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Last Updated: Friday, 7 January, 2005, 17:10 GMT
The Magazine Monitor

MON: Si's riddle
TUES: Reading list
WEDS: Punorama
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 logs by Andy Penney

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

1. 1752 was the first year in England to officially begin on 1 January. Until the Calendar Act of 1752, the year in England began officially on 25 March (Lady Day), and not 1 January (even though this was when New Year's Day was celebrated). (See internet links)

2. Just one person turned up to a recent book tour event in Dallas held by novelist Tony Parsons. Twice as many people turned up in Boston, he says, but "one of them was a homeless bum taking advantage of all the empty seats".

3. Powerful earthquakes can nudge the entire planet on to a slightly different axis. The Boxing Day quake in south Asia was so violent it shifted the axis of the Earth by an inch.

4. While road accidents over Christmas and the New Year have fallen in England and Wales since 1997/8, the number of drivers giving positive breath-test results is only marginally lower than seven years ago.

5. Mohammed is now one of the 20 most popular names for boys born in England and Wales.

6. The UK's first mobile phone call was made 20 years ago this week, when Ernie Wise rang the Vodafone head office, which was then above a curry shop in Newbury.

7. During the filming of the Sound of Music, when singing The Hills are Alive, Julie Andrews would get blown over by the downdraught of the jet engine and helicopter used to film the sweeping mountainside shots.

8. Couples across China are rushing to get married in the next few days, before the Year of the Rooster begins. This year the lunar year start late, which means it will not contain "lichun", the auspicious day that marks the start of spring, earning it the dubious distinction of being a "widow year" and thus unlucky.

9. Neil Kinnock says he regrets being leader of the Labour party.

10. Dogs can have epilepsy.

Thanks this week to Josh Donegani. If you see something you think should be included next week, let us know using the form on the right.


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

It's the time of year when people who run search engines try to distil trends from what people are looking for. But answers are difficult, especially when the questions would baffle even the wisest sage.

For example, this year, these are some of the questions which have been entered into the BBC search engine. (The Monitor is not making them up.)

What is a dog?

What is the biggest collection of naval fluff?

What is the best way to get what teacher is saying when he is lecturing?

How do you say basketball?

What do Buddhism eat?

What is better one long vacation each year or several short vacations throughout the year?

What is so special about the Swiss?

The Friday Challenge does not, on this occasion, want answers to these questions. We just want your even-more-unanswerable questions. Because if we, as a society, don't have the unanswerable questions, how on earth will we ever find out how much we don't know?

The most unanswerable will be posed here throughout Friday afternoon. Submit yours using the form below.

Some to ponder:

Tom Hartland, York

Is this a question?
Cathy, Liverpool

Why do no-one used grammar rightly these day?
Josh D, Leicstershire, UK

UPPERCASE and lowercase, why ?
Phil, Nimes, France

Which of these buttons do what?
Neil, Aberystwyth

Should search engines be able to identify pointless questions?
Orla, Kent, UK

Why is a tree? (Posed by my nephew, aged 3, at 4 a.m.)
Ed, London

Why does the train you're sitting on leave late, but the one you're rushing to catch leave on time?
Maggie, London

Why do cats have two holes in their fur just where their eyes are ?
Maggie, London UK

Does it matter that we don't know how much we don't know?
Philip Bateman, Cambridge UK

Where do measles wait to be caught?
Maggie, London

Why do hotdogs come in packs of 8 but hotdog buns come in packs of 6?
Ian Downey, Watford

Is the correct answer to this question "No"?
Muhammad Isa, Watford, UK

Why does Google always show sponsored links in the results, except when you search for the term 'Google'?
Brian Saxby, Gateshead, UK

Can search engines be enhanced to carry out search AND rescue?
Low Hian Cheng, Singapore

Has anybody been asking questions about me?
N Willing, Maputo Mozambique

What am I searching for?
Alexander Lewis Jones, Nottingham, UK

Who is responsible for the content of external websites?
Ray Lashley, Bristol, UK

Which town please??
Joan, Plymouth

(Are entries now closed? Yes.)


As promised, here are the answers to Si's Riddles. A new riddle will be in the Monitor on Monday.

All present and correct (Monitor, 24 December)

The solution was found by taking the letter from the present corresponding to the number.

12: parents shouting
11: children scheming
10: guitars strumming
9: colleagues flirting
8: mince pies burning
7: people wrapping
6: stockings bulging
5: christmas cakes
4: sleeping grans
3: gameboys
2: teddy bears
1: necklace in a box set

So the answer is "Three wise men". The winner was Donna Thompson from Co Antrim.

Present company excepted (Monitor, 20 December)

The solution - this is a classic "My first is..." style rhyme which has been dressed up.

In Christmas cake, in candy bars --> CAS
Not in scalextric, in fancy cars --> FNY
In scooter, in inline skates --> STE
In dumbells, in set of weights --> ES
In alarm clock, in radio --> RAO
In White Christmas, in snow --> WS
In pair of shoes, not in pair of socks --> HE
In case of wine, in chocolate box --> CAEO
In videos, in DVDs --> VDS
In flashing lights, in Christmas trees --> CRME

A ten letter word from those sets of letters (as indicated above) is AFTERSHAVE. The winner was Emma Bailey from Elgin.

Si is a contributor to the Puzzletome website.


So a film based on Belle de Jour is not far off, huh? (Monitor Reading list, 4 Jan). There already was one: a Luis Bunuel film of the same name, starring Catherine Deneuve as a bored housewife who moonlights as a call girl to provide some excitement in her life. Still, they say that life imitates art...
Chris Matten

One would have thought that, this week, at least one of the contributors to the debate on "wage slavery" would have noticed the irony (The new face of slave labour, 6 January). Living as we do in one of the richest countries on Earth, it is surely a terrible hardship to have to graft beyond 5PM for such pitiful reward.
Northern England

From the picture for Thursday's lead article, is 'the new face of slave labour' a young David Hasselhoff?
Brian Saxby
Gateshead, UK

Please don't "upgrade" 7 days 7 questions to Flash (as mentioned in the Monitor on Wednesday). It works perfectly well as it is and people at work who like to answer the quiz may not have Flash, or the ability to listen to sounds. Just remember, if it works, don't fix it.
R J Tysoe

Re: words that should be banished (Monitor, Wednesday). Don't get me started. "Buy into", "on the back of", "it's just the latest...", "the decision is yours", "mid-east", "podcasting", "don't get me started". I could go on all day.
Louise Griffiths

I have recently discovered the Newswatch section of the BBC website, and have enjoyed reading the corrections and clarifications there (though they have not yet risen to the rank of artform like they have at the Guardian). One thing puzzles me though. The only corrections seem to be about the BBC News website. Does this mean it is alone among all the different parts of the BBC in making mistakes? Or is it the only part which will admit to them in public?
Frank Allen

This may just be another grumpy comment (Why are we so grumpy, 5 January) - but there would have been even more text messages sent if the networks had more capacity (New Year's texting breaks records, 5 January). It wasn't until after 2am that you could be sure they'd send first time!
Dom M

Has anyone at the Magazine Monitor considered getting a celebrity to endorse the Magazine? I'm not quite sure who would be best, although I think Britney Spears might be worth considering: Looks good, sounds great, but every now and then likely to come out with a dumb comment.
Stephen Buxton
Coventry, UK


Winning entries in the Magazine's caption competition.

This week, to mark the start of the Harrods January sale, the department store's owner, Mohamed Al Fayed entertained Hollywood actress Lucy Liu. They were joined by three Pomeranian puppies.

6. David Dodds, England
The annual canine Jenga competition gets off to a tickly start.

5. Emma Buckley, England
Puppy, love?

4. Aidan, UK
"Meet our new luxury juggling set."

3. Andrew Robinson, UK
Lucy : And I thought Ally McBeal was a bad gig!

2. Adrian Maddocks, UK
...even Colin Farrell wore one in Alexander...

1. Rob Evans, UK
Al Fayed's directorial debut in a remake of The Birds was doomed to failure.


Most popular stories in the Magazine in December.

1. By far the most read story last month was our spelling quiz, Spelling is not child's play, 2 December, which we ran just as BBC One's Hard Spell was encouraging a generation of children to become sticklers for details (and thus future readers of the Monitor).

2. In joint second place was our four-part quiz of the year's news, 52 weeks 52 questions. This was, for the third year running, a wildly popular feature, with an estimated 25 million questions answered in total. For the first time, the entire quiz was presented in Flash, with audio and video questions. In the next couple of months, the weekly news quiz, 7 days 7 questions, will also adopt this format.

3. Next biggest was Time out for Big Ben 14 December, our tale of how no British entries had made it on to a long list of contenders for seven modern wonders of the world.

4. In fourth place was Why get cross about Xmas, 22 December, a look at the origins of the word Xmas and in particular its sound Christian pedigree.

5. Moving in and moving on, 6 December, was fifth most popular.


Lake Superior State University publishes a list of words every year that should be banished because of over-use or inappropriate use to the point of meaninglessness. This year's list can be found here: Banished words list. Entries include blog, wardrobe malfunction, and zero percent apr financing.
Neil Golightly

(The BBC's not responsible for external websites. But your suggestions for the new "zero percent apr financing" are welcome.)

Your article on searches of the web (Dot.life: Celebs dominate net searches, 3 January) says: "The victory of George Bush in the US presidential election was the second most popular story of the year." Surely you could have come up with a more appropriate word to describe the story than "popular"?
Martin H,
St Samson-sur-Rance

Does anyone recognise the hand in the story Chip and pin change takes effect, 1 January? If so, can you warn its owner that thousands of people know the first digit of their PIN? (and will soon know the rest, if they are always that careless ...)
Dave Taylor


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, a Brazilian company has launched a chewing gum for dogs. Pet care firm Chiclet is selling gum under the slogan "Your pet's dog breath will soon be gone".

The firm says that the gum, which is shaped liked a bone, also helps de-stress pets and clean their teeth.

Here is the judges' verdict.

Some of you must have been watching too many Disney films on TV over Christmas with several puns inspired by Mary Poppins, including Super collies favour Chiclets no more halitosis by Daniel Rolph in the UK and Super collie magic gum-stick expels halitosis by Brian Ritchie in the UK.

There were also multiple entries of Pedigree Gum and Chewhuahuas and we liked Wagley's Puppymint Chum from Rupert K in the UK.

Elvis would turn in his grave to hear You ain't nothing but a gum dog, chewing all the time from Delia in Surrey.

Our favourite came from an astute political observer. Foxes are proud to announce their new Supermint Gum, for hounds attempting to break the habit from Jel in Brussels.

(Entries are now closed.)


  • Reviews of last year's news on TV showed little respect for President Bush - much of the UK media has evidently decided the November election didn't change anything. The jokes are, in many cases, a bit old if nothing else. How about a serious look at the man? One of the most interesting things the Monitor came across over the Christmas break was this assessment from the Economist of just how religious George Bush is. If the article's right, those lazy jokes might have to be re-thought.

  • On the other hand, this article from McSweeney's online journal takes all the "George W. Bush Quotations in Which the Words 'God' or 'The Almighty' or 'The Almighty God' Are Replaced by Famous Names Chosen at Random From the '80s Edition of Trivial Pursuit".

  • Belle de Jour was, to anyone who missed it at the time, a London prostitute who kept a weblog about her adventures. She became a mini media phenomenon after adopting the Primary Colors route to stardom: remaining anonymous. In spite of all the hype, her blog was beautifully written, and now it is coming out in book form. A film can't be far off. With more than an eye for a publicity stunt Belle gave an interview via Instant Message to Monday's Guardian under the name S_Serizy, the name of the character in the 1967 film whose alias gave this particular call girl her nom de plume.

  • We're going to hear loads this year about Einstein. (If you don't know why, work it out, clever clogs). But here's an article from the New York Times about how the great man had his own off days.

    Submit your suggestions for the Monitor's reading list by using the form on the right hand side of this page. It doesn't take Einstein, though, to realise that the BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites. How could it be?


    Anyone wanting the answers to Si's Riddles of 20 and 24 December, hold tight. They, and this week's puzzle, will be along shortly. Definitely by the end of the week.

  • Send your letters to the Magazine Monitor
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    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


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