BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for August 22, 2010 - August 28, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

17:50 UK time, Friday, 27 August 2010

10road_224.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. The Tube carries more passengers than the whole of the national rail network.
More details (Times - subscription site)

2. The optimum time to book a flight is eight weeks before departure.
More details (Guardian)

3. The Stig was originally going to be called The Gimp.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

4. Milk used to be watered down, then coloured yellow with toxic lead chromate to make it look creamy.
More details

5. It's possible to watch 28,000 films in a lifetime.
More details

6. Sumo wrestlers can't use iPhones because their fingers are too fat.
More details

7. The socks-with-sandals look came from the Romans.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

8. Tornados can burn.
More details

9. Putting a cat in a bin is not illegal.
More details (Independent)

10. Traffic jams can last nine days.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Vic Barton-Walderstadt for this week's picture of 10 road markings, and thanks to Ralph in Cumbria for sending us thing number 9.

Your Letters

16:50 UK time, Friday, 27 August 2010

HarperCollins said it was "disappointed that the BBC has chosen to spend licence fee payers' money to suppress this book". Never mind the book - I'm disappointed that the BBC has chosen to spend licence fee payers' money on making Top Gear in the first place.
Sue, London

Why should images and symbols of the UK's heritage say anything at all about modern Britain? I'm personally fed up of "designers" criticising everything from passports (a legal document, not a coffee table art book) to Olympic logos (a bit of fun to attract the kids, not a statement about the ethics and ideals of the UK). Probably just annoyed they didn't get the gig...
Dan Wilkinson, Chesterfield, UK

I can't be the only one who had flashbacks to Toy Story and The Claw machine ('oooooooooh') after reading this headline: Tiger cub 'found in stuffed toys'.
Lizzie, Poole

I agree with Joanna Jones (Letters, Thursday). Might be handy with the second child, but a week at the most!
Joanne R, London

Re. Should we bother learning French? Me thinks we should start teaching English first ...
Steve Wheat @BBC Magazine

Martin (Letters, Thursday), I too am without a coat today but i could lend you my hi-vis vest if it would help?
Claire, Nottingham

Caption Competition

14:40 UK time, Friday, 27 August 2010


Winning entries for the Caption Competition.

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

This week it was performers promoting their show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.


Thanks to all who entered.

The standard this week was very good and for that we apologise.

The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. rogueslr
CSI, the musical

5. Filboid
Well, it's obvious we can't ALL go as the shroud of Turin

4. MightyGiddyUpGal
Toughest identity parade ever

3. Fi-Glos
The Crash-Test Dummy holiday snaps

2. SkarloeyLine
Discount Rushmore

1. Pigletine
X Factor hopefuls await facial autotuning

Paper Monitor

09:37 UK time, Friday, 27 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor loves a good list. Not the kind marked "apples, toothpaste, toilet paper" that people take to the supermarket, but those in little grey boxes next to news stories.

And with the summer's hard news drought leaving frugal pickings for the press, stories with list potential provide an oasis of fun and frivolity.

You need only go as far as page three of both the Daily Mailand Daily Expressto find a couple of corkers on "cheesy" chat-up lines which, it is claimed, actually work.

Paper Monitor can picture the news conference which led to their appearance.

Editor: "What have you got for us today, then?"

Reporter: "Well, there's some research suggesting the best way to a woman's heart is through a cheesy chat up line."

Editor: "Hmm. Sounds a bit fishy, was it carried out by a reputable polling company?"

Reporter: "Errrm, well. It was done by an online casino company...[met with general editorial disapproval] But there is a list of the 15 most popular lines."

Editor: "Really? Get it on page three."

There's another beauty in the Times, which reports that BBC executives are seeking a successor to Top of the Pops. A great excuse to rattle off a "pick of the pops" list of the favourite moments through the shows history.

We've got Blur's Alex James wearing an Oasis T-shirt after his band beat their rivals to the Number One spot, Clive Dunn chirping Grandad from a rocking chair and Dexy's Midnight Runners performing Jackie Wilson Said in front of a giant picture of darts player Jocky Wilson.

It also provides the perfect excuse to use photos of John Lennon, Kurt Cobain and - of course - Pan's People.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror's entertainment reporter Polly Hudson has assembled an uber-list in the form of the Ultimate Big Brother Awards. There are gongs for Biggest Hissy Fit, Vilest Couple and Best Escape, among others.

However, number one in the Paper Monitor's Best List of the Day List, is undoubtedly the Sun's "Know your Flos".

In honour of the prime minister naming his baby daughter Florence, it names eight other people called Flo - presumably they couldn't think of another two to make it a top 10.

Florences Nightingale and Welch were inevitably high up the list, but the editorial team has unearthed some gems in Florence in the Magic Roundabout, Aunt Flo from Bod and - Paper Monitor's favourite - ex-footballer Tore Andre Flo.

However, while admiring this splendid selection of lists, Paper Monitor recognises that a picture can, indeed, be worth a thousand words. So you have to acknowledge they are all trumped by a picture of a courgette measuring 5ft 6in in the Daily Mail.

Ones only regret is the lack of any accompanying list of other giant fruit and vegetables from the last 30 years.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:03 UK time, Friday, 27 August 2010

"I can't go mumbling, looking like Elvis" - Robbie Williams on how he nearly ducked out of a reunion with his Take That bandmates in 2008 because he was suffering toothache and was "quite large".

In the end, he did attend the Los Angeles get-together which was the first step on the road to Williams rejoining the band. After patching things up with songwriter Gary Barlow, Williams says the pair are now great friends and they have recorded a "Brokeback Mountain-style" video for duet, Shame, which will feature on his new best-of album.

More details (The Sun).

Your Letters

16:27 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

Re the politics of paternity leave. Mine saved up his holiday and took four weeks off. I couldn't wait for him to go back to work so I could get into a proper routine and not have to look after him too!
Joanna Jones @BBC Magazine

It would seem the politics of paternity leave are quite liberal in a conservative way or is that conservative in a liberal way? Oh, lets not labour the point!
Stuart Duffy @BBC Magazine

I sincerely doubt that, despite its title, the picture in "Camerons reveal daughter's name" was taken at the time of the birth.
M Ross, Lancaster, UK

I'd love to know how many letters you get suggesting that Gallimaufry must be the home planet of Dr Who.
Caroline Brown, Rochester, UK

Re Re Wednesday letters: Isn't Gallimaufry where Dr Who comes from?
PollySaxon, Lichfield

Vic (Wednesday letters), a far more likely origin of the phrase taking the mickey is that the cockney rhyming slang appendage "bliss" was dropped, as is quite common in rhyming slang. It seems probably unlikely that the sort of people who started using the phrase were aware of what micturation means. I haven't got a coat today, so am a bit lost as to what to do now, apart from also wash my hands.
Martin, Europe

Vic - a brief internet search tells me this is the most unlikely of several possible explanations for the phrase. Most likely, it seems, is that it's cockey rhyming slang for 'taking the Mickey Bliss', but quite who said Mickey was is not clear. I'll get my weasel.
Jimmy, Devon

Paper Monitor

11:51 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

As if the cyber-hate wasn't enough, Mary Bale - who will forever be known as "cat bin woman" - now feels the full force of tabloid disgust.

"CAT BIN BRUTE IN QUIZ" says the Daily Mirror.

Does this woman's gall know no bounds? Going to a pub quiz when the eyes of the nation are on her shows a compete lack of sensitivity... and what kind of team would dare have her anyway?

Oh, sorry. Just read on. Turns out she's not "in a quiz" but she's being "grilled" by the RSCPA. Sounds a bit excessive...

For the Sun, this is no laughing matter. The paper is outraged that Miss Bale apparently laughed when telling reporters "it was only a cat".

This is a serious issue, the Sun implies, a tone only momentarily tested by its barrage of puns - "FURGIVE ME", "COPS PROTECT PURRMINATOR" and "BIN AND GONE"

Fur is flying in the Daily Mail, although it can't seem to make up its mind if its cat, dog or the finest ermine.

It says that at the BBC "the terms Old Etonian, public school and Oxbridge appear to have become insults".

The headline a few pages later that urges Top Gear's "public school bullies" to stop picking on The Stig might undermine the argument, although perhaps Top Gear staff have a different background to the rest of the BBC.

Let's look into the Mail's archives to clarify matters...

Ah, here we are. "Oxbridge snobs control the BBC" (2007).

A lot must have happened in three years.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:16 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

"I have not watched one minute of golf" - Elin Nordegren, ex-wife of Tiger Woods

In an interview with People magazine, the Swedish mother of Woods' two children said she'd been "through hell" during the very public break-up of their marriage.

Full details (Times - subscription site)

Your Letters

18:22 UK time, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

"Surprise is often the ability to appear without warning and in force." The other times being when you give them warning, but they don't expect you to turn up and when you turn up on inflatable rubber dingies wearing bright green gorilla costumes singing Radiohead's No Surprises.
Edd, Cardiff

Mark's comment (Tuesday letters) about urine-powered cars taking the mickey, yes, it might well be, since the phrase "taking the mickey" is a shortened form of "taking the micturition", which, in turn, is a more arcane term for... well, you get the picture. I'll get my coat once I've washed my hands.
Vic, Tunbridge Wells

Liking the use of the word gallimaufry in the E numbers article.
garethholt, @bbc_magazine

Tsk tsk, no special articles about GCSE results? Must try harder...
Adam, Nottingham, England

Defoe poised for groin operation - I would have thought that lying down for the surgeon would have made it easier.
Lester, London, UK

Best line from Compensation for sheep costume football fan set on fire: "People threw alcohol to try to douse the flames, but without success." A flaming brilliant idea.
Steve, Catford

You have to admire the tenacity of the people fighting to save Ringo Starr's old home, but in this age of celebrity campaign heads I can't help noticing that they are currently without one. Which is strange, because if you needed a bona fide celebrity with prestige, clout, money, and a deep personal connection to Ringo Starr's house, there's one who immediately springs to mind.
Edward Green, London, UK

Paper Monitor

09:49 UK time, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor never ceases to be amazed by how obliging the great British public are to the gentlefolk of the press during "silly season", which is clearly at its height this week.

It appears citizens the land over are prepared to engage in all manner of bizarre and incomprehensible behaviour to help fill column inches.

Take Mary Bale, for instance.

The 45-year-old shot to infamy when footage of her casually dumping a cat in a bin as she walked past a house in Coventry was broadcast yesterday.

You might think the bank worker would choose to keep a low-profile afterwards, particularly given the RSPCA's interest in the case.

But not content with having stirred the bile of animal lovers the world over, she confounded the problem by telling the Sun: "I don't know what the fuss is about, it's just a cat."

"I don't know what came over me but I suddenly thought it would be funny to put it in the wheelie bin which was right beside me.

"I did it as a joke because I thought it would be funny. "I never thought it would be trapped. I expected it to wriggle out of the bin.

Paper Monitor takes comfort that, after her ordeal at the hands of the "moggie mauler", the cat in question - four-year-old tabby Lola - was treated to a host of pet pampering treats by the Sun.

With mind still a-boggle, Paper Monitor turned to page 33 of the Daily Mirror to find a story about a man being caught on CCTV stealing women's underwear from a washing line.

Reporter Victoria Murphy revels in the once-in-a-career opportunity the thief's name offers for wordplay:

Mum Leanne Burrell set up the camera after a spate of thefts - and nicked a knicker-nicker called Luke Wicker.

Wicker, it transpires, kept a hidden store of smalls behind his bed, which included 15 bras, 26 pairs of knickers and tights with the crotch areas cut out.

Paper Monitor muses that those who campaign against the UK's supposed "surveillance society" may be doing the country a great disservice. What would be left to occupy the media without such technology?

So it was with dismay that Paper Monitor opened the Times to find another attack on the scope of crime reporters the nation over.

The Law Commission is calling for rarely used "trivial offences" to be removed from the statute book to be replaced by civil measures.

Among the laws the commission would like scrapped is one making it a crime to sell, or offer as a prize, animals including goldfish to people under 16.

This year pet shop owner Hoan Higgins, 66, was caught selling goldfish to a teenager. She was ordered to wear an electronic tag and given a night-time curfew. She was also fined £1,000.

Other criminal offences in the firing line incluse failing to record the training of farmworkers - punishable by up to two years' jail - running an unregistered indepedent educational establishment and, if you're a ship's captain, refusing the order of a British Sea Fisheries Officer to weigh fish.

All news stories waiting to happen, considers Paper Monitor - and they may come in handy next August.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:25 UK time, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

"He always liked big numbers, if you talked to him about 1,340,000, for example, he would get very excited" - Natasha Reagan, mother of seven-year-old Oscar Selby, who got an A* in GCSE maths.

He is believed to be the youngest child to have got the top grade in a GCSE exam. Oscar, from Surrey, spent four hours every Saturday for nine months being tutored for the exam. "It was hard work but I did enjoy it," he said.

More details

Your Letters

14:22 UK time, Tuesday, 24 August 2010

PhD student Sarda Sahney and colleagues at the University of Bristol seem to have missed the point. Darwin's definition of "fittest" (as in "survival of the fittest") means "Best suited to their environment". That environment includes factors such as temperature, food, predators, living space and a million others.
Colin Main, Berkhamsted UK

As a great fan of the monitor, in addition to being something of a pedant, I often need to control the urge to submit a snarky letter upon noticing the interposition of a spelling mistake. However, there was no way I could let you get away with introducing a 't' to, and omitting an 'h' from, "wha'evah."
Nick, Tokyo

Monitor note: Apologies, Nick. By the way, could you give me a capital M next time please?

I was deeply shocked to see the video of the middle-aged woman putting a cat in a wheelie bin. Surely that wasn't the correct bin to put it in? We have a bin specifically for kitten refuse.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Why is it that the one story which has made me feel queasier than any other on the BBC website is "Doctor Slices Rugby Player's Lip"? Have I really become so desensitised to all the reports of murder and violence over the years that I'm surprised that this one story makes me feel ill?
Michael Hall, Croydon, UK

So, China traffic jam stretches nine days ? That's nothing - I've seen signs at roadworks on the M1 that say "delays until June 2012"!
Paul Greggor, London

Urine powered cars? Now you really are taking the .... mickey
Mark, Bridge

I suspect the dearth of responses to your A levels clarion call probably had something to do with the fact that nobody felt able to compete with the fourth caption in [the accompanying picture] glum_comp.jpg. I personally want it framed on my mantlepiece.
Kat Gregg, Coventry

Re: What did Last of the Summer Wine teach us? Disbelief that a 1973 comedy about three 'old' men took off when the wonderful Peter Sallis was only 52 - which (as Scott L reminds us) is really only middle aged. Let alone Norah Batty being 45. Ah, acting!
AK, Watford, Herts

What did Last of the Summer Wine teach us? well, I don't know about you, but when I (ever) grow up, I want to be just like Compo.
Hemlok, lincoln uk

Paper Monitor

13:42 UK time, Tuesday, 24 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Underground mining incidents, ocean-bed oil spills... there's nothing like a below the surface news story to flex the ambitions of a newspaper infographics team.

But which unit of measurement best illustrates the depths at which said incident has occurred?

The Chilean mining accident, which has left 33 men safe but stranded underground, has many of the papers sharpening their infographic tool kits.

The Daily Mail has Nelson's Column as its SI unit of choice - noting in its graphic that "Miners are at a depth 14 times the height of Nelson's Column (169ft)".

With its depictions of men hunched in an emergency refuge, the graphic has a dramatic, human quality. However, Paper Monitor can't help but feel a little queasy when focusing specifically on how the artist has chosen to depict the blockage itself.

The Independent sets its sights further afield for its helpful unit of measurement - the Empire State building. Not been to New York recently? Well book a flight if only to recalibrate your height/depth internal reference system. Take in the Statue of Liberty while you're there (46m, or 93m if you include the pedestal).

The Times introduces Big Ben into its inforgraphic while the Guardian opts for the Canary Wharf tower.

Canaries and mine shafts - perhaps not the most sensitive of choices.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

10:39 UK time, Tuesday, 24 August 2010

"Roadworks" - What officials in China are blaming for a 60-mile traffic jam that has trapped some drivers for nine days.

Hundreds of motorists are stuck in the huge tailback on the road from Beijing to Inner Mongolia. Up to 400 police have reportedly been drafted in to keep road rage in check. The road works blamed for the jam are to repair damage caused by an increase in cargo lorries using the highway, the state-run newspaper said. They are not expected to be finished until mid-September.

More details

Your A level moment

16:30 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

helene.jpgUPDATE, MONDAY 23 AUG:

Perhaps it was the trauma of revisiting the scene.

Or maybe you simply had better things to do.

But the only response to our A levels clarion call - in which we asked readers to adopt alternative envelope-opening emotions - came from Helene Parry in Brentford. Yet what a wonderful example of teenage indifference it is.

It's an enigmatic, Mona-esque expression that betrays little. It could be three As or three Fs.

One word sums up Helene's feelings at this moment.

20 AUG: Following today's Paper Monitor discussing Fleet Street's penchant for a certain portrayal of A level results day, the thought occurs that we only ever see pictures of students looking ecstatic at the crucial envelope-opening moment.

So let's redress the balance. The Magazine invites you to submit images of you re-enacting that nervy moment from the past when, hands trembling, you opened up the post or scanned a notice board.

What was the look on your face? Bags of kudos for alternative emotions - disappointment perhaps, or anguish, or perhaps even cold fury.

Send your images to with the subject heading EXAMS

And we'll share the very best.

So, in summary, we want less of this...


...and more of this.


Your Letters

15:42 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

Beer microbes live 553 days outside ISS. I'd rather they were in IPA.
Fred, Rotherham

Re: What did Last of the Summer Wine teach us? It really does portray accurately what old people get up to. Number of times I've been to Yorkshire and seen three old men rocket down a hillside in a bath.
Paul Holmes, Preston

We did not need to "learn" anything from them! It does not need detailed analysing. I just enjoyed the gentle and sometimes quite sharp humour, the theme music, the beautiful location and performances from a quality cast. Often the conversations of the ladies over cups of tea, were little observational gems which could only come from the best of British comedy.
Brian Keighley, Sutton Coldfield

So the supposed Channel crocodile sighting turned out to be a false alarm, but "officials have said that the wood probably did look like a crocodile from a distance." Probably? So there's a chance that observers were foiled by a piece of wood that looked nothing like a crocodile?
Kat Gregg, Coventry

Jen (Friday's letters), no idea if your question was a joke or not, but the 'if' in your question is there for a reason - number of A*s awarded can only be indicative of how easy a course is if everyone has to take it. If we want to generalise as massively as the media does, "soft" subjects are taken by those less likely to get A's in 'proper' subjects, and so those less likely to get high grades at all. Whereas further maths is taken only by those who are a) very good at maths, and b) really like maths, thus giving them the ability and motivation to work to get the A*. The same applies to other "proper" subjects. Rant over. People can go on all they like about declining standards, it's not students' fault, well done everyone who got their results.
Louise, Surrey

I love the idea of sending in pictures of re-enactments of A-level day. If we had an equivalent here in the US, I'd send one too. Since you've called for anguish, though, I wonder how many people are just going to submit copies of Drunk Girl's picture?
Dragonn, Concord, Calif, US

On from Monitor's challenge, for anyone skilled with photoshop, surely Willem Defoe's final moments in Platoon with a piece of paper clutched in one hand would be the winner. Or for the really committed, find an A-Level student, dress them up and film the whole thing complete with blood squibs. I reckon that would make at least the Sun's website.
Bas, London

Paper Monitor

10:19 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and acknowledge a job well done, however much you don't want to. And so it is the case with the X Factor PR machine.

The new series kicked off on Saturday and, as we have come to expect, it makes front-page news in the Mirror and the Sun, with several pages devoted to the show inside as well. You may as well face it, this is going to be the case every week in the run up to Christmas - and possibly beyond.

But the story that technology is used by the show's producers to iron out wobbles in contestants' voices is big news today in the more serious papers too. The Guardian devotes an entire page to it, as does the Times. Only the Daily Telegraph is able to resist the power of Simon Cowell. Yes readers, don't be fooled about who is probably behind the story. All publicity is good publicity remember.

But at least Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir has the measure of things, noting that the record 12m viewers who tuned in to watching the opening show must have made Simon Cowell very happy - and even richer:

That factoid must have put an extra diamond glitter onto those £ signs that whirl unchecked inside Simon Cowell's eyes.

Hmmm, much like the entire page the Mail itself devotes to the show, along with the story on its website that includes no less than 34 pictures - yes, that's 34 - from the opening show and links to three additional X Factor-related stories.

All in all, a good day at the office for the show's PR team. But it's probably smarting just a little bit that it didn't get a clean sweep of the papers - unlike another story. So, who can take on the show and win when it comes to getting in ever single newspaper?

The Beckhams? Carla Bruni? The Queen? Top Gear's Stig?

No, it's SamCam and bump in Cornwall. The Telegraph simply can't resist that photo opportunity.

It seems there is one PR machine mightier than Cowell's.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:24 UK time, Monday, 23 August 2010

''The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human'' - What Salford woman Melissa Thompson typed into a mobile phone in 25.94 seconds to break the world record for the fastest-ever text message.

Ms Thompson, 27, was invited to take on the challenge at a mobile phone roadshow she was visiting with her boyfriend. Previously the record had been held by American Franklin Page, 24, who wrote the same passage in 35.54 seconds in March.

More details (Daily Telegraph)

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