BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for March 7, 2010 - March 13, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

17:35 UK time, Friday, 12 March 2010

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

1. A parrot can be repossessed.
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2. Germans call chickenpox windpox, owing to the speed with which it spreads.
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3. Chickenpox is not referred to in medical literature before the 17th Century but it is thought to be an ancient condition whose name springs from the fact that the blisters resemble chick peas.
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4. Some chickens are half-male and half-female.
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5. The largest meat-eating plant in the world likes to eat the droppings of tree shrews and rats, rather than tree shrews and rats themselves.
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6. "Hurt locker" is a phrase used by the military since at least 1966.
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7. The Yukon never actually has 24-hour darkness.
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8. Fifty percent of a jumbo jet can be recycled.
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9. The world's first sleeping bag was patented in 1876, and called an Euklisia rug.
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10. Soldiers in Afghanistan use concrete mixers to wash their clothes.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Duncan Smith for this week's picture of 10 keys.

Your Letters

17:05 UK time, Friday, 12 March 2010

Re Parents who take buggies on buses face crackdown, Justine Robert of Mumsnet misses the point when she says: "You have to have sympathy for mothers struggling with a toddler, baby and shopping." The problem isn't the buggy on the bus. It's when mothers see a wheelchair user waiting, but make no effort to remove their child from the buggy, fold the buggy away and place it in the storage area so that the wheelchair user can board the bus. Unlike your child, they have no option about being in their chair.
Kim, Notts

After trundling off to bask in my caption competition glory with my friend he told me that "shock and paw" would have been better. He is so right. I must therefore, regrettably, return my kudos (unless you allow transfers).
Tom Webb, Surbiton, UK
Monitor note: Team, waddaya say?

While living in the wilds of Africa, I came across an intriguing fellow who worked at a safari park. He was running in his local council elections and his slogan was "Apple Crumble For All!" Sadly, his promises of polite pomaceous pudding failed to win him the day.
Additional tales of said gentleman for editorial consideration:
He sold baseball caps from his home. There was a sign on the door that said, "Baseball Caps! R2 for 1 or 2 for R5!"
While taking me on a tour of his safari park he told me, "Lions are overrated. Everyone thinks they are the kings. But compared to the wolf, they are nothing. Lions are like little girls. The wolf is the true king. The wolf is so brave. It has the heart of a lion."
This is like being on Radio 4.
Dylan, Reading, UK

"Together they try to stop Dr Cuddles and an evil blue teddy bear from taking over the land" (Sir David Jason to voice CBBC animation). What sort of drugs are available for the BBC commissioning teams?
Louisa Hibble, Leicester

Lester (Thursday letters), that's not the definition of average - you're confusing the median and the mean. If you take the numbers 30, 1, 2, and 3, the average is nine. Half of them are not above average.
Colin Edwards, Exeter

Re papers saying sorry (Thursday's Paper Monitor), I heard an idea on Mark Thomas's recent radio show that it should be law that newspaper retractions should be printed in the same font size and over the same pages the incorrect story originally appeared. I think it's an excellent idea. The Daily Mail might disagree...
Howard, London, UK

Caption Competition

13:29 UK time, Friday, 12 March 2010


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week it's army dog handler Sergeant David Heyhoe and his explosives search dog Treo at Crufts. The eight-year-old black Labrador - who has the animal equivalent of a Victoria Cross for saving the lives of the soldiers in Afghanistan - has been nominated for the Friend For Life award at the show.

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

6. Tom Webb
"Now, with our allies sworn in to uphold our cause, it is time to start our operation 'shock and awe' on the cats."

5. Cairngorm McWomble
"What's that Petey? There are two kids trapped in the old mine..."

4. trishinstock
Treo stopped in the middle of Sergeant Heyhoe's favourite patticake game as he sensed a man two miles off just unwrapping a double bacon cheezburger with curly fries.

3. NickR
Where Beagles Dare.

2. IllPhil
"I am a dog and therefore do not understand the concept of bravery or medals. However, if you would like to give me a biscuit, I do understand those."

1. DarrenFarr
"Victoria cross? She will be when she discovers the mess I've left on her carpet!"

Paper Monitor

12:01 UK time, Friday, 12 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Short but sweet today. Paper Monitor has things to do, places to be, Caption Competitions to oversee!

And so, to business.

cruftsdogandowner_ap.jpgThe Sun has a picture that paints a thousand words. Which is why it is run with only 55 words around it, including headline, and one is "ruff" and another "mutt-see".

It provides a neat twist on the perennial favourite of seeking out dogs who look like their owners, or vice versa. It does not appear to be on the Sun's website. But it can also be seen here, thanks to the Daily Mail.

And finally - yes, already - Paper Monitor has never hid its unwavering enthusiasm for the rival showbiz/Apocalypse-spotting columns in the Guardian and the Times.

(Past glories include Lost in Showbiz on Sting's private gig for make benefit glorious nation of Uzbekistan despite questionable human rights record, and Celebrity Watch devising a new verb - nostrilling - for the way Jeremy Paxman speaks to his interviewees.)

Well. Today's gems include Celebrity Watch skewing Simon Cowell's title as most famous person in Britain.

"Clearly, this isn't correct - the most famous person in Britain is the meerkat in the smoking jacket from the advert. Have you tried getting near a meerkat enclosure at a zoo these days? It's like trying to get into the Cavern during Beatlemania."

So true it hurts.

And over at Lost in Showbiz, there's good news for Haiti - GMTV's style guru Mark Heyes is launching a charity to help the quake victims. Who he, you may ask?

"This faction of Lost in Showbiz loves a bit of Heyes in the morning. Honestly, the things he can find in River Island. A bit of Karen Millen here, a touch of Dune there - why, it's like being at a Balenciaga show, with the priceless presence of Lorraine Kelly instead of that Anna Wintour wotsit."

Paper Monitor has clearly been missing out.

Weekly Bonus Question

10:46 UK time, Friday, 12 March 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. Any answers submitted using the "Send us a letter" form on the right will be summarily ignored.

And since nobody likes a smart alec, kudos will be deducted for predictability in your suggestions.

This week's answer is 7lb DOUBLE GLOUCESTER.

UPDATE 1825 GMT: It's the cheese used in cheese roll, stopped because of concerns about crowd control.

We liked:

  • SkarloeyLine's Shakespeare's original title for Richard III?
  • And rogueslr's Congratulations Mrs Gloucester, it's twins!

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:42 UK time, Friday, 12 March 2010

"I told him I worked in a club. He then asked if it was a strip club - then he said it was too cold anyway" - Navy sea cadet Elizabeth Rendle explains Prince Philip's latest gaffe.

He's well-known for his tendency to put his foot in it, but the Duke of Edinburgh's most recent comment was brushed off by the barmaid in question as "a joke". Prince Philip made the remark while touring the Wyvern Barracks in Exeter with the Queen.
More details (The Daily Mirror)

Your Letters

15:53 UK time, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Hey, look! One of the many fires that occur daily in the UK was in London!
Phil, Guisborough

Ok, I'm not Jack Straw, but I thought I'd try and help this man. Jon Venables is currently in police custody, you are clearly not, therefore you're not him.
Tony Doyle, Holmes Chapel, UK

"He said the birth will completely rewrite the elephant birth textbooks," Mr Kerr said. I'm curious: how many of these tomes are sold per annum?
Kat Gregg, Coventry

Geoff and Sharon (Wednesday's letters) obviously don't work in education. As a teacher I know that to be graded as Satisfactory by OFSTED means that I need to do better. And if my lesson observation by senior management is graded as satisfactory then I had better look very upset about it, as I am obviously a failing teacher! Satisfactory meaning good enough? Whatever will they think of next.
Kirsty, Birmingham, UK

Geoff, rounding errors. Imagine for example the percentages are 9.1%, 40.4%, 40.2%, 10.3%. Sharon, we have already seen that the government believe that "Satisfactory is not good enough".
Ian, Winchester, UK

I think what Mr Laws was trying to say is that half of all schools are below average. And the other half above average. Which exactly is the definition of average.
Lester Mak, London, UK

Actually, John Airey (Wednesday's letters) they don't. They only need to refund any reservation fee and if they can't find you another standard class seat, you can claim compensation up to the ticket price. They don't have to let you sit in First Class - even if it's empty!
David Richards, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Dear MM - Please could you remind us when movable feasts occur - like Mothers' Day. They can be quite different in ex-pat climes. Although my mum is normally quite balanced, she doesn't half get a cobb on if I forget a card.
Rachel, Minnetonka

Paper Monitor

10:04 UK time, Thursday, 11 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's a one-paragraph snippet tucked away on page four of today's Daily Mail. Blink twice and you'll miss it. But it has grabbed the attention of Paper Monitor - and many others.

You see those three sentences are an apology. It's not something the Mail does very often. In fact, it could give even the most stubborn toddler a run for their money when it comes to refusing to say the "s" word.

The apology is over an article it ran yesterday by criminologist and child protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas. It was headlined: "I posed as a 14-year-old girl on Facebook. What followed will sicken you."

The article comes after a high-profile murder case earlier in the week, in which a paedophile raped and murdered a young teenager he'd met on the social networking site. Under the guise of a young girl, you can imagine what happened to Mr Williams-Thomas.

"Within 90 seconds, a middle-aged man wanted to perform a sex act in front of me. I was deluged by strangers asking stomach-churning questions about my sexual experience. I was pressured to meet men with whom I'd never before communicated."

But it transpires that some of the facts in the story weren't quite right, in fact they were totally wrong. Mr Williams-Thomas used another social networking site for his "chat" - not Facebook. He says he told the paper about its mistake in the story, which was ghost written by a Mail journalist, but it didn't change it. (More detail about this can be found in the Rory Cellan-Jones blog).

When Facebook complained, the Mail corrected its online story, but not the printed version, which had already hit the newsagents. A day later, and now so obviously in the wrong, the paper still hasn't actually said the "s" word, just a lot of other guff.

"In an earlier version of this article, we wrongly stated that the criminologist had conducted an experiment into social networking sites by posing as a 14-year-old girl on Facebook with the result that he quickly attracted sexually motivated messages. In fact he had used a different social networking site for this exercise. We are happy to set the record straight."

If the Daily Mail were a toddler, it wouldn't be looking Facebook in the eye as it said the above and its mother would be telling it to "say it like you really mean it". But it's probably as close as most newspapers come to saying sorry.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

08:49 UK time, Thursday, 11 March 2010

"I can assure you that I am now at the height of my popularity in Flanders" - Herman Van Rompuy thanks Nigel Farage for raising his profile

If the president of the European Council was suffering from lack of recognition, the attack by Ukip MEP Nigel Farage, in which he said Mr Van Rumpuy had "all the charisma of a damp rag" has done much to amplify his profile, he says.
More details

Your Letters

15:57 UK time, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Reading the article on Ofsted results in the autumn inspections, 9% outstanding, 40% good, 40% satisfactory and 10% inadequate. What happened to the other 1%? And how does Lib Dems Mr Laws work out that half the schools were not good enough - unless being satisfactory is not satisfactory?
Geoff Halford, Grong-over-Sands, England

Liberal Democrat Shadow Schools Secretary, David Laws said: "...the bottom line is that half of schools inspected were not good enough." The last time I checked, satisfactory meant acceptable, so only 10% of schools are in trouble, not half. Mr Laws either can't read, or can't add up!
Sharon, Nailsea, UK

I don't like speed cameras either, but they are there for a reason. My husband is alive today because the car he bounced off was being driven at the speed limit. Get over it Claire Armstrong, stop spinning the story to her own agenda and drive at the limit.
Sharon, Nailsea, UK

A case of premature rejection?
Lee Pike, Auckland, New Zealand

This headline is hardly a surprise as most Americans struggle to find England on a map let alone a city other than London. Now had they chosen Grimsby as their base, it would be a totally different story.
Louisa Hibble, Leicester

As I often like to point out to rail passengers, if you have a seat reservation then under the national conditions of carriage they have to give you a seat. Theoretically, if First Class was full one of them would have to give up their seat to a Standard Class ticket holder. Failing that you could sit with the driver.
John Airey @BBC News Magazine

As the Monitor now seems to be publishing letters about BBC news articles that are 10 months old (Tuesday's letters), this is an ideal opportunity for me to vent about something that bothered me the first time the "Marmite Jesus" article was around. There's a nice close crop of the Marmite lid with the opportunity to "Enlarge Image" below. Might I suggest that "Expand Image" would be a better phrase, because the "Enlarge Image" option actually makes the Marmite lid smaller. That feels so good to get off my chest. My apologies for the slightly "ranty" missive.
Kevin Pedant, Derby

I'm very conflicted. Love the new BBC homepage, but can't jump straight to dear ol' Magazine Monitor from there. The blogs section has gone. Can you sweet talk them into giving it back?
Natalie, York

Monitor note: Click on the "Add more to this page" button on top left of the homepage. You can add Blogs there.

Paper Monitor

10:58 UK time, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Yesterday Paper Monitor concerned itself with the wildly divergent verdicts on A listers' red carpet gowns.

Today, it's all about the Phantom. Those who have been living under a rock for the past, oh, however long may not realise that Andrew Lloyd Webber, aided and abetted by Frederick Forsyth and Ben Elton, has devised a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. The most successful musical of all time. Well, they would, wouldn't they.

(Paper Monitor is most tickled that Lord Lloyd-Webber made a start on this some years ago, only for his score to be deleted when his cat sat on the keyboard, according to last week's Guardian. One can only assume the cat had seen We Will Rock You and realised drastic measures were needed.)

Anyway, the resulting sequel opens in London. Is it better to send a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the genre, or a critic guaranteed to hurl slings and arrows? Well, one tends to make for a more entertaining review.

It's "phabulous", enthuses the Independent's Paul Taylor, who grants it five enthusiastic stars. He is, as Paper Monitor has noted before, something of a musicals man. Which is nicely counter-intuitive for an ex-broadsheet.

The Times kicks it from the stalls to the circle to the cheap seats in the gods and back again. And gives it two somewhat equivocal stars.

"The title song has pretty clunky lyrics, insisting as it variously does that love is all, endures, never fails, remains, drives you to despair 'yet forces you to feel more joy than you can bear'; but it undeniably soars."

Want a night of soaring melodies, menace and psychological darkness? Best head down the road to where the original continues its mammoth West End run (other Phantoms are available).

The Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer likes it, and draws a parallel with The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

"There is something personal about Lloyd Webber's relationship with the Phantom, as if in the character of the tortured and deformed composer he is confronting something of his own inner darkness. The character might just be a terrifying self-portrait, hanging in the attic of his imagination."

But does he risk maddening fans - sorry, "Phans" - by dropping a spoiler into the mix. Click if you dare, fans. Sorry, "Phans".

Three stars from the Guardian - "a welter of great tunes in search of a strong story".

"But, as one of the lyrics reminds us, 'diamonds never sparkle bright unless they are set just right'. Although Lloyd Webber's score is full of gems, in the end a musical is only as good as its book. With a libretto to match the melodies, this might have been a stunner rather than simply a good night out."

And for the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts, it is "as slow to motor as a lawnmower at spring's first cut".

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:38 UK time, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

"Due to the high volume of inquiries we are currently experiencing we are unable to take your call. Please call back later" - The script non-striking civil servants read out before hanging up on callers.

Sounds like your basic answering machine message, but this speech was made by live people. During the two-day nationwide stoppage, non-striking staff at the Department for Work and Pensions in Carlisle answered phones with this refrain... and one worker struggled to keep a straight face while imitating a machine.
More details (The Guardian)

Your Letters

16:15 UK time, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Ben (Monday letters) seems to have missed the point of the public v private article. The "higher pension" and "higher pay" public sector workers are supposed to have is a myth - and this article, for once, relied on the facts to prove that, rather than rolling out the same old stories. It also highlighted that public sector workers do not get bonuses, and usually work unpaid overtime. Private sector workers seem to have all kinds of fantasies about how good it would be to work in the public sector - until they actually get a public sector job.
Nona, London

Jesus in a Marmite lid? Looks more like The Scream to me.
Katy, Cambridge, UK

Looks more like Frank Zappa to me.
David Barrance, Milton Keynes, UK

Congratulation to the Magazine, I think this is the first time I have ever seen a picture of Gordon Brown with a really genuine smile on his face.
Simon Howes, Leighton Buzzard

Insurance for dogs? What about cats? They, and their smug owners, always seem to get away with it. I did write a lot more, but have decided to delete it to avoid being mugged by our local cat-lovers.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

How can a group of women of "normal" weight be described as "unusual"?
Basil Long, Nottingham

Well Sven (Monday letters), under the Army Act 1955 it is illegal to pass yourself off as having been awarded medals that you did not earn. However, Meyrick Clifton James impersonated Monty well before 1955... and in any case was not pretending that HE had earned any medals/ribbons he was wearing, he was pretending that he was Monty and Monty was entitled to them.
Megan, Cheshire, UK

Paper Monitor

11:17 UK time, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"Driving ban for rugby star who sucked pennies to fool coppers" - a round of applause, please, for the Times sub who came up with this gem of a headline. Shame the online version is so much more prosaic.

Not only is it a neat play on words, it is a pithy example of a headline that tells the story all by itself.

"JPR Williams, one of the legendary figures of Welsh rugby, sucked pennies after being stopped for drink-driving in the misguided belief that it would help him to cheat a breath test, a court heard yesterday."

And - and - JPR is now a surgeon, adds the Sun.

"Defending, Nigel Daniel said: "Dr Williams is full of remorse. He is somebody who as a medical expert should clearly have known better."

It's the type of myth one might have to be a little, er, tired and emotional to believe. And Paper Monitor would have to be very tired and emotional indeed to even contemplate sucking on a penny. Gruuuuu-bbbbbb-yyyyyy. Yuck.

And here's one for the readers who took part in Paper Monitor's Man Dog Bites game last week on Facebook - the Guardian's front page article about microchipping dogs is headlined "Man bytes dog".

oscardresses_papermonitor.jpgMeanwhile, let's play spot-the-Oscar-outfit-that-gets-thumbs-up-AND-thumbs-down...

  • Sarah Jessica Parker's frankly weird yellowy dress (left) is unanimously disliked. With good reason.
  • As is Mariah Carey's, for different reasons ("the cheapest dress we've seen on the red carpet," sniffs the Guardian).
  • The Dailies Mirror and Express LIKE Carey Mulligan's fork 'n' scissors gown. The Times and Daily Mail HATE it.
  • The Sun LIKES Sandra Bullock's golden dress. The Guardian HATES it.
  • The Guardian LIKES J-Lo's sculptural big-hip dress (middle). The Mirror and Times HATE it ("an extension built on the wrong side of her fashion house").
  • The Mirror LIKES Kate Winslet's column dress. The Guardian hates it ("an industrial catering tray"), as does the Times, who wants Kate to let her wild side loose.
  • And many hate Vera Farmiga's hot pink ruffled frock (right). But it reminds the Times of strawberry Viennetta. Which, apparently, makes it so bad it's good. "Mmm, Eighties desserts."

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:04 UK time, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

"I have two spirits in bottles at home - I think they are called Jim Beam and the other is Johnny Walker" - Comment posted on online auction of two bottled ghosts... which sold for £1,305.

The ghosts, supposedly trapped inside two glass vials filled with holy water, were of an elderly man and a disruptive girl captured during a exorcism in Christchurch, New Zealand. Proceeds from the sale - less the exorcist's fee - will go to charity.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

16:16 UK time, Monday, 8 March 2010

realmonty2dmq.jpgRe the Monty look-alike in the mini-quiz: Does this mean Meyrick Clifton James can be prosecuted for wearing military medals he did not earn?
Sven Taylor, Basel, Switzerland

Public v private jobs was a missed opportunity. Most people in the private sector do not have a pension comparable to the public sector. Yet your comparison suggests otherwise. Also, government statistics show that, in a like for like job, public sector pay matches or is higher than private.
Ben Tillson, London, UK

Would the picture accompanying TV women 'outnumbered two to one' by men have carried more impact if it had have been of two men and a woman?
Dave Godfrey, Swindon, UK

Re Probe may have found cosmic dust: I could have told them ages ago where it is, if I'd known they were looking for it. It's under my bed.
Diane, Sutton

How can the Magazine host the Go Figure column, and still post a meaningless statement like "The average railway carriage is home to up to 1,000 cockroaches, 200 bed bugs and 200 fleas" (10 things)?
Michael, Edinburgh, UK

I develop software, and one of my product's features is a "To-do list" (re Friday letters). It's full of "To-do items", but the tab is marked "To do". That's because "To-do" is, in the first two cases, an adjective, but it isn't in the third case. "Todo" is an odd contraction, which many people would pronounce to rhyme with "Dodo", because it's not in common usage in English, and "Dodo" (or maybe "Frodo") are probably most common words in English which end in "-odo". I should get out more, perhaps, but it's chilly, and someone's nabbed my coat. Can't think who.
HS, Cambridge

Presumably, completion of the Todo list is signalled by Tada!
Mark, Bridge

I think Dan in Friday's letters meant nocando.
Phil, Guisborough

Paper Monitor

13:44 UK time, Monday, 8 March 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

How to report a story that hasn't actually happened?

It's the morning after the Oscars night before, and the winners and losers are the water-cooler topic de jour.

Except in Newsprintland, where readers are invited to travel in time back to Sunday evening - when Britain really was still in with a shout for the best actor/actress award and James Cameron's substantial ego was still defiantly undented.

So how do the papers induce the font page Oscars vibe without mentioning the elephant in the room?

It's a subtle game of picture and text and finding a story to deflect the reader from asking "but who actually won?"

The Daily Mail runs with a theory that Mariah Carey stood on the red carpet and dropped a hint that she was pregnant. How do we know? She told reporters that:

"something special"

...was about to happen.

So, no chance then that she was just referring to the imminent awards do.

With such overwhelmingly conclusive evidence, how could the Sun have missed that line - preferring instead to extract a pun out of Carey's outfit. She was, apparently, a "thigh-light" of the Oscars.

The Daily Telegraph runs with Britain's two big - and ultimately unsuccessful - hopes for a gold statuette: Colin Firth and Carey Mulligan.

The Daily Express meanwhile focuses on the travails of 21st Century Renaissance woman Myleene Klass - at the Oscars in her capacity not as a bikini model or mother or knife-wielding vigilante or concert pianist, but as a reporter for CNN.

There she is with her flowing pink dress which just so happens to have a long slit up the side. And wouldn't you know it, she got it caught in the heel of her stilettos and... and... and she ended up "showing off more of her toned legs than she might have wished". As if.

Monday's Quote of The Day

09:20 UK time, Monday, 8 March 2010

"I didn't realise that, in Hollywood that all you would have to do is say you would show up, and then you would get it. Had I known that I would have said I was appearing at the Oscars a long time ago." - Actress Sandra Bullock on the 'other' award she won at the weekend.

Is it possible to be the best, and the worst at the same time? Apparentely so. Not only did Sandra Bullock pick up the Best Actress Oscar for her role in 'The Blind Side', she also picked up an award for being the worst. She won a Razzie for worst actress at the Golden Raspberry Awards, for her performance in 'All About Steve'.
(More details)

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