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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
10 things we didn't know this time last week
Ten Films - by Phil Coomes

Even the most hardened news junkie can't keep in touch with every story which happens in a week. But here are 10 things which shouldn't go unnoticed.

If you spot something you think should be included next week, send it to us using the form at the bottom of the page.


1. There IS such a thing as the perfect film. Academic Sue Clayton has calculated that the "perfect feature" would contain 30% action, 17% comedy, and 13% good v evil scenes. The remainder should be 12% romance/sex, 10% plot, 10% special effects, and 8% music. The research - based only on British tastes - found Toy Story 2 best fit the formula. Second best was Shakespeare in Love - which would have scored higher if only it had used more special effects.

2. Are otters living near you? Should you come across a faint aroma of jasmine tea mixed with fish-paste, then it could be otter droppings (spraints). As they gradually reclaim their habitat throughout England - they clung on in Scotland and Wales - chances of being near them increase. The Wildlife Trusts report this week, however, that otter hunting still goes on, despite having been banned in 1978.

3. All-year-round strawberries are a sign of our times. The supermarkets' efforts to get supplies of certain foods whatever the season, meaning ordinary vegetables sometimes come from very extraordinary places, has its own name. PGST (permanent global summertime) is where the sun always shines, wrote Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall in G2. But nothing tastes like fruit eaten on the day it was picked.

4. Real life isn't as violent as it is in EastEnders, the New Scientist has calculated, but it certainly is dirtier. While 0.22% of characters are murdered, the real figure is 0.0016%. Meanwhile 2% of female characters and 1.7% of males have been misbehaving maritally - while the real figure is one in 10 women and one in six men.

5. Why is Stakeknife spelt the way it is? Ed Moloney, author of The Secret History of the IRA, blames the unusual spelling for the codename for the IRA informer who may or may not be still undercover on a simple mistake. Originally it was spelt properly - Steak Knife - but "the erroneous spelling 'Stakeknife' is a later mistake that has crept into the national press", he says. Anyway it's a lousy codename, says arch defector Oleg Gordievsky. Not only is it too long, but it's "too revealing... [the IRA] would instantly guess that it was someone among their top leadership, someone with a violent and aggressive role, helpfully narrowing the possible candidates."

If all this is old news to you, you could always try our weekly news quiz, Seven Days Seven Questions

6. In the week that the Conservatives pledged they would abolish university tuition fees, a cautionary tale from Chile, where a radio station is hosting an auction for a 21-year-old student's virginity. The woman, who says she has a gynaecological certificate proving that she is a virgin, wants the cash to pay her fees. Bidding will start at $990.

7. Necrophilia is not illegal in the UK. But it soon could be. The Home Office's white paper says: "There is currently no law that covers sexual interference with human remains. Although there is no indication that such activity is anything but extremely rare, we believe that this behaviour is so deviant as to warrant the intervention of the criminal law." A new offence could carry a maximum penalty of two years - unless, of course, the defendant is also suspected of having killed their victim.

8. Acidic vapour from Tate Modern's untreated oak floors poses a risk to the gallery's artworks. Sculptures, for instance, must be placed on plinths rather than sit directly on the floorboards for fear the corrosive dust will cause irreparable damage. And Tate's success may be exacerbating the problem - the millions who tramp through its galleries each year kick up more dust than would have been created if, say, the Dome had untreated wooden floors. It was aesthetic considerations that led to the problem in the first place - architects Herzog and de Meuron insisted on untreated oak to "give unexpected sensuality to the rooms".

9. Whatever the gender of the keenly awaited Windsor baby, due in December, it will not take the HRH title. It's all part of the family's slimming-down exercise. But consider for a minute the Saudi royal family, which runs the oil-rich country. It has 15,000 princes.

10. The word we didn't know this time last week - blogeoisie, the class of people who read and write blogs. Bill Thompson, a colleague from our Technology pages, uses the word in a critical piece in Spiked magazine, saying: "This isn't about not liking blogs. It's about not liking unaccountable concentrations of influence, about believing it is still true that 'the first duty of the press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of events' ... - and about noting that 'most correct' does not mean 'what the blog says'."

If you see something you think should be included next week, let us know using the form below.

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