BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for September 21, 2008 - September 27, 2008

Your Letters

16:37 UK time, Friday, 26 September 2008

Fake £1 coins are old news to me. I worked in bingo halls for five years, and you'd come across them almost every day in giving out change. It's just because they're a relatively low-level problem compared to fake £20 notes that it hasn't been noticed before. Check your change, people, and refuse to accept anything but a genuine £1 coin (I've had a Spanish 100 peseta coin and a coin from Swaziland in my change).
Edmund O'Connor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Steve's right (Thursday's letters). Although a large amount of forged tokens is inflationary, it's only so to the extent that normal tokens aren't withdrawn to stabilise it: effectively, it costs nearly the face value to produce and destroy, it's real worth is in its repeated use in circulation. If the forger saves the government that production expense, then it's actually deflationary, as long as it's generally accepted. Monetary devaluation of coinage is a long-outdated concept - nowadays the problem's almost the opposite, when the scrap value of the metal to the Chinese exceeds the face value, then the said coins start disappearing as they are melted down...
Fred, Rotherham

A completely erroneous headline on Baby dies after language mix-up that is quite misleading. The final line even says language wasn't a barrier because no-one could have saved the baby.
Dan, London

I'm excited about TV's toughest quiz, The Krypton Factor, coming back next year. Or The Potassium Factor, as I and my friends used to call it, K being the symbol for potassium, not krypton.
Bob Peters, Leeds, UK

We've not had an all-noun-headline letter for a bit. How about Wall Street rescue deal stalemate?
David Richerby, Leeds, UK

In the spirit of journalese-watch, I must point out the word "denialism" in SA joy at demise of 'Dr Beetroot' - anyway I can forget I ever saw that?
Catherine, Leicester

I presume I'm not the first to point out to Paper Monitor that most Lennon/McCartney song were written by either John or Paul and not really joint compositions.
KP, Shepton Mallet

Re Caption Competition. Having just "Googled" R Dawkins, please could you elevate SeanieSmith to first place? He/she/it deserves a (slightly) larger amount of kudos in my humble opinion.
Nick Eaton, City of London

DS from Croydon makes a good point about David Blaine's latest stunt. I'm curious to why anyone would have thought it would be an interesting thing to watch. Of all the stunts I have heard of him doing, not one of them has ever sounded like it was going to be a spectacle. He may have incredible endurance, but watching someone doing essentially nothing for a period of time while in an unusual situation (block of ice, up a pole, in a plastic box, in a giant goldfish bowl etc) is not dissimilar to watching paint dry in an unusual situation. The only reason the stunt he did in London was interesting was because of the people who went there to bait him.
PS, Newcastle, England

Mark from Portsmouth (Thursday's letters), what a clever way of disobeying the stern instruction "do not enter your captions via the Letters form".
Ed, Leeds, UK

10 things we didn't know last week

15:37 UK time, Friday, 26 September 2008

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

1. Hollywood actors were paid to smoke.
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2. Brussels is the burglary capital of Europe.
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3. Henry V invented passports.
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4. Busta Rhymes' real name is Trevor George Smith Jr.
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5. Ruth Kelly and David Miliband dated briefly at university.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

6. The ideal drive is 16 minutes long.
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7. Hanging upside-down can give you a stroke.
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8. Scots drank two litres more pure alcohol than the rest of the UK last year, on average.
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9. Anti-depressants can harm sperm.
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10. The third most popular pet behind a cat and a dog is a rabbit, with 1.6m owners in the UK.
More details (Times)

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Helen McNally for this week's picture of 10 columns in Rome).

Caption Competition

13:37 UK time, Friday, 26 September 2008

Comments

Winning entries in the caption competition.

phonehoist424pa.jpg

This week, a giant phone is hoisted high above the City of London to promote a charity appeal for the NSPCC. 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. SeanieSmith
"Got a call for a Mr R Dawkins..."

5. jettro_heller
Final proof that when your mum told you rain was God having a shower, she wasn't lying.

4. jimmyog
"Now that's what I call a huge phone, Bill."

3. redalfa147
"Nope. We seem to have lost David Blaine."

2. Number_Wang
"On second thoughts Quentin, I think I'll just come down and get a new battery for my walkie-talkie."

1. ThunderCat8
Feeling nostalgic, Bobby got his first ever mobile phone down from the loft.

Paper Monitor

11:49 UK time, Friday, 26 September 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Any woman would feel for Sarah Brown.

sarahbrown226pa.jpgNot only has she been photographed next to an achingly chic supermodel (imagine the inner "what to wear" monologue when the Sarkozys were due in town: "Tweed perhaps? a trousers suit?... phfff, who'll be looking at me?"), the Prime Minister's wife has donated her conference outfit to charity.

Only for a model to don her dress for a catwalk strut, loose folds of fabric billowing about her willowy frame. And for said picture to appear in the Daily Telegraph. But Mrs Brown is made of stern stuff. After the uncomplimentary comparisons with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, she told the Times, "With all due respect to myself, I knew that day I couldn't win... I try not to take too much notice. How can I?"

Sir Paul McCartney too is the subject of compare and contrast in the reviews of his concert in Israel. He tried out a few numbers from his post-Beatles career, but the crowd only came to life for the songs penned with John Lennon.

The Times uncharitably notes his Wings numbers have "the uncanny ability to dredge up memories of grey Sundays on damp Welsh holidays in the 1970s - even on a warm Tel Aviv night."

When he broke into a jig during his recent release Dance Tonight, he was the only one in the stadium doing just that, says reviewer James Hider.

There was one solo effort that really got the crowd going - John Lennon's Give Peace a Chance, says the Telegraph. "A thousand waving cell phones glowed in the crowd like fireflies after Sir Paul dedicated the song to his late fellow Beatle."

Should he muse on this overlong, perhaps Sir Paul might like to take a leaf out of Sarah Brown's book.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:38 UK time, Friday, 26 September 2008

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

"You have got to decide - does this case hit the buffers or is the prosecution on track?" - Defence lawyer in court case over stolen model railway loco

There cannot be much opportunity for witty speech-making at Great Yarmouth magistrates. But just such a chance arose for defence lawyer Chris Bowles in the case of model railway fan Paul Bowdler, accused of stealing a Lima Class 40 diesel locomotive from a fellow enthusiast.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

15:38 UK time, Thursday, 25 September 2008

Was Mr Edmund King (the AA's very hard working president) having a day off when "What makes a good road sign?" was written? I don't think I have ever come across any sort of media article about motoring or motoring related things without him popping up at least once. Just me?
Kevin, Derby

Regarding the whole Blaine stunt. It has always annoyed me that they allow breaks every hour even for official world record attempts. A world record is surely a measure of endurance. If I go for the record of, I don't know, "calling an egg Neville" then I have to sit there and say Neville, Neville, Neville, Neville, Neville, Neville, at the egg until I cannot go on. The point at which I break off for a latte and to check my text messages is not a break in the proceedings, but record attempt over. Oh, and If anyone tries to top my calling an egg Neville' attempt then I have a "calling a pork chop Bernard" fall-back plan to get me back in the records.
Christian Cook, Espom, UK

In "Blaine back on feet after stunt", we're told that some of the watching fans felt they had been "duped into believing Blaine would remain inverted for the entire 60 hours". No doubt, they were also duped into believing this, like his previous stunts, would be interesting to watch.
DS, Croydon, England

If David Blaine wants to increase his popularity I suggest he rethinks his "peeing" policy. I for one would watch THAT!
Colin Main, Berkhamsted, UK

I really can't understand why the government feels it necessary to advertise tax. It's not like we have a choice about whether to buy their product is it.
Adam, London, UK

Well that's an interesting definition of profanity. I just tried to enter the Caption Competition with the quote: "OK, drop it here. That'll show the City the true meaning of a crunch." It got rejected with a "profanityblocked" error in the URL. I'll admit "credit crunch" is getting overused and blamed for everything, but not sure it's yet entered the realms of profanity. Or is it the City that's profane?
Mark, Portsmouth

Steve of Liverpool (Wednesday's letters), to answer your question, the harm is to all of us. While a single forged £1 is not going to make a noticeable difference to the economy, a high percentage of forged £1's will do, namely by increasing inflation (the more money that is in an economy, the less the money is worth). Money's value is directly linked to its availability. As you rightly say, money is a physical token that represents a promise (a promise stated on every note), but if that promise is not backed-up, it has no value.
AS, Manchester, England

As Steve from Liverpool (Wednesday's letters) doesn't see the harm in fake £1 coins, Alex Cross from Shifnal (Wednesday's letters) should swap his newly acquired fake with Steve. Perhaps "CoinAid" could provide the solution to "Coingate"?
TS, Bromley, England


Paper Monitor

11:49 UK time, Thursday, 25 September 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

All week the Guardian's giveaway is pamphlets on how to write. Obviously the nation's journalists have been squirreling away How to Write: Fiction and How to Write: Poetry, since this is what newshounds secretly would prefer to be doing. If only they were independently wealthy. (Except Paper Monitor. Who is replete as is.)

But today, a spanner in the works for the budding novelist in the newsroom. The potted lesson is How to Write: Journalism.

Talk about coals to Newcastle, but Paper Monitor is not too proud to go back to school, because who among us is perfect?

The first lesson comes from Simon Jenkins, former head honcho at the Times and Evening Standard, musing on what makes a good journalist. (Curious, he says. Cunning. A habitual diary writer.)

Aspects of the craft can be learned, and his best teacher was a "ferocious Irish subeditor" who pulled copy apart, spiked stories without compunction and dispensed maxims that every cub reporter should know.

"Never begin a paragraph with 'it'... Delete every adjective and adverb from your story and reinsert only those that appear essential... Never use sloppy words such as supply, problem, accommodate and interesting..."

It (d'oh!) sure makes for interesting (d'oh! again) reading - invaluable rules for anyone, not just journalists, who puts pen to paper or keystrokes to screen.

Further on there is a tutorial on feature writing, which requires "more atmosphere, more emotion, more colour", says tutor Peter Cole, who compares the style of storytelling to "telling a child a story, building to a climax rather that [sic] giving it all away in the intro." (Glass houses, but nice to see some things stay the same at the Guarniad.)

Paper Monitor's favourite film reviewer Peter Bradshaw shares his tips - never give away any twists, arrange to be fined £20 for use the word 'darkly', avoid boring the reader - and interviewer Lynn Barber, of the Observer, scatters her pearls before swine.

"There are various ways of presenting [celebrity] interviews but the one I prefer is the first person account that aims to answer the question, 'What was it like to meet so and so?''"

Some years ago, a friend interviewed Barber for a local rag. She returned aglow with pride, for Barber had praised her opening question as the best she'd ever heard.

What was it, acolytes ask? "Were you popular at school?"

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:46 UK time, Thursday, 25 September 2008

"It was a charter flight but I am not some kind of a lager lout" - Simon Howley, whose family was escorted off a plane in Fuerteventura

When Simon Howley's two-year-old daughter refused to sit down on a flight to the Canary Islands, against the cabin crew's wishes, little did he know they were storing up trouble for the return leg. Mr Howley says the family were referred to by an airline staff member as "the family from hell" and escorted off the flight home.

Your Letters

15:26 UK time, Wednesday, 24 September 2008

OK, making fake £1 coins is naughty and their first use is deceitful and risks harming the recipient. But once they're in circulation, does it matter? Coins are just metal IOUs, so if people continue to swap them in trust, where's the harm? Eventually they get so worn you can't tell they aren't real. They will have served their function and saved the Mint the manufacturing costs.
Steve, Liverpool

Having used one of my very legitimate pound coins for a shopping trolley yesterday, rather than returning the empty trolley I handed it to a lady in exchange for her pound coin, which turned out to be horribly fake. I fear that "coingate" will ruin basic supermarket courtesy.
Alex Cross, Shifnal, England

So street lights across East Yorkshire "could be switched off at night". As opposed to during the day?
Chris Boote, London

Re Clowns being silenced - how come party conferences have escaped?
Tim, Wales

Re Queen to mark Blue Peter birthday. Will there be a phone-in?
Mike , Newcastle upon Tyne

So the Sun and Mail say Gordon said Britain 38 times and the Guardian say 25 (Wednesday's Paper Monitor). Well the BBC's "word cloud" says 18. It's quite easy to use the "find" feature to count it up, and it's 25. Unless the BBC's transcript is wrong?
Mark Williams, Oxford

In reply to Roy, Abergavenny (Monday's letters) and Greg Ex-Grimsby (Tuesday's letters), "monk ons" were regularly got on in Loughborough, where I grew up. Although "mardy gits" were more common, which is probably what Roy is feeling now after being so smug in thinking he had spotted a Monitor error.
Louise, London

Paper Monitor

10:50 UK time, Wednesday, 24 September 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

As kisses go it's not Brief Encounter, but Gordon and Sarah Brown's meeting of lips on stage at the Labour Party conference is splashed across today's front pages. They embraced after she introduced her husband's keynote speech.

It was a "surprise" move, but it's gone down well in the papers - as well as with Gordon. "Hearts melted" as she spoke, according to the Times. Even her extremely sober outfit of black skirt and grey top was deemed "very fashion-forward" by the Mirror. Really? Who'd have thought a former PR guru would be able to work the media so well?

Not so good at their jobs are the number crunchers at some of the nationals. The speech "buzzword counts" that feature in most of the papers just don't add up with one another. None of them can agree when it comes to how many times Brown said words like fair, future, NHS, Cameron and tax in his speech.

The Sun and Mirror do agree on one word and that is Britain, mentioned 38 times by the prime minister. So why would the Guardian journalist in charge of the count put it at 25? Quick toilet break maybe, cappuccino?

Finally, a warning note. The Daily Mail is outraged and this time it's birthday cards. Columnist Allison Pearson went to buy her mum one and found her local shop full of cards so "offensive and obscene" she felt "ashamed of her country".

As with most things in the Mail's world, it can all be explained in a nutshell - binge-drinking. According to Ms Pearson, 85% of all greeting cards are purchased by women, hence the decline in standards of cards must be because of binge-drinking ladettes. Shame on you.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:32 UK time, Wednesday, 24 September 2008

"I wasn't good-looking enough to play myself" - Writer Toby Young explains why he will drop himself from the cast of a play based on his memoir How To Lose Friends And Alienate People.

Simon Pegg plays Toby Young in the film version of the book that tells the tale of Young's humiliating stint at the glamorous fashion bible Vanity Fair.

But Young is taking a stage version to an off-Broadway venue, intending to play himself for the first four weeks.

If it's a hit, he wants Pegg to take over. His remark, although tongue-in-cheek, gives a glimpse of what Young thinks of the superficial showbiz world.

Your Letters

14:48 UK time, Tuesday, 23 September 2008

This story about the clowns being silenced just shows how ridiculous these licensing laws have become. This Summer the theatre company I was in fell foul of this at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We were told we could no longer hand out cupcakes to our audience memebers during our performance as we did not have a Catering License. I never realised giving out 3 cupcakes a performance could cause such problems!
Beki Harrison, Hull

The ban on clowns playing live music is described as "laughable". At last, something funny about clowns.
Kieran Boyle, Oxford, England

Re Horses for divorces. So Kathy Pinney thinks it costs £600 a year to keep a cat or dog excluding vets bills? Definitely a candidate for the Nick Clegg "Out of Touch with Financial Reality" award. Around 200 euros a year keeps my two moggies happy and healthy.
Sam, France

I suspected a pound coin I had was fake so I found another to compare it to. Shame the one I compared it to also turned out to be a fake. If they want them out of circulation they should take the hit now and exchange them for genuine coins.
Rick, Stockport

I would like to propose a new phrase for those, like Susannah, who have the misfortune of discovering a fake pound in their possession: "Quids out". The realization that you've less money than you originally anticipated.
Darren, Leicester

I am guessing that chewing gum (Daily mini-quiz) fails to make the top 10 littered items found on the street because most of it ends up on the bottom of my shoes, and therefore is technically no longer on the street.
Scott Henderson, Burlington, Canada

Roy Bennett (Monday's letters) asserts that "getting a monk on" is an exclusively South Yorkshire idiom. Wrong. The phrase is VERY commonly used in Grimsby (where I grew up) and... GRIMSBY IS NOT IN YORKSHIRE.
Greg, Ex-Grimsby

Martin (Monday's letters), I think you will find that she was talking about the fake officer sitting on her back, not her sitting on her own back. And I believe she only mentioned it once.
Rachael, Nottingham

Paper Monitor

12:05 UK time, Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The Arsenal. Love 'em, hate 'em or feel indifference towards football in general, those boys can certainly kick a ball about. And Arsene Wenger, he is quite the blacksmith when it comes to forging team bonds.

So perhaps the secrets of Wenger's pep talks might help to encourage the team at Monitor Towers to pull together - specifically that disgruntled PA, miffed at Punorama's extended stint on the subs bench (see Monday's Paper Monitor). And perhaps then start passing on those calls from agents, reality TV casting directors, Heat magazine and Collins dictionary that Paper Monitor has obviously been missing.

Handily, the Guardian has got its hands on the relentlessly motivational handout Arsenal players pore over on those long nights in Bolton hotels.

"The word 'team' appears 12 times," the paper's Sport section notes. The illustration depicts Wenger in front of an overhead projector (quaint!) beaming his tips for the top onto a locker-room wall.

Our team becomes stronger by:

  • Always want more - always give more
  • Stick together
  • Show the desire to win in all that you do etc etc

Right, Team Monitor. Let's all "make the right decisions for the team", as Wenger might say.

And maybe the next time the producers of Hole in the Wall call, they will get through (a gameshow the Times quite marvellously has dubbed "Celebrity Schadenfreude"). Paper Monitor has always fancied a dunking while wearing too-tight silver Lyrca.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:19 UK time, Tuesday, 23 September 2008

"The food looks good, but has no smell and almost no taste and is not very nourishing" - Spanish aristocrat Luisa de Carvajal takes a dim view of London food in 1605

Continental Europe has traditionally taken a dim view of English food, and Carvajal, sent to London in 1605 by the Jesuits to preach Catholicism was no exception. Her letters home have been translated for the first time and she complains about the English habit of roasting everything or putting it in pastry.

Your Letters

16:06 UK time, Monday, 22 September 2008

Is predictive text being used in ordinary speech these days? Every time I visit a customer representative or a member of the medical profession these days, they listen to one or two words I say and then automatically give me a set response to something similar, but different, to what I am actually saying. It is intensely irritating.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

I had two pound coins in my purse today. I looked closely after reading How do you spot a fake pound coin? and one of them is definitely dubious - the edge lettering looks almost handwritten. If I hadn't read the article, I wouldn't have thought to look. You made me £1 poorer.
Susannah, Northampton

The problem with forged pound coins is not identifying them, it's what to do with them after that (. If you hand it in, you're a pound down; if you pass it on, you're laughing. A paradigm case of an individual/collective rationality problem.
Rory, Grimsby

HaHaa! Gotcha Paper Monitor. And just when you thought it was safe to let slip a very local little saying. "Getting the monk on", eh? Places you clearly from the Doncaster Area, or at least South Yorkshire. Never heard that expression anywhere else. So, a hardy Northerner is it. Fancy working down South: there's posh.
Roy Bennett, Abergavenny

Paper Monitor, it's "hmph". For its brevity and the implication that one is so grumpy, one won't even spare breath for a vowel.
Susannah, Northampton

Am I getting cynical or does anyone else think that George Michael's drug bust is just the publicity he needs in view of his upcoming autobiography release (Quote of the day)? Sorry? I'm sure he won't be when the large advance cheque lands on his doormat. Har-umph.
Becky, Iasi, Romania

Probably a silly question, but in Wife tells of £26m hostage ordeal, how does one sit on their back? It is mentioned a couple of times, and I would have thought that you sit on your backside. Sitting on your back is more commonly called "lying down", isn't it?
Martin, Bristol, UK

Can anyone answer Richard's letter of the 12th? I too don't get the winning caption. Is it just an in -joke by psychology students messing with our heads?
Phil, London

Paper Monitor

14:40 UK time, Monday, 22 September 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor is a little miffed. Did it miss the call to Monitor Towers from the people at Collins looking for celebrities to champion little-used words at risk of being left out of the dictionary?

You just can't get good help these days. The PA at Monitor Towers - whose cousin is Punorama - has the hump and so rarely, if ever, passes on messages. That must have been what happened. Otherwise Paper Monitor would be signing up to further the usage of "recrement" (waste matter, refuse, dross) or "fatidical" (prophetic) or even "muliebrity" (condition of being a woman). Well, maybe not that last one.

Reading about the star recruits in the Times begs several questions. What does Christine Bleakley, the comely presenter of The One Show, have that Paper Monitor does not have? Or Stephen Fry, himself a plumpious morsel, for that matter.

Humpf. Or should that be hur-RUMPH. Paper Monitor would ask the word boffins at Collins, but has got the monk on. So sharn't.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:53 UK time, Monday, 22 September 2008

"And sorry to everybody else, just for boring them" - George Michael apologises to his fans - and the rest of us - after his drug arrest.

georgemichaelconcert_pa.jpgDespite his vow to live a "quiet life" after touring, George Michael feels the need to say sorry to his fans and promise to sort himself out. The former Wham! singer has been cautioned by police after being caught in possession of drugs, leaving him red-faced that those with no interest in his comings and doings get to hear about his antics again.
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