BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for March 6, 2011 - March 12, 2011

Your Letters

15:55 UK time, Friday, 11 March 2011

ZX81: Remembering a small black box of computing desire. Oh how I remember having the 16k memory pack, pressing on the space bar meant the the connection pivoted and losing the program you had spent so long keying in. Tomorrows World broadcasting a program via the chirps over TV speaker.
David Mark Loraine @BBC News Magazine

The first computer I ever used. It started my interest in computers for which people are prepared to pay me. Nice.
John Airey @BBC News Magazine

Re: New fertility method to be probed. But I thought...
Phil, Gloucester

"Sacked Sheen Sues Shows Makers." Going in for the tongue twister style headline now eh? You will be getting the bill from my dentist any day now.
Vicky, East London

Try and say this headline repeatedly and without making any mistakes!
Martin, Bristol, UK

On the subject of penile spines, may I just say a loud 'phew' on behalf of us ladies out here!
Jackie, Edinburgh

10 things we didn't know last week

15:27 UK time, Friday, 11 March 2011

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

1. Chickens feel empathy.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

2. Elephants are good at teamwork.
More details

3. The lifespan of the average British person increases by five hours a day.
More details (Guardian)

4. About 40% of skyscrapers due to be completed in the next six years will be in China.
More details (The Economist)

5. Half of all Pakistani children cannot read a sentence.
More details

6. Tigers kill lions.
More details

7. Leeds has more councillors over the age of 80 than under the age of 35.
More details (Institute for Government)

8. Car use is falling.
More details

9. When potatoes were first introduced to Britain, they were used to make desserts.
More details

10. A soldier's starting salary is nearly £8,000 less than a police officer's.
More details

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to an anonymous reader for this week's photograph of 10 lunch items.

Popular Elsewhere

15:16 UK time, Friday, 11 March 2011

A look at the stories ranking highly on various news sites.

The Wire fans are clicking on a story in the Guardian about the arrest of the actress who played Snoop. Felicia Pearson is among 60 people arrested after a raid following a seven-month investigation into the drugs trade. The Wire was a television series filmed in Baltimore and cast a spotlight on the city's struggle with poverty and drug violence. The Guardian adds that this is not Ms Pearson's first brush with the law. She was convicted of second-degree murder committed when she was 14, served five years of an eight-year sentence, and was released in 2000.

Telegraph readers are looking at Hitler's mistress's photo album. Rare photographs from the private collection of Eva Braun show the pair "happy and at play" as the WWII reached its climax. One photo shows her with black face paint on dressed up as American actor Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer.

One of the New Yorker's most popular stories recounts the lessons learnt by a writer of the US comedy show Saturday night live:

(1) Producing is about discouraging creativity. Sometimes actors have what they call 'ideas.'
(2) Figure out if there is something you're asking the actor to do that's making him or her uncomfortable.
(3) The show doesn't go on because it's ready; it goes on because it's eleven-thirty.

A popular Economist article reports on an ongoing heated debate about US high-speed rail and suggests there is a class element. It highlights online comment that "high-speed rail is an upper-middle class toy" as "trains are more expensive than planes, and nobody will ride them as long as planes exist because they are slower and more expensive".

A cheap plastic box can jam signals from GPS satellites, explains the New Scientist's most read article. GPS satellite signals are very weak, making it very easy to jam them. Though illegal to use in the US, UK and many other countries, low-tech jamming devices can be bought on the internet for as little as $30.

Caption Competition

13:23 UK time, Friday, 11 March 2011


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week it was the clean up after Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

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

6. Presto_west_end
Gok Wan resolves that he will never again log on to ebay after too many drinks

5. Eattherich
Pimp my heavy plant equipment

4. Trishinstock
Looks like Elton John has been fly tipping again

3. Rogueslr
I see Ratner's have been having a sale

2. Bangledancer
Put it all back! It's just won the Turner Prize!

1. Moiness
Boy George Appreciation Society face ban from further street parties

Paper Monitor

10:27 UK time, Friday, 11 March 2011

A series highlighting the riches of the daily press.

This is no ordinary Friday. It would appear a Lib Dem MP has pulled off the impossible and become a hero of the newspapers, as well as a pin-up boy for freedom of speech. After nearly a year of bad headlines, Nick Clegg can once again relish opening his morning paper.

Who is the unlikely media hero in question? John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley. Yesterday he disclosed in the Commons that Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), has obtained a "super-injunction" to stop the publication of information about him.

It is so far-reaching the media could not even report it had been obtained by a banker - that's until Mr Hemming mentioned it in Commons, where there is absolute privilege. It means he cannot face court proceedings for revealing the injunction's existence. He also called for a debate on whether "there was one law for the rich, such as Fred Goodwin, and one for the poor".

The Sun attacks with gusto, with the front-page headline: "WHAT A BANKER!" There's no love lost between the paper and the ex-RBS boss, who was in charge of the bank when it had to be bailed out with £20bn of taxpayers' money.

In the Times, columnist Frances Gibb says it looks like a "parliamentary two fingers" to Sir Fred, who also makes front-page news on the Daily Telegraph and is in every other paper. Not bad for someone who has spent a lot of money and gone to extreme lengths to keep his name out of the papers.

But what is surprising about Mr Hemming's stance is that he is no stranger to hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons himself. Just this week he and his wife Christine were in most of the nationals. She has pleaded not guilty to burglary and stealing a kitten from the home of her husband's mistress. She is Emily Cox, a researcher with whom he fathered a child in 2005. He hit the headlines back then too.

Mrs Hemming's trial has been set for 21 June. It's one Sir Fred might take pleasure in following in the papers.

Your Letters

15:47 UK time, Thursday, 10 March 2011

Re: The problem with embarrassing friends.That's probably why I'm never invited to anything, I *am* the embarrassing friend. If any of my friends read this: I very much appreciate your patience, thanks.
Dennis Groen @BBC News Magazine

This article brings to mind E.M. Forster's quotation: "If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country." Hear hear!
Catherine, Angel, London

Indeed. I'd be mortified to have any of these as my friends.
Mike, Newcastle upon Tyne

"Turn off... headlights". Not when it's dark, I hope - though I'm sure the resulting crashes will indeed save fuel...
Katherine, Canberra, Australia

I clicked on this bracing myself for a very different story...
Rob Orme, Winsford, Cheshire

Ooh ooh ooh, I finally get this nominative determinism game!
Phil, London

Richard (Wednesday's letters), who would win? It depends what they were playing?
Natalie Hazel, London

Popular Elsewhere

15:34 UK time, Thursday, 10 March 2011

A look at the stories ranking highly on various news sites.

The New York Times' most popular story claims the best way to remember is through creating sexy pictures. It explains that the basis of memory techniques is that the brain remembers visual imagery better than numbers, and erotic, exotic and exciting imagery best.
"When forming images, it helps to have a dirty mind" says 2006 United States Memory Championship in New York Joshua Foer.

"Evolution has programmed our brains to find two things particularly interesting, and therefore memorable: jokes and sex -- and especially, it seems, jokes about sex."

Four police officers held a 90 minute restorative justice conference with five schoolboys after they called a woman constable "PC Nipples" according to the Telegraph's most read story. The piece explains restorative justice usually brings a victim and perpetrator together to talk about the incident. But in this case, was also attended by a deputy head of year and the boys' parents, ended with them apologising to the woman officer. A father of one of the boys today accused the police of wasting their time and resources and for using a "sledgehammer to crack a nut".

Naomi Wolf says in one of Al Jazeera's most popular stories that Middle East protests have a feminist element. She argues women are not merely joining protests to topple dictators, they are at the centre of demanding social change. She says in Egypt and Tunisia Muslim women acted nothing like the submissive western stereotype. Instead they were "front and centre, in news clips and on Facebook forums, and even in the leadership".

Jewish groups are rallying against a proposal to ban male circumcision in San Francisco according to Russia Today's most popular story. Activist Lloyd Schofield says in the piece that "taking an infant and removing the most sensitive part of their body" is a human rights issue. However, the ban would face constitutional challenges as it would likely violate the First Amendment right to Freedom of Religion.

Seamus Milne predicts in one of the Guardian's most popular articles that the fallout from the crash of 2008 has only just begun. He points out Mervyn King expressed surprise last week that the degree of public anger has not been greater than it has over the costs of the system's failure. He argues that spiking oil prices risk derailing recovery, but politicians cling to the failed economic model that lies behind them.

Paper Monitor

14:02 UK time, Thursday, 10 March 2011

A series highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Great wisdom can be found in national newspapers.

No, not among the analysts and serious columnists, but among the agony aunts.

Like the wise Jane O'Gorman in the Daily Star.

She isn't flustered by the son-in-law who is rude and big-headed. (Advice: Keep contact to a minimum and don't let it come between parents and daughter.)

Nor does she fail with the pal who is "obsessed with porn and bedding real porn stars". (Advice: Don't help him until he's ready to change.)

Coleen in the Daily Mirror is even more of a stalwart. Her main letter is a woman whose husband wants her to put on masses of weight by feeding her chocolate and cake.

Tell him to get stuffed, says Coleen.

Over in Dear Deidre in the Sun, the main item is a tawdry tale of a girl threatened by a man with whom she had a holiday fling. He's threatening to post a video he secretly took of them having sex on the internet unless she strips over a webcam.

Deidre's answer to the girl is to tell the man she will be ignoring future messages and keeping the current ones as evidence of harassment.

But couldn't Dear Deidre go further and note that the man may have committed a crime under the voyeurism provision of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Ah, except further reading reveals that the incident took place in the Canaries, so one assumes Spanish law would apply.

Wise Deidre.

Your Letters

15:56 UK time, Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Re: How are motorists saving fuel? I find it very difficult to save fuel, as a taxi driver. Some 95% of the time I'm in slow-moving urban traffic and trying to answer fares as quickly as possible. Due to their size, the current hybrid cars on offer are not plate-able (they don't meet minimum size requirements set by the local council) - so until a car manufacturer produces a decent sized hybrid (or in an ideal world, hydrogen cell) car, I'm stuck at 28mpg for 12 hours a day.
John Henderson @BBC News Magazine

Since cycling to work most days, i have saved between £80-£100 in parking fees. I haven't a clue how much petrol I have saved. I also walk more on local journeys (up to 6-7 miles).
Matt Dow @BBC News Magazine

Haven't we known this for years? I swear I learnt it at school, in history or geography, or RE or something...
Jaci, London Colney

All that fuss over Kate's pancake tossing and no mention of her pouring a glass of water. I'm disappointed PM!
Rebecca, Bristol

Do you know your Faradays from your Edisons? Yes, but I don't really care what they *look* like!
Ian Oliver @BBC News Magazine

Richard (Tuesday's letters) - Salt or fresh water?
John, Sevenoaks

Popular Elsewhere

14:46 UK time, Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A look at the stories ranking highly on various news sites.

Proving popular with Guardian readers is Tanya Gold's search for the real chalet girl. She says they are stereotypically "posh, rich and randy". She went to the French Alps to meet some real chalet girls ahead of the release of the film by the same name. The film tells the story of a working-class girl who falls in love with a posh guest and wins an international snowboarding competition to win him over. But, for Tanya Gold, the real chalet girls were "a bit dull".

The Times' most popular story says Kate Middleton has always had the drive to get to the top. It takes a portrait of her when she was three-and-a-half years old and comments "just look at her: good pose, hands and feet nicely positioned for perfect balance, charming but wilful smile, and eyes absolutely focused on the target ahead."

The Sun's most read story is headlined "canoe man's wife released from jail". According to the article Anne Darwin, the wife of "back-from-the-dead canoeist" John Darwin, has been released from jail. It goes on to say Mrs Darwin was released today after serving less than half of her sentence for six counts of fraud and nine of money laundering.

Hollywood actor Tony Curtis left his five children out of his will according to the Telegraph's most read story. Mr Curtis died from cardiac arrest at the age of 85 at his home in Nevada in September. CBS TV obtained a copy of his will which says he had "intentionally and with full knowledge chosen not to provide" for his children including actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

Daily Mail readers prefer to catch up on the latest children's sex education scandal. The paper says a "disturbing dossier" drawn up by the Christian Institute has "exposed" booklets aimed at children. One book for children has a cartoon image of a couple in bed in an "intimate embrace". It is accompanied by an explanation "using frank and adult terminology of the act of intercourse".

Joseph Stiglitz is dreaming of Indian Ocean island life in Slate's most popular article. But, not for the sunbathing but for what Mauritius can teach the US on how to run a country. Consistent economic growth over the last 30 years, a house ownership boom without a property price bubble and free education though university are a few things he says the US should learn from. "The question is not whether we can afford to provide health care or education for all or ensure widespread homeownership" he says.

"If Mauritius can afford these things, America and Europe - which are several orders of magnitude richer - can, too. The question, rather, is how to organize society. Mauritians have chosen a path that leads to higher levels of social cohesion, welfare, and economic growth - and to a lower level of inequality."

Paper Monitor

12:13 UK time, Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Welcome to the wonderful world of walkabouts Kate Middleton. Yes, our soon-to-be princess got her first real taste of what the papers want when it comes to visits by the Royal Family.

These are as follows: a picture of you doing a slightly silly activity that will lend itself to a good pun in a headline, to grimace while you are doing it and then get your hair blown around in a wild and windy way. Like a professional, she provided all three yesterday.

She tried her hand at traditional Shrove Tuesday pancake tossing while on a tour of Belfast with William. "Pankate Day" is the headline in the Sun and Mirror. Get it? While "flipping good" features in the Times, Daily Mail and Express headlines.

Even better, Miss Middleton manages to make a slightly odd face while she is doing it. Then her hair gets blown around in the wind.

It's a performance that guarantees her picture gets in every paper today, except the Independent.

The only other person who matches this sort of coverage is US actor Charlie Sheen and he had to do really crazy stuff, likewave around a machete and drink what he calls "tiger blood" to make sure he matched her column inches.

But one person who isn't completely charmed by Kate's pancake flipping is Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones. After previously urging her to champion British designers, Ms Jones is pleased to note Kate was wearing a £650 Burberry Prorsum coat on the visit.

But that's where the compliments end. She may have got the coat right, but she isn't wearing it right, says Ms Jones.

I know I wrote on Monday I don't want Kate to become a clothes horse, but she should at least inhabit the 21st Century, and dress her age! Someone, please (a corgi, maybe), ladder those black tights, and chew those awful low black heels!

Lesson one Kate. You'll never please everyone, even if you do successfully toss a pancake.

Your Letters

20:46 UK time, Tuesday, 8 March 2011

In reference to this story: My dad was once told that he had TMB syndrome by his GP... too many birthdays!
Ross McLaughlin, Banbridge, Northern Ireland

I had to laugh at the line from Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon: "Plus, I can't relate to Kate (Middleton). I don't know why anyone would marry into that family, for a start."
Really? I can think of quite a few reasons why someone would...

Kris Griffiths, London

Re Tiger kills lion: I know that it's dreadful that this happened and everything, but it does rather answer one of those schoolboy questions - who would win out of a lion and tiger. Now what about a shark and a crocodile?
Richard Martin, Doncaster

He obviously prefers Cillit Bang.
Ralph, Cumbria

I as am happy for them as any couple I do not know, have never met and am not party to their lives. Which is to say "lovely, just remember a wedding is just a day, a marriage should be a lifetime". I do appreciate, wholeheartedly, the addit...ional bank holiday however. Oh yes!
Hannah Fleck BBC News Magazine

Paper Monitor

12:37 UK time, Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's hard not to be impressed by Cliff Richard's face.

He really doesn't look 70.

The Daily Express offers a respectful take on the unveiling of plans for his new album. They have a picture of Sir Cliff, wearing a rather modern tech-fibre jacket with slash zip details.

It's captioned: "Perennial Young One."

No such mercy is shown in the Express's "competitor", the Daily Mail.

Their headline reads: "Cliff, still the Peter Pan of Pop (with the help of the airbrush)"


They display Cliff's real-life appearance next to an airbrushed publicity still.

Of course, the website goes to town on the same story.

Their airbrushed pic includes Lamont Dozier and David Gest.

The Mail asserts that Gest "looks younger" in the doctored shot, but it's really hard to see how the airbrushing has improved things.

The original photo might perhaps be included as course material in Celebrity Photoshop Masterclass.

Your Letters

16:01 UK time, Monday, 7 March 2011

Are parents being placed under intolerable pressure? Intolerable? When I think about the pressures that parents have had in years gone by, I'd say these days we should be thankful.
Lee Garrett @BBC News Magazine

Pressure, yes. Intolerable, no.
Sharon Barrett @BBC News Magazine

Are parents being placed under intolerable pressure? Change the record please. We do the best we can with the resources we have.
Anna King @BBC News Magazine

Just catching up with the article on birds of prey. Tell me, what is the difference between eradicated and completely eradicated? Does it depend on how fatal the poison is?
GDW, Edinburgh

"The scheme... will involve about 3341 children." There's no "about" to it. It may be an estimate, but that is a pretty exact figure.
Basil Long, Nottingham

"Gifted wooden chair moved from high peak to Cornish tourist spot". So disappointed to find that it didn't have special talents
Mo, Radstock, Somerset

Paper Monitor

10:45 UK time, Monday, 7 March 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's not so much about words in the newspapers today, more about the numbers - the biggest shocker being 23. Pretty insignificant on its own, but jaw dropping when placed after the words "gran at..." Gulp.

And here's the all-important sums that make Rifca Stanescu, who lives in Romania, the world's youngest grandmother. She was 12 when she had her daughter Maria, who then gave birth to a son aged just 11. Just to hammer home how shocking this is, the Sun reminds us that the UK's youngest gran is 26 - positively geriatric.

The Express provides another shocker - 19,000. The amount of pounds a council apparently spent on a magician to boost staff morale after announcing £1.4m in cuts. He uses conjuring skills to make people "feel better about themselves and avoid conflict at work". It's also the number of malicious e-mails sent last year to government departments every month, according to the Times. Now that's when you know you're pretty unpopular.

But number don't feature too heavily in the Daily Mail today. When it comes to filling large, empty pages in a newspaper, it has a couple of preferred ways. Pictures of cute animals, pictures of female celebrities without any make-up on and pictures of celebrity doppelgangers.

It's the latter, with a slight twist, that fills pages 32 and 33 of the paper today. Under the rather cutting headline "Antiques Clone Show" it has a double-page spread showing "how today's starts are turning into yesterday's famous faces". Harsh for those who find themselves in the "yesterday" category.

Could Julia Roberts turn out looking like Catherine Deneuve it asks, Liz Hurley like Joan Collins, Rachel Stevens like Raquel Welch and Kate Moss like, err, Gillian Taylforth? Ouch.

But maybe the celebrity who can take the most offence from the "article" is Letitia Dean, aka Eastender's Sharon Watts. Who will she look like when she is older? Actually, she's lumped in with the oldies. Her younger lookalike being Chelsy Davy. That's got to hurt at just 43 years of age.

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