BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for January 20, 2008 - January 26, 2008

10 things we didn't know last week

17:05 UK time, Friday, 25 January 2008

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

1. Swedes have a word for a man who visits prostitutes - torsk.
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2. Using a mobile before bedtime can delay you getting to sleep.
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3. A bear helped carry ammunition for Polish troops during World War II.
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4. Moleskin clothes used to be made of moles' skins.
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5. Wealthy people are more likely to drink than those in low-income homes.
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6. Ships emit twice as much CO2 as planes.
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7. "Plain vanilla" is a term for basic financial instruments such as shares.
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8. Only offal-free versions of haggis are available in the United States.
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9. Super-fast broadband fibres are laid in the sewers.
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10. "Fischer chess" is a game in which the pieces are placed on the board in random order.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Susan Ewick for this week's picture of 10 pieces of sushi from a Tokyo supermarket).

Your Letters

16:48 UK time, Friday, 25 January 2008

Re the story on pub rounds ("Getting your round in"), never before has the phrase "Enlarge Image" been so appropriate. However, I'm beginning to regret clicking on it!
Anthony Finucane, Dublin, Ireland

I bet the scientists who developed the carbon nanotubes are kicking themselves now that a puppy has beat them to achieving 'pure blackness'
Ben Robson, St Ives, Cambridge

Re David Richerby's comments about all-noun headlines (Your Letters, 24 January). An all-noun headline is a headline in which every word is a noun. In the example you gave, "over"' is clearly a verb. Here's a real example for you to enjoy: "Balloon crash safety changes call".
Ian A, York

Re "Brazil agrees to stem deforestation". Does that mean cutting down very small trees?
Mark Esdale , Bridge

Re nominative determinism, although not strictly current news... from "On This Day" - Lord Brain, one of the country's leading neurologists.
Ben, Braintree

A goth named Mr Graves ("Dog lead goths 'hounded off bus'"), I'm sure there is a Monitor related comment "dying" to be made. You see, that's what happen when you take away Punorama.
Danny C,

I am interested to know how Banksy gets more column inches on the BBC news website than most politicians ("Me and my Banksy"). He's not particularly original, what he does is illegal, and as much as I like his work it's not THAT important in the grand scale of things. Please find something else to write about.
Ben, Bristol

You can tell when a name is made up? (Your Letters, 24 January) I wonder how?
Ebenezer Thunderbucket, Birmingham, UK
Sending in letters under pseudonyms? The idea is laughable!
May Dupname, London, UK

Me and my Banksy

11:46 UK time, Friday, 25 January 2008

Readers of our How do you spot a Banksy? feature have been sending in photos of their favourite Banksy works or Banksy imitations.

catratbanksy.jpgDAY SEVEN: The final mural in our series was snapped in Liverpool by Kirsty Walker.

"This is Banksy's rat in the middle of Liverpool's China Town, a source of great pride for many in the city," she says.
"Liverpool Council in their wisdom have announced that they are covering it up during Capital of Culture year, also ironic because 2008 is the Chinese year of the rat. I think the work originally had a signature on the marker pen but that someone took it."

David Lee, editor of arts newsletter The Jack Daw, says cats and rats are Banksy's favourite symbols. "The rat is like Banksy himself, furtive and clever whilst the cat is the eye of the law, forever watchful and ready to pounce but nevertheless consistently outsmarted."

Painted buildings are nothing new, he adds - during the Renaissance the facades of buildings were routinely painted with elaborate scenes, both mythological and real. One of Giorgione's major works was to paint the entire front of a merchant's building on the Grand Canal in Venice next to Rialto bridge, but it didn't survive for long.

"Banksy's work is not likely to last long either, given its exposure to the elements, but its ephemeral nature is part of its charm. And remember, unlike most of the talentless junk forced down our throats by the Arts Council, we don't have to pay for Banksy's work. He gives it to us for nothing."

nakedman_203_250.jpgDAY SIX: The penultimate picture is one of Banksy's most famous works, saved from removal by a surge of support from people in Bristol. Cynthia Rodriguez took this photo on a visit to the city.

"As an art student, I got extremely excited. Just like I got excited the first time I saw a Bacon, a Turner or any work by any other 'canvas artist' from history books.

"This is the art of today, even if most people may not agree now. The works of Bacon and Turner were not seen as art in their times. I am glad Bristol Council protects Banksy's work, and hope the rest of Britain does the same soon."

The editor of The Jack Daw newsletter on the visual arts, David Lee, says: "It's a modern account of Hogarth's Rake's Progress in which the cuckolded husband returns home early to find his wife in flagrante.

"It must have been no mean feat executing this trompe l'oeil so high up on the gable end. If there is anyone who walks past this without a smile perhaps they should try drinking more."

rat_203_280.jpgDAY FIVE: Banksy and a rat? Have we been here before?

Yes, we have. In 2004, the artist smuggled a dead rat in a glass-fronted box into the Natural History Museum and left it there as an exhibit.

The stencilled mural on the right appeared in Reading but was washed off by the landlord after a few months, says Dave McManus.

"I was a fan of the Chav Rat, I walked past it on my way to work every day and it always put a smile on my face. It didn't really matter whether it was a real Banksy, it was done in a humorous spirit and was better than the brainless scrawls that covered the rest of wall. It's a shame to see it gone."

Mr Lee says he doubts whether it's authentic Banksy. "This one looks wrong if only because the message is too overt. Usually, he leaves the passer-by to decide on any meaning.

"Banksy is no Michelangelo but he has basic drawing skills and this one looks muddled and crude. It could of course be a bad Banksy: not even Rembrandt got it right every time.

"I sympathise with the reader: when there is graffiti with a message it is a small addition not an eyesore. Where Banksy is concerned it is obvious that the public are well in front of the Widdecombes and the law in preserving and restoring the ones they like."

phonebox_432_200.jpgDAY FOUR: Today's entry was submitted by Kevin Towler, who took this picture of a phone box that appeared in central London.

"A company working for Westminster Council was given the task of collecting it and looking after it until it was collected. This was the first time I had actually heard of Banksy.

"I like it because I have had some personal involvement with the piece. Also it is quite a technical piece considering how somebody can put a bend in an old-fashioned telephone box and fit all the glass.

"At the time people were considering just taking it to a scrap merchant until somebody said how much it was worth. It was later collected by his staff."

Mr Lee says the phone box should have been left where it was because it's better than most "public art" imposed by councils.

"Anything that wakes people up to their surroundings has got to be an advantage. As with all these stunts it got Banksy masses of publicity, all of it good.

"What does it 'mean'? The Scott phone box is an icon of design, a symbol of the establishment and Banksy has bent it and driven a pick through its heart. It's basic agitprop stuff and you should never expect profundity from an entertainer who delivers quickfire gags."

lollipop_432_220.jpgDAY THREE: The third "Banksy" is a mural in Easton, Bristol, submitted by Andrew Giaquinto.

"A lovely reminder each day of the very sad world we are living in at the moment, given the global conflicts around us," he says. "I was told the war finished in 1945!! Aargh!!"

Mr Lee says: "Though pessimistic in theme I agree with the sender it is an unavoidably powerful message. I would certainly stop and look at it. It continues the anti-war stance taken by angry young activists, as Banksy seems to be.

"If all graffiti were as pictorial, emotive and narrative as this one, the streets would be a more interesting place to inhabit than is currently the case given the thoughtless tendency of most urban planners to blight our surroundings."

flower_203_280.jpgDAY TWO: The second entry comes from Barry Dunkley, who says: "This is a picture of a new Banksy work that is on Pollard Street, E2, just down the road from Brick Lane.

"This kind of work is great, as it gives you something better to look at, rather than the 'tag' graffiti that litters street walls all over the country, especially in London. Councils should commision more work like this to brighten up the dark and dull streets."

Mr Lee says Banksy was photographed by a passer-by painting this one.

"It was definitely Banksy himself, the burly frame and slight stoop giving it away. I recognised him only because I once met him for a television programme and he was an articulate and polite fellow,not at all oafish or foul-mouthed in the 'Young British Artist' manner."

It is also a typical Banksy in the way it makes a simple point pithily, he says. "I can't see why anyone would be offended by this. Admittedly it is not great art but it is a small positive addition to the experience of an otherwise depressing street."

blair_432_300.jpgDAY ONE: Fittingly, our mini-series begins in Banksy's native Bristol, where Stephen Parsons snapped this last month on the wall of a police station. It was the same night the famous guerilla artist was apparently in the city, signing autographs at a nightclub.

"By the morning it was gone, and so far I haven't found anyone else with pictures of it," he says.

"The style and subject matter is undeniably Banksy, but it wasn't done with stencils and paint, but with thin paper glued, badly, to the wall. When people clocked that this was the case everyone started ripping pieces off as souvenirs. What do you think - real Banksy?"

Over to David Lee for his verdict. "I agree with the sender. It closely echoes Banksy's style and the agitprop nature of his politics," he says. "You never get anything politically profound or nuanced from a youngster.

"Gluing it to a police station is also typical of Banksy's in-yer-face cavalier attitude to the law. He would have to have stuck it quickly to the wall otherwise it would have taken him four or five hours during which he would have had his collar felt by the scuffers.

"Normally the symbolism is obvious but the chest of drawers has got me stumped. Anyone got any ideas what it could mean?"

Readers made a few suggestions below about the chest of drawers and some pointed out the real artist was in fact Adam Koukoudakis.

Paper Monitor

11:24 UK time, Friday, 25 January 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

If Jeremy Paxman thinks interest in his complaints against M&S knick-knocks will have died five days after the event, he is so very wrong.

Not only does he feature in our 7 days 7 questions quiz, the Daily Telegraph plasters his rather sheepish smirk just below its masthead with the headline: "What lies behind Jeremy Paxman's pants rant?"

Ding and dong. Paper Monitor skips past the Sun's "Ashley cheats on Cheryl", the Guardian's "What black America thinks of Barack Obama" and the Daily Mirror's frankly bewildering "Shock claim by dumped wife of balcony mum's new lover" (that takes some untangling), straight to page 16 of the Telegraph.

What one hopes for, of course, is an interview in which the paper's fiercesome fashion editor gives the Newsnight Rottweiler a taste of his own medicine. That Paper Monitor would pay good money to a cage fight entrepreneur to organise. What one gets is a "profile" - newspeak for a cuttings job combined with topical chin-stroking.

Being the Telegraph, it is elegant and pointed chin-stroking. But on reaching the inevitable Victor Meldrew comparison, Paper Monitor's disappointment is palpable.

roguetrader.jpgSeeking some light relief, where to turn but to the Sun? Sadly, it's all infidelity, Peter Hain and stripping students.

Better is the Independent, emblazoned with a picture of Tom Cruise stamped with "Le rogue trader". Funny, it's unlike the Indie to have a celebrity on its front page. Perhaps it has decided to switch its news focus, like a laser beam in your face. After our own musings on what the Indie is for, maybe this is their new direction. Celebrity.

Oh, wait, Paper Monitor sees what they've done. It's not Mr Cruise at all, but that rogue trader who has cost the big French bank a few billion fistfuls of euros. Perhaps Tom will play him in the Rogue Trader-style film about the incident.

Random Stat

09:51 UK time, Friday, 25 January 2008

A MORE magazine poll of the "average British boyfriend" has found that 52% of the species still live at home with their mums. For the record, the "average British boyfriend" is, on average, aged 25, 5ft 10in, with dark brown hair and blue eyes. He rarely buys his girlfriend flowers, but will stretch to a dinner out once a month.

Your Letters

16:17 UK time, Thursday, 24 January 2008

Re "Actress has tea room plan refused", sorry, have I slipped into another world - a village needs a tea-room 'to move into the 21st Century'?!
Basil Long, Newark Notts

Re the sale of the £50m house with seven bedrooms and seven kitchens? Is this estate agent speak for seven extremely expensive bedsits?
Stuart, Croydon

It's a funny that when the stock exchange falls by 100 plus points it gets it's own coverage on the news front page. But, when it rises by 250 points it stays relegated to the business page. A case of bad news sells and good news smells?
Simon Rooke, Nottingham UK

Re "Dog lead goth hounded from bus"? Oh dear. But the most ridiculous part of this story is the health and safety concern that dog leads apparently present. Arriva allow dogs on their buses, are they suggested that they be let off the lead to run amok? I'm off to take a bus tour of the North West with my badly behaved lurcher Barney. They'll eat their words.
K Walker,

So the bus company will write to Mr Graves to apologise for the handling of his being "hounded off the bus" with his leashed girlfriend. Whatever happened to the offence of disturbing the peace? Just looking at the picture of them disturbs my peace enormously! They shouldn't be allowed on the street, let alone the bus.
Jennyt, NY Brit

Never mind why Ms Maltby wants to wear a dog collar and lead, I'm more concerned where her coat is. It's January. She's in Yorkshire. Surely one of the letter writing pedants here has a spare one they left hanging somewhere.
Aly, Hong Kong

Today's random stat makes no sense! Are you saying women like beer more than they like men; that women think their drinking beer is ok more than men think it; or women think that either of them drinking beer is ok more than men do? Or none of the above?
K, Edinburgh

It's just occurred to me that the cricketing usage of "over" is a boon for the all-noun headline fan. For example, "Planning row over language favour". Actually that's not a very impressive example and I'm mainly writing to propose the self-aggrandizing flexicon `David's Boon'.
David Richerby, Leeds, UK

Re Wednesday’s Random Stat that 86% of women buy clothes they don't wear. Like me, maybe they are buying for their sons. Their socks are far too big for me.
Diana, Woking

Does anyone have a picture of the paramedic with 12m long legs? How does he tie his shoe laces?
Stuart, Croydon

Having just read the amusing letter selection and looking at the names of the contributors I was wondering how many people make up names when they e-mail MM? I don't as I love the glory of being published, and it adds to my prestige on the MM Facebook group.
Naomi P, Worthing

Monitor note: Made up names? The Monitor's well honed sensors pick up even the subtlest attempts at subterfuge.

Re "Three little pigs 'too offensive'", folks, ya'll have no idea how offended I truly am. I'm a cowboy in Arizona, and we keep three pigs on our ranch. It seems as though Becta doesn't know if it lost its horse or found a rope.
John Saddletramp, Arizona, USA

Paper Monitor

10:41 UK time, Thursday, 24 January 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

If the females of the nation collectively formed a hospital patient, Dr Daily Mail would never miss rounds. Taking the pulse, dispensing spoonfuls of sugar along with the necessary medications, all with a stern but soothing bedside demeanour. ("What do you mean you want to go back to work? Why, you could break a nail, and leaving those lovely children of yours to their own devices might mean that they fall in with a nasty crowd at nursery...")

So what's on Dr Dacre's prescription pad today? The front page headline: "We'll pay you to lose weight." Now, that's just the kind of incentive to wean Paper Monitor off the remaindered mince pies, still in the bargain bin at its local shop.

On page three is a story for all those who lie awake at night musing on what it might be like to kiss a genuine, A* grade Hollywood star. Like George Clooney. But he's not in the country, and, the Daily Mail being the paper that everyone's mum reads, its tale concerns a mother-in-law who gets up close and extremely personal with Jack Nicholson's "infamous shark grin".

...

...

Sorry, Paper Monitor was just having a moment. "He lifted his sunglasses over his forehead and snogged her," recalls the website designer who spotted Nicholson in the West End and asked him to take his mother-in-law, please.

Below the Nicholson story is startling new research into what women want, what they really, really want. Or don't want: "Why Mr Average is not the man we'd love to date". Apparently women would most like to hook up with a well-groomed man who drives a silver Mercedes and has a nice house. But seeing as Richard Hammond is otherwise engaged (with his beautiful wife), and his imaginary - and taller - doppelganger is fully occupied painting rainbows in NeverNeverland, the Average British Boyfriend is revealed to be a Ford-driving, telly-watching, he-don't-bring-me-flowers type of guy.

Some of Paper Monitor's best friends are Ford-driving, telly-watching, don't-bring-me-flowers types. Lovely women, the lot of them.

Random Stat

09:37 UK time, Thursday, 24 January 2008

Ten per cent more Swedish women find beer drinking on a first date acceptable than men, according to a survey by brewer SAB Miller.

Your Letters

16:07 UK time, Wednesday, 23 January 2008

More political correctness gone mad in the story that BECTA doesn't accept the story of the three little pigs because it might offend Muslims. Nice to know that they don't consider that offending Jewish people to be important.
Adrian, London, UK

The Three Religiously Insensitive Pigs versus The Leashed Fiancee? Who will inspire the most vitriol? I'm going with the pigs, judging from your elucidating article on modern social attitudes. Thank you nonetheless for giving me a simply awesome title for a book that shall hopefully drag me from my lazy, obstinate poverty and make me less of a pariah. Please have some excessive emoticon use :) :) :).
Dylan, Reading, UK

Re Three Little Pigs 'too offensive'. Personally, I'm glad this has been raised. As somebody who thinks wolves are fascinating animals, the depiction of lupines in this and other children's stories is deeply offensive.
Dave Godfrey, Swindon, UK

Re those pigs and how they may also offend builders. I'm furious about this. I'm a cowboy and I'm offended. What about me?
Buck, Cumbria

In the light of the story about the failed travel company Travelscope being taken over by a firm created by its former owners, has anyone else noticed the irony of the new company's name? Subtle? I think not!
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Re UK homes to get super-fast fibre. After all the preceding headlines and stories about government plans for health living/obesity, I was very disappointed to find out that express home deliveries of All Bran - or even porridge - were not, after all, in the offing.
Aqua Suliser, Bath

Re UK homes to get super-fast fibre. That should solve the obesity crisis.
Colin Nelson, MK, UK

Paper Monitor

11:12 UK time, Wednesday, 23 January 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

One story, different approaches.

The very public trials and tribulations of Amy Winehouse continue in the fall-out from the Sun publishing footage of her smoking crack.

The Times pens a thoughtful and reflective leader on how "forty years on from Jagger, the case of Amy Winehouse demands different words". The paper famously protested that to imprison the Rolling Stone for the illegal possession of four amphetamines without a prescription was to "break a butterfly on a wheel".

Winehouse's case is very different, argues the leader, as today drugs are no longer associated with decadence and creativity but with blighted lives. While the authenticity of the crack-smoking images may be open to some question, her self-destruction has been very open. "Her best-known song is about her own refusal to address the problem of addiction: 'They tried to make me go to rehab but I said no, no, no.' The wit of Rehab may be postmodern. Her derelict behaviour will end with an early post-mortem."

While the paper's editor in 1967 felt that the State's overreaction was in danger of stifling creativity, today's Times says that the opposite is true in Winehouse's case. "The State's actions could save a great talent. She desperately needs to be brought into rehabilitation and, this time, to stay put there for weeks if not months."

Which neatly brings us to the Daily Star's take on her troubles: "AMY IN MENTAL CLINIC."

(By way of proving its sensitivity, the paper also carries a heart-rending double page interview with its former page three girl Jo Guest on the "crippling mystery illness" that could kill her - she hasn't had sex for a year as she's "so ugly". To illustrate this predicament, she even poses in her pants. And sensible vest.)

Random Stat

09:28 UK time, Wednesday, 23 January 2008

When it comes to clothes, 86% of women admit to buying items they never wear, according to a survey by Asda.

Your Letters

15:23 UK time, Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Here I was ready to write a smug little comment to say that BBC had messed up "you put Eddie Murphy as his own on screen partner teehee" only to find out that was the actual answer! I have definately learnt my lesson - always check that you are right before being smug. Something I learnt today after shouting out to my office that I had spotted a BBC mistake only to find myself very red faced a few seconds later...
Poisoned Pirate, The Flying Fox

"I think we can safely say that the stomping, snorting optimistic beast of a market is fleeing the field, to be replaced by something scary and grizzly," said BBC Business Editor Robert Peston. "But volatility is the order of the day. In London, there has been a stunning bounce, which could yet turn out to be ephemeral. "Having worked at assorted times on trading floors, I can smell the adrenalin, testosterone and fear that is creating this mayhem." Just what was in his coffee this morning?
Baz, Lingwood, Norfolk

RE: Kite to pull ship across Atlantic. Using the power of wind to power a boat? Goodness! What a good idea, can't believe no-one's thought of that before.
Rob A, Cambridge, UK

Never have I seen such a blatant case of "re-inventing the wheel" as Kite to pull ship across Atlantic. Unless of course someone did re-invent the wheel.
Rob, Bristol

Hmm, a ship powered by a Kite? Perhaps they think it's modern because it's "computer controlled" but isn't this what used to be called "sails" in the old days?
Kelly Evans, Reading, UK

The chief executive of the former Distressed Gentlefolk's Aid Association, now named Elizabeth Finn Care, is called Jonathan Welfare. Genius!
Candy Spillard, York, UK

Has anyone else spotted that Mike Huckabee (potential next US president) bears a stiking resemblance to Robert Lindsay? A win for Mike would certainly keep him (RL) in business doing the docu-soaps and films. And he DOES have experience.
Mike, UK

Oh Angela (Monday's letters), that article was from the 23 September, 2004. It would appear that Mike Thomson was educated in the fine art of subtraction better than you.
Dave, Battersea, London

And that's why I always use a famous person's name when writing letters.
David Beckham

Random Stat

15:05 UK time, Tuesday, 22 January 2008

According to a House of Commons report, 38% of motorcyclists are driving without road tax.

Paper Monitor

12:12 UK time, Tuesday, 22 January 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The vernacular of Fleet Street has a few ways of telling us the economic chips are down:

1. The graph. Yup, anyone who has their life savings locked up in the stock market should always be fearful of a front page line graph that resembles a black run on the Matterhorn. Today's Guardian goes in for this big time, with the slot normally reserved for a front page picture replaced by a graph with lashings of figures and the odd "£" and "%" sign thrown in for dramatic effect. The Indy's graph is a more illustrative affair, but with the bonus of it being superimposed on a computer screen full of red numbers.

2. The stressed city trader. Step up, the Times. Putting to one side the question of exactly what a city trader does, what does a city trader look like? Now they no longer wear those stripy boxing referee tops and muster in a bear pit to make funny hand gestures, or stand out on widow ledges 30 storeys up, your average trader is at risk of being mistaken for any old Joe Schmo. The Times digs itself out of this conundrum by picturing our protagonist with a phone, a brow-mopping hand and, yes, a graph in the background. He also appears in the Mail, although his reclining position makes him look more like he's sharing a joke over the phone with mates. The Express just gives us a couple of glum-looking blokes in shirtsleeves and no tie perched in front of a bank of computer screens.

3. The frowning smiley. A new departure here, courtesy of the Sun, which takes the "this is how you should feel" approach, showing a glum looking smiley and the no-nonsense headline "£77bn off shares".

None of which can compete in visual metaphor terms with the picture in today's Times of the Northern Rock clock – yes, a clock at Northern Rock's Newcastle headquarters with the name of the troubled bank around its circumference and its hands variously at "the 11th hour" or, for additional drama, at 11.59. Any more of this "story distilled into a single image" stuff and newspaper cartoonists will be out of a job.

Your Letters

16:43 UK time, Monday, 21 January 2008

Could Peter Hain be the 'donor kebab' eaten by a senior minister that you mention in today's PM?
Dan, Oxford, UK

Dammit, Paper Monitor. Mistyping "doner kebab" as 'donor kebab' in a story about the Labour Party. There's a brilliant joke to be made here, if only I were cleverer.
Paul Taylor, Manchester, UK

Re today's Paper Monitor, why is it that when i write to a certain ferry company (who will at the moment remain nameless) to complain that a member of their staff threw an item at me all i get is a letter saying "yeah, sorry about that, we'll certainly look into it" (ok, that wasn't verbatim, but it was a fob-off) and yet jeremy paxman's washing machine eats his socks quicker than usual and M&S ask him to lunch? not exactly "treating customers fairly" is it!
sarah b, IOW, uk

Wow - I'm really excited. I'm presuming that, because Mr Rose has invited JP to lunch to discuss his correspondence about his problem underpants in more depth, this means that I'm about to get a lunch invite to discuss my bad experiences of their online shopping... Or am I being really naive?
Aqua Suliser, Bath

Re the Independent, I have been buying the Indie for about 10 years or so, and still intend doing so. Why? Because it's a campaigning newspaper whose campaigns I agree with. I don't buy a paper for the news coverage, what appears in the paper on a Tuesday I have already seen on bbc.co.uk on a Monday, however it is the analysis and campaigning style that I like and read, plus the Thursday column by Cooper Brown! Long live The Indie.....
Simon, Colchester, UK

The piece of furniture in the Banksy in Bristol is a Tallboy (Me and my Banksy). Tallboy was the name given to a 5 ton bomb used by the RAF to destroy dams etc in World War II. Could this be the explanation?
Lesley, London

May I be the first to wish everybody a happy 'most miserable day of the year'.
Mandy, Noordwijk , Netherlands

Re this story, so, who at the BBC can't count? If a document is due to be released into the public domain in 2021, but the BBC gets it in 2008, that's only 13 years, not 17. Where was Mike Thomson educated?

Angela Hodgson, Barnsley, UK

When considering words you have difficulty pronouncing it is best to try to find a similar word that you are very familiar with. For PM, for example, it might be best to think of February as Feh-brewery.
Phil, Guisborough

I am a bit surprised at an error in your phonetic pronunciations guide. You use kh for the sound in Scottish loch, but also give it as in German ich. As I'm sure you know really, ch in German has two values: kh as in Buch, and the softer sound (almost sh) after i, ei and consonants. Please correct this.
Tim Gossling, Cambridge UK

re: 10 things we didn't know last week, number 9 I believe to be in error as a black hole absorbs perfectly all wavelengths of light at all angles and is, by your own definition, a black hole. Technically it's not a material and the only reason light doesn't escape it is due to the bending of spacetime caused by the singularity at the centre infinitely streching the light to infinite wavelength (zero energy).
Cheers! Dave
David Hillier, Bristol, England

Your item that carbon nanotubes are the closest thing yet to an ideal black material is not exactly correct. As Fathers Ted and Dougal once discussed at great length priest's socks are in fact the only true black objects known to man - although some things are a very very very very very, very very dark blue and so they may appear black.
Steve Coglan, Accrington

Re 10 Things - there is no such thing as pure black. Perhaps the closest you'll get is the cover of Spinal Tap's Smell the Glove. In the words of Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnell, "How much more black can you get? The answer is none... more...black".
Phil Axmendale

Paper Monitor

11:55 UK time, Monday, 21 January 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's comments about not walking the streets at night, Paper Monitor predicts a bigger rumpus to come – between Ms Smith and her Department of Health counterpart, Alan Johnson.

There's Mr Johnson, falling over himself to push home the healthy eating message, when all of a sudden it's quite ok for a senior minister of the Crown to tuck into a donor kebab.

Quite how the Daily Mail managed to track down the kebab shop which played host to Ms Smith last Wednesday night is unclear, but visit it the paper did. And despite some undoubtedly blunt questioning from the reporter, owner of Katies kebab shop, Ender Ginel, has no complaints about his high-profile customer.

Having stumped up £3.90 for a donor kebab (no chips... no mention of chilli sauce) "Jacqui Smith didn't have any problems in here… she just sat here and ate her kebab," he tells the paper.

In surer hands, this story could have been quite a publicity coup for Ms Smith – senior minister of state shows no airs and graces as she gets down with the people of Peckham. Paper Monitor is reminded of the glowing reports when Bill Clinton popped in a McDonald's in Blackpool with Alastair Campbell. Instead, Ms Smith's press people are looking at headlines such as "Skewered" (Daily Mail) and "Kebabgate" (Daily Express).

Perhaps they should take a leaf out of the Marks and Spencer press relations book, after news that Jeremy Paxman wrote to M&S's chief executive Stuart Rose to complain about the quality of the store's underwear. Mr Rose's response – to invite Mr Paxman to lunch to discuss the issue further – has the pawprints of a deft PR machine.

The Sun isn't about to take this argument at face value however, and subjects Paxman's criticism's to "scientific" analysis, employing, in turn, a button mushroom, a couple of tangerines, a watermelon and a medicine ball.

The result? The "swingometer" shows a "small swing to the left". A spot of mischief making or is Paper Monitor being over sensitive?

Random Stat

10:08 UK time, Monday, 21 January 2008

In Scotland 13% of the population have ginger hair, according to the first online dating service exclusively for people with ginger hair, Redhedd.com. The highest proportion of any country in the world.

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