BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for January 18, 2009 - January 24, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

16:04 UK time, Friday, 23 January 2009

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

1.In camel racing the jockeys are electronic robots.
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2. Ken Clarke doesn't own a mobile phone.
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3. Ancient Persians were the first to use chemical warfare against their enemies.
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4. Tony Hart designed the original Blue Peter badge.
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5. The bubonic plague still exists.
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6. Barack Obama's chief speechwriter is 27 years old.
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7. Demand for online pornographic movies peaks at 1116 GMT on Sundays.
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8. Film-maker Ridley Scott directed the advert for Apple's first Mac computer in 1984.
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9. English businesses do not have to accept Scottish banknotes.
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10. Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of edible frogs.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Peter Harrison from Hove for this week's picture of 10 wind turbines on the horizon.

Your Letters

15:51 UK time, Friday, 23 January 2009

On reading An outrage that appalled a nation, I discovered a word that makes perfect sense but no-one seems to use any more. Does anyone know when we stop saying "forenoon" and replaced it with "morning"?
PS, Newcastle, England

To Richard (Thursday's letters), how is it a split infinitive? He's using the first person, not the infinitive.
Claire, London

Oh, Richard. Such wilfully old school pedantry... There's no such thing as a split infinitive in English, as has been ackowledged by pretty much every grammarian for the past 100 years. I suspect many of the 1.5 billion listeners would have been quite content with the perfectly clear meaning of the "official" version.
Dom, London

The RSC are a bit slow off the mark with The Italian Job. Most of us had already worked out this solution. I'd have just left the engine running to drain the tank, that's my only difference. Now if only the Magazine had run this competition we'd have got the answer long ago.
Pete W, Taymuilt, UK

Re the quote of the day: Why are oligarchs always Russian? Why can't we have any British oligarchs? What do you have to do to be an oligarch anyway? if it's just a matter of being worth squillions, how come Bill Gates isn't an oligarch?
Adam, London, UK

Have I managed to spot NME and Empire journo Angie Errigo contributing to yesterday's letters? Isn't getting journos to write for you for free a bit of a coup?
Kat Fiction, Wellingborough, UK

Michael Andrews (Thursday's letters), I asked myself the same question last week in Malaga where I paid two euros [for a ticket].
Maureen, Glasgow

Re this, will it be called BlessYouTube?
Ruaraidh Gillies, Wirral, UK

Caption Competition

12:59 UK time, Friday, 23 January 2009


Winning entries in the caption competition.

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


This week, an apple and a banana take part in the Talent Spot ice skating competition at London's Somerset House. But what's being said?

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

6. Lynxboy252
The man from Del Monte, he says "severrrrn!"

5. grazvalentine
"I couldn't decide what to wear so just slipped on a banana skin."

4. nadine7346
Torvill & Dean perform Solero.

3. SimonRooke
Darren had a speeding ticket and Tracey had been done for parking, but their new-fangled community service high visibility vests could just cost them a medal.

2. SteeleHawker
But they knew their love was against all the laws of nature...

1. NorthernPunk
Imperfectly shaped fruit escapes from EU alpine detention centre.

Paper Monitor

11:20 UK time, Friday, 23 January 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Just when you thought you'd heard the last of "W", he's back - that's not Bush but Wossy of course. "Wossup" is how the Daily Mirror heralds Jonathan Ross's return to national TV from the naughty step.

But the Daily Mail is in full supernanny mode with the headline: "Back in the old woutine - Ross returns to his BBC chat show - and is as foul-mouthed as ever". And there's a factbox of notable quotes from the show, titled "In his own f-words".

The Guardian, never averse to salty language, is more forgiving and headlines page three with Wossy's opening words to his studio audience: "'So. Where were we?'" It also notes that its former technology columnist, one Stephen Fry, updated his Twitter feed throughout. Sample tweet: "Show is recording earlier than usual to suit: a) Me, b) Lee Evans or c) Tom Cruise? Answers on a tweetcard."

Meanwhile, Paper Monitor has only just noticed it - having had no paper deliveries this week - but Wednesday's Financial Times carried an interview with the new owner of a local London paper. A man whose CV may - or may not - carry the unusual career progression from spy to oligarch to media magnate.

Alexander Lebedev made several jokes in the course of the interview - see Quote of the Day - but also sounded a more sombre note about a) feeding money into the gaping maw of a loss-making newspaper when one's personal fortune has halved due to the downturn, and b) Monday's fatal shootings of a lawyer and a trainee journalist from the Moscow paper he part owns.

Little surprise he has a robust response to those who criticise his move into UK newspapers. "[T]he British have a kind of arrogant, turn up the nose attitude towards their own free press. They think it should not interfere, for example, in their private lives. My recommendation to them is to try to live in a society that has no free press and see how this changes their attitude."

Paper Monitor is not going to argue with a man who was once a lieutenant colonel in the KGB.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:25 UK time, Friday, 23 January 2009

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

"I have been monitoring all the press coverage in Britain and I have noticed some jokes with a very good sense of humour like 'I'm from the KGB, give me your newspaper!'" - New London Evening Standard owner Alexander Lebedev

You've got to love this latest addition to the list of Russian oligarchs with whom the ordinary British person is familiar. Particularly the way he manages to sound strangely sinister even when attempting to be lighthearted.

Your Letters

17:19 UK time, Thursday, 22 January 2009

If the pound and euro are worth nearly the same, why are we paying £1.50 for a Euro lottery ticket?
Michael Andrews, Northumberland

Hennell asks for an objective measure of baby cuteness (Wednesday letters). That's easy. Cute babies look like Churchill, not cute babies look like people.
Owain Williams, Regensburg

How about a formula to estimate C, or baby cuteness, properly. Perhaps C = ((D*3.14)- B^2)/T where D is cuteness of the outfit baby is wearing, B is the behaviour index ranging from "seen and not heard" to full-blown temper tantrum in a public place, and T is time baby is within sight and earshot.
Candace, New Jersey, US

Paper Monitor, perhaps you were so traumatized by Bambi's mother being shot that you have forgotten the owl warning the adolescent, hormonal Bambi, Thumper and Flower that "nearly everyone gets twitterpated in the springtime".
Jenny, Chicago

Oh dear, dear Monitors. I am currently at work, feeling rather ill and incredibly sorry for myself. So I spent 10 glorious minutes trying to not laugh at the idea of a dog being on anti-depressants and *still* biting Jacques Chirac (though really, who wouldn't?) and then scrolled down to this week's Caption Competition. As a result, I am now feeling so much better than I'm off to make everyone in the office a round of tea.
Molly, Dorking
Monitor note: Milk, no sugar, nice and strong, please Molly.

In Why do some people never seem to get fat?, slender medical Student Katherine Hanan says: "I'm really lucky and my friends hate me." Doesn't sound very lucky to me...
Martin, Bristol, UK

Hey, I've only just realised that this new Google icon is in fact the letter g. That took a while. Is this some sort of subliminal intelligence test, and, if so, have I passed?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Would it be too much to ask British newsreaders and reporters to pronounce President Barack Obama's name correctly? It sounds like Ba-Rock, NOT like an army barrack.
Angie Errigo, London, UK
Monitor note: Click here for the BBC's pronunciation guide.

Full credit to Mr Obama for recognising a split infinitive when he heard one and for swiftly moving the offending word to the end of the sentence, thus preventing the 1.5 billion people listening to the live broadcast from clamping their hands over their ears and falling to the ground at the jarring sound that the official version would have made.
Richard, London

To Andy of Farnham (Wednesday letters), I'm glad you're not my friend!
Sue B, Oxfordshire, UK

Ruaraidh (Wednesday letters), if your musical based on Barack Obama's life - Obamamammamia! - takes off, I lay first claim to coining the term Obamamammamiamania.
Lucy, London

Should that musical be called Obamalahoma maybe?
Geoff, Leeds, UK

Every room I've ever been in has been much easier for the absence of Bono (Wednesday's Paper Monitor).
Phil, Guisborough

Paper Monitor

12:42 UK time, Thursday, 22 January 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Aspersions have previously been cast on Paper Monitor's education. As recently as Monday.

So after being brought up short by this sentence - "The PM was sounding besotted. Were other Europeans as twitterpated?" (Times political sketch) - one's first reaction was not "Twitterpated? Pass me a dictionary so that I can add to my already ample [pause for effect] vocabulary!" but to gloomily muse on one's ignorance.

But gloom be gone. Even the most planet-brained of the team in Monitor Towers - who eats dictionaries for breakfast and snacks on Latin conjugations - failed to provide a definition (but, never willingly defeated, muttered "sounds vaguely familiar...").

While "twitterpated" is not listed in the OED, it is in the Urban Dictionary, the most popular definition being "the flighty exciting feeling you get when you think about/see the object of your affection". Another poster adds that Beatrix Potter uses it to describe Squirrel Nutkin skipping through the leaves. And another says it refers to someone who updates their Twitter feed a lot. All of which seem apt in the circumstances.

Meanwhile, a Russian ex-spy has bought the Evening Standard, a local London paper, for £1 - twice its cover price. Ah, the strange economics of newspapers. Paper Monitor last week bought a magazine in a high street newsagent, yet got a £1 discount for buying the Standard as well.

Nor is it the only one to offer a copy as an appetiser to tempt you to buy again. Last summer, when thirsty at an airport, Paper Monitor bought the Daily Telegraph. Because it came with a side order of bottled water.

And finally, yet more personal secrets from the corridors of power. Earlier this week Nicolas Sarkozy's personal trainer talked at length about the French president's perineum, a part of the body where the sun rarely shines (even for nudists). And now the Telegraph carries the news that Jacques Chirac has not only been bitten by the family dog, but that said dog is on antidepressants.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:42 UK time, Thursday, 22 January 2009

"I'm really hard to get with guys. I'm very old-fashioned and I'll make them have, like, a million dates before they get a kiss" - More romance insight from Paris Hilton

It's hard to be completely unsympathetic to Paris Hilton. Her election advert was one of the comedy highlights of last year. But her pronouncements on the world of courtship should surely be taken with a pinch of salt.
More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

15:33 UK time, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Ex-KGB spy buys newspaper for £1. Now THAT'S what I call a slow news day. What next? Former MI5 agent buys pint of milk?
Molly, Hartford, Northwich

Regarding Caroline, Stuttgart, Germany's tricky question, err... was it blue?
Christian Cook, Epsom, UK

Am I the only one reading this wondering who decided what makes up the 'cuteness' of a baby?
Hennell, Lincoln, UK

Haven't we been looking at Google's new favicon on cereal boxes for many years?
Morag Sanig, Manchester

Hang on, Paper Monitor Yesterday you called it "Obamania", today you call it "Obamamania"! Can we come to a decision please? Or are you trying to copyright both versions? And thinking about it, if a musical of life his life comes to be written in a decade or so, I have first claim on "Obamamammamia!"
Ruaraidh Gillies, Wirral, UK

Threatening a Chinese friend of mine with a Chinese burn elicited a look of complete confusion rather than the intended terrified panic - after a bit of explanation he registers "Aaah - you mean an INDIAN burn". Gotta love cultural exchange.
Andy, Farnham, Surrey

Paper Monitor

11:24 UK time, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Internet news is all very well and good, but what good is it when it comes to "souvenir editions"? How can we get our fill of "pull-out and keeps"? By printing out pdfs?

So let us look first at the Sun. Their pull-out is a fold-out poster, featuring photos of all 44 presidents, old Obama photos, the speech in full and the now obligatory opinion piece from Bono. Is the Magazine the only news entity which the Irish yodeller has not done a stint for?

"Every room I have ever been in with you was a much easier room for your presence," intones Bono, implying that he is on more than just nodding terms with the man of the moment.

Now over to the Guardian for more pull-out fun. First the sport section plops out, then Society Guardian, a normal-looking G2 and finally a thousand novels you must read. Has the newsagent stolen our Obama pull-out? We wants the precious. Oh hold on, the Guardian hasn't got a non-pull out souvenir issue, has it?

It's the same in the Indy. No pull-out but you do get 18 whole pages of Obamamania, and part five of its Lives of the Presidents booklet series. Both papers carry photos of radicals in Iran burning images of Obama. The first 100 minutes of his presidency have not pleased them.

The Daily Telegraph offers an eight-page supplement but as in so many things, the Times is the daddy these days. Its 20-page supplement would get the Telegraph's pull-out in a headlock and then give it a Chinese burn.

And we'll leave you with these words of wisdom. "It's the biggest job in the world and Barack is the best man for that job." Bono? Simon Schama? Denzel Washington?

No, it's Page Three Keeley. But will she be proved right?

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:16 UK time, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

"What does Tanya Byron tell us to do? Put them on the naughty step. This is a grown-up version of that" - Louise Casey, neighbourhood crime advisor, on the need for offenders to wear high-vis jackets

The policy of dressing offenders doing community service in high visibility jackets has provoked a backlash among those who fear the criminals would be attacked. But its stearnest advocate, Louise Casey, is not softening her language.

Your Letters

15:37 UK time, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

I'm not sure that it helps with the whole Left Bank Two theme tune debate, but my grandad was the security guard who appeared just before the Gallery on Hartbeat - I think he fell asleep or something. I was chuffed at the time because it was my favourite program, but now I can't remember the gallery theme at all.
Sarah, London

Is this nominative determinism at its inter-species/machine best? Maximus the gannet was helped by... HMS Gannet?
Jennie F, Edinburgh

Was I the only one to read Olympic team for Forth crossing and think of swimmers or rowers, rather than engineers?
Simon Varwell, Inverness

Adam from Birmingham (Monday's letters) - ketamine is indeed not just a horse tranquiliser, it can be used on other animals (eg pets, farm animals) and humans as a tranquiliser or analgesic. It was first synthesised in 1962 by a doctor searching for an alternative to the anaesthetic PCP. What exactly is the myth element here?
Rebecca, Hastings

According to this story, "Some 10,000 years ago, the red squirrel had Britain to itself but in 1892 a pair of American grey squirrels were released into the wild." So what was the predominant squirrel colour between 7991BC and (shortly after) 1892?
Caroline, Stuttgart, Germany

Mike (Monday's letters): all very well and good, but how do you suggest they take off?
Jordan D, London, UK

Another headline with so much promise that just fails to deliver.
Basil Long, Nottingham

Paper Monitor

11:30 UK time, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Just when you thought that Obamania had reached its peak during the election frenzy of November, it just got a whole lot more maniacal. Ahead of the 44th US president's inauguration, one may be forgiven for thinking that it was a UK event, going by the excitement in the press.

The Daily Telegraph is offering an exclusive deal on buying both the president-elect's autobiographies. Plus, a two-page guide to the day's proceedings. Plus tomorrow there will be an eight-page souvenir inauguration supplement. Plus a free Barack Obama story DVD. Yeeeha, that's quite a handful of goodies for any Obama devotee - which if the media interest reflects that of the public, that's absolutely everyone in the world, bar a handful who it's agreed are just being contrary.

In the Telegraph, which one might think might have more affinity for the Grand Old Party, it's rivalling the Guardian in its enthusiasm for the new president.

But do not for a moment imagine that the Guardian has been usurped as Obama-lover in chief. Heaven forbid. No, its pole position is safe, what with its front, and first few, pages plus the entire G2, dedicated to the big day. Even the news that a significant British bank is in trouble gets little more than an aside on first glance at the paper.

The Times goes extreme in its historical context taking it right back to the Roman Empire, comparing some of today's, and yesterday's, leaders to the emperors. Tony Blair is the long-serving Augustus, David Cameron is privileged Nero and Richard Nixon is the mad Caligula.

Apologies, back to the man of the moment - Obama. He is apparently Emperor Titus personified. "Titus had such winning ways - perhaps inborn, perhaps cultivated subsequently, or conferred on him by fortune - that he became an object of universal love and adoration." No mention of the emperor's less than complimentary nickname of "Titus the wicked" then.

It is an interesting concept, harking back to the classical ages when referring to modern day politicians, if possibly a little 2008.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:36 UK time, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

"For sure we have much to learn, but certainly not from him" - Dolce & Gabbana react to accusations of copying from Giorgio Armani.

As a football pundit might say it's a case of handbags at dawn, but in this case, very expensive handbags. Giorgio has accused Stefano & Domenico of copying his silky, quilted trousers. They have responded with vitriol.
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Your Letters

17:05 UK time, Monday, 19 January 2009

I must, as a percussionist, take offense to Paper Monitor's clear lack of a musical education. The instrument in Left Bank Two is a Vibraphone! I'm not sure which crime is more heinous; mistaking a Vibraphone for a Glockenspiel, or not noticing the fact that there is an article on this very fact in today's Magazine.
Ben, London
Paper Monitor responds: Formative memory I - The Gallery and its theme tune. Formative memory II - learning to play said tune on the Glockenspiel in school orchestra.

So Paper Monitor opens up the theme tune debate again... I always thought the gallery was more duuh, duh-dee duh duuh, duh-dee duh duh da-duuh...
Kirsten, Wandsworth, London

Re this story and this story, I wonder if the Noveltones had PRS chasing royalties above and beyond their initial session fee after Tony Hart turned Left Bank Two into such an iconic recording?
Martin, Bristol, UK

Having lots of competitive techno-geeks as friends, this headline excited me. I assumed it referred to a special "baffle" setting, which I could secretly enable before passing my phone to a friend, saying airily: "Here's my new phone. Bet you can't figure out how to use it."
Caroline, Stuttgart, Germany

Re 10 things, No 3: So that pretty much demolishes the myth that lightning never strikes the same place twice, then.
Adam, London, UK

In Friday's (16th) "1* Things" you referred to Ketamine as a "Horse tranquiliser" but this is a common myth that I don't think the BBC should endorse.
Adam, Birmingham

Re Quote of the Day, Vanessa Mae should get together with Dad - he complained if we didn't load the dishwasher, and complained when we did, but failed to spend the extra hour trying different arrangements of the mugs until we found the one that allowed one more to be squeezed in...
Alexander Lewis Jones, Nottingham, UK

Re this story, do they really fly the Union Flag the wrong way up at the South Pole (bottom picture)?
Tommy Scragend, Wigan

I propose a cheap alternative to the third runway at Heathrow. Since we now have proof that it's possible, all pilots of London-bound aircraft should be trained to land in the Thames.
Mike, Chester, UK

Paper Monitor

10:32 UK time, Monday, 19 January 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Tony Hart dying really is very sad indeed. Of the cluster of notable deaths over the past few days, Hart's is the one that strikes closest to one's earliest televisual memories.

Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner - that was a coming-of-age experience. John Mortimer's A Voyage Around My Father - lots of shouting so it must be a show for grown-ups.

But Hart - even though none of Paper Monitor's submitted collages made the cut - he is The Man. He created the original Blue Peter Badge. He showed that a few ripped up scraps of coloured paper and lumps of clay were not just rubbish, but an elephant, a balloon, a flower just waiting to be assembled. He is forever soundtracked in Paper Monitor's mind by cool, cool jazz (over a montage of other children's artworks).

One of those other children, notes the Independent's writer Arifa Akbar, was none other than Damien Hirst.

The Guardian's obituary pages grant Hart three columns and a big photograph in tribute to his efforts at "entertaining children at such a breath-taking pace on television that they overlooked the fact that they were being educated at all".

The Daily Telegraph is impressed not only by his success at inspiring children and his creative range, but also that for much of his 50-year television career, he wore his "trademark cravat". Marvellous. An item of clothing that has lingered too long on fashion's fringes.

And the Times mines his childhood for fascinating snippets, such as his schooling at Westminster's All Saints Resident Choir School, a Dickensian institution where "[t]he headmaster would ring out offenders' names in Morse code". It also notes that Hart met a BBC TV producer at a party who agreed to audition him, where, "Hart drew him, upon request, a picture of a fish standing on its tail with bubbles coming out of its mouth. He used a napkin as a canvas, rather than paper, because it was the only thing available."

Coincidence or what? Paper Monitor too once deployed a napkin in its job interview for the BBC, albeit to wipe porridge surreptitiously off its cravat. And, like Hart, one's interviewer was struck by how quickly and skillfully this was carried out, and offered a job on the spot. But there was no drawing on Paper Monitor's first day. Just fetching and carrying pottles of porridge, handfuls of paper napkins and polystyrene cups of tea for the boss. How little has changed...

Sir, you - and Morph and naughty Chas - are sorely missed. Glockenspiels at the ready, and all together now: Duuur de-dur de-dur de-dur DUM, de-dur DUM, de-de...

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:28 UK time, Monday, 19 January 2009

"I will fight other people in order to be able to load the dishwasher. I know it is bizarre, but to me it is like an art form" - Violinist Vanessa Mae reveals her secret passion

Once upon a time dishwashers were really rather exotic. Now lots of people have one and it takes someone of the calibre of the diminutive Mae to make them exotic again.

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