@Mozenrath - The answer is: Audio on Linux is a mess. (google that phrase*!)
@nomko - I install pulse so I can record "what you hear"; other than that, everything works with just ALSA (I don't care about mulilple apps playing at the same time).
*Edit: "Lennart Poettering, a lead developer of PulseAudio and Red Hat employee, moderated the miniconference and started with a summary of the state of Linux audio: "it's a mess.' "
Mint 16 fluxbox/Xfce, Mint 13 fluxbox/Xfce, Arch fluxbox/Xfce.