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Archives for August 3, 2008 - August 9, 2008

10 things we didn't know last week

16:25 UK time, Friday, 8 August 2008

10_huts203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Cataplexy is a rare condition that means laughter can bring on paralysis.
More details (Times)

2. Flat-earthers call spherical-world believers "globularists".
More details

3. The number 8 is an auspicious number in China because its Mandarin translation is "ba", which sounds like the word for "prosper".
More details

4. All countries have rights over resources up to 200 nautical miles from their shoreline.
More details

5. The Japanese have a day to celebrate greenery called midorinohi.
More details

6. Pet dogs can catch human yawns.
More details

7. Fencing is Italy's most successful Olympic sport.

8. Sportsmen make better decisions in heat.
More details

9. Some people can hear what they see.
More details

10. Robins only became a symbol for Christmas in the 19th Century, when postmen - who mostly brought mail at Christmas - wore scarlet waistcoats and were known as Robin Redbreasts.
More details

Sources: 7 - BBC One

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Ian McKenzie for this week's picture of 10 beach huts in Normandy.

Crunch Creep

15:31 UK time, Friday, 8 August 2008

Strange, tangential and often unlikely events laid at the door of the credit crunch.

"New figures from Peter Gabriel's entertainment recommendation website show a dramatic rise in the popularity of depressing music as Americans face uncertain times, due to a recession." (More details from Yahoo! News, nominated by Julie, Chicago.)

"Crooning banker Howard Brown has been axed from the Halifax ads because he is too cheery for the credit crunch." (More details - Daily Telegraph)

"Leftovers are increasingly being put on British menus as the credit crunch bites." (More details - Daily Mirror)

"Britain's joint-oldest working men's club has gone broke and closed after nearly 150 years. Coventry Working Men's Club has followed hundreds of other social clubs in the Midlands and North of England by falling victim to the credit crunch, anti-smoking laws and a stay-at-home culture." (More details - Daily Express)

Your Letters

14:58 UK time, Friday, 8 August 2008

Quite possibly the best review from Peter Bradshaw is HULK SMASH!!!
Paul, Oxford

Monitor note: We would like to note that this review is indeed the best by Peter Bradshaw and not the one we highlighted earlier in Paper Monitor. Our apologies.

Can anybody think of a more hideous and forced portmanteau than "mumpreneur"?
Johnny, York

Regarding the list of things that make men cry. I'm surprised that one of the things not listed is the end of Blackadder Goes Forth when they go over the top. The way the episode ends fading to Flander's Field with the red poppies... excuse me. *sniff*
Mike Harper, Devon, UK

I assume if they can, the licence detector shuttle will be taking off before too long.
Simon, Colchester, UK

Can I nominate this article for gratuitious usage of Dr Who imagery. Whatever you do, don't blink while looking at it.
Keith, Loughborough

Do we have a competitor for Brent Watch in "What's your boss reading"? Has his reign over any boss/office related stories come to an end? Well I never.
Venessa, Gloucester

Paper Monitor

13:10 UK time, Friday, 8 August 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There's nothing quite as exquisitely sweet in journalism as the brutal review.

Walter Kerr represents the apotheosis of the art. His quip in response to the John van Druten play I Am a Camera - "Me no Leica" - may never be bettered.

But there are still great examples from recent years. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw's review of Guy Ritchie's Revolver springs to mind.

"Ritchie's new film lands on cinema-goers' collective head like a sack of wet sand. It's a metaphysical thriller that is so long and so boring that each of its minutes lasts long enough for a Test match."

The latest contender is the Sun's Ally Ross on the new Channel 4 topical comedy show, Tonightly.

He attacks "pub funny comedian" Jason Manford and "roadkill in the highlights" Andi Osho.

"[It's] part of Channel 4's Generation Next strand. So-called because that's where they'll all be working in six months time."


"They are not so much a presenting team as a support network which has to keep encouraging and reassuring itself."


Today's Guardian also has a go at harshness with its short review for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, again from Mr Bradshaw.

"The Mummy franchise now really is dead, dead, dead. It's so dead it could win gold at the Dead Olympics, establishing a new British and Commonwealth record in the 400m decomposition event."

Almost makes Paper Monitor want to go and see it.

PS: Hats off to the 22 people who tried to guess the tune to yesterday's "dah der dah-dah etc." The first to get it right was VeerSoon who recognised the BBC News tune.

Caption Competition

12:58 UK time, Friday, 8 August 2008


Winning entries in the caption competition.


A participant in the Edinburgh Festival opening cavalcade perches atop a very small bike. 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. TubaMiriam
It was clear that Penelope Pitstop had let herself go since the original Wacky Races.

5. SeanieSmith
CCTV footage reveals Hazel Blears' bike thief.

4. Candace9839
"Funny, it looked bigger on eBay."

3. KieranOx
The letter to his parents had just said "overweight".

2. Northern_Simon
The previously undiscovered, but lethal, combination of child's bike, LSD and a Great Escape DVD.

1. Rob Falconer
The farthing-farthing was just not a practical means of transport, its designer conceded.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:27 UK time, Friday, 8 August 2008

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

"Robbie Coltrane is not the burglar but imagine him aged 16 with lank greasy hair and you have the picture" - Police in Christchurch, New Zealand, explain the use of an image of Robbie Coltrane in a wanted poster

Apparently it's illegal to print pictures of young offenders in New Zealand. But that wasn't going to stop the detective masterminds of Christchurch finding their boy. How the actor feels about appearing under the legend "Active burglar in this neighbourhood" is unknown, although he may be more irked at the description of him as "English".

Your Letters

16:14 UK time, Thursday, 7 August 2008

Does this mean that you'll have to re-caption some video clips on the site with "This clip has no sound, probably"
Robin , Herts, UK

I think I can see a flaw in this argument. If there was a list of 20 words that could be accepted as "variant spellings", then there would be a logical case to move on to the next 20 soon after, and sew on. And wher wud that leed toe, I wunderr..
Stig, London, UK

Chris (Monday's letters) may well be right that some things sound a lot better in Latin, but having read "the more things change, the more they stay the same", I can't help thinking that there are also things that sound better in French.
Adam, London, UK

I know that it's the quiet time for the news, but the fact that an actor has - exactly as expected - done exactly what he is is paid for (that being, to act) is not news. But I don't know why I bothered writing this - it won't get published because it's Thursday.
Basil Long, Leicester

My husband cried whilst reading your list of 80 things that men cry about.
Lottie, ex-Merseyside

It was slow progress, the defences were strong and the stakes were high, but at number 76, the army of tears burst through the duct, sweeping into this man's eyes.
Andrew, Stirling, Scotland

Paper Monitor

10:21 UK time, Thursday, 7 August 2008


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Do you know Paper Monitor's favourite tune? It's that one that goes "Der derrrr, der der der der der da der der der der der der derrr der der der der-derr der der derrrr". Know what it is yet?

Thought not. It was actually the opening bars of Bigmouth Strikes Again, but realistically there was no way you were going to know what it was, unless you knew what it was beforehand. Let's try a little experiment. What TV theme tune is this?

Dah der-der-der dah der-der-der dah der-der-der Dum (der-der-der) dummm der-der-der dum der-der-der dummmm. Answers please via the comments field below. A bonus dollop of kudos to anyone who gets it, though that should not in any way be taken to imply that this is a competition. It's just an editorial exercise to prove the point that the Sun's strapline (Der Der Der Der-Der, Der Derr Da Der Der) about the death of Eric "Digger" Dowling means nothing to anyone until they've read the story and discovered that he was the real hero of the Great Escape.

Your secondary challenge - make the Sun's Ders fit to the Great Escape tune. It's possible, a colleague of Paper Monitor's has just proved, but only just.

Still, the paper makes up for it with a headline on a nib (news in brief) about a pineapple-sized meteorite which has been auctioned: "PINA COLLIDER".

Most interesting story of the day is in the Daily Mail. Remember Wednesday's quote of the day? Californian Bernann McKinney who had her dead dog cloned because she was so grateful to it for saving her from another dog which had gone mad because of too much medication? Old hands on the paper heard bells ringing, and have gone to town on their theory - dismissed by the lady herself - that she was the same woman as had been involved in a gloriously colourful court case in the 1970s. Paper Monitor is far too young to remember, so has no view either way, but the Mail runs its headline the way only the Mail can:

"The bizarre case of the Mormon manacled in mink-lined handcuffs, the sex-mad beauty queen who had her way with him... and the sad old dog lover who's just cloned her best friend - a pitbull." Yep, that's the headline.

The whole story, true or not, has quite made Paper Monitor's morning.

PS. Still no-one follows up the Swingdependent's allegations that swinging parties have become a part of mainstream Britain. Mystifying.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:14 UK time, Thursday, 7 August 2008

"Thanks for the endorsement white-haired dude, and I want America to know that I'm, like, totally ready to lead" - Paris Hilton mocks presidential candidate John McCain in a "campaign" video


There could have been many quotes of the day gleaned from Hilton's ad. Such as saying she was "not promising change like that other guy", referring to Barack "Change We Can Believe In" Obama.
More details

Your Letters

15:42 UK time, Wednesday, 6 August 2008

I don't see why hospitals' being infested with maggots is portrayed as a bad thing, given that maggots can apparently help in the fight against MRSA.
Adam, London, UK

The Phoenix probe seems to be looking in the wrong place for water in this story. There's quite clearly a river in the background.
Duncan, Fife

George, (Tuesday's Letters) re your amazement on German police bras having polizei embazoned all over them - the reason is all uniform worn by officers remains the property of the issuing force and must be returned to that force when leaving their employment. Perhaps they feared that these garments would be overlooked. One hopes that these particular items won't be re-issued to anyone else.
Jo, Lichfield

In German, a bra is a bustenhalter, which translates back into English as a bust holder. That tends to sum up a copper quite well, on the other hand, so presumably they have to label them to ensure there's no confusion.
Fred, Rotherham

Re the story on dogs yawning, me and my husband did the same experiement using one bear in the Bronx Zoo. Can we retrospecitively claim large amounts of pointless research cash, or at least a little bit of fame for being before such eminent people? Pretty please.
Katherine Broadhurst, Cardiff

Am I alone in thinking that today's quote should be the chorus of a new song by the Beach Boys?
HS, Cambridge

Crunch Creep

11:30 UK time, Wednesday, 6 August 2008

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

  • Blood on the carpet. It's tough times for carpet makers, as Carpetright reports a 15.4% quarterly fall in sales. Its chief executive says: "It's not only in the carpet industry, it's in furniture, curtains, bedding - everything's gone quiet in that area. It's bloody tough." More details (Times)
  • We've already been told that sales in shop-bought sandwiches are down as people make more of their own, sales of sausage rolls are up as people look for cheap lunches, and sales of chocolate are up as people want to treat themselves, but today we learn that cash-strapped customers are buying burgers at McDonalds - the company says it's got two million extra customers a month in the UK compared with last year. More details (Independent)
  • Bad news for snooker fans though. The credit crunch means tournament sponsors are dropping out. There's a £1.5m prizemoney black hole after and Saga Insurance pulled out, blaming the economic climate. (Mirror)

Paper Monitor

11:16 UK time, Wednesday, 6 August 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Just two papers mention swinging after the revelations in yesterday's Swingdependent that "writhing orgies on beds the size of swimming pools" are now mainstream in British society.

You'd think that a revelation of that import would have been everywhere, but only the Financial Times and the Guardian have the word on their agenda.

"Yesterday's statement from the Federal Reserve suggests that the US central bank no longer sees the balance of risks in the US economy as swinging away from growth and towards inflation, as it did at the time of its last meeting in June," says the FT.

"George Roth, the club-swinging gold medallist at the 1932 Olympics, once went 15 days without eating during the Great Depression," reports the Guardian, which at least has the good manners to put the story in its sport pages.

In fact swinging in the purely sexual sense only has one mention in Her Majesty's press today - and that's in a Guardian review of a show at the Edinburgh Festival called A Guide to Sexual Misery. Not quite the abandon we might have expected.

Moving on. There's a letter in the Daily Telegraph from the husband of Mrs V.E. Day. And one from a gentleman called Dick House, whose wife's maiden name was Hutt.

The Daily Mail has its own kind of fun with John Prescott comparing Gordon Brown to the captain of the Titanic. It gets its (usually sharp-shooting) star writer Quentin Letts to imagine what Prescott is writing today in his blog. "Bloggin' 'eck! I haven't had such fun since Tracey got me Googles in a twist."

If you like that sort of thing, you can find it here. If you don't (ie like Paper Monitor) here's some wallpaper.

PS. While one is here. it might be worth mentioning how reaffirming it was to read in Your Letters yesterday Sophie from London referred to "irony". Paper Monitor thought everyone had decided that irony and sarcasm were the same thing and that the terms could be used interchangeably.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

08:15 UK time, Wednesday, 6 August 2008

"Help me God. Help me Jesus. Help me Booger." - Californian Bernann McKinney, calling for her dog's help when being attacked. So grateful, she has now had Booger cloned.

McKinney sold her house and paid £25,000 to have Booger cloned by South Korean biotechnologists. Booger had come to her aid when she was being attacked by another of her dogs, who she says had gone mad after being given too much medication for a bee sting. He also helped her recuperate - fetching clothes, shoes, cans of drinks and opening doors.
More details

Your Letters

15:54 UK time, Tuesday, 5 August 2008

At the Playboy Mansion, Hugh Hefner had a sign above the door bell that read "if you don't swing, don't ring". Seems to tie the swinging and voice mail service stories together nicely and might even be a good advertising strap line for the service. If swinging is indeed everywhere, so is one's mobile, and if one is "busy" at the party, leaving a voice mail seems the most practical thing to do. And as per the suggestion that things sound better in Latin (Monday's Letters), let it read "si non oscillas, noli tintinnare".
Candace, New Jersey, US

Irony truly has been taken to new heights.
Sophie, London

The idea that pets resemble their owners is certainly true in this story.
Catherine Hall, Ealing, London

"It's a unique experience." So says Gemma Morris, British backpacker in Australia on drinking coffee at Starbucks. Gemma - if you weren't already backpacking across the world, I'd be tempted to suggest that you get out more.
Sue, London

I'm glad of the clarification here: "The Holy Grail - the Indiana Jones prop, rather than the Christian relic - was bought for $22,500 (£11,429)" in this story. I mean, I'd have been quite miffed if the Holy Grail had actually been found, and the first I heard of it was when it was auctioned off.
Jennie F, Edinburgh

Bulletproof bras for German policewomen seems like a good idea - but can any of your readers explain why they need POLIZEI written across the front in big letters?
George, Cambridge, UK

Crunch Creep

15:27 UK time, Tuesday, 5 August 2008

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

Paper Monitor

11:18 UK time, Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Paper Monitor takes a professional interest in these matters (kind of goes with the job, really) and there's no reason why you should know this, but the Independent has had a new editor for a few weeks now. And already you can see the difference.

Today's front page, for instance, completely fails to depress you or make you worried about the world. Instead, there's a nice picture of a smiling Paula Radcliffe, with no mention at all of the spider or possibly scorpion which bit her and which one might have expected to be pinned on global warming.

And page three, instead of being a sober analysis of the latest threat to civil liberties, has a story about how Italy has become the home of wife swapping. What made Paper Monitor's jaw drop, though, was the comment panel at the bottom of the page. One might expected an article about the differences between northern and southern Europeans, or a piece examining the role of climate or diet on behaviour.

But no. Instead it's a piece about oral sex in the UK. Apparently, columnist Catherine Townsend alleges, in Britain, "swinging is everywhere".

"Exclusive sex parties such as Fever and Killing Kittens have brought swinging from the sub-culture to the mainstream. On any given night, behind unmarked doors in the capital, attractive young couples are stripping off to watch their partners join writhing orgies on beds as big as swimming pools."

Two questions. One: if swinging is everywhere, how come these swinging parties can be called "exclusive"? And two: is there anything which might reasonably be considered as "evidence" for the claims that British behaviour has changed so dramatically? Obviously Paper Monitor is open-minded about the subject. But, shall we say, sceptical.

There's the sound of scores being settled elsewhere. In the Times, David Aaronovitch writes about the media's treatment of Gordon Brown.

"Some columnists I can think of, on other newspapers, make me blush with their weather-vane 'we thought Gordon was marvellous but he has proved us wrong' schtick, as if, somehow, the man whom they had so praised for the decade of his slow premiership campaign had grown unexpected hair and teeth on a full-moon night last autumn."

Ooh! Get him! But who's he's thinking of?

He reveals all: "Don't you recall all your guff about him not being flashy like Bad Blair, but that being a big plus? You changed, oh Guardianistas, not him: he wasn't as good as you said he was, and he isn't as bad as you now paint him."

Oh so it's the Guardian. Where he used to work. This almost qualifies as a row.

Favourite thing in today's papers is in the LA diary in the Times where Chris Ayres writes about a service which allows you to ring a friend's mobile and leave a message on their voicemail without their phone actually ringing. This means you can make it look like you have returned calls without having to talk to anyone. Paper Monitor likes that idea.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

10:05 UK time, Tuesday, 5 August 2008

"I count myself as a fairly ridiculous person... things like my voice and going to church drunk" - Julie Burchill, saying she's as hard on herself as she is on other people.

Burchill, once the star of Fleet St, has said she is disillusioned with the world of newspapers, and after spending so long writing opinion columns she is enjoying a break. "I don't want to keep saying things until I drop down dead. I want to have 10 years where I keep my own counsel, perhaps. I have always been Miss Rentagob since I was a kid and I don't want to be that person any more," she said in a long interview with the Guardian. To mark the publication of a book about hypocrisy.

More details (from the Guardian)

Your Letters

15:09 UK time, Monday, 4 August 2008

I visited Beijing and ate a sea horse on a stick. I'm sad to report that it tasted just like the bit at the tail of fried fish in bread crumbs, where there isn't really any 'fish meat' - just bread crumbs tasting of fish. It did look pretty though.
Peter, Edinburgh

Dear Paper Monitor, regarding the Great White Shark's great photo, it's demonstrating the shark's hunting strategy for hunting seals, that is to lurk down below and rush up to deliver a very powerful bite. As there's no seal in the picture, it seems that this shark has missed its target and is moving too fast to stop itself leaping up into the air.
So if this was a Facebook photo equivalent, it would be like your friends posting a picture of you running into a lamp post, most embarassing.
James D, Derby, UK

"Mick Jagger's officially a pensioner" (10 things we didn't know last week). As he only became a pensioner on 26 July, there's no way we could have known this last week, because last week it wasn't true.
Dave Godfrey, Swindon, UK

GDW (Friday's Letters), you are wrong because you are assuming that only women dye their hair (as does the paper, by calling them brunettes of course). We know that Greek men have been doing it for 2000 years - according to one particular product, anyway.
Jo, Lichfield

Correct me if I'm wrong, but what this article is saying is that nothing has been decided about Thatcher's possible funeral, there is no reason to talk about her health, no one has actually even talked about a state funeral and that there is no difference between state and ceremonial funerals. Possibly the most informative article I've ever read.
Chris, Bristol

Regarding this story as I always say "Quidquid latine dictum sit altum viditur" or in English - "That which is said in Latin sounds profound"
Chris S, Kingston

Crunch Creep

13:01 UK time, Monday, 4 August 2008

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

More unlikely byproducts of credit crunch.

Paper Monitor

12:21 UK time, Monday, 4 August 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The winner of headline of the day is clear. The winner is so clear that it will immediately need to go for drug testing.

"Dog owners told to stop using starfish as Frisbees".

Obviously, as the authorities in Grenada have pointed out, throwing starfish is "cruel and should be strongly discouraged", but there's no way you can say this Guardian nib ("news in brief") doesn't grab the eye.

Their front-page lead - "Archbishop blames liberals for church rift" - just doesn't do it in the same way.

Also in today's Guardian, and also with a marine biology flavour, is one of those extraordinary photos of a great white shark leaping out of the sea while putting on its bitey face.

Paper Monitor is minded to conclude that either these animals are always looking to pose for new photos for their Facebook profile, or there are a lot of intrepid wildlife photographers out there.

How was this photo - which appears to look almost directly down on the shark - taken? What was it trying to chew? Is this merely a great white being playful? Answers on the proverbial postcard.

And still on the theme, there's an extraordinary photo of snack food in the Times. Forget mundane lollipops, here's an image of dried seahorses on sticks, apparently a delicacy in Beijing.

Finally leaving the world of marine biology and entering the world of human biology, the Daily Mail is returning to an old obsession. The Oxford English Dictionary does not yet carry the phrase "knee age", but if it ever does it will be the Mail that claims the credit.

The entry would go something like this:

Knee age, n. 1. the discrepancy between the age suggested by a star's youthful face and the true age revealed by their wrinkled knees

Today's victim is Lulu.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:08 UK time, Monday, 4 August 2008

"A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud" - Title of Brian May's recently completed PhD thesis


Once upon a time the knowledge that Queen guitarist Brian May started a PhD in 1970 in astronomy was the preserve of the rock-themed pub quiz. Now, he's published it. Best of all, in the intervening years his topic has come right back into astronomical fashion.
More details (the Times)

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