BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for January 15, 2012 - January 21, 2012

10 things we didn't know last week

16:50 UK time, Friday, 20 January 2012

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

1. A Sudoku with fewer than 17 numbers filled in will have more than one possible solution.
More details (New Scientist)

2. Skydiving can help you earn a GCSE qualification.
More details

3. A horse fly is named after Beyonce.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

4. State workers in South Carolina answer the phone with, "It's a great day in South Carolina."
More details (New York Times)

5. Snakes know when their prey's heart stops beating.
More details

6. The average US share holding lasts 22 seconds.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

7. Sound travels five times faster through water than through air.
More details

8. Michelle Obama has a pair of $515 (£332) trainers.
More details (The Guardian)

9. Beer brewed 75 years ago can still be drinkable.
More details (Small World News)

10. The government of Iraq considers the buttocks from a toppled statue of Saddam Hussein part of its national antiquity.
More details (Hereford Times)

Your Letters

16:17 UK time, Friday, 20 January 2012

Great bit of nominative determinism: "Hong Kong-based investment firm led by Asian billionaire Li Ka-shing."
Paul, Abingdon, UK

No wonder my old Phonogram won't play vinyl any more, Paper Monitor! It only works on circular records.
Sara , Napanee, Canada

Funnily enough Rob (Thursday's letters), if you ever go to Milton Keynes you'd be forgiven for thinking you're in the US. It's basically a large retail park, built on the grid system and designed for traffic with not a pedestrian in sight. They've even got those traffic lights that hang down over the middle of the road from a wire and everything. I wouldn't be surprised if they soon start driving on the right.
Clare, Aylesbury, UK

I whole-heartedly agree with the correspondence regarding trouser sizes (Wednesday's and Thursday's letters). The market that trouser makers are producing for seems to be shrinking. I take a 30" waist and catalogues start at 32". And even though I am skinny could I please have some room in the leg? When I kneel down I cut the circulation off at the knee!
J. Paul Murdock, Wall Heath, West Midlands, UK

Regarding clothes sizes, I found that shirts are now predominantly "modern fit" which means much slimmer than previously for the same given size. That confuses me because I thought that people were getting fatter these days. Or do I have to wait for "post-modern fit"?
Ian, Redmond

May I remind those people that design trousers for our national retail chains that I have got long legs and I am also morbidly obese. Your trousers fit perfectly. Thank you. This elementary knowledge of physiology is most welcome.
Ben Merritt, Sheffield, England

John, (Thursdays letters) yes, that's what I called it too when it tried to land on my bird table and squashed the thing flat. I'll get my coot.
Dave, Cambridge

Caption Competition

13:28 UK time, Friday, 20 January 2012


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

Bear costume

This week it was a man in a bear costume walking through snow at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

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

6. MightyGiddyUpGal

He's not been right since Knut's passing.

5. Frankonline

Teddy bear seeks Vorsprung Durch picnic.

4. BaldoBingham

Er, excuse me. Could you direct me to the nearest woods, please?

3. Flora Brecon

Next time he was invited to a wedding, Helmut decided he wouldn't leave hiring the outfit until the last minute.

2. Catherine O

"It's warm and practical," said Mother as she packed me off on my first school trip.

1. grazvalentine

Wearing a red carnation and carrying a copy of the Telegraph had always been sufficient in the past, mused George as he approached the rendezvous point.

Paper Monitor

10:46 UK time, Friday, 20 January 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The weekend looms and Paper Monitor is looking forward to spending a couple of days indoors, shielded from the cold, playing music.

Newspapers understand the demographic to which Paper Monitor clearly belongs. Hence pleasingly munificent coverage targeted at record-lovers.

The Guardian's revamped Film and Music section - basically, the former Berliner standalone has been merged into G2 - kicks off with a rather marvellous interview with Leonard Cohen.

Yes yes yes, Paper Monitor is aware that received wisdom depicts Cohen as a gloomy miserablist.

Received wisdom is, however, wrong. Cohen is a reliably thoughtful and witty (albeit laconic) interview subject.

Though his worldview may be bleak, he refuses to take himself seriously, as evidenced when asked about songwriting:

Song operates on so many levels. It operates on the level you just spoke of where it addresses the heart in its ordeals and its defeats but it also is useful in getting the dishes done or cleaning the house. It's also useful as a background to courting.

Paper Monitor will not be soundtracking any future courtship with Songs of Love and Hate.

However, the Times is not to be out-done in the battle to win the hearts and minds of music fans.

Its arts section today is dedicated to the wonders of vinyl. Sales of a format once considered obsolete are soaring, and the paper celebrates all that is black, crackly and spherical.

As well as listing 25 albums that apparently must be listened to on 12ins (Paper Monitor concurs with Surf's Up by the Beach Boys but disputes that The Man-Machine by Kraftwerk isn't better appreciated via a more austere digital format), the Times tasks writer Pete Paphides with explaining to sceptical readers why investing in vinyl makes good financial sense.

However, the highlight comes as Bob Stanley of electro-pop band St Etienne desribes how he washes his collection in the sink:

Run the record under lukewarm water from a tap, add a couple of dabs of antibacterial handwash, gently rub it into the grooves in a circular motion with your fingers, and rinse. Then leave the records to dry on the dish rack, causing amusement (and mild concern) among friends and family.

Your Letters

17:18 UK time, Thursday, 19 January 2012

I sent five letters to MM yesterday morning and a further five in the afternoon, each with a cunningly-constructed and somewhat witty play-on-words. I thought at least one would have made the grade for publication. Alas, it seems no pun in ten did.
David, Cardiff, Wales

Ah, but Michael (Wednesday's letters) - you would find that if you were a girl, you would still easily fit into size eight jeans, as the waistbands are now so low, they are only just respectable, and so do not need to cover the muffin-top.
Rachel, Wayzata

May I remind those people that design trousers for our national retail chains that just because I've got long legs does not mean I am morbidly obese. This elementary knowledge of physiology seems to have escaped them.
Laurence, London

Re: this story. Does no-one at the BBC know that ice hockey is played worldwide, including in our own little country?
Telford Tiger, Wolverhampton

Sorry, was unavoidably detained by work, am I too late for the big bird discussion? Hope not, anyway, yes, ostrich, largest, check, wandering albatross, biggest wingspan, check, but I think we need a mention for the world's largest (biologists usually mean heaviest when they say largest) flying bird, which is the great bustard.
John Knight, Beverley, UK

I found Jimmy's letter (Wednesday's letters) about snowplows a little confusing. Is Milton Keynes in America now?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Paper Monitor

15:42 UK time, Thursday, 19 January 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Ah, sporting puns, how can we describe our relationship with you?

It's not love. It's not hate. It's complicated.

Take the back of the Sun today: "De Jong goodbye".

Occasional Manchester City defensive midfielder and reincarnated kung fu master Nigel de Jong is planning on leaving, allegedly.

It's nice to get a Raymond Chandler reference into a pun. But the next pun on the page -"Lucky Poys" - is a poor reference to Brighton. Their manager is Gustavo Poyet. Do. You. Geddit?

Even stinkier is the back of the Daily Star. "Wolves get Brum rush", because Birmingham is Brum, which sounds vaguely like bum.

Inside "Samba so out of step" sets a similar tone. Chris Samba, the rather tall Blackburn Rovers defender, wants out of the club. But he's going nowhere. And he has a surname that is also a dance step. Make my day pun-k.

The Daily Mirror is always a bit less punny, but they have a couple of epic stinkers today.

There's no Manchester United players in Europe's team of the year and the headline is "Eur just not good enough".

Elsewhere, a story about a striker joining Newcastle to play alongside Demba Ba has the headline "I can raise the Ba".

Paper Monitor is contacting the authorities.

Your Letters

15:59 UK time, Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sarah, (Tuesday's letters). Let me introduce you to a concept that will change your life as it did mine when a friend told me. There are two types of fun in the world - fun A, and fun B. Fun A is conventional fun, when you're enjoying yourself. Fun B is when you have a terrible day, it's raining, your train is cancelled, the replacement bus breaks down and your umbrella blows away on the walk home. Although having a terrible time, a tiny part of you is thinking 'this will make a great story'. Fun B is the fun you're having seeing your letter published, the fun you had writing it. Fun B is the type of fun that keeps giving.
Louise, Surrey

Martin (Tuesday's belated letters),
I've always found the answer to that one quite obvious. How does the snowplow driver get to work? In his snowplow, of course...
Jimmy, Milton Keynes

Can anybody explain to me how I'm supposed to eat my lunch without reading Wikipedia? I keep missing my mouth with spoonfuls of yoghurt.
Ian, Redditch

In Magdalen Oxford gets rejection letter from student, the reason "Even comedians tend to avoid Oxbridge as a subject" is that many of them were educated there. Don't let the mockney accent fool you.
Andrea, Lancashire

I read this as Les Dawson Fossils Found. Is the most read available in large print?
Simon, Lovely Newark

May I remind those people that design trousers for our national retail chains that as my waistline expands, my legs don't get longer? This elementary knowledge of physiology seems to have escaped them.
Michael Hall, Croydon, UK

Paper Monitor

11:30 UK time, Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

In times of austerity, it becomes prudent to adopt a policy of make do and mend.

It's a motto that practitioners and fans of even the more expensive art forms appear to understand.

The Guardian's G2 runs a feature on a blog called Remake/Submissions in which famous paintings are recreated by enthusiasts, "photographing themselves or friends as Frida Kahlo, or El Greco's Woman in a Fur Wrap".

It's certainly a cost-effective alternative to shelling out for one's own Caravaggio, and art critic Jonathan Jones approves. "Great art does goad the onlooker to copy poses, costumes, lighting," he writes.

To prove it, feature writer Tim Dowling is tasked with re-enacting Van Gogh's Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear with the aid of "my wife's coat, a borrowed hat and some bandages from the first-aid kit".

Paper Monitor is not convinced that Dowling, best known for his whimsical columns about family life, entirely recreates the spirit of the tortured artist. But full marks for effort.

Somewhat less highbrow, but, if anything, more spirited is the Daily Mirror's response to the news that the new James Bond film will be shot partly in Bognor Regis after plans to use a series of glamorous overseas locations were shelved on cost grounds.

Reporter Steve Myall is despatched with his tuxedo to the West Sussex town to provide a visual guide to how 007-on-sea might look.

"I went searching for champagne and caviar for two - no dice - and ended up with chips and tea at the Beach Restaurant," Myall writes forlornly.

In the wake of an expensive festive period, Paper Monitor's social life is much the same.

Your Letters

16:00 UK time, Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Monitor: These letters were not posted on Tuesday because of technical problems.

I must confess, Monitorites, that I cannot fathom out the answer to the easier clue in today's Paper Monitor piece on cryptic crosswords. I got the Times' clue straight away. Perhaps I'm just not thinking simply enough. Someone please put me out of my misery.
Ross, London

Yesterday certainly was Blue Monday for me. Started by losing my season ticket, missing my train and my salary being paid late. And finished with huge delays on the trains meaning a 3.5 hour journey home. I'm very glad it's Tuesday now!
Sarah, London, UK

Liam (Monday's letters), I am afraid I am like you and cannot see why Ricky Gervais is funny either. I know that I am not alone as this subject has come up in conversation with friends many times, with similar opinions expressed by all. Maybe the question should be "Is there anyone who isn't a BBC commissioning editor who finds Ricky Gervais funny?" While we are on the subject, Reeves & Mortimer anyone?
Sharon, Sutton

Liam (Mondays letters), can I ask what prompted this unprovoked attack on Ricky Gervais? Much as I wouldn't count myself as his biggest fan, I think you may have been a little harsh.
Ed, Wakefield

As Wikipedia is going to go down on Wednesday, I think now is a good time to back it up. I'll print it out in case anything happens to my computer.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Liam - it's one of life's mysteries, like how does the man who drives the snowplough get to work.
Martin, Here

Nigel, (Monday Letters) I'm addicted to Dihydrogen Monoxide. Evil stuff, but since the withdrawal can be fatal I'm stuck with that one for life.
Caroline Brown, Rochester, UK

Nigel (Monday's letters) - I'm addicted to blood. If I don't have several pints of the stuff in my veins at all times I go into serious withdrawal. That and not being mauled by tigers (it'd let the blood out).
Matthew, Glenrothes

Nigel - Oxygen! Wow, me too! But gravity? Depends on my mood. I can do without on lighter days. I'll get my float.
Graham, Hayle, Cornwall

The way to avoid wasting food following a protracted session of salad bar stacking is to allow unlimited visits to the bar, but to charge by the weight of food not consumed. No sharing, and no doggy bags.
OG Nash, Doha, Qatar

Sorry Nigel, but I always find gravity gets me down.
Paul Greggor, London

Sorry Paper Monitor, you're exactly wrong. Albatrosses are good luck. The bad luck associated with the Ancient Mariner was because he shot one, thereby removing the ship's luck, and he was forced to wear its body round his neck as penitence and to make sure that it was only he who suffered any bad luck as a result. Given that they weigh about 60lb and can be several feet in length, this would have been bad luck by itself...
Colin Edwards, Exeter, UK

Martin (Monday's letters), you're right that the ostrich, not the wandering albatross, is the world's largest bird. But the wandering albatross does have the largest wingspan, at up to 3.5m (11.5ft), compared to about 2m (6.5ft) for an ostrich.
David Richerby, Liverpool, UK

Paper Monitor

12:57 UK time, Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There's a bit in Dr Strangelove where Mandrake, the RAF group captain on secondment to a US airbase, realises World War III can't be happening because there's still pop music on the radio.

The Times does the same thing for newspaper readers. If there's still a cryptic crossword it means nuclear missiles aren't currently headed for your suburb. (Naturally, Paper Monitor was well mannered enough not to voice such an opinion when it worked in close proximity to the author of this notable crossword blog.)

Today they have a story marking 40 years on the wonderfully named Wadham Sutton setting the puzzles.

Paper Monitor has never quite got the appeal of the actual clues themselves. If I need to do an anagram, why not just tell me in clear English that I need to do an anagram.

If a cruciverbal enthusiast wants to ask somebody on a date what should they say? Part of mythical creature found in eatery (10)? Hammer-wielder's time of the week (8)?

OK, maybe the real clues are a little less rubbish than that, but for the non-aficionado it's a world as closed as a Klingon language-only Star Trek social night.

Anyway, Sutton's knocked out 1,414 crosswords. And they're good apparently.

Although Paper Monitor glances at the first clue of today's Sutton puzzle and it's easy.

14 down: Great Tew, a curious target for 1972 break-in (9)

Even a dunderhead like us can see that's got to be "Watergate", an anagram of "Great Tew, a".

That's not much harder than the Daily Star.

Today, their opening cryptic clue is:

For vehicle, favourite floor covering (6)

And for the avoidance of doubt the quick clues are adjacent. It says:

Floor covering (6).


Your Letters

15:30 UK time, Monday, 16 January 2012

"The Wandering Albatross - the world's largest bird" (Paper Monitor) What, bigger than an ostrich? No wonder you wouldn't want one of those around your neck.
Martin, Here

RE: "Twenty top predictions for 2112" I'll believe that when I get the steam-powered butlering device I was promised in 1912. This was supposed to be the future.
Sam, Leeds

OK - can someone please tell me why is Ricky Gervais considered funny? I know that monitorites are noted for their good sense and excellent taste, but perhaps there's a rogue out there who can answer this perplexing question.
Liam, N Ireland

Fi (Friday letters), I was a proper student cheapskate but I never built anything like this. If you did I think you should be awarded some official kudos!
Michael, Edinburgh, UK

Salad bar stacking maturity levels:
Level 1: Big pile
Level 2: Cucumber slices round the bowl edge and pile it high
Level 3: Cantilevered celery sticks: boiled eggs weigh down the bottom of the celery sticks arranged in a radial star pattern. Then layer ham slices over the celery sticks to form a much bigger bowl. Pile it high, with denser items on the bottom, lighter items on top.
My girlfriend (now wife) and I used to compete at Garfunkels on our dates there whilst students...
Andrew Agerbak, Harrow, Greater London

Can we have a competition whose aim is to find the most ludicrous claimed addiction? I myself am addicted to oxygen and gravity, among other things (such as avoidance of being struck by comets). Can anyone do better?
Nigel Macarthur, London, England

Paper Monitor

10:33 UK time, Monday, 16 January 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

So it's that time of the year - "Blue Monday," the most depressing day. Post-Christmas blues, debt, lack of sunlight - they are all meant to add up to make it a miserable Monday for many.

So Paper Monitor is on the hunt for stories that bring happiness - however small - to someone, somewhere.

The Daily Express, for one, thanks "supermum" Tania Sullivan, mother of 11, and her joiner husband Mike, from Kent, for "restoring our faith in human nature".

The couple receive standard child allowance, but they grow their own vegetables and keep chickens to help make ends meet. Ms Sullivan, we learn, does home schooling.

"Some people use having lots of kids as an excuse not to work but we manage. It annoys me when people assume we must be on benefits. That's simply not the case," the paper quotes Ms Sullivan as saying.

As the parents of 11 children it would have been easy for them to live off £60,000 a year benefits. But they believe in working hard and paying their own way.

What a magnificent example to set their offspring.

It certainly won't be a Blue Monday for young Noah Evans, son of Radio 2 DJ Chris. Employing the masterful pun: "Chrissy Chrissy Bang, Bang," the Daily Mirrror informs readers that Evans bought the iconic car used in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang because his son, who turns three next month, loves the film. The paper writes:

Chris Evans paid nearly £500,000 for the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car because his son Noah loves the film. It could prove expensive if Noah starts to like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

And the Daily Telegraph brings good news to bird lovers everywhere.

"Climate change may have helped to boost the survival of an endangered species of albatross, scientists believe," the paper reports on its front page. The Wandering Albatross - the world's largest bird - is thought to be benefiting from stronger winds, which are thought to be the result of warmer air, over the Southern Ocean.

It is thought the bird is now able to fly faster and reach prey more easily, resulting in an increase in its body weight.

So far, so good. But something from Paper Monitor's schooldays is coming back. Aren't albatrosses thought to be unlucky? At least the Ancient Mariner seemed to think so.

Maybe not such a good news story after all?

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