BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for March 18, 2012 - March 24, 2012

10 things we didn't know last week

16:59 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2012

Number 10 painted on shed

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

1. It rains liquid methane once every 1,000 years on Titan, the largest moon orbiting Saturn.
More details

2. Barack Obama knows sign language.
More details (Storyful)

3. Holding a gun makes you more likely to think other objects are guns.
More details (Chicago Tribune)

4. The Welsh language can be confused with Hebrew.
More details (The Independent)

5. Female animals can have ovaries on the outside.
More details (New Scientist)

6. Noise stunts the growth of plants.
More details

7. Listening to opera helps mice recover from heart surgery.
More details (New Scientist)

8. A cat can fall 19 storeys and survive.
More details

9. Birds take "girls only" holidays.
More details

10. The UK is the world's third-largest purchaser of human hair.
More details

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

Your Letters

16:13 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2012

It looks like questions are going to be asked of the Queen's security detail.
Greta Mackenzie, Miami, US

Re Paper Monitor's match-headlines-with-newspapers test, I thought the Daily Express headline would have something to do with how Princess Diana wouldn't have let this Budget happen.
Craig Williams @BBC Magazine on Facebook

Dear Paper Monitor, your Test Paper brought me out in a cold sweat. You have listed six questions (1-6), but you have two answers to question 1 (a regular font 1 and a bold font 1) and the final answer is (apparently) to question 5. Your answer number 3 is, I'm almost certain, the correct answer to question 4 (I bought The Times to check).
It all rather reminds me of the Maths O Level paper I took way back in 1976. I'm sure you're right and I've failed (again) somehow, but could I ask for a remark, or do I need to re-sit in the summer? I hope I haven't let the class down or ruined your teaching averages.
Richard Martin, Doncaster, UK

I read this headline as "EU slaps a wife". Now that would have been news...
Henri, Sidcup

Dear RG (Thursday Letters), maybe if Mr Stelios Haji-Ioannou adopts the idea, we could have stand-up hairdressers and they could be called Easy (insert witty hair-based pun here). You'd probably have to supply your own scissors and holiday/any plans for the weekend-based polite chit-chat, though
StuKP, Warwickshire

Following his letter of 21/03/2012, may I suggest that Ray Lashley, Independent Guardian of Monitor Weights and Measures, re-designates himself as Ray Lashley, Independent Guardian of Monitor Weights and Measures (US Division)? Meters...
Bear, Purley Guv

Monitor note: Oh dear. A kind soul on Twitter has pointed out that someone is saying something nasty about BBC_magazine on a blog. Should one click on the link to find out?

Caption Competition

13:17 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2012


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

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

Child and dragon

This week a child observes a dragon at a festival in Almaty.

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

6. grazvalentine wrote:
I'm only an apprentice dragon - I haven't been fired yet.

5. DavidDeeMoz wrote:
Fortunately he preferred the crunchy blue ones.

4. ARoseByAnyOther wrote:
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - The Prequel.

3. Scott Humm wrote:
You want to take a right, go straight for about 5,000 miles, and the loch is just behind the Starbucks.

2. SimonRooke wrote:
Well, what did they expect if they ban fascinators from Ascot?

1. EdMunro wrote:
The bring your child to work day was not proving a success for the dragon slayers.

Paper Monitor

10:59 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Despite a 29-year recording career behind her, it remains difficult to escape from Madonna in this morning's papers.

Not only does she have an album - the tabloid-furore-inviting MDNA - but, according to the Times, she risks being drawn into a "confrontation with Russia's Orthodox Church and a former KGB spy".

A pledge by the singer to defy a ban on promoting gay rights is behind the potential flare-up.

But what of her new record? The paper's review rather ungallantly, in light of her recent divorce from Guy Ritchie, suggests that it is "a bit like you'd imagine being married to Madonna might be: thrilling, hard work at times and over before you know it".

Nor is the Daily Mirror impressed, suggesting that it relies on "cliche and uninspired re-runs of old ideas".

Alexis Petridis of the Guardian is more generous, offering four stars and some thoughts on the performer's longevity:

What's striking isn't that Madonna is still with us - everybody's still with us, up to and including the Flying Pickets, who are about to wow the Schloss Burgfarrnbach in Nuremberg - so much as where she still is: a commanding presence at the absolute centre of pop, as capricious and changeable a genre as music has to offer. The question of how she's managed it is a good one.

Perhaps her ability to generate newsprint has something to do with it.

Your Letters

16:21 UK time, Thursday, 22 March 2012

I'm cleaning the bathroom tonight if anyone wants to make me an offer for the plughole collections?
Basil Long, Nottingham

"VAT would be "extended" to hairdressers' chairs [and] it will increase the price of a haircut." Question: who has a haircut at their hairdressers whilst standing up
R.G, Watford, Herts

Re the picture of knitted cthulhu in the HP Lovecraft story - isn't the one on the left a knitted Orville
PollySaxon, Lichfield

Having read the piece about horror writer HP Lovecraft, i was amused to see that under "more on this story" was a picture of jedward running a marathon. Now admittedly HPL wrote stories about creepy and hideous creatures from beyond, but ....
Tigger, Milton Keynes

Just who on earth was JP Lovecraft? Looks like Frankie Dettori to me...
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Have you started employing my teenage son? Last week an article about Warhammer, this week HP Lovecraft. If we get one on revision tips for GCSE students next week I'll consider it proof.
Caroline M, Southend UK

I must share with Lee and Ian, today was a red-letter day. I started a new jar of Marmite for breakfast. It doesn't happen often, but when it does - you just know the whole day's going to go well.
Fran, Brill

Mondelez Dairy Milk does not sound very delez to me...
Rusty, Montreal, Quebec

Paper Monitor

14:13 UK time, Thursday, 22 March 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Today, a quiz - can you match the Budget Day headline to the paper in question? Answers at the bottom of this entry (no peeking).

  • The great granny tax grab
  • Cut cut cut
  • Osborne's dodgy plans on fuel, tax and pensions have put your money in... THE WRONG TROUSERS
  • The 50 gambler
  • 'Granny tax' hits 5m pensioners
  • Four million elderly will pay bill for Chancellor's tax giveaway: OSBORNE PICKS THE POCKETS OF PENSIONERS

So, what are your answers (show your working for extra marks):

1. Granny tax grab =_________________
2. Cut cut cut = _________________
3. Wrong trousers = _________________
4. 50p gambler = _________________
5. 5m pensioners = _________________
6. Picks the pockets = _________________

OK, turn over your papers.

Here are the answers.

  1. i paper
  2. Independent
  3. The Sun
  4. The Times
  5. Daily Telegraph
  6. Daily Mail

For regular readers, number six should have been an easy point - it is a classic example of the Daily Mail's favourite genre of headline: the headline so comprehensive that there is no need to read the accompanying story.

Good work, class.

Your Letters

15:50 UK time, Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Considering Lee's report (Tuesday's letters) of a lack of yeast extract spread in New Zealand, I may book a holiday over there now. I'd happily travel thousands of miles to avoid the evil-tasting stuff.
Ian Ayliffe, Redditch

It turns out I know nothing about spring. I had better aestivate. I'll get my nuts.
GDW, Edinburgh

Ed (Tuesday Letters): Sorry, I can't. A growler (the smallest type of iceberg) is defined as being less than five meters (International Ice Patrol report p2). This would therefore mean that any piano could be used as a comparative measure for such a berg; a Routemaster bus (new or old) may be compared to a Bergy Bit.
Ray Lashley, Independent Guardian of Monitor Weights and Measures

Do ships still hit icebergs? Sorry, was too busy rearranging the deck chairs to notice...
Candace Sleeman, via Facebook

Four letters on Tuesday? I hadn't realised that the cuts had affected MM so much. I'll try to write more often. You can always recycle old letters.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Tuesday's letters. Where are the links? Do you want to borrow my Hypertext Marker Pen?
Graham, Hayle, Cornwall

Monitor note: hyperlinks have been restored.

Paper Monitor

15:01 UK time, Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There is a story in today's papers that unites tabloid and broadsheet in equal measures of excitement.

It's not the budget. Instead, it's the news that the pop production trio Stock, Aitken and Waterman are to stage a one-off concert featuring a selection of their acts, including Jason Donovan, Bananarama, Sonia, Steps, Brother Beyond and that darling of social media, Rick Astley.

Conscious that many of their readers will respond to this announcement with nostalgic glee, while another sizeable proportion will be sparked into furious indignation, reporters tread a fine line.

The Guardian's introductory sentence attempts to address this by appealing to the unifying feature of its audience's sympathies:

They were once described as the most hated thing about the 1980s (after Margaret Thatcher)...

Oddly, this intro is absent from the online version of the story, web-based Guardian readers presumably having disliked other things more intensely during that decade.

The Sun, too, treads a fine line. While feature writer Kate Jackson gushes that the "spectacular" concert will showcase "the best of the 80s and 90s", showbiz editor Gordon Smart laments that he is considering booking a two-week holiday "so I'm not roped into covering it".

There is no such reticence at the Times, where music writer and member of indie-pop group Saint Etienne Bob Stanley insists SAW and their label PWL are due a critical reappraisal.

According to Stanley, "everything about SAW and PWL looks intriguing on paper: their DIY attitude, their anti-major label stance, their ability to write incredibly catchy tunes and score hits with ordinary kids without the need of a drawn-out TV talent contest. So why aren't they national treasures?"

Paper Monitor doubts all of Stanley's readership will be won over. But perhaps therein lies the purpose of the exercise: Marmite journalism.

Your Letters

16:04 UK time, Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Penny Palfrey. Do you really need all of those question marks? Sure a single interrobang would suffice?
David, Cardiff, Wales

The size of a piano? Could the monitor of weights and measures please confirm whether this is a grand or upright
Ed, Wakefield

Just digging up some nominitive determinism for you. Andie, London

I would like to reassure UK fans of a particular yeast extract spread that although there is a shortage here in NZ it's nowhere near as good as the UK version. So DON'T PANIC!
Lee Pike, Auckland, NZ

Paper Monitor

12:47 UK time, Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It is not often it hits home with Paper Monitor that the days of the rule of ink on paper are gone.

But today it occurred while reading the Guardian. Page 19 has a story about Tony Blair squirming during a joint interview with Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The president was asked whether she wanted to decriminalise gay sex. She answered by saying that she wouldn't and that she supported "traditional values".

In the newsprint version you get a still of Tony Blair looking uncomfortable, and a box suggesting you watch the video.

But you know in your heart of hearts that this story simply cannot be appreciated without watching the video.

On an entirely unrelated note, Paper Monitor regrets that it did not pay enough attention to yesterday's Daily Mirror. Particularly an interview with actor Sherrie Hewson.

The Benidorm star is ruing her inability to find a man and announces that she is officially putting herself out there. She says: "My china cabinet is open and the Minton is out."

Beg pardon? If that isn't euphemism of the year then this is an annus mirabilis for the double entendre.

Elsewhere in relationship news in the paper, they have a short leader column on Masterchef host Gregg Wallace's separation from his wife. The paper cruelly asks: "As Mrs Merton might ask, what exactly attracted Heidi, 30, to the wealthy 47-year-old in the first place?"

Your Letters

15:53 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2012

No. 7. Is there something here that could be equated to the Human Male????????
Penny Palfrey, Cairns Australia

3. Colossal squid have the biggest eyes in the animal kingdom, because they need to spot predatory sperm whales. Yeah! Those pesky little sperm whales are so very difficult to see....
Neil, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A contender for most nouns in a headline? "Cathays, Cardiff stone street steps head injury man, police plea"
Phil, Cardiff

This article states "[w]hile only a quarter of those surveyed said they would consider giving up sex for a year in order to maintain their broadband connection, the figures for other vices were much higher." Since when has sex been considered a vice? I'm sure it's generally accepted that regular sex is good for one's health. I'll get my contraception.
David, Cardiff, Wales

Reference the use of plastic bags, the Welsh Assembly has been charging for these in Welsh supermarkets and even take-aways for months. If everyone is so keen to save the planet, how come charities push at least a dozen plastic bags through my letter-box every week?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Paper Monitor

10:28 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

First things first, Paper Monitor isn't encouraging truancy.

But it can't help but be tickled by the tale of 12 bus drivers who scooped the Euromillions jackpot in a syndicate last Friday.

"Off the buses! Day after 12 drivers win £38m on lottery, not one turns up for work," says the Daily Mail, which goes on to say bosses were drafted in to help provide a service to the town in Northamptonshire.

The paper's cartoonist Jonathan Pugh is clearly entertained too. "Typical! You wait ages for a bus and then three Aston Martins drive past at the same time," he muses, beneath a picture of two people waiting at a bus stop.

That's because one of the winners has previously posed for pictures of himself taking part in an Aston Martin "driving day", according to Metro, which it terms a "busman's holiday".

Under the headline "everybody off my bus, I've won EuroMillions jackpot!" the paper also reveals that one of the bus drivers quit his job mid-shift.

"He apparently stopped the vehicle, told everyone he was going no farther and followed them off the bus," it says.

Although some residents may have been miffed that their travel arrangements were in chaos, the paper decides the main mood on Twitter is congratulatory.

It reports one resident as tweeting: "12 Corby based bus drivers scoop the Euromillions last night, the whole town is talking about it, try getting a busy in Corby today!"

"So that's several millions injected into the local economy, some happy people and more than likely some new bus driver jobs coming up!" it quotes another as saying.

The Daily Telegraph notes that this is the fifth time in a row that UK ticket holders have scooped a Euromillions jackpot.

Now Paper Monitor loves its job. But with that track record, it might be worth thinking about getting a syndicate together.

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