As I was redacting and compiling my Hundred Handers playlist, I rediscovered Joy Electric. I don’t know what exactly I thought of this band at first. Something like Boy George on helium singing over a Nintendo. It was weird. But I was twelve, so my shock-threshold ran kind of low. I found the album at a—wait for it—Christian Bookstore (in the alternative CCM section, of course).

So hey you younguns in nuthuggers, leaking autotuned disco from your headphones—spit out your pacifiers and get a load of Ronnie Martin’s Joy Electric. And get ready to get tweaked.

Birds Will Sing Forever

Back in the mid-nineties, nobody I knew knew what the fuck Joy Electric was or why they were so unabashedly Christian and, simultaneously, sort of gay (in both connotations of the word—but not the “stupid” sense). I don’t really think Martin is gay, but anyway, I don’t think they’ve ever sold a lot. Back then, to the CCM market, they were just a little too, you know, out there….

Today, Joy Electric fits right in there with the loosely defined genre, IDM (Intelligent Dance Music—yes, you’re a moron if you like anything else), along with a host of electro-disco jockeys and glitch-geeks with carpal tunnel from something other than (or in addition to) porn. Only, Joy Electric use Moog synthesizers instead of computers—a badge that is unassailably badass to most audiophiles.

Oh yeah. Joy Electric don’t like it when reviewers insinuate or say outright that they use computers. Not long ago, that was a problem for artists like Joy Electric, because somehow, if you used a computer instead of an instrument, reviewers thought you were faking it. Funny how things have changed. You hear Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, Kanye West, and you realize that computers are just so banal, so not a problem. Those artists would have faced the same struggle Joy Electric faced if they dropped on the scene fifteen years ago. And for that, they should check out Ronnie Martin’s Joy Electric; for it is foundational to IDM in much the same way Raymond Scott is to Joy Electric. And I think it’s a reasonable bet that if you thumbed through Dan Snaith’s or Richard D. James’ Ipod, you’d find an LP or two by Joy Electric.

Side note: Though I’m not a fan of the A & R ilk, props to Brandon Ebel of the Tooth and Nail records for signing Joy Electric. When everyone was gobbling up pop punk and rap rock during their post-grunge hangovers, he had the stones to go with these guys. Why? Because they really are great. Better than Xanax.

Viva la Vida (yes, a Coldplay cover)

Big and bold, Joy Electric, you deserve your moment in the sun.

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If you have an eon to kill and you really like music, get a load of this: The Hundred Handers compilation, which is a playlist of your top one hundred favorite songs. (I know I came up with a nerdy name, but when I had the idea, I’d just seen Clash of the Titans, which didn’t have any Titans in it.)

It’s hard. First, you have to assign a value number, one song through three, for each artist or band. For instance, I give Bob Dylan an initial value of five, but I’ll have to whittle it down to three. Three Bob songs that have really stuck with me for a long time. Also, you have to try (at least) to be as objective as possible. Obviously, you’ll lean more toward songs you like now—and that’s okay, for this season of life should receive representation—but you might have to give a nod to songs that had a huge impact on you when you were say, 14-years-old. Depends on how autobiographical you want to make it. I’m at 125 songs already and I’m only through the M’s.

You can then burn it to a five disc box set, or single DVD, and give it to that special girl or guy you’ve been makin eyes at. Or not. Just loan it to the next person who asks you that impossible question, “What’s your favorite song?”

Then you can reply, “Here’s my top 100. All time.” and not really have to think about it too much.

A decent first draft….

1. “Soya” Ali Farka Toure

2. “Fistful Of Love” Antony and the Johnsons

3. “Daydreaming” Aretha Franklin

4. “The Weight” The Band

5. “A Day in the Life” The Beatles

6. “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” The Beatles

7. “Hey Bulldog” The Beatles

8. “I Loves You Porgy” Billie Holiday

9. “Stack Shot Billy” The Black Keys

10. “The Soul of a Man” Blind Willie Johnson

11. “Shelter from the Storm” Bob Dylan

12. “Ballad Of A Thin Man (Edinburgh)” Bob Dylan

13. “Like A Rolling Stone (Manchester)” Bob Dylan

14. “Waiting in Vain” Bob Marley

15. “Ibi Dreams of Pavement (a better day)” Broken Social Scene

16. “Going up the Country” Canned Heat

17. “Her Eyes are a Blue Million Miles” Captain Beefheart

18. “Smackwater Jack” Carole King

19. “Rudie Can’t Fail” The Clash

20. “Lookin’ out my Back Door” Creedence Clearwater Revival

21. “Rocks and Gravel” Dave Van Ronk

22. “Changes” David Bowie

23. “At the Hop” Devendra Banhart

24. “Life is Like a River” Doc Watson

25. “Caledonia” Dougie MacLean

26. “Let Down (Featuring Toots & The Maytals)” Easy Star All-Stars

27. “Masters Of War” Eddie Vedder & Mike McCready

28. “Mr. Blue Sky” Electric Light Orchestra

29. “Bennie and the Jets” Elton John

30. “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” The Flaming Lips

31. “Blue Ridge Mountains” Fleet Foxes

32. “The Holly and the Ivy” George Winston

33. “Mind is Playing Tricks On Me” Geto Boys

34. “My Morphine” Gillian Welch

35. “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” Gordon Lightfoot

36. “Tesla’s Hotel Room” The Handsome Family

37. “Let’s Make it” Hooker and Heat

38. “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven” Iron & Wine

39. “Do Me” Jean Knight

40. “A Postcard To Nina” Jens Lekman

41. “A Higher Power” Jens Lekman

42. “Operator (that’s not the way it feels)” Jim Croce

43. “All Along the Watchtower” Jimi Hendrix

44. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” Jimi Hendrix

45. “Sadie” Joanna Newsom

46. “Feeling Alright” Joe Cocker

47. “Redemption Song” Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash

48. “I Walk the Line” Johnny Cash

49. “Wayfaring Stranger” Johnny Cash

50. “Folsom Prison Blues” Johnny Cash

51. “Meet Me in the City” Junior Kimbrough

52. “Police and Thieves” Junior Murvin

53. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” Leadbelly

54. “Going To California” Led Zeppelin

55. “When The Levee Breaks” Led Zeppelin

56. “Old Friend” Lyle Lovett

57. “Between the Bars” Madeleine Peyroux

58. “Engwish Bwudd” Man Man

59. “All Night Diner” Modest Mouse

60. “This Devil’s Workday” Modest Mouse

61. “The Blood of Cu Chulainn” Mychael Danna, Jeff Danna

62. “What Have You Done?” Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens

63. “Heart Of Gold” Neil Young

64. “Deep Red Bells” Neko Case

65. “Wild is the Wind” Nina Simone

66. “I Got it Bad and that ain’t Good” Nina Simone

67. “Wagon Wheel” Old Crow Medicine Show

68. “Immigration Song” Ozma

69. “Canarios” Phil Keaggy

70. “Time” Pink Floyd

71. “Us and Them” Pink Floyd

72. “Wish You Were Here” Pink Floyd

73. “Fairytale Of New York” The Pogues

74. “Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy ” Queen

75. “We Are the Champions” Queen

76. “Jumper on the Line” R.L. Burnside

77. “Nude” Radiohead

78. “Paranoid Android” Radiohead

79. “Old Friend” Rancid

80. “Hit the Road Jack” Ray Charles

81. “Build Me Up” Rhymefest featuring O.D.B.

82. “My Deliverer” Rich Mullins

83. “Ruby Tuesday” The Rolling Stones

84. “Beast of Burden” The Rolling Stones

85. “Oh My Sweet Carolina” Ryan Adams

86. “Wo Qui Non Coin” The Seatbelts

87. “Up above my Head I Hear Music in the Air” Sister Rosetta Tharpe & Marie Knight

88. “Superstition” Stevie Wonder

89. “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” The Temptations

90. “Come On Up To The House” Tom Waits

91. “Hoist That Rag” Tom Waits

92. “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)” Tom Waits

93. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” U2

94. “Moonshiner” Uncle Tupelo

95. “Into The Mystic” Van Morrison

96. “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” War

97. “El Scorcho” Weezer

98. “Jesus, Etc.” Wilco

99. “Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)” Willie Nelson & Calexico

100. “Mr. Tough” Yo La Tengo

Only Medal

I was eleven the first and only time I held an Olympic medal. It happened at the small church I attended on Wednesday nights. I forget her name, but she had a gold medal for swimming, I think. Earlier at a Big Boy’s restaurant, her little nephew had splattered hot fudge sundae all over the neck band. She’d tried to get it out, but I remember seeing the sticky  little stains, picking up dirt and germs from people who will always remember the weight of it in their hands, the fingerprints on it.

Slip like Freudian

Silver medal slalom skier, Julia Mancuso, tried to downplay her previous comments in the drama between her and Lindsey Vonn. In an interview today, she tried to assess blame on the media for blowing this drama up, and asserted that her “comments had been taken out of contest—context.”

On Monday, an anonymous writer for the Toronto Star blasted coach Mike Babcock of Canada’s hockey team for mishandling the “naming of a no. 1 goalie,” portraying Mike Babcock as a gaping asshole—and he can seem like one, for sure—but also assuming that he isn’t a damn good coach in the process. And for that, I take great offense.

S(he) writes: “Maybe you can never make these kind of momentous changes and keep everyone happy.”

Granted, Captain Obvious.

“But Babcock didn’t really try. So now he’s got to ride Luongo to the end of these Olympics.”

Then s(he) follows with this quote,

“That’s the plan,” said Babcock. “You need momentum changing saves, and we’re looking for (Luongo) to do that.”

—as if somehow Babcock would ever lock himself into a decision that he has all the authority in the world to change. My guess is Babcock was saying, “That’s the plan”—and that plan extended to the next big game, and not the rest of the tournament.

S(he) writes “Anytime Babcock has had success—1997 world juniors, 2002 (sic) Stanley Cup final with Anaheim, 2008 and ’09 Cup finals with Detroit—he has identified a starting goalie and rode him hard.”

Aside from reading vaguely homoerotic, this statement says nothing about coaching strategy, but draws a dubious conclusion from not-entirely factual information.

Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, and Marc-Andre Fleury are all starting goalies. And if Brodeur doesn’t hack it one game, why wouldn’t Babcock put in Luongo? He starts nearly every game in the NHL and plays outstanding. His competitive spirit aches whenever he sits on the bench—and he does all of that in front of Vancouver—the home of the fucking Olympics, in case you missed that memo. So how would that sit with the city of Vancouver if Babcock stuck with Brodeur the whole time? Naming a starting goalie ahead of time might give journalists something to talk about, maybe some emotional security (I guess?) but Babcock clearly doesn’t care. He wants to win.

I know nothing of Mike Babcock’s goalie naming in the ’97 W.J.s and ’03 cup finals; but I do know that in 2008, when the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, he named Dominik Hasek, and not Chris Osgood, to start in the playoffs. Dom won two games, then dropped two, so Babcock put in Osgood and he played amazingly and the Wings won the Stanley Cup, which is far better than just making it to the finals or winning the world juniors. Clearly, your sieve-like memory betrays you, anonymous writer; for Babcock has had his greatest success when goaltending was an uncertainty.

But put yourself in Mike Babcock’s position. Why name a starting goalie if that’s just going relax the other and put the third to sleep? They should all be ready to play, because they do it on a daily basis. If he keeps with Brodeur—who, believe it or not is a mortal man—and if Brodeur plays subpar again, then you canucks’ll shit all over them anyway.

Which must be like second-nature to some Canadians, because s(he) persists in this malarky that Roberto Luongo hasn’t had a career marked by winning,

“Now’s his chance. The last time Luongo had a chance to step forward an assert himself as Canada’s top netminder he coughed up the bit in the deciding game of last year’s playoffs for the Canucks and surrendered seven goals to the Chicago Blackhawks.”

Sure. You may bring up one game when he let in seven goals, but I can think of a couple games in which Patrick Roy let in seven and eleven goals, respectively. They were both against Detroit. But was Patrick Roy an inferior goalie for it? By no means! Likewise for Roberto Luongo.

So this is why I say that you, anonymous writer for the Toronto Star, are an emotional jackass and a bad journalist.

You are also one of many Canadians whose emotions have darkened under the monolith of this sport, awash in this asinine, gold-or-bust anxiety. And I know. It’s “your game.” But if you don’t win this Olympics, Canada will still produce the most NHL players, the most talent, and it will still be “your game,” and one day, you’ll win gold again if you don’t do it this year.

So go ahead and scapegoat Mike Babcock for supposedly scapegoating Marty Brodeur—who, by the way, is taking Babcock’s decision far better (like a fucking professional) than many Canadians right now—for losing a prelim hockey game. But don’t forget what Americans haven’t forgotten:

Final game, 2002 in Salt Lake City.

What y’all just witnessed Sunday was a bunch of talented Americans shoving that game up your collective ass.

Oh but cheer up, Canadians! There’s a good chance you’ll return the favor. Really, hockey is a super fun sport when you don’t give two tugs of a dead dog’s cock who wins. Personally, I like the Swedes. They’ve got great puck support and small egos. Now dat is arhd! But you can still win gold Canada. Just unpucker dem dere asscheeks a bit and have some fun.

Oh wait, you’ve got the Russians next. Good luck.

Some Cajuns might come after me for even suggesting one can have a gumbo without okra. But some of us, who live up North, can’t usually get good enough okra to make it worth it. So don’t get all imperious on me, Cajuns—I get to make Gumbo too, though I suppose it would be better with some okra. Anyway, this recipe follows along the lines of—but actually quite different from—Justin Wilson’s gumbo as shown here,


…only there’s everything but the kitchen sink in this.

Such a defensive introduction to a recipe, there never was.

You will need:

  • A cast iron skillet
  • Wooden spatula
  • Olive oil, 1/2 cup of
  • Butter, 2 tbsp. of
  • Flour, 1 cup of

1.   Marinade Chicken for a good hour or more in

  • lime juice, vinegar, red pepper flakes (actually, Cuban—style mojo marinade is quite good).

2.   Get your roux going in the skillet. Stir often on med-low to a dirty blonde color or darker. Once at desired color, add

  • 1 medium vidalia onion
  • Garlic, 1-2 cloves of

3.    and cook it till it’s clear—or at least until you think its clear, because it might be hard to tell. Meanwhile, chop, brown, drain and rinse

  • Chorizo, 1 lb. of

4.   and add it into a large stock pot. While the sausage is cooking, you should fire up the grill and get the marinaded chicken seared for a good five minutes on each side. Or you can sear it in the frying pan, after you have deposited the roux and onion mixture into the stock pot. Also add

  • Chicken broth, 2 cans of
  • Half and half, ¼ cup of
  • Milk, ¾ cup of
  • Water, 1 cup of

5.   Then, Add

  • Fresh Cilantro, 1 modest fistful of, chopped
  • Cumin, 1 tsp. of
  • White pepper, ½ tsp. of
  • Cayenne pepper, ½ tsp. of
  • Salt, 1 tsp. of
  • Worcester sauce, 1 tbsp. of
  • Tabasco sauce, 1 tsp.-1 tbsp. of—depending on the heat you want.

6.   Also, add

  • Black beans, 1 can of
  • Great northern beans, 1 can of
  • Pinto beans, 1 can of
  • Sweet corn, 1 can of
  • Green chillies, 2 small cans of
  • White wine, 12 oz. of. (I used a Glen Ellen Pinot Grigio—and only really 6 oz., because I drank the rest, which was stinky-sour at first but pretty good after several pulls.)

7.    Simmer for a couple hours, then cool in fridge and reheat to eat the next day for maximum effect.

The first picture on the Wikipedia page of Britney Spears is of her standing in the middle of two rings, garbed as a circus ringleader and toting a whip. The picture fills me with bitter laughter. Not so much at the (inadvertent?) admission that she belongs in a circus, which is true, but that she thinks she leads that circus, which is very far from the truth.

Now, nobody really believes this, but she said this about the creation of Circus:

“I’m writing every day, right here at the piano in this living room… This is my best work ever.”

Get a load of the actual authors of her songs:

Nikesha Briscoe, Rafael Akinyemi, Lukasz Gottwald, Claude Kelly, Benjamin Levin, Shelly Peiken, Arnthor Birgisson, Wayne Hector, Nathaniel Hills, James Washington, Luke Boyd, Marcella Araica, Max Martin, Shellback, Savan Kotecha, Alexander Kronlund, Christian Karlsson, Pontus Winnberg, Henrik Jonback, Kasia Livingston, Stacy Barthe, Henry Walter, Adrien Gough, Peter-John Kerr, Nicole Morier, Harvey Mason, Jr., Rob Knox, James Fauntleroy II, Frankie Storm, Ronnie Jackson, Guy Sigsworth, and finally, Britney Spears, herself, who co-authors three of the twelve tracks.

And the producer list:

Teresa LaBarbera Whites and Larry Rudolph (executive), Bloodshy & Avant, Benny Blanco, The Clutch, Nate “Danja” Hills, Dr. Luke, Fernando Garibay, Greg Kurstin, Guy Sigsworth, Jim Beanz, Claude Kelly, Let’s Go To War, Max Martin, Nicole Morier, The Outsyders, Harvey Mason, Jr., and Rob Knox

All told, there are fifty people responsible for the production and songwriting of Spears’ new album.

If her record company has that many people on the hook for songwriting and production, just think of how many more they employ in promoting, touring, roadying, sound-checking, rehearsing, lip-syncing, video-recording, photographing and otherwise selling this garbage.

Then it hit me: This album is run off an assembly line like a Model-T or a Mauser (Excuse the dramatic comparisons—they were the first to enter my mind.). Just look at all those nameless names. They are factory workers, utterly detached from the product at the end of the line. And most of them are good and honest people, just like you or I. 

And there Britney is, she the painted figurehead hanging from the bowsprit of a giant trireme, and there are a legion of galley slaves propelling her forward. But she does not steer the ship. She is too busy running from paparazzi, running from her rabid fans, running from the sex symbol she became ten years ago only to race back to it when she feels too ugly.

This is common practice for the Big 5, and has been. None of my retching will change that.

The record industry now sweats over peer-to-peer sharing. However, illegal downloading is not the only technology that has caused a contusion in their bloated cartel.

In recent years, digital recording has become relatively affordable, and there are now countless musicians making amazing, cheap albums on laptops in their basements. Anymore, a musician does not need to drum up the massive amount of capital it once required to make a professional sounding album. 

Beyond production, the Internet itself provides countless outlets for independent artists to sell, promote, and gig themselves. And these artists do it by themselves.

The record companies must surely see the big picture here.

This change is not an upheaval of the norm. It is a return to a stasis—albeit one rebuilt with this new-fangled technology—in which the artist has control over the art and bears the responsibility for its success or failure. But more importantly, the artist bears the definition of their success or failure. If an artist’s music never makes it past his front porch and the ears of those who gather on it—and he’s cool with that—then that is success, right? My friends and neighbors always appreciated my music the most.

Ketch Secor, of Old Crow Medicine Show, had a profound insight:

“It’s such a pivotal part of American music making, the sound that was created in the 1920s, before the radios, before bluegrass, before record sales were nearly as important–back in the old days when people thought that maybe they shouldn’t make records, like making records was a way that other bands would steal their live shows. That’s the way a lot of guys felt about it back then. They were very mistrusting of the A & R thing.”

Consider Robert Johnson or Charley Patton. Doubtless, they had their qualms over recording and plagiarism. And rightly so—but neither knew the influence they would have. Nobody exploited them. They exploited themselves—although, I don’t think you can call something someone enjoys exploitation. Not like being locked in a room with the instructions, here, go write seven surf-rock songs or ten teenie-bopper tunes by Friday.

What a diarrhea of bad music the record industry has created with their defined roles and focus groups! I say, let them sink billions of dollars into suing and prosecuting downloaders. Let them own songs that other people wrote. Let them keep screwing the few decent artists they have left. They have turned music-making into a peopled machine, which, like the American car industry, will become bankrupt and irrelevant. 

Time for another puncture in the equilibrium. Now everybody—

The tone on this blog has gotten too serious, lately. I aim to put a stop to that. In under 24 hours, my last post on Swine Flu sky-rocketed to the most viewed post in the history of this site. This is an effort to curtail this trend, and to reaffirm that I have no serious purpose here.

So nu: Boob dishonesty.

I find it a little hypocritical whenever a girl criticizes another girl for installing breast implants, while she herself has an inch of foam in each cup. 

I know it’s not the same thing. But it’s close enough to false advertising to grind my gears. Those men who can’t recognize a padded bra when they see one—and these are fewer than you’d expect—will only be in for a disappointment once they unhook that pusher-upper. 

Still, asking a woman to feel confident about her boobs is about as reasonable as asking a man to feel confident about his dick. But as some will attest, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, and if I wanted to be suffocated by two hunters in a hammock, I’d have worn camo. So come on, girls! Great boobs come in all shapes, sizes and colors. 

If I had any female readers, I’m sure a shitstorm would gather over my head because of this commentary. In anticipation of such an anomaly, I’ll say this:

Boys, if feeling a little deprived, stuff your dick into a hollowed-out squash and cram it in your pants. The girls will just love that.

I was watching a news report on the Swine Influenza a couple nights ago. The news anchor—or personality (I guess)—Rachel Maddow gave China, Russia and Australia the “missing-the-point award” for placing a hold on the sale and import of pork products. She smirked and announced that, of course, sausage and bacon weren’t the culprit, and you’d only be at risk if you cuddled up with an infected pig. 

Hey you medieval communists in Russia and China—hain’tchu ever heard of dem dere scientifix?

….or maybe their leaders aren’t the fools she hopes they are.

First, the ban isn’t a wholesale one—Just on pork from certain US states and Mexico. Even so, you might ask, wouldn’t it simply promote fear and ignorance, as US officials proclaim?

In this information-pumped society, I don’t know if Americans can truly appreciate what it must be like to live in Russia or China. In China, for example, you are only permitted to read state-approved literature. In other words, a Google search turns up far less than an American one does. I am sure there are many Chinese who know you can’t get swine flu from eating pork, but I am also sure there are many millions of Chinese who don’t know that. 

Before we label the bans as commie balderdash, let’s examine if there is a strategy. Now, I haven’t spoken with their heads of state, so I could be totally talking out of my ass. But I suspect the ban has everything to do with preventing mass hysteria among their citizenry. It’s the same reasoning behind the Mexican government handing out surgeon masks, which will do little, if anything, to prevent the spread of the disease.

Imagine: You just went through the SARS debacle a few years ago. You know there is this potential pandemic. You have heard the disease is called “swine flu,” but you don’t know how its communicated. And you just ate princess pork at Fei Long’s Barbecue. Shit balls.

Wouldn’t you want to keep that fear from arising in people?

Of course, the US wants to discourage such policies in these countries, because the bans could “trigger serious trade disputes.” 

I guess that would just be one more thing out of the US’s hands. (Funny how we hate to feel like we can’t control it all.)

I think this Rachel Maddow is missing the point. She should read Montaigne’s essay, “On the Force of Imagination.”

I see very few men at the Salvation Army store in my hometown. The ones I do see usually have something absurd draped over their arm—say a retro red vinyl jacket or a pair of chartreuse and seasick-green checked pants—and it amuses me. Obviously, these boys are dressing up for some costume party. Or maybe they want to be subversive, but usually they just look like dorks.

Anyway, this isn’t for them.

This is for the men who shop at Salvation Army for much of their serious wardrobe. Whether it’s biz-cazh, cazh-cazh, or formal wear, here is your guide to the exciting world of thrifting.

Shirts

It can take a long time to sift through all the shirts, but stick with it. You can usually find something good, because there are countless sexually repressed men in this country who are very sensitive about a shirt’s color or pattern.

If it’s an Oxford or other button-up you’re after, check the buttons. Give them a quick tug and make sure they’re all there. Unless you are good with a needle and thread, or you know a good woman who likes doing that sort of work, abandon any shirt with a button disability. It will only let you down.

Also, check for sweat stains along the pits and collar, as well as cigarette burn holes and other discolorations. Mind you, the sweat stains might be absent, but the shirt can still smell funky. So be brave and stick your nose up in there to make sure. If you can’t bleach the shirt, you will never be rid of the smell. The same admonition applies to sport jackets and suits.

Sweaters appear in abundance and many are still in good shape. You will just have to ask yourself why that sweater was ditched, because, reader, I can never instill in you good taste. Wool sweaters, especially merino, tend to pucker down by the waist, and many at S.A. suffer from this malady.

For my money, the Salvation Army is the best place to find vintage clothing, and especially t-shirts. Consequently, I avoid “vintage stores,” which often try to sell me a Cheap Trick t-shirt for $75. I also avoid fake vintage. For instance:

The price? $50.00 for a new vintage Red Wing t-shirt at NHL.com.

Cf. the $2.00 real vintage Red Wing t-shirt my friend found for me at S.A:

Pants

The search for pants challenges the thrifter far more than the search for shirts does. Good jeans, for instance, are extremely rare (unless you like 40-inch-waist bellbottoms). I’m not saying don’t look; just don’t get your hopes up. I think most men wear out their good pairs of jeans, and their wives feel bad about dumping them on thrift stores. Consequently, I buy my jeans new.

On the other hand, searching the khaki and slack racks can lead to great buys. My true inseam is only 27 inches long. I don’t know if that is long or short for my height (5’6″), but it is damn near impossible to find slacks with less than a 30 inch inseam in a typical retailer. Not so at the Salvation Army. All manner of altered and tailored slacks are available. You just have to try on a few pairs to get lucky, and in my experience, you make your own luck. And reader, you should always try it on.

Write that down: Always try it on.

Ties

I am fundamentally opposed to ties. Still, sometimes I have to wear one just like any other schmuck. It astounds me how quickly ties go out of style, and nothing reveals this more than a look at Salvo’s tie selection. Last year’s “power ties” are at their last pit stop before the dump, and that’s how it should stay. Don’t be fooled.

That said, you can often find a traditional red, blue or black tie lurking unnoticed at the back of the tie racks. If the tie looks nice still—and don’t count on this happening very often—you will have found a useful, formal tie that will look good for a long time.

General Advice

Bring cash, unless you know your local store takes credit/debit cards.

Don’t be in a hurry. You won’t ever find anything good that way.

If you do happen to be in a hurry, then always get behind the youngest customer at the check out. The older ones will haggle over a quarter.

And whatever you do, don’t let something go if you really want it. You might not believe it, but I’ve had folks try to take stuff out of my cart or off my arm, claiming they had found it first and that I stole it. Don’t let them bully you, stiff-arm you, or otherwise inspire you with fear if you don’t give them what you rightfully found. Just tell them “tough tiddy” and be off. Or go tell the manager.

Recently, I fell prey to a colon cleanse scam. This isn’t the first thing I’d want to admit to, but this blog is pseudonymous, so I’ll spin a yarn.

Now there are plenty of resources—most obviously a Google search—which would have revealed Bromalite pills to be a scam. But in the headrush of an impulse buy, I suppose even the best of us can be shortsighted. And I ain’t the best of us.

Many have complained about this company. Still, one more blog post detailing the fraud will only better the consumer world. So here’s the story:

I was reading the Free Press, when I noticed an ad for a colon cleanse “review board.” This board studied the effects of many cleansing products on the market and rated them, scientifically. I clicked on the ad and arrived at their site. In their own words:

“Our firm is a watch dog group in the health products industry located in Michigan.”

Oh, I thought, in Michigan. I live in Michigango on, I said with my mouse.

On their webpage, there were three products rated. I chose the second one, Bromalite, and clicked on it, taking me to their page.

If I paid only five bucks for shipping and handling, they would rush me a free trial of Bromalite, which guarantees to push fifteen pounds of waste out of you in three days. 

So I gave them my debit card number. 

Great fool was I.

Now. Before you buy this crap, consider what I have found:

At the bottom of their webpage, where a terms of use contract exists on every website you visit, there is a link to the actual terms of your agreement. That is, the terms you agree to when you order your pay-for-shipping-only bottle of pills. That link reveals a rather comprehensive—albeit incomprehensible—contract, which is packed to the gills with legal jargon and bullshit, allowing them to charge you $69.95 if you fail to cancel your “subscription” within twelve days of placing your order. After another month, they bill you again.  

I only found out about this after they sent me the second bottle, whereupon I drove straight to my credit union to cancel my card. 

There, I found that I could contest these sorts of things. Visa would deal with the company and replace the money in my account until they judged that the company’s withdrawal as unlawful. The lady in account services showed me that Bromalite had tried to withdraw $69.95 the day I ordered their product. That is not what they said they would do. Rather, they would bill me the full cost only after my twelve-day free trial period had ended. 

Their first try didn’t work. Only the $5.00 I agreed to pay went through. However, I found that they had successfully withdrawn $69.95 not once but twice on later dates. This was also in violation of their own terms that stated they would wait 30 days to bill you again. 

If Bromalite had stuck to the arrangement, I might not have any legal rights to my money. The contract certainly stipulates so. But they got greedy.

All is still in the subjunctive as I await Visa’s judgment. In the meantime, I have looked into the whole racket. 

The colon review board is merely a deceptive advertisement. Nothing of the sort exists and certainly not in Michigan. Doubtless, your IP address dictates where the make-believe watchdog organization exists. 

Additionally, the three, reviewed and ostensibly separate brands all operate on the same basic swindle. The logos of CNN, Fox News, and other “as-seen-ons” litter each website. Of course, the ads never tell you at what time or on what program their products were featured; and if you’ve watched enough late night television, you will have seen all manner of ludicrous shit pedaled.  

On top of all that, I’m pretty sure the pills don’t even work. At any rate, I’m afraid to take them. They sit  on my dresser as a small monument to my own gullibility.

But “The large print giveth and the small print taketh away,” to quote the good Mr. Waits.

More on small print…

Lately, I have been sweating a lot, so I decided to try a different antiperspirant. At the store, suddenly “clinical strength” antiperspirant is available to the prescription-less masses. (Oh boy, oh boy)

The Old Spice clinical strength comes in a cardboard box, unlike regular sticks, and each unit costs $8.00. The boxes could hold four sticks of regular deodorant, but the product itself weighs only 1.7 oz.

The active ingredient in the “clinical strength” is Aluminum Zirconium Tetrahyrdrex Gly 20% (anhydrous).

As I soon discovered, it’s the same damn ingredient as any in antiperspirant. In fact, Arm and Hammer makes a pleasant smelling antiperspirant containing that ingredient at a 19% mixture, weighing 2.8 oz., and priced at $2.18. All it lacked was a large sexy box. 

Don’t fall for this clinical strength fandangle. Just stick with your regular stick.

As Bob Dylan sings in his one good song on Knocked Out Loaded, “Brownsville Girl”:

“Even the swap meets around here are getting corrupt.”