intercourse with biscuits
This site is a modern miscellany written by me, Mic Wright. I'm a journalist and writer and have contributed to Stuff, Q Magazine, The Times and Sunday Times, The Guardian and Wired. You can see some of my writing portfolio here, follow me on Twitter, find me on Facebook and email me.

A whore in a burka: the moment Skins lost me for good

“I’m stoned like a whore in a burka.” 

- SKINS, SERIES 6, EPISODE 1 

You can’t review a TV show on the strength of a single line can you? That would be dreadfully unreasonable. The game of stripping comments of their context to stoke outrage is pretty popular now. It’s the fuel for many a Facebook feud and Twitter spat. On any given day approximately 65% of Daily Mail editorial is predicated on a deliberate disdain for context. But there’s something about the line above that captures the studied shock that runs right through Skins as it toddles into its sixth series. 

The line is uttered by Ryder, a pretty rugby boy with a Piers Morgan ego chief among his unpleasant attributes. We’re not meant to like him so in that respect the line works. But there’s something about the sharp edge of that analogy that speaks to the generally unpleasant undertones that run through the most recent incarnation of Skins.

It has always been a world where drugs, drinking and dysfunction are the three Ds of teenage life rather than dullness, depression and daytime TV. Come Series 5, it resembled, more than ever, an animated version of elegantly wasted American Apparel ads. 

Episode one of Skins Series 6 isn’t on TV until January 27 but you can watch it online via 4OD now, in one of those forward thinking moves the kids love. If there’s one thing Skins knows about, it’s what the kids love, presuming the kids you’re talking about enjoy watching intoxicated drug sponges with a proclivity for stripping down to their underwear at the merest hint of excitement. Which of course of they do. Who doesn’t? 

I enjoyed Skins for the first two generations. Tony was the arrogant lad from school you always wished would get his comeuppance rather than a thriving as career as an actor/Abercrombie model/investment banker. And he did, punished with a fall from grace in Series 2. In Series 3 and 4, Cook was an enjoyable anti-hero turned actual hero, played with admirable swagger by Jack O’Connell. 

The relationships in those first four series were also enthralling. Sid and Cassie in the first iteration and Emily and Naomi in the second felt very real even if the plot lines that wrenched at their bonds weren’t. 

Series 5 left me cold. The turnover over of characters every two years has always been a clever touch with Skins but the new intake seemed to be shinier, skinnier versions of archetypes the series had played with before.

Skins is starting to feel like ever regenerating Puerto Rican boy band Menudo scouring the land to find a midget Ricky Martin or the Sugababes using skill cells stolen from Mutya Buena’s to create frighteningly scowl-faced clone. Though admittedly I would prefer to watch a TV show where either of those plans was the premise. 

The “stoned like a whore…” line bothers me not because I am gearing up for a descent into a Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells early middle age but because its part of a general feeling of unearned smartness to Skins scripts.

Watch the Series 6 opener and you’ll see the usual round of crowbarred in sex scenes and plot twists that turn so sharply you should probably have a neck brace on hand. Why does one Minnie suddenly jump one of the boys? Because…um…because…nope, I’ve no idea. 

It may just be that at 28, I’m too old to appreciate Skins anymore. That would be a shame. As Boyd Hilton wisely noted the other day, there’s no reason we should restrict our TV watching to shows that represent our own age group.

The trouble with the first episode of Skins Series 6 is that those characters feel utterly alien to the version of myself typing this and the teenager who lacked even a scintilla of the brash confidence and wild irresponsibility of the characters. Were any of the others shocked by Ryder’s whore in burkha banter? No. 

There’s nothing luxury about Noel Fielding’s petulant pops at critics

Noel Fielding becomes a lot less whimsical when someone irritates him. It’s a swift gear change from talking about space foxes dressed in silver foil suits to straight insults. It seems to occur whenever he reads a less than stellar review of his latest show Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. Note: it’s already been recommissioned.

I don’t like Luxury Comedy. It’s not because I didn’t like the Boosh or have some towering dislike for Fielding, despite his wholesale theft of Mark Bolan’s wardrobe and Spike Milligan’s less successful obsessions.

I loved the Boosh radio show and the first two TV series where Fielding’s Shoreditch vampire antics were balanced by Julian Barratt’s maudlin modern-day-Eric-Morecambe persona. Sometimes The Mighty Boosh felt like my generation’s Goon Show, a brilliantly wonky world where the Moon made me howl with laughter. 

I don’t like Luxury Comedy because it feels like a series of ‘quirky’ ideas thrown into a tumble-dryer and pulled out at random. To create an episode, follow this process. First slap together two unrelated traits to form a character: “There’s this PE teacher but wait for it…he’s also chocolate finger.” Next, repeat that until you have enough characters and situations to fill the time slot. 

While I didn’t enjoy Luxury Comedy, that’s not why I’m writing this. Instead, I’m interested in the way Noel Fielding has responded to the criticism, particularly as he seems so sure of the quality of his material. Rather than opting for the classic showbiz lie that he doesn’t read his reviews, he took the time to single out the ones that particularly yanked his chain by posting about them on Twitter: 

“Gabriel Tate, you were too thick to review my show but thanks for trying. I will explain to you who William Blake is one day. Enjoy your life working for The Sun and talking about what other people make. You meat hanky.” 

The argument over whether ‘critic’ is a valid thing to have scrawled in your passport [yes, yes, I know they don’t make you do that anymore] has been picked over ever since one caveman took the piss out of another’s attempt to draw a buffalo on a cave wall. Writing good TV criticism is a skill, please consult the work of Clive James for evidence of this. 

However as TV critics dish it out, they should be able to take it. Slagging off the critics doesn’t make a performer look all that dignified but they’re well within their rights to lash out with a counterpunch.

The big mistake Noel Fielding has made is to get involved in just the kind of snide derision of popular that a lot of critics themselves wallow around in. Just mention the success of Mrs Brown’s Boys to any TV reviewer to see them go puce with rage. 

In the tweets at the top of this article, Noel Fielding tells his fans that they’re a clever bunch for understanding Luxury Comedy while suggesting that those who don’t are obviously not smart enough to get it.

He’s obviously intending to evoke bland comedic propositions like My Family but the first two sitcoms I can think of set in a shop or a house are Open All Hours and The Young Ones. Setting your show in a painted jungle shack populated by neon idiots does not imbue it with an inherent genius. 

Shows placed in houses and shops and offices tend to go down pretty well because a mass audience recognises the world they’re watching and if their are jokes about work, relationships and shopping that helps. But Seinfeld, a show notionally about nothing, is beloved so is Arrested Development, a cult favourite, which exists in a twisted version of our own reality. 

Assuming those who don’t like Luxury Comedy are just too straight to join his tinfoil hatted band of merry japesters gives us a good look into the roiling heart of Noel Fielding’s swaggering self-belief. Without the direct influence of Julian Barratt, Luxury Comedy is the Boosh’s id without any ego keeping it in check.

That careening, chaotic id is again given full rein through Twitter. Disdaining people for not liking your show is a cardinal crime for a performer. It might hurt that they don’t understand your work but don’t accuse them of stupidity for that transgression*. You just end up looking diminished yourself. 

*Technical exception: if they say they’re a fan of Two Pints Of Lager… 

Adele is better than The Beatles: the Grammys, fuckwittery and the history of recorded sound

(Adele as portrayed by a robot mannequin (C) Associated Press)

“Adele now has more Grammys than The Beatles!” exclaimed the Channel 4 News reporter before his voice was silenced by a spade shattering the screen. You might ask why I keep a spade beside the TV and you’d be right to. I believe in being prepared. You never know when an arts correspondent will spout a fact so fundamentally pointless that you need to smash the TV into the cathode ray strewn afterlife (and yes, I know digital TVs don’t use cathode ray tubes, I was desperately groping for a romantic image, you pedant tit). 

I quite like Adele. She has a serious set of pipes and seems to be a right laugh when she’s not weeping on about that bloke she’s stalking through the medium of popular music. She also once offered me a cigarette, which puts her in the fine class of celebrities who have proffered a means of hurting myself (see also Shane Macgowan with a can of lager and a Fratelli with his fist). The problem I have with the “Adele has won more Grammys than The Beatles” tidbit is that it tells us nothing really useful. 

In numerical terms, Adele has won more Grammys than The Beatles but they were operating in a time when there weren’t so many categories to be won. You can’t compare their respective hauls of shiny pieces of industry endorsed tosspottery whatsoever.

Many of the trappings of the modern music exist because of The Beatles – TV specials, music videos, the idea that every band has to have “the quiet one”, out-of-control merchandising tie-ins (that bloody U2 iPod), the notion that every musician also has cogent opinions about politics, the list is chuffing endless. 

The Beatles exist in a kind of celestial penthouse of pop. The Rolling Stones and a few others live just below them in pretty opulent comfort but The Beatles are the ones you call on when it’s time to make the big comparisons. How many number 1 singles did they have compared to The Beatles? How many wigs shaped like their haircuts did they shift compared to The Beatles? Which one of them is “the Ringo” of the group? Sadly, comparing any artist to The Beatles just doesn’t really work. 

The music industry of today is an entirely different beast to the one that primped and preened itself before rejecting The Beatles as one of those guitar groups that had had their day. If Elvis had been trucking around Memphis today, he’d have ended up on the X Factor stage, not Sun Studios. Simon Cowell would have praised his voice but sneered at all that unnecessary leg shaking and the lip thing. 

The haul of Grammys and the absolute shipload of Brits Adele will earn later this month are an irrelevance. Take a look at the list of artists who have also been awarded a Grammy or Brit and you’ll find there’s a motley crew of mediocrities mixed in with the pure class. Kanye West is an intriguing pop artist but the fact that he has as many Grammy awards to his name does not make him Michael Jackson. That’s probably comforting to the child protection professionals of California. 

It’s understandable that writers and TV reporters want to give us context. They feed on context. Context is like a big bowl of tasty shredded wheat to them. But the “X has won more awards than Y” metric is a false one. The factors that lead to awards wins are hard to discern and often involve more than a large helping of industry fuckwittery and lickspittle bowing. Remember: Jessie J was awarded a Brit before she’d even had a record out. Her rise was proclaimed and no hurty foot (she hurt her foot, she doesn’t like to mention it) could stop that. 

Adele has more trophies in her cabinet than The Beatles. So what. John Lennon’s ghost is not about to tear himself away from rearranging Yoko Ono’s furniture for the lolz, George Harrison’s spirit will keep plucking that sitar, Ringo Starr can continue passive aggressively declining fan letters and Paul McCartney shall persist in releasing albums with cringeworthy titles and confusing teenage Grammy Award watchers. The state of the universe is serene.   

If you’re a woman on Skins, you will be punished for having a good time

Grace DEAD. Franky RAPED. Mini PREGNANT. Liv better watch out as the Skins writers appear to be on a quest to punish every leading female character in the show for having a good time. Grace’s reward for finding happiness with oddly squeaky clean ‘rocker’ Rich was to be smashed to bits in a Moroccan car crash. That was the series’s first dose of punishment for the ‘girls’ but it wasn’t the last. 

Franky’s slightly sadomasochistic Fight Club via the Fimbles relationship with Posho Punchington ended in rape. Now this week, Minnie’s no-strings-attached rutting with rural heartthrob Alo has left her hosting the gestation of a ginger foetus. The message is clear: in Skins, teenage sex, drugs and drink have consequences but they’re much, much worse if you’re walking around with a womb. 

The direction the scripts have taken really bothers me because the Skins writers are having their controversy cake and making the female characters eat it. The lads’ problems so far in this series (besides Rich dealing with the death of Grace) have been extremely minor compared to the litany of misery that has rained down on the women.

While using Grace’s death to add jeopardy to the entire series is perhaps understandable, the twists in Franky and Mini’s stories have been painfully, depressingly obvious. Women, remember, you’re not allowed to have any fun. 

With Franky, the writers began something quite interesting. The relationship founded on a mutual excitement about violence was an unusual tone for the show to take. But almost inevitably there had to be a reckoning. It was simply not possible for the show to allow Franky to actually enjoy the frisson of combining sex and violence.

She had to be raped by the blonde bastard boyfriend to show that risk taking always gets you hurt in the end. I’ve never gone in for the sort of violent sex that Franky and her beau banged their way through but I certainly had some risky encounters in my past and didn’t end up being damaged by them or damaging anyone else. 

Skins makes the mistake of thinking that it can leaven the ridiculousness of its extremely beautiful drama dolls bumbling around in an implausible cartoon Bristol by dropping the most route one problems possible in their paths.

Mini is promiscuous and so as one of the tablets of stone brought down from the top of Television Centre in the late-1950s declares, she must face the trial of teenage pregnancy. She can’t just shag around and enjoy it. There is always A CONSEQUENCE. 

I’m not saying we should tell teenagers that guzzling drugs like they’re cheap pick’n’mix and offering up your orifices for more traffic than the Blackwall Tunnel gets on a busy Friday afternoon is wise. All I’m saying is that if Skins is trying to sell itself as an evenly vaguely plausible edgy, sexy confection of a drama, then it doesn’t always have to punish women for enjoying sex, taking drugs or choosing bad boyfriends. There are other, more interesting dramatic choices to be made. 

James Corden on The Brits: horrified by Elvis, sickened by The Sex Pistols

I have finally listened to James Corden’s backslapping session/it-weren’t-really-me-guv mea culpa on the Brit Awards and AdeleGate. The interview from Richard Bacon’s 5Live show on Wednesday isn’t incredibly illuminating but it does expose new levels of obsequious from Rich and a hefty slice of pomposity from James Corden in his role as the freshly anointed crown prince of British pop banality: 

“If the one negative we’re saying about this year’s Brit awards was that Adele didn’t get long enough to say thank you then comparing that to previous years that’s a real triumph. In terms of politicians getting covered in buckets of ice and rockstars invading other people’s stages and drunk DJs running up and shouting ‘oi oi’ into a microphone and other rockstars chucking their award into a crowd – by those standards this is an OK problem…I don’t think that stuff is befitting of how we are as a country making music.” 

Yes, it’s not hard to see why the BPI sees James Corden as a safe pair of hands to host its annual celebration of whatever can still be shovelled in large enough quantities to qualify for a gold record. In deeply conservative times, James Corden is Eric Pickles with a sketch show past and showbiz mates. 

Just look at some of his list of ‘embarrassing’ Brits incidents past – politicians covered in buckets of ice (John Prescott vs Chumbawamba in a ‘Who craves publicity more?’ grudge match), rockstars invading other people’s stages (Jarvis Cocker rightly protesting Michael Jackson’s faux-messiah antics) and drunk DJs running up and shouting ‘oi oi’ (Brandon Block trying to accept an award that wasn’t his aka funny).

The common denominator in all those incidents that so offend James Corden’s sensibilities is that they pricked the inherent pomposity of the Brits. The awards show is, in effect, the British record industry’s equivalent of one of those slap up meals for certified gas boiler sellers or chartered accountants. The Brits is a booze up for the remaining vestiges of a once cataclysmically decadent industry that still wants to think of itself as very goddamn vital and important. Read John Niven’s Kill Your Friends for a rather fine and scurrilous take down of how those ruddy faced pricks played their way through the 90s boom times. 

To the outside observer, James Corden’s interest in music doesn’t seem to extend much further than relative fame of those acts he finds himself gooning about with in TwitPics. To be fair, his choice of Rufus Wainwright’s The Art Teacher on Desert Islands Discs did suggest the merest glimmer of a taste that delves deeper than the gratifying fact that the boys of One Direction greatly enjoyed his autobiography. 

When James Corden seriously intoned on Bacon’s show that this years Brit awards “felt so far removed from the drunken sort of mishmashy shows that it was before” he meant that as good thing. The producers will certainly conclude the same thing with the broadcast pulling in its best ratings in 7 years. But consider that My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding gained twice the audience and that figure starts to look a little less stellar. The big scandal of Brits night was not the curtailing of Adele’s Best Album speech, as inept as that was, but just how awfully boring the whole affair was. 

Not that James Corden would agree with that assessment, of course: “If you look at the spectrum of artists last night – Noel Gallagher and his band The High Flying Birds playing with Chris Martin and in between that Ed Sheeran and The Rizzle Kicks being the other side of that spectrum. It was a wonderful celebration of how lucky we are to have so many terrific artists making music.” Discounting the fact that James Corden doesn’t seem to actually know what the word “spectrum” means, his contention that a tired looking Noel Gallagher and the utterly ordinary Ed Sheeran should make us feel ‘lucky’ is almost painfully laughable. 

The one striking performance of the evening came from Rihanna. And how did James Corden greet her arresting attack on We Found Love? With a seventies working men’s club crack about “having the painters in”. Yes, that’s James Corden a man who has based a substantial proportion of his fame on getting his belly out on television making a cheap crack about periods after one of the world’s genuine pop megastar’s has just killed it. Quite how the comment chimes with Corden’s assertion that the Brits telecast “had a class and elegance to it” is not clear. 

The reviews suggest that James Corden is a revelation in One Man, Two Guvnors and I enjoyed Gavin & Stacey more than I am comfortable admitting but his continuing presence as a TV presenter makes me want to retreat to a remote cave where no radio signals can penetrate the dense rock. 

His bland pronouncements on what pop music should and shouldn’t be and how it might best be celebrated place him as the sort of windbag who bloviated about the corrupting effect of Elvis’s pelvis or The Sex Pistols being a widdle bit mean about dear ol’ Queenie. Hearing James Corden deliver a hagiography for the “wonderful, visionary” chairman of the BPI, I couldn’t help but envision a character so inflated with pomposity he could be tethered and used in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Still, we should be grateful – at least he’s not Neil McCormick

The regions: a message from the rest of us to the BBC and Richard Bacon

I grew up in Norfolk. It is the backwoods of Britain. If you want a comparison, look to the South of the United States. It is insular, at times scared of change and outsiders but also built on neighbourliness and the idea of community. The future reaches Norfolk more slowly than the rest of the UK. It simply has not installed the correct pipework. 

As a kid, the contrast between the local news, Look East, and the dispatches from London and the rest of the island that the county juts out from like a jolly tumour, was stark. In Norfolk, lost cats and confused sheep were genuinely big stories. In London, ‘things’ happened. Endless amounts of ‘things’ happened. And I wanted to be in London to experience those ‘things’. 

In Attleborough, the town where I grew up, a tired, sagging satellite to Norwich, Norfolk’s only real jewel, news doesn’t happen. It is a place where life just slumps onwards. Growing up supporting Norwich City and living in a small town, I realised that the rest of Britain rarely turned to look at Norfolk. It was a punchline for Alan Partridge, the regional purgatory he was cast out to. 

As an adult, I see Norfolk a lot more kindly than I once did. Norfolk people are in many ways kinder, calmer and more aware of the stretch of history than Londoners ever will be. There is a pleasant lack of arrogance about Norfolk people. They are deathly afraid of being considered to think that they’re ‘better than they ought to be’. 

Richard Bacon doesn’t worry about that sort of thing. Or at least, he certainly appears not to. I am a daily listener to his 5Live afternoon show. He can be an excellent interviewer and has good radio voice but the smugness with which he boasts about his media elite lifestyle can be painful in the extreme. 

Bacon’s life is one of award show invites, celebrity interviews and Groucho Club evenings. He revels in it, unafraid of sharing his glee with his listeners. He’s glad to have escaped his Nottinghamshire roots and makes that abundantly clear.

Of course there’s absolutely no reason that Richard Bacon shouldn’t enjoy his success. He has clearly worked hard to get where he is. But in his subtle sneering at the regions (a trawl through past shows throw up plenty of examples), he comes across as insular and obsessed with the reciprocal glow of celebrity. Plenty of his listeners live outside the warm embrace of the M25. 

The inspiration for writing this post was a series of three tweets from Richard Bacon yesterday that really highlight that sense of looking down on the regions: 

Filming in Liverpool Street Station. The departures board is the most complete list of places I don’t want to go to I’ve ever seen.

It’s quite incredible just how many places there are that I’ve never heard of. What the hell is Shenfield? Is it a departure board typo?

And yes yes, of course there are some nice places served by Liverpool St Station. I was being very silly. (SOME).

Obviously they were jokes but the place they come from is interesting. They reflect how London-centric many presenters are in spite of the BBC’s slightly-insane decision to shift many of its broadcasts to Salford. 

Richard Bacon commutes every day to do his radio show from the new Media City complex. It is a fig leaf to regionalism that is made even more ridiculous by the fact that his boss, 5Live controller Adrian Van Klaveren, rents accommodation in Salford rather than relocating there.

I love the BBC and don’t want to dive into a Daily Mail-esque rant about funding and expenditure but the play acting around the Salford move raises some big issues. Many of the BBC’s top ‘talent’ which Richard Bacon is among, simply look at the rest of Britain as a list of places they “don’t want to go to”. 

Of course London is brilliant, I think it’s one of the best cities in the world, but sneering at the small towns where lots of listeners and viewers live is a really shoddy thing to do.  

The Arctic Monkeys and the joy of the non-album single

The non-album single is always a good sign. It suggests a band in good form and high spirits, a band with the confidence to send a song out into the world without a gang of others to give it cover.

The history of the non-album single is studded with gems. I started off thinking about the brilliance of the non-album single with Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields (unquestionably one of the best double-A sides of all time) and the flood of Twitter replies followed including: 

This Charming Man, Some Candy Talking, Losing My Edge, You Made Me Realise, Popscene, Virginia Plain, Beautiful Son, Watching the Detectives, Beat Surrender, The Man Don’t Give A Fuck, Stay Together,  John, I’m Only Dancing, Fool’s Gold, Capital Radio, Love Will Tear Us Apart, Blue Monday, Ghost Town, Jumping Jack Flash, Going Underground, See Emily Play.

To that list, add the latest Arctic Monkeys release. R U Mine? sloped onto YouTube and popped up on iTunes and other popular download emporiums out of the blue.

With Suck It And See still relatively fresh, R U Mine’s arrival was an unexpected treat from the careening Monkeys tea party. While the song is brilliant, the release feels like the product of quick thinking with no artwork and a rough and ready video that comes off like Alex Turner and Matt Helders doing a lib dub to their own song. 

This is the Arctic Monkeys having fun, at ease with their position. A long way from the teenage wailing oh-lord-what-are-we-for? antics of Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?, the EP that emerged after their first LP crowned them kings of the indie disco empire.

Josh Homme’s involvement with the Arctic Monkeys is one of the 21st century music’s most glorious philanthropic acts. It may have temporarily unleashed a boring beardy desert dwelling attitude in the Sheffield lads but the aftermath has been a brilliant loosening of their sound and an easiness with bigger drums and devilish baselines.

R U Mine? has a nasty Black Sabbath swagger welded to the kind of backing vocals N.E.R.D would be proud of.  

The Arctic Monkeys of the first two albums were the jittery leg twitch of drunken-school-disco-booze-stolen-from-your-dad’s-drinks-cabinet-confidence.

Today’s Monkeys are more at home in their skins. Rockstars with a sense off humour who seem to have passed unharmed through their dating models and making friends with P-Diddy stage. 

There is no British band of their era still producing lyrics and music that fizz. Their compatriots have fallen by the wayside and unlike the lumpen laddishness coming from Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys songs retain a wit and intelligence that would give Alan Bennett a warm tingle in his duffel coat. 

I can understand why many still love the first Arctic Monkeys record best. It was the soundtrack to many a drunken teenage night and felt like a document of modern British life in a way that very few contemporary albums ever could have.

I remain an Arctic Monkeys fan because with songs like R U Mine? They’re a band that are still cannoballing onwards, ever-evolving with a growing ability to pen a hook and that ever reliable Turner gift for a killer phrase. 

Thanks for inspiration on this post from the following excellent Twitter persons: 

@alanbeveridge, @ennacooper, @pawboy2, @irrpfad, @henkpfister, @garyparkinson, @trakka62, @jimmelly, @matbeal, @cherrymakes, @mucky_brogue, @csi_popmusic, @katobell, @mark_samuels, @rich_trenholm, @ganofo, @rivermansky63, @reggington, @dandouglas, @mrjohnrain, @wonky_donky@jamieeelaing, @buxtongooner, @stephencgrant, @minifig, @eddierobson

The iPad joins comics and the spinning top as a ruiner of childhood: more tales of total bollocks

Every new technological development in history has been greeted by worried folk flinging their hands up in horror and suggesting that it will destroy the very fabric of society. From self-interested monks mithering about the printing press to radio stars getting uppity about the television’s bright open face, they’ve all come to look foolish in time as the technology they feared has become woven into the fabric of society. 

This morning, I fired up my iPhone to read an article from Beverley Turner of The Telegraph explaining how the awful, evil of the iPad is laying waste to children’s imaginations, a dreadful drug dealer getting them hooked on short bursts of gratification and denying them a future painting the next Sistine Chapel ceiling. 

Let’s take a look at Beverley’s first paragraph and consider the tone it sets for her argument: 

“The technology behemoth Apple is rejoicing after the sale of its 25-billionth app. The Disney game, Where’s My Water?, was, it says downloaded by a Chinese child who can now swipe one finger across a screen to release water onto a subterranean alligator.” 

It’s very balanced isn’t it? That image of nasty old Apple, Godzilla-like, stomping through the streets of the cities it has conquered in a kind of app-themed Nuremberg rally, all in celebration that it now controls the mind of a feckless Chinese child who is hooked on the unquestionable charms of drenching a naughty alligator. 

You could use the same censorious language about a book publisher celebrating the 10-millionth sale of a popular book: “The publishing giant is rejoicing after the sale of its 10-millionth book. The title, Harry The Unfeasibly Happy Hippo, was purchased by a British child who can now use one finger to move pages and looks at pictures of Harry doing happy hippo stuff.” 

Turner seems aghast that Disney has created the protagonist of Where’s My Water?, Swampy, entirely for mobile platforms. It’s a scar thought for her that the character hasn’t graduated from apps from ‘traditional’ media such as movies or TV and instead leapt to the iPad first: “Apparently, this is a cause for celebration (surely there’s an app to help us look happy).” 

There’s probably also an app for Turner to cream out her hysterical fear-mongering if she searches through the app store for long enough. She quotes Disney vice-president Bart Decrem, who told the Today programme: “A whole generation of kids is growing up with…[iPads and iPhones] as their ‘first screen’.” Now, unsurprisingly, this didn’t go down well with Turner: “Fewer phrases could be more chilling…” I can think of many more chilling phrases. Here’s one: “Beverley Turner, formerly of The Telegraph, has been appointed Education Tsar.”

It’s at this point of the article that we get to the real reason Turner is so aggrieved by apps: they’re becoming a problem in her own parenting –

“I must confess to being recently bowled over by a Times Tables app that kept two energetic eight-year-olds entertained on a long train journey. However, it can feel as though the sole purpose of a 21st-century parent is to negotiate ‘screen’ time. Despite the diversions of piano, swimming and Cubs, my eight-year-old would always choose the solitary world of the Wii. And we are regularly woken up the opening bars of the Peppa Pig theme tune escaping from the iPad that out two-year-old has swiped from my office…” 

See, I have yet to expose the world to the horror of my own progeny but I’m pretty certain that parenting has always been about some negotiation, that there have always been horrifying diversions for children that adults have felt uncomfortable about. Comic books or spinning tops would take the place of the iPad and apps in an earlier incarnation of this tale. 

Turner seems to believe boredom is a magic bullet to create imagination: “The problem is this: our children do not know how to be bored. It’s a time-bomb because, let’s face it, rather a lot of real life is quite dull.” Boredom can force you to be imaginative, to “make your own fun” but being stimulated can foster your imagination far better.

My mum read to me lots and I was given plenty of action figures that I made up stories about. An iPad would have thrilled me. It is a creation device, not just a consumption machine. Turner’s own lack of imagination about the power of apps is the problem here. 

Turner concludes her article: “No matter how loveable Disney makes its app characters, looking silently at a handheld screen teaches our children nothing about language, empathy or relationships.” This is rubbish. 

Does Sesame Street, delivered through a television, teach children nothing about language, empathy or relationships? Does any child truly interact with an iPad ‘silently’? Not if the app they’re playing with is any good and their parents are also interacting with them. The iPad is no different to the television before it, it’s a tool in the arsenal of interesting diversions available to children. Parents have to offer it up wisely but telling you child that apps are awful is a way to put them behind the pack. 

Ever feel like you’ve been cheated? Laurie Penny’s Pistols analogy misses the target

Those who don’t study history are destined to write awful articles for The Independent. In her latest dispatch from the furthest reaches of ‘what the countering toss is she on about?’, Laurie Penny seems to believe that punk was just a lark that a few lads and lasses with spare safety pins knocked up on a quiet afternoon in Shoreditch. Because, you know, you can buy Sex Pistols tat in Topshop, yeah? 

I shouldn’t write about Laurie Penny’s writing. It’s a bad habit. Though she is undeniably talented (I really enjoyed a piece she wrote about the appeal of London), she’s on a fast track to ‘doing a Hari’ with her ill-thought out columns and all that Ryan-Gosling-is-Superman showboating. 

Her Indy piece on The Boat Race protest is arguably the dumbest piece of writing she has ever put out into the world and sums up the way editors are using her like a piñata that commenters are encouraged to hit with sticks.

The piece is badly researched, badly thought out rhetoric that barely makes contact with a single fact. In Laurie Penny’s contention, the guy who nearly got beheaded by a fast moving blade as he made an ineffectual protest, was just a crazy prankster – Ken Kesey with an LSE degree. 

At no point did the protest define his actions as a prank. They were, in his fermenting brain, an attempt to fight elitism as represented by two crews of largely international journeymen attempting to get down the river faster than each other. It was wrong-headed but it wasn’t the political equivalent of strapping on a shock buzzer and walking around offering free handshakes. 

Laurie, a graduate of Wadham College, Oxford (I’m a Homerton, Cambridge alumnus myself) used the protest as a jumping off point for a column about how the police are going to respond to April Fool’s day next year with baton rounds and horse charges. 

She compares the horrible, nasty awful climate now with the lovely cuddly 70s when rubbish piling up in the streets and bodies going unburied were just hilarious situationist goofs and the punks had a lovely time larking about, utterly tolerated by the establishment. 

Only the Sex Pistols boat party that she uses as an example of public protest prankery was busted up by police with sticks and John Lydon regularly got his head kicked in for daring to dress differently. Being a punk was dangerous.

There was a time when mohicans weren’t just cool things to stick on postcards of Camden. But history is just a convenient dress up box for Laurie Penny so facts don’t need to come into it. Facts are like, well boring, and very probably the tool of the patriarchy. That bloody bastard. 

I’ve written about the worries I have around privatisation of the police and the vast amount of security that will swarm London’s streets for the Olympics but Laurie positively revels in dystopian fantasies.

She’s almost willing Britain to be the dark futurist nightmare she paints in her columns because then she can be Natalie Portman in V For Vendetta. It feels so damn good to pretend to be a freedom fighter. Especially when there’s a cheque in the post and some cool friends to tell you that your riot boots look very natty.

Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?