BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for November 29, 2009 - December 5, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

17:04 UK time, Friday, 4 December 2009

cannons.226.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Mobile numbers 07700 900000 to 900999 are reserved for fictional numbers in TV and films.
More details

2. Smoking first thing in the morning is worse for you than other times of the day regardless of the number of cigarettes smoked, US research shows.
More details

3. There is one CCTV camera for every eight people in London.
More details

4. The world's oceans are believed to absorb about half of the total carbon emissions from human activities.
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5. Italian police have a Lamborghini patrol car worth 165,000-euro (£150,000).
More details

6. Pubs in England pull about 10 million extra pints when the national football team plays in the World Cup
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7. Jane Austen probably died of TB - commonly caught from drinking infected milk - when she passed away aged 41.
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8. Feet movements reveal who you are sexually attracted to.
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9. The feet of the blue-footed booby, a bird which is native to the Galápagos Islands and Ecuador, get brighter in colour the less sex it has.
More details (The Times)

10. There are just four minarets on mosques in Switzerland.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Greg Irwin for this picture of 10 cannons.

Your Letters

15:43 UK time, Friday, 4 December 2009

Today's item on shot Guinea leader being flown to Morocco for medical treatment: "They had earlier said that Capt Camara had only been lightly wounded in the attack and was in 'good health'." Lightly wounded? When did we start speaking American on the BBC? It's SLIGHTLY injured and the opposite would be SERIOUSLY not HEAVILY.
JennyT, NY Brit

Bankers 'need to join real world', says minister: I'd rather the real world got to join the bankers.
Henri, Sidcup

Where does £15bn of lager go? Let's see: 60m people in uk, 5 million non-drinkers (NHS figures), 84% live in england, 82% are within drinking age. This leaves 38m english drinkers. England will probably play seven matches. That leaves an average spend of £70 per person, per match (assuming that there are no 'lightweight' wine or bitter drinkers amongst us). At an entirely guessed supermarket price of £2 per pint; that's 35 pints per match. No wonder football is the national sport.
David Bull, Redhill, Surrey

The oldest profession? (Thursday's letters) Probably robbery, once people realised others had items of value. Prostitution was probably a more sophisticated approach taken by those unable to take by force.
Tim D, Sheffield

I hate to be picky (but then again, that's what this page is all about, isn't it?) but some people seem to be getting the WBQ mixed up with the Caption Competition. It's like Jeopardy - if your answer isn't a question, you're not playing it right.
Kaylie, Runcorn, UK

Regarding the World Cup draw: "Charlize Theron, hot balls and 10 million pints of lager" Sounds like a hell of a party.
Bas, London

SL, London (Thursday's letters), no they're not, they're on fire.
Simon , Burnham

Caption Competition

13:50 UK time, Friday, 4 December 2009

Comments

Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

extremefestivelights595afp.jpg

This week, Rolf Vogt switches on the Christmas lights - and then some - on his house Calle, Germany. But what's being said?

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

6. Spencer Barley
Rolf had done it. After a grueling fifteen years of trying, the estimated electricity bill was finally less than the amount he had actually used.

5. Clarence_E_Pitts
Using the latest satellite tracking methods, scientists pinpoint where moths go in the winter.

4. ARoseByAnyOther
"Take that Clark Griswold."

3. Cheesy
The latest Freeview retune had unexpected results.

2. j-o-n-a-t-h-a-n
Don't mention the Watts.

1. spacelizards
Relief in Copenhagen as the cause of global warming is traced to a single address.

Paper Monitor

12:45 UK time, Friday, 4 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Roll up, roll up, it's time once again for Celebrity Column Smack-down. No ticket required, and you, sir, you can leave your hat on.

Yes, it's time once again to broadcast Paper Monitor's favourite AND best Friday pastime - to square up the Guardian's Mighty Marina Hyde v Caitlin "The Magnificent" Moran of the Times. The last time one of these bouts went out free-to-air, rather than inside Paper Monitor's head, was back in April.

To the uninitiated, these two are no mere gossip mongers. They are crystal-ball gazers of the highest order, reading the runes of celebrity misadventure to predict the fast-approaching apocalypse.

Ding ding!

Moran's Celebrity Watch comes in fast with a left jab:

"Did you see the Jeremy Paxman/Sting face-off on Newsnight? Ooooh, it was like watching two haughty anteaters squabbling over the last pink wafer in the Fox's tin..."

[A brief pause for Paper Monitor to revel in the mental image...]
"...'I'm joined now by the singer known as Sting,' Paxman nostrilled, by way of introduction. There then followed three minutes of mutually antagonistic proboscis-waving over the plight of the Amazon."

Hyde's Lost in Showbiz counters with a pithy observation about Simon "X Factor" Cowell and Philip "TopShop" Green, "the least troubling double act since Ernst Stavro Blofeld invited a white Persian cat on to his lap". I got chills, and they're multiplying. Because the twosome are forming their very showbiz SPECTRE.

"I really do think it would be helpful in the long run if you started thinking of them as an independent nuclear state."

Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee...

Moran reels briefly on the ropes, but bounces back with news of the mini-Beckhams' latest family trip:

"And it was to - Yogurtland! CW hopes that this is the beginning of David and Victoria introducing swingeing disappointment and ennui into their children's lives, and looks forward to visits to Sprouts-tasia, Chessington World of Homework and Peas Knee Land - an amusement park themed around the important work done by peas, and knees."

Biff bam boom.

But Hyde's got more in the tank:

"Let us return to occasional Lost in Showbiz feature Rap Moguls of the Credit Crunch, in which we examine how the uncertain global economy is affecting hip-hop's most loaded. Behold, then, Bad Boy Entertainment CEO P Diddy, seen this week entreating velour pantsuited Home Shopping Network viewers to buy his tat...
'This is not a celebrity fragrance,' he [said]. 'This is a designer luxury fragrance. I went into the fragrance lab and designed this to a particular taste level. I have a very sensitive nose.'
No doubt, no doubt."

But Moran can tackle the Diddy Man too. Despite his claims to contrary, she reckons his I Am King fragrance is "little more than jumped-up, rap Hai Karate".

And then she lands a killer:

"This week, the whole world broke into two camps. In Camp One was Tiger Woods, the world's No. 1 golfer, who claimed that last Friday night he crashed his car while reversing out of his drive, and had to be rescued by his wife, who broke a window with a golf club to release him. In 'Camp Two' was the rest of the Earth, who did that wobbly-head thing people do on Ricki Lake, and went: 'Nuh uh!'"

Paper Monitor's own attempt at a wobbly-head thing - perhaps not the wobbly-head thing - raised smirks from colleagues. That and when Paper Monitor snorted tea out its nose re the pink wafer bit.

So - ding ding! - Moran wins and is the new heavyweight champion of Celebrity Column Smack-down. To you, worthy winner, the spoils - the last pink wafer in the Monitor Towers biscuit tin

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:12 UK time, Friday, 4 December 2009

"My family fight, that's the way it is. We're not common as muck or anything but we do have a little fight now and then" - Joss Stone comes across a bit Shameless.

This pearl of familial insight came in a response to an allegation - since denied - that there had been a bit of bother at a Christening.
More details (The Times)

Weekly Bonus Question

09:10 UK time, Friday, 4 December 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 5p TOLL. But what's the question?

UPDATED 1713 GMT: The correct question is, how much are cars charged to cross a bridge in Oxfordshire that has just sold at auction for £1m? (More details)

Of your imaginatively wrong questions, we especially liked:

  • Gee 8ch Dee's What would kill off spam e-mails?
  • Iain Macleod's What should be mandatory before commenting on a reality TV show near me?
  • cowgirlsally's Where pennies from heaven might come in handy?
  • BeckySnow's What self-imposed tax for getting another glass of wine from the fridge is proving totally ineffective?
  • Clarence_E_Pitts' What is my number plate?
  • ARoseByAnyOther's Well, what ransom ARE you willing to pay to get the missus back from the pirates?

Your Letters

16:57 UK time, Thursday, 3 December 2009

phone226.jpgI see you are using the image of an American telephone for your piece on telecommunications in the UK. Could you perhaps use an image of the GPO 746 instead, the standard UK telephone for about 30 years? I know the American 500 series you have on the front page is nice and shiny, but it is a piece about UK telephones.
Tom Cafferkey, UK

Re: No sail zone. They reckon that Piracy and Prostitution are two oldest "professions" which will always exist.
Maral Islamova@BBC_Magazine

What about farming? i'm not sure about the future of hunting, but what about farming as one of the oldest professions? Maybe that's not older than piracy but still as great in importance, if not more.
Ubayd Maldito R@BBC_Magazine

Bigger than a small dog? Does this mean he is smaller than a big dog?
Jenn, Porthcawl

Brazen hussy! Ooh, you're right, that is good.
Rob Foreman, London, UK

I think Paper Monitor's a bit of a brazen hussy itself... Rrrrr indeed.
Phil, Oxford

Thanks Magazine for telling us that 07700 900000-07700 900999 are fictional mobile numbers. Now my pesky mates can give those out to blokes they've pulled but don't want to see again rather than MY number!
Kate, York, UK

Caroline Brown (Wednesday's letters), they're also just as easy to put into a bin as chewing gum.
SL, London

Candace (Wednesday's letters), the Welsh alphabet does not include the letters j, k, q, v, x or z. I'll get fy nghot.
Kathy, Caerphilly

7/7 on Dialling Codes - I'm a nerd!
Paul Clare, Marlow, UK

Web Monitor

14:55 UK time, Thursday, 3 December 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: Following him, the new Tom Sawyer's fence and just your average blog.

Ashton KutcherEllen McGirt at Fast Company is putting her bets on an ex-sitcom actor saving advertising. Ok, so it's Ashton Kutcher, who dominates Twitter, being the first person in April to get one million followers. According to McGirt, it's not as lucky a coincidence at it might at first appear. Kutcher has a company which mashes together film production, social media and advertising and is happy to use his fame and social networking to promote brands. He explains in Fast Company that not enough people are worried about making money in these industries:

"I'm part of an industry that is struggling daily. Daily. And I'm always worried about the numbers."

• Maybe not one of the greatest fans of Kutcher's view of the future, which involves using his Twitter followers to help name a new drink flavour, could be Greg Beato at the Smart Set. He's sick of companies asking us to invent their new flavours, names and logos:

"Crowdsourcing, if you're not familiar with the term, got its start in 1876 when Tom Sawyer convinced a bunch of his pals to whitewash a fence for him. More recently, software companies, newspapers, pharmaceutical companies, and countless other concerns facing metaphorical fences they'd prefer not to paint themselves are taking advantage of the fact that millions of people are willing to work for free these days because they're unemployed and TV is no longer as entertaining as it once was."

• As an antidote to all this high-level interacting is the blog My Life Is Average. Perfect for all those who feel the need to say something but have nothing to say, it's a blog anyone can contribute their little bit of normal life to. Just don't expect anyone to read it, as explained on the "about" page of the site:

"No one cares. It would let you comment on submissions, but really, does anyone need or want to read your literary flatulence?"

Links in full
Ellen McGirt | Fast Company | Mr. Social: Ashton Kutcher Plans to Be the Next New-Media Mogul
Greg Beato | The Smart Set | Popular Products
My Life is Average

Paper Monitor

10:33 UK time, Thursday, 3 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"Amanda Knox wears her hair in a plait in court yesterday."

Trivial, or significant stuff for a paper with the heft of the Times to focus on during a murder trial?

Think about it. Someone accused of such a crime has a lawyer to speak for them, but will communicate directly with judge, jury and media non-verbally when they are not giving evidence. What they wear, what they do with their hands, the expressions on their face speak a thousand words.

"As the trial comes to a close, Ms Knox, who on Valentine's Day entered the courtroom in a bright T-shirt bearing the logo 'All You Need is Love', has adopted a more sober look. On Tuesday she wore black and yesterday she wore a brown top with light trousers and her hair in a plait."

The paper also has a slideshow of the defendant's changing looks, from folky muslin and scrubbed-clean face at the start, to her more restrained choices during the closing arguments.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail's Craig Brown wades into the Tiger Woods saga via nominative determinism with a column entitled: "What's in a name? Plenty if you're a brazen hussy..." (There is something quite thrilling yet also arcane about typing the words "brazen hussy", and Paper Monitor likes it. Rrrrrrrr!)

"Generally I prefer people in the news to have names appropriate to their calling. So, well done Jaimee Grubbs, the American cocktail waitress who is claiming to have been to bed with Tiger Woods. Highly commended awards in the perfect names stakes must also go to the other two women named as possible lovers of Mr Woods [Kalika Moquin and Rachel Uchitel]. The glamour model Abi Titmuss remains Britain's greatest contribution to the genre, closely followed by Rebecca Loos. Likewise, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson - with its echoes of ta-ra-raboomdee-ay - is the perfect name for an upper-class goodtime girl."

But he misses a glaringly obvious trick in all his loooooong list of other people with great names for their chosen profession/pastime. No, not the Magazine's on-off nominative determinism strand in its letters page (here's just a taste), but Tiger Woods himself. Tiger. Who has just admitted to "transgressions". Purr it to yourself.

And finally, one missed Delia's Christmas cooking extravaganza, but is pleased to note from the Guardian's celebration of her return that the Blessed Lady of the Cooking Ladle has a Kitler (pictured only in the real-life Guardian, not the online article).

Just like Paper Monitor (whose Hitler Cat features in this instalment of Web Monitor).

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:38 UK time, Thursday, 3 December 2009

"Now I demand to be called either 'Monster' or 'Mr Munch'.'' - Monster Munch, 26, a plumber who changed his name from Chris Hunt because he loves the crisps

Mr Munch has devised recipes to work his favourite crisps into breakfast, lunch and dinner, and as they play such a big part in his life, he has changed his name too. His friend Paul said he will call him Monster: "I suppose it is a bit more interesting than boring Chris Hunt.''

More details (Daily Telegraph)

Web Monitor

16:26 UK time, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: what architecture can learn from rap, wedded bliss and when you're not allowed to die.

Ice Cube• Architects should learn from hip hop and display more angst and protest, according to Owen Hatherley at the architecture website Building Design. He's taken a particular liking to the rapper Ice Cube who himself studied architectural drafting:

"Architects might benefit from playing Amerikkka's Most Wanted in their offices rather than trying to fade into the background -- but should bear in mind Ice Cube himself opined: 'If you want me to draw you up a house I can draw you up a house; I don't know if it's gonna be liveable.'"

• Here's part of the e-mail sent to Lisa Katayama at Boing Boing from a recent Japanese groom:

"Now that the ceremony is over, I feel like I've been able to achieve a major milestone in my life. Some people have expressed doubts about my actions, but at the end of the day, this is really just about us as husband and wife."
Nothing unusual there. Until it turns out he's married a computer game character. Fittingly, the ceremony was broadcast live on the internet.

Ivica Miskovic at World Around Us charts the places around the world where it's been made illegal to die. Miskovic says it's often a satirical protest against the cost of overcrowded cemeteries and looks at the current efforts to prohibit death in Biritiba-Mirim, Brazil:

"...the town's mayor has filed a bill, specifically a public bill, to make it illegal for the people living in the town to die. Though no specific punishments have been presented, the mayor intends to target relatives of people who die with fines and even jail if necessary to get more space for tombstones."

Owen Hatherley | The Architects' Website | Where is the Ice Cube of architecture?
Lisa Katayama | Boing Boing | Video game wedding: A letter and photos from the bride and groom
Ivica Miskovic | World Around Us | Prohibition of death: There are really some places where death is illegal

Your Letters

16:06 UK time, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A grotto operator has been told off for his stereo blaring out "Christmas rap". It makes more sense if you assume that, in all the noise, he misheard the accusation.
Warren, Bristol

I am not a smoker, but they may feel persecuted by now. They've been forced outside, away from their ashtrays and now they'll be fined for littering. Yes, cigarette butts in the street are unsightly and unhygienic. But they're a lot easier to clean up than chewing gum.
Caroline Brown, Rochester, UK

Smokers face £80 fine for butts made me laugh - if you give false details they will fine you £1,000. So how are they going to find you...
Steve, Swindon

Re Doctors warned about risk of 'Facebook flirts': I don't understand how this can be a problem. If you are daft enough to accept every single friend request that comes your way, regardless of who that person may be, then, as these doctors have found, you will find yourself the target of creepy advances and total strangers finding out personal information about you. I find it preposterous that guidelines are being set out for supposedly intelligent medical professionals when all they need to do is click "ignore" when creepy patients request to be friends. Facebook should not be a popularity/friend collecting contest and I would expect doctors would know this. Sheesh!
Martin, Aubrey

People may be googling google (Tuesday letters) to check the hypothesis in the IT Crowd that "if you type google into google, you'll break the internet". I tried it myself.
Kate, York
Monitor note: And did it?

Lots search for "James Cousins" on my site.
James Cousins, via Twitter @bbc_magazine

You don't have to go to the Google webpage to do a google search. Many browsers have built-in or add-on search boxes. If the user has one of these and wants to go to www.google.com (or .co.uk) it's quicker to type "google" into the search box and then click on the result that comes up than it is to type "www.google.com" into the URL area. As to why someone would need to go to the google webpage if they have a search bar...
I'll get my emote :)
James Rigby, Wickford, Essex

Why is it 'may limit lifespan' that's been put between the quote marks in this headline? 'Men's genes may limit lifespan', Men's 'genes' may limit lifespan, or any other variation... they add nothing and are utterly pointless. Bah humbug.
Kingsley, Bath

Re fvdfzsrsazxzzxcvbnmadgfhjjkqwrty (Quote of the Day).
At first glance, thought it might have been Welsh.
Candace, New Jersey, US

Paper Monitor

10:52 UK time, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

After news of Simon Cowell's personal grooming regime earlier this week, both the Mail and the Mirror set out to put a price on the pop mogul's routine... and come up with wildly different figures.cowell_226.jpg

The Mirror tells us that while "it may look like a £6.50 job" on his hair, "Simon is known to spend up to £300 every four weeks on getting his barnet chopped". That's £3,900 a year.

Fascinating stuff, especially for the Mail, which estimates the Cowell coiffure comes it at a substantially more modest £600 a year.

But if the Mirror over-estimates the music magnate's salon spending, it underplays the amount he shells out on his gnashers when compared with the Mail's figure.

Cowell, says the Mirror, spent £10,000 on his teeth and "maintaining them costs a pretty packet too". How much? £27 a day, or £9,855 a year.

Over at the Mail, however, the figure is twice that - "a cool £20,000 of dentistry" a year.

And there's still no concord on Cowell's Botox - he's admitted he is a devotee, says the Mail - spending either. The Mail says it's £400 a year, the Mirror makes it £1,000.

And so it goes on. The Mail eventually tots up a final sum of £24,700 a year; the Mirror makes it somewhere north of the £400,000 mark. In mitigation for HM Press, the metrics are not exactly comparable - the Mirror includes things like loo paper and food costs while the Mail sticks to personal grooming.

But on the basis that an FOI request on the lifestyle expenditure of TV's Mr Nasty is unlikely to succeed, Paper Monitor is none the wiser.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

"fvdfzsrsazxzzxcvbnmadgfhjjkqwrtyuuuiop" - Mysterious tweet from Sarah Brown's Twitter feed that turned out to be her son.

Ah, the perils of leaving your computer on with young children around. The prime minister's wife realised she had suffered from a social media interloper after people noticed the above strange posting.
More details

Your Letters

16:42 UK time, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Re Monday's letters: My two-and-a-half year old son Edward has two teddy bears named "Tedward" and "Bedward" - does that count?
Paul, York, UK

We don't have any Edward-based names at work but we do have Pony (Paul & Tony) and Sellery (Simon & Ellery).
Margaret, Christchuch, NZ

"The error means that users of Windows 7 see a totally black screen." I'm assuming a "totally black" screen is more sinister than just a harmless old black one, then? Please don't use unnecessary emphasis BBC - it's just, like, really, *totally* annoying...
Sue, London

Why on earth is the word "Google" 8th in the top 10 UK searches? Surely you would have already found what you're looking for.
Anthony, Coventry

Re Web Monitor: Both Tina Turner and (dare I say it) Freddie Mercury beat Cher to that dubious honour by several years. Not to mention Tim Curry's most famous film role...
Colin Edwards, Exeter, UK

I'm amazed no-one else pointed out the headline "Council axes real Christmas tree". I rather thought that was the point? Or are chainsaws now the preferred option ?
Les, Wolverhampton

If this is anything to go by, South Shields council should be ashamed of themselves - Cheeky Girls, really?
Simon_l@BBC_Magazine

Web Monitor

15:48 UK time, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the tank theme park, the human spam filter and the best theatre of the year not in a theatre.

Will Smith as Phil Smith• For More Intelligent Life, Will Smith, the British comedian (pictured, right) not the US action hero, has been trying to prove his masculinity by driving a tank.. He headed to a place he describes as a tank theme park:

"When I ask Nick [the owner] how many tanks he has, he answers: 'More than Belarus.' I'm not sure it's a good idea for an individual to own more armoured divisions than a country. But I found looking out at a field full of tanks less unsettling than looking out at, say, a garden full of gnomes. A guy has a load of tanks, you know what you're dealing with. A guy has a load of gnomes, there's other stuff going on, probably involving secret basements."

The Rejectionist is blazing a trail for the anonymous blogger. The name of the blog comes from the writer's job as an assistant to a literary agent. In the Seattle paper the Stranger, the Rejectionist describes his or her job as a human spam filter:

"I wish I could say that my role as an intermediary between the humble masses and a publishing contract has taught me grace and compassion; instead, it's taught me that the world is overrun with racist, lady-hating lunatics, hell-bent on inflicting their own horrific visions upon an unsuspecting populace."

• Theatre critic for the New Yorker Dan Kois is anticipating some angry responses from Broadway because his favourite musical theatre of the year was one he saw not at an opening night but instead in a YouTube video. Jill and Kevin's wedding dance (mentioned in Web Monitor) has been viewed over 32 million times on YouTube. For Kois, it's not just their dance but every wedding that presents an opportunity to show off a polished performance:

"For what is a wedding, really, but the only play that most people will ever have the chance to direct? Just once in your life, you have a beautiful theater, a captive and receptive audience, and a trusted cast at your disposal. Thanks to your parents, you might even have a bigger budget than the typical Off-Off Broadway show. And, as in any theatrical performance, you're bringing together an audience in order to tell them a story - in this case, the story of you, and your relationship."

Links in full

Will Smith | More Intelligent Life | The Mission: Learning to drive a tank
The Rejectionist | The Stranger | A Good Author Is Hard to Find
The Rejectionist
Dan Kois | The New Yorker | The best theater you'll see all year
Jill and Kevin's big day | YouTube

Paper Monitor

11:37 UK time, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Q: When can a serious story about radioactive poisoning be played for laughs?

A: When it's in a country far away and doesn't involve identifiable victims.

That at least is a conclusion that could be drawn from the Times's story about the actions of a disgruntled employee at an Indian nuclear power plant.

The worker is said to have contaminated the contents of a water cooler with a radioactive isotope.

Hardly LOL material, you might think... yet the Times embellishes the story with some of the hallmarks of a more jolly read:

  • the drop intro. Instead of starting the story with the hard facts, ie,
    Fifty-five employees were given emergency medical treatment, and two are still in hospital, after drinking water poisoned by a disgruntled colleague

    it opts for a softer start:

    "The setting was humdrum, the office water cooler, scene of idle chat, gossip swapping and occasional jollity"
  • The side-bar on workplace sabotage which embraces everything from an US postal worker killing 14 colleagues to the waggish antics of Bill Clinton's aides who removed the "W" keys from computers before vacating the White House for George W Bush
  • the cartoon - oh, yes - of a fish floating upside-down in a water cooler

Paper Monitor almost thought the whole story was just a bit of fun until it began to detail the risks of ingesting tritium - the substance in question. Long-term risks include:

"increased occurrence of cancer and genetic abnormalities in the children of those exposed"

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:59 UK time, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

"I consider my entire movie career a complete failure" - Film star Alec Baldwin

Balwin's bout of self-analysis, during an interview with Men's Journal magazine, is refreshing when compared with the more saccharine career reflections of other Hollywood stars. "Every movie I've ever been in," he continued, "I just avoid."
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

16:41 UK time, Monday, 30 November 2009

Re Mandy's letter, and letters passim, I'm confused. If the fifth year has been called year 11 since 1990, and the seventh year is part of the sixth form, shouldn't we logically now refer to 1990 as 1996, and 1992 as 1991?
Graham, Purmerend, Netherlands

Re Paul (Friday's letter), All these references to "Jedward" do at least explain why my supervisor (whose name begins with F) and I have been referred to as "Fedward" at work. Not sure if it's a compliment.
Edward Green, London, UK

Monitor: Attention all readers named Edward (or any friends/colleagues of Edwards), have waggish folk labelled you with an ...edward-based flexicological appellation in recent days. Tell us using the post form at the top-right of this page.

So BT has been selling off the old traditional red telephone kiosks and some "have been turned into art installations, a shower and even a public toilet". From my experience, most of the telephone kiosks I have used have already been in use as a public toilet.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

One thinks that he shouldn't be too hard to spot...
Simon, Colchester, UK

I have to agree with the bishop - a baby that doesn't cry is pretty unlikely. Not only that, but Silent Night mentions a "virgin mother", and Hark The Herald Angels Sing has something about an incarnate deity. Could the bishop clarify which bits are true?
Rob Foreman, London, UK

Re this story's headline on the frotn page had so much going for it. Kit "Ready" for Afghan Build-up. Visions of a black car with red light on the front came flooding, then my mouse hovered over the story and the image used was clearly Airwolf. They don't make TV like they used to. Ramble over.
Ben, Bournemouth

Web Monitor

16:14 UK time, Monday, 30 November 2009

CherA celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the lineage of semi-naked pop-princesses, why mountains make you good at chess and the case for the dog show.

• When did pop become so scantily-clad?Semi-nakedness among pop stars has been traced back through pop lineage by Johnny Dee in the First Post to one person - Cher. He claims Cher was the first to wear the basques and fishnet stockings which have become a pop uniform:

"Shot on the deck of the gigantic USS Missouri battleship, the video to Cher's 1989 hit If I Could Turn Back Time featured her surrounded by hundreds of panting sailors and sitting astride a gigantic cannon. Music may have died when Buddy Holly's plane crashed in Clear Lake in 1959 but If I Could Turn Back Time marked the moment the subtle use of sexual innuendo in pop music was butchered in its prime."

• With more chess grandmasters than China, the relatively tiny Armenia is a chess superpower. David Edmonds in Prospect magazine wades through the reasons Armenia is good at chess. As well as a decent education system and a soviet legacy, mountains are mentioned:

"Armenia is poor and chess is cheap, one man told me. Then--and this is a favourite rationalisation--there's the individualistic nature of the game. Armenians take perverse gratification in their incompetence at team games. (Weight-lifting is the only other sport at which Armenia excels.) The British ambassador, whom I later met in Yerevan, pressed a more physical, less abstract explanation upon me. Armenia is so mountainous that there's no room for football pitches and athletics fields--but chess needs only space for a small board."

Jesse Smith in The Smart Set sticks up for the American dog show in what she calls the age of dog show ridicule. To some it may seem perplexing as to why people would spend so much of their time blow-drying their pet. But Smith thinks it is just a symptom of her culture:

"If you're looking to mock, a dog show is an easy target. You could note how many of these people pursuing perfection in dogs are themselves fairly overweight, and eat too many funnel cakes, and dress in a way that would kill any chance of a social life were they actually in high school. Spending time at the dog show, however, the group came less to resemble some kind of wacky subculture, and more just the culture. A common trait of Americans -- blue and red, gay and straight, X and Y, whatever -- is that they largely want to be good at something, to be recognized for doing at least one thing well, and maybe that's at the expense of everything else."

Paper Monitor

12:24 UK time, Monday, 30 November 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's the story that has the whole of Fleet Street purring like, well, a cat.

It has all the ingredients - the world's richest sportsman, who is also one of the most fiercely private, involved in a mystery crash, with a name - Tiger Woods - that is ripe for animal puns.

So the News of the World on Sunday came up with the priceless headline: "TIGER'S NOT A LION CHEETAH BUT HIS WIFE STILL WENT APE"

The story even makes the front of the Daily Telegraph on Monday, with a big picture of the New York nightclub hostess who has denied any romantic link with the golfer. Is it too predictable that she's dubbed "Tiger's birdie"?

The paper, which recently appointed a former Daily Mail man as editor, fills page three with more on the story, after Woods made a statement in which he took all the blame.

While the tabloids take the greatest interest, all the papers fall into fe-line. The Independent also devotes page three to it, and in its sport section it questions where it leaves Woods's golf committments.

The enduring image of Woods being freed from the wreckage by his wife using a golf club makes for what could be seen as a good day to bury bad new for one other sportsman at the top of his game - Andy Murray.

The British tennis number one has split up with his girlfriend Kim after reaching a mutual agreement.

No mention of anyone wielding tennis rackets.

Monday's Quote of the Day

10:04 UK time, Monday, 30 November 2009

"Savings on the core grant-in-aid delivering the Change-Up programme, against the counterfactual of an inflationary increase and reprioritisation of the OTS budget to fund a wider range of investment programmes from the 2007-08 baseline amount to around £4.8m realised in 2008-09" - Example of bad official language cited in MPs' report on jargon

Even Nicola Murray, with her Fourth Sector Pathfinder initiative, would be bemused by this example of government technical speak cited in a new report on political jargon.
More details (the Guardian)

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