BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for December 11, 2011 - December 17, 2011

Your Letters

13:06 UK time, Friday, 16 December 2011

She's back. I knew that she'd be out for Christmas. I hope she uses the bus and has a safe and sober New Year.
Steve Morrison, Aberdeen, Scotland

Here's a lovely Christmas ditty for you that I've written:
C is for the carols sung around the tree,
H is for the hideous programmes they'll show on satellite TV,
R is for the revenue you've given to the store,
I is for the indigestion you'll have come half past four,
S is for the tasteful socks that someone's bound to get,
T is for the turkey and that trifle that just won't set,
M is for the mistletoe under which kissing can be fun,
A is for the Christmas tree Angel who's job is not much fun and...
S is for the smashing job that the Magazine does all year round to keep up informed and entertained.
(I know the last line doesn't scan or rhyme, but it's true and that's what's important!) Merry Christmas!
Martin, Hemel Hempstead, UK

Monitor note: Martin, you're spoiling Magazine Monitor.

Re: Paper Monitor. Over in the Times, there's some thoughtful analysis that points out that the average age for onset of *purity* has fallen for girls. Now that's an interesting concept.
Riesling, Black Forest, Germany

In Paper Monitor today. Purity ? Do you mean puberty ?
Rebecca, London

Monitor note: Yes. A fantastic Freudian slip.

To be honest I am not that interested in the £690,000 Charlotte Bronte miniature manuscript unless Kate Bush is planning to sing and dance to a song about it.
David Infense Finch, Adelaide, Australia

John Airey (Thursday's Letters), you'd know it's a mint Club because it's in a mint Club wrapper. What I'd question is how you'd know it was an all-chocolate one without taking a bite. Or was a half-eaten biscuit passed around reverently?
Sharon Cutworth (who once had an all-chocolate fruit Club), King's Lynn

Caption Competition

12:30 UK time, Friday, 16 December 2011


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

This week it was US first lady Michelle Obama meeting Father Christmas at a children's hospital in Washington.

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

6. Ade:
December 26: Santa declares "mission accomplished".

5. David Finch:
Look lady, I don't care who your husband is. There's too much security at your house for even me to deliver presents without anyone noticing.

4. cmaslen:
No, trust me Barack. It's a good career move. This is one change we can believe in.

3. Vicky S:
"Actually my husband is interested in setting up an Elf Service. Have you got any tips?"

2. Sean241160:
"No really, I'm serious. Newt Gingrich asked for all the Harry Potter books."

1. Lynn:
Michelle saw right through Bill Clinton's disguise and, no, she wasn't going to sit on his lap.

10 things we didn't know last week

12:17 UK time, Friday, 16 December 2011

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

1. Fish walk.
More details

2. Ground walnuts are now used by set designers for theatrical dust.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

3. Men are at their most competitive between the ages of 45 and 54.
More details (Guardian)

4. Hairy limbs keep bed bugs at bay.
More details

5. Alcohol tastes sweeter when loud music is playing.
More details (Daily Mail)

6. The UK often tops world rankings in terms of the number of tornadoes per square kilometre.
More details

7. A cat can have 26 toes.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

8. The name "God Particle" began as a reference to "that goddamn particle".
More details (Economist)

9. Ibuprofen was developed in house in Nottingham.
More details

10. You can have a faecal transplant.
More details

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

Paper Monitor

10:25 UK time, Friday, 16 December 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

When very polite, older people are asked to describe rude people they usually come up with a euphemism of some sort. More often than not they gently categorise the person as "quite blunt".

It's also a good summary of the Daily Mail.

Why sugar the pill when you can come out with a headline like "Our fatter children need more penicillin"?

While other papers are opting for "troubled" or "problem" to describe those families the government is particularly anxious to help/keep an eye on in the wake of the riots, the Mail prefers "Shameless".

Its take on the NHS figures about the amount of girls losing their virginity under the age of consent is again on the blunt side.

"How teenage girls lost their innocence," it trumpets.

All teenage girls? Or a large percentage, with the rest to follow after watching a raunchy episode of the X Factor?

Over in the Times, there's some thoughtful analysis that points out that the average age for onset of puberty has fallen for girls, standing at nine years 10 months according to Danish research. There is no space to mention this in the Mail article.

Instead the blame is laid at the door of more detailed sex education in schools, with racy TV performances by Rihanna mentioned as an afterthought.

Your Letters

15:49 UK time, Thursday, 15 December 2011

Thirty hours? Could have been worse.
Ed Loach, Clacton, UK

NASA develops Space Comet Harpoon. Looks to me like this headline almost included the word "thingy".
Jonathan, Oxford

Thanks to Matt (Wednesday's Letters) for pointing me to this article. Surely I wasn't the only one who revealed themselves not to actually be working when they reached this line and laughed out loud: "It makes it a lot more exciting because everybody likes people getting kicked in the head." How was that not quote of the day?
Anna, UK

Paper Monitor, regarding Pumpkin the dog. I'd also be cross if I was bundled in a box and posted to Iran. Ah, no, wait. Read that too quickly. I'll get my spectacles.
Aqua Suliser, Bath

I only read this to see what the joke was that everyone was so concerned about. How disappointing.
Ken, Bucks

Rachel, Wayzata (Wednesday's letters (cool place name by the way), how do you know it's a mint Club if it's all chocolate? Please respond soon my head hurts trying to comprehend this.
John Airey, Peterborough, UK

Mark of Reading (Wednesday's Letters), Wikipedia mentions at least a dozen. Eliza and Helena are first cousins. A hundred years ago, their great-grandfather was the prime minister. Which is enough clues for the rest of you to work out what the original question was.
Tim, London

Paper Monitor

12:05 UK time, Thursday, 15 December 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

If ever there was a story the Times was born to write, it is this. The headline reads thus:

The terrier of Tehran returns in a crate
Diplomatic pooch on French leave after attack

It's the tale of Pumpkin, a Jack Russell-Norfolk Terrier cross, posted to Iran with the British ambassador, Dominick Chilcott, shortly before hundreds of protesters stormed the embassy compound.

"The ambassador scooped up Pumpkin and took refuge in an office on the top floor of the chancery building with nine other staff. 'She [Pumpkin] hates noise, and the last thing I needed was for her to bolt for cover and disappear,' Mr Chilcott, 52, said."

What follows is a tale of daring-do, of a silk tie fashioned into a makeshift leash, and of a minor diplomatic scuffle between friendly embassies - all against a backdrop of the breakdown in relations between Iran and Britain.

It is a follow-up to last week's story in the Times, headlined "The one left behind after officials escape burning Tehran Embassy", which recounted how Pumpkin had been stranded for lack of a crate as embassy staff hustled out of the country.

"She is the subject of another minor diplomatic controversy, with a number of diplomats from different embassies competing to care for her," Mr Chilcott told the Washington Post at the time. "We hope to repatriate her soon."

It is unclear which nation won that particular skirmish. And today's story adds a further note of peril:

"Tehran is not a good place to be a dog. Last year Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem, 86, issued a fatwa declaring them to be unclean under Sharia, and condemned Iranian dog owners for 'blindly imitating the West'."
Pumpkin the dog in a field

Pumpkin the dog enjoys her freedom

But all's well that ends well, and with this happy ending, ambassador, you're really spoiling us.

A crate has been found, and Pumpkin reunited - barring a spell in quarantine - with her owners in France.

The Sun, too, has a story which contains all its major food groups. A blonde divorcee. A recently deceased national treasure. The words "love" and "child". All this, and and a punning headline:

GENES WILL FIX IT - Test my DNA... but it's not about money"

And that's just the page five headline. As you may have surmised, it's about a woman claiming Sir Jimmy Savile is her dad, saying the "womanising DJ" carted her waitress mum off to his campervan in the 1970s.

It's time to deploy the Sun's front page effort:

I'm Jimmy Savile's Love Child - 'OWZ ABOUT DAD THEN!

(PS: Spell-checker just suggested substituting "Macrame" for Makarem. Not wanting to spark a diplomatic incident, your humble columnist clicked the IGNORE ALL button.)

Your Letters

15:28 UK time, Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Regarding your report on Tracey Emin's new role, I have side question which has perplexed me for years - just how many Bonham Carters are there in Britain?
Mark, Reading UK

I've heard that the Higgs Boson has applied for a super-injunction and so can't be identified.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Unsettling acronym alert!
Matt, Hove

Why did the Americans not microchip their stealth drone? They could have located it and used a small missile to blow it to pieces before anyone could study it. Duh!
Julia Archer, Adelaide South Australia

MCK (Tuesday's Letters) - It is an overwhelming treasured child-hood memory finding an all-chocolate mint Club. It was passed reverently around the school refectory. And then eaten. Good times.
Rachel, Wayzata

Re: Local TV. Should an adult become more like a child? US TV, generally, appeals to and reinforces the juvenile in us all. This is not a matter of appreciating difference. It is a matter of elevating the juvenile and superficial.
Edwin Anthony @BBC News Magazine

UK morning TV is already just like US local TV, it just covers more people.
Ian Roberts @BBC News Magazine

Paper Monitor

11:45 UK time, Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The papers are trying to get to grips with the elusive God particle.

The so-called key to the universe MAY have been glimpsed by scientists in Switzerland, but even a peep is good enough to put physicists in a spin.

They had been colliding beams of protons in a big machine, called the Large Hadron Collider, and found the strongest evidence so far that the particle, called the Higgs boson, is there to be found.

The papers try to explain it.

The Guardian says the Higgs boson is thought to underpin the sub-atomic workings of nature and its discovery would confirm how elementary particles acquire mass.

Clear? If not, best to turn to the Sun professor. Yes, popstar turned physicist Brian Cox, who is credited with making science sexy, has written a two-page explainer for the Sun.

This is how he rolls:

Have a look at one of your Christmas presents. Inside the box, there are Higgs particles. Countless billions of them. The energy they store is greater than that given out by the sun in a thousand years... Their job is to give mass to the smallest bits of matter in the universe - the sub-atomic building blocks out of which you are made.

Crystal clear. Cox is a god in his own right.

Moving on. The Daily Telegraph is also asking the big questions. Namely, why did the world-famous Hamleys have to change its signage so precariously close to Christmas?

A political blogger in west London is taking the credit after she accused the toy store of "gender apartheid" in October.

The pink signs for girls and blue signs for boys at its Regent Street store have been replaced by gender-neutral white and red ones. And the wares are now organised by category instead of gender.

The Telegraph's Judith Woods says the change has sabotaged Christmas, "destroying the Old Certainties in the name of political correctness - and making an Awful Lot of Mummies Very Cross Indeed".

A pink floor and a blue floor is the only way that fathers know how to shop. If it's all mixed up, we will descend into chaos, as the average daddy can't tell the difference between Peppa Pig and a Moshi Monster.

Surely that's an easy one. Peppa would be pink...

Your Letters

12:28 UK time, Tuesday, 13 December 2011

National market day? That's a bazaar idea. I'll get my stall.
Philip McAvoy, Derry

Should the UK copy the style of US local TV? Thirty to 60 dumbed-down minutes of random apartment fires, shootings, copper pipe thefts, and dancing traffic-control cops every evening? Spare yourselves.
Andrew Sutter @BBC News Magazine

There used to be a "local" channel in Birmingham. It was called Network 021 and was broadcast on cable in the early/mid 90s. It showed, er, images of Birmingham set to music and endless programmes about sugarcraft. And yes, it had local (cheap) adverts, as did all the channels to be fair. From that starting point, *anything* is an improvement.
Ian Oliver @BBC News Magazine

I would have loved to have heard this conversation. "Please Mister, can we have our ball back? and by ball we mean multi-million Dollar spy plane"
MCK, Stevenage

I have just read articles about new faeces and New Faces. Rarely does the most-used letter in the alphabet wield such ironic power.
Michael Houghton, Tunbridge Wells, England

I found a triple yolker in my box of Jumbo-size eggs the other day (Monday's Letters). Unfortunately, I was the only one home, but I do have photos.
Mary, Sydney

Forget all this business about "double-yolkers". Call me when someone buys a six-pack of all-chocolate Kit Kats.
MK, Stockport

Paper Monitor

11:20 UK time, Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is hovering over the Daily Star this morning. The "miserable" Mancunian, Liam Gallagher hates Christmas, we learn.

The article is headlined: "Liam's Ranter Clause!" Apparently, the musician launched a "foul mouthed attack on Christmas" after being asked by a fan in a hotel bar in Los Angeles what he had planned for "the holidays".

The paper's opinion page features a cartoon with Gallagher depicted as Scrooge shouting "bah humbug" to a crowd of cheeky carol singers, who reply "calm down Liam - keep your eyebrows on!". A short item in the comment section reads:

"If he's talking about fighting with relatives, drinking too much and singing songs loudly then he's probably right!"

The comment goes under the headline: "On Repeat." Indeed. Now let's rewind to last Christmas. "All Liam Gallagher wants for Christmas is 'peace and quiet... man' was a headline in the Manchester Evening News. "Liam Gallagher plans Christmas stuffing" - a story about him eating, drinking and generally not much else, peppered with a few expletives was in the Evening Standard.

We conclude that Christmas Past was not a joyful occasion in the Gallagher household. But, you know what Liam mate, don't look back in anger.

Your Letters

15:49 UK time, Monday, 12 December 2011

I tried. I really tried to get through the faecal matter transplant article. But as soon as I got to the phrase "up the patient's nose", I just couldn't take any more.
Michael Hall, Croydon, UK

"Britain Inc"? I'm sorry, so Britain is an American entity now is it? I think you mean Britain Plc/Ltd. Inc is American. Do you even engage brain before you Americanise everything now BBC?
Anna, UK

It can't just be me who was expecting slightly more racy pictures.
Sarah, Basel, Switzerland

I'll take your six double-yolkers and raise it - to twelve. Yes, I recently had a box of 12 double-yolkers. You can imagine the screams of joy in my house once the 12th had been discovered!
Paul, Isle of Man

Nicola (Friday's Letters), we all know how to solve this one... in the words of Harry Hill: "FIGHT!!!"
Ross, London

Fellow Monitorites, I've realised that true kudos comes not just with having a letter published, but in having someone to respond to one of mine! Mulled wine to celebrate, anyone?
Fee Lock, Hastings, East Sussex

Paper Monitor

13:22 UK time, Monday, 12 December 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor hates to be the bearer of old news. But it does not like to see excellence go unrecognised.

On Friday, there was a rather nice feature in the business section of the Daily Telegraph about Bart Becht, the former chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser, the pharmaceuticals and household goods giant.

For those of you who are scoffing, incredulous at the idea that this could prove to be a barnstormer, be silent. This is a corker, not least because the PRs involved allegedly tried to discourage Alistair Osborne, the paper's business editor, from asking about Becht's gargantuan pay package.

Osborne was not swayed from his mission. He notes how the PRs helpfully sent over a list of suggested questions, including one they were dead "keen on".

Given the opportunity for consumers to feedback [sic] now - positively and negatively - on brands and organisations, do senior managers - especially C level - need more skills, in the areas of data analytics, IT and marketing?"

Osborne acidly notes:

As it turns out, time was a bit short for that one."

He then recounts the PRs' miffed reaction afterwards. After he asked about pay on seven occasions.

Now many journalists are banned by their news organisations from agreeing what questions will be asked. But there's always the knowledge that asking a really unwanted question, particularly in a celebrity interview, will lead to the termination of the interview and therefore squash the piece.

People tend to leave these questions until right at the end so they've already got something. But asking seven times? That takes skill.

Finally, it seems people not only take pictures of celebrities to the hairdressers and ask for the same haircut, they now take them to the plastic surgeon and ask for the same boobs, bum, tum and nose.

The Sun reveals the most copied celebrities. Top is US reality TV star Kim Kardashian. Her boobs and nose are very popular. A lot of people want Victoria Beckham's legs too, Nicole Scherzinger's arms and Pippa Middleton's bum. Of course.

But hopefully no-one is asking for all of these together. Thanks to the Sun's graphics department we can see what that would look like. The result is really rather disturbing.

Not sure Paper Monitor will be able to sleep tonight after looking at that.

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