BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for July 10, 2011 - July 16, 2011

Your Letters

17:45 UK time, Thursday, 14 July 2011

I liked the story of Manhattanhenge, and it reminded me of a day I was driving home through the Mersey Tunnel. A uniformly-lit route, I was rather worried to see a fiery orange glow ahead of it when I was still deep underground. When I approached the final bend, I realised that the sun was in the tiny portion of the sky visible when you were still 200m from the exit. I regret not noting the date, as I'm sure the sun will only be in that position for a few minutes each year. We could call it The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Day.
Ruaraidh, Wirral, UK

To Tim McMahon (Tuesday Letters); If we're being pedantic, you should be addressing your challenge to pedants - pedantic isn't a noun.
Rosy, Reading, UK

Re: Bird imprints on windows. Ralph thinks this might be die to bird stupidity but the sparrowhawk that attempted to dive-bomb my mother's budgies behind a closed patio door clearly had other things on its mind. It did come back for a second go though.....
Steve-o, Sheffield

In case anyone else was wondering, the Daily Mail's measurements tell us that one African elephant weighs slight more than 428,647 one-pound coins, and Big Ben is approximately 46,171,429 stacked 50-pound notes high.
Nadja, Bostonian about Russia

I wonder how many times did the author ran this article through the spellchecker?
Paul I, St. G, Cornwall

Can someone please enlighten me as to how they measured earthquakes this accurately in 1734?
Andrea, Peak District

Popular Elsewhere

15:39 UK time, Thursday, 14 July 2011

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

The Huffington Post's most read article says while Wednesday's bomb blast in Mumbai "made for grim reading", it created a striking example of the "co-operative spirit that social networks can help to build". Dubbed as the world's most moving spreadsheet - shared on Google docs and advertised on Twitter - a spreadsheet has been used by people in the city to advertise their help. "One user @jacbobrohan in Bandra West, offered a place to stay, while @MithunK offered the use of his office phone for those who needed to contact loved ones. A user in the Andheri East section of the city (@gsurya) logged in to offer his type A2-negative blood. Others did the same" said the Huffington Post.

The New York Times' Maureen Dowd's widely e-mailed article asks if there really is anything left to be discovered about Hitler. Apparently there is - and it is about dogs. She says a new book reveals that Hitler supported a German school that tried to teach mastiffs to talk to humans. To be more specific, the claim is that dogs were trained to answer "Mein Fuhrer" to the question "who is your leader". Cue the "barking mad" headlines.

New research could completely change our understanding of how skin ages, a big hitting Radio Netherlands Worldwide article says. Researcher Feiko Rijken says the prevailing theory - when skin is exposed to the sun enzymes in the skin are released causing it to crease - is wrong. Instead he says the wrinkles are caused by cells combating infection. RNW points out that this could have a big impact given the huge amounts of money being made in the skin cream business.

A popular New Scientist article says lizards have worked out how to unplug holes to reach food. Why does it matter? Well it means that problem solving skills are not the preserve of warm-blooded birds and mammals. But, it points out, other tests have shown lizards are still less intelligent than crows and primates.

A popular Al Jazeera article promises to reveal how Big Pharma got Americans hooked on anti-psychotic drugs. It claims that in 2008 antipsychotics became the single top-selling therapeutic class of prescription drugs. The article is particularly concerned with a seeming expansion in prescription to the very young and very old. It imagines a very cynical view is taken by drug companies. "The decision to continue pushing the drug despite side effects is matter of cost benefit analysis: Whether you will make more money by continuing to market the drug for off-label use, and perhaps defending against lawsuits, than you would otherwise."

Paper Monitor

12:01 UK time, Thursday, 14 July 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

As you've probably guessed by now, Paper Monitor did not win the EuroMillions jackpot. As much as this job is the pinnacle of any career in journalism, if £161.6m landed in the bank account it would be time to buy a newspaper empire - not write about them.

Fear not, dear reader, it did not happed. But the big question in the papers today is who did scoop the giant jackpot and, perhaps more pressingly, how to fill the column inches until they claim it.

The Sun has a handy guide to help readers spot if a neighbour is the winner:

One giveaway might be if a mega-bucks YACHT turned up on their driveway.
Another would be if a van pulled up and a bloke was seen carrying Leonardo da Vinci's painting the MONA LISA through the door.
A third clue might be US star BEYONCE arriving to sing in the front room - a snip at £750,000 an hour.

The Daily Mail goes for a classic space filler - the jackpot by numbers. Paper Monitor is always a fan of pointless measurements and today it is really spoiling us.

  • 311 - miles £161.6m in £50 notes would cover if laid end to end, and the distance between London and Land's End
  • 3.5 Big Bens - height of a stack of these £50 notes
  • 1,738 tons - weight of £161.6m in £1 coins, the equivalent of 377 African elephants

The Daily Express features Adam and Naphtalia Derbi, who are celebrating wining £1m in the same EuroMillions draw.

However life-changing the money is for the couple from Cardiff, who have five children, it seems like small change in comparison to the jackpot. In any other week going from a cash-strapped taxi driver to millionaire overnight would be a great story. This week you're just space filler.

In a bizarre twist on the usual state of affairs, it's the Daily Star that takes the most serious approach, roping in the editor of Which? Money to give advice to the mystery winner. It includes setting up trust funds for loved ones, building a property portfolio and getting independent tax advice.

No puns, no boobs, just proper advice. That might come as more of a surprise to the winner than the actual money.

Popular Elsewhere

15:46 UK time, Wednesday, 13 July 2011

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

The NHS advice to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day is being questioned by medical columnist and GP Dr Margaret McCartney according to a popular Independent article. The article says the advice is thought to derive from a 1945 recommendation but Dr McCartney says there is no basis in the claim. The paper adds that the part of the original recommendation is that most of that water would be consumed in other foods. But it goes further to say that the drinking so much water can actually be harmful, causing a salt deficiency.

Onto another drink, Forbes readers are finding out which moguls avoid alcohol. Among the world's teetotalling billionaires are Warren Buffet and Donald Trump. Meanwhile model Tyra Banks said she had a taster when she was 12 but avoided it ever since.

Telegraph readers seem to be day dreaming about lottery wins after one ticket won the £161m Euromillions jackpot. The paper gives suggestions of how to spend the money in as few transactions as possible. DJ Chris Evans seems to be pretty good at this - after buying a Ferrari for £12m. A penthouse in London's Hyde Park reportedly sold for £135m. Following that line of thought and there's only £14m left burning a whole in the pocket.

A popular Slate article goes through the back catalogue of psychiatric disorders which aren't found in every culture. Among them is "Old Hag Syndrome," a type of sleep paralysis in found in Newfoundland where it appears an old hag sitting is sitting on your chest. Common in Japan, but almost unheard of in Western nations the phobia that your own glance will displease or offend other people. The theory goes that this could be because of "unreasonable, perhaps even impossible, demands surrounding proper social etiquette and interpersonal relations". A full list won't be published until 2013.

When taxidermy goes wrong what do you get? Slippers made of stuffed dead moles it seems. But the popular Daily Mail article shows that is just scratching the surface. Along with the leopard which looks like it is gasping with shock, the look taxidermists seemed to go for when stuffing animals is one of surprise. It's definitely not for the animal lover.

Your Letters

15:35 UK time, Wednesday, 13 July 2011

So, let me see if I got this right: customer buys product, customer leaves shop, customer loses product through not taking adequate care of it, customer returns to shop, shopkeeper gives customer new product free of charge. And shopkeeper complains he's losing money? Someone needs a little chat with Sir Alan Sugar.
Rob, London, UK

We have a new unit of speed, thanks to Camelot's marketing department. We now know "hot on the heels" equates to around 10 months... at least in their world.
Robin, Herts UK

How did Tomasz miss my favourite weather saying: "Rain before 7, dry before 11"? I have invariably found this to be true but would have loved to have heard the science behind it. Or maybe there is no science.
Jaye, Rutland, England

Regarding bird imprints on windows, I have at least 5 partial imprints on my patio doors and one on another of my windows. I am not sure whether this provides information on the stupidity of the local birds or on the infrequency of my washing the windows.
Ralph, Cumbria

Re: hidden messages. I regularly set daily quizzes for our local newspaper. I managed to sneak through a message on my partner's birthday one year, with the initial letters of the answers of the questions reading "(my first name) L (her first name)". It was appreciated by her - and not spotted by the readers or subbies!
Anonymous, New Zealand

Tim McMahon (Tuesday Letters), the phenomenon is called being gullible. It'll happen every year the 1st of July falls on a Friday, so this year, 2016, 2022 etc. Not quite as uncommon as you think!
David Freeman, UK

Tim (Tuesday Letters), I think the proper term for this phenomenon is "urban legend" since five Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in July also occurred in 1994, 2005, and will occur again in 2016.
Phil, London

Doesn't Magazine Monitor have some kind of social responsibility to prevent the kind of torrent that's, no doubt, about to be unleashed on Tim McMahon (Tuesday Letters)? I believe "Dr" Neil Fox put it best with "there's no real evidence for it, but it is scientific fact".
Andy, Balham, London

Paper Monitor

11:14 UK time, Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There is a simple lesson to be learned in today's papers - if you don't ask, you don't get.

The mantra worked for Scott Moore, a sergeant with the US Marine Corp, and has made him headline news as well. He asked Hollywood actress Mila Kunis to the annual Marine Corp Ball via YouTube and she accepted - albeit when put on the spot during a televised interview by her current co-star Justin Timberlake.

He said she should do it for her country, as Sgt Moore is serving in one of Afghanistan's most hostile regions. It left her very little room for manoeuvre. Cheers for that Justin. Although technically she could have argued that her country is the Ukraine, where she was born. Paper Monitor is guessing the US public might not have liked that.

But as the Times reveals, she has recently split from long-term boyfriend Macaulay Culkin so probably has some evenings free anyway. But what Paper Monitor finds even more exciting than Ms Kunis's invitation to the ball is the other two Hollywood stars who have been invited, according to the paper.

They are action hero Chuck Norris and R Lee Ermey, the retired marine who played an abusive drill instructor who drives a young recruit to suicide in the film Full Metal Jacket. No word as yet if they have accepted, but if they do Paper Monitor wants to be at that event. It's shaping up to be event of the year.

Others embracing the "don't ask, don't get" mantra are the producers of Loose Women. The Daily Mirror reveals they have drawn up a shortlist of women to replace the axed panellists, Kate Thornton and Zoe Tyler. (Surely a career nadir that's impossible to come back from?)

It's an impressive list. Reportedly heading it are comic Dawn French and Royle Family writer Caroline Aherne. The paper says "bosses had considered Vicar of Dibley comic Dawn French and Royle Family writer Caroline Aherne for the vacant slots". And then presumably woke up from the dream world where they might actually accept.

Apparently actress Caroline Quentin was also approached, but had already "committed" to something else. Washing her hair? Watching paint dry? But continue to reach for the stars Loose Women producers, as Sgt Moore proved - anything is possible.

Popular Elsewhere

16:02 UK time, Tuesday, 12 July 2011

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

Getting hidden messages printed in a newspaper is quite difficult, says a popular article in the Guardian. If it isn't spotted, getting letters, usually the first of each line, to spell out a word or a phrase in print is normally inadvertently stopped by subs splitting up the sentence.

The paper reports on the News of the World journalists who got their message out in the last edition of their crossword. "Disaster", "tart", "menace", "stench" and "racket" were among the answers, while clues included "Woman stares wildly at calamity", "criminal enterprise", "repel odd change that's regretted" and "mix in prison", with "lamented", "stink" and "catastrophe".

A look at the history of the hidden message has revealed that of the people who have managed it James May is one of them. He was fired after using Autocar's Road Test Yearbook to spell out "So you think it's really good? Yeah, you should try making the bloody thing up. It's a real pain in the arse" at the beginning of each new article.

Photographer Peter Webb was unknown when he got the gig to take pictures of the Rolling stones in 1970. So the Independent's most-read story supposed he must have been gutted when he lost the pictures. But, 38 years later, his brother-in-law found the negatives in his attic. Mr Webb had written off the pictures but he says the bigger shock than them turning up again is that after all this time the Rolling Stones are still touring.

In a popular Telegraph article Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's wife, has questioned why interviewers ask her about work-life balance.

"Nobody would ask him [Clegg] how he balances everything. For some reason there is a kind of assumption in your question that it is my role to balance it" she says.

However, she did reveal that Nick Clegg is "killing himself" to make sure he spends time looking after his children.

What Happens If I Eat Silica Gel? asks Slate's most-read article. If it sounds familiar but you can't work out why, it is the sachets of gel you find in new bags and boxes of shoes. The article says all that is known by most is it is not to be eaten - as written on warnings on the packet. But, Slate says absolutely nothing happens if you do eat the non-toxic and harmless gel. Silica is another form of sand able to absorb moisture. It turns out it's not the contents of the packet that are the problem but the packet itself which can cause children to choke.

NPR's most-read story says a Utah family of husband and four wives who have 16 children and their own reality TV series plan to contest the state's anti-bigamy laws if prosecutors decide a case against them. While only one of the wives is legally married to Kody Brown the others are referred to as his spiritual wives - still illegal in that state. They argue the laws are unconstitutional and plan to use the Supreme Court's 2003 precedent which decided the state could not prosecute people for engaging in private, consensual sexual behaviour - in this case, gay sex.

Your Letters

14:50 UK time, Tuesday, 12 July 2011

In the article about baby names, Elton Hercules John was born Reginald Dwight so I'm guessing Hercules was a choice he made later!
Gail, Reigate

I'm sure I won't be the only one to write in about this, but "stuka" (Monday letters) is not the name of an aeroplane, but a type of aeroplane. It is short for Sturzkampfflugzeug - the German term for a dive bomber. While this is most often associated with the Junkers Ju87, other Luftwaffe aircraft also performed this role. It would be a little like calling all estate cars a Volvo v70.
Howard, London, UK

"Smoking alone is responsible for one out of every five deaths in the US". Maybe people should only smoke in groups then.
Ian, Redmond, USA

Re this, I can't be the only person who googled John Seven Smith, can I? (There are none.)
Henri, Sidcup

I am very disturbed to discover that the NoW's last edition contained crosswords. How will people get the answers?
Peter, Birmingham UK

Come on, Hillary, calling him that is hardly diplomatic language now, is it?
Rik Alewijnse, Feering, UK

Challenge to pedantics out there - this month of July has five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays, which is not very common and only occurs about every 164 years. So what, my pedantic friends, is this phenomenon called?
Tim McMahon, Pennar/Wales

"...are engaged in a dirty protest - chucking faeces and excrement onto the landings. Their supporters tell me the protest is spreading." Well, I suppose it would.
Phil, Guisborough

Nomination for all noun headline.
Tom Webb, Surbiton, UK

Paper Monitor

11:47 UK time, Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Now, don't let it be said that Paper Monitor is not attuned to the News of the World/hacking/Met police/Downing Street mega-furore. Paper Monitor, like so many others, is currently preoccupied with little else.

But equally, Paper Monitor is sensitive to the fact that, at times such as these, it is easy to lose sight of the daily press's many and varied riches in the face of one all-engulfing story.

And what a shame that would be.

That would mean, for a start, missing out on Zoe Williams's latest article in the Guardian, written in the wake of her discovery that the name she had chosen for her two-year-old daughter, Harper, has now been given to the latest offspring of the Beckhams.

Ms Williams had named her child after Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. But now, she conceded, Williams Jr's title will carry quite different associations, just as one "could not be called Kylie and move freely about the world, without people assuming certain things about you":

There is an undertone of snobbery here, I can see that - Harper did have a resonance before, and it was a literary one (or, if you prefer a "middle-class, posey, fake" one)... But I would contend here that what I object to is not that the Beckhams aren't middle class, but that they are celebrities. There is something classlessly sad about emulating celebrity, aching for their blessedness, on behalf of your children.

Or, indeed, one could flick past Deborah Ross's Independent column, in which she observes that Vogue magazine has identified the "ninkle" which, according to the magazine, "are wrinkles on our knees and they are the beginning of the end of the short skirt".

Ninkles, the title's deputy editor Emily Sheffield informs us, "are not to be confused with cankles (fat ankles where calf and ankle become one").

Ms Ross predicts that it cannot be long before specialised "ninkle cream" is available in the shops:

So thanks, Emily, for giving us a new body part to hate, and the new expensive lotions to purchase, and to all those who find they have cankles and ninkles and wrankles and finkles? Your best bet is to jump off a cliff, preferably while wearing trousers. There was no easy way of saying it.

And one would certainly not want to overlook Robert Crampton's column in the Times about the phenomenon of dropping one's iPhone down the toilet - described by Mr Crampton as a "peculiarly modern, almost exclusively female, torment" and "one that has afflicted virtually every woman of my acquaintance at least once in the past few years".

The columnist tells of such a friend, Nathalie, who suffered such a trauma and nursed her sodden device for hours afterwards.

Thankfully for all concerned, this News International phone story had a happy ending: "The triumphal yell as she was rewarded with a pulsing Apple symbol could be heard across the capital."

Your Letters

15:51 UK time, Monday, 11 July 2011

The photo of Kate visiting Skid Row looks awfully like the old TV testcard from my childhood, except the green clown is missing.
Trina, UK

This sentence will only get more confusing as the years pass: "The Beckhams' [kids] Brooklyn, 11, Romeo, eight, Cruz, five, and Harper Seven, [Insert any age other than 7 here]."
Liz , Poole

"... has even had a plane named after him." They're about 75 years too late for that, the Germans got there first. Nominative predeterminism perhaps?
Dan, Croydon

Nominative determinism [air] strikes again? Though it got the spelling wrong. He should be Mr Stuka.
Vicky, East London - hoping for a golden ticket

"He has even had a plane named after him." Are they sure naming a plane Stuker is such a great idea?
Rob Orme, Winsford, Cheshire

I'm often being asked "What planet are you on?". Today, I am on Neptune. Wish me luck.
Ernest-Les Woods @BBC News Magazine

Uh, surely one of them is a gentlemanbird?
Angus Gafraidh

Popular Elsewhere

15:23 UK time, Monday, 11 July 2011

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

The News of the World hacking scandal has brought back to popularity an extraordinary tale about working for the paper from 2002.

Journalist Charles Begley explained in the Independent that he had been made Harry Potter correspondent at the paper:

"This entailed the changing of my name by deed poll and prancing around like a transvestite with a schoolboy fetish. My transformation from "mild-mannered reporter" to prepubescent wizard was published across two pages of the News of the World on 9 September."

"Pottergate" is also in the Telegraph's most-read list. It says on 11 September Begley claimed that the editor - then named Rebekah Wade - ordered him to dress up as Harry Potter, despite momentous news. In 2002, the paper published the transcripts of his phone conversations with his editors where Begley explains the situation:

"That was on Tuesday, September 11. It was the afternoon, less than three hours after [the attacks]. I went into her office and Andy [Coulson, the deputy editor] was on the sofa and Rebekah was on the phone. Andy asked me where was my Harry Potter suit and I made some excuse, saying: it's not here, it's in the photo studio. [Actually], it was in the office, but it was hardly appropriate for a journalist to be prancing about as Harry Potter. Andy told me I should always have my Harry Potter gear around, in case of a Harry Potter emergency, and told me that the morning after, I was to dress up for conference as Harry Potter. So, at that time, [when] we were working on the assumption that up to 50,000 people had been killed, I was required to parade myself around morning conference, dressed as Harry Potter."

Despite there being over nine months to go until the US presidential election, the Republicans nominations are top of the Guardian's most read list.
That's because "tea-party darling" Michele Bachmann managed to stumble into backing a pledge with questionable views on slavery. The paper says signing a marriage vow put together by an evangelical group seemed a "no brainer". Only, on closer inspection, in transpired the vow contained this phrase:

"Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President."

The Guardian says the lesson is "before you sign anything, read the small print".


If every generation has a shared life defining moment then, Susan Gregory Thomas supposes in a popular Wall Street Journal article, for Generation X it is the question: "When did your parents get divorced?"

This, she suggests, has created a generation of people like her - born between 1965 and 1980 - whose worst childhood fear is divorce and as such are determined for it not to happen to them. Indeed, divorce rates in the US are the lowest since 1970. She says a trend in older marriages and people cohabiting before they get married indicate people want to know what they are getting into before they tie the knot. Susan Gregory Thomas suggests being part of Generation X explains why there was so much time between the breakdown of her marriage and her divorce.

Paper Monitor

12:53 UK time, Monday, 11 July 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's the morning after the night before. Paper Monitor does not normally enjoy spending the wee hours of Sunday morning snuffling around London's Leicester Square looking for an early edition of the News of the World.

And it was all in vain, as the matter had to wait until the morning. But such is the nature of duty.

Onto less serious matters, and the Richard Desmond papers are continuing their efforts to keep the readership well-nourished, with an offer of free almond slices on the front.

But inside there is nourishment of a different kind. It's not often that Paper Monitor finds a feature in the Daily Express that it wishes it had done, but there's a definite today. They dedicate the whole of page 13 to an ode to the historical novel.

Less nourishing is a piece on what has gone wrong with Coronation Street. Paper Monitor seems to recall Brian Sewell doing this last week in his column in the Daily Mail.

Over in the Mail there's a classic example of the curse of old media. The paper announces the birth of David Beckham's latest offspring and accompanies it with a box of odds for the likely name. Despite 24 names being on there, the correct one, Harper, doesn't get a sniff.

The Mail is one of the newspapers to draw attention to parting messages left by staff as clues in the News of the World's crosswords.

Paper Monitor has to admit that while it kept a keen eye out for any acrostic naughtiness in yesterday's paper, it did not have time to do both crosswords.

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