BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for January 11, 2009 - January 17, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

17:00 UK time, Friday, 16 January 2009

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

1. Motown was originally called Tamla.
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2. Northern Rock and Lehman Brothers were both founded in 1850. And both failed in spectacular fashion exactly a year apart.
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3. There are more than 50 million lightning strikes in Brazil each year, on average.
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4. Countdown is French.
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5. The fast food that generates the most litter is McDonald's.
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6. City traders with long ring-fingers make more money.
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7. A typical Google search produces between 0.2g and 7g of carbon dioxide.
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8. An intense ketamine high gives an out-of-body-experience known to recreational users of the horse tranquiliser as the "K-hole".
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9. The first man to view the Moon through a telescope was not Galileo. He was English.
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10. John the Good was bad and William the Bad was good.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Rob Lyon for this week's picture of a 10 from a front door in picturesque Dunster, Cornwall).

Your Letters

16:17 UK time, Friday, 16 January 2009

"First officer Tom Hanks of DHL, who flies Boeing 757s for the courier company". Obviously he left FedEx for DHL after getting cast away on that desert island for so long...
Martin, Bristol, UK

I always thought the Pink Panther theme (Thursday's letters) was "Durham, Durham, Durham, Durham..." Or at least that's what my dad hummed each term as I went to university. In Durham, natch.
Alan, London

Great excitement here. Every Friday I do 7 Days 7 Questions. This week - for the first time ever - I scored 7 out of 7. Is this a "green shoot of recovery"?
Louise, London, UK

Spot the nominative determinism here. My first ever Magazine letter. A momentous occasion.
Lots of love, Alex xxx
Alexandra, Leicestershire, UK

Re: David (Thursday's letters). I thought he was number 6, he must have slipped back in the rankings though.
Dan, London

Never mind Batman and the Pink Panther (Thursday's letters), I was reminded of the Milton Jones line that his grandparents are called Pearl and Dean but he just refers to them as granny and grand pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa PA!
John, Eastleigh

And the Captain Obvious award goes to the headline, "Massive interest in 'dream job'".
Mike Harper, Devon, UK

Caption Competition

12:44 UK time, Friday, 16 January 2009


Winning entries in the caption competition.

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


This week, we bid farewell to a Caption Competition favourite - the President of the United States, George Walker Bush, whose tenure in the Oval Office ends on Tuesday.

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

6. Stellsie
Dubya was secretly pleased to see what was left over from the yard sale.

5. L A Odicean
It's an incredible picture because wherever you stand to look at it the Secret Service bodyguards seem to follow you around the room.

4. j-o-n-a-t-h-a-n
"And this picture shows me demonstrating to Bill Clinton how to say no."

3. abbotofmelrose
"Can I give him a presidential pardon?"

2. Moriarty23
"Hey!! Whaddya know!!? That fella's got the same watch as me!! Laura! Hey Laura! Guess what?! That's fella's got the same watch as me!!"

1. SundayParkGeorge
George wondered whether Barack would object to his choice of wallpaper.

Paper Monitor

11:48 UK time, Friday, 16 January 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Those who regularly knock on Paper Monitor's door will know of the concept of the news carnival - a serendipitous confluence of events that fall into the lap of waiting news editors.

Step up to the podium the Airbus in the Hudson story. Let's just spend a moment or two unpicking the remarkable elements of this story that combine to make it so much more than the sum of its parts.

- The heroic pilot, guiding his stalled but fully-laden passenger jet through the skyscrapers of New York
- Said pilot has the best pilot's name ever: Captain Chesley B "Sully" Sullenberger the Third
- IT'S NEW YORK! for goodness' sake
- A city so cool even its mayor is an experienced pilot, able to comment knowledgeably on the drama
- Everyone gets out alive and largely unhurt
- There's the money shot - a picture of the plane in the water, with the city's buildings as a back-drop and passengers huddled on the wings
- The timing - well within the comfort zone for morning paper deadline, but significantly after most people have left their internet-news enabled work stations for the day

Returning to that photo for a moment, the Times notes that it was circulated round the globe after citizen snapper Janis Krums took it on his (yes, you read it right the first time, that's a man called Janis) iPhone and uploaded it to Twitter. There was so much interest, Twitter crashed under the weight of traffic.

What's more, Mr Krums (why don't British people ever have names like this?) wrote on his blog only last Saturday how one of his new year's resolutions was to "have over 1,000 followers on Twitter".

Now that's one he can tick off the to-do list a little earlier than expected.

But there is one paper untroubled by such goings-on, perhaps because everyone involved was too sensibly dressed, it being mid-winter in New York. Yes, it's the Daily Sport - bought, as promised, for Lembit Opik's new political column.

But first, an observation - my, what a lot of boobs. There is a Page Three Girl, of course - Jamie Leigh, 19, 34F-24,32, from Colchester. A Front Page Girl. A Weather Girl. A Porn Girl in an article on jobs that will weather the credit crunch. A "Bonus Babe" on page nine. And not one but two topless chicks to illustrate Lembit's musings, a pair of cheeky girls named Gemma and Ashlea Massey, who the LibDem MP proposes sending out on Segways to "spread happiness in a 23-mile range without a recharge".

In fact, it would be quicker to list the pages that don't have any bared bosoms. Four and five. Six. And some, but not all, pages in the Sport section.

Back to Lembit's column. Clearly written before the plane ditched into the Hudson, he bangs on about "Bolshy" Boris Johnson's idea to build a new airport in the middle of the Thames, and what might happen when sea levels rise. "At least that would make it worth listening to the life vest briefing."

Lembit, Paper Monitor will be listening very carefully indeed next time it takes to the air. Preferably with Captain Chesley B "Sully" Sullenberger III at the helm.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:59 UK time, Friday, 16 January 2009

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

"If the plush uterus toy is being used by a small child, please remove it immediately"
- Recall notice for the 2008 Plush Uterus toy

A cuddly uterus has come a-cropper over safety standards, after failing a pull test. "The ovaries may detach when pulled, becoming a potential small part choking hazard for young children." Reassuringly, the notice goes on to say that "No one has been harmed."
More details (the recall notice itself)

Your Letters

17:05 UK time, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Basil Long (Wednesday letters) - judging by the byline photo, my guess is that Paper Monitor is actually an Afghan hound in disguise, and the comments are a cunning ruse to draw us away from the correct conclusion, in an attempt to ensure the Kennel Club stops us humans breeding a poodle with superior journalistic wit who may, one day, replace Paper Monitor.
Bec, York, UK

Can someone arrange for a large white ball to bring him back please?
David, Hong Kong

Does anyone else think maybe David Caldwell watched Fight Club before commenting on the specifications of President Obama's new limo?
Lizzi Wilson, Blandford, Dorset

Re Heron to blame for fish 'thefts': I bet it is a "Big Heron" after pinching 27 Koi and three large goldfish! I bet there wasn't even room for chips.
Adam Morris, Bristol, England

Ex-KGB spy in bid to buy UK paper initially sounds like the most uneventful news story ever.
Mike Harper, Devon, UK

Re the ongoing debate of Batman's theme (dinner dinner dinner): how about the well-known dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant, dead ant that is the Pink Panther theme?
Carol, Portugal

To Andi, of Rutland (Wednesday letters), the answer to that question may just reveal your age to the Monitor world. Snaarrfff!
Ed S, Hong Kong

Paper Monitor

12:27 UK time, Thursday, 15 January 2009


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Amidst the various conflicts currently raging, one row has, so far, avoided the front pages. It's about that most well-to-do of kitchen items, the Aga. After the Guardian's barefaced attack on Tuesday, the champion of all things well-to-do, the Daily Telegraph, has spoken out in defence of the half-ton cast iron cooker.

"Aga is shorthand for the rural dream; a home, a hearth, the perfect crusty bloomer and a warming oven with which to revive hypothermic lambs." At a time when house prices are falling and the number of repossessions are expected to rise, is it any surprise that an £8,000 Aga is not top of people's shopping list?

The Telegraph uses its best rallying cries to make the Aga's case. It argues that the sleeker Smeg is "a bit passe, now that you can buy them in Currys" and that "anyone who's anyone has an Aga" - followed by a list including Jilly Cooper, the Duchess of Cornwall, Jodie Kidd and Sting. Will these incentives win over anyone other than... readers of the Telegraph?

And now, on to a subject closer to Paper Monitor's heart. The Times' T2 has dished up a veritable treat for any devotee of The Wire - an interview with the TV series' creator, David Simon.

And could there be a hint of what his next project may be, in his reaction about the BBC and the licence fee? "Is this an institution that is suitable for treatment in The Wire?" Imagine, the drama created by such a genius set in the corridors of Strictly Come Dancing, the news channel and The Tweenies. Send your own plot suggestions below.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:49 UK time, Thursday, 15 January 2009

"One of the specifications is that we don't talk about the specifications" - General Motors spokesman on the huge new presidential limo, nicknamed The Beast.

With less than a week before Barack Obama gets the keys to the White House, the first pictures have been released of his armoured Cadillac limousine, made by General Motors. It's a big boy - but neither the Secret Service nor General Motors will reveal specific details except to say that, like all past presidential vehicles, "it's long and it's black".
More details (and a photo)

Your Letters

15:39 UK time, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Re Czech EU art stokes controversy: can I suggest that all countries involved lighten up a bit and embrace the humour of a stereotype? Only thing I'm upset about is that my home country, Ireland, isn't mentioned. Does anyone know how we were depicted?
Oscar Strawberry, London

This artwork is quite simply one of the best and most audacious pieces of satire I've encountered. It made me laugh, and proves that someone out there is trying to provoke humour and talk with what, at first glance, seems like a childish stunt. My congratulations to the artist. I fear this is the only piece of funny news we will hear all year before poking fun at institutions becomes illegal under European Law.
Martin, Bristol, UK

Does Monitor have a new dog? And is Monitor dressing it in silly apparel? Only both Paper Monitor and Quote of the Day focus heavily on dogs and doggy clothing. An obsession, methinks.
Basil Long, Nottingham

Is recruiting an animal as a columnist ever a good idea? Well, this is a strange question to be asked by Paper Monitor, who, in spite of the perhaps spurious evidence of yesterdays photo, is surely a large cardboard lizard.
Graham, Purmerend, Netherlands

Surely the Batman theme tune was "dinner dinner dinner dinner BATMAN" (ongoing debate in Letters).
Gail, Reigate

I hate to be an ignorant, Rich and JoeA (Letters), but as I started us down this path, what the heck are Thundercats and of what relevance is the theme tune, Westward HO!?
Andi, Rutland, England

Paper Monitor

13:05 UK time, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Is recruiting an animal as a columnist ever a good idea?

Thunderer in the Times today is Hercules. A Jack Russell. Now that's a picture byline you don't see every day.

Thunderer is part of the Opinion strand, and bears the paper's own famous nickname - given in 1830 for its coverage of Lord Graves's death (More details - the Times).

This slender column of words is described as providing "Daily topical polemic and comment", and is where Katie Price held forth after being snubbed by polo's snobs. And it is here that Hercules the Fox Terrier bangs on about the Kennel Club's new rules on interbreeding.

Now call Paper Monitor a cynic, but if dogs were meant to be journalists, God would have given them two fingers with which to bash out copy and a hankering to wear a beige mac. And not even the most assiduous of breeders has managed to design in those features.

To give you a taste. His opening line is "Grrr"; he closes with a "Woof, woof." Beautifully punctuated, and more topical than Sadie's week, the Sun column by David Blunkett's guide dog.

That particular canine column is no more, Paper Monitor belatedly discovers. Sadie retired from journalism last July, "worn out with telling it as it is". And she signed off her final column with "Woof!" - the exclamation mark being a very Labrador choice of punctuation.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:30 UK time, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

"To see a little dog dressed up in boots, I think, is a little over the top" - Dog charity founder wants to stop the canine madness

Lynn Williams, founder of dog charity Happy Dogs, is not a happy dog lover. The thing irking her is the trend for dressing up the poor little animals in inappropriate costumes.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

16:37 UK time, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Paper Monitor's gender is finally revealed. Definitely a man, the dreadlocks and beard are a dead giveaway. If PM is in fact a woman, I can't apologise enough.
Gina, Durham

So the identity of Paper Monitor is finally (nearly) revealed - it's either the Mona Lisa or Jesus.
Shiz, Cheshire, UK

All bets now off, Paper Monitor is revealed as Comedian Ross Noble.
Caroline, Southend, Essex

More nominative determinism? A Dr MacDonald talking about bad diets. Just a pity his first name isn't Ronald.
Dave Barrance, Dublin, Ireland

Revealed! So Paper Monitor is... er... definitely human. Almost certainly. And has hair, or a wig. Or a long brown hat. There is a suggestion of two eyes, so probably not a pirate. And unless Paper Monitor is particularly hairy, s/he wears clothes, so not a nudist. Surely that's enough information for us to work out who Paper Monitor really is?
The Bob, Glasgow

I hate to be a pedant, but regarding Rich from Bristol (Monday letters) and his reworking of the Thundercats theme tune - shouldn't it be West, West, Westward HO!
JoeA, London

Reading Hollie B's letter (Monday letters) without having read the article it related to, I imediately thought "De-ne-de-ne-de-ne-nah-naaaah" was the theme tune to Batman... was it just me or did any one else think that too?
Laurence, London

Regarding this story, when can I expect to start start receiving spam with offers to increase the length of my ring finger?
Simon Robinson, Birmingham, UK

Anyone else misread this headline? Oops.
Stuart Taylor, Bromley, Kent

I can't have been the only one to breathe a sigh of relief after tentatively clicking on this story with one hand shielding my eyes. Fortunately the story wasn't as eye-watering as the headline implied.
Jon Argles, Bristol, UK

Paper Monitor

10:58 UK time, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

pm_6666.jpgA service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Forget the fact that it's almost crunch time for Heathrow's third runway, one paper really knows how to serve up eco news with a class war spin. Cue the Guardian: "The campaign against Agas starts here."

Gulp. Don't tell the Daily Telegraph.

At the helm is the Guardian's s environmentalist-in-chief George Monbiot, who explains that any green wannabe aiming their sights at patio heaters is misfiring. A bigger culprit when it comes to warming up the planet is the trend for Agas. "A large Aga running on coal turns out nine tonnes of carbon dioxide per year: five and a half times the total CO2 production of the average UK home."

There's no such hairshirtedness over at Telegraph Towers, which comes out all guns blazing in an editorial applauding the idea of runway number three at Heathrow . "Without a third runway, we will lose out to Europe" is the headline. There's not a squeak about range cookers.

Over at the Times, there's mention of a little-discussed but ever more prevalent fixture of the Newspaperland - picture bylines. David Rowan - editor in waiting of Wired UK (relaunch issue pencilled in for April - Paper Monitor eagerly looking forward to not having to shell out £5 a pop for the US edition) tells us that unlike most of his fellow hacks, he's not much bothered about his appearance in said thumbnail pictures.

"I abhor the mugshot perching smirkingly above this paragraph," he writes.

Why? Because with the advent of face recognition computers, our privacy will be further undermined by the use of such images.

Which seems an entirely reasonable point of view. But if Rowan is that concerned maybe he should take a leaf out of fellow Times commentator William Radice's book. The poet-writer-translator's picture byline is so blurred as to look like something which has been picked up on an ancient CCTV camera and deliberately obscured for reasons of confidentiality. It's an approach that Paper Monitor admires, and has chosen to employ with its own picture byline, revealed for the first time at the top of this entry.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

10:13 UK time, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

"The political history of man is the history of violence. The social history of man is simply sex" - Martin Amis tells like it is

He's a clever bloke that Amis. We're not sure of the full import of his comments (from Vice magazine via the Londoner's Diary in the Evening Standard) but they sound pretty profound.

Your Letters

15:27 UK time, Monday, 12 January 2009

How much carbon does it take to do a search on Google? What I want to know is how much carbon is used to find out how much carbon it takes to do a search on Google. Furthermore, how much carbon is needed to write a letter to the BBC Magazine asking how much carbon is used to find out how much carbon it takes to do a search on Google? And how much carbon will be used by everyone reading this letter asking how much carbon... blah blah blah.
Lee, Birmingham

"Winslet and Slumdog" - a new firm of lawyers, perhaps?
Chris, High Wycombe

RE: "De-ne-de-ne-de-ne-nah-naaaah" from the Countdown conundrum story... I am pretty sure it's more "Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh,duh,duh-duuuuuh". I don't know what show you were watching.
Hollie B, Wolverhampton, UK

Re Westward Ho (Friday letters), it's hard to resist the Thundercat style of pronunciation: Westward... Westward... Westward... HO!
Rich, Bristol, UK

PS from Newcastle (Friday letters): we can't know for sure that it was a Romeo rather than a Juliet, but a quick Google search suggests that only 1.1% of roofers are female, so I think it's a pretty good guess.
Adam, London, UK

Paper Monitor

10:33 UK time, Monday, 12 January 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

[Puff!] Very virtuous this morning. Have resolved to follow the new year, new you advice in the papers. Just back from a 5am swim a la Rebecca Addlington (training tips from the medal winners, Saturday's Guardian) and about to recuperate while catching up on the classic literature (Cranford DVD in the Daily Mail) and then a spot of gardening (free seeds from the Daily Telegraph).

But first, to work. Sorry. It's the hardest word, isn't it. "Sorry is not good enough" is the Mail's front page headline after an old video of Prince Harry teasing his fellow soldiers with some rather questionable terms emerged. And there is further fulmination inside headlined: "Isn't it time that this silly boy Harry was growing up?" How time flies - it seems like only yesterday (OK, only 11 month ago that, in the wake of Harry's tour of duty in Afghanistan, the Mail asked readers "not [to] forget that we have a contract with all of our soldiers, Prince Harry included, to match their heroism with our support").

Meanwhile, a diversion to once again applaud the mighty Lucy Kellaway, columnist for the Financial Times, who today writes on the tosh bandied about over colds. She had Paper Monitor from the moment she mentioned that when someone calls a cold the "flu":

"[I]t causes me to shift ever so slightly what I think of them, in much the same way as Maggie Thatcher's view of Alan Clark, the Conservative politician, shifted when she found out he was a vegetarian".

And finally, let's make a date for Friday with someone who Nick Clegg last week referred to as being "in a long tradition of fairly eccentric individuals" - Lembit Opik. The Lib Dem MP has taken up his political columnship for the Daily Sport, and Paper Monitor is determined to see how he serves up the Westminster Village for Sport readers... only keeps forgetting each Friday to actually buy a copy, as this particular organ is not included in the news bundle delivered daily to Monitor Towers.

In an interview with the Independent last month, the man himself described his Sport column: "I'll cover politics in ordinary human language, and with a smile." He also outlined the other publications he's written for: "The County Times and Shropshire Star"... "Flight Training News"...

"I rarely refuse a request, even in smaller publications". (What would the Lib Dem MP for Montgomeryshire write for the Magazine Monitor if asked?) So. A reminder set in one's personal organiser diary, one will purchase the Daily Sport at the end of this week. And don't spare the blushes!

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:45 UK time, Monday, 12 January 2009

"God save you" - Prince Harry, pretending to bid farewell to the Queen in a mock phone call

There could be an awkward moment the next time the young prince visits his grandmother after his fake call to her in front of army cadets was caught on video camera and splashed across the Sunday papers.
More details (News of the World)

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