BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for July 15, 2007 - July 21, 2007

10 things we didn't know last week

16:42 UK time, Friday, 20 July 2007

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

1. Enoch Powell studied Urdu at university.

2. School children in England and Wales have the shortest summer holidays in Europe.
More details

3. People in residential care homes can only keep £20 per week. The rest has to cover their accommodation costs.
More details

4. Some cars on the market can park themselves, or keep to their lane on the motorway.
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5. One-third of front gardens are paved over in some regions.
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6. The first virus for personal computers was called Elk Cloner, and was created and distributed on an Apple II computer in 1982.
More details

7. Just 11% of the night sky over the UK is totally dark now.

8. There are "fattening rooms" in Nigeria where the wealthy go to stack on the pounds, as being fat remains a symbol of status and power.
More details

9. Seven-year-olds have proms.
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10. There are 500 billion billion possible draughts positions. But that's fewer than there are in chess.
More details

(Sources, where items not linked: 1. University Challenge, 16 July. 7. Observer, 15 July.)

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Alan Chesterman for this week's picture of 10 ice creams, and to Simon Robinson, Birmingham.

Your Letters

15:23 UK time, Friday, 20 July 2007

Seagull becomes crisp shoplifter? I was expecting a story about how a seagull tried to steal something and was inadvertently somehow burnt to a crisp in a fire. What a letdown.
Beverly, MI, US

I'm not sure if it's a joke that I've missed, but don't you think it's a little over the top to cancel the caption comp? There's no prize and no cost to enter, so where's the issue? Isn't the letter column just as much a competition, in this case to get published? What do I win if you select this letter?
Rikki, UK

In the absence of a caption competition, perhaps we could have a "feature" where readers are invited to offer their "comments" on a selected picture (in a strictly non-competitive fashion, of course).

Nik Edwards

Why did Peter Enderberg sign his name Gardiner?

kaz, London

I wish those pagans casting spells for rain to wash away Homer would stop, if only for the weekend. Please!
trina, UK

"The BBC is packed to the gunwales with muesli munchers." What twaddle. If they did their research, they'd realise that the BBC is actually packed to the guns-the-size-of-Wales with porridge purchasers. Honestly.
Elle O'Neill, Windsor-on-Sea, Berkshire

Never mind all the current hype, in about two months time I am looking forward to 'Harry Potter and the deathly silence.'
Christian Cook, Epsom, UK

Torrential rain sweeps across UK. According to this article "Rain is falling at up to 18mm an hour". Wow! That is really slow!
Nik Edwards, Aylesbury, UK

Paper Monitor

12:32 UK time, Friday, 20 July 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor regularly teases the Independent about its poster front pages ("CRUELTY") but little did it expect to find itself cast in the role of sad-eyed dolphin or whale.

"IN DEFENCE OF THE BBC - BULLIED, BRUISED, COMPROMISED" trumpets the Indy. Cue cries of "well they would say that, wouldn't they" from those who believe the BBC is packed to the gunwales with muesli munchers.

Inside is a factbox of "reasons for the corporation to be proud". The Archers? Check. Kids' telly? Check. Ego-surfing time, any mention of yours truly? "BBC online was the pioneer of the news website... still a leader - if not the leader - in its field." So no hard feelings about the ribbing, then.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph's front page has a very Telegraph bent to the delights on offer within. There's a free golf tips DVD. More tips, this time on "helping women tackle the terror of the wine list". That's right captains of industry, give the little woman this handy cut-out-and-keep guide and never again fear when she for your well-educated taste buds next time she plumps for a rosé. And Rowan Pelling - being posh, articulate and a bit of a goer is very much a Telegraph poster girl - on stockings and suspenders. Very much Telegraph garments.

And in the Times there is a prime example of the copywriter's art being a triumph of hope over expectation. A full-page ad for a shiny new car exhorts potential customers to "BEAT THE HEAT".

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:38 UK time, Friday, 20 July 2007

In Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked which of the universities listed had the highest proportion of students from state schools. The answer was Liverpool (which 23% of you identified), but the most popular answer was Sheffield (25%). Today's DMQ is on the Magazine index.

Not the caption competition

17:25 UK time, Thursday, 19 July 2007


There is no caption comp this week.

As you may have read, all BBC competitions have been suspended. We hope it will return soon.

Your Letters

15:59 UK time, Thursday, 19 July 2007

Belinda from Northampton comments that the 59 people in Britain who are richer than Tom Hunter will be embarrassed (Wednesday's letters). Not a bit - the rich are shameless in their pursuit and retention of personal wealth.
I actually feel that for some it is an addiction like alcoholism and should be treated the same way.
Alan Watkins-Groves, Lincoln

Surely a missed oppurtunity for some mild self-depracating humour in your Paper Monitor column today.
No prizes for guessing which big story you and I are alluding to.
Bryan, London,England

So BBC the truth is out about the competitions. After I submitted 100 successful LBQ entries (have I ever mentioned that before?) I always wondered why I never got a keyring. So which one of the production team got my keyring then?
Kip, Norwich, UK

I've got a white Vauxhall Corsa. I certainly don't use it as a symbol of wealth, power, or status and it's done nothing for my sex life either.
Paul, Plymouth

Even if we accept that Cerne Giant is a site of special interest to Pagans (Wednesday's letters), and even if we accept that Paganism is a 'religion' we ought to have special consideration for, the fact remains that Homer appeared in a field next to the monument, and didn't interfere with the giant himself in any way. I wouldn't expect people to paint on Liverpool Cathedral, but I wouldn't mind if they put on an art exhibition next door...
Craig, Livingston, Scotland

To: MB, London
RE: The Cerne Giant
You're right - I wouldn't expect someone to paint Homer Simpson on Liverpool cathedral (Wednesday's letters), but I think I'd be OK if they decided to paint him on the building next to it, as is the case here.
Robert Phillips, Cardiff, UK

I'm MJ Simpson! (Monday's letters)
Mr Spartacus, Stockportuppet

Not to be pedantic, but did paper monitor mean "segway" (a motorised two wheeled mode of transport) or "segue" (a musical term meaning to move seamlessly without pause)? I think I prefer the image of PM sedately gliding between news stories on her upright scooter, bowl of porridge in hand and Telegraph tugged under her arm... Sorry, I drifted.
Nicky Stu, Highgate, London

Monitor Note: The Magazine has a long-held fondness for the much-maligned, motorised two-wheeler.

How to Say: Polish names

13:31 UK time, Thursday, 19 July 2007

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

One of the pronunciations we have been asked to research this week is the name of Australian rugby league player Ben Czislowski, who found an opponent's tooth buried in his head. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation also has a pronunciation unit , and we contact one another from time to time for advice. However, the time difference means that we often have to wait until the following morning for the definitive answer from Down Under, and if we cannot find any other evidence, we must make a suggestion until then. This was the case with Ben Czislowski.

He was born in Australia, but his surname indicates Polish origins. The Polish pronunciation of the name would be chiss-LOF-ski, but the usual anglicisation would be chiz-LOW-ski (OW as in now).

What we needed to find out was whether Ben himself uses a Polish or an anglicised pronunciation. Americans of Polish origin generally prefer to use the anglicised pronunciation, such as the directors of The Matrix, the Washowski brothers - pronounced wuh-SHOW-ski (ow as in now). Polish-Australians seem to be more variable, but we knew of one senior figure named Ziggy Switkowski who also prefers the anglicised pronunciation. With this in mind, we provisionally suggested the anglicised rather than the Polish pronunciation to our broadcasters when the story appeared in the BBC World Service, BBC Radio and News 24 on Tuesday.

Alas, on Wednesday morning, we heard back from ABC and discovered we had gone the wrong way. One of their sports reporters in Brisbane confirmed that Ben uses the Polish pronunciation after all, although apparently something quite different had been used for his father's name in the past. Also, by this time, one of ABC's senior journalists had indicated the correct pronunciation in an interview. We changed our advice immediately, and the right pronunciation was used by the time the story came up in Wednesday's One O'Clock news.

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

Paper Monitor

11:46 UK time, Thursday, 19 July 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Good to see the Daily Mail continues to maintain the moral standards to which the rest of Fleet Street can only vainly aspire.

It goes without saying that this paragon of family values would never – unlike a certain rival - stoop so low as to have scantily-clad women on page three merely for its readers’ titillation.

So it is with great virtue that Paper Monitor has absorbed the lessons of the Mail’s page three lead.

This is an intriguing pictorial chronology showing model Eva Herzigova in three states of undress. Firstly in THAT bra “the shape that stopped traffic” (1994), then looking “decidedly gaunt” in a skimpy dress (2003) and finally, to much relief all round, bouncing back, "tanned, toned and bikini-ready” (2007).

There are so many complexities at play here in three pictures and 200 words that only repeated readings can begin to master them.

But at the heart of it is such a positive story about body image that we are reminded again why the Mail continues to set the benchmark for journalistic endeavour.

But let’s give the others SOME credit. When it comes to headlines, it’s more of a level playing field.

And Segwaying neatly from one green metaphor to imagery of a similar tinge, may we consider the story of Britain’s oldest and biggest yew hedge and the Herculean task of trimming it.

Here's how the sub-editors fared. Punorama-lovers, watch and learn (how to and how not to do it):

Yewmongous (Mail)
Yew missed a bit (Daily Mirror)
It’s about time yew had a haircut (Express)
Old Big Hedge (Sun)
Hedge need a trim? (Metro)
Finished cutting that hedge yet? (Daily Telegraph)

We all know what THE big story was. More on the media's coverage of the BBC's woes can be found here.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:55 UK time, Thursday, 19 July 2007

In Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked where Sir Tom Hunter, who is giving away £1bn to charity, stands in the UK Rich List. The answer, as only 18% of you got right, is 60th. Do better in today's DMQ, which is on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

16:26 UK time, Wednesday, 18 July 2007

If Tom is 60th in the list I bet the 59 above him are a bit red-faced today!
Belinda Walker, Northampton

I think this idea of shortening names is totally unnecessary.
Peter Bradford, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Ynys Môn

After going to all that trouble in changing the Royal Family's name to something less German-sounding, wasn't it rather careless of Princess Elizabeth to marry a member of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg?
MJ Simpson, Leicester, UK

Re: "BBC to Suspend Phone Competitions" including interactive and online competitions. Are the Monitor's Punorama and Caption Competitions likely to be removed? Shame.
Laura, Oban

Kathy, London (Tuesday's letters) - actually, I heard that the Cerne Giant is a Victorian invention, but the point isn't how old it is, but the fact it's still an historical site of special interest, especially to pagans. Liverpool's cathedral is fairly new, but you wouldn't expect someone to paint Homer Simpson on that, would you?
MB, London

Here's a new game to play... Spot the number of times on the Monitor page that the summary of an article takes the form [one or more statements describing a current state of affairs], but [question regarding that/those statements]?
(e.g. The government has sent four Russian diplomats home, but what's the point?). I've spotted 4 on today's Monitor.
David Chalmers, Crewe

I was going to write to you to ask why you had used eggs to illustrate your story about the link between Vitamin C and colds, then I realised that perhaps I just need to eat more carrots.
Catherine O, Maidenhead, UK

Punorama Results

15:01 UK time, Wednesday, 18 July 2007


It's Punorama results time again.

We gave you a story in the news and you came up with a brilliant punning headline - or tried to.

This week was the tale of a 180ft drawing of Homer Simpson that's appeared on a Dorset hillside, next to the 17th Century fertility symbol Cerne Abbas. Unlike the symbol, Homer preserves his dignity with a pair of Y-fronts.

The drawing is to promote a movie about the cartoon family, out later this month. But it had angered pagans who say it's disrespectful.

How'd you do? We always knew it was going to be a good week if Homer Simpson was involved in some way.

To kick off there was Homer Phobic from Toffeeman and F Tippecks and Homerphobia from Nick McDonnell.

The inspired Doh-set was the offering from Muhammad Isa, Charles in the USA and Robin in Edinburgh.

Honourable mention to Tim Knott for Pagans Donut like it, Rebecca Plumb for Much a d'oh about nothing, Helene Parry for Idle worship and Katy for Pagans have no sense of Homer.

But we had a firm favourite this week, however it does leave us feeling slightly unclean. Homer-Erotic was sent in by Adam, Carrie and Paul Clare. Not sure whether to thank you or not.

Paper Monitor

12:41 UK time, Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Much as Paper Monitor loved gorging on the media buzz surrounding the Campbell Diaries, its more humble diet of the last few days has brought a different kind of pleasure.

But we should have known the former spin-doctor wouldn’t fade into the background so easily.

Fiona Millar, his partner, has told her story to the Times and - at a risk of indigestion - PM can nobly recount its key contents.

Billed on its front page as “Living with Alastair Campbell”, it reveals very little except, perhaps, that the couple had blazing rows about Iraq, Hutton and putting the bins out.

It’s no surprise Millar has chosen the Times – this is the paper which received many Downing Street exclusives from her partner.

What is a little surprising is that the full version of the story appears in Grazia, a weekly fashion magazine.

Just how New Labour it is, is not clear. But Millar will be keeping exalted company within its celebrity-obsessed pages. The Observer did a feature on Grazia recently and found Victoria Beckham its top cover star with 17 appearances, followed by Jennifer Aniston (13) and Kate Moss (12).

Any wounded pride Moss may feel at being outdone would surely be eased by a flick through today’s Daily Mirror, which curiously puts her face on three consecutive double pages.

Its front page is one the Independent would be proud of, making a visual point about the ageing effect of war on the UK’s young soldiers.

But only the Indy can do the one-word, eco-splashes like it does - “Derailed” aims to highlight the government’s troubled transport policy.

Remember Tony Blair? Used to run the country? No, not Campbell. Blair.

Only the Guardian, his former cheer leader, covers Blair’s last visit to Sedgefield before the by-election.

But it’s hardly a glorious farewell. Its reporter describes Newton Aycliffe’s shopping centre as a “tatty mess” and suggests that having the most famous MP can act against local interests.

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, you have been warned.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:20 UK time, Wednesday, 18 July 2007

In Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked what product did a copy of the Cerne Abbas Giant endorse in 2005? The answer, as only a quarter of you got right, was Lynx deodorant, not condoms. Try and do better in today's DMQ which is on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

15:55 UK time, Tuesday, 17 July 2007

My ambition was fulfilled yesterday when I was the first to answer the Daily Mini Quiz, but maybe I should do more work as I was the first today as well!
Annette, Cardiff

All this nonsense that no-one knows the ending of Harry Potter 7. If we leave aside JK, her editor, the publisher and typesetter, the multiple translators for the foreign language versions, etc., then I vote we ask Stephen Fry who's had to read it for the audiobook! (Or the techie who pressed the buttons...)
Laura HD, Mancunia, UK

People shouldn't complain about MJ Simpson getting two letters in one day - if someone sends more than one good letter then it should be published. And it's not like it's the first time it's happened...
Robin, Edinburgh

I'm M J Simpson, and so's my wife.

M J Simpson, Leicester

It's good to know that the long-beaked echidna is alive and well and living in Papua New Guinea - where one has been found and eaten by locals. Presumably you have shown a picture of a Siberian Tiger instead because it is more able to protect itself from peckish readers?
Mike, Newcastle upon Tyne

Re the article about Britain being car dependant; I travelled from Teesside to Norfolk recently, and had a bicycle with me on the return journey. This would have meant three changes by train, calling three rail operators about the bicycle, and would have cost around £73.
So I drove, and it cost around £33. How can people possibly be expected to not use the car and pay double to use inconvenient public transport? And don't get me started on London Underground prices, when one journey on the Madrid metro costs one euro!
Stella Alvarez, Teesside, UK

Re: Cadbury £1m fine - who gets the money and what is it spent on?
Scarey, Woking

Best Paper Monitor in ages. Nearly bought a paper on the strength of it.
John Thompson, Southport, UK

Re: imperceptible witticisms this side of the Atlantic. Wit here in my land is d-e-a-d, except maybe for The Simpsons. And NOBODY eats porridge during the summer. Thanks for the link to the Times though.
Curt Carpenter, Dallas, Texas

Re the new word Boris Johnson uses - does no-one at Paper Monitor (or the Guardian for that matter) speak French?
K, Edinburgh

Re "pictures of the German woman who was held an underground prisoner for years" Ooh! Think you'll find she's actually Austrian! What's next, an article on Kylie Minogue, New Zealand's most famous singer? Or how about an in-depth profile on our new prime minister's childhood in South London?
Alex Swanson, Milton Keynes, UK

Interesting to see the fuss pagans are making over this "Wish for rain to wash away Homer" when the evidence is that the Cerne Abbas giant isn't ancient at all and is in no way linked to fertility rights. It was a political skit of Oliver Cromwell I believe. According to a Dan Cruickshank show I saw years ago, the only really ancient chalk figure in the UK is the Uffington White Horse.
Kathy, London

Paper Monitor

10:53 UK time, Tuesday, 17 July 2007

It's a day for personality profiling by headline (ie can you guess the paper from the story on the front page).

RISE OF THE £250,000 GP (Clue: It's a mix of social climbing and social envy, with a touch of wasteful public services - yes it's the Daily Mail.)

Just another day in Iraq - 100 more fathers, mothers, sons and daughters killed (Clue: It's a mix of death, maladministration and finger-pointing - yes, it's the Indy.)

VALUE OF HOUSES IS GOING UP £50 A DAY (Clue: House price inflation is a good thing since its readers already have 1930s semis - yes it's the Diana Express)

WHO DARES IS BINNED (Clue: Oooh oooh oooh! A story about the SAS!!! Phwoar!!! yes it's the Sun)

Boris rides in to challenge Livingstone PLUS "Everything you need to know about champagne" - (Clue: You don't need a clue, it has to be the Telegraph.)

Incidentally on the subject of the author of some of the Magazine's best Quotes of the Day, why is it that only one of today's papers picks up on a word used in Boris Johnson's launch manifesto - "Almost every day I go for a run down the bemerded pavements of North London."

The Guardian alone does its homework, saying the word doesn't appear in the Oxford English Dictionary but "seems to originate from a translation of Rabelais ("My foule Nockandrow, all bemerded in shiting") and a play by occult writer Aleister Crowley". Boris, is that wise company to be keeping?

The Daily Mail veers into uncomfortable territory by giving half a page to pictures of the German woman who was held an underground prisoner for years but who is now finding her way in freedom. Freedom to do things like go to night clubs and dance with friends and even to be kissed on the cheek by a friend. Perhaps even a boyfriend. But of course the price of that freedom is that someone somewhere will be looking at pictures of the kiss while they're bored on their commute.

timesfacebook.pngPaper Monitor wonders if Mr Murdoch (currently negotiating to buy the Wall Street Journal) would be happy with the Times advertising Facebook on the front page. It's only a few weeks since Mr Murdoch was asked if he thought newspapers had a future when young people were all going to MySpace, which he owns, to which he reportedly replied. "I wish they were... They're all going to Facebook at the moment."

How will the big man take the Times's plug? And will he be joining Paper Monitor's unofficial Facebook group?

Most worrying of all though is another Times story which goes thus: "Breakfast is back, with a calorific vengeance. After the fads of microwaveable porridge or the skinny latte from Starbucks with a low fat muffin, now is the era of the on-the-hop drive-thru, free-range Egg and Sausage McMuffin... with cheese."

Let's get a few things straight. Porridge is never a fad, even from a microwave, and its era is NOT OVER. This story relates only to McDonalds sale figures in the US. For those of us this side of the Atlantic (and for those of us who are that side of the Atlantic but like their imperceptible witticisms to come from this side of the Atlantic), it's breakfast as normal. Summer porridge anyone?

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:57 UK time, Tuesday, 17 July 2007

In Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked what is the name of the condition which enables Arctic swimmer Lewis Pugh to raise his body temperature. More than half of you boffins were correct in picking anticipatory thermogenesis. Try not to be as swotty in today's DMQ, which can be found on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

16:19 UK time, Monday, 16 July 2007

MM has revealed its identity! It has to be MJ Simpson after Friday's overload (Friday letters), surely!
Ed S, New York, USA

After Friday's letter selection... should you not rename "Your Letters" to "M J Simpson's Letters"?
Kit the Ex-Pat, Hungary

Re Metronet facing administration, I think I'll take bets on the headline 'PPP going down the Tube' appearing in any of tomorrow's papers. Anyone?
Susannah, Derby

Did anybody else buy the Daily Mail on Sunday for the free Prince Album? I did and after listening to it I now know why he is giving them away...
Helen, Wirral, UK

Blimey. This is a tongue-twister of a headline..
Graeme, Dundee, Scotland

So, "If you can identify this man you may be a gossip column reader" then (How the gossip column hijacked the news, Friday 13 July)? Or maybe you just know how to read the pop-up text when you move your mouse over the image...
Ross, Harlow, UK

Isn't it rather asking for trouble to have a photography competition with the theme 'Blue'? The entries are something of a let-down...
David Richerby, Athens, Greece

Paper Monitor

11:03 UK time, Monday, 16 July 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

You can say many things about the Daily Mail, but at least it doesn't respond to provocation from rivals like the Observer.

The business section of the Sunday paper accused the Mail of hypocrisy because it attacks the government's casino plans and at the same time runs a bingo website that does not make age restrictions clear or contain links to gambling addiction charities. Despite this onslaught, the Mail carries no retaliation today.

And strangely, Paper Monitor finds itself unable to log in to the Mail's bingo site this morning.

Over in the Daily Express there's a bit of a "bodysnatchers moment". In the sci-fi classic Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, families start to know something is wrong when their relatives start acting differently.

The Express must have been cloned by aliens. It's the only explanation for the extraordinary failure to feature a Diana conspiracy story on a Monday front page. What's more, there's no evidence of a Diana story on the inside pages. Eerie.

And finally, praise where it's due for the subs at the Times. The paper has a take on the discovery that the long-beaked echidna may not be extinct in Papua New Guinea, as a villager says he is sure he recently ate one.

Headline: "I didn't know creature was rare, says tribesman who liked it well done."

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:30 UK time, Monday, 16 July 2007

In Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked what was the model of phone with which Tony Blair sent his first text message. The answer, which only 24% of you got right, was a Red, not his daughter's pink Nokia (47%). Today's DMQ is on the Magazine index.

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