BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for May 10, 2009 - May 16, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

16:22 UK time, Friday, 15 May 2009

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

1. Sending nude images via a mobile phone is called "sexting".
More details

2. Miss Universe must remain single for a year.
More details

3. The Odeon cinema chains are named after their British founder Oscar Deutsch, and the acronym stands for Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation.
More details (Daily Mail)

4. Use of the word "carbuncle" to describe a building was first made in the 19th Century to describe Buckingham Palace.
More details (Times)

5. We are born violent.
More details

6. And a tribe in Bolivia has a festival of violence to settle disputes.
More details

7. Joanna Lumley was sounded out by Labour to run as London Mayor in 2000.
More details (Times)

8. Plants can water themselves.
More details

9. Emotionally intelligent women orgasm more.
More details

10. Some petals have velcro-like surfaces.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Andrew Ferguson for this week's picture of 10 lids from Smarties tubes.

Your Letters

16:21 UK time, Friday, 15 May 2009

How about this for a quote? "If you had to meet one of them with big eyes and looking like they don't have any clothes on, me at 78, it would make me go haywire." From an article proving that UFOs recently seen were actually paper lanterns.
Stuart Gardner, Paignton, Devon

In this story the trainee surgeon is "Mr Tom Palser" whereas the butcher is plain old "Joe Brennan". Why the honorific "Mr" for a trainee surgeon, yet none for a (presumably) fully qualified butcher? Subtly veiled snobbery I wonder?
Darren, Edinburgh, Scotland

Mr Malik says he stuck "a million per cent by the rules"... Hmm, not a million and ten percent? Well, I don't mind admitting that I'm a teensy bit disappointed that he didn't go that extra mile.
Sue, London

Shahid Malik is quoted as having said that his claims were "a million per cent" within the rules. Isn't that the problem? He should have limited his claim to 100% of what was due.
Phil, Guisborough

In this story about Google, it says users of its e-mail system lost access for a couple of hours. So what? Are we so addicted to computers we can't cope without them for two hours?

Drunk Girl does get around , doesn't she?
Rick P, Oxford, UK

Caption Competition

13:36 UK time, Friday, 15 May 2009


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week, it's the cow that ended up in a swimming pool (more details here). But what's being said?

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

6. eattherich
Daisy to PT Barnum: "Yes the entry was a bit rough but I think we would get away with raising the board another two metres."

5. redalfa147
Ian Thorpe hit by bovine flu.

4. RoyalBeega
"Shall I do the moat whilst I'm at it, Mr Hogg?"

3. youngWillz
Cow: "I'm all right, but James Herriott's still down there!"

2. alegrias3
"Flamin' rock stars... I knew it would be trouble letting The Wurzels stay at the hotel."

1. PendragonF
John regretted buying his beefburgers from Ikea.

Paper Monitor

12:49 UK time, Friday, 15 May 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

OK, journalists are not much beloved of the general public. They are seen as devious, manipulative skivers by many of the people who read their papers.

But sometimes you just have to take your hat off to their dedication, and drink a toast to the single-mindedness directed towards producing tomorrow's chip paper.

Today's award winner is Sun man Nick Francis. He goes to great lengths for a piece on how to transform yourself into Bruno, the flamboyant fashion reporter played by Sacha Baron Cohen.

So the Sun man gets his hair bleached, his eyebrows waxed, and his body hair dyed. But you're thinking "hey, that's not so bad". But then he only goes and gets his eyebrow pierced. Actually pierced.

It certainly beats the custom at one local newspaper of sending cub reporters out in women's clothes for a day. Although it does fall short of the reporter who once got a tattoo of Tweety Pie for a story.

More journalistic integrity can be found in all of the papers today. Knowing their readers love Dan Brown, you'd be forgiven for assuming they might think twice about panning the movie adaptation of Angels and Demons.

Think again.

Starting with the Daily Mirror's review: "What we didn't expect was a follow-up this awful... Compared to Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code was Lawrence of Arabia and Citizen Kane rolled into one."

The Sun pulls its punches but still predicts "an audience laughing when no jokes are intended".

In the Daily Mail, under the delicious headline "A load of Papal Bull", Christopher Tookey applies an exquisitely sharp hatchet. "Everyone gabbles the barmy, characterless and woefully inaccurate exposition."

The Independent rips in. "It's a murky, dispiriting festival of pedantry."
The Times ran its review yesterday. "This graceless and overwrought piece of storytelling will probably earn a Pope's ransom at the box office, despite its many flaws."
The Daily Telegraph also takes a guarded view. "Unintentionally, these antics take on the tone and rhythm of one of the Pink Panther films."
The Guardian dubs it "stiff and sometimes ludicrous".

It's a different story over at the Express group. The Daily Express gives a favourable review and the Daily Star gives the film a whopping 9/10.

Paper Monitor smells a conspiracy.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:41 UK time, Friday, 15 May 2009

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

"Death to potatoes" - One of the chants used by opponents of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The opposition in Iran are not happy. They accuse supporters of the president of luring voters with sacks of free spuds, as the election approaches.
More details (The Guardian)

Weekly Bonus Question

09:20 UK time, Friday, 15 May 2009


Welcome to the Weekly Bonus Question.

Each week the news quiz 7 days 7 questions will offer an answer. You are invited to suggest what the question might have been.

Suggestions should be sent using the COMMENTS link below. And since nobody likes a smart alec, kudos will be deducted for predictability in your suggestions.

This week's answer is ONE POUND OVER. The real question will be added here on Friday afternoon.

UPDATE: The answer is that a boy of five has been dubbed too fat by health officials because he is one pound over his ideal weight.

Web Monitor

16:06 UK time, Thursday, 14 May 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Yes, Web Monitor has been busy, busy, busy trawling the web like a dolphin unfriendly tuna net, sucking up all interesting material for sharing and devouring. Make sure you share your best links with us by either sending us a comment via the box to the right of this page or recommending it to us on Delicious - we're called "bbcwebmonitor".

Ewan McGregorEwan McGregor defends his new film Angels and Demons in the Independent against claims it is anti-Catholic and said the Pope has refused several invitations to screenings:

"Religion has won the day against the odds. If anything, it feels ultimately like a very pro-Church film... I wouldn't have wanted to be involved in an anti-Catholic film, I'm not religious, but I respect other people's faiths. It's not my place to be involved in something that bad-mouths religion."

• It's possible that the only thing you've heard about the upcoming European elections is a leaflet through your door. Now you can find out if your political parties are saying different things in different neighbourhoods in the Straight Choice, which loads up pictures of political leaflets. The local democracy blog points out that inconsistency isn't necessarily a bad thing. Meanwhile, another blog, Newspeak, researched who the people on BNP leaflets were... only to discover they were all in stock photos, not real supporters.

Gary Kemp • Having reformed Spandau Ballet, Gary Kemp tells the Evening Standard the band's first split was akin to being a World War II veteran:

"I've heard stories about men who fought at Dunkirk who couldn't adjust to normal life when they returned home because it just wasn't exciting enough for them. The problem for us was that we spent 18 years not talking to each other."

• Ever felt you want to get away from it all? looks at how to disappear and escape the system. They use Frank M Ahearn who is a skip tracer - someone who finds missing people. His advice is to make sure information held on you by big business is wrong, create fake trails and only use prepaid mobiles. Rest assured folks, Web Monitor has no such wayward intentions.

• New blog on the block, Awkward Family Photos, revels in your uncomfortable studio photos from the 70s. It's struck a chord and Esquire reports it has already got three book deals depsite being only three weeks old.
Esquire explain:

"'s the bond of the awkward moment that makes it beautiful... Hence the power of the Internet. It takes the momentary and the mortifying and makes it immortal."

What can reality TV teach us about clinical drug trials? Slate magazine think a reasonable amount (two pages of stuff anyway). They say if the environment is superficial enough, as in a recent drug trial for attention deficit disorder, the result will also be. Katie and Peter Andre didn't take part in the trial.

• The MPs' expenses row is explained scientifically by Michael Brooks in the New Scientist's Short Sharp Science blog . Scientists refer to the situation as a "tragedy of Commons" - or what happens when free-riders aren't punished. Brooks says the public outrage is just part of the process which will lead to a punishment and then strangers cooperating again.

Your Letters

15:25 UK time, Thursday, 14 May 2009

Did anyone else feel compelled to count the "actuallys" in this clip? Eleven, if you're asking. That's one every 6.5 seconds of her speech. Plus one "isolasid".
Ben Merritt, Sheffield, England

Difficult choice for the caption comp, was it?
Maggie, London, UK

Saw this story headline and was really confused about how cheese could be homophobic.
Adam, London

"Two other Labour peers - the former minister Lord Moonie and Lord Snape - were cleared of wrongdoing." Come on, two Lords named after Harry Potter characters!?
Jim, Coventry

From the source code of the gender quiz page: "You do not have any gender tendency. If you got here, something went awfully wrong or you are just viewing the source code of this page. Cheater."

It's nice to know that even the BBC's software developers have a sense of humour...
PB, London

If you are still reporting minor irritations in journalistic style then I suggest that the superfluous quote marks round the phrase "sex toy" in this story are merely to cover Jonathan's embarrassment at writing such a thing.
Dave, Oxford, UK

Paper Monitor

10:49 UK time, Thursday, 14 May 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Just as the rest of the press is going 3-D crazy, reporting on the screening of Disney/Pixar's Up - the first 3-D film to open the festival in its 62-year-history - the Daily Mail goes one better. "Don't miss the ultimate challenge: 4-D Sudoku."

What the!? Is the Mail so stuffed with stonking news stories that it chooses to announce its breaking of the rules of physics (in relation to newsprint at least) on page 46?

Actually, Wikipedia is ahead of the game on this - informing us that:

"In physics and mathematics, a sequence of n numbers can be understood as a location in an n-dimensional space. When n = 4, the set of all such locations is called 4-dimensional Euclidean space. Such a space differs from our more familiar three-dimensional space in that it has an additional dimension, a new direction in which movement is possible. This fourth spatial dimension is a concept distinct from the time dimension in spacetime."

(What do you make of that Prof David Bain of brain strain fame?)

Packing its flux capacitor, Paper Monitor rifles through the paper to the billed destination, ever so fearful that opening the paper at p46, it and the entirety of the universe might be swallowed up by a black hole.

Happily, the Mail seems to have confused its discovery of a fourth dimension with something that passes for an orange and white Rubik's Cube with numbers on it.

Oh well, business as usual it seems. Backtrack to p6 and Monitor letter writers will be delighted to note the latest appearance of Drunk Girl.

The Times, meanwhile, has its eyes on more sinister goings on with the latest shadowy meeting of high-powered business leaders and politicians who form the Bilderberg Group. In the interests of clarity, that's not, as one senior editor at the morning news conference misheard it, the Build-a-Bear Workshop.

Thankfully that's a mistake the Magazine didn't make when it examined the story several years ago.

The Times' features supplement, T2, has a neat take on the expenses furore. In assessing MPs' claims against those of journalists from yesteryear it delves into its archive to unearth a 70-year-old expenses claim from one former Times hack - Kim Philby. The breakdown includes pig-skin gloves, a camelhair overcoat and a pair of glasses.

Finally, another fatuous observation to sign off with.
Is Elliot Morely the visual antithesis of Geoff Holhurst?

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:49 UK time, Thursday, 14 May 2009

"The music the machine plays is dull and uninteresting, and the tin-like sound is just dreadful" - Vicar Brian Stevens rues the replacement of the crematorium organist with a karaoke machine.

Tony Edwards has been playing sombre tunes at cremations for 13 years, but now the crematorium has decided that a Wesley Music System is a better option. Now Mr Edwards is only available as a paid-for extra.
More details (Daily Mail)

Web Monitor

16:11 UK time, Wednesday, 13 May 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

We trawl the web to give you the most interesting bits. Make sure you share your best links with us by either sending us a comment via the box to the right of this page or recommending it to us on Delicious - we're called "bbcwebmonitor".

Antony Worrall Thompson• The chef Antony Worrall Thompson cooked up a solution to the MPs' expenses row on the Daily Politics. After referring to MPs as big kids who need boundaries, he suggested they live in dorms:

"Let's house them in a magnificent block of flats, give them a gym, give them a swimming pool, treat them royally but they won't own it and there's no expenses."

• Well well, it turns out in a recession people use more coins than notes, according to the American National Public Radio. It's called denomination effect and happens because we trick ourselves into thinking we are spending less if they only spend coins.

John F Kennedy• Atlantic magazine reveals that John F Kennedy was being studied from a young age in the longest ever study into what makes us happy. The findings from other cases are released anonymously but JFK's files will be sealed until 2040.

Slate Magazine asks if jockeys actually make a difference to a winning horse.
Not really, it seems. They reckon a jockey is only 10% responsible for their horse winning and have no power over really bad horses.

Gwen Stefani • Singer Gwen Stefani is starting a tour with old band No Doubt this weekend. Stefani told the LA Times music blog how she had managed to persuade the band to wait for her for five years:

"This is what I told the guys: The plan was I wanted to do the dance record, go on the tour, come home and get pregnant - since I'm a pro at it now because I did it before.. It didn't work... I don't know how other women feel, but I lose connection with myself because my body becomes this other vessel for this other human... I was feeling not very modern, not very creative."

• So Marks and Spencer has given into consumer demand and reduced the cost of their bigger bras. Meanwhile in Japan... the Pink Tentacle blog reports a new bra has been designed to deal with the declining rates of marriage in the country. The bra has a timer on it which is set as a countdown until the wearers' preferred wedding date. So now when a man's eyes wander, he can protest that he had the best intentions.

Your Letters

15:51 UK time, Wednesday, 13 May 2009

I got 1 out of 7. I floccinaucinihilipilificate it when that happens.
Rick P, Oxford, UK

Is Steve Coppell's agent really called Athole Still? I'd love to know how it's pronounced.
Neil Franklin, Chandlers Ford, UK

Re hand washing and opening doors (Tuesday letters), the recommended way to open doors after washing your hands is to use the paper towel you used to dry your hands to turn the knob. Unfortunately, many public places are now using blowdryers for hands, so I just grab some extra toilet paper.
Renee, New York, US

Many of us either a) use the paper towel we wiped our hands with to open the door, then discard the towel in a bin, or b) carry an alcohol gel hand cleaner (the sort you get in hospitals) and reclean our hands after leaving.
Naomi, Sunny Sussex, UK

Opening the toilet door should be the least of your worries. Concern yourself more with the contamination on every coin and note handled by countless people every day, with varying diseases, viruses, and general dirt. That said, I've not heard any reports of death by toilet-door germ or money handling recently. You probably shouldn't worry about it too much.
Eric, Bristol

I once saw someone come out of a cubicle, NOT wash their hands but go straight to the hand dryer.
Basil Long, Nottingham

How much do you value our letters? You've not updated your "Thanks for your letters" page since 2003. I feel unloved.
James Rouse, Southampton

Danny (Tuesday letters), regarding what to say when someone coughs: My grandfather always used to say "Cough it up, it might be a gold watch". It's one of those random sayings that has passed down the generations and we continue to use it.
Sarah, Uxbridge, UK

My first thought when I saw Pub shares rattled by probe call was why on earth are MPs worried about pub quiz nights.
Jeremy, Aylesbury UK

Paper Monitor

12:01 UK time, Wednesday, 13 May 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Good morning!
Off to see the groundhog?

Yes folks, here we go again, it's Expensesgate Day Six and Paper Monitor is in danger of becoming Punxsutawney Monitor if this goes on much longer.

The overarching line today in today's coverage is that it's "Payback time"... but enough about the war of words between Jordan and Peter Andre. (Hey, why should Paper Monitor be disqualified from recycling old ideas?)

The constituent parts of the Daily Telegraph's coverage are becoming remarkably familiar. The super-sized headline, the portcullis logo, the sultry-looking young woman - scratch that last element. That's just the Telegraph on autopilot.

Burrowing inside, they've ditched yesterday's playful moat/helipad etc motifs but there's that picture again of Hazel Blears in her biker leathers and since today the focus on the Lib Dems you don't have to delve too far before you hit the bare flesh that tends to accompany pictures of Lembit Opik.

The rumour mill is in overdrive with speculation about how much the Telegraph coughed up for the juicy expenses information that has dominated coverage in its pages since last Sunday. One guesstimate in the Press Gazette is a not-to-be-sniffed-at £150,000. The Guardian says unofficial figures reveal it shifted an extra 93,000 copies on Friday alone.

Now, back to Redtopland for the latest in the fall out between Jordan and Peter. The Sun dedicates a two-page spread (online rendition here) to the spat and emboldens just two words in its coverage - "dressage" and "gay". Make of that what you will.

The Mirror features a picture of Andre yesterday in a T-shirt that one of Paper Monitor's colleagues waggishly commented should be grounds alone for a decree nisi.

And the Star - it's just a blizzard of tattoos, bosom and luxuriant hair.

FATUOUS OBSERVATION UPDATE: From the masthead of today's Guardian...

"The River Cafe's dinner for under a fiver.
G2 Page 14
Tomorrow Moro"

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:04 UK time, Wednesday, 13 May 2009

"You shouldn't put diesel in a Ferrari" - Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp on banning his footballers from drinking alcohol

Never short of a quote, is 'Arry. This time, his verbal dexterity is prompted by the arrest of club captain Ledley King outside a night-club. King was arrested for alleged assault and apologised for getting drunk.

More details

Web Monitor

16:34 UK time, Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

We trawl the web to give you the most interesting bits. Make sure you share your best links with us by either sending us a comment via the box to the right of this page or recommending it to us on Delicious - we're called "bbcwebmonitor".

Susan Boyle
• A long-awaited Oprah Winfrey interview with Susan Boyle happened last night. She wasn't flown out to America, instead opting for a satellite link up. The main topic of discussion between two of the world's most famous women (give Web Monitor some slack here, Oprah IS global) was make-overs. To make sure the US audience could understand, the Daily Mail pointed out Boyle's interview was accompanied by subtitles. Last time Web Monitor can recall this happening for our American friends was for Ewan McGregor and Co in Trainspotting.

Slate magazine reports on an immigration boom in the Falklands and asks "why do so many people keep moving there?" It turns out, given the size of the island, a boom doesn't constitute very many people - only 400 in the last decade.

Stephen Fry is regretting ever commenting on MPs' expenses. He tweeted on Twitter this afternoon:

"Oh, I'm such an arse. Why can't I keep my mouth shut? Miserable all day at being portrayed as 'the MPs' friend'. As if. My own fault tho..."

Stephen Fry• In the run-up to this year's Eurovision Song Contest, Time Magazine lists the Top 10 Eurovision scandals including the reason Cliff Richard lost the contest being that it was rigged to promote Spain's flagging tourist industry. Time quotes Richard as saying:

"I've lived with this number two thing for so many years, it would be wonderful if someone official from the contest turned around and said: 'Cliff, you won that darn thing after all.'"

The Consumerist has found that one magazine is not immune to the slowdown in the magazine and newspaper industry - Playboy. Their blog post declares print as dead after Playboy says it will combine its July and August editions.

Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais is cast as canny with money by the Financial Times and they should know. Emma Jacobs interviewed him for the FT and found that his he likes to keep control of his work:

"You can't get final edit in Hollywood. So I made the film and handed it over. It was all about the creative process. The fact you make 10 times more is a bonus."

Your Letters

15:58 UK time, Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Re MPs to repay swimming pool claims. Surely instead of repaying money to the Commons for it to be wasted on something else, the better solution would be for each of the MPs who has made an outrageous claim should be forced to pay the money to a community project and volunteer their time to its implementation. A sort of self-imposed community service order. That way the money will be usefully used, benefit the communities and teach the MPs a valuable moral lesson.
Tom Webb, Epsom, UK

In the interests of froth reduction could I please request that from now on, any story on the BBC regarding the expenses issues redirects first to this page.
Owain Williams, Regensburg

MPs 'claimed for swimming pools'. Speaker angry over leak. I should think so too.
Chris, Newbury

Why on earth would an MP in Peterborough want a swimming pool anyway?
Basil Long, Nottingham

"A study of more than 2,000 female twins... 2,035 participants" How can there be 2035 twins, an odd number?
Jaques Botha, South Africa

Re pulling the plug on Katie and Peter (Paper Monitor). So much for stable relationships. Who gets custody of the horses?
Candace, New Jersey, US

I love the word "could" in the headline Swine flu could hit one in three, much like the way I could be a millionaire next week or Liverpool could win the league. Both are possible but neither make very good stories. More scaremongering over a threat that barely exists.
Dave, London

When somebody sneezes in the office, everyone says bless you - but I'm never sure what to say when somebody has a bit of a cough. Does "bless you" count for that too? As a child I think I used to say "cough you", but I think that may have been a 10-year-old thing.
Danny, Amersham

I recently underwent some tests at local hospitals. I was disgusted that some people used the toilet facilities and then left without washing their hands. Obviously the inside door handles could be a breeding place for germs. Can readers think of a workable solution of how to open the door without risking contagion? Outwardly-opening doors might cause more accidents to passers-by.
Bill, Liverpool, UK

Just in the process of teaching my daughter to read, and realised that I have not seen the word "shan't" in writing since I was about six. And the weird thing is, the more you look at it, the odder it seems.
Rachel, Minnetonka,USA

In picture 8, Tomos looks like he is going to eat Mathew. Why did the expert not pick this up?
Nicola, Bristol, UK

David Bain's Brain Strain

12:30 UK time, Tuesday, 12 May 2009

bain_126.jpgFans of the Magazine may remember a few months ago philosophy expert David Bain presenting four problems to make your brain hurt.

Hopefully any residual cerebral aching has now abated, clearing the way for Prof Bain (that's him in the picture above) to return, this time in the Monitor. Welcome to David Bain's Brain Strain - a forum for Monitor readers to debate philosophical matters and, in so doing, find a worthy distraction from the demands of the workplace.

Read on and then add your thoughts to the debate using the comments form. Remember, this is philosophy - there IS no right or wrong answer. (The brain strainer will read all your comments before, in a couple of days, returning to offer his thoughts on the debate.)

Millions are being spent renovating the Cutty Sark. This would have worried the Ancient Greeks. Not the money, but that the renovators might be creating an imposter. For, over the centuries, renovation will cause the number of original planks to dwindle.

London Bridge, built in the 19th Century, raises a related worry. In 1971 it was reassembled in Arizona. Or was it? Being broken down into a pile of stones destroys a bridge. So how can that be London Bridge basking in the desert sun?sark_bbc226.jpg

You might say the Greeks worried too much. It's obvious that the Cutty Sark can survive replacement of parts, and that London Bridge can survive reassembly. Your body is the same body you had a decade ago, but its cells have been replaced. And your car might be the same one you had a week ago, even if a mechanic disassembled and reassembled it yesterday.

Perhaps that is obvious, but the obvious can be hard to understand. For imagine that, as rotten planks are removed from the Cutty Sark, my family uses them to build a ship in Glasgow, giving each plank the position it originally had in the Cutty Sark. Eventually there will be two ships: one in Greenwich, one in Glasgow. Which will be the Cutty Sark?

Here the brain begins to hurt, for both ships have good claims. The Greenwich ship is simply the result of part-replacement. So it's surely the Cutty Sark, at least if you've got the same body as a decade ago. But the Glasgow ship seems simply to be the result of reassembly. It's got all the original planks in their original places. So it's surely the Cutty Sark, at least if that's London Bridge in Arizona.

Scratching our heads, we might say that both ships are the Cutty Sark. But they're not. Think of poor Sir Danvers Carew. His murderer was Mr Hyde, who was Dr Jekyll, so his murderer was Dr Jekyll. Similarly, if the Glasgow ship is the Cutty Sark, and the Cutty Sark is the Greenwich ship, then the Glasgow ship is the Greenwich ship. But it's not; they're in different places!

So perhaps, in the imaginary case, neither ship is the Cutty Sark. But what do we say, then, back in the real world, about the ship they're renovating in Greenwich? One line is that it's the Cutty Sark but only so long as I don't build my ship in Glasgow. Yet it's strange to think that ship-building in Glasgow could make a ship in Greenwich cease to be the Cutty Sark.

But what else can we say, except that the replacement of a single plank destroys a ship? And if that's right, then not only their brains but their wallets should be hurting in Greenwich, since whatever they're spending their millions on, it's not the Cutty Sark.

DAVID BAIN UPDATE, 19 MAY: It's a week since I posted my Cutty Sark conundrum and I was very interested to read the variety of reponses it elicited.

Clearly, it's not just the Cutty Sark that has strained brains, as Monitir reader noted. The Greeks (Plutarch tells us) squabbled over the renovation of Theseus's ship, now the standard example of the puzzle. And, in Only Fools and Horses, Sid worries about Trigger's trusty broom, which Trigger admits has had 14 new handles and 17 new heads.

When Sid asks, "How can it be the same bloody broom then?", Trigger gets out a photo of the original and demands, "What more proof do you need?" It's a good question. And, in the Cutty Sark case, Magazine readers gave some interesting answers.

The Glasgow ship deepens the problem. When it's built, we have two ships, but apparently no grounds for saying which is the original.

Mittfh says neither is. But what if the Glasgow ship had not been built? Would the Greenwich ship then be the Cutty Sark? Answering "Yes" means that ship-building in Glasgow can destroy ships in London.

One might instead answer "No". After all, we're imagining that the Greewich ship has none of the original planks. But how many originals are needed? Surely one reaplacement doesn't destroy a ship. Perhaps an object survives just in case most of its parts are original. But this means your body is at most 10 years old, since most cells live no longer than that. Also, take ship X in 1900, ship Y in 1800, and ship Z in 1700. X might share most of Y's planks, and Y most of Z's, even while X doesn't share most of Z's. So the principle says that, while X is Y, and Y is Z, X isn't Z. But that's like saying that, while the murderer is Hyde, and Hyde is Jekyll, the murderer isn't Jekyll!

Mr Hyde also threatens Moriarty's idea that both the Glasgow and Greenwich ships are the Cutty Sark. But we could say that ships, like expenses scandals, unfold over time, not fully existing at instants, hence that was present at the Cutty Sark's launch in 1869 was not a ship but a phase of a ship, or rather a phase of two ships: the one whose current phase is in Greenwich, and the one whose current phase is in Glasgow. They share a phase rather as London's Marylebone Road and the A510 share a stretch of tarmac.

Or we might plump for one ship. But which? Most of the forum's plumpers pinned their colours to the Greenwich mast. Parsleyfeet invoked that ship's cultural role. Potkettle suggested that it alone was officially named the Cutty Sark. But that raises the question at issue, for the pro-Glasgow camp say theirs is the original ship, hence that it's the one officially named in 1869.

A final, interesting point was made by the pro-Greenwich camp. Their opponents think the Glasgow ship stands to the Cutty Sark as the bridge in Arizona stands to London Bridge. But S-slatt, Peterstagg, and Johnny Pixels says there's a difference: since the stones of London Bridge were removed but not replaced, they remained London Bridge stones, capable of reconstituting the bridge in Arizona; but, when the planks removed from the Cutty Sark are replaced, they cease to belong to a ship, hence cannot reconstitute the Cutty Sark in Glasgow.

There are worries: I don't want my car to go out of existence when, after replacing a part, I decide to put the original part back in. But the proposal (made also by philosopher Jonathan Lowe) is interesting. And if it can be made to work, it blows away a dark metaphysical cloud (admittedly unnoticed) from over the heads of those renovators in Greenwich.

Paper Monitor

12:02 UK time, Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It dominates the front pages, liberally plastered with the word "exclusive". There are teasing taglines aplenty, inviting the reader to delve into "full sensational story inside". And inside, there are lavish illustrations and pull-out quotes aplenty.

Yes, the tabloids have a rival story to Expensesgate - Katie Price and Peter Andre have, sadly, called time on their fairytale romance after half a glorious decade. In celebrity years, that's like splitting up on your diamond anniversary.

As together they have forged a beautiful singing career, Paper Monitor is off down the bookies for a flutter on who will now cover D.I.V.O.R.C.E.

The Daily Mirror runs a transcript of their "explosive final row", an unedifying exchange conducted in the presence of a Hollywood shop assistant and a reality TV crew over whether said assistant recognises Katie or Peter. (Neither, it seems.)

In starring out their insults, the Mirror apparently spells Katie's deployment of the c-word with a k. Twice.*

And the Mirror's 3am girl Clemmie Moodie, who ran the London marathon with the couple last month, says she never saw it coming. "Not since being informed the Easter Bunny didn't exist have I been so disillusioned... I hope the split is just a temporary blip. Otherwise I really will feel like a mug." Reading between the lines, does this suggest a showbiz reporter who has very recently been carpeted by her editor?

The Sun also labels the split as an exclusive, claiming its pics of Katie clubbing with a "mystery fella" (who sports a Ferris Bueller hairstyle, checked shirt and sensible tanktop) made "Pete snap".

The Daily Star, too, claims it carries the "full exclusive story", and reprints the snaps of Katie with Tanktop Man.

Meanwhile, back to Expensesgate. The Daily Telegraph knows God is in the detail, and what details. Moat clearance. Helipads. And the titbit that one of the Tories who claimed for his swimming pool is married to a national newspaper journo, Sarah O'Grady. She's property correspondent for the Daily Express, and today offers a sunny outlook for the housing market.

*Incidentally, the Star's transcript of Pete 'n' Katie's row proves the Mirror is correct with its k****. Sorry about that.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

08:22 UK time, Tuesday, 12 May 2009

"Super-balanced make-up. All over again, like painting a wall" - Instructions, left in a cab, on how to apply Gordon Brown's make-up.

To go on television, even the most manly and least metrosexual of men needs a bit of powder and a dab of concealer to take the shine off under all those lights. But one wants to look natural, and this takes time and effort. And to get it right, time and again, with different make-up artists, perhaps one's aides might carry a set of instructions... detailed instructions.
More details (The Guardian)

Your Letters

16:21 UK time, Monday, 11 May 2009

Is a petrol station really the most sensible place to try out a jet pack?
Rick P, Oxford, UK

Katie from Bristol (Friday letters) is right that, to stop a sneeze, you put your finger lengthways under your nose... but you also have to press quite hard while you're at it (it's pressure on a nerve there that stops the sneeze). And for Mouse from Dorking/Farnham, to cure hiccoughs, hold a mug (or something similar) over your left ear while breathing normally (I've no idea why this one works, but it does.)
Sasha, Montreal, Canada

My brother has always recommended adding up all of your debts (including student loans and bank of Mum & Dad) as a cure for hiccoughs, for bad cases you could try the national debt.
L Jones, York, UK

Hiccoughs? Hyperventilate (by breathing in and out very quickly), then hold your breath for 30 seconds.
Mark, Gloucester

Hiccoughs are a spasm of the diaphragm muscle. The most effective "cure" is to take a deepish breath, not to bursting but to feel "full", and then "push" down on the diaphragm with the full lungs. Hold that for at least a slow count of ten. This stretches the diaphragm, which is just a big flat muscle, and "switches off" the spasm. It's the same physiological principle as stretching a cramping calf muscle. It might take a couple of tries to get the feel of "pushing" down with full lungs, but I have always found it works when the person gets the correct technique.
Jaye, Rutland, England

Foolproof hiccup cure: Sit upside down by putting your feet where your head would be and your head where your feet would be. Warning - do not attempt this in your aunt's curio-filled front room after a dinner where alcohol was served.
Heather Simmons, Macomb, Michigan USA

I have found both drinking a teaspoonful of vinegar or drinking water backwards to work. To drink water backwards hold the cup so the further away rim is in your mouth and tip your head forwards. Complicated but it works.
Jenny Em, Aberdeen

Web Monitor

15:54 UK time, Monday, 11 May 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

We trawl the web to give you the most interesting bits. Make sure you share your best links with us by either sending us a comment via the box to the right of this page or recommending it to us on Delicious - we're called "bbcwebmonitor".

• To start off, we're following up Paper Monitor's observation that the swine flu outbreak shed some light on where the mediarati chose to school their children. The private Alleyn's School in Dulwich, south London, featured in first-hand accounts byt journalists about their child's school being closed after a swine flu outbreak. Now we can unexclusively reveal that we know what the kids from swine flu school are getting up to and it's not hanging around on street corners wearing hoodies, even in an ironic way. Harry Houseago, a 13-year-old from Alleyn's school used his swine flucation to write, perform and stick up on YouTube An Ode to Tamiflu.

Richard Branson • Richard Branson has taken over Mia Farrow's fast for Darfur. He's posted a video on his blog to explain his actions. On CNN, Branson said that he will continue until someone else takes over and he named Peter Gabriel as his possible successor. Web monitor doesn't know whether Gabriel's been consulted.

• Doing well on the viral video chart is the comedian Wanda Sykes' speech to President Obama at the White House correspondents' dinner this weekend. In her 15-minute speech, Sykes said the Obamas should have reconsidered their gift of an i-Pod to the Queen:

"You should have given the Queen a memento of our country, something that says America - give her Texas."

Paul Daniels• Magician Paul Daniels explains in his blog why he charges charities a fee for appearances. He says he's getting his side of the story across as the Daily Mirror is writing a story on him being paid for charity appearances. Daniels says he does it to cover his costs. On one occasion, a charity commitment meant he missed out on another job that was later offered to him, worth £40,000. You could call that an expensive disappearing act.

• Web Monitor is surprised to hear from Showstalker, one of the plethora of Hollywood gossip blogs, that "Mr Methane is really famous in Britain." Mr who? Since Susan Boyle soared through the YouTube viewing figures celebrity bloggers in the US have been following Britain's Got Talent relentlessly. After his performance on the talent show this weekend, Mr Methane is being spread amongst the blogosphere like a bad smell.

Tom Hanks• Tom Hanks has been doing the rounds promoting his new film Angels and Demons. On working with Ewan McGregor, Hanks said to Good Morning America:

"The British school - Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Guildhall Drama school. And the American School - Bosom Buddies and the Oscar Mayer Weiner Movie are going head to head in a battle royale of acting backgrounds."

Paper Monitor

12:47 UK time, Monday, 11 May 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Long-term readers will know the concept of a News Carnival, an event which can happen at any moment but which is unmistakeable. (Previous examples are here, here, here and here.) A News Carnival, in short, is declared whenever there is a story so big and juicy and compelling that one can imagine the relish dripping down the hacks' chins as they cover it. Expensesgate is that.

The Daily Telegraph is, of course, making all the running again with its revelations of Tory MPs' expenses. Normally another newspaper's exclusive rather rains on the carnival, but there is such a wealth of detail revealed it's almost as if there is enough to go round. Minute details of expenditure, even down to the pennies, plus brands, personal items, items mistakenly claimed for, pleading letters, excuses - this story has got it all.

Others (Mr Robinson, no doubt) will be better qualified to ponder the long-term impact of the story. Paper Monitor is just enjoying the ride.

But its sympathies are extended to the night editors of all papers except the Daily Telegraph. Mostly night editing is a fairly unremarkable job - making sure everything goes smoothly while watching for breaking news stories overseas and keeping one eye on newsstand rivals to see if they've got anything you haven't, which can be included in later editions.

At the moment you can substitute "newsstand rivals" simply for the Daily Telegraph. Picture if you can those night editors yanking the Telegraph first edition out of the delivery boy's hand and furiously rifling through it for the newest lot of angles.

It's not clear how the Telegraph came to possess the dossier but it's rumoured that other national newspapers turned down the documents because the price was too high, so in these cash-strapped times they may consider catch-up the most cost-effective policy.

As the focus shifts to the Conservatives, the Sun and Mirror pick up the juicy highlights but do not credit the Telegraph as the source, despite appearing to "lift" details directly from their rival.

The Sun refers to "leaked documents" and the Mirror even reprints photocopies of receipts, as if they were in their own possession.

The Times DOES mention the Telegraph. But it also omits to say that Michael Gove, one of the Tories in the spotlight, is a columnist and former assistant editor.

Eleven pages past the latest revelations, Mr Gove writes in his column that "the prospect of redemption hovers over the horizon" - although the guilt to which he refers is having so many phone chargers, not "flipping" homes, which he denies.

The Guardian revels in the Conservative discomfort and gives the Telegraph full credit for the story on its front page, although inside it also reports that the Telegraph had to backtrack on its accusations directed at Gordon Brown over his cleaner, having not adequately set out the prime minister's response to the allegations.

The Express can be forgiven for playing it all very low-key. After all, it has good reason to be smug, having told the country about Jacqui Smith's adult movies and bath plug back in March.

The Telegraph is enjoying setting the pace, with 10 pages including photographs of homes and maps to show the proximity of homes.

Its front page also highlights the importance of picture selection in setting a tone.

The sub-editors at the Daily Telegraph must have taken some time to go through their vast picture archive of MPs, to find the smattering of smirks on the faces of the six Conservatives featured on its front page.

Newspapers have hundreds of headshots of MPs, but in this case, all faces that suggested solemnity or contrition had no chance of being published.

Monday's Quote of the Day

10:30 UK time, Monday, 11 May 2009

"Most of the ceilings have Artex coverings. Three-dimensional swirls. It could be a matter of taste, but this counts as 'dilapidations' in my book!" - Labour minister Kitty Ussher's expenses claim

Ms Ussher's submission to the Commons fees office, for works on her London home, is one of many from MPs is the current parliamentary expenses scandal.
More details (the Daily Telegraph)

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