Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Video Vednesday #18

Worlds collide!  During the run of The Coxton Campaign my character, Creepy Steve, often mentioned his (sleazy) Uncle Bobby.  When it came time for Steve's favorite uncle to make an appearance on the show, it became a Pancake Bros. reunion!  S.M. Pancake stepped in to fill the role.

I did quite a bit of the writing for this episode.  My work on this series is how I got my IMDb credit, which was on my bucket list.  Consider that shit crossed off!

Now, enjoy Creepy Steve's birthday celebration and some of the filming of his movie masterpiece, Mecha Killa Saurus.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Too Much Technology: Where Has All The Customer Service Gone?

My son is home, so now it's time for me to return to my regular duty of lobbing complaints at society.  I have a feeling that most, if not all, of the people who read this blog already see a lot of the stupidity and ridiculousness that I point out, but sometimes it's good to know that someone is on the same page, so here it comes...

The Sunday before last, I set up videos to post automatically on the days that I normally would put up a blog entry.  In the middle of the week, when I had found a little time to get on the internet, I found that my blog had been suspended due to "suspicious activity".  Several people made the joke that it had something to do with me looking like a member of the Taliban.  For all I know, that could be the reason, since Google (which owns Blogger) didn't bother to actually explain what the problem was.  And of course, if you've ever had the displeasure of trying to get to the bottom of a problem you have with one of Google's services, you know that it's impossible.

Some people complain when they dial a customer service number and somebody in India answers the phone.  But you know what?  I've never held that against any Indians; they're just doing a job that was made available in their area.  It's funny that the people who hate on the Indians and thump their chests in the name of Amurrican Pride don't stop to think about the reason their xenophobic ears are forced to try to understand somebody who speaks differently than us.  The greedy corporations are outsourcing jobs to save a buck.  So blame the corporations, not the people who scoop up the jobs made available to them.  They're just trying to feed their families and improve their living situations.

But today is not the day for a rant about hypocritical Americans forgetting that we're all immigrants, that we played a major hand in creating a globe-wide economic system, or that it's not the terrorists who are destroying our country (that would be our elected officials).  No, this rant will be focused on the supposed 'convenience' found on the world wide web.  Since 98% of people who use the internet only use it to look at porn and post pictures of cats on facebook, I'll mention now that there is other stuff to do on the information superhighway (people still call it that, right?).  The problem I've been running into most frequently is that Google now owns 3/4 of the internet, and Google is apparently a giant, sentient robot that creates websites and doodles.  (I'll admit, I do like the Google doodles.)  I challenge you to try and get in contact with an actual human being through one of Google's "help" pages.

About two years ago I was hosting a podcast called Podcast of the Tough.  It was a lot of fun to do, but nobody listened to it, so the work I was putting into it started to feel like a pointless chore.  At one point I tried to use Adsense (a Google service) to run ads on the podcast page and make a little extra dough.  I received a message from Adsense saying that my podcast contained copyrighted material that I didn't have the rights to use, so I couldn't run ads.  This was bogus, because I only used clips from public domain movies, and the music I used was either my own or from local bands that gave me permission to use their songs.  I tried to contact somebody at Google with this information to no avail.  The Google robot told the Adsense robot I was not allowed to run ads, and that was that.  A Terminator was even sent after me a few times, but a guy with a mullet and a trench coat warded off his attacks for me.  I got lucky there.

Flash forward to the more-recent past.  I'd started this blog and it was starting to get a good amount of hits on the regular.  Once more I tried my luck with Adsense.  This time, the problem I ran into was astounding.  My Adsense account was set up to run ads on the podcast site, which I had deleted months earlier.  I could only put ads on another site (this one) if I was also running them on the site I signed up with.  You know, that site that doesn't exist anymore.  That site that, when it did exist, I was denied permission to run ads on.  I tried in vain to get ahold of a person at Adsense/Google, but I ended up trapped in a frustrating circle of FAQ pages.  Frequently Asked Questions pages are useless if your question isn't frequently asked.  I'd send emails to any email address I could find on their site, only to receive automated replies encouraging me to check out the FAQ pages.  Then another Terminator was sent after me, only this time it could change shape and it resembled Robert Patrick of Future Hunters fame.  Luckily, I was able to escape using a dirt-bike and an awful early 90s haircut.

And that brings me to the very-recent past.  I was a little shocked to find my blog shut down, but I didn't even bother to try and find answers this time.  I do appreciate how easy it was to reactivate the site:  I put in my phone number and was texted a code to enter on the page.  Seconds after entering the code my blog was back in action.  What I don't understand is this:  Google has the amazing capability to fix problems like that in seconds.  It has unlimited money to buy all the YouTubes and Bloggers on the internet.  And yet it doesn't have the decency to employ actual human beings to solve non-cookie-cutter problems.  Getting the runaround from people is bad enough, but at least there's always the hope that one of them will have enough intelligence to actually help.  Getting the runaround from automated non-humans is the worst.  There's no hope.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Flick

Okay, here's the last video-instead-of-a-regular-blog-post-because-I-have-a-new-baby entry for the week.  Today's flick is another episode of The Super Pancake Bros. Super Show, and it's based on true events!  When S.M. came in for a week to film the first series, we not only accomplished lots of filming, but we ate way way way too many snacks.  So, we decided to base an episode around the idea of not eating any snacks to serve a dual purpose: making comedy and giving our bellies a break.  (To celebrate our victory, we split the Mondo Bar after we finished filming that night, but no snacks were eaten during the creation of the episode.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Video Vednesday #17

(This should have posted automatically yesterday, but my account was suspended due to "suspicious activity".  I'm not sure what was suspicious about me scheduling three posts; if that feature is available, why is it suspicious that I should use it?)

I figured it was appropriate to share episodes of The Super Pancake Bros. Super Show all week for two reasons:  one, the arrival of the newest Pancake kid, and two, the upcoming second series of episodes will be exploding onto the internet in less than a month.  So, for today's regularly scheduled video, I've chosen the second episode, in which our friend Don McGlynn has us trapped in a double-headlock, and also in which funny things keep happening but not quite on screen.

This episode also marks the beginning of the SPBSS Cat Curse.  It seems anytime we use a cat in the series it dies within a short period after filming.  Could it really be a curse?  Or could it be coincidence based around the fact that we've used old, out-of-shape cats?  We'll see.  We'll see.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Movie Monday

Alright, ladies and dudes.  I'm a bit crunched for time due to Link possibly coming out a day early.  As I'm typing this (on Sunday) I find my plan for the day gone topsy-turvy.  I was originally going to set up a blog entry for each day I normally post so the blog would automatically update on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Then I was going to cut the grass and do some other stuff around the house.

Now, however, it appears that I may be a papa (again) a day early, so I'm going to post some videos in a hurry while Mama Pancake is taking a shower.  To celebrate the arrival of the newest Pancake, here's a movie featuring the original Pancake kid, Maggie Pancake, as our financial advisor.  Also, S.M. finds a hat!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Papa Pancake Gets Pissed

The time has finally come.  On Monday I'll be at the hospital to welcome my bouncing baby boy into the world (unless he decides to burst forth a little early).  Even though I'm twice a dad, I still have the fluttery-belly feeling like I'm on a roller-coaster that's at the top of the track, about to lurch over the tip and send me speeding down towards twists, turns, and loop-de-loops.  Man, I really want to go on a roller-coaster after typing that sentence.  Maybe I'll just watch the opening credits of Step By Step instead.

That was refreshing.  Alright, now that I'm done with that, I'll get to the point I was trying to make before jumping into the main article:  I'll be busy next week.  Don't you fret, however, because there will still be something on the blog on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  I'm just not sure what, yet.  If I have time over the weekend, I'm going to write some blog entries and set them up to post automatically on Monday and Friday (and I'll set up a video for Vednesday).  If I don't have enough time to write over the weekend (or if I'm just feeling lazy), I'll just set up a video for each day.  That way, you'll at least have something to look at on each of those days.

So now that that's over with, let's get to the main point of the blog for today.  I'm about to be a papa again, which means I'll be out and/or about with my son in the upcoming months and years.  And if you see me out in public with Link, YaYa, Maggie, or any combination of the three, don't say something stupid like, "Daddy has the kids for the day?"  This will piss me off.

It's happened to me so many times in the past.  I would be out with one or both of the kids just going about my business, and a crusty middle-aged or post-middle-aged woman would say something like, "Mommy has the day off?"  No, bitch, Mommy doesn't have the day off.  She's working right now, and that's why I'm grocery shopping with a bunch of kids.  That kind of obnoxious comment bothers me for so many reasons.

For starters, it implies that spending time with my children isn't a regular thing for me to do.  If you think seeing a father with his kids is abnormal, that's your problem (and society's problem).  Maybe your husband didn't spend time with your kids, and maybe your dad didn't spend time with you, but don't assume that I'm the same way as the 'men' in your life because of your own experiences.

When people open their mouths and let that kind of stupidity fall out, it also makes me feel like they don't think I can handle taking care of my children.  I've been doing it for nine years; I'm pretty damn good at it.  Our society has this antiquated notion that dads are wacky, bumbling idiots who can't tell a diaper from a receiving blanket, and that we only come in handy when it's time to cut the grass, hang a picture on the wall, or teach one of the kids how to throw a baseball.  This simply isn't true for a lot of us.  There's a lot of good dads out there.  Unfortunately, there's still a lot of scumbags who can't keep it in their pants but aren't man enough to stick around and provide for their children.  They give us a bad name, but I don't consider them men.  Real men aren't afraid of fatherhood.

(For the record, I'm more likely to be wacky and bumbling when trying to hang a picture on the wall than when changing a diaper.)

So, the sexist attitude toward male parents bothers me, obviously, but the reverse, which is also implied by comments like those mentioned above, irritates me too.  By implying that I'm not capable of caring for my kids, because that's not 'the man's role', you're also implying that a woman's role is to pop out babies and raise them.  Of course I can't get pregnant and birth them myself, but I sure as hell can raise them.  And if, in theory, my wife can make way more money tending bar or waitressing than I can working the bullshit jobs available in my area, and she tells me that she'd prefer to work while I stay home with the little Pancakes, I'd be fine with that.  In fact, I'd relish the opportunity to get to spend that much time with my family.

Listen up, crusty old women:  It's not the 1950s anymore.  We don't live in a time where a man goes to work from 9 to 5, and that one job is enough to provide for his whole family and save money on the side.  Men work.  Women work.  Most of the time both parents have to work just to make ends meet.  It's been this way for quite a while; it's time you stop pretending everything is still the same way it used to be.  Take a moment to come to the realization that there is no such thing as "man's work" and "woman's work" anymore.  My wife and I work as a team, as do a lot of couples in our age range.  Making stupid comments based on your outdated mode of thinking only makes you look like a jackass.

And don't dare call it "babysitting" when I'm taking care of my kids.  I'm raising them, not babysitting.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Video Vednesday #16

You know those annoying phone calls you get during campaign season?  Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes, like how they decide what to say to you during those annoying phone calls?  Well, here's a special treat for you, my friend!  Today's video is from The Coxton Campaign, and this particular episode is a look at the magic behind the annoying phone calls.  Trevor Coxton (Don McGlynn), Saul Goldstein (Rob Klubeck), and Creepy Steve (me without a beard) have come together to brainstorm about calling local voters.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Buttnerd Files, Vol. 2

I was thinking about writing an article called "Fuck Florida" today.  I'm sure the reasons are obvious, but just in case you're not aware, I'll sum it up as best as I can.  In Florida last week, one man was found not guilty after murdering a teenager for pretty much no reason at all, while a mom was sentenced to twenty years in prison after firing warning shots at her abusive husband who had violated his restraining order.  Also, I have a more personal reason.  I live in PA.  We get a lot of traffic from NY and NJ here.  Yet, of all the close calls I've had on the road where somebody does something idiotic and nearly hits me (such as getting into the left turn only lane at a traffic light and then turning right, cutting in front of me as I'm already accelerating) the license plates were Florida plates.  What the hell is going on down there, Florida?  I guess this is what happens when you turn a swamp into a state.

Anyway, I'm sure everybody needs a reprieve from all the "Let's give Florida back to Spain" sentiment, so today, for the sake of writing a positive distraction instead of an angry rant, I'll share some more ridiculous stuff from the mouths of my kids.  Can it be more ridiculous than the original set of quotes?  We'll see.

Should I be proud of Maggie or sad for our nation that even she, at nine years old, can see how ludicrous it is that we outsource our jobs and import almost all of our goods?  While she was visiting my sister recently she found out why a former steel mill was now an empty building, she got fired up, and she proclaimed her desire to fix the country with this speech:

Maybe I'll become President so I can talk people straight.  I'll give you some money.  You can come live in The White House, and maybe I'll see Abraham Lincoln's ghost!

Okay, the first sentence was great.  The second part is questionable: she's just going to give my sister money.  I hope that's her own money and not tax dollars, but either way, at least she's honest and up front about it.  The third sentence is where the whole thing goes a little off the rails.  Still, it's fairly sane compared to most of the garbage our politicians spew out on a regular basis.

You can't argue with Maggie's first point, though.  A lot of people need to be talked straight.  While our greedy 'representatives' are lining their pockets and steering this country into hell, many of us choose to live by the mantra "ignorance is bliss".  As Dr. John said, "If ignorance is bliss, why more people ain't happy?"  That's a good question.  I am not ignorant, and I am certainly not blissful.  Sometimes I just want to punch everything.  Oh, how I want to punch everything!  A few months ago YaYa expressed exactly what I frequently want to do:

I will just punch this bullshit!

She actually wasn't angry when she said this, merely trying to make me and Ginger laugh.  We laughed.  Yes, our five-year-old daughter knows some of the 'bad' words, but we don't believe that words can be 'bad'.  Society decided that a certain set of words shouldn't be used, and we've been breaking our own rule ever since.  Ginger and I just made sure that she knows she can't say those words at school or in public because she'll get in trouble.  It's funny that anything she's heard me mutter while I'm pissed off is assumed, by her, to be a curse.  Sometimes, through gritted teeth, she says, "Piece of junk!" as if it's the worst thing to ever be said by anyone.

While "Piece of junk!" may not be very threatening, I have been threatened by a dangerous Lego man.  Maggie was making the little guy act like quite the punk to me.  And I found all I needed to know about the dude when 'he' said:

I've got an axe in my car.  What else do you want to know about me?

Nothing else, Lego guy.  I know enough already.  Since this happened I have been considering putting an axe in my trunk so I can use this line on people I don't want to talk to.  Man, axes are so cool.  You know what's not cool, though?  Getting farted on all the time by little buttnerds.  They think it's so damn funny, too.  They're lucky I'm tactful enough not to fart on them, but the day may soon come where I hit my breaking point and let 'em rip.  And in case you're wondering why I can't just take the farts off of me, YaYa explains:

Haha!  I farted on Dad.  You can't grab my farts off you and put them back in my butt!

Very practical knowledge.  I wish I knew that years ago.  I tried putting a fart back in my brother's butt and I ended up with a funky rash.  It still flares up to this day, and the only cure for it is listening to death metal and eating too much Chinese food.

Speaking of my brother, we finished everything we needed to for Series 2 of The Super Pancake Bros. Super Show.  (That's why the blog is about my kids today and not Robert Stack.)  Look for Series 2 episodes on Video Vednesday starting sometime in August.  Yeah!!

Alright, I hope you've enjoyed this reprieve from all the bogus crap in the news.  Do you feel reprieved?  Can you feel reprieved?  Is that a thing?  If anything, I hope you follow these simple bits of advice found in this article:  Vote for Maggie, punch bullshit, carry an axe in your car, and don't try to put farts back into somebody's butt.  Who says ya can't learn nothin' from a blog?

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Series 2 Curse

Anybody who follows the blog surely knows that I've been working on Series 2 of The Super Pancake Bros. Super Show with my brother, S.M.  We actually started it about a year ago.  It shouldn't take that long, despite the fact that he lives in Brooklyn and I live in Waymart, PA.  But there seems to have been a curse or a hex on this series of 10 quality episodes.

The very first time S.M. came in for filming, I lost my voice.  At first it was really lost; I had no voice at all.  Then, when I found a voice, it wasn't mine, but rather that of an 92 year old cigar-smoker.  It was beyond Tom Waits level rasp.  We made the best of our time by writing out some ideas for Series 2, but filming any scenes with audio was not possible.

Another would-be filming was shelved due to S.M.'s broken hand.  A gang of ninja bikers was terrorizing New York, and when my little bro stepped in to stop them, he ended up with a broken hand and the key to the city.  Or he broke his hand when he punched the wall at work out of frustration.  One of those is true.  You pick.

S.M. came in around Christmastime, and I was all set for a day of filming when Old Man Winter decided to bend us over and pound the countryside with a big ol' snowstorm.  Again, filming was cancelled.  At this point it seemed like Series 2 would never be completed, and life still had one trick up its sleeve.

Last Saturday marked a momentous occasion:  S.M. came to town and we actually got some filming done!  Tuesday was also a successful movie-making day.  Then came Wednesday, which was supposed to be another day of filming, but Ginger went into false labor.  It's pretty sad that I've already got two kids, yet when she told me she had gone into labor I started pacing around the house like an idiot, trying to figure out what I could or should do.  We then spent six hours in the hospital so they could run tests and do a sonogram (in which the little butthead was sticking his tongue out at us!) to make sure everything was okay.  The ridiculousness of The Series 2 Curse was at an all time high, and my own son was part of the conspiracy!

But today The Pancake Brothers will take no more.  Hexes be damned!  We're finishing this damn thing today!  As I type this I'm getting ready (and by getting ready I mean drinking a big cup of coffee) to head out to meet S.M. for the last day of filming for Series 2.  It's finally happening!  Of course, the wheels may fall of my car or every road will be closed due to several blimp and/or helicopter crashes or I'll somehow drive into a vortex that takes me to a prehistoric land or something.  But even still, I'll find a way to make this happen.

And if I don't, I'm going to make both of next week's articles about Robert Stack.

Alright!  I've got filming to do!  Enjoy the Series 2 preview if you haven't seen it.  And if you have seen it, check it out again; it's better the second time!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Video Vednesday #15

Filming of the remainder of The Super Pancake Bros. Super Show Series 2 is underway!  And what better way to celebrate than by seeing how this whole crazy thing got started?  Here's the very first episode of Series 1 for your viewing pleasure!

Monday, July 8, 2013

They Said It Was a Weather Balloon

Sometimes I only know that a certain day has a certain significance because of the Google Doodle.  Today is one of those days.  While deciding what to write about today I went to (it's a search engine, in case you haven't heard of it) and saw the latest doodle, which features a somewhat cute little alien in a little flying saucer.  Yes, today is the 66th anniversary of the Roswell UFO Incident.  I mean, uh... The Roswell Weather Balloon Incident.  Yeah, that's it.  A weather balloon.

As I mentioned in my article about ghosts a few months ago, I don't so much believe in this type of stuff so much as I want to believe in this type of stuff.  Still, though, when it comes to extraterrestrials, I find it harder to believe that there isn't any other type of life in our universe.  Whether or not other life-forms would have technology advanced enough to reach our planet is certainly debatable.  I'm going to explore my own thoughts on all this alien jazz.

One thing that perplexes is me is the relative close-mindedness that people approach the concept of extraterrestrial life with.  Most people, scientists included, seem to operate on the idea that only a planet that can support life as we know it on Earth could possibly sustain other types of life.  But who's to say that life couldn't have evolved in infinitely different ways somewhere else in this vast, seemingly endless universe?  There could be lizard men out there somewhere.  There could be a planet inhabited by intelligent clouds of gas (so, like a bunch of Rush Limbaughs, but intelligent).  Hell, they found fossils of bacteria on Mars!  Who knows what might be buried deeper under the surface of our planet's space-neighbor?  The way I see it, there's new types of insects and sea-life being discovered on Earth all the time.  There's places in the ocean that we haven't been to yet, but the farther we go down into the ocean, the stranger the stuff that lives there gets.  If life can take on so many insanely different varieties just on this one planet, there's no telling what the hell might be out there in space.

Perhaps Earth is the only planet in our universe that has life on it.  I mean, the odds of the conditions being perfect for the first protein molecule to be created and eventually grow into a giant animal kingdom must be enormous.  Yet it happened here.  But even if our planet is the only one that creates and sustains life in our universe, maybe there's another universe out there where another planet got lucky.  Maybe our universe is a baby compared to an older universe, and most of the planets in the older universe contain some kind of life.  The universe is so big that I can't think of a word to describe how big it is.  But that certainly doesn't mean it's the only one.  Perhaps our universe is just one cell of billions that make up some kind of colossal universe creature.  I guess that might sound like stoner talk or crazy-homeless-guy talk or uncle-with-dementia talk, but go ahead and prove that that's not possible. Go ahead, I'll wait.

So, for the sake of argument, let's say that somewhere out there in another universe or another dimension or something that life exists.  Could it be possible that they've visited Earth?  I've heard the argument that even if life exists somewhere out there that they couldn't possibly have technology so advanced as to travel across the universe to check out Earth.  That, to me, is an incredibly naive argument.  Compared to Earth, mankind is a relatively new thing.  So it's possible that if life exists on another planet that those beings have been around for way longer than man.  Considering how rapidly we've advanced technology on Earth (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse), it would definitely be feasible that their civilization might be at a point where they could figure out how to travel through the cosmos.

There's been hundreds, maybe thousands, of UFO sightings.  Some of them could easily be brushed off as hoaxes or mistakes.  What I find puzzling about the whole thing is the existence of Area 51 in Nevada.  To this day it remains shrouded in secrecy.  Conspiracy theorists often accuse the government of storing an alien spaceship (and possibly alien bodies) from the crash in Roswell, New Mexico at the Area 51 site.  The government, naturally, denies this.  They claim that the site was/is a place where testing on experimental aircraft takes place.  I can buy that, sure, but why is it still so top secret?  If they were working on a craft in the 50s and 60s, and if we still haven't seen any results from their work, obviously what they were working on half a century ago isn't going to ever be produced.  So why can't anybody see it?  If there's not some freaky alien shit going on there, there's certainly something shady going on.

There's the notion that the government of the United States and several other countries around the world are involved in a massive coverup to hide the fact that extraterrestrial visitors have already been to our planet.  There's the counter-argument that this makes no sense; why would the government have any reason to cover that up?  That counter-argument, in my opinion, is bogus sentiment.  Since when did our government follow any sort of rules of logic or decency?  Aside from the cliche of "we don't want to panic the public" seen in countless movies, I can easily imagine a Cold War era military program covering up the alien landing so the USSR didn't find out about it.  After all, any time a new technology is invented, the first thing our government contemplates is how they can use it to kill people.  I'm sure the government would do the same thing if they had alien spaceships, weapons, or viruses in their possession.

I can think of a more practical, and more believable, reason for a massive conspiracy to deny the existence of alien visitors.  If the aliens had figured out how to build and power a craft that could travel all the way across the universe, the fuel must be amazingly efficient.  Finally, our dependence on fossil fuels would come to an end!  But there's the problem...  The rich-as-fuck oil people wouldn't be able to squeeze any more pennies out of us as they destroy the Earth to suck out every last drop of precious fuel.  And since the oil industry is one of the handful of conglomerates that controls our government...  Well, I don't need to spell it out for you.  You get it.  Should I be expecting a knock at my front door from two thugs in suits with shoulders as wide as the men are tall?  Probably.  Luckily, I've got a back door and lots of windows.

I don't know for sure if extraterrestrial life exists, but I can't imagine that it doesn't somewhere in some form.  I don't know if aliens have visited Earth, but I do find the number of sightings and the number of plausible explanations to be mismatched.  I don't know if we'll ever get all the answers.  One thing I do know, however, is that I'll probably spend a good chunk of the day reading about alien conspiracy theories.  Also, I won't be answering the door.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Baxter Pancake Story

This may come as a shock, but I was not born Baxter Pancake.  For all I know, I wasn't born at all, because I don't remember my birth.  But, yes, I have a "real" name on some paperwork somewhere.  For all intents and purposes, though, Baxter Pancake has served as a more real name than my real name.  Does that make sense?  No?  Tough nuggets!

What's the point I'm trying to make?  Good question.  Thanks for asking.  Basically, since some people are aware (or have made the assumption) that Baxter Pancake is indeed a stage/pen name, I'm often asked to tell the story about where the name came from.  So, today I'd like to share the story on the blog; this way, when people ask, I can link them to the blog.  More hits and less telling the same story over and over.  That's a double-win for this guy.

It was a dark and stormy night.  Well, it wasn't dark because it was the middle of the afternoon.  And it wasn't storming, either.  So, it was a partly cloudy afternoon.  I was in college, and I was making quite a few comics at the time.  I had read that in the early days of comic books a writer/artist would sometimes credit himself under several different pseudonyms to make it seem like the book had a full staff working on it. I decided it would be fun to use different names in the credits for my work.  Somehow I became stuck on the name Baxter, originally going with John Baxter, then, upon realizing somebody already had that name, switching it to Baxter St. John.  At some point I just cut the last name off and went with plain ol' Baxter.

On one particular undark, unstormy unnight, a couple friends (that happened to be a couple) noticed the recurrence of the name Baxter in my work.  They jokingly (I think) said that they should start calling me Baxter.  I agreed to this, and I officially took it as my stage name for performing improv.  For a long, long time I was merely Baxter.  No last name attached.  Like Madonna but without the cone bra or the fake British accent.  Or like Ke$ha but with talent.

The improv group I was a member of, along with my brother Schwartz Masterson, began losing steam. Furthermore, the founder of said group had revealed himself to be an arrogant, jealous douche-bag.  The more it became apparent that the group was dwindling, the more time my lil' bro and I spent working on our own ideas.  The time had come for us to form our own group.  But what to call it?  One idea that didn't stick was Cilantro Party.  The name that did stick was The Pancake Brothers.  The Pancake Bros. for short, when you feel like being expedient.  At first we toyed with the idea of performing as Manny and Moose Pancake, but we liked the Pancake name so much that we decided it would become an everlasting part of our namesakes.  Thus, Baxter Nolastname became Baxter Pancake.  Thus Schwartz Masterson became Schwartz Masterson-Pancake, later shortened to S.M. Pancake because my big bro felt like being expedient.  (Is he my big bro or lil' bro?  I never can get it straight.)

To make our comedy pact official we sacrificed a virgin goat during a lunar eclipse.  It was awesome, though kind of hard to see due to lack of moonlight.  The Pancake Bros. became a thing that night.  We did a series of comedy shows in Scranton, PA.  S.M. then moved to New York to become part of the mafia or something, and I stayed in Northeast Pennsylvania to make sure nobody here got too big for their britches.

Now I've got a whole Pancake family.  There's Ginger Pancake, my wife.  And the Pancakelings, Maggie, YaYa, and soon-to-be-birthed Link.  Currently, Uncle S.M. is raising an army of penguins in the sewer.  And we all lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Video Vednesday #14

My brother, S.M., is coming to town on Saturday.  We're hoping to hammer out the rest of Series 2 of The Super Pancake Bros. Super Show while he's all up in the area.  In celebration of my favorite little bro, here's a video of botched takes from a commercial we did for Series 1.

This was one of the last things we filmed for the original batch of episodes.  It was super-late and we got a super-case of the super-giggles, as evidenced in this blooperest of blooper reels.  Grab some candy and give it a watch!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Inventory of Items

In case it's not totally obvious from my writing about being employed by King Koopa, learning sad life lessons from Punch-Out!!, or the naming of my son, I'll just state it outright:  I am a big-time nerd for retro video games.  Currently, the newest system I own is the Nintendo 64.  Also currently, I am working my way through Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons.  (Although it's a Gameboy Color game, and I do own a Gameboy Color, I do not own the cartridge for Oracle of Seasons.  Instead, I'm playing it on a rad website.)  I'm pretty far along in the game, which any Zelda fan will know means I've amassed a large assortment of items.  Man, I love items.  Who doesn't love items?  In celebration of one of my favorite aspects of the Legend of Zelda series, the inventory screen, I'm going to share with you (lucky, lucky you) some of the awesome items I've picked up in the game and my thoughts on what I'd do with them if they were real items in a real inventory.  (I do have a real inventory of weapons and gadgets, but it's nowhere near as impressive as Link's.)

Okay, so I've got the standard items like a sword and a shield (both are upgraded to level 2 power, bitches!!), but that's pretty typical adventure stuff.  Where the games get really interesting is when you start collecting the more unusual tools.  The following list will include the items, as well as the description of them found on the inventory screen, with my ideas/desires as to what I'd do with them in reality.

Shovel - a handy tool

Oh, wait.  I've got one of those in real life.  Damn!  So much for making this look interesting.  The shovel is much more useful in the game, however.  No matter where Link digs a hole, he's bound to find rupees, hearts, or various types of useful seeds.  I only ever seem to find rocks and creepy earwig-type things.

Power Bracelet - a strength booster

When Link starts his adventure in Oracle of Seasons, he is swordless, shieldless, and apparently lacks muscle tone.  He can't even lift up pots to smash them and look for items.  Only after he finds the Power Bracelet can he lift (and smash) the pots and move heavy objects around.

Since I work in a warehouse loading mostly-light-but-sometimes-heavy-as-fuck items onto trucks, I could use this item fairly often.  You know how when you're moving (or helping a friend/family member move) and there's those boxes that aren't superheavy but just awkward to pick up because of their size or shape?  That happens to me just about every night at work, but I could easily put a stop to it with a strength booster like the Power Bracelet.

Also, I could hustle meatheads at gyms.  I would swagger into a gym, swagger over to where guys lift the free weights and check themselves out in the big mirror, and loudly boast that I could lift more than any of them.  I would embarrassingly fail to lift the same amount as my first competitor, then challenge him (or a different meathead) to a double-or-nothing wager, let's say 100 rupees, er, dollars.  Then I'd use the Power Bracelet to lift way more than my opponent.  I'd be so rich!  People fall for these types of hustles, right?  No?  Only in sitcoms?

Rod of Seasons - best used from atop a stump

Since the description doesn't really tell you what the Rod of Seasons does, I'll tell you:  it's a scepter (not sure why they didn't call it the Scepter of Seasons instead of the Rod of Seasons) that Link can use to change the seasons.  I guess that's kind of self-explanatory.  Rather than "best used from atop a stump" it should just say "you can only use this from atop a stump".  Luckily, there's lots of stumps dotted throughout the vast landscape.  And luckily for me, there's a big stump right in my own backyard.

So what would I use the Rod of Seasons for?  One thing I'd do with it is put an end to people wishing it was the opposite season.  When, in the midst of a sticky-humid summer day, somebody said, "I wish it was winter!!" I would hop on top of a stump, twirl the wand, and after a flash accompanied by a weird sound effect, it would be wintertime.  "Ohhhhh!  I guess you should have changed into something warmer than shorts and sandals before making that wish!" I'd gleefully shout in their face.

I suppose I could find more practical uses than to be a weather-controlling-bastard with the rod.  It would be an awesome filmmaking tool.  I could film a seasons-spanning epic without actually having to wait for the seasons to change.  (By "seasons-spanning epic" I mean stupid comedies that take place in different seasons.)

Perhaps I'd do some research into what toll the rapid season changes would take on the environment, but I think we humans have pretty much destroyed the environment already.  YaYa's first tee-ball game was in 40 degree weather.  Her second game, a week later, was in nearly 90 degree weather.  No Rod of Seasons was used to achieve this.

Magnetic Gloves - magnetically attractive!

"Magnetically Attractive!" sounds like the slogan for a perfume or something.  That's only half the story about these gloves, too.  You can switch the polarity of them to draw or repel metallic objects.  And if the metallic object is large and/or firmly planted in the ground, you can use the gloves to pull yourself toward it or go flying back in the opposite direction.  They're quite awesome.

Part of the inspiration for this article came last night when Ginger was briefly watching me play the game.  "Magnetic gloves," she said enthusiastically, "Can I get a pair of those to climb the refrigerator with?"  I'm not sure why she'd want to climb the refrigerator, since she's taller than it and therefore already knows what the top of it looks like.  But her question did send me down a path of thought that led to this blog entry.  Actually, I've been wanting to write about Legend of Zelda again, and this was the perfect nudge.

If I had a pair of magnetically attractive(!) Magnetic Gloves, I'd use them to parallel park.  I have pretty lousy depth perception, and trying to figure out how far away things are while looking in a mirror or awkwardly craning my neck only makes it worse.  Because of this, I very rarely parallel park.  With the gloves, though, I could just get the car sort of near where I wanted to park and then magnetically move the car to fit perfectly into the space.

Also, when some d-bag with a fancy car or giant compensator truck parks in such a way as to take up two to four spaces in a parking lot, I'd use the gloves to move the vehicle all the way to the end of the parking lot.  And put it one space.

Moosh's Flute - a flute for calling Moosh!

You know what?  Fuck parallel parking or finding a good space in a parking lot.  I'd just use Moosh!  That may not sound impressive if you don't know who/what Moosh is, so I'll enlighten you.  Moosh is a big blue bear.  With wings.  Yep, a winged bear.  And with the flute, Link can call him whenever he needs to ride a winged bear, which is like all the time because why wouldn't you ride a winged bear all the time if you had the option?

So that's what I'd do with this item.  I'd call Moosh all the time.  I'd fly to the store on Moosh, I'd cruise around town on Moosh, and I'd use his ground-pound technique to smash stuff and scare everybody.  I'm not sure, exactly, where Moosh would come from when I used to the flute.  In the game he just comes from the top of the screen.  I don't know if he magically warps there or if he just flies really fast from wherever he is.  It doesn't matter.  He's a friggin' winged bear!

Having Moosh around would also be to my benefit for one of the occasions when I accidentally piss off a popped-collar douche-nozzle in a bar.  You know, the type of popped-collar douche-nozzle that leaps at any opportunity to get pissed off and start a fight.  In this scenario, the popped-collar douche-nozzle would start huffing and puffing his Abercrombie-adorned chest, only to have his too-much-hair-gel friend grab him by his tribal-tattooed arm and say, "Wait a minute!  Isn't that the guy that rides around on the winged bear?"  Douche-nozzle would strain his brain to produce a thought and decide against being a nearly-thirty-year-old guy who still starts bar fights.  Then I'd ride Moosh to a diner and get chili sauce on my pants.

Alright, so let me quickly take inventory of my inventory.  That sounds clunky; I'll try again.  Let me itemize my use of items...  Crud.  Okay, let me process how I'd use video game stuff.  That'll have to do.  If I had access to Link's collection of weapons and gizmos, I'd hustle muscleheads, shut up season-complainers by giving them what they wish for, move people's cars when they park like assholes, and ride a winged bear.  I guess there's a reason Link has all this cool stuff and I don't.  He goes on heroic adventures while I'm stuck dealing with everyday annoyances, mostly of the human variety.

If I had to choose just one of these items to have and to use, obviously I'd pick the winged bear, because WINGED BEAR!  Unfortunately, I have to settle for the shovel.