Previous “Features” posts

Text Messages With a Wrong Number

Monday, September 26th, 2022

Occasionally, my funniest writing is done in wrong number text message threads:

Stranger sez: Will you be free to come to my birthday party next Friday; Paul sex: Will there be cake?; Stranger sez: You're kidding, Linda; Paul sez: I never kid about cake.

Though I hoped for more confusion upon which to riff, that was the end of this brief but amusing conversation with a mixed-up Floridian.

The Singing Ice Machine

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022

If you’ve ever purchased ice in bulk for a trip to the beach or the campground, it’s likely you pulled it out of an ice chest like this:


[Photo credit: Roadsidepictures]

Gas stations and convenience stores in America often feature such a unit, and sell ice for just a dollar or three per bag, despite the incredible work that was undertaken to get it in your hands.2 They’re functional, and the I C E lettering (and snow on top of it) frequently looks inviting, but they’re fairly boring overall.

Recently, thanks to a video on the webernets, I learned of the existence of a very different kind of ice machine. That video was just 15 seconds, and you can watch it below.2

The joke in the video was that the kid was expecting the ice to come out of the chute, and he got tricked.3 That’s mildly amusing, sure. But the much, much, much funnier thing to me is that the machine is singing a song. A song about ice!

I’ve transcribed what I believe is being sung here:

🎶 It’s too hot
Get some ice
Need a cool drink
Just chill it nice
Got me a big old bag of ice
This hot deal’s so cool
It’s twice as nice. 🎶

Someone wrote this! And recorded it! In a studio, possibly. Naturally, I poked around the internet, desperate to find more. At first, all I could find was a tweet quoting the song:

A tweet reading “it's too hot, get some ice
need a cool drink just chill it nice
got me a big ol' bag of ice”

The replies to that tweet helped me dig up another video of this absurd machine, which includes the full song. Thank you, Lucas Anderson, for capturing this.

A bit more research led me to “Ice House USA”. They’re in Florida (“Corporate Vision: To become the leader in retail ice sales on the West Coast of Florida.”) and the initial video apparently came from Texas, but it seems certain this is the same machine (covered by U.S. Patents No. 6,932,124 and 7,104,291 (“Automated ice bagging apparatus and methods”)). The Ice House USA FAQ includes this answer to “How does this thing work?”

Our “Twice the Ice” vending kiosks are completely automated and self-contained, with an 8’x 24′ footprint. The machine produces, bags, and vends a 16lb bag of ice. We also offer 20lbs of bulk ice, which consumers can dispense directly into their coolers through a chute, for the same price as the bagged ice. Customers simply insert their dollar bills or coins into the machine, which then dispenses fresh ice.

As well as this question which surely is not asked frequently:

Who’s making the Ice?

While we’ve been accused of housing gnomes and penguins in the back of our ice houses laboriously bagging ice, everything is in fact quite automated. An ice maker on the top of the kiosk produces ice as needed and the ice moves forward through the house using a series of rakes and augers. The ice is then weighed and either bagged or dispensed directly into your cooler. You are getting fresh ice and won’t have to worry about having to smash your bagged ice on the ground to separate the cubes like you do when you go to the inconvenience store.

That marks the extent of their FAQ. Alas, there’s no mention of the singing, which seems like a real miss. Certainly my most frequently asked questions since learning about this have all related to the song, and the artists behind it.

I hope to learn more in the future, but for now, I’m content just to share the singing ice machine with you. And hey, if you own land on the Florida’s west coast, you can consider leasing it to Ice House USA to get in on the singing ice machine revolution.


Footnotes:

  1. A classic Simpsons clip is archived here. ↩︎

  2. I saw this in a deleted post on Reddit here, but I don’t know the original source. For now, I’m just hosting my own copy, but I’ll gladly link to the original source if someone points me to it. ↩︎

  3. Also, if it had come out that way, he was going to catch approximately none of it. But we’ll set his terrible technique aside.↩︎

What a Way to Make a Living

Monday, September 19th, 2022

The Mexican pizza is back on Taco Bell’s menu, and as the prophesy foretold, “Mexican Pizza: The Musical” has hit the internet along with it.1 Because I love my readers and/or because I hate myself, I watched all three acts of this insanity.

My review? It’s definitely the best musical I’ve seen in years, and not just because it’s the only musical I’ve seen in years. Also because it’s over after just 12 minutes and 3 seconds. I…I really don’t like musicals, y’all. I can get down with fever dreams turned into reality, however, and this surely is that. I felt drunk just watching it.

As regular readers may recall, the Southern drawl of Dolly Parton was tapped to play the Mexican pizza, and she is indeed so featured. In addition to giving voice to a floating Mexican pizza, Parton also appears as herself, in something of a narrator role. Her entire part of this is half-assed, or perhaps closer to quarter-assed, which is probably the funniest possible outcome. As one wag noted (in a seemingly unlinkable TikTok comment) “Dolly worked 9-9:15 on this one”.

Doja Cat put in even less work for her cameo, wherein she laughed maniacally and ate a Mexican pizza next to a dog and possibly a pool:

Doja Cat laughing maniacally while eating a Mexican pizza.

Nevertheless, this production has surely accomplished exactly what Taco Bell hoped it would. Now you, dear reader, have been informed that the Mexican pizza is back at Taco Bell. Do with that knowledge what you will. As for the musical, like an actual Taco Bell Mexican pizza, I can’t recommend that you consume it. Still, I’ll understand if you do.


Footnotes:

  1. The musical was initially posted to TikTok in an annoying three parts, but Taco Bell wisely put it on their YouTube channel as a single video. That’s the far more convenient link I’m using. ↩︎

Maybe These Are The Last Checks I Ever Buy

Wednesday, September 7th, 2022

Three months ago, I wrote about the rather early reminder I received encouraging me to order new checks. At the time, I noted that in the 9+ months since I’d ordered my checks, I had used a total of 10 of them. Recently, I received another email from everyone’s favorite Vericast business:

Well, Harland, it turns out it’s also been a while since I wrote a check! In fact, since I mocked you in my previous post, I’ve written exactly zero checks. That means I’m averaging fewer than one check per month. I now need to revise the estimate from June. It now looks like I’ll be due to order checks in 2038. Surely we won’t still be writing checks then, right?

CVS Agrees With My Mom

Monday, September 5th, 2022

Recently, I received a letter from CVS. Mail! What fun! Here’s a look:

A letter reading “Dear Paul, Let’s celebrate you! Because you’re an extra-special ExtraCare® member, we're treating you to exclusive savings. Enjoy two 30% off coupons one for now and one for later. How sweet is that?! All the best, Your Local CVS® Team CVS Boston

You know what, My Local CVS Team? You’re absolutely right. Let’s celebrate me! Why not? I’m worth it. After all, I’m extra-special. I’m sure you don’t give out <reads letter further> two 30% off coupons to just anyone.

Of course, I appreciate paying a mere 70% of overpriced downtown retail prices as much as the next city dweller. But let’s not pretend this is something more than that, CVS Boston.

More First Draft Candies

Tuesday, August 16th, 2022

Back in May, I detailed some of the rejected first versions of now-famous candies. Recently, I learned about some more draft ideas for eventually successful confections.

More Rejected Ideas For Eventually World-Famous Candies

  • Pull Pops

  • Candy anklets

  • Fermented Swedish Fish

  • Sullen Ranchers

  • Rocks

Mikey definitely would have hated that last one.

Bad Statues

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022

The city of Salem, Massachusetts, is infamous for the 17th century Salem witch trials. In modern times, this shameful series of events has been sanitized. The city now revels in its status as a spooktacular tourist destination, one that’s focused on Halloween and all things witchy. They even go so far as to emblazon their police cars thusly:


I stand by my previous description of this as being “a tad gauche”.
[Photo courtesy of P. Kafasis]

Since 2005, the city has also been home to a not-exactly-beautiful sculpture of Samantha Stephens, the main character in the TV sitcom “Bewitched”:


[Photo credit: J.W. Ocker]

It’s not the most flattering likeness, nor the most appropriate. When it was first proposed, many objected, and not without reason. Nevertheless, the statue was installed, and it has become a tourist draw.

As of this month, it is perhaps just the second-least-appropriate statue created in honor of a television show. It’s fallen down the list as a result of this new addition, number one with a bullet:

[Photo credit: Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal]

Yes, those are larger-than-life statues of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, the meth cooking anti-heroes of “Breaking Bad”. This past weekend, they were unveiled at the Albuquerque Convention Center. The show took place throughout New Mexico, and a cottage industry of “Breaking Bad” tourism has since emerged. These likenesses are sure to join the list of attractions to which fans flock. It’s not great.

Interestingly, as you can see, the statues rest directly on the ground. Thus, Albuquerque hasn’t literally put statues of drug dealers on a pedestal. Still, this celebration strikes me as not the most tasteful thing.

Adios, Choco Taco

Wednesday, July 27th, 2022

Folks, I am sad to report that the Choco Taco is dead. It was perhaps the most novel of ice cream novelties, but now, it’s been ripped away from us at the far-too-young age of 38. Oh cruel Klondike, why do you mock us?

A tweet reading “Unfortunately, the Choco Taco has been discontinued in both 1ct and 4ct packs. Over the past 2 years, we have experienced an unprecedented spike in demand across our portfolio and have had to make very tough decisions to ensure availability of our full portfolio nationwide.”
[Link]

In truth, while I’ve enjoyed a few Choco Tacos in my life, I was never a die-hard fan. Still, just for fun, I took a little Choco Taco walk(o) earlier today in the hopes of tracking down one last serving of the dessert. Alas, the cupboards were bare. In store after store, I found freezer cases full of ice cream treats, but nary a 🍫🌮 among them.

Ah well. I’d wager some company or another will revive the product in the next 6-24 months, because there’s clearly money to be made and nostalgia to be exploited. At that point, I can snack on one and then be satisfied for many more years or decades.

Alternately, husband of Serena Williams and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian might be successful in his mission to save the Choco Taco. In another stellar use for AI-generated artwork, Ohanian has already pledged that all marketing artwork will be created by artificial intelligence.

A tweet containing two not very good AI-generated Choco Tacos
[Link]

One way or another, I look forward to the future of the Choco Taco.


Update (July 29, 2022): A few days later, I did manage to track down a Choco Taco. It was as mediocre-to-decent as ever.

Meet The Williamseses

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

In this year’s NBA draft, there were two players with very similar names: Jalen Williams and Jaylin Williams. When Jalen was selected at number 12 by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jaylin’s camp was briefly confused, as this unsourced video spotted online shows:

Jaylin himself, however, immediately knew he had not yet been selected:


Jaylin waving off his crowd

I don’t know about his specific basketball talents, but Jaylin should surely get high marks for good-naturedness. Fortunately, Jaylin was drafted not too much later. Indeed, with pick number 34, Jaylin Williams was selected by…the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sure, why the hell not? Let’s have some fun. Make the world a slightly more amusing place. Put two players with identical-sounding names on the same team.

Following the draft, the Thunder arranged a photo shoot for the two players which included an excellent use of the Spider-Man pointing at Spider-man meme:


[Photo credits: OKC Thunder and, uh, the 1960’s era Spider-Man TV show]

This story doesn’t need to get more ridiculous, but it will anyway. A look at the current Thunder roster will show another player with an identical-sounding first name in Jaylen Hoard, as well as another player with the exact same last name, Kenrich Williams.

Good luck to the coaches and broadcasters who are going to have a hell of a confusing time next season.

A Delightful Little Weirdo

Friday, July 1st, 2022

After penning my recent tribute to the original Bonus Pig, I located the company’s blog post explaining the change, which apparently took place in mid-November 2021. That post is in Icelandic, and the Google translation is not stellar:

The Bónus brand has today been renewed and transformed into a modern costume with the well-known pig. Why is it okay to tamper with what might be right? Of course, the pig has been unchanged for over 30 years and is now being raised for the first time. This change is made to adapt the brand to the digital journey ahead in our business.

A contemporaneous article from Iceland Review that was written in English is more useful:

Remarking on the controversial mascot transformation, [Bónus CEO Guðmundur Marteinsson] said, “We’ve just streamlined him a little—it isn’t that big a change. We took out one or two lines that it’s always looked like we forgot to erase when he was initially designed,” he continued, pointing to a crinkle on the Bónus pig’s nose and an extra line on his back.

More dramatic, however, is the adjustment of the pig’s left eye. “He was always a bit cockeyed,” Guðmundur said. “But as I see it, this is part of our evolution.”

At least some of the fine citizens of Iceland were as dismayed as I was. From that same Iceland Review piece:

“Long live the Bónus pig!” proclaimed Rex Beckett on Facebook, screen-capping the messages she sent directly to the company. “I just wanted to say that I am extremely sad about the decision to change the Bónus Piggy’s look,” she wrote. “He was a delightful little weirdo with such a fun personality and his wonky eye made everyone happy.”

Amen. Alas, it seems unlikely that Bónus will see the light, but the original Bonus Pig can live on in our hearts.

It can also live on in song. Please enjoy the two-line musical riff I came up with while driving along Iceland’s Ring Road back in 2016. It should be sung to the tune of the chorus of Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian”, which was playing on the radio at the time:

🎶 Bonus Piiiig
What’s your price for havingawonkeye? 🎶

If you can come up with additional lyrics, do send them along.