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Archives for February 7, 2010 - February 13, 2010

Weekly Bonus Question

15:45 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010


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 not in the form on the right). And since nobody likes a smart alec, kudos will be deducted for predictability in your suggestions.

This week's answer is TWO LEFT FEET.

UPDATE 1504 BST: The correct question is, an artificial limbs specialist was struck off this week for fitting a pateint with what? (More details)

Of your wilfully and deliberately wrong questions, we liked:

  • Neo's Daniel Day Lewis returns to the silver screen in this long awaited sequel?
  • Ian Beveridge's What does Prince Charles have in common with Prince Andrew?
  • Chrisc's Who does a right foot not want to walk into down a dark alley?
  • Mel Bennett's Many people described driving the Toyota prius as feeling like you were driving with...

Thanks to all who entered.

10 things we didn't know last week

15:23 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

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

10snowytrees.jpg1. The Frisbee was originally called the Pluto Platter.
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2. Fast-moving elephants run with their front legs but walk with their back legs
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3. Parents in Japan swear by KitKats when their children are taking exams.
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4. High-end cars have radar-based cruise control.
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5. At the 1964 Innsbruck Games the Austrian army transported 20,000 blocks of ice for the bobsled and luge.
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6. The United Arab Emirates recently held the largest camel beauty contest ever.
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7. "Karaoke rage" has claimed more than a dozen lives in the Philippines... usually for Frank Sinatra's My Way.
More details - The Times

8. Birds may use their feathers for touch, like cats use their whiskers.
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9. Nearly 400,000 people still watch every episode of Friends on Channel 4 and E4.
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10. In Japan, a bow's humility is determined by its deepness and duration.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Vic Barton-Walderstadt for the photo of 10 snowy trees in Welwyn Garden City.

Your Letters

14:32 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

I have noticed more often than not that news programmes show the Union Flag being displayed "upside down". Now I know that it is not the BBC's actions but, could not our World renowned broadcaster please indicate to the masses - including the rest of the world - the proper orientation of our Flag. Only this morning I saw it being brandished upside down by our Olympic standard bearer.
Archibald Murray, Wishaw

"There's always a mad dash to the maternity ward before a mother gives birth" - no there isn't. After the swift arrival of child number one involving a mad dash at Friday rush hour, we chose an NHS homebirth for child number two. Essential equipment delivered a couple of weeks before and the midwives did the travelling. Much happier all round and no CCTV!
Kirsty, East Lothian

Re:Frisbee inventor Walter Frederick Morrison dies aged 90. I trust his soul will fly up towards heaven, hit a tree and bestuck there for all eternity?
Sue, London

Can I propose Image 8 of these
for a Caption Competition ?
Paul Greggor, London

Regarding this Love Creep bird thing story, I see a magpie every morning, if I see him again on Sunday, will I marry a thief?
Suzie, London

What's the question? Dunno. You've got me stumped!
Sarah Latymer-Rae, Uckfield, East Sussex

Lewis Graham (Thursday Letters) You forgot to say "i'll get my coat" at the end of your letter!
Ian, Kent

Oh Monitor, dear Monitor. About those missing letters [and other instances]. With your gracious acceptance of praise and your deft deflection and ducking of blame, you must be a man,yes? And now I shall stand firm and upright and take the responses right on the chin, just like a real woman.

Re: TED attendees: "What does the world need?" Love, sweet love?
Ralph, Cumbria

Caption Competition

14:23 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week, Prince Charles is tutored in a martial art. But what's going on?

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

6. TheCoachman
Like Ricky Gervais, Charles was fed up of always being asked to do "that dance".

5. LaurenceLane
"Now when you enter the booth raise your arms above your head like that and the spray will produce an even tan."

4. SeanieSmith
Nintendo prepare for the release of the limited-edition Royal Wii.

3. Boycie freeman
Prince Charles had never been to a Theme Park before.

2. Woundedpride
"All together...'Prince Charming, Prince Charming, ridicule is nothing to be scared of'..."

1. BaldoBingham
Come the revolution, I suggest you adopt this pose.

Love Creep

13:52 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010


Unlikely events linked to the feast day of Valentinus himself.

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, the Monitor has resorted to singing love songs to get in the mood, and sprinkling red rose petals around the water cooler.

For those yet to succumb to the pressure to buy flowers, perhaps a box of over-priced choccies and hand make a heart bedecked card, fear not - there are two shopping days left until V day. And Monitor is still being inspired by all sorts of offerings from its admirers in PR Land. Hence Love Creep, the more amorous half-sibling to Crunch Creep.

On Thursday it was all George Clooney pillows, pine nut love potions and birdwatching. Today there are even more aphrodisiac treats. Send your own spots using the COMMENTS FORM on this page.

The Daily Telegraph reports how sales of "package boosting" men's pants have, ahem, risen by 76%.

The bulge-enhancing underwear work by using what has been described as "a pioneering lift and holding feature", said to be very comfortable. Monitor can neither confirm nor refute this claim. One wonders if such a garment might induce a Bridget-Jones-granny-pant moment once uncovered in the throes of passion. Buyer beware. One salesman tells the paper:

"We can't be held responsible for what happens once the pants come off."

For those in long-term relationships, it may be less about the gifts and more about a certain question. To pop or not to pop? Handily, to save time going through your beloved's pockets to see if there's a ring, there is... drum roll please... a new formula. (Regular readers know how much the Monitor loves a bit of maths.)

As the Daily Mail reports, scientists in Australia have devised a mathematical formula to determine when your suitor will go down on one knee. The Fiancée Formula calculates the ideal age for a man to propose.

If all this romance is making you blush, then you may like Brian Fareham, who claims to be Britain's least romantic man. He tells the Daily Mirror that the only present he has ever bought his wife was a fork so she can dig the garden, and he's only taken her out to dinner once... to a truck stop.


So happy Valentine's Day to you - yes, you, Shnookums. Before you know it, Easter Creep will soon be upon us. The chocolate hearts are already being replaced by chocolate eggs.

Paper Monitor

11:46 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

If deja vu is a situation where you merely get a feeling you might have seen something before, then page 11 of today's Daily Mail is more a case of "deja vu sans aucun doute".

There's a story about the police trying windows and doors at night and waking up residents who could be vulnerable to burglary.

It's a good yarn but we can't escape the feeling we might have seen it before on pages not too far away from this one.

But that bit of deja vu pales in comparison to the story that runs alongside it. We learn that Reebok Classics are the favourite shoe of burglars.

A quick check of the Nexis newspaper archive shows stories revealing this insight from as far back as... wait for it... 1999.

And speaking of deja vu, Paper Monitor is getting a hearty dose from the tabloids' endless coverage of one particular set of celebrity couple tribulations.

We won't name them again of course. On these pages they shall henceforth be known as the blonde tall presenter woman and the tall Lancastrian bloke with the shiny teeth and the 1940s name.

The tall bloke has been accused in the paper of sexting glamour models. And at the same time, the tall blonde is about to have a book out and has been doing lots of interviews about her dream family and how it's solid as a rock.

And the end result is lots of interviews she did before she knew about the alleged sexting are run in a new and "poignant" context.

Friday's Quote of The Day

10:10 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

"Every time I pushed, the automatic door opened" - Mum Caroline Meech who had to give birth in the entrance to the hospital.

There's always a mad dash to the maternity ward before a mother gives birth, but Caroline Meech could only make it as far as the doorway. She gave birth next to the water cooler in the foyer, with the whole experience captured on CCTV.
More details (The Daily Mail)

Your Letters

16:28 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Monitor note: It's a bumper crop. And rest assured that the underling responsible for the non-appearance of yesterday's letters has been summarily told off. Now to the letters...

May I be the first to express my appreciation of the humble, yet dignified, way in which the Monitor (will) apologise(d) for its failure to publish Wednesday's batch of letters. Thank you.
David Dee, Matola, Mozambique

"Expenses body to cost six times more than MPs' payback". So, the MPs require 80 people to scrutinise the actions of 646 members - thats a ratio of over 1 for 10. The Civil Service does a plethora (I like that word) of tasks for the population - tax, education, judiciary, etc. at about a rate of 1 for 100. These MPs must have very complicated lives.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Re: Vancouver: 'Drug Central' of North America. This story is absolutely correct. In Vancouver, we're not proud of the human suffering that defines (to a great degree anyway) the Downtown Eastside. That said, there are a lot of positive programs on the ground in this neighbourhood, and I'm glad that you've included coverage of InSite. For all its positive results, though, InSite is still under attack: there is a case before the Supreme Court this week to try to close it down. Another example of how easy it is to tear something down without having the courage to build something up. The DTES's problems are legion, but ignoring them - or taking away the necessary tools from those willing to take them on - won't make them go away.
Pam, Vancouver, Canada

Might I suggest that my three-year-old daughter is an "expert" in many areas. She doesn't know her left from her right either.
Kevin, Derby

So schools in Weston-Super-Mare are confiscating Valentine cards from young pupils. Don't they have an Art Department then?Junior schools I was a pupil at would make their own (and Christmas Cards as well).
Colin Bartlett, Abingdon,Oxon

But I haven't seen all the episodes yet!
Ralph, Cumbria

Hurrah! Someone else who thinks supermarkets should stock things in alphabetical order. But would I have to go to White, risking a diversion to Whitener (coffee), or to Wine, shelf White?
Fee Lock, Hastings, East Sussex

Could somebody please let me know whether my fertility is coming or going? I'm fairly sure I don't know.
Catherine O, Maidenhead, UK

Yet another example of nominative determinism - and yes I expect the usual pedantry that his name implies the verb to do yet it was done to him - but its' just too good to let it slip by......
Will Chellam, Bradford

"A sat-nav receiver on Earth - or on a ship or plane - is equipped with a fairly precise clock and the means to collect signals from the satellites that happen to be in its line of sight." Wow! I need to get on one of those inter-planetary ships or planes.
James Rouse, Southampton

Did anyone else think that the headline "GPS to Suffer from Awakening Sun" was heralding some strange type of morning sickness only affecting doctors - or was it just me? I'll get me Sat Nav.
Kazbat, Merseyside

I was most disappointed that the Faith Shows Quiz did not have any questions on the vicar of dibley. I think she deserves an apology.
Luisa, Bristol, UK

It looks like Gordon Brown is unwittingly consuming even more calories in bananas than he was in KitKats!
Jennifer, Thailand

KitKat v Banana? No contest. Bananas have their own superhero - has anyone ever heard of Kit Kat Man? No, thought not.
Dave Godfrey, Swindon, UK

Banana vs KitKat? The Banana would win on a-peel.
Lewis Graham, Hitchin

Web Monitor

14:35 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: recreating the Neanderthal, the end of the pun and settling down.

Ne-Alan-anderthal TitchmarshZach Zorich in Archaeology magazine looks at the extensive work going into cloning the Neanderthal. It's problematic:

"The ultimate goal of studying human evolution is to better understand the human race. The opportunity to meet a Neanderthal and see firsthand our common but separate humanity seems, on the surface, too good to pass up. But what if the thing we learned from cloning a Neanderthal is that our curiosity is greater than our compassion? Would there be enough scientific benefit to make it worth the risks?"

Tim Parks in the New York Review of Books warns that we could be seeing the end of pun. Although groan-inducing crackers gags may not be missed, Mr Parks is unhappy about what he sees as the end of more sophisticated word-play. He blames authors, for chasing international success by writing in simpler easier-to-translate language:

"What seems doomed to disappear, or at least to risk neglect, is the kind of work that revels in the subtle nuances of its own language and literary culture, the sort of writing that can savage or celebrate the way this or that linguistic group really lives. In the global literary market there will be no place for any Barbara Pyms and Natalia Ginzburgs. Shakespeare would have eased off the puns. A new Jane Austen can forget the Nobel."

Lori Gottlieb's book Just Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr Good Enough has caused an online furore according to Adelle Waldman in More Intelligent Life. She explains why she isn't so turned off by the idea:

"She debunks the vapid 'You go, girl!' form of empowerment, which often harms women by suggesting that they shouldn't settle for less than everything. As a television series, Sex and the City dramatised some of the challenges (and perks) of looking for love as a mature woman. Unfortunately its big-screen culmination delivered a very Hollywood ending - fluffily satisfying, but hardly representative. Gottlieb, in contrast, tells her story as if she were speaking to a roomful of adults, who can be trusted not to faint at bad news."

Links in full

see alsoZach Zorich | Archaeology | Should we clone Neanderthals?
see alsoTim Parks | New York Review of Books | The dull new global novel
Intelligent LifeAdelle Waldman | More Intelligent Life |Just marry him?

For the love of... a press release

12:59 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010


What happened to good old fashioned romance?

With 14 February fast approaching, the inhabitants of Monitor Towers have never been so flattered by all the Valentine's Day communiques from its admirers in PR Land.

In the words of Jennifer Lopez, love don't cost a thing, but there's always a chance there's a bob or two in it. Just as the Monitor documented the trend for "strange, tangential and often unlikely events laid at the door of the credit crunch" in its Crunch Creep, strand, so its attention has been piqued by the tendency among those in the field of public relations to link unlikely events to the feast day of Valentinus himself. Send any examples you see, using the COMMENTS BOX on this page, and warm the cockles of our cynical hearts.

Forget romance, it's a day for ornithomancy, say tourism bosses in Worcestershire... and who should be most interested? Singletons. Tradition apparently states that the first bird one sees on Valentine's Day predicts the type of person you'll marry. Avoid woodpeckers - it means you won't marry. More on this in the Daily Telegraph.

To spice things up, consider pine nuts instead of Viagra. A press release celebrating the research of naturopathic physician Harald Gaier notes how pine nuts from the Siberian Cedar contain oils which provide - how can this be put delicately - potency to men. He goes on to explain the virtues of pine nuts: "My colleagues in Germany who have tested this tell me it's better than Viagra." His natural love potion goes on sale soon.

There's been much written in the papers about Vernon Kay's texting habits and Tesco Mobile is predicting many more of us will be using our phones to convey sweet nothings (you don't say). To help people who suffer from the write-a-text-then-regret-it-as-soon-as-they've-pressed-send syndrome, it has employed Maureen. Maureen is a "romance guru". As you can see in her pictures she has more than a passing resemblance to Barbara Cartland. If you text her she'll be on hand to help you write beautiful, heartfelt poetry. If you're struggling to find the words to say how much you love the Monitor, Maureen might be able to help.

Maureen-Love-Guru_226.jpg Much of the Valentine PR this year seems to be targeted at singles. The message is clear - fear not oh single one, our product will help you find true love. Step forward, which conveniently has a solution. Any solo travellers booking a room through them for Valentine's Day will, as their press release states, "have their dreams of sharing a bed with George or Cheryl come true". The company has produced limited edition pillowcases which feature the face of either George Clooney or Cheryl Cole, so you can cosy up to them all night.

That, for now, is all the romance we can take, but please send through any PR efforts you have taken a fancy to. A bonus point if you can write them in sonnet form.

Paper Monitor

12:10 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

After a two-day break when another tale of alleged sexual - sorry, textual - shenanigans knocked John Terry off the front page of the Sun, he's back.

The footballer has flown to Dubai to make nice with his missus now his important football games are out of the way just in time for Valentine's Day.

And the man who bumped Terry off the front page on Tuesday and Wednesday - a man the paper thoughtfully refers to as "text fan Vernon Kay" - has himself been relegated to page three (Paper Monitor will spare your blushes by omitting a link), and is taking a break from his live Radio 1 show to spend time with his wife, Strictly's Tess Daly:

"Yesterday as Kay stayed at home in Beaconsfield, Bucks, Tess pulled a newspaper column due to focus on their happy marriage. But the 40-year-old is set to appear on both The One Show and This Morning next week to plug her new book - which talks about her family life."

Paper Monitor imagines advance copies of The Baby Diaries: Memories, Milestones and Misadventures will be pounced upon with rather more gusto than otherwise might be expected, as hacks scour the pages for mentions of Vernon taking time out from changing nappies to fiddle with his mobile.

Meanwhile, Metro reports that Sarah Palin's ex-son-in-law-to-be Levi Whatsit has stripped off for Playgirl (the BBC is not responsible for the bared pecs found on this link). Now, Metro isn't a paper noted for being first with the news. That's not what it's for.

Followers of the ice hockey jock-turned-celeb wannabe - or "caribou hunter-turned-aspiring model/actor", as People magazine puts it - will know that Johnson (stop tittering at the back) stripped off ages ago.

What's new is that the photo shoot in question is in this month's Playgirl. Or, as People magazine puts it, "Finally! Levi Johnston's Playgirl Cover Revealed".

"Finally!" - perhaps one of the least called-for exclamation marks in the history of exclamation marks? Oh well, each to one's own...

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:18 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

"It was a brilliant Saturday job, but I've moved on" - Singer Matt Goss on his past life in the boyband Bros.

He used to play to crowds of screaming teenagers, but now Matt Goss is before a different kind of audience as the new headline act at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. It's a far cry from his "When Will I Be Famous?" days, but he's already being hailed as the new Frank Sinatra.
More details (The Guardian)

Web Monitor

16:54 UK time, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the band that showed corporate America how to do business, why authors write books when they earn barely more than minimum wage, and what happens when film stars and surrealists mix.

Grateful DeadJoshua Green in the Atlantic says the Grateful Dead have long been a subject of academic curiosity. One of the first journal articles to focus on the rock band appeared in the Journal of Psychedelic Drugs about the LSD consumption of fans. But Mr Green argues that oddly enough, the band's influence on the business world may turn out to be a significant part of its legacy. Not only were they the first to give away free stuff, but lyricist John Perry Barlow was an internet pioneer. All in all, Mr Green says, they changed business:

"Without intending to - while intending, in fact, to do just the opposite - the band pioneered ideas and practices that were subsequently embraced by corporate America. One was to focus intensely on its most loyal fans. It established a telephone hotline to alert them to its touring schedule ahead of any public announcement, reserved for them some of the best seats in the house, and capped the price of tickets, which the band distributed through its own mail-order house... Treating customers well may sound like common sense. But it represented a break from the top-down ethos of many organizations in the 1960s and 70s. Only in the 80s, faced with competition from Japan, did American CEOs and management theorists widely adopt a customer-first orientation."

• In the Big Picture, economist and author Barry Ritholtz works out he earned less than $10 an hour to write his book about the bank bailouts. Given that other authors tell him he's lucky to break even, he wonders why people bother writing books:

"People who otherwise wouldn't have thought twice about you (Him? He's an idiot!) suddenly start to take you seriously. You become 'the guy who wrote the book'. Your speaking fees double, your regular business benefits. Other publishers start pitching you book ideas. In general, your personal brand becomes more valuable. My friend (and book agent) Lloyd Jassin says you write a book to Build your Brand. And there is much truth to that."

• Film actress Ali MacGraw has been out of the limelight for decades, save late-night repeats of the film Love Story. In an interview with Sheila Weller for Vanity Fair, she insists she wanted it that way and reminisces about surreal times where, fittingly, Salvador Dali was involved:

"'At one surreal cocktail party, the two most extraordinary people were Richard Nixon - so uncomfortable that his small talk was heartbreaking - and Salvador Dali,' she says. When MacGraw complimented Dali on his 'incredible cloisonne walking stick', he invited her to the King Cole Bar, in the St Regis hotel, where he held lecherous court over a coterie of ingenues. MacGraw beat a hasty exit, but Dali later sent her a gift-boxed, imitation-pearl-encrusted live iguana."

Paper Monitor

11:21 UK time, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A celebration of the riches of the daily press.

Metrosexuals and personal grooming aficionados doubtless wince at the sight of Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The unkempt beard, the lone island of hair that sits atop a bald pate (described by a colleague of Paper Monitor's as the Shearer Tuft), the indecently outsized (for modern tastes, at least) metal rimmed specs.

But in matters ecclesiastical, the Daily Telegraph operates on a higher plane than that of Gok Wan. No?

brown_bbc_226.jpgNot today, it seems. The paper depicts Dr Williams across a sequence of four pictures on page two (sorry, no online version). In the first his eyelids appear heavy as he props up his head with a hand, his mind seemingly wandering while delegates speak.

In the second, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and its estimated 77 million members - is pictured picking his nose.

But it's the third of this quartet of images that is perhaps most unsettling. Like Gordon Brown before him (see picture above right), Dr Williams has become an unwitting victim of the long, thin stick microphone. You know the sort - with small fuzzy bobbly bit at the end.

wogan_bbc_226.jpgDid today's generation of public relations supremos never watch Terry Wogan on Blankety Blank? Without fail almost every week, the Blarney-blessed presenter turned his absurd size zero mic into a visual gag - a stunt which invariably involved Kenny Everett twisting it into a vaguely lewd outline.

These days, the stick mic seems to have become a conference centre mainstay - something which must bring a wry smile to the faces of all newspaper photographers.

The Telegraph picture in question shows the mic blotting out one of Dr Williams' eyes, while the doctor is caught in mid-startled mode. The overall effect is of a madman being assailed by a giant fly.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

10:16 UK time, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

"[The owner] said the food was too poncey and he wanted traditional pub grub" - Michelin-starred chef Ryan Simpson, who quit his job after a dispute over the type of food he was serving up.

Paul Castle, owner of The Goose in Britwell Salome, Oxfordshire, wasn't happy with the fine dining dishes on the menu and wanted a switch to burger and chips. "It was not the sort of food that local people ate and we wanted something a bit more accessible," his spokesman said.
More details (The Times)

Web Monitor

16:20 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: the result of a comedy show audience's political manifesto, Generation X and the end of pop culture and reading the mood of graffiti.

Mark Thomas• Activist and comedian Mark Thomas is giving someone the chance to stand in the next election with a manifesto collected from ideas thrown about at his comedy gigs. He's produced the "people's manifesto" which includes, among the anti-MP, anti-banker anger he says you might expect, a promise of more feral chickens breeding on round abouts to encourage drivers to slow down, celebrity death requests and more:

"One chap in Leicester wrote:
'Everything in supermarkets should be stacked in alphabetical order.' Pondering a world where Hovis would be found next to Hobnobs or coffee next to cotton wool, I congratulated this chap saying that I thought his policy was very funny. He fixed me firmly with a glare and said, 'It's not funny, it's serious. I can't find anything.'"

• The writer who popularised the term "Generation X", Douglas Coupland, declares pop culture over in the New York Times magazine:

"I'm starting to wonder if pop culture is in its dying days, because everyone is able to customize their own lives with the images they want to see and the words they want to read and the music they listen to. You don't have the broader trends like you used to."

Questioned on how the the success of Avatar and Harry Potter fitted into this, he stuck to his guns:

"They're not great cultural megatrends like disco, which involved absolutely everyone in the culture. Now, everyone basically is their own microculture, their own nanoculture, their own generation."

• Quinn Dombrowski has carried out a longlitudinal study of graffiti scrawled on the walls of Chicago University's library. He says he hopes to gain an insight into student life much like insights of streetlife from Pompeii's ancient graffiti. He's transcribed 620 "pieces" of graffiti since 2007 and put them on his website, Crescat Graffiti, Vita Excolatur. He analyses students' declarations of love and hate to find whether they correlate with the seasons:

"The prevalence of graffiti referring to love, despair, and sex varies depending on the time of year, in rather surprising ways. Love peaks in October - right as the school year starts - and remains at that high level through November, when despair also peaks (around the time of fall quarter midterms). After November, both love and despair graffiti drop off significantly until spring. Love peaks again in April (beginning of spring quarter) before falling off in May, when despair has its second peak."

Links in full

see alsoMark Thomas | The People's manifesto
New York TimesDeborah Solomon | New York Times magazine | Dreaming of a White Olympics
see alsoQuinn Dombrowski | Crescat Graffiti, Vita Excolatur

Your Letters

15:05 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

So they found a body wrapped in a carpet buried in Manchester city centre. "It was treated as non suspicious". Really?!
Tom Webb, Surbiton, UK

Having just read the article on Sikh Kirpan daggers - and I'm left with one question. What is "toleration"? It sounds like something my gran would say instead of swearing.
Ian, York

Kit Kat v Banana. You forgot to tell us the winner!
Richard Place, Barnstaple

Snack stand-off. The most hilarious article I have read in a long time. Snack top trumps, anyone?
Jo K, London

What make a great TV theme tune? It is, as with annoying pop songs, a simple case of it being catchy. I'd like to raise both Ski Sunday and Rugby Special as two tunes that seem to have lodged themselves permanently in my head - and both for some reason evoke the sports and the colours of the sports in question with the rhythm, as well as the melody. The tune that's most influenced me though is the one to "Crown Court" (which may be called "Distant Hills"). It impressed me enough to have considered it for one of the tunes I'd have used at my wedding! Soft, melodic, haunting, and quite simple.
Ian Oliver @BBC News Magazine

Regarding the Daily Mini-Quiz. I actually wear two hospital gowns. One the right way, and one the wrong way, therefore, all covered.
Iain F MacMillan @BBC News Magazine

Is the BBC costcutting? I'm sure this is the same pregant woman as this - just a different crop on the picture.
K, edinburgh

Is it me, or has John Culshaw bought West Ham football club?
Ed, Wakefield

Paper Monitor

10:52 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A celebration of the highlights of the daily press.

Paper Monitor doesn't often consider matters ecclesiastical. But the coverage of the General Synod's debate about women bishops has piqued one's interest. The Times says Canon Lucy Winkett, 42, who is precentor at St Paul's Cathedral (Paper Monitor very nearly out of own depth here) is tipped as a likely candidate.

It's the paper's next phrase which is interesting.
She is "one of the most impressive clergy in the Anglican Communion", it says. Can you be "a clergy"? A clergyman, obviously. A clergywoman, presumably. But a clergy? It's all a bit Baltimore "I am a po-lice" (expl here at the Wall Street Journal) isn't it?

Meanwhile the Daily Telegraph reports that Gordon Brown is considering introducing British Summer Time all year long, which on first reading makes you think must be something happening as a result of global warming. But the paper explains that extra hour of evening light would allow outdoor visitor attractions to remain open longer and could raise as much as £3.5bn. Being a Paper Monitor of very little brain, one thinks this plan must have an equal and opposite impact at the start of the day, but is no doubt completely wrong.

The paper adds: "Experts claim that the proposal would also improve road safety, cut obesity by giving children longer to play in the evenings, and reduce crime."

Coming in a future edition of the Telegraph: how obese kids have increased crime by hanging around on street corners all year round.

Elsewhere the paper magnifies an image of Sarah Palin's palm, taken during her speech at the National Tea Party convention over the weekend. The words "energy", "tax" and "lift Americans Spirits" (no posessive apostrophe, Sarah?) were written in black ink, but the words "Budget cuts" had been partly crossed out.

The Daily Express, on the other hand, has the latest in a long line of health stories, though this one somehow seems to lack the vital element of bad news.

Visitors to the Magazine's Facebook fan page (which you can see and/or join here) are invited to join in the fun by wilfully misunderstanding this or any other headline in today's papers. I am a monitor. With headlines written on my palm.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:33 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

"My son opened the door to the lounge and saw a car and headlights staring back at him" -
Woman after Ford Mondeo crashed into her West Midlands home.

It's a classic from the world of local news - a family have a lucky escape when a car crashes through the wall of their house. (More details - Metro).

Web Monitor

15:15 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010

A celebration of the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: confessions of a recluse's gatekeeper, why we love a good fight and the economics of reading.

JD Salinger.jpg• Every good celebrity recluse, it appears as staff to help them, well, reclude. One such gatekeeper, Joanna Smith Rakoff maps out the job in Slate. She remembers her reluctant role replying to JD Salinger's fan mail with polite rejections:

"We were Salinger's gatekeepers - charged with protecting his life and work - but in order to do so, we had to buy into the mythology that had sprung up around the man, too. We had to believe that Salinger's privacy was the most important thing in the world, to be protected at all costs. And in order to make this leap of faith, we needed to believe that Salinger, as his fans insisted in the letters I fielded daily, was the greatest writer of the 20th century. It was an honor I wasn't willing to bestow."

• Having written a protester's handbook, Bibi van der Zee says she gets accused of only being interested in protests when a fight breaks out. In the New Statesman she looks at why violence is so interesting:

"Anyone who has ever seen a fight break out and has an honest streak in their body will admit that, at some level, they just wanted to stand and gawp. There is a moment in a bar, or at a gig, or at a protest, when anything could happen. When violence begins to break its way up through the concrete, suddenly everything you know about people is useless and that isfascinating. Frightening, upsetting and terrifying in the way it can spiral out of control, in the way that violence breeds more violence, more anger and pain. But fascinating, too."

• A debate has been started on the web after Martin Amis revealed in an interview with Prospect magazine, mentioned in Web Monitor, that he doesn't read younger authors' work. His theory goes that time is yet to tell if their work is any good and he isn't prepared to risk wasting his time on a bad book.
Norm Geras in his blog Normblog disagrees with this method of selecting your reading:

"It's possible to enjoy a book, come to think of it, that may not stand the test of the ages. So what if it doesn't? You can read those that do as well."

Ian Lesley in his blog Marbury thinks time is too short, so is on Martin Amis's side:
"So what you need is a way of reliably predicting which books you'll enjoy most (or at least minimising the inevitable unreliability of any strategy). The test of time - of previous readers - is the best predictive test available to us (and no, I don't feel bad about free-riding off other people's 'work' in this instance)."

Links in full

SlateJoanna Smith Rakoff |Slate | My adventures answering J.D. Salinger's mail
New StatesmanBibi van der Zee | New Statesman | Why we all love a fight
NormblogNorman Geras | Normblog | Rules for reading

MarburyIan Leslie | Marbury | The economics of reading

Your Letters

14:11 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010

What make a great TV theme tune? Anything as long as its not sung by Dennis Waterman.
Emma Morris @BBC News Magazine

Super. I am now guilty of inadvertently being "in" on a joke at Monitor Towers, and then making the mistake of trying to share it with the real world. On Saturday my husband and I went to look around a country club as we fancied being posh. "Hello," said the guide. "My name's John." "I'm John too," said my husband. "And I'm Spartacus," I said. I then had to suffer half an hour being addressed thus, feeling both very giggly and yet rather embarrassed. Thanks.
Rachel, Minnetonka
Monitor note: You're welcome.

When Mr Howells the tattooist in the story behind Monday's quote of the day says: "We do everything from scratch." Is that something to be pleased or worried about?
Harvey Mayne, Frankfurt, Germany

Re 10 things, number 8: I wish I'd known that when I was on holiday in Egypt. I was offered 100 camels in exchange for my girlfriend. Perhaps I should have done my research more thoroughly before turning the offer down.
Adam, London, UK

Bear Grylls once "gutted a dead camel and slept in the empty bloody carcass." So what? I've actually stayed in a Blackpool bed-and-breakfast.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

I used to be nostalgic, but it's all in the past now.
Dave Godfrey, Swindon, UK

In answer to PB (Friday's letters). No!
Jimlad, Paris, France

Paper Monitor

11:56 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Gonzo journalism is always appreciated by Paper Monitor, who never ceases to be impressed by the lengths some brave reporters will go to when it comes to delivering readers the story behind the headline.

Only the other week several intrepid hacks were dispatched to their nearest supermarket in their pyjamas, following Tesco banning a customer who wore her nightwear to do a shop. It was Pulitzer Prize winning stuff.

Today The Times goes all investigative on us. Journalist Lucy Bannerman immerses herself in the murky world of plant fertilisers to get hold of the new "legal high" of choice, mephedrone - or "meow meow" as it is known on the streets.

But somehow Ms Bannerman makes it sound like she's ordering her weekly organic vegetable box. She easily sourced the mephedrone online, it was delivered by courier and its provenance was clearly stated - Shanghai. Quite a few air miles there then.

It's a serious subject, the stuff is being linked to several sudden deaths. But the story falls rather short of being what it aspires to be - an alarming piece about how readily available mephedrone is.

With lame quips about herbaceous borders, it's reminiscent of a conversation with a stuffy, old aunt. But seeing as the half-page advertisment below the piece is about equity release and pictures two older people doing their gardening, it probably perfectly pitched. Know your audience, it's a journalism basic.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:37 UK time, Monday, 8 February 2010

"It's things that are meaningful to her - she's got a portrait of Michael Jackson and a pair of fluffy handcuffs on there" - Tattooist on Jodie Marsh's grand design.

The newly-opened Viper Studio in South Woodford, London, already has its first celebrity customer and, luckily for them, she has an artistic vision.
More details (East London and West Essex Guardian Series)

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