THE GOODS: Blurt’s Guide to Spending Gift Cards and Granny Cash, 2014-15 Edition

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In which Blurt tells you how to spend your mad money. Not your serious cheddar.

BY RANDY HARWARD

Check it out: I’m gonna go all Suze Orman on your asses. Ha-HA! Financial advice. Not what you came here for? You gotta trust me on this. I’m a master at spending gift cards and granny cash every holiday season. I start with a list of stuff I wanted but didn’t get, then form a plan. I create flow charts, balance needs vs. wants, allow for impulse items, dig up coupon codes, watch sales… Sometimes I even trade up for better gift cards. Not on that website. Just within the family. (Should I have said that?) Or more cash.

I can maximize the shit out of your discretionary holiday haul. So listen up.

All that stuff I said before? That works best for online purchases. Now, if you’re looking for instant gratification and wanna go the brick-and-mortar route, I have one piece of advice: Don’t spend shit until at least late January. (That’s only kind of an arbitrary date.) Otherwise, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. The good stuff is either gone or on back order. If you happen to find what you want—

Just kidding. I don’t wanna write that crap any more than you wanna read it. And here’s some run-on honesty: Gift guides are breezy toilet reads where some dude who got some free stuff is gonna tell you why, a) He likes or dislikes it, and b) in a roundabout way, why you should pay for the same thing. This one, however, only aims to influence a portion of your income: those crisp $2 bills and Sacajawea dollars that came tumbling out the crocheted slippers that Gram-gram knitted for you. Just the mad money – not your serious cheddar, your operating funds. We just don’t want that much responsibility, you know?

So let’s dig in…

 

Led Zep Houses of the Holy reissue

 

REISSUES AND BOX SETS FROM RHINO

Led Zeppelin I, II, III, IV and Houses of the Holy ($17 ea.)

Captain Beefheart Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972 ($60)

Rhino.com

When I was a kid, I was regularly caught playing with my… dad’s music collection. Eight-track tapes and vinyl records with colorful spines – I recall how the platters leaned against a wall like a hooker does a lamppost. Irresistible. I flipped through them every chance I got. Some covers, like ones from the Grass Roots and the Association, looked boring. Others were scary, like Black Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath were scary. Then there were the ones like Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, where nude, cyanotic children scampered over rocks on the cover and, in the gatefold, a bluish (or is it stone?) man held one of the children aloft, as though a sacrifice in waiting. That scared the bejesus out of me – even more than the demonic orgy on the Sabbath cover. But when I was finally able to sneak it onto my dad’s diamond-needled turntable, it went way over my head. Aside from hearing Led Zeppelin on the radio all the time, I ignored them until I matured and Kiss, Loverboy and Def Leppard lost (some of) their charm. All of Led Zeppelin’s albums were relatively new to me at once. Now, in a way, I get to feast again on Led Zeps I through Houses (the band’s fifth) now that they’ve been given the deluxe reissue treatment. In the single-disc edition on which this is based, the albums are remastered and paired with a companion disc of rough/alternate/working mixes and packaged in gatefold sleeves with an eight-page booklet. What a great way to kill a Sunday.

Captain Beefheart Sun Zoom Spark

I came by Captain Beefheart even later in life, thanks to this guy Staker. Like most weirdos, he knew one when he saw one – and so he made the introduction. Of course it started with Beefheart’s landmark Trout Mask Replica. Then I was left to discover The Spotlight Kid, Lick My Decals Off, Baby and Clear Spot on my own. But that’s part of the fun, pickin’ a point of entry and bargin’ in, you know, booglarizin’ the stuff online until such time as you can procure your own (probably second-hand) copy. Sun Zoom Spark collects remastered editions of these three albums plus a fourth bonus disc of outtakes and unreleased tracks from the same period and sessions. The set, then, becomes a similar – yet whole ‘nother – type of Sunday-killing, immersive experience. If you decide now is the time to get some Beefheart in your life, embrace the weirdness. There are dividends if you do.

Primus chocolate bars

BAND CANDY

Primus Chocolate Bars ($25/three-pack)

ClubBastardo.com

In flavors like sturgeon, cheese and pork soda… Psych. Weirdo prog-rockers Primus, teaming with Asher’s Chocolates, actually stuck to conventional ingredients for this merch tie-in with the Primus & the Chocolate Factory album and tour – a celebration of Roald Dahl’s classic story about the lunatic chocolatier. (You know…) Each three-pack contains one each of Professor Nutbutter (it’s fulla peanuts), Mr. Krinkle (made with crispy rice) and the aptly-named (because dark chocolate sucks*) Bastard Bar. The price (roughly $2.38/oz.) is high, but Primus always delivers quality. Plus, if you buy these, maybe we’ll get to see more band candy down the road. Who wants to see an AC/DC bar? Maybe a Slayer-branded Abyss Crunch? My Morning Krackel? Zep Pez? This is fun. (*In fairness, this dark chocolate is actually pretty good. Also, it looks as though they did have a Pork Soda Bar, which was flavored with bacon and Pop Rocks and limited to 500. Sad.)

Adventures of Mrs Jesus hi res

THE REAL LIFE OF JESUS, IN PANELS

The Adventures of Mrs. Jesus by Dan O’Shannon ($15)

HarperCollins.com

It’s already so, so sad that Jesus takes a backseat to Santa Claus at the holidays. After all, he’s the reason for the season! It’s just that we get so caught up in the loot grab, you know? There’s so much action and drama – it’s hard to tear yourself away and just meditate on the question, “What would Jesus want for Christmas?” So you can imagine how all of this affects the great women behind the great men. For Santa, that’s Mrs. Claus. Thanks to protests and stuff, we now know that she’s the one feeding the elves cocoa and cookies and candy so they can stay up all night on the sugar rush and meet their production quotas. But what do we know about Mrs. Jesus? Ha! I know – who?! The celeb rags be slippin’, ‘cause I didn’t even know about her (Her?). Where were you on that one, US Weekly? And Jesus is an A-lister! For Hell’s sake.

Anyway, according to former writer and executive producer of Modern Family, Dan O’Shannon, Mrs. Jesus kinda sucks. In a series of four-panel cartoons, we discover she can be naggy, passive-aggressive and plain bitchy. All of that is understandable, since she lives in the shadow of a super-being who, in these same panels, also seems to be a bit ornery (he does looks really uncomfortable on that cross). But what appears at first blush to be harsh criticism in comic strip form isn’t actually that. It’s more about how people, especially married couples, relate – just like Modern Family is also about how family members get along. It’s insights like these that make this little book worth picking up.

 

 Gov't Mule - Dark Side of the Mule

 LIVE ALBUMS KICK ASS, ER, MULE!

Dark Side of the Mule by Gov’t Mule ($13 standard, $32 deluxe)

Mule.net

Dude. Floyd good. Mule good. Mule + Floyd = Dude. That kind of monosyllabic logic isn’t hyperbole. Gov’t Mule, led by gravelly-voiced guitar god Warren Haynes, are legends in their own right, and the idea of them paying tribute to the legendary Pink Floyd should make music fans slobbery. And this set, recorded on Halloween 2008 in Boston, exceeds all expectations. Mule, joined by saxophonist Ron Holloway and two of Floyd’s actual backing vocalists, nails Floyd’s sublime atmospheric sound while infusing it with that trademark Gov’t Mule slow burn. It’s a captivating, one-sitting listen that will leave you nearly speechless. (Review is for standard single-disc version. A deluxe 3CD/1 DVD version contains the full three-hour show.)

 

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TV ON DVD FROM SHOUT! FACTORY

WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series, $140

Welcome Back, Kotter, $130

ShoutFactory.com

If you’ve ever wondered why WKRP in Cincinnati – one of the funniest sitcoms of the late 1970s/early 1980s – hasn’t gotten the complete series treatment… It’s because the show was stuck in the same music-licensing muck that once stalled The Wonder Years and Freaks and Geeks. Thankfully, Shout! Factory has turned this problem into a specialty, and they’ve restored much of the original music (more than 200 songs) by artists like Chic, Nick Lowe, AC/DC and Blondie, whose “Heart of Glass” became a hit after its inclusion in the first-season episode “A Commercial Break.” Mostly intact, the series holds up with a heart as big as its wistful opening theme and a sense of humor as rollicking as the end credits song, with its gibberish lyrics.

Welcome Back Kotter still

Speakin’ of theme songs: John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back” from Welcome Back, Kotter is one of the greats. Even if you have no attachment to the late-1970s sitcom that launched John Travolta’s career, I defy you to resist the song, a warm, midtempo welcome-home that’s just good to hear once in a while. As for the show, well, it’s pretty much a live-action Saturday morning cartoon where snarky Mr. Kotter, who tried to get out of Brooklyn but gets sucked back in to teach remedial classes to his old gang, the Sweathogs, at his alma mater. Kotter connects with the Sweathogs as he deals with their loopy antics: warm fuzzies and laughter (not all of it canned) ensue. Fans of the show know that’s not a dismissive generalization: It’s one of the reasons the show worked. And spawned a string of merchandise like a card game, board game and action figures that this writer either owns or for which he harbors a turgid, purple lust.

 

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THOU SHALT HAVE, LIKE, 25 GODS BEFORE ME…

Punk Rock Throbbleheads ($25)

Aggronautix.com

Need graven images to worship this holiday season? How about a gang of dirty rotten punks? Pennsylvania-based Aggronautix started casting polyresin “throbbleheads” in the image of punk, metal and comedy gods in 2009. They’ve since dropped 25 different numbered, limited edition figures honoring dudes like Jello Biafra, Mojo Nixon, The Meatmen’s Tesco Vee, Roky Erickson, GWAR, The Plasmatics’ Wendy O. Williams, Dwarves, David Cross, and flagship license G.G. Allin, who boasts four different versions, including an Extra Filthy Bloody Edition (sadly, it’s sold out). The newest releases are The Damned’s Captain Sensible and the keytar-slinging Devo Energy Dome Man. Even the box art is cool on these puppies. So build an altar, pick up some throbblers and genuflect, mutha…superior?

 

Vaporizer

PRODUCT REVIEWS IN THEORY

Far Cry 4, G-Pen Vaporizer

By Afriend Ofafriend (additional reporting by M. Brotherinlaw)

Sometimes your mo—I mean wife, doesn’t get you what you want. “You don’t need to play any more video games,” she says in that naggy way you hate. “You don’t need a vaporizer. I think you have amotivational syndrome.” Heh. It’s Christmas, ho(e)! I do what I want! And Wikipedia, citing a source that cites empirical evidence, says AMS probably ain’t really a real thing. Nyah.

Anyway, somebody decided they knew best and gave me a hierarchy of needs. Which I promptly disregarded and ordered copies of both of these things. The video game and the vaporizer. Not the skunky potpourri that fell out of the aforementioned slippers. Gram-gram has glaucoma. Her eyesight ain’t what it used to be.

So. My anticipated impression – or hypothetical review, of both products. Yessir, I like ‘em. I saw part of a multiplayer gameplay video, a 1v1 deal, and it looked awesome. Wingsuits. Bows and arrows. Cool. Sweet. Good. Wickedly funny! Adverbly adjective! I should probably mention that this is a review of Far Cry 4. And it’s my understanding that a video game reviewer should also mention the platform used to review the game. Well, I ordered the Xbox 360 version. And the reason I wanted it is because I played Far Cry 3 daily for months. Nearly two full playthroughs of single-player, and more multiplayer deathmatches than any normal person should play. It got to the point that I had dreams of sending explosive arrows into noob-crowded stairwells and shouting, “TRIPLE KILL! FUCK, YEAH!” That being said, I look forward to clocking more time working on my thumb callouses. (Ubisoft, $60, Ubisoft.com)

As to the G Pen, I’m told it’s some sort of “dry-herb vaporizer.” (They probably mean stuff like that potpourri. Note to self…) Vaporization supposedly radically almost-ly totally decreases your exposure to carcinogenic materials like Burberry fleece. Maybe I’ll pinch some of Grandma’s medicinal potpourri because the G-Pen doesn’t include certain accessories. Perhaps I’ll experience euphoria and lightheadedness, then figure I should quit and try something else. And then I’ll mention that the G-Pen probably doesn’t work with dried banana peels, crushed Smarties, powdered sugar, agave nectar, or chocolate chips. That’s fine, I suppose.

I think the only thing real complaint I’ll have about the G-Pen ($65, GrencoScience.com) is that it looks like a little flute – but I’ve so far been unable to use it to summon a single mythical creature. I’m not giving up, but it is past my deadline. I’ll update you if anything changes.

 

(Portions of this column appeared in the Dec. 4 issue of Salt Lake City Weekly.)

 

 

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