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Last Updated: Friday, 29 October, 2004, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
The Magazine Monitor

TUES: Reading list
WEDS: Punorama
FRI: The Friday Challenge
SAT: 10 things we didn't know

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 Peruvian alpacas by Gary Weeks

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

1. Half of Britons have a collection of more than 20 carrier bags at home, according to a survey. One in 10 people has up to 80.
Full story

2. Dwarf elephants the size of ponies, golden retriever-size rats and giant tortoises lived alongside a previously unknown species of human. The 3ft tall species lived on Flores Island, Indonesia, until at least 12,000 years ago.
Full story

3. The people of Mongolia are being asked to choose surnames after nearly a century without them. But plans to put together its first phone book are being hampered by more than half of people choosing Borjigin, the clan name of Genghis Khan.

4. More than one in three Asbos - the government orders designed to clamp down on yobbish behaviour - are broken, according to official figures.

5. The introduction of smaller packets of painkillers in 1998 has helped to reduce the suicide rate, according to Oxford University researchers. Almost 25% fewer people took fatal overdoses in the three years that followed.
Full story

6. Cats suffer as much stress as their human companions. The biggest source of anxiety is rivalry with another feline in the house, Edinburgh University academics said. Full story

7. The full names of Scooby Doo's Mystery Inc members are: Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, Scooby "Scoobert" Doo and Shaggy is actually Norville Rogers.

8. Amateur treasure hunters uncovered more than 50,000 historical items over the last year. The dedication of the UK's weekend archaeologists, who are often armed with little more than a metal detector, was praised by museum curators and ministers alike.

9. Sandie Shaw's mobile ringtone is Puppet on a String.

10. Villagers in Enville, Staffordshire were banned from drinking on Sundays for the last 300 years. Locals at the Cat Inn - said to be the only remaining UK pub facing such controls - were able to enjoy their first Sabbath tipple last weekend.

Thanks this week to Bryce Cooke and Stephen Buxton.


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

Ever noticed that there's just too much of everything nowadays? Everywhere's too crowded, with everyone struggling with bags of everything. Every day. Well good news - at least the bags are going to be cut. B&Q in Scotland is to follow the lead of the Irish republic and start charging for its bags - initially just 5p a bag.

This is surely a taste of thing to come. Your suggestions, please, for small taxes on everyday items which would just somehow make life better for everyone. 10p if you put your already-insulated latte inside another cup so your wee delicate fingers don't get slightly too hot. That sort of thing. Suggestion using the form below, please. The best tax suggestions will be added here to the budget during the course of Friday afternoon.

A penalty (not "penilty", Liz from Manchester) for each example of bad spelling. This is doubled for public signs outside pubs / market stalls.
Tom Walker, London

5 per letter to newspapers, magazines or internet sites from people complaining about mobile phones, queue dawdlers, other people's habits on the train / bus / motorway, questionable fashion sense or any other petty, small minded, mean spirited complaints made by people with nothing better to do and too blinkered to realise how lucky they really are. Oh, and a 75% income tax for editors who publish them.
osh, Hebden Bridge, UK

The Stupid User Remuneration Charge (or SURcharge) docks 1.50 from each user of my service who wastes my time by asking a question without reading the documentation for themselves. If they can't be bothered to read that 8-point italic footnote on page 27 and work out the implications for themselves, why should I suffer?
Brian Ritchie, Oxford, UK

2p 4 evry lttr typd
Tony Sibley, Berkshire, UK

30p on chip wrappers - just grab a handful from the frier and carry them off you softies.
Dave Williams, Prudhoe, UK

5p for every time your Caption Comp caption, LBQ entry, or Friday Challenge suggestion gets rejected harshly and the Magazine leaves you wondering why - OH GOD WHY?! - you were overlooked again!!
Mike, Brussels, Belgium

25p if you want your fish and chips in today's newspaper and not yesterday's
Maggie, London uk

5p r8 4 a txt if it sez "c u l8r"
Hortense McQuiggley, St Albans, UK

How about 10p for every piece of junk mail sent. Perhaps Sellotaped to the top of the junk mail itself?
Fi W, London

50p tax for people who don't rewind audio book cassettes when they return them to the library.
Sarah D, Didcot, England

A tax on tacts. No reason, just looking forward to newsreaders having to read this out on tv.
Darren Farr, Billericay, England

Supermarkets that issue receipts the length of your arm, just so they can add their sales jingle on the bottom. A penilty of 10p an inch with the additional charge of 1 for more than one receipt!
Liz, Manchester, Lancs

10 for every motorist who, during a traffic jam, zooms down the outside lane and tries to cut in further ahead to avoid the queue.
Guy Thompson, London,UK

10p per second for standing in front of a cashpoint fumbling with wallet/purse/keys/phone/shopping bag trying to find your card, when you've already had plenty of time to do that whilst waiting in the queue. A further 10p per second for doing the same after you've got your cash.
Phil Emery, Manchester, UK

The "Dropped Fork" Tax will impose a 5p tax on restaurant diners who request a clean replacement. Dropped knives will incur a slightly higher (7p) tax to cover "cutting-edge inspection & re-grinding". Replacement spoons, due to their intrinsically more robust design, will be taxed on a graduated scale - "Your first spoon is free" but subsequent spoons will incur a 3p "Nuisance" charge.
Charles Frean, Bedford, Massachusetts

A 1 levy on people moaning about London house prices - Capital groans tax.
Andy W, London

Mobile phone ringtones should be rated based on how irritating other people are going to find them - so a basic "ring ring" has no tax, but a fully polyphonic techo remix of Beethoven's Fifth gets a full 1 - with a sliding scale in between.
Tom Marshall, Cardiff, Wales

How about a charge of 5p when you print out a letter and then realise that you inadvertently clicked change when using the spell checker, so the letter you are writing to Nerys Goff starts "Dear Nerds" or "Dear Mrs Goofy".
Martin, Dinan, France

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Headline on BBC website: Blair unveils new nuisance powers, 28 October. You mean he's not enough of a.... oh forget it.
Bruce Osborne
Horndean, Hants

On Attack prompts Bush website block, , you originally had http://www.georgewbush.org listed as one of the "alternative addresses". It was certainly that - it's hilarious.
Mark Crosby

The answer to Graeme Dixon's question as to why South American footballers only have one name, is that if you were asked to name the greatest footballer who has ever lived, would you rather try and remember Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or George Best?


Winning entries in this week's caption competition.

We asked what was being said as a bug-eyed Duchess of York, aka Fergie, spoke to fashion designer Vivienne Westwood?

6. John Nee, Kent
"I give up! I've been staring for ages and I still can't see the magic eye dolphin!"

5. Pete Fensome, Manchester
Too tight? No, they're just fine.

4. Ben Knock, London
The exceptionally warm winter was causing havoc at the Madam Tussaud's exhibition.

3. Steve Lampard, Brighton
"Do my eyes look big in this?"

2. Kate Bishop, London
"Whaddaya mean - you thought you were designing for Sir Alex Ferguson?"

1. Lynn, England
"What's a sex pistol?"


You report "Scientists have discovered a new and tiny species of human... The researchers have since found remains belonging to six other individuals from the same species." ('Hobbit' joins human family tree, 27 October). So what happened to Snow White?
Colin Edwards
Northampton, England

Have you noticed that the BBC's interpretation of Jesus (So what colour was Jesus?, 27 October) looks very familiar to Saddam Hussain?

Surely as this year's equinox has already been and gone, (and the timing of the equinox is about as predictable as a fight at a Manchester United-Arsenal match), weather forecaster Peter Gibbs would know that the equinox is in September? (Flood fear as gales batter coast, 27 October)
Martin Hollywood
St Samson-sur-Rance, France

Re Green taxes would hit poor most, 27 October. Charging householders a tax on the weight of garbage generated is akin to a poll tax. People will simply dump bags of rubbish in the bins in the next block, or leave them on buses, trains and taxis as in the New York garbage workers' strike. Another lunatic idea that should be binned.
Peter Nixon
Middlesbrough, UK

You report that there will be four times as many mobile phones with cameras next year as this(Camera phones are 'must haves', 27 October). Could this possibly be because virtually all new phones have cameras, regardless of whether the customer actually wants one? My company's policy is "no cameras"; I do a lot of driving and want a Bluetooth headset. Apparently, this is an impossible combination.
Neil Webber, Bristol, UK

Re: Punorama. Why is it that all of the really good Brazilian footballers only have one name?
Graeme Dixon
Surrey, UK


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.

This week: the story about Brazilian footballing legend Socrates, who is lacing up his boots again at the age of 50 - to play for non-league Yorkshire club Garforth Town.

Here is the judges' verdict

The ball is taken from the centre spot by Ben Moxon, Guildford, with Back from the soccer attic, tapped to Pete, MK, with a Garforth and prosper. Stephen Buxton builds on it with Garforth and multi-play, as Madmarce, London lunges with a Sentient forward.

But a recklessly complicated tackle comes from Michael Rhodes of Mansfield, which results in a twenty-two player punch-up and everyone being sent off...Descartes are on the table as Socrates signs for Foucault and vows to Plato the end of the season in landMarx non-league signing.

You've all brought football into disrepute. Good work. (Entries are now closed.)


Having just read the letters from Gareth of Hove and Chris B of Bedford (Gareth's letter on Tuesday and Chris B's letter on Monday), I have deduced that Samuel Pepys probably lived next door to Martin Luther. Moving on, it seems likely that, in an effort to conceal his embarrassment, Pepys started the Great Fire of London while trying to burn his diaries.
C Hunter
London, UK

Steven Austad is so confident a child alive now will see the year 2150 he's placed a bet on it with a friend (Humans 'will live to age of 150', 22 October). No doubt he and his friend will need someone to look after their stake money. May I be the first to offer my services in this regard, the winner can come looking for me on 1/1/2150.
Mike Parker
Bristol, England

Sorry to labour the point but the BBC got it right! Tennyson did indeed use the possessive case apostrophe - writing "their's" instead of "theirs"(Why the Charge of the Light Brigade still matters, 25 October). If you read the archived version of Tennyson's "The Charge of The Light Brigade" you'll notice that the writer peppered his work with apostrophes, which seemed to be a literary vogue at the time. The only room for argument is in regard to Tennyson's intention and, by inference, his grammatical ability - and whether he aspired to be a grocer.
Chris B
Bedford, UK


  • There's been a lot of talk about chavs in recent days, but what does the emergence of this new strand of working class sub-culture say about Britain's shifting social hierachies? In his London Review of Books article on Ferdinand Mount's Mind the Gap: The New Class Divide in Britain, (Mao meets Oakeshott) John Lancaster draws on, among other things, the upsurge in spitting by young men.

  • Ever wanted your news in seventeen syllables a day? The Friday Project's new toy is Haiknews, a daily round-up of what's going on in a Japanese-style three-part poem.

    Rod Liddle, late of this parish, lays into the supermarkets in this week's Spectator (registration required, but free access). An entertaining read, especially his strange creation of a whole new supermarket chain ("Safeway-Wal-Mart").

    Your suggestions for next week's reading list are welcome, via the form on the right hand side. But please remember, above all, that the BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.


    Just a thought. If I were the UK military commander of the Black Watch I would be considering very carefully the move into Baghdad area. Why? Well, just think of the publicity the Insurgents would revel in if they realised and took advantage of a certain military blunder that happened a 150 years ago. "Into the valley of death rode the 600..." (Why the Charge of the Light Brigade still matters, 25 October). Exchange 650 for 600 and the poem could well be prophetic.
    Peter Smith
    Bristol, UK

    I don't know about Samuel Pepys' diarrhoea (Chris B's letter on Monday), but Pepys certainly reports going down into his cellar and finding that his neighbour's cesspit had failed, and treading in the result ...
    Hove, UK

    Following on the theme of strange ways to pick a president (10 unusual ways to pick a president, 22 October), I'd say that if Mt St Helens erupts before the election, Kerry wins. If it erupts after the election, Bush wins. In fact, this is such a good idea why not use this as a way of electing a president? It would save a lot of hard work.
    Peterborough, UK

    Did you have to repunctuate Tennyson? (Why the Charge of the Light Brigade still matters, 25 October) He wrote "Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die." and not the version with the unnecessary apostrophes as published on the Magazine ("Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die.").
    Derek Blyth
    St. Albans

    (Thanks to all the readers who made similar points. Right or wrong, the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations has the apostrophes included, and we followed their lead.)


    Re: The prize-winning Gherkin office block has 24,000 square metres of external glass, equivalent to five football pitches. (10 things we didn't know this time last week, 23 October. I wasn't aware football pitches had any glass.
    Richard Speight
    Barnsley, UK

    I read your article (Luther's lavatory thrills experts, 22 October) with great interest. How thrilling that archaeologists have unearthed the constipated Martin Luther's lavatory. What next? The diarrhoea of Samuel Pepys?
    Chris B
    Bedford, England

    In Last of the Hitch-hikers, 22 October, Kevin Connolly mentions "Aileen Wuornos... who had roamed the highways of Florida in the late 1980s, shooting dead men who gave her a lift". Is it just me or is it unwise for the living dead to be driving around at all, let alone stopping to pick people up?
    Michael Farley
    Cheltenham, UK

    In your story Robots set to invade our homes, 22 October, you say: "Robots involved in more serious tasks... as well as mine-clearing, will also enjoy a boom in popularity...". Is this an attempt at a Punorama?
    Birmingham, UK


    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.

    Opposites Attract

    One day an odd couple I did meet
    Stood forward did he, as if to greet
    Me, as I stood staring his way
    "Umsdo's the name, as you would say
    in your native tongue but here's the game
    What is my partner's earthly name?
    We come from Nerthusaura, oh yes, we do
    Malleefame are we, as you see, we two
    Are trothalls of height, we might declare
    Our hair is noddlebark as fair is fair
    Now wivethightoner we may be
    And all you need you've heard from me!"

    Your e-mail address
    Town/city and country

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

    The master will now explain the answer to last week's riddle.

    "Given the requirement for distinct non-zero digits the first three digits must be one of the following 164, 497, 648 or 819," he says. "Similarly the last two digits must be from 15, 24, 35, 48 or 63.

    "Now given that Jemma must know Joshua's age (it is his birthday party after all!) and given that this then allows her to uniquely identify the number he is thinking of, we need only find which pair from the last set can fit with one and only one triple from the first set whilst obeying the distinct digits rule. Drawing a grid quickly shows the number must be 81924."

    Which was evident to some of you - the winner chosen at random was Maria Quinn of Glasgow

    Si is a contributor to the Puzzletome website.

  • Send your letters to the Magazine Monitor
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    Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.


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