BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for November 20, 2011 - November 26, 2011

Popular Elsewhere

14:48 UK time, Friday, 25 November 2011

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

Friday means one thing for online readers of broadsheets - they allow themselves to catch up on the celebrity gossip usually reserved for tabloids.

Both Guardian and Times readers are turning to their papers' resident celebrity spotter.

For the Guardian Marina Hyde's rant on the celebrity goings on is on the theme of not feeling sorry for Adrian Chiles and Christina Bleakley after they were sacked from presenting ITV's Daybreak:

"As for Adrian and Christine's combined £10m worth of contracts, perhaps they explained the decision to hike up the phone lines from a quid to £1.50. It certainly wasn't based on the quizzes becoming more exclusive. Thursday's question was 'How many wheels has a unicycle got?'"


Keeping watch of all things celebrity at the Times is Caitlin Moran. She watches I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! so her readers don't have to. And in the mix of soap actors and people who were famous in the 1980s out in the jungle, she has found her protagonist of the series. DJ and former presenter of children's game show Fun House, Pat Sharp, has fearlessly put his head in a polytunnel and been blasted with maggots in order to win food for his team mates. But in order to get the chance to show off his bravery, the public had to vote for him to do a bush tucker trial. For Moran this brings up the question of whether he mercilessly burnt a teddy bear owned by a woman from the Campari ads so that he would be voted to do the trial.

And after digesting all that, The Times readers can safely go back to reading about the eurozone crisis for another week.

The title of the New York Times' most popular article - The Children of the Hyphens - hints at a new cult or so-bad-it's-good horror film. Alas, it's about double barrelled names. While some associate hyphenated surnames with class, for the writer Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow's mother it was about fighting against a patriarchal tradition. But as Tuhus-Dubrow discovers, that method doesn't work one generation on. There are a few suggestions for what can be done when parents with hyphenated names have children - one being that the man can forego giving his name to his children, or if there are two children one gets the mother's name and the other gets the father's name. Unfortunately Tuhus-Dubrow's own parents don't any good advice, saying "We figured that was your problem".

Slate headline


Squeezed middle has squeezed out occupy according to Slate's most read article. If this makes no sense then you haven't been paying attention to the buzz words of the year. Oxford University Press has given Ed Miliband's phrase squeezed middle the title of "global phrase of the year". But talking from across the pond David Haglund says people in the US won't know what it is. Actually, he points out even Ed Miliband himself has found it difficult to define. He suspects Occupy wasn't chosen because it was too politically pointed.

Your Letters

13:45 UK time, Friday, 25 November 2011

Re the news that the Liverpool Daily Post will now be published weekly, I do hope it doesn't change the name.
Jo, Lichfield, England

I know physics is often complicated but a new state of matter (Plasma) recently discovered? Unless this is a different kind of plasma how is it recently discovered, except in a geological time frame? Isn't the cheapest way to observe it to walk to your nearest electrical retailer and look in the window and certain types of TV, if you don't already have one? Or even more fun one of those "lightening in a globe" toys? Monitorite physicists please elaborate, ideally in words of one syllable. I don't have a lab coat so I can't get it.
Robin, Hiding in the dark matter, UK

Does anyone know what has happened to Stig, London or Candace, New Jersey? They haven't written for ages. Is someone taking their milk in for them?
John Thompson, Kirkby Lonsdale

Such a pity there isn't a comments column at the bottom of the article about the danger signs on the rocks on the beach in Wales, I'm busting to say that the only danger is that you might have, gasp, horror, FUN clambering over them and jumping over the gaps. But then I was a normal child once and used to have loads of fun on the rocks in Folkestone where normal healthy childhood fun wasn't banned. So I'll just have to say it here instead.
Ruth, Southampton

Pah! This is political correctness gone differently sane...
Sue, London

Liam (Thursday's letters), how very un-chav like of you. It should be called a trackie top. I'll get my puffa jacket.
Bryan Poor, Oxford

Paper Monitor

12:43 UK time, Friday, 25 November 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily weekly press.

Paper Monitor has more than a passing acquaintance with the Liverpool Daily Post.

Like hearing something unpleasant has happened to an old friend, it was sad to see the news that it was to go weekly after more than 150 years of quotidian excrescence.

"Go weekly" does not mean the same as "die", but still this is a time for mourning, despite the promise that the new "Liverpool Post" will be "bumper".

It is not the first Post to lose its Daily. The Birmingham Post went weekly in 2009.

Like writing for a Sunday newspaper, thinking of stories for a weekly is rather difficult. If you print on Monday night and your area's most famous person is eaten by a space goat early on Tuesday morning you've got a whole week of your paper looking faintly ridiculous.

Also there is the question of local newspaper hierarchy. In local scribe world, "daily people" can get a bit sniffy about "weekly people". In turn "weekly people" on paid-for titles look down on "weekly people" on freesheets.

But at this time of unprecedented pain for local newspapers, perhaps one should emphasise the positives and note that "evening" papers, like the Liverpool Echo, are still going.

Some ridicule their diet of superannuated local celebs and "flyer" business stories with optimistic claims of opulent redevelopment.

Paper Monitor's own favourite Daily Post flyer was a story suggesting that Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama might attend Liverpool's millennium celebrations. Strangely, neither managed to make it on the big day.

But daily local newspapers are a good thing.

When ordinary people have no-one left to fight for them, the local reporter picks up their phone and gets to work.

Your Letters

15:26 UK time, Thursday, 24 November 2011

A newspaper cropped a photo of Sienna Miller to exclude the child she was playing with so that she looked drunk. May we see the full photo of drunk girl as I am sure we will see children running away to hide (whilst she counts to 10) and a paparazzi planting a champagne glass next to her.
Jo, London, UK

Nominative. Determination. Overload.
Al, Wellington NZ

Ooh! I know there's a nominative determinism bad haircut joke here somewhere, but I just can't.
John Marsh, Washington DC, USA

Re: BBC cat. I hereby request that you use the cat every time there is a slow news day.
Samuel Draper @BBC News Magazine

Re: cat in the office. Lots of empty chairs, was it lunchtime or had you all popped out for a ciggy?
Vicky, EastLondon

Marina (Wednesday's Letters) "I gym 3 times." Seriously! Gym is now a verb. When did that happen? I can't keep up. I'll get my track suit jacket.
Liam, Northern Ireland

Most of the links in Wednesday's letters connect to your Facebook page. YOU HAVE A FACEBOOK PAGE?!!! Why have you never told me? Surely you would want me as a friend - a real friend who can view the wild party photos, not a measly acquaintance who can only view the boring family and pet pictures. Let me know what your password is and I'll upload the video from last year's Christmas party. Did we ever find out what happened to that cat?
Richard Martin, Doncaster, UK

Caption Competition

14:43 UK time, Thursday, 24 November 2011


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week it was two lemurs having their Thanksgiving meal at San Francisco Zoo.

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

6. trishinstock:

I can't believe we've both turned up for Thanksgiving lunch wearing the same coat.

5. Vicky S:

"No, actually I'm used to this sort of media attention. I played the right side of Dame Maggie Smith's fur tippet in the last series of DA you know."

4. MagnumCarter:

"Yep...yep, it's definitely been spiked."

3. Pendragon:

Only one glass of wine for me, please - I've got to swing through the trees home.

2. redalfa147:

Producers of 'Come Dine With Me' deny they are running out of contestants.

1. MuteJoe:

"What are we giving thanks for?"

"That we're not turkeys."

Popular Elsewhere

14:40 UK time, Thursday, 24 November 2011

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

Bulldogs are in trouble as a breed. They are too short and stocky to mate without help and need assistance to give birth because their heads are so big. But a popular New York Times article says this is down to humans breeding them to "play up the cute effect". Their proof is a mock up of what the bulldog would have looked like in the 1800s. It's much slimmer and doesn't have that telltale flat face or huge eyes.

It's 24 November. Not even December. Yet Time readers are flocking to Christmas stories. Their second most popular Christmas story picks out the magazine's 10 favourite Christmas light displays. Many come from the UK, but the US and Germany are well represented too. Even the Philippines makes an appearance in the gallery. In one street in Baltimore every resident out of 700 blocks puts up lights, locally known as "The Miracle on 34th Street."

NPR listeners are gearing up for Thanksgiving day spats today. Shelley Moore Capito plays agony aunt to listeners' family disputes. As a Republican congresswoman with Democrats in her family her key is to avoid talking about politics at all. But her top thanksgiving suggestion for when the racist uncle started droning on is to attempt to change the subject by bringing more food into the room.

Rarely do you see an article so neatly crafted to appeal to its target audience than this one from the Guardian. In their Guide to the NME cool list it is assumed that their readership will not know of almost anyone. Most are in bands but only one they take for granted that their readership will know is Jarvis Cocker.

10 things we didn't know last week

14:29 UK time, Thursday, 24 November 2011

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

1. Hugh Grant's middle name is Mungo.
More details

2. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls cries when he watches the Antiques Roadshow.
More details (Daily Mirror)

3. Facebook users average 3.74 degrees of separation.
More details

4. In the fifth and sixth decades of life, you are less likely to die over the coming year than at any other time in your life.
More details

5. The average shower lasts eight minutes and uses almost as much water and energy as the average bath. More details

6. The newly discovered Bulbophyllum nocturnum is the only orchid among 25,000 species that flowers at night. More details (Guardian)

7. Human spit is threatening Calcutta's landmark Howrah Bridge. More details

8. The average Briton says thank you up to 5,000 times a year.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

9. Desmond Llewelyn played Q - James Bond's gadget whizz - for 36 years. More details (The Sun)

10. The Christmas tree at St Pancras railway station in London is made from 600,000 Lego bricks. More details

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

Paper Monitor

08:58 UK time, Thursday, 24 November 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor loves surveys - they explain so much about life.

For instance, why can't some children read? Because their parents work evening or night shifts, the Daily Express says citing new research. Apparently a mother working at night could lead to lower reading scores, and a dad working at night could be related to lower maths scores.

Research nugget of the day can be found in the Daily Mail. One in four of us, it seems, spend longer online than sleeping. Due to the huge chunk of time we spend plugged in, logged on, tuning out, some 51% of us suffer from "e-anziety" if we can't check emails or Facebook pages.

Over to The Daily Telegraph for more serious matters - news that women's pay will overtake men's within a decade if trends continue. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, women's earnings increased faster than men's in the past year.

And if that news hasn't hit men hard enough, this might - the Daily Mail points out that a new study reveals Britain has the fattest men in Europe. Oh dear.

Your Letters

15:12 UK time, Wednesday, 23 November 2011

‎40s, 50s, 60s... How exactly is "middle age" defined? My age +1.
Steven Holland @BBC News Magazine

What is the average life expectancy? Middle age would be half way. I'm nearly 42. I consider myself middle aged, but I gym 3 times and run for an hour very week and am fitter and in better shape than I was at 17. Middle age is the new black.
Marina Hampton @BBC News Magazine

Re: the BBC cat. How did it reach the lift buttons?
Keith Leverton @BBC News Magazine

There goes the reporting then...
Stuart Moore @BBC News Magazine

I vote for @BBC_magazine to name the #BBCcat Dimblecat. It's a spectacular name, and very fitting.
Sarah Cornwell @BBC_Magazine

@BBC_magazine I would have thought the obvious name for the #BBCcat is Humphrys.
Carmel Gummett-Kemp @BBC_Magazine

Do you think it took the elevator? What a cutie. Every office could use some feline energy.
Emily Alp @BBC News Magazine

This gave me a scary moment, 'til I realised it said Survey, not Surrey. I'll get my dressing-gown.
Diane, Surrey

Police photos suggest that he may have had a similar procedure done on himself - no really, what gives them that idea?
Judith, Weybridge, Surrey

As a graduate of a subject that focused on "social studies" (I studied law, which I think is the study of society's rules), I want to know why Ron (Tuesday Letters), thinks that the study of society isn't useful? Graduates of "social studies" have proven that they have an open mind that can analyse arguments, find creative solutions and understand different points of view. Perhaps Ron would benefit from a degree that similarly broadens his horizons.
Peter, London

Tamsin, Devon (Tuesday Letters), I'd imagine that The Museum of Prunes attracts a lot of regular visitors.
Sue, London

Tamsin (Tuesday Letters), intrepid museum explorers willing to leave their native shores may also be interested in the "Currywurstmuseum" in Berlin. You can see German sausages getting chopped into pieces, drowned in spiced ketchup and topped with paprika powder. Tempted? No, neither am I.
Vic, Berlin, Germany

Popular Elsewhere

14:13 UK time, Wednesday, 23 November 2011

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

Among the conspiracy theories surrounding John F Kennedy's assassination was that of Umbrella Man. This was the man who was filmed on the day as "the only man in Texas" with an umbrella open as JFK's car passed him on a beautiful day. A book was even published with a diagram of how an umbrella could be modified to be used as a gun. The New York Times' most popular article, however, has a cautionary tale about such conspiracy theories.

Except the Umbrella Man, Louie Steven Witte, came forward years later to explain. The umbrella turned out to be a protest against JFK's father's policies in 1938. The umbrella was a reference to Neville Chamberlain.
"It was so wacky it had to be true" says Josiah Thompson who wrote a book about the assassination.

“If you have any fact which you think is really sinister, is obviously a fact which can only point to some sinister underpinnings, forget it man. Because  you can never on your own think up all the non-sinister, perfectly valid explanations for that fact.”

Daily Mail headline


There's taking things into your own hands and there's painting a massive speed limit sign on your house. Daily Mail readers are clicking on the story of this way to get drivers to slow down: just paint a speed limit sign over the entire side of your house. The piece explains that that's what Tim Backhouse did to the side wall of his end-of-terrace in the Dorset village of Bow. Although the picture says it all, the article doesn't skimp on detail saying the 30 mile-per-hour sign is "the size of a double decker bus and required specialist ladders".

Slate readers want to know if pilots are telling porkies when they say they will try and make up the delay to a flight. It turns out that although a pilot can go faster they are unlikely to because it could prove very costly in fuel. However, shortcuts are possible as long as the control tower gives permission to leave the flight path.

Daniel Radcliffe was very nearly not the face of Harry Potter, according to a popular Telegraph story. The article says his parents turned down the role. It was because it would have meant him living for long periods in Hollywood. But, luckily for Mr Radcliffe's future bank account, the filming schedule was adapted, and the boy wizard was born.

Paper Monitor

12:18 UK time, Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor is having a fashion moment - a number of stories caught its eye that focus on the sartorial.

First up are the six-inch heel grey ankle boots worn by Hayrunnisa Gul - wife of the Turkish president Abdullah Gul - during a meeting with the Queen in London. The Daily Mail claims the monarch was astonished by the killer heels.

A number of papers have printed a picture of the Queen staring down at the boots. But the Daily Mirror - under the headline "Queen's Turkish deheight" [geddit] - draws a dotted line from the her majesty's eyes to the said shoes. Always good to help the reader along with the story.

Speaking of shoes, the Sun's "exclusive" is the story of Carl with the "Largest Hooves" in the UK. The paper's photographer gets up-close and personal with a wide-angle lens, to show off his size 21 trainers - American-made - because no-one else in the British Isles needs shoes so big - in all their glory. But Carl needs no sympathy, according to the paper - the ladies are tripping over themselves (and Carl's feet, presumably) to get a look.

Now, will the Olympic fashion chiefs heed the advice of the Laura Craik, The Times's oracle on all matters fashion? Craik isn't too impressed with the new uniforms to be worn by the 2012 volunteers. However, she does concede that red and purple are tres a la mode - although, unlike the polyester Olympic jackets, colours not usually seen together on the same outfit. However, it's the outfits for the technical officials that really get her goat.

The blazer with its turquoise piping (since when was turquoise ever a good idea for an accent colour?), the too-small pork-pie hat and the messy 2012 logo on the breast don't so much scream "sporting event of the millennium" as "bargain bucket Wimbledon".

Let's not go there with the fabric, she says. Too shell-suit for her liking. .

Your Letters

11:47 UK time, Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Anyone who moans about privacy today has missed the boat by around 20-25 years. The time to complain was just before widespread credit/debit cards and dial-up internet. No good moaning about it now, the horse bolted out of that stable decades ago.
Andrew Oakley @BBC news Magazine

Re: Should kids be made to remember every monarch? It gives them a base from which to learn history but I'm not sure it's absolutely essential. The attitudes of the rulers at the time affected the way the country carried out its business, so there's a benefit to knowing. But, to be honest, I'm not so sure the current school generation would know how to analyse or apply this information adequately. They're too busy learning other topics like "social studies" and media. That'll serve them well... Hmmm...
Ron Moger @BBC news Magazine

Dear MCK (Monday letters), I am very sorry but no matter how hard I try, I can only hear Dr Evil from Austin Powers saying this. Cue childish sniggers... I'll get my cat...
StuKP, My secret lair in a hillside in Warwickshire

Bottom inflation "pumping parties"? Either the world has gone mad or I am past my sell-by date - or both. The quicker CERN discovers the secrets of time travel and gets me back to 1858 the better.
Mark, Reading, UK

Oh BBC. "Millions of us happily invade our own privacy". How can I invade my own privacy?
njkobie @BBC_Magazine

Paul (, may I also recommend the Museum of Prunes in Granges sur Lot, France. In the summer it also boasts a maize maze!
Tamsin, Devon

Paper Monitor

10:34 UK time, Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's sad when a marriage comes to an end. Even if it is just a TV marriage.

It's Daybreak's Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley who've come to the end of the road and are about to divide their CD collection. They may have lasted longer than Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries - not that hard really - but the Daily Mail says the cracks started to show in their relationship a while ago. Now, according to one of those close-source types, they are giving each other the silent treatment:

At the moment they are barely talking to each other and he is just permanently in a sulk"


There was a time, it adds, when Chiles doted on Christine, giving her lifts and sharing after-work curries with her. Paper Monitor believes this is what is known as the "honeymoon period".

And they were not alone is thinking they had a future. As Vanessa Feltz puts it in the Daily Express, who could have predicted the pair's "famous chemistry that worked like a charm at 7pm would be unbearably clunky at 6am"?

Feltz - who writes under the strap line "from the heart" - then explains to Bleakley where it all went wrong:

It's not her fault that success brought her a better hair-do, sharper clothes and a footballer boyfriend. When she fell for Frank Lampard she couldn't have realised she would be seen as a pampered WAG and forfeit her girl next door appeal. If she didn't twig before, she does now."

From the heart maybe Vanessa, but not showing much heart there.

But there is one crumb of comfort to take from this break-up. According to the Daily Mirror, ITV now wants to sign two unknowns to replace Chiles and Bleakley and hopefully re-create the magic of Anne Diamond and Nick Owen.

The little-known pair were brought in to replace big names on TV-am in the 1980s and turned out to be TV gold. It's not only ITV "praying" for the "Ann and Nick" effect, Paper Monitor is too.

It could be cosy cuppas and cable knits on the morning sofa again before we know it.

Your Letters

17:09 UK time, Monday, 21 November 2011

"It's something a bit different and the people I was hanging around with wore, not very different at all, really, Jay Cee.
Howard, West Bromwich

"We are very sorry for what has happened for this young family, and a staff member will ring them to apologise next week." Why next week? Is nobody at NatWest feeling sufficiently apologetic until then?
RG, Watford, Herts

While I do sympathise with Nadal, let's not forget what happened the last time everyone ridiculed a bloke called Noah's opinion. I'll get my lifejacket.
Edward Green, London, UK

Friday's Popular Elsewhere: I haven't read the article but would like to know, did the interviewer die laughing after Chantelle claimed the sun and the moon were one and the same?
Dec, Belfast

Read the comment by Dr Helmut Marko and then read it again using the voice of a Bond villan.
MCK, Stevenage

Susan (Friday letters), if it's excitement you're after then you need to visit Barometer World in Devon. It's probably even worth the 800 mile round trip from Newcastle. Or even better, make a whole road-trip holiday out of it and squeeze in a trip to the British Lawnmower Museum in Southport.
Paul I, St G, Cornwall

Popular Elsewhere

15:59 UK time, Monday, 21 November 2011

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

There is criticism of a new Bill in the US for seemingly classifying pizza as a vegetable. The legislation passed by Congress has been rubbished by commentators for being based on the idea that a pizza contains two tablespoons of tomato paste. But a popular Slate article goes one step further with the labeling of foods - saying that, to a botanist at least, there's no such thing as a "vegetable". In fact, it says, the word has no scientific meaning. Vegetables can be fruits, roots, stems, stalks, seeds, or any part of a plant that we find edible.

It's become a film cliche to mock up a Time magazine front cover. The most recent is for the promotional pictures for George Clooney's latest film Ides of March. In honour of this, a popular Time magazine gallery counts down their staff's favourite mock covers, from Ghostbusters to Zoolander. Possibly the most surprising is that this isn't a new device used in films - the first known fake Time cover is from the 1950 film Woman of Distinction.

Psychology professor Alexandra Horowitz says an old favourite of her students is to claim that dogs are more intelligent than two-year-olds. So to put this to the test, she compares her two-year-old son and four-year-old dog in a popular New York Times article. In her, admittedly unscientific, experiment she concludes there are striking similarities. But she warns that you wouldn't be doing your dog or child any good if you treated them like each other "unless your child is really into liver treats".

Guardian headline


The ever-popular Charlie Brooker is urging calm in the Guardian following reported blubbing at a John Lewis Christmas advert. "It's just an advert for a shop," he reasons. "Given the fuss they were making, the tears they shed, you'd think they were watching footage of shoeless orphans being kicked face-first into a propeller," he says. And he's at pains to point out that failing to cry at an advert doesn't make him cold:

"I have cried at films from ET to Waltz with Bashir, at news coverage of disasters, at sad songs, and at the final paragraph of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair. I cried at these things because they were heartbreaking. And because none of them was an advert for a shop."

Paper Monitor

15:14 UK time, Monday, 21 November 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor likes to think of itself as a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles. Or truffles.

Sniffing through the pages of the newspapers it's rather nice to find nooks and crannies little visited by other readers.

The Guardian's Country diary for instance.

Reading it, one cannot help but be reminded of the intrepid William Boot's column in Waugh's Scoop.

"Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole," quoth Boot. Or writeth. Or penneth perhaps.

Today's Country diary is about climbing Scafell pike, and written by the nominatively determined Tony Greenbank:

"Light flashed from Wastwater's silvery shield as if on cue; the snow-white cirrus clouds in the azure blue only heightened the contrast."

Overlooking the slight tautology, we are immediately transported...

Over to the Daily Telegraph, where James Le Fanu's Doctor's Diary is found in a newsprint cubbyhole.

Today he has answers. To what question, you ask. Er, to a recent correspondent who complained that when he moved his eye there was a noise in his head "like a cackling magpie". It could be "superior canal dehiscence", says one expert correspondent.

Ah, now we must head off in search of more hidden gems.

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