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Archives for May 2, 2010 - May 8, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

18:12 UK time, Friday, 7 May 2010

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

1. Britain's oldest unsolved murder dates back to 1866.
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2. Discussion about politics is banned inside polling stations.
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3. As is the wearing of rosettes by anyone except for election candidates and their polling agents.
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4. Dawdling across a pedestrian crossing could land you in court.
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5. 1,000,000,000 trillion (that's a billion-trillion) bytes of computer storage is called a zettabyte.
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6. The inventor of the Maclaren folding pushchair also designed the Spitfire's undercarriage.
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7. The difference between the minimum wage and "living wage" in London is £1.80 per hour.
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8. People who regularly have less than six hours sleep increase their chance of dying over a 25-year period by 12%.
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9. Despite its scary name, the colossal squid is no fast-paced predator - it prefers to drift about.
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10. Blood pressure rises when checked by a doctor.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Vic Bärton-Wälderstadt for this week's picture of 10 tulips.

Your Letters

17:39 UK time, Friday, 7 May 2010

I read Neanderthal genes 'survive in us' as US, the country, and wasn't very surprised.
Sarah, Nantwich

I would notice if a girl turned into a vending machine while I was talking to her (Quote of the Day).
Phil, Guisborough

The fake tourist sign for a dogging area reminded me of one which appeared near us. We have plenty of "Take Care, Koalas cross here at night" signs (which provides puzzlement to some as to why koalas get bad-tempered as the sun sets), but near to a jail which had had a lot of break-outs, an exact replica sign appeared saying "Take care, prisoners cross here at night." The prison officers were Not Amused.
Susan Thomas, Brisbane, Australia

Jenny (Thursday letters), the pelican crossing evolved from the panda crossing but really isn't the best for the disabled - the puffin is probably much better. Bike riders should use a toucan, and horse riders a pegasus - not to be confused with a zebra. Hope this helps.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

But the aforementioned fauna are not generally available in the same location as the crossing.
Catherine, Hitchin, UK

Ghetto blasters may be "quaint" (Thursday letters) but the part in What can you NOT do in a polling station? about *deleting* photographs shows that the rule-maker is ahead of my mother when it comes to technology.
Chris Clarke, Grenoble, France
Monitor note: We hear you, Chris.

Turned up to vote at my local polling station, to discover a sign saying "Stilettos are not permitted in the village hall". Clearly this is disenfranchising millions of party girls and power-dressers nationwide.
Andrew Oakley, Tewkesbury, UK

Liam (Thursday letters), I think it's worse that news stories about videogames are still hidden in Technology. While we might still be waiting on the verdict from the Games-As-Art debate, surely games have earned the mantle of Entertainment by now?
M Kelly, Stockport

Liam, is it bad that when I saw your letter I shouted with shock, found the article and yelled "FOR THE WIN!" loud enough for my boss to hear and glare at me? Thought so.
Sarah-Michelle Saunders, Swansea, Wales

Caption Competition

13:04 UK time, Friday, 7 May 2010


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week it's a model in a canine ready-to-wear fashion show in France.

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

6. clint75
"I knew I should have left the ball at midnight," said Cinderella.

5. MightyGiddyUpGal
What would Naomi do...

4. Steele Hawker
"If anyone dares call this a catwalk..."

3. TheRealCatherineO
"I don't get out of bed for less than 10 Bonios."

2. Richard
After the introduction of Proportional Representation, the inevitable happens...

1. Candace9839
If cats ruled the world.

Paper Monitor...

12:19 UK time, Friday, 7 May 2010

... is away.

Having stayed up all night playing election bingo while wearing the Ieuan Wyn Jones face mask from the Magazine's party pack, Paper Monitor faded just before dawn and has not been seen since. Perhaps some of you feel the same way, if these photos are anything to go by.

Normal service will resume on Monday.

Weekly Bonus Question

10:32 UK time, Friday, 7 May 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 £1 AT POUNDLAND.

UPDATE 1719 BST: The correct question relates to Boots beauty products found relabelled and heavily discounted at a bargain basement chain. (More details - Daily Mail)

Of your deliberately wrong entries, we liked:

  • TimmyTheTyrant's Where can I buy a book of some of the world's unfunniest questions to a given answer on an internet news quiz?
  • Notgerryfunny's How much does it cost for you to lose your self-respect whilst shopping?
  • grumpyoneuk's What's a Grecian earn? (Boom boom, apologies Eric and Ernie!)
  • Valerie Ganne's How much are the gold-plated "Nick Clegg for Prime Minister" statuettes going for?
  • and MuteJoe's What do the price comparison stickers say at 99p Land?

Thanks to all who entered.

Friday's Quote of the Day

10:28 UK time, Friday, 7 May 2010

"Making a scene would be too embarrassing" - Japanese designer of a skirt that unfolds to look like a vending machine so women can hide from unwanted male attention.

Aya Tsukioka says while women in other countries might prefer to just tell a man to go away, cultural conventions in Japan mean this isn't really a suitable option. "It is just easier for Japanese to hid," she says. "Making a scene would be too embarrassing."
More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

17:04 UK time, Thursday, 6 May 2010

Re Enron play to close on Broadway with big losses... Quite appropriate really.
Chris, Newbury, UK

Re What can you NOT do in a polling station, surely there's been a mix up and we've been given the guidelines for the 1987 general election? That's the only logical explanation for the reference to voters bringing their "ghetto blasters" in.
Tim, Fitzrovia, London

Sorry, did I really read that it's OK to go into a polling station dressed as a pirate, but that you can't wear a Labour or Tory T-shirt in case it intimidates other voters?
Adam, London, UK

This will be only the second time since the late 90s when I *haven't* voted barefoot - no-one's ever noticed, never mind complained.
Ian Oliver @BBC News Magazine

As an enhancement to the Name Game of the Election Party Pack, I suggest that after the second round where you can only use three words to describe your person, add a further round which uses only mime. Hours of fun guaranteed.
Margaret, Christchurch, NZ

What's a pelican crossing? Is it to help disabled birds cross the road?
Jenny, Chicago

Is it bad that I squealed with utter joy with I read that Blizzard had some WoW-Facebook apps?
Liam, Northampton
Monitor note: Who wants to start?

Adam (Wednesday letters), should I point out that volcanoes generally have their own natural funnel, so adding another one on top might not do a lot of good?
Dan Wilkinson, Chesterfield, UK

Sue (Wednesday letters), in the interests of empiricism, I tested your suggested chat-up line last night. Unhappily for you, but happily for me, I am able to report it was probably my most successful line ever. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
Rob, London, UK

Andrew (Wednesday letters), I couldn't deny you anything with a genius sense of humour like that. I'll get my coat (you've pulled).
Clare, Connecticut, US

Paper Monitor

11:33 UK time, Thursday, 6 May 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Because we're not mentioning the E-word, and in response to the row over Danny Dyer's agony aunt column in Zoo magazine, today Paper Monitor will only read the newspaper problem pages.

Dyer, the star of a slew of solid-sales-on-DVD classics, says he was misquoted by Zoo when it had him telling a lovelorn reader to "cut your ex's face, then no-one will want her".

Zoo have blamed a production error for the advice appearing, but there has been an avalanche of criticism.

It's the kind of mistake the Sun's Dear Deidre would never make.

Deidre's shtick is this - racy letters are met with totally straight-laced answers.

Today an 18-year-old woman with a boyfriend the same age keeps having sex with older men she meets on the web. Deidre's answer: You're blotting out the pain and should read the leaflet Hooked on Casual Sex.

A 21-year-old man has difficulty forming relationships because of his "average-sized penis". Deidre's advice: Ring 75p-a-minute phone line entitled Manhood Too Small?

Over in the Daily Star there's a not dissimilar format in Just Jane with Jane O'Gorman.

The highlight today is about a widowed grandmother who's in a state of mortal embarrassment. She had a bedroom littered with "sex aids" and after a fall left her in hospital, she was unhappy to hear her family had been in her house doing a bit of redecoration.

"I went cold remembering how many sex toys were left around in my room. I got home and they'd all been neatly tidied into a pile."

Both Deidre and Jane have their serious answers bordered with a photo casebook. Deidre today has a scantily-clad man and woman having an affair, but Jane has two dyed-blonde women enjoying each other's company.

There is no such visual stimulation over in the Daily Mirror, where Dr Miriam Stoppard is Dear Miriam.

Dr Stoppard gives you a full page on skin conditions before she even gets to the problems. And there are not usually letters about threesomes or wild steamy affairs with bosses.

Each to their own.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:50 UK time, Thursday, 6 May 2010

"We haven't really celebrated as such - we had a takeaway from Kentucky (Fried Chicken) last night" - Lottery winner Pauline Stanley

Mrs Stanley, 59, suffers from panic attacks when she leaves her home near Gloucester, so she spends lots of time in her garden. She vowed to spend her £4.5m winnings on her family.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

16:21 UK time, Wednesday, 5 May 2010

It probably says something about the huge socio-cultural gap between Canada and Britain that when I first saw Anger over dogging 'tourist' sign, I wondered why people would protest a dog park. One Wikipedia read later, I now know better, but I'm still puzzled by the locals' objections. As a potential tourist myself, having places like this clearly labelled (possibly with a clear definition of "dogging") would be a great idea, if only to tell people where NOT to go.
Julia Y, Ottawa, Canada

I am wondering how many people cannot vote in this election because their paperwork was held up by the impact of the recent volcanic ash cloud? My application for a postal vote missed the deadline because it was held up when all flights from the US to the UK were cancelled.
David Carter, Catonsville, Md, US

Do you think they could build another funnel and put it over the volcano in Iceland?
Adam, London, UK

I would like to propose this headline - Meet the 'sabre-toothed sausage' - as The Chat-Up Line Least Likely To Meet With Success. Any challengers?
Sue, London

Election night is going to be fun - the bingo in the Magazine Party Pack is so becoming a drinking game.
t4rdis @BBC_magazine

The fashion police have arrived! Which may not be a bad thing at all, when it comes to people who wear their trousers like a penguin...
Chris, London, UK

How I laughed at "the idea for the trouser Asbo was dropped".
Alan, Southampton, UK

Procreation is a fundamental human right (Quote of the Day)? I'd like to take the female population of the UK to the European Court for denying me my rights...
Andrew, Malvern, UK

According to my wife's uncle - my uncle-in-law? - who originally hails from Auckland, everyone can sound like a New Zealander (Tuesday letters). Just grit your teeth together while you talk and flatten your vowels. Try it, hours of fun for all the family! (Disclaimer: definitions of fun may vary.)
Howard, London, UK

Sue (Tuesday letters), your opinion of Gordon may have gone down on finding out he likes Coldplay, but you've been out of favour with him since last week.
Ruaraidh Gillies, Wirral, UK

Paper Monitor

12:23 UK time, Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

They split seven months ago, with a very public break-up. No, not Katie and Peter, but the Sun and Labour after more than a decade together. Paper Monitor at the time described it as ...
"... a dumping of significant magnitude. The Sun has raided Labour's wardrobe with a pair of scissors and cut its tailored Italian lounge suits and silk ties to shreds..."

Today the Sun's weapon of choice comes in the form of 16 partially clothed young women. "SAVE THESE GIRLS FROM THE DOLE TOMORROW" bellows its headline above the massed scantily-clad lovelies on a souvenir Page 3 ("cut out and keep if Tories don't win").

Why? A News in Briefs election special explains, with a little help from the 17th Century philosopher John Locke, why a Labour or Lib Dem victory may mean P45s for Page 3 Girls:

"Lib Dem frontbencher [Lynne] Featherstone was cheered by women's rights activists when she declared she would 'love to take on Page 3'.
But our Poppy said: 'The basis of Lockean thought is his theory of the Contract of Government, under which all political power is a trust for the benefit of the people. His thinking underpins our ideas of national identity and society. Please don't let those who seek to ban our beauty win. Vote to save Page 3!'"

In other assault-on-liberties news, the Times, Guardian and Daily Mail carry the tale of the lad who faced an Asbo for wearing his trousers too low. Only a judge reckons this would breach his human rights, effectively giving visible knick-knocks the judicial seal of approval.

Teenager Ellis Drummond was backed by civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, whose director Alex Deane said: "The proper punishment for the comically low-riding trousers favoured by some people is that we all think they look ridiculous."

(All together now: "I disapprove of what you wear, but will defend to the death your right to right to wear it.")

And finally, the Mail runs the first column of its newest recruit, Sandra Parsons, who replaces Allison Pearson (see Thursday's Paper Monitor).

One imagines that a first column must be as nerve-wracking as a first date.
What to wear? The usual... a little black dress.
What to talk about? The usual... GPs' hours, Gillian Duffy, the new Doctor Who, Ronnie Corbett (bless his cotton socks), Stella McCartney's "mum chic" denim skirt, sexist jokes at work, that cradle-to-grave John Lewis ad.

And did they like her? Time will tell. Most of those posting comments are GPs annoyed by her criticism of after-hours service, or the lack thereof. Apart from the reader aerated by her assessment of the new Doctor (Time Lord, not GP).

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:22 UK time, Wednesday, 5 May 2010

"It is a fundamental human right, but so is procreation and people do not take that into the council chamber" - Atheist Clive Bone, who says he supports religious expression, but not prayers before his Devon council's meetings.

Two motions by Councillor Bone to end prayer sessions at Bideford Town Council have failed. So now the National Secular Society is seeking a judicial review over whether the prayers breach human rights legislation. Mayor Andrew Powell says it's "a bit of an over-reaction" to threaten legal action.
More details

Your Letters

16:12 UK time, Tuesday, 4 May 2010

"Peoples of Europe Rise Up." Erm - we did. We rose up, put our hands in our pockets and handed over 110bn of our hard earned.
Owain Williams, Regensburg

When I clicked on Lib Dem military rap 'nonsense', I was expecting so much more.
Simon Varwell, Inverness

Thanks. My decision was made for Thursday, and then you had to go and tell me that Gordon likes Coldplay.
Sue, London

I think I can survive without finding out what they have on their iPods™® or how they like to 'relax' with Come Strictly Talent Factor.
Dennis Groen@BBC_magazine

Inspired by the Turner Prize in pictures, this afternoon i will be using the language of fortnightly status reports "to create striking words that evoke memory and desire through formal tension with a deeper emotional presence". Very uplifting. Can I suggest PM uses the same for tomorrow's news round up?
Susie, Oslo

Tuesday's Quote of the day. Actually it's a brilliant exhibition of a genuine British institution: Queuing.
Sarah, Colchester

Thank you MM for your reply to Julian Hall (Monday's letters) - actors pretending to be NZers by putting on Aussie accents are a constant irritation. May not sound much different unless you know the accents, but it's the equivalent of having everyone on Coronation Street speaking Scouse instead of Mancunian.
Dave, Timaru, NZ

Paper Monitor

13:53 UK time, Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's that time in the election campaign when all the papers are declaring where their support lies. Mostly it's predictable stuff - the Sun, having declared for the Conservatives a few months back, has made no secret of its antipathy towards Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg.

But elsewhere there have been some more subtle developments. The Financial Times has come out in support of the Conservatives... for the first time in more than 20 years. It's interesting to note that despite its image as the newspaper of the City and big finance, the FT's support for Labour goes back at least to 1992, when it backed the pre-Blairite party against the then PM John Major. Subscribers can read the paper's reasoning here.

The Guardian has also changed its tune, going for the Lib Dems over Labour.

And while the paper declares its support to be "enthusiastic" in its editorial on the matter, it seemed less sure about how to get over the matter of whether a newspaper should be telling its readers who to vote for or not. It resorted in the end to a sort of hypothetical scenario:

"Citizens have votes. Newspapers do not. However, if the Guardian had a vote in the 2010 general election..."

And while the Daily Mirror "remain[s] committed to Labour" its advice is to vote Labour or Lib Dem (it all depends on which constituency you live in, and there's maps and stuff inside to guide readers through this difficult exercise).

But the Mirror does suggest readers should put their cross in a Conservative box in one seat, Buckingham. That's the place where Labour and the Lib Dems are not standing and John Bercow, the Speaker, is being taken on by Ukip's Nigel Farage.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:26 UK time, Tuesday, 4 May 2010

"That's a lot of waiting to see, well, nothing" - A visitor to the British exhibit at the Shanghai Expo.

Forget John Cage and his 4'33, the British exhibit at the Shanghai Expo is taking minimalism to new levels. The space has been left empty and people are still queuing for four hours to get in.
More details

Your Letters

14:28 UK time, Monday, 3 May 2010

"Has anyone got any spare change?" (Quote of the Day): I bet nobody had a half-a-knicker either.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

In honour of the winning caption, I thought fellow Monitorites would enjoy this cartoon from XKCD.
Jinja, Edinburgh

Re corsetry revisited (Paper Monitor). For a truly 21st Century revolt we should be burning our Spanx.
louisethumwood @BBC_magazine

I attended the wedding of a young bride and noticed she looked a bit stressed up close. She whispered she was in a corset, was sweating profusely and immensely uncomfortable. She did manage to smile for the cameras though.
Candace, New Jersey, US

Re actors' accents (Friday's letters):
Alexander - I had no idea he and all his mates were from Dublin.
Beowulf - himself from the East End of London, King Hrothgar from the Welsh Valleys, and Hrothgar's daughter from America.
Very No.
Julian Hall, Barry, South Wales
Monitor note: There is a kiwi in a Cbeebies show with an Australian accent. Also very no.

Happy Birthday, Paper Monitor (as casually mentioned in Friday's letters)!
Sue, Stoke

Happy Birthday, Paper Monitor! But to fit your line of work, wouldn't a Current Bun be better than a Victoria Sponge?
Lewis Graham, Hitchin

If it's Paper Monitor's birthday, it's Paper Monitor who buys the cakes.
Lee, Birmingham

Paper Monitor

12:06 UK time, Monday, 3 May 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Here's a fun game to play on a drizzly/sunny/drizzly Bank Holiday Monday - Where's Wally?, only not looking for Wally, and in a Spencer Tunick artwork rather than a Where's Wally? book.

Paper Monitor played it on the way to work this morning, while reading an article on Tunick's latest installation of massed naked people in Salford.

Times writer Mary Bowers was one of the 1,000 people chosen to take part, and instead of a byline picture there is a photo of her in a bathrobe. And another of Tunick organising his nudes. Is that Bowers, to the far left of the photo, below a woman shading her eyes from the sun? Or is she facing away from the camera, bottom on view?

Wherever she is, Paper Monitor can bet her colleagues at Times Towers are also playing this game. Which is why one has never been tempted to join one of Tunick's installations. Because who wants colleagues to see one's... bathrobe?

Meanwhile, Guardian writer Lucy Mangan similarly opens herself up to the searching eyes of colleagues - and readers - by appearing on the front page in her wedding get-up. Well, she does have a book to plug, The Reluctant Bride, via G2's main feature. And she does look a little, how to say, on edge in the photo. (Anyone who has recently planned a wedding will know even strangers will pass comment on your appearance/canapes/standard of bubbly. Even Paper Monitor, against its better judgement.)

But she does have some useful advice for all those brides-to-be out there:

"Tip 4: What to do about drink
Buy more.
Tip 6: What to do about dieting:
It's too late. It was too late to look how you want in the dress you want from the day you were born.... Embrace corsetry instead."

Yes, women of Britain, a right-on, muesli-munching, book-reading type from the Guardian - the Guardian - has just ripped up the Bra Burning Bible. This new feminism, it's very different from the old feminism. But at least a corset creates a handy bosom/shelf on which to rest your cake plate.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:31 UK time, Monday, 3 May 2010

"Has anyone got any spare change?" - A waggish Salford tramp, as 1,000 naked people pass him en route to Spencer Tunick's photoshoot.

The photographer's latest work is a homage to LS Lowry, famous for painting Salford's hunched matchstick men against a backdrop of smoke-belching factories. His subjects had the benefit of duffle coats and cloth caps against the chill weather; Tunick's did not.
More details (The Times)

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