BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for October 14, 2007 - October 20, 2007

10 things we didn't know last week

17:23 UK time, Friday, 19 October 2007

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

1. The brain responds to facial expressions at a speed of less than 40 milliseconds.
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2. Having sex daily can improve a man's sperm quality - increasing their partner's chance of getting pregnant.
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3. CO2 emissions from shipping are twice the level of aviation.
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4. George Clooney and Pierce Brosnan have had Bell's Palsy - a nerve condition that can result in paralysis on one side of the face.
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5. Middlesbrough's first professional football club, established in the late Victorian era, was called Middlesbrough Ironopolis.
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6. Four people died in France in the Great Storm of 1987.

7. Migrants earned on average £424 per week last year, compared with £395 for UK-born workers.

8. Discrimination against atheists is allowed in employment in Texas, according to the state's constitution.
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9. Leeches are used as treatment for cauliflower ears.
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10. Asterix was so-called so he would appear at the start of an encyclopaedia of comics.
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Sources: 6 - BBC News 24, 15 Oct; 7 - Independent 17 Oct.

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Joan Butler for this week's picture of 10 tomatoes.

Your Letters

16:55 UK time, Friday, 19 October 2007

Was I the only person who was surprised to see an “e-mail this to a friend” link at the end of Turn off e-mail and do some work?
Michael, Exeter, UK

Bungle is up for the Turner prize? He would get my vote.
Alison C, Derry, N Ireland

I think it might be premature to worry about having to listen to people make phone calls on planes - the level of background noise from the engines will probably mean the person on the other end can hear nothing but a dull roar. Most people will just give up.
Aine, London

To the UK Tourist board: I think your next advertising campaign has been done for you...
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Re All you need to know about rugby: think of it as human chess. Organic pieces with different moves, and of varying size, all trying to out-manoeuvre each other, dynamically. The most interesting moments occur when different pieces confront each other, such as when wings who move sideways, diagonally and forwards, at speed and over long distances confront props, who quite simply don't. I've never fallen asleep watching a rugby match.
Steve, Northampton

So Crippen was innocent and the body was that of an abortion that went wrong? Now I'm no doctor, but I know that decapitation isn't a well know side effect of an abortion that went wrong.
Louise, Windsor, England

I’m not surprised that wealthy, enfranchised people are more likely to seek solace in drink than the jobless. I live on incapacity benefit and the chance of affording just one beer would be nice. Alcohol is so expensive that it has become a vice of the wealthy.
Martin Boulger, Aylesbury, UK

Re Me and my tattoo and the quote of the day: I have a friend with what she thought was the Chinese character for “lucky” tattooed on her shoulder. She later found out that it means “depression".
Darren Walker, Leeds

Am I the only one who read the headline Alonso criticises monitor and thought "uh-oh"?
KBR, Gaborone, Botswana

Look, if we can't have the caption competition, because it's a competition, can't we have a caption quiz? I'll forgo the prizes, honest.
Derrick, Northants

Me and my tattoo

16:33 UK time, Friday, 19 October 2007

They're lurking underneath shirtsleeves and trousers all over the country. Tattoos are everywhere.

Following our report on the nation's enthusiasm for body art, each day this week the Magazine will feature a reader's tattoo and why they chose it.

Some are small, some spectacular, but all share a common thread - the tattoo was done with meaning in mind. Your tattoo photos can be e-mailed to and have the subject line "TATTOO", with a description of no more than 100 words.

Update: Day five
"I'm a massive fan of the 1950s, so when the chance came for a tattoo of my favourite picture, I went for it. On my side its both accessible and private."
Natalie Hornshaw, Hull

Update: Day four
"I wanted my husband's name on my back. I considered just 'Will', but felt it might be misinterpreted, so I put a flower into the design to get Sweet William."
Doramy Morgan

Update: Day three
"For me, seahorses symbolise the magic of childhood. They are beautiful, graceful creatures, and as a baby I lived with my parents in Seahorse Walk in Gosport, Hants. I also loved stories with a sea theme such as the Little Mermaid as a young girl, and was always drawn to seahorses as they intrigued me."
Eva Askham-Spencer, Luton

Update: Day two
"Well I know this tattoo is a little different than the norm of Chinese writing and or tribal tattoos, but I have a fascination with the anatomical style of tattoos."
Gordon Smith, 21, Fife

Day one:
"At 52 I got my first tattoo. My kids had left home and it was a rite of passage - a new phase of life. Several of them - dove, eagle, Greek letters - reflect my Christian beliefs. Some Christians might think I'll go to hell."
Ian Walker, former vicar

Paper Monitor

11:19 UK time, Friday, 19 October 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Only the most curmudgeonly grinch would dare to question the work of the showbiz reporter. These sturdy yeomen of the notepad have a daily routine that would cause most other reporters to flinch with fear and pain.

Particularly when the Daily Mirror subs reduce your exclusive interview with Posh Spice down to the following three points:

• “I’m too blonde for Britain”
• “Spice tour will be a wow”
• “I HAVEN’T got any spots”

Woodward and Bernstein are about to have a sleepless weekend, gripped by a fear that their journalistic legacy has just been spectacularly trumped.

Elsewhere in the paper, the Mirror’s first edition carries an interesting insight into deadline times. The story on page 29 of Benazir Bhutto’s return makes no mention of the blasts targeted at her convoy that killed up to 130 people. Reuters flashed the news that there had been explosions at 8.15pm on Thursday.

Meanwhile, there is no consensus on the Turner Prize across the newspapers.

“Poor show”, says the Times. But the Independent is adamant that there is a case for the video of a man dressed as a bear winning the annual art gong.

And finally, let it not be said that Paper Monitor does not dole out praise where it is due.

The Sun’s feature on which houses soap characters could afford if they lived in the areas their fictional neighbourhoods are modelled on is an excellent idea, nicely executed.

Paper Monitor can think of nothing snide or sarcastic to say.

Random stat

09:37 UK time, Friday, 19 October 2007

In a survey about whether we fool ourselves about spending levels and debt, 21% of men said they lied about how much they paid for luxury purchases, compared with 34% of women. The poll was carried out for the financial website

Your Letters

16:11 UK time, Thursday, 18 October 2007

Oh good grief! Mobile phones to be usable on flights. The last bastion of a bit of public peace and quiet to be breached. Anyone noticed how many lovely holidays can be had in the UK (while sitting alone in your car)?
Steve C, London

I'm quite happy for mobile phones to be used on planes, provided that a majority vote of other passengers in the compartment leads to the mouthy miscreant being made to walk the plank. At cruising altitude.
Nigel Macarthur, London, England

The Sun front page to which Paper Monitor refers show the McLaren-embossed rugby ball sailing over the post for three points. This is not only highly inappropriate, but shows that our friends at The Sun don't quite have the hang of 'kicking to touch' yet. Still, one game left to master it before they can ignore rugby for another four years.
Ian C, Kent

With regards to today's random stat, is anyone else wondering why a survey on cosmetic surgery is being carried out by a bank?
Jay, Wales

Thank you Edward (Wednesday letters). That nicely reminded of sixth form, Monday morning, quadruple maths A-level. Shiver.
Adrian, London

The property price quiz was a bit tricky, given that you specified where in London the flat was, but everywhere else just got the town or city name. There's areas of Manchester, Bolton and Newcastle that would cost pretty much any of the prices listed for each property. I know you're based in London, but the rest of the UK has good and bad places to live and buy as well you know.
Silas, London

Paper Monitor

11:36 UK time, Thursday, 18 October 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It is of course perverse that the England football manager's reputation should hinge on the success of a team playing an utterly different sport, but the recent upswing in the fortunes of the England rugby squad provide a easy counterpoint for Russia's 2-1 victory in yesterday's Euro qualifier.

Couple that with the time-honoured trick of morphing the England football boss's face to match a headline - Graham Taylor as a turnip, Sven as a Swede etc - and the cover of today's Sun was all but inevitable.

"KICK HIM INTO TOUCH" runs the headline, underneath Steve McLaren's face squeezed into an oval ball.

There's plenty of hand wringing inside – "Mac under attack", "How did it come to this?", "41 years of hurt" and so on. To exacerbate the contrast between our footballers and rugby players, a few pages further on readers are urged to send the England rugby team "victorious" in the World Cup final match on Saturday.

Of course, it wasn't always thus. You only have to go back two weeks to find the Sun was somewhat less fulsome in its praise for McLaren's rugger equivalent, Brian Ashton.

"Ash has lost the plot" topped an opinion piece in the paper the day before England's remarkable victory against Australia – a stance that was only slightly offset by the paper's printed "apology" to England and "Brian 'Bonkers' Ashton" a few days later.

So cheer up Steve, if Bonkers' boys disgrace themselves on Saturday and Andorra thrash Russia in the football, things could again be looking up. Just don't hold your breath.

Meanwhile, over at G2 – the Guardian's pull-out bit – there's a worrying sign that the "binarisation" of feature ideas, noted in yesterday's Paper Monitor, is in danger of becoming an obsession, thanks to a piece about the brothers who run Polish politics.

Excuse Paper Monitor for taking a little artistic licence in summarising the piece thus: "Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Lech Kaczynski are the prime minister and president of Poland. They're both white, male and middle-aged. They went to the same school. And their politics are almost identical. What does this tell us about Polish politics today?"

To which the all too obvious answer would have been: they're twins!

Going Postal II

10:31 UK time, Thursday, 18 October 2007

Eight cards in eight days - that's the running total for the Magazine's post-strike postal challenge.

Eight days ago, to mark the end of the most severe national postal strikes in a decade, we set out to test how well the system would get back on track. To do so, we despatched 10 postcards to 10 enthusiastic readers scattered across the UK, through the first-class mail.

We have now heard back from all but two.

Latest reports of successful deliveries come from North Wales, Cornwall and Kent.

rhyswynne100.jpgRhys Wynne, Colwyn Bay, Conwy (right): "Your card arrived on Tuesday morning. I got my driver's licence the same day, which I only sent off last Friday. So that's pretty impressive."

Robert Young, Canterbury, Kent: "I had a special delivery letter which was meant to arrive by 1pm on the 11th but I didn't get that until the 16th."

nick_trevail100.jpgMeanwhile, the experience of Nick Trevail, from Truro, Cornwall (right), goes to prove that "snail mail" can be more efficient than its electronic counterpart. Nick received his card last Thursday, dutifully sending a picture by SMS, but due to technical difficulties, it got lost in the system at this end.

Still to report back are Sally Rode, from Norfolk, and Sarah-Michelle Saunders, in south Wales.

Random stat

08:37 UK time, Thursday, 18 October 2007

In a survey by the bank Abbey, 2% of people said they planned to have cosmetic surgery because they'd been egged on by a friend. More than half of people said it was to improve their confidence, 32% claimed it was for medical reasons, and 1% said it was because they were teased about the body part in question.

Your Letters

16:12 UK time, Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Re the random stat: Surely all parents would lie to get their child in to school? "Don't worry, darling, I'm sure you'll have fun with double maths today..."
Edward Green, London, UK

Clegg and Huhne have almost identical politics (Paper Monitor)? And they happen to have ended up in the same political party?! Well, things just will not stop astounding me today.
Basil Long, Newark Notts

You Poader doesn't have the same ring to it as the obvious though.
Chris A, Houston, Texas

So we've finally mastered the art of bonsai animals. When will someone finally breed an elephant the size of a Jack Russell terrier and make the best pet ever?
Keith, Loughborough

My nomination for the day's most disappointing deadline is Chavez reforms go to parliament. There's me thinking we were gonna have a leetle French government clad in track suits and baseball hats.
Hazel Love, Brighton, UK

If the number of unemployed has fallen by 5000, surely it is still 1.65m?
Anon, Salisbury

Re Stretching does not cut soreness - what about warm-up exercises for your warm-up exercises? Might that help?
Nick Jones, Dorking

So that's what happens to our old pop stars? I often wondered. Kate Bush is now Head of Art at the Barbican, Martin Kemp is a Professor at Oxford... what next? Boy George as President of the Royal Academy?
Rob, London UK

Paper Monitor

10:50 UK time, Wednesday, 17 October 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Today's G2, the pull-out bit from the Guardian, asks on its cover: "Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne are the two favourites in the Lib Dem leadership contest. They're both white, male and middle-aged. They went to the same public school. And their politics are almost identical. What does this tell us about Westminster today?"

Funnily enough, yesterday's G2 asked: "England will be up against South Africa at the rugby World Cup this Saturday. It should make for a great match. But what do these two - mainly white - teams tell us about their home countries?"

There's a theme emerging here. One which makes us wonder...

Two similar concepts, different in subject matter but joined by a uniformity of approach and steeped in the tradition of semiotics. What does this tell us about G2?

The Daily Mail, meanwhile, typically leaves little doubt as to what its editorial choices say about the paper. Those keen to track essential Mail qualities need look no further than its double-page photo spreads. Cuddly animals are always a favourite, as are stars who may have recently visited their cosmetic surgeon.

Today's picture gallery of "stars who find themselves rather over-exposed" is the Mail to its fingertips. For there is nary a shot of Britney, Lindsay or Paris knickerless in a skirt so short it is actually a belt.

Instead, its trio of flashers - JK, Judy and Lorraine - expose sensible, nay, matronly, bras but little actual flesh. Terry Wogan dresses to the left in trousers that are a little too tight (Paper Monitor feels unclean even looking). Fern Cotton tucks her dress ever so slightly into her pants. And Nigella almost has a "wardrobe malfunction". The author of the piece? Former BBC arts correspondent Rosie Millard, a Mail favourite since covering the Oscars in "best supporting dress". And who, a quick search of the paper's archive reveals, is something of a special correspondent on the topic.

Random Stat

09:19 UK time, Wednesday, 17 October 2007

A survey of parents, commissioned by the Children's Society, suggests 14% would be prepared to lie to get their children into a good school.

Your letters

16:04 UK time, Tuesday, 16 October 2007

I think the phrase "people on a daily ejaculation routine" in this story has possibilities as a new euphemism. It even works as an acronym: Poaders.
P Anghelides, Southampton, UK

Rock risks 'were not foreseeable'" - Yeah well, just ask Bill Wyman, he'd know all about that.
Kip, Norwich, UK

So we have now a Futalognkosaurus - that would be about a foot longer than the last one they found then?
Bunny, Up North

If we're to have a daily random stat, can we please keep to one stat per day? Today's stat about cannabis contains three stats, which is two stats more than the one stat the title would lead us to expect.
Pete, Belfast

Hey... how come there's no 'Have your say' thingy on this item?
Bronwyn T, Wrexham

Nice to see that the Top Gear presenters were only smoking "herbal" tabacco, as opposed to the obviously more dangerous chemical or mineral forms of tabacco one presumes.
Keith, Loughborough

Now I know what I've been doing wrong... I shouldn't have been using my laptop whilst having a hot bath.
MB, Wirral

Paper Monitor

13:10 UK time, Tuesday, 16 October 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Ohhh, there's nothing the posh papers like more than the term "middle class" in a story. In a world where news stories tend to be things that "happen to other people", those magic two words married together ooze relevance, significance, connection and, let's be honest, healthy ad revenues.

So, while the other qualities trouble themselves with the trifling matter of the surprise resignation of the leader of one of Britain's top three national political parties, the Times gives its front page over to "Hazardous drinking, the middle-class vice".

In fairness, it sounds like deeply worrying news. "Drinkers in middle-class areas are more likely routinely to consume 'hazardous' [we'll return to those inverted commas later] amounts of alcohol than those in poorer areas..." Hots spots include Guildford, Harrogate and Surrey Heath.

Gulp (ok, perhaps an inappropriate exclamation of surprise) - you mean to say that wealthy, enfranchised people are more likely to seek solace in drink than hard-up/jobless, and therefore more disenfranchised, members of society. Paper Monitor isn't being flippant - were this true, it would overturn all sorts of long-established sociological theories about the security of wealth and undermine long-standing government and charitable policies about helping vulnerable members of society.

But the Times isn't telling the whole story, because while "hazardous" (remember those inverted commas) drinking ain't good, it's nowhere near as bad as "harmful" drinking - which is a rung above. And yes, when you turn to page six of the Times, there's a top 10 of the areas with the most "harmful" drinking. Unlike Guildford, Harrogate and Surrey Heath, these are places unlikely to excite the Times' circulation department.

Random Stat

12:01 UK time, Tuesday, 16 October 2007

The most dangerous kind of cannabis makes up 75% of the drug seized by police, according to the Forensic Science Service. Skunk is two to three times as powerful as other forms of cannabis, it says, and the total amount of cannabis seized has increased by 42% this year.

Your letters

18:10 UK time, Monday, 15 October 2007

Dormouse stew ("10 things we didn't know last week"). Have you seen a dormouse? Not much meat on them, is there? You are confusing the native British dormouse with something called the glis-glis. My home area (the Vale of Aylesbury) has these things running around - they escaped from Tring Park, where they were introduced by the Rothschilds. Pesky things, too, glis-glis. I seem to recall that they had a liking for the insulation on power-lines. This resulted in blacked-out villages and a flash-fried, rather than stewed, glis-glis. Which is also known as the fat, or edible, dormouse. Thought I'd try to clear that one up before the real British dormouse ends up in the soup.
Richard Fenton, Essen Germany

I am Italian (lived there for 28 years) and never heard of dormouse stew. Must be a south thing. Sparrows on a spit roast, served with polenta, are the delicacy in the North.
Marie, Bromley, Kent

Am I the only person who saw the headline "Arctic muds reveal sea ice record" and assumed it was about a new CD?
Andrew Collier, Cambridge

Pedant Alert re Monday's random stat. No, there were not 13% more French people watching the rugby than English. For a start, the two countries have different populations. What you actually mean is that the proportion was 13 percentage points higher.
Darren McCormac, London

How on Earth did Liam Gallagher find is way into the nation's Top 10 wits? He seems to have usurped his role model John Lennon who is far more deserving of a place (for the "rattle your jewellery" quote alone).
Paul Clare, Nottingham

Conkers may be bonkers ("Conkers win is double over French"), but why are the competitors dressed as nuns?
Mark Esdale , Bridge, UK

We just received a letter Friday from a UK Government Dept which was mailed in Sweden! So I guess if you live abroad you still get mail.
Elaine Sutherland, Burlington Ontario

Paper Monitor

12:13 UK time, Monday, 15 October 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The problem with having a special pull-out section dedicated to "the beautiful game" is that when, the nation's collective aesthetic pleasure is derived from a sport other than football, in this case rugby, it seems a little churlish to stick with the format.

The Times tries to sidestep this little local difficulty with RugbyExtra – a pull-out from a pull-out. Although given that it's only four pages, it mainly seems to be a vehicle for a two-page centre spread pin-up of Jonny Wilkinson.

Readers who are turned on more by Wilkinson's prose than his pecs must return to the main paper, and rummage at the back from the England kicker's World Cup column… which makes uncomfortable reading.

Wilko, to give him his tabloid moniker, tells readers "I got one hour's sleep on Saturday", referring to the events immediately after England's semi-final victory against France.

But no, this isn't the Daily Star so it's not for THAT reason. Our fair-headed hero was so cut and grazed, even the touch of bedlinen caused him too much pain.

The Sun portrays our battle-injured hero in more combative mood – giving him a Jack Nicholson-style makeover with the headlines "Here's Jonny!" in horror film font.

For the Mirror, Wilkinson is only as interesting as his equally-blonde girlfriend, Shelley, who, along with the team's other wives and girlfriends, are christened the Scrummies.

Random Stat

11:44 UK time, Monday, 15 October 2007

They say it's unlucky for some, but 13% more TV viewers in France watched their national rugby team get beaten by England than in the UK, according to official viewing figures. The ratings show 51% of the available TV audience in the UK watched, while 64% watched in France.

Going Postal II

10:24 UK time, Monday, 15 October 2007

The postal service still has a long way to go before it clears its backlog, a post-strike Magazine experiment suggests.

Five days after 10 postcards were sent first-class in west London to volunteers living across the UK, only five have so far found their way on to their doormats.

postcards_mag203.gifIt was the far-flung places that were the early successes. The first card arrived in Oban, western Scotland, on Friday morning, then three postcards arrived on Saturday and one on Monday, which suggests some headway is being made into the 60 millions items that piled up during the two 48-hour strikes.

The second recipient was Alan Meban, from Belfast, who provides photographic evidence (above) that mail is crossing the Irish Sea.

"Your card eventually arrived this morning," he said on Saturday. "The postman skipped down the street pretty snappy with armfuls of mail - otherwise he might have got to take the picture.

"So instead, you'll have to make do with a 'typical' East Belfast view up the long drive to Stormont."

The other lucky recipients were, in order, Emma Parker (above with daughter Daisy) in Cambridgeshire, Sarah Williams in Cardiff and Ali Press in Cornwall.

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