BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for December 14, 2008 - December 20, 2008

10 things we didn't know last week

17:29 UK time, Friday, 19 December 2008

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

1. Sugar does not cause hyperactive behaviour.
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2. Oliver Twist was not hungry when he asked for more.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

3. Leonard Cohen's original Hallelujah has more than 80 verses.
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4. Sneezing can be a sign of sexual arousal.
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5. It's legal to serve legal papers by Facebook, in Australia.
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6. It's a bad idea to put out a chip pan fire with a wet tea towel.
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7. The world's oldest singer and actor is 105.
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8. Some villages in Wales still don't have mains electricity.
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9. Japan has its own version of the foot-measurement - called the kanejaku.
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10. The average global temperature is about 0.7C above pre-industrial times.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to PA for this week's picture of 10 present bearers.

Your Letters

17:18 UK time, Friday, 19 December 2008

Personally I'd like to hear Hugh Trimble from Oxford sing his Hallelujah song (Thursday letters). A capella.
Christina, Bath

I think more than a small amount of kudos should be awarded to Hugh Trimble for that effort. Well played Sir!
Danny C, London

Can I just say how much I love Hugh Trimble's version of Hallelujah? Is he planning to record/release it? If so, where can I download it from? Surely with the support of the Monitor we can get it to the top of the charts, which would make it four version in the Top 10. Merry Christmas!
Vicky, Newcastle upon Tyne

Re centi-mental: funnily enough, the only thing I have seen measured in inches recently are computer and LCD TV screens.
Pix6, Vienna, Austria

A devil named Cedric just doesn't seem right.
Ralph, Cumbria

Re Sneezing 'can be sign of arousal' : Old joke time (nearly Xmas after all) - what are you taking for it? Snuff.
Robin, Herts, UK

Seasonal nominative determinism. Lovely.
Stephen Turner, Cambridge, England

I think the Magazine's mathematician must also have the norovirus, as 52 weeks 52 questions only seems to have 49 questions... 12 in each of four parts makes 48, plus the one question "What do these photos have in common?" Maybe you have loaned your mathematician to Strictly Come Dancing for the final?
Jim, Coventry
Monitor note: Four photos, Jim, there are four photos to unpick.

Stuart (Thursday letters) asked what's in the naked rambler's huge backpack. I assume he has to eat - and some restaurants insist you wear a shirt.
Ed, Clacton, UK

Dear Pix6 in Vienna, "co-parent" is a word that someone who thinks they are being clever has invented (Thursday letters). Just like "normalcy" when there is the perfectly good enough word "normality". I think I should get my coat... Since I am flying out to Bad Ischl tomorrow and will be in Vienna for New Year, will it need to be a particularly heavy coat? Is there snow?
J Paul Murdock, Wall Heath, West Midlands

Usually when a couple divorces, one parent becomes the main carer, even when the custody is shared. In the case of co-parenting, there is no main carer, the kids spend equal time with both parents.
M Ross, Lancaster, UK

I'm off on my holidays tomorrow, so am just writing a quick note to say Merry Christmas, Monitor! See you in the new year.
Cat, Leeds

Going Postal III

14:55 UK time, Friday, 19 December 2008

UPDATE: Not a peep from the Going Postal volunteers today, but given that the cards only went out second-class on Thursday (see details here), it would be over-optimistic to expect any significant news today.

Any Saturday deliveries will be noted in the next update, on Monday 22 December.

Caption Competition

13:25 UK time, Friday, 19 December 2008


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

The competition is now closed. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].


This week, David Cameron reads the Guardian on the Tube after giving a speech in London's Canary Wharf.

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. SundayParkGeorge
"I wish they'd stop stealing my bike..."

5. DisgustedOfMitcham2
"Where are these oysters I was told about?"

4. noddy_hog
David would do anything for the free DVD.

3. TheRealCatherineO
"Keep reading... just keep reading... pretend the pregnant lady isn't there."

2. FrankGrimesJnr
"Now, where's the dining carriage on this thing? I'll just press that red button and summon the waitress... "

1. Bangforyourbuck
"Oh hello Mr Conveniently-Placed Photographer. I didn't notice you capturing my 'everyman' glory there."

Paper Monitor

11:01 UK time, Friday, 19 December 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

What global financial crisis? The Financial Times has not just one gravity-defying, glossy supplement, but two.

Last Friday How to Spend It
, chock full of ads for diamond-encrusted timepieces, fell out of the pink-paged paper. Today it is Wealth, chock full of ads for understated platinum timepieces and bespoke banking services.

The former is concerned with fun things to do with one's still-sizable wedge, perhaps in a long lunch break. Its motoring review might involve taking a grunting, gleaming Harley Davidson out for a spin (very wide boy banker).

The latter is given over to interviews with very, very rich people indeed, such as Bill Gates. It test-drives a private jet so one can ferry eight friends across the Atlantic or to shop in Paris. "[T]here is plenty of space in the baggage compartment for trunks full of gold ingots (mind the weight, though)..."

Yes, one must always be careful not to exceed the baggage limit when packing one's gold.

And the centrefold is a reader survey, with 37 tightly-typed questions such as:
33. Into which of the following bands does your total annual household income (before taxes) from all sources fall?

  • Less than £30,000

  • £30,000 - £49,000

  • etc...

  • £1,000,000 - £4,999,999

  • £5,000,000+

Paper Monitor would prefer not to answer this question.

Once the survey is complete, Wealth readers are invited to snip it out, perform a complicated origami operation so the pages form their own envelope, and then pop it into the post. No stamp required - it's second class pre-paid.

Meanwhile, in the cheap seats, the Daily Mirror speculates that the next Timelord may be a woman. As for the Christmas special, "Secrecy surrounds the storyline, but the Mirror can reveal the episode will see the Doctor facing some of his deadliest foes, the Cybermen."

Paper Monitor can inclusively reveal this is no surprise at all. The tin-can aliens pop up in the BBC's ads for its festive offerings, ads that have been running since early December.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:40 UK time, Friday, 19 December 2008

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

"Due to illness, Benjamin Britten's Recession will not be performed. So there will be no recession in Dulwich" - Announcement at St Barnabas Church, Dulwich, south London

Britain may be heading for recession, but Britten's recession is not heading for south London. Ho ho etc.
More details (the Times)

Your Letters

17:46 UK time, Thursday, 18 December 2008

Why does a naked rambler need such a large backpack?
Stuart, Croydon

Is Balls to hold agony aunt 'summit' an example of a headline for which the passive construction should never be used? Either that, or it's a perfect candidate for a GCSE English question.
Steve Norris, Pennsylvania, Gothenburg, Eastleigh

Please don't let me be the only one who thought the writing on the wall today was a little bit rude...
Ed S, Hong Kong

Please can someone explain the difference between a parent and a co-parent?
(Madonna's divorce settlement statement).
Pix6, Vienna, Austria

I think I can see a bit of a flaw in this plan (Texting 'is a sign of recovery'). Aren't mobile phones banned in A&E units?
Adam, London, UK

Should Paper Monitor be back at work so soon after being struck down with norovirus? I'm sure the advice is to stay away from work for 48 hours. God forbid if Caption Competition or Letters catch it and go missing for the rest of the week...
Dan, Cambridge
Monitor note: We barred the doors, so Paper Monitor filed today's instalment from home.

Now I heard there was a certain song
That Cowell made and you sang along
But you don't really know your music, do you?
What follows next: some Bible text,
Some music terms and some kinky sex,

Leonard Cohen composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The song was strong, but not well known
Till Buckley came, made it his own,
Helped out by John Cale, who had been peculiar:
He'd cut out the most fervent fits
And only kept the dirty bits
Soon every busker's lips said "Hallelujah".

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Jeff Buckley's fans are grumpy now
While Alex milks their holy cow
But for once you don't hear Cohen moaning, do you?
There's royalties from every try
It doesn't matter whose you buy
When nothing's in the charts but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.
Hugh Trimble, Oxford, UK

Going Postal III

12:45 UK time, Thursday, 18 December 2008

postbox_bbc226_282.jpgGoing Postal III is under way. Will the Royal Mail deliver?

As millions of people fret about their Christmas cards arriving on time, the Magazine is setting out to discover if the once world-beating British postal system is as good as its word.

Royal Mail recommends that today is the last posting date for Christmas cards with a second-class stamp.

So at 1100 GMT we posted 25 cards second-class to readers who live across the UK. Thanks to the hundreds of people who volunteered to take part.

In the days ahead we'll monitor how many of the 25 cards reach the Magazine readers in time for Christmas.

Some of you may be familiar with similar experiments we have conducted in the past.

But this time it's at the Royal Mail's busiest time of year, in a troubled period of criticism, reports of foreign intervention and strike threats.

Watch this space for updates.

Paper Monitor

11:35 UK time, Thursday, 18 December 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

[Faintly] It's me again.

Thanks for the get well wishes yesterday, especially those who trawled for gems with which to cheer up an ailing Paper Monitor. (Who will avoid the mince pies and brandy butter at the Monitor Towers festive high tea - by working from home - and instead munch upon a slice of dry toast. Perhaps with a scraping of Marmite. Made, please note reader PollySaxon, by one's own well-scrubbed hand.)

The silver lining tale a reader sent in from Bradford's Telegraph and Argus touched the heart. The manflu debunking proved very timely. And as for the Times' No birthday cake for little Hitler... reader JudgePix rightly highlighted the deathless prose of "'Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler' was an inappropriate use of icing sugar".

And so to today's papers. Two photos stand out. One is a black and white portrait of a young man in a boater, eyes narrowed, holding a cigarette like a joint. It is Barack Obama circa 1980. The Times opines that his smoking habit - now down to cadging the occassional sneaky fag - was "a bigger barrier to him getting elected than the colour of his skin".

And the Daily Mail continues to ply its "treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen" shtik with the nation's women. Nancy Dell-Olio gets a kicking for wearing a see-through top at her age. Nigella for dishing up "porn on a plate". And Camilla is pictured next to a laughing horse.
Headline: "A dazzling smile for the duchess"
Caption: "The Duchess of Cornwall meets a competitor as she tours the stables backstage at the Olympia Horse Show yesterday."

And, for the attention of Caption Comp et al ahead of this afternoon's festivities, news that it takes a "four mile walk to burn off one mince pie".


Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:29 UK time, Thursday, 18 December 2008

"Sorry, I'm not qualified to land the plane" - Not exactly what you want to hear at 30,000 feet. From your pilot.

But this was the announcement Flybe passengers heard shortly before landing in Paris. The French capital was shrouded in thick fog, and the pilot hadn't been trained for low-visibility landing in the type of plane they were in. So he flew back to Cardiff.
More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

16:16 UK time, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Point of order, Alan Connor (Smashed Hits): tying someone to a kitchen chair is B&D, not S&M. What you do with them once you have them tied in the kitchen chair, however, may fall under the heading of S&M. Merry Christmas! Oh, and Jeff Buckley for number one, please.
Michelle P, Mannheim, Germany

What would have happened if this chap had got back to Cardiff and it had been foggy there too?
Michelle, Worcester, UK

Awwww poor Paper Monitor. I had it a couple of years ago and ended up in hospital due to dehydration. Keep your fluids up as much as possible and get plenty of bed rest. Hope to see you back on your feet soon. Kisses, cuddles and best wishes (all from behind a protective screen!) xoxoxox
Jennie F, Leeds, UK

Is this the ultimate in nominative determinism? The name of the South Korean actress who apologised for her adultery ? Ok So-ri!
Paul Greggor, London

The collective noun for rats (Daily Mini-Quiz)was obviously not going to be wrack - that's for lambs!
Ralph, Cumbria

Re the magma chamber found under Hawaii, Professor Marsh said "It's hotter than hell..." How does he know? Geology field work must be more interesting than I'd assumed. Anyway, doesn't the law of nominative determinism dictate that he should be working with water, or possibly mud?
John, Norwich, England

Competition: Design a cover for the Magazine's 2008 Annual

16:00 UK time, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Why do American pickets walk in circles? How much do prisoners get paid? What is kosher chicken?

Three pressing questions that arose from three notable events* over the past 12 months - and each of them answered by the Magazine's Who, What, Why? feature.

bpannual.jpgAs we steel ourselves for the call of last orders on 2008, the Magazine is republishing a collection of the best Who, What, Whys from the year in downloadable, easily print-out-able and read-where-you-like-able PDF format. Think of it as the Magazine's 2008 Annual.

There's only one thing missing - a dazzling, eye-catching front-page design... which (with due deference to Tim Levell) is where you come in.

We are inviting readers to take part in a competition to design a cover for this Annual, which will be published between Christmas and the New Year.

Be as inspired as you like - we're looking for the most creative representation of a theme or themes of the year's news, or which illustrates the concept 'Who, What, Why?' Designs should be 190mm x 190mm - to sit beneath our title text on an A4 page.

Casting a critical eye over the best of your entries, and selecting a winner, will be the man who was the original designer of the BBC News website, Matt Jones.

The traditional prize (ie kudos) will be offered to the winner. A selection of also rans might also be published.

  • The closing date for entries is midday GMT Monday 22 December, 2008
  • Entries should be e-mailed to: - subject line: "Magazine annual". If your file size is too big for e-mail, please upload it via this page, again with "Magazine annual" in the description box.
  • Remember also that all designs should be entirely your own work

* Those significant news events again: the screenwriters strike in Hollywood; a Conservative proposal that prisoners give some of their wages to their victims, and that classic Apprentice moment when contestant Michael Sophocles was publicly disavowed by Sir Alan Sugar of his claim to be a "good Jewish boy".

Full rules are here [PDF format]


Paper Monitor

12:30 UK time, Wednesday, 17 December 2008


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

We apologise for this break in transmission. Paper Monitor has been struck down with the winter vomiting virus and is confined to barracks to avoid contaminating colleagues at Monitor Towers. Who have no wish to catch it and have barred the doors. And taken away Paper Monitor's keyboard for disinfection.

No flowers, but compassionate readers may wish to use the comments button below to send glimpsed headline gems to cheer the patient up.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:36 UK time, Wednesday, 17 December 2008

"It was obvious they weren't constituents coming calling" - Irish Minister Dick Roche, frog-marched from his car by three robbers in balaclavas.

As a tale to dine out on, this will take some beating. The government minister was leaning into his car, sorting through official papers, when interrupted by men who apparently mistook him for a courier transferring a nearby hotel's takings to the bank.
More details (The Times)

Your Letters

17:03 UK time, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Clearly Cameron is centrist - he's reading the Guardian, yet leaning to the right in that photo.
Steven, Sunderland

I can't understand why people are baffled by health messages. It's really very simple: you need to eat five portions of fruit and veg each day. So every evening, I count up how many I've had so far, and make up the difference with grapes. Of course, grapes don't store very well, but I find that buying the variety that has been fermented and put into bottles solves the problem very nicely.
Adam, London, UK

Nick Jones reckons administrators should have picked up Bernard Madoff through nominative determinism (Monday letters). We're watching you too Nick.
QJ, Stafford, UK

It's not a jinx, its an omen!
Stuart, Croydon

With reference to the pre-[insert past tense of verb of choice] debate, I have just found a truly puzzling one: an avocado described as "pre-ripened". Please explain.
Susan, Brisbane, Australia

Thanks, I'd never travelled up to Scotland before.
Kate Melia, Haslemere

There must have been a donkey in the Christmas story (Monday letters) or children singing little donkey are lying and coconut shells would be redundant after the coconut has been eaten.
Kat, London

Paper Monitor

13:02 UK time, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There is great joy in Guardian Towers this morning. But there is great gnashing of teeth in the Kensington fastness of the Daily Mail.


On page four of the Guardian, David Cameron is shown reading Monday's edition of the left-leaning broadsheet on London's Tube. The Guardian passes no further comment on the Conservative leader's choice of paper.

Over on Mail online they paint an interesting picture, suggesting the image of him reading a paper on public transport is part of a series showing him in "ordinary man" type poses such as the recent papping of him emerging from the Woolies' sales.

But there's something odd about the picture. The Conservative leader was returning from a speech at the Thomson Reuters HQ and yet the photos show no sign of an entourage. One would have imagined at least a couple of policy wonks or media wranglers might be accompanying him.

And what was he reading? Thanks to the fortuitous preservation of yesterday's Guardian and close scrutiny of the photo Paper Monitor has been able to stage a reconstruction.

It appears Mr Cameron is reading page nine of the paper, which features stories on global oil supply peaking and Facebook being used in transplant appeals. But it is clear Mr Cameron's eyes are looking down and to the right. The section of page he is looking at is dominated by a Ryanair advert offering £1 flights to Shannon.

He really is a man of the people.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

17:09 UK time, Monday, 15 December 2008

"It burst on us like a submarine-launched missile" - A scout leader reveals the terrifying moment a hippo attacked his canoe.

Brian Sheen is an intrepid man, intrepid enough to go down 2,500 miles of river in west Africa. But even this daring adventurer was left terrified by the attack of a raging hippo.
More details

Your Letters

14:55 UK time, Monday, 15 December 2008

A number of the headlines today sound like rubbish sci-fi plots:

Cameron urges 'Day of Reckoning' - Tory leader calls for Armageddon in desperate strategy to bring former Conservative voters back from the dead for the Final Battle with the forces of the Left.

'Glitch' on West Coast main line - Trains are affected by a problem with the Matrix...

'Be vigilant' over vomiting bug - Army to stand firm against giant insect that paralyses its victims by being sick on them.
The Bob, Glasgow

Did the writer of this not read this?
Mark Williams, Oxford

Scrabble enthusiasts, like Ed (Friday letters), will no doubt be delighted to learn that my name is also worth 26 points.
David Sheppard, Romford

Re this story It's a shame the reporter hadn't read the gospel before heading off - there is no donkey in the Christmas story. Read it and see.
Sarah, Colchester

If regulators on Wall Street read Magazine Monitor, they'd've picked up Bernard Madoff (pronounced 'Made-off') on nominative determinism alone, many years ago, thus avoiding an alleged $50bn fraud.
Nick Jones, Dorking, UK

Are not councils asking for trouble by banning the number 13 for new housing developments? Presumably there are some people out there who will be very annoyed at all the bad luck now afflicting them as quite innocent residents of houses numbered as 15, which have been sold to them under a false description. Or are developments in Wyre Forest and the like now legally obliged to leave a vacant plot between houses numbered 11 and 15?
Andrew, Oxford

Given the predilections of popular music performers of years past , this headline can probably be added to the "failed to deliver" list.
Pete, Sheffield, UK

Paper Monitor

12:07 UK time, Monday, 15 December 2008


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Journalists are lazy folk at times.

Thinking of new things can be pretty wearing for these delicate flowers, so they revel in the few opportunities they get to completely switch off their brain.

Usually these opportunities are sparked by the immortal words "cuts jobs, please", uttered by an editor in the general direction of a news or features grunt.

It might be 500 words on the history of Sizewell B power station or a brief biography of Lady Arabella Poinsworth-Liebfraumilch-Waddlesworth, but the key bonus is that no use of the telephone or Shanks's pony is required. Once upon a time the "cuts" in question were from the newspaper's own archive. Now "wiki job, please" might be a more appropriate term, although it is yet to catch on.

And the greatest cuts job of all is the "review of the year". It can be spun out to fill whole sections of newspapers.

But it seems these days that newspapers are so excited by this labour-saving prospect that they can't wait until the end of the year. Now Paper Monitor understands that a review of the year doesn't have to be printed on New Year's Eve. But 15 December?

Today the Guardian's G2 publishes its review of the year. The newspaper must have its fingers tightly crossed that the unfaithful celebrities, scandalous politicians and erratic rebel leaders of the world can keep a lid on their activities for the next fortnight and a bit.

In fact, seeing as this review was probably finished by close of play on Friday at the latest, it must have been a nervous weekend for those responsible.

The Guardian may not be the first - even the Saturday Guardian's Guide section may not have claimed that honour two days ago. Readers can submit any other sightings of gun-jumping reviews using the form below.

Grudgingly though, we must admit that this review of the year is actually quite good.

We cannot say the same about an outbreak of panic over at the Daily Express.

Their front page screams "KILLER VIRUS GRIPS BRITAIN". Time to run to the hills? Er, well, actually, not really. As a cursory glance over the second paragraph reveals that the "killer virus" is norovirus which may or may not have affected three million people last year.

Now a cursory Googling reveals an interesting academic paper entitled "Deaths from Norovirus among the Elderly, England and Wales" published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal of the US Centers for Disease Control and written by John P Harris, W John Edmunds, Richard Pebody, David W Brown, and Ben A Lopman.

It estimates 80 deaths a year in people over the age of 65 could be associated with norovirus between 2001 and 2006.

The authors conclude: "Norovirus is usually considered a mild, self-limiting disease, and most of those infected with the disease make a full recovery with no long-lasting effects. However, this study shows that part of the population, those over 65 years of age, have a small risk of dying as a result of contracting norovirus."

So, killer virus?

Monday's Quote of the Day

10:28 UK time, Monday, 15 December 2008

"If you want the facts, it's a size 10 that he threw" - George Bush after having shoes thrown at him

The stage-managed feel of President Bush's visit to Baghdad quickly came undone when one of the journalists who had gathered for a press conference, started hurling his shoes at the US leader. It was more than a physical assault - shoes are a symbol of "dirt and degredation" in the Arab world, Professor Faleh Jabar, a writer on Iraqi culture, told the BBC News website in 2003.
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