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Archives for September 26, 2010 - October 2, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

16:42 UK time, Friday, 1 October 2010

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


10 Flags

1. Elgar wrote world's first football chant.
More details

2. The UN has an Office of Outer Space Affairs.
More details (Independent)

3. There's a market for mammoth ivory and it sells for £330 per kilogram.
More details (Telegraph)

4. Neanderthals were tech-savvy.
More details

5. Engineers estimate that 12 to 15 tonnes of rock will need to be cleared by the trapped Chilean miners each day.
More details

6. In French, the words for "inflation" and "fellatio" are very similar.
More details

7. The first travelator in the UK was at Bank Tube station in London.
More details

8. Former PM Edward Heath left his home to the nation as a museum when he died.
More details

9. Intestinal worms can grow to more than 2m long.
More details (Guardian)

10. Penguins have been around for 36m years.
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 flags.

Your Letters

15:41 UK time, Friday, 1 October 2010

New PCs 'could boot in seconds'? I think we need an immediate review of police training procedures.
Simon Varwell, Inverness

I may have faired slightly better with today's quiz of the week's news if I had noticed the answer to one of the questions was at number eight in today's Most Read Stories list.
DS, Croydon, England

So "a faulty gene could help explain some cases of unexplained male infertility", according to this story. Makes sense, as there really wouldn't be a lot of point in explaining cases of explained male fertility would there?
Paul Stanch, Newcastle, UK

It's not just the brakes they should worry about. From what I've seen of the ones driven round here, the indicators don't work either.
Adam, London, UK

One TV channel is advertising the Ryder Cup in 3D. It will make it look like the rain is coming right at you.
MCK, Stevenage

"A few years ago Vaughan Bailey was sleeping rough on the streets of Birmingham and was struggling to get a warm meal. Now the 23-year-old is partying with Katie Price..."
Poor chap - just when he thought life couldn't get any worse...
Sue, London


Caption Competition

13:23 UK time, Friday, 1 October 2010

Comments

Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week it was golfers from the US Ryder Cup team stripping off their rather fetching jumpers.

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

6. Spraggy
Right boys Corey's mam has gone now so we take take off these hideous jumpers she made us!

5. penny-farthing
Strip-tees.

4. SkarloeyLine
Monty: "No, lads - I said, show everyone your tee SHOTS"

3. michael_jimi
Europe win the toss for Shirts v Skins.

2. Ade
The US Ryder Cup team hide their faces in embarrassment after the ball fails to go through the windmill and into the clown's mouth for the second time.

1. Admesay
"I told you we should have our names in them."

Paper Monitor

09:24 UK time, Friday, 1 October 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"This was a woman so two-faced it took ages to upload Facebook pictures of her because I had to tag her twice."

The Daily Telegraph prints this joke alongside a story about comedian Stephen Grant, who has won a lengthy court battle to tell jokes about his ex-wife.

Mr Grant, it seems, had been constrained since his divorce by a solicitor's letter asking him not to "embarrass" his former wife as part of his act. He used the Human Rights Act to have the request withdrawn.

The gag made Paper Monitor chuckle, less because of its content and more because it coincided with a day on which many papers brazenly displayed more than one face.

After an unparalleled year of revelling in exposures about the private lives of various sports stars, the press got another shot at golfer Tiger Woods.

The Daily Mail reports from the Ryder Cup's opening ceremony at Celtic Manor, where Woods sat alongside his US team-mates:

"Woods' roving eye was back in play again yesterday when he was spotted closely examining the performance of [singer] Katherine Jenkins."

And the Daily Mirror does not stop at being merely suggestive, adding cartoon-style thought bubbles to a succession of photos of the golfer.

"Oh give me strength... don't look, don't look," says the first, as Woods raises his eyes skywards, rather than staring at the blonde singer.

It ends with Woods looking directly at Jenkins, who has her back to him, with the thought: "Goddamit! I'm looking... nice aria".

Yet, away from all this mockery, the papers find time to celebrate the career of "one of the true Hollywood greats", as the Telegraph puts it.

Paper Monitor notes, however, that the focus tends to be rather less on the acting ability of Tony Curtis, who died aged 85, and rather more on his love of women.

"The actor's womanising ways were legendary," says the Telegraph.

Likewise, the Sun:

"He starred in some of Hollywood's best-loved movies - but Tony Curtis will also be remembered as the man who wooed and won 1,000 women."

On its front page, the Times sums up Curtis as a "star who knew fame was fun".

Paper Monitor is thankful that Fleet Street's finest also put fun ahead of consistency.

Friday's Quote of the Day

08:16 UK time, Friday, 1 October 2010

"It makes you feel dead - but lots of things do that" - Alan Bennett on being the subject of Mastermind questions.

The playwright was speaking on BBC Radio 4's Front Row, which had set him the challenge of answering the same questions as Mastermind contestant Robin Seavill. The puzzle compiler had made Bennett's work his specialist subject - and outperformed him over two minutes.

More details.

Your Letters

15:40 UK time, Thursday, 30 September 2010

"It is still just one-fourth the resolution"? We have a perfectly good word for a quarter, you know. It's "quarter". I would be heartbroken if "fourth" made it over here from the States. It's particularly exasperating as its country of origin even has a coin called a "quarter", precisely named because it is a quarter of a dollar.
Alex Knibb, Bristol, UK

Re "David Miliband says he won't join brother Ed's team" - Was I the only person to be confused by my internet browser's shortened version of this article's title? "David Miliband says he won..."
Andrew, Cambridge

Re: Is modern life a bar to marriage? Who cares if he is married? Really? It should make absolutely no difference. Daft. Do we expect all CEO's to be married? Euh no! Do we expect all teachers, professeurs, doctors, nurses to be married? Euh no! Daft.
Ellen Woollaston-Cooper @BBC News Magazine

I don't care if Miliband's busy, married or not, but saying they couldn't organise it is rubbish.
Kevin Symonds @BBC News Magazine

I'd agree with Jim O'Connor (Wednesday's letters) if dodgy English wasn't being appropriated by supposedly mature organisations trying to look relevant. It wasn't so long ago that you couldn't throw a brick in Whitehall without hitting a department hastily losing the capital letters from its acronym.
Edward Green, London, UK

Behind every great man... so I'm one of those fools!
Ana Cecilia Leone @BBC News Magazine

I love Monitor parties. Pickled onions are my favourite.
M. Ross, Lancaster, UK

Paper Monitor

11:24 UK time, Thursday, 30 September 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

New blood, that's what Paper Monitor craves, vampire-like, and a fresh infusion arrives courtesy of the Sun.

In an attempt to revitalise its pages X Factor-fashion, it ran a competition for aspiring Kelvin MacKenzies, Lorraine Kellys and Jeremy Clarksons under the banner of "Column Idol".

A panel of crack judges, including Sun editor Dominic Mohan and that well-known expert in invective prose, pop star Diana Vickers, assessed the pontificatory prowess of a string of young writers.

And now their choice, 21-year-old journalism graduate Lee Price, gets a full-page column [no link available] and the chance to follow in the footsteps of Jill Tweedie, Bernard Levin and George Orwell.

How does he do? In a genre of journalism which generally tends to favour bold, provocative declamations, Price adopts a different approach.

His lead opinion piece concerns that not exactly neglected subject, Facebook (the "virtual documenting of everything we do is destroying genuine social interactions", he informs us). He controversially asks new Labour leader Ed Miliband for "a little truth regarding the future", adding helpfully: "That's what the man on the street really wants to hear, Ed."

Perhaps hoping to fill the gap vacated by Richard Littlejohn's defection to the Daily Mail, there is a you-couldn't-make-it-up story about a "whopping £1,800 of taxpayer's money" which was spent on "a hip-hop video to promote HAND WASHING!" (bold type and capitals Mr Price's own).

Paper Monitor is pleased that Mr Price is a fast learner.

But in the pursuit of further honing his craft, he is urged to digest the Times' splendid leader on why British chocolate is superior to European varieties:

Unlike our fussier continental cousins, this country has never been ashamed to recognise that chocolate is not an aristocratic luxury, but a proletarian one. Nobody ever sat down with a cup of tea at 4pm, and thought to themselves: "I could murder a tiny, glazed, sickly sweet piece of dark chocolate shaped like a cup and filled with a substance redolent of picked toothpaste."

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:14 UK time, Thursday, 30 September 2010

"Tea, weird sense of humour, football hooligans and rain" - how a controversial iPhone app sums up the UK.

The What Country service programme characterises each nation with words and images, but the response to it has not been universally positive. The Italian tourism minister has demanded that it be removed from online scores after it distilled his homeland down to the "pizza, the Mafia and scooters".

More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

15:04 UK time, Wednesday, 29 September 2010

What Emma Thompson and various other commenters on this story need to understand is that her dislike of various aspects of teenage speech is completely intentional. The whole point of irregular (and often very creative) developments in language is to draw a distinction between the young and the old. It is exactly the same underlining of generational divisions that we find in trends in art, music, literature, etc. Every generation rebels and then grows up to complain when the next one does the same. Perhaps she doesn't even realise it, but Mrs Thompson's real problem is that the "youth of today" aren't using the right kind of slang - hers
Jim O'Connor, Winchester, UK

Andrew (Tuesday's letters), you may think that "kids" isn't a good word for children, but the use was first recorded in 1690. After that length of time, should we really still be making "baby goat" jokes?
Peter, Swindon, UK

To follow us on Facebook, click here (and then click on the word "like"). Emma Thompson will, like, be furious. Or should that be "will be, like, furious". It's a grammatical nightmare.
Stephen Turner, Preston, Lancashire

It is only me? When the new Labour (or should that be New Labour?) leader smiles broadly, does he not remind anyone else of Wallace (as in Gromit)?
PollySaxon, Lichfield

No wonder countries are struggling to meet the [HIV drugs] goal, when the medicine is being wasted for photo opportunities.
John, Harbrough, Ireland

Pleeeease take away the picture of that mouse. It's putting me off my food and I haven't eaten in days!
Sarah, Oxon

I see that Wednesday's letters page (gremlins permitting) will be the 1,000th. What time's the party? Have you got enough cheese and pineapple sticks for all of us?
Ruaraidh, Wirral, UK

Monitor note: Sorry, the Magazine started without you. There's only a couple of pickled onions and a curled-up cheese sandwich left.

Paper Monitor

10:28 UK time, Wednesday, 29 September 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Behind every man, they say, there's a great woman.

This aphorism, it appears, is taken by newspapers as an instruction to focus on newsworthy gentlemen's wives and partners - with the focus very strictly on their role as wives and partners.

The Times, indeed, chooses to cover the forthcoming Ryder Cup with the minimum-possible mentions for all that boring golf and those Pringle jumpers.

It describes [subscription required] instead a "battle of the WAGS" as Gaynor Montgomerie, wife of Europe captain Colin, prepares to confront Lisa Pavin, the "self-styled 'Captainess' of the United States team". Mrs Pavin, it transpires, is "the highest-profile wife yet for the event [what, higher even than Mrs, er, the last one?] and has spent the past two years preparing intently for her husband Corey's big moment".

What else is a dutiful (female) spouse to do, after all? Mrs Montgomerie has, by contrast, adopted a "minimum fuss approach to the role", a tactic which we are led to infer stems from her husband confessing that he had had an affair some months after their "fairytale wedding".

The report continues:

For some wronged wives, the Ryder Cup might have been an opportunity for revenge and Mrs Montgomerie could have opted to kit the European WAGs out in lurid pantaloons and fed her husband bad jokes for his rousing speech. Instead, she is serenely performing her patriotic duty, following in a fine tradition of spouses who have put the Cup before anything else.

Phew!

Another lady elevated to the spotlight by her choice of companion is Justine Thornton, who happens to pass the time as a high-flying environmental lawyer but is, from a Fleet Street perspective, of keen interest as the partner of the new leader of the opposition.

The Labour-supporting Daily Mirror's "fashion and beauty director" Amber Morales is wheeled out to praise the "mini-makeover" Ms Thornton had undergone since her partner defeated his brother on Saturday, the new first lady of the centre-left now looking "reassuringly down to earth" in a £45 maternity dress from Top Shop and a "new fashionably short cropped hairstyle".

The Daily Mail, of contrasting political disposition, goes yet further in its scrutiny of this trip to the High Street and the hairdresser.

A large photograph of Ms Thornton adorns the cover, while pages eight and nine are dominated by "before" and "after" shots of Ms Thornton. Her appearance is dissected in forensic detail by columnist Jan Moir, who gravely informs us that during the leadership campaign the future Mrs Miliband turned up to events appearing "to have dressed herself from a North London charity shop".

In the same paper, Sandra Parsons offers a mea culpa on behalf of her profession:

Once you become the leader of a major party, the personal does indeed become become the political, because how you live your life describes to some extent the sort of character you are. This is why the wives of leaders (and it is still mostly wives: we are a long way off from another Mrs Thatcher) find themselves under scrutiny - with regrettable consequences.

That other aphorism about women and men - the one about the former needing the latter like a fish needs a bicycle - doesn't look as though it will catch on any time soon.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:35 UK time, Wednesday, 29 September 2010

"My first word wasn't Mummy. It was money" - Shibby Robati, a contestant on the forthcoming series of The Apprentice, makes his pitch for a job with Lord Sugar.

In the self-effacing manner for which the reality show's participants have been celebrated, Mr Robati, a 27-year-old surgeon and businessman, insists he was a budding entrpreneur from infancy. But he also says he did not get his first job, as a paper boy, until he was 17.

More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

15:24 UK time, Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Titanic Actress Gloria Stuart Dies...she wasn't that big
Calvin, Morecambe

Re: Should parents have the power to ban books? Banning anything from a teenager is a guarantee that they will want it. Make a show of the parents reading it will guarantee that they will go nowhere near.
John Fielder, Workington

Brings "The Da Vinci Code" to mind. The fact that parents fought for all copies of the book to be removed from the school library (and won), just made me want to read it even more.
Jessie, London Colney

Re: As Emma Thompson says kids use sloppy language, should slang be banned in schools? "Kids"? Was she addressing an audience of baby goats?
Andrew Oakley @BBC News Magazine

Re this. "63 guards with automatic weapons who will guard the Glasgow delegation."
I know Glasgae's got a bad reputation, but isn't that going a bit far?
Sarah, Nantwich

Edward (letters Monday), if you think that's worrying, the tourists braving the water around the foot of Niagara Falls travel in the "Maid of the Mist", and they're up to Maid of the Mist SEVEN! You'd think Health & Safety would have had a word by now.
Ruaraidh Gillies, Wirral, UK

Paper Monitor

10:48 UK time, Tuesday, 28 September 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

What, exactly, is a psychodrama? To read a UK newspaper, you would think the expression is compulsory in articles about Labour's leadership.

Of course, there was a time when this therapeutic term was used to characterise the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Now, of course, the sibling rivalry at the top of the Labour party allows every political commentator to add an impressive-sounding four-syllable word to their op-eds.

Consulting the broadsheets, Paper Monitor observes Steve Richards in the Independent warning of "another bizarre and sad psychodrama".

"Never mind the psychodrama, this is now a party with a serious identity crisis," declares Rachel Sylvester in the Times.

The Guardian goes one better and quotes Miliband the younger on its front page declaring that there is "no psychodrama" at the top of the party.

Indeed, the only broadsheet to eschew the term is the Daily Telegraph, perhaps because its readers prefer to describe Labour politicians in more concise language.

How did this phrase become so familiar? Paper Monitor consults the cuttings library and identifies its initial use (at least, in a Labour party context) in a September 2001 Observer review by the playwright David Hare of The Rivals: The Intimate Story of a Political Marriage by James Naughtie, which detailed the Blair/Brown relationship.

But the phrase appears to have really caught on in 2004, when the Observer's Andrew Rawnsley talked of "the endlessly twisting psychodrama that can be New Labour". The imitators queued up thereafter.

But what does the word mean? Paper Monitor consults the online Oxford Dictionaries and discovers that it can be "a form of psychotherapy in which patients act out events from their past" or "a play, film, or novel in which psychological elements are the main interest".

Not, then, as Paper Monitor assumed, a situation whereby one individual gets a job and the other launches a massive, protracted sulk in response.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:20 UK time, Tuesday, 28 September 2010

"That was a great speech. I'm sorry it wasn't mine" - Ed Miliband to brother David on Labour conference platform, according to a lip-reader

The two brothers shook hands and embraced, after the defeated David gave a speech that some have interpreted as his swansong. His brother, the new leader, was self-deprecating and gracious, but probably aware that this brief exchange would unlikely remain private.

Your Letters

15:45 UK time, Monday, 27 September 2010

Re: Should parents have the power to ban school texts? Most shakespeare plays have very strong sexual content (especially ones like Measure for Measure), with very vivid and precise imagery. No book should be banned. Period. Responsibility should be kept with the school to issue books that are.
Ian Oliver @BBC News Magazine

I think Mr Hope might have started something, I wonder how many more we'll see being reported? It's a shame it was only two hours on a Sunday though, how about lunchtime midweek, that should cause suitable distruption.
Jo, Aylesbury (was Reading)

Reading this article made me wonder how one might say 'vituperativeness' in txt spk. V2prtvns?
Mike Dowler, Birmingham, UK

Re: Union tell actors to avoid Hobbit films. Is the second photograph in the story actually a photo from the casting call? Everyone appears to be of regular height, except for the two men towering over them.
Lily, Halifax, NS, Canada

The fact that the boat in this video is named "Bateau Chocolat II" would seem to indicate that his first attempt wasn't quite as successful. Presumably he hoped it would be a Drifter but it ended up Lion on the bottom? Or was there a mutiny on the Bounty?
Edward Green, London, UK

Re: Chocolate boat sets sail in France. I hope he remembers that you can't have your kayak and eat it. Sorry.
MD, Portsmouth

About this quote: "Early results of a survey seem to show that British consumers offered discounts or other promotions on a range of consumer goods display a mental response which resembles that of sexual arousal." Thank you! Haven't had such a good laugh in ages. Will now go and read my IKEA porn in private. (it's not April 1st already, is it?)
Susan.Thomas, Brisbane, Australia

Paper Monitor

14:29 UK time, Monday, 27 September 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

So, Ed Miliband - hit or miss?

Mostly the paper's divide down predictable lines.

The Daily Telegraph's Andrew Gimson skilfully twists Mr Miliband's claim that he is "nobody's man" to frame him as an empty vessel, by way of a literary reference to George Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody (and a bit of a dig at his sister paper).

"Mr Miliband said in an article for yesterday's Sunday Telegraph - an attempt we suppose, to establish himself as Read Ed rather than Red Ed [ouch - was the Sunday Telegraph forced to take the piece?] - that he is 'on the side of the squeezed middle' a description that fits Mr [Charles] Pooter [the book's fictitious diarist]."

The Daily Mail characteristically under-plays Ed's relationship with thwarted brother David:

"Torn apart, the Cain and Abel of Primrose Hill."

And while the Independent unleashes a troika of star political writers to analyse the "Ed Miliband era", none of them can match the Sun's commentator for incisive insight.

"It's troubling to think that Ed could follow [father] Ralph Miliband's socialist leanings. As Karl Marx himself said: 'History repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce.'"

The originator of these remarks? Katie, 25, from Liverpool, whose picture dominates much of the paper's page three.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:09 UK time, Monday, 27 September 2010

"Your government looks like a youth club" - Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak to Nick Clegg

The former Israeli prime minister met Mr Clegg at the United Nations in New York, and immediately gave the fresh-faced 43-year-old his valuable first impressions of the coalition government.

More details (Daily Mail)

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