In our latest issue, we published letters about newspapers, boxing, algae, roast chicken and what makes a polymath…
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, September/October 2012
SAFEGUARDING THE GUARDIAN
Re: Can the Guardian survive? (Features, July/August)
Tim de Lisle's article on the future of the Guardian was the most cogent one I've read about the impending commercial decline of Britain's quality newspapers. But I'm fairly confident that the germs of a dozen or so ideas which represent a solution are emerging. The Guardian's editor seemed fairly confident too.
Apart from the often silly but profitable non-journalistic projects, some form of payment for certain segments of news content appears inevitable in the future—professional or financial-services news, for example.
It was also interesting to read that the Guardian is beginning to think like an internet tech company, exploring potential revenues from articles published via social media. Similar newspapers around the world are doing exactly the same.
The Guardian's philosophy is flawless, the consequences thoughtless. If you do the maths, the Scott Trust has another few years of gambling with free online content. After that, the money will run dry and a switch—be it to a porous paywall or a full one—will have to take place.
I can't help thinking it may all be part of a plan: build a solid readership at home and abroad, drive up traffic by fully engaging with social media and then, when the money runs out, start to charge.
If that does happen, we can expect a fiercely polite backlash from readers.
Louis Emanuel, Bristol
British newspapers have to contend with the BBC website. It will be hard for them to put up paywalls as long as a free alternative exists.
SPORT NEEDS SUPPORT
Re: India's shot at gold (Features, July/August)
Rahul Bhattacharya's article on the Indian boxer Mary Kom was eloquent and thoroughly researched. It presented a clear vision of Kom's life and her struggles as a sportsperson.
It is such a pity that the central and state governments in India offer such paltry support for sports. If only those who are making millions from cricket would stand up for their fellow sportspersons and fight for better conditions across the board. Perhaps then more encouragement would be given to the truly gifted to help the country hone its talent. At present, the situation is dismal.
I am not a pessimist but neither the Indian government nor Indian sports promoters recognise the potential of people from Manipur. It is a troubled state, once rich and peaceful, now driven to corruption because of a total lack of proper administration. Mary Kom is one of the victims of government negligence, and so many other talents from Manipur must have been wasted before her.
Watching Mary Kom fight (yes, I have been lucky enough to see her compete) is like seeing a human powerhouse. It would be a shame to compare "our" Mary with anyone, but she is India's Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino star boxer. I hope she brings about a change for the people of north-eastern India as well as the sport known as the "sweet science". Hail Mary Kom.
Re: Some like it very hot (Features, May/June)
In his article on extremophiles, organisms that live in conditions once thought inhospitable to life, Bryan Appleyard said that this biological category "was only discovered 40 years ago".
Well over a decade earlier, I enjoyed doing some pioneering experiments on resistance to extreme cold by a number of genera of what were then known as blue-green algae, taking some of them down to -269?C with no apparent negative effect on life or growth. This work was published in a brief summary in Phycological News in 1956. I also published elsewhere at that time more extensive work with Plectonema nostocorum, an organism which not only survives extreme cold, but also grows richly in pH10 (extreme alkaline). I regret that, for various reasons, I was unable to go further with my research.
John Kingsbury, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
SIMPLE BUT DELICIOUS
Re: Letters (July/August)
I think Sumaira Chowdhury, who wrote the letter "Add a pinch of spice" in your last issue, misses the point of Simon Hopkinson's articles and recipes. I have most of his books and I know that his cookery training is in the European tradition.
He writes about food in general and European staples in particular. I always enjoy reading his notes about the perfect mayonnaise or mashed potato. No curry, taco or burrito can beat a roast chicken with just olive oil or butter and a pinch of thyme and oregano. It may look simple, but if the chicken is of good quality you don't need 20 spices to make it delicious.
Enrique Mendez, London
MEN OF HOW MANY PARTS?
Re: Old polymaths never die (Culture, July/August)
In his article about Hugh Trevor-Roper and Isaiah Berlin, Adrian Wooldridge omitted to mention either man's broadcasting career. Berlin was a much-admired performer on the BBC's Third Programme and some of his recorded talks have been re-broadcast. They confirm how much he enjoyed public speaking and what pleasure he gave listeners, despite his Oxford accent.
Aren't you overusing the word "polymath" in this magazine? Maybe Berlin and Trevor-Roper were excellent historians and philosophers, but were they really