BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for October 31, 2010 - November 6, 2010

10 things we didn't know this time last week

04:44 UK time, Saturday, 6 November 2010

10 pedaloes on the River Dee

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

1. Tea parties were invented in the 1830s.
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2. Which means that the 1773 Boston Tea Party wasn't known by that name until more than 60 years after the event. At the time it was referred to as "the destruction of the tea".
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3. Adult kingfishers need to catch about 5,000 fish a year to thrive.
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4. Dick Bruna, the man famous for creating children's character Miffy, also created the stick man with a halo in the Saint TV series.
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5. Smokers on average, according to one reckoning, spend an hour a day on fag breaks.
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6. Chips implanted in the eye can, under certain circumstances, let the blind see.
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7. Just thinking you're fit might help you avoid getting colds.
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8. Having fewer brothers and sisters can be good for your education.
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9. It's not just in comedy films that babies can fall from tall buildings, bounce on awnings and be caught by a passer-by.
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10. And it's not just in sci-fi films that holograms can be sent as messages.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Jane Lidstone for the picture of 10 pedaloes on the River Dee.

Your Letters

16:06 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010

In Thursday's Quote of the Day, "a passing doctor caught" the toddler who had fallen from an apartment six storeys above. It was very lucky a doctor was in the area at the time to catch this unharmed child. Imagine the toddler had been caught by a librarian, car mechanic, postal worker, etc...
Jonathan, Freising, Germany

Regarding Who, What, Why: What is a 'shellacking'? I suspect the term is rather more likely to have been mutated from shillelagh and the Irish gangs in NY.
Warren, Gloucestershire, UK

Disoriented, PM???? A whole missing syllable? PM's a yank for sure.
PollySaxon, Lichfield

Faustino (Wednesday's letters), I suspect the white rhino would have been easily digestible had Paul (Monday's letters) cooked it the same way he does his sprouts.
Tamsin, Exeter

Re: Language barrier. The aforementioned north-of-England boyfriend and I have now agreed to call supper "dinner", instead of tea. This article may enlighten other northerners. Clarification for southerners: To a northerner, "tea" is meat and two veg at 6pm and "supper" is biscuits at 9pm. "Dinner" is a big meal, regardless of time, therefore a northerner can have his dinner at lunch time or at tea time. Is that more or less clearer than the rules of cricket?
Susan, Newcastle (previously Kent)

Enough of 'Luff-burr-a', 'Loog-baroog' or even 'Loogerborooger'. When I lived there, it was always 'Low-brow', rhyming with cow.
OG Nash, Doha, Qatar

Fi, Wednesday's letters: Where I dwell, it is uttered as "Bwahahahahaha-th." I'll get my Cloak of Abysmal Dread...
The Dark Lord Z'az'thzar, The Land of Shadow, aka the Isle of Wight

Re: Saturday nights. As I work away most of the time, Saturday nights are for going out for a meal with my family. At least that's what I tell them. So it's neither elaborate nor clever, but it is a highly effective Strictly/X Factor avoidance technique...
Moose, Cambridge, UK

While I haven't seen it with my own eyes, I'm fairly sure there was invisibility before being made famous by Harry Potter.
Liz, Poole

Paper Monitor

12:30 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

After yesterday's responses on the matter of whether there could possibly be anyone out there whose Saturday nights are dominated neither by X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing, Paper Monitor's perverse imagination took hold...

"Question of virtue! Timewatch takes on Elizabeth I chastity claims " - the Sun

"Cliff-hanger - are Shetland or Scillies Britain's best shoreline? BBC TV poll too Coast to call" - the Star

"Highbrow C4 documentary about World War II is actually really good" - the Daily Mirror

OK, enough already about possible tabloid takes on alternate Saturday night TV viewing. It being Thursday, the dominance of X Factor and Strictly on the red tops' front pages has subsided, but there's still life in Paper Monitor's other theme du jour - Poppywatch.

After yesterday's Daily Mail expose of Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow's refusal to wear a poppy, until Remembrance Sunday, Roy Hattersley wades into the argument in the pages of said paper.

"Poppy fascists?" runs the headline of the piece, appropriating Snow's perhaps unfortunate terminology.

Not surprisingly, given the paper in which Hattersley has decided to record his thoughts, this does not appear to be a robust defence of Snow.

But things get a little confusing when the former shadow chancellor seizes on the BBC's alleged policy of requiring "everyone who appears on its channels to wear a poppy - rather as they are obliged to have their hair brushed".

"I understand the annoyance [Snow] might feel if, on entering the studio, a young production assistant hurries up to him offering to pin a poppy to his lapel. That represents all the synthetic emotion which characterises television at its worst."

So is Snow's refusal to wear the poppy that he has apparently already brought, not a sign of independence of thought trumping so-called "television executive's diktat[s]"?

For its part, the Independent's iconoclastic young offspring, i, is not wearing a poppy on its front page - and editor Simon Kelner has written a short piece on why that is.

"[M]any newspapers already have the red poppy... on their front pages. And you will also see that it is not on the front page of i. This is not because we are dogmatic: far from it. It's because we believe that wearing a poppy is a matter of individual choice for you."

Well, at least it's a paper that knows its mind. But what's this...

"After all many soldiers died protecting our freedoms. One the other hand, a poppy on our front page would promote awareness and be a mark of respect. That's why you will see one on 11 November itself."

Eh? And just when you are completely disoriented by this logic, Kelner declares: "That said, it's your paper, and if you believe we should sport a poppy earlier, let us know why. We are certainly prepared to reconsider."

So, that, er, settles that.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

10:46 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010

"I usually close it to stop it catching fire as people tend to throw their cigarette butts onto it" - Cafe owner in Paris, whose open awning broke the fall of an 18-month-old boy plummeting from an apartment six storeys above.

The circumstances of the accident are unclear, but the toddler had been playing at home when he somehow fell from the balcony and landed on the cafe awning below. In a stroke of remarkable luck, a passing doctor caught him as he bounced off unharmed.
More details (The Journal)

Your Letters

15:14 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Re: the story about elephant smuggling: how? You'd need a darned big case... or perhaps a trunk?
PollySaxon, Lichfield

Front page subheading: "Your views:'Very Worrying.'" Does this mean the BBC is scared for its readers sanity?
Edd, Cardiff

I'd have thought the question of whether there's an R in Bath (Tuesday's letters), depends largely on whether or not you're a pirate. Ba-HAAARRRR-th is what they say where I'm from. I'll get me cutlass...
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Re: the pronunciation of Loughborough (Tuesday's letters). From my neck of the woods, i.e. just north of Leicestershire, it's definitely Luff-burr-a. But how fondly I remember the day when I was asked by an Australian tourist: "Excuse me mate, any idea how to get to Loog-baroog...?"
Daniel, London

Personally, every time I see Loughborough on a road sign or similar, a little voice in my head says "Loogerborooger".
Claire, London

Nick (Tuesday's letters), Paul (Monday's letters),
ugh! just the thought of masticating over-cooked, olive-green sprouts (ditto broccoli) puts me off eating my greens... try al dente!
Sven, Basel, Switzerland

Given the famous teeth, "teething problems" seems rather harsh.
Sarah, Nantwich

Your Science & Environment page has an item "Stephen Fry feeds baby white rhino". Surely the baby would not have been able to chew such food?
Faustino, Brisbane, Australia

Paper Monitor

10:11 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"The prisoners' pin-up" - gosh, which lovely lass could this headline possibly be referring to?

Charlotte Church in the Daily Mail, showing off her reupholstered figure (she's gained a stone to get back the curves lost her recent weight loss)? Kelly Brook in, oh, any of the red tops, any day? Let's try a curveball - The Apprentice's Stella in the Sun, compared to an "Amsterdam hooker" by the blessed Nick Hewer in tonight's task?

Nope. It's Ann Widdecombe. So called in the Independent. The In-de-pend-ent. Quite a mental image, you'll agree.

Ann Widdecombe and Anton du Beke



She is, as noted by the Guardian on Tuesday, a well upholstered type, although not in the mould of Church or Brook:

"She cuts an extraordinary figure - short, slim, but almost capsized by a colossal bosom that she refers to as 'my upper circumference'"...


So what is the Indy on about? It's a Matthew Norman thinkpiece on "Miss Strangelove... How We Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Ann Widdecombe".

The headline calls Ms W the "prisoners' pin-up" but it gets even more extraordinary he compares the former prisons minister - who famously defended the practice of handcuffing female inmates during childbirth - to Liesl in The Sound of Music and Eliza "My Fair Lady" Doolittle, both of whom wanted to dance all night with their sweethearts. Why? If you need to ask, you are clearly an X Factor fan and not a viewer of Strictly Come Dancing.*

"Remember these filmic archetypes of dreamy ingenues on the cusp of erotic self-discovery and... alright, alright, maybe Widders doesn't leap balletically to mind. But the craving for affection is there in every coy glance at Du Beke, every coquettish exchange with Craig Revel Horwood."

Add to that the "echo of the little girl in the pink tutu dreaming of being Margot Fonteyn, but betrayed by genetics - and the cocktail is irresistible".

It certainly is. Among the other papers to latch onto her sudden transformation from Doris Karloff to national treasure is the Mail and the Daily Express, which throws what appears to be a random collection of words into her front page quote box:

  • "perils of drink"
  • "pigs as pets"
  • "Charleston"


Anyone who laid a bet back in her Home Office days that a future interview might run this gamut is truly in the money.

And finally, Poppy Watch notes that the Daily Telegraph's remembrance bloom - big and bold on Monday, absent on Tuesday - is back, albeit of somewhat diminished proportions to its start of the week incarnation.

A crisis of confidence at Telegraph Towers? Or did it simply lose the pin?

* Horror of horrors - there is apparently a third option in the Strictly or X Factor tribalism debate. Word has reached Paper Monitor that some people actually fall into neither camp - choosing either to watch, gasp, another channel or, can this be correct, to disregard TV altogether on a Saturday evening. Sounds spurious, but let's give this a whirl - is there anyone out there who isn't tuned to either BBC One or ITV1 between 6.15pm and 9.30pm on Saturdays? What do you do? Answers through the comments box below.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

08:26 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

"The central objective is to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga" - synopsis of a new undergraduate course at the University of South Carolina

In a move that will infuriate educational purists, students in South Carolina will soon be knuckling down to study the woman behind such memorable works as Poker Face and Paparazzi. Sociology professor Mathieu Deflem says the course will consider the meat-clad singer as a "social event". Maybe this Magazine piece will be on the reading list.
Full details (Daily Telegraph)

Your Letters

14:55 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Rob, former Midlander (Letters, Monday), how do you pronounce English words "as they are spelt"? Have English spellings suddenly become phonetic?
Stellsie, Up North

Really Rob? How do you pronounce Loughborough then?
Libby, Coleford, Somerset (near Bath, pronounced Barth, natch)

I have to agree with Rob - I'm from the Midlands too, and we always pronounce words exactly as we spell them. Althowe I awt to point out that some people suggest we haven't taken a very thuruh approach to lexical accuracy, and that we've not thort this throo.
Kat Gregg, Coventry

I promise I didn't write in as "Rob of London" just so I could mention again my moment of fame!
Susan, Newcastle

Staines-upon-Thames? Somebody phone BP, that oil slick is still expanding.
Alexander Lewis Jones, Nottingham, UK

Oh no! "Hopes to end the common cold." No more using Man Flu as an excuse to get out of... Ow! I think I've done my back in.
Graham, Purmerend NL

Fear not, Paul (Monday Letters)! They only need 6 weeks in the microwave. Better hurry up though: you've only got until the 13th to cut all the little crosses in the bottoms.
Nick, Tokyo

Paper Monitor

11:09 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor feels reborn. It is no longer the most miserable day of the year, at least as far as the Canary Islands Tourist Board is concerned.

And as an antidote to Monday's gloom, Tuesday has brought a host of uplifting stories.

The Daily Mail offers the promise of summertime street parties, of neighbours coming together to eat sticky buns over Union Jack-bedecked trestle tables, by announcing that Kate Middleton's parents have: "a Royal wedding in their sights."

Apparently, the couple have been guests at a private shooting party on the Queen's Scottish estate, in the "clearest sign yet that Kate and Prince William are poised to announce their engagement".

If royal occasions aren't your thing then turn to the front page of the Independent, where there is the promise of a cure for the common cold.

Pills or powders cold could be on the market within a decade, thanks to a breakthrough by scientists in Cambridge, it says.

Paper Monitor thought it could not get any better on seeing page three of the Daily Express, headlined:"Mia-ouch!".

Royal Mail staff have got themselves in a flap about a cat attacking their posties.

They are refusing to put mail through the letter box behind which Lana, the 18-month-old tortoiseshell, lurks in wait.

But even Paper Monitor's love for a good funny animal tale was topped by a funny shaped vegetable, courtesy of the Daily Mirror:

Gardener Stuart Boulton was toe-tally amazed - after growing a carrot in the shape of a foot... Stuart has already popped it in a pot to make soup. He said: "It was delicious... and it didn't taste a bit sweaty."

To satisfy the more sceptical readers, Mr Boulton even pictures his own foot alongside his prized vegetable, complete with five root-like digits.

Enough frivolity, however, because there are some important Poppy Watch developments to report.

The Times has joined the party, albeit in an understated way. As if to distinguish itself from the Daily Telegraph, which started the week by wearing a huge emblem alongside its masthead, it has pinned the tiniest of poppies to its lapel. Full marks for giving it two leaves and wearing the stalk at a jaunty angle, mind.

But wait, the Telegraph's flower has disappeared completely. What has gone wrong? Has this most traditional of papers turned its back on the UK's armed forces? Were its sub-editors so disgusted at the front-page story reporting the SAS may have to take orders from the French that they tore it from the front in disgust?

Or did the staff simply suffer from Paper Monitor's annual difficulty - the poppy that drops off on public transport, leaving a solitary pin destined to pierce the chest at any available opportunity?

Perhaps, they could take a leaf from Simon Cowell's book. As the Mail reports, the X Factor judge has been wearing a crystal-encrusted poppy with pride.

The £84.99 brooch is one of a number of designer emblems being sold in aid of the Royal British Legion. Paper Monitor will probably stick to the normal version. At the rate they get lost, it could end up being a very expensive year.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:17 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010

"The problem is if we suddenly called ourselves Staines-upon-Thames people would think it was another Staines" - Curtis Jenkins, chair of the Staines Town Society, on plans to rebrand Ali G's stamping ground.

The Surrey town, best known as the home of Sacha Baron Cohen's character and his "massive", is the subject of a bid by the Spelthorne Business Forum to change its name. The organisation's Alex Tribick hopes the new title will counter portrayals of Staines as "an urban wasteland off the end of the M25". But Mr Jenkins disagrees, adding: "People know that Staines is Staines."

More details (The Guardian)

Your Letters

15:35 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010

Wasn't it a travel agent that commissioned the research concluding January was the worst day of the year? January or November? Which month is the worst? There's only one way to find out...
Edd, Cardiff

Has Belfast film-maker found time travel evidence? No. But he has found a load of publicity for his work.
Les, Wolverhampton

Cotswold flasher bitten by victim's dog: sooo nearly the perfect story. Perhaps they should teach this at obedience classes? You got your coat, man, you should have kept it on.
Diane, Sutton

Ah, if only that flasher had been here rather than in the Cotswolds, you headline writer could have had so much fun...
Sue, London

Stewart (Friday Letters), it's nothing new. The predominantly southern-based media consistently speak of carstles, grarss, and barths, amongst many other examples. In the Midlands, where I am originally from, we at least pronounce words as they are spelled.
Rob, London, UK

I forgot to put the sprouts on for Christmas. Should I use the pressure cooker or is it too late?
Paul, Milton Keynes

Paper Monitor

10:51 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Harrumph. Paper Monitor is in a bad mood. And Fleet Street's hacks appear to be conspiring to make matters worse.

"Clock horror, it's glumday," announces the Daily Express on page seven.

Today is officially the most miserable day of the year. As temperatures plunge, clocks go back and with government cuts set to bite, millions of Britons are slumping into a gloomy mood.

As many as 66% will be depressed today, according to a poll, with 47% saying they hate this time of year and 48% say they feel more tired.

Paper Monitor is a little confused, having previously understood that January was when misery was most likely to chill the heart, until spotting the source of the survey - that well-respected polling organisation, the Canary Islands Tourist Board.

Never a publication to shy away from being the bearer of bad news, the Express excels itself today by predicting a £3bn raid on families and pensioners by the taxman on page one.

Page seven warns how London's stand-in fire crews could not cope with a major blaze above a story prophesising that road deaths "will soar" as councils switch off street lamps to save cash.

Add to all this more blanket coverage of aeroplane bomb plots across all the dailies and it is enough to drive Paper Monitor to drink.

But, hang on, if scientists quoted in the Times are to be believed, alcohol is a "bigger demon than heroin, crack or ecstasy".

Perhaps a bit more exercise is what's needed - a lunchtime visit to the gym - isn't that supposed to reduce stress and lighten one's mood?

Not according to the Daily Telegraph, which warns: "Stay out of the office gym."

"Physical activity can stave off depression but only if it is fun and not done while at work, research suggests," it explains, reporting a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Reaching a new low, Paper Monitor was about to seek cheer in the Daily Mirror's free toy - a Lego piranha, apparently - when gently reminded of the day's duties.

Principally, Poppy Watch. Apologies, readers, it may now be but a distant memory but in that de-mob happy state that Friday morning inspired, Paper Monitor neglected to keep you apprised of the first appearance of the remembrance flowers on front pages.

It was left to the letters page to point out that all the red-tops and middle market papers were proudly sporting poppies - the Daily Mail leading on size, but the Express on artistic merit.

And today, the Telegraph has entered the fray, making use of the wide-open space of its broadsheet format to display a poppy that, while leafless, is nigh-on lifesize. How will its upmarket rivals respond without obscuring headlines or front-page pictures?

The anticipation provides Paper Monitor with some cheer - perhaps life is not so bad, after all.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:41 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010

"Those bums are all there for dramatic, cumulative effect" - In a re-discovered sketch, the late Dudley Moore plays a writer defending his swear words.

Bootleg recordings of the celebrated comedy series Not Only... But Also - thought to have been lost after the BBC wiped its master tapes - have been found. In one routine, Peter Cook plays a script editor excising profanity from Moore's writings - a scenario likely to amuse latter-day fans, given that the pair would become notorious for the expletive-laden Derek and Clive tapes.

More details (The Times) [Subscription required]

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