BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for November 21, 2010 - November 27, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

20:21 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

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

1. Fish shrink in winter.
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2. A elephant's cracked tusk requires at least 47 tubes of resin to fill it.
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3. North and South Korea have technically been at war for decades, because no peace treaty was signed in 1953.
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4. The Shard was first designed on the back of a napkin.
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5. The number of schools teaching cheerleading is triple the number that teach judo.
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6. A cup of coffee combined with a 20-minute nap will double the caffeine effect.
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7. Donald Trump's hair is real.
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8. One in four people with HIV in the UK is unaware they have it.
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9. The US president has the power to shut down key computer systems in that country.
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10. Turkey tycoon Bernard Matthews started his business with 20 eggs and a second-hand incubator.
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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 posts.

Your Letters

16:28 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

Yesterday, I spent £12 on bird seed, and got home to find I'd left half of it in the shop. But I don't feel quite so bad now, thanks to Man leaves £80,000 on top of car then drives off.
John Bratby, Southampton

Re Gherkin, Razor, Cheese Grater - why do tall buildings have such silly names? If they designed them to look like other things, they'd have other names.
Kevin Symonds @BBC News Magazine

Australians are also fond of nicknames [for buildings]. The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre is locally known as "Jeff's Shed" after the state politician (the premier) in power when it was built.
Jason King @BBC News Magazine

I was horrified to read today's Paper Monitor. Marmite on toast! How could you?! The stuff is pure evil in spreadable form.
Ian, Redditch
Monitor note: Better than Vegemite...

Does anybody else do the Magazine quizzes twice? Just for the confidence boost like...
Sinead, Munich

It's a bit unfair having a go at Lucy (Thursday Letters) for not knowing the difference between a Magazine quiz and a non-Magazine quiz, when the Magazine 7 days quiz and the apparently non-Magazine weekly world quiz have six out of the seven questions in common. It really does hint that there is one central question setter that does both rendering the distinction meaningless. If there really is a different quiz setter for Magazine and non-Magazine quizzes, then perhaps their offices should be swept for bugs because one of them is stealing off the other and robbing procrastinators of a few minutes of quiz-filled joy.
Chris Clarke, Oxford

Marc in Oldham (Thursday Letters), surely if Rusty's in Montreal, it is indeed his royal wedding?
Jenna, Bath

Marc of Oldham (Thursday Letters), technically, as HM The Queen is also Queen of Canada, it also THEIR Royal Wedding as well as ours. What Rusty of Montreal needs to do is to get his democratically elected government to make the day a Bank Holiday too, rather than relying on a perceived anachronistic royal family. Either that or move Thanksgiving...
J Paul Murdock, Wall Heath, West Midlands, UK

Caption Competition

13:49 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010


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

Corrie stars made over

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

6. Candace9839
Are you sure those were woodear mushrooms, dear?

5. Discombobulator
The odd-one-out is obviously Ken because Hilda's uncle is the cousin of Bet's brother's sister-in-law who married...

4. Valerie Ganne
Why Coronation Street was only transmitted in black-and-white for years

3. SimonRooke
And here we see the dangers of walking through the make-up department in the Manchester Debenhams.

2. JimmyG
Life through the eyes of Pete Doherty #16: The night in.

1. Ecoraven
Looking back, the producers thought it wasn't the best idea to let Barbara Cartland do the make-up.

Paper Monitor

11:35 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

A confluence of a cold lurgy coming to the boil, and prawns that went bump in the night, mean that your humble columnist is in need of good cheer. (Cough. Sniff. [whispers] "Is it too early in the day for a warming toddy?")

It's been snowing across swathes of the UK - in November! (Early? Or not early? Who cares, it's SNOW.) In times of extreme climatic events, there's one organ of the news that Paper Monitor turns to first. The Daily Express Weather.

But. What's. This? The paper, normally so reliably aerated about the white stuff, has gone big on Europe with a headline that all but takes over the front page:
"99% of you say: Get us out of Europe"

The weather is relegated to page three. Who'd've thunk it?

Speaking of page three, Paper Monitor nearly spat out its Marmite toast while listening to the newspaper review on Radio 4's Today. The oh-so-serious presenter rounded off Friday's instalment with News in Briefs, the thought-bubble of wisdom from the Sun's Page Three girls. Of course he must only have looked at Page Three for the articles.

Those keen on weather news are better served by the Daily Telegraph, which tries to have its coverage both ways by going big on a fetching photograph of a pretty filly in sensible coat and pink hat, and a headline that performs a U-turn halfway through: "A winter wonderland... so prepare for chaos."

The Guardian, for whom the syncopal Gillian McKeith has always been something of a bete noir, devotes a chunk of Lost in Showbiz to the poo-gazing TV nutritionist, currently of I'm a Celebrity... fame.

Lost, for one, is totally prepared to believe McKeith's claim that she's pregnant (apparently the latest in a string of bizarre health-related claims she's been making over the week - rabies is another).

"After all, there are probably a lot of unsold Fast Formula Horny Goat Weed Complex tablets knocking around her gaff since that MHRA [Medicine And Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency] ruling."

But what Lost particularly likes is that she has united a nation "scarred by recession and facing austerity". The Sun and the Independent alike have run learned essays about her jungle histrionics.

"Heat magazine has taken to quoting 'crusading soldier of science' Ben Goldacre, a state of affairs that prior to McKeith's arrival in the jungle was no more probable than George Monbiot rocking up on Celebrity Juice and cracking wise with Fearne Cotton and Dappy from N-Dubz."

The very thought of which warms Paper Monitor's rather delicate cockles.

Extra cosy toastiness is induced by the Daily Star gently teasing its political columnist Lembit Opik: "Jungle Lembit is bitten by snake (snake to make full recovery)".

And - and! - there's a pun in the Financial Times: "Wheel adversaries" about rivalries in high-speed rail. Who knew the salmon-pink paper had it in it?

Your Letters

15:50 UK time, Thursday, 25 November 2010

Nominative determinism at its very, very best! From this story: "The team's conclusions suggest the Universe is indeed flat... Alan Heavens, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Edinburgh, said that the strength of the result lies in that it requires few assumptions about the nature of the cosmos."
Roy Bennett, Abergavenny, Wales

Amazing - I try Magazine quizzes on subjects I think I know about and fail miserably. Today I tried the Thanksgiving Quiz, thinking that I knew nothing about it and scored 9!
Lucy P, Ashford, Kent
Monitor note: Er, Lucy, that wasn't a Magazine quiz. But this one - oon weird diets - is from the Magazine team.

PE hell or PE heaven? Simple answer - both.
Sharon Barrett via Twitter @bbc_magazine

Re PE Heaven or Hell? Hell for me. I think it should be in the curriculum for health reasons but it was the only subject where not being good at something meant you were screamed at, ridiculed and generally humiliated by the teacher. Yelling at someone is unlikely to uncover a hitherto hidden sporting talent.
Rachel, Liverpool

Re: Tips on staying awake during the test match coverage. The best way to stay up for The Ashes is to implement the tactic that I am using tonight, which is to have two 3,000 word assignments due 3pm the next day which require hours and hours of work to ensure they get finished. Make this happen and you'll be sure to listen to almost every ball.
Bill Agar via the Magazine's Facebook page

Tips on staying awake during the test match coverage? I'd much rather have a nightmare asleep in my bed than be awake watching one on television!
John Whapshott (an England cricket supporter), Westbury, England

How to Say: Irish political terms

13:14 UK time, Thursday, 25 November 2010

Brian Cowen is Ireland's taoiseach

An occasional guide to the words and names in the news from Jo Kim of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

The announcement of the Irish Republic's austerity plan has made big headlines this week. Along with the economic and political news and analysis on the BBC, this has also highlighted several Irish political terms that can leave non-native speakers of Irish (initially) scratching their heads.

Like English, Irish does not have a one-letter, one-sound correspondence: the "e" in English, after all, is pronounced differently in words such as "me", "bet", "dances". However, unlike English spelling, the correspondence between spelling and pronunciation is considerably more regular, once you get the hang of it.

There is also a great deal of variation in accents and dialects of Irish and Irish-English, just like in British English. The pronunciation of the "ái" vowel can vary according to sociolinguistic factors. The realisation of the vowel can sound closer to -aw as in law, -aa as in father or -oy as in boy depending on the region.

For words and phrases in languages other than English, it is the BBC Pronunciation Unit's policy to recommend a pronunciation which is as close as possible to the original, while still pronounceable by our generally native English speaking broadcasters and understandable to our audience members. We also recommend established anglicisations, codified in English pronunciations dictionaries, when they exist.

The sign of a "good" pronunciation in a programme is when it is unnoticeable and one ingredient of a broadcast. A mispronunciation or an unfamiliar "foreign" pronunciation of a place name that has an established anglicisation may distract listeners and viewers, or in the worst case scenario, make them unable to understand the content.

Geographical and historical factors, as well as the large number of bilingual and native Irish English (also known as Hiberno-English) speakers, have resulted in established anglicisations of native Irish words. So we recommend established anglicisations where they exist for the sake of consistency, even though many different realisations of these words can be heard in every day speech.

The following pronunciations are given in BBC Text Spelling. Stressed syllables are in upper case and "uh" is the sound of "a" in ago. For further details, please see the bottom of this blog.

Taoiseach (or An Taoiseach) is the title for the head of government and the equivalent of prime minister. The established anglicisation for this word is TEE-shock (-ee as in meet, -sh as in ship). The anglicised pronunciation TEE-shuhck is also widely heard. The deputy prime minister is referred to as Tánaiste, pronounced TAW-nuhsh-tyuh (-aw as in law, -sh as in ship, -ty as in tune, est. anglicisation).

We recommend the established anglicisation ERR-uhk-tuhss (-err as in merry) for the Oireachtas, the national parliament. However, the Irish pronunciation and the Irish English pronunciation is closer to irr-OKH-tuhss (-irr as in mirror, -o as in top, -kh as in Scottish loch). The Lower House, Dáil Éireann, is pronounced DOYL AIR-uhn (-oy as in boy, -air as in hair, est. anglicisation) and the Upper House, Seanad Éireann, is pronounced SHAN-uhd AIR-uhn (-sh as in ship, -a as in man, -air as in hair). (Listen on the official Oireachtas introduction video here.)

Two of the major political parties with potentially tricky pronunciations are Fianna Fáil, pronounced FEE-uh-nuh FOYL (-ee as in meet, -oy as in boy, est. anglicisation). (Listen on RTE.) and Fine Gael, pronounced FIN-uh GAYL (-i as in sit, -ay as in say) (Listen on RTE.)

To download the BBC Pronunciation Unit's guide to text spelling, click here.

Paper Monitor

13:14 UK time, Thursday, 25 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Rumours that the topless model Katie Price has been slated as a Christmas guest editor of BBC Radio 4's Today programme has got the commenterati talking.

And if everyone else thinks it's a bit of an odd choice, you can probably guess which side of the fence Julie Burchill stands. The viewpoint veteran uses her column in the Independent to offer a stout defence of some things Jordan. Not all things, because Burchill uses the space to illustrate the chasm of virtue between Jordan the model and, yes, Jordan the Middle East state.

Drawing readers' attention to the Hashemite Kingdom's alleged tolerance of "honour crimes" against women, she concludes:

"Yes, I certainly know which Jordan I prefer."

Which is fine as far as it goes, but is this a credible comparison? Paper Monitor isn't aware that a giant chunk of constitutional monarchy is being lined up to guest edit a current affairs radio show.

And Paper Monitor wonders how far Burchill is prepared take this line of logic in future columns.

With Christmas a month off, can we expect a breakdown of the relative merits of Turkey v turkey? Chile v chilli. Kerry Katona v Iceland.

Your Letters

15:33 UK time, Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Re: PE hell or PE heaven? Have dreadful memories of school PE lessons - could never climb a rope, walk on an upturned bench or do a backward roll, neither did I enjoy cross country running in the dead of winter in green gym knickers and a short sleeved top. For this I was made to suffer greatly by my sadistic games mistress! Took me about 10 years to discover I enjoyed running, squash and aerobics!
Joanna Jones @BBC News Magazine

PE hell or PE heaven?Simple answer - both.
Sharon Barrett @BBC News Magazine

I too hated PE at school. Being stood on by the bigger boys in Rugby; PE teachers treating you as lesser humans because you weren't sporty enough; the ritual humiliation of picking a partner for Country Dancing. Hell. Absolute Hell. I'd take PE out of the core curriculum altogether and treat it as an optional extra. Let them that want to stand on a frozen rugby pitch do it and leave those that don't want to in peace.
Rob, Edinburgh, UK

I hated PE at school, I was a slightly podgy, and very slothful adolescent,and twice a week I tried to avoid the torture of PE, normally unsuccessfully. I would be hounded by the, to my mind, evil, sadistic and psychopathic teacher to run, jump, vault and the dreaded rope climb. However, I was remembering back to this time, when against all odds, one time in my life, I managed to climb a rope all the way to the top - the thing that now I remember is for the last 10 feet or so, our PE teacher was standing at the bottom literally cheering me on, encouraging me and willing me to succeed - when I finally slapped the ceiling he was probably more pleased than me. I still didn't enjoy PE after that, but it made me think of it somewhat differently.
Eddie Dubourg, Edinburgh, Lothian

Did anyone else flying today with an airline taking BBC World's syndicated newsfeed spot the headline "Pope on Contraception"? I want to hear more about this!
Paul, Marlow, UK

"Thief stole safe on way to court". Maybe he was expecting a large fine?
JennyT, NY Brit

Regarding the Royal wedding. How can the rest of the world watch when we all have to work on a Friday?
Rusty, Montreal, Canada

Was I the only person who thought this story was something to do with manufacturing custard powder?
Gail, Reigate

To Tim Barrow, London, UK (Tuesday's letters) go on, put us out of our misery and tell us that you're a costermonger.
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Paper Monitor

12:37 UK time, Wednesday, 24 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Cross-border spats are not unusual, but when one of those involved is a massively-armed nuclear power, with myriad potential issues for civil unrest apparently locked in the throes of a leadership changeover, and the other has the backing of the world's only superpower, Paper Monitor thinks it's time to wrest its gaze away from royal wedding preparations and read some real news.

So, should we be worried?

Times Korea front page

A pun, we ask you... a pun

Hardly, if the Times' front page headline is anything to go by - "Smoke on the water as North Korea opens fire". For non-Deep Purple fans, they've resorted to word play. No one would deploy a pun if World War III was about to kick off. Would they? Besides, the story only makes the front page picture slot. The paper's lead is actually about education policy. Worry-o-meter™ rating out of 10: Three

"War clouds over Korea" - the Independent. Oh dear. This looks worse. No pun and the pictures are all in sombre black and white. And its map has a slightly frightening explosion icon where the North Korean shells landed. The Times has a map, but no explosion icon.
Worry-o-meter: Eight

The Guardian's approach is much like the Times' - front page pic (though no pun), story across two pages inside. And going deeper into the paper's comment pages, there's an analysis piece by foreign editor Simon Tisdall. "At the heart of the Korean issue is a family dispute about money and power. A deal with the North is doable." That sounds like nothing more than a flare up at the Queen Vic.
Worry-o-meter: Five

The Sun also goes for a pun - but that's no surprise given its North Korea pedigree on this front. Remember "How do you solve a problem like Korea?" - the Sun certainly does, it's even got a small panel about that edition and the "famous Sun headline". Today's is "Bad Korea move". That aside though, Paper Monitor is wondering whether it's time to dust off the nuclear shelter and stock up on tinned beans. There's a North v South graphic comparing both sides military firepower, with icons of tanks, rocket launchers, warships, combat aircraft and so on.
Worry-o-meter: N...n...nine

It's pretty much ditto for the Mirror - "End of you Korea" though there is at least an analysis box headlined "Stakes too high for war".
Worry-o-meter: Eight

Right, back to Wills and Kate.

Your Letters

15:42 UK time, Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Re: Will these Irish migrants be different from the past? Sad to say it's likely many Irish will leave now, in view of the financial mess we are in. I came home 6 years ago - I am staying. I guess someone has to stay to keep an eye on things - or just to turn the lights out.
Tony Barclay @BBC News Magazine

Dear William and Kate, thank you for choosing 29th April as your wedding date. This is most considerate of you as my wedding is on 30th April. Now not only do I get a four day weekend for the event, my family and friends get a free day off on 29th to travel/help me with last minute details. It was so nice of you to consider my event when choosing your date. Thank you once again.
Hannah Barnwell, Warwick

Now THIS is a Magazine story worthy of the disclaimer.
Callum Johnston, Sheffield, South Yorks

Re: Ashes-a-thon. Surely reading an article on how to stay up all night without preparation is preparation in itself.
Hoddo, Botto

Re: 1000mph car on track, surely in that case it would be a train?
Malcolm Rees, Aldershot

"Train companies are bound by competition". Who's the competitor? Say your travelling between Chippenham and London. There is only one rail company, making the competition driving, cycling, flying a helicopter or riding a camel. Where do you tie up a camel in London
Edd, Maidenhead

Surely Tim (Friday's Letters) was being sarcatic. He can't have been serious...can he?
Adam Molloy, Tewkesbury

Liz Tunnicliffe (Monday's letters) - I'm quite embarassed not to have known that. I've got that feeling where it's as if I've said something so mortifying that I should just get up and leave, pausing only to grab my outerwear on the way. There should be a phrase for that too.
Tim Barrow, London, UK

Paper Monitor

12:49 UK time, Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Just over a week on and some of the papers are valiantly keeping the Royal engagement on the news agenda. The Daily Mail and the Express manage to do it with news that Kate Middleton bought some food in a supermarket yesterday. Yes, and put it in carrier bags. Yes, and carried them herself. How's that for a people's princess? It was Waitrose of course. If it had been Lidl that really would have been a story.

The Daily Telegraph sticks to fashion. It says Kate's engagement-announcement outfit is now being replicated all over the High Street and women - maybe even men - are flocking to buy it.

How does it know this? Women are buying blue dresses and black shoes of course. Is this something no one ever did before last week? That would seem to be the suggestion.

Miss Middleton wore a pair of plain black suede court shoes. Several similar pairs can now be found.

You're kidding me, there are now lots of plain black suede court shoes on the High Street? Those rarest of shoes? The paper has also managed to track down four other knee-length blue dresses on sale in the shops. Wow, probably an impossible task a few weeks ago.

And finally, when does "free" actually mean you don't pay a thing? Is it when the Daily Mail offers its readers a "free Royal Doulton plate to mark William and Kate's engagement"? The answer to that would be... no.

A massive fan of souvenir china, Paper Monitor quickly flicked to page 42 for details on how to get this "free" plate. Collect 50 - yes, that's a five and then a nought - differently-dated tokens and send them with a cheque for £2.75 to cover postage. With the paper costing 50p a pop, that's £27.75 in total to get this "free" plate. Bargain.

Your Letters

15:51 UK time, Monday, 22 November 2010

Eric Cantona says a mass cash withdrawal would bring down the banks. Would it? No, but I'm sure it would be boom time for house burglaries and street muggings.
Rob Lowery @BBC News Magazine

Re: Would a mass cash withdrawal bring down the banks? What is the point of bringing down the banks? The government would bail them out with our money so we would pay for it. Cantona has not got any wiser has he?
David Ellis @BBC News Magazine

Hold your horses PM, it's not quite winter yet, we've got 28 days to go. I'll get my (autumn) coat.
Heather, Coventry

Come now, PM. Surely you of all people are aware that the Express only has three front pages? Diana, house prices, and weather. Admittedly though, they sometimes mash them up in terms of how one affects the other, just to keep us on our toes.
Darren, London

Guess she'll be keeping her ears close to the ground in the event of any crime.
Adrian Horsewood, London, UK

Ahh the licence granted to BBC Sunday headline writers: "Balls: We were wrong on liberties". Beautiful.

Shame on you MM. How dare you provoke Monitorites so flagrantly with Tim Barrow's letter (Friday's Letters).
Jonathan, Freising, Germany

Tim Barrow (Friday's Letters) - there is a name for it: "nominative determinism", coined by the Feedback pages of New Scientist, which were at one point inundated with example upon example. One of the finest instances is that of Dr Richard Chopp, a urologist who specialises in, amongst other procedures, vasectomies.
Liz Tunnicliffe, Oxford, UK

Peter (Friday's Letters), sorry to be pedantic, but Decke means blanket and not coat. Ich hole meine Jacke...
Jonathan, Freising, Germany

Paper Monitor

12:34 UK time, Monday, 22 November 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Mindful perhaps of Marcus du Sautoy's article in today's Magazine about the merits of visual representations over those of text, Paper Monitor has come over all image conscious today.

While most papers reserve their weather forecasts for the corner of an inside page, the Daily Express has, for some time broadcast predictions of, "extreme" weather (er, it's winter... things tend to get cold) on its front page.

Today's forecast, at the centre of the montage below, is of six inches of snow. To keep it company, and to provide some communal warmth as the chill sets in, Paper Monitor has picked out a handful of its favourites from recent months and years. Enjoy.

Daily Express front pages about the weather

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