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Last Updated: Friday, 10 June, 2005, 16:33 GMT 17:33 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 toes by Stuart Evans

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

    1. Condoms are classed as "luxury" items by the Treasury and taxed accordingly. About 30p from every £1.99 three-pack goes to Gordon Brown.

    2. Most small UK birds live two or three years, but an albino blackbird is likely to fall foul of a cat or other garden predator before its first birthday.

    3. The idea of road pricing was first proposed in 1964, after a government report into how to tackle the UK's increasingly congested roads.
    More details  

      4. You're 10 times more likely to be bitten by a human than a rat.
    More details

    5. Classical music is played outside the Michael Jackson trial so jurors can't hear media broadcasts.

    6. The grandson of John Langdon Haydon Langdon-Down, who gave his name to Down's Syndrome, was born with the condition nine years after the scientist's death. More details

    7. Andre Previn doesn't know how old he is - his birth certificate was lost when his family fled Nazis Germany. He could have been born in 1929 or 1930.

    8. Sheep urine can, if treated properly, help to cut the emissions in exhaust fumes.

    9. It takes 75kg of raw materials to make a mobile phone.
    More details

    10. This year 268,000 tonnes of crisps will be consumed in the UK - down from 306,000 tonnes which were eaten in 2002.

    Thanks this week to Elizabeth Tasker, New York, and Stuart Evans, London.


    Banks are not the sort of places you want to spend much time in. Unfortunately, you tend not to have much choice. HSBC, however, believes it can offer customers a more breezy experience - by playing them music.

    In trails its "in-store radio station" proved popular with customers by reducing boredom, it says. So it's rolling out the idea to lots more branches.

    But surely the customers' enjoyment depends on what's being played. Your Friday Objective is to suggest some wholly suitable, or entirely unsuitable, songs for playing in a bank.

    (Entries now closed, thank you all.)

    'Pennies from Heaven'
    Candace, New Jersey, US

    Anything by 'busted' ?
    tim mcmahon, pennar/wales

    Bonny and Clyde (Georgie Fame),
    Mark, UK

    Anything by Simply Red
    Kevin, UK

    I imagine Stand and Deliver by Adam Ant isn't going to endear the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation to the general public.
    Catrin, Wales

    Aerosmith - Living on the Edge
    Adam, UK

    Nat West Girls, (Pet Shop Boys)
    The Ballad of ISA Hayes, by Johnny Cash
    Stephen Buxton, Coventry, UK, thelbq.co.uk

    Alice Cooper's Hey Stupid for all those who insist on lengthy transactions in the lunch hour rush when there is only one teller open.
    Glenn J, UK

    Gold, Spandau Ballet
    Charles, Chicago

    "Lady in Red" would be the most apt for me...
    Valerie, Wigan, UK

    I can HSBC clearly now?
    pj, Barcelona

    Let it HSBC?
    pj, Barcelona

    Anything by Johnny Cash/ Dollar
    pj, Barcelona

    One Mr Blair certainly wouldn't want to hear as someone joins the queue behind him: Clannad's Robin, The Hooded Man
    Matt, UK

    Boom bang a bang
    John Sinclair , England

    Tuppence (from Mary Poppins)
    Ian Prideaux, London

    Crockett's Theme - Jan Hammer (from the famous NatWest advert) Part of the queue - Oasis
    Ben, UK

    Requiem Mass - Mozart et al:
    "Rex tremendae majestatis,
    Qui salvandos salvas gratis,
    Salve me, fons pietatis."
    Or is that too heavy on the irony?
    Alexander Lewis Jones, Nottingham, UK

    I work in a law firm and we already have Abba's "Money Money Money" and "the Winner Takes it All" on our hold music, which would be equally applicable
    Basil Long, Nottinghamshire

    Of course they could just serve customers quicker.
    Anna Charlton, UK


    Re: ITV shows axed as ratings plummet, 9 June. Perhaps they shouldn't be blaming the loss of viewers on the shows themselves, and instead have a good, long think about those Jamster ads (heard of them?)...
    Darryl Ashton,
    London, UK

    Re: The E-cyclopedia's lexicon of teen speak, 10 June, I was astounded to learn that "random" means "irregular" and can be used to describe "inconsistent" behaviour! Obviously I must be using this word incorrectly - could you please tell me the proper 'adult' use of 'random'?

    I've noticed the answer to the Daily Question is always b. Why do a lot of people still get it wrong?

    Well there's certainly something about the big Bad Wolf: http://www.badwolf.org.uk/ (The BBC IS responsible for the content of this particular external website!!)


    Our ongoing test of the Royal Mail's next-day delivery.

    It's now a week since our postcard went missing. If anything happens over the weekend, we'll let you know on Monday morning. But it's not looking good.


    It's time again for the caption competition.

    This week, a new Royal Navy destroyer sets sail under the watchful eyes of Captain Steve Bramley and Admiral Lord Nelson (played by historian Alex Naylor). But what's being said?

    6. Joseph S, Scotland
    "Yeah, brought me here in some big blue box... Spell it? T-A-R-D-I-S."

    5. Rob Delaney, UK
    "250,000 miles a year, one careful owner, full no claims. Go on, quote me happy."

    4. Keith, Herts, UK
    "It's all yours, 007 - try to bring it back in one piece."

    3. Laura Williams, UK
    "Yes, that'll be the Red Fleet. We're not allowed to play battles with real countries anymore..."

    2. Mark G, UK
    "Is that a Gold Braided Rapier, or are you just pleased to see me?"

    1. Ed Nash, Germany
    "Yes, we were hoping the contract would be completed rather sooner."


    A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    A day for that favourite old double act, no, not Wayne and Coleen nor Blair and Chirac, but Fry and Laurie.

    Stephen Fry joined his pal Rowan Atkinson in attacking the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, saying it would be "an embarrassment to the statute book", something which gets short shrift from many papers. "A foolish and unnecessary Bill," says the Independent. "In the grip of the thought police," says the Daily Mail. "Now you face jail for being nasty to Satanists" says the Telegraph.

    But what of Laurie? The hit US drama House, in which Laurie stars as a miserable misogynist doctor, had its terrestrial premiere in the UK on Thursday, and the reviewers were on the whole impressed with the man who used to take part in such classic sketches as "Introducing My Grandfather To..."

    "Dr House is a terrific character - strong, different, surprising. But the most extraordinary thing about him is that he's played by Hugh Laurie. Yes, our very own Hugh Laurie. Bertie Wooster. Various bumbling idiots in various Blackadders. That's going to get an awful lot of getting used to," says the Guardian reviewer.

    "Laurie brings his own flourish to the character," writes the Times reviewer, "even managing a passable American accent (at least to these English ears - who know, in New Jersey he might sound as bogus as Dick Van Dyke)."

    Perhaps Paper Monitor might be allowed to add that, while it greatly enjoyed House, it kept expecting Laurie to shout "DAMMIT! MARJORIE!!!" at any moment. But in that it might be alone.

    FRIDAY 10 JUNE 0857BST

    In Thursday's Daily News Question on the Magazine index, 78% of you correctly answered that Prince William's holiday destination is Tobermory - the seaside village of brightly-painted cottages where the CBBC show Balamory is filmed. A new daily question is on today's Magazine index.


    Re: your story on fingerprint security (The password for your next phone is..., 9 June), in which you write: "He also sees potential in using fingerprints to restrict adult content or gambling sites to under-18s." I don't think he meant it that way but I'm sure the kids will be pleased
    Rob Waring,
    London, UK

    Fingerprint ID for phones is a really bad idea. The Register reported on a case where the owner of a car that had fingerprint recognition had his finger cut off in order to steal the car. (Register story)
    John Airey,
    Peterborough, UK

    (BBC not responsible for external websites.) I'm glad to see Southern Water are taking an optimistic view of the forthcoming drought and hosepipe ban (High and dry, 9 June) by describing their reservoir as 'half-full.' Presumably for the 100,000 people affected, it is surely half-empty.

    I wonder how long chav will remain in the dictionary (Asbo and chav make dictionary, 9 June). Not more than a couple of years I should have thought. There must be many words that went into dictionaries a few years ago have now fallen out of fashion? Any one remember 'riot girl'? That one's two years old. Any Magazine readers with other suggestions?
    Oxford, UK

    I assume it is intentional that after the story Using your skill and judgement..., 8 June, about how competitions are becoming laughably easy that you make the daily news quiz a choice between Tobermory and Balamory, a real place and a kids' TV show.
    Andy M,
    Oxford, UK

    wicked wicked jungle is massive i said wicked wicked jungle is massive well big up cos this is the incredible genral
    fabien, sniffunsnuffun town(scotland)


    A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    The Daily Telegraph ventures where few of its peer group fear to tread. DO YOU HATE COLDPLAY? shouts the front page - a question one might expect from the likes of the NME or other elements of the more gritty music press. But for those Telegraph readers who do keep an eye on the charts, Coldplay are surely the last word in cool.

    Inside, the paper's resident music critic, Neil McCormick offers a staunch defence of the British band who, in case you've just returned from a sojourn in space, have a new album out.

    Jon Pareles, in the anti- corner, seizes on what he sees as the band's anodyne, almost calculating insecurity. "Unlike Radiohead... Coldplay had no interest in being oblique or barbed." Their lyrics are enough to "make me wish I didn't understand English".

    McCormick, however, believes their mass appeal is itself to be celebrated. "We need songs the whole world can sing in a spirit of unity... This is not about the lowest common denominators, which lead to the blandishments of manufactured pop. It is about uncommon denominators, the magic touch of a Springsteen, U2, Beatles or Who."

    It's a sentiment which EMI shareholders are bound to hold aloft a cigarette lighter to.


    Wednesday's Daily News Question on the Magazine index was easy-peasy for most of you; 68% correctly answered that Annie, the UK's oldest circus elephant, was 52 - more than three times the life expectancy of an elephant in captivity. A new daily question is on today's Magazine index.


    Re High & Dry, 8 June, in which you report that the UK has had the driest winter for many years. Have I been living on a different planet? My recollection of last winter (and beyond) is that there's hardly been a day when it hasn't been tipping it down! We live on an island surrounded by water, which regularly gets more than its fair share of rain. Only an organising genius could manage a shortage of water.
    London, UK

    Easy competition questions are not new (Using your skill and judgement, 8 June). I saw a competition about 15 years ago in the local paper to win some Star Trek goodies. The question read "Who played Mr Spock in 'Star Trek'? Please send your answers to: Leonard Nimoy Competition, Harborough Mail,..."
    Neil Golightly,
    Manchester, UK

    Maybe Bad Wolf is a clue to the next Doctor (Monitor letters, Tuesday? Has Heinz Wolf turned them down? He'd have been superb, but I presume playing a mere doctor would have been a bit of a step-down for the prof.

    The phrase, "Some checks were reportedly written by hand" (Monitor letters, Tuesday merely contains a foreign (American) word. Ad absurdum, this demonstrates the eclectic nature of English, n'est ce pas?
    Ken Thornton-Smith,
    Cocoa, Florida

    The news is getting more and more like adverts for soap operas now - by the time it's "news" we've heard so much about it beforehand that no-one is surprised. The latest example was on Tuesday with Breakfast informing us that "Jack Straw is set to tell the House of Commons that plans for an EU Referendum have been shelved". Then later in the day Huw Edwards announced headline news: "Jack Straw has told the House of Commons that plans for an EU Referendum have been shelved". I was shocked!
    Dave Love,
    Kesgrave, Suffolk

    Rifkind in frame for leadership, 7 June, has a list of "Tory leadership runners and riders". But which are the runners, and which are the riders?
    Alexander Lewis Jones,
    Nottingham, UK

    Re Going Postal: The British postal system amazes me. My mother posted me a parcel on Thursday afternoon in Hampshire, UK and it arrived here at my home in Sydney, Australia on Monday. Quicker than your first-class postcard.


    Our ongoing interactive test of the Royal Mail's next-day delivery.

    Sorry folks, no news today. Postcard still missing, somewhere in transit between Wirral and Devon.


    Raven in the more usual black
    Albino ravens are rare
    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.

    This week, it's the story that white ravens, sparrows and blackbirds are being spotted by birdwatchers more used to seeing their darker-hued counterparts.

    Here is the verdict of the judges.

    Grab the binoculars, there's a flock of It'll be all white on the flight (Jeff, UK, Jen in Glasgow, Mark Esdale in Bridge, Canterbury and Louise in Cheshire) heading this way.

    And it's nesting season for A Whiter Shade of Tail by Nigel Macarthur of London and Denise in Stourbridge, W Midlands.

    What a treat to get a sighting of White rook, check-mates (Kieran Boyle in Oxford, England) at this time of year.

    Foreign invaders, yes, but look at the beautiful plumage on Neat little pallor trick (Candace, New Jersey, US), Caw Limey (Tony Larcombe, Malvern, PA, US) and A whiter shade of quail (Phil, Nīmes, France).

    But it's worth packing the Thermos and sandwiches for Caw-casian and - best of all - Acrowmatic, both by Jason S in Southampton.


    A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Imaginative Simon and Garfunkel-inspired headlines on the death of Anne Bancroft:

    "Here's to you, Mrs Robinson" - Times
    "Here's to you, Mrs Robinson" - Telegraph
    "And here's to you, Mrs Robinson" - Express
    "Tears for you, Mrs Robinson" - Sun
    "So here's to you, Mrs Robinson" - Scotsman
    "Oscar-winning actress who hated being called 'Mrs Robinson' dies" - Independent
    (Not too sure about the last one.)


    In Tuesday's Daily News Question on the Magazine index, 43% of you thought that Damien Hirst had just turned 44 and 22% reckoned it was 38. The correct answer was that he'd hit the big 4-0. A new daily question is on today's Magazine index.


    Is it just me, or is the article about clone towns (Attack of the clone towns, 6 June) timed perfectly to coincide with the release of the League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse? I think Royston Vasey, should win - after all, it seems to only have local shops for local people!!
    Shoreham-by-Sea, UK

    In your Magazine article Progress... pah!, 6 June, it says at one point: "Some checks were reportedly written by hand." Was the mis-spelling of cheques down to a computer glitch in the spill-chucker? Bring back proof readers from those good old days, I say...
    Ed Loach,
    Clacton, UK

    In response to Tim (Letters, Monday 6 June). The song is called Take Your Mama and it's by a great band called Scissor Sisters. I sometimes wish Si's riddles were this easy.
    London, UK

    Tim, I think you'll find in future that Googling things is an awful lot faster than asking readers of the Magazine, although probably not as much fun.
    Andy M,
    Oxford, UK

    Continuing on from the many formulae used to predict certain obscure and intangible things (see Formula Won) the Independent has published a formula from Dr. Helen Pilcher. The formula for the perfect sitcom is as obtuse as all those that came before it. The success of a sitcom is determined by multiplying the recognisability of the main character (r) by their delusions of grandeur (d). This is added to the verbal wit of the script (v) and the total is multiplied by the amount someone falls over or suffers an injury (f). The difference in status between the highest and lowest characters is added (s) and the total is divided by the success of the show's scheme (a). Wouldn't it be easier to do an on-line poll of viewers and/or readers of say.... the BBC website?
    Chris A,
    Pinner, Middlesex

    I may not be one to spend my breaks thinking about Doctor Who, but I couldn't help loving the cleverness of the "Bad Wolf" mystery (Paper Monitor, Monday). After all, we have all known since childhood who Doctor Who is afraid o,so much so that we sing a song "Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf". It's a pity that no one has told the Doctor himself.
    Katie White,
    Bromley, UK


    Our Devon volunteer's postie has been and gone, and there's no sight of the Magazine's postcard.

    It was posted on Friday in Wirral, and should have arrived on Saturday morning, so this is something of a setback. If it doesn't arrive tomorrow, we're going to start getting depressed.


    A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Front pages
    An exclusive round-up of IOC sporting cliches.

    "Capital gains in two-horse Olympic race" - Times
    "How London raised its game" - Times
    "Paris ahead on IOC inside track" - Times
    "London in three-way race for games" - Telegraph
    "Can Seb spring to victory?" - Daily Mail
    "Race for Olympics 2012 sees Paris still out in front - but London is closing fast" - Independent
    "HOP OFF! Come on... Help us beat the French" - Sun
    (Not too sure about the last one.)

    Note to Paper Monitor readers: Due to pesky legal reasons, we are now unable to offer an archive of front pages. This means that from today, the link to Front Pages will always lead to the most recent day's papers. Sad but true.


    In Monday's Daily News Question on the Magazine index, 56% of you thought Prague was the city furthest from the G8 venue (a cunning satire on the real Live 8 question). The correct answer was Vienna. Tuesday's question is on the index now.


    According to Attack of the clone towns, 6 June, Deptford High Street is one that is "luckily" free of chain stores and cloned shops? Hooray. I wish there were more chains there, and I may be persuaded to go back.
    Tim Miller,
    New Cross, London

    Just wondering what the point is in asking people to take pictures of different towns to prove how similar they are. Surely the ideal result would be one picture, with many different captions?

    Regarding "Bad Wolf" in Doctor Who (reported in today's Paper Monitor), I am sad to say I am part of those spending their breaks and evenings trying to unravel the mystery as much as possible, and generally taking things way too far. This is where we lurk. Kudos to the BBC for coming up with such an engrossing meme.
    Nottingham, UK

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

    Please can you help me. I'm trying to find out the name of the song, and who is singing it, currently being used in your advert on BBC One, for Radio 2, that has the words "Gonna take your mother out all night" in it.
    Tim Simmons,
    Kidlington, Oxford

    You report (Taking the misery out of sweating, that six minutes of sweat a week can keep us fit. That's handy. I achieve that while carrying my weekly beer order home.
    Chris B, Bedford, UK

    Re Inbreeding threat to bumblebees, 3 June. Is the Lunchtime Limerick bee a useless, inbred, laze, sterile male, or a helpful, hard-working female?
    Matt Folwell,


    Every Monday Si sets a riddle to get your brains working.

    Odds and Ends


    Send your solution using the form below. Solution and winner next Monday.

    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: Forecast, and instructed that the following characters should lead you to another:

    Senator Bail Organa, C-3PO, Captain Antilles, Captain Typho, Terr Taneel, Queen of Alderaan, Tion Medon, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, Padmé, R2-D2, Sly Moore

    The title was hinting at the first letters of the actors/actresses (cast) playing the given characters. These are: Jimmy Smits, Anthony Daniels, Rohan Nichol, Jay Laga'aia, Amanda Lucas, Rebecca Jackson Mendoza, Bruce Spence, Ian McDiarmid, Natalie Portman, Kenny Baker, Sandi Finlay. This gives the rather: Jar Jar Binks.

    Several of you got the correct answer, including our winner Clare Fowler of Stirlingshire. Kudos points to those, including George Prout and John Barwise who answered Ahmed Best, who voiced the character. One person (who for dignity's sake shall remain nameless) then provided actors' names whose initial letters spelt out Ahmed Best, but that's really going too far.

    Si is a contributor to the Puzzletome website.


    Our ongoing interactive test of the Royal Mail's next day delivery.

    Day one (Wood Lane to Loughborough) went according to plan. Day two (Loughborough to Wirral) also went well.

    But day three (Wirral to somewhere in the West Country) did not happen. Rachel Jones posted the card as promised on Friday, and we expected it to reach its destination in Devon on Saturday morning. From there it was supposed to go on to Scotland.

    But it never arrived in Devon. Our volunteer there is still waiting, but Rachel is non-plussed. "I can't understand why it wouldn't get through - I posted it at a Post Office at the same time as I posted something to a friend which arrived safely."

    Fingers crossed for tomorrow.


    A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
    Today's front pages

    Several weeks into the new Dr Who series, and the Daily Telegraph's Sam Leith is busy mulling the significance of the phrase "Bad wolf" which has popped up in various guises - a call-sign, a piece of graffito, the Welsh name of a nuclear power plant - in every episode so far.

    Leith and scores of Dr Who fans are apparently wrestling with the words, believing them to be a riddle with the promise of an overarching, profound explanation.

    "These self contained episodes are, we have suddenly been allowed to realise, part of a larger narrative, building to a bigger mystery," he suggests. (The Doctor, it should be said, is less convinced -"probably just a coincidence" was his cursory dismissal when the words loomed large in Saturday's episode.)

    At the heart of it all, says Leith, is a new complexity in what some might dismiss as just another slice of Saturday night schlock TV. Until now, the Doctor has pretty much whizzed from one point in time to another, doling out Jelly Babies without a second thought for the bewildering psychological impact time travel would certainly have on an individual. But uppermost in the minds of this series' creators are second chances - the idea that travelling through time would allow one to right previous wrongs. How, indeed whether, that references back to "Bad wolf" remains to be seen.


    Friday's daily question was a walkover for most of you - 85% answered that bedside bibles were being linked to MRSA in Leicester hospitals. A new daily question is on today's Magazine index.

  • Send your letters to the Magazine Monitor
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