Among the many bad habits a loved one can develop -- nose-picking, heroin addiction, use of the expression my bad -- indulging in bluegrass music is a vice that actually can be worthwhile, but only with the proper guidance. To find evidence of the uplifting powers of a well-plucked dulcimer, mandolin or double bass, visit the Americana School of Music's Thursday night bluegrass jam from 7:30 to 9:30 tonight at Signs of Life, 722 Massachusetts in Lawrence. Every week, veterans of the school for compulsive lick traders gather to show the public that practice does make perfect, regardless of how many brain cells an out-of-tune high-G string can kill. Those who attend the jam and notice telltale cockeyed smiles on the faces of their dates might want to avoid future anguish by purchasing gift certificates for instruction at the academy: $75 for one month of lessons or $130 for two months or group lessons. Call 785-830-9640 for more information.
Friday, December 24
Drinking can save or ruin the holidays. Whereas a hip flask is a must for chestnut-roasting at home with prudish parents, no one likes to see Dad passed out with a bottle of Old Crow as the dog licks the cranberry sauce off the old man's bald spot. Indeed, it's best to fill up on the Christmas spirit in bars. But unfortunately, appeals to yuletide abandon tend to destroy the good intentions of designated drivers everywhere. So tonight through the wee hours of January 1, the kind people at Yellow Cab offer free taxi rides home from bars all over town. When it's time to go home and clutch the bedframe as visions of sugarplums stomp across your head, call 816-471-5000 -- and be prepared to start paying once the meter hits $25. And for God's sake, be respectful to your driver -- how would you like to be driving your sorry ass home on Christmas?
Saturday, December 25
Hooray, Christmas is here! Even now, the children of Overland Park executives are rampaging like rabid hyenas through their gift piles, while a bright-eyed boy in Independence is removing the red ribbon from the barrel of his brand-new Remington Model 7400 deer blaster. Even we purveyors of egalitarianism and social awareness are likely to be wearing cartoonish, reindeer-faced slippers, sipping cider from a Santa mug and barely containing our impatience for it to be our turn again to open a present. And of course, we're trying not to think about the freezing, starving masses on the street, any one of whom could have been us had we been born under different circumstances. But damn it, we're tired of the Salvation Army getting all the glory for taking care of them! Today, we're ripping that fat fucking turkey right off the family table, taking it straight down to the corner of 36th and Broadway and carving it for whomever comes. On second thought, we might instead go help out the Salvationists at 101 East Linwood, where Christmas dinner will be served to thousands of hard-luck Kansas Citians from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. They could always use volunteers, so call 816-756-2769.
Sunday, December 26
After starting out in New York, hip sewing circles known as Stitch 'N Bitch have cropped up in cities all over the country. The phenomenon has finally reached KC -- happily accompanied by 3 hours of cheap Bloody Marys and potluck casseroles at the Brick (1727 McGee, 816-421-1634). The group of knitters and embroiderers is only a few weeks old and still pretty small, but they saddle up to the bar from 4 to 7 p.m. Sundays. And we're sure the room will be straight-up stocked with No. 13 needles and fluffy balls of yarn when word gets out. Join now and you'll be in the know for the January 21 Rainy Day Books event with Debbie Stoller, author of Stich 'N Bitch: The Knitters Handbook and Stitch 'N Bitch Nation.
Monday, December 27
The Brights are not atheists. We repeat, the Brights are not atheists. And according to www.the-brights.net, the group's members also aren't "humanist, freethinker, skeptical, rationalist, objectivist, igtheist [or] materialist," either. They merely share a worldview that is free from supernatural and mystical elements. It all sounds a little hippie-dippie to us, but we're kind of digging it -- and apparently Kansas City's just chock-full of these folks. So if you're in the market for a new nonreligion, check out the Brights at 7 tonight at the Barnes & Noble coffee shop (400 West 47th Street); check brights.meetup.com/176 for more information.
Tuesday, December 28
Every Sunday night on KRBZ 96.5 (the Buzz), Jeriney hosts Homegrown Buzz, a radio showcase for (mostly) local bands. On Tuesday nights, however, the show goes interactive, when the bands perform at Jilly's on Broadway (1744 Broadway, 816-221-4977). Tonight's lineup includes Outmind, a band from Tulsa, which opens the set at 9 p.m., followed by Kansas City's Hollow Space at 10. Hollow Space is a hard-rock band whose Web site opens with a tribute to Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott ... if that tells you anything. As one friend told us, "They look the part, too, with obligatory facial hair and the token member with a shaved head."
Wednesday, December 29
The national we'll-hook-you-up-with-a-stranger service It's Just Lunch has published a guide to dating in Kansas City (cleverly titled, um, Guide to Dating in Kansas City). And whereas the cheese factor is indisputable, it's also a pretty fun read. Along with timely tips on what author Niki McDowell calls "holidating" (gift giving, family dinners and party etiquette), readers can find out just how wrong their tactics are, according to the experts. The shocking advice includes "try learning five jokes that are clean and not demeaning to anyone," "don't criticize who your date voted for in the last election" and, um, "don't get drunk." It's no goddamned wonder we're still single. Call 323-874-2933 or see www.itsjustlunch.com to order a copy.