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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 18:04 GMT
The Magazine Monitor


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

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


    10 THINGS
    10 purple crocus flowers by Sean Hattersley

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

    1. Nelson probably had a broad Norfolk accent.

    2. Tommy Vance, who died last week, got his name when he turned up to work at a US radio station where there was a jingle waiting for a DJ named Tommy Vance, who never turned up. "They needed a Tommy Vance, and he became that man," Paul Gambaccini told mourners at the DJ's funeral.

    3. One in four people does not know 192, the old number for directory inquiries in the UK, has been abolished.

    4. Only in France and California are under 18s banned from using sunbeds.

    5. Women sleep more lightly than men, according to the British Sleep Society.

    6. The pass rate of the driving test in 2004 was only 43%, the lowest ever.

    7. Online retailers may soon be able to guess when your age, sex, and even your birthday. Amazon has been granted a patent on software which will work out these details from gifts other people have sent. (See internet links)

    8. A blackbird, known as CL98725, has been found to fly more than 1,000 miles by spending his winters in Devon and summers in Norfolk.

    9. Shoppers at a German supermarket can now pay for their purchases by fingerprint.

    10. One in three new fathers in Britain say they have tasted their partner's breastmilk.

    If you spot anything that should be included next week, use the form below to tell us about it..

    Add your comments to this story using the form below:

    Your e-mail address
    Your thing and where you saw it

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


    Your objective for the afternoon...

    The chaos of directory inquiries has been highlighted by the National Audit Office, which has found that, along with high prices and wrong numbers, lots of people just can't remember the right number to dial for directories.

    Phones with internal phonebooks only make things worse, for they mean you rarely have to dial numbers which once would have been as familiar to you as saying the alphabet.

    So your objective for the afternoon is to divulge your scheme using codes, tricks, mnemonics, pictures, whatever is necessary, to remember any tricky phone numbers. Your information could help save society.

    (Entries are now closed.)

    Reverse engineering the problem, more significant telephone numbers could be assigned that spell out the function with words that are more easily remembered. For instance, trains main nunber is 1 800 USA RAIL and FEDEX is 1 800 GO FEDEX
    Candace, New Jersey, US

    It is easier to remember patterns in numbers than the numbers themselves. Look for repeats
    Single numbers as in 56[77]90[88]5
    Double numbers as in [78][78]9032
    Sequences [123]86[987]
    Reflections 2[54645]9
    Series [246][753]
    Memorable numbers [1066]9678
    Word numbers 1842 [I ate for two]
    Colin, MK, UK

    Whenever I want to call anyone I imagine them standing in a field wearing nothing but dungarees and a souwester singing extracts from the Sound of Music....and then I ask a colleague to look up the number for me.
    Geoffrey Scott-Baker, Reading, UK

    I have a neat trick. What I do is relate the person's phone number to a pertinent quantity in their life. For example, 09870 654 321 is the exact number of times my friend Matt blinked between the ages of 7 and 30. It couldn't be simpler.
    Martin Price, Uk

    I use what they call a notebook. If I forget a number, I can look it up in this little book, and the number magically reappears in my mind.
    Miran Djordjevic, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

    I only need to remember one telephone number. My mum's. Not only does she know every telephone number that I need but she also knows what the person is going to say before I phone them.
    Gillian Frew, Glasgow. UK

    Here's my system, which I have used successfully for landline numbers for years. For each pair of numbers, think of a family or historical event (eg 68 is Paris riots, 01 is death of Queen Victoria, etc) Then split the number up into a string of pairs and remember the events (which come to mind much more vividly than numbers). This also works for ATM machines, coded doors etc. Mobile numbers can be a problem though, just because they're so long.
    Candy Spillard, York, UK

    I restrict my friendship circle to people with easy to remember phone-numbers. This strategy has really paid off as I now get substantial discounts on my pizzas and taxis.
    Jeff, Halesowen, UK


    Re Ad Breakdown on the Marmite advert, 17 March. The strangest things can affect children. My eight-year-old son has refused to go to the cinema for years since seeing an advert there. It was just a still picture of a drawing of an elephant (to inform potential advertisers that people don't forget adverts... strangely prophetic). We couldn't work out what had freaked him out so much until we saw it again on our next visit (without our son... natch), and it was strangely disconcerting as its eyes were completely white and appeared to stand out from its head. We still can't persuade him that inept artwork shouldn't stop him enjoying a trip to the pictures.
    Runcorn, UK

    Until now I never realised why it was called Ad Breakdown
    Douglas, IOM

    The Marmite ad was filmed along the main street in Thames, New Zealand - a town I know very well. I only heard the stories from friends who live there about the filming day when everyone had to run around in fear of "nothing" as the computer-generated blob of Marmite had yet to be created. The whole stink caused by the ad just makes me laugh as it's a scene that's sure to now become a new tourist spot in NZ with a placard reading 'That Marmite Ad' was made here.
    New Zealand (now UK)

    You say: "The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites." Fair enough. The Downing Street cat dossier link looks interesting, though. (Make cup of tea. Return to PC) Where am I? What the blinking flip is this cat nonsense? Where's the BBC News Magazine gone? (Frantic clicking through windows). Welcome to the harrowing world of the Window Amnesiac. BBC, if you could possibly see your way to launching a new window on external sites you would be helping sufferers worldwide.
    Sam Leader,
    Sydney, Australia

    We've had Brent Watch in the Monitor a couple of times now. But can we start "Lack of Brent Watch" for those articles about Ricky Gervais to which the inclusion of a picture of him as David Brent (preferably mid-dance) would be acceptable. I'll start with Gervais comedy in BBC Two line-up, 16 March.

    As regards the silent bike, why don't they just install the annoying frog motorbike ringtone?
    Bath, UK


    Friday means it's time to unveil the caption competition results.

    This week, the Duke of Edinburgh joins actress/model Elle MacPherson who is holding the Queen's Baton at the launch of a relay to mark the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia in 2006.

    The winners are:

    6. Rich, England
    Does it play the "Crazy Frog" ring tone ?

    5. Richard, UK
    "..and the best thing is, if you throw it away it blinking well comes straight back"

    4. Dave Regan, Southport England
    Elle: "And what is it you do?"

    3. Alan Webster, Durham, UK
    "You free on 8th April? I've got a spare ticket to a wedding, the wife's busy..."

    2. Mike Hastings, UK
    Cinderella couldn't help thinking that her glass slipper wasn't quite this big and her prince not quite this wrinkly when she left the ball the other night - must have been all of that champagne....

    1. Euan Lockwood, UK
    Duke of Edinburgh: "This is the last time I pluck my eyebrows for charity."


    18 March is the 40th anniversary of the first space walk, by Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov
    PAPER MONITOR: A new service, highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Today's 'Calm down, dear' moment:
    Simon Jenkins in the Times goes off on one, angry that pupils now need only 450 Latin words to pass a GCSE, and arguing that it's only a matter of time before the same logic is applied to English.
    [Education Secretary] Ms Kelly could well meet her Key Stage Three mission pledge by cutting back to three-letter words. She could easily ban all polysyllables. Words beginning with H could go, as discriminating against Essex. The definite article could go as anti-Yorkshire. Then, as Yossarian cried in Catch-22, deal to all qualifiers. Today no adverbs, tomorrow no adjectives, the next day no vowels. All GCSE papers could be txtmsged.


    re. If you agree, click here. . . (Monday, 14 March). So software agreements "put us in the ridiculous situation where we would have to spend hours every day reading these things and be a lawyer to understand them and just to be a normal consumer," do they? I could say the same about that sentence!
    Kahla, leeds, UK

    How to beat "Window amnesia": set your homepage to blank. Your browser will be usable faster, you're less likely to be distracted, and you can assign a different start page to each window you open, so that hitting back repeatedly takes you to a known point and no further. Ok, so that last point's a bit geeky, but it works for me.
    Alexander Lewis Jones, Nottingham, UK

    Perhaps it's a first draft that will be corrected later, but your Budget report states that spending on defence will be increased by 400. How many bullets will that buy?
    dave godfrey, swindon, uk

    The Sun has gone somewhat round the houses to get to Amarillo. You can fly straight there from either Houston or Dallas. Having been quite recently I would not recommend it. Amarillo is possibly the "Luton" of Texas - a truly crap town.
    Greg Harding, Dallas TX USA

    On seeing today's quote of the day - "Most evenings now I just eat 50g of Beluga caviar on toast": MICHAEL WINNER BREEZILY REVEALS HIS DIET REGIME" - did anyone else wonder about which ceremony might award you a "Michael", and think that "Breezily" was, even by today's celebrity standards, a rather strange name?
    Tom Calvert, Hamstreet, UK

    To Steve, (Monitor letters, Weds, 16 March) it was probably the extra virgin olive oil that seemed wrong. I'm sure there's a Popeye joke in there somewhere, but I'm too polite.
    Stuart Moore, Cambridge, UK

    To Steve, I think it's the cherry tomatoes that spoil it, try sliced Roma tomatoes instead.
    Mal Walker, Adelaide, Australia

    Re: anti-film club. I would like to nominate Constantine for the accolade Film Not To See. I may be somewhat unqualified to judge, because I only managed to sit through half of it before leaving, but it has now replaced Highlander for me as the worst film in the world.
    Sarah, London, UK

    In your story "Revolutionary bike 'too quiet'" See here you report an artificial "vroom" could be fitted. Wouldn't it be easier to fold a few playing cards round the spokes?
    Ed, Clacton, UK


    17 March is the 1825th anniversary of the death of Marcus Aurelius - his reign is often considered to mark the end of the Roman Empire's golden age
    PAPER MONITOR: A new service, highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    The many faces of Gordon Brown
    How better to judge what the papers thought of Gordon Brown's "pre-election" Budget yesterday than a look at how the chancellor is represented in the press. Daily Mirror readers are left in no doubt: "Mr Incredible" runs the front-page headline, below a picture of Mr Brown's head - complete with superhero-style eye mask - superimposed on the muscular frame of one of characters from one of last year's top movies, The Incredibles. In his right hand he brandishes a red box.

    It's Tony Blair who should be wearing a mask in the Daily Telegraph's depiction of events by cartoonist Garland. A grinning Mr Brown is drawn atop a horse, lobbing a bundle of cash into a passing stagecoach. Around the election corner, a gun-toting Mr Blair, dressed as a highwayman, lies in wait. The Times alludes to the chancellor's wooing of the grey vote - depicting him as a statue of the late Queen Mother (a 2m memorial to Her Royal Highness was one of the more arbitrary pledges in yesterday's Budget). The FT meanwhile dispenses with subtlety - its chancellor is simply shown opening his briefcase, to reveal a ballot box inside. Finally, what's going on at the Independent? It portrays 11 Downing Street's tenant with Vincent Price-style menace, dementedly toying with an abacus made of up little Tony Blair heads.


    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, news that the French are losing their affection for that favourite piece of Gallic bathroom furniture - the bidet. The findings are the result of a study into 3,000 homes built over the past two years. Bidets are just no longer de rigueur. Sociologists say the bidet has been rendered unnecessary by daily showers.


    Full marks for a speedy response, but not for originality, go to Simon Ince for Bidet market bottoms out, Jonathan Glossop in Sheffield for Here Bidet, Gone Tomorrow and Hannah Joiner for Bidet farewell.

    Other common entries include I Bidet You Goodbye, first from Michelle in London, and Au Rear-voir from Martin Price.

    Only Ben Parkin in Manchester came up with Bidets wiped out, and Mark was the sole creator of eBay pour le bidet.

    The Punorama panel was tickled by French no longer take cleanliness sitting down by Darren Farr.

    Runner-up is Colonic irritation as bottom falls out of bidet market by Peter Grenville.

    And the winner is Stephen C in Winchester, for Farewell me old china!


    After the number of injuries caused to examiners by leaning forward to hit the windscreen (Your testing times, 14 March), Magazine readers will be pleased to know that examiners now hit the dashboard with their clipboard instead.
    John Airey,
    Peterborough, UK

    While reading The 60,000 question, 14 March, I was shocked to find that the North East had apparently ceased to exist. Or had no houses in it. Either way, I'm slightly worried about friends who live up there.
    Dave Taylor,
    Leeds, UK

    I have always thought it was unfair that as soon as the Stamp Duty threshold is reached, you pay 1% of the whole price, and not just of the proportion that is over the threshold. But is this what's replacing tobacco duty as income for the government?

    Re: West London w*****r (E-cyclopedia, 14 March). Odd, I wonder what he actually said? The obvious doesn't fit the number of letters. suggests
    Hmmm... there's something quite satisfying about the image of Dr Reid calling Paxman a West London Waltzer.

    (BBC not responsible for external websites.

    I would like to thank the reader who sent in a definition of 'window amnesia'. It sums up exactly what I have been going through these past few weeks: I open a browser window to look for something relating to my dissertation, the BBC website is my homepage and I inevitably find something more interesting to read. 30 minutes later I am forced to close the window, having forgotten what I was looking for.
    Emma Marsh,

    In this story, you report that: "Deputy Chief Justice Lord Justice Judge announced it had not been possible to finalise bail arrangements." I wonder what they call him down the pub?
    Norwich UK

    Re: Anti-Film club: Another Bill Murray entry: I don't care what the critics say, Lost in Translation was the most mind-numbingly boring film I've ever sat through. I should have seen it coming... "exquisite study in emotional and geographical dislocation"... erm, no thanks. I'd rather have spent two hours slaving over another awkward, ill- structured and scarcely rhyming limerick, inevitably destined for the Magazine dustbin.
    Tom Calvert,
    Hamstreet, UK

    Re: Anti-book club: Don't read anything by Ben Elton. His plays and TV work is brilliant, but his prose is incredibly poor. In fact, the best thing about Popcorn is when, half way through the book, he reverts to using a script rather than the normal novel text.

    Re: Da Vinci Watch. In the article Church fights Da Vinci Code novel, you report: "The archbishop told Il Giornale: 'The book is everywhere. There is a very real risk that many people who read it will believe that the fables it contains are true.'" Can anyone think of another book this could statement could be applied to?
    Ian Downey,

    I think your article referring to Peter Stringfellow in a thong, deserves more than just one letter of protest. I just read this while having lunch, and even my freshly-cut ciabatta with Parma ham, cherry tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, torn basil leaves, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with black pepper, didn't seem so appetising.


    16 March is the fifth anniversary of BMW cutting its losses and selling Rover to Alchemy.
    PAPER MONITOR: A new service, highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Burning issue of the day:
    Q: Just what is the way to Amarillo?
    A: According to the Sun, you "fly from Gatwick to Houston, Texas. Pick up car and take the Hardy Toll Road North. Merge on to Interstate 45. Take ramp on to Interstate 35E. Turn right on to Highway 287, merge on to Highway 281. Turn left on to Highway 287, then left again on to Interstate 40. Follow signs to Amarillo. Time: 19 hours, 54 minutes. Distance: 5,540 miles." Great. You go all that way, and in the end the answer is follow the signs.


    Our guide to words behind the headlines, including new words, old words, old words in new contexts, ordinary words obscuring real meanings, and matters of linguistic interest.

    Attack dog - the role John Reid plays for Labour, according to Jeremy Paxman; according to Reid, it's a patronising insult based on his Glasgow accent

    Attack mongrel - what Leader of the House of Commons, Peter Hain, called Michael Howard; according to Howard, it's a sign that "somebody's rattled"

    Rafia - term reportedly used in Northern Ireland by those who believe the IRA - aka "the RA" - is taking on the trappings of Italian organised crime

    West London w*****r: The sanitised way newspapers have reported what an aide of Dr Reid allegedly called Paxman following above row

    Window amnesia - where, in the time it takes for a new browser window to open, you've forgotten what you opened it for, usually resulting in being forced to close the window and backtrack mentally to try and figure out what hell you had just been doing (suggested by reader Sarah Richards, Dronfield)

    As ever, suggestions for inclusion are welcome via the form on the right hand side.


    Re If you agree, click here..., about the article on End User License Agreements. In Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, the demon Crowley sends a bundle of these EULAs down to the "imortal soul contracts department" in Hell, with a covering note which simply reads "learn guys".

    Dan Clapton's suggestion of an Anti-Book Club is an excellent idea. But how about we start a "Bad Film Club"? I'd like to suggest "A life Sub-Aquatic" with Bill Murray. I cannot think of a worse waste of 7 and three whole hours of my life.
    Esther Bucklee,

    Totally useless fact watch? I want to meet the person who calculated that spring this year starts at 12:33pm on 20 March and then finishes at 6:46 on 21 June.

    Re: Women 'too meek' over men snoring, 14 March. "Men were the snorers in some of the couples, while in others, they were the women." Poor confused chaps.

    Re: Brian Walden's article on smoking, A Point of View, 14 March. At least smoking is vegetarian!
    David Naylor,
    Mexico City

    Sorry, but I would prefer that the mental image of Peter Stringfellow in a thong is not planted in my mind first thing in the morning. (Paper Monitor, Tuesday).
    David Jenkins,
    Bentley, Suffolk

    A missed opportunity? After reading about the Asbo imposed on the woman for wearing thongs (Asbowatch V, 15 March, surely a precedent has been set and can now be used on Peter Stringfellow?
    Stephen Buxton,
    Coventry, UK

    Re: Jeff Wutzke's binary Caption Comp entry. There are only 10 types of people in this world. Those who understand Binary and those who don't.


    15 March is former health secretary Frank Dobson's 65th birthday
    PAPER MONITOR: A new service, highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Burning issue of the day:
    Q: Can it be true? Are Peter Stringfellow's thong-wearing days really over, as the Daily Mail reports? Apparently so, as he tells the paper: "I don't want to give women and small children too much of a shock."
    A: But apparently not, as the Sun and Mirror publish rather too-graphic pictures of thong-wearing Peter Stringfellow, 64, bending over on a Barbados beach.


    If David Blunkett (Blunkett tells of 'terrible time', 13 March 2005) would like everyone involved in his sordid little tragedy to be left alone, perhaps he should simply DECLINE all further requests for interviews? It seems to me that the only person bringing this back into the limelight is him.
    Mike Eagling,

    John Airey (Monitor letters, Friday) is obviously not anoraky enough, as he got the Morse code wrong in his letter. The signal is actually dot-dot-dot dash-dash dot-dot-dot, spelling out SMS. Nokia phones also have another text message alert tone (it's called "Ascending" on mine) which spells out "connecting people" in Morse - Nokia's corporate slogan.
    Neil Golightly,
    Manchester, UK

    Among the many dangers of predictive text (Monitor Letters) is inviting your mother-in-law round for roast duck on Sunday by means of text message.
    Allan Stuart,
    London, UK

    Only two weeks in but I think we can safely say that Objective is the new Challenge.
    London, UK

    Am I the only person sad enough to try and decode the binary in Jeff Wutzke's Caption Competition entry? (I don't believe it was supposed to be anything in particular. I could only get '5K' or '-%'.)
    Tom Hartland,
    Derby, UK

    I'm sure I'm not the first to point this out, but I was vaguely amused to read in Faces of the Week that "Rather has resented the CBS Evening News for 24 years". I don't think I would have stuck it out that long...
    Bristol, UK

    (Monitor note to Naomi: Thank you. You weren't. Nor the last.)


    An ongoing battle against journalists in UK publications using the word natch, even ironically.

    This week, we have three offenders.

    Hermione Eyre in the Independent on Sunday, 13 March, on how to pluck eyebrows: "Now position your straight object diagonally so it intersects the inner corner of your eye (the eye on the same side of your face, natch)."

    Lucia van der Post in the Times, 11 March: "There's a butler - natch - and Brioni, should you require a new suit or your old ones revived, will attend at any hour."

    And Katie Law in London's Evening Standard, 10 March, writing about forthcoming book events: "Here's the touching true life story of ex-Bros star Matt Goss, from lowly beginnings in South London, close-knit family natch, to sell-out gigs at Wembley, 'personal crisis' and humiliation on Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen."

    Shame all round, naturally.


    Every Monday Si sets a riddle to get your brain working.

    Who's Who

    Shy DJ?
    Break into pieces.
    English measure the French, south to north.
    Wild rant in the underworld.
    Found it rough tonight!
    Nods off going around via roundabout.
    Lively before we start eating.

    Submit 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 that the initials letters of the motion words spelt the answer. Moving Oscillating Meandering Edged Nodding Travelled Undulating Marched --> MOMENTUM. The winner was Carrie from Cardiff.

    Si is a contributor to the Puzzletome website.


    14 March is the 120th anniversary of the world premiere of the Mikado
    PAPER MONITOR: A new service, highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Burning issue of the day: Q: Of paramount importance today is the question of whether Humphrey, the Downing Street cat allegedly hated by Mrs Blair, and who mysteriously went missing, was fed on public funds
    A: Yes. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show he cost 100 a year. And he preferred Whiskas. (See internet links for full story.)

  • Send your letters to the Magazine Monitor
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