BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for June 17, 2007 - June 23, 2007

10 things we didn't know last week

16:29 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2007

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

1. The Amazon is the longest river in the world, not the Nile.
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2. The QE2 had the unglamorous name "Job number 736" while being built in a shipyard on the Clyde.
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3. Europe has a vodka belt comprising Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Denmark and Sweden, although the drink is also made in countries such as Britain, France, Italy and Spain.
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4. The average cash withdrawal from an ATM is £100.
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5. Bernard Manning worked as an armed guard watching over senior Nazis locked up in Berlin’s Spandau prison, when aged 16 after the war.
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6. Sugar from fruit could be converted into a low-carbon fuel for cars, with far more energy than ethanol.
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7. EastEnders actress Susan Tully, who played Michelle Fowler, was in the Islington restaurant Granita when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown famously discussed the future Labour leadership contest, on 31 May 1994.

8. There are 1,200 people employed at Glastonbury just to pick up and sort the rubbish.
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9. There were 6.3 million 999 calls made in the last year, which is almost double the number of calls received 10 years ago.
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10. A white tie given to Gordon Brown as a gift from the Daily Telegraph to wear for his Mansion House speech ended up in a charity shop in Notting Hill.
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Sources: 7: Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain, BBC Two, 19 June; 10: Times, 20 June.

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Maria Verivaki for this week's picture of 10 cherries on a branch, cut from a tree in the village of Gerakari, Hania, Crete.

Your Letters

15:57 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2007

A bumper crop to make up for yesterday's non-appearance.

"An hour's 'lights-out' in the capital could save enough power to run 3,000 televisions." Doesn't that defeat the object? "Oh, I'm glad we turned the lights off for an hour, Big Brother's about to start!"
Andy, London

Can people please stop emailing this story (Woman jailed for testicle attack)?
Yours with legs wincingly crossed,
Jack Hatfield, Brighton

Re today's DMQ - I hate to be a pedant but Lewis Hamilton did veer off-track briefly in the Australian Grand Prix in March...

Re the Bank of England's billion pounds-worth of £5 notes that the banks don't want to take, I'd be happy to offer Mervyn King the use of some storage space that I've got available in my wallet.
Bob Peters, Leeds, UK

I'm amazed that anywhere described as a village - as is the village of Alfred in NY state, where the obituary writers had their conference - should have one, let alone TWO universities. Is it massive or are the universities really small? In my Somerset village we think we're ahead of the game with our IT for the Terrified Centre.
Lucky Librarian, Somerset

Is Paper Monitor still on porridge? It's muesli for the summer, don't you know?
Basil Long, Newark Notts

I don't think FT buyers will be put off buying the paper at £1.30 a pop. Look at the mountains of Daily Mails and Suns sold on the Spanish Costas at two or three euros a time. Doesn't seem to put off the tabloid readership...
Ken, Hornchurch, Essex

At my office we have a selection of trash mags (that' the gossip type to those who may use a different term) of varying antiqueness, the oldest being May 2006. Having flicked before noticing this, I realised the mags could just reprint themselves each issue as the articles relate to people whose only claim to fame is themselves. With no connection to any single real world event, it makes absolutely no difference which mag I read, and in which order. The proof, of course, is our selection which no-one seems to have noticed is now a year old.
Nich Hill, Portsmouth

I don't want to kiss you anyway, Maisy in Milton Keynes (Wednesday letters), who complained that smokers taste yuck.
Hat, South Yorks

I noticed that a lake in Chile has disappeared, not to mention another terror suspect in Britain. It set me to wondering if things in general were disappearing more (I have a lot of free time) so I did a search on "disappear" on your site. And you know what? Everything's disappearing. Forests, strange signs, cygnets, even Staffordshire to disappear - and those were just a few from the past month or so. What's going on? Are things slipping, Torchwood-style, through a rip in the fabric of time? I'm worried. If you don't hear from me again it's because I've...
Sar, Somerset

Yay! Does number 1 mean I won? Does it? Does it?? It does, doesn't it?? Say it does!!
Sue Lee (Son of Stig), Twickenham

I see the Punorama results were delayed: punning late, were we?
Nick Jones, Dorking

Err... where have all the letters gone on Thursday? Am I the only person that has not gone to Glastonbury?
Nikki, Eastbourne

Caption competition results

13:40 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2007

Here are the winning entries in the caption competition.

This week, racegoers at Royal Ascot chat before laying their bets on the gee-gees. But what's being said?

6. Peter Forrester
"No wonder we didn't get into the Royal Enclosure, Henry. Just look at that tie!"

5. Michael Brown
"What a daft question, I don't think anyone is going to be looking at your bum!"

4. Helene Parry
"When you look at it sideways, it reads '2012'."

3. Gareth Jones, Isle of Anglesey
"The Royal Box wants its draught excluder back."

2. Diane Babbington
So how's the colonic irrigation going?

1. Sue Lee

Thanks to all who entered.

Paper Monitor

11:56 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

After splashing out yesterday's Financial Times - now a whopping £1.30 - Paper Monitor is feeling a little light in the pocket today. And down in the mouth too - not only have we passed the longest day, but our good friend and colleague Punorama has swanned off to wallow in the mud at Glastonbury.

But no-one likes a moaner, so it's time to buck up. What nuggets might bring a smile to Paper Monitor's face?

The Times reports that the nights aren't in fact drawing in - yet. "As the Sun reaches its northern limit, above the Tropic of Cancer, it teeters a bit before turning round."

The paper follows this up by printing a picture of George Clooney in his swimming trunks. He looks very fetching, for those who like that sort of thing, and for those who don't, the accompanying article paints him as a Nimby. Something for everyone.

Not so in T2. Continuing its push to appeal only to parents who live in leafy suburbs and follow a variety of religions in order to get little Tarquin and Arabella into the best schools, today's lead feature is headlined: "WHY FOUR CHILDREN IS THE NEW STATUS SYMBOL".

To further induce choking on a chocolate pastry (calorie offsetting its healthy breakfast of porridge topped with strawberries), the piece quotes one mother as saying: "For women, it reinforces just how super they really are: four children, a size 10 and still got balls in the boardroom."

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has what surely must the headline it's been waiting a decade to write: "CHERIE, THE LAPDANCING BOSS IN THE PINK SUIT, AND HER VISIIT TO HIS 'EROTIC NIGHTCLUB'." How the subs must have salivated when handed that picture...

And, still not beaming quite broadly enough, we turn to the Daily Telegraph. What a bonanza. Not only is it Paper Monitor's one true love (if only it knew), page three has a story about words (our second one true love). And not just any words, but the "10 most irksome words spawned by the internet", a list which includes blogoshere.

Ah, treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen. Paper Monitor is undone.

Not the Daily Mini-Quiz

11:13 UK time, Friday, 22 June 2007

Yesterday was the longest day, and from now the nights are starting to draw in. So we asked does this fill you with a sunny demeanor or make you just a tad sad. What a cheery bunch - 56% said "brightens my spirits" and 36% said "it darkens the soul". The fraction that remains said "eh... longest day? I live in the southern hemisphere". Today's mini-question is on the Magazine homepage today.

Punorama results

13:18 UK time, Thursday, 21 June 2007


It's time - belatedly - for the winning entries in Punorama.

This week it's the story of some rampant rabbits. The hungry little beggers destroyed a £400 flower display on a Gloucester roundabout, just two days after council gardeners had worked for a whole day planting it. Originally a blaze of colour, all that's left are a few green stalks.

It's a three-way tie as to what's the most popular entry, with Warren terror sent in by Bryn Roberts, Nick Jones, Nick McDonnell and Helene Parry, and Douglas Lee, Katy W, Tim Knott, Brian Gunn and Muhammad Isa contributing The Tragic Roundabout.

Also a popular is Eater Bunny, or Eater Rabbit, from Craig Wall, Robin Hughes and Helene Parry (again).

Then there are the many variations taking inspiration from everyone's favouorite blue-jacketed bunny - such as The Tale of Eater Rabbit by Catriona Smith, Sian and Polly S, among others.

Candace took two other rabbit-related literary classics as inspiration, with Border strip down and I ate, I ate, and the council's most irate (she also provided I ate, I ate, at a very impressive rate).

Other contributions from our regulars include Rob Falconer's Rabbit-Tooth Offence, Simon Rooke's Full Petal Rabbit, Kip's Warren Eaty, Nick Jones's Hare-razing and Gareth Jones's Lapin it up.

And nicely done to Peter Forrester, who sent in Garden of eaten. Thanks to all who entered and sorry for the delay. Wrists have been roundly slapped with a wet bus ticket.

Paper Monitor

10:43 UK time, Thursday, 21 June 2007

A service highlighting the RICHES of the daily press.
At times such as this, when financial stories push their way from the business pages to the front pages, Paper Monitor feels the reassurance of reaching for its copy of the Financial Times. But since the pink 'un hiked its cover price by a whopping 30% at the start of the week, to a pocket hole-burning £1.30, seeking its sagely advice on matters such as the pros and cons of private equity is not an option to be resorted to lightly.

Yesterday, one of Britain's richest men, Sir Ronald Cohen, remarked on Radio 4 that the growing wealth gap could spark riots on the streets of London. Has the FT considered its role in provoking such anticipated civil disorder? It's now almost double the price of the other most expensive quality newspapers. Agreed, it's never been the default morning purchase of your average street cleaner or manual labourer, but with this latest price hike it has clearly elevated itself into the rarefied realms of the Jet Set (if the name of its glossy supplement, How to Spend It, hadn't already made that clear enough).

It rather spoils the spirit of optimism stoked by the FT on its relaunch some weeks ago, when it resurrected its original slogan "Without fear, without favour". Make that "…without favour, except for those who can't pay off their mortgage with a lump sum from their annual bonus".

If rioting is, indeed, the result of this growing wealth chasm you could do worse than bet that leading the charge will be a constituency of angry, disillusioned middle managers and hard-pressed captains of small to medium-sized enterprises who can no longer afford their daily FT-fix and, instead, must to make do with the financial pages of Metro.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:55 UK time, Thursday, 21 June 2007

Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked how many weeks of full houses the new Lord of the Rings musical must secure to cover its costs. The answer – which a respectable 74% of you got right – is 40 weeks. Today's Daily Mini-Quiz is not a Daily Mini-Quiz at all.

Your Letters

16:33 UK time, Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Does the Vatican's paper on safe driving make any reference to standing up in the back of a moving vehicle without wearing a seatbelt?
Lee, Horsham

Re Flatten or save - if they do demolish Brunel roundabout in Slough, just what do they plan to replace it with? To prevent people just crashing into the side of the Ricky Gervais Exhibition Centre (or some such), there's going to have to be a roundabout - so isn't this just a renaming?
Aine, London

I was just wondering if any one else was disappointed when reading Volunteers sought for Mars test that it wasn't anything to do with chocolate?
Kate, Oxford, UK

When I saw Volunteers sought for Mars test, I was thinking my chocolately-dreams had come true! Darn you, BBC.
Ben Hill, Cardiff, Wales
Monitor note: That's be a "yes" then, Kate.

Now that absolutely ANYTHING can be classified as art, would anyone care to open bidding on a soon-to-be-released video of me parking my car *on my lawn*? I have spent 12 years studying art at a very prestigious university, if it helps...
Colin Main, Berkhamsted, UK

Why is it that just like "travellers" - as in globetrotting tourists - think that their trips mark them out somehow special and more interesting, smokers think the same thing about their own habit? Whereas in truth, the former are no more than glorified tourists, and the latter taste yuck when you kiss them.
Maisy, Milton Keynes

Paper Monitor

10:42 UK time, Wednesday, 20 June 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

When news filtered through that the Lord of the Rings musical was to be the most expensive production ever to grace the West End, the sound of theatre critics sharpening their fangs could be heard all the way from Soho to Middle Earth.

There's nothing a sharp-tongued reviewer likes more than a £12.5m quarry.

As with other big "events" of Theatreland's past, like Equus (Daniel Radcliffe naked), The Graduate (Jerry Hall or Kathleen Turner naked) and The Blue Room (Nicole Kidman naked), this is the time when a critic knows he or she can nail page three (even if naked orcs don't merit it, the price tag does).

It is unlikely the phrase "theatrical Viagra" would have stuck in the memory if it had been hidden in the arts supplement midway down page 36.

So, with the scent of immortality (and tasty hobbits) in their nostrils, how did the critics respond?

Sure enough, "HOBBITS DIE A SLOW DEATH" says the Daily Telegraph, which notes "the language is flat, portentous or twee, and there is barely a moment that makes you gasp".

Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail derides the cheesiness of it all - "MIDDLE EARTH WITH MORE CORN THAN KANSAS". He says that with all the cod accents, "no wonder the North Sea is empty". Errr, what was that about cheese, Quentin?

But there are voices of content, such as the Times - "THE RINGS REGAIN THEIR WONDER" - which applauds "a fantastical environment that draws you in and grips you from beginning to end". And the Guardian is similarly satisfied.

It all leaves Paper Monitor very confused as it digests the write-ups and weighs up whether to book a seat.

Perhaps the Telegraph, as always, gives the best steer - "My 14-year-old son hated it even more than I did, tittering at the inanities of the script."

If a young teen hates it - the demographic most likely to be a Tolkien purist - then maybe us mere mortals will quite enjoy the spectacle.

Daily Mini-Quiz

08:32 UK time, Wednesday, 20 June 2007

In Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked who failed to show at the book launch of uber-socialite Tina Brown. The answer, as a whopping 57% of you got right, was Tony Blair. Try not to do so well in today's DMQ, which can be found on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

15:46 UK time, Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Re your story about a steam train and a coach colliding in Dorset says that the passengers included "a party of 20 people, with the driver and foreman in the engine room". Does anyone have any idea what this could possibly mean? Can anyone guess what the reporter was actually told before it got so mangled?
Dick Hobbs, Punnetts Town, UK

To Trev, York, who questions the use of the word "nearby" in Friday's letters. You need to understand that the world of a BBC journalist (and most Londoners) consists of two places: "London" and "Outside London". As both Glastonbury and Stonehenge are in "Outside London", they must naturally be close together. This leads us to the American principle of "London" and "near London". Under this principle, every place in the UK can be considered to be "near London", ie "we stayed in a lovely hotel in Glasgow, near London". "Near" can therefore be assumed to refer to UK-wide distances of up to 1000 miles.
Dave, Cardiff

Re Mike Henry's letter, I still don't know what a chartered colourist does.
Duncan, Hove

John Storm asks why Mr Imbardelli was sacked when he was "obviously doing very good job". Shipman and Crippen aside I think I'd still like my doctor to have a least some qualifications.
James, Edinburgh, UK

Re Richard Plaskett's letter about Justyn Taylor's comment, "This is probably a perfect demonstration of the power of emotion in memory" - is that just a polite way of saying he made it up?
Matt, Seville, Spain

I was going to propose a new flexicographical term for the QE2, namely "floatel", so as to distinguish it from a cruise ship, but it appears that word's already in use - in Northwich and on the River Kwai. Back to the drawing board.
Nick Jones, Dorking

Paper Monitor

12:06 UK time, Tuesday, 19 June 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
Has Paper Monitor been shirking on its duties, or is the Daily Express's "crusade for the truth" about Diana a new development? No matter. The Express, which for a while seemed to have cooled on its Diana campaign, has ramped it up with a branded box on the front page, which appears again on page five. Crucially, the word "Diana" is written in a reverentially swirly font… or is it typeface… or type family?

Given its contempt for all things politically correct, it's surprising that the Express doesn't give more prominence to the death of Bernard Manning, the first mention of whom is relegated to page 10.

No such reticence in the Mail, which gives the late comedian a front page spot and recites some of his risqué jokes on the inside pages. But how does the Mail handle this Salman Rushdie story… beyond just picturing him alongside his easy-on-the-eye wife, Padma Lakshmi?

While the fallout in Pakistan and among many prominent British Muslims over Rushdie's knighthood is guaranteed to rile champions of free speech, Rushdie's appetite for glitz and glamour has disappointed some at the more fusty end of the literary spectrum. Cue an opinion piece by a fellow author. "I would die in a ditch to defend Rushdie's right to offend. I just wish the self-pitying darling of the literati would show some gratitude."

There's an easier ride for Rushdie in the sort of papers your average literatus would be happy to be seen with. The real test for the Guardian and Independent is what they make of Manning.

The Indy resurrects a 17-year-old interview with the comedian conducted by the then little-known arts journalist Mark Lawson. Guardian readers, meanwhile, need to turn to the obituary pages for their paper's view of the man. And characteristically it lays much of the blame for his reputation at the door of society itself. Dismissed as "fat" and "ugly" by the politically correct crowd, these crass insults said more about the level of debate than the man, who, the obit points out, was a member of a "minority group – the socially deprived northerner".

Are the literati feeling a tad guilty?

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:06 UK time, Tuesday, 19 June 2007

In Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked where Birmingham was ranked on a list of the most expensive cities in the world. The answer, as 32% of you correcly identified, is 41st. London was second. Today's DMQ is on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

17:39 UK time, Monday, 18 June 2007

I'm really enjoying the use of the website to enliven and enrich the Andrew Marr post-war history series - it's a fabulous use of the multi-media platform offered by the web. I would like to point out that the coverage of the 1980's "new" Cold War includes a user posted comment from Justyn Taylor in Wales where he talks about receiving the "Protect and Survive" leaflets and the effect it had on him. This is probably a perfect demonstration of the power of emotion in memory. Whilst the contents of the "Protect and Survive" leaflets and TV programmes were well covered by everyone from Panorama to Frankie goes to Hollywood at the time, the leaflets themselves were never circulated nor the programmes shown. The numerous Cold war histories and works by regular BBC contributor Peter Hennessey make this clear, so I'd be grateful if you would amend or delete his comment as it distorts the facts, but not the emotion, of the time.
Richard Plaskett, UK

Re Esh's letter on Friday,the most common colour vision deficiency is red-green. It sounds as if she, like me, suffers from this type. This is the form which is common among men, as it is caused by a genetic defect located on the X chromosome, of which women have two, but men have only one. Therefore, if a man has a defective X chromosome, which he will have inherited from his mother, he will definitely suffer from colour vision deficiency, while a woman has to have both her X chromosomes defective to suffer the deficiency. For this to happen, her father will have to have been colour blind, but not necessarily her mother, who may have carried only one defective chromosome. There are other, less common forms of colour vision deficiency which are caused by genetic defects on other chromosomes and whose prevalence is unrelated to the sex of the sufferer.
Chris Tothill, Bristol, UK

As the report saying that the BBC must be more impartial was commissioned by the BBC, it's hardly likely to be impartial, is it? Would a genuinely impartial report recommend that the BBC become more impartial?
John Whapshott, Westbury, Wiltshire, England

How on earth can the BBC become "more impartial"? Isn't this a bit like becoming more pregnant? The BBC can only ever strive to be impartial but given that it is staffed by people rather than machines impartiality is an impossible goal.
John Airey, Peterborough, UK

Re your CV fibbers' amnesty, I'd like to point out, that Mr Imbardelli, who was sacked by Intercontinental Hotels, was obviously doing a very good job, so much so that he was being promoted. That being the case, surely his lack of formal qualifications, only highlights the irrelevance of such qualifications. Some people just know how good they are, and get on with it. Shipman and Crippen had qualifications, does that inspire yiou with confidence?
John Storm, London, England

Paper Monitor does Lewis Hamilton a great disservice by suggesting that the press' adulation of him is because he won the US Grand Prix. I think you'll find it's more to do with him leading the World Championship by ten clear points after only seven (of 17) races in his first ever Formula 1 season. At the age of 22.
MJ Simpson, Leicester, UK

Re QE2 set to become floating hotel - am I missing something? As a cruise ship I thought that the QE2 would float and act as a hotel already. Of course, never having been on a cruise myself I suppose I could have misunderstood the concept of "cruise ship".
Sarah, Rushden

Paper Monitor

11:33 UK time, Monday, 18 June 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

We start with an extract from a conversation Paper Monitor had this morning with Joe Public.

PM: "Don't it make you proud?"

JP: "Eh?"

PM: "Britain's sporting triumph - don't you feel imbued, suffused and generally smothered in national self-esteem."

JP: "Eh?"

PM: "Haven't you seen today's back pages… 'Rule Britannia' (Daily Mail); 'Golden Boys' (Daily Telegraph); '…a golden day for Britain' (Times); 'Britain's Hot Talent' (Daily Mirror); "Britain's got TALENT!" (Sun)?"

JP: "Eh?"

Only a few weeks ago, England* was undergoing one of its all too familiar sporting crises of confidence, having flunked out of the Cricket World Cup, flailed around in the Euro qualifiers and lost in rugby to the South Africans. Even Wimbledon looks to be over before it's even started from a heroic Brit standpoint, with Tim Henman crashing out of last weeks' Artois tournament in the first round and Andy Murray injured.

So what exactly is the cause for these celebratory headlines in today's press? The twin triumphs of Lewis Hamilton in the US Grand Prix and Real Madrid in the Spanish league... they're a team with a British bloke in their squad. All right, he might be David Beckham and there might be a delicious irony in the man who has been written off by all and sundry finally coming good, but he didn’t score in yesterday's deciding match and actually went off early, injured.
(The Sun augments this triumphant line-up with the face of Paul Potts - the mobile phone salesman who won the ITV show Britain's Got Talent. Although, as the title suggests, there was little chance of a crafty German, Spanish or Brazilian mobile phone salesman scooping this particular crown.)

Still, in the current climate, you've got to take your heroic sporting achievements wherever you can find them.

*Paper Monitor acknowledges that English sporting disappointments are not entirely consistent with British sporting disappointments, but there's a significant crossover.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:39 UK time, Monday, 18 June 2007

On Friday we asked which Brit ranks highest in second half of Forbes' top 100 celebrities - Daniel Radcliffe, Kate Moss or Kiera Knightley? It is Kiera, at 71, followed by Kate at 74 and Daniel at 79. Only 33% of you got it right. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine homepage now.

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