BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for November 14, 2010 - November 20, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

17:58 UK time, Friday, 19 November 2010

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

1. Away football teams usually have a 30% chance of winning.
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2. Babies born with no cheekbones have a condition known as Treacher Collins syndrome.
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3. David Cameron slept on the Mall the night before Prince Charles married Lady Diana.
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4. A solitary church may signal where an entire village once stood.
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5. German shoes are wider than Italian.
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6. It can take 18 years for the foot's bones, muscles and ligaments to harden into adult form.
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7. One in three people aged over 65 will die with dementia.
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8. Dartmoor prison rents land from Prince Charles.
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9. Badgers still occupy setts known since the Domesday Book.
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10. The number of people raising funds for charity has doubled in the last three years.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Vic Barton-Walderstadt for this week's picture of 10 cafe chairs.

Your Letters

16:53 UK time, Friday, 19 November 2010

Let's be honest, Lord Young of Graffham is not wrong. Anyone with a tracker mortgage (a large number of people) whose job is not under threat (again, still a large number) has got it great at the moment. Mortgage repayments are ridiculously low compared with what they were pre-recession with the same income. What's the big fuss? Not everyone is always going to fit into the same bracket.
Lucy P, Ashford, Kent

Caption competition winner no 3 may be confusing two separate nursery rhymes:

"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe/ She had so many children she didn't know what to do. She gave them some broth without any bread/ She whipped them all soundly, and sent them to bed."
"Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard/ To fetch her poor doggie a bone/ But when she got there, the cupboard was bare/ And so the poor doggie got none."

I suppose these could both be the same woman. There's nothing to say they're not. But there's nothing to indicate they are, either. I don't think we ever find out the name of the old woman who lived in a shoe.
John B, Durham, UK

Anyone else feel inspired to read Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy after reading this: "This galaxy was gobbled up by the Milky Way between six and nine billion years ago in an act of intergalactic cannibalism"?
Joanna G, Epsom

Honestly Magazine, isn't Stuart Baggs from The Apprentice arrogant enough without featuring him in this week's 7 days news quiz? If his head gets any bigger, it'll become visible from space.
DS, Croydon, England

Who but Mr Willey could have written the story about Berlusconi replacing the vital parts of Mars?
Kate, Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK

If such work were suggested on British government property, would it require the passage of a private member's bill?
Terrence Lockyer, Johannesburg, South Africa

I see that Michael Lord is to become a Lord. It's almost as if his name determined his path in life. I'd be surprised if there weren't more examples of such a humorous coincidence of moniker and destiny. There should be a phrase for it.
Tim Barrow, London, UK

In 10 things we didn't know last week, you state that Coventrierung is a verb. It isn't - it's the noun. Coventrieren is the verb. Ich werde meine Decke nehmen.
Peter, Hemel Hempstead, UK

I've seen enough episodes of QI to believe that the plural of octopus is octopuses or octopodes, not octopi as mentioned in question 6 of the 7 days news quiz. Do I get an extra point?
Richard Gibbens, Oxford, UK

Rachel (Thursday letters), of course you use al desko - its use is precedented.
Luke, Edinburgh

All this talk of royal wedding buffets (Thursday letters) prompted a little Facebook discussion and a few of us decided that it would be more along the lines of swan rolls, lark's tongue and pineapple chunks on sticks, and cheesy rugby balls.

Jenny (Thursday letters), rest assured that cheesy footballs are still very much available and yes, they do still make your fingers orange and leave them smelling odd.
Sue Lee ‎(aka Sue, London) @BBC News Magazine

Re cheese footballs, did you find the equator and bite them in half or try and prise eat wafer side off with your teeth or simply go for the whole ball crunch?
Jaye, Rutland, England

Richard Martin (Thursday letters), what will you do if they choose St Pauls?
Susan, Newcastle

Caption Competition

12:50 UK time, Friday, 19 November 2010


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

It was Guinness World Records Day on Wednesday and as part of the celebrations this replica of the world's largest shoe was unveiled in Amsterdam. It is equivalent to a UK size 845.

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

6. TheCoachman
Palaeontologists now believe that Tyrannosaurus Rex may have been more advanced than originally thought

5. beachcred
Daddy, is this what Mr Cameron means by the Big Society?

4. Mr Snoozy
It's still a bit tight, do you have it in an 846?

3. Cairngorm McWomble
Following consultations with a Mrs Hubbard of North Wales, the Government launches their latest social housing solution.

2. Tremorman
It's always the same story at the sales only the big sizes left.

1. Kudosless
Jamie Cullum had certainly picked up on Sophie's hints for something red and lacy

Paper Monitor

12:40 UK time, Friday, 19 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's the biggest battle in today's papers.

It's not David Cameron v Ed Miliband. It's not Stella against Stuart from The Apprentice. It's not even the nation v Katie Waissel on X Factor.

No, the biggest battle in today's papers is a mother and baby elephant tag team fighting off a crocodile.

It's in full-colour glory in the Daily Mirror. And it rocks.

But that's the paper version. This online version shows a familiar pitfall.

It doesn't have the photos, leaving one paraphrasing the old maxim and saying: "Writing stories about pictures but with no pictures is like dancing about architecture."

Great minds think alike in the Sun and the Daily Express, which both find room to tell an interesting yarn about Kate Middleton's great, great grandfather having worked in the Queen Mother's uncle's coal mine.

Or it would be interesting if one hadn't read it in the Times yesterday.

Over in the Guardian there is a careful parsing of the newly released government accounts. Among the details they note is that it cost £750 to hire the Tiger Tiger nightclub for a meeting of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The sheer volume of data - 195,000 lines - was too much for the BBC's home editor Mark Easton's Excel package to deal with. He compares it to an episode of The Thick of It - series two, episode one - in which spin doctor Malcolm Tucker urges his minions to "unleash hell, e-mail those journalists wads of information".
The full quote, which Paper Monitor has redacted, is: "Stats, percentages, international comparisons, information. E-mail them wads of information. And tell them to get their heads around it before they put pen to paper, or I'll be up their... like a... Biafran ferret, right? Come on, unleash hell!"

And finally, it seems the Indy is taking its cues from Schindler's List these days. There's a faintly ridiculous front cover with a black and white rendition of a gentleman holding a photo of imprisoned Chinese democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. But get this - the photo within the photo is in colour.

It's rather like the bit in Spielberg's black and white film where the little girl in red turns up.

Your Letters

17:55 UK time, Thursday, 18 November 2010

"Ms Chasen, who worked on such films as Driving Miss Daisy the 1994 remake of Lolita" (Ronni Chasen murder: Film festival offers reward). Hmm, I'm going to have to watch that film again - I thought it was about some old fella driving around some old lady in a posh car. Obviously I missed something.
JennyT, NY Brit

I hope that "[John] Lydon, nee Rotten" (Paper Monitor) would be more amused than offended at having his gender reassigned - the masculine of "nee" is of course "ne".
Toby Speight, Scotland

No, no, no, Paper Monitor! "Lydon, nee Rotten" is about-faced - since "nee" literally means "born" and Johnny was not always Rotten. Perhaps "aka" might have been more appropriate. I'll get my studded leather jacket.
Shiz, Cheshire, UK
Monitor note: Have you two met? If not, Shiz, this is Toby.

The secrets of Britain's abandoned villages - sad. Loved the poem.
Cindy Eve @BBC Magazine

There was a village of concrete houses in Haverigg, Cumbria. They were named Concrete Square and had been built to house iron ore miners in the 1870s. Bulldozed in about 1970.
George Harris @BBC News Magazine

Did anyone else read Apparently an Official Fatty's address as Munch, rather than Munich (Wednesday letters)?
Basil Long, Nottingham

Sue, who suggested a royal registry office wedding followed by bowls of cheesy footballs in a Windsor pub (Wednesday letters), I had a registry office do last week. Us and two witnesses, then off to the hotel next door for food, then to the in-laws for a party. No stress = perfect.
Alexis Stewart @BBC News Magazine

I remember cheese footballs - oh happy memories.
Jenny Mackenzie @BBC News Magazine

Desk-fast sounds far too clumsy - I use "al desk-o".
Rachel, Wayzata, US

Aha! (Loudly with a flourish, which I can't portray with punctuation marks alone.) The BBC asked me to complete an online survey about Magazine Monitor, which I wouldn't normally do because only sad people do that sort of thing, but it gave me the opportunity to tell on you.
And I told Sir that you are getting later and later with your letters and it probably means that you are being paid too much and are staying out late at night and sneaking into work a couple of hours after everyone has started, and now I feel a bit bad about being a sneak, so you may want to get into work on time tomorrow and look busy for a bit.
Richard Martin, Queuing, Just outside Westminster Abbey
Monitor note: Already?

Paper Monitor

12:45 UK time, Thursday, 18 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's Royal Engagement+2, and now the initial news has bedded down to form a sedimentary foundation of national wellbeing and delight, the papers are looking to build a veritable principality of stories on top of it that will see us through the months leading up to the wedding itself.

The Sun drafts in what the Magazine's Quote of the Day neatly calls "former iconoclast" John Lydon to lay it on thick with unexpected congratulations.

This, of course, was the man who at the height of 70s punk rock urged God to "save the Queen [and her] fascist regime".

But that was then and since then Lydon, nee Rotten, has thrown in his lot with a host of national institutions such as I'm a Celebrity and Country Life butter.

The tenor of Lydon's piece is one of conciliation and affection as he dismisses class tensions and says how happy he is for the soon-to-be-hitched couple.

He even refers to their romance as a "lovely fairytale".

There's a thoughtful piece of genealogy in the Times, based on the interesting factlet that Kate Middleton's great, great grandfather was a coalminer employed by the Queen Mother's uncle.

The Daily Mail is trumpeting "exclusive" with a picture of Kate Middleton leaving Westminster Abbey.

And of course the Daily Telegraph has a full-length picture of a smiling but slightly tired looking future bride.

Will they have a picture of her on the front tomorrow? Place your bets now.

Away from Wedding-orama, last night's beating of England by France in the togger gave a chance to the subs to show their headline flair.

"French lesson", says the Daily Mail. The Indy tries some sort of proto-pun with "Bleus and boos". "Fabio's Les Miserables" is the Daily Express's take.

But the Sun wins it with "Chumps Elysees".

Or does it?

A quick go of a popular web search engine and we see the rival Daily Mirror used the headline in 2002 for France's embarrassment at the hands of Senegal.

And looking at our newspaper database, the joke may even be older.

Your Letters

16:46 UK time, Wednesday, 17 November 2010

I was in a bad mood because of being stuck in work all day and bored. I was in an even worse mood when I found the BBC Magazine section still hadn't been updated. Now I am in a REALLY REALLY BAAAAAD mood because to pass the time, I ended up calculating my BMI online... Thanks a lot BBC. Thanks. a. lot!
Apparently an Official Fatty, Munich
Monitor note: Can we cheer you up with today's Random stat on the new-look Magazine index? It's about cake... oh. Sorry.

Can we learn to love French pop music? No!!!
Richard Dzien @BBC_magazine

Mais oui, bien sur! I love a bit of MC Solaar, introduced to me by my French penfriend a number of years ago.
Katherine Broadhurst @BBC News Magazine

It is no better nor worse than English language pop music.
Boyzone = Alliage
Placebo = Indochine
Bjork = Zazie (at a pinch; they're both "odd", at least).
Myléne Farmer sounds like a cross between The Cure and Madonna with her head in a bucket.
Jean-Jacques Goldman I always saw as a sort of Paul Weller meets the Beatles in terms of popularity and style. He did write some of Celine Dion's songs though but we can forgive him that.
Les Innocents, Zebda, Gérald De Palmas, Marc Lavoine - no better nor worse than Keane, Human League, Sugarhill Gang, Elbow ... :)
Ian Oliver @BBC News Magazine

Actually, I'm a Johnny Hallyday fan - maybe the only English one - used to have a wonderful "greatest hits" wonky cassette in my Renault 25 (my "French Jag").
Ian William Johnson @BBC News Magazine

What makes a great Royal Wedding? Under the circumstances, can I suggest a registry office service followed by vol au vents, sausage rolls and a couple of bowls of cheesy footballs in the back room of a Windsor pub? And £50 behind the bar, of course, but Charles can pay for that bit.
Sue, London

A good royal wedding? Make it a public holiday.
Simon Kelshaw @BBC News Magazine

Commemorative divorce plates and mugs. Get yours early.
Ian Buglass @BBC News Magazine

I am fed up with the snipes at William and Kate's engagement and forthcoming wedding. Yes, the country is in a mess. Yes, jobs are going. Not everything is rosy in the garden. Yet this piece of escapism makes us thrive and gives us something to look forward to. Otherwise it's all Bah-humbug.
Tim McMahon, Pennar/Wales

I remember socialist student friends hating the Charles & Di bash. I put stickers on my bike to annoy them.
Guy Cosnahan @BBC_magazine

My worry is that the government will find out what makes us happy - and then they'll tax it (Why it's hard to measure happiness).
Alan Craggs @BBC_magazine

Lucy Kellaway says she has yet to catch her colleagues knitting at work (The office breakfast's unstoppable ascendancy) - I regularly knit at my desk! And at home. And on the bus. And in the pub.
Amy Wheelo @BBC_magazine

Paper Monitor

12:49 UK time, Wednesday, 17 November 2010


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

As expected today's newspapers are dominated by the Irish financial crisis and its ramifications for the euro, the EU and the global economy.

Err, no, hold on a moment. That's what would have dominated the papers. Instead, there seems to be some sort of wedding news trampling all over the fronts.

Yes, Kate is marrying William, an occasion that the press has been preparing for for several years.

It is time for the Daily Telegraph to rejoice in its decision to retain full broadsheet status. How big can you display photos of a scantily-clad Kate. Very big is the Telegraph's answer.

They blow up one particular shot of Miss Middleton, in a white bikini hosing herself down, to the point where it goes all blurry. One can't help wondering whether the Telegraph picture desk was momentarily commandeered by an excitable teenage boy with little knowledge of Photoshop.

In the Telegraph's defence, they do find space for the Ireland story at the bottom of page one. The Daily Mail has 14 pages of coverage plus a 16-page pullout souvenir - we're back on the Royal wedding story at this point. Mail readers have to wade in to page 26 to find the paper predicting the demise of the EU off the back of the crisis.

The Daily Express relishes the chance to mention Diana on the front page. But other than that the paper goes easy on the occasion devoting a mere seven pages of coverage. Do they know something everybody else doesn't or is it just a reflection of straitened times?

The Sun has page three girl Staci, 21, from Preston offering her tuppence worth. "I'm sure they will take comfort in the words of Queen Victoria who said: 'Being married gives one one's position like nothing else can'."

The republican Guardian offers a front page photo and two pages inside, but what of the equally bolshy Indy? It doesn't feature the royal wedding on the front, although its sister paper "i" positively gushes on its front.

The Indy stable does slightly redeem itself by providing a platform for controversialist-for-hire Julie Burchill.

She manages to compare the Royal Family to both the Addams Family and the Munsters in her short piece.

It's hard not to wince a little when you read:

"Waity Katie's nine-year war of attrition has finally been won; ever since her parents proved themselves willing and able to slaughter a beautiful animal in cold blood, it was only a matter of time till the Munsters asked them to join forces."


Your Letters

15:45 UK time, Tuesday, 16 November 2010

It's hard to measure happiness? I know, it's my job to do just that. Very interesting to try though. (My job's to analyse the answers to customer satisfaction surveys for a large utility company. It may surprise you to know that some people *are* happy.)
Ian Oliver @BBC_magazine

To all you horrified people, who really cares if people eat breakfast at their desks, as long as they get their work done. Increasingly bosses want 200% (what's all that about anyway, it's impossible) from their employees, using the recession as an excuse for exploitation. It's ok to work at the weekend, unpaid but it's not ok to be 5mins late in the office or eat your breakfast. Get real, treat your employees with respect and you will get a lot more out of them.
Sarah, Brighton, UK

Crunch, slurp... is it bad manners to eat your breakfast in the office? Only if it's cereal. That's the main "crunch crunch, slurp slurp" culprit. I had a fry-up yesterday morning. No crunch, no slurp.
Shaunette Babb @BBC_magazine

Your article about broadband talks about a north/south divide in the UK and then seems to use London as the measure of what defines "South". Surely if you are talking about the UK, a north/south divide would be a line drawn somewhere north of Manchester?
Ed Loach, Clacton, UK

Re: Beauty and the bricks. I love these photos, which go to show that if one looks for it, one can find beauty in the most unlikeliest of places!
Sonia Morris @BBC_magazine

Tuesday's Letters: Germany, Hong Kong, Scotland, Paris, Chicago and... er... Amersham. MM goes global.
Jaye, Rutland, England

David (Monday's letters), they look elliptical to me. But then I never did get the hand of perspective.
Simon Robinson, Birmingham, UK

Paper Monitor

10:29 UK time, Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's a fair cop. Paper Monitor is guilty of enjoying the morning's crime coverage rather too much.

The defence offers its plea in mitigation.

Exhibit A: according to the Guardian, a young, smartly-dressed couple arrived at the Michelin-starred L'Autre Pied in London last week, ordered a meal worth £572.74 - including a £285 bottle of champagne - told waiting staff they were nipping out for a quick smoke, then promptly legged it, leaving "a plum tart and millefeuille uneaten at the table".

"What may make the case more intriguing," the story continues, "is that the name in which the pair booked the table, Lupin, echoes that of the fictional Arsene Lupin - a stylish Gallic gentleman thief whose adversaries, in a series of novels by Maurice LeBlanc, are invariably portrayed as rather worse villains than him."

Exhibit B: Daily Mirror reporter Ryan Parry is invited to nose around HMP Full Sutton, a maximum-security prison home to "farmhouse killer Jeremy Bamber, hammer-wielding psycho Michael Stone, serial killer Dennis Nilsen, the infamous 21/7 bomb plotters and Gay Slayer Colin Ireland".

The hapless hack quickly finds he is popular:

"Oi, journo, come 'ere. I'm innocent, you should publicise my case."

Within seconds I'm surrounded by murderers, rapists and bank robbers - all making similar claims.

"Everyone's innocent in here," laughs my prison escort.

Exibit C: The Daily Telegraph carries a despatch - sadly, not online - from Reading Crown Court with the headline "Abba tribute night ended in a brawl".

Contained therein is that winning combination of the lurid and the everyday that all too rarely graduates from the local to the national press. Its introductory paragraphs run:

A judge faced shouts of abuse after jailing a mother, father and two sons over a golden wedding party that ended in a brawl.

The case involved fights between the Harris family, two brothers and policewomen having a hen party at a hotel's Abba tribute night. Four members of the family admitted brawling.

The defence rests its case.

Your Letters

16:01 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010

Re: With the government looking into a happiness index to measure the wellbeing of the citizenry, when are/were you happiest? The idea of the Gross National Happiness Indicator works well in Bhutan because it is a place of peace and trust, and follows a the values of the Buddhist faith. I wonder how we will manage to measure happiness when we don't seem to have... a set of shared values to base it on. I certainly wouldn't like it based on some of the values being currently espoused. We're all in it together except if we're rich, have the ability to self protect (politicians) or have regulators wrapped around our fingers (bankers). But to answer the question, when I have been travelling in other places.
Mags Rivett @BBC_Magazine

"Freed UK couple enjoying freedom". Well I never. Who'd have thought it!
Jonathan, Freising, Germany

Without meaning to sound horrible - why all the fuss about that couple who were captured by pirates? I appreciate it is a huge deal to their family (who capitulated to the wishes of their captors - so no great story there) but it's of very little relevance to anyone else in the UK and certainly not worthy of wall-to-wall coverage their 'release' has been getting. Can we please move on?
Jackie, Edinburgh

"The final shape of the wheels is defined by the chief aerodynamicist". Well, in the picture it looks like... yes, he's gone for round ones.
David, Hong Kong

Re: your story "James Blunt stopped World War 3" If only it could have been "World War 3 stopped James Blunt" but I fear it would take more than that.
Ian William Johnson, Paris, France

Re: 10 things, under 16's not being allowed to buy Christmas crackers. I didn't know the law on that was so recent. You are not allowed to take them into the USA in your luggage either. We lived there in the early 90's (so pre 9/11) and the only way we could get crackers (they don't have them in the USA) was from the British shop which had an import licence for them.
Mary, Amersham

Shouldn't Friday's 10 Things picture of "10 seagulls perched on a crossbar" be more appropriately titled, '10 seagulls perched on a crossbar and one on the ground'?
Brian Saxby, Chicago, USA

Paper Monitor

10:18 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press red tops.

As the Simon Cowell publicity juggernaut storms onwards to world domination, Monday has become X Factor Day in the tabloids.

But on today's evidence, the Daily Mirror is karaoke crooner to the Sun's soaring soprano.

On its front page, the Mirror proudly trumpets the results of last night's show - "X Factor shock as Aiden goes out" - thereby telling 12 million people what they already know. The rest of its readership didn't tune in because they probably didn't care.

In contrast, the Sun has a real story from backstage, which will at least satisfy those that do watch the show.

One of the contestants, Katie Waissel, has apparently released a single in the US, although it's another fact that surprises Paper Monitor more - the paper says she also has a reality show in that country, which kind of undermines the principle that it's all about searching for undiscovered talent.

Elsewhere in the Sun, there's a double page homage to its page three girl, who is 40 this week.

Perhaps Paper Monitor should re-phrase that. Today's topless model is half that age (Hollie, 20, from Manchester, reflects wittily on the latest discovery by paleontologists, whom she describes as "old fossils"), but it's the concept that's 40 years old.

So what's the first page three girl up to? Stephanie Rahn, now 62, tells the paper she has been celibate for 21 years and never married.

The highlight of her acting career was playing Lady Marie in a Mel Brooks film.

Which one?

If it was Men in Tights, Paper Monitor could sign off with some joke about Women Without Tights.

But it was History of the World: Part 1.

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