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Last Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
The Magazine Monitor


Welcome to The Magazine Monitor, the home for many ever-popular features, including your letters and :

  • MON: Si's riddle
  • WEDS: Punorama
  • THURS: Caption comp
  • FRI: Friday Objective
  • SAT: 10 things we didn't know this time last week


    10 THINGS
    10 icicles by

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

    1. Trigamy is being married to three people.

    2. Alexander the Great was killed by a mosquito, says new research.

    3. A towel doesn't legally reserve a sun lounger - and there is nothing in German or Spanish law to stop other holidaymakers removing those left on vacant seats.

    4. One in six children think that broccoli is a baby tree.

    5. Robin Cook grew his beard in tribute to his hero, George Bernard Shaw.

    6. Ann Widdecombe last watched Top of the Pops in 1966.

    7. Vinegar on chips may help burn the fat off the deep-fried spud.

    8. We are more likely to die in our sleep because our brains can forget to tell our bodies to breathe.

    9. Home Office minister Hazel Blears is 4ft 11ins.

    10. Drivers are most likely to be in an accident between 4pm and 7pm on a Friday - and even more so in August.

    If you spot anything that should be included next week, use the form below to tell us about it. Thanks this week to Faye Hormar, Bracknell, and Ekaterina Krasnikova, St Petersberg.

    Your e-mail address
    Your thing and where you saw it

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


    It's the unwelcome return of the Friday Objective - your supposedly weekly challenge to feats of bravery, imagination or - heaven forfend - wit.

    Romantic inventor Luke Jerram engraved the necessary bumps into an engagement ring which, when played on a tiny record player, would say: "I love you for ever. Marry me."

    He presented the ring to his girlfriend in a hot air balloon, and thankfully she accepted his request. Though it didn't quite work out as planned, because, as today's Times reports, the mini-record player needed mains power to play it and hot air balloons don't have access to mains supply.

    Mr Jerram is now seeking a business partner to develop a battery-powered tiny record player so that the engraved talking ring can go on sale.

    All of which puts us in a romantic frame of mind. Please use your imagination to come up with ridiculously extravagant ways of proposing to one's partner and stupidly simple obstacles which might stop the plan coming together. Use the form below - the most romantic will be cooed over here during the course of the afternoon.

    Your suggestions

    Propose over dinner on a first class BA flight.
    Just not today...
    QJ, Stafford

    Fly to the moon and write "Will you marry me?" in letters big enough to read from Earth.
    Not if there's a new moon though.
    Robin, Edinburgh

    Attempt to have your proposal published in the Letters Section of the Magazine.
    The potential downfall would be a slew of 'proposal watch' follow ups, and a good mocking from 'Stig' of London.
    Neil, Aberystwyth

    Arrange for a sky-writer to blazon your proposal across the sky.
    Unless it's going to rain...
    James, Cape Town

    Pay for your proposal to be the front page headline of a major tabloid newspaper.
    This could be foiled if someone spots Brooklyn Beckham with a new haircut.
    Dave Taylor, Leeds

    Propose whilst standing on the moon together.
    Even if it is impossible to put a ring on a finger due to the space suits.
    Neil D, London

    Try to propose to your girlfriend live on the radio.
    Just make sure she'll be listening to the show.
    Stephen Buxton, Coventry

    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.


    Letters logo
    Your article Can you survive a plane crash, 12 August, was quite interesting. However it asks the question "So what are the chances of emerging from the wreckage of a plane, in real life?" but then fails to address that question. According to Planecrashinfo (warning: people nervous about flying probably shouldn't visit this site), the odds of being killed on any given flight are 52 million to 1 on a scheduled airliner - over 7 times safer than a trip by car. However, in fatal aircrashes from 1990 on, the survival rate was 32%. So if you are unlucky enough to have a crash, the odds aren't good. If the aircraft can ditch in controlled flight, that rate goes up to 60%. Another interesting statistic from this site is that over half of all plane accidents happen in the final approach/landing phase - but these account for only 2% of fatalities.
    Neil Golightly,
    Manchester, UK

    (The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.)

    I see from "Can you survive a plane crash?" that in January 1972 a Ms Vulovic plummeted 33,000 to snowy slopes of the Czech Republic below. Without the aid of time travel, she must have landed in Czechoslovakia.
    London, England

    I know I have been sent thousands of e-mails from Scott Richter's OptInRealBig (question two in 7 days 7 questions, 12 August). I also have had the pleasure of an e-mail from the man himself, after I complained about him to his ISP. So I demand an extra point, which would bring my score to 3.
    Tina McPhail,
    Glasgow, UK

    I think we should call this new sport of finding the oldest story within five clicks of the front page "Cabbaging" - in honour of Judy Cabbages, who first brought this fun and exciting past time to national attention. All those in favour say 'aye'!!

    This might be cheating a bit, but in just three clicks I got back to 1882 - The History of the Ashes.
    Peter Collins,

    Today was supposed to be the hottest day of the year, And the weather in the summer will be..., 13 May.. However, it's only set to be a maximum 17C. Is it time to break out the "global ice age" headlines, especially as they haven't been used in a while?
    John Airey,
    Peterborough, UK

    In Siberia's rapid thaw causes alarm, 11 August, it states that "[it] could cause global warming to snowball...". I'm confused, is that a good or bad thing?

    Today's quote. Why do people hate Julie Burchill? Mainly because she's Julie Burchill.


    It's time for the caption competition.

    This week, sculptor Alan Magee carves an elaborate statue from compacted sand in the courtyard of Dublin Castle. But what's being said?

    6. Bryn Roberts, UK
    "That's the last time he'll call me 'carrot-top'!"

    5. Candace, New Jersey
    "Just a subtle hint, it's time again for that pedicure."

    4. Richard Gibson, UK
    Alan's "Faking It" as a gravedigger was probably going to be spotted by the judges...

    3. Dan, Exeter
    "Excuse me mate, is this your shovel?"

    2. Ed Lawrence, UK
    Synchronised swimmers found in Pompeii.

    1. Glenn Dixon, UK
    After slaying Goliath, David was having a hard time hiding the evidence.


    Newspapers logo

    Ach! Too much Silly Season already. Let's get into some serious news. Like, for instance, the rise of the new social type, identified in a feature in the Daily Telegraph. He is called "ubersexual", apparently, and is illustrated for some reason with a picture of George Clooney.

    First off, don't confuse being ubersexuals with being emo boys - "men who listen to pretentious 'you've probably never heard of them' bands, dress with more care and style than most girls, and read in-depth books, while sipping on low-fat lattes before they take their Vespa home. Their hair, a special point of interest, is usually styled to look unkempt, wooshed over to the side. They are generally tall and and thin. They appreciate the arts."

    And don't confuse it with being a metrosexual either, or with being a whimpster.

    To be a true ubersexual, a man should be "more into relationships than self. He's not sensual and not at all self-conscious. He dresses for himself more than others (choosing a consistent personal style over fashion fads). Like the metrosexual, the ubersexual enjoys shopping, but his approach is more focused; he shops for particular items that enchance his collection rather than shopping as entertainment."

    Despite being an androgenous being, Paper Monitor is now, as a direct result of this article, completely confused about its sexuality. There is only one word of hope in this entire article: "A lot of [this] is best summed up in another acronym - cobblers."

    FRIDAY 12 AUGUST 2005

    In Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked you why Australians used the word "drongoe" to describe a fool. Well, you drongoes, only 20% got it right - the name comes from a hopeless racehorse. There's another Call My Bluff-style question on the index now.


    Father Christmas

    It's time for Punorama.

    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.

    As Paper Monitor, below, shows there are plenty of candidates this week. But the story we've chosen is that Harrods has opened its Christmas World Department, more than four months before the big day.

    The decision of the judges:

    Firstly, no prizes for Hark the Harrods Angels Sing, which was the most common entry. Why? See the winner.

    Further Christmas caught the mood for John R in Wigan and Glenn J. But Nigel Macarthur in London piped up with a variation on that particular theme, with Farther Christmas.

    Simple word play wins a mention for Chris Field, with Santa Crass, for Michael in Glasgow, for Silent Knightsbridge, and for Martin Price in London for Buy now, Sleigh later.

    Slightly more clever was Ahead of Sched-Yule by Hannah Joiner in London and This August well for a bumper Christmas! by James in Cape Town.

    The judges also liked Do They Know It's NOT Christmas by Matt Daniels in Bromley.

    But the winner is Hark the Harrods till bells ring by Stella Alvarez from Teesside and Kip in Norwich.


    Newspapers logo

    More silly season tales for you:

    5. Tony Blair took his shirt off while on holiday on a yacht. (Mail and others)

    4. Some guy's built a replica of the London Eye out of straw. (Sun and others)

    3. A man has picked up Jennifer Aniston in his arms. (Mirror and others)

    2. Owners of the Flintstones want Freddie Flintoff to stop using their images on his website. (Mirror)

    1. It's not only Victor Meldrew that you can make a fake constellation out of, but also a Page 3 beauty. And a duck. And a stick man reclining in a chair. (Sun)


    In Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked you which of the new words in the Oxford English Dictionary meant awkward or clumsy. 53% of you were right with "bosthoon". There's another Call My Bluff-style question on the index now.


    Letters logo
    I dare ask any of us to write such a wonderful tribute using so few words as Geoff Ryman's article The World on a train, 9 August. It is a measure of the true London that I know. As an outsider, I am always amazed that no matter where I travel, there is always one thing that I miss and that's the diversity of London.
    Noel Q
    London, UK

    In response to Judy Cabagges' (great name by the way) letter, (Monitor, Tuesday), in three clicks I got to 29 May 1998. I felt sure that I would be able to reach 1997 on my first attempt. However, on clicking another link, it took me to 1999.
    Michael Rhodes,
    South Normanton, Derbyshire

    May I join with the rest of the country upon reading Judy Cabbage's in trying to find a suitable name for this new sport which I have taken up with relish? I suggest it be termed 'backlogging', and beg other Monitor readers to submit their entries.
    London, UK

    It took me just five clicks to get to a "sea-change". Strange how these things tie together.
    Lucy Jones,
    Manchester, UK

    In the Paper Monitor, you report: "5. Redheads are better at coping with pain than blondes and brunettes. (Mail and others)" Except that, according to medical studies, redheads actually need 20% more anaesthetic...as reported in this bbc news story: It's a pain being ginger, 15 October 2002.
    Angharad Beurle - Williams,
    Brixton, London

    Have you got a competition going on in the Magazine office for who can make the "Big Picture" preview the most tiny and insignificant part of the full photo? If so - you've surpassed yourselves today...
    Manchester, UK

    Quotes from Lost crashes on to UK television, 10 August, about the new series Lost: "it is relatable in a universal way", "I think it came out of nowhere to be as well-regarded as it is" and "there was a lot of scepticism going in that people would buy this ongoing mystery". If the script is written in the same style as these comments then I think we'll all become lost very quickly.
    Norwich UK

    Re the stars that look like Victor Meldrew. Is it too obvious to say "I don't believe it"?
    Epsom, UK

    "I don't believe it?!" Am I first?
    David Manley, Scotland


    Keeping tabs on stories past.

    Two updates for you. Anyone who saw David Akinsanya's moving BBC Two documentary Sad to be Gay last night might be interested in this Magazine article from November 2003: When gays were 'cured'.

    Secondly, an update comes on our Architecture Week article on Monday, How to build a house for 60,000. John Prescott's department yesterday revealed the shortlist of developers who will go ahead to the next round of his scheme.


    Newspapers logo
    We might have lost the pop-up window of today's front pages (a complicated business which will be explained on Friday in the Editor's column), but Paper Monitor is nevertheless proud to announce the arrival of the Silly Season

    We knew, bombings aside, that the silly season must come sooner or later. And today it certainly has. Here are today's top five silly season stories from the papers. Pay attention, you will be tested on these later.

    5. Redheads are better at coping with pain than blondes and brunettes. (Mail and others)

    4. Ants have made an ant-hill five-and-a-half feet high in woodlands in Northumberland. (Mirror and others.)

    3. There are only 137 shopping days to Christmas. (Express and others)

    2. The French have taken to eating Polish snails. (The Times)

    1. Astronomers have found a group of stars that looks just like TV's Victor Meldrew. (The Sun)


    In Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked you what the average British woman weighed. 55.4% of you got it correct - that it's actually what Bridget Jones would weigh if she was wearing ski-gear - that's 11 stone. Today's Mini-Quiz is on the index now.


    Letters logo
    To quote the article on Graduate pay keeping up with debt, 9 August: "Almost a third of parents support their children financially while they study compared to fewer than one in three in 2004." Amazing analysis.

    With fuel prices at record highs, how is it that diesel in the most expensive fuel in the UK but the cheapest fuel in the rest of Europe?
    John Airey,
    Peterborough, UK

    Anna Williams (Monitor Letters, Monday) asks "Why is "raft" the collective term for plans? " It's ecause they so often sink without trace?
    Herts UK

    Why is "raft" the collective term for plans? It's because they are about to undergo a sea change.
    London, UK

    Why is "knot" the collective term for toads?
    Ashtead, Surrey

    The subject of Shakepearean coinages (Monitor Letters, Monday) reminded me of a wonderful article written by Bernard Levin (quoted here): "If you cannot understand my argument, and declare 'It's Greek to me', you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare...."
    Neil Golightly,
    Manchester, UK

    In our office of five people, the six pack of Tunnocks Tea Cakes does no divide very well; so we have a contest. The person who can go back in time to the oldest article on the BBC News site in only five clicks from the start page, gets the sixth tea cake for themselves. Today, I read through nature to cats to pandas and in 5 clicks, got to 25 April 1998. Reaching 1997 is a real achievement.
    Judy Cabbages,
    Peebles, Scotland


    Newspapers logo
    A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

    The Independent brings us 650 years of treason law in 427 words, as the CPS threatens radical cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed with a possible treason trial:

    • The legislation is so old it was originally written in Norman French.
    • The 1351 act was passed during the reign of Edward III, shortly after the start of the Hundred Years' War against France.
    • It established offences of high and petty treason.
    • High treason was plotting the death of the monarch, or war against the Crown.
    • Petty treason was an offence against a superior, such as a servant killing their master or a wife her husband.
    • Ann Boleyn and Guy Fawkes were both executed for treason.
    • In 1848, as revolutions swept Europe, calling for the abolition of the monarchy in print was punishable by life imprisonment.
    • In 1946, Lord Haw Haw was the last person to be hanged for treason.
    • But the death penalty for treason was not abolished until 1998.

    Thus the threat "to use the medieval statute against so-called 'preachers of hate' in the 21st Century has startled politicians, lawyers and human rights groups," says the paper.


    On Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz, 60% of you correctly identified that the new Scottish Parliament features on a list of buildings the public would most like to demolish. Just 10% thought it was a favourite work place, and 30% guessed it might be a preferred spot to marry in. Today's question is on the Magazine index now.


    Letters logo
    I don't know why TV Licensing are wasting their time on those adverts featuring the haunted house. Surely they just need to remind us "the TV Licence - stopping the Crazy Frog from being on EVERY channel"? A far scarier prospect.

    William T asked for "Some insight into 'sea-change'" (Monitor letters, Friday. Rather geekily, I refer him to The Tempest, I.ii Full fathom five thy father lies;
    Of his bones are coral made;
    Those are pearls that were his eyes:
    Nothing of him that doth fade
    But doth suffer a sea-change
    Into something rich and strange.
    It is simply a change effected by the sea (and yet another of Shakespeare's neologisms, which are a whole topic in themselves).
    Lucy Jones,
    Manchester, UK

    I agree with Gareth Edwards' view on forced acronyms (Monitor letters, Friday). I have had to write so many as a research project manager that I have become the Associate Charged with Rearranging Operative Nomenclature to Yield Mnemonic Spellings.
    Hal Coyle,
    Cambridge, MA, US

    Can I suggest a "worst over-use of bad puns in the world" watch? "Under-exposed: Sales of 35mm cameras are no longer developing"? C'mon BBC - you can do better than that...

    Judging from Monday's Quote of the day (Derek Laud: "I don't have the right not to say what I don't believe"), I think we can guess who Boris Johnson's script writer used to be.
    Paul Maplesden,
    Tunbridge Wells, UK

    Why is "raft" the collective term for plans?
    Anna Williams,
    Amble, UK


    Each week Si sets you a riddle to get your brain working.

    Odd Numbers

    What sport should be added to the following group of words?

    sexist sleevefish profusion delighted extraneous growth furtiveness nevertheless

    Send your answer 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.

    Last week's riddle was titled Periodic , and consisted of a series of cryptic clues, as follows:
    Backward, stubborn animals swallowed one north-easterner (8)
    Crane's broken without one (7)
    Cattle surround young gentlemen initially (6)
    Terrible ringtone! (8)
    Two ewes reported in minimal mess (9)

    The answers to the clues were as follows: Selenium, Arsenic, Oxygen, Nitrogen and Aluminium. The chemical symbols of these elements are Se As O N Al - so the answer, as suggested by the title, is SEASONAL.

    Kudos to Steve Reszetniak, Enfield ("The answer is elementary, my dear Si."), and to Edmund Ward, Cambridge ("Following last week's scare that Si's riddle might reach its EXODUS, I hope you can reassure us that it won't become SEASONAL instead?"). The winner, however, was Debbie Bowes, Scotland.


    Newspapers logo
    It's a gripping tale, full of drama and tension, as two ancient adversaries try to hold their nerve and outdo each other using pace, bounce, spin, sledging - whatever weapons are at their disposal. But as it goes to the wire, who is going to be victorious? In this epic battle, who will triumph? The Mirror or the Sun? Let the punning begin.

    The Mirror, page one: Mr INFREDIBLE (with pic of Flintoff as Mr Incredible)

    The Sun, back page: Infredible

    The Mirror, back page: Ash and Carry (with pic of Flintoff carrying Simon Jones)

    The Sun, p50: SALVATION HARMY

    The Mirror, p 53: Ger-eat Stuff! (Under-fire Jones is the hero)

    The Sun, p49: BATMEN BEGIN

    The Mirror... Er that's it.

    The Sun.... That's it from them too.

    Result... The Sun has an edge with one off the glove.


    On Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz, 70% of you correctly identified that what made film reviewer David Manning unusual was that he didn't actually exist. Today's Architecture Week-related question is on the Magazine index now.

  • Send your letters to the Magazine Monitor
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    The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.


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