BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for September 27, 2009 - October 3, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

17:25 UK time, Friday, 2 October 2009

10_red_hot_pokers226.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. The UK produces 8% of the world's scientific papers, the third most behind the US and China.
More details

2. Ken Livingstone was twice rejected for a cameo in EastEnders.
More details

3. Colin Powell speaks Yiddish.
More details (the Times)

4. Tesco sells two sewing machines every minute.
More details

5. Homes are 4C warmer, on average, than they were 50 years ago.
More details

6. Turtles can swim 900km (559 miles) in a month.
More details

7. Coffins can be made out of banana leaves. Keith Floyd was buried in one.
More details

8. Michael Jackson had tattooed eyebrows and lips.
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9. The most common names for swingers are Paul and Catherine.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

10. There are about 100 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne.
More details (Daily Mirror)

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Jo Lewis for this week's picture of 10 red hot pokers at St Agnes on the Isles of Scilly.

Your Letters

15:10 UK time, Friday, 2 October 2009

Paul Murdock asked (Thursday letters) if you buy a stamp off a colleague at work, does anyone know what the going rate is?
We do.
Julia Lee, Assistant Editor, Stamp Magazine, UK

Mary is correct (Thursday letters): WTF is not an acronym but an initialism. FBI and SWAT are two good examples of these.
Tony, Bracknell

Mary, last time I checked, 'wac', 'opec' and 'loran' weren't words either. But on the subject, aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. So in fact, changing the order of the letters may sometimes be a fruitless exercise - fcuk being the prime example of this being used for shock factor to get publicity. And David (also Thursday letters), my chosen method for checking to see if this letter gets published is to scan all the way down for my name before I read the letters, so I can enjoy the others without suspense.
Louise, Surrey

Re acronyms, I note that news sources quickly stopped referring to The War Against Terror, instead using other terms with less embarrassing acronyms.

The New Zealand Immigration Serivce (NZIS) recently rebranded itself to Immigration NZ (INZ). This is because the letters NZIS when spellchecked come out as NAZIS. Apparently too many letters were being sent out asking foreigners to send their passports to the NAZIS for processing.
Al, Wellington NZ

Martin in Luxembourg (Thursday letters), no you didn't. I attended said university in the early 90s when it was the University of Northumbria. The "Central/City University of..." abbreviation is an urban myth.
Miss Susan, Strathaven, UK

Depending on the exact date in the "early 90s", Martin might have applied to Newcastle Polytechnic, or to Northumbria University - but not to the "City University" of anything. And Jim (immediately below Martin, also Thursday letters is just being awkward.
Violet (no sense of humour today), Leicester

Re video's (Letters, Thurs) - the correct full name would be video tapes, so the apostrophe is also correct and is indicating two words joined together with missing letters - as in don't, haven't etc.
Chookgate, Milton Keynes

BM, who suggested that if Shakespeare had a sex shop he too would sell video's (Thursday letters), got me thinking. He might have stocked titles such as Any Way You Like It, Love's Labours Watched, Julius Sleazer, King Leer, Othellohhhh!, Readers' Wives of Windsor, Pleasure for Pleasure, Two Gentlemen and a Moaner, Coriolanus, Titus...
Sue, London

Across the nation, parents of teenagers raise their eyebrows in mutual salute. Thanks to Paddy of Liverpool (Thursday letters) we all now have a word for what our teenage children did all summer.
Jaye, Rutland, England

The main reason kids spend so much time in their bedrooms nowadays can be directly attributed to the existence of central heating. If my dad had asked me in the 70s if I wanted a TV in my bedroom I'd have responded "Please, no, for the love of all that is hot and cosy!"
Rachel, Minnetonka

I thought a tango was a style of skimpy mens' briefs, which makes the headline even more disturbing (Thursday letters).
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Caption Competition

13:34 UK time, Friday, 2 October 2009


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week, a pair of primates catch up with the news at the Great Gorilla Run in London.

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

6. NorfolkOnce
"OK, if not Millwall v West Ham, how about Glyndebourne?"

5. alykat730
"It's been three years Gus, do you really think Mjikuu is still pining over you? You've really got to get back in the dating game. You want someone smart, who's going places, not stranded out in the jungle. Here, check the personals in the FT..."

4.Magnum Carter
Investigators find the root of the sub-primate lending scandal.

3. Daveygod21
"I always said, give them enough time and enough typewriters, eventually they'd produce something readable."

2. SkarloeyLine
"Cadbury's shares are taking a beating."

1. groundhog44
"It's good to see silver-back on the commodity markets again."

Paper Monitor

12:06 UK time, Friday, 2 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Stop the clocks at Labour HQ, this is serious. They tried to shrug it off when the Sun tore down its tabard and nailed its colours instead to the Tory mast.

But this? This may crack the facade.

To lose the Sun may be regarded as a misfortune; to also lose the lead singer of D:Ream - all together now, "Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiings! - - can only get BET-eeeeeeerrrrrrrr" - looks like carelessness.

Peter Cunnah, the man behind New Labour's anthem, is among today's line-up of "those who have ditched the government" in the red-top.

"The fed-up dad of two, 43, said: 'It's time for a change. If Gordon Brown called me today I wouldn't sing for them again... I think, 'Should I use my vote?' I'm still floating.'"

A ringing endorsement for the Conservatives indeed. But he has good news for the fans of 1990s dance-synth pop - D:Ream are back together and working on a new album. It's unclear whether the keyboardist will pack in that particle physics lark and do some real work for a change.

And, this just in. The Sun has noticed that Harriet Harman reads News in Briefs. Yes, she who speaks so vociferously against Page Three gets her news from the daily bulletins provided by Keeley, Danni et al.

"The deputy leader said: 'On page three there is a woman who's really concerned about jobs... the problem is she's so concerned about jobs she forgot to put clothes on.'"

Who is her joke writer? Because s/he's been busy lately, what with that "I'll be back" gag about wanting to "terminate" a California website rating UK prostitutes.

Times columnist Hugo Rifkind (hi there, Hugo...*blush*) has a theory about Ms Harperson's comedic lineage:

"She sounds like the human version of a tube of Love Hearts... Nothing she says means anything... At least when John Prescott spoke nonsense, he sounded a bit like he knew it was happening... I genuinely think that she might be turning into Baroness Thatcher."

It's been a while since Paper Monitor partook of a Love Heart, but one doesn't remember there being many with slogans about U-turns or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Friday's Quote of the Day

10:37 UK time, Friday, 2 October 2009

"Mother, you were wrong, you were wrong, you were wrong" - Ig Nobel winner who cracked knuckles for decades to prove this doesn't cause arthritis.

Donald Unger, a Californian doctor aged 83, cracked only the knuckles of his left hand every day to investigate whether it caused arthritis, as his mother asserted it would. "After 60 years, I looked at my knuckles and there's not the slightest sign of arthritis."
More details (Guardian)

Weekly Bonus Question

02:01 UK time, Friday, 2 October 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 NATURALISTIC AND OCCASIONALLY HAPHAZARD. But what's the question?

The correct question is: how was Keith Floyd's television presentation style described?
(More details - the Guardian)

Of your consciously incorrect questions, we liked:

WX1294's "In the first draft of 'Waiting for Godot', what were the names of the two main characters?"

MightyGiddyUpGal's "Predictive text results of trying to enter 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocous'?"

Rob Falconer's "In what manner does the WBQ bestow kudos?"

greid54's "How did Jeff describe going rambling with his colostomy bag?"

ADasein's "Swiss body clocks?"

Your Letters

17:44 UK time, Thursday, 1 October 2009

What central heating has done for us starts off with a bit of a boob. "Hibernation" refers only to winter. Inactivity over summer is "estivation".
Paddy, Liverpool, UK

If you buy a stamp off a colleague at work, does anyone know what the going rate is? (Price of stamps rises by 3 pence)
J Paul Murdock, Wall Heath, West Midlands, UK

What sounded like a Salvador Dali painting title turned out to be a truly inspiring story.
Nuno Aragao, Aveiro, Portugal

Isn't selling cigarettes in plain white packets going to particularly appeal to the Tesco Value market?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales
Monitor note: Other value/basic/essential ranges are available.

Re Tango gets UN cultural approval - apple, orange or the slapping man? Think the UN needs to be more specific.
Peter, MK

Re "video's" (letters passim): It was actually considered correct before the 1800s to use an apostrophe before the pluralising "s" if the word was of foreign origin. If Shakespeare had a sex shop, he'd sell video's.
BM, Bergen, Norway

I think the mystery of the apostrophe in "video's" is easy to explain - it's a sign in the Amsterdam Red Light District and Dutch spelling requires an apostrophe between the o and the s in "videos". Not that I recognise every single sign in Amsterdam's Red Light District, of course...
Johan van Slooten, Urk, The Netherlands
Monitor note: It's in Soho, actually. But your secret is safe with us.

acronym n. a word formed from the initial letters or groups of letters of words in a set phrase or series of words, as Wac from Women's Army Corps, Opec from Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or loran from long-range navigation.
This three-letter abbreviation is NOT an acronym. An acronym is a word, the last time I looked WTF was not a word (ditto).
Mary, Amersham

Funnily enough our Fixed Asset Register Team never used their acronym.
Howard, London, UK

I will temper this slightly for the easily offended, but when considering what universities to apply for back in the early 90s, I had a clear preference for those in the north of England. On one prospectus from a city upon the river Tyne, the first letter of both nouns and proper nouns were capitalised in a rather fancy calligraphy, so these four letters where highly visible. The university being the City University of this place on the Tyne. Oh how we laughed...
Martin Hollywood, Luxembourg

M is a very warm reassuring letter (and ditto again), but I prefer W and K for their comedy value. Did you know there's even a word in the English language that contains the letters "wkw" in that order?
Jim, Coventry

Re Edd, Cardiff (and again). Silent. Like the P in "swimming pool".
Rachel, Minnetonka

Do any others do this? When reading the Letters page after submitting my latest epistle, I scroll down ever so slowly, line by line, to see if my offering was chosen. This is followed by a surge of excitement (like today) or a week's worth of depression all rolled into one moment (like some other days).
David, Jerusalem

Web Monitor

16:34 UK time, Thursday, 1 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: who the Bombay Welsh are, why the big smoke can be greener and the case against the r-word. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending a link via the letters box to the right of this page.

Alistair McGowan • Impressionist Alistair McGowan told Alastair Campbell on Radio 4's Chain Reaction his impersonation skills may have come from his dad, who was Anglo-Indian. Although he didn't have his son's talent for faking accents, people often thought he was Welsh which he went along with:

"He was Anglo-Indian and as I found through doing the programme [Who Do You Think You Are] a lot of people from Anglo-Indian stock suffered a lot of racism [in the UK]. So they hid their origins and said they were Welsh. They were known as the Bombay Welsh [between themselves] because the accent is quite similar. When you try to do an Indian accent you will very quickly go into Welsh."

• The image of a green living out is often located in the fields living off your own food. This is being smashed to pieces by a set of urban environmentalists. Web Monitor has already mentioned Stewart Brand's ode in Wired to the shanty town's green credentials in comparison with subsistence farming.

Now Witold Rybczynski in The Atlantic is making the green case for tower blocks:

"Putting solar panels on the roofs doesn't change the essential fact that by any sensible measure, spread-out, low-rise buildings, with more foundations, walls, and roofs, have a larger carbon footprint than a high-rise office tower - even when the high-rise has no green features at all."

• Articles such as Newsweek's "Is Your Baby Racist?" and Jimmy Carter's accusations of Republicans being racist against Obama have made Richard Thompson Ford in Slate weary. He's analysed the r-word and concludes it's used, abused and misunderstood:

"Politicians and pundits on both the left and right abuse the term racism to tar their political enemies. But decent people with good intentions also overuse the term as they struggle to draw attention to racial injustices that do not involve overt bigotry. With the r-word used to describe so many different things, it no longer has a clear and agreed-upon meaning."

Paper Monitor

12:27 UK time, Thursday, 1 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Lots of journalists live in fear of Ben Goldacre. For those who haven't sampled his column in the Guardian or his Bad Science blog, he is a medically-qualified crusader against the twin threats of quackery and poor understanding of science in the media.

According to some sarcastic people, journalism is dominated by people with a predominantly arts and social sciences background, people who are occasionally flummoxed by science, some of whom do not even possess biology GCSE.

Yet these very same people are required to write pieces about science that have an effect out there in the real world. And if they botch them, the spectre of Goldacre hangs over them.

Paper Monitor can't help but wonder whether the Daily Mail also felt this oversight, as it headlined its story on the girl who died after receiving a Cervarix jab to offer immunity against HPV.

The headline says: "Cancer jab is safe, say experts." So, it's a fair reflection of yesterday's story that the girl's death resulted from a serious medical condition - only revealed today to have been a malignant tumour - completely unrelated to her vaccination.

But the Mail is not entirely convinced the jab is necessarily the best option - balancing the main headline with a secondary one: "... as researcher behind the vaccine testing claims Britain's programme is a 'public health experiment'."

In its piece it details the concerns of a leading cervical cancer expert who questions exactly how effective the vaccine is. It also spends two pars with concerns about possible adverse reactions. "Even if the jab is only dangerous for one person in a million, women should be told the risks, she said."

Of course, the Mail has been hammered by Goldacre in the past as the "home of the health scare, and now well known as vigorous campaigners against vaccination" as part of the Bad Science columnist's criticism of how the media mishandled coverage of the MMR.

But, the paper has been nothing if not even handed, giving Goldacre's book a good review last year.

Elsewhere in today's papers, it's the day of the diet.

The Daily Mirror has Jennie McAlpine from Coronation Street on the front. She's dropped from a size 16 to a size 10.

But the Mail trumps that with Stephen Fry. He's apparently dropped from 21 to 15 stone after becoming unsettled by his man boobs.

They have an interesting difference in emphasis between the paper - "Fit and spry, the new Mr Fry" - and website - "Has Stephen Fry gone too far? Actor shows off amazing six stone weight loss".

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:40 UK time, Thursday, 1 October 2009

"People in the White House... actually object to giving the author JK Rowling a presidential medal because the Harry Potter books encourage witchcraft" - Former speechwriter for President George W Bush on why the Potter author may have missed out.

This is the allegation from Matt Latimer as to why Ms Rowling never earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Of course, the real reason could be that the administration preferred His Dark Materials.
More details

Web Monitor

16:04 UK time, Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor; why police want to bash bankers, why fake hair gets politicians annoyed and how staying still isn't that bad. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending a link via the letters box to the right of this page.

Meghan McCain• The outing of the Spanish prime minister's two daughters as goths has been buzzing round the internet after they were photographed with their father and President Obama. New York magazine reports that the State Department's account on the photo sharing site Flickr included the image of the Obamas with Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his teenage daughters, who are not allowed to be photographed to protect their privacy.

One person who wasn't given the privacy of these girls In Meghan McCain. She knows what it feels like to be advised on what to look like whilst your politician dad is trying to look serious but you are a teenager 'going through a phase'. The daughter of ex-Republican nominee for President, Senator John McCain asks in the Daily Beast to leave the goths alone, revealing her adolescent style choices were inspired by the Spice Girls. As she got older things didn't get much better much to the annoyance of the her dad's advisors:

"On the night my father accepted his nomination for president, I wore a giant Madonna ponytail extension (circa her Vogue tour)-- much to the dismay of some of the campaign advisers, I might add."

Michael Moore• Promoting his new film, Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore tells Jeanne Wolf at Parade that he was surprised the police didn't hassle him while filming:

"When we were filming Capitalism, I was stringing yellow crime scene tape around the New York Stock Exchange and I saw the police coming. I thought, 'Oh, boy, here it goes, they're going to take me away.' I said to them, 'Guys, I'll be done in a couple minutes. It's just for comedy. I'll clean it all up.' And the cops said to me. 'It's OK, Mike. Those guys inside the Stock Exchange lost a billion dollars of our police pension fund. Keep doing what you're doing.'"

Jonathan Aitken• Jonathan Aitken is better known as the former Tory cabinet minister whose dramatic downfall in a prison sentence for perjury. But in Radio 4's The House That I Grew Up In, Aitken explains he already had experience of incarceration. When he was four he caught tuberculosis off his Irish nanny and spent three and a half years in Dublin hospital.

"In my case the cure was total immobilisation - which meant being in a frame and plaster cast and steel devise. The purpose of which was to immobilise me... It sounds like a terrifying prospect to have to lie completely still in a plaster cast and iron frame and be strapped down for three years but actually disabled children get used to it. I had good life on that frame, not an unhappy life and it just seemed normal and natural at the time."

Your Letters

15:58 UK time, Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Re The Sun dumping New Labour (Paper Monitor). The support of Keeley (or Miss Hazell) from Bromley shouldn't come as a surprise - back in 2006, she was hailed as an "environmental hero" by the Conservative party for her energy-saving campaign in The Sun. To not return the compliment would surely have been rude...
Patrick Brennan, Harpenden

"Balls - discipline for parents" might have been a much more eye-catching headline than Parents to get discipline warning. Some might even suggest it's much needed too.
Lee Pike, Auckland, New Zealand

So, the Wisconsin Tourist Federation has renamed itself the TFW (Quote of the Day). Isn't that going to upset dyslexics in the same way as French Connection UK?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

I saw a van for the Original Marble & Granite company in Barnsley. The combination of OMG and a festive typeface made me lol.
Ellie, via our Twitter feed

There was a story that the original name proposed for the Admiralty Surface Weapons Establishment near Portsmouth was the "Admiralty Radar and Signals Establishment". It was only when the signs were painted that what should have been obvious was spelled out.
Ian, Herefordshire, UK

pornshopneonsign_bbc.jpgI do agree with Sue (Tuesday letters). I find I am not offended by mags (Magazine Monitor is a favourite) or toys (my Playstation, for example), nor by sex, which I gather is a fairly common activity. "Video's", on the other hand, is clearly an outrage.
Sarah, Oxon

Sue must be liberal. If she was really into anal, she'd know it was an apostrophe, not an inverted comma. Er. Really anal, I mean. No "into".
David Richerby, Leeds, UK

Why lesbians are the butt of gay men's jokes - hmm, seems I'm not the only one choosing my words badly...
Sue, London

Tom Hartland (Tuesday letters), the loss on Freeview is worse than you think. You gain 5 but lose (3+4). So 5-7 is a difference of 2 not one.
Trev, Poole, Dorset

I like the letter M too, Martin (Tuesday letters). It's a nice shade of red.
Kat Gregg, Coventry

M - are you sure, Martin? P is a much more interesting letter, on its own it has a certain abruptness that tails off, but coupled with other letters it is much more sneaky. For example masquerading as an F when in bed with H, or hiding itself in plain sight like in "psychosis".
Edd, Cardiff

Paper Monitor

10:36 UK time, Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Well, it's finally happened. After all the speculation, the Sun has declared its colours for the forthcoming general election, and they most certainly do not mirror the bold hue of its famous masthead.sun_front_226.gif

The Sun, still Britain's best-selling daily newspaper, has ditched its support for the Labour Party, which it has backed since the 1997 general election, and come out for David Cameron's Conservatives (except for viewers in Scotland - the Scottish Sun neither endorses Cameron nor the SNP.)

Had anyone from April 1992 found themselves catapulted forward 17 years, then if the shock of time travel didn't render them mute with disbelief, the notion the Sun could be anything but a dyed in the wool cheerleader for the Tories would doubtless induce all the hallmarks of circulatory shock.

But that, of course, was pre-Blair; pre-New Labour.

What's notable, in Paper Monitor's admittedly small frame of reference, is not only how the Sun has come out against Labour, but a large contingent of its staff writers have too.

There's associate editor Trevor Kavanagh, business editor Steve Hawkes, health editor Emma Morton and columnist Jane Moore - all sticking it to Brown and his government's record, across pages two and three. Defence editor Tom Newton's contribution is particularly notable for his deployment of the first person in his analysis.

It's tempting to think Gordon's Brown's speech to the Labour conference precipitated the Sun's declaration.

But there are tell-tale signs that this has been in the making for good while. Note the Scarfian illustration of a wilting Labour red rose, drawn to appear as a glum Gordon Brown, drooping over the shed petals of a previous flower - Tony Blair, since you ask.

But more than this, there's the poster-sized gatefold pull-out "damning dossier" of evidence that nestles between the centre pages. It's an info-graphics fest, with bar charts and graphs of all sorts interspersed with pictures of feral children and hospital patients.

Yes, this is a dumping of significant magnitude. The Sun has raided Labour's wardrobe with a pair of scissors and cut its tailored Italian lounge suits and silk ties to shreds, before stuffing its suitcase with a scant few blue garments and storming out.

Read it as an editorial decree nisi, with Labour granted occasional future visiting rights perhaps through one off opinion pieces by the likes of Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn.

But it's not all bad news for Labour, at least not for its champion of equal rights Harriet Harman. The Sun's declaration has done away with today's Page 3 girl - though in truth Keeley from Bromley has just been shifted to page 7, and she's backing Cameron too.

In other business, the Mirror and Mail are among those to pick up on the story of an "idyllic" cottage that is up for sale. The estate agent has pictured the cottage on the beautiful, windswept dunes of Dungeness, Kent. Move the camera though, and ta-da, it's slap bang in front of a nuclear power station.

It takes the Telegraph's Harry Wallop to note that actually this stark setting has many fans, most notably the late filmmaker Derek Jarman who produced a glossy coffee table book about his Dungeness home and waxed lyrical about said power station.

And over at the Times, there's mild confusion in its graphical depiction of the popularity of Gordon Brown's policy announcements in yesterday's speech.

The phrase is "middle England" but while the Times uses St George's flags as an SI for its popularity rating, the whole thing is headed "Middle Britain".

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

08:28 UK time, Wednesday, 30 September 2009

"Tourism Federation of Wisconsin" - The renamed Wisconsin Tourist Federation after penny dropped that their acronym was WTF.

If there are any gentle readers out there unaware of what these three little letters now stand for in the lexicon of text/net acronyms, the Monitor thinks that is charming. Don't go changing...
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Web Monitor

15:17 UK time, Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today Web Monitor asks if being judged on your parentage is as unfair as racism, if the UK curry scene will welcome Bollywood and if we are seeing the end of the "generalist". Share your favourite bits of the web by sending your links via the letter box to the right of this page.

• Max Mosley is the president of the FIA - Formula One's governing body. However, Mosley tells Mihir Bose at the Evening Standard that all anybody is interested in is his father's past as the leader of the British Union of Facists. He thinks it's discriminatory:
Max Mosley

"You have this feeling, it's an awful thing to say you are being discriminated against.
You see it is a little bit like 50 years ago for the black man, he does not get something he should have done. But he does not know for sure whether it is because he is black, it is possible.
There is always this feeling that it is actually that, but you have to be careful not to get paranoid about it.
You see nowadays it is not acceptable to discriminate against anybody because of their religion, their race, their ethnicity, because they are handicapped in some way, but it is perfectly permissible to discriminate because of what their father did."

• Bollywood star and ex-Big Brother contestant Shilpa Shetty has bought a 33% stake in an British Indian food company which owns the curry chain Tiffin Bites.
Research Fellow at Roehampton University's Centre for Research on Nationalism, Ethnicity and Multiculturalism Dr Sean Carey analyses in the New Statesman the UK's Curry house industry. He is not hopeful of Shetty's chances, citing a happy status quo in the independent curry house market:
Shilpa Shetty

"A massive 95% of the remaining Indian outlets are run by Bangladeshis who mostly hail from the Sylhet area in the north-east of the country (the pattern is a legacy from the time that Sylheti seamen became galley hands and cooks on British merchant ships and established cafes and tea-houses in waterfront areas when they settled in the UK). It is a simple fact, then, that any newcomer to the Indian food scene in the UK, including Shilpa Shetty, will find the Bangladeshis and other South Asian groups very well entrenched and difficult to displace."

• The Economist's foreign editor Edward Carr argues in More Intelligent Life that people who are experts in many things - polymaths - are a dying breed as they aren't needed any more:

"It is not only the explosion of knowledge that puts polymaths at a disadvantage, but also the vast increase in the number of specialists and experts in every field. This is because the learning that creates would-be polymaths creates monomaths too and in overwhelming numbers. If you have a multitude who give their lives to a specialism, their combined knowledge will drown out even a gifted generalist."

Also in More Intelligent Life lecturer Brian Cathcart says general knowledge is being dealt a blow by Google and an education system which doesn't aim to teach facts anymore:
"I teach undergraduates, and I am prepared to bet that many other teachers have found themselves wondering whether they are seeing this force at work... If asked a factual question, they will usually click on a search engine without a second thought. Actually knowing the fact, committing it to memory, does not seem to be a consideration... facts are in retreat in our education system. I could find no one to dispute the proposition that young people generally learn fewer of them at school than their parents would have, and those they do learn, they may well learn in ways that mean they do not remain so long in the memory."

Your Letters

13:39 UK time, Tuesday, 29 September 2009

When I looked at the photo of the neon sign in Internet porn 'name change plan', the only thing that offended me was the unnecessary inverted comma in "videos". I can't decide if this makes me very liberal, or very anal.
Sue, London
Monitor: Possibly not the best choice of words, Sue...

Landless agriculture, Web Monitor? Isn't that the blight on my social networking newsfeed that is Farmville?
Kat Gregg, Coventry

You asked for a letter.
I rather like the letter "M".
Don't you?
Martin, Southampton, UK

Re Q&A: Retuning Freeview. How does "half a million more homes" gaining one channel out-weigh "around 460,000 homes" losing two?
Tom Hartland, Loughborough, UK

Paper Monitor

12:33 UK time, Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

I don't believe it. Not only are shoulder pads and the kids from Fame making a comeback, but now it's the turn of avocado bathroom suites. The Daily Mail reports that B&Q is looking again at colours other than white. (The Sunday Times, too, mentions Sarah Beeny's prediction that coloured suites will return.)

But wait, the 1980s aren't finished with you yet. The Mail also carries the shock news that Andrew "Wham" Ridgeley is thinning a bit on top. In the paper, the piece runs to some 200 words on page 33, plus then-and-now photos. Online it's more than double that, fleshed out with the added drama of Ridgeley almost getting a parking ticket.

The Sun, too, remarks that he has just a few careless wisps of hair left. Do you see what they did there?

Meanwhile, the Guardian tasks Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall with transforming the lunchboxes of its readership. OK, recipe one is for beetroot and walnut salad. Paper Monitor is inspired. But rather less so on realising that the only ingredient in the list which one actually has to hand is stale bread.

And finally, cast your mind back. Waaaay back. To Saturday, even. In the Guardian's glossy lifestyle mag Weekend, politicians turn the tables on the hacks who routinely bark "Answer the question!" at them.

Paper Monitor is rather tickled by this, particularly Andrew Marr's admission to George Osborne that, tipsy on "eye-wateringly, ball-crunchingly expensive" wine and worried about his expenses, he missed the Arms to Iraq story.

And then there's Ann Widdecombe getting chippy with Channel 4 inquisitor-in-chief Jon Snow. Sample exchange:
"AW And I consider that quite a coup, to have got Jon Snow to agree with me that we need to curtail the rights of the media. Thank you, Jon Snow...
JS Hang on a minute...
AW That's all we have time for today."

And that, readers, is all we have time for today. One has concluded this column.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:25 UK time, Tuesday, 29 September 2009

"I can't blame the elephant for what it's done - I just won't be going as close to them in the future" - Jonathan Sykes, victim of a pachyderm attack on holiday in Kenya.

The West Yorkshire holidaymaker was on a safari tour when an elephant turned and charged at the a group. He tried to outrun the animal, but it caught up with him and gored his leg.
More details

Your Letters

16:24 UK time, Monday, 28 September 2009

To answer Paper Monitor's question, the difference between "moccasins" and "loafers" are the sole. Moccasins have less of one than loafers.
Kailyn, Kentucky, USA

The difference between moccasins and loafers? Probably none since Elvis simply sung about them as "shoes".
Candace, New Jersey, US

Apparently NO THEY DON'T negative subliminal messages NO THEY DON'T really work. I have to say NO THEY DON'T that I remain NO THEY DON'T unconvinced.
Edward Green, London, UK

What do they do if the target they want to hit is between 100 and 180 miles, because none of the missiles cover this range?
Basil Long, Nottingham

She's back!
Steven, Lochgilphead

Hmm, I wonder what Nick Griffin is so interested in on the third page of the Daily Star...
Kirk Northrop, Manchester, England

"I do not roll over," says Gordon Brown. Just as well, as I have absolutely no intention of tickling his tummy.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Web Monitor

15:12 UK time, Monday, 28 September 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today, Web Monitor finds out what's being said on the web. Share your favourite bits of the internet by sending a link via the letters page.

Sir Terry Pratchett• Fantasy writer Sir Terry Pratchett explains in the Daily Telegraph how Alzheimer's disease is affecting him:

"I might glance down and not see that cup on the floor. If you told me the cup was there, I would see it. However, the brain is filling up the space with something else. But because I come out with words properly used, like apprehension, you think there can't be anything wrong with this guy."

• He helped bring the world's attention to global warming in the 1970s but environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel tells the New Scientist that we needn't worry about over-population as technology will come up with the answers:

"Technology has liberated humans from the environment. Today we live about equally well in polar and tropical, arid and wet environments. The new question is whether humanity can use technology to liberate the environment itself. E-books, landless agriculture - farming that uses very little land because of high yields - and subterranean maglevs show the way."

• Writing before Angela Merkel's re-election this weekend Siobhan Dowling in Der Spiegel asks whether the German chancellor deserves to be a feminist icon:

"She may be something of a feminist icon overseas but things look a bit different back home in Deutschland.

Here in Germany the woman nicknamed 'Angie' by her supporters, is known more for her detached ability to rise above the fray than any staunch political convictions, let alone feminist policies. Indeed, Merkel has tended to shy away from playing the female card. She doesn't push women's issues or speak very much about her gender. Yet in the run-up to this weekend's election, she seemed to have changed tack. Suddenly she had discovered the advantages of her gender."

Paper Monitor

14:09 UK time, Monday, 28 September 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Some choice nuggets of coverage as the Labour Party stages its annual conference in Brighton...

Harriet Harman wants to ban topless calendars in the workplace, according to the Sun, which knows a marketing opportunity when it sees one. "Harriet you can order our £7.99 Page 3 calendar for 2010 at..."

Peter Mandelson has been posing for a picture in his favourite delicatessen - an upmarket establishment in London. The Daily Mail's Quentin Letts suddenly sees significance in just about every element of the shot. The cappuccino machine? That's "one of the emblems of the frothy Blair years". The basil pannacotta? As "deftly scented as a young research assistant in the heyday of New Labour". The First Secretary himself is wearing an "expression of waxen weariness" and looking like "one of those fey youths Cecil Beaton used to frame for posterity".

And those "soft-soled lavender moccasins" look identical to the "blue suede loafers" Mandelson was snapped by the Mail wearing in early August. Forgive Paper Monitor for its lack of sartorial perceptiveness - what is the difference between moccasins and loafers?

The Times goes to town comparing Gordon Brown's woes with those of John Major a year before the 1997 election - there are "uncanny echoes" says Peter Riddell. To hammer the point home, we get one of those "then and now"-style comparisons. So we learn that while the most popular film of 2009 is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the top selling car of the moment is the Ford Fiesta and the cloning sensation of today is four macaque monkeys, back then it was Independence Day, the Ford Fiesta and Dolly the Sheep respectively. Wow, thanks guys - Paper Monitor feels tooled up and ready to hold its own in even the most erudite of political circles.

Now, what exactly was John Major's policy on disaster movies starring Will Smith?

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:00 UK time, Monday, 28 September 2009

"We feel very blessed, but the truth is that I gagged, I started getting sick... my ultrasound [technician] was in total, utter shock. My husband was laughing" - Julia Grovenburg, on discovering that she had become pregnant while already pregnant.

There have been only 10 other recorded cases of what happened to Mrs Grovenberg, who now has two due dates - 24 December and 10 January.
More details (the Times)

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