BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for September 20, 2009 - September 26, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

17:22 UK time, Friday, 25 September 2009

elephant_seals226.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Banana skins can take two years to biodegrade.
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2. The longest speech at the United Nations lasted almost eight hours.
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3. Brazil always speaks first at the UN General Assembly, according to long-standing protocol, and is followed by the host country.
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4. Jay-Z has Barack Obama's mobile phone number.
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5. Swine flu gel can get you drunk.
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6. British heroin comes from Hampshire.
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7. Michael Gambon, star of the Harry Potter films, has never read any of the books.
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8. The only woman ever in the French Foreign Legion is British.
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9. Ceefax was created by accident.
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10. Fifteen Billy bookcases are made every minute.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Katie McDowell for this week's picture of 10 elephant seals near San Simeon in California.

Your Letters

16:25 UK time, Friday, 25 September 2009

Regarding the Barbie live action movie story, I wonder if they intend to find an authentic actress with the quoted vital statistics: 5ft 9in, 36" bust, 18" waist, 33" hips?
Cheryl, Newmarket, UK

"The dead keep returning, and I'm not getting any younger"? Little did we realise that zombie invasion was such a pressing threat. Someone new must clearly be trained before Mr Laderman gets too old to hold them back.
Clare, London

Stephen Bayley may appreciate automobiles, (Paper Monitor), but most of us saw Grace Kelly drive a Sunbeam-Talbot Alpine Sports Mk I roadster in To Catch a Thief, not a Lancia.
Alix, Dorset, UK

I've just had the pest control people leave some mouse traps in my office. They left me some documentation of the poison in the traps that had a warning on it in big red letters: "THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS NUTS." Just one question: why?
Adam, London, UK

Further to the reference to the letter about amusing racehorse names, I couldn't believe my ears during the Cheltemham Champion Hurdle last year. The frantic cries of the racing commentator caused me to exclaim: "Surely he can't shout that out on the BBC."
The winning horse's name? Katchit...
Oh dear.
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

We played "Pass the Parcel" at my daughter's birthday,and I was stunned that it had to be explained to 14 little girls (apart from mine, who was already on the third layer). Is it because this is a very English thing,or should we despair of today's generation?
Rachel, Minnetonka

Caption Competition

13:26 UK time, Friday, 25 September 2009


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week, it's Blue Peter setting a world record for "mattress dominoes" after 100 people created a human domino-effect during live filming.

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

6. leenewham
There were no winners in the Han Solo in encased in carbonite lookalike competition.

5. Northern_Simon
Queues. After the health and safety squad.

4. Tableturn
Fearing the giant was coming back for another tasty human snack, the Borrowers hid themselves in a tray of custard creams.

3. FrankGrimesJnr
After just one day on air, critics question the need for Sky Sports 5.

2. gparsons
Rehearsals begin for Alan Clark - The Musical.

1. campaign1
A crowd of hopeful supporters awaits the arrival of Silvio Berlusconi.

Paper Monitor

12:41 UK time, Friday, 25 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Fishing for actual fish can actually be quite difficult. You've got to get the bait right, position yourself in the right bit of the river and show an awful lot of patience.

Fishing for headlines, on the other hand, is rather easy.

You require some publicity for Coronation Street. So you film a sequence of "teen temptress" (copyright, the Daily Mail) Rosie Webster stripping off to reveal basque and stockings. Then you don't show it on TV. Cos it's "censored". But you do show it on the ITV website.

Most of the papers make like naïve fishies and bite. But only the Mail has the chutzpah to run the paragraph: "The storyline will open ITV to fresh accusations it is resorting to the salacious to boost ratings." This line comes under pictures of the "censored" clips.

Remaining on the topic of all things salacious, here's a story of two newspapers and their front pages. One shows a woman posing almost naked but her nipples are obscured. The other shows a naked woman with her nipples uncovered.

So, guess the paper. Well, nipples obscured is the front cover of the Daily Star- a picture of Amanda Holden using a pair of silver shoes to preserve her modesty.

Nipples unobscured is the Independent. There's a valid editorial reason, of course. The picture is not a photograph. It is a painting of Rene Magritte's wife, which has been pilfered from a museum in Brussels.

Still, it did prompt a double-take.

Weekly Bonus Question

10:43 UK time, Friday, 25 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 HYPOCHONDRIAC GRANNIES. But what's the question?

UPDATE 1629 BST: The correct answer is who, according to irate cyclists, are the only ones to welcome new speed bumps in a bike rat-run in Islington? (More details - Times)

Of your wilfully wrong questions, we liked:

  • TheRealCatherineO's Statistically, who are least likely to provide you with an imminent inheritance?
  • GervaseFen's Why has our doctor got so many friends on Facebook?
  • Fi-Glos' Mint imperials, crocheted doilies, a Stannah stair lift and bottle upon bottle of tablets. Well David, who lives in a house like this?
  • ARoseByAnyOther's Usually not featured as the "partner" in Viagra commercials
  • And Candace9839's Fiercest critics of the five second rule?

Friday's Quote of the Day

10:20 UK time, Friday, 25 September 2009

"He'll normally spend an hour with his metal detector out and the remaining four hours talking" - Friend and fellow metal detectorist on man who unearthed priceless Anglo-Saxon hoard.

Of all the enthusiasts out there hunting for hidden treasures, Colin Pearson says he'd never expect his friend Terry Herbert to be the one to hit paydirt quite so spectacularly.
More details (Times)

Your Letters

17:31 UK time, Thursday, 24 September 2009

Re Is there any point to 'frivolous' academic research? Surely someone can obtain the necessary funding to determine why the monkeys "mostly typed the letter S".
Helen, London, Canada

Searching for a formula for the perfect cheese sandwich may sound frivolous to some, but as someone who does serious medical research for my day job, I suspect that the cheese sandwich formula would contribute more to the sum of human happiness than 99% of the stuff that I do.
Adam, London, UK

The headline Papas star 'slept with daughter' is an example of the irritating use of "sleep with" as a euphemism. Could BBC reporters lead the way by not using this phrase? It's inaccurate anyway.
Patrick, Singapore

Strewth, what a coincidence! I was just thinking that Helicopter used in Sweden robbery must surely be the next episode of Wallander, when I find Emma Drake's wholly proper question in Wednesday's letters.
PS According to Beeb's FAQs, the final three are to be shown over Christmas as a special treat.
Neil Franklin, Chandlers Ford, UK

In fairness to Steven Cheek's school (Quote of the Day), I was reprimanded 16 years ago for instigating the playground game "Tommies and Jerries". (This largely involved two sides attacking each other, each loudly insisting that their opponents were the Germans.) I'd just discovered Biggles books at the time, and my teacher failed to appreciate my detailed explanation of such terms as Boche, Hun, Schweinhund, and Fokker.
Edward Green, London, UK

English place names usually have the stress on the second syllable, do they? (K, Wednesday letters) What about London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Ipswich, Norwich, Brighton, Bradford, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Sunderland... oh, I'm bored, now. I'll give you Southampton and Carlisle, though.
David Richerby, Leeds, UK

Isn't it a good thing that the caption moderators don't control the BBC headlines, otherwise we'd never be able to enjoy this report.
Simon Rooke, Nottingham UK

It's not exactly an original joke as there was a racehorse born in the 1993 with the same name. It sounds better if you say it with an Irish accent.
Cheryl, Newmarket, UK

My apologies Sue (Wednesday letters). That sounds more like a hangover than a headache.
Martin Hollywood, Luxembourg

Web Monitor

15:50 UK time, Thursday, 24 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today, Web Monitor considers a popstar who chose Annie Lennox over the Dalai Lama, the Death Guy who chose life, and the philosophising skateboarder. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending a link via the letters box to the right of this page.

Mika• When he was 15, a friend of pop star Mika's mother took him to see the Dalai Lama. But it wasn't a wholly positive experience. Mika tells Neil McCormick at the Daily Telegraph, that he's only interested in enlightement if it's about how to advance his career:

"She thought I might find it illuminating at this impressionable age... but I was completely uninterested, except for one thing, Annie Lennox was there, sitting in the third row. And I went up to her and said, 'Annie, hello, my name is Mika. I know this is a holy Buddhist thing but I really want to make it!' She looked at me, almost upset, and then she went, 'Listen boy, if you have to make it, you won't have a choice. You'll have that burning.' Then she turned around and walked away. I thought, 'well, that's a load of use, it's the worst piece of advice I've ever heard!' But now I get it. She was right. I don't have a choice."

• Why would Entrepreneur magazine talk to a skateboarder, albeit a famous skateboarder - Tony Hawk, but still just a skateboarder? Well, according to Forbes, with estimated earnings of $12m last year, Hawk is the world's highest-paid action sports athlete. And he puts his success down the those transferable skills learnt on the skateboard.

"In my personal success, everything is amazing; every day I have this 'How did I get here?' moment. In terms of skateboarding I'm not surprised, because I always felt like it can have a huge, positive impact on your life. It taught me about self-confidence, about tolerance, about diversity, and I always felt like there was something more there than people were seeing. You know, I'm 41 and I'm still a professional skateboarder - it's just insane!"

• Gary Laderman is chair of religion and professor of American religious history and cultures at Emory University but to US media he is known as the Death Guy. After publishing two books on death, Mr Laderman became an "expert" and was wheeled on to TV whenever a famous person died. Now Mr Laderman has had enough. He announced in Inside Higher Ed about his planned departure:

"I'm sick of being the media's go to guy on death. I want to stop thinking about death. I want to stop writing about death. I want to stop being interviewed about death. But people keep dying, and the dead keep returning, and I'm not getting any younger, and everyone is trying to figure out how best to live with death, especially us aging baby boomers whose religious appetites are no longer fully satiated by traditional religions. Still I have to confess I feel a cringe (tinged with nausea) when I hear someone say 'you're the go-to expert on death rituals'. Not exactly a badge of honor, but it could be worse, right? I could be an expert in, say, Protestant theology, or Reform Judaism. While it's easy to complain about my lot in life, there is no doubt that death has been very good to me and brought me an unexpectedly rich livelihood."

Paper Monitor

10:45 UK time, Thursday, 24 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

How do you report a 96-minute speech within the confines of a humble page of newsprint? With varying degrees of commitment given that the speech in question was given by the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi to the UN General Assembly.

The Daily Telegraph pictures Mr Gaddafi's expansive gesticulations and props - a copy of the UN founding charter, which he literally tore into.

The Times picks out "epic highlights" against a timeline; the best of them being:
"11.55 Jet lag - complains he woke up at 4am 'because it was morning in Libya'."

The Guardian shows the Libyan leader tossing away the UN charter.

For the Mirror, the most arresting picture is of a tent erected by Mr Gaddafi in the back garden of a house he has rented from Donald Trump.

And the Sun? It reduces the 96-minute tirade to a pun - Col Gadafty.

No one attempts an annotated speech type thing - that would probably have to run to a pull-out supplement. Instead, the Times reserves this treatment for Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg's address to his party conference yesterday.

Philip Collins takes Mr Clegg's line "Let me tell you why I want to be prime minister..." head on. "Ashdown used to carry sentences like this. Clegg didn't quite." Ouch!

Lastly, why is Paper Monitor not in the least bit surprised to see the Telegraph tucking into comments by academic Terence Kealey, widely reported yesterday, about undergraduates flaunting their curves in the classroom?

The Telegraph throws three writers on the story - including professional aesthete, and sometime contributor to the Magazine, Stephen Bayley.

Bayley is perhaps best known for his appreciation of cars, so it doesn't take long before he gets into comparing the female form with the, er, automotive form.

"[I]f Madonna were a car, she would be a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado. Mrs Obama would be a Toyota Prius (economical, but smart). Angelina Jolie a Lamborghini... Helen Mirren... a classic Jaguar [and] Mrs Sarkozy the elegant Lancia driven by Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief."

That's Stephen Bayley, who won't be writing for the Guardian woman's page any time soon.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:37 UK time, Thursday, 24 September 2009

"He has a Polish aunt and they were on our side during the war" - Mother of nine-year-old boy reprimanded for using "offensive language" after a game of soldiers at school

When Steven Cheek, 9, pointed his fingers like a gun in the school playgound and said "We've got to shoot the German army" he was reprimanded for using "offensive language". His mother Jane Hennessy says her son had not aimed at a Polish classmate and that he had Polish heritage.
More details (the Daily Telegraph)

Web Monitor

16:28 UK time, Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today, Web Monitor asks if we are seeing the end of the rebellious pop star, why we should save slums instead of knock them down and what on earth the cupcake is doing popping up all over the Middle East.

Lily Allen Jonny Dee in the First Post wonders what ever happened to pop rebellion. To many of Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse might look like a latter day Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, but to Dee such excessive behaviour is "commonplace and accepted."
Green Day songs are punk without the politics. But Dee is most perturbed by Lily Allen, calling her a government lackey because she is supporting an official campaign to crack down on music piracy:

"By backing Lord Mandelson's 'get tough' line, she has shown that, like her father, Keith, she's a pampered luvvie in chav's clothing. When it comes to getting paid, all her pretence of rebellion - the farting around, writing rude songs about sex - goes out of the French windows alongside her latest unsatisfactory, inconsiderate boyfriend."

• It is accepted wisdom that shanty towns, from Mumbai to Rio de Janeiro, are one of most horrendous manifestations of man's urbanisation. But futurologist Stewart Brand begs to differ. Talking to Douglas McGray in Wired magazine, Brand urges governments to save slums as they are hubs of creativity, offer a rural-to-urban transition and are good for the environment, not to mention for gender equality:
"Cities draw people away from subsistence farming, which is ecologically devastating, and they defuse the population bomb. In the villages, women spend their time doing agricultural stuff, for no pay, or having lots and lots of kids. When women move to town, it's better to have fewer kids, bear down, and get them some education, some economic opportunity. Women become important, powerful creatures in the slums. They're often the ones running the community-based organizations, and they're considered the most reliable recipients of microfinance loans."

• Regular readers of Web Monitor will remember it previously mentioning a study charting the spread of cupcake shops across New York. Now Louie Sussman in the New Yorker tells us that the cupcake is taking over the baklawah in the Middle East, with cupcake bakeries opening everywhere from Tel Aviv, Beirut to Dubai.

Where did this cupcake madness start? Neal Ungerleider in True/Slant puts the craze down to one TV show:

"Americans can never understand just how popular Sex and the City was with Israelis, Palestinians and Egyptians. I grew up in New York City and nearly every woman I've spent time here [Beersheva, Israel] with has asked me about that show. Inevitably, they would mention the cupcakes."

Your Letters

15:20 UK time, Wednesday, 23 September 2009

I found the vice-chancellor's comments annoyingly old-fashioned and out of touch (Quote of the Day). However, I think the BBC's report on the Education page illustrated by the standard photo of "couple in bed" showed an equal lack of understanding of the issues raised.
Kay Sanders, Huddersfield, UK

Enjoyed The great rivalries of chess, and thought I'd point out that there are long standing rivalries at all levels of ability. I particularly enjoyed playing against Andy Foulds of Doncaster. From our first match, I knew ours would be a fierce, competitive rivalry, in which the loser would be the subject of unrestricted abuse over post-match beers. It's those Ashes-style relationships that I miss the most now that I've stopped playing. Oh, Andy never managed to beat me in four games.
Steve Mills

This is one of the best interviews I have seen in a very long time, touching not only on music but politics as well. Goes to show, never judge a book by it cover. Sean Carter (Jay-Z) is a very smart person, most would never give him a chance because of what he does - rap.
Deric Bagarozza, Brooklyn, NY

Surely 22 September is Libra, not Virgo (Tuesday's Paper Monitor)? Libra, the only non-animal sign, is the sign of balance and fairness - as in equinox, 50/50 daylight/darkness.
Moggye, Crediton

John Marsh (Tuesday letters), did I miss something or are we still unsure about the sex of Paper Monitor? Thus she could easily be your daughter...
Juliet G, London

If Paper Monitor was one of my kids, then I'd say daughter was most likely.
Andrew Stacey, Trondheim, Norway

Ahh, good to see Wednesday's Paper Monitor still trying to get us to play the "guess the gender game". Shame you let the cat out the bag six months ago.
Steve Bowman, London
Monitor note: What cat? Which bag?

This is fundamentally all about how easy it is to confuse "normal" - meaning "within an acceptable or desirable range" - with "average", meaning "in the middle of the range". And then we read the following sentence: "Australian research recently found half of parents thought their child average weight when in fact they were overweight". Isn't that the point? It is quite likely that most of these children are both average and overweight.
John Marsh, Washington DC, US

Uh oh, Martin Hollywood (Tuesday letters). Can open, worms everywhere...
Shiz, Cheshire, UK

Martin, try the following:
Sit upright in the dark (because it's too painful to put your head on a pillow), weeping gently (this hurts too). Take a tablet with a sip of water, then quickly crawl on all fours, in the dark, to wretch violently into the loo. This bit is unimaginably painful.
Cry a bit more.
Repeat for 24 or even 48 hours, or until the tablets stay down. Want to die throughout most of them. Feel exhausted and fuzzy for the next day or two.
If this is what your headaches are like, Martin, then yes, feel free to call them migraines, and welcome to the club.
Sue, London

Please could somebody tell me where the other half of the Swedish Wallander series showing on BBC4 has gone? It appears that it has been cut off with more than half the series to go, and this is really very annoying.
Emma Drake, Needham Market, Suffolk
Paper Monitor note: One concurs.

It's not just foreign names that are murdered, Scottish ones are too (Tuesday letters). In Scotland there is usually no emphasis, or it is on the first syllable. But in English place names, it usually comes on the second syllable. Football commentary is painful - Falkirk is a particularly frequent example.
K, Scotland

Paper Monitor

14:18 UK time, Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

As the paper first with the Baroness Scotland-illegal housekeeper story, the Daily Mail broke one of the stories of the year. And Paper Monitor will always doff its cap to a good old fashioned scoop. But with the baroness still in her job, the Mail believes its work is not done yet.

Which leads us to the ubiquitous "unanswered questions" box which has come to accompany stories such as this with increasing regularity these days. The only problem is that, well, the Mail has many of the answers already.

"What were Baroness Scotland's obligations as an employer?" asks the Mail, only to swiftly follow up with: "She should have demanded to see documents proving Loloahi Tapui was entitled to work in Britain - carefully examining them and keeping copies."

Maybe Paper Monitor is missing something, but that sounds like a fairly conclusive answer. Next question

"What does the Attorney General say she did?"

Good question. If only Baroness Scotland would provide an answer.

"By her own account she looked at Miss Tapui's documents and was convinced the Tongan was allowed to work in the UK. But she made an 'inadvertent' mistake by failing to take copies."

It's perhaps not the answer the Mail wants to hear, but the words "by her own account" rather compromise the notion this is an "unanswered question".

"What documents does Baroness Scotland claim she saw?"

"She says she saw..."

You get the picture. In the interests of balance, it should pointed out that some of the questions further on do, indeed, warrant the label "unanswered".

But for Paper Monitor, there is one question above all others in today's Mail that definitely lacks an answer: "What REALLY makes a woman want to sleep with a man?"

Although, only an innocent in sexual politics would take that to be a comment on Paper Monitor's gender.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:50 UK time, Wednesday, 23 September 2009

"As in Stringfellows, you should look but not touch" - University vice-chancellor who described female students as "perks"

Terrence Kealey, of Buckingham University, writes in the Times Higher Education supplement on the seven deadly sins of academic life. Under "lust", he describes the "girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays". He advises male lecturers to enjoy the attention. "Enjoy her! She's a perk."
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Web Monitor

16:40 UK time, Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

A world leader, a world-leading film director and a world-leading cockney musical duo spend time together on Web Monitor. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending a link via the letters box to the right of this page.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

Film director Spike Lee once said that modern history would be marked as Before Barack and After Barack. On Newsnight Jeremy Paxman asks Lee if he was disappointed after a Republican representative heckled Obama with 'You lie!' during an address to Congress, an act former President Jimmy Carter said was evidence of racism. Lee said:
"I never drank that post-racial Kool-Aid. He [President Obama] was not Harry Houdini. He was not going to be 'abracadabra, presto change-o' overnight poof, racism disappears. I never thought that. "

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva• In an interview with Mac Margolis, Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva explains in Newsweek that he feels paternal about smaller countries but insists he is not the leader of Latin America:

"Once in a while, people ask me: Lula, are you a leader in Latin America? I say, no. No one chose me to be leader. But I am absolutely certain that Brazil's relations with Latin America never has never been so clear, transparent and honest as it is today. When Paraguay gets nervous over Brazil, I have to understand Paraguay. I cannot be aggressive if Paraguay yells at me. Brazil has far more power and wealth. It's like the relationship of a father and son. A father doesn't hit his child every time his child yells at him. He tries to reason with him. That's how big countries have to act."

Chas and Dave• Never mind the Sugababes, Web Monitor was rather taken by the planned pursuits of musical duo Chas and Dave whose split was also announced today. Chas Hodges from the duo explained in the Daily Mail what Dave will do instead:

"I don't think he wanted to do the gigging any more. He has horses and he loves driving them round his grounds and painting gypsy wagons which he's very good at so I don't think he'll miss the gigging."

Web Monitor would like to presume that former Sugababe Keisha Buchanan is also leaving to pursue a gypsy caravan painting career.

Your Letters

16:01 UK time, Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Perhaps Jesus would just as likely be in the queue at Asda or Aldi - if he shopped (Quote of the day). But I seem to recall him dining at other people's - something about being an itinerant preacher of sorts and relying on hospitality. The good bishop still has one over on the "what would Jesus drive?" campaign, however, since aside from a couple boat trips and a notable donkey ride, Jesus was much more green-friendly and walked.
Nadja, generally Boston, USA

It is a shame the Bishop felt the need to use that analogy - he has confirmed the image he seeks to discount. I am what you may consider "middle class". However, I rarely shop in M&S and I am more likely to be found in Morrisons or perhaps Lidl. Perhaps he should look at the wider picture more objectively and consider the general public with which he attempts to relate. It is a shame the Church has lost its way a little and seems to have a fuddy duddy image. Is it not enough that we are kind to those around us and respect others? Can we not have a little fun along the way? I certainly believe they used to.
G Easten, City of London

Today, 22 September, *is* my birthday! Is it possible that - gasp - Paper Monitor is my son?
John Marsh, Washington DC, US

It's not only foreign place names (Monday's letters) that commentators murder, it's peoples' names as well. There's also the problem of where the accent is put within a foreign name eg: the French coastal town of St Malo. Typical English pronunciation with put the accoent on the second syllable. The French will tend not to unduly accent any of the three syllables.
Dick, Fife, Scotland

At first I thought Don Draper had a bit of a funny haircut - before I hit play on the video
Jen, Oxford, UK

Helen from Cambridge (Monday's letters): both MEE-graine or MY-graine are perfectly acceptable pronunciations. However, if you want to choose, then MEE-graine has greater etymological legitimacy, as migraine is derived from the Greek "hemikrania" (meaning that it affects half your head), which is obviously pronounced "heMEEkrania".
Adam, London, UK

Helen (Monday's letters), it's pronounced "headache".
Martin Hollywood, Luxembourg

Paper Monitor

11:01 UK time, Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Birthdays. Which notable characters share yours?

Say, for argument's sake, that today, 22 September, is your big day.

If you are a Times reader, your co-birthdayees include Graham Jones, a past headmaster of Repton School; Captain Mark Phillips; Lord Moran, a former High Commissioner to Canada; and Deborah Lavin, past principal of Trevelyan College, Durham University. Oh, and a footballer by the name of Ronaldo Luiz Nazario de Lima.

In the Guardian, you find out that also born on this day are Professor David Drewry, Antarctic specialist at Hull University; the French socialist leader Ségolène Royal; and Billie Piper. Oh, and a footballer referred to simply as Ronaldo.

The Daily Mirror also mentions Piper and Ronaldo, along with ex-Spook Rupert Penry-Jones, Nick Cave, Joan Jett, Chesney Hawkes, "and reader Brian Snow, of Pevensey Bay, East Sussex, who is 70".

Paper Monitor is not entirely sure if the Daily Star lists notable birthdays in amongst all the bosoms on show, but stargazer Justin Toper has advice for all those Virgos out there: "... you should receive more consideration than you ever imagined. Indeed, what is stipulated is sure to delight you, even if it costs you in the end."

The Daily Express names just two people celebrating birthdays today, and one wonders what this choice says about the Express and its readers. They are singers Andrea Bocelli, 51, and Chesney Hawkes, 38. And stargazer Justin Toper - see above - gives the horoscope for all those Virgos out there. Stop me if you've heard this before: "... you should receive more consideration than you ever imagined. Indeed, what is stipulated is delightful, even if it costs you in the end."

The Daily Mail's stargazer Jonathan Cainer urges Virgos to "make the magic of the equinox work for you. There's important news in your latest four-minute forecast. Call 0906..." As for the birthdays list, one is struggling to find it. Say what you will about the Mail, there's always plenty of it.

The Independent raises a glass to Professor Sir Frederick Holliday, former Northumbria Water chairman; Mr Paul Jenkins, HM Procurator General, Treasury Solicitor and Head of Government Legal Services; and Miss Ruth Lea, director of Global Vision. Oh, and Mr Nick Cave, Miss Billie Piper and one Ronaldo. Whose name and title is not given in full.

... hold on, 22 September. That date rings a bell. Oh no! Father's birthday! Someone get a card - stat!

UPDATE 1123 BST: Since clicking publish, Paper Monitor has come across the Daily Telegraph's interview with Today's resident rottweiler.

"It's a shock, meeting John Humphrys, because he is smiling so much. Beaming. Here he comes, bounding across a hall in quite the most jolly fashion ever, his grin hitting me about five seconds before he does."

His new partner is Observer columnist Catherine Bennett. So how is love's young dream then, Mr Humphrys?

"'It's, err... It's, um... Whatever you say just sounds soppy, doesn't it?' Pause. 'But, err. It's, err. Well. Yeah.' Oh come on, John. 'It's very nice. Ha, ha, ha, ha. Rather pathetic, isn't it?'"

And - AND! - he has learned how to moonwalk, and hoped to attend Michael Jackson's never-to-be concerts in London.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:47 UK time, Tuesday, 22 September 2009

"Jesus would just as likely be in the queue at Asda or Aldi" - Bishop of Reading bemoans the Church of England's middle-class "Marks and Spencer" image.

Just as church leaders in the US tried to persuade Americans to tackle climate change by asking "what would Jesus drive?", the good bishop - a self-confessed M&S man - appears to have asked himself "where would Jesus shop?" Perhaps somewhere with BOGOF deals on loaves and fishes?
More details (Times)

Your Letters

16:40 UK time, Monday, 21 September 2009

Please could you encourage BBC sports commentators to pronounce correctly the names of Barcelona and Real Madrid's football grounds:

Camp Nou = as in English "camp no" not "camp noo".
Bernabeu = "burn-a-bay-oo" not "burn-a-bow"
David Robinson, San Martin de la Solana, Spain

I can't believe no-one has commented on this very apt example of nominative determinism.
Margaret, Christchurch, NZ

On the subject of cupcakes... These cheeseburger cupcakes look great.
Gordon, Newcastle, UK

Drunk Girl (letters passim) is on p15 of the Express today, next to a headline warning one sip of wine can turn 15-year-olds into alcoholics. I would have thought she'd have built up more tolerance by now...
Iain, Bristol

Am I permitted to beg your Monitorites for assistance? Assuming that I am, how does one pronounce the word 'migraine': is it MEE-graine or MY-graine?
Helen, Cambridge

Gardeners' Question Time: not only is there a bunny in the garden (Bunny Guinness) but also Bob Flowerdew. I think the BBC is making up names now!
Basil Long, Nottingham

Web Monitor

16:23 UK time, Monday, 21 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

The rapper who has the president on speed-dial and the newsreader who leads the fight against said president rub shoulders only in Web Monitor. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending your links via the letters box to the right of this page.

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Rapper Jay-Z may seem like a surprising interviewee for Andrew Marr. But Jay-Z is politically connected - he reportedly has President Obama's number on speed-dial. He insists his view on healthcare for all doesn't make him left-wing:
"I think for a long time that a segment of the population has been underinsured and not taken care of. I think it's only right that everyone should have that - it's not socialist to think that way."
Marr asked how he justified the harshness of hip-hop to the president:
"There are hard truths in rap as well and they are not packaged and pretty with a ribbon on it. Sometimes the realities of the situation are harsh and they need to be told. Sometimes they are going to rub people the wrong way. That don't mean you don't tell it. Until all the inequalities are fixed - well that's utopia so that will never happen - but until those situations get better those stories need to be told."

Glenn Beck• An intriguing set of keywords are tagged to Salon's biography of Glenn Beck: Republican Party, Washington, Radio, Politics, Suicide, Cocaine, News, Mormons, and last but not least Glenn Beck.

The conservative news anchor Glenn Beck is a fiercely good ratings winner on the news channel Fox in the US and leader of the 9/12 campaign which aims to remind the American public how they felt the day after the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Center.

Alexander Zaitchik in Salon looks at how Beck rose to fame:

"Whatever else it may be, the Glenn Beck Story is a radio story. It begins in the early 1980s, decades before Beck's famous televised breakdowns, when a talented young DJ turned a fascination with Orson Welles into a successful career in the high-rolling here-today-gone-tomorrow world of Top 40 morning radio. It continues into the 1990s, when Beck made a name in talk radio by identifying the sole unoccupied niche in the industry: confessional, lighthearted, 'independent' conservatism. Now, in the new century, Beck has taken his radio formula to TV, and with it his bipolar unpredictability and maudlin dramatics."

Jennifer Aniston• How to get through this life is not something often talked about by actors, but Jennifer Aniston enters philosophical waters when asked what her goals are. Aniston insists in Showbiz Spy she never intended to be a celebrity, or even win awards:

"I've never had my eye on a prize. I really wanted to enjoy the passage of time."

Paper Monitor

12:45 UK time, Monday, 21 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Pity the ambitious young upstart, contemplating a critical public as they tip-toe in the hallowed footsteps of their revered, wizened, authoritative predecessor; anxious to strike out on their own to thwart the cynics who question their youthful inexperience.

Yes, party conference season is upon us and first out of the blocks are the Lib Dems. And if the papers are a barometer of popular sentiment then Nick Clegg and Alesha Dixon may have more in common than you'd otherwise expect.

"I won't quit" is the Mirror's "exclusive" take on the backlash against Alesha Dixon's controversial appointment as a judge on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing.

Fans of the show will remember that pop singer Dixon, a former winner of the TV contest, was appointed on the judging panel in place of Arlene Phillips - a choreographer and ex-dancer herself.

The Sun, for its part, has simply signed up Phillips to deliver a post-match verdict in print.

And in the Daily Mail, columnist Amanda Platell wades in with a "view from the sofa" which, it goes without saying, falls some distance short of a wholehearted endorsement of Dixon's judgement.

The Express is no more forgiving, but it's the prominence given to Princess Diana which piques Paper Monitor's interest. Last Friday, Dec from Belfast, noted how the Express' front page could have been mistaken for a classic Monday edition of old, thanks to its deployment of a Diana headline.

Well, it IS Monday and it looks suspiciously like the Express is going back to its roots.

"How Diana caused a secret royal feud"

Back at the Times, James Blunt appears in the letters page, name checking Lily Allen who last week, used the venerable journal to sound off against file sharers.

One couldn't image the pair sitting comfortably together in a record collection, but it seems that the war on piracy is destined to throw up some unusual pop pairings.

Monday's Quote of the Day

10:49 UK time, Monday, 21 September 2009

"He's been on everything except the Food Channel" - Senator Lindsey Graham on Barack Obama's interview-a-thon

Mr Obama became the first US president to appear on five TV talk shows in one day, doing, what some have called a "Celebrity Ginsburg". The tag derives from William Ginsburg, Monica Lewinsky's lawyer, who first pulled off the feat in 1999.
More details (the Times)

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