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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 16:58 GMT 17:58 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.


No 10 shirt by Bryce Cooke

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

1. So much for the overworked society, the average British employee actually works 75 minutes less a week than in 1997, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

2. Single mothers are more likely to give birth to girls than boys, a US survey has found.
Full story

3. The average backbench MP receives £175,000 a year, made up of £57,000 salary and an average £118,000 allowances.
Full story

4. Birmingham has the highest concentration of lap dancing clubs in the UK.

5. The word "celeb" is not a recent invention - it was used in a letter to Woodrow Wilson in 1913. The word "sex", used to mean sexual intercourse, was first used in 1929.
Full story

6. Bob the Builder - the new face of Butlins holiday camps - originally had a macho moustache.

7. Henry Ford's fascination with the rich potential of soya beans led him to set up the first commercial soya milk producer.

8. The prize-winning Gherkin office block has 24,000 square metres of external glass, equivalent to five football pitches.

9. Deaths from people falling from moving trains in the UK have declined from a high of 26 in 1987 to one in 2003/2004.
Full story

10. Pop musicians are powerless to stop politicians who want to get down with the kids by hijacking their songs, except when the song in question is an official campaign tune.


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

Mike Read, celebrated jungle evictee and Smashy inspiration, is nursing his wounds after his Oscar Wilde musical became the shortest-running production in the West End in recent memory. It closed after its first performance.

Mike Read and Richard Dreyfuss
And in the same week, Richard Dreyfuss withdraws from The Producers, after saying he couldn't sing or dance and that no-one should see the play until after Christmas. (The play, in case you don't know, is about a scam in which a producer tries to stage the most unpopular play imaginable, calculating that he stands to make more through an investment scam. He comes up with Springtime for Hitler.)

Which all begs for a Friday challenge. Your suggestions please, for a really stinking show. One that would enrage the critics and repel the audience. And maybe a thought about how the bad idea could be made even worse, perhaps by hiring a completely inappropriate line-up.

Use the form on the right to send your ideas, the best of which will be added to the playbill here throughout the course of Friday afternoon.

"Love and administration" - This 3 hour epic love story of experimental and po-mo dramatics depicts a young professional woman and her developing complex relationship with a watercooler. Jim Davidson plays the watercooler, Rik Waller to play the confused damsel, and special cameo appearance by David Beckham as the hard-nosed boss in a moral dilemma as whether to stay faithful to his project, or seduce the young watercooler away from the woman
J Bright, London UK

"A Womb with a View" looks at Caesarian sections from the inside with unforgettable songs such as "I can see clearly now the membrane has gone","Caesarian Rhapsody" and "First cut is the deepest"
John C, Oldham, UK

"Westminster On (thin)Ice". A political adaptation of Cinderella, starring leotard clad hero Boris Johnson. Tony Blair, Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy are the ugly sisters, Robin Cook is Buttons and John Prescott plays the handsome prince. When a brass slipper fits Boris's foot, he gets to go to a bash in Liverpool - but just before midnight in a Merseyside pub, someone steals the slipper and Boris turns into a bumpkin.
Chris B, Bedford, UK

"DIY Superstore - The Musical" - A ground-breaking production in which a middle-aged parent visits the local DIY superstore for a common and mundane item. Featuring classic songs such as "This is not my department", "I'm on a tea-break" and "We're out of stock (and I don't know when we'll be getting any more in)." Starring Boris Johnson as the hapless DIY'er and John Prescott as the friendly sales assistant. Soundtrack album by Celine Dion (not available in the shops). Peformances 8.30 - 5.30 mon-sat, 11.00 - 4pm sunday.
Graeme Dixon, Surrey, UK

A three hour musical entitled "Meeting the Five Economic Criteria for Joining the Euro" would probably have limited appeal. Casting Robbie Williams as Tony Blair, Eminem as Kilroy-Silk and Antony Worrell-Thompson as Gordon Brown would help bring in a few teenage would-be chefs, but even with such memorable hits as 'Euronly live once' and 'My love for you is index-linked' this would be an ill-conceived idea.
Steve, London

How about "Changing Rooms - The Musical"? All of the usual nauseating characters appear on stage in this "moving" production. In a twist of irony and satire, all of the make-shift stage scenery and backdrops are pulled down in favour of tradtional, high quality construction materials. With Jonathan Cohen on the piano.
Graeme Dixon, Surrey, UK

Title "Holding for Love". The touching story of a woman's attempts to get through to her former love who works at a Customer Services call centre. Songs include "Main Menu", "your call is important to us", "We apologise for the delay" and the opening theme, a tired monophonic rendition of "Greensleeves"
John C, Oldham, UK

"Loving the Alien" a stomach burstingly passionate story of a female space freighter captain and her unrequited love for an alien that just wants to eat her face off. Starring Hannah Gordon and Richard Briers
John C, Oldham,UK

"The Hills are Alive with the Smell of Goat Sick" is the much heralded opening number for the new musical, "OBL" - the origins of the title are unclear at this point. It is set in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan, about a young girl, Mehria, who is befriended by a mysterious, tall stranger as she is tending her father's flock. The pair are forced to seek shelter inside a cave, though it is never made clear what it is they feel threatened by - (a passing rain storm perhaps?) They are soon joined by her frightened herd, and the ensuing discomforts of their confined quarters as the tall stranger recounts his life story give rise to the first of three collections of musical set pieces, most notably "The Homely Goatherd" and "Comb Every Mountain" (this last perhaps a dark foreboding of the reason for the mystery). In the second act, as the couple, now very much in love, escape their confines and arrive in a neighbouring mountain village, they meet a pompous foreigner who claims to be able to teach them to speak English. The three are again confined to sheltering from the elements, this time inside a makeshift tent, where they make the most of the situation, singing "In the Cave Where You Live", "The Rain In Tora Bora", "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Burkha" and "(If You're In Love) Shoot Me". The third act is only hinted at in the script, there being no further on-stage action. By design, an announcement is made at the end of the second act promising a continuation "at a later date". This unconventional approach leaves critics and audiences in a state of disquieted anticipation.
Charles Frean, Bedford, Massachusetts

"Edwina and the PM, a Major love story"
Martin, London, UK

I think a remake of HAIR starring Patrick Stewart and Brian Glover would have them not arriving in droves.
Ian, Bath,UK

How about 'Blood Brothers in Arms'. The story of George Bush and Tony Blair, siblings who were separated in infancy. After growing up on different continents, they are reunited 50 years later, to find that they both have equal amounts of blood on their hands. George, clearly the more dominant brother, finds it very easy to get Tony to do his dirty work, much to the dismay of Tony's continent. The show ends with George and Tone shooting eachother simultaneously. Thunderous applause swiftly follows.
Sue Astley, England

How about, Countdown The Musical. Starring Ruby Wax as Carol Vorderman and Johnny Rotten as Richard Whiteley. Memorable songs would include, "one from the top and 4 from the bottom, Tiddly om Pom Pom".
Gareth Edwards, Stoke, UK

A Broadway spectacular: 'The Presidents', in which both candidates in a U.S. presidential race realise that they are in fact better off losing, letting the winner face the imminant military (Iraq), environmental (more hurricanes) and economic (skyrocketing oil prices) catastrophes. They do their level best: one decides on a tactic of trying to appear as unintelligent as possible while the other, realising that Americans love home and certainty, emphasises his overseas connections and keeps changing his mind about policies. Songs include 'I love Paris in the spring', 'Take me right back to Iraq', 'Missed Saigon', 'Summer Bombin' ' and of course the classic 'Give my regards to Baghdad'.
Candy Spillard, York, UK

Ultimate Fighting Championship - On Ice. Combining the brute force and power of heavywieght no-rules bareknuckle fighting, with the elegance and beauty of ice skating. Family discounts - please enquire. Entry free for under 12s.
Jon, London

Mathematics: The Musical. In which a host of major mathematical figures from history (Archimedes, Fermat, Newton, Turing) sing songs such as 'Compute That', 'My Calculus' and 'The Last Theorem'. I calculate that this one will divide the critics.
Dave Godfrey, Swindon


In answer to David from Jerusalem (Your letters, 21 October), Chav (pronounced to ryhme with "have") from the term "Cheltenham Average", generally taken to mean the youths who wear Burberry hats and fur lined anoraks, standing in bus stops in the rain smoking and thinking they look good. They make fantastic targets for drive by puddle splashing. See also Townie, Herbert.
Simon, Herts, UK

Nic of Havant obviously doesn't have perfect recall of Winnie the Pooh (Your letters, 21 October), whose hum was a more mundane tiddly-pom.
The more it snows
tiddly pom
The more it goes
tiddly pom
The more it goes
tiddly pom
on snowing
Simon Robinson, Birmingham, UK

"Tiddly-om-pom-pom" (Your letters, 20 October). It's actually from Napoleon who, when offered a bedtime drink by Josephine replied: "Tée de Lyons? Bon, Bon!". It subsequently became a UK music hall catchphrase, typically anglicised, to express boredom, before finding its way to Australia, as Charles Frean so rightly related!
Patrick Frean, Upton Grey, Hants

Re the Parking Post invention (Those Eureka moments, 21 October), if it can be knocked down without being damaged or damaging the car, then how is it going to prevent people parking there? All people have to do is park on top of it.
Stephen Buxton, Coventry, UK

Chris in Bracknell asks how you can see something which is transparent (Your letters, 20 October). Perhaps he should ask his window cleaner. Those who have their A levels in English will know transparent means you can see through it, not that it's invisible.
Adrian, Manchester


Winning entries in this week's caption competition.

This week, cooks from all over the world lined up for the opening ceremony of the 21st Culinary Olympics, in Erfurt, Germany.

6. Tricky, UK
"Look at the avodacos on that."
5. Geraint White, Wales
"Chefs' Olympics? I thought we were ordaining gay bishops."

4. Mark Hawkins, Sussex
"OK - get ready, say 'unpasteurised Camembert with a fig compote, pain d'épice and a small salad of wild rocket and organic lambs' lettuce leaves drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar' "

3. Christian Cook, United Kingdom
Chef on left: "How embarrassing, we've both come in the same hat."

2. Stuart, Canada
Too many cooks spoil the pre-arranged Culinary Olympics publicity shot.

1. Miss S Langford, UK
Candied Camera


Sophie of Bath (Monitor letters, Wednesday) asks what tiddly-om-pom-pom means. She has obviously led a very sheltered childhood and was not allowed to read AA Milne, as it's obvious this is Pooh humming to himself, and being a bear of very little brain hasn't quite worked out how to finish. House at Pooh Corner, chapter one, explains all.

Sophie - Looking at tiddly-om-pom-pom logically, it must be to do with a slightly drunk yoga obsessed cheerleader mustn't it?
Pete Makings,
Nottingham, UK

"Tiddly-om-pom-pom" is a noun of Australian origin, denoting a visitor from Great Britain who after over-imbibing chooses to sober up by intoning the classic Buddhist mantra "om-pom", which signifies "(I am at) peace with myself".
Charles Frean
Bedford, Massachusetts

Sophie from Bath,
Have you never liked to be beside the seaside?
Have you never liked to be beside the sea?
Have you never liked to stroll along a prom [prom, prom]?
Where the brass bands play; tiddly-om-pom-pom...?
I do.
Andrew R
Bracknell, UK

Tiddly-om-pom-pom is apparently what brass bands used to play when near the seaside. The "brass band", in contrast, is a term that has fallen out of use, referring as it did mainly to people who many years ago worked in things called "mines".
Steve, London

Re: 101 years in 101 words, the winning entries were awesome, really psychedelic. OK yah, the reason for this text message is that not only do I not know how to pronounce "chav", but I neither know what it means or what its origin is. Two seconds on Google gave me some byte-size clues but could a hip, dot-commer with more bling bling than me please enlighten me? Cheerio,
David (69 words, 11 from list)
Jerusalem, Israel


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 the research which suggests coffee sold at service stations is so weak it will do nothing to keep drowsy drivers awake.

The judges are having an early night this week - their coffee isn't strong enough. So here, uncharacteristically early, is their verdict.

Java good sleep? asks Hedley Russell of Morecambe, while Crispian Wilson of Oxford proposes Nappucino!. Keith, Herts adds Coffee yawning to the menu, and Steve, London fancies No grounds for complaints.

Cat, also of London, purrs along with Z-cars, but the winner - as so often in this amusing little distraction - is simple. It's from Paul Bristow, London : Beans means fines.

Baldrick-style cappucinos all round. With extra chocolate.


In the article Tomlinson: Exam labels irrelevant, 19 October, you report that the School Standards Minister, David Miliband, says: "If you get an A in A-level English, that will be transparently there for anyone to see." How exactly do you see something transparent?
Chris, Bracknell

You say that that increasing numbers of British are taking to the streets "no longer happy with a letter to the MP" (Parading our emotions, 18 October). Of course we are. It's got nothing to do with parading emotions, merely a reaction to the fact that, these days, being civilised and writing to your MP achieves nothing whatever.
Alex Swanson
Milton Keynes, UK

Having read the comment of one disgruntled American about us speaking German if it wasn't for them (Monitor Reading List, 19 October), I guess that there is some schadenfreude involved in his grasp of the realpolitik underlying the current zeitgeist. Do we really desrve this amount of kindergarten-level flak?
Giovanni Morvino

Re: 101 years in 101 words, 19 October. Considering Hinduism has been around for about 1500 years, it strikes me as a little strange that "sacred cow" has only been used since 1910. Also I have some books which I know were printed before 1970 that definitely contain the word "green". Any explanations?
owain Williams

The word "tiddly-om-pom-pom" is mentioned as coming into use in 1909. Please can someone enlighten me as to what it means?
Sophie, Bath, UK


Good things to read on other websites.

  • The curse of ponchos from Slate Magazine. "It's a simple rule of fashion," it says, "that one-size-fits-all, like elastic waistbands or pantyhose with sandals, is never a good idea."

  • Monday's parade of Olympic heroes through London reminds one of summer, now ancient history as autumn gets a firm grip. But remember the scandals over drugs? According to the New York Times, taking drugs isn't just for naughty athletes... it's for classical musicians too. "The little secret in the classical music world - dirty or not - is that the drugs have become nearly ubiquitous," it says.

  • Finally, you may have heard of the efforts by the Guardian to get its readers to petition US voters before the presidential election. With admirable honesty, the paper printed some of the responses. (Strong language alert).

    Send your suggestions for the reading list using the form on the right hand side of this page. Everyone knows, however, that the BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.


    Re: Ad Breakdown: Too brainy by half?, 18 October. You say the Economist "is especially proud of one billboard which has a 3D light bulb suspended in front of the poster". Personally, I would have been much more impressed if the lightbulb had NOT been 3D.
    Steve C
    City of London

    I've always thought the Economist adverts were for Vodafone.

    Far be it from me to defend Britney Spears, but the mocking letter from Dave Godfrey from Swindon (Monitor Letters Mon 18) contains an even sillier statement - "England, and indeed London, is that little island...". Um...don't Scotland and Wales make up part of this island too?

    Having re-read Dave Godfrey's letter and responded, I realise *I'm* the stupid one....sorry...


    As kids we would frequently phone the telephone operator from phone boxes around the Perth streets. Our question was always How Many Bolts in the Sydney Harbour Bridge - some answers were not entirely polite. Now after almost 50 years, I have my answer (10 things we didn't know this time last week) Thankyou.
    Greg Copley
    Hong Kong

    Re: Friday's Quote of the Day. Dear Britney. England, and indeed London, is that little island above that small continent to the left of that really big continent called Asia. Asia is sort of where Iraq is, if you or Mr Bush ever need to know. In addition, England is part of Little Britain, which was obviously named after you. We've had running water for more than ten years and we invented the cat.
    Dave Godfrey

    Boris Johnson has been sent to Liverpool to apologise for his editorial in the Spectator. I'm already preparing for this week's Friday Challenge; finding defamatory things politicians have said about Coventry.
    Ray Lashley
    Bristol, UK


    Bravo, Magazine readers.

    In September, we ran a vote of the shortlist for the Stirling Prize for new British architecture. More than 11,000 people voted; more than half of you chose 30 St Mary Axe as the winner (that's the Gherkin, to the uninitiated).

    And now the award's panel has reached the same conclusion. So pats on backs all round.


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

    An Age Old Problem

    It was Joshua's birthday party and being a surprisingly clever lad for his age he decided to challenge his friends to a little game.

    "If anyone can guess the number I'm thinking of they will get a special prize!" he announced.

    "I will give you just four clues," he continued.

    "One. It is made up of five distinct, non-zero digits.

    "Two. The first two digits form the square of the third.

    "Three. The last two digits form a number one less than the square of my age.


    However before he could give the final clue, Jemma being an equally astute little girl, shouted out the answer with 100% certainty that she was correct and thus claimed the prize.

    What was the number Joshua was thinking of?

    Your e-mail address
    Town/city and country
    Your answer

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

    The answer to last week's riddle was EROGUS, since all the other words required the letters "ONE" to be inserted into them, creating LIONESS, PENSIONER, SPOONERISM, PHONETIC, UNIRONED, and MOTIONED. EROGUS was the odd one out because it required "ENO" to be inserted, creating EROGENOUS.

    Many of you worked that out. But hardly any, really hardly anyone, went on to make the link that ONE being reversed made it the "odd one out", the title of the riddle. Steve, of London, did however, and therefore he's the winner. His reply was "Erogus is the odd eno out." There is a spare bag of kudos hanging round in the office, and he will be receiving it through the post.

    Robert, also of London, receives none for saying: "I know this. It's a language spoken by Glaswegian drunks. I would translate but it's rather crude. Unird is the odd one out. Its the only word that's unird."

    Si is a contributor to the Puzzletome website.

  • Send your letters to the Magazine Monitor
    Your e-mail address
    Town/city and country
    Your comment

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


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