I've still got several things to address here, but something new has moved to the top of the list. Unfortunately, it's something I wish I didn't have to mention.
I want do direct you (via my pal Jeff -- thanks for the heads up) to the plight of young Callum Robbins.
If you didn't grow up in the MD/DC area, the name J Robbins might not mean much. But if you have ever listened to independent music you almost certainly know his work. As a member of Jawbox (and other bands) he played a role in formulating a sound that went on to make millions for lesser bands, and as an independent producer/engineer he's made an impressive positive impact -- both directly and indirectly -- on a lot of lives. Now, he and his family need some help.
I generally hesitate to post stuff like this, because at the end of the day it's not my place to tell you where to spend your charitable dollars. Lots of people need help, and there's only so much to go around. But I want to encourage you, if you can, to chip in. While I only met J once or twice (years and years ago), we've long been a part of the same broad social fabric. It's a group of people who helped shape my worldview when I was growing up, and who have always been good to me. It's also a group of people who have, artistically speaking, contributed more than their share to the culture as a whole. They are, in other words, people just like me and, I suspect, just like many of you who are reading this.
So, to me, this is a plea for one of my own. One of our own. I don't have much to give and I suspect you don't either, but in a situation like this no amount is too small. Give it some thought -- that's all I'm suggesting.