Stoke and Copeland

In yesterday’s by-election in Stoke-on-Trent Central, Labour’s Gareth Snell beat the Ukip leader, Paul Nuttall, into second place. Many people, in the Labour Party and the media, had talked up Ukip’s chances in advance, with one commentator even speculating it could be ‘Corbyn’s Waterloo’. Last summer, 70 per cent of the city voted to leave the EU, with Nuttall describing the seat as Britain’s ‘Brexit capital’. Between that and Labour’s ever diminishing majorities, Ukip were understandably bullish.

But they came second, with only 79 more votes than the Tories. As the dust settles, it’s easy to see why: beyond Nigel Farage, the party contains not one competent politician; Nuttall couldn’t have run a worse campaign; Labour’s ground game was very impressive; and Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to triggering Article 50 meant Labour wasn’t as vulnerable as it could have been over Brexit. Had Owen Smith led the party and insisted on ‘rejecting’ Article 50, things might have turned out very differently. More »

Remembering Seymour Papert

mindstormsAs I was preparing to speak at Seymour Papert’s memorial last month, I turned to my 1980 copy of Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas. The hardback first edition. The one with the orange cover that had the photo insert of a young girl commanding a floor Turtle. She had programmed a computer in Logo to instruct the Turtle to sketch out a bear, and she looks happy as she surveys the results of her work.

Next to her is a young boy. He is laughing, joyful. His body cradles the Turtle, his hand lovingly grazes its back. The girl is Miriam Lawler, the daughter of the psychologist Bob Lawler who was one of Seymour’s students and collaborators. The boy is the nephew of John Berlow, Seymour’s editor. These children grew up with Logo. The joy in the photo is part of their everyday experience of living in the Logo culture. It illustrates many of Seymour’s most powerful ideas about objects and learning. More »

When pupils get ‘managed out’

Secondary school league tables, Ofsted inspections and government improvement targets all use statistics that are based only on pupils who are registered as attending the school towards the end of their time there. School leaders therefore have an incentive to remove children from their rolls before the January of GCSE year, when ‘census’ data are collected, if they think the pupils will not do well. The government insists that regulation prevents this happening, but past investigations (see here and here) have indicated that it does, even if the practice isn’t widespread. More »

Post-Internet Art

work-than-me

A still from ‘No one is more WORK than me’ by Ed Atkins (2014)

The Zabludowicz Collection in Kentish Town is housed in a former Methodist chapel. The building became home to the London Drama School in 1963 – they were the first in Britain to use Stanislavsky’s system – and remained so until 2004. Ten years ago it opened as a gallery, showing works from the collection of the Finnish-British millionaire Poju Zabludowicz (his private investment company owns, among other things, half of downtown Las Vegas; he’s also a major Tory Party donor). A former acting school seems like an appropriate venue for their current exhibition, One & Other, curated by a group of MA students, which is concerned with personas and performance (it closes on Sunday).  More »

Milo’s Stumble

Milo Yiannopoulos is done for. The Breitbart editor, who made a name for himself by peddling ‘unsayable’ things, and riding the waves of right-wing adulation and left-wing horror which followed, finally stumbled over a genuine taboo. A recently recirculated tape of remarks on the benefits of relationships between adolescent boys and older men has finally caused the American conservative establishment to cut its ties with him. He has lost his slot at CPAC, the premier right-wing political gathering in the US, which has previously hosted defenders of internment and slavery; Simon & Schuster, the publisher which gave him a $250,000 advance for a book (working title Dangerous) and defended the offer on the grounds of freedom of speech, has cancelled his contract. Last night, amid rumours of staff threatening to walk, Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart. One might marvel at what stirs the underused muscles of conscience in a Breitbart staffer were the temptation to schadenfreude not so overwhelming.  More »

Am I an immigrant?

This year my son will turn eight, the age I was at the time of the Iranian Revolution, when my American mother brought me to the US, leaving my Iranian father in Tehran. When Donald Trump was elected president, my son asked if we would have to move to Tehran. My Iranian husband and I did what my parents did during the Revolution: we lied, saying that he had nothing to worry about.  More »

In Baltimore

Lexington Market is in downtown Baltimore, a stone’s throw from the financial district. The stalls sell soul food, east Asian cuisine and bread; there are also tobacconists, book stalls and jewellers. The covered market, which was established in 1782, will soon be razed and replaced. The developers have promised existing vendors will be able to relocate to the new building. The ostensible aim of the project is to ‘invite more diverse vendors and pull in a broader swath of Baltimore residents’. Most of the people who shop, eat and hang out there are working-class African Americans; it’s hard not to conclude that the ‘broader swath’ the developers hope to attract are affluent white people. More »

The Art of the Bigger Deal

‘So, I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like … I can live with either one,’ Donald Trump said at his press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister appeared to exult in Trump’s presence, until the president suggested he hold off on building more settlements while Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states worked out a deal – a ‘bigger deal’, rather. The oldest conflict in the modern Middle East – it’s a century since the Balfour declaration – has become a quarrel over real estate. More »

The Trump Acceleration

The sheer volume and rapidity of successive Trump outrages, cascading swiftly past one another, keeps even the most attentive among us from properly paying attention to any one of them, much less to their cumulative significance. More »

The Month of Trump

Donald Trump’s personal pathologies aside, it has become obvious that the worst possible leader of a self-styled democracy is the patriarch of an enormous family business, especially one that likes to slap its name in huge gold letters on every item, whether skyscraper or towel – and to whom people inexplicably pay money to paste the name on their own wares. A Trump employee is loyal to Mr Trump, as he’s always called, and one disagrees with the boss man, however mildly, at considerable risk. A federal employee, below the top-level appointments, is loyal to the government. A patriarch rules by fiat; a president has to deal with all those annoying existing laws and the courts that enforce them, agencies full of hundreds of thousands of recalcitrant bureaucrats, know-it-all pundits in the media, a loudmouth opposition party, and contentious factions within his own party. Everyone has an opinion. More »

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    • Ouessante on Stoke and Copeland: Stoke: Cons+UKIP 49.1%, Lab 37.1%. Saved only by a split vote. Hardly cause for Lab rejoicing I think. They should be very worried.
    • streetsj on Stoke and Copeland: As in all votes there are a multitude of reasons why people vote as they do but it seems unlikely that Nuttall's contribution was anything other than ...
    • piffin on Stoke and Copeland: That Labour could beat off Ukip's anti-immigrant challenge in Stoke but lose to the Tories in Copeland suggests the latter result was informed by the ...
    • suetonius on Remembering Seymour Papert: Oh my, flashback inducing. I remember being an undergraduate right when the book came out, physics student at the time. Several of my professors wer...
    • fbkun on Justice for Théo: Polls show that more than half of French police(wo)men vote for the Front National. Quelle surprise...

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