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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 December, 2004, 08:45 GMT
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 sunbeds Ann Cooper

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

1. 52% of households have five or more remote controls.

2. Judi Dench sends 450 Christmas presents, according to her daughter.

3. 4x4s are called "gipponi" in Italian, meaning "big Jeeps".

4. Word of the week: houseblinger - one who over-decorates the front of their house with Christmas lights.
(See internet links.)

5. The heat generated by laptops, and the knees-together pose needed to balance them, can damage a man's fertility.

6. Chinese villagers were brewing alcoholic drinks as far back as 7,000 BC. Before this was discovered, it was thought the earliest brewing had taken place some 1,600 years later.

7. Prunella Scales' character in the Tesco's ads, which has been credited with raising 2.2bn for the shop, is called Dotty Turnbull.

8. Brazilians are the nationality most likely to read spam.

9. One gigabyte of information - about a quarter of the memory of an iPod mini - is the equivalent of a pick-up truck load of paper.

10. Leonard Rossiter's famous adverts, in which he spilt Cinzano over Joan Collins, were often mistaken in the public mind as being for Martini - sales of the latter rose when Rossiter's ads were on the television.
(See internet links.)

Thanks to Bryce Cooke. If you learn something this week that you think should be included then please let us know using the form on the right hand side of the page.


As is shown by your Santas accused of street brawl, sometimes the truth is funnier than fiction - "Pc Gareth Slaymaker, community safety officer..." You couldn't make that up, could you?
Purby, Bramford, UK

I've found the right slogan for this page. Y'all should just call it the Magazine Moan-itor.
Ainy, Baltimore, US

I was reading to the article Media blamed 'for Iraq attacks' and a thought struck me. Is it the case that governments and senior military officers think that invading a country isn't enough on its own to provoke people to violence? If so then this goes a long way toward explaining why they seem to feel quite justified in doing this all the time. I wonder if they're all left handed, like me.
Rob Simpson, Cardiff, UK

From the 7 days quiz: "Miss Wales and Miss China were one of the 15 finalists." That would be Blodwyn Wong then?
Nick, London, England

Cabinet sells for a record 19m. That's less than a million each.


Your challenge should you choose to accept it...

Forget a few glasses of wine and a kiss under the mistletoe, office parties at Christmas time have transformed into a cross between an assault course and a war zone.

Rospa, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, has flagged up a host of potential traumas that could result from dancing on office tables or photocopying seldom-seen parts of the body.

Meanwhile, a survey suggests 65m of working hours will be lost over the Christmas season due to staff taking time off to recover from party excesses. Some, no doubt, will be suffering from a sprained ankle called the Gloria Gaynor, so called after a common injury that is incurred after dancing to I Will Survive. Certainly beats having a hangover.

With that in mind, tell us the most outlandish excuse you would phone the boss with in a bid to get the day off work after your office party.

It's the pictures, sir. At the party, you and Brenda from HR. I really couldn't say, sir, but they're on the web already. Don't worry, sir, I've already hacked the site and ... as long as it takes, you say? Certainly, sir.
David Dee, Mozambique

On my way back to the flat I tripped over a small blue box that turned out to be the baggage test explosive that the French police have been looking for. Well I felt honour bound to return it to the Paris Gendarmerie personally. Unfortunately my French isn't up to much so they kept me in jail overnight. But it's all sorted out now and they assure me that I'll be released in time for work tomorrow.
Geoffrey Scott-Baker, UK

I seem to have developed pink, blue and green highlighter star bursts on cheeks
Candace, New Jersey, US

I'm unable to come in due to a severely bad allergic reaction to that mistletoe glued to my forehead.
John, London

Um, I'm somewhere called Thurso
Peter Meade, GB

Whilst on the office table, I broke my finger on the low ceiling dancing to "Staying alive"..
Neil Webber, UK

I know you don't remember much of last night, but since I may now be carrying your child I would like the day off.
Natasha, UK

Having held the event in the office, the European Working Time Directive means my attendance legally counted towards my contracted hours so I've now done my full working week.
Ian, Bristol

Since your behaviour was so cringingly appalling at the party last night, I would not want to embarrass you by putting you in the position of having to meet me face to face today.
Maggie, uk

I got mugged by an elf...
Stig, London, UK

I'm dead, and the funeral's tomorrow, but I should be back in on Monday.
Jane , UK

Your e-mail address
Your outlandish, utterly over-the-top, beggars belief excuse

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


Winning entries in this week's caption competition.

This week, we have George Bush entertaining guests at a Christmas reception in the White House.

5. Will, UK
"Which country sent us these again?"

4. Chris Ford, Bristol, UK
Have you ever seen George Bush and Roger de Coursey in the same room?

3. Sander, UK
Parents raise concerns that the Muppet Show is dumbing down.

2. Rob McKay, Wales
The coalition of the willing is brought to you by the letters W, M & D, and the number 0.

1. David Johns, UK
Forget it, I said no same sex marriages on my watch.


Re Anti-noise lobby voices concern. Let's hope they did it quietly.
Owain Williams, Slough

Everyone knows the student stereotype there's no need to rehash it every time someone mentions student debt (Monitor Letters, Wednesday). The fact is most modern students find it impossible to spend as much time in the pub as they'd like, and it's got nothing to do with money. Workloads dictate that I've only got the time to spend an evening in the pub once a week. Probably reasonably reflective of the wider population.
Graham Iles, Cardiff, Wales

Re: Mark from Guilford. So many people seem to think that "not drinking" is the solution to everything. I'm teetotal, but already have a debt of around 12,000 despite only being in my second year.
Paul Mann, Aberystwyth

Couldn't agree more with the point about student debts and alcohol. Going out three nights a week (fairly average among people I know) for three years at uni cost me 6,000 - over half of my student loan. It was fun though!
Tom Calvert, Rochester, UK

Candy Spillard's letter is mistaken. The show that used to have a round called I Couldn't Disagree More was called If I Ruled the World, with Graeme Garden and Clive Anderson. And very good it was too, but never returned for a second series. Boris was not taking the mick, just his usual un-pseudo-confused self.
Alan Simpson, Belfast, NI

Re Josh D's hunt for the Monitor slogan. Surely the correct Boris Johnson analogy would be, "The Magazine Monitor - You could not fail to despise it less."
John, York

To Jan, Scotland. The letter W appears in twelve months of the year.
Josh D, Leicstershire, UK

Re Posh and Beckham in wax nativity. I'm looking forward to Eid next year when Madame Tussauds have a similar tableau with Jonny Wilkinson as Mohammed. Can you imagine the up roar if they did? It seems that Christianity is the only religion that its acceptable to take liberties with.
Mark B, Manchester

To Martin, Leeds. Contrary to popular belief, although handgun ownership was legal at the time, Thomas Hamilton's own guns were obtained illegally. Furthermore, since the ban, handgun crimes have doubled. The new laws have made you no safer.
Alex Swanson, Milton Keynes, 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, waxworks of David and Victoria Beckham star in a nativity scene at Madame Tussauds in London. The Beckhams are Joseph and Mary, while the three wise men are Tony Blair, George W Bush and Prince Philip. The shepherds are Samuel L Jackson, Hugh Grant and Graham Norton.


The Beckham/Bethlehem similarities inspired more than a few of you. Among the best of these were O little town of Beckingham, by Alan Trowbridge, and Brian Saxby's The Star of Beck-le-ham.

There were also some admirable attempts to twist gold, frankincense and myrrh into something a little more bling, the best of which was Goldenballs: mirth or frankly incensed? from Alex, UK.

Mr Beckham's biblical first name inspired references aplenty, among them Once in Real David's City, from several of you. And Angela Barlow pondered what the baby might be named, settling for "And he shall be called Bethlehem Beckham".

Sensing outrage at this unorthodox nativity Keiran, UK, submitted for Jesus wept! while Neil in Aberystwyth offered Affray in a manger.

And for sheer brilliant simplicity, it's Angela Barlow again with The Beckhams' wax miracle.


I've got a point to make regarding the debt students end up with at the end of their time at uni (Monitor letters, Monday. I can think of an easy way for students to save money and so pay their tuition fees. Simply do not to go to the Student Union Bar or pub as often. In other words, drink less and study more.
Mark, Guildford, UK

Re: How a gun massacre changed Britain, 7 December. It's a shame that it didn't change it enough as it took nine years and Dunblane to eventually introduce a ban!
Martin, Leeds

Re James's query about why there's no J in the periodic table (Monitor letters, Tuesday). The elements were named pretty much as they were discovered, so the absence of a "J" is really just chance. However, there is a heavy bias towards classical languages (eg Lead = Latin "plumbum" = "Pb") in which the letter "J" did not exist, so it started off with a serious disadvantage.
Alex Swanson
Milton Keynes, UK

One might as well ask, for example, why the letter W does not occur in any of the months of the year.

If I can find element number 117 by next Monday we'll provisionally call it Jamium !
Phil (a chemist)
Nimes, France

Re Boris Johnson's quote ("I could not fail to disagree with you less") which won the prize from Campaign For Plain English (Come again?, 6 December. They obviously don't follow Have I Got News For You all that well. The show used to have a round known as "I couldn't disagree more" in which contestants were asked to disagree with a blindingly obvious statement (one I remember in particular was "The Queen should keep her kit on"). Boris was obviously taking the mick.
Candy Spillard
York, UK

Re: the hunt for the Monitor slogan. In honour of Boris Johnson, it could be: "The Magazine Monitor - You could not fail to enjoy it more."
Josh D
Leicstershire, UK


Good things to read on other websites.

  • An interesting report in Wired magazine about psychological traffic calming - taking away road signs, markings, and barriers and, surprisingly, cutting accidents by doing so. "The cars look out for the cyclists, the cyclists look out for the pedestrians, and everyone looks out for each other. You can't expect traffic signs and street markings to encourage that sort of behavior. You have to build it into the design of the road."

  • Promising-looking UK political weblog, Honourable Fiend, is certainly worth watching.

  • Planning a holiday in North Korea, one of the world's most secretive countries? Don't bother packing anything but the most rudimentary camera - zoom lenses are a no-no - and don't expect the locals to smile. The ups and downs of a package tour are detailed here, in the Christian Science Monitor.

    Send your suggestions for next week's reading list by submitting them using the form on the right. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites, though.


    Re: Call to curb teacher 'wastage', 6 December. The Department for Education is complaining that most new teachers leave the profession within a few years. The sad fact is that most of these have only taken up teacher training because of the financial incentives of doing so, as doing a PGCE can help, or at least is seen to help, in alleviating the debts that so many students now graduate with. Who's going to say no to an extra year as a student with fees paid and a 6,000 bursary? Not to mention the possibility of a 'golden handshake' on starting to teach! They teach to pay off the overdraft, then move on to better paid, less stressful work.

    My reason for asking this question might be a mystery to some readers, but others will realise why I am asking. I have noticed there is no letter "J" anywhere in the periodic table of elements. I was hoping someone could tell me if there was a reason, when every other letter is included somewhere? The only element "J" I could find was an "Element-J" model Honda car that is available in the US but, to the best of my knowledge, even that's not availabe in the UK.
    Biberach, Germany

    Erol Fehim suggests that a sober person might fake a drunken person's breath in the in-car breathalyser Monitor letters, Monday). But he might like to ponder on whether someone sober would be willing to help someone drink-drive.

    Am I really that bad that I can actually understand the DoH guidelines (Number 3 in Come Again, 6 December)?
    Cardiff, Wales

    If we are into recycling slogans, as Edward Higgins suggested on Monday (Monitor letters), then why not "Magazine Monitor - It does exactly what it says on the tin" or "Magazine Monitor - Helps you work, rest and play" although the emphasis is definitely not on the "work" bit.
    Stephen Buxton
    Coventry, UK


    All this secrecy surrounding who will be the next James Bond (Bets off as actor backed for Bond, 3 December). Why not just let Pixar do it, then we go back to having smooth Mr Connery?
    Northampton, England

    Is Geoff Harrison serious when he says: "New Zealand prices everything to one cent, such as NZ$1.99 but the smallest coin is a five cents piece so everything is rounded down/up to 5c" (Monitor letters, Friday)? If this is a genuine suggestion, and I can't detect any sarcasm, I think he may need to look up the meaning of the word "simple". A simple process would be to round prices to 5p in the first place.
    Runcorn, UK

    Has anyone noticed an obvious flaw with proposed breathalysers in cars (Can anything stop drink-driving, 2 December)? If you are determined to drive, simply get someone else to blow into the machine, and away you go...or am I missing something?
    Erol Fehim, London

    Does anyone else have the annoying habit of counting the 10 articles in the '10 Things' photographs (eg 10 things, Saturday. I can't seem to help myself although I know well enough that there are 10 benches or 10 coathangers etc. Maybe the Monitor could slip in a surprise 11 or 9 to make my day?
    Mal Walker
    Adelaide, South Australia

    I have never seen a urinal from this angle before (Friday Challenge, 3 December). To do so you'd have to have your head sticking out of the wall above the urinal. Is that what it makes it " Art"?
    Stephen Allender

    Re: your search for a slogan for the Monitor. Maybe we should take a tip from the new fashion in alcohol adverts... "The Monitor: Please enjoy responsibly."
    Edward Higgins,


    Every Monday Si sets a riddle for you to puzzle over.

    Chemical Bonds

    15 53 68 6 68 8 32 88 60 22 42 90 39

    Send 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 is as follows. As the title suggests, use the words that could like individual letters - YOU, BE, EYE, CUE, YOU, EYE, TEE, WHY - these spell UBIQUITY. The winner, chosen at random from the correct entries, was Margie Morgan, Bootle.

    Special mentions for artistic merit to Janet B, Nottingham, for "The ewe and bee saw eye to eye in the queue at tea-time - why? The answer is quite plain to see that they were in ubiquity." And also to Kalika Kelkar, Boston, for:
    "To answer your riddle,
    I made up this ditty,
    Take every word that sounds like a letter,
    And you get UBIQUITY.

    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

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

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


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