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Last Updated: Friday, 21 October 2005, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
The Magazine Monitor


Welcome to the Magazine Monitor, the home for:

  • Daily Mini-Quiz results
  • Paper Monitor
  • Your letters
  • Punorama (Weds)
  • Caption Comp (Thurs)
  • 10 things we didn't know (Sat)


10 taxis
10 parked taxis in Borneo by Graham White

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

1. Ordinary - not avian - flu kills about 12,000 people in the UK every winter.

2. You are 176 times more likely to be murdered than to win the National Lottery.

3. Koalas have fingerprints exactly like humans (although obviously smaller).

4. And human fingerprints can be worn down, particularly among manual labourers, typists and musicians.

5. Species of the week: the Osedax mucofloris, or "bone-eating snot-flower", a marine worm so-called because it lives off whale bones, looks like a flower, and is covered in mucus.

6. Half of all violent crime involves no injury to the victim.

7. Rats are good swimmers. One this week was caught after it staged an escape across 400m of open ocean.

8. The government chief vet's family keeps chickens; Dr Debby Reynolds is charged with keeping a check on bird flu.

9. The hoax Yorkshire Ripper letters sent to police were destroyed more than 20 years ago by chemicals in fingerprint tests.

10. EBay can become an addiction - the Priory clinic is now admitting people with an online auction habit.

[Sources, where stories are not linked: 2: Metro, 17 October. 3: BBC Two's QI, 14 October. 6: BBC One O'clock News, 20 October. 7: Nature magazine. 9: Daily Telegraph, 20 October. 10: The Scotsman, 19 October.]

If you spot anything that should be included next week, use the form below to tell us about it. Thanks this week to Candace, New Jersey.

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.


Letters logo
I have devised a fiendishly clever algorithm that uses a child's height at age 2,3,4,...,19,20 to predict his/her height at maturity (technically defined as 21.000+/-.00015 yrs.*). Unfortunately, this little message box is too small to accommodate the details. I am hoping for publication in 'Science', 'Nature' and/or 'Bizarre Facts' in the near future however, so stay tuned.
* 'Yrs.' is statistical/technical jargon for 'years of age.'
Curt Carpenter,
Dallas, Tx USA

Not only should we cull the EU swans, we shouldn't be encouraging this!
Ben Hill,
Cardiff, Wales

A million other people have probably written regarding your geography test, and the first 'million city', but Ancient Rome is generally credited with having 1-1.5 million inhabitants, at a time when London's population probably struggled to get into double figures.

Regarding the Neighbours characters... Anyone else remember a brief cameo by the Pet Shop Boys asking directions of Helen Daniels? Or maybe I just imagined this.
Dan Kirkby,
Broxbourne, Herts

Further to the various letters about predicting children's height, my parents were especially keen to predict my height as my Mum is 4ft 11ins and my Dad is 5 ft 10 1/2ins. They & the family doctor tried both doubling my height on my 2nd birthday and the more complex calculation based on parent's height. Both agreed on a final height of 5ft 2. This is roughly the height I was at 15 when all my friends stopped growing. However I went on growing until I was nearly 20 and finally achieved a creditable 5 ft 6.
Stokey Sue,
London, UK

After reading on your site that the Hull PC brigade have decided women can only be called women, not ladies, girls, etc in order not to cause offence - I called into my local shop this morning and greeted the staff (one of whom is my wife) with a cheery "Good morning, Women". They appeared quite offended.

I see that John Banville will be writing under the pseudonym of Benjamin Black. Why has he announced it?
Stephen Buxton,
Coventry, UK, thelbiq.co.uk

David of Jerusalem suggested the term Monitors as a description of regular readers of The Magazine monitor. Given the cold-blooded comments, and apparent aversion to work, perhaps Monitor Lizards might be a more apt description.
Guisborough, England


Newspapers logo
This day, as on each day of the Lord's week, is published a despatch of Her Majesty's loyal press and the riches thereof.

To mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, the only surviving national daily paper in existence at the time - the Times - celebrates by reprinting a souvenir edition from 1805.

By Jove could they tell the news in those days. The report starts: "SIR, The ever-to-be-lamented death of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, who, in the late conflict with the enemy, fell in the hour of victory, leaves to me the duty of informing my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that on the 19th instant it was communicated...." etc etc etc. You get the drift. But it's a whopping 600 words into the despatch that we get the words: "the attack on them was irresistible, and it pleased the Almighty Disposer of all events to grant his Majesty's arms a complete and glorious victory."

In the business, that is what we call a "drop intro" - the main news angle is dropped down the story for dramatic effect. Usually you might delay the news for 30 or 40 words, instead of 600. But maybe that is simply more evidence of dumbing down.

The Telegraph, which was founded 50 years too late to have reported the battle itself, today tries to make up for it by printing an excerpt from the Gibraltar Chronicle of the time, alongside an image of a public poster which was displayed to spread the news.

The caption to the two excerpts is a priceless bit of score-settling 200 years on.... "London papers were scooped, not reporting Nelson's death until two weeks after the Gibraltar Chronicle. Britons learned of victory against the odds from public posters." In other words, Yah Boo to the Thunderer.


Yesterday's Daily Mini-Quiz marking 20 glorious years of Neighbours asked - In real life, what's Ramsay St called? The correct answer was Pin Oak Court, which just 26% of you got right. Yew bewdies! Melwyn Drive was the choice of 51%, and 23% opted for Ramsay St... drongos. Another Neighbours-related question is on the Magazine homepage today.


Letters logo
Very sad about Brian Cant not being chosen to the voiceover for the Windy Miller porridge oats advert (Miller's sexing up tale, 20 October). The first thing I said to my girlfriend when I saw the ad was "I thought Brian Cant was still alive. Why didn't he do the ad?" She cynically thought that maybe he had asked too much for the job, so it's good to know that he hasn't actually sold out! No offence to Mr Higson, but the producers should have chosen Brian - they were so authentic with everything else.
Shrewsbury, UK

Stone quarry makes 33 job losses, 20 October. Wilma forces evacuation, 20 October. Could the two be linked?

I was about to write to congratulate you for not using a picture of Ricky Gervais as The Office's David Brent with your The best boss is... article (20 October). However, I then noticed the rather sneaky use of another of the characters' names on the door.

With fears about avian flu growing all the time, and Europe on seeming red alert to migrating birds, shouldn't the British, who hold the current EU presidency, lead by example and cull their flying swans logo?
Maurice Day,
Bootle, Merseyside

Regarding the Christmas decorations, the pub in which I used to work a few years back, at the end of July would erect a small Christmas tree in a corner, along with the various 'book now for Christmas' affair in order to "catch the attention of the summer trade." Unfortunately the Christmas classics and pan-pipe adaptations started on the system at the beginning of November and weren't turned off until the end of January so we had the same 25 songs of nasty music for a quarter of the year.
Basil Long,
Newark Notts

I have been reading the unfolding saga of early Christmas decorations aghast. It is quite clear to all Monitor monitors (Flexicon: "Monitors") that Punorama reported on Harrods' decorations at the beginning of August this year. So of course it's too late to discuss Christams Deocrations Watch. If Cabbaging doesn't get you there, try this link to enjoy the winning entry once again.

James of Scotland (no relation) claims that his adult height is twice his height at age four (Monitor letters, Wednesday). He must have been a very late bloomer, as most people use twice height at age two as a predictor. Have a look at Height calculator for a revised version of this simple calculation.
Cape Town, Brightest Africa

I note that Flic (Monitor letters, Wednesday) has fallen victim to Skitt's Law which states that someone correcting another's grammar or spelling will themselves make a similar error in the correction. Think of it as instant karma.
John R,


This week, a cleaner gets to work in the Brockhaus reading tent at the 57th Frankfurt book fair. More than 7,000 exhibitors from 100 countries are expected to show up.

Your winning captions are:

6. Adam Cook, Worthing, UK
"I've had this dream before"

5. Michael Hall, Croydon, UK
"We have this little man who comes to do the cleaning"

4. MW, Glasgow
"I thought they meant 'dirty books'"

3. Sean Smith, Bucks
Pump up the volume

2. Glenn Dixon, UK
Mini-Hans makes light work

1. David, Gloucester
There was widespread relief at the offices of the Guardian that they didn't go with the proposed Frankfurter format


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

The free sheet of the commuting classes, Metro, leads with a story to inspire office paranoia - the printers with hidden codes that spy on staff.

Under the headline "Big Brother is watching you" - in reference to all-seeing official eyes and to the printer manufacturer Brother - Metro details how minute dots are produced on each page. These identify when copies were made and on which machine.

The dots were spotted last year but it was only this week that the civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation cracked the codes devised by federal agencies, printer makers and banks.

Gadget freaks beware. "What else has been made to ensure our technology rats on us?" says a spokesman.

Elsewhere, the Daily Telegraph gloats over its exclusive interview with Madonna. Read the fine print - it's an extract from her chat with Attitude magazine.


Yesterday's Daily Mini-Quiz marking 20 glorious years of Neighbours, asked - Before Bouncer, Lucy Robinson had a dog. What was it called? The correct answer was Basil, which 36% of you opted for. Another Neighbours-related question is on the Magazine homepage today. Bonzer!


Letters logo
The story about an allegedly easy new way of predicting a person's final height (Height prediction tool devised, 19 October) seems a bit strange to me since back in the 1960s our old family doctor predicted my final adult height to well within the limits these modern scientists claim. It may be some sort of old wives tale, but his formula was to measure the height of the child at age four and double it. At four I was 3'2" and I now stand 6'3 1/2".

Re CBBC told to watch its language, 19 October. Surely the content isn't the only thing that needs to be watched. What about the title, "in DA bunglow"?
Elaine Green,

First "dag nabbit", now "lorks a mercy"; you're on a roll, Paper Monitor. But what's next? And are you plucking these fine phrases from the air, or working through a list? Jiminy Willikers! I'd sure love to know.

I do appreciate the moniter's attempts at reviving classic expressions (dag nabbit), but they become slightly artificial when not spelt properly. (It's lAWks)

Monitor note to readers: This letter is published with its original spelling for added verisimilitude.

Further to Christmas Decorations Watch, I think I can top all entries so far. I was at a wedding in Surrey on 24 September and the Holiday Inn in Guildford already had its Christmas trees up in reception. With lights.
Caroline Mersey,

Regarding Christmas decorations left up all year. My fiance and I moved into our house in late June. The family on the corner have what looks like Christmas lights festooned all round their living room, this I know because they never seem to close their curtains.
Danie Jones,
Cambridge, England

About year-round Christmas decorations - there's a house in my town (inhabited by very elderly people) that has had a Santa on the roof for at least 10 years. It is only lit up in December though.
Arlington Heights, IL

Re Alex's letter about software theft and cars (Monitor letters, Tuesday). Can open, worms all over the place. The claim that your car will last 10-20 years neglects to add that you have to get your car MOT'd and pay tax on it in order to keep it road-compatible. Think of this as the equivalent of the software updates (which, incidentally, you aren't forced to buy). You'll also note that software updates come with new and improved features, which your MOT certainly doesn't.
Cambridge, UK

For those suffering a dull day in the office, may I suggest browsing the bird flu Have Your Say. The submissions are hilarious. Personal favourite is the suggestion to cull every wild bird entering the country (the Battle of Britain pt 2?) Though the suggestion to cull all London's pigeons has, I fear, a hidden agenda.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands (ex. UK)

Charlene was wished "Happy Holidays" on a parcel postmarked 23 September from the US (Monitor letters, Tuesday) . Perhaps the sticker referred to the Jewish New Year and/or Ramadan, both of which began on 4 October.
London, UK


Father Anthony Sutch
Father Anthony Sutch now plans to install lower light fittings
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.

The story for this week is about the parish priest landed with a 1,300 bill to change four light bulbs in his Suffolk church. Because of the new EU's "working at heights" directive, using a ladder was ruled out for the 40-foot-high light fittings, and instead it took four men on scaffolding to do the job. And now four more bulbs need to be replaced.

In tribute to Ronnie Barker, several contributors made reference to Four candles (Ray Lashley, Bristol; Neil Roach, Falmouth, Cornwall; James Rigby, Wickford, Essex; and Sean Smith).

It had to be EU warbled Tim McMahon, Pennar, Wales, while Joel Wilkinson, Beaconsfield, had the Invoice of an angel. Not strictly a pun - and using the same nursery rhyme which inspired a previous winner - was Bulb crack, church pitch black, sent the ladder home, a grand to light the Church of Rome by Gerard, Coventry, UK. We liked it.

And we also liked Steeple bill (Lynn, London) and Church Coffers Up (David Chappell, London), Many a grand makes light work (Ian Anderton, Chorley; Kip, Norwich UK), and EU Watt? by Speed, Armagh, N. Ireland

Seeking divine inspiration was Nigel Macarthur, London, with Be gone, EU legions of Beelze-bulb and Mia, Guildford, with I need to Leviticus myself Isaiah to get this Job done.

But best - and again, not a pun, but the judge's decision will not be swayed by such technicalities in this case - was Nick W's revised Lord's prayer:
Our paster who art in debt
Costly be thy bulbs
Thy odd-job men come
Thy work will be done
On scaffold as in EU directive
Give us this day our lower lights
and forgive us our bills
as we forgive those who jobsworth against us.
For thine is the bureaucracy
the red-tape and the bills
For EU and ever, Amen.


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

Exclusive in today's Express: yet another front page story about Princess Diana. "DIANA DEATH: 100 YEAR WAIT FOR THE TRUTH," it says. It certainly feels that, on this subject, the Express has been ploughing a lonely furrow for quite some time. But it's surely not 100 years, is it?

Meanwhile, teaser of the week goes to the Times, which emblazons its front page with the words (somewhat more prominent than the name of the newspaper) "SEX & SUDOKU". They surely know how to reel the punters in.

Best Conservative leadership headline of the day comes from the Mirror, predicting extinction for David Davis: "DEAD AS A DD."

Worst Conservative leadership headline of the day comes from the Mirror, predicting extinction for Ken Clarke, but trying to make a running joke and in doing so having to remind us that he's been dubbed the Big Beast: "DEAD AS A BB."

And Paper Monitor's unscientific bird flu round-up continues with the worrying news from the Mail: "Dogs sniff out bird flu at airports." Lorks a mercy. Aren't we in enough trouble already?


In Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked you to select a name which was NOT considered as an alternative title for Neighbours. 43% of you said it was One Way Out. 28.27% of you said it was No Through Road. But the name which wasn't considered, identified by 28.47% of you, was Round Our House. Day three of our Ramsayfest is on the index now.


A special announcement for Magazine readers.

We hope you're enjoying the special Neighbours theme to the Daily Mini-Quiz as much as we are. In the cause of having a bit of a laugh, however, we would invite all Magazine readers to take part in another special feature.

We would like you to nominate obscure characters from the past 20 years of this classic soap for a list of readers' favourites. The rules are that you must remember their name, something about what they did and why you particularly liked them.

But remember they must be relatively obscure. We don't want Charlene, Scott, Harold, Madge or Toadfish. We're more after characters like Gail's dad, Rob Lewis, the cheeky mechanic who turned up one day as one of Jim's old friends.

Let us know your nomination using the form on the right. Results will be published on Friday.


Letters logo
Robert Holleyman (Top software enforcer takes tough line, 18 October) says we would take a dim view of 25% of car customers stealing one from a forecourt. Without wishing to condone piracy, may I say I take a dim view of software creators who bang out a new 'improved' version of their product every six months, thus ensuring that their customers have to pay for upgrades to be sure of compatibility with their clients or suppliers. A car, on the other hand, if treated well will give 10-20 years of completely road-compatible use. Herein lies at least part of the reason for software piracy.
Loughborough, UK

John Goldthorp asked about Virtual Reality headsets (Monitor letters, Monday). I think the problem was that because there was no physical movement, you couldn't use them for more than 20 minutes without terrible nausea and dizziness. Until they figure out a way to provide input for the body's balance sensors, VR will just make you sick.
Mike Barthoms,
Edinburgh, UK

Ken Clarke said, as he arrived at the Tory leadership hustings: "I'm in with a serious shout. Especially if I get to the party and the country." (Tory hopefuls woo undecided voters, 17 October.) Surely he's in with a serious shout *only* if he gets to the party and the country?
Paul Stuart,
Oxford, UK

Not so fast Stuart C of Cardiff (Monitor letters, Monday). My Punorama entry will be "Trapped Wind", because I think the story will be Council boss trapped in Spinnaker.
Stafford, UK

Nominative determinism strikes again: Mr Greenhouse gets stuck in a glass lift.

Somewhere the size of Wigan could be explored in an afternoon (Monitor letters, Monday)? Then can someone explain to me why at least five delivery people have phoned to ask me for directions, as they can't find the street I live on?
Wigan, UK

Re. Christmas Decorations Watch: I don't know if this counts, but I just received a parcel from the US postmarked September 23 with a "Happy Holidays" sticker attached. Perhaps they knew how long it would take for Canada Post to deliver it....
Calgary, Canada

To Nigel Goodman, on leaving Christmas decorations up all year; It's a nice thought, but if it's allowed, I'll nominate myself for having a solitary red bauble hanging from my monitor at work. A combination of superstition and sheer laziness means it's survived through the year.
Gareth Peate,
Oswestry, UK

Apart from the fact Neighbours is celebrating its 20th anniversary in Australia, and BBC One is showing the 20th anniversary episodes, surely the celebrations in the UK should be put off for a year? BBC One didn't air the first episode until 27 October, 1986 - see Ask Harold.
Manitoba, Canada

Dammit! I'm writing at ten to five on Monday and there's no letters published yet! What on earth have you been doing? It's just not good enough - sort it out or I will deem it necessary to withold the 37p of my licence fee that goes towards BBC online.


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

10 interpretations of a shed (which happens to be on the Turner prize shortlist).

1. "Who, stepping into Simon Starling's Shedboatshed, cannot relate to that dream of sailing off into the sunset, or to its rather less dramatic flipside, retirement to the allotment shed?" (Times)

Simon Starling's Shedboatshed, one of the Turner prize shortlist exhibits
2. "At first the whole exercise seems pointless. But then you realise that, through his actions, Starling has enacted a parable about ecology, about recycling, about saving materials and energy." (Telegraph)

3. "Starling's work... deals with themes of globalisation, ecology and mass production." (Indie)

4. "The ramshackle structure that greets you as you enter the galleries stands as a metaphor for art itself: a refuge for imagination and dreams." (Times)

5. "The really boring artist is Simon Starling. He does work about travel and globalisation and economics..." (Indie)

6. It's a "buttress against the pressures of modernity, mass production and global capitalisation". (Tate curator)

7. "To the casual observer, however, it is a shack." (Mail)

8. "The physical manifestation of a thought process." (The artist)

9. "They say: 'Comic and insightful.' We say: 'Thanks but no planks.'" (Sun)

10. "The nearest we come to discomfiture (and inevitable tabloid taunting)..." (Financial Times)


In Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz - the first of a week of Neighbours' anniversary questions - we asked how many actors had been in the soap. 61% of you said it was 653. The correct answer was 12,806. Part two is on the index now.


Letters logo
Re the reports about the video iPod (Pocket TVs failed before. What's changed?, 14 October). Whatever happened to Virtual Reality Headsets? They would make the perfect escape when waiting hours, days, weeks for delayed planes when travelling.
John Goldthorp,

Forget giveaway DVDs and all that. After today's Paper Monitor, I'm rushing out to buy the Mirror next Monday. I can't wait for the next instalment. Will Charlotte Church's hair be blow dried or dyed? Permed or straightened? Highlights? I'm all agog.
Stig, London

Looks like your Punorama story for the week is here already - can I get a head start on my entries... (Gun left at supermarket, says MoD, 17 October)
Stuart C, Cardiff, Wales

Re: Can fingerprints wear away?, 17 October. Have US criminals not heard of gloves?
Rob, Cheltenham, UK

Monday's Mini-quiz asks how many actors have been employed in Neighbours. Is the answer none?
Robin Withey,
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, UK

I would like to congratulate The Monitor, on its use of "Dag Nabbit" , a phrase too often restricted to Shin Digs, Tobacca' spittin' contests, and Varmint hunts.
Jeremy Langworthy, UK

Re: Christmas Decorations-watch. I think the record has to go to a nearby pub which started taking down its Halloween decorations on October 1 to make way for Xmas decorations.
Sheffield, UK

Gareth Peate suggests Boots in Telford as the first in a Christmas decorations watch. Does the sight of last year's on houses and lampposts count? Here in Hornchurch these was a house I go past every day where a Father Christmas was only taken down in August, and several lampposts still have decorations on them. Very nice they look too!
Nigel Goodman, Hornchurch/UK

I thought I was doing OK at the How smart are you quizzes? until this week. I did Spanish at school so I don't stand a chance. Can we go back to subjects I have done next week please?
Sarah, Derby

In 10 things, 15 October, you surmise that Wallace and Gromit live in Wigan because there's an A-Z of Wigan on the dashboard. Doesn't it make it less likely that they live there?
Brian Saxby, Gateshead, UK

Somewhere the size of Wigan could be fully explored with a short afternoon. If you lived there for more than three weeks, the A-Z would be redundantly stuffed under the seat, not on the dashboard. They obviously live somewhere else, say Bolton?
Mike, UK

A new one for PGCM watch (Monitor letters 27 September): 'Fat' description gets police ban, 14 October?
Helen, London, UK


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

Last Monday, Paper Monitor reported the stunning news, thanks to the Mirror, that Charlotte Church had had her hair washed. Another week, another revelation. Today, the paper reveals that she has had her hair cut. Honestly, that girl is spiralling out of control.

Elsewhere the Mirror tells what happened to 18 of the best loved characters from Neighbours, revealing that Fiona Corke, the actress who played Gail Lewis-Robinson, has seen her popularity dip, adding: "A photo of her up for sale on eBay recently attracted no bids".

Harsh, my friends, harsh. Strangely there is no word of what happened to the true genius of Neighbours, Dr Clive Gibbons, for many years Paper Monitor's role model.

Moving on then. Writing about bird flu, the Sun uncharacteristically sends mixed messages. BIRD FLU MAY KILL 750,000 it says, adding in much smaller print "but only IF virus passes from human to human, IF new strain is virulent and IF we don't find vaccine". That is at least being honest. It's a hard story to report, especially for the tabloids. But the paper very helpfully adds a separate story on "How to protect yourself". This is more like it... So what have we got to do?

"...don't visit farms or go near wild birds, especially in Asia, Turkey or Romania..."

Dag Nabbit. That's put paid to Paper Monitor's weekend mini-break plans, then.


In Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz, we asked how graffiti artist Banksy had interpreted the Jack Vettriano painting, The Singing Butler. The correct answer was that the beach was dirty, with men in hazard suits, and 36% of you got that right. 38% of you however thought the correct answer was that he used fighting yobs instead of dancers. Monday's question is on the index now.

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