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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 March, 2005, 12:10 GMT
The Magazine Monitor


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

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


    10 THINGS
    A Ford GT40
    10 on a Ford GT40 at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2004, by Tony Crowther from Bristol

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

    1. The British buy the most compact discs in the world - an average of 3.2 per year, compared to 2.8 in the US and 2.1 in France.

    2. The DeLorean car, built between 1981 and 1982, was the first production car in the UK to be fitted with a catalytic converter as standard.

    3. Actress Sandra Bullock speaks fluent German.

    4. When faced with danger, the octopus can wrap six of its legs around its head to disguise itself as a fallen coconut shell and escape by walking backwards on the other two legs, scientists have discovered.

    5. One in five women prisoners has been in local authority care as a child, compared to one in 50 of the general population, says the Fawcett Society.

    6. The last time before today that Good Friday fell on the same day as the Feast of the Annunciation - a sign of bad luck, according to folklore - was 1932.

    7. Seven motorised wheelchair users died in crashes in 2004.

    8. The Duke of Westminster, reputedly the richest person in the UK, received £448,000 in European farming subsidies in 2003-4, under the Common Agricultural Policy.

    9. Happy Mondays singer Shaun Ryder has never watched the film 24 Hour Party People, which features his band.

    10. Hunts have legally killed about 800 foxes since the Act banning hunting with dogs came into force on 18 February, according to the Countryside Alliance.

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

    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.


    Friday means it's time to unveil the caption competition results.

    This week's picture was of the Duchess of York surrounded by pupils at Oliver Goldsmith School in Peckham, south London.

    The purpose of her visit was to highlight the work of Springboard for Children, which helps inner-city children to improve their literacy skills.

    The winners are:

    6. Gaz, West Mids, UK
    Royal visit exposes inner city drug problem

    5. Philip Woods
    Is the camera on me? I must look interested!

    4. Dace Coleton, Edinburgh
    Dirty little hobbits ... the precious is mine... all mine. Myyy pressiousssss

    3. Kate Bishop, London
    No, I'm bloody well NOT Charlie Dimmock!

    2. Stuart Collins, Aberdeen
    "Scissors cut paper. I win"

    1. James S, London, UK
    You mean you've actually read Budgie?!


    The Monitor is powering down for a wee Easter break.

    As you'll see, the Paper Monitor and the Caption Comp are here, and 10 Things will be along in due course. But everything is just taking it easy.

    Normal service will be resumed next week. Happy Easter to all.


    Sarah Jessica Parker is 40 on Good Friday
    PAPER MONITOR: A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Burning issue of the day: Birds travelling long distances is nothing new, but usually they fly at high speed. Not Jake the drake who, according to the Sun and the Times, walked. And it wasn't for anything as worthy as migrating to warmer climes, but for sex. Muscovy ducks can't fly, so taking to the skies wasn't an option when Jake - who was banished to another farm because he fathered 23 ducklings in a year - sought out his mate Jemima.

    On his epic eight-mile waddle home across Devon, he encountered snowstorms, a dual carriageway, a river and foxes. (Makes a swallow's 11,000km migration south seem like a doddle.) And what did he do when he arrived home and spied Jemima? It was back to business for the lovebirds. "After that walk, you'd think he'd eat first," said owner Roy Shindler.


    This story - Less exercise is 'just as good', 23 March - is great news! Now I'll have loads more time to spend in the pub and the kebab shop.
    Graham Parsons,

    Re the line: "Do me a favour. It may be a jungle here, but this is Sydenham..." (from Wednesday's Paper Monitor about the sighting of a big cat.) Maybe, but it was only five years ago that there were kangaroo sightings in nearby Lewisham. Is there a market for South London safaris?
    John Russell,

    Dean from Wales should look again (Monitor letters, Wednesday). Google states that it searches 8,058,044,651 web pages, not sites. My own website has well over 1,000 pages, while the site of the company I work for has many, many more.
    R J Tysoe,
    London, UK

    Re your article about photo-sharing (I'll show you mine, 23 March), in which you report: "Timo Arnall ... posts photos to Flickr every day, much more frequently than he posts to his weblog. 'Friends and family abroad (or even in the same city) are more aware of my presence, activities, and of the mundane, everyday things that happen. It's widened my social network.'" Er... no Timo. Getting off the internet and going out more widens one's social network.
    London, UK

    Re: Council tax rise 4.1% next year, 23 March. Funny how an above-inflation increase can be told as "good news". Perhaps when Nick Raynsford gets a speeding ticket he will use the defence that "It's the slowest he's been driven for over a decade"?

    You report that E-mail is under-used in politics, 23 March. No wonder. The e-mail system is broken. The rise of spam followed by the rise of spam blocking systems mean that either your mailbox is full of spam, or people can't e-mail you because of over-zealous blocking. I have given up on e-mail. I use SMS on my mobile or IM.
    Tina McPhail,
    Glasgow, UK


    Steve McQueen would have been 75 on Thursday
    PAPER MONITOR: A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Burning issue of the day: Q:Britney's skin is pale, her eyes are dark. So, the Sun asks, is the pop babe "turning into Elvis"?
    A: No. The Monitor can exclusively reveal she's NOT turning into Elvis. In fact, the paper rather undermines its own question by adding: "All she needed was the quiff and a curled lip." That all?


    Re your gallery The Coast Exposed, in picture five, titled Surfing on Croyde beach in Devon - I don't know much about surfing, living about as far from the coast as is possible in the UK, but I can't help thinking there's something missing ...
    QJ, Stafford, UK

    In your article about DeLorean's Wings of desire you mention that the car appeared in "1985's Back to the Future", then, "Martin Gutkowski was a teenager when he saw the film. Now 28..." So, did Mr Gutkowski wait until he was 13 in 1990 before watching the movie, or is he really 28 and just visiting us from the year 2000?
    Kieron Haywood, Gillingham, Kent

    Re the petrol forecourt risk "myth". Radio transmitters have always been banned on forecourts (CB radios were prohibited). However, the advice that you should turn off your mobile on the forecourt is stupid. When you turn off a mobile, before it powers down it signals to the network that it is shutting down. In other words, switching off your mobile guarantees that it will transmit!
    Andrew, Berkshire

    Re Sean from Harrow... spark plugs are encased in an aluminium casing, and not open to the air, hence a spark will remain where it is, unless the spark plug is laid across the cylinder head while connected via the HT lead, and the engine cranked over. Unlikely scenario on a garage forecourt.
    Owen, UK

    When using Google the other day I came across a very interesting fact (for me at least). Google proclaims to search 8,058,044,651 web sites, which given that the population of the world is only 6,425,983,340 means that for every person alive there are 1.25 web sites on the internet. Given that not everyone has made a web site, there must be some very busy people out there. Who is making all the web sites?
    Dean, Wales

    Some years ago I was refueling at a petrol station when there was a flash of lighting. The petrol pump stopped, reset to zero and then started again. It would take some mobile to get the same effect-or would it?
    Peter Chambers, Bristol

    re: Maps show tranquil secrets of UK. Now the map has been published, one has to ask how long it will be before the influx of tourists to these spots render them... er... non-tranquil.
    Andrew Nicholson, Milton Keynes

    Re, Wednesday's Paper Monitor - Kylie has rubbished rumours that her corset shrinks her waist to 16". "It's an exaggeration, but a showgirl shouldn't reveal her true measurements," she told the Daily Mirror. An exaggeration, Ms Minogue? An understatement, surely?
    Dr Reece Walker, London UK


    It's time for Punorama, our pun-writing competition.

    The pork pie cake
    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.

    This week, it's the three-tier pork pie, which was the wedding cake of choice for a West Yorkshire couple. Joanne Robinson suggested the special treat for fiance Stuart Booth - a founder member of the Ripponden-based Pork Pie Appreciation Society.

    Guests at the happy day in Huddersfield enjoyed the novel dish, which weighed 50lb (22.6kg).

    Here's the judge's verdict.

    Oh you Monitor readers and your pie-based humour! You're slaying us, Bob Blainey, Weston-super-Mare, with "..speak now or for ever hold your pies", John Mander, Coulsdon, with "Three Pie - Ahhhh", Clive Ponsonby, London, with "Pie and match".

    But at the top table are these fine punsters: Muhammed Isa, Watford, with "Wedding pig-chewers", Phil, Nimes, with "Pork-Quality reception", and Chrissy Mouse, London, with "For richer or porker".

    But the luckiest man in the world is Michael Pearson, Kendal, with "Aspics of love". Truly disgusting.


    Barry Cryer is 70 on Wednesday
    PAPER MONITOR: A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Burning issue of the day:
    There's a potential killer on the loose in south London. Armed police have been called, a "sniper squad" apparently. Its first victim got away with his life... just, and was bundled into a van for his own safety when the cops arrived. The suspect is a 5ft, black and has a wet shiny nose, whiskers and pointy ears.

    The papers have pounced on the tale of the so-called Beast of Sydenham after Tony Holder was attacked while looking for his pet moggy in the small hours. Details are, naturally a little confused. Mr Holder, a DJ, according to the Times (a builder says the Sun), went looking for his pet cat, Kitkat, according to the Times (Kitekat, says the Sun; Kitty Cat, the Daily Mail) when he saw the poor creature pinned to the ground by a big black cat. Mr Holder (13 stone, the Mail; 15 stone, the Daily Mirror) waded into the ruckus, only to find himself in a tussle with an obnoxious panther who was, patently, well and truly up for it.

    The scrap lasted for several minutes, there were flashing teeth and Mr Holder could see the "whites of its eyes [do panther's have white in their eyes?]... inches from my face." Eventually, the crazed creature beat a retreat and the police were called. One resident of the normally slumbering suburb sounded a note of scepticism to the Times: "Do me a favour. It may be a jungle here, but this is Sydenham."

    In a postscript to Monday's paper monitor, Kylie has rubbished rumours that her corset shrinks her waist to 16". "It's an exaggeration, but a showgirl shouldn't reveal her true measurements," she told the Daily Mirror.


    "If anyone orders Merlot I'm leaving," says Miles Raymond, the dejected wine buff in the recent hit movie Sideways. But how could a connoisseur even as learned as Miles be 100% sure he wasn't drinking Merlot instead of his beloved Pinot Noir? Wine DNA. Apparently, it's not unknown for underhand vintners to pass off one grape variety as another, and because wine is such a complex beast, how would we ever know? As this article in Nature magazine tells, authenticators are raising their game, trying to perfect the extraction and purification of grape-skin DNA from bottles of wine, in the hope they will be able to reliably distinguish between the 2,500 grape varieties.

    The climax of this year's Six Nations championship brought "Wales' most important rugby match for a generation". In this article for the Western Mail, Mario Basini, who lives across the road from Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, the venue for this crucial tie, tries, in vain, to seek a peaceful haven from all the "nerve-jangling drama".

    Jamie Oliver has been the subject of almost universal praise for his TV series on reforming school meals, with claims that even the Government has been jolted into action by the effing and blinding geezer chef. However, online magazine Spiked sounds a note of caution in this article, questioning some of the vague claims made in the programmes, eg. poor diet is making kids obese. "[T]here is no such thing as 'junk' food," says Rob Lyons. "Our digestive systems do not distinguish between fish fingers and caviar. If food is a factor in rising obesity levels, this is due to the quantity being eaten, and the way it is consumed, rather than the way it is produced."

    Ok, so RFID tags - tiny, cheap computer chips - will change the world when they are attached to everything from a tub or margarine to a packet of fags (if, you can still buy those in 10 years' time). The tags mean that ordinary shop-bought items could be tracked by computers. But has anyone stopped to think where this might end? In this article for Wired Magazine Bruce Sterling suggests that RFID-tagged items will take on new properties. He coins the word "spime" to embody the fact they will be trackable in space and time - very apposite given Dr Who's imminent reincarnation. Suddenly, the item itself will become an "open book" sending and receiving information. "Furniture, cutlery, power tools - will be little more than material billboards for a vast, interactive, postindustrial support system", err, you're losing me now Bruce. "Vacuum cleaners [will] bellow ads for dust bags." Ok, I understand. This is serious.

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


    Re the petrol forecourt risk 'myth' (Monitor letters, Monday). Surely the fact that a spark-plug ignites a flammable gas every time the key is turned in a car constitutes a far greater risk than any amount of mobiles being dropped? Or am I just exhibiting my lack of knowledge surrounding car mechanics?
    Harrow, UK

    I use to work at a petrol station and my belief was not that it posed a higher risk of fire but that signals can interfere with the petrol readings, like how signals can interfere with your computer, or hospital equipment. Petrol dispensing has to be accurate, and when spot-checked they could be closed for not giving out a correct reading, consumers are more likely not to use their mobiles if they think that a fire will occur (fear factor) rather than changing how much petrol somebody actually gets! So it's used as a smoke screen (pardon the pun!) for the real reason.

    Did anyone see an episode of blokey-science programme Brainiac on Sky One recently, where they had a caravan doused in petrol and tried to ignite it with mobile phone ringing? They couldn't do it - but got a very satisfactory boom from the spark given off by a biker taking his plastic trousers off.
    Edward Higgins,

    You report: "High-definition essentially makes TV at least four times better than now," (from Confusion over high-definition TV, 21 March) I'm hoping against hope that this means HDTVs won't show reality TV programmes.
    Dave Taylor,
    Leeds, UK

    Has anyone else noticed how many of the perpetrators of 'natch' seem to be female(Natchwatch, Monday)? Unless Hermione Eyre is actually Hermione Edward Eyre... (Leslie, Kerry, Kim, Vivian, Tracey write, 23 February)
    Tim Melville,

    Re: Monday's burning issue of the day - Kylie's 16-inch waist. Perhaps the difference of 16 v 18 inches in the £30,000 corset is integrated oxygen and cooling systems?
    New Jersey, US

    Brian Walden's article about big government and little governemnt (A Point of View, 22 March) reminded me of my favourite definition of government: unfortunately I cannot remember who originally said it. A good government should be like your stomach - if it's working properly you don't realise it's there.
    London UK


    Keira Knightley is 20 on Tuesday
    PAPER MONITOR: A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Touch of genius: Daily Telegraph's cartoonist Matt does the business again. Old fella, pointing out his glass extension to an inspector: "It's a way of life - my people have been building conservatories without planning permission for generations!" (See internet links.)


    Rhodri Morgan (left), Dr Who villain (right)
    In Minister in Dr Who villain mix-up, you report: "A spokesman for First Minister Rhodri Morgan says: 'A young make-up artist then came in and said to Rhodri: "Oh are you one of the trees?"' Rhodri then twigged and had a good chuckle about it." Yes, very good.
    Saarland, Germany

    Re: Petrol station mobile risk 'myth', 20 March, which reports that researchers now believe that turning on a mobile phone on a forecourt is not dangerous. I was under the impression that the hazard is if the mobile phone were dropped. There is a small risk that if the battery separated from the body of the phone it could cause a spark in a potentially flammable atmosphere.
    Phil Mason,
    Macclesfield, UK

    I see that Michael Howard is against abortion (Howard backs abortion law change, 14 March), and Tony Blair supports better school meals (Blair supports TV chef's campaign, 20 March). So that¿s our election choice: motherhood or apple pie.
    Alex Swanson,
    Milton Keynes, UK

    An update on the Da Vinci Code Watch: the book's influence has spread. This week's episode of the Inspector Linley Mysteries referred to the Divine Proportion and the Fibonacci Series. I had the misfortune to watch National Treasure (one for the Anti-Film Club) recently and the Knights Templar and the Masons, and a lot of code-breaking was going on in that as well. Is it still at large on commuter trains?
    Lucy Larwood,

    How close can you get to an Monty Python classic and yet miss the headline? Boys in blue, dead fowl, Norwegian law - and all you can do with that is Police swan find hits wrong note, Friday 18 March. We despair!


    An ongoing battle against journalists in UK publications using the word natch, even ironically.

    And still they come. This week's crop includes:

    Nicola Methven and Polly Hudson, giving an update in the Daily Mirror on Emmerdale's 4,000th episode: "Steph and Shelly finally ran into each other on the top deck of a ferry, natch."

    Emily Wilson in the Guardian's G2 wrote: "The line is that babies must be breastfed up until the age of around six months (after which they must be very smartly weaned, natch, to avoid turning anyone's stomach)."

    Reader Rob S of Cambridge nominates this usage in the Observer, from serial offender Barbara Ellen, discussing the modelling industry: "Indeed, thinking about it, most of us wouldn't worry about young girls going into modelling at all if it weren't for the fact that they were (natch) young girls." Ellen now has eight natches against her name.

    And another one from the Observer, which is fast becoming the natural home of the natch. This time Kathryn Flett: "Much cranking of the Corporation's publicity machine for BBC3's Casanova, a Radio Times cover, natch, though as the little channel's big ideas have already been thoroughly tested by other, more acquisitive bits of the Corp for whom it appears to exist as an R&D department, it's about time too."

    Reader Hugh, London, also writes to say that John Leydon, writer for the tech website The Register (see internet links) "suffered from a horrendous case of natch-itus on Friday, when an article he wrote ("British adults support child porn crackdown") had the simple subtitle: "Natch".... need I say more?" He then rather spoils his good work by adding: "Incidentally, do a Google for 'site:news.bbc.co.uk natch' and you'll see a shocking number of home-grown offences.'

    Shame on everyone, naturally.


    Every Monday, Si sets you a riddle to get your brain working.

    Another Age Old Problem

    Last week was a lady's birthday. At her party that evening she set this challenge: "I have three children. The sum of their ages is equal to my age and the product of their ages is equal to the year I was born in. How old are they?"

    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.

    The answer to last week's riddle was that they were all cryptic clues to the surnames of Doctor Who actors. Namely: McCoy, Baker, Eccleston, Hartnell, Troughton, Davison and Pertwee. The winner was H E Courtney, Worcester.


    Monday is the tenth anniversary of National Lottery scratchcards going on sale for the first time
    PAPER MONITOR: A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Burning issue of the day: Q: So just how small was Kylie's waist in her new show?
    A: It was 16 inches, thanks to a £30,000 Galliano corset. One Daily Mail writer, who normally has a 25-inch waist, tried to emulate Kylie: "The stifling, suffocating sensation began as the eyelets tightened. I was certain I heard the creaking of ribs and the wheeze of a lunch being displaced by a kidney as I reached 22 inches." She eventually reached 18, saying: "It came at a price. I couldn't breathe, I was beginning to overheat, and I started to feel faint." In other words, don't try it at home.

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