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Archives for June 15, 2008 - June 21, 2008

10 things we didn't know last week

17:20 UK time, Friday, 20 June 2008

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

1. The only DVD rejected by the British Board of Film Classification last year was a boxset of Weeds (broadcast in the UK on Sky One), for promoting drug use - despite more than 1,000 pornographic films being passed.
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2. A bespoke garment does not necessarily need to be handmade.
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3. There are 14 towns called Springfield in the US.
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4. The England rugby team always includes a lawyer in the tour party.

5. John Lewis sold a Wii Fit game every five minutes in May.

6. Schools influence the smoking habits of young people.
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7. Eating a big breakfast helps weight loss.
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8. Bill Gates has not one, not two, but three computer screens at his office desk.

9. The British eat potatoes about 10 billion times a year and pasta 1.4 billion times.

10. Infants that use dummies are more likely to get ear infections.
More details

Sources: 4: Radio 5Live, 5: Guardian, Friday, 8: BBC1, 10 - Guardian, Friday

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Pat Gailey from Dundee for this week's picture of 10 coffee cups.

Your Letters

17:14 UK time, Friday, 20 June 2008

I am torn. If I choose the international version of the BBC news, I can avoid all Big Brother coverage. But then I lose the convenient link to the Magazine in the left-hand column of the front page. Decisions decisions.
Chris Clarke, Oxford

I think I could help the Massachusetts officials trying to work out how 17 girls got pregnant. When a man loves a woman very much, they hug each other in a special way...
Laura, Cumbria

Gotta hand it to the Sun and their story on page 21 regarding the phrase "brain-storm" being replaced by "idea showers" due to political correctness. I was amazed... at least I would have been if the same thing hadn't appeared in 50 office-speak phrases you love to hate on this very site two days beforehand.
Mark Ivey, Hartlepool, UK

Re Sheep shortage hits Giant's look: During WWII did they draw a pair of pants on him? Or merely let the grass grow?
Stuart, Croydon

Or maybe the judicious placement of a hat worn at a jaunty angle?
Libby, Coleford, Somerset

So Spears' sister 'has a baby girl'. Why do we need to know that? A woman a couple of streets away from me had a baby recently. Could you pass that on to your newsdesk?
Simon, Burnham-on-Crouch

Re Campbell pleads guilty to assault. This could have been so much more interesting. Imagine, it could have been Alastair, Menzies, Sol, Nicky or Donald - you just have to look now don't you?
Phil B-C, London

Have a guess what Sir Igor Judge does for a living...
Jo, London

"It sounds crazy, but somebody in psy-ops will have determined that Barney the Dinosaur is an effective instrument of torture" (The secret world of 'psy-ops'). Nothing more to say really.
Edd, Cardiff

I have had a £10 bet with a work colleague that you receive several - if not considerably more - letters concerning today's mini-quiz and the wondrous possibilities surrounding a "gas barbie". Don't let me down Monitorites, I can ill afford the expense!
Dylan, Reading, UK

Ninety quid for a gas barbie (daily mini-quiz)? Thank God I don't have kids, you wouldn't catch me shelling out £90 for a toy that can't outlast a light breeze.
Andrew Rodgers, Peterborough, UK

Basil (Thursday letters), is "tittering" the appropriate phrase to use on the subject of boobs, or is this some new form of activity?
Barry, Southend, Essex

Tee hee, Basil said "tittering"!
Emma Cox, Essex

Caption Competition

13:08 UK time, Friday, 20 June 2008


Winning entries in the now-returned Caption Competition.


Motorcyclists and Bunny take part in Austria's fund-raising Toy Run. But what's being said? The competition is now closed. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. redbyname
"I told you not to, but you went and did it anyway. Did you REALLY have to see what the airbag looked like?"

5. rogueslr
"Everyone else has a St Christopher! And what have we got?"

4. Tremorman
"Well them Duracel batteries didn't last long."

3. meinzadram
The tortoise still won.

2. SeanieSmith
Repo men complete another day at Neverland.

1. youngWillz
Matt Lucas begins to return the wedding gifts...

Paper Monitor

11:27 UK time, Friday, 20 June 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Hugo Rifkind, late of People in the Times, this one's for you.

Now a columnist - having left People in the more than capable hands of ex-media correspondent Adam Sherwin - Rifkind gnaws his fist over the pictures from Ascot and, in the process, reveals his editorial policy on the gossip page.

"As the custodian of the Times People column, my motto was simple: 'No chefs, no milliners, no Paris Hilton.' I broke the first often, and the third one more than once. The middle one, never. Silly hats send me into a shouting rage."

hat226getty.jpgPaper Monitor, feeling contrary, saw this and thought of you, Hugo. That'll teach you to break that third rule. (The Guardian notes that this hat is sponsored by a plumbing firm - bet you a pound to a penny that it's another stunt in Pimlico Plumbers' ceaseless quest for publicity. Here's an earlier one.)

His successor is settling in nicely at People, with a particularly pleasing allusion to Narnia today (More details in the Times).

Sherwin took over in the paper's recent redesign, a move which meant new byline pics for its columnists. Notable is uber-writer Caitlin Moran, who sports her Serious Caitlin face for today's opinion piece on abortion, and her Crazy Caitlin face in the new celebrity column seemingly modelled on both Celebdaq and G2's mighty work of poison pen genius, Lost in Showbiz.

Meanwhile, speaking of poison pens, the Daily Mail lists 10 reasons to buck up despite all this economic gloom:
• "Tim Henman won't get knocked out of Wimbledon - he's a commentator"
• "You can lie on your CV and still get hired by Sir Alan Sugar" (and work in Brentwood? How depressing)
• "Heather Mills has moved to New York"

Harsh! Especially as it then goes on to list 10 reasons to be miserable, all of which are very serious and leave no room for jokes at Heather's expense. And with a £24.3m divorce settlement, she can afford it.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:08 UK time, Friday, 20 June 2008

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

"As you know, tin is in my blood" - Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield compares himself to a tin smith in an extended metaphor in his resignation letter


Stewart Butterfield's departure is apparently a blow to photo-sharing site Flickr's owners, Yahoo, although they may be left scratching their heads at the manner of his departure. More specifically, his resignation letter complains that few sheets of tin have rolled off the production lines in the past 30 years. The extended metaphor may be a way of saying Yahoo have expanded so much they can't focus on some of their businesses. Or not.
More details (Guardian Unlimited)

Your Letters

17:02 UK time, Thursday, 19 June 2008

What's that you say - Retail surge fans rate rise fear? And how can fears be fanned, may I ask? With a special fear fan?
Peter, Leamington Spa

[Tittering] Paper Monitor used the word "boobs". Twice!!!
Basil Long, Leicester

I'm intrigued by this concept of a 12-yr-old columnist (Paper Monitor). I may have to start buying it just to see whether he devotes column inches to explaining his changing view of the world as he goes through puberty. I wonder whether his mother's boobs will seem as appropriate a topic for public discussion...
Susannah, Northampton

Is it me, or are the new Enid Blyton novels, although contemporary, just not quite engaging enough for today's children? See here for a prime example.
Steve N, Eastleigh, Hants

Did anyone else link these two stories from the Welsh section of the BBC news website?Wales heads young drinking list and Snake bite schoolgirl recovering.
Kieran Boyle, Oxford, England

The Sainsburys home delivery service is down for a second day. Their slogan suggests "Try something new today" - yes, probably Ocado or Tesco Direct.
Christian Cook, Epsom, UK

Re Church is expecting second child. Should I book early for Bethlehem this Christmas then?
Mike Thomas, Wirral

Paper Monitor

12:10 UK time, Thursday, 19 June 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Another day, another judicious deployment of fruit to tell the story of the credit crunch.

Yesterday it was melons in the Daily Star (literally as well as figuratively); today it's bananas in the Sun. "Shine your shoes with a banana and beat the credit bunch crunch," the paper's resident Scrooge suggests. ("It helps if they're slip-ons." Boom boom!)

Other tips include storing tights in the freezer to make them last longer and getting off the bus a stop early to save money. Now pricing structures vary around the UK, but in Paper Monitor's neck of the wood, a ticket to ride is a flat rate.

Meanwhile, it's all change at the Independent. For the first time in however long, there is no poster front page, no "CRUELTY" headline (although the teaser to Johann Hari's column does read: "My mother stopped breastfeeding me when I wrote her a note"). Instead the front page follows the familiar Times formula - big photo (hat bedecked Ascot race-goers) next to completely separate news story ("GM crops needed in Britain").

But you know what? Enough of news. Let's flick right now to page 31, where the baby-faced Master Hari tells us all about his mother.

"My mother breastfed me until I was nearly three; she only stopped the day I wrote her a note saying I expected to be breastfed that afternoon."

But wait, there's more. "Today, whenever I have a success" - the award-winning journalist is now 12 - "she clutches her breasts and exclaims: 'It's thanks to these!'"

Forget any potential ribbing one might receive from one's school chums about "bitty"; surely there is a special circle of hell reserved for mothers who embarrass their offspring by grabbing their own boobs.

But Master Hari is made of sterner stuff, and is a planet brain to boot. He chastens those who are conditioned to view the female body as for titillation (geddit?) rather than nutrition. You don't get to be a columnist on the Indy while still in reception class for nothing, you know.

Pesumably attracting his ire is Chris Martin, quoted in the Times's People waxing lyrical about how he used to think "I'm going to burn in hell if I like other guys or marry someone Jewish". What solved the guy/girl condundrum? "Boobs. Let's face it. They're fantastic." Such a sensitive soul...

Your Letters

14:56 UK time, Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Is it just me, or does Bill Weber's "Ambassador Bird" look like Boris Johnson?
HB, London

A "lap dance club shake up"? Surely they already have quite enough shaking?
Alex Kennett, Bath

"Striptease ad scheduling rapped"? Is this a new way of getting the TV schedules across to a more "hip-hop" audience?
Rob, Birmingham, UK

Re Amy Winehouse fainting - did everything suddenly go back to black ?
Paul Greggor, London

Did you really only have one letter that asked if you only had one letter that mentioned one of the "10 things" pairs of shoes wasn't matching?
Louise, Bedfordshire

Dr Jakubowicz reported that the big breakfasters said they felt less hungry, particularly in the mornings. Well who'd have thought it.
Maggie, South London

Paper Monitor

12:46 UK time, Wednesday, 18 June 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There are serious issues in the world today. Natural disasters, disease and poverty in some places, and even in Britain, problems as grave as falling house prices, recession fears and rocketing food and fuel costs.

These have to be communicated to everyone. Even to Daily Star readers. The newspaper presents the issues in a manner that's easily understood.

Page nine is entirely dedicated to the rapid rise in food prices, illustrated by a picture of bikini-clad Malene and Claire. One is pouting and holding up two melons. A subtle smile plays across the mouth of the other as she wields two large cucumbers. "WE WON'T GET MANY OF THESE TO POUND" is the headline. Ooo and er.

In the Sun it's "THE CREDIT MUNCH". The Daily Mirror tones down the Punometer with "GLOOM AND BUST".

And how might the Sun headline a story that French pressure for an EU military force could mean the requisitioning of the HMS Ark Royal? "Oi Sarky, we're narky over UE Navy malarkey."

No skate through the papers would be complete without a Daily Mail animal story.

Today's offering is about the stars of a new show about heroic dogs. There's Pickle, who can skateboard. There's Cavendish, who can load the washing machine for his blind owner. And Bianca, who can smell when his diabetic three-year-old owner's blood sugar levels drop.

Paper Monitor is misty-eyed with admiration.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

08:15 UK time, Wednesday, 18 June 2008

"It's a little like your grandmother discussing the joys of deviant sex, though the other way around" - Chris Morris' biographer on the satirist talking about particle physics.chris_morris_physics_quote.gif

Best known for his lampooning of rolling news in The Day Today and his spoof documentary show Brass Eye, funnyman Chris Morris appears to harbour an interest in, of all things, particle physics. So much so, that he was recently invited to visit Cern, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, and produced a podcast with two other physicists, Thorsten Wengler and Albert De Roeck. This comment was an observation by Lucian Randall, who is writing a book about Morris... and if the Monitor is to be truthful, it picked up the quote from Magazine Twitter feed subscriber Hugh Macdonald.
More details (New Scientist)

Your Letters

17:36 UK time, Tuesday, 17 June 2008

So Amy Winehouse fainted when she was "doing admin". I've never heard it called that.
Bob, Hull

Re Quote of the Day: Bottom marks for listening to that well-known source of Antipodean wisdom, the Times. "Pak" means "the Pure" in Urdu and Persian. The original version of Pakistan, as coined by Choudhary Rahmat Ali in 1934, was actually Pakstan - so GWB was talking about the Government of the Pure.
Fred, Rotherham

HB, London (Monday's Letters) Hitler was not, in fact, a vegetarian. The autobiography of his Armaments Minister, Albert Speer, indicates the substantial amounts of meat that went into Hitler's diet. Similarly the woman who served as his personal cook in Hamburg identifies stuffed pigeon as being a favourite dish of his.

Kat, London

Sorry I didn't have time to comment on the 50 worst examples of boss-speak - I was too busy being upskilled.
Sue, London

Ash, Belgium (letters, Monday). They look cheesed off.
Phil, Gloucester

Did you really only have one letter that mentioned one of the '10 things' pairs of shoes wasn't matching?
Victoria, Singapore

Monitor note: No

Paper Monitor

12:03 UK time, Tuesday, 17 June 2008


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There was an interesting article in the Guardian yesterday from Peter Wilby, who reminded those too young (obviously including Paper Monitor) that "before the Second World War, regular signed opinion columns scarcely existed in British newspapers".

"Even 25 years ago," he wrote, "most papers had only one a day, and the Daily Telegraph none at all. 'Viewy' pieces were rather despised by most hacks, who called them 'thumbsuckers', and not much rated by editors. Now the papers are full of them, and it has been estimated that, across the British media, at least 120 writers produce regular, broadly political columns."

He goes on to point out that most of these people and many others besides write columns but don't necessarily know what they are talking about.

It's really an extension of the thought that briefly obsessed Paper Monitor last week - ie who reads Opinion pieces (known, if you don't know, as "leader articles" - things like The Sun Says). You dear readers were invited to explain who read opinion pieces and why. No answers were forthcoming, which was an illustration of something, knowing how voluble Monitor readers usually are.

So here's an extension of this thought... who reads comment columns? Paper Monitor is genuinely interested in knowing, so please if you have read any of the following articles in today's papers, do please use the comments button below to explain.

How many innocent people are going out of their minds today? - George Monbiot
These troops are too few - and much, much too late - Jason Burke
Europe's century - Parag Khanna and Alpo Rusi
We won't be ignored - Dave Prentis
Labour's legacy is a puzzle of moral contradictions - Polly Toynbee

Let's respect Davis the freedom fighter - Fergus Shanahan

Daily Express
Brown's cruel property taxes are destroying the dreams of millions - Patrick O'Flynn
How Richard and Judy defied literary snobs - Anna Pukas

Daily Mail
Bush has been the most disastrous president of modern times. Just count the days till we can cheer his departure - Max Hastings
You think you've got problems? My debts are £6m - that's why I've just bought a new Rolls - Michael Winner

Daily Telegraph
If you want to get ahead, get a helmet - or then again, perhaps not - Boris Johnson makes his return to his spiritual home
Big problems in store for small businesses - Tracy Corrigan
The joys of summer when England aren't playing - Glenda Cooper
How Cameron can deliver the NHS we want - Anthony Browne

If he's a champion of freedom, I'm a banana - David Aaronovitch
God sneezes and we all catch cold - Chris Ayres
We're sick of the whoopsadaisy political class - Rachel Sylvester
The big stench that saved London - Paul Simons
The bland leading the bland - Mick Hume
Does the special relationship exist? Business won't bet on it - Anthony Julius

Don't be fooled - these 'heroic campaigns' only make our democracy even more fragile - Steve Richards
Do you really think our economic way is best? - Mary Dejevsky
The sheer hypocrisy of this debate on oil - Dominic Lawson
Oh no! Yet another asinine academic theory - Terence Blacker
Ban supermarkets from selling alcohol - Philip Hensher

One thing we have learned by compiling this list - our suspicions that the Mail has the longest headlines are proven - as Truman Capote might have said, that's not headlines, that's typing.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:34 UK time, Tuesday, 17 June 2008

"Pak" - George Bush abbreviates Pakistan.

George Bush is clearly very time-poor, what with running America and squeezing in a farewell tour to Europe before his presidency expires in January. And having that much-written about four course meal to get through yesterday with Gordon and Sarah Brown (salmon, pea soup, roast beef and trifle), it left little time to get every syllable out in his last UK press conference alongside the prime minister. Perhaps in an effort to be efficient with his time, or his words, he's calling Pakistan "Pak", as in "the Pak government". The Times' Ann Treneman muses "I don't know why, perhaps just because he can."

More details (Times)

Your Letters

15:46 UK time, Monday, 16 June 2008

"Vodka, braed, eggs, fat, vodka"? I feel sic.
Luke L, Woking, UK

A non-medicinal, fruit-flavoured "pill" that parents give to children to keep them quiet when they complain about aches and pains. Hang on, isn't that just a sweet? So can I now get peanut M&Ms on prescription?
Christian Cook, Epsom, UK

Can vegetarians be world leaders? (Paper Monitor) - well, look what happened to Hitler...
HB, London

"Those mice that could not respond to ghrelin had greater levels of depression-like symptoms than the normal mice." It's always fascinated me about experiments like this... just how does a mouse show it's depressed?
Ash, Leuven, Belgium

Re "Court warns Italian TV prankster": 20,000 TV hijackings? Even if Mr Paolini clocked up two per day, every day, it would take over 27 years to reach 20,000. Are Guinness World Records sure of their figures?
KP, Shepton Mallet

Dog honoured for bravery by Katy Bravery? Come on BBC, you're even trying anymore.
Phil, Oxford

Er, what's up with that poor woman at bottom left in Richard Jenkinson's picture of 10 shoes? Can Monitor organise a whip-round to buy her a pair that match?
Mark, Reading

Paper Monitor

12:27 UK time, Monday, 16 June 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily news.

A vegetarian, surely, would struggle on the world stage. In fact, are there any world leaders who chew the fat - but not the flesh - while on the diplomatic merry-go-round of international politics? (Apart from the Dalai Lama. And maybe Sting.)

Paper Monitor imagines that the endless banquets, tete a tetes over tea and Sunday roasts such as that enjoyed by President and Mrs Bush at Downing St must be almost exclusively meaty affairs, it being the quintessential feasting food.

So much effort and planning goes into each and every menu, to impress the diner and to showcase the nation. And can a nut roast do that? No, it cannot.

(Veggie readers are welcome to rebut such flagrant disrespect of their cuisine by using the comments button below or send us a letter using the form on the right.)

The Times says that Sarah and Gordon served George and Laura Scottish salmon, pea soup and roast beef; and a writer billed as "Times Cook" - why is there no "Monitor Cook" on the team - says that while this might seem a "boring menu", these are clever and classic British dishes.

The Independent adds that between tea with the Queen and beef with Brown, the First Couple joined the American ambassador in London for yet more tea, sandwiches and cakes.

And the Daily Mail notes that the President's entourage includes five cooks. Five! Quite what they are expected to whip up to augment all those roasties and scones is anybody's guess. No wonder the man jogs.

The Guardian's G2, meanwhile, is rather aerated about food of an altogether more humble calibre, the fare of the world's poor and vegetarians alike - corn, rice, soya, oil and sugar.

But hold up - en route to page four to read all about it, Paper Monitor's gaze is arrested by a quite unexpected sight.

The paper's music writer - it is always a music writer - uses Gordon Ramsay's favourite sweary word 30 times in the course of a 400-word article. Titled "It's not big, it's not clever and it's no longer original", Alex Petridis runs through an extensive list of all the bands that wear their "fearless individuality" on their record sleeves by using the four-letter f-word in their name.

This puts Paper Monitor in mind of that school exercise in which teacher invited you to make a sentence using "and" as often as possible... and an informal game of one-upmanship among Monitor letter writers two year ago, topped by Clair of London with 21 ands.

Which doesn't give you carte blanche to try again, mind...

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:54 UK time, Monday, 16 June 2008

080616_vodka.gif"Vodka, braed, eggs, fat, vodka" - shopping list found abandoned in a supermarket basket.

Clearly, the government's healthy eating message has yet to reach everyone. A random two-sentence communication at the foot of the Telegraph's letters page details an abandoned five-item shopping list discovered by chance, in which vodka features both as the aperitif and the chaser. "It was written in a very shaky hand," concludes Mr Laverick of London, WC2.

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