BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for November 7, 2010 - November 13, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

18:05 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

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

1. You must be 16 to buy Christmas crackers.
More details

2. George W Bush read about 95 books a year when US president.
More details (Guardian)

3. Turtles breathe in to float.
More details

4. Nazis coined the verb coventrierung (literally, to coventrate) to describe total annihilation of a city - Coventry - through aerial bombardment.
More details

5. One in five people only clean their homes at weekends.
More details

6. A cat's tongue moves at one metre per second when lapping milk.
More details

7. The tomb of the unknown soldier was originally the idea of a padre called David Railton.
More details

8. Aerial massed acrobatics performed by starlings at this time of year are called "murmurations".
More details

9. Bush crickets have the biggest testicles of any animal, in relation to body weight.
More details

10. People daydream for nearly half of their waking hours.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Carol Walthew for this week's picture of 10 seagulls perched on a crossbar.

Your Letters

15:39 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

Regarding the record £43m Chinese vase: "A posting on the auctioneer's blog said: "It is a masterpiece. If only it could talk." They want the moon on a stick! I'm sure if it could talk it would be worth even more than £43m, but can't they be satisfied with the astronomical amount it sold for without wishing for the vase to possess magical features as well?
Martin, Bristol, UK

"Teenagers sending 120 text messages a day are more likely to drink, smoke and have sex" according to this story. How do they have time for all that?
Jim, Coventry

Your header today "computers of future will be size of a sugar cube". I can see us needing to file our nails into points to type on the keys!
JennyT, NY Brit

Nomination for worst sentence on the website today: "But was Sir Winston really such a utilitarian - the philosophical term given to those who strive to bring about the greatest gain for the greatest number, even though that means making painful sacrifices?" Looks like someone is keen to show off their homework.
EHL, Jersey

So, angry parents of Zoe Renault have tried to make their namesake car manufacturer change its mind about calling a new model the Zoe. I often wondered why they misspelt the name Clio, but it was obviously under pressure from the Egyptian Queen's descendants.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

To Dennis (Thursday letters), what about the success of being the sixth richest nation in the world (by GDP according to the World Bank).
Peter Douglas, Brussels (formerly Edinburgh)

Objection! Whilst very funny, "amuse-pooch" is quite clearly a pun, m'lud. Hmmm, but what could the Magazine Monitor possibly do to provide Monitorites with an outlet for all these excellent puns...
Sue, London

Caption Competition

14:16 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

Dogs eat at doggie diner

This week it was the launch of the UK's first pop-up doggy diner in London. Dogs can eat at the diner, relax and have a tummy rub. It's to raise money for the Dogs Trust.

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

6. Steele Hawker
So, Diner's Club is OK, but you don't accept Kennel Club cards?

5. Max S
"You want a make a reservation for how many dalmatians?"

4. Nick Fowler
The food is so good here, AND there's a lamp-post right outside

3. MightyGiddyUpGal
This place? Found it in my Ruff Guide.

2. Bangledancer
No napkins? What do they think we are, animals?

1. SkarloeyLine

Paper Monitor

13:35 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

So. The new Harry Potter is about to hit cinemas across the land. If nothing else, a chance for the dads to see how Hermione's getting on (as Russell Howard once pointed out on Mock the Week). The mums, presumably, can do the same with Harry AND Ron. Double the fun.

Rupert Grint

So. Ron Weasley. How YOU doin'?

But, as far as the papers are concerned, it's "Harry who?" in their coverage of the film's premiere last night. Why? Because Hermione - aka Emma Watson - turned up in a LBD. A very little, very lacy black dress.

The subtext of the full-length photo in the Daily Express is "LEGS! Now she's 20, she's got LEGS!"

Ditto the Daily Mirror, which adds the spangly tagline "Bewitching" across her photo.

The Sun's tagline reads "HALLOW BOYS", and is placed across her lower back (which is covered up by dress anyway).

The Guardian, too right-on for such perviness, shows her from the waist up. And it has a photo of Harry himself inside. But what's the picture desk done? It's gone a bit auto-correct crazy - instead of her classy pallor, it's made her Essex orange.

The Daily Telegraph - Emma is, very much, their type of gal - has her thighs on the front page, but has chosen a photo that is demure of glance and of pose.

Unlike Metro, which goes for a come-hither look. Or the Times, which opts for a sassy stance.

And the Independent? Oh... it has Aung San Suu Kyi in moody black and white.

It does run a small snap of all three Harry Potter stars on page three... so the mums out there will be pleased to know that Ron has grown into his auburn looks. Harry, however, is wearing rather more clothes than in those Equus posters of a few years back.

Dear mother-in-law

11:28 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010

Gordon Ramsay took tensions with the in-laws to a whole new level this week by writing an open letter - published in a newspaper - to his mother-in-law, the latest move in a very public spat with them.

Ramsay has issues with the in-laws

In it he implored his mother-in-law, Greta Hutcheson not to sever all links with his family. Relationships have been strained since he sacked Greta's husband, that is father-in-law Chris Hutcheson, as chief executive of Gordon Ramsay Holdings.

But could the fearsome chef be on to something? Could an open letter be the ideal way to communicate a few home truths to one's mother-in-law? We asked you to compose your own letter to your spouse's mum. Here are some of them.

Dear Edith,
With the utmost respect, when I am at the top of a ladder on a Sunday morning, painting your first-floor windows, could you please refrain from standing at the bottom and telling me what I should and shouldn't be doing.
Your beloved son-in-law

Dear mother-in-law,
I promise to try to listen more attentively when you call me during the day. I promise to take more of an active interest in the goings on in the life of cousin Betty's brother-in-law's uncle's third cousin once removed. I promise to remember the minute details of where members of your family are going to be on any given day, 10 months hence, including who they are going with and the name of that person's dog. After all, you are truly a kind and thoughtful mother-in-law, and I am genuinely lucky to have you. You make allowances for my casual approach to dusting and other household chores, and you greet me as warmly as any of your children whenever we meet.
All things considered, ours is a good relationship.

Dear mother-in-law
Sorry, but I won't be buying you a present this year. I bought you something really expensive last year, which I could ill afford, and you snubbed me. Obviously you didn't want to even use it. You must realise in this time of recession that burial plots don't come cheap.
Your loving son-in-law,

Les Dawson was not a fan of mother-in-laws

Dear mother-in-law,
The least you could do is remember your eldest son's birthday and send a card, even if you can't remember mine or our son's birthdays. I shouldn't have to remind you. I've known your son for three years, you've known him for 41 years.

Dear mother-in-law,
It has been pointed out to me that mother-in-law is an anagram for Hitler woman,

Dear W,
Thank you for the advice you gave me on a successful relationship or at least that is what I think you were trying to convey when you said: "Shut up you, you aren't married to him yet." I will try to bear this in mind though with the upmost respect after living as a couple for seven years we feel quite solid on our own feet.
With Love,
Your darling daughter-in-law
(Well, not yet as you so kindly pointed out)

Dear mother-in-law,
I think that you need a good meal. It isn't healthy in my opinion to be watching your weight in your 70s or to be, at any stage of your life, a size six. However, I appreciate that as a size 12 -14, I'm a little bigger than you. Still that doesn't make me overweight, fat, or in need of any form of slimming down. I eat well, and I exercise lots. As such, please stop telling me, whenever we are eating or soon after, any of the following (or variations thereof):
- Gosh you have a good appetite
- You're eating that with gusto
- You're nearly done, and I've only just started - you must be starving
- Is your skirt/dress tight today
- I assume you'll be wanting seconds
Lots of love,

Dear Elma,
Just wanted to say (given this opportunity) that I really appreciate all you do, thoroughly enjoy your company, love that you have welcomed Rhiannon and I into your family so openly and miss you when you're not there.

Your Letters

15:49 UK time, Thursday, 11 November 2010

The new bus is all very well, but can't they give us some idea of how large it is?
Kieran Boyle, Oxford, England

Re Paper Monitor and non-predictons of a riot, I actually cut up my student union membership card after yesterday.
rTiGd2 @BBC_magazine

I agree with the judge in Renault can name new car Zoe as girls' case rejected. After all, girls have been named Mini (more or less) for years.
Peter, Hemel Hempstead, UK

Is Britain's successsimply down to its location on the map? What success?
Dennis Ansell @BBC_magazine

Write an open letter to my mother-in-law? Not a chance. Things are tenuous enough...
Melanie Elias @BBC_magazine

Re Diary of a reluctant moustache grower. My ears have grown more hair than that in nine days!
Simon Kelshaw @BBC_magazine

Ooh... like the new look - the orange has gone. My eyes approve!
Nik Edwards, Aylesbury

Paper Monitor

12:00 UK time, Thursday, 11 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Who didn't predict a riot?

"British students may not, like their French counterparts, feel their very identity is defined by protest," wrote Jon Henley in Wednesday's Guardian (Paper Monitor can't find a link) ahead of the 50,000-strong protest against tuition fees. "We've never gone in much for torching cars or hurling paving stones at police."

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. And it tells us that a minority of demonstrators did, indeed, throw missiles at officers on a day that resulted in 14 people being taken to hospital; and the ransacking of Conservative party HQ seems a rather more dramatic gesture than burning the odd Volkswagen Golf.

Well, none of us can be right all the time.

So what did actually happen? The Daily Mail, conscious that much of its readership's offspring will been on the demonstration, deploys its rhetorical gifts to full effect.

"HIJACKING OF A VERY MIDDLE CLASS PROTEST," its splash headline concludes.

The copy begins, pitched squarely at those mums who spent the day fretting about whether their son or daughter had been caught up in any unpleasantness.

It was supposed to be a day of peaceful protest, with students exercising their democratic right to demonstrate against soaring university fees.

But anarchists hijacked the event, setting off the most violent scenes of student unrest seen in Britain for decades. Militants from far-Left groups whipped up a mix of middle-class students and younger college and school pupils into a frenzy.

Paper Monitor deplores violence, but fully endorses the rights of students to be pictured carrying inventive placards.

One particular wag is photographed in the Times covered from head to toe in fake (at least Paper Monitor assumes they are fake) banknotes, while carrying a sign which reads: "DO I LOOK LIKE I AM MADE OF MONEY?"

Paper Monitor's favourite vignette of the day comes in the same title (although there is an oddly similar passage in the Guardian):

As darkness fell, students who had earlier been shouting as they stood feet from officers, fell largely silent. One young woman did her make-up feet from a uniformed riot officer. Another held up a sign reading: "We are hostages to the police. We are fine but want pizza, lower uni fees."

Your Letters

15:57 UK time, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Misleading Headlines Watch: Cricket earns big testicles title. Not entirely sure what I was expecting, but certainly something involving cricketers and a new sort of test match.
Sarah, Nantwich

Cricket earns big testicles title - was anybody else expecting a particularly bizarre sport-based story?
Tom Hartland, Loughborough, UK

Drunk Girl's moved to Scotland. Obviously been banned from all the usual joints down south and is now broadening her horizons.
Roy Bennett, Abergavenny, Wales

MCK (Tuesday Letters): Possibly, and probably not.
Duncan, Hove

I was simply sickened by John Airey's letter (Tuesday Letters) regarding the use of "(sic)". How dare he! It's "we pedants". Pfft.
Lucy Jones, Northwich

Monitor note: The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed the Magazine has had some work done. How do we look?

Gorgeous, darling!
Catherine Osborn @BBC News Magazine

No, no, nononononono. Please no. This is far too busy. Bring back the last version of your page, please - white space is a *good* thing. Yours with unhappy eyes,
Dragon, Concord, Calif, US

If it isn't broken don't fix it.
David Ellis @BBC News Magazine

I hope the 7 days news quiz isn't going to be so prominent all week (though I did just score 7/7, beating 4/7 last Friday).
Ed Loach @BBC_magazine

Grumble grumble whinge whinge.
Tim Stone @BBC News Magazine

Looks nice.
Sais Shishir Ks @BBC News Magazine

It looks like the rest of the BBC website - only just navigable. The corporate machine grinds again...
Lucy Jones @BBC News Magazine

Ooh, it was worth the wait.
Hex69 @BBC_magazine

As long as you don't mess with your content, you can make whatever cosmetic changes you like.
Terrence Lockyer @BBC News Magazine

Dear Monitor,
Could you please ask your Front Page to stop shouting at me?
Thank you.
Lien Gyles, Matlock

Paper Monitor

11:43 UK time, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The papers are in a playful mood - leading Paper Monitor to wonder whether someone, on their last day, has been allowed to bring in games.

The Sun - which normally takes a hard line on fraudulent claims of poor health - reports cheerfully that "there were empty desks after sickies galore yesterday as gamers skived off work to play new computer game phenomenon Call Of Duty: Black Ops".

Such are, apparently, the addictive qualities of this software that the paper has lined up a brace of case studies featuring "wives and husbands who have lost their lovers to the computer game".

Janine Foulgar, of Yately, Hants, tells how her husband Jay ducked out of a friend's wedding to play it.

"It has affected our sex life," she wails. "There have been nights when I've been waiting for Jay to come to bed then woken at 3am to find he's still playing against a stranger on a different continent."

The Daily Telegraph treats the release more soberly, though only just.

Writer Harry DeQuetteville test-drives Call Of Duty, despite admitting that, for him, "video games are objects rooted in boyhood and the past, not the future", having outgrown a childhood affection for "rudimentary titles on systems such as the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, a home computer, released in 1982, whose entire memory would today be consumed by less than a second of a single song on an iPod".

But, in time-honoured fashion, DeQuetteville discovers something new from the experience:

Soon I learn that video games have come a long way since Jet Set Willy. Photo-real images, all moving at blistering pace, careen across the screen. The detail of shade and light is astonishing. Backdrops are beautiful. It is often tempting to linger simply to admire the landscapes.

The Times is also preoccupied with gaming, though of an off-line variety. It devotes an entire page and a leader to the story of Jonathan Duhanel, a college dropout who won the world's largest-ever poker prize worth $9m (£5.6m).

Former Republic of Ireland and Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino - who himself claims to have won £450,000 at the poker table over the past five years - insists the feat is not all that surprising.

"Duhamel is only 23 and I've noticed the faces round the tables get younger as poker has grown in popularity," Cascarino adds, insisting that the game is "easy to learn and practise online". (The faces are getting younger, or is he getting older?)

Back to the wonders of technology. The paper's leading column [subscription required] is concerned with more metaphysical questions.

"Poker has always prompted serious debate," it intones. "Is it a game of luck or skill?"

It is, the article continues, little wonder that "poker terms run through our language. Get into a showdown, have something up your sleeve, pass the buck, up the ante, keep your cards close to your chest, make blue-chip investments, cash in your chips, full house, feeling flush, I'm in: we owe them all to poker."

Paper Monitor is suddenly struck by mid-week blues. Roll on Friday home time.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:12 UK time, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

"Give the man a break, Mother" - Euan Blair to Cherie as she argued with George W Bush about the death penalty.

The former US president recalls in his memoirs that on a visit to Chequers in summer 2001, the noted human rights lawyer engaged him in a heated debate that only ended when her then teenage son stepped in.
More details (Guardian)

Your Letters

16:50 UK time, Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Re this story - "Its predecessor, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, generated more than $1 billion (£618) in sales." Blimey. Either the pound has skyrocketed or the dollar's plummeted. Either way, I'm taking all my savings and moving to the US.
Gareth, Hardwick

So Frank Lampard says that people who think that Wayne Rooney is thick are in fact thick themselves. Does this mean that he is thick for thinking that we are thick for thinking that Rooney is thick? And am I now thick for not only thinking that Wayne Rooney is thick but for thinking that Lampard might be thick for thinking that I am thick for thinking that Rooney is thick in the first place?
MCK, Stevenage

Re Mini-big bang? Small bang, surely?
Tim Barrow, London, UK

Shame on you Magazine Monitor. If you put recieve (sic) on your website then you should add (sic) after it (as I have done) otherwise us pedants will think it's your misspelling!
John Airey, Peterborough, UK

Re: Today's Quote of the Day. I noticed exactly the same mistake on "The One Show" last night about the Children in Need phone-in. So broadcasting corporations in glass houses...
Liz, Belfast

"The Queen recieves the Credentials of the Ambassador of Brazil" - well, i suppose it is her English, so she can do what she likes with it
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Nominative determinism?
Matt, Surrey, UK

Paper Monitor

12:51 UK time, Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

First Keith Richards, now George W Bush. Never let it be said that the Times doesn't offer variety when it comes to serialising memoirs.

Or does it? Both, after all, are of the same generation, born just three years apart. Both were famously hell-raisers in their younger days.

And both were staunch supporters of the invasion of Iraq, who extended their warmest praise to Tony Blair for backing the move (Richards told the paper that he wrote to the then-prime minister insisting that "he had to stick to his guns" [subscription required]).

Either way, the latest series of extracts - this time from the USA's 43rd commander-in-chief - is clearly a major scoop, judging on the fact that spoilers adorn the front pages of so many of the papers' rivals.

The Daily Telegraph focuses on Bush's claim that the waterboarding of terrorist suspects prevented attacks on London, a line also followed up by the Daily Mail.

Conversely, the Guardian splashes on his revelation that he ordered the Pentagon to plan an attack on Iran. The Independent, equally conforming to type, leads with a book review of the tome by the literary critic Michiko Kakutani (although it does not do so on its website).

But it is the Times, of course, that carries the most Bush for one's buck, splurging 12 pages on extracts, photographs and an interview with him carried out by no less an authority than the editor, James Harding.

WMDs, Afghanistan, the battle with alcohol, his status within the Bush clan - all is contained herein. And, we are promised, in subsequent editions of the paper, until the book is shaken dry.

Whatever one thinks of Dubbya - and the Times certainly suggests that "posterity may be kinder to Mr Bush than his critics are inclined to be today" [subscription required] - the comprehensiveness of the exercise cannot be faulted.

The only thing missing is a soundtrack from Keef himself.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:11 UK time, Tuesday, 9 November 2010

"The Queen recieves the Credentials of the Ambassador of Brazil" - A mis-spelled caption on the British Monarchy's new Facebook page.

The Royal Family's official profile on the social networking site attracted 100,000 users on its first day. But those responsible for updating it managed to let a typo slip in below a picture of the Queen meeting Brazilian Ambassador Roberto Jaguaribe.

More details (The Times) [subscription required]

Your Letters

18:41 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010

Re this story, why would someone completely happy with their lot buy a lottery ticket?
Kaylie, Runcorn, UK

Re "Friend 'secretly taped' Sheridan". Surely "'Friend' secretly taped Sheridan" would have been more appropriate?
Charlie, Oxford

Re exercise and the common cold (10 Things, Saturday). I walk dogs several times over an hour each visit daily in the Pennines, where the weather is perhaps the worst in England. I have not had a cold for about 10 years. When I was a teacher I had colds regularly. Now my social life is negligible, as most of my friends are dead - I am 81.
Michael Dwyer, Baildon. Shipley UK

Harman rejects return for Woolas. Still nowhere to buy my pick'n'mix then.
Simon Robinson, Birmingham, UK

Is it just me, or does Rupert Bear appear to be channelling Stuart Little in the picture with this story?
Susan.Thomas, Brisbane, Australia

I think this might be Polish optimism. If they can include the mound that the statue sits on then so can Brazil and they have a bigger mound.
Phil, Guisborough

I would like to add to the 'how to trigger a Eureka moment' list: brain food. I had my Eureka moment between Christmas and New Year, after a 2 week diet of chocolate and alcohol, and now have a patent. I think it's true about the many hobbies: the removal company had to order an extra van for my last move.
Diane, Sutton

Caption Competition

13:45 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010


It's the Caption Competition.

Last week it was the Wayne Rooney Guy, who was due to go up in flames at the Edenbridge Bonfire Society's annual parade on Friday night. It always chooses a contentious figure from the news to burn in effigy each year. Previous Guys have included Gordon Brown, Russell Brand and Katie Price.

The competition closed at 1230 GMT Friday - due to exceptional circumstances, the announcement of the winners was held over until Monday. Full rules can be seen here [PDF] .

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

6. throbgusset "...and we light him with a Match of a Day."

5. Neutral_Bystander
Sir Alex agreed to the wage increase as Wayne had promised he would be on fire by November.

4. SimonRooke
"Sorry lads, we've got to take him down - Sir Alex says he's got a bad ankle."

3. presto_west_end
"Rooney will be warming the bench tonight, John."

2. Catherine O
"No mate, Edenbridge is 10 miles away. This is a private party for Coleen."

1. Valerie Ganne
£200,000 a week for the guy.

Paper Monitor

11:51 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Lily Allen, Stephen Fry, Demi Moore, Jonathan Ross - watch out. You have competition. The Twitterati has a new recruit.

The social networking site already treats us to the views, musings and occasional hissy fits of a range of celebrities - and, PM notes with no little satisfaction, newspaper columnists such as Caitlin Moran, Charlie Brooker and Giles Coren (this service is far too self-effacing to similarly big up @BBC_Magazine).

Now, however, Twitter has a fresh face to follow: former prime minister Gordon Brown.

It's true, the one-time occupant of both 10 and 11 Downing Street has a less-than-auspicious relationship with new media. His appearances on YouTube while in office were, after all, widely ridiculed.

But he does happen to be married to Sarah Brown, aka @SarahBrownUK, one of Britain's most popular tweeters with over a million followers.

With the ex-premier having been largely silent since leaving office - save for a recent intervention to defend shipyard orders during his tenure - his brief "guest editing" slot on Mrs Brown's page to coincide with Burma's elections attracts considerable attention.

It is, of course, attention shaped by each publication's prior impressions of the Brown era.

Hence the Daily Telegraph's report opens with the observation that he "faced a barrage of abuse from other users", patiently listing a selection: "You're (still) an absolute disgrace", "if you're going to be an MP, will you please attend parliamentary sessions regularly" and "erm, who really is interested in the ramblings of the worst PM since Eden?"

The Guardian is, predictably, kinder, reporting that, although Mr Brown was a "tentative tweeter", Burma Campaign UK was "delighted" with the publicity. It also notes that his wife's account picked up 1,000 new followers during an hour of his guest tenure.

Nonetheless, there are implicit warnings about the hazards of the medium in the same paper's interview with pop star and uber-tweeter Lily Allen.

Ms Allen says she has resumed tweeting after a self-imposed break - "but not on the scale I used to, nothing like. I don't let it be a bit part of my life".

Are you listening, Mr Brown? An even more cautionary tale appears in the Sun, chronicling the abuse comedian Jason Manford has received from his pregnant wife after he was caught sending "sleazy messages" via the site to "busty Debra McNamee".

It also sends the following dispatch from one of the comedian's live performances:

Manford asked the audience what they had done during the show's interval and a heckler shouted "Twitter".

Perhaps he should have used his wife's account as well.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:04 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010

"Tia-Rose loves pulling crackers on Christmas Day like any other child and she has never managed to blow herself up yet" - Lisa Innes, after daughter told by shop staff she couldn't handle crackers

Staff at the QD store in Stowmarket, Suffolk, told six-year-old Tia-Rose that she could not present the crackers at the till because they were too dangerous. They could only be bought if the cashier took them from an adult.

More details (Telegraph)

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