Monday, March 2, 2015

Still Looking For That Blue Jean Baby Queen, Prettiest Girl I Ever Seen

I think I may have accidentally bought a pair of ladies' jeans.

In fairness, all I was looking for was a cheap pair of jeans to wear to work. One of my pairs of Carhartt jeans, which are supposed to be a bit tougher, wear a bit harder, made for the working man, has finally split its seam. Incidentally, it's to be cut up and used for patches for the other pairs of Carhartts that are still hanging on.

I struck out at the recently opened Salvation Army store on the corner of 9th and East Carson. No jeans in my size. I will say this for the Salvation Army: their store is always far better organized than Goodwill. It's a better shopping experience, actually. Better staffed, better organized, and no irritating BOB FM on the radio. So I picked up my headphones from my car, put on my Guided By Voices mix (a necessity after all this winter and a trying week at work) and made the mile-long trek to Goodwill. It's a fun walk, past all the storefronts, restaurants, and even some of the more interesting vacant buildings that line East Carson.

An important point of context: I had not begun drinking yet.

I made it down to the South Side Works (to give an idea how long a walk this is, the Goodwill is on 27th and East Carson, eighteen blocks away), and began my search. They had rearranged the store since I had been in last, and I had to find the pants. In the end I only found three pairs of jeans in my size - or close to it. There were two ordinary-looking pairs, and one that was obviously from the acid-wash jeans trend of the late 80s and early 90s. I mean, these things were so close to being snow white it was hilarious. I had to at least try them on, but I didn't get a picture of the event, (un)fortunately.

I grabbed them and stole away to the fitting room to check for fit. I jammed myself into the acid-wash beast. It wasn't so comfortable, actually - it was pretty tight around the knees. Not quite skinny jean territory, but not something I want to worry about at work. So I extricated myself from them as best I could; and, with a sigh of either relief or disappointment (still not sure which one) hung the grunge-era relic back on its hanger.

Next up was the first of the ordinary pair. I think they were Faded Glory - you know, the Wal-Mart store brand. They weren't too bad, except the waistband was awful pinchy. I don't like pinchy waistbands. As a matter of fact, I have a pair of Carhartts to replace with that exact problem. So again, out and back to the hanger on the wall hook they went, not to be purchased.

I came to the last pair. The brand was unfamiliar to me - the Mossimo Supply Co. New one on me. As I gave them their moment in the sun, I realized that these were certainly the most comfortable jeans I could have found in the whole store, possibly the best I've worn in my life. Nothing felt squeezed, nothing seemed too loose; it honesty felt like I wasn't even wearing pants at all, they were so comfortable. (Better that than vice versa, I suppose.) Done and done! I decided at that moment that they would be mine. I bought them and headed back to drop them off at the car.

Then I went to the bar.

Fast-forward to the next day. I decide to try them on, and I'm showing them to my mom and talking about how nice the fit is. She asks about the brand and I show her the label. In goes 'Mossimo Supply Co.' to the gaping maw of Google, whose all-seeing eye finds us what we were looking for. I think.

Incidentally, any comparisons between Google and Mordor are easily explained by the fact that the folks and I just finished watching 'Return Of The King'. Besides, only one at a time can wield the Ring - since it took both Larry and Sergey to create the greatest search engine ever, I think we're safe from Google.

As Mom and I scan some online store that carries Mossimo clothing, we notice something problematic. All we're seeing in jeans is in the ladies' category. Men who shop for Mossimo and want something other than dress slacks to cover them from the waist down (they don't even sell kilts!) will be going home in their skivvies. And in this weather, that's bad news.

I'm still not completely convinced that they're ladies' jeans, though. I don't want to return them or let them go, as I really like them. So here's the evidence suggesting that they are in fact men's:
  1. Their size is given in the same format as all the other jeans I've ever owned - in waist/length format. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that some company out there sizes ladies' pants the same way, but I've never heard of it. Mom hasn't either. 
  2. The belt loops are big enough for my studded belt. You know, one like every hipster has left over from his poorly-executed punk phase. I'd've expected ladies' jeans to have smaller belt loops. 
  3. Nowhere on them does it specify whether they're men's or ladies'. This isn't conclusive, but it isn't conclusive for the counter-argument, either. 
Speaking of which, here's the evidence for them to, in fact, be of the ladies' department:
  1. Mossimo does not appear to make men's jeans. Despite some serious searching, I found no evidence that they do so.
  2. Like I said, Goodwill is comparatively less organized than the Salvation Army. It's entirely plausible that these jeans got moved from the ladies' department to the men's by accident, and nobody noticed. Or just as likely, nobody knew that they were ladies' wear in the first place. 
Irregardless, I've been wearing them all day, and I think they're my new favorite pair of jeans. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Darkness Taking Days, Nights Filled With Longer Hours

My mom said she needed a volunteer for dinner. I asked, not entirely joking, if she sought a volunteer to be dinner rather than cook it. As long as it seems it's going to take for spring to get here, being served doesn't seem so bad, really.

It's frustrating, though. It's cold, flakes of frozen water keep falling out of the sky with no end in sight, the driveway is a sheet of ice, and the car needs at least an inch of snow brushed from it - or will by tomorrow morning when I go to take care of all the errands I missed yesterday. Aside from yesterday's delightfully addictive reprieve from winter (which I took full advantage of - just ask Nikki, the bartender at Dee's), I don't know whether it's the boredom or hunger that will get me first.

More likely it'll be the combination of both that gets us all in the end.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Robot Minds Of Robot Slaves Lead Them To Atomic Rage

Well, that's cute. Another dream to report. This was over a week ago.

I was in a warehouse somewhere, and for some reason I was handling items removed from nuclear reactors (no apparent protective gear either).

There were two pairs of items. The first was a pair of dense metal plates, about the shape and size of an eight inch long chunk of yardstick. They were black with a red stripe, and I thought they were out of a German reactor.

The other two were plastic shells, black with blue highlights, shaped somewhat like a Tamagotchi (holy shit, remember those?), but about the size of the palm of my hand. There were magnetic tape reels inside, like you'd find in a cassette tape. One was damaged and the tape was trailing out. These seemed to come from a British reactor.

Why the shapes, and what purpose these... items had is lost on me. Equally strange is the association of the shape, color and apparent national affiliation of each pair. It's been a heck of a couple of weeks for dreaming.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner

Seen along PA 380.

I think your Second Most Valuable Resource just got a big jump in his self-esteem. 

Who wants to bet that, after this winter in Pennsylvania, Most Valuable Resource took off for Old San Juan, and right now is sitting on the beach drinking a mojito and smoking an Island Tiger? (I leave whether they're surrounded by bikini-clad supermodels or musclebound bros jammed into Speedos up to your imagination. I do not presume to judge.)

That mojito sounds pretty good right about now. How much were those plane tickets again, Ray?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thrown Down To The Wolves, Made Feral For Nothing

I enjoyed Jack White's first solo album, Blunderbuss; so I wanted to see what he'd done for his sophomore effort. And I hate to say it, but Jack's vinyl nerdiness has gotten the better of him. It made listening a little problematic. In addition, this album seems to be all over the place sonically. Details? Keep reading.

What I Liked:
Jack White will always be able to rock. Anything on here that's rock, or at least half rock, is worth the time to pay attention. He's not too shabby at country either, as it turns out. He's got a rock-hard attitude that runs though the hard songs, and the countrified portion is classic country, thank heaven - with all the good things about it present. Meaty riffs, hooks, and even some fair melodies are all over this album. Calling the record 'Lazaretto' (and the title track too) was a very appropriate move; the record often feels like the introspective writings of a man released from long solitude. I guess White's had some time to think about what he wanted to say on this disc (I support this approach. It's worked!). I'll be honest, I was ambivalent about this at the first few listens, but I think after coming back to it, I get it. Best tracks: definitely rockers 'Would You Fight For My Love?' and 'Lazaretto', 'Alone In My Home' and 'Just One Drink' for the country-rock sound, and surprise instrumental 'High Ball Stepper'.

What I Didn't Like:
White goes all over for this record - a bluesy stomp in slot one, followed by a a wild post-rocker and a country-rocker, heavy on the country. It feels a little incohesive, but it's not quite so bad. A little readjustment of the tracklist might have helped. Oddly, 'The Black Bat Licorice' seems to have borrowed parts of the riff and hook from 'Alone In My Home'. Not helped by the fact that they're right next to each other on the disc.

An Observation:
I actually have to get technical for a moment here and explain why White's vinyl geekiness made this tricky to listen to. I've had problems getting the first side to play. Firstly, the first side plays from the center spiraling outward; and secondly, according to some reports, there are hidden tracks under the disc's labels. I haven't listened to them yet, as I'm wary of peeling the labels off. However, it looks like the lead-in grooves for the regular first side and the hidden track are fighting each other. I only got the thing to start playing by dropping the needle almost right on the beginning of the first track. Some other gimmicks that appear on the record didn't impress me either (locked groove sounds at the runouts and the pair of lead-ins - one acoustic, one electric - for 'Just One Drink').

In Conclusion:
Hmmm. While I like White's solo work, it was kinda rough trying to listen to the vinyl copy with all of the gimmicks. Seriously, they got a bit in the way. Pick it up, but stick with digital if you don't feel up to the challenge of listening or have a turntable with an automatic tonearm.

I've been looking for this album for a while now! The disc that gave 'Making Plans For Nigel' to us at the shed, I've wanted to check the whole thing out for quite a while now. On a recent trip to Jerry's, I happened across it in the alternative section's new arrivals. I think I even said 'yoink' out loud when I grabbed it.

What I Liked:
'Making Plans For Nigel'. 'nuff said. A brilliant, if subtle send-up of parental expectations for a child's future, it's a truly classic track. Bassist Colin Moulding knows how to write hooky and melodic, engaging pop, and most of the first side is testament to this fact. From the nostalgically upbeat 'Life Begins At The Hop', to the subtlety of 'Nigel' and 'Ten Feet Tall', and the hard-then-softness of 'That Is The Way', he's got a distinctly refined style that I find irresistible. I'd guess that a little more of the 'smart' in XTC's 'smart pop' formula is due to Moulding. Meanwhile, the rest of the disc is a showcase for guitarist/keyboardist Andy Partridge, whose songs have a bit more of a poppy bounce or drive to them, with a little New Wave-ish mania; some feel like caricatures ('When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty', 'Outside World'), occasionally a sinister undertone creeps in ('Millions', 'Complicated Game'), and a little bombast isn't unwelcome here and there (especially on 'Roads Girdle The Globe' with its choral backing). This is one energetic record as a result. If it isn't purely upbeat, it's interesting enough to keep you listening for one more track. It's more guitar-driven than I'd been led to believe (which is pleasant), thanks to Partridge and other guitarist/keyboardist Dave Gregory. Best tracks: without hesitation, 'Making Plans For Nigel'. Honestly, I can't say there's a truly BAD song on the album - with one exception.

What I Didn't Like:
Okay, I can't not say it: 'Helicopter' is a terrible song. For a band known for 'smart pop', they seemed to have played a nice long game of Hot Potato with the Idiot Ball while working on the track. It's too goofy, annoyingly bouncy, and doesn't fit the tone of the rest of the album. Other songs on the disc that sound similar, e.g. 'Outside World', have more of a message or meaning, and are somewhat more carefully crafted. 'Helicopter' is so over-the-top that it borders on self-parody. The overall bounciness of the record might annoy some; but it's generally upbeat enough to be redeeming.

An Observation:
My copy is an American pressing, with 'Life Begins At The Hop' substituted for 'Day In Day Out'. Also, the first pressing in the UK included a bonus 7" with the songs 'Chain Of Command' and 'Limelight'. The CD pressing from 2001 includes all fifteen songs. It might be a wise move to supplement the LP with this disc.

In Conclusion:
A classic album. It's an unusual sound, and it's definitely not the rock I tend to seek out, but it is engaging and more complex than pop-rock from the late 70's is expected to be. It's a keeper.

Normally, I blog about stuff I've enjoyed or at least have rationalized the hell out of my enjoyment; but I finally feel the need to talk about something I can't finish. It's terrible. Dave's Music Mine put this one on the curb, and for good reason. I should've trusted their judgement. It's the 12" single of 'The Men All Pause' from 80's girl band Klymaxx and oh, does it fail. It's stereotypically 80's and not in that charmingly hipster-endearing nostalgic way, either. It's almost abrasive. But the real trip-up for me was the monologue where the lead singer says she wants someone to hit her... Done! Done. That's all I need to hear. Under normal circumstances I'm all about girl-rock but this is as far from normal circumstances as you can get. If you see this, it should make a pretty good Frisbee.