BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for November 16, 2008 - November 22, 2008

10 things we didn't know last week

17:15 UK time, Friday, 21 November 2008

flamingoes203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. The Queen wore flares.
More details

2. The Mary Rose might have been sunk by a French cannon.
More details

3. Parents pushing children in away-facing buggies talk to them less, and their offspring appear to be more stressed.
More details

4. Business Secretary Peter Mandelson is a practised and "flamboyant" dancer.
More details (the Guardian)

5. There was rumoured to be a 14-minute-long Beatles track called Carnival of Life, although many fans thought its existence was a myth.
More details

6. They were wrong - it exists.

7. On the Buses star Reg Varney opened the UK's first cash dispenser.
More details

8. Britain's not in record debt - if you account for inflation and economic growth.
More details

9. Some Albanians settle family feuds through an ancient code called "Kanun" which allows revenge to be exacted on any male adult member of a family, but precludes entry to that person's property.
More details

10. Camel urine is sought after for its medicinal effects in India's Bihar state, and sells for £1.34 a litre..
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Gary Cheary for this week's picture of 10 flamingoes, taken in Jader-parken in northern Germany.

Your Letters

16:40 UK time, Friday, 21 November 2008

I imagine that by now we all know recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth. But despite continued dark mutterings in the press of a possible "depression", I've not read any explanation of how exactly that differs from a plain old recession, only vague implications that it's jolly bad. Does anyone know?
Tom, London

I have a new addition to the Crunch Creep... Has anyone else's enjoyment of the BBC news site (including the delights of the Monitor) been diminished by the redundancy of a "news-buddy"? Many slow afternoons were whiled away by sending a colleague a funny news item and he the same in return. Maybe someone could set up a Facebook group to provide support for those in need?
PS: Steve - if you're reading this you're greatly missed. The news quiz just won't be the same without you.
Molly, Dorking

So, the Dubai hotel opening ceremony could be "seen from space" (Quote of the Day). Well, I've just checked on Google Earth, and so can my back garden.
Steve, Southampton, UK

I think we can safely assume the reason model Karolina Kurkova has no belly button is most certainly cosmetic rather than medical. Even if it was initially removed for medical reasons, the fact she still does not have one now must be cosmetic. As a model, her body image is her whole business and I am sure she could easily afford to have one cosmetically added. She could even put it on expenses. If she is at a loss as to what to do with the space, maybe the Mattel logo would complete the desired look?
Rob Mansfield, London

Come on then - how many of you surreptitiously clicked on the Baaps link next to the belly button story expecting something a bit more "interesting" than plastic surgery? Hmm??
Susie, London

If a kidnapper kidnapped me and handed me a gun and told me to shoot one person or he would shoot six then I would happily shoot the kidnapper and then write a book called "I was kidnapped by an idiot."
Hugo Klemmons, Canada

OK, so I'm a dancing pig in Cuban heels according to 7 days 7 questions, for a score of nil. But all the people I know say I'm contributing to the fun and entertainment ethos of the quiz, so can I take part again next week?
David Ph, London, UK

It must be time for the Who Do You Think You Are team to trace the actor James Cromwell's family tree - surely he's a descendant of Nicolaus Copernicus?David Slater, Kilmarnock, Scotland

I know children are more technically-minded these days, but I really do hope that the internet is largely beyond the capabilities of the average four-year-old. Otherwise poor little Eamon knows exactly what he's getting for Christmas (What is the point of Woolworths?).
Nik Edwards, Aylesbury

Dave Godfrey asks for suggestions as to which half of us can grow moustaches, left or right (Thursday letters). I think you'll find it's actually the top half.
Steve, Catford

I suggest the front half.
Anne R, Fareham

It's far less than half. Without measuring myself exactly, probably only about one three-hundredth of me can grow a moustache.
Graham, Purmerend, Netherlands

To all of those over the past few weeks who have criticised Laurie Taylor's column for not offering any conclusion - it's a spoiler! Listen to the week's edition of Thinking Allowed (linked to from the article and available as an all-singing-all-dancing podcast), and all will become clearer. Poor Laurie. Perhaps his articles should be more clearly marked as bait to lure us into radio...
Aimee, St. Andrews, Scotland

All the talk of words with an unnecessary "pre" added brought to my attention the seemingly new phenomenon of "pre-news", such as this story which is to tell us there will be some news later.
Naomi P, Sussex

Letters at 22:54?! Is the Credit Crunch hitting so hard that Monitor is having to do lots of overtime?
Basil Long, Leicester

Just in case I ever get another letter published, I thought it best to inform the Magazine Monitor that I used to be Adam of Brussels, Belgiumland. There's always the possibility that someone's keeping tabs on these things, you know.
Adam, Seattle, Americaland

Why do so many of your published letters end with a question mark?
Liz, Reston, VA, USA

Caption Competition

13:34 UK time, Friday, 21 November 2008


Winning entries in the caption competition.


This week, to mark John Sergeant's self-imposed and premature exit from Strictly Come Dancing, your captions please for the former political correspondent rehearsing with his partner, Kristina Rihanoff.

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. stigmondo
"Oh blimey... Heads up, Lembit's arrived."

5. rogueslr
It was all going so well, and then the music started...

4. The_Bob_Glasgow
Rehersals get underway for Prescott: The Musical.

3. RMutt-Urinal
John and Kristina forfeit the Strictly chauffeur and so practice for the Tube ride home.

2. Derek53
"Right - that's the stomach patted - just got to rub my head now..."

1. beachcred
"No Kristina, You hold the umbrella like this and the microphone like this..."

Paper Monitor

11:17 UK time, Friday, 21 November 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor may still be sniffling, but the box of tissues has been moved from the sofa to the desk and normal service is resumed today. Another gritty Brit doing his duty for his country is Guy Ritchie.

He and Madonna are expected to divorce today and the newspapers are obsessed with one fact - he doesn't want any of her £300m fortune. As he reportedly told the Mirror: "£10m? No thanks, I just want the boys." And with those words the heavenly angels started singing and St Guy was born.

His refusal to take her cash has made him a national hero in the papers. The good old Brit who knows that money isn't the most important thing in life, it's love. A reader's comment published in the Daily Mail sums it up: "How rare to hear of a man with such integrity in the celebrity world... he's a much better catch than her."

Yeah, take that you money-grabbing, fame-obsessed Yanks. Forget the fact he is worth £30m anyway, which is still enough money to have quite a nice lifestyle. But the only question in Paper Monitor's head is how did he make that much? Surely not from one good film made nearly 10 years ago? Answers on a postcard please.

The prize for running with an idea - and running, running, running - goes to the Times. It has absolutely exhausted a throw-away comment from the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Talking about the average floor area of a home in the capital - just 77sq m - he said: "We're not Hobbits." Cue full-page spread and detailed, coloured graphic on Hobbit homes and why none of us will be living like Bilbo Baggins any time soon. Although with "whole rooms devoted entirely to clothes", according to paper, material girl Madonna might be tempted. Not the lovely Guy Ritchie, of course.

The Strictly/Sergeant story shows little sign of going away. In the Daily Mail today we are treated to a full-page comment piece from Today programme presenter John Humphrys. It details why he turned down the show twice and, in doing so, "made John Sergeant into a superstar". So, would he do it now? There's still no way. But don't be sad, the Strictly staff are probably on the phone to the lovely Guy Ritchie right now, booking him for next year.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:27 UK time, Friday, 21 November 2008


In today's Daily Mini-Quiz we asked you the height difference between Bernie Ecclestone and his wife Slavica. She is filing for divorce after being married to the Formula One boss for 24 years.

The answer is 10 inches - she is 6ft 2in and he is 5ft 4in. This made it rather difficult for us to squeeze both their heads into the mini-quiz picture. But we knew you'd want to feast your eyes, so here it is in all its glory.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:58 UK time, Friday, 21 November 2008

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

dubai_party203.jpg"This will be the party of the decade - and it'll be the last party of the decade, probably" - Sir Richard Branson on a £20m bash to mark the opening of a Dubai resort

A fireworks display that could be seen from space; a £33,000 per minute performance from Kylie; hors d'oeuvres prepared by Michelin-star chefs and served on a 21m sea dragon; a procession of celebrity liggers... it could only be the land that recession forgot: Dubai. The occasion was a party to celebrate the opening of that big man-made island shaped like a palm tree.
More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

22:54 UK time, Thursday, 20 November 2008

To answer the four philosophical questions of the day:

1. No, Bill can not justifiably be killed as why should it be Bill and not, say, Ben. At least in the other examples there is a clear either/or decision to be made, I don't think there's a guilt free conscience choice in killing Bill over Ben.

2. I think I must be as I remember starting to read the article. If I were not the same person who started to read the article then the article could never be read by one person and fully appreciated thereby resulting in writing the article being a pointless task. For the sake of journalism/literature/anything else you care to think of I feel you can't validate the claim.

3. Yes.

4. Again untrue, although partly. I did freely choose to read the article although not responsibly, I think I should really be working... good article though, provides good procrastination potential!
Matt Hardcastle, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

I was going to cite David Bain's article on philosophy as a fine piece of nominative determinism but it turns out there's no R in his surname. But I will ask in which of David Lewis's alternate universes he's living in, where the driver of a tram can change its route.
David Richerby, Leeds, UK

Four philosophical questions to make your brain hurt reminds me of a scene in the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Vroomfondle and Majikthise threaten a "philosophers' strike" if Deep Thought is allowed to find the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life the Universe and Everything. Deep Thought points out, "And who will THAT inconvenience?"
Martin, Bristol, UK

I want to comment on the Laurie Taylor piece about growing up but there is no option to. But it bugs me that he doesn't actually say anything with it... but it is implied that "they seek to avoid rather than assume responsibility" is the defining nature of adults today. And this comes after telling us how in his day, undoubtedly a good old one, boys wanted to be adults for... well, no good reasons. Avoid chores? Avoid the minefield of relationships because you have caught a wife already? Avoid thinking and coming up with reasons for things because a boorish "I know best" is good enough? Laurie Taylor makes no judgement that I can see but he surely could use his column space more wisely.
Chris Clarke, Oxford

Re the caption in Laurie Taylor's piece: "Half of you can grow a moustache..." Left half or right half? Any suggestions?
Dave Godfrey, Swindon, UK

Why become a minister if your power doesn't even translate into the authority to order a coffee ("Minister's coffee demands 'froth'")? I remember an exchange in Yes Prime Minister: Hacker observed that he had the power to unleash nuclear warfare but not to ask for scrambled eggs, to which Sir Humphrey smoothly responded that he certainly had the power to ask for them.
Edward Green, London, UK

It may just be me, but I thought that airbrushing was used to remove unsightly features by smoothing everything over, and not to introduce details such as missing belly buttons ("Who doesn't have a belly button?"). Can anyone explain?
James O, Oxford

Woah Nelly! "Most procedures involve transforming an innie into an outie..." What madness is this? Who on earth would want to be a freaky outie, let alone pay for the privilege?
Luke, Edinburgh

Re the comment by the BBC One controller ("Top of the Pops has never been bigger"). Didn't she read this article? Surely regardless of whether you measure this by number of episodes, viewers or impact on record sales you will find that Top of the Pops was in fact bigger in every year from 1964 to 2006? Then again maybe it has moved to a bigger studio this year?
Frog, Aldershot

Did anyone else let out a cheer when BBC Breakfast said that the Sirius Star was the weight of 25 Routemaster buses? They also said it's the size of Canary Wharf, so in size terms Canary Wharf = Aircraft carrier = 3 football pitches.
Andy, Leeds, UK

Debate closed. Paper Monitor is quite clearly male.
Phil, Oxford

Poor Toby Young. With the fewest votes in today's Daily Mini-Quiz, maybe he does need to be in I'm a Celebrity.
Phil B-C, London

It's World Philosophy Day - or is it?
Dave W, ThatNorth

Paper Monitor

12:40 UK time, Thursday, 20 November 2008


Sneeze. Sniffle. Gingerly pick stubborn bits of wrapper from gluey cough sweet. Due to sickness, Paper Monitor is temporarily indisposed today.

Any Get Well Soon sentiments should be sent using the comments button below.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:59 UK time, Thursday, 20 November 2008

"He has become the people's John Travolta and he should be a fighter, not a quitter" - Peter Mandelson wades into the big issue of the day

Who ever knew that Peter Mandelson had a sense of humour? The so-called Prince of Darkness, who, on retaining his parliamentary seat in 2001, proclaimed in trenchant tones "I AM A FIGHTER NOT A QUITTER", issued this spot of self-effacing punditry in the wake of John Sergeant's departure from Strictly Come Dancing.
More details (the Guardian)

Your Letters

16:18 UK time, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Re Paper Monitor: In the interests of openness the 10 most offensive words are:
1 ****
2 ****
3 ******
4 ****
5 Banker
6 ******
7 ****
8 ********
9 *****
10 ***********
Hope this gets past the censor!
Andrew, Malvern, UK

To my ears, number four is a lot less offensive than five or 10.
Neil Golightly, Manchester

What a sad day for the underdogs (Sergeant quits Strictly contest). Well the judges have finally managed to bully poor John out of competition. I for one will be very sorry to see John go, as too doubtlessly will be those that have paid to vote in order to keep to him in.
AS, Salford, England

Re the daily mini-question. Surely there is something wrong with you if you are on the toilet long enough to do a crossword puzzle.
Chris Clarke, Oxford

That's rather a below the belt comment from Nadja about British sports (Tuesday letters).
Martin Hollywood, Luxembourg

Paper Monitor

12:25 UK time, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

How rude is too rude? It's a question that has long exercised press barons and broadcasters alike, and is being addressed anew by the Daily Mirror's Stop the Swearing on Telly campaign.

On Monday the Mirror gave Jamie Oliver a carpeting for using a very rude word indeed; today it's those equally cheeky chappies, Ant and Dec.

As a model was forced to eat testicle in the Australian jungle - an animal's, Paper Monitor hastens to add - the pair made repeated gags about a dog's, a kangaroo's and a crocodile's private parts. With liberal use of a word starting with b, eight letters, ends with s. At 9.28 in the evening!

"The TV favourites laughed as they shocked viewers with their language," sniffs the paper, so offended that it reprints the word eight times - albeit starred out - in speech bubbles and the accompanying article.

As Paper Monitor ponders its ranking on the rude-o-meter, the Mirror and the Daily Telegraph provide an answer: "the eighth most offensive word in a study commissioned by the BBC and ITV".

Which does rather beg the question, what is at number seven in the rankings?

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:34 UK time, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

"I'm not doing anything to these tenors, honestly" - Adriano Graziani, who phoned for last-minute opera tickets, only to be asked to fill in for a sick singer.

Nor was this the first time the Cardiff singing student has taken centre stage at short notice. Last year, he was hired as an understudy for Glyndebourne Touring Opera's Macbeth. After his principal fell ill, his performance as Macduff won a most-promising newcomer award.
More details (Times)

Your Letters

17:09 UK time, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Has Gerry Adams now become a comedian with his final line in this piece?
Suzanne, Bicester, Oxon

In response to Thomas of Maidstone, the OED has the earliest recorded use of 'to touch base' as 1918 - it was probably hated just as much then though.
Sarah Cornell, Bishop's Stortford, UK

According to Southpaws & Sunday Punches and other Sporting Expressions by Christine Ammer, "touch base" came into figurative use in the US in the 1950s. It's a baseball term. Sorry to say, Brits, we Yanks haven't latched onto any of your sports terms, being largely bereft of any notion of what a 'sticky wicket' is, for example, if we're even familiar with the term.
Nadja, north of Boston, USA

Re "Touching base". In an article from 1855 called "The Real Michigan", a chap called Bruce Catton writes that Michigan is "an earthly paradise for people from the hot cities [...] where they can have a chance and touch base with Mother Nature".
Rob Stanton, Kenilworth, UK

Re this story about the Sirius Star. Serious stuff (sorry). However, it has brought a new unit of measurement into force: The US aircraft carrier. What's that in Routemaster buses or tennis courts?
Chris W, Wales

Thanks for the Magazine front page link to this story which read 'Have you left the gas on?' I won't be able to relax all afternoon.
Ken, Chelmsford, UK

I don't want to re-open the grammar debate either but "pre-order" on Amazon? It doesn't even mean what they think it means, order in advance of general release. "Pre ordering" I flick through a catalogue, pick up a pen, find a cheque book...
David Mead, Seething, Norfolk

Regarding Paper Monitor's non-iron shirts comment - if you pull shirts out of the machine as soon as it finishes and hang them up you shouldn't need to iron them. The creasing happens when you leave wet washing scrunched up in the machine at the end of the cycle. Hope this helps :-)
Rebecca, London

Paper Monitor

12:32 UK time, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Never mind the myth of record debt, dearest Magazine, Paper Monitor is more concerned at this juncture in the day with the myth of the non-iron shirt/blouse (note sartorial gender neutrality).

Moving on. It's rare that the Guardian and the Daily Mail show a united front when it comes to giving page one exposure to a story of little national consequence. But it seems that a cri de coeur from Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Philips has further inflamed what Mrs Merton was wont to call a "heated debate".

At the centre of the controversy is former BBC political correspondent John Sergeant, who despite being not a very good dancer has avoided ejection from this contest which, ostensibly, sets out to find good celebrity dancers.

Ostensibly, because, really if this show was just about dancing and not about personality, then why doesn't it just draw its contestants from the morass of non-celebrities out there? Because then no one would watch it, of course.

What Ms Phillips and her irked colleagues fail to appreciate is the British public's glorious bloodymindedness when they feel they are being pressed into a corner. Vote for another grinning, pearly-toothed, lusciously tanned, nimble-footed generi-celeb? No thanks - we'll have the "dancing pig".

Paper Monitor is reminded of the popular mandate given to H'Angus the Monkey, when the government thought it would be a good idea to have locally-elected mayors.

So the coverage accorded to Ms Phillips' comments on the fronts of the Mail and Guardian (the latter, it should be said because Ms Phillips accuses Sergeant of sitting around and reading the Guardian), not to mention the Daily Express, look destined to endear Mr Sergeant to the public even more.

Metro exhibits a similar streak of reality TV ennui (cri de coeur, ennui, get with the French, readers) by staging an Independent-style campaigning front page contrasting contestants eating bugs in I'm a Celebrity... with a boy in Zimbabwe who is subject to a similar diet.

"Sometimes the injustice of this world really sticks in your throat" runs the headline. Wow, it's a bit early in the series to be burning bridges with the I'm a Celebrity publicists. But principles come above all else, right Metro?

Turn to page 15 "First bungle in the jungle as I'm a Celebrity star asks... will eating testicles make me pregnant? Nicola McLean feared she could be pregnant..."


Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:30 UK time, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

"Is that near Prague?" - reality TV show contestant on hearing Martina Navratilova is from the Czech Republic

Vying for the Jade Goody award for general knowledge in the current series of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, is a former EastEnders actor called Joe Swash. With this comment, he apparently made himself an early bookies' favourite to win.
More details (the Daily Mail)

Your Letters

16:15 UK time, Monday, 17 November 2008

How about the BBC stops reporting these stories (More Britons seeking suicide help) as sooner or later due to all the publicity this only door is going to get shut by some do-gooding politician who has no understanding of what the people who take this journey are going through.
Owain Williams, Regensburg

I hate the phrase "touch base" (20 of your most hated cliches). But I was watching an episode of Hawaii Five-O from 1970 yesterday, and Steve McGarrett was discussing a plan to surround a warehouse. After he'd gone through it, he said "so all the bases have been touched there". Just after that, in response to a question about the district attorney, he said "I've touched base with him about it". Does anyone have an earlier reference to the phrase?
Thomas, Maidstone, UK

Some of these "cliches" are perfectly sensible phrases that make sense. They can be hated when used too often, or incorrectly, but most of the entries just seem to be written by people stumbling around bitterly under the delusion that anything uttered in day to day business must be evil.
Timothy Lexus, London, UK

Please tell me Alex Knob is a real name (20 of your most hated cliches).
Alex Mylips, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

It sounds to me like the document "Working with Liam Byrne" should be renamed as "Working for Liam Byrne" (Quote of the Day).
P.S. Note to my secretary, I would like a cup of tea and a biscuit now please.
Gordon, Newcastle

Re Paper Monitor: This whole campaign against bad language - The War on Swearer" perhaps? - is starting to remind me of the South Park movie. Although this time the Chef is the bad guy...
The Bob, Glasgow

The Estate is very interesting. Photographers would have recognised it more as "How not to use an ND Grad filter".
Bob Peters, Leeds, UK

If "pre-prepared scripts" sounds illogical (Friday letters), how about the use of the expression "pre-warn" - as opposed to post-warn? Or am I resurrecting the bad grammar debate?
Alan, Chelmsford, Essex

Paper Monitor

12:26 UK time, Monday, 17 November 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Earlier this month, in the wake of "Manuelgate", ITV boss Michael Grade spoke out against the "unrestrained" use of the F-word in TV shows.

The Daily Mirror in particular fell on his comments, launching a "Stop the Swearing on Telly" campaign. With Gordon Ramsay uncharacteristically off-screen for the minute, its chosen whipping boy is another TV chef fond of salty language.

Announcing its campaign on 4 November, the paper blasted Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food show for using the F-word 23 times in 50 minutes. While Ramsay has since promised to tone it down, Oliver's boss at Channel 4 has said he won't allow "cultural conservatism" to dampen his star performer.

And so the gloves are off. "When an ex-teacher complained to Jamie Oliver about his swearing on TV, the reply was a foul-mouthed e-mail. MINISTRY OF RUDE," reads today's headline after an ill-advised message from one of Oliver's team.

But wait, this is St Jamie, whose latest campaign is to teach recipes to people who feed their kids takeaways. The Mirror LOVED him back in 2005 - "a £17m original Mr Nice Guy" - when he tackled school dinners, and threw its weight behind his healthy eating campaign.

Which is worse - chips with everything, or salads sprinkled with swear words? And is this a backlash against Jamie and his messiah complex, or a witch hunt against bad language?

Meanwhile, the red tops bid farewell to another cheeky chappie, Reg Varney of On The Buses.
"Reg, our favourite bus driver, is dead at 92" - Daily Mail
"I'll cremate you, Butler" - the Sun, playing with Inspector Blakey's catchphrase "I 'ate you Butler"
"I'll miss you, Butler" - the Mirror, adding Varney was the first man in Britain to use a cashpoint machine.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:58 UK time, Monday, 17 November 2008

"I like a cappuccino when I come in, an espresso at 3pm and soup at 12.30-1pm" - One of cabinet minister Liam Byrne's riders in an 11-page document issued to civil servants.

liambyrne.jpgThe leaked document, Working with Liam Byrne, spells out exactly how the recently appointed Minister for the Cabinet Office wants to be treated. A spokesman says it was written in 2006, and Mr Byrne has loosened up since then: "Some days, he has his soup at 1.30pm."
More details (The Guardian)

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.