peter pan

oh that evil hook, trickster tink, wise wendy, evil and good mermaids, marauding pirates, a hungry croc and the lost children, and the fluffy little dancers that steal your heart. :)

gwyn's baptism

a sunny day, the happiest baby ever, a reverent baptism, catered lunch, wonderful latin musicians, a gracious hostess and the surrounding of support and love for the baby whose walk with god has just begun. there is a reason melissa is surrounded by such goodness: she exudes it.
full gallery on my website:

Randall Rocking Russell: Wisconsin Signs Wilson

Big Ten teams perennially struggle with a good, out-of-the-pocket quarterbacks, and now they've got a problem from an unexpected place: Wisconsin.

The Badgers signed fantastic NC State quarterback Russell Wilson, who wanted a 'Bo Jackson' career in baseball and football.

The move made him unable to play in preseason workouts, which disappointed NC State boss Tom O'Brien - so much so that he gave Wilson the heave-ho. Wilson threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns last year, and rushed for nearly 500 yards and 18 touchdowns more. The Wolfpack finished the 2010 season with a 9-4 record. His best performance was a 3 TD rushing, 1 TD performance in a 28-24 over the Florida State Seminoles.

Wilson will also run behind the usual massive Badgers offensive line and he'll have superb wide receiver Nick Toon to throw to. The usual Wisconsin running game will also make sure defenses will struggle.

Meanwhile, here's what Wisconsin are getting:

Electric Ladyland: three electric ladies

One of rock's little mysteries is why Track and Jimi Hendrix sanctioned such a tacky concept for the British Electric Ladyland sleeve (not to mention where designer David King and photographer David Montgomery found 19 such unattractive topless models). The scantily-clad theme was continued by top London boutique I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet, which promoted the LP in November 1968 by employing three further ladies to disport themselves in its window, as this cutting - from Top Pops - shows. Despite their noble efforts, in an age when the LP has sold for over £1000 on eBay, the sheer quantity of brand-new copies on display here will no doubt prove more titillating to collectors than the 'bikini-clad beauties'.

relay for life

there may be nothing he likes better than karate. the studio offered a public demonstration during relay for life. fun, exciting, i love taylor's martial arts and the hearts behind the katas.
i left my girl with friends on the football field. they walked throughout the night and slept for an hour. sorry i didn't get pictures of that, but she sent me this from her phone:

special olympics opening ceremonies 2011

the torch, the "flame of hope" crossed california by a relay of law enforcement agencies. it traversed on foot through the state for a full week before the guardians of the flame brought it to its destination: opening ceremonies at uc davis for the special olymmpics summer games.
this year, law enforcement not only cheered, encouraged, and hung medals on athletes after their events, but they also presented special olympics northern california with a check for $1M. awesome.
the rest of the gallery is posted on my website:

Joe Paterno: NCAA Violator

I'm not just unhappy.

I'm enraged.

I love Joe Paterno. I have a T-Shirt that says "Roll Your Pants Up It's Joe Pa's House". I wear white for Penn State games - even though I'm watching from across the Atlantic. When I grow old, I want to make spaghetti like Sue and wear awesome glasses. I'd also like to get a massive pay salary and dedicate to building a library. And sometimes - when the money affords it - I will fly over The Atlantic to State College to watch Penn State play (sadly it won't be this year, thanks to ESPN's decision to show the Alabama visit at 3.30 in the afternoon, which frankly doesn't compare to a night game at Beaver Stadium. I also love the way he treats his players, and I'm proud to say that I shed a tear when he got to No.400 against Northwestern, in an amazing display. And  yes, I still hold a grudge against Michigan for the 2005 debacle - even if he doesn't.

But this latest news has gone beyond the pale.

What did Joe Paterno think he was doing, going over and watching some of his players work out a few days' ago? He didn't say a word, but he watched them.

That's the sort NCAA violation you should be looking at and outraged. He's a violator - just like the rest of 'em.

He admitted it, too. Disgusting behaviour. He should have been more like Jim Tressel at Ohio State. Or Bill Stewart at West Virginia, who had people follow his coach-in-waiting. Or Lane Kiffin, who found trouble at Tennessee routinely and vanished off to USC.

We don't want someone admitting it. We want someone to lie, cheat, and duck underneath reams of disinformation. This 'Old School College Football' stuff won't get our fans Championships, or Pride. It's just disgusting.

If I was the NCAA, I'd throw Joe Paterno out of college football. After all, he's a violator.

P.S. I'm joking.

Tradition + Computer Games = No Fun

We get corporate advertising. To be honest, we would love a little more on this website (and if you want to throw in a date with some Oregon Cheerleaders, then please go ahead!).

But for Chrissake, when you are trying to talk about college football traditions, don't ruin in with a freaking computer game.

Tonight our gripe is with ESPN and Sportsnation, which normally provides hours of fun and consideration for us when we're really meant to be getting on with the day job of slaughtering Penn State's offensive line/quarterback/wide receivers/running backs/ coaching staff (just a joke guys - we love you really!).

This week ESPN Sportsnation launched a voting bracket in which the best college football traditions are pitted against with each other, with the might of the American sports fan voting on who's got the best College Football tradition.

It's got everything, from touching Howard's Rock at Clemson to 'Play Like A Champion Today' at Notre Dame, to the Dotting Of the I at The Horseshoe to planting spears in the middle of Doak Campbell Stadium in Talahassee.

You can watch each tradition online before voting. Sounds fun, doesn't it? For me, that would mean at least half an hour less work I'd do in the office checking out 'Tradition Vids' as part of the all-important research for our other column on Sky Sports, the UK's biggest sports website.

But then the fun stops.

Each one of them are really, really lame, because they aren't filmed by or off YouTube (you would have thought they would haven done a deal with them), but instead it's a promotion to kick off EA Football 12 game. We checked out the Howard's Rock one on ESPN, and it absolutely SUCKS, which has turned us off all the rest of the voting.

By the way, we at the VFA still think that the best tradition in the land's DEFINITELY the one about 3 hours before the game starts in the parking lots around football stadiums, drinking hefty amounts of beverages in an attempt to 'get rowdy' before the game. It gives stadiums - especially at night - an electric atmosphere, and if we're honest, turns a 100,000 get-together into a wild party (as well as providing some essential YouTube fodder for years to come).

We preferred this version of Howard's Rock....


Happy first birthday to my son...

Back at it

I've been back in the working world for two days now and you know... it's not been so bad.  I've been able to drink coffee while it's still hot and pee with the door closed.  And it's quiet there.  People just leave me alone to do my work.

I've eaten my lunch two days in a row and nobody stole bites of my food only to chew it up and spit it back on my plate. 

My boss doesn't throw hardcover books at my head.

I don't have to sing to anyone when they are pooing.  In fact, I don't even have to be in the same room when someone is pooing.  Actually, it's preferred that way!

I do my hair and makeup and get to wear nice clothes.  Nobody wipes snot on my pant legs!!!

My kids are doing well in daycare. I really did pick the right one.  They do still cry every morning when they are dropped off but I have ever so cleverly managed to connive Steve into doing the drop off.   Let him carry around their sad faces in his head all day.  Then of course when I pick them up at the end of the day they're very happy and excited to see me! Bonus!

Yes, the first two days have been not nearly as bad or as traumatic as I had anticipated.  I am, however, very aware that I'm in the honeymoon phase and I'm sure I will one day (soon) look back on this post and want to punch myself in the eyes.

Sweet Slag: a few words from Paul Jolly

Following my recent post about jazz-rock oddballs Sweet Slag, I've just had a chat with their multi-instrumentalist Paul Jolly, as below. For many years Paul has run the prolific 33 Jazz label, which can be found at

“I was working with free jazz bands around Luton, and got involved with an opera that Mick Wright (which is Mick Kerensky’s real name) had written. He also asked me to join a jamming trio that he had, so we became a quartet called Sweet Slag. It was a bizarre group of people. We were managed by a guy named Keith Edwards, who knew Eddie Kassner at President, so that’s how we got our deal. They wanted us to tone it all down in the studio, which was like a red rag to a bull. The album was recorded in two days flat. The front cover had rubbish on it because there was a binmen’s strike on at the time. No single by us ever appeared, just the LP. We did some strange gigs, including a tour supporting The Equals (who were also on President). I particularly remember a show compèred by Jimmy Saville at Kitson College in Leeds, where we had to play on a revolving stage. We improvised a lot onstage – Mick and I tended to do crazy instrumental workouts, very stretched out. Sometime around the summer of 1971 our bassist, Jack O’Neill, became a Jehovah’s Witness, so he departed and we reconfigured as a quintet, but that didn’t last long. The sadness about Sweet Slag is that we vanished into obscurity before people caught onto what we were trying to achieve – Roxy Music and others later did similar things. Oh well – happy slagging, as we used to say.”

Is it me?

It's Father's Day and Steve is a little bit quiet.  I know he doesn't realize he's doing it but it makes me self conscious. I know not everything is about me yet I feel like it's my responsibility to give him a good Father's Day and his distance makes me feel guilty for some reason, like I'm not doing something right.  I'm working hard at it though - the kids made him cards and I got him a neat gift  (perfect for the BBQ guy!). We got Starbucks and went for a fun family walk at a nearby park and it was really nice.  Still, I can't help but notice he's not fully present.  It's his first Father's Day without his dad and even though he says. "No, I'm fine, I'm doing good!" I feel like maybe he's not really. 

Either that or it's because I'm tired and bitchy and oversensitive and reading far too much into things and he'd really just rather I leave him the hell alone so he can watch the US Open in peace without me bugging him to talk about what's "bothering" him. 

Maybe I'm bothering him.


It's Becoming Difficult To Hate Notre Dame

Usually around this time we're mulling over my College Football 'Most Hated List' and trying to work out where Notre Dame is on the list.

Usually, they are a Top 5 team. Why? Because it's so damned easy.

It's easy to hate the fact that the Irish have their own TV contract, which means that they don't have to bother entering a conference for football.

It's easy to hate the fact that while other schools are going to furious at not making a big-time BCS game, Notre Dame fans get to laugh, knowing that if they are the top eight of the BCS, they are going to a big-time bowl.

It's easy to hate the fact that when the Irish are doing well, everyone's a freaking Notre Dame fan, and when they suck, no-one really mentions them.

Then there's the Rudy factor. Which is strange, since the movie isn't exactly true (although it still makes this writer tear up a little).

And it's easy to hate the fact that Notre Dame is apparently the official football team of the Catholic Church, and therefore any-one who's a Catholic is automatically a Notre Dame fan (this point is untrue, but it's a common fallacy).

But the problem the VFA has is that somewhere in that black cloud is a certain amount of admiration.


In a world of bad coaches and badder players, the biggest problem the Irish seem to have is the wayward drinking issues of their wide receiver Michael Floyd. We don't seem to hear a peep out of Notre Dame - it seems as though they've learned since the Lou Holtz debacle of 1999.

They recruit intelligent kids. It's quite simple at Notre Dame. If you don't make the grades, you're getting your ass booted out of school. Or at the very least, you're suspended from the team until your grades DO pick up. They've got 216 Academic All-Americans at the school (although that's second to Nebraska, who has a sterling 277), and third all-time in football. What we also like is the fact that if stay for four years and get an education, then you've got a better chance at getting a better life in a world outside of football. As the NCAA keeps telling us: Not all athletes go pro in their chosen sport.

If the Irish make the 'Elite Eight' in the BCS, by December 2011, it's probably because they've beaten some good teams on the way. Sorry folks, but Michigan's going to be a lot better in 2011 and Southern Cal is still Southern Cal. As for other teams on the schedule, the added Air Force game and end-of-season trip to Stanford and future NFLer (if there is one) Andrew Luck is going to be even testier. And turning the clocks forward a year, they've got battles against Oklahoma and Miami, as well as a road game against the Trojans, who by now will be bowl eligible and ready to kill.

As for the TV contract, it's still stunningly large. But such is the nature of Notre Dame and its wide presence throughout college football's fanbase that whether you like it or not, the Irish are still a fixture in college football tradition. If they are winning the lovers watch the games, and if they are losing the haters do - even if it is to cheer on their opponents!

And lastly, the Catholic thing. As a practising non-Catholic (the VFA attends the Anglican Church (if you know your history, it was created out of a divorce by Henry VIII after he wanted 'out' of a divorce with Catherine of Aragon (if the VFA did that every time we fell out PSU's offensive line, then we'd have set up about 50 branches of the Good Church of Nittany by now!), we can definitely respect the link between sport and religion. Above anything else, Notre Dame is a Catholic school. They aren't about to hide it. But you know what? Notre Dame isn't the only school supported by Catholics. I suspect EVERY school has a Catholic fanbase - even those in Texas!

The major question remains: Will Notre Dame remain on the hated list this year? You'll just have to wait and find out....

We're not going to sing the Notre Dame fight song, but we'll give you a moment of Rudy to keep you happy, Notre Dame fans...

Jerusalem: ‘aggressive music with a lot of rhythm’

Over the years several people have warned me off the sole album by British hard rockers Jerusalem, saying it was amateurish, derivative and trashy – but as I tend to think those things can be virtues in this genre, I recently picked up a copy. Reader, I like it a lot. Yes, it’s crude, dumb and heavy, and shamelessly cops licks from Hendrix and others - but its relentless riffing, tasteless guitar leads, caveman drums and over-the-top vocals / lyrics combine well with its garagey production sound, making it a definite keeper for me. 

Jerusalem were discovered in their hometown of Salisbury by Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan, who signed them to his so-macho Pussy Enterprises company. Shortly after the nascent band had supported Led Zeppelin in Salisbury's City Hall (in December 1971), Gillan produced their LP in four days flat in De Lane Lea in Holborn, central London. It was released in a gatefold sleeve (with front cover artwork by lead guitarist Bob Cooke) on March 24th 1972:

This is what Gillan had to say about them on the back cover (note that he acknowledges that they are 'raw', 'crude' and 'in their formative stages'):

Here's a test pressing label:

And here are the finished articles:

In January 1972, after the album had been recorded, the quintet posed for some promo photos in the grounds of Hurdcott House, a pile outside Salisbury (the shot on the back cover was taken in the orangery there). Here are some more pictures taken that day:

The disc appeared in the UK and Germany, but no one took much notice. I have only encountered one review, which appeared in Gramophone in May, commenting that 'Jerusalem are young and very heavy, and their album should suit anyone who wants to give a sympathetic ear to the underprivileged side of the latest musical generation gap, between today's riff-sodden teenagers and their sedate, Dylan-loving elders. I find this band distinctly better than Black Sabbath, but who am I to judge?’ Sales were minuscule, despite the appearance of a couple of press ads in early April:

Nonetheless, Deram persevered long enough for them to issue a 45 a month later, coupling the excellent non-LP Kamakazi Moth with the lead-off number from the album, Frustration. The new song has a slicker, more polished and tight sound than the album, and suggests they could have gone on to great things had they had the chance. Here's the press release for the single:

And here's an ad for the 45:

 Here are demo and stock labels for the A-side, and an acetate of the B-side:

The single also appeared in a picture sleeve in Germany (reproducing the LP artwork), and - somewhat bizarrely - had an Italian release too, in this rare sleeve:

In June Beat Instrumental ran a piece offering the quintet's history:

By the summer of 1972, however, the dream was over. The band mutated into hard-rockers Pussy, but sadly rhythm guitarist Bill Hines died in a car accident soon afterwards. The other members are (I believe) still with us. The Jerusalem album is no masterpiece, but still a lot better than most early 70s hard rock obscurities, and I recommend it to fans of Black Sabbath, The Pink Fairies and so on.