BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for October 11, 2009 - October 17, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

17:17 UK time, Friday, 16 October 2009

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

1. Earth's warmest year was 1998.
More details

2. Morecambe and Wise nearly split up, before they had even got on television.
More details

3. Sailors in Tudor times had man bags.
More details (Times)

4. Some spiders are vegetarian.
More details

5. Each person has 1.5kg of probiotic bacteria in their digestive system, on average.
More details

6. The placebo effect is real.
More details (Times)

7. Boyzone sold more singles than Take That in the 1990s.
More details

8. Culled rabbits are used to heat homes in Sweden.
More details

9. William Pitt's dying words were about House of Commons catering.
More details

10. Jeremy Clarkson's father was friends with the Monty Python team.
More details (Times)

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Arthur Fallas, from Waterloo, Belgium, for this week's picture of 10 cactus balls in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Your Letters

16:10 UK time, Friday, 16 October 2009

I was very disappointed to find that Balloon boy gets note from Queen did not reveal that Her Majesty had sent a note to Falcon Heene warning of the dangers of weather balloons (and hiding from his parents).
Emma, Jersey

Did anyone else notice Royal Mail represented by Second Class stamps and other carriers by First Class? Subtle.
Lee, Birmingham

My 36" waist trousers fit, my 36" jeans fit. I've measured my waist and its 36". So why are 35"-39" waist size belts too big for me? Is this some sort of global conspiracy?
Ian, Redditch

Rachel (Thursday's letters), to confuse (or maybe enlighten) you further. I always take "I could care less" and "I couldn't care less" to mean exactly the same thing. Only the first usage is heavily laced with irony, as in, I could care less but I most certainly don't.
Joe, Sheffield

Jan (Thursday's letters), do you think denial of knowledge of reality celebrities is a new version of pretending to read books. Lewis's identity is established right there in the report.
Phil, Guisborough

Is it right that I should feel so happy and so accomplished; that I should feel like a member of an elite group, separated from mere mortals by our consumption of all news, no matter how trivial, just because - for the first time ever - I scored 7/7 on this week's quiz?
Paul, Cirencester
Monitor note: Help yourself to some kudos, my man.

Did everyone else get full marks on 7 days 7 questions this week? Mine came up with the answers so it was nearly as easy as a Maths GCSE...
Marie, London

There's a new Drunk Girl - did the old girl get fired for drinking on the job?
Robyn, Cheshire

Kat (Wednesday letters), so I pass the Turing Test. I fear I would disappoint - exciting Magazine Monitor poster by night; conformist salary-serf by day.
Andrew, Malvern, UK
Monitor note: Ooo! A Monitor friendship. Let us know how you get on.

Sorry PB (Thursday's letters), it is actually the colon within a URL that is used to separate the protocol from the host and the host from the port number (normally omitted in http URLs). Single slashes are then used within the path component to specify the exact resource the URL identifies. The double forward slashes following the protocol are part of the host component and, as Tim Berners-Lee says, are completely superfluous. URNs, which are used in other aspects of computing (such as network MAC addresses or IPv6 addresses), also use colons to separate their components, without a forward slash in sight. I assume my pedant award is in the post?
Steve, Sheffield
Monitor note: It is.

With today's 6th place in the Caption Competition, that takes my total to 50 mentions since my first caption in the summer of 2005. Do I get cake? Or a spare LBQ keyring?
Simon Rooke, Nottingham, UK
Monitor note: There's a plate of kudos doing the rounds somewhere...

As previously mentioned in this week's letters, we will be including the best comments from Facebook and Twitter. Here's one from Facebook fan Ewan Mitchell:
Are time travel and wireless electricity actually real? Ask me yesterday.

Caption Competition

12:50 UK time, Friday, 16 October 2009


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week it's the World Gymnastics Championships in London. Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. LaurenceLane
And this is what happens when you ignore those height restriction signs at Disneyland.

5. fandango2
Marie Antoinette: The Musical

4. nick-fowler
But Eddie Kidd had been unable to clear that last gymnast.

3. TheRealCatherineO
Gymnasts from the Galapagos Islands found to have an unusual startle reflex.

2. BeckySnow
Giant jelly babies take vengeance.

1. Rob Falconer
The Olympic Committee regretted building the gymnasium close to so many low bridges.

Paper Monitor

10:20 UK time, Friday, 16 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"Six-year-old boy gets the mother of all tellings off"

metroballoonboy.jpgHardly the stuff of front page headlines, but that would be the story if Metro were to update its lead.

The tale of six-year-old Falcon Heene had Paper Monitor wanting to walk the aisles of its train into work, disabusing glum commuters of the heart-breaking conclusion to Metro's front page story.

But the carriage was so crammed, it was a challenge just to open the paper itself.

In Metroland, young Falcon, was "feared dead... after drifting 8,000ft into the sky in a giant flying saucer-shaped balloon".

The boy, from Colorado, in the US, was thought to have climbed into a box attached to the balloon which belonged to his father, a weather enthusiast.

This being the US, efforts to rescue Falcon quickly spread to the rolling news channels - a step hardly hindered by the fact that when young Falcon's parents discovered he was missing, they called the local TV station before contacting the cops.

But the prognosis wasn't good, especially when the balloon eventually fell to earth and there was no sign of Falcon when it landed.

There were "some eyewitness reports suggesting the boy had fallen to his probable death", says Metro.

It's hardly the sort of story that gives you the weekend feel-good factor... unless, of course, you go down the old media route of, er, paying for a paper.

"Falcon goes up, up and away - but in a box in the attic, not his dad's flyaway balloon" is the Times' rather protracted take on the story.

Yes, it turns out that young Falcon had actually been hiding upstairs in the family home.

Checking back on the newswires for Thursday night reveals something about Metro's final copy deadline - this happy turn of events was first reported at 11.10pm, by Associated Press.

Events have developed even more since, with claims - denied by the family - that the whole episode was a publicity stunt. The theory came about after Falcon, interviewed live on CNN, said he had stayed quiet because his parents "said that we did this for a show".

But if Metro feels a tad humbled, then spare a thought for young Falcon who is now, well and truly grounded.

Weekly Bonus Question

09:46 UK time, Friday, 16 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 CAMPING CUTLERY. But what's the question?

UPDATE 1634 BST: The correct question is, what did a six-year-old US boy bring to school that resulted in his suspension. (More details)

Of your wilfully and deliberately wrong questions, we liked:

  • rogueslr's What do a tent peg and the top of a tin of beans constitute?
  • ManxDave57's Eating with intent?
  • BeckySnow's What's always short of a fish fork?
  • victormeldrewgroupie's
    An MoD spokesman blamed a clerical error when instead of the L1A1 12.7 mm (.50) Heavy Machine Gun (HMG), a £5 million order was placed for what?
  • And Kettering_Jeremy's The absence of what in the archaeological record, has led Richard Dawkins to conclude that early man was not at one with nature, and spent most his spare time on DIY projects around the cave?

Thanks to all who entered.

Friday's Quote of the Day

07:44 UK time, Friday, 16 October 2009

"You are Scottish, we have nothing in common and you are an economist. But somehow, Gordon, I love you" - Nicolas Sarkozy to Gordon Brown

It was the thick of the economic meltdown in February and the French president, a man noted for his passionate approach to life, confessed his strong feelings for the British prime minister... although he hastened to add "not in a sexual way". The comments have just been disclosed by Mr Brown's private secretary, Tom Fletcher.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Web Monitor

17:08 UK time, Thursday, 15 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: history-making amnesia, why blood-sucking is big and absent moral codes. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending them via the letters box.

Joan Baez• Sixties folk singer Joan Baez was present at Martin Luther King's famous "Free At Last" speech but Baez reveals in the Huffington Post it all seems a bit vague now:

"I don't know how far ahead one looks. But, at least, at my age, it was completely overwhelming. We were all sort of under a spell at that moment, and I don't know exactly what I was thinking. I know what I was feeling, that it was beyond glorious. But I don't know that I was thinking about American history."

• Just what is it about vampires that make them so popular at the moment? Stephen Marche in Esquire says this time around vampires aren't about immigrants, religion or even AIDS (all are previous hypotheses). Vampires, according to Mache, have overwhelmed pop culture because young straight women fancy gay men:

"Our vampires are normal. They're not Goth, they're not scary, they're not even that weird... In the best-selling Undead series of MaryJanice Davidson, the Queen of the Vampires is a suburbanite named Betsy Taylor. Edward, the romantic hero of the Twilight series, is a sweet, screwed-up high school kid, and at the beginning of his relationship with Bella, she is attracted to him because he is strange, beautiful, and seemingly repulsed by her. This exact scenario happened several times in my high school between straight girls and gay guys who either hadn't figured out they were gay or were still in the closet. Twilight's fantasy is that the gorgeous gay guy can be your boyfriend, and for the slightly awkward teenage girls who consume the books and movies, that's the clincher."

• The blacked-up model on the controversial front cover of French Vogue doesn't surprise the journalist Elizabeth Gates. She's worked in fashion in everything from dressing models to tending to a socialite's pooch and Gates says in the Daily Beast she was most often the only black woman in sight:

"Fashion isn't about fairness. It isn't about being polite, kind, sweet natured or well behaved. Fashion is vicious and cut throat - and if you really love it (and want to succeed) it can be downright maddening. To be perfectly honest, I myself am often 'too nice' to be taken seriously in this industry. Kindness has no place here - and believe me, a little racism isn't affecting anyone who might hire a fashion hopeful (or fire one the next day). Fashion doesn't care if you're anorexic, bulimic or if you are 12 years old from a farm in Oregon without any idea about 'child labor laws'--and it certainly doesn't care about black history. I accepted that fact years ago. Fashion has no moral code."

Your Letters

16:16 UK time, Thursday, 15 October 2009

Far be it from me to want to contradict such a man as the inventor of the world wide web, but surely the double forward slash indicates the end of the protocol (http, ftp) part and the beginning of the host part (e.g. of the URL? If anything, it would seem to make more sense to remove the colon part of the URL just after the protocol - since the double forward slash indicates the start of a string that is delimited by single forward slashes?
PB, London

As previously mentioned in this week's letters, we will be including comments from Facebook and Twitter. Here's one from Anne Till about the topic mentioned above:
My job, a Second Officer, is always abbreviates to 2/O so I guess that's a use. 2.O just plain wouldn't look right so horrah for the oblique slash.

Man jailed for letting girl smoke tells us twice that Mr Conroy is "of no fixed address". Is this strictly true, given that his address will be fairly certain for the next several months?
Ken, Chelsmford

Mark (Wednesday's letters), I have another sentence which can make your eyes water in a "hang on, I think I've almost got it" sort of way. Here they say "I could care less", rather than "I couldn't care less". It makes me want to sit down and draw a Venn Diagram.
Rachel, Minnetonka

All noun headline?
Tom Webb, Surbiton, UK

Leona Lewis 'okay' after attack - do readers know *why* 'okay' became a word when 'OK' is shorter (and I believe a shortening of 'Orl Korrekt')? Or why youths of today (I'm old remember - see my lawnmower letter) shorten it to 'k'?
Ed, Clacton, UK

And who exactly is Leona Lewis?
Jan Davies, Nuneaton

To @niphette (Wednesday's letters) Yes.
Jimmy , Dorking, UK

Paper Monitor

11:44 UK time, Thursday, 15 October 2009

A service highlighting the Ritchies of the daily press.

Oh goody, the Guardian has been along to the Frieze art fair in London and done us a G2 special edition to mark the event.

There's a Bansky of the Mona Lisa mooning, clear polythene bags filled with urine, a sculpture of a pregnant man... and that's before we get to the work of a Hong Kong artist who taped his eyes shut on a sightseeing tour of Malaysia and is now displaying his snapshots from the holiday.

Nobody tell Brian Sewell.

In fact, even the Guardian's art critic, Adrian Searle, appears bamboozled by the whole occasion - slipping into the role of innocent bystander as random acts of modern art occur around him.

"After a while, my critical faculties turn to mush," he confesses. Hmm, something of an admission for an art critic critiquing an art show.

"...I end up staring intently at a thin bit of wire that slowly emerges, just below eye level, from a wall. This motorised wire obtrudes, dangling under its own weight, while the other end disappears into a second hole in the wall nearby."

Of course, there is a point to all this. For your paid-up Guardianista, this is thoroughly nutritious stuff - an opportunity to feel enfranchised in the otherwise elitist world of modern world.

And while Paper Monitor's on the subject of all not being quite as it seems, the Guardian's front page tells of a new film which takes the Fleet Street tabloids to task for dubious reporting.

The producers of Starsuckers, which premieres at the London Film Festival next week, sought to prove their point by planting a number of untrue stories about celebrities with tabloid hacks and seeing what happens. (Given that the Times is the main sponsor of the festival, why is the Guardian first with this?)

What happened was that said pieces of gossip were faithfully reproduced - and often embellished - without so much as a fact checking call to the celebrity is question.

The bogus stories include one about Amy Winehouse's hair catching fire, and Guy Ritchie getting a black eye from juggling cutlery.

Although, after Ritchie's surely soon-to-be infamous "marmalade" interview of last week, such retrospective score-keeping seems almost churlish.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:24 UK time, Thursday, 15 October 2009

"I am presenting the master race as garden gnomes and that falls into any sensible definition of satire" - Artist Ottmar Horl on his exhibition of 'Nazi' gnomes in Germany.

gardengnomesingermany.jpgHorl's massed gnomes - all performing a "Heil Hitler" salute - stand in a Bavarian square once used for Nazi parades.

For humans, the gesture can bring a three-year jail term. But the artist argues that banning uncomfortable artworks is something the Nazis themselves might have done... if not worse.
More details (Times)

Web Monitor

16:47 UK time, Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the folly of searching for raw talent, made-up research and the people against the piano.

Leona Lewis
• X-Factor winner Leona Lewis on Woman's Hour questions the idea that contests like the X-Factor pluck raw talent from obscurity. She went to two stage schools herself and said that previous training was crucial:

"I had a lot of singing lessons from a very young age... I know the proper techniques of singing and I know how to look after my voice and that's important when you've got live performances every week... If you have someone who has raw talent and hasn't really developed it or had proper training, I think it can be quite hard to take on everything that happens afterwards."

• At Prof Hacker, a blog dedicated to tips and tutorials for higher education Jason Jones suggests that making up research is endemic in academia:

"Faking it is a crucial way to get anything accomplished. Many abstracts for conferences or proposals for books or sabbaticals or anything else are written before the project described therein is finished, or sometimes even started. You build a constituency for a new course in part by positing its existence, and then trusting that a successful iteration of it will lead to even more interested students."

• At Arstechnica Nate Anderson reminds us that complaining about the copyright issues around technology is nothing new. It's as older than the video cassette recorder, older than the photocopier at least and as old as the gramophone and piano:

"The great irony of these debates is that most new devices become popular only because buyers really want them, which means they open whole new markets that can then be monetized by rightsholders."

Your Letters

16:14 UK time, Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Am I the only person to do 7 questions on posthumous hits and think "Oh! are they dead?" more that once?
Ralph, Cumbria

Re 10 other uses for /, I cannot be the only person to wonder how a person who develops a shorthand system which uses a / instead of a . defines "shorthand".
Sharon, Belfast

Oh so close! Am I the only one who read Mrs Gubbay as Mrs "Grubbay" in Just how essential is a cleaner? I wish it were true...
Alexandra, Reading, UK

I obviously have a dirty mind. That's not where I thought the two tennis balls would go to emulate Posh (Paper Monitor).
Peter Bradford, Maryland, US

I ran Tuesday's quote of the day from Lagerfeld through babelfish: "There thick mummies with the chip bag sit vorm televisions and say, thin Models are ugly."
So did he mean thick or fat? Maybe the double entendre works in German. If so he gave us one.
Jeremy, Aylesbury

Is it just me, or is there something about the headline Growth in UK unemployment slows that makes my head hurt trying to work out what's going up and down?
Mark, Portsmouth

My office is so well insulated that we have to have the air-conditioning on for around nine months of the year. Would it not be more efficient to have a less well insulated office that needs - say - three months of air-con and three months of heating in a year? (We only found this out today because the air-con broke down and we had to have the emergency doors opened.)
Basil Long, Nottingham

Hi Andrew (Wednesday letters). I'll be visiting my parents in Malvern over Christmas. Fancy meeting up for a drink?
Kat Gregg, Coventry

As previously mentioned in this week's letters, we will be including the best comments from Facebook and Twitter. Here's one from niphette:

I'm wondering if there is less cyber-kudos involved in getting a tweet published as opposed to a real letter...

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

10:40 UK time, Wednesday, 14 October 2009

"I wouldn't mind my skull being an ashtray or summat" - Damien Hirst ponders uses for his body after his death.

Get the feeling Hirst likes skulls? His diamond-studded one fetched £50m. He has talked about buying skulls over the internet for other works of art. Now he has said he wouldn't mind donating his own skull for art.
More details (Daily Mail)

Paper Monitor

09:56 UK time, Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Readers of yesterday's Paper Monitor must still be on tenterhooks after the mysteries mentioned within.

What? That thing about the gagged Guardian? That is sooooo yesterday (look at the URL on that when you click through... it's Gurniad to the core).

Nah, it's a) "How to get Posh's daft £8k look" and b) "Would you wear an EIGHT GRAND outfit to the school autumn fair?" Exactly what the Sun asks. And answers, by recreating the big-shouldered look:

"Step one... this is all you need a £30 New Look jacket, two tennis balls, a hanger and a sharp knife"

The paper then dresses a Poshalike in the get-up, accessorised with her mortified five-year-old son Dominic.

"Dom said: 'I'd be so embarrassed if my mum turned up dressed like that.'"

Er, but, Dom, the Sun says she actually did turn up at school dressed like that. School gates, or just the paper saying it's the school gates? Out of the mouths of babes...

Not only are offspring ever ready to critique one's outfit, the ladies out there will know that mothers can be a little sniffy too. And this is the role taken by the Daily Mail, which asks "are 'coathanger shoulders' the most ridiculous trend ever?"

"And the crowning glory of the crazy get-up? The Thunderbirds shoulder pads, which swooped upwards like the roof of a Chinese tea house. She looked for all the world as if she had borrowed her son's padded Batman costume."

Paper Monitor can hardly talk, but how did that old adage about "if you can't say anything nice..." go?

Damien Hirst is perhaps thinking the same thing, given the mauling his latest show has received. The Independent reckons "the man simply can't paint". Derivative is a word that crops up a lot in other reviews (see the Mail's handy digest of what the critics say).

And finally, ever wondered what the double // is for in URLs? Some kind of tricksy code, no doubt (boisterous upstart Web Monitor might know).

Ah look, a piece about Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British scientist who created the World Wide Web, in the Daily Telegraph. He'll know.

But what's this? He DOESN"T?!?!?!

"'Really, if you think about it, it doesn't need the //. I could have designed it not to have the //,' he said last week at the symposium in Washington DC on the future of technology ... 'it seemed like a good idea at the time.'"

Tellingly, the story only seems to appear on the Telegraph's website - and not in the newspaper itself. Evidence, maybe, of the split personality between newspapers and their websites.

But readers of the paper itself who fear they may have lost out can at least console themselves with a picture of a 40-year-old Brooke Shields posing in a bikini, leaning against a motorcycle with dry ice fuming at her ankles. Tate Modern apparently used the picture as a replacement for a controversial revealing shot of Shields aged 10.

Funny how things turn out.

Web Monitor

16:43 UK time, Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: apologising about insincere apologies, being unapologetic about sitting around for a year and the argument for keeping your views to yourself. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending them via the letter box at the right of this page.

Mike Tyson• On a very emotional interview with Oprah Winfrey, boxer Mike Tyson says he now feels guilty about biting off Evander Holyfield's ear. He explains he was desperate to win the fight:

"I didn't feel guilty at the time. I apologised to him... it wasn't sincere... I was more offended from apologising because it was so insincere... When I see him sometimes he's a little wary of me."

• On 28th October 2008, Nina Sankovitch started reading a book a day and posting a review of each one on her blog. She vowed to carry on for a year so she's almost finished. In Sankovitch's monthly update on Read All Day she explains why she does it and what she thinks makes a good story:

"It started as a quest to quench the relentless sorrow I felt over the death of my sister. My daily reading has been a salve for the sorrow and so much more: it has been an adventure, a grand vacation in the reading and a mighty struggle in the writing. I can't say I've become a better person in my year of reading one book a day but I have become a wider person, wider in experience... Okay, so I've also become wider in terms of my beam (a lot of sitting and reading) and I'm sleep-deprived (a lot of writing), and at times, mentally wrung-out. After all, every great book is about struggle and the success or failure in meeting that struggle and by now I've been through over two hundred thirty of those struggles."

• In contrast, an avid online music reviewer is urging people to keep quiet about their opinions on music. In Pop Matters Rob Horning asks music lovers not to rate music online and not to tell their friends on blogs what they think about artists as it will be used for targeted advertising:

"Our intentions in listening will be harder and harder to keep pure; the temptations to sell our tastes out by blogging/tweeting/social network posting about them will continue to increase. It may be too late for me but the rest of you may be able to save yourselves. Tell no one online what you've heard."

Your Letters

16:00 UK time, Tuesday, 13 October 2009

"The images cannot be stored or captured in any way." Except, it would appear, for the purposes of illustrating news articles on public websites. Very reassuring.
Peter, London

What is it about Rynair stop giving it so much free publicity
Adrian, West Midlands

I was interested to read that Miroslaw Balka's previous works have included "corridors that visitors can walk through". I think I may have an original Balka outside my office door; does anyone know how much I could get for it?
Edward Green, London, UK

Corridors that people can walk through, eh? Innovative.
Dan, Cambridge

As we mentioned in Your Letters on Monday, we will be including the best comments from Facebook and Twitter. Here's one comment on Monday's story about Facebook addicts.

It's like with everything else rapidly getting into common life. If you don't know how to use it, you'll hurt yourself. In the last 30 years the world has witnessed similar dramas involving TV, mobile phones and Internet itself. Same ol' stories. I'm surprised the BBC hasn't got over it yet.
Robert Thomas Sebastian Błaszczak

Whilst applauding their charitable leanings, can I have been the only person in the UK crying "No...No...please... Nooooooo!" at this news?
Jaye, Rutland, England

Ed (Monday's Letters), I immediately thought of a grass-powered lawnmower with wool as a by-product - am I older?
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Well Mr Lagerfeld, fortunately I do not like your clothing lines so I will not waste my time or money trying to be acceptable to you.
Jo, London

Paper Monitor

11:38 UK time, Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

telegraph_theft_frontpage.jpgWhen taken last year, it was just another photo of an MP at a youth centre. And would never have made the front pages. Today, however, is another day. And that file pic from the archives is the BIG picture on page one of the Daily Telegraph - Jacqui Smith laughing under the word "theft", which is on a mural at said youth centre.

Paper Monitor imagines that an eagle-eyed picture editor has had this snap stored on their favourites for just such an occasion as the former home secretary's public apology for claiming her sister's house as her main abode. "But no need for Smith to repay £100,000 in incorrect claims," thunders the Telegraph's headline.

Meanwhile, talking of headlines, the Daily Mail has a goodie of a headline for its picture of Victoria Beckham in extreme shoulder pads: "Where did I leave that coathanger?" (Can't quite believe shoulder pads are back? Check out The life cycle of a fashion trend from the Magazine).

Returning to expenses, the Times sketch writer Ann Treneman compares and contrasts the goings-on Westminster Cathedral, as the faithful queued to file past the bones of St Therese of Lisieux, and at Westminster, as MPs queued at their pigeonholes for the letters giving the verdict on their claims.

"The first queue waited to be healed, the second to find out if they were heels, or worse. Never have two queues seemed so mutually exclusive."

It's a bit of a tenuous link between the two groups, but Paper Monitor does so like Treneman's turn of phrase. Here she is on Jacqui Smith's less than apologetic apology to the House of Commons:

"[A] little speech that was as bereft of true regret and as miserly as someone who claims for an 88p bathplug knows how to be."


Amid the blizzard of revelations of other MPs' claims for duck houses, moats and feminine hygiene products (a claim submitted by a male politician), one had clean forgotten about the bathplug.

And finally, the Guardian has an article about nothing. Well, an article about how its been gagged from reporting something.

"Today's published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.
The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented - for the first time in memory - from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret."

All of which serves to heighten interest in whatever the question, the answer, the asker, and the legal obstacles, might be. There's nothing like a good mystery...

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:49 UK time, Tuesday, 13 October 2009

"These fat mummies with bags of crisps sit in front of the television and say thin models are ugly" - Designer Karl Lagerfeld wades into the size zero debate.

What he actually said to Germany's Focus magazine was: "Da sitzen dicke Muttis mit der Chipstüte vorm Fernseher und sagen, dünne Models sind hässlich." We get the gist.
More details (the Guardian)

Web Monitor

15:38 UK time, Monday, 12 October 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

In today's Web Monitor: a crying shame, five obscure Norwegians and why you might take a risk assesment before going to the cinema. Share your favourite bits of the web by sending your links via the letterbox at the right of this page.

Steve Coogan as Alan Partidge• Most famous for his alter ego, foot-in-mouth sportscaster Alan Partidge, actor Steven Coogan reveals in Desert Island Discs just how vain an actor needs to be:

"I do remember once, I don't know if this was a vain actor thing, but something was happening in my life a long time ago and I was actually crying and I remember looking across at the mirror and thinking 'Oh that's interesting, that's what grief looks like'."

Kirsty Young responded:
"As you say, it is a vain actor thing."

• Films are now so long that we need to consider whether they are worth risking over two hours of our time. That's according to Ryan D'Agostino in Esquire. He's on a mission to bring back the 90 minute movie, arguing short is sweet:

"Lately too many directors are indulging themselves at the expense of your time. What they don't realize is that you might enjoy a short movie that you would hate if it were long. Say you come across Crank: High Voltage. It might be terrible, but it's only 96 minutes - which is more or less three Family Guys. So even if it is terrible, it won't really be terrible. But if it were two hours? Not worth the risk. Might as well watch Old School again. It's only 90 minutes."

• After President Obama's surprise Nobel Peace Prize win, Anne Applebaum in Slate asks why we pay attention to the views of five obscure Norwegians:

"In his will, Alfred Nobel, the Swedish dynamite tycoon who thought up this whole thing, specifically wanted Norwegians to choose the winner, apparently because Norwegians, being outside the European mainstream, would be less likely to be politically corrupt. The trouble is that Norwegians, being outside the European mainstream, are also more likely to be eccentric."

Your Letters

15:18 UK time, Monday, 12 October 2009

Children draw own visions of 2020 - is it a sign I'm getting old when I see suggestions for "eco-friendly devices such as a solar-powered lawn mower" and remember when you just had to push them and the blade rotated without any other fuel source?
Ed, Clacton, UK

It's good to see in this recession that ITV is reusing the set of 1990s game show Scavengers as a backdrop for Danni Minogue.
Basil Long, Nottingham

I prefer abstruse marmalade myself...
Nadja, Boston, USA

Could it be...? Yes, I think it is... Porridge!
Rob Foreman, London, UK

McDonald's has opened a fast-food outlet abutting Paris' greatest art gallery? That's hardly surprising, as, whenever I actually visit a McDonald's, I usually have to go straight to the louvre.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

The news that male life expectancy increases by three months every year, is both pleasing and deeply confusing. One the one hand I'm wondering what to do with all the extra time, on the other hand I might spend all of that time wondering how I'm only ageing 75% as quickly as my wife.
Dr W B Chellam, Bradford

Monitor: The success of the Magazine's Twitter and Facebook feeds means Your Letters is just one of the ways the Monitor gets to hear about what readers think of the day's Magazine stories. So, from now on, we will be including either a Tweet of the Day (ie an @the_magazine reply) from our loyal fan base of more than 9,000 followers on Twitter, or a comment from our equally loyal fan base of more than 5,000 followers on Facebook.

To get the ball rolling, here's lyndylou33 on why she is not in the Ryanair fan club:

The fact that they are shockingly awful & their owner/ organ grinder is ridiculously irritating maybe??

Paper Monitor

12:21 UK time, Monday, 12 October 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The story of Boyzone member Stephen Gately's death at just 33 is covered across the board, but the coverage in the Sun and Times are particularly notable.

One of the defining moments of Gately's life was his outing as gay, in 1999. It's hard to imagine these days that such an event would be newsworthy, but 10 years ago this was uncharted territory for a boy band. No one quite knew whether the news would lead fans to desert the band in droves.

They didn't. But maybe that was, in part at least, down to the nature of Gately's outing in the Sun.

So how does the Sun remember the event?

One of the two reporters to have broken the story recalls in Monday's paper how it came about. Sam Carlisle remembers a "delicate" interview that had been a "brave move by the Boyzone camp".

"[Gately] wanted the same freedoms his bandmates enjoyed with their girlfriends - and he trusted the Sun."

Carlisle notes that a "blackmailer threatened to expose the boyband star's sexuality".

But it takes the Times' Tim Teeman to flesh out the story a bit - the blackmailer had approached the Sun in the first place.

Several days of negotiation between the singer and the newspaper ensued before the resulting Sun splash headline: "Boyzone Stephen: I'm gay and I'm in love."

Of course, the paper could have turned its back on the blackmailer completely; told him to sling his hook.

But for Teeman, the Sun's role in this fraught affair was just a transient one - the "real shame is reserved for managers and showbusinesses power-brokers who practise such discrimination, or maintain the closet, in the name of profit".

Back at the Sun, Carlisle wants readers to know that Gately was indebted to the newspaper.

"You allowed me to live my life," Gately apparently told Carlisle only a few months ago.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:28 UK time, Monday, 12 October 2009

"That's just pure esoteric marmalade - you can tell a lot by a person's marmalade" - Guy Ritchie compares his much-derided Revolver to a citrus fruit conserve.

Sometimes celebrities open themselves up to mockery. Ritchie's interview with Esquire may be such an occasion. He offers up a host of gems about everything from gypsies to ju-jitsu.
More details (The Guardian)

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