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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
The Magazine Monitor


Welcome to The Magazine Monitor, the all-on-one-page home for some of our most popular features, including the Caption Comp, 10 Things, and your letters. The Monitor is updated every weekday, with new stuff at the top.


10 balloons by Conrad Bessant

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

1. There are 14,000 security pass holders to the House of Commons.

2. The old style of "sweet 16" topless Page Threes is actually now illegal. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 makes it an offence to take, make, permit to take, distribute, show, possess with intent to distribute or advertise indecent photographs of 16- and 17-year olds, just as it already was for under-16s. (The offence does not apply where the parties are married or living together in an enduring relationship, where consent was given, and no one else is shown in the photograph.)

3. Yoda was based on Albert Einstein, according to a documentary about Star Wars just released on DVD.

4. 12% of Britons aged between 18 and 30 say they have never attended a religious service, apart from weddings, baptisms and funerals.

5. While 40% of the same age group say they have voted in TV reality shows, 66% have voted in local or general elections.

6. Macbeth is the most performed play in Africa, according to Radio 4's Front Row.

7. More Brits die each year falling from their hotel balcony than do in diving accidents, according to Foreign Office statistics.

8. Women in the UK spend an average of 33 a year on fake tans, a survey this week found.

9. Words of the week: pillowcase conference. Norma Major used to wake up to find civil servants sitting on the edge of her bed, having "pillowcase conferences" with her husband. This snippet comes from Cherie Booth, who has written a book about life as a PM's spouse.

10. There is a British Hat Council - it's the body which coined the phrase: "If you want to get ahead, get a hat." It reports that sales of hats to men have risen by 80% in the past year, and that 51 million will be spent on headgear this year.

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

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Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.


Your mission, should you choose to accept it ...

As regular readers of The Magazine know, our postcard has gone terribly astray.

Where is it? We don't know - and are hoping you do.

Your Friday challenge is to figure out who's got it and where it is.

The best of your suggestions will be published here throughout Friday. (Entries now closed.)

I swear I saw it on Postman Pat.
Jason S, Southampton, UK

Annoyed at the heretofore stellar record of the Royal Mail, DHL diverted the postcard to draw attention to its overnight delivery guarantee.
Tim Francis-Wright, Boston, US

The postcard isn't lost, it's in Lost (Scotland).
Mark Crosby, Manchester

Abandoned in a soggy delivery sack as somehow the Royal Mail misdirected the postcard to Kingston, Jamaica instead of Kingston-upon-Hull. Hurricane Ivan then happened.
Simon Marshall, Magor

It was misdirected to Brigadoon and arrived there on the evry day the village was due to disappear again.
Dave Williams, Prudhoe, UK

It is not missing. It was delivered to Lord Lucan by mistake.
Steve Rayner, Tadley, UK

Perhaps Ivan Man will deliver it if the Post Office cannot?
David, UK

I'm sure I saw one of those hunt protesters slip it under the cushion on the speakers chair.....
Richard, Devon, UK

Post Card is alive and well and living in the witness protection programme somewhere in a little village in Wales disguised as a Fridge Magnet.
Mal Walker, Hahndorf, South Australia

I'M nOt SAyinG. yOU CaN HAve It baCk WheN I GEt aN lbQ keyRInG.
King Arthur, Avalon

As part of an international Cosmology experiment, it has been dropped into a black hole. If it should emerge (in the future, or even in the past, which is a theoretical possibility) Stephen Hawking's theory about black holes and information will have been demonstrated.
Candy Spillard, York, UK

On the basis that the Royal Mail always ask us to "Post early for Christmas", I reckon it will turn up week commencing 20 December!
Richard York, Wakefield

I saw it for sale on Ebay.
Nathan, Herts

Dingos ate it.
Mike, Brussels, Belgium

Dear Friday Challenge. Wish you were here! Love Postcard.xx
Fiona Whitfield, London


Re: Children to be taught hopscotch, 15 September. So hopscotch and tag are "non-traditional activity" now are they?
Leia Fee
Swansea, UK

Re: Arnold Powis, yesterday's Monitor: if you have a list of items separated by commas, there is no rule about whether you have a comma before the final and. However, this comma, called the "Oxford Comma", sometimes helps to define lists better (think of a list ending "Selfridges, Woolworths, and Marks and Spencer") and is therefore a useful grammatical trick.
Tim Miller
London, UK

The recent complaints of poor grammar incite me to comment. The use of the verb "quote" as a noun in the "quote of the day" drives me absolutely batty!
Heather, Newmarket, Canada

The police have really missed a trick if they are being investigated for heavy handed tactics at the pro-hunting demonstration (Hunt demo complaints investigated, 16 September) They should have just set their dogs on the protesters. It's hard to see how the demonstrators could object to that.
London, UK

Is the postcard presumed dead?
Martin, Harlow


Winning entries in this week's caption competition.

This week, a man, dressed as a fox, having a smoke, in Westminster? What's going on. You decide.

5. The producers of Wildlife on One had told Sir David Attenbrough to mingle with the foxes and act casual.
Glenn Dixon, UK

4.Dances with Wolves' younger brother, Smoking with Foxes.
Mark Coates, York, England

3. Basil Brush regrets going out on the town with Charlotte Church
Ian S, UK, Birmingham

2. Basil Brush: The Wilderness years
A Webster, UK

1. Drag hunter?
Vicki, UK


Re letter from Jon, Berks: is using and after a comma correct grammar?
Arnold Powis

How has no-one suggested the Doors' classic "Light my Fire" for the Fire Brigades' playlist?
London, UK

In 'Police offered stun guns option, 16 September, you write: "The weapons are to be used instead of the less lethal option of firearms." If this is the case, then perhaps firearms should remain the weapon of choice.

Re Wednesday's Quote of the Day on the Magazine Index from Tony Blair: "The science is, almost certainly, correct". Replace "science" with "intelligence" suddenly it doesn't look quite so convincing.


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. Originality is what counts.

So set your phasers to pun on the story about two car thieves who, on the run from police, hid in a deer cage in the zoo in Rio de Janeiro.

Here is the judges' verdict.

Brazil nuts, two in a pound! writes Chrissy Mouse, improbably giving her address as "Candace, New Jersey". Regular Hedley Russell, of Morecambe, suggest Fleeing fellows follow fallow, while OG Nash of Qatar helps expand our collective vocabulary with Cervine time (a word once memorably used in a winning Lunchtime Bonus answer).

Joint honours, though, go to Mark Garner of Maidenhead for Doe, Hey! See Car, so ma lie low, and Brendan, London, for Doh! A deer, a felon, dear!

(Entries now closed.)


In Americans flee as hurricane nears", 15 September, you write: "The exact place where Ivan will hit the US is likely to change in the coming hours." Correct. It will change into a very wet and windy place. Its location will be "exactly" the same, though.
Clive DuPort

If Sharon (who gets passed over for jobs and thinks it's because she's short and fat), Monitor letters, Monday, took more care with her English, and talked about "fewer of my brain cells" rather than "less of my brain cells" things might just improve.

In a recent piece on climate change the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman is quoted as saying, "How many hurricanes and tornadoes will it take for the prime minister to realise that paying lip service to the environment is just no use?". Everyone knows that these are caused by butterflies flapping their wings. Is he suggesting we wipe out butterflies, or was he just busy recycling old political cliches?
Ray Lashley, Bristol, UK

Tony Blair is asking us to trust him regarding climate change, 14 September. And yet his best friend won't even sign up to the Kyoto Protocol.
Ann C,
Orpington, UK

Re: Donald Blatchley's request for a fire brigade on hold playlist. We Didn't Start the Fire, Disco Inferno, Firestarter and Smoke on the Water?
Swindon, UK

How about Burning Down the House by Talking Heads
Leeds, UK


Keeping tabs on stories past.

At the last count, nearly 10,000 of you voted in our poll to see if the Gherkin had met its match. Meanwhile, in a separate development, the European Space Agency's chief scientist Dr Bernard Foing suggests a DNA library of every species on Earth should be built on the Moon in case of asteroid strike. What can the two have in common?

Noah's Rocket by Tony Frais
The cover of Noah's Rocket, by Tony Frais
Author Tony Frais has the answer, in his children's book Noah's Rocket, being published this week. A modern-day Noah is prevented by Nimby neighbours from building a rocket in his garden, so instead piles the animals into the Gherkin, which he then converts into a rocket. Simple really.


So the fire brigade union is warning that 999 callers could be put on hold? Any volunteers to choose the playlist?
Donald Blatchley,

Re: Going Postal, where the Royal Mail spokesman says: "We would point out that 0.07% of the 21 billion letters a year we deliver are lost or substantially delayed. This is a very small number, even though one letter is one letter too many." I would point out that 0.07% of 21 billion is 14.7 million. 0.07% may be a small proportion, but 14.7 million can hardly be described as "a very small number".

Daredevil granny delayed by weather, 13 September, a story about a sky-diving great-grandmother, includes the line: "The Portrush people are just gems - in all the shops and people I meet around town, half the people, I don't have to ask. They just say 'I hear you're doing a bungee jump'." Has someone been playing Chinese Whispers?
Stuart Moore
Cambridge, England


Good things to read on other websites.

  • How did Shakespeare, who it is believed had never met a Jewish person, write the Merchant of Venice? The New York Times has some thoughts.

  • A neat line in news-by-haiku being developed by the smart chaps at the Friday Project's Daily Briefing

  • Everywhere you look there are predictions about the US presidential election. But as readers of ESPN's Page 2 know, it all comes down to sport. If the Washington Redskins win their last game of the season, the incumbent wins. And has been thus for "something like 15 of the last 16 elections".

    Naturally, though, the BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.


    Thanks for all your short stories.

    We asked you for 70-word short stories with the title 1974. We've had hundreds of entries, some of which we will publish here this Friday. The reason for the title, and for the 70-word limit, is that some entries will be published on Ceefax, which celebrates its 30th anniversary soon.

    But for now, entries are closed.


    Re: Going Postal. A letter arrived on my desk this morning. The department name was on, but not the company's. The street was incorrect, and there was no postcode. It was posted yesterday. I think that that is pretty good!

    R.I.P. Postcard?

    Murray looks to bright future, 13 September. I hereby coin the phrase Murray Mount, and copyright it (© D Williams 2004). Now none of the tennis commentators or journalists can use the term instead of Henman Hill.
    Dave Williams
    Prudhoe, UK

    In response to John Horton's letter in the Monitor last week, in which he said: "If you think being fat is the one remaining acceptable prejudice, then you should see how the world treats short people") I can beat that. I'm fat AND short (5' tall and 15 stone) And yes - I get treated as though I'm stupid, get talked down to as though I'm mentally lacking, passed over in jobs in favour of taller/thinner girls with half my experience and less of my brain cells. But it's OK because we just all expect girls to be tall, thin, pretty and dumb.
    London, UK


    Day 11 of our experiment putting the Post Office to the test.

    You will remember we sent our postcard off to the first in a chain of volunteer readers, each of whom had undertaken to post it on to the next person in the chain. It did pretty well, successfully reaching five people who were spread widely across the country, by next day delivery. Then last Monday it was posted from Portadown, Co Armagh, to the next person, dubbed Mr Mystery (who remains anonymous to preserve the integrity of the test). And nothing has been heard of our card since.

    Is this just bad luck, we asked ourselves? Mr Mystery says his part of the country has a real problem with prompt deliveries, and he's not surprised it hasn't turned up.

    And neither, it seems, is the post office watchdog Postwatch.

    "A test like this is only ever going to be a snapshot," says a spokeswoman. "For instance there was unofficial industrial action last week in Wolverhampton - that will have had an effect on postcodes in that area. But there are parts of the country where the standards of service are well below the minimum target - we do hear some real horror stories."

    The area Mr Mystery lives in (which we haven't until now revealed) is one of those which has an 86% rate of next-day-delivery, which is well below the 92.5% minimum service target.

    As it was a week since we last heard of our card, we approached Royal Mail for a comment, and told them that Mr Mystery lives in NW London.

    A spokesman tells us they have not been able to find anything that might have caused a delay between Portadown and NW London, and adds that at this stage the postcard would not be considered lost, but rather "substantially delayed".

    "We would point out that 0.07% of the 21 billion letters a year we deliver are lost or substantially delayed. This is a very small number, even though one letter is one letter too many. " He said if the card does turn up, the Post Office would like to examine the codings on the envelope to see if it gives any clues about what might have delayed it.


    Each Monday LBQ titan Si poses a riddle for you to puzzle over. The answer, and winner, will be revealed next Monday. Enter using the form below

    My first, it returns to a page now past
    My second, the rear, not meaning the last
    My third is a club - not one to attend
    My whole will soon send you right round the bend.

    The winner of last week's riddle, chosen at random from the hundreds of entries, was Claire Steel, Watford, UK. The correct answer was:
    Philippa - Durham - English
    Becky - Oxford - Maths
    Alison - York - History
    Eleanor - Nottingham - Geography
    (Si is a contributor to the Puzzletome website, which has a puzzle-solving tutorial.)

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    Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.


    The Magazine Monitor has several of our most popular features, all on one page. Throughout the week, new items are added at the top of the page, with a note of when they were added.

    Among the items you will find here are the Caption Competition, the Friday Challenge, and 10 Things We Didn't Know This Time Last Week. Your letters, which we previously published in The Last Word, will now be added here each weekday. The Lunchtime Bonus Question will continue as normal.

    You can contact us using the form on the right hand side of the page.

    At the bottom of each item is "Link to this item" - this will give you a URL in your browser which you can use to link exactly to that item, wherever it is on the page.

    At the start of each week, we will start a new page. The previous week's entries will still be found via our search engine.

    The Magazine Monitor will always be found on the Magazine index, which you can bookmark using the address bbc.co.uk/magazine.

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