BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for March 25, 2012 - March 31, 2012

Your Letters

15:58 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

I can see exactly what the government is thinking - whilst queueing for petrol what are people going to do? Buy a quick snack of a pasty from the forecourt, of course.
Basil Long, Nottingham

"Companies in Nottingham with more than 10 parking spaces will have to pay a yearly charge to the council from this weekend." So how big is the Council's own car park? And why don't local businesses just merge all their car parking spaces into one big one?
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

If we'd restricted politicians' hours to zero at the start of the week, we wouldn't have had to extend tanker drivers' working hours at the end of it.
John Thompson, Kirkby Lonsdale

Oh, no! Ian (Thursday letters), what have we started!?
Ray Lashley, ColchesterRe: this story - Prof. Barker? Really? I do hope it's not a howling error. I'll get my lead...
Howard, London

More nominative determinism, naturally.
Mike, Malvern

Caption Competition

14:34 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012


It's the Caption Competition.

You can submit captions for this week's picture using the comments box below (not the "Send us a letter" form on the right of this page). You will need to be registered to take part, but don't be put off if you haven't registered yet - it's a quick and easy process.

This week, two contestants wait to take part in a Sport Relief mile.

Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

There is still no prize, except the traditional small quantity of kudos. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].

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

6. Pendragon
I'm part of the UK's Olympic cricket team - I'm a bowler bear

5. Nero Cabflor
The last two members of Scott's ill-fated Antarctic team finally make it back to London

4. DavidDeeMoz
Oh hell! I put the LSD in the washing machine, didn't I?

3. Ruaraidh Gillies
When the runners-up were revealed, the choice of Wenlock and Mandeville as Olympic mascots didn't seem quite so controversial.

2. Franc Bolero
Lord Lucan hadn't missed a marathon for decades

1.Gray Gable
Sorry son, its "next" Tuesday. Today it's a normal assembly, you'll just have to go in like that

10 things we didn't know last week

12:31 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

Number 10 painted on shed

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

1. The first silicone breast implant was carried out on a dog called Esmerelda.
More details

2. Regular chocolate eating could keep you thin.
More details

3. Ernest Hemingway cried after he was forced to shoot his injured cat.
More details

4. Male dolphins are bisexual.
More details (The Sun)

5. Private vehicle fuel tanks in the UK can hold three or four times more petrol than the nation's petrol stations.
More details

6. Mario Balotelli's mum lives on the Shameless council estate.
More details (The Sun)

7. Don Draper smokes herbal cigarettes.
More details (

8. Albert Einstein's brain was not particularly large.
More details (The Guardian)

9. Nearly six million cats and dogs in Britain are obese.
More details (The Telegraph)

10. Visiting Olympic athletes, coaches and officials will be banned from marrying while they are in Britain.
More details (The Telegraph)

Paper Monitor

11:30 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Getting old was once associated with putting your feet up, lighting a pipe and handing out Werther's Originals.

But today's papers suggest that age is being respun. The Daily Telegraph - using the headline "A wheelchair to negotiate the long and winding road?" - reports how Beatles fans are now being targeted for mobility aids.

The page three story is based on a European Court of Justice case in which a Dutch wheelchair company was fighting for the right to use the word "Beatle" for one of its models.

The company lost in court but it doesn't stop the Telegraph from indulging in a bit of grumpy old men-style nostalgia about the 60s generation fading away.

"Beatles' fans, once a byword for love, freedom and youthful abandon, are now in the market for wheelchairs, according to the European judges," the story reads.

Notice how Europe is now not only telling us what shaped bananas we can eat, but questioning the sprightliness of Beatles' fans.

On the same page, the paper features Prince Philip's banter with someone on a motorised buggy. It relates how on a tour of east London the Prince asked a 60-year-old mobility scooter-user: "How many people have you knocked over this morning on that thing?"

The Daily Mail has a different take on the elderly. Far from being in a wheelchair or motorised scooter, they should be out building dens, climbing trees and taking bark rubbings.

It cites National Trust research suggesting that fewer than 10% of children play in wild places and argues that the area in which they roam around has declined by 90%.

In contrast their grandparents spent half of their time outdoors. The over 65s are said to spend more time with children than parents do so are well placed to drive through change, says the charity.

That's if they can manoeuvre their Beatle mobility scooter through the woods.

Your Letters

18:03 UK time, Thursday, 29 March 2012

Ray - I hadn't noticed the bolding myself before, but I think it can lead to poetry, with a little adjustment to order and punctuation.

Here is my poem from this week's Ten Things:

It rains liquid

The UK is
Holding a gun.
Barack Obama knows
The Welsh language.

Noise stunts the
Birds. Take girls
Listening to opera -
Female animals can.
A cat can.
Ian, Burnham, UK

Probably not best to read this one at work... A brief history of breast enlargements.
Tom Webb, Surbiton

This article asks "Where are breast implants most popular?" I'd hazard a guess in the chest area!
AJ, Bristol, S Glos

Headline: "Tank half-full".
Body: "Half-empty"
This says a lot about your sub-editors.
Rob, Birmingham, UK

Just a tad disappointed. I was expecting a bit more bling than this yellow streak of whatever this yellow streak is.
Vicky S, East London

Are ministers even aware of the cost of a full tank of petrol? I put in a small fortune each week but it only amounts to half a tank
J, Rotherham, South Yorkshire

Well thank you VERY much, Francis Maud - in best Margo Leadbetter voice. Now the nation's men have the perfect excuse not to mow the grass over the weekend. "If I head off with a jerry can, it'll look like I'm panic-buying, dear..."
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

Thank you Bob for having the courage to point this out, in the midst of all the hype about the Hunger Games. I have been mentioning this out to everyone I know, in the hope that they will watch the (probably vastly superior) Battle Royale.
Heather, Jersey

Bob Gomersall, no it isn't a remake, it is in fact a completely different story and the author claims to have never heard of Battle Royale until after submitting her books to the publisher. The hunger games is a fight to the death between children aged 12-18, 12 girls and 12 boys.
Chookgate, Milton Keynes

Paper Monitor

12:29 UK time, Thursday, 29 March 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

A Martian visiting Britain today needs a crash course in puns. And a tutorial about the cultural significance of pasties served above room temperature.

The row over the introduction of VAT on hot snacks is a gift for papers' headline writers. As was David Cameron's oddly detailed answer to the question of "And when did you last eat a pasty Prime Minister?"

The PM told his inquisitor that he thought the last one he'd eaten had been "a large one" from the West Cornwall Pasty Company at Leeds Station before adding: "I am sure the Sun will have someone rushing up to the shop right away to check it out." It wasn't just the Sun.

Now that the detail doesn't quite stack up, the government has a "political hot potato" on its hands, the Independent warns.

The Sun splashes with "half-baked", with the subhead "PM's bid to take heat out of pasty row is hard to swallow". Inside, there is more fun, with a spread headlined "PM pasty 'pork pie' probe".

The Daily Telegraph opts for "Oh crumbs ... PM's trial by pasty", while the Guardian asks "Who ate all the pies?"

The Times saves the puns for its page three sketch, headed "Dave tries to play catch-up but it's all pie in the sky as Mr Pasty tells a porky". Sketchwriter Ann Treneman suggests the best way for the PM to achieve closure is at "Greggs with a hot pasty in his mouth. At least he won't be able to talk."

All this punning is making Paper Monitor peckish. We're off to a certain chain of low cost bakery to investigate further.

Your Letters

16:07 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2012

I hope I'm not the only one who finds that photo of Bela Lugosi quite, well, scary... (sent from behind the sofa).
Sue, London

That's not "urban wildlife". That's weeds.
Basil Long, Nottingham

Re this, do the words "over 75" and "dying prematurely" really belong in the same sentence? I work in the NHS and there has been propaganda creep which is fed to us all that we don't actually have to die, and that with treatment, eating or not the right/wrong things etc, we will be immortal. We won't, we're all going to die, and the sooner people accept this the better it will be for us all.
PollySaxon, Lichfield

This presents no end of opportunity. You could have the Heinz Spaghetti Junction... the Pizza Express... Leicester's "pork pie" roundabout could be sponsored by Pork Farms. And the American clothes shops could sponsor Watford GAP.
Basil Long, Nottingham

Pasties? Sheesh, it's not Mr Difficult now, it it? Hot pasties should be piping hot, cold pasties should be chilled. Anything in the middle isn't a pastie, it's a food poisoning incubator.

Rik Alewijnse, Feering, UK

The Hunger Games - never heard of it before, but it sounds remarkably like Battle Royale, a classic Japanese manga and film, where annually a school class is nominated and forced to fight each other until only one is left alive. Is The Hunger Games just a remake?
Bob Gomersall, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Nominative determinism of the highest order: seen in Sunday's Orlando Sentinel - article entitled "Wi-fi arriving slowly on international flights" ..... wait for it!... by Michael Planey, airline industry consultant.
JennyT, Orlando

*Sorry Rusty, I* must decline the invitation (Tuesday letters). *I am unable* to read the "10 things" articles due to the often unfortunate formatting. *Putting the first* three words of every sentence in bold distorts the emphasis in often unfortunate (and sometimes humorous) ways.
Ray Lashley, Colchester, UK

Paper Monitor

12:48 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Addiction, guns, murder and the Duchess of Cornwall?

Paper Monitor rarely finds much of shock value when it comes to royal news, but the Duchess of Cornwall's visit to the set of Danish murder-mystery drama The Killing came into our crosshairs.

"Hands up: Duchess makes a killing," the Daily Telegraph says under a photo of the handgun-holding visitor. The Guardian is a bit more demure, identifying the duchess' weapon as merely a "prop gun" - perhaps to clarify the situation for the "cowering" Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.

In keeping with the drama's twisted plotline and mysterious murders, the papers all have their hunches about the duchess's true target.

"The Duchess grabbed Miss Grabol's pistol, pointed it at the press and declared: 'It was me all along!'" says the Telegraph.

The Guardian reports director Piv Bernth was the bullseye. The Daily Mail doesn't venture a guess, but reports the duchess "looks a little too trigger happy as she handles a gun".

Luckily for the crown princess, the press and Mr Bernth, the Duchess only made off with a replica of the heroine's trademark jumper.

"'Do not lose it,' she warned as she handed it to a royal aide," the Guardian reports.

After the gun-slinging show, Paper Monitor doubts the assistant will stray.

If a gun-toting royal wasn't enough headline fodder, the Titanic's return to the big screen offered ample opportunity for seafaring puns.

"Kate resurfaces", says the Daily Telegraph. The Independent stays the course with "Winslet sails again as Titanic gains a new dimension".

The Daily Mail branches out a bit with "15 years on, Kate's Titanic return ticket". The Sun runs amok with "Strip Ti-panic" to dub Kate's "sinking" feeling about the new special effects of a particularly, erm, open scene.

Paper Monitor hopes the headlines don't set the precedent for another 15 years of Titanic hype. Someone throw us a lifeline.

Your Letters

15:33 UK time, Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Hmmm, a theme park fitting for the stature of Napoleon. How about Legoland?
GDW, Edinburgh

A 'Napoleon'theme park to rival 'Not tonight Josephine' as methinks you are taking the 'Mickey'...I'll get my wristband.
Tim McMahon, Martos/Spain

I must protest that MM's standards are becoming shockingly lax. Last week's 10 Things picture is wildly inaccurate, containing 2 things (a one and a zero) or at best 4 things (4 wooden planks). Did you think we wouldn't notice? I know Ray Lashley's (Independent Guardian of Monitor Weights and Measures) plate is rather full, but perhaps he could take on the job of 10 Things picture quality control?
Rusty, Montreal, Quebec

RE: "Chocolate 'may help keep people slim". Apparently "The study found no link with quantity consumed" - well that's pretty obvious.
Tom Webb, Surbiton, UK

Michael, sorry to break it to you, but you're a bit late with that idea
Martin, Luxembourg

I feel compelled to jump to the defence of The Hunger Games. While, I'm probably not its intended demographic, (I can just get away with calling myself a young adult) I was given the first book for Christmas and have almost finished it. While I have been told that the love triangle, hinted at in the first book, balloons like a cancerous growth in the following two books, the fact that the female lead is not a vapid, whinging, dependant, pointless waste of space, means that the Hunger Games is infinitely superior to Twilight. Please do not taint it with a comparison!
Wiggles, Bristol
Three letters on Monday MM? C'mon seriously I mean seriously?? Was everyine out there sunbathing?
Fredbeare, Basingstoke

Paper Monitor

12:32 UK time, Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor tried to duck and dodge The Hunger Games hype. Just another Twilight-esque saga with a dewy-eyed lead and a noble hunk for hormonal 13-year-olds, right?
But today's headline in the Daily Mail merited a second look - "Hunger Games film is too gory for young teens, warn mothers". Guts and gore in the tween world? Paper Monitor read on, blaming the Roman "bread and circuses" syndrome.

It is set to rival Harry Potter and eclipse Twilight as the must-see teen franchise. But with blood-curdling scenes that show children as young as 12 being skewered with spears, parents are questioning whether The Hunger Games is suitable viewing for the whole family.
Parents trying to steer clear of such savagery on family night might tune into Britain's Got Talent or The Voice, for a tame, inspirational evening.

But for The Independent's Harriet Walker, the "dystopian gore-fest" of The Hunger Games is more a healthy dose of reality than an indulgence of savage instincts.

"I'm not being facetious when I say I'm relieved that teenagers have ditched the vampires and wizards in favour of something a little more realistic," she writes.

"The premise - a futuristic totalitarian state asserts its strength by recruiting 24 children every year to fight to the death on telly - may seem far-fetched, melodramatic, even overly bloodthirsty, but it parallels the modern adolescent existence in a way that makes old farts like me only too glad to have narrowly escaped growing up in the internet age."

Not so fast, says The Guardian's Tanya Gold, who claims the Hunger Games is really a metaphor of the brutality in reality TV singing shows. Gold's not referring to the eardrum-cracking warbling of the casting call episodes, either. Cruel judges and viewers on a power trip wreak emotional havoc on "broken" contestants, she says.

"Call it a God complex or Judy Garland Syndrome, but our hunger for the emotional violence of reality TV is unsated," she writes.

Your Letters

16:49 UK time, Monday, 26 March 2012

Re 10 things: Way back in the 1970s, us blokes were well aware that birds took "girls only" holidays.
Rik Alewijnse, Feering, UK

"It rains liquid methane once every 1,000 years on Titan." Right, as I always seem to book my holiday for the only week that it rains, I certainly will be crossing Titan off my list of potential holiday destinations.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Re Friday's letters: StuKP, it's entirely possible that the joke was that you avoided the obvious joke and that you're just too subtle for me but I just have to check: you did think of saying Michael O'Leary and calling it RyanHair didn't you?
Michael, Edinburgh, UK

Paper Monitor

12:30 UK time, Monday, 26 March 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

The newspapers today remind Paper Monitor of its old-favourite childhood game Cluedo.

It has been revealed that media mogul Simon Cowell was victim of an alleged break-in at his multi-million-pound home. A woman has been charged with aggravated burglary - but where did the alleged crime take place?

In the bedroom, according to the Daily Mirror 's headline - "Cowell's terror at Bedroom intruder". Over at the Daily Express, it's "Shock for Simon Cowell as female fan is found in his bed."

According to the The Sun, however, "Cowell finds crazed fan in his loo". Cowell, who is said to have been badly shaken by the incident, was at home watching TV at the time, according to his spokesman, Max Clifford.

Now it's been at least a few days since the papers have extolled the "hidden health" benefits of a particular food product - coffee, chocolate, red wine, are the favourites. But Paper Monitor perked up when it saw this headline in the Daily Star: "Forget Fruit and Veg... Snack on Popcorn!".

A number of newspapers have embraced research that states the hull of popcorn has some good nutritional qualities - bad news, however, is that you can't smother it in butter, oil or salt. According to scientists in America, the crunchy hull is rich in polyphenols - the stuff that you also find in fruit and vegetables.

But, obviously, man cannot live by popcorn alone, because fuit and veg have vitamins and minerals in them and popcorn simply doesn't. But don't let that spoil the fun. The Express savours the moment, with it's "Movie magic for waistlines" comment.

POPCORN, that mainstay of cinema snacking for generations, now turns out to be healthy as well as delicious. Who would have thought that a visit to the multi-screen would be just as beneficial as a trip to the gym?

Now here's another health-related story that on first-look appears quite bizarre - "Heart attack risk rises after clocks go forward."

The Telegraph reports that people are at increased risk of heart attacks for two days after the hour goes forward because the body clock is thrown into confusion.

It's to do with sleep deprivation and disruption, explains associate professor Martin Young.

Your reaction to sleep deprivation and the time change also depends on whether you are a morning person or night owl. Every cell in the body has its own clock that allows it to anticipate when something is going to happen and prepare for it. When there is a shift in one's environment, such as springing forward, it takes a while for the cells to readjust. The internal clocks in each cell can prepare it for stress or a stimulus. When time moves forward, cell clocks are anticipating another hour to sleep that they won't get, and the negative impact of the stress worsens.

To be on the safe side, Paper Monitor is now retiring to its bed for 24 hours - with a bucket of popcorn.

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