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.

Review: Me vs. Scott Pilgrim – would you let your daughter date a Pilgrim?

Scott Pilgrim is a prat – self-absorbed and selfish, a character who refracts everything through the prism of his own ego. That’s not Edgar Wright’s fault. The character’s emptiness is there in the original graphic novels, just like the unappealing smugness that floats around his dream girl Ramona Flowers before she suddenly transmogrifies into a piece of placid arm-candy for Gideon Graves.

I wanted to love Scott Pilgrim vs The World. The patina of geeky references laid down by Edgar Wright is dizzying and delicious (from the Street Fighter-style fight scenes to subtler nods to nerdy touchstones like SoulCalibur). But once you cut through the sugary cream of the visual styling, you’re left with characters that have nothing but surface and care only about themselves.

Scott uses the besotted 17-year-old Knives Chau to power-up his deflated ego and discards her like a banana skin in Mario Kart once he meets Ramona. He’s obsessed with what’s cool, his dialogue peppered with “or whatever”s. In the world of Scott Pilgrim, girls are like Xbox Live achievements to be obtained and then forgotten.

And then there’s Ramona. With her constantly changing hair and penchant for skating through a convenient portal in Scott’s brain, we’re meant to be as besotted by her as he is. But she’s boring and nowhere near as charming as Knives.

Scott Pilgrim works for lots of guys because they’ll look at the central character and see themselves: a manboy obstinately refusing to connect with reality. Sure the fight scenes are phenomenal, the soundtrack is brilliant but nothing endeared me to Scott Pilgrim. He’s as unpleasant as any of the evil exes, no matter how often Michael Cera pulls on his cute little hat or scrunches up his nose.

For all the dazzling unreality of Scott Pilgrim vs The World’s physics, those Day-Glo fight scenes and extra lives appearing in mid-air, the most unconvincing element of all is Scott’s appeal to women. He’s a geek everyman who says nothing and does nothing interesting outside of his unexplained ability to fight like a Mortal Kombat character.

Edgar Wright’s direction is undeniably brilliant but Scott Pilgrim vs The World has an underlying unpleasantness that the cutesy antics and ironic quips couldn’t cover up for me. Would I let my imaginary daughter date a Pilgrim? Not likely.

The Fall live: Mark E Smith presents Last Of The Summer Wine

The last time I saw The Fall live was crammed into the tiny Cartoon Club in Croydon. There was something oddly appropriate about listening to Mark E Smith’s apocalyptic prophet act beneath the brutalist concrete monoliths of South London’s failed experiment in accelerated Darwinism.

Sticking The Fall in a tent in the middle of a field in Ireland isn’t exactly the perfect fit. In the smallest of the tents at Ireland’s Electric Picnic festival, a man in the crowd vainly attempts to recount the twisted band’s twisted history to two disinterested women: “There’s this guy and he just goes through musicians…”

The Fall is like music’s French Foreign Legion – musicians conscripted from their old lives, anonymised and brutalised by their overlord, the relentless war lord Mark E Smith. Only his wife Elena Poulou looks happy to be onstage with him and even she keeps her coat on for the duration (did her Gran never tell her she won’t get the benefit?). Pete Greenaway on guitar looks particularly haunted as Smith twiddles with his amp.

It’s almost a legal requirement to repeat John Peel’s assertion that The Fall are “always different, always the same” when tackling Mark E Smith’s single-minded ploughing of the same pop furlough for 34 years. But his performance – the gurning, throwing his mic into the crowd, adjusting the musician’s amps and wandering to the back of the stage – is like music’s equivalent of Last Of The Summer Wine.

Besides a face that shares more than a little with Combo, a Fall performance is as familiar as an episode of the cancelled sitcom. In that show, you knew Nora Batty would turn up with her crinkled tights and Combo would go careening down a hill in a tin bath. With The Fall, Mark E Smith will goad his own band and ping-pong in and out of utter incomprehensibility like a shortwave radio being detuned.

Playing songs from Your Future Our Clutter, The Fall’s 28th album, the Electric Picnic set ticked off all the necessary elements. Like Last Of The Summer Wine, the cast has frequently changed but Mark E Smith remains as Roy Clarke and Clegg combined.

The Fall is only three year younger than the now departed comedy and it’s unlikely to be cancelled until Smith topples over. Always different, always the same, an obsession with East Germany, enmity towards squirrels and Nuggets compilations in place of a tin bath and surgical stockings. 

Photo by Lib Lab

Roomba vs the dalmatians: why iRobot wins at dog-friendly housekeeping

There are three creatures – Barney and Tess the dalmatians and their robot friend, Rodney. Rodney is a Roomba, the robotic vacuum cleaner that has pretty much revolutionised cleaning in this garrett I live in. The best thing about Rodney is that unlike the gallumphing traditional vacuum cleaners, he doesn’t frighten the dalmatians, in fact, they’re fascinated by him. 

A traditional vacuum cleaner is a frightening thing to most dogs. I think that’s mostly to do with the motion and the fact that to a dog, a human using a vacuum cleaner looks like someone coming towards them brandishing a stick. For rescued dogs like Barney and Tess that is categorically not a good thing. 

But Rodney doesn’t move like a traditional vacuum cleaner. He is closer to the ground. He’s quieter and his pattern of movement is more animal like. He’s a robot friend to the dogs, snuffling around and getting rid of dirt and dust. The dalmatians are either fascinated by him or utterly disinterested. Normal vacuum cleaners scare them rigid. 

The great thing is, not only does Rodney not bother the dalmatians, he is actually very good at cleaning around the house. Incredibly simple to use and set up, the Roomba actually gets the floor really clean. iRobot make it clear that you may still have to do some traditional vacuuming in especially hard to reach areas but Rodney even gets under the sideboard. 

The only sad thing about Rodney’s stay with us is that he will soon have to be sent back to his factory. For Rodney is but a loaned robot. Like many iRobot customers who ask for their own robot back when their Roomba goes for a repair or upgrade, we’ve got attached to ours. We may just have to buy Rodney. 

The Apprentice Series 6 Episode 8 review

I didn’t think anyone could irritate me more than Stuart “Baggs The Brand” Baggs so this week’s Apprentice was like being obsessed with the Monkees and suddenly being played The Beatles. Because after the breezy Brill Building idiocy of Baggs last week, Laura revealed herself as The Beatles of buffoonery, delivering the Eleanor Rigby of extreme irritation. 

Where Baggs is a force 10 moron on the Mic Wright patented Tosserometer, somehow he wasn’t the most objectionable candidate last night. Laura moaned and griped and whined and swore her way through the show and just like Baggs last week was saved by being on the winning team and didn’t deserve the dubious accolade of going shopping with Baggs The Brand. Incidentally: BBC Three, if you commission Shopping Baggs, I will sue you. 

After last week’s teaser that we might just see a wee bit of xenophobia (Christopher: “I HATE the Germans…”), it was quite surprising that the Apprentice contestants didn’t create a full on international incident. Frankly, Joanna, who greets all foreigners with a patronising hand gesture, is a diplomatic row in a skirt suit. 

Selling crisps to the Germans meant the Apprentice crew were able to sprinkle a nice selection of cliches around along with the sausage flavouring and curry powder. It was fun but Lord Sugar should take Baggs’ suggestion that he send them to a war zone. I’d like to see Stuart hawking kosher chickens in downtown Baghdad wearing: “What is all this Shiite?” t-shirt.  

In an unlikely twist, Baggs The Brand was actually capable of speaking German with fairly impressive fluency. That total derailed much of my snark about Stuart but thankfully he threw in a few pearls to enrage me (“I cannot lose this task” sent me skittering towards my shrine to pray to the vengeful gods of reality TV that they smite him). 

Chris’s team (which also included confusingly similarly-named but tiny-headed so-called sniper Christopher) tried to sell British flavours to the German. Frankly, they might as well have tried to hawk Bomber Harris’ Patented Paprika Incendiary Bombs or Dresden Dairylea dunkers as viable tasty snacks for the Teutonic market. Meanwhile Baggs’ crew, this week nominally headed by Stella went for the smart but culturally stereotype heavy sausage-flavoured route.  

Laura should have gone. She spoke at Speedy Gonzalez speed during a meeting with a lovely German guy – “HERE’SSOMECRISPSYOUSHOULDBUYTHEMTHEY’REREALLYGOOD – then mutated into a grumpy toddler wearing her mum’s business suit. Sadly, she was saved by her team’s success and Chris, PM on the losing side, was saved by Christopher’s widely reported legal issues. No mention of them in the show of course…thank God for tabloids.

  • 30 Plays

Britney Spears – Hold It Against Me single review 

If I said I want your body now…would you hold it against me?

Britney Spears has come a long way since she dressed as a barely legal stripper for the Baby Hit Me One More Time video. Yes, she’s come all the way to…a song about frottage thrown into a big pot of ravey chords.

The lyrics are from a combination of old Blind Date scripts and contacting Les Dawson’s ghost via Derek Acorah chained to a radiator and fed ecstasy. The vocal tweaks make Britney sound like Orville The Duck reduced to turning tricks after Keith Harris has left him for a younger bird but…I like it.

At about 2:40 in, the song, pissed on Lambrini stumbles into a nightclub and it all gets a bit Dubstep. It’s cashing in on a genre Brit has no interest or understanding of but clearly shows the presence of Rusko who’s helping out on the new record. 

Three out of five from me right now but let’s be honest, I’ll be dancing around the living room to it within about a day. 

10 O’Clock Live review: playing at Paxman and buggering it up

It was pitched as a new live satire show to revive the spirit of That Was The Week That Was and bring some of The Daily Show’s incredibly reactive political comedy nouse to a British comedy scene with only the listless Now Show and Have I Got News For You offering topical gags but 10 O’Clock Live fell flat.

The first episode of 10 O’Clock Live was essentially a willy-waving contest between David Mitchell, Jimmy Carr and Charlie Brooker.

Charlie Brooker is the most astute British TV critic around today (though Clive James could still wipe the floor with him if he chose to pick up his pen and remote again) but on 10 O’Clock Live he’s starring in exactly the kind of show he used to skewer.

Brooker has gone from poacher to gamekeeper in the worst way. He is within the bubble of TV in a way that disarms many of his greatest weapons. Of course his monologues last night had some great lines, he’s a writer of astounding bite but overall he was trite.

David Mitchell seems to have been annointed an indisputable voice of the concerned liberal masses with his no-nonsense Observer columns. However, Mitchell is an average performer and writer who ascends above that level in Peep Show thanks to excellent scripts. Playing the plastic Paxman role last night, Mitchell failed to land any significant punches on David Willetts despite the help of a studio audience primed to boo.

Jimmy Carr offered some good topical gags but they were all rather familiar from Twitter which can react far faster and far funnier than any telly show.

The most disappointing element of the show though was putting Lauren Laverne in the role as token woman with only one real slot for her to shine. Is 10 O’Clock Live going to the bastion of liberal comedy on British TV and retain the underlying sexism of sticking the female presenter in the background?

Putting 10 O’Clock Live up against Question Time was an act of hubris. Question Time is TV’s political powerhouse and regularly brings politicans to account. Last night, the tussle between George Galloway and Alastair Campbell was riveting. 10 O’Clock Live on the other hand was lukewarm and toothless. It can improve but it needs to, fast.

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.