BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for May 29, 2011 - June 4, 2011

Popular Elsewhere

15:53 UK time, Friday, 3 June 2011

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

Forbes' most popular article looks at the people who have managed to attract a loyal audience on YouTube. It takes the case of Shay Butler whose family's reality TV videos have been downloaded almost half a billion times.

He has a video blog about his family. The article describes it as a clean version of the Osbournes. The show even has a theme tune: "When your beard is awesome and your kids are awesome and your wife is hotter than expected and awesome". Mr Butler tells Forbes that at the age of 27 he didn't even own a computer and his wife was unsure what they would use one for. But he soon discovered YouTube, uploaded a video and "got hooked on the instant gratification".

"I would film some random thought I had about hand sanitizer or gas prices or me dancing in my wife's old uni-tard and I would upload it and people were instantly there to tell me if they thought it was funny or not."

A few years on, he is making a living from the advertising revenue around the videos.

According to a popular Daily Mail article Princess Eugenie has revealed she had an operation to stop her being a "hunchback". The article explains she had Scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine which sometimes results in a lump on the patient's back. It goes on to say that she was 12 when she had the operation, and her conditions was only spotted "after she had a massage, stepping in to fill an appointment booked by her mother".

"Vote for me, I'm rich - and I've done jihad" is an unusual sounding election slogan picked out by the Wall Street Journal's most popular article. The story explains the words are those of artist Aman Mojadidi, not a real contender. He's been picked out by the Wall Street Journal as the "leading agent-provocateur of the Afghan art scene". The article goes on to say he has caused controversy and confusion in Afghanistan - controversy when his photographs were published in a magazine only to be cut out (with scissors) from 9,000 copies. The confusion came from another piece of performance art where he set up a fake police check point and gave people "reverse bribes".

A popular Telegraph article claims Simon Cowell has contacted police over allegations that Britain's Got Talent is fixed. The article says the accusation was posted on an anonymous blog by someone who claims to be a Sony Music executive. It alleged the favourite to win the competition - 12-year-old singer Ronan Parke - has been known to Simon Cowell's firm for two years. The Telegraph says Parke could be the UK's Justin Bieber. The blogger's account of Ronan's alleged "development", which has been widely viewed on the internet, claims that the boy's hairstyle, clothing and mannerisms have all been choreographed. The telegraph reports "Syco" categorically denied the claims.

Warnings about e-mail fraud are proving popular with New York Times readers. It explains so-called spear phishing involves "messages that seem to be from co-workers, friends or family members, customized to trick you into letting your guard down online". The article says the fraud is a "far cry from more standard phishing attempts, which involve spraying the internet with millions of e-mails". Instead it is highly targeted. "The most common targets" it goes on to say "were government agencies and senior managers and executives".

10 things we didn't know last week

14:51 UK time, Friday, 3 June 2011

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

1. Fifa is a charity.
More details

2. Vultures are better than sniffer dogs at searching large, overgrown areas for dead bodies.
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3. A Devon cream tea has scones with cream first then jam on top, while a Cornish cream tea has scones with jam first then cream on top.
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4. You can see the shockwaves from a trombone. On video.
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5. Shale gas drilling can cause earthquakes.
More details

6. Heart disease is less common among religious people.
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7. Among certain early humans, the women left home and the men stayed behind.
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8. Penguins do a Mexican wave to stay warm.
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9. An intense fear of dying can make a heart attack worse.
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10. It's possible for a horse to paint.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week.

Your Letters

13:56 UK time, Friday, 3 June 2011

Phewwww. That was close. At first glance I could have sworn it said "Rooney to run for president"!
Peter, Pershore

Re: Popular Elsewhere (Thursday) and the Dutch Evangelist building Noah's Ark to "the same measurements given in the Old Testament" - quite amazing, since the idea of metrics was first floated around the mid 17th century, and the metre itself wasn't first defined until around 1795.
Shiz, Cheshire, UK

So Johan Huibers "wants to bring bible stories alive." Yet "he has replaced real animals with life-size models." Sounds like the starboard oar doesn't know what the port's doing.
Jill B, Detroit

Is it only me or does the middle baby in the photograph of Matt Lucas look like a little pink pig?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Under what number system would 16 be "rounded up" to 24? ...other than the ever popular Base 24?
Paul, Marlow, UK

This week I conducted an experiment, I read NO news whatsoever and tried the 7 days quiz with pure guesswork. I got 7/7 for the first time ever! Also, I am a Time Lord, I am a Time Lord!
Gareth McIlwrath, Carrickfergus, County Antrim

Caption Competition

13:15 UK time, Friday, 3 June 2011


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

Men racing toilets

This week it's two gentlemen racing electric toilets at a charity event in Austria.

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

6. Candace9839
A parable for Arnold Schwarzenegger's life

5. presto_west_end
The Fifa ethics committee, pictured here hard at work

4. Chrissy Mouse
The steering's fine, I just hope the wipers work

3. SimonRooke
Terry Gilliam's remake of Ben Hur had lost some of the majesty of the original

2. Kudosless
Germany's post-2022 energy strategy unveiled

1. Nick Fowler
No I'm Loo-is Hamilton

Paper Monitor

12:20 UK time, Friday, 3 June 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

If there's one thing the newspapers love more than a slightly bizarre animal story, it's the weather.

And where Brits may not normally be ones to boast, when the sun shines, all bashfulness goes out the window.

"Misery for the Med as Britain laps up the sun", declares the Daily Mail with smug satisfaction. Underneath the predictable picture of children playing on the beach is an image of raincoat-clad holidaymakers drenched in Majorca - what it fails to mention is that most of them are probably Brits too.

For the Daily Mirror it's an opportunity to pull out the bad puns. Pouring cold water on claims the UK is set for a scorching month - but never one to miss the chance to show a bikini-clad beauty - it shows a snap of a solar-powered swimsuit that can power an iPod under the headline "Weather poorcast".

In other news, the Mail has done some serious investigative journalism into who the biological father of Sir Elton John and David Furnish's child is.

Apparently the baby's chubby cheeks and round face give the game away that it's Elton. Because most babies have skinny faces, clearly.

The Sun has also used the same snap of Elton and baby Zachary - dressed in a blue jumpsuit - to play on Elton's 1982 hit and reveal the "Baby's got Blue Eyes".

Back to that slightly bizarre animal story, lots of the papers report that feminist Germaine Greer has told bluebell lovers to kill their dogs in a bid to crack down on dog dirt. Not a drastic measure at all then.

But today's award goes to the Mirror which has captured a training exercise at a Chinese zoo in pictures.

Under the headline "The Grrrreat Escape" it has snaps of a man in fancy dress acting the part of a less-than-realistic comedy runaway tiger.

Popular Elsewhere

16:12 UK time, Thursday, 2 June 2011

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

"A word of advice Lily, don't listen to what people like me say about you" says Julie Burchill in a popular Independent article. Burchill explains that Allen had called her an "ignorant and bitter old troll" after Burchill compared Allen unfavourably to Cheryl Cole. Allen goes on to call Burchill self loathing, which Burchill says is an achievement "akin to being called fat by Dawn French (which I have been)". Burchill goes on to repeat her distaste at Lily Allen criticising people who went to state school while dressing "street" but then reiterates that Allen shouldn't listen to her.

Robbie Williams injects himself with testosterone to boost his sex drive according to a popular Telegraph article. The article quotes an interview in Esquire magazine where Williams revealed he injects himself twice a week after a doctor told him he had the "testosterone of a 100-year-old". The article warns that men who have the injections "could notice breast growth and experience mood changes".

A popular Slate article says "communities that murdered their Jewish populations during the 14th-century Black Death pogroms were more likely to demonstrate a violent hatred of Jews nearly 600 years later". It is reporting a study which compares two towns close to each other. The black death was blamed on Jews poisoning wells but while in Wurzburg this led to a massacre in nearby Aachen it didn't. "Fast forward 600 years" the article continues and in the election in 1928 "the Nazi Party, running on an emphatically anti-Semitic platform, received 6.3% of the vote in Würzburg, close to double the Nazi vote share in the rest of the district. In Aachen, about 1% of the vote went to the Nazis". The article says this could go some way to prove that hatred can pass through generations.

A popular Radio Netherlands article reports a Dutch evangelist has nearly finished building a full-size version of Noah's Ark. "The boat is 130 metres long, 30 metres wide and 23 metres high. The same as the measurements given in the Old Testament" it reports. It reassures readers that the creator Johan Huibers is not expecting a flood but instead wants to bring bible stories alive. He has also replaced real animals with life-size models. Mr Huibers plans to sail across the North Sea to London "in time for the Olympic Games".

Al-Jazeera's most popular story follows hair which is donated in religious ceremonies in India on its journey across the world to be sold in beauty salons. The filmmakers found that people who donated their hair felt that "whatever may happen to it afterwards is none of their concern". However, it is turned into a precious economic resource as Indian villagers' hair is deemed the best in the world for its length and quality thanks to the lack of chemical treatments on it.

Your Letters

14:34 UK time, Thursday, 2 June 2011

John (Wednesday Letters), you do indeed worry too much. The secret to a happy and peaceful life is to never worry about anything until it happens, and then you're too busy dealing with it to worry. Oh damn... now I'm worried about you...
Rob, London, UK

During my degree I had a Maths question that couldn't be solved so I spent my time working out what the question should have been and passing this back to the tutor overseeing the exam. Did I get any extra marks for this? Sadly no, but I'm nearly over it now...
John Airey, Peterborough, UK

Re Paper Monitor: Sturgeon fish (dangerous slapping). The Monty Python dance comes to mind... titter.
Candace, New Jersey, US

Reading this story about rats on a plane, I'm wondering how rare something is if it's never happened before? At what tipping point does "never" become "rare"? Also, "rats on a plane" sounds like a good plot-line for a movie.
Carl, Crepy, France

Tautology alert? Surely the BBC is supposed to be the last bastion of proper English?
Alex Thompson, Stafford

Double negative?
Rik Alewijnse, Feering, UK

Paper Monitor

13:50 UK time, Thursday, 2 June 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's been a while since Paper Monitor has had a fond look at the "World's Greatest Newspaper".

For the uninitiated, that title is claimed by the Daily Express.

It's probably only galling because the powers-that-be have denied Paper Monitor the right to have "World's Greatest Semi-Witty Journal Review" in its masthead.

The Express has an unusual day today because instead of going it alone, two of its favourite subjects are genuinely in the news.

The amnesty given to 161,000 asylum seekers is a big story in most papers and the lead in the Express.

And there's a startling bit of probing into EU largesse from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that most of the papers seem to have. The bureau found that the EU spent money on private jet journeys for commissioners, cocktail parties and expensive jewellery for guests.

All splendid stuff for the Express.

But the comment piece from the deputy leader of Ukip, Paul Nuttall, might cause a slight arching of the eyebrow from those familiar with the internet.

It opens: "If you Google the words 'European Union' and 'waste' the search engine points you to over 35 million hits in a matter of seconds."

Well, it does, but the first nine relate to "waste" in the more basic sense of stuff you throw away.

You could conduct an equally unscientific survey by Googling "daily express" and "world's greatest newspaper". You get 111,000 results. But for "daily express" and "porn" you get 745,000 results, which, er, proves nothing.

But after Nuttall's unpromising opening he then manages to be pithy and poetic, coming out with the wonderful phrase "Croesus' confetti".

Paper Monitor can't resist a classical reference.

Your Letters

16:45 UK time, Wednesday, 1 June 2011

"Machines can be better than any human at chess" - I thought that was still an unproven argument. One win for Deep Blue (after a loss) does not a superior machine make. If it had won a rematch then maybe...
Jon, Leicester

Can I add two more suggestions for Anti-Valentine's day songs? Negative Love from Harmonium by John Adams, and The Sick Rose from Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. I am well aware that I am over three months late, but a Valentine's card arrived for me this morning so I feel fully justified.
Nicolas, Marseille, France

I spend a lot more than 36 minutes a day worrying. Why can that be? What's wrong with me? Now I'm really worried that I worry too much...
John Whapshott, Westbury, England

I think that causing brain cancer is going a bit far, but I'm sure it's the same annoying tune, over and over again, which makes so many babies grow up angry.
Rik Alewijnse, Feering, UK

I'd hardly call winning the fifth set 7-5 "surging" into the quarters, but I guess it's still better than "crashing out"
Jill B, Detroit

Honestly BBC... "Nemo Fish"? Should we be expecting "Dumbo Elephants" and "Paddington Bears" next?
Malcolm Rees, Aldershot

Popular Elsewhere

15:39 UK time, Wednesday, 1 June 2011

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

A popular Slate article brings together a spate of studies which show counterfeit brands can increase demand for the real thing. The story explains that the presumption is each fake Prada or Chanel branded handbag sold will mean one less real one being sold. But various studies show that these knock-offs serve as a kind of free advertising "partly by signalling the brand's popularity". It goes on to say a study of the counterfeit "purse parties" of upper-middle-class US mothers found that customers formed attachments to their phony branded hand bags but when they found the stitches falling apart they wanted the real thing.

The richest street in Britain has been pinpointed by a popular Daily Mail article. The paper calls Kensington Palace Gardens the boulevard of billionaires. Just around the corner from the Kensington Palace, houses are an average of £19.2m according to the paper. Residents include the ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia.

Hadley Freeman declares the battle between the sexes will be played out this summer by the films The Hangover II and Bridesmaids in a well hit Guardian article. She explains that while the Hangover two has almost only men in it, Bridesmaids has almost only women. For her the two comedies bring up the argument again that women just aren't funny. This isn't something she is willing to accept - more accurate for her is that male audiences just don't want to watch funny women. "Despite excellent reviews for Bridesmaids and terrible ones for The Hangover Part II," she says "the former made less than a third of what the latter did in its opening weekend".

A popular Time article looks at the popularity of the death penalty for corrupt officials in China. The article says China is unusual as the few countries who still execute prisoners tend only to do it for violent crimes. But it says "judging by the seemingly endless 'public demand' for this kind of punishment and the surging popular anger, it would seem that there is actually not enough of it."

In CNN's biggest hitter Paris Hilton's mother says her daughter didn't leave her family's New York home for three months after a sex tape of her was leaked in 2003. In the interview Piers Morgan says the tape catapulted her into the celebrity stratosphere. She reveals that her brand now amasses her more than $10m a year.

Paper Monitor

14:34 UK time, Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

To the uninitiated, newspapers can seem like a parade of things that are bad. They're usually bad for your health, bad for your pocket or bad for society.

The journalist Martyn Lewis was pilloried a couple of decades ago when it was reported he had suggested there should be more good news on television.

There is no evidence of British newspapers thinking there is anything in this formula.

The Daily Mail is perhaps the doyenne of the bad news purveyors, but its rivals are not far behind.

A quick flick brings up all kind of badness.

Daily Mail: Botox (makes eyes go droopy), mobile phones (cancer), sunscreen advice (not strong enough), Fifa (naughty), manicured gardens (for hedgehogs), Olympic ticket lottery (crazy), energy drinks (fat children), cannabis (teenagers' brains).

The Sun: Fifa (despotic), MPs (lazy), smoking (kills), smoking pregnant woman (shameless), nail varnish remover (killer drugs), hair extensions (bald patches)

Daily Mirror: Sturgeon fish (dangerous slapping), ocean pollution (fish deafness), alcohol (hospital misbehaviour)

The Times: PR firms (hide bad news), care homes (in chaos), Fifa (credibility in tatters), sunscreen advice (wrong)

The Independent: Shale gas drilling (causing earthquakes in Blackpool), tar sands exploitation (ungreen), Gaddafi (taste in décor)

And so on, ad infinitum.

Your Letters

16:01 UK time, Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Re this story: Can the Labour Party be blamed over this flawed immigration policy?
MF, London

I bet it's not just me who read this and found himself automatically imagining several of the quotes being spoken by Hugh Laurie in an American drawl...
Colin Edwards, Exeter

If I remember correctly what I read a while back, RMS Titanic was only called unsinkable by one source prior to its demise. Also, it could have been nigh-unsinkable if only they hadn't bowed to the pressure of competition and made the bulkheads a few decks higher, rather than have more tennis courts, et cetera...
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Thanks for making me hungry with this article ( It's nearing snacktime and all I have is a banana and a cup of tea (no cream, no jam, and no scones).
K Morrison, Lowestoft

'And the builders' claim that it was "practically unsinkable" had totally ignored the effect of an iceberg colliding with the side of the hull.' Understatement of the century?
Basil Long, Nottingham

Popular Elsewhere

15:38 UK time, Tuesday, 31 May 2011

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

A popular Guardian story warns about Oxi - a hallucinogenic drug which has spread across South America. The article puts the swell in uptake down to being twice as strong as crack cocaine at a fraction of the price. Oxi is a mix of cocaine paste, gasoline, kerosene and quicklime. Campaigners warn against paranoia, vomiting and uncontrollable bouts of diarrhoea and tooth loss.

A popular Forbes story lists the 15 cities in the world with the most billionaires. Moscow is at the top of the list with 79 billionaires - an increase of 21 in a year. The Russian capital beats New York to the top spot. The magazine puts Moscow's success down the people making money out of Russia's natural resources.

Time's most popular story ask why are people optimistic? It explains that while "collectively we can grow pessimistic - about the direction of our country or the ability of our leaders to improve education and reduce crime" privately people believe their future will be better than their past regardless of age, gender or class. It says "a growing body of scientific evidence points to the conclusion that optimism may be hardwired by evolution into the human brain". Even so the article points out there is still a puzzle to be solved in the study of optimism and that people are hopeful even when forecasts predict otherwise.

A popular story in the New Scientist looks at test which show crossing your arms could relieve pain. The article quotes Giandomenico Iannetti who conducted the experiments as suggesting the brain gets muddled and the pain message gets disrupted. He now wants to see if this is true for people in chronic pain.

Makers of the computer game Call of Duty are hoping to start charging a monthly fee according to the Wall Street Journal's most popular story. It would be for an "elite" service. The article says there are seven million daily players of the game and they spend on average about seven full days a year playing the game against others online. It is suggested that the game has enough player loyalty to be able to charge players a regular fee.

Paper Monitor

14:25 UK time, Tuesday, 31 May 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor likes to help out those in the audience who have eyes only for the Financial Times over their egg and soldiers in the morning.

In the other papers there is news of people known as "celebrities", but while we want to keep you informed we would never do anything as tawdry as use their actual names.

So we go to the front of the Sun. There they have a picture of the one who has the face that is now as expressionless as a cyberman mask. He's in trouble for sacking the one from the girl band with the tasteful tattoos.

On page seven, they have a picture of the one who's famous for being a more famous one's sister and also having a bottom. She's, er, gone to the tennis.

Then, on page 13, there's the one who was in the film about wizards based on a series of children's books. Her newsworthy occurrence is going out for a walk with her midriff showing.

Over in the Daily Mirror there's a treat on page 19. The Barcelona team has been celebrating their final victory over European Cup minnows Manchester United by dancing with the one whose hips are never mendacious.

There's a veritable cornucopia in the Daily Star. The one who wears dresses that wouldn't make Heather Mills very happy has been spending too much on her... dresses.

Also on page three of the Star. The one who is the sister of the one who was famous for singing and having a bottom - er, not the one above - is denying having split from her partner.

And on the centre pages there's a story that almost defies description. The one who used to play an overweight person in the soap opera that's set in Manchester has a two-page photo shoot.

She's been dressed up to look like Jessica Rabbit.

Your Letters

10:37 UK time, Monday, 30 May 2011

Magazine Monitor: Apologies for Friday's epistolary omission. Here is a slightly enhanced crop to compensate.

But how did he perform the obligatory 15-minute drum solo?
Johan van Slooten, Urk, The Netherlands

Re Ian, Bristol (Thursday letters) The German word Kaffeeklatsch (a chat over coffee)is pretty close to small talk. They also have very coarse and descriptive word for a pedant. The closest polite English translation is probably anally retentive.
Jeremy, Aylesbury UK

I do hope that International Maritime Security Network have talked to Noel Edmonds about possible copyright issues. Perhaps their customers might have to shriek "you've been gunged" if they spray a pirate?
Barry, Melbourne, Australia

At last!!! Recognition for my work on motorway bridge graffiti (Magazine 25th May). My mother is so proud.
Alison, Oxford

I couldn't resist: Nominative determinism alert!
Jack, Manchester

Re this Quote of the day: "The outlandish speed was but a short burst/ on a dual lane stretch to get up there first." He might have got off with it if he'd written it in iambic speedometer.
John Thompson, Kirkby Lonsdale

Bad news about Cheryl Cole being dropped from American TV because of her accent, but perhaps they'd accept Lloyd Grossman in part-exchange.
Graham, Purmerend

This is fascinating and everything, but is there any significance to it being filmed in front of a full moon?
Sue, London

Since cream teas are all scone based, shouldn't they be Scottish?

So, the end of the world didn't come on 21 May. I wonder though if it came a week later for the BBC Magazine Monitor letters editor.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Paper Monitor

10:15 UK time, Monday, 30 May 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Ah, it must be half-term.

Paper Monitor usually finds out about this occasion because the office suddenly gets much quieter.

And there are ankle-biters thronging public transport even during the day.

But this time the cue is snaps of the Camerons on holiday in Ibiza. The papers on Sunday reported the extraordinary news that Samantha Cameron had been to a "rave". Cue reporters again digging up those stories about SamCam's friendship with Tricky.

Today it's just common or garden pap shots of the Camerons. SamCam gets praise for her "bikini body" (copyright Daily Mail).

The Sun tries to explain to its readers what the appeal of Ibiza is with a column from DJ Dave Pearce. Strange, as one would assume Ibiza was a place many of the newspaper's readers would be familiar with.

If the subject was "Provence Interiors" (see this analysis of the Camerons' kitchen), some degree of context might be necessary.

The Sun also insists on mocking up a DVD cover with Cam & Sam Go Large, replacing Kevin and Perry.

Some of the papers noted the prime minister's unwillingness to take off his T-shirt (possibly for well-founded concerns about skin damage), but the Daily Mirror is vicious.

It notes that Mr Cameron only ever seems to wear the same dark polo shirt on holiday, with illustrative pics from holidays in Granada and Cornwall.

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