BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for April 17, 2011 - April 23, 2011

Your Letters

14:56 UK time, Friday, 22 April 2011

Why is it I only get 7 out of 7 in the quiz when I can't brag about to my colleagues in the office?
Sarah, March, Cambridgeshire

Pedants! Grammatical mistakes? No 7 Day Quiz?! What to wear seems to have been replaced by MM letter subscribers getting their undergarments in a twist over such frivolities.
Tim McMahon, Pennar/Wales

Oooh look! An article which speculates about something which is entirely beyond human control, and which may or may not affect something an awful lot of us couldn't care less about! I enjoyed not reading that. Thanks.
Sue, London

10 things we didn't know last week

13:21 UK time, Friday, 22 April 2011

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

1. Planets may have black plants.
More details

2. Chimps give birth like humans.
More details

3. Dinosaurs suffered from toothache.
More details

4. Swearing relieves pain.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

5. Cuckoos copy hawks.
More details

6. Supermarkets still give away cardboard boxes for nothing.
More details

7. The world's smallest caravan measures 6ft 7in (2m) by 2ft 6in (75cm) and has a top speed of 5mph.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

8. A rare version of God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols is the most valuable record of all time.
More details

9. Spies used to engrave messages on toe-nails.
More details

10. Soap and water can be better than hand gels and wipes at tackling germs.
More details

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

Caption Competition

12:46 UK time, Friday, 22 April 2011


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week's picture showed two London marathon competitors dressed at Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton.

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

6. MightyGiddyUpGal
Bridesped revisited

5. Valerie Ganne
The organisers of the Marathon had to explain that all the donations had gone to pay for the 26-mile red carpet

4. Rob Falconer
Don't worry, Kate - I'm sure we'll be able to find a dry-cleaner's before next Friday

3. Kudosless
Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer promote London re-launch of Briderunner

2. Flora Brecon
News of the World reporters expose yet another fake marriage scam

1. Frankonline
Wills gets Kate in training in anti paparazzi tactics.

Paper Monitor

11:58 UK time, Friday, 22 April 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Every political leader has to prove they are a normal bloke or blokette.

Gordon Brown tried, David Cameron tried and now Ed Miliband is trying.

How else to prove your ordinary bloke credentials than a big interview in the Sun, holding up a copy of said periodical.

There's an interview alongside, but it's all the usual stuff. What's far more interesting is which page Miliband has the newspaper open at.

It's from 14 April it seems. Paper Monitor recalls that the previous day's main stories were the health secretary in a row with nurses, Libya, and the detention of ex-Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.

But Miliband is reading a paper that led on "______ hooker bedded married star" and "Footie star's affair with Big Bro ______". Oh, and "Zeta in mental clinic".

He doesn't appear to be looking at page three.

But in any case for a man who has to deny allegations that his stag night will be "two Fabian Society lectures and half a pint of beer", it's perhaps a necessary bit of image management.

Popular Elsewhere

15:05 UK time, Thursday, 21 April 2011

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

The Wall Street Journal's most popular story says that the Russian army has failed at its attempt to reinvent itself. The article says Vladimir Putin's "most ambitious" project was an attempt to rebuild the remains of the "once-mighty" Soviet Red Army. A cornerstone of that effort was the creation of special combat-ready units staffed entirely by professional soldiers, not conscripts.

However, the work the soldiers were given was "menial, humiliating and of little practical use" - such as shoveling snow for hour upon hour. With volunteers leaving in droves, the Defense Ministry has abandoned the initiative altogether. The paper argues that the program's failure shows the limits of Mr Putin's grand plan to transform the army from a cumbersome machine designed for European land war into a lithe force capable of fighting regional wars and terrorism.

One of Forbes magazine's most popular stories reports on progress made by those trying to create teleportation. Transporting matter from one place to another instantly has long been possible on Star Trek. But, the article reports, in the real world we are only just getting to the stage of possibly teleporting information. The new invention would allow information to be transported from one place to another without "travelling in the intervening space".

The Washington Post's most popular story argues that the Fox News host Glenn Beck lost his job in part because of the reduction in US unemployment. It says that as the economy started to recover, Mr Beck's apocalyptic predictions lost their allure. Instead of adapting, he turned it up a gear, urging Americans to hoard food and, according to the article, becoming increasingly antisemitic.

One of Al Jazeera's most popular stories reports on the "scam" behind rising fuel and food prices. It argues that the rise in prices is not just about demand increasing relative to supply. Instead it puts forward an argument that prices are being artificially pushed up by investors speculating. Campaigners are putting on pressure for increased regulation of investors arguing that it affects whether the poorest people can afford to eat.

A popular story on the First Post reports on "outrage" at a photo of a chimp family with the face of US President Barack Obama superimposed onto the youngest of the family. The piece quotes the California party official who circulated the image as saying "I simply found it amusing".

Your Letters

14:15 UK time, Thursday, 21 April 2011

It feels weird it being the last working day of the week and yet there being no 7 Days quiz.
Basil Long, Nottingham

MM: But what better way to spend Good Friday than being tested on one's knowledge of the week's news?

Phil in Leeds (Wednesday's letters) should surely have ended his letter about Monitorites' pedantry with a question mark, not an exclamation mark, shouldn't he?
Andrew, London

The Burkini stories are a gentle reposte to the press habit on sunny days of finding bikini-clad students on a beach. Either that or it's a cover story for a major scoop.
Lewis Graham, Hitchin, UK

Why did Di, (Wednesday's letters) have to say *don't* click this link? When someone tells me not to, I just have to do it. Now I can't put my feet on the floor, and my co-workers are starting to think I'm a bit strange...
Robyn, Cheshire

Yeah, worried their wives will find out!
Rob, London

Re: gagging orders - I nominate Candace to set up the US-based super-injunction busting free-speech website.
Phil, Guisborough

Paper Monitor

10:30 UK time, Thursday, 21 April 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Another day, another gagging order protecting the identity of a famous person who has got up to something with someone they shouldn't and don't want anyone to know about it.

While some may agree with the judges who are issuing these orders and point out the papers want to make money out of these potential scandals, the press is united in their anger at this "growing menace to Britain's proud tradition of free speech" - well, that's the Sun's way of describing the situation, anyway.

Paper Monitor admires the way The Times has tackled the story by detailing the three latest injunctions but blanking out the bits we aren't allowed to know about.

One example: "Mr ****, a man who ****, claimed the mental health of his family would suffer if the pictures and information about his **** were made public." It makes for a striking-looking page in the paper and certainly makes its point.

Most outspoken must be Kelvin McKenzie in the Sun. He doesn't hold back with his view on "panty-wearing judges," as he calls them.

"I despise them," he concludes after pointing out to the reader the absurdity that he knows the identity of the three most recent recipients of the gagging orders, as do many in the media - but the reader is not allowed to know.

He adds a personal touch saying that he was in "a fashionable drinking haunt the other night and the actor (subject of one of the orders) was doing the backstroke in the European wine lake without a care in the world."

In his eagerness for the identities to be revealed, he points out if someone in the US set up a site to run all the names and all the allegations against the people, what could the High Court do? Food for thought, PM thinks.

Your Letters

17:47 UK time, Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Speaking as someone who develops a rash if I so much as look at the sun, can I suggest that Nigella went to the beach, despite not wanting to sunbathe, because her friends were there? I find that people don't like spending sunny days sitting with me in a darkened room.

I'll get my parasol...
Tracey Wells, Notts, UK

Re: Ms Lawson's swimming costume. Chancellor Angela Merkel on holiday in Italy comes to mind. Nigella was likely not looking forward to her own version of the Sun's caption "I'm Big In The Bumdestag".
Candace, New Jersey, US

Oh Paper Monitor - TWO reviews of the burkini - Tuesday and Wednesday? Are they THAT fascinating?
Fran, Brill, UK

Just a warning to arachnophobes - don't click on this article - not all the pictures are of very dead fossilised spiders.....
Di, The Castleton, North Yorkshire

RE: Gotten "(Tuesday's Letters)". Who would have thought Monitor readers were such pedants!

Phil, Leeds

Well this has certainly spoiled their surprise for the day.
Rusty, Montreal, Canada

Popular Elsewhere

16:25 UK time, Wednesday, 20 April 2011

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

The New York Times' most popular articles suggests a better way to teach maths.
The article starts off with the assertion that it isn't socially acceptable to be illiterate so this should also apply to being innumerate. The article argues that the problem at the moment is in the style of learning. The article explains "problem-based" or "discovery-based" learning leaves some students stuck. Instead it suggests these teaching methods should be replaced by more explicitly guiding the pupils at every stage of working out an equation.

A popular story on the Guardian's website claims the backlash against the popularity of Lady Gaga has begun. The article reports the singer has offended her gay fans. It explains that the gay community is perceived as forming the core of her fanbase but she has been criticised as "having no right" to declare herself as the ambassador of gay culture.

A couple who hired a Channel 4 pet detective to snatch a dog may be ordered to give it back, according to a popular Daily Mail story. The accusation is that the couple had given the labrador away. The ownership dispute goes to trial in May.

Slate's most popular article offers a word of caution to Kate Middleton about her future mother-in-law, the Queen. It points out that the Queen refused to allow her younger sister Margaret to marry "the man she loved and had chosen", and she let her "authoritarian" husband have charge of the education of her eldest son. Based on this and other examples, it advises "if you really love him, honey, get him out of there" and avoid being "another sacrificial lamb to water the dried bones and veins of a desiccated system".

New Scientist's most popular article says children avoid cheating if they believe they are being watched. It is based on recent research which asked children to play a video game which was so difficult that is necessitated cheating. The children who believed a make-believe princess was in the room were less likely to cheat.

Paper Monitor

12:26 UK time, Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

So yesterday's news was Nigella Lawson in a "burkini", a piece of voluminous sharia-compliant swimwear aimed at Muslim women, on Bondi Beach.

And what is yesterday's news?

If you answered "today's features", our survey says "bing" or some other affirmatory noise.

All across the land, yesterday saw young female features journalists despatched to obtain said garment and try it out for, ahem, humorous effect.

In the Daily Mail, which gets two pages out of the story, the brave Laura Stott tackles a swim in London's Serpentine. She notes alarmed toddles and speculates: "Perhaps they've confused me for a police frogman."

The Sun, on the other hand, sends Page 3 girl Rosie Jones to the beach in Brighton and then has a bloke writing about it.

Rosie's observation? "At first it feels like you're wearing a giant condom."

The Daily Express also has two pages on the burkini but it doesn't appear to have despatched anyone anywhere. Perhaps money is tight this week, or perhaps the Express eschews the most obvious ideas.

They have their deputy fashion editor writing about bikinis but the only joy on their two-page spread is on a picture caption.

"General porpoise".

Popular Elsewhere

16:38 UK time, Tuesday, 19 April 2011

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

The New York Times' most read piece looks at scientific research on how musicians communicate emotion. Recent scientific research appears to debunk the belief that it is all about major or minor scales and chord progressions. The article says that what really communicates emotion may not be melody or rhythm, but moments when musicians make subtle changes to musical patterns.

More than 1.1 million Australians are in a relationship but living apart according to a popular story with readers of the Australian. They are in what are called living-apart-together relationships - in other words they're a couple but live in different places. Officially 24% of the single population are actually in a relationship however, the Australian Bureau of Statistics records them as single.

"How can they live with themselves?" is the question starting the Daily Mail's most read story. It is referring to "vile thugs" who hurled a brick into a four-year-old's face. The paper reports that preceding the attack the girl's father had asked the boys to stop kicking a football against his van.

The "real victims of the phone-hacking scandal are the tabloid hacks" according to the most popular opinion piece in the Guardian. Charlie Brooker argues that the days of Fleet Street Journalists "making the world a worse place with ease are over". Mr Brooker vents his spleen:

"Chances are you're quite smart. And you probably love to write - or did, once, back then, before...before the fall. Now you're writing nothing but NYAHH NYAHH NYAHH ad nauseum. You use the only brain you'll ever have to puke out endless gutfuls of cheap gossip or crude propaganda. I suppose the best way to cope with the dull, constant, pulsing awareness that you're wasting your life actively making the world worse is to somehow bewitch yourself into believing you're actively making the world better. That by writing about a footballer's bedroom exploits you're fearlessly exposing the ugly truth behind the wholesome public image and blah blah role model blah blah fans' hard-earned cash blah blah sanctimony blah. Hey - whatever works for you, yeah? Dress as a priest if it helps. We all know you're just grubbily recounting a sex act for our fleeting amusement, like a radio commentator describing two pigs rutting in a sty."

Your Letters

15:47 UK time, Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Now *that's* what I call health and safety. Spotted at services stop on M11 (see right).
Steve, London

"...while dogs have also been checking bins and lamp-posts for bombs." As dog careers go, lamp-post-checker must surely be up there as one of the most desirable?
Sue, London

Tim - (Monday's letters) - gotten? Gotten? If you are not an American living in Wales, please explain yourself forthwith!
PollySaxon, Lichfield

I hope the author of this story has been suitably reprimanded for the use of a non-standard comparison? We now need to know how many Olympic-sized swimming pools are equivalent to two petrol tankers.
Ruaraidh, Wirral, UK

"Shiels preparing for Killie job" - now this might be taking the confusing headline too far, but did anyone else open this expecting to see the BBC's Silicon Valley reporter in a shock career change to Scottish League Football Management? - No? Just me then (already have my coat on, thanks).
Marc, Oldham UK

Unlike Kate Richardson (Monday's letters) we did manage to return all our cardboard boxes to the removal firm. Mind you, we haven't seen the cat nor several of the smaller children since.
David Dee, Matola, Mozambique

Paper Monitor

12:27 UK time, Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The Daily Telegraph's front page is adorned with a photograph of Nigella Lawson, on the beach, clad in swimwear.

So far, so customary for the newspaper formerly known as the Hurleygraph.

Except that the television chef, celebrated by the paper for her "Rubenesque curves", is clan head-to-toe in a black "burkini" - a "sharia-compliant" swimming costume sold by an east London company.

The paper quotes a spokesman for Ms Lawson insisting that the garment was chosen to protect herself from sunburn, and not because she had converted to Islam.

But the Telegraph fails to hide its disappointment at missing out on a glipse of her "voluptuous figure".

The Daily Mirror disapproves, on grounds of style.

Fashion editor Didi Danso says that black is a "terrible choice" on the beach and she is "not sure it would look good clinging to any woman".

The Daily Mail is more pointed. It asks: "Why bother going on the beach, then?"

Far be it for Paper Monitor to presume to know what motivates Ms Lawson. But perhaps she judged the ridicule she endured for donning the burkini was preferable to the scrutiny she would have been subject to by reporters on Fleet Street had she opted for something less modest?

Paper Monitor

12:50 UK time, Monday, 18 April 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor has known of many journalists who are shy about their image appearing in a newspaper or on a news website.

Some go as far as shunning byline images, but it's more normal for the line to be drawn short of anything showing the reporter "doing" anything.

By "doing" we mean the wacky things that, feature writers in particular, tend to get up to.

Robert Hardman is not one of these journalists. He has penned a lovely little feature in today's Daily Mail.

It's the story of a painstaking restoration of a wrecked steam locomotive by a rag-tag assembly of enthusiasts.

It's a fascinating and entertaining read. But Paper Monitor is confused by its main image - of Hardman astride the train like a 1980s model draped over the bonnet of a souped-up Ford Escort.

Normally, when a reporter appears in such a picture, it is because he or she is involved in the story in some way - having performed a daring undercover investigation, for instance, or placed him or herself at the centre of events, Gonzo-style, like Hunter S Thompson, Jon Ronson or Louis Theroux. Or even having taken part in the restoration of a wrecked steam locomotive.

Hardman has executed a diligent bit of feature-writing. But your humble columnist wonders what the reporter has done to make his own countenance so crucial to the story, other than admit that he is a "non-railway buff".

Perhaps there is an army of Mail readers out there who eagerly await each of his photographic depictions in the paper, treasuring these images as British squaddies did with the Daily Mirror's cartoon strip Jane during World War II.

Your Letters

11:46 UK time, Monday, 18 April 2011

The juxtaposition of Google denies Panda hit on rival and Polar bear Mercedes put to sleep in the Most Popular list set my mind racing with thoughts of ursine assassination.
Paul Greggor, London

10 Things, point 7: maybe dinosaurs were more like us in that they all had full-time jobs to pay the bills and mortgage on their cave therefore food had to be gotten at night? Just get my coat... and evening shopping bag...
Tim McMahon, Pennar/Wales

We had to pay for our boxes when we moved six years ago. It was meant to be refundable, but who manages to unpack all the boxes & then be bothered to have them taken back to the removal firm?
Kate Richardson @BBC News Magazine

More to the point, when did people stop using tea chests? - I remember that's what we used when moving house in the early 70s.
Simon Earle @BBC_magazine

Having just finished the quiz of the week's news, I realise that this is the 48th consecutive time I've failed to get more than one right. Is this a record?
Raymond Hopkins, Kronoby, Finland

For a moment I misread @BBC_magazine "SCREAM! What it's like to kiss Robert Pattinson" as Robert Peston. Judge me if you dare.
Dominic Self @BBC_magazine

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