Vincent Maine Flame Red Hustler

The third prong

Back when I was a pack-a-day cigarette smoker two weeks ago, the worst thing in the world to me was running out of cigarettes after the dairies have closed.

For those of you from out of town, in New Zealand, grocery stores are called “dairies”. And the store clerks are called “milk cows” and can work the registers for many, many lactations.


The problem is that most dairies in Auckland close long before the cows come home.

So if you run out of cigarettes after a certain hour of the night, your options are limited. And one option more dreadful than the other: you can drive to a gas station, or, like an adult, you can delay gratification and wait until the dairy opens in the  morning.

Fuck that “being adult about it” bullshit. I want my wah-wah. So it sucks to be a Parnell smoker in the wee hours of the morning. I myself was caught with my pants down on more than a few similar occasions. Each time, as I pulled my pants back up, I discovered that I was out of cigarettes. Not only was my bum sore. Not only was I out $5. But I had nothing to smoke. So I was fucked coming and going. Of course, I’m speaking figuratively here, you all understand.


A few months ago, I discovered the Juice Bar, the live performance venue attached to the Windsor Tavern.

The shows I caught were actually kind of fun, funky cover bands that dropped phat beats. A bouncer at the door saw me reach for my wallet to show him my ID and started laughing.

I could see why when I went in and started feeling my own mortality choking me about my double chin, making my gray stubble stand on end.

It’s chilling to be 42 and standing in a room full of sexually charged 20-somethings in Sunday best, and drunk/drugged out of their heads.

So naturally I start bobbing my head in rhythm to the music. That way I start to blend in. I don’t want to tip my hat that the only reason I’m there is to buy cigarettes. I look around, pretend to be judging the scene for coolness, to see if Juice is up to my high standard of cool. Because if it isn’t, I’m splitting. It’s the last thing the Windsor wants to see happen. A trendsetting blogger, yawning and walking out.  But it was OK. Because I liked the music, and it felt good to bob my head in tempo. I felt like a big, fat spasticated bower bird failing at his mating dance. Naturally, it took some time to acclimate to the sensual/erotic atmosphere engendered by relatively new model humans. So I noticed these two young ladies standing next to me. And in the coolest voice I’ve ever heard coming out of my mouth, I said, “Don’t you love this kind of music?” or something along those lines.

Long story short, eight seconds later, I was at the bar, buying my cigarettes.


Of course that’s all in the past. Because as of August 2, I don’t smoke cigarettes.

I had gone into this thing with the idea that I’d use the patches and once in a while I’d resort to the e-cig.

Instead, I went the first few days without the patch, and have so far been patchless the entire two weeks.

Unfortunately, I have relied heavily on the e-cigarette to ease me through the occasional pangs.

It’s not a great idea for two reasons. E cigarettes prolong your chemical and psychological dependence on nicotine.

But worse than that, you look so cool using an E cigarette that you catch people’s attention.

I went to the St. Luke’s Westfield the other day. God knows why. To cash in on a gift certificate.

Malls in general are painful disasters of social architecture. Mostly because the chicks you see there have huge asses. It’s depressing.

So, yesterday, after about 30 minutes of looking around the shops for something buy with my gift certificate, I found myself just staring down from the second floor to the people eating and browsing in the food court, and the thought came to me that the worst thing about the Cold War was that we didn’t nuke each other.

Anyway, as I stood there, pondering, I took out my e-cigarette and started puffing away.

These two older chicks, maybe in their late 40s, early 50s, spotted me and started whispering to each other, but in a stage whisper.

“My god, is he smoking?” one said.

“What is that, a cigarette,” the other said.

“That’d better not be a cigarette.”

“Is he smoking a cigarette inside the mall.”

So I turned to face them, and show that it was an e-cigarette,

“Oh, it’s one of those electronic cigarettes,” the one said to the other, completely ignoring me,

“Is he allowed to do that?”

“Nobody’s stopping him.”

“Somebody should stop him.”

And on an on. The chicks’ whispering reminded me of a horror movie when demons start hissing to each other.

So, I had a few choice words with the two old bags, and before I knew it the three of us were in a hotel room making an adult video.


The point of all this is manifold. In my first month of unemployment, I’ve made some progress in establishing a sound business case for me getting paid to be a funny person.

I know, I know. Everyone, except for maybe a severely retarded person or a United States Postal worker, thinks they are funny enough to entertain people, and make money doing it.

I may be retarded in many vast areas of my life, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think I’m funny. I do think I’m funny.

I just don’t know how to convince anybody else that.

So, in this, the incipient stages of what is probably going to be a very long-ass, painful and largely unrewarding experience (much like watching a Peter Jackson trilogy, but a lot more expensive), I am hoping to add to my developing repertoire.

In addition to doing stand up and pursuing any creative writing assignments that come my way, I have been convinced to compile a book of essays, perhaps based on what I’ve written on this blog, but printed in large type so my grandmother can read it.

Jacquie and my friend Sabine have given me several reading assignments to familiarize myself with the essay form that I’d like to write: David Sedaris, David Rakoff, Sarah Silverman, and Lance Armstrong.

That’s right. I’m going to be a famous non-fiction, personal essayist/humorist.


Ginga, please.

And this blog, for the moment, is the link that feeds the other pursuits. So, while I talk about my essay writing project here, when I do stand up, I can make jokes about how my blog is about my book of essays.

And, to bring it full circle, I can talk about how my standup routines are all about my blogs being about my essays.

Constantly recycling material from one state to the next in a perfectly homeostatic system of funny shit.

I like to think of it as Ouroboros, a very ancient symbol that stands for “synergizing your core competencies into a multi-platform, multi-channel marketing strategy that will have you rolling in the dough and retired before know it.”

The only thing is, I have to get it started, by talking about what I know. Me. I’m basically going to become everyone’s worst first date. I’m going to drone on and on and on about myself. And I’m going to stick you with the bill at the end.

Which is why this blog was mostly about e-cigarettes.

So, if you see me doing standup, or if you buy my book some time down the road, and it all seems familiar, it is.

NOTE: A special shout out to Anthony Wilson, a funny comedian whom I interviewed a few weeks ago, after he MC’d a very tough room: I have been too lazy to write it up man…but I will…soon.

[[second draft. deleted phrase. very little subbing. Fuck you. You sub it.]]

Conversations with comedians

A question I’ve been wrestling with is if I need to develop a standup routine ancillary to the pursuit of a comedy writing career.

The thought of going on stage makes me want to vomit. I just picture myself getting called up, hopping up on stage and vomiting.

Sure, vomiting is funny, and not many comedians are making a career of it right now, so I would be unique. But I don’t think I could ever come up with enough vomit for an entire five-minute set, let alone a 20-minute act in front of a festival crowd.

A kitty!

Ooooh, a kitty!

Nevertheless, the argument for developing a standup act is compelling. I can’t rely strictly on comedy writing to make ends meet. It’s a small country. And considering the fact that my writing is mostly a tedious litany of things I hate about people, and my arguments in favor of a global thermonuclear war, the audience for my writing will be quite narrow.

So, thinking about ways to supplement my career, I investigating the Auckland standup scene.

Auckland isn’t exactly bursting through the sphincter with comedy venues. The Classic is the only game in town, singularly referred to as “the club”.

There is, however, a growing list of open mic nights, including Snatch Bar’s Snatch Comedy, every Wednesday, 8:30 p.m., free admission, Ponsonby Road, for more information what do I look like, the fucking Yellow Pages? Click on the link. I’m not your mother.

Parnell accountants' office

Sorry, wrong slide.

Snatch (I will not make a cheap joke, I will not make a cheap joke) is a tight little hole in the wall where anybody can penetrate the comedy scene. It brings together performers of various experience levels, from clueless neophytes to clueless veterans.

Snatch has a great vibe. The crowd is warm and supportive, making it a perfect launch pad for deluded people like me. And despite my sheer terror, it looks kind of fun. Stepping up on stage in front of that crowd with those lights in your eyes is probably as exciting as being told by a cop to kneel beside your car with your hands behind your head. But I’m willing to try anything twice.


Snatch also presents an element of risk. The stage is set close to the door, and people walking in during a set can throw a comedian off his game.

This is what happened last Wednesday, when one comedian had just been introduced, and was about to start when two drunken cows slammed into the bar. The guy was so close to the door that they hit him with it on the way in. And before the comic can say anything, the lead cow screams, “Where’s the party!?”

She even continued to talk as the comedian, with justified rage, cut her down. He started screaming, saying things like, “What kind of cum catching whores come into the middle of a set screaming….How fucking stupid are you?…”

Subbasement car park, plus conference room

Yes, I know, completely irrelevant.

I talked about what happened with Snatch’s organizer, Jarred Fell, 23, a comic-magician who dropped out of school at 17 to go professional. His act centers on magic tricks and the back-and-forth he improvises with volunteers from the audience. Fell agreed to be the first subject of a new, regular feature on Basement Life called Conversations with Comedians.

Q: How would you deal with hecklers like that?

A: You want to hit them back. Because the crowd is behind you, the crowd knows that person is being a dick. Let’s mock them, shut them down, and 80 percent of the time, they go “ok”, and they shut up. And then you get bitches like that. And when [comedian] stopped [his set], she won. I don’t know if a comic should do that.

Q. Is the worst kind of disruption the volunteer who thinks they’re funnier than you?

A. Nah. They usually shut up very quickly right after you put them in their place. It’s the really drunk people that get aggressive. I had a guy punch me in the face in Palmerston North. Another place, a guy threw a bottle at me. I didn’t see it at first but as I turned I saw it and I caught it. People got up and clapped because how did you catch that bottle?

Q. Your comic delivery kind of reminds me of Jerry Lewis. You don’t know what I’m talking about.

A. <puzzled, perhaps mildly annoyed expression>

Q. I hate Jerry Lewis. It’s just that you remind me of him. Don’t get me wrong, I like your stuff. I’ll stop now.

A. My style is camp, normally. Hit on the volunteers. It’s very Tommy Cooper style. He’s an idol. Tommy Cooper is from the same time as Paul Daniels, who was the magician that always failed. I want it to look like everything is going wrong, and in the end it all works out.

Q. So who did you learn magic from?

A. Me, myself, and I, man. I saw Copperfield when I was 11 in Vegas. I was amazed and I wanted to do that. I started doing research, magic clubs, and just practicing. In my spare time, I masturbated a lot, too. I was in theatre. When I was seven, I was doing theatre, musical theatre. That’s where I got my stage time. Then I added the comedy and magic about seven years ago. There’s no one over here that does it. And so I keep that unique difference and in a year, I turned pro, and was just working. It usually takes a comic a good three or four years. Alternative acts make it faster because they want to slip someone else into the mix.

Q. Do you think the small population of New Zealand, and its general lack of sense of humor makes it easier?

A. Uh, yeah. When you do comedy lineups they want alternative. you can only listen to an all comedy show of just talking for so much. Someone like myself or like Gish it breaks it up, it’s more of a show, I find, anyway.

Q. So what do you have coming up?

A. I’m doing a one-night only show at the Classic on August 16 called Fellon. And I’m touring that one in August, in Wellington, Nelson, Matamata. All the big places, mate. Goodbye Vegas. Hello Matamata.

Q: So, how do you develop and prepare your acts?

I think of something impossible to do and learn how to do it. And what I use on stage and how I can make that funny, a lot of that is improv. And a lot of it depends on the volunteer. A bad volunteer can ruin an act.

Nice people are more than a nuisance

I’ve been on the job as a comedy writer full-time for more or less than a week now.

What a start to a wonderful new chapter in my life. Words fail.

Here is a picture to illustrate all the amazing developments so far.


I know what you’re thinking. What did I expect? That it would be easy? That I’d just decide to become a comedy writer and presto I’d be rich and famous?

Of course I did. And between you and me, if I knew it was going to take longer than a week, I’d have gone with my original plan. DIY Family Dentistry. My motto was going to be “There’s nothing a little Number Eight wire can’t handle”. All my patients would be British expats because, let’s face it, how could I possibly make it any worse for them?


Anyway, I’ve been giving a whole lot of thought as to why it’s taken so long for me to get a paid writing gig. It’s a complete lack of quality content on this blog.

This is obviously not my fault. Over the last week, I was forced to trash two hilarious blog posts that would have put me on the map. All because people turned out not to be the assholes I’d expected them to be. Assholes.

Yes, warm, friendly folk have found a way into my heart, thus destroying all my plans to write horrible things about them.

From now on, if you are nice and we meet, you should assume that it is my intention to write something bad about you on my blog. If you act accordingly, we’re fine. But if you are nice to me, you are actually being an asshole.


But maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. Perhaps one can get mileage out of meeting nice people. Hell, everyday assholes make it easy. Perhaps the challenge is to discover what is so galling about nice people. Let’s take a look at one case study

A kindly old man walking dog

Sunday afternoon I was outside the flat supervising Vince in the vivisection of an earthworm.

An elderly gentleman approached walking his dog, startling us. The dog sent Vince running inside.

“Thanks, mister,” I said. “My cat needs to be put in his place from time to time.”

“That is a beautiful cat,” the old dude said.


“Thanks, mister,” I said.

But as soon as I did, I wondered why. I didn’t have anything to do with Vince being beautiful. What was this moron trying to suggest? That I had consort with a feline, begetting this fine specimen? I’m not opposed to the idea. It’s just not likely, so why is this guy trying to ruin my life by making me say thank you for something I had nothing to do with. At best, he’s complimenting me on my selection of a pet, or maybe he doesn’t mean anything by it. Maybe it’s a tick. Maybe he’s always paying compliments, regardless of who’s around. “That is a nice telephone pole….what a nice cloud.” And I just happened to be in the way.

Whatever the case is, he was an asshole and I wish I had run up to him, pet his dog, stood up and knee’d him in the nuts. “That’s for being courteous and amiable and not providing me with decent material for my blog, douche bag.”

The guy did seem to linger. It felt like maybe he was holding on for me to pay him a compliment in return.

“And your dog is beautiful, too,” I said.

Which was a flat-out lie. His dog made me want to vomit. It looked like something that crawled out of the transporter device at the end of The Fly. Like a rat crossed with an old shag carpet. But I was just being nice.


[[Rough draft, no proofing, Getting it trite the first time]]


Not long after we moved to Parnell, the occupant of 19 Earle Street next door, Mindfood magazine, relocated a few blocks away to Augustus Terrace.

That vacancy was filled later in 2012 by Backhouse.


It took me more than a year to realize that the name did not refer to the furnishing of gazebos. Backhouse actually is the family that owns the business, which sells well-designed office and home furniture to architects and interior designers. (When you grow up in the Bronx, you meet a lot more Finkelsteins and Rodriguezes than you do a Backhouse. The ratio is 2:1)

Backhouse participated in the annual Urbis Design Day a showcase of design shops around Auckland, quite a few of them in Parnell.

For their part, Backhouse set up a lawn out front, as part of a bringing the outside in.

2013-03-22_23-27-09_835 2013-04-10_20-58-28_679

Which meant Vince had to assert himself.

Furbis Design Day

Michelle Weir of Backhouse was kind enough to share this photo with me.

Production dailies from A Heart Unsundered

Great news. The funders a few weeks back gave me the green light to pursue my short film project, A Heart Unsundered.

Work is already underway, with a six week shooting and post-production schedule.

I thought it would be nice to share with you the reel from today’s shoot, on location in Parnell.

Video Press Release: Movie Project featuring Vincent Red-Hustler gets green light

Check back again from time to time in case I decide to update you. Or even to see if I bother following through with that I just said.

Doing the Parnell bloke

A particular genre of masculinity prevails in New Zealand.

And it scares the shit out of me.


A lot of New Zealand men are not merely men. They’re blokes.

Blokes are New Zealand’s “Regular Joes”. They enjoy being physical, building useful things, and just generally keeping active every frigging spare moment of their fricking lives.

Their weekends are spent deep-sea fishing, watching the rugby in the “man cave”, and getting strung-up naked by the wrists as their mates take turns thrashing their buttocks with a garden hose. And that’s just Saturday.

There isn’t anything wrong with any of that. It’s just blokes keeping busy and what-not.

My problem is how self-conscious I have become since moving to New Zealand of how alien the blokes and their folkways are to me.

It makes me realize that the only “man cave” I can accept is the one tucked safely away when I sit on my ass all day trying to think up new ideas for this lousy blog.


My sense of masculinity is a case of nurture screwing with nature’s head, from a strictly cissexual perspective.

When you’re raised among sisters, your sense of gender-coding gets distorted by the colorful hand-me-downs you’re forced to wear. Boys on JV basketball don’t take you seriously when you show up to practice in the Osh Kosh overalls your sister was wearing the day before.


None of that means anything. You’re still a man. With serious qualifications, sure.

But a man, nevertheless.

Just not a bloke.

How easy it is for a man like me (certain conditions apply) to feel a little less than a man when he’s around blokes. All eyes are on him as he returns from the bar with his shandy. Blokes laugh at him when they see him walk his cat at night. And he feels ashamed, even after his neighbor assured him that it is routine men to walk their cats, as long as they live in the confines of Parnell.


This isn’t to say there aren’t blokes living in Parnell.

In fact, Parnell blokes sometimes display the one blokey quality I find intolerable.

It’s a juvenile, covetous fascination for other blokes‘ expensive cars.

I once saw some construction workers accidentally bury their foreman in cement because they were momentarily distracted by some wheels of desire. “Yeaah, awright,” they shouted, though it was unclear if they were cheering for the car or for what they did to their foreman.

This went on every day for more than a week, right here on Earle Street. One day, somebody parked a black, 2002 FERRARI 360 MODENA F1, I think they call it, right across the road from our building.


The car was in front of Otis Elevator’s single-story building on Earle Street, in a yellow-marked loading zone with a five-minute parking limit during business hours.

Bloke after bloke, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends or family, stopped dead, looked the car over and said, “Yeah, that’ll do.”

These continuous displays of envy disquieted me, amusing as it could be. I’d watch the blokes passing, pumping their fists, audibly drooling. Then I’d look at the cat and he would look at me, then there’d be laughter and one of us (usually me) would say, “what a dick”. (After a pause for the dick in question to pass out of earshot. We don’t eat our own in Parnell).

Even more galling was the prospect of the owner himself. How could he get away with parking in a five minute zone for more than a week? Not one ticket on this car. When you buy a Ferrari, does the sticker price include a bribe to the local constabulary? Was the conventional wisdom true, after all, that men who own Ferraris are to generally assholes?

The Ferrari being there didn’t make any sense. Until I remembered how a couple days before the Ferrari showed up, there was an attempted break-in of one of the furniture shops on the street.

One of the owners told me the police thought it wasn’t a real attempt, but someone casing the block, testing which buildings had what kind of alarm systems.

The owner advised me to be watchful. I agreed and tried to leaven an otherwise dour and extremely boring conversation lighter with a stock “cat burglar” joke.

“It was probably just Vincent,” I said.

Followed by a comment about how self-conscious I get when I masturbate in front of him.

She did not respond or smile, but walked away briskly, watching me from the corner of her eye.

It took me ten minutes to realize that not only was I not standing there with my cat on the leash, as I had originally thought I had been doing, but that not every new person I meet knows that I’m talking about my cat when I use the name Vince. Go figure.

So, first the break-in attempt, then the Ferrari shows up. Was the car part of some kind of sting operation? Was it left there intentionally, with a tracking device hidden inside, to tempt presumptive burglars? The possibility made me feel sorry for the New Zealand police department for this flimsy operation. If the burglars were smart enough to case the neighborhood, wouldn’t they see the Ferrari as the “too good to be true” score that it was?

Do the police lump all criminals together in one big stereotype? I mean, do burglars even possess the requisite skill sets and core competencies that car thieve so often take for granted? Or are the business models so alike, they’re exchangeable?


Perhaps the police meant the Ferrari as a warning to the burglars that the area was being closely watched. In which case, the police have made a big assumption. Just because you’re breaking into a building, doesn’t mean you’re a bloke that gives a shit about sports cars. This is Parnell, after all.

A fate worse than walking your cat

A blogger risks his career, everything he’s worked his whole life for, when he begins to exploit his cat for new material.

His beautiful, luxurious and intellectually superior cat.

Money shot 666

What I’m saying is, posting shit like that places me squarely in the borderlands of the crazy-old-loner-guy from the creepy house down the street. Or from Apartment 16F, for you high-density urbanites reading. People, as a general rule, don’t like crazy-old-loner-guy. And that makes me sad. I’ve always known that one day I would become that guy. But I never dreamed it would happen before August. 

You don’t notice how quickly it ages you to post cat pictures and videos, until it’s too late. Suddenly, people stop visiting your blog. I got an email from my mom asking me how I was, and if I could somehow prevent Basement Life from reaching her computer.

The stats give testimony to the fact that my blog has become disconnected from its core audiences. According to WordPress analytics, those would be “depressed insomniacs” and “cats/infants messing around with the keyboard”.

In the past month alone, my daily average page-views total has plummeted a shocking 50 percent, from three to 1.5 now.  Which is about the same time I switched to the 24×7 cat programming format, when I started posting shit like this:

The problem, as you can see, extends well into the physical universe. The video was shot on the afternoon of Waitangi Day, a holiday in honor of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between Queen Victoria and many Iwis. It was the beginning of New Zealand. It was an important time for national reflection. And I used my time off work to shoot moronic video of my cat.

The shame. It piles up on me like so many dust bunnies regurgitated by your cat. Not only had the neighbors caught me surveilling Vince on video—a fate worse than being spotted by strangers with Vince on a lead—but then I gotta go post the video to YouTube, add tags, give it a title, and push the link on Twitter and Facebook. What kind of sick, pathetic person would go and do such a thing? The old creepy guy in apartment 16F, that’s whom. Think Gary Busey.

I have several good excuses for what I will call my ‘changing’. In the first place, it’s not my fault. I’m under the influence of a creature who has a far higher brain-to-body mass ratio than Jacquie’s and mine put together. Obviously, having more brain weight available for complex cognitive tasks always implies telepathic influence and control of others. Vince is fucking with our heads, man. Making us do things. Not any kind of inappropriate licking, mind you, just little things like making us open doors, feed him, and stabourselves in the eye with a fork while we’re trying to finish our dinner in peace. That sort of thing.

But I think I’ve turned into Gary Busey for a much more obvious reason. He’s so cute, I don’t mind damaging my sensitive tissue and organs with cutlery. Let alone, to post things like this next one.

To tell you the truth, I wanted to write something else today. About how I’d been in bed for most of the last six days because of an infection in my groin. But as much as I desire to be pitied, don’t feel bad for me because I’ve been sick. Feel bad for me because I’ve turned into an even bigger dork than you could ever imagine.

Walking your cat

I swore to Jacquie that I would sooner wax my privates on a regular basis than be observed walking a cat in public.

That was a long time ago. Circumstances change attitudes. I am now a cat-walker.

Jacquie makes fun of me any chance she gets

Incidentally, I did stay true to my oath about waxing. And now I can look down with humility and satisfaction. Take it from me, a tree does stand taller when it’s not in the middle of a forest.

My objection to walking Vince is simple. People who go out in public to take their cats for a stroll generally look like pretentious assholes.

Practicality has obviated my former bias. Over the months—as I’ve exploited Vince to plug a hole in my self-worth, and with luck, the even bigger hole in my net-worth—I learned something. Vince needed mobility and a modicum of independence, and we needed to make sure our expensive cat didn’t get run over by a truck. Vince and Jacquie and I reached a compromise in which Vince would be allowed to roam under supervision in the day time, but at night, he could only go out on a harness and lead.

It’s going to take a long time before we get this right, but I think we’re making progress.

Yet, despite the practical benefits of walking Vince, I can’t get over the public attention I’ve received.

Every night, someone says something, and I think my neighbors are starting to avoid contact with me.

So, it’s not all bad.

What bothers me are the strangers passing on the street. I don’t know if they’re going to punch me in the teeth or just laugh in derision until I start crying. Perhaps more the former, because it is the quickest way to make me cry. And there is no rule that says they can’t laugh derisively in addition to punching my teeth.

So far, my encounters have been less dramatic.

One night, this guy was heading toward the youth hostel down the road.

“Holy fuck, is that a cat?”

He was obviously dunk, or from Wales, based on his pattern of speech.

“Yeah, sorry.”

“No bro, that’s absolutely genius.”

“Oh, yeah, I like it a lot.”


“Thanks man.”


Unfortunately, he fell down in the middle of the road before he could finish his sentence. But he turned out to be ok, I think, because I found him in the exact same place the next afternoon, with no visible signs of having been run over.

I’ve met other interesting people. A guy on a moped one night pulled into the driveway of the business next door. He got off his bike, unzipped his pants, and proceeded to urinate. He didn’t see me with Vince until after he was finished. He was startled and annoyed when he did see us, but I smoothed things over. I suggested that having his privates waxed on a regular basis would do him a world of good. He left without a word. Didn’t even thank me. But there was the unspoken agreement that if I didn’t say anything about his public urination, he wouldn’t tell the world about me walking a cat.


There’s this app called Paper that’s kind of addictive.

It’s the perfect gift for those indolent, self-styled creative-types that make your life so interesting.

Apple or someone (maybe the developer, FiftyThree) categorizes Paper as a “productivity tool”.

I kind of have to take issue with their nomenclature. I’ve probably lost 17 or 18 hours to Paper, doing nothing but doodles. If a productivity tool is supposed to save you time, then clearly somewhere in the supply chain, there has been a gross miscarriage of the service level agreement.

And if Paper wants to make it so easy to doodle your life away, then they should also develop an app that makes its users more responsible managers of their time. They could categorize it as a productivity tool. Its only task would be to prevent the customer from using Paper. It could be called Paper+ (now with added productivity).

Hello, FiftyThree? I’m reasonably certain that I have more important things to do with my time than doodle. Like, my job or paying attention to the cars in front of me in traffic. And when Jacquie is telling me it’s time to clean the cat box, how many more times do you think I can get away with, “Not now. I’m being productive” before she catches on that I’m just doodling? Seven, eight more times is my guess.

Paper is a digital palimpsest on which you make marks to simulate physical media, as they might behave in a rigidly ordered world. There is a brush with a water color effect, and tools that mimic a pencil, a magic marker, a pen. You are constrained by the rules of the app, parameters that force you to pay attention to the potential of the tool combined with gesture. This includes the simple “undo” interface, which antiseptically corrects your missteps, the way physical erasure could hardly ever be.

Anyway, I like to doodle. And not just the whatever comes to my head kind of sketching, but real portraits.  Here’s one I did of Vince as a microscopic parasite.

Vince as microscopic parasite

I also like to doodle my wife. I use my finger. I could doodle her all day long.

Last night, I was doodling her and she didn’t even notice.

She said, “Simon, the cat box smells terrible.”

And I said, “Not now. I’m being productive.”

This is the piece I was working on at the time.


I know realism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But as you can see, Paper makes it a cinch. In fact, if I had decided to draw Jacquie with conventional tools, she would have put her shirt on and sat up straight by the time I started sketching.