BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for October 4, 2009 - October 10, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

17:20 UK time, Friday, 9 October 2009

roses_226.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Male life expectancy in the UK goes up by about three months every year.
More details

2. Fidel Castro stopped smoking cigars in 1985.
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3. In the early days of barcodes there was a plan for round ones.
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4. In the UK, 26 million addresses get post.
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5. Japan has a theme park where children pretend to be fast food workers.
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6. Only two serving US presidents won the Nobel peace prize before Barack Obama - Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919.
More details (the Guardian)

7. The flash on David Bowie's Aladdin Sane album cover was inspired by the logo from a rice cooker.
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8. Wild animals in zoos in Gaza have to be smuggled in tunnels under the border.
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9. There was a royal blood disorder.
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10. Low-quality females prefer low-quality males. In the world of zebra finches at least.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week.Thanks to Margaret Emerson for this picture of 10 roses bought in aid of Breast Cancer Research.

Your Letters

17:07 UK time, Friday, 9 October 2009

I'm not George W Bush either, can I have a Nobel Peace Prize?
Helene Parry, South Wales expat to Brentford

OK, so mostly I'm just sore at only getting 2/7 on the news quiz but Saturn has over 60 moons and there isn't a natural size cut-off that makes the number 30.
David Richerby, Leeds, UK
Monitor note: Grant yourself an extra point, my man.

Contender for quote of the day: Mark Davies, defending, said: "You know it cannot have been a good night when you get into a fight with Spider-Man and two cross-dressing men" (Cage fighters' stag night web hit).
SS, Caernarfon, Wales, UK

Re a spotty dress speaking a thousand words (Paper Monitor). It did for Bill Clinton as well.
Candace, New Jersey, US

I note that the BBC has helpfully provided us with an article on the make and price of the dress worn by the Leader of the Opposition's wife. Also, the 1980s called; they'd like their thinly veiled sexism back.
Edward Green, London, UK

More of your bad wedding photos

16:21 UK time, Friday, 9 October 2009

Out of focus, bad lighting, a hardly visible bride and bridegroom... everyone thinks they can photograph a wedding, but the results can leave a lot to be desired.

Earlier this week, after a couple successfully sued their wedding photographer over the poor quality of his images, the Magazine asked how hard is it to photograph a wedding?

We also asked for your own bad wedding pics. The first batch can be found here, and we've since been sent these:

behindpillarwedding.jpgCarolyn Hendry took this at the wedding reception of a good friend.

"The atmospheric lighting in the venue was affecting the flash on our camera, so the picture didn't take until a couple of seconds after I pressed the button. The bride and groom looked beautiful - honest!"

spotthebridegroom.jpgReema Mukhtar likes to play spot-the-bridegroom in this picture.

"This is of my cousin's wedding in which the groom is completely missing behind all those cameramen and the bride is visible through a small space between them."

offwiththeirheads.jpgAnd Elaine Cawley, of Manchester, took this at her sister's wedding, and wonders:

"How on earth did we manage to chop their heads off? Lovely dress though."

Caption Competition

13:12 UK time, Friday, 9 October 2009

Comments

Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

mascotsgrandnational_pa.jpg

This week, it's the Mascot Grand National. But what's being said?

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

6. NorfolkOnce
Fans at an Amy Winehouse concert see a big hairdo, tattoos, extravagant eye makeup. This is what she sees...

5. lavaboarder
Aren't management training weekends a waste of time and money?

4. linn-dog
The march of two by two towards the ark was disrupted with the tanoy call that there was limited space in the replacement bus service.

3. rogueslr
The staff sports day at Sellafield was always a colourful affair.

2. Northern_Simon
"Run for your lives! The Disney copyright lawyers are coming!!!"

1. teazeldad
As they watched the athletes approaching the finish line, the IOC officials realised that, compared to this, Caster Semenya was a straightforward case.

Paper Monitor

12:12 UK time, Friday, 9 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

samcamconferencedress_getty.jpgSo, SamCam's conference outfit. A £65 M&S dress, £29 sale heels.

And every newspaper puts its fashion desk to work on unpicking her High Street wardrobe. While Mrs Cameron says little, her choice of clothes speaks volumes.

For this was no thrown-together ensemble. Not least because that dress, heavily promoted in adverts and in fashion spreads over the summer, sells out each time it's restocked.

Esther Addley in the Guardian - after noting that it is "shallow and not a little demeaning to discuss political wives only in terms of their clothing" - sees her outfits as carefully chosen barbs aimed squarely at Labour.

"Cameron, in her real life, routinely wears designer dresses, shoes and handbags in outfits that cost four figures to put together. But this week at party conference it's been Jigsaw and Office, Uniqlo and Wrangler, and good old M&S."

The Daily Mail agrees.

"Throughout the week, Samantha Cameron's wardrobe has been chosen with style - and PR - in mind."

The Sun, however, takes it on face value.

"Her £29 Zara sale shoes also told Britain that she and David are a normal couple feeling the pinch."

The Daily Telegraph's political correspondent opines that her outfit is a visual interpretation of David Cameron's words.

"Her husband attempted to reach out to the middle classes by insisting that he understood their concerns. Samantha Cameron showed that she was one of them simply by donning a dress."

The Independent reckons that Labour voting shoppers will be cursing her "and quietly pushing the ubiquitous garment to the back of their wardrobes".

And the Times wonders how she got her hands on M&S's fastest selling dress ever. A party insider tells the paper that she fell in love with it in early summer.

"[But] by the time she got to her local store, the size 8 that she was looking for had sold out. If nothing else, that she got her hands on one eventually says plenty about Marks & Spencer's inter-store tracking service."

As an aside, the online Telegraph has a headline all but guaranteed a slot in its most-read list: "Women-only town of Swedish lesbians 'does not exist'"
If you are shallow enough to want to add to its page views, here's the link.

And finally, readers of Thursday's Paper Monitor may wonder whether visions of little tiny starey-eyed diamante-cross-wearing mice - or are they newborn kittens? - sipping tea from delicate china cups did indeed feature in your columnist's nightmares.

The answer is yes. Too much cheese at bedtime? Oh no. The Daily Express planted that seed.

Weekly Bonus Question

10:13 UK time, Friday, 9 October 2009

Comments

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 A THREE-LEGGED CAT. But what's the question?

UPDATE 1641 BST: The correct question is, accusations of kidnapping what led to a man giving his neighbours a curry laced with slug pellets. (More details - Daily Mail)

Of your wilfully and deliberately wrong questions, we liked:

  • v8falcon's What can climb a quarter of the way up the curtains before it falls off?
  • Batcow's Who walked into a wild west saloon and declared... "I'm lookin' for the man who shot my paw"?
  • ishotthepostman's What do you get if you cross a Jaguar with a Robin Reliant?
  • loosetalk's Yet another useless tip from the Today sports desk.
  • NorfolkOnce's What is the result of keeping Piranhas in the goldfish bowl?
  • And sharpp's Consequently, what am I thinking about right now?

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:53 UK time, Friday, 9 October 2009

"The children don't know, so they call them zebras and they are happy to see something new" - Gaza zoo boss on the use of donkeys painted black and white to look like zebras.

Apparently it's a pretty expensive business smuggling exotic animals through the tunnels under Gaza's border with Egypt. So Mohammed Bargouthi, boss of Marah Land, has solved the problem of zebras by mocking up a donkey. With packing tape and paint.
More details

Your Letters

15:59 UK time, Thursday, 8 October 2009

Am I the only person who finds news stories (I use the term ironically) such as this intensely irritating? If I wanted to know what someone said to someone else on Twitter, I would join Twitter, wouldn't I? I don't understand why BBC News insists on being some sort of Twitter summariser, especially given this article.
Daniel Hayes, London, UK

This headline must surely represent the most deluded optimism in all human history.
Adam, London, UK

I would like to nominate the Grammy winner Adele for quote of the day. "You're only as good as your next record" had me scratching my head and laughing at the same time.
Bob Peters, Leeds, UK

In response to today's mini-quiz, can I just say: "Like, you know, whatever."
Dave G, Swindon, UK

Teri in Winchester (Wednesday's letters), tattoo artists have several ways of practising. They normally start by using pig skin bought from the butcher. They then graduate onto themselves, normally in the thigh area. They will then tattoo either their friends for the cost of ink and needles or customers who want very simple designs, again for a low cost.
Dave Cassar, London

Teri (Wednesday's letters), fledgling tattoo artists have drunks for patrons.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

So far we've been invited to blow it, bang it, drum it, strum it and stroke it. Do you have a guest writer from the Daily Star writing your headlines for this article? I feel positively dirty.
Kat Gregg, Coventry

Web Monitor

15:58 UK time, Thursday, 8 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the clothes line owner who doesn't have an interest in fashion shows, the Hyacinth Bucket of academia and the real reason people do and don't reply to your dating site message.

lg_226.jpg• Liam Gallagher may have left Oasis and started a fashion brand, but he is insistent in the Times that you won't see him anywhere near a catwalk:

"But I'm not a fashion designer. I'm not into the fashion side of it. I'm just into making top clobber that I like."

• Upbringing is an important element of your identity if you're planning to climb up the academic tree in the US. That's according to Professor William Pannapacker who is an associate professor of English at Hope College. Pannapacker says in his Chronicle article Confessions of a Middlebrow Professor, why he feels everyone hates those, like himself, from working class homes, who desperately aspired to be intellectual.

"Unlike the independent highbrows and unself-conscious lowbrows, middlebrows, it seems, are so invested in 'getting on in life' that they do not really like anything unless it has been approved by their betters. For [Virginia] Woolf and her heirs, middlebrows are inauthentic, meretricious bounders, slaves to fashion and propriety, aping a culture they cannot understand"

• Masses of data are being collected about us from the internet, perhaps the most intimate is gleaned from dating websites.

OK Cupid regularly analyses the data it collects. The site uses its compatibility tests to work out who is most compatible and then watches whether people reply to the people they are deemed most compatible with. It turns out, OK Cupid says, people are more likely to reply based on the race of the recipient - white males being most popular. They found that white women, although they may be matched up from everything to star sign, are far more likely to respond to someone they look like. Here's Ok Cupid's conclusion:

"We've processed the messaging habits of almost a million people and are about to basically prove that, despite what you might've heard from the Obama campaign and organic cereal commercials, racism is alive and well. It would be awesome if the other major online dating players would go out on a limb and release their own race data, too. I can't imagine they will: multi-million dollar enterprises rarely like to admit that the people paying them those millions act like turds. But being poor gives us a certain freedom."

Paper Monitor

11:31 UK time, Thursday, 8 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Animal photo stories are all very well. But stuffed animal photo stories do rather scare the living daylights out of Paper Monitor.

And if one has nightmares tonight about little tiny starey-eyed diamante-cross-wearing mice - or are they newborn kittens? - sipping tea from delicate china cups, the Daily Express is to blame. And as for the somewhat moth-eaten and boss-eyed rat - or is it a mouse? - with a chalice and scabbard... YIKES!

Quickly turning to its diary column Hickey for some light relief (titter - or does "hickey" just have connotations for Paper Monitor? The rest of the team at Monitor Towers are evenly split between tittering and not tittering) there is an enjoyable snippet about behind-the-scenes bickering at the Tory conference. No - wait - come back!

borisrundaverun_pa.jpgRumours of a joint photo opportunity jog between Dave Cameron and Boris Johnson have come, so far, to naught. But it has sparked something of a tussle over who is the faster runner.

"London's mayor has privately assured pals that he is the quicker of the two, a claim swiftly kicked into touch by the Tory leader's team. 'To put it politely David doesn't carry as much body weight as Boris,' chuckles one official."

Gosh, it's like Brown v Blair all over again.

UPDATE 1631 BST: As promised in yesterday's column, here the Magazine takes the temperature of the newspaper diary column, afetr the passing of People in the Times.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:41 UK time, Thursday, 8 October 2009

"I hope that this isn't a political gimmick. I'm always suspicious of government's motives when it does things like this" - shadow home secretary Chris Grayling, who mistakenly thought ex-army chief General Sir Richard Dannatt has been offered a job by Gordon Brown.

"I'm really delighted"
- Mr Grayling, subsequently realising the job had actually been offered by David Cameron.


More details

Web Monitor

17:13 UK time, Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today Web Monitor accommodates the weary film star and anxious yuppies. Share the most interesting bits of the web by sending links via the letters box to the right of this page.

Jesse Eisenberg• Jesse Eisenberg may not be a film star on the level of Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt but he is starring in Zombieland which has topped the North American box office. Just starting out in the industry, he provides an example of how quickly one can become jaded in Hollywood - as shown in his interview with Ben Barna in Black Book:

"I get offered movies on a regular basis, but most of them are terrible because most of the movies that are made are terrible... I was on the plane today with my sister and I just had her read one [script] because I just couldn't stand it. It was just this guy who was trying to have sex with a lot of women. I read like five pages and then my veins hurt."

• There is an increase in Americans burying their dead in their back gardens according to the New York Times. Stefany Anne Golberg muses in the Smart Set that this has caused controversy - not because of the health and safety implications, but because it highlights how public grieving has become too social:

"By planting our dead in public, Americans solved an urban planning problem and created an emotional one. Cemeteries put death in the public realm. But they also hide death by sticking it on a hilltop in the suburbs. One could thus argue that enveloping corpses with copses, decorating them with flowers and bits of marble, is simply an elaborate process of avoidance. That as we attend a jazz concert together over our dead grandmothers, we are distracted from grieving for them."

• What is it about antiquities from across the world that is so alluring? How do gift shops full of trinkets make their money? In Salon, Heather Havrilesky says that these knick-knacks are for anxious yuppies but no-one is immune to their appeal:

"In this age of ephemeral digital connections and vaporous 24-hour media feeds when most of us spend our days squinting at computer screens, it makes sense that we would be infatuated by the notion of real labor, that we would cling to the concreteness of old stuff that looks like it has a long and storied history... none of us are above seeking the validation afforded by truly special, anointed, original, odd, whimsical things. It's just that most of us can't afford them."

Your Letters

16:06 UK time, Wednesday, 7 October 2009

The wedding photographer debate had me thinking of lasting influence of a bad artist's work on someone's life during such vital moments. How do fledgling tattoo artists train? Surely they would not be completely error-free so early in their career, so who out there would happily allow an inexperienced inker permanently mark them? A slightly awkward catch-22 situation methinks.
Teri, Winchester

More Tory infighting - now Cameron has accused his party of "acting like a government". A bit harsh there, Dave!
Edward Green, London, UK

I would to make a public apology for only getting one answer right in the public apology quiz.
Dave Godfrey, Swindon, UK

Every time I read a story about Michael Fish he gives a different excuse. That it wasn't a real hurricane - England will never have wind speeds high enough to get a real hurricane. That he wasn't the first to say it wasn't coming. Now he says he was talking about a completely different country. It's time he owned up to the gaff and laughed about it.
Sarah, Colchester

Fascinating to read in the Alexandra Burke interview that she is "her own woman", because she made the decision to have a fringe all by herself. Ms Pankhurst would be so proud.
Sarah J, Canary Wharf

Even better than the offers on at Andy Taylor's local supermarket Tuesday letters) are the ones I have at mine. One pack of frozen fish for £2, or two packs for £5... Hmmmm.
Heulwen Livesey, Ipswich

Two packs of 98p crisps for £2. Think I'll just take the one.
Michael Walker, Worcester, England

I remember, when I worked in retail, one particular DVD promotion: three for £15. A customer identified three £4.99 films which I proceeded to scan and yup - true to our advertising the till added on a 3p "saving". Bargain.
Paul, Cheltenham, UK

As students, we used to (probably illegally) sell cans of beer to other students on their way out of nightclubs. It was £1.50 a can, or three for a fiver. You'd be amazed how many people took us up on our offer.
Jo, London

Recently, my local supermarket had a "special offer" selling four-packs of canned tuna for the price of five identical single cans. That was topped by an offer to buy a four-pack of tinned tomatoes for the regular price of three single tins. Which would have been great, except that the single tins were on a half-price offer at the same time, so it was really four for the price of six.
David Richerby, Leeds, UK

I don't care how cheap the packet of sausages is, if a third of them are off, the rest can't be far behind.
John Marsh, Washington DC, US

Nadja (Tuesday letters), what you are missing is the Australian weather. If you're out in the sun all day the beer doesn't have as much impact as it would in a bar in chilly Boston.
Alan, Stockport, UK

Your bad wedding photos

12:35 UK time, Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Out of focus, bad lighting, a hardly visible bride and bridegroom... everyone thinks they can photograph a wedding, but the results can leave a lot to be desired.

Dismayed by the official pictures of their wedding, Marc and Sylvia Day have successfully sued their official photographer for breach of contract. This set us at the Magazine to thinking, how hard is it to photograph a wedding? (answer: harder than you think), and we asked for your own examples of bad wedding pics (but only if you took these yourself and so have copyright). Here's what we've been sent so far:

laundrybags_jonathanproud.jpgJonathan Proud is not too, er, proud to admit that this is not his finest work.

"As a keen amateur, I was designated 'official photographer' for my niece's wedding, as they didn't want a professional who would dominate the proceedings. I'd never photographed a wedding before. There was a driveway between the bride, groom and family members being photographed, and the rest of the wedding party taking pictures and looking on. From time to time traffic interrupted proceedings, like this laundry trolley, causing great amusement."

fouryearoldsnap.jpgAnd this from Ginou.

"At our wedding, only my husband, my then four-year-old son and myself were there. That meant we had to take the photos. We held up the camera - and the four-year-old took the photo. I did make an awesome scrapbook out of them, if I say so myself."

womaninhat_gareth.jpgAnd Gareth Fudge sent this in.

"Being a wedding photographer is not as easy as it looks. You get the shot set up and someone dives in. Fortunately I am amateur and was just shooting my friend's wedding. This made it into the album though as a private joke."

outoffocus_raza.jpg
And Raza Rao, of Oldham, sent us this from his own big day.

"Video camera in focus... and me and my bride are out of focus :("

exchangingrings_caroline.jpgGetting the happy couple in focus is also a problem in this picture, sent in by Caroline Marin. Sorry, what's going on?

"The groom giving the ring to the bride."

justinframe_jamie.jpgIt's not the focus but the framing that's the problem with this photo from Jamie Troy. Who is it of?

"The happy couple? My friends asked me to take some pictures as I have been a semi-professional in the past. I really like this one as a sort of anti-wedding picture. A complete accident though."

bridegroomdancing_darren.jpgAnd then there's this, from Darren Woolridge of London.

"Oh dear, here's my shot of the first dance of Kieron and Rachel's wedding. Here are some of the slightly sarcastic comments left when I posted this on Facebook: 'Lucky you were there to capture that special moment' and, from the groom, 'That is lovely'. Believe it or not, I am a professional photographer. Luckily I was just there as a guest that day."

UPDATE 1625 BST, 9 October: And more pictures can be seen here.

Paper Monitor

11:45 UK time, Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Stop the clocks. Again.

The Times has pulled its People column. Regular readers will know how Paper Monitor feels about People. Others can catch up here, here and halfway through here.

But now it's gone, without even saying goodbye - it's left to the Guardian to read the last rites:

"It makes the Times the only UK quality paper not to have a regular diary column... 'There is a war in Afghanistan and a recession and the positive, light-hearted column didn't seem to fit,' said a source."

And the Guardian notes that to move People's Adam Sherwin back into the reporting fold "is also likely to be cheaper". There'll be more on newspaper diary columns in Thursday's Magazine.

But the pain is somewhat nullified by a thought that the human brain looks like an overcooked cauliflower, a nugget proffered by novelist Sebastian Faulks in a feature on the "eureka moments" that awake non-boffins to the wonders of science.

Another "fancy that" moment comes in the paper's Tokyo Notebook:

"The Japanese market for nappies is now split evenly between two groups: the under-2s and the over-40s. In a couple of years, says Japan's largest nappy-maker, babies' bottoms will be relegated to second place, and adult diapers will rule the supermarket shelves."

That, people, is what happened when your population triangle inverts.

thighhighboots_telegraph.jpgMeanwhile, there can't be many Daily Telegraph readers who don't IMMEDIATELY turn to page 30 in today's paper.

Why? Could it possibly be the front page teaser "Celia Walden - My love affair with thigh-highs" accessorised with a photo of a pair of legs encased in white lace-up stiletto boots. That go right up.

The writer, Telegraph regulars will know, is a statuesque blonde. Others may be more familiar with her boyfriend, one Piers Morgan. Heard of him?

"I have never quite recovered from my teenage fixation with thigh-high boots. There is something about pulling on those second skins of leather or suede, leaving just five to 10 inches of thigh visible at the top which should have lost its appeal by now - but hasn't."

And she knows that the very thought will be catnip to a certain subset of Telegraph readers. For there are a lot of Telegraph boxes ticked. Posh bird in vulgar footwear? Check. Name-drop of a vintage celebrity? Check - Rita Hayworth. And an old-man sport? Check, with fly fishing.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

08:24 UK time, Wednesday, 7 October 2009

"123456" - the most commonly used password among 10,000 hacked Microsoft Hotmail accounts

Ten thousand passwords and user names for Hotmail, MSN and Live.com accounts were posted online after they were thought to have been obtained from phishing attacks.
More details (Wired.com)

Web Monitor

16:37 UK time, Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor; how cat-suits can be good for feminism, the downfall the blogosphere predicted and Yoko Ono's own version of evolution.

Honor Blackman• Actress Honor Blackman reveals in Total Sci Fi that judo in a cat-suit - necessary for her 60s TV role in the Avengers - wasn't taken well by men:

"Whenever I was out socialising, I was told by the men who had a few drinks in them that they were resentful. For the first time they were jealous of a woman. They took it as the last barrier. I think people back then thought women will never be equal to men because they haven't got the strength. However, if somebody can do judo they only need the strength of the person attacking them - so we really put the lid on that argument."

• From
"About to start the Saturday puzzle. Happy"
to
"I'm packing. We're all stunned, sad".
These are the tweets from Ruth Reichl the editor of Conde Nast's Gourmet Magazine. The change in mood comes from the news that Conde Nast are closing her magazine along with Cookie, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride.

Not so stunned are the people at Magazine Death Pool, a blog dedicated to logging the folding of magazines. They predicted the event in September:


"Forget the elimination of petty perks like replenishing the pencil supply. Does the world need two foodie magazines and three bridal magazines, which are all down by huge numbers of ad pages, published by the same company? Gourmet (-42%), Bon Appetit (-31.9%), Brides, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride (-39.2%) are all very likely suspects to join the Reaper."

Jack Shafer at Slate thinks Conde Nast and General Motors are failing for the same reason:

"In theory, it makes a lot of sense for a business to encourage internal competition between divisions. But it can easily backfire...
As long as the markets boomed, managers at Conde Nast and General Motors could ignore wasteful overlapping and duplication of effort. But then came the crash. The damage to the magazine sector has been almost as catastrophic as it has been to the car industry."

Another site which predicted the fall, Gawker is running a competition on which Conde Nast titles will die next. Conde Nast employees are especially encouraged to enter.

Yoko OnoYoko Ono tells Imagining Peace that we will get smaller and smaller. The evidence? Well, why would anyone make gadgets so small?

"Like the dinosaurs, we realised that it's too dangerous
to be so large. So we kept shrinking ourselves to what we are now.
We might get even smaller. I see the sign in the engineers making
smaller gadgets, smaller and smaller. Pretty soon, our fingers will be
too large to operate them. So what are we doing? I trust in the
human wisdom. We are incredibly intelligent beings. So we might
know something without thinking that we know."

Your Letters

15:55 UK time, Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Have you noticed that whenever something big occurs there just happens to be a conspiracy theorist nearby with a video camera. I am beginning to suspect that its the conspiracy theorists themselves who may be to blame.
Gordon, Newcastle, UK

If they really want to stop alcohol related violence, then it seems daft to me to limit them to 24 beers each. Let them have a couple more and maybe they'll just pass out and not cause any trouble to anyone.
Adam, London, UK

I guess I don't drink enough because a can of beer for each hour of the day doesn't seem particularly restrictive. Am I missing something?
Nadja, generally Boston, USA

Re: Google targeted in e-mail scam. All these hacked email accounts stories - I'd love to know how BBC News "confirmed" some of the account details provided were real... Since I'm sure that attempting to log into any of them would be illegal, and the BBC would never do that! Right?
Daniel Evans, Telford, UK

The article on "Maths 'failing bargain hunters'" brought to mind the current offers in my local supermarket. You can get 3 bags of 67p sweets for £2. That's right, a saving of a penny. Even better is the £1 bars of chocolate on a 2 for £2 offer. Genius!
Andy Taylor, Southampton

Paper Monitor

11:45 UK time, Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Day two of the Conservative Party's annual autumn conference and guess who has their face splashed across the front page of the Daily Mail? Samantha Cameron? No, she's on page seven and is still wearing those £29 Zara shoes. David Cameron? No, his face doesn't make an appearance until page 14. Carla Bruni? No, she'll have to be happy with page 10 today.

In fact it's a very smug looking Tony and Cherie Blair. Conservatives need not get up in arms about it. The picture accompanies a story about taxpayers still paying £2m a year for a police protection team to guard the couple. It is also slotted alongside an article about how we may all have to work longer and retire later to plug the black hole in the country's finances.

If that doesn't put an equally smug smile on Tory faces, it also claims Cherie has been dubbed "Cherie Antoinette" because of her "love of fine things". Doesn't say by whom, but this is in stark contrast to the continued praise for Mrs Cameron and her "recession chic". On page seven you can just feel the love.

Talking of image, the Bullingdon Club debate continues today in the Daily Telegraph. Yet another of the David Cameron's "old friends" lines up to try and drum home just how ordinary he really is. This time James Delingpole defends his "old mucker Dave" and tries to explain what's wrong about the kerfuffle over "the Buller photo".

It's toe-curling reading. He says Dave was like any 19-year-old student at the time, listening to The Smiths and, err, Supertramp. Also, all students were in drinking clubs - not just Dave. At one, Mr Delingpole had to lick sorbet out of other people's belly buttons. At another the drink allocation for each guest was a bottle of red wine, one of white, one bottle of champagne and half a bottle of port. See, they really did live like any other undergraduate in the country in 1980s. Case closed.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

10:26 UK time, Tuesday, 6 October 2009

"It's absolutely wonderful to be here in Manchester, one of the few cities I have yet to insult" - London Mayor Boris Johnson

Johnson made his entrance to the Conservative Party Conference to the music of EastEnders, in which the mayor appeared as himself. And the comedy continued when his speech began with a wry acknowledgement of his past gaffes that have insulted Portsmouth and offended Liverpudlians.

Web Monitor

15:12 UK time, Monday, 5 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: a cautionary tale urging you to think before you start saving up your lunch money, a novel approach to the pensions crisis and a rumination on the role of a beauty ambassador. If you find a surprising view on the web, share it by sending the link via letters box to the right of this page.

Jessica and Joe Simpson• US singer Jessica Simpson is on a mission to explore the different perceptions of beauty for her show The Price of Beauty. She has been criticised more than most for her fluctuating weight. Thankfully, according to her father Joe Simpson in US Magazine, help is at hand:

"We were just in Uganda, and a beauty ambassador [there] knew Jessica's total story about her weight and blah, blah, blah. [She said] to Jessica that it's about who you are inside, which is the message of our show."

Web Monitor wonders is "beauty ambassador" an official UN role, flown out to doubting celebrities? Answers on an e-mail please.


• Designer Stefan Sagmeister isn't wasting his retirement on when he's old. He takes one year off every seven. In Sagmeister's lecture recorded for TED he explained his thinking:

"We spend about 25 years of our lives learning and another 40 years are reserved for working. Then tacked on the end is 15 years of retirement. I thought it might be helpful to cut off five of those retirement years and intersperse them in the working years."

• Solo yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur is probably one of the few guests on Desert Island Discs who could have a real sense of being castaway. MacArthur insists to Kirsty Young on the show that her determination to save for her first boat - an eight foot blue dinghy costing £535 - didn't make her obsessive:
Ellen Macarthur

"I would save all the school dinner money I could. At secondary school I would have either no lunch or mashed potato and baked beans. Mash was 4p, beans were 4p and gravy was free. I consumed an awful lot of gravy - I think the dinner ladies thought I was mad...
Before I knew it, it [the boat] was there, in the garden. I put the mast in, got all the sails and I was sitting there in my buoyancy aid in the garden with a little pet chicken sat on the boom. But the sea wasn't there and what I realised then was, although I saved up money for a boat, it cost money to put it on a reservoir. I didn't have that money so I had to make do with playing with it in the garden."

Your Letters

15:06 UK time, Monday, 5 October 2009

Mmm - sausages.
Kirsty, East Lothian, Scotland

Jim, Coventry (Thursday letters) may know that James Thurber wrote the superb Do You Want To Make Something Out Of It on the struggle between rival contenders for the appearance of "wkw" and other unlikely letter combinations: "abc"; "ghtf"; "sgra"...
AK, London, UK

Re Julia's letter on Friday Now, now BBC, surely on grounds on impartiality, shouldn't there be the customary "Other stamp magazines may be available"
message, or is Monitor giving us a hint towards their own phalataly, filataly, stamp collecting hobby?
Tom, Croydon

I see the Irish have voted yes to the Lisbon treaty this time, making the score 1-1.
Any news yet when the decider is?
Richard Place, Barnstaple

Tut, tut, Tony (Friday letters), hoist on your own petard. Unfortunatly SWAT is a word and thus can be an acronym.
Of course, it might be that either you or MM are simply trolling.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

In MI5's defence, there's no shame in being fooled by a spy who commands such a mastery of disguise.
Jack, Manchester


Paper Monitor

12:55 UK time, Monday, 5 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

With the Conservative Party's annual autumn conference under way, the knives are out in several of the papers - for Andrew Marr. The BBC interviewer's interrogation of David Cameron, on his Sunday morning politics TV show, came a week after he had asked Gordon Brown whether he was on medication. It was a line of questioning which met with a more hostile response from elements of the press than from the interviewee himself.

Yesterday, Marr decided to ask Mr Cameron about his personal wealth and his appearance in a university-days photograph as part of the Bullingdon Club.

It's generally thought that the picture has not been Mr Cameron's finest public relations moment, but its impact has been reduced by the fact the copyright holder withdrew rights for its use in news media.

All of which makes discussion of the image, and by association Marr's line of questioning, a little difficult in today's papers. Although maybe no -one told the Daily Telegraph, which reproduces the picture anyway.

Pictorially, the Daily Mail is more interested in what Mrs Cameron was sporting as she strolled hand-in-hand with her husband yesterday. Fashion editor Natalie Theo says Mrs C has pulled off quite a fashion coup - donning an outfit that is "bang on trend" while deploying a "simple sophistication [that] appeals to mature female voters".

Theo has helpfully costed the entire outfit, naming where the various come from... should anyone want to "get the look".

Not even Mrs C's tattoo ruins the look, says Theo - rather it's a "cheeky" twist" that proves "Samantha is both comfortable with and confident about the fact that she has a tattoo in the first place".

Only don't go getting any ideas, readers.

Monday's Quote of the Day

10:04 UK time, Monday, 5 October 2009

"I've come to the conclusion that I don't trust anybody in life except my mother and my dogs" - Cheryl Cole gives a fairly harsh evaluation of humanity.

There are no prizes for guessing for who the interviewer was alluding to when Mrs Cole made this poignant response.
More details (Times)

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