BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for September 13, 2009 - September 19, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

16:35 UK time, Friday, 18 September 2009

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

1. The Da Vinci Code and Dan Brown's three previous books are the UK's top four bestselling adult paperback novels of all time.
More details (the Times)

2. If you buy an item worth more than £100 with a credit card and it breaks because of a fault, the credit card provider is liable.
More details

3. In Freemasonry, there is a death ritual in which a mock murder is performed.
More details

4. A typical human has enough body fat to sustain about 40 marathons.
More details

5. Tyrannosaurus Rex developed from a near-identical but much smaller predecessor.
More details

6. Sportswear firms Adidas and Puma have had a 60-year feud.
More details

7. Monkeys suffer colour blindness.
More details

8. Pregnancy may help athletes to be more flexible.
More details

9. All British industrial action ballots must be by post, except for workers at sea.
More details

10. Vera Lynn had three songs in the first ever Top 12 in 1952, when Britain first introduced official sales charts.
More details (the Times)

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Fiona May, for this photo of 10 pelican foot shells on an Irish beach.

Your Letters

15:40 UK time, Friday, 18 September 2009

I need to complain about 7 days 7 questions. I was severely disadvantaged being a man. I have no idea what a Mary-Jane is, or a kitten heel, or how a kitten heel differs from a non-kitten heel.
Basil Long, Nottingham

Paper Monitor, surely you forgot to mention that according to Tammy, in 1971 it was perfect fine for adult men to slap little girls across the face?
AJ, London Town

Maybe because I just finished reading the romance on the line article beforehand, but Paper Monitor really tugged a heartstring today. Or maybe I just need some lunch.
Bas, London

I thought today was Friday but looking at the front page of the Daily Express you could be forgiven for thinking its Monday.
Dec, Belfast
Monitor note: Ah yes, a traditional Diana headline.

I never knew that hosting a private party was worthy of an in-depth feature on the BBC. Perhaps I should have invited a reporter to my four-year-old's birthday? As you've obviously missed out on the social gathering of the year, perhaps I could help you save face and forward you some photos from his aunties for your next article.
Rob Armstrong, Hartlepool
Monitor note: Only if it comes with a slice of cake in a napkin and a goodie bag.

This looks like a lady robot made out of tinfoil by nine-year-old boys.
Phil, Guisborough

Richard Kent (Thursday letters), to be further pedantic, surely Robert Pershing Wadlow was actually the world's tallest accurately-measured-confirmed-and-documented man. Maybe there was someone way back who beat him but no-one felt it necessary to do anything other than say, "You're very tall, aren't you?"
Steve Hill, Milwaukee, WI, US

The 100th caption competition? There's been a caption comp on the BBC site going way back. But if you start with when it first came into the Magazine section, that was in July 2003 - see the note at the bottom. It then moved into the Magazine Monitor in August 2004. Allowing for gaps occurring because of Christmas breaks etc, the 2005 election and the competition hiatus, I make it 265 caption competitions. I will now fetch my satchel and winter waterproof outer garment with fur lined hood.
Norfolk Once, Norwich, UK
Monitor note: Yes, it's 100 since the competition transferred to its swish blog format, which handily notes the number of each week's competition . Anyway, it's an excuse for cake.

So now that I know what the term "jammie dodger" refers to, could someone explain where the "dodger" part comes in? I get that they have jam in them, but I'm mystified by the second word. (I can't even recall what we call this type of cookie in the US so it must be terribly boring...)
Nadja, generally Boston, US, but currently Elsewhere

Caption Competition

13:17 UK time, Friday, 18 September 2009


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week, Dr Paul Morris demonstrates the distinctive moves often used by footballers who fake a fall during a match.

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a double helping of kudos - to mark the 100th caption comp - to the following:

6. LaurenceLane
To save you from having to read the book, photos reveal that Dan Brown eventually found that the Lost Symbol was an "L".

5. Magnum Carter
Have YOU had an accident that wasn't your fault? Give us your house and we'll leave you with your mattress.

4. eltelsopwith
Pleading for a loan has never been easier, say banks.

3. SimonRooke
And here we see the Batley Townswomen's Guild re-enactment of the Fall of Lehman Brothers.

2. ZingyZangyZongy
Rivaldo just couldn't decide which to choose for his passport photograph.

1. Dodie_James
"Brace yourself Maureen..."

Paper Monitor

11:41 UK time, Friday, 18 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the daily press.

It's taken steely determination in Monitor Towers not thus far to have mentioned the rather splendid collection of comics which the Guardian has been inserting into its pages this week. (You may even remember our series on readers' favourite comics.)

We've had a Jackie, Beano, a Dandy, a Roy of the Rovers, a Bunty, and a Tammy. But today's is - to your reviewer's taste - the cream of the crop: Whizzer and Chips.

For a moment one will refrain from considering how much this enterprise must have cost GNM (the company which publishes the Guardian, the Observer, and, especially when it's been considering how it can afford to continue publishing the Observer while losing £36m a year.

For anyone who loves newspapers, it's obviously good news the Observer will continue to be published - but this week's lavish promotion has been a reminder of just how sad it is that this country's rich comic heritage is so denuded, with pretty much just the Beano left standing.

Paper Monitor has long thought that one of the reasons the British public consumes newspapers in such number must be that they got into the habit when they were comic-reading children. Today's 10-year-olds do not have the same choices previous generations did, though it's interesting that pre-school children are increasingly well-catered for, with an ever-growing array of magazines to choose from. And, just like mummy or daddy's newspaper, the free gifts are usually where the action is at.

So what can one tell about bygone ages from this week's comic collection?

  • From Whizzer and Chips we see that in 1978 it was acceptable for naughty children to get spanked by strangers.
  • From Roy of the Rovers, we see that in 1981 celebs like Eric and Ernie wished Roy Race get well soon after he had been shot.
  • From Bunty for Girls, we see that in 1972 the kinds of dangers girls walking alone in the countryside needed to be warned of were wasps' nests, eagles, thunderclouds, wild cats, bot flies, weasels, hogweed, thistles, vipers, deadly nightshade, nettles, Marram grass, ants, crabs, jellyfish and swans.
  • From the Beano, we learn that product placement was OK in 1980 - the Bash Street Kids features a watch which readers could then enter a competition to win. It was a Timex.
  • From Jackie, it seems that in 1975, periods and feminine hygiene was big news. Also you could buy a powder to puff into your hair and then brush out, to "clean away grease, dirty and dandruff" and "[n]ot a hair of your set need be spoiled!".

And finally, a pause to mark the passing of a local evening paper, given away free to commuters in a certain metropolitan area. Just remember, newspaper lovers. Every time someone says "why should I care, I don't live in ______", there is a little local paper somewhere that falls down dead.

Weekly Bonus Question

11:06 UK time, Friday, 18 September 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 BOX IN THIS ENTRY. And since nobody likes a smart alec, kudos will be deducted for predictability in your suggestions.

This week's answer is IT HAD ONE MUSHROOM. But what's the question?

UPDATE 1710 BST: The correct answer is, how was hospital food blogger Traction Man's braised beef in a mushroom sauce? More details

Of your wilfully wrong suggestions, we liked:

  • WX1294's How could you tell the cheese was off before sell-by dates were introduced?
  • rogueslr's Why was the last Glastonbury Mushroom Festival such a failure?
  • TooSensible's Why was my 10 things picture submission rejected this week?
  • And LaurenceLane's At what point did I feel it wise to visit the doctor about this growth?

Friday's Quote of the Day

08:27 UK time, Friday, 18 September 2009

"His basic ignorance about the way people behave is astonishing, talking in utterly implausible ways to one another" - Philip Pullman sticks it to co-author Dan Brown.

His book is selling like incredibly warm, baked goods but it's open season on Dan Brown anyway. Pullman is rather unsettled by Brown's much-mocked style.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Web Monitor

17:15 UK time, Thursday, 17 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today, Web Monitor asks:
1. What to eat if you want to be posh
2. How Kanye West made undermining winners cool, and
3. When can drunkenness be blamed in nationality?

Share your favourite bits of the web by sending your links via the letter box.

Kanye West and Taylor Swift• Rapper Kanye West has already been called a Jackass by President Obama, as broadcast on TMZ's website. But now his interruption of country music singer Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV awards, has sparked an internet viral.

The Daily Mail, Entertainment Wise and Urlesque have brought together some Photoshopped historic situations in which West has been retrospectively placed, to utter by now immortal words: "I'm really happy for you, I'm gonna let you finish but..."

Neil Armstrong landing on the Moon, Usain Bolt winning the Beijing 100m, the Hindenberg exploding - all these historic events are re-imagined with West butting in.

Cup cakesWeb Monitor has documented already Pimp My Snack's attempt to make the humble Jammy Dodger more street. Now Edible Geography is asking what do cakes mean for the street? Not the 50 Cent and Eminem street, but the kind of street town planners talk about.

According to Nicola at Edible Geography, the type of snacks sold in a location can be a bellwether of that area's fortunes.

She cites Dr Kathe Newman's theory that cupcake shops can provide a more accurate and timely guide to the frontiers of urban gentrification than traditional demographic and real estate data sets.

Newman is working on a collaborative Google map pinpointing the rise of cupcake shops across New York. Newman tells Cake Spy it was partly a way to get her students interested:

"I want my students to go to cities and learn about urban change. I thought if there were cupcakes involved they would most certainly go."

Nicola from Edible Geography concludes that maybe local authorities should be putting their regeneration funds into posh shops:

"Who is to say that cupcake gentrification might not function as cause, as well as effect? Could urban planners 'seed' depressed areas with gourmet delis and boutique coffeeshops?"

She goes so far as to say her theory is supported by ex-basketball start Magic Johnson, who pledged to put up 50% of the funding needed to place Starbucks coffee shops in underserved areas.

• Finally, while Scotland is trying to improve its image in the US after the furore over the release of the Lockerbie bomber, it won't be thanking Scottish-American TV host Craig Ferguson for his recent comments in USA Today.

"USA TODAY: After you dropped out of school at 16, you were a drummer in a punk rock band. What was that like?
FERGUSON: It was a wild time. It involved a lot of drinking and fighting, but I'm not sure if I was being a punk rocker or just Scottish."

Your Letters

17:13 UK time, Thursday, 17 September 2009

If "The sauce is a ... watery-looking colour...", is it blue?
Paul Greggor, London

Re Thursday's Caption Comp, is it just me or are the photos out of order? Should the fifth photo in the sequence not have been third?
Dec, Belfast

Re The world's tallest man story. No, he's the world's tallest living man. Robert Pershing Wadlow still holds the record for the world's tallest man.
Richard Kent, Sheffield, UK

Wow, Brown really has been busy recently. "Brown book breaks record in hours", "Brown starts community order", "Brown Lotto trick 'confuses' fans". Not many countries can say that their PM is a psychic, record-breaking author, bad-boy rapper. Luckily we can't either.
The Bob, Glasgow

With the debutantes' season making a comeback, will that mean Drunk Girl will be replaced by debutante with champers bottle curtseying to the butler?
Tim McMahon, pennar/wales

I have to admit that the passing of Troy Kennedy Martin this week, totally unnoticed by the BBC, seems a shame. As the writing genius behind Z-Cars, Edge of Darkness, Reilly: Ace of Spies, The Sweeney and the timeless film The Italian Job, he was an icon amongst British screenwriters. I feel at least this body of work should have merited a cursory obituary, if not a re-run of Edge of Darkness on TV as a tribute to this man's great work.
Philip Meehan, Sussex, UK (Sent 1943 BST, 16 September 2009)

Posted 17 September, 1512 BST:
Z-Cars writer Martin dies aged 77

It appears nominative determinism is much more entertaining in print than in person. While passing through immigration recently at Detroit airport, I was fingerprinted by a woman named Fingerman. Readers can rest assured that the US Federal Government has no sense of humor and is not, apparently, a Magazine reader.
Jill B, Detroit

Paper Monitor

13:01 UK time, Thursday, 17 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Are some stories just too complex to relate?

The Middle East conflict, with its decades of twists and turns, claims and counter-claims; the seemingly opaque machinations of the Watergate scandal; Ulrika's love life - they may have tested the mettle of the finest journalistic minds, but they haven't defeated them.

Indeed, the competent hack takes pride in his/her ability to take a gluey web of complex information and untangle it into a single silk thread of prose as straight and undeviating as the Eyre highway.

But then came the story, in today's Guardian, of the Toronto International Film Festival spat. A row at a festival called Tiff? Well, yes, although the Guardian seems to overlook this gift of a pun, preferring to plunge headfirst into a thicket of events that makes the Borneo rainforest look like the Atacama desert.

As far as Paper Monitor can make out, the story seems to be that actor/political activist Jane Fonda, veteran protester against America's war in Vietnam and Iraq, has refused to sign an open letter protesting against Tiff's decision to spotlight the artistic achievements of the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, thereby refusing to join the likes of Ken Loach, Julie Christie and Harry Belafonte, who are backing the protest.

Instead, Fonda has put her name to a protest against the protest - thereby joining the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Natalie Portman and Jerry Seinfeld, who, in their creative wisdom, also chose the medium of an "open letter" to express their displeasure at those who had expressed displeasure.

That's not to say the anti-protest protesters wholeheartedly support the Israeli state, you understand. Rather, they support Tiff's decision, believing it is an endorsement of Tel Aviv as a creative and cosmopolitan city.

No wonder most of the press have decided not to touch the tale, preferring, as Metro does, to simply test claims that Heinz's new German baked beans don't match up to their (iconic?) British counterparts?

The verdict, from Metro's tester-in-chief Susana Vega (yes, you read it right): "The sauce is a lot more watery and is a much paler, watery-looking colour..."

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:31 UK time, Thursday, 17 September 2009

"At home they use my height to change the light bulbs and hang the curtains" - World's tallest man Sultan Kosen

There are downsides to being the world's tallest man. Fitting in cars is one thing. But there's a silver lining.
More details

Web Monitor

16:55 UK time, Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Web Monitor finds an unlikely style icon, unlikelier wrestling fan and the most unlikely technophobe. Share your favourite bits of the internet by sending a link via the letters box.

Colonel Gaddafi• Colonel Gaddafi has been popping around the news headlines of late, and so has the New York Fashion week. Vanity Fair has put these together and come up with Dictator Chic. In Colonel Gaddafi - A Life in Fashion, the magazine admires how his style has become more unusual over time:

"Early Gaddafi, in the elegantly tailored tunic of a military butcher, before he learned the fine art of accessorizing with maps of Africa and photos of dead people."

• The former chief of staff to Senator John McCain, Mark Salter, says manners seem to have been forgotten in US politics recently and considers a dramatic career change to wrestling. McCain Tweeted Salter's article in America Speak on and reposted on Real Clear Politics was a must read:

"I despair of the coarsening of our politics and our broader culture. So much so that after a lifetime in politics I'm beginning to think I might have rendered more honorable service to humanity had I worked in professional wrestling."

• Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, revealed at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit that he could have averted the financial crisis if only he would have known how to access his voicemail. Karen Tumulty from Time magazine's Swampland blog explains that Barclays Capital wanted to use Buffet's money to bail out Lehman Brothers. But Buffet didn't know the details because they had been left in a message on his voicemail:

Warren Buffett not on the phone

"It was all too complicated for Buffett to take in, in a quick phone call, so he asked Diamond [Bob Diamond, the head of Barclays Capital] to fax him the details. Buffett got back to his hotel room around midnight and was surprised to find... nothing. Lehman went under, and within days, the world was in a full-blown financial crisis.

Fast forward 10 months. Buffett, who admits he never has really learned the basics of his cell phone, asked his daughter Susan about a little indicator he had noticed on the screen: 'Can you figure out what's on there?' It turned out to be the message from Diamond that he had been waiting for that night... I caught up with Buffett afterward, and asked him whether, in retrospect, he might have gone for the deal. He pulled the simple little Samsung phone out of his pocket and pondered it for a moment. It's entirely possible, he suggested. 'I don't know.'"

Your Letters

16:47 UK time, Wednesday, 16 September 2009

With regard to this article, it has long been suggested in horse racing that racing a mare whilst in foal can show a marked improvement in her performance. I will point out that mares in foal are forbidden from running after they pass 120 days of pregnancy (gestation period is normally about 340 days).
Some people say it is the additional hormones that improve performance and others that her protective instinct prompts her to run faster. Who knows?
Cheryl, Newmarket, UK

Having just read the article about a cat that walked from Penicuik to Plymouth finding its own food and shelter along the way and without a map, I'm feeling a bit less impressed by Maxim Laithwaite's feat.
Alastair, London

Rob Falconer (Tuesday letters) should be more cunning. It would be much better to build a 25ft wall with a trench on the other side. Then, the robot can jump in but not out, so you can capture it and learn how to build your own.
David Richerby, Leeds, UK

I find it ironic that Web Monitor chose to display one of the purple thelondonpaper distributors as an example of something that was traditionally charged for being given out for free.
Rafael, Cambridge, UK

Richard Smallbone. Really?
Graham, Frome

Re this story and the ongoing saga of inverted commas in headlines. Does this mean that any pun must now be enclosed in said inverted commas?
PB, London

Paper Monitor

13:13 UK time, Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The untimely deaths of two celebrities, announced on Tuesday, make for some telling insights into various papers' priorities.

Broad(sheet)ly speaking, Patrick Swayze comes second to Keith Floyd in the "quality" press. The Sun, meanwhile, simply lumps the two together with "They had the time of their lives".

There's no shortage of people waiting in the wings to pay tribute to Floyd. But as an irascible character, it proves impossible for many of the papers to obey the first law of journalistic taste and decency - never speak ill of the recently deceased. In the Guardian, restaurant critic Jay Rayner recalls that a recent Channel 4 programme about Floyd was "all but unwatchable". "The Floyd we knew... was long gone. It was awful, sad and inevitable."

In the Daily Telegraph, the chef's producer, David Pritchard, recounts a "love-hate" relationship which became more "hate-hate". It was Pritchard that brought Floyd to the nation's attention, discovering him in his restaurant in Bristol in the early 1980s. How does Paper Monitor know this? Because it's been devouring this week's serialisation of Floyd's autobiography in the Daily Mail... which means the death must have raised a few eyebrows in the Mail newsroom when it was announced. So how does it handle this handbrake turn of events?

Effortlessly, in fact. Simply alter the tenses of a few verbs and away you go. The Mail also drafts in celeb chef Marco Pierre White to pay tribute, although Paper Monitor is somewhat bemused by his fond reminiscence that "unlike some of today's chefs, when he was on television he never shouted or swore". And those foul-mouth TV chefs of today to which you refer, are who exactly? (MPW also contributes to the Sun's coverage, though there's no explanation as to why he is pictured in a Yasser Arafat-style headscarf.)

The Independent drafts in another chef, Mark Hix, for a comment piece. And it was in one of Hix's restaurants that Floyd enjoyed his last ever meal - a feast which the Times recounts in rich detail - although Hix is compromised a little by the revelation that Hix's eaterie messed up the order, presenting Floyd with red-legged partridge and bread sauce for his main course, instead of the grouse that he had actually selected.

The piece also recounts his drinks bill from the meal - a Hix Fix cocktail, complete with morello cherry soaked in Somerset apple eau de vie and topped up with champagne, a glass of white burgundy and a shared bottle of Cotes du Rhone, only, a few paragraphs further in, to relate how Floyd was "not drinking a lot" these days. In fact "he had really given up drink".

Well, relatively, perhaps.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:41 UK time, Wednesday, 16 September 2009

"I am a bit of a drip when it comes to crying and even drizzle when somebody is evicted from The X Factor" - MP Mark Oaten reveals the truth in his new book.

We've all felt emotional about reality television. But maybe not quite like this.
More details (The Independent)

Web Monitor

16:23 UK time, Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Web Monitor asks what celebrities do when high on drugs and what prolific theology theorist Dan Brown's own religious views are. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending your links via the letter box to the right of this page.

Whitney Houston and Oprah Winfrey• In what talk show host Oprah Winfrey's website calls "history making", pop star Whitney Houston appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in a revealing interview. Oprah asked in detail about Houston's notoriously tempestuous marriage to her ex-husband and R'n'B artist Bobby Brown:

"He [Bobby Brown] started to paint in my bedroom eyes. Just eyes. Evil Eyes that were looking at every point of the room ...The rugs. The walls. The closet doors. If I opened the door, there would be one picture. And eyes and faces. It was really strange..."

And Houston, who is widely reported to have had a drug addiction, admitted to a surprising past-time whilst high:

"I would still read my bible amazingly enough."

Dan Brown• The unveiling of Dan Brown's book The Lost Symbol has been closely followed by a release of his opinions on religion and science. In his interview with James Kaplan, for Parade magazine, he reveals he is sceptical about both:

"I was raised Episcopalian, and I was very religious as a kid. Then, in eighth or ninth grade, I studied astronomy, cosmology, and the origins of the universe. I remember saying to a minister, 'I don't get it. I read a book that said there was an explosion known as the Big Bang, but here it says God created heaven and Earth and the animals in seven days. Which is right?' Unfortunately, the response I got was, "Nice boys don't ask that question.' A light went off, and I said, 'The Bible doesn't make sense. Science makes much more sense to me.' And I just gravitated away from religion ...The irony is that I've really come full circle. The more science I studied, the more I saw that physics becomes metaphysics and numbers become imaginary numbers. The farther you go into science, the mushier the ground gets. You start to say, 'Oh, there is an order and a spiritual aspect to science.'"

free newspaper distributorWeb Monitor has been tracking the on-going online debate about whether, in future, we will discard money, trading instead in time and recommendations.

According to the theory's arch protagonist, Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine and author of the book Free, everything will become free. Standing four-square against Anderson is the Zeitgeist author Malcolm Gladwell, who says it's all impossible. As reported in the Magazine, it might seem the movement has been thrust into reverse of late, with the Murdoch media empire planning to charge for its online news websites like and

Now, CBS News blog writers Frédéric Filloux and Jean-Louis Gassée, have waded in, claiming that the main problem with the idea of a money-free economy is it depends on imaginary advertising revenues to cover costs:

"The fact is that advertising doesn't work as expected for news web sites. Everywhere in the world, volumes dropped (that's the recession part). But more worrisome, prices dropped as well with a 'ratchet effect' that will make it difficult for prices to return to the pre-crisis level."

Your Letters

14:19 UK time, Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Is it really a good idea for the Americans to announce they have created a spy robot that can jump fences over 25 feet high? All the enemy has to do now is to make all its walls just that little bit higher.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

BBC, did you really have to illustrate that article on changing language with the photograph of that *nasty* creepy-crawly object? Some of us here are arachnophobes, you know.
Danie Jones, Cambridge, England

Re this story: Professor Norman Pace? Are you serious?! Good to see him back in the public eye after languishing in obscurity for so long.
Robert Phillips, Auckland, NZ (formerly Cardiff, UK)

On the subject of green BBQs. Charcoal is carbon neutral as all the CO2 you are releasing was only recently taken out of the atmosphere by the trees used to produce the charcoal in the first place. The CO2 released when burning gas was removed millions of years ago.
Mark Young, Derby

I am slightly unsure what exactly the £5.25 swine flu payment to GPs is for. Do they incur an overtime payment, require a sales incentive or an insurance risk compensation due to the increased risk of contracting the virus.
Vanessa, London

Can I remind readers that if they like their Christmas Day sprouts well done, they need to get them on to boil by tomorrow?
Leif, Aylesbury, UK

Paper Monitor

11:00 UK time, Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There are some editorial decisions that prompt great soul searching among the journalistic fraternity.

Usually they centre on variations of the question: What is in the public interest?

Is it in the public interest to show a picture of a dying man? Is it in the public interest to report on the private life of a politician's family?

So with all these difficult questions, journalists love it when they get an easier question. In this case: What shall we do with this court case of a "society beauty" accused of getting drunk and cavorting with a man on an airliner?

And the answer of course is: We shall put it on the front page.

The Daily Mirror go rather big with the headline "MILE HIGH JINKS". They also report with relish that the defendant "stripped to her knickers and let her toddler son run around without a nappy".

And the Daily Telegraph? If you were editor, where would you put the picture of the comely defendant? The picture dominates the front page of course. It's a whopping 12x5 inches.

But the best picture is inside in the Daily Mirror and it's not of the "society beauty" defendant. It's of a sunglasses-wearing pilot and four uniformed hostesses from Kingfisher Airlines - upon whose craft the alleged incident took place - arriving at court in what looks like a wonderful pastiche of Virgin Atlantic's recent anniversary advert.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

08:15 UK time, Tuesday, 15 September 2009

"I was really excited because Kanye West was on the stage. And then I wasn't so excited anymore after that" - Country star Taylor Swift, rudely interrupted during her MTV Awards acceptance speech.

The musician stormed the stage to tell the audience Beyonce should have won the best female video prize instead of Taylor. A gesture for which he was roundly booed.
More details

Your Letters

16:03 UK time, Monday, 14 September 2009

I don't feel that people take enough advantage of the BBC's policy to pronounce their names in the way that they wish. Gordon Brown should announce one morning that he'd like his name to be pronounced "Persephone von Quetzalcoatl" and watch the newsreaders struggle.
Edward Green, London, UK

You could pronounce Coetzee as follow: The first part (COET) could be pronounced as the "cou" in uncouth sound , and the second part (ZEE) as the "se" part in serious, without pronouncing the R. Alternatively consider it is as "cou" l "d se" rious, pronouncing only that what is between the double apostrophes.
Pieter, Cobham

Re Swearing rap for Jeremy Kyle show: Was anyone else expecting some rhythmic profanities?
Rob, Worcester, UK

I know this isn't strictly a Magazine issue, bit isn't haddock a salt water fish (quote of the day)?
Janet, Winterbourne Stoke

My goodness, an illusionist played a trick on his audience? Surely not.
David Wilson, Coventry, UK

On the inverted comma war (Friday letters), I can accept the one in Bermuda Triangle plane mystery 'solved' as the article provides no solution whatsoever, merely supposition about a possible solution.
Ian, Redditch

Why are there adverts on the BBC News site now? Also it was quite a struggle finding the magazine (and the letter page). What is going on?
K Morrison, Rochester, UK
Monitor note: It would appear that you have somehow ended up with the international edition.

Aargh! Chemistry did not have the "most GCSE passes this year" (10 things). It had the highest A*-C pass percentage, which is not the same thing at all.
Joanne, Bracknell, UK

I fall into the Venn diagram section of:

  • watches Peep Show repeats
  • reads the Daily Mail on a Saturday because its telly pages are best
  • reads the independent when my student budget stretches to it
  • reads Paper Monitor
  • reads PM a day too late to reply to the original question

If I have any subset-mates, please let me know.
Louise, Surrey

Re the *BOB* v !BOB! discussion (Friday letters). I'm with the * brigade when it comes to emphasising words, but for singing I must admit I do like the Monitor's choice of ! which is also known as a shriek.
Ed, Clacton, UK

Web Monitor

14:50 UK time, Monday, 14 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Web Monitor finds out why talking about yourself shows a lack of creativity, rugby is difficult for dyslexics and eating mackerel is relatively good for the environment.

Chris Evans• Chris Evans has revealed he is not self-obsessed. When he talks about himself it is simply because he hasn't got anything else to say. Excerpts of Chris Evans' biography are printed in the Daily Mail:

"The lack of ideas on the show meant that I had begun to become more self-indulgent on the air, all I ended up talking about mostly was myself... One morning I went almost an hour without playing a single song, thinking that what I had to say was far too important and interesting to be interrupted by something so trivial as music. In short, I had lost all perspective."

Kenny Logan• Professional Rugby isn't the first job you'd think a dyslexic would have problems doing. But Kenny Logan insists in the Scotsman that he could have been a better player had he not had dyslexia:

"It was always a big target, so I don't think the dyslexia or what I went through in my personal life somehow gave me the drive to play for Scotland. But I do feel I could have been better at it. I wanted to win with Scotland more than anyone. But when I was with Scotland, we'd have lots of team meetings, and instructions handed out, and I was deliberately turning up to meetings late, hiding in the toilet... Anything where I thought we'd maybe have to read instructions or write something I'd find ways to avoid."

SausagesKiera Butler in the Mother Jones blog ponders a big environmental question in her own back yard. Should she cook her barbecue on charcoal or gas:

"So here's my advice: char if you must (and you can pick a low-smoke charcoal like one made from coconut shells), but whatever kind of grill you choose, consider this rule of thumb: In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, one burger is the same as three pork chops, six pieces of chicken, two salmon steaks, or 21 pieces of mackerel.
The bottom line: You don't have to go cold turkey on charcoal if you're willing to mix up your meat."

Paper Monitor

12:25 UK time, Monday, 14 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Here's a conundrum that taxed Paper Monitor's brain on the train into work today.

Picture this: your job involves biscuits. Biscuits, and deciding if peat or iodine should come first on the tasting notes for a single-malt whisky.

And then one day, a customer demands an explanation of the thinking behind a complex decision made in a government building many hundreds - nay, thousands - of miles from the shop in which you work and the city in which you live.

How do you answer - not just for you, but for a whole country? (This conundrum may be familiar to Americans abroad during the invasion of Iraq.)

What brought this thought about was the Times' report on Harris Tweed makers soft-pedalling the whole Scottish connection vis-à-vis any backlash over the Lockerbie bomber. For it included this line:

"William Glen & Son, which sells whisky, kilts and shortbread, said that Americans had visited its store in San Francisco to ask for an explanation of the al-Megrahi decision."

Paper Monitor is none too sure how it would respond. And this is partly because one is a little distracted by the idea of working so closely with biscuits.

Meanwhile, Big Suze off Peep Show has tied the knot, after lavish pre-wedding coverage from the Dailies Mail and Express, much of it because of her new in-laws.

To wit, the Mail's headline:

"Pushy steals the show - Royal bride in discount dress is outshone by her mother-in-law"

To the uninitiated, Pushy is tabloid shorthand for Princess Michael of Kent, a woman the Mail in particular loves to hate.

Note the use of the word "discount", to denote not a Primark number, but a mate's deal on a £5,000 dress "made from more than 80ft of silk duchesse satin and 36ft of silk taffeta".

Those who partook of the Magazine's baby names quiz last week may be interested to note the names of her six bridesmaids, all the daughters of friends: two Matildas, an Eloise, an Iris, one Tatiana, and an India.

Matilda, by the way, is the 48th most popular name for baby girls. While Iris, India et al didn't make the top 100, Paper Monitor is willing to bet two shortbread biscuits that there are neighbourhoods in which one cannot throw a pony crop for fear of hitting a Tatiana or an Eloise.

How to Say: JM Coetzee and other Booker authors

10:49 UK time, Monday, 14 September 2009

An occasional guide to the words and names in the news from Catherine Sangster of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

The shortlist for the 2009 Man Booker Prize has been announced, and, as always, there are some names which raise pronunciation questions for broadcasters. These are usually easy for the Pronunciation Unit to resolve by contacting agents, publishers or, where possible, the authors themselves.

This year, the list includes Hilary Mantel (pronounced man-TELL), Simon Mawer (maw), Adam Foulds (fohldz), and AS Byatt (BIGH-uht).

But the trickiest name is probably that of South African author JM Coetzee. The first syllable is pronounced kuut (uu as in book); debate rages about the pronunciation of the "ee" at the end. Many South Africans, whether Afrikaans speakers or not, pronounce this as a diphthong EE-uh, as in the word "idea".

Indeed, kuut-SEE-uh was the Unit's original recommendation in the early 1980s, based on the advice of the South African Broadcasting Corporation and his London publisher, Secker and Warburg. However, that vowel can also be pronounced as a monophthong (kuut-SEE), especially by those from the south of the country, and this is the pronunciation that the author uses and prefers the BBC to use too.

We have a letter from JM Coetzee himself in our files, written in response to our query, making this very clear and, as our policy is always to say people's names in the way that they wish, that is what we have recommended ever since.

Monday's Quote of the Day

10:20 UK time, Monday, 14 September 2009

"We are dependent on the museum to tell us whether any carcass that may emerge from the loch is a haddock, or a previously unknown creature from the deep" - bookmaker William Hill on its Nessie deal with Natural History Museum.

Presumably, it shouldn't be too hard to tell the difference. For more than 20 years, William Hill has been paying the museum a retainer to showcase Nessie's remains in return for verifying her existence. Documents recoding the 1987 deal - worth £1,000 a year - have been released.
More details (Daily Mail)

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