Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Moment for Virginia Tech Victim

When I opened this e-mail from my friend Jonny, it literally made me stop my day. After reading the message, I asked Jonny if it was OK to share with my friends. He said 'Yes' - so here it is.


A moment for Virginia Tech victim Caitlin Hammaren

From the window of my house and from yet a different window in my recording studio, I can look through the woods and see my neighbor's house. It is the only house I can see from my property. In a few weeks the leaves will start to show themselves on the trees and it will become increasingly harder to see my neighbor's house. In the summer months to come their house will be almost hidden from view. Our house is in the country and although there is plenty of land between neighbors, it is still a tightly knit community.

There is a stream with a beautiful waterfall that runs through my property. It also runs through my neighbor's property. The water rushes over the beautiful waterfall in my yard, but not before it passes through Caitlin's yard. Although there must be some land survey that delineates my property from my neighbors, I would have to go down to the town hall and look up the boundaries. Outside my window, from my view, it just looks like woods. Trees, plants, dirt, squirrels, deer, birds and butterflies.

The house through the woods is where Caitlin Hammaren lived with her loving mother Marion and stepfather Chris. There was no house there in the woods years ago when my wife and I bought our country house. Marion and Chris built that house so that their daughter Caitlin, an only child, could grow up in a beautiful and safe environment. I met Caitlin when she was about 7 or 8. My daughter is 7. She will be 8 on May 9th. Caitlin would have been 20 years old on May 4th. Senselessly, Caitlin's life was cut short before she could see her 20th birthday. She was one of the students who was shot and killed on April 16th in the Virginia Tech tragedy. But that is not, nor will it be, Caitlin's legacy. Not for me. Not for my wife, not for my daughter. Not for anyone who has ever had the honor of meeting Caitlin Hammaren.

I danced and laughed with Caitlin this past December at a Christmas party. She was home from Virginia Tech for her holiday break. Caitlin was all of the commendatory clichés one is inclined to conjure up in moments like these. Physically, she was stunningly beautiful. She was as full of life and goodness as anybody I have ever met. Academically, she was brilliant. Always at the top of her class. A natural honor student. I remember in high school when she won an excellence award. She wasn't just a "good" or "smart student." She was a member of the National Honor Society. She didn't just "play the violin." She played the violin in the All County Orchestra. She wasn't just "in the choir." She was the president of the chorus as well as a member of the chamber choir. Singing was a bond that Caitlin and I shared and talked about this past Christmas, while I snuck a Cosmopolitan for her from the bar. (Caitlin and I both knew her parents were nearby, watching with a reticent but accepting smile) She also loved horses and was an accomplished equestrian. If you want to know what Caitlin did in her spare time, she gave. She gave her love. She gave her time. She gave herself to other people; people whom she didn't even know. Maybe even you. Tomorrow, (Friday, April 20th) Caitlin and several of her sorority sisters were scheduled to take part in a walk -- the Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society -- to raise money for cancer research and survivors. On a Web site that had been set up to help Caitlin and her sorority sisters raise support for the walk, donations in her name are still coming in. (*see link below) You will see that she was also one of the top fundraisers. Maybe someone you know has, or had cancer. Maybe you have cancer. I truly hope you don't but if you do, she tried to help you. She didn't have to, but she did.

Caitlin was NONE of the clichés one is relegated to reading about when someone of such beauty and grace is taken from this world so prematurely. That's because there was nothing cliché about Caitlin. There was nothing cliché about the way she approached life. The words "special" and "extraordinary" and a host of other superlatives come to mind but dissipate rapidly with the void that is left in the wake of struggling to validate commendatory clichés. In a world that is fraught with such abject misery, pain, poverty, injustice, violence, prejudice, hatred and senseless loss, it is easy for anyone, especially young people, to overlook the absolute beauty that exists as well. It is easy to become disillusioned, cynical and apathetic. Do you want to know what Caitlin wanted to go into after college? International Politics. In this world, at this time in history, she wanted to devote her life to International Politics! I fervently believe in my heart that she could have, and would have, made a difference in this endeavor. Again, for young people especially, it's easy to become disillusioned, cynical and apathetic and to overlook the beauty. In order to see that beauty, one has to work at it. One has to try. Thank you Caitlin. Thank you for trying. Today, your memory is making me try a little harder than I do on most days. You may have been much younger than me, and still a student, but today, you are teaching me. You are reminding me to try ... because you did. So many don't, but you did. You didn't have to, but you did.

Some of you who were at my wedding in 1997 have actually met Caitlin, though you didn't know it. She was the young girl who brought a pony over to the wedding reception in our yard so that your children could enjoy a pony ride. Caitlin and her parents made a trail through the woods and she patiently walked the pony and your children around the property, all day long in the August heat. All through our property and their property. Here are some pictures from that day, of Caitlin with her parents and the pony and some other young friends. Like Caitlin, I have watched these children grow up to be beautiful young women. I love them very much. They were classmates with Caitlin in Jr. High and High school and are now young college students themselves. They are grieving today.

She was a young girl full of life and promise. In the photos above she was not much older than my daughter is now. Now is the time that I will have to find the best way to explain to my 7 year old daughter that sometimes horrific events and great tragedies can envelope us all for no good reason. Now is the time that I must find the best way to explain to my daughter what happened to Caitlin and why she won't see her anymore. Now is the time to find the best way to explain to my daughter what happened to Marion and Chris. Now is the time to think about the other victims who I didn't get to meet, who were special like Caitlin. Now is the time to think about their families. Now is the time to think about you: those who I know and those who I will never meet. Now is the time to hug my daughter again. Now is the time for you to hug someone too. And so Caitlin, much like the stream that runs through your yard, through my yard, you have in your death connected me to everyone else. This moment alone is a testament to a life well spent, albeit too short.

When I turn my head to the right, I can see through the window, through the woods, the house where Marion and Chris will come home to from Virginia. I can't imagine the sadness in that house. It will never be the same. The view from my log cabin studio which sits nestled in the woods between Caitlin's home and my home, is altered forever as well. Life for me will go on and I will still try to create music here. It used to be a calming and happy place to glance out at while working and playing. It will forever be a sad view for me. But perhaps on some days, I will look out again and think about Caitlin and her family and cry, like I am now as I am writing this. And perhaps it will make my song a beautiful song, because she was. Caitlin was as beautiful a song as was ever heard. I wish you could have heard it. I was lucky enough to have heard it. I will hear it for all the time that I am on this earth because it will play forever.
Thank you Caitlin.

There is a beautiful stream with a beautiful waterfall that runs through my property. It also runs through my neighbor's property. The water rushes over the waterfall in my yard, but not before it passes through Caitlin's yard. Although there must be some land survey that delineates my property from my neighbors, I would have to go down to the town hall and look up the boundaries. Outside of my window it just looks like woods. Trees, plants, dirt, squirrels, deer, birds and butterflies. Birds that will, in the years to come, continue sing beautiful songs. A beautiful song like Caitlin was. Butterflies like the ones Caitlin used to run after in the woods between our houses. A beautiful butterfly, like Caitlin was ... and is.

We miss you Caitlin.

jonny, judy and rainy jane rosch

Friday, April 20, 2007


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Under normal circumstances, “Waitress” is the most enjoyable movie of the year. It heralds the arrival of an immensely talented writer/director who also has carved out a career as an actor.

Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding “Waitress” are anything but normal. Adrienne Shelly, the writer/director/actor in question, was murdered in her New York apartment last November. “Waitress,” a smart, zesty and heartfelt comedy, is her final film — and a triumphant parting gift for us.

Jenna (Keri Russell) is a “pie genius” who works at Joe’s Pie Shop and slogs through an unhappy marriage. She concocts outrageously delicious pie recipes in her head — all mirroring her current state of mind. She dreams of leaving town and getting away from her overbearing, brutish husband Earl (a riveting, oddly touching Jeremy Sisto.) Much to her dismay, Jenna discovers she is pregnant. She commiserates to great comic effect with her two co-workers — Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (Shelly).

Thoroughly uninterested in being a mother, especially to Earl’s baby, Jenna grudgingly goes to her gynecologist, Dr.Pomatter (Nathan Fillion). Right from the get-go, sparks fly and the two embark on a torrid affair that whiplashes back and forth between unbridled passion and sudden attacks of conscience.

Jenna tries to hide the impending bundle of less-than-joy from Earl. She immerses herself in the pies and Dr. Pomatter. At work, she has to deal with a foul-tempered boss (Lew Temple) and Old Joe, the cranky owner of the restaurant (brilliantly played by Andy Griffith.)

Meanwhile, Becky is having an affair of her own, only she won’t say with whom. And Dawn, the resident wallflower, is on a romantic path with uber-nerd Ogie. I just have to say that Eddie Jemison, one of the legions of dependably good character actors that you’ve never heard of but instantly recognize, makes Ogie the most memorable comic suitor of recent vintage. Jemison is sweet, hysterical and weirdly familiar.

As Jenna gets closer and closer to giving birth, everything, as it must, comes to a head. That’s all you’ll get out of me, except to say that every moment — even the ones you think you see coming right down Broadway — pack a wallop, or at least a belly laugh.

Every step of the way, director/writer Shelly surprises us. And this quirky character study never pulls it’s quirk muscle. It all feels right and real. You care what happens … to everyone. The film hits the perfect balance of satire, off-kilter comedy and a genuine feel-good vibe. It earns our affection honestly by taking the Official Maudlin Chick-Flick Handbook and setting it on fire.

Shelly has too much respect and sincere affection for her characters to settle for standard-issue — everything comes with a piquant seasoning, a bite that cuts the sweet.

And the performances are spectacular. As the pie-baking, baby-fearing Jenna, Keri Russell once and for all shakes off any lingering “Felicity” memories (not to mention the mess that was “The Upside of Anger”) and emerges as a bona fide movie star. She carries the film — with a grace and emotional depth that I’ve seen in precious few young American actresses.

And can we just anoint Andy Griffith a national treasure and get on with it? He takes what could’ve been a walking cliché — the lonely curmudgeon — and breaks your heart.

I read somewhere that Hollywood is bemoaning the dearth of young leading men who can “do it all.” Well, I believe that Nathan Fillion has a beef. (As does a certain Irish-American blogger/actor who shall remain nameless.) He can do it all. He’s been a soap star (One Life to Live), an action hero (Firefly) and in “Waitress” he is funny, romantic and goddamn charming. And he better stay away from my wife.

Cheryl Hines is a riot as dye-job, chain-smoking Becky. And Shelly’s Dawn is a gem of comic cluelessness and aching sweetness.

Shelly has left us with a minor classic in “Waitress.” The stylized dialogue and cinematography, the small-town eccentricities, the sneaky humor — we’ve seen parts of it all before. Just not with the kind of guts, smarts and emotional heft of “Waitress.”

Watching such a satisfying film was bittersweet. The fact of it’s excellence only magnified what we’ve lost. I remember the first time I encountered Adrienne Shelly. My girlfriend (now wife) and I went to see Hal Hartley’s “The Unbelievable Truth” at the Angelika in New York. It was her first film role. She was the lead — and she was great. I couldn’t put my finger on why she was great. She just was.

I’m happy (and sad) to report that Adrienne Shelly finished the same way she started.

Go see “Waitress.” You’ll laugh. You’ll cry.

Monday, April 16, 2007


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The good news is that the travesty dogging three former Duke lacrosse players is over, as the prosecution’s case contained more holes than Bonnie and Clyde’s last ride.

The bad news is that the other travesty in this whole cesspool of ambition and mob-mentality vengeance will not be rectified. Mike Pressler, Duke’s head lacrosse coach at the time and designated fall guy, got screwed, hung out to dry, left for dead and otherwise treated like shit.

When everything exploded in March of last year, the outrage was almost instantaneous … as was the assumption of guilt. The usual suspects lined up at the tabloid trough and gorged themselves. I remember wondering if someone was going to have to give Nancy Grace oxygen, she was so amped about the ratings, er … I mean … allegations.

The racial and class implications have been well-documented as has the anguish visited on the accused young men and their families. What has not been nearly as well-documented is the price paid by Pressler and his family.

In the wake of the scandal, he was forced to resign by Duke president Richard Brodhead. Threatening and profane signs appeared on the family’s front lawn. Hate emails, phone calls and verbal threats followed Pressler’s wife Sue and their two daughters Janet and Maggie.

Still they tried to ride out the storm. Pressler believed his players were innocent. His support never wavered. Conversely, he was offered up as the sacrificial lamb by a freaked-out, knee-jerk president and a please-don’t-fire-me-too athletic director named Joe Alleva.

The Presslers now must uproot their daughters and pack not only their belongings but a thoroughly unwarranted stigma as they move to Smithfield, R.I. where Pressler is coaching at Bryant University, a Division II school. No disrespect to the Bryant Bulldogs, but Pressler has gone from the penthouse to the Port-a-Potty.

My guess is that Bryant will be a national power in less than five years. Pressler spent 16 seasons at Duke, compiling a 153-82 record with three ACC championships, 10 NCAA Tournament berths and an appearance in the 2005 national championship game. He was named the 2005 USILA National Coach of the Year.

He is, by all accounts, a great coach.

That didn’t matter. One reason it didn’t matter is the seething resentment of collegiate athletics by most of the academic community. Eighty-eight professors at Duke came barreling out in unified indignation aimed at Pressler. He had let the lacrosse players get out of control. He was turning a blind eye to their depravity. He was personally packing the one-hitters and cleaning out the beer bongs. He was Bluto in a Blue Devils hat!

All of which is just ridiculous. For some reason, professors want to believe that big-time athletics are 100% horrible. They want to believe that college athletics are a blight that irreparably harms the education process. And that the coaches are somehow inherently responsible for the behavior of the students on their teams. Or worse, encourage it and foster some sort of bacchanalian atmosphere.

Well, you heard it here first, the head coach of any collegiate team bears NO responsibility for keggers thrown, bongs smoked, blowjobs gotten and acid dropped. None.

Actually, I’ll amend that.

The head coach bears exactly the same amount of responsibility as each student’s academic advisor, RA and the admissions staff. Especially at a school as prestigious as Duke. Sure, Pressler recruited them. But you guys let them in. And you guys advise them on their majors and what courses to take and how to navigate the treacherous waters of self-important, insulated, tenured educators who only break a sweat when the elevators are broken.

Ironically, in the arena of setting an example of how one might conduct oneself in the real world, Pressler has been a champion. The enlightened ones at Duke charged with the betterment of our privileged young citizens have, in a word, sucked.

How do I come by this razor-sharp insight? I was a college athlete myself. As it happens , my career as a student-athlete-partier overlapped that of Mike Pressler’s. We both attended Washington and Lee University. He was three years ahead of me. He was an All-American football and lacrosse player. I was a basketball player – minus the All-American. Minus the All-Campus for that matter. He was elected to the W&L athletic Hall of Fame. I was elected keymaster a few times.

My basketball coach was Verne Canfield, a hard-ass stickler who played every mind game in the book. And I still drank too much beer and tried to sleep with many different girls. (Ed. emphasis added by the aforementioned Many Different Girls.)

Verne had early-morning Saturday practices. And I still did shots of Jager until I passed out on the footbridge wrapped in a Snoopy blanket. Verne rode us about our grades. And I still tried to drive along the foggy Skyline Drive while on mushrooms.

The point is — General Patton could have been my coach and I still would have played quarters until I puked through my nose.

It is called being away at college. And no coach should be expected to be responsible for any of that foolishness. Namely, because it is impossible. Mike Pressler was busy coaching and being a good husband and father. He didn’t have time to monitor the latest beer hats and strip Twister games.

And one more thing. Let’s just get it out in the open. Lacrosse players are prodigious partiers. Always have been, always will be. So are large numbers of non-athletic students. Always have been, always will be. Young men and women away at college are allowed to behave like immature assholes. Because that is what they are.

And no one is going to change that.

And its not Mike Pressler’s fault.

I knew Mike Pressler for a short time --- and yet he left an impression. He dedicated himself completely to whatever he undertook. He was intense. He was a maniac on the field. He was a coach’s dream. I’m sure he did many boneheaded things off the field in his illustrious four years at college. Because he was an idiot. Just like everyone else.

Pressler is the man he is, in large part, because of the sum of his experiences at Washington and Lee. Not only is he one of the best in his chosen profession, he has proven himself time and again to be principled, honorable and loyal.

Too bad the same can’t be said for his former colleagues at Duke.

If you want to read Pressler’s whole side of the story, it comes out in June:
It's Not About the Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case and the Lives It Shattered by Don Yeager and Mike Pressler

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Uncle Stinky

I’ll start my inaugural BrothersMcC post with “drunken debauchery”, or at least the drunken debauchery that was the Beat Farmers, later just The Farmers. These guys were country punk without being very country or very punk and paved the way for current heroes Lucero and The Hold Steady. You can read more here:

Get your copy of Loaded today!

And though I’ve yet to hear Eirann’s take on “Fields of Athenry”, I’d be willing to bet her version of “Uncle Stinky” smokes it.

The Fields of Athenry

Allow me to follow up on Kevin’s initial introduction. Depending on the topic, the time of day, and the unforeseen temperament of any one who should post here, the ideas, rants and rambles could be fueled by [individually or in combined elements]; joy, anger, outrage, coffee or beer.

I will start my first post with “joy” – joy in the knowledge that Kevin is a great parent. How, may you ask, do I know this? Well, that a good question that deserves a fine answer. Kevin called me the other day to discuss music, movies and sports [OK … so I didn’t know who Gilbert Arenas was … I haven’t watched the NBA since the refs stopped calling “traveling”].

Anyway, I was thanking Kevin for sending me a great CD burn that contained songs that used Uilleann pipes. I had to tell Kev that one song in particular; the Dropkick Murphy’s version of “The Fields of Athenry” was amazing. At which point Kev put his five year old daughter on the phone – she then proceeded to sing the entire song to me.What more proof could you possible need that Kev is doing a wonderful job as a parent?

For those who wish to sing along with Eirann [or Paddy Reilly, Frank Patterson, Ronan Tynan, Brush Shiels, James Galway, or The Dropkick Murphys … all of whom have recorded this song], here are the lyrics.As to the author of the song, I found this:

The claim has been made that the words originate from a broadsheet ballad published in the 1880s by Devlin in Dublin with a different tune; however Pete St. John has stated definitively that he wrote the words as well as the music, so the story of the 1880s broadsheet may be false.Either way … it’s a great track!

By a lonely prison wall, I heard a young girl calling
"Michael, they have taken you away
For you stole Trevelyan's corn
So the young might see the morn'
Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay"

Low lie the fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly
Our love was on the wing
We had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely 'round the fields of Athenry

By a lonely prison wall, I heard a young man calling
"Nothing matters, Mary, when you're free
Against the famine and the crown I rebelled, they ran me down
Now you must raise our child with dignity"

Low lie the fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly
Our love was on the wing
We had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely 'round the fields of Athenry

By a lonely harbour wall, she watched the last star falling
As the prison ship sailed out against the sky
For she'll live in hope and pray for her love in Botany Bay I
t's so lonely 'round the fields of Athenry

Low lie the fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly
Our love was on the wing
We had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely 'round the fields of Athenry

Sunday, April 8, 2007


We are three brothers — raised in suburban Philadelphia under a fine Irish-Catholic mist of likability, rage, love and loss. We now live in three different locales. We have three different careers. Three different record collections. Three different jump shots. Three different favorite beers (mine being the genuine article, by the way.)
However, we will always share a passion for — and moral outrage about — music, movies, sports, television, beer, injustices (imagined as well as real), grudge-holding and the state of everything. Other than that, we could care less.
In the following space, we will endeavor to examine — with as little empirical data as possible — the state of everything from three distinct points of view. You, dear reader, are encouraged to follow along with our progress and throw your own hat into this ring of rash ideas, bridge-burning rants, baseless conclusions and snap judgments. Because, just when you least expect it, we'll hit you between the eyes with something profound ... or at least something that'll piss you off.