results

13:40 UK time, Wednesday, 20 December 2006


aerosmith203.jpgGiddy with Christmas spirit and year-end reflection, this week's Punorama has an end-of-term edge.

The Magazine is looking for a punning title for its downloadable "best of" collection.

Eh? Well, pop groups used to be content to label their "greatest hits" collections just that. Then some marketing wag came along and saw pun potential in the format. Thus, instead of Take That's Greatest Hits, we get Take That's "Never Forget"; rather than the Best of Jamiroquai, we get "High Times"; in place of the Essential George Michael it's "Twenty Five"… OK, even that's a bit cheap - it's just 25 of his greatest hits. (Kudos to the likes of Aerosmith, pictured above, and Gloria Estafan, who both share the "Very Best of..." title in the current album chart).

Here are some of your suggestions. As there are only a few more sleeps to go, particular preference has been given to those that show the Magazine and its assorted hangers-on in a favourable light.

Robert Cross took an early lead with The Best We've 'Zine, with The Greatest Wits, from Catriona Smith, not far behind. Right on their tails is Stig (who else?) with The Zest of the Magazine , with Helene Parry nipping at his heels with The Articulate Collection.

But coming up on the inside are variations on this organ's name itself - Magaseenitallbefore from Rory Walke, Mag: As Seen by Gareth Jones, Isle of Anglesey, Anna Lilley's MEGAzine and Murray Milne's Magnificents.

But will Nigel Macarthur's The Pun-day Supplement prove to be a dark horse? Or will Monitor: the blogged set by Helene Parry (again) pip them all at the post?

Always worth a flutter is Kip, with not one but two entries - Partycles and Smarticles. But when it comes to rating the runners and riders, it's best not to overlook Simon Rooke, with The schlock of ages.

They're coming round the outside now and into the home straight... it's Simon and Robert, neck and neck - no, Gareth and Helene - wait a minute, here's another contender... and the winner is -


- whew, what a race! Congratulations. The rest of your entries - those that didn't make it out of the starting blocks - are posted below.

Paper Monitor

10:58 UK time, Wednesday, 20 December 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The-High-Street-in-freefall story has become as much a fixture of a 21st Century Christmas as those piercing LED decorative lights and celebrity chefs causing a run on a certain ingredient according to pushy supermarket PRs.

And just as it looks like new-found Christmas prudence is about to send the economy down the tubes… nothing much happens.

It's not helped by the fact that today's front pages can't seem to agree on whether the High Street really is in crisis, or not.

Compare and contrast the following:
- The Telegraph's front page story, "Worried shoppers rein in spending", speaks of a downturn in shoppers on the High Street and a "lack of consumer confidence and... economic downturn"; with
- Metro's splash: "£6billion shopping spree in two days". Here we're told by the director general of the British Retail Consortium there are "encouraging predictions for the retail sector".

Daily Mini-Quiz

08:59 UK time, Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Ok, the Monitor concedes, Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz was something of a no-brainer. It’s just that with all this HD, CD-RW, DVD-RAM gubbins doing the rounds these days, it's sometimes hard to know where one stands. Anyway, 83% of you got the correct answer: the "HD" in HD DVD, rather predictably, stands for "High Definition". There's another DMQ on the Magazine index today.

Your Letters

16:04 UK time, Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Re: the story Alert over 'secret shopper' scam. If this is a "sophisticated" scam, in which the victim is asked out of the blue to send £1,500 to a complete stranger, could someone explain to me what an obvious scam looks like?
Adam, London, UK

That story of the accounts administrator from Devon failing in his bid to set a world Brussel sprout eating record, despite a training regime of "a plate of sprouts every day for the last six months". I'm guessing here, but he lives alone, right?
Stig, London, UK

Was there any need to mention previous X-factor winner Steve Brookstein's failure in music in the Daily Mini Quiz result? Talk about kicking a man when he's down - where's the Christmas love?
Laura Birch, Huddersfield

Thanks for the lovely Christmas present (in Monday’s letters) PM and Stacey. I really enjoyed the look on the face of the free-paper-giver-outers to whom I said: "Stop, you're giving me the freebie-jeebies!" on my way home last night.
Jessica, London

The Christmas festivities are upon us, and a recent event with the Bishop of Southwark suggests yet another gap in English vocabulary. A word, please, for that worrying condition where you distinctly remember NOT being drunk, but nothing else?
David Dee, Matola, Mozambique

Re: Teenagers’ speech. My teenage niece says my husband is 'random'. Does anyone have a clue to what she means? Is it good or bad thing?
Jackie Thompson, Yorkshire

Re: Speculation (in Monday’s letters) over how Lembit Opik chose between the Cheeky Girls. I don't know. But do you think his chat up line was "Hello Cheeky"?
Kip, Norwich, UK

Paper Monitor

12:53 UK time, Tuesday, 19 December 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's cold, damp and misty. But it's not the weather that is sending shivers down the spine of the Daily Telegraph.

The paper is making a characteristic stand as it sucks its teeth at the appointment of, of all things, "an alarmingly youthful" new boss at John Lewis. Crikey.

Charlie Mayfield, 39, has the paper gunning for the store, its equivalent in shopping terms, where "the charm of this middle-class Mecca is its unashamed conservatism".

"You know where you are with John Lewis" bleats the writer, as she makes a don't-move-anything appeal for her "corner shop".

And she's on the money with probing questions, asking: Where else would you find "a device for debobbing your cashmere, a set of mother-of-pearl buttons or some bra-extenders"? Where indeed.

This, the paper informs Mr Mayfield in a matronly tone, "is not the place to start a retail revolution" seen in other stores on the great British high street.

Woe betide the new chief who replaces John Lewis' helpful staff with "sulky teenagers and unhelpful checkout vixens". Or ruins the "comfort" to be found in the kitchen section should you be experiencing a "fat day".

Passionate stuff, but ironic really, when the shop is not a thrusting city type favoured by the paper's business section, more a cosy co-operative.

And it's worth a read. But be warned, to get to the features section on page 18, you must take your strong stomach in hand and skip over another Telegraph staple on page three: Sir Cliff and his Christmas single, in inglorious technicolor.

Now there's something that, for worse or better, never changes.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:25 UK time, Tuesday, 19 December 2006

All right, it wasn't the biggest brain teaser of the year - for that, you can try your hand at the 52 weeks bonus question. But given the fuss generated around X Factor, it's mildly entertaining to discover that almost half of respondents to the question: who was the first winner of X Factor? got it wrong. The answer is Steve Brookstein. Michelle McManus was Pop Idol and Shayne Ward winner fo the second X Factor. (Brookstein's latest single and album failed to chart in the top 75.)

Your Letters

15:50 UK time, Monday, 18 December 2006

Re: the first item in 10 things we didn't know last week that just 20 words make up a third of teenagers' everyday speech. If this is a measure of verbal skills, then teenagers do rather better than BBC reporters, who get by with a mere 17. I counted the most frequently used words in the UK's Vicky Pollards 'left behind' article. They are: the (25), of (13), in (11), and (10), to (10), but (9), a (8), is (7), words (7), as (6), no (6), it (5), said (5), speech (5), by (4), he (4), teenagers (4). Together they make up just a third (139 out of 417) of the words used in the report.
Peter Howard, Cambridge, UK

Re: The request from T. Shandy (Letters, Friday) for a word to describe refusing something that is given away for free. How about "refuseling"? The art or gesture of any unwilling recipient individual to accept things free or otherwise!
Dickie, NY, USA

Re: The more enthusiastically someone tries to give me a free newspaper, the less I want to take it. It's chronicle fatigue.
Candace, New Jersey, US

I also suffer from the freebie-jeebies.
Stacey Zoo, London

I think it's called 'cutting off your news despite your face'.
Peter Collins, Belfast

I feel exactly the same. I think it's called "being normal".
Darren McCormac, London

Appropriate names for appropriate jobs watch alert! So the manager for the Birmingham National Sea life centre is Ian Crabbe!!
Violette Cameron, Sarajevo, Bosnia

Surely the biggest question regarding Lembit Opik is: having resolved to leave Sian Lloyd for a Cheeky Girl, how did he then decide which one of the twins to run off with?
MJ Simpson, Leicester, UK

How to say: Lembit Opik

15:48 UK time, Monday, 18 December 2006


A weekly guide to the words and names in the news from Martha Figueroa-Clark of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

This week, the Montgomeryshire Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, pronounced LEM-bit OH-pick (-oh as in 'no'; -established anglicisation) announced that he has separated from his fiance Sian Lloyd (pronounced SHAAN) and is now dating the Romanian pop singer, Gabriela Irimia, whose name is pronounced gab-ri-ELL-uh irr-im-EE-uh (-i as in 'sit').

Lembit Opik was born in Northern Ireland to Estonian parents. When we spoke to him just before the 1997 general election, he told us that if he were to be elected, he might insist on the Estonian pronunciation LEM-beet OE-pick (-ee as in 'street'; -oe as in Fr. 'peu') but, although he was elected, the Estonian pronunciation is not in general use."

(For a guide to our phonetic pronunciations, click here.)

Paper Monitor

13:29 UK time, Monday, 18 December 2006

A (belated) service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The endless round of seasonal partying has left Paper Monitor a little the worse for wear, hence today's tardiness.

PM readers will be familiar with the concept of the "news carnival" - a state where such an unlikely set of factors collide in a story to create the illusion it is surviving on perpetual motion.

While the weekend's revelations about the romantic attachments of Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik don't quite hit the high watermark set by, say, John Major's affair with Edwina Currie, or Steve McFadden and Ross Kemp both allegedly being thwacked by their respective partners, it's a pretty meaty tale.

To anyone who has been residing for the past 48 hours on a planet other than Earth (in which case, be warned, fanatical stargazer Mr Opik will doubtless have you in his sights), the story runs thus: ITV weathergirl Sian Lloyd has broken off her protracted engagement with said quirkily-named MP after he ran off with one half of the failed reality TV chart-topping Romanian identical twin duo the Cheeky Girls. (Point of order: that number one song, We Are the Cheeky Girls (Touch My Bum), was later voted the worst record ever.)

But the unlikely mix of trashy low-brow and Westminster politics guarantees it a place in just about all the papers, from the Mirror (headline: Cheek to Cheeky) to the Telegraph (Sian Lloyd's MP fiance runs off with Cheeky Girl). The Independent even runs a leader on the story, concluding that the pair's east European background means they might well have bonded over the issue of EU enlargement. Phnarrr.

Of course the unspoken subtext to all this... what makes it a story that is more than the sum of its apparent parts is: how does a middle-aged, bespectacled politician who looks like the missing Proclaimer bag a nubile young pop singer. Keep an eye on the papers' features pages this week for stories along these lines.

Two other points that PM wishes to make before it slopes off for a hangover-blunting bite to eat:

1. The Indy's graphic rendering of the new strain of the killer MRSA superbug looks nothing like the one on the front of the Times.

2. It's Monday, it's the Daily Express and (Lord Stevens' report or no Lord Steven's report) it's a Princess Diana splash.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:34 UK time, Monday, 18 December 2006

Everyone was a winner in Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz, which asked which of the following facts about the world's tallest man - he has never had a girlfriend; he was too slow for basketball; at 16, he was of a normal height - was true. They all were, although most of you plumped for the last of the three options.

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