BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for November 23, 2008 - November 29, 2008

10 things we didn't know last week

16:07 UK time, Friday, 28 November 2008

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

1. The 999 emergency number was chosen over 111 because telegraph wires rubbing together in the wind transmitted the equivalent of a 111 call.
More details

2. In space, an item as small as a toolbag can be seen from Earth.
More details

3. There are only eight mycologists in the UK.
More details

4. US intelligence kept a file on Tony Blair's personal life.
More details

5. Premium chocolate tasters don't swallow the goods.
More details

6. Police use curry to combat alleged drugs possession.
More details

7. A dog's mucus enhances its sense of smell.
More details (Daily Mail)

8. The speechwriting "tricolon technique" has been used by Julius Caesar and Barack Obama.
More details (Times)

9. A French cologne has a scent inspired by the smell of human sperm.
More details (Guardian)

10. Gordon Brown writes to X Factor contestants.
More details (Times)

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to "Boakesy" Boakes from the Isle of Man for this week's picture of 10 roe deer at Holker Hall, near Grange-over-Sands.

Your Letters

15:43 UK time, Friday, 28 November 2008

How unfair is that? This week's Caption Competition is already over before the first pics for this story even arrive at monitor towers...
David, Hong Kong

I would like to nominate this as the story of the week. It was stout and sweet, but disappointingly had no pitcher to accompany the story.
Robert Phillips, Cardiff, UK

Marshmallows and beer close road? No doubt motorists are being advised to *stick* to the inside lane to avoid the *bottle neck*?
Ben Merritt, Sheffield, England

Monitor note: That's enough

On the subject of Paperweight, I reckon the Guardian on a Wednesday might be the heaviest week-day paper, purely down the the vast Society Jobs section. Of course, if you're going to weigh Weekend papers, you might need bigger scales...
Al, Cambridge

Why must stories like this always report on the characters as if they are real people?
Rob, Worcester, UK

"Last year, Captain America was killed after being shot by a sniper in New York."
God bless the BBC.
David, Milan

Re flip-flops for late night revellers: This says "Flip flops will replace 'inappropriate' footwear". Arent flip-flops rather inappropriate footwear for December?
Jen, Leeds

How, exactly, did Rebecca Adlington rewrite history? Was there a section in "history" that said "Mansfield has never produced a double Olympic gold medalist" which has now been dabbed over hurriedly with some liquid paper and updated accordingly?
Tom K Hawkey, Nottingham, UK

Was this really the best video they could find to screen grab?
Dan, London

Caption Competition

13:48 UK time, Friday, 28 November 2008


Winning entries in the caption competition.


This week, workers prepare for the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York. 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. DannyDannyC
The budget for Ghostbusters 3 was the latest high profile victim of the credit crunch.

5. LaurenceLane
The new covers at Lords were bound to upset some of the members.

4. j-o-n-a-t-h-a-n
McDonalds are really pushing the boat out with their Happy Meal Toy this Christmas.

3. SeanieSmith
Commenting on the helium leak, a Macy's spokesman said: "squweeeekkkk weeeekkk wee squeeee weee."

2. SimonRooke
"It came from MFI, it seems we're short one air seal."

1. peter68
"So I says to the guy in McDonalds, I'm not paying and I run out. It's no big deal!"

Paper Monitor

12:28 UK time, Friday, 28 November 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

As part of its newly launched sub-brand, Paperweight, Paper Monitor has hauled in the kitchen scales for a Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton-Paul "Paulie" Malignaggi-style weigh in.

As is customary in such circumstances, the contenders were required to remove all extraneous attire - namely loose advertising bumpf - before stepping up to the scales.

Here in reverse order - lightest to heaviest - for the first time on free-to-air internet are the results of the inaugural official Paperweight challenge.

Financial "The Pink Puncher" Times
220g (7 and 5/8oz)

The Daily "Hurricane" Express
230g (8oz)

The Daily "Clunking Fist" Mirror
266g (9 and 3/8oz)

The "Scorcher" Sun
282g (9 and 7/8oz)

The Daily "Old Timer" Telegraph
296g (10 and 4/8oz)

The Daily "Hand in Glove" Mail
306g (10 and 6/8oz)

The Indy-Hairshirt-pendent
310g (10 and 7/8oz)

The Come and Have a Go if You Think You're Guardian'uff
344g (12 and 1/8oz)

And the winner is.....

Theeeee Thunderer itself.... the Wapping Whopper.... the Times
388g (13 and 5/8oz)

Although even this august journal of record can't hold a light to Paper Monitor's half-drunk, tepid Americano coffee. EASY, EASY, EASY...

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:23 UK time, Friday, 28 November 2008

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

"In the letter that the prime minister sent us he said 'Keep singing in English, girl. You're doing a great job! Going against Simon'" - X Factor finalist Ruth Lorenzo reveals Gordon Brown writes to contestants

We always knew Gordon was a fan of reality television. But we didn't know about his grasp of the vernacular. "Keep singing in English, girl." Lovely.

Your Letters

14:55 UK time, Thursday, 27 November 2008

It's funny, I once knew a mycologist and he was a really fungi. He was pretty meticilous though, never left mushroom for error. For some reason, he measured his height in amphibians - he said he was 30 toadstall. Alas, it has to be said, he was a truffle dull. Sorry.
Jinja, Edinburgh

With regard to this story, can I please be the one to point out that, generally, the eye of a storm is an area of mostly-calm weather?
Aleksi Venatha, Aberdeen

This could have been nominative determinism, but she isn't so sorry, is she?
Busybee, India

May I propose for one of this week's 10 things, that MFI was originally called Mullard Furniture Industries? I myself have often wondered what it stood for.
Paul Greggor, London

I want to know how to say some things... We last learnt how to say words on 22 August, during the Olympics. Is this another case of BBC cutbacks or did they just say a bad thing?
Elle, London

Re Teenager dismayed at losing job. With thousands of people potentially losing their full-time family supporting jobs in the recession, it's reassuring to know the BBC is reporting on the important stories that relate to teenage temp workers who are losing jobs they never had.
Tom Webb, Epsom UK

Paper Monitor

12:16 UK time, Thursday, 27 November 2008


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Everybody gets tired, even the men and women who produce this nation's newspapers.

Some days there are juicy stories that they would normally relish but can't seem to get going with. Today's is the revelation that high heels for babies are being marketed.

What better illustration could there be of the terminal social decline of the UK, if not the Western world? Yet it all seems rather flat.

The Daily Express talks of shoes that "sexualise" but then tails off a bit. All the Sun can muster is the fashion editor writing: "Most of us would rather let our little girls be cute and innocent while they can rather than dressing them up like adults as soon as they are born."

And even the Daily Mail is only slightly better, warning: "Horrified mothers see them as a new low in the campaign to sexualise infants not old enough to know what is happening to them."

What is the world of news coming to when righteous indignation is in such short supply? Next thing they'll be blaming it on the credit crunch.

But the credit crunch obviously isn't having too much of an effect at Guardian Towers. They apparently have their own satellite in orbit. Page 13 of today's paper says they have located the hijacked Sirius Star off the coast of Somalia.

The subhead says "Guardian satellite tracks down Saudi supertanker". What does it do with its satellite the rest of the time, Paper Monitor wonders? Ah, but the second paragraph reveals the truth - "a satellite commissioned by the Guardian". So disappointing.

Over in G2, some of the country's leading thinkers tackle the burning issue of the day. Namely, why is Mamma Mia so good? Although, inexplicably, all these leading thinkers have one thing in common apart from an appreciation of the fastest selling DVD ever: they're all women. Novelists Jeanette Winterson and Naomi Alderman are fans. So is the Guardian's inhouse feminist Julie Bindel. She reveals the film made her happy for the first time in her life. According to Wikipedia, Julie Bindel was born in 1962.

Elsewhere in the papers, there's much about the sad demise of Woolworths. It leaves Paper Monitor misty-eyed over its formative singles-buying experiences, before progressing on to the infinitely cooler (although now long gone) Our Price.

Reminiscences of first Woolworths single purchases can be placed using the comments field below.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:56 UK time, Thursday, 27 November 2008

"It wasn't so funny when they frisked me and then started tearing the house apart" - Gus Matheson, raided when police mistook tomato plants on the window sill for a cannabis factory.

Officers with sniffer dogs burst into the Highlands cottage Mr Matheson shares with his elderly mother Lulu, and left with samples of the green, leafy plants - bearing round, red fruit - from the south-facing bedroom. A police spokesman said no drugs were found.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:10 UK time, Thursday, 27 November 2008

For those directed here by the Daily Mini-Quiz, this is the actor robot Momoko in action on stage in Osaka. The play - Hataraku Watashi (I, Worker) - is about a young couple who own two housekeeping robots, one of which loses its motivation to work.
More details


Your Letters

16:18 UK time, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Given that they were only invented last century, how does anyone know that plastic bags take 1000 years to decay (Supermarkets 'to halve bags used')?
Adam, London, UK

A depression (Letters passim) is defined as an area of low atmospheric pressure. It typically arises following a worsening recession, when you suddenly find that you, the cleaner and the boss all that is left, leaving an open plan office which used to contain about 80 people with little atmosphere. At a certain point there is actually no atmosphere, and this is technically called a vacuum. Such vacuums are rare in history, since nature generally abhors them.
Martin Hollywood, Luxembourg

Any chance of having a mixed metaphor watch? My nomination for today would be "I suggest she is clutching at straws in an attempt to muddy the waters" from this story.
Simon Robinson, Birmingham, UK

In the story about dolphins' speed, the caption underneath the picture reads "Keeping upright for Cilla Black requires a lot more force". Was I the only Monitorite to think it meant something else? Ooooh matron.
Hollie, Wolverhampton, UK

The front page reads "Pianist's dying wish to see his skull star in Hamlet": It would be a little difficult for the pianist to see his skull appear in Hamlet, wouldn't it?
Andrew, London

Re Wogan sings Bing to drum up cash: I'm reminded of a previous Wogan performance advertised as The Three Tenors - tenor Jose Carreras, tenor Placido Domingo, and "a tenner to persuade Terry not to sing".
Edward Green, London, UK

On the topic of nominative determinism (or in the case of this letter, Job Titles), why was Paper Monitor reviewing a magazine yesterday? Shouldn't Magazine Monitor be doing that job?
Lester Mak, London

Eleven letters on Monday but only five on Tuesday - Is this another example of boom and bust?
HannaH, UK

Paper Monitor

12:14 UK time, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It is time once again for our round-up of the celebrity private life news. With the names removed, obviously. We don't want anyone's privacy invaded.

In the Daily Mail, the television chef who's always swearing is pictured with his wife on the front (not the occasionally saintly sweary TV chef, but the marathon running one). Allison Pearson applies her mighty brain (University of Cambridge) to the state of said pan-flipper's marriage.

Flick to page three of the Daily Express and there's a picture of the winsome child belonging to the actor who believes thetans are attached to us, and the much younger actress. Apparently the thetan-believing actor actually likes his daughter being "papped". Hmmm.

Wrinkly tummies are the order of the day on page nine of the Sun. More specifically, the post-liposuction stomach of the reality star who slurs her speech when she goes on morning chatshows.

Elsewhere the paper tells us that the singer with the veiny forearms is happy living back in the US, and the other singer she once had a bit of a snog with is going on tour. And the pasty ladies man who dances with the famous people on the BBC is not a fan of the flat-footed former political correspondent.

The Daily Mirror zeroes in on the model who got in trouble the other year over allegations of non-prescription medicine use. She has a scratch on her cheek and her permanently knackered-looking boyfriend has a black eye.

Wandering into the august pages of the Daily Star, we see the memorable headline "X, lesbian romps and a blow-up doll...". X being the woman with the expanding and deflating breasts who met her husband in a jungle.

On an unrelated note, what is it with byline photos? In G2 Gareth Maclean's byline image fails to reflect his moustache revealed elsewhere in the paper. And in the Mirror, an image of the 3am girls with the man we all love who used to be in the Beatles bears not even a passing resemblance to their byline pictures.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

10:36 UK time, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

"Richard Pryor had all the breaks: raised in a brothel, addicted to coke, set himself on fire..." - Stephen Merchant on how being middle-class hindered his comedy career

One of the co-writers of The Office and Extras reveals to Q magazine how his upbringing lacked the grittiness that many great comedians draw from. His biggest problem in life, he says, is buying a pair of trousers.
More details (The Times)

Crunch Creep

16:47 UK time, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

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

John Sergeant did well on Strictly Come Dancing, and Daniel Evans on The X Factor, as they were the "feelgood" options in these difficult financial times.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Pointy shoulders are very fashionable and are a way of "projecting a stiff upper lip".
More details (The Guardian)

The pantomime season is reporting roaring business because these plays dramatise dodgy deals and financial injustice.
More details (The Guardian)

Guns 'n' Roses' 14-years-in-the-making album will only sell well because it will take fans' minds off the credit crunch, says Mojo editor Phil Alexander.
More details (audio from Today)

Gabrielle in Desperate Housewives is in financial dire straits, as TV viewers don't want to watch rich characters frittering money away.
More details (Express on Sunday)

And Tiger Woods is not spared either, £6.6m poorer because General Motors has pulled the plug on his sponsorship deal.
More details (The Guardian)

Mistresses will be getting less expensive gifts.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

But a man who celebrates Christmas everyday is having to cut back on turkey.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

15:18 UK time, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Paper Monitor praises The Sun for summing up a story in just three words, but wouldn't it be interesting if readers had a similar opportunity to do the same? Perhaps MM would select a story from the current news and see if it could be encapsulated with wit and brevity? Maybe incorporating a pun within the headline would achieve the appropriate result?
Simon Rooke, Nottingham, UK

I'm not surprised Woolies is doing pretty badly - I was in our local branch on Saturday and saw one "customer" waltz off with eight boxes of Ferrero Rocher in full view of the checkouts. I daresay ambassadors have diplomatic immunity but still! Poor Woolies.
EHL, London

The main thing I associate with Advent is the Blue Peter Advent Crown. Never have coat hangers been so stylish.
Chris Clarke, Oxford

Mr Rust the engineer?
Catherine, Leicester

While Google Earth's images of Southampton Steve's garden (Friday letters) are clearly aerial photographs, it should still be visible (if not distinguishable) from any point in space, as would be half the earth. To finish with a question, which half?
Steve, Catford

Paper Monitor

11:00 UK time, Tuesday, 25 November 2008


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN FOR ME??? That's what Paper Monitor really wants to know today. Thank heavens then that all the papers are falling over each other to answer exactly that question.

So what imaginative ways do they find to promote their "what it means for you" guides to the casual newsstand browser? And - crucially in these tough times - who offers the MOST COVERAGE?

"What it means for you" (Times 20-page guide)
"WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU" (Daily Telegraph's "19 pages of brilliant analysis")
"Inside: What it means for you" (Independent's 16-page pull-out)
"What it means for you" (Guardian, prolix as ever, offers a "special 12-page section with the best analysis of the pre-budget report including our special at-a-glance guide to how it will hit your pocket")

The Daily Mail offers 15 pages, but for reasons unknown fails to badge that coverage as "what it means for you". This is very, very out of step with prevailing practice.

(Disclaimer: Naturally, BBC News website also offered an article entitled "What it means to you". Yesterday.)

The Sun's headline says it all really - "UP TO ARREARS" - proving that the job of a 20-page special pull-out can be done in just three words.

This does make Paper Monitor wonder though... is there any way the physical weight of publications can be indicative of wider trends?

This is worth further thought. Forget Natch, Porridge, Formulas et al (thanks Rick P, Your Letters, Monday). Perhaps this is the dawn of something new. Let's call it Paperweight. Anyone with an accurate pair of scales is invited to weigh a publication of their choice and let's see if we can't draw some conclusions.
Here's something to kick it off. The frankly ridiculous GQ 20th anniversary special which has nearly 600 pages comes in at 1.7kg or 3lbs 13oz. It is pictured on Paper Monitor's scales. (All those gender speculators out there should rest assured there is a bumper copy of Glamour just out of shot.) By comparison, a 1978 edition of Radio Times, with Ian Botham, Sharron Davies and Daley Thompson on the cover comes in at just 188g or 6ozs.

(Wondering why that old Radio Times was to hand? It's amazing what you find when you start saving money under the carpet in the airing cupboard.)

So submissions for Paperweight are welcome in the usual way (for the uninitiated, there's a comments button at the foot of this entry).

And there's one futher thing to say.

The Times reports today that Australians who have for so long enriched the cultural life of the United Kingdom are deciding to go home. But there is one rather large elephant in the room. Read these sentences from the paper's leader article and see if you can guess which massively influential Australian isn't mentioned. (Clue: he's now American.)

"It is no longer true, if it ever were, that the Australian migrant to Britain is a West London barworker whose only cultural contribution is a strange habit of posting statements as questions... [T]he cultural contribution of the expatriates - Clive James, Germaine Greer, Barry Humphries, Nick Cave, Peter Porter - means that it is silly and patronising to say the Australians had to come here to sample the culture they lacked at home. And that is without even mentioning Rolf Harris. Or the Minogue sisters, for that matter."

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:28 UK time, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

"Daily sweets and chocolates" - the Archbishop of Canterbury on what Advent means to most people

In a message relayed through the popular video sharing website, YouTube, Dr Rowan Williams has attacked our culture of instant gratification - particularly evident, he says, in the run up to Christmas. "I suppose if you did one of those word association tests on 'Advent', the other word you'd come up with straight away would be 'calendar'. "
More details (the Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

14:57 UK time, Monday, 24 November 2008

Re IBM plans 'brain-like' computers: Doesn't this rather defeat the whole point of having a computer? One of the few things I like about mine is that if I tell it that, say, I have an appointment a fortnight on Thursday, it will remember without fail, whereas my brain would probably forget.
Adam, London, UK

Whilst quietly enjoying a cherry bakewell pie (from yesterday's leftover birthday cakes) I glanced at the box to see that the little "helping you eat healthily" circle on the box telling you what is in each pie had three red and two orange segments. Was rather taken aback - I had not envisaged it to count towards one of my five-a-day, but still. But now I am wondering - I don't think I've ever seen an item with five red segments on it. Is it illegal to make such unhealthy food? Would be intrigued to hear if anyone has ever found an elusive Red Five...
Sally, London

Dear Monitor, please don't refer to stories that can only be followed up on iPlayer links (Quote of the Day) - it's just adding insult to injury to your friends abroad who are denied access.
Pix6, Vienna, Austria

After having a very long and heated philosophical debate about the issue of the kidnapper with friends, family and the woman in the Spar, I confess myself slightly taken aback at Hugo's simple, yet amazing, solution (Friday letters). Why didn't I think of that?
Sarah-Michelle Saunders, Newport, S Wales

Re Buggy direction 'affects child': The facing-out-ness was the only factor, was it? Not the mother juggling mobile phone and cigarette? Not the iPod rammed in her ear? Isn't it more the case that almost all buggies face forwards (as that's easier to engineer) so it takes a particularly interested parent to choose a rear-facing one? The sort that also lies awake at night worrying about the child's linguistic development? The solution is clear: wear your baby. It's a shame this research came out last Friday, the week before it was International Baby Wearing Week.
Lucy "Baby Wearer" Jones, Northwich, UK

Tom (Friday letters), as the old economic joke goes: a recession is when your neighbour loses his job. A depression is when you lose your own.
Louise, Oxford

In a recession the economy is still growing, albeit negative growth; whereas in a depression the economy actually contract or shrinks. How I love Wikipedia...
Darren, London

Tom, technically speaking, a depression is not just "jolly bad", it's jolly, jolly bad.
Peter, Worcestershire, Cropthorne, Worcs

Steve I doubt that your garden could be seen from space (Friday letters), but it certainly could be seen from the aeroplane that was used to take the detailed images used on Google Earth.
Kevin, Douglas, Isle of Man

Liz (Friday's letters), I think you will find it is because many of the letters end in a question.
Does that help?
Danny C, London

The Officers' titles on the BBC Magazine Monitor Appreciation group on Facebook are a sad reminder of days gone by. "Bagsy Officer of the Natch Watch", "Officer for Approximations", "Officer for Formula Won", "Head Cabbager", "Official Porridge Watcher", "Diana Conspiracist (but not in on it)", "Group Pedant", "Officer for Gender Determination"... Why don't we spend our time Cabbaging any more? Do scientists not spend their time producing ridiculous formulae any more? And have we all stopped eating porridge? The world's going to the dogs, I tell you.
Rick P, Oxford, UK

Paper Monitor

12:13 UK time, Monday, 24 November 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Love or hate the Guardian, never let it be said that it hides a writer's light under a bushel.

The front page teaser positively shrieks: "TANYA GOLD: How I saved £1,397.66 by haggling." Who she? Has Jacqueline Gold stepped down, necessitating a change at the top of the Ann Summers empire?

No. Tanya Gold is a journo who, photographer in tow, hits the High Street determined not to pay full whack for anything. Hmmm. Sounds familiar.

She starts off trying to wheedle 20p off the cover price of the Guardian. What folly is this? It's the very product which will, ultimately, fund her salary. Three words, Tanya. Goose. Golden. Egg.

But Paper Monitor always enjoys it when a writer pens some nugget which confirms every stereotype of their particular publication, and she delivers with this sentence: "[My newsagent] gives me that filthy look she employs when I waste her time by begging her to read my articles, for instance, or shouting abuse at Vogue." [Italics Paper Monitor's own.]

She then heads off to haggle at Camden Market and Daunt Books, both very popular with those who enjoy muesli, CND marches, and cooking with lemongrass. Oh, and reading the Guardian.

Meanwhile, Metro falls foul of publishing deadlines with an article headlined: "See Jacko live - in the High Court". The dethroned king of pop is no longer making a PA in London's Court 73 today, after his people reached a last-minute agreement with an Arab sheikh. But that news came after page 13 of the commuters' freesheet went to press.

Paper Monitor would ask for a discount for defective goods. What's 10% off nothing?

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:49 UK time, Monday, 24 November 2008

"I suppose everyone else is in the jungle" - Frank Skinner's Polish cleaner reacts to him filling in on Have I Got News For You.

Paul Merton was sick so Skinner was called at short notice to be a panellist on the BBC quiz show. As far as can be established, the choice of Skinner was not induced by a shortage caused by I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here.
More details (iPlayer)

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