BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for January 28, 2007 - February 3, 2007

An apology

17:30 UK time, Friday, 2 February 2007

The Monitor's old adversary Technical Gremlins has surfaced again in recent days, gnashing its teeth with gleeful provocation.

This explains the considerable delays in publishing Monitor updates. It also has been causing headaches beyond Magazine Towers, with many users e-mailing to complain about problems experienced when sending entries to the caption competition and such like.

The Monitor apologies to those concerned, but refuses to be intimidated by the cowardly behaviour exhibited by its resurgent foe and is actively seeking a solution. In the meantime, where are those man-size paracetamols?

Your Letters

17:22 UK time, Friday, 2 February 2007

Humans blamed for climate change, was this in any doubt? I'd always taken it as a given! Can we blame cats instead?
Luke, Birmingham

Well done to Howard in London, (Thursday’s letters) who commented on Quentin's little rant about graduates and teamwork. I am about to graduate with a Masters of Engineering and am in the process of finding a job. I have my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award, which I would not have got if I had not been able to participate in team work. Group work is also a major part of my degree. Who does Quentin think companies should take on? I really don't think that companies taking on graduates are stupid!
Laura, Glasgow

Howard. I think you'll find the last thing employers want is independent thinking. They're much keener on mindless obedience and automaton-like behaviour.

Scouting has team building - yes, leadership - maybe, self-reliance – definitely. But surely the clincher is that they'll have a knot for every occasion?
Kev Guthrie, Sheffield

The TV and radio seem suddenly full of people "Looking out the window" or "Walking in a shop to buy things". The correct language is "looking out OF the window" or "walking inTO the shop".
Now I REALLY feel better. I just can't stand by and not correct the rubbishy grammar that is an ever increasing part of the so called educational media. Please can I be a BBC editor?
R Gerrard, Minster, UK

I've got a new job and now I don't sit in front of a computer all day, I haven't been popping in... nice to see the Magazine's doing fine without me!
Tom, Guernsey

Re: Mexicans stage tortilla protest. It's a great headline, AND an all-noun headline. Whatever happened to All-Noun Headline Watch?
Tim Melville, Ely

I have just returned from a two week cruise in the Caribbean. Has it been this cold here all that time?
Ralph, Cumbria

10 things we didn't know last week

15:30 UK time, Friday, 2 February 2007

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


1. The Dutch have overtaken the Americans as the tallest people on Earth.

2. The candiru, or toothpick fish, can swim into a tiny body orifice such as the penis, erect a spine and feed on blood and tissue. More details

3. Seahorses do not mate for life but are promiscuous and bisexual - the most indiscriminate being the Australian bigbellied seahorse.

4. Newcastle is the noisiest place in England. More details

5. In China, James Bond is known as Lingling Qi - 007.

6. There are twice as many privately-owned tigers in the US as there are in the wild in the rest of the world.

7. The people who built Stonehenge lived at an ancient village in Durrington Walls. More details

8. Lavender and tea tree oil products can cause young boys to develop breasts. More details

9. Palm oil is present in one in 10 supermarket products.

10. Brazil nuts are seeds encased in an outer shell that weighs more than 1kg. More details

Sources where stories not linked: 1. Times, Thursday. 3. Times, Wednesday 5. Times, Monday 6. Guardian, Friday 9. Guardian, Friday

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Rosalind Sargent for this week's picture of 10 seagulls.

Caption competition - results

13:44 UK time, Friday, 2 February 2007

blackpool430.jpgIt's time for the caption competition results...

This week we went to Blackpool, where spirits were somewhat dampened by news that the coastal resort hadn't been picked to host Britain's first super-casino. These two locals were on the tenterhooks as they waited to hear the announcement on a radio.

And the winners are:

1. John
After the disappointment of the last week Blackpool council reveals Britain's first 'Micro-Casino'.

2. Phil, Cardiff
Commentators from around the country eagerly await the Punorama results.

3. Stig
Are you sure that bloke in the pub was right when he said it was HD ready?

4. Dave Green
"I'm not saying I don't like it, Stan, I'm just saying that the aerial must get in the way a bit."

5. Douglas Lee
"If you close your eyes, you can hear the sea..."

6. Gordon Tonker
"I bet we don't." "I bet we do."

Many thanks to all who entered.

Paper Monitor

12:54 UK time, Friday, 2 February 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Alongside the rest of the papers, with their profiles carefully chiselled to match the concerns, desires and prejudices of their readership, the Times is something of an amorphous beast (Waugh-ian pun intended).

If the Guardian is woolly liberal; the Independent, hand-wringingly liberal; the Daily Telegraph, Major Fustum-Dustum; the Sun, white van man... you get the picture... where fits the Times?

Traditionally of course, it is the paper of record - reflecting the rich diversity of news from the high-end political scandal to the low-brow reality TV bust up. At least, that was before such stories meshed together to form a sort of uber news event.

What better manifestation of the Times' man in the street image than its give-away this week of DVDs by TV's Mr Everyman, Michael Palin.

The Times' ability to stick a thumb in the political wind and determine which way sentiments are shifting was demonstrated by its close ties with the New Labour spin machine. So it's no surprise to see the paper chumming up with the Cameron crowd, a point neatly illustrated by today's two-page report entitled Rise of the Right. The story charts how several right-of-centre think-tanks have come together in an effort to help their man into No 10.

Let's hope for the Shadow Cabinet's sake, that this roadmap to victory is clearer than the utterly bewildering "Spheres of Influence" graphic the Times has deployed presumably in an effort to make the whole story clearer.

With its concentric circles in varying shades of blue and arrows going in just about every direction, it looks like the instructions to one of those puzzles your auntie Jean would give you for Christmas in the hope it'll shut you up while she watches the Only Fools and Horses seasonal special.

There are "*" and "#" signs on some labels to denote something or other, green blobs and, as close to the epicentre of power as David Cameron himself is the mug of "Michael Gove* MP" "...friend of Cameron, Times columnist".

How to say: Tortilla

10:00 UK time, Friday, 2 February 2007

A weekly guide to the words and names in the news from Catherine Sangster of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

Two pronunciations from Mexico this week. Tortilla protests are taking place in Mexico City. We now recommend the pronunciation tor-TEE-yuh; in our judgement, the anglicisation tor-TILL-uh is now rather dated. Meanwhile, in Cancún (kan-KOON), a baby nicknamed "Super Tonio" has been born weighing 14.5 pounds. His full name is Antonio Vasconcelos, pronounced an-TOHN-yoh vass-kon-SAY-loss.

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

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:56 UK time, Friday, 2 February 2007

Roy of the Rovers' falling stock in the football world - perhaps it's the fact he only has one foot these days - is clearly well known. Forty-seven percent of readers were correct in guessing that the comic strip has been sold to a group of fans for the rather inconsiderable sum of £150. Any Russian oligarchs out there willing to work their magic on poor Melchester?

Your Letters

17:46 UK time, Thursday, 1 February 2007

Re: Eating your words, the middle picture appears to be a giant cockroach in a bun. This picture causes me to have wave after wave of severe nausea. Could you please change it to something more appetizing?
T Berry, UT, USA

Given that Britain is at an all time low for the number of available prison cells, is it the best time for things like this?Ian, Kent

Judy Cabbages: A price tag in a shop or a label on a website is just an invitation to treat. If the customer makes an order or takes a good to the checkout, the customer makes an offer. If the retailer (online or high street) accepts the customer's money, then and only then is a legal contract made. Sorry!Tim Miller, London, UK

I see that our good friend Jeremy Paxman has been criticising the Beeb for it's laughable approach to green practices. Oddly, I missed the report on the BBC news website. I'm sure it must be here somewhere...
David, London

Further to Quentin Hawkin's comments about graduates lacking team working skills; I would suggest a quick look at their CV. If there's any mention of being a member of the Scout movement, especially if they have gained their Chief Scout's or Queen's Scout Awards, I think you can be confident of their team working and leadership skills. Not to mention independent thinking and self reliance.
Howard, London, UK

I know it is a very serious story, but you have to admit Mexicans stage tortilla protest is a great headline.
Dick Hobbs, Punnetts Town, UK

Re: the French ban on smoking. I note that in your feature it is stated that the French will still be able to have a cigarette after a meal or after making love. They just won't be able to do it in the café. No wonder cafe life was so popular with the French.
Rob, Hamilton, Bermuda

Was anyone else worried by the headlines about the air tax? Where will I pay it? Do I pay more if when I am breathless? Can I get Air Tax Credits when I am particularly inactive?
Phil B-C, London

Re: Oils 'make male breasts develop'. That's good to know, because I thought my breasts were down to over-eating.
James Hayward, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

People whose names sound like their jobs-watch. We have Chris Lamb, of the Meat and Livestock Commission here.
Bish, Bedford

What's happening MM? I've noticed that regular items are being posted later and later, and the results of Tuesday's Punorama still haven't appeared on Thursday morning. PM is clearly a man - unable to multi-task. Being a bloke myself, I should know (stops typing to remember where he put his tea...)
Lee Pike, Cardiff
MM note: There's a unisex technical problem. Apologies for the late postings.

Punorama - results

15:56 UK time, Thursday, 1 February 2007


It's time for Punorama results - a day later than usual because of technical difficulties.

As ever, we supplied the story and in return you gave us your best puns.

This week it was the tale (no pun intended...) of Twiglet, the 12-year-old tabby cat who has been put on anti-depressants to treat "anger-management issues" after a spate of bullying by a ginger tom. Too afraid to go out, her weight went up to 7kg, her stomach hit the floor and she got cystitis. Vets have put her on a Prozac-like drug called amitriptyline to try and treat the condition.

Well, the results were worth waiting for - it's a bumper week.

There were some extremely popular themes. Feline Down - or a slight variation - was sent in by Kris, Anna Lilley, Mike Smith, Murray Milne, Dan Budden, David Regan, Ryan W, Rob Falconer, Lee Pike, Gareth Jones, Angela Barlow, Mike Monk, Stig, Nigel and Sheldon - phew!

It wasn't the only popular one. Cat: A tonic was suggested by Kieran Boyle, Dave Stuart-Marquez, Pix6, Vienna, Alexander Lewis Jones, Craig Wall, Helen, Colin Bartlett, Jake Perks, Trudi K, Candy Spillard, Tim Noble, Dave Cryer, Brian Gunn and Steve.

There's more. Puss at Boots (the chemist) - or something very similar - was sent in by Duncan, Alan, David Dee, Lynn, Jack, Colin Nelson, Stoo, James Dunlop, Sam, Sarah in Dartmouth, Andy Kitchen, Robin Hughes, James E, Darren, Alex Pelopidas, Pete Makings and Cate.

And more. Moggiedon was the offering from Adam, Chris H and Steve O, while What's blue, pussy cat? - or a slight variation - was suggested by Cathie, Candace and Michael Roughton. Apologises to anyone we missed.

Honourable mention to Martin Price for I just want Tabby normal, Helene Parry for Look what the cat's drugged in and Rob Powell for Mog-life crisis.

Not sure if we're starting something here, but in response to last week's play on the word platypus was Drug-filled fatty puss from Jennifer and Paul Williams.

But gold star goes to Niall Nugent for A Chronic Kitten and our favourite Ooh, ooh, ooh, the junkie kitten, which was sent in by Keith. Thanks, everyone who reads this will probably now have that song going round in their heads all day.

Paper Monitor

11:20 UK time, Thursday, 1 February 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

With all this global warming malarky going on, every month seems to set a record of some sort - hottest, windiest, wettest etc.

But it's a toughy for the papers: on the one hand, global warming is the biggest catastrophe facing mankind since a dirty great meteorite, or was it a comet, hit Earth a few million years ago (to paraphrase Prof Stephen Hawking); on the other, hey it's the weather and that's always good of a laugh among the British.

So while the Doomsday clock may have nudged forward a nano-second more on the back of news that the past month was the second warmest January on record, the latter sentiment seems to govern the press' attitude.

Time to cut the lawn, in blooming February! - the Times.

JAN-PHEW-ARY - the Daily Mirror.

Winter heads for record as the weather goes balmy - the Daily Telegraph (with a picture of a yellow rose - heaven forbid it should be a red one - on the front page).

Weather springs a surprise - the Daily Express.

Winter goes green - the Daily Mail, which, characteristically also finds a cuddly animal angle - in this case a balding hedgehog who apparently lost its hair due to the stress of missing out on winter hibernation.

Ah, but surely that paragon of environmental piety, the Independent, will do justice to this worrying story... Er no, it doesn't even carry it.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:40 UK time, Thursday, 1 February 2007

On Wednesday we asked why Prince William's "starter home" had missed out on an excellent eco rating. Only 26% of you correctly chose its remote location, an isolated spot near the Welsh border. Most thought it was built on a green field site. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

15:15 UK time, Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Regarding the story of the boy who was hit by a car while wearing “wheelie shoes”. The boy involved might have been wearing jeans, but you didn't run a news item about that.
Jake Perks, Shropshire, UK

So graduate employers are having trouble finding applicants who display team work skills. I smell garbage. How can you possibly tell whether or not a raw graduate with little or not actual work experience will be a team player in the office? I have an employment history which makes clear my teamwork skills. What can young graduates do? They can point to experiences such as playing team sports, but that is so far removed from working in an office as to be totally irrelevant. I once worked for a boss who had once played cricket. He was not a team player. I once worked for a boss who played rugby. He was a poor team player. I have long suspected that companies which recruit graduates are on the whole run by pretty revolting people. This story just confirms my point of view.
Quentin Hawkins, Morpeth, UK

I achieved a lovely 0 in your midweek coffee quiz. Long may I remain a tea drinker!
Steven, Inverness

Your midweek quiz about coffee is strange as it talks about the bean, when growers in Africa and the programme QI told me that it is a seed. I'd thought the quiz would at least test people on this common misconception.
Mark, England
MM: A bean is a type of seed. No misconception. Have a coffee.

There was a product being offered so laughably cheaply on the web that it was clearly a mistake. Being wishful, some orders were placed but these orders were cancelled by the company offering the goods. Now there is heated debate in the office over what are the laws regarding advertised price in a shop, and on the web. Can anyone clarify this for us so that we can get back to working, reading the BBC news site and eating teacakes? Thanks.
Judy Cabbages, Peebles, Scotland

Re: Helping JD from Liverpool in his Ultimate Frisbee quest: Try asking the right people - namely the IOC. NB: You'll have to make sure that Ultimate Frisbee satisfies the criteria for inclusion.
Dave Taylor, Leeds, UK

JD, Ultimate will never make the Olympics, because it's self-regulated. You need some form of an official - umpire/referee/adjudicator - to make it.
David, London, England

Probably not the wittiest flexicon ever, but following a typo I made earlier today I'd like to add scheduel - the existence of two conflicting appointments in your outlook calendar. I was quite proud of this and needed to let everyone know.
Kev Guthrie, Sheffield

The quantity of letters appears to have dropped off thus far this week. Or is MM being overly censorious?
Olive Verady, Norwich, UK
MM note: Fewer of you put finger to keyboard at the start of the week, but feel free to get in touch...

Paper Monitor

11:14 UK time, Wednesday, 31 January 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The Daily Mail has long reserved special ire for Labour (the BBC, working mothers, non-working mothers, Botox, detox, retox, bright lights, big cities...) so it should come as no surprise that today it is in a state of apoplexy.


What follows this splash headline is not an article about Manchester's surprise win in the super casino bidding process, but a comment piece which essentially repeats the words "shame", "vulgar", "buying influence" and "scandal", typeset in a font larger and bolder than usual to emphasise JUST HOW ANNOYING this all is.

These same buzzwords are repeated inside in a profile of the casino magnate who hopes to run Manchester's new palace of dreams/devil's playground.

"THE VULGAR TYCOON WHO LOVES BOXING, BLONDES... AND BUYING INFLUENCE," its headline trumpets. "There could hardly be a more vulgar or notorious billionaire than South African-born..." well, you get the picture.

Just a quick flick through a thesaurus and Paper Monitor has found all manner of alternatives for "vulgar", depending on whether one is trying to convey that someone is common, lacking in refinement or is indecent. But that's the beauty of "vulgar" for the paper - it so neatly encapsulates all three meanings.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:26 UK time, Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Yesterday was a big day for PC fans with the launch of Microsoft's new operating system, Vista. We asked what was its original codename. A massive 63% of you correctly chose Longhorn, with the remainder evenly split between View and XPII. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

15:53 UK time, Tuesday, 30 January 2007

So "The (Manchester super-casino) decision is a blow for Blackpool and London's former Millennium Dome, which were the bookmakers' favourites." Gambling on gambling? One thing's a racing certainty - this country's going to the dogs, or is it that the greyhounds?
Chris Palmer, Cambridge UK

The director of sport at Beckenham's Kelsey Park Sports College wants to bring boxing back onto the school curriculum. He says it could have a "massive impact ... on those young people involved". Quite!
QJ, Stafford, UK

With the recent letters about petitions on, I was wondering if all you lovely Montorites could help with my little petition? What I would like is to have Ultimate Frisbee in the Olympics so any help is much appreciated. Cheers.
J D, Liverpool

Two adjacent headlines on 'most e-mailed' this morning: Melting of glaciers 'speeds up', and UK house prices 'start to cool'. Perhaps if we send all British estate agents to Greenland, the cooling house prices will slow down the melting of the ice... no? Perhaps just send them to Greenland anyway?
Ian Rutt, Bristol, UK

So poor Perky is "just a duck" (Monday's letters). And in the Netherlands, "Kip" is just chicken.
James Hayward, Eindhoven, the Netherlands

Paper Monitor

10:37 UK time, Tuesday, 30 January 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Uh oh, the Sun's beating the drum. With a front page that echoes a Benetton advert, featuring a racially-mixed collection of 11 children holding up placards spelling out the racist insults they have been called, it asks: "What do we all have in common?" Turn to page three - yes, that renowned destination for anyone seeking progressive thinking in the British press - and the same assembled crowd announce, through another set of placards, that they are "British".

They include one Sean Callen, 12, who on the front page is holding up the sign "Chav Scum". Sean, we are told, "hates the insult - a jibe at white working class people who wear brash designer clothes." Yet it's hard to escape the feeling that Sean has been thrown into the melting pot as a sop to that bedrock of Sun readership, the white working class. After all, the Sun itself doesn't exactly shy away from the word "chav" when knocking celebrities.

Only this month it took to comparing "classy Kylie" with "chavvy Charlotte Church" - headline: "Char is so vile-y to Kylie". Last week, star Sun columnist Jane Moore pinned the C-word on foul mouthed Jade Goody - "poster girl to the ignorant underclass and everyone else's acceptable face of chav". And don't forget Britney Spears who had a "chavtastic" wedding, and whose bump when pregnant turned "from chic to chav".

Granted, the Sun mostly employs "chav" in a fun, rather than judgemental way - the singer who is "less Parvarotti, more chav-arotti"; the assertion that Prince Harry is the new "king of chav"... but it hardly seems to be clamping down on the word.

So does today's front page herald a new dawn for the Sun - a more sensitive, caring side to Britain's biggest daily newspaper? Turn to page nine, for the report on the grandmother who sued the Sun over claims she'd had sex with footballer Wayne Rooney - "UNHAPPY SLAPPER" - and judge for yourself.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:46 UK time, Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Monday's Daily-Mini Quiz bared its teeth, asking which breed of dog entered the Kennel Club's list of 20 most registered dogs? With 39% of the vote, the most popular choice was the Boxer, but the correct answer was the Pug, which nevertheless garnered a respectable 35%. Today's Daily-Mini Quiz is on the Magazine page.

Your Letters

17:36 UK time, Monday, 29 January 2007

Regarding the fortunes of Perky the duck, I don't wish Perky ill but does it make me a bad person because I want to shout, "For crying out loud, it's just a duck!"
Kip, Norwich, UK

With number five in this week's 10 things, about which postcodes don't have a Tescos. Did it just mean the letters? Because there isn't one in SY16 or anywhere else in Mid-Wales as far as I know.
Richard Lewis, Newtown, Powys

Monitor note: The term should have been postcode areas.

Re Tesco/postcodes/uk. Have you overlooked and forgot N. Ireland once again. Hopefully Tescos will leave us alone, giving the local community and farmers a chance.
Aido, Portugal

Ten things... number one on the list should perhaps be part of "Ten things we did know last month" what with this story:
Robin, Edinburgh

So the Americans are developing weapons of "tunable lethality". Set phasers to 'stun'!
QJ, Stafford, UK

The most viewed stories right now (Friday night): US woman fights off lion with pen; The rise of the Bangalore Tigers; and The Holy Grail of foi gras?: Lions and tigers and geese, oh my!
Stephen Derry, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Daily Papers

11:58 UK time, Monday, 29 January 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"Deeeee 93 in tha Celebra-ee Big Bruther huwse..." and still the papers can't agree on Jade Goody's boyfriend's name. Is it Jack Tweedy (Daily Mail, Times) or Jack Tweed (Independent, Mirror, Guardian)? It's a bit like all those years ago when no one was sure whether the Rolling Stones guitarist was Keith Richard or Keith Richards. Talking of which, one of Mr Richard(s) erstwhile colleagues in the Stones, a certain Mick Taylor - who? Clue: if it's a truly great Rolling Stones album, then Taylor will be on the credits - has been snapped by the Mail, returning from a shopping trip.

There's only one thing that the tabs love better than a rags to riches yarn, and that's when fortunes go the other way. Cue a picture of Taylor looking somewhat frazzled, strolling home from Asda. Note the supermarket name, employed here to subtle but devastating effect. Had it been Waitrose or Marks, the story would have had a different spin. But Asda...

Granted, Taylor, with his faded jeans and anorak, hardly exudes an urbane Mick Jagger-style glamour. But this seems to be classic example of a single snapshot being used to stand up an entire story. Remember that picture your mate took of you with droopy eyelids? It looks like you've been at the bottle all night, but actually you were just snapped mid-blink. Imagine if that ended up splashed across a national paper. Here we see Taylor, eyes shut, touching the temple on one side of his head. Yes, he could be pained at the thought he turned his back on the biggest rock band in the world (although, it being 30 years ago, he's probably come to terms with that decision). Equally, he could just be flicking his hair out of his eyes.

So what does the subject of this example of long lens artistry have to say about his sorry appearance? Precisely nothing. Instead, the Mail indulges in a spot of supposition: "His forlorn appearance suggested he may be regretting his decision [to quit the Stones]". And that's about it. There are a few words from a cab driver who takes Mr Taylor to his gigs, the owner of a club where he performs, and a local from his village. But they all seem to say that he's pretty happy with his lot.

Let us be thankful for small mercies - in this case there are, at least, no tortuous puns on satisfaction.

Daily Mini-Quiz

11:05 UK time, Monday, 29 January 2007

The Monitor starts the week with an apology. The Daily-Mini Quiz results from Friday were overwritten in a frenzy of Monday morning activity. The question had been about French president Jacques Chirac - which foreign dignitary's hand didn't he kiss. By Friday afternoon, most of you opted for Condoleezza Rice, but in fact it was that of our foreign secretary - Margaret Beckett. The exact stats though, have been lost in the ether.

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