An Outsider Music Christmas

It must go back to my days wandering the stacks at WRUW, but for a long time I have been fascinated by obscure music and odd recordings. It is generally labeled "Outsider Music," made by crazies, misunderstood geniuses, or crazy misunderstood geniuses.

Somehow this morning, I stumbled upon the music of Joseph Spence, and have listened several times to his rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. His twangy, strangely-tuned guitar, and "vocals" are a welcome change of pace from the standard holiday fare.

When reviving this blog this morning (a way to get back in the habit of writing for pleasure. more on that later. maybe), I noted one of my last posts (in late 2006!) announced my intention to kick a puppy everytime I heard Wham's "Last Christmas" on the radio. Suffice it to say, whenever I decide to follow through on that promise, no kennel will be safe.

It is these times when I am rummaging around the Internets for weird music, that I think I would like to be T Bone Burnett for day, or at least have access to the musical database in his brain. Or that it would be nice not to have any obligations for a few months, so I could wander over to the Smithsonian and research their collection of recordings.

OK, so this wasn't the best post I've ever written, but we're shaking off the rust.


Pain in the Neck

"Neck pain is a common problem, especially in older adults. About 50% of people older than 50 have neck pain at some time."

While only a small percentage of particularly decrepit 34-year olds suffer from this problem. F%#$ off, Web MD.

"[Neck] Spasms may even occur from an uncomfortable night's sleep... You need to stop doing the activities that cause pain until your muscle has healed."

No sleeping for the next week. Check. Time to catch up on some reading, and clear a few movies off the DVR.

"If, however, your neck is stiff in the morning and improves during the day the day, it's possible that the culprit is some underlying problems, such as arthritis..."

I know its not, but arthritis seems like such an O.M.D., Old Man Disease. See my comments to Web MD.

"Neck pain that is worsened by coughing or sneezing may be a sign of disc involvement... Chiropractic methods to increase spinal mobility and, in some cases, cervical collars to temporarily support the head, can treat such problems."

That will look pretty sweet. Maybe I can keep it on through our Valentine's Day dinner.

"Botulinum toxin type A is also used to treat muscle spasms of the neck (cervical dystonia) and some types of severe sweating of the armpits (hyperhidrosis)."

That'll kill two birds with one stone.

"Next, your physical therapist will check the ROM in your neck."

"Here's your problem, Mr. Valentine. You have the ROM chip from an old Apple IIe. The good news is we can immediately start programming your neck in BASIC, the bad news is that I'm going to have to replace your head with a monochrome monitor."


Mommy Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Daddies should not unsheath a weapon in the midst of an ongoing Mommy War. They risk winding up like Isildur, that is, with a broken sword.

Freudian imagery aside, I have generally chosen to remain pleasantly ignorant of the massive amount of estrogen-charged, maternal invective being slung across the Internet.

I mean, I saw Mean Girls, and I get the fact that the backbiting tirades of judgment do not stop after high school, or college. It continues, the stakes are raised, and the claws become sharper with time. Eventually, some women become so adept at belittling their peers that the attacks are conducted merely through facial expressions (a la the great 1960s science fiction satire "Retief" series, where space bureaucrats have codified facial expressions for use in intergalactic diplomacy. A consul can deploy a "3-v" (Modest Awareness of Virtue), "24-w" (Gracious Condescension), or "91-s" (Cold Return to Objectivity), for example. Read the first novel online here.).

Anyway, my trophy-wife (and Petunia's righteous Mom) Merseydotes recently brought me out of the blissful and purposeful avoidance of the Mommy Wars.

Note: I don't have a good specific definition of "Mommy Wars," other than to say that some Moms think that their parenting decisions are not only best, but that all the others are wrong. And some of those Moms are willing to publically dress down other Moms who do not adhere to their strict childrearing sensibilities. They tend to single out and identify other Moms or practices they find reprehensible, and pounce. You could call them a "Mommy Lynch Mob" (MLM), perhaps, or the La Leche League.

Mersey showed me a clip from the Today Show. Meredith Viera (generating more press/controversy than her predecessor, but slightly less than her successor ), and Doctor Janet Taylor (a psychiatrist who helps Pepsico (page 22) sell the world on the health benefits of caffeinated sugar water and corn chips), tag-teamed up on blogger Melissa Summers.

The woman didn't stand a chance really. It was like watching Sonny Corleone at the toll booth.

At issue was something very simple. Some Moms get together for their kids to play while the Moms have a glass of wine or two and socialize. The very thought however offends the MLM, and their Grand Inquisitors are summoned to purge the heresy.

I was amazed at what I saw. Not some unsuspecting, decent person getting a firecracker shoved down their pants on national TV, but the reason for it. It boggled my mind.

Its been turning in my mind for a day or so, and I think I have some thoughts.

The 'anti'-arguments made in the piece were: it models bad behavior to children, it is dangerous in case a child is hurt at the 'playdate', you wouldn't let other caregivers drink with your child, and the drinking may be a sign of a larger problem/illness for the Moms involved.

Let's deal with those individually, shall we?

1) Drinking, at all, models bad behavior for children.

It is a tenet of the MLM that any behavior that is bad in excess, must be condemned entirely. Because parenting while completely shitfaced is a bad idea, any and all drinking around children should be verboten. The logic comes from the assumption that people are too stupid to know the difference between one glass of wine and five shots of jagermeister. I must admit, the thinking is pretty strong.

However, it is applied unevenly in this case. It is applied to Moms, but not Dads. Many Dads get together and have a beer around the kids, but this (I'm guessing) wouldn't upset the same sensibilities. It is applied to Americans, but not the French. It is common in France to have a drink of wine with the family at dinner, and in fact some older children are given wine cut with water.

But this line of attack must include the underlying premise that drinking alcohol is entirely bad. Otherwise, would not the detractors admit that reasonable controlled drinking in a social situation is a GOOD behavior to model for your children?

2) What if a child is hurt at the playdate?

Is it a life-threatening injury? Are the Moms too drunk to dial 911?

3) You wouldn't allow another caregiver to drink while with your child.

They are on the clock. You are living your life.

This brings up another important point, however. Another fundamental tenant of MLMs is that once you make the decision to have a child, you forfeit adult pleasures, because you are no longer a person, you are a MOMMY.

4) Drinking may be a crutch, or a sign that a Mom is suffering for some mental problems.

Taking your temperature might be a sign you are a hypochondirac.

Washing your hands might be a sign that you are a obsessive-compulsive.

Running and screaming away from a tiny, sickly field mouse might be a sign you are a musophobe. OK, maybe that's a bad example.

This attack is nothing more than a subtle ad hominem attack. You are not just having a drink, you are a sick person who needs help.

My attacks on Meredith Viera and Janet Taylor, made above, are examples of the same sort of attack. Viera is just another ratings-seeking turd-stirrer, and Taylor is a corporate shill talking head who gladly sells her diploma for cash. Those statements are the blunt versions. But they are completely made-up statements that have no bearing on the actual debate at hand.

I'm sure Meredith Viera and Doctor Taylor are honest upstanding individuals who would not sue some random blogger, any less than they would ambush some other random blogger on national TV.