On Christmas eve my father in law was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  It has leveled our family.

My father in law is a wonderful, kind, caring, intelligent, loving man and the fact that he is going to leave us tears my heart out.

His diagnosis is very, very difficult to process.  There is a lot of pain and sadness ripping through all of us right now.  My husband is having a particularly difficult time and it breaks my heart to see him in this much pain.

Any "problems" that I thought I had before seem so, so, soooo trivial and unimportant now. 

I am not sure exactly how to go forward but I know that I must - and I know that I would like to do it in the best possible way.

I want to think that we were given a gift on Christmas eve... Let me explain... 

I feel we are very lucky to have been given an advance warning that our time with someone special is limited.  I am thankful that he was not taken from us suddenly, leaving us all longing for things we would like to say to him, or hugs we would like to give him, or time we would like to spend with him.  I will personally make sure to take advantage of every minute we have with him. I will personally make sure that my children spend as much quality time with their grandfather as God will allow.  I will personally make sure that he knows how special he is to our family and how lucky we are to have him be a part of our lives. And I will make sure that his legacy lives on.

I will not have any regrets. I will have a load of sadness, but I will not have any regrets.
thankful for time with the family in fresno this christmas week. although we only get to be together a few times a year, i appreciate them more the older i become. a night of hilarity, goofiness, tremendous food, chocolate cake cocktails (who knew?), jamming and singing, gifts and a slow morning to follow coupled with the unspoken commitment of family through all of life's ups and downs makes me smile to think of it. i love you guys. - kerri

the kids say we played old music. classic rock is old?
a baby among us :)
you're not fooling anybody, mike
after herding: (sam, you're a champion)
see you next time.

press releases for ltm

And a Les Miles in a pear tree....

After eating far too much Christmas lunch and watching far too many bad movies (right now I'm sadly watching Music & Lyrics (aaargh!!!)), we've got a Yuletide "Partridge and a Pear Tree" song.

So here we go....

On the 12th day of College Football My true love - who's probably an Oregon Cheerleader - said to me:

12  Tennessee on the field at Tiger Stadium

11 Oregon Cheerleaders

10 Wins for the Oklahoma State Cowboys

9  - 4 South Carolina's record in the SEC East (they would have come 4th in the SEC West)

8 (x10+3) points scored by Wisconsin against Indiana

7 Texas-sized losses

6 wonder-finishes in college football this season

5 Ohio State players suspended!!

4 games for AJ Green

3 million Duck press-ups

2 hundred thousand reasons why Cam Newton might have to give back his Heisman


A  Les Miles in a pear tree

Happy Christmas!

Dear Readers,

We at the VFA can only write to wish every single one of our hundreds of thousands (we wish!) of readers a very, very Merry Christmas, whether you're reading via this website, Facebook, you've been tweeted, or you stumbled across our crap on Bleacher Report.

Speaking of Twitter, a friend of ours noted to us after we attended Midnight Mass that the virgin birth of Christ came only second in the BCS Championship Game of Miracles behind Resurrection.

That got us thinking about rankings. Here's our top 10 BCS (Believe it or not Christ has it Sorted) Miracles......

We'd like to apologise if this seems a little blasphemous. It's a  joke. And yes, this writer does go to church.

1) Resurrection - Cam Newton's career's got nothing on coming back from the dead on Our Lord. SMU comes pretty darned close though.

2)  Raising The Dead - What's going to come first - Joe Paterno or Jesus' return? We'd like to bet on Jesus.

3) Walking on Water - Forget our LaMichael James, Jesus' favourite Duck-Saviour. He's had redemption after a hellish start to 2010, and now Oregon fans think he walks on water. Well, Jesus walks on water - all the time. Which would have made the Poinsetta Bowl a breeze for him. Heck, Navy might have won.

4) Water into Wine - The SEC kids would cry to have Jesus along to the party. Then at least they can say: "Jesus I have a hangover". Apparently the Lord's not going to supply Advil though, kids.

5) Virgin Birth -  Er...no remarks there. According to SEC fans, the only thing more incredible than the Virgin Birth was how Les Miles only lost one game this season. We can't understand it.

6) Healing the Sick - Bring him your ills. Unfortunately, that doesn't include the University of Texas, which is one sick program at the moment.

7) Grace - The NCAA tries to be graceful, and the schools run roughshod over the rules. It's their fault, not God's. As much as Ohio State fans would love to be blame Him for their saviours' foibles (yes, we're looking at your Mr Pryor!)

8) Feeding the 5,000 - Again, Jesus would be welcome at any tailgate party. Especially at SEC schools, where the fans are bigger.

9) Feeding the 3,000 - Jesus is welcome to a Division I-AA games (he hates calling them the FCS) for the smaller tailgates, too.

10) Quietening the Storms - Jesus could give a couple of lessons about quietening angry seas to a certain Mr Richt at Georgia. Mr Muschamp might want to come along too.

Tattoo for Christmas?

The Ohio State Buckeyes have given their fans an unwanted early Christmas: a set of bans to start off the 2011 season.

Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Dan Herron, Solomon Thomas and Mike Adams all got five game bans for swapping memorabilia for tattoos.  In the deal, the Buckeyes gave the shop their 2008 Big Ten Championship rings.

Wait a minute - the Buckeyes didn't win the 2008 Big Ten Championship. They didn't even get to the Rose Bowl. That was Penn State.

Why wait?

I am reluctant to write off 2010 as a crappy year because it was the year that my dear, lovable, boy Lincoln was born.  Also it's the year that my sweet, angel girl Ruby turned two years old.  And I get more joy out of both of them than anything else in the world.  The fact that I am on maternity leave right now and get to stay home and spend my days with them is something I am very thankful for.

However, I will admit that 2010 has been a struggle. I endured a difficult and painful pregnancy for the first 6 months of the year, while working full time and taking care of my toddler who was going through the terrible twos a bit early.  Then Lincoln was born and I had to recover from childbirth while adjusting to having two kids under two. (I continue to make that adjustment.)  In September the vertigo came and stayed for 7 weeks.  I truly didn't know if I was going to survive that.  It was a terrible nightmare.  Shortly after the vertigo arrived, Lincoln was diagnosed with his first UTI and two subsequent UTI's occurred in the weeks following that.  There were trips back and forth to the doctor, the hospital, emergency rooms, etc.  Then there was the thing with my job, which I am still unsure how to deal with and have admittedly put in on the back burner of my brain.  After the vertigo was cured and then the UTI's were cleared up, we started dealing with (and continue to deal with) Lincoln's sleep issues which developed during the tumultuous weeks/months prior.  Then the worst stomach flu ever, ripped through our house taking out everyone (except Lincoln, thankfully) within these four walls and beyond.

The flu seemed to be my breaking point.  Something happened inside me during those five days. There was a heaviness in my chest that I couldn't get rid of despite the flu eventually clearing up.  Too much had happened.  I had endured too much, was carrying too much on my shoulders.  I wondered what a nervous breakdown might feel like and wondered a couple of times if I might be experiencing one.

In the past I probably would have turtled and allowed myself to fall into a deepening depression - oh how I felt the familiar pull in that direction. However I felt like I needed to do whatever it took to prevent that from happening. My two children depend on me for too much.  It was hard but I knew I had to take action. 

Normally, I wouldn't attempt anything at this point in the year. There is too much going on in December.  And besides, September and January are my two favorite times of the year because I love a fresh start and those months are the best for doing that.  But in my situation, I decided not to wait until January to get cracking on making things better for me and those around me whom I am responsible for. 

Despite money being tight at this time of year (who am I kidding, it's tight year round), I splurged and hired the help of a sleep consultant for Lincoln.  I had intended to wait until the new year to see if I could somehow curb him of his habit of waking six times through the night and taking only two very short naps a day but realized that I am getting more and more sleep deprived by the day and have less and less patience and confidence that I am doing the right thing.  I decided if I have to pay to get some help and relief, then so be it. Since it takes a couple of weeks to get the "sleep plan" I decided that waiting until January was waiting too long.  I will get my sleep plan next week and I look forward to the forthcoming sleep Lincoln and I will get to experience with it's implementation. 

The day after I contacted the sleep consultant I packed up the children we made the drive to the doctors office to talk to him about a few different issues.  The doc suggested I get a little "help" to get me through these difficult times.  I had sworn off anti-depressants with the passing of my 20's but after much thought, agreed that perhaps I could use a low dose to boost the serotonin in my suffering brain.  A side order of Ativan for those really crazy times couldn't hurt either.  As an added bonus, the doc strongly suggested hiring the very sleep consultant that I had already hired.  He used her for both his children (who incidentally are also 18 months apart). It was one more endorsement for an already highly recommended woman, and just the confirmation I needed to make me realize I am doing the right thing.

The next thing I did was put a  pair of running shoes on my Christmas wish list.  I *AM* going to start running again. I love the runner's high that I get from going for a good jog, alone, with loud music pounding in my ears.  Fingers crossed that Santa comes through.  But until then - I'm not waiting.  Yesterday after a day of feeling quite sluggish and disgusting (missed my shower) - I threw on my old runners and headed out the door.  Steve looked after the children for the 20 minutes it took me to do a short route of running/walking.  The battery was dead in my ipod but that did not stop me. It felt... SO GOOD and I will be doing it again, and again.  I'm not saying that I'm going to throw myself into a regular routine immediately - but I am not going to wait until January to get it started. 

As for the rest of it? I am in quiet contemplation mode.  I'm not getting too jacked up about anything right now.  With the holidays and family and the kids and all that goes along with it, I'm just letting things roll.  I'm not worrying about get-togethers or gifts or food or any of it. I'm not committing to anything and I'm not feeling bad for turning down invitations to holiday gatherings if it's just too much. 

That's the way it is. 

Now, I do have some more specific goals for 2011 but I will save that for another post.  For now, I'm working on doing what I can to get a jump start on the fresh start for the new year and I'm not waiting for January.

"A Fresh Chapter"

Need some perspective in your life? 

Do yourself a favour and go visit Terri at A Fresh Chapter

Terri is a breast cancer survivor, an amazing person and, as I have recently discovered - a terrific writer.

Your welcome.

the depth of friendship

friends support, guide, encourage, love unconditionally, all the parts of us we cannot fill on our own. sarah's post warms my heart.

Bumper Christmas compilation giveaway madness!

As a modest thank you to everyone who has taken an interest in my blog this year, I’ve put together two short compilations of songs from the late 60s / early 70s that I’ve enjoyed in recent months. The first features heavier material, the second gentler sounds. The acts represented come from all over the world, but are all on major labels.

Cosmic Christmas Compilation #1

Cosmic Christmas Compilation #2

To add an unseasonally competitive edge to proceedings, I'll send a free copy of my new Endless Trip book to the first ramblers who can identify all the songs on either compilation. Good luck!

PS sorry, no prize for guessing the identity of the Santa pictured above

PPS Cosmic Christmas was the awful working title of Their Satanic Majesties Request

Endless Trip has begun!

I'm delighted to announce that Endless Trip is now available to order, priced at £40.

You can buy it direct from the publisher here:


or on eBay here:



How to get Man Flu by eating crow

Early last week, Steve arrived home from work and announced that he wasn't feeling well.  I pretty much ignored him as I bounced a fussy Lincoln on my hip and tried to get Ruby to stop throwing her rice all over the kitchen floor. 

He continued to tell me he really wasn't feeling well and put on some theatrics to go with it.  The sighing.  The groaning.  The sitting down on the couch and staring off into space.  Hand over his brow.  It was all I could do to not roll my eyes at him. I mean, really? Really??  How bad can it be?  Does he not see what I do every day?  Through thick and thick, bad and good, shit storms, sick kids, kids that don't sleep, my own sleep deprivation - I keep on going. I have to.  I figured he probably had too much too much free sushi on his lunch break today and he has the nerve to whine about not feeling well.  Please. Suck it up.

Then he started spending extra time in the bathroom claiming diarrhea. 

Diarrhea?  Or an excuse to sit in the downstairs bathroom and read magazines while I work my tail off?  Hmm?  I was admittedly frustrated and not overly sympathetic to him. 

I figured he had "man flu". You know the kind.  It is equivalent to a woman getting the sniffles or a slight cold - but if am man gets it it is suddenly the WORST sickness EVER and he might even be DYING because it is SO BAD and a woman just wouldn't understand.  You know the one?

Then he started throwing up.  Does he have to throw up THAT LOUD???  Yes, darling. I can hear you puking all the way from the basement.  In fact the neighbors and people driving by in their cars can hear you too.  Yes, ok, you're throwing up.  Can you do it a little more quietly? The children are sleeping. 

Then he went to bed and I heard a strange noise coming from the bedroom. When I checked in there I discovered he was shivering.  SHIVERING!  Loud enough for me to hear him in another room!  My god, the man flu theatrics were getting out of control.

When I finally crawled into bed I looked at him I noticed his skin was grey and his eyes were sunken.  I touched him and his body was ice cold. 

Hmph.  Maybe he is sicker than I thought.

The next day he went to work so I knew he was fine after all.  But after only a couple of hours he came home - which NEVER happens.  He also had a free ticket to the Canucks game that night, in the swanky seats... and he canceled. 

I was forced to admit then, that he was indeed really very sick.  But by that time he was on the mend so I needed us to move on.  Cold bitch that I am.

Until... a couple days later Ruby walked up to me looking strange and then she puked.  As I was caring for her I realized that I myself didn't feel so hot.

Within two hours I was absolutely stricken with the worst flu I've had in recent memory - possibly ever. It was the kind of flu where I would run to the washroom and be forced to make the critical decision as to which end of my body to point at the toilet.  And no matter which one I chose, it was a lose-lose situation as I left my dignity in a heap of dirty laundry on the bathroom floor. 

Steve found me sprawled out on the bathroom floor, puke stuck to the side of my face, my pants around my ankles, soaking wet from cold sweat, shaking, hyperventilating, crying for help. 

He stood at the door and looked and me and then cheerfully said, "I think you might have the man flu, babe!" And then he walked away. 

'Spose I deserved that.  I was forced to eat crow and admit that he really was sick and it wasn't just a man flu, it was the real deal and I was so, so, sooooooo sorry for not being more sympathetic and please, can someobody please just take mercy on me now!?

It was a long 3 or 4 days.

But just for the record I had it WAY worse than he did.

Newton Wins Heisman And Austin Burns

This weekend's been a pretty stunning one for college football - and there was only one game.

While Navy was busy dusting Army for the upteenth time with a 31-17 victory, we all prepared ourselves for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. After all, the only person who would be able to stop Cam Newton was the actions of Cam Newton's father, Cecil, who tried to pawn his son off to Mississippi State.

But we didn't know what was going in Gainseville, Florida. After all, a few days earlier Urban Meyer had shocked the world of college football by walking out of the door of Chompland. We weren't expecting anyone to get picked. Hell! Half of us were expecting to Meyer to walk back in again and say: "Only joking! I'm back for another 5 years!".

But during Newton's Heisman Trophy victory, the Florida nixed their laptop-throwing alum by telling the world that they'd hired the University of Texas' defensive co-ordinator and coach-in-waiting, Will Muschamp. And the rumor is that Major Appelwhite, Texas' running backs coach and Duane Atkins, are going to follow him.

Austin was burning. Their best, most intense and loved coach, Muschamp, had walked. Of course he'd spent most of his life in the SEC. Of course he'd wanted to go back. But couldn't Texas have had a fee in his contract that would make sure that their coach-in-waiting would not swan off somewhere else?

So what does Texas do now? There's a rumor that former Miami head coach Randy Shannon (who was 'canned after a dreadful season in which once again Miami failed to live to up to its ACC-winning pre-season hype) is on his way as Texas' new defensive co-ordinator. And here's the bad news: He's a damned good recruiter, too.

Temple head coach and Penn State alum Al Golden is apparently going to Miami as its new head coach after another solid year of improvement on that team.

The pre-bowl merry-go-round starts again. And it's a lot of fun, too.


Great lost pop papers #2: World Countdown

'The Royal’s World Countdown advocates that MUSIC is a strong emotional unifying force for good, and if promoted and expanded will unite peoples of all tribes, languages, colors, countries and circumstances in peace and love. Hence the predominant purpose of this newspaper'
Charles Royal, editor and publisher, January 1968

This enigmatic publication might well have been the first music-focused underground paper to emerge from California in the 1960s, and was aptly described by Rolling Stone (after its demise) as ‘a peculiar collage of photographs, publicity handouts and occasional ads’. Founded by English expat and wheeler-dealer Charles Royal (left), assisted by his brother Mark, and other family members including Ellinor and Annette Royal, early issues billed it as ‘The First Worldwide Big Beat Newspaper’, then ‘This Earth’s Leading Newspaper’, with a stated circulation of 500,000 a fortnight. Despite such grandiose claims (and some pretty hip contributors), its distribution seems to have been limited, and copies rarely surface. The paper was initially called 'The Royal’s World Countdown', later shortened to World Countdown, and its contents tended to be a collage of PR-styled puff pieces about bands both well-known and obscure, syndicated articles from the British underground press (notably International Times), ads for records and hippie accoutrements, and full-page psychedelic artwork and photo-montages. Though it gave consistent attention to heroes like The Beatles and the Stones, it also found room for features on acts like The Common People and The Lollipop Shoppe, who were ignored by everyone else (as far as I'm aware), and is a joy to read if you get your kicks from pop trivia.

Its name is rather strange, but makes some sort of sense when you learn that Royal had promoted a nationwide Battle of the Bands named 'Countdown 65' in 1965. Its finals were televised, and he may well have been cashing in on whatever renown that had earned. In the late, great Derek Taylor's autobiography he describes World Countdown as 'a cheerfully apolitical underground newspaper owned and edited by a gigantic red-haired Englishman named Charles Royal, who gave away far more copies than he sold.’ Royal appears to have been quite a character. Peter Pilafian, one of the organisers of the Monterey Festival, has stated: "I was dealing with a constant stream of sort-of hippie entrepreneurs, who all wanted booths at the festival. I remember one fellow named Charles Royal who came in, and we could not get rid of him. He insisted on publishing a newspaper - he wanted to publish the official Monterey Pop Festival newspaper, and distribute it around the fairgrounds. Then he wanted to drive his fleet of Cadillac limousines in, because he said that he loved parades, and so on! So I kept telling him, 'No, we don't want to do that...' He showed up anyway, and by then, what could you do?"

How or why Royal first came to the West Coast is unknown, but he started his paper in August 1966, assisted by his brother Mark. Attempts to establish its publication history are hampered by the fact that most editions are undated, but the first issue is billed as a ‘Beatles Souvenir Issue’, and coincided with the quartet’s final show at Candlestick Park on August 29th. Printing initially occured in SF, then moved to Hollywood, with sales via street corners, newsstands and head shops such as The Psychedelic Shop on Haight Street. An issue dating from July 1968 claims that ‘we started publishing in May 1965’, but this is almost certainly inaccurate, and August 1966 seems likely to have been its regular starting date (though one-offs might have appeared earlier). Thereafter publication appears to have been more or less fortnightly until it fizzled out in the summer of 1969. Anne Moore, one of its longstanding contributors, tells me: "The paper was supposed to appear twice monthly, but the schedule really depended on when they got enough advertising money to print the thing. That was done by some company in Tujunga (out in the east San Fernando Valley), who printed a lot of local, mostly weekly papers. I think they also ran a few as well. I just remember that the printers and the people involved were typically very straight, and it was rather jarring for them to have these 'hippy' nuts coming into the printing plant. But money is money." 

In its sixth issue (February 24th 1968), Rolling Stone reported some controversy concerning a proposed follow-up Monterey festival to be held at the same site – Charles Royal had applied for a licence, as had the original organisers, but local officials were only willing to allow one event to go ahead. In the event, neither happened.

World Countdown belonged to the Underground Press Syndicate, whose main condition for joining was that members could freely reproduce each other’s material. This meant that counter-cultural news and information was widely disseminated, but also that much of World Countdown’s content was not unique. Original articles and interviews were not its strength, then, though it included work by well-known writers (such as Derek Taylor, Danny Fields, Jerry Hopkins and Ralph J. Gleason), as well as ones I've never heard of elsewhere (Ravi Dovard, Sparkie Seawell, Dodie Smith). There are fascinating odds and ends scattered throughout the copies I own, it's consistently visually striking, and conveys a stronger sense of the immediacy of the SF hippie experience than any other publication I’ve seen. As Beat Books puts it: ‘During the summer of 1967, in its loose and playfully psychedelic visual style, Royal's World Countdown embodied the West Coast vibe. Thereafter it inevitably lost some of its impetus, and by its final year it resembled a considerably more conventional music journal.’

Seeds collage, February 1967
Anne Moore continues: "You know more about Charles Royal than I do or did. I think I was introduced to him at a party once. My contact was through different people who acted as editors - 'acting' being the big word, since they mostly gathered copy and let us all know when a deadline might be." One of these editors was Martin Cerf, whom Anne remembers well. "Marty was interested in all of it," she says, "from the writing to the layout and final printing. He would even play delivery man at times, going down to the printers and picking up big stacks of copies to deliver around town - to the writers, shops, radio stations and clubs. I remember it was a long, hot drive out to Tujunga to pick up the papers with Marty! He ended up knowing everyone, which helped him land a great job as Director of Creative Services at UA / Libery Records in 1970. However, he had got so interested in how World Countdown was put together that he eventually decided to do his own paper. And he did. He started Phonograph Record." In conclusion, Anne says "I'm surprised anyone knows about or is even interested in World Countdown today. It only gets mentioned now and again, and has faded into the realms of obscurity and very brittle paper. But it's amazing how receptive people were with it back at the time, and it opened a lot of doors for other writing. No one got paid, not even the so-called editors, but we got into any concert, club or party we wanted to. In those days, that was worth everything."

What became of Charles Royal is something of a mystery. This article appeared in Rolling Stone on February 21st 1970, explaining that he had got God and moved to Tahiti with his family. 

Charles Royal was clearly an interesting guy, and it's a shame that he vanished so soon after his venture into music publishing foundered. Having returned from Tahiti, Royal apparently went on to run the Cadillac Club International (CCI) and publish its magazine, Cadillac Connoisseur. I'm told he passed away in October 2010. If anyone has any clearer idea what became of him – or has any copies of the paper – I’d love to hear from them. Issue #1 contains photos of two blond little boys named Bruce Royal and Vince Royal - perhaps they're out there somewhere? Any leads welcomed! 

The Royal family
Anyway - onto the magazine itself:

1.1 (August 1966)

1.2 (September 1966)

1.7 (November 1966)

1.8 (November 1966)

1.9 (December 1966)

2.1 (December 1966)

2.2 (January 1967)

2.3 (January 1967)

2.4 (February 1967)

2.5 (March 1967)

2.6 (March 1967)

2.7 (April 1967)

2.8 (May 1967)

2.9 (May 1967)

2.10 (June 1967)

2.11 (July 1967)

3.1 (July 1967)

3.2 (July 1967)

3.3 (July 1967)

3.4 (August 1967)

3.5 (September 1967)

3.6 (November 1967)

3.7 (December 1967)

3.8 (December 1967)

3.9 (January 1968)

3.10 (January 1968)

3.11 (February 1968)

3.12 (March 1968)

4.1 (March 1968)

4.2 (April 1968)

4.3 (May 1968)

4.8 (August 1968)

4.10 (September 1968)

4.11 (September 1968)

4.12 (October 1968)

5.1 (November 1968)

5.3 (December 1968)

5.4 (December 1968)

5.5 (January 1969)

5.6 (February 1969)

5.7 (February 1969)

5.8 (March 1969)

5.9 (March 1969)

5.10 (April 1969)

5.11 (April 1969)

5.12 (May 1969)

6.1 (May 1969)

6.2 (June 1969)

6.3 (June 1969)

6.4 (July 1969)

6.5 (July 1969)