BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for February 4, 2007 - February 10, 2007

Your Letters

16:05 UK time, Friday, 9 February 2007

Today we learn that high-flying men are not as attractive to women looking for love as those with an average job. This is according to those ubiquitous "scientists", most of whom are presumably men with an average job. Personally, I think women are particularly attracted to men called Steve.
Steve, London

It is obvious from the picture in the story on the 'prehistoric hug' that they are actually trying to throttle each other.
Chris, Kettering

No. 10 rejects police state claim. As statements go, it's hard to imagine a more superfluous one: it's not as if they're likely to admit to such a claim, are they?!
Baz, Norwich, UK

Re: Leona getting a US music contract. It seems the music exec who described her as "like hearing the love child of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey" skipped sex education lessons at school.
Rikki, Essex, UK

In Paper Monitor, what's the Daily Mail complaining about? Girls' Aloud are giving a GOOD example! They look positively decent compared to what the girls in real schools wear (or more how they wear it). Those skirts are positively Victorian compared to the lack of skirts you see around here.
M Ross, Lancaster, UK

I only ever buy The Daily Mail for the quick crossword on the back (I admit it, the cryptic one in The Telegraph is just FAR TOO DIFFICULT!) Do people actually buy the paper for the articles and the journalism? Surely not!
Mike Henry, Reading, UK

How many Cambridges in a Wales? If we assume Cambridge (40.7 sq km) tessellates perfectly and the resulting shape fits the borders of Wales (20,779 sq km) perfectly, and also that the number of Cambridges can only be expressed as an integer (since a bit of Cambridge does not describe its whole) then there is potential for 510 Cambridges in Wales. In actual terms though, there are no Cambridges in Wales unless you count Cambridge Street in Cardiff or Cambridge Road in Newport.
Incidentally, according to official rules, the size of a football pitch can vary from 90x120m to 45x90m, so there could be 3768 small football pitches in Cambridge, or 10049 large ones. I don’t know how many football pitches there actually are in Cambridge though?
Duncan, Hove

David Freeman may care to memorise the following approximate conversion: 5000 Football Pitches = 1 Cambridge. 500 Cambridges = 1 Wales.
Giles Murchiston, Cambridge, England

Surely the obvious answer, to pets at work is that if snakes and cats in the office cause concern but patting reduces stress, for everyone to spend 10 minutes every day patting a colleague.
Adam, London, UK

10 things we didn't know last week

15:25 UK time, Friday, 9 February 2007

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


1. Catherine Cookson novels have been borrowed from UK libraries 25 million times in the last 10 years.

2. Ireland has the highest crime rate in the European Union.
More details

3. A pig's mood is indicated by its tail. It is happy when the tail is tightly coiled and unhappy when it hangs limp.
More details

4. The National Theatre's electricity bill is £600,000 a year.

5. There is one practising GP among the MPs in the House of Commons - Labour's Howard Stoate.

6. Astronauts wear nappies during launch and re-entry because they can't stop what they're doing should they need to urinate.
More details

7. Vikings may have used a special crystal to navigate when fog obscured the sun.

8. Frankie Laine set a marathon dance record of 3501 hours in 145 consecutive days in 1932.
More details

9. Eighty-eight percent of children in Poland aged 12 to 18 use instant messaging, compared to 50% in the UK, says a survey.

10. The Southern Cross has more stars than the five commonly depicted on the Australian flag, astronomers have discovered.

Sources where stories not linked: 1. TImes, Friday 4. Guardian, Wednesday 5. Guardian, Saturday 9. Daily Telegraph, Tuesday. 10. Times, Friday.

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Judy Toms in Wales for this week's picture of 10 artificial legs in Corfu.

Caption comp - results

13:39 UK time, Friday, 9 February 2007


It's time for the caption comp.

This week, the elephants at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park celebrate a new arrival - a baby calf, second-born of Kaylee, on the right. But what's being said as the bouncing baby pachyderm makes its public debut?

1. Simon Rooke
“It's always the same when Auntie Pauline comes round, they start drinking and then it's 'do you still remember the routine when we were in the circus?'”

2. Annie, London
"Would you believe it Barry - two needles in the haystack. What are the odds!"

3. Lee Pike
Embarrassment at elephant wedding as someone forgets the rings.

4. Ian
Steve McClaren considers a half time tactical change.

5. Stig“He never writes… and up and lift… he never phones… and hold it... he never vacuumed...”

6. Rob Falconer
“Yeah, but it's the shake-it-all-about that's the difficult bit.”

Thanks to all who entered. Despite earlier promises, the losing entries will not be available due to the ongoing technical difficulties.

Paper Monitor

10:21 UK time, Friday, 9 February 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's disgusting, that's what it is. The way grown women dress up as sexy schoolgirls.

girls.jpgSee, look at this picture of Girls' Aloud in short skirts, blazers, loosened ties and pop socks. The Daily Mail has run it extra-large so you can see for yourself. Look how low Nadine's shirt is unbuttoned. And Cheryl's thumbs-up deliberately draws attention to her bosoms. And that red-headed one, she... well, she's quite covered up actually, so ignore her.


Yes, Bel Mooney is on the warpath about the sexualisation of the young. It's porn culture gone mainstream, and who does she blame? Channel 4 bosses. Film censors. The parents. She does not, of course, add Ronald Searle to the list, the cartoonist who created the drinkin' smokin' gymslip-wearin' girls of St Trinian's in the 1950s. Surely that's required reading at Daily Mail Towers?

The paper is truly in its element today. "BIRD FLU: IS BERNARD MATTHEWS TO BLAME?" And immigrants, adds its strapline: "Tycoon faces probe into 'cover-up' over turkeys brought to Britain from Hungary". That's right, ABROAD.

Meanwhile, the Daily Express Weather leads with: "IT'S NOT OVER YET - MORE SNOW AND ICE BUT A RAY OF SUNSHINE FOR SOME". And, as predicted in yesterday's Paper Monitor, the Independent has a snow story today, lavishly illustrated with St Paul's snow dome, walkers in Hampstead Heath and tobogganing in London's commuter belt.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:07 UK time, Friday, 9 February 2007

Yesterday we asked which is one of the six steps to a stress-free day at work. According to researchers, bring a pet to work as patting eases stress - which 28% of you correctly answered. Another 41% said play classical music, and 31% said eat chocolate. Who are we to say they are wrong? Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

15:56 UK time, Thursday, 8 February 2007

Two inevitable truths about living in this country. It will rain on May Day bank holiday, and we will have transport problems when it snows. You failed and went with the boring predictable headline "Heavy snow causes travel problems", instead of "UK wake up to beautiful scenes - ditch off work and make a snowman". Yawn. Come May, could you run with "Wellys and macs to the ready - it's time to splash around with the ducks"?
Tom, Birmingham

Apparently Many new homes are planned, so the caption tells us. I would hope they are! Nothing worse than an accidental house. Perhaps there was a lot of unprotected building at Christmas?
Andy Calvert, London

Re: Daily mini-quiz . Well I know that bringing my pet snake into work would ease my stress, but I'm not so sure it will have the same effect on my colleagues.
Johnny Fitzgerald, Leeds, UK

With regards today's mini-quiz I work from home and have to shut the cats out of the office, or I have the stress of them walking between me and the screen, or across the keyboard, or sitting on printers which have plastic bits designed to support a few sheets of paper. In an office I can imagine taking a pet in might help the owner, at least until they end up chasing it as it decides to go and explore. It would certainly stress their colleagues with allergies.
Ed, Clacton, UK

The Times has found a useful unit of area for things that are too big to be measured in football pitches and too small for Wales. They describe the site of the Terracotta Army as covering "an area the size of Cambridge".
How many Cambridges make a Wales?
David Freeman, Epsom Downs, UK

Lucy Jones of Manchester- to paraphrase Basil Fawlty, I always know that the wine is corked if the waiter manages to get it out of the bottle and into my glass.
K Walker, Runcorn, U

What is this "vacuuming" of which you speak?
Alex "Neanderthal" D, Southampton, UK

Paper Monitor

10:54 UK time, Thursday, 8 February 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Waddaya know, the Daily Express Weather has got it right. Heavy snow is causing problems for travellers (and not just in London).

Yesterday the Daily Express Weather went big on the forecast, predicting that seven inches of snow would bring the UK grinding to a halt. Given its past form on weather stories, Paper Monitor half expected to wake to the usual grey skies and streets that typify February. No siree! The day started with a quick snowball fight.

There may be travel chaos, but how the spirits lift when picking your way along a street transformed into a winter wonderland, with complete strangers cracking smiles at each other as they skirt slushy patches.

The paper marks the occasion with a doom-laden article detailing the expected travel chaos, alongside lots of photos of cute animals in the snow. Ahhh, it's what this time of year is all about...

Even the Daily Telegraph joins in the fun, illustrating its front page with teenagers flinging snowballs at each other on Dartmoor. Sure enough, there are a few comely fillies among the warring factions.

How about the Independent - does it forget about global warming for a day? No, it does not (perhaps the wintry scenes outside Indy Towers will make tomorrow's paper).

So it's over to the Daily Mail to pick up the baton, in typical style: "HOW WILL NATURE, FOOLED INTO AN EARLY SPRING, COPE?" And by that, it means your pets and your garden.

"Keep a close eye on guinea pigs and rabbits... [dogs] which have little hair on their bodies may need dog clothing... winter-flowering honeysuckle might die..."


Yes, all present and correct in Newspaper Land.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:38 UK time, Thursday, 8 February 2007

Yesterday we told you women vacuum the equivalent of a return journey to New York in a lifetime and asked how far men vacuum? It's Land's End to John O'Groats, which only 30% of you got right. Most of you - 53% - thought it was London to Brighton. Maybe men are not as lazy as we all seem to think. Today's mini-questionre is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

15:40 UK time, Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Michael of Aberdeen is exaggerating to say that the line of temperature change has "gone off scale, off the page and through the roof". Check out this, for instance. He would be right to say that the rapidity of change is a concern.
Chris C, London, UK

Michael, the answer to your question is simple: If you admit that climate change is man-made, you will have to do something about it, which probably means giving up some of the niceties in life.
M. Ross, Lancaster, UK

Is it just me or does the guy standing next to the large Oscar in today's Big Picture look a bit like something off Bo' Selecta?
Nick, Redhill

So Ronaldo does not know where he will be in six months according to the football gossip. Might I suggest he will be in a penalty area somewhere, on the floor?
MJ, Ingatestone

I was looking up something (for work) on the internet when I noticed an ad for a site that would give me easy steps to avoid procrastination. I almost clicked on it before I realised the irony.
Ray Lashley, Bristol, UK

"Garcon! A bottle of your second-least expensive champagne, please." - Homer J Simpson. Does anyone out there, apart from Evan Davis, base their lifestyle habits on those of Western culture's premier comedy buffoon?
Mat, Bournemouth, UK

And to get a satisfied nod from the sommelier, do not under any circumstances drink the wine when it is offered to you "to try". Swirl it and sniff it. You'll know if it's corked.
Lucy Jones, Manchester

Not sure I agree with today's DMQ answer, using my husband as the example for all men. Whilst he vacuums less often than me but much more thoroughly - I'm sure he covers three times as many metres per occasion as I do. Possibly this is because the activity has novelty value?
Lee, Manchester

My answer is (d) I've never seen a man vacuuming. That photo is just a male fantasy: a woman would know better than to use an upright on what is obviously a vinyl floor.
Pix6, Mid-Atlantic

Ooh, ooh, can I suggest a Flexicon entry? For those times when key emails get lost in your inbox amongst a flurry of emails that all arrive at the same time - mailstrom. I am very proud.
Sally, London

Punorama - results

13:47 UK time, Wednesday, 7 February 2007



It's time for the Punorama results.

As ever, we gave you a story and you sent us punning headlines.

This week's story was news that the Beatles could be set to storm up the charts again when their songs become available online.

A decades-old dispute - with computer firm Apple, over the Fab Four's apple logo - had meant pop pickers could not download the band's songs legally.

But the two camps have reached a deal, heralding the Beatles' launch on iTunes and a return to the Top 40.

Hmm, who’d have thought that so many of you would take song titles for inspiration…

There’s the psychedelic Lucy in iTunes with downloads (Kevin of Glasgow) and Lucy in the hi-fi with iTunes (Nigel Macarthur, who also sent in Hey, Tunes…)

Then there’s Niall Nugent’s I wanna download your band, Gareth Jones’ Let it B-side and Murray Milne’s It’s been a hard decades’ fight.

Nicely done is Lovely data, media-played by Helene Parry. And fellow Monitor regular Candace is on fire, contributing An Apple delay kept the Fab Four away, Pomme Together AND, best of the bunch, When I’m 64(MB).

As if to prove that great minds think alike (or is it weak minds never differ?), fellow regular Simon Rooke contributes When I’m 64 bit (as does Grollope).

Simon’s on firmer ground with Back in the USB bar, derived from the song which inspired Andrea K to contribute Back in the UK pop charts, which we also liked.

For achievement without recourse to Beatles’ song titles, let's hear it for William Dewe contributes Don't upset the Apple Mac-Cartney; Offshore Alan weighs in with Download Re-peel for Apple; David Gorton with The apple of your i-pod; Phil’s Repeatlemania; and, last but not least, Pomme my soul by Kip.

Paper Monitor

11:52 UK time, Wednesday, 7 February 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Sometimes a story is so exciting that one's brain can somewhat over-egg an already custardy pudding.

On turning to page three of the Times - traditionally a repository for tales of unexpected human frailty - Paper Monitor was overcome with excitement to read the headline: "MOONSTRUCK ASTRONAUT'S MISSION IMPROBABLE TO MURDER HER RIVAL". But wait, it gets even better, with the subheads "950-mile trip was made in nappies" and "shuttle pilot the object of her desire".

Paper Monitor was so aerated after this embarrassment of riches that its quick glance at the accompanying factbox mistakenly rendered it as "450: the number of men who have been murdered in space". Crickey! Oh... it was an early-morning imagination that added the "murdered" bit.

Still, it's the story that has everything. A love triangle. In space [well, among Nasa staff]. Adult nappies. Pepper spray. And a chick in shackles. Which leads to only one question - what does the Daily Star make of it all? Sadly, Paper Monitor's copy has been filched, so we'll never know.

The Daily Express, meanwhile, splashes with the weather: "7 INCHES OF SNOW TO PARALYSE BRITAIN". Whew, what a relief. On the paper's past form - it predicted August would be even hotter than last summer's scorching July... and it wasn't - that means there'll be a light dusting. Which, come to think of it, will still paralyse the UK.

Perhaps the weather is the paper's replacement for Diana, who has been notable for her absence from its pages. Paper Monitor spied the Express's new ad on telly last night. No more blonde head on its mock-up front page; instead there's a headline about inheritance tax. The times they are a changing...

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:39 UK time, Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Yesterday we asked which EU country has a higher overall crime rate than the UK. It's Ireland, according to the European Crime and Safety Survey of 40,000 people, which 28% of you got right. Another 45% reckoned Estonia, and 26% said Holland. Rounding out the five worst countries was Denmark. Today's mini-question, against which you can check how slatternly - or not - your housekeeping habits are, is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

15:06 UK time, Tuesday, 6 February 2007

I'm afraid Evan Davis’s wine buying technique - you should always buy the second least expensive bottle - means he will generally be ripped off and often end up with what was actually the cheapest wine. Unscrupulous restaurateurs put a much bigger mark-up on the second least expensive bottle to catch out the many thousands of us who don’t want to be seen ordering the cheap stuff. That’s economics in action too, of course.

Take a leaf out of the French book - dine out in decent places and order a carafe of the house plonk. You’ll eat good food, get just as merry and present an air of confident indifference to your smug sommelier (whose sole joy comes from secretly laughing at the pompous fools who pretend to be knowledgeable about wine).
PJ, Aberdeen, UK

Why are so many people, who know very little about the climate, so keen to argue that climate change is natural? When 99 per cent of the scientists actively researching it have concluded the extent of the current change IS man made. Climate change is natural, to an extent. This can be assessed by analysing ice cores from the polar regions which show the changes over hundreds of thousands of years. The change can be plotted as a line along the middle of a graph with peaks and troughs. At the moment the line has gone off scale, off the page and through the roof. It is frightening when you see clearly how bad it has got. Why has most of the population of the planet still got there heads buried in the sand ?
Michael, Aberdeen

So the makers of the fuel cell motorbike say not to worry about riding around sitting on a canister full of explosive hydrogen. That's OK for now but I also see they intend to have a 'full-blown' production model by the end of the year.
Pierre, Luxembourg

I know this sounds a bit geeky but did anybody else notice that the hydrogen fuel cell motorbike on BBC Breakfast this morning looked eerily similar to the bikes in the slightly naff Battlestar Galactica spin-off series 'Galactica 1980'?
If the new bike comes with fold out wings (and orange detailing), I'll definitely be buying one!
Phil, Angus

The pedants are back in town. Chris A says '"Mexicans stage tortilla protest" is NOT an all-noun headline!'. Yes, Chris. We all know that. But it is a word that can be read as a noun. If you go back over all the noun watch headlines over the years, they would all be banned according to your strict criterion. Honestly, some people should have their keyboards taken off them before they do some harm.
John M, York, England

“Texan monitor reader displays humour defect” is also an all-noun headline, despite "Texan" being an adjective here, and "displays" being a verb here...
Tim Melville, Ely

Fossilised dinosaur eggs found in MP, eh? Anyone care to suggest which one it might be?
Nicky, London

It's good to see the Beeb also getting on the wallchart bandwagon.
Basil Long, Newark Notts

Re: Man flu and bird flu. If you cough up mineral water, does that mean you've got Evian flu?
David, Maesteg, South Wales

Paper Monitor

09:50 UK time, Tuesday, 6 February 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

When exactly did newspapers start to think of themselves not simply as peddlers of current events, but retailers trading on the trust and goodwill they have built with readers?

While the Daily Telegraph's business section today weighs up Sainsbury's tentative plans to follow Tesco and Asda down the non-food retailing route, the paper, like its competitors, has achieved a not dissimilar metamorphosis, with its Telegraph-branded offers and promotions.

Today's include:
• A private tour of Buckingham Palace, as part of a "four-star hotel package" (Note: the hotel in question is not Buck House);
• Low-energy light bulbs – "buy four for £24.99 and get four extra free". (In other words, £25 for eight);
• Crossword puzzle solver. (At £19.95 a snip next to the 60p per minute Telegraph crossword helpline);
• The chance to win an "Official Bafta gift collection box". (Eh?);
• The offer of saving £350 on "stylish Wedgwood cutlery". (For those who are in the habit of spending somewhat more than £350 in the first place on their knives, forks and spoons); and
• £10 tickets to Shakespeare.

Two other unrelated points to make about today's press.

1. The Sun's exclusive on the secret friendly fire video was held back for later editions, doubtless to avoid night editors on the other papers pouncing and splashing it across their front pages. (For the record, early editions of the Sun led with the tale of a mum and daughter porn video confession.)

2. The Daily Express and Diana – after trashing the Lord Stevens report and pledging to doggedly pursue the truth behind the late princess's death, the paper seems to have gone strangely quiet on the story. Monday was traditionally Diana front cover day, but it's been a few weeks since she was pictured there. Has Paper Monitor missed something? News of sightings will be gratefully received.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:27 UK time, Tuesday, 6 February 2007

In Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked what else the V&A is displaying alongside Kylie's costumes. The answer is Elton John's glasses, which more than half of you got right. Will you be so clever with today's DMQ? It's on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

17:48 UK time, Monday, 5 February 2007

Re Luke's question on climate change. Climate change is a natural occurance which happened before humans were around. So there can be a question as to whether this current climate change is natural or caused by humans or even if it would've happened anyway but diffently (ie slower).
Jenny Em, Aberdeen

To, Luke, Birmingham, it's the cows not the cats - cure bovine flatulence and we've got this MMCC thing cracked.
Rob C, Milton Keynes, UK

Re Thing number two, "The candiru fish, can swim into... the penis, erect a spine and feed on blood and tissue." Thanks. I've only just got used to swimming in the sea again after watching Jaws all those years ago.
Martin, Stevenage, UK

Re Thing number five, "In China, James Bond is known as Lingling Qi - 007.". Is MM aware that the reason James Bond is known in China as Lingling Qi is because Lingling Qi is a direct translation of 007? Maybe next week we should have an entry like "Bond known as 'zero zero sept' in France"!
Peter Douglas, Edinburgh

Re Thing number one, that the Dutch are now the tallest people on earth. For those in the low-lying Netherlands, with the prospect of rising sea levels, perhaps it's just as well.
Steve, London

Re Tim Melville's letter about the tortilla protest. No! When will people learn? "Mexicans stage tortilla protest" is NOT an all-noun headline! "Stage" in this context is a verb, as the Mexicans are staging a protest.

In the C4 postpones masturbation season story, we're told "the masturbation season has been moved around repeatedly". Well...
Chris A, Houston, Tx

I guess this latest bird flu scare must seem like Christmas has come early for turkeys in Suffolk.
Fiona, Edinburgh

If blokes get "man-flu", do women get Bird flu ?
...I'll get my coat.
Andy Nicholson, Milton Keynes

Re "Why the first Monday in February is the worst for 'sickies'" Am I imagining things, or did I read somewhere (some esteemed source, I'm sure) that 2 January was the worst day for sickies?
Rob, Sheffield, UK

Paper Monitor

11:13 UK time, Monday, 5 February 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Men in hooded, white boiler suits, gloves, masks, goggles – the image on the front of today's Daily Telegraph can only mean one thing: we're all doomed. "Bird flu: it's here to stay" runs the headline.

"Online – are you afraid of a flu pandemic?" Er, well, all the messages over the weekend had been there was no reason to panic, but now Paper Monitor's picked up the Telegraph, yes. Getting more petrified by the paragraph.

Inside, the coverage takes a more reflective tone, across a double page spread. "Hour by hour, the grim task of stopping the outbreak from spreading went on." Gulp. Picture of a lowered security barrier with the word "STOP" and smoke rising in the distance. Double gulp. That's it, time to head for the bio-security shelter. Just a few moments to check the other front pages and digest just how hopeless things are.

The Daily Mail: no mention of bird flu on the front. Daily Mirror and the Sun ditto. The same goes for the Independent – not even mention of the perils of all that superfluous turkey packaging.

Hold on. At least the Daily Express seems to have grasped the Doomsday essence of this story: "Bird flu: So is it safe to carry on eating chicken?"

Pah, it's tinned food, bottled water and waiting for the "all clear" siren to sound from here on.

The Guardian does at least lead with the bird flu story, but its headline has none of the urgency or alarmist tone of the Telegraph. Inside, its leader notes: "The [mass slaughter] should contain the present outbreak."

Maybe that subterranean shelter can wait a day or two.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:05 UK time, Monday, 5 February 2007

We asked if Newcastle is England's noisiest town, and Torquay its most tranquil, which is bang in the middle (excuse the pun). It's Coventry - 21st out of 41 towns in the survey by the Ear Institute at UCL - which 37% of you correctly answered. Another one-third said Colchester, which was 37th in the survey, and 30% said Cambridge, which was 35th.

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