BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for April 3, 2011 - April 9, 2011

10 things we didn't know last week

16:50 UK time, Friday, 8 April 2011

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

1. The word "loo" dates from medieval times, derived from the warning shout of "gardez l'eau!" given by those tipping chamber pots out the window.
More details

2. George and Laura Bush are fans of BBC costume drama The House of Eliott (pictured).
More details (Daily Mail)

3. Actor Tom Wilkinson's real name is Geoffrey.
More details (Guardian)

4. An American aircraft carrier weighs more than 100,000 tonnes.
More details

5. The average UK household spends about 60p a week on stamps.
More details

6. Early cosmonauts were fairly short, as spacecraft were a tight fit for anyone tall.
More details

7. There were gay cavemen.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

8. The acronym "lol" is "mdr" in France.
More details

9. Seat belts are banned on some roads.
More details

10. Half of girls aged 15-17 in Liverpool and Sunderland use sunbeds.
More details

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

Caption Competition

12:42 UK time, Friday, 8 April 2011


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

Monkey plays with sunglasses

This week, as much of Britain basked in unseasonably warm weather, there were early sightings of topless men and ice cream. The sunglasses also came out, like in the Bolivian squirrel monkey enclosure at London Zoo. But what was being said?

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

6. Fi-Glos
Hey lads, we're going to need bigger ears...

5. MightyGiddyUpGal
Does my (opposable) thumb look big in this?

4. SkarloeyLine
Look what the cobra brought me back from Macy's.

3. CJC
If health and safety expect me to wear these they've got another thing coming.

2. gmcoates
Barbie's hair removal cream just wasn't working

1. Mr Snoozy
Ok - he was obviously here earlier, has anyone seen the rest of Elton John?

Your Letters

11:01 UK time, Friday, 8 April 2011

Why do some married men refuse to wear a wedding ring? I've always worn one as it sends out a message to all females to avoid a relationship with me as I'm taken - and, believe me, it works.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Mark (Thursday's letters), I was going to make the same comment but then I looked closer. It's not a maintenance/control station, it's another turbine unit with the turbines raised out of the water.
Julian, London

Sue (Thursday's letters), it might be easier if you know the flight deck is one millionth the area of Wales.
Ed, London

"The submarine weighs 7,800 tonnes, equivalent to nearly 1,000 double-decker buses, and is almost 100 metres (328ft) long." A wasted opportunity for an Olympic-sized swimming pool comparison if ever I saw one. How many could fit in Wales?

Please help - I have just started work after a four-year hiatus. Is there any new etiquette I should know about?
Rachel, Wayzata, USA

Paper Monitor

09:46 UK time, Friday, 8 April 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Ahhh, look at them. Just a normal couple, jetting off for a sunshine break in Spain. A birthday treat for the missus, a chance to get away from the kids and the pressures of everyday life. Yes people, Dave and Sam Cameron are just like everybody else. Honest.

The proof? It's in all the newspapers today. Firstly, they flew to Spain on a budget airline. The Daily Mirror and the Times have an accompanying snap of them at Stansted airport and they really do look like the rest of us - slumped in plastic seats in the boarding area, looking bored witless.

Next, there's the costs of the mini break - or estimated costs because no paper can confirm any of the prices. Of course, mindful of how a luxury holiday would appear amid massive public spending cuts, Downing Street "sources" let it be known the couple were staying at a "mid-market" hotel near the Alhambra Palace in Granada. The Daily Mail delves deeper and discovers it is "a three-star family-run hotel, where a double room costs 120 euros (£105) a night". It puts the cost of flights at £152 each.

Then there's the holiday wardrobe. Jeans and a casual polo shirt for him and patterned maxi dress for her during the day. Black shirt and jeans for him and green maxi dress for her in the evening. Nothing fancy, which is a schoolboy error. Most normal people go a bit crazy on holiday and dress themselves in stuff they'd never normally wear at home - Hawaiian shirts, sarongs, that type of thing. The Camerons kept it far too tasteful.

But maybe the biggest indicator of how normal they really are is a picture of Dave using a cashpoint. It's in nearly all the papers. The Sun has a comedy thought bubble coming from his head saying: "Bloody Euros!" Great minds and all that, so does the Daily Mirror. Its bubble says: "This feels odd... normally I'm handling the banks' cash."

Your Letters

17:29 UK time, Thursday, 7 April 2011

I was impressed by the comparison between yesterday's "Gauguin painting in Washington DC attacked by woman" and today's "Jack Wills forced to withdraw 'overtly sexual' images". Prudishness presents its own risks to children - The unfortunate Ms Burns was one once.
NN, Victoria, Canada

How do you build a 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier? With ‎65,000 tonnes of metal, a hammer and a screwdriver?
Gavin Sykes @BBC News Magazine

Sorry, but until someone Photoshops a Routemaster onto the deck of that aircraft carrier, there's no way I can get an accurate sense of how big it is.
Sue, London

"Will spaceflight always have an element of danger?" Seeing as how you can trip over a loose shoelace and come to an untimely demise I would suggest that spaceflight would indeed always have an element of danger. Even in slip-ons.
Clive DuPort, Vale, Guernsey

Dear Basil (Wednesday's letters), you misunderstand. Someone was spraying the ASA, presumably to ensure they kept cool.
Fred, Rotherham

Toby (Wednesday's letters), that illustration only shows four turbine units. The second tower has no turbines and is presumably some kind of maintenance/control station.
Mark, Dingwall, Scotland

Paper Monitor

11:18 UK time, Thursday, 7 April 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The sun is out, it's only April and this is the UK. It's time to get EXTREMELY excited if you're running a newspaper. Just like night follows day, unseasonal weather in this country - both good and bad - is followed by pages of pictures and statistics in the papers.

So as you soak up the rays today - which hit 23c (75f) yesterday and look likely to last throughout the weekend, making the papers even more dizzy with excitement - why not play hooray-the-sun-is-out bingo. Pick a paper and see if you can tick off all of the following.

First thing is the global comparisons. This little sunny spell makes parts of the UK hotter than Barcelona, Crete and Cyprus, according to the Daily Mail. The Daily Mirror throws Malta and Athens into the pot, while the Times adds Portugal and North Africa.

Next it's pictures. You'll need a photo of a child eating an ice-cream, young women in bikinis and skipping in the sea, someone in a deckchair and people punting down a river to get a full house. Now the word and phrase section to tick off. Look for baking, scorching, roasting, sun worshippers, mercury, sizzling and "break out the barbecue".

Too easy? Now things get tough. The celebrities-enjoying-the-sun category includes just one person. So if you have Pixie Geldof in her summer dress and red sunglasses in your paper of choice then a big tick for you. Although, she's only pictured in the Daily Star, which Paper Monitor assumes not many people are using to play this game.

And finally, the rain-on-your-parade section. Can you spot the inevitable warning to enjoy the sunshine now, because it's not going to last. The Daily Mail ends it's cor-what-a-sorcher story with predictions of heavy rain, thunderstorms and floods in June. The Express also warns of thunderstorms in June and predicts a washout at Wimbledon.

Did you get a full house? Definitely not if you picked up the Independent. In its usual single-minded way - which is almost as predictable as sunny weather stories - it has completely ignored the good weather. Not an ice-cream or bikini in sight.

Popular Elsewhere

16:48 UK time, Wednesday, 6 April 2011

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

A female cadet who spoke out after discovering she'd been secretly filmed having sex may face disciplinary action, according to the Australian's most popular story. The story explains an Australian Defence Force Academy cadet has alleged a webcam was used to broadcast on Skype her having sex with a male cadet to six cadets in another room. Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the Australian Defence Force would not tolerate conduct that was sexist, vilified women or was indecent or uncivilised.

The Guardian's most read story puts forward some theories about the secret of behind the success of singer Adele. Tim Jonze traces her big break down to a YouTube user called xxxxWGDxxxx. They logged on to YouTube and uploaded a clip of Adele singing her track Someone Like You on Jools Holland. Mr Jonze explains that the video was soon being passed around feverishly by music fans, normally with some accompanying text saying something along the lines of "wow". "There was something about the way the 22-year-old stood there and sang, displaying diva-like confidence yet wearing her heartache on her sleeve, that proved she had matured as an artist since the modest success of her debut album, 19" he says. A myriad of reasons, primarily her record label, led to her breaking the record for the longest time at number one in the UK album chart by a female solo artist.

The New York Times' most read story reports that security experts warn that millions of people are at increased risk of e-mail swindles after a "giant" security breach at an online marketing firm. The breach exposed the e-mail addresses of customers of some of the US's largest companies, including JPMorgan Chase and Citibank. In some cases customer names were also stolen. The story goes on to say that while the number of people affected is unknown, security experts say that based on the businesses involved, the breach may be among the largest ever.

Meanwhile, proving popular on China's Xinhua Net is a reported roaring trade in the tools cyber criminals use. According to the article so-called packaged attack frameworks are rapidly growing as the top cybercrime weapon. They can be traded online and are popular due to ease of use and high success rates.

Slate's most read story retells the tale of "one of the meanest Supreme Court decisions ever". It bills the judgement as "cruel but not unusual".
The story starts in 1985 when John Thompson was convicted of murder in Louisiana:

"Having already been convicted in a separate armed robbery case, he opted not to testify on his own behalf in his murder trial. He was sentenced to death and spent 18 years in prison - 14 of them isolated on death row - and watched as seven executions were planned for him. Several weeks before an execution scheduled for May 1999, Thompson's private investigators learned that prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence that would have cleared him at his robbery trial. This evidence included the fact that the main informant against him had received a reward from the victim's family, that the eyewitness identification done at the time described someone who looked nothing like him, and that a blood sample taken from the crime scene did not match Thompson's blood type."

Slate brings us up to the present day as this week Justice Clarence Thomas tossed out the verdict, finding that the district attorney can't be responsible for the single act of a lone prosecutor.

Your Letters

15:36 UK time, Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Re: Why do we believe in good and bad luck? "Luck" exists. It's any event which affects you but is beyond your control (even if some other person influences it). Good luck is such an event which is advantageous to you, bad luck the obvious opposite.
Duncan Corps @BBC News Magazine

Why do we believe in good and bad luck? Same reason people believe in a deity. Unable to appreciate the nature of the coincidence.
Shetland James @BBC News Magazine

Could we arrange for the artist who created the "impression" for this article to have some counting lessons?
Toby Speight, Scotland

"[Mr Medland] worked - for free - for Mr Clegg for three months in 2007 when he was Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman." I knew the parties didn't like paying people, but not even paying your home affairs spokesman is surely taking it too far.
Edward Green, London, UK

Despite the general statistical tone of this article, I do know that the University of York economics Professor's sons haven't had too much trouble finding success. Come on, one of us had to say it.
MK, Stockport

What's wrong with getting sprayed with water?
Basil Long, Nottingham

At last I have access to the Magazine! Thanks to a new over sensitive filter at work I have been missing my daily dose. Alas, my procrastination must now happen at home.
Heather, Jersey

Paper Monitor

11:53 UK time, Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

A trio of freshly-scrubbed graduates adorn the front page of the Times. They could be triplets, with their luxury brunette locks and pinchably round cheeks.

Might they be a trio of happy A-level students? Doubt it. They're not:

  • jumping
  • in vest tops
  • or female

Nor is it exam results day for some months yet. So who are these photogenic youngsters? Why, David Cameron in his intern days, Nick Clegg in his intern days, and George Osborne in his intern days.

The paper has dug out these photos to illustrate its article on the deputy prime minister's attempts to stop wealthy families securing plum intern posts for their children.

Mr Clegg undermined his own policy when he admitted that his father had pulled strings to get him a gap-year post with a Finnish bank, and it also emerged that he had hired unpaid interns in his parliamentary office.

Nor was he the only one to benefit, the paper notes. Mr Osborne joined politics with help from a friend. Labour leader Ed Miliband "got his break in politics by doing work experience with Tony Benn".

And a young Mr Cameron first worked for his MP godfather, then attended an interview at the Conservative research department.

A phone call is understood to have been received from a mystery caller from Buckingham Palace, who told them they were about to meet a "truly remarkable young man".

This tale, previously recounted by Mr Cameron's biographers, casts no light on who made that call. Two family friends on the Palace payroll at the time deny it was them.

The Daily Mirror has also been into the picture archives and dug out a snap of Mr Clegg "on a tennis court at his posh private school", and, for good measure, has another kick at David Cameron's claim to be a member of the "sharp-elbowed" middle class.

The Daily Telegraph also tackles social mobility Westminster-style in its cartoon inspired by Cleese, Chapman, et al.

By 'eck I've come from nothing, I went to Sandhurst...
Sandhurst?! Ee, you were luck! My father was a stockbroker...
I used to dream of having a stockbroker father! Mine was a baronet...
Luxury! I was left alone at Westminster School...

You try and tell that to the young people of today... (Speaking of which, the BBC has a class test to determine your own social mobility.)

Your Letters

15:45 UK time, Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Re Paper Monitor: Shouldn't it be "Go *and* compare"? "Go compare" just sounds very American to me, a bit like the indescribably ghastly "Go figure"... (shudder)
S Pedant, London

In reference to this article, could we have "Black boxes aren't actually black" as one of the 10 weekly things, given the accompanying illustration please?
Joseph, London

Re Paper Monitor: Things we didn't know last week - rich men marry pretty women and therefore have pretty daughters.
Lucy Jones, Northwich

Ross (Monday's Letters): An older plane will (generally) have a much higher number of flight cycles (take offs and landings), where as a new plane will (generally) have less. They are inspecting all planes with a comparable number of flight cycles.
Eric, Bristol

After reading this and this I am changing my name.
Elizabeth Darcy (was John Airey), Peterborough, UK

And the prizes for Most Inaccurate Photo Caption and Most Pointless Photo go to this article.
James, Leicester

Paper Monitor

08:47 UK time, Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The Daily Mirror has an interview that sheds some light on the strange effect that television fame can have on the public.

The name Wynne Evans probably doesn't mean that much to readers, but he has one of the most recognisable voices on television, thanks to an advertising campaign that people love or loathe in equal measure.

Evans is "the Go Compare man", who plays a plump Italian tenor called Gio Compario in a car insurance advertisement.

He tells the Mirror that his overnight fame has meant he's pestered for requests from strangers to sing at the most inappropriate moments:

It was only a couple of months ago and I was at my grandmother's funeral, standing by her graveside saying my final goodbyes. And then this woman appeared completely out of the blue, saying over and over 'Hey Gio! Hey Gio!' until I looked at her and said: 'What? I've just buried my grandmother!" She had expected me to sing 'Go Compare' next to my grandmother's grave!

Another stranger shouted "Go compare!" in his face at a train station, while Eamonn Holmes apparently asked him to sing the ditty in the House of Lords.

Elsewhere in the papers, the Daily Mail has a strangely compelling picture spread that compares older men with their glamorous daughters.

It's under the sensitively-worded headline: "WHERE DID I GET MY LOOKS, DAD"

Popular Elsewhere

16:01 UK time, Monday, 4 April 2011

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

Discover magazine most popular story lists 20 things you didn't know about kissing. Fact number one explains human lips are different from those of all other animals because they purse outward. But fact two goes on to clarify that we are not the only species to engage in kissing-like behaviours as great apes press their lips together to express excitement, affection, or reconciliation.

Proving popular on the Washington Post is an opinion piece arguing for the end of "false choice". Ruth Marcus argues President Obama has employed the false choice device in assessing financial reform, environmental regulation, defence contracting, civil liberties, crime policy, health care, the deployment of troops in Iraq, Native Americans, the space programme and, most recently, the situation in Libya. She explains there are a few forms of the false choice but a particular favourite of Mr Obama is the "false false choice":

"Set up two unacceptable extremes that no one is seriously advocating and position yourself as the champion of the reasonable middle ground between these unidentified straw men."

On the New Scientist's most popular list is a design of the ideal religion. The article stands up for religion because religious people are happier and healthier, and religion offers community. It goes on to argue a new world religion would have a harmonious blend of the euphoria and sensual trappings of a sacred party, the sympathy and soothing balms of therapy, the mysteries and revelations of an eternal journey and the nurturing, didactic atmosphere of a school. It also suggests numerous festivals, holidays and rituals would keep followers hooked.

A career in biotechnology is the happiest job in the US according to one of Forbes magazine's most read articles. It's the result of a survey by a careers website. The findings show that biotechnology fuses engineering and technology with the life sciences. But a key aspect of the job which makes biotech workers so happy is that they value their colleagues.

Your Letters

15:02 UK time, Monday, 4 April 2011

So, despite the fact that "96% of parents said their children were gracious in victory", and that "three-quarters of children said they shook hands with the opposition after losing the game", you still choose to headline your article "Britain's pupils are bad losers". You're really glass half-empty people, aren't you, BBC? Less flippantly, you're meant to be impartial. While we expect you not to spout Gadaffi-style "everything is groovy" propaganda, we also expect you not to put negative spin on non-news just to try and whip up some moral outrage.
Rob, London, UK

In reference to this article and particularly this quote: "...similar planes with comparable flight cycles (take-offs and landings)." Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that "flight cycle" the same for every other plane every produced?!
Ross, Norwich

I could not believe that King George VI was referred to as "of The King's Speech fame"! Not in some sort of celebrity mag but on the BBC News website.
Carrie de Silva, Nantwich, Cheshire

Personally, I can't see enough of Brian Cox's face anywhere. How nice to have science expained so attractively.
Elsie, Orkney, UK

Sue, London (Friday's letters)... perhaps they're working on the principle that nobody's looking at their faces.
Gary, Coventry

Sue, (Friday's letters) that surely depends on which bits of the actors are in shot - and how intimately acquainted they are with their friends, family and future employers.
Tim, London

Paper Monitor

13:10 UK time, Monday, 4 April 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Befuddled, muddled, rambling and a trainwreck. No, it's not the start of the Britain's Got Talent (BGT) audititons, they're just a few words used to describe the opening night of the stage show of Hollywood hellraiser Charlie Sheen.

The Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is not An Option tour kicked off in Detroit last night and is reviewed in most of the newspapers today. If you want a gauge of just how bad it was, the BGT auditions - which also kicked off this weekend - look like a sleek, multi-million pound West End production in comparison. And that's even with a judging panel including David Hasselhoff and hopefuls including an opera-singing dog.

As the Guardian's Hadley Freeman points out, the latter statement in the show's title turned out to be a tad over-optimistic. The confused, rambling actor left the stage utterly defeated after less than an hour, when the fed-up crowd began to chant "refund, refund" en masse.

"I thought he'd be funnier," one disappointed audience member said afterwards. He wasn't alone, they all complained Sheen had barely raised a smile from them. But as Ms Freeman points out, the actor didn't write the scripts for his hugely successful show Two and a Half Men, someone else wrote those jokes for him.

The Sun, Mirror and Star highlight the one thing that did get a cheer on the night, when Sheen's girlfriends - or "goddesses" as he likes to call them - kissed on stage, but it's highly unlikely to win him a Tony Award any time soon.

The Times sticks with the traditional format of awarding stars for the stage show. In Sheen's case, that's no stars. Absolutely zilch. Its reviewer Rhys Blakely is honest enough to admit it was foolish to have hoped for anything entertaining and hits the nail of the head when it comes to why this is:

Yes, Sheen possesses a genius for diatribe, a gift for frenzied verbal invention that peaks, in a profane sort of way, when he hits attack mode. And no he doesn't seem to give a damn. But when you're locked in a room with him for over an hour, he gets very boring very quickly. It turns out that his rants don't translate from a 30-second YouTube or 140-character tweets.

It seems the only moment of clarity for Sheen - and probably the audience - came when he dealt with a heckler. "I've already got your money dude," he shouted back at him. At $60 (£37) a pop for a ticket and every one of the 4,500 seats in the Detroit theatre sold, the actor has actually pocketed a lot of money from a lot of dudes. So who is the bigger fool - the star on self-destruct or the people paying to see him?

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