BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for May 30, 2010 - June 5, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

17:03 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

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

1. Ken Dodd sang the third biggest-selling single of the 1960s.
More details

2. Labour - the childbirth version - can last 20 days.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

3. Alcohol is 75% more affordable since 1980.
More details (Times)

4. Half of all men aged in their 80s have normal testerone levels.
More details

5. Cheques were used to pay for one of the UK's first internet pay walls, launched by the Times.
More details

6. In 1830, the prime minister was paid the equivalent of more than half a million pounds.
More details

7. Elisabeth Taylor was nicknamed "Twit Twaddle" by her ex-husband, Richard Burton.
More details (Guardian)

8. There are 42 different editions of Trivial Pursuit.
More details (Daily Mail)

9. The region with the highest proportion of home-grown vegetables is the South West.
More details

10. It costs £2,830 to cull a badger.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Louise Dolling for this week's picture of 10 painted fingernails.

Your Letters

16:37 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

A super-drink "helps improve mental and retentive faculties by multiplying brain cells. It also protects skin from wrinkles and black spots and prevents such geriatric diseases as cerebral haemorrhage, myocardium and brain infarction by removing acid effete matters in time. It, much higher than quality cosmetics in anti-oxidation capacity, is efficacious for different skin diseases, including allergic dermatitis. It also makes skin fair." But "the drink has no side effect".
To me that sounds like a lot of side effects for a drink, which has the main effect of hydration.
Chris Clarke, Grenoble, France

Only the UK is obsessed with 'spurious' units of alcohol. Drink sensibly and enjoy life - without government busy bodies.
Linda Docherty @BBC_magazine

Remember, it's an alcohol limit, not a target.
Stephen, London

Paper Monitor is right, Drunk Girl is never far away at all. I wonder if an appearance on the Spectator blog counts as going up in the world, or down? Not that she would care...
Tim Barrow, London, UK

Laura from Weybridge (Thursday letters): the journalist who wrote "thought to be" is clearly just being careful to be accurate. The desalination plant is clearly the first in modern times, but maybe Stone Age societies had surprisingly advanced technology for water desalination and also built plants, which of course we don't know about because they hadn't invented writing. The alternatives - perhaps the journalist didn't check whether there was another one - is unthinkable.
Adam, London, UK

Sam, yes (Thursday letters). Yes, looking for the 'Like' button indicates too much time on Facebook. However, I can't talk - I was once reading a book by the computer, got to the end of the page, clicked the "page down" button on the keyboard, and was momentarily surprised when the text in front of me stayed the same.
Louise, Oxford

Caption Competition

13:55 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week it's the England team heading off to the World Cup in South Africa.

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

6. SurfingSharka
"In one hundred yards, turn left. Receive pass from Rooney. Take the next right hand turn past two defenders, and continue to score in a straight line. Celebrate in a clockwise manner around the pitch before coming to a complete stop. When safe to do so, take the middle lane up the exit ramp to receive World Cup."
If Carlsberg did SatNav...

5. christianjimmy
Hands up if you've bet on England to get knocked on penalties by the Germans.

4. SkarloeyLine
The airport staff waved happily, knowing those images of Beckham in the scanner would be worth a fortune to the tabloids.

3. Billynug
"Good luck lads - and remember if you play Argentina they like to score goals using their hands. Just like this..."

2. presto_west_end
Only David wasn't smiling as they saw the lion suit being loaded onto the plane, realising exactly what his role as mascot would entail.

1. clint75
Bent, Walcott and Dawson start their summer jobs at Heathrow Airport.

Paper Monitor

12:41 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

She's back. No, not Drunk Girl (although she's never far away) but Lost in Showbiz's Marina Hyde, on an extended break covering something or other about ballot boxes and Alastair Campbell placating a raging Adam Boulton.

Her replacement during the election proved more than up to the job, but one is always delighted when the captain is again at the reins. So to speak... like metaphor mixologist Sarah Ferguson.

One of Paper Monitor's long-time favourite Friday pastimes - besides a late lunch of fish 'n' chips with Caption Comp and WBQ in the glamorous BBC canteen - is to pluck favourite phrases and metaphors from the bouquet of celebrity-skewering blooms Lost assembles. And so here is a selection:

The Lord Of The Ring's metaphor refers to Cowell's decision to give the World Cup some much needed Britain's Got Talent/Tears for Fears/James Corden action, with added do-gooding in the form of a charity single:

"How easy it is to picture Simon drumming his fingers in his Dark Tower, just itching for the golden opportunity to rifle through his I Give a Toss file and pull out some thinly disguised, off-the-peg marketing scheme, under the guise of helping humanity as a whole."

Marina, welcome back.

Weekly Bonus Question

10:37 UK time, Friday, 4 June 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.


UPDATE 1752 BST: The answer is an attempt to tackle problem gamblers in Catalonia - fruit machines must be reprogrammed to tell them how long they've been playing, and may switch themselves off. (More details - Guardian)

Of your spurious entries, we liked:

  • DrGonzo's What happens if I press this...?
  • Alex's Why is giving white goods the right to strike a bad idea?
  • ARoseByAnyOther's What was Kraftwerk's biggest fear?
  • Yashi's After 25 years of looking, what will happen if you still can not find the 'any' key?
  • and BeckySnow's The lukewarm sounding next title in the Terminator franchise?

Thanks to all who entered.

Friday's Quote of the Day

10:13 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

"To annoy the other guys" - Why bring a guitar into a cramped mock-up spaceship? Here's why, says one Mars 500 crew member

His crewmates have packed books, but French flight engineer Romain Charles reckons a guitar is ideal pastime for the next 18 months. The aim of the experiment, in Moscow, is to simulate a trip to Mars to find out how the human body and mind cope with the isolation.
More details (Independent)

Your Letters

16:36 UK time, Thursday, 3 June 2010

You may mock about when "the internet was held together by string", but don't forget that these days physicists think the whole universe is held together by string.
Adam, London, UK

Re Who do I make it payable to? I'd pay for Magazine Monitor. Lowering the readership might also increase my chance of getting a letter published.
Tom Haslam @BBC_magazine

I could be completely missing the point here, but surely the man in Man banned from using NHS will break his ASBO on purpose if he knows he can get free meals and a bed for five years for doing it?
Jane, Chester

It seems that Christopher Dearlove's efforts to get a roof over his head may yet pay off. If he continues to annoy the NHS as he has done, then he will be entertained a guest of HMP for five years. Is that really an appropriate deterrent for a homeless man?
Ian Deaville, Solihull UK

I can't be the only Magazine reader to have been surprised that Last of the Summer Wine was still around to be axed?
Mel, Newcastle

In Salt water plant opened in London it says: "The Duke of Edinburgh has opened what is thought to be the first water desalination plant on the UK mainland." Thought to be? Surely the existence of a desalination plant is an easy thing to determine? Or will it later emerge that there has been one hidden in a back garden in Wapping all along?
Laura, Weybridge, Surrey

As I write this, the five most popular stories are all golden olides. Is number 5 - Web hit by hi-tech crime wave - a subtle hint at what's going on with the Most Popular Stories box?
Tamsin, Exeter, UK

Does it mean I've spent too much time on Facebook if my instinctive reaction to a letter that amuses me is to look for the 'Like' button?
Sam, London

Paper Monitor

11:31 UK time, Thursday, 3 June 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It promised so much but like so many things in life, the first time was such a disappointment. It's safe to say the first Prime Minster Questions (PMQs) taken by David Cameron fell flat - very flat.

The papers' political pundits cannot hide their disappointment, with the Guardian's Simon Hoggart describing it as having "all the excitement of a good game of cribbage". He's already making plans for how to spend his time if PMQs continues to be such a damp squib.

"If it goes on like this I may have to spend the half-hour session watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote on Freeview."

The Daily Mail's Quentin Letts says there was "ecclesiastical calm" in the Commons, rather like a "wedding congregation before the arrival of the bride". And so the marriage comparisions between Cameron and Clegg continue. But he also points out that something rather important was missing from the proceedings - barnyard noises.

"There was none of the old mooing and honking and flea scratching and general bestial rhubarb."

Now where's the fun in that? Ann Treneman, writing in the Times couldn't take her eyes of that "bride" or, as she calls Nick Clegg, the "Prime Minster's Office Wife".

"My eyes kept slipping over to the Silent One. Some thought he looked contemplative but that is quite close to looking miserable."

As PMQs went on - and on, and on - she says he began "to look like a captive in a hostage video".

The events in Cumbria earlier in the day - which dominate today's papers - could have been the reason for the rather sombre PMQs, say some of the pundits. They are certainly the reason for an oversight in the Times.

Andrew Billen reviews a special Coronation Street episode on the TV pages, when it was actually pulled last night because the plot line involved a shooting.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:19 UK time, Thursday, 3 June 2010

"RECENT ACTIVITY: George W. Bush joined Facebook" - The former US president's new Facebook page

Only two status updates so far on Mr Bush's Facebook profile. One outlines, in the third person, what he has been up to since leaving office. The other promotes his wife Laura's memoirs. So far, he has more than 61,400 friends.

More details (Mr Bush's Facebook page)

Your Letters

16:25 UK time, Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Re How best to dump/fire someone:
It's OK, you don't need to sign this card or donate towards the gift.
Philip Green @BBC_magazine

So, here it is - finally - The Last of The Last of The Summer Wine.
Ralph, Cumbria

Simon, (Tuesday letters), surely it must be "Chineseman"? Either that or it should be a "Franceman".
Dave Barrance, Milton Keynes

Simon, a Chinaman is a wrist spun ball from a left hander turning from off to leg. It is a perverse delivery having the difficulty of the leg break with the disadvantageous turn of an off-break. Also, it can be used as an offensive term for a Chinese person. But most importantly it is a cricketing term.
Ian, Winchester, UK

How on earth could this, from Violence mars Afghanistan peace meeting, not have been today's quote of the day? "Someone is trying with a rocket perhaps... Don't worry about it, let's proceed."
Adam, London, UK

In response to Martin's question (Tuesday letters), I have no means of knowing whether or not it is true that you read the article, but I will take your word for it.
John Whapshott, Westbury, England

Martin, the road sign story has been in the "Most popular stories" box for most of the past week. Trouble is, it was published on 31 October 2008 and the sign itself was removed and replaced soon afterwards.
Andrew, London UK

I'm sure WH Smith will be grateful for Mr Opie's analysis that their business model should be more like Woolworths'. Perhaps they could take advantage of a gap in the market: the one left by Woolworths when its business model crashed and burned. Yes, it had a "pick 'n' mix feel" - because all anyone bought there was pick 'n' mix.
Edward Green, London, UK

Paper Monitor

11:20 UK time, Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Poor little Theo Walcott. He had hoped to be on his way to his second World Cup - perhaps even get a proper go with the big boys this time around - only to have his dreams dashed at the last minute. Who'd be a Boy Wonder, eh?

The Guardian reflects on the sadness of his fate (phoned by his manager while playing golf, disbelieving at first, then stoic for the media).

"A lasting memory from Theo Walcott's premature elevation to the England World Cup squad in 2006 is of him clip-clopping round Baden Baden with his family on a pony and trap. What started out as a chance to match Michael Owen's precocity ended up as a kind of school exchange."

The Daily Telegraph waxes poetic about the game of golf that will live with Walcott forever:

"He had thought it would be the last chance to really unwind before flying to South Africa and was joined at his local Brocket Hall Club by a friend and a close relative. Walcott's mobile phone was switched on, but the natural expectation was that their round of golf would be disturbed by nothing more than a text message to confirm his inclusion in the final England 23. When Walcott's phone suddenly rang and he heard Fabio Capello's voice at the other end, his stomach immediately began to churn."

What might Capello have said? The Times's cartoonist imagines the exchange thus:

"Theo... you know that holiday you said you needed..."

(Paper Monitor's colleagues on the Magazine have put together a print-out-and-keep guide to breaking bad news.)

Well, he could always join his family in South Africa to watch England play in the World Cup. As the Daily Mail notes more than once, his friends and family have already booked flights and accommodation. And why wear a replica shirt on the terraces when one has several real England shirts? Shame to let 'em go to waste, eh?

But the Mail notes another dark cloud on the horizon - the curse of the World Cup advertising campaign, in the shape of Walcott modelling a £120 England suit for Marks & Spencer:

"He now stares down from billboards, TV and newspaper adverts as a painful reminder that coach Fabio Capello doesn't think he's good enough to play for his country.
[E]mbarrassingly he also features in Nike ads, cut into a giant Mount Rushmore-style billboard and in a mocked-up TV ad that showed him 'playing at the finals'."

Still, he looks well in the light grey three-piece suit ("SUITED AND BOOTED" was how the Sun and Mail cruelly, but oh-so-neatly, put it). Just the thing for wedding/christening/etc season.

See? A spoonful of sugar and the dark cloud goes down. Or something.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:36 UK time, Wednesday, 2 June 2010

"I have freed Sarah from the treadmill of her long life of trying to be perfect" - Sarah Ferguson, baring her soul to Oprah - in the third person - about the cash-for-access sting.

It is a rite of passage for public figures in the United States to make a public apology via a chatshow host. And when a fallen royal wishes to do this, there can be only one choice - the Queen of Chat herself, Oprah Winfrey. The Duchess of York opened with a threatened panic attack; Oprah countered by showing her the tape of the News of the World sting. There was no panic attack, but lots of therapy speak.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

17:12 UK time, Tuesday, 1 June 2010

In the story referring to the six "astronauts" undergoing a pretend trip to Mars, you refer to them as "three Russians, a Chinese, a Frenchman and an Italian". A Chinese? Shouldn't that be a Chinaman or is referring to someone as "a chinese" the correct way now?
Simon, Colchester, UK

Chris (Monday letters) I thought that "Ottoman Empire" was a large furniture retailer.
Lewis Graham, Hitchin

Re the non-existence of the Soviet Union since 1991 (Monday letters, ibid) which shows up in the British Citizenship test, there is also the minor detail of Rhodesia having not existed since 1980. Presumably the individual who filled the form in has yet to recognise the formation of Zimbabwe.
Paul, Gloucester

I read this article in the free Swiss newspaper 20 Minuten this morning. Is it true?
Martin, Switzerland

Does anyone else think that Guillermo del Toro looks like an older, beardy version of Elijah Wood's Frodo Baggins? Ironic, then, that he should be pulling *out* of the Hobbit movies.
Katherine, Canberra, Australia
Monitor note: He has something of the Peter Jackson about him too.

Paper Monitor

13:28 UK time, Tuesday, 1 June 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Is the fresh-faced Danny Alexander a suitable custodian of the nation's finances? Or a clueless neophyte about to plunge Britain into economic gloom?

The question is out there in today's papers - with concerns centring on his expenses, his youth and his lack of financial experience.

For matters of being in the red and black, Paper Monitor always turns to the pink 'un first - the Financial Times. What says it about Mr A's experience?

Surprisingly little.

"Experience of the City is not a prerequisite to become chief secretary to the Treasury, despite the financial nature of the job. Of 15 people in the post over the past 20 years, only [David] Laws - and to a lesser extent his predecessor Liam Byrne - had worked in the financial services industry."

But that's not going to sway Times cartoonist Morten Morland from portraying Messrs Alexander and his boss, George Osborne, as fidgety schoolchildren dwarfed by the grand leather chairs in which they sit.

"Are we allowed to use the sharp scissors?" asks one of the other.

But underneath, former CSTTT (excuse the abbreviation, but really, in the spirit of David Cameron's drive for great transparency, couldn't it just be rebranded Deputy Chancellor?) William Waldegrave writes Mr Alexander an open letter.

"It's odd that in our system the job often goes to young rising stars," he notes, before tackling the experience question head on:

"Economists have no more idea of how to control spending than astrophysicists."

To which Paper Monitor wonders, since when did astrophysicists become the benchmark for judging economic competence?

The letter also notes that the job is a hard slog. "You won't be bed early, or having weekends," writes Mr Waldegrave.

The Daily Mail is more interested in Mrs Alexander's travel claims against her husband's expenses budget - although it notes they have done nothing that is against the rules.

But it drops a delicious detail into the story, noting Mrs Alexander job - features editor of Psychologies magazine.

One wonders how the long hours, hard work culture of the job will chime with his spouse's commitment with personal development and wellbeing.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:17 UK time, Tuesday, 1 June 2010

"It just goes to show that being in love and growing your own root vegetables keeps you fit and healthy" - Richard Roden, about to be a dad at the age of 72

Mr Roden's wife Lisa, 26, is due to expect their third baby in January. The couple, from Walsall, already have twins that are 16 months old.

Full details (The Sun)

Your Letters

15:33 UK time, Monday, 31 May 2010

As the Soviet Union (which ceased to exist in 1991) seems to have achieved a 100% pass rate in the British Citizenship test in 2009, can we assume that knowing which country you are in isn't necessary for passing?
Chris Lewis, Istanbul, Ottoman Empire

Bearing in mind the poor quality of the music and the even worse commentary by Graham Norton, who talked over most of results, is it not time to pull the plug on the coverage of the Eurovision Song contest, if indeed that is what it is? No will ever vote for us anyway, so why bother?
Carl Challenger, Blackpool

Re. 22 google searches a day , I can't be the only person who googles two or three times, just to check spelling the lazy way...
Nadja, Bostonian in Moscow, Russia

I liked this story . Presumably, the bra was an "Embargo" bra... (read it backwards).
Steve Swift, Alton, Hampshire

I'm curious. When I grew potatoes, the skins of "new potatoes" could be rubbed off with your thumb. When buying new potatoes today, you need a very sharp knife. Are we being taken for a ride?
G Clavering, Littleport, Ely, Cambs

Paper Monitor

11:16 UK time, Monday, 31 May 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The fall-out from the David Laws resignation still dominates many of the newspapers.

The Daily Telegraph which, in the words of the Guardian, "launched the missile", has defended itself in its editorial.

"At no stage did this newspaper intend to 'out' Mr Laws. On the contrary, we did not plan to mention the sex of his partner in our report. The chances are that this information would have surfaced elsewhere: Mr Laws's sexuality was never quite the tightly guarded secret that he implies"

And Roy Greenslade, writing in his Guardian blog, leaps to the Telegraph's defence. He disagrees with his Guardian colleague Michael White, who had said the story was not in the public interest.

(In the same way that responses from BBC website readers appear to be split, the divisions over this story have also infected the blogosphere, where influential Conservative blogger Iain Dale, using strong language, has attacked comments made by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw on Twitter.)

Philip Hensher, writing in the Independent, says "it is truly bizarre to hear of independently rich, white gay men choosing to live their lives in total secrecy."

"David Laws deserved to lose his job, though everyone must regret the loss of so talented a figure. It was disgraceful to pay his partner in secret. But that debate is over, and the rules will just be applied. The other question that the case brings up is whether a human being can live his life openly in accordance with both his heart and his ambition, respecting his own privacy, not resorting to secrecy. The Parliamentary Commissioner that can rule on that one has not yet been appointed."

Hensher's Independent colleague, Michael Brown, who was outed by the press 16 years ago when Tory chief whip, has some rather blunt advice for Mr Laws:

"Nobody died. Get over it David, the world hasn't ended - and neither has yours... You're a millionaire and everybody still loves you. Tell them all to stop feeling sorry for you - and the sooner you stop feeling sorry for yourself, the sooner you'll recover."

Monday's Quote of the Day

08:24 UK time, Monday, 31 May 2010

"D Brent" - Scoreboard at Graz stadium misspell's name of England striker Darren Bent

Some critics would say England played as if they had David Brent and 10 other comedy characters on the pitch, as they struggled to overcome Japan in Austria, in their final match before the World Cup finals. The Daily Mail's Matt Lawton described it as "a bad at the office".

More details (Daily Mail)

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