BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for May 22, 2011 - May 28, 2011

10 things we didn't know last week

14:36 UK time, Friday, 27 May 2011

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

1. A third of the world's smokers live in China.
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2. Toasts to the Queen usually just contain the words "The Queen".
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3. Only three states in the world do not allow divorce - the Vatican, the Philippines and Malta.
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4. Geometry skills are innate.
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5. "Dong xuan" means frozen garlic in China but winning an election in Taiwan.
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6. Both of the Obamas apparently like Guinness.
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7. Vuvuzelas spread disease.
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8. Reindeer have UV vision.
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9. It is illegal to sell moon rocks in the US.
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10. Parakeets are bullies.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week.

Caption Competition

13:30 UK time, Friday, 27 May 2011


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

Aerial dancers

This week it's a group of aerial dancers rehearsing ahead of the Salisbury International Arts Festival.

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

6. Raven
Peter Crouch tries his hand at puppetry

5. rogueslr
It looks like it isn't only special payments that have been the subject of cuts for the Parachute Regiment.

4. Vicky S
Following the prolonged drought the water companies were willing to try anything.

3. Mr Snoozy
Perfect! Don't Move! I can see Channel 5 sooo clearly now!

2. Manisha
Princess Beatrice reveals the hat that she almost wore to the Royal Wedding

1. Candace9839
Mary Poppins sends in her practically perfect commandos

Paper Monitor

10:43 UK time, Friday, 27 May 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

A new fad has reached Fleet Street: Geordie accents.

The papers are full of the story that Tyneside's own Cheryl Cole has reportedly been ditched as a judge by the US version of the show, apparently on account of her north-eastern England vowels.

And what better way to demonstrate that accent's many qualities than by transcribing it phonetically?

The leader of that paper of record, the Times, is written as though by Ms Cole:

They sez they couldn't understand what Ah wez saying. Darlings, Ah can hardly understand what I'm saying mesel horf the time. It wez tha an the git big hair. Ah thowt I'd get advice frem another TV star, so Ah asked Donald Trump te gissies the nyame of his hairdresser. Ah blame him, but he says the hair wasn't the problem, it's the fact tha Ah wasn't born in America. He sez maybe if I'd shown viewers me burth certificate.

A more authentic rendition comes in the Daily Mirror from South Shields-born Kevin Maguire, the paper's associate editor, who argues that it is not only the Americans who fail to appreciate the subtleties of Ms Cole's manner of speech.

Ah bet when sheh gans into Greggs doon sooth an asks for a stottie wi pease pudding they haven't got a clue. They hev dinner when it's dark instead of at dinner time. An if a bloke holds open a door, hor chap will kick 'is teeth in for trying te pinch his lass.

Not all commentators feel the need to adopt a Geordie idiom when discussing the story, however.

The Guardian's Marina Hyde manages to gaze wearily upon the sorry tale without resorting to any references to the Bigg Market.

What interests her is the sheer mammoth hubris of the X Factor and its antecedents.

"Back in 2007, American Idol was estimated to be worth $2.5bn (£1.78bn) to Fox," she observes.

"Adjusted for inflation - and the continued slide of western civilisation into late-capitalist dementia - the US X Factor will ideally be worth more than Obama's entire economic plan to incentivise democratic change in the Arab world. It will certainly be 20 times more important."

Popular Elsewhere

16:01 UK time, Thursday, 26 May 2011

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

Chinese prisoners have been forced into building up credits on online games according to the Guardian's most popular story. The practice is known as gold farming and involves the monotonous repetition of basic tasks in games such as World of Warcraft. The article says millions of gamers around the world are prepared to pay real money for such online credits built up by the gold miners, which they can use to progress in the online games.
It goes on to say that the trading of virtual currencies in multiplayer games has become so rampant in China that it is increasingly difficult to regulate. In April, the Sichuan provincial government in central China launched a court case against a gamer who stole credits online worth about 3000rmb.

The Brisbane Times says it is exposing "stolen jokes" told by Jordan Paris in Australia's Got Talent. This month he said "I've only got three requirements when it comes to girls. Number one, are you a girl? Number two, have you always been a girl? And number three, if not, can you keep a secret?"

Unfortunately for Paris the joke has been traced back to Geoff Keith who posted it on the Comedy Central website back in 2007.

A popular New York Time article asks if conjoined twins could share a mind.

Krista and Tatiana Hogan are four-year-old twin girls who are joined at the head. No controlled studies have been done; because the girls are so young and because of the challenges involved in studying two conjoined heads but the article says many neuroscientists are inclined to believe that their brains are connected by a live wire of a nature previously unknown. The paper goes on to say these girls could be really significant as they provide an incomparable resource for neuroscientists interested in tracing neural pathways, in the malleability of the brain and in the construction of the self.

The Atlantic's most popular article reports on efforts to fund a "metaphor machine".

Intelligence services are looking for computer scientists to build a machine which can deconstruct the metaphors used in every language, scrutinising the vast online data to give an insight into how people are feeling. It's all food for thought.

A popular Russia Today story claims activists in Moscow have taken to throwing red paint on drug dealers. The article says that they pose as customers, they arrange to meet drug dealers and, once they are satisfied that the suspect is a drug pusher - they serve them with what is known as a "black mark," something of a misnomer since the act of throwing a waterproof red dye in the individual's face leaves it red for three weeks.

Your Letters

15:39 UK time, Thursday, 26 May 2011

The image caption in What Paddington tells us about German v British manners states: "There is no word in German for 'small talk'". It would appear there isn't one in English either. I'll get my duffel coat.
Ian, Bristol

Really? There is a Journal of Politeness Research? The rejection slips for academic papers submitted must be lovely.
Mark, Reading, UK

"The Parachute Regiment has not made an operational jump since the Suez crisis in 1956". Isn't this like cavalry without horses?
Graham, Hayle, Cornwall

Four pieces of music (at least) in 45 minutes. That's not prog rock! Ideally you might fit two in, three at a push.
Harvey Mayne, Frankfurt, Germany

Can just about believe a lap dancer can turn into a nun, but a lap dancer that turned into financial difficulties?
David, Swindon

One is sure that if Paper Monitor did have more regal aspirations the column would have used the word "one". As a pronoun of indefinite gender, it should be close to PMs heart.
Caroline Bown, Rochester, UK

Paper Monitor

13:07 UK time, Thursday, 26 May 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's barbecue season - a time for fiddling with firelighters, and, if you're British, no doubt sheltering the embers from the rain.

Oh, and it also seems to be the occasion for high-level diplomacy between the British prime minister and the president of the United States.

"Throw another Camburger on the Obarbecue," is the headline in the Sun after the two leaders flipped grilled meat in the Downing Street garden for 150 service personnel.

The title has, perhaps, delivered more ingenious puns before. It is, however, more concerned with discussing how the pair "failed to paper over all their differences" on Libya and Afghanistan.

The Independent focuses on the event's unique choreography.

By eschewing aprons, it says, Obama and Cameron were "brave and possibly foolish" but ultimately well-reasoned as "nothing ruins a photo op quite like a butcher's pinny".

Meanwhile, it observes, the two men's wives were "relegated to dishing out salad while the men do the important stuff. How very normal".

Amelia Hill of the Guardian, however, is more impressed:

Under interspersed bunting, featuring both the Union flag and the Stars and Stripes, the politicians indicated the ease of their relationship by taking a break to discuss the finer points of burger flipping, although the prime minister did make one move with his tongs that left the US president looking rather wary.

Popular Elsewhere

18:30 UK time, Wednesday, 25 May 2011

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

The Times' most popular article lays out Michelle Obama's seven style rules. Among the edicts are "don't be bullied" which refers to her choice of wearing Alexander McQueen's clothes instead of American designers. The article also says her success is down to accepting no freebies and a "liberal arms policy". "If you're going to flash some flesh yet hope to retain maximum gravitas, arms are the best limbs to bare" it says.

An anti-abortion group has been drafted in as a sexual health adviser to government according to a popular Guardian article. The article explains the charity Life, which favours abstinence based sex education, has been invited to join a new sexual health forum set up to replace the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV. In contrast, the Guardian points out, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has been omitted from the forum "despite its long-term position on the previous advisory group and 40-year track record in providing pregnancy counselling nationwide".

A big hitter with Daily Mail readers reveals the secret life of the reclusive daughter of America's second richest man. Huguette Clark has died aged 104 but, the story says, hasn't been seen for 80 years. Her father was successful in copper mining and was America's second richest man in the early 1900s behind John Rockefeller. The Daily Mail says an investigation is now underway into how her millions were handled. It goes on to say many believe that Miss Clark's lawyer kept her isolated from her family and wrongly accepted large amounts of money and gifts from her.

A steady decline in major crime is baffling experts according to a widely blogged about New York Times article.

The article says the number of violent crimes in the United States has dropped to the lowest rate in nearly 40 years. It is considered puzzling partly because it runs counter to the expectation that crime would increase during a recession. The paper says there was no immediate consensus to explain the drop. But some experts said the figures collided with theories about correlations between crime, unemployment and the number of people in prison.

Time's most popular article looks at the old belief that it is easier to get a job if you have a job. It comes after a Sony Ericsson job ad said "No unemployed candidates will be considered at all". While employers may argue that someone out of work may not have up-to-date training, advocates for the unemployed argue that it's down to reasons of the economy or general corporate downsizing, not through any fault of their own.

Your Letters

17:55 UK time, Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Never mind the capitalisation of Tea (Paper Monitor). Why was "the" capitalised in The President? These things matter to some people. Alright - they matter to me. I'll get My Coat.
John Whapshott, Westbury, England

"Google to show off mobile wallet". I've had a mobile wallet for years but I guess mine doesn't have quite as much cash in it as Google's does...
David Richerby, Liverpool, UK

It's my Criminal Law degree exam tomorrow. Wish me luck! With all the news breaking recently about Clarke and his rape comments, plus your very well-timed article about graffiti on bridges and the Radio 4 Afternoon Play yesterday about the Kingsnorth 6, I am beginning to consider that my TV licence fee is better value than tuition fees.
Ross, Norwich

This has to be the best last sentence of any story since this one.
Nick, Belfast

So they're hoping to solve transport problems during the 2012 Olympics with "longer trains running more frequently." Now why didn't anybody think of that before?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

I must have missed the bit in Platoon where they bury a guinea pig...
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Paper Monitor

10:27 UK time, Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Whenever Paper Monitor feels insufficiently regal - if no servant is on hand to spoon this column's Bran Flakes from a Tupperware container, for instance - the remedy usually involves turning to the Court Circular.

The Court Circular, for the uninitiated, is the official record that lists the engagements carried out by the royal family.

Written by Buckingham Palace officials and dutifully printed in the Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Scotsman, it harks back to a simpler, more deferential age when royal coverage did not involve long lenses or intercepted phone calls.

Best of all, it is composed using highly formal language and the kind of punctilious regard for the correct forms of address that would satisfy even Mr Simon Heffer.

Take the most recent missive, for instance, which details a trip to the UK by the world's most powerful man.

"The President of the United States of America and Mrs Obama today commenced a State Visit in London to The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh," it begins.

"The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge called upon The President of the United States of America and Mrs Obama."

Paper Monitor is sure that President and Mrs Obama were thrilled and humbled that a newlywed couple had deigned to have "called upon" them in this manner.

Still it continues:

The President of the United States of America and Mrs Obama afterwards visited No. 10 Downing Street and Mrs Obama remained to Tea.

It's the capped-up initial letter in "Tea" that really gives this sentence its air of authority. Paper Monitor will now refer to all afternoon ingestions in this manner, especially when served from Tupperware.

Popular Elsewhere

17:38 UK time, Tuesday, 24 May 2011

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

The TV genre of the moment - "structured reality" - is explored by a big hitting Independent article. It refers to the TV programmes in the middle ground between fact and fiction like The Only Way is Essex, Made in Chelsea and Geordie Shore. The article says the (unwritten) rule for structured reality is that while the locations and scenarios are often instigated by producers, the interaction between the characters is real. It goes on to point out that Daran Little, the "story producer" on Towie and Made In Chelsea, is also a regular writer for EastEnders and Coronation Street. In an effort to explain where the line between fiction and reality lies, he says "We'll steer the characters to certain places. Before the cameras roll we'll say 'remember to ask what happened last night'... In the edit, I'll cut words out of sentences to make it more 'writerly' and give it that soap opera quality. But we don't make anything happen that they don't want to happen. The emotional narrative is real."

A popular Guardian story gives looks at the problematic tasking of spoting a psychopath. Jon Ronson follows the story of a man who says he faked mental illness to get into Broadmoor and now can't convince anyone he was lying. The problem is faking mental illness to get out of a prison sentence is exactly the kind of deceitful and manipulative act you'd expect of a psychopath. To add to that being seen as sincere when expressing remorse is also problematic "They say psychopaths can't feel remorse," said Tony, the man Ronson had been speaking to. "I feel lots of remorse. But when I tell them I feel remorse, they say psychopaths pretend to be remorseful when they're not. Trying to prove you're not a psychopath is even harder than trying to prove you're not mentally ill."

CNN's most popular story says a new date has been set for the end of the world for 21 October By Harold Camping. This follows his previous highly publicised dommsday prophecy for 21 May not coming true. The story says Mr Camping first inaccurately predicted the world would end in 1994. He is funded by a non-profit Christian radio network which, CNN reports, received $80 million in contributions between 2005 and 2009.

A teacher with 30 years' experience who challenged a rowdy pupil has been sacked according to a popular Daily Mail article. A tribunal heard that the teacher stopped a student "scrunching up" other boys' GCSE art coursework but the boy claimed the teacher had grabbed his right forearm so hard it left nail marks. The teacher claims the story was embellished.

In the Telegraph's most popular article James Delingpole is perturbed about Barack Obama's claim to Irishness. Delingpole accuses Mr Obama of being disingenuous - tracing his routes back to wherever he happens to be visiting. He argues that the ability to adapt makes him into a charlatan and says Tony Blair used to do this trick too, "his accent mutating from broad Glaswegian to genteel Edinburgh to Mummerset to Estuary to Richard E Grant to Sarf London Grime - often in the course of one Downing Street reception - the better to persuade his target audience that he was their kind of guy."

Your Letters

17:11 UK time, Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Andrew, Malvern, UK (Monday's letters) I feel your pain. We suffered a similar loss in our household last month. The resulting scene in our garden was my eight year old who fell to his knees next to the grave with his arms in the air shouting "Why?" at the sky, not unlike that bit in Platoon. Very deepest sympathies.
Lisa, Portsmouth, UK

Phil from Oxford (Monday's letters), looks like a big axe to me. What's funny about that?
Jimmy, Milton Keynes

Dear Phil, you've not looked at Scandinavia on the Euro coinage then?
Rahere, Smithfield

"Vuvuzelas 'may spread diseases'." Such as deafness?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Oh a new velocity unit! (In Vuvuzelas 'may spread diseases', "travelling at a four million droplets a second". So how much is that in double-decker buses?
Sven, Basel, Switzerland

Best. Caption. Ever. "There is no evidence Osama Bin Laden liked the IT Crowd". Please, please publish this. Otherwise I will be miserable.
The Baroness, Australia

Paper Monitor

09:55 UK time, Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Stifled yawn. Biggggggggg stretch. Paper Monitor is a wee bit tired this morning. Even though there is a lot of love for you dear reader, the thought of trawling through the papers to select some choice nuggets of news for you is making one feel a teeny bit weary.

It's mornings like this when you wish there was just one big story in town, just one person's face on every single front page across the land. A scandal that every newspaper is writing about and everyone else is talking about. It makes Paper Monitor's job so much easier. Ah, if only...

The Sun would love us to believe there was a bit of a sex scandal at the US Billboard Awards and tries to lure us in with the headline: "SINGERS' KINKY DANCE KISS". In a "steamy" performance at the awards, Rihanna and Britney Spears "writhed in bondage outfits", the paper says. And that kiss? When you see the photo it's more of a motherly peck on the cheek from Rihanna, albeit while dressed in white PVC and a few chains. So no real scandal there then.

But there are two faces in most newspapers today - those of Barack and Michelle Obama enjoying a pint of plain. They visited Moneygall, the Irish village where the US president's great-great grandfather lived and worked as a shoemaker. While there, they did what any local would do, go to the pub.

As the Daily Mail points out, there was no awkward moment and refusal, like the week before when the Queen was offered a taste of Guinness. It says "the world's most powerful man couldn't wait to pick up a glass".

But he did let it settle before knocking it back, like a professional. If coverage of the picture in today's papers is anything to go by, Guinness can probably cancel its advertising budget for the next few years. The Obamas have provided priceless publicity.

Last, but not least, another royal headwear shocker. The Daily Telegraph has a picture of the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show sporting a hairnet with black ribbons to stop her curls being ruffled by the strong wind.

It's an "interesting" look. Could this be where Princess Beatrice gets her rather individual style in headwear?

Popular Elsewhere

16:39 UK time, Monday, 23 May 2011

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

The debate about whether Sikh students should be exempt from school knife bans has reached Australia according to Brisbane Times' most popular story.

Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner has raised concern that the ban could be discriminatory. The article explains Sikhs believe the kirpan is a religious symbol of the struggle of good and evil.

This comes after a judge in Britain called for Sikhs to be allowed to wear the ceremonial daggers to school. In New South Wales last year, the education department defended its decision to ban butter knifes and small fruit knives while allowing Sikhs to carry kirpans. Meanwhile, in 2008, an exclusive private school on Brisbane's bayside was forced to apologise to a Sikh student it refused to enrol because of its strict uniform rules.

A popular Daily Mail article says a mother claimed her four children and husband were severely disabled in a £112,000 benefits fraud to fund her celebrity "obsession". The article says Jayne McKnight claimed all of her children had epilepsy and spent the cash on concert tickets and backstage passes posing with stars including Susan Boyle, Ronan Keating and the late Stephen Gately from Boyzone. It goes on to say she posted the photos on her social networking pages, describing them as "my famous mates".

The fear of forgetting is reaching epic proportions in the US according to a popular New York Times article. The article says absent-mindedness used to be seen as a normal part of life but now people are so scared they might be getting Alzheimer's that simply forgetting where they left the keys can put some people into a panic. The article argues that increasing public awareness of Alzheimer's, instead of helping people understand the condition, has spread fear that it could be contagious and prompted people to plan their own suicides.

ABC News's most viewed story has an interview with Robert Fitzpatrick who, it reports, spent $140,000 (£86,455) to advertise the end of the world on 21 May at 6pm. He says he will keep up the posters he paid for on the New York subway as for him they are still valid because "judgement day is still coming".

The most popular comment piece in the Guardian comes from Charlie Brooker. He argues that Hollywood has given up on making films for an intelligent adult audience. His description of a multiplex cinema includes "Screen one: a 3D CGI cartoon about a wisecracking badger with attitude you'd quite happily reverse a six-tonne tractor over. Screen two: a 3D superhero theme park ride that thinks it's King Lear". He thinks an unlikely industry has come to fill the void - gaming. For him computer games are pushing into the mainstream consciousness and starting to make Hollywood look embarrassing.

Your Letters

15:31 UK time, Monday, 23 May 2011

Could smoking outdoors soon be banned? Yes, I'm sick of having to shut my windows every time my neighbours go out for a fag. What we need is an enclosed place where consenting adults can go and smoke all they want. They could buy snacks and beverages while they're there. Ex-smoker BTW, we're the worst. And I think tobacco revenues still outweigh treatment costs by about £10b to £5b.
Catherine Osborn @BBC News Magazine

Am I the only who giggled at the diagram of the predicted shape of the ash cloud? No? Thought not.
Phil, Oxford

Well, at least its name is much easier to say compared to last year's.
K Morrison, Lowestoft

Re: Paper Monitor. So as I don't keep up with the trends and normally only really buy clothes when things need replacing, does that mean I'm a wannabe skinny person?
Sharon Barrett @BBC News Magazine

OK, so Camping got his prediction about the apocalypse wrong. But never mind, it's not the end of the world.
Adam, London, UK

I have survived the Millenium Bug and now avoided the Rapture - am I immortal
Rich, Cornwall, UK

God's favourite film? Carry On Camping.
Kipson, Norwich, UK

Dear all, whilst it might not have been the end of the world for me, my kid's guinea pig passed away on Saturday night.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Paper Monitor

10:16 UK time, Monday, 23 May 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Praise be, it's Monday and we're all still alive. The world inexplicably failed to end‎ on Saturday, as California evangelical broadcaster Harold Camping had predicted, so it's business as normal - especially in one newspaper.

Maybe the Daily Mail really did believe Camping's apocalypse prediction and found itself desperately scrabbling around for news to go in today's paper? Or maybe it just loves pointless statistics about women and weight. Paper Monitor is opting for the second of these two options when it comes to explaining its page three lead today.

As has previously been pointed out, page three is not only the place where women wearing very little give us a bite-sized nugget of their wisdom on a daily basis as in the Sun, it's also the page where the news equivalent of candyfloss goes in most other papers.

Today's offering in the Mail is: "Women buy half their own weight in clothes per year." Consumer author Lucy Siegle has come to this conclusion after studying research conducted by Cambridge University into textile imports. How is not explained, but she also comes to many other - arguable more important - conclusions about the fast fashion phenomenon, its impact on the consumer and the manufacturing world.

Pah - what fun is that? Women and weight tick so many more boxes. If you can throw a large dollop of guilty into the mix - in this case how much women spend on clothes - then all the better. Job's a goodun.

It's good news for a certain princess though, who is pictured on the same page. Beatrice, the Mail tells us, "was turning heads" over the weekend with her new, "incredibly svelte" figure. It says she has lost 2st in weight recently, so this must also mean she has bought fewer clothes recently.

If only it had been THAT hat she'd shed along with the weight. Although seeing as someone paid £81,100.01 for it last night when it was auctioned for charity on eBay, maybe it's a bit of excess weight that has done some good.

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