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Archives for January 9, 2011 - January 15, 2011

10 things we didn't know last week

17:51 UK time, Friday, 14 January 2011

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

1. The father of Michael Palin, who brought the stammer to national attention in the film, A Fish Called Wanda, had one himself.
More details (Telegraph)

2. Mark Twain opened Kensal Rise library in north London.
More details (Guardian)

3. Birds binge drink.
More details

4. There are 18 super-arbitrators of the English language version of Wikipedia.
More details

5. Aristotle was known as the human Wikipedia.
More details

6. Tinie Tempah's real name is Patrick.
More details

7. An elephant can be hired for £20 in New Delhi .
More details (Telegraph)

8. The fall of the Roman Empire can be detected in tree growth rings.
More details

9. People who are tone deaf can hear music perfectly well.
More details

10. Saint Wilgefortis was a woman who grew a beard to resist offers of marriage.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week.

Your Letters

16:16 UK time, Friday, 14 January 2011

It's bad enough trying to cope here with no loo paper in the shops and no fresh fruit and veg, but the thought that my English friends and relatives will not be able to bail me out with proper marmalade when they visit (it's the only thing I ask for) is TOO MUCH. All they can make here is orange Jam. BTW, don't send loo rolls, PM, I've found a use for Jeffrey Archer novels.
Susan.Thomas, Brisbane, Australia

Regarding new ways to eat marmalade, what about old ways? My mother used to eat it with kippers. There's a breakfast treat that everybody's forgotten about.
Graham, Purmerend

Paper Monitor puts me in mind of the day I came back in from lunch eulogising about the handmade scotch egg I had just wolfed down from a certain posh bakery in St Pancras Station. That time was about 10 minutes ago after reading PM's column and, if your interested, the bakery is...
Rob, London

Can I be the first to ask "What? No George or Ringo?"
Rob, London, UK

Sue (Thursday's letters), it's not a pointless acronym, it's a pointless abbreviation. An acronym is a word formed from an abbreviation (eg 'radar', 'laser').
Patrick, London, UK

I was going to write a letter pointing out to Sue from London (Thursday's letters) that the TLA in that case was in fact an abbreviation rather than an acronym, but then I thought I'm sure I can rely on many other Monitor readers to provide that little bit of pedantry, so I decided not to bother.
Adam, London, UK

Is there a word for that certain feeling of relief you get when you notice the horrible number on your electricity bill has a minus sign on the front of it and is actually a rather nice number?
Ian, Redditch

I must be having a good karma day, found a tenner I didn't know I had, got a perfect score on the Magazine's quiz of the week's news on my first try for the first time and found I had my first published letter! (Thursday's letters)
Catherine, Windsor, UK

Caption Competition

13:15 UK time, Friday, 14 January 2011


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week it was a woman admiring sculptures entitled "Nuestros Silencios" (Our Silences) by Mexican artist Rivelino. The artwork comprises of 10 giant bronze busts each over three meters in height and weighting approximately one ton. They are currently on display in London.

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

6. Kudosless
Pitch invasion during giant Subbuteo match goes largely unnoticed.

5. Rob Falconer
If Picasso had got the contract to build Stonehenge.

4. CJC
Australian cricket selectors reveal their new slip cordon.

3. clint75
The BBC denies ageism as it unveils four of the Easter Island statues as the new judges on "Strictly".

2. Pendragon
Oh, this often happens after Christmas - people just don't seem to realise that a statue is for life...

1. eattherich
An officer inspects the evidence from perhaps the most outrageous expenses claim of all.

Paper Monitor

11:44 UK time, Friday, 14 January 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"Scotch eggs are set for a big comeback this year," insists a breathless Sun, prompting Paper Monitor - an enthusiastic and diligent consumer of said snack - to wonder where, exactly, they had gone.

The paper's Captain Crunch column, dedicated to helping readers navigate the financial pratfalls of the post-downturn era, offers a forensic examination of a foodstuff which is not generally afforded close scrutiny, other than by drunk people in all-night garages who suddenly find themselves gripped by a reflective urge.

Lee Zaleski, an "executive chef", is commissioned to review a variety of pork and breadcrumb-encrusted eggs in the clear-eyed, dispassionate manner of a Michelin chef weighing up whether to allow Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester an additional star.

"Nice meat, a bright crumb and a good crumb surround," is the approving, if terse, verdict on Sainsbury's offering.

"Looks good but tastes of raw pasty and is stodgy," says Mr Zaleski of the range by Bowyer's, a verdict PM will endeavour to bear in mind next time this paper finds itself, inebriated and pensive, confronting the refrigerator cabinet of an all-night garage.

PM's stomach starts to growl, especially after the previous day's warnings of the decline of marmalade. But flicking through the papers, further gastronomic stories array themselves like so many vol-au-vents.

John Walsh in the Independent tells of the Durbar, a well-regarded west London Indian restaurant whose adverts boast an unfortunately-timed celebrity endorsement from a recently-deceased actor: "A rogan josh to die for."

And Alexis Petridis of that reliable PM favourite, the Guardian's Lost In Showbiz, tells of someone called Kenneth Tong - apparently a former Big Brother contestant - who has been tweeting in support of "managed anorexia", urging followers to heed such advice as "Get thin or die trying" and "You have eaten enough for a lifetime. Stop. You are disgusting."

Tong's charming injunctions duly provoked the righteous wrath of various celebrities on Twitter, prompting Petridis to observe:

It was at this point that Tong began reminding Lost in Showbiz of a woman it regularly encountered when it lived in north London, who occupied her days by walking up and down the Holloway Road shouting "I WANT HITLER BACK" at the top of her voice: both their lives seemed to revolve around expressing an idea over and over again that anybody in full possession of their faculties could see was terrible. The big difference between Kenneth Tong and I Want Hitler Back Woman was that I Want Hitler Back Woman wasn't followed around by Simon Cowell and Rihanna, shouting LOOK AT THIS TERRIBLE WOMAN WHO WANTS HITLER BACK! SHE CANNOT HAVE HITLER BACK! HAVING HITLER BACK WOULD BE VERY BAD!

Now PM is starving. Anyone fancy a Scotch egg?

Your Letters

17:47 UK time, Thursday, 13 January 2011

French Nominitive Determinism in a story in the Daily Mail. A dentist called Didier Fillion? That's got to be close enough to didyer fillin'. I'll get mon manteau.
Clare, Connecticut, USA

Just to follow up on the letter from Peter Douglas (Wednesday's letters), most US comedy series are expected to run for circa 26 episodes, therefore the 8 episodes that the US Fawlty Towers remake had equates to about a third of a series. Seeing as Fawlty Towers ran for 12 episodes over 2 series the US version can be deemed in comparison to be a failure. I'll fetch my coat/rat/kipper/corpse/german/hotel inspector...
Martin, High Wycombe, UK

My grandfather and I have a reciprocal arrangement as regards marmalade and peanut butter. He sends me Skippy and for his trouble gets Sir Nigel's vintage blend from Fortnum and Mason. He just got a jar at Christmas, so I'm sure the next request will come shortly!
Catherine, Windsor, UK

While Philemon might not be a common name in Britain, in the Netherlands, and especially the Flemish part of Belgium, Filemon (how the name is spelt in the Dutch translation of the Bible) is quite common. Not many Nebuchadnezzars around though...
Hans, Gorinchem, Netherlands

Having spotted the link on the BBC News website to "Birds died from 'binge drinking'", I feared that Jim Davidson had taken over as editor. I immediately expected copious shots of "drunk girl" and assorted friends. Thankfully, I was disappointed...
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Birds died from binge drinking? Anyone else open up expecting to see our old friend crashed out on her bench?!
Louisa Hibble, Leicester

Oh look! This story contains a pointless TLA (three letter acronym).
Sue, London

Paper Monitor

12:23 UK time, Thursday, 13 January 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's reassuring how the papers rally round when a staple of British life is under threat. Especially if it's some young, foreign upstarts that are to blame, in this case peanut butter and Nutella.

Yesterday's news that marmalade sales are in decline has got many of the papers waxing lyrical about this British breakfast basic. Writing in the Times, Sarah Vine declares she's shaken to her "very core" by the news. Mmmmmmmm. She calls it an "irreplaceable part of our culinary culture" and asks:

"Can you imagine Bertie Wooster spreading Nutella on his toast? Jeeves would have resigned on the spot."

Nor can we imagine Education Secretary Michael Gove doing it or he might be divorced on the spot, seeing as he is married to Ms Vine.

The Daily Mail goes all out with a full-page campaign cry from Charles Campion, demanding we "preserve our marmalade". See what he's done? Seems he is equally shocked to his core by the news, asking: "Have we all gone mad?" He wants us all to come out fighting:

"If our kitchen cupboards are starting to provide safe haven for foreign imports such as peanut butter and chocolate spread, perhaps it is time for marmalade lovers to rally."

The Sun drafts in celebrity food writer Alex James to come to the defence of the spread. He very helpfully suggests new ways of using marmalade - in a bacon sandwich, anyone, or with your cheese on toast? But then he pulls out the big guns:

"Marmalade is so ingrained in our culture. It's something you grow up with and take for granted. Then, when you holiday in France, it's not there. They don't even have a word for it."

The fools. Now go out and buy some marmalade and laugh at what they're missing. You owe it to your country.

Your Letters

15:26 UK time, Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Re: Why is service in the UK often so bad? It's down to our (public) expectations and the fact that we don't like to cause a fuss. Our expectations are changing and so is our mentality towards "creating a fuss". Thanks to this coalition government that will speed up the process.
Stuart Duffy @BBC News Magazine

Service is at least in part because people in the UK regard service as something delivered by servants, and so to give service is demeaning, and resented. The proprietor of a very good restaurant once told me he would never employ a Brit as waiting staff for this very reason. He said that his waiting staff were the most important members of his team, because it was they who dealt with the paying customers.
Owen Roberts @BBC News Magazine

In France, they make a fuss and the service is much, much worse.
Andy Hill @BBC News Magazine

Sir, I was entertained by your references to tabloid "sub-ese". I always smile when I see a hairdresser referred to a "crimper" (or "top crimper" if they happen to be famous), a sportsperson as an "ace", a senior police officer as a "top cop" etc. It's funny how none of these phrases are used in everyday conversation despite such words being read by millions of people every day.
David F, Edinburgh, UK

"A TV trailer advertising the film Saw 3D has been banned after a 10-year-old complained that it was "distressing" and "inappropriately scheduled". Interestingly advanced language for a 10 year old. Methinks it was his parents that did the complaining. I'm also not convinced a 10 year old would know the appropriate channels through which to raise such a complaint.
Martin, Bristol, UK

The quiz "7 questions on UK-US TV exports" snidely notes that a US remake of Fawlty Towers managed "just eight" episodes. That's not that bad considering the original only had 12!
Peter Douglas, Brussels (formerly Edinburgh)

Absolutely agree with Sarfraz Manzoor about record shops, although I also think it's just a sign of the times. Purchasing music online is so easy these days and thankfully people are still doing it. It's changing all the time. Remember how worried we were for music when the LP gave way for the CD. That said, I have fond memories of the small record shop down our street when I was young. I used to go there every week to get the new chart and to buy the occasional single or LP. Sadly it doesn't exist anymore. I also vivdly remember my very first visit to the HMV store in Oxford Street in 1983, in what was then the biggest record store in the world. I spent hours there.
Johan van Slooten @BBC News Magazine

Paper Monitor

11:47 UK time, Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

We have noted on these pages before that the Indy had borrowed a trick from Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, picking out a bit of colour on a black and white photo.

They're at it again with their picture of Barclays boss Bob Diamond. The photo is black, but his tie is red. Is it supposed to be poignant?

There is plenty of critical coverage of Diamond in the papers, but the Daily Mail is probably the meanest. It's Ephraim Hardcastle column says:

"At 59, Diamond retains a full of head of impressively dark hair. But would its colour survive a sharp shower of rain?"

There's a double impugning here. Of Diamond of course, but also effectively suggesting the cosmetics industry sells hair dye that can't even survive a rain shower.

Flicking through the Times and the Guardian, one instantly gets an insight into how picture desks work. Both newspapers find space in their coverage of the floods in Australia for a picture of two women, one wearing a bikini top, rescuing a wallaby.

Over in the Sun, page two has a classic bit of sub-ese, a more dismal category of distorted English even than journal-ese.

The word "sirs" as a synonym for "teachers". In journalism school Paper Monitor was told never to use language that people wouldn't use in conversation. The Sun subs' bench must have missed that lesson.

The same page has "lag" for "prisoner", as well as "rap" and "slam" for "criticise". Then there's "blast" a couple of pages on. "Sir" gets another outing on page 20.

Oh dear.

Your Letters

15:49 UK time, Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The pig farm training feature struck a bitter blow against nominative determinism by interviewing a completely inappropriately-named pig industry expert.
Jan Podsiadly, Croydon

Re: Paper Monitor - not to be a pedant, but the Atomic Kitten in question was actually Jenny Frost, not Kerry Katona. I'll get my cat.
Dane Barr, Belfast

Jim from Coventry (Monday's letters), thank you! and I bet the wardrobe lady at the panto wished she'd been privy to that info.
Jo, Aylesbury

Like Dee A Smith (Monday's letters) I don't care about the sex of the Beckham's next baby but that's not really the point of the Magazine article or, indeed, the Magazine. The idea that some couples or people in certain jobs/situations may be more likely to have a baby of a particular sex is surely worth an article even if the conclusion is (*spoiler alert*) that it's probably not true.
Michael, Edinburgh, UK

Ellie (Monday's letters), the Toronto Star has a regular feature doing just that, called Acts of kindness.
Paul, Ipswich

Having been told repeatedly throughout the article - and even had it explain why it is - that the lasers are green lasers, why does the artists impression show red lasers?
Basil Long, Nottingham

Somebody hand Ste McGee (Monday's letters">Monday's letters) his coat. Thanks.
M Ross, Lancaster, UK

Paper Monitor

10:16 UK time, Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Don't get Paper Monitor wrong. This column loves a thunderously verbose columnist, an endlessly heavyweight Sunday supplement feature.

But sometimes it's all a bit, well, much.

Brevity is not just the soul of wit - it is also the restless spirit of newspapers down the ages.

PM's favoured snippets this morning have been concise. Snappy. To the point.

Like this, from Ann Treneman's sketch in the Times of a speech by Labour leader Ed Miliband:

It is a dubious honour to report that Ed is getting better at the political art of not answering questions.

Or this letter from J Owens of London to the Guardian, objecting to poet Ian McMillan's use of the phrase "earworm":

No doubt his favourite term for a classic movie would be something like "eye maggot".

Or, indeed, this, by Judith Wood of the Daily Telegraph on ex-newsreader Angela Rippon's high-kicking dance routine on the Morecambe and Wise show in 1976:

These days, of course you can hardly drag Fiona Bruce and Sophie Raworth out of their PVC hotpants when the credits roll on Children in Need, but back in 1976, Rippon's daring was legendary.

TV Critic Ally Ross of the Sun completes this sequence, framing an iron law of nature around former pop singer Kerry Katona's participation in Channel 4's reality programme Famous and Fearless:

There has never been and never will be a good TV show involving an Atomic Kitten.

Your Letters

15:54 UK time, Monday, 10 January 2011

Re: Are David and Victoria Beckham likely to have a fourth boy? If this is the only issue BBC News can come up with then they should look harder at what is happening in the world! Who the hell cares what the Beckham's have, it could be a puppy for all I care!
Dee A Smith @BBC News Magazine

Regarding the Beckhams, I'm just glad there are still some things that obscene amounts of money can't truly guarantee.
Karen Cuthbert @BBC News Magazine

Can the tone deaf learn to sing? Shaun ryder managed it. Kerching, back of the net, mine's a pint.
Ste McGee @BBC News Magazine

After reading the headline Ginger 'irresistible to beetles' I expected a juicy story about Paul McCartney being obsessed with Geri Halliwell. How disappointing.
Janine, Winchester

Is it not just the smudged and running mascara that's a turn-off?
Mike, Newcastle upon Tyne

Jo (Friday's letters), the Geneva Cross is in fact only the red cross formed by joining five red squares - other varieties of red cross are permitted, such as that which appears on St George's flag.
Jim, Coventry

The real life Good Samaritan stories really brightened up my Friday. Please can we hear some every week?
Ellie, Oxford

Thank you for the Good Samaritan stories. They're wonderful and make me cry.
Danny, Amersham, UK

Paper Monitor

11:13 UK time, Monday, 10 January 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Well, it's arrived. The story capable of knocking this year's royal nuptials off the front page. The story that will give Wills and Kate a run for their money when it comes to column inches. The story that will have us shouting "enough already" at our paper by tomorrow, but will run for months and months. Yes, the Beckhams are expecting their fourth child.

The Sun says news of the pregnancy has "stunned" fans because there is NO sign of a bump.

Translated this means the paper is stunned (and extremely annoyed) that it didn't managed to find out before the Beckham's decided to announce it publicly. Missing the chance to break it to the world will mean slapped wrists all round at the Sun HQ today.

Even in the Daily Mail, news of another Beckham baby relegates today's royal wedding story to page 19. The paper is very concerned about her being an "older mother" and helpfully lists all the increased dangers of having a child over the age of 35. She is 36.

To other important news, George Clooney is in South Sudan. Many of the papers, including The Times and Daily Telegraph, feature big pictures of him bathed in a golden light, all white teeth and twinkling eyes, shaking hands with politicians.

How exciting, he's Hollywood royalty after all. Almost as exciting as millions of people voting in a landmark referendum on independence after two decades of war and five years of uneasy peace, which is why he's actually in the country. But not quite. Obviously.

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