BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for February 3, 2008 - February 9, 2008

10 Things We Didn't Know Last Week

17:27 UK time, Friday, 8 February 2008


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

1. The oldest Mormon congregation in the world is in Preston, Lancashire.
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2. Naturism is known as Free Body Culture or Freikörperkultur in Germany and was particularly popular in the days of the old East Germany.
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3. There are frogs that use semaphore.
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4. St Kilda has no rats.
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5. Normal mice cannot catch colds.
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6. The three Scottish banks that issue currency lodge funds with the Bank of England three days a week (and are free to move it elsewhere for the other four).
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7. Children in Manchester are twice as likely to have tooth decay as children in Birmingham, who have flouride in their water.
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8. A list of guide prices for items commonly claimed by MPs on expenses is known as the "John Lewis list".
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9. Every year, the world's deserts produce 1,700 million tonnes of dust.
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10. Rat is a common foodstuff in the far north of Thailand.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Chris May for this week's picture of 10 jars of marmalade.

Your Letters

16:31 UK time, Friday, 8 February 2008

Monitor note: Love means never having to say you're sorry. But we are, for yesterday's non-appearance.

In Williams under fire in Sharia row, it says that "Under English law, people may devise their own way to settle a dispute in front of an agreed third party as long as both sides agree to the process." So does this mean that trial by combat is still legal?
Steve Coburn, Telford, UK

In Driver arrested for 'trafficking', it mentions that it was a "powdered carbon-based chemical". Being a pedantic chemist, I would like to point out this could be one of millions of things as nearly all chemicals used in industry are "carbon-based".
Christian Haythorn, Manchester

I'm fascinated to read that "greater transparency over MPs' expenses could put people off standing for Parliament, Commons authorities say." Surely, if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear?
Chandra, London

I hate to be boring, but how exactly do the actual meanings of winched, air-lifted and rescued differ from each other in the context of 7 days quiz? That's not a question about the week's news, it's a question about word memorising. Which I don't seem to be quite boring enough for...(this is, of course, the reason for my disgruntlement.)
Susannah, Northampton

Re Kissing cousins have more kids. More kids than who? Couples who don't kiss? Well, that would make sense...
Phil, Oxford

Look who's back at number one in the "most e-mailed" list... Sudan man forced to 'marry' goat. Wahey, two years and still our top guy!
Lee McCutcheon, Newcastle upon Tyne

Is there a connection between Sudan man forced to 'marry' goat and Kissing cousins have more kids?
Mike, Hull

Does anyone know if Mick Jagger still has all his own hair? It hasn't changed in style, volume or colour since 1965, and for a man of his age, surely it must be a wig or toupee? If not, I'd love to know what he's putting on it, as I could do with some.
Rob, London, UK

Has no-one anything better to do than waste licence-payers money pontificating about how to pronounce Lembit Opik's name (Wednesday letters)? Get a grip, there's a big wide world out there.
Porter, Cosford

Quotes of the Week

16:30 UK time, Friday, 8 February 2008

"It's mostly their guitar solos, which can be fairly horrific" - Sir Cliff Richard on his dislike of the Beatles.

They were chart contemporaries in the 1960s but, Sir Cliff Richard revealed in an interview, he's far from the Beatles' biggest fan. His chief gripe is the "out of tune" guitar work of the late George Harrison. "I find it unforgivable," Sir Cliff told Q Magazine. As if this wasn't bad enough, the man cited as the inspiration for Harrison's sometimes dissonant noodling, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, died in his sleep on Tuesday, aged approximately 91.
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"We went for Staines because it sounds nasty" – An ad executive explains the slogan "Screw working in Staines, hello Adelaide".

Once a £10 ticket was enough to lure skilled British workers to the other side of the world. These days a little more attitude is clearly needed. The advert is one of a series in an aggressive recruitment drive by the state government of South Australia which wants to attract some 5,000 skilled workers a year.
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"You get a bit carried away" – SocGen trader Jerome Kerviel explains his £3.7bn losses.

In his first interview since coming under investigation – and before being jailed - for the biggest rogue trader scandal ever, Jerome Kerviel took criticism on the chin. Yes, the 31-year-old junior trader had made mistakes, but he wasn't going to be made a scapegoat by his former employer, he said. The bank had known and approved of his unauthorised bets, he claimed.
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"They're such ignorant layabouts. I wouldn't trust them walking my dog" – Austin Mitchell MP on why he doesn't employ relatives.

As fall-out over MPs employing family members continued to shower over Westminster, veteran member for Great Grimsby, Austin Mitchell, risked halving his Christmas card haul in 2008 with this comment. "I have a long, I hope devoted, and certainly long-serving staff. They're the best of any MP, and serve Grimsby well. They're also underpaid," Mr Mitchell told the Grimsby Telegraph.
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"I've earned a reputation for many things: being a provocateur… a cult member, a kidnapper" – Madonna at a New York benefit for Malawi.

In case it's too subtle for you, Madge was referring to her visit to the African country of Malawi in 2006 – from which she returned with a young boy. She and husband Guy Ritchie are currently trying to adopt the boy. (Other things the pop star said she had a "reputation" for included "pushing the envelope.. never taking no for an answer [and] endlessly reinventing myself.")
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Daily Mini-Quiz

12:14 UK time, Friday, 8 February 2008

In Thursday's mini-question, we asked which big name British director boasts a job on Grange Hill on his CV. It's Anthony Minghella, which 38% of you answered correctly - he was a script editor before going on to direct The English Patient and The Talented Mr Ripley. Another 36% said Mike Leigh and the rest opted for Stephen Frears.

Paper Monitor

11:28 UK time, Friday, 8 February 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

sunfrontpage.jpgIt's not the easiest of tasks, illustrating a front page lead about Sharia law in the UK. Unless, of course, you work on the Sun - any excuse to wheel out that file pic of a niqab-clad woman doing the fingers is a good excuse.

And when that excuse comes courtesy of the Archbishop of Canterbury... well, it's for a higher purpose (Rowan Williams, incidentally, has never flipped a V at the nation's media; men of the cloth are taught to resist temptation, so he merely looks a bit grumpy in the Sun's chosen mugshot). Aptly, the meaning of the picture caption is open to interpretation: "Fury... woman in burkha". She's angry at the Archbish's comments? At Sharia law's lack of legal standing in the UK?

The Guardian takes another tack entirely, which is equally predictable - the archbishop looking a bit grumpy, surrounded by a halo of orange light. Why orange? It's akin to gold, the traditional choice of colour in depictions of holy halos, but crucially, is not actually gold. Subtext: the archbish is having a rum time of things?

And the Times and the Daily Telegraph simply cover the uproar in words alone, with another story entirely chosen to illustrate the front page. These too are hardly surprising - excited Asian Rooney fans in the former (see below for more on that story) and the Rolling Stones on the latter.

Meanwhile, all week the Daily Mirror has been giving away Mr Men books and today's features Mr Greedy. In a pleasing - and perhaps not entirely intentional - juxtaposition, the front page headline shrieks: "FOR SALE - OUR NATIONAL GAME: Outrage at greedy Premier League plan to hold TEN EXTRA matches ABROAD and rake in £240 MILLION".

There is also the inevitable photo of the troubled star du jour, headlined: "You'll KILL our Britney: Parents' fears." Given the theme of the Mirror's front page, perhaps Paper Monitor can be excused for the words "goose" and "golden egg" springing unbidden to mind.

Random Stat

10:37 UK time, Friday, 8 February 2008

Ahead of the Olympics, the Chinese government has waged a long campaign to improve the manners of Beijing's residents. And Renmin University created an annual "civic index" three years ago to gauge progress, surveying thousands of residents and sending out teams of observers. The 2007 study found that 2.5% still spat in public, down from 4.9% in 2006.

Paper Monitor

12:15 UK time, Thursday, 7 February 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press

Skirting over the US elections (plenty of that ahead) and Amy Winehouse looking all buffed up, Paper Monitor is wondering what to make of all the good youth/ bad youth stories in today’s press.

Here, we are past Jacqui Smith’s worrying tipping point where more than half of 13-year-olds have drunk alcohol.

The qualities make large of the story, detailing the £875,000 campaign to dry out under-age drinking in public.

Whereas The Sun has the whole story nailed in three brief paragraphs on the inside of page 4.

Six times the space is given to the photo of the lion riding on a horse’s back in a Chinese circus. Along with The Mirror, The Sun enjoys the spectacle of animal antics and tiger go-faster stripes while the Daily Mail prefers to measure the depths of animal humiliation the Chinese are plumbing.

A distraction - so anyway, back to British youth. The Mail emphasises Jacqui Smith’s observation that they tend to grow up into young adults with an appetite for destruction causing mayhem in town centres.

It’s certainly put off proper full blown adults wanting to mix with them at work. The Guardian reports a dramatic drop in the number of people wanting to train as teachers.

Who can blame them not wanting to spend time with youths whose parents send them off with six packs of lager for the evening?

What’s gone wrong then? It’s meddling BBC bosses who are to blame for axing Grange Hill, of course. CBBC say children no longer define themselves by boring school life. The Sun says gangs start in school. Save the school drama and join the campaign to stop youth gang culture hogging the headlines!

Zammo (actor Lee MacDonald) frankly tells The Mirror, if Grange Hill really showed what was going on in schools today, it would have to be on after the watershed.

Despite the ‘Bank raider aged five’ headline in the Mail, faith in the nation’s youth is restored by five-year-old Oliver Pettigrew who walked through an unlocked door into a rural branch of HSBC when it was closed. Upstanding Oliver alerted his parents who were using the cashpoint outside, and they phoned the police to come and lock the bank up. Paper Monitor knew the kids were alright.

Your Letters

16:13 UK time, Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Re Under-18s may face new drink ban and Drive to curb teen pregnancy rate - two birds with one stone?
Teegee, Belfast

Who uses phone boxes? Surely the obvious answer has to be those of us that are so badly organised that the batteries on our mobile phones need charging.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Re 'I made £20k in three minutes': The delightfully candid woman who recently sold a Banksy and admits that, at the auction sale, "I had sweaty armpits which isn't good in a Primark synthetic top" has set a standard of honesty that our politicians could do with imitating.
Mark, Reading

Re today's random stat: "According to a survey, 43% of mothers requesting a Caesarean birth had a "clinically significant" fear of a natural delivery." In other news, 43% of women said they are afraid of natural delivery. The other 57% stuck their fingers in their ears and said "la la la I'm not listening".
Lucy Jones, Manchester

My mother bought and used, whilst serving as a nurse during the Blitz, an electric bar fire which she later passed to her sister, a Land Army worker, in 1950/1. My aunt still has the fire and it works a treat.
Roberta Kirque, Fuengirola, Malaga, Spain

Re the dmq on regional music preferences. You give us a choice of Leeds, Bath and Glasgow and then in the answer you tell us what they listen to in London, Doncaster and Bristol. But what about Bath and Glasgow? Restless minds demand to know.
Dec, Belfast

If 27% of people make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, how many people eat them? In our house I am one of the 27% but I make them for five.
Mike, Bolton

There's a link back to the Magazine just above the "send us a letter" section in the Monitor. But it stopped working a while ago and it's still broken. Please fix it.
John Marsh, Fairfax, Virginia, US

Paper Monitor

12:44 UK time, Wednesday, 6 February 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There are days when reading the headlines gives a taste of what it must like to be a script editor on some grisly murder mystery like Messiah or Rebus or Miss Marple. The week is but partway through and already there have been all manner of ghoulish goings-on:

'Maniac' had sex with model’s corpse - Metro
'No killing' to be made in Rock deal - Financial Times
Annabel, 2, drinks acid in fruit juice - Sun
Writer beaten to death ‘like a seal pup’ - Monday's Times
Fashion victims apply the bandage dress - Monday's Daily Telegraph
Pensioner in parking row at Asda died after revenge attack - Tuesday's Daily Mail
Your winter nuts help birds breed - Times (oops, how did that last one sneak in there?)

Honestly, it's enough to make one long for quieter, gentler times, like the days when Ireland won back-to-back-to-back Eurovision song contests. Speaking of which, today's Times provides some light relief with a piece about the turkey puppet that's favourite to be Ireland's entry this year.

Now Paper Monitor regrets to admit that it has hitherto been ignorant of Dustin the Turkey's body of work. But the paper remedies such a failing with a wealth of biographical details - such as how Dustin's political party is called Fianna Fowl - as it assesses the celebrity puppet's chances of joining past Irish Eurovision luminaries.

Those who take Eurovision success seriously worry that such a development indicates that the contest is "going down the tubes". But the paper's pop guru Pete Paphides posits that ironic entries might just be the way to go. Well, Terry Wogan has always undertaken his own involvement with one eyebrow hiked firmly skyward. And where Tel leads...

Random Stat

10:03 UK time, Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Dr Aric Sigman lectures the Institue Of Biology in London on Thursday, saying that young people have too much access to TVs and pcs. He says 55% of 11 to 15-year-olds spend 55% of their waking lives in front of television and computer screens. Parents should provide a buffer zone from so much electronic media, he adds.

Your Letters

15:27 UK time, Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Re: The future of the internet. I was particularly stuck by the final words of the article: "The future of the internet is an internet of connected objects"... so er... just like it is now really... links and stuff...
Imogen, London

In response to Helen of Leicester's letter (Monday's letters) regarding Shrove Tuesday. Fasting on Sundays is not allowed, because as the day on which Christ rose from the dead Sunday is always a feast day. Therefore, the lenten fast is the 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Saturday, minus the six Sundays in that time period, giving 40 days in total.
Phil, Oxford, UK

After 40 days in the desert, the extra seven days were spent thus; Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, spent a few days there, arrested Wednesday night, questioned on the Thursday, Good Friday he was crucified and then rose on the Sunday. most people seem to forget those busy seven days when calculating for Lent when really they're the crucial part of the whole thing.
Sarah B, Isle o' Wight

To Steph from Brighton (Monday's letters). This was not the exact same letter, the posting on this site was to try to engage the BBC in the debate. I myself referred to the Metro debate (although the BBC took this reference out) and in any case, not everyone gets the Metro. At the risk of being even more boring, why not engage in the actual debate and make some constructive, comments?
Jane Badrock, Ware/Hertfordshire

Re: DMQ - "Super Toosday ... could be make or break day for Messrs McCain, Romney, Obama and Clinton". I'm sure I'm not the first to point out that 'Messrs' is the plural of 'Mister' - and that Mr Clinton had his big break in politics some time ago.
Rob, Sheffield, UK

Re: Ashley from Kent's letter (Monday's letters) about annoucements for train delays. At some point they must have changed the phrase from "we are very sorry" to "I am very sorry". Obviously they think people will feel more empathy with the train companies if they imagine them as single person.
Joe A, Bath

Paper Monitor

13:09 UK time, Tuesday, 5 February 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Is Travelodge's publicity arm on performance-related pay?

Paper Monitor has been keeping a sly eye on the budget hotel chain's profile in the press over recent months and hardly a week seems to go by without a story about the firm.

Today's papers, including the Sun and Mirror, reveal the firm's latest wheeze – "non-itch" pyjamas. Since when did pyjamas become synonymous with itching?

There's no mention unfortunately that wearing these skin-tight hooded outfits risks making you look like an extra from Woody Allen's Sleeper although the Mirror throws in the random fact that that kids' TV show Bananas in Pyjamas was inspired by a 1967 song written by the nephew of Enid Blyton.

Among last month's Travelodge highlights was the launch of the firm's Nodcasts – MP3s to download that will help you get to sleep; a trawl through the chain's lost property office (mislaid items included keys to a Bentley, a 6ft by 6ft remote-control helicopter and a pet cat) and news of plans to build a Travelodge out of old shipping containers. And that's just what's been in the Sun.

The most compelling pictures of the day, however, are of the baby in Germany being thrown to safety from the third storey window of a blazing house.

It's a heart-stopping images of the baby mid-fall and the hunt is surely now on for the fireman who caught the infant.

Until then the hero of the moment is web designer-turned photo-journalist Rene Werse who captured the dramatic scene on camera. Citizen journalism has a new poster boy.

Random Stat

11:10 UK time, Tuesday, 5 February 2008

According to a survey, 57% of people check their bank statements for evidence of fraud.

Your Letters

17:55 UK time, Monday, 4 February 2008

Re the story about the Lembit lookalike and the repeated references to both a double and a "real" Lembit. Why the "quotes"? Has he been abducted by aliens?
Colin, Belfast

31st Jan: Paper Monitor calls the Sun headline Beadle's Not About "a pretty crass pun." So how does the magazine headline the sad passing of Indian restaurant proprietor Abdul Latif? "Taken Away". Pretty crass indeed!
Martin S, Newbury, UK

Re Adam's letter on Friday, looking for blatant examples of insincerity, I find that the automated announcements at stations telling you that your train is delayed are equally insincere. The increase in insincerity is inversely proportionate to the level of frustration etc when the message goes from "We are sorry..." at a minor delay to "We are very sorry..." and "We are extremely sorry...", at the point when one's train is cancelled.
Ashley, Kent

Any call centre that uses the phrase "Your call is important to us" when you've been holding for 20 minutes.
Darren McCormac, London

Dear MM,
With reference to last Friday's letter from Adam of London,
I remain, Sir, your most humble and obedient servant.
O.G.Nash, Doha, Qatar

Dear Adam, I'd love to participate in your insincere phrase contest.
Jeff, Phoenix, USA

Adam asks if it is possible to come up with a more blatant example of insincerity. Well, that's easy- companies that claim to be "Investors in People" yet force employees who choose to smoke into a freezing shed on the far side of the site.
Richard Watson, Stoke-on-Trent

I can't help thinking that the people who have invented a cigarette which is shorter than normal [Monitor cannot find the story on the BBC News website, but includes this letter by way of balance against the previous missive], but still has the same potency, just haven't quite understood the whole point of why smoking has been banned in the first place.
Rachel, Geneva

Could someone please explain why is tomorrow Shrove Tuesday? Easter Sunday this year is March 23rd. There are 47 days between Feb 5th and March 23rd. Lent should be 40 days, not 47! Jesus did fast for 40 days. Who has made this error?
Helen, Leicester

To Kevin Langley's sister (Your Letters, Thursday)- another weight loss tip is to subtract your birth weight - after all, you've never actually put that on. Luckily I was a hefty baby and so can subtract over 9lbs from my present weight, slipping me into my ideal BMI range.
Libby, Coleford, Somerset

Re the debate of the letter H.. This has been going on in the Metro over the last week. Please don't bore me by sending the EXACT same letter to the BBC as well! At least show some originality!
Steph, Brighton

Paper Monitor

11:05 UK time, Monday, 4 February 2008

A service highlighting the riches the daily press.

Let's be clear about one thing: Paper Monitor has not got cleavage on its mind. But after Friday's mention of the "c" word comes today's Daily Express and its apparent determination to test that noted piece of cocktail bar wisdom, that, like the sun, cleavage can't be looked at directly (source: Friday's Paper Monitor again).

The "volunteer" for this piece of social experimentation is TV host Holly Willoughby, whom the Express has cannily spotted wearing a dress with a plunging neckline. Well, it and the several other million viewers who tuned into Saturday night's show, Dancing on Ice.

Turn to page three and look, there's a whole page of coverage – or lack of it, as the case may be – of La Willoughby ('scuse the Franglais) wearing (sharp intake of breath) other dresses with plunging necklines. Such wantonness. The last time readers will have glimpsed this state of undress was probably in a Sunday evening BBC costume drama or at a WRVS AGM or, yes, at a cocktail party.

But, hey, it's not all cynical manipulation until the cows come home. While the Express could hardly claim to have an exclusive on images that were broadcast freely into living rooms up and down the country on Saturday night, it is at least playing the celebrity flesh game without resorting to paparazzi pics. So that's "ethical", at least. And hey, they probably hadn't even considered this one iota, but re-running television grabs is also a lot cheaper.

Random Stat

09:56 UK time, Monday, 4 February 2008

Only 27 per cent of people will definitely make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday - otherwise known as Pancake Day - according to a poll by flour firm McDougalls.

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