BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for March 4, 2007 - March 10, 2007

10 things we didn't know last week

18:14 UK time, Friday, 9 March 2007

pigeons203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. The premium rate phone services market in the UK is the biggest in the world, worth £1.2bn a year - that's £20 each for every man, woman and child.

2. Terry Wogan gets paid for presenting Children in Need - the only presenter to do so.
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3. More than half (52%) of smokers haven't told their parents about their habit.
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4. Producing palm oil - hailed as a future biofuel – can produce carbon emissions 10 times that of petroleum.

5. Prince Charles is a fan of veteran reggae artist Sugar Minott - requesting one of his songs be played while visiting a record shop in London.

6. Coffee doesn't make you more alert in the morning, according to a study by Bristol University.
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7. Superheroes are susceptible to snipers, with Captain America being killed by a bullet.
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8. Only about half of China's population can speak the national language, Mandarin.
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9. There are 946 billionaires in the world .
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10. The moon glows a coppery red when totally eclipsed by the shadow of the earth - its hue determined by how much dust is in the earth's upper atmosphere.
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Sources: 1 – BBC 10'O'Clock News, 8 March; 3 - Dispatches, Channel 4, 5 March; 5 – the Times, 6 March.

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Sue Kenney for the picture of 10 Welsh pigeons (you'll have to look closely) in Oystermouth Square, Mumbles, Swansea.

Technical Gremlins (the sequel)

16:03 UK time, Friday, 9 March 2007

The Monitor wishes to apologise for the re-emergence of its ruinous foe, Technical Gremlins. Its immediate casualties are the Caption Competition results and Your Letters, but rest assured that those in charge at Monitor HQ are fighting the good fight, in a bid to wrest these hapless victims from jaws of this parasitic creature.

Paper Monitor

11:51 UK time, Friday, 9 March 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

As Paper Monitor noted yesterday, isn't the Daily Telegraph looking lovely these days. Is that a new haircut? Or a new suit? No, wait, I've got it, highlights! Yesterday the paper sported a most fetching leafy green; today it has gone for a rather more racy tomato red (it is dress-down Friday after all).

So has any of the Telegraph's loyal and devoted readership noticed yet, or has their beloved been around so long as to be rendered all but invisible?

Paper Monitor turns with some trepidation to the letters to the editor. Is there mention of the paper's new look?
"SIR - Have we become a nation of lukewarm tea drinkers? All I want is a tea cosy, but shopping in Aylesbury today, Bhs, Woolworths and Cargo - all selling teapots - told me that they do not stock tea cosies."

That'll be a no, then (try John Lewis, love). Either that, or the paper is being coy and keeping all the billet doux to itself. Paper Monitor has certainly sent several, each sealed with a kiss.

[Lovelorn sigh] But enough. Much hilarity and not a little squeamish laughter has erupted at Paper Monitor Towers on opening The Sun.


Come again? Scratch that, not the best choice of words. This is one case in which an overly-descriptive headline actually means you have to read the accompanying story. What? Why? How? Er, actually, Paper Monitor doesn't really want to know.

On to more pleasant matters, such as root canal work without recourse to anaesthetic. The Times' pleasingly speculative People column picks up on Gordon Brown's recent visit to the dentist. "Officially, this was root canal work. Still, it is perhaps worth noting that this particular molar mechanic is famed for his 'ultrasonic tooth whitening' and 'smile lifts'."

Give us a smile, Gordo.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:41 UK time, Friday, 9 March 2007

Yesterday we asked how much change you need to fish out should you wish to make a call at a BT phone kiosk. Crickey. It's been a while, huh (there's the rub for BT, which hopes variable pricing may halt the pay phone's slow demise). A massive 60% of you thought it still cost 20p, while one-third correctly answered 40p. The rest opted for 60p. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

16:11 UK time, Thursday, 8 March 2007

I would just like to say happy International Women's Day to all the lovely ladies out there. This is a global day connecting all women around the world and inspiring them to achieve their full potential. For my part, it is I that will be doing the washing up tonight. You're welcome m'darling.
Steven Mead, Middlesbrough, UK

A giant panda injured in a fight is finding it difficult to eat - however the report goes on that her weight has increased since the incident. What better proof that both calorie intake and exercise contribute to weight control?
QJ, Stafford, UK

So, C4 to make rubbish reality show. Does this headline qualify for things we knew this time last week?
James Dawkins, London, England

Ah, deja vu - Paper Monitor makes reference to having one’s colours done. This conclusively proves that Paper Monitor a) was of an age to care about his/her appearance in the 1980s, when working out whether you had spring, summer, autumn or winter colouring was popular or b) has a mother, for it is they who typically harangue their black-clad offspring about how peachy orange or lime green would be far more suitable.
Patsy, Sheffield

I know I won't be first - or last - to correct Clive DuPort (Wednesday letters), but has he ever seen an episode of Only Fools and Horses? I only ask as pretty much every character - his younger brother, pub landlord and various ne'er do well mates - all call David Jason's character Del Boy. As did Del Boy himself. Always best to check your pedantry before posting it...
Dom, London

In Love-triangle astronaut sacked, it states that she is believed to be the "first astronaut fired publicly". Isn't that basically what happens to all astronauts?
Rory, Sutton Coldfield, UK

I find greeting any baby development news with "Oh, I can do that..." a quite effective way of deflating parental exuberance (Wednesday letters). Now, can any Monitor readers give me a polite way of saying you don't care what Robbie Williams did (especially entering/leaving rehab)?
Crawton Leek, Newcastle, Staffs

Rather than saying you don't care what someone's baby did, you should count your blessings that you don't share an office with the owner of two horses, who insists on regaling you with all the latest equine musings. For instance, I know that one has a gregarious nature and is the alpha horse at the stables with a penchant for cheese sandwiches; whereas the other has a shier, if rakish, demeanour and would do anything for a Polo (and I thought that was all horses). So the next time you're being elucidated with the tale of little Florence putting a bowl on her head (yes, she is very forward), spare a thought for little old me.

Re "the so-called helmetcams' are the size of an adult's thumb" (Parents see child offenders on TV). Not really metric, but at least digital.
Kieran Boyle, Oxford, England

Paper Monitor

12:52 UK time, Thursday, 8 March 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Shhh! Whisper it, but the Daily Telegraph is undergoing a redesign by stealth. Because making a big song and dance about how one's newspaper is going to look different is a bit, well, you know [cough!] Guardian. Or Times. And that just wouldn't do.

Instead, the paper has quietly been moving things around on its front page, a nip here, a tuck there. One doesn't like to call attention to the way one deals with the laughter lines that come with age...

The body font is still the same, of course, as is the gothic lettering of its masthead. For it would not be the Daily Telegraph if that were to change. It would be like going tabloid, or to a Berliner format. Shudder.

So the paper has had its colours done, for it now sports a most flattering and fresh leafy green that's perfect for spring (or Springs. You ladies know what I'm talking about).

And budge up, news, to make room for a fifth column flaunting the wares within. Cricket - eight pages on the lovely game! Boris Johnson on Diana's death! A blonde filly on Liz Hurley and the meaning of marriage! Iggy Pop's lust for life! (Well, he's the same age as many a Telegraph reader.) Matt's daily cartoon now heads this column, moved up from below the fold.

Also given more prominence are the fortunes of the FTSE 100 and the Dow Jones Index, now given their own ticker-like slot, and, in pride of place at the very top of the page, and picked out in that fetching green and a contrasting red, is a banner advertising the online version of the paper AND what's on Telegraph TV.

My dear, you look lovely.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:58 UK time, Thursday, 8 March 2007

Yesterday we asked which of three famous costume fetched the most at the Bonhams auction of film memoribilia. It was Mel Gibson's Braveheart outfit for £25,200, which 26% of you correctly answered. Tom Baker's Dr Who costume went for £24,600 - which 37% of you opted for - and the rest of you plumped for Del Boy and Rodney's Batman and Robin costumes, which sold for £10,200. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

16:59 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2007

You said "Judge Barbara Forssters adhjourn hearinf for presentence report [sic]" in Cannabis grandmother found guilty. Did she offer you some?
Glop, Leeds, West Riding

Re the quote of the day, right - I understand that's a problem for midwives too.
Kip, Norwich, UK

Re Honours probe gag 'not political'. Anyone else disappointed upon reading this article? I hoped someone had developed a sense of humour.
Sarah, Edinburgh

I can't suggest a decent and polite way of saying you don't care what someone's baby did (Tuesday letters), but I can suggest a bored, exaggerated yawn might do the trick.
Danie Jones, Cambridge, England

As a child-free person who just can't appreciate babies, I simply say: "I share your joy." I use the most bland tone I can muster and have a polite smile that doesn't reach my eyes. Most effective!
Nicola Turton, Old Basing, England

Last week we were told that women’s fertility is improved by eating ice cream and other full-fat dairy foods. Now we’re warned of the problems presented by obese mothers-to-be. Maybe it’s just me, but…
MJ Simpson, Leicester, UK

One for pedants' corner? Why do you and other media keep referring to the character, Derek Trotter, as Del Boy(Thursday's mini-quiz)? Only his grandfather and Uncle Albert in Only Fools & Horses ever called him "Del, boy" - Del being an abbreviation of Derek and boy because he was young to them. There, I feel better now.
Clive DuPort, Guernsey

We're invited to meet the Castaways. Do they have to come back?
Greg Hoover

The comments in 30 ways the UK has changed are mostly so negative. The UK has, for many people, had a prosperous decade and we've all done loads of home improvements, and taken lots of cheap flights abroad. We do sue more and that's caused loads of problems - and there's been an explosion of reality TV. But life is, for many, great. And we've had a couple of hot summers lately too.
Helen Moseley, Birmingham, UK

So, Virgin Trains say Which? should have tried to buy tickets 12 weeks ahead of travel (Wednesday's DMQ). That would be four weeks before they're usually released then, according to the FAQ on their own website?
Ray Lashley, Bristol, UK

Punorama results

14:57 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2007


crawl203.jpgIt's time for the results of Punorama.

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

This week, it was the story about the six-month-old baby who has started walking unaided - at an age when his peers have not even begun crawling yet.

If frequency is an indicator of quality, then These booties were made for walking - sent in by Craig Wall, Stella, Tim Francis-Wright, Chris Shead, Douglas Lee, Ryan W, Starling, Michael Sargent, Candace and Pix6 - is the pick of the week.

But we also liked these offerings, sprinkled like nuggets of goodness throughout the entries: Mother stare by Andrea, Baby vroomer (Colin Nelson), Baby pace (Nigel Macarthur), Nappy feet (Craig Wall), and Walking the Sprog (Gareth Jones, Isle of Anglesey).

Nicely done too were Baby rambles by Niall Nugent and Baby shambles by Valérie Falconer, Rattle and run (Michael Sargent ), Great feat (Sarah, Trieste, Italy) and Pre-go-cious (Nigel Macarthur again).

And old friends Helene Parry, Candace and Simon Rooke contributed, respectively, Babygoes, My deft foot and Bairn to run.

Then there was the small but perfectly formed Nappy dash from Trina.

Thanks to all who entered.

Paper Monitor

11:03 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's to the Times supplement, times2 (lower case because it's lovable and frothy), that Paper Monitor turns for the burning question of the day.

On its front cover, above a picture of Liz Hurley, it asks "Why is this woman famous?" and offers suggestions such as being a brilliant actress and (rather unkindly) being Hugh Grant's ex.

Full marks for investigative journalism but its rival, g2 (also lower case because proper nouns are soooooo serious) in the Guardian considers Hurley in more sparkling prose.

The wedding (did you know she got married this week, or was it last week? Or was it both?), it says, was "modern celebrity wedding with an Indian twist" - which means over-done in two countries, not just one.

"In celebrity weddings, as in life, it all gets so much worse when Elton John is invited," writes Zoe Williams.

There are flashbacks to other nuptials and their oddities - Celine Dion (camels), Jordan (Cinderella carriage), Mills-McCartney (£100,000 flowers) and Liza Minnelli (Martine McCutcheon).

Paper Monitor is glad one can still rely on the Daily Mirror to highlight the folly of the rest of Fleet St in missing the big story of the day. Its front page splash is Richard Madeley shaking his fist at a TV camera in an "astonishing live outburst" at a girl mugger who robbed his daughter Chloe.

Journalistic perfection such as that is impossible to top but the Daily Mail gives it a try with one of its favourite themes - humiliating female celebrities about their bodies. This time it's "The curse of saggy knees"...

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:23 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2007

When testing rail fares between London and Manchester, Which? failed to get a promotional fare on Virgin Trains seven weeks ahead of travel. How early should it have booked, says Virgin? It's 12 weeks - almost three months ahead of travel - which 56% of you correctly answered. Another 21% said 10 weeks, and the rest said eight weeks. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

16:41 UK time, Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Re the film memorabilia collectors. This bit amused me: "Pieces, such as the Jedi cloak, will go to a very high-end collector. These include Martin Scorsese and George Lucas". Presumably George Lucas bought that cloak new, and I imagine it cost him a lot less then.
Simon, Manchester, UK

What a tantalising quote of the day - but what on earth prompted it? Or am I doomed never to discover how she mistook an ear for a table?
Sarah B, Southampton, UK

Re RJ Tysoe's comments about faxes (Monday letters). I've just faxed letters to every star in Hollywood - can I sell these on eBay?
Sam, France

Re Lynch art reveals dark side. Fascinating. In other news, open biscuit tin reveals biscuits.
Crawton Leek, Newcastle, Staffs

It seems that commentators on forthcoming treats on TV are starting to refer to a new series of a much loved programme as a "new season" rather than a "new series". I didn't really notice when it first started but it’s really caught on. Is this another example of creeping Americanisms into popular culture? I just thought I would ask. Have a nice day.
Gary, Stockport

Re Punorama. Can any Monitor readers suggest a polite way of saying you don't care what someone's baby did?
Phil, Guisborough

Re: when new is old (Monday letters et al), the New World was around for quite a long time before anybody at all found it, let alone Europeans. See also, Newfoundland, New South Wales, New England… I'd get my coat but I didn't bring it with me due to super-clement T-shirt weather.
PS: unlike Rachel I'm staying put.
Ian, Cosenza, Italy

How has Britain changed in 10 years?

15:51 UK time, Tuesday, 6 March 2007

The Monitor wishes to extend its thanks to all those who took part in last week's challenge to nominate ways in which Britain has changed over the past 10 years, without recourse to cliche or blunt political point scoring. The best of the bunch are here.

Paper Monitor

10:59 UK time, Tuesday, 6 March 2007

A service highligthing the riches of the daily press.

It's not often that the Daily Mirror carries news from the National People's Congress in China. But it's not every day that every delegate within range of the photographer's lense snoozes during the premiere's speech. Yes, Chairman Mao's days are well and truly over.

Another surprising picture in the Daily Mail . Ever wondered what might trump the paper's long-held antipathy for foreign invaders? When Johnny Foreigner is a baby squirrel, small enough to curl up in the palm of its rescuer's hand. It may be a grey squirrel, but the youngster's tale ticks so many Mail boxes. Cute animal pic? Check. Born too early because of the mild winter, handily providing both the "Ahhhhh" factor AND a global warming angle? Check. Abandoned by feckless parents? Check.

The same picture appears in the Independent, but with far greater emphasis on the global warming aspect of the story. So no surprise there.

Meanwhile, Paper Monitor - a bear of very little brain, granted - has fallen prey to the campaign of confusion mounted by the Daily Mail and Express. What day is it again? With the inquest underway into a trio of deaths in a Paris underpass, the once traditional Monday-is-Diana-day convention is undergoing mission creep.

Today the people's princess graces both front pages, alongside matching conspriacy theories.


The Indie, again, carries the same story as the Mail. But no picture of Diana. At least some things stay the same...

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:53 UK time, Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Yesterday we asked, with Michael Jackson charging his Japanese fans to meet him, how much it works out as a SECOND. At $3,500 per minute, that breaks down to about $58 per second, which is roughly £30 - and which 34% of you correctly answered. A quarter said £40 and the rest said £50. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

15:41 UK time, Monday, 5 March 2007

Re: Can coach travel be cool. You're joking right? Have I slept through March and it's April 1st? I can fly to London from Glasgow - do my job and fly back before the coach has got south of Birmingham. No chance.
James, Glasgow

Surely Michael Hutchence's brother is just selling a piece of paper that was faxed to Kylie. Kylie received the actual facsimile.
R J Tysoe, london, UK

Blair Targets Long-Term Jobless? Does this mean he's going to help the Tories win the next election?
Dylan, Reading, UK

Re: Rapper West flies in Welsh curry. Wouldn't it be easier to fly by plane like everybody else?
Graeme, Dundee, Scotland

To Paul, London.
I've had the same problem reading headlines about Jordan - do they mean the country or do they mean Mrs Peter Andre?
Andrea, Cheshire

Re: When new is old, the New Forest dates from 1079. The New Testament dates from between 45 - 140 AD.
Christina, Bath

Re: Ten things we didn't know last week. I'm not surprised you didn't know the tentacles of the giant squid make calamari rings the size of tractor tyres: squid rings are made from the body, not the tentacles. So we're no clearer this week either.
Jel, Swansea

Re: Ten things we didn't know last week. Wrong again. That's nine little darlings and one sinister hoodie.
Ally, Edinburgh

Paper Monitor

09:59 UK time, Monday, 5 March 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

No sooner does the High Court overturn the deputy royal coroner's decision that the Diana inquest shouldn't be heard by a jury, than the Daily Express - which had been going decidedly cool on Diana in recent weeks - is back on the case. The late princess is rehabilitated to the paper's front page, leading to a full page story inside. To be fair, the Express is not alone in using Diana's audience pulling power. Paper Monitor does not work on a Saturday, but had it been on duty the weekend before last, it would have highlighted the Daily Mail's Diana bonanza - a free Diana DVD and an offer of a Diana figurine. Nice.

As media commentator, Roy Greenslade, noted in the Evening Standard last Wednesday: "She may have been dead for 10 years but the Mail clearly believes she remains a potent sales-winner."

The SAS could probably be classified as another such sales-winner, and the red tops are both dripping today with SAS-inspired Action Man glee. The Mirror manages to turn the story about British hostages on the Ethiopian border into an "our boys go in" spectacular, with a liberal sprinkling of the SAS "who dares wins" emblem and headlines like: "SNATCH SQUAD" and "SAS squad to storm desert hellhole".

The Sun's clearly less bothered about the fate of these anonymous British travellers, pitching its SAS story at an operation to rescue Prince Harry WERE he to be kidnapped in Iraq. There's some "Boy's Own" style computer graphics illustrating how this week's dry run might just perhaps in theory unfold, climaxing in a big shoot.

And, as the headline makes clear - "Rescuers will free Prince with tear gas and grenades" - the outcome of this hypothetical capture is in no doubt.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:55 UK time, Monday, 5 March 2007

Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked who came out tops in the NME awards for best solo artist? The correct answer: rapper Jamie T - chosen by 48% of those who answered. Today's Daily Mini-Quiz is on the Magazine index.

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