Previous “Fun With” posts

Fun With Checks

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

At this point in time, checks are a very stupid method of payment. For many years now, upon receiving a check, I’ve deposited it by taking a digital picture of it with my smartphone. At a bare minimum, the person sending me a physical paper check could instead have just emailed me a digital picture of the check. Far less ridiculously, though, we could just cut the entire paper part out of this.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that the internet exists, checks remain a relevant tool in the 21st century. Given that, we may as well at least have some fun with them. Fans of my on-an-extremely-long-hiatus podcast “Just The Tip1 may remember that my co-host Amy has some amazing personal checks. We call them pizza checks:

A personal check featuring a cartoon pizza chef in the upper left
It’s just so good.

Despite what her checks might imply, Amy does not own a pizzeria, nor even a chef’s toque.

After seeing this delightful nonsense, I knew I had to step up my own check game. When I needed new checks awhile back, I spent some time scanning through the images which could place in the upper left corner, where the pizza chef is seen above. There were many dull options like a stylized initial (“P”), but I was looking for something with comedic value.

The first thing I considered was this truly ancient computer:

Ancient PC check
The CRT really dates this.

The collegiate logos section offered me the possibility of having “Ball State” checks. At best, though, that was worth a juvenile chuckle:

Ball State Logo check
The logo ruins what’s already a very, very weak joke.

I also contemplated getting something goofy like a monster truck, which would surely appeal to all those 7-year-olds to whom I write checks:

Monster truck check
This is really pretty sweet.

Ultimately, though, I wanted to see if I could come up with something that wasn’t quite so derivative of Amy’s glorious pizza checks. It was in this pursuit that I stumbled upon the “Expressions” section of the check ordering website. Expressions are simple lines of text (and the occasional small image), offering up banal statements like “I ♥ Baseball”:

I love baseball check
I assume the actual physical checks would have higher quality printing than their terrible mockup does.

While I do enjoy baseball, my checks don’t need to advertise that fact. I’m also not interested in having my checks say “God Bless America”, “I’d Rather Be Gardening”, or “Save the Planet”. There were almost 250 different possibilities for an “Expression”, and they were almost uniformly terrible.

However, after much poking around, I stumbled on the “Miscellaneous” section. There, I found the single most ridiculous option I could imagine. As soon as I saw it, I knew I’d found my perfect check. I quickly finished my order, then set up a tent by the mailbox so I could camp out and wait for them to arrive.

Just a few days later, these beauties showed up:

A check that says ‘I need a hug’.

Yes friends, whether I’m filing my taxes with the IRS or paying a plumber, each and every check I send lets the world know that I need a hug.

I don’t know why this option exists. I don’t know who would order it with any degree of sincerity. What I do know is that these preposterous checks have now given me years of enjoyment. The thought of folks being utterly confused upon receiving one of these is a true source of joy each time I write a check. That joy has helped offset, if not eliminate, the annoyance at the fact that I’m still writing checks.


Footnotes:

  1. The show’s not dead until one of us is. ↩︎

Embrace The Glorious Imperfection

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

We all take plenty of bad pictures. Thanks to the digital nature of most photos these days, it’s easy to delete the images where someone blinked, sneezed, or just looked really dumb. However, I want you to consider another way. We should embrace our glorious imperfection, as exhibited by the inherent truth of a bad photograph.

Background

The genesis of this philosophy began over a decade ago, when my pal Merlin showed me his truly fabulous Costco membership card. Please enjoy this terrible photo of a terrible photo, courtesy of the original iPhone and a dimly lit bar:


Having no idea what information on this ID might be useful, I’ve blacked it all out.

Years later, when signing up for Costco myself, I kept Merlin’s example in mind. Where he went with a diabolical genius laugh, I aimed for more of a deer-in-the-headlights look. Here is a very high-quality photo of a terrible photo:


Costco really does not use good printers for this.

While this sort of clownery is unlikely to fly on a driver’s license or passport, there’s nothing stopping you from looking intentionally ridiculous in other identification documents. Go on, live a little!

Fun With Your Address Book

Of course, IDs alone aren’t enough. In an effort to push the world beyond its vain ways, I have also expanded this philosophy to my contacts. Fair warning, if you’re a buddy of mine, I have likely set an amusing picture of you as your contact photo. That’s just the price of entry into the wonderful circle of friendship.

Every so often, I’ll take a moment to really notice one of these pics, and have a good laugh:


Scott finally proved them all wrong.

And if, god forbid, you call me? Well, the awfulness of using my phone as a phone will be lessened by seeing something like you cuddling up to Danny Devito’s sweaty, naked ass:


The explanation for this photo is, in a word, complicated.

Turnabout Is Fair Play

Of course, I’ve shown many of my friends the ridiculous contact photos I use for them. As a result, the practice has spread. Many of them share screenshots of my own contact in their address book, as seen in the examples below:


You may recognize that picture from this March post.


That veggie sausage was moving toward my facehole at a high rate of speed.

For this to work, we must all be willing to allow the spread of less-than-flattering photos. As my Instagram feed can attest, I practice what I preach, and I’m quite willing to post ridiculous photos of myself for comedic effect. Please enjoy these three examples. If you’ve got me in your contacts, I encourage you to use these pictures, or others like them.

Lean In

The real world is not what we see through Hollywood’s Vaseline-smeared lens or the false curated perfection of social media. The real world is a mess, and if we can’t laugh at it at least a little bit, we’re all lost. Embrace that terribleness. Lean in to it. You’ll have a lot more fun.

Fun With a Gratuitous Photo Booth

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

On a recent ramble through Las Vegas, I found myself in the surreal Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.1 This is apparently the highest grossing mall in America by sales per square foot, but the retail collection occupies a place of dread in my mind. Its dim lighting and second-story faux facades combine with the bizarrely sky-painted ceiling to warp reality in almost Daliesque fashion.

Photo of the Forum Shops mall
This is a deeply weird place to shop, or even just exist for an hour.
[Photo credit: Simon Property Group]

Are you inside? Are you outside? Would you like to dine inside inside at Trevi, the Italian restaurant next to a paltry attempt at a Romanesque fountain, or outside inside to really soak in the lack of sun beaming down through the “clouds”?

Naturally, this mall featured a photo booth placed outside of a meatball restaurant. While I did not eat at Carmine’s, upon noticing their contraption, I was more than willing to take advantage of it. It paid off in spades.

Photo of me using the machine
Perhaps in sympathy to their hosts, the Carmine’s sign lacks an apostrophe.2
[Photo credit: T. Arment]

As you can guess from the Facebook and Twitter logos seen on the front, this machine is intended to aid customers in spreading the word about the restaurant via social media. You can do it “for FREE!”, no less, which is surely the highest price anyone would pay for this. I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten a meal after which I felt the need to send a digital postcard to my friends, but to each their own.

Wanting to see just how strange this would be, I took a photo, then punched in my own email address to receive a copy. I thought it best not to subject anyone else to this exercise in stupidity and data collection. Though the on-screen keyboard malfunctioned repeatedly, I eventually convinced it to send my picture. My task complete, I stepped away so that literally no one else could use, or even notice, the machine. I pulled out my iPhone to check my email, but there was nothing. I checked my spam filters, but still, bupkis. Feeling defeated and not just a little claustrophobic, I decided to move on and out of the mall.

Several hours later, however, I received an email from myself. With the subject line “I’m at Carmine’s Vegas!”, it indicated that “a friend” had sent me a uPostcard.

Success! My photo had arrived, in glorious, 800×600, framed, PNG-not-JPG glory. Here it is:

My dumb face
This photograph accurately captures what it feels like to be at the Forum Shops.

As you can see, I have been dubbed a “Spaghetti fanatic”.3 Shockingly, despite the unrequested title I’ve had bestowed upon me, this postcard design actually isn’t awful. While it seems completely unrelated to the restaurant outside of which it sits, with a smiling face, better alignment, and a lack of derrieres in the background, it could at least produce an acceptable reproduction of being at the mall.

However, this is not actually what a recipient will see. Instead, when the emailed link is clicked, this is the hideous train wreck you’ll be shown.

A real train wreck of a design.

From the words being shoved in my mouth via a misaligned dialogue bubble to the sprinkle of social media droppings including the just-about-to-be-defunct Google+, it’s all stomach-churning. So it is that I can say this for Carmine’s: Whether you eat the food or just use their unnecessary photo booth, one way or another, you’re not going to leave hungry.


Footnotes:

  1. No apostrophe, though there certainly should be one, ridiculous explanations aside. ↩︎

  2. The restaurant’s name is a possessive “Carmine’s”, and the horizontal signs include an apostrophe. ↩︎

  3. The business cards are due back from the printer any day now. ↩︎

Fun with SiriusXM

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Modern rental cars often include SiriusXM radios, and they can be fun to fiddle with it. In addition to a decent variety of music, you can catch baseball games, tune in to terrible talk radio, or simply marvel at the ridiculous number of channels on offer. Sadly, a once-humorous divide in political channels is no longer as ridiculous as it once was. Years back, Sirius offered “Sirius Left” for left-wingers and “Sirius Patriot” for right-wingers. Now they’ve got the more ambiguous pairing of “SiriusXM Progress” and “SiriusXM Patriot”.

My favorite way to enjoy SiriusXM is with the alerts it can pop to inform you when music you want to hear is playing. When you begin a road trip, just star your favorite songs and artists as you hear them. When that song or artist plays again, on any station, the radio will pop an alert. With a quick tap, you can tune in and get that party started. Now, my rule is that you must tune in, which can have some interesting consequences. If you star enough artists, or the song of the moment (currently it’s The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”1), you’ll get very frequent pop-ups. You might not hear a full song for some time, but you’ll be amused to flip repeatedly, possibly from a song to the same song starting on another channel. See how many tracks you can chain together, without ever hearing the end. My record is thirteen different songs.

Because these are rental cars, sometimes you’ll find other people’s favorites still on there. You can clear these out easily enough. Of course, when you do, you might just be presented with something like this “Who’s On First?”-esqe dialog.

Delete Yes

I like to think that whoever favorited this artist did so solely to make some future person see this ridiculous dialog box. I’ll certainly be favoriting “Yes” whenever possible, explicitly for this reason.


Footnotes:

  1. The Weeknd, I think you may be having a stroke. This is no laughing matter. Please stop singing, and seek immediate medical attention. ↩︎

Fun With the Airlines

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

As we near our 10th straight year of living in a world of constant, illogical fear, it may seem unlikely that one could have any fun at all with an airline. Whether it’s finding yourself nickel-and-dimed in every imaginable way, having the TSA meet the resistance, or simply dealing with being packed in tightly with your fellow man, traveling by air can be quite dispiriting.

Nevertheless, there remain opportunities for tomfoolery. Often when booking airline travel, one will be presented with an option to select a prefix or title. The result of this choice is meaningless (though selecting one appropriate for your gender is likely advisable), making it a great place for a little chuckle. To wit:

Delta Booking
Strangely, Delta feels I’m worthy of reverence.

Continental Booking for Sir Paul
Continental also shows respect.

Weeks or months later, when you get your ticket, you can laugh at the title your past self has bestowed upon you. There are usually an assortment of options, but the above two have some of the best deniability in case anyone calls you on your nonsense. Recently however, when signing up for Lufthansa’s frequent flyer program, an option too fantastic to be ignored was offered:

Frequent Flyer Card
Professor Doctor

Yes, thanks to Lufthansa, I’m now a card-carrying Professor Doctor. I haven’t decided on a field yet, but Professor Doctor of Love seems sure to impress the ladies.

I assumed two titles would be the maximum I could get out of an airline, and felt quite pleased. Then, I saw the envelope in which they’d sent the card:

Envelope
Mister Professor Doctor!

The next challenge? Suffixes. Mister Professor Doctor Paul Kafasis, Esquire really rolls off the tongue.