BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for October 17, 2010 - October 23, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

16:37 UK time, Friday, 22 October 2010

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

1. Baseball bats make good violins.
More details (Radio 4's Americana, on iPlayer)

2. Getting drunk quickly is genetic. More details

3. King penguins flirt with other penguins of the same gender but tend not to settle down with them.
More details

4. Leopards' spots are camouflage.
More details

5. The Vatican likes The Simpsons.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

6. Germans have been blurring their homes on Google Street View.
More details

7. Sparrows eavesdrop on fighting birds.
More details

8. Labradors shake their bodies to dry off at a frequency of 4.3 Hz.
More details (The Guardian)

9. Traces of silver can be found on the moon.

10. A third of iPad owners haven't bothered to download any apps.
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 information panels in Welwyn Garden City.

Your Letters

15:32 UK time, Friday, 22 October 2010

Re What's the Gruffalo about? When I was in Afghanistan last year I was able to read the book and get the recording posted to my 4 year old daughter. She loved it and pestered my fiancee to play it all the time, when I came back it was on the BBC, narrated by James Corden, so we were able to sit down and watch it together. It was a fitting way to bring the recording, book and my daughter and I together. The story is brilliant in that it has the right combination of humour, terror (albeit for children!) and the underlying lesson of brains v brawn. I would recommend this story to anyone with young children.
Matt Rees, Plymouth, England

The Gruffalo is also written in iambic pentameter - fantastic to see something so popular making such a clear nod to great literature and not talking down to children.
RaeHub, UK

Tee hee - doesn't look very stealthy to me.
Simon, Cambridge

Ed Loach (Thursday letters), oh, dear, oh dear. So naive So sweet. [Laughs in a kindly manner.] Toll booths have been abolished here (if you pass through without an electronic tag, they film your numberplate and bill you swingingly). Do we have free-flowing traffic? Of course not. Don't trust the planners. They don't live where they are planning.
Susan Thomas, Brisbane, Australia

That is a bit mean Jing Liew (Thursday letters) - let the "one and only tree" have a share in everything under the sky as well.
Dave, Greenford, UK

I've been reading Magazine Monitor for a while now, but I still have no idea what nominal determinism is (Thursday letters).
Alex Kersting, Flitwick

Paper Monitor

13:20 UK time, Friday, 22 October 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's Friday, the blessed relief of the weekend looms and, presumably, the British public must by now be as punch-drunk from the battery of Spending Review cuts case studies, statistics and ominous foretellings of doom as was Paper Monitor yesterday.

Fleet Street's editors understand this, and pre-empt their readership's wishes with a time-honoured course of action: send in the clowns.

Or, rather, the comedians. Hiring professional stand-ups to write columns as the week draws to a close is a relatively recent phenomenon, and one which papers hope will alleviate our moods even in the post-credit crunch era's grimmest moments.

Hence Frank Skinner in the Times avoids all talk of deficits and forecasts and, instead, concentrates on the news that he has washed his ears barely 10 times in the last 40 years [subscription required].

He continues:

I've never spoken publicly - or, come to think about it, privately - about this before, probably because I wanted to leave open the possibility that not cleaning one's ears is normal. I've considered discussing it in the context of observational stand-up comedy but I never knew whether it would get that glorious laughter of recognition or an uneasy silence. You may be reading this thinking: "What's he talking about? No one actually cleans their ears - well, not in a thorough, exhaustive way. Ears just basically clean themselves."

But then again, you may not.

Frankie Boyle occupies a similar spot in the Sun.

"Apparently Wayne Rooney has refused to sign a new contract," the ex-Mock the Week panellist observes. "Come on Sir Alex, is it really that hard to forge an 'X'?"

But Paper Monitor's biggest laugh of the day is not generated by a professional stand-up but by Marina Hyde in the Guardian, who constructs a deadpan refutation of the oft-voiced suggestion that the "close friends" used to source stories in celebrity magazines may in fact be made up:

In fact, the reporters of Now magazine, and all others like it, spend months, often years, cultivating a network of high-level whistleblowers, who are met bi-weekly in underground parking garages, where they dispense history-altering investigative advice such as "follow the money" and "Kerry begs Mark: take me back".

Paper Monitor bids you a pleasant weekend.

Caption Competition

12:59 UK time, Friday, 22 October 2010


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week it was a clown taking some time out at the 15th International Clown Convention in Mexico City.

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

6. leroyrampa
The 'Faking It' contestant found it easier than expected to pass himself off as an MP.

5. Raven
Hampshire Police finally trace the culprit after issuing their lettuce-head e-fit

4. Woolfbane
As Porn Cinema disguises go, it sure beats a raincoat.

3. BeckySnow
Woman walks out of cinema when her date's 'GSOH' becomes apparent.

2. leroyrampa
I can't believe they used 'Comic Sans' for the poster.

1. Cairngorm McWomble
As Mr Osborne announced the demise of the Ministry of Silly Walks, the clowns knew they'd be next.

Friday's Quote of the Day

10:57 UK time, Friday, 22 October 2010

"That's a big deal, a gargantuan deal" - US General Hugh Shelton's reaction to Bill Clinton allegedly losing a card containing launch codes for America's nuclear arsenal when he was president.

Gen Shelton, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, makes the claim in his autobiography. He says Mr Clinton lost the codes in 2000 "for months". "He couldn't recall when he had last seen them," says Gen Shelton.

Your Letters

15:59 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

Talking of "mischievously suspicious" minds (Paper Monitor), I was always told that one should not behave too MISchievously, but recently have found myself preferring to act a little misCHIEvously ....any advice on which would be the "correct" pronunciation?...the latter certainly sounds more fun to me.
Mike, Milan

Re Is it legal to forage for fruit, fungi and foliage? What is under the sky will be share by all except that one and only tree.
Jing Liew @BBC_Magazine

Surely Magazine Monitor, you should know when the Chancellor invokes you by name? "The BBC will take from the Government the responsibility for funding the BBC Monitor. That amounts to some £340 million of savings a year for the Exchequer by 2014-15." I blame it all on the LBQ keyring overspend. Mind you, as about the only person named in detail, you doubtless feel flattered!
Rahere, Smithfield

Wonder if I am the first to spot this little piece of nominal determinism (Mr Woods).
Paddy, Liverpool, UK

Re What's so wrong with Comic Sans? It's Comic, sans the funny, or entertaining, or engaging.
It's the kind of font Ricky Gervais would use. And I don't mean David Brent, I mean Ricky Gervias, because frankly we know they're the same person.
Luke Charmander @BBC_Magazine

So the Dartford Crossing tolls are set to rise to help fund research into how to improve traffic flow. It's not difficult - get rid of the toll booths.
Ed Loach, Clacton, UK

Gosh, winter seems to have arrived with a vengeance today. I'll get my coat.
Adam, London, UK

Paper Monitor

10:50 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Is anyone else feeling like Paper Monitor this morning... a little hung over?

But it is not excess food, alcohol or - for those of you with mischievously suspicious minds - recreational drugs that are causing Paper Monitor's brain cells to seize up.

No, severe data overdose in the wake of yesterday's Spending Review is to blame for this headache.

And this morning's papers aren't helping.

The Daily Mail promises an "indispensable guide to the cuts", the Times offers a pullout guide and the Guardian provides something similar, snappily titled "Comprehensive spending review 2010" in a masthead of doom-laden grey.

Each struggles manfully to tell us who are the winners and losers.

Winners seem a bit thin on the ground, though the Guardian identifies bankers, schools, science, older people and, erm, dinky couples. (Dual income, no kids yet).

The Times identifies middle income families, single parents, the long-term sick and young adults in its roll call of losers, while several papers note it's bad news for the Queen.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph goes through household income band-by-band, before declaring: "Everyone's a loser".

But Paper Monitor's throbbing brow is soothed somewhat by some of the delightful juxtapositions on this grim day.

The fact the Times's cuts pullout is contained within its foodie supplement, Table, contrives to place its front page opposite a piece highlighting the merits of white chocolate and green tea.

The writer claims that white chocolate's reputation as being "mawkishly sweet... like an embarrassing aunt who's overdone it on the Tweed," is unfair:

White chocolate paired with antioxidant-rich matcha green tea is more like an aunt in wasabi-green Issey Miyake than a chiffon floral two-piece.

The combination has been used in "tiramisu, a sauce for salmon and a box of rather pricey truffles I bought from a chocolatier", it continues.

Nice to see someone - and their aunt - are doing well, considers Paper Monitor.

The Daily Express's front page reports how a "furious backlash" is growing against the government's decision to protect the overseas aid budget.

"If Britain is so broke," it declares, the "foreign aid bill must be cut too".

This alongside a photograph of Katrin Radmacher the "£100m heiress" who has won a court battle to have her pre-nuptial agreement upheld.

But Paper Monitor's favourite is the Daily Star's splash about Wayne Rooney's "terror" after receiving death threats from Manchester United fans angered by his transfer request.

The tale of "fans fury at £2m a month demand" relegates news of the chancellor's "£7bn off welfare" to two short paragraphs on the left-hand side, with the rest buried on page 9.

Paper Monitor still doesn't understand the effect of the cuts but is left wondering: are we really all in this together?

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:45 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

"We expect our officers to be out on the beat, not searching in the undergrowth for trolleys" - Kent resident Laurence Graves rails against the county constabulary for sending two officers to recover shopping trolleys.

The 54-year-old plumber was outraged that the officers accompanied a council worker to collect 43 abandoned trolleys during a two-hour clean-up, at a time when the force is laying off 500 staff.

"Surely it is Tesco's job to do that," he complained.

More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

17:32 UK time, Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Does any one in Monitor Towers know what the legal position is if I find the winning Euromillions ticket?
MCK, Stevenage

Monitor: You'd have to fight this person for it... unless this person is you MCK... in which case, has Monitor ever told you how much of a fan it is of your regular missives MCK? So witty, so erudite, such a way with words etc

Your article on a nation's birth certificate. While in the Philippines we decided to get a copy of my mother-in-law's birth certificate. We did not know her date of birth. When we went to the local registry we discovered that no birth, marriage and death certificates existed from prior to 1945; the Japanese had destroyed them. This has made life complicated for people born or married prior to 1945. Fortunately for some people, many church records were not destroyed and we were able to find a record my mother-in-law's baptism.
Nicholas, Streatham

Re your lead story today, I quite like the Comic Sans font but don't like bunnies much. So I will use it as often as I can from now on.
Alan Addison, Glasgow, UK

World's longest cat? Pfft, such a disservice to the true longcat.
Si, Leeds

So, stock photo of "new mother in hospital with baby" is Chrissie from Holby with baby Daniel in the infamous pea suit? Chortle chortle.
Lucy Jones, Northwich

From the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer:
Dear MM,
Please note that as part of the government's ongoing plans to cut £1.30 from your budget, the following changes will need to be made as soon as possible:
1) From today only people called David, Jane or Percival will be allowed to have letters published.
2) Only letters originating from within 5 km of MM HQ will be published.
3) Comic Sans is to be used for all future MM posts and letters published.
4) The closure of the coat room so that users of the service will be required to keep their coats with them at all times.
5) A decision of whether or not to renew MM's nuclear deterrent will be made in 2016.
6) The following quangos are to be abolished: G.O.B (Gender Obfuscation Board.
Yours sincerely,
UN Derling, Treasury Dept.

Monitor: More details in the Spending Review special report we presume.

Tom H, (Tuesday's letters) I've accidentally handwritten something, in pen, in capital letters. It's on blue paper. Google can't help. Can you?
Kat Gregg, Coventry

Paper Monitor

10:52 UK time, Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Much of the country may be awaiting the government's Spending Review with trepidation.

But as the momentous announcement loomed, Fleet Street is whooping for joy at that most serendipitous of commodities - a ministerial mishap.

Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander inadvertently revealed the number of public sector jobs due to be axed, when a document he was reading was photographed through the window of his official car.

Presumably, this is not news that said civil servants will greet with much enthusiasm. But the papers are keen to trumpet the disclosure as the result of what the Daily Mail describes as a "minister's gaffe".

The Daily Mirror, not generally noted for its enthusiasm towards the coalition and its many doings, headlines its double-page spread "YOU MUPPET!" above photographs helpfully highlighting the alleged likeness between Mr Alexander and the Jim Henson character Beaker.

In case this doesn't quite convey the newspaper's attitude towards the minister, it opens its report by referring to him as "Blundering Treasury axeman Danny Alexander".

The Daily Telegraph is kinder, describing Mr Alexander as having "unwittingly disclosed the full scale of the expected redundancies".
The Guardian offers some insight into why the papers love nothing more than a carelessly non-concealed document in its history of "not-so-secret briefings".

These include ex-housing minister Caroline Flint accidentally flashing a briefing paper predicting a house price crash while on her way to Downing Street in 2008; senior police officer Bob Quick revealing an impending counter-terrorism raid in the same manner a year later; and Mr Alexander's boss Nick Clegg helpfully showing the Conservatives his hand when a list of his demands were captured in his hands by a photographer as he made his way to coalition negotiations.

Surely there will be more to add to this list in future. Fleet Street can only hope.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

10:20 UK time, Wednesday, 20 October 2010

"I've turned the house upside down... He loses everything I give him" - an unnamed pensioner who claims she bought the UK's biggest-ever winning lottery ticket, but her absent-minded husband threw it away.

The woman, said to be in her 70s and from Coventry, claims her husband inadvertently put the EuroMillions coupon, worth £113m, out with the rubbish. She says she forgives him, but adds ruefully that he has form: "Only last night I found a lottery ticket that had won £10 in the bin by luck."

More details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

16:21 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Congratulations to Paper Monitor for writing a football/soap opera piece without mentioning Home and Away.
Nicolas, London, UK

First ever Mag quiz full marks. not bad for an Essex girl. I'll get my lab coat...
Caroline, Southend, Essex

Monitor: Er Caroline, it wasn't a Magazine quiz.

To Nuno Aragao of Portugal (Monday letters) I would say that it is probably the laws of chemistry, not history, which have been rewritten by this rusty brass coin - until now, it was only iron that rusted.
Paul Morris, Cheriton Fitzpaine, Devon, UK

Why were the people who organised the too-short half-marathon never ever there for cross-country at school, when I could have needed them?
Michael Hall, Croydon, UK

Sue (Monday letters) - there's two actually - I'd make that reason enough.
Ralph, Chatham, Kent

Amy (Monday letters), how is emailing MM easier than googling "shift F3 Excel"? Nevertheless, try using =UPPER(), =LOWER() and =PROPER() and you'll achieve the right result. Other options include downloading the excellent ASAP utilities for a wide-range of extra Excel functionality including text options.
Tom H, North London

I find the letters page is far more exciting if I've actually sent in a letter that might have been published. Hence this letter.
Alex Knibb, Bristol, UK

Paper Monitor

11:10 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Ah, how the papers love a good soap opera - the big personalities, their fall-outs and flirtations with rivals from up the road and the treachery that lurks around every corner.

Last week it was Brookside that dominated page after page.

Or at least it was a case of the Scouse soap meets Dallas, in the form of the ownership saga at Liverpool Football Club.

The storyline drew to a tragi-comic close at the weekend with the Corkhills putting one over the Dixons, despite their feeling flush after selling the house to JR Ewing.

And with the Merseyside plot simmering down for a while (although Paper Monitor wonders whether a few of the stars will be farmed out on loan to Hollyoaks), Fleet Street's focus turns to Coronation Street.

Former Brookie star Wayne Rooney - a kind of footballing Sinbad turned Jerry Morton - has fallen out with the Ken Barlow of Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson himself.

And the sports hacks have a field day at the prospect of him going off to work in Mike Baldwin's factory, now based at the City of Manchester Stadium.

According to the Sun, relations between Ferguson and Rooney have soured since the striker started hitting the headlines over his private life more often than the back of the net:

Disgusted boss Sir Alex has totally blanked the England star, leaving him no option but to seek a transfer from Manchester United. A source close to 24-year-old Roo, who has refused to sign a new contract, said last night: "To say relations are strained is a massive understatement - they haven't spoken for a month."

The paper even prints a mischievous photo of how Rooney might look in the sky blue strip of United's rivals.

The Daily Mirror joins in the chants. "Blue Roon," it bellows, in a pun-tastic tweak on the favourite chant of the faithful at Manchester City, who are said to be preparing a £100m bid.

But, rather like player and boss, sports writers are not united over where Rooney may head next.

The Sun's back page suggests he could be leaving the back-to-back terraces of Weatherfield for good - destination Eastenders.

Well, actually, sorry West Ham fans. Paper Monitor could not think of a suitably well-known soap to continue the analogy to west London, where Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti is said to be "monitoring Roo's crumbling relationship" with Fergie.

And the Independent weighs up the chances of a move to Eldorado, although it suggests the resort's big spenders Real Madrid and Barcelona may not have the right supporting cast to integrate another star name.

Should they make a bid, however, Paper Monitor suggests Rooney look closely at the fate of Eldorado's ex-pats before agreeing to become the next Marcus Tandy.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

10:43 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

"For those who are very career-orientated, the ukulele is a great release" - George Hinchliffe, of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, which is offering lessons in the instrument to stressed-out city workers.

The orchestra reports a "massive growth" in the number of firms requesting ukulele instruction. Mr Hinchliffe says demand is driven by people who "can afford the new Porsche or the new speedboat but who are not too happy with the way the rest of their life is going".

More details (The Guardian)

Your Letters

15:07 UK time, Monday, 18 October 2010

So Chris Huhne thinks that Dungeness in Kent is not a suitable location for a nuclear power station for 'environmental reasons' (eight nuclear locations outlined). I'd venture to suggest that another good reason is that there's already one there.
Sue, London

Today's BBC News website contains a story about a study showing the beneficial effects of dark chocolate on diabetics' cholesterol. What rubbish! The study was on 12 subjects ... that's right, 12 not 12,000. The positive results were minimal. Basically, the study demonstrated absolutely nothing of any value to diabetics.
Cheris Mather, Westerham, Kent

What history rewriting are you planning? African, Asian and Far-East nations were known to do a lot of trading, as accounted by Pero da Covilha and Afonso de Paiva in the XIVth Century. And that XVth Century coin may have already travelled on portuguese ships.
Nuno Aragao, Aveiro, Portugal

Regarding the robot pharmacy story - all very well, but the tech savvy will have spotted that the article mentions the use of iPads but in the video the gentleman is clearly using a generic tablet running Windows XP ... is this a case of terminology confusion? It's fair to say that before the iPad most people had probably never seen a tablet computer...
Russ Tarbox, London, UK

Is it just me, or is putting this (First Click: It's Get Online Week) on the homepage next to this headline (Cyber-crime 'a top threat to UK') more than a bit unfortunate?
Carina, Southampton

I have to say, the Emir of Qatar doesn't look too chuffed to be coming to see us.
Catherine O, Maidenhead, UK

"Mr Tarrant's lawyer Nick Freeman - known as Mr Loophole - pleaded guilty on behalf of his client" (Tarrant fined for speeding). Time for a change of nickname perhaps?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

My mum tought Dennis Wise art! (Monday's Quote of the Day) - He was useless.
Joe, Cardiff, UK

Hey, Ed, Clacton, UK (Friday's letters) Stop being so hetronormative!
Andrew , Belfast

Many many moons ago, I learned the magic trick of Shift-F3 to counteract my Caps Lock problem, thanks to contributors to Your Letters. Unfortunately however, this only seems to work in Word, so I was wondering, do any of you wonderful people know a similar trick for Excel? Me and my chubby fingers will be forever grateful!
Amy, London

Paper Monitor

10:43 UK time, Monday, 18 October 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The big political announcement of the week has been made today in the Daily Mail.

It's a revelation so significant that it threatens to overshadow the second-biggest event on Wednesday (something George Osborne wants to tell us, apparently).

Sadie, David Blunkett's guide dog, is to retire.

The former home office minister writes a poignant column about his trusty companion, now 10, who took the reins harness in 2003 and has served alongside three Labour leaders.

Sadie is Mr Blunkett's third guide dog since he entered the Commons in 1987. She has been petted by the Queen and George W Bush (Paper Monitor note: isn't it appropriate to pet guide dogs?) and she barked at Vladimir Putin.

She also fell asleep, snoring, under the table at a meeting of the European Union in Brussels, proving that some meetings test the mettle of even the most dedicated among us.

His second dog, Lucy, was once trodden on by Tony Blair during Prime Minister's Questions, and yelped so loudly that she prompted an apology from the then Labour leader, which was recorded in Hansard.

Much as Paper Monitor enjoyed reading Mr Blunkett's reflections on life with Sadie, it can't help wonder why Sadie herself did not pen her own valedictory words. After all, this is the dog that once wrote a series of columns in the Sun.

Sadie's early forays into journalism, eagerly watched in these pages, gave some of her canine colleagues the confidence to find their own voice, sparking columns elsewhere from Buster and Hercules.

As she prepares to swap the hotbed of the Commons for a life of carefree country walks with a new family, Sadie can reflect on her pioneering work in pooch equality.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:59 UK time, Monday, 18 October 2010

"I asked him to prove that he was one of the world's greatest artists by drawing something" - Three drinkers in Soho challenge Damien Hirst to prove he isn't ex-footballer Dennis Wise

The resemblance between Hirst and the former Chelsea player with a short fuse was only slight, even 11 years ago, but Hirst proved his identity by doodling a picture of his three inquisitors. Now the drawing is to be auctioned in London for charity.

Full details (Guardian)

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