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Last Updated: Friday, 4 February, 2005, 17:24 GMT
The Magazine Monitor


Welcome to The Magazine Monitor, the home for many ever-popular features, including your letters and :

  • MON: Si's riddle
  • WEDS: Punorama
  • THURS: Caption comp
  • FRI: Friday Challenge
  • SAT: 10 things we didn't know this time last week


    10 THINGS
    10 bananaquits by Stephen Turner

    Snippets harvested from the week's news, chopped, sliced and diced for your weekend convenience.

    1. The energy used to build an average Victorian terrace house would be enough to send a car round the Earth five times, says English Heritage.

    2. Humans can be born suffering from a rare condition known as "sirenomelia" or "mermaid syndrome", in which the legs are fused together to resemble the tail of a fish.

    3. The Archbishop of Canterbury has the authority to award degrees, granted to him by the Pope in 1533.

    4. The Pope's breathing difficulties are partly due to an industrial accident he suffered as a young man, which left his lungs and diaphragm in a crushed position.

    5. Dyslexia can slow a typical driver's reactions as much a moderate drinking session, according to a new Norwegian study.

    6. Marlon Brando repeatedly turned down his Oscar-winning role in the Godfather because he didn't want to "glorify the mafia".

    7. Between 1932 and 1957, except during WWII, police paid a bounty of six old pence to anyone who brought them a dead grey squirrel, in a bid to stop the predatory creatures spreading.

    8. Ad man turned Booker prize winner Salman Rushdie used the same typewriter, rumour has it, to create the "naughty but nice" cream cake slogan as he did to write the novel Midnight's Children.

    9. British backpackers who outstay their visa make for the biggest number of illegal immigrants in Austalia.

    10. Enthusiastic users of Blackberry mobile handsets face arthritis and damaged tendons because of the intensive flexing and rotating of the thumb. (Presumably users of other non-Blackberry devices do too.)


    Your mission should you choose to accept it...

    A taxi driver has become the first person in the UK to be sentenced by a judge by a call to his mobile phone. Aftab Ahmed, 44, from Bury St Edmonds, was sentenced on the phone to 140 hours community service and ordered to pay 750 costs by Ipswich Crown Court, after he got stuck in traffic on his way to the courtroom.

    Judge Caroline Ludlow decided to make the unusual sentencing because she had a full list of cases for the day. Mr Ahmed rang the court to explain he was going to be late for his case; the judge checked that he was not actually driving at the time, and then gave him the choice between being sentenced there and then, or coming back at a later date.

    After the case, he told reporters he thought the court had dealt with him in an appropriate manner, saying: "If they had adjourned my sentencing to wait for me to appear in court, it would only have cost more money."

    The Monitor knows how quickly technological developments are seized upon nowadays, and it's obviously only a matter of time until being sentenced for any kind of offence is done on your mobile. So your Friday Challenge is to devise an appropriate answer phone message for use just in case a judge somewhere is trying to get in touch with you. Think how your message will be heard in open court.

    Submit your messages using the form below. Anyone with very fancy computer skills can submit WAV files to, with the subject line FRIDAY CHALLENGE. The best messages will be read from the dock here throughout Friday afternoon.

    Sorry I can't answer the phone at present - it's Lodge night.
    David Dee, Maputo Mozambique

    Look into my eyes, not around the eyes, look into my eyes. You're under. You will find me not guilty, repeat not guilty. You're back in the courtroom. Please leave a message after the tone...
    Nigel, Winchester, UK

    Sorry I can't talk to you at the moment. Leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I've finished building this orphanage.
    Jeff, Halesowen ex Reigate, UK

    Hi this is Glenn, I'm afraid I can not answer the phone at the moment. If you are in sales, I already have Double Glazing, Several Sets of Encyclopeidias and I don't want any more loans. If you are after money you have the wrong number. If you are a Judge, I have left the country never to return. If you are not one of the previously stated then please leave a message after the tone.
    Glenn J, UK

    Can I remind you of my rights of habeous corpus, that there doesn't seem to be a prima facie case against me, that I have been unable to find a solicitor to defend me pro bono or even in loco parentis. It's now a de facto standard that ars gratia artis is non sequitur. id est, res ipsa loquitor. Cogito ergo sum, and I shall go per ardua ad astra. Cave canem and vice versa. Oh, and you've got the wrong number.
    John Airey, Peterborough, UK

    ... if you're a judge passing sentence, please press 3... [ON HOLD MUSIC: 10cc: Good Morning Judge] ...
    Brian Ritchie, Oxford, UK

    Thank you for holding, your judgement is important to us. If you are passing a custodial sentence please press 1, for fines or community service orders please press 2, for an aquittal press 3. Thank you for calling.
    Abby, London, UK

    Hi, you have reached Malcolm, If you are my wife then I didn't do it. I will explain the 'it' I didn't do later. Please hang up... If you are the Judge, then all right I did. Please leave clear instructions as to your verdict and any penalty you wish to impose after the tone.
    Malcolm, Warsaw Poland

    (Entries now closed.)


    It's time again for the winning caption competition entries.

    This week, Tony Blair was surprised by an unexpected kiss from 42-year-old Jean Peterson, as he visited community workers in Wythenshawe, Manchester. Miss Peterson said: "He's got lips like a baby, they're very soft...I don't know why I did it. It was just a friendly gesture, I suppose. But he puckered his lips and I got to kiss him and everyone started cheering."

    6. S Murray, Chester, UK
    The new Tony Blair balloon passes initial tests.

    5. Elizabeth James, Hampshire, UK
    "Forward not back, forward not back."

    4. Gary Hammond, Westcliff-on-Sea
    Natasha and Brendan have got no chance in the next competition!

    3. Adrian Parrott, UK
    Much to her embarrassment, Jean Peterson is slow to realise that her internet date Colin had used a fake photo on his profile.

    2. Daniel Ricketts, United Kingdom
    "Quick," thought Tony, I must use my internal monologue: "Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day. Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day."

    1. Annabelle, Strathclyde, UK
    And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like "can I count on your vote then?"


    Nick Assinder says that Labour's new slogan, "Forward not back", is on a "mushy pea green background" (Labour's four little words, 3 February). Are you sure it's not a guacamole green?
    Stephen Turner
    Cambridge, UK

    When the aliens take over the white house in the Simpsons, the slogan is "Forwards, not backwards. Upwards, not forwards. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom". Mr Blair's obviously after another Simpsons appearance.
    Stuart Moore
    Cambridge, UK

    "Forward not back" is surely more than slightly reminiscent of John Prescott's lovely wordplay: "We must go back forward now back". Surely the image of John Prescott's speeches isn't the one Labour's advertisers want us to remember at the polling booths?
    Philip Whitehead
    Abingdon, UK

    On the subject of badly written job adverts, this is the entire advert for a job as a car salesman in a Jersey newspaper. "We required a multi-talented, enthusiastic sales person. If you have real get up and go. If you can deal with sales enquiries for a broad range of products. If you're adaptable and willing to face challenges. If you are driven, and thrive in a competitive environment. " If you can't complete a sentence, then clearly you're the person for the job.
    Martin H,
    St Samson-sur-Rance

    I'm feeling rather astonished that I got seven out of 10 in your Latin quiz, 3 February. I don't actually know any Latin, so I tend to just ad lib.
    Stephen Buxton
    Coventry, UK

    Re Latin Quiz. I'm sure I saw a rugby team somewhere with the motto "Vidi, Vici, Veni".
    Michael Hall,
    Eccles, UK

    Mark Crosby, Manchester, may think himself clever with his "Hme Swede hme" pun relating to Ikea flat-pack homes. However, perhaps it should be noted that he's now rendering Ikea into either a Norwegian, or Danish company. The character (which, by the way, by itself means "island"), does not exist in Swedish. It should have been "Hme Swede hme".
    Chris Melville,
    London, UK

    I noticed that not only have you got rid of the LBQ this week, but also the Tuesday reading list is gone, supposedly all in the name of modernisation. Next thing we know this will be called the "Magazine LCD screen"!
    Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

    I enjoyed attempting the new 'bonus question', added to 7 days 7 questions, 4 February. So much so, would it be possible to set a new question every weekday lunchtime? Maybe you could even offer a small prize for the best of the week?
    Andrew Culley,


    A regular note of anniversaries that might otherwise be overlooked.

    4 February is the 20th anniversary of the first UK transmission of Miami Vice.


    Kelly Mouser's letter (of 2 February) suggests that, instead of using graphology to check the employability of job candidates, "employers might find a quick check on grammar, spelling and punctuation provides a more reliable indication of what they're getting." I wonder, though, whether the average employer is qualified to judge these matters, given the number of confusingly-worded and illiterate job adverts that one sees nowadays.
    Kingston upon Thames, UK

    So Robert Kilroy-Silk has chosen a Latin name for his new party. What a good way to show his opposition to European integration by choosing a relic of the Roman Empire.
    Clive Gibson,

    Is all this kissing in the news (eg: More kisses for 'soft lips' Blair, 1 February) the government's first spin down the road to a European style caf culture? If so, I commend Mr Blair - it's certainly more friendly than 24-hour drinking!
    Andrew R,
    Bracknell, UK

    Regarding Ikea's flat-pack homes (Punorama, Wednesday). Assuming these are too big to go in the back of the car, I am left in existential angst as to where a home should be delivered to for home delivery .
    Stephen Buxton,
    Coventry, UK

    Ms Kent (Monitor Letters, Wednesday) uses the plural "Blackberries" (referring to the PDA not the fruit). I always thought the plural was Blackberrys (unlike the fruit) although I never got to the bottom of computer mouses or computer mice!

    RE: Zeb Baker's comment on Tuesday about the new Revel. We play a lesser-known regional variation of this game at work as it's the coffee one we all avoid. RIP peanut revel, on many occasions your distinctive shape saved me. You will be sadly missed...


    It's time for Punorama, our pun-writing competition.

    The rules are straightforward - we choose a story which has been in the news, and invite you to create an original punning headline for it.

    This week, Ikea, those doyennes of all things cheap, cheery and anything that can be assembled with an Allen key, are planning to launch flat-pack homes in the UK. Aimed at first-time buyers frozen out of the conventional property market, the compact homes will be built in blocks of six and will cost no more than 70,000 each.

    Dan Smith, from Wales, was first off the blocks with Home Swede home. Brian Saxby, UK, offered Own Swede Home and Mark Crosby, Manchester, put his special characters into action with Hme Swede hme. Gideon B, UK, took things a step further with Home Swede home is flat pack flat.

    Martin Price, UK, was one of the few to steer clear of any Scandinavian associations with Roof n' ready.

    Remember those slick 80s popsters? Chrissy Mouse, London, clearly did, offering Prefab Swede? Ben, UK, pitched in with Ikea to stock home, Sarah Wakely, UK, tendered Swede beams are made with ease and Chris Whittle, England, tendered Prefabr-Ikea-ted.

    Finally, from Jay, London - it's not so much a pun as just a nice headline: Go to Ikea with a hatchback, come back with an estate.


    So Blackberry use can damage thumbs, 31 January? Since nobody has found to be suffering after using a Blackberry, can someone explain why this problem is being associated with one specific manufacturer, rather than at mobile devices in general, which should surely cause the same 'wear and tear on the thumb' caused by 'tapping away' sending e-mails or text messages. And with 26 billion texts sent in the uk last year, that should easily account for more than the 'few hundred thumb movements a day' that will cause damage from a blackberry. Or for that matter, using a computer keyboard or video games controller. And i'm sure many examples from the half million or so uk suffers of RSI can be found for each of those causes, yet no-one could be found to support these rather alarmist claims against the humble Blackberry.

    In a report about overuse of Blackberries in the Sunday Telegraph this week, it said that users "commonly sent 500 text messages a day". I simply cannot believe this. Perhaps any Monitor reader who does, in fact, send 500 texts a day on a Blackberry or any other device, could take a few seconds off to send an e-mail and confirm that this claim is not a load of bunkum.
    Philippa Kent

    Instead of using "graphology" to check the handwriting of job candidates, (Writing wrongs, 1 February) employers might find a quick check on grammar, spelling and punctuation provides a more reliable indication of what they're getting. It would also give people an incentive to study these dying arts.
    Kelly Mouser,
    Upminster, Essex

    Re: Ad Breakdown: Citroen and Muller, 31 January. It's not a Muller advert - it's a Gap advert in disguise.
    Brussels, Belgium

    I wonder if Michael Smith who did an animation several years ago featuring a VW Beetle transforming into a robot got any acknowledgement for the new Citroen advert...see :
    Tim Kirk
    York, UK

    (The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites)

    To anyone complaining about the Crazy Frog ('The Crazy Frog sound? That's my fault', 29 January), I say one thing: "Schni Schna Schnappi". If you don't know it yet, you soon will.
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands (ex. UK)


    A regular note of anniversaries that might otherwise be overlooked.

    2 February is the 23rd anniversary of the premiere of David Letterman's late night talk show.


    The Magazine's most popular stories in January.

    Most popular - but popular for the information rather than the symbol
    1. The most popular story was Origins of the Swastika, 18 January, inspired by Prince Harry's antics.

    2. And next up was an early taste of what the UK's new freedom of information laws are like. Want to see the PM's memos?, 4 January, revealed a charming letter from Mr Blair that Swedish authorities divulged but Downing Street refused to.

    3. Third was The Crazy Frog sound? That's my fault, 27 January, an interview with the man who nearly drove the country wild.

    4. Fourth was a very postive set of thoughts. Always look on the bright side of life, 24 January, was 10 reasons to be happy, on the day that it was claimed everyone would be most miserable.

    5. And to keep the tone relentlessly upbeat, fifth most popular was Why are we so grumpy?, 5 January, a look at the trend to say everything's rubbish.


    If the turnout figures are to be believed Iraq poll a 'victory over terror', 31 January, more people turned out to vote in the Iraq where you are likely to be blown to bits than turned out to vote in the UK in the last election, where you the worst that could happen to you is a parking ticket while you queued. What does this tell us about voter apathy?
    John Airey,

    Imagine my surprise when I log in to the Magazine on Monday, to find no fewer than four articles dedicated to cars in some form or other: Bangers and Cash, Clever cars taking to the road, Ad Breakdown - Citroen, and Can naked road kill speed?. Has the Magazine been taken over by Autotrader?

    I think the logo for the new Lunchtime Limerick should have a very slight alteration. The bee looks rather sinister and grumpy, but the limericks being asked for are ones that are "not unamusing". Would not a slightly more friendly/comical bee be more appropriate?
    Josh D
    Leicstershire, UK

    Re: Can naked road kill speed?, 31 January. Does this mean they'll have to rename the thoroughfare "Exhibitionist Road"?
    Chris P
    Cambridge, UK

    Re: Drink-drive girl, 13, sentenced, 31 January. It's good to know she's banned from driving until she's 15...
    Darren A.,

    Ref Chris B in Truro. (Monitor Letters, Monday)Can he please tell me.....Is the 'bandwagon' a 4x4?
    Alan Redman,

    Overlooked Anniversaries... Monday was 399 Since Guy Fawkes was actually executed. (31/01/1606)
    Michael Walmsley

    I note the RIP for the LBQ. If we are getting into suggesting suitable topics for future RIP columns, can I suggest one for Revel Russian Roulette? The new packets have a chocolate-covered raisin instead of a chocolate-covered peanut, meaning an end to the harmless peanut-avoiding showdown played by cinema-going couple up and down the country.
    Zeb Baker,
    Sidmouth, Devon


    A regular note of anniversaries that might otherwise be overlooked.

    1 February is the 121st anniversary of the first part of the first Oxford English Dictionary being published. It covered A to Ant.


    Re: 10 things we didn't know this time last week., (Monitor, Saturday). Number eight says: "There were 3,731 breast enlargement operations in the UK in 2004, and 2,417 breast reductions." Both odd numbers which means there must be people out there in the UK who are now lop-sided?!
    Andy M

    In reference to the statistic that 4x4s are 25% more likely to be involved in an accident (10 Things, Saturday). Rather than churning out tired old statistics from a survey taken using a very small cross section, why not look into the research done by Ford and Land Rover which suggest 4x4s are in fact 20% LESS Likely to be involved in an accident. I for one am fed up with the constant vilification of 4x4s, it's just lazy journalism to jump on the bandwagon. (See Times story in internet links.)
    Chris B,
    Truro, UK

    Re: The Monitor's hunt for a slogan. It appears that Christchurch in New Zealand, know for ever as the garden city, has just spent loads on a catchy slogan for the city to bring in local tourists. After much hard work and creative outpouring they have come up with this slogan. 'Christchurch, the garden city'.
    Chris Carrad

    R.I.P. The LBQ
    Alas departed LBQ,
    O how it raised a laugh or two
    Across our smiling lunch-time lips
    Whilst eating salad (OK, chips).

    Now when we hear the dinner gong
    Without an outlet to be wrong
    It (key)rings empty in our ears
    And so the legend disappears.

    But comrades, dry your tear-stained lashes
    See what rises from the ashes;
    Limericks, the poet's curse!
    Have things just gone from bad to verse?

    No flowers
    No regrets
    And no right answers to the end

    Tim Gomersall, UK


    A regular note of anniversaries that might otherwise be overlooked.

    31 January is the 15th anniversary of the first McDonalds opening in Russia.


    Every Monday, Si sets you a riddle to get your brain going.

    Word Pyramind II

    Each missing word is an anagram of the one before including one additional letter. Can you find them all?

    An ??? and a ???? were full of ?????. They were special ?????? and something ??????? was going on. Suddenly the ???????? looking cockroach they had ever seen burst into view. With eyes ????????? they fled from this beast of ??????????.

    Send your solution using the form below.

    Your e-mail address
    Town/city and country

    The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.

    The solution to last week's riddle was given by spelling out the numbers and taking the last letters, as the title suggests. This gives:

    onE, siX, eighT, threE, seveN

    Therefore to extend the sequence you need the first unused number ending in D, namely 100.

    The winner was Alasdair Skea, Exeter, Devon, who expressed his solution thus: "1 hundreD."

  • Send your letters to the Magazine Monitor
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    The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.

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