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Last Updated: Friday, 1 July, 2005, 16:37 GMT 17:37 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 pairs of sunglasses by Tony Crowther

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

    1. President Richard Nixon once called Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi a "witch".

    2. Wimbledon's oldest surviving champion, Phyllis King, 99, won a gold medal and a 10 shopping voucher.

    3. The technology which uncovered a new da Vinci sketch was designed to spot tanks on the battlefield.

    4. Glastonbury sewage has such a high alcohol content that the raised ammonia level causes problems at the local sewage plant.

    5. Noel Gallagher is reading his first book, Dan Brown's Angels and Demons.

    6. Harry Potter is used at Guantanamo Bay. US Congress members who visited said an interrogator read the boy wizard's adventures aloud for hours until the detainee put his hands over his ears.
    More details

    7. Oliver Twist is very popular in China, where its title is translated as Foggy City Orphan.

    8. Newborn dolphins and killer whales don't sleep for a month, according to research carried out by University of California.

    9. Paul Winchell, who gave the Disney Tigger his voice, was also an inventor, patenting an artificial heart in 1963.
    More details

    10. The Vatican no longer has a "Devil's Advocate" - the role of arguing against the canonisation of a particular individual. Pope John Paul II abolished the post in 1983.

    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.


    Artist Mark McGowan - the man who rolled a monkey nut across London with his nose and pulled a bus with his big toe - has returned with a stunningly complex new work: a running tap.

    McGowan turned on an ordinary kitchen tap at a gallery in south London and will leave it running for a year - thereby wasting 15 million litres of water.

    McGowan says the art work "will save water by highlighting the waste of water".

    Hmm. We think Magazine readers can come up with something better than that. So, donning your critic's cap, give us a serious, entirely credible interpretation of this formidable exhibit. The best are posted here throughout the afternoon.

    Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and reservoir to sewer. As this simple installation reminds us, such is the lot of our lives. But simplicity does not preclude complexity. Having the water spill into a porcelain sink subverts both the irony Modern Art (a useful sink versus a useless Duchampian icon or a urinal) and Classical Art (water and the concomitant lack of colour versus centuries of watercolours and aqueous pigments).
    Tim Francis-Wright, US

    For the next month, the meaning will be as described. Then, when the water supply runs out, the meaning will be of dispair from the drought. Following on from that exhibit will be a life-model of "Tarred and Feathered Artist" by Disgruntled and Thirsty Public
    Stephen Buxton, Coventry, UK, thelbq.co.uk

    The water emerges from the pipes of London, pours into the sinks, swirls for a second in the warm glow of the spotlight, and is then lost back into obscurity. Thus is the life of a Turner Prize winner.
    S Murray, Chester, UK

    This is a stunning piece of work which highlights the creative and artistic tension between perception and reality. The perception being that this is a worthy piece of art, making a statement about the wasteful nature of mankind as a whole. However the reality is that it's a waste of time, space and - especially - water. Must have take a full 10 minutes to think up and "create".
    Adrian , UK

    This piece makes you challenge the decisions behind your own actions. I threw away half a portion of chips yesterday because I thought I couldn't finish them. Now I realise I was actually subconsciously highlighting the plight of those starving in Africa.
    Jeff D'Monte, UK

    This exhibit will save Art by highlighting the waste of artistic talent.
    Gordon, UK

    The interplay of the clear water, forced through the tap and bouncing cleanly off the porcelain sink appears to suggest that water is nature asserting itself. Only on further thought does it become clear that they all have been engineered. Thus the screech of the gushing water is a moving primeval cry of nature's pain.
    David, UK

    Rather than waste 15m litres of water, Mark McGowan should have it recirculating, visually demonstrating the wastage but also symbolising recycling.
    Lester, UK

    This piece represents the futility, the fluidity if you will, of humankind's exploitation of nature. The depths to which we plunge, the damp hope of rebirth. We tap into our deep wells of sub-conscious thought and explore the streams of consciousness that spring eternal from the wells of our souls.
    Stig, London, UK


    Letters logo
    Is it just me or do the swans, representing the members of the EU, (Flying swans are UK vision of EU, 1 July) look like they are waving "Goodbye"?
    Mark Esdale,
    Bridge, Canterbury, UK

    Kudos is often the prize that you award winning entries here (like the Caption contest), and the contests still get a lot of entries. Is it a coincidence that Kudos spelt backwards very nearly spells "Soduko", that very successful game that has many spelling variations?
    Stephen Buxton,
    Coventry, UK, thelbq.co.uk

    Re Martin Biddiscombe's query about whether the large Sudoku puzzle is solvable. One solution is :

    Paper Monitor has written about Hugh Laurie's new US medical drama House, showing in the UK on Five. This week's episode was particularly interesting because of the linguistic trick of calling MRSA "Mersa". I had no idea this was how the infection was referred to in the US, but I approve because it's much quicker to say. Think how much more time would have saved during the general election campaign if everyone had known about it then!
    Edward Higgins,

    The picture of Neanderthal man in Justin Parkinson's report (Neanderthal man 'sang and danced', 30 June) bears a curious resemblance to Alan Titchmarsh. Is it being suggested that Yorkshire men are in some way unreconstructed?
    Kelly Mouser,
    Upminster, Essex


    It's time for the caption competition.

    This week it's Sir Cliff Richard at Wimbledon, where he is the darling of the crowds since his famous rendition of Singin' In The Rain in 1996. Enlarge the picture for full effect.

    6. Ian, Bath, UK
    "If he whistles Living Doll once more, I'll 'ave him."

    5. Tracy Tarrant, Bushey, Herts
    Peter Pan takes Wendy and Tinkerbelle on a time travel day return to SW19.

    4. Doug, Swindon, UK
    Cliff's attempts to make himself look young were starting to get a bit obvious.

    3. Steven, Oxford
    "Wow! Village People, are you sure? Two rows behind?"

    2. Ian S, UK, Birmingham
    Bob Geldof's spy was concerned Sir Cliff was still in the London area...

    1. Helene Parry, South Wales expat to Brentford Lock
    At the request of music lovers, Sir Cliff performs "4'33" by John Cage.


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

    It was the battle of tennis' two biggest grunters - the Wimbledon semi-final between Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams. One might expect the boys at the Sun to have been eagerly brandishing their gruntometer (the unveiling of which was noted in Paper Monitor 21 June). Alas, there's no sign of the decibel-logging device in what surely would have been its finest hour.

    Elsewhere, the Guardian carries a fascinating tale of a blossoming relationship between two old political foes - George Bush Snr and Bill Clinton. The latter, of course, vanquished the former in the 1992 presidential race.

    The story, in the G2 section, lists many of the personal ideological reasons why these two elder statesmen shouldn't want to shake hands, let alone share rounds of golf and hang out like old buddies. Naturally, this unlikely friendship has raised eyebrows among their followers. When Bush jokingly called Clinton "son" at a public event in May, the latter said: "I told the Republicans in the audience not to worry. Every family has one - you know, the black sheep... I told them: 'This just shows you the lengths [to] which the Bushes would go to get another president in the family and I wish I could get them to adopt Hillary.'"


    In Thursday's Daily Mini-Quiz, 40.2% of you thought a live-in art class at Balmoral would cost 999 and 9.2% said 449. But 50.6% of you correctly answered that the week-long masterclass cost 650. There is a new Daily Mini-Quiz on today's Magazine index


    Letters logo
    Is this Sudoku puzzle solvable? (10 things about world records)
    Martin Biddiscombe, Harlow, UK

    Re: 'Aliens choose Luton' as top town (28 June). Nonsense. As Bernard Wrigley will tell you, it's Wigan.
    "For the Martians have landed in Wigan
    And they're wearing flat caps on their domes
    And they've paid all their subs to the working men's clubs
    'Cause Wigan reminds them of home"
    Helen, Cambridge, UK

    In response to C Alexander Brown's comment (Monitor letters, Wednesday) that the Magazine Monitor is too UK focussed, let's just remember what the first "B" of BBC stands for.
    Jill Cockerham, Leeds, UK

    Perhaps C Alexander Brown of Ottawa would like to forward his cheque for 126.50, made payable to TV Licensing, to:
    Customer Services
    TV Licensing
    BS98 1TL
    United Kingdom
    Thank you.
    James Rigby, Wickford, Essex

    Well done to the Scottish drug enforcement agency for seizing 400kg of class A drugs last year (Drug agency head in firearms plea, 29 June). And they offer value for money too, "returning 3 to the public purse for every 1 spent on it by the taxpayer". I only hope that the two are not connected.
    Phil B-C, Maidenhead


    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 U2 star Bono is suing the band's former stylist to get back his Stetson hat and other memorabilia.

    Here is the verdict of the judges.

    Keeping it short and sweet with Sue2 were David, Maesteg, South Wales and Phil in Nimes, France.

    While Ruth, UK, sought inspiration in the singer's name with I Bono where my Stetson is, many of you used the band's back catalogue for offerings such as The Unforgettable Attire (Mark Bohan, Dublin, Ireland and Lindsey in France).

    Nigel Greensitt, UK, looked instead to the disco era with Hats away I like it (back), while Maggie, UK, came up with Big hat paddy, argh - give the togs to Bono.

    Also in fighting mode was Bono of contention (Kieran Boyle, England), Ten gallon spat by Candace, New Jersey, US and A bee in his Bonot (Jason S, Southampton, UK).

    The defence rests with Sue-venirs and Writ for hat, both by Kip in Norwich.


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

    Earlier this month, the BBC News website carried a story about a five-year-old boy in India who has become a policeman. At the opposite end of the spectrum is a story in today's Daily Mirror that is almost too heart-warming for words - "the world's oldest schoolboy".

    Kimani Maruge is an 85-year-old Kenyan, a veteran of the Mau Mau uprising against British colonialism in the 1950s, and, as of last year, a full-time pupil at school in rural south-west Kenya.

    Pictured in school shorts, shirt, tie and school sweater and knee-length grey socks, (see the picture here) Kimani tells how had always regretted missing out on an education when he was young. He only got the chance when Kenya recently decided to make primary education free to everyone - and even then, Kimani had a bit of a fight on his hands to get accepted.

    Sharing a classroom with boys aged between five and eight, Kimani is the only pupil to brandish a walking stick and hearing aid.

    "I have suffered so many problems from being uneducated. People used to cheat me when I bought goods. I couldn't write my name or read the Bible," he tells the paper.

    His achievement is nothing short of remarkable, not least because the average life expectancy of Kenyan males is 46. Kimani has buried 10 of his own children - two of his sons were killed by the British, who also cut off one of his toes when he was tortured.

    But he forgave the former colonial power when a British man gave him a bicycle. "[S]ince then I have decided that not all British are bad."

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


    In Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, 26% of you said seagulls were most likely to decorate black cars with droppings, and 32% said red cars. But 42% of you correctly answered that white cars were most likely to cop it. There is a new Daily Mini-Quiz on today's Magazine index


    Letters logo
    Re: 'Aliens choose Luton' as top town (28 June). There was a Space 1999 episode called The Rules of Luton. I believe it was named by an American writer passing through the town who thought that Luton was a suitably futuristic name.
    Fiona, Netanya, Israel

    The Magazine Monitor is too UK focussed (I nearly wrote 'centric). We out here in the Great Wide World of BBC aficionados would welcome a worldwide reach in your pieces. This is not to say you are not interesting...
    C Alexander Brown, Ottawa, Canada

    Hannah Bayman says she was "in an ironic mood" when she ordered the Crazy Frog ringtone (Crazy Frog doubled my phone bill, 27 June). Sorry, but it's been through ironic, post-ironic, post-modern-ironic, pre-futurist-ironic, Alanis-Morrisette-isn't-it-ironic and chronic-ironic. Now Crazy Frog is just rubbish.
    Daniel Gray, Melton Mowbray

    Easy, perhaps, to put an end to your Going Postal experiment - but are you killing a really interesting story? Don't give up so easily. Put out an appeal to all of those postmen out there who may know what happened to your postcard.
    Curt Carpenter, Dallas, Texas, US

    To Jonathan Riches, Monitor letters, Monday, check it's plugged in!
    David Manley, Scotland


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

    The papers thrill to the spectacular celebrations commemorating Nelson's victory; but what say the French about showing up to a party marking their defeat?

    The Times, which notes that "it was good of the losers to turn up", sent a reporter aboard the Charles de Gaulle, the gargantuan aircraft carrier leading the French contingent.

    On board, Vice-Admiral Jacques Mazars jokes that France has not the equal of Nelson simply because "there is no English admiral in the French Navy", and hints that Admiral Villeneuve, the commander of the French-Spanish force, only lost because he was unwell: "We know from his letters that he was not in good shape...but he still put to sea."

    The Times' man responds, "Fair enough, but you cannot escape the fact that Villeneuve was defeated," before asking the crew to name any famous French naval victories. "Beeeep! No comment," giggles one.

    That'll be a non, then. But the French are not to be outdone. After playing the British national anthem, the Charles de Gaulle drowns out Her Majesty's own band with a high-decibel broadcast of Les Marseillaise.

    "Just a reminder 200 years on, ma'am, as to who's got the biggest toy," notes the Times.


    In Tuesday's Daily Mini-Quiz, 63% of you correctly answered that the price of oil has now hit $60. There is a new Daily Mini-Quiz on today's Magazine index


    Letters logo
    Re: Can Ann Widdecombe solve your problems, 27 June. I'll say she can. In 1991 I received a letter addressed to my mother at my address from her borough council, advising my mother that "due to her changed circumstances, her liability to 'community charge' [poll tax] had changed" and that she would be re-billed in the near future. The changed circumstances were that my mother had died, and my sister and I were dealing with her effects. As my mother had lived in Ann Widdecombe's constituency, I forwarded the letter to her. She replied by return - enclosing a copy of the letter she had written to the council. It was short and to the point, telling them in no uncertain terms to get their act together. I didn't hear from the council again.
    London UK

    So rail company One is offering bacon sarnies as compensation (Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz). Are they offering an alternative for their Jewish passengers?
    Dave Godfrey,

    Am I right in thinking that your Rail Commuter's Champ, Jon Yuill, travels on One trains? And he is the same man who is trying to lose weight. This could be a disastrous combination.

    You ask How can 50k people go to court at the same time? By train, of course.
    Henri, UK

    To Imogen, Monitor letters, Monday, there is a tenth goose in the pool sticking its head above the wall. Just. Either that, or number 10 is taking the picture. Clever things, geese.
    Carnoustie, Scotland


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

    With Harry and Wills now both out of full-time education, the fun for the papers is really starting. And as an illustration of things to come, look no further than page three of today's Daily Mirror (which simultaneously shows just how far that newspaper has come since its high-minded attempt to address serious issues after 9/11).

    "KATE v CHELSY - Who's the fittest to become a princess?" it shouts, offering a Top Trumps-style rundown of relative merits of the royal girlfriends. Kate (Prince William's girlfriend) is, it says, "impeccably behaved" and "oozes confidence and effortless sophistication... Unaffected and natural". Chelsy, however, doesn't get such a good write-up: "Despite posh school, fun-loving Chelsy likes boozy nights out on the town. Even her name exudes chavness."

    It's not Paper Monitor's habit to hold its head in its hands, but really...


    In Monday's Daily Mini-Quiz on the Magazine index, 90% of you answered correctly that the rail firm One is offering bacon sandwiches to its passengers. Monitor's memo to self: Must make Daily Mini-Quiz harder.


    Letters logo
    From Richard Whiteley's obituary, 26 June: "Countdown's many fans, who included the Queen and Hollywood star George Clooney, could be obsessive in their passion for what Whiteley once proudly called a 'low-tech parlour game'. In 2002 one of them was cremated to the strains of the 30-second version of the Countdown signature tune which accompanies the daily "conundrum" round." My question, which one - the Queen or George?
    Robert the Realtor,
    North Vancouver, BC, Canada

    Re: Friday's Mini-quiz. "Energy wasted by appliances on standby could power Birmingham - pop 984,000 - for a year." That's energy wasted by appliances on standby for a year; you could also say energy wasted by appliances on standby for a second could power Birmingham for a second, but that doesn't sound quite so alarmist.
    Harrogate, UK

    Am I the only one who can only see 9 geese in 10 things, (25 June)?

    Who would have thought it? The first culprit in the Monitor's SW19-watch is our very own BBC! The offending text: Murray savours SW19 glory.
    Maesteg, South Wales

    Re: On This Day's article1968: Rail go-slow begins, 24 June. Does anyone know when it is due to end?

    How do I switch this on?
    Jonathan Riches,


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

    No-one can say we're not patient. But we are finally drawing a veil on the non-appearance of the Magazine's postcard, which was due to be sent all round the country to volunteer readers, who were then going to send it on to the next person in the chain.

    Sadly it got lost somewhere between Merseyside and Devon, and is now officially lost, just three days into our test.

    Should it turn up, we will, of course, let you know. But until then, or until the next session of Going Postal, the letter box is shut.


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

    Centre Court

    The following games should lead you to another tennis match!

    Borwell vs Cho
    Bertolini vs Clement
    Sharapova vs Mirza
    Ferrero vs Malisse
    Maleeva vs Arvidsson
    Leach vs Delgado
    Pratt vs Clijsters
    Bastl vs Kim

    Send your solutions 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 entitled Alpha and Omega , and gave a list of words:

    branch of mathematics (7)
    flat (5)
    badge (5)
    enlarging (7)
    burglar (6)
    rim (4)
    teach (7)
    small boat (5)
    entice (5)
    American state (4)
    musical note (5)
    large bird (5)

    The solution, as the title suggested, was that the solution words needed begin and end with the same letter. These were:


    Then the first (or last!) letters spell out ALL GREEK TO ME.

    The winner is Janet Steggle of Cheshire, who says: "The answer is 'All Greek to me'. I wish I'd had a classical education so I could give you the answer in Greek but unfortunately, I didn't so I can't." Have some twisted kudos instead.


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

    Two choice moments of Richard Whiteley's life, as recounted by the Daily Mail's David Thomas.

    "Whiteley happily went along with the image of himself as a hapless bumbler. He confessed that when the actress Patsy Palmer had appeared on Countdown, he mistook her for the Duchess of York. He said: 'I do get things wrong. I am the butt of humour and I start sentences without knowing how to end them.'"

    "The award of an OBE in 2004 only underlined Whiteley's happiness. He had, it was said, been less than thrilled by the fact [Carol] Vorderman had received an MBE before him. Now, he could proudly declare that: 'She's got two consonants and a vowel and I've got two vowels and a consonant, but vowels are more useful, so I'll say no more.'"


    Friday's daily mini-quiz asked which city could be powered by all the energy wasted by appliances left on stand-by. Fifty-two percent of you said Birmingham, which was the correct answer. Another daily mini-quiz is on today's Magazine index

  • Send your letters to the Magazine Monitor
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