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Archives for December 6, 2009 - December 12, 2009

10 things we didn't know last week

15:58 UK time, Friday, 11 December 2009

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

1. Kit Kats used to be called Chocolate Crisps.
More details (Guardian)

2. taH pagh taHbe is "To be or not to be" in Klingon.
More details

3. And hok-oo means "watch out, other monkeys about!" in monkey language.
More details

4. It's not Tiger, but Eldrick Woods.
More details

5. Procter and Gamble set up a media company in 1933 to promote its detergents in the first "soap operas" - the last in its stable, As The World Turns, has just been cancelled.
More details

6. Eco-light bulbs are designed to be brightest at 25C, and can get dimmer when cooler or hotter than that.
More details

7. eBay's first ever item sold was a broken laser pointer for for $14.83.
More details (Times)

8. Douglas Fairbanks and Cary Grant were among the first to repopularise pink as a colour for men.
More details

9. Tipsy people who drink coffee to "sober up" are more likely to underestimate how drunk they really are.
More details

10. The German Cold War bunker up for auction is so well protected, it can withstand a jumbo crashing into the mountain it is hidden inside.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Sarah O'Donoghue for this picture of the zero point for 10 North Eastern railway lines, taken at York station; and to Basil Long for thing 5.

Your Letters

14:35 UK time, Friday, 11 December 2009

A precis of this story's first three paragraphs might read: "A hole has appeared in a road. Officials are looking into it." Boom and indeed boom.
Richard, Aberdeen, UK

I'm intrigued as to why the irate pink man took John (Thursday's letters) to court, and as to whether he won or not.
Rob, Winsford, Cheshire

I hope this letter finds you in the pink, as it leaves me. According to your article from January "Should we not dress girls in pink?" it used to be pink for boys and blue for girls.
Heather Simmons, Macomb, Michigan, USA

I'm still confused as to who was surveyed regarding the self-service tills. Surely the 13% of people who complained that the customer had to do all the work should have recognised that this would be the result of using such checkouts?
Andy Dawson, Newcastle, UK

With reference to this article why not just reduce speed limits to 0mph and stop accidents altogether?
Alan, Southampton UK

In regards to this story, can I just say that the complaint made was ridiculous. She may be elderly, but that doesn't mean she should get preferential treatment. Honestly.
Robyn, Cheshire

Re Airbus A400-M takes off on maiden flight: If it hadn't, it wouldn't have been, would it?
Rik Alewijnse, Feering, UK

Caption Competition

13:34 UK time, Friday, 11 December 2009

Comments

Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

lightsnorway_REXFEATURES.jpg

This week, the strange spiral lights in the sky over Norway. It's not the Northern Lights. Guesses include a UFO, a failed Russian missile launch, or one of those laser pointer thingees popular with ravers. But what's being said?

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

6. LaurenceLane
Guess who got Photoshop for their birthday?

5. Raven
God zaps Gene Roddenberry for his split infinitive.

4. SimonRooke
"Sven, I told you the caravan was too heavy for the Volvo, now just dip your lights."

3. j-o-n-a-t-h-a-n
"That's enough showing off Rudolph. Now let's get on with these deliveries."

2. Beth Pilgrim
"No Björn... THIS (dramatic pause)... is a smoke ring."

1. laendler_leonard
God tried his best to make sure that the three wise men found Bethlehem.

Paper Monitor

12:45 UK time, Friday, 11 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Last time it was a duck island, this time it's a bell tower that's got the papers fuming. The new slew of expenses claims from MPs has Quentin Davies, the Labour MP for Grantham and Stamford, as the big villain.

It's the hokey-cokey performance he went through with the £20,700 repair bill for the bell tower and roof of his country home that dominates the front pages. His expense claim was in, then it was out and now the papers want to shake him all about.

You see Mr Davies submitted the claim only to withdraw it three months later - 10 days after newspapers started leaking details of expenses. He says the bell tower repair bill was mistakenly lumped in with his roofing bill and he never meant to claim for it.

"Ding dong immorally on high" is the Sun's headline. It goes to town on Mr Davies, who, luckily for the now Labour-hating paper, happens to be a Labour MP.

The Daily Mirror remains firmly on Labour's side, pointing out Mr Davies was in fact a Tory MP before defecting to Labour. Various papers run photos of said second home with bell tower. Second mansion, more like. So big the Guardian can't fit the whole house on its front page, where Marina Hyde wonders if you see Douglas Hogg's moat from Quentin Davies's bell tower.

"As neighbouring Lincolnshire MPs, the pair boast two of the more recherché publicly noted architectural features in the east Midlands...
For the purists, of course, Labour's Davies will always be the Salieri to Tory Hogg's Mozart, with even his most audacious work failing to touch the inspired majesty of Hogg's full-time housekeeper and piano-tuning bills."

Back to the Mirror, which reserves its ire for the Conservative leader's seeming don't-do-as-I-do-do-as-I-say approach.

"HYPOCRITE
David Cameron, May 10, 2009:
The public are really angry and we have to say: 'Look, this system was wrong and we are sorry about that.'
David Cameron, two days later: He claims £1,081 mortgage interest on expenses, part of his £20,240.15 second home claims for the year.'"

But the best headline is saved for shadow chancellor George Osborne and the MOT for his posh oven - "AGA LOUT". Ho, ho, ho.

Among the details dug up by the Daily Mail are Jacqui Smith's claims for "more porn, a double bed and a new TV". Snigger, snigger. It also has the most entertaining rundown of what was claimed for - "glittering toilet seats, Persian rugs and everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink".

The £1.29 claim by Tory Mark Francois for a King Pot Noodle is Paper Monitor's favourite. Who would have thought such a thing would pass the lips of a Tory?

Weekly Bonus Question

10:03 UK time, Friday, 11 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 MIGRAINE-INDUCING BACKDROP OF FLICKERING RAINBOW COLOURS. But what's the question?

UPDATE 1628 GMT: The correct question is, what was the set like behind the 75-year-old British salsa dancer who won Spain's Got Talent?

Of your head-numbingly, nail-bitingly and deliberately wrong wrong wrong questions, we liked:

  • SkarloeyLine's What IS the story in Balamory?
  • The_same_Eddie-George's Best-selling Christmas sweater of 2009?
  • Clarence_E_Pitts' What light through yonder window breaks?
  • Smoo25's What alternative name did Syd Barrett et al consider before they decided on Pink Floyd?
  • MightyGiddyUpGal's What to wear when strolling down Electric Avenue?
  • Kipson's How do you know your brand new, £3,000, 56 inch, plasma TV has just gone wrong?
  • BaldoBingham's What did Rolf Vogt's wife cite as the reason for her divorce petition?
  • Kettering_Jeremy's How did Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin, describe their brothers haute couture?
  • and SimonRooke's How can you tell when you've got Wine Flu?

Thanks to all who entered.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:10 UK time, Friday, 11 December 2009

"The school was required to conduct risk assessments relating to the safety of the premises and the presence of a pet dog" - Ofsted worries about an 11-year-old terrier.

A headmistress at a primary school was rather surprised to get a request to investigate the safety of her rescued Westie. It was eventually decided that the pet was safe.
More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

15:34 UK time, Thursday, 10 December 2009

Earth and Pontipine galaxy in near miss.
Christian Cook, Epsom

I have just sent in a mildly-amusing letter about that weird swirly thing over Norway, only to find that you've used that story as the caption competition. Well I hadn't seen that, so don't go throwing stapler-mounted badgers at me again. You can still see the stains on our doormat from last time.
Christian Cook, Epsom

Re: "Strange light mystifies Norwegians", surely it doesn't take Scully and Mulder to see that this is just a projector shining a spiral pattern onto low cloud, probably to advertise a local nightclub.
Chris in Paris, Paris, France

If the picture is anything to go by, I might get an inkling that they were bugging my phone.
Basil Long, Nottingham

Since Private Eye seems to have omitted Pseuds Corner from its online edition, many thanks to Magazine for quotes like this.
Paul Clare, Marlow, UK

A good solution to not being able to use your own bags at the self-service till, is to choose the heaviest item in your basket - needs to be as heavy as a wine bottle or milk carton - scan it, put it in the bag and press down a bit as you put it in the bagging area. Works (almost) every time.
Aine, London

Stuart (Wednesday's letters). Well of *course* you're going to say that. Probably fearing for your teeth if his wife found out! Methinks the laddy doth protest too much...
Daniel, London

Should men wear pink? I was taken to court by some irate man who attended in head-to-toe pink. Suit, tie, shirt, trousers, the works.
John Henderson, @BBC News Magazine

Web Monitor

15:23 UK time, Thursday, 10 December 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: Lording it, what made geography interesting, and the new pretenders.

Peter Jackson •On bookmarking site Digg, Peter Jackson, the director of Lord of the Rings and just recently the Lovely Bones, is making no bones about his view on piracy:

"It literally could lead to the death of films... They [the film industry] are only going to continue to make those movies if they make their money back."

• There's one thing Robert Butler in More Intelligent Life thinks we can all agree about the climate change debate: it's made geography interesting. He's calling the subject the new history:

"To the schoolchildren of the 1970s, geography seemed safe and slightly dull ... But that has changed. It is getting harder and harder in conversation to raise one or other of the most basic subjects in geography - agriculture, glaciation, rivers and population - without a flicker of panic crossing the other person's face. You are no longer talking about a neutral subject. At any moment you might be about to discuss water salinity in Bangladesh, or the acidification of the ocean, or desertification in sub-Saharan Africa. Whatever aspect of geography it is that you start with threatens to segue into a discussion on the most polarising topic there is: climate change."

• David Thomson is a serial biographer of actors but he's noticed a trend of late - there are no more method actors. In the Wall Street Journal Thomson is not mourning the end of a time when actors went into therapy as a matter of course:

"But just as the Method needed script material about the search for human truth, so this new cool pretending is founded on a way of looking at the world that says you can't trust anyone, can you? It suggests that - for the moment at least - we have given up on self-knowledge and feel ourselves being massaged or directed by most of our presidents, and nearly all of our eternal performers from Johnny Carson to David Letterman."

Links in full

Peter Jackson | Digg
Robert Butler | More Intelligent Life | Is geography the new history
David Thomson | Wall Street Journal |The Death of Method Acting

Paper Monitor

11:27 UK time, Thursday, 10 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

sun_10_12_09.gifTorn between trashing Alistair Darling's pre-Budget report and reporting the latest alleged indiscretion of a certain golfer, the Sun has decided to call it a dead heat and roll the two stories into one.

"Darling just screwed more people than Tiger Woods"

Forgive Paper Monitor for dwelling on the latter half of this headline, but it's difficult not to admire the media management that seems to be at the heart of the Woods revelations.

Thursday marks the outing of "'lover' no. 9", the Daily Mirror notes. Which exactly equates to one per working day since the story broke over the weekend of 28/29 November.

Either there's some PR mastermind working behind the scenes to drip feed a name a day to the press, or these women ought to be warmly congratulated for their media management and coordination skills.

Whichever it is, it feels like there must be some secret Excel spreadsheet stashed away somewhere in which all the names and release dates have been painstakingly plotted.

But as we wait to discover who tomorrow's Spartacus might be, wouldn't it just be simple if all the people in the world who haven't had an alleged dalliance with Woods came forward... as Magazine letter writer Stuart did on Wednesday evening.

(Re Spartacus and Tiger, his first ad campaign for Nike involves lots of people saying "I'm Tiger Woods.")

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:15 UK time, Thursday, 10 December 2009

"It also represents a conservative political ideology that punishes individual initiative, opposes critique and change, and relegates females to supportive roles" - Professor Shauna Wilton on the politics of Thomas the Tank Engine

Professor Wilton analysed 23 episodes of the Thomas TV series after her young daughter became a fan - and she was far from impressed. She noted that only eight of the show's 49 characters are female.
More details (the Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

17:19 UK time, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Coffee 'no answer to drunkenness'
I've never been drunk on coffee.
Clive DuPort, Vale, Guernsey

Surely the event of the decade is the man marrying the goat...
Andrew Dean @BBC News Magazine

I'm torn between Boris falling into a river and the Bush shoe incident.
John Henderson @BBC News Magazine

Who wants in on my "How long until someone points out that the noughties end on 1 Jan 2011, not 2010 before getting their coat" sweepstakes? I got Today. (On a different topic, where do I send those Tunnock's?)
Pascal, Grand Union Canal, Cowley, UK
Monitor note: Monitor Towers, sir. We'll, er, send them to the right place.

Emma (Tuesday letters), BCE means "before common era" and defines the same time as Before Christ. It supposed to non-offensive to those not of the Christian faith. Personally speaking, as an atheist who also happens to love history, I find BCE irritating - it's a clumsy phrase, it needs explaining all the time, BC has been in use for hundreds of years, and I'm not so sensitive as to be offended by BC.
Nona, London

Before Common Era is a translation of the Latin Era Vulgaris to represent time from before the year one - CE (common era) is the secular for AD.
Jamie, Edinburgh

I'd like to suggest to Emma that her hearing "BCE" is part of a public trial of a new personalised broadcasting system, in which it stands for "Before Christ, Emma".
Andrew Kemp, London

BCE = "Before Common Era" and corresponds exactly with BC in the Christian calendar. CE is the Common Era and corresponds with AD. The terms are used now a common calendar is used nearly worldwide and not exclusively by Christians. The term Common Era is over 300 years old and has been used extensively by members of other faiths for some time. It is now appropriate for it to be used generically unless the date is being used explicitly with regards to events of the Christian religion.
Ian, Winchester, UK

In Ontario and Quebec BCE also means "Bell Canada Enterprises", something like British Telecom being BT.
Viviren, Montreal, Canada

Emma, I admire someone who, rather than simply googling it or using Wikipedia, would instead prefer to draw on the collective wisdom of the Magazine's faithful followers. What other useful services can we provide to each other? I'm rubbish at wrapping presents - could someone come round and do the ones for my wife as I cant get her to do her own?
Jimmy, Dorking, UK

Most misleading headline of the day: Children's boss axed after death. Visions of zombies roaming the workforce...
Anna, Milton Keynes

Re the singing Christmas mouse (Tuesday's Quote of the Day). The link didn't take me to a video to hear it, but it took me to a list of related links. Including "Joe Kinnear rails at 'mickey mouse' referee..." The joy of using machines to generate these lists.
Cat, Cambs

Rachel (Tuesday letters), I'm not sure what you mean by a "pure" version of a language. Presumably you think we should go back to "pure" Old English? I askian you.
Joseph Ball, London, UK

Susie (Tuesday letters), yes you are missing something. Britain HAS been taken over by speaking meerkats - or at least one. Simples!
And while I'm here, I have noted that, somewhat churlishly, 10 things has amended the grammar on thing 8, rendering my previous letter redundant. Harrumph.
Ashley Pearson, Hull

Susie, I for one welcome our new herpestid overlords.
Jim, Winchester

Monitor, Monitor, Monitor! Andy Sampson's green annoyance (Tuesday letters) is quite old - see most early noughties comics for a large array of similar jokes, normally along the lines of the "please consider the environment" line causing the e-mail to print onto two pages. But I guess if old jokes are now printable, here's one: Knock knock...
Jinja, Edinburgh

Andy, it's not as bad as when you print out an e-mail conversation and realise that the last four pages are just your respective companies telling each other that the message is confidential.
Kirk Northrop, Manchester, UK

Re: Your acronym style guide (Monday letters). I'm still trying to work out what the abbreviations "BUT A FEW EXCEPTIONS PERSIST" mean. Can you help?
Lester Mak, London, UK

I'd just like to make it known that I've not had an affair with Tiger Woods.
Stuart, Sydney, formerly Croydon

Web Monitor

15:30 UK time, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: Attention seeking explained, over-rated information overload, and the rise and rise of fake snow.

Colin Firth• Actor Colin Firth has been doing the rounds promoting his new film A Single Man. He told Jeanne Wolf from Parade Magazine that attention-seeking can be an addiction:

"We actors do want attention. It's hard to fault an actor who's having his insatiable need for attention fulfilled because he'll probably be at his best. It's that Tom Waits line, 'I don't have a drink problem Sir, until I can't get a drink.' So check in with me when I'm not getting any attention and I might be a different person."

• Information overload has been blamed for impeding our decision-making skills and ruining our attention spans. But in Harvard Business Review's blog The Next Big Thing, Tom Davenport says it's over-rated. His proof is that otherwise we would be doing something about it. Instead he describes a Catch-22 situation:

"We open junk mail, we watch junk television, we read junk e-mail. It would take investment of attention to save our attention, and most people just aren't willing to invest."

• The Dubai ski resort, back in the news recently, is the image of exuberance for Jesse Smith in the Smart Set. Smith finds that, thanks to new technology, fake snow has a new lease of life in ski resorts across the world, which can start their season early. Smith tries to figure out what the fake stuff tells us about controlling our environment:

"Of course the boast that you can burn through a truckload of water every minute does not reflect a discerning nature. If ice is civilization, then maybe artificial snow is post-civilization, we long ago having accepted as fact such pleasant things as anesthetics and food preservation, but not yet having fully mastered the art of getting what we want, when we want it and, now, where we want it. So on we continue making snow - on the slopes and off."

Links in full
Jeanne Wolf | Parade| Colin Firth: 'We Actors Do Want Attention'
Tom Davenport | The Next Big Thing | Why We Don't Care About Information Overload
Jesse Smith | The Smart Set | I'm Dreaming...

Paper Monitor

11:42 UK time, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A service highlight the riches of the daily press.

So how high does Richard Branson's edge-of-space craft, launched in a marketing if not a literal sense, on Tuesday, actually go?

"Virgin joins 70-mile-high club with launch of spaceship" - the Independent

"80-MILE-HIGH CLUB" - Daily Mirror

In the erudite press, coverage of Branson's VSS Enterprise, as the craft is called, is dwarfed by what's been happening at the Copenhagen climate conference.

But the Daily Express might have been better using an image of the rocket-powered Enterprise than the much maligned cooling towers it has teamed with its Copenhagen coverage.

Of course, the BBC needs to declare an interest here - a couple of months ago the BBC Trust upheld a complaint about Panorama in which it had paired commentary about CO2 emissions with images of cooling towers.

While images of those huge conical towers seemingly spewing out smoke appear to make a powerful eco statement, the truth is that isn't smoke billowing out the top, but water vapour.

Clearly a case of where there's mist there's no fire.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

10:15 UK time, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

"It is a chaps' club for chaps" - Sir Donald Sinden on the all-male Garrick Club.

The veteran actor was applauding Dame Judi Dench's reported praise for the club's all-male membership policy, while speaking there as a guest.
More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

15:57 UK time, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Re Mind your slanguage: My daughter attends our local French school, and it has been noted that when the kids go back to granny's in France that they speak such a pure version, unadulterated by the slang that they would normally pick up in the playground and from the telly. Therefore - only one solution - teach all kids in complete isolation.
Rachel, Minnetonka

Personally, I try to hear innit as "n'est ce pas?". I can then feel that I'm discoursing with someone sophisticated and chic.
John_the_Monkey @BBC_magazine

So coffee cuts prostate cancer risk and loneliness increases cancer risks. So drinking coffee in a social environment has got to be the best thing for cutting cancers since unsliced wholemeal bread with low fat spread. Cancer solved: Give us [insert coffee shop of choice] vouchers on prescription.
James Rigby, Wickford, Essex

I have recently seen several TV programmes where, instead of saying BC (Before Christ) the presenters or those being interviewed have said "BCE". Why is this and what does the "E" stand for?
Emma, Jersey

Re Quote of the Day: some people might say hiring a man "unable to pronounce certain sounds" to record a voice is a fairly a basic error. I can pronounce both "jingle" and "bells"; if they'd like me to do it next time I have very reasonable rates.
Edward Green, London, UK

Am I missing something - is Britain being taken over by speaking meerkats (Monday letters)?
Susie, Oslo, Norway

On the topic of being green (Monday letters), I've just been thinking about how unenvironmentally friendly it is to put "please consider if you need to print this e-mail" on e-mails. Think about it: no one I know deletes those lines before printing an e-mail (even a carefully considered one) so that wastes paper and ink. Each line on an e-mail adds to the storage requirement of the e-mail both sent and received. Then there's all the extra transmission costs .. all in all it's actually better not to put infuriating massages on the end of your e-mails.
Andy Simpson, London
Monitor note: And as for those who sign off with a notable quote...

Web Monitor

15:57 UK time, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the list of noughties lists and the lovers and haters of a steady stream of trivia.

Alan Sugar• Web Monitor has been casually monitoring the noughties nostalgia of late. Casually, that is, compared to Kottke, where Jenni Leder is compiling a thoroughlist of noughties lists. Among the compilations is the Newsweek list of worst predictions of the last ten years, including this 2005 nugget from Alan Sugar in the Telegraph:

"The iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput."

William Deresiewicz in the Chronicle of Higher Education charts the history of friendship. He goes right back to the ancient Greeks where friendship was seen as more important than marriage, through to industrialisation where a sense of rootlessness again increased the importance of friends after a blip the rise of Christianity pulled people away from their friends. This led Deresiewicz onto the current state of friendship - the Facebook friend:

"Reading about the mundane details of their lives, a steady stream of trivia and ephemera, leaves me feeling both empty and unpleasantly full, as if I had just binged on junk food, and precisely because it reminds me of the real sustenance, the real knowledge, we exchange by e-mail or phone or face-to-face. And the whole theatrical quality of the business, the sense that my friends are doing their best to impersonate themselves, only makes it worse. The person I read about, I cannot help feeling, is not quite the person I know."

• While William Deresiewicz is reviled by the steady stream of trivia, Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf's blog Quantified Self is encouraging it. They're offering more and more ways to measure your life online. Anything from sleep patterns to an online measurement of what you've eaten can be measured with a myriad of websites such as eat.ly who remind you what you ate, with pictures.
One area the blog hasn't covered so far is what you wear. But fear not, that's being done by the Considered Ensemble - a blog where you can send in details of what you are wearing. The pictures are conspicuous in their absence, leaving it all down to descriptive skills of the contributors such as this one by Oliver Van Der Lugt:

"On the top I have two t-shirts and a jumper on, cause it's cold. The first t-shirt is an 80's ADIDAS t-shirt I was given by my friends in London who I helped cutting garments for their recycled clothing collection. It is a light mottled grey with flowery, multi coloured satin panels on the sleeves. There is also a small flower shaped patch of the same material on the left breast with 'Universal Spirit' in cursive script embroidered over it."

It goes on...

Links in full
Jenni Leder | Kottke | The Noughtie List: the 2000s in Review
Newsweek 10 worst predictions
William Deresiewicz | The Chronicle of Higher Education &124; Faux Friendship
Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly | Quantified Self
Considered Ensemble

Paper Monitor

12:57 UK time, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's that time of year again - the grand finale of the Turner Prize.

Say what you will about the art, it reliably turns up an opportunity for spleen-venting columnists to, er, vent, er, spleen. And the deliciously vindictive descriptions are works of art in their own right.

First port of call is the Daily Mail. Oh.

turnerprizewinner_ap.jpgIts headline is: "Is this a Turner for the better?"

"Past winners have included an elephant dung painting, a shed transformed into a boat and then back into a shed, and a man dressed up as a bear. So this year's Turner Prize recipient came as a real surprise... Richard Wright, 49, created an elegant gold-leaf fresco with a heavy nod to the techniques of the old masters."

Well, his work is very pretty, all swirly patterns and delicate textures that will be painted over when the show closes. Which opens up a whole new avenue in the denigrating modern art stakes.

"Is it art or is it wallpaper?" asks the Independent.

"Controversialists must be in despair. The pile of atomised jet engine didn't scoop the Turner Prize after all, even though it had been favourite to win the famously contentious award."

If it is art, rather than wallpaper, it must mean something. But what?

The Indy's Michael Glover has a stab:

"Wright makes an art which alludes to the passing nature of life and the necessary impermanence of art... You could call his art minimalist. But it is also, for all its ethereal nature, luxurious in its way; a luxury that always threatens to pass away, and after a while does."

And for the Times? Its art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston tries - and fails - to predict the reaction of the nay-sayers:

"A graffiti artist has won this year's Turner Prize. It's the sort of announcement that would normally be expected to unleash a torrent of "call that art!" rants. But surely not this time?"

Well, she's right on that last point. Nay-sayers are not calling him a graffiti artist. Someone send for the Sun: "Artist Richard Wright bagged the Turner Prize last night for covering a gallery in a WALLPAPER pattern."

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Back to the Times, which quotes from one of the many supportive notes from the public posted outside the show:

"Richard Wright should win - refreshing attitude to marketability and mortality. I'd quite like him to do my living room too."

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:39 UK time, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

"Paedophile, paedophile, jingle all the way" - What a festive toy sort-of sings - or it could be 'Jingle bile'. It's been recalled.

Makers of the £2.99 singing mouse say the words sound distorted as the man who provided the voice could not pronounce certain sounds, and the track was speeded up to make it more high pitched and mouse-like. Judge for yourself on this video (from the Daily Telegraph).

Your Letters

16:50 UK time, Monday, 7 December 2009

Could someone at the Monitor please explain why acronyms (or initialisms) have started to be written in lower case? See here. Does this mean you will become the Bbc?
Nicola Judd, Newcastle NSW, AUS (ex Hemel Hempstead)
Monitor note: This, from our style guide:
"[O]ur style is to use lower case (with an initial cap) if you would normally pronounce the set of letters as a word (eg Aids, Fifa). Some of the exceptions to this policy have now been eliminated: hence, we should write Farc not "FARC"; and the Basque separatist organisation is Eta not "ETA". BUT A FEW EXCEPTIONS PERSIST."

Tim D, Friday letters, surely whatever led to possession of these items of value - craft or simple acquisition - came before robbery. And 'value' presupposes assaying. Quite a jobs market.
Daniel, London

Is there any underlying post-Freudian, semi-conscious, sub-Oedipal reason why 'thing' No.8 in "10 things" was written in Meerkat? I do hope so.
Ashley Pearson, Hull
Monitor: Mere human error

Can gift wrap ever be synonymous with green politics? (Paper Monitor, Monday.) If you plan on using that Guardian newspaper to wrap with, most certainly.
Candace, New Jersey, US

Hamster toy safe, firm insists. I'm disapointed. It doesn't look anything like him.
Clive DuPort, Vale, Guernsey

Web Monitor

15:43 UK time, Monday, 7 December 2009

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: Not what you expect, a win for physics and a different kind of identity theft.

Malcolm Gladwell• Noughties nostalgia is breaking its stride, with magazines trying to sum up the decade. Alex Pareene at New York Magazine thinks counterintuitive thought has been the prevailing trend of the last ten years. Pareene reckons book deals are to be had from ideas such as being smart doesn't help you get ahead; amateurs are better than experts and car seats are unsafe:

"The shocking hidden side of everything became the only side of anything worthy of magazine covers and book deals. Social scientists applied their techniques to the problem of climate change; liberals who wanted to be taken seriously had to come up with arguments for conservative policies and vice versa. Everywhere in the media, the former creators of mass consensus devoted themselves to contradicting the conventional wisdom."

Bank in November, John Hudson at the Atlantic Wire had already noticed a backlash against the biggest success of this trend, Malcolm Gladwell, with many critics seemingly admitting they hated him because they were jealous.

Steven Kurutz at Wall Street Journal has found an unlikely consequence of Tiger Woods' recent car crash: a jump in sales of a physics book called "Get a Grip on Physics" by John Gribbin. Kurutz says it played a minor cameo in the story after being seen on the car floor. Gribbin tells Kuruz he has a theory why Woods would have a copy:

"The obvious speculation is he saw the words 'get a grip' and thought it would help with his golf grip."

• Web Monitor can understand the motivations behind the kind of identity theft that gets your money stolen out of your account. But stealing your identity to write a blog supposedly as you still baffles WM. Technology boffins seem to be a favourite choice when looking for someone to impersonate in a blog. First there was fake Steve Jobs - co-founder of Apple (as mentioned in Web Monitor previously), then fake Ed Parsons who works on Google Maps. As a reaction to one location technology fakester, another internet map maker, Steve Coast, has had his own fake blog Fake Steve C for the last two years, starting with this entry:

"So on the way back from the office tonight I'm going to crowdsource a bus (hitch a ride) and it just totally subverts all the big guys and you have to keep up. The bus guys have been spending all this money on hardware (bendy buses) and we're like that's so over. Apparently there are some guys at Waterloo Bridge who have crowdsourced their income by asking lots of people for a little bit of money each, maybe I'll stop by and check these guys out."

Links in full

Alex Pareene | New York Magazine | The Encyclopedia of Counterintuitive Thought
John Hudson | Atlantic Wire | Hating on Malcolm Gladwell: Are Reviewers Just Jealous?
Steven Kurutz | Wall Street Journal | How to Boost Book Sales?
Fake Steve Jobs
Fake Ed Parsons
Fake Steve C

Paper Monitor

11:38 UK time, Monday, 7 December 2009

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Newspapers have long practised syndication as a means of making their content go further, but the Guardian seems to be breaking new ground today with an editorial that also appears in 55 other newspapers around the world. Media moguls with an eye to economies of scale will doubtless be rubbing their hands - could this be the answer to all our woes... just one newspaper for the world's entire population?guardian_226.gif

The front page editorial is such a big deal for the Guardian, it has given over almost its entire front page* to the column.

Unfortunately, at least for those fretting about the alleged toxicity of one of this year's best selling Christmas presents, Mr Squiggles, the Go Go Hamster is not the subject at the heart of this impressive exercise in global consensus forming.

In fact, it's the UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen, which starts on Monday.

The Guardian is more than a tad pleased with the syndicated leader, particularly as it was the prime mover in getting it organised.

And bearing in mind the juvenile kick Paper Monitor gets from newspapers writing about themselves, deputy editor Ian Katz's article about how the project was co-ordinated makes fascinating reading.

No "first-rank US paper" was willing to sign up, British-Italian relations were hardly enhanced by a glancing reference to "what your dad did during the War", and one American paper - which remains nameless - responded to a request to take part by telling the Brits to "Go to hell".

If global warming is as bad as some predict, that might not be such a hike after all.

*A committed environmentalist would find it hard to fault the Guardian's efforts today, except perhaps for the only other feature on the paper's front page - Helen Mirren-designed wrapping paper. Can gift wrap ever be synonymous with green politics?

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:03 UK time, Monday, 7 December 2009

"To be honest, from time to time I even saw him go after a wheelbarrow" - Marie-Claude Bomsel on the near legendary libido of Kiki the tortoise

Together with colleagues, Ms Bomsel, a vet at Paris' Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes, has been mourning the passing of Kiki, a 146-year-old tortoise, whose numerous romantic conquests could often be heard from the other end of the zoo.
More details (the Guardian)

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