BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for July 27, 2008 - August 2, 2008

10 things we didn't know last week

17:59 UK time, Friday, 1 August 2008

sandcastles203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Bees act in a similar way to serial killers.
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2. Liz Taylor has broken her back five times.
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3. Lake Baikal in Russia holds about a fifth of the world's fresh water.
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4. The blank stickers for visa stamps are called vignettes.

5. Dyslexics can find it particularly difficult to learn the piano.
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6. Van Gogh often reused canvasses to save money.
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7. Seals can navigate from the position of stars.
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8. Mick Jagger's officially a pensioner.
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9. Being single in middle age can increase your risk of dementia.
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10. In a drinking contest between a pen-tailed tree-shrew and a human, the former would win.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Thomas Cogley for this week's picture of 10 sandcastles.

Your Letters

15:43 UK time, Friday, 1 August 2008

Lee (Pseudo-Thursday's Letters) It's not that they couldn't hit the bear with a dart. It's that when you hit a bear with a dart, it runs around for a while afterward and you have to be sure you can find it, keep it clear of people, and safely approach it while it's out, otherwise, it could panic and injure someone. Not really a problem if it's hit by a bullet. If it makes you feel better, the jar tells us that he was at least a problem bear in the making (assuming he wasn't already a problem bear) and would eventually have had to be put down anyway to protect local residents (and their small children. . .).
Sophie, London, UK

Andrew (Pseudo-Thursday's Letters), you were wondering why Michael Schumacher was driving a van in Kent. Even millionaire racing drivers are feeling the credit crunch and are looking to make a few quid on the side.
Jo, Lichfield

Could the reason this is the oldest joke be that no-one has got it yet?
QJ, Stafford, UK

Surely the brunettes have consoeurs? Come on pedants, tell me why I'm wrong.
GDW, Edinburgh, UK

Has anyone else noticed an abundance of stories and blogs in the media recently, along the lines of "My [week/month/year*] [with/without*] lots of [plastic/brand name products/public transport/sex*]" (*delete as applicable)?
Well, I'm pleased to announce my latest project. I'm going to see if I can go a whole month without reading ANY stories about what other people are going without for a month. It will be hard, but you can follow my progress by live webcam, twitter, blog, Facebook group....
Nicky Stu, Highgate, London

This is terrible news. My grass is littered with fallen apples.
MJ, Ingatestone

Why would anyone want to see a Boring home on Google anyway? I'm sure the internet can be used for more interesting things
Gary Hammond, Telford

Crunch Creep

12:47 UK time, Friday, 1 August 2008

Strange, tangential and sometimes frankly spurious events laid at the door of the credit crunch.

  • Truro Cathedral cannot get new bells. A £103,000 bequest - in the form of shares in a bank - to pay for the new bits of metal has lost two-thirds of its value in the 18 months since it was made. More details (the Times)
  • Greggs are selling more pasties and sausage rolls. The chief executive thinks the firm might be benefiting from shoppers looking for a cheaper lunch.
    More details (the Scotsman)

  • There's been a 100% rise in yacht theft insurance claims since last year. One company - Charles Taylor Adjusting - wonders whether credit crunch-inspired fraud could be to blame for some of it.
    More details (Daily Telegraph)

  • While musicals are doing brilliantly in London's West End, straight plays are not, and it could all be a question of credit crunch gloom avoidance. Nica Burns, chief executive of Nimax Theatres, which owns the Apollo and Lyric, said: "When times are hard, people are more likely to spend what little money they have on being cheered up by a musical."

  • More details (Evening Standard)

  • Starbucks is giving away a free cup of coffee to customers buying a hot drink as part of a plan to "engage the customer with the coffee experience".
    More details (Daily Telegraph)

More unlikely byproducts of credit crunch.

Caption Competition

12:46 UK time, Friday, 1 August 2008

Winning entries in the caption competition.


Prince Harry reports for duty. But what's being said (if Lego models could speak)?

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. SimonRooke
With the advent of Denmark's presidency of the EU, ceremonial protocol was in for a difficult six months.

5. sarahtrieste
You can see the family resemblance.

4. nigelmccc
At least things are unlikely to go pear-shaped.

3. KLForbes
Not content with "Sepia", Charles tries out the "Picasso" option on his new digital camera.

2. Jordan D
Military cuts meant Trooping the Colour was slightly different this year.

1. Mute Joe
Tesco add HDTV to their Value range.

Paper Monitor

11:33 UK time, Friday, 1 August 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Journalism has changed a lot since the Daily Universal Register - later the Times - made its debut in January 1785.

One institution would have been absent from its pages - the "survey" press release put out by a company in the knowledge that hungry journalists will lap up this free advertising. Especially over summer, when news is in abeyance.

The Daily Mail runs a classic today with "Why brunettes have more fun (on pay day)".

It explains that natural browns and the dyed earn £4,250 a year more than their blonde confreres.

It carries pithy, newsy sentences like: "A further 20 per cent said that a dye job made them feel happier and more confident with their appearance."

And who could be behind this earth-shattering news? Err, it's a firm of hair colourists.

Of course, there may be some who feel that even the Times occasionally fails to keep to the Daily Universal Register's mission statement: "Nothing shall ever find a place in the Universal Register, that can tend to wound the ear of delicacy, or corrupt the heart."

There are some who might feel that appearances in its pages by the glamour model/author Katie Price (nee Price, re-nee Jordan, re-re-nee Price) break that covenant. But it must be said that today's Times has Ms Price attacking the snobbery of a polo event in most reasonable language and with clothes firmly on.

On the other hand, the Daily Mail has a number of female golfers in bikinis all over its page three to go with the brunette revelations.

Ah, the news gulf.

Your Letters (from Thursday)

11:17 UK time, Friday, 1 August 2008

Apologies for the extremely late running of this entry. It was due to the credit crunch.

Are you worried about being sued by dyslexics for having multiple-choice questions in your quiz of the week's news?
Rob S, Southampton, UK
Monitor note: D'oh!

Poor bear. Why didn't they use the tranquiliser gun at the same moment as whoever took the photograph. Also, how is it that they could eventually hit it with a bullet, but not with a dart?
Lee Richards, Teesside, UK

I've never written to Magazine before... but now I have spotted an appropriately named expert I feel I ought to point it out. Do I win a prize?
Gemma, Liverpool

No wonder Abby Hive (Wednesday letters) took an interest in this article.
BIG Dave, The Toon, UK

So restaurant tipping law is to change. I love the fact they used Fawtly Towers and Manuel as the picture. Surely this is one place that the only tip they'll get is "make another series".
Pete, Oban, UK

Schumacher crash stuns car dealer kind of begs the question, what on earth was he doing driving a van in Kent in the first place?
Andrew Burnip, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

I'm seeing the Doctor in Hamlet today. Just wanted to boast.
Chris Clarke, Oxford

Friday's Quote of the Day

11:03 UK time, Friday, 1 August 2008

"That chap is claiming to be Michael Schumacher, and I said, 'You know what, he doesn't half look like him'" - police officer at the scene of a car accident between a Kent car dealer and the German ex-Formula 1 ace.

schumacher_3quote.gifOn Sunday afternoon, Martin Kingham claims a van hit the security barrier he was closing. It then hit his leg, sending him spinning over the bonnet of a car. Although damage was minor to both van and man, the police attended and helped the men exchange details.
More details

Paper Monitor

12:43 UK time, Thursday, 31 July 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The Daily Telegraph can hardly conceal its glee at the growing acrimony in the Labour Party. While many of the others lead on the huge hike in gas prices, it keeps its eye on the prize with its splash "Labour at war".

Inside there's a handy guide to decoding David Miliband's "leadership challenge" article in yesterday's Guardian, in a "what he wrote", "what he means" format. Not all of it quite makes sense, however.

Eg. "'He wrote: "We must be humble about our shortcomings, but more compelling about our achievements."

'He means: "We have to stop taking the credit for the economic boom of the last decade, while blaming the global slowdown for the economic downturn."'"

...and the bit about being "more compelling about our achievements"?

Elsewhere in the paper Telegraph regulars, who are never averse to the depiction of a statuesque young woman in pictorial form in their paper, will be gratified to see the picture of 1970s kidnap victim Patty Hearst's daughter - now modelling for an underwear firm.

But how's this for an awkward segue: "The pictures are a far cry from the photograph of her mother clutching a gun, taken after she joined her captors..."

Over at the Daily Mail, we're presented with a two-page treatise on the perils of "Information overload".

"Switch off your mobile. Unplug your iPod. And stop checking those emails! A new book warns that high-tech distractions are wrecking out health - and turning our brains into mush."

This, from the paper which earlier in the year became the UK's most popular newspaper website.

What's more, the accompanying stock picture of a man frantically juggling pieces of office equipment seems to date from an age when iPods weren't even a glimmer in Steve Jobs' eye.

There's a fax machine (!), a chunky laptop with trackball and a Rolodex.

Meanwhile, for those who didn't take the Mail today, here's a link to the piece (with health warning conspicuously absent).

Crunch Creep

10:40 UK time, Thursday, 31 July 2008

Strange, tangential and sometimes frankly spurious events laid at the door of the credit crunch.

  • Cadbury's profits up 46% in the first half of 2008. "No matter how bleak economies look, people always go for treats and that's why we have seen no real slowdown," said Cadbury's chief executive, Todd Stitzer. More details (the Guardian)
  • An historic fee-paying girls' school faces closure. A spokesman for the administrators said: "Given the current economic climate, linked with a short-term fall in pupil numbers and limited availability of funding, the board of governors took the decision to place Wentworth Milton Mount Ltd into administration."
    More details (the Times)
  • Companies are having to show they care about the environment and the social impact of what they do.
    More details (the Times)
  • Police numbers are down in the London Borough of Hounslow.
    More details (Hounslow Chronicle)

    More unlikely byproducts of credit crunch.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:24 UK time, Thursday, 31 July 2008

"She wasn't allowed to use the swings because they were only for the Germans" - Dad whose 7-year-old was banned from holiday kids' club.not_german3_quote.gif

Some lessons are harder to teach children that others - such as the historic cultural emnities based on holidaying etiquette, that exist between different nationalities. Michael Barber's daughter found out the hard way after she was banned from a holiday club during the family's break in Crete, because the club was only for German children.
More details (the Daily Telegraph)

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:59 UK time, Thursday, 31 July 2008

bloomers_pa.jpgFor those led here by the answer to Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz, here is a picture of Queen Victoria's cotton bloomers with the 50in drawstring waistband.

The royal pants bear a VR monogram, and were sold at auction to a Canadian buyer who paid £4,500, well above the £500 estimate.

Your Letters

15:56 UK time, Wednesday, 30 July 2008

This headline is not exactly true now is it Mr Sub?
Dan, London

Will this mean a new police sting operation?
Abby Hive, UK

Upon reading that a performance of Don Giovanni will be in front of an audience of readers of the Sun, was I the only person who suddenly got an image of an opera where the audience boo when the villain arrives, shouts "He's behind you" at regular intervals and claps along to some of the songs?
Mark Ivey, Hartlepool, UK

Nice to see drunk girl on bench has made the leap from Monitor icon to newspaper darling. She's on the front page of the FT today trailing a charming story on 'Merrie England'.
Helen, London

Why is it that if a Chinese language is transcribed more or less phonetically into English, we need a pronunciation guide? If Xin is pronounced Shin, why don't we just write Shin?
Diane, Sutton

Re today's Daily Mini-Quiz: It's a sad reflection on the obesity crisis when "half" of all adults are classed overweight, and this in turn is a "relatively low level of obesity".
Tyrone, Jersey

Is it ironic that a two-year-old story about old stories reappearing in the "Most read" list was the fourth most read story on BBC News today?
Nick, London

Paper Monitor

12:16 UK time, Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Opera? The Sun "loves it" apparently.

It's currently running an extraordinary promotion which will see Sun readers pay as little as £7.50 to see a performance of Don Giovanni. The scheme will see an audience in Covent Garden's Royal Opera House entirely made up of Sun readers.

It's not a category of entertainment that usually features much in the Sun. To do a quick unscientific test in the form of a search on LexisNexis, shows this.

In the past 12 months, the Sun has mentioned the phrase "Royal Opera House" just 17 times, while the Daily Telegraph has mentioned the same phrase 154 times in the same period.

So the Sun spends two pages explaining why its readers will love the opera.

"Most operas are dirtier than Amy Winehouse's beehive, riper than a full-on effing rant by Gordon Ramsay and more violent than a Tarantino bloodfest," it trills.

The Sun's piece also complains about the Guardian's pre-emptive strike against this unusual promotion.

"Elitist broadsheet the Guardian wrote an article last week sneering at the fact that lowly Sun readers should dare to grace the Royal Opera House.

"Blow them. They can have a night in with their mung bean sandwiches and discuss existentialist feminism."

To bring back a phrase from school: "Fight. Fight. Fight."

Could the Guardian be objecting to Sun plot summaries like "SEX PEST STRIKES IN SUNNY SPAIN" and "BAD BOY DON IN BID TO BONK THE BRIDE"?

Elsewhere, there are emotional extremes illustrated in today's papers.

At one end of the spectrum, in the Times, Will Pavia goes to meet the "Heart Robot" and confesses: "My ex-girlfriends say that I am incapable of understanding human emotion."

At the other end is the story in the Sun and the Daily Mirror of a man who proposed to his girlfriend using a giant message written in a cornfield.

And please remove your hat for a Daily Telegraph story that achieves maximum Telegraphicity: "Punt pirates hold tourists to ransom on River Cam".

Youths are apparently gathering on bridges and stealing poles from punters. And they are divebombing those who refuse to pay the ransom.

Paper Monitor is trembling with rage.

Crunch Creep

10:16 UK time, Wednesday, 30 July 2008


Forget the decline in mortgage loans, rising inflation and sliding consumer confidence, for the real impact of the credit crunch consider this: tupperware sales are up, takeaways down.

That's according to Sainsbury's - one of many organisations to draw a direct link between trends under its roof and the consternation in the wider financial world.

Almost a year after the financial markets started to witness a squeeze on the one commodity that for insiders had begun to assume mythical properties of inexhaustability - cash - hardly any aspect of life seems to have been left untouched by the growing tendrils of the downturn.

So, true to its name, the Monitor is launching a regular watch on unlikely, sometimes highly doubtful, reported effects of the credit crunch. And it's appealing for your help - if you see a trend, however small and seemingly insignificant, being hitched up to the credit crunch bandwagon, and frankly the whole set up strikes you as a bit odd, send it in using the COMMENTS button below this post, preferably with a URL linking to where you saw it.

Of course, the Crunch has given way to an array of gloomy financial conditions in recent months - but, maybe because of its alliterative appeal, the phrase "credit crunch" has morphed into a catch-all phrase for the financial slowdown. Among the more eyebrow-raising events recently laid at its door, are the following:

  • Middle class children are becoming more withdrawn as their families struggle to cope with the financial squeeze (Times Educational Supplement (25 July)
  • The obsession with celebrity is slowing as wealth exerts less fascination; fiddling work expenses is becoming "tacky"; divorce rates among the very wealthy are growing; English holidays and allotments are enjoying a surge in popularity (Independent, 22 July)
  • More pets are being dumped (Bournemouth Echo, 25 July)
  • Sales of lipstick and fake tan are up by more than a half on last year (Observer, 26 July)
  • Wooden toys, teddy bears and spinning tops are putting on sales at Hamleys as people seek to buy "things that last longer" Times, 19 July)
  • Beer sales are down to levels last seen in the Great Depression (Daily Mirror, 28 July)

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:32 UK time, Wednesday, 30 July 2008

"Why would anyone want to see a grotty flat in Panama City?" - John Darwin's aunt Margaret Burns on a travel company's plans to run tours of his Panama haunts.

darwinsaunt.gifLondon-based Journey Latin America hopes to charge British tourists £1,400 each for a week-long tour of the sights taken in by the convicted fraudster, who faked his own death to clear debts and start over in sunnier climes. Darwin's aunt is less than taken with the idea.
More details

Your Letters

17:17 UK time, Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Can we please have a pronunciation guide for "Beijing"? I've always thought it to be pronounced "bay-ZHING", but am now noticing "bay-DJING" a lot, especially on the BBC. Currently it grates, but if it turns out to be correct, I'll be forced to consider amending my aural taste.
Luke L, London
Monitor note: Don't say we do nothing for you... see here.

Goodness. I had no idea I was consuming a panino al desko while reading the Magazine at lunchtime. How you do educate us (former) Northerners.
Susannah, Northampton

What a remarkably subdued caption for the second picture in this series about the opening of the Olympic village. I mean, there's one object in the picture that begs for a much wittier caption.
Johan van Slooten, Urk, Netherlands

Regarding a suitable diminutive for PM Brown (sorry - the thought of Gordon singing Set Adrift On Memory Bliss has just popped in my head), how about Gordie? One of our local councillors uses it to great success! It's casual but respectable - a bit like his jacket, really.
Morwenna Hancock, North Sydney

Gor does for Gordon what Dave does for David.
Sam, France

Nick of City of London - for you: Two boll weevils grew up in Cornwall. One went to Hollywood and became a famous actor. The other stayed behind, drove a tractor and never amounted to much. The second one, naturally, became known as the lesser of two weevils.
Abby, London

What are they mining - cheesecake?
Stig, London

Whilst reading, it took me a full five seconds to realise that "They said it also contravened a 25-year-old law lords' decision" was not referring to a judgment made by a youngster.
Louise, London

Sikh girl wins bangle law battle, indeed. I see what you've done there...

Paper Monitor

10:51 UK time, Tuesday, 29 July 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Sometimes one strives for something unique, something that the reader could never have thought of.

At other times, you really just want to get home, microwave your dinner and go to bed.

A pier is on fire. A great British cultural institution is the end of the pier show. The fiery pier is definitely providing a show in the sense of a visual spectacle. It is also a terminal moment for this particular pier.

So it is with no great surprise that the Times, Guardian and Independent describe the conflagration at the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare as the "End of the pier show".

What towering elan, what brio, what flair. To reach Icarus-like towards the burning sphere of headline excellence, that is the mission of the subs of these broadsheets.

Although, it must be said, things in the Sun are not much better. "WESTON SUPER FLARE", it shouts. Geddit?

The newspaper carries a poignant quote. "Our seaside piers are such a part of our heritage. This is a real tragedy."

Is it the sentiments of the National Piers Society? Or the Victorian Society? No, it's page three lovely Rhian, 21, from Manchester, speaking her brains.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:18 UK time, Tuesday, 29 July 2008

"I have probably made my last appearance in Dictionary Corner" - Rick Wakeman rushes to defence of Countdown Star Carol Vorderman


The biggest names in showbusiness are coming out in support of Carol Vorderman, after she was allegedly told to take a 90% pay cut. That means Sian Lloyd, Esther Rantzen, Ingrid Tarrant, Ann Widdecombe and of course, prog rock legend Rick Wakeman.
More details (Daily Mirror)

Your Letters

17:53 UK time, Monday, 28 July 2008

Was I alone in finding the use of the word "might" in the second last paragraph of this story, a trifle understated?
Kev Osman, Bridgwater, Somerset

I have just discovered the stunning, to me, fact that boll weevils have never had a mention on the BBC News website. To rectify this obvious oversight can I just point out that boll weevils like juniper but hate gin. Thank you.
Nick Eaton, City of London

Look who's out on the town again.
Kate, South Wales

Monitor note: It has been noted on these pages that this young lady and this one appear in our media with alarming regularity.

I am usually such a fan of BBC imagery, what with the ubiquitous 'drunken girl' and the triptych of 'depressed people with their head in their hands' - uno, tres. Which is why I am so disappointed in the effort for Rob Liddle's Decoding Me article, which at best looks like something my nephew (who's very young and stuff) would whip up on photoshop, and at worst a still from an 80s electro-pop video. Did Rob Liddle's gene profile reveal a proclivity to new romanticism?
Dylan, Reading, UK

Paper Monitor was edging towards a tongue twister today. Perhaps "he sports shorts of a short sort by the sea shore"?
Chris Clarke, Oxford

Surely the next named number up from a trillion (10 Things) is a trillion and one?
Anne-Marie I, London, England

Paper Monitor

12:26 UK time, Monday, 28 July 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It does not require a planet-brain to tell Gordon Brown and Just-call-me-Dave Cameron apart. Not least because Paper Monitor is hard pressed to come up with a suitable diminutive for Gordon that does what Dave does for David.

holidayoutfits_pa.jpgAnd in the papers today are compare and contrast photos of Gordon and Dave on their respective seaside holidays.

Dave 'n' Samantha Cameron do the "we cut our modelling teeth on Boden catalogues" look: sunshine - check; bare feet - check; good hair - check; holding hands - check. He sports shorts short enough to display his cyclist's calves, but not much more; she a long skirt, a length that is both modish and forgiving of the pale/hastily shaved legs a busy working mum may wish to hide.

The Times notes that the Camerons - buoyed by favourable poll ratings - "take a relaxed approach to their holiday attire while the Prime Minister and Sarah Brown opt for smart casual".

Gordon and Sarah look more like substitute teachers than long-in-the-tooth Boden models. It's a look that has worked for Paper Monitor all these years, but this column rarely finds its choice of outfit picked over for "what your clothes say about you" articles.

Unlike the Browns in their sensible leather shoes and neatly ironed outfits. The Daily Mail sets off "Jacketed in Norfolk" v "Informal in Cornwall".

And under the headline "That's the way to do it when you're on holiday", the Daily Telegraph recruits brand consultants to assess the rivals.

One says that the Camerons chose their clothes and location - a sunny, sandy beach - to great effect while the Browns "simply appeared uncomfortable". But the other says that the prime minister "plainly isn't someone who enjoys dressing down so it is better for him to try to look right rather than look too relaxed and stupid". Because imagine the headlines if Mr Brown appeared before the cameras in shorts...

Monday's Quote of the Day

08:29 UK time, Monday, 28 July 2008

"When I see three oranges I juggle, when I see two towers I walk" - Twin Towers tightrope walker Philippe Petit

petit.gifNot all Frenchmen sound like Eric Cantona, but Monsieur Petit, who once tightrope-walked between the Twin Towers eight times, is happy to oblige.

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