BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for December 18, 2011 - December 24, 2011

Your Letters

14:06 UK time, Friday, 23 December 2011

Is there any connection between Skye family's Christmas lights can be seen for miles and this story, Electricity failure affects Western Isles and Skye?
John, Scalloway, Scotland

Re the bonus question in your year-end quiz: after pictures 1 and 2, I just knew it had to be Apple, but you threw me with 3 & 4. Did Oliver Reed once have a scene with Glenda Jackson involving misuse of a fruit; and who is the woman in No.4 speaking about her husband's lovemaking prowess?
Michael Weir, St Albans, Herts
Monitor note: Not quite - the answer has now been revealed...

Oh how I wish I'd listened to Ralph and Warren (Wednesday letters) instead of Prof David Haslam ('Tell loved ones they are overweight this Christmas')! My mother-in-law just arrived for Christmas and gently passed on the advice to my wife and her mother. Still, on the bright side, at least it's warm for the time of year in Paris.
Jimlad, Cardboard Box, Champs Elysee, Paris

Roger (Thursday letters), one answer is that Pythagoras' Theorem is a special example of the cosine rule (look it up) which allows you to find the length of a side of a triangle provided you know the other two sides and the angle between them (try drawing two sides of a triangle with a certain angle between them: there's then only one length the missing side can be). When the angle you're using is 90 degrees (or a right angle, as in Pythagoras) then because cosine 90 is 0, the equation you use simplifies to Pythagoras' Theorem. It's a special case that looks too simple to be true.
I doubt that has made it any clearer so my second answer is "because".
Julia, Birmingham, UK

Roger, Danny Kaye did it in song!

"The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle
Is equal to the sum of the squares of two adjacent sides.
You'd not tolerate lettin' your participle dangle,
So please effect the self-same respect for your geometric slides."

Susan Thomas, Brisbane, Australia

Roger, think of crazy paving. Take a right angled triangular slab and place three square slabs around it so that each square has sides equal to the side of the triangle it sits next to. The area of the two smaller slabs will be equal to the largest slab (which abuts the hypotenuse). Apologies, I may have been too serious for this letters page, I'll get my Santa hat...
Dave, Cambridge

@ Roger Perry - Friday's letters. If you think of it as literal squares on each side of the triangle it seems to make sense for me and gets you away from the mathematical equations. This website provides a nifty animated proof
Karl, Isle of Man

First of all a very Merry Christmas to the BBC Magazine - Paper Monitor, Caption Comp et al - irrespective of gender or sentience. Second, today's random stat does not take account of quantum physics. Santa can move through every house and deliver presents in a fraction of a second which solves all those nasty physics problems like G-force and mass of presents. You see that's not fat under his uniform it's a quantum transport device. The sleigh and reindeer are merely decoys...
John Airey, Peterborough, UK

Angus (Thursday letters), who HATES Christmas, you wouldn't happen to be of Highland origin? Christmas was a non-event in the Highlands and Islands until relatively recently. I'm guessing you love New Year...
Buzz, London

Angus, oh! shame on you. I for one shall be awake at 4am to see if HE has been yet.
Graham (age 57 next week), Hayle, Cornwall

10 things we didn't know last week

14:04 UK time, Friday, 23 December 2011

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

1. Pet crocodiles in the UK have to be micro chipped.
More details

2. Kim Jong-il was known by 50 names, including Dear Leader, Supreme Leader, Our Father, The General, Generalissimo.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

3. There is a 100-year-old Christmas cake.
More details (Daily Mail)

4. The average webpage has grown 33% in size in the last year, up from 726 kilobytes in 2010 to about 965 kilobytes in 2011.
More details

5. This year's top10 most watched YouTube clips have racked up more than 285 million hits worldwide since being posted onto the internet.
More details

6. The world record for Christmas lights covering a property is 331,038 lights.
More details

7. Sleeping on left side of the bed makes you more cheerful and positive.
More details (Daily Mail)

8. Britain's cheapest house this year sold for £16,000.
More details (Express and Star)

9. In Scotland you can eat deep fried butter.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

10. The first celebrity to enter the US chart of the most popular search terms this year across all search engines is Justin Bieber at 92.
More details (Daily Mail)

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

Caption Competition

13:27 UK time, Friday, 23 December 2011


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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


This week it's the Harbin Ice-Lantern Show at Zhaolin Parkin Heilongjiang province, China.

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

6. SkarloeyLine
Not to be outdone, Glasgow Zoo unveils the enclosure of its two new polar bears.

5. John_Sevenoaks
It tastes nice, but it was hell getting it out of the jelly mould.

4. BaldoBingham
No matter how they lit it, Salford in summer was still cold and uninviting.

3. Gray Gable
"I'll have some of what Grandma's drinking..."

2. MightyGiddyUpGal
"And all I got you was a snow globe..."

1. Mad hatter
Kim-Jong Un decides to defrost his father's freezer.

Paper Monitor

10:54 UK time, Friday, 23 December 2011

A service highlighting the richness of the daily press.

There are some parties you're glad you weren't invited to.

Take the Nazi-themed stag party that is keeping Tory MP Aidan Burley in the headlines. According to today's Times, French prosecutors have now opened an inquiry into the event held at the ski resort of Val Thorens, where the groom dressed in a replica SS uniform. This is after a pressure group accused the partygoers of inciting racial hatred and glorifying crimes against humanity.

Mr Burley, who attended the party but did not dress up, has already been dismissed from his position as parliamentary private secretary to the Transport Secretary.

Yep, glad that invite got lost in the post.

Then there are other shindigs you can only dream of attending.

Yesterday the papers revelled in who had danced the night away at what seems to have been the party of the year at a swanky London club on Wednesday. Prince Harry, David Beckham, James Corden, to name a few.

Now the Daily Mirror reveals that Nancy Dell'Olio was there too. As one onlooker quite rightly commented:

It was a really unusual and random group of revellers."

Harry reportedly asked Nancy for tango lessons. Er, did he watch Strictly Come Dancing this year? A source tells the Mirror she "became unusually shy and declined to take the third in line to the throne for a twirl".

Shame. Would have paid good money to see that.

Alas for your humble columnist, it was a case of name's not down, not coming in. The cheek, don't you know who Paper Monitor is!

Your Letters

15:27 UK time, Thursday, 22 December 2011

As in previous years, could I just say that I hate, hate, HATE Christmas? Thank you.
Angus Gafraidh, London UK

"Embalming as an aesthetic has moved on in the past 20 years. But good embalming for long-term preservation is a dying art." Really?
Bryan, Cardiff

The most disturbing part of this article is that it refers to the twins as "a baby" despite the fact that *they* have two functioning brains.
Jill B., Detroit, USA

How easy is it to embalm a leader? Sounds like a great idea for a competition.
Jonathan Twigg via @BBC_magazine

Jenna Power (Wednesday's letters), I think I may have spotted the root your problem with the imperial system. Don't you mean: Sixteenth of a pound to an ounce?
John Wilkins, Crepy, France

A question please for the mathematicians. I know that Pythagoras' Theorem is correct. I have seen the many proofs but WHY is there such a relationship between the hyptenuse and the other two sides that involves squaring them to get the result? Can what is going on be put into words?
Roger Perry, Eastbourne, East Sussex

Paper Monitor

12:15 UK time, Thursday, 22 December 2011

A service highlighting the richness of the daily press.

It's panto season and Paper Monitor loves a baddie as much as the next person. But "he's behind you" takes on a whole new meaning as we learn that more than half a million Britons - one in 100 - had pirate ancestors.

And who comes to mind? Johnny Depp, of course. But, while The Daily Telegraph, welcomes the notion of a pirate in the ancestral cupboard -"Next to having a dinosaur as a pet or running a narrow-gauge steam railway in the gardent, this is a highly desirable state of affairs" - it says it is "not quite Johnny Depp that we would want as a kinsman."

Instead, it suggests "someone as carefree and unconventional as William Nicholson's celebrated Pirate Twins".

Paper Monitor appears to have missed out on these children's book characters from the late 1920s, but learns that they were independently minded, incorrigible, loved to get up to high jinks and "not afraid to play dominoes in bed".

The Star also relishes the idea of being descended from a rogue - the research also states that one it 20 Britons are related to a criminal.

Being the long-lost of a villain or a swashbuckling vagabond... cool. I'd blame all my parking tickets on the ancestors.

Your Letters

16:00 UK time, Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Re: Will British people ever think in metric? It was a pleasure to move to a fully metric country (Finland) and use just one (sensible) system!
Christian Jull @BBC News Magazine

Re: metric. It is more rational - why on earth would it be better to use a system with no base whatsoever? Sixteen pounds in an ounce, 14 pounds in a stone, 12 inches in a foot, three feet in a yard, 1760 yards in a mile. It's like it's deliberately set up to confuse people. Give me metric any day.
Jenna Power @BBC News Magazine

I'll not be surprised to see an article about yuletide family arguments, if people follow this advice.
Warren, Bristol

Yeah, right!
Ralph, Cumbria

I read this headline and wondered what the England and Wales Cricket Board were doing handing out vast sums of money. Maybe it was to help countries that found themselves on a sticky wicket, maybe they need "bailing" out or they were stumped for cash. I'm sorry, I may have eaten too many chocolates at work. Can I have my ball back please?
StuKP, On the boundary of Warwickshire

I enjoyed today's Random Stat. Incidentally, and apropos of nothing in particular, did you know that 69% of men lie to researchers?
GDW, Edinburgh

Tuesday's Letters up at 18:42? Does Magazine Monitor have the same postman as we do?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Paper Monitor

12:34 UK time, Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A service highlighting the richness of the daily press.

Thankfully, it's not very often that a survey of a very small number of people by a retailer makes front page news. Unless you're the Daily Star that is.

"XMAS CRACKERS" is the headline. "Survey shows kids believe Simon Cowell is Messiah, Christ was born in Essex and Wise men used Facebook".

Rather incredible statements. But according to the "shock findings of the new survey", one in four British children think Christmas celebrates Simon Cowell's birthday. A quarter reckon the son of God was born in The Only Way is Essex's heartland of Brentwood and three in 10 assumed the wise men heard about the birth of baby Jesus through Facebook.

But before you start weeping for the state of the nation's youth, just 1,000 school children were actually questioned. Also, it was carried out by which, like most retailers, probably has a PR army furiously knocking out such lightweight surveys every day of the week in an attempt to get in the papers.

The only shock here is that the survey made it onto a front page. It didn't make it anywhere else. Even the Daily Mail didn't use it as platform to wax lyrical about how standards in schools are slipping.

But 'tis the season for such surveys and there are too many to mention them all. But the Daily Express has a goodie/baddie on page three. It looks at what your choice of wine says about you. Funnily enough, the survey of 3,000 people was conducted by the "wine supermarket" Oddbins. The results show:

Loud, gregarious people like reality star Amy Childs would typically go for a crisp and zesty wine like ­Sauvignon Blanc. But serious, assertive characters such as Lord Sugar, might instead prefer a full-bodied ­Italian red, like a Primitivo. Romantic couples like Prince William and his new wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, typically wanted a rich and lustrous red like a Californian Pinot Noir. And party animals, including supermodel Kate Moss, could be expected to favour something light like a Rose"

So what can we personally concluded from this? It's Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge party that Paper Monitor would crash. Room for a little one?

Your Letters

18:42 UK time, Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Anyone else ever get "link lost"? At this time of year particularly, the BBC website has so many interesting articles and you read one, seeing a related link at the bottom of the page and you click on that, sometimes going back months or years on the site. Or a side-bar has perhaps an unrelated link and you click on that, and so on and so on. The only quick way to get back "home" is to go to the section links at the top of the page and start all over again. Well, I just thought I'd ask.
JennyT, NY Brit

Re. today's random stat - incredible: I had no idea drug use started so early...
Sue, London

Nominative Determinism raises its head again. "We're not saying that there shouldn't be a test to ensure that people are genuine claimants," said Dave Skull from the mental health group, Mad Pride."
Malcolm, Wrexham, Wales, United Kingdom

Radio 4's Today programme is to be thanked for this morning's quite exhaustive examination of Nominative Determinism, with the slight exception that it missed the constructive element previous studies have found in academia, where an appositely-named junior student is often added to make the joke.
Rahere, Smithfield

Paper Monitor

09:59 UK time, Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A service highlighting the richness of the daily press.

Though naturally this column favours ink and paper above keyboards and screens, Paper Monitor is a great fan of the Twitter account @humblebrag, which curates examples of egregious boasts framed in superficially self-deprecating language.

So Paper Monitor is delighted to come across an article in the Daily Telegraph in which the title's regular writers offer advice to their 16-year-old selves. It is stuffed with humblebrags galore.

Take this offering by Allison "I don't know how she does it" Pearson:

You have moved around too much in your young life. As a consequence, you are often lonely, feel perpetually on the edge of a friendship group that shifts like quicksand so you take refuge in a fantasy world peopled by characters you have invented who find you mesmerisingly beautiful and fascinating. This does not make you a sad weirdo. It makes you a writer.

It gets better. "Remember, the girls whose names are called first when choosing teams for netball have no power to spoil your future," types Pearson. "Life's early winners often fall away. Your time will come."

Paper Monitor's favourite humblebrag of all, however, is this one, again from Pearson:

Please promise me something. On the first night at Cambridge, don't hide in your room, OK? You think that you're not the equal of the other freshers in that dining hall. Actually, you're better than them because you had to struggle so very hard to stand on the same mountain top.

An honourable mention must, however, go to sport writer Henry Winter, for a very Telegraph-esque take on the humblebrag. "Slow down, you move too fast, you gawky plonker. Appreciate the world around you. You're 16, singing in a choir in Westminster Abbey and you just don't understand the amazing privilege."

Likewise, columnist Jeff Randall begins his contribution with the line: "You've just discovered strong drink, slow horses and fast women."

Frankly, it sounds to Paper Monitor as though the 16-year-old Randall doesn't need advice from anyone.

Your Letters

17:18 UK time, Monday, 19 December 2011

At the risk of sounding like Margo Ledbetter...Well, thank you VERY much, Magazine Monitor! Revealing that the Krankies were once swingers in the "Quote of the Day" was not a mental picture I needed on a Monday lunchtime!
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Quote of the Day has just demolished some childhood memories - they were not fond memories, but still...
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Another self-glorifying headline from the tabloids?
Simon Robinson, Birmingham, UK

While taking part in work avoidance techniques today, organising books by genre and ISBN number and deciding what shoes to wear to christmas party (I'm definitely going with the purple stilletos), I happened upon the old Crunch Creep section of the magazine, and took a moment to wonder as to where it has gone. Is the recession over? Did I miss the recovery? If not then I demand to hear more stories of how sales of elasticated trousers are directly related to "hard times". Please bring it back!
Leah, Crawley, UK

Monitor: This request is being considered.

This is all well and good but why is the person driving down the middle of the road in the second picture down?
Stuart, Auckland, New Zealand

Sharon (Friday letters) - do you still have your all-chocolate fruit club as I found one recently which was just fruit. It would put my mind at rest in knowing where the chocolate went.
Ross, London

I once had a fully chocolate KitKat (two fingers only though).
Kate, UK

What I learnt from this graph is that being at work is a greater motivator for logging in to a news website than all but about 3 stories a year.
Michael, Edinburgh, UK

Paper Monitor

12:55 UK time, Monday, 19 December 2011

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

'Tis the season to be jolly, but most stories in today's papers are more "ho hum" than "ho, ho, ho." But thanks to the Daily Mail photographs from what has been described as the "best television moment of 2011" are reproduced.

For those who missed it, that moment was the one when Bruce Forsyth tried to evict McFly band members from the Strictly stage on Saturday night.

Minutes after McFly drummer Harry Judd was crowned King of the Ballroom, his pals leapt onto the stage to congratulate him. The newspaper suggests that a visibly flustered Sir Bruce, mistaking the lads for troublemakers, tries to bring the show back into order by issuing them with their "marching orders". Picture four shows him shooing them back to their seats, with the caption reprinting a later tweet from one of the band mates: "Ha ha! Baited Bruce".

The paper quotes a friend of Sir Bruce's saying that, ever the pro, he was simply ensuring that the live programme simply ended "at the right moment".

"It was great they came on but he had to get rid of them to make sure it finished on time. He wasn't angry, he was just doing his job."

Over in the Sunwe learn that Sir Bruce had apparently swiped the lads with is cue cards.

McFly singer Danny Jones, recounting the moment, is quoted as saying that an "alarmed" looking Sir Bruce, "must have thought we were streakers".

A word of advice to anyone considering trying to get the better of Bruce. Not for nothing is one of his catchphrases, "I'm in charge".

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