BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for March 18, 2007 - March 24, 2007

10 things we didn't know last week

17:36 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2007

10eggs203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. The are 30,000 wild parakeets in London.
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2. Alan Sugar is a big fan of Masterchef.

3. It's possible to map a 248-dimensional structure.
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4. Harvesting rhubarb in candlelight helps preserve its flavour.
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5. The Quakers invented the modern protest campaign - in calling for an end to the slave trade – deploying petitions, consumer boycotts, images, a logo and a slogan.
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6. The Legal limit for flying a plane is 20mg of alcohol.
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7. Martina Navratilova has spent four years secretly working as an artist.
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8. NHS hospitals took more than £95m in car parking charges in 2004/2005.
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9. Alcohol and tobacco are more "harmful" than cannabis, ecstasy and LSD according to a new ranking drawn up by the Lancet.
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10. Tony Blair isn't a bad comedy actor, judging by his performance on Comic Relief.

Sources: 2 – the Independent, 21 March.
Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Alan Chesterman for this week's picture of 10 eggs.

Your Letters

16:24 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2007

I was reading an article on the BBC website about the new Dr Who assistant (because of the attractive photo) and noticed the following passage: "The BBC has confirmed that Doctor Who… will be returning for a fourth series next year." Not being a Dr Who nut, I had to refer to Wikipedia to find out that this supposed fourth series would actually be the thirtieth. This got me thinking that either this was a mistake or a slip of the tongue and that the Tardis in the series is real and the new series was actually shot in 1966 to save on production expenses, then shipped back to this present time for our viewing pleasure.
Theodore, Spain

I've just been looking at today's Entertainment 'Big Picture', and have noticed a small error. The caption states that the picture shows "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Raphael (left) and Michelangelo (right)". However, as anyone who grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja/Hero Turtles will tell you, Michelangelo wears an orange mask... not blue or purple (as it appears in the picture). I would hazard the guess that the Turtle on the right is in fact Donatello, as the mask could either be seen as blue or purple... but it doesn't look like the light/sky blue of Leonardo's mask.
James, Stirling

How is Huw Edwards able to be both in Iraq, and helping students out in the School Report? Has he mastered the art of bi-location?
Peter, Luton, UK

How about a flexicon entry for the inevitable deluge of letters whenever Monitor makes a typo, such as today's "mii-question"?
Ben Avison, Cambridge

Re the "all of the above/none of the above" Jeffrey Archer mini-quiz debate, Ed from Clacton wonders about the contradiction of having an "all of the above" option in a mini-quiz where one of the other options is "none of the above". But if the order of the options is correct, there's no contradiction:
1. Blah
2. Blah
3. Blah
4. All of the above
5. None of the above

Option 4 means "all the options which are above it in the list". Option 5 is not above - it is BELOW. So it's not included in "all of the above" and there's no contradiction. How many insufferable-pedant points do I get?
Martin, Oxford, UK

With reference to the DMQ about Jeffrey Archer and the Bible, I'd like pedantically to point out that the phrasing of the question ("...which of these events ARE presented as fact?") immediately ruled out the answer being any of the first three options (i.e. the single events), and the fact that Jeffrey Archer wrote the book immediately ruled out the last option, thereby making it easy to choose the correct answer.
Adrian, London

Re your story "Farmer's lambs cosiest bar none", "baa none"?
Mark, Reading

I'm slightly concerned. My oh-so-technical RSS reader appears to have revealed the identity of the Paper Monitor. And it's male. Going by the name of "Giles Wilson", no less - as reported in the 'author' field for Friday's Paper Monitor. Invisible on the website itself, of course. Say it's just another technical gremlin, please!
Adam Foster, Brussels, Belgiumland

Ken and Martin have it all wrong. To download sweets off the internet, simply set your browser to "accept cookies".
John R, London

Caption competition results

13:30 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2007

It's time for the winning entries in the caption comp.

This week, Armani the greyhound yawns while waiting for the start of the St Patrick's Day parade in Montreal. But what's being said?

1. Brian Dow
"...and he said, 'I'm looking for the man who shot my paw.' Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, it's the way I tell 'em!"

2. Sean Smith
"The photos revealed a very different party to the one I remembered..."

3. Sarah, Tieste, Italy
"I know every dog has his day, but did it have to be after last night?"

4. Leif
"Noooo! Not that old 'A greyhound walks in to a bar, and the barman asks, Why the long face?' gag again."

5. Simon Rooke
"I'm sure I had a bone when I left home this morning."

6. Nick
"Well the Guiness hat just looked silly."

Thanks to all who entered.

Paper Monitor

10:47 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The free DVD giveaway carnage that caused Paper Monitor such amusement last year seems a pretty distant memory, except on the nation's landfill sites. Wall-chartism has become a tradition more honoured in the breach than the observance. It even seems like an age since the Daily Express offered a prize second hand camper van*.

So in the absence of tempting prizes, the Sun has today made the best of a bad job. Its front page "teaser" strip seems like the perfect offer, the true essence of what a reader offer should be, distilled a hundred times into an irresistible 12-word proposition.


Who could resist that on the news-stand? Even the Telegraph's offer of Norman Lamont's verdict on what the Tories' next step should be can't distract one from that.

So what's the secret??? What does the Sun's page two reveal (the first time in history that particular phrase has been uttered)???

Ach. What a let down. It's more flipping Budget coverage - details of how you can apply for tax credits. Talk about a Budget con.

*To be fair, it was almost certainly a new camper van. Paper Monitor is working from memory, so we'd better give the Express the benefit of the doubt.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:30 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2007

Yesterday we asked what a group of hoodies did when they spotted Sienna Miller being chased by paparazzi during a driving lesson. No fooling you Heat-reading lot - 73% of you correctly answered that they blocked the snappers' view of the comely actress. Another 12% said they gestured rudely while in shot, and 15% said they "borrowed" their camera kit. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine homepage now.

Paper Monitor

12:54 UK time, Thursday, 22 March 2007


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Groan, sweat, grumble… it's taken Paper Monitor this long just to haul its stash of daily newsprint to the desk, what with all those Budget special editions.

Of course, big financial stories like the Budget can be pretty leaden beasts once you get over the only question that matters: "will I be richer or poorer?"

The papers are naturally wise to this, and tend to add their own raising agent, most obviously in the form a good pun. Respect on this front goes to the Metro for it's very clever: "The Gord giveth… and the Gord taketh away".

The only detraction is the fact the Mail is sporting almost the same headline.

Since both papers reside in the same stable – Associated Newspapers – this is either an example of an editorial efficiency drive (one headline for two papers) or a bit of a cock-up.

The Independent goes down the same avenue of give and take, with "2p or not 2p". Alongside it, the Mirror's "Reasons 2p cheerful" just looks a bit propagandist.

Times readers are invited to don some olde English speechifying (as Stephen Fry is wont to call it) with the "The Twopenny Budget". That's "tu'penny" to those too young to know the difference between a shilling a half crown.

But some moves are just too audacious to be passed off with a pun, and that's clearly the attitude of the Express. "TAX CUT: IT'S JUST A BIG CON". Boo. That's just not trying. Paper Monitor needs humouring. The same goes for the Telegraph's "Brown's tax cut trick".

Of course, when it comes to important matters of all things fiscal, there's only one paper to turn to: the FT. So does the pink paper have a pun, per chance?

Pah! "Tories rap 'con trick as Brown steps out on his road to No 10" is its "killer" headline. That almost qualifies for Paper Monitor's long-running strand headlines-that-are-so-comprehensive-there's-little-point-in-reading-the-story-itself.

But to do the FT justice, there is a bit of play going on here. You see, that line about Brown stepping out on his road to No 10 is under a picture of Brown, well, stepping out on the way past No 10 Downing Street.

And that has paved a pathway between two unemployed synapses in Paper Monitor's mind, sparking the thought: what is that funny door in Downing Street, between numbers 10 and 11 for? (See pic above - No 10 is on the far right and No 11 on the far left, and, no, that's not a subtle political observation).

Its 10-and-a-half-ness has something of the Being John Malkoviches about it. And somewhere down the line, the maintenance man at Downing Street clearly had the cowboy builders in since there's a dirty great iron fence running right in front of the door in question.

In wishing to harvest the collective knowledge of the interweb, Paper Monitor is making its "COMMENTS" button available to all. If you think you know what that door is for, send your answers using the button immediately below.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:04 UK time, Thursday, 22 March 2007

Yesterday we asked in Jeffrey Archer's The Gospel According to Judas, which event is presented as fact? Six percent of you wrongly said 30 pieces of silver; 7% said Judas's suicide; 5% said walking on water; 40% said all three; and 42% correctly said none of them. Today's mii-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

16:13 UK time, Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Wondering if we could have a counter of how many times a politician uses the term "his sums don't add up" in the next few days.
Dylan, Reading, UK

Re British accents going down well in the States. Having lived in London for eight years and now back in the US, I've enjoyed a series of insurance commercials here starring a talking lizard with an accent straight out of EastEnders. What I enjoy even more is hearing friends and acquaintances talk about how posh that little reptile sounds.
Kevin Jones, Dallas, TX

Re this lunar dust issue (Tuesday letters). Why exactly would an astronaut wish to leave the relative safety of their space suit to get a good lungful of lunar air?
Owen, Stevenage, Herts

It will be difficult because they are so cute, but I shall refrain from feeding the robotic birds of prey.
Judy Cabbages, Peebles, Scotland

Dianne wants chocolate from her computer; Ken Donald's suggestion of repeatedly shouting "I want chocolate" into the USB ports does work (Tuesday letters). I've tried it and a bar of chocolate appeared - admittedly it manifested itself on my colleague's desk from where I had to retrieve it, but...
Vanessa, Dorset

Warning: DMQ spoiler
Since Jeffery Archer says that three incidents in the Bible aren't true, isn't that the strongest possible proof that they are true?
John Whapshott, Chippenham, England

With regards today's mini-quiz, how could anyone select "All of the above", when one of the answers above is "None of the above", clearly contradicting themselves? Perhaps they misread it as "All of the first three options". Does this qualify me as a bona fide Magazine Monitor pedant?
Ed, Clacton, UK

Re size comparisons - this flash programme on the New Scientist website has some cool ones, for example the Earth is 100 million times larger that a football. Should keep everyone entertained.
Karl, Peel, Isle of Man

Punorama Results

15:03 UK time, Wednesday, 21 March 2007



It's Punorama results time again.

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

This week, it was the reported tale that the Duke of Edinburgh was less than impressed with one of his royal duties this week - unveiling a road sign.

The "Welcome to Windsor" sign is one of six put up around the historic town to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Rotary Club, of which he is a senior honourary member.

Prince Philip unveiled the sign without reportedly saying a word and promptly returned to his chauffeur-driven car.

If popularity is any sign of quality then By Royal Disappointment wins hands down. It was sent in by Scarey, Niall Nugent and Rory.

Other honourable mentions go to Michael Sargent for Highway Snobbery, Keith for the The Prince and The Poor P.A. , Simon Rooke for Twinned? Piqued, Chris and Anja in Le Blanc, France for The Incredible Sulk and Nigel Macarthur for The Frowns of Silence.

But gold star goes to both Giles and Stuart for Oh, the grand old duke won't talk. Bravo.

Paper Monitor

12:54 UK time, Wednesday, 21 March 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Gosh, what a huge conundrum for large swathes of the UK press. What to do when someone you bash almost daily goes across the pond to the United States, where people actually seem to like them?

Heather Mills - the McCartney has been dropped - is the person in question.

Not a darling of the media over here, she is taking part in the US version of Strictly Come Dancing - Dancing With The Stars. The British press have been willing her to literally fall flat on her face but - shock, horror - she got a standing ovation after her first appearance on the show. Apparently her foxtrot was a triumph and included near full splits.

The Daily Mail is forced to acknowledge her performance, with the headline "HIGH-KICKING HEATHER". But it manages to get a small dig into the last paragraph by mentioning she was the subject of some "waspish" remarks on the message board on the show's official website.

The Daily Mirror rather begrudgingly admits she put in a "gutsy" performance, but quickly adds that her appearance sparked "a storm of protest" on the message board. The Daily Telegraph calls her reception "mixed". But the Sun sticks to its guns with the headline "GET LOST MUCCA". Apparently fans told her to "Foxtrot Oscar" in their messages.

Now for the other big story of the day. Well, for one paper. You've got to hand it to the Independent, it doesn't let things like news and readers get in the way of a boring story. Take this morning's front page - "50 REASONS TO LOVE THE EU". It's certainly an exclusive you won't find it in any other paper.

Not only does it list the reason on the front page - including the introduction of pet passports and making the French eat British beef again - the reader is also treated to two full pages of explanation inside.

The Independent has always prided itself on setting its own agenda when it comes to news and, yes, the front page in question did make Paper Monitor stop and read it, but that is Paper Monitor's job. As for the rest of the newspaper-buying population, it's not predicted to be a day of circulation-busting sales.

Daily Mini-Quiz

11:15 UK time, Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked what had been include in this year's shopping basket of goods to measure inflation, issued annually by the Office of National Statistics. The answer was courgettes and 50% of you got it right. However, 27% wrongly opted for sunglasses and 23% for outdoor pot plants. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

17:55 UK time, Tuesday, 20 March 2007

If we create genetically superior mosquitos, as your story reports won't we be inundated with these "super" mozzies? I find it frustrating that the article makes no mention of the concern of introducing "new" animals to the wild. There's plenty of lessons in history to show this as sometimes a bad idea.
Steve L, Kingson, ON, Canada

Re the film about Margaret Thatcher, presumably when the speaker, Iain Dale, says "It was the closest she came to nearly being toppled", he is distinguishing 'nearly being toppled' from 'being toppled'? So really what he's saying is that it was one of the times on which she was nearly toppled, as opposed to the time on which she was toppled, and of those times this was the closest time apart from the time on which she was toppled? Well I'm glad he cleared that up.
K, Edinburgh

It's all very well if mathematicians have solved a 248-dimension puzzle, but can they explain how Tara Palmer-Tomkinson won Fame Academy and Scooch were chosen for Eurovision? To me, those are the real mysteries of the Universe.
Rory, Sutton Coldfield UK

In Friday's letters, James from Stirling wondered if the Flake Girl's resurrection ought to be celebrated. Easter seems like a good time to celebrate resurrections with chocolate.
PJ, West Yorks,

Re Colin Main's observation that his local supermarket has started stocking Christmas decorations, the copy of the TV listings magazine that came with Saturdays Telegraph newspaper had, on the inside front cover, an advert for a rather naff christmas tree.
Kevin, Douglas, Isle of Man

Re the DMQ's answer that the average Brit can only cook four dishes. What rubbish. I personally can microwave hundreds of different meals and I do damn good toast as well.
Mary, Suffolk, UK

Dianne Seal asks how to retrieve the promised chocolate from her computer. It's the USB ports, Dianne. They are voice activated so you need to put your mouth close to the PC and say, "Give me chocolate" in a loud, clear voice. Be persistent - it may take up to 15 minutes to work. Hope this helps.
Ken Donald, Chelmsford

Dianne, in order to get the chocolate you have to press the left hand "ctrl" key 267 times with your right index finger whilst humming the pink panther theme and drinking a glass of water.
Martin, Stevenage, UK

Paper Monitor

11:20 UK time, Tuesday, 20 March 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor is the first to admit that people in the media sometimes lose sight of what people outside the media want to read about. A case in point is the US fraud trial of media tycoon, and former Daily Telegraph proprietor, Conrad Black - or Lord Black of Crossharbour, to give him his full title.

It's causing a frenzy of excitement in media land. For editors the story's got almost everything - money, power, alleged corruption, beautiful women - all set against a newspaper backdrop. The only big ingredient missing is sex, but there's always time...

As a mouthpiece of the media itself, Paper Monitor has an interest to declare. But in devoting today's instalment to coverage of Lord Black's trial, it wishes to restate its professional objectivity. Paper Monitor is selflessly fighting for the rights of its readers. It's not interested in the trial at all. Saying that, things are already getting bitchy so let's all huddle round an imaginary water cooler together and have a gossip.

The Times reports that Lord Black's wife Barbara Amiel allegedly called a Canadian journalist a "slut" in a lift. The paper referred to the reported outburst as a "tantrum" - a word that conjures up images of foot stamping and screaming. Probably one it carefully chose.

The Express says she "yelled" the insult in a "courthouse scrap", the Independent refers to her as lashing out, while the Daily Mail says she lost "her cool and screamed". Most "unladylike" it concludes. Only the Guardian plays it straight, with no mention of the incident at all. Yawn.

But the big question - again probably only in media circles - was how the Telegraph would deal with the story about its former owner. Splash it across the front page with a massive picture, that's how. Again it's Lord Black's wife who makes the headlines and she is reported to have "shattered the calm" of the trial. At least no one can accuse the paper of burying the story.

Daily Mini-Quiz

11:08 UK time, Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Yesterday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked, on average, how many dishes can the average British person cook. The answer – a paltry four. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

15:18 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2007

In the article Lunar dust 'may harm astronauts', a scientist says "Once you are down to the size of a square table's worth of surface area in your lungs that is useable, you are just about dead". Can anyone tell me how many square tables there are in something I know the size of, like Wales or Cambridge ?
Paul Greggor, London, UK

Carol from Portugal (Friday's letters) complains that Magazine Monitor shouldn't talk about television as "lots of people choose" not to have them. I don't have a TV either. For some reason, many people assume that if you don't own a TV you are some kind of miserable humbug. I wonder why? Since neither Carol or myself are paying for TV licences, I don't think either of our opinions about what the BBC should or shouldn't do on the website really matters. So you probably shouldn't publish this letter.
Michael, Portsmouth, UK

I'm on this page because I saw something that said 'Want some chocolate? Here's some to share'. So where is it? I'm new to computers so is there I button I should be pressing to get at the chocolate?
Dianne Seale, Truro, England

My mum's local supermarket has just started stocking Christmas decorations. Is this a record?
Colin Main, Berkhamsted, UK

According to Metro, the China to Tibet railway was at one time under threat of closing due to yaks on the line. How long until British train companies use the same excuse?
Jamie, Edinburgh

Is Monitor working on commission for the OED? I tried to look up the suggested article (Friday's letters) regarding Mother's Day and I was asked to subscribe before I could read it.
Mike Thomas, West Kirby, England
Monitor note: Monitor is not in the pay of the OED, but apologises for forgetting that the august journal is a subscription service.

Paper Monitor

11:22 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Boy, the Independent on Sunday really knows how to turn on its readers with a themed issue. Yesterday's IoS proudly carried the tag on its front page, "The mental health issue". Hmm, Paper Monitor wonders whether this might help explain why, when all the other newspaper bins were empty at the petrol station at 5pm, the IoS bin overfloweth with unsold copies.

And that's before you get to fact it splashed with an apology about its long-running legalise cannabis campaign, which went along the lines of: "We got it wrong… cannabis is actually very dangerous indeed… disregard all those stories we wrote about it being harmless… sorry."
On to Monday, and the s-word is precisely what the Sun manages to extract from fallen idol Freddie "Off His Fred" Flintoff, whose name has been stripped of all pun potential (see pic for a taste of how things used to be) in a sign of how seriously Fleet Street judge his recent drunken antics. Today, in chronicling the former England captain's taste for "boozy benders", the Sun goes for a more sober "Off his head" take.

Clearly, this time Freddie, you just haven't urn-ed it.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:01 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2007

Friday's mini-quiz asked you who tried and failed to load a stapler on Comic Relief Does The Apprentice. Just under 50% of you guessed correctly that it was former Mirror editor Piers Morgan. Almost 44% of you opted for Alastair Campbell, who had asked Morgan for help.

For today's mini-quiz click here.

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