BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for March 9, 2008 - March 15, 2008

10 things we didn't know last week

17:48 UK time, Friday, 14 March 2008

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

1. The Duchess of Cornwall once watched Bob Marley in concert.
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2. Archimedes was murdered over pi.
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3. Forty years after colour TV was introduced to the UK there are still 34,700 people with black and white television licences.
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4. Late running trains cost the country 14 million minutes last year.
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5. A 4cm hole in the heart is not necessarily fatal.
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6. Short men are more likely to be jealous.
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7. Toasters are banned in Cuba.
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8. Yasmin Le Bon is an anti-counterfeit campaigner.
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9. Dolphins can communicate with whales.
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10. The difference between vines within France's Champagne region and those just outside is 995,000 euros.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Brendan Murphy, Coatbridge, Scotland, for this week's picture of 10 bollards.

Your Letters

16:43 UK time, Friday, 14 March 2008

Will Adam and Rachel (Thursday's letters) be the new Molly and Stuart? Can we start a PM romancewatch?
Morwenna, North Sydney

All the helping hands in childbirth may not be enough, "the Newcastle team concluded". I'm not surprised they don't win any matches if they spend all their time on ante-natal research.
Edward Green, London, UK

Why is the dolphin on the magazine front page wearing a santa claus hat? Did this help the whale follow it?
Sara, London

Dear PM, having finally translated your first paragraph, I do hope that your visit to the hospital went well and that it is nothing serious. It has to be quite a shock to the system to be presented with two-year-old copies of Best/Bella/Hello and the Angler's Companion/House and Home after being at the cutting edge of the news.
Janet, Pontypool, Wales

'After all, how would "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" sound uttered by Hugh Grant?'

Well you know, er, my original intent so to speak, was that the doors, um, that is, and only the doors as it were, should, as it happens, have been blown off.
Andrew, Cambridge

"Fake fears over Ethiopia's gold"? I suppose that the country doesn't have anything to worry about, as long as there are no real fears over it.
Jacob, London

Wonderful advice from Patrick O'Brien for women about to give birth - "prepare to be flexible". Wise words indeed.
Chris Kenny, Southampton, England

Paper Monitor

11:56 UK time, Friday, 14 March 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Devotees of Paper Monitor may be surprised to learn that it too can be subject to the Kafkaesque appointment systems of large institutions such as - and without naming names - those which seek to ensure health and wellbeing in the general populace. Hence today's delayed despatch...

It can’t be often that the Sun and Daily Mirror share the same cover star as that intellectually superior, the Independent, but today’s the day. And the identity of such an all-encompassing individual? No, not Britney, not Myleene and not a dolphin. It’s Kauto Star, with stablemate Denman in some shots - the favourites to win the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

After those pesky storms wreaked havoc there earlier in the week, at last it’s now tally ho for racegoers on the last day of the festival. Although the talk among tipsters is that it’s a two-horse race, in newspaper coverage terms there is one other well-bred filly to rival them. She’s the (unsurprising?) choice for the Daily Telegraph. Paper Monitor fails to recall a time when an event in the racing calendar wasn’t accompanied by a picture of the royal ‘rebel’ (as she once known for doing the wild thang and having her tongue pierced before eventually settling down with her rugger-playing boyfriend).

On the subject of country pursuits, the self-appointed champion of the countryside himself (residing in that well known rural retreat of Notting Hill), David Cameron, also features heavily in the pages of today’s press. More familiarly seen in the House of Commons, here he is in the House of Camerons (copyright of Paper Monitor). After allowing ITN’s cameras in to film breakfast with his children, who would be the odds-on favourite to make the most of such a story? Double page spread of Dave, Samantha at home with the kids? If Paper Monitor were a betting man (or woman…) it’d be difficult not to have taken a punt on it being the Daily Mail.

Friday's Quote of the Day

11:08 UK time, Friday, 14 March 2008

See the Quote of the Day every morning on the Magazine index.

"I am the original bourgeois nightmare: a Cockney with intelligence and a million dollars" - Sir Michael Caine

Across the week, the BBC has been running a series of programmes looking at Britain's white working class, but it hardly had millionaires living in leafy Surrey in mind.

Despite his wealth, knighthood and fame, the star of Alfie and Get Carter has tried to stay true to his roots in Rotherhithe, south-east London, and that Cockney accent is now part of the fabric of British film history.

After all, how would "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" sound uttered by Hugh Grant?

Your Letters

09:17 UK time, Friday, 14 March 2008

Monitor: Due to Thursday's letters failure, there will be two sets of letters today.

I'm sure the homeowner pictured in the second photo here would cook their food quicker if they actually put their saucepans on top of the hobs that were on.
Michael Hall, Croydon, UK

As Adam from Belfast (Wednesday's letters) ought to know, under 1st edition D&D rules, Elf *was* a class. It doesn't take the Eye of Vecna to see that it was an historical allusion.
Alex, Bristol

Adam, Belfast - you're my ideal man.
Rachel, Surrey

Today's quote was the most depressing ever. People who don't leave the bathroom for two years not only have partners, but manage to hang on to them and yet I am single. Thank God this story wasn't released on Valentine's day.
Sara, Malmo, Sweden

RE the story that says "Mr Darwin, 57, vanished after his canoe was found in the sea close to his home at Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, in 2002." Surely he vanished before the canoe was found?
Matt, Manchester

If the Caption Competition returned, you might get posts such as "Introducing the new All-Weather Mobile Phone". If only...
Phil, Cardiff

RE: "If only the Caption Competition was back" - you really are going to silly lengths to keep your identity hidden aren't you PM. How you make it into work like that is a mystery to me.
Nick Ould, Peterborough, UK

Does the use of the indicative "was" instead of the subjunctive "were" in "If only the Caption Competition was back (pt1)" mean it will indeed be coming back? Finals are looming, and I still only vaguely understand the rules of the subjunctive...
Rosie, Bangor, N Wales

How to say: Chiwetel Ejiofor

16:28 UK time, Thursday, 13 March 2008

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

British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor recently won Best Actor at the Olivier Awards for playing Othello. Finding the best pronunciation recommendation for his name has proved exceptionally complicated for us, and the story behind this illustrates our various research sources and methods.

Chiwetel EjioforOur policy for personal names is, where possible, to recommend the pronunciation that the individual concerned prefers to be used by the BBC. If we can't speak to them directly (as has so far proved the case with Mr Ejiofor) and can't find any instances of them saying their own name, (perhaps in an interview or speech available online or in the BBC’s archives), we consult people who represent them or who know them very well. We rely on such people's goodwill in sparing their time to advise us, but we find they are usually happy to co-operate.

With foreign names, we also consider the opinion of speakers of the relevant language, asking them how the name is pronounced in that language and also how they might expect it to be anglicised. This was our first source in the case of Chiwetel Ejiofor. His is a name of Nigerian Ibo origin, so we consulted an Ibo speaker in the BBC World Service Hausa section, who proposed the pronunciation chi-WAY-tell ejj-i-OH-for.

Unsure whether this would be his own preference, especially as we had noticed different stress patterns when his name was used in English language contexts, we then spoke to two other sources; his theatrical agents and a press officer at the Donmar Warehouse where he has performed for many years. Both these sources know the actor well, and both have given us confident assurances that they are certain of the correct pronunciation.

Unfortunately for us, they do not agree with one another – the former eventually recommended CHOO-wuh-tuhl IJJ-i-uh-for, the latter CHOO-wet-uhl EJJ-i-oh-for. Although they agree on stress placement, the differences that persist in vowel reduction and the vowel in the first syllable of the surname are not negligible. Attempts to reconcile these two pronunciations have so far proved unsuccessful, and so – very exceptionally for us – we must currently recommend both of them to our broadcasters.

The ideal way to settle this once and for all would simply be to speak to the actor - so, if you’re reading this Mr Ejiofor, we would love to hear from you!

If only the Caption Competition was back (pt1)

13:49 UK time, Thursday, 13 March 2008


Paper Monitor

12:12 UK time, Thursday, 13 March 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It’s the day after Budget day and Paper Monitor is settling back into its workstation after an annual ritual every bit as familiar within these walls as the chancellor stepping out on to the doorstep of 11 Downing Street and holding his red suitcase aloft. Yesterday, just as on every Budget day since internet immemorial, Paper Monitor is gently ousted from its seat at the epicentre of the news hub to make way for a thrusting business hack for the day.

The result is always the same. Come Thursday morning, desk furniture has been rearranged, the framed picture of those gap-toothed little Paper Monitorites has fallen down and into the tangle of electrical and network cables and someone else's chair has mysteriously appeared.

But to the matter in hand... Alistair Darling, eh. What a bore, at least that's the opinion of Telegraph sketch writer Andrew Gimson who says listening to Mr Darling's "lugubrious tone put one in mind of an undertaker, except that undertakers are often quite cheerful". Eh?

Picking up on the repeated use of the word "stability" in the chancellor's speech Gimson does, however, employ a neat turn of phrase in observing that "one fears [the government has] locked the stable door long after the stability has bolted". Kudos.

Unlike many business stories, the Budget at least has some broader interest value. But let's face it, there's only a certain amount you can do with a picture of a grey-haired bloke holding a briefcase.

It's a chance therefore for the papers to get a little creative… with mixed results. Metro employs an Indy-esque combination of words and pictograms picking up on colours – brown (as in the Prime Minister), green (as in the environment). It doesn't work.

The Independent itself employs a (literally) sideways glance at Mr Darling, the chancellor's briefcase obscuring his head. A visual metaphor for the theory that Mr Darling isn't his own man? No.

The Telegraph appeals to its petrolhead readers by showing pictures of four cars (duty on them is going up, in case you didn’t know).

The Times falls back on cartoonist Peter Brookes, depicting Mr D with a red disposable carrier bag. Novel.

Things are not much better in the myriad pull-out sections, although the Telegraph does something nice with a cartoonish skit on that infamous hurricane broadcast by Michael Fish. There's Mr Darling, in front of a weather map. "'Apparently, there is a hurricane on the way… well, don't worry, there isn't'*". But what's that rule about killing a joke by having to explain it? The asterisk is qualified down page with this rather stultifying explanation: "With apologies to Michael Fish, the weatherman who said on the eve of 1987's Great Storm: 'Earlier on today apparently a lady rang the BBC and said…" It goes on.

There's no such fancy footwork in the paper that must surely consider itself the Budget Bible, yes, the Financial Times. Just a picture of Mr Darling and case and about half-a-million words with phrases such as "abolition of taper relief" and "the UK's double-tax agreement". In fact, so wedded is the FT to the tenets of the Budget story that its 28-page Budget special envelops the paper itself. In other words the main paper has become the pull-out.

But the real headline from all this coverage is how restrained the qualities have been when it comes to punning on the new chancellor's name. Honourable mention therefore to the Times for "Fingers crossed, Darling".

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:59 UK time, Thursday, 13 March 2008

"Something's wrong with my girlfriend" - Call to police by man whose girlfriend was stuck on a loo for two years.

Bit of an odd one, this. The woman, who has not been named, had become attached to the seat seemingly by her skin growing round it, reported police in Kansas. Her boyfriend, who eventually contacted the authorities, said that he'd bring her food and water every day and ask her whether she was coming out, to which she would replied "Maybe tomorrow".

Your Letters

15:46 UK time, Wednesday, 12 March 2008

According to today's mini-quiz, Coventry is the cheapest place to stay in the UK because you can get a hotel room for '£57 per night'. In two weeks time I'm going to Barcelona, where I will stay in an en-suite room in a well-reviewed hotel on the edge of the city centre for £48 per night. It's not a difficult choice, really. Sorry Coventry - I might visit when my finances are up to the job.
Ken, Chelmsford

I saw the headline Keisha: I want to be PM while browsing the NZ Herald. I'd vote for her if she promises to bring back Punorama.
Martin , Edinburgh

I can sympathise with Michael Gove (Quote of the Day)- I too used to pretend to be a strange creature in an archaic fantasy world where I made my own rules. But I've grown up since then, and being an MP now seems almost too ludicrous for words.
Edward Green, London, UK

When it comes to "choosing to pretend to be an elf, wizard, warrior or fighting monk" (Quote of the Day), I feel I must point out that 'elf' is a race, whereas the other three are all classes. Of course, multi-classing means you could conceivably be all four things at once but the disadvantages would, erm, ahem... I'll get my +1 Cloak.
Adam, Belfast, UK

Re: Wednesday's quote of the day. I suppose you could describe it as a 'geek tragedy'
James P, Cambridge

As a trained counsellor, can I assure all regular readers of PM that I am poised to offer counselling, therapy and crystals to Molly and anyone else who feels that they are affected by this. For those who feel that you are not affected, you have no heart, no soul, no sense of romance and should be ashamed. I will issue a confidential phone number, website and drop-in centre address when I have dealt with all those still grieving the loss by the England rugby team on Saturday. It's a harsh world out there.
Andi, England

Re. Laurie snubbed: Why do headline writes always turn opinions into facts? 'Laurie FEELS snubbed after US success' would be far more representative than merely putting 'snubbed' in inverted commas. He says himself he has no time for any other work, which makes you wonder what the point of the article is anyway...
Ian, Bristol

Paper Monitor

11:40 UK time, Wednesday, 12 March 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

A lot can happen between a paper going to print and it hitting the news-stands, just ask England cricketer Matthew Hoggard. Writing in his column in the Times, he talks about how his infant son Ernie will see him play in a Test match for the first time when England take on New Zealand in the second Test on Wednesday.

Young Ernie will be watching the match from the stands and unfortunately Hoggard will be joining him. He's been dropped from the team, along with Steve Harmison. Obviously not in time for his column to be changed, which results in a rather uncomfortable reading experience for the rest of us.

Lines such as "that's one extra spectator that I'II be hoping to impress" leave you wincing. Luckily Ernie is far too young to register any disappointment, unlike his dad.

Day two of poetry wars and the Guardian has come out all guns blazing - WH Auden with a foreword by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. The Independent's offering is a booklet about Alexander Pope, written by Michael Schmidt, author of The Lives of Poets.

Auden probably wins today's battle, but in true Guardian style probably his best-known and most-loved poem "Stop all the clocks" is not included in the free booklet. Heaven forbid the paper includes something that is actually popular among the masses.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:28 UK time, Wednesday, 12 March 2008

"For a few spotty years, I was that tragic geek" - Tory MP Michael Gove reveals his former love of Dungeons & Dragons.


The death of Gary Gygax, co-creator of the famous role-playing game, has had fans all over the world misty-eyed. And columnist Gove was happy to indulge in a bit of nostalgia while insisting: Pretending to be an elf, wizard, warrior or fighting monk for an afternoon is almost too ludicrous for words".

Your Letters

18:09 UK time, Tuesday, 11 March 2008

I think all of this trivia is very good and interesting. I can truly say I have learned something from it. Thank you so much.
Joan More, Lake Worth, Florida

In the light of the suggestion that pupils should swear allegiance to the Queen, did anyone else spot the loyal-subjects-of-the-week?
"To be honest it's an honour to be insulted by royalty. It is something to tell the grandchildren."
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

According to this story about the Canadian contribution to the International Space Station, "the Canadian-built arms, which are each 3.35m (11ft) long, are designed to fit and service components as small as a phonebook or as large as a telephone booth". You've got to love those big guys. Haven't they heard of cell phones?
David Dee, Matola Mozambique

To Molly - I hope you are not to upset this morning to discover Stuart is married (Monday's letters) - what a tragic ending to what might have been a beautiful relationship. I'm sure I speak for many when I say "We feel your pain".
Naomi P, Sussex

Despite capital punishment being officially no longer on the statute books for treason, which I've just learned includes sleeping with the wife of the heir to the throne, all good conspiracy theorists of course know that capital punishment is still carried out, only now it's made to look like an accident.
Adam, London, UK

In the "nomen est omen" category, the former foreign policy advisor of Barack Obama is called "Samantha Power"...
No wonder she had to go.
Nanda Behari, Leiden, The Netherlands

RE the stun-gun disguised as a mobile. Det Sgt Dave Bola, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: "It's a shock that we found it."' Who says the police don't have a sense of humour?
David, UK

After Nicola from Belfast's letter yesterday, I'm suspicious as to exactly how many times a story needs to be emailed to make it into the "most emailed stories" list. It can't be very many, can it? Can you enlighten us?
Jack Hatfield, Brighton

Monitor: No

Paper Monitor

12:32 UK time, Tuesday, 11 March 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

In this era of Web 2.0 and UGC, it is reassuring to remember that in the world of newspapers the old values, or the old news values at least, are being fought for.

In the Daily Express, page 9 is given over to affairs ecclesiastical. The headline of the lead story is "Vicar who sent saucy cards to a mistress loses fight for his job". It could be a headline from 1962. Not text messages, but a "card". Not "sexy", but "saucy". At the bottom of the page is another story about a bishop and a female vicar. OK, maybe that part isn't very 1962.

Over in the Sun there is the touching tale of a 144-year-old Christening gown being used for the 32nd time. In the Times there is a house made of straw.

And an honourable mention must go the Guardian and the Independent who have started a circulation war to be fought entirely with free poetry supplements. The Guardian has its usual creamy, heavy paper and minimal earth-toned card cover, while the Indy has opted for something a little more shiny. The Guardian has TS Eliot, the Indy has John Milton. Poetrywar starts here.

"Consumer gloom as spending power fails" shouts the Times from its front page. How does the paper know – thanks to an interactive poll the Times has been running on its website.

The paper explains… "The Times has a long history of commissioning opinion polls. These are scientifically rigorous using a carefully selected panel of perhaps 1,000 people."

Mmmm. Admirable.

"At Times Online, we can do things differently. We can throw our questions to our readers and capture their mood quickly, cheaply [10 out of 10 for honesty, guys] and easily.

"It does not have the statistical rigour of an opinion poll but it's a snapshot of unfiltered opinion and anecdote."

No harm in that, except that it's the LEAD STORY. It's akin to the BBC News website running a top story based on the results of the Daily Mini-Quiz.


Tuesday's Quote of the Day

10:02 UK time, Tuesday, 11 March 2008

"Delight not in wine... for it transformeth a man into a beast" - Sir Walter Raleigh counsels against binge drinking.


In an essay to his son, contained in a rare first edition to be auctioned at Bonhams next month, Sir Walter warned that alcohol "decayeth health, poisoneth the breath, destroyeth natural heat, brings a man's stomach to an artificial heat, deformeth the face and rotteth the teeth". It seems a prescient message for our anti-social drinking-obsessed times.

Your Letters

17:40 UK time, Monday, 10 March 2008

RE Molly, Dorking and Stuart, Croydon (Friday's letters); it's all very You've Got Mail. I am waiting on the edge of my seat for the posting of Mondays letters.
Rhiannan, Gloucestershire

Nobody guessed at the time,
But when Molly met Stuart online,
What started by chance,
Became the romance
That left Dr Zhivago behind.
Vicky, East London

Sorry to disappoint but Stuart, Croydon has a lovely wife and son with another baby due in seven weeks. I'm still happy to send pictures to whoever would like one.
Stuart, Croydon

Please, please, please, please, please can you remove that story about the man who married his goat? Every time I see it in the most e-mailed lists my soul dies just a little.
Sam, Waddesdon, Nr Aylesbury

BBC, you have brightened up my Monday no end. My fiance and I managed to get "Sudan man forced to marry goat" back into the top e-mailed list in a matter of ten minutes.
Nicola, Belfast

The news ticker at the top says- "LATEST: UK producer prices stay at 16-year high, adding to inflationary worries."

With all the recent scandal over TV competitions I am surprised that the BBC is running an article that admits producers have a price.
Christian Cook, Epsom, UK

"Zombies can't run because their ankles would snap"(10 things). I disagree, the reason that zombies can't run is because they don't really exist.
Michelle, Worthing

As a PhD student in Anglo-Saxon studies, I was very interested to see that Anglo-Saxon bones were to be re-buried with an accompanying service in Anglo-Saxon. As a pedant, I would like to point out that Anglo-Saxon services were almost all in Latin, and that "Anglo-Saxon" is now normally called "Old English". I'll get my "hacele".
Helen, Cambridge, UK

Paper Monitor

11:55 UK time, Monday, 10 March 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It looked to be a bad day for the umbrella insurance industry when Paper Monitor trudged to the station this morning, all that driving rain and winds with such buffet that even Warren himself wouldn't decry his name being misspelt and confused with the word.

In times of extreme climatic events, there's one organ of the news that Paper Monitor turns to first. And anyone seeking a fix of Daily Express Weather today will not be disappointed.


Killer? Have we missed something? Ah, but the truth as ever is in the small print. The storm in question has, apparently, already brought "death and destruction to the US and Canada and there were fears it could also claim lives in the UK".

If that's not enough to get you worried, the headline inside tells us to "Get ready for mother of all storms". All of which doesn't quite square with the comments of the man from the Met Office who said on the radio yesterday that such storms happen about once a year.

But there's nothing Paper Monitor likes more than a bit of significant detail and here the Express really delivers, telling us that this "freak spell of plummeting pressure" is called a "bomb". Ohh. Now we're scared.

Of course, the Express used to reserve its Monday front page for stories about a certain deceased princess with such alarming predictability that one could almost set the calendar by its front page headline. That's receded somewhat, but the sight of a more recent start-of-the-week staple leads Paper Monitor to wonder if there might be a bit of fun in a game called How Do We Know it's Monday?

To wit one might answer: because there's another picture of Holly Willoughby in the Sun baring her, yes, shoulders!

Another response to the question could be: because there's an actor on the front page brandishing an award (awards ceremonies always seem to be on a Sunday). With Keira Knightley among the stars to be honoured yesterday, one would have assumed this was an open goal for the Telegraph front page, given its history of fawning over the willowy star. Instead though, it plumps for a more learned line – Kristin Scott Thomas brandishing an award at last night's Olivier Awards for her part in the play, The Seagull.

Checkov mate, Keira.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:38 UK time, Monday, 10 March 2008

shoes_pa203_70.jpg"So I can make the party more woof and less miaow" - Shadow Trade Secretary Alan Duncan explains why he wants to succeed "kitten-heels" Theresa May as shadow leader of the Commons.

duncan.gifIn throwing his hat into the ring for the post, Mr Duncan knows he has some famous shoes to fill. Since 2002, Ms May has been making a splash with her daring choice of footwear at the annual party conference. Red patent leather stillettos, animal print wellies and sparkling, bejewelled heels have all graced the platform.

By promising to add some doggedness to the party, expect Mr Duncan in some snazzy hush puppies some time soon.

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