Spaceman's Pancakes

Steering towards the Weird since 2010


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Spaceman’s Pancakes Re-design COMING!


Hey there SMPC followers!

I am planning a major re-design of this site this month to be ready by November 1, 2013. My hope is to put out much more writing in several forms, including sports writing, book movie, music and television writing,  wine and liquor reviews, poems (Poem-of-the-Day RETURNS!), stories, scripts and whatever other weird stuff comes to my mind.

I am also planning more Re-Animated Podcasts (including a special 25th Anniversary Nightmare Before Christmas episode) and the introduction of a new podcast series to debut in October. I will also begin to introduce some video material sometime during the next year.

I am extremely grateful to everyone who has stopped by my little corner of the internet and in incredible debt to all of my followers. I hope you will join me for more wild adventures in hypertext.

-E.H. Decker

October, 4, 2018


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NBA Playoffs: The Boston Celtics and the Season of the Weird


Tonight the Boston Celtics continue their playoff run against the Philadelphia 76ers, playing the role of underdogs despite home court advantage and the superior regular season record. They are underdogs because their best player, point guard Kyrie Irving, will not play this spring following knee surgery. Their game-one win, like the rest of their improbable run to the second seed in the East, surprised just about everyone. Since five minutes into the season, when their star free-agent acquisition, Gordon Heyward, fell to a horrific leg injury, this Celtics team has been recalibrating people’s expectations almost night-to-night.

The plot points for the Celtics season have the feel of a sappy sports film. Their big star addition goes down in the opening, throwing a 19-year-old Jayson Tatum into the NBA fray. He steps up and proves he can hang throughout a 16-game winning streak in Act One, but the long grind of the season chips away at this plucky band of youngsters and at the close of Act Two, their other star, Irving goes down, leaving only the kids and “Average Al”- the much-maligned max-contract star to face down a seven-foot tall Greek Freak and then the ascendant 76ers before the climatic (and heroic-tragic) battle with the Big-Bad- The King, Lebron.

But though the broad-stroke outline of the 2017-2018 Celtics season reads like a Sean Astin-in-an-indie-hoops-film, from a fans perspective, it has felt like something else entirely.  Like something closer to The Big Lebowski or Friday. A season drenched in psychedelia and funk. The 2016-2017 Celtics season owns the claim to the dramatic archs, with the “King in the Fourth” run for Isaiah Thomas leading to heartbreak and betrayal. 2018 is the Season of the Weird, both for the Celtics and for the sporting world in general. The strange synergy between the raw, young talent in Boston’s TD Garden and the bizarre phenomenon of #weirdcelticstwitter has been one of the most fun experiences of my sports-watching life and, I believe, a foreshadowing of the bold, insane, new world of closer fan-player relations.

It is hard to define exactly what Weird Celtics Twitter is. It’s like porn, I suppose. You know it when you see it (and also, you spend way too much time staring at it after your wife and kids are asleep- A-YO! amirite!). It is definitely certain specific things though. It’s Tito-Three Sticks, Third of his Name.  It’s Combat Muscles. It’s Mad Brad and Dabuselethe third eye and Terrygarcia. It is Smarf* and, of course, is Janos. Weird Celtics Twitter is not unlike many other things I have found myself in close proximity to throughout my life. It’s a weird, nerdy niche group that is full of inside jokes and obscure references that only matter to “us,” whoever the “us” might be. I can’t claim to be part of it, but following the antics of WCT has been one of my favorite things in 2018.

*I will go to my grave believing there is a connection between Smarf and the 2013 Over the Monster nickname for Shane Victorino, Shanf. To. My. Grave. 

But the thing that has made the Celtics so fun this season and made Weird Celtics Twitter so fun, is that those two worlds, which should be so, so, separated, have been…can I say copasetic. At the very least, there has been interplay and that is the weirdest thing about Weird Celtics Twitter. This should be a thing that only matters to a small group of fans, but it has bled into the mainstream and infected it with its weirdness in the best possible ways.

Celtics GM Danny Ainge has responded to the strange Celtics-and-soup twitter poster Janos, WCT’s OG. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor (a Celtics fan, originally) says he tried to reference Thick-Jacked (a variation of the Combat Muscles meme) in a Ringer article. Terry Rozier even ended up embracing the Scary Terry nickname to settle down the Tito*>T-Ro beef instigated by Sam “Jam” Packard, one of the Locked-On Celtics podcast hosts. Now, the nickname is everywhere. If this isn’t wonderful shit, you and I define “wonderful shit” very differently.

*#TeamTito- for life!

Weird Celtics Twitter is having its moment in part because it is the perfect storm of a team and fanbase. These things happen in sports and they are always great. What makes WCT feel different to me is the way it fits with the new media world that the NBA and its players are so eager to embrace. It is not the world of Michael Jordon in Spike-Lee-directed Nike spots and Warner Brother movies. It is the world where Isaiah Thomas releases the extremely personal “Book of Isaiah” on Youtube through The Player’s Tribune. It is the world where Kevin Durant has burner accounts to argue with twitter eggs about his free agency choice and where he coins the term “blog boys” on a podcast, The Ringer puts it on a T-shirt, and Steph Curry wears it to the next game.

Vertical integration in media is gone. Now everything goes everywhere. If you are a cult player and back-up point guard, you jump on the chance to get a few hundred weirdos who love you to embrace your brand, even if it means donning a scream mask and ditching the nickname T-Ro for Scary Terry. Now, the inside jokes have a path straight into the heart of the culture.

And the memes feed themselves. As Celtics players embraced their own weirdness, WeirD Celtics Twitter embraced them more. Kyrie Irving was respected as an elite talent, but his role as IT replacement and his ridiculous flat-earth comments made fans weary of him as a celebrity. Rather than glad-hand Neil Degrasse Tyson and say, “my bad,” Kyrie steered toward the weird and clarified his flat-earth statements with even more obscura and brought fans through the looking glass until it became a kind of charming psuedo-intellectual-goofball mysticism. 

The history of sports has mostly been the history of players distancing themselves from the fans. Back in early days of baseball, fans could talk to the players on the bench, move the home run fences forward and back and even see their guys at the bar or the local hotel. The need for security for the athletes and the sports have pushed the two sides apart, but if Weird Celtics Twitter and the 2018 Celtics are any indication, that separation may be waning in a world where intellectual connection does not require physical connection and the two sides are constantly engaged in a strange kind of dialogue that encompasses what happens on the court, in the media, in marketing rooms and ad agencies and on social media.

It is possible that this is simply a chance occurrence; the story of the right team and the right fanbase coming together, but the Celtics Season of the Weird seems like more than that to me. It seems like the first step in fans and players moving closer together in a way that is unique to the world that social media has created.


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The Re-Animated Podcast: Episode 3- Return to Oz


What if the merry old land of Oz we all came to love from the 1939 Judy Garland-classic was less merry and more of a horrific post-apocalyptic dreamscape? Well, then you’d be watching the 1985 Disney film Return to Oz. 

It’s bleak. It’s terrifying. It has the structure of an actual nightmare. And it co-stars a chicken. Yet, we watched it as children and we loved it (maybe?). Now we have watched it again as adults and tried- unsuccessfully- to wrap our heads around it. Even as adults it is incredibly scary, but as ridiculous it may be, we could not look away.

Enjoy the third episode of the Re-Animated Podcast as we break down Return to Oz. 


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Are McDonald’s Recent “Fails” a Strategy?


Bob Dylan sings, “She knows there’s no success like failure/ and that failure’s no success at all” in his song She Belongs To Me.  It’s one of those great Dylan lines that is both totally captivating and essentially meaningless. But, while it is more of a clever construction than an actual insight, it has the tendency to reverberate in an interesting way in the modern culture of the internet and social media, where getting people’s attention takes either a massive dedication to quality content and breathtaking consistency or a single instance of hilarious ineptitude. #Fail is often the most successful thing there is these days.

That is why the recent failings of McDonald’s marketers are fascinating to me. The most recent one was the Black Friday twitter fail. If you missed it, McDonald’s Twitter account was set to make some deal offer for the biggest day of the year and the poor person in their social media department hit send before… oh, you know… adding whatever deal was planned, resulting in- “Black Friday **** Need copy and link****” going out to the world. Predictably, people jumped online to mock the ubiquitous fast-food restaurant and slap together sarcastic memes. But buried in the L.A. Times article linked to above is the casual observation that-

“Some social and community managers even expressed their empathy for the situation, which although embarrassing proved to be an excellent source of social traffic”

That simple mistake drove traffic for one of the largest companies in the world. And beyond that, it is not embarrassing in any way that is actually costly to the McDonald’s brand. No one tampered with the food or did anything else that would injure the company in a real and substantial way. It is the kind of innocent mistake that is easy to sympathize with and somehow actually reminds us that a restaurant chain is so mammoth that it feeds one-percent of the earth’s population every day is made up of actual people, some of them just as bad using twitter as we are.

The net results of this fail are:

  • A social media traffic surge
  • The brand being talked about on the biggest shopping day of the year
  • A sympathetic, humanizing moment for a corporate behemoth

No Success like failure.

If the Black Friday tweet was intentional (I doubt that it was) it was social media genius of the highest order.  Though this instance was probably unintentional, I am willing to bet that somewhere out there, a sharp-minded social media manager is looking for an opportunity to fake a fail like this one for the attention it will bring.

If that sounds paranoid, just hang on a minute because the Black Friday tweet is only the tip of my McDonald’s social-media-conspiracy-iceberg. The real stroke of possibly-evil genius was the companies “mishandling” of the Rick and Morty promotion.

First, a quick recap of the incident. The Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim show Rick and Morty, a dark comedy about evil super-genius Rick, revealed in the third-season premiere that Rick was doing all his evil deeds to acquire the Szechuan sauce McDonald’s had released as part of a Mulan promo back in late 1990’s when that film was in theaters.  McDonalds, a company never known for being hip and which has a complicated relationship with today’s younger costumers, saw a chance to look cool and edgy. They set-up a limited re-release of the sauce to satisfy the demand of the rabid fans of this cult TV show and offered the product at select stores on October 7. The “limited” release turned out to be far too limited for the shows fans and they raged against the company online until the company was forced to apologize and promise more of the now-deified sauce.

As Claire McNear’s article for The Ringer that I linked to above points out, nobody came out looking great here. It is really hard to imagine that this was an engineered move to attract attention because mega-brands don’t take risks as a rule and intentionally infuriating a group of people to get people talking about your brand is an enormous risk.

But.

We, as a culture, are talking about a McNugget sauce from an ad campaign for a bad Disney movie that came out around twenty years ago. The story got covered by CNN, The New York Times, The Ringer, Gizmodo, everyone. It was big news. Rick and Morty is a very popular cable comedy, one of the most popular, in fact. But what counts as the audience for one of the most popular shows on television? Between three and four million viewers a night. McDonalds feed around 70 million a day, everyday. Among viewers, the subsection of die-hard fans- the ones who waited in line for Szechuan sauce- is a small percentage. Even if that percentage is as high as thirty percent of the total audience, that is still just a million people. Alienating a million people is probably not something any brand wants to do, but would it be worth the risk if it attracted a million other people who didn’t care at all about the product before?

After all, die-hard fans die hard. They might be mad that they didn’t get Szechuan sauce, but they are going to just stop wanting it. They are coming for the sauce regardless. The whole problem was there no being enough of it, after all.  From the evil-social-media-marketing-conspiracy perspective, the beauty of this “fail” is that I now want it (well, a little anyway). I have never watched Rick and Morty and I rarely eat McDonald’s, buying it only in desperation (or inebriation, maybe). Yet, because the fine folks at McDonald’s created this sensation and then failed massively in delivering it, I am now interested in two things that were not even previously on my radar. I am certain I am not the only one. A brand like McDonald’s could spend millions on ads and social strategies and never reach me in any meaningful way. I know what McDonald’s is. I have known McDonald’s as long as I have been alive. Their ubiquity is their biggest liability. They are just part of the landscape. They are as easily ignored as telephone poles. I might eat their food occasionally but I do not care about them at all. Or I didn’t care about them at all until they let down thousands of fans of a TV show I have never seen. That may not be success, but sometimes, as the man says, there is no success like failure.


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Poem of the Day #22- 9/12/17


Alone on the concrete
As the dawn begins
The echo of the ball against the pavement
Is the only sound
My head rises
As I cross the chipped paint arch
And press the ball harder
Down into the ground
Faster- Double time-
Two fast steps and I pull
Up from the cement
I rise-
     Feet pressing up
          Knees extending
               Arms gliding up
Until I am free of gravity
As the ball floats to the hoop
The world is silent
     Perfect
          The day in its rising arch
               And Fall
The rattle of hoop and backboard break the spell
And now it is time to work