BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for September 2, 2007 - September 8, 2007

10 Things

18:00 UK time, Friday, 7 September 2007

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

1. Rock stars are twice as likely to die prematurely as the wider population.
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2. The collective noun for meerkats is a "mob".
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3. In Ethiopia it is almost the start of the year 2000 and the beginning of millennium celebrations.
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4. Bees can detect explosives.
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5. There are 287 franchised World Trade Centers around the world, including one in Hull.

6. Clarissa Dickson Wright became the country's youngest female barrister at 21, a record she still holds.

7. An RAF Tornado costs £40,000 an hour to fly.

8. Depression is a more disabling condition than angina, arthritis, asthma and diabetes.
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9. Sitting straight is bad for backs.
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10. A suspect in Portugal is called an arguido and has certain rights.
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Sources: 5 - Financial Times (7 Sept); 6 - BBC Radio Five Live; 7 - Times (7 Sept)

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Cary O'Malley for this week's picture of 10 dahlias.

Your Letters

16:46 UK time, Friday, 7 September 2007

I don't want to point out the obvious answer, but in "Rise in divers mystifies experts", it says the "RSPB said it was a mystery as to why red-throated divers had done so well. It's numbers have risen from 935 to 1,255 breeding pairs in 12 years. However, in Shetland the population has dropped from 700 pairs to 407." So, one population has gone up by about 300 pairs and the other one has gone down by 300? It's almost as if they could have just flown from one location to the other, isn't it?
Silas, London, UK

Regarding today's stat, is it possible that the religious people are just more honest? I've seen people collapse and far fewer than 97% of the bystanders helped.
Bas, London

Re Sara, Bristol, UK's "Anulled - beheaded - died - anulled - beheaded - survived": It may not have quite the same ring to it in its lengthier form, but it has the fantastic acronym "ABDABS". So let us be thankful for that.
Adam, Brussels, Belgiumland

A more accurate description of Henry VIII's wives would be annulled, annulled then beheaded, died, annulled and survived, annulled then beheaded, survived. Catherine Howard was beheaded for adultery after the annullment so she could not have been guilty, as legally she was never married to Henry.
Sam, London

Still unable to let go of the caption competition I think the caption for this week would have been: "Despite everything, the hamster was uninjured, although a little shaken". Did I win?
Derrick, Northants

Did anyone else read "Most people 'want Iraq pull-out'" and imagine to which august publication they were referring.
Paul Clare,

Martin of Bristol wrote recommending exams on motorways, believing that’s were most mistakes are made. However motorways are the safest roads in the UK, B road are the most dangerous.
JJ Huthwaite, London, UK.

Re "Daft burglar writes name on wall", so we can all write the names of people we don't like at crime scenes and get them arrested.
Keith, Loughborough

Random stat

12:16 UK time, Friday, 7 September 2007

Ninety-seven per cent of non-religious people would help if someone collapsed, compared to 91% of religious people, according to a poll commissioned by the BBC's new religious programme, the Big Questions. This figure was brought to you by the Monitor's beta feature, random stat of the day.

Paper Monitor

12:11 UK time, Friday, 7 September 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

What better proof of Pavarotti's ability to transcend opera 's elitist appeal than the fact that all grades of newspaper – red top (Sun), mid-market (Mail) and broadsheet (Telegraph) – are offering readers a free CD of the maestro.

Of course, all come with the big fella's trademark aria, Nessun Dorma… although only the Mail announces this on its front page.

Staying with the Mail, it's a marker of how serious things have got recently in the Madeleine McCann investigation that it has chosen to adopt the red, san-serif "MADELEINE" strapline so beloved of its rival, the Express.

Talking of which… rather like the observation that a stopped clock shows the correct time twice a day, if you splash with a story every day for several weeks, sooner or later the news agenda will catch up with you. So it is with today's Madeleine front page on the Express.

Aside from the aforementioned free CDs, there's a welter of promises about free DVDs this Saturday – indicating that with autumn settling in, the papers are gearing up for another spot of bruising rivalry. But what happened to wall-charts? It's been some months. Then again, new evidence reveals something of a backlash to the whole idea – witness burglar/graffiti "artist" Peter Addison's verdict on the Daily Mail's British Garden Birds wall-chart in the top photo on this story.

Finally, back to Pavarotti, or Pav, as the Sun is wont to call him… While the "qualities" roll out their resident opera critics to assess the big man's legacy, the Sun goes straight to the oracle on such matters - Paul Potts, winner of ITV's Britain's Got Talent.

So Paul, what's your take on the Maestro of Modena? "He was my idol, he brought opera to the masses… I couldn't replace him."

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:27 UK time, Friday, 7 September 2007

In Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked which of five "E numbers" was a food preservative. The answer was E211, which 33% of you got right. Well done! Try not to be so clever in today's DMQ, which is on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

15:02 UK time, Thursday, 6 September 2007

"A life-sized statue of Wallace and Gromit is to be built in Preston". That would be six inches tall, then?
Stephen Turner, Cambridge, UK

May I suggest a variant on that old chestnut of formulae to predict the dullest day of the year? I think taking the number of pedantic letters on the monitor, multiplying by the number of just plain grumpy ones and then dividing by the chirpy, innocent, fun ones would give a representative scale of how depressing and frustrating a week has been. This week hasn't got much time left to redeem itself, so may I redirect you all to the story of Mr Joybubbles in an attempt to encourage frivolity and cheer?
Susannah, Derby

I now can't get the phrase 'tarred with the brush of Donovan' out of my head. It's conjuring up some particularly gruesome images. Please help.
Bridget, Slough

Cheezels! Paper Monitor's an Aussie!
Kass, London

I'm not surprised the BBC has abandoned its plans for Planet Relief. Your story tells us that it 'would have involved viewers in a mass "switch-off" to save energy.' I'm pleased to see someone finally realised that that wouldn't really work terribly well as a concept for a TV programme.
Adam, London, UK

HB, London (Wednesday's letters) - but "Anulled - beheaded - died - anulled - beheaded - survived" simply doesn't have the same ring to it.
Sara, Bristol, UK

Paper Monitor

12:25 UK time, Thursday, 6 September 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Yesterday Paper Monitor (somewhat tardily) celebrated the headline writers' art. Today, the picture desks provide little nuggets of joy.

"A fully clothed Vladimir Putin shows off his bowling action yesterday" - ah, the Times pokes gentle fun at both the Russian president and the media's recurring fascination with his topless holiday snaps in a picture caption.

And the paper finds a new twist on both wildlife photography and family snaps with its story about the meerkat at Longleat safari park that hijacked a camera left in his enclosure. After using it as a climbing frame, he rattled off a few pictures of his family (the collective noun for which is a mob). One is reprinted in the paper, and eagle-eyed readers may notice that the tiny photo credit reads "MONTY THE MEERKAT". Nice touch.

And the Independent, like Paper Monitor's friend and colleague Daily Mini-Quiz, illustrates the link drawn between E numbers and children's bad behaviour with a photo of a little un's birthday spread. Mmmmm, cupcakes and - it can't be - Cheezels. Anyone for elevenses?




Ah, that's better. Paper Monitor never likes to talk with its mouth full - and while reading the Indy's A to Z of pop. Aware that its core readership is, perhaps unfairly, tarred with the brush of Donovan, the paper seeks to de-baffle those confused by press descriptions of the Klaxons, including this random collection of words: "A - acid-rave-sci-fi-punk-funk... specially devised by New Musical Express to describe the Mercury winners".

Proof indeed that writing about music is like dancing about architecture... or writing about fashion, a genre of journalism which could also use the same phrase to describe, say, this season's body-conscious bondage-gear dresses... and probably will try.

Paper Monitor notes that the BBC News website's entertainment desk resists the emperor's new clothes urge and calls a spade a spade - well, a rock band a rock band in its coverage.

And with that, Paper Monitor leaves you as it dons its stone-washed jeans and boogies off to try and pull the Daily Telegraph, Dad-dancing at the disco.

Random stat

10:37 UK time, Thursday, 6 September 2007

Stealing from halls and university digs after freshers' week one-night stands is at an all-time high, with the number of thefts up 12% on previous years, according to a survey by a student insurance provider. This figure was brought to you by the Monitor's beta feature Random Stat of the Day.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:31 UK time, Thursday, 6 September 2007

Yesterday we asked by how many minutes did Eurostar break its own record when it took just two hours, three minutes and 39 seconds to travel from London and Paris. It's 15 minutes, which just 28% of you got right. The majority plumped for 20 minutes and a handful opted for 10 minutes. Today's food-related mini-question is on the Magazine homepage now.

Your Letters

17:47 UK time, Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Re the study that found women are choosier than men. I wonder if the people who funded it would be interested in paying for me to go to Italy to complete my PhD dissertation on religious preferences in the Vatican? The results could be equally astounding...
Sheldon Price, Manchester

So new research shows that birds can be startled by things. I wonder who funded that profound contribution to the sum of human knowledge?
Alex D, Southampton, UK

Paper Monitor should look a little closer to home when condemning croc-related puns. The BBC news story states that no static electricity related incidents have "sparked concern" in the UK.
Michael, Rockville, MD, US

Re the chance of having triplets not once but twice (Tuesday's letters). Surely having triplets would make some people not want any more children, thus lowering the chance of them having another set as they take appropriate precautions. Also, what does the one in 8000 refer to in the first place? The chance of any conception being of triplets? The chance of a person conceiving triplets at some point in their life? Statistics are useless when people aren't told exactly what they're statistics of.
Michael, Warrington

Can I be the first to pedantically remind Emily Hardacre (Tuesday's letters) that none of Henry VIII's wives were divorced - their marriages were annulled. Completely different.
HB, London

I agree with Tom from Derby (Tuesday's letters). Getting straight to the Monitor as a whole is convenient, it becomes crucial when in a hurry during office hours.
Andrea, Scafati (Darkest Italy)

I love being a scientific pedant so I'd like to point out something a little misleading in Coming soon... a super you. When talking about possible X-Ray specs it says these "emit terahertz radiation - ultra-high frequency beams of light..." - well, terahertz radiation sounds pretty high frequency (a one with 12 zeros every second) but as light goes it's not that high frequency at all - visible light being about five with 14 zeros per second (half a petahertz or 500 terahertz). These X-Ray specs seem to use something more like microwaves or far infra-red (like very low frequency light).
Andy M, Oxford, UK

I can't be the only one to find the prospect of see-through aeroplane floors a touch distressing can I?
Annya, Glasgow

Yes Neil Boorman may have ditched all his labels, but man doesn't he look depressed.
Michael, Birmingham

Paper Monitor

14:03 UK time, Wednesday, 5 September 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Yea, verily, it is the day to recognise the munificence of the newspaper sub-editor, sprinkling golden headlines into the outstretched hands of the news-starved masses.

Punning is the order of the day in the Daily Mirror, which dazzles us with "INTER ZIPPY" for its tale of Eurostar record-breaking.

The Daily Telegraph pulls out a beautiful bit of hyperbole with "Flip flop martyr wins battle over feet on train seat". Said young martyr, summoned to court after putting her feet on a train seat, turns out to be a) possessing the ability to look demure and pretty in her photo outside court, b) a student at a proper uni and therefore Telegraph-tastic. "Flip flop martyr" indeed.

In the Daily Express it is hard to bow down and venerate the audacity of their headline on a story about a statue of Steve Ovett getting nicked. It's "Who did a runner with Ovett's statue?" You see, in English, "doing a runner" is an idiom meaning running after some kind of illegality. And Steve Ovett is a runner.

And Paper Monitor really had to have its sides reinforced with laugh-proof plating when it saw the front of the Sun. It's a story about trendy Crocs shoes causing problems with hospital equipment. Headline: "CROCS CAN KILL".

Do you get it?

Random stat

10:01 UK time, Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Asked if they enjoyed their job, 71% of people said yes (and 12% said they hated it), according to Birmingham Midshires. This figure was brought to you by the Monitor's beta feature Random Stat of the Day.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:49 UK time, Wednesday, 5 September 2007

In Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked which local authority area had the highest proportion of schools with pupils eating unhealthily. Most of you were very wrong in picking Manchester (37%) or Lambeth (36%). The correct answer was Islington. Try to do better in today's DMQ, which can be found on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

15:51 UK time, Tuesday, 4 September 2007

I would by no means downplay the importance of mental health. But to state that the burden is not shared equally between rich and poor countries because "more than four out of five of the people who commit suicide are in low or middle income countries" seems to be missing the point somewhat. Isn't that roughly the proportion of the world's population that lives in a low or middle-income country, regardless of their mental state? And perhaps if people had malaria nets and safety from violent warfare, they would also feel a bit less like committing suicide. More awareness of mental health is certainly welcome, but I'm not sure this article approached the issue from the most helpful angle.
Susannah, Derby

Was Daniel Hayes being ironic or just tautological when he used the phrase "superfluous tautology"?
Jools, Brighton

Regarding the buffalo story. "Privately owned" as opposed to what exactly? a publicly owned buffalo? a wild water buffalo roaming Cumbria? strange details indeed. Loved the story though. My thoughts are with William's owners and family.
Naomi, West Sussex

"Going shebeen-hopping with a corpse takes the cake" There really isn't anything I can add to that.
Phil B-C, London

Re: Henry's wife is granted divorce. Was I alone to wonder why the event is reported 450 years after the event?
Emily Hardacre, Watford, Herts

Adam from London (Monday's letters). The chance of having 1 set of triplets is 1 in 8000. The chance of conceiving the 2nd set is 1 in 8000 but to have had the 2nd set of triplets she must have the 1st. Therefore the chance is 1 in 64 million. or 1 in (8000 x 8000).
Edenzor, Reading

Obviously Adam from London (Monday's letters) hasn't read the article that accompanies the triplets stat in 10 things. Otherwise he would have seen the quote from Dr Hofman that "Having triplets once did not affect the chances of having triplets a second time", which nicely trounces his point.
Trish, Swansea, Wales

Any chance we can have the direct link to the top of the Magazine Monitor back, instead of the Random Stat?
I can't be the only person finding it annoying not being able to easily get to the Monitor as a whole - am I?
Tom Hartland, Derby, UK

Paper Monitor

11:24 UK time, Tuesday, 4 September 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Observations from today's paper perusal…

The Telegraph is at it again with a picture of Vladimir Putin's bare torso, and a snap of leggy schoolgirls with short skirts and plenty of make up (from the new St Trinian's movie) to accompany a piece about boarding school.

The Independent is ploughing on with its "prize of a lifetime" competition – to win a sculpture. (What's that? You can't hear those circulation figures rocketing… must be something wrong with your hearing.)

The Sun goes in for a spot of artistic interpretation itself – marking the British withdrawal from downtown Basra with its very own "tribute to war dead" – a collection of pictures of all the British soldiers who have died in Iraq.

And what's this… after yesterday's somewhat lacklustre alarmism over the, er, record number of wasps, the Mail brings us an even more menacing creature – the wasp spider. Commonly found on the south coast, this menacing little creepy crawly which (whisper it quietly folks) "are not poisonous" are spreading rapidly north. Apparently the weather is getting warmer… something to do with a little-known phenomenon called climate change.

The Times is touting an "exclusive" interview with Gerry and Kate McCann… billed as if the couple have never spoken to the press before.

There's no let up, meanwhile, for Martin Evans and Padraic Flanagan – the Daily Express' Praia da Luz reporters, who once again have been called on to turn in a front page splash, with the quotes of just one unnamed "close friend" of the McCanns.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:16 UK time, Tuesday, 4 September 2007

In Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked what £7,463 was the average price of, and only 27% of you got the right answer - a car. Try and do better in today's DMQ which can be found on the Magazine index.

Random stat

10:10 UK time, Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Forty-four per cent of children eat the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day, compared to 32% in 2004. This figure was brought to you by the Monitor's beta feature Random Stat of the Day.

Your Letters

17:12 UK time, Monday, 3 September 2007

Re Quiz: Highway Code, firstly I want to say I was amazed I am at how staggeringly easy the questions are, and have always been, for the driving theory test. Secondly, adding more questions to this farce of an exam will not make better drivers out of us. As in Germany, it is high time we were forced to take practical tests on motorways, as this seems to be where the most appalling, yet easily avoided, driver errors seem to be made. Sorry, this letter is neither ironic nor comic, I just had to get this off my chest.
Martin, Bristol, UK

I am enjoying the random stat feature, but might I suggest you add some context to the statistics in future (a link will do)? Today's statistic is a case in point - how many of the mobile phone owners were NOT pet owners? Also, how many of the pet owners were also mobile phone owners and would be upset at losing both? Somewhere in there lies the real source of the 2% difference, although it's a lot less interesting than "Man's New Best Friend? The Mobile Phone!"
Louise Dade, Bedfordshire

I felt like quibbling about today's random stat, given the relative nature of the term "upset" in the two different cases, until it occurred to me to wonder whether more people do in fact insure their mobile than their pet. I suspect they probably do. Thanks - now I'm just going to be depressed for the rest of the day.
Susannah, Derby

So the new, tougher theory driving test has begun. The article says: "Candidates need to correctly answer 43 out of 50 multiple-choice questions on the Highway Code, compared with the old standard of 30 out of 35 questions." So the pass mark is now 86% rather than 85.7%? Sounds much, much harder to me.
Ed, Clacton, UK

I know how much pedantry is frowned upon here, but I just couldn't let the statement "The chances of a woman having two sets of triplets naturally are one in 64 million" (10 Things) go unchallenged. Just because the chance of having one set is 1 in 8,000 doesn't mean that the chance of the second set is also 1 in 8,000: if a woman has already had 1 set then it is quite likely that she has an above-average chance of having triplets.
Adam, London, UK

I realise that square parentheses are used to denote text from a quote that has been changed for the sake of clarity, but I always find myself wondering what was originally said. "[T]en years...", was it "When years"? Hen years? Perhaps [Sev]en years and it's a very old quote..?
Duncan, Hove
MM note: The full sentence was "Still, ten years…"

I see Gordon Brown has caught the latest linguistic bug. In your article "UK Basra base exit 'not a defeat'" you quote him as saying the withdrawal was "pre-planned". What does pre-planned mean that planned doesn't? Will we soon hear people saying "already pre-planned in advanced"? It strikes me as a superfluous tautology.
Daniel Hayes, St Albans, UK

Sometimes you read an article and then wish you hadn't – this being a prime example. "There was also a difference in the sort of kisses the two sexes preferred, with men liking wet, tongue kisses."
I was eating my lunch; I'm not hungry now.
Lucy Jones, Manchester

May we have the caption competition back soon please. OK there has to be an investigation into the serious issues that appear to have tarnished the competitions, but surely it does not take all this time to work out that restarting the caption competition is the correct thing to do. Unless the captions are being written by BBC staff or a contractor then we know as we enter that the winner will be a subjective choice by a nameless face. More captions competitions soon please.
Adrian Hetherington, Bristol

From the piece on how work is eating into sleep time to the detriment of our health. "Dr Basner said more work was now needed to measure what impact long working hours encroaching on sleep might be having on health." I love the irony.
Jake Perks, Shropshire, UK

Does this mean the Monitor censors letters (Re Ian C, Friday)? I am appauled (sic).
DJM, Scotland

Paper Monitor

11:39 UK time, Monday, 3 September 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Say what you will about the diminishing influence of the Church of England on public life, but there's no doubt that when a figure as respected and authoritative as the Bishop of London speaks, the press listens.

"[T]en years after [Diana, Princess of Wales'] tragic death, there are regular reports of fury at this or that incident, and the princess's memory is used for scoring points. Let it end here," said Dr Richard Chartres at Friday's memorial service to mark the 10th anniversary of Diana's death.

It was a sentiment that received the Sun's full backing in an editorial the following day, Saturday.

"'To which we say a loud Amen'," was the Sun's emphatic approval of the bishop's call for a ceasefire in hostilities.

Fast forward 48 hours to Monday's Sun.


"Devastated Princess Diana told her hairdresser that husband Prince Charles must be wearing 'BEER GOGGLES' to have an affair with Camilla," reports the Sun.

The revelation comes from one of the more obscure members of Diana's entourage, "personal crimper" Richard Dalton, who has broken his silence after 10 years.

His fringe (pardon the pun) status in the late princess' life is adequately emphasised by an archive snap from 1990 of Mr Dalton with the royal entourage. He's the one on the far left of the back row.

The Express' front page (which splashes with its now so familiar "MADELEINE" headline) is similarly off message: "Diana – vital new evidence that blows apart the police case."

However, the horror of all this pales in comparison to the image on the front of yesterday's Sunday Times News Review, which depicts veteran BBC hack John Humphrys as Adam in Michelangelo's iconic Sistine Chapel fresco… leaving nothing to the imagination.

Random stat

10:33 UK time, Monday, 3 September 2007

More people (66%) say they would be upset at losing their mobile phone than a pet (64%), according to mobile phone insurer Lifeline. This figure was brought to you by the Monitor's new beta feature, Random Stat of the Day.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:32 UK time, Monday, 3 September 2007

Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked how many postcodes there are now in the UK. Almost half opted for 7.7 million, but the correct answer was a more manageable 1.7 million. Today's Daily Mini-Quiz is on the Magazine page.

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